1

I've just read Silmarillion for the second time in my life. The last time was 20 years ago. In short, it's basically a "fantasy bible", starting out extremely abstract with how God creates these beings called "Ainor" which produce "music", and one of them, Melkor, makes his own, disharmonic music, and developers from there into the "Lord of Darkness"/Devil.

Interesting to note is that the author, J. R. R. Tolkien, was very much Christian. Apparently. But how does that fit with this fantasy vision of the world? Because, as he says himself in an interview, it is meant to be about the early history of this, our planet/world -- not some kind of distant alien planet or an alternative dimension.

This really got me thinking. After all, one of the commandments is all about how you aren't supposed to "depict other gods", but he very much does so with Silmarillion, which doesn't at all fit with the old or new testaments of the Christian/Jewish/standard bible.

I'm probably going to attempt to read the bible again soon, but I stopped when they got to the point, pretty early on, where they just started listing names for pages upon pages. Silmarillion has a very similar issue; it becomes extremely "heavy" to read due to the numerous names and aliases for everyone and everything.

Another major "problem" (or potential point of conflict) is that, in Tolkien's vision, humans are not the first creatures created after the initial beings/gods (called Ainur/Valar/Maior) -- instead, it's the elves, and only much later do humans appear, and when they do, they are made out to be very easily lured into evil deeds and horribly traitorous acts by Melkor, the Satans of Silmarillion.

This got me thinking a lot: what do Christians in general think of a work such as Silmarillion? Is it "disgusting heresy" or "an interesting fictional alternative history which of course isn't true but nevertheless interesting to read about, much like the other actual religions/beliefs which are obviously false but still have some interesting storytelling"?

  • 3
    Christianity as a whole probably doesn't have a general consensus on the Silmarillion or other such works of fiction. Some Christians may but that holds true for other works like Harry Potter, the Golden Compass, etc. Also during creation humans aren't the first creation of God – depperm Apr 27 at 10:38
  • 2
    Almost all Christians would say the first two commands concern idolatry, not art. – curiousdannii Apr 27 at 13:25
  • As a Christian, I would class Silmarillion as mythology. Mythology's primary role is to understand the elements of our own world. Because Christianity is a revealed religion, we prioritize the truth revealed in the Bible over unrevealed truths that God does not consider necessary for our salvation. But human nature has a drive to understand everything so when there are unexplained aspects of creation, a work like Silmarillion helps us picture a good God but assigns evil to supernatural beings who rebelled, which has parallels with the small revealed bits about Satan as fallen angels. – GratefulDisciple Apr 27 at 16:17
  • 1
    Not only was Tolkein a Christian, he was a Catholic and a fairly devout one in that. The thing is he doesn't mean it to be taken as truth and thus the charge of heresy falls flat. It's not meant to convey a theologically precise story, but it is indued with Catholic theology as far as the nature of good and evil, Christ, etc – eques Apr 27 at 16:50
  • 2
    'After all, one of the commandments is all about how you aren't supposed to "depict other gods' Well, you aren't supposed to have graven images of them or worship them, but to say "depiction" more broadly speaking is prohibited is more debatable. It's long been a part of Western culture to take the pagan myths and stage them in new art forms -- the key being that neither the author nor the audience generally believes the pagan gods are real – eques Apr 27 at 16:51
1

Some time after I had read The Lord of the Rings I bought a copy of Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. I recognised the cover of the book as shown in the Wikipedia article above [1].

Unlike The Lord of the Rings, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I never did get to the end of the Silmarillion. In fact, I don’t recall reading beyond the first chapter. Another book I enjoyed was C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Tolkien was at one time a close friend of C. S. Lewis. They met while Lewis was teaching at Magdalen College. [2]

Tolkien reputedly said “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” He also wrote that “the chief purpose of life, for any one of us, is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks." [3]

I have taken that advice to heart, and since I became a Christian, I have given up on mythical characters and fantastic plots. I realise this is the personal opinion of one Christian, but I was quite unable to find any Christian sources that mentioned The Silmarillion – which speaks volumes.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Silmarillion

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._R._R._Tolkien

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._R._R._Tolkien#Religion

| improve this answer | |
  • "but I was quite unable to find any Christian sources that mentioned The Silmarillion – which speaks volumes" absence of evidence is not evidence of absence – eques Apr 30 at 14:08
  • @eques True, but I never said there are no Christian sources that give an opinion on The Silmarillion. I simply took Tolkien’s advice to heart and decided to stop wasting any more of my time looking for same, is all. – Lesley Apr 30 at 15:30
  • No but you do imply that the fact that you couldn't find any Christian sources is significant in regards to a Christian opinion on the Simarillion. – eques Apr 30 at 15:42
  • Well, let us hope that someone is willing and able to find some Christian opinion so we can all benefit from their research. – Lesley Apr 30 at 15:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.