Author RALPH C. WOOD
Publisher WESTMINSTER JOHN KNOX PRESS
Subtitled “Visions of the Kingdom in Middle Earth” and written by a professor of theology and literature (Baylor University 2003), this is a very interesting and thought provoking read. It is thoroughly readable, not overly scholarly, though not written for the casual reader. It helpfully presents aspects of the Gospel as the author sees them enshrined in arguably the greatest piece of literature of the twentieth century.
I have wondered if Tolkien would have intended to present Christian truth in the way that Ralph Wood draws out the numerous elements that appear to be present in the narrative of the Lord of the Rings. However, Tolkien was a committed Christian of Roman Catholic background and surely inevitably this would have been intrinsic to his epic story. Many are the fans of the story of Middle Earth and the fellowship of the ring and those who are Christians will be amazed at the numerous theological insights Wood unfolds. We know that there are many critics who would reject the idea that there are Christian elements in what amounts to a story that is set in pre-Christian times but the underlying themes are plainly evident when pointed out by Wood.
I especially enjoyed the way the different members of the fellowship and the characteristics they display are examined so richly, Aragorn and Frodo obviously, but the servant heart of Samways Gamgee who Wood regards as the true hero of the story. The themes of good and evil, life and death, courage and sacrifice and faith, hope and love are skillfully brought out in this book. I would think that any serious reader of The Gospel according to Tolkien will be stirred to go back to the trilogy and to read the other books connected such as the Silmarrilion, The Hobbit and the earlier history of middle earth published after Tolkien’s death by his son Christopher.