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"A Far Green Country": Tolkien, Paradise, And the End of All Things in Medieval Literature (J.R.R. Tolkien) (Critical Essay)

Mythlore 2009, Spring-Summer, 27, 3-4

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IN A 1953 LETTER TO HIS JESUIT FRIEND, ROBERT MURRAY, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote that "The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work" (Letters 172), a well-known statement that has for many years inspired discussion, debate, and speculation by Tolkien's readers. While some critics have argued for the clear presence of a Christian morality in Middle-earth, others have asserted that any Christian influences are minimal and have little impact on the overall narrative, or even the characters' morality. (1) There seems to be precious little untrod ground in the arena of how Middle-earth does or does not express a Christian morality, and it is not our aim to enter that discussion here. However, the presence of a mythology within Middle-earth is undeniable, and there are aspects of that mythology that do invite further study. One particular element of Tolkien's mythology that has not been given full consideration is the mystery of the human afterlife and the ways in which Tolkien presents the idea of Paradise. Critical statements made about the concept of Paradise in relation to Middle-earth have all been rather straight-forward: the Undying Lands are it. This opinion, however, overlooks a few key components of Tolkien's overall corpus. And if Tolkien's works are, as he asserts, fundamentally religious and Catholic, we might well expect to discover within his mythology some notion of the afterlife that is compatible with such beliefs. Certainly we will gain some insight into Tolkien's particular views of the afterlife and what it holds or what it promises--though the most surprising thing may just be what is not found in his portrait of Paradise.

"A Far Green Country": Tolkien, Paradise, And the End of All Things in Medieval Literature (J.R.R. Tolkien) (Critical Essay)
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  • Category: Language Arts & Disciplines
  • Published: 22 March 2009
  • Publisher: Mythopoeic Society
  • Print Length: 40 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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