“Myth and fairy-story must, as all art, reflect and contain in solution elements of moral and religious truth (or error), but not explicit, not in the known form of the primary ‘real’ world.”J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 131
The realm of art is almost defunct. No more is the world witnessing bouts of imaginative, aesthetic creations across myriad mediums. There are currently no creators to rival the maestros Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Chopin, Brahms, or Vivaldi; the virtuosos of Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, or Monet; the poetic beauty of Keats, Milton, Byron, Tennyson, or Dickinson; or the literary geniuses of Homer, Dante, Austen, Dostoevsky, Alcott, Orwell, or Tolkien. In the 21st century, art has swiftly become a dying craft.
This should come as no surprise considering our currently enfeebled culture, society, and world. Since the literary movement of modernism and the sequential post-modernist movement, Art has deviated from its traditional purpose of reflecting truth and beauty.
The misnomered upcoming 2022 Amazon “Rings of Power” series which erroneously claims to be inspired by the masterful author J.R.R. Tolkien epitomizes this artistic degeneration. In a recent interview with BBC, one of the confirmed cast members of Amazon’s series announced that the show will focus on introducing a multicultural, diverse, cast that features strong female characters.
What an utter disgrace! To cheapen Tolkien’s legacy, to taint the memory of his creations, and to beset the borders of Middle-earth with radical liberal agendas. This is not a melodramatic reaction to this travesty; this onslaught truly signals the end of literature, the death of the Humanities, and the decimation of Art.
J.R.R. Tolkien: A Catholic Author
If you are struggling to understand why this is such a monumental atrocity, then you are missing something truly important about Tolkien’s works. J.R.R. Tolkien was a true literary genius—indisputably one of the most celebrated and eminent of the world’s canonical authors. Tolkien is an outstanding figure amongst these elite writers, a devout Catholic whose religiously suffused works remain widely popular and highly praised by all of society.
Tolkien was a fervent Catholic for most of his life—he was baptized at the age of eight, then lived faithfully until his death—considering his faith of paramount importance. Tolkien had myriad inspirations for his writings, but the most overlooked of these is his Catholic faith.
It is a definite fact that many Tolkien readers are unaware of this Catholic influence, yet they are still able to appreciate the world of Middle-earth. Tolkien himself even acknowledges this reality in a letter to the famous poet W.H. Auden: “Anyway most people that have enjoyed The Lord of the Rings have been affected primarily by it as an exciting story; and that is how it was written. Though one does not, of course, escape from the question ‘what is it about?’ by that back door.” (Letter 163).
This presents an imperative question, namely, does an apathetic or misprision for Tolkien’s religious grounding matter when approaching his literary outputs? The simple answer: absolutely it does! Tolkien’s faith played no small part in the formative process of shaping Middle-earth; on the contrary, it is pivotal.
In a letter to Fr. Robert Murray, S.J., Tolkien openly asserts how central Catholicism is in his creations:
The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like 'religion', to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism. However that is very clumsily put, and sounds more self-important than I feel. For as a matter of fact, I have consciously planned very little; and should chiefly be grateful for having been brought up (since I was eight) in a Faith that has nourished me and taught me all the little that I know; and that I owe to my mother, who clung to her conversion and died young, largely through the hardships of poverty resulting from it. (Letter 142)
Within The Lord of the Rings, Middle-earth is ostensibly a religiously barren place. This simply signifies that Tolkien’s mythology is not explicitly Catholic in nature, but instead is begotten of Catholicism; The Lord of the Rings is ultimately a tale “which is built on or out of certain ‘religious’ ideas, but is not an allegory of them (or anything else), and does not mention them overtly, still less preach them” (Letter 211).
Tolkien never partook in didactic moralizing, especially through the means of allegory. In the preface of the Second Edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien responded to voiced suspicions that The Lord of the Rings contained elements of conscious allegory by saying that “I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned” (xix).
Though The Lord of the Rings does not overtly mention religious ideologies or venture on theologically-based disquisitions, it is still fundamentally based upon Catholic doctrine. It is impossible to divorce Catholic symbolism and meaning from The Lord of the Rings. Within Tolkien’s works, Catholic elements are immanent; to eliminate them is to extricate the heart of his Art, rendering it bereft of purpose.
Such will be the fate of this egregious adaption of Middle-earth. An empty mockery dressed in the guise of Tolkienesque creatures and settings. It appears in the form of Tolkien—presenting Fantastical creatures which are found in fairy stories, such as elves, dwarves, and dragons. Yet it is a superficial rendition, an embarrassing caricature that disavows Tolkien’s true intent: to “reflect and contain in solution elements of moral and religious truth (or error)” (Letter 131).
Art, the Fall, Mortality, and the Machine
In my opinion, unsolicited though it may be, Tolkien’s works are the pinnacle of fiction. Every single one of his works—from his magnum opus The Lord of the Rings to his life-long work The Silmarillion—is a true work of Art; each is a beautiful construction loaded with imperative morals and truth. Even the most cursory glance into Tolkien’s Fantasy reveals its intense reflection of fundamental truth. As bona fide Art, his Fantasy provides attestation of matters, issues, and struggles which are elemental within the primary ‘real’ world; as Tolkien himself states, “all this stuff is mainly concerned with Fall, Mortality, and the Machine” and “the problem of the relation of Art (and Sub-creation) and Primary Reality” (Letter 131).
These concepts are inextricably interwoven into the mythology and history of Middle-earth. However, what is most interesting about them is the dichotomy between Art and the Machine.
Art is an act of sub-creation, not a “domination and tyrannous re-forming of Creation” but rather the “human process that produces by the way (it is not its only or ultimate object) Secondary Belief” or Enchantment (Letter 131; On Fairy Stories 25). On the other hand, Magic—and its modern form the Machine—only “produces, or pretends to produce, an alteration in the Primary World” and thus it is “not an art but a technique; its desire is power in this world, domination of things and wills” (On Fairy Stories 25).
Art echoes the beauty and truths inherent in Creation, whereas Magic mocks, distorts, and corrupts Creation—and thereby sub-creations. In this way, Art and Magic are respectively tied to the powers of good and evil.
Tolkien’s Sub-creation Theory
Tolkien believed that at the core of proper literary Art reside the issues of the Fall, Mortality, and the Machine; not separately, but that these converge and meet somewhere in the ideal nature of Art, what Tolkien termed sub-creation. The idea of sub-creation is Tolkien’s philosophical, theologically-based theory on man’s need, purpose, and intent for producing Art: “We make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker” (On Fairy Stories 18).
The act of true creation belongs exclusively within the realm of the Creator, God. Sub-creation is the act of imitating our Creator, and “every sub-creator, wishes in some measure to be a real maker, or hopes that he is drawing on reality: hopes that the peculiar quality of this secondary world (if not all the details) are derived from Reality, or are flowing into it” (23). Ultimately, the sub-creator aspires to create, in accord with the laws of creation, a mirror-pool that reflects “a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God” (Letter 181).
Tolkien argues that sub-creation “remains a human right” that is ideally accomplished in the Art from of Fantasy: “Fantasy (in this sense) is, I think, not a lower but a higher form of Art, indeed the most nearly pure form, and so (when achieved) the most potent” (On Fairy Stories 18; 23). This is because Fantasy best accentuates “the nature of the relation of sub-creation to Creation” through its unique “liberation ‘from the channels the creator is known to have used already’ […] which is the fundamental function of ‘sub-creation’, a tribute to the infinity of His potential variety” (Letter 153).
Art and Magic at Work in Middle-earth
In Tolkien’s cosmogonical myth the Music of the Ainur from The Silmarillion, Ilúvatar creates the Valar—whom Tolkien says are almost “angelic powers, whose function is to exercise delegated authority in their spheres”—before conceiving the universe (or Eä a Quenya word meaning “the created world”) and creating the earthly realm of Arda, which is then shaped by the Valar (Letter 131). This is the singular moment of Creation, that which the Art of the good imitates in sub-creation and the Magic of the evil seeks to pervert.
Magic is solely a tool of evil in Middle-earth, the device of the Enemy—whether that be Melkor, Sauron, or Saruman. It is through the Elves, who are the “representatives of sub-creation par excellence,” that Tolkien primarily evinces the distinct difference between Magic (or the Machine) and Art: “Their ‘magic’ is Art, delivered from many of its human limitations: more effortless, more quick, more complete (product, and vision in unflawed correspondence)” (Letter 131).
The creation of the Silmarils in the Quenta Silmarillion, or Silmarillion proper, epitomizes the sub-creative function of the Elves. These Silmarils were not merely beautiful primeval jewels, for the crystals were “the house of its inner fire, that is within it and yet in all parts of it, and is its life” (The Silmarillion 69). This inner fire “Fëanor made of the blended light of the Trees of Valinor, which lives in them yet, though the Tress have long withered and shine no more” (The Silmarillion 69).
Fëanor created the Silmarils in order to preserve the Light from the trees Telperion and Laurelin, the original sources of light in Arda. It was a pure intention, a sub-creation that burned with the same fire of the primary Light, and thus the Silmarils are “indeed living things, they rejoiced in light and received it and gave it back in hues more marvellous than before” (The Silmarillion 69-70).
In the same manner, the creation of the Ruling Ring of power in the Akallabêth is an ideal example of Magic, or a perverted imitation of sub-creation. As Gandalf explains to Frodo early in The Fellowship of the Ring, Sauron indeed “made that Ring himself, it is his, and he let a great part of his own former power pass into it, so that he could rule all the others” (51).
As a Lord of evil, Sauron’s creation is ultimately focused on domination:
Now the Elves made many rings; but secretly Sauron made One Ring to rule all the others, and their power was bound up with it, to be subject wholly to it and to last only so long as it too should last. And much of the strength and will of Sauron passed into that One Ring; for the power of the Elven-rings was very great, and that which should govern them must be a thing of surpassing potency; and Sauron forged it in the Mountain of Fire in the Land of Shadow. And while he wore the One Ring he could perceive all the things that were done by means of the lesser rings, and he could see and govern the very thoughts of those that wore them. (The Silmarillion 344)
Sauron depends on the One Ruling Ring to bend the wills of the free people of Arda and exert domination over them; it is a creation produced from his desire for power. Through it, Sauron seeks to make “the will more quickly effective” through the Machine, or the Magic of the Ring (Letter 131). In his blind lust and pride, Sauron “knew no bounds, and he determined to make himself master of all things in Middle-earth […] and he named himself Lord of the Earth” (346). Sauron desires to replace the Creator as he starts “clinging to the things made as ‘its own,’ the sub-creator wishes to be the Lord and God of his private creation” (Letter 131).
The Modern Corruption of Tolkien’s Art and Sub-creation
When asked about the intended message of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien wrote that “I have none really, if by that is meant the conscious purpose in writing The Lord of the Rings, of preaching, or of delivering myself of a vision of truth specially revealed to me! I was primarily writing an exciting story in an atmosphere and background such as I find personally attractive” (Letter 208).
This does not denote an utter lack of meaning in The Lord of the Rings or Tolkien’s Fantasy as a whole. All the above demonstrates the contrary. Tolkien truly believed that God “gave special ‘sub-creative’ powers to certain of His highest created beings” and that any artist or writer—primarily Fantasy writers who create a Secondary World—who partakes in this gift of creation holds a responsibility to “reflect […] elements of moral and religious truth (or error)” (Letter 153; Letter 131).
All of Tolkien’s Art achieves this purpose seamlessly, while still offering an exciting adventure tale that riveted the whole world and altered the literary genre of Fantasy forever.
This latter reality is the singular reason that Amazon Prime Video is now turning its designing gaze at the genius of Tolkien, spawning an Original TV series that will premiere in 2022. It is a machine that is cranking out a generic story riddled with modern ideology in the mock-setting of Middle-earth, a perversion of Tolkien’s existing Art that seeks to capitalize off of the renowned name of Tolkien.
As has been announced, this series is primarily interested in multiculturalist and feminist narratives, openly preaching about its own virtue in promoting these concerns. Amazon is not nearly as concerned with capturing the heart of Tolkien’s Art, but rather with modernizing his sub-creation.
There are myriad issues with bringing a multicultural, diverse and a female-heavy cast into any adaption of Tolkien’s fantasy. One of the most obvious is that it denies the very nature of Tolkien’s world as well as the reality of Tolkien’s existing strong female characters—such as Luthien, a female elf, who literally places the more powerful Valar Melkor under an enchantment of sleep through the power of her song.
Tolkien’s mythopoeic work The Silmarillion was written as a mythology for England. As Tolkien wrote on this particular intention of his while discussing the subject of mythology in one of his letters:
I was from early days grieved by the poverty of my own beloved country: it had no stories of its own (bound up with its tongue and soil), not of the quality that I sought, and found (as an ingredient) in legends of other lands. There was Greek, and Celtic, and Romance, Germanic, Scandinavian, and Finnish (which greatly affected me); but nothing English, save impoverished chap-book stuff. Of course there was and is all the Arthurian world, but powerful as it is, it is imperfectly naturalized, associated with the soil of Britain but not with English; and does not replace what I felt to be missing.
Tolkien dedicated The Silmarillion “to England; to my country” (Letter 131). Therefore, the very essence of Tolkienian mythology is English; it is a creation story concerning the peoples and land of England alone. There are indeed different “Free Peoples of the World” in Middle-earth other than Men—Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, Istari, Maiar, Valar, and more—but these belong to the Other-worldy, the Fantasy of his mythology (The Fellowship of the Ring 275). To impose multiculturalism onto these “Free People” is to ignore the crucial fact that The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion belong to the literary creation of England’s mythology.
Yet, there is a much more pertinent and overarching concern with Amazon’s perversion of Tolkien’s universe: sacrificing the primary intent, morals, and truths of Tolkien’s Art to instead push modernist ideals.
Wokeism is the tool—the machine—by which the elite and the Left intends to distort reality, thereby abolishing all established Art and the good it promulgated, that is Truth itself. Even when woke ideologies are pushed by the naive few who are seduced by wokeism’s narrative—that which it claims to push—and ignorant of its deleterious nature, it is then an evil which arises “from an apparently good root, the desire to benefit the world and others;” still a frightful evil (Letter 131).
The Lord of the Rings at its core is a beautifully crafted adventure tale about the mortal struggle to overcome evil, of good prevailing over evil. It is a story about unexpected heroism and constant perseverance against insurmountable odds when all hope seems to fail. It is a tale that tells us that it is the “small everyday deeds of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay” and that “even the smallest person can change the course of the future” (The Hobbit Movie; The Fellowship of the Ring Movie).
It is a story of loyalty, true friendship, and especially hope; of recognizing that “there is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for” always (The Two Towers Movie). Peter Jackson’s adaptions of The Lord of the Rings honor and reflect these beliefs, these truths which are present on Tolkien’s Art; thus, these are true sub-creations of Tolkien’s own sub-creations, containing elements of Tolkien’s moral focus. Jackson’s films are focused on rendering a reflection of Tolkien’s world.
However, Amazon is concerned with “bulldozing the real world, or coercing other wills” by indoctrinating the world into accepting modernist, woke ideologies as inherently paramount to morality. It uses the device of this woke machine to abolish the legacy of Tolkien’s morally-based and Catholic Art; it is aiming to captivate people’s attention with the catchphrase of Middle-earth without attempting to “reflect and contain in solution elements of moral and religious truth (or error)” (Letter 131).
This upcoming Amazon Prime Video original series is a sub-creational counterfeit. It is little more than a cog in the woke machine, which seeks to pervert Art and Truth by warping the minds of the world and inbreed the minds of the Free People of the world with woke ideologies. It seeks to divert attention from Truth and the Rules of Creation, from the deep decay in the world of Art (so signified in the making of this series) in a base, unoriginal distortion of one of the world’s greatest pieces of Art: The Lord of the Rings.
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