23 November 2012

A few books recalled

Some of you will remember that a short time ago I bought a book simply because the subtitle made me laugh: The Hobbit and Philosophy: For When You've Lost Your Dwarves, Your Wizard, and Your Way.

Despite a promising - and enjoyable - introduction cleverly peppered with many allusions and puns,  the rest of the book really has very little to do with such situations as when you've lost your dwarves, your wizard, or your way.

The book is written by a number of philosophers, nearly all of whom somehow seem not to have noticed that Tolkien's was not only Catholic, but that his faith very much shaped his conception of Middle Earth.  Too much of the book focuses on Taoism and not on Catholicism and so misses the real insights contained with Tolkien's subcreation.

Frankly, I don't really recommend this book to anyone seeking to delve more deeply into Middle Earth.

While I'm reviewing books, let me make a brief mention of two books that the Chancellor, knowing of my love of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, kindly gave to me recently.

The first is Finding God in the Hobbit by Jim Ware and the second is Finding God in The Lord of the Rings by Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware.

While these took books deal with Christian themes, they also seem to have missed - or perhaps chose to ignore - Tolkien's Catholic faith one.  Bruner and Ware are Christian, but to which they denomination they adhere they give little indication, except for one reference to "Jehovah".

These short books can each be read in the space of an hour.  In both books, the chapters form reflections on a line or two from Tolkien's work.  Beginning first with a recap of the situation surrounding the brief quotation, Bruner and Ware follow the recap with a sort of mini homily and conclude with a "reflection" fit a church marquee.

These two books are not bad, but they are very simple and won't really help anyone delve more deeply in the many insights Tolkien offers us.

Better, I suggest, to stick with Matthew Dickerson's A Hobbit Journey: Discovering the Enchantment of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth.  Of the books I have read looking at the Christian and philosophical underpinnings of Tolkien's work, it is the best and more insightful.

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