Lord of the Rings
J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy (first published in 1954) insisted that his novels were never intended to be Christian allegories. He reiterated that his writings never had a subtle goal of preaching religion. However, it’s easy to see how his Christian worldview made its way into his writings. Christian symbols can be found throughout the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Here’s an overview of some Christian themes that are present throughout the story:
The Fellowship of the Ring: The Fellowship of the Ring is a group of nine companions from various regions of Middle-Earth. With all of Middle-Earth in danger, people had to come together and unite in order to fight against the evil of Mordor. The Fellowship was made up of different people from different places, so they didn’t always get along. Yet, they were united for a purpose bigger than any of them. God created us to be in relationship with others. When we band together with others, we can accomplish something great. Jesus had a group of followers in his fellowship, and they were called “disciples".
The Two Towers: The union of the two towers represent the allegiance between Saruman and Sauron. These two evil forces joined together to build up an evil team. The Elves teamed up with the men of Rohan at Helm’s Deep. When a team is assembled, they can accomplish far more than any individual can on their own.
The Return of the King: This refers to the return of the king of Gondor, which is Aragorn. The reclaiming of the Kingdom of Gondor is something people talked about for a long time. In the same way, Christians await the day when Jesus returns to His throne and rules the new heaven and the new earth. Hebrews 9:28 mentions the return of Jesus when it says, " so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.”
Frodo: represents the everyday Christian
He is seemingly unimpressive and meek, yet is entrusted with a world-changing mission.
He is entrusted with a great power. For Frodo, it was the ring, and for the Christian, it’s the Holy Spirit.
Frodo struggles to destroy his sinful nature and temptations (symbolized by the corruptions he experiences through the ring).
Aragorn: represents Jesus as King
Aragorn is the true heir and king of Gondor.
The “return of the king” is long prophesied, and Aragorn is said to be the one to fulfill the throne.
Samwise Gamgee: represents Jesus as a faithful, self-sacrificial friend
He does not question his purpose. Samwise is loyal to everyone. He is completely dedicated to his master.
Samwise is a suffering servant, much like Jesus (Isaiah 53).
Sauron: represents Satan
The evil lord is purely self-motivated and diabolical.
He’s obsessed with power and spreading evil.
Sauron is said to be an encapsulation of all the evil and malice in the world.
Gandalf: represents Jesus resurrected
He has dual identities; both a common man and a powerful, mystical figure.
When Gandalf the Grey gives up his life to save his friends, he is resurrected as Gandalf the White, who is more powerful and glorious than before.
Gandalf is a powerful, wise, persuasive man imparting wisdom to others, encouraging them to do what is right.
He is high in integrity and character; willing to suffer for the mission.
Gandalf sacrifices himself for his friends: on the treacherous Bridge of Khazad-dûm, Gandalf gives up himself to fight the Balrog and allow his friends to escape.
Nazgûl/Ringwraiths: represent demons
They are agents of evil who do the will of their master.
Evil is seductive and all-consuming. The One Ring corrupts those who come into contact with it. Those that pursue lives of evil-doing end up becoming more and more angry, bitter, resentful, disappointed, sad, and lost.
Self-sacrifice leads to redemption. Gandalf and Boromir are two examples of lives that are redeemed with putting others first.
Redemptive suffering. Good people unite to fight for what is right. When people fight for good causes, they often encounter pain, suffering, and loss. But there is a hope they they will endure suffering and persecution for a greater purpose.
Finding God in the Lord of the Rings by Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware, available from Focus on the Family