‘I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountain-side where he smote it in his ruin. Then darkness took me, and I strayed out of though and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell.
‘Naked I was sent back – for a brief time, until my task is done. And naked I lay upon the mountain-top. The tower behind was crumbled into dust, the window gone; the ruined star was choked with burned and broken stone. I was alone. forgotten, without escape upon the hard horn of the world. There I lay staring upward, while the stars wheeled over, and each day was a long as a lofe-age of earth. Faint to my ears came the gathered rumour of all lands: the springing and the dying, the song and the weeping, and the slow everlasting groan of overburdened stone. And so at the last Gwaihir the Windlord found me again, and he took me up and bore me away.
‘”Ever am I fated to be your burden, friend at need,” I said
‘”A burden you have been,” he answered, “but not so now. Light as a swan’s feather in my claw you are. The sun shines through you. Indeed I do not think you need me any more: were I to let you fall, you would float upon the wind.”
I wish I could claim this writing as my own. We are taken in a realm that is beyond sense while simultaneously being hyper sensory. Am I in a dream? Or is this real? It sounds sort of like Scripture until Saxon-like name appears.
This is the writing of one J.R.R. Tolkien. To the fan-boy, the first paragraph will sound familiar. It is Gandalf speaking of his defeat of the Balrog from Khazad-Dûm in The Two Towers.
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In his magnum opus, Tolkien left us something rich and complex. It is not merely an imitable fantasy story nor merely the perfect story to translate into motion picture. It is a myth and myths are powerful. They contain within them much more than mere words and stories and lessons. They contain and communicate Truth.
The excerpt above is my example. Among the mysterious syntax and hazy description comes forth something almost other worldly. For the mind seeking Truth, “naked I was sent back …” has a familiar ring to it. “Do we return to our mother’s womb?” Nicodemus asked. “You must be born again of water and the spirt.”
“The tower behind was crumbled into dust, the window gone; the ruined star was choked with burned and broken stone.” Babel had been destroyed. The veil in the Temple was torn in two. The Light of the world was place in a new tomb hewn from rock.
Tolkien forcibly communicated that he had no intention of writing a ‘Catholic’ novel, or so I here from many sources. While having never reading those words from his pen, I can see why he would be so adamant. That being said, he did write a Catholic novel – not because it was intended to be one, but because he was Catholic. “Nominal” was not in his religious vocabulary. He was singularly dedicated Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He lived that dedication as a father, as a professor, as philologist, and as a writer. When you dedicate yourself to one thing, that one thing permeates all other parts of your life. “I desire that they may all be one as You and I are one.” Integrality.
What we have to learn from Tolkien is that to be Catholic is to allow Christ to permeate our entire existence, from breathing to washing the dishes to filling TP reports to calculating the amount of fuel needed for a rover to arrive at the planet Mars.
‘”A burden you have been,” he answered, “but not so now. Light as a swan’s feather in my claw you are. The sun shines through you.