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Posted November 29, 2012
God Is There - Just Not Visible
Devin Brown argues that The Hobbit is not a Christian book, per se; but, rather, it weaves a Christian worldview into the plot, themes, and characters of the book. As the book progresses, the characters increasing learn the very lessons that are part of the believer’s life. Unlike other authors, Brown does not draw direct parallels between the characters in the Hobbit and God and his foes revealed in Scripture. Neither does Brown see references to Tolkien’s current world, being written at the end of the Second World War. For Brown, Sauron is not Satan, neither is he Hitler. Gandalf is not God, nor is he Churchill or Eisenhower. Brown does see God (an “unseen hand”, though never explicitly named) active through the life of Bilbo and all the other characters. Brown spends most of the first third of the book arguing that the “luck” that the main characters experience is truly the hand of God working in their lives. Once that point is made, the author begins to establish parallels, as noted above, between the world of the Hobbit and the world the Christian lives in. Whether it be Christian growth, the value of wealth, or the struggle choices or temptation, Brown argues that we are presented with a set of Christian values that will speak to both the believer and to the unbeliever. Brown, as one would expect of a scholar, weaves in the thoughts of other writers as well. The most well-known of these is C S Lewis, a contemporary and friend of Tolkien. It would be interesting to have observed a conversations between these to great writers - the one a catholic, the other a protestant. But both deeply committed to their faith. This overview of The Hobbit provides a very readable view of one scholars look at the book and its sequels. It is recommended for anyone who wants to take a second and deeper look at Tolkien’s The Hobbit. ______________ This review is based on a free electronic copy of this book provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.
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Posted March 20, 2013
Tolkien's world, the land of Middle-earth, is a place readers lo
Tolkien's world, the land of Middle-earth, is a place readers long to return to. Yet spending time in Middle-earth is not an exercise in futility or a way to check out of the here and now. In an ironic fashion, Tolkien's world inspires noble efforts in the real world, and calls us all to live better and nobler lives.
Devon Brown explores the world Tolkien made in a new book "The Christian World of the Hobbit." In this work, he demonstrates how Tolkien's Christian worldview bleeds through his written works and permeates the world he made. This aspect of Tolkien's work is puzzling to many. His books have almost no references to God or anything remotely similar to church or religion, and yet they are hailed by many as Christian novels advocating a Christian worldview. Sure there is a fight between right and wrong, and right wins -- but is that enough to classify the book as Christian?
Brown's analysis uncovers abundant clues from the author himself, both inside the covers of his books, as well as from his own reflections and letters about them, which put this question to rest. Tolkien's use of the term "luck" and "good fortune" is an ironic way to point the reader toward the conclusion that it wasn't just luck or fortune, but Someone behind it all. Gandalf's statement to Bilbo on the final page of The Hobbit makes this clear: "You don't really suppose, do you, that all your adventure and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit?"
Tolkien's work is Christian at its core, but not in a superficial manner. Tolkien despised allegory, and would frown on much of what passes as Christian fantasy today.
Brown also explores the morality inherent in Tolkien's view of Middle-earth. The struggle to better one's self plays a prominent role throughout the story. Bilbo Baggins is no ordinary hero, conquering by his skill with the sword and enduring thanks to his bravado and courage. Instead Bilbo takes on himself and wins. He faces the darker parts of his heart head on: he steps out of his cottage to begin the adventure, he resists the greed and selfishness that entice him to abandon his companions, and ultimately he finds a life spent in service of others is the only truly satisfying way to live.
This book is well-written, lucid and clear. And the artistic touches throughout make it a pleasure to interact with - even in the Kindle version. It abounds with quotations from Tolkien's work and letters, and includes pertinent quotes from other Tolkien scholars. Throughout the book, Brown's first-rate grasp of Tolkien scholarship is apparent and yet he manages to keep the book very accessible.
For those who have read "The Hobbit" more than once, Brown's work will be a joy to read. Even if you are familiar with Tolkien's work only through the films by Peter Jackson, reading "The Christian World of the Hobbit" may spur you on to read the books that have endeared themselves to generations of readers. J.R.R. Tolkien was a Catholic Christian, but his view of morality and Divine providence as conveyed through his stories, is something evangelical Christians will appreciate. Brown allows us to enter Tolkien's universe with a well trained eye, ready to see the glimmers of the Christian worldview that permeates it all.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Abingdon Press. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
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