• Greg Smith

Is ‘The Lord of the Rings’…Catholic?

Most of us have only a very faint awareness of the fantasy novels of J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion. What we do know, if anything, comes from the movies, or video games, or our amusement that some people who don’t seem to have, ugh, rich and fulfilling lives, dress up as characters in homemade costumes with fake swords and go to Renaissance Faires and conventions.


But the novels themselves are not only among the best-selling books of the 20th century, they are often listed among the greatest Catholic novels of the 20th century.


How can this be? How can what appear to be weird fantasy books with furry-footed hobbits and dragons and wizards and guys in cloaks with magic swords—and notably without Jesus, churches, popes, or priests—be Catholic at all? The “greatest Catholic novels of the 20th century” seems like an absurd stretch.


Well, to answer that question, we need to back up and answer a bigger question: what makes a story (or a novel) “Catholic” in the first place? Fortunately, I’ve got an answer.


We’ve started a new recurring segment on the podcast called “Book Club.” In these episodes, Cory Lakatos, who heads up communications and family ministries for the Lakeshore Academy for the New Evangelization (LANE), and I will discuss Catholic novels that we find interesting and important. And in our first installment (Episode #30: Welcome to Book Club) we shared our thoughts on what constitutes a Catholic story (novel, movie, etc.). So, if you’re interested, take a listen.


Now, back to the hobbits.


In today’s episode, #31, we take a stab at this question. Is The Lord of the Rings the Greatest Catholic Story of the 20th Century? If you have read these books, liked them, and you’re curious about Catholicism, then you’re going to click through with enthusiasm. But if you haven’t read them, and the impression that you have of them is that they (and the people who are “into” them) are weird (or even occultish), then why should you waste your time listening to this episode?


Well, if you are at all curious about Catholicism and someone tells you that a book might be the greatest Catholic story of the 20th century, then you just might be intrigued and want to know more. What makes it so Catholic? Maybe you’ve missed out on something? Maybe you should read it?


At a minimum, maybe you want to hear Cory and I discuss Catholicism and storytelling, even if you have to endure a few hobbits, dragons, and cloaks.