By: Daniel Garcia-Prats
J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S Lewis, and Stephanie Meyer have quite a bit in common with each other. All three are world famous authors of books that depict a world of fantasy. All three have had movies based on their books made. Most importantly, each of these great writers are devoutly religious people that incorporated their religious values, beliefs, and stories into their works.
J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the most popular and read books in the world and the movies directed by Peter Jackson grossed more than six billion dollars (Thill, 2009). The story follows a young hobbit, Frodo Baggins, in his quest to destroy The One Ring and essentially save Middle Earth from the Dark Lord Sauron.
C.S. Lewis, a friend of Tolkien, is famous for The Chronicles of Narnia. The most famous of his works is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe which was made into a movie and was very successful. The story follows four siblings, Lucy, Edmond, Susan, and Peter, that stumble into a magical land through a wardrobe and follows the battles they have against the evil witch.
Stephanie Meyer is the newest addition to the list of religious fantasy authors with her book Twilight. Twilight was recently made into a movie and has become a craze that rivals that of Harry Potter. Meyer’s story follows a young teenage girl, Bella, who falls in love with a vampire, Edward, and discovers a whole world of vampires unknown to the rest of the world.
Although none of these works seem like religious literature, each one contains the faith of their respective authors. Tolkien and Lewis were devout Catholics that greatly influence their writings. Meyers is a devout Mormon that includes her own religious values into her writings. Despite the fact that all three movies contain religious symbolism and values, only The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe received public backlash upon its movie release. The movie released by Disney became controversial with its well publicized and obviously Christian references (Seigel, 2005). It seemed odd to me that only one would receive such severe criticism for its inclusion of religion. It made me wonder; why was religion in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe not acceptable? When is it okay to include religion?
Tolkien is quoted as saying that The Lord of the Rings is "a fundamentally religious and Catholic work" (Greydanus). However, it seems that few people realize the religious symbolism that is ingrained in the books as well as the films. For example, in The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of series, Aragorn can be seen doing a kind of simplistic version of the sign of the cross when Baromir is killed. In The Return of the King, Frodo carrying the Ring up to Mount Doom is symbolic of Jesus carrying the cross in order to destroy evil (Pearce 2003). As a Catholic, after watching the movies again in this light the Catholic values and symbolism became very evident but I believe that it was only evident because I am Catholic. Certain Catholic teachings would not be evident to the average moviegoer and therefore would not stir up much of a controversy despite the fact that Tolkien claims it as a religious work.
Meyer is a very devout Mormon and, like Tolkien, is greatly influenced by her faith which is evident in her writings (Arnaudin, 2008). However, unlike Tolkien, Meyer does not explicitly write about Mormonism or make direct reference to Mormonism. There is only a single direct reference to Mormonism and that is the oath of the Quileute tribe that is not obvious to the average person, myself included (Arnaudin, 2008). Meyer instills her Mormon values in the characters in Twilight. Her faith becomes an essential aspect to her characters. For example, in the movies there are references to abstinence in Bella and Edward’s relationship, not only sexual but also Edward abstaining from human blood. Family is important to Mormons and is evident in the family of vampires when they meet Bella for the first time. Despite Meyer’s Mormon faith and the Mormon values in the characters in Twilight, there has been very little talk of it as the books and movies continue to gain more fans.
Lewis, like Tolkien, was a Catholic and used a great deal of Catholic symbols in his works. The Chronicles of Narnia are a series of books that retell New Testament stories and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is his most famous story. Unlike Tolkien and Meyer, Lewis made his symbols very obvious to the average person. The most obvious reference in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is when Aslan sacrifices himself and then is resurrected. This is what much of the controversy is focused on. Jessica Seigel wrote in the New York Times that, “As a child, I never knew that Aslan was ‘Jesus.’ And that's a good thing. My mother recently remarked that if she'd known the stories were Christian, she wouldn't have given me the book” (Seigel, 2009)
Meyer and Tolkien have created works that reflect their own religious beliefs and yet when Lewis has attempted to the same it is seen as wrong. I believe that The Lord of the Rings and Twilight would receive similar responses if people were aware of the religious aspects. So when is it okay to talk about religion? It is acceptable to talk about religion and reference religion as long as no one knows that it is religious.
Arnaudin, Edwin B. “Mormon Vampires: The Twilight Saga and Religious Literacy.” A Master’s Paper for the M.S. in L.S degree. April, 2008.
Greydanus, Steven D. "Faith and Fantasy: Tolkien the Catholic, The Lord of the Rings, and Peter Jackson’s Film Trilogy."Decentfilms.com. Web. 21Aug.2009.
Pearce, Joseph. "Why Tolkien Says "The Lord of the Rings" Is Catholic." Catholic Education Resource Center. 19 Jan. 2003. Web. 20 Aug.2009.
Seigel, Jessica. "The Lion, the Witch and the Metaphor." NYTimes.com. 12 Dec. 2005. Web. 19 Aug. 2009.
Scott Thill, “Tolkien Estate to Time Warner: Pay Up or No Hobbit Film.” 16 July 2009. Web. 20 Aug. 2009.