*This post is part of my Write 31 Days challenge*
My husband introduced me to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings after we began dating in the form of Peter Jackson’s movie, The Fellowship of the Ring. And I hated it. At first. It was full of plot lines and story structure that begged for an understanding of the story before you sat to watch it. A prologue, if you will. I was bored and it was looooooooong.
Then, on our honeymoon, I had a migraine and we spent a whole twenty four hours in our cabin on the cruise ship watching the movie channels that replay the same movies over and over again. We must have watched FoTR at least four times that day, in between my bouts of sleeping and puking. Tmi, sorry. #realtalk
Slowly, I began to understand the epic book Tolkien created…and then craved to know more not just about the story, but the world and the author who had dreamed it up.
So many themes spoke to my Christian mind-set, I was sure Tolkien had done it on purpose. Imagine my surprise when I learned he didn’t prefer C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia because of its obvious allegory (and mix of mythologies). Imagine my even greater surprise when I came across this quote:
“But I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the proposed domination of the author.” (Foreword to the Second Edition, LotR)
I could not even fathom how this could be.
Wasn’t the ring representative of the slow burn sin can have on a life? Weren’t Gandalf and Aragon simultaneously pictures of Christ? Weren’t Frodo and Smeagle all of us…fighting our flesh…and ultimately coming to a precipice in our lives where we must decide whether spirit or flesh wins?
Yes. But no.
And I didn’t understand it, so I thought Tolkien was silly. Too bad, Mr. Tolkien because I can think what I want to think.
Now, I have come to writing what I hope will be an epic adventure story for my children, in a world of my own making. And while I don’t expect the utter genius that came from Tolkien to flow through my own brain and out onto the pages, I do find myself at a place where I have to decide exactly how this story fleshes out.
And I have felt the heavy burden of trying to make a world where my Christianity and my creativity can co-exist. Where I can manifest on the page dark creatures that move in shadows…without forgetting that light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot comprehend it. Where love always wins and evil is conquered.
But to make it a direct allegory of the Bible and the Creator and the Savior of the World….well…at this point, I say no thanks.
Do you want to see evil overcome? Me, too.
Do you want to read about heroes who give themselves up for others? I do, too.
Do you want histories of kingdoms and how the people in this written world live the way they do and why? Me, too.
But I cannot, in good conscience, offer to you an allegory. The weight of what that would mean is too heavy for this heart of mine. And since my greatest desire is to honor the One who sets my fingers on the keys, I would never wish to somehow taint the awesomeness that is the greatest love story in the world. Or leave you thinking something about the Bible that isn’t true…because you read it in my story and applied it.
So, like Tolkien’s work (but so not like Tolkien’s work…because he is on a playing field all his own) there will be themes, there will be parallels, and there will be heroes and (*spoiler alert*) good will triumph over evil.
But please, don’t call it an allegory.
7 thoughts on “Is it an Allegory?”
“And I have felt the heavy burden of trying to make a world where my Christianity and my creativity can co-exist. Where I can manifest on the page dark creatures that move in shadows…without forgetting that light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot comprehend it. Where love always wins and evil is conquered.
But to make it a direct allegory of the Bible and the Creator and the Savior of the World….well…at this point, I say no thanks.”
– Yes, I agree, especially in a world where anything resembling overt Christianity is immediately discarded. I have tried to do this in my own work; whether I was successful or not remains to be seen!
Found you via the write 31 days challenge.
I whole-heartedly agree that overt Christianity has come to be discarded outright. I hold out hope in the fact that The Chronicles of Narnia, while blatantly themed, are yet wildly popular! And still, I hold a profound admiration for those like Ted Dekker, who manages to make light and dark battle it out with subtle Christianity. If the reader is curious or observant, Christianity is to be found, and therefore Christ is also found. Thanks for your comment and for reading!
Wow…so well put! And good to know!😉
I love this. I have never read that quote from Tolkien, but it all makes sense now. That’s so interesting. I don’t know if you have ever seen that short video of what it would look like if C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien texted, but it’s pretty funny. Here is the link if you wanted to watch it… https://www.facebook.com/WisecrackEDU/videos/1771929086360393/
I just watched it and it was hilarious! Thank you for reading my post and sharing that link!
That video was the best! “I still don’t like your magic Jesus lion.”😂
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