Friday, November 2, 2012


A query for those who have read The Lord of the Rings at least once or several or twelve dozen times: have you read it out loud?

Find someone to read it out loud to. Images are just suddenly born, whole and alive, so vividly like from a spring of growth within yourself.

This occurs when reading it quietly to yourself of course; I've read the book at least six or seven times before; but reading it aloud, images come across my mind in a startlingly new yet familiar way. The images have deep roots. And the language being so true...well, language is meant to be spoken.

The great power of The Lord of the Rings lies in the fact that it does not overwhelm the imagination. Its power lies, so to speak, in that it does not claim power, like one claiming the Ring of Power. The reader sub-creates, in a certain sense, with Tolkien's sub-creation. Not because the book is like some empty pattern which one then fills up with colour, or some such nonsense explanation. Rather the reader sub-creates precisely because the sub-creation that is the story is so true to the reality of creation (and its redemption).

The imagination is not some infantile instrument by which one conjures up dreams of unicorns and such. The very word, "imagination" has been given a patronizing aura, like it was a nice little extra option or addition that one could otherwise make do without.

Imagination is a space in which one envisions the real battle going on in the soul, always so clouded by the trivialities of time. This is consequently concerned with the real nature of the battle occurring without. Imagination is God-given and concerned with the Real; both a space which we occupy and a faculty which we use; both a membranous channel by which we make contact with the Real and a shining diamond in itself in which the more Real is encountered. As with everything else about us, it is subject to fallen human nature, but it must be baptized.

The Lord of the Rings baptizes the imagination - baptizes it and prepares it, harrows it for baptism. It is pre-evangelization - this has been said of it, but it is pre-evangelization by way of Evangelium: it was not written in pre-evangelical times. What I'm saying is that it is pre-evangelical because is it evangelical. It's not the best of paganism intimating the incarnation, or foreshadowing the dawn of Christ. Rather it's the best (or one of the best) of Catholicism making God present in its story by the same logic which God made Himself present to us.

Logos - not logic.

1 comment:

Owen said...

I fell asleep at the first and second movie. That's expensive sleep time so I haven't returned. If I do read LOTR again before I pass on (I've read it three times as far as I recall) I may read it out loud. I did read Narnis aloud to our kids when they were young and many other books. It seems to have served us all well - except they do 'go to the movies.'

In fairness, most any big action blockbuster that thrills others for whatever reason utterly bores me. - certainly any in the sci-fi/fantasy/super hero genres. All that CGI and endless 'action' dulls my head and I nod off.