Christianity and the Lord of the Rings

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Kyle Gill, Software Engineer, Particl

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Being the obnoxious husband that I am, when I found out my wife had never seen the Lord of the Rings I force fed all the extended versions to her.

This time watching them, I was focused mainly on a theme that I knew was riddled throughout them, but that I hadn’t paid express attention to: the types of Christ in the show’s three main characters.

Tolkien and Christianity

J.R.R. Tolkien was a christian, and a good friend of C.S. Lewis. Tolkien actually helped C.S. Lewis return to Christianity from Atheism. With those facts alone, I began to approach the Lord of the Rings a little differently. Similar to how C.S. Lewis included religious themes in his books (as well as books solely focused on Christian theology), Tolkien included them in his books as well.

The Three Christ Figures

Three characters in the Lord of the Rings are direct parallels to Christ and the offices or roles he played in the Bible:

  1. Gandalf
  2. Frodo
  3. Aragorn

They line up respectively with these 3 roles:

  1. Prophet
  2. Priest
  3. King

Or written differently:

Christ FigureRole from the Bible

Here are some examples in the story of each.

Gandalf as Prophet

  • Gandalf dies in the mines of Moria, and miraculously comes back to life like Jesus’ resurrection
  • he comes back as Gandalf the White, transfigured like Jesus at the Mount of Transfiguration
  • Gandalf wields a “Secret Fire” against the Balrog, akin the Holy Ghost which is often compared to a flame
  • the Balrog grabs Gandalf by his heel (recall the serpent in the garden of Eden in Genesis 3:15)
  • Gandalf’s victory over evil results in his death
  • Upon reencountering the fellowship after his transformation, Gandalf’s companions don’t recognize him, like Jesus and his disciples
  • when Gandalf rides to save Theoden, he comes from the East, like Jesus returning in glory

Frodo as Priest

  • Frodo is the only one capable to bear the ring of power, like Jesus being the only one capable of bearing the sins of the world
  • Sam mentions how their won’t be a return journey from Mt. Doom, showing how Frodo is a like a sacrifice as was Jesus
  • Frodo’s humility and faith inspire and rally the rest of the humans to conquer evil at the gates of Mordor
  • everyone takes a knee to bow in respect to Frodo upon completion of his journey, like every knee bowing to Jesus when He returns

Aragorn as King

  • Aragorn descends into a sort of Hell to walk the paths of the dead and recruit imprisoned souls to his cause, like Jesus visiting the spirits in prison before his resurrection
  • Aragorn comes from a sacred royal line, like Jesus from the line of David
  • Aragorn heals and consoles Faramir, Eowyn, and Merry, like Jesus healing throughout the Bible
  • in Helm’s Deep he rides into an impossible battle, in essence making himself a sacrifice for the people, like Jesus’ sacrifice for us
  • he unites all human people under one common cause, like Jesus who unites all children of God
  • the city of Minas Tirith, who has awaited their king for hundred of years, finally gets it when Aragorn is coronated, like Jesus returning in glory to rule and reign

Combine all these together and you get a wonderfully beautiful story about the greatest hero of all time.