I'm a big fantasy nerd. I love stories about elves, dragons, magic, and knights. I have grown to love the Lord of the Rings trilogy through the movies and have only just begun reading the books. And I've been eagerly anticipating the prequel movie that comes out this weekend.
Are you planning on seeing it? If you are, keep your eyes open for some of the amazing Christian themes that run throughout Tolkien's stories. J.R.R. Tolkien was a Christian and wove loads of his beliefs into his writing in a masterful way. As a refresher before watching the Hobbit, here is a quick look at some of those themes as seen in the first three movies. There are Lord of the Rings spoilers below (but not for the Hobbit).
Gandalf is used throughout the Lord of the Rings story to portray Jesus as the Great Prophet of God. A prophet throughout the Old Testament was someone who spoke for God and therefore carried His authority as well as someone who performed great miracles for God and therefore carried His power.
Being a wizard (actually he is one of the maiar...but let's not get too nerdy), Gandalf is the biggest powerhouse on the side of good. He summons giant birds, goes toe to toe with the Balrog (remember the big fire-shadow creature he shouts, "You shall not pass!" to?), and he drives away the dragons near Gondor with a blast of light. Probably the biggest miracle he pulls off is his resurrection after apparently falling to his death in the first movie/book. He dies as Gandalf the Grey, the old and humble wizard. He returns as Gandalf the White in great shining power and glory. Yet despite being one of the most powerful beings in Middle Earth, he stoops down to befriend the lowly hobbits and to serve mortal men.
Do you see Jesus in Gandalf? He is God in the flesh. His Words are true and His power is without limit. He calmed the sea, walked on water, and drove demons out of the oppressed. The greatest sign He performed was defeating death and rising again after three days. During His first coming, He was a humble and poor Galilean. Upon His second coming, He will be glorious, dressed in white, and oh so shiny. Yet despite being the Creator of the universe who needs nothing, He stoops down to befriend us, love us, and serve us.
While Gandalf reveals Jesus the prophet, Aragorn reveals Jesus the King. When we first meet Aragorn, he is a dirty warrior known as Strider in a common inn. He is a natural leader and a loyal defender of his friends. He courageously battles the forces of evil and even faces off with most of the ring wraiths on Weathertop all by himself. Yet as the story unfolds, we learn that Aragorn is the rightful King of men and it is his destiny to wield the Sword of the King. There are others throughout the story who seek to claim his throne and would rule selfishly and corruptly. But we learn that Aragorn is a man of integrity who does not seek the power of the throne. When he finally is crowned King, those who know him are certain that he will rule selflessly and justly to bring peace to Middle Earth.
Do you see Jesus in Aragorn? We first meet Jesus in a manger surrounded by shepherds and cattle. He grows up in a nowhere town called Nazereth. He is a humble and good man. We see Him defend the oppressed like the woman caught in adultery. We see him courageously drive the corrupt money changers from the temple. And we learn that this is no ordinary man. He is the rightful King of Kings who will one day sit on the throne above all thrones. There will be a sword that comes from His mouth with which He strikes down His enemies. And like Aragorn, His rule will be just and bring everlasting peace.
Frodo is not the prophet or the king. Instead, Frodo is Jesus the High Priest. In the Old Testament, it was the duty of the high priest to mediate between God and man. His most important and sacred function occurred on the day of atonement, when he would take a spotless lamb, confess the sins of the nation over it, and then slaughter it as a sacrifice to God. It was the job of the high priest to stand in the gap for the people and take away their sin before God.
As I watch the films, Frodo is one of my least favorite characters. Why? Because he is tragic. Aragorn starts as a wanderer and ends the story as a great king. Yay! Gandalf starts off Gray and ends up White. Yay! Sam gets his girl in the end. Marry and Pippin are rich and living it up. Triple yay! Frodo? He starts off happy and joyful and by the end of the movie he is empty and almost dead inside. What happened to him? He carries the One Ring for too many days. The greatest evil in all the land is literally laid around his neck. The weight of it wrecks him. It is his duty to carry it and his duty to destroy it to save all of Middle Earth. And it costs him everything. He is broken in the end and leaves Middle Earth in the hope that he will find healing across the sea.
Do you see Jesus in Frodo? Do you see the weight of sin that our Savior carried for you and me? Do you see the cost of our salvation? Do you see the ruined body of Jesus that took the cross and our sin to the grave? Do you see the agony as the Father forsakes Him and turns His Face away? Like Frodo, Jesus carried a great burden that was not His own in order to provide salvation for all.
That's a Wrap
If you haven't looked at Lord of the Rings like this before, think about these themes the next time you view the films. Tolkien crafted a masterpiece of fantasy, but it's more than that as well. It's a masterpiece of the Christian faith. As you go see the Hobbit, keep your eyes and ears and hearts open to the analogies of faith in the story.
Until next time, may Jesus be your Gandalf, the great Risen One, who reveals God's Word and power to you. May Jesus be your Aragorn, the King of Kings, who rules over you with love, compassion, peace, and justice. May Jesus be your Frodo, the High Priest, who nails your sin to the cross so you no longer have to carry that burden.