The folks from ALA Booklist Magazine send along a review of Bradley J. Birzer’s latest book ‘J. R. R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth‘ (due out in stores mid-October). Take a look and pre-order your own copy at today!

Birzer, Bradley J. J. R. R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-Earth. Oct. 2002. 156p. index. ISI, $24.95 (1-882926-84-6). 823.

Tolkien said that The Lord of the Rings is a Catholic book, but commentators have shied away from writing about its Catholicism. After all, he also said it wasn’t an allegory, so you don’t need to know the Catholicism to understand it––right? Perhaps, but Tolkien hoped the book would prove a stealth evangelizer, arguing a Catholic worldview in its setting, characterizations, and plot. Birzer reveals The Lord’s Catholicism in five riveting chapters. Middle-earth is a subcreation, he says, resembling real creation so that a salvific myth of heroic virtue triumphing over dire evil may be played out in it. The sapient beings (hobbits, elves, etc.) in it form a hierarchy surmounted by God, and evil in it is, as in classical Christianity, the result of willful separation from God. When evil is finally vanquished, Middle-earth will be paradisiacal, but as God’s handiwork, it is already profoundly good, and its pastoralism rebukes the secularism, centralization, industrialism, and mechanization (only the evil build machines in Middle-earth) that Tolkien despised. Essential reading for all Tolkien enthusiasts. ––Ray Olson