JRR Tolkien famously disapproved of allegory, indeed, it was a major source of disagreement between him and CS Lewis. Nearly as famously, he referred to The Lord of the Rings as "a fundamentally religious and Catholic work, unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision". Many commentators have chosen, despite the former, to read some allegorical significance into elements of the legendarium, others have dismissed the latter claim as a pious pose. Bradley Birzer explains the religious basis of Tolkien's work, which is not allegorical but results from his understanding of the artist as subcreator, dependent on and responsible to creation and its Creator. In this reading, Tolkien's understanding of the cosmic order of reality is reproduced in his mythic work.
Birzer's book focuses less on Tolkien's most famous works than on some of his less well-known writings and personal correspondence. Although this may be a weakness for those primarily interested in a discussion of the specifics of The Hobbit and its somewhat longer sequel, it allows Birzer to fruitfully connect Tolkien with his sympathetic contemporaries, including not only the expected Inklings but also TS Eliot and Christopher Dawson.
Birzer rightly notes that Tolkien envisaged The Lord of the Rings as at root Christian and Roman Catholic, but you won't "understand Middle-earth" any better after reading this book, I am sorry to say.
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