People flocked to see the new Peter Jackson motion picture, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – based on the novel by J.RR. Tolkien on December 14. The film grossed nearly $85 million in the first week alone and continues to garner interest among movie goers.
Several books have been released in recent years that attempt to interpret the musings of Tolkien and make direct or indirect applications to the Christian life. One recent book to hit the shelves is On the Shoulders of Hobbits by Louis Markos, a helpful primer that not only serves as a tour guide for readers on Tolkien’s path but also introduces important highlights from the works of C.S. Lewis.
Sometimes readers are tempted to skip past the introduction portion of a book. However, skipping the introduction in Markos’ work would be a big mistake. The author maintains that we find ourselves in a postmodern culture that is adrift: “We are, in many ways, a civilization adrift on the stormy seas of relativism and existentialism. The first “ism” has robbed us of any transcendent standard against which we can measure our thoughts, our words, and our deeds; the second has emptied our lives of any higher meaning, purpose, or direction.”
The author presses further by remarking that we need in the final analysis is a return to stories. For instance, he posits: “The true Christian is not just someone who believes certain things; he is someone who participates in a human-divine narrative: what many today refer to as a metanarrative or overarching story into which all of our individual stories can be grafted and from which they derive their ultimate meaning.” Somewhere along the way, we determine to either neglect the stories or as the author notes, “refuse to be shaped by them.”
Writers like Tolkien and Lewis show us the importance of stories. On the Shoulders of Hobbits does not set out to interpret every detail in the writings of Tolkien or Lewis. Rather, it seeks to remind us that we are awash “in the stormy seas of relativism and existentialism.”
Markos guides readers on a journey that uncovers the importance of the Christian journey and the dangers that accompany every Christ-follower. He alerts readers to virtues that emerge in the works of Tolkien and Lewis. Theological virtues are explored; virtues like faith, hope, and love. Finally, Markos take time to develop the problem of evil from the perspective of Tolkien and Lewis. What some consider to be the so-called Achilles heel of the Christian faith, is in the final analysis another reminder that God is sovereign over all things – including evil.