Dear Tolkien, where is the religion?

Some people say that despite Tolkien had written a superb piece of art with all those linguistic flavors entwined with the different peoples of Middle-Earth, with their culture, their traditions, some tend to complain that Tolkien missed religion as a whole in his writings. Religion is part of a people and such a powerful tool in a group’s mind that traditions, moral standards clearly reflect that. Obviously, there should be a distinct religion for Elves, Dwarves, Men, Hobbits and so on. It’d only add to the reality likelihood of his work. But did he really let religion out of what he wrote?

NO! Look again! There’s no organized religion in Middle-Earth, but we see here and there, practices, beliefs and other points that surely hints there was some kind of devotion and divine reverence.

Check those points, people by people below. Read them all and tell me: Wasn’t all that, some kind of religion?

Elves

A Elbereth Gilthoniel! That’s it! With these words begins a hymn made to honor Varda. Very much like a Psalm would do, it praises Varda Elentári and shows that Elves held her in high-esteem. She was the most important figure for them and her “worship” resembles something like Ishtar to the Assyrians or Athena to the Athenians (not in the way of worshiping, but the importance and reverence devoted to her). Elves revered also other Valar, but Varda was the most prominent in elvish culture. They didn’t have temples, they didn’t have sacred writings but they had the stars all nights and their beautiful voices which they used to pray her in sweet singing and delightful music.

Dwarves

Dwarves revered Mahal their creator who in ancient times made the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves that from time to time, would come back through reincarnation. Mahal is no other than Aulë, the Valar who devised the dwarves even before the 1st Children of Ilúvatar came into being. It’s not clearly stated if Dwarves had any singularity or special way to worship their Creator, but it’s really notable the concept of reincarnation which they had. Bottom line, dwarvish ‘religion’ is like a mixture of Islam (monotheism) with Shinto (past family members worship) and Hinduism (reincarnation concept).

Hobbits

Nope…no…nadie! Not a single trace of what hobbits believed, of whom they worshiped or anything like it. To begin with, hobbits are the most “unknown” people of Middle-Earth. Few things are known about their origin or where they came from. They just were! They were there and Frodo did it (that’s what matters, huh?!) Hobbits were apparently devoid of spiritual needs and they were pretty much busy with their daily affairs.  Their society as a whole looks like mankind nowadays. Without God and getting farther and farther from him, being more devoted to secular things.

To be continued with the most intriguing examples of all: MEN!

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6 Comments

Filed under Inside Middle-Earth

6 responses to “Dear Tolkien, where is the religion?

  1. You don’t need religion when the gods are physically present in the world and are obvious. 😉

    I’m not religious at all… my main issue with Tolkien is the catholic undertones (especially the “Laws and Customs of the Eldar” I find them blergh)… IMO Valar were the ones that screwed up and the Noldor took the fall for it.

    That said, the Ainulindalë is so much nicer than most real-world creation myths. Singing the world into existence! Lovely.

  2. How can anyone who knows Tolkien’s writing miss the deep sense of mysticism that runs through The Lord of the Rings and especially the Silmarillion? It underpins the entirety of that world, in its beauty,

    enchantment and magic-for that read “religion”.Eru Iluvatar was the One, the Creator who made Arda, Valinor that is Elfland in the West, and Middle Earth.Beneath Eru were the Valar and the Maiar, the gods and spirits of the natural world, and the Elves themselves were the Eldar, the People of the Stars.lovers of Elbereth and Manwe Lord of the Sky who sits on Taniquetil.Think about Galadriel-earth mother,enchantress, goddess of Lorien..Read again about Tom Bombadil,nature spirit-Iarwain ben Adar, Oldest and Fatherless. the Old Forest- and the hobbits’ love of earth and nature in the Shire.They themselves were magical in their way…read Tolkien’s work on “Faerie” for his beliefs and feelings about it-especially “Smith of Wootton Major” and” Leaf by Niggle,” Consider pagan mysticism and earth magic.Tolkien himself was a profound Catholic. No “religion”?Read it again!

    • I’m not a mystic person and I don’t perceive and see Tolkien writings with the same optics of yours when you allude each element of his characters and places to pagan mystic relations.

      When I wrote this article, the word “religion” was meant as “ORGANIZED religion” as we see today. I think you need to read the post again.

      Thank you for sharing your mystic view.

  3. What about the Silmarillion? It’s like a bible about the history of the Midle Earth. In the Silmarillion you can see Eru, the Illuvatar (the main God) and the Valar, the “angels”. They created the whole universe with their music.
    Now, think about this: Who is the narrator of the Silmarillion? Tolkien? And if you would think that the narrators of the Silmarillion are the elves, and the history in the silmarilion has been written by the elves?
    Now you have an authentic “Bible” or “Sacred Scripture” for both, even for elves or dwarfs.

    Good article! Sorry about my english.

    • Very good point, man! Silmarillion may be indeed taken as a holy scripture of the elves! The account of their Genesis and the toils of their forefathers in an ancient holy land (Valinor).

      That’s why I’m set to translate it from English to Quenya, firstly the Ainulindalë! Elves must be able to read it in their mother tongue, right?

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