VIDEO about November. Fr. Z asks, “What is this? Tolkien?”

When I saw this video my first thought was, “What is this? Tolkien?”

Perhaps it is.

The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings present a seemingly hopeless  struggle against evil.  The protagonists were constantly challenged to overcome their limitations, make sacrificial choices, dig deeper for greater courage, rely not only on themselves but also on others, and then in the blackest of hours face down evil manifested in overwhelming forces.

Yes, maybe this is Tolkien.


I recommend a daily examination of conscience and regular sacramental confession.

Participate well at Holy Mass and join your concerns and petitions to those of the priest as he prepares the elements for consecration.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Brick by Brick, Emanations from Penumbras, New Evangelization, One Man & One Woman, Our Catholic Identity, Pray For A Miracle, Religious Liberty, The future and our choices and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Jim Dorchak says:

    This little movie is wonderful. The music is perfect. It helps you take possession of the gravity of the current political situation and helps you realize just how dire it is.
    I wonder if NAVIS pictures and Jim Morlino helped with the production as this has the quality I would expect from their shop. Just excellent.
    Also as a blacksmith it is always interesting to see how accuratly metal working is portrayed. Of course the poet always uses his license, but none the less a good little film.

  2. digdigby says:

    “I suggest a daily examination of conscience…” Thank you, Father. I will try to do this instead of reading and commenting on blogs, which is not good for me and I would suspect harmful for many others as well.

  3. AnnAsher says:

    Excellent powerful video. We need this reminder of what is at stake that really matters. While they have us distracted over oil, power tussles abroad, scandalous petty mud slinging … They are poised to rip from us everything we hold dear. They want us to look where they point, so that from behind they can snatch our children.

  4. tealady24 says:

    Unfortunately, there are more evangelical Christians who will stand up against obama & co. than Catholics.
    The Church has done a wonderful job these past 40 years in passing on the true faith to their adherents. Until a thorough house-cleaning has been done, we are finished as Catholics in America.

  5. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Tolkien, yea. Any story of courage and overcoming evil could be compared too.

    We must vote morally, in line with Catholic teaching. I wonder if we should use paper votes if that is an option, as I suspect there are risks with electronic voting. Will there be manipulation of election counts? I dunno.

    Excellent advice Father, “daily examination of conscience and regular sacramental confession” and “Participate well at Holy Mass and join your concerns and petitions to those of the priest as he prepares the elements for consecration”.

    Let us also personally and individually consecrate ourselves to the powerful Immaculate Conception, our homes, parishes, dioceses, and our country. Pray the rosary daily. “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph”.

  6. Austin Catholics says:

    Did you actually read The Lord of the Rings? It’s about little, powerless people (hobbits) and a coalition of more powerful good people teaming up to defeat a behemoth of evil. Reducing modern politics to this type of narrative is simplistic, but if one were to do so, today’s equivalent of Mordor are Wall St, the real estate industry, and polluters. The Mouth of Sauron are people like Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, and Grover Norquist, who want to destroy society. The little guys, driven by conscience, are in opposition to the powerful. It’s hardly an apple-to-apple comparison since the Democratic Party is in bed with the powerful, just like the Republicans are. But any true examination of conscience will not leave one wanting to vote for politicians who want to divert even more power to the already powerful.

  7. Finarfin says:

    “When I saw this video my first thought was, “What is this? Tolkien?”

    Perhaps it is.”

    I’ve been thinking that way too, even before the seeing this video. Apparently there are a lot of pepole who see the similarities. The forge really gives it that Tolkien-esque look.

    “The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings present a seemingly hopeless struggle against evil. ”

    Yes, especially in the Silmarillion. There is not a lot of hope in LOTR until the end, but then it turns around, especially in moments during the Battle of the Pelennor Field, and others. But in the Silmarillion there truly is no hope. They were decimated by the time the Valar came to defeat Morgoth. The Battle of Unumbered Tears had already happened.

    “I recommend a daily examination of conscience and regular sacramental confession.”

    Amen Fr. I try to do that. Thanks for reminding people to do so.

  8. Austin Catholics: Did you actually read The Lord of the Rings?

    In the absence of any clear, courteous indication to the contrary, I assume you are talking to me.

    Having assumed that, it is probable that I have already forgotten more about TLofR than you ever knew. o{];¬)

    That said, would I be wrong to guess that you are “Occupy” fan? You sound a bit like one in your comment.

  9. Sissy says:

    I just assumed Austin Catholics forgot to add the /sarc tag. Was that serious?

  10. ContraMundum says:

    @Austin Catholics

    No, the Republicans would be more like Saruman, maybe. They only control the House of Representatives, which is more like Orthanc; the Democrats control the Senate and the White House, so they clearly occupy Barad-dûr.

  11. Choirmaster says:

    Tolkien was incredibly insightful to human nature and his Silmarillion and Lord of the Rings are inexhaustibly applicable to political and social affairs, especially in times of overt struggles of ideology.

    I disagree with Austin Catholics that the Lord of the Rings is primarily about a powerless people (hobbits) and a coalition of more powerful good people. The nature of the Hobbits is not one of powerlessness, but of ignorance born of years of comfort and plenty. Indeed, it seems that only a hobbit would have the moral and physical fortitude to accomplish the destruction of the Ring, and at that only with the miraculous assistance of the Gods (supernaturally as well as naturally through Gandalf’s incarnation), channeled through the remnants of the High Elves and the divine authority the descendants of Numenor inherited from them.

    The driving motivation of all the protagonist characters is one of faith; faith to do good and avoid evil, especially when evil seems more expedient; faith in the power of divinely constituted social structures such as friendship, government, duty, and family bonds; faith enough to do the right thing even when failure and ruin seem to be inevitable.

    There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark. -Two Towers

    Also especially prominent is the theme of redemption through forgiveness. I think that’s why Father added the bit about examination of conscience.

    No, there is much in Tolkien’s opus magnum that is applicable to our cultural and political situation today. To apply his morality to our situation would compel us to do good and avoid evil, and to fight for good even though the battle be already lost.

  12. Choirmaster says:

    I should add: fight a losing battle with hope and the expectation that God will satisfy your efforts miraculously simply because you chose the right path regardless of the insurmountable power of the Enemy.

  13. ContraMundum says:

    Saruman was noteworthy for his promotion of industry and his disregard for the environment. He was also known to favor tobacco, and he was of the opinion that the necessities of war obliged him to accrue as much power as possible to himself. Yeah, he was a certain kind of Republican, arguably the kind that works its way into leadership positions.

    Sauron, on the other hand, seems to have delighted in evil and death for its own sake. He was the kind of guy who might think it a good idea to let a baby die from neglect if he or she was not killed outright in an abortion. He was the greater, more serious threat.

    Just because we recognize the flaws of the White Hand does not mean we should accept, let alone sing the praises of, the Red Eye. And vice versa.

    Still, one can have sympathy with the Dunlanders on the one hand, and with the slaves and Easterlings on the other, who were by no means as far gone in evil as their overlords.

  14. dnicoll says:

    Wonderful video, powerful message. “My name is Cardinal Dolan, and I endorse this message.” :-) And an equally powerful call to the confessional by Fr Z. All part of the same message. Faithfulness to the Church is faithfulness to the Lord.

    Oremus pro Pontifice nostro.

  15. Imrahil says:

    I wonder, though, where in the Lord of the Rings they fight a losing battle. Not that this wouldn’t be good to fight even losing battles for the good; but where do they do it? Except, of course, the Quest into Mordor itself, which only metaphorically is a battle.

    The final battle is not a losing battle. Gandalf knew from the tokens the Mouth of Sauron presented and the words he used that only one hobbit was captured, and his guesses are said to be generally good. The Battle on the Pelennor would have been a losing battle save for Aragorn, but then the people do not know about the Corsairs, and in the end they do not come either. Ironically, the one man who consciously and heroically fights losing battles is – Denethor.

  16. ContraMundum says:


    Good points. I think above all, the hobbits represented what is healthy and what is normal. (So much so that Sam would have been shocked that anyone would fail to understand the difference between his deep friendship for Mr. Frodo and the way he felt about Rosie. If Tolkien were writing the book today, he would be obliged to make what is merely obvious explicit.)

    That’s the reason why I think the worst scene in the movie version was Minas Tirith being liberated by the army of the dead. Yes, they were in the book, but not at Minas Tirith. Also, it is not clear that they had any real power other than to scare the **** out of people.

    The one thing the movie got right, which I think Tolkien would have approved of even though it was not in the book, was Arwen being turned back to Aragorn not due to mere romantic love, but due to a mother’s love for a child yet unborn (in fact, not yet conceived).

  17. Choirmaster says:

    Oh! There’s so much in this! One very important theme in the books is the struggle against Pride!

    In the Silmarillion it’s all about the pride of Melkor (a Lucifer figure) in not wanting to serve God or work in concert with the pantheon of his brother Powers. This follows to the pride of the Noldorin Elves to establish their own princedoms in Middle Earth, rather than live as subjects of the Gods (if even in blissful subjectivity) in the West.

    In the Lord of the Rights it’s all about the pride of Sauron and Saruman to try to arrogate to themselves power over all peoples and order everyone’s life according to their better wisdom; and the pride of the High Elves (Galadriel and Elrond) tempting them to try to strike a “middle ground” between the Ring’s destruction–ensuring the loss of their own power, the power they gained in the rebellion narrated in the Silmarillion and solidified in the making of the Great Rings–and the dominion of Sauron–also ensuring the loss of their own power.

    That’s totally applicable to our situation! Does not pride compel the powers of today to arrogate to themselves control over the lives of today’s peoples? Yes! See the HSH mandate, and the healthcare legislation that underpins it, and the Marxist currents that preceded it and proposed it. Is it not the pride of the Bishops that tempt them to neglect their solemn responsibilities in exchange for worldly prestige and societal acceptance?

    Tolkien’s works hammer into the reader the thought that Pride can only be conquered by Faith. It is only faith, and the forgiveness that proceeds from it, that can destroy the evil “central planners” and redeem and enlighten the unwashed and ignorant masses.

  18. ContraMundum says:


    I don’t think it’s only faith; it is all three of the theological virtues. Hope is represented by the star they see from Mordor and by Galadriel’s phial. And charity is why they do this at all.

  19. Kathy C says:

    Where can I find that video? It’s disappeared.

  20. Choirmaster says:

    @ContraMundum: Yes, of course you’re right, here in the real world. However, when speaking of the fictional world of Middle Earth, it is important to heed Tolkien’s advice and not make it a “parody of Christianity”, or worse, an allegory for social commentary.

    I would resist the implication that the characters had any hope, that may be their own personal failure. They persisted in faith in a demonstrably hopeless situation. Frodo forgave Gollum even though he was unrepentant, initially because Gandalf told him to do so, but eventually because he understood with the clarity of hindsight, and maybe that is a bit of charity there. But the quest itself was undertaken due to a sense of duty or of self-preservation (“to save the Shire”), not necessarily because of a sense of virtuous charity.

  21. ContraMundum says:

    I would resist the implication that the characters had any hope, that may be their own personal failure.

    OK, I’ll recant the bit about Galadriel’s phial, if you like, but not the part about the star. The hobbits knew that the stars would be forever beyond the reach of Sauron, no matter what might happen to them, and I would call this hope. The real virtue of hope, after all, takes a distinctly big-picture, long-term view — otherwise you’d have to say that martyrs knowing they were about to be tortured to death lacked hope.

  22. Fortiter Pugnem says:


    They fight quite a bit of losing battles – Osgiliath, Ithilien, and Minas Ithil, once citadels of freedom, have all fallen, and from a certain standpoint can be seen as a losing battle for Gondor (though in the end Gondor wins and is reunited with Arnor). Funny, though, Gondor really started winning battles when YOU showed up! You have that aura about you, good Prince of Dol Amroth. ;)

  23. Supertradmum says:

    Some of us have seen these days coming since the 1970s, but the closeness of persecution is scary. Stay in grace, love, be ye perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect. God be with us all, and let us stay close to Mary. This is now on my blog.

    Thanks, Father Z.

  24. Imrahil says:

    May Tolkien forgive me, but you cannot say naming a major character “Hope” (i.e. Estel) is not allegorical. Or let’s just call that application…

    Whether the Quest was taken for charity, I don’t know. It certainly was taken from love (or, well, kinship, obedience in the sense of the affection between master and servant, and friendship, all of which very close to charity, though faith of course as well) as far as Sam, Merry, Pippin and Aragorn (it being the marriage price) are concerned. Later, they also want to save the Shire; which is not self-preservation only, but also the abstract sense to retain a realm of horse-sense and the common, well, hobbit. This is not duty in abstract, but duty for love of the hobbits as such (“I once thought that a dragon invasion would do them good, but now I think” etc.). This, by the way, is explicit Chestertonianism (and I think Chesterton wrote something about a Green Dragon and a sceptic saying “there’s only one dragon around here and that’s green”; but I disgress…) Gandalf fights for good against evil. The allusion to faith is, of course, also correct, perhaps mostly in regard to Gimli. (vide his scene in “The Ring goes South”).

    Coming to think of it, the attitude of the Lord of the Rings towards hope can be given in two lines, with the benefit of being Sindarin lines: onen i-estel edain / u-chebin estel anim.

    On the other hand, the message against pride is hardly so simple to be seen. Morgoth is (except if real Christian theology is taken to interpret Tolkien’s writings) in the beginning rather envious than proud; in fact, in his will to create he is equal to Aule (in whom Tolkien describes his own will to do so). Sauron, indeed, came to be as he was in the 2nd and 3rd age by pride (when he initially repented but refused to throw himself at the Valar’s mercy); Saruman however not by pride (although he was proud), but by utilitarianism. The Noldor do misdeeds led by pride, but then we should notice that they are not villains (Feanor is described the greatest of the Children of Illuvatar in the Appendices), but preserve Middle Earth for some centuries. Elrond, at least, has nothing to do with the “middle ground” dear @Choirmaster speaks of, but actually is the very first Elf in the Counil to accept the loss of the Three Rings’ power. The “middle ground” was Boromir’s suggestion alone.

    Besides, I also disagree with the statement that it is the pride of the Bishops that tempt them to neglect their solemn responsibilities in exchange for worldly prestige and societal acceptance. No, it is not. Leaving aside the question whether the Bishops deserve this accusation and whether I am allowed to accuse if so, at any rate it is not pride. It may (under the said leaving-aside) be false (or true) prudence (which is where Saruman comes in), or laziness, or a certain degree of despair; it is certainly not pride.

  25. Supertradmum says:

    another good video to add to this one…from the great Vortex Obama Comes Out

  26. Scott W. says:

    Read the published letters of Tolkien. What you won’t come away with is the idea that he was some democracy-lovin’ progressive.

  27. Lirioroja says:

    Unfortunately I’m at work and I can’t watch the video. I also no longer have internet at home so it’ll have to wait until the next time I’m at a hot-spot.

    With regard to Tolkien, I’ve been asking that question a lot lately as I pay attention to what is going on in society and politics today. I also recently re-read The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion and I have to say there’s a lot of applicable material, especially in the latter. The section in The Silmarillion that really resonated was the part Tolkien called the “Akallabêth”, or the Downfall of Numenor. [Indeed! I just recently reread that account. Chilling.] I couldn’t help but make the parallels to our situation here in the US and shuddered to think of what our downfall could look like. (Please God, let me be wrong about that.) As Christians we know how it will all ultimately end; Christ’s victory gives us hope. But He never promised us lives freed from persecution – quite the opposite! Prayer, fasting, confession – we need to make this part of our lives, day in and day out. And let us not forget that our hope is in Christ and He will not fail us. (I write that last line especially for myself and any others who are prone to despair.)

  28. Finarfin says:

    “I also recently re-read The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion and I have to say there’s a lot of applicable material, especially in the latter. The section in The Silmarillion that really resonated was the part Tolkien called the “Akallabêth”, or the Downfall of Numenor. I couldn’t help but make the parallels to our situation here in the US and shuddered to think of what our downfall could look like. ”

    I’ve had the very same, exact thoughts.

  29. Choirmaster says:

    @Finarfin: Tolkien is insightful! Unfortunately my cynicism led me to draw a parallel between the Kings of Numenor abandoning the use of the Valinorean language in official affairs and the Church abandoning the use of Latin in her liturgy. Even worse, Summorum pontificum reminded me of the policies of Tar Palantir, the king who repented of the ways of his predecessors, but too late and to no effect.

    For those of you who have not read the Akallabeth, the abandonment of the Elven Tongue by the Numenoreans was a signal that they had fallen out of honor of the Gods, and the worship of God, and confirmed the inevitability of the destruction of their society.

  30. Imrahil says:

    The Akallabêth was published after the liturgy reform, and I’m inclined to say that “of course” that was what Tolkien meant.

    Dear @Fortiter Pugnem, thank you very much for the flowers as we say in Westron, but I but filled in because the Lord Steward was indispensable (considering myself most privately the incarnation of obedience simply, and, obedience being a minor virtue only, appropriately without major role in the plot). I just happen not to have been killed “because such was not my destiny”. :-)

  31. StJude says:

    Supertradmum thanks for the video.. that was excellent.

  32. Supertradmum says:

    Maybe because I am a writer, doing short stories, dramas, poetry, as well as a sometime painter, I have always seen Tolkein as a prophet and just thought the things he wrote about had happened, were happening and will happen. I taught TLOR at the university level and some of my students got it, but most did not want to….at a famous Catholic university. If we pay attention, we have had lots of time to prepare for these days. God speaks to us in many ways, including excellent art. I have read everything of his that has been published except the last volume of letters.

  33. Supertradmum says:

    apologies to the great man for misspelling his name above…by the way, remember to make a date with your favorite person or persons for The Hobbit this December. If any of us have money for movies… Just to cheer us up… unlikely hero

  34. Mariana says:

    There’s also the The Hobbit blog, about the film being made

    But about Denethor- surely he had no hope, he looked into the palantir and despaired.

  35. Mariana says:

    In fact, why not watch Production Video nr 6 here
    or here

    Peter Jackson is standing in a Laketown doorway!

  36. ContraMundum says:

    The Akallabêth was published after the liturgy reform, and I’m inclined to say that “of course” that was what Tolkien meant.

    Which Tolkien? J.R.R. or Christopher? The Silmarillion was published after J.R.R. Tolkien’s death, and I’ve heard that he never intended these background stories to be made public at all.

    If so, I think it was a good call. In The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien was having a lot of fun in his imaginary world; in Lord of the Rings he was taking it a little too seriously; and in The Silmarillion he was taking it much too seriously, almost to an unhealthy degree. (Believe me, I am all too aware of the danger of spending too much time in an imaginary world. One could argue that by merely commenting on a blog, I’m doing just that right now.) For that reason, The Hobbit is a fun read, cover to cover, Lord of the Rings may be better than The Hobbit at some points, but it becomes (I know I will get blasted for this, but it’s true anyway) really tiresome in other places. (A good hint can be taken from what one character is called: when he is Strider, the story is moving along nicely, when he is Aragorn, the story may be going well or may be tending towards stiffness or pomposity, and when he is called Elessar or Elfstone or any other such title, it’s hopeless. The problem is characters trying to behave in a “courtly” fashion.) I don’t think I could make it through The Silmarillion again; I only managed it after learning in Germany to wait patiently for up to an hour for a bus, but most of that patience has gone now.

  37. Supertradmum says:

    Contramundum…opposite. Tolkien wanted the background stuff published indeed…it is in the bio….from phone

  38. Imrahil says:

    Of course the Lord of the Rings is tiresome at some places; but in my humble opinion this has nothing to do with how Aragorn is called. Book four is tiresome (perhaps on purpose, but I’m aware that this sounds like faking excuses); the rest is not. That’s my opinion. The Silmarillion is nice reading (in fact it feels like a great liberation that an author has actually allowed himself to be pathetic), especially the Beren and Luthien part (though the Aragorn and Arwen tale in the LotR is still better), which (and which) is a good antidote to teenage girl love stories (however beaten by far by Otfried Preußler’s Krabat-Kantorka-romance).

    Believe me, I am all too aware of the danger of spending too much time in an imaginary world.
    May I express my honest compassion for whatever caused you say so.

    Speaking generally, “too much” is wrong by definition, but what amount is too much is already another question… I might say that book-reading is innocent enough a leisure activity.

    I only managed it after learning in Germany to wait patiently for up to an hour for a bus.
    Not to mention going by the said bus, if you have the chance of having a seat.

  39. Mariana says:

    Indeed, The Silmarillion was THE thing for Tolkien and what he originally wanted published. (Sorry about BIG letters, but I can’t do italics when posting)

  40. elestirne says:

    Tolkien indeed took Middle-Earth extremely seriously, as some have said, even to the point of ‘obsession’ (though I am tempted to only praise such an obsession which has brought such happiness to so many). Anyone who doubts this may read his collected Letters (which are mostly excellent) and survey the ‘History of Middle-Earth’ series: twelve volumes primarily consisting of drafts and re-writings of LOTR and ‘The Silmarillion’. A couple of volumes have some different, previously unpublished material, however, and I personally found ‘Sauron Defeated’ to contain a remarkably interesting unfinished story, “The Notion Club Papers”. The book is set in the future, and there’s an incident in it which bears a bizarre resemblance to something that actually happened, and at roughly the same time it happened in the book. See the last paragraph on the Wikipedia page:

Comments are closed.