Tolkiens Ordinary Virtues by Mark Eddy Smith

Myths are not, by definition, lies. The story of Christ is a “true myth” a myth that works on us in the same way as the others, but a myth that really happened. Part of Tolkien’s argument to CS Lewis went like this: We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light–The Eternal Truth that is with God. Indeed, only by myth making, only by becoming a ‘sub creator’ and inventing stories, can man aspire to the state of perfection he knew before the fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer, however shakily, toward the true harbor. from the book.

I very rarely rate a book with five stars but it’s not since I read Dune as a teenager that I have been so impressed with a book that I’ve not been able to wait a month before I wanted to read it again. And the irony is: I don’t even like Lord of the Rings. Not the books, in any case. I loved The Hobbit, a nice, simple, fantasy without too many complications. LOTR is too wordy and masculine for my tastes. The exact reason it was adopted by male college students too young to have been WWII vets and too old to be hippies. It, and d&d which spun off from it, allowed men to live in a world where evil and good were clear and they didn’t really have to pick up a weapon to defend it.

But my prejudices aside, Mark Eddy Smith treats Tolkien’s books like scripture, and not like a bible thumping evangelical calling you to repentance, but like a mother singing you a hymn of praise on a high holy day. I love seeing the characters through his eyes (even if he is wrong that no one gave up the ring willingly-Sam did). I love how Mark ties values as ordinary as friendship and extraordinary as ‘failure.’ His take on the book allows me to enjoy Tolkien where I can’t by reading him. And that is the mark of an excellent writer.

Well done, Mr. Smith. Well done.

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