"A fundamentally religious and Catholic work" - Who is the saviour in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings

Seminar Paper, 2004
9 Pages, Grade: 1,5 (A)



1. Introduction

2. Potential Saviours
2.1 Frodo
2.2 Gandalf

3. Comparison of the characters

4. Conclusion – is there one single saviour character?

5. Sources/ literature

1. Introduction

Tolkien himself wrote in one of his letters: ‘The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like ‘religion’, to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.’[1]

Tolkien was a Catholic to whom religion was a very important part of his life. Considering this background, it seems logical to assume he made religion an important part of his stories, too. But Tolkien states that he deliberately left out religion of the imaginary world and only included it on a meta-level. This means that we will not find direct references to religion or Christianity in The Lord of the Rings, but still Christian ethics and values, maybe as well as myths and stories, can be found on many levels and as parallels to different story-lines. The base of all Christian religion and belief is the person Jesus Christ, who saved all men from death by taking their sins and burdens and eliminating them in his death and resurrection. If Tolkien can call The Lord of the Rings ‘a fundamentally religious and Catholic work’, one could argue that this base of Christian religion has to be found somewhere in his story. In this paper, I would like to discuss if there is anything like a single ‘saviour’-character in The Lord of the Rings, how and by which features one might identify him or her, and which function he or she was given.

2. Potential Saviours

In the bible, Jesus is characterised in many different ways and has many important features: He is called, and calls himself, the ‘Son of God’. This means that he has a special and very intimate relationship to God. He is also called ‘David’s Son’ and ‘Messiah’. The Messiah is a chosen king the Jewish people has long been waiting for. He is supposed to come as a messenger directly from God, and he will start God’s kingdom on earth. But this king has to be a descendant of the old king David in order to fulfil the old prophecies:

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.[2]

In Jesus’ life, the most important events are his Christening, his travels through Galilee where he told people about the coming kingdom of God and gave signs of it, e.g. by healing people, and then of course his death as a representative for all men’s sins and his resurrection.

When comparing Jesus to some characters in The Lord of the Rings, many of these features can be found, and it is not only one character that seems worth investigating. Of course, Frodo is an obvious choice, because he is – if you can speak of this at all – the main character in the book. Then there is Gandalf, and also Aragorn, the lawful King of men.

As the scale of this paper is limited, I will concentrate on Frodo and Gandalf, because these characters show the most interesting parallels to the biblical saviour and, being a Hobbit and a Wizard, are quite different.

2.1 Frodo

Frodo sacrifices himself to the task of saving the world from the dark powers, and so he is the Ring-bearer, he alone can defeat Sauron by destroying the ring of power. When regarding it like this, it seems obvious that Frodo plays the role of the saviour. And indeed, when comparing him to the Christian saviour Jesus Christ, one can find some striking parallels:

The one Ring is a symbol for the evil. It has immense powers, and it has to be destroyed in order to save the whole world and all beings from eternal enslavement to the evil powers. Frodo carries this ring, and despite its size, it is a heavy burden to carry. Also, the ring becomes even heavier the longer Frodo is carrying it.


[1] J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 142

[2] New King James Bible, Isaiah 9,7a

Excerpt out of 9 pages


"A fundamentally religious and Catholic work" - Who is the saviour in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings
University of Heidelberg  (Anglistics)
EPG: A Survey of Fantasy Literature
1,5 (A)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
437 KB
Anglistics and Theology
Catholic, Tolkien, Lord, Rings, Survey, Fantasy, Literature
Quote paper
Natascha Haas (Author), 2004, "A fundamentally religious and Catholic work" - Who is the saviour in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/22410


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