Contemplating the theological meaning of The Lord of the Rings with the Catholic Guy

Over the course of this year, I have become addicted to listening to the Catholic Guy radio show. I had received a free trial of Sirius XM with my new car. Sadly, I couldn’t afford to renew. But most thankfully, the Catholic Guy show does weekly podcasts which are available for free on their website. So I’ve been catching up on older shows.

Lino Rulli (The Catholic Guy) and Father Rob Keighron make me laugh like nothing else I’ve ever experienced, while also sharing the wonders of our Catholic faith. So when I saw a podcast discussing The Hobbit, I couldn’t resist (, expecting the usually tomfoolery to ensue and Fr. Rob’s infectious laughter.

Ultimately, I should not have been surprised to find the discussion centered more on Fr. Rob’s attempts to describe the plot of The Lord of the Rings to Lino and its Christological symbolism. Fr. Rob is convinced that Frodo represents the person of Christ in his quest to Mordor. Callers both support and refute Father’s statements. Now, many months later, I figure why not weigh in myself?

I agree up to a point with Father Rob’s assertion that Frodo is representative of the person of Christ. However, I think Father would do well to read the book to get a fuller view. Frodo represents Christ only in so far as we are all called to be Christ for others. He suffers and sacrifices. He treats others with both wisdom and mercy.

However, in the final test, he fails to destroy the Ring. He claims it for himself.

This is a critical point. In this the success of the quest falls to the power of Providence. As discussed in a few of my previous posts, on eucatastrophe, Frodo and the quest are saved by Grace. His good deeds and empathy towards Gollum lead to the conditions by which the quest is achieved. As for all Christians, Frodo is reliant upon Providence for ultimate success. Like all Christians, he is called to bear his own cross, which are the Ring and its temptations.

In the end chance, or eucatastrophe, the sudden entrance of Grace, saves the day. Yes, Frodo’s extraordinary virtues and labors make the success of the quest possible, but he like us cannot achieve it in a vacuum on his own. We a prone to sin and temptation, the lesson to be learned is that God is there to help us pick up the pieces and by His grace fulfill our full potential.

While I cannot claim the sound theological background or knowledge for my argument, I have been pondering this question ever since listening to the podcast. As in all Tolkien discussions there are no true answers due to his reliance upon applicability in place of allegory. We know, as readers, as Tolkien states The Lord of the Rings is a truly Christian and particularly Roman Catholic work, but he never states what makes it so. That is up to the applicability and inspiration of the reader. For myself, it is yet another reason the reading and rereading of this work is enlightening. As all experiences color my interpretation, so to as I grow in the Faith, the revelations and inspiration that comes from this book change and grow. Ultimately, this makes LotR a highly person experience, in which your own knowledge and experiences dictate the meaning, rather than being enslaved to the author through allegory.

But I still can’t help but wonder, how might Tolkien respond to this question?