Kate (kate_nepveu) wrote,

Organized Religion in LotR

In comments to my Sunday Noreascon writeup, I wondered why there isn't more organized religion in The Lord of the Rings. A couple people were kind enough to respond, but I thought it needed a separate post.

Here's my best recollections on what kind of religion we see in The Lord of the Rings.

  • The Elves sing songs about the Valar.
  • Frodo invokes Elbereth and gets results, some of the time.
  • Faramir and his men face the West before meals.

I haven't re-read since late 1997/early 1998, mind, but I don't think there's anything more explicit than that.

silmaril pointed out what my initial reaction is: the Valar aren't playing anymore, they aren't interested. As The Silmarillion says, "Men have feared the Valar, rather than loved them" (which is part of my crankiness with the theological underpinnings of Middle Earth in general, but never mind that now). Putting organized religion, or even worship, into that just doesn't work for "Men," at least the ones who are aware of that history.

But I guess there are two questions here, and I don't really know enough to give good answers to either. First, within Middle Earth, why is there no religion—what social and historical events led to this, and is this likely, realistic, or plausible; and second, why did Tolkien choose to write Middle Earth this way?

rilina suggested another answer to the first question, focusing on Gondor and its divinely-appointed status; this may be so (and I think Rohan could be explained away as being lesser than Gondor), but I'm also puzzled by hobbits—on both levels, actually, as I tend to think of the hobbits as stand-ins for the reader. (I have no idea what to make of dwarves in this regard.)

I'm not sure this is any clearer than my original one-line question, actually, and this is probably a well-hashed-out topic already—but it's not an easy topic to google. Anyway, thoughts?

Tags: books, lotr, sff

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