How did J. R. R. Tolkien’s Catholicism influence his writing? I was in two minds about including this article on this page as it just didn’t seem to stand out enough.
Then, however, I saw Drew Bowling’s reference to Leaf by Niggle, one of Tolkien’s less well known books that deserves to be very well known, as ‘a spellbinding treatment of purgatory’ and that convinced me that he is a man who knows what he is talking about.
Tolkien — a man of pious faith and of strong Catholic upbringing — imbued his literary work with the transcendency of the Christian faith. Disavowing allegorical mechanisms (though some commentators of his work might claim otherwise), he aimed at representing the eternal truths that undergird a sound understanding of Catholicism (beauty, virtue, the moral order, the eternal struggle between good and evil, etc.) in his work in such a way that the universality of these truths could be made evident. In the case of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, fantastical worlds and creatures provide a setting in which the elements of Christian ontology can be developed outside of their usual framework, thereby reflecting their transcendence as well as reaching audiences that might otherwise never encounter these truths.