Tolkien in Perspective
Sifting the Gold from the Glitter
A Book by Greg Wright

This page was created on June 30, 2003
This page was last updated on October 29, 2006

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VMI Publishers has released a new book by Hollywood Jesus Editor Greg Wright titled, Tolkien in Perspective: Sifting the Gold From the Glitter. Through his analysis, the author offers the reader a useful framework for assessing "Christian art" and the Christian response to art. As suggested by the subtitle, "A Look at the Unsettling Power of Tolkien's Mythology," Wright also helps explain why The Lord of the Rings is one of the great works of world literature. The book is a compelling alternative to both unbridled praise and dismissive criticism.

Readable yet scholarly, Wright's book takes into account the full breadth of Tolkien's writings—everything from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to The Silmarillion and The History of Middle-Earth; from Tolkien's Letters to his published essays. And in the closing chapters, Wright boldly offers compelling alternatives to his own conclusions, which demonstrates his desire for a responsible approach to handling Tolkien's work. He is not overly concerned with being "right."

Over the last fifty years,The Lord of the Rings has been lauded as "The Book of the Twentieth Century," and called "required reading in every Christian household." It has been attacked by literary critics and religious leaders. Its detractors are many; its defenders are legion. But there is another option.

"The chief purpose of life, for any one of us," Tolkien said, "is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks."

After fifty years, it's about time to get a real handle on dealing with Tolkien's work in the way Tolkien intended. For many, The Lord of the Rings has proven little more than a distraction from what Tolkien called the "chief purpose of life," while still remaining a terribly neglected means of bringing others to praise and thanks.


david_book.jpg - 5120 BytesGreg Wright's treatment of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings is both perceptive and provocative. This is a must-read book for anyone interested in the meaning and significance of Tolkien's masterpiece. It is with great appreciation and excitement that I recommend this wonderful and insightful book to you. Greg is a man I respect as a friend and as a scholar. This is a book that had to be written. It will have a prominent place in my library, and is one that I will give as a gift to my valued friends.

David Bruce, Webmaster,  

regina_book.jpg - 5120 BytesEven if you disagree with Greg Wright's conclusions, after reading Tolkien in Perspective you will admit that he adds an interesting angle to the Tolkien debate—a perspective that even staunch Tolkien critics should consider. Wright's readable style and contemporary allusions will keep the casual reader hooked. Truly thought-provoking.

—Regina Doman, author, The Shadow of the Bear,  
and Former Editor, Caelum et Terra  

mark_book.jpg - 5120 BytesMany Christians are puzzled by The Lord of the Rings phenomenon in America. Should we see the movies? Should we (re)read the books? Answers from those who claim to know send mixed messages. Some issue dire warnings about Tolkien's writings, seeing them as a gateway to the occult. Others embrace Rings as a hearty Christian expression of faith that deserves a place alongside Scripture itself.

Into this confusion of voices Greg Wright steps boldly as a moderating and non-reactionary guide. Wright is a master of both the Tolkien corpus and of the vast secondary literature it has spawned. In addition, Wright has honed his understanding through dialogue with Rings buffs worldwide in his role as Tolkien expert on Hollywood Jesus. Wright sees The Lord of the Rings as valuable for believers because it contains a "wealth of symbolism, a smattering of Biblical allusions, and dominant strains of Christian themes." Yet, as the subtitle of this book suggests, Tolkien is not above criticism, sometimes sharp criticism. As Wright often notes—using Tolkien's own analogy—there is "chaff with his corn."

Any fan hungry for deeper discussion of The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien's works in general will find much to chew on in this book. Wright offers a fresh analysis for serious students of, perhaps, the most important author of the 20th century.

—Dr. Mark S. Krause, Provost / Professor of Biblical Studies  
Puget Sound Christian College  

regina_book.jpg - 5120 BytesTolkien in Perspective is rich, balanced and challenging. Author Greg Wright covers a lot and presents his arguments very clearly. I was particularly impressed by his understanding and appreciation of Roman Catholic perspectives and his ability to handle them knowledgeably and critically without entirely dismissing them—a feat of some accomplishment in my experience, particularly for those who were not raised in the Roman Catholic tradition. Wright's book has made me want to go back to the trilogy again—and perhaps to take up some of the other works of Tolkien."

—Miceal Vaughan, Associate Professor, English and Comp. Lit.
University of Washington

Click on the links below to read the complete reviews. Also see for other reader reviews.

What perhaps most distinguishes Wright's work is not the good writing and reasoning, though that's certainly appreciated. Rather, it is his ability to walk the fine line and really understand that not all that is gold glitters.
—Cliff Vaughan, Ethics Daily enjoyable, if challenging read, which taught me a good deal.
—Attalus, Ring Quest LOTR Fansite

...although this book is a theological work, those like me who are more challenged in that field will also find it readable and useful.
—Eledhwen, The Tolkien Forum LOTR Fansite

Ethics Daily, 10/13/03: Consecrating Life

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/3/04: Missing in Action

Scripps Howard News Service, 1/19/05: Divining the Meaning of 'Lord of the Rings'

Reporter Interactive, 1/21/05: Tolkien Admirer Explores Rings from Christian Angle

greg_book.jpg - 5120 BytesGreg Wright is the author of Tolkien in Perspective: Sifting the Gold from the Glitter and Peter Jackson in Perspective: The Power Behind Cinema's The Lord of the Rings.

Writer in Residence at Puget Sound Christian College in Everett, Washington, Greg was a contributing editor at Hollywood Jesus from January, 2000 through May 2006, and during that time he contributed dozens of reviews and features related to The Lord of the Rings books and movies. His work on Tolkien has been translated into Spanish, German and Swedish and has won many accolades in the web-publishing world. Greg is an ordained pastor who holds degrees in English Literature, Computer Science and Theology, and his study of Tolkien now stretches back over 25 years. Greg is now Managing Editor of Past the Popcorn.


A seasoned prospector, immune to the lust of gold fever, knows that gold is found in many forms, and in many unexpected contexts. Gold is also rarely found in its purest form: Ore must be assayed to determine its purity. Then the prospector may determine whether the cost of extracting gold from the ore can be justified. And there will be no unrealistic expectation that only pure gold is worth mining.

The only pure gold for the Christian, of course, is God's Word itself. We would be foolish to presume that we will find any purer source. We may turn to specialists to help extract the gold of Scripture from the bedrock; we may even find that veins of less pure ore are connected to God's motherlode; and we may be enriched by panning for placer within the watershed of God's mountain. But we must be ever cognizant that whatever truth we do find leads back to the pure vein of Scripture. And we must be increasingly vigilant about the attractiveness of iron pyrite the further we wander from the True Source.

So what do we find in The Lord of the Rings? How pure is the ore we find there, and how closely related is it to the motherlode? Such questions are the object of Consecration Analysis. At the outset, we hoped to answer three questions with regard to intent and artifact. First: is there evidence that Tolkien's purposes were with Christ, or at least not against Him? Second, is there evidence that Tolkien's fiction is consistent with what we know of his purposes? And finally, what concerns may need to be addressed so that we may honor God through our own handling of Tolkien's work?

Hopefully, we have seen that The Lord of the Rings is no mere story. It is simply the most visible element of a grand and complex myth, and there is great power in Tolkien's mythology. If it were not powerful, it would not be popular. Hence, to the public mind, the T mythology is terribly relevant. One of the major reasons for its relevance is its warm embrace of a metaphysical universe, and a rejection of the more damaging aspects of a rational, mechanistic view.

So post-modernism is decidedly a factor in the present power of Tolkien's fiction. But that's not entirely by design, as we have seen, because Tolkien was not, properly speaking, anti-modernist. For Tolkien, fantasy "does not destroy or even insult Reason." While we may excitedly embrace his fiction as a means of connecting with a post-modern desire for meaning beyond barren rationality, for Tolkien the solution was neither modernity nor a knee-jerk response to it, but faith.

Oddly enough, the powerful relevance of Middle-Earth is not found in a distinctly Christian world view but a deliberately pre-Christian world view. Tolkien was remarkably prescient in seeing that what our modern world needed was a new pre-Christian mythology, a new story to point the world to Christ - not to replace the True Story, but to point the way back for disenfranchised or disillusioned seekers. This is tremendously good news for those who are passionate about reaching the lost in today's society. If Tolkien's myth is powerfully popular due to its pre-Christian design, then clearly we have a widespread, pre-Christian cultural movement afoot. As we will see presently, this puts the ball squarely in our court; and we'd best not drop it.

At the same time, Tolkien was aware of the chaff in his corn. What hope is there for a Fourth Age Believer? What does Middle-Earth's metaphysics have to offer, in a concrete way, for one of "the Atani," or as Andreth's people call themselves, "the Seekers"? Man is the race of Middle-Earth which "journeyed west in vain hope," and finds the journey "mere flight in a dream from what waking they know." Tolkien was aware that, without Christ, Seekers are left to search in fallen darkness, clinging to vague hopes but never living in abundant, saving Christian faith. He also knew that such a faith was not portrayed in The Lord of the Rings.

From Chapter 8, "Conclusions: Gold, or Just Glitter?"


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Tolkien in Perspective: ISBN 0971231168
Distributor: Faithworks

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