The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954-55)

“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory.  I love only that which they defend.”

G.K. Chesterton said “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”  This is true on many levels.  A soldier will tell you that he is loyal to his country, but in the heat of battle, he’s fighting for his buddies.  When war is raging around you, peace is not an abstract concept.  Our county is not free because wise men wrote brilliant words on perishable paper.  We are free today because thousands of men and women have been willing to lay down their own lives for us.

As Terry Glaspey explains in 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know :

The Lord of the Rings series is, in one sense, the ultimate road trip; the story of a journey through perilous lands in search of a ring of unimaginable power that must be destroyed in order to defeat the dark powers of evil and finally restore peace to Middle Earth (Tolkien’s name for his alternative world). Its pages are crammed with adventure, humor, moments of heart-stopping terror, and all the little fascinating details that bring the stories to life. As a tale of wonder and heroism, it stands without equal in its genre, and much of its charm comes from the nature of its protagonists. Frodo, and Bilbo before him, are not heroic by nature, but the root of their courage is their love of their friends, their loyalty to their home (the Shire), and their defense of a simple, ordinary life. Theirs is a heroism of mercy, for it is only due to Frodo’s compassion toward Gollum at so many junctures along the way that their quest is successful in the end.

The Lord of the Rings series is also a parable about the danger of the misuse of power, with its central object of desire being a ring that can be used to dominate others. Because Tolkien published the books in the postwar era, many readers have tried to connect the ring with the looming threat of atomic warfare. Though this creates an interesting reading, Tolkien himself dismissed such musings by saying that he just wanted to tell a good story. And he did.


Have you ever had to fight for something precious to you?

John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

D I G  D E E P E R

To define the world of The Hobbit is, of course, impossible, because it is new. You cannot anticipate it before you go there, as you cannot forget it once you have gone. The author’s admirable illustrations and maps of Mirkwood and Goblingate and Esgaroth give one an inkling—and so do the names of the dwarf and dragon that catch our eyes as we first ruffle the pages. But there are dwarfs and dwarfs, and no common recipe for children’s stories will give you creatures so rooted in their own soil and history as those of Professor Tolkien … You must read for yourself to find out how inevitable the change is and how it keeps pace with the hero’s journey. Though all is marvellous, nothing is arbitrary: all the inhabitants of Wilderland seem to have the same unquestionable right to their existence as those of our own world … The Hobbit…will be funnier to its youngest readers, and only years later, at a tenth or a twentieth reading, will they begin to realise what deft scholarship and profound reflection have gone to make everything in it so ripe, so friendly, and in its own way so true. Prediction is dangerous: but The Hobbit may well prove a classic.”

–C.S. Lewis, The Times Literary Supplement, October 2, 1937 (Paris Review link)

J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien

(1892–1973). His heroes are rather short, rather stout, and have very furry feet. English author J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantastic tales of battles between good and evil, including The Lord of the Rings trilogy, made hobbit a household word.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on Jan. 3, 1892, and moved at age 4 with his family to England, where he was educated at Exeter College, Oxford. He was a professor at Oxford from 1925 to 1959 and first gained recognition as a philologist, a person who studies the way language is used in literature. This work led him to help edit a version of the English fable Sir Gawain and the Green Knight that was published in 1925.

Tolkien not only studied fables; he created new ones of his own. He invented an imaginary land, Middle Earth, in meticulous detail: its language, its geography, and its exciting history. The Hobbit; or, There and Back Again, published in 1937, introduces readers to this special world as its inhabitants—elves, dwarfs, wizards, and the furry-footed hobbit Bilbo Baggins—fight and win against an evil dragon.

This story is continued in The Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954–55), consisting of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. These tales became immensely popular in the 1960s, especially among young adults. Another Tolkien book on Middle Earth, The Silmarillion, was published four years after his death in Bournemouth, England, on Sept. 2, 1973.

Sources & Resources

“Tolkien, J.R.R.,” Compton’s Encyclopedia (Chicago, IL: Compton’s Encyclopedia, 2015).

Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1981.

———. Tolkien: The Authorized Biography. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1978.

Duriez, Colin. The J. R. R. Tolkien Handbook. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992.

Purtill, Richard. J. R. R. Tolkien: Myth, Morality, and Religion. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1984.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).


Terry Glaspey

Terry Glaspey

I’m really looking forward to discussing my book, “75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know,” with the members of Literary Life Book Club. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and perspectives on some of the art, music, and literature you’ll discover in the book. I’m interested in how it speaks to you in your life and the ways it inspires, challenges, or maybe even annoys you! I’ll try to share some “deleted scenes” stuff I had to leave out and will tell a few stories about what I experienced while doing the writing and research. Hope that many of you can join us as we look at he stories behind some truly wonderful art.

Let’s explore together!


Join the discussion with Terry on Facebook HERE

Terry Glaspey is a writer, an editor, a creative mentor, and someone who finds various forms of art—painting, films, novels, poetry, and music—to be some of the places where he most deeply connects with God.

He has a master’s degree in history from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), as well as undergraduate degrees emphasizing counseling and pastoral studies.

He has written over a dozen books, including 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know:  Fascinating Stories Behind Great Art, Music, Literature, and Film, Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis, The Prayers of Jane Austen, 25 Keys to Life-Changing Prayer, Bible Basics for Everyone, and others.

Terry enjoys writing and speaking about a variety of topics including creativity and spirituality, the artistic heritage of the Christian faith, the writing of C.S. Lewis, and creative approaches to apologetics.

He serves on the board of directors of the Society to Explore and Record Church History and is listed in Who’s Who in America Terry has been the recipient of a number of awards, including a distinguished alumni award and the Advanced Speakers and Writers Editor of the Year award.

Terry has two daughters and lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Dig Deeper at


Some of the greatest painters, musicians, architects, writers, filmmakers, and poets have taken their inspiration from their faith and impacted millions of people with their stunning creations. Now readers can discover the stories behind seventy-five of these masterpieces and the artists who created them. From the art of the Roman catacombs to Rembrandt to Makoto Fujimura; from Gregorian Chant to Bach to U2; from John Bunyan and John Donne to Flannery O’Connor and Frederick Buechner; this book unveils the rich and varied artistic heritage left by believers who were masters at their craft.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).

Order it HERE today.

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Rick Wilcox

Editor in Chief | Literary Life