The Tolkien Road

A podcast about Middle-earth and all things Tolkien.

0255 – Lord of the Rings “Religious and Catholic” » What Did Tolkien Mean?

Did Tolkien really say that The Lord of the Rings is religious and Catholic”?

He sure did.

In a 1953 letter to his long-time friend Fr. Robert Murray, SJ, he wrote:

“The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.”

Just what did he mean by that? 

On one hand, Tolkien most certainly did not intend for The Lord of the Rings to be read as a merely “symbolic” tale. In the Foreword to the book’s 2nd edition, he stated clearly that he did not intend to imbue the work with any hidden “inner meaning”, and denied that it was allegorical or topical.

So if that is the case, then what did Tolkien mean in his letter to Fr. Murray? 

It all has to do with the idea of the “order of Grace“, the sacramental means by which God interacts with and gives life to His creation. We might even say it has to do with the concept of salvation history, which Tolkien connects Middle-earth to in other writings. 

In episode 255, we begin an exploration of this topic, and discuss why it matters for all readers of Tolkien, and helps to deepen our appreciation of Middle-earth. Join us!


  • Andrew T
  • John R
  • Ms. Anonymous


  • Disclaimer for the Non-Religious » 1:55
  • Fr Robert Murray » 6:25
  • The Letter » 12:26
  • “The order of Grace” » 21:14
  • Mary = “All my perception of beauty” » 29:28
  • “A fundamentally religious and Catholic work” » 32:19
  • “Unconsciously at first / Consciously in the revision” » 36:27



Special thanks to the following patrons: 

  • Andrew T
  • John R
  • Ms. Anonymous
  • Kaitlyn of Tea with Tolkien
  • Shannon S
  • Brian O
  • Emilio P
  • Zeke F
  • James A
  • James L
  • Chris L
  • Chuck F
  • Asya V
  • Ish of the Hammer
  • Teresa C
  • David of Pints with Jack
  • Jonathan D
  • Eric S
  • Joey S
  • Eric B
  • Johanna T
  • Mike M
  • Robert H
  • Paul D
  • Julia
  • Werty


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