2

In Tolkien's universe there are examples of evolution (e.g. hobbits originate from humans) as well as creation (e.g. dwarves made by Aule).

What do we know about Tolkien's personal opinion concerning creation and evolution? And how did his opinion on this matter affect his work?

8

That Tolkien was a Creationist (of some sort) is indisputable; consider Letter 96, for example:

As for Eden. I think most Christians, except the v[ery] simple and uneducated or those protected in other ways, have been rather bustled and hustled now for some generations by the self-styled scientists, and they've sort of tucked Genesis into a lumber-room of their mind as not very fashionable furniture, a bit ashamed to have it about the house, don't you know, when the bright clever young people called

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 96: To Christopher Tolkien. January 1945

That does not, however, necessarily mean he was against biological evolution, so long as the act of creation was still divine; that's essentially what Theistic Evolution is. What's more, there are explicit references to evolutionary processes in his writings; Hobbits being descended from Men is one example, as is this passage from The Hobbit:

[Bilbo] could not swim; and he thought, too, of nasty slimy things, with big bulging blind eyes, wriggling in the water. There are strange things living in the pools and lakes in the hearts of mountains: fish whose fathers swam in, goodness only knows how many years ago, and never swam out again, while their eyes grew bigger and bigger and bigger from trying to see in the blackness

The Hobbit Chapter 5: "Riddles in the Dark"

In an essay published in Morgoth's Ring, he expresses the opinion that growth and change are inherent natural processes, placed there by the Valar during their creation1:

When [the Valar] perceived that Melkor would now turn darkness and night to his purposes, as he had aforetime sought to wield flame, they were grieved; for it was a part of their design that there should be change and alteration upon Earth, and neither day perpetual nor night without end.

History of Middle-earth X Morgoth's Ring Part 5: "Myths Transformed" II

And, in a footnote on that passage:

For it is indeed of the nature of Eä and the Great History that naught may stay unchanged in time, and things which do so, or appear to do so, or endeavour to remain so, become a weariness, and are loved no longer (or are at best unheeded.

History of Middle-earth X Morgoth's Ring Part 5: "Myths Transformed" II

As our good friends at Christianity.SE tell us, there's not necessarily a contradiction with being Catholic and accepting evolution; quoting from an answer to that question (in turn quoting a statement by Pope Pius XII:

[The] Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter - for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.

Although this was published in 1950, while Tolkien was nearing completion on The Lord of the Rings, it seems unlikely that this was a radical view of the time.

Pope Pius' statement is quite similar to the theology of Middle-earth, where growth and change (and subcreation by lesser beings than Iluvatar) is possible, but the "soul" still ultimately comes from God.


1 Really sub-creation, since true Creation is again the exclusive purview of God

1

The books were written as Christian mythology, creation etc. But:

Tolkien once described The Lord of the Rings to his friend, the English Jesuit Father Robert Murray, as "a fundamentally religious and Catholic work, unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision."source

Also:

In C.S. Lewis and evolution (www.creation.com) Peter Barnes writes, "Theologically, Lewis described himself as an Anglican...He is often regarded as suspect in his views, especially regarding the doctrines of revelation and the atonement. Certainly, Lewis retained some liberal elements in his thinking..." In other words, by thinking for himself, he was a heretic. He was converted to Christianity by J.R.R. Tolkien of Lord of the Rings fame.source

Both Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were Christian and creationists.

Most discussions of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis stress their kinship--their shared faith, their similar scholarly interests in literature and language, their mutual love of myth, legend, and heroic romance. Scholars have tended as well to note similarities in the distinguished corpus of fantasy literature created by Tolkien and Lewis.source

Tolkien's theory of Sub-Creation

The doctrine of sub-creation was especially congenial to Tolkien, both as a Christian and as a fantasy writer. As a Christian, Tolkien could view sub-creation as a form of worship, a way for creatures to express the divine image in them by becoming creators. As a fantasy writer, Tolkien could affirm his chosen genre as one of the purest of all fictional modes, because it called for the creation not only of characters and incidents, but also of worlds for them to exist in.

0

As far as I am aware from reading a biography on Tolkien he was an devout Catholic after his father. The book I read never spoke about his personal beliefs in regard to this kind of thing, however in general (especially at the time of Tolkien) the Catholic church believes strictly in genesis creation.

There are some similarities between biblical creation and how Eru Ilúvatar created the Ainur and they in turn created Arda (of which Middle-Earth is a part). Read the Silmarillion for more detail, I don't know all of it off the top of my head :)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.