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Tolkien's Faith and His Writings: Gandalf, Aragorn, and Sam as Symbols of Christ
The first installment of the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, was published in 1954 by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, more commonly known by his pen name—J.R.R. Tolkien. Since that time, the world of Middle-earth has fascinated readers and transformed lives.
Films, art, fan fiction, and literature on the significance and symbolism of Tolkien's work and tales of Middle-earth have created a significant cultural impact that's reverberated throughout the decades—the most significant of which is the tale of Frodo and the One Ring as told in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Today, I delve into this incredible story and share with you how Tolkien’s enduring faith is expressed in his novels. Tolkien was a devout Roman Catholic who believed firmly in the values of Christianity, which is reflected in his plotlines, characters, and backstories.
Now, before I begin, I want to state that The Lord of the Rings can be enjoyed without reading it through Christ-colored glasses, and I will never accept the idea that The Lord of the Rings is a complete Christian allegory—and Tolkien himself did not intend for the series to be taken as such.
On the contrary, he detested allegory and stated himself that his novels were never written with the intent of preaching religion; however, Tolkien was always quick to admit that all of his works were written in the Christian tradition and therefore were full of Christian symbols.
In the entire canon of Tolkien’s primary work, three characters emerge in the story as symbols of Christ: Gandalf, Aragorn, and Samwise Gamgee. Unlike Aslan in C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, no single character fully embodies the Christ figure of the story; rather, each of these three characters clearly symbolizes a different aspect of Jesus Christ.
Christ-Like Traits of Gandalf, Aragorn, and Sam
Dual identities: a common man and a powerful, mystical figure
Accepts his leadership role and embraces his destiny
Disciple-like; self-sacrificial and faithful
Sacrifices himself for the rest of the Fellowship
Does not question his purpose
Resurrected as "Gandalf the White" after his sacrifice
Overcomes evil; reigns in peace and righteousness
Literally carried Frodo up Mount Doom in the final stages of his journey to destroy the One Ring, helping him to complete his mission, and carrying his burden as he struggles to fulfill his purpose (as Jesus carried the struggling believer)
1. Gandalf: The Wandering Pilgrim and Savior of Middle-earth
Gandalf is the dominant symbol of Christ in The Lord of the Rings; evidence of this can be found by first looking at how Gandalf came to Middle-earth and then considering his actions throughout the story. Gandalf was sent by the Valar from the land of Valinor to rescue the people of Middle-earth from evil and to protect them from Sauron.
For those who have not read The Silmarillion, the Valar are basically the gods and goddesses of Middle-earth, and Valinor is the land of bliss in which they dwell. In The Silmarillion, Gandalf is introduced as a spirit named Olorin, and he only took on the flesh of men so that the people of Middle-earth would trust him and have faith in his mission. Similarly, Christ left heaven to come to Earth and took bodily form to rescue humanity from sin and Satan.
When we first meet Gandalf in Fellowship of the Ring, we encounter a wizened old man with a long, gray beard; bushy eyebrows; a flowing cloak; and a wooden staff worn from travel. Like Jesus, everywhere Gandalf goes, he seeks to help others, restore hope, and fight evil. He travels so extensively that the elves and men of Gondor call him Mithrandir, which means "the gray pilgrim." Also like Jesus, Gandalf possesses several different names that each have a unique meaning: Incanus, Lathspell, Mithrandir, Olorin, Tharkun, etc.
Tolkien presents a duality—Galdalf's as Olorin, the spirit who takes on earthly existence to save humanity, and the more lowly identity of "the gray pilgrim" and the images it conjures of the elderly, gray-bearded, bushy-eyebrowed man. Therefore, one can see where Tolkien began to craft a symbol of Christ—whose humility on Earth was counterbalanced by his sanctity—through the character of Gandalf.
The symbolism of Christ becomes most evident in Gandalf’s actions as leader of the fellowship that was appointed by the Council of Elrond in Rivendell. When things become tough on the road, Gandalf and the entire fellowship are forced into the Mines of Moria in an attempt to pass under the Misty Mountains.
The slow journey through the mountains comes to a terrifying climax when the fellowship is chased by a fiery demon of the ancient world called a Balrog. In this heart-pounding moment, surrounded by fire, darkness, whizzing arrows, and terrified screams, Gandalf realizes that no one will escape the mines alive unless he puts his life at stake for his friends.
As Jesus once said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend (John 15:13).” As the fellowship begins to cross the treacherous Bridge of Khazad-dûm, the Balrog closes in from behind, but Gandalf takes the rear guard and turns to face the monstrous beast alone.
Standing on the bridge surrounded by darkness, Gandalf faces his enemy of flame and shadow and willingly sacrifices his life to save his friends. Tears are shed by the Hobbits, hope is lost by others, and Aragorn’s heart wavers at the loss of his mentor. But Gandalf’s story does not end with his sacrifice.
After falling from the bridge, Gandalf chases the great demon through the deepest and darkest catacombs of Middle-earth, where he slays the Balrog. This final exertion of power causes Gandalf to die. Without Gandalf, the fellowship feels lost, but the Valar decide that Gandalf’s mission is not complete, and he rises from the dead more powerful and glorious than before.
He becomes Gandalf the White; no longer hidden under the veil of Gandalf the Gray, he reunites with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli in Fangorn Forest. Gandalf goes on to orchestrate the forces of good to defeat Saruman and Sauron by uniting Rohan, inspiring Gondor, and giving Frodo a chance to destroy the Ring and, therefore, Sauron, forever.
The direct symbolism in these actions are easily discerned—through the character of Gandalf, Tolkien attempts to show his readers the power of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, descent into darkness, resurrection, and glorification in his new body.
2. Aragorn: The Healer and Glorious King
Aragorn is a Ranger of the North, also known simply as "Ranger" (Aragorn's Ranger name was "Strider")—a mysterious, hooded individual who wanders the northern parts of Middle-earth and protects the lands he patrols, living in obscurity and never seeking glory for himself. He is a character torn by his desire to do what’s right and his fear of fulfilling his destiny of becoming King of Gondor.
Aragorn: An Everyman of the People
Tolkien describes Aragorn as someone that none of us would really be attracted to. As Tolkien would put it, “All that is gold does not glitter" (Fellowship of the Ring ch.10). This sounds very familiar to a passage of scripture that describes Jesus:
"He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him; nothing in his appearance that we should desire him." — Isaiah 53:2
Furthermore, in Return of the King, Aragorn dies a figurative death when he enters the Path of the Dead to summon the deceased traitors of the mountain to fulfill their ancient oath and fight for Gondor. Though Aragorn himself did not die, he willingly entered into a world in which the line between life and death is very blurred. Moreover, being surrounded by ghosts, darkness, evil, skulls, and other symbols of death emphasizes Aragorn’s metaphorical death. Once Aragorn emerges from the dark Path of the Dead, he leads his newfound army of the dead to liberate Gondor from the forces of darkness.
Finally, by his courage and excellent leadership, Aragorn leads an army that distracts Sauron so that Frodo has a chance to destroy the Ring.
The Rangers of the North are equipped with knowledge of plants and herbs and their healing and restorative qualities, and Aragorn, too, shares in this wisdom. Aragorn heals Faramir, Merry, Eowyn, and many others after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in Return of the King, leading a Gondorian nurse to recount an old legend: "The hands of the King are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known." His healing prowess helped restore him to his rightful role as king, as the people of Gondor understood his abilities to mean he was the true heir of the throne of Gondor.
Upon the fall of Sauron, flight of Sauron’s armies, and Aragorn's healing of the people of Gondor, Aragorn is crowned king with much praise and exaltation. His coronation signaled the restoration of the ancient Kingdom of Gondor and began a time of unparalleled peace.
The Christ symbolism of Aragorn largely draws from the Jesus of Revelation. In Christian theology, Jesus Christ is going to return to the world and rescue all those who have faithfully served God. When Jesus returns, the book of Revelation describes Jesus as a warrior much like Aragorn:
“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.” (Revelation 19:11-13)
In addition, Jesus will be restored to the throne and rule over the heavens and the earth. Christian theology also teaches that Christ’s reign will be characterized by a great renewal of the Heavens and Earth and everlasting peace. When Jesus comes, it will truly be "the return of the king." Therefore, Aragorn represents Christ the warrior and liberator, as well as the coming king who will reign with glory!
3. Sam Gamgee: The Suffering Servant and Faithful Companion
Many of you are probably thinking that I am crazy to assert that Sam is a Christ figure in the story. Admittedly, the symbolism of Sam is a bit trickier to see than that of Gandalf or Aragorn. Through Sam, readers catch a glimpse of the suffering Christ who loves his friends so passionately that he will never abandon them.
Sam is a rustic Hobbit who possesses incredible integrity and unique, simplistic wisdom. When Frodo leaves the fellowship to find Mordor on his own in chapter 10 of book 2 in Fellowship of the Ring, it is Sam alone who goes with Frodo into the land of darkness.
Sam, the Ever-Faithful
Sam refuses to be parted from Frodo and is always faithful to their friendship and the cause of good, even when Frodo becomes nearly unlovable and begins to succumb to the will and manipulation of Gollum. Gollum is the Hobbit-like creature who was tempted and corrupted by the One Ring's power long before it came into Frodo's possession, causing his everlasting love and obsession with it, which would ultimately lead to its ruin, as well as his own. As the Ring and Gollum gain more power over Frodo, Gollum manages to deceive Frodo into believing that Sam is plotting to take the Ring from Frodo.
The irony is that Gollum is actually plotting to kill Frodo and take the Ring. When Frodo tells Sam to leave because he has decided to place his trust in Gollum, Sam is shattered. Sam obeys Frodo and painfully begins the journey home with tears pouring down his face. But Sam realized that he could not abandon Frodo. Sam loved Frodo so much that even after Frodo had mistreated him and rejected him, he turned back around and decided to rescue Frodo from whatever terrors may lie before him because he recognized that Frodo was being manipulated by Gollum's wicked lies.
The final section of Sam and Frodo's quest sees Sam rescue Frodo from an orc-filled tower, encourage Frodo to never give up, and carry Frodo on his shoulder when he no longer had the strength to press on.
Many people have read the poem “Footprints in the Sand,” in which a person realizes that no matter what happened in life, God never abandoned him, and when life’s most tragic moments struck, Jesus carried that person to safety. Like Frodo, Satan and the world are constantly trying to deceive us, and sometimes we fall for these lies and tricks. Nevertheless, Christ never leaves the sides of his followers:
“Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Paul, Romans 8:38-39)
The faithfulness of Christ is seen in the faithfulness of Sam, and like Frodo, all those who follow Christ should be thankful that we serve a God who loves us passionately.
Isn't Frodo Also a Christ Figure?
Frodo is often seen as the part of Christ that experienced suffering and sacrifice. His journey to take the One Ring back to Middle-earth can be interpreted as a representation of Christ's sacrifice—dying for the sin of man. In the end, Frodo's sacrifice cost him his life; he could no longer return peacefully to the Shire with his fellow Hobbits, Sam, Merry, and Pippin.
However, in some ways, Frodo represents the everyman of the Christian world. He represents each of us struggling to destroy our sinful nature or temptation, which is represented by the One Ring. Just before he destroys the Ring, he nearly succumbs to its power—which is contrary to Jesus' angelic nature. Although there are certain biblical passages that reflect that Jesus may have felt lonely and abandoned at certain times during his difficult journey, he never truly despaired and gave up in the way Frodo did just before the destruction of the Ring.
In fact, in the end, Gollum was the one who destroyed the Ring. He attempted to steal it back from Frodo after Frodo had claimed it for himself at the very edge of the Crack of Doom of Mount Doom, where the Ring was forged. Gollum's desire for the Ring, which resulted in him attacking Frodo for it and ultimately falling over the edge into the lava, was what destroyed the Ring in the end—not Frodo's sacrifice.
"The Lord of the Rings" is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like "religion", to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.
— J.R.R. Tolkien
Other Tolkien Characters Who May Represent Christian Figures
Some posit that Galadriel, the "Lady" of the Lothlórien Woods, represents the Virgin Mary. She is beautiful and innocent, and she is generally considered to be a pure and good figure. She also displays motherly characteristics in the way she cares for the members of the Fellowship when they come to stay with her in Lothlórien Woods. Her home is even described as being somewhat womb-like—safe and closed off from the outside world.
Sauron appears to be a depiction of evil and perhaps even a literary representation of Satan—he is the exact opposite of the Christ-like figures of Gandalf, Aragorn, and Sam in that he is purely self-motivated and diabolical. However, those more familiar with Tolkein canon and The Silmarillion will know that another character, Morgoth, who was not present in The Lord of the Rings, who served as Sauron's master. This character is the ultimate embodiment of Satan; however, in the context of The Lord of the Rings, Sauron does serve as the character most closely aligned with Satan.
The Ring of Power exemplifies the dark magic of the corrupted will, the assertion of self in disobedience to God. It appears to give freedom, but its true function is to enslave the wearer to the Fallen Angel. It corrodes the human will of the wearer, rendering him increasingly 'thin' and unreal; indeed, its gift of invisibility symbolizes this ability to destroy all natural human relationships and identity.
— Stratford Caldecott, author of "The Lord & Lady of the Rings"
Religious Symbols in The Lord of the Rings
The White Tree of Gondor
The White Tree of Gondor, with its seven stars and seven stones, represents the connection between the people of Gondor (men) and the Elves. To those who view its beauty, it serves as a symbol of renewal and hope, as it was replanted numerous times throughout the history of Middle-earth.
When Aragorn ascends the throne of Gondor in Return of the King, he again replants the tree from a sapling found on the slopes of Mindolluin, and faith and hope are restored in the people of Gondor. The tree itself serves as a symbol of resurrection—the tree was left dead as the stewards kept watch over Gondor for nearly 1,000 years before Aragorn was restored as its rightful king but bloomed again when the glorious king returned.
Mount Doom and the One Ring
Mount Doom is the only place where the One Ring can be destroyed—and it is also where the ring was forged by Sauron. The ring symbolizes the evil that lurks within all humans. It is a representation of pure evil; all those who come near it are lured by its power and promise, and only the purest of heart can resist it.
Christian Themes in "The Lord of the Rings"
Is The Lord of the Rings a Metaphor for World War II?
Actually, World War I had a much more profound impact on the creation of the Lord of the Rings tale than did World War II. Gandalf's iconic line ("You cannot pass" in the novel, and "You shall not pass" in the film) is thought to be an homage to "On ne passe pas" ("One shall not pass"), a famous phrase the French used at the battlefront of the Battle of Verdun in 1916.
However, Tolkien's son served in World War II, and this was thought to have reinvigorated Tolkien's passion for writing, as he sent snippets of the tale to his son in letters during the war.
Other Famous Tales With Christian Symbolism
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis: Likely one of the tales most known for Christian symbolism, aside from The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia explores the concepts of good and evil and serves as an allegory for Jesus' death on the cross and recounts the gospel in a timeless, family-friendly fantasy tale.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath allegorizes the Book of Exodus as a Depression-era story filled with Christian symbolism and religious imagery.
Hamlet by William Shakespeare: Shakespeare is known for his use of religious allegory and symbolism in many of the numerous plays attributed to him. Hamlet, one of the most well-recognized dramatic works in the history of theatre and Shakespeare's repertoire, is riddled with religious allusions, including Hamlet as Christ and references to the Trinity.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding: Students and academics have long drawn comparisons between Jesus and Golding's wise and mysterious character of Simon. The novel can be interpreted as a Hobbesian take on human nature that posits that evil is inherent in human nature and not a scourge on humanity precipitated by Satan.
Gandalf the White, Aragorn the King, and Samwise the Brave—these three characters can be interpreted as Tolkien’s symbols for Christ in his epic trilogy. I hope that this article blesses your day, opens your eyes, or, if you disagree with me, sparks your mind for debate. Please leave your thoughts as a comment below. In the words of Gandalf, "Farewell, my friend, until our next meeting."
© 2010 Jarrod1240
Jay on January 30, 2020:
I think Frodo is closest to Jesus actually, his acceptance of suffering, bearing the suffering, and carrying on forth, like Jesus and the cross, and like all humans must endure. Frodo and Jesus both represent the common man. To live is to suffer, and to survive is to find meaning in the suffering
AlexNevsky on December 21, 2019:
People seeking truth would never say ... "I will never accept the idea that ..."
Tolkien was a contemporary of C.S. Lewis. Both were Christian. They conversed significantly together.
Lewis created an obvious Christian allegory. Tolkien created a much more complicated allegory... history of ages, middle earth, multiple classes of sentient beings, various languages, fellowship oath, oath of darkness, haven... Sounds like book of enoch stuff.
For you to impose your world view on Tolkien's motives is a sign of ignoramus.
RaggedNar on November 27, 2019:
Ragnar, it's called spelling and grammar.
- A "stupid" Christian
Ragnar on November 19, 2019:
You’re all a bunch of idiots it’s basic knowledge that everything in lord of the rings is based off tales of Norse mythology you’it’s called middle earth Bc in Norse mythology men lived in the realm of midgaurd and the tree of Gondor is literally called Yggdrasil which in Norse mythology is known as the tree that holds up the stupid Christians
Excalibur on August 17, 2019:
Tolkien's Forward at the beginning of Lord of the Rings quotes, "As for any inner meaning or 'message', it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical." He later continues, "Other arrangements could be devised according to the tastes or views of those who like allegory or topical reference. But I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence."
He admits his works are heavily influenced by his Roman Catholic background. To be clear, he was a devout Roman-Catholic, not to be confused with any form of Protestant Christianity. If you think he wrote on Christianity you're misplacing J.R.R. Tolkien with his good friend C.S. Lewis. Tolkien adamantly refuted any allegory as in the likeness and grouping of his characters and those in the Bible. Out of respect for the original author, The Tolkien Estate, and their collective wishes, it would be prudent to not make or spread such unfounded and false claims.
Sam on January 24, 2019:
But I am the real Strider, fortunately. I am Aragorn son of Arathorn; and if by life or death I can save you, I will.
I'm reading the Fellowship of the Ring at the moment and it's full of scripture.
Raq on November 26, 2018:
I also saw the qualities of King Saul in Derethor II and Jonathan in Faramir.
Derethor was hungry for power while Faramir was fighting off the enemy.
Aragorn had the qualities of King David as well.
A&O on June 19, 2018:
Thankyou dear friend truely Jehovah will never forget this
Wj on June 16, 2018:
I appreciate your article greatly. I had perceived these symbols for myself and am gratified by your biblical references. Speak Friend and enter...
maylee on April 11, 2018:
I would also like to make the point that though Arwen is female and thus less directly a symbol of Christ, she gave up her immortality because of her love for Aragorn. Yet another of Tolkien's abundant reminders of Jesus' love and sacrifice for us and how we can follow in His footsteps
Joe on March 19, 2018:
I can see the Fellowship as Gandalf’s apostles. I say this because Boromir shows signs like Judas, though he does redeem himself at the end.
Andrew Flores on December 03, 2017:
Amen! I can totally see the holy Trinity is tolkens books. With gandolf is the father, aragorn as Jesus and Sam as the holy spirit
Christine. on October 29, 2017:
Yes! And Amen! This wonderful analogy was a vehicle, to empower and solidify through fantasy, my faith in The Trinity. You have truely captured the intent of Tolkien.
Todd on October 22, 2017:
There is so much more symbolism of Christianity eg Easter Sunday when the council convenes.
YingLuCao on August 29, 2017:
Thank you for the article, it's really inspiring and enlightening, I also benefit a lot from reading the comments!
I just remember when I first watched the film I felt surprised that Aragorn the protagonist wasn't cast by someone more handsomely looking (sorry no offense at all to Viggo), as recently I re-watched the trilogy and started to find the symbolism in the movies I felt it was a deliberate choice because in the Bible Jesus was described as not outwardly attractive, and also in one of the last scenes in the last film, all Aragorn's people bowed to him, just as the Bible says every knee shall bow to Him. He also has so many characteristics of Jesus--humble, resistance to temptation, loving, faithful, always seeks the best for humanity. He also united all races in the battles, people of all different races followed him to battles in the end.
I believe the ring represents excessive/unholy/evil desires as the desires give footstool to evil, one traps himself once desires overtakes him. Once the world/people are rid of desires, the evil force would crumble as they can't ensnare us anymore.
I also think hobbits, dwarfs, ents, etc represent different human races.
Zach on May 03, 2017:
Very good, I see that in all three of them
Gen on April 22, 2017:
Becky on February 03, 2017:
This article has got me thinking, and I thank the author for posting it. I love LotR and have read the trilogy but not watched the movies. This is my opinion: Tolkien didn't really intend for things to be an allegory, though they show up, he said of it more in terms of applicability. For example, the love that is shown through friendship and sacrifice in LotR is how Christians should love one another.
Edward Lane from Wichita Falls, Texas on December 18, 2016:
Great hub! Thoroughly enjoyed it.
David Montrose on August 26, 2016:
What an inspiring and revelatory article! Thanks so much for the religious symbolism. It will make reading LOTR so much more meaningful for me.
Brandon from Houston, Texas on July 23, 2015:
Jasmine E. on May 23, 2015:
Yup i completely agree with Frodo being the another Christ in LOTR. He carried the sins of the world. I believe many of the characters represented a portion of Christ in themselves. I love Gandalf as being the resurrected Christ coming with His army for armaggedon.
Maria Sulmonte on April 22, 2015:
I agree with most of this though you did leave some things out. However i do not agree with the fact that you said Sam was the third Christ figure in The Lord of the Rings. Frodo is the third Christ figure in the movie/book. He carrys his cross (the ring) to Mount Doom (Mount Calvery), while Sam symbolizes Simon of Cyrene helping him carry the ring (the cross) to the mountain. Or you could look at San as Frodo's gardian angel who never leaves his side because everyone has their gardian angel that never leaves their side and never will. I hope you consider all of this and help teach this to others in the future. Thanks
Aravis Ariel on January 26, 2015:
Wow I have always wondered about whether the lord of the rings is good or evil and being somewhat of a fanatic I hoped that it would be good and this article has made me think that for the most part it is good.
DD on January 14, 2015:
Lee Kong Hian
"This is a very interesting article.
Read my interpretation below for comparison.
Sauron = Muslim leader (eg Saladin or Suleiman the Magnificent) or Satan
Denethor = Other Roman Emperor(s)
Frodo = Jesus Christ
Samwise Gamgee = St Peter the Apostle
Gollum = Judas Iscariot
Orcs = Muslims/Turks
The story may represent the history of the Crusades as well as the history of the Catholic Church."
-You are really mixing things together, you say Frodo is Jesus and then you say sauron is saladin, both of them were in different ages!!
so you must be specific is it jesus time, or medieval times!
I don't know why you want to mix up things like that. is it just for the sack of saying that muslims are Orcs!! and saladin in an evil guy (sauron.) Although he didn't ride the seas to invade other places and kill innocents like what crusaders did, and then when he took back journalism he didn't hurt anyone and he let Europeans go back to "their countries" in peace.
Why is all of that hate?
CrusadersAmerica on December 15, 2014:
Good article. Always new about Narnia but not middle-earth, pretty cool. Even though Tolkien did not mean it to be allegorical, your imagination often reflects your worldview.
Dave on April 14, 2014:
From what I recall, Tolkien specifically intended that Gandalf, Frodo and Aragorn represent typologies of the threefold office of prophet, priest and king respectively (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Threefold_office). It's important to remember that these are not allegories. So, Frodo giving in to evil by putting on the ring shows his human weakness and the need for deliverance. It does not take away from the priest role he plays in the story.
As a mater of fact, Tolkein used the Lord's Prayer (Our Father) as a template for this part of the book ('deliver us from evil'). Another interesting thing to look at is the timeline he follows. Many events in the book follow the old liturgical calendar. We read these books as a family every year and I always see a host of new things, though many of them are very Catholic/Orthodox in nature and are probably easily missed.
yassin on April 01, 2014:
nice analyse from a wise man to the watchers of this film
Brandon on March 20, 2014:
I am currently working on a project for english on banned books and I am using this as the banned book I'm reading. Part of the reason this book was banned is because of satanic themes and I was wondering if you could point out any of these themes that may be misunderstood as satanic.
Jack on March 05, 2014:
I wish people would stop relating Frodo to Christ because Frodo chose the ring at the end, but luckily Golum's greed helped Frodo make the right decision.
CobyM on March 02, 2014:
This was a great article. I would have never thought that it has biblical terms to it. I always thought it was The Chronicles of Narnia was the more bible like books/movies. I can honestly see where LOTR has more bible terms. Thank you for it. I do agree with some of the comments above me as far as the characters. I knew Gandalf was a form of Jesus Christ. But I never thought Sam or Aragon. Again, great article. Looking forward to see another one soon. Peace!!
EngTech on January 29, 2014:
Fascinating indeed. I really found this just ..wow. I'm one of TLOTR's fans, and mainly my interest lies in depicting the code of such symbolism. I congratulate you sir for such analysis ... I would really like to contact you if you don't mind of course! I'm willing to conduct a research about such theme, and I would be grateful if you help guiding me & instructing as well.
My due respect, sincerely.
HC on January 05, 2014:
So glad that I stumbled upon this article... four years later! Thank you for this insightful and encouraging piece.
Nancy Snyder from Pennsylvania on January 02, 2014:
Fascinating hub! Your article offers a great look into Tolkien's work and the relationship to religion. The "Lord of the Rings" characters, as well as those in "The Hobbit" are so compelling. Thank you for offering your religious perspective. I will consider these aspects next time I read the stories or enjoy the movies.
DaniHenders on November 17, 2013:
In the novel Gollum does not convince Frodo that Sam is plotting against him, and Frodo never tells Sam to leave.
Therese on August 23, 2013:
The Elves, of course, were the First-Born. They were unaware of anyone else's presence. Morgoth (or Melkor, who Sauron served before he became the Dark Lord) the terrible would kidnap the Elves, who went out by themselves from their camps. He would torture them and he eventually turned them into Orcs. Although they served him against their wills, the Orcs hated Morgoth. This was called the greatest act of hatred that Morgoth did against Eru (who is compared to God in the Simarillion). Morgoth knew that the Valar and Eru loved the Elves the most.
Quentin on July 30, 2013:
While the Narnia series was a very straightforward allegory of Christianity, Lord of the Rings is somewhat more obscure but nonetheless present. Jarrod sees Gandalf, Aragorn, and Samwise as Christ-like images. I would like to suggest that it is more like Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, respectively. And Boromir would be Peter, for sure. Full of zeal but lacking in wisdom and tact. Like when Peter cut the soldier's ear off in the garden of Gethsemane. Peter and Andrew were brothers, just as Boromir had a brother, Faramir. I believe Legolas and the elves would symbolize the angels, while the orcs would symbolize demons. Remember how Saruman told the chief orc that the orcs were once elves? (hence orcs represent fallen angels). Froto represents Christ as the sacrificial lamb, and the ring symbolizes the cross, the burden he must carry in order to destroy sin. Smeagol would represent those who do not know Christ, and become consumed by the darkness. Any thoughts on Gimli the dwarf?
Mitchell on July 21, 2013:
I saw the symbolism right away and was really surprised to see Sam's name in the list. See... and correct me if you see it differently, at the very end when Gandalf, Frodo, and the elves leave on the ship, they are preparing a place for the others as Jesus Christ did. Therefore, it confirmed my guess that Frodo was symbolic for Jesus Christ along with the others that got in the boat. Let me know what you think. Oh, also if you like movies that are symbolic to the bible then watch I Am Legend.
Gil Kim on April 26, 2013:
What an interesting interpretation of the characters in LOTR, i always thought there was more to this story than meets the eye. when watching Then Hobbit, i couldn't help but notice the similarity of the Dwarves and the Semites. The close relationships of the Dwarves, and looking out for each other after their home was invaded by the dragon. they pretty much stuck together and helped each other out kinda like how Semites operate as one more effectively as compared to the other communities in this world. So i was happy to read a comment here where someone else said they had noticed some similarities as well. However, i think the character that has not been discussed thoughfully IMO is Smeagol/Gollum. In Return of The King we get to see the story of Gollum and how he was once a human/hobbit, and how he came to be in possession of the ring. We see him with his friend/brother and his brother/friend finds the ring. Smeagol instead of being happy for him to have came across such good fortune, becomes overwhelmed by jealousy and decides to kill his brother for the ring. when i was reading your article this thought came to my mind that maybe Smeagol is Cain who slay his brother Abel out of jealousy and the wage for his sin was to wander the world for eternity without love or peace. Smeagol carried his burden of sin with him as he wandered the world for years and eventually turned into more of a beast than a man..Gollum.
Maria Sanchez on March 20, 2013:
This is Awesome!! You can't imagine how much thought I've given to this movie trying to decipher which of the LOTR characters could be a faithful representation or symbol of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I thought of Gandalf of course, but also Aragorn, and it turns out that I wasn't so far!! Thank you for this article, don't mind if I share it. God bless you for taking out the time to enlighten us with your interpretation. It's very valuable to me!!
elijahtheprophet on March 04, 2013:
One last thing: There is no character in Christian theology who is constantly searched for by Satan for destruction...except Christ. Yet, Elijah had to hide also (see 1 Kin. 17:3), and: "There is no nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to hunt for you [Elijah]; and when they said, 'He is not here,' he took and oath from the nation or kingdom that they could not find you." Now consider that John, having the spirit of Elijah, was called less than least in the Kingdom of Heaven. So often the two witnesses in the Apocalypse are overlooked...or even spiritualized to be the churches, but they play the greatest part for good until the King returns. Messiah said, "Surely Elijah does come and retores all things..." but he is given little or no place in Christian eschatology. The Jews, however, honor the prophet, and they teach that he will restore all truth and prepare the way for the Great King. It may be because Christians seek the glory of their churches, and Elijah and Moses bringing strong rebuke is not something which is desired.
elijahtheprophet on March 04, 2013:
Let him who has wisdom understand the mark of the beast, Scripture instructs. Frodo means "wise," and Samwise reveals itself. Once people get this mark in their hands (ring), they are able to be seen or located by the seeing-eye of the Antichrist system. Christians will stand out...be visible to the world...when they refuse the great temptation, but those who receive it will be virtually invisible- though seen and locatable to the Antichrist.
Elijahtheprophet on March 04, 2013:
Much of the symbolism has already been revealed here. However, in Scripture, Elijah come to prepare the way of the King of Kings. His burden, like Frodo's is very heavy. Scripturally, the prophets carried the "burden of the Lord." Thus Frodo represents Elijah during the Apocalypse. Samwise is Moses. Together, they are the two witnesses. Elijah, prefigured by Zerrubabel, is prophesied to destroy the "burning mountain" of Babylon. As for the great temptation of the ring, Scripture explains that the whole world will be tempted to put the "mark of the beast" on their hands, to be united under the Antichrist- the all-seeing eye of growing governmental powers. Gandalf, helps Frodo interpret the ancient words on the ring...the fire of the Holy Spirit reveals the Scriptures about the unifying mark of the beast. Thus Satan wants to destroy Elijah and keep the message (ring) to himself. Elijah must stay hidden from Satan's view until he reaches the end of his destination...witnessing against the mark.
able on February 24, 2013:
I'm going to use these ideas for my research paper. This article's spot on*.
kane on February 05, 2013:
I agree. Much of Lord of the Rings is christianity. Frodo had to bear the ring (sin of people) on him and his quest was to destroy evil. Gandalf died and ressurection (jesus) and was a comfort
TrevorGagne on January 09, 2013:
Add Your CoHere it is. Let me know if this makes sense.
• Gandalf the Grey represents Jesus Christ. He goes from "tribe" to "tribe" gathering followers. Some people blow him off, some choose to follow. (In LOTR, by "tribes", I mean Elves, Hobbits, Man and other Humanoid races. Similar to biblical times, where the tribes were Canaanites, Galileans etc...)
• Gandalf the Grey fights Balrog. Balrog is made of Brimstone and fire (Revelations describes Hell being made of the same thing). They fight on a bridge over a Bottomless Pit. In Revelations, the Beasts and Satan come from and are returned to the Bottomless Pit.
• Gandalf the Grey “dies” goes to what appears to be a Heaven, than is resurrected as Gandalf the White. He’s now dressed in clean white garments. EXACTLY how Jesus is described in Revelations during Armageddon. Even on a white horse. So that comparison is too spot on to be a fluke.
• In the Battle of Helms Deep, Gandalf the White is on top of the mountain before they all charge down and tear shit up. In Revelations, Jesus is seen in white on top of a mountain with his army of 144,000 behind him.
• The third movie is called Return of the King. Enough said..
• Basically the Final Battle is Armageddon. Good vs. Evil. Good obviously wins. Once again, as stated in Revelations.
• Gandalf crowns Aragorn as king. This makes me believe Aragorn is not Jesus, but Peter. In the Gospels, Jesus calls Peter “the rock on which I will build on” and puts Peter in charge of the Church (and of Christianity in general). Just watched a YouTube video of it, HE EVEN SAYS “May thou be blessed” as he crowns Aragorn. Aragorn then says “May we share in the days of peace” and sings a song. Many songs were sung to glorify God/ Jesus. WHICH, leads me to my next and final point for this evening;
• Minas Tirith represents the New Jerusalem. The kingdom of Heaven on Earth. People from every nation are gathered in both the movie and Revelations. Around the entire walls surrounding Minas Tirith, there are gates.. I bet there are exactly 12. In Revelations, the New Jerusalem has 12 gates surrounding it, along its walls.
If I wanted to get EVEN MORE serious about this. I could cite everything I said, linking it all to the Bible. Like I was so close to doing that, but it would have made this a 4 page event.
I’m sure if I watched the movies over again, I could find so much more.
Anyways, hope you enjoyed my novel dude. Sorry about it. I just got so into it and couldn’t stop. When I thought of 80% high, I was freaking out.mment...
O.J.R.G on December 29, 2012:
Guys, Didn't you read the Prologue? *Im Quoting from the 50th Anniversary version here*
"I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence."
It seems that some people are confusing applicability with allegory here, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.
So sorry to burst your bubble, but it seems that Tolkien didn't relate Christianity into his books.
Tatum Rask on December 18, 2012:
I really like your views on this!
But I always thought that the ring was a symbol for sin. Because it seems great at first, but in the end, it drags you nearer and nearer to evil.
X_Abraxas on December 17, 2012:
Well I think that to some degree you are right. Tolkien used Christian themes in The Lord of the Rings. But what everyone is doing as far as trying to relate each character from this myth, to another character from another myth creates convoluted and confusing ideas. These are archetypal themes that JRR Tolkien was working with. Gandalf is not the reiteration of Christ, but instead he is a personification of similar archetypal motifs. The same is true for every character. By attempting to only relate them to another character from the Christian tradition only diminishes their true nature. Its far more effective to analyze what one character represents from Christianity, and then analyze what one character represents from The Lord of the Rings. Then see when they differ, and when they coincide with one another. Also, these are not just Christian motifs represented in The Lord of the Rings. Many of them are universal motifs, or archetypal motifs found in most mythologies.
Bob on December 11, 2012:
dreamseeker2 on November 25, 2012:
I have watched everyone of this series so far with my sons. I like the saga of the story, the walking trees and the wizard. Some of the characters like Gulam (not sure of the spelling) are quite scarey...my precious. lol! I have also heard it said it touches on good and evil, like an analogy to Christianity. No matter what its real meaning is behind the story, I like it. It's fantasy in one of its greatest forms and full of imagination. : ) Voted up and interesting. You have done an excellent job with this.
Mitch0716 on October 25, 2012:
Interesting. A better interpretation is that the One Ring is a symbol of original sin. Frodo, a Christ-figure (the lamb) must destroy the ring where it came from...hell. The ring is one with Sardon (Satan) whose bodiless spirit must unite with the ring to control middle earth and destroy humanity. Gollum was once a man, who became something of a monster by giving in to sin. Aragon the ranger, the second Christ-figure (the Lion), comes from obscurity to claim the throne as the warrior-king after sin had been destroyed. Gandalf, represents the prophets of the Old Testament, working miracles and pointing to the work of the sacrificial Christ...Frodo. The track to Mount Doom, Calvary. The Elves side with mankind to fight against the evil army created by Sardon, symbolizing Angels and Demons. In the story, Sardon's army used to be Elves. The hobbits work along side of Frodo, representing God's people...the "little Christs" or Christians. Lots and lots of symbolism, but not sure Gandalf is a Christ-figure unless that of a prophet...as in Prophet, Priest and King, the three offices Jesus fulfilled. Sardon, the bodiless spirit hovering over hell and one with the ring (sin) that controls all other powers and demonic army makes much more sense than Gollum, a double-minded powerless schizophrenic.
jessshepp on October 02, 2012:
Here's how I look at it. Gandalf represents God. Frodo represents humanity. Sam represents Jesus. Gollum represents Satan, and the Ring represents sin. But I guess Gandalf could be Jesus since he sacrificed himself. The reason I say Gandalf is supposed to symbolize God is because he's the leader, he's the one with power, he seems to always know what to do. He told Sam(Jesus) to stay with Frodo(humanity) just like Jesus did. And Gollum is Satan because he was consumed by sin (the Ring) and was banished, and forced to live in the dark and the Ring consumed him until it was all he cared about. That's just my interpretation of it.
Lee Kong Hian on September 18, 2012:
This is a very interesting article.
Read my interpretation below for comparison.
JRR Tolkien was a devout Catholic and he spent 40 years writing the Lord of the Rings.
He was also a member of the Inklings and a close friend of CS Lewis (who portrays Jesus Christ as the lion Aslan in his books).
When you look at it, the map of Middle Earth is like similar to that of Western Europe.
The following countries are thus represented:
Gondor = Italy
Minas Tirith = Rome
Isengard = Constantinople
Minas Ithil = Jerusalem
Mordor = Palestine
Shire = England
The characters may be portrayed as such:
Gandalf = Pope
Aragorn = Christian Roman Emperor (eg Charlemagne or Constantine)
Sauron = Muslim leader (eg Saladin or Suleiman the Magnificent) or Satan
Saruman = Patriach of Constantinople
Sharkey's men at the Shire = Protestants
Denethor = Other Roman Emperor(s)
Frodo = Jesus Christ
Samwise Gamgee = St Peter the Apostle
Gollum = Judas Iscariot
Orcs = Muslims/Turks
The story may represent the history of the Crusades as well as the history of the Catholic Church.
Among the areas covered are:
Treason of Isengard = Scism between the Roman Catholic and the Greek Orthodox Churches.
Destruction of Isengard by treants = Plundering of Constantinople by crusaders.
Plundering of the Shire = Iconoclasm and plundering of Church property by Protestants.
The war with Mordor represents the Crusades, which are ongoing and will result in stalemate or defeat if not for the actions of Frodo in bringing the ring to Mount Doom (Jesus bringing the burden of sin on the cross at Golgotha/Calvary.)
Frodo is accompanied by his servant, the faithful Samwise Gamgee (portraying St Peter) and the treacherous Gollum (portraying Judas Iscariot). Thanks to Gollum's (and Judas') greed, the mission of Frodo (and Jesus) was successful.
Kyle on September 17, 2012:
The reason I don't like Frodo as a Christ analogy is because he's easily corrupted and ultimately gives into evil in the end.
ksinll on July 03, 2012:
I always saw Frodo as a sort of Christ figure because the humblest of creatures -- the hobbit -- was entrusted with the ring which held the fate of the earth in the hand. He was the only one that couldn't be swayed by the lure of power that the ring had. It reminds me of the baby Jesus being born in a manger, salvation through the humblest of beginnings.
Logos831 from somewhere, ca on June 20, 2012:
Great article, you drew some great parallels between the texts!
Hagion on May 18, 2012:
I would suggest that several interpretations are possible:
Gandalf - certainly Christ - who ascended save he who also descended. Sown in humility but raised in power.
Aragorn - the king who went to far land but was prophecied to return. A king whose only concern was his people and not his own glory. One who laid aside his glory while giving his life for his friends and thus earning glory
Sam - I actually see more as the Holy Spirit - the paraclete or one called alongside to help. The one who though offended never abandons, never thinks evil of his charge.
Tony nyangi on May 08, 2012:
Great intepretation but who's Nazgul
Katharine on May 06, 2012:
Great great article! You hit it right on the nose for each! Tolkein's plan was to put a little bit of Christ in several of his characters, unlike narnia where there is one character portraying God. I loved this! Thank you!
Nick on May 01, 2012:
I love the idea of Aragorn as Christ, i've never really thought of it that way. Even the picture when he is being crowned looks like Jesus. I always thought the part when Gandalf returns at the battle of helms deep is the most similar to Revelation 19:11-13, the white rider on a hill. I love LOTR but even more Jesus. Tolkien is the man.
Mary Strain from The Shire on February 15, 2012:
There's been a lot of discussion on that point among Christian LOTR fans. I adore the book but I have to admit some frustration, too. I think Tolkien allowed his admiration for mythology to go too far; but to your point, Amber, Tolkien said that Gandalf, and the other wizards, were an order of angels who served Eru, the One God of his mythical world. In Tolkien's Middle Earth, the "magic" of good characters was just another word for their God-given gifts. Remember the scene when Sam asks to see elven magic, and Galadriel responds that she doesn't know what he means -- meaning, she just does what she does. To her it's completely natural and therefore not "magical."
amber on January 18, 2012:
I am so happy that i found this! Ive been looking for an article where they compare The Lord of the rings to Christianity. What i dont like at all is that J.R.R tolkein, if his intension was to represent Jesus through Gandalf, why did he use a wizard who does witchcraft? I mean really??? Witchcraft is so evil! All i am saying is that i disagree alot, with J.R.R tolkein trying to represent Jesus through a Wizard that does witchcraft. Jesus doesn't agree at all with witchcraft. To me Gandalf was a great leader, like Jesus. But i think , other than that Gandalf and Jesus are opposites! :]
Laura on January 01, 2012:
I also liked your article. Every time I watch LOTR I count myself lucky to see the symbolism that can be found to Christ. I love all the parts you talk about, but I also love the part on the mountains when they light the fires to call for aid. I get really emotional that the people respond to the call and are willing to stand up for what's right, even if it isn't deserved. (the steward of minis tirith didn't come to Rohans aid, yet when asked for help, they came anyway.) So you can look at it as if people are helping others, or to add another christ/God reference, even if we don't deserve it, he will help us if we ask. It's not that its not a great movie without the symbolism, but it is faith deepening for those who would like to see the symbolism and apply it to their own life. I'm going to share you comments with my kids. By the way, I am a Christian and a mormon.
Kirk on September 11, 2011:
Just a small complaint - Frodo and Sam never had a big disagreement on the stairs to Shelob's Lair. Thats was all Peter Jackson, not Tolkien. So I think Sam the Brave being symbolism for Christ is weak. In fact, in some video biography of Tolkien I watched, it was argued that the relationship between officers and their men in World War I was the inspiration for Sam and Frodo's partnership.
Reynold Jay from Saginaw, Michigan on August 22, 2011:
Yes lots of symbolism in thisserioes. I enjoyed this very much. You have this laid out beautifully and it is easy to understand. Keep up the great HUBS. Up one and beautiful. I'm now your fan! I am working a series of 5 novels, “Seeds from Heaven” that touches on a lot of the things you mention. One might ask, “What would the Messiah’s message be today if he traveled the Earth during our time?” “Lean against the Wind” is reviewed in a HUB.
Based upon this HUB, you might enjoy
The Morning Star on April 22, 2011:
Yes Gandalf fought lucifer on the bridge. He layed down his life - also because nobody else could do it. Christ like not the Christ. So Gandalf the white when He gets reunited with Farther through Christ, as it WAS an awefull battle, is actualy Gabriel - works just like Him.
AlyzaLewis from The Land of Narnia on March 29, 2011:
I'm a big fan of high fantasy, and even more so a fan of Christian Fantasy (I'm a Narnia Geek until I die. lol) but I've always argued against Lord of the Rings falling under that category because of Tolkien's insistence that it wasn't meant to be any kind of allegory. However, I really did enjoy your article and it pointed out quite a few things that I hadn't thought about. Great stuff here!
Honiawa on January 28, 2011:
Interesting interpretation and symbolism... I have read all the books and seen all the movies and there are some significant differences between those two. If your interpretation is based only on the movie, then the books might surprise you
Jackie Keating from State of Illinois on January 08, 2011:
Great piece, Jarrod. I'm a huge LOR fan and have been delving deeper into the Christian implications of these movies. I've read several interpretations, but, I must say, yours is the best by far. I completely agree with your take on all three characters. In fact, I posted a link to your article on my website. You're welcome to check it out at www.evfc2010.com; go to The Latest page. I just joined Hub Pages and I will definitely follow your work. Feel free to go to my pages, however, I'm just getting started and have only one posted. Keep up the good work!
R D Langr from Minnesota on December 14, 2010:
Very good. I'm going to link to this through my hub on the same topic.
Simon Cook from NJ, USA on July 01, 2010:
Jarrod: interesting theory about Frodo - I guess you could go both ways. Frodo's temptation could also match the temptation of Christ and the 40 days in the wilderness.
Jarrod1240 (author) on July 01, 2010:
Hello Prasetio30. The Lord of the Rings was my favorite movie and book as well! I hope to write more about the Lord of the Rings in the future.
prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on June 30, 2010:
Good information from you. I really enjoy read this hub. Lord of the rings was my favorite movie. Thanks for share about this. Good topic selection. Two thumbs up for you.
Emily E. on June 30, 2010:
Amazing article Jarrod! You have been blessed with the gift to write!
Jarrod1240 (author) on June 30, 2010:
Thank you Teresa and Ashley for your kind words.
Katiem2-Your comment actually triggered a bit of inspiration to write an article on David and Goliath! Thank you for your interest!
Jambo87-Thank you for realizing the importance of being true to Tolkien's sincere intentions when he wrote the novels. Too many people have either tried to de-Christianize his novels or over-evangelize them.
Jarrod1240 (author) on June 30, 2010:
SimeyC-Thank you for your encouraging words. I must say that I spend a long time pondering the symbolic importance of Frodo, and for a time struggled with whether or not he or Sam was intended to be a Christ-figure. Here's the conclusion I reached and would like to have your feedback: Frodo represent the everyman of the Christian world. Frodo represents each of us struggling to destroy our sinful nature or tempation which is represented by the Ring.
jambo87 on June 30, 2010:
I really enjoyed your interpretation. Your analysis of Sam parallels Christ title "Son of Man". I also appreciate that you faithfully represented Tolkien's positions on allegory and anti-evangelizing.
Katie McMurray from Ohio on June 30, 2010:
I enjoyed reading your review of The Lord of the Rings and Christian Symbolism. It makes me think of David and Goliath, we all have our Goliaths... Peace :)
Teresa on June 30, 2010:
Very good Jarrod. Love your interpretation.
Ashley on June 30, 2010:
Great article! I thought it was very interesting and well written!
Simon Cook from NJ, USA on June 29, 2010:
This is a very interesting interpretation of some of the major characters of LOTR. I understood that Gandalf could be viewed like Jesus, but never really thought of Sam or Aragorn. If anything I'd say that Sam was more like John the Baptist - and in a way Frodo is Jesus, as with the fight of Shelob, Sam is preparing the way for Frodo's ultimate sacrifice. Excellent article - really made me rethink LOTR!