Tolkien Gateway


Galadriel by Jef Murray
"...Our Lady, upon which all my own small perception of beauty both in majesty and simplicity is founded."
J.R.R. Tolkien in Letter 142

The Blessed Virgin Mary is one of the main figures in Christianity. As J.R.R. Tolkien was a devout Catholic, she had a place in his life and works.

[edit] In Tolkien's life

In a letter to his son Michael in which Tolkien ponders about women, he mentions that the beautiful devotion to Our Lady "has been God's way of refining so much our gross manly natures and emotions, and also of warming and colouring our hard, bitter, religion".[1]

As his conversations dealed many times with religion, he spole often of Mary, debating the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.[2]

George Sayer, a friend of Tolkien, noticed the especial devotion Tolkien had to Holy Mary in a recollection: Sayer and his wife were once attending mass with Tolkien, who got distracted helping some children with their missal. When the mass was finished, they could not find Tolkien:

We went back and found him kneeling in front of the Lady Altar with the young children and their mother, talking happily and I think telling stories about Our Lady. I knew the mother and found out later that they were enthralled. This again was typical; he loved children and had the gift of getting on well with them. "Mummy, can we always go to church with that nice man?" The story also illustrates one of the most important things about him, his great devotion to Our Lady. He wrote to me years later a letter in which he stated that he attributed anything that was good or beautiful in his writing to the influence of Our Lady, "the greatest influence in my life".[3]

[edit] In Tolkien's works

[edit] Overview

It is known that in his youth Tolkien wrote at least a poem dedicated to Our Lady, titled Consolatrix Afflictorum or Stella Vespertina, which remains unpublished.[4] In the first of the "Corrigan Poems" a heavenly Mary has a protagonist role,[5] while there are other mentions of her in The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun[6] and the Noel poem:

Mary sang in this world below:
They heard her song arise
O'er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
And the tongue of many bells was stirred
in Heaven's towers to ring
When the voice of mortal maid was heard,
That was mother of Heaven's King.
Noel, vv. 26-33

In later years, he translated into Quenya three Marian prayers: the Ortírielyanna, Aia María and (partially) the Litany of Loreto.

The Virgin Mary is not explicitly mentioned within the legendarium, but she serves as a model for Tolkien's fictional antropology: Men before their fall were not supposed to die with the separation of fëa ("soul, spirit") and hröa ("body, flesh"), as they suffered now after being corrupted by Morgoth. The unfallen Men should instead to be 'assumpted' to a new mode of existence, both in fëa and hröa, "...though as far as we know, it has been the end of only 'unfallen' member of Mankind".[7] Obviously, this is a reference to the Virgin Mary, as Christopher Tolkien remarks.[8] The Assumption of Mary is an ancient and common belief among Christians, particularly the Catholic Church defines "that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory".[9][note 1] Tolkien also compares the voluntary "Death" of the Virgin with this idea of death within the legendarium: "It was also the Elvish (and uncorrupted Númenórean) view that a 'good' Man would or should die voluntarily by surrender with trust before being compelled (as did Aragorn)".[10]

[Tolkien is unsure if the idea of unfallen Men being biologically mortal corresponds with the real world, so it might be 'heretical' or not. But he is certain that with his myth he is teaching how unnatural is that Men try to escape Death instead of accept it, as it happened with the evil Númenóreans.[11]]

[edit] Names

Tolkien rendered Mary's name in Quenya as María, clarily adapting it from Latin. Her main title "Mother of God" is translated as Eruamillë ("Mother of God"), later changed it to Eruo ontaril,[12] or Eruontarië (closer to the concept of "God-begetter").[13]

[edit] Figures

In Tolkien's works there are many characters that, not falling into allegory, reflect aspects of the Virgin Mary. This was noticed even before the publication of The Lord of the Rings and acknowledged by the author.[14]

Galadriel has been compared many times with Holy Mary, but as Tolkien notices, there is an important difference: "I think it is true I owe much of this character to Christian and Catholic teaching and imagination about Mary, but actually Galadriel was a penitent."[15] However, Romuald I. Lakowski points out how Galadriel's repentance echoes Mary's exultation in the Magnificat, both women being paradoxically exulted through humility and renuntiation.[16] Despite their differences, Tolkien also affirmed that Galadriel must serve as the most important Marian figure: "there is something missing from any form of 'Christian thought' that could make such an omission. A failure (I think) to accept full all the consequences of the Incarnation-story as it is told to us in scripture".[17]

It is notable that the same imagery is used by Tolkien in an unpublished letter, in which he mentions an imaginary reconcilation of C.S. Lewis with the Virgin Mary, even hinting this could be an inspiration: "According to my fashion and in a remote way this is an ingredient in the meeting of Gimli and Galadriel".[18]

Varda rejecting Melkor. Illustration by Marya Filatova

Varda "Obviously many people have noticed that appealing to the Lady, the Queen of the Stars, is just like Roman Catholic invocations to Our Lady."[19]

Nienna [20]


  1. It is notable that Tolkien first wrote about his assumptionist anthropology in 1954 (in Letter 156), short after the Dogma of the Assumption was proclaimed (1950).


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 43, (dated 6-8 March 1941), p. 49
  2. Warren Lewis; Clyde S. Kilby and Marjorie Lamp Mead (eds.), Brothers and Friends, p. 207
  3. George Sayer, "Recollections of J.R.R. Tolkien", in Proceedings of the J.R.R. Tolkien Centenary Conference, ed. Patricia Reynolds and Glen H. GoodKight, p. 24
  4. Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond (2006), The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: I. Chronology, p. 850
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien; Verlyn Flieger (ed), The Lay of Aotrou & Itroun, "The Corrigan I"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien; Verlyn Flieger (ed), The Lay of Aotrou & Itroun, "The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun", vv. 505-506
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "Part Four. Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth: Addit. Silmarillion — Commentary", p. 333
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "Part Four. Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth: Notes [on the 'Commentary']", p. 357, note 6
  9. Pope Pius XII: Munificentissimus Deus (1 November 1950), §44 (accessed 14 April 2021)}}
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 212, (dated 14 October 1958), p. 286, footnote
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 156, (dated 4 November 1954), p. 205, footnote
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, "'Words of Joy': Five Catholic Prayers in Quenya — Part One" (edited by Patrick H. Wynne, Arden R. Smith, and Carl F. Hostetter), in Vinyar Tengwar, Number 43, January 2002, pp. 28, 33
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, "'Words of Joy': Five Catholic Prayers in Quenya — Part Two" (edited by Patrick H. Wynne, Arden R. Smith, and Carl F. Hostetter), in Vinyar Tengwar, Number 44, June 2002, pp. 5, 7, 18
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter (ed.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 142, p. 172; Letter 213, p. 288
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 320, (dated 25 January 1971), p. 407
  16. Romuald I. Lakowski, "The Fall and Repentance of Galadriel", in Perilous and Fair: Women in J.R.R. Tolkien's Work and Life, ed. Janet Brennan Croft, Leslie A. Donovan
  17. Letter to Clyde S. Kilby (11 October 1966) (TSM, p. 65)
  18. Unpublished Letter to George Sayer (28 November 1963). Cf. quotes in Christies' lot
  19. 1965 BBC Interview
  20. Kristine Larsen, "The Power of Pity and Tears: The Evolution of Nienna in the Legendarium", in Perilous and Fair: Women in J.R.R. Tolkien's Work and Life, ed. Janet Brennan Croft, Leslie A. Donovan

[edit] Heraldry

LorenzoCB - Silmarils device.png
LorenzoCB - Finwe device.png
Amanyar - Fëanor device.png
LorenzoCB - Fingolfin device.png
LorenzoCB - Finarfin device.png
LorenzoCB - Finrod device.png
LorenzoCB - Beor device.png
LorenzoCB - Hador device.png
LorenzoCB - Haleth device.png
LorenzoCB - Beren device.png

[edit] Tolkien's works

  • Invented languages
  • Myth and Sub-creation
The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: 'mythical' in their perfect, self-contained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man's history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has preeminently the 'inner consistency of reality.' There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.
On Fairy-Stories
  • Fiction theology
Some have puzzled over the relation between Tolkien's stories and his Christianity, and have found it difficult to understand how a devout Roman Catholic could write with such conviction about a world where God is not worshipped. But there is no mystery. The Silmarillion is the work of a profoundly religious man. It does not contradict Christianity but complements it. There is in the legends no worship of God, yet God is indeed there, more explicitly in The Silmarillion than in the work that grew out of it, The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien's universe is ruled over by God, 'The One'. Beneath Him in the hierarchy are 'The Valar', the guardians of the world, who are not gods but angelic powers, themselves holy and subject to God; and at one terrible moment in the story they surrender their power into His hands.[1]:91

Tolkien explained he pretended to make a 'new' mythology, but like all mythologies it had to include many elements from other places. Thus, the stories of the Legendarium were founded with Christian elements since its beginning. The early Music of the Ainur

  • Themes
    • Creation
    • Fall
I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect "history" to be anything but a "long defeat" - though it contains [...] some samples or glimpses of final victory.
Letter 195, p. 255
    • Redemption
    • Hope

Letter to G.S. Rigby Jr

  • Christian figures

Tolkien gave Kilby a lecture which describes the biblical figures in TLOTR (Frodo the self-sacrificed priest, the prophet Gandalf or the "Much of this is true enough -except, of course, the general impression given (almost irresistibly in articles having this analytical approach, whether Christians or not) that I had any 'scheme' in my conscious mind before or during the writing." p. 56

  • Academic work
  • Legacy: Christian Scholarship

[edit] Christian essays and articles

Gandalf, servant of the Secret Fire by Fabio Leone
  • Arda Philology 3
    • Petri Tikka, "God's names in Elvish"
  • Lembas Extra 2015
    • Kristine Larsen, "A 'Perilous, Lonely Venture': Tolkien, Lewis, and the Theo­logical Implications of Extraterrestrial Life"
  • Middle-earth, or There and Back Again
    • "The Wisdom of Galadriel: A Study in the Theology of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings" by Andrzej Wicher
  • Mythlore 25
    • A. R. Bossert, "Surely You Don't Disbelieve": Tolkien and Pius X: Anti-Modernism in Middle-earth"
  • Mythlore 127
    • Cami Agan, "Hearkening to the Other: A Certeauvian Reading of the Ainulindale"
  • Proceedings of the 2nd Mythgard Institute Mythmoot
    • Kevin R. Hensler, "God and Ilúvatar Tolkien’s Use of Biblical Parallels and Tropes in His Cosmogony"
  • Tolkien the Medievalist
    • John William Houghton, "Augustine in the cottage of lost play: the Ainulindalë as asterisk cosmogony"
    • Bradford Lee Eden, "The 'music of the spheres': relationships between Tolkien's The Silmarillion and medieval cosmological and religious theory"
    • Jonathan Evans, "The anthropology of Arda: creation, theology, and the race of Men"
    • Michael W. Maher: "'A land without stain', medieval images of Mary and their use in the characterization of Galadriel"
  • Tolkien Studies: Volume 10
    • Claudio A. Testi, "Tolkien's Work: Is it Christian or Pagan?: A proposal for a 'synthetic' approach"
  • Tolkien Studies: Volume 6
    • Verlyn Flieger, "The Music and the Task: Fate and Free Will in Middle-earth"
  • Tolkien Studies: Volume 12
    • Carrol Fry, 'Two Musics about the Throne of Ilúvatar': Gnostic and Manichaean Dualism in The Silmarillion
  • Tolkien Studies: Volume 13
    • John D. Rateliff, "'That Seems To Me Fatal': Pagan and Christian in The Fall of Arthur"
  • Tolkien Studies: Volume 14
    • H.L. Spencer, "The Mystical Philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien and Sir Israel Gollancz: Monsters and Critics"
  • Tolkien Studies: Volume 15
    • Chiara Bertoglio: "Dissonant Harmonies: Tolkien's Musical Theodicy"

[edit] Important matters that have stub/bad articles

[edit] Things I can't get

[edit] History of the Ainulindalë manuscripts

Manuscript Year of composition Publication Notes
The Music of the Ainu draft Between November 1918 - Spring 1920 LT1, pp. 60-61 Erased draft, only given with notes.
The Music of the Ainur Between November 1918 - Spring 1920 LT1, pp. 52-60 Clean manuscript, improving the previous one. Links the tale with "The Cottage of Lost Play".
Ainulindalë A Late 1930s LR, pp. 164-166 Rough manuscript, only given with notes. Follows closely the Lost Tale, but now as a separate work.
Ainulindalë B Late 1930s LR, pp. 156-164 Clean copy of the previous one.
Ainulindalë B copy 1946 MR, p. 4 Copy, lost apart from a single torn sheet, so it is only mentioned.
Ainulindalë C* 1948 MR, pp. 39-44 Experimental 'Round World Version' of Ainulindalë B, only given with fragments and notes.
Ainulindalë C Late 1948 MR, pp. 8-22 New version of Ainulindalë B, rejecting the innovations of Ainulindalë C*.
Ainulindalë D 1951 MR, pp. 29-37 New version of Ainulindalë C, beautifully scripted, only given with fragments and notes.
Ainulindalë D copy Unknown MR, p. 39 Typescript copy, so it is only mentioned. Includes a couple of interesting notes.
Ainulindalë chapter 1977 The Silmarillion Christopher's edition based on Ainulindalë D.
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A Elbereth Gilthoniel

Ă Él|bĕréth | Gĭlthó|nĭél
sĭlív|rĕn pén|nă mḯ|rĭél
ŏ mé|nĕl ág|lăr é|lĕnáth!
Nă-chaé|rĕd pá|lăn-dḯ|rĭél
ŏ gá|lădhrém|mĭ én|nŏráth,
Fănú|ĭlós, | lĕ lín|năthón
nĕf aé|ăr, sḯ | nĕf aé|ărón!

Sam's invocation

Ă Él|bĕréth | Gĭlthó|nĭél
ŏ mé|nĕl pá|lăn-dḯ|rĭél
lĕ nál|lŏn sḯ | dĭ'ngú|rŭthós!
Ă tí|rŏ nín, | Fănú|ĭlós!

Gandalf's opening spell

Ánnŏn ĕ|dhéllĕn, || édrŏ hĭ | ámmĕn!
Fénnăs nŏ|góthrĭm, || lástŏ bĕth | lámmĕn!

Gilraen's linnod

Ṓnĕn ĭ-|Éstĕl | Édaĭn, || ṹ-chĕbĭn | éstĕl | ánĭm.

Lúthien's hymn

Ĭr Í|thĭl ám|mĕn É|rŭcḯn
mĕnél-|vḯr sḯ|lă dḯ|rĭél
sĭ lóth | ă gá|lădh lás|tŏ dḯn!
Ǎ Hḯr | Ănnṹn | gĭlthó|nĭél,
lĕ lín|nŏn ím | Tĭnṹ|vĭél!

[edit] Gnomish translations

Gnomish Literal English
No cwenthi i·dûr: "Bâl i·dhodri a Gondolin", ar in·anosin papthi, ar atha thin i·gwethin nan·Amnon i·gwedron gîrin; far Tuor pacthol a gumlaith ar meleth na·dûra: "Gondolin rô far, ar Gulma gwirtha an laithra!" Gui onin thin ba i·lu rôl, Tuor art i·'aldonwi ar i·dûr anthos numbros, fel a·rôthi dîn dos Tuor pacthi i·gwethin a Gulma. Far Turgon cwenthi: "Obruith ni·gaithi anthos Lothengriol had Gulmor, ar gui o·'wiltha an ir cweloth ba sâ. Ai! Hodhir û gaid ba ilf nintha an i·mbar nintha idrisaith, far i·buith a·Nguilfo û-roth gaistin bóra." Then said the king: "Great is the fall of Gondolin", and men trembled, for those were the words of Amnon the ancient prophet; but Tuor speaking for sorrow and love of the king: "Gondolin stands yet, and Ulmo does not wish it destroyed!" Now they were in that moment standing, Tuor beneath the trees and the king upon the slopes, as they stood when once Tuor spake the words of UImo. But Turgon said: "Evil consequences I brought upon the Flower of the Plain against Ulmo, and now he leaveth it to the fading in fire. Oh! Hope is no more in my heart for my city of avarice, but the children of the Noldoli do not remain tormented forever."
No i·'Ondothlim rumli da gaigin athra, ar lî rôthi lent, far Turgon cwenthi: "Û-sacth had ir·umbart, ai puith nintha! Rauth othin don ogin muinos ba uthwen, da tunc lûm na nuidro: far gwen·anth i·vronweth gwethra Tuori." Far Tuor cwenthi: "Fi·na i·dûr"; ar Turgon abod·gwenthi: "Far er drambor nin·û-sactha nodro", ar o·hanthi in·ôn ontha i·darcir na·'Lingol. No Galdor don rôthi hai lôgi an, far Turgon gwirthi an, ar cafalon o·vacthi ir·estrin dônta na·mindon gloss i rôthi lent i·mbaur ontha. Hant on·upthi ba ûm fel ligin fafin ba i·sectha na·orodion, ar i·gwant nal i·'Aldonwi ar i·forogin ba in·uscin na·gantrib gaimi on: "Bâl in·abair na·Nguilfo!" Ar na cwedri i thi fuimeg ba lu sitha, ar in·Orchoth upthi ba canc. Then the Gondothlim made noises with their weapons, for many stood nigh, but Turgon said: "Fight not against doom, oh my children! Chase ye who can safety in escape, in chance time is still later: but ye give your loyalty to Tuor." But Tuor said: "Thou art king"; and Turgon said back: "Yet a stroke I do not fight again", and he throwed his crown to the roots of Glingol. Then Galdor who stood there picked it up, but Turgon wished it not, and head-naked he walked to the highest pinnacle of the white tower that stood nigh his palace. There he shouted in a voice like a horn blown in the centre of the mountains, and all those under the Trees and the enemies in the mists of the square heard him: "Great is the victory of the Noldoli!" And is a telling that was midnight in this moment, and the Orcs shouted in laugh.

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