During this well-deserved (at least in my opinion) break between semesters in my PhD program, I did some reading through some of Lord of the Rings commentary. I love these books so much that I thought it was worth seeing what other people had to say about them.
A second book I read was The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview behind The Lord of the Rings by Peter Kreeft. It was published in 2005 by Ignatius Press.
This is a very different type of commentary on The Lord of the Rings. Kreeft has created a reference tool that asks 50 large questions that need to be addressed on the level of the worldview. Then, through the writings of Tolkien himself along with many others who influenced him, those questions are answered. Some questions are “Why must we be heroes?” and “Is evil real?” Clearly, these are big philosophical questions that have a rich intellectual tradition beyond the scope of The Lord of the Rings.
Kreeft points out in the introduction, and I largely agree with this assessment, that one of the primary ways to use this book is as a concordance. As you all know, I like to write about The Lord of the Rings quite often, so if I need information about a particular topic, this resource would be incredibly useful. It is well organized and well written without a doubt, but I think that it is absolutely most useful as a research tool. It is a good read as well, but I don’t know that that is where its chief value lies.
In fact, to reinforce this opinion, the author provides a literal concordance in the back of the book to help people such as myself trace the answers to the questions he discovered back to the source material in The Lord of the Rings. That is extraordinarily useful again for researchers. Sometimes, it can be difficult to find a collection of thoughts on a specific topic, but this sort of appendix will certainly help me with that. Again, I don’t say this to diminish the readability of the book or anything like that, but this book was created to answer questions, and that is what it does best.
At the end of the day, I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who is serious about getting to the root of J.R.R. Tolkien’s worldview. One minor criticism I have is that Kreeft spends a lot of time also using examples from the writing of C.S. Lewis. I do see the value in this given that the two men were friends, but in a book on the philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien, I think that we should probably stick closer to just him rather than utilizing Lewis quite as heavily. Nevertheless, I am very happy that I now own this resource, and I think it will prove very useful as I continue my own research into the world of The Lord of the Rings.