One final read I completed on my break between semesters in my PhD program was a very recent analysis of The Lord of the Rings that I enjoyed very much.
An Encouraging Thought: The Christian Worldview in the Writings of J.R.R. Tolkien was written by Donald T Williams. It was published by Christian Publishing House in 2018.
As avid Tolkien fans will undoubtedly know, the title is a direct quote from one of Gandalf’s most well-known lines. Frodo was wishing that the Ring had never come to him, and Gandalf responded:
“Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought.”
Williams makes it his mission to understand why indeed this is an encouraging thought, and he begins with five key motifs that help tie together the plot of this trilogy: darkness and light, the strength of weakness, sacrifice, Providence and Christlike heroes. By looking at these five aspects, Williams allows the reader to draw connections as to why hope exists even in our world that may seem particularly dreary at times.
I think that is what I particularly enjoyed about this work as compared to the other two books on Tolkien I recently went through. As I read Williams’ thoughts, I couldn’t help but think about how beautiful The Lord of the Rings actually is. As he says in his conclusion, “I hope they will thus come to be able to find the light that still shines even in their own darkest places. I hope that vision will give them the same hope it gave Sam.” I know that it did that for me. It helped remind me of the beauty of the trilogy and the impact that it can have on my life and the lives of others.
We always need to remember when reading J.R.R. Tolkien that there are deep themes embedded in the narrative, a point that Williams made clear to me. If we do not recognize these biblical motifs, as a secular audience more easily could, then we are going to miss out on a large part of what this book can give us if we are able to accept it.
I hope that you have enjoyed these three book reviews. I always enjoy reading about the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, so this was a nice break between semesters. Now, I am back in the saddle again, so I will do less pleasure reading and more assigned reading (which has been actually quite pleasurable so far)
 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002), 56, Kindle Edition.
 Donald Williams, An Encouraging Thought: The Christian Worldview in the Writings of J. R. R. Tolkien (Cambridge, Ohio: Christian Publishing House, 2018), Kindle Locations 1362-1363, Kindle Edition.