Debasing Tolkien’s Legacy

News: Commentary
by Samuel McCarthy  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  August 26, 2021   

Troubling talk of nudity in Amazon's take on Tolkien

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Reports are surfacing regarding the introduction of nudity and alleged sexual material into Amazon's adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

Nudity isn't creative, and perverting a work of Catholic literature intentionally preserved from base eroticism is a twofold sin. Two works of great beauty are being assaulted: one of divine invention (human sexuality), the other of human (Tolkien's writings). In fact, because we were made in God's image and likeness, Tolkien believed the act of carefully creating and curating a fictional, literary world was a way of partaking in God's great love, first manifest in the act of creation.

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Tolkien and Fr. Francis Xavier Morgan

Including and proliferating nudity isn't edgy or pushing the proverbial envelope. Hardcore porn is readily available — for free — on every single device with an internet connection (and without filtering software to block such content). It's advertised in real-life metropolitan hellscapes, it's emailed to countless inboxes and spam folders, and it's available in almost every mainstream film or television series marketed to adults.

Young women are even producing and distributing their own amateur pornography at a shocking and alarming rate, as social media continues perverting itself to conform to and exacerbate ever-more-self-destructive appetites. Amazon's sexualization of The Lord of the Rings is no clever, daring, or ambitious artistic take, but merely a continuing plunge into Luciferian obscenity.

Before she passed away, 12-year-old Tolkien's mother entrusted him and his younger brother to the care of an Oratorian priest, Fr. Francis Xavier Morgan. The priest raised the Tolkien boys devoutly, and they assisted their guardian at Mass almost daily. Catholicism was a constant throughout Tolkien's life, guiding and inspiring him in his academic work as well as his literary ventures. He was a frequent communicant, and once wrote to his second-born son, Michael, "I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity and the true way of all your loves upon earth." Tolkien further insisted his wife convert before their wedding, so deeply did he love Holy Mother Church.

Tolkien himself rightly viewed the conjugal act as sacrosanct, an act of divine beauty and sincere selflessness — intensely private, personal and intimate, appropriate only in the context of marriage.

Thus, as a faithful Catholic, Tolkien himself rightly viewed the conjugal act as sacrosanct, an act of divine beauty and sincere selflessness — intensely private, personal and intimate, appropriate only in the context of marriage. In a 1941 letter to Michael (his son mentioned above), Tolkien wrote of the commoditization of sex and its separation from the sacrament of marriage:

A man's dealings with women can be purely physical ... he can refuse to take other things into account, to the great damage of his soul (and body) and theirs. ... This is a fallen world. The dislocation of sex-instinct is one of the chief symptoms of the Fall... The Devil is endlessly ingenious, and sex is his favorite subject.

Amazon affiliates have allegedly denied claims the series will feature sexual material — though rumors still abound — and the studio is keeping its product as secret and safe as Frodo keeps the One Ring. Instead, some degree of graphic nudity will (again, allegedly) be featured in a nonsexual context, as the Dark Lord Sauron creates the Orcs by debasing the Elves.

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Amazon Studios workers and adoring media outlets tout this move as a "tasteful" one, employing artistic restraint and a supposed respect for the revered source material.

This is absurdist balderdash. Just as Tolkien held sex itself to be sacrosanct, so he held the bare human form to be a sacred image of the divine, fit not for public sale and consumption but for sharing with one's beloved, within the bounds of a holy, sacramental and indissoluble covenant.

Just as the Blessed Sacrament ... is kept hidden or 'veiled' within the tabernacle, so Tolkien hid or 'veiled' divine beauty within his work.

Tolkien's entire body of work is, by his own admission, an image of the divine. Just as the Blessed Sacrament (the motivating force in Tolkien's life) is kept hidden or "veiled" within the tabernacle, so Tolkien hid or "veiled" divine beauty within his work. Atheist author Neil Gaiman even confessed that when he was young he failed to recognize the inherent Catholicism coursing through the blood of Tolkien's work.

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J.R.R. Tolkien and his book The Children of Húrin

Nudity features once in the body of Tolkien's work. In The Children of Húrin, the tragic hero Túrin Blacksword discovers his future bride Niënor lying naked in a forest. Though he "marvel[s] that she lay thus naked," Túrin "cast[s] his cloak about her," so as to preserve that beauty which he knows is not (or not yet) for his eyes to behold.

The famed Oxford professor is quite consistent in his treatment of beauty given to man by God, always handling it with utmost care and lovingly veiling it, as Túrin lovingly veils Niënor.

Tolkien was no prude, afraid of the conjugal act or even nudity because of the temptation to twist it into something less than noble; he was rather a great lover of the conjugal act and its sacred nature, and he wished to (and strove hard to) preserve the nobility and purity of it.

Nor was he a quiet, timid, weak-willed academician content to hide away in his office or his classroom as the world crumbled and fell about him. Displeased with the liturgical innovations of Vatican II (and their implementation), and obviously unwilling to apostatize, Tolkien would loudly bellow in Latin his responses during the Novus Ordo Mass, much to the chagrin of his grandchildren, who often attended Mass with him.

If J.R.R. Tolkien — or indeed his youngest son and literary heir, Christopher, who passed away last year — were alive today, he would bellow just as loudly against Amazon's introduction of the Fall into the world Tolkien so lovingly created.

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