The Fellowship of the Ring has obvious redemptive themes and Scriptural ideas of good and evil. Though Tolkien claims to have just written a story, it is clear that his worldview was a Christian one.
The first evidence to support this is the many Christ-types that are found in the story. First, there is Bilbo, who is a carry-over from the prequel story, The Hobbit. Unlike Christ, Bilbo was passing the torch in his role, but he served his role nonetheless. One could even make a very good argument to support Bilbo as being the John the Baptist of this story, as he is the herald for the coming Ringbearer, however reluctant. It is Bilbo’s preparation of Frodo that directly led to him being the choice of the Council of Elrond. Then there is Gandalf, who continually delivers the group from peril, and ultimately delivered them from the Balrog at Khazad-Dum. Gandalf’s sacrifice on the bridge is a strong connection to him being the Christ of this story, and even of Middle-Earth. Then of course, there is Frodo, who in a very real sense carries the weight of the world with him. The Ring grows heavier as they approach the gates of Mordor, and the reason for that is its nearness to its own demise. Sin is the same way, in that those times that are most desperate are the times that find us succumbing to temptation to the easiest. Christ’s walk was no different, as the weight of his trial caused him to weep blood and to cast himself onto the ground as he prayed that the cup would be lifted from him. The illustration obviously breaks down on many fronts, but it is not a stretch at all to say that Tolkien had Jesus in mind as he wrote the words of these stories. His pattern for redemption is one that is seen even in the most whimsical and fantastic of literature.
With that, the second way that Tolkien’s Christian worldview comes out in this book is his consistent claims that the destruction of the Ring and the return of the king to White City will bring about both the destruction of evil and the restoration of all things that are good. The oldest characters in the story (Fangorn, Tom Bombadil, Gandalf, Elrond, etc) long for Middle Earth to return to the days of old, though it cannot, because of the presence of Sauron, who does not simply represent Satan, but all of sin generally. The forming of the Fellowship of the Ring set in motion an active counterattack from the side of good to overthrown evil and restore the world back to good. There was some who would not wait – the Elves – who ran away from their responsibility, as they would not have anything to do with broken world. There are others, however, that represent the contingent that believes the world was created good, and through the destruction of the Ring, it can be returned back to normal.
It is very similar to the church today. Much of the church, after their conversion, simply packs their bags and waits for glory to come, so they can “go home.” Going home to be with Jesus is something we all a believers must look forward to and long for, but it isn’t the beginning of our time with him, nor does it represent the totality of his mission on earth. He came to restore all things, not just his people, but also the entirety of his creation. Once we become Christians, we are then part of his redemption of all things, and must actively take part in that. How do we do that? Well, for the Fellowship of the Ring, they saw it as their duty to escort the Ringbearer to the depths of Mt. Doom. They were chasing sin out of the world and ushering in a different order. They failed in their task in one respect but I think it points to the fact that they were unable to do it, and had to trust in a power that was beyond. The same holds true for believers. We must come to the understanding that all things are created by him and for him, not simply those things that have to do with our “personal relationship” with him. Yes, he came to redeem you and me, but his plan is much broader than that. He came to redeem all things. Fangorn knew that the destruction of Saruman in Isengard was not just the overthrowing of a tyrant, but it was crucial for the growth and regrowth of his forest. Legolas could have boarded the boats headed to the Grey Havens, but he stayed in Middle Earth because his home was worth fighting for, and he longed to see things return to their former state. Aragorn was reluctant to take his throne, but sought to do so, as his return would signal the end of the curse on the land, and the beginning of a new day.
The Fellowship of the Ring begins a larger story that leads to the end, but this book proves the point that all good stories are written with redemption in mind. Though I am still working my way through Tolkien, I plan to begin reading Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, as I expect the same to hold true with those stories, even though they were written as an antithesis to Lewis’s Narnia series. Pullman longs for redemptive, even as an atheist. God would not have it any other way.