J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings has long been acknowledged as the gold standard for fantasy fiction, and the recent Oscar-winning movie trilogy has brought forth a whole new generation of fans. Many Tolkien enthusiasts, however, are not aware of the profoundly religious dimension of the great Ring saga.
In The Battle for Middle-earth Fleming Rutledge employs a distinctive technique to uncover the theological currents that lie just under the surface of Tolkien's epic tale. Rutledge believes that the best way to understand this powerful "deep narrative" is to examine the story as it unfolds, preserving some of its original dramatic tension. This deep narrative has not previously been sufficiently analyzed or celebrated. Writing as an enthusiastic but careful reader, Rutledge draws on Tolkien's extensive correspondence to show how biblical and liturgical motifs shape the action. At the heart of the plot lies a rare glimpse of what human freedom really means within the Divine Plan of God. The Battle for Middle-earth surely will, as Rutledge hopes, "give pleasure to those who may already have detected the presence of the sub-narrative, and insight to those who may have missed it on first reading."
Fleming Rutledge is an Episcopal priest, a best-selling author, and a widely recognized preacher whose published sermon collections have received acclaim across denominational lines. Her other books include Help My Unbelief, Three Hours: Sermons for Good Friday, Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ, and The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ, which won Christianity Today's 2017 Book of the Year Award.
Christianity & Literature "If I had to recommend a single work that most completely discloses the theological and moral quality of Tolkien's entire mythological enterprise, I would without hesitation name Fleming Rutledge's The Battle for Middle-earth."
Ralph C. Wood "Fleming Rutledge writes about the moral and theological life of The Lord of the Rings with immense verve and insight. She inhabits the world of Middle-earth from the inside, linking the characters who play out its cosmic drama with the narrative world of Scripture, showing how they have the power both to illuminate our times and to transform our lives."
Thomas H. Luxon "Fear not! Fleming Rutledge has carefully avoided reducing Tolkien's thrilling stories to doctrine or his characters to typology. With just the right expository pressure, Rutledge shows how the Tolkien stories we love are woven from the same threads and are concerned with the same questions as the old, old stories of the Bible — a book Tolkien loved as no other."
Bradley J. Birzer "Rutledge smartly argues that Tolkien's mythology is an immense and intense theological drama, with God at the very center of the plot. And, even if God remains unseen in Middle-earth, He is no more unseen than in our present, postmodern world. Certainly Tolkien had no trouble seeing Him, and, according to Rutledge's excellent book, we shouldn't either — in this world or in Middle-earth. Grace abounds throughout all of creation."
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