St. Holbytla’s Monastery

Reading Tolkien in the Light of Faith

Archive for January 2009

It Was Good: The Book of Genesis and the Chant of Treebeard

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To Merry and Pippin, Treebeard sung the following chant (Gregorian plainchant, to be more precise):

    In the willow-meads of Tasarinan I walked in the Spring.
    Ah! the sight and smell of the Spring in Nantasarion!
    And I said that was good.
    I wandered in Summer in the elm-woods of Ossiriand.
    Ah! the light and the music in the Summer by the Seven Rivers of Ossir!
    And I thought that was best. (Two Towers p. 70)

This song by Treebeard, the oldest of the Ents, as he walks through the first forests, recalls the joy that God felt when he created the world, for He always describes his creations as intrinsically good (in contrast to the teachings of Manichaenism):

In the beginning God created heaven, and earth. And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God moved over the waters. And God said: Be light made. And light was made. And God saw the light that it was good; and he divided the light from the darkness. And he called the light Day, and the darkness Night; and there was evening and morning one day.

And God said: Let there be a firmament made amidst the waters: and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made a firmament, and divided the waters that were under the firmament, from those that were above the firmament, and it was so. And God called the firmament, Heaven; and the evening and morning were the second day. God also said: Let the waters that are under the heaven, be gathered together into one place: and let the dry land appear. And it was so done. And God called the dry land, Earth; and the gathering together of the waters, he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. (Gen 1:1-10)


Written by Quirino M. Sugon Jr

January 27, 2009 at 2:53 am

Lamentations: Aragorn over Gondor and Christ over Jerusalem

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Aragorn and Christ share two things: they are both rightful kings but their people refuse to acknowledge them.

Looking at Gondor, Aragorn sang:

    Gondor!  Gondor; between the Mountains and the Sea!
    West Wind blew there; the light upon the Silver Tree
    Fell like bright rain in gardens of the Kings of old.
    O proud walls! White towers! O winged crown and throne of gold!
    O Gondor; Gondor! Shall Men behold the Silver Tree,
    Or West Wind blow again between the Mountains and the Sea? (Tolkien Two Towers p. 15)

Christ also made a similar lamentation as he gazes at Jerusalem:

    Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets,
    and stonest them that are sent unto thee,
    how often would I have gathered together thy children,
    as the hen doth gather her chickens under her wings,
    and thou wouldest not?
    Behold, your house shall be left to you, desolate.
    For I say to you, you shall not see me henceforth till you say:
    Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
    (Mt 23:37-39)

Written by Quirino M. Sugon Jr

January 26, 2009 at 8:27 am

Confession of Boromir to Aragorn: the Sacrament of Penance

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The encounter of Aragorn with the dying Boromir illustrates the three quasi-materia of the Sacrament of Penance as enumerated by the Council of Trent: contrition, confession, and satisfaction.  Let us take a look again at the scene:

Aragorn knelt beside him.  Boromir opened his eyes and strove to speak.  At last slow words came.  ‘I tried to take the Ring from Frodo,’ he said.  ‘I am sorry.  I have paid.’  (Two Towers p. 4)

The contrition part here is ‘I am sorry.’  The confession part is the identification of sin: ‘I tried to take the Ring from Frodo.’  The satisfaction part is ‘I have paid.’  That is, he made his penance by slaying Orcs to protect the halflings Merry and Pippin.

Let us now look at the last scene:

‘Farewell, Aragorn!  Go to Minas Tirith and save my people!  I have failed.’

‘No!’ said Aragorn, taking his hand and kissing his brow.  ‘You have conquered.  Few have gained such a victory.  Be at peace!  Minas Tirith shall not fall!’

Boromir smiled.

Why did Aragorn said, ‘You have conquered”?  On one level, the conquest of Boromir may be in the slaying of the Orcs.  But this is unsatisfactory, for how can slaying twenty Orcs be a conquest?  To conquer a kingdom you have to make it subject to your command.  But what kingdom did Boromir conquered?  Himself.  According to St. Paul:

For I am delighted with the law of God, according to the inward man: But I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin, that is in my members. Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (Rom 7:22-24)

Boromir conquered his lust for the Ring of Power and confessed his lust to Aragorn.  Boromir conquered himself and earned his crown in heaven (not described by Tolkien for not even the Valar knows about it).

Written by Quirino M. Sugon Jr

January 19, 2009 at 10:33 am

An Eagle Announces the Fall of Sauron: an Easter Exsultet

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Here is the song of an eagle announcing the fall of Sauron:

    Sing now; ye people of the Tower of Anor,
    for the Realm of Sauron is ended for ever,
    and the Dark Tower is thrown down.
    Sing and rejoice, ye people of the Tower of the Guard,
    for your watch hath not been in vain,
    and the Black Gate is broken,
    and your King hath passed through,
    and he is victorious.
    Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
    for your King shall come again,
    and he shall dwell among you
    all the days of your life.
    And the Tree that was withered shall be renewed
    and he shall plant it in the high places,
    and the City shall be blessed.
    Sing all ye people! (Return of the King p. 260)

In the Apocalypse of St. John, an eagle also announces to the inhabitants of the earth, but his message is that of woe:

And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth: by reason of the rest of the voices of the three angels, who are yet to sound the trumpet. (Apoc 8:13)

But later another voice from heaven announces the defeat of the Devil:

    Now is come salvation, and strength,
    and the kingdom of our God,
    and the power of his Christ:
    because the accuser of our brethren is cast forth,
    who accused them before our God day and night.
    And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb,
    and by the word of the testimony,
    and they loved not their lives unto death.
    Therefore rejoice, O heavens,
    and you that dwell therein.
    Woe to the earth, and to the sea,
    because the devil is come down unto you,
    having great wrath,
    knowing that he hath but a short time.

These words are echoed in the Exsultet, the song of praise in the Easter Liturgy:

    Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels!
    Exult, all creation around God’s throne!
    Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
    Sound the trumpet of salvation!
    Rejoice O earth in shining splendour,
    radiant in the brightness of your King!
    Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
    Darkness vanishes for ever!
    Rejoice, O Mother Church, Exult in glory!
    The risen Saviour shines upon you!
    Let this place resound with joy,
    echoing the mighty song of all God’s people!

Note the following correspondences: (1) Christ and Aragorn, (2) the Devil and Sauron, and (3) the Church and the City of Gondor.

Written by Quirino M. Sugon Jr

January 16, 2009 at 11:51 am

Transfigurations of Gandalf and Christ: A Comparison of Images

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The Book of Matthew records the Transfiguration of Christ before Peter, James, and John:

And after six days Jesus taketh unto him Peter and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart: 2 And he was transfigured before them. And his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow. (Mt 17:1-2)

Similarly, Gandalf was transfigured before Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli:

[Gandalf] sprang to his feet and leaped to the top of a large rock. There he stood, grown suddenly tall, towering above them. His hood and his grey rags were flung away. His white garments shone. He lifted up his staff…. His hair was white as snow in the sunshine; ang gleaming white was his robe; the eyes under his deep brows were bright, piercing as the rays of the sun; power was in his hand. (Two Towers p. 102)

The other details of Gandalf’s transfiguration after the ellipses dots recall the image of Christ in the Apocalypse of St. John:

And his head and his hairs were white, as white wool, and as snow, and his eyes were as a flame of fire…. And he had in his right hand seven stars. (Apoc 1:14-16)

Now, there are two men standing beside Christ: Moses and Elijah.

The figure of Moses is symbolized in Gandalf’s transfiguration in two ways: his shining face and his staff.  The shining face (i.e., shining, and sending forth rays of light like horns) of Moses is the result of his meeting with God:

And when Moses came down from the mount Sinai, he held the two tables of the testimony, and he knew not that his face was horned from the conversation of the Lord. (Ex 34:29) (Horned means shining, and sending forth rays of light like horns.)

And the staff of Moses is the sign of his power, for the Lord said to him before the burning bush: “And take this rod in thy hand, wherewith thou shalt do the signs” (Ex 4:17).

On the other hand, the figure of Elias is symbolized in Gandalf’s transfiguration also in two ways: the old cloak and the ring.  The old cloak or mantle is what he gave to Eliseus as a symbol of his transference of his prophetic ministry:

And Elias departing from thence, found Eliseus the son of Saphat, ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen: and he was one of them that were ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen: and when Elias came up to him, he cast his mantle upon him.  (3 Kngs 19:19)

Gandalf’s ring is Narya the Great, whose “stone set upon it was red as fire.”  Elias is also symbolized by fire for he is the fire caller:

And Elias answering, said to the captain of fifty: If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee, and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him, and the fifty that were with him. (4 Kngs 1:10)

Hear me, O Lord, hear me: that this people may learn, that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart again.  Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the holocaust, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. (3 Kngs 18:37-38)

In Christ’s Transfiguration, the voice of the Father identified him as His Son:

And as he was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them. And lo, a voice out of the cloud, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him. (Mt 17:5)

In Gandalf’s Transfiguration his identification is provided by Legolas, when he exclaimed “Mithrandir, Mithrandir,” the name of Gandalf among the Elves.

Rule of St. Holbytla

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Read Tolkien with a red pen.
Beside his words write your comment.
Sing his song, shake in fear,
Smile with Sam, shed a tear.

Read the Scriptures with a red pen.
Beside Christ’s words write your comment.
Share his joy, share his agony,
Share his light, share his glory.

Read Tolkien with a red pen,
Beside his words write your comment.
Relate them to the Gospel, relate them to Christ.
Relate them to the Faith, relate them to life.

[Read this blog with a white pen.
Below my posts write no comment.
Read my poems, read my articles.
St. Holbytla’s rule: read in silence.]


I relaxed the no-comment rule. I originally envisioned this blog to be a hermitage. But because some of my ideas may be wrong, I will open the comment box in all my posts. Fraternal corrections are welcome. In this way, we purge the errors in our midst (c.f. Dt 22:21).

Written by Quirino M. Sugon Jr

January 15, 2009 at 3:51 am