Tolkien’s cosmology: Divine Beings and Middle-earth, by Sam McBride

— review by Alyssa House-Thomas

5 October 2021 | Tolkien Studies, XVIII, 260

Sam McBride’s Tolkien’s cosmology sets out to answer a fundamental and sensible question: since Tolkien presumed religious elements to be a component of his fictional work, specifically The Lord of the Rings, and became annoyed with critics who made assertions to the contrary, what are those contents within the fiction itself that suggested divinity to its author, if not to his less perceptive critics? McBride’s book aims to be a systematization and explication of religious elements across Tolkien’s legendarium, with special attention paid to reading a continuity into the relationship between Tolkien’s hobbit-centered tales and his mythological and philosophical efforts composed both before and after The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Though Tolkien’s Roman Catholicism is addressed, the book’s project is to take Tolkien’s writings on their own ground, examining what McBride variously terms the legendarium’s monotheistic polytheism” (xii) and its polytheistic monotheism” (2), treated under both names as if it were a self-consistent theological framework which a reader may observe being ramified to differing degrees of manifestness or subtlety in each of Tolkien’s writings about Middle-earth.…

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