“Vicarious” suffering is also, of course, central to the saga, as it is for Catholicism: the Company of the Ring endure what they endure for the sake of the salvation of the world, so to speak. This bespeaks what is central to our own story, namely Our Lord’s suffering, and that of the saints, on behalf of fallen humanity. One caveat: Tolkien disliked allegory most sedulously (he thought Lewis’s Narnia was too allegorical), so there is, in fact, the danger of “baptizing” the whole thing too eagerly. Frodo is not Christ, nor is Aragorn (the unknown, but legitimate, returning king). Galadriel is not an allegory for Our Lady, pure and lovely though she may be. But, at the end of the day, we may, with Tolkien’s approval, speak of the saga as a Catholic masterpiece. A postscript to this might be the observation that no Protestant could conceivably have written this saga, since it is profoundly “sacramental.” That is, redemption is achieved wholly via physical means–cf The Incarnation, Golgotha, the Resurrection, and the Ascension–and the tale is sprinkled with “sacramentals,” such as lembas, athelas, Galadriel’s phial of light, mithril, etc.…
[O]ne of the baffling aspects of our story is “the silence of God.” The Ring Company (like the saints in our story) have to muddle along, doing the best they can with their resources, without the luxury of some ready hocus-pocus that will dissolve Dark Riders or send orcs packing. Our story, often, seems to us mortals to be like this. Where is God? And Tolkien’s characters are not “religious.” No one says his prayers (there is one instance where Faramir and company pause before they eat, but this is, I think, as close as we get to prayer, unless the cry “O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!” may be thus understood). Readers may think the following observation somewhat capricious, but, as a latecomer to Catholicism myself, I recognize in this inarticulateness as to “faith” on the part of the characters a very Catholic quality. Catholics don’t chat about the Faith ordinarily. Protestants, especially evangelical Protestants, are stumped by this muteness. Catholics must not be believers, they think, if they can’t croak out at least some “testimony” to their faith. But Tolkien, as a cradle Catholic, would not, nay could not, have his characters forever nattering about God, any more than he (Tolkien himself) could have any part of a testimony meeting. The fugitive references to the West, and the spectacle of the elves “passing, passing, passing” to the West, tincture the whole narrative with the tincture of glory. Not here, not here, the word seems to be, is your ultimate home. Beautiful and appealing as the Shire, Rivendell, or Lothlorien may be, even they are not the final locale of felicity. All must go West. Here again, Tolkien has made the very fabric of his story virtually indistinguishable from the fabric of ours, and hence has gained a seriousness otherwise impossible.
Read the whole thing, especially the remarks about the film's omission of Tom Bombadil.
Link via Jimmy Akin's combox. The post was on Rick Santorum's LOTR analogy as parodied by Stephen Colbert.