Monday, November 19, 2012

Tolkien book - new expanded edition

Some years ago I wrote a book about Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings. It was called Secret Fire by the publisher DLT, and The Power of the Ring in the USA (Crossroad didn't like the UK title). This year, with financial troubles at DLT, it went out of print (in both versions) and I was asked by Crossroad to revise and expand the book for a new edition to be published on both sides of the Atlantic. Here is the cover (and the contents list – see below). I would not want people to go out and buy it thinking it is a brand new book, but it has been expanded and improved throughout, with an additional chapter about The Hobbit, and is nicely redesigned. It incorporates, among other things, the corrections and revisions I made for the Russian and Italian translations. The new edition of The Power of the Ring received an honorable mention in the 2013 Hoffer Awards under the category of culture. Please order from Sylvia Scott, Sales & Marketing, Crossroad, 831 Chestnut Ridge Road, Chestnut Ridge, NY 10977, 001-845-517-0180, ext. 115. Or email The book can also be ordered via UK Amazon or US Amazon.

There is always more to say about Tolkien and his writing – which is why I was so pleased to have a chance to add to my book. He never claimed to be anything more than a philologist, but he knew his faith well, and was an
instinctive theologian. Take for example Frodo's advice to Sam at the end of the novel when he is trying to decide what to do with Galadriel's gift – a little box of earth from Lothlorien. If we remember that in a sense the gifts represent grace, and the Lady is a Marian "type", then we can read Frodo's comment on several levels. "Use all the wits and knowledge you have of your own, Sam, and then use the gift to help your work and better it." Sam places a grain of the dust next to each of the trees he plants around the Shire, and the following spring "surpassed his wildest hopes." Grace is given not to replace nature but to heal and improve, and not to overpower our own nature but to help bring it to fruition.

See also (the post on homeschooling is included in the new edition):
Interview with author by Tolkien Library
On Tolkien Studies

Preface to the Revised Edition
1. The Tree of Tales
2. The Hobbit: There and Back Again
3. A Very Great Story
4. A Hidden Presence: Tolkien’s Catholicism
5. Let These Things Be
6. Behind the Stars
7. Tolkien’s Achievement
1. An Archetypal Journey: Tolkien and Jung
2. Tolkien’s Social Philosophy
3. The Shadow of King Arthur
4. Friendship in The Lord of the Rings
5. Tolkien for Homeschoolers
6. Tolkien and Paganism
7. The Beginning of Days
8. Myths Transformed
9. The Film of the Rings

REVIEWS of previous edition:

“This book contains profound insights into the theology and spirituality in Tolkien's books. Caldecott gives the background of Tolkien's personality, letters, excerpts from other writings in order to provide a clear picture of what's at work in the Lord of the Rings.. The chapter ‘Behind the Stars’ is among the deepest commentaries on JRRT's work as a whole. Very fine. Definitely worth owning.” -- Dr Peter A. Kwasniewski

"Professor Tolkien, the academic philologist, was said to have travelled 'inside language'. Under Caldecott's guidance, here we travel inside the language of Tolkien. One sees at last what he was up to. It is a revelatory book." -- Church Times

Every Catholic school will want a copy as will anyone interested in Tolkien as a serious writer." -- Eric Hester, The Catholic Times

"As a general principle, the more worthwhile the primary source, the less worthwhile the secondary. Books about the most readable writers (Plato, Pascal, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and the Bible come to mind) are usually the least worth reading. The same, alas, is true for most of the plethora of books about Tolkien. Fortunately, there are a few exceptions. And this book, to my mind, is the most notable of all. There is no padding, no clich├ęs, no belaboring the obvious. If anyone asks me what one book about Tolkien is the most worth reading, Secret Fire is my reply." -- Peter Kreeft, St Austin Review

"Caldecott's familiarity with Tolkien's writings and his clear analysis provide fascinating insights that enrich The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion in ways far different from previous studies. Some interesting appendixes offer additional observations. This book will be welcomed by those interested in the deep theological underpinnings of Tolkien's works, and is recommended to academic libraries supporting upper level coursework on Tolkien or religion and literature" -- Daniel Boice, Catholic Library World, September 2005

"Secret Fire elegantly unpacks the deeper meanings of the text, drawing not only on the classic works but on writings by Tolkien unpublished during his lifetime. Stratford Caldecott shows how Tolkien was one of a small group of writers who have succeeded in re-opening the world of the imagination for theological exploration." -- Church HouseBookshop , UK

"In this perceptive and well-reasoned book, Stratford Caldecott explores the roots of J.R.R. Tolkien's appeal 'to people of all ages and beliefs, in a broad spectrum from Christian to neo-pagan' ... Tolkien is portrayed in this book, fairly I think, as an explorer for whom the stories he carefully and diligently crafted over a long lifetime 'are notes of his expeditions in search of an older and "inner" world.'" -- Colin Duriez, Theology

"Essential reading for those who would like to understand the spiritual background to Lord of the Rings." -- Scientific and Medical Network

"Caldecott's work is a delight to read, with fascinating insights on nearly every page as he discusses the riches of Tolkien's work." -- The Sower

"A superb book that blends academic rigour with a clear passion for the subject." -- Christian Marketplace

“The book is truly outstanding and deserves the widest possible exposure. It is profound yet very readable.  I plan to use it with my adult CCD program soon, and I'd like to incorporate it into a university class as soon as I can.  I've even thought about offering a city-wide Lenten retreat using it.” --  Dr Henry (Hank) T. Edmondson III, Ph.D.,College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Georgia College & State University

“A literally wonderful - wonder-full - book. It will open the eyes of any reader who considers The Lord of the Rings just a gripping yarn in a fantasy world. Tolkien's ‘vision’ - Caldecott makes it clear the word is just right - draws on deep springs of philosophy and mysticism - and, not least, the orthodoxy of the church.” -- Aidan Nichols OP

Friday, November 9, 2012

Faith, analogy, and modern science

In his 8 November address to the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope Benedict spoke of the "urgent need for continued dialogue and cooperation between the worlds of science and of faith in the building of a culture of respect for man, for human dignity and freedom, for the future of our human family and for the long-term sustainable development of our planet." He explained that
the sciences are not intellectual worlds disconnected from one another and from reality but rather that they are interconnected and directed to the study of nature as a unified, intelligible and harmonious reality in its undoubted complexity. Such a vision has fruitful points of contact with the view of the universe taken by Christian philosophy and theology, with its notion of participated being, in which each individual creature, possessed of its proper perfection, also shares in a specific nature and this within an ordered cosmos originating in God’s creative Word. It is precisely this inbuilt “logical” and “analogical” organization of nature that encourages scientific research and draws the human mind to discover the horizontal co-participation between beings and the transcendental participation by the First Being.
This is a point that is explored in my book Beauty for Truth's Sake, but has rarely been stated so clearly or succinctly. The Pope went on, in terms that echo the book by Barry R. Pearlman, A Certain Faith:
It is within this broader context that I would note how fruitful the use of analogy has proved for philosophy and theology, not simply as a tool of horizontal analysis of nature’s realities, but also as a stimulus to creative thinking on a higher transcendental plane. Precisely because of the notion of creation, Christian thought has employed analogy not only for the investigation of worldly realities, but also as a means of rising from the created order to the contemplation of its Creator, with due regard for the principle that God’s transcendence implies that every similarity with his creatures necessarily entails a greater dissimilarity: whereas the structure of the creature is that of being a being by participation, that of God is that of being a being by essence, or Esse subsistens.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

On Tolkien

The field of "Tolkien studies" continues to evolve. The book based on the Exeter College conference, Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: Sources of Inspiration, is still available and remains one of the most interesting collections of academic essays on this topic. The journal of the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College, VII or Seven, has for thirty years been publishing excellent articles about Tolkien and the other authors in his circle. In Oxford we also now have an excellent Journal of Inklings Studies. West Virginia University Press has a journal of Tolkien Studies. Meanwhile the online Tolkien Library remains a useful resource for finding lots of wonderful books by and about Tolkien. My own book on Tolkien has been launched in a new edition (details elsewhere on this site).

The main site for Tolkien fans is of course the Tolkien Society, and that has links to many others. The Encyclopedia of Arda explores Tolkien's imaginary world in great detail, with maps, timelines, illustrations, etc. There are numerous sites devoted to the languages of Middle-earth, and even to Elvish heraldry. Another impressive online resource for studying the books is the Lord of the Rings Project. And there are a number of blogs that offer fascinating insights into the thinking and spirituality of this profoundly Christian writer: I recommend particularly The Flame Imperishable by Jonathan McIntosh, and Bruce Charlton's Tolkien's Notion Club Papers. Raymond Edwards has recently written a superb pocket biography of Tolkien for the CTS. Finally, an excellent two-part article on Tolkien's Catholicism by the American writer Drew Bowling can be found here and here. There is a TOLKIEN SPRING SCHOOL on 21-23 March 2013 at the Oxford English Faculty with many excellent speakers.