Susan Robbins


In the Bible, light has always been a symbol of holiness, goodness, knowledge, wisdom, grace, hope, and God’s revelation. By contrast, darkness has been associated with evil, sin, and despair. J. R. R. Tolkien was a devout Roman Catholic, and claimed in a letter that The Lord of the Rings was “a fundamentally religious and Catholic work.” He explained that the Christianity to be found in it was “absorbed into the story and the symbolism.” Not much scholarly attention has been paid to light as a biblical symbol in Tolkien’s mythology. Accordingly, I argue that the light in Tolkien’s works is presented as biblical light, and serves the story in much the same way as light serves to communicate and symbolize the revelation of God in the Bible. Three focal points are addressed: first, the creation of light and the distinction of the holy light of the Two Trees from the natural light of the sun and moon; second, the ways that light, darkness, and fire are used as symbols, and their effects on various characters; and third, the fantasy characters who are associated with the holy light. The comparisons of Tolkien with the biblical presentation of light will show that Tolkien’s Christian faith and worldview permeates Middle-earth.