Date of Award
Restricted Access Thesis
College of Theology, Arts, & Sciences
Prof. Phillip L. Brandt PhD
This thesis looks at the theory presented by J.R.R. Tolkien on the essence of world mythology. In his poem Mythopoeia, Tolkien presents a thesis that states that all world myth shares a common center and a common truth. Tolkien as a Catholic believed this truth to be the Christian message. This idea can be seen throughout the bulk of Tolkien’s work and that of his good friend C.S. Lewis. Ultimately, the idea comes down to the philosophy of first causes. What is the first cause of everything? It is God. If that is true, then God must be the first cause of our mythology, which means that our mythology would point back to Christ. Tolkien in fact believes that myth is a better pointer to Christ than many other methods of thinking that we use.
Two different schools of mythology are examined to see if there are any grounds for the statement that Tolkien makes. The first school is that of Norse myth, the school that Tolkien was the most familiar with. The second school is that of Native American myth, one that Tolkien knew very little about. Both of these schools of myth have some similarities to each other and to the Christian gospel. This would seem to suggest that there is evidence for Tolkien’s thesis.
However, Tolkien’s idea is only really attractive if one already buys into the Christian message or finds mythology to be a very beautiful thing. This idea cannot be proven objectively (much like all of theology). If one buys into it though, it seems to suggest that God has worked through stories of different cultures around the world in order to help the missionaries deliver the message of the Gospel.