Today’s post begins a series of interviews with a number of prominent bloggers, artists, writers and others who love J.R.R. Tolkien and the realm he “sub-created.” I will be releasing these interviews bi-monthly, so be sure to subscribe via e-mail or feed reader so that you do not miss out! My first interview is with writer and blogger Brandon Vogt; here is a little bit about Brandon:
Brandon Vogt is an award-winning Catholic writer, blogger, and speaker. He’s been featured by several media outlets including NPR, CBS, FoxNews, EWTN, and Our Sunday Visitor.
Brandon converted to Catholicism in 2008 and since then has become recognized as a Catholic new media expert. In 2011, he released his first book, The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishops Who Tweet (Our Sunday Visitor), which won first-place at the Catholic Press Association awards. He was later invited to the Vatican to dialogue with Church leaders about new media. In May 2013, Brandon launched StrangeNotions.com, the first website aimed at bringing Catholics and atheists together in dialogue.
You can connect with Brandon and find his blog at BrandonVogt.com, which features regular articles, interviews, book reviews, and giveaways.
And here is my interview with Brandon:
You often blog about Tolkien and have reviewed numerous books about his works. How long have you been acquainted with Tolkien’s world of Middle-Earth?
I’m actually a novice, relative to friends who can speak perfect Elvish. I didn’t read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings until after I became Catholic five years ago. What first hooked me were the films. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy remains my favorite movie series ever. The epic scope, the magnanimous characters, the thrilling journey, and the deep spiritual dimension sucked me in. After discovering Tolkien was a devout Catholic and that his books were latent with Catholic themes, I decided to read the trilogy. And like most people, once I picked them up I could hardly put them down.
Has reading The Lord of the Rings had an effect on you and how you view the world?
Along with C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia it has “baptized my imagination”, giving me a sacramental view of the world. After reading The Lord of the Rings you can’t help but see the world bathed in meaning and purpose and the grandeur of God.
You also understand that things aren’t always what they seem, that in fact the smallest Hobbit can be the greatest hero; that an innocent object can be the darkest and deadliest; that wisdom and brawn are important but courage, loyalty, and love trump all.
Why do you think Tolkien’s works are so powerful?
They’re so powerful because they resonate with our experience of sin and salvation. The Lord of the Rings is ultimately about redemption–the redemption of Middle Earth, indeed, but also individual redemption. We all feel that something is not right here, that this world is not as it should be. In Tolkien’s world the same is true: Sauron and the Ring have darkened the world, and to heal it both must be destroyed.
Each of us face the same battle. Our Rings, our sin, must be vanquished.
What do you think is the greatest contribution to society that The Lord of the Rings has given to the Western world?
There are many but I’d say a sacramental vision of our world as it really is. The Lord of the Rings suggests that, like Middle-Earth, our world is essentially an epic battle of good vs. evil that will end with redemption. Sure, it’s full of darkness, death, corruption, and sin, but it’s also bathed in love, goodness, truth, and hope. The Lord of the Rings helps us see our world better and thus to participate in its redemption.
What one book would you recommend above all else to someone interested in learning more about Tolkien and his realm of Middle-Earth?
I’m not as well-read as I’d like in the secondary literature regarding Middle-Earth, but some of my favorite books include Peter Kreeft’s The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind the Lord of the Rings and Joseph Pearce’s biography, Tolkien: Man and Myth, a Literary Life.
For more of Brandon’s commentary on Tolkien and Middle-Earth, check out these posts from his blog:
- 8 Books on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Catholicism
- Three Hobbit-Related Book Reviews
- What Books Would J.R.R. Tolkien Recommend to a Young Reader?
Question: Why do you think Tolkien’s works are so powerful?