Some follow-up remarks on the Tolkien discussion

by Michael Healy

First, I must thank Justine Schmiesing for the continued excellence of her footnotes, one of which alerted me to the fact that I had won last year’s Grand Prize. I am astounded by her ability to strike gold with points she deems too trivial to be included in the main body of her text. However, if I invited everyone who helped me with my prize-winning article to join me at The Grand Concourse Restaurant, I’d go broke. (Those who have seen Mrs. Schmiesing’s reply will understand.)

On to some unfinished business from my last article:

It would be possible for Trolls to exist after all! In The Two Towers Treebeard says, “. . .Trolls are only counterfeits, made by the Enemy. . . in mockery of Ents, as Orcs were of Elves.” In a footnote to the essay “The Druedain” in Unfinished Tales Tolkien writes, “Morgoth. . .can make no living thing.” Because of this, it seems to me that only one meaning can be given to Treebeard’s statement. Trolls, like the Ents, are spiritual beings who have taken on some sort of physical form.

Some may say that Mrs. Schmiesing has proven with her latest objection that only men and hobbits could exist, but none of Middle Earth’s other inhabitants. I’m not quite so sure. Her argument is based primarily on Romans 8:20, “All of creation is in bondage to decay.” She maintains that this verse indicates that no non-human sentient races could exist in “our space and time,” since if they were sinless it would be unjust of God to place them in a fallen universe and if they were sinful they would have to have been created that way, which would also be unjust of God, since Man caused the universe to fall through original sin. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But there are loopholes.

First, in yet another famous footnote Justine admits, “‘Our space and time’ would not include angels or other beings for whom God might choose to create another space and time.” This is significant, for it leaves the door open for the existence of the Valar, the Maiar, Melian, Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast, the “Blue Wizards,” Ents, Morgoth, Sauron, Trolls, Dragons, Balrogs, Tom Bombadil, Goldberry, werewolves, vampires, barrow wights and giant spiders. Tolkien portrayed all of these as being either angels or demons that had taken physical forms. Therefore, they are not true inhabitants of our space and time; rather, they are “visitors.” Thus, Justine’s objection does not apply to them.

We have come to agreement on the possibility of the existence of the hobbits. The giants, the monster in the mere outside Moria, the Mewlips, and the giant turtles remain on the “not enough info to decide” list.

The Orcs were bred from the Elves. I know Tolkien gives the alternative that they were bred from Men, but since the Orcs appear in the history of Middle-Earth before Man comes into existence, I doubt that this is the correct explanation of their origins. Thus, since Orcs were bred from Elves, we would prove the possibility of the existence of Orcs by proving that of Elves. That leaves us with only two races of Middle-Earth the possibility of whose existence needs to be proven: Elves, Dwarves and Orcs.

For these, too, I hold that Justine’s argument does not apply. Why? Because she has based her argument on the presence of original sin in the universe. Such an argument cannot rule out the existence of Tolkien’s Elves and Dwarves, because he conceived of them as coming into existence millennia before Adam and Eve did. And if Adam and Eve didn’t yet exist, how could their sin have prevented Elves and Dwarves from being created? Similarly, if some alien race had been created before Adam and Eve committed original sin, I see no reason why it could not still exist now, especially if the parents of that other race have also sinned.

And by the way, the quote from Romans might also be used to buttress one of the arguments in my previous article. I claimed that Christ’s passion, death and resurrection could apply for the salvation of non-human sentient beings, as well as to us, since Christ’s instruction to the apostles near the end of Mark’s Gospel is, “Go out into the entire cosmos and preach the gospel to every creature.” Romans 8:20-21 reads, “for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.” This could very well be interpreted as meaning that Christ died to redeem not just the human race but all of creation. Thus aliens and Elves and Dwarves could also attain salvation through Christ.

I congratulate Justine Schmiesing for having valiantly defended her theory that Catholic teaching rules out the possibility of the existence of non-human sentient life in our universe, but I nevertheless remain unpersuaded.

In reply to Joanna Bratten:

Since my article inspired Joanna Bratten’s on Pluralism in Vol.IV, issue 1, I should say a word or two on the questions she raises. I would suggest that the proper way a Catholic should balance religious pluralism and religious orthodoxy is to hold fast to the fact that the Catholic Church alone contains the fullness of Divine Revelation, but to admit that other religions can and do contain parts of the truth, to greater or lesser degrees, and to commend them for the truths they do perceive. But we should go on to encourage their adherents to find the fullness of Truth contained in the Holy Catholic Church. As far as non-Catholics living more exemplary lives than Catholics goes, I would suggest first that they are the exception rather than the rule. I would then suggest that they are only possible because the Church’s prayers for the salvation of all mankind enable the outpouring of grace upon those “men of good will” who are outside the Church’s fold. Salvation comes through the Church for non-Catholics as well as for Catholics. So why should we make converts of all nations? To enable them to participate in God’s plan of salvation and to ensure that more than a bare minimum of people respond to God’s grace and attain salvation.

Michael Healy, a junior philosophy major, was last year’s recipient of the annual Concourse Grand Prize (dinner for two at The Grand Concourse Restaurant in Pittsburgh) for his article “How hobbits and company might really exist”. See also Justine Schmiesing’s “reply-with-footnotes”.