Tolkien, Lewis & the Saints

By Amanda Pizzolatto (Rated G)

We all know about Tolkien’s firm faith and Lewis’ incredible conversion, and we certainly all know about their fantastic stories, and Lewis’ commentary of the truth. But have you ever wondered where they got the names for some of their characters, or how close they were, if they didn’t know, to their own faith? There was bound to be some similarities, but I’ll bet you didn’t know that many of their characters were named after saints, whether intentionally or not. Some are fairly well known and would have entered the mind, no doubt, upon hearing the name; others are a little more obscure, and you’d be surprised. 

We’ll start off with the better known saints, the ones featured in Lewis’ beloved and best known stories, the Chronicles of Narnia. We can all recognize who Peter was named for, St. Peter, the first Pope, and the rock of Christ’s Church. The boy’s personality clearly shows it too: he is unsure of himself as being king, he worries too much, and is often prone to many mistakes, though they are typical of a boy his age. He does eventually become the man that Aslan knew he would, just like St. Peter became the rock the Christ knew he would. Next is Susan, and yes, there is a St. Susanna, though her story is less known than the others. She was a Christian martyr who refused to marry Diocletian’s son-in-law and converted two of her uncles in the process, resulting in their martyrdom as well. Now, there are a few St. Edmunds, but one was a martyr, and was a king of East Anglia, until the Vikings invaded. Later, East Anglia became a part of England. Then there is Lucy. Again, there are several saints with the same name, but there are two in particular who deserve the most attention. The first one is the most well-known St. Lucy, the one who is often seen with a pair of eyes, often invoked for health of eyes and for the ability to see the truth, a fact that Lucy Pevensie often shows in the presence of Aslan. The other St. Lucy is equally close, if not closer, for she is known as Lucy of Narni, Italy. Coincidence? I’m not quite sure, actually, Lewis did become an Anglican, while Lucy of Narni is a Catholic saint, and an incorruptible. Anyway, there are two more, but no, there is no St. Jill, but Jill is a form of Julia, and St. Julia was a martyr from Carthage of which little is known. Finally, yes, there is in fact a St. Eustace who was venerated by both Anglicans and Catholics, so Lewis probably heard about him. He was a soldier, who had to go through a series of unfortunate events, and was martyred not long after being reunited with his family. 

Now comes the hard, and fun, part, the characters of Tolkien’s epic, The Lord of the Rings. The best known of these saints is St. Peregrine, invoked primarily by cancer patients and travelers. Having received a cure from Jesus Christ for his own cancer, many turn to him in the hopes that Christ will help him again, giving them a cure for their cancer. Pippin’s best friend has a patron in none other than St. Meriadoc, sometimes known as Meriasek, a priest from Brittany, France. He gave up his wealth and became a religious, much like St. Francis, so that he could bring more souls to God. The Fellowship’s wise guide has a namesake in St. Gandolph, the bishop of Maastricht, a legend in his own right. He shares the title of patron of the city with two other saints, one of whom he is often confused with, St. Munolph. There is only one more, but he wasn’t named after the saint, merely inspired by him. A certain King Oswald’s story apparently fascinated Tolkien so much that Aragorn became remarkably similar to the holy king. 

And last, but most certainly not least, is Jesus Christ and God Himself. Both have a place in Tolkien’s and Lewis’ works, more obvious in one than in the other. In Narnia, it’s rather obvious that Aslan is Christ Himself, while His Father is called the Emperor-Across-the-Sea. Aslan is very predominant in the stories of Narnia, the Emperor-Across-the-Sea not as much, mentioned only a few times throughout the series. This is probably not meant to downplay the importance of God the Father in our lives, but it does show that Jesus is important and should be allowed to control every aspect of our lives, that things go better when He does have control. On the other hand, in Middle Earth, it is Elu, God the Father on Earth, who has more mentions, few as they are. Many speculate this is because The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings takes place before Christ could come and cleanse the world with His sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean He is not present in the world. Many of His characteristics are present in Gandalf, Aragorn, and Frodo. They are most probably representing His three roles, Priest, King, and Sacrifice. It isn’t hard to figure out which one represents the priest, which one represents the king, and which one represents the sacrifice. Though they are mortal, and very prone to mistakes, there is still an element of Christ that snuck in beneath Tolkien’s ever wary eye. The Holy Trinity is very hard to get away from, and to keep out of our work. Their creativity and wisdom shines through the pen of an author with an open ear. 

Anyway, yeah, I thought this was fascinating how there are saints with the same names as some of the greatest characters ever written! If you were to take a look at other Christian fantasy, there would be no doubt be some references to the heavenly crowd, especially the Holy Trinity, and in particular Jesus Christ. So go find your favorite characters in Christian fantasy and see if there are any corresponding saints, or saints that the characters were named after. Their stories are just as fascinating as any fantasy, these are the real life Frodos and Lucys. They have destroyed their rings of temptation and have followed the light of God past the doors of death. They are the real heroes of God, the real warriors, and if one seems to catch your attention, well, that was what they were trying to do. God must want you to be the best of friends, and having a friend in heaven is getting you another step closer to the court of God. So listen to their wisdom and learn from their experiences, they can help you get closer to God better than working by yourself ever could.  

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