J. R. R. Tolkien's timeless The Lord of the Rings trilogy has fascinated thousands of readers, and now Peter Jackson's films are delighting millions of viewers. While the wild success of these stories is remarkable, it's certainly no mystery. In a culture where truth is relative, morality is often irrelevant, and determinism threatens our human dignity, we are more than enchanted by the message of these tales: we have free will, our choices matter, and living a morally heroic life is indeed possible.
Matthew Dickerson's Following Gandalf explores the importance of free will and moral choices in Tolkien's Middle-earth, where moral victory, rather than military success, is the real story. Although he explores specifically Christian themes throughout (including salvation, grace, and spiritual hope), Dickerson suggests in the end that Tolkien's epic both is and is not a Christian story.
Not only does Dickerson seriously engage the literary texts, he peppers his arguments with fascinating excerpts from Tolkien's letters, illuminating the author's own compositional and thematic intentions.