Corey Olsen on J.R.R. Tolkien (An “Encore Episode”)
Date: June 15th, 2014

While the staff at RoR is on vacation, and in honor of my son’s high school homework assignment to read The Hobbit over summer break, we re-run an episode exploring the life, times, and writings of J.R.R. Tolkien with Prof. Corey Olsen, founder of The Mythgard Institute, a privately-run center for learning about Tolkien and mythology more generally.

Without doubt, Corey is passionate about the subject of Middle Earth, as is evidenced by his alternate moniker The Tolkien Professor.  Tony probes where this passion came from and whether or not Christians should be wary of these stories that contain elves, goblins, and other seemingly pagan creatures.  Not surprisingly, there are a number of deeply devout individuals who are hesitant to let their children read books by Tolkien or see the movies.  However, Prof. Olsen does a remarkable job in discussing what myths are and what mythology is meant to do, and why religious believers should embrace these works of fantasy fiction.

Our discussion explores the important influences of Tolkien’s life, including his deeply-held Roman Catholicism, his love of languages, and his passion for mythology.  We learn that Tolkien not only created the mythical world that we see in movies such as The Lord of the Ring trilogy, but that he fully developed six different languages and a storyline about their historical roots, an amazing feat if one considers how complex our everyday languages are.  Tolkien’s relationship with C.S. Lewis is also discussed.  Admittedly, Tony is not a big fan of this genre of fiction, so he was surprised to find out the degree of influence Tolkien had on Lewis.  Corey shares a number of interesting tidbits about their longstanding and fruitful relationship.

We finally, then, get to the spiritual themes in The Hobbit.  Prof. Olsen notes that Christianity was not something that was explicitly woven into Tolkien’s writings, though his deeply-held faith did condition how he crafted his mythic worlds.  Providence, fate, and free will emerge as very important spiritual themes in Tolkien’s writings and Corey points to various examples within the story where this becomes apparent.  (Not to worry, folks.  There are no spoilers to the Hobbit film series in this interview.)  Prof. Olsen also speculates about how Tolkien probably was influenced by the ancient Christian writer Boethius.   We then finish off with whether or not, as a Tolkien aficionado, Corey is anticipating the release of Peter Jackson’s film.  He even manages to get Tony excited about maybe, just maybe, reading the book.  Recorded: November 9, 2012.


About Corey Olsen at The Mythard Institute.

Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, by Corey Olsen.


Micah Watson on C.S. Lewis

Jason Jewell on Reading the “Great Books”

One Response to “Corey Olsen on J.R.R. Tolkien (An “Encore Episode”)”

Leave a Reply

Listen or Download This Episode
Search The Podcast
To search the podcast, type a term and click the Search button.

Connect With Us