So, today’s the last day of National Banned Books Week here in the U.S., which is always a fun way to celebrate the utter failure of censorship to stop people from reading good books (and sometimes bad ones).
Fun fact: The Lord of the Rings is on the American Library Association’s list of “banned and challenged books.” Apparently in 2001, some folks decided to burn it and other Tolkien works outside Christ Community Church in Alamagordo, New Mexico. It has also been banned in some Christian schools over the years. Why? Because it’s a Satanic book, of course!
I like to call this sort of thing “the Harry Potter seal of approval.” Some people just can’t handle the use of magic in literature, even if it’s in a completely fantastical setting and not at all based on real-life witchcraft. They sometimes overreact to the point of burning the book to make a statement. And as in the case of Harry Potter, these people always end up doing absolutely nothing to hinder the popularity of the book. At this point, if you wanted to burn every Tolkien book in existence, you’d need a heck of a lot of gasoline.
Satanism might be a common accusation for fantasy books, but it’s a particularly ridiculous one to level at The Lord of the Rings. J.R.R. Tolkien was a devout Catholic his entire life, and he based much of the mythology of Middle Earth on biblical stories and imagery (see the Fall of Numenor in The Silmarillion for the most obvious example). And although his writings do feature wizards who cast magic spells and so forth, he portrays them as cosmic beings who are closer to angels than anything else.
But hey, now I can say I read a banned book for Banned Books Week! And if you, like me, have made it a goal to pick up each of the books on the ALA list of banned classics, The Lord of the Rings is a much easier place to start than, say, James Joyce’s Ulysses.