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Comparison and contrasts in the forms of religion used in each world

Tolkien uses a very primitive form of pagan belief system in The Lord of the Rings, either consciously to praise the benefits of Catholic Christianity, or unconsciously as a better system to fit in with the medieval portrayal of the political background of Middle-Earth. Tad Williams uses a very rigid and formalised form of religion, similar also to Catholic Christianity, yet nowhere does he claim to be an extremely devout Christian, unlike Tolkien who was known to be quite a devout Catholic. Where does the idea for a totalitarian religion stem from? It can obviously be said that Tad Williams has struck a new path here in introducing formalised religion into the Fantasy genre, which has since been utilised by such authors as David Eddings and to a lesser extent, Robert Jordan.

Most fantasy novels have no form of religion in them whatsoever, for many authors consider it to be a far too varied thing to create, and consider it a distraction from the story-line. In Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, rather than detracting from the story. it creates a greater sense of reality, not only by aiding the characters in their ability to curse. ‘"Merciful Aedon!" he spat’ does sound a lot more convincing than ‘he swore forcefully.’ The addition of religion to the world of Osten Ard makes the characters and the twists of the plot all the more interesting, for on the one hand there is the total lack of religion, while on the other, religion is the greatest driving force for some of the characters.

In Tolkien’s epic the opposition of Good and Evil itself creates a feel of religion as does the detailed mythology about how the world of Arda in which Middle Earth is found was created: the protagonists of the Good are portrayed as Christ-like figures (Frodo, Aragorn, Gandalf, Faramir,…) while the forces of Evil delight in destruction, pain and death. To the Christian, Evil springs from an attempt to separate one’s self from God, this is the Boethian view of Good and Evil; yet another view of Evil, is that Good and Evil are necessary yet opposite and equal forces, battling it out for supremacy on the face of our Earth. This seems to be the view, called Manichaean, favoured by the fantasy genre in total.

As there is a lack of formal religion in The Lord of the Rings, other than the historical references of how the world Arda was created, Tad Williams seems to take a step away from the sign of a plagiarist, by intentionally not copying Tolkien’s form of religion, but developing his own form and thereby enhancing his whole world with the light of a ‘true God’ and a Christ-like Ransomer, crucified upside-down in order to save men’s souls. On reflection, his developing an existing religious theme, as he self confessed with his language construction, is consistent with his method of creating a truly believable, reality-based secondary world.

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