The Shire and the Amazon, Dr. Robert Royal,

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*Image: Blockley [photo by the author]

Dr. Robert Royal, Editor-in-Chief, The Catholic Thing, Sept. 9, 2019

Robert RoyalI’ve been hiking West of Oxford this past week – a late vacation after a busy summer – passing through some of the villages where J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis walked together. Tolkien had this landscape partly in mind in creating the Shire. I even had a pint and a bacon-and-cranberry sandwich Saturday at Moreton-in-Marsh’s The Bell Inn, Tolkien’s model for “The Painted Pony” in Lord of the Rings – where the hobbits first meet Aragorn, later the true King of Rohan.

All quite beautiful and uplifting in ways it would be difficult to express unless you had the imagination of Tolkien himself. The region is both the same and – no doubt – quite different than when he and Lewis walked here. There are tourists and television now. (We accidentally stumbled into the church in Blockley, the village where the Fr. Brown TV detective series – a theologically neutered version of Chesterton’s Fr. Brown – was filmed.) Still, the hills and fields, scattered farms and stone towns, take you out into a different world.

The exact nature of that world often gets lost in our current environmental debates. We have great power over nature now. The large strides in pure science and the near-miraculous developments in technology – especially medicine – are great blessings, to be sure, but also great challenges.

To put this in a Biblical perspective, which is to say the true context, there’s an ongoing struggle here between the proper use of human intelligence to co-operate with the Creation for furthering the good, and the Promethean impulse – the desire to be masters of nature and our very selves, quite independent of any order or truth that we are given, other than what we create. ….