40 years since the death of J.R.R. Tolkien many people remain as spell bound as ever by the richly detailed world he created in his epic works of fantasy fiction. The books are among the nations most loved and 150 million copies have been sold worldwide. The Peter Jackson films, first 'The Lord of the Ring' series and now 'The Hobbit', have been among the highest-grossing films of all time.
What underlies this enduring appeal? Tolkien, a devout Catholic, described 'The Lord of the Ring' in a letter as "a fundamentally religious and Catholic work".
How are we to interpret the theology of Tolkien's world of 'Elves' and 'Orcs', 'Froddo' and 'Gollum', darkness and light? How do we reconcile Catholic symbolism with the magic and mysticism that lean to a more pagan reading of his stories? And what do these epic battles of good versus evil tell us about Tolkien's own faith and world view?
Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the religious and philosophical nature of J.R.R. Tolkien's literary works are Joseph Pearce, writer in Residence and Fellow at Thomas More College and author of 'Tolkien: Man or Myth'. Ronald Hutton, Professor of History at Bristol University, specialising in ancient and medieval paganism and magic. And Rev Dr Alison Milbank, Associate Professor, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Nottingham University and author of 'Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians'.
Producer: Catherine Earlam.