Monday, July 13, 2015

"On the Shoulders of Hobbits" by Louis Markos

In our public schools today, there are only three virtues taught: tolerance, multiculturalism, and environmentalism. Really, there is only one: inclusivism or better, egalitarianism - all people and ideas should be treated the same; all cultures are equally valid; man is not distinct from nature but merely another species. These modern "virtues" are not, in and of themselves, negative, but when they become the be-all of moral and ethical behavior, they become idols that blind us from our true nature and purpose. When all other virtues are reduced to a bland egalitarianism, our humanity is likewise reduced to a colorless, passionless, amoral existence. If we to pull ourselves out of this lowest-common-denominator world, then we need a fresh infusion of story: one that will propel us back into the full romance of living. If our children are to successfully steer a course between the Scylla of standardless relativism and the Charybdis of purposeless existentialism, then they will need to be guided by transcendent truths embodied in universal stories. (120)

Even a cursory survey of this site will reveal a real passion for the works of CS Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. The imaginary worlds they created stand, I believe, as some of the greatest literary works of the 20th Century. As such I eagerly cracked the spine of Louis Markos's wonderful book On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue With Tolkien and Lewis.

Unlike other similar books, the author does not offer simplistic insights and applications from Tolkien and Lewis. Instead, Markos walks the reader to the power of stories in general and Tolkien and Lewis in particular. We are all wrapped in a story and the author shows why the worldview evident in Middle-Earth and Narnia is one that should be celebrated.

The three sections worth highlighting here regard the classic virtues, the theological virtues, and evil. The classical virtues include self-control, courage, wisdom, and justice. The author takes us inside the worlds of Tolkien and Lewis to show us numerous examples of each. The theological virtues include faith, hope, and love which are, in many ways, related to the classical virtues.

Finally, the author looks at evil. In my own reading of Lewis and Tolkien, I have taken a particular appreciation of their worldview here. Being the father of a little girl, I have noticed a weak understanding of evil in the classic Disney films. Tolkien and Lewis, on the other hand, offer a more real, robust, and accurate understanding of what evil is and where it is to be found. Markos explores this even further in a way that helps us to better understand the world we live in.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. I didn't know for sure what to expect but was very pleased with the books contents. For fans of both Tolkien and Lewis, you will thoroughly enjoy re-exploring their world again with Markos as your guide. I know I did.

This book was given to me for free for the purpose of this review.

For more:
"Exploring J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit" by Corey Olsen: A Review
Why Fantasy is a Good Thing: A Response to John MacArthur
"The Hobbit" by J. R. R. Tolkien: A Review
"The Fellowship of the Ring" by J. R. R. Tolkien: A Review
"The Two Towers" by J.R.R. Tolkien: A Review
"The Return of the King" by J.R.R. Tolkien: A Review
A Few Thoughts on The Battle of the Five Armies
Longing for Eden: Tolkien's Insight into the Longing of Every Human Soul
An Encouraging Thought: Gandalf on Providence
How to Read J. R. R. Tolkien
Clash of the Gods: Tolkien's Monsters Documentary
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Dramatized Audio
"Beyond The Movie": A National Geographic Documentary on the Lord of the Rings 
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