“Recovering a Vision of the Cosmos: Tolkien’s Creation Narrative in The Silmarillion”

by Dr. Holly Ordway

In this chapter, Dr. Holly Ordway explores the way that J.R.R. Tolkien helps readers to recover a right vision of the cosmos. In our modern culture, we are often disconnected from the natural world, both physically and emotionally. In climate-controlled environments, and faced with distractions from media and technology, we have lost touch with the rhythms and beauty of the seasons, and have become less able to recognize the Creator of our created world. Tolkien, who had a deep love of birds, botany and stars, is particularly well-suited to reinvigorate our own appreciation of the heavens and Earth and see them as they were created to be understood, not as things to be dissected, classified, or possessed. In this chapter, we consider Tolkien’s idea of ‘Recovery’ and how imaginative literature can help us to recover right vision, and we explore in some detail the creation narrative in The Silmarillion, a book of tales from Middle-earth’s history. In particular, we see that Tolkien’s fictional tale helps us to appreciate truths about our own, real world: the orderliness of creation, the reality of the spiritual world, and the significance of Scripture. Readers need not be familiar with Tolkien’s work to appreciate this chapter.

Dr. Holly Ordway is Professor of English and a faculty member in the M.A. in Apologetics at Houston Baptist University; she holds a PhD in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the author of Apologetics and the Christian Imagination: An Integrated Approach to Defending the Faith (Emmaus Road, 2017) and Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms (Ignatius, 2014). She is also a published poet, and a Subject Editor for the Journal of Inklings Studies. Her academic work focuses on imaginative and literary apologetics, and on the writings of the Inklings, especially C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Her current book project is Tolkien’s Modern Sources: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages.  Her website is hollyordway.com