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Teens and "The Lord of the Rings"

By Sarah Arthur

Like most Christian moms, you're concerned about the negative effects of movies that promote selfish living and rightly so! The culture of "do what you want" (sex, violence, substance abuse), "say what you want" (profanity, rudeness, innuendo), and "believe what you want" (materialism, nihilism, New Age religion) is so prevalent in teen films today that moms should be skeptical about most flicks their teenagers see.

Except one. Well, three. "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy (of which the third movie, "The Return of the King," releases in December 2003) is based on a classic set of fantasy books created by a man named J.R.R. Tolkien. While the books make no reference to God or Jesus (these are fantasy books, after all, and God and Jesus are not fantasies!), Tolkien's Christian worldview comes through in powerful symbolism. This is great news for moms whose teenagers are into "The Lord of the Rings"!

There are many Christian themes, virtues, and behaviors that take center stage in Tolkien's story. Self-sacrifice, unconditional love, heroic courage, loyalty, honesty, integrity: these are Christ-like qualities and behaviors we want our teenagers to emulate! The movies give parents the wonderful opportunity to ask, "Where did Tolkien get his ideas? Where did the themes from 'The Lord of the Rings' come from?" Then parents can share with their teens that Tolkien was a committed Christian; the themes of his books come from his knowledge of Christian experience, of what it means to live a life of heroic self-sacrifice like Jesus asks us to.

Keep Reading

So how can you help your teen explore the Christian themes in "The Lord of the Rings"? There are several resources available. The first is my forthcoming book Walking With Frodo: A Devotional Journey Through The Lord of the Rings. Geared for older youth, the devotions explore nine pairs of choices that Tolkien's characters make, while looking to Scripture to challenge teens in making choices that honor God every day. You can order signed copies of the book on my website,, or look for it in your local Christian bookstore in mid-November.

Another resource (also published by Tyndale) is the bestseller Finding God in The Lord of the Rings, by Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware. It's geared for Tolkien-fans of all ages and explores some of the broader Christian themes in the books.

Sounds like there's good stuff at the movies after all!

Search for "Lord of the Rings" at!

© Sarah Arthur
Sarah Arthur is a freelance writer, speaker, and illustrator from Northern Michigan. After graduating from Wheaton College in 1995, she served as a full-time youth director for seven years. She loves to share with students and their leaders about creatively reaching teenagers for Christ. She is available to speak at your church, school, library program, bookstore, or retreat just visit her website at For great youth curriculum that she helps to write and edit, visit


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