Arts, Media, and Entertainment

Myth Meets Real Life

Tomorrow, The Return of the King, the final chapter in J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, opens in theaters across the country. At the press event earlier this month in Los Angeles, the cast and crew reflected on the experience of making the films: the friendships, camaraderie, and hardships. The film, of course, has a great message, but one cast member added a powerful -- if politically incorrect -- perspective of his own. He talked about how the crises and challenges depicted in Tolkien's mythical world might help us cope with those we confront in our world today. John Rhys-Davies, who plays Gimli the dwarf, told writers that "the older I get, the more certain I am of the presence of evil" in the world. Such a declaration by itself sets Rhys-Davies apart from many in the entertainment industry. But the British actor didn't stop there. He said that Tolkien was "basically saying" that there are "times when a generation may be challenged. And if that generation does not rise to meet that challenge, you could lose an entire civilization." According to Rhys-Davies, this message has a "huge resonance for today." For someone who, as he put it, believes in "Judeo-Greek-Christian-Western civilization," recent developments, especially in Europe, are a "catastrophe." The civilization that has given us "democracy, the equality of women, the abolition of slavery . . . and the right to true intellectual dissent" is under assault -- specifically, Rhys-Davies noted, under assault by radical Islam. Instead of resisting that assault, parts of the Western world -- and here, he's referring to Europe -- are committing cultural suicide. Rhys-Davies pointed to demographic trends in Europe where, in some cases, the majority of children being born are the children of Muslim immigrants. While it's politically incorrect to notice this fact, it's folly to ignore the cultural implications. The actor also expressed his support for the war in Iraq. He called it "extraordinary" and called Americans "the most optimistic people in the whole . . . world." He noted that no one believed that you could democratize Germany and Japan after World War II. Now, we're trying to do the same in the Middle East. Now, views like these don't exactly endear Rhys-Davies to many of his fellow actors. As he put it, he takes a "lot of stick" for his views. Still, the benefits of Western civilization are so great that the alternative isn't some multicultural paradise. It's darkness. In Tolkien's language, it's the Orcs, Uruk-hai, and Sauron. These are strong, but necessary words. Our culture is hesitant to use the word evil, refusing even to recognize what's at stake in places like Iraq. Nowhere is this refusal more adamant than in the industry of which Rhys-Davies is a part. Yet, not a single one of Rhys-Davies's critics -- those "giving him stick" -- would dream of giving up the benefits of Western civilization. They're not willing to pay the price for its defense, beginning with the acknowledgment that it's under attack. But that price must be paid. As the trailer for The Return of the King tells us, "there is no freedom without sacrifice." Tolkien understood that, and so does the man who brought his heroic dwarf to life on the big screen. For further reading and information: Charles Colson, "Finishing the Job," BreakPoint WorldView, November 2003. BreakPoint Commentary No. 030911, "Terrorism, War, and Evil." Jeffrey Overstreet, "A talk with the stars of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: John Rhys-Davies," Looking Closer, 5 December 2003. Steve Beard, "Tolkien & Civilization," National Review Online, 17 December 2003. See yesterday's BreakPoint commentary, "A Triumphant Return." See also the BreakPoint Commentaries: "Preparatio Evangelica," "Now at a Theater Near You," and "Defrocking Frodo and the Death of the Imagination." (Archived commentaries; free registration required.) Visit the website for The Return of the King. Frank Rich, "The mirrors of American unease," International Herald Tribune, 12 December 2003. Andy Seiler, "'Rings' comes full circle," USA Today, 11 December 2003. Andrew Coffin, "'Baptized imagination'," World, 20 December 2003. Michael H. Kleinschrodt, "Tolkien's Unlikely Heroes," The Times-Picayune (New Orleans), 12 December 2003. Read more reviews linked at Rotten Tomatoes. Read articles on the making of the Lord of the Rings trilogy from the NEW ZEALAND HERALD.
  1. R. R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings(Houghton Mifflin, 1974).
See the "BreakPoint with Chuck Colson Recommended Films List."


Chuck Colson


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