JRR Tolkien and the Blessed Virgin Mary

Aia María
quanta Eruanno
i Héru as elye ·
aistana elye imíca nísi ·
ar aistana i yáve mónalyo Yésus :
Aire María Eruo ontaril
á hyame rámen úcarindor
sí ar lúmesse ya firuvamme :
násie :

The Hail Mary in Quenya (High Elven) 
-JRR Tolkien

Tolkien had a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In one of his letters, he fondly referred to the Blessed Virgin in the following way: "Our Lady, upon which all my own small perception of beauty both in majesty and simplicity is founded."

There are at least two types or figures of Mary in Tolkien's world. 

The first figure is Galadriel, the elven lady of Lothlorien who possesses great wisdom and beauty. Galadriel is the greatest and wisest of the remaining elves in Middle Earth. Because of this pre-eminence among the elves, she became proud and wanted a realm of her own. This is the reason why she was still in exile in Middle Earth. [1]

The Blessed Virgin is pre-figured by Galadriel because she too is extremely beautiful and wise, and is the first of her race (and indeed, of all creation). But unlike Galadriel, the Blessed Virgin is very humble; despite being God's greatest creature, she refers to herself as ancilla Domini, the slave-girl of the Lord.

The second figure of Mary in Tolkien's world is Varda, one of the Valar (equivalent of archangels) who helped Iluvatar (God) in the creation of the world. The Elves gave two names to Varda: "Elbereth" (Star-queen) and "Gilthoniel" (Starkindler) for it was her who created the stars which greeted the Elves upon their awakening in the world. It was Sam's invocation to Elbereth that enabled him and Frodo to pass the Watchers of Cirith Ungol, as we read in The Two Towers: " 'Gilthoniel, A Elbereth!' Sam cried. For, why he did not know, his thought sprang back suddenly to the Elves in the Shire." This is one of the rare occassions in which Tolkien recorded a prayer or invocation of any sort (he made a conscious effort to remove religious rituals in the whole of his epic). Elbereth's help to Sam and Frodo is an example of the same intercessory help that we can get from the Blessed Mother.

[1] As a punishment for her pride, Galadriel was exiled in Middle-Earth; she was not allowed to return to land of the Elves beyond Middle Earth (many times simply referred to as "The West" in Lord of the Rings). The exile ended when, despite Frodo's offer, she refused to take The One Ring -her greatest opportunity to finally posses a realm of her own.  It is in this light that we can understand her statement after enduring the temptation: "I have passed the test, I will go to the West and remain Galadriel."

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