Imagination, Storytelling,
and Film

Centre for Faith & Culture

Book Review






2006 Tolkien Conference

2004 Summer Conference

Second Spring


Reviews of Secret Fire/The Power of the Ring

“This book contains profound insights into the theology and spirituality in Tolkien's books. Caldecott gives the background of Tolkien's personality, letters, excerpts from other writings in order to provide a clear picture of what's at work in the Lord of the Rings. The chapter ‘Behind the Stars’ is among the deepest commentaries on JRRT's work as a whole. Very fine. Definitely worth owning.” (Dr Peter A. Kwasniewski)

"Professor Tolkien, the academic philologist, was said to have travelled 'inside language'. Under Caldecott's guidance, here we travel inside the language of Tolkien. One sees at last what he was up to. It is a revelatory book." (Church Times)

Every Catholic school will want a copy as will anyone interested in Tolkien as a serious writer." (Eric Hester, The Catholic Times)

"Caldecott's familiarity with Tolkien's writings and his clear analysis provide fascinating insights that enrich The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion in ways far different from previous studies. Some interesting appendixes offer additional observations. This book will be welcomed by those interested in the deep theological underpinnings of Tolkien's works, and is recommended to academic libraries supporting upper level coursework on Tolkien or religion and literature" (Daniel Boice, Catholic Library World, September 2005).

"Secret Fire elegantly unpacks the deeper meanings of the text, drawing not only on the classic works but on writings by Tolkien unpublished during his lifetime. Stratford Caldecott shows how Tolkien was one of a small group of writers who have succeeded in re-opening the world of the imagination for theological exploration." (Church House Bookshop, UK)

"In this perceptive and well-reasoned book, Stratford Caldecott explores the roots of J.R.R. Tolkien's appeal 'to people of all ages and beliefs, in a broad spectrum from Christian to neo-pagan' ... Tolkien is portrayed in this book, fairly I think, as an explorer for whom the stories he carefully and diligently crafted over a long lifetime 'are notes of his expeditions in search of an older and "inner" world.'" (Colin Duriez, Theology)

"Essential reading for those who would like to understand the spiritual background to Lord of the Rings." (Scientific and Medical Network)

"Caldecott's work is a delight to read, with fascinating insights on nearly every page as he discusses the riches of Tolkien's work." (The Sower)

"A superb book that blends academic rigour with a clear passion for the subject." (Christian Marketplace)

Return to the Secret Fire page


Towards or back to Human Values:
Spiritual and Moral Dimensions of Contemporary Fantasy

edited by Justyna Deszcz-Tryhubczak and Marek Oziewicz
Cambridge Scholars Press, 2006


Part I
Theorizing Fantasy Through Mapping Its Spiritual Territory
The "Towards" and "Back to" Human Values Movements in Fantasy Fiction

Marek Oziewicz

Fantasy and the Recovery of the Numinous
Corinne Buckland

Stepping into the Gap:
Contemporary Childrenís Fantasy Literature as a Doorway to Spirituality

Melody Briggs and Richard S. Briggs

Revisioning Religion and Spirituality:
Contemporary Fantasy for Young Readers

Pat Pinsent

Envisioning Spirituality in a New Paradigm:
Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quartet and the Hope for Humanity's Survival

Marek Oziewicz

Part II
Fantasy on the Role of Imagination in Human Life

Landscapes with Angels:
A Theory of the Imagination and Its Implications for Understanding Fantasy

Stratford Caldecott

Fantasy, the Moral Imagination and the Good
Corinne Buckland

Marvelous and yet not Strange:
Tolkien's Sacramental Ordinary

Devin Brown

(Sub)Creation and the Written Word
in Michael Ende's Neverending Story and Cornelia Funke's Inkheart

Margaret Hiley

You Can Make a Difference: The Message from the Other World
in Matsutani Miyoko's Naoki and Yuko Series

Marnie K. Jorenby

Part III
Fantasy as Asserting Interconnectedness of All Life, Stressing the Need for Cooperation, and Fostering Environmental Awareness

Do We Live on the Symbiotic Planet?
Ecological Principles of Life on Earth and Their Literary Implications

Piotr Skubala and Marek Oziewicz

Nurturing Environmental Sensitivity towards Real and Fantastic Nature
in Hiromi Goto's Water of Possibility

Justyna Deszcz-Tryhubczak

Anthropomorphism and the Necessity of Animal Fantasy
Maija-Liisa Harju

Lessons of Tolerance
in Robin Hobb's The Assassin's Quest and The Tawny Man Series

Justyna Deszcz-Tryhubczak

Part IV
Fantasy As Exploring Human Experience in the Context of Life and Death; Chaos and Order; Rationality and Intuition; Fate and Free Will;
the Real and the Imaginary

Coping with Mortality:
Lewis, Le Guin and Rowling on the Inhumanness of Immortality

Dorota Guttfeld

Moral Values in the Dialectics of Chaos and Order:
Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber

Mariusz Marszalski

Science and Spirituality in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials
Max Payne

Seeing Everything At Once: Myth, Freedom and Determinism
in Alan Garner's The Owl Service and Red Shift

Robert A. Davis

Beyond the Knowing: The Frontier of the Real and the Imaginary
in David Almond's Skellig and The Fire-Eaters

Jean Webb