Not long ago a blog commentor scolded me for featuring Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings on my blog. I guess its not spiritual enough or something. She didn’t say. (Why she didn’t haul me over the coals for Wodehouse is beyond me!).
But I was not offended by the comment. Actually I was a bit saddened. It breaks my heart that some Christians would not consider accepting LOTR for what it is, a magnificent moral epic that can only be explained—as is true of the greatest literature—as a gift from the benevolent hand of God.
Sometimes it seems that contemporary Christians can use some help in properly appreciating the gifts of literature that God has blessed us with. And I’m not just talking about Christian literature either. Martin Luther understood this fact well. Today I came across these two quotes about how Martin Luther treasured the ancient pagan book Aesop’s Fables (think: the tortoise and the hare).
The first quote is by George Fyler Townsend in the introduction to his translation of Aesop’s Fables (2005), page 10:
“These fables … were among the books brought into an extended circulation by the agency of the printing press. … The knowledge of these fables spread from Italy into Germany, and their popularity was increased by the favor and sanction given to them by the great fathers of the Reformation … . Martin Luther translated twenty of these fables, and was urged by Melanchthon to complete the whole; while Gottfried Arnold, the celebrated Lutheran theologian, and librarian to Frederick I, king of Prussia, mentions that the great Reformer valued the Fables of Aesop next after the Holy Scriptures.”
And here is the man himself, Martin Luther, as quoted in his Works (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967), 54:210–211:
“It is a result of God’s providence that the writings of Cato and Aesop have remained in the schools, for both are significant books. Cato contains the most useful sayings and precepts. Aesop contains the most delightful stories and descriptions. Moral teachings, if offered to young people, will contribute much to their edification. In short, next to the Bible, the writings of Cato and Aesop are in my opinion the best…”