J.R.R. Tolkien once suggested that the great desire of Elves was to realize “imagined wonder” so powerfully that they and their hearers could almost forget the story wasn’t real. Many readers, especially the young, find themselves gripped almost that powerfully by books they read. Such experiences have powerful effects on taste, desire, and moral judgment.

As a youth, I was one enchanted by Tolkien’s works. I devoured The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, reading them often enough to lay down scenes and words firmly in my memory. That was a time when God had little place in my heart, and the Catholic faith seemed a burden and an embarrassment. But Tolkien’s sense of adventure, his stories of great struggles that succeeded against impossible odds captured my heart and excited my imagination. Though I didn’t know it at the time, all of his imagined wonders were deeply formed by the Catholic faith he loved from his youth, enriched by immersion in Medieval chivalry and Arthurian legend, blended with a deep appreciation for the noble and parochial aspects of English yeomanry.

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