Wait, My Favorite Novels Have Been Banned? – Banned Book Week 2014

A couple of days ago, I found out that this week is Banned Book Week. I’ve seen some posts about it in my reader over the past two weeks, but since there’s been so much grading to do and there were so many posts, I hadn’t paid much attention to it.

Over at Cindy Grigg’s blog, she has a list of 19 frequently challenged books. Many are ones that I read and enjoyed: The Great Gatsby and Brave New World among them. (Seriously, if you’re in late high school or an adult, Brave New World is a must. It’s an eye-opener.) They both have adult content, so I understand why they would be inappropriate for younger age groups. But banned outright?

The one I was most surprised to find on the list was Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Needless to say, I had to do some research into why. But once I did, it was obvious. I had a firsthand experience with the reasoning during my senior year of high school.

I dual enrolled in some college courses that year, and one of them was speech class. At 7:30am, the class was a mix of 19 year olds, 20-somethings, and adults returning to earn a degree. It was a small, community college class, so I ended up becoming acquainted with some of the people, including one of the adult men. I don’t remember his name anymore.

For one speech, the professor allowed me to use The Lord of the Rings as my topic. I was so excited to pull that speech and PowerPoint presentation together. It was a breeze since I already knew so much about all things Middle-earth and had a collection of pictures from the movies saved on my computer.

After giving the speech, I was pulled over by the aforementioned man who asked something to the effect of, “You like Tolkien and you’re a Christian?”

I was puzzled. How could those things possibly be at odds?

He presented his reasoning — the same reasoning I found while researching. It has wizards in it. And magic. And that Dark Lord, Sauron. Christians can’t like that, can they? Isn’t it dark and full of, you know, witchcraft?

But anyone who says that obviously knows nothing about Tolkien or the books. He was a devout Catholic, and his works contain themes that are reflective of the Bible. None of it’s allegory (because he, understandably, detested it), but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t correlations between the two. I could go on and on with the research I did around that time, but suffice to say, I don’t believe that any of it conflicts with my faith. If anything, I believe that the books compliment it. After all, as Tolkien would say, “God is the Lord, of angels, and of men — and of elves.”

This is why I would argue that people should read and research things for themselves before jumping on a bandwagon. And that doesn’t just apply to books. :)

Have you read any of the books on the banned/challenged lists?

6 thoughts on “Wait, My Favorite Novels Have Been Banned? – Banned Book Week 2014

  1. I can’t believe some of the books that are banned. I had no idea I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was banned. I just read it and found it to be an incredible tale of strength, optimism and determination. Young people need all of those things, and a beautiful voice to teach them.

  2. Huck Funn? Really? That was required reading when I was in high school, and my father assigned me The Great Gatsby for one of my summer reading lists (also during high school).

    My parents were both originally librarians, and their idea was that all books should be available, always (my father’s example was always Mein Kampf — even that should be on the shelves). Certain book should be held back until readers were old enough for them (Catullus was his example for that — apparently it’s pretty racy stuff), but that was for parents or librarians to decide, on a case-by-case basis.

    And, to take your example further, even if Lord of the Rings _was_ at odds with Christian faith, what kinds of minds will we have if we only read things which are pre-approved as being in line with our set of beliefs? My father regularly read writers who he disagreed with — that’s a big part of learning about the world (and learning how to think).

    1. I completely agree. If you restrict yourself only to things aligned with your views, you confine yourself to such a tiny box. There are many things that I agree and disagree with in the things that I read, but reading those things help me to reason through it all, to better understand others, and to better understand my own beliefs.

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