J.R.R. Tolkien’s best work was not The Lord of the Rings, it was far and away The Silmarillion. A compendium biblical in proportions and essence, it starts with a creation myth similar to the one found in the Old Testament. If you have not read the book but are interested in mythic writing, I would highly recommend picking it up as soon as possible. Without a firm foundation in Catholicism and The Silmarillion, it is likely that most of the message and motif in The Lord of the Rings cannot be grasped. The book is richer than rich, in mythology, parallel, and secret meaning. I would go so far to say that it is more likely divinely inspired than any other book I have encountered.
In Tolkien’s universe, there is One True God, Eru Iluvatar, who is that which is, pre-existing the void. Eru’s creation begins with the begetting of a pantheon of demigods (Ainur), who exist with Him and sing beside him in the darkness. Out of this singing, Eru fashions Middle Earth and its history, to the awe and surprise of these demigods. Eru then offers them the ability to enter the creation, which many do (thereafter being called Valar). The first and second books of The Silmarillion, Ainulindalë and Quenta Silmarillion, document the demigods’ interactions with creation and struggles with the evil and fallen powerful demigod Melkor. Though Eru Iluvatar overtly exits the story in Ainulindalë, he never becomes a god of deist theology – even while pain and suffering continue in Middle Earth. Rather, Eru continues to passively craft the song of the Ainur, fashioning good from even the discord offered by Melkor in the original rendering. Throughout The Lord of the Rings, hints at Eru and the divine nature of the universe continue, up until the end of the stories. This god is arms-length, only interacting through the world actively through the Ainur after they are sent to Middle Earth. Eru avoids overtness, which though not explicitly topically religious in the stories, creates an intricate weaving of hope and despair in the race of men throughout history. The beauty of the stories is simply un-captured without The Silmarillion in tow.
A quick switch of topics. Read the Genesis account in the Old Testament. Note that quite often, the author refers to God in a plurality. Of course, this is a foreshadowing of trinitarianism, but the meaning in context is actually deeper than the Trinity. In reality, the Jews believed that their God was the One, True God of many. Perhaps merely a cultural artifact harkening back to Egyptian and Zoroastrian religions as competition for Yahweh’s people, or a reflection of the fact that more interdimensional beings than just the greatest of them exists, the Jews did not settle that there was only one deific being – only that there was one True God. Most scholars believe that the ancient Jews were monolatrists or henotheists, not monotheists.
I had a teacher in high school who spoke of “other powers” than God, referring to angels, demons, and apathetic powers created by the One Creator that were not to be trifled with. Spiritually, this is not a difficult belief to understand, and with a bit of historical background, it is clear that traditionally this concept has been true for most of our religious predecessors.
It seems Tolkien had a grasp of this historical nuance that many don’t today – and that his universe may speak truism those without imagination have misunderstood as make-believe…