J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Sex Talk” With His Son


If you have a little time, Al Mohler wrote a blog (taken from his book, Desire and Deceit) about a letter Tolkien wrote to his sons regarding sex. I would encourage every young man or woman to not only read it but pass it on. His letter reminded me so much of the times sitting around with both college students and young adults talking about the subject of sex…


We might initially think Tolkien lived in a different day (somewhat puritanical with this leftover Victorian sexual repression). Actually, as Mohler recounts, Tolkien’s thoughts are appropriate for today because he was more sexually astute than we might assume. He was an intellectual but more romantic than we might have originally thought. Why else would he be writing a letter like this to his son?

What we see with Tolkien’s view on sex is that it is a good gift from God. However, the post-creation fall was not just a blip on the radar but a break of significant proportion.

“The dislocation of sex-instinct is one the chief symptoms of the Fall.” (Tolkien)

To call something a dislocation is important because it represents a fundamental break from its functioning well or its “rightness” that existed at creation. This break has been passed down to us in what he calls, “the hard spirit of concupiscence” or the incredibly self-centered desire to do what it is connected to unredeemed appetites.This is primarily why love for the sake of romantic feelings is doomed to get derailed by unrestrained sexual passion accompanied by “infinite rationalization” that seeks to justify.

Tolkien is consistent with the older Christians as he saw sexual love as something powerfully good yet it needed to be put in the right order, expressed in the right way or context and at the right time. He rightly saw that sexual appetite, if not “reigned in” by temperance, would eventually lead to sexual anarchy. So the proper sex ethic is neither prudishness (or naive) nor is it an immodest overconcern for sexual desire and freedom at all cost for the sake of being “hip”.

The last thing I found interesting was Tolkien’s belief that men are not naturally monogamous and the Christian sex ethic was the only thing that could adequately “frame” the powerful sex drive.

“Tolkien believed that Christianity’s revealed sex ethic would be the only force adequate to restrain the unbridled sexuality of fallen man.” (Mohler)

Why then would the subject of sexuality be largely missing from his published works? Mohler suggests that it’s not because Tolkien was prudish but because Christian virtues such as temperance, honesty, and purity must “frame” desires, as natural as those desires are to life.

We might disagree with Tolkien, but his view of the world and how we are to live in it represents a picture of a father’s deep love for his son encouraging him to pay attention to “over-desires” in the sexual area.

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