Who or whom do the hobbits and men worship as the main divinities in Tolkien’s divine cosmology? There’s obviously a variety of various semi-divine immortal entities like the elves, wizards, and of course Sauron, but no Hobbits or Men “worship” the elves or the wizards. Tolkins speaks of Ilúvatar, but no one is seen imploring him or the various other upper level entities directly.
The Elves sing entreaties to certain of the Valar several times in the trilogy (A Elbereth Gilthoniel, sung by Gildor’s band after they picked up the Hobbits on their way out of the shire, is a prayer to Elbereth, or Varda, the wife of Manwë, chief of the Valar, in her aspect of starkindler (gilthoniel)).
The Faithful Numenoreans (and their descendants the Dunedain) worshipped Iluvatar and the Valar. When Sauron was captured and taken to Numenor by the King’s Men faction, he perverted the majority of the population into worship of his master, Melkor (Morgoth). The temple which had been formerly used to worship Iluvatar was converted to a temple to Melkor, and profaned by human sacrifice.
The Dwarves worshipped Aulë, who co-created them (their actual souls being contributed by Iluvatar after the fact). They also had a kind of ancestor-worship which treated their ultimate forefather, Durin, as semi-divine and prone to reincarnation in the royal line.
The wizards were semi-divine themselves, but (those not corrupted, at least) generally deferred to the Valar and worshipped (not quite the right word, but close enough here) Iluvatar.
Sauron, it should be noted, continued to serve Melkor even when he was at the height of his power, Melkor’s status as a banished spirit notwithstanding.
The Hobbits…I dunno. Tolkien really didn’t detail anything about the Hobbit’s cosmological viewpoint. They borrowed cultural artifacts willy-nilly from men and elves, so many of their day- and month-names had significance only in name. I sort of think this was deliberate on Tolkien’s part, since the Hobbits were the closest analogue to the common Englishman in Middle-Earth, more or less necessarily so as to give the reader a group of people to actually identify with personally, and to impart a gloss of pagan religion over them would work against this.
I believe the only non-Elvish religious element in the entire trilogy is at Henneth Annun when the men of Faramir’s company stand and face the West for a moment before eating.
There’s no mention of Hobbits worshipping anything in particular. In fact Frodo and Sam feel embarrassed, or rustic, when Faramir’s company effectively says grace. But it’s not really worship more like reverence.
The Numenorians, and I would guess some of the peoples influenced by them, know of the Valar as the powers of the world and the more educated likely understand Eru as the prime mover. Other kinds of men were seduced by Morgoth and Saruon into worship of the dark. Sauron made himself a god to the Easterlings.
Dwarves know of Aule and perhaps the other Valar.
In short, you’d have to read a little of The Silmarillion to make sense of any of this. Religion is downplayed (presumably intentionally) in The Hobbits’ Own Adventure of the Magic Ring.
The Elves and educated humans know of and worship Illuvatar (the One, God), and revere the Valar (angelic beings analogous to the pagan gods, but below Illuvatar). God Himself is only referred to three times (to my knowledge) in the Lord of the Rings, two of those references being by Gandalf (who ought to know).
First, when Gandalf and Frodo are having the backstory talk in Bag End, Gandalf says “Bilbo was meant to find the ring, and not by its maker”, or something to that effect, and not even the Valar have both the power and the subtlety to pull that one off. By process of elimination, then, Bilbo was meant by God to find the Ring. Secondly, when confronting the Balrog, Gandalf describes himself as “a servant of the Secret Flame”. The Secret Flame is Tolkien’s name for the creative power of God, that which gives things Being, and is roughly analogous to the Holy Spirit of Christian theology. Third, in the Appendices, at Aragorn’s deathbed, Arwen makes reference to death being the gift of the One to men. Again, the One is God.
Of Third/Fourth age peoples, we know, then, that Aragorn knew of this theology, but then again, he was raised by Elrond. All of the Elves knew of the Valar, and presumably also of Illuvatar, thought they don’t speak of him much. And other men at least know something of the Valar: In Theoden’s eulogy song, there’s a reference to him riding like Oromë, another of the Valar.
Incidentally, the temple of Morgoth on Numenor was not originally a temple to Illuvatar. Before the coming of Sauron, the only place of worship the Numenoreans had was the holy mountain Menaltamir, which even Sauron dared not profane. There was no worked stone atop the mountain, and none ever spoke there save for the King on high holy days.
I’d say in LOTR proper, there’s essentially no “worshipping” being done by anyone, but rather, as mentioned above, some songs of praise (or lamentation) to Elbereth/Varda. IIRC, only Men ever “worshipped” some of the Valar (calling them “gods”). The Numenoreans had the tutilage of the High Elves to help them sort out the Angels from the God, but even they had precious little in the way of “religion”. As Chronos mentioned, they’d make a pilgrimage once a year to the hallow atop the Meneltarma, where only the King was allowed to speak, and that was pretty much it. If Tolkien described any comparable ritual among the Elves, I’m don’t remember it. Arda is pretty much a place without formal religion, as far as I can tell. There’s mention of dark cults being somehow fostered by Sauron or a couple of the Wizards who went bad, but we really never get any info. about them except that they existed. Those sorts of things take place far to the South or East, and don’t come into the story.
It makes sense that the Elves do not practice formal religion, since they have (or at least, some of them have) close personal relationships with the Valar themselves. Why establish empty ritual, when you can talk to someone who talked to Elbereth personally? So when the elves admire the stars, they’re admiring the handiwork of someone they’ve met and know they will see again, as soon as they catch the next west-bound ship. Kind of mind-blowing.
And after the fall of Numenor, it appears that only the King of Gondor or his designee could invote the name of Iluvatar formally. This was generally done at Elendil’s gravesite, and only at the most formal occasions, such as when the Steward of Gondor ceded Calenardhon to the Rohirrim.
The men of Gondor seemed to invoke the Valar at times of stress. Like their cry of “'ware the Mumak! May the Valar turn him” during the battle of Pellenor Fields. (quote may not be 100% accurate, I’m doing this from memory )
I would presume the Kings of Arnor could also have invoked Iluvatar.
But as jsc1953 so aptly points out, there’s not much formal worshipping going on when the elves can commune with the folk who created the world directly.
Indeed. But it seems almost inappropriate to worship any of the Ainur, and more so if one is personally familiar with them, since they are created beings, and in that sense not unlike Elves and Men. One could even argue that Men have an awe-inspiring power of their own, since they, alone among Eru’s children, can “leave the Circles of the World”, and appear to not be bound by “fate”.
I have always found it curious, though, that neither Elves nor Men made much of a point to pay more homage to The One. There’s no prayer, no ritual, nothing, really, beyond the quiet ceremony atop the Meneltarma. Perhaps Tolkien was so averse to allegory that any semblance of overt Judeo-Christian theology would be unacceptable; and yet something too Pagan would also send the wrong message. Better to be safe and leave it out.
The closest thing I think Tolkien ever got to such a dreaded allegory is, ironically, one of his most beautiful writings, the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth. Tolkien rather derided it as a kind of Christian conterfeit, and abandoned the whole idea. It’s too bad, in a way, that some part of it couldn’t have made it to “the canon”, because it is a touching fragment of story, and, IMO, one of the finest dialogs he ever wrote.
If I had been writing the script for the film versions, I would’ve invoked the Valar by name twice: I would’ve had Elrond give a benediction (in Quenya) as the Fellowship leaves Rivendell; and I would’ve had Gandalf asking for the blessing of the Valar after Aragorn’s coronation…not just a passive “may they be blessed”. But hey, I’ve never won an Oscar.
Loopydude: is Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth the conversation between an elf and a wise-woman on the nature of men and elves? (I’ve read about it, but never read) Where is it published?
Tolkien answers this question several times in the Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. As I recall, the answer was consistent with much of what’s already been said in this thread. For the Elves and the descendents of Númenor, there was no need for ceremonial or organized religions. Tolkien probably felt that such practices are necessary in modern times because this is the only means by which correct beliefs about the origin of Creation can be perpetuated and incorrect beliefs can be suppressed. But in the Elder days, the world was practically crawling with eye-witnesses of the creation event and those who’d met such eye-witnesses personally, so the facts of the matter just were not in dispute.
Athrabeth was published in Morgoth’s Ring, the second-to-last volume of the “History of Middle Earth” series. It’s quite a fascinating read, if you can find it.