In 1941, Tolkien wrote a masterful letter to his son Michael, dealing with marriage and the realities of human sexuality. The letter reflects Tolkien’s Christian worldview and his deep love for his sons, and at the same time, also acknowledges the powerful dangers inherent in unbridled sexuality.
“This is a fallen world,” Tolkien chided. “The dislocation of sex-instinct is one of the chief symptoms of the Fall. The world has been ”˜going to the bad’ all down the ages. The various social forms shift, and each new mode has its special dangers: but the ”˜hard spirit of concupiscence’ has walked down every street, and sat leering in every house, since Adam fell.” This acknowledgement of human sin and the inevitable results of the Fall stands in stark contrast to the humanistic optimism that was shared by so many throughout the 20th century. Even when the horrors of two world wars, the Holocaust, and various other evils chastened the century’s dawning optimism of human progress, the 20th century gave evidence of an unshakable faith in sex and its liberating power. Tolkien would have none of this.
“The devil is endlessly ingenious, and sex is his favorite subject,” Tolkien insisted. “He is as good every bit at catching you through generous romantic or tender motives, as through baser or more animal ones.” Thus, Tolkien advised his young son, then 21, that the sexual fantasies of the 20th century were demonic lies, intended to ensnare human beings. Sex was a trap, Tolkien warned, because human beings are capable of almost infinite rationalization in terms of sexual motives. Romantic love is not sufficient as a justification for sex, Tolkien understood.