"Tolkien's Christianity and the Pagan Tragedy"
I still haven't read The Children of Hurin, but it sounds good -- dark and tragic, even for Tolkien. This reviewer understands Middle-Earth perfectly:
"J R R Tolkien was the most Christian of 20th-century writers, not because he produced Christian allegory and apologetics, but because he uniquely portrayed the tragic nature of what Christianity replaced... [He] reconstructed a mythology for the English not because he thought it might make them proud of themselves, but rather because he believed that the actual pagan mythology was not good enough to be a predecessor to Christianity...It doesn't necessarily take a Christian to warm to this. Tolkien's fantasy, unlike most, underscores the tragic and hopeless plight of humanity. Whether we end up looking "beyond the world" for an antidote, we're left with unpleasant implications about our world which can't be avoided.
"Mere allegory along the lines of the Narnia series can do no more than restate Christian doctrine; it cannot really expand our experience of it. Tolkien takes us to the dark frontier of a world that is not yet Christian, and therefore is tragic, but has the capacity to become Christian. It is the world of the Dark Ages, in which barbarians first encounter the light. It is not fantasy, but rather a distillation of the spiritual history of the West. Whereas C S Lewis tries to make us comfortable in what we already believe by dressing up the story as a children's masquerade, Tolkien makes us profoundly uncomfortable. Our people, our culture, our language, our toehold upon this shifting and uncertain Earth are no more secure than those of a thousand extinct tribes of the Dark Ages; and a greater hope than that of the work of our hands and the hone of our swords must avail us."