The Works of J.R.R. Tolkien
was sixteen when the first Lord of the Rings movie hit theaters. I knew nothing about it, but a friend invited me to attend an opening day showing with him at the biggest screen in the state, so I went, without expectations or knowing what would unfold. That three hour experience changed my world forever. I saw an epic battle for good and evil unfold on the screen. I met unforgettable characters. I saw deep religious symbolism throughout. And I ran home to read the books, just to find out what happened rather than wait a year between installments. The franchise gave me my best friend. We met online as we co-moderated a Christian Ringer community, stemming from a website I used to host about the Catholic and Christian symbolism in the story. It gave me three years of Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves, and Men. It made a full-blown fantasy fan out of me, and made me realize that God reveals Himself in unexpected ways. I discovered the film series is even more blatantly allegorical than the books. Given that Tolkien was a believer and Peter Jackson isn‟t, that intrigued me. How could such a thing be possible? It‟s because Tolkien opened the door with his symbolism, and when the movies settled in, God sat down in the midst of it and said, “I‟m here… look for me.” To some of you, this concept may seem foreign. How can religion be in a series about wizards and all kinds of ethereal creatures? He is in the subtext. In the characters. In their actions. In their words. It‟s more than Gandalf‟s death and resurrection into a glorified being, or Aragorn fighting a final battle and claiming his throne. It‟s more than Frodo bearing a great burden of sin to its demise, or Bilbo having a willing heart. It‟s about how an author set out to write a story, and his faith was so great that it came out in his tales.
Many of the articles in this issue reference that. It may prompt you to become more familiar with these events and figures, or it may open your eyes to things you missed in the past. But whatever your stance, wherever you are in your walk through life, know that everyone who contributed to this issue has one thing in common: we all admire, respect, and love Middle-earth very much. Without it, we would have no Gandalf, no Bilbo, no Frodo, no Sam, no Aragorn. Tolkien had a brilliant mind that served him well… and without his friendship, arguably the greatest Christian theologian of our age, C.S. Lewis, might have remained contemplating “riddles in the dark,” rather than finding the truth. Thank you, “Tollers,” for everything. ■
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The Great Wizard Gandalf
4 6 8 10 12 14
Middle Earth‟s Men of Magic Beorn, Radagast, Tom Bombadil
Aragorn & Éowyn
Symbolism of the Elves From Galadriel to Legolas
The Real Hero
Ainulindalë The Simarillion
Mightier Than the Sword
From Traitor to Hero Boromir
Ring But No Romance
The Spirit of Rohan Éomer
Little Big Things
Weak Things of the World Hobbits
Lewis & Tolkien
My Captain, My King
The Three Hunters Legolas, Aragorn, Gimli
Mad Baggins Bilbo
By Carol Starkey
when I was ten and The Lord of the Rings a few years later. I think reading those books at such a young age cemented in my head what a wizard should be. Wise. Strong. Discerning. And as I‟ve grown older, I‟ve seen more and more that Gandalf presents a fairly accurate picture of Christ. In The Hobbit, Gandalf takes an ordinary hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, and sends him on a quest for dragon‟s gold. Along the way, Bilbo tricks a nasty creature, Gollum, and steals a very special ring. All Bilbo knows is that he turns invisible when he puts it on, but Gandalf comes to realize it is the One Ring, the Ring of Power, the one thing the wicked sorcerer, Sauron, has been wanting all these years and believed lost and gone. Gandalf lets Bilbo keep it, though he cautions him to use it sparingly. As time goes by, Gandalf becomes more and more concerned for Bilbo‟s safety, finally urging him to pass it on to his nephew, Frodo. Bilbo does, but not without a struggle, even uttering the same phrase, “his precious,” that Gollum used when it was his. When Frodo finally takes possession of the Ring, he tries to give it to Gandalf, believing it will be safer in his care. Just as Christ was tempted in the wilderness, Gandalf is tempted, seeing his future before him, strong and undefeated. But just as Christ resisted Satan, so Gandalf walks away, telling Frodo to keep the Ring and never offer it again. It would use its power on Gandalf and turn his heart evil until he was no better than Sauron.
God sees our hearts: “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” Appearances do not fool Gandalf. He sees at once that Sam will make a good companion to Frodo, even if he is just a gardener. And he sees that the great wizard, Saruman, has allowed himself to be turned by the Ring. He wanted it for himself, though claimed he only wanted it to destroy Sauron. When Gandalf refuses to cooperate, Saruman captures and holds him prisoner. Unlike the other wizards, who discount the hobbits, Gandalf is intrigued by them, by their simple lives and carefree ways. Though superior to them, he spends time with them, getting to know them, but still they surprise him. They are creatures with heart and soul, and he is glad to know them. Here we have another portrait of Christ. He walked on this earth, spending time with people, getting to know and love them. After telling Frodo of the quest he must take to destroy the ring, Gandalf helps form a Fellowship, a party that is complete with eight others. Gandalf has other business, but promises to meet up with Frodo and does… later. It‟s fortunate for Frodo he did, for in their travels through Moria, they come upon a terrifying beast, a balrog. Gandalf gives his life to save the Fellowship, crying out to them to flee even as he is killed by the beast. Here is the best picture of Christ. He led his disciples and ended up giving His life, not just for his followers but for all mankind.
If the Fellowship had failed, Sauron would have won, condemning all. Just as Christ rose from the dead, so does Gandalf. And when he returns from the dead, Gandalf the Grey no longer, he is more strong and powerful than he was before, now as Gandalf the White. It‟s thanks to Gandalf that the Ring ever makes it to the Crack of Doom. While Frodo and Sam trek across Mordor, he and the others attempt to divert Sauron‟s attention so the hobbits will have a chance to destroy the Ring. Gandalf came by his knowledge of the Ring thanks in part to Gollum, and after questioning him, set him free. Just as Christ is merciful, so is Gandalf. Gollum went straight to Sauron, alerting him that the Ring still existed and causing him to seek out the hobbits who dared control it. But because of Gandalf‟s mercy on Gollum by freeing instead of killing him, the Ring is destroyed. On their journey to the Crack of Doom, Frodo and Sam are followed by Gollum. He takes it from them when Frodo won‟t throw it in. When he does, he falls to his death, destroying the Ring at the same time. All these traits and more are what make you want a wizard like Gandalf on your side. Beyond his obvious magic, he‟s true in times of war, brave in the face of danger, and wise in judgment. And, like Christ, he wins in the end. ■
By Carissa Horton
and that‟s where the story of Middle Earth truly begins. Not with wizards and elves and mighty dwarves and a certain Ring of Power, but with a lowly hobbit. One who‟d prefer to stay safely indoors, eating seed cakes, and well out of the way of trouble. This isn‟t Frodo Baggins, the unlikely hero of The Lord of the Rings. Rather, this is his uncle, ages before he threw the party for his one-hundredth-and-eleventh birthday and then vanished in a puff of smoke. Yes, Bilbo Baggins is his name. It takes a lot for someone comfortable in their life to get up and head out the door for adventure. Frodo can attest to that, as well as anyone who has ever done it. In Bilbo‟s words, “there‟s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Bilbo is quite comfortable in Bag End. But something happens the day Gandalf the wizard and 13 dwarves come calling. The heart of his Took ancestors beats strong in his chest when he hears his unwelcome visitors speak of dragons and mountains and hoards of gold and a quest. Don‟t imagine for one moment that all hobbits share the same deeply buried adventurous spirit as Mister Baggins. In fact, had Gandalf knocked on the door of anyone else in The Shire, minus perhaps the Tooks or Brandybucks, he‟d have been turned away with a flea in his ear. Gandalf doesn‟t pick Bilbo‟s door by accident. Neither does he pick Bilbo by playing Eenie-Meenie-MineyMoe. Bilbo is chosen for a purpose. Partially because the dwarves find themselves in need of a burglar but more likely because Gandalf spots a gleam of something in Bilbo. This something needs only a little encouragement to burst into life. Or, as Gandalf says in Fellowship, “All he needed was a little nudge out the door.”
Bilbo isn‟t like his complacent, docile, rather petty neighbors and relations. Complacency is a disease of a sort. It‟s not deadly by any means but can rob a person, or in this case a hobbit, of the desire to take the first step on a bigger journey. Hobbits are naturally peaceful creatures and Bilbo is no exception. But when he finds Sting in the lair of the three Trolls Gandalf turns to stone, the something that began changing, changes just a little bit more. The spark is now a burning ember and the adventurous side wins out. After all, running out the door without a handkerchief to attempt a grand adventure affects a person. The hobbit who has only wielded a knife for cutting his dinner now wields a sword in defense of dwarves against a hoard of spiders. Does this sound like the same hobbit who nearly fainted when he thought the dwarves were going to shatter his best dishes? Perhaps the start of adventure for Bilbo is really just answering Gandalf‟s call. He doesn‟t answer it willingly, that‟s for certain. He does everything possible to stay in his comfortable, complacent, content little world where nothing ever happens. But Bilbo‟s destiny, and yes it is fate, is for him to be something more than just Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End. God calls His children to follow Him just as Gandalf calls Bilbo. Each is called individually just as Bilbo is called and just as there are many who would have turned Gandalf away so too will Christ be turned away. This is what makes Bilbo special. He answered. It wasn‟t easy or pleasant and there are times during his journey that Bilbo thinks he‟ll never see home again. But he does return to Bag End. He survives and emerges all the better for having left in the first place.
How would Bilbo have felt had he not returned? What if the battle of the five armies had been the end of him? What if the great dragon Smaug had caught him? Would Bilbo have cursed the day he‟d chosen to follow Gandalf? No. Because that adventure, from start to finish, wakes something glorious in Bilbo Baggins. He sees the world, makes friends, meets elves, speaks to a dragon, not to mention finds a magic Ring. He wouldn‟t exchange that experience for anything in the world; even his life. The story of Bilbo is one of readiness. Sometimes it‟s just answering “yes” even though every comfortable bit of your nature screams no. But if Bilbo could do it, so could anyone. Plus, there‟s a good chance that dragons or spiders or a barrel ride down a river will not be the result of taking that step of faith nowadays. Bilbo isn‟t called “Mad Baggins” for nothing. He comes home different and his friends and relations never know quite what to make of him. The only one who halfway understands is Frodo who is destined for his own adventure. Upon his return, seeing Bag End in the distance, Bilbo pauses beside Gandalf and utters a poem, a few lines of which are these, “Roads go ever ever on under cloud and under star, yet feet that wandering have gone turn at last to home afar.” And Gandalf says in surprise “My dear Bilbo! You are not the hobbit that you were.” One of the best parts about great and unexpected adventures is that someday they lead you back home. ■
By Eleanor Knight
threading their way through J. R. R. Tolkien‟s Lord of the Rings trilogy, which no one can praise enough. One of those is friendship, often called “fellowship” instead. (I‟m starting to think “fellowship” is more fun to say. Am I biased? No, not at all.) This tightly-knit bond is explored in groups both small and large. The first part is named Fellowship of the Ring, after all. Among the many close friendships in Middle-earth, the one that moves me the most is that of Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. The Three Hunters. Whether you‟re a seasoned Tolkien fan, or a newcomer to the wonders of Middle-earth, the breaking of the Fellowship is difficult to bear. Even if you‟re reading the books or watching the movies for the hundredth time, it doesn‟t get any easier to swallow. The Nine Companions went through so much together, traveling as one unit over mountains and through valleys on a dangerous mission, only to lose two members and scatter to the wind. The heroic willpower of Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli is simple, utterly without ostentation, but incredibly powerful all the same. On one hand, their journey across the plains of
Rohan offer comfort for us, the observers, to soften the worry for the safety of Merry and Pippin while they‟re in the clutches of the fighting Uruk-hai. On the other, their journey also can offer us inspiration when we embark on our own daunting quests. First of all, none of the Three Hunters feel the need to become something or someone else to help them in their journey. The odds are impossible, but if there‟s any quailing in their hearts, they ignore it. They, or any parts of them that seem insufficient, don‟t matter. Merry and Pippin matter. The Three Hunters throw themselves heart and soul into their pursuit, and they remain true to themselves, in the very best sense of the word. Regardless, they‟ll always be humble, wayfaring heirs of the lords of Men, Elves, and Dwarves. Just as they are—nothing more, nothing less. They just give their all. Aragorn uses his Ranger skills in hunting and tracking to keep on the challenging trail of the Uruk-hai bearing Merry and Pippin to Isengard. Legolas uses his keen Elven vision to spot objects from afar, even a great eagle mounting to dizzying heights above their heads.
Gimli uses his Dwarf stamina to keep up and keep going, despite the fact that his friends have strides twice as long as his own. They urge each other to keep heart, nurse faith, and take joy. And all throughout, Legolas sings. This camaraderie in the midst of hardship, worry, and burden has to mark one of my favorite passages in any book I‟ve ever read. Most of us tend to bear hardships very heavily—if we manage to bear them at all. The Three Hunters shoulder their burden without ceremony. In the end, these three trek a great distance in a short time. Even though they fail to rescue Merry and Pippin before the Hobbits are forced to seek refuge in Fangorn, they still manage to do what no other trio could have done: cover forty-five leagues (roughly one hundred and thirty-five miles) on foot within four days, with a few hours to spare. The King of Rohan‟s nephew Éomer, on hearing Aragorn‟s account, calls the heir of Gondor “Wingfoot.” It‟s a nice nickname that implies you can soar to great heights even while you‟re trudging along on your own two feet. Don‟t you think so? ■
By Christy McDougall
our heroes are larger than life. They‟re fabulously strong or wealthy or intelligent or brave. In Marvel‟s Captain America, Steve Rogers is a plucky but ultimately ignorable little guy; it‟s not until he‟s turned into a near-immortal near-giant that he‟s worth writing a story about. Iron Man is fabulously wealthy and has a suit that makes him nearly invincible. Super-genius Bruce Banner is uninteresting until he becomes the indestructible, destructive Hulk. We want to see power in our heroes. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote an English myth about something a little closer to what Christians know as reality. He wrote about the upside-down logic of a great and desperate task achievable only by the smallest, weakest, and humblest of characters. We find this logic hard to understand, but it‟s made clear in the writings of Paul the Apostle and illustrated beautifully by Tolkien in The Lord Of The Rings. In The Hobbit, a Hobbit is an amusing and plucky character who stumbles his way through adventures and comes out quite a different person than he started. But it‟s not until The Lord Of The Rings that the story changes to become one of desperate times and tremendous affairs that can only be resolved by Hobbits, the beings of Middle-earth least suited to desperate times and tremendous affairs. Hobbits are small, homely, home-and comfort-loving creatures who are so insignificant and so good at hiding that hardly anyone in Middle-earth even knows they exist. They‟re humble and don‟t like adventures. Even in The Hobbit, the Dwarves don‟t like having a Hobbit sent along on their quest. Who wants a Hobbit when it comes
time for great deeds? No one, least of all Hobbits themselves. And that is the miracle of the Hobbit. The greatest deed in all Middle-earth, the most difficult, the one no one wants, that of walking like a complete idiot through the dark hell of Mordor to chuck the greatest treasure of the Third Age into a volcano accurately called Doom, can only be done by that small, weak, unimportant being, a Hobbit. If a Wizard does it, he won‟t even get close to Mordor, for the hidden glory he carries as a divine Maia of Valinor will reveal him instantly to the Enemy. No one could ever overlook an Elf walking through dark lands. A Man would die long before he reached Mount Doom. But a Hobbit is so little he can slip through cracks. A Hobbit is so funny-looking he can disguise himself as an Orc. A Hobbit is so earthy he knows how to move in near-invisibility. A Hobbit is so tough that he can be stretched thin, “like butter scraped over too much bread,” and still take the next step. It‟s almost as if the Hobbits were created specifically for this deed, as if they‟re small and overlooked and timid and intrinsically tough and honest on purpose, for this purpose. All the attributes that among the glories and strengths of Wizards, Elves and Men appear to be weaknesses become the very aspects that get the Hobbits through Mordor to the end of their road. “This is the hour of the Shire-folk,” Elrond says at his Council in The Fellowship of The Ring, “when they arise from their quiet fields to shake the towers and counsels of the great. Who of all the Wise could have foreseen it?”
among the Jews of his time. He said, “If anyone thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more” (Philippians 3:4b). He had everything a Jew ought to have and was everything a Jew ought to be. He was even a superhero among apostles, with his call, his education, the many churches he founded, the many disciples he made. He was one of the Great. And yet he told the Corinthian Christians this: “Consider your calling, brethren: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26 -29) Not all of us are educated. Not all of us are physically strong. Not all of us are attractive. Not all of us have good, loving family backgrounds. Not all of us have lived even, smooth lives without trauma. Not all of us have been Christians from birth and have nothing to regret in our histories. Few people would ever say about most of us, “Now, there‟s the perfect person for God to use.” And God delights in using those people whom the Wise would overlook. He doesn‟t have to turn us into Captain America to do it. Sometimes a Hobbit is the perfect person to do the greatest deeds. ■ All Bible verses from the ESV.
The Apostle Paul was a superhero
By Lianne M. Bernardo
whose culture is rich and vibrant. Éomer, nephew of King Théoden and brother of Éowyn, reflects the fighting spirit of the Rohirrim. While he‟s a brave and skilled warrior on the battlefield, he‟s also loyal and caring, values that prepare him for when he becomes king after his uncle‟s death. Éomer is a warrior like his father before him, tall in appearance and proud. He commands his own eored as a Marshall of the Mark over his father‟s former jurisdictions in the east, protecting the borders of Rohan and upholding the law of his people. He is hardened for a man in his mid-twenties thanks to experience on the battlefield; as a result he‟s always prepared for the worst and doesn‟t seem to rely much on hope. On their first meeting, Éomer tells Aragorn and his companions that “(h)ope does not remain” to find Merry and Pippin after his eored intercepted a band of Uruk-hai near their northern borders. Nor does Éomer hope that reinforcements will come to their aid at Pelennor Fields as his remaining forces face a new onslaught of orcs and Easterlings. Aragorn later chides Éomer for forgetting his promise that they‟ll see each other again but Éomer admits that “hope oft deceives.” Hardened by the realities of war, Éomer is a man who faces the present problems with whatever forces or resources he has and doesn‟t look for help in his tasks. Yet despite his sternness, Éomer is perceptive of people. He recognises the danger Gríma Wormtongue poses to Rohan. Despite curious circumstances that bring Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli to Rohan and how they passed through Lothlórien, a forbidding place to the Rohirrim, Éomer chooses to help them in their search for Merry and Pippin.
He‟s also able to tell that there‟s more to Aragorn‟s story than what he‟s told. His stoic judgement enables him to be a valued advisor to his uncle and a good leader. Éomer‟s service and role as a Marshal reflects his faithfulness to the realm. He is briefly imprisoned for making threats toward Gríma out of protection of the king despite of the court‟s law. A recovered Théoden later says that he owes Éomer much for his loyalty, and “(a) faithful heart may have a forward tongue.” This devotion also manifests towards the Rohirrim; grieved as he is over Théoden‟s death, Éomer quickly musters his forces and leads them onward in his stead. His dedication to lead and help his people continues after the War of the Ring as he works tirelessly to restore the buildings and lands destroyed during the war. He‟s named Éomer Éadig, “the Blessed,” for the peace he‟s able to secure for his people and the riches that Rohan produces during his reign. This sense of devotion and earnestness also extends to his friends, which is highlighted in his friendship with Aragorn in the books. They fight side by side at Helm‟s Deep, at Pelennor Fields, and before the gates of Mordor. While Aragorn and his allies debate on how to proceed with their final attack against Sauron, Éomer pledges his support because Aragorn is his friend and needs his help. He doesn‟t need any other reason for accompanying Aragorn, saying that he has “little knowledge of these deep matters; but I need it not.” Their friendship continues after the War of the Ring as the two kings campaign together against the remnants of Sauron‟s forces. While Éomer is a dedicated warrior of
Rohan, he‟s also a caring brother to Éowyn. As a result of losing their parents at such an early age, Éomer is especially protective of his sister. He knows Gríma has his sights on Éowyn and “would have slain him before, forgetting the law of the hall.” While he can‟t always be there for her due to his duties, he‟s not unaware of her internal suffering; in the House of Healing he admits that he became aware that his sister was “touched by frost” when Aragorn first appeared in Edoras, Rohan‟s capital. Though they do not share very many scenes together in the book, Éomer‟s actions show how important Éowyn is to him. When he sees his sister lying amongst the dead at Pelennor Fields, he becomes visibly distraught, “as a man who is pierced in the midst of a cry by an arrow through the heart.” He gives in to grief and fury, charging head-on towards enemy forces and shouting “Ride! Ride to death and the world‟s ending!” Éowyn is the only person over the course of the novel who elicits such strong, protective emotions from Éomer. Likewise, he‟s the only one who can draw Éowyn out of her despair and the darkness of her illness by calling her name in the House of Healing. While only a secondary character in The Lord of the Rings, Éomer is a pivotal figure for the people of Rohan. His keen discernment and dedication carries him through the War of the Ring and prepares him for kingship. He‟s a good friend and ally, never failing to be there for Aragorn when he needs help. He‟s a caring brother who looks out for his sister. Éomer exemplifies the Rohirrim spirit of courage but also its great heart and unwavering loyalty. ■
By Jessica McDonald
Everyone despises their actions. We don‟t understand how someone could betray a friend or family member for something as petty as money, fame, or power. We loathe traitors. But then, there‟s another type of traitor—one who starts out with good intentions but is overtaken by temptation and in the end falls helpless to the clutches of evil, betraying those they swore to protect. J.R.R. Tolkien‟s intriguing, heartbreaking Boromir comes to mind. For years, I‟ve read and watched The Lord of the Rings. I love the unusual friendship of Legolas and Gimli, the humility and nobility of Aragorn, the bravery of the hobbits, and the wisdom of Gandalf. Often, Boromir isn‟t given much thought. He‟s the “bad” member of the Fellowship—the one who gives in to temptation. The failure. The traitor. He knows how dangerous the Ring is, the truth of what it will do to those who possess it, yet ignores all warnings and wisdom. Trusting in his own strength, he reaches for the Ring. “I ask only for the strength to defend my people!” He tells Frodo, adamantly. “If you would but lend me the Ring...” Boromir deceives himself into thinking his intentions are noble. “The Ring is a gift to the foes of Mordor. Why not use this Ring?” He asks the council in Rivendell. “Give Gondor the weapon of the enemy. Let us use it against him!” But what he doesn‟t realize, despite countless warnings, is evil can‟t be fought with evil and the Ring is already subconsciously beginning to consume his thoughts and desires. Can we relate to Boromir‟s struggle with temptation? The Ring is an object of evil that lures its victims by offering the fulfillment of hopes and dreams. It calls to Boromir, it tempts him. The lies of the Ring convey that this object of pure evil will
bring good things: victory over the Enemy, relief for the armies of Gondor, freedom for all of Middle Earth, fewer men counted among the dead… but it lied! Who is strong enough to hold such a mighty weapon and not give in to its seductive powers? Would any mortal man be able to withstand the consuming nature of ultimate power? When Frodo offers the ring to Gandalf, unlike Boromir, the wizard realizes the seductive power of evil. “I would use this ring from a desire to do good, but through me, it would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine.” Boromir is openly tempted by the Ring on numerous occasions; and, because of this, the members of the fellowship don‟t trust him completely. “Men are weak! Men can‟t resist temptation” are the thoughts crossing their minds. But, for awhile, Boromir seems to have his temptation under control. How often are we, like Boromir, tempted to sin? How many times do we feel resistance slipping away as we ponder what our personal Ring could mean for us, if we could just reach out and take it… for “good,” of course. Unfortunately, the Ring‟s call is too great and he tries to take it from Frodo by force. It‟s only after the Ring is out of sight and out of reach, that Boromir realizes what he‟s done. He‟s betrayed the person he swore to protect. He‟s a traitor because of his weakness. Temptation became sin. Frodo realizes this. “Boromir was our friend,” he tells Faramir, in earnest. He doesn‟t condemn Boromir but instead shows him mercy. Frodo took the Ring out of Boromir‟s reach. He knew what a dangerous temptation it posed. That knowledge brought forth mercy and forbearance. How much more patient would we be with one another if we realized what Frodo knew? We‟re weak. We‟re prone to
temptation and sin. Frodo recognized his own weakness. He knew firsthand the weight and power of what he resisted; that understanding enabled him to be merciful to Boromir. Thankfully, Boromir‟s story doesn‟t end with the shame of his betrayal. He‟s horrified by his own actions… humbled and repentant. Pulling out his sword, he rose to fight and protect the Hobbits he betrayed. He did what he failed to do before; he selflessly gave his life for his friends. Maybe protecting Merry and Pippen is his attempt to regain his honor and correct his terrible mistake. Where he falls to the ground with three arrows in his chest is a heart-wrenching scene of bittersweet honor. His face etched with pain, regret, and sorrow, and eyes filled with a resolved peace, Boromir falls to his knees, unable to stand. When he breathes his last, we‟re left with a sense of sadness; yet also admiration. Boromir begins nobly, makes mistakes and ends striving to serve and protect. Perhaps by then he sees how evil the Ring actually is. Maybe he realizes evil can‟t be fought with evil, no matter how things may seem. It could be that he finally understands what everyone warned him about: men are weak and we can‟t trust in our own strength. It could also be he realizes the importance of sacrifice, protecting the weak, and keeping your word. His integrity is no longer in question when he dies protecting Merry and Pippin. John 15:13 says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Boromir made mistakes; he was tempted and he fell. But, in the end, he turns his back on sin and self and dies a hero. ■
By Caitlin Horton
Middle Earth, if not the major theme. Tolkien created a world that defies imagination with characters almost too numerous to count and rich in their varying personalities. Some of them, the best and most unique, are nearly always forgotten from screen and radio drama adaptations. Beorn, the shapeshifter who is both man and bear, appears as a hero in The Hobbit. Radagast the Brown is a wizard kinsman to Gandalf who forgot his calling and can never leave Middle Earth. And finally there‟s the cheery, enigmatic Tom Bombadil, who can put the Ring on his finger and not vanish. These are men of magic and of ancient wisdom and Tolkien‟s finest creations. For readers of The Hobbit the name Beorn probably sounds very familiar. Tolkien described him quite clearly, as a “huge man with a thick black beard and hair, and great bare arms and legs with knotted muscles.” On top of that, he changes into a bear. His personality doesn‟t mesh well with others. He requires his trust to be built up slowly, a feat Gandalf accomplishes when he shares the story of his, the dwarves and Bilbo‟s harrowing escape from goblins in the Misty Mountains. The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth lists Beorn as a man, a chieftain of the Beornings, a berserker, and a skin-changer (shapeshifter). The usage of “berserker” reveals Tolkien‟s professorship in Anglo-Saxon and studies of medieval literature; according to the English Dictionary it means “frenzied Norse warrior.” Beorn is unique among his people because when Gandalf and the others wind up on his doorstep in need of help he doesn‟t turn them away. He even goes to their aid in the Battle of Five Armies; changing into his bear form, he rescues Thorin from a throng of orcs and later kills their leader, Bolg.
He is quite a hero and one who should be incredibly memorable in The Hobbit films. It‟s not everyone that can turn into a bear! Radagast the Brown is a character that sort of straddles the fence, as it were. He knows and likes Gandalf the Grey and appears in The Lord of the Rings, with mentions in The Hobbit. While talking to Beorn in the latter, Gandalf brings up Radagast, who lives near the southern border of Mirkwood. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Radagast unknowingly sends Gandalf to Saruman, where he‟s imprisoned, and later helps free him by sending the eagle. He does it without knowing he‟s helping, thus painting him as rather clueless. The Guide lists him as one of the Istari (order of wizards) who studies beast and herb-lore. He‟s a member of the White Council, as is Gandalf and Saruman, and is involved in the attack on the Necromancer, also known as Sauron, which takes place during The Hobbit. Perhaps what the books don‟t say about him is more important: he doesn‟t fight in the War of the Ring and does nothing to aid any of the people, indicating a passive stance. Radagast is a good man and a decent wizard but he doesn‟t take sides. That tendency, more than anything else, explains how and why Radagast can‟t move on from Middle Earth. More should be revealed of this character and his quirks in the movies. Finally, last but never least: the mindboggling Tom Bombadil of the book trilogy. Don‟t bother looking for him in the movies; he‟s a cut character whose only image is on a card for a game. Tom is a very hospitable character who takes care of Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin while they travel through the dangerous Old Forest that borders the
Shire. He‟s a merry figure, wearing a blue coat, yellow boots, long brown beard, and a battered hat with a blue feather stuck in the band. His wife is Goldberry, daughter of the Riverwoman of the Withywindle in the Old Forest, and she is golden-haired and as merry as her mate. Tom is regarded as important to the lore of Middle Earth, as he states of himself in The Fellowship: “Eldest, that‟s what I am… Tom was here before the river and the trees; Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn.” He goes on to state that he knew the dark under the stars, before the Dark Lord came, and when he puts on the One Ring, it has no effect on him at all. His name given him by the Elves, Iarwain Ben-Adar according to The Guide, means old and without father, he is an immortal. Readers can‟t even begin to speculate on who Tom is, other than a Hobbit rescuer and friendly figure in a dark passage of the book, so most don‟t even try. Tolkien did nothing to fully clarify the character, instead shrouding ancient Tom Bombadil in complete mystery. These magic men, all with different abilities and talents, are a part of Tolkien‟s magnificent world. Within Middle Earth they never meet but the love Tolkien poured into their characters binds them together in a magic that can never be tamed. Even Radagast, who is imperfect and forgetful, has his own unique talents to share. J. R. R. Tolkien was a master storyteller who chose to reflect his faith, his academic work, and his children‟s favorite characters in his epic tales. Beorn, Radagast, and Tom are all players in his magnificent set of novels, adding a richness to the stories that is unforgettable. ■
By Tryntsje Cuperus
are full of Christian symbolism. Still, you‟re hard-pressed to find a mention of faith in a divine being in any of his works other than The Silmarillion and especially its first part: Ainulindalë. It is a collection of stories about the early history of Middle-Earth. The tales, written over a long period of Tolkien‟s life, were edited and published in 1977 after his death by his son Christopher. The Silmarillion consists of five parts. Ainulindalë is only ten pages long, but a beautiful and meaningful story. It tells us of Ilúvator, the Being who stands at the beginning of all and who‟s name means “Father of all” in the Elvish language. Ilúvator creates the Ainur, powerful angelic beings who are the offspring of his thoughts. The Ainur sing before Ilúvator and through their singing and listening they come to a deeper understanding of their Creator‟s mind, which gladdens Ilúvator. Ilúvator presents to the Ainur a new song with a powerful theme. As the Ainur sing and rejoice, one of them, Melkor, decides to interweave a melody of his own imagining into the heavenly music. With this he hopes to increase his own glory. Instead, his interference leads to discord and cause the other Ainur to falter in their singing. Ilúvator proposes a new theme, but again Melkor soon causes the harmony to change into uproar. For the third time Ilúvator starts a new musical theme, and this time the war of sound between the original theme and Melkor‟s ideas is so strong it makes the heavenly halls shake. Ilúvator quiets the Ainur and shows them what the point of their music is: in thought they created a world in the void, a world that would later encompass Middle-Earth and where all Tolkien‟s well-known stories take
place. The Ainur are surprised to see the world contains many things they‟d not thought of during their singing. For example, the Children of Ilúvator: the Elves and Men that were soon to come into being. In singing, the Ainur each expressed a part of Ilúvator's thoughts, but none of them were able to fathom all that was in the mind of their Creator. Melkor is also surprised to see that which he thought up during his rebellious singing was part of the new world, but only added to its beauty and to the glory of Ilúvator. So Melkor is taught a lesson by Ilúvator: “No theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.” Hearing this, Melkor is filled with shame but with it comes a secret anger. Ilúvator sends the Ainur to the new world, where they‟ll labor to make it ready for the coming of the Children of Ilúvator. Melkor also goes with them and as soon as any of the Ainur start to work, Melkor meddles with it. But he can‟t ever completely undo the Ainur‟s work and steadily but surely the world is filled with new and beautiful things, and Ilúvator himself creates the first Elves and Men. As in all Tolkien‟s works, there‟s a heavy influence of all kinds of Western mythologies. For the Ainulindalë in particular, Tolkien admitted to being influenced by the Norse and Germanic creation myths. Still, the parallels with the creation story in Genesis 1 and 2 are inescapable for anyone reading Ainulindalë with a little knowledge of the Bible. When I read Ainulindalë for the first time, it filled me with a renewed admiration for the enormous
creativity of our God. It made me look with fresh eyes at all the little things of nature, such as grass, pebbles and clouds and recognise from what a wonderful Mind they came. It also made me realize how much pain it must have cost our God when one of His own creations rebelled against Him and damaged all His creations. And last but not least, this story showed me anew that Satan in the end will be defeated, because all his plans are already known to God. But God‟s master plan never came up in Satan‟s mind, because God‟s mind is unparalleled. Some of you reading this article or the Ainulindalë might protest and ask, but what about the Ainur? Aren‟t they given the status of demigods, creators in their own right? Isn‟t this idolatry? Tolkien was questioned about this topic in a letter by Peter Hastings, manager of a Catholic bookshop in Oxford. In reply he wrote his portrayal of the Creator in this story was “a tribute to the infinity of His potential variety.” This was no doubt an expression of Tolkien‟s faith in the power of stories. In his famous essay On Fairy Stories he explained his thoughts on this subject. Often when he heard a story or a myth he would glimpse “joy beyond the walls of this world.” To Tolkien this was proof that every story or myth had in it an echo of the True Myth: the story of God with this world, the story of salvation through Christ. Tolkien poured this belief in the writing of his own “new myth” and so it is that we can see echoes of God‟s story in all his works. Though the details might sometimes confuse us, I see Ainulindalë as one of Tolkien‟s stories with the strongest of these echoes. ■
By Hannah C. Price
in the Lord of the Rings, but arguably none quite as tragic as Gollum. This abused, twisted character is fascinating to study because he‟s so complex. There are two sides to his personality and the constant internal war he endures makes him unique. His story begins and ends tragically as Gollum treads the path of self-serving evil, and as Galadriel says in the prologue for the Fellowship of the Ring, “the power of the One Ring cannot be undone.” Gollum wasn‟t always a wretched creature of darkness. He was once named Sméagol, a person much like a hobbit, a member of the river folk with family and friends and a love of fishing. However, the finding of the One Ring of power was his undoing and he murdered his cousin to obtain it. This event changed his life, corrupting him beyond all imagining. His hobbit-like visage slowly melted away after years of poisoning by the Ring, eventually turning into an ugly, misshapen thing with an unnatural long life of over 500 years. Sméagol also developed a split personality, dividing himself into good and evil sides: the good side (Sméagol) and the evil side (Gollum). They are different personalities with their own natures and behaviors, engaging in lengthy conversations and battling for the soul of the unfortunate creature. When Gollum enters The Lord of the Rings as a chief player, his true nature is in question. Frodo, the new ring-bearer, pities Gollum and believes he still has some good left in him (despite nearly being killed by the creature). Frodo‟s loyal companion, Sam, believes otherwise, trying to convince Frodo the Ring
has corrupted Gollum beyond all hope. Frodo chooses to be optimistic, giving Gollum a chance for redemption by becoming a guide for them into Mordor. This second chance ignites the battle between good and evil in Gollum and in the Two Towers the good wins out. Sméagol takes over the creature‟s personality and is a helping hand to the hobbits for a short while. During this part of the journey, Sméagol's playful nature is revealed as he fishes, hunts and tries to help his “master” Frodo. However, his evil side is always lurking just under the surface. When the traveling trio are ambushed and taken captive, Sméagol begins to believe Frodo has betrayed him. “The master trickst us!” he says. This provides an opening for Gollum to sneak back into the picture and begin to overtake Sméagol, who fulfills Gandalf‟s belief that he has “some part yet to play, for good or evil.” Gollum‟s tragic life is a crucial element to the story, for it is because of him that the Ring is ultimately destroyed. The One Ring is altogether evil, corrupting everything and everyone it comes into contact with. It destroys the minds of men and hobbits, eventually weaving its way into the pure heart of Frodo and preventing him from accomplishing his task of destroying the ring. The One Ring can‟t be simply tossed into the fire where it was forged, for no one is strong enough to resist the power of the ring. Even Frodo, the hobbit who perseveres through the greatest hardship and trials with his strong will (and the aid of Sam), can‟t bring himself to destroy it. At the last moments in the great battle,
Frodo stands at the edge of the river of fire, poised to fulfill his destiny and destroy the ring. But victory slips through his fingers as evil finally takes hold over Frodo‟s heart and he decides to keep the Ring. This is where Gollum plays his biggest role. Frodo and he fight for control of the ring in the heart of Mount Doom as Sam watches helplessly in the background. Ultimately, Frodo loses the ring and his finger as Gollum reclaims his “precious.” One of the most enduring images in the film series is the sight of Gollum standing at the edge of the lava river, holding the Ring above him, smiling with joy as his efforts are rewarded. The following images are also memorable as the injured Frodo wrestles Gollum over the edge of the cliff. Gollum becomes the vehicle that transports the One Ring to its fiery end, cradling his “precious” until the fire consumes both. The tireless pursuit of our heart‟s desires can be both good and bad, as the Lord of the Rings shows us. The good heart of Frodo desires to save the world and destroy evil, while Gollum‟s heart, corrupted by his evil desires, yearns only for his own self-satisfaction. But evil overcomes Frodo as well as Gollum, demonstrating how none of us can defeat evil alone. Gollum unwittingly becomes the instrument of the ring‟s destruction, as a power greater than even the One Ring ordains that good will eventually win over evil and even the worst circumstances can be used to achieve that end. ■
By Lydia Jacobs
what it might have been like to read the first draft of The Fellowship of the Ring? If you had been a member of “The Inklings,” you wouldn‟t have to wonder. Not only would you have gotten to read the first draft, you would have gotten to hear it read by the author himself. The Inklings was a literary group founded by Edward Tangye Lean in 1931. It was open to students and professors of University College at Oxford University. After a couple of years, Lean left Oxford and J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (who had been members of Lean‟s group) began their own Inklings group at Magdalen College. This newly formed group met on Thursday nights in Lewis‟s room and on Tuesday afternoons at a local pub called The Eagle and the Child, or as it was more commonly known, The Bird and the Baby. Members of the group included Tolkien, Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, Roger Lancelyn Green, Adam Fox, Henry Victor Dyson, and Robert Havard. Lewis‟s brother Warren and Tolkien‟s son Christopher were also members. Unlike most literary societies, the Inklings did not have officers or rules. It was more of a discussion group where the members could share their work and receive feedback on it.
Many of the Inklings influenced and were influenced by each other. Owen Barfield was one of the first members of the group and was known as “the first and last Inkling.” He had a strong impact on C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. In fact, Lewis dedicated several of his Narnia books to Barfield‟s children. Charles Williams was another member of the group who made an impression on Lewis and vice-versa. The two became friends even before Williams joined the Inklings. After he read Lewis‟ The Allegory of Love, Williams wrote Lewis a letter saying how much he liked it. Coincidentally, at the same time, Lewis read Charles William‟s novel The Place of the Lion, and wrote him a letter telling him how much he enjoyed it. The two authors began to correspond and soon became good friends. After some time, Williams moved to Oxford and was able to become a member of the Inklings. Roger Lancelyn Green was one of the co-founders of the literary group and was another one of Lewis‟s good friends. Because of a suggestion that he made to Lewis, the Narnia series became known as The Chronicles of Narnia. The Inklings did not always have only positive things to say to one another. Henry Victor Dyson, for
example, criticized Tolkien for including too many elves in The Lord of the Rings. Faced with Dyson‟s complaints, along with negative comments from some of the other members of the group, Tolkien refused to read any more of his work aloud during the meetings. Some of the members also ribbed Robert Havard for being consistently late to meetings. Lewis‟s brother Warren came up with the nickname the “Useless Quack” for Havard and thanks to Lewis, it stuck for many years. It has been over sixty years since the Inklings last met, but the group is still influencing writers today. The Wade Center at Wheaton College maintains a collection of 11,000 books, quite a few of which were written by Barfield, Lewis, Tolkien, and Williams. The collection also includes letters and manuscripts. More significantly, several groups have been formed over the last three decades that share the name and purpose of the original group. One group was started in 2006 and meets on a weekly basis near The Eagle and the Child. There is also a literary magazine at Miami University called Inklings. ■
By Charity Bishop
with elements of Christian theology and symbolism, particularly when it comes to his many Christ-figures. These include Frodo (the “Suffering” Christ, bearing a burden of Sin to its destruction), Gandalf (the wizard who is more than he appears, and after sacrificing his life for others, comes back “glorified”), Arwen (who intercedes for and sacrifices her mortal life for those she loves), and even Sam (as the eternal helper and servant). But never is the Christian theology more clearly expressed than in the story of Aragorn as it unfolds in The Lord of the Rings. Our introduction to Aragorn is as a stranger in a wayside inn. He is far more than he first appears, for under the rough exterior beats the heart of the King of Gondor. Like Joseph took Mary and young Jesus to Egypt to escape his death at the hands of King Herod‟s armies, Aragorn was taken out of Gondor to Rivendell after the death of his father, to spare his life so that he might grow up into his kingship. Like Christ gathered disciples about Him, Aragorn takes under his leadership the Hobbits in Gandalf‟s absence. He defends, leads and teaches them so that each may continue on in his absence. He tries to guide Boromir in the way of truth, until like Judas, Boromir betrays his trust and tries to take the Ring from Frodo. Yet in his final moments, when Boromir identifies Aragorn as “my captain and my king,” Boromir indicates that his heart has changed, and softened toward the “savior” of Middle-earth. When Aragorn is tempted by the Ring, he refuses it… just as Christ refused Satan‟s temptation, and went on to suffer but triumph.
Others encourage Aragorn to embrace his destiny earlier than is required, but he instead waits until the proper time. When it is finally time for him to become the man he‟s born to be, Aragorn is given Andúril, a sword that was reforged from the broken shards of Narsil, the blade that struck the Ring from the hand of Sauron in the First Age. Andúril represents the Sin of Aragorn‟s ancestor, Isildur, who let the Ring survive. It is reforged for Aragorn, which reminds us of Christ‟s ability to take a sinful life and renew it. Aragorn takes Andúril into the Paths of the Dead, where through its influence (through defeating sin) he takes control of the long-dead army of Gondor, and emerges as King of the Dead. Christ did the same thing in death; it couldn‟t hold Him, there he prophesied to the dead spirits, and when He was resurrected, many dead came back to life and walked through the streets of Jerusalem. Aragorn‟s separation of Arwen, his eternal love and his greatest source of faith in his ultimate triumph, is reminiscent of the separation of Christ from the Church (Believers), until they are reunited under the newly blossoming Tree of Gondor, in his very own “New Jerusalem,” when Aragorn is crowned King. Like many Christians over the centuries, Arwen never gives up on Aragorn, even when it‟s in her best interest to do so. She believes in him. She waits for his return, and is rewarded with the happiness that her sacrifice brought about: he marries her. There are significant differences in the books and films. The theology is the same but the presentation is different. In the books, Aragorn is
never a “reluctant king.” He is simply waiting to fulfill his destiny, thus the symbolism is much more intact. He carries Andúril with him from the start and lets no other man touch it, signifying that Christ was always equipped with the power to defeat sin, just waiting for His Father to say “it is time.” In making Aragorn fearful of his destiny, the writers of the film series enabled other characters to play much more significant roles and in many ways, further blatantly illustrated the symbolism of their lives. With Aragorn reluctant to embrace his destiny as the King of Gondor, Arwen becomes a much more powerful character, since she believes in him even when it seems he may abandon or disappoint her. Her sacrifice is greater, since we can‟t be certain Aragorn is worthy of it. But her faith in him is justified and in the end, her father allows them to marry without further concern. Aragorn‟s upbringing also reveals Elrond as much more of a God figure in his own right, since he never does more than nudge Aragorn toward his destiny. He knows what he wants for him, and what is best for him, enabling him along the way, but still the choice is left up to Aragorn. Aragorn not only reminds us of Christ, he exemplifies what may come of a life when we cease to fear our sinful origins and place our trust in God‟s plan for our life. Our denial of God is rather like movie Aragorn‟s fear of embracing his heritage. Until he accepts that he is a Son of the King, he can‟t be all that he was meant to be. ■
By Ella G.
“Friendship isn‟t about who knew you the longest—it‟s about who came and never left your side.” Its an easy quote to think happy thoughts about and let them pass on by. But think about it. The friends worth having are the ones who laugh, cry and do whatever it takes to make you a better person. It‟s not easy to be that type of friend. It‟s much quicker to be a casual acquaintance that bails at the first sign of trouble. Samwise Gamgee is a true friend to Frodo Baggins. They might not be close in the Shire, but that quickly changes. Sam is given an important task, to watch out for Frodo as he takes the Ring to Mount Doom. It‟s not a task for the faint of heart. There are dangerous lands to cross and the Dark Lord will constantly be searching for them. Sam, though, is the kind of guy who honors his word no matter what. Frodo needs assistance to get through this journey and he‟s going to be there for him. It takes a little “push” for Sam to willingly cross the boundary of the Shire but he does it. Sometimes it does take a friend to push you outside of your comfort zone, to do the thing that absolutely petrifies you. Frodo knows what Sam needs (a kind word) to get him going. A little encouragement goes a long way. Journeys aren‟t only of a physical nature but can be figurative too. They can reveal what kind of character you have. Did Sam plan on the hardships he would endure? If he‟d known, would he have done it? Did he want to know Frodo that well or was he content to have a casual relationship at the pub and call it a day? Turns out, he doesn‟t have much of a choice. Whether he wants to or not, he‟s going to get to develop a strong relationship with Frodo, one that will either grow and blossom or crash and burn.
Sam isn‟t alone at first. He has the Fellowship for awhile, made up of all sorts of people. Hobbits and dwarves and elves, oh my! But it works. Every single one of them has a part to play. It‟s the same for our human existence. Often we‟re not called to be the only support of someone; we‟re only a small piece. But sometimes that piece can be the biggest piece of the entire puzzle. Sam is the one who fights off Shelob before she can kill Frodo; Sam is vital in keeping the Nazgûl away from his friend. These things seem impossible for a small hobbit to do, yet he does them. Sure Legolas is great with a bow and arrow and Gimli can swing an ax, but Sam‟s heart and love for Frodo makes those other defenses pale in comparison. Occasionally, little things can win big battles. One of the biggest things Sam does for Frodo is when his friend turns him away. Frodo tells him not to follow him anymore; he‟ll go on alone. But Sam follows him anyway. Sam knows in the darkest hour, what his friend needs is his presence. Frodo didn‟t think so, but Sam did. Frodo might be unreasonable and under the spell of Gollum and the Ring yet that was no reason to abandon him. In life, at times our friends will be unbearable. Their journey will be too much for them. They‟ll try to push us away. To quote Sam, “I can’t carry it. But I can carry you.” A true friend bears the burdens of another without complaint. Sam did what Frodo could not: he carried his friend, on his back, up to the mouth of Mount Doom. It was what was needed. Sadly it comes to a climax where Sam doubts everything he has done for Frodo until this point. They‟ve reached Mordor, all that remains is for Frodo to toss the Ring into the fire. Yet Frodo
wants to hold onto the ring; he wants the power that comes with having it in one‟s use and possession. Had I been in Sam‟s place, I‟d have had second thoughts about why I‟d just done what I did—why I left my home, battled all sorts of creepy creatures, nearly got killed numerous times… for what?! Sam doesn‟t do that. He stands by his friend and even when Frodo‟s greed nearly gets him killed—he saves him from danger one last time. It only makes sense that as The Lord of the Rings comes to a close, Frodo gives Sam the task of finishing the story. Frodo knows his friend played such a role in his life. It‟s a role that needs his own spin on it; Sam needs to share it in his words. Frodo‟s life wouldn‟t have as much impact if not for Sam. What I wouldn‟t give for that to be said of me in the lives of some of my friends. In many ways I see Sam as an allegory of Christ. He‟s a servant, willing to die for his friend. He saves Frodo from evil and painful death and is his conscience. Christ is all of that and more in my life. I see it vividly in the final scene. Frodo is about to go into the fire of Mount Doom and Sam yells for Frodo to grab his hand. That is Christ to me—calling out, urging me to reach for Him; he‟ll save me from the fire. All I have to do is trust. And when you think about it, when you think about where you started from and where you are now, you quickly see that Christ, much like Sam in Frodo‟s case, never leaves your side. Not even when you‟re unreasonable. Not even when you‟re unlovable. How can you not reach? How can you not want a person like that in your corner? ■
By Rachel Sexton
television are highly concentrated in the fantasy or science-fiction genres. A central distinguishing feature of most of these stories is that their setting is an entire created world. One of the most detailed of these, with a vast mythology made up of a full history, geography, and languages, is the world of Middle Earth. Created by J.R.R. Tolkien, Middle Earth was his setting for his children‟s novel The Hobbit and his masterpiece The Lord of the Rings. Aside from its scope and depth, Middle Earth feels authentic and real because its characters, whether they‟re Elves or Hobbits, experience real emotions we can all relate to. Unrequited love is part of human experience and is present in Middle Earth too. The relationship between Aragorn and Éowyn is characterized by fellow warrior camaraderie and a romance that does not come to fruition, which humanizes the epic story of good versus evil. Many races inhabit Middle-earth: Elves, Hobbits, Dwarves, and Men, including a nearly extinct subset called the Dúnedain. They are blessed with long life. One of the few remaining is Aragorn. He is the heir to the highest throne of men, a King who will have to claim his rightful reign over Gondor. Aragorn was raised by the Elves for a period of his life. He proves his skill as a tracker and a soldier countless times. He has a romantic connection with the elf maiden Arwen. She‟s the daughter of the elf lord who fostered Aragorn and is willing to give up her immortality for him. He sets out as part of a fellowship with the near-impossible mission to destroy the One Ring, made by the evil Sauron to control all other magical rings gifted to the races of Middle Earth. Sauron was defeated by men and Elves long
ago but the Ring wasn‟t destroyed due to men‟s weakness for power. Aragorn fears this weakness in himself and has forsaken his destiny as King. He must be part of the fight against evil, but he urges Arwen to forget him and go with her people just before the Fellowship departs on it„s journey. Éowyn is niece to Théoden, king of the kingdom of Rohan. She lost her father to Orcs and her mother succumbed to grief. Her brother, Éomer, leads Théoden's armies, and they both live with him. She is trained to be a skilled fighter but fears glory will never enter her grasp because of her gender. Since the One Ring wasn‟t destroyed, Sauron wasn‟t fully eradicated either, and his presence, through his puppet the corrupt wizard Saruman, has infected the mind of Théoden. This leaves Rohan basically defenseless. Aragorn and Éowyn meet when part of the Fellowship arrives in Rohan to save Théoden's mind and by extension, Rohan itself. It‟s a small but essential step in the larger struggle against evil, and it brings together these two fighters. They come to respect each other‟s skill with a blade and as people. They first converse when she is practicing with a sword, which he sees and discusses with her. He seems to understand her fervent desire to distinguish herself in battle, though she is a woman. This subplot is as romantic as the book version of The Lord of the Rings gets. The interaction on the page between them, though unrequited, does consist of romantic love on her side. The films make this even more explicit. Different shots show Aragorn and Éowyn looking at each other at various times; they share a long look just before Aragorn
rides off to face Orc opponents in a skirmish and she heavily implies her feelings for him before he rides off to recruit special reinforcements for the centerpiece Battle of Pelennor Fields. The gentle rejection Éowyn receives from Aragorn highlights the realism of this storyline. The actors can be credited with a lot of this, but the writing is succinct and affective. Aragorn simply says, “I cannot give you what you seek,” but continues with “I have wished you happiness since the moment I saw you.” You get the feeling things might have gone differently for them had not an unexpected complication arose. Just before this scene, Aragorn learns that Arwen is weakening and will only be saved if evil is defeated, so he decides to embrace his fate as the King of Gondor. This makes sense to us because, though we truly root for Éowyn in every way, we‟ve already been treated to earlier scenes between Aragorn and Arwen. The film writers took nearly all this material from the Appendices Tolkien wrote for Rings which covers their romance. So in this way, the films add even more romance to counteract all the action. Romantic love, requited and unrequited, is an authentic emotion. Its inclusion through the interaction between Aragorn and Éowyn balances against the tense conflict of good vs. evil in the plot. Lest anyone feel too sorry for Éowyn, that isn‟t the end of her story, or her romance! It‟s a pleasure of reading and viewing The Lord of the Rings that a warrior‟s friendship between a man and woman is explored so well… and they each get romance too! ■
By Hannah Kingsley
its author J.R.R. Tolkien constructs many relationships where characters are paired to be mutually dependent on each other for encouragement, strength, and the courage to face unbearable odds. Sam and Frodo are one popular example of this bond between “brothers,” another being Merry and Pippin. Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas enter a “brotherhood” that proves beneficial in battle and in peace time. But these aren‟t the only pairings: Arwen and Aragorn are also a significant “couple.” Their bond may be less brotherly and more along romantic lines, but there are still parallels that can be drawn in the way their lives intersect and impact one another. Arwen is a member of the High Elves, while Aragorn is a the Ranger and rightful heir of two thrones. The Elves are immortal and do not die unless they are killed by another. Most of the Elves depart for Valinor, across the sea, as their time in Middle-earth passes away, but she chooses to remain behind, to marry a mortal. Tolkien portrays Arwen as romantic and ethereal, but also as strong and queenly. It‟s a curious matter that such an independent woman could be compelled to give up the gift of immortality for the one she loved. In the film, there‟s a dialogue that takes place between the two. Arwen tells Aragorn she chooses a mortal life because she desires to live it beside him. When he protests that she can‟t do that, much less gift him with the Evenstar, which represents her lifeforce, she responds, “It is mine to give to whom I will. Like my heart.” Some might see the Arwen of the books as a character that exists to
support other characters, both as the love interest, and perhaps a useful, hopeful image, yet this meaningful dialogue suggests Arwen is more than just a prop for storytelling. Instead, she exhibits the same selfsacrificing spirit of many other figures in Tolkien‟s series; and while her battles may be less bloody, they are nonetheless powerful. They‟re stories not of warfare and magic rings of power, but of the heart. Arwen‟s love is so pure, so selfless, that it enables the man she loves to become worthy of it. To justify her sacrifice, which she is determined to make with or without his approval, Aragorn must become the King of Gondor. Her faith in him brings out the best in him. In the films, Arwen is given much screen time devoted to exploring her sacrifice and carrying Frodo safely to the protection of the Elves in Rivendell. But mostly, hers is a love story, the love story of the story‟s main hero. An important differentiation between Arwen and other female romantic protagonists is she doesn‟t “pine” after the one she loves in an obsessive and manic sense, as so many modern fictional heroines do today. Instead, her love is one of choice and it costs her dearly. While she waits for the one she loves to return from battle, her life is not put on hold, but she spends it wisely in aiding her friends. She also seeks to support Aragorn, by encouraging his claim of becoming king. Later, she lives alongside him as queen, her confidence ultimately well-placed that he would fulfill her expectations and successfully claim his rightful throne.
In the books, Arwen‟s side of the story is hinted at but never fleshed out, even in the love story Tolkien wrote for them in the Appendices of The Lord of the Rings. Even there, the story is much more about her eventual husband, and her Elf Lord father‟s concerns over their future marriage. What we don‟t read is the struggle she experienced to give up a gift as great as immortality for love, against the desires of her father and the expectations of her people. Yet, it could be said that the success of Gondor rests greater on her shoulders than is recognized. Arwen shows us that true, selfless love provides motivation for others to become worthy. Arwen knows well the choice and determination love requires, and is willing to give up her greatest strength in order to make the one she loves strong. Hidden in her story is the message that without the support of a queen, a king is weakened and in turn, the kingdom suffers. Arwen makes up a part of Aragorn‟s strength, even as he makes up a part of her courage. They‟re a pair because their mutual love builds up the other person. No can explain what encourages that kind of selfless love, but it brings to mind a quote from an even greater life story, which says, there is no greater love than to lay down one‟s life for one‟s friends. Frequently it‟s the soldier who teaches us to value another over one‟s own life, but Tolkien shows us through the gentle and just as stubborn-willed Arwen Undómiel that an Elven “noble maiden” can display an influence and love stronger than any sword. ■
By Charity Bishop
in Middle-earth are the Elves. They‟re Tolkien‟s favorite, and he spent many years creating their culture, history, and languages. His love of the Elves speaks of his deeper love for Creation and God. By creating myth in Middleearth, he borrowed from and honored his faith. Tolkien‟s Elves are compassionate creatures embodied with fierce allegiances, the protectors of Middleearth and the keepers of the Wood. Highly in tune with nature, they have very acute senses, are able to walk on any surface without leaving a mark, sense danger before it happens, and can see over great distances. There‟s a lot of symbolism interwoven into The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and The Hobbit if you know where and how to look for it. But before we delve deeper into what Tolkien may have intended with his parallels, it‟s important for the reader to remember that Tolkien wasn‟t an allegorical writer. He had a distaste for the obvious; allegories in his mind related more to the happenings of the world than “real truths,” as he called the tales of Christ and the Church. He did not intend for his story to be a literal allegorical representation of his faith, but it did influence much of his work, particularly in the creation of the Elves. Tolkien wrote Middle-earth as a history of Earth that includes the Fall of Man, the Two Trees, and other myths that coincide with the Bible. As a lover of Truth, I see many clever parallels between the Elves and Adam and Eve (also Immortals) in Tolkien‟s work. In the translation to the big screen, the director unknowingly reinforces this through uses of light
and dialogue. Earth was sinless, so there was no death. Adam, like the Elf, was immortal and would grow more wise and beautiful with age. He and Eve were aware of animals and able to speak to and command them—for God sent them to rule over the earth. Elves can command nature and hear voices lesser ears can‟t perceive. Like Adam and Eve, the Elves are the Firstborn of Middle-earth; the first creatures created by a divine hand to protect and guard Middle-earth. They have “true immortality”; they gain by the length of time and become more real in time. This was also God‟s intention for Man; he was made in God‟s image and would become more like Him in time. Tolkien embodies the Elves with symbolism, and certain of them are blatant in their religious parallels. Galadriel is the Mary of Middleearth. She wears a Ring of Power (Holiness), intercedes for Frodo in his bleak hour (Intervention), and offers him salvation from death through the Phial (Light, Christ). Her husband, Celeborn, is reminiscent of Joseph. He protects her (as Joseph watched over Mary) but surrenders to her wisdom. Elrond embodies God the Father. He‟s not tempted by the Ring (Sin); he trusts it to Frodo (a Christ figure) to save others from its evil. Elrond offers choices; he doesn‟t force obedience, even though it‟s within his power to do so. Elrond re-forges Andúril (Salvation from Death) so Aragorn can enter the Paths of the Dead and redeem the Lost (death and resurrection). His daughter Arwen
(the Church) is later entrusted to Aragorn (Christ). Haldir as the Guardian of Lothlórien is like elders in the Church. He protects his people from evil and intercedes when needed. His loyalty is to Galadriel (Mary) but he responds to the call of Elrond (God) in defending Helm‟s Deep and Men (the Lost). Arwen represents Christ. In spite of the pain it causes her, she chooses to forsake her immortal life out of love for another. She gives Aragorn the Evenstar (Salvation) so he will live, and the Grace of the Valar to Frodo, who isn‟t a Firstborn and has no right to experience it (Christ interceding for us, to give us access to God and Heaven). Out of love for her, Aragorn becomes a better man, which shows the progression of a life aware of and submissive to the influence of Christ. Legolas references the salvation of Gentiles and their acceptance into the Church. Though he is not eager to accept Gimli, once Gimli is receptive to the grace of Galadriel (Mary—salvation through Christ), the two are as brothers. Eventually, they sail to Valinor (Heaven). This shows salvation through Christ, our acceptance into the divine Family, and that all believers will share the same eternal fate. Tolkien‟s books are rich, delightful tales made even more so by a believer‟s grasp of the wonders of God. After all, he is the God “of humans, and of angels, and of Elves.” ■
By Gina Dalfonzo
Your answer reveals a lot about how you see J. R. R. Tolkien‟s seminal work. Maybe you think of it as a saga of kings and conquerors, of a protracted war to overthrow a despot and restore a rightful ruler. In that case, you most likely named Aragorn as the hero. Or maybe, like many people, you think of The Lord of the Rings primarily as a tale of friendship and unbreakable loyalty. If so, you may have picked Sam, the hobbit who proves to be the most loyal of friends. Tolkien himself appears to have taken this view, referring to Sam in a letter as “the chief hero.” It‟s more than a little daunting to disagree with an author—especially an author as beloved and respected as Tolkien—about the meaning of his own work. Nonetheless, I‟m going to. I see The Lord of the Rings as the story of a long, lonely struggle to accomplish a hopeless task. And if this is what the story is truly about, then the hero must be the one who volunteers for it and overcomes impossible odds in order to carry it out: namely, Frodo Baggins. It is Frodo, the small, sheltered, inexperienced hobbit from the Shire, who steps forward at that pivotal moment when no one else is willing or able to, and speaks unforgettable words: “I will take the Ring… though I do not know the way.” Once he‟s said them, he is soon surrounded by a brave and loyal band of volunteers, ready to lay down their lives to help him. But the burden is his—and a burden, Tolkien reminds us time and again, is exactly what it is. Once the journey is underway, only he can
carry this thing with its supernatural power and its growing weight; he is the one whose mind and body are increasingly tormented by it. Much has been made (and rightly so) of Sam‟s declaration when Frodo is on the brink of collapse at Mount Doom: “I can‟t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well.” It‟s one of the noblest and most heartrending portrayals of friendship in literature or film, and the pinnacle of the selfless affection and care that Sam has lavished on his master. Yet one thing ought to be noted here: willing as Sam is to bear the weight of both Frodo and the Ring, he finds that he doesn‟t have to. Tolkien writes that Sam doesn‟t after all “share in the dreadful dragging weight of the accursed Ring.” That curse is Frodo‟s alone. Like Christ on the road to Calvary (and as a devout Catholic whose faith deeply influenced his work, Tolkien would have been well aware of the parallels) Frodo must bear the full weight of his own cross, no matter how many helpers give him aid and comfort along the way. But what of the moment when Frodo, at the critical moment, finds himself unable to give up the Ring? This isn‟t the act of a hero, but I think Tolkien has made it plain by now that no hero, however great, could have accomplished it. The Ring‟s power is simply too great. Frodo may be a Christ figure, but he is not actually Christ, and Tolkien seems to be indicating here that no one who is not divine could resist the Ring‟s infernal call at this point.
Divine Providence (often hinted at in Tolkien‟s work) steps in to honor Frodo‟s original desire and effort, and to keep him from committing unthinkable evil. And what of the aftermath? Though Frodo is restored to himself, he has been tormented for too long to ever fully recover. He goes back to his beloved home and helps restore it from the ravages of war, but, as he foresaw, he‟s unable to find true rest there. As he tells Sam in an unguarded moment, “I am wounded… it will never really heal.” It is evident, too, that the vanished Ring still preys on his mind, and it‟s especially poignant to see this happening to the one who fought so hard to destroy it. Frodo‟s wounds, physical and spiritual, are so deep that he must leave the place he loves in order to find true peace in an otherworldly realm. Heartbreakingly, there is no peace left for him in his own world. Frodo tells Sam at parting, “I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.” And those who keep them, like Sam, are worthy and wonderful souls; but surely the one who gives them up for the sake of others is the most heroic of all. And I happen to think that even Sam himself would agree with me on that one. ■