Lord of the Rings

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Always Hope

Trufflehunter!  That hopeful trusting badger in Prince Caspian.  He really inspires me.  When all hope is gone for most he trusts that “help will come,” that “it may be even now at the door.”

In Lord of the Rings there seems to be little hope left for any of the characters—in Return of the King especially.  Hope seems to have failed in every possible way.  Yet despite this the characters keep going, till the bitter end.  What made them keep going?  I think Sam’s little speech in the Two Towers film sums it up nicely. “Folk in those stories, they were holding onto something.” And then when he goes on to say, “There's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and its worth fighting for.”

You remember the characters in all those bible stories you have heard all your life.  Joseph, Moses, Abraham, Joshua, David…They hoped against hope—just like the characters in Middle Earth and Naria.   What were they holding onto? Two things I think—the goodness of God and the thought that they could make a difference. 

This little bit of hope was all they needed.   Their response is like Sam’s, who, against all hope says to himself,  "I'll get there if I leave everything but my bones behind. And I'll carry Mr. Frodo up myself, if it breaks my back and heart."

In your Christian life you will come across many hard times, when it feels like God has forsaken you and there is nothing more you can do.   When you are at your wits end, remember these characters in the bible, The Lord of the Rings and Narnia.   They have seen far worse than you and kept going.  Think of what you are holding onto and ask God to give you strength and hope.  God will never leave you, no matter what you have done.  There is always hope.

 

Aragorn, Tender Warrior 

I am really moved by the character of Aragorn in the Fellowship of the Ring.  Not just because he had wisdom, power and was a great warrior but because he was also so tender and self-sacrificing. These are things that I so admire in him and I believe draw him up to the full stature of a man.  Here are a couple examples of this from FotR that I love a lot—one in Lothlorien and the other as Boromir was dying.   When I read them they always touched me deeply. 

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 “At the hill’s foot Frodo found Aragorn, standing still and silent as a tree; but in his hand was a small gold bloom of elanor, and a light was in his eyes. He was wrapped in some fair memory: and as Frodo looked at him he knew that he beheld things as they once had been in this same place. For the grim years were removed from the face of Aragorn, and he seemed clothed in white, a young lord tall and fair; and he spoke words in the Elvish tongue to one whom Frodo could not see.  ‘Arwen vanimela, namarie!’ he said, and then he drew a breath, and returning out of his thought he looked at Frodo and smiled.

‘Here is the heart of Elvendom on earth,’ he said, ‘and here my heart dwells ever, unless there be a light beyond the dark roads that we still must tread, you and I. Come with me!’ And taking Frodo’s hand in his, he left the hill of Cerin Amroth and came there never again as living man.”

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 "'Farewell, Aragorn! Go to Minas Tirith and save my people! I have failed.'

'No!' said Aragorn, taking his hand and kissing his brow. 'You have conquered. Few have gained such a victory. Be at peace! Minas Tirith shall not fall!'”

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Aragorn was a tender warrior…a servant king.  How did Aragorn become such a man?   How does he end up reminding us so much of Jesus?

 I think he was able to balance the 4 pillars of manhood in his life.  The hard part is to get them in balance. 

C. S. Lewis wrote that “the disparate (contrasting or diverse) strands of manhood-- fierceness and gentleness--can find healthy synthesis in the person of the knight and in the code of chivalry. Here these competing impulses--normally found in different individuals--find their union.”

Were one of these two strands given full rein, the balance required for authentic manhood would be lost. Strength and power, without tenderness, forbearance and humility, give us a brute. Tenderness and compassion without masculine firmness and aggressiveness produce a male without the fire to lead or inspire others.

Aragorn had that balance.  Do you think it is a hard balance to get in life?  What do you think is the secret to getting it?  How did Jesus get it?  How will you get it?

When I read about great men like Aragorn I am challenged to be a real man too.  I bet you are too.

  

Aragorn,  Wounded Warrior

I talked to you in the last letter about Aragorn being a tender warrior.  I think one of the reasons he became a man like that is because of the way he faced and responded to the wound he had received in life. 

 Was Aragorn a wounded warrior?  Yes!  Then where was his wound?  Remember his great, great, great (who knows how many greats!) grandfather, Isildur—who cut the ring off of Sauron and then refused to destroy it in the fires of mount doom?  Isildur’s weakness hung over all his heirs—including Aragorn.  His birthright was the curse of his life.    At the request of his mother, his identity was kept secret, as she feared he would be slain like his father and grandfather if his true identity as the Heir of Isildur became known.  Many in Gondor felt that the Line of Isildur no longer had enough dignity to claim kingship over Gondor.

 That is a formidable wound!  Painful and hard to face.

 The young Estel (that was what the elves called Aragorn—he was raised by them) would have heard eyewitness accounts of the Army of the Last Alliance, the Battle of Dagorlad, the siege of Barad-dur, death of Gil-Galad, Elendil and Anarion and the defeat of Sauron at the hand of Isildur.

He would have heard first-hand of the utmost dismay and despair Elrond must have suffered when Isildur refused to cast the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom thus ridding Middle-earth of the dreadful presence of Sauron forever.  Hearing these stories first hand would made his wound even harder to bear.

 But a wound unfelt is a wound unhealed.  He must enter it—face it. 

Frederick Buechner said,

“The trouble with steeling yourself against the harshness of reality is that the same steel that secures your life against being destroyed secures your life also against being opened up and transformed.” 

When we see Aragorn’s tenderness, self-sacrifice and romance, we realize that he hasn’t “steeled himself up”.   His wound, which was given him right where his true strength was as an effort to take him out, was healing.  In the brokenness and healing that came from facing his wound he discovered who he really was and what he had to offer the world.

 What helped to heal his wound?

 Friendship—he came to know intimately all three bearers of the Elven rings of Power. Indeed, Elrond and Galadriel were members of his foster-family. 

Intimacy—to aid him in his travails, Gandalf the Grey, bearer of Narya, befriended him and strengthened his heart and his resolve to put right the troubles of Middle-earth.  And what of Arwen, the elf he loved?

Times of grieving the wound—it was not his fault and it did matter. 

Forgiveness—both toward Isildur and the men of Gondor.  

 In this process he learned who he really was—his true name.  That is why I feel the power of what Frodo saw as they were going down the river after they left Lothlorien: 

 "’Fear not!’ said a strange voice behind him. Frodo turned around and saw Strider, and yet not Strider; for the weatherworn Ranger was no longer there. In the stern sat Aragorn son of Arathorn, proud and erect, guiding the boat with skilful strokes; his hood was cast back, and his dark hair was blowing in the wind, a light was in his eyes: a king returning from exile to his own land.”

 What Robert Bly said could be said of Aragorn,  “Where a man’s wound is, that is where his genius will be.”  All men are wounded and it is only when we enter our wound that we discover our true glory.  Only in suffering this can we become powerful, honorable…noble. 

 I love Lord of the Rings!  It is so rich and full of the truth of life!   I know it will encourage you through the years to be the best you can be too.

 

Arwen and Aragorn

It is through sacrifice and loyalty that love is demonstrated in LotR.   Arwen and Aragorn give us a breathtaking example of these elements that Tolkien believes to be bonded so strongly to the human experience.

 To be beside Aragorn, Arwen not only gave up her family but chose the crushing death of a broken heart in exchange for her immortality!  But what would love have been to them if she had not?   Aragorn would have never been more than a distraction—an experiment to while away just a fraction of her spectacular lifespan.  It is not so much that she chose or “decided” to die as it was that ater Aragorn's death, Arwen was heart broken.  She lay down and died on Cerin Amroth in Lothlorien where her family once lived.  Her love for him was so great that she died of grief.  It was only the outcome of the decision she had made years before to love Aragorn.   She just responded the way that true love always does. 

 And Aragorn?  He remains loyal to Arwen despite the temptation of the capable, adoring Èowyn (who we haven’t read about yet), even though Arwen is so far away.  And how patient he is!  He falls in love with Arwen at 20 but she does not return his love until 29 years later when he has become a warrior and a leader.  His love never falters in 3 decades of waiting!!!

 Here Tolkien gives us an awesome picture of love—a picture consistently shown in the relationship between Arwen and Aragorn.  It is the reality of love as an ultimately triumphant force that must endure many trials in order to realize bliss.  Tolkien’s belief that love can stand against all odds is materialized in the hardships and suffering that Aragorn and Arwen experience. 

 We are attracted and driven to LotR because of the intriguing fantasy and adventure of it but I believe that it is this intrinsic theme of love that makes it so compelling and believable.

 There is no better way to help us understand the great truths of love and God and life than with a story.  Certainly Jesus proved that and JRR Tolkien was just an excellent student.  Don’t you think?

 

Boromir's Hope

 I am intrigued by Boromir’s struggle with the ring.  It was fear that Frodo struggled with.  He said to Boromir, “For I know what I should do, but I am afraid of doing it, Boromir: afraid.”   But it was not fear that Boromir struggled with like Frodo.  It was hope. 

 All, except Boromir trusted in the fools hope that destroying the Ring was the only way to thwart the evil at hand; even though the other paths seemed easier.  Boromir didn’t see their course as a hopeful one.

“If you wish to destroy the armed might of the Dark Lord, then it is folly to go without force into his domain.” he said.  He believed to try to destroy the ring was “walking openly into the arms of death.”  And speaking of Galadriel’s words, he expressed his final feeling.  She said, even now there is hope left. But I can't see it.”  

 So, did he die without hope?  What could convince him of hope in such a seemingly foolish course—so obviously fraught with danger?

 I believe what convinced him and even began to give him hope was his realization of the strange hold and power that the ring had on him causing him to treat Frodo the way he did when he tried to take the ring.  He said himself, “A madness took me!”  I think that had a very deep impact on Boromir.  Because of this I think Boromir began to believe and embrace this hope that his companions clung to.  

And remember? Gandolf said, "It was not in vain that the young hobbits came with us, if only for Boromir's sake.”  I think that tells us that Frodo did help him to understand the ring and embrace hope: 

Revelations of hope are all about us and so often we don’t see them.  To every soul, in time, the vision comes that hope may be renewed.  Remember the small white star that Sam saw above the darkness and evil? No, you can’t remember because we haven’t read yet about them going into Mordor to Mt. Doom.    But here is just a bit of it…“The beauty of it(the small white star)smote his heart as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing; there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”

 I guess I believe that even to Boromir the vision came and he not only came to see the truth but hope returned to him as well. 

 When light shines into your dark hour, even if it’s just a small star, will you let it lighten your heart?  

Have I said it before?  I love the Lord of the Rings!

 

Boromir's Struggle

I believe The Lord of the Rings is really a story about every one of us.  This story is read differently in every character in the books but each must struggle with the inherent weakness and evil within them, which is symbolized by the Ring of Power.  Each must take the responsibility to throw the Ring into the fires of Mt Doom for themselves.   Like Galadriel told Frodo, “…to bear a ring of power is to be alone.  This task was appointed to you.  And if you do not find a way….no one will. 

This is not just something that Frodo had to do but Boromir, Aragorn, Gandolf, Galadriel and every living being that crossed paths with the Ring had to struggle with.   Each one of them had to do it and each one of us must do it in our own lives or it will not be done.   It is not something others can do for you.  In this we are alone with God.

Boromir, who was courageous, noble and honorable in many ways, was not originally so.  He, like all of us, was weak but grew into the mighty man he became with the help of those who mentored him and the things he suffered.   But no mortal man has ever reached perfection or is ever beyond temptation.  If you look at history, it is when a man is strongest that he is the most vulnerable and weak.  Yeah, even Boromir still had to struggle to rid himself of the entanglement of the evil Ring.   But, unless Smeigel had intervened, even dear, innocent little Frodo wouldn’t have been able to overcome the enchantment of the Ring. 

We must find a way!  Look at the end of those who weren’t successful in doing this and look at the end of those, like Boromir, who were.   There is a BIG difference!

 Boromir's True Character

I think the part of the book and the movie where Boromir dies is so sad!  It is hard to read and watch.  It hangs dark over The Fellowship of the Rings.  But I believe that nothing happens in life accidentally.  What is life?  Why are we here?  Is it the length or the quality of a life that really matters.    Boromir was born to die as he died.  So are all who chose to live their lives valiantly and nobly...with integrity.  

 He made mistakes in life but his death wasn't payment for those mistakes...all men make mistakes.  His end was the end of many in this world who will dare to do what is right and fight for the good.  I must take a minute here and describe just what a great man Boromir was.  Is that ok?  Here we go:

    When hearing of the death of Boromir, Eomer (one of the kings of Rohan which is a country of men next to Gondor where Boromir lived) cries out in dismay:

"'Great harm is this death to Minas Tirith, and to us all. That was a worthy man! All spoke his praise. He came seldom to the Mark, for he was ever in the wars on the East-borders; but I have seen him. More like to the swift sons of Eorl than to the grave Men of Gondor he seemed to me, and likely to prove a great captain of his people when his time came.'" (TT, pg.425)

This gives us better insight into Boromir's good nature. It tells us he is a social person, and "all spoke his praise". This passage alone eliminates the misconception that Boromir was the group antagonist simply for making a human mistake by trying to take the Ring from Frodo. He repented this mistake, did he not? A further glance at Boromir’s personality can be seen on the eve of setting out on the quest from Rivendell:

"Boromir had a long sword, in fashion like Anduril but of less lineage, and he bore also a shield and his war-horn.

'Loud and clear it sounds in the valleys of the hills,' he said, 'and then let all the foes of Gondor flee!' Putting it to his lips he blew a blast, and the echoes leapt from rock to rock, and all that heard that voice in Rivendell sprang to their feet.

'Slow should you be to wind that horn again, Boromir,' said Elrond, 'until you stand once more on the borders of your land, and dire need is on you.'

'Maybe,' said Boromir. 'But always I have let my horn cry at setting forth, and though thereafter we may walk in the shadows, I will not go forth as a thief in the night.'" (FOTR, pg.272)

This wonderful passage shows us how the determined Boromir always wears his pride. Even to Elrond of Rivendell Boromir does not apologize for winding his horn, for it is a custom that he holds dear. His honesty also shines in the line “I will not go forth as a thief in the night.” No matter the danger of the journey ahead, Boromir stuck to his customs.

Throughout the journey, Boromir's skills prove useful and beneficial to the whole of the Fellowship. In fact, without Boromir's strength and courage the Fellowship may not have made it back down from the snowy Mount Caradhras in the early stages of the quest. He is the one who suggested bringing as much wood as they could up the mountain to make fire. Without Boromir’s help in this quest, half of the Hobbits most likely would have fallen, and the Fellowship would have suffered a great loss in the area of battle. The character of Boromir is up there with his brother Faramir and even with Aragorn in valor, strength, and sacrifice. He was an honorable warrior who cared tremendously for those he swore to protect. Minas Tirith itself would have fallen if not for the valiant efforts of Boromir prior to his leaving for Rivendell. He rode solitarily to Imladris to seek an answer to a dream and attend the Council of Elrond- a journey that took one hundred and ten long days. Boromir proved on many occasions that he was indeed a noble and knowledgeable man worthy of the utmost of remembrance. Without the help he provided to Gondor and to the quest, who knows what would have went astray.

 That was long but it tells you what kind of man Boromir really was, doesn’t it?  Evil hates good and every man who stands and defends a noble cause will be attacked viciously.  Laying down our lives for all that is right and honorable is a privelege that gives us a place along side the greatest men in earth's history and aligns us with God.  

 As horrible and sad as it is to watch, Boromir's death is a fitting end to a life that modeled this so courageously.  Don’t you think?

 

Just a Hobbit

I have to talk to you a bit about Frodo.  (And really, the rest of the hobbits too—especially Sam.)  There are many heroic characters—with skill and genius—in Lord of the Rings.   But it touches me deeply is that the ultimate hero of the story has none of these special advantages.  He breaks the conventional heroic mould.   He’s not a warrior, he’s not a wizard; he has no special rank, no special knowledge, no conspicuously heroic credentials at all.  He’s not even, like Harry Potter, secretly empowered.  The one supernatural advantage he has, that famous ring, is not really his and he must never use it or all will be lost.

No, Frodo is just a hobbit. The most inconsequential and insignificant of all the creatures that inhabit Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.  But, by a cruel and extraordinary stroke of fate, it is he, and he alone, who can save the world.

I think this theme of ordinary, unconventional heroes is at the heart of Tolkien’s classic work.  (It is also at the heart of Lewis’ Narnia. And isn’t it at the very heart of Christianity too?)  This is what makes Hobbits so enduringly attractive.  They are not tragic and death-defying warriors but they are frail and comic foot soldiers like us.  The Nine Walkers -- four hobbits, two men, an elf, a dwarf, and a wizard -- constitute not a company of the noble but of the ordinary.

They all learn, in a Christian way, what every mortal must confront: the solemn reality that we no sooner find our lives than we have to give them up.  Unlike Bilbo, Frodo his nephew is not called to find but to lose, indeed to destroy, his great gem: the Ring of Total Control.  It is not a task that he eagerly seeks but only reluctantly accepts.  Yet Frodo proves to be a fit bearer of the Ring.  Not only does he possess native powers of courage and resistance; he is also summoned by a mysterious Providential grace.  The destruction of the Ring is nothing less than Frodo's vocation (lifework).  And the epic's compelling interest lies in our discovery of how, just barely, Frodo remains faithful to his calling.  For in so doing, he does far more than save his beloved Shire from ruin.  Frodo learns -- and thus teaches -- what for Tolkien is the deepest of all Christian truths (and is for us too): how to surrender one's life, how to lose one's treasure, how to die, and thus how truly to live. 

 *wipes away tears*

Obviously I really resonate with the idea that the virtues of courage, integrity and self-sacrifice, when embraced by simple, ordinary people, can be so important.  

That is what really draws me to Frodo and gives him such charisma!  What a wonderful, powerful role Frodo has in Lord of the Rings!  Even if he is “just a hobbit”. 

 

Prayer

Hi again guys!  Do you believe that God answers our requests when we ask him for help?  As we have read The Fellowship of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, two things in these stories have really hit me hard.  These are so powerful!  The first one is the hobbits in a time of need:

 “Frodo fell forward over Merry and Merry’s face felt cold.  All at once back into his mind, from which it had first disappeared with the first coming of the fog, came the memory of the house down under the hill, and of Tom singing.  He remembered the rhyme that Tom had taught them.  In a small desperate voice he began:  Ho! Tom Bombadil! and with that name his voice seemed to grow strong:  it had a full and lively sound, and the dark chamber echoed as if to drum and trumpet.

         Ho! Tom Bombadil, Tom Bombadillo!

        By water, wood and hill, by the reed and willow,

        By fire, sun and moon, harken now and hear us!

        Come, Tom Bombadil, for our need is near us!

 There was a sudden deep silence in which Frodo could hear his heart beating.  After a long slow moment he heard plain, but far away……an answering voice singing……”

 The second is one of Narnia’s darkest hours:

“The stranger, who had been lying in a huddled heap on the deck, sat up and burst out into a horrible screaming laugh.  ‘Never get out!’ he yelled, ‘that’s it of course.  We shall never get out……no, no, we shall never get out!’  Lucy leant her head on the edge of the fighting top and whispered, ‘Aslan, Aslan, if ever you have loved us at all, send us help now.’

 ……’Look!’ cried Rynelf’s voice hoarsely from the bows.  There was a tiny speck of light ahead, and while they watched, a broad beam of light fell from it upon the ship……Lucy looked along the beam and presently saw something in it.  At first it looked like a cross, then it looked like an aeroplane, then it looked like a kite, and at last with a whirring of wings it was right overhead…”

 I love the way that JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis so dramatically portray the power of prayer!  It was a whiff of true delight I think for all of us.

 In direful times in our lives or just when we really need help, then is when our small, desperate voices should cry out in the darkness.  Help WILL come!  Sometimes it is not exactly what we expect but it is always what we really need.

 Kind of reminds me of part of one of Dustin’s favorite texts in Joel 2—“And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered…”

 Of course, remember Jesus and his disciples in the storm?  “…and they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord!  We are perishing!’……then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea…”

Don’t you love it?  Makes me want to go read about Tom Bombadil  and the Dawn Treader all over again!