Friday, January 24, 2020

Allegories in Lord of the Rings

JRR Tolkien was once asked if The Lord of the Rings was an allegory of atomic power. He said that his master creation was “not an allegory of Atomic power, but of Power (exerted for Domination) ... I do not think that even Power or Domination is the real centre of my story…. The real theme for me is about something much more permanent and difficult: Death and Immortality.” Indeed, the themes and lessons expressed in The Lord of the Rings can teach us many valuable things about life and our purpose in it.

At the Council of Elrond, Frodo watches as the different factions of elves, men, and dwarves argue about what to do with The One Ring. Finally, almost instinctively, Frodo says, “I will take it. I will take the ring to Mordor.” He isn’t quite sure what perils lay ahead of him, how dangerous the journey would be, or what it would do to his very soul. But he jumped at the chance because he knew it was right. What an inspiring story for us to follow as we embark on our own individual journeys in life. Like Frodo, we can go and do the things we have to do. If we are meant to do them, the way will open up for us to do what we need to do.

What’s most incredible about Frodo’s choice is that Frodo himself was a small, insignificant being. Frodo was a Hobbit, a race of beings who were generally peaceful and liked the simple life, who preferred good food and a good story to danger and actual adventure. Hobbits lived in their comfort zone. But Frodo again encourages us to take heart. We may feel weak and small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But Galadriel notes that Hobbits “will shape the fortunes of all,” and later says, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

Experience has shown that not only do we have the power to make great changes in this world, but even moreso, some of the biggest changes in history happen by people that started out seemingly small and insignificant. It is the “weak things of the world” that “confound the things which are mighty.” Hobbits seem to be the most harmless creatures in Middle Earth, but it’s their choices and actions and journeys that affect the world more powerfully and dramatically than anybody else.

Our lives have great purpose. We cannot always see the purposes, and sometimes the purposes aren’t clear until after we have gone through our journeys. At one point at the beginning of his journey, Frodo says, “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” Gandalf wisely replies, “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.” Thank goodness for Tolkien's wonderful allegory of life, as told through the eyes of a small yet powerful Hobbit.

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