More Than Middle-Earth: 8 Things Lord of the Rings Taught Me
With the 60th Year Anniversary of the Publication of the Return of the King in October, and the release of the Battle of Five Armies (extended edition) in November. I have been spending some time revisiting one of my favorite stories. I still remember cuddling up to my Dad as he read to us from the Fellowship of the Ring and The Hobbit when we where little. I grew up in a house filled with tales of men, hobbits, and elves; and somewhere along the way they became a part of me. Reading, watching, and enjoying this story taught me lessons about love, sacrifice, and courage. So here are 8 lessons I learned from Lord of The Rings.
Before you read further please be aware that I am going to discuss the characters for the most part as they appear in the films by Peter Jackson. So for all the book fans out there. Yes, the books are wonderful and I love them! However for the purpose of this hub I am going to be mostly going off of the movies. Also if you haven't read the books or seen the movies please beware that there are a lot of spoilers in this hub. Read at your own risk! Thanks!
Benjamin Franklin once said. "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
I believe that a wonderful illustration of the truth of this quote is to be found in one of the most central characters of this story, the ring itself. In the story, the ring is absolute power itself. It is the creation of the dark Lord Sauron. Into it he poured his malice, his will, and most importantly his power. Whoever uses the ring is wielding that power.
The ring serves as a wonderful example of the effects that absolute power can have on the people who wield it. The character Smeagol (more commonly known as Gollum) is an example of this. He murdered his best friend, was driven into the wilds, and was ever tormented by his lust for the ring. He is a slave to it. And in the end that bondage costs him his life.
But Gollum isn't the only character effected by the ring. The man Boromir, Bilbo, (the hobbit who discovered the ring), the elven queen Galadriel, Gandalf, and even true-hearted Frodo Baggins are tempted by the power of the ring.
On Boromir and Galadriel the temptation is especially strong. But the difference between their temption and Gollum's or even Bilbo's is that their desire for the ring stems from a desire to do good. A desire to protect and defend. I think that here we find another important lesson. You can't use an evil power for good. To usurp your natural power (or authority), to wield absolute power, even in a desire to do good, can only result in evil and destruction. You can not wield on absolute and illegitimate power for good.
This story also taught me a lot about what it means to be truly loyal.
There are many examples of loyalty found in this story. But in my opinion the best is the loyalty that Sam has for Frodo. Sam faithfully encourages and helps Frodo all the way from the Shire to the fires of Mount Doom. Even after Frodo doubts and bereates him, Sam refuses to leave Frodo. At one point Sam even carries the ring for Frodo and is about to give it back to him. Which proves once and for all Sam's loyalty and simplicity of heart.
Throughout every trial Sam faithfully helps Frodo in his task to destroy the ring. He is honest, and true and is willing to carry Frodo (literally) if that is what he needs to do to help. The relationship of Frodo and Sam illustrates powerfully and beautifully the strength of true, unselfish friendship.
The Damage of Despair, the Power of Hope
Hope and despair is also a big theme in this story. After all the dark Lord Saroun and his evil forces march on Middle Earth. All around there is violence, fear and uncertainty. The stakes are high and often the odds are overwhelming. Because of this there are many characters who struggle with despair. Among the most notable in my mind are King Theoden of Rohan and Denethor, Steward of Gondor.
When we first meet Theoden he has been reduced to a driveling, old, puppet king by his evil adviser Grima Wormtongue. His blinders are removed and he once again becomes a strong King trying to defend his people. There are many times during his fight with Isinguard that he struggles with despair, but ultimatley he doesn't allow that despair to hinder him from fighting.
Denethor, the Steward of Gondor also founds himself grappling with despair while guiding the helm of a nation. For years the men of Gondor have fought off the dark forces of Mordor. But Denethor too begins to despair that they will ever truly be defeated. When he thinks that he has lost both of his sons he gives up hope completely. Unlike King Theoden, Denethor loses his heart to fight and gives up all hope. He abandons his duty and kills himself.
Just as there are many characters who struggle with despair there are also characters that display hope. One of the main characters of hope in the story is Aragorn, the rightful King of Gondor. Aragorn is said to 'give hope to men'. He never gives up fighting the forces of evil and unlike Denethor (and at times even Theoden) he encourages those around him to keep fighting. Even at the last when they think that all is lost, Aragorn still fights for the slight hope, 'the fool's hope' that Frodo will fulfill his quest to destroy the ring.
Sam and Arwen are also characters that embody hope in the story. Frodo also at times despairs that he will ever destroy the ring. But at those times it is Sam that encourages him to keep going.
Arwen also has hope. As an elf she is supposed to sail with her people to the Grey Havens 'or the undying lands'. But she chooses to stay because of her love for Aragorn and her hope that they will succeed in their fight against the darkness of Mordor.
The Affects of Apathy
In the Lord of the Rings there are several examples of people who struggle with apathy to the dangers of the dark lord and his forces. I think that the best one is found in the attitude of the Ents. The Ents are the shephard's of the forest and for the most part seem only to concern themselves with the business of the forest. Merry and Pippin, two hobbits that are members of the Fellowship of the Ring, meet Treebeard, who is sort of a leader of the Ents. The Ents call together a council to see if they should go to war against the forces of evil. The Ents struggle with the decision to go to war and eventually decide not to. That's when Merry asks them a very poignant and important question, "But your a part of this world aren't you?"
This is a question that we should all ponder. We should all be willing to fight to make the world a better place. We should all be willing to stand against what is wrong, even if we aren't directly being effected. For after all aren't we all a part of this world. Shouldn't we all be willing to defend what is right and fight was evil? Isn't the good in this world worth fight for?
Never Underestimate the 'Little People'
In this story there are many characters that are either overlooked, underestimated, or misinterpreted. In other words, they aren't the type that would be picked first for a volleyball team. But each one of them ends up becoming a pretty major player before the end.
There are so many characters that I feel fit the 'little people' categroy in this story. There are the Ents, Eowyn, of course the Hobbits, and even Gollum.
First off, we have the Ents, although they took some convincing, the forest that Saruman had abused and neglected ending up destroying Isenguard. Another charcter that was despised and overlooked, Grimma Worm Tongue, also ended up killing him.
Next we have Eowyn, the shield maiden of Rohan. Although Eowyn is told to stay back by her brother and uncle. Her desire to fight is so strong that she disguses herself as a man and sneaks into the battle. Boy, are we glad! Eowyn fights and defeats, the Witchking of Angmar, with a little help from Merry. In one of my favorite scenes the Witchking taunts Eowyn by saying that no man can kill him. She responds by flinging off her helmet and saying, "I am no Man!" She then stabs him through. So much for being weak!
Last but certianly not least are the Hobbits. Although they literally are the 'little guys' they each play a very big part in the fight to save middle earth. Frodo and Sam achieve the incredible task of destroying the ring of power. A thing which none of the more powerful characters would ever had the ability to do. Merry and Pippin, besides convincing the Ents to go to Isenguard, also play important roles in the battle for Minas Trith. Merry (as has already been mentioned) helps Eowyn to defeat the powerful WhichKing of Angmar. And Pipin, with a little help from Gandalf, saves Faramir's life when his crazy father tries to burn him! Even Gollum is an important piece of the puzzle. For without his 'help' Frodo and Sam would never have made it into Mordor. And in a way he is the one that actually ends up destroying the ring.
There Are Many Ways To Fight
While there are many characters that display this concept I would like to focus on one in particular, Lady Galadriel, the elven queen of Lothlorien. Galadriel is one of my favorite characters because she is always a lady;no matter what she 'remains Galadriel '. We never see Galadriel with a sword in her hand, going out to defeat the foes of middle earth. Instead she remains at home under the protection of her husband and kin. Her battle lies in supporting and encouraging the warriors of middle earth. It is she who takes in the fellowship after the disaster of Moria. It is she who cares for Gandalf after his battle with the Bull-Rog. And it is her light that guides Frodo through the darkness of Shelob's lair.
To me Galadriel serves as a shining example of what a Lady should be. A supporter and encourager; a light to others. Though she never leaves her forest, Lady Galadriel gives many of the most important warriors of middle earth a reason to keep fighting.
Another concept that I find illustrated well in these stories is the concept of true strength. By that I mean the attributes that make up a truly strong person. There are several characters that seem to be rather weak at first glance. The hobbits for instance probably wouldn't have very many combat points where we to put them into a video game. But that would not be an accurate measure of their strength, or anyone's for that matter. True strength does not came from the strength of a man's arm but his heart. Many characters display what I call a simple heart.
A heart that longs not for the power of the world, nor for strength or glory. But a heart that longs for the simple and good things in life. They desire peace and quiet. To have enough. They are content with the pleasures of a green garden and a good book. And this simplicity gives them strength.
Never Give Up!
This is a lesson that is illustrated in many ways in this story. Many times characters are tempted to give up, to turn back, or stop fighting. There are some characters like, Saruman or Denethor who do give up the fight. But there are many more characters who, though they have many chances to turn back, don't, they keep going.
One of those characters is Frodo Baggins. Many times during his long and difficult journey towards Mount Doom he is tempted to give up. Many times he questions why he is doing this and if he will be able to destroy the ring. At one point he is sure that he can go on no longer. He collopses in despair and exhaustion. But is picked up again by the memory of Galadriel. She encourages him to keep going and guides him through the darkness with her light. He and Sam never give up on there task to destroy the ring, no matter how hard it becomes. Even when they are so exhausted they can hardly move they keep crawling.
So in closing...
I never get tired of enjoying this story! The characters are rich with examples and inspiration that can help us in our struggle to serve God and further His kingdom. Is there any lessons you learned in reading a story? Which stories have spoken to you? I would love to hear about them in the comments!