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Lord of the Rings and True Strength

August 25, 2012

Last night, Matt and I watched The Fellowship of the Ring again for the first time in several years, and the first time together 🙂 . What a great movie!  (What a blessing it is to watch a three hour movie that is worth every minute).

I deeply appreciate the themes which Tolkien has woven into this story.  There are of course several, but the one I appreciate the most right now is Resisting the Seductive Power of Evil.  Over and over again in Fellowship, the characters discuss and struggle with the seductive power of the ring.  Bilbo is hardly able to give it up at the beginning, leaving it to his nephew Frodo.  Throughout the story, Frodo demonstrates brave willingness to bear the the burden of the ring to Mordor. Yet,  he wishes he did not have to, and offers the responsibility to others he trusts several times- Gandalf, Aragorn, and Galadriel.  These three are each tempted by the power of the ring, but decline to take it precisely because they know they would be tempted to use it, not destroy it.  This sets them apart in character from others in the story.

In contrast to them, several other characters are hardly able or not able at all to resist the ring’s power.  Bilbo has already been mentioned, but before him were Isildor and Gollum.  Within the fellowship, Boromir strongly desires to take the ring, though he repents of it in the end.

Again and again, one’s response to the ring is portrayed as a sign of strength or weakness.  The elf Elrond declares that men are weak as he reflects on the opportunity Isildor had to destroy the ring at Mount Doom.  Isildor’s heir, Aragorn, tells Arwen of how he fears the weakness of his ancestor, for “the same blood runs in [his] veins.” Yet men are not the only ones that have to fight to resist ring-  Gandalf shudders at the temptation to take the ring.  Galadriel, after declining the ring, sighs with relief “I have passed the test.” Boromir’s weakness stands out as he attacks Frodo in an effort to steal the ring.  In contrast, Aragorn’s strength shows when he declines to take the burden of the ring from Frodo.  He does this because he perceives that Frodo, though a small, physically weak half-ling,  is stronger in spirit than them all.  Frodo himself is tempted by the ring’s power (as seen in The Return of the King at the Mount Doom scene), but compared to all other candidates, Frodo is the strongest.

This morning I read the following in The Valley of Vision, a book of Puritan prayers:

“O God of the highest heaven,

Occupy the throne of my heart,

Take full possession and reign supreme,

Lay low every rebel lust,

Let no vile passion resist thy holy war;

Manifest they mighty power,

And make me thine forever. “

Tolkien’s ring is a metaphor for the evil, the rebel lust, the vile passion that tempts you and me.  Why does this poet say “occupy the throne of my heart?”  Because he understands that the root of evil is placing other things on the throne of the heart, a throne that should belong to God.  Each of us is in a holy war- a war of God against idols of our hearts.  Are we strong, like Frodo, to resist the power of idolatry, sin, and evil, or are we weak like Boromir?  Are we strong enough to surrender to God and fight the idols that tempt us, or are we weak, giving into the desire for things other than God?  Are we so weak that we have to do things our own way in crisis, or are we strong enough to let go, trust God, and do what is right in any circumstance?

Strong people like Frodo, Aragorn, Gandalf, and Galadriel do not just exist in stories- they are among us.  When I read this article a few days ago about a woman who was adopted after being born out of incest, I was struck and encouraged by this woman’s bravery and courage.

Ultimately, Jesus Christ is the best example of strength that we can look to in the face of temptation…for he too was tempted as we are.

 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrew 4:15-16

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 16, 2012 3:37 am

    This trilogy provides a pleasant contrast to Wagner’s Ring Cycle; even though Tolkien’s story shares many aspects of the story, the heroes are SO different. Resistance to temptation is nonexistent and the qualifications for being a hero are recklessness and, well, pigheadedness.

    Though I won’t deny the operas are really cool.

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