Finding Real in Fantasy

One of the reasons Tolkien and Lord of the Rings are so popular, I think, is because the words are so incredibly applicable to our lives. During the beginning of the pandemic a year ago, this quote popped up. You might remember how perfect it was for those months.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and 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 us.” -Tolkien

We see real life even in fantasy. I see that in Tolkien. And sometimes, in fictional characters, we find real people. The hobbits, for instance, are extremely similar to the culture I grew up in. Yet, let me insert a disclaimer here. I am not trying to stereotype everyone that is Amish, for as with any culture, the people within it vary greatly. But, I know a people, who, like hobbits, are quite fond of eating and who can become totally immersed in a conversation regarding genealogy. They are a people, especially the older generation, who struggle to express their feelings and who have a tendency to closet themselves from the world. Yet as Tolkien says, “You can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence others out.”  

There are also real world places that remind us of Middle-Earth. The lake minutes away from my apartment, at sunrise, tells this message:

…Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind: a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to glass and silver, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise. -Tolkien

Then there were the woods last autumn, so reminiscent of Rivendell. Elf-like, beautiful, and otherworldly. And of course, where there are mushrooms, there must also be hobbits. 

Of Galadriel’s gift to Frodo, the star-light, she says, “it will shine still brighter when night is about you. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.” And then when I read 2 Peter 1:19, the similarity is super cool, at least I find it so. “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place…” 

Forgive me for straying to the movies, but I love how Aragorn’s coronation is such a great illustration of the meek inheriting the earth (Matthew 5:5). Aragorn could have been the definition of meekness. Besides, listen to this from Psalm 37:11: “But the meek shall inherit the earth, And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” In the movie, Aragorn says, “Let us together rebuild this world, that we may share in the days of peace.” Love it! And I also love the irony of the people bowing to the hobbits in one of the next scenes. They were such an unimportant people in Middle-Earth, yet in the end, they had such honor, which I find to be another picture of meekness. Another disclaimer: I am not saying that The Lord of the Rings is an allegory. It is not. I have listened to enough episodes of The Prancing Pony Podcast to know that! However, I am trying to show how relatable Tolkien’s fantasy world is to the real world and to our individual lives. 

This living life through the lens of literature is probably a nerd thing. I’ll admit that. I wouldn’t change it, though. I think it adds a richness to life. Happy Tolkien Reading Day!  

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