The theme for Tolkien Reading Day 2023 is Travel and Adventure. This is quite perfect, in light of a (fingers crossed) trip to France with two of my friends in the autumn. It might also be good for me to have some balance, as I am rather attached to the ideas of home, roots, and stability these days.
I think we all have a general idea of what it means to travel. Most of us, in our modern world of cars and plane tickets, are pretty familiar with the term. To travel is to go somewhere. What about adventure, though? The etymology of adventure seems to be derived from the Latin words advenire (“arrive”) and adventurus (“about to happen”).The dictionary definition is “an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.” So could we call an adventure the arrival at What is About to Happen? Maybe travel is the physical action, and adventure is the psychological experience. Can you travel without having an adventure? Perhaps, although I think that would be pathetic. Isn’t one of the benefits of travelling, the adventures that may happen?
Both travel and adventure are quite prominent in The Lord of the Rings. It’s not a mere flight to Paris, either. Theirs was an epic adventure, with much at stake, and much to lose.
Hobbits, at least ordinarily, were not filled with wanderlust. The Shire was home: comfortable, predictable, safe. Why leave? It makes sense to wander off when “home” is filled with arguments, dysfunction, and chaos; but why leave a place when you feel, quite appropriately, “at home?”
To tell the truth, he was very reluctant to start, now that it had come to the point: Bag End seemed a more desirable residence than it had for years, and he wanted to savour as much as he could of his last summer in the Shire.”-J.R.R. Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring: Book 1, Chapter 3
We see that Frodo was not eager to depart. And why should he be? The unknown stretched out in front of him. Besides, he knew a little bit about his mission, and it wasn’t going to be easy. But for better or for worse, Frodo had to leave. Need I say that there should be times in all our lives when we step away from the familiar? Not all the time, of course, and not always for an indefinite period of time, but Some Times. It is good for me; I gain confidence by choosing to do slightly scary things. “A leap of faith,” we call it, but it would also be accurate to describe each of those choices as “An Adventure.”
You could begin to describe your life in Sherlock Holmes style: “The Adventure of the Speckled Band…. The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle…. The Adventure of the Empty House….” Mine might look something like this: The Adventure of the Knife Throwing Contest…. The Adventures of Miss Susan and Grace….. The Adventure of the Mysterious Shattered Window…. The Adventure of Driving Right Through a Pothole…… The Adventure of Going Somewhere and Not Knowing If I Would Know Anybody There….. things like that.
So, if you are going to travel, and if you are going to have adventures, what should you take with you? Perhaps Gandalf could give some valuable insight.
But I don’t think you need go alone. Not if you know of anyone you can trust, and who would be willing to go by your side- and that you would be willing to take into unknown perils. But if you look for a companion, be careful in choosing!-J.R.R. Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring: Book 1, Chapter 2
What To Take On An Adventure
- Friends (think of someone like Samwise Gamgee)
- Food (enough for all the Hobbit Hunger)
- Stories and Songs
I asked my friend what to take on an adventure, and she said, quite simply: “Snacks.” She might just be a hobbit in disguise, as food is seemingly at the forefront of their minds. However, this is a valid thing to take, whether man or hobbit. The road is less daunting on a full stomach. So pack up some Lembas Bread, and maybe a few ‘taters. You’ll be wanting them later.
The third “item” on my list might seem a bit strange, but stories and songs were both quite important on the roads that the different members of the Fellowship took. We need them! And no, “need” is not too strong a word to use. In the BBC Lark Rise to Candleford series, character Emma Timmins asks this question: “But don’t we tell stories because they help us understand each other?” This is so true. Stories also help us to understand ourselves, and this world. Maybe that’s why I love Lord of the Rings so much! Songs can be another way to tell stories, to imprint Truth inside us, in our deepest parts.
And now, back to the practical. Sam would vote for packing “a bit of rope.” Gandalf carries miruvor, a special kind of drink used to lift the spirits and give strength. (Interesting tidbit: I was gifted a pumpkin spice latte squishmallow, and I call him Miruvor. ) Boromir has his horn, Gimli: his axe, Legolas: his bow and arrows. Aragorn wears a brooch, “a token of hope,” Galadriel says when she gives it to him. And indeed, it is, for it belonged to Arwen, the elf who captured his heart. Frodo has Bilbo’s sword (Sting), the Light of Earendil, and the One Ring (but we most certainly do not want that!).
Should I include these things when I pack for France? It might be a bit overkill to do so, as I don’t believe the French keep Orcs hidden away in the countryside, but there may be principles I could extract from the Fellowship’s luggage. Let’s add the following to my list of What To Take On An Adventure.
- A Drink To Revive Ourselves (e.g. coffee, tea, water)
- A Token From My Significant Other (except I don’t have a significant other)
- Toothbrush and Floss (it might work as rope in a pinch)
- A Form of Communication (a phone might serve better than a horn in Paris)
- Money (the weapon we will need to survive)
Happy Tolkien Reading Day, and Happy Travels to you!