Today is Frodo and Bilbo’s birthday, so obviously I need to do a post about them/Middle-earth, right?
I was nine when my mom read the story of Frodo to me, and I was ten when I saw the movies.
Perhaps that was a little young, but I was far from being creeped out. I was enchanted with this New World, this person called Frodo, the wise man Gandalf, and the man Aragorn, a king in disguise. I mean, what could be cooler than that?
When I was thirteen, I read The Lord of the Rings for myself. As I closed the book on the final sentence, I felt a deep sense of loss. I found Middle-earth, and now I’d left it, and nothing would ever be the same. I could never read it again with that sense of unknown ahead (I didn’t count that reading when I was eight because it was read to me, I didn’t discover it on my own).
I’ve read The Lord of the Rings three times since then, and I’m on my fifth read-through now. And while the story is one where I know the ending, it’s one I keep coming back to, because I can’t help myself, like you can’t but help drink water because you’re thirsty.
Because within those pages I found more than just Gandalf’s words of wisdom and the healing hands of Aragorn.
I found, simply, hope.
The Merriam Webster Dictionary says of hope:
Definition of hope
1 archaic : TRUST, RELIANCE
2a : desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment came in hopes of seeing you also : expectation of fulfillment or success no hope of a cure when they were young and full of hope
b : someone or something on which hopes are centered our only hope for victory
c : something desired or hoped (see HOPE ENTRY 1) for great hopes for the coming year
\ ˈhōp \
Definition of hope
1 : to cherish a desire with anticipation : to want something to happen or be true hopes for a promotion hoping for the best I hope so.
2 archaic : TRUST
1 : to desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment
2 : to expect with confidence : TRUST
hope against hope
: to hope without any basis for expecting fulfillment
Simply put, that’s all that small counsel tucked away in Rivendell had, was hope. Hope that Frodo could make it to Mordor to destroy the One Ring. Hope that “even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”
Stories are more than tales that are spun to keep us entertained. Stories have been told over flickering fires and written on cave walls since the dawn of time, because something inside of us needs, craves a story that will bring hope. That will bring meaning and tell us what life is all about.
The Lord of the Rings is a story that’s kept me grounded for years. It’s something that I’ve been able to fall back on when nothing else has been stable. Within its pages I’ve found a Higher Power workingthrough to reach me, show me hope, bring healing, and shine light on the darkness of this world.
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
Re-reading it is never the same; never can I reclaim that magic, that newness of discovering a new world, of exploring rocky fissures, seeing Lothlórien through Frodo’s eyes, or simply being surprised by the simple beauty of a star. But when I’m thirsty again for story, to find a way to escape, I can crack open The Lord of the Rings, and say
Well, I’m back.
If you’ve never read Tolkien’s masterpiece, there’s no day like today to get started. I encourage you to read it – and walk with Frodo on his quest through Middle-earth.
“Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: 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.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring