Have you read The Lord of the Rings?
What is your take on the Tolkien trilogy?

Commentary by Greg Wright

The Lord of the Rings
The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I
"A Long Expected Party" thru "Flight to the Ford"

This page was created on December 04, 1999
This page was last updated on July 5, 2005

The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I
The Dark Tower
The tale of the War of the Rings takes place at the end of the Third Age of Middle-earth. In "The Shadow of the Past," Gandalf tells that "the Dark Tower had been rebuilt, it was said... There were wars and growing fears." This echoes Jesus' words to his disciples about signs of the end of the age: "There will be wars and rumors of wars..."

The Ring
Gandalf tells Frodo that "Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case, you also were meant to have it." This sense of Providence and Divine guidance is obvious in such biblical passages as Proverbs 19:21: "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."

"Why was I chosen?" Frodo asks. "You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess," Gandalf replies. In the Bible, Divine use of those without special merit (as in Isaiah 45) is designed to show how Divine strength allows mortal weakness to be overcome.

Later, Gildor the Elf agrees with Gandalf's assessment. "In this meeting there may be more than chance," he says, "but the purpose is not clear to me."

Gandalf also comments on Frodo's sensitivity to injustice in the world, particularly with respect to Gollum. "Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them?" he asks. Providence is at work, of course, even in the case of Gollum; he, too, is part of a grander Purpose.

Old Man Willow
As the hobbits begin their journey east, they fall under the enchantment of Old Man Willow and are rescued by Tom Bombadil, who possesses power over Nature. Who is Tom Bombadil? What power is he intended to represent? His name "is the only answer," he says. "Eldest, that's what I am."

Tom Bombadil
Tom says one of his purposes is to "teach the right road, and keep your feet from wandering." In biblical prophecy, this is a Divine function: "...your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, This is the way; walk in it." (Is. 30:21) The Bombadil episode was missing from Bakshi's film version of the novels, and will likely be missing from the forthcoming version, too. Why?

Narrative problems aside, it is difficult to deal with the character of Bombadil. Of his identity, Goldberry merely states, "He is." This directly mirrors God's description of himself to Moses in Exodus 3: "Tell them I Am sent you." How do you film God?

From the ashes a fire shall be woken / A light from the shadows will spring / Renewed shall be blade that was broken / The crownless again shall be king. Thus goes the prophetic verse belonging to Aragorn. In biblical prophecy, the fire, the light, the sword and the crown are the Messiah's.

Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin
When the hobbits set out from from Bree toward Weathertop with Strider as guide, Butterbur compensates Merry for the loss of his ponies. The total comes to thirty silver pennies! Thirty pieces of silver also figure into the story of Jesus' betrayal, as the price paid to the traitor Judas. Remember Bill Ferny, and his connection to events at Bree!

The Dark Riders
Glorfindel is sent out by Elrond to ride against the Ringwraiths. He chases off those guarding the West Road, his assignment chosen by lot. In biblical literature, the casting of lots (rolling of dice) is not seen as random chance, but a method of Divine guidance, as when the Disciples need to replace Judas.

At the Ford of the Bruinen
The Riders chase down Frodo at the Ford. As they wade their horses into the Bruinen, they are swept away in a mighty, magical flood. In the biblical story of Joshua (chapter 3), the waters of the Jordan are "stacked up" in a similar manner, allowing God's people to cross into the promised land before the river resumes flood stage. And remember the deal with Moses and the Red Sea?

So what gives?
Did this spiritual imagery find its way into The Lord of the Rings by design? Or was it simply part of Tolkien's cultural fabric, accidentally creeping into the text? And what about the magic and wizardry? Is this really healthy spirituality that Tolkien presents?

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