North Western Winds

Contemplating it all from the great Pacific Northwest

Frodo’s burden

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An excerpt from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings:

[Frodo] said nothing, indeed he hardly spoke at all; he did not complain, but walked like one who carries a load, the weight of which is ever increasing; and he dragged along, slower and slower, so that Sam had often to beg Gollum to wait and not to leave their master behind.

In fact with every step towards the gates of Mordor Frodo felt the Ring on its chain about his neck grow more burdensome. He was now beginning to feel it as an actual weight dragging him earthwards. But far more was he troubled by the Eye: so he called it to himself. It was that more than the drag of the Ring that made him cower and stoop as he walked. The Eye: that horrible growing sense of a hostile will that strove with great power to pierce all shadows of cloud, and earth, and flesh, and to see you: to pin you under its deadly gaze, naked, immovable. So thin, so frail and thin, the veils were become that still warded it off. Frodo knew just where the present habitation and heart of that will now was: as certain as a man can tell the direction of the sun with his eyes shut. He was facing it, and its potency beat upon his brow.

There have been many interpretations of the Lord of the Rings over the years, ranging from the interesting to the inane. For the most part, Tolkien offered little help to his readers and critics. But in 1953, four years after the work was written, and only eight months before the first edition appeared, he did write the following to Father Murray, who was a family friend:

The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously at first, but consciously in the revision… [I am] grateful for having been brought up (since I was eight) in a faith that has nourished me and taught me all the little that I know.

Joseph Pearce, in Tolkien: Man and Myth, compares the above passage from The Lord of the Rings to Christ carrying the cross to Calvary and this is a reading that the letter to Murray supports. Other obvious evidence of Catholicity in The Lord of the Rings include Lembas bread as eucharististic bread, and Galadriel as a Marian character. Consider too how much the story is dependent on self sacrifice: Gandalf, Aaragorn, Frodo and Sam all sacrifice themselves for others and are reborn as a result. Boromir also repents and sacrifices himself for others. The race of men are frequently spoken of as weak and broken, unlike the elves.

Critic Charles Moseley describes the metaphysics of Tolkien’s created world thus:

Neither propaganda nor allegory, at its root lies the Christian model of a world loved into being by a Creator, whose creatures have the free will to turn away from the harmony of that love to seek their own will and desires, rather than seeking to give themselves in love to others. This world is one of cause and consequence, where everything matters, however seemingly insignificant: action plucks on action, and the end of this self love is the reduction of freedom, the imprisonment of the self, and the inability to give or receive the love that is the only thing desired…

I think Tolkien’s message is clearly visible in the recent film trilogy, despite the indifference of many major players like Peter Jackson, and even the outright hostility of some actors, such as Viggo Mortensen.

I think the film’s tremendous success is due to the fact that the metaphysics Moseley describes were not purged from it. It is all too easy to think of films with good casts and big budgets that have been empty shells and box office bombs. God in Tolkien’s fantasy world has not yet revealed himself and that gives the story its shallow pagan appearance. It is time that Tolkien’s sources were recognized, however. This story and, by extention, this film, are an excellent means of demonstrating the timeless appeal of truth.


Written by Curt

October 23, 2004 at 9:26 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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