1 February 2022
The sun is shining bright and strong, and the temperature is into double digits as I am writing this week’s Tolkien Tuesday post. It feels like spring is on its way, which is a pleasant, serendipitous thought, seeing as though the pagan festival of Imbolc falls today. To mark the occasion, I have my mandatory giant cup of tea close by (when isn’t it? 😉 ) and a candle burning, today’s scent choice being “English Rose”, made for me for Christmas by my talented candle-making sister. I think the fragrance is perfect for today’s reading, as we are still in the Shire, where the native Hobbits love gardens and growing things…
The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts
This week I concluded reading Chapter 2, Shadows of the Past.
One of my favourite quotes from this chapter is:
“A Ring of Power looks after itself, Frodo.”
(from The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, chapter 2)
It’s so interesting to think of an object as a character, with a personality, trying to determine its own fate (as much as it can). Yet, more than that, the notion that the level of control it will have over you depends on you as a person, and thus how susceptible you are to its corrupting influence, is fascinating. In this case, the element of evil isn’t necessarily “other” or “another”, it is, “How good are you?”, and, “How good can you be?”, which is an intriguing way to look at the age-old battle of good versus evil.
The juxtaposition between good and evil in this chapter is marvellous in its simplicity. We have the backdrop of the Shire. A gardener is going about his mundane work. The setting is that of a cosy room, in a cosy home, before a warm fire. Two friends are getting reacquainted after a passage of nine years. Then there is the innocence (and even ignorance) of the people of the area which, as Frodo describes them, as sometimes being, “too stupid and dull for words”. There is no evil here, and if there is ever any trouble, it is certainly of the low-key variety.
However, as we are sitting in this cosy, peaceful place, Gandalf is telling us of the terrible dangers beyond the Shire, of the very wicked deeds of Gollum, of the dark powers at work in faraway places, and Frodo is in possession of the one thing an evil dark lord has spent an age searching for…
Middle Earth Musings and Meditations
I came away from this chapter musing on Gandalf’s lessons, first in empathy, and then fallibility.
After the wizard has shared all he knows of Gollum’s tale with Frodo, he says:
“I think it is a sad story”… “and it might have happened to others…”
Here is a great wizard, bursting with wisdom and knowledge and power, but he tempers this with showing pity and mercy to those not as strong, as good, as wise, as powerful as himself, and pointing out, that it could quite easily have happened to someone else (reminding me of the quote often attributed to John Bradford, There but by the grace of God, go I). And though he knows many of the evil deeds committed by Gollum – after all, he has just regaled Frodo with his crimes – he refuses to judge him, to pass judgement on him, because:
“For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
To do so might have grave consequences in the future and for the future.
Then we have this wise, powerful wizard admitting that he can, and does, make mistakes, which almost seems at odds with him being a wizard. We expect a wizard to know everything, to be capable of averting disasters, to save the characters in a book when they are in danger…but Gandalf freely admits that he is capable of making wrong decisions, to act in error, to misplace his trust.
I’ve been trying to update my Tolkien and Middle Earth shelf on Goodreads, but I’m struggling with how I can add multiple editions of the same book to a shelf without writing a review or it automatically switching the edition I’ve already added. If anyone knows how to do this, please let me know in the comments. I would be grateful. Otherwise, I will have to think of a different way of recording my book collection. Sigh.
The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:
Samwise Gamgee is excited to be offered the chance to go with Frodo when it is time for him to leave the Shire. What would your reaction have been?
I would have been torn, I think. I would certainly have liked the idea of going. The thought of seeing new places, especially the geography of these places would have been a great incentive…mountains, rivers, barrows, forests, by now you all know how much I love landscapes, especially where they meet with folklore and mythology.
Yet, I do like being cosy, at home, with my books and blankets and plenty of tea. There is a part of me that is a very homely sort of person. I enjoy being in my own space, surrounded by my things. I enjoy, and perhaps even draw strength from, that which is familiar.
I like to go places, but I also like to come home. And therein, I think, we find my answer…