Tuesday, March 29, 2011

On Revisiting Middle Earth

I have recently been re-reading The Lord of the Rings (LoTR for short) and following along with a lecture series posted by "The Tolkien Professor"  - and I find myself ever thinking of the characters and events of the books in new ways. As a child - and even as a younger woman - the deeply Catholic worldview that permeates Middle Earth was not so apparent to me. The ideals of honor, chivalry, sacrifice, and sacrificial love were valued on their face - but their depths were not plumbed.

Last night, staying up til wee hours as Gandalf and Aragorn worked to heal Faramir, Eowyn and Merry I recalled very clearly the feelings of the nine year old reading the same passages years ago at my grandmother's house. I recalled how frustrating I found it that Gandalf the wizard wouldn't just "magic" the light back after the darkness of Mordor fell on Gondor. I remembered how tedious some of the battle sequences seemed - so much darkness and so many names to keep track of! I remember weeping when Faramir fell.  And I completely missed the subtext of Eowyn's romantic love for Aragorn! But then again... I was nine :) and I cared most that hobbits had fabulous and dangerous adventures and that elves were wonderous and beautiful and what a bleak world we have without both elves and hobbits. 

Now I read these same passages with adult eyes - and the continual humble sacrifices of Sam Gamgee as he strives to ever serve his beloved Master move me to tears. The efforts of Frodo to bring a tormented and corrupted Smeagol to redemption, knowing that Smeagol is a "possible future" for him, knowing he is slowly being corrupted under the weight of the Ring - the quiet drama of the patient Aragorn claiming his kingdom and his throne, and thereby claiming his love, Arwen, to wife - the loyalty and honor of Merry and Pippin as they mature from young hobbits who love adventure tales and foolish impulsive gestures (like someone I know??) to war-weary campaigners who risk all to keep an unknowing Shire safe from evil...this is what brings me back to the tale over and over again!