If you’re a regular visitor to this site and have already read my two posts Set on a Pilgimage and A Delayed Departure you’ll already be aware that I’m a big fan of Tolkien’s classic novel, ‘The Lord of the Rings‘. You’ll know, too, that I regularly follow in the footsteps of Frodo and his fellowship, and have done for many years, each journey beginning when Autumn’s leaves begin to fall.
The epic story is a heart-warming tale of a small band’s struggle against formidable odds; a tale in which their successful endeavours result in good vanquishing evil.
It is also one laced with many fine examples of sound advice and encouragement that are both timeless and immediate.
Whilst The Lord of the Rings may be considered to be a children’s fantasy adventure, Tolkien – a veteran of The Great War’s bloody trenches – drew on his first-hand knowledge of the horrors and hardship of war, enabling him to lace the story with his own discernment and prudent advice for the young, fearful hobbits.
In one classic scene, portrayed in both the book and film version, the hobbit Frodo is feeling the near-overwhelming burden of the ring and, in a self-pitying ‘why me’ moment, says to Gandalf:
‘I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.’
In his reply, Gandalf neither dismissed Frodo’s words nor did he allow them to take root in the hobbit’s mind. Rather, he pointed out that, in the midst of despair there is hope. Tolkien – and by extension, Gandalf – knew that acceptance of a situation brings peace of mind, from which may come strength, perseverance and an unbreakable will to win, whatever the odds may be.
This was his reply:
‘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. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.’
Tolkien may have said those same words to himself as he endured the carnage of the Western Front, burdened by all that he witnessed and experienced. But, out of those atrocities was born a classic piece of English literature which may otherwise have remained unwritten. Out of hardship an opportunity emerged. Frodo’s burden was no less than an opportunity for the hobbit to excel and achieve greatness.
Like Frodo, we may not be able to change an unsavoury situation, but we can influence our approach to it. Just as that young hobbit, we may have our own ‘why me’ moments and wish nothing more than to cry ‘enough!’ and surrender to whatever hardship we may be experiencing.
Or, we may accept that our own burden is one that we were meant to endure. For in the words of the wizard, that is an encouraging thought.