I spent part of my summer rereading The Lord of the Rings. It was a great adventure. I never tire of traveling through the Shire or Lothlorien or even Mordor and reading about the hobbits, wizards, elves, dwarves, and men. They are settings and characters that have sunk deep inside me.
My reading of the books this time was different than previous ones. I was considering how I might write a series of posts about some of the characters. People seemed to enjoy the character sketches of Alice, the Cheshire Cat, and other characters from Alice in Wonderland. A few readers even asked if I would write more character sketches. I haven’t been ignoring the request; I’ve simply been pondering it and waiting for the right characters to make an appearance. Literature, after all, is filled with a great many characters. Which ones should or could I address next?
The answer became obvious as I read The Lord of the Rings. I needed to talk about these characters. Again, though, which ones? Should I focus on my favorite characters, even though my favorites seem to change with each reading of the books? Should I focus on the lesser known characters? A fun choice, especially for someone like me who enjoys tackling the tougher and less-researched subjects of a work, but not necessarily relevant to the aims of this blog. Which characters then?
I finally decided upon a few characters, starting with the hobbits. Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin all have a hardiness of character that surprises wizards, men, elves, and dwarves alike. Frodo chooses to bear the ring knowing “that what he had to do, he had to do, if he could, and that whether Faramir or Aragorn or Elrond or Galadriel or Gandalf or anyone else ever knew about it was beside the purpose.” Sam is equally hardy in his devotion to Frodo: “He [Sam] knew all the arguments of despair and would not listen to them. His will was set, and only death would break it.” Both Merry and Pippin display a hardiness of character when they choose to serve the lords of Rohan and Gondor; they know exactly what they are risking, and they still refuse to rest in safety. The Warden of the Houses of Healing, after meeting Merry and Pippin, says, “They are a remarkable race…Very tough in the fibre, I deem.”
What is to be learned from such hardiness? It could be the fortitude to continue with a task, even if it’s a task that leads to battlefields or places like Mordor. It’s the devotion to something or someone outside oneself. It’s an emptying of and dying to self for the benefit of another person, even if that person never knows it. It’s the willingness to continue the story to its end, even when the end is uncertain.
Photo: Mags_cat (CC 2.0)