J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series is one of the most revered series of all time. To me, personally, it gave so many heroes and Tolkien explored lots of themes in his creation in which LOTR is mainly about the inevitability of death and mortality. Lord of the Rings comes as an immense source of inspiration to its readers. Since its publish in 29th July 1954 the series has never failed to entertain and inspire its readers: the Hobbits, Dwarves, Elves and Men created the most beautiful and colorful world of Middle-earth that is still ablaze in the hearts of the fans.
Started in 1937 LOTR was written during World War II; and the experience of the war vastly influenced Tolkien’s writing. The other element influencing his writing was his own experience in World War I where he served as a soldier and saw immense destruction during. He was also influenced by the effects of industrialization where he saw most of England he loved fading away.
Sunday Times reviewed the books as saying, “The English-speaking world is divided into those who have read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and those who are going to read them.” The reviews in the beginning were not very kind; after the release of the first book in the series, Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien’s work was criticized blatantly. The books, however, maintained to make the place in its readers’ lives. I, as a reader, learnt a lot from Tolkien’s books which is discussed
Love is what makes this world worth living and J. R. R. Tolkien deals with this theme beautifully. The foundation of LOTR is based on Love, because the four Hobbit heroes rise from their peaceful living place out of Love.
Arwen, the daughter of Elrond, makes an eternal sacrifice for her Love for Aragorn when she chooses to become mortal knowing the decision is going to lead her to a bitter end.
“Frodo undertook his quest out of love, to save the world he knew from disaster,” an infamous quote by Tolkien presents the greatest form of love I came across in fiction. Frodo’s decision to go to Mordor was not inspired by any personal interest, and nor was it to prove something for himself; it rather came as a stimulation from love and welfare of the masses. Frodo’s love perfectly personifies a soldier’s love for his country.
Another example of love that moves me to the core is that of Sam’s love for his friend Frodo. The devotion and love Sam shows throughout the story is not just moving but utterly astonishing. The moment he decides to rescue Frodo from the tower of Cirith Ungol is the greatest act of courage that was solely inspired by his undying love for his master. Later in the parts, Sam’s ability to stick with Frodo truly unfolds his character as an epitome of “earthly” love.
Merry and Pippin, Frodo’s closest friends, not knowing what unknown dangers lay ahead for them, stubbornly wish to follow Frodo and Sam. When Frodo asks them to back out, Merry replies, “You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin- to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours- closer that you keep it to yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo.” The conversation between the Hobbits is an amazing evidence of the bond of love and friendship they share. This is not to mention the Hobbits turn out to be the game-changers in the War of the Ring. Such selflessness and love of these characters is worth learning from.
Lord of the Rings was a sacrificial quest. In the War of the Ring many lives were sacrificed for the wellbeing of the world. Be it Gandalf’s sacrifice in the Mines of Moria, or Boromir’s or that of Sam’s when he chooses to give up the last leftovers of water and food he had for Frodo; or Frodo’s decision to go to the quest that was meant to claim his life. The whole narrative is full of sacrificial characters in which Gandalf and Frodo come as prominent sacrificial figures, for these two characters sacrifice the whole essence of their being. In the Fellowship of the Ring Gandalf’s attempt to defeat Balrog costs him his life in the literal sense; while Frodo’s life is sacrificed symbolically.
However Tolkien does not write his heroes as “poor guys” so that I pity them, rather I learnt—sacrifice (thus suffering) hardens you. Gandalf, without letting his sacrifice or suffering become the reason of his weakness, returns as Gandalf the White—stronger than any warrior in ME. Aragorn’s words define his prowess as such:
“The Dark Lord has Nine. But we have One, mightier than they: the White Rider. He has passed through the fire and abyss, and they shall fear him. We will go where he leads.”
Without the self-sacrifice of Gandalf the Grey, there would never have been Gandalf the White.
The quest “claims” Frodo’s life in the symbolic sense when he finds it unable to go back to his previous life.
“But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: someone has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.”
The quote shows Frodo’s acceptance of his fate and self-sacrifice and also gives us an insight into our world’s accomplishments. That there has to be someone who makes a sacrifice for us, therefore we ought to be grateful to whatever we have. For we never know what we have had really belonged to someone else, and by being ungrateful for things we not only moderate our luxuries but also degrade the value of the sacrifice made by an unknown being.
Samwise’s sacrifice helps Frodo and him to reach their final destination, Cracks of Doom, the only place where the Ring could be destroyed. “Without Sam Frodo wouldn’t have got so far,” is an absolutely true quote from the book. Sam stuck with Frodo when he was supposed to be laughing, eating and living a peaceful life in the Shire. Sam’s sacrifice reminds me of a care-taker and patient where the caretaker sticks with the patient through everything and takes care of him/her.
Gildor, an elf, during his meeting with the hobbits says, “Courage if found in unlikely places.” The quote holds true for the hobbit heroes of the books because all of them show extraordinary courage all along.
Frodo stays back at the Barrow Downs where he faces an immense temptation to put in the Ring and save his own life first; but Frodo, instead of giving in to the temptation, fights and helps saving his companions from the Evil. Later his decision of taking the Ring to Mordor is the most courageous act in the entire series, for having been told what was at stake (i.e. not just life but his entire being included soul) his acceptance of burden shows proves him to be a truly courageous soul. Rest parts of the book unveil his courage his very aptly. The journey from the Shire to Mordor demonstrates his great amount of courage. Each step taken by Frodo towards Mordor wrote a new account of courage.
Another character showing courage in LOTR is Samwise who starts as an ordinary hobbit of the Shire but comes out as one of the most prominent characters who defeat the Dark Lord, Sauron. “Without Sam Frodo wouldn’t have got so far” is fully justifiable quote from The Two Towers. Sam’s courage is tested when he finds his master lying supposedly dead and himself alone in Shelob’s Lair. His battle with the giant spider, Shelob, puts him in the ‘league” of one of the bravest warriors in ME because Shelob had eaten Orcs far larger and greater than Sam while she loses the battle against this little hobbit. Again, when Sam decides to rescue Frodo from the clutches of the hideous Orcs in Cirith Ungol, he does not know how many Orcs are there in the tower. Not even this does stop him from going to face the ceaseless terror in CU.
Merry and Pippin stay back in the battle and present themselves in the service to the King. Pippin being the youngest hobbit and the member of the Fellowship is named “Fool of a Took”, does not take the things seriously until he faced with the final “deed” he is appointed to. The deed of Pippin’s is to save the life of Faramir, younger son of the Captain of the White City. His actions are purely inspired from love and affection for a friend the he too, like Sam, does not fear the Death when it comes to saving the life of a dear friend.
Merry is asked to stay behind as battlefield is no place for a little hobbit. Merry, however, does not admire the thought of being left behind when all of his fellow hobbits have been in the War. He decides to go and is aided by lady Eowyn. Like other hobbits, Merry, too, is proved the Hobbit hero of the Shire. He helps Eowyn kill the Witchking. This action of the duo not just glorifies lady of Rohan but also little Merry.
Tolkien through his Hobbits tells us the neither of them were great or Powerful from the beginning but due to their courage they become the key factors in the fall of Sauron. This is the case with us too. We do not need to be great or big to fight big battles, but courageous, determined and patient.
Tolkien in one of his letters says, “There are of course certain things and themes that move me specially. The inter-relation between the ’noble’ and ‘simple’ (or common or vulgar), for instance. The ennoblement of ignoble I find most moving.”
I remained in awe of the ennobled souls all my life without even realizing this fact until I read LOTR and Tolkien’s quote regarding ennoblement and his characters in the books. When the journey of the Ring starts, we have the people who one would say noble: Gandalf, Aragorn, Elrond, Boromir or any other elf or dwarf. All of them come across as noble souls. The hobbits, on the other hand, come as ignoble: unaware and rather careless about the outside world, its problems, corruption and evil. These hobbits grow out of their older selves and accept the tasks that are appointed to them by Authority (God that is).
Tolkien in particular talks about the ennoblement of Frodo who due to his journey “outgrows” the mortal world.
“I loved them [hobbits] myself, since I love the vulgar and simple as clearly as the noble, and nothing moves my heart (beyond all the passions and heartbreaks of the world) so much as ennoblement (From Ugly Duckling to Frodo).”
Frodo like his companions starts out as an ordinary and ignoble hobbit only learned in Elvish Lore more than them. Still the decision taken by him (of willingly taking the burden upon himself) in the Council of Elrond elevates him to the level of the greatest mortals in Middle-earth. His decision of self-sacrifice often makes him look like an epitome of Christ, for Christ too sacrificed his life for the salvation of the world.
Frodo’s final encounter with Saruman in the Shire proves his ennoblement and also his growth when he forgives the fallen Maia; and Saruman backs out, defeated, not by arms but the valor and divinity of this hobbit. Frodo’s ennoblement inspires Sam to be the hobbit he becomes at the end of their journey.
Samwise, as Tolkien in one of his letters said, means “Half-wise” or “Half-witted” is one of the most heroic and noble characters of the series. He grows out of his older self and also his name. By the end if the Return of the King he no more remains the “half-witted” Samwise- he participates in the battle against the ruffians and heals his Shire. Sam was a hobbit of the Fourth Age who takes lead and “serves” (rather than rules) as mayor for years. Sam being elected the Mayor 7 times is the proof of his ‘nobility’ of which I speak here.
Merry and Pippin too justify the theme of ennoblement in their journey. From the Shire to the War and back, their transition takes place. The two of them upon their return to their homeland take lead and play the most important role in the saving of the Shire. Later in their lives their achievements say it all where Pippin serves as the Thain and Merry as the Master of Brandy Hall. The two hobbits that once used to play like immature lads are transformed to the level of leading their people for the best.
These characters are ennobled due to their sacrifices, sufferings and most important their will to do the right thing. If they can change for the best why can’t we? The ennoblement is very obvious and yet it goes unnoticed by the careless world.