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LORD OF THE RINGS
The Fellowship of the Ring
By Richard Gunther
Tolkien, as far as I can discover, always denied that the Rings trilogy was allegorical. He said it was a story, (originally planned as just one book,) which he felt was tan British answer to European myths and folk legends. In the foreword to the second edition he wrote: “As for any inner meaning or “message” it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical.” He began it without a comprehensive predesigned plan, and wrote, as if were, as one trailing behind the action, and reporting what he saw. Once the threads of the story were started they went where they would until the third section or book was begun, in which the many loose threads were woven together. The result was a story which formed part of one of the greatest fictitious histories ever told.
But though Tolkien rejected the idea that his book was allegorical, it is easy to find many characters and events within his story which lend themselves readily to interpretation. An allegory, which describes one subject under the guise of another, was designed deliberately by Tolkien's friend Lewis, in his seven-book series about the Chronicles of Narnia. Aslan is a picture of Jesus, the queen Satan, the silver chair demonic possession, the stone table the cross, the death of Aslan the crucifixion, and the deeper magic the power of the resurrection. Lewis openly admitted that he was trying to smuggle Christianity into the readers, but Tolkien denied any such plan.
There are many Christians who enthusiastically oppose the Rings story. They argue intelligently against its dark, evil imagery, its use of the occult, and its failure to clearly present the gospel. In these points I agree with them, but I also notice how Jesus used many non-spiritual things as tools to teach spiritual (a door, a vine, a sheep, a candle, etc), and Paul on Mars hill quoted three times from pagan poets as he delivered his gospel message. Lewis people his land of Narnia with minotaurs, centaurs, a witch, magic spells, giants and so on, but in his hands these things were sanctified and used for the Master. Tolkien, a strong Catholic and raised by nuns was very familiar with most of the Bible themes, so it should not surprise us to find many of these Biblical images and ideas reflected in his work. Certainly the grand theme of good triumphing over evil is always present through the entire story.
The following is not a defense of Tolkien, nor is it intended to be a 'Christianizing' of the Rings story. I think the whole story is dark, largely secular and forbidding, with very little in it which I would call 'Christian', but it is still possible, with careful selection, to find various events and characters which can be turned into an allegories of Biblical Christianity. Basically for my own enjoyment and perhaps yours, I offer the following a general path between of the original story and the movie by Peter Jackson, (two versions which meet well at times and diverge from each other drastically at other times ), with some special interpretations of my own which have some Biblical bearing on the overall theme.
The Fellowship of the Ring
The movie begins with Galadriel speaking. She describes the origin of the “one ring to rule them all” about 4000 years before we enter the scene. At that time a wizard called Sauron deceived the rulers of the elves (3 rings), the dwarves (7 rings) and nine human kings into accepting a ring each, which gave them great power as leaders. Unfortunately each of these rings was tainted with Sauron's evil magic, and one by one the recipients either hid or yielded to evil and became servants of Sauron. The nine human kings were changed into “black riders”, or “Ringwraiths”, who had no thought but to serve their evil master.
The concept of a “ring wraith” is, in some ways, found in the Nazi Party and other organizations which act as arms to some evil ruler. In Germany's case, ordinary, everyday Germans were changed, by yielding their allegiance, into Nazis, and as such they had no thought but to serve Hitler. Adolf cloned himself. His “ring-wraiths” were his puppets, his identical copies, acting and speaking for him, as if he himself was acting and speaking. Perhaps Tolkien drew on his own WWII experiences as he described these black riders? These horrible characters portray the mindless behavior of those who surrender to Satan's power, becoming his ghastly servants, without mercy, without conscience, just like him, without even an awareness of the horror of their deeds.
Galadriel tells us how Sauron entered the battle and almost gained the victory when, almost by accident, a lucky swipe of a sword removed his hand. The Ring was no longer attached to his body (though it was still on his finger until that dissolved), and Sauron vanished. His spirit however remained, and awaited a time when it would be reuinited with the Ring. The Ring was taken by the king, but he was killed, and it dropped to the bottom of a river and lay there for 3500 years until a hobbit called Smeagol found it. The evil power of the Ring caused Smeagol to kill his fishing companion, who actually found it first, and then depart to the wilderness where, for hundreds of years he wandered in misery. Galadriel tells us that the Ring had a will of its own, and soon it departed Smeagol (Gollum) and found its way to Bilbo Baggins, another Hobbit, who also started to come under its influence.
In Gollum was have a picture of someone who allows sin to take over his life. Instead of joy and happiness, he sad, lonely and isolated. His conscience weighs him down. He wants to throw the evil away, but he loves it too much. The evil gains ascendancy and darkness fills his heart. For as long as he remains unrepentant the effects of sin work, and gradually the sinner becomes a ghoulish creature, spiritually gutted, obsessed, and a captive to Satan.
The first movie begins (after Galadriel's introduction) with Gandalf the Grey, a powerful wizard, riding into the Shire to join the celebrations of Bilbo's one hundred and eleventh birthday. The Shire is a happy place, with large-footed and short-stature hobbits here and there. They are a peaceful race, self-sufficient and agrarian. But Bilbo is unlike them all in that the Ring has slowed Bilbo's aging process and he looks 60 years younger than he ought. He says to Gandalf that he feels like butter spread too thinly on bread. He is tired, and quietly obsessed by the Ring. Inwardly he is miserable, worn out, enfeebled, though outwardly he looks healthy and robust. This is a picture of the effects of sin in its early stages. Many people, while outwardly happy, are inwardly troubled, as they harbour sin. For many tears these people hide their inner selves, and to all their friends they seem happy and balanced, but it is all a pretense.
Bilbo gives a speech at his birthday and announces that he is going to leave the Shire, and as a trick he puts the Ring on his finger and disappears. He runs to his house and is about to leave when Gandalf stops him and demands to see the Ring. Reluctantly Bilbo hands it over and the wizard realizes there is more to this than he at first thought, especially when Bilbo says the Ring is “precious” to him. He persuades Bilbo to leave the Ring and gives it to Frodo to mind. Bilbo sets off for Rivendell, home of the elves, then Gandalf rides to Minas Tirith city and searches the ancient books, to discover that the king who took the ring from Sauron some 4000 years previously also called the Ring “precious”. Gandalf rides back to the Shire and tests the Ring with fire. The flames cause Sauron's original words to appear on the Ring and Gandalf realizes that the Ring must never return to Sauron. This is when Frodo's adventure begins.
There are two important things here, the Ring itself and Gandalf.
The Ring seems to appear in two aspects. On the one hand it has the power to corrupt, so in that sense it is the Ring itself which is evil. We can blame the Ring for everything. But on the other hand the possessors of the Ring are worked on by the Ring so as to display the evil already in them. So the wearer of the Ring is evil and the Ring itself is not to blame. Or it is both? In this clever design we have an allegory of how Satan works. Satan himself is evil, so we can blame him for our troubles, but God says all people are inherently sinners, so we must blame ourselves. Or both. We become slaves to Satan only to the degree that we yield to his temptations. If we refused him at every point, he would be powerless. But even when we resist him we are still by nature sinners. The paradox of the Ring.
“The whole world lies in wickedness” 1 John 5;19
“The great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, who deceives the whole world . . .” Rev.12:9
“That they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil who are taken captive by him at his will” 2 Tim.2:26.
Gandalf reminds us of the ideal wise man. He is a combination of warmth and shelter as a father figure, of statesmanlike authority, of courage and high-bearing, yet he is also humble and mindful of the weakness of others. He has great magical powers when he needs them yet he is also playful, making fireworks for children. He can give grave counsel in the worst of times, but he can also dance at a birthday and join with the festivities, merriment and fun. For many, including Tolkien too perhaps, Gandalf is the ideal father. He stands throughout the whole story as a model of near-perfection, nearly always knowing, nearly always understanding. The great father figure, which may remind us of the God of the Bible, our heavenly Father.
Gandalf tests the Ring by casting in into a fire. The effect of the flames seems to revive the magic in the Ring and ancient Elvish lettering appears along its sides 'One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.” The fact that fire exposes the rhyme is a picture of hidden evil being exposed by truth.Some of Satan's deceptions are easy to unmask, while others are subtle, and cleverly hidden. His lies run deep. Only when the fire of God's Word is applied can these lies be exposed for what they are.
Jesus Himself is described this way in the Bible: “His eyes were as a flame of fire.” Revelation 19:12 No man can stand before Jesus and keep anything hidden from his sight.
“For our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:29
The inscription on the Ring speaks of ruling, finding, and binding in darkness. These are attributes of Satan, who will not rest until he brings into his domination all that God has created. He has a throne, the dark tower, and a kingdom Mordor, and a network of willing slaves who do his bidding. His armies, fallen angels, demons, and enslaved humans, auks, do his bidding in all parts of the globe.
Jesus described Satan as a “thief”. “The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy; I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10
The Ring has attributes similar to its master. From the time it was forged, and infused with Sauron's evil, it created trouble. The mortal king who wore it after Sauron's hand was cut off was Isildur, and he was killed by Orc arrows. Smeagol found it after that and he murdered his fishing companion. The Ring drove Smeagol into seclusion and isolation, turning him into a tormented creature, eaten up with desire for and hate of the Ring. Bilbo was the next carrier of the Ring and he gradually became 'stretched thin”. Frodo began to change along similar lines in the short few years he possessed it. Anyone who follows Satan will gain in some ways and lose in others. He offers much, but while people enjoy various gifts from him, he steals their souls.
Gandalf realizes that Sauron (the disembodied wizard) is now calling for his Ring. About this time (I suppose) Gollum has been tortured into telling Sauron that the Ring is in the possession of Bilbo Baggins of the Shire. As a result of this information, or the fact that Bilbo placed the Ring on his finger, an act which alerts Sauron as to its whereabouts, Sauron sends the nine “black riders” to find it. Gandalf realizes time is short so he sends Frodo, and Samwize Gamgee out of the Shire together with the Ring. He tells them to meet him at the Prancing Pony Inn in a town quite a distance from the Shire, then he sets off to see another wizard called Saruman and discuss what has happened.
When Frodo discovers how dangerous the Ring is, he tries to give it to Gandalf. “No!” cried Gandalf, springing to his feet. “With that power I should have power too great and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly.” he goes on to say “Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself.”
This reminds us of a time when the true Dark Lord offered Jesus great power:
“And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, showed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
And the devil said to him, All this power will I give to You, and the glory of them: for that is delivered to me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.” Luke 4:5,6
There is a dangerous undercurrent to the devil's words, in that they imply that he has in his possession presently, and since the world began to the end of the age (but not necessarily under his control) all the Gentile kingdoms, or nations. Insofar as a nation refuses to obey the true God, it becomes a servant of the Dark Lord.
It is remarkable how much of the book does not find its portrayal in the movie. The great dramatic moment on screen of Frodo leaping to the ferry to escape the black rider is lost completely in the book, which covers instead, with many pages, a long, arduous land journey, in which Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, daughter of the river both feature, along with many other pages of conversation, and the capture of a hobbit by a tree and many strange dreams. I prefer the film version here, but the book seems more realistic, because life itself never runs in a straight line, and events seldom occur as neatly and clearly as a script might tell. Our journey through life is, for most of us anyway, always a series of repetitions, a day after day of familiarity, with some variations and the occasional unexpected episodes along the way.
The four hobbits, (Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee, Pippin Took or Pip, and Merry Brandybuck, or Merry) having left the Shire far behind them after many long days and nights of walking and some riding, finally arrive at the town of Bree, where the 'Prancing Pony' Inn promises comfort and food. There they meet the Ranger, or Strider, or Aragorn. A letter from Gandalf, held safe by the landlord Butterbur, which should have been delivered to Frodo at the Shire, is now passed to Frodo at the Inn, and it verifies the trustworthiness of Aragorn. He says: “I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, and if by life or death I can save you, I will.”
”As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refreshes the soul of his masters.” Proverbs 25:13
“Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.” Philippians 2:25
The hobbits and Strider journey for many miles until they stay the night in the ruins of an ancient building (Weathertop). Five black riders close in on them and Strider says: “Sauron can put fire to his evil uses, as he can all things, but these Riders do not love it, and fear those who wield it. Fire is our friend in the wilderness.” and “Keep close to the fire, with your faces outward!”
In a similar way, the fire of God's Word is the strength of the true Christian, yet Satan knows how to twist and misquote it to his own purposes. All cults base their teachings on twisted scripture, and all religions teach a twisted form of Christian truth. But the Christian who knows the Word has a mighty weapon against which no cult or religion can prevail.
Despite a valiant effort to fight the Black Riders Frodo is stabbed in his shoulder. The wound proves to be poisoned and Frodo suffers for many days, (in the book at least) until Glorfindel, an elf-lord from Rivendell comes to meet them. He leads them for many more miles until nine Black Riders appear. Frodo escapes at full gallop on a white horse until he reaches a crossing. He shouts defiance at the Riders and suddenly the stream becomes a wild flood, sweeping the Riders away. “The black horses were filled with madness, and leaping forward in terror they bore their riders into the rushing flood. Their piercing cries were drowned in the roaring of the river as it carried them away.”
“Pharaoh’s chariots and his host has he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea.” Exodus 15:4
Throughout the Bible God displays His mastery of water. The Earth itself was originally composed of water, the first world was destroyed by water, the Nile of Egypt was changed into blood, the Red Sea was held up and so was the Jordan, when Israel crossed with Joshua, Elisha struck a river and it parted for him, Jesus changed water into wine, and called Himself the Water of life. He also walked on the sea.
Frodo collapses off his horse and faints, but when he recovers he is in the house of Elrond, and being healed by elvish arts. Gandalf is there to greet him.Eventually Frodo finds out what happened to Gandalf after he and the wizard parted at the Shire. Gandalf tells him how he went to tell Saruman about the finding of the Ring, but quickly discovers that Saruman (the white wizard) has already been corrupted by Sauron. A wizard fight ensues (with great effects in the movie) and Gandalf is defeated. He is made a prisoner by Saruman on top of Saruman's tower, called the pinnacle of orthanc in the book) in the dstrict of Eisengard, and there he is confined for quite a while.
Saruman is a picture of a ruler who has given his will to Satan. The Bible many times mentions the fact that behind the thrones of many rulers of this world, past and present, sits Satan, the real ruler. These men and women and their counsellors are people who have chosen to value the prizes and bribes offered by Satan – wealth, prestige, pride, importance, praise etc – instead of the blessings offered by God.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”Ephesians 6:12
Having defeated Gandalf, Saruman receives orders from Sauron to raise an army of auks. Now auks are an interesting beast because they are the product of a sort of genetic engineering, and this ties in with one of the great themes of the Rings book : the destructive path of 'progress'. The unspoiled countryside, as portrayed in the Shire lands, green and peaceful, where the inhabitants are content with what they have, and human live in harmony with nature, is contrasted with the massive, black holes carved by the auks, their smoking furnaces and the destruction of trees to fuel the fires used to make weapons of war. Sauron in some ways represents the Industrial Revolution, or at least one of its more unpleasant aspects, that of the soot-blackened factories, the polluted waters, stripped land and smoky sky, the vast rooms of machinery and the devastation to the planet through ruthless exploitation of resources. Auks, we are told in the movie, come through forced cross-breeding of elves and some other strains of life, the result being a beast which moves only by night. This auk creature pushes the story into the present century as Man continues to try to manipulate his world and everything on it. Many today fear the consequences of genetic engineering. The fear has been echoed in the 'genie from the bottle', and the Frankenstein stories. The monster produced by science, once unleashed, is impossible to recapture.
In the movie Saruman also produces another breed of monster, which can move in daylight, and this is the small but horrible army which follows Frodo and his companions for many a mile until Frodo's allies finally mow the horrible things down. In the book these are simply Saruman's Orks, with the symbol of the white hand on them.
Gandalf, in the movie, whispers a spell to a moth, which flies away and calls for an eagle. In the book only an eagle plays the role of rescuer, as Gwaihir the Windlord comes, and Gandalf leaps on to his back and flies from the grasp of Saruman. In this breathtaking scene, the wizard sits astride the mighty back of the eagle as Saruman watches in dismay.
In the Bible, the eagle is a symbol of God. The eagle emblem featured on one of Israel's tribal banners, and some Gentile nations, when they do God's bidding, are described as eagles. The bird is usually described as majestic, noble, kingly. It nests high in the mountains. It flies like a lord over all lands. It can see well over huge distances. It strikes fear into its prey as it falls like a meteor from the sky with powerful talons outstretched.
The Council of Elrond is a turning point in the movie because up to that point it seems that all the elves and others need to do is destroy the Ring, or hide it permanently, but their lengthy discussions, which fill many pages, come to the conclusion that this is impossible. The Ring cannot be sent to the west, because it does not belong there, it cannot be hidden because it has a “will of its own”, it cannot be held because Sauron is too strong to resist. As Gandalf says: “There are many things in the deep waters; and seas and lands may change. And it is not our part here to take thought only for a season, or for a few lives of Men, or for a passing age of the world. We should seek a final end of this menace, even if we do not hope to make one.”
In much the same way God saw that it was not sufficient to merely deal with sin and Satan on a day to day basis, by the offering of animal sacrifices. God knew that the enemy of Man had to be finished for ever, with one, final, complete sacrifice. It would not be enough to lock Satan away, because this would not be punishment enough, nor could Satan be exiled, because in the ages to come he might return. “A final end” had to be found, and this was accomplished by the coming of Jesus, the Son of God, who gave his life as a full and final sacrifice for sin.
“Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Hebrews 1:3
“But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool?” Hebrews 1:13
“Now of the things which we have spoken thisis the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” Hebrews 8:1
“But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” Hebrews 10:12
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, ”It is finished” and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” John 19:30 (i.e. “breathed his last”)
At the Council of Elrond, one man spoke of taking the Ring. This was Boromir, a lord of Gondor. He says: “Why should we not think that the Great Ring has come into our hands to serve us in the very hour of need? Wielding it the Free Lords of the Free may surely defeat the Enemy.” In this way Boromir showed his ignorance of the power of the Ring. He thought he could use the evil power for good, but of course anyone who takes Satan's power ends up a slave to Satan. As Elrond points out: “We cannot use the Ruling Ring. It belongs to Sauron . . . and is altogether evil . . . the very desire of it corrupts the heart . . . if any of the Wise should with this Ring overthrow the Lord of Mordor . . . he would then set himself on Sauron's throne, and yet another Dark Lord would appear.”
Elrond understood a universal principle. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. In times of rebellion, quite often the instigators of the rebellion, once the leaders are established, are put to death by the leaders, because the instigators become a threat to the leaders. For this reason there is infighting in Satan's camp. His kingdom is built on the principles of pride and self-will. There is no room for humility, or servanthood. He and all his followers desire power and lordship over all others. Contrast this with the principles which Jesus taught.
“Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:4
“But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” Matthew 23:11
“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” John 13:14
At last the Council fell silent. They had reached the conclusion that the Ring must be taken back to the land of Mordor and destroyed in the fire which gave it birth, but who would take it there? Frodo spoke: “I will take the Ring,” he said, “Though I do not know the way.”
Elrond expresses great surprise at Frodo's words, but he understands that: “I think this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will.” Of all the characters present, the most unassuming and unlikely one to do the greatest task is the diminutive hobbit, yet there is a certain rightness about his place. He has a pure heart, so the Ring has small effect on him. He is also the least likely to attract attention as he passes through Mordor. Aragorn, or Boromir would draw much attention to themselves.
In this inconspicuous little hobbit we have a picture of the incarnation. The world, lying in the power of Satan, was bent on destroying the Messiah. From the time of Adam and Eve, many attempts had already been made to destroy the blood line through which the Messiah was to come. At times that blood line was as thin as a single hair, but each time God preserved the line, and eventually Jesus was born to a virgin in a little town like any other. He lay like an insignificant dot in a bed of straw. Later Herod, powered by Satan sent his soldiers to destroy all male children two years old and under through Bethlehem and surrounding districts, but he failed. Many other difficult times followed Jesus, including his flight to Egypt, his upbringing in difficult times, and the many threats to his life during his ministry, but he journeyed on through the land of Mordor, so to speak, until he reached the fires of crucifixion.
After waiting a few months, Gandalf asks Frodo if he is still determined to take the Ring. Frodo affirms as much, so Gandalf organizes the fellowship of the Ring. Nine are chosen to match the nine evil Riders.
1. Legolas represents the Elves,
2. Gimli the Dwarves,
3. Aragorn son of Arathorn the Men
5. Pippin (Pippin Took)
6. Merry Brandybuck
8. Sam Gamgee
9. Frodo Baggins (and Sam the pony)
One thing which the Ring story portrays is the work of many to achieve a desired purpose. In other words teamwork, which is so very different to the majority of great stories, which commonly feature a single great Hero. By working together, and using their different skills, the fellowship makes progress. In this we have a picture of the Church, which is supposed to be a multi-gifted fellowship, with a single aim – to establish the kingdom of God right in enemy territory. While the fellowship travels through dangerous lands, with perils on every side, the Church also takes its journey under the eye of Sauron or Satan. The inevitable end of this journey is the universal triumph of God, but to reach that end involves the contributions of all the saints. Each must play their part, however small, and no contribution is unseen by God.
The Sword of Elendil, which was shattered by Sauron many thousands of years before, is now forged anew by Elvish smiths, and it is given a new name: Andruril, or Flame of the West. This event reminds us of the great confession by Luther, when he realized that a person could be saved by faith. This great truth, once largely broken by tradition and false teachings, and nearly forgotten, was reforged into a mighty sword, and with it the Protestants waged war against the Roman church in the battle of the Reformation. It was indeed the Flame of the West.
Frodo prepares to leave Rivendell, and as he bids farewell to Bilbo Baggins, the old hobbit gives him gifts: a sword called Sting, and a coat of mail. The sword may remind us of the need for vigilance, because we do not live in a safe world, and all Christians are the target of the enemy's arrows at times. The coat of mail may remind us to always keep ourselves strong and well protected from the world's tricks, by becoming familiar with God's Word. Frodo travelled light. He was not burdened by a great load of worldly possessions, and like Israel as it waited for the signal to leave Egypt, he could move at a moment's notice.
Elrond bids the fellowship well as it prepares to leave, with these words: “The Ring-bearer is setting out on the quest of Mount Doom . . .the others go with him as free companions, to help him on his way. You may tarry, or come back, or turn aside into other paths, as chance allows. The further you go, the less easy it will be to withdraw; yet no oath or bond is laid on you to go further than you will.”
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
”For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost?” Luke 14:28
The cost of following Jesus is well described in the Bible. It can sometimes involve the loss of everything, including one's life, and at all stages God calls the saints “free companions”, in that they are always free to turn aside and choose another path. The saint is tested daily as to whether the prize of pleasing Jesus is greater than the prize of pleasing one's self.
“Yes, and all that will live (in a) godly (way, identifying with) Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12
“Let us go forth therefore unto him outside the camp, bearing his reproach.” Hebrews 13:13
The fellowship travels until it comes to the mountains of Caradhras, then they begin to climb towards the snowy pass but a storm closes in and Gandalf realizes that the Enemy is probably causing the weather to turn against them. This reminds us of the storm on the lake, when Jesus was asleep in the boat. Satan's attempt to kill Jesus failed because Jesus angrily rebuked the storm and brought it to nothing. In the movie Gandalf utters a spell to counteract Saruman's spell but the snow is too much for the travellers and they are forced to turn back. In the book Gandalf uses magic to kindle a fire in the sticks which the companions have carried for that purpose. He also passes a special drink around, which warms their bodies remarkably. The book relates the slow and difficult journey back down the mountain, whereas the film picks up the story with the company approaching the Mines of Moria. In the book Boromir tries to dissuade the company from taking the road to and through Moria, but that way is chosen after the alternatives have been considered. The best way through is under the mountain.
In the same way, there are times when God calls us to take the hardest road, because it is the best road. Our preference may be to take an easier way, but there is disaster in that path, or it is not the best path. Jesus was also pressed with a decision like this. He tried to find some other way through, but in the end he knew there was no other way, though it led to the terrible ordeal of crucifixion.
“Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death.” Matthew 20:18
“And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Luke 9:51
The company arrives at the wall of the mountain and Gandalf uses magic to locate the doors, which then appear as the moon strikes them. The elvish writing around the doors contains the riddle “speak, friend, and enter” and Gandalf tries dozens of languages, spoken in many ways, but the doors remain closed. In the movie it is Frodo who stumbles on the riddle's answer, but in the book it is Gandalf who solves it. The elvish word for “friend” was all that was required.
This part of the story lends itself to the Biblical requirement for salvation. No great, grand confession is required to open the gates of heaven, no long-winded speech, no wearying life of self-denial. All one needs is a simple faith that Jesus is God the Son, and that he has risen from the dead. On this simple two-fold statement hangs a person's eternal destiny, and any child or simpleton can speak it. The great, impregnable doors of heaven swing open for the smallest childlike faith in Jesus, making it possible for all to enter. God calls those who exercise such faith His friends.
But even as the company enters the Mines a monstrous beast, with many tentacles, tries to grab Frodo and the others. With great fear and speed the company escapes through the doors, which close behind them and become blocked from the outside by a falling of debris The company is now forced to make the journey through the mines, so they set off, guided by Gandalf and his shining staff. The labyrinth of paths takes a few days to negotiate, and all ways are deserted. The Mines have become a tomb, or a catacomb. At last, near the eastern side of the mountain they come to the tomb of Balin, the lord of Moria, at which point they are attacked by orks, black Uruks and a ferocious cave troll. They try to bar the door, but: “A huge arm and shoulder, with dark skin of greenish scales, was thrust through the widening gap. Then a great, flat, toeless foot was forced through below.” Naturally the entire company escapes, but their next danger comes from a Balrog, some fierce, hot supernatural entity which pursues them from the depths of the Mines. The company reaches a narrow bridge and Gandalf takes up a position between his friends and the Balrog. “You cannot pass” he said . . .”I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udin. Go back to the shadow! You cannot pass.” The movie version of this scene is awesome. The Balrog stands like a giant before Gandalf, its head adorned with two large horns, its eyes fiery, its body as luminous as a coal fire, huge and roaring with power. Gandalf shatters the bridge and his own staff, causing the Balrog to fall into the abyss, but unfortunately the beast takes him too. Gandalf cries “Fly, you fools!” and falls out of sight.
Gandalf's power to halt the advance of the Balrog reminds us of God's power to set limits on all things, including evil. In Pilgrim's Progress Pilgrim has to pass between two lions, and discovers they are both chained. God has Satan on a leash. No power, however evil, can go beyond what God permits.
When Pilate faced Jesus, the Roman governor said: “Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?” Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.”
God speaks to the ocean, in the book of Job: “Hitherto shall you come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?” Job 38:11 Note the words “and no further”. This is the authority of God speaking – you shall not pass.
God Himself has set definite and absolute limits on all things. For example, He has set limits on the number and territory of the nations: “When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.” Deuteronomy 32:8
“And has made of one blood (i.e. Adam) all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” Acts 17:26 Daniel chapter two gives the sequence of the kingdoms ordained by God before they arose.
“The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” Psalms 90:10 Psalm 139 describes how God determines the development of the fetus in the womb, and His complete knowledge of our lives.
The company emerges from the Mines and makes haste towards Lothlorien, a forested area where many elves live, and a place much admired by Legolas. The book covers many encounters and difficulties, the brief appearance of Gollum as he trails Frodo, a blindfolding of the company, and eventual entrance into Cerin Amroth, the secret centre of the elvish district. The movie has the company entering the secret place open-eyed, but the main story is preserved by the movie. The Lady of the Galadhrim is mentioned in the book, but one needs to turn more pages before she appears. She lives a long way from the place where the blindfolds are removed, so the movie avoids this delay and takes us immediately to an enormous stand of trees called Caras Galadhon, “the city of the Galadhrim where dwell the Lord Celeborn and Galadriel the Lady of Lorien.”
On meeting the Lady Galadriel all the company is struck by her beauty and wisdom. She does not always need to speak but communicates telepathically, and her insights are almost complete, only she is puzzled about Gandalf's disappearance.
This wise woman has a parallel in the Bible.
“Then cried a wise woman out of the city . . .” 2 Samuel 20:16
“And Deborah a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.” Judges 4:4,5
King Solomon was another wise person, made wise by the Spirit of God. The book of Proverbs, written mainly by Solomon, begins with a call to all people to learn wisdom, and all the proverbs are insights into how God thinks. Proverb chapter 31 tells us that this collection comes from king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him. In fact, a simple definition of wisdom would be 'to see things the way God sees them”. Any other view is deficient or unwise.
But wisdom is available to all who come to God with a humble and teachable spirit. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally, and upbraids (reproaches) not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5
Galadriel searched the hearts of the company, and later, when they discussed this strange thing they discovered that: “each had felt that he was offered a choice between a shadow full of fear that lay ahead, and something that he greatly desired; clear before his mind it lay, and to get it he had only to turn aside from the road and leave the Quest and the war against Sauron to others.” In a similar way God always allows Christians the choice between the war against sin and Satan and the indulgent life of the world. Peter describes this choice for the world in very strong terms: “But it is happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” 2 Peter 2:22
“For Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.” 2 Timothy 4:10 In a similar way Lot's wife looked back at Sodom longingly, unwilling to leave it, though she knew it was doomed for destruction. Jesus warned us: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mark 8:36
Before departing the elven city Galadriel shows Frodo a bowl of water which she calls the Mirror of Galadriel, and she asks Frodo (and Sam, in the book) if he would like to look into it. “What you see, if you leave the Mirror free to work, I cannot tell. For it shows things that were, and things that are, and things that yet may be.” The Mirror is prophetic, and (in the book) as Sam searches the surface he sees grave happenings in the Shire and wishes to return there. Frodo then takes his turn, looks and sees what he thinks is Gandalf, and then the great eye of Sauron appears, and the Ring about Frodo's neck grows heavy.
Frodo offers the Ring to Galadriel and she explains what would probably happen if she accepted it. “In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning. Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!” As she speaks her appearance changes and she becomes brilliant with light and power, but then the vision passes and she says “I pass the test. I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.”
There was a time when Jesus was also transformed. For about thirty years he appeared before all as a mortal human being, a carpenter's son, a traveller on the dusty road, stained with sweat and dirt, but on one occasion he: “. . .was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” Matthew 17:2 For one brief moment the true glory of God shone through and Jesus' disciples were stunned by what they saw.
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18
The company spends a little more time in the city of the elves then depart. They are given many gifts of food and clothing, and 'lembas' bread (waybread), which has amazing powers of nourishment compared to its size. In a similar way, a little of God's Word is able to sustain a Christian for a very long time. For example, Elijah was fed by God while on a journey: “And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights” 1 Kings 19:8 The “manna which God fed Israel with for forty years was also rather like lembas bread in that it did not look very attractive yet it was all-sustaining and highly nutritious.
The company sets off through Caras Galadhon and walks (according to the book) for many miles until they reach a harbour where many boats are moored. The company enter three, and are given 'hithlain' ropes, which Sam really appreciates. Legolas and Gimli share one of the boats having now “become fast friends”, which is a pleasant touch to the story, since the history of the elves and dwarves was a point of grumbling between these two at their first meeting. Galadriel and others join the company briefly for a parting meal and much advice. The Lady passes a cup to each traveller in a way reminiscent of a priest offering communion, then a sword is given to Aragorn, and a beautiful Elfstone. The hobbits receive belts, Legolas a bow, to Sam a small box of magical earth for his garden, Gimli receives three golden hairs from her head, and to Frodo she gives a small, crystal phial which holds the light of the star Earindil. Then they all say farewell and the boats begin their journey down the river.
More days pass, Gollum is sighted briefly again by Sam, and a few arrows unleashed in the darkness, a passing attack by a monstrous flying creature deterred by an arrow from Legolas, and then after about ten days they pass through the Argonath, the pillars of the Kings – two giant statues of kings made of stone, with an arm outstretched, on either bank of the river. At this point Aragorn sits “proud and erect, guiding the boat with skillful strokes; his hood was cast back, and his dark hair was blowing in the wind, a light was in his eyes: a king returning from exile to his own land.” He speaks: “Fear not! Long have I desired to look upon the likenesses of Iseldur and Anarion, my sires of old.”
In a similar way the Christian may look at the great king who has adopted all believers into his royal family. The believer may now say, 'I am now of royal blood. Jesus is my king.” and having such a noble heritage, we may hold our head up like children of the king returning from exile. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
The company, after more days of journeying, finally reaches a place called “the lawn of Parth Galen” and Aragorn asks: “What shall now become of our company that has travelled so far in fellowship? Shall we turn west with Boromir and go to the wars of Gondor, or turn east to the fear and Shadow; or shall we break our fellowship and go this way and that as each may choose?” At this point the hand of Boromir is played. He has been longing for the Ring, and he wants to take it to his city and use it to defend his people against Sauron's hoards. He waits until Frodo is alone in the woods and comes to him. He begins by speaking as a friend: “I wish to help you. You need counsel in your hard choice. Will you not take mine?” Frodo has great powers of perception, thanks to the Ring's influence. He replies: “I think I know already what counsel you would give . . . and it would seem like wisdom but for the warning in my heart.”
Boromir questions him about this “warning” and Frodo says his heart warns him against “delay, against the way that seems easier, against refusal of the burden that is lain upon me . . . and against trust in men.”
With these words the hearts of both characters are revealed. Boromir wants short-term success, Frodo was final victory. Boromir thinks men can defeat Sauron in their own strength, Frodo knows they cannot. Boromir says “The Ring would give me power of command. How i would drive the hosts of Mordor, and all men would flock to my banner!” but Frodo tells him yet again that all who wear the ring are turned to evil by it.
In Pilgrim's Progress many temptations are laid before Pilgrim. Mr. Worldlywise and others try to reason with Pilgrim, putting forward many reasonable arguments and pleasant possibilities, but Pilgrim rejects them all, preferring instead the narrow, difficult path.
“Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:
But let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.” Jeremiah 9:23,24
In Jeremiah God tells us how little He respects human wisdom, human physical strength, and human wealth. Frodo, in this instance, listened to his heart rather than Boromir's, who wanted the three things which God pays little attention to.
But Boromir's passion passes. He tries to take the Ring by force but Frodo slips it on and escapes. The poor man then collapses in grief that he has behaved so badly. “What have I done? Frodo, Frodo! Come back! A madness took me, but it has passed. Come back!”At this point we feel sympathy for the man. He has been tempted as all men are tempted and for a while he failed to put the best course above his own selfish desires. By falling this way we identify with him, because all men fail at times.
When Frodo slips the Ring on to escape Boromir he is suddenly plunged into a strange visionary world, which gives him a view of the world where Sauron is moving. He sees the gathering armies of orcs and the mustering of forces, and he sees the eye of Sauron searching for him.
A similar vision occurs in the Bible, when the prophet Elisha's servant comes to him in fear because of the enemy troops which have surrounded the city. “And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:17 This army of fire was the Lord's army, a mighty but invisible force which actually surrounded the visible one. This Biblical insight gives us a hint at the titanic forces which roam this planet all unseen by mortal eyes.
The book and the movie follow generally similar lines at the parting of Frodo. Sam wades into the water to join his friend, who has decided to go on alone, and cannot be dissuaded to depart. “I'm coming too, or neither of us is going” he says, “I'll knock holes in all the boats first!”
Sam shows himself to be a true friend. He shines through the movie as the dependable, honest, faithful companion. His love for Frodo is limitless, and he is willing to die for Frodo at every step in the journey.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17
The movie includes a fight scene, with the death of Boromir, but the book simply shows Frodo and Sam paddling across the river and leaving the other members of the fellowship to take their own paths. So ends the first book and the first movie. From this point on the story becomes more complicated, because it follows the separate paths of the fellowship, and the movie further complicates matters by introducing a love match between Aragorn and two women, one of whom is his true love. What begins in the book as a meaningful glance between Arwen of the elves and Aragorn, turns into a full-blown romance, which sweeps along through the three movies and ends with a marriage at his coronation.
But having seen the movies and read the books I think Peter Jackson has done a fine job of whittling and pruning the story. He has in some ways greatly improved the book, though I'm sure there are Ring's fans who would strongly disagree! As a basis for allegory the book is not difficult to mine, but the waters are constantly muddied because the story is not, as Tolkien says, an allegorical tale. It is a fictitious history, a weaving of symbols and supernatural, a reworking of tales already told with new uses for old ideas. I call it a masterpiece, but a flawed one, because it never openly leads the reader towards the true God, and never once hints at our urgent need to know the Creator of Middle Earth, or any other Earth. Many there will be who pass into hell full of the wonders of the Rings book, but only through Jesus can their path be turned towards heaven. Tolkien has created a great work, but it avails nothing if he leads the blind into a ditch.If you have just stumbled upon the subject of intelligent design, this essay may be of some use to you. It may provide a springboard from which you can jump into the whole area of inherent design and dig as deeply into the riches of God's handiwork as you like. On the other hand, you may not have time to do much of your own research, in which case the following brief notes will probably be sufficient.
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