As far as “stuff I like” goes, Lord of the Rings ranks pretty far up on my list. I suppose that’s expected given my preferred genre of fantasy, but I like it for so many other reasons.
This is the copy of Lord of the Rings I acquired during college, shortly before the movies. I knew it was a fantasy classic, but I’d never read it. I blew through it very fast as I speed read; so fast I was halfway through before I realized there were two bad guys with names starting with “S.”
There was one passage I returned to, over and over again. It was so helpful in difficult times. I find myself thinking about it even now when faced with a situation I would not pick for myself.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and 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 us.”
This seems so obvious, and yet so easily forgotten. Frodo isn’t really happy about the whole Ring of Power thing, and basically wishes it hadn’t happened to him. Why do horrible things befall us? Things we would not want? There’s a whole theological narrative I could now put here but sometimes simple is better. Shit happens, and all we get to decide is how we react.
When I was in my fourth year of ROTC, I was diagnosed with endometriosis. The lining of my uterus had decided the grass was greener on the other side and up and moved elsewhere. They lasered it off so it wasn’t a problem anymore (then, at least). It was a medically disqualifying condition and thus my plan to become an Air Force officer was over. It was depressing.
That’s when I highlighted this quote. It took me a bit, but I eventually took up the ring and walked to Mordor where I got a job. I’m still employed by the same company.
Often, we do not decide what happens to us, but we do get to decide how we proceed.
“The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.”
The movie has this to say about the weak and those with small hands:
“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”
Frodo and Sam, the most unlikely of all heroes, wander almost blindly into the depths of the land of Mordor. Boromir may think one does not simply walk into Mordor, but these two surely do. Oh sure, they’re guided by Gollum, but he tries to feed them to a giant spider so I don’t think that’s much comfort.
We may go forth taking only one small step at a time, but it is still forward progress. We don’t know what our decisions today will yield tomorrow, or who or what they might affect
Mother Teresa said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed just one.” We don’t need to feel like we’re changing the world to actually change the world.
“Advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill.”
I noticed the first two quotes when I was in college, but this is the book that keeps on giving. Perhaps I didn’t notice this quote about advice as I was all too often willing to give my advice without prompting?
Do we know what will happen tomorrow? No, we do not. Do we know all that has happened today and yesterday to those we would advise (or judge)? No, we do not. Without complete knowledge, our advice can indeed be in error.
“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens,” said Gimli.
“Maybe,” said Elrond, “but let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall.”
Elrond did not require the Fellowship of the Ring to take an oath to remain together. Gimli was concerned they might wander off and prove themselves unloyal. Elrond states he doesn’t think they should vow anything when they don’t understand what they face. Both of them are so right, and this quote gave me a lot to think about.
I expect my friends to be loyal, but when they became friends did they know what might happen? What they might be called upon to endure? I haven’t had any major personal issues to test my friends but this is one to remember in that circumstance.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Here’s a quote about life to end my entry. You can stay at home and be safe but you’ll be bored. Or you can take a step onto that road and see where it leads you.
If you hadn’t noticed before, my cats are named after characters from LOTR. The orange one is the King and the other is the Steward. Aragorn and Faramir say hello! Or they would if they were awake.
I did upgrade my Lord of the Rings collection from the paperback above. Aren’t they pretty?