Tolkien's Impact in Literature and Life
- Tuesday, August 21, 2001
The second notable thing for me is Tolkien’s value of friendship. It is a notable characteristic of his work and his life. In the LOTR, this is seen most notably in the friendships of Frodo and Sam and Frodo and Aragorn. In his life, this is seen in his friendship with C. S. Lewis. Friendships are gifts, not so much made, but given to us. Friendship occurs when two people meet who share a common perspective, experience, insight, treasure, or burden. There is a bond that occurs that brings them beyond mere acquaintances to friends. And that friendship should be cherished.
Tolkien and Lewis certainly did cherish theirs. They were together at least three times per week: on Tuesday mornings and Thursday evenings with the other “Inklings” (a literary circle of friends), and at least one other day for lunch. Tolkien wrote, “Friendship with Lewis compensates for much, and besides giving constant pleasure and comfort has done me much good from the contact with a man at once honest, brave, intellectual - a scholar, a poet, and a philosopher - and a lover, at least after a long pilgrimage, of Our Lord.” Tolkien saw that the value of friends was not just that they stand with you, but that they stand with you and see the same things as you.
Third, Tolkien’s values, again in life and in work, encourage me. Tolkien saw himself as a hobbit in every way but in stature. He loved to eat (hobbits prefer six meals a day). He loved gardening, trees and long walks in the country. He loved pipes, stories and friends. He loved his family and preferred being at home to travel. He was jovial, kindhearted and generous. He was a devout Roman Catholic. He didn’t set out to change the world, he set out to live the life he had been given in obedience to God.
Like Lewis, Tolkien believed that home, family, and our labors were the heart of our lives. And for him labor included all his work, not just that he was paid for. He normally ate all three meals and had tea at home with his family. He rarely traveled, but ate and smoked a lot. For him, home, family, and labor were godly things that pleased God more than any “good work” could.
The LOTR ends in a hobbit’s home. Some have thought the ending anticlimactic given the grand scope of the epic. But this merely highlights that, for Tolkien, all the wars, heroism, and great acts of bravery are not nearly so valuable and praiseworthy as what goes on in the simple day-to-day events of our lives. We fight exciting wars so that we can lead boring lives.
Lastly, Tolkien’s life was dominated by his vision of the future - not a vision of what he would do for God, but what God would do for him. His mind was occupied with, what Calvin called, a “meditation on the afterlife.” He was fully aware and confident that “this light, momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
Like Lewis, he felt that the fact that we long for something more is proof to us that there is something more for us. He wrote to a friend: “We were born in a dark age out of due time for us. But there is this comfort: otherwise we should not know, or so much love, what we do love. I imagine the fish out of water is the only fish to have an inkling of water.” Christians are fish out of water, living outside their environment. We are pilgrims, aliens, exiles, who soon will go home.
In December the first of three Lord of the Rings movies will be released. The other two will be released the next two Decembers. Why mention this now? Well, if you haven’t read it, now you have time to do so before the movie is released. As for me, I’ll be standing in line in August.
The Rev. Patrick W. Curles is Assistant Pastor of Trinity PCA in Montgomery, Ala.
Copyright PCA News. Reprinted with permission.
Original publication date: August 21, 2001
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