Chapter One: An Unexpected Party-Part Two

The instant Bilbo disappears in chapter one, every single guest at the party bursts into conversation. Most of the talk was of how crazy Bilbo is. Frodo just sits and laughs quietly at the amusement of the guests.

As Frodo sits and ponders, he begins to think about Bilbo’s little trick a little harder. He realizes how much he cares for Bilbo. I like to think Frodo in that moment started to wonder what would happen to him if Bilbo really was gone. If Bilbo really had disappeared and would never return. That is what makes him realize how sad he would become if Bilbo left this world in such a quick flash as his trick.

Tolkien makes a large deal about the clothes Bilbo changes into when he returns to Bag End. He describes the nice, embroidered party clothes he removes and the old, tattered clothes that replace them. Thinking about this, ask yourself, Why would someone who has such nice and expensive things change into old, dirty clothes on such an occasion as an important birthday? No one would even change into dirty clothes on their worst day unless it was their last resort.

Tolkien explains further in a way that makes us realize that the clothes Bilbo puts on are the same as those he word on his adventures with the dwarves. Think about the symbolism behind the clothing. Bilbo had never really been one to wear expensive things and look fancy. We can tell this by the way he is constantly giving to those around him, thinking not of himself, but others. Also, it says that Bilbo rapped up his fine linen clothing and put it carefully away, this makes it seem as though he hasn’t even worn it before, he still has the packaging it came in.

The clothes he wore on his journey symbolize his old self. The part of him the was “more Took-ish.” These clothes show all the wear and tear of an adventure, of which you would never experience behind the borders of the Shire. This tells us that he is not planning to stay in the Shire, which we can also assume by the other things he was said to have gathered together upon returning to Bag End. Also, those old clothes represent his old self. Bilbo is choosing to embrace that of his past and leave what home he has already.

Bilbo soon verifies this theory himself as he converses with Gandalf. He tells Gandalf he is going on a holiday and doesn’t mean to come back.

Taking a step back for a moment: Before Gandalf shows up, Bilbo puts his ring in an envelope and sets it on the shelf, then just after he takes it out again. At this point for most people (who don’t already know the story by heart, but have read the Hobbit), we can tell that there is something about the ring that isn’t quite the same as it was in the Hobbit. Bilbo can’t seem to detach from the ring, but this could also just be a simple man who doesn’t want to separate from such a sentimental treasure.

During Bilbo’s conversation with Gandalf, we hear another famous line.

“I feel sort of stretched, Gandalf…like butter scraped over too much bread.”

Let’s analyze this a bit, shall we?

Think about it. When you take just a knife full of butter and try to spread it over your entire toast, it eventually thins out to the point where it has no point. It doesn’t give it the flavor you intended. Bilbo here could be meaning that as he goes along, spending his days in the Shire (gliding his knife across the bread), he feels that his knife is going to continue gliding through his life, never lifting itself off to obtain more butter, never adding more to his now dull life. He feels like all this time spent idling away is stretching him, making him become more and more thin as his adventurous life is left behind him. He is only spreading his butter, dragging it in circles, going no where. This is what he uses to describe why he needs to leave.

After such marvelous and terrible adventures. How can one go back to a normal life completely?

Tolkien writes in one line that, to me seems a bit humorous on his part. Gandalf tells Bilbo that no one will read his story (which we know is actually what the Hobbit book is, technically). This makes me laugh a bit, because we know that thousands of people read the Hobbit. It’s almost as if Tolkien is making a joke about how successful his book actually was. Just a random thought.

Bilbo then says that Frodo would come with him, if Bilbo asked him. But he also says that Frodo is not ready. I compare this to our existence before earth life. Not all of us are born on earth at the same time, obviously. So this represents that we will all have a chance on earth, just that some of us aren’t ready at the same time as others. Just like how on earth we don’t all progress at the same rate.

The next bit is almost word for word in the movie. Gandalf and Bilbo discuss the ring and what its fate is to be. Bilbo calls the ring his “precious” just as Gollum had. This definitely tells us something is up. The ring starts to look more and more like a poison. Or an addiction. If this ring is causing such a respectable man to become like such a sad, pathetic creature, then there is definitely something about that ring that is not right for the mind.

Bilbo and Gandalf soon agree to leave the ring with Frodo. This tells us a TON about the type of person Frodo is. They trusted him enough to leave him such a powerful and dangerous weapon. They had to have had total faith in Frodo as a person to take care of this ring. So they leave it for him (after Bilbo tries to take it with him first, of course).

Bilbo and Gandalf say their goodbyes and Bilbo is off, singing as he goes. Which song is a very deep sort of poetry. It ends with “And whither [the road goes] then? I cannot say.” This means that he has no idea where his journey is going to take him, but yet still he goes. No one knows where their road will take them, we simply have to follow and discover for ourselves where it will go.

The next day, after Frodo had discovered Bilbo left the day before (as Bilbo had told him he was planning on doing), Frodo finds that Bilbo had written out what things he owned that he was giving away. (He even gave things away to the Sackville-Bagginses!)

This chapter ends with a conversation between Frodo and Gandalf. Gandalf explains that Frodo is to soon go out into the world on a sort of small journey. They discuss what is to happen and Gandalf tells him that he will return one day to let Frodo know when it is the time to leave. And so Frodo waits until it is his time to go into the world.

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Meriadoc: The Responsible Hobbit

Merry is the logical Hobbit between him and Pippin. He is constantly trying to keep Pippin out of trouble. Merry’s best attribute is his desire to fight for what is right. He sees all this fighting and death around him and all he wants is to help his friends.

The instant the black riders come after the Hobbits just outside of Hobbiton, Merry knows that there is something Frodo has that they are after. In the book, Merry actually knew about the ring, or rather saw what it did. One day, Merry saw Bilbo put on the ring, after that, he sent Sam to go investigate and listen to what happens in Bag End (that means Sam really was dropping eaves! 😉 ). Merry had an idea what was going on from the very beginning. It isn’t until later that he realizes the magnitude of the situation.

We get a clue at how ignorant he starts off. When at Weathertop, he foolishly lights a fire with his buddies, not realizing that he can’t have all the many regular meals whenever he wants anymore, especially when there are nine evil Sauron’s servants tracking them.

When Merry sees Frodo leaving the fellowship at Amon Hen, he immediately understands and tries to lead the orcs away from him. He completely disregards his own safety for the sake of his friend. He realizes later that his carelessness in his attempt to save one friend resulted in the death of another. This could be one of the reasons he was so fixated on helping his friends in battle, because he doesn’t want to feel as though he can’t do any good.

When Hobbits are with Treebeard, Merry is trying to convince Treebeard to fight with them. He figures that the size of the ents would be the perfect strategic advantage. When Treebeard takes an entire day, completely disregarding something that is so important to Merry, it frustrates him to the point where he feels that he really can’t do any good in this war that has taken over normal life. He pretty much gives up. Thankfully for him, Pippin managed to convince Treebeard to head toward Isengard, where he sees the destruction Saruman has caused.

If it weren’t for this tender mercy, Merry wouldn’t have ever made it into battle, defending what he believes in and helping his friends. Merry is an example of our willingness and drive to do what’s right and help others. We all want something, we all should want what’s best for those we care about.

Merry realizes fully the extent of the damage Sauron has brought to the world when he sees his closest friend forced to leave him. Seeing Pippin struggle against such evil, suffer from such a trial, he realizes how much he cares for Pippin and doesn’t want him to have to ever suffer at the hands of such evil.

Imagine. Remember the way Pippin reacted when he was holding the Palentir? He struggled, he couldn’t even let go. If this were your brother, sister, closest friend or relative, how would that make you feel? Personally, it would scare me to death! I would never want to see anyone, let alone my closest friend have to deal with such a thing.

You could compare this to seeing your family members go through trials. Maybe you have a family member struggling with addiction, or health problems, or maybe even lost someone you loved to a disease or an accident and it hurt someone you care about to the point where you don’t know what will happen to them or if they will recover from such hardships.

When you see your family suffer, it changes what is important to you. When once you only cared about all your meals and having a good laugh or pipeweed, you now want only to save your friends and family and get rid of what things cause them pain.

We see Merry’s enthusiasm best when he is with Eowyn on the way to Pellenor. He is training, practicing, and preparing to fight for his loved ones. His enthusiasm grows dramatically as he gets better and better and sees that he does have the potential to do good. When Theoden tells him that he cannot come to battle, it’s as if he is reliving the moment when he thought Treebeard would just take him home. Only this time he doesn’t have Pippin to say something clever to help him. He realizes how much he needs Pippin in his life only to feel like he will never see him again.

Eowyn becomes his next tender mercy. When he feels like no one will take him with them to fight, Eowyn sweeps in to give him his chance.

Through Merry’s characterization, we can see that we do have a chance to help our loved ones. We may feel like there is no way we can do anything for them. What can I do to stop someone from using drugs or alcohol? I can’t just tell them to stop or take it from them. I have no control over their choices. While some of that is true, we still have the power to be an influence and example in their lives. They know what they are doing is not right, but without you by their side, they might never stop or get better. Simply being there for them can do a lot. We just have to support them and help them when they ask for it.

Even though it isn’t likely for someone who is struggling to ask for help, we can still do something. Maybe drop a comment here and there. Mention little things that touch lightly on the subject and try to spark a conversation that will get them realizing they need help or asking for help. It is never too late.

Merry shows us that we should want what’s best for our family, biological or otherwise. There is always something we can do. We can’t give up on them. And even when we feel like it’s over, God will help us get back on the saddle. He will provide those tender mercies that will keep us going. And we will never have to worry about waiting on the edge of a battle we can’t escape.

Haldir: The Under-appreciated Elf

Haldir is by far one of my favorite characters in the Lord of the Rings. (And Craig Parker who plays him is a nice guy too! Thank you Salt Lake Comic Con! 😉 ) He doesn’t play a very big role, but he is very important character in some ways.

Haldir, if you don’t know, is the elf whom the fellowship first meet when they stumble on Lothlorien. He is the one with the famous line, “the dwarf breathes so loud we could have shot him in the dark.”

The most important scene Haldir is in is the battle at Helms Deep. Everyone thinks they aren’t going to make it out, but then the elves show up. Haldir nobly helps the men, whose lives are almost irrelevant compared to his. He did not have to do that at all. Even worse (*spoilers* for those who haven’t watched), it ends in his death.

The best/worst scene of his is the death scene. Good as in the symbolism and acting, bad as in depressing! Anyway, when Haldir is hit in the back by an orc, he starts to realize what is happening. He sees all the dead elves around him, his friends and relatives. He realizes that death isn’t impossible for him. Just because he can live forever, doesn’t mean he can’t be killed. He feels death slowly encompassing him, it makes the watcher realize how close death is for all these important characters. Death can come to anyone, being a main character doesn’t save you from it.

This scene is much like the scene with Legolas, just less subtle. It is another motivating death, like Gandalf’s and Boromirs. It is not meant for the watcher to put themselves in his place, but in the place of all those who see the death and are motivated to fight harder for him. Death shouldn’t cause us to give up, but to fight harder.

The one that ends up with Haldir dying in his arms is Aragorn. Aragorn tends to be the one witnessing the death of those he loves. Since he is the Christ-like character in the situation, he is the one he is saddened by the brutal death of those he cares for, like how Christ loves all his spirit brothers and sisters. Aragorn sees death happen to Elves and Men, this shows how Christ loves us no matter our background, no matter our race. Haldir is a supporting character meant to strengthen Aragorn’s character. While also motivating us specifically.

The Grey Havens

The Grey Havens is a place, one of the only places, that leads to the ocean. The ocean, because it is the origin of all life, and also because of the mysteries beneath, is symbolic of life and mystery. One could even say it represents the mysteries of life. But, why would Tolkien use the ocean to represent the exit from life? Well, the ocean is the mystery of the beginning of life, and many believe that after death, we will return back to where we came from. Thus the ocean could represent the beginning and end of life.

The journey into the west is symbolic of translation. The city of Enoch in the Old Testament was translated, as was Elijah and few others. Translation meaning going into heaven without separating spirit and body. One of my all time favorite songs is Into the West, sung by Annie Lennox. It is a song about the Grey Havens.

This song literally almost brings me to tears, especially with the video. You can hear it talk about the mysteries of the other side of the sea, or heaven. It says that even though you have been through so much hardship and trial, you don’t have to be afraid, you will be going to a better place, full of joy and rest, no longer worrying about the fears and pains of the world.

I don’t know how, but Peter Jackson did an AMAZING job interpreting the Lord of the Rings. It keeps all the elements of the symbolism and even adds to it, whether it be intentionally or not. The Grey Havens is a beautiful thing, representing the good that comes after evil. Just as the night will soon become day, good will soon overtake evil. It is a beautiful, beautiful analogy that makes me feel that we don’t have to be afraid of the future because it will all end with joy and gladness.

Frodo at the Grey Havens

All those who go into the west may represent the apostasy, when God’s word left the earth. This leaves the thought of the restoration up to us, to decide for ourselves what the restored truth would have been like in Tolkien’s world. Who knows, maybe at one point I might write a short story of my own interpretation, unless of course anyone disagrees and lets me know if it’s a bad idea. I wouldn’t plan to publish, of course, but just as a blog. (Let me know your thoughts about that in the comments if you like!)

Anyhow, the Grey Havens is one of the best parts of the Tolkien world because it shows that Tolkien himself was confident in his future and prepared for the paradise he would come to after his death. It gives us a glimpse into the hopes and faith he had, which is amazing! I hope that we can all find it in us to be joyful about what is to come for us in the future. I sure would like to partake of such happiness!

Also, when Frodo goes into the west, he says goodbye to his friends who are all crying. This is especially comforting for those who have lost loved ones. It shows that, even when we mourn for our loved ones, we can be comforted that they will have endless joy and we will be able to be with them in that joy when it is our time. I don’t want to say I’m excited to die, because that sounds crazy or something, but I do want to say I am excited for the joy that will come from it!

And, now that I sound like I’m preaching or something, I will leave you with a quote:

“The grey-rain curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.” -J.R.R. Tolkien

Peregrin Took: The Childish Cousin

We all have to admit it, Pippin is one of the best characters on The Lord of the Rings trilogy! Most of the time, he is the comic relief (and not the kind that pushes old ladies and scrambles for gold…I’m looking at you Alfrid..).

There are several instances when Pippin acts as the “class clown,” if you will. He dances on tables, singing about one of the Hobbits’ favorite pastimes, unintentionally cracks jokes about food and other things, and is overall a hilarious character!

When The Lord of the Rings starts off, Pippin is just as happy as can be. Doing everything he has ever done. That instant when he falls on top of Frodo in farmer Maggot’s crops changes the course of Pippin’s life, but he hasn’t realized it yet.

Imagine, you are living your life just as you always have, when suddenly, you are essentially kicked out your front door and forced to run off on a journey you don’t know when it will end. Only, Pippin doesn’t seem all that worried. He seems to think that, once they get where they are going, he can run right back home and goof off some more. He just follows Merry.

When Frodo offers to take the ring to Mordor, Pippin is simply hiding in the bushes because Merry wanted to spy. Pippin doesn’t seem to know what is going on. Hence the line, “You’ll need people of intelligence on this mission…quest…thing … right, where are we going?” He could be compared to the type of person who just “goes with the flow.” The innocent mind. The child without flaw nor worry.

Throughout a lot of the story, Pippin is just doing what he is told, following the fellowship, playing around. It’s not until Moria that he gets a hint of a clue. When goblins attack and Gandalf falls to his death, things suddenly become real. Bad things aren’t a distant issue left to the strong anymore. Pippin cries. Things look horrible, he isn’t even sure where he is going and when he will return. He realizes this then more than ever.

After the tears are shed, it’s almost as if things are back to normal. Life goes on. He is still sad about Gandalf’s death, but he leaves it in his mind as a painful memory, and just that. This is much like us and our thoughts of Christ. We appreciate his sacrifice for us and are sad it had to happen, but it doesn’t seem to affect us in everyday activities.

At Amon Hen, Merry and Pippin see Frodo, trying to leave. Merry understands what Frodo has to do, but Pippin doesn’t. Once Merry starts shouting at the orcs, trying to get them to follow them instead of Frodo, Pippin, again, treats it like a game. He goes back to his ignorant bliss. Once Boromir is being shot at by orcs, Pippin starts to realize that it is no longer a game. He tries to help save Boromir, and he fails. He sees Boromir die right in front of him. It is different from Gandalf’s death, Gandalf just seemed to fall out of Pippin’s life, Boromir was cruelly ripped from Pippin’s grasp, in a sense. Much like death in our daily lives is much different from the death of Christ.

And to make it worse, the orcs succeed. They take Merry and Pippin, and Pippin is terrified, not sure why it is happening.

Along the Uruk ride, Pippin is more terrified than he has ever been in his life. He sees Merry, head drooping as if he, too, is dead. Pippin begs for medicine to help him, much like we beg for something to cure us of all types of things. It isn’t until after the orc draught is rudely poured down Merry’s throat that Pippin realizes that’s not how it works. You can’t wish away the bad. You can’t sit around, hoping that someday things will get better. This is when Pippin does the only thing he can, he drops his leaf broach to be found if anyone is looking for them. He takes matters into his own hands and tries to do something about his situation.

Now lets jump to Fangorn Forest. This is where Pippin discovers that Gandalf is not dead. At this moment, Pippin is still wary of the evil that is going on. Finally, he realizes that those orcs are not the end of all the bad. Merry is there trying to convince the Ents to help them fight, and Pippin is just as ignorant as ever. He doesn’t quite understand that the war is still going, and only a battle has been won.

When Pippin finally realizes that there is something happening with Sauruman, he attempts to convince Treebeard to take them to where they can help. He doesn’t even realize himself how horrible Sauruman is. Seeing all the dead trees, Pippin also understands what Sauruman has become.

Who can forget Pippin’s encounter with the Pallentir?

Almost every character in the Lord of the Rings encounters some form of temptation, and all of them handle it in different ways. For Pippin, the Pallentir is simply an object of awe. He sees something magical and wants to know more. It’s much like any temptation any of us has that is based on curiosity. With reasons like, “I wonder what it’s like.” or “I just want to look at it.” Pippin uses the latter. That moment, when he looks into the Pallentir, Pippin has changed the course of his life with a single look.

Unknowingly, Pippin did something that caused even more hardship for, not only himself, but Gandalf as well. Much like we do with Christ. We sin, we experience pain, we repent, and all of it affects Christ. Each sin we commit adds to Christ’s pain, whether we realize it or not. When we do something wrong, we also unknowingly cause hardship and inconvenience in Christ’s life.

When Pippin has to leave Merry behind, things really become real for Pippin. Merry had always been there, telling Pippin what to do, protecting him, guiding him, doing everything for Pippin that he didn’t even try to comprehend for himself. You could say it’s much like leaning on the faith of another. For instance, our parents may know the Christ lived or know that there is a God, and we may simply believe just because they do. Once Pippin is left alone, out in the world by himself, he has to create his own faith. He has to learn and grow on his own, with no one to do it for him.

Once this finally sinks in for Pippin, he realizes that there is no going home, at least, not until the war is won. Again, he realizes that he has the power to do something. Upon meeting the father of his dear protector, Boromir, Pippin feels almost responsible. He knows that he couldn’t have done anything to save Boromir, but he can do something for his father. Several events occur during Pippin’s time in Minas Tirith that, one by one, cause him to realize who he is and what is really happening in the world.

Seeing Faramir walk into his death, Pippin feels all the pain of loss again. Almost as if Boromir has died again in front of him. With his new understanding of reality, he knows that Faramir is as good as dead. Seeing Denethor send his own son to death, without a care in the world, Pippin is horrified. This adds to Pippin’s new realization of what the world is like.

When you look at it, Pippin is symbolic of growing into adulthood. He starts off, almost like a child, not understanding what is happening in the world. He grows up, he learns, but he doesn’t understand the world. Then he experiences that one event that makes him realize he isn’t a kid anymore. Slowly, he learns more and more, sees more and more of the world, and realizes that it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Many of us have experienced the exact same thing. Where we almost lose hope for humanity.

When Denethor almost kills his own son, Pippin tries his hardest to prevent it. When he finally realizes that he can’t do it alone, he goes to the only other person that can help, Gandalf. Just like in life again. We often go through trials and hardships, thinking that there is no way we can make it through. We may find ourselves trying so hard to help someone, and realize that we just aren’t strong enough to do it. That is when we turn to Christ, we ask for help and know that He will be there to help us when we need him. It is a beautiful relationship. Christ will always help us, he will always be there for us when we need him, we just simply have to ask.

Pippin is an amazing character. He represents so much in us. If we just reach out, search, and try to learn, we can become the greatest hero in our own way. We will all reach a point where there won’t be someone else providing for us, and we will have to learn to take care of ourselves while still including Christ in our daily lives. We have to ask him for the help we need and we need to be able to tell the difference. We can all figure it out, just like Pippin.