Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Hard Places

Last week I watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy - the extended version. It's my annual depth of winter tradition, enjoyed a little late this year.

Since I watched it again, I have been pondering what about these movies, books, these stories, resonate so loudly with so many people.

I think one reason is the selflessness of the characters - so many stepping out of their comfort zone, leaving the world they know, being tested 'by fire and water' (as Gandalf was). Frodo and Sam leaving the Shire, and for the good of the world, traveling step by weary step, to the Mountain of Doom. Aragorn, overcoming his fear of his heritage to stand against evil and eventually reclaim the throne of Gondor. Even Legolas and Gimli overcome their racial prejudice between Dwarfs and Elves, if I can call it that, and become best of friends.

I could go on and on about the different themes in the book - the reality, horror and power of evil, yet its allure too, which overcome Sauruman and Denethor, and threatens Pippin. The undeniable horror of war, and yet its necessity to fight undeniable evil.

My favorite part of the whole series is in The Return of the King, in the battle before Minas Tirith when the Nazgul is ready to pounce upon King Theoden. Merry the Hobbit is there, frozen in fear of the Nazgul, yet one young warrior stands his ground against the Nazgul and forbids it to come further.

The Witch King says,
'Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!'

Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. 'But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Eowyn I am, Eomund's daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. ... I will smite you, if you touch him.'
I remember when I first read the book - I didn't know Dernhelm was Eowyn (although in the movie you do). What a thrill that scene was - when she smites the Witch King forever. What makes me marvel at it even more is that this was written in the 1960's, before the women's liberation movement. And by a man. I think those two facts make it an even more powerful, wonderful a moment (and defy those women who think men capable only of suppressing women).

It's the hard places, the weary steps of determination, the selflessness required of service to others, which make us better, stronger people. All the self-help books in the world cannot substitute for that. It's our wounds of battle - our emotional, spiritual, physical wounds - which make us beautiful. It's His wounds by which we are fully healed.

The Lord of the Rings beautifully illustrates the sorrow, and the beauty, of this life. And the anticipation of the rest and restoration we look forward to in the life to come.

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

Poetry Wednesday


Beth said...

Oh how I do love The Lord of the Rings- so rich and full of the universal themes as you mentioned. How funny that both you and I were thinking of women this week.

Molly Sabourin said...

Great post, Michelle!!

I think you are very right about the selflessness of the characters drawing us in. You have totally inspired me to watch the Lord of the Rings again!!!

Jared said...

This is 100% the most exhilarating moment in all the books for me! In a book full of eucatastrophes, this has always, always been my favorite! Thank you for posting it.

"Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest."

In the list of Christ-types cited within the Lord of the Rings, this one is often lost. However, I imagine it was a very similar sound that reverberated in Hades as Death closed his maw around Christ, realizing too late the trick that had been played.

(I also agree the movie massacred this moment by revealing Dernhelm's identity too early.)

Kris Livovich said...

Now I will have to watch the trilogy again. I have only seen it once. Once! Not nearly enough. Do you watch it with all your children? I don't remember their ages, but if they do watch it how are they affected by it?

Michelle said...

Kris -
I watch it by myself. My husband doesn't understand it, and my children are too little for it.

Some might call me a bit obsessive, but my kids don't watch much TV or many movies. They are quite sensitive to what they watch, so they for sure won't watch the movies until they've read the books.

The movies are rated PG-13, so they'll have to be at least that old, and maybe older to watch them.