Set in the fictional world of Middle Earth, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring is a seemingly well-woven tale about the relationships emerging from the race of men and the realm of mythical creatures such as elves, dwarves, wizards and etc. Its ingenuity comes from the striking resemblance of the values and practices of Middle Earth creatures to that of modern day beings, touching on the delicate issues of morality, the ability to distinguish good from bad, and human nature.
In the story, even with divergent traditions and cultures, we see that mythical and mortal creatures alike share a distinctive group of values and attitudes that our world experiences up to the present. These values, as the fantasy and real worlds portray, can either be plagued with diseases and such evil that would ultimately lead to the destruction of any one race or be adorned with righteousness and such good that would lead to the exultation of the same. The same situation can be said about our world.
Human beings are, by nature, full of values. These traits such as friendship, loyalty, honour and respect are well-represented in the characters of the Fellowship. Aragorn from the race of Men, Legolas from the Elven kingdom, and Gimli from the Dwarf clans fought alongside each other with honor and developed a strong friendship despite differences in race and beliefs. It is also epitomized by the relationship of Frodo and Sam, hobbits entrusted with the mission of destroying the ring. That Sam, out of sheer loyalty, chose to accompany Frodo even without the assurance of returning home. That Frodo, out of respect to Gandalf, chose to trust the latter and accept his destiny as the bearer of the ring. That both sacrificed their quiet and secured life at the Shire for a perilous journey. These are all genuine qualities experienced by real men in real situations, ever-present in even the most cynical and vile of creatures.
They do exist, regrettably. Even if one has developed the qualities of a just and honourable person, one is still deeply influenced by and capable of malevolence mainly due to one’s choices. It invokes such authority and dominance that even St. Augustine of Hippo has preached about our freewill to be the root of all evil and crimes1. This aspect of good versus bad was perfectly depicted in Tolkien’s books through the characters of Saruman the White and Gandalf the Grey. They are wizards sent to Middle Earth for the sole purpose of defeating the evil that is Sauron, who fashioned ring capable of ruling all that dwells in the land.
As fate would have it, however, one of them will be seduced by power and greed, while the other shall stay true to his resolve. Saruman the White, who is Gandalf’s mentor and friend and who is clearly the more powerful of the two, was easily tempted by the ring’s power fully abandoning his sworn duty to the people of Middle Earth. Later on, however, this treacherous act would become his downfall. Gandalf the Grey, on the other hand, practiced restraint and self-control dedicating his power to the destruction of the same ring, a step which would lead to his being a White wizard.
Similarly, we have an inherent capacity of both good and evil, what will dominate between the two is ultimately our doing, and consequently, our strength and success or our weakness and ruin. What is unfortunate, however, is that most of us are so vulnerable to power, greed and sin that we are so easily enticed by them, just like Saruman the White. This is very evident in the great disparity between social strata (or even the existence of it), the continuation of several vices and repetition of crimes in our land.
It can, thus, be noted that what eventually makes most of our characters, as with the story’s characters, is our freewill. Much as Frodo started his journey with the innocent goal of taking the ring to Mordor but gradually succumbing to its wickedness, we are also stripped of what innocence and good nature we have as we encroach upon our freewill.
These are themes shared by most inhabitants of the world regardless of race, culture, and class. Their universality is the reason why most modern myths like The Lord of the Rings greatly achieve its purpose of revealing and revelling in the potentialities of human beings. We learn from them because we see our experiences in each of the character’s experiences, and by it, know what proper step to take that would lead us to our purpose.
Kwasniewski, Peter A. ”Self-Love and the Sin of Avarice”. Catholic Education Resource Center. Accessed October 21, 2012. http://catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0301.html.