A hundred years ago, when young John Ronald Reuel Tolkien began writing fiction, little did he know that this would become a life-long creation of captivating stories set in a fictitious secondary world, with unique inhabitants and a whole new language known as Elvish.
J.R.R Tolkien’s published works included The Hobbit in 1937 and his ultimate masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, a trilogy that was published over the years 1954 and 1955. It went on to sell more than 100 million copies over the rest of the 20th century.
The hero in The Lord of the Rings is an obscure and unassuming Hobbit called Frodo. One day, Frodo comes into possession of the Ring of Power that once belonged to Sauron, the evil Dark Lord who had created it for his dominion over Middle-Earth. Sauron is in search of his Ring, and this poses a danger to Frodo and his peaceful and harmonious land, The Shire. Frodo has no choice but to leave the familiarity of home and bring the Ring away from The Shire.
Once he brings the Ring to Rivendell, the land of the Elves, he believes The Shire is now safe from harm. But at a meeting of Men, Elves and Dwarves, he learns otherwise. Sauron’s overwhelmingly massive armies are advancing and are set on conquering all of Middle-Earth. The only way to victory is to take the Ring, which is tied to Sauron’s power, on a perilous journey to Mordor and cast it back into the fires of Mount Doom, where the Ring was forged. Who should undertake this task? Frodo is torn between fervour to save his land and the desire to remain in the haven of Rivendell. With much effort, he makes the offer: “I will take the Ring (to Mordor)… though I do not know the way.”
Seeing it through
So begins his mission with eight companions who form a fellowship to give Frodo moral support, wisdom and protection. But the journey is fraught with terrors and conflicts, and at many times the burden of the Ring becomes overwhelming for the little Hobbit to bear. Even then, he resists the temptation to turn back, encouraged by the counsel of Galadriel: “This task was appointed to you, and if you do not find a way, no one will.”
Tolkien was a devout Roman Catholic, and had claimed that The Lord of the Rings was a “fundamentally religious and Catholic work.” Even though the trilogy does not make any reference to God or Gospel, it illustrates many Catholic themes, one of which is that of courage.
Frodo was placed in a situation he would rather avoid, but despite the trepidation, he nevertheless responded from a sense of duty to safeguard all that was good.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” Frodo laments the moment he learns of the unwholesome power of the Ring. To this, the wise wizard, Gandalf, replies, “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.”
Like Frodo, each one of us is invited to play a part in God’s grand design. Despite the failures or good intentions gone wrong, our small plot still contributes to the much bigger plot. Courage is the transforming faith that we are called to have, in order to play our part which contributes to the ultimate story. Courage then, is a choice, not a competency.
Courage then, is a choice,
not a competency.
Courage in Today’s World
“The world vitally needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” says Pope Francis in his Message for World Mission Sunday this year. “Through the Church, Christ continues his mission as the Good Samaritan, caring for the bleeding wounds of humanity, and as Good Shepherd, constantly seeking out those who wander along winding paths that lead nowhere.”
In a world filled with disorientation and disillusionment, we are called to carry out our Christian mission, to have the courage to come out of our comfort zones and meet the endless needs of so many of God’s people, be they in our community or in another country. The mission starts with a “Yes” – a “Yes” that may be uncertain, but still fervent and open. The Christian mission is an existential and unknown adventure, but the companionship of the Trinity and the Gospel will give us joy and hope. It transforms us, so that we can give ourselves more freely in “making humanity and creation fruitful”.
Cecilia does creative writing as a hobby and now feels called to use her hobby to deepen her faith. She is married with two teenage children who are her fiercest writing critics.