Little Way Through Middle Earth – 3

‘Look!’ she cries to her sisters on her deathbed, ‘Do you see the black hole where we can see nothing? Its in a similar hole that I am as far as body and soul are concerned. Ah! what darkness!

She was tempted not only to despair, but to suicide. Yet it was her earlier unceasing habits of faith, obedience and courage which enabled her to say in her final terrible days, ‘What a grace it is to have faith! If I had not had any faith, I would have committed suicide without a moment’s hesitation.’

Frodo’s humility not only leads to the triumph over Mordor, but Frodo himself is transformed. The Frodo who returns to the Shire is much more like the classical hero. He rides in and takes command with confidence. There is no fear, confusion or doubt about him. Frodo says to the ruffians who have invaded the Shire, ‘I see that you’re behind the times and the news here…. Your day is over…the Dark Tower has fallen, and there is a King in Gondor. Isengard has been destroyed and your precious master is a beggar in the wilderness. The King’s messengers will ride up the Greenway now, not bullies from Isengard.’

In his transformation Frodo shows that the authentic hero is one who has gone through the darkness of doubt, fear, rebelliousness and arrogance to conquer with the weapons of faith, courage, obedience and humility. The authentic hero attacks the enemy with his humility intact, but with the added quality of real self-confidence.

Finally, Tolkien presents us with a Christian hero and type of the Christian saint because Frodo, in his faithful obedience and humility lives out the way of sacrificial love. Redemptive suffering lies at the heart of the Christian way, and like the saint who emulates the Master by taking up his cross, Frodo is the wounded hero. Although he has saved the Shire he cannot stay and enjoy it. As he departs for the Grey Havens he explains to a tearful Sam why he can’t stay in the Shire. ‘I have been too deeply hurt Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so Sam when things are in danger. Some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.’

In giving us a humble hero Tolkien reminds us that it is the foolish things of God which overturn the wisdom of the world. Things are not what they seem. As Bilbo blurts out at the Council of Elrond, ‘All that is gold does not glitter/ Not all those who wander are lost.’

The small ones turn out to be mighty while the mighty are fallen. It is the secret agents of the world who hold the key to final victory. The hidden soul who overturns the power of evil is the essential theme of The Lord of the Rings, and this theme is echoed in the gospel and in the little saint of Lisieux who writes, ‘To find a thing hidden, we must be hidden ourselves; so our life must be a mystery.’

These are the secret ways of the Spirit which eventually bring down even the worst powers of Mordor.  The triumph of the halfling Frodo is an inspiration to every soul who attempts the little way. Each one who does can be encouraged by the words of Elrond, ‘The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is the oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world. Small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.’