On Tom Bombadil: ” “‘He is the Master of wood, water, and hill'” (I, 174; 160), and [Goldberry] goes on to say that nothing belongs to Tom; all that of which he is master belongs to itself. Tom’s mastery consists of seeing to it that all in his realm preserves its own identity–is, in a word, free.” p.29.
There is beauty in this, paralleling the Garden of Eden – a man is master over the earth and living things without subjecting or abusing them. True mastery of an object or being is not a relationship in which the master has power over the subject, but a relationship in which the master uses his or her own powers to ensure the freedom of the subject. Consider the example of a king, his subjects, and his kingdom. It thrives not when the king is a despot, controlling each detail of his subjects’ lives; rather, a kingdom thrives when its ruler provides protection, counsel, and guidelines within which its subjects are free to live, create, and even challenge their ruler if they observe inequality or injustice creeping into the kingdom. “The hands of the king are the hands of a healer. And so the rightful king could ever be known.”
“The powers of Gandalf begin to appear at their fullest, and much of Gandalf’s power is in language; words have magic.” p.33
“The Fellowship of the Ring ends with Frodo having to make a choice (of where to take the Ring) and having exceeding difficulty in doing so. Only the intrusion of Boromir clears his mind; here it may be that Frodo knows the decision he must make but is reluctant to make it. And we will soon be looking at cases in which individuals must choose to ignore or violate some law or rule or edict in light of what they consider a higher duty and must suffer the consequences of their choices.” p.46
“‘Are these magic cloaks?’ asks Pippin. The Elven leader relplies only that they are cloaks which have the qualities of the places the Elves love–they have the color and the power of woods and waters, for the Elves put such virtues ‘into all that we make.’ (I, 479; 437) Again, the idea is that ‘magic’ is a deep affinity with and understanding of the natural world.” p.47
I quite enjoy this idea that a deep connection with nature is the root of magic. Fitting for Tolkien’s life, and for mine!
“If a mind can gather energies into itself and re-direct them, so the mind’s own native energies can be projected outward to influence its surroundings. This is demonstrable by the effect the Nazgûl have on others just by being in the vicinity; everyone freezes in terror or blankness of mind.” p.47, that “States of mind can have physical power“, whether one’s own state of mind or others’.
“Only the intrusion of Boromir clears his mind; here it may be that Frodo knows the decision he must make but is reluctant to make it. And we will soon be looking at cases in which individuals must choose to ignore or violate some law or rule or edict in light of what they consider a higher duty and must suffer the consequences of their choice.” p.46
“This idea of disobedience as true obedience, or as obedience to a higher consideration that the letter of the law, has been seen before, in the actions of the Elf Haldir on the borders of Lórien in letting Gimli enter the Golden Wood. (I, 445; 406) It will be seen again in Book V where it saves the life of Faramir. It is a powerful nuance in a book whose business is so solidly with the establishment of rightful authority; it deepens the whole concept of duty, and underwrites the idea that individuals can and must make meaningful choices. Éomer is imprisoned for his choice, but his loyalty to his king is soon made clear and he is released.” p.57
“Thus this final chapter [of the triology] embodies the paradoxical theme that runs throughout The Lord of the Rings: the inevitability of change and the need to restore what has been changed. Tolkien argues for the inevitability of large historical processes, which we must accept, but also for the restoration of former states of peace and plenty, of former grace and beauty, whose end or diminution we must not accept….So the passing of the Elves (irrecoverable change) and the Scouring of the Shire (restoration of what had been changed) are both necessary.” p.93 I could comment on this, but it speaks well enough for itself.
“Ilúvatar chided Aulë severely for this usurpation of power, but Aulë pleaded high purpose and good intention. Ilúvatar had compassion on Aulë and his worthy but mistaken aims, and let his creatures live, and they became the Dwarves (thus does intention structure result…)” p.110
“Even the Númenoreans who did not rebel and who came to Middle-earth after Númenor’s fall were obsessed with evading death, and thus with death itself….They put astrology, and alchemy, and medicine to work seeking [endless life]….The irony of this is inescapable: seeking to live forever, these Men neglected to live at all. Seeking to prolong life, they failed to nourish it….Part of the evil of the Enemy’s schemes was to teach Men to regard this departure, called Death, with fear and hatred.”pp.123-124. That which was meant as a blessing, through desire and lust for what they did not have, became a burden to men, giving the Enemy victory over individuals and for a time, their very race.
“My own estimate, after some thinking, is that the book’s essential religious nature and even its specifically Christian cast lie not in theology nor in symbolism but in emotion. And the emotions in which these matters are embodied are hope and despair….To despair is to commit an enormous act of pride or hubris, for it means seeing the end beyond all doubt, that is being omniscient….In this question of hope and despair, certainly it is Christian–but not exclusively so–to put oneself lower than one’s Creator, and not, by despairing, to set oneself equal to him. But the idea of something happening “beyond hope,” or something coming to pass which was only a “fool’s hope” (as Denethor characterizes Gandalf’s strategy) seems specifically Christian….What the Christian is called upon to believe is so far beyond the merely rational as to strain the faith, hope, credulity of any but a fool, just as anyone’s belief that Frodo’s errand will succeed and destroy Evil is beyond any probability.” pp.163-164, 165-166.
The symbols in the book certainly can be Christian, though they probably fit better within the whole realm of human experience than within one specific religion (even if Tolkien was a Christian, The Lord of the Rings appeals to people regardless of religious affiliation). Hoping beyond hope is a unique characteristic of Christianity, that much is certain.
All of these are quotes from a book titled Hobbits, Elves, and Wizards: The Wonders and Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” by Michael Stanton. I purchased this book, written by a University of Vermont professor in 2001, at the Rivendell bookshop in the state capitol, Montpelier. Such a purchase was brilliant!