A couple of weekends I spent some time listening to Peter Kreeft talk about evil (and also good) in Lord of the Rings. It was, as always is with Kreeft, thought provoking and it got me thinking about what Tolkien does in the story.
The part that struck me particularly strongly, on this listening, was about the power of sacrifice in relation to evil in the book:
Frodo and Gandalf and Aragon are all, in different ways, martyrs, Christ figures. They undergo 3 different kinds of voluntary deaths and resurrections. Christ’s tomb was a rock; Gandalf’s was the Abyss of Moria; Aragorn’s was the Paths of the Dead and Frodo’s was the effect of the ring on his Spirit, which is incurable in Middle Earth.
Approaching Lent, I was very aware of that sense in the Spiritual Exercises of accompanying Christ in his Passion. The whole of Lent can have that feel to it. Firstly we walk with Jesus in the desert. Then we follow him to Jerusalem, to the garden of Gethsemane, to Calvary and then to the tomb, where his body is laid.
“Lord of the Rings” is not an allegory; Tolkein disliked allegory. However there are similarlities. Kreeft says elsewhere:
So even though The Lord of the Rings is not an allegory of the Gospels, we can find numerous parallels to the Gospels in The Lord of the Rings, since the Person at the center of the Gospels is omnipresent in hidden ways, not only in His eternal, universal nature as Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, but even in His particular historical manifestation, His Incarnation. For instance, Frodo’s journey up Mount Doom is strikingly similar to Christ’s Way of the Cross. Sam is his Simon of Cyrene, but he carries the cross bearer as well as the cross.
There is something about our own journey through Lent, this walking with Jesus than can been seen when we look at Sam. Sam was not the Ring Bearer. He did not have that responsibility, that burden. However he can travel with Frodo, share the hardships of the journey, share the food, while there is still some left. In the end he can carry Frodo towards Mount Doom, where the Ring is to be dealt with once and for all (although it is not Frodo who will do the dealing.)
We are only at the beginning, at the start of the walk through the desert. Maybe Jerusalem is not yet on the horizon. In my following Christ, can I be a willing and loyal as Sam was to Frodo? This is the invitation to me this year.