Tuesday, December 25, 2007

What does the Lord of the Rings have to say about Christmas?

Every year as the days grow shorter in the Northern Hemisphere and we move through the season of Advent, into Christmas and then into Epiphany, I have picked up J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and read these books as I await the light coming back to the world. Lately, I have also taken the time to watch the wonderful film depictions by Peter Jackson, and I find that these books (and movies) transport me to thinking even more deeply about the Incarnation, about light and dark in the world, and about our mission in the world to bring light, and hope and love to places of darkness and despair. Largely, our mission (to me) seems to be that of the simple hobbits, for, as Galadriel says, "even the smallest person can change the course of the future"...

I was glad to see that over at "Stand Firm" one of their bloggers also reflected upon the Fellowship of the Ring and Christmas (and found a very interesting, and perhaps significant coincidence about when the Fellowship set off from Rivendell)...


From "Stand Firm" blog...but well worth reading!

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What The Lord of the Rings has to say about Christmas

It's getting on for dusk on Christmas Day now here in the U.S.

It was a cold grey day near the end of December. The East Wind was streaming through the bare branches of the trees, and seething in the dark pines on the hills. Ragged clouds were hurrying overhead, dark and low. As the cheerless shadows of the early evening began to fall the Company made ready to set out. They were to start at dusk, for Elrond counselled them to journey under cover of night as often as they could, until they were far from Rivendell.

'You should fear the many eyes of the servants of Sauron,' he said. 'I do not doubt that news of the discomfiture of the Riders has already reached him, and he will be filled with wrath. Soon now his spies on foot and wing will be abroad in the northern lands. Even of the sky above you must beware as you go on your way.'

The Company took little gear of war, for their hope was in secrecy not in battle. Aragorn had Anduril but no other weapon and he went forth clad only in rusty green and brown, as a ranger of the wilderness. Boromir had a long sword, in fashion like Anduril but of less lineage, and he bore also a shield and his war-horn.

'Loud and clear it sounds in the valleys of the hills,' he said, 'and then let all the foes of Gondor flee!' Putting it to his lips he blew a blast, and the echoes leapt from rock to rock, and all that heard that voice in Rivendell sprang to their feet.

'Slow should you be to wind that horn again, Boromir,' said Elrond, 'until you stand once more on the borders of your land, and dire need is on you.'

'Maybe,' said Boromir. 'But always I have let my horn cry at setting forth, and though thereafter we may walk in the shadows, I will not go forth as a thief in the night.'

Gimli the dwarf alone wore openly a short shirt of settl-rings, for dwarves make light of burdens; and in his belt was a broad-bladed axe. Legolas had a bow and a quiver, and at his belt a long white knife. The younger hobbits wore the swords that they had taken from the barrow; but Frodo took only Sting; and his mail-coat, as Bilbo wished, remained hidden. Gandalf bore his staff, but girt at his side was the elven-sword Glamdring, the mate of Orcrist that lay now upon the breast of Throin under the Lonely Mountain.

All were well furnished by Elrond with thick warm clothes, and they had jackets and cloaks lined with fur. Spare food and clothes and blankets and other needs were laden on a pony, none other than the poor beast that they had brought from Bree.

The stay in Rivendell had worked a great wonder of change on him: he was glossy and seemed to have the vigour of youth. It was Sam who had insisted on choosing him, declaring that Bill (as he called him) would pine, if he did not come.

'That animal can nearly talk,' he said, 'and would talk, if he stayed here much longer. He game me a look as plain as Mr. Pippin could speak it: if you don't let me go with you, Sam, I'll follow on my own.' So Bill was going as the beast of burden, yet he was the only member of the Company that did not seem depressed.

Their farewells had been said in the great hall by the fire, and they were only waiting now for Gandalf, who had not yet come out of the house. A gleam of firelight came from the open doors, and soft lights were glowing in many windows. Bilbo huddles in a cloak stood silent on the doorstep beside Frodo. Aragorn sat with his head bowed to his knees; only Elrond knew fully what this hour meant to him. The others could be seen as grey shapes in the darkness.

Sam was standing by the pony, sucking his teeth, and staring moodily into the gloom where the river roared stonily below; his desire for adventure was at its lowest ebb.

'Bill, my lad,' he said, 'you oughtn't to have took up with us. You could have stayed here and et the best hay till the new grass comes.' Bill swished his tail and said nothing.

Sam eased the pack on his shoulders, and went over anxiously in his mind all the things that he had stowed in it, wondering if he had forgotten anything: his chief treasure, his cooking gear; and the little box of salt that he always carried and refilled when he could; a good supply of pipe-weed (but not near enough, I'll warrant); flint and tinder; woolen hose; linen; various small belongings of the master's that Frodo had forgotten and sam had stowed to bring them out in triumph when they were called for. He went through them all.

'Rope!' he muttered. 'No rope!' And only last night you said to yourself: "Sam, what about a bit of rope? You'll want it, if you haven't got it." well, I'll want it. I can't get it now.'

At that moment Elrong came out with Gandalf, and he called the Company to him. 'Ths is my last word,' he said in a low voice. 'The Ring-bearer is setting out on the Quest of Mount Doom. on him alone is any charge laid; neither to cast away the Ring, nor to deliver it to any servant of the Enemy nor indeed to let any handle it, save members of the Company and the COuncil, and only then in gravest need. The others go with him as free companions, to help him on his way. You may tarry, or come back, or turn aside into other paths, as chance allows. The further you go, the less easy will it be to withdraw; yet no oath or bond is laid on you to go further than you will. For you do not yet know the strength of your hearts, and you cannot foresee what each may meet upon the road.'

'Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens,' said Gimli.

'Maybe,' said Elrond, 'but let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall.'

'Yet sworn word may strengthen quaking heart,' said Gimli.

'Or break it,' said Elrond. 'Look not too far ahead! But go now with good hearts! Farewell, and may the blessing of Elves and Men and all Free Folk go with you. May the stars shine upon your faces!"

'Good . . . good luck!' cried Bilbo, stuttering with the cold. 'I don't suppose you will be able to keep a diray, Frodo my lad, but I shall expect a full account when you get back. And don't be too long! Farewell!'

Many others of Elrond's household stood in the shadows and watched them go, bidding them farewell with soft voices. There was no laughter, and no song or music. At last they turned away and faded silently into the dusk.

They crossed the bridge and wound slowly up the long steep paths that led out of the cloven vale of Rivendell; and they came at length to the high moor where the wind hissed through the heather. Then with one glance at the Last Homely House twinkling below them they strode away far into the night.



So what on earth does this have to do with Christmas?

In Appendix B, titled The Tale of Years, we have a number of chronologies of various histories, including the chronology of The Great Years, which includes the years of 3018 and 3019 -- the time of the great quest of Frodo the ring-bearer.

And according to this chronology, in the year of 3018, December 25, "The Company of the Ring leaves Rivendell at dusk."

An interesting way to look at Christmas Day, isn't it?

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