March 25, 2010

The Salvation of the World

Today is a day I look forward to for two reasons, (don't you, too?)  First, today is The Feast of the Annunciation - the day when the Angel Gabriel came to a young girl named Mary and asked her to be the Mother of Our Lord, thus setting in motion the final steps to the salvation of the world.

The second reason is another celebration... a fictional one, I will admit, but a celebration non the less.  For today in Lord of the Rings history is the day that Sauron's Ring was destroyed, thus bringing about the salvation of Middle Earth.

As a devout Catholic and an avid Lord of the Rings fan, I am always overjoyed at how well these two loves go together.  Tolkien was a devout Catholic and this is very evident in his works.  But I'm sure you know that already, so I'll just cut to the quick and share with you some beautiful Catholic analogies (note, I said analogies, not allegories) and 'co-incidences' that I and my fellow Tolkien-fanatic friends have uncovered.

The Beginning of a New Year
This morning my dear friend, whom I shall call 'Flora Gamgee' gave me a call, first to wish me a Happy Annunciation, and secondly to bid me a Happy Destruction of the Ring Day.  During the course of our conversation, she told me that she just found out that in the traditional Catholic calendar, the liturgical year began today - March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation.  Appropriate, since the Annunciation is when God's plan for our salvation was set in to play.
Now, Tolkien would have known about this fact and so I find it of great and exciting interest that he picked March 25th as the day the Ring would be destroyed.  From that day forth "in Gondor the New Year will always now begin upon the twenty-fifth of March when Sauron fell." - Return of the King

The Seven Sacraments
Back in January, I spent the night at another Tolkien-friends house and spent at least an hour and forty-five minutes discussing the Lord of the Rings.  (Oh, heaven!)  We could have talked longer... but decided that as it was about two in the morning we probably get at least some sleep - given the fact that we had to get up early the next... er, that morning.
"Well, I expect that I shall go on sleeping, whether I drop off or no.  And the less said the sooner I'll drop off, if you get my meaning." - Samwise Gamgee
The prevalent theme of our discussion was the analogies contained in the Lord of the Rings.  We are firm believers that there are no direct allegories, because Tolkien said so himself that he detested allegories.  However, I do believe and contend that there are many analogies - how could there not be, with such a devoted Catholic as the author? 
One of the allegories we discussed were the presence of the Seven Sacraments.  To tell the truth, we only found six, but we are sure the seventh is hiding in there somewhere.

"Frodo heard the splash of water.  It foamed about his feet.  He felt the quick heave and surge as the horse left the river... He was across the Ford. ... 'By Elbereth and Luthien the Fair', said Frodo with a last effort, lifting up his sword, ' you shall have neither the Ring nor me!' ... the black horses were filled with madness, and leaping forward in terror they bore their riders into the rushing flood.  Their piercing cries were drowned in the roaring of the river as it carried them away." - The Fellowship of the Ring
For those who are not familiar with the Catholic Sacrament of Baptism, the candidate renounces Satan and all his evil works, is immersed in or has the water poured over his head and the black stains of Original Sin are washed away, in much the same way that Frodo rides through the river, tells the servants of Sauron to go away and the Black Riders being swept away by the flood.  (There are other actions involved - such as the anointing with oil and lighting the baptismal candle, but as they do not directly pertain to the analogy I am trying to demonstrate, I did not mention them.)

"Aragorn knelt beside him.  Boromir opened his eyes and strove to speak.  At last slow words came. 'I tried to take the Ring from Frodo,' he said.  'I am sorry.  I have paid.'" - The Two Towers
This analogy is not quite as obvious in the books, but has a beautiful representation in the movies, particularly when Aragorn makes an almost Sign of the Cross-like gesture and blesses Boromir. (I am sure the filmmakers were quite unaware of any similarities.  But that makes it all the cooler!)  Boromir is dying after having tried to take the Ring from Frodo, and then defending Merry and Pippin from the orcs.  Aragorn finds him, and Boromir confesses to him what he has done.  As Aragorn consoles him, telling him that he is forgiven, Boromir dies.

Holy Communion
"Often in their hearts they thanked the Lady of Lórien for the gift of lembas, for they could eat of it and find new strength even as they ran." - The Two Towers
"The lembas had a virtue without which they would long ago have lain down to die.... it fed the will, and it gave strength to endure, and to master sinew and limb beyond the measure of mortal kind." - The Return of the King

As much has already been written on the similarities of the lembas bread and the Eucharist - it being the more obvious of the analogies -  I will not add my own interpretation here.  I will only say... wow.  Is that last quote amazing or what?

"'We have drunk the cup of parting," she said, 'and the shadows fall between us.  But before you go, I have brought in my ship gifts which the Lord and Lady of the Galadhrim now offer you in memory of Lothlorien.'" - The Fellowship of the Ring

This is another of the more hidden ones, but it is no less beautiful for it being hidden.  While Galadriel is not like a Bishop, or the Holy Spirit, she most certainly was inspired to give her gifts to the Fellowship.  Nine gifts, gifts that would strengthen and help each bearer in one way or another in their struggle against the evil of Sauron.

"And Aragorn the King Elessar wedded Arwen Undomiel in the City of the Kings upon the day of Midsummer, and the tale of their long waiting and labours was come to fulfillment."
And so it was settled.  Sam Gamgee married Rose Cotton in the Spring of 1420 (which was also famous for its weddings), and they came and lived at Bag End." - The Return of the King

I don't think I need to explain this one very much, do I? ;)  As we all know, Aragorn and Arwen, Faramir and Eowyn and Sam and Rosie were all married and all had long and beautiful lives together.

Holy Orders
Now I must confess that this is the Sacrament we are stumped on.  We are quite sure there is an analogy somewhere, but have not quite found it yet.  Any help?
Perhaps though... we are looking at this the wrong way... Read the later section titled "A Priest and a Deacon" and then give me your thoughts on the matter.

Anointing of the Sick
"So at last Faramir and Eowyn and Meriadoc were laid in beds in the Houses of Healing; and there they were tended well.
'The hands of the king are the hands of a healer.'" - The Return of the King

The Houses of Healing were a place in the city of Minas Tirith where those who were ill or dying were brought to be healed.  Many could be cured by ordinary means, but some required the special touch of the King.  It reminds me of how we often fall ill, but sometimes we need this sacrament, the healing of the King, to help us through our illness.  The beauty of it is that the Anointing of the Sick (formerly called 'The Last Rites') provides spiritual healing as well - just as Faramir and Eowyn were also healed of spiritual ailments in the Houses. 

A Priest and A Deacon
I cannot take credit for discovering either of the following analogies, having been informed myself by my friend Flora Gamgee and the other friend I mentioned who does not have a name.  Hmmm... I need to tell her to fix that.
While at the sleepover with my nameless friend, she mentioned that in ways Frodo was like a priest and Sam like a deacon.  Frodo had his specific task he was given, just as the priest has his.  Sam, as with the deacon, could not do Frodo's task for him - but he could help him to accomplish it.  Also, in case you never noticed, Frodo does not get married, just as a priest cannot, while Sam does.  (It is permissible for a deacon to be married, though technically they have to get married before they become a deacon.  Which is why these are analogies, not allegories.)

Finally, something that Flora pointed out to me that I found quite fascinating.  Before Frodo and Sam start their journey up Mount Doom (which has been likened to Christ's journey up Calvary) they eat the last bit of their food, they have their Last Supper.  As Frodo journey's up the mountain, bowed down with the weight of his burden, he stumbles and falls until at last he can go no further.  Then Sam helps by picking up Frodo and carrying him until he has the strength to go on.  (Simon of Cyrene, anyone?)

At that point the similarities stop, as Frodo gives in to the Ring's power.  But that is only natural.  Frodo was human - er, hobbit - and was able to give into temptation.  As I said before, that's why these are analogies and not allegories.  While some might discredit the imperfect fit of what I have just outlined, to me the fact that these incidents are not perfect fits, are not allegorical makes them that much more beautiful and fascinating.

So one these two special days - one Catholic, the other fictional - I hope I have given you something to ponder and marvel at the beauty of God's creation.  Thank you for bearing with me in my very long post.  =)

Nai haryuvalyë melwa rë!
(May you have a lovely day)
~ Silmarien


  1. Hi!
    Gandalf's sacrifice of himself in Moria, and reappearance as Gandalf the White remind me of Holy Orders. As Christ died to save us, so priests die to the world to do His work, so Gandalf died to save his friends from evil, the Balrog.
    Gandalf also often acts in ways like the roles of a priest after his reappearance: the casting out of Saruman from Theoden; the crowning of Aragorn (in old times a bishop would crown a new king).
    Let me know what you think!

  2. What a great post! Yes, I am so in love with the fact that Tolkien chose that day, it is really special. That, and all the other great Catholic references, symbols, etc that we can find in LotR. :)

  3. @ Cap - Hmm, I had thought of that! And you're right... about them all being guys...

    @ Elise - Yeah, that would work too!!!!

  4. That is a very good helpful post. I love how the snow falls!

  5. Awesome analogy!
    I was thinking the same thing as Elsie about Holy Orders. Gandulf is definatly set apart from the others. He, like a priest, uses the power given him for the good of the fellowship and all of Middle Earth just as the priest uses the power invested in him to assist God's child. A priest can hear any man's connfession but his own and doesn't give himself spiritual direction. He has a relationship with God that the laity do not. Gandulf has some kind of relationship with the valar that mere mortals do not. I can't remember the exact quote but in the Two Towers when Pippin and Gandulf reach Gondor and they are speaking with Denathor, Pippin notices that there is something different about Gandulf. Wouldn't we all say the same of a priest?

  6. Greetings, my dear Rose! I love this post! I'm glad I'm not the only one that observes Destruction of the Ring day. :) I love that you bring out that part of the Baptism of the renouncing of Satan - it hadn't struck me before that way. And what do you think about Sam receiving his baptism (by total immersion no less) when he nearly drowns? Several people have pointed out that Frodo is priest so in a way he does receive his 'ordination' at the Council. And if he is, then it would make sense that Sam was deacon and indeed he was a Simon of Cyrene. Frodo's still human, even though he's a hobbit, he's just not part of the race of men and he was more claimed by the Ring than he claimed it. I could go on and on about that but I won't. I love that scene with Aragorn and Boromir in the movie and the king-to-be is just as wonderful in the book, giving comfort to his fallen comrade before anything else. What a man! And of course his care to those in the Houses of Healing proves his worth many more times as a true healer-servant-King. No wonder Faramir loved him from the first moment he saw him.

    Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie :)


Welcome, and thank you for taking a few minutes to share your thoughts with me! I do love reading all and any comments. =] Please note that I do moderate, and any comments that do not meet with my standards and approval will be deleted. Thank you!