I am a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, the master of words who wrote a story that is so rich in thought and detail that I still read it once a year at least. Thus, my copy of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit are in pieces – probably at least four pieces now, with very tattered covers. They are well loved friends.
Every time I read this book, I get something new from the writing. Sometimes, it’s just soaking in the lyrical writing style, especially the iambic pentameter from the Forgotten Tales . Other times, it is understanding a character’s perspective in a new way after I have had a different experience in my life.
One of the philosophies in particular I have been thinking about, fair and foul. When Strider, with his many years of being in exile first comes to Frodo and offers his assistance, he wishes to be accepted on Frodo’s own reconnaissance. Frodo states something to the tune of - that someone who was an enemy would look fair and feel foul, while Strider looked foul and felt fair. Indeed, fair speech may hide a foul heart.
Hobbling about in an air cast, grudgingly being cordial and acknowledging people I know at Wal-Mart (because I hurt and it’s 7:30 at night on a Monday – I didn’t think anyone I knew would be there) – so wrong! Anyway, I must have looked not so much foul as frumpy and rumpled, grey sweat pants that are too big and much too comfortable to want something smaller, a sweatshirt, one tan flat shoe and my lovely orthopedic boot on the other. My hair wasn’t done, no make-up on … blah! And when I’m hurting, I don’t want touched or made to be sociable. But, even when I don’t look or feel my best, I still want to feel fair.
What is that, to feel fair? For Strider, it meant he was someone of his word, with integrity and purpose, someone with self-control, self-confidence, and yet great humbleness and compassion. He was a traveler, a royal exile who had been keeping the byways, forest paths, and hidden meadows safe from the enemy. Yet, in all of the difficulties, he managed to retain his fairness. I think this type of fairness is like a light from within, it’s the soft light that is within someone who is striving to be a force for good, a part of the body. I think that it requires someone to be part of the body of Christ because on our own, we would look and feel foul.
Another part of the Tolkien writings I love is the quote about “not loving the bright sword for it’s sharpness, nor the arrow for it’s swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.” It is so easy to get caught up in the glory of the battle, especially in a moment of triumph. I’m not talking about war being a beautiful thing, but the stories round the fire of battles of moments with skill in sword, spear, and bow. It is really the thing which the sword, strategy, and armor protect for which retains the glory. We all fight our own battles and it’s so easy to get caught up in the fury of the moment. But, what am I fighting for, what glory is that hard work going toward? Instead, I need to know what it is I am fighting for – that is where the glory really lies.
If you haven’t read it yet – go pick up Tolkien. Let the words steep into your consciousness and find your own words that will stick in your heart.