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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Kingship in Tolkien

[First of all, if you have seen THE MOVIES, you really must click on that picture and cleanse your imagination of the distorted and deficient phantasms lodged there by those odious films.]

A couple of weeks ago, I returned once more to my eternal "most favoritist" of books -
The Lord of the Rings. This will be my fourth or fifth time reading it from beginning to end, in addition to those many times when I've read favorite passages, either with friends or on my own. As always, I am captivated by the piercing beauty and sadness of the tale.

I once attended a lecture on Tolkien by Mr. Gerry Matatics (before he took up the unfortunate errors of sedevacantism). As he analyzed the character of Aragorn, he made a beautiful point about the importance of kingship in Christian fantasy and Christian fairy tales. Particularly in this post-monarchic, democratic world, mankind needs images of holy kingship in order to better understand Christ. As a philosophy professor recently reminded me, the whole of material creation exists in order that rational creatures dependent upon sense knowledge(i.e, men) can understand something about God. Creation exists precisely as it does in order to best reflect Truth Itself. For example, our perception of the relation between God and man is profoundly augmented and deepened by the experience of human fatherhood. The Creator could have brought all of mankind into being in one instant, all at once, bam... Instead he instituted matrimony for the propogation of the human race, that the order of the universe might present a clearer image of it's End.

Christ fulfilled perfectly the three roles of the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament: priest, suffering servant, and king. Thus, our understanding of Christ depends, in part, upon our understanding of kingship. Since living examples are in short supply, now more than ever, we must turn to stories as vital, rich fodder for a Christian imagination. And good kings and kingly men abound in The Lord of the Rings:

"Do not despise the lore that has come down from distant years; for oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know."
- Celeborn

"There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark."
- Aragorn

"One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters."
- Aragorn

"Glorfindel was tall and straight; his hair was of shining gold, his face fair and young and fearless and full of joy; his eyes were bright and keen, and his voice like music; on his brow sat wisdom, and in his hand was strength."

"We will have peace, when you and all your works have perished - and the works of your dark master to whom you would deliver us. You are a liar, Saruman, and a corrupter of men's hearts... Even if your war on me was just - as it was not, for were you ten times as wise you would have no right to rule me and mine for your own profit as you desired - even so what will you say if your torches in Westfold and the children that lie dead there?"
- Theoden, King of Rohan

"Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity."
- Gandalf

"The wise speak only of what they know."
- Gandalf

"[H]e that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom."

"He turned his dark eyes on Gandalf, and now Pippin saw a likeness between the two, and he felt the strain between them, almost as if he saw a line of smouldering fire, drawn from eye to eye, that might suddenly burst into flame. Denethor looked indeed much more like a great wizard than Gandalf did, more kingly, beautiful, and powerful; and older. Yet by a sense other than sight Pippin perceived that Gandalf had the greater power and the deeper wisdom, and a majesty that was veiled. And he was older, far older."
- Narration

"The hands of a king are the hands of a healer."

"Once more lust of battle was on him; and he was still unscathed, and he was young, and he was king: the lord of a fell people."
- Eomer, on the field of Pelennor

"War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend."
- Faramir

"We are truth-speakers, we men of Gondor. We boast seldom, and then perform, or die in the attempt. Not if I found it on the highway would I take it, I said. Even if I were such a man as to desire this thing, and even though I knew not clearly what this thing was when I spoke, still I should take those words as a vow, and be held by them."


Anonymous Brian Miles said...

Well done Raindear!

That is a kingly list!

Here's one of my favourites:

The Crowning of Aragorn

"When Aragorn arose all that beheld him gazed in silence, for it seemed to them that he was revealled to them now for the first time. Tall as the sea-kings of old, he stood above all that were near; ancient of days he seemed and yet in the flower of manhood; and wisdom sat upon his brow, and strength and healing were in his hands, and a light was about him. And then Faramir cried:

'Behold the King!'"

12:44 AM  
Blogger Raindear said...

That is another marvelous passage indeed!

2:51 PM  

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