From the archives


‘There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo’

May 2003

A show of hands, please. How many of you understand what the hobbit is going on in The Lord of the Rings? I have to admit that one minute into The Fellowship of the Ring, I was completely lost in the Middle Earth history lesson with names like Sauron and Saruman in places called Orthanc Tower in Isengard and Barad-dur Tower in Mordor.

The bum-numbing movies (Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers are three hours long, and the upcoming "The Return of the King" is rumored to be close to four hours) can be quickly summed up as:

    Evil Lord makes ring.
    Evil Lord loses ring.
    Good Hobbit finds ring.
    Evil Lord looks for good Hobbit who has ring.
    Good Hobbit destroys ring.
    Movie company makes a whole Middle Earth of money.

I must admit that I've never read J.R.R. Tolkien's works, so I didn't know an elf from an ent or a hobbit from a troll from a dwarf.

Elves look like humans, but are immortal. (So Santa's little helpers aren't so little.) Orcs are elves who were tortured and mutilated, now preferring darkness and warring against, well, anyone or anything. Ents are half tree, half human who grow to be fourteen feet tall. Dwarfs are short creatures with long beards, unaffected by cold or fire. Trolls live underground and turn to stone in daylight (which may explain why some lawns are populated with those ugly stone figures). Hobbits are shorter than dwarfs, are mortal, and live in holes in the ground.

The movies are drawn out to bladder-busting lengths by "the fellowship" of Aragorn (a man), Gimli (a dwarf), and Legolas (an elf) battling creatures that seem to materialize from nowhere for no apparent reason. If it were simply Frodo Baggins (the good hobbit with the evil ring) trying to melt it down in the fires of Mount Doom, it would make a good 90 minute movie.

But it's worth sitting through bloody, gratuitous battles and metaphysical mumbo jumbo. Gandalf, the good wizard announces, 'You cannot pass. . . . I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. The Dark Flame will not avail you, Flame of Udun. Go back to the shadow! You shall not pass!" Yah, right.

It's worth it for the profound examples of absolute power corrupting absolutely. Gollum, a deformed and demented hobbit, is the poster child (creature) for the horrifying effects of the "Precious" ring's power to bring out the worst in people (and hobbits).

And then there are great speeches like Sam Gamgee's. He's the hobbit who accompanies Frodo on his adventures. Cameras. Lights. Action.

    Frodo Baggins: I can't do this Sam.

    Sam Gamgee: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.

    Frodo: What are we holding on to Sam?

    Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.

Good advice for "Top Earth" dwellers when evil men seem to possess destructive power in this dark and dangerous world. "[The good folk] had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something."

Keep going! Hold on tight!

© 2003 James N. Watkins

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