Monday, June 28, 2010

"We hear about those as just went on..."

Perhaps my favorite passage from The Lord of the Rings is the exchange in the Mines of Moria when Frodo says to Gandalf “I wish none of this had happened,” and Gandalf responds, “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” This is one of Tolkien's themes. The most important heroes in LOTR are ordinary people who, when placed in extraordinary circumstances, do what is necessary. Yesterday Ray Ortlund provided another quotation from those books: Samwise on "the tales that really mattered":
"....The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually — their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on — and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same — like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?’”

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (Boston, 1994), page 696.
The tales that really mattered – Ray Ortlund
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