My favorite scenes are the Council of Elrond (239-271); Gandalf at the Bridge of Khazad-Dum (330-331); Frodo looking into the mirror of Galadriel (363-366); Sam and Frodo’s battle with Shelob (720-730); Eowyn’s slaying of the Witch-King of Angmar (841); the dialogue with the Mouth of Sauron before the final battle (888-891); and Frodo’s extreme desperation just before destroying the Ring (937-938). I also love – and this may seem strange – how Frodo never fully recovers from the Ring. He says after all is done, “there is no real going back. Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same; for I shall not be the same. I am wounded with knife, sting, and tooth, and a long burden. Where shall I find rest?” (988). For some reason I love the fact that Frodo’s restlessness at the end of the book. It gives the story a kind of authenticity, and Frodo’s sacrifice a costliness that is beautiful even while it is sad. It also reminds me that while earthly accomplishments and victories can bring a measure of comfort, only in heaven will we experience the healing of our deepest wounds.
The character that I found most interesting was Tom Bombadil. He calls himself “the Eldest,” and says of himself: “Tom was here before the river and the trees; Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn…. He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless – before the Dark Lord came from Outside” (131). Elrond calls him “oldest and fatherless” (265). Also interesting is that he puts on the Ring without going invisible (133). And yet, despite all this power, he is presented as an almost silly character, always singing, and strangely absent from the war against Sauron. I can see how some interpret him as representing pacifism. More likely he is simply one past his appointed season of action, as indicated by Gandalf’s words at the end of the book: “(Bombadil) is a moss-gatherer, and I have been a stone doomed to rolling. But my rolling days are ending, and now we shall have much to say to one another” (996). I am glad they left him out of the movie – he would have been too difficult to portray. And he’s too mysterious.
Eowyn, Denethor, and the Mouth of Sauron are all characters that I also found more interesting in the books than in the movies. The Mouth of Sauron was a great evil character, and I liked how Tolkien gave a little bit of background to him, which the movie did not do. Denethor, it seems to me, is more powerful in the books, a little less crazy, and not quite so corrupt (especially when first introduced) – all of which makes him a little bit more complex as a character. Eowyn is an interesting character, too – her fear of being caged, her bitterness and restlessness, and finally her healing and romance with Faramir. I love when Tolkien writes, “then the heart of Eowyn changed, or else at last she understood it” (964).
My overall favorite quote from the book comes from Elrond during the Council of Elrond regarding the journey to destroy the Ring:
“This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere” (269).
What a profound statement! I wonder if the exact same thing could also be truly said of all genuine Christian ministry – that the strong and weak have as much hope of success, for everything depends on God. I think that is enough to keep us from getting puffed up when ministry goes well, but it also keeps us from despair when we are faced with enormous challenges.
I was privy to a conversation recently between Matt Neal and Michael Garten (you met both of them, actually) in which they discussed whether or not Tom Bombadil was a type of Adam. It was pretty fascinating to hear them talk about it.