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3 Powerful lessons from ‘The Lord of the Rings’


Andrei Diomidov

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 03/10/24

Tolkien's epic is so helpful right now, when so many hard things are going on in the world and so many of us are facing personal challenges.

After years of hearing it recommended and watching the movies, I finally finished reading the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy last month. 

Here’s my advice: Don’t be like me. Don’t wait that long to read it. Lord of the Rings is one of those rare series that actually lives up to all the hype.

But if you already went this long without reading it, don’t worry! You’re in luck actually, because you get to encounter this masterpiece for the first time. 

I loved it even more than I expected, replete as it is with unforgettable scenes of heroism, courage, sacrifice, and nobility. No wonder these books are so perennially popular!

This would be a really good series to read right now, when so many hard things are going on in the world and so many of us are facing personal challenges. It’s a story that calls out our inner fortitude and bravery, in response to the characters’ heroic acts, and reminds us how much we have to fight for.

Particularly if you work with young people, perhaps as a teacher or youth group leader, you won’t regret reading and discussing it with them. One of my friends fondly remembers his dad reading this series out loud to him and his siblings at bedtime. But anyone, of any age, would benefit from its rousing and inspiring message.

After reading it, I was left with powerful impressions of messages I took away from it, messages that feel especially relevant in today’s climate. Here are three important things I noticed from reading The Lord of the Rings.

Don’t underestimate the little things

Powerful evil forces in the series totally underestimate the little things in all kinds of ways, such as not considering the small-statured Hobbits to be a serious threat. The villains only pay attention to big, powerful forces like themselves. 

But (without giving away too much) it is exactly this underestimation of the little things that makes possible their defeat.

Whether for good or ill, this series reminded me that little things add up over time and end up making a really big difference. 

Sacrifice is worth it

One of the most heartbreaking moments comes at the very end of the series, when Sam Gamgee finds out his best friend, Frodo Baggins, will be leaving forever to the Grey Havens. His journey to save Middle-Earth took too much out of him, but Sam had thought they would live near each other for the rest of their lives:

“But,” said Sam, and tears started in his eyes “I thought you were going to enjoy the Shire, too, for years and years, after all you have done.”

“So I thought too, once. But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger. Someone has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.”

His words called to mind the sacrifices so many people make to keep their loved ones and communities safe, sacrifices that can come at a great cost. These sacrifices are something for which we are deeply grateful. 

And when it is our turn to lay down our lives, hopefully Frodo’s story reminds us that our sacrifices are worth it for the sake of those we love.

Brotherhood is everything

One of the reasons this series is so beloved is because of its special emphasis on male friendship. It is probably the best literary depiction ever of the camaraderie, trust, and love found among a good group of men working together for a great cause. 

This aspect of the story was born out of Tolkien’s experience fighting in World War I, when four of his five best friends were killed, and he alone bore the memory of their tight comradeship. Out of his pain and desire to remember them came The Fellowship of the Ring and the series’ many examples of brotherhood forged in war. One writer wonderfully described it in this way:

As is a marvelous aspect of Tolkien’s writing, the emotion felt between characters was always made clear, namely, the unwavering bond between Sam and Frodo. Focusing on his time in the British army, Tolkien created the bond between the two leading Hobbits to mirror the friendships in war that could only possibly be formed from going through such atrocity. The reliance on trust and loyalty broke any boundaries that may have come up in an ordinary relationship. Those not in war couldn’t fathom what soldiers saw, just like the quiet-living Hobbits in the Shire couldn’t relate to Sam and Frodo. Sam’s willingness to risk his life to protect his dear friend was a value that still so often runs through stories of war.

Of course, we all need community and friendship, whether we are men or women, so we can all enjoy and find inspiration in this series. But somehow it is much easier to find close and loving female friendships in literature, so this trilogy holds a special place for its examples of brotherhood and camaraderie.

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