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Lent with Frodo Baggins

Mapa Śródziemia na stole obok fajki, zapałek, lampy i książek

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Joseph Pearce - published on 03/18/24

Let’s look a little closer at Tolkien’s bestselling epic so that we can unlock its Lenten spirit.

What on earth or in Middle-earth does The Lord of the Rings have to do with the penitential season of Lent? The answer might surprise us.

J. R. R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings and a lifelong practicing Catholic, said that “The Lord of the Rings is, of course, a fundamentally religious and Catholic work.” Fundamentally Catholic? Of course? Really? 

Let’s look a little closer at Tolkien’s bestselling epic so that we can unlock its Lenten spirit.

The key that unlocks the Lenten spirit and the Catholicism of The Lord of the Rings is the date on which the Ring is destroyed. We are told that the Ring is destroyed on March 25. This is the feast of the Annunciation, the feast of the Incarnation, the date on which God becomes man; the date on which the Word becomes flesh. This is intriguing enough in itself but it’s also, according to tradition, the historical date of the Crucifixion. Taken together with the Resurrection, the Incarnation and Crucifixion destroy the power of sin, redeeming us from its dominion. As a Catholic steeped in the history of the Middle Ages, Tolkien knew this. But what’s the connection between the Incarnation, the Crucifixion and the destruction of the Ring?

The Ring is the One Ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them. Original Sin is the One Sin to rule them all and in the darkness bind them. The power of the One Ring and the power of the One Sin are both destroyed on the same date. This means that the Ring is in some sense synonymous with sin itself. Putting on the Ring is the act of sin. If we wear the Ring habitually, we become addicted to its power. We become its slaves. We shrivel and shrink into a shrunken wreck. We gollumize ourselves.

If, however, we bear the Ring but don’t wear it, we are bearing the burden of sin without sinning. Ring bearers are cross bearers!

As the one ordained to bear the burden of the Ring, the burden of sin, Frodo Baggins can be seen as a Christ figure, a cross bearer. It’s no wonder that Frodo leaves Rivendell on December 25 and arrives at Mount Doom (Golgotha) on March 25. His journey is the life of Christ from birth to death! In accompanying his master, Samwise Gamgee is the loyal disciple. His journey is the journey we are all called to take, especially in this season of Lent.    

CultureLentSpiritual LifeTolkien
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