суббота, 21 ноября 2015 г.

Tolkien as a Christian writer: the Elves impress Sam

   As J.R.R.Tolkien himself was a Christian, he was trying to get across certain messages (concerning moral principles and values) to the non-believing (non-religious) world. And I think he was also sharing some of his own experience of feeling. (In a way he showed that sincere faith and religion is something natural and not remote.)
   In the famous book there can be traced some parallels and sometimes allusions to the Christian experience and some events in the Gospels. However they are just parallels and symbols (Tolkien was not preaching straightly), though indicative of sincere feelings and faith, "The Lord of the Rings" is a fantasy world of fantasy creatures and humans (people) reflecting something of reality and expressing some of the ideas and values Tolkien appreciated the most.
  In this post I am going to present and comment on the extracts from chapters 3 and 4 of the second volume, that is "The Fellowship of the Ring".
   Who are the elves in Tolkien's world? What do they mean in terms of Christian-related imagery? 
    Frodo sings a song.
 This was the song as Frodo heard it:

Snow-white! Snow-white! O Lady clear!
O Queen beyond the Western Seas!
O Light to us that wander here
Amid the world of woven trees!

Gilthoniel! O Elbereth!
Clear are thy eyes and bright thy breath!
Snow-white! Snow-white! We sing to thee
In a far land beyond the Sea.

O stars that in the Sunless Year
With shining hand by her were sawn,
In windy fields now bright and clear
We see your silver blossom blown!

O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!
We still remember, we who dwell
In this far land beneath the trees,
Thy starlight on the Western Seas.


The song ended. ‘These are High Elves! They spoke the name of Elbereth!’ said Frodo in amazement, ‘Few of that fairest folk are ever seen in the Shire. Not many now remain in Middle-earth, east of the Great Sea. This is indeed a strange chance!’
    This extract shows the hobbit's attitude to the Elves as a people, noble beings: they stand in awe. The song itself resembles a prayer, a religious song, Orthodox and Catholic. There is "Lady Clear" mentioned, which is similar to Christians' praise of Virgin Mary.
     Elves in Tolkien's mythology possess both the qualities of trancendental (they can be like angels, they help and guard etc.) and the qualities of people, humans: they have their preferences, likes and dislikes. Gildor's group of elves is for some reason in exile, so they are not perfect or ideal. 
‘But we have no need of other company, and hobbits are so dull,’ they laughed. ‘And how do you know that we go the same way as you, for you do not know whither we are going?’
‘And how do you know my name?’ asked Frodo in return.
‘We know many things,’ they said. ‘We have seen you often before with Bilbo, though you may not have seen us.’
‘Who are you, and who is your lord?’ asked Frodo.
‘I am Gildor,’ answered their leader, the Elf who had first hailed him. ‘Gildor Inglorion of the House of Finrod. We are Exiles, and most of our kindred have long ago departed and we too are now only tarrying here a while, ere we return over the Great Sea. But some of our kinsfolk dwell still in peace in Rivendell.
   The next quote is about Samvise Gamgee after meeting with the Elves. He has chaned somehow. This is the feeling that a person can have when they have had some life-changing experience, life has changed, similar that of conversion to faith.
... Sam was speechless. ...
  Sam could never describe in words, nor picture clearly to himself, what he felt or thought that night, though it remained in his memory as one of the chief events of his life. The nearest he ever got was to say: ‘Well, sir, if I could grow apples like that, I would call myself a gardener. But it was the singing that went to my heart, if you know what I mean.’  
    There's another extract that shows that Elves have both the qualities of the trancendental (they know a lot of things) and of people (they are carefel about giving advice). The Christian parallel to this coul be saint people, or pious people, religiously gifted, whoother people admire and respect.
 ‘And it is also said,’ answered Frodo: ‘Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.’  
‘Is it indeed?’ laughed Gildor. ‘Elves seldom give unguarded advice, for advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill. But what would you? You have not told me all concerning yourself; and how then shall I choose better than you? But if you demand advice, I will for friendship’s sake give it. ... The Elves have their own labours and their own sorrows, and they are little concerned with the ways of hobbits, or of any other creatures upon earth. Our paths cross theirs seldom, by chance or purpose. In this meeting there may be more than chance; but the purpose is not clear to me, and I fear to say too much.’
..... Ask no more of me! But my heart forbodes that, ere all is ended, you, Frodo son of Drogo, will know more of these fell things than Gildor Inglorion. May Elbereth protect you!’
‘But where shall I find courage?’ asked Frodo. ‘That is what I chiefly need.’
‘Courage is found in unlikely places,’ said Gildor. 
  Chapter 4. After the Elves have gone and left the food for the hobbits in the morning, it appears that not only Frodo was talking to Gildor at night. The talk between Frodo and Sam once again marks the change in him: he became more resolved and determined. 
  ‘If you don’t come back, sir, then I shan’t, that’s certain,’ said Sam. ‘Don’t you leave him! they said to me. Leave him! I said. I never mean to. I am going with him, if he climbs to the Moon, and if any of those Black Rulers try to stop him, they’ll have Sam Gamgee to reckon with, I said. They laughed.’
‘Who are they, and what are you talking about?’
‘The Elves, sir. We had some talk last night; and they seemed to know you were going away, so I didn’t see the use of denying it. Wonderful folk, Elves, sir! Wonderful!’
‘They are,’ said Frodo. ‘Do you like them still, now you have had a closer view?’
‘They seem a bit above my likes and dislikes, so to speak,’ answered Sam slowly. ‘It don’t seem to matter what I think about them. They are quite different from what I expected - so old and young, and so gay and sad, as it were.’
Frodo looked at Sam rather startled, half expecting to see some outward sign of the odd change that seemed to have come over him. It did not sound like the voice of the old Sam Gamgee that he thought he knew. But it looked like the old Sam Gamgee sitting there, except that his face was unusually thoughtful.
‘Do you feel any need to leave the Shire now - now that your wish to see them has come true already?’ he asked.
‘Yes, sir. I don’t know how to say it, but after last night I feel different. I seem to see ahead, in a kind of way. I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can’t turn back. It isn’t to see Elves now, nor dragons, nor mountains, that I want - I don’t rightly know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire. I must see it through, sir, if you understand me.’
‘I don’t altogether. But I understand that Gandalf chose me a good companion. I am content. We will go together.’
   Samwise explains his resolution and answers the question about his impression of the elves. It's notable that he says:
  ‘They seem a bit above my likes and dislikes, so to speak,’ answered Sam slowly. ‘It don’t seem to matter what I think about them. They are quite different from what I expected - so old and young, and so gay and sad, as it were.’
   Being above someone's likes or dislikes -- that describes the attitude to religion and faith, the inner, natural, sincere beginning of faith. Samwise Gamgee had more than one reason to go with Frodo. He really feels that he's  got to take this path not only because Frodo needs his friends' support, but also because he regards that journey as important for his own personality and self-identification.
  What pushes a person change his life? Religious stirrings and faith is not something far-off, something strange -- actually it is something near, which a person can face any time (for examle Apostle's Paul conversion), even unexpectedly, especially when one has important decisions to make or is in the process of experiencing a difficult situation etc.
  Being "above the likes and dislikes" is like an axiom, which doesn' need any proof, something which exists. For Christians the most indisputable truth is in the Creed, idisputable and above all truth for all. Faith, however, is also like an ineхplicable: one person can't make another believe, like one can't make another feel or like something the way he does. There are also some kind of people, who are loved and respected by most ther is something about them, their gift or virtue.
 Similarly, Samwise Gamgee makes his choice to go with Frodo, not to leave his friend not only because he is attached to him but because this is morally right regardless of all the possible difficulties because the bonds of true love and frienship are stronger than any obstacles.
  So, these are the ways Tolkien was bringing the ideas Christianity closer to people.

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