3 Lessons from the Life of JRR Tolkien

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3 Lessons from the Life of JRR Tolkien

There is not a decision you make today that will not affect somebody in your life.

J.R.R. Tolkien, also known as John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, is a well-beloved, cherished Christian author who has impacted millions of people through his writings. He is best known for his most famous works, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. Through his writings, he has taught many great lessons to his readers and I would like to share a few with you today:

1.The Importance of Friendship

Throughout Tolkien’s writings of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, friendship is a central theme. Frodo tells Sam in The Return of the King, “I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.” Frodo had to leave the Shire because he was going to destroy the ring that had caused evil to rise in his soul; however, he was not going to go alone. Frodo’s loyal friends were not going to let him take this journey on his own. His three fellow Hobbits, Sam, Merry, and Pippin, made the major decision to assist Frodo in his quest to destroy the ring. Sam travels with Frodo the entire way to Mount Doom to destroy the wretched ring. 

It would have been easy for Merry, Pippin, and Sam to remain in the Shire while Frodo went on his quest; however, they willingly chose to go with Frodo and assist him on his journey. They were loyal to the end as they were willing to die for each other. Sam shows immense loyalty to Frodo as he accompanies Frodo to Mount Doom in Mordor. Frodo tells Sam in The Fellowship of the Ring that He is going to Mordor to destroy the ring, but Frodo does not want to risk Sam’s lifeFrodo tells Sam, “It would be the death of you to come with me, Sam… But I am going to Mordor.” However, Sam says, “I know that well enough, Mr. Frodo. Of course you are. And I'm coming with you.” Sam was not keen on letting his cherished friend go alone to destroy the ring. Sam had already decided he was going to assist Frodo to complete his quest. 

Loyal friendship is hard to find. How many of us have a friend who would be willing to assist us on a life-threatening quest? More importantly, how many of us would risk our own lives to assist our friends on a life-threatening quest? Having good friends and being a good friend are extremely important to our Christian walk. To love one another as Jesus loves us is vital to our Christian growth. Jesus tells us, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Just like Sam, Mary, and Pippin were willing to lay down their lives for Frodo’s, we should be willing to lay down our lives for our friends. 

J.R.R. Tolkien teaches us the great importance of the necessity of true friendship in our lives. Sam, Mary, and Pippin were loyal friends to Frodo and remained true to him until the end. Meanwhile, the Bible warns us against unreliable friends, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). We should all strive to be that friend who sticks closer than a brother. True friends are loyal to one another, treat one another kindly, and love each other even at their worst. Fair-weathered friends leave at the moment disaster hits. True friends remain loyal and will stick around even during the stormy times of life. 

 2. The Significance of Our Decisions

Decisions are another major theme through Tolkien’s works as the main characters repeatedly have major decisions they need to make in their lives. In The Lord of the Rings, Aragon had to make a major decision—was he going to help save Merry and Pippin from the Orcs, was he going to help Frodo and Sam to destroy the ring, or was he going to take his rightful place on the throne as king? Aragon ultimately chooses to go after Merry and Pippin despite this would not have been most people’s decision in the matter. From hindsight, many people would think saving Merry and Pippin was futile. After all, Mary and Pippin did not have the ring—there was no point in saving them. Aragon could have gone after Frodo and Sam to ensure the destruction of the ring or he could have just claimed his rightful place as king. He chose to save Merry and Pippin because he valued their lives and they were his friends. Saving Merry and Pippin might have not appeared to do anything to help the cause of saving Middle Earth; however, by Aragon saving Merry and Pippin, it did immensely impact the events that would transpire, which ultimately helped in the cause of saving Middle Earth. 

There is great significance to each of the decisions we make. As Gandalf says in The Fellowship of the Ring, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” Our decisions do matter—even if we do not see them matter at the time. Choosing to do the right thing even when it is hard is always the right thing to do. We will grow in our Christian walk by making the right decisions. Each decision we make will impact ourselves and the people around us. There is not a decision you make today that will not affect somebody in your life. J.R.R. Tolkien teaches us there is significance to our decisions—from the smallest of decisions to the grandest of decisions. 

3. Even the Smallest of People Can Make a Difference

In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit, who very much enjoys staying at home in his comfiest armchair and drinking his special tea. He likes to read about adventures, but the idea of going on an adventure is not on the top of his to-do list. When Gandalf the wizard comes to Bilbo with the task of being part of The Company as the burglar, Bilbo’s life is flipped upside down. Traveling with the rest of The Company meant traveling with 13 dwarfs to complete a quest Bilbo had never done before. Despite the odds, Bilbo ultimately helps save Middle Earth despite his smallness. 

J.R.R. Tolkien teaches us that no matter how small or insignificant we might see ourselves to be, we are capable of doing great things for the Lord. God is known for using the weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27). Just like Bilbo, we all have unexpected adventures awaiting us. Bilbo could have chosen to stay at home and not help save Middle Earth, remaining in the comforts of his home in the Shire, but he chose to assist Gandalf and The Company to ultimately help save Middle Earth. 

Even the smallest of people can make a difference in the world. As Gandalf says in The Hobbit film, “There is a lot more in Bilbo than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself.” In the same way, there is a lot in you to be discovered and there are great things in your future (Jeremiah 29:11). Each of us has our own unique adventures to embark on throughout our lives. Even though we may not have adventures like the ones described in J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings, we each have our own journey. On our adventures in life, we might even make some dear friends just as Bilbo made dear friends in beloved Gandalf and The Company of Dwarves. 

When Bilbo is headed back to the Shire and Gandalf and The Company cannot go on with him any further, they have to say their goodbyes. Even though Tolkien never mentions Bilbo seeing the dwarves again, Bilbo always has room in his heart for his friends as he tells them while holding back tears, “If ever you are passing my way, don’t wait to knock! Tea is at four, but any of you are welcome at any time!” Despite Bilbo’s smallness, he made a huge difference in the fate of Middle Earth, the lives of his family and friends, as well as in readers throughout the world. 


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Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Christian Ministry and is currently working toward her Master’s Degree. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is probably embarking on an adventure.

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