On this episode of Finding Christ in Cinema, we embark on the One Journey to Rule Them All as we find Christian themes in THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING. How can Frodo encourage us to take care of the small things? Is Gandalf the better Christ-Figure? All that and more in 3…2…1?
Faithful in the Little Hobbit
Hobbits are small creatures at about half the size of a human. They can hardly sit at a normal table, and they can hardly down a pint of ale. The nature of their character prones them to being content with the simple things in life: a good pipe, afternoon tea, and fireworks. Hobbits rarely make it out of Hobbiton because they never like to leave the comforts of home (unless there’s a bit of fairy mixed in with their genetics, but that’s another story). And Hobbits, most importantly, aren’t selfish. Sure, they like their alone time, but they are also known for their hospitality and their caring for the well-being of others.
So how did it come to pass that a Hobbit should be in charge of destroying the One Ring To Rule Them All in the fires of Mount Doom? How can it be that someone so small would have to save Middle Earth from the dark lord Sauron? Answering these questions will help us better understand the point Tolkien was trying to make while crafting this story and ultimately use this suggestion as a platform from which to point out Jesus’s own simple nature and what it means for us in trying to follow him.
Before the meeting of Council, Gandalf the Grey and Lord Elrond are discussing the posterity of Middle Earth. They are considering the possible races that could potentially end the impending doom, and Elrond seems just a tad more pessimistic than Gandalf.
Soon after, the time comes for the Council to meet and come to a final decision on who has to destroy the Ring, and nobody trusts anybody else to complete the task. Gimli, representing the Dwarves, would rather die than see the Ring in the hands of an Elf (and we’re sure that, with the Elves, the feeling is mutual). Aragorn knows that Man can’t touch, and Lord knows what’s going with Sean “Boromir” Bean.
Frodo Baggins comes forward and excepts the challenge, and this is where it counts for our lesson. Frodo isn’t accepting the challenge because he’s the most physically adept of the company, nor because he is the most intelligent, nor because he knows all the right spells. Instead, he is accepting the challenge because as a Hobbit, he isn’t as affected by the Ring’s influence as everyone one else. From another angle, you could say that the Ring ignores Frodo because of his size and believes he is insignificant. But Frodo isn’t insignificant because he can handle the Ring for the duration of the journey because he isn’t concerned with power, greed, and his own self-actualization; he isn’t selfish, but selfless.
This is what can help us as Christians as we reach out to those without the faith. Most of the times, whenever we think about reaching out to someone, we get deflected by fears and doubts. I know that I personally fear what may be perceived of me by the other person, but a fear I know we all share is that we may push them further away. But we are not called to stress over big things like that; we’re only called to concern ourselves to the small things…like simply obeying Jesus’s commands. After all, He says it plainly at the conclusion of the Parable of the Shrewd Manager:
The one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and the one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.
Let’s resolve (get it?) to not shudder at the thoughts of what may or may not happen; instead, let’s resolve to let the light guide our small, seemingly insignificant steps one at a time as we follow the Master. Such small steps could include taking care of the widows and orphans, feeding or clothing someone (especially in the arctic weather), or maybe just telling the truth when we may naturally let a white lie slip; all are included in the greatest commandment of loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Gandalf is the Good Shepherd
There’s much debate over who is really the Christ-figure in the Lord of the Rings series. Some say it is Frodo as he destroys sin and death as he drops the Ring into the fire; others say it is Aragorn as he triumphantly returns in the third film. But given Tolkien’s aversion to allegory (which we discuss in the podcast), it would seem that he didn’t intend for any one character to be a solid Christ-figure throughout; instead, it could be argued that several characters, at some point in the story arc, take on the role of the representative Christ-figure. Michael’s argument for the Christ-figure in Fellowship of the Ring just happens to fall upon the Grey Wizard himself, Gandalf.
Specifically, Gandalf fulfills the position of Christ-figure in that he is the shepherd that guides the sheep – the Fellowship of the Ring itself – along the path and, when the time comes, lays down his life for those sheep, as Jesus refers to himself in John 10:11. After all, when the troop is running from the Balrog within the mines of Moria. Once cornered, Gandalf tells the team to cross Durin’s Bridge. This sets him up for the iconic scene in which he destroys the bridge, thus destroying the Balrog. But the Balrog, not wanting to be outdone, cracks his whip one last time as he’s falling, and he attains Gandalf’s ankle and pulls him down with him. Therefore, Gandalf led the sheep to life while he himself took on death: just another image of what Christ has done for us.
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Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.
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