On this episode of Finding Christ in Cinema, we finally simply walk into Mordor as we find Christian themes in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. What is the one thing that separates Frodo from Smeagol? How is Aragorn the next Christ-figure? All that and more in 3…2…1!
Samwise as the Paraclete
As we’ve progressed through the trilogy, we’ve described briefly the relationship between Frodo and Smeagol as a closely linked one. The main similarity between the two is that they have both been affected and are both under the enchantment of the Ring. Both are thus been continually drained by its power, and both will not be freed from its grasp until it is destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom. Just to show how closely Frodo and Smeagol are in their plight in Return of the King, the writers were careful to craft almost identical monologues for each character (Smeagol’s being in the prologue scene and Frodo’s being in one of the scenes as he and Sam are climbing the mountain).
But there’s one crucial difference between the two: Frodo had a Paraclete, and Smeagol did not. And in case you didn’t know, a Paraclete is someone who is “called to one’s side.” In the English language, we have different terms for this: Helper, Counselor, Encourager, etc. Whenever Jesus uses this term in the Gospel of John, he refers to the Holy Spirit (you know, that third person of God that Jesus said he would send down to Earth after he left). But in Return of the King, we see Samwise Gamgee as Frodo’s own Paraclete. As Frodo grows weaker and weaker under the burden of the Ring, Sam is there to help, counsel, and encourage him all the way. Even when frail Frodo won’t let Sam carry the burden of the Ring, Sam instead picks up Frodo and literally carries him up the mountain.
For Christians, this translates into two things. The first point is this: it is how we should understand the Holy Spirit, as Someone who we can call to our side whenever we are weakening under our own burdens. He’s Someone that can help us, counsel us, encourage us (as in put the fire back in us), and even carry us when we are at our most fragile. And the second point is like it: it is how we (myself included) should treat others (not just fellow believers, not just those with whom we’re familiar, but all others). As Paul writes to the Galatians, we should “carry each others burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Even if there is some initial resistance and some pushing back, we are to still be there at our neighbor’s side ready to carry them and their burdens.
Aragorn as the Christ-Figure
In The Lord of the Rings trilogy, we’ve seen so many character fulfill the role the Christ-figure. In Fellowship of the Ring, it’s Gandalf as the Prophet Christ, and in Two Towers, it’s Frodo as the High Priest Christ. So to complete the trifecta, Michael has identified Aragorn as the King Christ (like you didn’t know it was coming). But Aragorn doesn’t resemble Christ in kingship alone; a lot of variables come into play with Aragorn specifically that line up with Christ Himself (maybe making Aragorn the most suitable Christ-figure in the whole trilogy):
- He is the fulfillment of prophecy.
- His ancestor brought sin and death to his race, and he will remove it.
- He is humble.
- He will marry one of a different nature (Aragorn and Arwen / Christ and the Church).
- His reign leads to and ushers in a new age.
- He will sacrifice himself to save the world.
- He is called Hope (Estel) and the Renewer (Envinyatar).
Sounds like a whole-heapin’-lot of Old Testament Messiah prophecy to me.
- Watch All Best Film Nominees in One Sitting
- King Xerxes to Play Jesus in Ben-Hur Remake
- Fury, The Book of Life, and The Judge in Home Entertainment
- The Bold Mustard Podcast
- Max McLean Reads Pilgrim’s Progress (also available at Audible)
- Corey Olsen, the Tolkien Professor
- Wired Homeschool Podcast (and here’s the episode on which Michael is the featured guest)
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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