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I have been a lifelong fan of such fantasy epics as the ‘Lord of the Rings’ having personally read JRR Tolkein’s trilogy at least nine times over the years.
It always left me with a feeling of sadness and a thirst for more.
Having seen a couple of failed animation attempts over the long years and some decidedly naff music ideas that failed to do the grandeur justice, it was finally Peter Jackson’s epic trilogy of films, extended or otherwise and Howard Shore’s poignant sound tracks that finally realised the true epic and magical essence of the LOTR, finally bringing it to life in all its detail and splendour – and more lately the world of Middle Earth has become more complete with the re-creation of the ‘Hobbit’ in all its vivid grandeur and detail.
Despite Gandalf the wizard’s reported thespian histrionics on set bemoaning about the challenge of talking to himself and bluescreen animations – there have been some very wonderful acting performances from all the players, Gandalf non-the-least !
These films seemed to carve out a magical twilight zone amongst the youth of the day – as back to back watching of the extended versions of every one of the six Middle Earth films could probably give you a day in the life of that realm.
A place full of magic, heroics, tragedy, beauty, extreme demonic ugliness and evil, a place of innocence lost, of wisdom and folly – in fact it could well be a little vision of some lowly corner of almost heaven or purgatory.
It’s almost heaven, its in some ways better than Earth for its naïve ways, its honesty and archetypes of all sorts that do what they are supposed to do. Evil is evil, good is good etc
The thing about Middle Earth though is that it is not a vision of heaven, but it is a vision of death.
All things in LOTR are dying and passing away.
The mysterious, almost angelic elves are passing away, Lady Arwen is left to pass away in mortality, the hero Aragorn passes away and with him the line of ancient and powerful Kings and unlike heaven, his soul never again meets his true love – ever – for he is dust … plenty of evil things bubbling up but that is the nature of this tainted place.
Like all things disconnected from God, they die as if cut off from the Vine, and they wither away.
I can see my younger self being dismayed at the finality of the passing of such beauty, but then that idea of death is false, it is a lie.
With LOTR, we have a vision of endings, of dispersion and dilution, of entropy and loss.
Sure we can face such things heroically or stoically, and face our devils, but then without the assurance that we are connected to a loving pattern that keeps us eternally refreshed, we simply surrender to the idea that we are somehow consigned as beings to die this sort of death – that we just pass away.
So then, although I very much appreciate the artistry of those Middle Earth tales of childhood, as a grown man, they fail to sustain my spirit on its pilgrimage through the trappings and rhetoric of death and desolation that are blasting out their sermons in the many cinematic temples on the Way.
Although Middle Earth depicts a fallen state, it is the aim of everyone to rid themselves of addictive and delusional attachments that can rule their vision – and in fact everyone alive to these things is a ring bearer too.
From the lowest ‘Proudfoot Hobbit’ or worthy doing washing by the lakeshore, everyone is special, individually created and loved. The call home to paradise across the eternal sea is for everyone, not just for the special few.
A Father, a loving father who specialises in life must be a bit concerned that many of his children think that passing away is the way to go.
But death isn’t all its cracked up to be – as is the case with every such lie.
The Christian gospels speak of an eternity and its many mansions that do not pass away.
Mark 13:31 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. 1 John 2:17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
1 Peter 1:4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you. Christianity speaks of the utter fullness of God.
In Buddhism and theosophy we are told of the world-illusion or ‘Maya’ and many cycles of karma and rebirth in a series of heavens before our purified soul can lose its attachments and enter bliss. Eastern mysticism speaks of the utter emptiness of God.
We can see though that entropy and change, death and decay could be superceded by something more eternal and beautiful.
Ultimately visions like LOTR are illusions and although the big picture is that of endings we can take inspiration from the heroes as they rise to their challenges.