A Lesson in Perseverance from LOTR

When Frodo began his journey in The Fellowship of the Ring, it was a journey he never would have anticipated taking, one he fought against traveling. Yet he went, and he was thrust from his quiet, safe world into a world of adventure and danger.

He and the fellowship traveling alongside him fought against orks and ring wraiths and giant spiders and mountains and fire and Smeagol and more! Many times Frodo wanted to give up, but he kept pressing on. Perhaps the greatest obstacle he faced was the temptation of putting on the ring, a ring that would make him invisible. How easily he could slip past the enemies with it on! But the ring that could have saved him, also attracted evil. In spite of it all, he kept moving forward. And through it all, he was never alone.

Throughout our lives each of us has likely ventured out on an unknown and unplanned journey, down a road we never intended to take. Maybe it’s family changes: a death, divorce, unplanned pregnancy. Or maybe it’s career changes with layoffs or difficult co-workers. For writers, some have found success with little effort, while others fight for every inch gained.

Life is seldom easy, but worthwhile journeys rarely travel straight, paved roads. And when we set our eyes on the goal God set for us, we’ll never be alone.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12 – 14

The Ring of Temptation

Temptation. We have all suffered from it. J.R.R. Tolkien knew this when he wrote the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Tolkien didn’t hide it or prettify it. He births it way back in the Hobbit with the ring Bilbo finds while being a Burglar for the Dwarfs who are trying to reclaim their mountain from the fire-breathing dragon Smaug. The hobbit uses it to his advantage and is able to thwart the dragon and keep the Thorin from leading his own downfall. Years later, though, Bilbo scares himself when the ring’s influence brings out his ugly side before he gives it up to his heir, Frodo, proving he is not unaffected by the ring’s power after all. (Galadriel photo courtesy of Stack Overflow.)

Smeagol and the ring
Photo courtesy of theonering.net.

The Ring is the central plot point for the LOTR. As with any temptation it is fairly innocuous in its introduction in The Hobbit, being only a magical ring of invisibility, first for Smeagol, then for Bilbo. Smeagol, however, is a grotesque figure with a personality disorder who covets the ring. It is revealed throughout the books that Smeagol had been immediately drawn to the ring, so much so that he killed his fishing companion to get it, thus becoming a twisted version of the hobbit he originally was.

In Tolkien’s tales, the One Ring was forged by the Dark Lord Sauron in the fires of Mount Doom to gain dominance over Middle Earth. Suaron aided the Elven smiths in creating the rings, nine for men, seven for the dwarves, and three for the elves. These rings had no power, however, so Sauron created one ring in which he placed his own power in so it would have power over the others.

Boromir tempted
Photo courtesy of Angelfire

Corruption was the ultimate end of those who wore the ring. As with any temptation, the longer it has hold of you, the more it corrupts you. The ring was powerful enough to tempt both Boromir and Faramir who only wanted to redeem their lands to their former glory and possibly impress their dad, the King. However, the evil that inhabited the ring in the form of Sauron’s own magic would’ve corrupted even the most  noble purposes. Samwise himself, my biggest hero of the series, wondered what a grand garden he could create if he were to use the ring to his own benefit.

In the end it was only due to Smeagol’s selfish desire to get the ring back from Frodo, who was under the ring’s influence, that it was indeed destroyed in the fire of Mount Doom. Frodo returned home to the Shire, but he was never the same. He couldn’t escape the pain from his wounds and the inner scars from having been a Ring Bearer for so long.  Frodo heads to the Undying Lands (an Elven form of Heaven) with Bilbo, the Elves, and Gandalf.

Temptation can be innocuous or noble at times. We can find ways to justify giving into these fine reasons, but in the end all temptation does is bring destruction to those who continue to court it. And even in some cases, if we are able to get out from beneath the influence of temptation, we suffer the recourse from having courted it in the first place.

A Samwise Kind of Love

Boromir was tempted. Galadriel was tempted. Even Frodo was tempted in the end. It was an ordinary gold band that immortalized the worst kinds of evil Middle Earth had ever known. Gandalf knew the ring would have power over him and so he declined it when Frodo asked him to take the burden of the ring from him.

The Lord of the Rings is not known as a love story. But truly it is. The person with the biggest heart and the most steadfast love is Samwise Gamgee. Just an ordinary hobbit living an ordinary life. There is nothing much to note about Sam. We first get a glimpse into the love Sam has for his friend Frodo when Frodo tries to leave him behind. Frodo sets off in a boat determined to carry the burden of the ring alone. Although Sam cannot swim, he follows after Frodo into the water. Frodo is forced to save his hobbit friend or let him drown.

Samwise quote 2Later in the story when it is apparent to everyone but Frodo that Smeagol aka Gollum was manipulating Frodo, Sam suffers abuse for trying to reveal the creature’s less than honorable antics. Later Smeagol makes Frodo believe Sam has stolen the last of the food, and he is left behind. Sam comes to the rescue, though, when Frodo is led into a trap and captured. Sam saves him and continues to encourage Frodo in his trek to Mt. Doom until the ring is finally destroyed (no thanks to Frodo’s desire to keep the ring.)

Love doesn’t let others carry their burdens alone. Love does not give up, even when you can’t go on any further. Love believes when all hope is gone. Love, when paired with bravery and determination, can defeat any evil that challenges it.

I want the kind of love Sam showed Frodo. I want a Samwise kind of love.

The Lord of the Rings and other things

It’s that time of the year when we all start thinking about what we are thankful for. Some of us may decide to post a different thing on Facebook each day to show the world our gratitude. Others will send up a quick prayer about the hues of a turning tree or the feel of a warm sweater.

When the Inkspers started making their lists of what they were thankful for, books topped the list. Why? Because not only are we a group of writers–we are a group of readers.

We wanted to share with all of you about some of the fiction books which touched us spiritually. These books may or may not have reached a best seller list, but they pointed us to a closer relationship with God, changed our attitude, or helped us see something in a whole new way. Please join us every day in these next two weeks to discover the fiction books that God used to teach each of us something.

Books have been my constant companions all of my life. It is very hard for me to choose only one that touched me on a spiritual level, but after much thought, I have to go with three. It’s okay though because it’s a trilogy called The Lord of The Rings.

There are many Biblical allusions in this series by J. R.R. Tolkein, but it is one of the primary themes that has helped shape who I am–that evil will triumph when good men (or women) do nothing.

Here is what Tolkein said about the books,

“It’s like in the Great Stories, the ones that really mattered.  Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy?  How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?

But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow.  Even darkness must pass.  A new day will come, and when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer.  Those are the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too young to understand why.  But I think I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t.  They kept going because they were holding on to something-that there’s some good in the world, and it’s worth fighting for!”

Did you miss that last line? “There’s some good in the world, and it’s worth fighting for!” I needed that message when I first read these books. I needed it when I read them again. And I needed it when I saw the movies.

And I need it today.

Many times, it begins to feel like evil is everywhere and it’s winning. Last week, a 16-year-old girl was shot in Omaha while in her car. Yes, she lives in a rougher part of the city, and yes, some people have become jaded about the shootings there. But this girl was a terrific student and role model and her killing was senseless. Just hearing about the tragedy, I felt defeated.

But here is what happened. After her death, students from a rival high school brought stuffed animals to her school. The previous week, a 17-year-old from their school had been shot. These teens met together because they are tired of burying their friends. They are making plans to change the neighborhoods and change the world and 200 of them made pledge for peace.

Why is Tolkien’s message timeless? Because we all need to be reminded that evil will triumph if good men do nothing. These good young men and women are fighting back.  They are fighting for their lives and those of their friends, and I can prayerfully fight beside them.

What do you think about Tolkein’s message? How needed is it today? How willing are you to fight?

 

Images in my mind

Les Oiseaux Se Cachent Pour Mourir, by Colleen McCullough.

When I was a teenager, I received the French hardcover edition of The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough, as a peace offering. I barely remember the woman who gave it to me, she ended up being a blip on the family picture, long gone before I even finished the book.

The characters were colorful: Mary Carson, a scheming, jealous matriarch; Father Ralph de Bricassart,  a priest struggling with his vows; and Meggie Cleary, a young woman in love with the wrong man.  The setting was exotic and foreign: a farm sheep in Australia.  The storyline spanned over three generations, twisting and turning like a weather vane at the top of a barn on a windy Sunday afternoon.  Every facet of that book fascinated me.

Years later, I was thrilled to hear about a miniseries and I could not wait to watch it. Night after night that fateful week, I sat in front of the television, only leaving my seat during commercials—for the young generation who is reading this, it happened before video recording. Well, my disappointment culminated with the word END.

Don’t take me wrong, the miniseries was excellent, but it did not come close to compare with the book. I naively expected to see on the television screen the same movie I had pictured in my head while I read the book. The miniseries had skimmed over the depth and motivation of the characters, had not included some secondary characters whom I deemed essential to the story,  had missed many scenes, and had changed the dialogue. I guess that is when I learned the true meaning of BASED.

Over the years, I watched many movies BASED on books. Whenever possible, I enjoy the movie first, then I read the book, which usually gives me a greater understanding and appreciation of the movie. If by any chance I already read the book, then I lower my expectations before I sit in the movie theater. That being said, three movies managed to pleasantly surprise me.

images-1The first one was The Lord Of The Ring. I read all the books, including The Hobbit, in French and English, and in both languages, I got lost in middle-earth. The movie helped me visualize the characters and tie the entire story together. Finally, I understood what I missed in the books.

The second one was Harry Potter. With all the magic involved,images-2 I was intrigued—and skeptical—on how they would manage all the special effects. I know it will sound silly, but they hooked me with the moving staircases. After I watched that scene, I was a goner. Despite some omissions, the movies remained faithful to the books and I cannot wait to see the next movie.

The images-5third and final movie is The Da Vinci Code.  Considering the intricacy of the story and the complexity of the characters, I expected the movie to barely skim the surface and downplay the storyline.  Wrong! Religious beliefs aside, the movie brought the book to life in ways I never imagined possible, and the music in the final scene is inspiring—and I play it while I write.

Maybe I should go re-read The Thorn Birds. I misplaced the hardcover long ago, but my daughter has it in paperback somewhere in her room. Time to search…

Lights! Camera! Action!

The year is 1983. As a teenager, I’ve waited for months for one of my all-time favorite books, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, to be released on the Big Screen. Attending one of the first showings became an obsession.

Now, to refresh your memories, The Outsiders had a teen heartthrob-studded cast: Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Leif Garrett, C. Thomas Howell, and Tom Cruise. But even this hunkfest did not make the movie live up to my love for the novel.

OutsidersI think this was the beginning of a recurring pattern for me. For the most part, I have found the movies based on the books I thoroughly enjoyed to be a disappointment. I don’t believe it’s the producer’s, director’s, or actor’s fault. I think it’s simply hard for the big screen to capture all the nuances a book can. A book can take you inside the character’s mind. A movie has to try to show you what they are thinking or feeling. Not to mention, the actors chosen seldom resemble the characters in my imagination.

There are exceptions to this situation. I have thoroughly enjoyed the Hallmark’s Love Comes Softly series based on Janette Oke’s books. Even the annoying actor/actress changing of key characters in the various installments of the series did not ruin the storyline of these very well-done movies.

Lord of the RingsI also loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy. While I missed the exclusion of some of my favorite parts from the books, I knew there would be no way to include everything Tolkien had written in his volumes. I believe went in with different expectations. I was not disappointed by the amazing special effects or the incredible acting.

It appears there will be no end to books making from the page to the stage. According to Mid-Continent Public Library’s database , there are over 1,250 books which have made the leap since 1980, and these books have produced everything from Mrs. Doubtfire to Who Framed Roger Rabbit to A Beautiful Mind.

Out of curiosity, I went in search of a best and worst list. I found one at Reel News and Reviews. The following is their opinion of the worst and best movies which were based on books.

thumbsdown

Worst.
1. “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” by Tom Wolfe
2. “North,” book by Alan Zweibel
3. “The Island of Dr. Moureau (1996),” book by H.G. Wells
4. “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” book by Douglas Adams
5. “Eyes Wide Shut,” book by Arthur Schnitzlerby
6. “Cheaper By the Dozen (2003),” book by Frank B. Gilbreah
7. “Beowulf,” book by Anonymous
8. “Beloved,” book by Toni Morrison
9. “Sphere,” book by Michael Crichton
10. “A Time to Kill,” book by John Grisham

thumbs up

Best
1. “The Shawshank Redemption,” book by Stephen King
2. “The Princess Bride,” book by William Goldman
3. “Misery,” book by Stephen King
4. “Jurassic Park,” book by Michael Crichton
5. “A Christmas Story,” book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd
6. “Fight Club,” book by Chuck Palaniuk
7. “The Lord of the Rings Trilogy,” books by J.R.R. Tolkien
8. “Blade Runner,” book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Phillip K. Dick
9. “The Bridges of Madison County,” book by Robert James Waller
10. “The Notebook,” book by Nicholas Sparks

MockingbirdSee anything missing from one of the lists in your opinion? My teenage daughter pointed out they are sadly lacking in some of the recent adaptations from young adult literature such as Holes, Eragon, and Because of Winn Dixie. (She didn’t say which list she’d put any of those on.) And I’d be hard pressed not to add To Kill a Mockingbird  or Gone With the Wind to the best list–even if the books are still better.

So, let’s talk about what would be on your best and worst lists? Would you agree with any of the ones listed above? Which films surprised you that they’d come from a book? Why do you think some books make the leap more successfully than others?

As for me, after reading the larger database list, I realized that as long as I haven’t read the book first, I truly love a lot books that have become feature films, and I have one book I’d love to see on the big screen someday.

My own.