Depth of Subtle Brillance
Highland Elf posed a question a few days ago, which has kept me
thinking. The original was, "What is your favorite line in the
trilogy?", to which my response was:
"In that hour of trial it was the love of his [Sam's} master that
helped most to hold him firm; but also deep down in him lived still
unconquered his plain hobbit-sense: he knew in the core of his heart
that he was not large enough to bear such a burden, even if such
visions were not a mere cheat to betray him. The one small garden of a
free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a
realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command."
Tolkien says something very profound in those two sentences. And it is
the only time that someone who posses the Ring contemplates the Ring's
offer (Galadriel only guesses, but never posesses the One Ring), and we
are able to see what is promised, and one simple hobbit who realizes
I have been pondering these thoughts for a while. It is funny how two
simple sentences seem to point out the subtle touch that Tolkien uses.
He never points out great truths, but brushes these truths by the
characters in the books, and lets us discover what is there for
Frodo (at least the one in my recollection) never stops on the sides of
Mount Doom (Post Ring Distruction) to point out, "Gee, it sure is lucky
my treatment of this most wretched creature was compassionate . . .
otherwise, I just would have killed him and we would all be dead now."
There are morals IN the story, but not OF the story, pointed out for us
And yet, the book has been sited as the most profound work of Fiction
of the 20th century, precisely because of this gentle treatment. Sam is
another great example of this. Sam is of a servant's class (a subtle
point which is downplayed in the films), yet it is he who remembers the
poem about Gil Galad when they came to Weathertop. And then these two
sentences, which say so much about greed, ambition, and thinking before
reacting from the knee-jerk reaction comes from the "everyman" of the
group, not Aragorn. It isn't grandstanded, or said in great detail. But
the last line of the book, "Well, I'm Back." is said by Sam.* Perhaps
he was reminding us not to overlook the "little People" (even the
Non-Hobbits!) in our daily life. You never know how smart someone is by
their social standing.
Tolkien is a master storyteller. He weaves the truths of life into the
fiction, and makes it so real that we learn the lessons without having
to risk the orcs, and often unaware of them at all. It is no wonder
that the books have stayed in the popular reading list for so long.
Thanks for musing with me. Please let me know your thoughts.
*An interesting aside is that the Hobbit is also called, "There and
back again . . ." and when the tale is finally over, the Hobbit is
backstory for Sam's final return to Hobbiton -- not that JRR ever
intended that to be the case, but it will leave you thinking. JRR is
said to have claimed that "Sam was the story's hero.