Depth of Subtle Brillance

by DoctorGamgee

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." (ROTK, 177)

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 the truth.

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 ourselves.

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 so blatantly.

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.