Heroes and Gardeners

by FanForever

I remember a long time ago, Varda mentioned something to the effect that nobody seemed to have seen (or even cared for?) what was going on in Middle-Earth while Sauron’s power was getting stronger and stronger. Where were they all, she was saying. Was no-one aware that a threat was growing? Where were the leaders, she said then. Where was Gandalf (and the other Istari) when Saruman was turning into evil?

Well, it has been on my mind lately that LOTR and all the good things that happen in it seem to be in fact reactions to a situation that threatens no less than the survival of a whole world. How could that have happened? Why was Sauron’s 'mischiefs' not detected and acted upon earlier? Where were the High Elves, Galadriel, Elrond, where was Gandalf and all the wizards, so wise and knowledgeable? Where was Tom Bombadil? Why did they have to wait for so long? Would not this have prevented a good hobbit from being tortured and destroyed?

And if we are to extend that idea a little further, does it take wars and extreme situations in order to bring forth heroes? Could heroism even exist without something to react to, some danger, some menacing threat? Could there be heroes in a society where everyone would be responsible for themselves, where common good would be a constant preoccupation, where everybody would tend to their own lands and people as if they were ‘stewards’ and ‘gardeners’, acting towards the good maintenance of life and its beauty?

Unfortunately, we seem to see heroes only in those who fight evil, an evil that is often promoted by sheer laxity.

I know, I know, this is borderline to utopia, if not utterly preposterous :-) but my aim is to bring the discussion on this idea that LOTR is a novel about extreme situations/emotions, and that instead of putting forward the necessity to ACT towards good and the ‘maintenance’ of what is good, it seems to show that great things and people will only arise in danger and during threats, and that what is truly valued is REACTION and not ACTION.

I know, people will say : “Well, that’s the human nature, and unfortunately this is how it works in the world, we wait until something threatens our universe for us to move”. But then, what about all the people quietly trying to take care of the world -- of themselves even -- in order to achieve their own full potential, in order to try to make the world around them give their best fruits? What about all those ‘gardeners’ trying to maintain equilibrium and promote life and beauty and goodness, as they would of plants and trees? Are they not heroes as well?

Now don’t get me wrong, I admire heroes and people who sacrifice themselves for others or the common good, I am not questioning that at all. When reaction is needed you just have to react and do what you think is right. I am only wondering why do we need danger and living on the edge of destruction to do something, and why does it take that to find some purpose in life? Why does it seem more valuable, and more ‘exciting’ to fight evil than to care for the maintenance of goodness?