Melissa and I are watching Amazon’s The Rings of Power.
I wasn’t terribly excited when I first heard about Amazon tackling this project. But, now, toward the end of Season One, I am a fan.
If you are one of the few who haven’t begun watching the latest iteration, I encourage you to get on the bandwagon today.
I stumbled across Tolkien’s, The Hobbit, as a pre-teen during my middle school years. I’ve been a fan ever since.
Heros are Those Common Companions Along the Way
One of the many things I admire about Tolkien’s writings is the picturesque way he imagines company – a fellowship. In modern lingo, friends.
In Tolkien’s work a friend – a companion – is one who is committed to being with you without worrying about how to fix you.
Many of his novels contain both characters and scenes illustrating this idea.
One character in particular, however, embodies Tolkein’s idea of a friend or companion unlike any other. His name is Samwise Gamgee.
Follow The Lord of the Rings very long and you will come to see that Sam Gamgee is the real hero. He is, in my mind, the least remarkable of all the characters. Tolkien gave him a name, Samwise, which literally means halfwit. Sam’s actions, especially early on, solidify this image in our minds. Tolkien accentuates traits we ignore or criticize as he creates a hero before our very eyes. A hero who was there, within Sam, all along. But one we don’t see coming.
Tolkien makes Sam a hero by elevating him in one significant way – as a constant companion and one who understands what it means to be a friend.
Sam serves as a mirror for the maddening world of meddlesome friends always longing to solve the unsolvable and manage the unmanageable.
Friends who want to fix you before being with you.
Ones who declare what they believe before they understand how you feel.
I am, all too often, such a friend.
I Can’t Carry it for You, But I Can Carry You
Sam knows the value of being with someone within the chaos, pain, and uncertainty of a situation and circumstance that’s as unmanageable as it is unsolvable. In one of the more riveting scenes of the original Epic, Frodo collapses, falling to the ground.
The journey has been grueling. Sam holds him and asks him to remember. He asks him to remember all the good in the world – represented by the Shire. Frodo sees only darkness and death, despair, and evil. At that moment Sam proclaims, “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”
I love this scene. Sam is present. Present to help Frodo do what He cannot do for himself. He cannot take the ring from him. He cannot carry the ring. But he can do something. He can carry him.
I don’t just need the type of friend who will be with me in the chaos and pain of life, I also need to be that type of friend for others. One who knows I cannot carry the burden for them but is ever-ready to carry them. A friend who is content to simply be with them in their moment of pain without trying to manage, solve, or fix them.
I am, rather powerfully, witnessing this type of friendship and companionship more and more these days. I am watching this kind of being with others in real time. Yes, there are those, today saying, “we cannot carry it for you, but we can – and will – carry you.”
I am thankful for what I see and hope more will catch this vision!
Common Companions and Faithful Friends
Sam’s value as a common and faithful companion grows as the journey draws to a close. It grows as we realize how much this journey will change them forever, especially Frodo.
You see, there are some things that remain with us. Tolkien wants us to know that as well. He wants us to know that we encounter things in life that will change us forever. They will, in some ways, always be with us.
Tolkein helps us imagine this reality once again in the final pages of his Epic work. As the journey toward home, toward the ever-fabled Shire draws to a close, we read:
‘Are you in pain, Frodo?’ said Gandalf quietly as he rode by Frodo’s side.The Lord of the Rings, Part III: The Return of the King.
‘Well, yes I am,’ said Frodo. ‘It’s my shoulder. The wound aches, and the memory of darkness is heavy on me. It was a year ago today.’
‘Alas! There are some wounds that cannot be wholly cured.’ said Gandalf.
‘I fear it may be so with mine,’ said Frodo. ‘There is no real going back. Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same; for I shall not be the same. I am wounded with knife, sting, and tooth, and a long burden. Where shall I find rest?’
Gandalf did not answer.
When I was growing up, my dad would often say, “that may leave a mark.” Usually, it followed some injury I showed him. It was dad’s way of letting me know that life often leaves a mark. Wounds we never escape but must somehow learn to live with nonetheless. He was right. I have scars to this day from some of the wounds I suffered as a child.
We all do.
I don’t remember those who tried to fix me or who told me I was wrong.
I do remember, though, who was with me. I do remember those who sat with me, walked with me and were content being with me.
This is as true for emotional and spiritual pain as it is for physical pain.
We need friends – common companions along the way – who are content to be with us and, when necessary, carry us.
Perhaps even more importantly, we need to become the kind of friends who do!