The concepts of hope and courage permeate the tales written by J. R. R. Tolkien through and through. They are vital and, I do not think it will be an exaggeration to say, central to his narratives. There are many examples of how hope and courage make a big difference, help characters achieve almost the impossible and thus influence the course of events dramatically. In this special reflection for Tolkien Reading Day 2021, whose main theme is Hope and Courage, I would like to look at how hope helped Sam Gamgee lead Frodo and himself through the perils of Mordor to the final destination of their deadly quest.
In his tales J. R. R. Tolkien stated that Fëanor was the greatest of the Noldor in all features of his personality: body, mind, hands. Even though tainted by his arrogant, proud, fierce character and evil deeds, Fëanor’s talents were undeniable, and he made a great contribution to various aspects of Elvish culture. One of the fields which Fëanor was especially gifted in was languages.
J. R. R. Tolkien was a gifted philologist: not only did he know his subject exceedingly well, but he also had an innate ability to understand and perceive tongues. Language matters are tightly interwoven into Tolkien’s tales, and they, as the Professor himself stated, were “fundamentally linguistic in inspiration” (Letters, № 165). Thus, it is only natural that Arda had its own talented linguists, and they were the Elves.
In J. R. R. Tolkien’s world of Arda names bear a great significance. Characters, objects or places are called what they are for a reason, and that is rarely a coincidence: names accurately describe the nature of whatever or whoever they were given to. The healing plant athelas is no exception.
‘And you, Ring-bearer,’ she said, turning to Frodo. ‘I come to you last who are not last in my thoughts. For you I have prepared this.’ (Fellowship of the Ring, p.495 ). The parting gift from Lady Galadriel to Frodo was a small crystal phial filled with the light of Eärendil’s star. Little did the Hobbit know then the potency and power of the gift and how helpful it would be to him and Sam on their dark road.
Pronunciation of words in real and invented languages can be of various kinds: in some tongues words are pronounced in the same way they are spelt, but in others there are entire systems with reading rules of different degrees of complexity. In some cases the way a word is spelt versus the way it is pronounced can be divided by a yawning gap. Some languages have special marks above or below letters to indicate certain peculiarities in their pronunciation. J. R. R. Tolkien’s invented languages Quenya and Sindarin are no exceptions. Read more
In many ways Elvish immortality in Tolkien’s Legendarium is more like a doom for its bearers, rather than a blessing: being not permanent living per se, it is rather the state of an immensely long life until the end of Arda without any knowledge of what comes afterwards. Thus, alongside moments of joy, Elves carry great burdens of battles lost, dear ones dead and sorrows experienced over the courses of their really long lives, and the burden becomes only heavier with years. As Men are growing stronger and more powerful, Elves are waning and fading gradually. In Tolkien’s own words, they “are concerned rather with the griefs and burdens of deathlessness in time and change, than with death” (Letters, № 131).
On their way to Mordor Frodo and Sam encounter various places with a different degree of weirdness to them. However, few of them stand out in the same manner as the Dead Marshes. Lying between the plain of Dagorlad and the Emyn Muil, they become a grave test for the travellers en route to an even darker place.
Among the characters who happened to have Sauron’s ruling One Ring in their possession, Bilbo Baggins stands out as one of the most resilient to the corrupting effects of the Dark Lord’s terrible creation. Among the key aspects of his unyielding stoutness are Bilbo’s character, attitude and behaviour.