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.
Now, feeling the way become steep before
his feet, he [Frodo] looked wearily up; and then he
saw it, even as Gollum had said that he would:
the city of the Ringwraiths.
(Two Towers, p. 388)
On descrying the dreadful citadel of the Nazgûl, Frodo cowers in terror at the sight: Minas Morgul, the formerly beautiful Minas Ithil, instills great fear with its uncanniness. In the long years that the Ringwraiths had been holding it, they turned Minas Ithil into the place reflecting their own unsettling eerie ghostliness. It is thus no wonder that Minas Morgul is one of the creepiest places in Middle-earth.
Being the chief villain of the Second and Third Ages, Sauron sparks numerous questions concerning his motives. How did he become the evil figure we know him to be? Why did he run the risk of transferring a great amount of his inherent power into the One Ring knowing that it could lead to his destruction? Let us look at his downfall and motives through Tolkien’s own stories and letters.
…Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower, which suffered no rival,
and laughed at flattery, biding its time,
secure in its pride and its immeasurable strength.
(Two Towers, p. 192)
Just like Angband in the First Age became the citadel of Morgoth — the embodiment of evil and the Dark Lord’s tyranny in Middle-earth, so did Barad-dûr rise to fill its place in the Second and Third Ages as the fortress of Sauron. In many ways the Dark Tower of Mordor, built by once Morgoth’s most trusted lieutenant, became the descendant of Angband, sharing traits with it, but also being the reflection of Sauron’s own power, character, ambitions and evil. Read more
Elvish poetry occupies a special place in Tolkien’s Legendarium. It is always instantly recognisable and different from the verse of other peoples in Middle-earth. Varied in style and tone, focus and subject matter, Elvish songs and poems always give a lot of food for thought. Their poems in The Lord of the Rings present a story of their own.
Seas have always instilled fascination and deep respect in those encountering them. Immense and ever dynamic, the sea is both – dangerous and comforting, magnetic and frightening. The role of the sea in different cultures is hard to overestimate. Seas are held in awe by many: they are ever present in myths, legends and traditions of different nations; they have been essential for trade and cultural exchange; mariners are admired and revered while maritime nations are among the best-off. Read more
It would be a poor life in a land where no mallorn grew.
(Fellowship of the Ring, p. 457)
While there are still Elvish realms like spots of light in Middle-earth of the Third Age, none of them is so Elvish as Lothlórien is. Legolas refers to the Golden Wood as to «the fairest of all the dwellings of my people» (Fellowship of the Ring., p. 438), which captures Lórien’s aura perfectly.