Life Lessons from The Fellowship

In case you have yet to notice, I am a huge nerd. So on the occasion, I just feel the need to watch something I’ve watched nearly a hundred times, simply because it never stops being wondrous to me. Such was the case last night, when I decided it was high time for some Lord of the Rings in my life.

So I stuck in The Fellowship of the Ring (extended edition, because what other edition is there?), and although it was late, I managed to stay awake for almost all of it. And while I have seen it countless times, this time there were so many new observations. And it wasn’t all about film making either. In my personal opinion, what makes a piece of art (literature, film, stage, etc) “classic” is the ability to change every time a person comes back to it. Meaning if you go back to the same piece several times throughout your life, and each time you gain new meaning from it, it is a classic. So I’d like to share some of my new observations from The Fellowship of the Ring.

1. It is better to dwell in the light.

It’s mentioned several times throughout The Hobbit and other Tolkien works that the dwarfs don’t like to come out of their caves. They love to stick to their mountain-dwelling communities, building amazing rock cities and mining for precious metals. But this comes at an enormous price. In The Hobbit, it is clear that the greed for precious stones brings great misfortune upon the dwarfs. This is like level 1 of devastation that is the price of locking yourself away in the dark. The next levels are all illustrated in the Mines of Moria. Firstly, there are several kinds of evil creatures that thrive in the dark places of Middle Earth (Tolkien’s blatant contrasts between light and dark creatures could comprise an entire dissertation). These creatures will seek out any dark living places they can, and little by little, infiltrate and destroy anything wholesome that already lives there. Such led to the destruction of every single dwarf living in Moria. But even worse, the dwarfs dug too deep, disturbed too much, and awakened an ancient demon, the Balrog. Even the evil creatures of the dark were no match for this level of evil, which nearly destroyed the Fellowship and the quest to destroy the ring. Only a man who held true to his light (Gandalf) was able to defeat this devil.

Lesson taken: The dwarfs stayed inside, inside the mountains, and inside themselves, not bothering to reach out and contribute to the rest of the world. As a result, they dug deeper and deeper, picking at things that should’ve been left alone. They lost focus on what was really important, and so could not stand up for themselves when the evil came to desolate them. If they had stepped into the light and reached out of their shell when they had the strength, they could’ve become even stronger by creating bonds with allies and understanding their place in the world as a whole instead of obsessing over the relatively small space they occupied. In what ways are you closing in on yourself and staying locked up in your small space instead of stepping into the light?

2. When people work together for a common goal, background doesn’t matter.

Besides the four hobbits, everyone in the Fellowship comes from a different place and each have a very different history and perspective of right and wrong, how things should get done, etc. Some even had centuries of discord in their heritage. Yet they have one common belief: That good and evil do exist, and evil should be vanquished. This is enough to get them to work together toward a common goal, and along the way, all their differences melt away and they become united, as though with one heart.

Lesson taken: You can get along with anyone in the world if you have a common goal and you are willing to look past someone’s differences in order to obtain that goal. Are there prejudices you are letting get in the way of a bond with someone, or working cooperatively for something with someone who is different than you?

3. Promises are worth fighting to keep.

This kid nearly drowned himself trying to keep this promise he made. Can anyone give me a greater example of dedication? There are several times in the film, and in the subsequent two films, where Sam presses forward simply because he remembers this promise. Sam faces some of the worst dangers in all of Middle Earth, not to mention he is shunned and rejected by his best friend, for whom he keeps this promise, for a while. (Sam and Ron Weasley have so much in common, a subject for another essay some day.) Yet he gets stronger, braver, every time he faces a new challenge in the name of this promise.

Lesson taken: There is power in keeping the promises you make. Imagine if every married couple kept their promises as fiercely as Sam keeps his. Imagine if all politicians kept their promises the way Sam does. If you think something is not worth fighting for, imagine walking to Mt. Doom with bare feet and carrying your best friend on your back in order to get the job done. Makes giving up seem childish, doesn’t it? Are you willing to fight to keep the promises you’ve made?

Now I’m off to watch The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

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