The Gospel According to The Lord of the Rings: Week 11, The Finger of God

We're still in Bree, and last week we saw the "third power" at work in the story. The Ring, with a seeming will of its own, appeared to be responding to an outside wish or command from the Enemy.

But Fleming Rutledge, in her book The Battle for Middle Earth: Tolkien's Divine Design in The Lord of the Rings, also sees the "something else at work" in the events transpiring in Bree. As you know, it's a close call in Bree. The Black Riders almost capture Frodo and the Ring.

Rutledge is doing a very close reading of the book, looking for clues to what she calls "the deep narrative" of the story. And she spots it again in Bree. The power of the Enemy is not unopposed. Something else is at work.

After all the drinking and singing at The Prancing Pony, Merry goes out for a walk. On the walk he encounters a dismounted Black Rider, lurking the the shadows of Bree, hunting. Merry follows the Rider, who meets up with another and overhears their whispering, hissing conversation.

Merry rushes back to the inn to alert Frodo and the others.

Upon hearing the story, Strider says to Merry, "You have a stout heart, but it was foolish."

Merry responds, "I don't know. Neither brave nor silly, I think. I could hardly help myself. I seemed to be drawn somehow. Anyway, I went."

Rutledge observes about the exchange:
Here is another use of the passive ("I seemed to be drawn") and the word "somehow," always a clue to an unseen hand guiding the hobbits. It is noteworthy that Merry refuses credit. We have all seen this; people who do something admirable in a crisis will say afterward that they don't know how they did it, that something else took over. Tolkien, speaking as a Christian, calls that "the finger of God."

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply