The Gospel According to The Lord of the Rings: Week 14, The Grace of Your Story

Night descends on the frightened hobbits huddled together on Weathertop. To calm their nerves, Strider chants to them the Song of Beren and Lúthien, the tale of a love between a mortal man and an immortal elf.

This story holds a particular significance for Aragorn, as he is a descendant of Lúthien through Elrond's brother Elros, the first King of Númenor, the start of the regal line which Aragorn will inherit. In the history and legend Aragorn shares with the hobbits, he shares the prophecy that the line of Lúthien "shall never fail." Aragorn, the future king, is a continuation and fulfillment of this hope.

The hobbits know none of this history, or of Aragorn's place within it. Neither does the reader at this point. Aragorn is still Strider, a rough, dirty, mysterious Ranger.

But Aragorn knows the story. Because it is his story. And as he recites it, he is changed and transfigured. The hobbits notice:
As Strider was speaking they watched his strange, eager face, dimly lit in the red glow of the wood-fire. His eyes shone, and his voice was rich and deep. Above him was a black starry sky. Suddenly a pale light appeared over the crown of Weathertop behind him. The waxing moon was climbing slowly above the hill that overshadowed them, and the stars above the hill-top faded.

The story ended...
As Fleming Rutledge notes, this theme of transfiguration runs throughout The Lord of the Rings. We catch an early glimpse of it here. We'll revisit this later on in this series.

For today, a reflection about how sharing the story of Beren and Lúthien affects Aragorn. As Rutledge observes,
Like the disciples of Jesus, the hobbits are in no position to understand as yet, but clearly Strider/Aragorn understands where he fits into the redemptive story. For Tolkien, this understanding is the greatest thing that can happen to anyone, whether great or small...Just as Strider sees himself and his vocation as a part of a greater ongoing saga moving toward consummation, so also Frodo and Sam will later come to see the same for themselves.
Finding our part, great or small, in the Story is one of the greatest things that can happen to anyone. Trouble is, as Robert Jenson has observed, the post-Christian West has lost its Story. And having lost our Story, we've become anxious, confused, and disoriented. We've lost access to the grace that Aragorn finds in his story. We exist today only to scroll through social media and binge on Netflix. No regulating narrative or drama controls and guides our lives. We just crash into news report after news report and are scattered into so many directions, depending upon our particular neurosis, like a bunch of bowling pins.

But the gospel according to The Lord of the Rings is that there is, in fact, a Story.

And like Aragorn, this Story is yours.

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

Leave a Reply