The Gospel According to The Lord of the Rings: Week 15, Frodo's Prayer

As the Black Riders close in on Frodo on Weathertop, the "deep narrative" of the story returns.

In close proximity to the Riders, Frodo feels again an overwhelming, irresistible urge to put the Ring on. And he succumbs:
Frodo was hardly less terrified than his companions; he was quaking as if he was bitter cold, but his terror was swallowed up in a sudden temptation to put on the Ring. The desire to do this laid hold of him, and he could think of nothing else. He did not forget the Barrow, nor the message of Gandalf; but something seemed to be compelling him to disregard all warning, and he longed to yield. Not with the hope of escape, or of doing anything, either good or bad: he simply felt that he must take the Ring and put it on his finger...He shut his eyes and struggled for a while; but resistance became unbearable, and at last he slowly drew out the chain, and slipped the Ring on the forefinger of his left hand.
Again, following Fleming Rutledge's tracing of the deep theological narrative in the story, we see again the dark "third power" at work in the story, the external malevolent force attacking Frodo's psyche and moral fortitude. And Frodo is helpless in facing it alone.

Rutledge highlights this helplessness and powerlessness by drawing attention to the line "resistance became unbearable." Anyone who has ever struggled with an addiction or compulsion can empathize with that line. That's the power of Sin, how, in the words of Paul, we do the very things we hate.

But if Frodo is attacked by a dark force external to his own mind, aid also comes to him from the outside. Again, this is the "deep narrative" at work in the story. As the "pale king," leader of the Black Riders, moves to attack, Frodo cries out: "O Elbereth! Githoniel!"

This is one of more explicit religious moments in The Lord of the Rings. At the moment of crisis, Frodo cries out to Elbereth, pleading for help and rescue.

In the cosmology of Middle-Earth, the Valar are the greatest of the divine, supernatural powers, just under Eru, the Creator. The Lord of the Valar is Manwë, and his queen is Elbereth. And so, Elbereth is the greatest divine female being in Middle-Earth, and it is said she stands upon a great height looking toward Middle-Earth listening for the cries of help from those in great peril or grief.

Though we should avoid any strict correspondence, Tolkien was a Catholic, and it's not hard to see parallels between Elbereth and the Virgin Mary, two Queens of Heaven.

Regardless, as mentioned, this is one of the few religious moments in The Lord of the Rings, Frodo's  prayer for divine assistance. The "deep narrative" takes center stage on Weathertop.

And Frodo's prayer is answered. He finds the courage to strike the pale king, Aragorn jumps to his aid, and "with a last effort" Frodo slips the Ring from his finger.

Frodo prays, and help comes.

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