The Gospel According to The Lord of the Rings: Week 46, Sam's Choice

The "deep narrative" of the story reemerges at the top Cirith Ungol as Sam kneels beside the dead body of Frodo.

Well, Sam thinks Frodo is dead. And we've jumped ahead quite a bit. 

En route to the secret entrance into Mordor, Sam and Frodo are captured by Faramir and his men. In their time together Faramir comes to know the full story of Boromir's death. But unlike his brother, Faramir is able withstand the temptation to possess the Ring. He consents to let Frodo and Sam go, even if their plan is to enter Mordor through Minas Morgul, the city of the Witch King.

Gollum leads Frodo and Sam past the City of Shadow, climbing up the mountain using stairs that lead to the pass of Cirith Ungol, and from there over into the land of Mordor.

But Gollum has set a trap at the top of the pass, leading Frodo and Sam into the lair of the giant spider Shelob. Gollum attacks Sam and Shelob attacks and stings Frodo. But Sam puts Gollum to flight, and then, against all odds, wielding Sting and the Phial of Galadriel, Sam is able to wound and chase off Shelob. 

But it seems that Sam is too late to save Frodo, who appears dead after Shelob's venomous sting. And there, in the midst of his great grief and pain, Sam has to make a choice. Shall he give up all hope or take the Ring from his dead Master to carry on the quest?

Sam chooses to take the Ring and carry on. Or does he? Here we find "the deep narrative" rushing back into the story as Sam ponders the choice before him:

"What? Me, alone, go to the Crack of Doom and all?" He quailed still, but the resolve grew. "What? Me take the Ring from him? The Council gave it to him."

But the answer came at once: "And the Council gave him companions, so that the errand should not fail. And you are the last of all the Company. The errand must not fail."

"I wish I wasn't the last," he groaned. "I wish old Gandalf was here or somebody. Why am I left all alone to make up my mind? I'm sure to go wrong. And it's not for me to go taking the Ring, putting myself forward."

"But you haven't put yourself forward; you've been put forward. And as for not being the right and proper person, why, Mr. Frodo wasn't, as you might say, nor Mr. Bilbo. They didn't choose themselves."

You haven't put yourself forward, you've been put forward. They didn't choose themselves.

Okay, then who did put Sam forward? And who chose Bilbo and Frodo? 

Again, following Fleming Rutledge, these are the moments where God shows up in Tolkien's masterpiece. On the surface, the story is irreligious and godless. But when you track the deep narrative, you see the fingerprints of God everywhere you look. 

All of life is like this. Spotting the divine presence involves a perceptual shift. "Do you not see?" Jesus asked his followers over and over again

Life is like that famous optical illusion. What do you see, a rabbit or a duck? Nihilism or meaning? Despair or hope? Randomness or purpose? Chance or providence? Determinism or freedom? Matter or mind? Shame or grace? Divine absence or presence? Atheism or God?

Rabbit or duck?

And over and over Jesus asks,"Do you not see?"

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

Leave a Reply