The Gospel According to The Lord of the Rings: Week 59, Many Partings

One of the noteworthy things about The Lord of the Rings is how slow, patient and careful Tolkien is in unwinding the tale. In the chapter "Many Partings" we move through a series of good-byes as the hobbits journey home with Gandalf, back to the Shire. 

One by one, we say good-bye to characters we have grown to love. Aragorn. Legolas. Gimli. Treebeard. Each parting filled with so much emotion. You cry a lot. Such feelings are what make the story so great, like all great fiction.

It's all so very sad and beautiful. And as we've noted before, and will again in the final post of this series, this beautiful sadness, this poignant longing, haunts Tolkien's story. 

What is the theological significance of the prolonged leave-taking of The Lord of the Rings? 

Once again, I think Tolkien is striking an eschatological note. The battle for Middle Earth has been the acute drama of the story. And a great victory is won. Most stories would end with that ringing climax. But this story doesn't end with the defeat of Sauron. This story isn't just an adventure or a battle. This story is about...more. Tolkien ends the story with a prolonged and patient evocation that makes us long, even ache, for this something more. Tolkien makes us cry, and those tears point to something. 

Toward what? 

Shall I state the obvious?

The tears point to heaven. 

You can disagree with me, but it's my opinion that what people love about this story are these feelings I'm trying to describe here. And I also think every Christian reader of the story knows exactly where those feelings are pointing them. We're not Home yet, but we know it's there. We've felt it. We've longed for it. And one of the places where we first learned to recognize those feelings was when we came to the end of The Lord of the Rings.

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