Wednesday, July 25, 2012

We are Lost; Can We Ever Go Home?

Middle Earth is not the US, so I figure LOTR counts as international fiction. J. R. R. Tolkien was a devout Catholic. In fact, a friend of mine used to require a paper on the trilogy as an allegory of missions in his Biblical Basis of Missions class. (Wrap your mind around that for some creative thinking!) So I have good precedent for writing about some of my favorite books on this International Christian Fiction blog.

The first DVD my husband and I ever bought was The Lord of the Rings extended version, boxed set. I listen to the audio-book at least once a year (usually starting with The Hobbit and moving on through the trilogy). I have the soundtrack music to all three films on my ipod. The other day at the ice rink “Gollum’s Song” from the ending of the second movie, The Two Towers, came on. You may remember that Andy Serkis, the actor who voiced Gollum, won awards for his role that became far more than a voice-over of a computer-generated character.

Gollum was the slimy creature lurking in a goblin cave who lost the One Ring that was picked up by Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. Throughout the trilogy Gollum follows the company, trying to get it back. In The Two Towers Frodo calls him by his old name, Sméagol, reminding him of the life he had before the coming of the Ring. Frodo’s kindness almost wins him over. In a moving scene a schizophrenic Gollum argues with his other nature, seduced by the Ring, over how to respond to Frodo’s kindness. The facial expressions alternate pitiful and crafty. Later Frodo lures Gollum into a trap and, in Gollum’s eyes, betrays him (even though Frodo did it to save Gollum's life), breaking the fragile trust that might have turned Gollum's corrupt and unnaturally-long life around.

Gollum is a pathetic creature. That second film ends with Gollum leading Frodo and his faithful companion Samwise toward what readers of the books know will be a trap. The song that runs through the credits is slow and anguished.

Where once was light,
Now darkness falls;
Where once was love,
Love is no more.
Don't say goodbye;
Don't say I didn't try.

Gollum thinks his feeble efforts to break out of his isolation and addiction should have been enough, but they weren't. As he closes the door to any sincere human compassion, he blames Frodo for his failures.

These tears we cry
Are falling rain
For all the lies you told us,
The hurt, the blame!
And we will weep to be so alone.
We are lost;
We can never go home.

As someone who has moved around A LOT! that’s the line that tears me apart the most. “We are lost; we can never go home.” I find myself comparing Gollum to the human condition. “We are lost; we can never go home.” To use the old religious language, sin has separated us from God. The relationship our heavenly Father planned for us in Eden was broken, not just by Adam’s sin, but by my own selfish choices. Much as I would like to blame my pride, my thoughtlessness, my resentments and my ingratitude on someone else, I can’t. As the Apostle Paul said, “I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway.... Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.” (Romans 7, The Message)

Gollum is tragic. He has suffered so much from years of isolation. He was tortured by the orcs of Sauron for information about Bilbo. The power of the Ring has created in him (as it does in Frodo) an overwhelming addiction to its possession, which has corrupted his very soul.

It’s not his fault! I want to say.

And yet Gollum is not innocent. His possession of the Ring began with murder. Across the years he has committed many terrible deeds without pity. He had choices, as Frodo has choices, . . . as I have choices. Sam is right to call Gollum vile ... as God is right to call my sin vile. And yet God didn’t turn away from my vileness. When he found me like an abandoned baby tossed on the rubbish heap, covered with blood and filth (Ezekiel 16), he didn’t reject me.

Jesus tells the story of a young man who told his father he wished he was dead, took his inheritance and squandered it (Luke 15:11-22). But when he came to his senses and returned home, his father had been waiting for him and ran to meet him.

Without Christ we are like Gollum:

And you will weep
When you face the end alone.
You are lost;
You can never go home.
You are lost;
You can never go home.

 In Christ, I can go home.



When LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Home is wherever her family is together. Her books for children and young people come out of her passion for stories that will stay with them throughout their lives. Find out more on her website. (This post is reprinted from her blog, My Not-so-ordinary World.)

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