Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

A Triumphant Return: RETURN OF THE KING (Warning: Minor spoiler)
BreakPoint ^ | 15 Dec 03 | Chuck Colson

Posted on 12/16/2003 1:47:21 PM PST by Mr. Silverback

Note: There is a minor spolier in the third paragraph, so skip that one if you haven't read the books.)

After seven years in the making, the final film of the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, THE RETURN OF THE KING, opens this Wednesday. The good news is that, like the others, it was worth the wait. The better news is that, even more than the others, what we see on screen respects the Christian faith of the book's author, J. R. R. Tolkien.

Tolkien wrote that LORD OF THE RINGS is a "fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first but consciously in the revision." Director Peter Jackson and screenwriters Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh knew this. So they consciously honored the things that "were important to Tolkien." Many of his beliefs, thus, come through on screen.

What sets LORD OF THE RINGS apart from other stories about good versus evil, aside from its extraordinarily imaginative treatment, is the way Christian truth is portrayed, how it confounds the wisdom of the world. While the great and powerful play a role in defeating evil, in the end, it's the humble and unremarkable hobbits who save the day.

This paradox, the weak shaming the wise and the mighty, is most prominent in THE RETURN OF THE KING, both the book and the film. At the end, the hero of the third film isn't Aragon, the king-to-be, or even Frodo, the ring-bearer. It's Samwise Gamgee, a gardener and arguably the humblest of the four hobbits.

Time after time, when it appears that the quest to destroy the Ring of Power is about to fail, Sam somehow summons up the will to go on and, most importantly, takes Frodo with him. The cinematic Sam mirrors what Tolkien wrote of in his book: "His will was set and only death would break it."

Another instance of Tolkien's faith coming through occurs in an exchange between Pippin, one of the hobbits, and Gandalf, the wizard. Hours before a battle in which he is sure he will die, Pippin tells Gandalf that he "never thought it would end like this."

Gandalf replies, "End? No, the journey doesn't end here. There's another path we all must take. The gray rain curtain of this world rolls back, and it will change to the silver clouds, and then you see it." When Pippin asks, "See what?" Gandalf replies, "White shores and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise." Gandalf's words, with a vivid picture of heaven, comfort Pippin as he contemplates battle and possible death.

According to screenwriters Boyens and Walsh, THE RETURN OF THE KING is ultimately about faith: faith in the need for good to oppose evil; faith in those who join you in that struggle; and faith in a higher power that ensures good's eventual triumph.

Seven years ago, bringing Tolkien's masterpiece to the screen in a way that did the story justice was considered unlikely -- even less likely that it would honor Tolkien's faith. But that is what this film does. And that makes THE RETURN OF THE KING an easy one to recommend. A great book has become a great film precisely because it remembers what the author thought was "most important" -- the truths of a Christian worldview.

TOPICS: The Hobbit Hole
KEYWORDS: gimli; islam; johnrhysdavies; jrrtolkien; lordoftherings; lotr; tolkien
Can't wait to see this movie!
1 posted on 12/16/2003 1:47:22 PM PST by Mr. Silverback
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: agenda_express; BA63; banjo joe; Believer 1; billbears; Blood of Tyrants; ChewedGum; ...
BreakPoint/Chuck Colson Ping!

If anyone wants on or off my BreakPoint Ping List, please notify me here or by freepmail.

2 posted on 12/16/2003 1:48:12 PM PST by Mr. Silverback (Pre-empt the third murder attempt-- Pray for Terry Schiavo!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ecurbh; HairOfTheDog
3 posted on 12/16/2003 1:48:39 PM PST by Professional Engineer (Open the pod bay doors...FRodo?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: 2Jedismom; 300winmag; Alkhin; Alouette; ambrose; Anitius Severinus Boethius; artios; AUsome Joy; ...

Ring Ping!!
There and Back Again: The Journeys of Flat Frodo

Anyone wishing to be added to or removed from the Ring-Ping list, please don't hesitate to let me know.

4 posted on 12/16/2003 1:50:31 PM PST by ecurbh (There's gonna be a hobbit wedding!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Mr. Silverback
I was at the first showing of FotR and TTT (in fact we got to jump to the front of the line for TTT since my wife was preggers) but this time the tickets got snapped up before I could get there and so I have to wait for the 10am showing Wed morning. :(
5 posted on 12/16/2003 2:17:36 PM PST by Grig
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Mr. Silverback
Gandalf replies, "End? No, the journey doesn't end here. There's another path we all must take. The gray rain curtain of this world rolls back, and it will change to the silver clouds, and then you see it."

Ah, but that is not in the book.

Tolkien, like most Catholics, had a deep and abiding faith. Such a faith permeates all of life, and finds joy in all that is fine and beautiful, because God is fine and beautiful

Hobbits try to be just and faithful friends and do the right thing, but they don't go around bragging about it (Heroic? scoffs Pippin, no, at least no more than needs be in a pinch, to which his listener notes, so would say many a more heroic man)

The heroism of the hobbits is that of ordinary people with faith. You never hear the NYC firefighters brag about their faith, yet most of them were Catholic christians, and many of them had risked their lives on many occassions.

The majority of our armed forces and policemen are also people of faith, who see in their jobs a way to protect their fellow man.

A brave man does not brag about his bravery (john kerry take not: you never hear Bush Sr. brag about his exploits, which were heroic, nor hear Bob Dole brag that he was almost killed when he tried to save his men).

And sometimes the deepest christianity is that seen in the daily honesty, friendship, and heroism of Christians...who without a word show people what Jesus would do...

6 posted on 12/16/2003 4:31:43 PM PST by LadyDoc (liberals only love politically correct poor people)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Mr. Silverback
16 more hours!
7 posted on 12/16/2003 7:31:13 PM PST by Gal.5:1 (waiting for the Return of the King)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Mr. Silverback
It's Samwise Gamgee, a gardener and arguably the humblest of the four hobbits.

Not arguable at all. In the books, Sam never seems to cotton to what a heroic figure he has become. A characteristic I found particularly endearing.

8 posted on 12/16/2003 8:18:10 PM PST by Restorer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Mr. Silverback; All
From Decent

The Return of the King
Filmmakers contemplate journey, significance of books and films

Related links

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (review)

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (review)

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (review)

Note: This article was written for the National Catholic Register.

By Steven D. Greydanus

With The Return of the King, the third and final chapter of Peter Jackson’s historic film adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, due in theaters Wednesday, December 17, the director and his collaborators recently took some time at a Los Angeles press event to contemplate the project that has occupied the last five years of their lives — as well as the cultural, moral, and spiritual significance of the books that inspired it.

Tolkien’s Catholic faith and its influence in The Lord of the Rings were acknowledged by a number of the filmmakers, though many seemed not entirely clear about just what Tolkien believed, or how the shape of the story reflected those beliefs. (For more on the religious significance of Tolkien’s books, and how it has and has not carried over into the films, see “Faith and Fantasy: Tolkien the Catholic, The Lord of the Rings, and Peter Jackson’s film trilogy”.)

Tolkien’s love of unspoiled countryside and abhorrence for industrialization resonated far more with the generally environmentalist actors than many of his religious themes, such as his lack of faith in human nature and its ability, absent grace, to overcome evil — though the latter notion did get some recognition. And at least one of the actors took the occasion to go to bat for the traditional Western European culture and values Tolkien represented, and to raise serious questions about the relationship of Islam and the West in the coming century.

Acknowledging Tolkien’s religious vision

“Certainly, Tolkien’s faith informs the third book especially,” stated Frances Walsh, one of the project’s three screenwriters. “The values in them, they give you a sense of hope, that it isn’t chaos, that it isn’t arbitrary, that it isn’t without a point. I love storytelling for those reasons. So many things fall away as we kind of charge forward into this new century. There’s so much cynicism and such a lack of ritual and a belief system to govern anything. I like stories for that because they still offer it.”

Jackson himself acknowledged the books’ religious themes, commenting, “I’m not a Catholic, so I didn’t put any of that personally into the film on my behalf, but I certainly am aware that there were certain [religious] things that Tolkien was thinking of… We made a real decision at the beginning that we weren’t going to introduce any new themes of our own into The Lord of the Rings. We were just going to make a film based upon what clearly Tolkien was passionate about.”

“Tolkien was a Catholic, and I am not,” reflected actor Ian McKellen, who plays the wizard Gandalf. “But Tolkien and I both lived through the second World War, and he was writing this during the war, and I was sleeping under a metal shelter in the north of England waiting for the bombs to fall. So there was a Sauron around. And although he doesn’t think of it as an allegory for the second World War, how could he not be affected? Because his boy, his Frodo was fighting in the north of France.

“Whenever I had to think, What is Sauron? — who we never seen in the film — I would think of Hitler. He’s the great evil force of our time, and certainly of Tolkien’s. So I always think of Frodo as the representative of all those kids who have given their lives. They’re still doing it, they’re doing it now… Those are the connections I’ve got with Tolkien.”

McKellen, also commented on the differing attitudes of his character Gandalf and the evil wizard Saruman toward Tolkien’s humble, earthy hobbits, with their many meals and many children.

“What I like about Gandalf, and what Saruman doesn’t like about Gandalf, is that Gandalf likes hobbits. Saruman doesn’t, he’s extremely disparaging about them. They’re eating and drinking and having parties. They have big families. There’s not much going on in their world, they’re just happy where they are. They’re very content.

“Saruman doesn’t rate hobbits one little bit. And Gandalf does. And who destroys the ring? A couple of hobbits. That’s a message for our world… And we are all much closer to being hobbits than we are to being wizards.”

The challenge of Tolkien’s spirituality

For some of the filmmakers, engaging the spirituality of Tolkien’s epic over an extended period of time seems to have been a challenging experience. While not sharing Tolkien’s beliefs, Frances Walsh acknowledged the appeal of the moral vision embodied in stories such as his.

“I think that stories [like Tolkien’s] do offer us comfort that we live in a moral universe, whether or not that is [true]… who can say? The world seems to be a very amoral place, governed by something arbitrary, and not founded on a great sort of sense of decency.”

She noted also the importance of Tolkien’s belief in immortality, “that even those who leave us too soon or who are lost in war or who die young — and Frodo certainly represents all of those — they go to another place, they don’t just fall into nothingness… [Tolkien] took that from his own war experience and from his own profound Christian beliefs.”

While bringing a measure of respect and sympathy for Tolkien’s religious worldview, the filmmakers seemed not always to fully understand or appreciate the writer’s vision. For example, one notion that kept cropping up was the idea of the goodness of humanity, of looking within ourselves or to our own innate goodness to overcome evil and achieve salvation.

In reality, this notion is quite alien to Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, which dramatically emphasizes in a critical scene the frailty and fallibility of mortals and their dependence upon divine grace and providence.

Despite what seemed a general lack of appreciation for this theme, there was one notable exception: co-screenwriter Philippa Boyens, who spoke insightfully about the story’s theme of fallibility of human nature, and the necessity of having faith, not in ourselves, but in a higher power for the final triumph over evil.

“One of the things Tolkien understood, because he was a [Christian] humanist,” Boyens correctly noted, “is that we all fail, and we have the ability within us to fail. Faith requires us to believe in a higher power. Gandalf, very early on in the book says, ’The Ring came to Bilbo and in that moment something else was at work.’ Not the [Ring’s] designer, the maker, this evil power, but some other power was at work. So it’s whether you believe in that or not, whether you choose to believe in that or not.

(Spoiler warning.) Describing a climactic point in Tolkien’s story and in the film, Boyens went on, “Frodo dragged himself to that point, and failed. And another power intervened.” Then, referring to the end of Frodo’s life in Middle-earth, she added, “And he ultimately surrenders to that power at the end of this movie, which is one of the most beautiful moments in this movie.”

Gimli raises axe for Western civilization

Perhaps the most passionate observations came from John Rhys-Davies, who plays the dwarf Gimli and voices Treebeard the Ent. Focusing on the necessity of defending civilization in times of crisis, Rhys-Davies took the media to task for failing to appreciate the preciousness of Western civilization, and warned of the potential consequences of rising Muslim extremism and the increasingly Islamic face of Europe.

“I think that Tolkien says that some generations will be challenged,” said Rhys-Davies, “and if they do not rise to meet that challenge, they will lose their civilization. That does have a real resonance with me.”

Pointing a finger at the media, Rhys-Davies went on, “What is unconscionable is that too many of your fellow journalists do not understand how precarious Western civilization is, and what a jewel it is… The abolition of slavery comes from Western democracy. True democracy comes from our Greco-Judeo-Christian Western experience. If we lose these things, then this is a catastrophe for the world.”

Rhys-Davies revealed that as far back as 1955 his father had predicted that “the next World War will be between Islam and the West.” The actor recalled his response: “I said to him, ’Dad, you’re nuts! The Crusades have been over for hundreds of years!’ And he said, ’Well, I know, but militant Islam is on the rise again. And you will see it in your lifetime.’ He’s been dead some years now. But there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him and think, ’God, I wish you were here, just so I could tell you that you were right.’”

Looking at the lone female journalist at the table, Rhys-Davies said pointedly, “You should not be in this room [according to Muslim custom]. Because your husband or your father or your husband is not here to guide you. You could only be here in this room with these strange men for immoral purposes.”

Rhys-Davies went on to contemplate the significance of demographic shifts among Western Europeans and Muslims in Europe. “There is a demographic catastrophe happening in Europe that nobody wants to talk about, that we daren’t bring up because we are so cagey about not offending people racially. And rightly we should be. But there is a cultural thing as well… By 2020, fifty percent of the children in Holland under the age of 18 will be of Muslim descent…

“And don’t forget, coupled with this there is this collapse of numbers. Western Europeans are not having any babies. The population of Germany at the end of the century is going to be 56% of what it is now. The populations of France, 52% of what it is now. The population of Italy is going to be down 7 million people.

“There is a change happening in the very complexion of Western civilization in Europe that we should think about at least and argue about. If it just means the replacement of one genetic stock with another genetic stock, that doesn’t matter too much. But if it involves the replacement of Western civilization with a different civilization with different cultural values, then it is something we really ought to discuss — because, [hang it all], I am for dead-white-male culture!”

His fellow filmmakers might not all agree, but Tolkien would have applauded.

9 posted on 12/17/2003 5:16:59 AM PST by LadyDoc (liberals only love politically correct poor people)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Mr. Silverback
I would be one of the few not to see Sam as the greatest hero. That's not to knock what he does represent. He is the embodiment of prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice. There is no doubt that Sam was Frodo's great and faithful servant but the human virtues of Sam do not surpass the faith, hope and love of Frodo.
10 posted on 12/17/2003 8:49:03 AM PST by Varda
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Varda
Frodo failed in his quest. Sam did not.
11 posted on 12/17/2003 9:05:44 AM PST by The Shootist
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: The Shootist
Frodo's quest was to carry the ring to Mount Doom but he did not have the power to destroy evil, only grace could do that.
12 posted on 12/17/2003 9:12:06 AM PST by Varda
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: The Shootist
Frodo failed in his quest. Sam did not.

No, he didn't. And the reason he succeeded is part of what makes it so wonderful. Frodo refused to kill Gollum because he took pity on him because of the Ring. It was Frodo's refusal to kill Gollum that let Gollum play the ultimate role at the end. Had Frodo listened to Sam, and either banished or killed Gollum, the Quest would have failed. Frodo's kindness saved the quest.

Still, Sam's always been my favorite anyway because he did the single most courageous act in the book when he picked up the Ring from a "dead" Frodo and continued on by himself. He gave up the thing he cared about most in order to do what what right.

13 posted on 12/18/2003 2:14:13 PM PST by XJarhead
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: Mr. Silverback
I just got home from seeing it. Words don't do it justice.
A simple statement of fact may help. I had need to visit the men's room about 50 minutes into the movie. I didn't budge. I refused to and I survived. The scale of this movie, the battles, oh my. It did end about 8 times as critics suggest; but, I didn't care a bit. It felt more like Jackson being kind and slowly nursing us back out to reality. If I didn't have to work in the morning, I'd gladly have hit the restroom and headed right back in to see it again.

I'm ready to bust to talk to anyone about it. But, it's one that you just gotta see to appreciate. Incredible!!!!
14 posted on 12/18/2003 7:54:15 PM PST by Havoc (If you can't be frank all the time are you lying the rest of the time?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson