Last week during my long walks to work I decided to start listening to The Lord of the Rings on audiobook. The narrator is fantastic. I’ve read the series almost two decades ago, but a lot of it is intertwined with the Peter Jackson movies. Also when I read the books I didn’t possess the depth of knowledge concerning history, mythology, and religion to fully appreciate the book as intended.
I expected to notice some things here and there but two chapters in and I’m shocked at the overall difference between the movies and the novel. The tone is different, permeated with a melancholy that is missing in the films. Most of all, as early as chapter two the distinct Christian themes are discussed in depth.
The scene where Gandalf and Frodo are discussing the history of the Ring and the whereabouts of Gollum after losing it are poignant and illustrate the heart of the story.
‘What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!’
‘Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity.’
‘I am sorry,’ said Frodo. ‘But I am frightened; and I do not feel any pity for Gollum.’
‘You have not seen him,’ Gandalf broke in.
‘No, and I don’t want to,’ said Frodo. ‘I can’t understand you. Do you mean to say that you, and the Elves, have let him live on after all those horrible deeds? Now at any rate he is as bad as an Orc, and just an enemy. He deserves death.’
‘Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or for ill, before the end…’ (The Lord of the Rings, p.58)
The idea that the salvation of Middle Earth was started by an act of mercy is monumental.