Fox Byte 5775 #47: Re’eh (See)

רְאֵה

Farmer Maggot and his dogs. (Source: Deviant Art, ©2010-2015 ringbearer80)
Farmer Maggot and his dogs. (Source: Deviant Art, ©2010-2015 ringbearer80)

It is understandable why Peter Jackson had to take considerable license with The Lord of the Rings when he brought J.R.R. Tolkien’s mammoth work to the screen, and yet his choices inevitably brought disappointment to Tolkien aficionados.  Why, for example, did Jackson choose to minimize the presence of Farmer Maggot?  Tolkienists take issue with the fact that his role in The Fellowship of the Ring was diminished to the point of insignificance.  In the book, Farmer Maggot saved Frodo and his companions as they fled the Shire, giving them provision and helping them elude Sauron’s dreaded Black Riders.  It was unexpected help, for Frodo had considered Farmer Maggot an enemy.  As a child Frodo had taken a liking to Maggot’s mushrooms, and on more than one occasion absconded with portions of the good farmer’s crop.  Such youthful mischief roused Maggot’s anger, compelling him to chase Frodo from his land and threaten him with his very large dogs should he ever return.  And so it was that Frodo grew up fearing Farmer Maggot, never knowing that beneath his fierce anger lay a loyal, generous, and hospitable heart.  Thanks to the mediation of his companion Pippin, and to the dire need of the moment, Frodo at last gained opportunity to get to know the real Farmer Maggot.  He explained as much as they prepared to leave Maggot’s home:

Thank you very much indeed for your kindness!  I’ve been in terror of you and your dogs for over thirty years, Farmer Maggot, though you may laugh to hear it.  It’s a pity:  for I’ve missed a good friend.

Frodo’s words present us with an all-too-familiar and all-too-tragic reality.  How often have individuals, families, and nations remained at odds over ancient offenses, the causes of which are long forgotten?  How much suffering has multiplied on the earth because natural allies regard each other as enemies, or at least minimize their contact with each other out of mistrust and misbegotten fear?  And how much greater is that tragedy if the people who regard each other in this way are the two parts of YHVH’s people?  In truth, Moses and Yeshua have no contradictions or arguments, but their followers think they do, and for that reason Jews and Christians have separated themselves from one another for twenty centuries.

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Fox Byte 5775 #13: Shemot (Names)

שְׁמוֹת

Map of the realms of Middle Earth.  Tolkien fans are familiar with the kingdom of Gondor, in the south opposite Mordor.  Less familiar, but no less important, is the kingdom of Arnor, which at one time incorporated most of the region of Eriador.  (Source:  The HD Wall)
Map of the realms of Middle Earth. Tolkien fans are familiar with the kingdom of Gondor, in the south opposite Mordor. Less familiar, but no less important, is the kingdom of Arnor, which at one time incorporated most of the region of Eriador. (Source: The HD Wall)

No one remembers the kings of Arnor.  Why should they?  After all, they existed only in the imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien.  Yet if they had never existed there, the world would never have become acquainted with Aragorn, or with the Hobbits who helped him reestablish his kingdom.  The great drama of Middle Earth is now etched in popular culture thanks to the cinematic artistry of Peter Jackson.  It is a great credit to Jackson and his team that they drew from the deep wells of Tolkien’s works to portray the indispensable back-story of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but that story probably escaped the notice of most of the audience.

In Tolkien’s world, the noblest people among the Men of Middle Earth were the Númenóreans, a people whose kingdom in the midst of the sea was destroyed by a great flood like that which inundated the legendary Atlantis.  Under the leadership of Elendil and his sons Isildur and Anárion, the survivors of Númenor established a new kingdom in the western part of Middle Earth.  Elendil divided his realm, placing Anárion on the throne of the Southern Kingdom of Gondor, and retaining for himself the title of High King as he ruled over the Northern Kingdom, Arnor.  When Elendil died, Isildur took his place as High King, ruling from Arnor.  Over time Arnor declined and failed, but the line of Isildur continued through the Dúnedain, or Men of the West, a diminished and scattered people known more popularly as Rangers.  Gondor continued on in great strength, but the line of kings descended from Anárion ceased when the last king, Eärnur, died childless.  Tolkien thus created a great irony in his literary world:  a king with no kingdom, and a kingdom with no king.

This is the setting for The Lord of the Rings.  Those who have seen the movies know that Aragorn the Ranger eventually became king of Gondor, but few realize that his coronation was the culmination of the long-awaited rebirth of the Númenorean realm and reunification of the Northern and Southern kingdoms.  Those events could never have happened if the Dúnedain had ceased to exist.  According to Tolkien’s work, they remained few in number after the destruction of Arnor, but their vigilant watch ensured a measure of peace in the lands of the North.  Although all but forgotten by the people of Gondor, the Dúnedain worked quietly behind the scenes to strengthen the Southern Kingdom’s stand against the growing evil of Sauron.  Then, when all hope seemed lost, the heir of Elendil appeared in the greatest hour of need, bringing new life to long-dead hopes and dreams.

A major component of Tolkien’s works is identity:  as long as the Dúnedain and the people of Gondor remember who they are, no enemy can defeat them.  They may be overwhelmed and diminished, but a remnant will remain and will in time prosper anew.  And whether Professor Tolkien realized it or not, his literary works depict something very real in the works of God:  the identity, redemption, and restoration of all Israel.

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Fox Byte 5775 #5: Chayei Sarah (Life of Sarah)

חַיֵּי שָׂרָה

By remaining faithful to the true king, Faramir son of Denethor completed the centuries-long task of the Stewards of Gondor.  The king rewarded him with the title Prince of Ithilien.  (David Wenham as Faramir in the 2002 New Line Cinema production of The Lord of The Rings:  The Two Towers.  Accessed on lotr.wikia.com)
By remaining faithful to the true king, Faramir son of Denethor completed the centuries-long task of the Stewards of Gondor. The king rewarded him with the title Prince of Ithilien. (David Wenham as Faramir in the 2002 New Line Cinema production of The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers. Accessed on lotr.wikia.com)

J.R.R. Tolkien’s works had secured for him a lasting place among the giants of English literature long before Peter Jackson ever brought The Lord of the Rings to the big screen.  Middle Earth, with its Elves, Men, Dwarves, Hobbits, Orcs, and Wizards, serves as the backdrop for a profound tale about our humanness – what it means, and what we would like it to mean.  We would like to see ourselves, for example, as high and noble, like the Elves or the Men of Gondor.  Tolkien expresses this nobility in many subplots, not the least being the saga of the Stewards of Gondor.  We learn about them from Faramir, son of Denethor, the current Steward:

We of my house are not of the line of [King] Elendil, though the blood of Númenor is in us.  For we reckon back our line to Mardil, the good steward, who ruled in the king’s stead when he went away to war.  And that was King Eärnur, last of the line of Anárion, and childless, and he came never back.  And the stewards have governed the city since that day, though it was many generations of Men ago.  (The Two Towers, Book IV, “The Window On the West”)

Faramir relates how his older brother, Boromir, could not understand why his father had not claimed the throne.  He had asked, “How many hundreds of years needs it to make a steward a king, if the king returns not?”  To this his father replied, “Few years, maybe, in other places of less royalty . . . In Gondor ten thousand years would not suffice.”

It is here that we must question Tolkien’s grasp on reality.  He describes a degree of nobility and selfless honor that transcends generations.  It is remarkable for one person to lay aside his or her own interests to guard a place of higher power, wealth, and prestige for someone else.  How could such selflessness be passed down from one generation to the next, knowing that at some point the supreme authority would have to be handed over to someone else?

And yet that is exactly what our God expects His people to do.

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