We’re still only a few weeks into the Trump Presidency, but it’s already been a very turbulent ride, and its not too soon to be able to tell that even darker times lie ahead. Here are the moments from The Lord of the Rings that I am comforting/inspiring/steeling myself with these days.
“When did Saruman the Wise abandon reason for madness?” This is what I say to the Congressional representatives who won’t stand up to Trump, even when he tweets complete nonsense. Or to any leaders who advocate for his malicious agenda. Their logic is exactly the same as Saruman’s–he is too powerful to resist! We must align with him to preserve our own positions of power! But as Gandalf later states, this is a fruitless effort. “There is only one Lord of the Rings, and he does not share power.” I’m not saying Trump is Sauron. But I think it is safe to say he is equally self-serving and that attempting to ride his coattails is indeed abandoning reason for madness. (P.S., I have another clip for the people in the White House communications office who keep making ridiculous defenses for the indefensible things their boss says.)
I’m also empathizing with Gandalf in this scene more than I used to, because I now know the pain of betrayal and disappointment when someone you considered a mentor goes against the values they helped instill in you, and becomes an evil overlord’s henchman. (Looking at you, 81% of White Evangelicals.)
“So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?” Theoden’s talking about the viscous, never-ending onslaught of Sauruman’s Uruk-hai army that has been mercilessly decimating his soldiers and their elf warrior allies all night. But he might just as easily be talking about the policies and legislation being pushed by conservatives in power, targeting Muslims, LGBTQ people, poor people, or undocumented people as less than human. Or at the racist rhetoric inspiring actual hate-crimes, and the administration’s silence in condemning that violence. Honestly the waves of cruelty in the constant news updates often feels overwhelming, and I don’t know if the continuation of this scene offers sufficient inspiration. This one is just bleak for me–it just expresses how I sometimes feel.
Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had ever happened!
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.
Perfect scene. Frodo’s anxiety, hesitation, fear, sadness–Gandalf’s wisdom–Frodo determining to push ahead with his unasked-for task even as tears still stream down his face because it’s the best way he can impact the time that is given to him. May I be like Frodo. I’m definitely crying enough sometimes to be.
Sorry this one’s a gif and not a video; I couldn’t find this clip on youtube. But in any case, Faramir is one of my favorite characters. Here he is, tempted to take the ring back to Gondor to prove himself to his father. And he can make what sounds like a reasonable justification for this move, and he actually does initially take Frodo back with him, but it’s in Osgiliath, when he realizes he must let Frodo and the ring go, that he shows his quality. Like the clip above, we will all face moments when we must decide whether we are going to do the right thing, which may be very difficult, and the wrong thing, which may be very tempting. I hope that when the chance comes for me to show my quality, I am not found lacking. And I hope that if I take steps down the wrong path, I am not too proud to reverse course like Faramir does when I realize I am wrong, even if the personal consequences are severe.
Ending on a positive. This whole monologue from Sam (starts about the 30 second mark) is wonderful and feels very relevant even though the hobbits’ situation is much more dramatic than mine at present. Sam’s talking about the “stories that really mattered”; I think it really matters how we as a nation treat people. All people. I’m just one tiny person, what difference can I make? But these were just two tiny hobbits. And as Sam points out, the defining aspect of heroes is not the big deeds, but their endurance in the face of obstacles.
Nevertheless, she persisted.
Sam: Folk in those stories had lots of chances or turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for!