Lately we've been immersed in the world of The Lord of the Rings. Rich gave me volumes 1 and 2 on DVD for Christmas, and I just bought volume 3, which we're preparing to watch in one 3 hr 20 min sitting later this week. They are truly spectacular movies which bring to life a very long, complex, detailed book and present it in a form that is easier to grasp yet still true to the original.
I've always found the story very compelling. The core of it is simple: a quiet, peace-loving hobbit named Frodo becomes the possessor of a Ring of Power whose evil master wants to get hold of it and use it to destroy the world of men. Frodo's task is to go to Mount Doom and throw the Ring into the fire so that it will be destroyed. Many different characters--such as elves, dwarves, a good wizard, other hobbits, and various kings--are involved in helping Frodo accomplish his task, while a variety of enemies (hideous Orcs, an evil wizard, and a monstrous spider, just to name a few) threaten his quest. And the enigmatic Gollum--a twisted, creepy, corrupted being whom Frodo needs as a guide to Mount Doom--dogs the travellers' steps and plays a crucial role in the final outcome.
The story teaches many important lessons about life, one of which is that we must all accept and attempt to carry out the task that life has set for us--even if it threatens our comfort. Hobbits like nothing better than to eat and smoke in their cosy holes in the ground, but Frodo must venture forth to accomplish a near-impossible task that he would never have chosen for himself. Another related lesson is that we must accept our station in life, whether high or low. The one who is called to be a king must be one, and not flee his responsibility out of fear or even a false sense of humility. And the one who is called to be a servant--to support and accompany the ring-bearer, for instance, as Sam does--must embrace that role and not try to take on more than he has been given to do.
My favourite line from the book reminds us that seemingly insignificant deeds and roles are very important. The wise elf-king Elrond says,
"The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere."