Posts Tagged ‘Return of the King’
The Fifth Station of the Cross: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus Carry His Cross:
As they led him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus. (Lk 23:26)
In the Lord of the Rings, the Chapter III of Return of the King depicts how Sam Gamgee helped Frodo carry the Ring to Mount Doom. It begins with Sam’s realization of his mission:
“So that was the job I felt I had to do when I started,” thought Sam: “to help Mr. Frodo to the last step and then die with him? Well, if that is the job, then I must do it.”
…But even as hope died in Sam, or seemed to die, it was turned to a new strength. Sam’s plain hobbit-face grew stern, almost grim, as the will hardened in him, and he felt through all his limbs a thrill, as if he was turning into some creature of stone and steel that neither despair nor weariness nor endless miles could subdue.
Mount Doom is the volcano where the One Ring was forged by Sauron himself. Mount Doom is Mount Calvary. On top is the cross–the sign of the most cruel persecution that the Roman Empire devised against its enemies–the slow painful death akin to what the Mouth of Sauron described of to Gandalf before the Black Gates:
“He was dear to you, I see. Or else his errand was one that you did not wish to fail? And now he shall endure the slow torment of years, as long and slow as our arts in the Great Tower can contrive, and never be released, unless maybe when he is changed and broken, so that he may come to you and you shall see what you have done. This shall surely be unless you accept my Lord’s terms.” (Black Gate Opens, Return of the King)
At the end of the crucifixion, the criminals’s feet are broken, killing them.
Frodo is resolved to carry the Ring to Mount Doom in the same way as Christ is resolved to carry the cross to Mount Calvary. Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane:
“My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” (Mt 26:42)
Frodo also refused Sam’s offer to carry the Ring in his behalf:
“No, no, Sam. But you must understand. It is my burden, and no one else can bear it. It is too late now, Sam dear. You can’t help me in that way again. I am almost in its power now. I could not give it up, and if you tried to take it I should go mad.”
But neither Frodo nor Christ have the strength to carry their mission. Christ already suffered much before his carrying of the cross: he was scourged and crowned with thorns. And so is Frodo. He was speared by an Orc Captain, stabbed by a Nazgul blade on his shoulder, and bitten by Shelob. But it was the Ring that brought him much pain:
Sam guessed that among all their pains he bore the worst, the growing weight of the Ring, a burden on the body and a torment to his mind. Anxiously Sam had noted how his master’s left hand would often be raised as if to ward off a blow, or to screen his shrinking eyes from a dreadful Eye that sought to look in them. And sometimes his right hand would creep to his breast, clutching, and then slowly, as the will recovered mastery, it would be withdrawn.
So the Roman asked Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross. Sam, in his turn, because he cannot carry the Ring himself, carried Frodo on his back with the Ring on Frodo’s neck:
“Come, Mr. Frodo!” he cried. “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get! Come on, Mr. Frodo dear! Sam will give you a ride. Just tell him where to go, and he’ll go.”
As Frodo clung upon his back, arms loosely about his neck, legs clasped firmly under his arms, Sam staggered to his feet; and then to his amazement he felt the burden light. He had feared that he would have barely strength to lift his master alone, and beyond that he had expected to share in the dreadful dragging weight of the accursed Ring. But it was not so. Whether because Frodo was so worn by his long pains, wound of knife, and venomous sting, and sorrow, fear, and homeless wandering, or because some gift of final strength was given to him, Sam lifted Frodo with no more difficulty than if he were carrying a hobbit-child pig-a-back in some romp on the lawns or hayfields of the Shire. He took a deep breath and started off. (Mount Doom, The Return of the King)
Frodo reached the Crack of Doom but he failed to throw the Ring into the Fire. Instead, he claimed the Ring for himself. But Gollum was there. He fought Frodo for his Precious and in the end got his prize:
Suddenly Sam saw Gollum’s long hands draw upwards to his mouth; his white fangs gleamed, and then snapped as they bit. Frodo gave a cry, and there he was, fallen upon his knees at the chasm’s edge. But Gollum, dancing like a mad thing, held aloft the ring, a finger still thrust within its circle. It shown now as if verily it was wrought of living fire.
‘Precious, precious, precious!’ Gollum cried. ‘My precious! O my precious!’ and with than, even as his eyes were lifted up to gloat on his prize, he stepped too far, toppled, wavered for a moment on the brink, and then with a shriek he fell. Out of the depths came his last wail Precious, and he was gone.
This scene reminds us of the words of Christ on the reality of our soul and the danger of eternal damnation in Hell:
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? (Mt 16:26)
Gollum gained His Precious–the only thing he worshipped as God. ‘Precious, precious, precious!’ he cried out as the cherubims cried ”Holy, holy, holy’ before the Lord God in the Book of Revelation (4:8). But what does it profit Gollum if he gains his Precious, but loses his very life.
Frodo, on the other hand, was spared. His finger fell into the fire, but he saved himself. As Christ said in the Book of Matthew:
- If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna. (Mt 5-29-30)
Frodo by himself could not cut off his own finger. But God allowed the malice of Gollum to work and brought a greater good out of it. Call it Justice. Call it Mercy. Call it Grace.