Theme: The Weight of Glory
"For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison." II Corinthians 4:17
The Great Unveiling
The Quest is over; the end of the Road has come. What began in The Fellowship of the Ring now comes to its dramatic conclusion in The Return of the King. The Fellowship, which set out to help Frodo bear his burden and destroy the ring of power, completes its task. Middle Earth is saved, not so much by Frodo, but rather by the sacrifices of those who are called along side to help him. As each one lays down his life for Frodo and the Fellowship, a wondrous thing occurs -- their hidden glory is revealed. Who they were at the beginning is not who they are at the end. So, The Return of the King is really the great revelation - the great unveiling.
Samwise Gamgee - The bumbling half-wit1, Gardner is really the hero of the story. The suffering servant carries Frodo in one way or another all the way to Mt. Doom. His glory is unveiled at the end; for he who was the very least has become the greatest (Luke 9:48).
Aragorn - The lonely figure, Strider, filled with doubts and fears throws aside the Ranger to become who he was born to be - the King of Gondor. Willing to sacrifice himself in order to give Frodo a chance, Aragorn raises the army of the dead and opens the gates of Mordor (Revelation 1:17-18).
Gandalf - The unveiling that began in The Two Towers continues in The Return of the King. No longer Gandalf the Grey, he is resurrected as Gandalf the White. A fiery prophet, he defends the White City in stark contrast to Denethor, the dark Steward of Gondor.
Merry and Pippin - The childlike and fun-loving Hobbits are revealed to be valiant warriors at heart. Pippin lights the beacon and rescues Faramir, while Merry helps Eowyn defeat the Lord of the Nazgul.
Legolas and Gimli - Deadly enemies at the outset, Legolas and Gimli become friends in the truest sense of the word (John 15:13). Their glory is revealed as they prove to be the most loyal followers of Aragorn and sacrificial members of the Fellowship.
Arwen2 - After seeing her son in a vision, Arwen lays down her immortal life for a mortal one. Without her sacrifice, the re-forging of the sword might never have taken place.
Eowyn - Disguised as the maiden who is always left behind, Eowyn is unveiled for whom she truly is - a Warrior Princess. She does what no man can do and defeats the Lord of the Nazgul.
Faramir - By releasing Sam and Frodo with the ring3, Faramir comes under the wrath of his father. Rejected and sacrificed by Denethor, Faramir is revealed to be the true, faithful son with an incorruptible heart.
Theodan - In The Two Towers, Theodan is delivered from the power of evil. His transformation continues in The Return of the King as he goes from fearful monarch to glorious king. In laying down his life for Gondor, one sees the epitome of a Christian King.
Gollum - The Return of the King begins with scenes that take place chronologically before The Hobbit4. The finding of the ring of power and the murder of Deagol are inserted for one purpose only - to vividly portray the corruption of Smeagol and his transformation into the hideous creature, Gollum. There is no "saving" of Gollum, no matter how sympathetic Frodo becomes toward him. His end in the fires of Mt. Doom is simply the end result of a soul already corrupted by the power of sin (Romans 6:23).
Frodo - Frodo is not necessarily the hero of the story. In the end, the ring-bearer is corrupted by the power of the ring. Unlike Gollum, Frodo does not end up in the fires of Mt. Doom. He is saved by the love and sacrifice of Sam and The Fellowship. Frodo is a picture of fallen mankind somehow carrying a burden that they were never meant to carry - the burden of sin (Romans 5:12). Sam the Suffering Servant and Aragorn the Divine Warrior King5, along with the other members of The Fellowship6, symbolize some aspect of the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone can redeem man from the corruption of sin and the lake of fire (Revelation 1:17-18).
The Weight of Glory
"The load or weight or burden of my neighbor's glory should be laid daily on my back; a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization - these are mortal and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.......Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat - the glorifier and the glorified Glory Himself, is truly hidden." C.S. Lewis7
1. Samwise is a translation into Old English of his name in Hobbitish and means "Half-wit". Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings by Coli Duriez.
2. Note Arwen's strong resemblance to the Virgin Mary in these scenes. The sword is a metaphor for Christ (Hebrews 4:12, Revelation 19:15).
3. This occurs in The Two Towers.
4. The Hobbit is the children's book that preceded The Lord of the Rings.
5. Suffering Servant and Divine Warrior King are portraits of Jesus Christ in His First and Second Coming respectively (Isaiah 53 and Revelation 19:11-16).
6. See Movieglimpse Notes on The Fellowship of the Ring.
7. From The Weight of Glory 1941. CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien maintained a long and intimate friendship . It was Tolkien who helped turn the agnostic Lewis back to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and it was Lewis who encourage Tolkien to complete The Lord of the Rings after twelve years of writing.