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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes
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It is in their darkest moments that Tolkien's
characters seem to rise above themselves and
become truly heroic. Their heroism does not come
from great strength or cunning, but from the
indomitable will to continue as long as there is a
means to resist. This is a kind of heroism that even
the physically weak can achieve, as shown by
Tolkien's hobbits.


In Middle-earth, power is a dangerous thing that can
turn against those who wield it. The forces of good
in Middle-earth, such as Elrond and Gandalf,
recognize this danger and are very careful how they
use their power. They know that no matter how
good their intention, they will find their purpose
perverted if they resort to force. The best example
of this is their refusal to use the Ring. The Ring
gives the power to dominate others, and with it they
could overthrow Sauron. But the Ring also
dominates the will of whoever wears it. Even if
Gandalf used the Ring only out of the worthy desire
to help others, he'd fall under its influence and turn
into another Dark Lord like Sauron.

Although the forces of good will not use the power
to dominate others, they do have other powers
available to them-the power to heal, the power to
understand, and the power to create beauty. But
these seem pitifully small in the face of Sauron's
power, and the temptation to "fight fire with fire" is


Tolkien believed in the power of common people.
This can be seen most clearly in the hobbits. They
are weak and often foolish, yet capable of great acts
of heroism that amaze even the very wise and the
very strong.

The opposite point of view, elitism, is also apparent
in Tolkien's works. His heroes seem to be a select
few, chosen for the task of saving the world from
evil. The ordinary people, such as the men of Lake-
town and the hobbits of the Shire, are often depicted
as simple and complacent. Some people see elitism
as a bad thing. Others don't: People aren't all equal,
they say, and it is the responsibility of the strong to
help the weak. Which view do you favor? Why?


It is not lofty principles but love for land and friends
that gives Tolkien's characters the strength to make
the right choices in the difficult decisions they face.
The evil characters, who lack this capacity for
friendship, hurt their own efforts by fighting among
themselves. Tolkien goes further to show that
friendship should not be given just within a closed
circle but should be extended to all people.

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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes

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