Bilbo had a ring.
That’s how it starts. Arguably the greatest work of fiction ever written. A nondescript little hobbit in the back end of nowhere called The Shire had a ring. I’ve started re-reading ‘The Lord of the Rings’ again and, some time ago, promised to share my thoughts on it with you all. Those of you who ‘don’t do’ Tolkien may want to look away now, the rest of you welcome to my take on all things Middle Earth.
Addiction and jealousy. No, not the plot from some 21st century soap opera, but these are the themes that leapt from the pages of the first 50 pages of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring.’ Most of Hobbiton is jealous of the mysterious Mr. Baggins. His neighbours gossip over supposed treasures hidden away in his home at Bag End. The related Sackville-Baggins covet his hobbit hole and mutter darkly about it being left to his young nephew, Frodo.
They covet what does not belong to them. When Bilbo vanishes into thin air at his eleventy first birthday party there is a near riot the following day as half The Shire descends upon chez Baggins to plunder and pilfer what is not theirs. Young Frodo, a mere 33 years old, does his best to stem the tide of greedy hobbits flooding into the hobbit hole in search of family heirlooms and dragon’s gold. It’s an ugly scene, reminiscent of many post funereal disputes over a contested will.
Bilbo is long gone, off adventuring again with three dwarves on the road less traveled. He left without the ring, but not without a fight. Gandalf had to reveal a hint of his true self to ensure ‘my precious’ did not depart with him. The hobbit’s obsession with it showed a darker side to his nature, as its evil power warps and distorts even the purest of souls. It destroyed Sméagol and there, but for Gandalf, Bilbo was also headed until he reluctantly departed without the one true ring.
Is there a one true ring in your life? It could be alcohol, drugs or food? A person in your life who is sucking you dry? An addiction ruling your every waking thought and, try as you might, you cannot walk away. Compulsions which hang heavy round your neck as the ring later hung heavy round young Frodo’s neck on the tortuous trek through Mordor towards Mount Doom. But for his best friend it would have destroyed him. Gollum never had a Samwise.
Such addictions dazzle and enthral at first, they are magical, and lift you high above the drudgery of daily existence. They make you feel special, a cut above the rest, providing the buzz or kick you’ve been missing your entire life. How did you survive this long without it? You’re flying high, at 40,000 feet, and nothing or nobody can stop you. For you know best and those that intervene are nothing but jealous party poppers.
An intervention in the Shire. For that’s what it was. Tough love from the most powerful wizard in Middle Earth. Yet even he struggled to break the hold this piece of dwarfish forged metal had on Master Baggins. That is addiction. It brings all to their knees if allowed to infiltrate defences and boundaries. It becomes the blackest most malignant force at the swirling centre of your out of control existence. It destroys everything in its path.
Addiction and jealousy. Two themes that run throughout this epic tale. Two themes that my teenage self no doubt glossed over when I first read the trilogy many moons ago. Funny what a few decades difference can make. If only I had known then what I know now. On second thoughts, scratch that thought. Leave young Stephen alone to enjoy the magic of Tolkien. There will be plenty of time for the other stufff in the years to come.