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Posts Tagged ‘elves’

Flax flowers, tall and green crowned with sky-blue petals bend beneath the water falling on them, stooped double, dripping and dreary under a summer sky shrouded in grey.  Am I made for such a world where the beauty bows to necessity, where death is such a threat that the glorious sun must be cloaked, life furled?

I wish I had made these observations while on a walk, but I was driving.  My car was pulling out of my driveway to carry me to the paces just outside of where babies die.  The heart of me resisted, catching its hands on trees and fence-posts, loathe to leave them behind.  A few yards down is a rose garden, and in my mind I shrank…
Paradise.  Shadows and breezes, still and soft and just enough to shed the perfume of the roses across the little green between.  It is like an elven meadow, the little people running about their blissful business – the tallest thing they can see is the living tower of blossoms rimming their country.  No eyes can pass the borders to see the sorrow of our world, the world of mortals.  No tiny heart is troubled like mine, knowing of the suffering and wickedness and death I am about to witness.
Are elves diminutive or tall?  Those legendary immortals, acquainted with nature and delight, cut off from our world by size, by magic, or by choice?  Tolkien wrote about elves, despising the modern conception of them as petal-sized fairies, who evade human capture and notice by their slightness.  The author’s idea was of a people maybe even taller than men, living in the depths of the forests or across the leagues of the sea.  They were powerful and wise, joyful – and sorrowful.  For Tolkien’s elves could see over the roses.  They witnessed mortality and evil and the changing world, and it was a grief to them.
Mankind was in a different sort of captivity: not hemmed by fragrant visions of living loveliness.  Their world was the broken, mortal one, saturated with sorrow.  Battlements built high: temptation, pain, guilt, fear – guarded their even seeing something else.  And then they saw the stars.  Ever beautiful and untouched, glittering points in the sky spoke of a joy and purpose beyond the grueling existence through which men plodded.  Faramir tells that men burdened by mortality built high towers and communed with the stars.
They may have been wrong, seeking something forbidden, discontent with their created lot.  In the Shire lived a different sort of mortal.  They knew fear and death, so they celebrated peace and long life (and birthdays).  Life was too short to simply hoard; they gave away.  In the rural country of the Hobbits there was danger of becoming fat and complacent, gradually surrendering more and more of the fullness of life granted to mortals.  But most didn’t.  They enjoyed things: friends and family, stories, food and drink, walking, gardening.
Outside the Shire, the Hobbits proved that it was they who had built their country, and not that the simple life of relative ease had birthed their contentment.  Hobbits don’t have courage in tight spots because it is hiding deep inside them; their courage is something exercised every day.  It takes enormous strength to feast when you know the world is dark, to hope when it has been so long since anything happened to encourage you.  Complacency is not hope.  And Samwise Gamgee was not complacent.
He carried with him the willingness to seize good times.  His eyes grow large with wonder at the hidden elvish cities he visits. They’re in a gardenous land filled with herbs and wild game just his size, so he stews some rabbit. And when his quest seems hopeless, he sits on the top stair of an enemy tower and sings about the stars: those beacons of hope anchoring him to a reality he belongs to.  He can’t access it now, but it is no less sure or beautiful because it is far away.

Above all shadows rides the Sun



And Stars for ever dwell:



I will not say the Day is done,

Nor bid the Stars farewell.

So in the hobbits we have the same spirit as the elves seeing over their flower-hedge, but in reverse.  The elves looked out and what they saw brought grief in – something they would not shrink from, but took and blended with their joy.  And the hobbits looked out and what they saw brought hope, but they took it and blended it with their weariness.

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn
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The Hobbit is being made into a major motion picture.  I’m sad.  There is a terrible fear in me that this will be like those daily cartoon spin-offs from excellent Disney movies.  All my friends tell me how necessary the story of The Hobbit is to the plot of The Lord of the Rings.  I am glad of its existence, and even glad I read The Hobbit.  There are some enchanting passages about moons and maps and elves and mountains.  Of course Tolkien’s fame and further publications were built on the success of The Hobbit, too. 

 

One part that excites me in seeing Peter Jackson’s skill at fantasy movies is to see Smaug, the dragon.  I love seeing dragons in action.  Not the silly Chinese paper ones that have hundreds of little human feet sticking out the bottom as they run in the parade.  But the dragon in Sleeping Beauty, or those in Reign of Fire, in the old Chronicles of Narnia movies…  and now The Hobbit.  What’s more, this dragon must talk.  That will be interesting. 

 

As I first pondered this one positive point of the upcoming Hobbit movie, I found myself being reproached.  “How could you be a fan of dragons?  You’re a fantasy lover, aren’t you?  Don’t you know that there is a group of Christians who reject fantasy literature because of things like dragons?”  The criticizer was also myself, so I suppose I could be as hard as I wished, in defense or offense. 

 

I think the defense began with a afore-unthought fell blow.  God used dragons in His stories.  Revelation is the most prominent example.  Though my interpretation is generally literal, I believe the dragon in Revelation is an image for a being invisible on the earth, but powerful.  But isn’t the imagery powerful?  Our imaginations are excited.  We shudder.  In most myths, the dragon is a feared and loathsome beast. 

 

God used dragons and other fantastic imagery to connect to our imaginations, which He also created.  Have you ever wondered why God gave us imagination?  Michael Card calls it “the bridge between my heart and mind.” 

 

Respecting Dr. Paleo’s reasoned position on fantasy literature, which he was so good as to share with me, the offense half of myself recovered from this powerful strike to offer further evidence (borrowed from my fellow blogger).  Why would you want to read a story in which the laws God created don’t exist? 

 

Testimonial rebuttal was provided by the defense.  When I read fiction – and fantasy especially, it is like a lens by which I can focus in on one issue.  CS Lewis wrote his Space Trilogy addressing hypothetical questions.  What if God hadn’t given Adam and Eve the choice in the garden?  Through his fantasy world in which there was no choice, I came to better understand my world where there is one.  Lord of the Rings is excellent at showing a strong line between good and evil.  There were falls, temptations, and betrayals.  But the moral right and the moral wrong were always clear.  Good guys could fight bad guys without doubting who was bad. 

 

Tolkien was Catholic, and his worldview is pervasive in his work.  Harry Potter is, I understand, also a series of fantasy books reflecting the author’s worldview.  The reason I am opposed to Harry Potter is that the book directs children to real Satanism, and employs real language from the occult.  There are other more minor issues, like the portrayal of parents and authority, that would make these books unsuitable for children. 

 

My objecting side refused to surrender the point that the two forms of fantasy are substantially different, and made another attempt at dissuading my Lord of the Rings loving side from its stand.  Don’t you have anything better to do or read? 

 

One of my best friends was aghast when I informed her that I am willing to give up my Lord of the Rings collection if the man I marry disapproves of them.  They helped form my philosophy and interests.  At this moment I do not believe God wanted me not to read them.  But it seems remotely possible that with the other characteristics and values I’m praying my husband will have, he might also disapprove of fantasy literature and even of dragons.  In which case there are a lot of things more valuable to me than my stack of Lord of the Rings books, movies, memorabilia, and games. 

 

For a black and white person like me, strong-willed and defensive, a resolution to change my mind if warranted in the future is an interesting position.  I am in a similar place regarding skirts.  I love skirts, and feel I can do almost anything in them.  But I enjoy wearing a good warm pair of jeans some days, too.  It’s always better to err on the side of excellence, isn’t it? 

 

At the end of the debate, the defensive me was winning.  That point about the Bible using a dragon to represent the manifestation of evil encouraged me.  Tolkien, at least, classifies dragons in the same way: representing embodied evil: greed and destruction and deceit.  Without familiarity with these or other mythological dragons, how could one even come close to comprehending the abhorrence intended by John in describing the devil on earth that way? 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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