Hope and Courage in The Lord of the Rings

Henry

We often talk about hope and why it is important. However, we don’t talk about daring that often. Hope and courage go hand in hand. Hope without daring is wishful thinking, and daring without hope is recklessness.

The word bravery can also be used here. I prefer though daringor boldness, because it is more descriptive. To be bold means to Courage to have and at the same time to be willing to from the spirit of your conviction dare. In other words, to do things out of the courage of your convictions that involve certain risks or even threats and that can harm us. But we don’t because we are blind to the potential consequences. We do it because it is necessary, and because we believe – and hope – that things will be better for us if we do it. This ties in with Flip Buys’ comment that sometimes it is more dangerous to wait than to risk.

There is a beautiful exposition of these two concepts in the actions of the two princesses in JRR Tolkien’s fantasy story The Lord of the Rings. It is Arwen, the daughter of Elrond, lord of the elven city of Rivendell, and Éowyn, the niece of Théoden, king of the region of Rohan. Arwen represents hope, and Éowyn represents daring.

In this fantasy tale, Arwen’s people have come to the conclusion that there is no future for them in Middle-earth, and they begin to pack their bags. As the exodus begins, Elrond realizes that Arwen is nowhere to be found. He then returns to their home where he finds her. She is not going to move, she explains. Why do you want to stay behind in a place where there is no hope, asks Elrond then. I rejoice because I have hope. Arwen’s courage of conviction gave her hope to see that the difficult times ahead can be bridged, that there is light at the other end of the tunnel and that it is worth holding on to. Arwen realized that they were playing into the enemy’s hand by giving up.

To declare that there is no hope is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course, there is no hope for someone who declares that there is no hope, because someone who declares that there is no hope is not going to do anything to improve his lot.

Unlike the Elves, the riders of Rohan (Éowyn’s people) decided to take up arms and face the “dark lord”, Sauron’s evil army in the field. They were convinced that everything would stand or fall on the outcome of the battle ahead, and if they lost the battle, it would mean their end – and with it the end of all that is good and pure. Éowyn was a woman, and war is for men.

But like the Afrikaner women at the battle of Vegkop and the Hungarian women at the battle of Eger, Éowyn came to the conclusion that sometimes – in exceptional cases of course – it is even necessary for a woman to take up arms. That is why she presented herself as a man and ventured into the battlefield with the horsemen of Rohan. With her was the little hobbit, Merry Brandybuck. Merry was too small to participate in the battle and was forbidden by the king to do so. However, at that stage of the story, there wasn’t much left for Merry to do other than take up the weapon. It was his small way of trying to protect what is good and pure.

Arriving at the battlefield, they quickly realized that they were outnumbered and that there was no realistic chance of victory… that there was no hope. With this realization, an emotional Éowyn looked at the terrified hobbit on her lap and said: “Courage, Merry. Courage for our friends.”

At that stage there was no turning back. All that was left for them to do was to charge the battlefield with the rest of their company knowing that it would probably lead to their deaths. They did it, firstly because they had hope, but secondly because they had the courage of conviction – the courage to risk.

There is much that we from a story like The Lord of the Rings can learn These events are just one small lesson. Yet it is a lesson that is especially important for us today.

In the times we live in, we often hear people declare that all is lost and that there is no hope. Or, to put it in good Afrikaans, that things are “tight”. This is true in important respects. We must not be naive about what is going on in South Africa. Nor should we be so naive as to believe that things will get better if we just hang on and believe that things will get better.

However, we must realize that packing up and running is not going to make things better. I am not referring here to physical emigration. Someone can physically emigrate and still play a role. However, I am referring here to emotional or psychological emigration – deciding that it is better to do nothing, because nothing is going to help.

We live in circumstances where bold action is more important than ever. Boldness is not the same as recklessness. Recklessness is something we cannot afford. However, we must realize that the circumstances require us to face the hard facts, recognize reality for what it is, and then have the courage of conviction to take calculated risks.

Tolkien himself noted that daring is often found in places where one least expects it. Without hope there can be no question of daring, but without daring hope is meaningless.