The Hope of a King from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers

photo credit: Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton via photopin cc


As I read through The Lord of the Rings saga with my two sons (our second time), I’m struck by the way J.R.R. Tolkien conveys the depth of despair Frodo and Sam feel as they draw closer to Mordor.

The weight the two hobbits carry, particularly Frodo, is tangible. But what is even more stunning is Tolkien’s ability to cast glimmers of hope that shine brightly into the lives of the characters and off of the pages.

Last night, I was particularly enamored with the closing paragraphs of chapter 7 in The Two Towers, “Journey to the Cross-Roads.” Gollum continues to push the hobbits further into the dark lands and further away from all that is good.

As they trudge on with little sleep and even less hope, Frodo and Sam come to the crossroads where they see the road they must takethe one “passed out eastward into darkness.” It is here when Tolkien is at his best. Here you see utter ruin mingled with the faint scent of hope.

Standing there for a moment filled with dread Frodo became aware that a light was shining; he saw it glowing on Sam’s face beside him. Turning towards it, he saw, beyond an arch of boughs, the road to Osgiliath running almost as straight as a stretched ribbon down, down, into the West. There, far away, beyond sad Gondor now overwhelmed in shade, the Sun was sinking, finding at last the hem of the great slow-rolling pall of cloud, and falling in an ominous fire toward the yet unsullied Sea. The brief glow fell upon a huge sitting figure, still and solemn as the great stone kings of Aronath. The years had gnawed it, and violent hands had maimed it. Its head was gone, and in its place was set in mockery a round rough-hewn stone, rudely painted by savage hands in the likeness of a grinning face with one large red eye in the midst of its forehead. Upon its knees and mighty chair, and all about the pedestal, were idle scrawls mixed with the foul symbols that the maggot-folk of Mordor used.

Suddenly caught by the level beams, Frodo saw the old king’s head: it was lying rolled away by the roadside. “Look, Sam!” he cried, startled into speech. “Look! The king has got a crown again!”

The eyes were hollow and the carven beard was broken, but about the high stern forehead there was a coronal of silver and gold. A trailing plant with flowers like small white stars had bound itself across the brows as if in reverence for the fallen king, and in the crevices of his stony hair yellow stonecrop gleamed.

“They cannot conquer forever!” said Frodo. And then suddenly the brief glimpse was gone. The Sun dipped and vanished, and as if at the shuttering of a lamp, black night fell.

Indeed. They cannot conquer forever. The Kingdom, which is only seen dimly now in small flittering moments, will one day rush forward and set all things right. The King will return. Idols and usurpers will be overthrown and the foreshadowing will become reality.

Sometimes, we need those reminders, even if they come through literary avenues. It is why the Christian should read great stories. They remind us of the great Story.

Man abdicated his rightful role as ruler of this planet. The God-Man came to reclaim what was lost when we could not do it for ourselves. To do this, He had to die, but in doing so, He opened up the path for man to be restored and redeemed. The victory is assured. Though things may look bleak now, the King has his crown and will make all things as they should be.

They cannot conquer forever. They will not conquer forever.

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About Author

Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.