Feeds:
Posts
Comments

In Return of the King, chapter “The Land of Shadow,” Sam and Frodo are creeping slowly through Mordor, and everything around is gloom and dark, in every literal way imaginable, in a landscape comparable only to the horrors of war (with reference indeed to Tolkien’s experience of World War I). Suddenly Sam has a moment of experiencing the transcendent, a look beyond what is “under the sun.”

Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master’s, ceased to trouble him.

At a similar dark hour, when Sauron’s forces are coming against Minas Tirith, Pippin experiences that moment of hope and joy, in the face of Gandalf:

Pippin glanced in some wonder at the face now close beside his own, for the sound of that laugh had been gay and merry. Yet in the wizard’s face he saw at first only lines of care and sorrow; though as he looked more intently he perceived that under all there was a great joy: a fountain of mirth enough to set a kingdom laughing, were it to gush forth.

These scenes and many others reflect our moments of joy and hope (in the midst of trials), those experiences of God’s presence here in our fallen world: the beauty of a star, or the experience of a nice sunny day and recalling that feeling of a vacation trip and being at ease and at peace with God.  Just as in our world, throughout Lord of the Rings Iluvatar reveals Himself to the characters in various ways, such as in moments of beauty and calm, as well as in providential signs, or dreams and visions of future scenes.

Looking for a Sign

In another situation, Aragorn the new king of Gondor looks for a sign, and is dismayed because the expected answer still has not come. Iluvatar’s purpose unfolds in an unexpected way.  In our world too, we sometimes look for a particular sign, an indication of God’s direction and will for our lives – and the answer to the prayer, the request, does come, though often not as we expect.  From book six of Return of the King:

[Aragorn] ‘The Tree in the Court of the Fountain is still withered and barren. When shall I see a sign that it will ever be otherwise?’

‘Turn your face from the green world, and look where all seems barren and cold!’ said Gandalf.

Immediately, when Aragorn looked in that direction, there was the sign: the sapling tree.

as he looked he was aware that alone there in the waste a growing thing stood. …

I have found it!  Lo, here is a scion of the Eldest of Trees!  But how comes it here?

Dreams and Visions

Then there is Frodo’s dream of the green country, at the house of Tom Bombadil — and its fulfillment in the Grey Havens:

Either in his dreams or out of them, he could not tell which, Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind; a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to glass and silver, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise.  The vision melted into waking.

Like the apostle Paul, who could not tell if he was in or out of the body when he had a great vision (2 Corinthians 12:2-3), so Frodo knew what he saw, but could not tell if it occurred in dreams or “out of them.”  And Frodo similarly received many sufferings, as did the apostle Paul — as part of the package deal, for those who receive visions must also be kept humble.

Nothing more is said about this vision, until the very end.  But there at the end, Frodo finally arrives in the place of rest (heaven), the destination of those on the ship in The Grey Havens:

And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water.  And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.

In Lord of the Rings – and also in the rest of Tolkien’s legendarium – we have such abundance of literary material, and the many story incidents that we can relate to, noting the parallels to our world and life experience.  These events are just a sampling, of the seemingly endless supply for our analysis and enjoyment.

Readers, please share, some other examples of these types of things — Iluvatar’s presence, in special scenes, and signs and visions.

In Following Gandalf, Matthew Dickerson considers various references to the One Ring, to determine that its key power is domination, and specifically, the power to subdue and dominate other wills.  After all, Galadriel explicitly states this, that in order to use the Ring’s power, Frodo would need to train his will to the domination of others.  Continuing from that statement, Dickerson explores the powers of Sauron versus Gandalf, and the idea of each person’s free will and freedom to make choices.

Obviously at a surface level, the Ring also has the power to make a person invisible, as Bilbo discovered to his delight in The Hobbit.  Gandalf describes the One Ring as able to dominate and control the other rings, as the ‘master’ or ‘controlling’ ring, and so we see that the One Ring has the power over the other rings, of which only the three elven rings are still in existence at the end of the Third Age.

Then Galadriel tells Frodo — when he asks why he cannot see the others [rings] and know the thoughts of those that wear them — that before he could use that power he would need to become far stronger, and to train your will to the domination of others.

This description certainly indicates that dominating other wills is involved in using the power of the Ring – but as I see it, that is not the same as saying that the actual power of the Ring is the domination of others’ wills.  Galadriel instead implies that, after first having this ability to dominate others, then the ring bearer would have other powers.

Dickerson does include Tolkien’s own words on this topic, from The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien:

The chief power (of all the rings alike) was the prevention or slowing of decay (i.e. “change” viewed as a regrettable thing), the preservation of what is desired or loved, or its semblance—this is more or less an Elvish motive.  But also they enhanced the natural powers of a possessor—thus approaching “magic,” a motive easily corruptible into evil, a lust for domination.

Following Gandalf then focuses on that last characteristic, a lust for domination, as being the trait of the One Ring.  Again, though that is part of it, Galadriel gives other details, a section not quoted by Matthew Dickerson.  Galadriel next explained that Frodo’s sight had already increased, as a result of wearing the Ring:  as one that has borne it on finger and seen that which is hidden, your sight is grown keener.  You saw the Eye of him that holds the Seven and the Nine.  And did you not see and recognize the ring upon my finger?  She then asks Sam, standing nearby – he had not seen the ring, nor even understood what Frodo and Galadriel were talking about.

Returning to the quote from Tolkien’s letters, though, the evidence indicates that the Ring’s power was expressed in the front end of that sentence:  enhanced the natural powers of a possessor.  Thus indeed, on several occasions we see Frodo’s enhanced observation and perception of events, such as what he saw of world events while standing on top of Amon Hen at the end of Fellowship of the Ring, and what Galadriel had observed, that Frodo saw the elven ring on her hand.  Also of note here, soon after Sam takes possession of the Ring, he experiences a great vision of temptation:

Wild fantasies arose in his mind; and he saw Samwise the Strong, Hero of the Age, striding with a flaming sword across the darkened land, and armies flocking to his call he marched to the overthrow of Barad-dur.  And then all the clouds rolled away, and the white sun shone, and at his command the vale of Gorgoroth became a garden of flowers and trees and brought forth fruit.  He had only to put on the Ring and claim it for his own, and all this could be.

Certainly this scene reveals the initial power of the Ring, on a new Ringbearer:  strong temptation, ideas that enhanced the natural powers of the possessor:  for Sam’s heart desired to be seen as a hero, and as a hero to turn desert wastelands into gardens, a temptation described in biblical terms reminiscent of the Old Testament prophecies about streams in the desert, about wastelands becoming forests, and so on.  The power for Sam, or at least the tempted power, would be to actually be able to accomplish those things—not the “motive easily corruptible into evil, a lust for domination” at the end of Tolkien’s sentence.

I further note that even without the Ring, Sauron dominated the wills of others.  Even without his Ring, in fact, he had already achieved that, as described in book six and what happened when Frodo put on the Ring at Mount Doom and claimed it for his own:

The Dark Lord was suddenly aware of him, and his Eye piercing all shadows looked across the plain to the door that he had made; …

From all his policies and webs of fear and treachery, from all his stratagems and wars his mind shook free; and throughout his realm a tremor ran, his slaves quailed, and his armies halted, and his captains suddenly steerless, bereft of will, wavered and despaired.  For they were forgotten.

Tolkien again emphasizes this last point about Sauron’s slaves, a few pages later early in the next chapter, just after Gollum and the Ring have fallen into the fire:

and even at that moment all the hosts of Mordor trembled, doubt clutched their hearts, their laughter failed, their hands shook and their limbs were loosed.  The Power that drove them on and filled them with hate and fury was wavering, its will was removed from them;

The point I observe here, is that both just before the Ring was destroyed – when it still existed and was claimed by Frodo – and again just after the Ring was destroyed, Sauron’s slaves and armies suddenly lost the will that had been controlling them.  Up until that point, Sauron’s will had firmly dominated their wills, such that they were a formidable foe to the armies under Aragorn at the Black Gate.  All of that time, before Sauron’s attention was diverted, these evil creatures did not have any free will but were acting under that strong domination of will, that had been exercised by the power of the Dark Lord – and this was the Dark Lord himself and his power, even though the Dark Lord himself did not have possession of his Ring.

Following Gandalf has some good insights into the nature of Sauron, the contrasting nature of Gandalf, and what Tolkien himself viewed regarding the importance of individual free will as contrasted with automaton domination by another’s will.  However, looking at other scenes in Lord of the Rings as well as Tolkien’s letters, it seems clear at least to me, that the power of the One Ring is not specifically the ability to dominate others’ wills (though such is required in order to more effectively use it), but that the Ring enhances the possessor’s natural abilities, giving them power like “magic,” a power that then can be corrupted “into evil, a lust for domination.”

Any thoughts from readers here?  What are some additional aspects of the Ring’s powers and effects, that come to mind for you, from your readings of Lord of the Rings?

In The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, did Aslan die (only) for Edmund?  Or is there more to it than that?  A superficial reading might give the idea that Aslan died for the treacherous Edmund, in a  “ransom theory” atonement, such that the price was paid to the White Witch.  (Several years ago, I heard –in a SermonAudio lesson–a Sunday School teacher commenting on the “ransom theory” atonement, mentioning that some people had criticized C.S. Lewis about that, and noting that Lewis had responded, to not press the story details too far; it was fiction, a story, after all.)

I first read The Chronicles of Narnia in the early 1990s, and from the local bookstore bought the encyclopedic Companion to Narnia  — the original edition; it is now available in an updated, revised edition.  It is a great resource, a wealth of information with hundreds of pages of entries on numerous topics having to do with the characters, events, places, and history of Narnia, along with several black & white illustrations from the books.  Along with that wealth of information, though, it was also my first introduction to “the world of higher criticism.” The author, Paul F. Ford, believed that the Pentateuch was written many years after the fact by later, unknown authors — rather than the traditional view of Moses’ authorship.  Interestingly enough, he expressed this view in the Introduction to Companion to Narnia, as a reason for reading the Narnia books in their published order, rather than in the strictly chronological sequence that would start with the creation story, The Magician’s Nephew.

Many modern Christian theologians, basing their thinking on the best of modern biblical scholarship, have discerned that the Hebrews first knew themselves as a people as a result of their having been miraculously rescued from slavery in Egypt.  Their first experience was one of redemption.  Only later, when they came into contact with the Babylonian culture in which an elaborate explanation of the creation of the world was given, did they gather their own creation stories together and write, under inspiration, their own origins and the origins of the universe.

The author also maintained a limited view of Aslan’s atonement: as only for Edmund. He mentions this only in passing, I cannot recall the exact reference, but in one entry he states that the later character, King Tirian, who claimed that Aslan died for all Narnia, was incorrect — since Aslan only died for Edmund.  Another entry, for “Stone Table,” states:  it was decreed before time began that the table would crack when a willing and innocent victim was killed “in a traitor’s stead”—exactly the circumstances of Aslan’s self-sacrifice for Edmund’s sake—and time would begin to run backwards. 

But a closer look tells us that C.S. Lewis intended much more, and he brought this out in several ways.  Soon after Aslan’s resurrection, for one thing, Aslan goes out and frees all the captives of the White Witch.  He breathes on each statue, each captive in the White Witch’s castle — restoring them to life, setting them free, work that is symbolic of what our Lord accomplished in His death and resurrection, of releasing the prisoners, setting the captives free from sin and Satan’s dominion (reference Colossians 1:13).  Aslan also brings an end to the 100 years “Always Winter” rule of the White Witch, ushering in a new era for a redeemed and freed Narnia.  A self-sacrifice, a substitutionary death for Edmund the traitor, and only for Edmund, could not have brought about such wondrous results for everyone else; Edmund might have been freed to return to his home in England, but such a limited scope would have left Narnia still in bondage and her prisoners as statues at her castle.

The later statements, such as in Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Last Battle, further attest to the truth understood by the Narnians — and of course what C.S. Lewis clearly intended for Narnia.  Edmund himself, in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, told Eustace that Aslan had died for him, and for all Narnia:  He is the great Lion, the son of the Emperor over Sea, who saved me and saved Narnia.  In The Last Battle, the last Narnian King, Tirian, after declaring that the ape was lying, meant to continue his speech, to include a description of the good Lion by whose blood all Narnia was saved.

So in our appreciation for the Chronicles of Narnia, as we consider the many analogies and parallels to Christianity, we must look at the full scope of all seven books, and even at later events in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.  To insist that Aslan’s death was only for Edmund, as described in the one scene in LWW, is to miss the full story that C.S. Lewis told, along with the many other biblical associations in the Narnia redemption story.

One of Tolkien’s many themes in Lord of the Rings is that of repentance.  As Matthew Dickerson noted in Following Gandalf, Tolkien was not that direct in the use of “religious” terminology – so instead he used the word “cure.”  Tolkien actually used the word “cure” in many different contexts, to also refer to Frodo being cured of the wound received at Weathertop, and even in Gandalf’s impatience with Pippin’s inquisitiveness:  ‘If the giving of information is to be the cure of your inquisitiveness, I shall spend the rest of my days in answering you.’  Yet throughout, Gandalf specifically mentions a “cure” that is desired for Gollum, which we understand as a moral cure, to heal his soul of the malice and evil “that eats it like a canker” as Faramir described it, to bring Gollum back to the real world of interaction with the good characters of Middle Earth.  This cure is sought by many, including the elves and later Frodo, with reference back to Gandalf’s wish.  Consider:

Gandalf’s speech to Frodo in Fellowship of the Ring:

Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.  I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it.  …

Then from Legolas’ words at the Council of Elrond:

But Gandalf bade us hope still for his cure, and we had not the heart to keep him in dungeons under the earth, where he would fall back into his old black thoughts.

Frodo later referenced Gandalf’s wishes regarding Gollum, to Faramir:

‘The creatue is wretched and hungry,’ said Frodo, ‘and unaware of his danger.  And Gandalf, your Mithrandir, he would have bidden you not to slay him for that reason, and for others.  He forbade the Elves to do so.’

Throughout, we see that the means to this ‘cure’ is kindness and mercy, and in Gollum we see such a vivid picture of what it really means to ‘turn the other cheek’ and show mercy to an enemy, to show God’s loving-kindness to a wretched sinner, in remembrance of our own wretchedness and our own undeservedness.

Particularly interesting in the case of Gollum, is that the ‘treatment’ does start to work, with temporary results.  Consider that Gollum had possession of the Ring for many hundreds of years, and yet even he starts to respond to the kindness of Frodo, sometimes acting like a dog wanting to please his master.  This trait is especially striking in contrast to Saruman and Denethor, neither of whom actually possessed the Ring but desired to have it (for their own uses), and yet were thoroughly hardened, with consciences seared; both of them were similarly given opportunities to repent, but rejected it as not even a possibility.  Within the story, the difference we see with Gollum would at least partly be attributed to the particular hardiness, that quality of hobbits as superior to other types of beings.  In the Gollum story, we see – as noted, for instance, near the end of episode #3 of the Amon Sûl podcast (Exploring the Tolkien Legendarium with the Christian Faith) — that God’s mercy can be shown to the worst of sinners, in hopes of their repentance.

The precept for Gollum’s treatment is given us in Romans 2:4: Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?  

I also think of the Old Testament story of wicked King Ahab – as bad as he was (and we are often told of his great wickedness), yet we finally see a type of repentance, albeit a temporary one, in 1 Kings 21:27-29 – a conscience so severely hardened yet capable of enough of a response to the pronounced judgment, that God deferred the judgment, not on Ahab himself but to occur in his son’s days.  Like Gollum’s, this was not a saving repentance unto eternal life, but temporal only.

Then we have, in the New Testament, the well-known account of Judas Iscariot.  Our Lord Himself – of whom Frodo is recognized as a type, an illustration – extended kindness to Judas as one of the 12, kindness that continued to the very end.  Though Christ knew all along the true nature of Judas – “one of you is a devil!” – yet Judas received the same gifts as the other disciples when they went on their missionary trips, and Judas received the same common blessings in the company of the other eleven.  Even at the end, Jesus handed the sop to Judas – an appeal of friendship.

Tolkien himself, in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, described the key scene that brought about the failure of Gollum’s cure:  that poignant moment when Gollum returned to the hobbits upon the stairs of Cirith Ungol, when he reached out a hand as a caress, to touch Frodo.  But then Sam woke up, and Sam as “the mean hobbit” who had not participated in the “kindness treatment,” in his insensitivity accused Gollum of pawing at his master – and the moment was lost, beyond recall.  Here, too, in Sam’s failure, we see such realism.  Isn’t that how it often is in our lives?  Sam is such a hero, and has such great moments, yet – like the saints of God throughout the ages, in the Bible as well as throughout church history – has his character flaws as well.

The character of Gollum and events surrounding him are fascinating, with such complexity that could be discussed in multiple podcast episodes (again, as noted by the hosts at the Amon Sûl podcast on Tolkien’s Middle Earth) as well as numerous blog posts.  But these are some thoughts on this topic, for further discussion and considerations.

A friend had recommended some Tolkien resources, including Matthew Dickerson’s books such as Following Gandalf and A Hobbit Journey.  So, I’ve purchased and am now reading through Following Gandalf; since then I’ve realized that the second book, A Hobbit Journey, is similar content, with most of the same chapters, an updated version of Following Gandalf.

Dickerson’s writing is interesting, with a lot of good details, and so I’ll start with the content in chapter 1: Epic Battles.  Here, Dickerson looks at Tolkien’s view of battle and war, by noting the four battles (one in The Hobbit, and three in Lord of the Rings) plus the skirmish that Sam witnesses (where he sees an Oliphaunt)  and how they are described, to show that — contrary to a colleague’s perception — Tolkien does not glorify violence and war.  The battles of course are mostly told from the hobbits’ perspectives:  Bilbo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin — with one exception, Helms Deep, that the hobbits are absent from.  Each narration from the seemingly most unimportant character (a hobbit), one that is not a participant in the battle, along with descriptions about misery and being uncomfortable, and sad and sorrowful (especially in Merry’s experience at the “Battle of the Pelennor Fields”), shows Tolkien’s view of the unpleasantness of war.  For instance, the words of Sam after the fight between Faramir’s men and the Southrons:

It was Sam’s first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man’s name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace.

Dickerson brings out interesting details regarding the Rohirrim as like the Anglo-Saxons (with the addition of a love of horses not known of Anglo-Saxons).  Certainly the general impression of the people of Rohan is that of northern Europe, such as the Vikings.  But a literary reference to Beowulf makes the connection to the Anglo Saxons.  The “welcome” from the guard to Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli in book three of The Two Towers, follows the pattern of the welcome given to Beowulf and his warriors by the beach guards, a scene where they visit Hrothgar.  Dickerson shows us the wording of the two speeches, with the same basic wording, sentence structure and sequence, with just a few words changed, in relation to the specific plot points.

We also have good analysis of the complex character of Eowyn — Tolkien’s Eowyn, not the Peter Jackson movie “dumbed-down” young woman who just has a crush on Aragorn.  Keeping to the battle theme, Dickerson points out more specifically that her desire for death in battle was an Anglo Saxon ideal.

In sparing her from death, Tolkien gives his reader the opportunity to see the healing she later finds.   It is by the author’s grace that Eowyn does not die but is able to learn that the type of glory she sought earlier is not the answer.”  Eowyn’s “illness” is a desire for glory.

Tolkien, in his caring, thoughtful portrayal of Eowyn and her later healing, also makes it clear that it not “solely a womanly virtue to abandon the glories of the battlefield, and turn instead to the house and garden and the pursuit of peace, but as a manly virtue as well.”  The later chapter in book 6 of Return of the King, “The Steward and the King,” is a great conclusion to the healing of both Faramir and Eowyn.

Dickerson’s commentary on the “Contest” at Helm’s Deep between Legolas and Gimli is also worth reading, for any who might still think that Tolkien glorified war.  It is interesting that the Helm’s Deep chapter is where we see several friendships developed and/or strengthened: Aragorn and Eomer, Gimli and Eomer, and especially the strengthening of the friendship between Gimli and Legolas, as we see their real concern for each other.

I’m now nearing the end of Following Gandalf, with lots of additional thoughts on many more topics in Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

 

A year-long weekly devotional I’m reading this year, features selected writings from the Early Church Fathers.  In Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings, Lectionary Cycle A (at Amazon, and also at Abe Books here), week 22 has this interesting quote from Bede (known as the Venerable Bede, from early medieval England), in his commentary on 1 Peter:  “He [Jesus] comes to us daily to visit the light which he has given us, in order to tend it and to help it grow. This is why he is called not only the shepherd but also the guardian of our souls.”

Light is one of the Bible’s metaphors, directly referenced by Christ:  I am the light of the world  (John 8:12).  We often think of light as a metaphor for illumination, the light bulb going off in our head “Aha!” moments.  The Bible describes light similarly, referring to Holy Spirit illumination.  And yes, we all know by experience, the small flicker of a candle, and the light that increases and spreads, dispelling darkness.  The sun at its rising just begins to light up the darkness, but soon the dark of night passes, and the sun blazes up at mid-day as it continues its path across the sky.  Psalm 19:4-6   gives such a wonderful description:

In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming from his home; it rejoices like an athlete running a course.
It rises from one end of the heavens and circles to their other end;

Returning to Bede, and the idea of light that God gives us and that He tends it to help it (the light) grow:  I cannot help but be reminded here, of the scene that J.R.R. Tolkien depicts for us near the end of The Two Towers, of Frodo and Sam in Shelob’s Lair.  This gift (among many) of Galadriel — symbolic of grace and special gifts given us by God — mentioned previously in Fellowship of the Ring, takes on great prominence in the tunnel, when the hobbits remember this gift and start to use it in that desperate hour.  For this chapter gives us a taste, a powerful picture in the mind, of the power of God and His workings, how He gives us light and tends it and helps it to grow in our lives.  For Frodo and Sam, like us, have the spiritual gift given, along with the Holy Spirit power (symbolized in the elves of ancient days).  Note that along with the phial itself, both Frodo and Sam are also found here to be speaking in tongues:  words in the elvish language, words they do not know or understand, come from their mouths, along with the power of the light itself.

Similar to sunlight, the phial of Galadriel starts small, then growing to greater light, when Frodo first reaches for it.  Also interesting, in this first scene and later in the chapter, the light’s power and effectiveness varies, either increasing or decreasing in intensity based on the bearer’s experience of hope and strength of will/spirit:

Slowly his hand went to his bosom, and slowly he held aloft the Phial of Galadriel.  For a moment it glimmered, faint as a rising star struggling in heavy earthward mists, and then as its power waxed, and hope grew in Frodo’s mind, it began to burn, and kindled to a silver flame, a minute heart of dazzling light….  The darkness receded from it until it seemed to shine in the centre of a globe of airy crystal, and the hand that held it sparkled with white fire.

As we soon learn, the monster was not immediately deterred.  Soon, Frodo and Sam, horror-stricken, began slowly to back away … Frodo’s hand wavered, and slowly the Phial drooped.  Frodo and Sam momentarily escape, and then the phial serves as a basic light, at the level that we might consider a lantern or flashlight, as they run down the tunnel and then, while Sam holds the phial (rather like a lantern), Frodo has enough light to cut the cords of Shelob’s web for their next escape.

Then in the climactic scene, where Sam the hero shines forth, we observe:   

As if his indomitable spirit had set its potency in motion, the glass blazed suddenly like a white torch in his hand. It flamed like a star that leaping from the firmament sears the dark air with intolerable light.  No such terror out of heaven had ever burned in Shelob’s face before.  The beams of it entered into her wounded head and scored it with unbearable pain, and the dreadful infection of light spread from eye to eye.

These great descriptions, of light, and hope, and beauty abound in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, among the many reasons we so love to visit — and then to return to our world, strengthened and renewed in hope.