Educating for Forgiveness with Tolkien and C.S. Lewis

Forgiveness can be a powerful ally in improving emotional well-being and preserving mental health. Parents and educators are faced with the challenge of educating young people in forgiveness.

Julio Iñiguez Estremiana-March 28, 2024-Reading time: 9 minutes

Forgiveness is the remission of the offense received - it is totally erased. A distinction must be made between God's forgiveness - it is his merciful love that goes out to meet the person who comes to him, repentant for having offended him - and forgiveness between persons - which is the renewal of harmony between those who feel offended by a real or presumed offense.

In the penitential season of Lent and Easter in which we find ourselves, it seems very appropriate that we deal with Forgiveness, and as it is a vast topic with so many ramifications, in today's article we will focus on forgiveness among men, with the purpose, as always, of helping parents and teachers in their task of educating their children - students in the ability to ask for forgiveness and to forgive.

Touching scene of forgiveness in Mordor.

The creature Gollum, whom Frodo trusts to lead him and Sam to the Mountain of Fire where he must complete his Mission - to destroy the Ring of Power - planned a tricky route: They would pass through Torech Ungol, the Den of Ella Laraña, a monstrous spider-like beast, but much larger, with the intention of bringing her as a gift Frodo's body - a delicacy for Ella - and in the hope that, in return, she would not object to his desire to retrieve the Ring.

After suffering many hardships in very hard ascents by different stairs, they finally reach the entrance of a tunnel that exudes a repulsive stench; already inside, they went through many passages, more and more terrified by the horrors they saw and the threats they imagined, always persisting the repellent stench.

Suddenly, Gollum attacked Sam with the purpose of rendering Frodo helpless, so that the monstrous beast would find it easier to bend the feast he wanted to give him as a sacrifice.

Sam managed to disentangle himself from Gollum and came to the aid of his master and friend as soon as he could; but he was not in time to prevent Ella Laraña, cunning and knowing all the nooks and crannies of his infectious lair, from sticking her nasty sting into him.

When he came running, Frodo was lying on his back, and the monstrous beast had him bound with ropes that wrapped him in a stout spider's web from his shoulders to his ankles and carried him away, lifting him up with his great forelegs.

Sam saw the Elvish sword on the ground beside Frodo; he gripped it tightly and, summoning a fury beyond his nature, attacked the foul, foul beast until, badly wounded, it recoiled, disappearing down a passage through which he could barely fit.

Then, kneeling beside Frodo, he spoke tenderly to him again and again, and gently stirred his body in the hope of receiving a sign that his friend was still alive, but it did not come, and so his desolation grew more and more.

-He's dead," he said to himself, as the blackest despair fell upon him, "He's not asleep, he's dead!

While he was crying disconsolately and not knowing what to do, whether to stay and watch over his Master or continue with the Mission, he heard a shouting and the blue flashes of the elven sword warned him that a patrol of Orcs was approaching.

He immediately realized that the wisest thing to do was to take the chain with the Ring from Frodo and hide. With ineffable respect, and even with veneration, he took the chain and, feeling unworthy to be the bearer of the Ring of Power, he hung it on as a medal, assuming the responsibility of carrying out the Mission.

Orcs arrived, and seeing Frodo lying on the ground, licking his lips at the succulent supper they would have that night, they lifted him up from the ground between them and carried him away in jubilation.

Sam, hidden but attentive, heard them comment among themselves that the body was warm and therefore alive.

Sam insulted himself with all the expletives he knew for not having been able to notice such a circumstance, but very happy, at the same time because his Master and friend was alive. He immediately changed his plans to try to rescue him. With great skill and at the risk of his life, Sam managed to reach the room where Frodo was being guarded as a prisoner; with clever trickery he made the sentries flee and succeeded in freeing the Ring-bearer, saving him from the Orcs' pot.

Frodo had already awakened from the deep sleep caused by Ella Laraña's poison, and his joy at the unexpected arrival of his Squire and friend was immense.

-They have taken everything, Sam,' said Frodo. Everything I had. Do you understand? Everything! He huddled on the ground with his head down in despair, realizing the magnitude of the disaster. The mission has failed, Sam.

 -No, not all of it, Mr. Frodo. And it hasn't failed, not yet. I took it, Mr. Frodo, with your pardon. And I have kept it well. Now it hangs around my neck, and it is a terrible burden indeed.

-Have you got it? -Sam, you're a wonder! -Suddenly Frodo's voice changed strangely.

-Give it to me! -I shout, standing up, and extending a trembling hand, "Give it to me right now! It's not for you!

All right, Mr. Frodo,' said Sam, a little surprised; 'here you are! -But you are in the land of Mordor now, sir; and when you come out you will see the Mountain of Fire, and all the rest of it. Now the Ring will seem very dangerous to you, and a heavy burden to bear. If it is too arduous a task, perhaps I could share it with you.

-No, no!" cried Frodo, snatching the Ring and chain from Sam's hands, "No, you won't, you thief! -he gasped, looking at Sam with eyes wide with fear and hostility. Then, suddenly, clenching his fist tightly around the Ring, he broke off in fright. He ran a hand across his aching forehead, as if dispelling a mist that blurred his eyes. The abominable vision had seemed so real to him, stunned as he still was by the wound and the fear. He had seen Sam transform again into an orc, a small, infectious creature with a drooling mouth, intent on snatching a coveted treasure from him. But the vision was gone. There Sam was, on his knees, his face contorted with grief, as if a dagger had been stabbed through his heart, his eyes streaming with tears.

-Oh Sam! -he cried, Frodo. What have I said? What have I done? Forgive me! You have done so much for me. It is the awful power of the Ring. I wish I had never found it.

-It's all right, Mr. Frodo," said Sam, as he rubbed his eyes with his sleeve. I understand. But I can still help him, can't I? I've got to get you out of here. Right away, do you understand? But first he needs some clothes and supplies, and then something to eat. We'd better get dressed in Mordor style. I'm afraid it will have to be Orc clothes for you, Mr. Frodo. And for me too, since we are going together.

This episode of "The Lord of the Rings", shows us an excellent example of how to ask for forgiveness and how to forgive: Frodo, horrified by his unworthy reaction against Sam, comes to his senses and says: "Forgive me! You did so many things for me," acknowledging his friend's many services. For his part, Sam - who had reason to protest the "mistreatment" he had received from his Master and friend - simply said: "It's all right, Mr. Frodo. I understand. But I can still help you, can't I?"

Don't you also think, as I do, that it is a sublime scene? I think it is an excellent lesson on the capacity to forgive and to ask for forgiveness; but let's go deeper, as the subject deserves it.

Asking for forgiveness and forgiving in everyday life.

In "The Chronicles of Narnia" by C. S. Lewis, a great friend of J. R. R. Tolkien, we also find many scenes in which one of the protagonists apologizes or asks for forgiveness for his bad behavior.

-I apologize for not believing you," Peter said to Lucy, his younger sister. I'm sorry. Shall we shake hands?

-Of course," she nodded, and shook his hand.

This simple scene is also a good example of how we should act in so many tense situations that we inevitably encounter in our dealings with others - in the family, at work, at school, in sports, with neighbors, etc. -: friction with which, on occasion, we offend other people - or feel offended -; generally, it is true, they are details of little importance, but which can open small wounds in the soul. And on those occasions it will be necessary to repair the offense in order to preserve harmony - usually a smile or a gesture of goodwill will suffice.

-Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? -asks Peter.

-I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven," Jesus answered him [Mt 18:21-22].

Jesus makes his doctrine clear: we must always forgive everyone (not only our brothers and sisters or friends, but also our enemies...). And this is not easy. Even more, I think it is impossible without the help of the grace that God offers us. That is why we should pray with Psalm 50: "O God, create in me a pure heart, renew me within with a steadfast spirit".

Moreover, in the Lord's Prayer, Jesus seems to make divine forgiveness conditional on man forgiving his fellow man: "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." [St. Matthew 6:12]

Pope Francis, for his part, suggested the need to learn three words: "Forgive, please and thank you". Beautiful teaching to practice in our life of relationship with those around us.

Correct and forgive. Healing. 

Faced with the misconduct and misbehavior of children-students, educators must be clear and positive.

The boy or girl must assume that what happened is wrong and must be repaired, but we must also offer them the hope that they can overcome it, that we will forget what happened -it is forgiven- and we will start again -they will have another opportunity.

Three real and simple cases that end well, among so many in the school environment.

I. A boy reports that he has been robbed in the classroom. The teacher is informed of some relevant details and comes to the conclusion that it is possible that the missing object is already outside the classroom, so he dismisses the search of all students. Then he tells the children what happened, trying to stir the conscience of the "thief" to motivate him to repent and return the stolen item. He tells them that they must give it to him in private and assures them that no one else will ever know.

The next day, Juan gives him his classmate's CD of "The Beatles". The classroom atmosphere remained as before and the teacher kept his word.

II. Gabriel volunteered to participate in a complementary activity and was selected, but he is going through a bad patch and due to his bad behavior, the teacher, in agreement with his tutor, expels him from the activity. Gabriel's parents complain that they were not informed in advance of their son's bad behavior, and ask if it will be possible for Gabriel to return to the group, committing himself to good behavior. The teacher, in agreement with his tutor, says yes, and adds another condition to the one indicated by the parents: he must get good grades in the evaluation (according to his possibilities). Gabriel passed both tests, returned to the group and continued to the end with good results.

III. At the end of a cultural visit with an entire high school class, the teachers receive a complaint from a vendor of sweets and refreshments. Several boys had stopped by his stand and taken things without paying. The teachers, gathering all the boys in the bus, explained the situation, assuring that they would not move from the site until all the "thieves" returned to the stand to return or pay for what they had taken, as well as apologizing to the vendor for the bad time they had given him. Happily, the boys did so, the man was more or less satisfied and was able to resume the excursion.

I believe that this way of proceeding - correcting, forgiving and encouraging - is also a good way to heal the soul of the one who has failed and to restore a good atmosphere. It should also be noted that forgiveness can be a powerful ally in improving emotional well-being and preserving mental health. In this sense, it is also very important to learn to forgive oneself, sorry for having caused harm to others.

This is also what Jesus teaches us in his action with the paralytic at the pool of Bethzatha, in John 5:1-6. First he heals him, taking pity on him, knowing that he had been waiting for a long time to be healed, but that someone had always gone ahead of him, when the waters of the pool were stirred by the angel. And later when they meet in the Temple, he says to him, "See, you are healed; sin no more lest something worse befall you." Jesus heals and corrects. 

On the other hand, we must be constant in helping, even if sometimes it seems to us educators that they do not listen, and patient when good results do not come immediately, because people need time to reach the goals we intend to achieve, especially when we intend to be better. And it encourages them to persevere in the effort if we trust them that we, the adults, also have to struggle to improve and they see us asking for forgiveness. 


The sorry totally erases the offense received. God, who is love, goes out to meet the man who, repentant, comes to him asking forgiveness for having offended him. Among men, forgiveness restores harmony among those who feel offended.

Educating for forgiveness It is the duty of parents and educators to correct when it is necessary to do so, according to the nature of the offense and the conditions of the person who needs help. But it is also important that the girl or boy whom we correct perceives that we do it with affection, that she or he matters to us as much or more than ourselves and that he or she will have another opportunity, because we trust that he or she will improve.

Forgiveness and forgiveness contributes to healing the soul of those who have failed, helps to preserve the good environment, can improve emotional well-being and mental health. In short, generating happiness, peace and tranquility: it is a good vitamin for the person -body and soul-.

The authorJulio Iñiguez Estremiana

Physicist. High School Mathematics, Physics and Religion teacher.

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