With Tolkien, young people trained for the mission.

The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. R. Tolkien, contains many useful lessons for our lives and applicable to the education of our children and students.

Julio Iñiguez Estremiana-January 22, 2024-Reading time: 8 minutes

Photo: Still from the movie "The Lord of the Rings" ©CNS photo courtesy New Line Cinema

At the conclusion of the Council of Elrond, the discussion of who would be in charge of the Mission generated a noisy uproar. Frodo had attended and learned many things about the Ring of Power that he carried. At last, making an effort to make himself heard, he said, "I will carry the Ring... Though I do not know how."

Amidst the silence of all in attendance, Elrond spoke, "If I have understood correctly all that I have heard, I believe that this task falls to you, Frodo, and if you do not know how to carry it out, no other will."

I recently finished reading again The Lord of the Ringsthat masterful book by J.R.R. Tolkien, It is one of the top ten best-selling books in all of history. It is fiction, yes; but it contains many useful lessons for our lives and applicable to the education of our children and students.

That is why today I have decided to draw inspiration from this wonderful work that is the continuation of The Hobbitbut with a much larger geographical and moral construction. Tolkien himself said: "The Lord of the Rings is written with my life's blood". And it is precisely thanks to that great dedication that Tolkien managed to create a story that the more you read it, the more you learn from it. Let's take a look at some of those lessons.

We all have a mission to fulfill

We were not counted on to be born, we did not choose the qualities, few or many, that adorn us, we did not choose to be who we are: all this and much more we received from God and from our parents. When God thinks of each one of us in order to give us life, he also thinks of the mission that we must carry out. What we do choose, however, is whether or not to fulfill the mission entrusted to us, starting with discovering it. Bilbo did not choose to have Gandalf knock on the door of his cave-hobbit, but he said yes to carrying out the mission he was given. So did his nephew, as we tell below. 

Frodo had attended the Council of Elrond where he learned many things about the Ring of Power that he carried. It had become clear to him that destroying it was an absolute necessity for the peace of the free world. And though he felt "an irresistible desire to rest and stay and live in Rivendell with Bilbo," at last he spoke with an effort, and heard his own words in surprise, as if someone else were using his little voice: "I will take the Ring [to Mordor]," he said, "though I do not know how.

Amidst the silence of all the Council, Elrond spoke: "If I have understood correctly all that I have heard, I believe that this task falls to you, Frodo, and if you do not know how to carry it out, no one else will.

Thus it was that Frodo earned the title of Ringbearer, that is, protagonist of the war against Sauron, Dark Lord of Mordor, the "Great Peril" who threatened to enslave all the Peoples of Middle-earth: a life and death struggle to preserve the freedom of Elves, Men, Dwarves and Hobbits.

Similarly, we can each make our lives an adventure by choosing to carry out the Mission to which we are sent: a tiny fragment of God's plan for humanity; very small, yes, but also very important, for if you don't carry it out, no one else will.

Another important lesson we can learn from Tolkien: the small -hobbits-, are not out of place next to the great heroes or sages -Gandalf, Elrond, Aragorn...- Although some of us may see ourselves as insignificant to address the problems of our time, we all have a duty to collaborate in their resolution.

The same God who created the mountains, the valleys, the planets, the galaxies..., is the one who gives us life, creates an unrepeatable immortal soul and infuses it into the body that we also receive from Him, through the mediation of our parents. He saw us - one by one - before the constitution of the world and said: "Yes, the world needs you too".

Therefore, the greatness of man consists in knowing God's will and carrying it out, being God's collaborator in the work of Creation and Redemption. Tolkien reminds us that each person has a Mission, a call to participate in something great.

The value of friendship

-But you won't send him alone, Sir," cried Sam, who could no longer restrain himself and jumped up, almost without letting Elrond finish.

-No indeed! -said Elrond, turning to him with a smile. You will go with him at least. It does not seem easy to part with Frodo, though he has been summoned to a secret council, and you have not.

Sam, now become the Ringbearer's faithful squire, sat up, reddening and muttering.

-We've got ourselves into a fine mess, Mr. Frodo! -he said, shaking his head.

In the following days it was decided that there should be nine members of the Mission: Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, Trancos and Boromir joined. Elrond took a count and saw that two were still missing.

-I will think about it, perhaps I will find someone among the people of the house whom it would be convenient for me to send. 

-But then there will be no room for us! -Pippin then exclaimed, dismayed. We don't want to stay. We want to go with Frodo.

-That's because you don't understand and can't imagine what awaits them," said Elrond.

-Neither does Frodo,' said Gandalf, unexpectedly supporting Pippin. 'None of us can see it clearly. It is true that if these hobbits understood the danger, they would not dare to go. But they would still wish to go, or dare to go, and feel ashamed and unhappy. I think, Elrond, that in this matter it will be better to trust to the friendship of these hobbits than to our wisdom.

The Lord of the Rings

And so it was that Elrond finally decided to complete with Merry and Pippin the nine that left Rivendell forming "The Company" also called "The Fellowship of the Ring".

No one is saved alone, that is something the author wants to make clear. We can appreciate in this story how the friendship between the characters -that of Sam and Frodo, for example-, far from weakening, grows stronger and stronger with the difficulties.

To have friends is a blessing, a gift, a richness for which no man is so poor as not to be able to aspire to it. Let us remember: "he sent them out two by two" (Lk 10:1). In times of conflict, friendship is what saves the world, motivated by an ancient, mystical power, often forgotten: love.

A friend is a treasure! -According to the popular saying, a friend is a treasure that only we humans have; that is why we must "take care" of our friends, and for this it is important to know that the bonds of friendship are based on common affection and on sharing our values, each of us growing as we give ourselves to others. Friendship must be loyal and sincere, and demands an exchange of favors, of noble and lawful services, even if it requires personal renunciations and dedication of time, that scarce good, but which seems to increase to the extent that it is dedicated to others.

Problems, difficulties and temptations. Strength and hope

Soon after leaving Rivendell, because Boromir succumbs to the temptation of the Ring and tries to snatch it from Frodo, the latter is forced to leave and go alone to Mordor to fulfill his mission. Only Sam will take charge of the situation and will manage to join his master and friend in extremis. Let us clarify that Boromir will soon regret his "fall" and dies with honor defending the cause.

In this story the temptation is to possess the One Ring of Sauron, of beautiful appearance, which is shown as granting extraordinary powers and whispers to the hearts of those who are close to him to claim it and use it; but which in reality seeks to enslave them in order to chain them to the power of Sauron, Dark Lord of Mordor. 

Sam experienced this when, due to a serious crisis in Mordor, near the Mountain of Doom, he was forced to take on the responsibility of carrying the Ring.

As he drew nearer to the great furnaces where it was forged and fashioned, in the abysses of time, the power of the Ring increased, and it became more and more malignant, indomitable except perhaps to one of a very powerful will. And though he wore it not on his finger, but dangling from his neck on a chain, Sam himself felt as if he were aggrandized, as if enveloped in a huge, distorted shadow of himself.

He knew that henceforth he had but one choice: to resist wearing the Ring, however much it might torment him; or to reclaim it, and defy the Power seated in the dark fortress on the other side of the valley of shadows. 

The Ring tempted him by weakening his will and darkening his reason; wild fantasies invaded his mind; and he saw Samwise the Strong, the Hero of the Age, advancing with a flaming sword across the shadowy land, and the armies that came to his call as he rushed to overthrow the power of Barad-dûr.

Then all the clouds would dissipate, and the white sun would shine again, and at Sam's command the valley of Gorgoroth would be transformed into a garden of many flowers, where the trees bore fruit. He had but to put the Ring on his finger, and claim it, and all that could become a reality.

In that hour of trial, it was above all his love for Frodo that helped him to stand firm. Moreover, he retained deep within himself the indomitable hobbit's common sense: he knew that he was not made to carry such a burden even if those visions of greatness were not just a lure.

"And besides all these fancies are but a snare," he said to himself, "He would find me out and fall upon me before I could cry out. If I were to put on the Ring now he would find me out, and very quickly, in Mordor."

After the aforementioned crisis, Sam returns the Ring to Frodo; but the road they must travel together is still full of difficulties, dangers and surprises. And there reappears again Gollum, who offers himself as a guide to take them to the Mountain of Destiny, but his deepest and most intense desire is to recover the Ring...

To the hobbits it suddenly seemed to them that their long journey northward had been useless. On the plain, which stretched away to the right, shrouded in mist and smoke, there were no camps or marching troops to be seen; but the whole of that region was under the watchful eye of the forts of Carach Angren.

-Now we might as well give up or try to go back. The food won't reach us. We'll have to hurry! -said Sam.

-All right, Sam,' said Frodo, 'guide me! While you have a hope left. I have none left. But I can't hurry, Sam. I can hardly crawl after you.

-Before you go crawling on, you need sleep and food, Mr. Frodo," said Sam, "come on, get what you can.

He gave Frodo water and a wafer of bread from the road, and taking off his cloak improvised a pillow for his Master's head.

The Lord of the Rings

Another teaching for children and adolescents in The Lord of the Rings: steadfastness, along with the friendshipThe companionship and solidarity with one another is what makes it possible to carry out the Mission. You learn that working together helps to overcome the obstacles and difficulties of life. And also that being small should not prevent you from advancing towards your goals: with the necessary confidence and the best help you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.

The award

I prefer not to anticipate events that may derail surprises and emotions in the reading of the end of the story; therefore, to talk about the prize, I will relate a brief conversation between Gandalf and Pippin in Minas Tirith when it seemed that everything was coming to an end -third film: The Return of the King.

-I never thought of this ending," says Pippin.

-The end? -No! The journey does not end here. Death is just another path we all travel. The gray veil of this world is lifted and everything becomes silvery crystal. That's when you see...

-What? Gandalf, what does it look like? -asks Pippin.

-The white shore and beyond it the immense green countryside stretched out before a fleeting dawn.

-Well," says Pippin, "that's not bad!

-No, no, of course not! -Gandalf concludes.

The Return of the King


To each and every one of us, along with the gift of life, God, in his loving Providence, gives us a task so that we may collaborate with him in perfecting his Creation and completing the Redemption; that is to say, he entrusts us with a mission. This mission is not chosen by us, but is given to us; but we do have the freedom to decide whether or not to carry it out.

Girls and boys must be educated (trained), from childhood and adolescence, so that they can discover their vocation, professional preference, life choice..., so that they are truly free to say yes to the mission that is theirs to carry out; and to overcome the obstacles that will prevent them from reaching their goal.

No one should be so arrogant as to pretend to fulfill his mission without the help of others - nor will he be asked to do so, nor could he do so. In order to carry out the mission, it will be essential to count on friends, and friendship with Jesus will be the surest. And in order not to give up when difficulties arise, we must also develop other virtues, such as, for example, hardiness, the capacity for sacrifice, loyalty, solidarity, optimism, fidelity, etc. And, undoubtedly, we have the most important help, God's help.

As for the Award, a few words of Benedict XVI at St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney on July 9, 2008, on the occasion of the World Youth Day held there:

"Faith teaches us that we are God's creatures, made in his image and likeness, endowed with an inviolable dignity and called to the sublime destiny that awaits us in heaven."

Recommended reading: "Demanding to educate". Author: Eusebio Ferrer, Collection: "Hacer familia".

The authorJulio Iñiguez Estremiana

Physicist. High School Mathematics, Physics and Religion teacher.

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