November 20, 2009
“Well, Frodo, now at last we understand one another.” Faramir to Frodo (The Two Towers, Chapter The window on the west) It has always irked me that if looking for Tolkien in the bookstore, they always have him under Sci/Fi or fantasy, never under literature. And that’s what the book really is. A book written NEARLY half a century ago, it remains the #1 all-time best selling book worldwide, aside from the bible. That’s saying something. One of the great things about Tolkien (or any true literature for that matter), is that one can reread it any number of times and depending on your stage of life, get different things out of it. My wife calls it “bibliotherapy”. It truly taps into essential qualities of humanness which explains its staying power. Take the quote above. It’s said between two characters who are faced with difficult choices. But it’s more than that. In his choice to let Frodo go or succumb to the temptation of power, Faramir’s choice has dominion over Frodo’s choice to continue on his journey. A moving scene in the book, it’s also a powerful scene in the movie. At this stage of my life, I have a different interpretation. In some sense, it can be viewed as a conversation that can take place within one’s self. There is Faramir – strength, wisdom, and dominion by might. A bit of the conscious will. And then there is Frodo – a small, unassuming character chosen by fate to bear a terrible burden which ultimately ends up wounding him beyond healing. A bit of the intuitive subconscious. And then there is the juxtaposition between the two. By strength of will, Faramir can dominate Frodo and take control of the situation. And so in life, do we yield to strength of will or do we follow the uncertainties of the subconscious? What if it even means potentially losing a part of one’s self in the process? And why do I love this quote so much? Because the two say to each other, now we understand each other. There is an acceptance and agreement between two competing paths. The dominate aides the subconscious in what ways it can, but ultimately yields to a wisdom that is beyond simple strength of will. There is a sense of fate about Frodo that is never clear except in its danger. But he can do no different than to follow his fate, even though he wishes he did not have to. And that’s how I feel right now. I had…..a, shall we say, rough time with Block II. Afterwards, I feel different. I feel a sense of coming to terms with myself. In a different time, in a different place, I could go through med school by strength of will as I suspect most do. But not at this stage of my life. It simply will not work for me. This time, I yield to a different motivation that is fuzzy and terrifyingly unclear, yet still drives me forward towards a distant goal. That’s vague, I know, and probably difficult to explain. But Tolkien knew it and so did Frodo and Faramir. And while we’re on the subject of Tokien, if you want a book that revels in classic Greek tragedy, I highly recommend Children of Hurin which was completed by his son. A dark, foreboding tale that should be up there with the likes of Hamlet or Odysseus.