The Quest Begins

Gandalf also warned that Frodo should prepare to leave the Shire at once. The Dark Lord Sauron had learnt that a hobbit now held the ring and had sent out his nine scouts, the Nazgul, in search of Frodo and his Ring.

Frodo inquired as to what course he should take.

“Towards danger,” advised Gandalf, “but not too rashly, not too straight. If you want my advice, make for Rivendell.”

Although Gandalf could not remain while Frodo made his preparations, the wizard promised to return and serve as an escort to Frodo.

“You ought to go quietly, and you ought to go soon” advised Gandalf. Yet time had passed and still Frodo made no sign of getting ready to begin his journey. Now that the time had come Frodo was reluctant to leave his beloved Shire.

Gandalf had failed to return to escort Frodo on towards Rivendell. Finally, Frodo decided he could wait no longer and set off without the wizard as his guide.

How is it that we fail to act when we know we must? The urgency of today’s ills are strewn before us but still we lay idle. We continue to put off what cannot wait for tomorrow. What is that holds us back? What great demon stands in our way?

We have all been invited to take up the burden of the One Ring, for there is a Frodo within each of us. Yet there is another part that is reluctant and would rather not be bothered by such an immense task. Often, we dismiss our own responsibility for the Ring and throw it back upon politicians and government officials. Concern without action is not enough.

Dr. Marie Louise von Franz points out that when people try to evade a problem you must first ask if it is not just laziness. Jung once said that laziness is our greatest passion, even greater than power or sex or anything. How problematic does a situation need to get before we are prompted into doing something about it?

Yet our hesitation is understandable. As mentioned, Frodo’s quest is not the usual hero’s adventure. Most quests begin in search of a treasure. This is the lure that draws the hero out of his home and into the world. Frodo, on the other hand, already has his treasure. He has the precious One Ring, a ring that has now grown dear to him. Frodo’s only lure is the loss and destruction of this ring. There is nothing for him to gain personally. In terms of today’s world, the quest to return the One Ring is to do away with that technology that we have grown so accustomed to. Such a quest can easily appear fruitless. There is nothing to gain except a previous state of simplicity.

This is where Gandalf, representative of our greater vision, is so important. Gandalf explains to Frodo the dangers of keeping the One Ring, making it clear that to relinquish the Ring is really to his advantage. Without the foresight of Gandalf, Frodo would never have contemplated the destruction of the Ring.

Gandalf wears the ring of fire. It was given to him with these words. “Take this ring for your labours will be heavy, but it will support you in the weariness you have taken upon yourself. For this is the ring of fire, and with it you may rekindle hearts in a world which grows chill.”

Gandalf’s wisdom lights the way, revealing a possible solution to the trouble that has assailed Middle Earth. He symbolises our intuitive capacity to look beyond our current circumstances and see where we are headed. This capacity to envision an alternate future provides us with the hope and aspiration which we so desperately need in this darkening age. Without this vision we would probably resign ourselves to some wicked fate.

So where does one begin? Gandalf advised Frodo to head toward danger. For anyone who seeks a solution to our global problems but knows not where to start, herein lies the answer. Head toward danger in whatever form it takes in your own perception. It may be the rainforests that command your attention. It may be the third world or famine. Possibly it is large industry that concerns you most, or the need for a greater awareness amongst our government officials. Everyone must find their own way of penetrating the issue.

Gandalf fails to return as a guide. As such Frodo must make the first, less educated move. There comes a time when one can no longer procrastinate. You have committed to the quest, you are convinced of its necessity but, for some reason, you fail to act. Inspiration fails to strike; you don’t know how to begin. The road ahead is a mystery. Even if not sure as to what you should be doing, begin anyway. A clearer understanding may come later.

With Frodo went Merry, Pippin and Sam. Sam, especially, would not leave his master’s side. After crossing the stream, the Ring party was now outside of Hobbiton. They were already weary yet continued. When they stopped to rest a song came into Frodo’s mind. He spoke it aloud.

The road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.And wither then I cannot say.

That first night they spent on their own. The next night was more eventful. As the sun set Sam heard a horse coming along the road from behind. Quickly the company hid as a Ring Wraith rounded the corner. He seemed to be looking for something, sniffing here then there. He drew closer when out of the night came the sound of mingled song and laughter. Immediately the Ring Wraith straightened and retreated. “Elves!” exclaimed Sam.

Soon the elves came upon the hobbits. “Hail Frodo,” cried the leader.

The hobbits now had an escort party as the elves were headed in a similar direction. The elves were of great service to Frodo and his companions. They escorted Frodo along their own tracks, steering the hobbits clear of the Ring Wraiths, and speeding them on their journey. Soon the elves delivered the hobbits to the edge of an old forest. There they left the party with food and drink and continued with their own journey.

It was told that the Ring Wraiths were once great kings who were summoned by Sauron the Great, the now Dark Lord. In an earlier time, Sauron promised the kings great power – giving to each, one of the nine rings to help them rule over their domain. The kings eagerly received these rings and wielded them with great power. In time, however, the balance of power shifted from the king to the ring and the nine rings soon possessed their keepers. Each king had now become a servant of the Dark Lord.

Frodo’s song captures the feelings experienced when first setting out on the quest. He feels alone but there is hope of joining with other like-minded individuals. Indeed, it was not long before the hobbits came upon the elves. There are others out there.

Frodo’s departure from the Shire represents a movement away from the personal and into the collective sphere of social issues and causes. In this larger public realm, we encounter not only the forces of destruction but also those efforts and movements which aim to protect our natural world. It may be a bid to save the rainforests from logging, a petition against genetically modified foods, a protest rally against the use of nuclear energy or a community push to prevent over-development.

This is the war between the ‘black’ and the ‘green’ – a continuous theme throughout The Lord of the Rings and an emerging polarity within our own social system. The Ring Wraiths and the elves are the first expression of this polarity. While the Ring Wraiths hail from Mordor, a poisoned place of scorched earth, the elves live at peace within the heart of the forests.

According to Tolkien, the Ring Wraiths were not always evil and destructive. They had only become that way with the seductive and capturing power of the nine lesser rings. A similar history of the entrapping lure of power may be found throughout many of the industries and domains of our own world.

In earlier times we would not have accused the farmer, logger, hunter, builder, or medical practitioner of being forces of destruction, but with the aid of new technology their power and impact upon the environment has grown overwhelming and hostile.

Take for example the farmer, who has accepted pesticides, fertilisers, and bulldozers to clear the land. These same farmers are now challenged with poisoned or poor-quality soil, erosion and the plagues which result from a mono-cultured approach to farming. While modern day farming practices are no longer considered sustainable, the farmer cannot easily return to his old ways. Instead, each year he must try yet another additive and pesticide. Our farmers have succumbed to and are now enslaved by a set of technologies that first held the allure of maximised yields.

The logger who was handed the chain saw has now cleared most of the world’s forests. The greater powers of the hunter now threaten the wildlife of the world. Builders have constructed cities where nature has ceased to exist. And modern pharmacology has begun to disturb our general health with the many drugs now available. These are just some of our Ring Wraiths.

Then we have our elves – those organisations and individuals who fight against the destructive use of our technology. Here we meet the organic farmers and seed savers (who seek to maintain biodiversity), holistic health practitioners, alternate energy enthusiasts, ethical investors, non-government organisations, ‘green’ political parties and those who rally against deforestation.

This black and green polarity may be found throughout such domains as economics and financial management, politics, healthcare, land and resource management, scientific research and development, town planning and the construction industry. The war between black and green is already being fought on several fronts.

Despite their common enemy, Frodo’s journey is different to that of the elves. Their paths would again cross but, for now, the elves and Frodo part company. While the ‘green’ movement addresses the very real issues before us, there is an inner dimension that also requires our attention. It is this inner journey which is Frodo’s destined road.