In our latest TORn library piece, Ringer Tedoras muses on the theme of love within Lord of the Rings, and how it’s more intricately– and subtly — woven into the text than we generally realise.
Love in The Lord of the Rings
The pages of The Lord of the Rings contain a wealth of timeless themes. In the context of the greater struggle between Good and Evil, stories of virtue, loyalty, courage, and certainly love abound. The theme of love, in particular, is so intricately woven into Tolkien’s masterpiece that there is yet light to be shed on it.
Much of what admirers of The Lord of the Rings know about the role of love in the story comes from the film adaptations, in which those more evident elements (being the relationships between Aragorn and Arwen, Frodo and Sam, and the members of the Fellowship in general) are highlighted.
But Peter Jackson is not entirely to blame for pruning the Professor’s work; for even as readers we have the tendency to overlook the subtleties of this pervasive theme, remembering by the end only the selfsame “surface” elements that Mr. Jackson has highlighted, one or two particularly solemn quotations from one of the Wise, and half a snippet from the narrator’s many musings.
Yet, it is in the lesser-known, often-overlooked passages that we find the literary gold (or mithril, if you will) that is the representation of love in The Lord of the Rings.
In digging beneath these more well-known examples, we will discover just how fixed in the text the theme of love is. But, since the verisimilitudinous definition of love to which those “surface” elements lead us will be proved insufficient, we will also come to define love as Tolkien did (or at least reach a more lucid definition, if not his exact). We will note that the nidus of the theme of love lies not in those aforementioned exemplars (which many consider the quintessence of the theme), and that they are but the blossoming result of intricately woven roots that run many hundreds of pages deep.
In laying the evidence, let us first journey to Lorien with the Fellowship, where some light can be shed on Tolkien’s definition of love. As we know, one of the gifts of the Lady of the Wood are the famous cloaks now synonymous with the Company of the Ring. Upon receipt of his, Pippin, filled with awe at the sight, wonders if it is a “magic cloak” (361). The response is quite poignant:
“‘I do not know what you mean by that,’ answered the leader of the Elves. ‘They are fair garments, and the web is good, for it was made in this land. They are elvish robes certainly, if that is what you mean. Leaf and branch, water and stone: they have the hue and beauty of all these things under the twilight of Lorien that we love; for we put the thought of all that we love into all that we make’” (361).
The most applicable part of this quotation, when it comes to defining love as Tolkien did, is how the Elves “put the thought of all that [they] love into all that [they] make.” Here we must mark Pippin’s equation of love (and a work of love) with magic—magic being an enchanting and plendiferous embodiment of the purest natural emotion, such as is not oft beheld in the world.