I’m blessed to be part of an extraordinary circle of friends who share faith and literary interests. One dear lady in this group calls herself a hobbit among elves, by which she means that she doesn’t feel that she’s as erudite as most of the others (I don’t either, by the way, dear). But this lady is largely responsible for getting a lot of important things done, working away behind the scenes to plan and pull conferences together and keep them running, making sure that in addition to the scheduling of speakers and performers, the little details – like beds and food and drink – are attended to.
This book reminds me of my friend. In it, Mark Eddy Smith chooses to focus not on the grand, overarching plot of The Lord of the Rings, but on the undergirding principles, the “ordinary virtues” that strengthen and enable the characters to fulfill their destined roles in the larger scheme of things.
In The Two Towers, at a dark juncture in their travels, Frodo and Sam talk about stories, and how folks in stories often landed in their adventures through little choice of their own, and how the story they themselves are part of will be remembered. Frodo insists that at some point in time to come, tellers of their tale will note that “Frodo wouldn’t have got far without Sam.” Indeed, none of our unassuming heroes would have got far without the generosity, perspective, humility, trustworthiness, wisdom, hope, imagination, perseverance, and other simple virtues deeply ingrained in their own natures and shown to them by those who provided help unlooked-for along the way.
Tolkien’s Ordinary Virtues may well be my favorite companion book to The Lord of the Rings, offering the gentle reminder that