The three planned movies of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings introduced millions of new fans to the great epic fantasy that has enthralled readers since the first book was published in 1955. But is it more than just a fantasy? Tolkien said his work had no deeper meaning, but Robert Ellwood finds much insight concerning the spiritual path. Retelling key parts of the story to orient us, he interprets it in terms of core themes of the ancient wisdom tradition, including the development of higher consciousness, death and rebirth, and the triumph of good over evil.
As Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings movie, stated at the Academy Awards, “Frodo is Everyman.” Ellwood agrees that like Frodo, we each experience times of change and challenge that propel us on our own quest, which is finally the adventure of exploring inner realities and growing spiritually. The characters in The Lord of the Rings can be seen as archetypes for the people we meet along the way. Do you have a Gandalf (a spiritual guide) or a Sam (a friend/partner) in your life already? If not, you may soon encounter them!
Ellwood adds fanciful line drawings, meditations, and exercises to help us see our lives as a great journey full of mission instead of just dreary routine. “Ultimately,” he says, “the Quest gives opportunity for doing deeds that can change one’s own existence—and the world—for the better—if one has the courage!”