Tolkien Reading Day (Bonus Episode: My Favorite Tolkien Passages)
Pull up a cozy chair and join us as we chat about the works and Catholic faith of J.R.R. Tolkien, and strive to carry a little piece of Middle-Earth into our own daily lives.
Tolkien Reading Day is celebrated on the 25th of March every year, in honor of the day on which the One Ring was destroyed. Since 2003, the Tolkien Society has celebrated this day by encouraging fans to read and share their favorite Tolkien passages, so I wanted to share five of mine. Share yours on social media using the #TolkienReadingDay hashtag, and tag me so I can see, too!
I chose all of these from The Lord of the Rings, perhaps because it's most familiar to me of all Tolkien’s works, but also because it has had the biggest influence on my life and has meant the most to me. The more I read the Silmarillion, the more I fall in love with its depth, but I’m still not as familiar with it to be able to choose my favorite specific passages or chapters. So all of these are from The Lord of the Rings, and I didn’t realize this until now, but all of them are from The Return of the King at that.
This first one is from Book Six, Chapter One. After he believed Frodo to be dead, Sam took the Ring and determined to finish Frodo’s quest for him. However, he learned that Frodo was not actually dead, and he had been taken by orcs and carried away. So Sam is following them now in an attempt to rescue him, but already he is being tempted by the Ring.
“In that hour of trial it was the love of his master that helped most to hold him firm; but also deep down in him lived still unconquered his plain hobbit-sense: he knew in the core of his heart that he was not large enough to bear such a burden, even if such visions were not a mere cheat to betray him. The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command.” - The Return of the King, The Tower of Cirith Ungol
Sam is strengthened by his realized, and continues on. After climbing to the top of the stairs in the Tower of Cirith Ungol and being unable to find Frodo, Sam sinks down and bows his head. However, he then begins to sing:
In western lands beneath the Sun
the flowers may rise in Spring,
the trees may bud, the waters run,
the merry finches sing.
Or there maybe 'tis cloudless night
and swaying beeches bear
the Elven-stars as jewels white
amid their branching hair.
Though here at journey's end I lie
in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
and Stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
nor bid the Stars farewell.
Sam’s song draws the attention of an orc, thinking he’s hearing Frodo. The orc uses a ladder to access the final chamber above, and with that Sam is able to follow the orc up and rescue Frodo.
In the next chapter, The Land of Shadow, Frodo and Sam scramble through Mordor, trying desperately to finish their quest. At one point, they find a place to hide and Sam tells Frodo to sleep while he keeps watch.
“Then at last, to keep himself awake, he crawled from the hiding-place and looked out. The land seemed full of creaking and cracking and sly noises, but there was no sound of voice or foot. Far above the Ephel Duath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
After the Ring is ultimately destroyed, Frodo and Sam awake to find themselves in the Field of Cormallen. Aragorn is king; Gandalf is returned.; the Ring is gone. All is right with the world once again.
“‘Well, Master Samwise, how do you feel?’ he said.
But Sam lay back, and stared with open mouth, and for a moment, between bewilderment and great joy, he could not answer. At last he gasped: ‘Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happening to the world?"
‘A great Shadow has departed,’ said Gandalf, and then he laughed, and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count. It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known. But he himself burst into tears. Then, as a sweet rain will pass down a wind of spring and the sun will shine out the clearer, his tears ceased, and his laughter welled up, and laughing he sprang from his bed.
‘How do I feel?’ he cried. ‘Well, I don’t know how to say it. I feel, I feel’ — he waved his arms in the air — ‘I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves; and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard!’
Later on, as the hobbits are brought out before the host of men and met with great praise, Tolkien writes:
“And all the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all the men were hushed. And he sang to them, now in the elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.”
So these are five of my favorite passages from The Lord of the Rings, quotes that have pierced my own heart and hopefully they will resonate with you a little bit, or at least inspire you to read a little or a lot of Tolkien. I’d love to hear about your favorites in the comments below, or you can send me a note on twitter or facebook or instagram!
Also, on a quick final note, today is the opening of our spring pop-up shop! I have a limited selection of some of our most popular items from when our Etsy shop was open and I’m very excited to be able to offer some of them again. It was such a challenge to run our busy Etsy shop while also staying at home with my little hobbits, and so I made the difficult decision to close last December. However, this pop-up shop will be open from today until April 5th! We have a beautiful new design made for Tea with Tolkien by Ash of Daffodils and Ink, as well as our Rose Bookstack tee, our enamel Hobbit at Heart campfire mug, and our Little Hobbit baby onesie.
I also wanted to mention, if you’re on instagram, I’m hosting a giveaway in celebration of Tolkien Reading day this week. The giveaway will close on March 30th and 10pm EST, and I hope it’s you that wins! You can visit my instagram feed, @teawithtolkien, for all of the details and how to enter.
I will be back tomorrow to talk about one of my favorite quotes that I had mentioned in this episode, Sam’s “I feel like spring after winter and sun on the leaves”, as well as a little discussion of the significance of Spring in Tolkien’s writings, so make sure you’re subscribed to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode.
I hope you have a beautiful day, and make sure to read more Tolkien! And drink more tea, too!