• Joel Ryan

Words of Hope from the Writings of JRR Tolkien

It is not hyperbole to say that we are living in strange times.

Just yesterday, my wife and I made a trip to the grocery store to get a few supplies for the coming week, and going in, neither of us knew what to expect.

Contrary to all the rumors and stories we had seen on TV and viewed on our Instagram and Facebook feeds, our local market wasn’t as post-apocalyptic as we had expected.

Sure, the parking lot was a little more crowded than usual, but most aisles were still well-stocked, and everyone we encountered was kind, patient, and considerate.

Most shopping carts were as full as any other day, not bursting at the seams with bulk quantities of anything. They were simply filled with casual supplies you’d expect people to buy on an average trip to the grocery store: ice cream, TV dinners, and the occasional basket of corned beef and Guinness for those eager to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

But even in the calm, well-wishes we encountered, I still felt a strange and unsettling feeling creeping through my body. It wasn’t panic. Civility and kindness were still evident all around us, but there was a strange heaviness and uneasiness in the air.

On the surface, the waters were calm, but you could feel a stirring beneath the waves, and the feelings of uncertainty and fear were more contagious than I had anticipated.

With all the recent events that have unfolded in past week, my wife and I have found ways to keep perspective, keep faith, and keep the well-being of our friends, families, neighbors, and global community in focus and in prayer.

I know many people have begun to deride “thoughts and prayers” in times of crisis, but right now the prayers of those of faith are purposeful, powerful, and active. They also bring truth, peace, healing, and hope to a fearful and confused world, which most people desperately need a dose of right about now.

Social distancing is the prescription given to our world right now, but that doesn’t make it easier on the hearts and minds of those who feel frightened and alone.

As most of the world hunkers down and stays home in an attempt to limit the spread of the Coronavirus, many will turn to binge-watching Netflix and reading to pass the time. Now, more than ever, stories have the power to lift the human spirit and provide laugher, light, joy, hope, and perspective in the midst of fear and uncertainty.

I know for the next few weeks, I will be spending most of my time teaching remotely from home and writing as much as I can, because I know that writing is both my joy and the best means I have of sharing hope and truth with those I care about.

In the midst of this trying time, many of you will feel limited by what you can do or share, but I have good news for you. Your words and stories matter, so write away!

Use this time to finish your novels, screenplays, and short stories. Let fresh stories of hope be born in this season, and may history forever remember that we chose to write a new chapter of kindness with our words and actions.

With that being said, as I continue to write, I felt it appropriate to share with you some of my favorite words of hope from one of my favorite authors, JRR Tolkien.

Tolkien was no stranger to dark and uncertain times, having lived through two world wars, even fighting in the “war to end all wars.” And it was his experience in WW1 that provided much of the inspiration and perspective for the tales of Middle Earth and the hope that fills The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

In true Tolkien fashion, may these words from Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion be “a light to you in dark places when all other lights have gone out.”

I look forward to reading your words and seeing what stories you write (in both words and actions) in the coming days. In all your writing and creative endeavors, “may the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks.”

And whatever you may be going through, here are a few of the most iconic words of hope from J.R.R. Tolkien.

Be encouraged, stay strong, and never surrender to fear or despair.

“Who can foresee whither their road will lead them till they come to its end.”

“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.”

“Faithless is her that says farewell when the road darkens.”

“The world is indeed full of perils, and in it there are many dark places; but there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”

“It is not the strength of the body that counts, but the strength of the spirit.”

“Oft, hope is born when all is forlorn.”

“Little by little one travels far.”

“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

“Deeds will be not less valiant because they are unpraised.”

“There is good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.”

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

“It’s like the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”

“Above all shadows rides the sun.”

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday details of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay, small acts of kindness and love.”