As many of you already know, I am a Christian, specifically, Roman Catholic. October is Respect Life Month.
As a Tolkien addict, for many years, until recently, I had no clue that Tolkien had attempted to write a sequel to Lord of the Rings. Lately, I’ve been reading quite a bit of Tolkien criticism and analysis, and ran across this little tidbit of information. I can’t say it didn’t intrigue me greatly. In ordering the History of the Lord of the Rings, I discovered this “sequel” had been published, within The Peoples of Middle Earth, the last HoME book. So I read the 20 pages Tolkien had managed to complete before giving up because the book would only be a thriller. It is called The New Shadow. It is set after Aragorn’s death, during the reighn of his son, Eldarion. A plot is brewing to overthrow him. Mysterious cults sprout. Children run around playing as Orcs.
Yet in the end, none of this really impressed me that much. It was Tolkien’s language, especially the applicability I could bring to them that truly moved me. A single passage stands out, which is particularly fitting for Respect Life Month.
“Surely even a boy must understand that fruit is fruit, and it does not reach its full being until it is ripe; so that to misuse it unripe is to do worse than just to rob the man that has tended it: it robs the world, hinders a good thing from fullfillment. Those who do so join forces with all that is amiss, with the blights and the cankers and the ill winds. And that is the way of Orcs.” (Tolkien 412-3)
The whole of the writing takes up only ten or so pages. Yet every page is full of poignant insights and possible applicabilities. The New Shadow touches upon the heart of evil and its mechanations. Evil does not just die because its figurehead is gone. It lurks in the background, ready to rise to the fore when we hang up the axe. Tolkien’s use of metaphor in this short passage is nothing short of astonishing.
“Deep indeed run the roots of Evil,” said Borlas, “and the black sap is strong in them. That tree will never be slain. Let men hew it as often as they may, it will thrust up shoots again as soon as they turn aside. Not even at the Feast of Felling should the axe be hung up on the wall!” (Tolkien 411)
Yet another passage rings true to our present world in terms of life and a reverence for our world:
“You spoke of the judgement of trees in these matters. But trees are not judges. The children of the One are the masters. My judgement as one of them you know already. The evils of the world were not at first in the great Theme, but entered with the discords of Melkor. Men did not come with these discords; they entered afterwards as a new thing direct from Eru, the One, and therefore they are called His children, and all that was in the Theme they have, for their own good, the right to use–rightly, without pride or wantonness, but with reverence.” (Tolkien 413)
To continue my earlier remarks about Evil and Orcs, Tolkien has some to say:
“…Orcs did these things at all times; they did harm with delight to all things that could suffer it, and they were restrained only by lack of power, not by either prudence or mercy.” (Tolkien 414)
I recommend reading the New Shadow, if you get the opportunity. It is extremely interesting, not only in what it implies about the future of Middle Earth, but what it reveals about Tolkien’s own beliefs.