NOV / DEC 2012: BY ELEANOR KNIGHT
There are quite a few themes threading their way through J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, which no one can praise enough. One of those is friendship, often called “fellowship” instead. (I’m starting to think “fellowship” is more fun to say. Am I biased? No, not at all.) This tightly-knit bond is explored in groups both small and large. The first part is named Fellowship of the Ring, after all.
Among the many close friendships in Middle-earth, the one that moves me the most is that of Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. The Three Hunters.
Whether you’re a seasoned Tolkien fan, or a newcomer to the wonders of Middle-earth, the breaking of the Fellowship is difficult to bear. Even if you’re reading the books or watching the movies for the hundredth time, it doesn’t get any easier to swallow. The Nine Companions went through so much together, traveling as one unit over mountains and through valleys on a dangerous mission, only to lose two members and scatter to the wind.
The heroic willpower of Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli is simple, utterly without ostentation, but incredibly powerful all the same. On one hand, their journey across the plains of Rohan offer comfort for us, the observers, to soften the worry for the safety of Merry and Pippin while they’re in the clutches of the fighting Uruk-hai. On the other, their journey also can offer us inspiration when we embark on our own daunting quests.
First of all, none of the Three Hunters feel the need to become something or someone else to help them in their journey. The odds are impossible, but if there’s any quailing in their hearts, they ignore it. They, or any parts of them that seem insufficient, don’t matter. Merry and Pippin matter. The Three Hunters throw themselves heart and soul into their pursuit, and they remain true to themselves, in the very best sense of the word. Regardless, they’ll always be humble, wayfaring heirs of the lords of Men, Elves, and Dwarves. Just as they are—nothing more, nothing less. They just give their all.
Aragorn uses his Ranger skills in hunting and tracking to keep on the challenging trail of the Uruk-hai bearing Merry and Pippin to Isengard. Legolas uses his keen Elven vision to spot objects from afar, even a great eagle mounting to dizzying heights above their heads. Gimli uses his Dwarf stamina to keep up and keep going, despite the fact that his friends have strides twice as long as his own. They urge each other to keep heart, nurse faith, and take joy. And all throughout, Legolas sings.
This camaraderie in the midst of hardship, worry, and burden has to mark one of my favorite passages in any book I’ve ever read. Most of us tend to bear hardships very heavily—if we manage to bear them at all. The Three Hunters shoulder their burden without ceremony.
In the end, these three trek a great distance in a short time. Even though they fail to rescue Merry and Pippin before the Hobbits are forced to seek refuge in Fangorn, they still manage to do what no other trio could have done: cover forty-five leagues (roughly one hundred and thirty-five miles) on foot within four days, with a few hours to spare. The King of Rohan’s nephew Éomer, on hearing Aragorn’s account, calls the heir of Gondor “Wingfoot.” It’s a nice nickname that implies you can soar to great heights even while you’re trudging along on your own two feet. Don’t you think so? ■