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It is unlikely that many people will think that Frodo Baggins, the diminutive hero of The Lord of the Rings, has much to do with the season of Lent. What has a hobbit to do with the habit of fasting? What has The Lord of the Rings to do with the Lord who died for us on the cross? What on earth has Middle-earth to do with the reason for the Lenten season?

These are good questions to which J. R. R. Tolkien hints at an answer when he says that “The Lord of the Rings is, of course, a fundamentally religious and Catholic work”.

How can this be? How can a story about, hobbits, dwarves, elves and wizards have anything to do with the life, death and resurrection of Christ?

The answer is revealed in the date on which the Ring is destroyed. The One Ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them is destroyed on March 25. This should make us sit up and take note because March 25 is, of course, the feast of the Annunciation, the date on which the angel of the Lord declared unto Mary and she conceived by the Holy Ghost. It is the date on which the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us, the date on which God became man. Most Catholics know this but few know that, according to tradition, March 25 is also the date of the Crucifixion. It is, therefore, not merely the date on which God became man but also the date on which Christ died for our sins.

Tolkien knew this. He was a lifelong practicing Catholic.

But what does the date of the Incarnation and the Crucifixion have to do with the destruction of the Ring?

The Ring is “the one Ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them”. Original Sin is the one sin to rule them all and in the darkness bind them. The one Ring and the one Sin are both destroyed on the same date. Tolkien wants us to make the connection. He is showing us that the power of the Ring is connected to the power of sin. The Ring is synonymous with sin.

This means that putting the Ring on is the act of sin. When we do so, we vanish from the good world that God has made but become visible to the demonic Dark Lord because we have entered into his domain. If we wear the Ring habitually, living in sin, addicted to destructive lifestyles, our soul begins to shrivel and shrink. We cease to be the good hobbit that God made us to be and become instead miserable creatures, like Gollum, who want nothing but the sin that has become so precious to us, even though it makes us miserable. In other words, a sinful lifestyle had the power to gollumize us.

If the wearing of the Ring symbolizes living in sin, the bearing of the Ring signifies the carrying of the Cross. If we are Ring bearers and not Ring wearers, we are carrying the weight of sin without sinning. We are taking up our cross and following Christ.

Frodo Baggins, as the one chosen to be the Ring bearer, is the Cross bearer. He is, therefore, a Christ figure. This is why Tolkien has him leaving Rivendell on December 25 and arriving at Mount Doom (Golgotha) on March 25 (Good Friday). Frodo’s journey, or pilgrimage, begins on Christ’s birthday and ends on the date of Christ’s death.

Does a hobbit have anything to do with the habit of fasting? Does Frodo’s journey reflect our own Lenten journey to the foot of the Cross? Is The Lord of the Rings a fundamentally religious and Catholic work?

You better believe it!

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