Courge & Wisdom

  • Reading time:3 mins read

“‘I will take the Ring,’ he said, ‘Though I do not know the way.’

Elrond raised his eyes and looked at him, and Frodo felt his heart pierced by the sudden keenness of his glance. ‘If I understand aright all that I have heard,’ he said, ‘I think that this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will. This is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their quiet fields to shake the towers and counsels of the Great. Who of all the Wise could have foreseen it? Or, if they are wise, why should they expect to know it, until the hour has struck.'”

J.R.R. Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring

The Council of Elrond chapter sometimes gets a bad rap for being long and dry. But it’s passages like this that cement Tolkien as a master. The quiet, deliberate courage of Frodo, while still realizing he can’t do it alone and asking for help. Elrond, hearing the lingering notes of the Ainulindalë—the literal music of creation—and understanding that this is Frodo’s task, that this is how the world has been ordered since creation, and that this is how events are -meant- to unfold. Yet, that Frodo still must -act-. And how even the Wise cannot know for sure what lies ahead, until it is upon them.

How often do we get so wrapped up in our own lives, our own problems, our own quests, that we fail to heed what is going on around us? Not the knowledge and facts about things half a world away that we can’t impact, but with event right in front of us, with our friends and family and co-workers? Elrond knew the right thing to do because he was attuned to the moment, and to the people around him. His Wisdom, in that moment, wasn’t from books of lore, but from an intuitive and deep understanding of people and of Creation.

Frodo willingly took on the burden of the Ring, which I suspect he even then realized might claim his life. He didn’t want to do it. He realizes he isn’t qualified to do it. But he also knows that if he doesn’t do it, no one else will—and the world will be doomed to darkness. So he stands up. But, he doesn’t try to do it all himself. He has a keen understanding of where he is weak, and asks for help. He knows that people around him -do- know the way, and allows them to support him.

In this moment, both Elrond and Frodo know the -right- thing to do. And they do it. There’s no more discussion, no more debate. They just start building a Fellowship and start getting it done. Courage and Wisdom go hand in hand. Before you can step out to do the hard thing, you have to know what the right thing to do is.

And those are both skills we can spend a lifetime honing.

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