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Reading Tolkien in Rasų Cemetery

Updated: Jun 11

On a quiet sabbath morning, in the hallowed embrace of Rasų Cemetery, long and languid shadows cast from a gilded sentinel sun tease my chilled gooseflesh thighs. What a delightfully macabre and exquisite scene it is to sitting here, sharing the grand adventures of Frodo and his Fellowship with those who have long since embarked on their own journeys culminating in a silent forum upon The Hill of Literatai, adorned with the graves of eternally shelved luminary minds.

In the northern corner, where the valiant book smugglers once wove tales of defiance and hope, I read of Elves, Dwarves and the valiant souls of Middle-earth. These silent grey-cloaked stone sages nod in solemn assent for the courage of Frodo, the wisdom of Gandalf and the noble heart of Aragorn seem to echo the indomitable spirits resting beneath the earth. In this enchanted corner of Rasų, the boundary between the realms of the living and the dead blurs.

I won’t tell you to go forth and read a book in your local cemetery,

but it seemed like the thing to do for me at the time.

"Elves seldom give unguarded advice, for advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill. But what would you? You have not told me all concerning yourself; and how then shall I choose better than you?"

The above quote comes from J.R.R. Tolkien's character, Gildor, who encounters Frodo upon the verge of his departure from the Shire, and observes the Hobbit’s evident anxiety and growing weight of his anticipation, for Frodo had been awaiting the arrival of Gandalf, who was now two days overdue. In his uncertainty, Frodo beseeched the Elves for counsel, asking them what course of action he should take in the absence of his wise and trusted guide.

I sit here amongst the tombstones, the pretty grasses and flowers, contemplating this extraordinary life we lead upon the road less traveled; the path we chose has made all the difference in the world. The adventures we've embraced, and those yet to come enrich our lives, rivaling the vast hoards of treasure kept by Smaug, the dragon.

I am reminded of a scene in The Hobbit, wherein Gandalf the Wizard speaks to Bilbo Baggins at his home in the Shire:

Gandalf: "I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it's very difficult to find anyone."

Bilbo responds: "I should think so—in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things!"

At the tale’s outset, Bilbo is timid, ensconced in the comfort and complacency of his snug abode at Bag End. When Gandalf persuades him to join Thorin’s company of dwarves on a perilous quest, Bilbo is so wrought with fear, he faints; yet, as the narrative unfolds, Bilbo confronts danger and adversity, trials and tribulations with growing fortitude, vindicating Gandalf’s early assertion there is more to the unassuming Hobbit than meets the eye.

As the journey unfolds, Bilbo's character is refined, earning a deeper level of Self-Knowledge and mental fortitude whilst contending with the unkown. Each challenge he fearfully rises to meet—outwitting the trolls, escaping with Gollum’s ring, slaying the giant spider, rescuing the dwarves in Mirkwood and conversing with the formidable dragon Smaug. And each serves as a crucible in which his courage and resourcefulness are tested and proven.

It is not merely the discovery of new lands, creatures, and assorted perils which transform Bilbo and his perception of the world. He encounters experiences far more exotic and nuanced than the monotonous routine of life in the Shire. Time and again, Bilbo faces true danger, vastly more formidable than anything he might have imagined in his homeland. He endures the betrayal of his companions and witnesses the deaths of several among them. While leaving the comforts of home affords Bilbo the opportunity to broaden his horizons, it becomes evident the adventure he embarks upon is a double-edged sword. Upon his return to the Shire, the dissonance he feels with his once-quiet, small life is only magnified. Though his decision to return to Hobbiton indicates he's not entirely forsaken his roots, he is fundamentally changed.

Having glimpsed corners of the world beyond the wildest dreams of his neighbors, Bilbo feels a profound sense of isolation. He struggles to reconnect with his fellow hobbits, finding solace instead in the company of the companions from his journey. Though he has returned, he can never truly go home.


Nowhere Land by Alexander Nakarada (CreatorChords) | Music promoted by

Creative Commons / Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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