Saturday, February 10, 2007

Christianity in Tolkien: What Is Wisdom?

In Tolkien's Middle Earth, Saruman began as wisest of the wise. He spent his time in arcane research in a high tower. He had rare forms of knowledge, uncommon access to information. Isn't that wisdom as the world conceives it?
Gandalf was not generally reckoned to be as wise as Saruman. He spent his time with his feet on the ground, and found himself drawn to the humble.
And when he chose specialized knowledge, the kind he chose was the knowledge not of domination but of friendship, the kind of knowledge that could lead him to know when a friend needed help, or when to show up for a long-expected birthday party.
In Tolkien's scheme, Gandalf was wiser than Saruman, and Gandalf's view of wisdom was truer than Saruman's. A wisdom that forgets why life is worth living, and why good is worth defending, is not wisdom at all. True wisdom is not proud but humble; true wisdom does not exalt itself but exalts the lowly. It has room for friendship, even room for self-sacrifice if that is the price for maintaining these things. True wisdom places love first, and is recognized by joy and gladness. The other may appear wise, but is not.

All graphics from New Line Cinema's Lord of the Rings trilogy directed by Peter Jackson, presented under fair usage.

1 comment:

Bruce M. Axtens said...

Inspired! That's what you are, inspired! Brilliant observation.