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003. There and Back Again—August 2023
"Book Notes" becomes "There and Back Again"
This is There and Back Again (formerly Book Notes), a monthly feature where I share quotes, ideas, notes and excerpts from what I’ve been reading recently. Inside you’ll find some of my favorite recent Substack reads, research that didn’t make it into a recent essay or article, quotes from the books I’m reading and listening to, and more!
I’m sending out today’s There and Back Again without a paywall and to all subscribers, but future issues will be exclusively for paid subscribers. The couple of times I’ve done it in the past, this has been a hybrid free/paid feature, but I’m planning on converting it to a paid subscriber exclusive from now on.1
In today’s There and Back Again: Quotes from Tuor’s story in Unfinished Tales, two quotes by C.S. Lewis, and a The Lord of the Rings quote in an essay on joy and grief.
While reading “Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin” in Unfinished Tales as research for my Silmarillion Spotlight on Tuor, I was struck by a passage early in Tuor’s journey when he meets two elves of Finarfin’s people, Gelmir and Arminas.2
He tells them he has lost his way and is not sure where to go: “Now I know not whither to turn, for it has gone into darkness.”
“Through darkness one may come to the light,” replies Gelmir.
Not long after, Gelmir and Arminas reply to Tuor when he tells them that he is looking for the Gate of the Noldor.
Then the Elves laughed, and said, “Your search is ended; for we have ourselves just passed that Gate. There it stands before you!” And they pointed to the arch into which the water flowed. “Come now! Through darkness you shall come to the light.”
After more conversation, Gelmir’s farewell echoes this same idea a final time: “Follow now the road to which the water has brought you from the hills, and fear not! You shall not walk long in darkness. Farewell!”
Perhaps it’s the season that I’m walking through this year of grief and loss and darkness, but this repeated phrase about walking through darkness to light resonated with me.
Just because you find yourself in darkness does not mean that the light is not coming. In fact, some paths to the light must first pass through areas of darkness.3 And ultimately, no matter how long the darkness lingers, the light that is coming will outlast and overcome it. So if you find yourself walking through darkness, fear not. You shall not walk long in darkness.
Amy Mantravadi wrote an excellent reflection on the way joy and grief mingle over at:
We tend to avoid grief like the plague, or if we cannot avoid it, we keep it hidden away. Yet, grief is the price we must pay for love in a world that is full of evils…Just yesterday evening, I said to my husband, “The world feels so dark right now.” It reminds me very much of a quote from The Lord of the Rings, when the elf Haldir says amid the gathering storm of war, “The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”
Came across this quote from C.S. Lewis on how to live in the shadow of possible atomic destruction in a recent post partly about aliens at:
“This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.” -C.S. Lewis
The final quote is also from C.S. Lewis, this time on “Mere Christianity” as the door into the world of Christianity, not the destination (hmmm…reminds me of a certain wardrobe…)
[Lewis] likens his “mere” Christianity to a hall with many doors that lead to many different rooms. While Lewis desires to bring people from outside of the house into that hall, he notes the hall should not be the end of their travels but the beginning.
“If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think preferable.”
via a recent post on Mere Christianity and Non-Denominational Christianity at
That’s all for today, friends. Go with goodness!
For the comments:
What are you currently reading? Any quotes, notes, ideas, or comments of your own to share?
What did you think about the quotes and articles I’ve curated here? Any stand out?
All typos are totally on purpose. Links may be affiliate.
At this point I think I’ll try it this way as a paid subscriber feature through the end of the year and then evaluate if that’s what I want to keep doing into next year. I don’t want to cram your inboxes with free previews to every paid feature, so if you’re a free subscriber I’ll only send the free previews of the paid subscriber essays and keep the monthly There and Back Again out of your inboxes.
J.R.R. Tolkien, Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, ed. Christopher Tolkien (New York: Ballantine Books, 1988) 22-25. This scene, like much of the rest of Tuor’s journey to Gondolin in this late version, is not included in The Silmarillion.
There’s an interesting similarity and yet contrast with, “Sometimes to find the light, we must first touch the darkness,” the similar phrase that defines Galadriel’s character arc in the The Rings of Power. Maybe it would make an interesting comparison/essay!