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Lothlórien, the Church
Restoration, Fellowship, and Special Weapons
Mae govannen, friends! Josh here. Last week I wrote a guest piece on the creation of Middle-earth and Narnia forat her Substack, , and I’m very happy to have her contribute this week’s newsletter in return! Karissa—who you can also find on Instagram—writes about the craft of writing, classic literature, faith, and Hobbits on her Substack, so be sure to subscribe to Midnight Ink if you too are interested in one or more of those topics!
Today’s piece is all about Lothlórien and how what the Fellowship experiences there has its analogy in our own lives today. It’s a wonderful essay and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!
Lothlórien, the Church
Imagine this: you’re on the longest pilgrimage of your life and you’ve already faced untold dangers: fought Ringwraiths and goblins, narrowly escaped a Balrog, and lost a dear friend. You wish for solace, a place of rest on your long journey, and beauty to nourish your grieving soul. But also, you long for home with its small comforts and assurance of safety. In such a scenario, a rich, Elven land would be the perfect place to restore one’s soul.
After braving the monsters of Moria and losing Gandalf, the Fellowship arrives at the Elven kingdom of Lothlórien. After some convincing, the Elves at last agree to give them refuge within the land’s borders, even the dwarf. Legolas tells his companions that the leaves do not fall there in autumn, nor even in winter; they simply turn gold, then fall off in the spring when the flowers bloom. Famous for its golden canopy and towering trees, the land is a magical asylum in a world increasingly beset by evil.
The Company is blindfolded on the journey to the city to spare Gimli the dishonor of being the only one required by Elven law to do so. When they arrive and the blindfolds come off, the reader sees the land from Frodo’s point of view. Everything appears both ancient and new, the colors so vibrant he has no language to describe them, a “timeless” place where a version of Frodo will always be wandering. “In winter here no heart could mourn for summer or spring. No blemish or sickness of deformity could be seen in anything that grew upon the earth. On the land of Lórien there was no stain.” 1
Later on, Sam says, “I’ve never heard of a better land than this. It’s like being at home and on a holiday at the same time.”2 I was recently on a long holiday and, though I did not want to leave the beautiful lake, the comfort and familiarity of home were calling me. If only I could have both places together. I cannot help but wonder if this is how Tolkien imagined the kingdom of heaven. Perhaps paradoxes like this were created to make us long for heaven. Perhaps heaven is both these realities in one.
In winter here no heart could mourn for summer or spring. No blemish or sickness of deformity could be seen in anything that grew upon the earth. On the land of Lórien there was no stain.
And yet, on a closer read, I wonder if a more accurate parallel to Lothlórien would actually be the church—not so much the universal Church as our own local congregations. Like the Elven kingdom, churches are outposts of God’s Kingdom. The Fellowship does not stay in the Elven land forever; for a time, it provides them with a place for much needed rest, mourning, and restoration. The book tells us that they do little more than eat and sleep and walk in the trees. They also lose their sense of the passage of time.
Likewise, as Christians, our local church serves as a much needed place of refuge. It is a haven from a busy and often spiritually-draining week. Our loves have been disordered and require realignment. Our burdened hearts need the kind of spiritual rest that only comes from God. Those who mourn shall be comforted.
In the book, the members of the Company are not isolated from one another in the Elven kingdom; they are together. They mourn Gandalf in community. They rest in community. The Old English origin of the word fellowship means “one who shares with another.”3 An apt title for the group traveling Middle-earth, but it’s also a good way to depict discipleship in the Christian life. Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls discipleship “life together.” This means that Christians ought to share not only their triumphs and joys, but also their sorrows. We ought to paint buildings, feast, bring food to those in need, and attend our kids’ baseball games. Our local church is one way that we can connect with other believers and do life together—true fellowship.
Soon comes the time for the Company to depart. Before they set off again, Galadriel bestows upon them gifts to help them on their journey: items suited to each person for their time of greatest need. Frodo receives the light of Eärendil,4 which he later uses in his battle with the spider Shelob. Sam receives soil from Lothlórien and a Mallorn tree seed—which he plants in the Shire at the end of the story—and Elven rope, which he uses along the rest of his journey.
Like the Fellowship, we leave our local church body armed with spiritual armor and weapons. We gain wisdom from the teaching of scripture and tools to take out into the world and walk the journey of the Christian life. As much as the Fellowship of the Ring would like to stay in Lothlórien, they must move on. So must we go out into the world to continue our journey.
Lothlórien is both in the world and a haven from it: “In Rivendell there was memory of ancient things; in Lórien the ancient things still lived on in the waking world. Evil had been seen and heard there, sorrow had been known; the Elves feared and distrusted the world outside: wolves were howling on the wood’s borders: but on the land of Lórien no shadow lay.”5 The kingdom is not immune to the growing evil of Middle-earth; it requires protection and vigilance, but the “shadow” has not reached it—just as the Church is a beacon in a dark world.
When Aragorn enters Lothlórien, something strange happens: his appearance changes. The years and toil fall from his face, and he appears fair and young once more. His burdens have been lightened. He turns to Frodo and says, “Here is the heart of Elvendom on earth!”6
May we, the Church, ever strive to be a place of rest, fellowship, and arming like Lothlórien—the heart of the kingdom of heaven on earth.
Join the conversation
What other ways do you see Lothlórien imaging the church?
[Guest Author’s Note: Tolkien is well-known for his disdain of allegory and might scorn my musings if he read them, but he also wrote that an author imbues his work with his own beliefs and experiences. For example, while he denies any intentional allegory in Lord of the Rings, it is apparent that his experience fighting in the bloody trench warfare of WWI and the loss of dear friends influenced the story and themes of his trilogy: friendship, bravery, and hope in the face of evil. I believe Tolkien’s faith influenced The Lord of the Rings, as well—it is not allegorical necessarily, but “applicable” as Tolkien put it.]
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Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring. New York: Del Rey/Ballantine Books, 2001. Page 394
“Fellowship (n.),” Etymology, accessed September 16, 2023, https://www.etymonline.com/word/fellowship#:~:text=fellowship%20(n.),friendliness%22%20is%20from%20late%2014c.
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