Over the years, I’ve realized that many of the stories I love (and tell) have a few things in common. Courage. Heroism. The longing for adventure. And, more often than not, sacrifice.
In the Disney fairy tales I watched as a child, sacrifice was portrayed as a one time decision. Ariel chooses to leave her whole world behind for Eric, and it only takes some minor wrestling with the idea to decide that it’s worth giving up. After all, she loves him, so why would it be a hard choice?
As I grew up, so did the stories. The sacrifices were harder to make. Spock dies of radiation poisoning to save the ship and its crew. A man gives the longest and best sales pitch to Death to keep him from the appointment with the little girl upstairs and then the man gives himself up in her place. Arwen gives up immortality to be with Aragorn.
But it wasn’t until I was older that I came to truly understand sacrifice. Real sacrifice is difficult. The initial decision might be easy, but it’s not a one-time decision. In many cases, it’s a choice that has to be made daily. Sometimes it feels good and right and you know that it’s the best thing to do. But other times, it’s easy to question it, to think that maybe the cost is too great, to wonder why you even had to make the choice in the first place.
Sacrifice hurts. Sometimes it hurts more than other times.
But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned about sacrifice, it’s that it’s worthwhile. Sometimes the bittersweet parts of life are the most beautiful. Joy is intermixed in the sorrow, and joy comes out on top in the end.
Last week, I mentioned that I often read aloud to my husband (so that we both can enjoy some great literature together), and that our most recent adventures is into J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion.
While it’s certainly less accessible to most readers than The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings because of its complexity, it’s filled with the rich history of Middle-earth and is a must try for any Tolkien fan. I often liken it to the Bible: all of the stories are intertwined and create a larger story, but it can be difficult to understand until you’re familiar with the characters.
So, if ever you were interested in reading The Silmarillion or just want the basics of what happens (and to watch me nerd out a little), these recaps are for you. And, yes, I’ll be sure to mention if there’s a huge spoiler so that it doesn’t ruin your adventure through The Silmarillion.
First off, it’s important to understand that the book actually contains four stories, the first of which being “Ainulindalë.”
“Ainulindalë” contains Middle-earth’s creation, and it all begins with Ilúvatar. He creates the Ainur, creatures specifically and uniquely designed for an upcoming purpose: the creation of Arda (the world).
On this particular day, he brings all of the Ainur together to play a three movement symphony. Each of the Ainur has an instrument to lend to the music and a special part to play. As they play, though, one of the Ainur named Melkor decides that he wants his part to be more important than the others, so he starts doing his own thing. And loudly. While this does throw the others off (and, at one point, even discourages several of the Ainur enough that they stop playing), Ilúvatar isn’t fazed. He lets the battle rage a while then brings the music into the next movement.
Once the third movement is finished (in spite of Melkor’s meddling), Ilúvatar shows the Ainur what their music has produced: a vision of a beautiful land with a rich history unfolding before them. The Middle-earth that we all know and love.
And, as Ilúvatar shows this to all of the Ainur and encourages them, he has some great words for Melkor: “And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.” (Tolkien 6).
After this, several of the Ainur decide to take on the task of bringing this vision of Arda to life. By doing this, they stop being the Ainur until Middle-earth comes to an end and become known as the Valar.
The most notable Ainur who become the Valar: Melkor (insert boos and hisses here), Ulmo, Aulë, and Manwë.
More on the Valar and their roles coming soon in the next installment.
Updated: So apparently a couple of things I thought I included went missing in my haste to finish this post.
First, thanks again for the idea, Anthony Lee Collins!
And the edition referred to in this post is printed by Del Rey, copyright 1999.
When I was a teenager on the verge of starting college full time, my parents did quite a bit to prepare me for adulthood. Most of the lessons had started in childhood, and I learned many more from overheard conversations while they counseled other people or by watching their own lives. But it was during my senior year of high school that they had me read Sean Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens. It reinforced many things that I’d already learned, like prioritizing and the importance of rest and relaxation. But it also came with a challenge: to collect five quotes to live by.
Unfortunately, the day planner (yes, the binder type with refillable pages) that contained these quotes is long gone, but that doesn’t mean that all of them are forgotten or that I haven’t continued to collect quotes. Below are some of my favorites:
“Patience and fortitude conquer all things.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
“This is one of the miracles of love: It gives a power of seeing through its own enchantments without being disenchanted.” — C.S. Lewis
“I still think the greater part of the world is mistaken about many things. Surely one may be sane and yet think so, since the greater part of the world has often had to come around from its opinion.” – Dorothea, Middlemarch by George Eliot
“Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.” — C.S. Lewis
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” — Albert Einstein
And, finally, two that were on that original list of five quotes and that still are at the top of my favorites today:
“Always do right; this will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” – Mark Twain
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time given us.” — Gandalf, Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
What are some of your favorite quotes?