What Makes Heroes So Heroic?

1) In Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, readers encounter characters that remind us of the best in ourselves.  Yet none of the characters are without flaws.  They all struggle, but it is their very struggle to overcome their weaker selves that their true heroism is born. Think about Aragorn, Frodo, Bilbo, Sam, Gandalf, Legolas, Faramir, Eowyn, or any of the other heroic characters in The Lord of the Rings as you read and see if you can’t identify with them in some measure.

homeschool 42) Heroes believe in something beyond themselves and their belief leads to conviction and conviction draws them into action. For me personally, it was my belief that my children were pure gifts from God that led me to consider their welfare over my convenience and decide to homeschool.  For over twelve years that faith has led my family down a winding path of exploration and learning which I would not change for all the gold in a dragon’s lair.

country road after storm3) Heroes hope—a lot!  Homeschooling, like mothering, is a multifaceted experience.  Some days things go well and some days I want to pack it all in and start over.  But even on the worst days, I find myself clinging to the conviction that I had the right idea and that suffering does not necessarily mean I am on the wrong track but rather that bends and twists in the journey merely force me to rely on God’s wisdom more than my own. Hope is really trusting in God through the good times as well as the bad.

wedding ring4) Heroes are capable of deep, enduring love.  Love in our society has a tenancy to be equated with a passion, but passion rightly lived is merely the expression of love. Love itself is the commitment to do the best you can for another person, no matter the surrounding conditions or even the worthiness of the object of your love. There have been times when I have had to deal with the worst side of those I loved, yet in those excruciatingly painful moments, I knew that God still loved this person, even when I thought they no longer deserved my love. It was in those moments that I had to call upon the heroic nature of God and the supernatural spirit of love to wish the best for the other person—no matter whether they could understand or even receive it.

garden 2015 May5) Heroes get gifts—like wisdom, understanding, and fortitude. Acting like a real hero means committing to a high level of faith, hope, and love. It is in living that way that one actually becomes a better person.  Simply choosing to want to be a hero – makes you more fit to actually become one.

6) Heroes pay a price for their choices—just like everyone else. Heroes can’t just ride off on a white horse and slay the nearest dragon.  The difference between a real hero and someone just trying on the suit is pride.  Real heroes don’t think of themselves as heroes. Heroes usually have other heroes they look to for strength and guidance.  Kind of wonderful to realize that the best of us draw out the best in others.

7) Tolkien was a man who loved heroes.  And in the process—he became one.

For more food for thought about Tolkien’s work: The Road Goes Ever On – A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings9781450288101_COVER.indd

Available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1pUKL7W

J. R. R. Tolkien

In my mind, J. R. R. Tolkien is a heroic figure. He understood that the greatness of humanity lies within each of us through our faithfulness to our daily mission. He was a Catholic, the son of a Catholic convert and an ardent believer in God. It was under his influence that C.S. Lewis embraced the reality of Christianity.  While a young man, he formed a little club with some close friends, and despite the small size of the group, they had some very big aspirations.  They believed that they had a mission to change the world, to make it a better place.  As for many people during World War I, this vision was put to test when several of Tolkien’s friends died. They were not able to live out their noble aspirations. But in a letter, Tolkien was reminded of their ardent dreams, and he was encouraged to go forward—to fulfill his own potential.  He did. An ordinary man in so many ways, yet his faithfulness to his family, to his wife and son, his students, his friends, and his stories reach us today.

After I had read most of his major works and become astonished at his incredible insight and clarity, I decided to read more about him so I could better understand his background and his mindset.  In one book (J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter), I read about one of his typical days where his bicycle broke down and he was late for dinner while a stack of papers waited at home to be corrected. I was nearly pulling my hair out thinking about the fact that he could have been home writing great literature.  But then, after I became more reasonable, I realized it was because he knew how to fix a bicycle, cared about being home for dinner, made it to meetings, and corrected innumerable papers that he was the kind of man who could write so faithfully about the human heart and the reality of suffering as well as the idiosyncratic silliness of common human interactions.

Tolkien, like many of his characters, could not predict the future, but he was engaged in humanity’s struggle to overcome evil, nevertheless.  May we today aspire to the same noble faithfulness of a simple Hobbit—and an honest writer.