For the past three summers, my sister and I have been steadily working our way through the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I read to her while we get ready for bed at night, and we’ve managed to get through one book every summer. It has been a fun project, and a very special time bonding as sisters. While I have read the books before, my sister hadn’t read them or seen the movies. I made her promise that she wouldn’t see the films until we were finished reading the books. That will be our reward–to watch the movies (extended versions, of course).
That journey will end tonight. After three years of reading Tolkien’s masterpiece, we will complete the Return of the King while we get ready for bed. Frodo will set sail across the Sea, and Sam will return home to say to Rosie, “Well, I’m back.”
I hate that line. The Lord of the Rings is one of my favorite tales. I have read it through six times, and while it might seem counter-intuitive, I come to love it more and more each time I read it. The characters are so real, and I love them so much that finishing the last book is like saying goodbye to dear friends.
Why is it that I hate the ending? I don’t really hate the ending itself–out of all the things that could have gone wrong during Frodo’s journey, the worst doesn’t happen, and the Dark Tower is defeated. But I don’t like the fact that the story ends. It makes me so sad.
Really, though, an ending is necessary. If Frodo’s journey had never ended–or ended differently–Sam would not have been able to come home to a wife and children, and comment, “I’m back.” He would have died in the heart of Mordor, and never live to see his beloved Shire again.
That last line, Sam’s “I’m back,” is the very fulfillment of the entire trilogy. The main characters suffer and die so that Sam can come back–to the Shire, to his family. That last line is the sweetest moment, because the end of the tale is the beginning of a new age.
So why does it make me so sad?
I don’t like the end of something good, especially when I don’t know what comes after it. In the case of the Lord of the Rings, it makes me sad because there is nothing that comes after it. The story ends.
Life, though, doesn’t work that way. Death for Christians is the end of something good, but of something broken. We will receive new life–a new beginning that will have no end.
Imagine. No end.
No end to perfection, to paradise, to the fulfillment of all that is broken and worn down and dirty. It makes me remember that this life is not permanent. It is only a speck in the vast stretch of eternity, and I can’t wait for that eternal Day, when there is no sad ending to look forward to.