Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind: a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to silver and glass, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Ch. VIII)
[Frodo] raised his eyes with difficulty to the dark slopes of Mount Doom towering above him, and then pitifully he began to crawl forward on his hands. Sam looked at him and wept in his heart, but no tears came to his dry and stinging eyes. ‘I said I’d carry him, if it broke my back,’ he muttered, ‘and I will! Come, Mr. Frodo!’ he cried. ‘I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well.’ (The Return of the King, Bk. 6, Ch. III)
We come to the end of the second season of Devo180 and we find ourselves at the foot of Mount Doom with Sam and Frodo. The ring was forged in the fires of the volcano and this is the only place where it can be destroyed. Against all odds, they have reached their destination, but at the foot of mountain – so close to the end – Frodo collapses. The ring’s weight and will are too much. The hunger, the thirst, the pain, the torment are all too much for him to bear. He has struggled this far, but he can go no farther.
And this is when Sam reaches the height of his own heroism. “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you,” he says. And Sam, himself hungry, thirsty, in pain, in torment, lifts Frodo onto his back. Tolkien narrates:
And then to his amazement he felt the burden light. He had feared that he would have barely strength to lift his master alone, and beyond that he had expected to share in the dreadful dragging weight of the accursed Ring. But it was not so. Whether because Frodo was so worn by his long pains, wound of knife, venomous sting, and sorrow, fear, and homeless wandering, or because some gift of final strength was given to him, Sam lifted Frodo with no more difficulty than if he were carrying a hobbit-child pig-a-back in some romp on the lawns or hayfields of the Shire. He took a deep breath and started off. (ROTK, Bk. 6, Ch. III)
I said on Tuesday that The Lord of the Rings is, in the end, a tale about friendship. This moment near the climax of the epic story confirms that assertion. Frodo has no strength. Sam has next to none. And still, Sam somehow lifts Frodo onto his back, Ring and all, and carries him. And the weight is barely a burden. He could have taken the Ring from Frodo’s inert body. He could have abandoned Frodo and stumbled out of the enemy’s territory and gone home. But he carries his friend and his friend’s burden instead. And he finds the burden to be lighter than all expectation.
The Ring symbolizes the desire for domination, but Sam’s selfless act of sacrifice nullifies the Ring’s power, if only for a moment. I think this is why Frodo is able to find that one last burst of energy a few pages later when he makes it to the fires. He seems all but dead at the base of the mountain, but Sam’s love and care revives him. Sam might not be able to carry the Ring, as he had for a few days after Frodo was captured, but he can carry Frodo.
Who in your life would carry you? Who would you carry? Who does God call us to carry? In all of these questions, there is one truth that cannot go unsaid – that no matter what our burdens, God will lift us up and put us on God’s back, so that we might find new strength, new vitality, new life.
Dear God, thank you for another year of reflecting on your movement in my life and in the lives of all those to whom I am connected to through this devotional series. Help me to keep my eyes open for your presence all the days of my life. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.
I leave this moment with you, God, knowing that you have gifted me with companions to take the journey with me.