On Sundering

The Breaking of the Fellowship

Singing philosophers? (Source)

Singing philosophers? (Source)

As the great singing philosophers ABBA once said, “Breaking up is never easy I know, but I have to go.” They who set out from Rivendell have been sundered: split apart in their physical companionship, cleaved by temptation, rent by differences in longing and sense of duty. Those who walked the road under Moria, through the Golden Wood, and down the Great River will never all be in one place together again. The Fellowship has ended: the Fellowship has failed.

This is a hard truth: not all penultimate ends are happy. We may at times travel with companions and fellow pilgrims in our journeys through the world, learning from them and taking comfort in our mutual strength and support. Yet often our comradeship fails us: we are led apart from one another, whether due to space or time, growth or age, objective or disagreement, death or choice. We are on occasion forced by necessity onto an alternate road, even if by choice we would consider such divergent path a betrayal. Aristotle claimed that we are lucky to have one or two true friends, friends of the highest things, over the course of our lifetime. At the end of a stage of our quest, we may consider ourselves fortunate to have preserved the seemingly least of our relationships.

However, though the Fellowship has ended, it also continues: though the Fellowship has failed, it has not yet truly failed. Companionship can long have passed from the realm of physical presence without the bonds of kindred spirit having ceased. They who no longer walk with Frodo have not abandon him from their thoughts and hopes: in what ways they can, they seek to augment and ease his cause. In the breaking of the Fellowship, whether by chance or higher design, there is an ultimate end in triumph. This sundering offers Frodo the courage to finally set out for Mordor directly (and, crucially, with Sam), and as we shall see in the coming days, it draws the rest of the Fellowship into places of necessity and advantage for the eventual defeat of Sauron.

Therefore, let our hearts not be troubled. In our reflections this Lent, we may come to realize that our comrades seek out different roads, that our travels shall separate our friends. As G.K. Chesterton once beautifully noted, “Comradeship and serious joy are not interludes in our travel; but rather our travels are interludes in our comradeship and joy.” In the breaking our fellowships, there is sadness and concern, but there is also hope and promise. Though we may no longer walk side by side, we may still maintain the vision of the good, true, and beautiful that once brought us together in friend. With the spirit of love still burning within us, though apart we may still seek to work for the fulfillment and happiness of the desire that we share.

So ends the first part of The Lord of the Rings.

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