The Scouring of the Shire
In the end, what really matters?
In Pippin, we see the cause of loyalty: loyalty to family, loyalty to king, loyalty to his friends. Pippin holds high the memory of the sacrifices and the glory of the days past, and would not see either his companion or his lord belittled or mocked by unworthy men. He stands by Merry in his leadership and trusts Frodo in his wisdom. He firmly believes in the loyalty of his people, the Tooks: and they do not disappoint as he leads them out to help cleanse the Shire.
In Merry, we see the cause of justice: an abhorrence of evil, a demand for righteousness, a passion to set things right again. Merry calls forth the hobbits of the Shire and rallies them around the Shire as it should be. His hate for the injustices of the swarthy men and his energy to restore the Shire into the hands of its people, who naturally know what’s best for it and for them, embolden his leadership. In his horn blowing-forth resonates the deep stirrings of men for order and virtue in their lives and communities.
In Sam, we see the cause of love: simple and unassuming love, love that seems so naive in the face of such wanton destruction and yet to precious in that form. Sam loves the Shire for all its humble beauty, and so is the most devastated by its destruction: his tears at the loss of the Party Tree, his anger at the treatment of Bag End. All of Sam’s actions are motivated by his love: for Rosie Cotton in rushing to her to ensure her safety and that of her family; for the Gaffer in his desire to bring him out of Hobbiton; for Frodo in his unfailing support for him even after the Ring’s destruction. Sam’s love is at the heart of the restoration of the Shire.
In Frodo, we see the cause of mercy: forged and solidified over the long journey to Mordor, now made even more meaningful here. His impassioned desire that not a single hobbit be slayed by another in their rage; his pity and concern for the fate of Lotho, who had never shown any care for him and who had originally instigated this mess; his kindness on Saruman and Wormtongue, even in their treachery: a seamless garment of forgiveness and mercy to all. Frodo, the most wounded in heart and soul, therefore becomes the one who cares most for the hearts and souls of his friends and community: never lifting the sword but only lifting his voice to console, to fortify, to alleviate, to make peace. It is the mercy of Frodo that helps prevent the hobbits from becoming that which they despise the most in order to drive out Sharkey.
Loyalty, justice, love, and mercy: as we finally conclude the War of the Ring, such are the things that really matter. Through the eyes of our small hobbits we see that such things pervading even the smallest of efforts. Life consists far more often of simple struggles and humble battles for good, truth, and beauty: far more often are we rousing the Shires of our own hearts and communities that riding out upon the Fields of Pelennor or holding the walls of Helm’s Deep. Yet every action, no matter how seemingly insignificant, plays a role in the War of the Ring: every moment of life, however far from shining Minas Tirith or looming Mt. Doom, has the potential for loyalty, justice, love, and mercy. In this, we are blest: such is the surprise and the joy of life.