The Passing of the Grey Company
How often – this Lent, this year, throughout our lives – has assistance come to each of us unlooked for, unasked for, or unsought? People stumble into our lives, and we into theirs. Those individuals may provide us with insight, or perspective, or reflection, or support, or even activity: but for every time we ask for this help, there are many more times it comes unexpectedly. Like the Rangers of the North, this help comes upon us suddenly, often at crucial times even when we don’t know it.
What does this unlooked for help look like? Three layers exist.
The first layer is the most basic: the physical assets, the people themselves. The Rangers come to Aragorn, and they bring arms, and horses, and experienced soldiers. They ride to war on behalf of their leader, having prepared long in defense of their lands in the North. Their presence and their talents are extremely valuable, but always limited. A handful of soldiers will not be enough to turn the tide, though it may be enough to traverse the Paths of the Dead.
The second layer is that of identity: these are Aragorn’s kinsmen, his family, his friends, his community. In their coming and their presence they kindle passion and shore up resolve. The Grey Company has come to their leader, and will travel with him: they are a new iteration of the Fellowship, different in their immediate purpose but similar in their ultimate end. It is, in short, more than just their numbers that causes Aragorn to cry out in joy at their arrival: it is the relationships he shares with them as well.
And there is a final layer, one that is even more subtle: that unknown factor, that mysterious and hard to pinpoint component of unlooked for help. We may, like Aragorn, know to some extent what rests upon the well-crafted banner even if we don’t reveal it to the world; or we may, like Gimli and Legolas, be startled by the power such hidden craft can have, to even bring about the allegiance of the dead. Nevertheless, all such assistance has buried within it some active ingredient, some unforeseen and unexpected power that, when reveal in due time and in the right context, has unimaginable impact.
And so, we do not look for such help, and we do not ask for it. Yet we hope for it, deep in the longings of our heart, because we know its value. There are other powers in the world other than our own, with observation, wisdom, and authority. At the most unexpected moments they, like Galadriel, will send forth the Grey Company to us. We must be ready to embrace such aid with open arms and joy, for many miles do we have yet to tread.