Easter, whether because of the focus of the holiday or its lesser commercialization, has not become as associated with gifts as Christmas has. However, there remain some gift-esque traditions – Easter baskets, candy hidden within eggs, etc. – that signal to the larger gift at hand: the resurrection of Christ, the gifting of new life.
In The Lord of the Rings, as the journey home begins, we witness the giving of many gifts. And each gift provides a window in a relationship, into an emotion, into a symbol of a thread woven throughout the story.
Consider the white stone: a gift to Frodo from the Queen Arwen. It is a simple present, yet imbued within it is much meaning that may pass over our heads as we first learn about it. The white stone hearkens back to the green stone of Aragorn, and his name of Elfstone. Therefore, a gift of a stone is a natural extension of the authority and love of the King and Queen, a perfect embodiment of their union. It is a gift from the Elf, a woman we haven’t seen often throughout our tale. Yet Arwen is the granddaughter of Galadriel, and her white stone parallels the phial the Lady of the Golden Wood: where the phial produced external light in dark places, the white stone brings about internal light in troubling spirit. Somehow, Arwen knows the deep wounds that Frodo carries, and provides the perfect gift to help aid him in this new “quest” – for healing.
Consider the horn of Rohan: a gift to Merry from the Lady Eowyn. It is a simple present, yet Merry would take nothing else in honor of the King whom he loved. She offers this horn as an expression of her companionship, and it bears in it the long history of Rohan from the treasure hoards of the North. In giving this gift, Eowyn seems to foresee that Merry might need to stir up his own heart or the hearts of others in the times to come: that the adventures may not yet be over. Nevertheless, the horn also connects the hobbit to the people of Rohan yet again, renewing the bond that may have been sundered by Theoden’s death.
Consider the pipes of Bilbo: gifts to Pippin and Merry in the house of Elrond. They are simple presents, yet meaningful in all they represent. Here are the crafts of the Elves brought about for the services of hobbits – for the Elves do not smoke pipeweed and therefore would have no purpose for such tools. Therefore the gifts of pipes were pure excess, true gifts from the Elves to the hobbit they most love, and he in turn passes them down to those who might use them most (along with his gold to Sam, for a purpose he seems to suspect). With these pipes Bilbo asks the young hobbits to smoke them in memory of him, and so in the gifts in the longing of remembrance, and the recognition that the ages do change. It’s a touching gift, the finest gift the Shire-folk might exchange.
And so we are left with gifts: of pipes, horn, and stone. Each gift, thought simple, expresses something deeply meaningful, as all true gifts do. And so let us know approach the giving of gifts with spite and greed, as Saruman did along the road, but with the response of Aragorn before the wedding of Eowyn and Faramir: to be in wonder of the amazing things one might give to another, and honor and treasure the gifts so gifted in love.