In celebration of Hobbit Day―the shared birthdays of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins on September 22―I thought it would be worthwhile to learn from one of J.R.R. Tolkien's wisest characters―Gandalf, a.k.a. the Grey Pilgrim, a.k.a. Mithrandir.
It's not a very well-kept secret that Gandalf―who dies fighting a personified creature of darkness, death, and shadow only to be resurrected as a more powerful being of light―functions as a Christ figure throughout the Lord of the Rings trilogy. As a devout Christian, J.R.R. Tolkien shared his beliefs in subtle and not-so-subtle ways throughout all of his works, and no character reflects that better than Gandalf. Here are just a few of the many Middle-earth moments when Gandalf quoted the gospel.
(Fun fact: Did you know Tolkien's faith was a key factor in C.S. Lewis's conversion from atheism to Christianity? Learn more about why Latter-day Saints love C.S. Lewis so much here.)
1. “Courage will now be your best defense against the storm that is at hand-—that and such hope as I bring.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
"Be strong and of a good courage" (Deut. 31:6).
2.“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
This seems a common thread among prophets in the scriptures or people in our day―a desire to live in simpler, romanticized times. As Helaman cried, "Oh, that I could have had my days in the days when my father Nephi first came out of the land of Jerusalem, that I could have joyed with him in the promised land; then were his people easy to be entreated, firm to keep the commandments of God, and slow to be led to do iniquity; and they were quick to hearken unto the words of the Lord" (Helaman 7:7). Wait, is he talking about the same people who tried to kill Nephi on numerous occasions, who broke off into warring factions, and who needed angels and destruction to chastise them on a regular basis? No time is simple or without its darknesses. We'd do well to accept Gandalf's advice and make the best of the time given to us as we strive to see the good in the world we live in now.
3. “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
"Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1).
4. “Don't be a fool Mr. Baggins if you can help it.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Okay, maybe this isn't gospel-centered, but it's sound advice if ever I've seen it.
5. “The treacherous are ever distrustful.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
Sound advice, especially in regards to Satan.
7. "Of course, of course! Absurdly simple, like most riddles when you see the answer."― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
"There is a beauty and clarity that comes from simplicity that we sometimes do not appreciate in our thirst for intricate solutions. . . .When we look at the foundational principles of the plan of happiness, the plan of salvation, we can recognize and appreciate in its plainness and simplicity the elegance and beauty of our Heavenly Father’s wisdom. Then, turning our ways to His ways is the beginning of our wisdom." ―Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf
7. “End? No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it. White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise." ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
"I can say with regard to parting with our friends, and going ourselves, that I have been near enough to understand eternity so that I have had to exercise a great deal more faith to desire to live than I ever exercised in my whole life to live. The brightness and glory of the next apartment is inexpressible." ―President Brigham Young
8. “However it may prove, one must tread the path that need chooses!” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
"Come what may, and love it." ―Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin
9. "Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded." ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
"Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7). “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
10. “Do not then stumble at the end of the road.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
Endure to the end.
11. “Home is now behind you, the world is ahead!”― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
"All of us commenced a wonderful and essential journey when we left the spirit world and entered this often-challenging stage called mortality." ―President Thomas S. Monson
12. “A most unquenchable hobbit! All wizards should have a hobbit or two in their care—to teach them the meaning of the world, and to correct them.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
What an example of humility. Despite having overcome fire, shadow, and death, Gandalf still sees the need to learn from others.
13. "He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom." ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
"We cannot break the Ten Commandments. We can only break ourselves against them—or else, by keeping them, rise through them to the fulness of freedom under God."―Elder Richard L. Evans
14. "It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule." ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
"Therefore, let the wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest is fully ripe; then ye shall first gather out the wheat from among the tares, and after the gathering of the wheat, behold and lo, the tares are bound in bundles, and the field remaineth to be burned" (D&C 86:7).
15. "Many are the strange chances of the world," said Mithrandir, "and help oft shall come from the hands of the weak when the Wise falter." ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion
"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them" (Ether 12:27).
Bonus: “No, my heart will not yet despair. Gandalf fell and has returned and is with us. We may stand, if only on one leg, or at least be left still upon our knees.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
Though not from Gandalf, I still think this quote merits sharing. When I am in darkness or faced with challenges, this is the same attitude I have about my Savior. With him, I know I should not despair, even if brought to my knees in pain or prayer.