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Meant to Be

On September 22, 1290 Bilbo Baggins was born.  The year given for his birth, of course, is in Shire Reckoning: The Shire being that happy part of Middle-Earth inhabited by those sensible and unpretentious folk called “Hobbits.”

To that salt-of-the-earth Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, there comes one day an amazing summons.  The call to participate in an adventure.  And thereby hangs a tale and indeed a trilogy.

In the course of his adventure, Bilbo will come into possession of the “One Ring” of power.  On September 22, 1401, his eleventyfirst birthday, Bilbo will bequeath the ring to his nephew Frodo, who will bear the ring into places of forbidding evil in order to free the peoples of Middle Earth from its bondage.

Groaning under his burden, with the weight of the world on his small shoulders, Frodo cannot help but ask why such evil has come to his time.  Why did his uncle find the ring?  Why is he, conscious to the depths of his being of his inadequacy, the one who must bear the burden of it?  The one who must undertake the perilous mission to destroy it?  And the answer is given to him by Gandalf: “I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the ring…. In which case you were also meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought.”

Bilbo was meant to be born, meant to find the ring.  Frodo was meant to be and to be the ring-bearer.  They were meant to engage the challenges of their time.

But meant by whom?

We might glibly answer that it was all meant by the author of the story, J.R.R. Tolkien, but in the context of the story itself, there is certainly another answer.  There is a Providence, there is an unseen Benevolence.  To be sure there is an unseen malevolence too — for even the dark Lord Sauron is himself a mere servant.  But it is Goodness that is the source of all and hence the source of meaning.

Tolkien considered himself to be a “sub-creator” and the act of myth-making to be sub-creation.  If telling a story is sub-creation, then Creation itself must be a kind of story.  And so it is.  It is a story with an Author, and it is a story with meaning.

When we wonder why such evils have come to our time and why we are the ones who must bear the particular burdens of our world.  When we feel keenly our inadequacy and smallness – then we should remember that we are meant to be.  And that is certainly an encouraging thought.


Mary Kochan, former Senior Editor of CatholicExchange, is Editor-at-Large  of CatholicLane.com.

Raised as a  third-generation Jehovah's Witness, Mary worked her way backwards through the Protestant Reformation to enter the Catholic Church on Trinity Sunday, 1996.  Mary has spoken in many settings, to groups large and small, on the topic of destructive cultism and has been a guest on both local and national radio programs. To arrange for Mary to speak at your event, you may contact her at [email protected].

  • http://www.schefter.org PrairieHawk

    Happy birthday Bilbo!

  • goral

    On not a few occasions we are tempted to think the thoughts of Macbeth when he tragically says:
    “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”
    We all cling to this “nothing” as if it was everything.
    How mysterious, and preeeciouuus, is that?

  • http://www.schefter.org PrairieHawk

    My favorite passage of the Lord of the Rings is actually in the appendix. Under the heading “The Tale of Years” is a chronology that details the events leading up to and following the story recounted in the books.

    It is recorded, “S.R. 1482. Death of Mistress Rose, wife of Master Samwise, on Mid-Year’s Day. On September 22 [there’s that date again] Master Samwise rides out from Bag End. He comes to the Tower Hills, and is last seen by Elanor, to whom he gives the Red Book afterwards kept by the Fairbairns. Among them the tradition is handed down from Elanor that Samwise passed the Towers, and went to the Grey Havens, and passed over Sea, last of the Ring-bearers.”

    Recall that Sam carried the Ring only for a few hours, while Frodo was captive of the orcs in the guard-tower on the border of Mordor. Yet he was accorded the reward of the Ring-bearers, as if he had borne the full burden of its evil.

    Sound and fury? No. Ours is a God who does not overlook the smallest detail – “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

  • http://www.casorosendi.com/ Carlos Caso-Rosendi

    September 22 is the first day of Autumn. At that point there are 100 days left until the end of the year. It is also the first day of octave before St. Michael’s day. A magical date indeed. This time in England used to be somewhat magical to me because it anticipated the joys of the fall, the favorite season for many like Tolkien, Lewis, Chesterton… a time to taste the beer and ale we shall drink through the winter.