“The Nature of Courage”
“Tolkien had experienced war and violence first hand in World War I. Like many of the writers from his era, his world could never be the same, after seeing his best friends die, and his land in ruin. Shippey writes, “The life experiences of many men and women in the twentieth century have left them with an unshakable conviction of something wrong, something irreducibly evil in the nature of humanity, but without any very satisfactory explanation for it.”
Defeat seems inevitable. The forces of evil are strong. And, the quest isn’t really a quest at all. Rather, it’s an anti-quest, the attempt to destroy the representation of evil. The road is long and difficult; there are many obstacles; and many die along the way… Then, why do they even attempt the journey?
The truly courageous answer - Tolkien calling it a “potent but terrible solution” is to say that victory or defeat has nothing to do with right and wrong, and that even if the universe is controlled beyond redemption by hostile and evil forces, that is not enough to make a hero change sides.”
"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."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Lord of the Rings”
Sam: "It's like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it's only a passing thing, this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it'll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there's some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it's worth fighting for."
- Samwise Gamgee,
"The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers"