“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.”