J.R.R. Tolkien and New Year’s Resolutions

A Birthday

125 years ago today, January 3, 1892, J.R.R. Tolkien was born in South Africa.  He is one of my favorite authors (who happens to be Catholic).  I love everything about Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings series.  My sister and I once had a themed The Lord of the Rings party that lasted from sunup to sundown as we watched the extended versions of the Peter Jackson’s trilogy, breaking only for food!  So thank you to Peter Jackson for helping us to visually appreciate Tolkien’s story (and allowing us to have a party with authentic looking costumes and decorations, and basically being able to geek-out).

Anyway, with it being the anniversary of Tolkien’s birth and the birth of a new year (who can believe it—2017), I am thinking on this day about New Year’s Resolutions in conjunction with one of my all-time favorite Tolkien quotes from The Fellowship of the Ring.  It’s from an exchange between Gandalf and Frodo.

“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.”


I remember watching this very vivid scene for the first time and felt it really resonated with me on a deeper level.  It must have been significant with Peter Jackson and crew as well.  In Jackson’s movie adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring the quote is said not once, but twice: once when they are in the Mines of Moria, and a second time at the end of the movie (shown in the clip above…a favorite).

A Favorite Quote Explained

So in thinking about my favorite quote, “So do all who live to see such times…” I checked out SparkNotes website to see their explanation.   Here’s their take.  “The wizard’s words are heroic because they insist that one must rise to the challenge offered by one’s time.  J.R.R. Tolkien and favorite QuoteAt the same time, however, there is also the suggestion that one is born at a particular time and in a particular place for a certain preordained purpose.”

This quote makes me wonder about life, meaning, and purpose.  As a devout Catholic, Tolkien’s profound quote seems influenced by Jeremiah 29 11-14 “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”  The Lord of the Rings reaffirms my Catholic belief that  each person has a God-given purpose, and shows me the power of perseverance.  That’s what I love best about J.R.R. Tolkien’s work—hope despite overwhelming odds.

Make a Resolution or not?

For the past couple of years, most people (including myself) say why bother making resolutions—no one ever keeps them.  A Google search on New Year’s Resolutions shows statistically that most people give up—one survey showing only 8% of people setting goals actually achieve success; another survey revealing 80% of resolutions fail.

So why bother making a resolution?  Because…despite the feeble achievements of the  majority, there is a part of me that wants to at least give it a go.  Thanks to Tolkien who is influencing me 125 years after his birth and Robert Shuller who says, “Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly,”  I am going to try.   After this post, I’m going to write down 3 New Year’s Resolutions and make a sincere effort to achieve goals that will lead me closer to what matters most and make this a great 2017—and here’s hoping you do, too!!