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August 24, 2006
Through the past week or so my wife and I have been working our way through the Extended Editions of the three The Lord of the Rings movies. I had seen Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers many times in the past, but had not yet had opportunity to watch the Extended Edition of The Return of the King. Aileen had seen only the theatrical editions of the first two. Three movies, each clocking in at three and a half to four hours is quite a commitment, but we made our way through an hour or two at a time after the children had gone to bed. I think I enjoyed them more than Aileen did, but she still seemed to get caught up in the story. Few movies can compare to a good book and these ones are no different in that regard. Still, they are stunning for their accurate creation of the world of J.R.R. Tolkien and for their great acting. They are always a joy to watch.
My favorite scene in the entire series happens near the end of the final film. As you no doubt remember (it has, after all, been fifty years since the books were first published!), Frodo and Sam have finally carried the ring to Mount Doom. Despite the months they have travelled and the dangers they have faced, Frodo still finds himself unable to part with the ring. The ring has thoroughly gripped his heart and now owns him more than he owns it. Frodo declares that the ring is his and puts it onto his finger for the last time. As he does so, Gollum leaps upon him, also desiring the ring. They struggle for some time and Gollum eventually bites off Frodo’s finger, steals the ring and rejoices in reclaiming it. A fight ensues in which Gollum maintains possession of the ring, but loses his balance and falls from a cliff. And here is the scene that has so often gripped me. Gollum, captured in slow motion, falls into the molten lava of Mount Doom. But as he falls, there is no terror in his eyes. No scream escapes his lips. Instead, he falls into the flame gently petting the ring, cooing to it, and delighting in his “precious.” His last word is “precioussss!” The evil ring that had first caused him to commit an act of murder and that had so long enslaved him is the object of his affection as he falls to his death.
That scene contains such a profound statement about human nature. Every time I see Gollum fall to his death, enraptured by the evil that has enslaved him, I think of the power of sin. I think of the power of sin that exists even in my own life. I know there are areas in my life that are precious to me even while they enslave me. There are areas in my life that I cling to and fight for even though they are wrong, even though they are evil. When I see Gollum fall, I see myself and the sin that enslaves me. I have to ask myself if there is sin in my life that grips me so much that I would cradle it and coo to it, even as it pulled me to my death. Often I have to ask not “if” but “where” such sin exists. It is a sobering time of reflection.