“When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton,” J.R.R. Tolkien tells us at the beginning of his epic novel, The Lord of the Rings. Who knew that the incredible saga to follow Bilbo’s birthday party would lead to not only some of the best moments of fantasy and adventure in history, but also some of the most quote-worthy lines ever written?
Many of the quotes from the series are applicable to real life, offering wisdom and comfort in moments of struggle or despair. The language used in the books is one of the many reasons why they’ve lasted the test of time and will continue to do so for many years to come.
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10 WHY ME?
When Frodo inquires about why he was chosen to bear the One Ring in the first place, the answer that Gandalf gives him moves us. “You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have,” the wizard informs the hobbit.
The Tao of Gandalf reminds us that while the why doesn’t always matter, doing our best always does. It’s a quote that can apply to almost anything in life.
9 DO NOT PASS GO
One of the most well-known quotes from The Lord of the Rings is one that isn’t especially meaningful on it own, but it’s so famous that even those who’ve never read the books or seen the Peter Jackson movies know of it. When Gandalf faces the Balrog at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, we already know that he’s done for. He’s hinted it himself, which is why he never wanted to enter the Mines of Moria in the first place.
Still, he boldly faces his demon enemy and protects his friends as he informs the creature, “You shall not pass!” The quote has reached meme infamy and is frequently used in everything from traffic allusions to GIFs about failing to study.
8 THE LIGHT OF EARENDIL
As Galadriel bestows her gifts upon the remaining members of the Fellowship of the Ring, some gifts appear more impressive than others. To Frodo, she says, “In this phial is caught the light of Eärendil’s star, set amid the waters of my fountain. It will shine still brighter when night is about you. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
Like many of Tolkien’s quotes, it was edited for the film, where she told him, “May it be your light in the darkness; when all other lights go out.” Both quotes still ameliorate fear and discouragement, especially when applied to a trinket given by a good friend or loved one.
7 FOLLOW YOUR NOSE
When lost in the Mines of Moria, Gandalf seems to have trouble finding his bearings until he notices that one path doesn’t reek with a stench as foul as the others. When the hobbit Merry Brandybuck enthuses that the wizard has remembered his way around the mines, Gandalf corrects him by saying, “No, but the air doesn’t smell so foul down here. If in doubt, Meriadoc, always follow your nose.”
Gandalf’s nose may lead them onward, but it certainly doesn’t lead them to safety in the Dwarf-city of Dwarrowdelf. Still, the quote is a fun one that is often cited among fans, especially if a particularly wonderful smell is enjoyed, like pizza during an RPG marathon or fresh popcorn at the movies.
6 ONE DOES NOT SIMPLY CAST SEAN BEAN…
Boromir does not mince words at the Council of Elrond. Determined to take the One Ring to Gondor where he’s sure he can escape the fate of Isildur and use it for good, he scoffs at the idea of taking it to Mordor, saying, “One does not simply walk into Mordor. Its black gates are guarded by more than just orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep. And the Great Eye, is ever watchful. It is a barren wasteland, riddled with fire, ash and dust. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume. Not with ten thousand men could you do this. It is folly!”
“One does not simply” is now used for many a meme, although the weight of Boromir’s original statement may not be as apparent with each sentiment.
5 DON’T JUDGE, DON’T HATE
Although many humans ask for others to refrain from judging them, Gandalf is naturally able to put the request in much more eloquent terms. “Do not be so quick to deal out death and judgement. Even the very wise do not see all ends,” he reminds Frodo when the hobbit says it’s a pity Gollum still lives. Even the villains we condemn, whether they be Smeagol, Grima Wormtongue or a politician who appears evil to his core, are not ours to condemn to perish.
As Gandalf has shown, the very person we may wish to be destroyed may yet have a larger role to play that we could not even dream of, and that’s exactly how Frodo’s quest ends as Gollum’s obsession with the One Ring ultimately leads to its, and his own, destruction.
4 SECOND BREAKFAST
Hobbits are notorious for their voracious appetites and constant eating. Hopefully their blood sugar isn’t similar to that of a human’s. When Aragorn informs the hobbits that they will not be stopping on their journey until nightfall, Pippin is shocked and asks abut breakfast. When Aragorn responds, “Haven’t you had that already?” Pippin responds, “We’ve had one, yes. What about second breakfast?”
It’s one of the funniest moments featuring Pip as well as Merry, who informs him that Aragorn probably doesn’t know about second breakfast, nor about elevensies, luncheon or afternoon tea. It was a line that fellow foodies love to say, and many a fan of the LOTR trilogy enjoys calling a mid-morning snack “elevensies” as a result.
3 FEAR AND DOUBT
When Boromir remarks, “It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing,” he obviously means the One Ring, although some say that he could also be alluding to Frodo Baggins. Still, his words ring true as many of us can lay claim to experiencing the same feelings.
Many people have phobias of small things, and it is strange to feel such fear over something like a spider that is virtually harmless and slays other insects for us. Something as small as, say, one’s country of origin, color or sexual orientation certainly inflates to a larger issue for those whose fear and doubt of those characteristics allow their uncertainty to manifest into hatred.
2 NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER…
One of Galadriel’s most famous quotes helps us remember that no matter who we are, our actions have the power to change the world. She tells Frodo, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”
The words are inspiring to those of us who hope to improve the world in which we live, but, like the Lady of the Galadhrim herself, they are also chilling, as they don’t necessarily mean that the course of the future is always changed for the better. We can all remember small individuals who affected their time in both positive and negative ways.
1 THE TIME THAT IS GIVEN TO US
Even with his kind and hopeful hobbit heart, Frodo Baggins isn’t immune to sorrow. As he realizes what he’s taken on in his quest, he confides to Gandalf, “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”
Gandalf responds with a simple yet poignant quote that many of us cite regularly as a comfort in troubled times. “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 to us.” Indeed, that is all we can do, and it’s a sobering yet solace-providing thought.