Loving a Fictional Character

King Theoden, from the Lord of the Rings movie (which I didn’t see, but never mind)

There are hundreds of characters in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, but only one that stirs me to the point of tears: old Theoden, King of Rohan. I love this guy! And I do mean love–as if he were my grandfather. How in the world did Tolkien do that?

When we meet him, Theoden is a broken-down old crock who has been skillfully manipulated to sap his morale and make him feeble before his time. But he comes back from that. The hero inside him, once he has been healed by Gandalf, bursts out like a fireworks display. At the same time, he is gentle, kind, and even humble: and everything he does, everything, is motivated by just one thing–by love. Love for his family and friends, love for his allies in the war, love for his country and its traditions. And love for every little thing with which he has been blessed. Love that is willing and able to sacrifice himself for what is right, for what is true.

Tolkien doesn’t tell us so. That never works. He shows it in what Theoden says and does, in his every word and action. Easy to say, but hard to do. If great art was easy, everyone would do it. It really is an amazing feat of art to create a character that a reader can actually love. Lots of authors can create characters that amuse us, or annoy us; but to inspire love is something special.

Hard to do: but for any writer, well worth trying.

8 comments on “Loving a Fictional Character

  1. Fiction reflects humanity and can reflect our highest aspirations if the author so chooses. I recently saw the movie ElDorado, with John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. Wayne played his stock character, rugged individual, stoic and a warrior for real justice (as opposed to today’s wimp-butt notion of social justice). Mitchum played a lawman with a good heart, but a bad alcohol problem; in the end he was, of course, redeemed and regained the full strength of his inner character.

    My point here is that both of these characters were idealized versions of reality, but they represented positive ideals and, most importantly, they were men of principle and integrity.

    Tolkein’s Theoden is an example of these same values, but framed in the context of Lord of the Rings. We love these characters for their goodness, their integrity; we love them because their behavior reflects that they were created in God’s image.

    1. Thanks Lee. You made my day.

      Perhaps the most important thing is that we NEED these characters more than ever, because so much of mankind has been reduced to behavioral models based on political correctness. We are the human race; fallen indeed, but still the only creature said to be made in God’s image. We all need to live up to this honor.

    2. Thanks Lee. It’ll give me some good reading over the upcoming days off. My employer is quite benevolent and we get 12/23, 12/26, 12/30 and 1/2 off with pay.

  2. Oh yes, I love Theoden so much. ‘Out of dark, out of doubt, to the day’s rising/ He rode singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.’
    He’s one of those people I would just love to meet. (by the way, for all the faults of the movies, I can say with confidence that they picked the absolute perfect actor to play Theoden; he’s amazing).

    And I absolutely LOVE the Faramir/Eowyn romance. It’s an example of romance done right (OK, some people might say it’s a bit sappy, but I just love it). Faramir is definitely one of those people who makes the tears come to my eyes because he’s awesome, and a bit tragic (til the end), and so totally honorable and straight-down-the-line true.
    A lot of people say that Tolkien’s characters aren’t developed, but I don’t think that’s true. I think they’re very well rounded, which is an even greater feat considering all the characters he was juggling.
    Another character that I love to pieces is Sam. Wow, he is just … yeah, he’s amazing. I’d better shut up now or this could turn into an essay 😀

    1. You know, I love Eowyn and Faramir almost as much as I love Theoden: I almost included that in my little essay. I love them for the same reasons you do. Since it’s extremely unlikely that you and I would make the same mistake, it must be something really cool that Tolkien did as a writer.

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