My disappointment was profound.
No. Strike that. My disappointment is profound. Still.
Years after the release of the movie, I feel even now that familiar twist in my gut when I think about it. I still imagine an apology from the screen-writer is forthcoming, and an amended version of the film will be released any day now.
I am, of course, speaking of the Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies. It was a triumph of film-making. The casting was nearly perfect, the special effects, spectacular. The setting in which it was filmed remains one of its greatest triumphs; the scenic panoramas are breath-taking and awe-inspiring.
The movies had, however, a fatal flaw. I may never recover from my disillusionment.
I am a LOTR nerd.
I refer, not to the aforementioned movie, but to the books. I have worn out three sets of the paperbacks in reading and re-reading them over my adult life. Each time I have picked them up, they have seemed fresh and exciting, even if at the same time they are like old friends–comfortable and familiar.
A good book is like that. The books I don’t enjoy–those, I read once and place on the shelf, never to be opened again. Good books invite a second (and third) reading. Mr. Tolkien knew how to write a good book.
Ah. But, you’re not all LOTR nerds, are you? I’ll hasten on, if only to keep that glazed look from overtaking the reader’s eyes.
To get to the point, I’ll say this: Mr. Tolkien wrote of heroes; the screen-writer for the movie series had no use for heroes.
Not perfect heroes, anyway. And, therein lies my profound disappointment.
This hero wasn’t one of the main characters in the story, the individuals who are with you from start to finish. No, the hero whose sullying I decry in the movie series is a relatively minor character named Faramir. He almost doesn’t warrant a mention at all in the list of important protagonists in the story.
In the film version of the story, Faramir is captured by the lust of the article of power, the One Ring, and very nearly brings disaster to the entire quest. He takes the main characters captive and carries them far out of their way and into more danger before coming to his senses and releasing them and their ring.
I nearly shouted out loud in the movie theater as I watched the movie with a group of family and friends. This man’s words are burned into my mind from the multiple times I have read the book.
“Not if I found it on the highway would I take it!”
Like all true heroes, Faramir wasn’t even tempted by the lust of power and fame. It held no influence–none–over him, as he went about his duties as a heroic soldier with a clear heart.
I didn’t shout in the theater. Not aloud, anyway.
To this day though, I feel I have been robbed. Personally–robbed.
I want my hero back. Unstained. Unblemished.
You laugh. Not without reason.
It seems a foolish grudge to bear, does it not–this trifle about the accuracy of a fictional hero’s character? I myself still struggle with the rationality of it. And, after all this time, I think I begin to understand why it affected me so.
I want my hero back, but I know–deep down–there is no such man walking the earth. Not one.
Not one man who can keep his promises without fail. Not one person who has never hurt anyone for selfish reasons. Not a single human being who is free of the stain of lust and desire.
I once believed such people walked the earth. I repent of that foolishness. I have seen my own heroes fall, one after the other. They fall from the pedestals they were put on, or climbed upon themselves, but they fall.
Eventually, they all fall.
Human. Not heroes.
It’s actually a good thing, having all your heroes fallen. The disappointment–the depressing certainty that all is lost–is profound at first, but it eventually gives way to hopefulness. You see, if heroes can stand in their own strength, there is no hope for the rest of us. We mere mortals who give in to our base nature, the sin nature passed down to us through our human DNA, again and again, have no hope as long as there is one single person who doesn’t need grace.
There was only one True Hero. Ever. Only one.
He saw the temptation on the highway and passed it by. On his way to a cross, He passed it by. Power and fame were nothing to Him.
He passed it by. Because He loved us more.
I have told you repeatedly that I am forever grateful for grace. Grace says to each of us, every fallen one of us, “You get to be a hero again. Not because of what you can do, but because of what He did.”
And when we fall again (and we will fall again), grace offers another chance to be a hero. And another. And another.
I like second chances. There is still hope the quest may end in triumph after all. And somehow, hope seems to me to be better than a nonexistent hero.
I’m still angry about Faramir though.
Are you listening, Peter Jackson?
“‘Not if I found it on the highway would I take it,’ I said. “Even if I were such a man as to desire this thing, and even though I knew not clearly what this thing was when I spoke, still I should take those words as a vow, and be held by them. But I am not such a man. Or I am wise enough to know that there are some perils from which a man must flee.”
(from The Return of the King ~ J.R.R. Tolkien ~ English author ~ 1892-1973)
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”
(John 14:12 ~ ESV)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.