Bilbo told Frodo that the path from Bag End goes through Mirkwood to the Lonely Mountain and even further to worse places. Perhaps, even, to Mordor. Are there roads that lead to another door? On this episode we examine the third chapter of The Lord Of The Rings and see what we can learn from Three Is Company.
Covered In The Dust Of Bilbo Baggins
It has been two or three weeks since Frodo made the decision to leave the Shire with the ring, but he had made no sign of getting ready to go. Gandalf, noticing this, tells him that he ought to go both quietly and soon. Frodo hesitates but has an idea:
‘What about the autumn, on or after Our Birthday?’ asked Frodo. ‘I think I could probably make some arrangements by then.’
The Lord of the Rings, Three Is Company, p. 65
Though he was indeed reluctant to leave, it was following after Bilbo which was uppermost in Frodo’s mind. Only this thought made leaving Bag End tolerable. The old hobbit was his family, friend, teacher, and guide. Frodo learned every wonderful thing he knew from Bilbo. He followed Bilbo so closely that he was – figuratively, if not literally – covered in his dust. That is the relationship of a disciple to a teacher: he or she follows in their footsteps so closely that the dust from the road is kicked up and lands on the disciple.
This is how the world can identify a disciple. Who’s dust are you covered in?
Home Looks Better When You’re About To Leave
Of course, following a trusted teacher and guide necessitates a path; the path from the door of Bag End joins other paths that feed into a larger road as tributaries do to a river, just as Bilbo would often say after a walk:
“Do you realize that this is the very path that goes through Mirkwood, and that if you let it, it might take you to the Lonely Mountain or even further and to worse places?”
Ibid., p. 74
Aren’t all stories about paths? They are about the paths taken and choices made. We all must take a path. There is no avoiding it. To chose not to take a path is in itself taking a path. Frodo, though reluctant, choses to follow the path set before him. He doesn’t know exactly what he’ll meet along the way, but he knows that there is danger on this path; it could lead all the way to Mordor!
On the night Jesus was betrayed, while in the upper room, he was preparing his disciples for what was on the very cusp of happening: he would be turned over to the Jewish authorities by one of them, Peter would deny even knowing him, and he was going where they could not yet follow. They could not follow their beloved teacher? Why, this is terrible! Jesus offered them words of reassurance:
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”
“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
John 14:1-6 NLT
Jesus is the way. He is the path that leads past Mordor.
Three Is Company
Frodo does not have to travel this path alone! Sam Gamgee and Peregrin Took are happy to walk with him and to help carry part of his load. Or in the case of Sam, to even carry much of his load. He will not allow Frodo carry that burden by himself. This is indeed a forward to things further down this road that Frodo is travelling. It is also a picture of the church – which was originally called the Way. I prefer to call it the Way because of the very lessons we have gleaned from Three Is Company, a fantastic chapter in The Lord Of The Rings.
Song: Swordsman of the Sky from the album Beyond The Western Seas by The Lonely Mountain Band.
What stood out to you in THREE IS COMPANY? Let us know in the comments below.
On The Secret Fire Podcast we travel chapter-by-chapter and book-by-book through J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth viewing it through Christian lenses. We invite you to join us each week as we continue the adventure on the Arkenstone server in Lord Of The Rings Online. We meet at the Three Farthing Stone in the Shire.
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