As I’m diving more into Tolkien’s works in my dissertation prep, I find myself loving this poem more and more:
“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
The poem, or portions of it at least, appear throughout The Fellowship of the Ring, written and spoken by various characters along the way. I love the beauty of this piece. From its steady rhythm to the richness of its meaning, it kindles something in my soul… something sweet, something timeless, something magical.
I’d like to do a little series on this blog, walking through the poem line by line. This won’t be an interpretation of Tolkien’s use of the poem or anything of the sort, just my rambling thoughts on the phrases themselves. Shall we begin?
“All that is gold does not glitter…”
The first thought this line conjures up for me is a memory of the old Smashmouth song “Allstar.” There is a line in the song that says, “And all that glitters is gold.” While I love that song (we’ll say it’s nostalgia), I like Tolkien’s line better. In seven short words, we receive a well-needed reminder that things of great value often come in simple packages. In fact, the inspiration behind this blog comes from 2 Corinthians 4:7 which reminds us that the greatest treasure of all – the gift of the gospel of Jesus Christ – is stored up in us, though we are just ordinary vessels, so that God’s power might be all the more evident.
Too often we get caught up in appearances. We make instant judgments on people, both positive and negative, based purely on the physical – how they’re dressed, their hair style, number of tattoos and piercings, or body shape. But we’ve all met people who grew more lovely or less attractive after we got to know the person behind the face.
We do this in other areas of life too. We refuse to eat something because it looks disgusting. We don’t apply for a job because it doesn’t seem glamorous. We spend way too much money on a car because it’s flashy. But while bells and whistles may distract and conceal the truth, they cannot hide it. One of the most flavorful dishes I’ve ever eaten looked like dog food. Some of the most joyful and hardworking people I know serve on the maintenance crew where I work. And my old, beat-up Chevy had none of the fancy add-ons (not even power windows!), but it was the most reliable vehicle I’ve ever owned.
To be sure, some things that glitter really are gold. Some are not. And sometimes gold comes your way in the least expected forms.