“I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”
Those words, spoken by Gandalf at the end of Return of the King, poignantly convey something we all have and will feel. The dual joy and pain of having close friendships. This thing called friendship is a beautiful, breathtaking reality that sometimes we take for granted.
This year, I was privileged to work on a team of college-age students to plan a national student convention. After months of laboring alongside one another, we finally reached the end of the journey this past week when the convention took place. After which we had to say our farewells and scatter back to our homes across the country.
And to be honest, it was hard. Why? Because as humans, we’re wired for relationships.
Being lonely is one of the most awful things we can imagine, and so we crave the close connection brought by deep friendships. This truth of needing relationships comes into beautiful focus in almost any story you read and points to the wonderful ways in which friendship enrich our lives.
Think of the trio from the Harry Potter books. What would Harry and Ron and Hermione have done without each other? All the adventures they went on, ways they banded together, moments where they worked as a team when the situation was dire.
Or what about Doctor Who and his various companions? It’s not a coincidence that he gallivants through space and time with someone along for the ride. No matter how cool that job would be, it wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable without someone with which to share the memories and experiences.
Friendship goes beyond mere companionship, however. As so beautifully illustrated in Lord of the Rings, it can literally shape the outcome of lives. What would Frodo’s quest have been without the Fellowship to encourage, guide, and support him along the way? How would the story have ended were it not for the unbreakable bonds of friendship between him and Sam?
Time and again, not only in Lord of the Rings but across stories and genres and worlds, this theme occurs. At the end of the day, what would life be without relationships?
Epic tales span kingdoms, whisk us to far-off lands, and paint pictures of the world as it may become. Yet without the characters, their interactions and dynamics and relationships, the stories would fall flat.
This goes back to what I said about relationships being key to life. Not only key to life, but pivotal in accomplishing tasks or achieving success. Like braids in a rope, together we’re stronger than we are individually.
When stories capture those moments that are so true to reality it gives us chills, they direct us back to this truth. We relate to them on a deeper level, and so the unfolding tale resonates within our souls.
We see Gandalf and the hobbits bidding farewell at the Grey Havens, and it pierces our hearts because we’ve felt that same sense of sorrow. We understand the sadness of the Pevensie children as they slowly begin to leave their Narnian friends to go on with their lives in this world.
It’s ironic, really. As these tales illustrate, we want to be close to others to ease the pain of loneliness, yet that closeness brings about its own type of pain. However, it’s a pain well worth it in the end.
Lest I sound gloomy, this isn’t a one-sided coin. Just as stories speak to these melancholy times, they also point us toward hope and joy. Don’t forget that though Sam watched Frodo sail into the west and then returned to life in the Shire, he too eventually passed over the Sea to see his beloved Mr. Frodo again.
The Pevensies may have left Narnia for a time, but where did they end up? In the true Narnia, reunited with their friends and family.
So the golden threads of friendship run, turning at times through shadows of separation but coming at last to their full completion. As Christians, we should be doubly encouraged. We have the assurance that, as the Pevensies discovered, the friendships they formed lasted forever.
As we follow tales of bravery and courage, let us remember the characters that breathe life into those tales. Let us marvel at the gift of friendship displayed and remember those closest to us. Our Sam Gamgees and Ron Weasleys and Reepicheeps.
Because quests come and go.
Dangers are fleeting.
Homes may change.
But those around us, with whom we share a deep bond of fellowship—they last for eternity.
How have stories reflected friendship in ways that resonated with you?