The Leaf of Lorien in The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien

“Not idly do the leaves of Lórien fall.

“One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters.”

This past weekend I did something I never thought I would do: I got a tattoo (my first and most-likely last!). My daughter has quite a few, and we had talked for a couple of years about getting one together as a mother-daughter thing, but we couldn’t decide on a picture or graphic to use that we both liked. To be honest, we don’t have a lot in common when it comes to interests, music, hobbies, etc., but The Lord of the Rings is something that she and I, in fact our whole family, are big fans of: both the books and the movies. And that ended up being the inspiration for our twin tattoos.

The Lord of the Rings story, while a fantasy set in an alternate world and reality, contains so many themes and Biblical principles about life and what is true. We witness how power can corrupt one’s values and perspective. We see the threat of evil and those who are willing to risk everything to defeat it. We observe the loyalty and dependability of friends who have sworn to stick by each other no matter what, and fight side by side towards a common goal. We watch as characters from different cultures and backgrounds set aside their differences and learn to value one another as individuals and appreciate their uniqueness and worth. We read of normal, inconsequential people achieving greatness simply by being courageous, faithful, and determined to do what is right.

The image that my daughter suggested for our tattoos and to which I agreed is one of the leaf of Lorien. In the second book of the trilogy, The Two Towers, eight members of the Fellowship of the Ring (excluding Gandalf) are gifted an elvin brooch pin by Galadriel upon their departure from Lothlorien, the forest dwelling of the elves. The brooches identify the Fellowship members as elf-friends. Legolas, the elf member of the Fellowship, described Lothlorien as:

…the fairest of all the dwellings of my people. There are no trees like the trees of that land. For in the autumn their leaves fall not, but turn to gold. Not till the spring and the new green opens do they fall, and then the boughs are laden with yellow flowers; and the floor of the wood is golden, and golden is the roof, and its pillars are of silver, for the bark of the trees is smooth and grey.

When the group is separated and two of the hobbits are captured by Orcs, Pippin purposefully drops his leaf of Lorien brooch in the hope of leaving a clue behind for his friends. Sure enough, the others discover it.

“The brooch of an elven cloak!” cried Legolas and Gimli together.
“Not idly do the leaves of  Lórien fall,” said Aragorn. “This did not drop by chance: it was cast away as a token to any that might follow.”

Later, when the group is reunited, we read this dialogue:

“And here is also your brooch, Pippin,” said Aragorn. “I have kept it safe, for it is a very precious thing.”
“I know,” said Pippin. “It was a wrench to let it go; but what else could I do?”
“Nothing else,” answered Aragorn. “One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters. You did rightly.”

After reading these passages and a couple of articles, I see two messages conveyed here. First, Pippin had something that he very much valued, and Aragorn comments that it is indeed precious. But a time came when Pippin had to be willing to release the brooch, having faith that doing so would preserve his life and that of his companion. Here’s a lesson for me: Is there anything I am holding on too tightly to, something that may not add real meaning or value to my life? If I cannot let it go, then I am not truly free; I am in bondage to it and have made that thing (or person) an idol.

But there’s another meaning I pulled from this. Going back to Aragorn’s comment about the leaves of Lorien not falling idly, this could be interpreted with another metaphorical meaning. One writer points out that as immortal beings, elves desire to keep things always the same and are resistant to change. They actually have a lot of power and are able to control certain things. Just as the leaves of the trees in the land of Lothlorien lose their leaves much later in the year, the elves take longer than others do to accept the changing times and seasons. As I reflected on this, I thought of how I am often resistant to change and sometimes want to retain control of things that I need to let go of. I am actually resisting God’s plan for me when I don’t accept the providences He places in my life, and putting myself in the place of God when I try to control things that are not mine to control.

Now, when I glance down and see my new leaf of Lorien tattoo, I will think of my daughter. And I will be reminded not to hold too tightly to things – whether material or nonmaterial – that have no eternal value or that are not mine to hold. Sometimes we need to let go of things for the good of our soul.

If you’ve read The Lord of the Rings series, what Biblical themes or truths did you find in it?

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