By Father Dwight Longenecker
Saturday, Oct 05, 2013
How does Frodo Baggins connect with St. Thérèse of Lisieux? They both followed the Little Way.
Making the hero of his story little was an inspired stroke of genius on the part of J.R.R. Tolkien. The idea of little people who turn out to be the greatest comes from the deep roots of Tolkien’s Catholic faith. Not only does the Gospel say that we have to be as little children to get into the Kingdom (Matthew 18:4), but Tolkien would also have been aware that one of the Catholic saints most in the ascendant during his lifetime was the apostle of the "Little Way," Thérèse of Lisieux, who writes, "To be little means recognizing one’s nothingness, expecting everything from the good God, as a little child expects everything from its Father."
While The Lord of the Rings is not an explicitly Christian work, Tolkien was clear that his faith provided the underlying matrix for the story. In 1953, he wrote that The Lord of the Rings "is, of course, a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision."
The work is Catholic in its underlying worldview, and a crucial part of this is the theme of "littleness" — or humility.
Frodo’s reluctance to play the hero is not cowardice. It is the mark of his humility, for humility is a simple, realistic assessment of oneself.