From 10Am to 11PM on Saturday a group of friends and I watched all three Lord of the Rings movies (the extended versions). We ate all the hobbit meals: second breakfast, elevensies, afternoon tea, supper, etc. It was one of those days you always talk about doing, but never actually do it. Well, we did, and it was the best! Plus, I had never seen the movies before…
There are so many great scenes and ideas to share, unpack, and explore. And if you didn’t know, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were dear friends, while vehemently disagreeing on how to express their Christian beliefs through literature and art.
Anyways, I found the opening scene of the third movie, when Smeagol kills his best friend in order to get the ring, especially striking. I think this scene puts a story (and some very intense images) to the ideas of sin, freedom, and choice.
[Warning: about to get a little heady and theological here...feel free to skip directly to the video.]
In my C.S. Lewis class I learned that freedom was meant to be unidirectional: we were never meant to have the choice between good and evil, but only the choice within what is good.
Why? Because God, by his nature, is good and as God’s creations the ‘choice’ to do evil was not a part of our original existence; it is not in line with our nature. Now of course sin enters in, the serpent entices Adam and Eve with a ‘choice’ they were never meant to face, and we constantly live with a tension, conflict, and choice never intended for us.
In essence, if we ‘choose’ evil – a choice humans were never meant to even be capable of making – we will be acting outside the realm of our nature and will cease to exist in our humanness. We will become, like Smeagol, other than human, other than what we were made to be. And in this scene we see how so often the road that leads to evil appears wide, full of possibilities, and, well, fun. It appears like that’s where we will be free! But in reality that road will always lead to us losing the part of ourselves that makes us human. It is a road that leads to everything but freedom.
On the other hand, ‘choosing’ freedom – choosing within a multitude of good – may, at first, appear straight and narrow and, well, boring. But when we ‘choose’ good, we act within our nature to experience an expanding, life-giving, and adventurous freedom.
It’s an interesting and compelling paradox. And this scene brutally outlines what it looks like to choose evil. Again, a choice we were never meant to have.
If you missed the words at the end, Smeagol says: “We forgot the taste of bread; the sound of trees; the softness of the wind. We forgot our name.”
If freedom is living according to our nature, then not freedom is living against our nature. If you experience not freedom for too long – like Smeagol after he gets the ring – you’ll cease to exist in your humanness. I think you quite literally will forget what it means to be human; you will forget who you are.
I don’t know anything about what happens after we die, or what hell will be like, or who will go there, but I imagine it to be a place full of once humans who – by choosing evil – have forgotten their identities; trading in their humanly existence for something not free, and certainly not human.