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On Grand Gestures and Judgement

One of my favorite moments from the film The Hobbit took place between Galadriel and Gandalf. Now when I say ‘one of my favorite’, there were not many in this film, despite my intense bias towards anything Tolkien.

In this scene, Gandalf ponders his own willingness to use Bilbo Baggins (a halfling), as the instigator in a high stakes game of Middle-Earth Risk; darkness is on the move and the forces of light are racing to meet it by strategically placing themselves in particular areas in Middle-Earth.

To be fair, this bit of text - to my knowledge - is not present in the book, but instead, seems to be the creation of the writers for the film. It works beautifully, by capturing the overall sentiment in Tolkien’s works that there is a larger narrative that is actively working behind the scenes. It is mirrored in this scene (:52), where Gandalf cautions Frodo’s eagerness to dole out judgement, “Some that die deserve life, others that live, deserve death… Can you give it to them?”

I find that I’m surrounded by a culture that believes in grand gestures, or at the very least, grand posturing. I think I sometimes believe this also. The tension for me is remembering that I’m part of a larger narrative; that there are other forces at work, other souls floating about… some are even good.

Gandalf’s insistence on a particular Hobbit is reminiscent of God’s insistence on a particular man, in a particular time and in a particular place. The whole of humankind is a big boat to turn, but every grand gesture has to start somewhere - even when that somewhere or that something may seem insignificant. Grand gestures… yes, but perhaps it’s those small, particular acts of kindness and love that define them.

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