Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Essay: The Least of My Brothers

Author: Elanor
Nominator: Dreamflower
2009 Award Category: Genres: Non-Fiction - Honorable Mention

Story Type: Non-Fiction : Length: N/A
Rating: General -- Reason for Rating: Nothing startling in the content; just a prosaic essay!
Summary: “… and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty…” An essay of religious perspective in which Merry and Pippin are studied as iconic examples of “the least of my brothers.” All signs point to them being dead weight on the Ring Quest, but as servants of destiny they prove otherwise in a big way.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower -- Score: 10

Essay: the Least of My Brothers Elanor There have been, and I am sure will continue to be, a great many essay examining the various Christian themes to be found in Lord of the Rings. Some reach too far, and venture into allegory, which Tolkien himself denied. And most tend to concentrate on either the sacrificial nature of Frodo's journey, or on the most obvious symbolisms of Tolkien's Roman Catholic background, such as the Marian nature of Galadriel and of Varda, or the transfigurative role of Gandalf's return from death, or the sacramental nature of lembas. Elanor chooses to focus on the role of the most neglected of Tolkien's main characters when it comes to things like this. She notes the often asked question by many who are newly come to the story, especially in the form of the movies, why the three strongest remaining members of the Fellowship, in the form of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, leave Frodo-- the Ring-bearer and the one whom they joined the Company to protect-- to go off alone into Mordor, while the three of them take off after ["the least important"] ones: Merry and Pippin. Her jumping off point is this scriptural quotation: ["Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of my brethren, ye have done it unto me." - MATTHEW 25:40"] She carefully explains the reasoning behind it all, with citations and quotations from Scripture, showing that a part of that purpose was precisely because Merry and Pippin were weak and small that they were able to catalyze the important events in which they eventually took part. Because the Three Hunters valued and loved [""the least of my brothers."] they all were able to find their own chief destinies in the story. And she shows how the humility of the younger hobbits was rewarded by their own growth. Many fans of LotR are not Christians, but I think some of them may also appreciate this examination of the applicability of JRRT's own faith in this matter, which is focused not on non-existent allegory, but on a simple putting into practice his own beliefs.

Reviewed by: Fiondil -- Score: 6

This is a thoughtful and well-written exposition from a thoroughly Christian viewpoint of the important roles which Merry and Pippin play in the War of the Ring. These two hobbits are indeed the least of the Fellowship yet, singly and together, they effect change in the fortunes of the War as well as effecting transformations in others, transformations that would otherwise never have happened had Lord Elrond decided against Gandalf’s council in letting these two join the Fellowship. Elanor does a credible job of showing the Christian virtue of weakness as strength, exemplified by Merry and Pippin, true innocents abroad. I found the following statement to be especially pertinent for our times: [It is easy in our competitive culture today to assume that the weak are powerless.... Like the film critic who wondered why the future king would waste time on a couple of useless hobbits when he could follow fortune and glory, we forget that lost lambs as well as kings may have parts to play in God's world, and that denying the “least of my brothers” the dignity of a chance may well deprive the world of a saviour....Merry and Pippin remind us that the most unlikely persons imaginable can stumble into paths of greatness, and that destiny attends us all.] It is heartening to think that those of us who may be “the least” may yet have an important role to play in God’s providence. Merry and Pippin show us how.

Reviewed by: PipMer -- Score: 6

This is a very well-written essay, brought to us by the very talented and gifted author. She beautifully lays out for us the reasons as to why Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas would rush to the rescue of Merry and Pippin, the "least of my brothers", instead of helping the more "important" hobbits, Frodo and Sam. Merry and Pippin are certainly the weakest members of the Fellowship, both physically and skill-wise. Elanor skillfully paints the background for us, explaining why Merry and Pippin were considered the weakest, and why Gandalf speaks out on their behalf to Elrond in Rivendell. She then fills in the foreground for us, explaining how each action of these two lowly hobbits contributed to the final, and desired, outcome. She ties this in with the Christian concept of caring for the weakest and poorest in our society. Very well done essay, Elanor!

Reviewed by: Larner -- Score: 5

What a blessed reminder that there was indeed a purpose to Aragorn's decision to seek rescue for Merry and Pippin rather than choosing to follow Frodo across the river toward Mordor, there at Parth Galen. Well researched and well reasoned, this article reminds us that we do well to think on the way in which the fate of the world rests not in the hands of those who are strong of body and purpose, but in the hands of One who can use the weaknesses of His creations as He pleases to achieve ends the strong may be unable to approach. Definitely thoughts on which to ponder in our daily life, to remind us of the need for humility and an open mind. Well done, Elanor. Well recommended to everyone else.

Reviewed by: Cairistiona -- Score: 4

Excellent discussion of the role of Merry and Pippin within the broader scope of Middle-earth history and how these two characters represent, as the title suggests, the concept of "the least of these" in Christianity. One of the best explanations I've read of why Aragorn risked all to chase down, with Legolas and Gimli, the orcs that took Merry and Pippin. I highly recommend this to anyone seeking to understand how Christianity and LOTR are intertwined in ways that are not allegorical.

Reviewed by: Celeritas -- Score: 4

In a welcome refresher from the conventional Christian analyses of Tolkien’s work, Elanor shows in this essay how the qualities of Merry and Pippin reflect the Christian story of glorification of the weak and the strange workings of destiny. A fitting answer to /anyone/ who thinks these two characters are insignificant, not least because there is a basic human duty to look after /everyone/, especially those deemed unimportant by others. Well written!

Reviewed by: Garnet Took -- Score: 3

Well thought-out. This essay reminds all of us that no one in the Fellowship was there without a purpose. As in real life, they may not have known themselves what that purpose was, but they simply did what had to be done and let Fate and faith lead where they needed to go. Well done, Elanor.

Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland -- Score: 3

An interesting and thought provoking essay concerning Christian influences in Tolkien's great work.I had never thought before about how Merry and Pippin helped Aragorn manifest himself as King by showing his healing abilities.It is always good to discover something new in a favourite work.

Reviewed by: Antane -- Score: 3

Very good essay pointing out the ways in which Divine Providence worked through Merry and Pippin and how they fulfilled their vocations and helped bring about the fall of Sauron in their ways. Great, thoughtful and well done. Thank you!