“Blessed are the men of Noah’s race, that build / their little arks, though frail and poorly filled, / and steer through winds contrary towards a wraith, / a rumour of a harbour guessed by faith.”J. R. R. Tolkien, “Mythopoeia”
Welcome to these new blog posts, “The Littles!” Piggybacking on my Mum’s inspiration for the website, this is where I will seek to inspire a love for the little things that make life fun and beautiful. This might be a quote, a funny story, a recipe I made… really, the sky is the limit.
I believe that in the little things, we find what truly makes a home. Just as little actions build character and fortify the will for ‘big acts’ — like heroic virtue — it is the little things in life which form the foundation for something as large and wonderful as a happy home.
I love the Hobbits in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. They are small people who love small, seemingly insignificant things; nonetheless, two Hobbits from the Shire (three if you count Gollum) ultimately complete the task which the great warriors could not, defeating Mordor. Paradoxically, it is their love of the Shire, with all its oddities, that strengthens them for their battles in the rest of the world. Sam and Frodo struggle through the dusty, stench-laden desert of Mordor, almost dead from thirst and weariness, and what does Sam Gamgee recall to boost their spirits and harden their resolve? Strawberries! Fresh strawberries and cream!
Yup, I agree — strawberries are definitely the food for heroes.
Why should we love the little things? And, perhaps more pertinently, why should we think that the little things we create and do make any difference to the rest of the world? Is it selfish for me to make a jar of strawberry jam when I could be putting my efforts into some larger, more worthy cause? Why pick and dry mint for tea when I could be feeding hungry children, or arguing with abortion advocates at a street corner?
Those things are important. But the little things we do in the day-to-day creation of a home are just as important if we are to build up an authentically Christian culture.
Tolkien faced these same questions in his poem, “Mythopoeia,” in which he responded to C. S. Lewis’s objection that writing myths (such as the Lord of the Rings) was a worthless endeavour.
Tolkien answers that since we are created in the image of God, Who created and sustains everything, we are called to imitate Him in the works of our own hands. We are called to be sub-creators! Hence, the quote at the beginning of this post. Like Noah, men (and here I mean ‘men’ in the sense of encompassing both men and women) must continue to build “their little arks” to preserve the things which inspire hope in the eternal. Tolkien sees the small efforts of men — in his case, of the myth-writers — as important for preserving goodness, truth and beauty within culture. His literary emphasis on little things, and little people, gives the reader hope that everything and everyone has a divinely ordained purpose. In the Lord of the Rings, the history of the world depends on small people doing little things well, and this is exactly how we are to preserve the Faith in the everyday. Almost like building our own little ark — even though it be “frail and poorly filled.”
So grab a cuppa tea (or whiskey, if you prefer) and join me in these [hopefully concise] ponderings about beauty and meaning in the everyday. These bi-weekly posts will include:
– chit-chat about objects in the home
– quotes from literature (don’t worry, they won’t all be Lord of the Rings themed!)
– saints who were little, or little-known facts about them
– wild and home-grown plants and herbs
… really, any little thing that concretely points to the joy of life in the home.
In the meantime, enjoy your own ‘arks,’ wherever you may be, and know that in doing so you are preserving something good.