“How shall a man judge what to do in such times?”

Here is a quote from one of my favourite book (and film) series of all time, J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. It comes from second chapter of The Two Towers  when Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are surrounded by the Riders of Rohan (during their pursuit of the orcs who have captured Merry and Pippin). Eomer (one of the Riders) has questioned them and is much surprised by their tale;

‘It is hard to be sure of anything among so many marvels. The world is all grown strange. Elf and Dwarf in company walk in our daily fields; and folk speak with the Lady of the Wood and yet live; and the Sword comes back to war that was broken in the long ages ere the fathers of our fathers rode into the Mark! How shall a man judge what to do in such times?’

‘As he has ever judged,’ said Aragorn. ‘Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much as in the Golden Wood as in his own house.’

In our world today there is much confusion and uncertainty, basic beliefs of right and wrong and the very nature of man are being challenged, and one might well say with Eomer that, “The world is all grown strange…How shall a man judge what to do in such times?” We would do well to take Tolkien’s advice (through Aragorn), for good and evil, right and wrong do not change with the passing of time. Truth is not determined by popular opinion. As G. K. Chesterton once wrote; “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.” (Illustrated London News, 4/19/30). Right is right even if no one does it; just as wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.



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