Thanks to the people who have been reading this post today in the fourth week of Advent when, from of old, the church has sung the O Antiphons, an ancient prayer that had such an effect upon the young Tolkien when he first read them in Old English. The connections between Tolkien’s Christian faith and his legendarium are often hidden but they shine forth in Shelob’s Lair. When you have read this why not try putting the O Antiphons into a search engine and see where they take you.
Frodo and Sam are trapped in the darkness visible of Shelob’s Lair as the foul monster advances upon them. As he grips the sword that he took from the barrow Sam suddenly thinks of Tom Bombadil. “I wish old Tom was near us now.” And as he does so it is not Bombadil who comes, but Galadriel, in an insight of such clarity that it has the force of a vision. Sam sees her as the giver of gifts upon the lawn in Lothlórien when she gave to Frodo the Star Glass, “a light when all other lights go out.”
Frodo raises the glass and the light of a Silmaril blazes forth in the darkness. Frodo is wonderfully empowered by this and he advances upon Shelob crying, “Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima!” Frodo does not know what words he speaks for it as if another voice has spoken them in this place of…
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