Lord Of The Rings is an epic tale. There’s drama, good versus evil, elves, orcs, magic, wizards, hobbits, bittersweet love, Gollum, The Ring—how do you not love such an epic story?
There are many highs and lows in the book, but I remember the day Gandalf died. As a reader, I was invested in him. How dare Tolkien kill him! But if he hadn’t, the other characters would never have had their own adventures, struggles, and victories. They would have all followed him and the story would have been very different.
I’m sure you’ve heard multiple stories about “calling the old man out,” but Tolkien couldn’t do that. It would have been a disaster for us to see Gandalf as “fallen” or bested by anyone else in the party of travellers. At best it would have just been a replacement for Gandalf, and at worst we never would have seen the other characters as clearly. So instead, “You shall not pass” …and Gandalf literally fell. We maintained our love and respect for him, grieved his loss, felt the vulnerability of the rest of the party, and went on our way all the while wondering what was going to happen next—how would the party survive without his strength and wisdom?
But in life, it isn’t always like that. Sometimes our mentors fall in a non-literal way—they take directions we’re not willing to follow, or sometimes we just see them for who they are instead of who we thought they were or who they were pretending to be. We feel disappointed, often in ourselves as much as the other person. How did I not see that coming? How did I fall for all the deception? What do I do now?
I’ll share a small secret with you. You didn’t see it coming because you were getting something you needed or at least thought you needed. You fell for the deception because what you were seeing was a reflection of something/someone you desire to be. That something/someone is most likely still good and honorable even if your fallen mentor is not. And you’ll keep doing what you were doing because you were always on your own path…you might pick a new direction, a new map, or a new route, but you’ll keep going. Hopefully it will be with new wisdom and a new understanding of your own motivations.
Some friends recently experienced the fall of a mentor, and I remember the loss of my own several years ago, so I wanted to take a moment to remind them that the day Gandalf died was the day the rest of the party solidified what was important in their lives and what needed to be done.
What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly ~Richard Bach