The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) movies are my go-to cinema therapy during troubled times. This means that I’ve been watching them pretty much on a repeat loop since Sandy Hook on December 14, 2012. Not only do I have the movies mostly memorized, I also refer to scenes and quote the movie more times than most people know what I’m talking about which can get awkward. But, that’s not the only reason I recommend these books and movies.

J.R.R. (John Ronald Reuel) Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892, in what’s known now as South Africa and died on September 2, 1973, in Bournemouth, England, U.K. He was a professor at Oxford, an expert in linguistics, and an author of literary criticism and high fantasy. He was friends with C.S. Lewis and a fellow member in a group called the Inklings that met regularly down at the pub to critiquing each other’s written works.

Unlike C.S. Lewis, who, as a prolific and effective writer in defense of Christianity, is honored in the Episcopal Church, Tolkien isn’t honored on any Church’s saintly calendar. However, his LOTR and other Middle Earth works were so successful he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire, by Queen Elizabeth, II, in 1972.

Although fiction, the LOTR trilogy is a classic spiritual journey story. A group of companions, not unlike Jesus and his apostles, set out together on a mission, face evil of epic proportions, give everything they have for the sake of goodness, and only some of them make it home in one piece.

The books, first published in 1954, are excellent! I highly recommend them.

However, even though I understand that the movies wouldn’t exist without the books, I prefer the movies. The movie version has a more focused plot, plus the acting and character development are high quality. But, I enjoy the movies over the books mainly because of New Zealand with it’s awe-inspiring geography.

Here’s a scene that takes place in the beginning of the second movie: “Come, Gimli. We’re gaining on them!” Consider it a trailer for the whole trilogy which runs a little over nine hours.

I don’t recommend binge watching. Viewing should be savored, perhaps over a nine-day period, one hour at a time, like a novena.

But, if you find yourself immobilized by grief, hopelessness, and ineffectiveness related to the gun violence epidemic running rampant in the United States, press the play button and keep watching until you are empowered to get up and take a step toward our children’s safety, do it (whatever “it” is), and then watch some more until you are ready to take the next step. And so on. Call yourself, Frodo. Or Samwise. Or Éowyn. Or Aragorn. You get the idea.

And now for spoilers. I don’t give too much away here, nothing about the ending. But, definitely, there’s some plot involved. Fair warning.

Right. So, these are the scenes I think about when it’s time for me to push aside the heavy layers of distraught piled atop my already grieving heart for all the victims of gun violence in the United States. They empower me to stand up and do the next thing on my gun-safety activist’s to-do list.

“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

“You are a Shield Maiden of Rohan.”

“What are we holding onto, Sam?”

If you don’t want to watch these scenes due to spoilers, here’s the dialogue that’s relevant to a blog dedicated to the lives of the saints and their recipes for saintly living:

Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights, we shouldn’t even be here.

It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really matter, full of darkness and danger, they were. And, sometimes, you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But, in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer.

Those are the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But, I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.

To sum up, watch these movies for courageous inspiration and also so that when I quote them, y’all’ll know what I’m talking about.

Speaking of inspiration, Tolkien created Lembas Bread for Middle Earth as a nod to both the military hard tack of his day and Communion Bread. In the movies, it seems like Gollum won’t eat Lembas Bread because he’s been dining on “sushi” and rabbit “tartare” for too long. But, he really can’t eat it because according to legend, Communion Bread, and such like, repels evil.

Lembas Bread is also reminiscent of Lammas Bread which is baked on Lammas Day, August 1, (or February 1 Down Under) with wheat from the first harvest. Lammas Day is a Pagan holiday celebrated by Christians.

Lembas Bread is a perfect imaginary bread for a Christian author to invent for his high-fantasy spiritual journey novels.

Elven Lembas Bread

Missing from this group ingredient and equipment photo are the egg, the vanilla, and the rolling pin.
Because I was concocting as I went along, and sometimes I’m forgetful.

2 cups bread flour

2 sticks (1 cup) cold butter

1 egg

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place flour and butter in large mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender, or by crisscrossing two butter knives, cut butter into flour until crumbly.

Add remaining ingredients and mix with your hands until dough is in a ball shape with a smooth (ish) texture.

On a floured surface, roll dough out with a rolling pin to about 1/8-inch thick. Cut into 3 x 3 (ish) squares.

With a sharp knife or razor blade, score a cross into each one. (Or score whatever Elven language symbol appeals to your inner Pagan.)

Place each onto a parchment paper-covered cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 17 minutes, until the edges are slightly browned.

Cool on wire rack.

Serve warm on movie night. Or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer until your next hike.

Option: Wrap them in leaves. (Have fun with that.)

Warning: Because of the butter and egg, these won’t keep on a literal journey past two or three days. But, they’re excellent treats for all our literary journeys.

Bonus link:

One of the other things I like about the movies is the music. Check out this adaptation of the sound track by The Piano Guys.

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