Dear Frodo Baggins,

dearfrodo

Your story is confusing, something people debate all the time even today. Were you the hero? Did you succeed in your quest, or was your failure to destroy the ring part of a tragic allegory for human existence? Everyone who has read your story has an opinion on that.

I always wondered what your opinion was. I think most people tend to be overly hard on themselves. How did you see yourself, after the ring was destroyed and you returned to the Shire and realized you were never going to be okay again?

It’s okay to not be okay. It doesn’t make you less of a hero. At least, that’s what I tell myself, what I try and tell others who are suffering. Not being okay isn’t a weakness, it’s just a part of being human, or hobbit in your case. It’s just that, well, knowing that doesn’t make it hurt less. And after a while, you start to worry that you’ll never be okay again. And you weren’t, not in the Shire that you saved anyway.

Were you okay again after you arrived in the Grey Lands across the sea? Did you find peace there? Was it the peace of death and stillness, or of life and renewal? The elves were always sort of vague on that, but there are so many different kinds of peace. I think a rapturous or joyful afterlife that some religions describe would feel wrong, fake, forced. To be honest, I’m not sure what I would even hope for, if there is some sort of “going on” waiting for us in the end.

But back to my original point- did you ever see yourself as a hero? I think you should, because I think you succeeded on your quest. The choices you made- to spare Gollum, to lean on Sam, to continue on when all seemed lost- those choices are what destroyed the ring, even if it wasn’t your hand that threw the ring into the fire. Had you acted differently, even a little, the ring would not have been destroyed and Sauron would have been victorious.

Maybe that’s the kind of peace I hope for, on a smaller scale, after my life is finished. Knowing that the choices I made were important, that even if in the end I’m not okay and I didn’t succeed the way I thought I would.

There’s one last thing I wanted to say to you- they say martyrs die alone. Regardless of whether or not you were a hero, in my opinion there is no argument against you being a martyr. And even though you felt that the Shire could never be home for you again… I hope you found home, in the end, even if it turns out you weren’t a hero. I hope you didn’t die feeling alone, if dying is something that happens in the Grey Lands or if going there is in itself dying. If an afterlife is something that exists… well, I think it should feel like the sort of peace that comes from being truly home.

Like I said, it’s okay to not be okay. But I hope you were. I hope we all are, heroes or not, at the end of all things.

 

Love always,

A Friend

 

 

Frodo Baggins is from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Dear Ellie,

dearellieTry and forgive Joel. I know that you know the truth, or at least suspect it. But he loves you so much, and the world is hard enough without refusing to forgive the people who really truly love you. Especially your world. Hate him, if you need to, so long as you also forgive him- the two aren’t nearly as mutually exclusive as everyone seems to think.

Did Joel do the right thing? Probably not, to be honest. He didn’t respect your wishes. He chose to put the life of one person over the entire human race, and he killed a whole bunch of people to make that happen. And he did it for purely selfish reasons. For love. For fear of being alone. For fear of losing another person he cared about. Selfish reasons, but pure reasons too. Joel cares about you, more than he cares about humanity. Is that really wrong?

I don’t know. The older I get, the more I’m starting to realize that the right thing means something completely different than I thought it did when I was a child. Morality is a crapshoot, especially in a crapsack world like yours. And even though, objectively, Joel probably made the wrong choice… a vaccine wasn’t going to save humanity, because the infected weren’t what was destroying the world. People were doing that all on their own, just like we have been since the dawn of time. I’m not saying all people or awful, or that humanity as a whole is unsaveable. To quote Anne Frank, who I hope you learned about and who knows much more about these things than I do-

“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

And it’s just that… well, when I started writing this letter, the world was in a different place. And I didn’t know how to finish it. But then our country elected someone who might be a fascist dictator, and I’m afraid of how humanity will change because of it. You’ve seen first hand how easily humans become monsters, and trust me, they don’t need the excuse of an apocalypse to do truly evil things. But that doesn’t make them truly evil people. Because make no mistake, what Joel did could be seen as truly evil.

I guess what I’m trying to say is… Maybe there are no right choices in the grand scope of human existence. Maybe the best we can hope for is to cling to the things and the people we love in the here and now. Maybe that’s a selfish and short-sighted way of thinking. Maybe its just naïve. Maybe it’s unfair to the people who have it much worse than I do. I don’t know.

I do know that forgiveness and love are the only things that make not knowing bearable.

Joel is just as lost as you are, but loving you is all he has to make sense of it. So if you can forgive him… just try. Hate him if you must, but trust me when I say you’ll need that as much as he does.

 

Love always,

A Friend

 

Ellie is from the video game The Last of Us created by Naughty Dog