Upon entering Lorien, the Fellowship of the Ring tries to bring the reader back to a sense of normalcy after its darkest chapter. After Gandalf fell in the Mines of Moria, the entire fellowship was understandably distraught. Aragorn led them to the Elvish stronghold of Lorien as a place of refuge, and, by all accounts, one of the most beautiful places in Middle Earth.
During a conversation with one of the residents, Haldir, about whether he had ever visited the sea which was relatively near the Shire, Merry responds in exactly the way that you would expect one who had just lost a dear friend to respond.
“I have never been out of my own land before. And if I had known what the world outside was like, I don’t think I should have had the heart to leave it.”
After experiencing tragedy, it is rather natural to want to return home. Perhaps Merry had seen some remarkable things during his journey, but he had also gone through remarkable pain. Without going on this journey, he would have never seen the glory of Rivendell, but he would never have felt the death of Gandalf and this loss of hope. In his mind at this moment, perhaps the trade-off was not worth it.
Haldir provides some of the best observations in the entire book in his response.
“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”
This is the great dilemma that I think we all can identify with here in our own world. We understand the reality of darkness. We realize the world is not the way it ought to be, and we have all experienced pain of various sorts. I don’t know everything you have gone through, and you don’t know everything I have gone through, but I am pretty sure we all have seen the reality of darkness.
However, that does not mean that there is no good in the world. This does not mean that every relationship we get into is going to end in destruction. This does not mean that every friend we make is going to abandon us. This does not mean that every decision we make is going to go the wrong way.
It is indeed possible to make the world a better place. Even though love is intertwined with grief many times, and even though pain is a reality, the Christian worldview does not allow us to simply run away and lament the state of our world. There are things that are good, and perhaps those fair things are going to grow even greater.
The question of course returns to who is going to make that difference in the world. Haldir understood that the elves were not going to be the ones to make that difference. If the ring was destroyed, it was their time to leave Middle Earth, and they would be destroyed if the ring was not destroyed.