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How 'The Lord of the Rings' Is a Metaphor for Depression

01/07/2014 16:33 BST | Updated 26/08/2014 10:59 BST

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While watching The Lord of the Rings movies for the millionth time, I discovered something: Frodo's struggle with carrying the ring of power is a metaphor for life dealing with depression. The ring is heavy, burdensome, & drives people to act in ways they normally wouldn't. The ring acts as depression does. Frodo harbored it for a very long time, and it plunged him into a darkness so deep that he couldn't remember the taste of food, the sound of water, or the feel of the grass any longer; all he felt was "naked in the dark" with nothing to shield him from the evils of Sauron, the master of all that is awful in the world. He acted out in ways that were uncharacteristic of him; it was the power the ring had over him. As soon as he was rid of the ring, he was free; it was as though he woke up after a long hibernation full of terrible nightmares. The look of relief and light that flooded through him reminded me of how I feel when I start breaking through my own periods of depression. He could feel again. He could breathe again. He saw the world as himself again, and he was at peace and happy...despite being stuck on a rock surrounded by lava in the ruins of Mordor. He realized how far away from himself the ring took him, and the fact that he could feel and know his life, memories, and happiness again was the most uplifting and reassuring notion he had in a very long time. He had been a prisoner of the dark and was now free to feel the light.

Notice the motif of light used in The Lord of the Rings. The Light of Elendil, given to Frodo by Galadriel, was a light for him in the most dire and hopeless of times, like when he fought off the giant (and hungry) spider that tried to kill and eat him. The spider, an instrument of evil, was scared off by the light. Orcs, Sauron's disgusting and horrific soldiers, couldn't run in the sunlight; the sun's light repelled them. Gandalf's light from his staff warded off the Nazgul to save the soldiers of Gondor. The light from Gandalf's staff also shone before him as a beacon of hope at Helm's Deep when the Riders of Rohan showed up at the last hour to spare Rohan defeat and ultimate destruction. The light brought hope when no one had any left. Every time light appeared in the movie, it felt like you were being enveloped in a warm blanket of safety and security. It meant relief, calm, peace, love, goodness, and hope. It meant seeing life again.

Light and dark, happiness/relief and depression--they run in parallel; they are so much alike. When the veil of depression lifts, I feel like I can see things I haven't seen in a very long time. I not only see light around me and see more clearly, but I actually feel lighter, as though a heavy weight has been lifted off of my heart. When I watched Frodo's reaction after shedding the weight of the ring, I realized I had a deeper connection to him than I had thought.

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