9 Best Quotes from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings Books

By Shannon O'Toole

Beginning in 2003, fans of Middle-earth around the world have celebrated the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien on Tolkien Reading Day. It is aptly celebrated on March 25 to coincide with the destruction of the One Ring.

While The Lord of the Rings films contain many direct quotes from Tolkien’s work, there are many lines that did not make it to the silver screen. Here are nine of our favorite quotes from The Lord of the Rings books.

“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.” – Faramir

Faramir shares this insight with Frodo when the two first meet in The Two Towers. In stark difference with the movie, Faramir shuns the Ring, telling Frodo that he and Boromir are different in this regard.

Faramir knows that at times, people find themselves in positions that demand they fight. He uses the difference between himself and his late brother as a case study in how people approach that necessity. While Boromir was “fearless, often rash,” Faramir does not crave the renown of battle. Instead, he finds his motivation to continue his fight against the enemy in the things that he defends.

“The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out.” – Gildor

As the Hobbits depart the Shire, they meet Elves on their way to the Grey Havens. Frodo tells one of the Elves, named Gildor, about the Ringwraiths that pursued them. Gildor tells Frodo that they must press onward with speed. This advice is met with shock from Frodo. He laments that even the Shire is no longer safe.

Gildor offers this wisdom in response to Frodo’s horror. The Elf understands that in frightening times it can be tempting to seek shelter in safe places. On the other hand, he recognizes that eventually the threat of the enemy would touch even the idyllic lands of the Shire, demanding that the Hobbits leave the comforts of home behind.

“It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.” – Hamfast Gamgee

As Sam and Frodo sit in Lothlórien, they reflect on their time there among Elf magic, and fondly remember Gandalf the Grey. Sam says he wishes they could just stay, but he feels within him the awareness that they need to leave soon.

He reflects on sage words his father shared with him: “It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.” Indeed, most of the characters in The Lord of the Rings face intimidating tasks. Continuing to seek comfort in the safety of the Elvish lands is tempting. Sam knows that they have a job to do, however, and that the longer they linger the longer their journey will take.

“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” – Gimli

The Fellowship is formed in Rivendell following the Council of Elrond. As the company prepares to leave, Elrond tells those that volunteered that the task of destroying the Ring belongs only to Frodo. He informs the group that each of them can change course or even turn around should they decide to do so.

Despite lacking a full grasp on the nature of the dangers ahead, Gimli tells Elrond, “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” Gimli’s words speak to the values of loyalty, hope, and courage in the face of challenging times. Despite not swearing any kind of oath, every Fellowship member embodies and holds true to Gimli’s wisdom.

“Courage is found in unlikely places.” – Gildor

In the brief time that Gildor spends with the Hobbits, he shares a wealth of wisdom. Gildor encourages Frodo to make haste. He further refuses to speak more of the Nazgûl beyond confirming that they are deadly servants of the enemy.

With the weight of the journey ahead heavy on his heart, Frodo asks Gildor, “But where shall I find courage?” Gildor tells Frodo, “Courage is found in unlikely places.” Although Gildor had only known Frodo for a short time, he recognized strength in him. This quote also rings true throughout the trilogy, as the Hobbits find themselves responsible for turning the tides of the war on many occasions.

“He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.” – Gandalf

Gandalf recalls the betrayal of Saruman at the Council of Elrond. He tells of all that transpired, revealing that Saruman was now in league with Sauron. He recounts the words the two wizards spoke to one another, including his own observation that, “He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.”

Gandalf makes this remark even before knowing the depths of Saruman’s corruption. Saruman turned his back on his mission in Middle-earth, choosing instead to make great forges, weapons, and even creating the Uruk-hai. Gandalf recognizes that true wisdom is found in protecting and fighting for what is right, not in seeking power at any cost.

“In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory.” – Aragorn

The relationship between Aragorn and Arwen is not a focal point in the main part of the book trilogy. J.R.R. Tolkien spoke of its importance, however, and included their love story in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings.

Arwen knew when she made her choice to stay with Aragorn that death would eventually come for them both. Still, when the time comes, she struggles to accept their parting. To comfort her, Aragorn encourages her not to despair, and tells her that he believes they will find each other again. His words soften the pain that comes with the inevitability of grief and being left behind.

“It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not.” – Gandalf

The fate of the Ring and the world itself is discussed among some of the strongest and wisest folk in Middle-earth. As discussions progress, it becomes increasingly evident that the only choice available is to destroy the One Ring. As those present remark on the folly of such an errand, Gandalf notes their hopelessness.

He reminds them that one can only truly despair when they know all is lost. He recognizes that they still have a chance. Furthermore, he can see that the inherently small odds of success could work in their favor; Sauron might never consider that they would destroy the Ring. Gandalf recognizes that even with overwhelming obstacles ahead, they still have hope.

“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.” – Haldir

Following the loss of Gandalf, the Fellowship seeks refuge in Lothlórien. Grief-stricken by loss and frightened by the perils they had faced and those to come, Merry remarks he was not sure he would have left the Shire at all if he knew what was ahead of him.

Haldir validates Merry’s feelings, acknowledging that the world is full of danger and darkness. He tells Merry that there is still good in the world, even if there is grief as well. Beyond that, he wisely notes that grief itself can make the love that already exists stronger.

Many of J.R.R. Tolkien’s most beloved quotes are featured in the movie trilogy. Given the length of the books and inherent time restrictions of feature-length films, it is understandable that certain lines and even sequences and characters were cut. Fans of Middle-earth can find inspiration and comfort in more of Tolkien’s wisdom by reading his works.

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