Life in the Shire: Reflections after Three Months of Marriage

Tobias and I have been married for three months, setting up our home, establishing a routine, combining official affairs, and growing with one another. As always, I find that writing is the best way to share and catalog the experiences of life.

For the benefit of those who aren’t familiar with Lord of the Rings, the fictional place I am referring to (the Shire) is the land of Hobbits: short, humble people who didn’t like to stray far from their little pubs, smoking pipes, second breakfasts, and hobbit holes. And yet, the hobbits are the heroes of the story, who do leave the Shire on a grand adventure and rid the world of evil.

It took a little time and much effort, but with the help of my husband, I believe that we have built our own little Shire at home. And in achieving this seemingly mundane thing, we have uncovered a timeless truth.

You see, The Lord of the Rings books are riddled with Christian themes and lessons. The Shire was almost certainly inspired by Tolkien’s life in verdant, green, village England, with neighbors, family close by, merry roads for walking, hills for climbing, stories for telling, and ales for cheering. The appreciation and longing for home–for the Shire–was amplified for Tolkien when he spent time in the trenches during World War I. Just like the story, it is in going away from the Shire does one truly realize the simplistic beauty of it.

“The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Believe me, there are many days in our home that are not as perfect as I imagine the Shire to be… but there are many moments that are. Before marriage, I used to live my life very selfishly, in my own space, doing whatever I wished, and believing that was Heaven on Earth. It was not, for it was devoid of the warmth and joy of sharing a home with another in a society that we had created: a family.

The past few months, I have come to understand that there is no hobbit without the Shire. That is exactly what we are striving to build: a Shire-like home. We craft warm meals together, limit television time so that we may have more conversations, fill the rooms with bookshelves, drink the best tea and wine and coffee we can find, write notes, pray, take walks, make love, and make memories.

But that’s only the half of it, isn’t it? Because in order to have the home, one must leave the home in order to protect and defend it, just as the hobbits had to leave the Shire to do the same.

For humans, it may not look so courageous or bold, but be assured that it is no less dramatic than Tolkien’s fictional wars. There is nothing the Devil hates more than the Christian home with a Christian family dwelling inside. Our battle may not be with orcs and dragons, but it is very much a battle for (spiritual) life or death. Assuredly, we must leave the home for our work, for our obligations and duties. We must defend the innocent inside the home from intruders, both in the physical realm and the spiritual realm. Like Tolkien when he went to war, it is only when leaving the home do we realize just how precious and holy it is.

To stray momentarily from the main subject, Tolkien’s contemporary and friend, C.S. Lewis, also knew the immense treasure found within “the Shire,” stating that government’s only right purpose is to defend it.

“The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging his own garden–that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time.”

C.S. Lewis

Our modern society gets one thing very wrong. In fact, it inverts this truth, which is exactly how Satan operates. Society tells us that the home only exists as a resting place so that we can return to the workplace. We rest in order to work, it states.

But the right order of life is the opposite: We work in order to rest. I mentioned this in my last blog post about the Sabbath Day. The work–or the battle outside the home–is not the point. The Shire is the whole point of life. It’s where children can grow and stories can be read and fires can glow and ale can be shared with friends for an eleventieth birthday. It must be intentionally cultivated and protected at all costs. It is home, one of the only places Heaven can exist on Earth.

“I should like to save the Shire, if I could – though there have been times when I thought the inhabitants too stupid and dull for words, and have felt that an earthquake or an invasion of dragons might be good for them. But I don’t feel like that now. I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

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