Today is the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation! We’re celebrating by examining the Five Solas the best way we know how: through the rulers in Lord of the Rings. We just looked at Solus Christus through The Boast of Aragorn. For more information, see our preview post.
Spoiler warning:this post does contain minor spoilers for the film version of The Fellowship of the Ring.
The animosity between dwarves and elves is subtle, but even so it is quite apparent after the council in Rivendell: Gimli does not trust Legolas, and Legolas has open haughtiness and disdain for Gimli.
But as the two forge a fast friendship in their adventures, they have an all-to-brief encounter with Galadriel, the co-ruler of Lothlórien. She takes in the Fellowship, giving them aid in their desperate hour after Gandalf loses his battle with the Balrog. Before they leave her wood, she gives each member of the Fellowship a gift.
For Frodo, it is a bottle filled with starlight; for Legolas, a mighty bow. But Gimli—a dwarf, a rival of the elves—asks for and receives strands of her hair. The request delights Galadriel, who gives him three when all he asks for is one. Gimli vows to cherish it forever: “I have taken my worst wound at this parting,” he tells Legolas later, “having looked my last upon that which is fairest. Henceforth I will call nothing fair unless it be her gift to me.”
Favor upon the Undeserving
Interestingly, according to some of Tolkien’s other works, Gimli’s request was not the first time Galadriel had been asked for a strand of her hair.
Fëanor beheld the hair of Galadriel with wonder and delight. He begged three times for a tress, but Galadriel would not give him even one hair.
So Galadriel did not give out her hair to just anyone who asked, or even to anyone else at all. In fact, some would call Fëanor the greatest of all elves in history, and he didn’t receive her grace. But Gimli was not a particularly distinguished dwarf; he had not, by the time he met Galadriel, done anything of great importance to Middle-Earth. He was not a ruler or a champion. In fact, he was still unsure whether elves were even trustworthy.
He didn’t deserve her hairs, said to be so valuable that they inspired Fëanor to create the mystical Silmarils. But in her grace, she gave them to Gimli anyway.
Gifts of Grace
The undeserved grace from Galadriel, bestowed on Gimli in the form of a beautiful gift, points us to the Reformation doctrine of Sola Gratia: Grace Alone saves us before God, not our works or our knowledge or our lineage. We didn’t deserve it, but God gave it to us anyway.
The world would tell us that we must live rightly, or be from a particular race in order to earn God’s favor; or it will tell us that we’re all worthy of God’s gifts on our own merits. But the Bible insists that we aren’t righteous; no one is. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24, ESV)
We were enemies of God, and He chose to pour out His grace on us. He didn’t simply choose the “less-deserving.” He gave His gifts to His enemies.
May we not call anything fair unless it be this gift to us.
• • •
Continue celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation with us! The final article is coming soon.
Thanks for reading Redeeming Culture!