Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Barrow-Wight's Curse

Cold be hand and heart and bone,
and cold be sleep under stone:
never more to wake on stony bed,
never, till the Sun fails and the Moon is dead.

In the black wind the stars shall die,
and still on gold here let them lie,
till the dark lord lifts his hand
over dead sea and withered land.

— The Fellowship of the Ring - Book 1, Ch. 8 "Fog on the Barrow-downs"

Barrow wights inhabit the tombs of Kings who tried to take it all with them, hence the amount of wealth in the tomb.  Thus they fell prey to the sin of greed, which, I think, leaves them open to the likes of the wights.  The hobbits are likewise doomed to lie on wealth until the world fails.  The effect on greed (and other sin) is the destruction of the cosmos, and of the earth "dead sea and withered land".

When the hobbits are freed by Bombadil, their clothes and erecting on them is all lost.  Indeed they are naked.  But there is a certain joy in that, in that they are free to lie naked in the sun.  Sometimes defeating greed mean being willing to lose our property, and there can be a freedom in that, which includes the enjoyment of all that God freely provides, like sunlight.

Our civilization is caught up in a cycle of greed and despair.  If we go on as we are there will be nothing but dead sea and withered land.  And we may find our souls caught, lying on our useless wealth, in a land of cold and darkness and death.  Can free ourselves from our curse?  Like the hobbits we cannot do so without help — and there will be a price.

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