The hobbits from Lord of the Rings are lovers of food and earth and hearth, the three greats of life in the Shire. While they may seem simple at first glance, they have a hidden gift: stewardship of nature. As it happens, stewardship in many forms is a major theme woven throughout all of Lord of the Rings.
What is stewardship? It is a character trait not spoken of much in today’s culture. It is a mindset of preservation for future generations, of holding resources in trust for posterity as a legacy. Most commonly, today’s generation might think of environmentalism as stewardship – preserving the earth for our children. But this is only one sense of the word.
In Middle-Earth, nearly every culture is a steward of something. The hobbits are stewards of the earth through building, cooking, and gardening. They are great lovers of the earth and its natural beauty. The city of Gondor, without a king for so many years, has a nobleman as its leader called the Steward of Gondor. His job is to protect the city from invaders and preserve it for when the king returns. The dwarves preserve their own heritage and their gold under the mountains, stewarding their treasure for their children. Stewardship can be about protecting wealth or the earth, but it can also be much more.
Perhaps the most important stewards of Lord of the Rings are the elves. As ancient, immortal creatures, they have a deeply rooted knowledge of history and tradition. They are the keepers and stewards of knowledge in Middle-Earth. They preserve their heritage and the history of the world, and they share their wisdom when it is needed.
Stewardship is concerned with protecting traditions, preserving history and the earth, and passing it all on unharmed to the next generation. In modern culture which is so often focused on now that it loses sight of the future, stewardship is an underrated virtue. The world changes so quickly, so what is the point in trying to preserve anything for the future? As human culture and technology evolve, we have more need now than ever of history and tradition as something solid to hold onto. As long as society exists, stewardship will never be obsolete.
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