Movies often depict their main protagonist just before completing some undoable task. They’ll be seen pacing back and forth, sweat glistening on their brow and their mind a clutter as they attempt to gather their courage, yet finding it to be in short stock. Then, just as all seems hopeless, just as they’re beginning to come to the conclusion that all is lost and desperation begins to take root in their heart, something seemingly mundane will catch their eye – a cat grooming itself, children playing in the street, their loved ones enjoying a wholesome moment, or the quiet serenity that is nature. From the ordinary will stem something extraordinary, and it is from here that they’ll summon the courage to go on ahead and conquer their fear.
Legendary author J. R. R. Tolkien summarized this neatly in a single quote:
“Courage is found in unlikely places.”
Bibliophiles may know Tolkien from his famed and critically acclaimed novels, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’. If you’re not a bookworm however, you too have probably read a Tolkien quote in your lifetime of scrolling through Instagram. That’s right, the infamous InstaGirl quotes “Not all those who wonder are lost” and “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” were coined by none other than Tolkien himself. But we’ll leave the analysis of those to the lovely boys and girls of Instagram. Today is about the lesser known of his quotes.
Tolkien gifted this famous line to a wise Elf character by the name of Gildor. In turn, Gildor graciously bestowed this advice on to the story’s central character, a timid little hobbit named Frodo, who was charged with the trivial task of saving the world only to realize that a terrible force had sent it’s minions after him. Terrified and unwilling to continue on his journey, but fully appreciating the necessity of it, Frodo implored to the elf “But where will I find the courage?” to which Gildor replied, “Courage is found in unlikely places. Be of good hope!”
Despite being the hero of the story, Frodo is constantly afraid of the task he must carry out, but that doesn’t make him any less of a hero. The real struggle and characteristic of a hero is not that they are without fear, but that they carry on in spite of it. In other words, what makes a hero is that they have courage in the midst of fear. Some people, whether they’re on the battlefield or simply watching a horror movie alone in the dark, choose to do something that scares them, and be brave in response to that fear. It is also interesting to note that Tolkien links courage to hope. He implies that the first step to having the courage to do something is not only wanting it to happen, but to some degree expecting it to somehow, against the odds, happen. Perhaps it is the hope to have courage that can be found in unlikely places
So, to the readers I give this advice: when faced with fear, look around you and search for hope. From hope find courage, and with that courage conquer your fears again and again, because to find courage in unlikely places makes heroes of unlikely people. Our own local stories of people like Aitzaz Hasan, the high school boy who tackled a suicide bomber, and the principal who stepped between a shooter and her students in Peshawar could tell you that.