Annie Lennox: Into The West

This week's Maitri Tunes, Into the West is from the soundtrack to the Lord of the Rings film. The lyrics to this song refer to the final journey that every hero/ pilgrim must undertake to undo the ego where it was forged in the first place.

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With its soaring score and somber tone, the song illustrates well the complex and beautiful world woven by JRR Tolkein in his Lord of the Rings (LoTR) books. The subject-matter of the song is best explained by this conversation between the hobbit Pippin and the wizard Gandalf in the film ‘The Return of the King’.

PIPPIN: I didn't think it would end this way.

GANDALF: End? No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.

PIPPIN: What? Gandalf? See what?

GANDALF: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.

Hailed as the book of the 20th century by the English-speaking world, Tolkein’s Lord of The Rings (LoTR) is essentially the story of a quest. As elaborated by S. Caldecott in Over the Chasm of Fire, his essay on Tolkein, “The Quest it describes is, on the surface of things, a quest not to find a treasure but to lose one. The ring of invisibility acquired by Bilbo Baggins from Gollum in The Hobbit is discovered to be the long-lost ring of power forged by the Dark Lord in the fires of Mount Doom. It will inevitably corrupt the wearer, or return to its maker, enabling him to conquer Middle Earth, unless it is unmade in the place of its creation.” Frodo Baggins, Bilbo’s heir undertakes the quest to destroy the ring aided by the fellowship of the nine who together represent the free people of Middle Earth.

In the words of S. Caldecott, “The Ring is a symbol of pride and power. It represents everything that draws us into the kingdom of the Dark Lord by tempting us to become like him. Its circular shape is that of the will closed upon itself. Its empty center suggests the void into which we thrust ourselves by using the Ring. The invisibility with which it cloaks the wearer at the same time severs our normal relationship with those around us. We all have such a Ring: it forms the foundation of the our own Dark Tower, namely the Ego, the false self. If this is what the Ring means, its renunciation is impossible, as Tolkein saw, without help from outside, from beyond ourselves (‘grace’). The self cannot unmake the self.”

Right at the end of his quest, Frodo takes the one ring for his own and is saved from this version of himself by grace – the result of an earlier act of compassion, that of sparing the life of Gollum, who having followed Frodo to Mount Doom bites the ring from his hand and falls into the fire. In one of the most memorable lines from LoTR, a book replete with beautifully crafted characters, Gandalf tells Frodo when he declares that Gollum deserves death, “Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”


Lay down
Your sweet and weary head
Night is falling
You’ve come to journey's end
Sleep now
And dream of the ones who came before
They are calling
From across the distant shore

Why do you weep?
What are these tears upon your face?
Soon you will see
All of your fears will pass away
Safe in my arms
You're only sleeping

What can you see
On the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?
Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come to carry you home

And all will turn
To silver glass
A light on the water
All souls pass

Hope fades
Into the world of night
Through shadows falling
Out of memory and time
Don't say, “We have come now to the end”
White shores are calling
You and I will meet again

And you'll be here in my arms
Just sleeping

What can you see
On the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?
Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come to carry you home

And all will turn 
To silver glass
A light on the water
Grey ships pass 
Into the West

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