Friday, 16 October 2015

Pippin's Oath

In "The Lord Of The Rings" by JRR Tolkein, a young and empty-headed hobbit called Pippin does a brave thing. As the last of the old kingdoms of men and of elves rally together for a last desperate stand against the overwhelming forces of darkness led by the dark lord Sauron, Pippin swears allegiance to Denethor, Steward of Gondor, the ancient stronghold of the kingdom of men. It is a gesture of courage and honour, in which he pledges his life for the land of Gondor, and so becomes a hero. Here, on the left, is his oath, and on the right the marriage vow of the Church of England.

“Here do I swear fealty and service to Gondor,
and to the Lord and Steward of the realm,
to speak and to be silent,
to do and to let be,
to come and to go,
in need or plenty,
in peace or war,
in living or dying,
from this hour henceforth, until my lord release me,
or death take me, or the world end.”
“I,....., take you,.....,
to be my wife,
to have and to hold
from this day forward;
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
till death us do part;
according to God's holy law.”

The similarity is no coincidence. Marriage is rightly a happy time, but underneath the brilliance of flowers and confetti lies an ancient and solemn act of heroism. Each of the partners pledges their life to the other, to stand by them through thick and thin, and implicitly to die for them if necessary. By taking this oath they become more than they are - they become heroes. And their marriage becomes more than the sum of its parts, it will be the kingdom in which they will live out their lives.