Not all those who wander are lost.

This line is taken from the first part of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.  It’s been one of my favorite sayings ever since I first read it in middle school.  I was that geek who sat in the lunch room with a huge book.  Granted, lunch was nearly the only time I read for fun, so it took me two years to get through The Lord of the Rings and then The Hobbit.  Since then, I’ve read them several times, and always in that order.

Taken alone, the line says it’s okay to take a minute to look around.  I think this touched me strongly because I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder just months before I read this for the first time.  I felt like Tolkien was telling me, personally, that it is okay to take in whatever is in the world.  I didn’t have to hate myself for not being focused all the time.  There is so much to do and see in the world that it’s alright to be distracted.

Of course, that is taking the line out of context.  It is actually a part of a letter in the form of a poem that goes:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes of a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be the blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

It’s a poetic description of a man that the four travel-weary hobbits are to soon meet.  His name is Aragorn, and he is the heir to the throne of Gondor, although he travels as an outlaw known as Strider.  He is far from shiny and golden when they meet.  He also wanders through the wilderness with his friends/family.  He has no place to be at any certain time.  Although he always knows where he is, he is often traveling without a destination in mind.  Most would view him as lost because of this.  Instead he merely wanders, seeing what there is to see and experiencing whatever he can find.

This is an idea that largely appeals to me.  To be able to wander without having to worry about being somewhere.  To travel and see whatever comes along.  There’s the world’s biggest ball of yarn thirty miles to the west?  I’ll go see it.  See Rock City?  I don’t mind if I do.  I head off to see the beaches of Vancouver, but I end up visiting the Gulf coast instead.

To wander and not be lost is an idea that I love, but I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to live it.

Explore posts in the same categories: Growing Up, Literature

2 Comments on “Not all those who wander are lost.”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    Especially as hard as you’re working on the show, Andrew, it’s good to have some distractions. Sometimes what catches the eye unexpectedly leads us to a new quest.
    Take care.

  2. Bravo! If one wandered then that cannot imply being lost, as looking could not imply being blind… I applaud the search of new things, maybe not new to others but new to me. Its the sign of curiosity… and I think I’d be dead without it.

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