Embrace Unlikely Heroes; Lessons from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Not So Different

In this special, three-part series, we are working through the The Lord of the Rings trilogy, book by book, to discuss the lessons each book can teach a cappella groups. If you haven’t read the books before, beware—this series does include spoilers.

Careful readers will be quick to discover that The Lord of the Rings is about far more than elves and dwarves and orcs; it’s a story with countless parallels to the real world in which we all live, that one might interpret through historical, political, philosophical or religious lenses. One of the most enduring themes that spans the trilogy, and appears most prominently in Fellowship is the idea that unlikely heroes are not to be trifled with; indeed, it is the underdogs who often carry the day.

And so, in the first book of Tolkien’s trilogy, the forces of good face the threat of apocalyptic evil which they can only hope to thwart by destroying a magic ring. The twist: the ring can only be destroyed in the fiery lair of Mordor. The other twist: the ring has a nasty habit of taking control of its bearer—making him evil, obsessed, and potentially powerful. Therefore, the most likely heroes—the wizards, the men, and other strong personalities—face the greatest threats of becoming awesome evil forces under the ring’s influence, besides which they’re unlikely go to undetected along the journey to destroy the thing.

This leaves Frodo and his band of hobbit friends to carry the weight of the ring. Though their more powerful allies join them in forming the fellowship, it is the smallest, weakest creatures assigned the ultimate responsibility of saving the world.

In the context of your a cappella group, consider your underdogs: the people who don’t often get solos; whose song ideas you haven’t given a fair shake in your repertoire, people haven’t arranged or choreographed before. Celebrating such personalities will not only help to diversify what you bring to the stage, but also give them more buy-in in the group, and just might offer up a secret weapon to add a new dimension to what you do—a startling new approach to delivering a solo, or an off-beat song choice that will be truly different from what anyone else is in the a cappella world has taken on.

You should also bear in mind the potential for today’s meeker voices to become the future leaders of the group. Trust someone with responsibility, and you may be surprised at how readily—and how mightily—they rise to the challenge. Long after your own fellowship breaks off, between graduating seniors, study abroad trips, and changing interests, these voices may carry on the legacy and continue the journey to the group’s ultimate destination.