On Building Rivendell, Part 2 is the second in a series of three on weaving the spirit of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Rivendell into one’s home. Unfamiliar with “Rivendell”? No worries, sidle over to Part 1 to enlighten yourself and then come back and read this one.
On Building Rivendell, Part 2
In On Building Rivendell, Part 1, I wrote about the quietness and peace of Rivendell—how it was a place where people came to rest from their journeys and prepare for new ones. J.R.R. Tolkien describes Rivendell as “perfect whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all.”1 Now I wish to address the mention of work in this quote. Tolkien seems to assume some people like working and that it is enjoyable. However, I have not met many people who like work for its own sake and no other reason.
I know of no remedy for the problem of work in this world. So far as I am aware, work is not going away. Therefore, if I wish to fix the problem of work in my life, I must change my attitude. Because work is an inevitable part of life and to despise it would be to despise my life (which does not seem a very reasonable, healthy way to live), I must shift my perspective into a more Tolkienian one and attempt to see work from a different angle. The writer of Ecclesiastes says,
This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy with their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.2
The writer admits that work is part of life. However, he also says it is fitting that we find satisfaction in toilsome labour, for it is a gift from God. The writer of Ecclesiastes also says that “God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.” What a relief! I can take joy in my work because God gives me the grace of a glad heart. Of course, there are ways I can help myself with this as well. I often hum while I work and find this greatly increases my lightness of heart as I perform mundane tasks. Whistling, yodeling, or singing has the same effect.
Furthermore, such joy is infectious and you may soon find that your home is generally a happier (more Rivendellish) place when the people living in it do not complain and grumble about their daily tasks.
May God keep you occupied with gladness of heart, friends.
1J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, Chapter 3
2 thoughts on “On Building Rivendell, Part 2”
Laura and I are in the process of rebuilding our home. We have raised a family and although our daughters’ rooms are still available for them we feel that the identity of our home is beginning to change as we rediscover our relationship to each other after the many years devoted to our children. I find your reflections on Rivendell really helpful as I reflect upon what is happening here. We have a desire to build a home of hospitality and a place where good work can take place. Right now we are beginning to think about life after being formally employed. Yesterday we moved half a ton of topsoil into a raised bed at 7 in the morning before going to our work because we want to grow our own food. That will be one kind of work and related to hospitality. Another will be the desire to write more. Laura is a doctor and I know that she wants to do work promoting healthy living in the city. Probably involving the creation of another garden.
I love your invitation to think about the building of “homely houses”. Please stay with it. It will be transformative if more people start to do it.
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Thank you for your encouragement, Mr. Winter. I am glad to hear you and your wife are taking such thought in building your home. In truth, it only takes a few “homely houses” to make the world a bit more beautiful.
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