A far green country. It is a track on The Lord of the Rings film score, but it is also Denmark. In the movie, the far green country is the Shire, where the hobbits live. It is where Bilbo, Frodo and Sam are from. At the end of the first Hobbit movie, the prelude to The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf says to Bilbo that he is a very fine person but also quite a little one in a wide world. Gandalf knew Bilbo had found a magic ring, and Bilbo lied to him that he lost it. Gandalf reminds Bilbo of his smallness not to belittle him but to make sure he is mindful of the very important truth there are greater things at work beyond his knowledge and control. Hobbits are physically little people compared to other creatures in the world of Middle Earth and live in small homes built by digging holes under hills. Traveling with the dwarves on their journey to the Lonely Mountain, though, Bilbo showed courage and determination twice his size. Bilbo put his life at risk out of love for the dwarf company he had grown very fond of. He tells the Elvish king, who dislikes the dwarves above all, that the dwarves can be extremely stubborn and prideful and almost loyal to a fault, like everyone thinks they are. But they are also the fiercest of friends and give all of themselves in every pursuit. Bilbo comes to love them for all of it, the stubbornness and genuineness. Though, at first, he was quite put off by them. When Bilbo first meets the dwarf company, they eat all his food and dirty his spotless home. He is not used to so much activity and chaos in his hole in the ground. Bilbo is more accustomed to a solo life with his books and garden, smoking his pipe, while keeping an eye on his neighbors. Meals and teatime are always the same. He lives a quiet life, and “nothing unexpected ever happens.” Like all hobbits, Bilbo enjoys the simple pleasures of life. They know how to have a good time together, drinking and partying and genuinely finding pleasure in each other’s company.
I think this is quite like the Danish people. They are a rather small country in a wide world. They aren’t especially little, but they drive little cars and have little houses with beautiful gardens, which they take the best care of. The Danish love drinking and partying and spending time with one another. “Hygge” is their thing, after all, and it is the purest of things.
“The ritual of enjoying life’s simple pleasures. Probably the best moment.”
This, too, is the lifestyle of the hobbits. It isn’t until Gandalf and the ring come around that Bilbo, first, and Frodo and Sam, second, journey away from their far green country. This journey away from the simple pleasures helps them see the true meaning behind them. The sacredness of their simple pleasures and why they are so important. They realize, though the Shire is a small place in a wide world, it is not forgotten or safe from feeling the effects of evil that may be more evident in other places. The hobbits, too, have a part to play in fighting for the goodness of the world. Living comfortably in a free country does not eliminate the choice between good and evil. The simple pleasures of life cannot protect you from this choice. I’d say it would be a lot easier if they did but not better. And sometimes they can distract us from this choice. It is not enough just to enjoy them. They are part of the goodness given to us to protect, not merely to take advantage of.
Being far from the comfort of their little homes and gardens, the hobbits realize more in themselves and see all they have to give to the world. They peak a glimpse of all they can be and see immense courage and love within themselves. A love even beyond the hygge life. A love that gives much more meaning to the simple pleasures. It is a source of belonging and purpose. It is the thing inside that commits you to a dangerous journey for only the possibility of a good ending. It is what moves you to take less heed of the impact a choice may have on your own life and more concern for the sanctity of truth and goodness and well-being of another. It makes “hygge” make sense.
The simple pleasures of life are not simply for ourselves. They are given for a reason. A taste of something greater. Reminders of who we are and Who the Giver is. Sometimes it just takes being far away to see the truth and reality of things. Sometimes it takes an adventure in the unknown wide world to pull the deep stuff out of you. The lasting stuff. The real stuff we are made of. Life’s simple pleasures can tap into this but cannot manifest it fully. They do not excuse us for the choice we all must make. To know there is goodness in the world, and it is worth fighting for. And the best way we can all fight for it, all as little people in a wide world, is making small acts of love every day. For, the truth is, we are all from a far green country. It is the place we belong but have not arrived in yet. We can experience it wherever we are when we love. It is the place our simple pleasures point to and give us a taste of if we remember. It is the goodness we hold onto and fight for each moment. Our choices either bring us closer to it or lead us farther away. Our acts of love bring us a real sense of it and our confidence in the things of the world distract us from it. When we love, it is not so far away after all.
I find I see myself more clearly in the Danish people. As I spend more time with them, see the purity in their hearts, the wholeness of their lives, and the beauty of their country, I am more certain of the real things in this life. I am convinced we are made for something more than this world. I am assured the eternal things are better than the temporal. I am here for the choice and responsibility to hold onto the good and fight for it. To love ever more deeply. Though I am living in their far green country together with them, I realize a deeper longing, still, for the not-so-far green country we all belong to.
I love you dad,