I will take the Ring, though I do not know the way. Frodo Baggins, at the Council of ElrondThe mere recollection of this declaration, says writer Mark Eddy Smith, "can move me to tears. I have been reading this tale since I was eleven years old, taking it from my shelf every year or so and returning to Middle-earth. . . . As I get older and learn more of what sort of person I am, and continue sojourning to the rich soil of the Shire and the high tower of Minas Tirith, I discover that many of my notions of what is good and right and noble in this world have their source in that one."For Smith, like the rest of us, J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings yields essential lessons in living. In this eloquent book, Smith approaches Middle-earth as a training ground, "a place where [we] can apprentice to those whose gifts of charity, wisdom, kindness, mercy, love and faithfulness far surpass [our] own." And, Smith says, we may learn more easily at the feet of Bilbo, Gandalf, Tom Bombadil and Glorfindel, whose world is so far removed from our real lives and yet so firmly rooted in the biblical story, "than [we would] by studying the convoluted facts of our own history." Echoing Tolkien's views on the workings of story, he concludes that "while it can never supplant the Bible, [The Lord of the Rings] may do its part to supplement it, so that we see again, from a different perspective, the same essential and eternal truths."Here then, is a book that mines the gold from Middle-earth, both for long-time fans and for those just getting acquainted with Tolkien and his universe.