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Old 10-09-2005, 09:02 PM   #4
Illusionary Holbytla
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Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 7,646
Firefoot has been trapped in the Barrow!
Well, I can hardly resist the discussion on this chapter, being as it's my favorite.

One of the great things about this chapter is the intense imagery it uses. Mordor has been continually described as a dry, desolate land, its only life being twisted thorny plants. Grey and brown have been the predominant color words. Now, we are faced with a scene that is hardly grey, especially in comparison. Lighting and color both jumped out at me.

When Sam first enters Sammath Naur, it's dark. Not glowing red, not lit by daylight: dark. He tries to use the Phial, but it's so dark that even the Phial won't shine. This isn't just a physical dark. This is the heart of the evil land, and not even the pure and piercing light of Eärendil can pierce this darkness - "all other powers were subdued." So Sam steps in further, and then he does get some light - red, fiery, glaring light. This fiery light is frequently used in this chapter as an "evil light." Several times, the Ring is described as a ring of fire. This red light pierces the darkness that Galadriel's Phial wouldn't. The eruption of Orodruin is a "fiery ruin."

Even the absense of light is not a natural darkness, such as Lorien under the stars. It is a stifling unnatural dark - inside the cavern, and also outside of it. It's smoky and full of dizzying fumes. When Frodo confronts Gollum the first time, Sam saw
these two rivals with other vision. A crouching shape, scarecely more than the shadow of a living thing, a creature now wholly ruined and defeated, yet filled with a hideous lust and rage; and before it stood stern, untouchable now by pity, a figure robed in white, but at its breast it held a wheel of fire.
Typically, white is associated with good: in Middle-earth, you have Gandalf the White; Galadriel is always dressed in white; stars, which often represent hope, are white; and in the modern world, purity and holiness are the words that comes to mind. And here we see Frodo in white - showing, perhaps, that he is still good, not wholly under the Ring's power just yet? Yet he is holding a "wheel of fire," and it is out of the fire that the voice spoke, not out of the white figure.

And then, just a short time later as Frodo stands at the Cracks of Doom:
The light sprang up again, and there on the brink of the chasm, at the very Crack of Doom, stood Frodo, black against the glare, tense, erect, but still as if he had been turned to stone.
Now Frodo is seen as the polar opposite, a black silhouette. Black is generally the color of evil - Mordor ("black land"), Morgoth, Sauron, even Gollum, frequently called a shadow in this chapter, are all described as black. It is right about at this moment that Frodo claims the Ring. This shift from white to black, I think, is telling. Before, Frodo still has some control over himself, still has some small part of him that wants to destroy the Ring. After, he cannot will himself to destroy it. This is a strongly related question to "Was it Frodo's will to claim the Ring?" Even if he did will it, he wasn't himself. It says so as Mt. Doom is erupting: "There was Frodo, pale and worn, and yet himself again." Frodo is glad that the Ring has been destroyed. If he, as himself, had really wanted to claim the Ring, I think that he really would be utterly destroyed. As it is, he is hurt maybe even beyond healing, but I would not say that he was destroyed.

The other thing that I'd like to comment on for now is Gollum. The last time we saw Gollum, it was his near redemption, follwed by his subsequent abandoment of the hobbits and his treachery to them. I feel pity for Gollum all the way up until his betrayal of the Hobbits. And then, in this chapter, it all just comes crashing home. He is utterly consumed by Ring, an utterly wretched and shrivelled creature. The other word used to describe him is mad: a wild light of madness in his eyes, dancing like a mad thing. He absolutely isn't the hobbit Smeagol anymore, but the creature Gollum. Altogether a tragic character.

And then there is what may well be my favorite passage, culminated by my favorite quote: "But do you remember Gandalf's words: Even Gollum may have something yet to do? But for him, Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring. The Quest would have been in vain, even at the bitter end. So let us forgive him! For the Quest is achieved, and now all is over. I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam."
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