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Old 05-25-2002, 09:27 AM   #4
Child of the 7th Age
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Here is one more theme which I believe Tolkien would have conceived as being definitely Christian, and therefore, one that you could again investigate draft by draft---that of hope vrs. despair

Repeatedly, in the letters the author says despair is one of the most henious sins, since it means you are substituting your own judgment for that of Eru, i.e. you are assuming that you know the outcome of things better than the One.

Also, Tolkien defines religious hope in a very serious and reflective essay in Morgoth's Ring, Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, which is a discussion between the Elf Finrod and the wise woman Andreth. At the end of the essay, the two postulate that Eru will one day come into Arda in order to help heal it, which is an obvious allusion to the incarnation. Along the way, they also discuss the nature of hope:

"What is hope? she said. "An expectation of good, which though uncertain has some foundations in what is known.? Then we have none."
Finrod replied:

That is one thing that Men call 'Hope'....Amdir we call it, 'looking up'. But there is another which is founded deeper. Estel, we call it, that is 'trust'. It is not defeated by the ways of the world, for it does not come from experience, but from our nature and first being. If we are indeed the Eruhin, the Children of the One, then He will not suffer Himself to be deprived of his own, not by any Enemy, not even by ourselves.... This is the last foundation of Estel, which we keep even when we contemplate the End; of all his designs the issue must be for his Children's joy...
It might be possible to take this definition of Estel and apply it to many scenes in the LotR and see just when Tolkien broughts these themes in. Here are a few places you could look: Sam's almost unflagging commitment not to despair even in Mordor, the wonderful scene where Sam looks up at the sky and realizes the Shadow is but a little thing and all is light, Sam's and Frodo's discussions about hope.

Now, isn't that interesting....most of this is about Sam who obviously is the truest depiction of Estel. And I believe Sam wasn't even in the earliest drafts of LotR. And I don't mean that he got his name changed like Bingo to Frodo. He just wasn't there till later.

So that's a possible clue,but raises another question. What did Tolkien consider to be the earliest drafts and what did he consider to be revision. For some chapters, like the first, he did draft after draft. I would guess that the inclusion of these themes was a gradual process. It didn't happen all in one draft or rewriting. It kind of crept in gradually draft by draft. Is it possible that the deliniation of Sam's character was a critical point in this process? That's just a guess.

Oh, yeah, for despair, you could look at the king's suicide and what gradually happens to Frodo in Mordor, especially after the Orcs get hold of him. Frodo turning to despair is a very serious hint that he will be unable to complete the quest, since, according to the definition above, estel rests on our "nature and first being". Loss of hope is obviously an indication that Frodo's basic nature is being destroyed. As an aside, I have often wondered what the Orcs actually did with Frodo. It can't have been good.

Sorry to keep coming up with more questions instead of answers, but I really believe that even the ground work hasn't been thoroughly done for this question. I haven't seen anything about this in the scholarly literature, and I do make a point of trying to keep up with that, at least as far as the LotR goes.

If someone knows anything written on this topic, please list here. There are some articles which, of course, discuss the Christian/Catholic themes (i.e., Joseph Pearce stuff--both the biography and collection of essays; also recent issue of Touchstone magazine, which is a Christian journal, Jan-Feb 2002 which has 6 great articles including one on the hidden presence of Tolkien's Catholicism in the LotR). But I've never seen anyone systmatically relate this theme to the drafts of the text itself.

Littlemanpoet -- what do you think of all this?

sharon, the 7th age hobbit

[ May 25, 2002: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
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