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Old 05-23-2019, 02:04 AM   #1
Urwen
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Character redemption

Is it possible that some Tolkien characters could have been redeemed without dying/being killed?
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Old 05-23-2019, 02:21 AM   #2
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Is it possible that some Tolkien characters could have been redeemed without dying/being killed?
Yes: Osse. He defected to Morgoth, but Uinen was able to successfully plead for leniency and bring him back to the side of the Valar.

I would argue that both Maedhros and Maglor have redemption plots: Maedhros when he surrenders the High Kingship (though obviously he turns bad again by the end) and Maglor when he throws the Silmaril into the Sea.

There's actually not that many 'is redeemed and dies' plots in Tolkien. Turin, if you consider him in need of redemption. Boromir, always. Arguably Thorin. But the likes of Maeglin, Feanor, Saruman, Denethor, Gollum - they aren't redeemed. They die (so to speak) in their sins.

Can you present support for your view that redemption == dying in Tolkien? Because I've just named six characters with redemption arcs, split evenly between living and dying.

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Old 05-23-2019, 02:25 AM   #3
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You just named five characters who died without being redeemed, which is what this topic is all about. In a manner of speaking, death is their 'redemption', in a loose sense of the word.
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Old 05-23-2019, 03:19 AM   #4
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You just named five characters who died without being redeemed, which is what this topic is all about. In a manner of speaking, death is their 'redemption', in a loose sense of the word.
I mean... arguably in the case of Gollum, since he actually achieved something good by his death. But I don't see any of the other four as being redeemed by their deaths. They die bad - Maeglin is killed for attempted infanticide, Feanor spends his last words condemning his children to a hopeless war, Saruman dies a petty tyrant, and Denethor burns himself in despair. There's no redemption there - no 'death as atonement', as we might expect from Biblical stories like Judas.

I think that speaks to Tolkien's worldview. He was quite happy to have characters with a grey edge to them - Turin or Eowyn, for instance. They could be redeemed, or find happiness, and that wasn't a problem. But once someone made a deliberate, informed choice to do evil, he really didn't go in much for redemption arcs.

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Old 05-23-2019, 03:26 AM   #5
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Sorry, I meant that their deaths themselves mean they can't do evil things anymore, and are therefore 'redeemed'. And I agree with you for the most part (Lomion's case is an exception).
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Old 05-25-2019, 11:03 AM   #6
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Sorry, I meant that their deaths themselves mean they can't do evil things anymore, and are therefore 'redeemed'. And I agree with you for the most part (Lomion's case is an exception).

I wouldn't call that "redemption," that's just a guarantee against recidivism.

Possibly the only "redemptive deaths" in Tolkien are those of Turin and Boromir. Gollum was acting fully in accord with his evil character, and just happened to fall (or was pushed)- no redemption there, even if good happened to come from his death.
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Old 05-25-2019, 03:11 PM   #7
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Sorry, I meant that their deaths themselves mean they can't do evil things anymore, and are therefore 'redeemed'. And I agree with you for the most part (Lomion's case is an exception).
I agree with Hui and William. The other characters didn't regret what they did, and they did not die with any "good intention". And I hate to break it to you, but neither did Maeglin. Redemption has a necessary element of self-initiation: an understanding that one did wrong, regret, desire to undo or fix the damage. Turin and Boromir have that, and for them the price of the undoing process is their deaths. But Maeglin doesn't have any of that. He does not regret any of his misdeeds and only deepens them. His death is not the price he chooses to pay for his atonement, it's an unfortunate outcome. As Hui said, Maeglin died with his sins.


What I am curious to know people's thoughts on is Grima, because I love that scene and his character there. I wouldn't go as far as to say he is redeemed, but he does have a glimmer of light in a Gollum 2.0 kind of way. He is about to turn his back on his past and learn a little love and kindness. Then Saruman crosses the line and pushes him into a state of hatered and rage, which is how he dies. Grima dies having paid for his sins, though not really regretting them (sorry that it failed but not that he did it sort of feeling), having opened a door into a better way of living but not stepping through it. How is he to be judged?

Mind you, I'm not sure that Grima killing Saruman is a sin in the same way, say, Turin's murders are, even the accidental ones. It's justice and poetic justice, it doesn't seem wrong in context. But it's also not right, again given the context of forgiveness as the emphasized virtue.

Now that I think of it, with his death Grima paid for Saruman's death, not for anything else he's done or been. But what was he at the end? Did he die Gollum or Smeagol?
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Old 05-28-2019, 07:04 AM   #8
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What I am curious to know people's thoughts on is Grima, because I love that scene and his character there. I wouldn't go as far as to say he is redeemed, but he does have a glimmer of light in a Gollum 2.0 kind of way. He is about to turn his back on his past and learn a little love and kindness. Then Saruman crosses the line and pushes him into a state of hatered and rage, which is how he dies. Grima dies having paid for his sins, though not really regretting them (sorry that it failed but not that he did it sort of feeling), having opened a door into a better way of living but not stepping through it. How is he to be judged?

Mind you, I'm not sure that Grima killing Saruman is a sin in the same way, say, Turin's murders are, even the accidental ones. It's justice and poetic justice, it doesn't seem wrong in context. But it's also not right, again given the context of forgiveness as the emphasized virtue.

Now that I think of it, with his death Grima paid for Saruman's death, not for anything else he's done or been. But what was he at the end? Did he die Gollum or Smeagol?
I think the key difference between Grima and Gollum is that Gollum's near-redemption was the result of kindness. He was treated well by Frodo, and the spark of Smeagol within him responded to that; it was Sam's unthinking actions that ruined it.

Grima, though, was moved to a kind of false repentance by cruelty. As you say, he's not sorry for most of his actions (possibly Lotho's death), but he hates Saruman. What he's tempted by doesn't seem to be redemption, but defection. Had he somehow been able to take Frodo's offer, he would have rested, had food and shelter for a while - then headed off to, like as not, take up some other unpleasant occupation.

It is to Tolkien's credit as a writer that he makes us feel pity for a character who has really been a stereotypical evil minion the entire time we've known him. But ultimately, Grima kills Saruman out of personal, selfish anger, not to make the world better, but simply to get him out of his face. I don't think that's a redemption arc.

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Old 05-28-2019, 08:46 AM   #9
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I think the key difference between Grima and Gollum is that Gollum's near-redemption was the result of kindness. He was treated well by Frodo, and the spark of Smeagol within him responded to that; it was Sam's unthinking actions that ruined it.

Grima, though, was moved to a kind of false repentance by cruelty. As you say, he's not sorry for most of his actions (possibly Lotho's death), but he hates Saruman. What he's tempted by doesn't seem to be redemption, but defection. Had he somehow been able to take Frodo's offer, he would have rested, had food and shelter for a while - then headed off to, like as not, take up some other unpleasant occupation.

It is to Tolkien's credit as a writer that he makes us feel pity for a character who has really been a stereotypical evil minion the entire time we've known him. But ultimately, Grima kills Saruman out of personal, selfish anger, not to make the world better, but simply to get him out of his face. I don't think that's a redemption arc.

hS
Defection is the perfect word for it. Thank you for helping me phrase the difference in words. And I agree that up to this point there has not been redemption. But I think there might have been a possibility of one. You think that after resting up Grima would be off with other shenanigans, but I had a feeling that this was a turning point for his life in two ways - to escape cruelty directed at him, and also to avoid cruelty he was forced to inflict on others. He clearly has no joy about whatever it was he did to Lotho. His mode of evil in in intrigue and high state affairs. If he stuck around, he might have taught some hobbits to cheat on taxes. But I think when he saw kindness at the critical point he might have had a Gollum moment, and may have answered with kindness too. But that's all speculation, annd based more on Frodo's line of successes in the business of forgiveness than on Grima himself.
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Old 06-06-2019, 05:39 PM   #10
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Lobelia Sackville Baggins has a redemptive story arc,
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Old 08-07-2019, 02:43 PM   #11
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Lobelia Sackville Baggins has a redemptive story arc,
She does indeed.

The basis of her feud with Bilbo (and afterward, Frodo) seems to have been Bilbo's return from an apparent certain death in the Wild, preventing her and Otho from possessing Bag End. That's really a petty foundation for a grudge! Perhaps the worst example of genteel Hobbit 'entitlement' mentality.

It took being imprisoned by the Ruffians and the murder of her son by outsiders to make her see that comfortable Shire living wasn't her right, and that her money couldn't guarantee her safety, nor bring Lotho back. A hard lesson, but one she accepted in the end.
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Old 08-07-2019, 07:34 PM   #12
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As I understand the question, Boromir.

Had he not died he would have joined the three hunters. Allowing him distance from the ring and gaining some perspective and maybe wisdom along the way.
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Old 08-08-2019, 12:57 PM   #13
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She does indeed.

The basis of her feud with Bilbo (and afterward, Frodo) seems to have been Bilbo's return from an apparent certain death in the Wild, preventing her and Otho from possessing Bag End. That's really a petty foundation for a grudge! Perhaps the worst example of genteel Hobbit 'entitlement' mentality.

It took being imprisoned by the Ruffians and the murder of her son by outsiders to make her see that comfortable Shire living wasn't her right, and that her money couldn't guarantee her safety, nor bring Lotho back. A hard lesson, but one she accepted in the end.
I always imagined that there were some deeper quarrel, not necessarily less petty, but older. Like different branches of the same royal house would be in conflicts for centuries back in the day.

Was it normal for Hobbits to adopt relatives like their own, if not, then I perhaps one can understand why Lobelia would be a tad miffed by missing out on Bag End?
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Old 08-08-2019, 03:27 PM   #14
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I always imagined that there were some deeper quarrel, not necessarily less petty, but older. Like different branches of the same royal house would be in conflicts for centuries back in the day.

Was it normal for Hobbits to adopt relatives like their own, if not, then I perhaps one can understand why Lobelia would be a tad miffed by missing out on Bag End?
Well, it does seem that Bilbo adopting Frodo did throw everyone for a loop, but the Gaffer, for one, didn't think it scandalous.

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'Mr. Bilbo never did a kinder deed than when he brought the lad back to live among decent folk'.
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Then again, Bilbo was his employer, and he didn't care much for the SBs.

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The Sackville-Bagginses won't never see the inside of Bag End now, or it is to be hoped not.
Bag End was an exceptionally desirable abode. Bilbo's father used Took-money from his wife to build it, and apparently could have made himself quite a career as a hobbit home-builder. Still, doesn't seem to merit the amount of animosity between Bilbo and the SBs.
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Old 08-08-2019, 05:12 PM   #15
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Bag End was an exceptionally desirable abode. Bilbo's father used Took-money from his wife to build it, and apparently could have made himself quite a career as a hobbit home-builder. Still, doesn't seem to merit the amount of animosity between Bilbo and the SBs.
Lobelia and the Sackville-Baggins clan are Tolkien's snide commentary on British social climbers. Even the hyphenated name Sackville-Baggins indicates "putting on airs". Tolkien himself notes the pomposity of the Sackville-Bagginses, and particularly Otho's role, in Letter 214 [undated draft, probably late 1958-early 1959]:

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For the nominal headship of the Sackvilles had come to him through his mother Camellia. It was his rather absurd ambition to achieve the rare distinction of being 'head' of two families (he would probably then have called himself Baggins-Sackville-Baggins): a situation which will explain his exasperation with the adventures and disappearances of Bilbo, quite apart from the loss of property involved in the adoption of Frodo.
Lobelia, being the hard-driving and shrewish force behind Otho, would naturally despise both Bilbo (for living) and Frodo (for getting in the way of the ultimate dual headship and the prestige she was certain was due to her).

An interesting thought is that Lobelia became a hero not because she fundamentally changed her attitude (or her peevish nature); rather, due to the circumstances, her native stubbornness and haughtiness cast her as a foil against Sharky and his men, and she became a champion of resistance because she retained her faults.
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Old 08-08-2019, 08:26 PM   #16
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Lobelia and the Sackville-Baggins clan are Tolkien's snide commentary on British social climbers. Even the hyphenated name Sackville-Baggins indicates "putting on airs".
As does the pretentiously Frenchified name Sackville itself. I would venture that one of Otho's ancestors changed it from Sackton or Sackham (or possibly Sackby, but I don't think they were a Northfarthing family).
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