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Old 02-05-2016, 08:46 PM   #1
Mithadan
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Ring The Fellowship - doomed to fail

In a recent thread, "The Doom of the Ring," I made the following comment:

"It is clear that Frodo did not have the will to destroy the Ring himself, particularly after the grueling journey to and into Mordor. By the time he stood at Sammath Naur, he had possessed the Ring for 17 years. Isildur, who possessed it for perhaps a matter of hours, could not be convinced to destroy it. What is remarkable is that Frodo had the will to even travel to Mount Doom with the intent to do away with the Ring. I have often wondered what Gandalf, who feared contact with the Ring himself, intended to do if he came to Mount Doom with Frodo. Surely he at least suspected that Frodo would have to be coerced or "assisted" to destroy the Ring.

Gollum's intervention, under the circumstances, was an ideal solution."

Thinking about this, I wondered what was the plan? What could Gandalf have had in mind if the Fellowship, or some potion of it, reached Mount Doom? Was there any circumstance under which Frodo might have completed the quest voluntarily and destroyed the Ring? Could he have been coerced or assisted?
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Old 02-05-2016, 10:31 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Mithadan View Post
In a recent thread, "The Doom of the Ring," I made the following comment:

"It is clear that Frodo did not have the will to destroy the Ring himself, particularly after the grueling journey to and into Mordor. By the time he stood at Sammath Naur, he had possessed the Ring for 17 years. Isildur, who possessed it for perhaps a matter of hours, could not be convinced to destroy it. What is remarkable is that Frodo had the will to even travel to Mount Doom with the intent to do away with the Ring. I have often wondered what Gandalf, who feared contact with the Ring himself, intended to do if he came to Mount Doom with Frodo. Surely he at least suspected that Frodo would have to be coerced or "assisted" to destroy the Ring.

Gollum's intervention, under the circumstances, was an ideal solution."

Thinking about this, I wondered what was the plan? What could Gandalf have had in mind if the Fellowship, or some potion of it, reached Mount Doom? Was there any circumstance under which Frodo might have completed the quest voluntarily and destroyed the Ring? Could he have been coerced or assisted?
Possibly Gandalf had no concrete plan. His plan may have been in its entirety just to get the Ring to Mount Doom. Beyond that there was no plan but to trust in Eru to provide a solution.

On the other hand, given his experience with successfully persuading Bilbo to give up the Ring that perhaps Gandalf could have persuaded Frodo to destroy it...on the assumption that Gandalf intended to accompany Frodo to the end (which I think he did).

However, on the whole I suspect the first answer is closer to the truth.

Pushing Frodo into the Crack of Doom (as practical a solution as that would be) could not possibly have been contemplated.
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Last edited by Kuruharan; 08-31-2017 at 01:45 PM. Reason: Over a year later I come back and notice a typo...the shame
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Old 02-06-2016, 12:08 AM   #3
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Possibly Gandalf had no concrete plan. His plan may have been in its entirety just to get the Ring to Mount Doom. Beyond that there was no plan but to trust in Eru to provide a solution.
I agree. I think faith was a major component of Gandalf's plan: he believed that good would succeed in the end, and was primarily interested in arranging the circumstances for it to do so.

Faithfulness, as opposed to a need for certainty, seems to be a general distinction in characterisation between Gandalf and Saruman, and the reason the latter failed his mission - trying to force results by his own power, and that power which he could take, rather than accepting the role of a higher power in events. It goes back to Gandalf's remark about Bilbo and Frodo being "meant" to have the Ring, "and not by its maker."
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Old 02-06-2016, 06:45 AM   #4
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[...]Was there any circumstance under which Frodo might have completed the quest voluntarily and destroyed the Ring? Could he have been coerced or assisted?
As I stated in the doom of the ring - thread, I don't believe any person would have been able to destroy the ring willingly, or by choice. Note that Frodo wasn't even able to throw the ring into his fireplace back home. And Gandalf about knew this: "He weighed the Ring in his hand, hesitating, and forcing himself to remember all that Gandalf had told him; and then with an effort of will he made a movement, as if to cast it away - but he found that he had put it back in his pocket. Gandalf laughed grimly. 'You see? Already you too, Frodo, cannot easily let it go, nor will to damage it. And I could not "make" you – except by force, which would break your mind.'"

So, I retain my previous stand on this matter:
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Originally Posted by myself, how snooty
As I see it, the person who destroys the ring willingly, at the cracks of Mt. Doom, would have to be a person who rejects the very possibility of any kind of influence to the world around him, a person without any interest in his own fate and in the fate of others. The problem is that this 'being' would be, essentialy, an 'un-person'.
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On the other hand, given his experience with successfully persuading Bilbo to give up the Ring that perhaps Gandalf could have persuaded Frodo to destroy it...on the assumption that Gandalf intended intended to accompany Frodo to the end (which I think he did).
It's true, Bilbo parted with the ring willingly, but Gandalf took the implications of this event with a major grain of salt: "A Ring of Power looks after itself, Frodo. It may slip off treacherously, but its keeper never abandons it. At most he plays with the idea of handing it on to someone else's care - and that only at an early stage, when it first begins to grip. But as far as I know Bilbo alone in history has ever gone beyond playing, and really done it. He needed all my help, too. And even so he would never have just forsaken it, or cast it aside. It was not Gollum, Frodo, but the Ring itself that decided things."

On a side note: Gandalf seems to forget about Cirdan and his own Ring of Power.

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I agree. I think faith was a major component of Gandalf's plan: he believed that good would succeed in the end, and was primarily interested in arranging the circumstances for it to do so.

Faithfulness, as opposed to a need for certainty, seems to be a general distinction in characterisation between Gandalf and Saruman, and the reason the latter failed his mission - trying to force results by his own power, and that power which he could take, rather than accepting the role of a higher power in events. It goes back to Gandalf's remark about Bilbo and Frodo being "meant" to have the Ring, "and not by its maker."
I think that this is the most helpful perspective on Gandalf's planning and way of thinking.

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Old 02-06-2016, 07:33 AM   #5
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On a side note: Gandalf seems to forget about Cirdan and his own Ring of Power.
That's been discussed a bit elsewhere.
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Old 02-06-2016, 07:53 AM   #6
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Gandalf's "talent" was his ability to inspire, persuade and encourage others to act. As Leaf comments, this ability is enhanced by the Ring that Gandalf bears. Does this impact upon his ability to cajole or persuade Frodo to destroy the Ring?
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Old 02-06-2016, 07:57 AM   #7
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Gandalf's "talent" was his ability to inspire, persuade and encourage others to act. As Leaf comments, this ability is enhanced by the Ring that Gandalf bears. Does this impact upon his ability to cajole or persuade Frodo to destroy the Ring?
I think Narya did help Gandalf to inspire. It was the Ring of Fire, and Círdan told him that with it Gandalf could "rekindle hearts" or something like that (don't have the books handy).
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Old 02-06-2016, 08:18 AM   #8
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Gandalf's "talent" was his ability to inspire, persuade and encourage others to act. As Leaf comments, this ability is enhanced by the Ring that Gandalf bears. Does this impact upon his ability to cajole or persuade Frodo to destroy the Ring?
Well, Gandalf himself didn't think he could convince, or persuade, Bilbo to destroy the Ring of Power:

He needed all my help, too. And even so he would never have just forsaken it, or cast it aside.

I think it's fair to assume that he would expand his verdict to other Ring-bearers and that destroying the Ring would imply casting it aside. His 'talent' went only so far to help convincing Bilbo to leave the Ring behind for Frodo, which is a huge success in that matter in the first place.

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Old 02-06-2016, 02:13 PM   #9
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he believed that good would succeed in the end
I don't agree so much with this.

I think Gandalf believed that Sauron could triumph, but even in those dire circumstances he believed there was a correct way to go about doing things that ultimately involved putting the situation in the hands of Eru regardless of outcome.

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As I see it, the person who destroys the ring willingly, at the cracks of Mt. Doom, would have to be a person who rejects the very possibility of any kind of influence to the world around him, a person without any interest in his own fate and in the fate of others. The problem is that this 'being' would be, essentialy, an 'un-person'.
This too is paradoxical as the un-person would still have to have an impulse to destroy the Ring, which (even if the un-person viewed the Ring as a worthless bauble) would still "influence" the un-person's surroundings, even if only to the extent that the un-person was no longer holding the Ring.
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Old 02-06-2016, 02:27 PM   #10
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This too is paradoxical as the un-person would still have to have an impulse to destroy the Ring, which (even if the un-person viewed the Ring as a worthless bauble) would still "influence" the un-person's surroundings, even if only to the extent that the un-person was no longer holding the Ring.
This is true. That's because the very notion of (free) will, or intention, is entwined with the concept of what defines a person. I suppose some kind of souless machinery could have done the deed. But then again Gandalf would have to build and program a Robo-Frodo substitute.

As it stands it was destroyed by "accident", and not by choice.
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Old 02-06-2016, 02:48 PM   #11
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I suppose some kind of souless machinery could have done the deed.
Maybe Tolkien dropped the ball on that.
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Old 02-06-2016, 07:01 PM   #12
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I don't agree so much with this.

I think Gandalf believed that Sauron could triumph, but even in those dire circumstances he believed there was a correct way to go about doing things that ultimately involved putting the situation in the hands of Eru regardless of outcome.
What I should have said was that Gandalf may have believed that "good" needed to be given the best possible opportunity to transpire, but that there were also limits on what he could guarantee, and that he had to accept that if his plan was to succeed, it would involve having faith that the higher power would be involved.
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Old 02-06-2016, 10:22 PM   #13
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I think that rationally, Gandalf knew that there was very little chance of anyone from the Fellowship even getting to Sammath Naur, forget about destroying the Ring. At the same time, though, he might have had a feeling that at a certain point something would happen which was statistically improbable and unpredictable that would turn things around. Part of it was a faith and trust in Eru, but part of it was just accepting that even without external intervention, you can't control all circumstances but you have to do your best. I think the last part is the most important - regardless of what Gandalf could or could not foresee, he knew he had to try. As another lovely book says, "If you try and lose then it isn't your fault. But if you don't try and we lose, then it's all your fault." Gandalf just went with the best of his options. And it really wouldn't be his, or Frodo's, or anybody's fault if things turned out differently. They all tried their best, in their own way. That was as far and as much as Gandalf would really need to see to make the choice.
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Old 02-06-2016, 11:22 PM   #14
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Narya: besides the question of Narya's strength relative to the Master Ring generally, there is also
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"He was come to the heart of the Realm of Sauron and the forges of his ancient might, greatest in Middle-earth; all other powers were here subdued."
(the reference is to the phial of Galadriel giving no light at the Sammath Naur)
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Old 02-09-2016, 04:24 PM   #15
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To make a confession, this thread was not just inspired by my prior post in the Doom of the Ring thread (which is a real expression of my curiosity) but also by something that I stumbled upon while looking for something else. Letters By Tolkien has an abysmally deficient index. If you are looking for a specific subject regarding Frodo, for example, you are limited to looking for references for Frodo; there are no more detailed "key words." In this case, I was looking for a reference that I seemed to recall about Frodo being "chosen" for the Quest. I never found it (actually stopped looking) and instead came upon this regarding Frodo:

Quote:
"'Sacrificial' situations, I should call them: sc. positions in which the 'good' of the world depends on the behavior of an individual in circumstances which demand of him suffering and endurance far beyond the normal - even, it may happen (or seem, humanly speaking), demand a strength of body and mind which he does not possess; he is in a sense DOOMED TO FAILURE, doomed to fall to temptation or be broken by pressure against his 'will'...
Letter No. 181, emphasis added.

Tolkien refers to Frodo's position at the end, noting that even in Bag End he had been unwilling to harm the Ring, as "an apparently complete trap: a person of greater native power could probably never have resisted the Ring's lure to power so long; a person of less power could not hope to resist it in the final decision."

Regarding the Fellowship, he says that the quest "was bound to fail as a piece of the world-plan, and was also bound to end in disaster..."

So the final scene at Sammath Naur was, to Tolkien, "mechanically, morally, and psychologically credible".

I agree with others above that Gandalf had no idea what might happen at the end of the day, should the Fellowship or some fragment of it reach the Cracks of Doom. Surely he knew that Frodo could not destroy the Ring on his own. Surely he knew that Sam would not be able to act against his own Master. Some outside force was needed to accomplish the impossible; the destruction of the Ring. Here, Gollum was that force. If Gandalf, Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas or Gimli, the "heroes" had been there, could any of them have achieved what Gollum, by accident, curse or fate, accomplished? Tolkien's answer appears to be no.
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Old 02-09-2016, 05:13 PM   #16
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If Gandalf, Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas or Gimli, the "heroes" had been there, could any of them have achieved what Gollum, by accident, curse or fate, accomplished? Tolkien's answer appears to be no.
By accident, maybe.

But if Elrond and Cirdan were not willing to push Isildur into the Crack of Doom and save everybody a lot of trouble, it can be presumed that none of the Fellowship would have been willing to do the same thing.
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Old 02-11-2016, 08:17 AM   #17
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White Tree Sympathy for Denethor

When I first read LotR I had, and still have now, some sympathy for Denethor II's anger at Gandalf and his son for allowing Frodo and Sam go off alone into Mordor.

If you look at it, even though it was clear from what was said at the Council that the only way to destroy the Ring was by sending it to and throwing it into the Crack of Doom, there was no clear plan on how to carry this out. Even after the Company left Rivendell, Gandalf was vague about what was to happen after they got over the Misty Mountains.

For that reason, I agree with what Mithadan and others said that

Gandalf had no idea what might happen at the end of the day, should the Fellowship or some fragment of it reach the Cracks of Doom. Surely he knew that Frodo could not destroy the Ring on his own. Surely he knew that Sam would not be able to act against his own Master. Some outside force was needed to accomplish the impossible; the destruction of the Ring. Here, Gollum was that force.

Gandalf was clear that Gollum would have some part to play in dealing with the Ring, which happened. He was able to convince Frodo to let him live, and Frodo to convince Sam and Faramir to do the same.

That said, I can still understand Denethor's anger, although the problem is that he himself didn't have an alternative plan other than to keep the ring safe in Minas Tirith, not using it until things were really desperate...
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Old 02-11-2016, 08:33 AM   #18
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Those who knew Gandalf, such as most of the Council attendees, had enough trust in him that they were willing to follow his plan, no matter how vague its ultimate ending might seem.

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That said, I can still understand Denethor's anger, although the problem is that he himself didn't have an alternative plan other than to keep the ring safe in Minas Tirith, not using it until things were really desperate...
I think a big part of Denethor's issue was his lack of trust in anyone opposed to Sauron, if they weren't subordinate to him, or closely allied, as the Rohirrim. Really, it's amazing that he allowed Boromir to go to Rivendell at all. Makes one wonder if the thought of consulting Saruman about the dreams of Faramir and Boromir had crossed his mind, and, if so, why he didn't just do that.
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Old 02-11-2016, 08:48 AM   #19
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I'm not sure I trust Denethor's anger. Was he truly angry because the Ring had been sent to where it seemed almost certain that Sauron would recover it, or was he really just angry because this object of power which he seemed to secretly desire ("Not used, I say, unless at the uttermost end of need"), even if he did not consciously realise himself that he desired it, had been put beyond his reach? Gandalf outright says he does not trust him:
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'Nonetheless I do not trust you,' said Gandalf. 'Had I done so, I could have sent this thing hither to your keeping and spared myself and others much anguish. And now hearing you speak I trust you less, no more than Boromir. Nay, stay your wrath! I do not trust myself in this, and I refused this thing, even as a freely given gift. You are strong and can still in some matters govern yourself, Denethor; yet if you had received this thing, it would have overthrown you. Were it buried beneath the roots of Mindolluin, still it would burn your mind away, as the darkness grows'
Gandalf seems to think, and I agree with him, that the best place for the Ring was far away from anyone who could wield it, and in my opinion it was the arrogance of Denethor - who seems to have falsely seen the struggle for the spiritual fate of Middle-earth almost purely in terms of a struggle for geopolitical dominance between himself and Sauron alone - which led him to anger about the Ring being beyond his grasp.
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Old 02-11-2016, 09:34 AM   #20
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Boots A New (wild) Idea

An unlikely possibility, but has anyone ever considered the possibility that Gandalf (had he continued with the Fellowship) might have intended to take the Ring and fling it into the Crack of Doom himself?
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Old 02-11-2016, 09:40 AM   #21
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White-Hand Denethor's mistrust

Inziladun, I was interested in what you had to say here:

I think a big part of Denethor's issue was his lack of trust in anyone opposed to Sauron, if they weren't subordinate to him, or closely allied, as the Rohirrim. Really, it's amazing that he allowed Boromir to go to Rivendell at all. Makes one wonder if the thought of consulting Saruman about the dreams of Faramir and Boromir had crossed his mind, and, if so, why he didn't just do that.

The answer is very clear: Saruman was a rebel. When he was given the tenancy of Orthanc, still Gondorian territory, by Ruling Steward Beren, Denethor's ancestor and predecessor, it was on the understanding that he would accept his obligations as a tenant. Saruman later rebelled, effectively declaring his independence of Gondor. Why should Denethor, or any of his predecessors, trust Saruman, let alone let him into any of their confidences? This is even before Gandalf found out, due to his imprisonment, that Saruman was an enemy as well, in league with Sauron.
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Old 02-11-2016, 09:51 AM   #22
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The answer is very clear: Saruman was a rebel. When he was given the tenancy of Orthanc, still Gondorian territory, by Ruling Steward Beren, Denethor's ancestor and predecessor, it was on the understanding that he would accept his obligations as a tenant. Saruman later rebelled, effectively declaring his independence of Gondor. Why should Denethor, or any of his predecessors, trust Saruman, let alone let him into any of their confidences? This is even before Gandalf found out, due to his imprisonment, that Saruman was an enemy as well, in league with Sauron.
Well, it's indicated that Saruman had been well received in Gondor even up to Denethor's time. Denethor himself told Gandalf that Saruman had been searching the archives in Minas Tirith (for records of the Ring).
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Old 02-11-2016, 09:55 AM   #23
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White Tree The problem I have

Zigûr, thanks for the quote from Gandalf to Denethor. I liked how the wizard softened his criticism of the Steward by pointing out that he didn't trust himself with the Ring, even though it was freely offered to him by Frodo.

The problem I have is that how could Gandalf expect Frodo not just to get to the Crack of Doom in the first place, but also to have the will left to then throw the Ring in? Even if Denethor can be accused of arrogance and a desire for the Ring, such a question from him (even if badly phrased by calling Frodo a 'witless halfling') is still valid.

It's just as well that Gondor isn't a democracy. Can one imagine Gandalf defending his stance at a public meeting?
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Old 02-11-2016, 10:01 AM   #24
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Question When did Saruman stop visiting Minas Tirith?

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Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post
Well, it's indicated that Saruman had been well received in Gondor even up to Denethor's time. Denethor himself told Gandalf that Saruman had been searching the archives in Minas Tirith (for records of the Ring).
Thanks for that point. Is it clear whether Saruman's visits stopped in Denethor's time or not?
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Old 02-11-2016, 10:19 AM   #25
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Thanks for that point. Is it clear whether Saruman's visits stopped in Denethor's time or not?
The inference seems to be that the last time Saruman had been to Minas Tirith was when he did his search. Having gotten what he wanted, he had no further use for old Denethor.
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Old 02-16-2016, 07:32 AM   #26
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Thanks for the reply

Thanks for the reply, Inziladun. You're probably right in your inference. But just because Denethor may have allowed Saruman access to the archives in Minas Tirith doesn't mean that he confided in him. He appears to be a man who kept his own counsel, who listened to people, then made his own decisions.

It was clear from LotR that he knew who the 'Thorongil' was who lived and worked in Gondor and Rohan in his younger days. What I found interesting was that Faramir, after meeting Frodo and Sam, said that he concluded, from what Gandalf had looked at in the archives concerning Isildur, that the latter had taken something from Sauron before his departure to the North, although he didn't think that it was the Ring until Sam put his foot in it. My opinion is that his father Denethor had come to the same conclusion.
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Old 02-16-2016, 08:33 AM   #27
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But just because Denethor may have allowed Saruman access to the archives in Minas Tirith doesn't mean that he confided in him. He appears to be a man who kept his own counsel, who listened to people, then made his own decisions.
I don't think Denethor ever sought advice from Saruman, but my musing was on why that didn't occur to Denethor as an option, rather than sending his heir on a journey of hundreds of miles, alone, to an unfamiliar location, to see a Half-elf.

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What I found interesting was that Faramir, after meeting Frodo and Sam, said that he concluded, from what Gandalf had looked at in the archives concerning Isildur, that the latter had taken something from Sauron before his departure to the North, although he didn't think that it was the Ring until Sam put his foot in it. My opinion is that his father Denethor had come to the same conclusion.
Denethor was a sharp guy on his own, and I agree he likely put two and two together.
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Old 02-16-2016, 10:12 AM   #28
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I don't think Denethor ever sought advice from Saruman, but my musing was on why that didn't occur to Denethor as an option, rather than sending his heir on a journey of hundreds of miles, alone, to an unfamiliar location, to see a Half-elf.
We do know, however, that it's extremely likely that Denethor and Saruman encountered each other when using their respective palantíri, as stated in Unfinished Tales: "Whether he ever thus made contact with the Orthanc-stone and Saruman is not told; probably he did, and did so with profit to himself." Obviously, however, that's not quite the same as them giving counsel to one another...

It might be possible, however, that Denethor knew by that point that Saruman's trustworthiness was compromised. Denethor became steward in 2984, and according to Unfinished Tales "it seems fairly plain that he had at once turned to the Stone as soon as he came to power." Saruman started using the Orthanc-stone in approximately 3000. The subsequent seventeen years (before Boromir departed for the North) seem like ample opportunity for Denethor to have encounted Saruman and to have determined that he could no longer be trusted.

To support this, I would point out that Saruman had neither Denethor's advantage for using the stones (legitimate, albeit inherited, authority), nor Sauron's (sheer overwhelming power). Thus it seems like Saruman might be less likely to be able to conceal his intentions from Denethor.

Note that when Gandalf rather incredulously asked Denethor "Is it naught to you that Théoden has fought a great battle and that Isengard is overthrown, and that I have broken the staff of Saruman?" Denethor replied "It is much to me. But I know already sufficient of these deeds for my own counsel against the menace of the East." This suggests to me that he might have been keeping an eye on Saruman for some time.
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Old 02-17-2016, 12:05 AM   #29
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We do know, however, that it's extremely likely that Denethor and Saruman encountered each other when using their respective palantíri, as stated in Unfinished Tales: "Whether he ever thus made contact with the Orthanc-stone and Saruman is not told; probably he did, and did so with profit to himself." Obviously, however, that's not quite the same as them giving counsel to one another...

It might be possible, however, that Denethor knew by that point that Saruman's trustworthiness was compromised. Denethor became steward in 2984, and according to Unfinished Tales "it seems fairly plain that he had at once turned to the Stone as soon as he came to power." Saruman started using the Orthanc-stone in approximately 3000. The subsequent seventeen years (before Boromir departed for the North) seem like ample opportunity for Denethor to have encounted Saruman and to have determined that he could no longer be trusted.
Saruman's expropriation of Orthanc soon after the last White Council seems like it would have been more than enough to cement him in Denethor's mind as untrustworthy; probably a rival, and possible an usurper. This would have been shortly after the last White Council, and decades before Denethor became Steward.

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I think a big part of Denethor's issue was his lack of trust in anyone opposed to Sauron, if they weren't subordinate to him, or closely allied, as the Rohirrim. Really, it's amazing that he allowed Boromir to go to Rivendell at all. Makes one wonder if the thought of consulting Saruman about the dreams of Faramir and Boromir had crossed his mind, and, if so, why he didn't just do that.
Perhaps he was looking for weapons against his greatest enemy. His sons' dream said the "Sword that was broken" and councils "Stronger than Morgul-spells" could be found in Imladris, not Angrenost.

You're right though, the whole errand is odd if you think of it from Denethor's point of view. Reluctantly or not, to allow his son, heir, and chief captain to journey into the ruined North, apparently unescorted, with the precise destination unknown, on the basis of a dream? In peace-time it would be strange enough, but immediately after the greatest conceivable enemy has declared war and driven Gondor across the Anduin? Denethor?

It almost seems like something Gandalf would do. )
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Old 02-17-2016, 12:47 AM   #30
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Saruman's expropriation of Orthanc soon after the last White Council seems like it would have been more than enough to cement him in Denethor's mind as untrustworthy; probably a rival, and possible an usurper. This would have been shortly after the last White Council, and decades before Denethor became Steward.
A very fair point, but it's also worth considering this statement from Appendix A:

"Thorongil had never himself vied with Denethor, nor held himself higher than the servant of his father. And in one matter only were their counsels to the Steward at variance: Thorongil often warned Ecthelion not to put trust in Saruman the White in Isengard, but to welcome rather Gandalf the Grey. But there was little love between Denethor and Gandalf; and after the days of Ecthelion there was less welcome for the Grey Pilgrim in Minas Tirith."

Saruman claimed Isengard in 2953, while Aragorn (as Thorongil) was in Gondor between 2957 and 2980. The fact that he and Denethor disagreed in counsel concerning wizards suggests that, for whatever reason, even after Saruman had claimed Isengard, Denethor still advocated Saruman as an ally at that time. On the other hand, as it is implied that Denethor may have already determined Thorongil's true identity by this point, it is possible that he did so more to spite Gandalf than out of genuine belief in Saruman's credibility. I suppose it's also possible that Aragorn was saying "Traditionally you've taken counsel from Saruman; trust Gandalf instead" while Denethor was arguing "Forsake the counsel of wizards altogether."

It's quite a knotty problem.
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Old 02-17-2016, 10:07 AM   #31
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Reluctantly or not, to allow his son, heir, and chief captain to journey into the ruined North, apparently unescorted, with the precise destination unknown, on the basis of a dream? - emphasis added
Now that you mention it, that is odd.
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Old 02-17-2016, 12:05 PM   #32
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Perhaps he was looking for weapons against his greatest enemy. His sons' dream said the "Sword that was broken" and councils "Stronger than Morgul-spells" could be found in Imladris, not Angrenost.
"Isildur's Bane" would have piqued Denethor's interest immensely too, I think. We find from Unfinished Tales that Saruman had searched for and found Isildur's body near the Gladden Fields. Could that fact have been gleaned by Denethor during sessions over the Palantíri, and Saruman's suspicions about the One Ring been communicated?
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Old 02-19-2016, 03:06 PM   #33
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Now that you mention it, that is odd.
Actually, if Denethor had made the connection between "Isildur's Bane" and "Sauron's Ring", as Inzila and Faramir surmise upthread, it would go a long way to explaining why he'd allow Boromir to take on the errand. But even a more conservative reading of the situation allows for Denethor (who perhaps already had become quite hopeless about the prospects of Minas Tirith) approving a Hail Mary plan which at the very least would carry his favorite son out of harm's way, albeit temporarily.

Going back to Mith's original queries, it occurred to me that HoME might offer some clues. My HoME-fu isn't what it used to be, but flipping around in The Return of the Shadow and Sauron Defeated suggests a couple of possibilities.

The first, and perhaps least satisfying, explanation for the plan-that-must-fail is that Tolkien seems to have foreseen very early on that Gollum would be the true mechanism of the destruction of the Ring.

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But it is most remarkable to find here [in an outline from 1939] -- when there is no suggestion of the vast structure still to be built -- that the corruption of the Shire, and the crucial presence of Gollum on the Fiery Mountain, were very early elements in the whole.
It would be easy to infer that this realization saddled Tolkien with a set of narrative blinders. He knew how the Ring would be destroyed, so it wasn't necessary for his heroes to conceive of an actually workable plan for its destruction.

In the first chapter of Sauron Defeated, Christopher Tolkien sums up a few of his father's different outlines which contemplate the events at Mt. Doom. In each version, Gollum seizes the Ring from Frodo, but various scenarios were considered from there -- he and Frodo wrestle and Gollum falls into the fire; Sam arrives and either pushes Gollum into the fire or tackles him into it in a suicidal blaze of glory; or the seemingly quickly discarded idea that Gollum, in a flash of redemption, would himself dive into the fire with the Ring.

Perhaps -- envisioning a scenario where Gandalf goes all the way with Frodo -- G imagined that his love for Frodo might allow him to help the hobbit give up the Ring at the supreme moment, just as he had helped Bilbo give it up earlier.
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Old 02-19-2016, 04:52 PM   #34
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Actually, if Denethor had made the connection between "Isildur's Bane" and "Sauron's Ring", as Inzila and Faramir surmise upthread, it would go a long way to explaining why he'd allow Boromir to take on the errand. But even a more conservative reading of the situation allows for Denethor (who perhaps already had become quite hopeless about the prospects of Minas Tirith) approving a Hail Mary plan which at the very least would carry his favorite son out of harm's way, albeit temporarily.
I just now noticed that the emphasis was not added because I stupidly italicized rather than bolding....oops.

Anyway, I was really noting the unescorted part of the trip. I find that quite odd. Even on a secret errand, surely somebody should have gone with Boromir just to make sure some minor mishap on the road didn't kill or injure him.

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The first, and perhaps least satisfying, explanation for the plan-that-must-fail is that Tolkien seems to have foreseen very early on that Gollum would be the true mechanism of the destruction of the Ring.

It would be easy to infer that this realization saddled Tolkien with a set of narrative blinders. He knew how the Ring would be destroyed, so it wasn't necessary for his heroes to conceive of an actually workable plan for its destruction.
This is an excellent point.

However, in a way I think (if I may be so bold) that Tolkien would have agreed with my point regarding Gandalf that I made upthread. Ultimately, the issue had to be put in the hands of Eru.
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Old 02-19-2016, 08:32 PM   #35
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Yes, I'd agree that clearly in the event the justification for sending Frodo to the Fire was that it was the only way to truly solve the problem of the Ring, and therefore it was the only path worth pursuing, ultimately with the hope (or faith if you prefer) that some unforeseen (although as it happened not exactly unforeseen) sequence of events would lead to its destruction.

I'd add a point which slipped my mind earlier, which is that when the quest to destroy the ring was conceived, the ring hadn't really become the Ring yet. That is to say, Tolkien hadn't really yet seen it as the One Ring to Rule Them All that none could resist. So to an extent the quest to destroy *the* Ring may be an artifact of the quest to destroy *a* ring.

Yes, the idea of Boromir wandering around in the wilderness for the better part of four months is a little funny. Maybe he felt he couldn't justify pulling even one man away from the defense of Minas Tirith?
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Old 02-19-2016, 09:08 PM   #36
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Yes, the idea of Boromir wandering around in the wilderness for the better part of four months is a little funny. Maybe he felt he couldn't justify pulling even one man away from the defense of Minas Tirith?
Well, Boromir told the Council that Faramir had been the one initially wanting to go out looking for Imladris. Boromir had put himself forward as the one who should go, for the very reason that the journey was so uncertain. Maybe Denethor's love for his elder son itself caused him to be unable to forbid him.
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Old 02-20-2016, 03:00 AM   #37
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Anyway, I was really noting the unescorted part of the trip. I find that quite odd. Even on a secret errand, surely somebody should have gone with Boromir just to make sure some minor mishap on the road didn't kill or injure him.
I'm not so sure. Obviously Boromir was a noble, but I think, if Aragorn could, why not Boromir. I do not think Aragorn went on all his journeys with an escort even though he was a King in Exile. Boromir is as much a Dúnadan as Aragorn, and more likely than not, more than a match for any thug on the road he'd come across. Though I am with you about the escort, however, since it seems Aragorn was not bound to any escort (as I see when he's the bodyguard of the Ring-bearer to Rivendell, chased down by Nazgul) I suppose someone of Boromir's stature need not be either.
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Old 02-21-2016, 12:58 PM   #38
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Regarding the escort, perhaps Boromir's pride would not allow him to accept one, even if Denethor wanted him to have one. This isn't your usual trip up the mountains; it's a quest with something mystical to it. He may have said that he will go seek Rivendell with the same attitude as people said that they will go seek the Holy Grail. He would also want to prove himself as a hardened warrior not just in battle, to show that he is able to survive and accomplish his mission without an escort.
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Old 02-21-2016, 08:29 PM   #39
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Regarding the escort, perhaps Boromir's pride would not allow him to accept one, even if Denethor wanted him to have one. This isn't your usual trip up the mountains; it's a quest with something mystical to it. He may have said that he will go seek Rivendell with the same attitude as people said that they will go seek the Holy Grail. He would also want to prove himself as a hardened warrior not just in battle, to show that he is able to survive and accomplish his mission without an escort.
Another consideration Denethor may have had regards the secretive nature of the mission. The matter of Isildur's Bane, even if that term wouldn't have been generally understood, would surely have been cause for utmost secrecy. Boromir could easily have been the one Denethor would have trusted most both to endure the journey, and to keep Elrond's advice just between the two of them.
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Old 02-22-2016, 12:53 PM   #40
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Well, Boromir told the Council that Faramir had been the one initially wanting to go out looking for Imladris. Boromir had put himself forward as the one who should go, for the very reason that the journey was so uncertain. Maybe Denethor's love for his elder son itself caused him to be unable to forbid him.
One would think his love for Boromir would make it more likely that he would want a least a few people to go with him so that he, for example, doesn't accidently drown in Tharbad. To say nothing of the potential political risk of having his heir travelling in the Wild alone for hundreds of miles.

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I'm not so sure. Obviously Boromir was a noble, but I think, if Aragorn could, why not Boromir. I do not think Aragorn went on all his journeys with an escort even though he was a King in Exile.
Boromir's nobility is not the issue. Of course, they were both able to survive in the Wild on their own. The question is one of practicality. One person alone in the wilderness is much more likely to come to grief than four or five people, especially on a journey of this length.

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since it seems Aragorn was not bound to any escort (as I see when he's the bodyguard of the Ring-bearer to Rivendell, chased down by Nazgul) I suppose someone of Boromir's stature need not be either.
Technically speaking, Aragorn was the rustic chief of an insignificant people until he became King of Gondor. Politically speaking, Boromir was a much more significant figure. Sending him off on horseback for hundreds of miles unescorted is a profound political risk. That is why it makes it so odd Denethor allowed this.

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Regarding the escort, perhaps Boromir's pride would not allow him to accept one, even if Denethor wanted him to have one. This isn't your usual trip up the mountains; it's a quest with something mystical to it. He may have said that he will go seek Rivendell with the same attitude as people said that they will go seek the Holy Grail. He would also want to prove himself as a hardened warrior not just in battle, to show that he is able to survive and accomplish his mission without an escort.
A fair point, even though Lancelot and Galahad had their squires...

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Another consideration Denethor may have had regards the secretive nature of the mission. The matter of Isildur's Bane, even if that term wouldn't have been generally understood, would surely have been cause for utmost secrecy. Boromir could easily have been the one Denethor would have trusted most both to endure the journey, and to keep Elrond's advice just between the two of them.
Another fair point, still the escorts wouldn't need to be briefed on the mission or allowed to attend anything important.

On the whole I am inclined to chalk this up as an oopsie of the same type (although not magnitude) as the dwarves setting off on the Quest of Erebor with no weapons.
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