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Old 06-30-2004, 02:20 PM   #41
Kuruharan
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Just as an example…

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Old 06-30-2004, 03:27 PM   #42
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Well, Tolkien does say the Elves 'flirted with Sauron' - in the same letter as he refers to them as 'embalmers'. Celebrimbor's intention is to create Rings which will effectively stop change - actually they are intended to give the wearer the power to 're-make the world in their own image' - make it as they feel it 'should' be - & then embalm it. And this is what the One is intended to do. This, it seems to me, is what it offers all its bearers - actually, its what all the Rings are intended, & used, to do - offer the power to change reality until it suits the bearer.

So, it plays on their desires, uses them to wheedle its way into their consciousness. So in answer to Firefoot, i think if Sauron was destroyed & the ring survived, it would continue doing that - not that is possible, as they are one. Sauron & the ring are both about the manifestation of desire. If 'Sauron', as an intelligence, ceased to be, there would still exist the will to dominate - so whoever took it would be tempted by the desire to remake the world as they believed it should be. This is the temptation of the Ring to my mind - it convinces the unwary that the world is wrong - 'What you want is right, & I can help you make it the way you know it should be'.

But there always has to be a surrender to it. You can choose estel - faith, trust & let go of your desires - or put them in the hands of Eru & let him weigh them & decide whether they are worthy. Its simply lack of estel that leads to the victory of the Ring over your will.

So, the temptation is greater for the powerful - those who are used to wielding power & ordering things - Sam gives up the Ring with almost no struggle, because he has never had any real power, nor desired any.

All the magical objects can corrupt those who wield them, but only if their bearers choose to be corrupted, by giving in to their desires. So, in effect, as all are potentially corruptible, all are in danger, & the Ring works on that. But they cannot automatically corrupt anyone, overriding their will, or there would be no real hope.

The hope that runs through the whole Legendarium is simply, & only, that - you cannot be forced to surrender, you have to choose it.
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Old 07-01-2004, 01:38 AM   #43
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All the magical objects can corrupt those who wield them, but only if their bearers choose to be corrupted
Well, that being generally true, there is a minor, but significant, deviation. The choice of not being corrupted is expressed by giving the ring away. One can not eat the cake and have it. That is, as the Ring is not only the 'booster' of wielder's weaknesses, but some kind of focus of 'Evil As Outside Force' too, and as it is flatly stated (for the first time in the very chapter we are discussing now) to be able to overcome even the most 'good' intentions (with wich, as is well known, the road to hell is paved ), the only way not to fall is to let it fall, if you follow my meaning
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Old 07-01-2004, 02:37 AM   #44
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Well, that being generally true, there is a minor, but significant, deviation. The choice of not being corrupted is expressed by giving the ring away. One can not eat the cake and have it. That is, as the Ring is not only the 'booster' of wielder's weaknesses, but some kind of focus of 'Evil As Outside Force' too, and as it is flatly stated (for the first time in the very chapter we are discussing now) to be able to overcome even the most 'good' intentions (with wich, as is well known, the road to hell is paved ), the only way not to fall is to let it fall, if you follow my meaning
I agree - but only because we are all corruptible - if we weren't the Ring could not exert any influence on its bearer.

But the other thing that interests me is that in the final version Tolkien has the Elves making the Rings. In the early versions it is Sauron himself who makes & distributes them

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‘In the ancient days the dark master made many Rings, & he dealt them out lavishly, so that they might be spread abroad to ensnare folk. the elves had many, & there are now many elf-wraiths in the world; the goblins had some & their wraiths are very evil & under the command of the Lord. The dwarves had seven, but nothing could make them invisible. In them it only kindled to flames the fire of their greed...In this way the master controlled them. Men had three rings, & others they found in secret places cast away by the elf-wraiths: the men-wraiths are servants of the Lord, & they brought all their rings back to him; till at last he had gathered all into his hands again that had not been destroyed by fire - all save one.
- some elves are given them & become corrupted into 'elf-wraiths' - but (apart from asking why they would take them from him) the question remains - why would Tolkien choose to make the Elves responsible for the greatest threat to Middle Earth? And why the High Elves in particular? He has a perfectly good, & convincing, origin for the Rings - Sauron makes them & gives them away in order to corrupt the free races. But then, for some reason, he decides he wants to make the Elves responsible - so the High Elves are changed from heroes, & defenders of Middle Earth, to beings who have 'flirted with Sauron', into embalmers, who are, because of the desires which drive them, responsible for the mess in which Middle Earth finds itself at the end of the Third Age.

So, is this a case of Tolkien's attitude towards the Elves changing. They begin, in the Book of Lost Tales as a race of beautiful, perfect beings, almost incarnate Angels, & 'fall' further & further, until in the final version of LotR they are in the main, selfish, self obsessed fallen angels, unconcerned with the fate of the other races, wishing only to cut themselves off & let the rest of Middle Earth go hang.

Its interesting, comparing the early drafts of the chapter, to see how Tolkien still presents an idealised race of High Elves:

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But the Elves resist his power more than all other races; & the high-elves of the West, of whom some still remain in the middle-world, percieve & dwell at once both [in] this world & the other side without the aid of rings.
By the final version the High Elves have become much less 'ideal'.

Same thing happens with Gollum, who begins as much less of a 'monster':

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There was long ago living by the bank of a stream a wise, clever handed & quiet footed little family. I guess they were of hobbit-kind.....The most inquisitive & curious-minded of that family was called Digol...He found the ring in the mud of the river-bank under the roots of a thorn tree; & he oput it on, & when he returned home none of his family saw him while he wore it. He ws pleased with his discovery & concealed it, & he used it to discover secrets, & put his knowledge to malicious use, & became sharp-eyed & keen-eared for all that was unpleasant.
And finally:

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He wanted to slip out & leave the mountains, & smell the open air even if it killed him...But that would have meant leaving the Ring. And that is not easy to do. The longer you have had one the harder it is.
Why Tolkien felt the need to 'darken' all his characters is an interesting question?
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Old 07-01-2004, 03:44 AM   #45
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Why are all those goodies rotten on the inside...

It seems that whatever accusations made by critics, JRRT is mostly modern writer. One of the issues, now, raised in modern writing is the problem of power, and its corruption (All power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely). It would have been highly relevant issue to be addressed by the man of the last century, still more the participant of the WWI and witness of WWII, two 'wars to end all wars', started by power corrupted tyrants. That'd be the reason number one - to explore the impact of power on an individual.

Another reason, mentioned M/B confrontation - if it were Sauron who were entirely to blame, than, firstly, the hint of "Evil as Outside Force" would have been by way stronger than what Christian writer would have wished for, and another critique made by many critics of Tolkien's works - that they are black-n-white, without shades of grey, would have been true. But as it is, even the most 'good' heroes have something to repent of, it is better mirror of the things as they are.

Or, for short - reasons for that may be described as political and theological at the same time.

And all of the above, is of course, personal opinion.
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Old 07-01-2004, 04:53 AM   #46
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Hmm...

Still, what Tolkien seems to be doing is changing his presentation of evil - rather than a kind of 'demon-king' figure (as we have in Morgoth), with Sauron we seem to have something more akin to a nebulous, all pervading presence, which works by corrupting others, influencing them to its service by playing on their desires.

So, we almost get the sense that rather than 'Sauron the Dark Lord' being present himself - making the Rings & distributing them, as in the first versions -'he' is like a poisonous 'idea' or motivating 'force', pushing individuals in a particular direction. Perhaps that's what makes him so successful - he doesn't confront you as an external, physical presence, but as an idea that seems to arise within, so that it can seem, to the unwary at least, that the desires they feel are their own.

Does any of that make sense?
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Old 07-01-2004, 07:39 AM   #47
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"And that's when I choked, which you heard, seemingly."
Am I the only one who, at this line, falls in love with Sam all over again? To me this expression of devotion (for his boss!) is just amazing. The rest of his devotion throughout the quest is packed into this one little line. Incredible demonstration of genuine virtue.


Another favorite:
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"Me go and see the elves and all! Hooray!" And then he burst into tears.
Don't you love him for that?
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Old 07-01-2004, 09:30 AM   #48
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A minor point:

Davem wrote:
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All the magical objects can corrupt those who wield them, but only if their bearers choose to be corrupted, by giving in to their desires.
But the One Ring is fundamentally quite different from other magical objects. Others can be used for good. The One Ring never can be. The One Ring is fundamentally evil in a way that the other Rings, the Palantiri, the Silmarils, etc. are not. It may be true that, as you say, it works on the existing inclinations of its user, so that it is ultimately the user that chooses evil. But obviously in order to do this it must have a great power in itself - that is, external to the user. Gandalf wields Narya and no ill comes of it. But if Gandalf took the One Ring for his own, it would be the end of all hope for the free peoples.

Mark12_30 wrote:
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Am I the only one who, at this line, falls in love with Sam all over again? To me this expression of devotion (for his boss!) is just amazing. The rest of his devotion throughout the quest is packed into this one little line. Incredible demonstration of genuine virtue.
Sam's introduction in this chapter is one of my favorite bits. I still can't fathom why Peter Jackson substituted another joke for Sam's:

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"Eavesdropping Sir? I don't follow you, begging your pardon. There ain't no eaves at Bag End, and that's a fact."
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Old 07-01-2004, 09:50 AM   #49
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But the One Ring is fundamentally quite different from other magical objects. Others can be used for good. The One Ring never can be. The One Ring is fundamentally evil in a way that the other Rings, the Palantiri, the Silmarils, etc. are not. It may be true that, as you say, it works on the existing inclinations of its user, so that it is ultimately the user that chooses evil. But obviously in order to do this it must have a great power in itself - that is, external to the user. Gandalf wields Narya and no ill comes of it. But if Gandalf took the One Ring for his own, it would be the end of all hope for the free peoples.
In that the 'official' account states that the Three can create while the One can only mar I'd agree, but I suspect that the Three could also be used to mar, if the wielders went in for that kind of thing, & we have Gandalf saying he would use the One to do good in the first instance, so I wonder how accurate that 'official' account is.

Could the One rule the others if its nature was fundamentally different? Is there no correspondence between them?
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Old 07-01-2004, 03:17 PM   #50
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And that's when I choked, which you heard, seemingly.
I agree very much with you, Mark 12-30! Tolkien manages to make Sam very endearing with just these few words - but they speak volumes! and that Sam bursts in tears after shouting "hooray!" mirrors his inner turmoil and is very plausible.

Estelyn's excellent post #27 "Words to live by":
It is these insights that you pointed out that impressed me too. Gandalf's words of timeless wisdom stay forever in my head (and heart!). I was so glad that several of these quotes made it into the movie! (Was that only thanks to Ian mcKellen, I wonder?)
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These wisdoms have proverbial quality and an innate worth that makes them timeless and applicable to my life.
Exactly! And that's why it seemed so strange to me that Tolkien stated in the foreword that "there is no inner meaning or message"!

I found it very interesting what Bethberry wrote in post #31 about the proverbial style in which these wisdoms are presented. (I've been collecting the "proverbs" in the books, as Esty knows, and often I couldn't tell which were real ancient sayings and which were "made up" by Tolkien. Needless to say that they don't sound so impressive and terse anymore when translated into another language.) (Hey, you added a new word to my vocabulary: pithy! very fitting indeed!))
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Old 07-01-2004, 06:46 PM   #51
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Ring Can Elves become wraiths?

Davem's points concerning the corrupting effect of the Ring reminded me of a point which occurred to me when I re-read this chapter.

Gandalf tells Frodo:


Quote:
A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness. And if he often uses the Ring to make himself invisible, he fades: he becomes in the end invisible permanently, and walks in the twighlight under the eye of the dark power that rules the Ring. Yes, sooner or later - later, if he is strong or well-meaning to begin with, but neither strength nor good purpose will last - sooner or later the dark power will devour him.
At the outset of this passage, it is made very clear that it refers to the effect of the Ring on mortals. This suggests that the Ring might not have the same effect on immortals. It might even suggest that the Ring has no effect on immortals. Yet, later in the chapter, Gandalf makes it clear that it would have a corrupting effect on him, an immortal being.

This leads me to wonder whether the Ring might affect mortal and immortal beings differently. Clearly, it has the power to corrupt both, but do its "enwraithing" properties affect mortals only? The earlier drafts which davem quoted refer to 'elf-wraiths', so Tolkien clearly contemplated the possibility of immortals becoming wraiths. But these references had been removed by the final version. Is this, perhaps, because an immortal being, by his or her very nature, cannot become eternally confined to the "Wraith-world" alone? Any thoughts?

The passage quoted above also tells us that, if a mortal bears the Ring long enough, then he will inevitably become enslaved to it. Davem said:


Quote:
The hope that runs through the whole Legendarium is simply, & only, that - you cannot be forced to surrender, you have to choose it.
But this passage suggests that the only choice a Ringbearer has is to cast the Ring away, or destroy it, before he becomes enslaved to it. If he does not do so, then he will be forced to surrender to it.


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These wisdoms have proverbial quality and an innate worth that makes them timeless and applicable to my life. (Estelyn)
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Exactly! And that's why it seemed so strange to me that Tolkien stated in the foreword that "there is no inner meaning or message"! (Guinevere)
Ah, but he accepted that it might have applicability to his readers.
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Old 07-01-2004, 07:29 PM   #52
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elves and fading

Saucie, I read (somewhere) that elves who had been to the West lived in both worlds-- the current world and the shadow world. Hence although Frodo's friends grew dimmer as the knife -point penetrated, yet Glorfindel was shining brightly. These elves at least already live in both worlds, so I do not think they would fade.

(As an aside, I think that's what the movie was trying to show when a glowing, silver-garbed Arwen approached the wounded Frodo and he was wide-eyed at her radiance. To the rest she was clad in dark colors.)
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Old 07-02-2004, 02:13 AM   #53
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Originally Posted by mark12_30
Saucie, I read (somewhere) that elves who had been to the West lived in both worlds-- the current world and the shadow world.
So Gandalf tells Frodo in Rivendell:

Quote:
And here in Rivendell there live still some of his chief foes: the Elven-wise, lords of the Eldar from beyond the furthest seas. They do not fear the Ringwraiths, for those who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm live at once in both worlds, and against both the Seen and the Unseen they have great power.'
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Old 07-02-2004, 02:27 AM   #54
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But this passage suggests that the only choice a Ringbearer has is to cast the Ring away, or destroy it, before he becomes enslaved to it. If he does not do so, then he will be forced to surrender to it.
My problem with the idea that the Ring inevitably corrupts its bearer is that if it does then Frodo (& Gollum) are in the end merely victims of its power, overwhelmed by a superior force that they can do nothing to withstand.

But is Frodo just a victim? To me he is a tragic hero, & his tragedy
comes from his surrender in the end - he carries it to the Fire, weary, confused, in pain, & at the last moment I can almost hear the voice of the Ring:' I can make it stop, I can make all the pain go away, & you can rest. Just claim me.'

And he does. That's what's heartbreaking. It wouldn't be so horrible if he had been so overwhelmed that he had lost control of his will & didn't know what he was doing. What makes me weep for Frodo is that in the end he just wants it to stop, so he can rest, free from the suffering he's been through. And its the fact that evil still, even at the end can't simply sweep his will & sense of identity away, but he must surrender it - & does. The cruelty of the Ring, & its master is brought into stark relief by this final moment. And Frodo's self condemnation, his feelings of failure, are much harder to read about.

Mark

I also wanted to pick up on your earlier point about Frodo dreaming of the mountains, & of crossing the River, because Frodo's dreams become an increasingly important element in the story, And they all seem to be prophetic dreams, or dreams about actual events which are happening to others. How is this possible - are those events somehow 'destined'? In Osanwe Kenta Tolkien states that the future is known only to Eru, & so can only be revealed by him. Are we seeing Eru's presence running throughout the story, surfacing in these dreams & visions?
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Old 07-02-2004, 02:33 AM   #55
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Saucie, I read (somewhere) that elves who had been to the West lived in both worlds-- the current world and the shadow world.
Yes indeed. But I was wondering whether the long-term effects of the Ring on them would be to restrict them solely to the "spirit-world" (just as it turns mortals to wraiths), or whether its "enwraithing" properties simply didn't work on them. It doesn't really matter as it's a hypothetical question, but it was just a thought prompted by Gandalf's specific reference to "mortals" in the passage which I quoted above.


Quote:
My problem with the idea that the Ring inevitably corrupts its bearer is that if it does then Frodo (& Gollum) are in the end merely victims of its power, overwhelmed by a superior force that they can do nothing to withstand.
Well, Frodo is not necessarily a victim of its power. It depends whether or not it has totally enslaved him to its will by the time he reaches Mount Doom. If it has, then yes he is a victim. If not, he has a choice. But I don't think that we can deny what Gandalf is saying here about the inevitability of the Ring ultimately prevailing (with mortals at least) given sufficient time.

Clearly there is an important debate to be had concerning whether Frodo would ever have been able to destroy the Ring. My own view is that any analysis which suggests that someone else could have done it and that Frodo was simply not strong enough seriously impairs his character. But, perhaps that debate is best left until we actually reach Mount Doom in a year or so's time ( ).
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Old 07-02-2004, 02:45 AM   #56
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Eru is the driving force ...

Following OK implications, there are hints of the whole event being Eru's [direct?]intervention:

Quote:
LoRT Book I chapter 02, Gandalf to Frodo

Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it. And that maybe an encouraging thought
meant whom by, we wonders?

More hinted at in the Unfinished Tales:

Quote:
UT, Gandalf reminding himself of events preceeding There and Back Again

But that was not enough for me. I knew in my heart that Bilbo must go with him, or the whole quest would be a failure – or, as I should say now, the far more important events by the way would not come to pass.
Quote:
UT, Gandalf persuading Thorin to take Bilbo along:

'Listen to me, Thorin Oakenshield !' I said. 'If this hobbit goes with you, you will succeed. If not, you will fail. A foresight is on me, aid I am warning you.'
and, finally:

Quote:
But that has been averted – because I met Thorin Oakenshield one evening on the edge of spring not far from Bree. A chance-meeting, as we say in Middle-earth
Ambivalent phrase, this last one - it may imply that is was indeed by chance, but the intonation is such that it implies that what happened may seem to be a chance, but there is more to it just a bit deeper down
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Old 07-02-2004, 03:15 AM   #57
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Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
But I don't think that we can deny what Gandalf is saying here about the inevitability of the Ring ultimately prevailing (with mortals at least) given sufficient time.
I suppose Tolkien would take the Christian position - we're all 'sinners' & cannot 'save' ourselves - so our failure is guaranteed - unless 'God' intervenes. But that still leaves the question of whether Evil could win out over us if we weren't so 'flawed'. If it could then we have a universe where evil is a power in its own right, potentially strong enough to defeat good in a straight battle (=Manichaeanism). If evil can only defeat us because of our 'fallen' nature, then its our fallen nature itself which brings about our defeat (=Boethianism).

(yes, I know I'm opversimplifying the philosophical complexities there!)

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Old 07-02-2004, 05:05 AM   #58
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If it could then we have a universe where evil is a power in its own right, potentially strong enough to defeat good in a straight battle (=Manichaeanism). If evil can only defeat us because of our 'fallen' nature, then its our fallen nature itself which brings about our defeat (=Boethianism).
But, if Man is “fallen”, doesn’t this in itself imply the existence of evil as a separate power in its own right, since the “fall” of Man could only have been brought about by the intervention of evil (as an element of the external conflict between good and evil)? If so, then it seems to me that there is in practice little distinction between these two propositions. Either way, the inevitability of Man’s ultimate submission to the Ring (as explained by Gandalf in the passage quoted above) is brought about by the interference of an external evil power.
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Old 07-02-2004, 05:54 AM   #59
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Originally Posted by SPM
But, if Man is “fallen”, doesn’t this in itself imply the existence of evil as a separate power in its own right, since the “fall” of Man could only have been brought about by the intervention of evil (as an element of the external conflict between good and evil)?
Well, define 'evil'!

Tolkien states (via Elrond) that nothing was evil in the beginning* . My understanding is that the conflict in Middle Earth is not one of 'Good' vs 'Evil' - ie two equal but opposite forces in conflict, but rather of 'Good vs corrupted/marred 'Good'. Which is why I would disagree that:

Quote:
the inevitability of (as explained by Gandalf in the passage quoted above) is brought about by the interference of an external evil power.
& say that 'Man’s ultimate submission to the Ring' is a choice made by the individual - often under extreme pressure - & not something which happens to them as a result of their will being overwhelmed by an unstoppable force.

This means there is no need to bring in an objectively existing 'Evil' force or power in opposition to Eru (of course there are individuals who do 'evil' things, bwhat they serve is twisted 'Good').

( * - of course, one could get into a deep discussion as to whether the 'nothing' which Elrond refers to here is the Void, in which Melkor went into in search of the Secret Fire, in which case we would have a kind of Manichaeanism - Eru=Good & the Void=Evil. But I don't think Tolkien intended that, & also, it would deny Evil any form of 'existence', & 'Evil' would then simply be an absence of 'Good'.)
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Old 07-02-2004, 06:45 AM   #60
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Well, define 'evil'!
Twisted/corrupted Good works for me (as a definition, rather than a way of life, I might add).
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Old 07-02-2004, 07:01 AM   #61
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Would we than agree on the following:

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the inevitability of (as explained by Gandalf in the passage quoted above) is brought about by the interference of an external orignally good, but currently corrupted power.
Sounds a bit silly, even if technically true

For further operations on this thread, however, let us agree to have a nomenclature as follows:

Good = original state of everything
Evil = thing originally good, but corrupted

However, to have an external Evil Force, we do not need to deny the aforementioned state of affairs. The manichaean dualism has to be merely moved one step down. So it will be not a battle of equal forces of Good and Evil, but equal creatures of Good and Evil (or formerly good, but corrupted), and Ultimately Good Eru stays above the battle (but interferes, what with the previously mentioned 'Bilbo was meant to be', and 'foresight is on me' stanzas)

There is ultimate interference to happen too, but for the third age it is still in the far future.
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Old 07-02-2004, 07:16 AM   #62
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Silmaril Ah, definitions, definitions ...

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For further operations on this thread, however, let us agree to have a nomenclature as follows:

Good = original state of everything
Evil = thing originally good, but corrupted
Well, that works for me. But I think that we must bear in mind that many who read LotR do not go on and read the Silmarillion or Tolkien's other works, and have no in-depth knowledge of his beliefs. For many, therefore, there is no definitive explanation of what is meant by Gandalf's oblique references to Bilbo being meant to find the Ring etc. This is harking back to the Canonicity discussion, I know, but these readers will be free to interpret these references as they see fit. They might take this unknown force which meant Bilbo to find the Ring to be fate, or the spirit of Middle-earth, or a good God who is opposed by a co-equal evil God in a duotheistic system, or a monotheistic and omnipotent force of Good, or even one or more of a pantheon of Gods. Or, more likely, they (like me when I first read the book) may simply not think about it too much.

So, while I think that your definition works in the context of our knowledge of Tolkien's works, it will not necessarily be applicable to all readers.
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Old 07-02-2004, 07:30 AM   #63
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davem:
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In Osanwe Kenta Tolkien states that the future is known only to Eru, & so can only be revealed by him. Are we seeing Eru's presence running throughout the story, surfacing in these dreams & visions?
While on a case by case basis this could perhaps be argued against for a few of the dreams, taking the set of them as a logical whole, I quite agree.

H-I-- what's the quote from Letters again? "...that one ever-present Person who is never absent and never named..."



And-- nah... welll..... oh, I can't resist.
*cough*

Good is good.
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Old 07-02-2004, 09:50 AM   #64
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Just some random thoughts and comments

((Exuse my poor English.))

Reading the thread (yeah it took a while) I feel the urge to jump into some thoughts that aren't exactly chapter based... but first I want to give Tolkien a credit for being a great author (:

What I really like about this chapter is how it shows the yearnings of both Frodo and Sam for something more. Frodo is almost ready to leave the "well-trodden" paths, while in Sam we only see some distant wish to meet the Fair Folk. Both seem not to find what they need in the Shire, both seem to feel surronded of people who just don't "get it" (that there's something more than just hobbits, that the world doesn't end with Bree). Both "pictures" of the unsatisfied hobbits are done almost poetically and touch us deeply. After this we expect these two to find an adventure and can forgive some long-ish explaining of the history of this little piece of metal. For a moment the mood gets really down with Frodo's understanding that the real journey won't be a jolly adventure, as Bilbo's were. At the end Tolkien again doesn't fail to reward us for the patience, with Sam's funny comments (eavesdropping, something unnatural) and at last his enthusiastic "Me go and see the Elves and all! Hooray!" After all can a journey not be jolly with hobbits in it?

On the nature of effects of the Ring, I have to agree with what you all (seem to) have agreed on. The Ring uses the bearer's desires and gives power enough to fulfil them. But the Ring is an entity of its own, it lets the bearer believe he/she is in command but actually the Ring leads him/her to its own aims. We should not forget that the Ring is nothing else but Sauron. The whole idea of Tolkien's world is that you CANNOT do good with evil means and the ring is simply an embodiement of this theorie.

Quote:
So, the temptation is greater for the powerful - those who are used to wielding power & ordering things - Sam gives up the Ring with almost no struggle, because he has never had any real power, nor desired any.
I agree with this, but only up to a point. I believe that the main thing that made Sam so ringproof (well... not the best word) was that his deepest desire wasn't to turn the world into a garden but to help Master Frodo. And this is something which no ring, no matter how treacherous, can use. (:

While on this topic, we see Sam's self-denial in this chapter already:
Quote:
Don't let him hurt me, sir! Don't let him turn me into anything unnatural! My old dad would take on so.
Facing the danger, he thinks of his dad and not of himself.

Quote:
if Sauron were somehow destroyed and the Ring left, what would happen to it?
Is this possible? I thought it was impossible to destroy Sauron while the Ring exists, as the Ring is, in a way, part of him? Actually is it possible to destroy a Maia completely for that matter?

Quote:
Why Tolkien felt the need to 'darken' all his characters is an interesting question?
Well for me, this is one of the things that made me love the books. There are no angels, no superheros. Everyone fails at times, fears failure at times, acts foolish or reacts (almost) too late. Everyone has flaws, but exactly fighting them, succeding despite them is what makes one a hero. Actually this is why I dislike most (not all!) RPGs and Fan-fics... they tend to have too flawless characters, elves before all. (:

Excellent post about the practical philosophy of the book... sometimes we forget what all this is about going too deep indeed (: the ancient chinese curse "May you live in interesting times" comes to mind.

One more thing on why the Ring doesn't seem to affect the hobbits that much. Undisputed it's their nature of keep-to-yourself, their apparant lack of wish to dominate... but is it all? This quote made me think about it
Quote:
But there is only one Power in the world that knows all about the Rings and their effects; and as far as I know there is no Power in the world that knows all about hobbits.
The Ring's powers are given to him by his creator, but he didn't know much about the hobbits. Is it possible that it was a bit of a loophole? Not that it actually matters just some food for thought I guess (:

I'll shut up now... sorry for boring you to tears if you read all this (:
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Old 07-02-2004, 10:15 AM   #65
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Mirkgirl

Can't argue with anything you say - except:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mirkgirl
. Everyone has flaws, but exactly fighting them, succeding despite them is what makes one a hero. Actually this is why I dislike most (not all!) RPGs and Fan-fics... they tend to have too flawless characters, elves before all. (:
I recently wrote a 'fanfic' with a flawed Elf as a central character:

http://forum.barrowdowns.com/cgi-bin...&f=29&t=000057

(in fact, some of the writing is pretty flawed too, but I did my best!)
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Old 07-02-2004, 10:34 AM   #66
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That's why I said "most (not all!)"... I know there are some good ones
Well what's left for me after this shameless plug *goes to read*
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Old 07-02-2004, 11:06 AM   #67
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Goodness – I get distracted for a few days by an RPG and look what happens in this thread! So much to catch up on *goes back to read and read and read; returns exhausted *

Whew! OK, a lot of work but well worth it. I have my own tuppence worth on a couple point points:

Desire vs pity – Durelin, you were the first to, quite wisely I think, introduce the idea that the more effective way to talk about this chapter (and the Ring?) is in terms of desire versus pity rather than good versus evil. I think that much of what this chapter turns on is the sense that Frodo and Gandalf do not know fully what is going on, what the Ring is about, and what is going to happen (“even the very wise cannot see all ends”). To that end, the chapter (and I think the book) quite carefully steers clear of the thorny and impossible issue of good and evil, choosing instead to tackle the more manageable (mortal? practical?) issues of lived experience/existence (thank you Esty for pointing out the proverbial almost folkloric wisdom of this chapter!).

I think that the conversation between Frodo and Gandalf takes place against the rather certain backdrop that good and evil exist, that they are different things, but that their true nature cannot be grasped or understood by limited beings such as themselves. Gandalf has a better understanding of good and evil, but not an absolute understanding. (Whenever I hear someone claim that they know for a certainty what good is, I shiver and head the other way; ditto for someone who claims to know with absolute certainty the nature of evil.) The Ring is evil, but what that means is entirely secondary to the question of what are they to do with it (the former being unknowable, the latter being a lived-question that needs to be addressed by mortal/human action) – that is, they do not sit around debating what is Right, but attempt to arrive at an idea of what is the right thing to do.

One thing they do decide is that contrary to the desires that the Ring both prompts and responds to is pity, the OED definition of which I provide here to make a point:

Quote:
A feeling or emotion of tenderness aroused by the suffering, distress, or misfortune of another, and prompting a desire for its relief; compassion, sympathy.
The key thing about pity is that it is a feeling that is prompted by or in response to another person (not the self) that engenders the “desire” to aid the other. The Ring is all about fulfilling self-ish desire; pity is all about directing desire outward from the self and to the other. It’s a lovely idea that once more shows the symmetry of Tolkien’s views.

To go a bit further – if we ‘recover’ the sense of pity (as Professor Tolkien always liked to do) the root of pity is the Latin pietas, from which we now have “piety” and whichmeant, in part, “dutifulness; affectionate loyalty and respect.” In other words, the recovered meaning of pity stressed the obligations of the self to the other, which again is the exact opposite of what is entailed by the Ring (thinking of oneself above all others).

SamMark 12_30, I too have always fallen in love with Sam every time he shouts “Hooray” and then bursts into tears; but your bringing it out here has cast a fuller light on that moment, for something very much like it occurs at least twice more: first, when the bard of Gondor steps forth at the end and sings the Lay of Frodo of the Nine Fingers (Sam cries aloud with joy and then bursts into tears – that moment always gets me misty, and is doing so now); and second in the very last line of the book, when Sam provides the moment in which we as readers both smile and weep (at least I do, “Well, I’m back” – misty again).

We’ve already noted the foreshadowing in the first couple of chapters in relation to Gandalf and Frodo, and the foreshadowing is almost uniformly of bad things (the pain of the journey, the price that Frodo will have to pay for his quest). But with this moment, Sam is foreshadowing the joy that will come with the fall of Sauron – he is expressing for us that joy that cuts so deep that it moves us to tears (dare I say “eucatastrophe”?) This is only fitting and right, as that joy will be most fully felt by Sam and – on his behalf – by the reader, and not Frodo or Gandalf (who will be happy, but who will leave Middle-Earth to the care and love of Sam).

“The Shadow of the Past” – Last point! H-I, way back in post #25 had some wonderful thoughts on the nature of shadows, to which I would like to add just a couple more ideas. The title of this chapter is full of a rich ambiguity. Does it mean the shadow cast by the past on the present (shadow-as-absence)? Or does it mean the return of the Shadow that is from the past (shadow-as-presence)? Or does it, and I prefer this option, mean both at the same time?
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Old 07-03-2004, 01:57 AM   #68
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Silmaril

*catches breath* Here I am, late again.

As usual, I haven't the time to read everyone's posts, as much as I desire. But I was able to pick up a little in the discussion.

For some reason I have always loathed Gollum. Maybe it is basically because of how he looks, the way he speaks, to something deeper like his treachery. But reading the chapter again, I have finally felt the pity that Bilbo felt for him, the reason why he stayed his hand and did not kill him.

He could be hated for killing Deagol, but the Ring is the only thing to blame, for its beauty has blinded him to murder. The following line, especially, almost brought me to tears in pity for Gollum:

Quote:
So they called him Gollum, and cursed him, and told him to go far away; and his grandmother, desiring peace, expelled him from the family and turned him out of her hole.
He wandered in loneliness, weeping a little for the hardness of the world,...
Doubtless he would have done something to prevent this disowning, if only the power of the Ring had not subdued him.

I was also amazed by Frodo's intense love for the Shire and its inhabitants, allowing himself to be exiled to save it.

Finally, mark12_30, I feel the same way as you do about Sam's devotion for Frodo. Although, frankly, at first I laughed out loud, thinking that Sam's initial reason for coming with Frodo is to see the Elves. But even if that is true, it wouldn't hurt, because eventually he has shown what he can do in his loyalty to Frodo.
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Old 07-03-2004, 02:08 AM   #69
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to post #63

Mark, I would be glad to be of service

Here is the quote:

Quote:
Letter #192 to Amy Ronald, 27 July 1956

Frodo deserved all honour because he spent every drop of his power of will and body, and that was just sufficient to bring him to the destined point, and no further. Few others, possibly no others of his time, would have got so far. The Other Power then took over: the Writer of the Story (by which I do not mean myself), 'that one ever-present Person who is never absent and never named'
cheers
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Old 07-03-2004, 02:54 AM   #70
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lhunardawen
For some reason I have always loathed Gollum. Maybe it is basically because of how he looks, the way he speaks, to something deeper like his treachery. But reading the chapter again, I have finally felt the pity that Bilbo felt for him, the reason why he stayed his hand and did not kill him.

He could be hated for killing Deagol, but the Ring is the only thing to blame, for its beauty has blinded him to murder. The following line, especially, almost brought me to tears in pity for Gollum

I think the strangest change Tolkien makes in the drafts of this chapter is how he makes Gollum more & more of a monster. In the first drafts he's not a murderer- there's only Digol, who finds the Ring, makes a nuisance of himself, & gets exiled for it. By the end he's the murderer of his best friend & a canibal (eating babies! ).

Is it a case of as Frodo becomes more 'saintly' his 'shadow', Gollum, must become darker - another 'shadow' there. Or perhaps Tolkien felt that Gollum must be made as monstrous as possible in order to emphasise the necessity for, & value of, pity, by requiring us to pity a true 'monster'. We are presented with someone for whom there is absolutely no reason to feel pity. But Tolkien seems to be saying that we should feel pity. So, it doesn't matter what an individual does, its somehow 'obligatory', according to the 'Wise' to feel pity for them, & to show mercy. Why? Simply because that is the opposite of what the Enemy would do? We establish our allegiance to the 'Good' by such things - not by fighting the 'bad' guys, using force of arms to defeat them - but by our moral choices - pity, compassion, mercy, forgiveness - even if those things are not deserved?

(Oh, finally, as no-one's mentioned him :'Mad Baggins' -

Quote:
The second disappearance of Mr. Bilbo Baggins was discussed in Hobbiton, and indeed all over the Shire, for a year and a day, and was remembered much longer than that. It became a fireside-story for young hobbits; and eventually Mad Baggins, who used to vanish with a bang and a flash and reappear with bags of jewels and gold, became a favourite character of legend and lived on long after the true events were forgotten.
I just find it fascinating how Tolkien is depicting the way folklore is created. And its totally believable. It also makes you wonder how other 'legends' arose, & how much basis they have in fact. I'm also struck by the statement that Mad Baggins 'became a favourite character of legend and lived on long after the true events were forgotten'. Strange to think that for ordinary Hobbits their only memory of the events of the end of the Third Age was this strange character & his adventures. As a side issue, I also find myself wondering about the characters in poems like the Stone Troll, & the others in the Red Book (well, the ones in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil ). Is it possible that some of these characters & events have a similar origin to the character of 'Mad Baggins'?

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Old 07-05-2004, 02:53 AM   #71
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A trifle late, but still...

Davem wrote-

Quote:
Or perhaps Tolkien felt that Gollum must be made as monstrous as possible in order to emphasise the necessity for, & value of, pity, by requiring us to pity a true 'monster'. We are presented with someone for whom there is absolutely no reason to feel pity. But Tolkien seems to be saying that we should feel pity. So, it doesn't matter what an individual does, its somehow 'obligatory', according to the 'Wise' to feel pity for them, & to show mercy.
I don't feel 'obliged' to feel pity for Gollum- I just do. This is because Gandalf shows us that there is a chance for redemption, and more than anything, that Gollum's 'darker side' (i.e. murdering his friend, eating babies, etc.) is because of the Ring's effect on him and in doing this Tolkien wants to highlight the marked impact the Ring has on it's bearers.

Quote:
'Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.'
Gandalf says this to Frodo to show him that he should feel some empathy for Gollum, who is- to my mind- a tragic villain. I think that it is also foreshadowing of what Frodo himself is to become under the influence of the Ring, as no one in Middl-Earth can overcome it's temptation (apart from Sauron and Tom Bombadil). Gandalf says that even though Gollum is someone to be despised for his heinous crimes, he is also someone to be pitied for what has driven him to commit these crimes and his distressed mental state.

On a side track, I think that HerenIstarion's note on the chapter structure and content of the first three chapters of Books I and II (Post #2) is very astute and no doubt intentional, in order to create a consistency and common structure if you like, for the reader to follow-

Quote:
Not only names are somehow interrelated, but the context is neatly up to match what happens in each book. So to say, in the first chapter of each book all is relatively peacefull, but inner tension builds up, in relative second chapters nothing much happens (not a feat often seen in modern writing!), just people talk(in retrospective), the third relative chapters deal with conclusions following retrospective conversation in second chapters and the rest of each book is the quest itself.
Davem, your comments about 'Mad Baggins' are very true and I think that you are right when you say-

Quote:
I just find it fascinating how Tolkien is depicting the way folklore is created. And its totally believable.
Tolkien has a way of bringing characters to life and making them seem so much like people we know that it is quite amazing. I never thought I would identify so well with a character called 'Bilbo' or 'Frodo' for that matter!
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Old 07-05-2004, 01:35 PM   #72
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Very good point about the importance of pity, Fordim !
Quote:
'Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.'
"No message" in LotR , huh ? Well, for me this is certainly a message!


I also agree very muchwith Davem's remarks about "Mad Baggins"!

There seems nothing left for me to say, except that I'm a bit puzzled by a small detail at the end of the chapter:
Sam says "Lor bless you, Mr Gandalf, sir!" and "Lor bless me, sir" . How does that expression fit into Middle-earth ? Just another anachronism like clocks, postoffices etc.? Otherwise Hobbits don't seem to have any religion at all!
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Old 07-05-2004, 01:56 PM   #73
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Quote:
Sam says "Lor bless you, Mr Gandalf, sir!" and "Lor bless me, sir" . How does that expression fit into Middle-earth ?
Aha! Yes, I wondered about that too. I came to the conclusion that it's either a slip of Tolkien's, or a 'translation' of a particular hobbit interjection. In the same way that the hobbit names were 'translated' in English, to make them more familiar, a specific hobbit interjection (which may or may not have included a mention of divinity) was rendered as that.

The discussion on pity brought to mind an older thread I started where I was trying to argue that feeling pity for the villains made one more vulnerable to their vile deeds. I still believe that, to an extent, but I agree that in Tolkien's world it all turns out for the common good and pity is redeeming.
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Old 07-06-2004, 02:24 AM   #74
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Originally Posted by Evisse
The discussion on pity brought to mind an older thread I started where I was trying to argue that feeling pity for the villains made one more vulnerable to their vile deeds. I still believe that, to an extent, but I agree that in Tolkien's world it all turns out for the common good and pity is redeeming.
This is a point really worth considering. The early 'version' of Gollum - Digol - who isn't either a murderer or a canibal, is easier to feel pity for. The later one isn't. There's no reason why we should pity him. So, the 'highest' form of pity, like mercy, is pity & mercy for the undeserving. Tolkien has created a monster in Gollum & yet asks us to feel pity for him. Is this equivalent to asking us to feel pity for Saddam Hussain, or Osama Bin Laden, or Hitler? The Ring may be responsible for Gollum's seduction to evil, yet what is the Ring, if not a symbol of desire for power, control, domination.

Tolkien seems to be saying that we are obliged to do the 'right' thing - show pity & mercy to all, & leave the rest to the 'Authority'. Perhaps his philosophy is that if we do the right thing the Authority can work through us & bring about a good result, whereas if we don't do the right thing it can't.

As to sympathising with evil characters & so becoming more vulnerable, perhaps Tolkien is simply saying that we shouldn't judge, & that we only have to follow the right path & trust that the Authority will bring things to a good end.
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Old 07-06-2004, 06:21 AM   #75
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Lor bless you, sir

I like lmp's take on this. The Shire is modeled on Edwardian England. Clocks, umbrellas, blessings, and all. In Edwardian England, the Rules had a firmly religious base, whether it was remembered by the individual or not.

Just so the Shire; The essential Goodness comes from the moral foundation set up by Eru in the king's lands eons ago in Numenor, which oozed over intot he laws brought to Gondor and Arnor, and thence to the Shire with "The King" and "The Rules"-- even if the "Why" of the morality is forgotten. The religion is indeed (in the case of the hobbits) entirely forgotten, but evidence of its foundation apparently still lingers, just like their references to The King and The Rules. They linger like dusty mathoms.
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Old 07-06-2004, 08:53 AM   #76
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On the matters of pitty and mercy

Being a bit more practical (or cynical) I always saw that pity/mercy repays. Whether in straightforward sense or the higher power intervene (Gollum helping them find the way and destroying the ring at the end) or simply it makes you feel good in your skin and thus less vulnerable (Bilbo and the ring). However it's just a matter of opinion I guess.

The reason for this post is a lot more trivial... I just wanted to post one quote which is from the other end of the book (exactly the second chapter from back too), but still, I believe, belongs to be discussed together with this one.
Quote:
from "The Scouring of the Shire"
- No, Sam! - said Frodo. - Do not kill him even now. For he has not hurt me. And in any case I do not wish him to be slain in this evil mood. He was great once, of a noble kind that we should not dare to raise our hands against. He is fallen, and his cure is beyond us; but I would still spare him, in the hope that he may find it.
Saruman rose to his feet, and stared at Frodo. There was a strange look in his eyes of mingled wonder and respect and hatred. - You have grown, Halfling, - he said. - Yes, you have grown very much. You are wise, and cruel. You have robbed my revenge of sweetness, and now I must go hence in bitterness, in debt to your mercy. I hate it and you! Well, I go and I will trouble you no more. But do not expect me to wish you health and long life. You will have neither. But that is not my doing. I merely foretell.
Do not kill when it's not needed. It doesn't mean be weak and let your enemies harm you, it simply means do not kill for the sake of revenge only. Also we understand that even revenge can be sweater with the enemy alive
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Old 07-23-2004, 06:19 AM   #77
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To go back to an earlier point raised by Squatter, regarding Sam's point about the 'Tree-men'

After a few readings of lotr, I finally picked up on this. To me, Tolkien inserts this passage and what transpires later to add yet another example of Loss in this novel. To me, Loss is a central theme to LOTR, whether it be Frodo losing the Shire, Sam losing Frodo, Elrond losing Arwen, Gollum losing the Ring, etc. But for this example, I'm talking about the Ents losing the Entwives.

We hear Treebeard's story to Merry and Pippin in TT, but unfortunately the hobbits were obviously not present at the Green Dragon when Sam spoke about the Tree-men, and did not hear of the story from Sam's cousin Hal. (As to the 'sex' of the tree-men, they could well have been entwives instead of ents of course, what does Hal know....)

If only they had heard this, I hoped.

And I know I'm getting ahead of myself here mentioning ROTK but.....

To add to Treebeard's sadness in Many Partings, as he says goodbye to the Company, Aragorn throws a spanner in the works:

Quote:
Treebeard's face became sad. 'Forests may grow,' he said. 'Woods may spread. But not Ents. There are no Entings.'
'Yet maybe there is now more hope in your search,' said Aragorn. 'Lands will lie open to you eastward that have long been closed.'
Sam! Are you listening to this? Tell treebeard to look West, not East!!

And to add a twist, it seems Treebeard is only talking as an aside to Merry and Pippin as they drain their bowls:
Quote:
'Well, good-bye! And don't forget that if you hear any news of the Entwives in your land, you will send word to me.'
Talk to Sam, Treebeard! Talk to Sam! He'll remember......

But no, Tolkien leaves Treebeard in his sadness, and gives us another melancholic example of Loss, foreshadowed by Sam in the Green Dragon in Bywater at the begining of the story......
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Old 01-21-2008, 03:36 PM   #78
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"The Shadow of the Past" gives the story depth after the light-hearted beginning, and the sinister foreshadowings become known facts. I'm amused by "Mad Baggins", reminding us how legends grow, starting with some truth and distorting it over time. There's also an echo of the first chapter's account of the death of Frodo's parents in the opinion that Bilbo must have drowned as well.

There are many memorable lines in this chapter - the Ring poem, of course, and Gandalf's wise words on deciding what to do with the time given us, and on deserving death, and on being chosen for a task. Those phrases are of enduring worth and an important part of what makes the book such worthwhile reading - and rereading.

We also get a foreshadowing of Frodo's later inability to throw the Ring into Mt. Doom - he can't even throw it into his fireplace in the comparative security of his home!

I like Sam's "eavesdropping" pun - do you think it was on purpose or accidental?
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Old 01-22-2008, 06:33 AM   #79
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Indeed, the Shadow of the Past is at first touching the dark things as themselves, though very carefully at the beginning, with good resonances of the Hobbit: Sauron is mentioned as "the Dark Power that was driven from Mirkwood", and Saruman the White is mentioned in connection with the White Council (yay! I remember when I read this for the first time, I thought something like "what silly Saruman? And White? That's going to be some boring all-good leader in the background" - something like the way many people see Manwë or so, you know: the one who sits in the back and does nothing, though he is the goodest of all good. Oh, how mistaken I was! And I'm happy for that ).

I never noticed how fast Gandalf jumps to the topic concerning the Ring. The flow of the story is slow, gentle all the time: this happens, that happens, yada yada, Sam talks with Ted Sandyman, Gandalf arrives as usual, the and Frodo greet each other, and suddenly boom, "Your Ring is dangerous, there were many rings like that in Eregion." Who? What? Why? Total shock. No one knows what Eregion is, no one knows that there were more Rings like that, Gandalf suddenly overflows us with information. The name "Sauron" is mentioned without warning. On some two pages, we learn about Sauron, Mordor, the Three/Seven/Nine, we learn about the Ringwraith - I would call the two pages that follow after the Ring-verses "intensive course of M-E arcana". Yet I never had the feeling of confusion when reading this, unlike for example the story about Fëanor and Fi(-nwë, -narfin, -ngolfin, -nrod etc.).

As to Sam's eavesdropping, I always thought it was intentional "playing dumb" (as Gandalf tells him). Anyway, Sam is just wonderful and his words at the end of the chapter always make me laugh.

Also one thing I did not consciously realise until now: I always had the feeling that the Ring-script is supposed to be read from right to left. Does anyone of you have the same feeling when you look at it?
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Old 02-23-2008, 07:57 AM   #80
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Hi all,

another well-discussed chapter, and the crucial one for the plot after all.

Typically I'll try and pick up a few minor points.

Quote:
But now Frodo often met strange dwarves of far countries, seeking refuge in the West. They were troubled and spoke in whispers of the Enemy and of the Land of Mordor
I think this shows dwarves of the Eastern houses, for surely those of Erebor or the Iron Hills would not be considered 'strange' by Frodo? Therefore they must have had quite a journey from the mountains of the East (Yellow Mountains?) perhaps disturbed by Sauron's increasing domination of the East.

Another thing is that 'queer folk' were crossing the Shire and more being turned back by the Bounders. If these were refugees, then where were they coming from? Perhaps they were the first scouting parties of Saruman's spies?
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