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Old 10-09-2005, 03:20 PM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Silmaril LotR -- Book 6 - Chapter 3 - Mount Doom

We have reached the goal of the Quest (though not the end of the story)! This is the decisive chapter, the one we've been moving toward for many, many pages. Would you call it the book's most important chapter?

Two Elven objects play a vital part in this final stage of the journey - the cloak, which warms and protects Sam and Frodo, and the lembas, which is shown to have special virtues. What do you think of its ability to give superhuman strength?

We see that Sam's hope was closely connected with the thought of returning back home at the end of their adventures. When he loses that, his hope is now finally gone - at least seemingly. Yet he, like Frodo has done for longer, carries on without hope. What gives him the strength? He takes over responsibility for the last lap of the journey, since Frodo seems without initiative, though he still has some will.

We feel with Sam as he lets go of his treasured pots and pans to lighten their load - I'm reminded of Aragorn's words about being able to cast away a treasure at need. Again, Frodo states his unwillingness to bear weapons - neither fair nor foul. We witness an internal debate of Sam's that reminds us a bit of Gollum's schizophrenic conversations. What do you think of the two voices we hear?

Sam carries Frodo, who is almost without strength. When I read that, I think of the famous words of the big brother who carries his younger sibling: "He ain't heavy - he's my brother!"

I can't help but wonder - why is it a priority of Sauron to keep the road to the Sammath Naur functional? We know he created the Ring there, but why would he want to go there otherwise?

Even before the climactic events in the mountain, Gollum fulfils an important purpose - in attacking Frodo, he causes him to draw on his reserves (adrenalin!) for the strength he needs to master the final lap. Two things in particular stand out to me in this passage - Sam's vision of the inner nature of the two opponents, and Frodo's prophetic words: "If you touch me ever again, you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom." Would you consider that a curse or 'mere' foretelling?

Sam's mercy in sparing Gollum's life parallels Bilbo's - and reminds of Gandalf's speech about mercy.

Frodo's fateful choice strikes me as particularly interesting because of the way he chooses his words to proclaim his choice: "But I do not choose now to do what I came to do." He says "I do not choose", yet he does choose! Is it merely a quirky way of putting what he's saying, or is there some significance to that choice of words?

The triumvirate meets in Sammath Naur, the three who were each needed to complete the task of destroying the Ring. Gollum's end fulfils both Frodo's and Gandalf's prophecies about the role he had to play and his punishment for taking the Ring from Frodo.

The descriptive passage about the end of Sauron's realm is wonderful! How does it affect you when you read it?

The end of the chapter is the end of all things for Frodo and Sam - peace and forgiveness, yet no thought that there could be a future for them personally. Would it have been better for Frodo if he could have died right then? Yet even then there is something positive - they are together. Neither is alone.
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'Mercy!' cried Gandalf. 'If the giving of information is to be the cure of your inquisitiveness, I shall spend all the rest of my days in answering you. What more do you want to know?' 'The whole history of Middle-earth...'
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Old 10-09-2005, 03:51 PM   #2
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First of all, this post was put together before I read Esty's intro, so it touches on some of the points she introduces without reference to her.

Second of all, this is a long post - but its a significant chapter & I got carried away!
With this chapter we come to the end of the first third of book 6. This final book divides neatly into three sections. The first third ( Tower of Cirith Ungol, Land of Shadow & Mount Doom) tell of the end of the Quest. It is the ‘mythic’ or spritual world that is depicted. The next three (Field of Cormalllen, Steward & the King & Many Partings) take us back to the ‘legendary’ world of Gondor, Rohan & Rivendell. Finally, in the last third (Homeward Bound, Scouring of the Shire & Grey Havens), we will return to the mundane world of Bree & the Shire, but with a final glimpse of the mythic world at the end.

In this chapter, though, we see what is, apparently the end of the struggle. The Ring is brought to destruction, & everyone can go home. Things move inexorably towards their culmination, Frodo, Sam, Gollum & the Ring come to the Fire. The mountain looms ever larger, till it fills the Hobbits vision:

Quote:
South-eastward, far off like a dark standing shadow, loomed the Mountain. Smokes were pouring from it, and while those that rose into the upper air trailed away eastward, great rolling clouds floated down its sides and spread over the land...

They could not follow this road any longer; for it went on eastward into the great Shadow, but the Mountain now loomed upon their right, almost due south, and they must turn towards it. ..

Such daylight as followed was dim; for here as the Mountain drew near the air was ever mirky, while out from the Dark Tower there crept the veils of Shadow that Sauron wove about himself...

The land was rough and hostile, and yet they made much progress, and ever the Mountain drew nearer...

The Mountain crept up ever nearer, until, if they lifted their heavy heads, it filled all their sight, looming vast before them: a huge mass of ash and slag and burned stone, out of which a sheer-sided cone was raised into the clouds.
Sam realises that, if there is a way home it lies on the other side of that Mountain & that he must pass through the Fire to reach it. The Land of Mordor is a dead land. All life has been leeched out of it to leave nothing but ‘Ashes & dust & thirst’. Even the stones & the mountains seem like ghosts:

Quote:
A few miles to the north-east the foothills of the Ashen Mountains stood like sombre grey ghosts, behind which the misty northern heights rose like a line of distant cloud hardly darker than the lowering sky.
Tolkien returns to the idea of hope - Sam seems finally to lose hope at one point:

Quote:
Never for long had hope died in his staunch heart, and always until now he had taken some thought for their return. But the bitter truth came home to him at last: at best their provision would take them to their goal; and when the task was done, there they would come to an end, alone, houseless, foodless in the midst of a terrible desert. There could be no return.
Seems Sam has at last given up, but it isn’t so:

Quote:
But even as hope died in Sam, or seemed to die, it was turned to a new strength. Sam's plain hobbit-face grew stern, almost grim, as the will hardened in him, and he felt through all his limbs a thrill, as if he was turning into some creature of stone and steel that neither despair nor weariness nor endless barren miles could subdue.
Sam’s loss of hope is only apparent. Like Gandalf in Moria, it only seemed to die. Actually, it was transformed into something else, something at first unrecognisable for what it was, but actually the same thing but in a more powerful manifestation. He finds the strength to cast aside everything he has carried for so long - even his beloved pans. Yet before the end he will find a new burden - his master, who he will have to carry on his back up the Mountain.

Sam’s inner dialogue is interesting. We again see a Sam who is ‘torn in two:

Quote:
I reckon we crossed half the distance before we stopped. One more day will do it.' And then he paused.
'Don't be a fool, Sam Gamgee,' came an answer in his own voice. 'He won't go another day like that, if he moves at all. And you can't go on much longer giving him all the water and most of the food.'
'I can go on a good way though, and I will.'
'Where to?'
'To the Mountain, of course.'
'But what then, Sam Gamgee, what then? When you get there, what are you going to do? He won't be able to do anything for himself.'
To his dismay Sam realized that he had not got an answer to this. He had no clear idea at all. Frodo had not spoken much to him of his errand, and Sam only knew vaguely that the Ring had somehow to be put into the fire. 'The Cracks of Doom,' he muttered, the old name rising to his mind. 'Well, if Master knows how to find them, I don't.'
'There you are!' came the answer. 'it's all quite useless. He said so himself. You are the fool, going on hoping and toiling. You could have lain down and gone to sleep together days ago, if you hadn't been so dogged. But you'll die just the same, or worse. You might just as well lie down now and give it up. You'll never get to the top anyway.'
'I'll get there, if I leave everything but my bones behind,' said Sam. 'And I'll carry Mr. Frodo up myself, if it breaks my back and heart. So stop arguing!'
‘Who’s arguing?’ one might ask. Sam here sounds like no-one so much as Smeagol-Gollum. ‘There’s no point!’ says one part of him. ‘I don’t care, I’m going to go on anyway!’ the other part of him responds.

So we move towards the end. Gollum reappears to claim his Precious. He attacks Frodo, but is thrown down. Sam sees this event with ‘other vision’:

Quote:
Then suddenly, as before under the eaves of the Emyn Muil, Sam saw these two rivals with other vision. A crouching shape, scarcely more than the shadow of a living thing, a creature now wholly ruined and defeated, yet filled with a hideous lust and rage; and before it stood stern, untouchable now by pity, a figure robed in white, but at its breast it held a wheel of fire. Out of the figure there spoke a commanding voice.
'Begone and trouble me no more! If you touch me ever again, you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom.'
This is very interesting. The voice Sam hears may be Frodo’s, but it doesn’t sound exactly like Frodo. The voice Sam hears comes ‘out of the figure’. Is this the voice of the Ring? Is it Frodo or the Ring promouncing sentence on Gollum - or is there by now any difference between them? What Sam sees is almost an amalgam of the two.

Sam finally gets his chance for revenge on Gollum, but at the last moment he cannot bring himself to take it. The final lesson is learnt - pity. Many that live deserve death, & some that die deserve life - can you give it to them?’

Quote:
Sam's hand wavered. His mind was hot with wrath and the memory of evil. It would be just to slay this treacherous, murderous creature, just and many times deserved; and also it seemed the only safe thing to do. But deep in his heart there was something that restrained him: he could not strike this thing lying in the dust, forlorn, ruinous, utterly wretched. He himself, though only for a little while, had borne the Ring, and now dimly he guessed the agony of Gollum's shrivelled mind and body, enslaved to that Ring, unable to find peace or relief ever in life again. But Sam had no words to express what he felt.
Now to the question, one we’ve agonised over on these boards. Does Frodo give in & claim the Ring, or is his will overwhelmed? In an early draft Frodo’s word’s in the Sammath Naur were to have been:

Quote:
’I have come’ he said. ‘But I cannot do what I have come to do. I will not do it. The Ring is mine.’
rather than
Quote:
'I have come,' he said. 'But I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!'
The first version implies that his will has been overwhelmed - ‘I cannot do what I have come to do.’ The published version implies that Frodo has willingly chosen to claim the Ring, but still some argue that Frodo was not strong enough to withstand the Ring’s power at that point, so He was not accountable for his actions. CT comments:

Quote:
Frodo's words 'But I cannot do what I have come to do' were changed subsequently on the B text to 'But I do not choose now to do what I have come to do.' I do not think that the difference is very significant, since it was already a central element in the outlines that Frodo would choose to keep the Ring himself; the change in his words does no more than emphasize that he fully willed his act. Sauron Defeated
Frodo fully willed his act. For whatever reason. He was fully aware, fully conscious of what he was doing. He willed his act. But we all saw that one coming, didn’t we? No-one could have withstood the Ring. Frodo was broken by his struggles. He was one little Hobbit, what chance did he have? Yet in the end he fully willed his act. He knew what he was doing & did it anyway.

The end of the Ring always seems to produce a feeling of ‘What??? Is that it?!!!!’ Its all over so suddenly, in so few words:

Quote:
Suddenly Sam saw Gollum's long hands draw upwards to his mouth; his white fangs gleamed, and then snapped as they bit. Frodo gave a cry, and there he was, fallen upon his knees at the chasm's edge. But Gollum, dancing like a mad thing, held aloft the ring, a finger still thrust within its circle. It shone now as if verily it was wrought of living fire.
'Precious, precious, precious!' Gollum cried. 'My Precious! O my Precious!' And with that, even as his eyes were lifted up to gloat on his prize, he stepped too far, toppled, wavered for a moment on the brink, and then with a shriek he fell. Out of the depths came his last wail precious, and he was gone.
There was a roar and a great confusion of noise. Fires leaped up and licked the roof. The throbbing grew to a great tumult, and the Mountain shook.
Nearly 1,000 pages so far, all the battles, the sacrifices, the suffering, the fear of the Ring, the whole world on a knife edge - & that’s it? Three little paragraphs. Gollum bites off Frodo’s finger, prances about & trips up! No wonder both the radio adaptation & the movie go for something more spectacular - a magnificant crescendo in the first, a desperate hand to hand struggle between Frodo & Gollum in the other. What was Tolkien thinking of?

Well, I think Tolkien got it right. First & foremost because the destruction of the Ring is not the culmination of the story - the Return of the king, the Scouring of the Shire & the Grey Havens are the culmination of the story. Its right that the Ring is dispatched in the way it is.

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There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.
‘In the end the Shadow was only a small & passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.’ That’s why the Ring must pass away as it does. In the end it gets the end it is worthy of. If its end was brought about by Eru then it is the ultimate slapdown of Sauron, the ultimate humiliation. ‘Think you’re so great, so terrible? Just watch! Think you’re going to win back your Ring & initiate your ‘Thousand year Reich’? Sorry, son. Look on as I shatter your dreams of power not with a spectacular battle in which you can go down in a blaze of glory, but with a farce, which will leave you humiliated & asking ‘Was that it?’

Think about it. Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor, terror of Middle-earth, sitting in Barad dur dreaming dreams of absolute power, only to suddenly become aware of the real danger he is in & to have to watch helplessly as Gollum jigs about, trips up & falls into the lava. Its pure slapstick! The ultimate ‘custard pie’ moment. Sauron dies completely humiliated.

Yet if it all ends in farce for Sauron, it is all too real & painful for Sam & Frodo. They’ve played their parts in the cosmic drama & now have to live with the aftermath. Frodo sits with blood pouring from his maimed hand, & Sam has nothing to bind it with.
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Old 10-09-2005, 07:01 PM   #3
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That was great insight. I've always felt the same way about Sauron's defeat.

In the tale of Beren and Luthien, Sauron ultimately humiliated himself and forever was a fairly noticeable smear on the Ainurs' record. Honestly, did any of you think he was still smart and great after that?

By the time Sam and Frodo have reached Mount Doom, Eru is fed up with Sauron and uses his intervention to bring about Sauron's fall in the most shameful way possible.

This is my opinion and you are free to disagree with me, but please do it sliently.

Tolkien proved his writing skills with this chapter. This chapter alone is better than entire books by other authors.
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Old 10-09-2005, 09:02 PM   #4
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Well, I can hardly resist the discussion on this chapter, being as it's my favorite.

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

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

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

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

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

And then there is what may well be my favorite passage, culminated by my favorite quote: "But do you remember Gandalf's words: Even Gollum may have something yet to do? But for him, Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring. The Quest would have been in vain, even at the bitter end. So let us forgive him! For the Quest is achieved, and now all is over. I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam."
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Old 10-10-2005, 12:35 PM   #5
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This is not a favourite chapter for me in terms of finding it pleasurable, as it's far too tense a read, though this does not mean it is not one of the greatest chapters! In fact, whenever I read this chapter I get that 'rush' of adrenalin all over again, just like the first time I read it. There's so much to say too, though I can't hope to do everything justice in one post (especially Gollum, who deserves to be given lots of attention) so I won't attempt to, even though I have a huge list of scribbled notes - in red ink, getting more and more frenzied and spiky line by line...

The chapter is filled with odd references to other kinds of existence, to the Fea and to the nature of Arda itself. They are in an odd place, both physically and mentally, and also spiritually. The first reference is seen when Tolkien chooses some very unusual words:

Quote:
when the task was done, there they would come to an end, alone, houseless, foodless in the midst of a terrible desert. There could be no return.
Why does Tolkien choose to say houseless? On one level this means that they would be 'homeless', but they do have homes, they are just a long way from them. Does it mean simply that they would be without shelter? Then why does Tolkien not say 'without shelter'? He does not need to put 'houseless' with 'foodless' to make the sentence poetic. Now 'houseless' means another thing, it means without a body. I'm sure Sam would not know of this idea, but I am suspicious Tolkien chose to use this word to hint at the possibility that they could be without bodies, especially after hinting to us about what the Nazgul do to their captives and enemies.

Quote:
Slowly the light grew. Suddenly a sense of urgency which he did not understand came to Sam. It was almost as if he had been called: 'Now, now, or it will be too late!'
What is this voice which calls Sam onward? It seems to be attached to the light which has grown. Could this be any kind of Divine Light? It is almost as if someone can see that if they do not move then they will be caught, either by Sauron or by Gollum. It's a little like the pantomime cry of "behind you!", but of course, much more serious.

Quote:
In his great need he drew out once more the phial of Galadriel, but it was pale and cold in his trembling hand and threw no light into that stifling dark. 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.
Does anyone else think of the Unlight of Ungoliant at this point? The Darkness of Mount Doom is so complete it seems to feed off the Light of the Phial. It could also be that Mount Doom is indeed the Secret Fire, as davem has claimed, and so would make any other Light seem dull and useless by comparison, even a small Phial containing an echo of that Light.

Quote:
before it stood stern, untouchable now by pity, a figure robed in white, but at its breast it held a wheel of fire. Out of the figure there spoke a commanding voice.
'Begone and trouble me no more! If you touch me ever again, you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom.'
This quote draws me on to more thoughts leading from those after the last quote, i.e. a little 'mad'. I cannot say for certain what I think this signifies. It is all too tempting to say that this represents some kind of Hope from Gandalf or Galadriel. It is also too tempting to say that it is Eru Himself. It makes Gollum back off even at his most desperate, and it seems that to make Gollum back off at such a stage would indeed take incredible power or strength. That it mentions a 'wheel of fire' makes me think of the Secret Fire. Is the Secret Fire represented by a 'wheel'? And why should this 'vision' appear on the slopes of Mount Doom? Making a leap of the imagination, I think it is possible that in making a Ring out of Fire Sauron might have hoped to approach something of the power of the Secret Fire. This is an idea that needs thrashing about a little though...

Quote:
Often blocked or destroyed by the tumults of the Mountain's furnaces, always that road was repaired and cleared again by the labours of countless orcs.
Like Esty, I wondered why this road was kept cleared. Sauron made the Ring a long time before, and he was also absent form Mordor for an incredibly long time. Did the Orcs keep it in good repair while he was away or has this been done since Sauron returned to Mordor, which is relatively recent to the time frame of the story? It does make me wonder again what value Sauron placed upon Mount Doom, as it must have been important to him, and it also makes me wonder if he was making use of it once again, and for what purposes?
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Old 10-10-2005, 03:32 PM   #6
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before it stood stern, untouchable now by pity, a figure robed in white, but at its breast it held a wheel of fire. Out of the figure there spoke a commanding voice.
'Begone and trouble me no more! If you touch me ever again, you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom.'
I thought I'd toss my opinion on this passage into the brew...

I have often seen this episode as a foreshadowing of Frodo's claiming the Ring only a short while later, in the Cracks of Doom.

As a general rule, I am not a fan of direct intervention of this sort by Eru, and I do not tend to like the idea of Gandalf or anyone being behind it...

So that leaves, as the source of power, the Ring, at least according to my preferences of thought.

Why would the Ring want Gollum gone? I have no idea... Would it care if Gollum was there or not? I have no idea...

But I do know that FRODO would want Gollum gone. I think everyone here knows why Frodo would want Gollum gone. And if Frodo was acting with such power, the Ring seems the most likely source of it, as well as the most likely object to be the "Circle of Fire".

If so, then this is Frodo's first real use of the Ring's power. He has, Bilbo-esque, used it to turn invisible and escape, but this is his first use of it as if he were a lord, using its power for dominion over another person. As I said, it forebodes, to me, his claiming of the Ring only paragraphs later.

And, as an addendum, Frodo's curse/prophecy here is remarkably similar to this passage in the "Taming of Smeagol":

Quote:
For a moment it appeared to Sam that his master had grown and Gollum had shrunk: a tall stern shadow, a mighty lord who his his brightness in a grey cloud, and at his feet a little whining dog. Yet the two were in some way akin and not alien: they could reach one another's minds. Gollum raised himself and begin pawing at Frodo, fawning at his knees.
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Old 10-12-2005, 06:26 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Formendacil
So that leaves, as the source of power, the Ring, at least according to my preferences of thought.

Why would the Ring want Gollum gone? I have no idea... Would it care if Gollum was there or not? I have no idea...
This would be another problem with a 'sentient' Ring. At this point, the interests of the Ring would be in going with Gollum (who would surely put it on immediately to disappear and so reveal its whereabouts to Sauron), so surely if this was any 'evil will' of the Ring taking effect or making its presence felt then it would not have allowed Frodo to act in this way. Not unless the Ring also had a 'good' side.
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Old 10-12-2005, 08:40 AM   #8
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In reference to Formendacil's post above: is the use of the Ring in this way by Frodo not then suggested to be the direct cause of Gollum's fall? I would think it unlike JRRT to play games like that, which renders the writing here improbable to be a passage indicating full grasp of faculty by Frodo. ~R
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Old 10-12-2005, 09:23 AM   #9
Fordim Hedgethistle
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Frodo fully willed his act. For whatever reason. He was fully aware, fully conscious of what he was doing. He willed his act. But we all saw that one coming, didn’t we? No-one could have withstood the Ring. Frodo was broken by his struggles. He was one little Hobbit, what chance did he have? Yet in the end he fully willed his act. He knew what he was doing & did it anyway.
No he didn't either:

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'I have come,' he said. 'But I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!' And suddenly, as he set it on his finger, he vanished from Sam's sight.
This brief moment is really the whole of Frodo's story told in miniature:

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'I have come,' he said.
Yes he has, though he "did not know the way" to do it, he managed it -- somehow, against all the odds he did it. That's why he's heroic and good and incapable of choosing to do evil. No-one who is capable of evil could have done what Frodo has done by getting there.

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'But I do not choose now'
Frodo says it himself, "I do not choose" -- and in case you missed it he says again:

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'I will not'
In this moment, side by side with his declaration of his most heroic act -- the most heroic act in Middle Earth since Bilbo gave up the Ring and Aragorn decided to lead his army to Mordor -- he announces that he no longer "chooses" and has no "will". And for anyone who still hasn't got it:

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'The Ring is mine!'...he vanished
Frodo is gone, only the Ring is left.

(See, I'm still lurking about the discussion...)
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Old 10-12-2005, 09:51 AM   #10
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No he didn't either:
CT clearly shows he did, and that that was his father's intention.

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No-one who is capable of evil could have done what Frodo has done by getting there.
Frodo incapable of evil? I don't think a Catholic writer would have written such a character. The most moving thing about that moment, about the whole of LotR in some ways, is that in the end Frodo does succumb. Man (& Hobbit) is fallen. Sorry, but there's no 'Get out of Jail free' card for Frodo. He claimed the Ring: 'The Ring is mine'. That's when he vanishes - after he's claimed it not before.
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Old 10-12-2005, 10:24 AM   #11
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CT clearly shows he did, and that that was his father's intention.
Ahh, how quickly they forget -- I have already demolished the argument that the author's intention has any bearing on interpretation of the text....but let's not get into that here..... ("Ai! Ai!")
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Old 10-12-2005, 10:28 AM   #12
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Well, I'm back.

(At least for a few days.) Luckily I caught up with Frodo & Sam in time to comment on this chapter...as Esty says, *the* chapter we've all been waiting for since the Quest began. I always have to put the book down after I'm done with this one, just to catch my breath. The Quest to destroy the Ring teeters on "the knife-edge of doom" right up to the last minute, however slapstick the final moments are.

I've always read Frodo's words as he claimed the ring in Sammath Naur as being spoken with full consciousness and will; Formendacil's comment about when Frodo decided to take control of the Ring makes sense in that way --

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But I do know that FRODO would want Gollum gone. I think everyone here knows why Frodo would want Gollum gone. And if Frodo was acting with such power, the Ring seems the most likely source of it, as well as the most likely object to be the "Circle of Fire".

If so, then this is Frodo's first real use of the Ring's power. He has, Bilbo-esque, used it to turn invisible and escape, but this is his first use of it as if he were a lord, using its power for dominion over another person. As I said, it forebodes, to me, his claiming of the Ring only paragraphs later.
-- but I have to wonder why Sauron didn't sense Frodo's presence on Mount Doom at that point, instead of moments later. Did another person have to wear the Ring and make a verbal claim to it? I like Formendacil's idea a lot -- I just wonder about Sauron's lack of reaction.

I remember when reading LOTR for the first time how shocking I found the idea of Frodo refusing to finish the Quest and *Gollum* being the one who actually got the Ring into the Cracks of Doom. And yet...it is poetic justice. One, Evil ends up destroying itself. Two, the reason Gollum is alive at the end is through the compassion, the 'weakness', if you will, of Bilbo, Frodo and Sam. Three, it could be construed as Good using Evil, in the person of Gollum, to obtain a good end.

But we still ask why Frodo put aside the quest when he had all but attained it?!? My own thoughts are that it is Frodo's mental and physical exhaustion combined with one last desparate burst of effort from the Ring to save itself and reach its master. It is interesting to reflect how differently the story would have turned out if Frodo had gone into Mordor alone, or if Gollum had been killed off earlier!
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Old 10-12-2005, 11:29 AM   #13
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No he didn't either
And Davem:
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CT clearly shows he did, and that that was his father's intention.
I think that Davem is right - though I do not quite agree with his proof. I don't think that either JRRT's intention or CT's interpretation of his intention can show a fact about the text conclusively. But I do think that the passage itself indicates fairly clearly that Frodo willed and knew what he was doing.

The argument seems to hinge on two points of Frodo's phrasing: "I do not choose" and "I will not". Now, I agree that these are interesting idiosyncracies of his speech at this point. But I do not think that they clearly indicate a lack of will or choice.

Notice the phrasing of my previous sentence: "I do not think . . .". Does this indicate a lack of thought on my part? I hope not! Nor does "I do not choose . . ." or "I will not . . ." necessarily indicate a lack of choice or will on the part of the speaker - though it does perhaps indicate something about the speaker's attitude.

At the very least, I would say that Frodo chose not to choose - which is, as I'm sure we all know, a choice in itself.

But I do think there's an ambiguity here between choosing and not choosing, between doing something and being compelled to do something. It's this same ambiguity that comes up again and again in connection with the Ring. And, as I've said before, I don't think that either answer is right - or rather, I think that both are right, and indeed that this is one of Tolkien's most brilliant strokes.
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Old 10-12-2005, 11:55 AM   #14
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My feeling is that if Frodo did not choose to claim the Ring then he is merely a passive victim of circumstances beyond his control. What makes him a tragic hero is that he does choose, & like Feanor, Turin (& even Sauron & Saruman), he brings his doom on himself by his giving in to desire.

It would not be shocking (it would not hurt so much either) if Frodo's mind & will was overwhellmed by the Ring & by his sufferings & effectively turned into an automaton. What hit me from my first reading, & still does to this day, was a sense of deep shock &, dare I say it, betrayal. I'd struggled along with Frodo, willed him to get to the Fire & cast in the Ring & he let me down. In the end he took it for himself. He broke my heart!

Sorry Fordim, but your version takes all that away, makes him into a pathetic figure, someone to feel sad about. Not a master of his fate, a captain of his soul, a heroic failure. Frodo is a hero for our time, he speaks to us so profoundly, precisely because he failed, because he surrendered, because, in the end, just when he was about to win through, he threw it all away, took the easy way out.

And the point is, he knew he'd done that - Tolkien states that in his final days in the Shire he felt like a 'broken failure'. In the end he wanted that Ring & took it - & that's why we feel so close to him - because if we were in his position we'd have done the same & we know it, dammit!

I love Frodo because he's Everyman. He's both a heroic failure & a tragic hero at the same time. We watch him at that moment when he claims the Ring & we think 'You bloody fool!!!' & we weep for him & for ourselves.

'Heroic failure', 'tragic hero', or, in short, Everyman.
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Old 10-12-2005, 12:08 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by davem
'Heroic failure', 'tragic hero', or, in short, Everyman.
To add to Davem's excellent thesis here, and to go slightly away from the chapter at hand, this makes the Lord of the Rings a much more moving and powerful book in that it offers the hope of FORGIVENESS, the idea that even those who ultimately succumb to wrongdoing have a hope of redemption, a hope of regaining a happy, fulfilled life. The parting at the end of the story is a good deal more hopeful if we realise that it means that Frodo has a chance at finding peace again, at finding redemption, instead of just a trip to the doctor/psychiatrist from which he will not return.
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Old 10-12-2005, 12:13 PM   #16
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This would be another problem with a 'sentient' Ring. At this point, the interests of the Ring would be in going with Gollum
Not necessarily. I think that by this point the Ring wanted to get inside Mount Doom because that would be where the Ring would think it would be safest. Gollum would certainly not take the Ring in the mountain.

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so surely if this was any 'evil will' of the Ring taking effect or making its presence felt then it would not have allowed Frodo to act in this way.
I believe there can be some reasonable questions about this...
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Old 10-12-2005, 12:19 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Formendacil
this makes the Lord of the Rings a much more moving and powerful book in that it offers the hope of FORGIVENESS, the idea that even those who ultimately succumb to wrongdoing have a hope of redemption, a hope of regaining a happy, fulfilled life.
'Forgive us our tresspasses, as we forgive those who tresspass against us.'

('And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil')
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Old 10-12-2005, 12:19 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by davem
My feeling is that if Frodo did not choose to claim the Ring then he is merely a passive victim of circumstances beyond his control. What makes him a tragic hero is that he does choose, & like Feanor, Turin (& even Sauron & Saruman), he brings his doom on himself by his giving in to desire.
Hmm... but if you're going to cite Tolkien's intention, you have to go the whole nine yards:
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I do not myself see that the breaking of [Frodo's] mind and will under demonic pressure after torment was any more a moral failure than the breaking of his body would have been – say, by being strangled by Gollum, or crushed by a falling rock.

[...] I think it is clear on reflection to an attentive reader that when his dark times came upon him and he was conscious of being 'wounded by knife sting and tooth and a long burden' (III 268) it was not only nightmare memories of past horrors that afflicted him, but also unreasoning self-reproach: he saw himself and all that he done as a broken failure. 'Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same, for I shall not be the same.' That was actually a temptation out of the Dark, a last flicker of pride: desire to have returned as a 'hero', not content with being a mere instrument of good.

--the oft-quoted Letter #246
I don't think Tolkien blames Frodo for breaking, and in fact cites Frodo's self-reproach for his failure as unreasonable and, in fact, prideful. In a sense, he implies that it is not Frodo's actions that need to be healed in the West, but his reaction to his actions, if you see what I mean.
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Originally Posted by Kuruharan
I think that by this point the Ring wanted to get inside Mount Doom because that would be where the Ring would think it would be safest.
Safest. In the one place in Middle-earth where it could be destroyed. Okay. All I know is that if the Ring was sentient, it was one dumb Ring.
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Old 10-12-2005, 12:26 PM   #19
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Fordim I'll see your 'Letter 246' & raise you CT (again)

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Frodo's words 'But I cannot do what I have come to do' were changed subsequently on the B text to 'But I do not choose now to do what I have come to do.' I do not think that the difference is very significant, since it was already a central element in the outlines that Frodo would choose to keep the Ring himself; the change in his words does no more than emphasize that he fully willed his act.( Sauron Defeated)
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Old 10-12-2005, 12:50 PM   #20
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Safest. In the one place in Middle-earth where it could be destroyed. Okay. All I know is that if the Ring was sentient, it was one dumb Ring.
It may have been the one place where it could have been destoryed, but it was also the one place where somebody would be the least capable of acting to do so (as I believe everyone is in the process of repeatedly establishing).
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Old 10-12-2005, 01:49 PM   #21
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I think, as is so often the case around here, that the difference is one of semantics: davem says "constrained choice" I say "no choice" but it all adds up to the same thing. It's an established fact that nobody can withstand torture -- Hollywood's vision of the man strong enough to resist torture is a myth: this is why CIA agents always have cyanide pills: because their political masters (who are masters in the art of torture themselves) know that there is no one who can't be broken. Sometimes, if the torturer is sloppy, the subject dies before he or she breaks, but that's the only way the victim can 'win'.

This is what happens to Frodo: he is broken by the Ring after enduring torture far beyond what anyone could have expected of him: the only way to have avoided taking the Ring would have been to die on the way to Mount Doom. His decision to take the Ring is no more a "free" or "willed" choice than is the "choice" of a torture victim to reveal what he or she knows. Yeah, sure, the person being burnt by a blowtorch chooses to talk, but that's not really what I would call a failure of their will or of their moral fibre. What that moment is about is the violence and evil of the torturer, not the supposed weakness of the victim.

The purpose of torture is not to force the person to talk ("tell us what we want to know and the pain will stop") -- it's not a bargain. The purpose of torture is to remove the victim's ability to think or decide rationally, in which case the choice is not 'really' his or hers at all.

As to the supposed lack of heroism for Frodo looked at this way, well, I look at him this way and he's a hero to me. Am I wrong? It seems to me an odd argument: Frodo is heroic because he chose evil. It seems even odder to me to argue that a Catholic writer would not portray as heroic someone who is "a passive victim"....I've read the Bible and I don't recall Christ leaping from the cross and smiting folk with thunderbolts! And as far as I can remember, Mary cried for her son, but didn't exactly storm the castle of Pontius Pilate!

davem, flattering as it may be for me to be confused with Mister Underhill, it was he, not I, who cited letter 246....although I would have.
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Old 10-12-2005, 02:22 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Fordim Hedgethistle
As to the supposed lack of heroism for Frodo looked at this way, well, I look at him this way and he's a hero to me. Am I wrong? It seems to me an odd argument: Frodo is heroic because he chose evil. It seems even odder to me to argue that a Catholic writer would not portray as heroic someone who is "a passive victim"....I've read the Bible and I don't recall Christ leaping from the cross and smiting folk with thunderbolts! And as far as I can remember, Mary cried for her son, but didn't exactly storm the castle of Pontius Pilate!
Ah, but to waken that old monster that is "Allegory", Tolkien says that he did NOT write the Lord of the Rings as an allegory, and so Frodo is NOT intended to be a Christ figure.
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Old 10-12-2005, 02:30 PM   #23
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Ah, but to waken that old monster that is "Allegory", Tolkien says that he did NOT write the Lord of the Rings as an allegory, and so Frodo is NOT intended to be a Christ figure.
I did not say that he was -- I only point out that it is untenable to argue that because LotR is Catholic (and I'm not sure that it is) then Frodo cannot be seen as a passive victim; quite the opposite really, insofar as Catholicism is founded on the worship of someone who accepted his role as a passive victim.
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Old 10-12-2005, 02:36 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Fordim Hedgethistle
I did not say that he was -- I only point out that it is untenable to argue that because LotR is Catholic (and I'm not sure that it is) then Frodo cannot be seen as a passive victim; quite the opposite really, insofar as Catholicism is founded on the worship of someone who accepted his role as a passive victim.
I guess the question then is whether or not Frodo is the hero of the book... My point is made in defence of the idea that Frodo is not necessarily to be taken as a passive victim. He could be, if one holds your views, but I personally don't see him as such, nor as the true hero. The true hero is Sam, with Aragorn, Merry, and Pippin as runner-ups. Those four all find themselves BETTER at the end of the book than at the beginning, they have all gone through the maturing process of heroification.

Frodo, more than anyone else on the "good" side, ends up less heroic than he did at the beginning. In the first part of the book this is not the case. Up until Rivendell he matures and becomes wiser as befits a hero. But from there on in, we see him slowly descend into a less worthy character. He becomes, in our eyes, weaker. He is still the central character, but he is no longer a "hero".

An anti-hero, perhaps...
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Old 10-12-2005, 02:56 PM   #25
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But he's gone now beyond recall, gone forever.'

'Yes,' said Frodo. 'But do you remember Gandalf's words: Even Gollum may have something yet to do? But for him, Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring. The Quest would have been in vain, even at the bitter end. So let us forgive him! For the Quest is achieved, and now all is over. I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.'
Frodo could not destroy the Ring, he admits it. In fact, nobody could have destroyed the Ring. That is the point of it, whether sentient or not, whether it has a will or not, nobody could destroy it. It's like the story of Pandora's Box - once that has been opened, once the knowledge is 'out there', it cannot be undone.

But the Ring is destroyed, whether through the hand of Eru, fate or just plain bad luck for Gollum and his big flapping feet, it does get destroyed. That to me is the whole point of this; it turns out that nobody can choose to destroy this thing, but nevertheless it is destroyed. Not only that, but unlike the knowledge that is released from Pandora's Box, the Ring is quite literally unmade, because with it, Sauron is destroyed and any inkling of how to make another one just like it. That's the joy at the end, knowing that unlike horrors of our own world that cannot be unmade, in Middle-earth this is possible.

And I would say that to unmake something to such a satisfying degree, it is far better that it is done so in a surprising fashion. Did anyone in Middle-earth expect that Sauron himself would be obliterated, or did they expect the destruction of the Ring would just 'mortally wound' him, annihilation to come at a later stage?

Then at the end, we are confronted not with heroes, but with ordinary people seeing pure chance take a hand in things. Frodo and Gollum both have suffered to get to this stage, that was the heroic part, not the destruction of the Ring. I find that perfectly, well, just perfect! There will be no crowing hero, no 'all-mighty destroyer of the Ring' who can brag that they did what nobody else managed to do. Gollum fell over his own feet and that was that.

At the end, which is the perfect end, Gollum who we cannot see existing without this Ring is dead, but his death was not meaningless. What's more, he was 'forgiven' by the one person from whom forgiveness would really count for something, and that was Frodo, who in the end was just like him.
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Old 10-12-2005, 03:29 PM   #26
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I supppose the question is 'Does Frodo claim the Ring, or does the Ring claim Frodo?'. Frodo must succumb in full consciousness, must be a full player in the cosmic drama - he deserves that. If, after all his struggles, all he has suffered, he is just 'pushed aside' to become merely a passive observer of the action, then he & we have wasted our time & effort.

Frodo is precisely not a 'hollywood hero', he is a human being, & at the last, when it really matters, he makes the wrong choice. He screws up. He has the chance to save the world, be the movie star, score the winning goal, get hoisted up on his team mates' shoulders & get the girl & live happily ever after. The little guy comes through!!!

Nope.

Or he could have been the other kind of movie hero - the one who, though wounded, takes the machine gun & waits for the pursuing bad guys, holding them off in a desperate last stand so his pals can escape, but is finally gunned down to the strains of Rule Brittania or The Stars & Stripes Forever!. Or the one who... well, you get my point.

But he doesn't. He gives in. He goes over to the other side. He sells out his pals. And that's what he does. However much he had suffered, however great his fear, however much he just wanted it all to STOP, just so he could have a rest. In the end some part of him willed his surrender.

Bad guy, turncoat, traitor. Yes, sorry, but that's it. He claimed the Ring. He joined the other side, & didn't care about his friends, the rest of the world, any of it. The whys & wherefores don't matter as much as the fact that he did it.

And what happens to him? Is he punished, executed even? No. He's forgiven. He's forgiven not because Gandalf, Aragorn, Elrond & the rest decide 'Well, after all he'd been through we can't really blame him, so we'll let him off this time.' - how pathetic, how 'modern' (or should that be 'post-modern', or 'post-post-modern???). No. He's forgiven precisely because he forgave the sins committed against him.

Whether he's the 'hero' of the story or not depends on what the term means to you. He's not a classic hero - & because of that we shouldn't expect classic heroics from him. He willed what he did - in that deep, untouchable part of his soul. He wasn't simply beaten into submission, so that he couldn't help himself. I agree with Formendacil - Frodo is not a Christ figure.

But Peter springs to mind.
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Old 10-12-2005, 05:05 PM   #27
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My point is made in defence of the idea that Frodo is not necessarily to be taken as a passive victim. He could be, if one holds your views, but I personally don't see him as such, nor as the true hero.
I don't see him as a passive victim -- I see him as very actively resisting the Ring for longer than anyone thought possible: far beyond what mortal flesh is normally capable of. His suffering is not what makes him heroic (there's nothing ennobling about agony) his perseverance does.

Criminey! Frodo tamed Smeagol, got past Shelob, walked through Mordor and climbed Mount Doom, all while the Ring got stronger. He could never have done it without Sam to be sure -- but he did do it. It always drives me wild when people say, after all that, Frodo 'failed' in his quest. That his will was weak or that he was somehow not up to it.....

To them I say: let's see you get to Mount Doom, with the Ring, and not corrupted by it!
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Old 10-12-2005, 06:26 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fordim Hedgethistle
Criminey! Frodo tamed Smeagol, got past Shelob, walked through Mordor and climbed Mount Doom, all while the Ring got stronger. He could never have done it without Sam to be sure -- but he did do it. It always drives me wild when people say, after all that, Frodo 'failed' in his quest. That his will was weak or that he was somehow not up to it.....

To them I say: let's see you get to Mount Doom, with the Ring, and not corrupted by it!
Okay, point taken. I personally don't like it when people spit on Frodo and think him weak either, but the fact remains that Frodo DID fail, and I, personally, think the evidence points to complicity on his part at the end.

He may have done more than mortally possible, but in the end he failed, for whatever reasons.
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Old 10-12-2005, 06:53 PM   #29
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I agree very much with what Fordim has just said. If Frodo failed, then failure was the only option there ever was. Because of the nature of the the Ring, it would have corrupted anyone who had borne it, some sooner than others. Frodo took the Ring as far as anyone possibly could take it. He stuck to it until the end, enduring "knife, sting, and tooth, and a long burden." He had figured for a long time that there would be no going back, that he would die or worse at the end of the journey. But he kept going. He could have opted out. No one ordered him to take the Ring. Elrond specifically said that the burden was too great for one to lay on another. But he kept on, with or without hope. That's what makes Frodo a hero.

In fact, Frodo is never actually commanded to destroy the Ring. The charge that is laid on him is to "neither cast away the Ring, nor to deliver it to any servant of thEnemy nor indeed to let any handle it, save members of the Company and the Council, and only then in gravest need." The Ring is to be destroyed, but no one ever actually commands Frodo to do it. It is understood that Frodo is best fitted for the task, but even then it is spoken of as him having about as much hope as anyone. Gandalf would have known that day back in the Shire when Frodo couldn't will himself to throw the Ring into his little fire that the task of willfully destroying the Ring would be impossible. The real aim of the Quest was to get the Ring to Mt. Doom, then trust in divine intervention, or fate, or whatever else you want to call it. In this, Frodo succeeded.

Frodo's "choice" at Mt. Doom was really no choice at all. He couldn't fight it any more. Not that he wouldn't. He couldn't. On the slopes of Mt. Doom, he tells Sam to hold his hands, that he couldn't stop them from going to the Ring. Couldn't. He might have known what he was doing, and he may have "willed" it, but he didn't want it. Frodo, right up to the point where he stood at the Cracks of Doom and the Ring overthrew his will, really did desire to destroy the Ring. He knew it had to be destroyed, and wanted it to be, but I think he had known, conciously or not, that he wouldn't actually be able to do it. But he still went as far as he could, got the Ring as close to destruction as anyone could.

Listen to what Frodo tells Sam:
Quote:
"No taste of food, no feel of water, no solund of wind, no memory of tree or grass or flower, no image of moon or star are left to me. I am naked in the dark, Sam, and there is no veil between me and the wheel of fire. I begin to see it even with my waking eyes, and all else fades."
This is the Ring working on Frodo. It takes away all his defenses against its power. Think about it: if you are trying to find the will to do something hard, you're going to think about why you're doing it. Friends, family, your home, love - all these things might help you get through. But Frodo can't remember any of these things in a normal way anymore. All he's got left are himself and this ring of fire. It's all he can think about. You might say he has a choice not to think abuot the Ring, but he doesn't. He tries to remember these other things but can't - and not because he doesn't want to. He does. It's the same way with destroying the Ring. He doesn't want to claim it, but there isn't any other possible choice. There are theoretical choices, yes, but none that are possible.

Frodo is not perfect. If he had been perfect, he could have destroyed the Ring. Nor is he a Christ-figure. He did claim the Ring, and he of himself did not save Middle-earth. But he did not fail. He succeeded as far as anyone could succeed.
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Old 10-12-2005, 07:45 PM   #30
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Exactly. Frodo willed his choice because the ring "destroyed" everything in his life and corrupted his will. He willed it, but in a way it wasn't Frodo himself standing there at the Cracks of Doom. It was more or less a twisted creation of the ring, with the only connections to what it once was being its name and race. Frodo truly did become what Gollum was in the end: a twisted shadow of what once was.

A little theory I cooked up was that Frodo may have been able to destroy the ring, but something else stopped him: the power of Morgoth. Morgoth had infused much of his power and will into Arda, making Morgoth's Ring. When Sauron made the One Ring he may have also used a great part of Arda's power, taking with it part of Morgoth's Ring. When Frodo was standing at the Cracks of Doom, the part of Morgoth's Ring, and thus a part of Morgoth, may have called out to Frodo, turning his will if not taking him over completely.

If I'm not mistaken, the great dark cloud that rose from the reek of Mordor came from Mount Doom. Taking the form of an enormous cloud crowned with thunder doesn't seem like something Sauron could be capable of doing. Morgoth, however, was said to have taken such a form once before and the sheer might that seemed to come from the cloud, a dying form, seemed much more akin to Morgoth than Sauron.

My theory is probably nothing but bollocks, but feel free to comment on it.
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Old 10-13-2005, 03:22 AM   #31
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Firefoot wrote:
Quote:
If Frodo failed, then failure was the only option there ever was. Because of the nature of the the Ring, it would have corrupted anyone who had borne it, some sooner than others.
Well, it is likely that failure *was* the only option there ever was for anyone trying to destroy the Ring who didn't happen to be Eru or a Vala. My own thought is that 'the power of Evil over Middle Earth' is an underlying theme of Tolkien's, so yes, Frodo is fated ('doomed'?) to give in to the Ring in the end. Consider how evil the ring was. It held much of Sauron's power, and Sauron was a Maia to begin with. Under Morgoth, it sounds like his power and strength increased as he learned more of the ways of Evil from his master. The example of Saruman shows that Sauron could overpower another Maia, even without his Ring. Hence Gandalf's fear of both Sauron and the Ring.

And recall Galadriel's little demonstration of what she would be like wielding the Ring in 'The Mirror of Galadriel'! She is also fully aware of the Ring's danger -- and so she should be, having with Celeborn "fought the long defeat" (i.e. the defeat of Elves and Men by Evil) through three Ages of Middle Earth. Even armed with her knowledge, the Ring's power tempts her, and it is with relief that she discovers she can resist it's call.

Of mortals, poor Boromir never had a chance against the Ring's power -- it 'ate his brain' pretty quickly. Aragorn and the members of the Fellowship who ended up in Rohan and Gondor were probably saved by their separation from Frodo and the Ring. Hobbits seem to have some innate ability to remain unscathed by the power the Ring exerted for longer than Men did: Gollum's brain got eaten, but he didn't fade into a wraith; Frodo did resist the Ring's power for as long as he could hold out; and Sam was affected the least. Whether because he was stubborn or naive, or because of his 'common sense' (which is actually pretty uncommon, lol), or because *his* Quest was to take care of Frodo, the Ring had relatively little attraction for him.

Frodo was able to resist the Ring for an unprecedented long time, but in the end, he was going to give in to its power, especially if the Ring was trying to resist its imminent destruction and Frodo was weak from physical and mental torture. I argue that he still conciously made the choice to give in. Frodo's later words and actions indicate that he was aware of what he was doing at the moment he claimed the Ring. "I failed", not "I couldn't take any more pain" or "I couldn't stop myself". The choice may have been prompted by deciding that he couldn't take whatever last-minute pain or pressure the Ring was exerting on him on Mount Doom, or it may have been that he finally snapped and thought 'Why shouldn't it be mine?? I brought it here!', but it was his decision to try to do the right thing and take the Ring (at the Coucil of Elrond) and it was his decision to claim the Ring for himself at the end. As luck (or Eru, depending on your opinion) would have it, Frodo's past choices in bringing Sam to Mordor and sparing Gollum's life now came to his aid, and thanks to Gollum's attack on him, he was spared the following consequences of claiming the Ring:

Total victory of Sauron, years of torture in Barad Dur, and the destruction of everyone and everything he once held dear.
OR

Being pushed by Eru (or maybe even Sam) into the Cracks of Doom himself in order to save Middle Earth from Sauron's dominion. Although I think Sam would have been so broken-hearted that he would have thrown himself in, too.
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Old 10-13-2005, 05:50 AM   #32
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Alphaelin - I agree with everything you said right up to your fourth paragraph. Claiming the Ring was the only option. Our difference of opinion is in that where you think Frodo fully wanted to claim the Ring, made that choice, I think that it was more like his will gave out. You can only build a tower of blocks up so high before it collapses.
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Old 10-13-2005, 05:56 AM   #33
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So, Frodo is not allowed to be human, to 'sin'? He must be a saint, & if he does anything we don't like, well, he wasn't really there.

Of course he was broken by what he had been through, but he gave in - probably long before he got to the Fire - look at the times he threatened Gollum with destruction - first in the Emyn Muil, second on the slopes of Mount Doom. On some level, at some time he said 'Yes' to the Ring. That was his 'sin'. And that one 'Yes' overrides all the 'No's' he ever uttered. But because he had forgiven others he himself was forgiven.

Reasons are not justifications.
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Old 10-13-2005, 06:14 AM   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fordim
His suffering is not what makes him heroic (there's nothing ennobling about agony) his perseverance does.

Criminey! Frodo tamed Smeagol, got past Shelob, walked through Mordor and climbed Mount Doom, all while the Ring got stronger. He could never have done it without Sam to be sure -- but he did do it. It always drives me wild when people say, after all that, Frodo 'failed' in his quest. That his will was weak or that he was somehow not up to it.....
I agree that it is his perseverance that makes him heroic. Destroying the Ring is not his greatest feat because he did not do it; it was the getting to the Sammath Naur that was his greatest feat and it is this that almost breaks him. I would say that what finally does break him is the realisation that he could not carry out the final act. It is like suddenly facing his own mortality and it leaves him shattered.

To acknowledge that Frodo 'failed' in the final step is not to say that he was weak as I think that nobody could have done this. Whether anyone else apart from Frodo could have managed to get the Ring to the Sammath Naur is another matter.
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Old 10-13-2005, 10:42 AM   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fordim
His suffering is not what makes him heroic (there's nothing ennobling about agony) his perseverance does.
I'd even go another step and say his perseverance and his willingness to sacrifice himself for the good of others are what make him heroic.

Frodo is hardly a passive victim in this reading. He drove himself into a situation in which the only foreseeable outcome was the breaking of his mind under the influence of the Ring. He sacrificed himself, as surely as if he had thrown himself on a grenade. In so doing, he produced a situation which led to the destruction of the Ring.

Frodo isn't a saint. But neither is he a turncoat. What he himself fails to understand is that his tale (and all true acts of heroism, I think) is not about the triumph of the will or the triumph of power, it's about the triumph of sacrifice -- the triumph of love, really, of which sacrifice is perhaps the most perfect expression.

Footnote: Some of these sentiments were expressed earlier in an old thread titled "What caused Frodo to finally give in to the power of the Ring and claim it?", which may interest students of ancient Downs lore.
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Old 10-13-2005, 11:58 AM   #36
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What we're talking about is not Frodo's suffering & sacrifice throughout the Quest but what he does at the end, & why he does it. At the end he claims the Ring. Yes, anyone would have done the same in his position, & so everyone would have 'failed', succumbed, & said 'Yes' to the Ring & everything it symbolised.

If you remove him from being an actor in the drama at that point, you reduce him to nothing at the most important point in the story. He is not nothing. He carries the weight of the Ring & the fate of Middle-earth on his shoulders & at the end he surrenders.

My feeling (& I may be wrong here I admit) is that some people can't handle the idea that Frodo is weak, frightened, tired, & just gives in. Understandable, but a moral failure. He wills his action. There's too much emphasis on semantics: 'I will not do this thing' being interpreted as 'I have no will in this act', etc. But if we read his statement:

Quote:
'I have come,' he said. 'But I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!'
'I', 'I', 'I', 'mine'. Frodo is there. Tolkien deliberately changed the original draft wording:

Quote:
’I have come’ he said. ‘But I cannot do what I have come to do. I will not do it. The Ring is mine.’
If he had said that - that he could not do what he came to do - I could accept what is being argued - that he had no control in the matter. But Tolkien changed the original words & he did that for a reason. And that reason is theological.

If Frodo was simply beaten into submission, then in theory if he had been stronger he could have destroyed the Ring. Frodo could have saved the world. But from the Christian viewpoint no man (being part of the creation) can save the world because Man (& by extension the creation itself) is fallen. Frodo succumbs not because he is weak but because he is a fallen being in a fallen world. Only an intervention from outside, beyond the Circles of the World, can save it. That's the only interpretation of the story that makes it fully understandable, brings out its full depth & meaning.

Frodo surrenders, says 'Yes' to the Ring, because he is human.

Quote:
it's about the triumph of sacrifice -- the triumph of love, really, of which sacrifice is perhaps the most perfect expression.
It is about that, but its mostly about forgiveness of sins, about mercy unearned & undeserved - Frodo forgives Gollum not because he deserves it, or has turned over a new leaf, but simply as an act of mercy. Frodo also receives forgiveness & mercy for the same reason. Frodo's problem later on is that he cannot accept that forgiveness because he believes he hasn't earned it, doesn't deserve it. But that's the point - he doesn't, & neither do we.

'Consciously so in the revision' Tolkien said, & I think a perfect example of that 'revision' is that change in Frodo's words, from 'But I cannot do what I have come to do.' to 'But I do not choose now to do what I came to do.'
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Old 10-13-2005, 01:10 PM   #37
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Hmmmm…Mister Underhill has got me to thinking about this whole love and sacrifice thing. As he aptly puts it:

Quote:
the triumph of love, really, of which sacrifice is perhaps the most perfect expression.
Seems to me that a nice way of looking at Frodo’s “choice” at the Crack of Doom (and it is the weight of this choice that, as Lal so nicely puts it, breaks him) is as the choice between desire and love. Love is all about the other person or thing: “I love you.” In Frodo’s case, in that moment, his love is for Sam and the Shire – for their sake, he would throw himself into the fire, he would sacrifice himself for their sake. Desire, on the other hand, is all about the self: “I desire you for myself.” In that moment, Frodo’s desire is for the Ring, which works against his self sacrifice insofar as to kill himself is to lose the Precious. I am sure that if there had been a way for him to sacrifice himself without losing the Ring, he would have done so in a moment for it would have resolved his conflict. But of course, that option is simply not there: he has only two “choices”

1) destroy all that he loves (the Shire), or

2) destroy all that he desires (the Ring).

Now at this point, it is easy to say that given what Frodo does do (claims the Ring) he clearly is choosing to destroy all that he loves: Frodo’s supposed moral failure. But go back to the few instances in which we actually see how the Ring works on people – there was heated discussion of Sam’s Ring, and who can forget Galadriel’s vision of herself – or Gandalf’s claim that he would take the Ring out of pity and the desire to do good. Given that in each of these instances the Ring offered the potential bearer a vision of him or herself doing something for the sake of love (Sam loves gardens; Gandalf loves pity and the weak; Galadriel loves Lorien) we can only assume that the same thing was happening with Frodo (although it is fascinating to me that Tolkien makes us rely on assumption at this point! Wouldn’t this whole episode be different if we had Frodo crying out, “I will take the Ring and destroy Barad-Dur so that the Shire shall be safe forever!?).

The choice that Frodo makes is still one in favour of love: unfortunately for him, however, he has – like all victims of torture – been so reduced in his capacity to judge rightly that he is making a mistake. We, on the outside, see his choices as I’ve outlined them above, but for Frodo the choices are:

1) destroy all that he desires (the Ring), or

2) save all that he loves (the Shire) and desires (the Ring).

This is why I say that Frodo is not really making a choice at all, for that presupposes that someone is able to choose from the options as they really are, and that they are able to do so in a rational manner. This is also why I see no moral failing at this point (which is not to say that Frodo is morally infallible, just that he does not demonstrate that here). Given the choices as Frodo perceives them (thanks to the torture/trickery of the Ring) he makes the only “rational” decision at that moment. In a weird way, his claiming the Ring at that point is a demonstration of his desire to do good: for the sake of the Shire, which he loves, he will take the Ring in order to save it.

(That last point is, I realize, quite a stretcher, but one that I think useful to make even if it doesn’t really stand up for very long.)
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Old 10-13-2005, 03:13 PM   #38
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Except that we don't know if he has claimed the Ring to save the Shire - we don't know what his true motives are. But even if he did claim the Ring save the Shire, it makes him an actor rather than a passive broken figure to whom things are simple happening because he is no longer capable of doing anything about them.

Do I sense a refusal to acknowledge Frodo's 'sin' & therefore an avoidance of the necessity to have to forgive him? I see a lot of attempts to avoid having to forgive him by making excuses for his actions. In order to forgive someone we have to acknowledge, admit, the fact of their offence. If we love someone its easier to come up with excuses & justifications for what they did, in order to avoid the stark reality that they did wrong. In that way we can avoid feeling let down, betrayed by them. We can go on believing that they are really the same person we've 'loved' (ie 'idealised') all along. But only when we see them as they really are, accept the truth about them, & accept the pain that that causes us, can we forgive them - & forgiveness is what they need. And, perhaps just as importantly, we don't want to hurt someone we love. We don't want to tell them they've done wrong.

As I think about it, my feeling increasingly is that one of the things that broke Frodo was that he didn't get what he needed from his friends - true forgiveness. They all made excuses for him - for the best of reasons - but I think Frodo actually needed someone to say 'You sinnedf. You failed, you betrayed us (because that's what he felt) but we forgive you. Frodo knew he had affirmed the Ring's existence. He'd said 'Yes' to evil. And exactly what he'd said Yes to was what confronted him on his return to the Shire. That's why its so important to the story to see Frodo's return to the Shire. Frodo sees his choice laid out before him. By claiming the Ring he became as (morally) culpable as Saruman. Its interesting that he forgives Saruman when all the others are demanding vengeance. He doesn't do that because he's a saint, but because he's a sinner. He looks at Saruman, sees him for what he is, & forgives him. And Frodo needed the same thing, but never actually got it from those around him, because they couldn't bear to think he needed it.

And if I've contradicted any of my earlier statements here its because I'm being forced to think on my feet
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Old 10-13-2005, 04:57 PM   #39
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Ugh -- I can't think of anything more repulsive or demeaning than Frodo having to be forgiven by his friends for his supposed moral failure. "Nice job saving the world... except for that part at the end where you claimed the Ring. Yeah. We're gonna have to think that one over and see if we can forgive you on that one. We'll get back to you." Lord. It reminds me of that scene in Cool Hand Luke where Luke is finally broken and all his 'friends' turn away from him in disgust. What's missing from such a judgment, as Tolkien notes in the aforementioned letter, is mercy.

What is happening here is not a refusal to acknowledge Frodo's sins. Everyone here defending him has said he's not perfect nor without sin nor a saint. What is happening is a judgment tempered by understanding of the circumstances. By empathy and mercy. Holding Frodo to a superhuman standard is what demeans his humanity. It implies, "I could have done better." And to say that Frodo needs to be forgiven is to imply that he could have -- should have -- overcome the Ring and thrown it into the fire. Surely, Frodo feels that guilt -- both for craving the Ring even after its destruction and for not having the strength to throw it into the fire himself -- but in the end that's what he needs to be healed of.

The Ring Quest was Frodo's Kobayashi Maru test. His solution may not have been as glamorous as Spock's, but it was just as successful.
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Old 10-13-2005, 06:37 PM   #40
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I think there are two issues being confused here.

First, there is the question of what in fact happened. Did the Ring compel Frodo or did he choose?

Second, there is the moral question. Is Frodo to be blamed? Is he to be forgiven? Is he to be excused?

These are separate issues; and while a moral evaluation of Frodo certainly does depend on the facts of the situation, I think it is important to note that the facts of the situation do not depend on the moral evaluation. In other words, one cannot argue "Frodo is not to be blamed, therefore the Ring compelled him" - though one could of course argue the converse.

Personally, I see Frodo's actions at Mt. Doom as being the result of his own choice - and I see them as wrong, even "evil". However, I also see them as being entirely forgivable, or even excusable. I doubt that anyone short of a Vala would have succeeded where Frodo failed. That, in intra-Legendarium terms, is not because Frodo was constrained and therefore not responsible for his actions, but rather because Arda is a fallen world; because none of its inhabitants is perfect; because all the Children of Iluvatar have a certain inherent evil. The Ring worked upon this evil.

There is a wonderful ambiguity in the nature of the Ring and its power. Personally, I don't see the need to try to resolve this ambiguity by making a simple decision - "he was compelled; he should be excused" or "he chose; he should be blamed". If you ask me, the ambiguity is central to the Ring and indeed to the whole work.
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