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Old 10-14-2005, 12:00 PM   #41
davem
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Did Frodo say 'Yes!' to the Ring? Did he affirm it, effectively declare 'I will the continued existence of this thing'?

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Originally Posted by Mr U
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'swhat he needs to be healed of.
No, it's not. Its to ackowledge that he was the one who failed. Of course, anyone would have failed, because the task was impossible, but it was Frodo specifically who failed, not anyone else. Hence the 'sin' was on his shoulders, & so the need for forgiveness was his. No-one is holding Frodo to a superhuman standard, merely acknowledging that at the point when Frodo had to choose between denying & affirming the Ring he affirmed it. He was the one who did that. Anyone in his position would have done the same, & whoever that was would also have 'sinned' in the same way & required forgiveness for the same reason.

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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."
No. That's not 'forgiveness' that's 'letting him off'. Its not what Frodo needed. He knew he had failed his friends, betrayed everything he had set out to defend, affirmed the one thing he had set himself against. I'd say he definitely needed to be told he was freely & fully forgiven for that, so that he could move on.

There's an interesting quote from Kathryn W Crabbe given in the new LotR: A Reader's Companion:

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The insidiousness of evil makes Tolkien's versiion of the sacrificing hero even more poignant & moving thatn its archetype. Frodo's danger is not simply a danger to his physical life, with the assurance of a reward in another world; he risks his spiritual life as well, for the very proximity to the Ring that will allow him to save the world threatens to make of him the source of its destruction. That is, on the edges of the Cracks of Doom the Ring succeeds in making of Frodo a Hobbit Sauron. He claims the Ring, & it is taken from him as it was taken from Sauron at the end of the Second Age, by the severing of his finger.

This pairing of Frodo with Sauron not only suggests the dual nature of man, it also suggests just how close Frodo has come to becoming the enemy he has offered his life to defeat. The ultimate defeat, then, in the Lord of the Rings is not simply to lose the battle with evil, but to become incorporated into it. (Katharyn W Crabbe. JRR Tolkien: quoted in LotR: A Reader's Companion)

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Old 10-14-2005, 06:56 PM   #42
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Apologies in advance for a muddled post...

1. No sinful being (i.e., no one in Arda) could have destroyed the Ring.
2. Frodo was doing the right thing by bearing the Ring to Mt. Doom.

I don't think that anyone would disagree with either of these statements. The former is a well-established fact; the latter, a logical statement. Frodo would have certainly been doing the wrong thing if he had decided to lay the Ring aside, or to give up and die somewhere along the way, or even decide just to remain in the Shire or Rivendell or Lorien, choosing his own comfort over what needed to be done. Taking the Ring to Mordor was the right thing to do, and he performed the deed with all of his strength and will, figuring he would be lost in the end.

This is the problem I have with the statement that Frodo failed and sinned. If he took the Ring all the way to Mt. Doom, coming as far as anyone could, then saying it was sinning and failing to claim the Ring, it's saying that failing is a "required" part of the job - the job of doing the right thing. He has no choice other than to fail, due to the nature of the Ring and that of Arda Marred. It's saying he sinned by not doing a deed that couldn't be done, that even by doing the right thing, he had no choice but to do the wrong thing in the end, that failure is the only option. This seems so wrong.

And yet, I start to see where davem is coming from, because that's the way this world is, too, isn't it? At least, it is from a Christian worldview - mine, and that of Tolkien...

Frodo failed to destroy the Ring, yes. But he succeeded in doing the task as well as he could possibly do it; he succeeded in his mercy towards Gollum - the same mercy which ultimately allowed the Quest to succeed. Frodo's "failure" on Mt. Doom was not a moral one - he could not have behaved in any other way, so how can he be blamed? Saying he needs forgiveness is saying he can be blamed. If Gollum had not danced off the edge of the cliff and the Ring had not been destroyed, it would not have been Frodo's fault any more than it is his fault for living in an imperfect world. The failure Frodo needs forgiveness for comes afterwards, in thinking that he could have, should have, destroyed the Ring. This is what he needs to reconcile with himself.

*Retreats back into her barrow where she actually knows what she thinks.*
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Old 10-14-2005, 09:02 PM   #43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Firefoot
Frodo failed to destroy the Ring, yes. But he succeeded in doing the task as well as he could possibly do it; he succeeded in his mercy towards Gollum - the same mercy which ultimately allowed the Quest to succeed. Frodo's "failure" on Mt. Doom was not a moral one - he could not have behaved in any other way, so how can he be blamed? Saying he needs forgiveness is saying he can be blamed. If Gollum had not danced off the edge of the cliff and the Ring had not been destroyed, it would not have been Frodo's fault any more than it is his fault for living in an imperfect world. The failure Frodo needs forgiveness for comes afterwards, in thinking that he could have, should have, destroyed the Ring. This is what he needs to reconcile with himself.
An overall good theory there, but forgiveness doesn't just apply to moral failures, it doesn't just apply to sin.

Don't we usually want forgiveness for ANYTHING we've done wrong? Mistakes or accidents, in particular. These are errors, things done wrong, in which we are definitely culpable, things for which we often ask forgiveness. It's not really as if we are SINFUL in mistaking things, or making mistakes, or that an accident was sinful, but we are still the hand responsible, and we still seek forgiveness.

Can Frodo's "need for forgiveness" after Mt. Doom be likened to that?
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Old 10-15-2005, 02:57 AM   #44
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His 'sin' was not in failing to destroy the Ring, it was in affirming its existence - the existence of evil in the world.
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Old 10-17-2005, 07:45 AM   #45
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Hmmmm.....it just occurs to me -- in reading the next chapter "The Field of Cormallen" -- if Frodo really was in need of forgiveness, then why did not Gandalf forgive him? One would think that the White Wizard, particularly now that Sauron is dead and he is free to reveal himself more fully as the Maia that he is, would be able to 'diagnose' Frodo's need for such absolution.

The obvious answer would be that true penance must be sought and asked for, and that Frodo never asks Gandalf to forgive him: but as it's so clear that Frodo is beating himself up for his failure (as the story goes on) and as Gandalf clearly wants to help 'heal' Frodo of his feelings, I would think that a quick conversation in the days after 25 March would have been called for: "I know your feelings, Frodo, but you must not blame yourself. Forgiveness is yours, but first you must learn to forgive yourself" -- or something like that.

I think the fact that Frodo meets -- and spends time with -- all of Middle-Earths real heavyweights without ANY OF THEM talking about forgiveness might be a clue of some kind. I mean, even if Gandalf has 'missed' something here, surely Aragorn, Arwen, Galadriel or Elrond would have picked up on it. The only solution they can arrive at is to send Frodo into the West -- so "I forgive you" is neither not enough or not appropriate...
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Old 10-17-2005, 11:33 AM   #46
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Hmmm... Interesting thoughts.

Maybe the fact of the matter is that Frodo needed to feel forgiveness from someone who he felt had the authority to forgive him. Maybe he didn't feel that forgiveness from a friend would do the job. "You're just saying that because you're my friend..."

Just a thought. I'm no psychologist.
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Old 10-17-2005, 02:18 PM   #47
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Its also interesting that Frodo's deepest wound, & the one most difficult to heal, is self-inflicted.
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Old 10-18-2005, 06:52 AM   #48
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Davem, you've come closest to how I feel about Frodo at the Cracks of Doom.
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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.
The WHOLE of the Lord of the Rings's Reason (for want of a better word) is delivered here at the Cracks of Doom. Frodo could not (or would not) throw the Ring in. If we look closely at clues Tolkien put in the books earlier, we can see this. No one could give up the Ring at the Sammauth Naur.

So why did the Quest succeed? BECAUSE OF FORGIVENESS AND FINALLY REDEMPTION. (which is one of the bases of Christian Faith by the way)

Frodo forgave Gollum on a number of occasions. He let him live. Even at the end Sam let Gollum live too on the slopes of Mount Doom. WITHOUT THIS FORGIVENESS the Quest would have failed. I put it to you that Tolkien knew this and based the whole of Frodo's Quest on this basic point......Frodo found Redemption (via Gollum) becuase of his forgiveness to him. Without this, Sauron would have won.

Frodo and the whole of Middle Earth was Redeemed becuase of Frodo and Sam's Forgiveness of Gollum.

PS Just imagine if Frodo DID throw the Ring in. Now what a let down and anti climax THAT would have been!!!!!!!

To conclude:

Fact - The Quest was to destroy the Ring.
Fact - The Ring was destroyed
Fact - The Quest was a success
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Old 10-18-2005, 10:07 AM   #49
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Point of Order: Frodo never actually forgives Gollum he says that he pities him. These are two different things -- one can feel pity for the criminal whom is being sentenced to death but feel that the sentence is just: "You deserve to die for your crime, but I feel sorry for you insofar as you made bad choices in your life which have led to this".

In the conversation with Gandalf in "Shadow of the Past" Frodo says that Gollum "deserves death" and Gandalf agrees; he goes on to argue that Bilbo was right not to kill Gollum because "he has some part yet to play ere the end" and because the right to end life belongs properly to a higher power. No talk anywhere here of forgiveness or redemption.

So while I agree wholeheartedly that the Quest has succeeded thanks to Frodo's actions with Gollum, I think it's pretty clear that Frodo has decided that he doesn't have the right to kill Gollum, even though he may "deserve death" and not because he's forgiven him. That having been said, it's hard to see the drama enacted at the Crack of Doom as being about forgiveness; rather, it's about Pity.
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Old 10-18-2005, 10:43 AM   #50
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oh contrare.

various definitions of forgiveness

the act of excusing a mistake or offense

a quality by which one ceases to feel resentment against another for a wrong he or she has committed against oneself.

The act of granting pardon for or remission of (something)

a virtue, is forgiving, pardon of a fault, remission of a debt.

so, therefore, Frodo (and somewhat Sam at the end) forgave Gollum.

and therefore as St. Francis of Assisi once said, "for it is in pardoning that we are pardoned."


PS it may well have mainly been pity that led to Frodo's forgiveness of Goullum's sins.

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Old 10-18-2005, 11:01 AM   #51
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Tolkien The Harrowing of Sauron

If I may, I would like to interject some observations about this chapter that don't pertain to this question of Frodo's forgiveness or redemption, but to the chapter overall.

This chapter has always intrigued me because of how it reminds me of the very popular event in medieval English drama called the Harrowing of Hell. The event derives from the descent of Christ into hell (or limbo rather than the inferno of the eternally damned) between his Crucifixion and Resurrection. Christ raised from the dead Adam and Eve and the ancient worthies who died before He brought the gospel to earth. (A handy bit of historical revisionsim, if you want to be post modern.) The term harrowing was first used by Ćlfric the Anglo Saxon grammarian in his homily on the harrowing of hell, but the idea of the harrowing really took on a very rich mythology of triumph over infernos in English medieval drama--the mystery plays especially. Imagery of all kinds were infused into this fecund idea--derived from the biblical word Gehenna, for the garbage dump outside Jerusalem where fires were kept burning and where bodies of executed criminals were dumped. In the Old English traditions which I have read, hell was more often portrayed as a hellmouth of a great beast, but the imagery of the blast furnace was also used.

Now, before you think I am running off at the mouth, let me say I am not being allegorical here. I by no means wish to imply that Frodo or Gollem is Christ. Nor do I mean that this act redeems Man of death, although it does free the Third Age of evil. What I much more simply want to suggest is how I think Tolkien was creatively conceiving of images, ideas, possibilities inherent in some of the medieval and Old English literature he read to create his own vivid sense of Sam and Frodo's achievement.

To me, this chapter is only tangentially 'about' the successful culmination of the Quest, the destruction of the Ring. It is more specifically about the spiritual journey of Sam and Frodo. So many of the words used in this chapter have religious overtones--and here I quite grant that many won't see this or accept it, as we have many different ways of reading LotR--that pertain to the spirit's culminating triumph over evil. The dark veil, the wheel of fire, the gaping mouth, the carrying of one's 'brother', the specific timing of the tremours of the earth, the palms held together, facing inwards, all imply a particular direction.

Sam and Frodo in this chapter throw off--at least metaphorically--all traipsings of their worldly goods and possessions. They stand--again metaphorically-naked before their fate. And while much of our focus has been on Frodo, little so far has examined Sam other than to nod that ,well, yes, Frodo wouldn't have made it if it hadn't been for Sam. Yet the chapter says much about Sam's interiority, far more than it says about Frodo's.

The ethical or moral triumph in this chapter belongs to Sam. Yes, he spares himself food and water to give sustenance to Frodo. He conceives of the need to throw off things they will not need to complete their journey. He is the one whose strength--hope--is renewed when he recalls not just The Shire, but Gandalf's sacrifice in Moria. He, as much as Frodo, enters that unusual and strange state of human mind under fasting and famine where vision becomes more possible: Dream and waking mingled uneasily. He saw ... . He dreams of the cool water of The Shire and swimming with Rosie's brothers. He has the strange conversation 'with himself.' He experiences a 'calling.'

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....
(Yes, Frodo also experiences here this calling.) It is Sam who lays his hands on Frodo's and kisses them. And Sam who has the strange vision of the figure robed in white with the wheel of fire. And it is Sam now who refuses to kill Gollem. And, then, once the terrible deed had been accomplished, who is it who has the vision of Sauron defeated? Sam again: A brief vision he had of swirling cloud, and in the midst of it towers and battlements .... Imagine this, the Gaffer's son, having visions!

It is not to a dark lake of underground fire that Sam and Frodo climb, but to a mountain top burning with fire and ash. And the Quest is accomplished because not just Frodo but Sam also undergoes purification. The characters work in tandem in this very unique version of the Harrowing of Hell.
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Old 10-18-2005, 12:11 PM   #52
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Originally Posted by Fordim
Point of Order: Frodo never actually forgives Gollum he says that he pities him.
But he does.

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'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.'
My take on Frodo's words is that he has already forgiven Gollum, & is asking Sam to join him in that forgiveness.

On Bethberry's point re the Harrowing of Hell. In the pre-Christian religions we have the descent into the UnderWorld for initiation, to meet with the Ancestors, etc. Its the old womb/tomb thing. The dead are placed in the earth, in the womb of the Mother, to await re-birth, & passing within the earth & emerging was a symbolic rebirth. The early Christians adapted these old ideas, as they did with so many 'Pagan' practices - anyone who thinks that the Christian places of worship found in the Roman catacombs were purely a consequence of persecution & a need for secrecy is missing something.
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Old 10-18-2005, 01:26 PM   #53
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Originally Posted by davem
On Bethberry's point re the Harrowing of Hell. In the pre-Christian religions we have the descent into the UnderWorld for initiation, to meet with the Ancestors, etc. Its the old womb/tomb thing. The dead are placed in the earth, in the womb of the Mother, to await re-birth, & passing within the earth & emerging was a symbolic rebirth. The early Christians adapted these old ideas, as they did with so many 'Pagan' practices....
davem, I specifically stayed away from mentioning underworld quests in pre-Christian religions--Persephone, Osiris, Orpheus--because I was rushed for time. Interesting how many of these involve a bereaved person braving the underworld to bring back an abducted or dead loved one. Sam brings Frodo back or through to rebirth? EDIT: I was also trying to limit my references to medieval and Old English literature, which Tolkien would have known professionally, not just as elements of his faith. There is some textual evidence in support of the Harrowing of Hell in a few very short biblical passages, but what is really interesting about the Harrowing is how rich the mythology grew in the Middle Ages. We nowadays might call it the development of an idea in pop culture rather than in formal theological tenet. /EDIT

To be honest, although I know of many, many underworld experiences of purifications and rebirth in mediteranean cultures, I am very foggy on whether these exist and what form they take in Northern--Scandinavian--mythologies. Anything in the Eddas? I don't mean to draw the thread off-topic, but I was wondering if anything is applicable here.
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Old 10-18-2005, 03:02 PM   #54
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I'm a bit vague on the Eddas at the moment - don't have my books to hand. I know Odin descended into the Underworld to ask Hel (the goddess of the realm) about Balder's dream. Certainly the Underworld theme is present in Beowulf, with the descent into the mere to confront Grendel's mother. We also have the Dragon's cave from which the thief steals the cup which brings about the hero's death. Celtic myth is replete with accounts of hollow hills as the entrance to Fairyland. Newgrange was clearly used for ritual purposes - as were other 'burial mounds' - places for communing with the ancestors (the numerous accounts of heroes like Arthur, Finn MacCool, Merlin & Barbarossa etc being not dead but only sleeping in a cave somewhere).

Of course, caves are only one entrance to the OtherWorld. There are a number of fairytales where the hero/heroine climbes down into a well to another land. This idea of another, magical, world found by passing within this one & where some kind of treasure is to be found, is commonplace. Glastonbury Tor is supposed to contain an entrance to the Underworld, ruled by Gwyn ap Nudd.

Frodo, in a sense 'dies' at the Sammath Naur, But whether he is truly 'reborn' is another question - his statement that 'There is no real going back' when he is approaching the Shire seems to imply that if he was reborn there he was reborn as an inhabitant of the Otherworld, & is not able to truly go back to the mundane world. His stay in the Shire is brief & in the end he sets sail for the Otherworld. Kind of reminds me of other traditional heroes who are said to be 'trapped' in Fairyland, or to have gone there to live - Thomas the Rhymer & Robert Kirk among them.

Frodo & the other Hobbits have crossed a number of boundaries - rivers principally - to move further & further into the Otherworld of Middle-earth, away from the mundane world of the Shire. Its interesting that all of them pass back into that mythic realm to die - neither Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Merry or Pippin die in the Shire. All their returns are transitory & in the end they leave the everyday world & return to the world of legend.

Waffling, because I can't dig up the examples you asked for...
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Old 10-18-2005, 03:20 PM   #55
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Now that Gollum has drifted into this discussion a little bit, I'd like to comment on some things that I touched on in my first post but didn't have time to go into then nor opportunity since. Gollum as a character is often overlooked in this chapter, it seems, in favor of Frodo.

For one thing, Gollum has now figured out for sure and certain just why Frodo and Sam have been trying to get to Mordor. They are going to destroy his Precious, the one thing that gives his life meaning. No wonder Gollum's furious and anxious!

All along, Frodo's pity and mercy for Gollum have been there, though now we see some more reasoning for it, through Sam's eyes. Gollum really doesn't have a chance of redemption now. He came so close... and then that bridge, that chance, was broken. Gollum feels no love for his "nice master;" he only wants the Ring. He is now "forlorn, ruinous, and utterly wretched." Gollum's in agony over the Ring; the good in him is now either gone or buried deep. The Ring has enslaved his mind, and he is "unable to find peace or relief ever in life again." If the Ring were to be destroyed without him, he would die. Not an instantaneous thing, probably; he'd just curl up and die - "into the dust." There would be nothing, good or evil, that Gollum would be willing or able to live for. There's no longer any hope for Gollum, and in this, he is utterly pitiable. And it's because of this that Sam is unable to kill Gollum. He understands Gollum a little better now, realizing the toll that the Ring put on its bearer.

Along this lack of hope for redemption, Gollum is also now quite mad. He's not thinking logically anymore; all that matters is that he gets his precious back. Gone is the cool calculating - take them to Shelob, go through the left-overs, find the Ring - now it's just "get the Ring." Wildness and madness are both words used to describe Gollum.

More than once, Gollum is described as being a shadow. This has two significances that I can see. First, a shadow is dark, a representitive of evil. Also, a shadow is insubstantial and not solid. It's like Gollum is only a shadow of his former self, not all there but a shrunken creature who has been reduced to a part of himself.

All this brings to mind the point that has been made (not on this thread, I don't think) that Eru is a murderer if he willed Gollum to slip. However, I would say this is more an act of mercy than anything else. Gollum was utterly wretched, craving the Ring. He couldn't live without it anymore. Gollum is living in agony; death seems to be a relief after this. Not only is death just, but it's merciful; and Gollum probably died the only way he could possibly die happily - not at peace; in his state, the Ring would probably be more of a torment than a pacifier - but in possession of the one thing he cared about.
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Old 10-18-2005, 03:43 PM   #56
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An interesting thought occurred to me about Eru and Gollum's death...

And no, it has nothing to do with murderers...

Remember Gandalf's statement that "many who die deserve life and many who live deserve death" (paraphrasing), and his warning to Frodo not to be judgemental, for "can you give it to them?"

Well, the thought occurred to me that Eru CAN give life to those who deserve it, as well as taking life from those who deserve it.

Is it fitting, perhaps, that Eru is, if anyone, the One who takes Gollum's life?
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Old 10-18-2005, 04:51 PM   #57
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Is it fitting, perhaps, that Eru is, if anyone, the One who takes Gollum's life?
Yes, fitting, and he is also the only one who I think is fit for the job. It's not Frodo's job to decide whether Gollum should still live, or Sam's, or Gandalf's, or anybody's. Eru is the only one who can decide such.
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Old 10-19-2005, 02:14 AM   #58
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Originally Posted by Firefoot
Yes, fitting, and he is also the only one who I think is fit for the job. It's not Frodo's job to decide whether Gollum should still live, or Sam's, or Gandalf's, or anybody's. Eru is the only one who can decide such.
Hmmmm

But, given the choice, would Gollum have wanted to die? If this was a 'mercy killing' on Eru's part it was done without any consultation with the victim. 'I am the Lord your God, & I've decided you will be better off dead. Trust me - its for your own good.'

Sorry - if Eru had created mere robots then He would be free to switch them off whenever He wanted. He didn't - He created sentient beings, who he will hold accountable for their actions. If Elves, Men & Hobbits are His children then He must be as accountable for His treatment of them as any parent would be.

You can't say, 'Well, He's their creator, so He can do as He likes with them.' If a parent decided to kill their child because it was 'best' for them, & would serve the greater good, we'd at least wonder about that parent's sanity & certainly question their love.

Of course, it may be that Eru found Himself in extremis & had to sacrifice his child, Smeagol, to save all his other children, because there was no other way. But this opens a whole new can of worms - is Eru truly omnipotent? Can He make a rock too heavy for Him to move, etc, etc? If Gollum's death was a fait accompli, Eru, in His omniscience, must have foreseen it from before the beginning. If He could intervene at the Sammath Naur to bring about the Ring's destruction with the death of Gollum as the inevitable consequence, why could He not have intervened at an earlier point & found some other way to destroy the Ring, sparing Gollum's life? Clearly, intervening in His creation is not 'against the Rules'.

The final point I want to make is, if Eru was omniscient, & knew of (without necessarily causing) everything that would happen, then He knew all along, even before Smeaqgol was born, that He would cause his death - or at least bring it about.
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Old 10-19-2005, 10:46 AM   #59
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Sorry - if Eru had created mere robots then He would be free to switch them off whenever He wanted. He didn't - He created sentient beings, who he will hold accountable for their actions. If Elves, Men & Hobbits are His children then He must be as accountable for His treatment of them as any parent would be.

You can't say, 'Well, He's their creator, so He can do as He likes with them.' If a parent decided to kill their child because it was 'best' for them, & would serve the greater good, we'd at least wonder about that parent's sanity & certainly question their love.
This does not follow. Parents are of the same type and order as their children. Eru was not (putting it mildly). The same rules don't apply.

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The final point I want to make is, if Eru was omniscient, & knew of (without necessarily causing) everything that would happen, then He knew all along, even before Smeaqgol was born, that He would cause his death - or at least bring it about.
Your point?

Gollum was born to die, like all other mortals. If you are going to accuse Eru of being a murderer, then it started waaaaaaaay back at the beginning when he decided that the Atani were going to experience death and leave the world.

Eru certainly showed little inclination to remove this rule from individuals. Ergo, he must be a murderer.

(Hint time: Eru was not "sacrificing" anything. He knew exactly where Gollum was going...)
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Old 10-19-2005, 01:25 PM   #60
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Originally Posted by Kuruharan
This does not follow. Parents are of the same type and order as their children. Eru was not (putting it mildly). The same rules don't apply.
So Eru operates by different rules? There are two moral codes - the one Eru works by & the one He imposes on His children? Eru can kill whichever of His children he wishes & that is 'Good', but if His children kill each other that is 'bad'?

So, which moral code is objectively Right? Of course, in our world, this diference does not exist - Jesus tells his disciples to be like their Father in Heaven - ie to obey the same moral & behavioural standards God follows. In Middle-earth it must be different. Eru can do as He likes & whatever He does, even if it is against the laws & rules he lays down for His children, is 'Good' by definition, simply because He does it?

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If you are going to accuse Eru of being a murderer, then it started waaaaaaaay back at the beginning when he decided that the Atani were going to experience death and leave the world.
No - because mortality is part of the Human condition. There's a difference between creating beings who are mortal & who die as a consequence of being what they are, & deliberately taking the life of someone before their time.
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Old 10-19-2005, 01:56 PM   #61
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deliberately taking the life of someone before their time.
Before his time! Gollum was more than 500 years old; the Ring prolonged his life. Gollum, mortal that he is, should have died long ago. But I suppose I see what you mean, a natural death, as it were. The statement just struck me as odd.
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So, which moral code is objectively Right? Of course, in our world, this diference does not exist - Jesus tells his disciples to be like their Father in Heaven - ie to obey the same moral & behavioural standards God follows. In Middle-earth it must be different. Eru can do as He likes & whatever He does, even if it is against the laws & rules he lays down for His children, is 'Good' by definition, simply because He does it?
If you're going to compare it to our world, you have to do it all the way; you do not mention anything about the right to judge. The Bible also tells us not to judge - that right is reserved for God alone. There were wicked people in both Old and New Testaments that God did strike down. If Eru did kill Gollum, how would that be any different?

Gollum didn't have to do the things he did. He didn't have to kill Deagol, he didn't have to use the Ring for evil purposes, but he did, and those choices all eventually led him to his death at Mt. Doom. He wasn't a puppet that Eru ordained had to do all these things so that he could be killed at Mt. Doom.
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Old 10-19-2005, 01:56 PM   #62
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Originally Posted by davem
No - because mortality is part of the Human condition. There's a difference between creating beings who are mortal & who die as a consequence of being what they are, & deliberately taking the life of someone before their time.

How? Either way, someone is responsible for the fact that they die. And it's not as if Eru arbitrarily gave ALL of his creatures mortality. The Elves, as I'm sure everyone's noticed, are quite free of any such constraints. Whether mortality is better or worse than immortality, the fact is that it wasn't distributed evenly.
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Old 10-19-2005, 03:13 PM   #63
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So Eru operates by different rules? There are two moral codes - the one Eru works by & the one He imposes on His children? Eru can kill whichever of His children he wishes & that is 'Good', but if His children kill each other that is 'bad'?

No two codes, the requirements of the roles are different. Eru is "the Authority" as Tolkien put it. Eru made everything and in a sense everything belongs to him. It is his position to ultimately direct the destiny of the world. It is the position of the created to fulfill their purpose or mar it as their choice leads them. In some respects, it is the resisting and marring of purpose that is Bad.

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So, which moral code is objectively Right?
They are the same. It is the activities required by the different orders that are different.

However, I think there is some danger here toward viewing "The Moral Code" as being above Eru. I think that would be a mistake. He's the one who made it. In some ways it probably could be regarded as his personality.

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There's a difference between creating beings who are mortal & who die as a consequence of being what they are, & deliberately taking the life of someone before their time.
This makes no sense. What is the difference between programming a natural death into somebody and tossing them into a volcano if the same being is responsible for both?

Another point, why aren't you up in arms about the slaughter of the Numenorians? That is explicitly presented by Tolkien as being an act of Eru. He was certainly a murderer then even if at no other time.

Besides, I don't think one could say that Eru had been hasty in executing judgment on Gollum. He gave Gollum an excellent chance to repent and aid Frodo in the destruction of the Ring. Gollum made a final rejection of this opportunity to fulfill a good purpose.

I'm sure at some point somebody has demanded an answer to the question of, "What took Eru so long to punish Gollum for his murder of Deagol and eating all those poor babies?!! How can Eru be good if he allows this sort of thing to go unpunished for so long?!"
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Old 10-19-2005, 03:32 PM   #64
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Originally Posted by Firefoot
There were wicked people in both Old and New Testaments that God did strike down. If Eru did kill Gollum, how would that be any different?
Well, it calls into question the Commandment 'Thou shalt do no murder' - unless the corollory is 'leave that to Me.' In other words, murder per se isn't wrong, in fact, if God/Eru does it its OK.

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Gollum didn't have to do the things he did. He didn't have to kill Deagol, he didn't have to use the Ring for evil purposes, but he did, and those choices all eventually led him to his death at Mt. Doom. He wasn't a puppet that Eru ordained had to do all these things so that he could be killed at Mt. Doom.
But if Gollum was wrong to take the life of Deagol to get what he wanted, & Eru killed Gollum to get what He wanted how would that be different?

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Originally Posted by Formendacil
How? Either way, someone is responsible for the fact that they die. And it's not as if Eru arbitrarily gave ALL of his creatures mortality. The Elves, as I'm sure everyone's noticed, are quite free of any such constraints. Whether mortality is better or worse than immortality, the fact is that it wasn't distributed evenly.
The Elves are the exception. All other races/beings are mortal. What we're talking about here is not Gollum dying because someone shot him, because he caught some disease. etc, but because Eru willed his death when he wouldn't otherwise have died, & therefore whether Eru should be held accountable for that. If Middle-earth has the equivalent of a Judgement Day Eru is going to be in a dificult position bringing Smeagol to account for taking the life of Deagol because He has taken the life of Smeagol.

Of course, one could argue that killing Smeagol was an act of loving compassion on the behalf of Eru - seeing one of His children in torment & knowing that he could never be free of his desire for the Ring while it existed & also knowing that after its destruction he could only have endured a long painful demise He chose to release him, etc, but that would still make Eru directly responsible for the fact that Smeagol died, against his will, because Eru ended his life.

These are difficult theological questions - ones which Jung struggled with, incidentally, in Answer to Job
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Old 10-19-2005, 03:59 PM   #65
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Well, it calls into question the Commandment 'Thou shalt do no murder' - unless the corollory is 'leave that to Me.'
Well, as a matter of fact...if you really want to go down that road...

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It is mine to avenge; I will repay.
Deut. 32:35 NIV
...and since it somehow seems appropriate to the topic at hand (which I believe is how we somehow started on this and may at some nebulous point in the future wish to get back to)...the rest of the verse...

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In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.
Yes, I know I have a nasty sense of humor.

I'm going to assume you didn't get a chance to see my previous post, and so will give you the opportunity before returning to topic.
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Old 10-19-2005, 04:05 PM   #66
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But if Gollum was wrong to take the life of Deagol to get what he wanted, & Eru killed Gollum to get what He wanted how would that be different?
It's entirely different. For one thing, Smeagol's murder of Deagol was just that: murder. Smeagol is in now way in the right. He wants something Deagol has, so he kills him for it. On the other hand, Eru, the Authority, causes Gollum to slip - both just and merciful, not just "to get what he wanted." Smeagol's motives in killing Deagol were entirely selfish, Eru's were not - and Gollum wasn't just a random bystander, either. Gollum had his chances at redemption, but he chose not to take them and continued on his own selfish quest to get the Ring back. He was offered forgiveness and mercy, but accepted neither. Eru's "killing" of Gollum was both just and merciful - mostly to Gollum, but also to Frodo and to all of Middle-earth. And it's not like Gollum wasn't acting of his own free will when he took the Ring and was dancing around with it.
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Old 10-19-2005, 04:24 PM   #67
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Originally Posted by Kuruharan
Another point, why aren't you up in arms about the slaughter of the Numenorians? That is explicitly presented by Tolkien as being an act of Eru. He was certainly a murderer then even if at no other time.
It seems He only intervenes at the point where He has to kill somebody to prevent a disaster. You do wonder why He couldn't intervene at an earlier point where He wouldn't end up with blood on His hands...

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I'm sure at some point somebody has demanded an answer to the question of, "What took Eru so long to punish Gollum for his murder of Deagol and eating all those poor babies?!! How can Eru be good if he allows this sort of thing to go unpunished for so long?!"
Or demanded an answer to the question of why, if He was prepared to intervene in His creation, He didn't intervene to saved those poor babies?

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This makes no sense. What is the difference between programming a natural death into somebody and tossing them into a volcano if the same being is responsible for both?
Its the difference between the general & the specific...

And for the rest, I still go back to Answer to Job.
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Old 10-19-2005, 11:17 PM   #68
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I suspect from this point on we are just going to be running in circles.

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Its the difference between the general & the specific
You are still not getting me…

What it sounds like you are saying is that you find it perfectly alright to kill on a huge (indeed total) scale through disease and decay, but object to an intervention to end one particular life. However, the end of both is the same thing. This really almost seems like splitting hairs. I have to ask why you find the built in death to be so preferable?

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It seems He only intervenes at the point where He has to kill somebody to prevent a disaster. You do wonder why He couldn't intervene at an earlier point where He wouldn't end up with blood on His hands
Well, that would sort of be messing with the freedom of choice thing that was also part of Eru’s Gift to Men.

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Or demanded an answer to the question of why, if He was prepared to intervene in His creation, He didn't intervene to saved those poor babies?
What method would you propose? You obviously object to Eru intervening to kill Gollum. If he had been caught by the Woodmen or the Dalemen, he would have been killed. You could construct an argument that Eru would be culpable for that. Gollum could have been chased off or scared away. However, now we get back to the meddling with free will issue again. Gollum wanted to do wrong. What is to be done with such a creature?

There are any number of things to discuss about Answer to Job, however they have nothing to do with Tolkien so I’ll confine myself one comment on what seems the most relevant issue. I’m afraid I fail to entirely appreciate the relevance of this piece to the topic at hand. Quite frankly, I think you are attempting to inject it in the wrong place. I say this, if for no other reason, than because Job’s suffering was unmerited, where I don’t think anybody would argue with the notion that Gollum was a thoroughly rotten individual and ultimately embraced that choice. This sort of renders a large part of the point of Answer to Job irrelevant to the discussion.
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Old 10-20-2005, 02:01 AM   #69
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Originally Posted by Kuruharan
What it sounds like you are saying is that you find it perfectly alright to kill on a huge (indeed total) scale through disease and decay, but object to an intervention to end one particular life. However, the end of both is the same thing. This really almost seems like splitting hairs. I have to ask why you find the built in death to be so preferable?
No its not. Men are given the gift of death, the freedom to pass beyond the circles of the world. In other words it is not their nature to remain in the world. One could argue the same with Smeagol, so that he should have died many years previously & that Eru was merely taking away the unnatural 'gift' bestowed on him by the Ring. My point in this context is not that it is wrong for Smeagol to die - death in itself is not wrong - it is that Eru intentionally kills him when he wouldn't otherwise have died. Gollum's death is not a result of natural causes, but of the will of Eru.

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Well, that would sort of be messing with the freedom of choice thing that was also part of Eru’s Gift to Men.
But surely that's the case with any direct intervention by Eru - by His destruction of the Numenorean fleet Eru takes away Men's freedom of choice. A 'gift' that can be taken back at any time the giver feels like is hardly a 'gift' at all.

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This sort of renders a large part of the point of Answer to Job irrelevant to the discussion.
I didn't bring up AtJ because of any similarity of Gollum to Job, but because of what it says about God - specifically in relation to Eru's use of his creation & His apparent belief that He is beyond question in anything He does. Eru allows evil to come into the world, so ultimately He is responsible for its existence. The argument that this is a requirement of a truly free creation doesn't wash, because He will take away that freedom whenever He sees fit.

Anyway, I'm sort of wishing I hadn't dragged primary world religion into this & I'm happy to agree to disagree on this one.

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Old 10-20-2005, 12:58 PM   #70
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it is that Eru intentionally kills him when he wouldn't otherwise have died. Gollum's death is not a result of natural causes, but of the will of Eru.
And all this other natural death is built in by ????

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by His destruction of the Numenorean fleet Eru takes away Men's freedom of choice.
No. It is imposing the consequences of those choices. I don't seem to recall seeing anything about there being no consequences to actions.

And it is not like the Numenorians had not been warned...repeatedly.
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Old 10-20-2005, 01:08 PM   #71
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I just feel the need to interject a bit of common sense at this point:

If Eru is God, or even God-like, or even Tolkien's version of God -- then isn't this whole debate over Gollum's death a bit, well, pointless? I mean, if God's in charge of the world, then everyone's death is part of His Plan, or his 'fault' in some way...

It's the same tired question that people have been asking their beleagured priests for centuries, to which they usually get a resigned "mysterious ways" response....

As soon as you decide to start questioning the ethical disposition of Gollum's death (at the 'hands' of Providence, Eru, God, whatever) don't you have to start questioning Denethor's death, Boromir's death, Saruman's death, Lotho's death and on and on and on...
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Old 10-20-2005, 01:42 PM   #72
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Originally Posted by Fordim
As soon as you decide to start questioning the ethical disposition of Gollum's death (at the 'hands' of Providence, Eru, God, whatever) don't you have to start questioning Denethor's death, Boromir's death, Saruman's death, Lotho's death and on and on and on...
Eru could be said to be the indirect cause of Death in Middle-earth, but with Gollum (& the Numenoreans) He is the direct cause of their individual deaths - He makes them die when they wouldn't have died otherwise.
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Old 10-20-2005, 01:47 PM   #73
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Eru could be said to be the indirect cause of Death in Middle-earth, but with Gollum (& the Numenoreans) He is the direct cause of their individual deaths - He makes them die when they wouldn't have died otherwise.
And the critical difference is...?
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Old 10-20-2005, 02:03 PM   #74
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Originally Posted by Kuruharan
And the critical difference is...?
Mortals in Middle-earth were always mortal - their mortality was part of their nature from the beginning, & not a punishment. So all mortals will inevitably die. The important thing is how & why. If Eru intervenes in an individual's life to end it when it wouldn't have ended otherwise that is incredibly significant.
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Old 10-20-2005, 04:28 PM   #75
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their mortality was part of their nature from the beginning, & not a punishment.
That is debateable.

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If Eru intervenes in an individual's life to end it when it wouldn't have ended otherwise that is incredibly significant.
So you are suggesting that it is okay for Eru to have built death into the system. However, it is not okay for him to ever intervene to cause a death because that puts him at a moral level below that of the creation.

Is this an accurate summary of your postion?
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Old 10-21-2005, 02:42 AM   #76
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Originally Posted by Kuruharan
That is debateable.
Only if we give credence to the later writings (Athrabeth, etc) which came from a period when Tolkien was attempting to make his Legendarium fit with both current scientific thinking & with Christian belief. Otherwise, from the beginning, mortality was innate to Men & was part of the Divine plan not as punishment but because they had a different role & purpose within Middle-earth.

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So you are suggesting that it is okay for Eru to have built death into the system. However, it is not okay for him to ever intervene to cause a death because that puts him at a moral level below that of the creation.

Is this an accurate summary of your postion?
Yes, because Death was not a punishment, but an entirely natural thing (even unnatural deaths - as a result of violence, disease, suicide, etc could come under the heading of 'natural' as they are a consequence of events happening within the created world. We could even say that deaths caused by the Valar are 'natural' because once they entered into Arda they became a part of its nature, unable to leave it of their own accord).

With Gollum (& the Numenoreans) it is a case of unnatural (ie supernatural) death, because the cause of their death is brought about from beyond the Circles of the World. It is a Divine intervention which causes them to die, a breaking in of the supernatural into nature.

In other words, the deaths of Gollum & the Numenoreans are miracles. I don't think that's something we can didmiss easily. We can be blinded by the Eucatastrophic experience - the world is saved, the heroes don't die as we'd expected, etc - & miss the vitally important detail that the miraculous event, the happy ending, we've just witnessed involved the killing, by Eru himself, of His children.

Its too easy to just say 'Well, they brought it on themselves' - they may well have done - but Eru (God within Middle-earth) intervened to kill them. Was there no other form of intervention available? Could He not have shown Himself in all His glory to the Numenoreans & intimidated them into returning to Numenor? Could he not just have caused a chunk of rock to fall from the roof of the Sammath Naur to knock Gollum out so that he dropped the Ring & it rolled into the Fire? Of course neither of those outcomes would have been as dramatic. The point is though, that He could have intervened in such a way that it didn't require them to die at His hands, but He didn't. Any intervention by Eru takes away their freedom of action, so that can't be used as an argument.

The other interesting question, imo, is why do we feel that the way Eru did interevene, resulting in the deaths of Gollum & the Numenoreans, is more, what? fulfilling, 'right', convincing???? Why would Gollum being knocked out, or the Numenoreans being intimidated by Eru in His glory & going home & behaving themselves from then on, have felt like a cop out on Tolkien's part?
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Old 10-21-2005, 03:04 AM   #77
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...the happy ending, we've just witnessed involved the killing, by Eru himself, of His children...
Because the death for ME is [partially yes, but mainly] not punishment, as you yourself argue, but also a release (Gift of Eru). Gollum without the ring - the hope of revival, Gollum with the Ring - no hope left. To kill Gollum at the moment he gets the Ring is act of Mercy. All ends covered - the world saved, Gollum's spirit (what is left of it) released from the Ring - one act.

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The other interesting question, imo, is why do we feel that the way Eru did interevene, resulting in the deaths of Gollum & the Numenoreans, is more, what? fulfilling, 'right', convincing???? Why would Gollum being knocked out, or the Numenoreans being intimidated by Eru in His glory & going home & behaving themselves from then on, have felt like a cop out on Tolkien's part?
M-mm... the large scale answer is 'freedom'. From another angle, we do not see God Himself coming before us [in Person] however badly we apply our freedom. Eru acting in person would probably 'break the enchantment', the spell of likeness between ME and our world (even for those who hold no God exists on this side of the book? Indeed - tidal wave is explicable by other means than intervention of Higher Authority).

As for Gollum - 'knocked out by the rock' does not eliminate the problem of his healing - in case he seized the Ring as Frodo did (see Fordim's post above)- i.e. without actual 'Gollum-will' involved - it is impossible to heal him - no 'Gollum-will' left enough. If it was his conscious choice of 'ring is mine', again - no way to heal him, no 'Gollum-will' left enough
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Old 10-21-2005, 03:09 AM   #78
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In my view, it is not really the power of Eru that caused Gollum to fall. I see it as more of an accident. But an accident that only happened because of the forgiveness from Frodo (and somewhat Sam) towards Gollum. They received redemption because of this, but why does it need to come from a higher force?

In my opinion, what Tolkien is trying to show us here is that good deeds are sometimes rewarded. (I haven't read Tolkien's Letters yet, so I'm unaware of exactly what his reasons behind these events, if he has said so)
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Old 10-21-2005, 08:38 AM   #79
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Could He not have shown Himself in all His glory to the Numenoreans & intimidated them into returning to Numenor?
Honestly, I doubt this would have done any good. They were hardened Morgoth worshipers by that point. They would probably have seen a manifestation of Eru as something to try and fight against. The last test of their god before he rewarded them with immortality and new worlds to conquer.

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Yes, because Death was not a punishment, but an entirely natural thing (even unnatural deaths - as a result of violence, disease, suicide, etc could come under the heading of 'natural' as they are a consequence of events happening within the created world. We could even say that deaths caused by the Valar are 'natural' because once they entered into Arda they became a part of its nature, unable to leave it of their own accord).

With Gollum (& the Numenoreans) it is a case of unnatural (ie supernatural) death, because the cause of their death is brought about from beyond the Circles of the World. It is a Divine intervention which causes them to die, a breaking in of the supernatural into nature.
(There seems to be something of a wall here.)

Let's try look at this from Eru's perspective (again). As I said above, "death" is not an ending for him. (Actually it is not an ending for anybody.) The end for mortals is the same. He knows where to find them.

In both of these cases Eru acts at the last to defend the creation from the massive havoc and/or domination of rogue, misguided elements that have revolted from him. He has given everybody involved plenty of opportunity to turn from their wicked ways and delivered warnings to that end. Would you prefer that he just stay out of it?

Do you not think that Eru has the right (some might say responsibility) to intervene in his own creation? He made it, after all. It would not exist without him. There is ultimately some sort of plan at work for how he wants it to turn out in the end.

I don't think that any activities he undertakes like this could be considered as having two moral codes, but rather different roles within one code (remembering that the moral code is part of Eru.)
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Old 10-22-2005, 04:18 AM   #80
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Well, not having proved that Eru is exactly the same as the loving God portrayed by Christianity, we cannot assume that He was acting out of mercy when He caused Gollum's death - He may have acted out of vengeance & consigned him to 'Hell' - same with the Numenoreans. Or simply caused them to cease to exist.

To me this is the central issue. If we just take the statements we have about Eru in the text, do we find a loving merciful Creator or something else entirely? His behaviour & actions must be judged on what we know of Eru Himself, not on what we know/believe about the Christian God.
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