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Old 06-28-2004, 02:59 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Ring LotR -- Book 1 - Chapter 02 - The Shadow of the Past

In this chapter, the story takes a crucial turn - the true nature of the Ring is revealed, along with its history, and Frodo's adventures begin. The iconic poem - probably the first one we all memorized when reading the book! - makes its appearance. Gandalf is shown to have a central role in the unfolding plot, and the goal of the journey, the Cracks of Doom, is made clear.

As I see it, this is where the LotR ceases to be merely a sequel to The Hobbit and becomes mythological. What are your thoughts upon reading this chapter?
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Old 06-28-2004, 04:05 AM   #2
HerenIstarion
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It always struck me as (especially, when considered on the scope of the whole book) as expression of simmetry in the composition of the book. To explain myself, exerpt from the contents of my edition:


Book I

Chapter 1 A Long-expected Party
Chapter 2 The Shadow of the Past
Chapter 3 Three is Company
etc

to be compared with:

Book II

Chapter 1 Many Meetings
Chapter 2 The Council of Elrond
Chapter 3 The Ring Goes South
etc


Not only names are somehow interrelated, but the context is neatly up to match what happens in each book. So to say, in the first chapter of each book all is relatively peacefull, but inner tension builds up, in relative second chapters nothing much happens (not a feat often seen in modern writing!), just people talk(in retrospective), the third relative chapters deal with conclusions following retrospective conversation in second chapters and the rest of each book is the quest itself.

very neat, I should say!
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Old 06-28-2004, 06:04 AM   #3
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Just a detail which struck me already in the first chapter, and in the beginning of chapter 2 again, is that Bilbo and Frodo's friends are all much younger.
about Bilbo :
Quote:
But he had no close friends, until some of his younger cousins began to grow up. The eldest of these, and Bilbo's favourite, was young Frodo Baggins
Frodo is in fact 78 years younger than Bilbo !
About Frodo:
Quote:
He lived alone, as Bilbo had done: but he had a great many friends, especially among the younger hobbits (mostly descendants of the old Took) who had as children been fond of Bilbo and often in and out of Bag End. (.....)
Frodo went tramping all over the Shire with them
I realized just recently that Pippin was only 11 years old at the time of Bilbo's party!! (one tends to forget that when one has movie-Pippin in one's mind... )
I've looked at the genealogies:
Pippin is 22 years younger than Frodo, Merry 14 and Fatty 12 years younger, and Sam either 12 or 15 years younger.

Now why is that so ? Perhaps because the grown up hobbits were too staid, too narrowminded and had no imagination left ? I guess it was only the children that still had a sense for wonder who listened to Bilbo's tales with relish, and appreciated and admired him.
Frodo too chose his companions for "tramping around the Shire" among the adolescent hobbits. Probably they were more openminded, still more adventurous and lively than the grown-ups. When I read the conversation in the "Green Dragon" and Ted Sandymans' "No nonsense" attitude., I don't wonder.

Quote:
"Ah," said Ted, "(....)But I can hear fireside-tales and children's stories at home, if I want to."
"No doubt you can," retorted Sam,"and I daresay there's more truth in some of them than you reckon. Who invented the stories anyway? Take dragons now."
This statement relates to the conversation but I think it is one of the timeless truths one finds all over the books. Anyhow, it reminds me of what Tolkien wrote in "On Fairy-stories" .
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Old 06-28-2004, 06:39 AM   #4
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Question

I wonder what Gandalf expected Frodo to do. Gandalf said that he hardly expected that Frodo would volunteer to take the Ring and leave the Shire. Was he planning to persuade Frodo to do so or did he have something else in mind?
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Old 06-28-2004, 06:48 AM   #5
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White-Hand

Quote:
In this chapter, the story takes a crucial turn - the true nature of the Ring is revealed, along with its history, and Frodo's adventures begin.
For me, The Shadow of the Past is where the book really begins. I've always thought of it as the beginning of a great plot. The chapter itself has a great title, don't you think? Some way, the readers just know something exciting is about to come. It's an adventure that we are going to have a minor part in. (Only as a reader though – unfortuantly )

Guinevere- I too, find that quite fascinating.

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He lived alone, as Bilbo had done: but he had a great many friends, especially among the younger hobbits (mostly descendants of the old Took) who had as children been fond of Bilbo and often in and out of Bag End. (.....)
I think this quote says a whole lot about why Bilbo was attached to younger Hobbits. First of all, the younger Hobbits liked him, I think: More or less because Bilbo probably was the one Hobbit who actually was a "bit adventures", if you see my point; he old stories about his days where he had gone on his own adventures and paths, which were very exciting for the young Hobbit lads and lasses.

Just as you stated;
Quote:
I guess it was only the children that still had a sense for wonder who listened to Bilbo's tales with relish, and appreciated and admired him.
I definitely think that is the main thing. I also think that Bilbo saw his "equal" in the children somehow; they were just as adventures as him. (Or at least I am of that opinion.)

Cheers,
Orofaniel
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Old 06-28-2004, 08:09 AM   #6
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Ring The Shadow of the Past

Having been a perennial latecomer so far, I thought that I would get my thoughts in early this time round.


Quote:
In this chapter, the story takes a crucial turn - the true nature of the Ring is revealed, along with its history … (Estelyn Telcontar)
Indeed. Readers who have read the Foreword will already have had it highlighted for them that this is a crucial chapter. The dark tone that underpinned the otherwise light-hearted opening chapter becomes more prevalent as Gandalf reveals the history of the Ring to Frodo (much of which he has only learned himself in the intervening years). Indeed, the only “light-hearted” moments are those which involve Sam, first in The Green Dragon and subsequently when his “eavesdropping” is discovered. (I will return to the development of Sam’s character in this chapter at the end of this post.)

Gandalf’s exposition of history of Ring builds on what we learned of it in the previous chapter, making explicit what was only implicit there (concerning its preserving qualities and corruptive power). Tolkien uses Frodo in this chapter to ask all of the questions which occur to us as readers:


Quote:
“I still don’t understand what this has to do with Bilbo, myself, and our ring.”
Quote:
“This ring!” he stammered, “How, how on earth did it come to me?”
Quote:
“O Gandalf, best of friends, what am I to do?”
Quote:
“But why not destroy it, as you say should have been done long ago?”
Quote:
“You are wise and powerful. Will you not take the Ring?”
So, having led the reader to identify with Hobbits in general in the Prologue and the preceding chapter, Tolkien here puts us in the (metaphorical) shoes of Frodo, our central character, who, like Bilbo, is portrayed as “different” from your average Hobbit.

Frodo’s questions and comments, and Gandalf’s replies to them, also touch upon issues which go the very heart of the story. For example:


Quote:
“I am not made for perilous quests. I wish I had never seen the Ring! Why did it come to me? Why was I chosen?

“Such questions cannot be answered,” said Gandalf. “You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits that you have.”
And


Quote:
“What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!”

“Pity?” It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity.”

“I am sorry,” said Frodo. “But I am frightened; and I do not feel any pity for Gollum.”



“Now at any rate he is as bad as an Orc, and just an enemy. He deserves death”.

“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be so eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or for ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many – yours not least.”
Contrast Frodo’s attitude here with his approach to Gollum when they finally meet (which is informed by Gandalf’s wise words here) and the pity which he displays to Saruman in The Scouring of the Shire. Gandalf’s words, of course, also foreshadow the role that Gollum ultimately plays with regard to the fate of the Ring, which would not have been possible without Bilbo’s (and Frodo’s) pity.

I like the way that, as this chapter unfolds, we come to regard the Ring as another character in the story. Gandalf’s words give it a persona. He tells Frodo (and us):

Quote:
“A Ring of Power looks after itself, Frodo. It may slip off treacherously, but its keeper never abandons it.”
This is the most obvious reference, but almost every reference to the Ring portrays it as something which has its own will and its own agenda (to get back to its master). Interestingly in this regard, it became apparent to me as I searched for quotes to post above that it starts out the chapter being referred to as the ring but that, as we (and Frodo) learn more about it, it becomes the Ring, ie with the first letter capitalised as if it were the name of a character (which, of course, it is).

For me, however, the key passage in this chapter comes when Gandalf suggests that Frodo himself tries to do away with the Ring:


Quote:
Frodo drew the Ring out of his pocket again and looked at it. It now appeared plain and smooth, without mark or device that he could see. The gold looked very fair and pure, and Frodo thought how rich and beautiful was its colour, how perfect its roundness. It was an admirable thing and altogether precious. When he took it out he had intended to fling it from him into the very hottest part of the fire. But he found that he could not now do so, not without great struggle. He weighed the Ring in his hand, hesitating, and forcing himself to remember all that Gandalf had told him; and then with an effort of will he made a movement, as if to cast it away – but he found that he had put it back in his pocket.
What a fantastic piece of writing! Starting out with a simple description of the Ring, the passage gradually builds on Frodo’s regard of it to the point of obsession, culminating with the second reference in two chapters to it, by a character other than Gollum, as “precious”. Here we can clearly and explicitly see the beguiling effect of the Ring on its bearer and we can, perhaps, begin to understand just what went through Smeagol’s mind when he first set eyes on it. The device of having Frodo attempt to throw the Ring away, only to put it back in his pocket (echoing Bilbo’s attempts to leave the Ring behind in the previous chapter) is brilliantly conceived. These few sentences speak volumes of the nature and the power of the Ring. This passage, of course, foreshadows Frodo’s ultimate “failure” at Sammath Naur. And, reading it again, it suggests to me the inevitability of that “failure”, although I wonder how many of us had that sense when we first read the book.

Finally, a few words on the development of Sam’s character in this chapter. I like the way that he is portrayed sympathetically in his conversation with Ted Sandyman in The Green Dragon. Although Ted Sandyman appears to have the upper hand in the conversation, and as far as the Hobbit onlookers are concerned “scores points” off Sam, we know that it is in fact Sam who is speaking sense here. We already have the impression that there is danger afoot outside the cosy confines of the Shire, and Gandalf later starkly confirms this for us in his discussion with Frodo.

Later, when discovered outside the window by Gandalf, Sam's humorous response helps to relieve the tension which has built up throughout most of the chapter. Even Frodo is hardly able to keep from laughing, despite the horror of all that he has learned. However, I must say that I am not (and have never been) all that keen on the “There ain’t no eaves at Bag End, and that’s a fact” line. Personally, I suspect that this line is single-handedly responsible for the dreadful characterisation of Sam in the Bakshi animated film. In any event, while we later see him as the repository of earthy wisdom and unlikely hero that he really is, I do tend to think that this foolish (albeit humorous) comment starts us out on the wrong footing with Sam (if you take my meaning ). Nevertheless, his otherwise sympathetic portrayal in the previous chapter and earlier in this chapter (which do suggest that there are hidden depths to him) do, I think, reassure us that Frodo has a suitable companion for his coming journey.
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Old 06-28-2004, 08:38 AM   #7
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(Edit: cross-posted with Saucepanman)

What struck me most re-reading the chapter was Frodo's attitude:

Quote:
'Gollum!' Cried Frodo. 'Gollum? Do you mean that this is the very Gollum-creature that Bilbo met? How loathsome!'

'I think it is a sad story.' said the wizard, 'and it might have happened to others, even some hobbits I have known.'

'I can't believe that Gollum was connected with hobbits, however distantly,' said Frodo with some heat. 'What an abominable notion!'
Later he interupts Gandalf, accuses him of inaction, demands to know why Bilbo didn't stab to death an unarmed opponent at a disadvantage, & why Gandalf doesn't make him destroy or throw away the Ring. He then tries to make Gandalf take it.

Finally, when he accepts the task, what does he give as his motivation?

Quote:
I should like to save the Shire, if I could - though there have been times when I thought the inhabitants too stupid & dull for words, & have felt that an earthquake or an invasion of dragons might be good for them'
I suppose my memory of Frodo is of a selfless individual willing to sacrifice himself to save the world. But reading this chapter I don't get that impression. He seems selfish, judgemental, cowardly - the very things he condemns his fellow hobbits for. Maybe he's the one who needs to be confronted with earthquakes & dragons! His first response when confronted with the danger he is in is to try & get Gandalf to take the Ring - but why should Gandalf take it? Frodo doesn't know Gandalf's nature or role. Frodo has something dangerous in his possesion, & instantly he tries to get his 'friend' to take the dangerous thing away from him. He would even rather Bilbo had commited murder if that had meant he could have continued with his safe little life.

Then, the 'flip' - he will accept his burden - because he wants to save the Shire!. He's flipped from a coward to a meglomaniac, or at least a 'messiah'!

Now in all this do we see the influence of the Ring on an innocent hobbit, or do we see a 'selfish, judgemental coward'?

I think all this is deliberate on Tolkien's part - he wants us to see Frodo as being like ourselves. Frodo is certainly not a hero at first, not even admirable. Recalling my first reading, it took me a while to get to like Frodo - I read LotR straight after The Hobbit, & I liked Bilbo much more for a good part of the first book. I think the way Tolkien shows the growth of Frodo's character is wonderful, & it will be interesting to see how much he changes, & how he is 'purged of the gross' as the story progresses. And to see how much of the original Frodo is left by the end.
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Old 06-28-2004, 08:46 AM   #8
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One of my favourite chapters in the whole book. I shall attempt to be as brief as possible, and contain myself to two passages only, both of which develop the nature of the Ring, and highlight how it will be the centre of the narrative to follow.

Quote:
’Three Rings for the Elven kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in the halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne,
In the land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all, and the darkness bind them
In the land of Mordor, where the Shadows lie.’
The famous poem: certainly Tolkien’s best bit of verse (I think). And it clearly sets up a number of very important ideas about the Ring and its relation to other peoples, as well as its nature. First, there’s the resonating and insistent beat of the “One, One, One, One” of the Ring and Sauron versus the multiplicity of the other rings/peoples (three, seven, nine). Where the list of Rings that are associated with the free folk goes up in number (implying increase and diversity?) the Ring of Sauron is singular and one and remains one throughout the poem.

Another aspect of the poem is how it gives us a glimpse into then natures of the free folk: Elves live “under the sky” (beneath the protection/guidance of the Valar? As signified by the presence of Earendil and the other stars that they ‘worship’?); the Dwarves live under the earth where they are walled off from others “in their halls of stone”; and Men who are “doomed to die” – this is both good and bad: death is not nice, nor is having a “doom”, but doom in its fullest sense does not necessarily mean something bad, but “fated”. So in this sense, the Men are contrasted to the Elves (who are ‘trapped’ forever by their immortality “under” the sky like the Dwarves under the earth). Unlike them, Men die and find the gift of Eru.

The words associated with the Ring are extraordinarily telling: “rule, find, bring, bind”. I love the order of the words here – the Ring ‘begins’ with the desire to Rule, which necessitates ‘finding’ how and who to rule, which then leads to ‘bringing’ those people under rule, and brining to bear upon them the methods of rule, and it all ends with ‘binding’ them into that singular Rule. It’s a wonderfully brief and telling description/exploration of how power works.

There’s also two puns in the poem that speak volumes about the Ring. First, it’s from a place where “Shadows lie.” I love this: not just where shadows are, but where the Shadows deceive – this is how Sauron works, and this is how the Ring works: it’s a think of shadows and shadowy lies as it promises power that it will not bring; most importantly it tells the greatest lie of all: that by claiming it, one will find fulfilment of one’s desires, not the emptying of the will. The Ring is the ultimate lie: “take me and rule” when what it’s really all about is “be taken by me and be ruled.”

The second pun is the name of Mordor itself – it’s always looked to me a lot like the Anglo-Saxon word for murder morðor (pronounced “morthor”). I think this contrasts to the “Mortal Men doomed to die” – it is in the nature of humanity to die, it is our fate; the Ring is from a place that perverts that fate through unnatural death (that is, the murder/loss of our very mortality by enslavement to Sauron becoming Wraiths).

Quote:
[Frodo] unfastened [the Ring] and handed it slowly to the wizard. It felt suddenly very heavy, as if either it or Frodo himself was in some way reluctant for Gandalf to touch it.
The ambiguity of this moment is crucial to any understanding of the Ring, I think. Already, Frodo is unsure of where he ends and the Ring begins: who is the reluctant party here? Is the Ring overmastering his will, or is his will being turned to the point where he can’t give up the precious object. This is an ambiguity that I would suggest lasts through the whole novel – is Frodo being enslaved by the Ring or seduced? This idea of the Ring’s weight is a good way to make this point, for is it getting heavier and thus overpowering Frodo, or is he getting weaker and thus no longer able to bear the weight of the Ring?

One more note: I think we have a slight hint here of what Gandalf might (if pressed by Elrond, for example) have admitted was at the back of his mind for the quest ahead: he is the one who casts the Ring into the fire when Frodo is not able to. As Saucepan Man has already pointed out, Frodo is here at the beginning of his quest already completely incapable of throwing the Ring into his own little “fire,” so from that perspective he’s doomed to fail from the outset. But we’ve got this moment where Gandalf is able to convince Frodo to hand over the Ring, and then he does the deed himself. . . I’m not making any claims, I just think that it’s a reason to pause for thought.
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Old 06-28-2004, 09:59 AM   #9
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Ring Frodo? Selfish and cowardly?

Davem


Quote:
He seems selfish, judgemental, cowardly - the very things he condemns his fellow hobbits for.
While I agree with you that Tolkien wanted his readers to identify with Frodo, I would not go so far as to describe him in these terms. To me, his reactions appear entirely understandable given the import of what Gandalf is telling him. My first reaction would be to ask Gandalf, a wise and powerful figure, to take this terrible artefact. In response to Frodo's question, Gandalf explains why he cannot do so. As for Frodo's sentiments concerning Gollum, again I see these as entirely natural given what he (and we) know at this stage concerning this "vile creature". One sentence in particular in this chapter intensifies my disgust for Gollum:


Quote:
It climbed trees to find nests; it crept into holes to find the young; it slipped through windows to find cradles.
The final statement, suggesting as it does that Gollum devoured babies snatched from their cradles, is truly horrifying. Why should we feel any more pity for Gollum than we do for other creatures that engage in such behaviour, such as Goblins? Well, in response to Frodo's reaction, Gandalf tells us exactly why it is that we should pity him. And so, later on, when we meet Gollum and see the effect of Frodo's pity on him, we can appreciate exactly what it is that Gandalf is telling us here.

Quote:
I think we have a slight hint here of what Gandalf might (if pressed by Elrond, for example) have admitted was at the back of his mind for the quest ahead: he is the one who casts the Ring into the fire when Frodo is not able to.
You may well be right here, Fordim. Certainly, in light of what Gandalf knows concerning the Ring, he is unlikely to have thought Frodo capable of destroying it voluntarily. Alternatively, however, his references to Bilbo having been meant to find the Ring and Frodo being meant to have it, together with his comment that Gollum may yet have some further role to play, might suggest that he was trusting in the intervention of "providence" at the crucial moment all along.
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Old 06-28-2004, 11:50 AM   #10
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I'd say Frodo is selfish - he is quite self centred - he keeps himself apart from the other hobbits, he plays no real part in his community. His first thought on finding that the Ring is dangerous is to try to pass it on to someone he is supposed to care about. He wants someone else to take responsibility for the Ring from him. He'd rather Bilbo, the one who has given him the luxurious lifestyle & the wealth he enjoys, had killed Gollum - & at that time Gollum hadn't killed anything but Deagol & orcs- no babies. And lets not forget that Gandalf has no evidence that Gollum had taken babies from their cradles - Gandalf is merely reporting rumours he has heard (though they were probably true, admittedly).

He has such contempt for the people he's grown up around that he has had fantasies of them being caught up in earthquakes, or attacked by dragons - & that thought hadn't just popped into his mind at that point - he'd had those fantasies previously. He's judgemental - he has mentally sat in judgement on his neighbours & found them wanting & deserving of horrendous punishment. He's wished suffering on them - just to 'wake them up', & so, presumably to make them more acceptable to him. He passes a death sentence on Gollum, wishing he was dead.

I think Gandalf realises that Frodo has these faults, & this is why he constantly, (though usually gently) rebukes him throughout the chapter for them.

Of course, I am putting the 'case for the prosecution' here. We also see Frodo's potential - the decision to take the Ring, & put his life at risk is noble, to say the least, but I think there is a 'darker' side to it, which, looking back on the story from the end, is easily forgotten. We see it in his first thoughts on awaking in the Barrrow for instance.

My real question is to what extent this 'dark' side we see is the action of the Ring on him, & how much is innate?
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Old 06-28-2004, 12:18 PM   #11
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In defense of Frodo

Davem:
Quote:
His first thought on finding that the Ring is dangerous is to try to pass it on to someone he is supposed to care about.
The way that I see this is not that Frodo is self-centered; just confused, and surprised. He sees Gandalf as someone who understands the ring much better than he does, and feels that Gandalf would know what to do with it better than himself. He doesn't want the Ring, but who would? He understands just enough of it to know what it is, and he would probably feel intimidated by it, and feel Gandalf as someone wise and powerful would know what to do with it.
Quote:
He'd rather Bilbo, the one who has given him the luxurious lifestyle & the wealth he enjoys, had killed Gollum
Of course he would: all Frodo has heard of Gollum is vile and dishonest deeds, and what's more, Gollum was the one who took news of hobbits, the Shire, and the name of Baggins to Sauron. He says, "For now I am really afraid. What am I to do? What a pity that Bilbo did not stab the vile creature when he had the chance!" Frodo is, self-admittably, afraid, and probably desperate for some solution. He has lived a mostly peaceful hobbit lifestyle, and all of a sudden within a few hours he learns that he has an evil Ring that belongs to Sauron, Sauron is looking for him, and the vile creature Gollum is the one that brought the news to Sauron!
Quote:
He has such contempt for the people he's grown up around that he has had fantasies of them being caught up in earthquakes, or attacked by dragons
Frodo only feels this way because he has already had a taste of something higher: Elves, dragons, and other things form the 'Outside'. He is frustrated that the other hobbits don't 'get it': they pass these things off as tales, far away things that do not concern them. He wants them to understand things that they don't get, and this is again because he is so different from them, and also why he does not take part in society with them.
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Old 06-28-2004, 01:06 PM   #12
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Pipe Some assorted musings.

It's interesting that here, in only the second chapter of the book, we already see the Ring as something that destroys the will of its bearers, which twists and perverts them. From this chapter the reader learns all that is necessary to understanding Gollum and the action of the central item of the story. It also contains one of the best descriptions of an addictive possession that I have ever read:
Quote:
'All the "great secrets" under the mountains had turned out to be just empty night: there was nothing more to find out, nothing worth doing, only nasty furtive eating and resentful remembering. He was altogether wretched. He hated the dark, and he hated the light more: he hated everything, and the Ring most of all.'

'What do you mean?' said Frodo. 'Surely the Ring was his precious and the only thing he cared for? But if he hated it, why didn't he get rid of it, or go away and leave it?'

'You ought to begin to understand, Frodo, after all you have heard,' said Gandalf. 'He hated it and loved it, as he hated and loved himself. He could not get rid of it. He had no will left in the matter.'
This final comment from Gandalf is chilling. Gollum is utterly alone and debased: he hates his condition and himself, and he hates the Ring, which has brought him lower than he would ever have sunk on his own. Yet he also loves his tormenting 'precious' with a possessive intensity that has utterly consumed his will. The Ring can now drive him without being close to him, without even being within his sight; and the rumours that follow him are more dreadful than any ancient and long-forgotten murder could ever be. In the light of this passage, Gandalf is entirely right. Sméagol's crime and punishment have become a single long nightmare of solitary misery. He no longer loves even himself, and is therefore an object of pity to those who understand. Frodo will come to know what it is to hold the Ring, as will Sam, and both of them will show more mercy than we would believe possible from their talk and actions beforehand. The overall message is, near enough, 'There but for the grace of God go I.'

For those who might be thinking that they have the presence and strength of mind to resist the Ring's blandishments, Tolkien has Gandalf himself explain how he would inevitably fall to evil were he to keep it:

Quote:
'No!' cried Gandalf, springing to his feet. 'With that power I should have power too great and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly,' His eyes flashed and his face was lit as if by a fire within. 'Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself. Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good. Do not tempt me! I dare not take it, not even to keep it safe, unused. The wish to wield it would be too great for my strength. I shall have such need of it. Great perils lie before me.'
This establishes two points: it tells us that even Gandalf is not sufficiently strong to resist the Ring for any length of time, and that the Ring has a way into every heart, no matter how strong or wise it may be. Later in the book we will discover that there is an exception, but that character is exceptional in more ways than one.

This chapter is one of foreshadowing, of chains of events set in motion many centuries in the past, leading into a dark and uncertain future. At present, the Shire appears a safe and peaceful place, but the gathering storm is already affecting it as harried refugees bring dark and strange stories to its borders. Seen in the light of the book's ending, Frodo's words about the Shire have an air of pathos about them: "I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again." The Shire will cease to be a foothold, and it will require saving more than once before the story is over.

Other things are hinted at here that have yet to demonstrate their importance. The tree-man seen by Sam's cousin Halfast, present from very early in the development, hints at the existence of the Ents. It is interesting to note that this incident is present long before Tolkien knew anything about Fangorn Forest or Treebeard. The discussion of this incident between Sam and Ted Sandyman also gives us a chance to see the sort of circular arguments that Hobbits use when presented with something unfamiliar or frightening. It's another piece of social observation, funny in its way, but threatening in the light of the general atmosphere: Sandyman's words have the ominous overtones of someone who is wilfully ignoring the truth:

Quote:
'All right,' said Sam, laughing with the rest. 'But what about these Tree-men, these giants, as you might call them? They do say that one bigger than a tree was seen up away beyond the North Moors not long back.'
'Who's they?'
'My cousin Hal for one. He works for Mr. Boffin at Overhill and goes up to the Northfarthing for the hunting. He saw one.'
'Says he did, perhaps. Your Hal's always saying he's seen things; and maybe he sees things that ain't there.'
'But this one was as big as an elm tree, and walking - walking seven yards to a stride, if it was an inch.'
'Then I bet it wasn't an inch. What he saw was an elm tree, as like as not.'
'But this one was walking, I tell you; and there ain't no elm tree on the North Moors.'
'Then Hal can't have seen one,' said Ted. There was some laughing and clapping: the audience seemed to think that Ted had scored a point.
Already the weaknesses in the Shire that will topple it to Saruman are becoming evident, and one of the conspirators in its collapse is demonstrating the myopic lack of thought that will help to bring about the fallen wizard's dominion.

I'm beginning to get ahead of myself again, so I shall leave off while there are still points to be made.
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Old 06-29-2004, 02:41 AM   #13
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First of all, if anyone is interested in seeing how this chapter developed, I posted an 'analysis' (for want of a word that implies less competence) yesterday on the chapter by chapter thread:http://forum.barrowdowns.com/showthread.php?t=10847 post no 19).

What's interesting to me is that in the earlier versions, Gollum is far less 'evil' In fact He seems to become increasingly 'monstrous' as Tolkien develops the story. Its easier to feel compassion for the earlier Gollum than the later one. Perhaps this is to emphasise the evil of the Ring - as it is transformed from being just 'one ring' among others into being the One Ring' to rule all others, its effect on those who come into contact with it also grows. Tolkien is making Gollum increasingly monstrous - in the end he makes Gollum into the most evil, psychopathic, twisted 'thing', we could imagine.

But the most interesting thing is Gandalf's statement that in the end Gollum 'had no will in the matter'. The Ring has dominated his will completely & he has no ability to choose - so in one of the first statements about the Ring in the book, Tolkien is going all Manichean on us - the Ring is a malevolent force that can dominate one's will & control one's behaviour - but, from a Christian perspective, this is heresy. Also, from a Middle Earth perspective - Tolkien has stated in Osanwe Kenta that no individual's will can be dominated by another - the individual must submit, & can end that submission at any time if they choose.

So, has Gollum's will really been destroyed by the Ring? And if it has then where is the hope? The whole thing becomes merely an external battle between forces of 'Good' & 'Evil', & the moral choices of any individual have no real part to play in deciding the outcome of the battle - simply put, the more powerful side will win. But Tolkien's position is that moral choices will decide the outcome, not strength of arms. But if Gollum's will can be overthrown against his will this is not the case.

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Old 06-29-2004, 05:46 AM   #14
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ShadowOfThePast

Here is another instance of "Torn Frodo", plus evidence of "Tookishness"; but more fascinating still, the first mention of his prophetic dreams:
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He found himself wondering at times, especially in the autumn, about the wild lands, and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his dreams. He began to say to himself: ‘Perhaps I shall cross the River myself one day.’ To which the other half of his mind always replied: ‘Not yet.’
It is left unclear whether he is a born seer, whether the dreams are an effect of his contact with the elves that pass thru the Shire, or whether the dreams are the effect of the Ring

A hint of the Conspiracy soon to be Unmasked:
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.Frodo ...took to wandering further afield and more often by himself; and Merry and his other friends watched him anxiously.

Another delicate hint of the Conspiracy:
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Sam sat silent and said no more. He had a good deal to think about. For one thing, there was a lot to do up in the Bag End garden.... But Sam had more on his mind than gardening.

In Defense of Frodo's offering the Ring to Gandalf:
Quote:
It is far more powerful than I ever dared to think at first, so powerful that in the end it would utterly overcome anyone of mortal race who possessed it....... A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness.'
Quote:
Why was I chosen?’
‘Such questions cannot be answered,’ said Gandalf. ‘You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.’
‘But I have so little of any of these things! You are wise and powerful. Will you not take the Ring?’
One might guess at Frodo's thoughts thus: "Not only am I mortal, but the only power or wisdom I have is Bilbo's leftover money and a little lore-- in contrast to this ancient wizard who is far wiser and more powerful than I."

In addition, though Frodo did not know it, Gandalf even now carried the Ring of Fire-- proving that (in one sense) he could wield a ring and wield it well. Frodo was, as far as that went, correct; Frodo had not yet been told that *even Gandalf* would succumb to the Rings's temptation and curruption, and was clearly susprised by Gandalf's saying so. Up to this point their discussion had focused on incorrupt elves versus corrupted mortals. Frodo had no way of knowing that even Gandalf would be corrupted by the Ring. If it were not for the temptation to use it for good, for pity and mercy, Gandalf would have been a better choice.

An intriguing visionary moment:
Quote:
Frodo gazed fixedly at the red embers on the hearth, until they filled all his vision, and he seemed to be looking down into profound wells of fire. He was thinking of the fabled Cracks of Doom and the terror of the Fiery Mountain.
... followed by a fairly selfless decision on Frodo's part:
Quote:
‘Well!’ said Gandalf at last. ‘What are you thinking about? Have you decided what to do?’
‘No!’ answered Frodo.... ‘Or perhaps, yes. As far as I understand what you have said, I suppose I must keep the Ring and guard it, at least for the present, whatever it may do to me. .... ...it seems that I am a danger, a danger to all that live near me. I cannot keep the Ring and stay here. I ought to leave Bag End, leave the Shire, leave everything and go away.’ He sighed. ...... '...But this would mean exile, a flight from danger into danger, drawing it after me. And I suppose I must go alone, if I am to do that and save the Shire. But I feel very small, and very uprooted, and well – desperate. The Enemy is so strong and terrible.’
An indication that Frodo was not quite so solitary as his wanderings and isolation might lead us to believe:
Quote:
‘It can’t be helped, Sam,’ said Frodo sadly. He had suddenly realized that flying from the Shire would mean more painful partings than merely saying farewell to the familiar comforts of Bag End.
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Old 06-29-2004, 09:03 AM   #15
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Excellent rendering of the Ring poem, Fordim

I feel like adding that there is a third pun on the 'shadows' theme, which occurs in Sam's reciting of Gil-Galad poem. The very last line goes as 'In Mordor where shadows are'. And that passage is even more interesting than deceitful shadows, but I withdraw my judgement until we reach the respective chapter (11, Knife in the Dark it is)

Coming abck to chapter 2, it should be added that just before reciting the Ring poem, Gandalf says something just very interesting:

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The letters are Elvish, of an ancient mode, but the language is that of Mordor, which I will not utter here. But this in the Common Tongue is what is said, close enough
This is the first notion of Tolkien's very interesting concept - words themselves (i.e. in their meaning) are less dangerous than the language in which they are recited, if language is corrupted/created by Dark Lord. For, later on, (mark you, in parallel chapter of Book II chater 02 - Council of Elrond!), he recites it again, now in Black Speech, an gets reprimanded not for the context, but for the form:

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Never before has any voice dared to utter the words of that tongue in Imladris, Gandalf the Grey
I.e. Gandalf may have said 'good morning, dear fellow councillors', but if it were to be said in Black Speech, he would have got the same scolding.
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Old 06-29-2004, 09:34 AM   #16
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I.e. Gandalf may have said 'good morning, dear fellow councillors', but if it were to be said in Black Speech, he would have got the same scolding.
I think we're also dealing with the Light/Dark symbolism here - Languages in Middle Earth form a continuum - from Quenya, the language of the Calaquendi, the 'Light' speakers,the returning Noldor, on through Sindarin which replaces Quenya as the language of everyday speech in Beleriand, which is then replaced in Numenor by Adunaic, & finally by the Westron. In the continuum the Black speech is the language which is 'furthest' from the 'Light' or 'wisdom' of the West. Its a kind of 'negative' speech, & the 'reality' it attempts to communicate is the opposite of Elven reality.

The Black Speech is effectively an attempt to change/invert 'reality'. So even to speak it is to distort perceptions & invite in evil. What Gandalf does in Rivendell is not just bad taste its actually incredibly dangerous.

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Old 06-29-2004, 09:54 AM   #17
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Forgive me for another bit of structural/functional rambling . . .

"The Shadow of the Past" is the first of two big expository chapters in the book. Now The Lord of the Rings has a lot of exposition to be dealt with, enough to give some authors nightmares no doubt. Before we can really get on with the story of the Ring we must first understand what the Ring is, the circumstances of its being made, how Sauron came to lose it, how it then came to Gollum, what Sauron means to do about it, how much he knows, etc., etc. In other words, we must learn much of the history of the Second Age and nearly all that of the Third.

Tolkien faced quite a task in presenting all this to the reader. The conventional wisdom holds that exposition is a necessary evil, to be dealt with as briefly as possible and preferably not until the main action of the plot has gotten underway. As Tolkien has certainly not gotten the main plot underway in chapter one, it would appear almost ludicrous for him to put the burden of about half the exposition on chapter two.

Yet it comes off splendidly. Why?

I don't think I have a complete answer to that, and I would certainly appreciate anyone else's thoughts on the matter. But as far as I can see there are three things that make the exposition engaging rather than boring:

1. Tolkien uses the simple but effective trick of presenting the exposition in the form of a dialogue between a character with the information and a character that needs the information. Imagine how much more dry the chapter would be if all this backstory were presented in the narrator's voice rather than Gandalf's. The dialogue allows the reader to idenitify with Frodo, to sympathize with Frodo's curiosity and thus to be satisfied when Gandalf presents the information.

2. The whole chapter is, like the second expository chapter of the novel in book II, framed in terms of a big question: what is to be done about the Ring? The various pieces of information thus have a direct relevance and an immediate significance that they would not have if they were presented merely as a story. We want to hear the exposition because we want to understand the Ring so that we can weigh the various courses of action that Frodo might take.

3. For Tolkien, exposition was not just a necessary evil; it was a valuable thing in itself. Tolkien was, after all, quite used to writing this sort of history; he had been working on the Silmarillion material since about 1918. He did not consider the story of the making of the rings, and the Last Alliance, and the slaying of Isildur just necessary backstory to the tale at hand. He thought they were interesting in themselves, and so he made them interesting in themselves. And no doubt he realized that a large part of what was going to make The Lord of the Rings (or any similar novel) work was the depth and "reality" or inner consistency of the world in which it takes place. So the exposition has triple value - it sets up the primary story, it's interesting as a story in itself, and it provides a sense of depth to Middle-earth.
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Old 06-29-2004, 10:04 AM   #18
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But Tolkien's position is that moral choices will decide the outcome, not strength of arms. But if Gollum's will can be overthrown against his will this is not the case.
Which is precisely why Tolkien shows us through Gandalf's words that moral choices do make a difference. Because Bilbo comes into possession of the Ring with pity, he suffers much less from his possession than does Sméagol, who obtains it by murdering a friend. Essentially the Ring becomes more difficult to resist the longer one has it and uses it, but initially it offers a temptation such as that which Mephistopheles offers to Dr. Faustus. It makes promises that are related to the innate strength and goodness of its target. With Sméagol it was enough that the Ring was a beautiful item; with Sam it was the opportunity to turn the Plateau of Gorgoroth into a flowering garden; with Gandalf it would be the opportunity to remove the Dark Lord and bring peace and freedom. If the target rejects this and refuses to possess the Ring, they have made their moral choice, but if they decide to own it anyway it will gradually wear away at them until it conquers their will.

There is also the consideration that the Ring was created by Sauron, a fallen angel, and that his ability to dominate and will to power are bound up in its very fabric. Only those with greater strength of will than Sauron himself stand even a chance of resisting the Ring, and the amount of strength required grows the closer it comes to the place of its making. That this object can take over the will of its owners is reason enough to destroy it; but if one makes the moral choice to leave the Ring behind, as does Bilbo (with help from Gandalf), or not to take it up, as does Faramir, then one is spared the battle of wills that Frodo has thrust upon him. His moral choice is to attempt the ultimate rejection of power, to contest with the will of the Ring; that he fails in this is not as important as his intention to try.
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Old 06-29-2004, 10:41 AM   #19
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Silmaril Frodo a coward? Nuh hu...

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I'd say Frodo is selfish - he is quite self centred - he keeps himself apart from the other hobbits, he plays no real part in his community.
Just a comment on Davem's quote:

Selfish? I wouldn't use that word. As for Frodo keeping himself away from the other Hobbits and playing no real part in the community, doesn't mean a he's selfish and self centred.

I think that The Shadow of the Past, the chapter in itself and the dialogues with Gandalf show quite the opposite.

When Gandalf says that Frodo has to take the Ring away from the Shire, Frodo doesn't hide that he's horrified and sacred, no, not at all- but he also says he'd do anything for the Shire.

There is also some talk going on here about Frodo acting cowardly. Here too, I would disagree. The Hobbit lad is scared! Who wouldn't be scared when he realises he’s holding "The One Ring" - The Ring of Evil - in his hand, knowing that Nazgûls are out to get him? I think this chapter shows how Frodo, even though he's horrified, wins over himself in a way that he takes the Ring from Gandalf too keep so that Sauron won't find. Even though Gandalf is away fro several years, he still keeps it safe. A selfish/self centred coward wouldn't do that after my opinion.

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Old 06-29-2004, 10:46 AM   #20
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Quote:
it will gradually wear away at them until it conquers their will. ...That this object can take over the will of its owners is reason enough to destroy it
But this is the central thing - can the Ring actually overcome the individual's will, or is it always the case that the individual must surrender to the Ring? Is Tolkien's philosophical position Manichaean or Boethian? My own feeling is that it is Boethian, & that the Ring cannot overcome & enslave an individual's will if the individual does not willingly surrender to it. Of course, the longer an individual possesees the Ring the more it will grow on their mind & the greater the temptation will be to surrender, but it must always be an act of surrender, otherwise we are dealing with an objective force of evil, which can overcome the individual & may ultimately overcome Illuvatar Himself - or if Illuvatar wins in the end it will simply be because He is stronger - & that ultimate victory would not be a moral victory. If the Ring has taken over Gollum's will, then he is not responsible for his actions - but then what has he got to repent for - why does he 'deserve death'? 'Smeagol' is innocent, but to all intents & purposes, by the time of LotR, has no real , willed. existence, & 'Gollum' is a body driven by the will of the Ring, & therefore cannot be saved, no matter how much mercy he is shown, & despite any opportunities for repentance which may arise. But I don't think Tolkien is saying that Gollum's will is completely gone - Gandalf still hopes for his cure - there is still the possibility of repentance on Gollum's part - ie there is still the opportunity for him to reject the Ring's dominance. So Tolkien is saying that 'Smeagol's will can still reassert itself over that of the Ring - he's surrendered to it, but he can still change his mind & reject it's control.

Of course, this question becomes really significant at the Sammath Naur, so we shouldn't really pursue it here.
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Old 06-29-2004, 11:01 AM   #21
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Oh, but we can pursue the question here, but I don't think we're going to get anywhere. As I cited above (but will do so again here)

Quote:
[Frodo] unfastened [the Ring] and handed it slowly to the wizard. It felt suddenly very heavy, as if either it or Frodo himself was in some way reluctant for Gandalf to touch it.
In this quote, I think we have both possibilities that you suggest davem put side by side and held in some kind of difficult and tense balance -- perhaps suspended is a better way of putting it. The text is uncertain about what's going on here: is the Ring reluctant (and thus 'in charge,' plunging us into a Manichean world of Good vs Evil, in which the individual will is merely the battleground upon which these large forces confront one another), or is Frodo reluctant (and thus still possessing his will, moving us into a world of good or evil choices)?

This ambiguity perhaps explains the ambiguity of this strangly split Frodo -- is a flawed person showing those flaws but able to overcome them, or is he a Good person being taken over by Evil? I think that these questions are introduced here, raised to a fever pitch as the novel progresses, but then never fully answered (which is a smart move on Tolkien's part, I would suggest. . .)
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Old 06-29-2004, 01:14 PM   #22
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But if we are dealing with a conflict of 'external' powers (which Ainulindale denies, I would say - as there is no equal but opposite force to Eru - there is only the 'void' in which Melkor seeks, but fails to find, the Secret Fire, - 'because it is with Eru), then an individual's moral choices can only affect themselves, unless 'luck' plays a part, or strength.

A moral victory requires that 'good' wins because it is good, & evil loses because it is evil. If good wins because it happens to be stronger than evil, then its a victory of the strong over the weak, & it will be able to claim the title of 'good' for itself because history is written by the winners.

I come back to the quote from Brian Rosebury's 'Tolkien: A Cultural Phenmomenon, which I gave in a previous thread:

Quote:
..The defeat of the forces of evil should ideally appear, not as a lucky accident, or as a punishment inflicted from outside by a superior power (which deprives the actual process of defeat of any moral significance), but as the practical consequence of wickedness itself: Evil must appear as intrinsically self defeating in the long run. Sauron & his servants, despite their steadily growing superiiority in crude strength & terror, are hindered by weaknesses which are themselves vices: their lack of imagination, the irrational cruelty which denies them the option of voluntary assistance (the victim must be made to act against his own will), & the selfishness which disables their alliances.
This is the great denial of Manicheanism. For the victory of Good to have 'moral significance ', evil must be self defeating. This cannot be the case if it has the power to overwhelm the weak & innocent, & force them to do its will. Evil corrupts through temptation, by offering the individual the power to do as he will - it exploits the individual's desires, convincing them that what they want is right. But the individual must have the choice to go along with that, or reject it.

Or to quote from an essay by Michael Posa on the portrayal of evil in the movies, which I referred to in the 'Just say no, Faramir' thread:

Quote:
'The contrast between Faramir and his brother Boromir also portrays the duality of man in The Lord of the Rings. At the end of Fellowship, Boromir succumbs to the temptation of the Ring and attempts to seize it from Frodo. However, when confronted with the Ring, Faramir brashly tells Frodo that, "I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway" (Two Towers 330). Philippa Boyens, an influential writer in the film project, immediately dismisses Faramir's rejection of the ring as "death on film" because of their attempt to portray the Ring as "one of the most evil things ever created" (LotR: Two Towers). He is, simply put, too good: an idea that Tolkien fan and film student Elicia Donze agrees with when she writes, "[In a] film…you simply cannot have FLAT characters" (Donze). It is true that Jackson's Faramir is much more complicated and dynamic than Tolkien's original character. Indeed, it may be difficult for an audience to comprehend how Faramir might dismiss the Ring out of hand. And yet, it would be simplistic to say that no one can outright resist the temptation embodied in the ring; doing so would take away Faramir's free will to reject evil; and Tolkien is very insistent upon the choice we all have do good.

The significance of Faramir's rejection of evil can be explored further by examining Michael Swanick's essay on his personal experience with Tolkien's work. Here, Swanick introduces the idea of the Ring as a "God-sent integrity test… to test all of creation and decide whether it is worthy of continuance" we can begin to understand the moral significance of Faramir's decision (Swanick 42). While Swanick exaggerates with this claim, since the Ring is definitely not God-sent, it is clearly true that the Quest is a test with the most dire consequences for failure. Throughout the story, the characters that resist the Ring's temptation--Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, Sam and even Aragorn--are more than simply human. Gandalf is an angelic spirit, Elrond and Galadriel are elves and Sam is a hobbit. Aragorn, while a man, is descended from the lords of Númenor and is blessed with both inner strength and longevity that far exceeds other men(King 389). The Fourth Age that begins at the end of the novels is the Age of Men and so it is of the utmost importance that men, too, pass the test of the Ring. This is why Faramir must have the choice to derail the quest and it is why he does not fail. As we have seen, Tolkien shows us that we always have the choice to resist temptation and evil. Jackson and Boyens, in order to produce a film, have lost this pivotal triumph of human will--I hesitate to say "good" --over evil. They posit the Ring as a Manichaean source of evil that can create ill will within others, rather than simply magnify the desire for dominance that is already there. While it initially appears as if the movie has an added element of depth lacking in the novels, it is this depth that actually polarizes the concepts of good and evil.
Hope, in the sense of 'estel - faith - as opposed to amdir - or simple optimism - requires that evil cannot ultimately win - that by its very nature it will bring about its own defeat. So the manichaean view must ultimately be false, because otherwise there will always remain the possibility that it could in some way become powerful enough to overcome in the end, or at the very least, as I said, that it will only lose because its not strong enough.

I just can't see Tolkien putting out that message.
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Old 06-29-2004, 01:53 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
"The Shadow of the Past" is the first of two big expository chapters in the book. Now The Lord of the Rings has a lot of exposition to be dealt with, enough to give some authors nightmares no doubt. Before we can really get on with the story of the Ring we must first understand what the Ring is, the circumstances of its being made, how Sauron came to lose it, how it then came to Gollum, what Sauron means to do about it, how much he knows, etc., etc. In other words, we must learn much of the history of the Second Age and nearly all that of the Third.
Aiwendil, it reminds me of:

The arrival & reign of Scyld Scefing (Bilbo's backstory early in chapter one)

The generous ring-giving, partying, etc, and overlordship of Hrothgar in Heorot (Bilbo's party, generosity and gift-giving, down to a ring, even...)

and

The Grendel Backstory (Gandalf's narrative, ch2.)

Seems reasonable that Tolkien preferred Beowulf-form over more modern ideas.
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Old 06-29-2004, 06:52 PM   #24
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My real question is to what extent this 'dark' side we see is the action of the Ring on him, & how much is innate?
Sorry, davem, but I really don't see any 'dark' side to Frodo in this chapters. Of course, he is (like us) not without flaws, but his reactions here are no more than I would expect in light of what Gandalf is revealing to him. As Orofaniel says, he is scared, and quite justifiably so in my opinion. And, while his comments concerning his fellow inhabitants of the Shire do reflect a frustration with their narrow-mindedness (again, understandable given his broader outlook on life), I detect that he nevertheless has great affection for them. Certainly, to my mind, he is being far from literal when he talks of earthquakes and Dragons. As I see it, he is simply saying that they could do with a good shake-up on occasion. And, going by the attitude displayed by Ted Sandyman in The Green Dragon, and the parochial picture painted in the preceding chapter, I see no reason to disagree with him on this.


Quote:
Hope, in the sense of 'estel - faith - as opposed to amdir - or simple optimism - requires that evil cannot ultimately win - that by its very nature it will bring about its own defeat.
But there must always remain the possibility that evil will win. Otherwise, why bother to struggle against it? Evil will not necessarily bring about its own defeat. This can only occur as a result of the choices made by those who seek to struggle against it.

It is essential, from the perspective of the reader too, that the possibility remains that evil will prevail. Otherwise, why bother reading the book? Of course, we hope that good will defeat evil, because we want a "happy ending", and so we trust that the characters will make the choices necessary to bring this about ("estel"?).

Davem, to go back to your question concerning the portrayal of Gollum in this chapter, there is, as you point out, a tension between Gandalf's comment that "he [Gollum] had no will left in the matter", and his assertion that there remains a (slight) chance of him "being cured before he dies". But I think that this tension can be resolved by taking the comments as referring to Gollum with the Ring and without it. Gollum with the Ring represents the triumph of evil (the Ring) over the will. He had a choice not to seize it, but he failed to make that choice (murdering his best friend into the bargain). He may even have had a shot at freeing himself of the Ring in the early days, although Frodo's failure to do precisely that in this chapter suggests that he was unlikely to have been able to do so. But, after so many years of possessing it, his will was utterly mastered. He did indeed have no will left in the matter while under its dominion. However, his will, while mastered, was not wholly destroyed, since Gandalf is suggesting that, once "free" of the Ring, he does have another shot at redemption. He may remain "bound by the desire of it", but there nevertheless is hope that he will overcome that desire. And, viewed in this way, this seems to me to be consistent with the approach that it is the characters' moral choices, rather than any external conflict between good and evil, that determine which will ultimately prevail. Gollum's ability to make a moral choice is suspended while he is in possession of the Ring and under its dominion, much as it would be if he were incarcerated by Sauron, but it surfaces again (as a possibility) once he is "set free".

Aiwendil


Quote:
The conventional wisdom holds that exposition is a necessary evil, to be dealt with as briefly as possible and preferably not until the main action of the plot has gotten underway.
Conventional wisdom be confounded! Personally, I don't hold with the view that there is any "correct" way to structure a story. The trick is in the skill of the story-teller. To my mind, Tolkien is able to "pull off" this expositionary chapter so early in the novel by virtue of the quality of his writing (as reflected in the various points which you have listed). Of course, there are some who find that the early chapters of the book (and the Council of Elrond chapter too) drag, so it does not necessarily appeal to everyone. But I think that the majority of those to whom Tolkien's writing appeals are held enthralled by this chapter simply by virtue of his skill as a story-teller.
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Old 06-30-2004, 02:06 AM   #25
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Shadow (!) of the Past

Selection of recent posts, as far as I can understand them, deals with perception of evil with Tolkien. Is it Manichaean, or Boethian, is the main question, it seems.

(as a side note - hope (in the sense of Estel - Faith) is clearly expression of Boethian view - the belief that whatever Creator does is for the good of his creatures, even when creatures themselves consider things done to them as undesirable(=evil))

First, it would be appropriate to consider the concept of 'shadow'. What is a shadow?

My Merriam-Webster has a load of things to say about it, but I wll draw on enries I find relevant:

1: partial darkness or obscurity within a part of space from which rays from a source of light are cut off by an interposed opaque body
2 : a reflected image
4 a : an imperfect and faint representation b : an imitation of something

All three definitions apply [to Sauron, and his Ring in particular) and both are expressions of Boethian view of Evil, which is absence of Good, and is flatly stated within Tolkien's works as unable to create, only to mock (that is, to reflect, or to imitate imperfectly)

but there is, as well, such an entry in the dictionary for the word 'shadow' as:

10 a : an inseparable companion or follower

Which moves us on to Manichaean view - as Good and Evil interbalanced forces, with equal opportunities.

And now I'm forced to review the poem Sam recites in chapter 11:

Gil-galad was an Elven-king.
Of him the harpers sadly sing:
the last whose realm was fair and free
between the Mountains and the Sea.

His sword was long, his lance was keen,
his shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven's field
were mirrored in his silver shield.

But long ago he rode away,
and where he dwelleth none can say;
for into darkness fell his star
in Mordor where the shadows are.

So, shadows, be them absence or not, can be, that is, have an existence. They are in Mordor, at least.

Which, as far as I can see, is Tolkien's effort to combine, conciliate those both views. For, indeed, if LoTR were totally Boethian, than there would be no need for Frodo to go anywhere at all - there would be nothing to confront, as Evil would be nothing - mere absence and would eliminate itself

Now, the Ring is somehow an union of those two concepts of Evil. As indicated by Squatter above, it draws on bearer's inner weakness (Boethian), is a kind of booster for what lack of Goodness it finds inside. That is why it is often described as temptation - Frodo is tempted to put on the Ring, and has a fight with himself. But, it is mentioned several times, the Ring has the will of its own - that is, it is outside force as well (Manichaean). There are moments, contrary to mentioned when there is no temptation for Frodo (at the stairs to Cirith Ungol, per instance) - when there is no inner response, and his hand is moved to take the Ring by sheer outside force

So it seems, that one can not take one or other side and define it clearly as falling into one category. Or, rather, Tolkien is mainly Boethian, but with shadows (in a sense 11 : a small degree or portion : TRACE) of Manichaeanism to him.


PS
Probably it would be of interest to consider, perhaps, the followng thread dealing with the subject (but mainly around Sammath Naur, so maybe it is a bit before its time, but nevertheless):

Frodo or the Ring?


PPS
1. Yes, I do miss Mithadan posting in The Books
2. Views expressed by yours truly back there are somehow modified and changed by now.
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Old 06-30-2004, 02:46 AM   #26
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But there must always remain the possibility that evil will win. Otherwise, why bother to struggle against it? Evil will not necessarily bring about its own defeat. This can only occur as a result of the choices made by those who seek to struggle against it.
H-I
Quote:
So it seems, that one can not take one or other side and define it clearly as falling into one category. Or, rather, Tolkien is mainly Boethian, but with shadows (in a sense 11 : a small degree or portion : TRACE) of Manichaeanism to him.
But Evil cannot 'win' in the sense of having an overall victory, because it has no objective or 'real' existence (according to Ainulindale) - it is an option - one can choose to behave in a particular way, which could be classed 'evil', but it has no existance in the sense that Illuvatar has, or even that the things created by Illuvatar have - evil does not possess the Secret Fire which alone guarantees true 'existence'. This is confirmed by its inability to create, only mar what has been created.

So, even if the forces which fight for good were defeated, evil's victory would not last, because, being unable to create, only mar, it would turn on itself & so bring about its own destruction. It has no original source from which to draw power, or even existance- even the things which serve evil owe their existence to Illuvatar. If He were to withdraw his will for their existance, they would cease to be.

H-I
Quote:
Which, as far as I can see, is Tolkien's effort to combine, conciliate those both views. For, indeed, if LoTR were totally Boethian, than there would be no need for Frodo to go anywhere at all - there would be nothing to confront, as Evil would be nothing - mere absence and would eliminate itself.
Not so, because others have chosen to serve evil, so they constitute an external threat which must be confronted. Evil may have no true objective existance, but those who serve it do - if some group of terrorists, who believed that a giant pink elephant who lives on the dark side of the moon had ordered them to plant bombs in shopping malls, started killing people they would have to be stopped, because they would constitute a real threat, but their existence wouldn't prove the existence of the giant pink elephant.

Quote:
Which moves us on to Manichaean view - as Good and Evil interbalanced forces, with equal opportunities.
I can't find any evidence for this in the 'theology' of Middle Earth. For me, Tolkien is saying the opposite all through the Legendarium. The theological stance is in no way dualistic - I can't see any evidence for dualism in Middle Earth - the only ones who propose the idea are Morgoth & Sauron.

SpM
Quote:
He (Gollum) may even have had a shot at freeing himself of the Ring in the early days, although Frodo's failure to do precisely that in this chapter suggests that he was unlikely to have been able to do so. But, after so many years of possessing it, his will was utterly mastered. He did indeed have no will left in the matter while under its dominion.
Of course there comes a point where the individual has surrendered themselves to evil for so long that its almost impossible to break free, but its always a case of almost as far as I can see. If the Ring had completely mastered Gollum then when it left him there would have been nothing left of him to do anything. Smeagol still lurks there - in the early drafts of the chapter he even plans to give the Ring away, just to be free of it, & I think there are still echoes of this in the final version - Gandalf says he loves & hates it - as he loves & hates himself - if the Ring had completely mastered him, what would the source of that 'hate' of the ring be? Hatred is an act of will - if he can feel hatred for the Ring, his will has not been completely mastered by it.
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Old 06-30-2004, 03:09 AM   #27
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Silmaril Words to live by

After these recent post excursions into the depths of philosophical thought, I'd like to get back to Tolkien's practical philosophy as he expressed it in this chapter. Rereading it made me realize just how many of the book's famous quotes are placed here! We not only have exposition here (the background of the Ring, history of Middle-earth's past ages, etc.), we have wonderful wisdom passed on to us. I'd like to mention just a few of the most important, not quoting them completely, since we all know them well and can reread them ourselves.

Quote:
His knowledge is deep, but his pride has grown with it.

'I wish it need not have happened in my time...'
...so do all... But that is not for them to decide. All that we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

It was Pity that stayed his hand.

Many that live deserve death...

'Why was I chosen?'
You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess...
These wisdoms have proverbial quality and an innate worth that makes them timeless and applicable to my life. Again, the genius of Tolkien puts them not into the narration, but into Gandalf's words, showing us his deep wisdom - and Tolkien's as well!

There are other practical insights, less lofty, that make me stop to think on them:

Frodo's age (parallel to Bilbo's) at the onset of the adventures, and his restlessness - "the old paths seemed too well-trodden." Mid-life crisis described at a time when no one had yet coined that term?

The observation that immortality can be a curse "until at last every minute is a weariness."

The description of the addictive influence of the Ring on Gollum, as Squatter already mentioned.

The significance of roots - "I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again."

The importance of companions - "I don't think you need go alone."

These thoughts are what make LotR more than just another story for me!
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Old 06-30-2004, 09:28 AM   #28
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Thanks, Esty. I like the practical philosophy quite a bit. I think that's one reason (among many) that I'm so fond of the four war-hobbits; they have lots of gut-level relationship-oriented reactions. Frodo especially manages to express them eloquently; Sam in his simplicity attains an elegance all his own ("...and that's why I choked...")
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Old 06-30-2004, 09:30 AM   #29
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The thing that to me amazes me most about this chapter is the Ring of course and the thinking of both Gandalf and Frodo.
As Gandalf and Frodo now know, the ring must be destroy, yet is seems to me that neither of them can do it.
As it has been quoted previously, Gandalf cannot be the guardian of the Ring, so therefore the keeper of the Ring must be Frodo, for the time being at least.

Quote:
‘But why not destroy it, as you say should have been done long ago?’ cried Frodo again. If you had warned me, or even sent me a message, I would have done away with it.’
‘Would you? How would you do that? Have you ever tried?’
‘No. But I suppose one could hammer it or melt it.’
‘Try!’ said Gandalf. Try now!’
Frodo drew the Ring out of his pocket again and looked at it. It now appeared plain and smooth, without mark or device that he could see. The gold looked very fair and pure, and Frodo thought how rich and beautiful was its colour, how perfect was its roundness. It was an admirable thing and altogether precious. When he took it out he had intended to fling it from him into the very hottest part of the fire. But he found now that he could not do so, not without a great struggle. He weighed the Ring in his hand, hesitating, and forcing himself to remember all that Gandalf had told him; and then with an effort of will he made a movement, as if to cast it away - but he found that he had put it back in his pocket.
Does Frodo has the will to destroy the Ring? This begins a whole series of actions that will put the quest of the destruction of the ring with Frodo but to me he was doomed to failed from the start, for how could he destroy the Ring, if he couldn't even throw it in his own fire in Bag End?

Concerning Gandalf and the Ring
The following quotation has always interested me:
From the Letters of JRRT: 246
Quote:
Gandalf as Ring-Lord would have been far worse than Sauron. He would have remained 'righteous', but self-righteous. He would have continued to rule and order things for 'good', and the benefit of his subjects according to his wisdom (which was and would have remained great).
[The draft ends here. In the margin Tolkien wrote: 'Thus while Sauron multiplied [illegible word] evil, he left "good" clearly distinguishable from it. Gandalf would have made good detestable and seem evil.']
How do one makes good seem evil?
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Old 06-30-2004, 09:37 AM   #30
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Davem wrote:
Quote:
Hope, in the sense of 'estel - faith - as opposed to amdir - or simple optimism - requires that evil cannot ultimately win - that by its very nature it will bring about its own defeat.
I have to disagree. In the Athrabeth "estel" seems to be hope without assurance, as opposed to "amdir", optimism based on rational evaluation of evidence. What you say suggests that estel is, rather, hope based on ultimate, complete assurance of final victory, which would seem to be rather the opposite.

Mark12_30 wrote:
Quote:
Seems reasonable that Tolkien preferred Beowulf-form over more modern ideas.
Very true! Thanks for those parallels; I'd never noticed them before.

The Saucepan Man wrote:
Quote:
Sorry, davem, but I really don't see any 'dark' side to Frodo in this chapters. Of course, he is (like us) not without flaws, but his reactions here are no more than I would expect in light of what Gandalf is revealing to him. As Orofaniel says, he is scared, and quite justifiably so in my opinion. And, while his comments concerning his fellow inhabitants of the Shire do reflect a frustration with their narrow-mindedness (again, understandable given his broader outlook on life), I detect that he nevertheless has great affection for them. Certainly, to my mind, he is being far from literal when he talks of earthquakes and Dragons. As I see it, he is simply saying that they could do with a good shake-up on occasion. And, going by the attitude displayed by Ted Sandyman in The Green Dragon, and the parochial picture painted in the preceding chapter, I see no reason to disagree with him on this.
I have to say that I agree. Frodo is certainly no epic hero in the early chapters, but I don't see any darkness - if by darkness we mean some minor form of evil. The only possible point at which I can see any such evil inclination at all is when he wishes that Bilbo had killed Gollum. But this wish is certainly very natural, and it seems to me that Frodo is saying it primarily in response to Gandalf's news of the mischief Gollum has done recently - revealing the names "Shire" and "Baggins" to Sauron. I don't think that the Ring has anything to do with it at all - particularly because much later on, when the Ring has far more control over Frodo, he changes his mind on this point and pities Gollum, and does not slay him.

Quote:
Conventional wisdom be confounded! Personally, I don't hold with the view that there is any "correct" way to structure a story. The trick is in the skill of the story-teller.
Well, I agree and disagree. There certainly are poor ways of telling a story, for there are poor novels. There is a real danger in starting with too much exposition. But I think that often the conventional wisdom is short sighted or incomplete. That's why I find it so interesting to take cases like LotR, where the conventional wisdom is violated with good results, and to try to determine what causes their success.

HerenIstarion wrote:
Quote:
Now, the Ring is somehow an union of those two concepts of Evil.
This is certainly my view. It is also the one that Tom Shippey argues for in Author of the Century.

I think, incidentally, that "Manichean" is not the best name for the one sort of evil, for "Manichean" suggests not only the external existence of that evil but also a kind of dualism, in which good and evil are cosmologically equal.

There is no question that, in Tolkien's universe, good is cosmologically dominant over evil. I think the more relevant question with regard to the Ring is simply whether the evil of the Ring is external - in the Ring itself - or internal - in the owner or desirer of the Ring. And I think that there is sufficient evidence in favor or each of these apparently contradictory claims that we must conclude that somehow both are simultaneously true.

I don't think that broad cosmological/theological arguments have all that much point with regard to this ambiguity, either. For regardless of the ultimate nature of evil, it cannot be denied that Sauron is an external power. And there is no theological reason that he cannot have placed a part of that power in the Ring (as is indeed said), so that there is in fact an external evil will within the Ring.

To try to simplify the picture and force all the evidence to fit either a Boethian or a Manichean view, or to force the smaller scale situation to match exactly with the cosmological, is to miss much of the subtlety of Tolkien's world.
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Old 06-30-2004, 10:15 AM   #31
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Fascinating points and insights discussed here, and hard to find a way to introduce my thoughts into the discussion! I particularly liked Guinevere and Orofaniel's observations about the importance of younger friends to Bilbo and Frodo, and the suggestion (Fordim's or SpM's?) that the Ring is given characteristics of a character, acting as it does to influence events. I think davem's perception of certain negative qualities in Frodo touches a nerve with many because Tolkien's characterisation is so sharp: he does not idealise his hero or glorify the terrible task Frodo faces.

Yet it is Estelyn's post which I think allows us to understand another reason why this chapter resonates so much with many readers. It is not simply Tolkien's control over exposition, his sure judgement as a story-teller, but the style Tolkien chooses to express Gandalf's perspective. Gandalf speaks in the short, almost pithy form of ancient wisdom literature which uses proverbs exclusively. The structure of proverbs gives Gandalf's lines power.

I can attest to Estelyn's idea about the force of the practical philosophy in these proverbial lines:

Quote:
Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.
Once several years ago I saw these lines generate a very long and heated debate about capital punishment. Talk about applicability!

It is Gandalf's telling of Gollum's story that I think is so suggestive, for we 'see' Gandalf applying his own value of pity towards the most wretched creature; we understand how he applies what he has learnt. And it is this initial perspective of sympathy which I think makes Gollum's "almost conversion" so much more heart-breaking and poignant later, when Sam's good intentions in fact thwart Gollum. For me, the heart of LotR lies in Gandalf's point of view here.

That said, I am intrigued by a couple of perhaps lesser points in this chapter. One is the offhand way that Tolkien incorporates vampires, creatures of dark mythology, into the story, with this brief comment:

Quote:
The Woodmen said that there was some new terror abroad, a ghost that drank blood.
One other is the depiction of Gollum's home community as a matriarchy.

Quote:
There was among them a family of high repute, for it was large and wealthier than most, and it was ruled by a grandmother of the folk, stern and wise in old lore, such as they had. ... It is not to be wondered at that he [Gollum] became very unpopular and was shunned (when visible) by all his relations. They kicked him, and he bit their feet. He took to thieving, and going about muttering to himself, and gurgling in his throat. So they called him Gollum, and cursed him, and told him to go far away, and his grandmother, desiring peace, expelled him from the family and turned him out of her hole.
Here is the 'downside' of the Hobbits' lack of vision and sympathy, perhaps, but what I wonder about is why Tolkien decided to devote this context to what is essentially a matriarchal form of society. We have here the cruelty of a society which practices 'shunning' (as many very insecure, strongly ideological cultures do) but why does it have to be a grandmother in charge? Is this Tolkien thinking of ancient records of pre-patriarchal cultures here, to depict a society that lacks any form of ruth (using the old, now disputed meaning of that word)? Certainly this is one of the saddest parts of Gollum's story, that he then wanders in extreme loneliness, so much so that he comes to flee from the light, the sun in this context being female.

The last point I wonder about is Gandalf's comment to Frodo concerning how he wrung "the true story out of" Gollum.

Quote:
in the end I had to be harsh. I put the fear of fire on him...
Is this a foreshadowing of Gandalf the White, he who no longer is under any requirement to limit his power? Or is this simply the story-teller being ironic about the fate of Gollum, even before readers know it? Or is this one of those oblique "consciously so" references to hellfire and damnation?


Edit: cross posting with everyone after Esty's post!
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Old 06-30-2004, 10:48 AM   #32
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Boots

Aiwendil wrote:
Quote:
I have to say that I agree. Frodo is certainly no epic hero in the early chapters, but I don't see any darkness - if by darkness we mean some minor form of evil. The only possible point at which I can see any such evil inclination at all is when he wishes that Bilbo had killed Gollum. But this wish is certainly very natural, and it seems to me that Frodo is saying it primarily in response to Gandalf's news of the mischief Gollum has done recently - revealing the names "Shire" and "Baggins" to Sauron.
About Frodo's wish (Bilbo should have killed him):

Don't you guys think this was a rush reaction to what Gandalf had told him? I doubt that if Frodo had thought it "though", as gotten more time, he wouldn’t have said the same thing. Later in the book, we must remember that it was actually Frodo who prevented Sam from killing Gollum. Yet, I'm not sure that Sam really would have killed him, but that is another discussion. I may add, when I'm at it; that I do believe saying something or thinking something as "major" as this is very different from actually "doing it". When I read this chapter, hearing Frodo's frustration (yes, because I would call it that), I can understand it. After my opinion he hadn't gotten enough time to think everything through and digest the horrible tale that Gandalf brought with him.

And about the "epic hero"; I would say that in a certain way he is. I don't know however what Tolkien's intension was. I would say that Frodo is indeed a small hero when he takes Ring. No one would have expected it; because he's only a small Hobbit who doesn't care for the outside world- (Like many if not all, Hobbits). Heroism can be a simple thing after my opinion - although the result of it may not be as comprehensive all the time.

People can of course, interpret this exact quote in different ways, and therefore many conclusions and opinions regarding Frodo will occur.

Cheers,
Orofaniel
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Old 06-30-2004, 11:01 AM   #33
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Davem wrote:Quote:
Hope, in the sense of 'estel - faith - as opposed to amdir - or simple optimism - requires that evil cannot ultimately win - that by its very nature it will bring about its own defeat.

I have to disagree. In the Athrabeth "estel" seems to be hope without assurance, as opposed to "amdir", optimism based on rational evaluation of evidence. What you say suggests that estel is, rather, hope based on ultimate, complete assurance of final victory, which would seem to be rather the opposite.
You're right to pick me up - I was oversimplifying the two terms. I would say, however, that I understand estel to be more along the lines of 'hope without evidence', as opposed to 'hope without assurance' - ie Tolkien is comparing it to religious faith. But I accept I could have explained the terms better.

Now, I know I'm risking Esty's wrath, As I've been asked to avoid 'falling into deep waters', but I don't want you to think I'm ignoring your points, so, a short response only:

Quote:
I think the more relevant question with regard to the Ring is simply whether the evil of the Ring is external - in the Ring itself - or internal - in the owner or desirer of the Ring.
Obviously, for the Ring to have any influence/effect on its bearer it must strike a chord - it 'cannot burn snow' - but it cannot overwhelm the bearer's will unless they agree to that. If the manichaean position was correct, it could - but it never does - not once- in fact there's no example I can think of where any of the Rings - or any of the magical objects - Palantiri, swords, Silmarils, anything, corrupt a good person against their will.

And now, having stated my position on that subject I'll not stray there again (at least as regards this chapter!).
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Old 06-30-2004, 11:31 AM   #34
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Boots kicking around in a puddle as opposed to deep waters

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Obviously, for the Ring to have any influence/effect on its bearer it must strike a chord - it 'cannot burn snow' - but it cannot overwhelm the bearer's will unless they agree to that. If the manichaean position was correct, it could - but it never does - not once- in fact there's no example I can think of where any of the Rings - or any of the magical objects - Palantiri, swords, Silmarils, anything, corrupt a good person against their will.
davem, and Aiwendil too,

Perhaps the point lies in your statement about striking a chord? Think of Gandalf's comment about how Gollum was drawn in:

Quote:
The ring had given him power according to his stature.
Rather than overwhelming a person's will, the ring in fact works through a person's temperament. The ring reaches Bilbo through his delight in pranksmanship and so Bilbo is less prone to cruelty, whereas the Ring gains power over Smeagol through inciting his avarice and tendency to violence. Gandalf would in fact be made to use his pity and mercy to dominate others. Perhaps a better way to think of the Ring's influence is not that it dominates the wearer's will but that it perverts the will to achieve Sauron's intent?
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Old 06-30-2004, 11:38 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by Bêthberry
Rather than overwhelming a person's will, the ring in fact works through a person's temperament. The ring reaches Bilbo through his delight in pranksmanship and so Bilbo is less prone to cruelty, whereas the Ring gains power over Smeagol through inciting his avarice and tendency to violence. Gandalf would in fact be made to use his pity and mercy to dominate others. Perhaps a better way to think of the Ring's influence is not that it dominates the wearer's will but that it perverts the will to achieve Sauron's intent?
Wow. Yes; the twisted, twisting corruption of pure desires (i.e. what should be virtues) toward idolatrous appetites (vices). (A definition of sin, if I'm not mistaken.) So the Ring turns a person's innate tendencies towards evil-- whether those tendencies were evil pre-Ring (Gollum) or not (Gandalf).

Brilliant, Bb.
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Old 06-30-2004, 12:59 PM   #36
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Boots Popping in...

I must admit that I haven't read the whole thread yet. But I would still like to comment one thing I found interesting...

Máedhros Wrote:
Quote:
Does Frodo has the will to destroy the Ring? This begins a whole series of actions that will put the quest of the destruction of the ring with Frodo but to me he was doomed to failed from the start, for how could he destroy the Ring, if he couldn't even throw it in his own fire in Bag End?
Interesting theory about being doomed from the start. I think, Frodo thought he was doomed when receiving the ring. I mean, isn't it obvious? He is a Hobbit. A little man who has no past of ever being much outside of the Shire, and then Gandalf tells him that he is going to save everyone from Sauron who will arise again as the Dark Lord. This is were I think Davem is trying to say that Frodo is self-centred and so on, because he offers the ring to Gandalf. However, as Orofaniel says (and others) he is just scared. Would it be natural for a Hobbit not to be scared in a situation like this, maybe? But what I think is perhaps the most important thing is what Máedhros pointed out about Frodo being doomed and not having the will. And in order to this, I would say that asking Gandalf to take the ring is the most HUMBLE and least egocentric thing he could ever do. I mean, if he already thinks he is doomed, why should he go with the Ring?

Quote:
“But I have so little of any of these things! You are wise and powerful. Will you not take the Ring?”
“No!” Gandalf cried, springing to his feet.

From Shadow of the Past (Bold; my own..)
Offering the Ring to Gandalf only points out that he cares about the Shirelings and what happens to them. In order not to fail (as he is doomed), he wants to pass the ring over to someone who actually might have a chance. By saying that Gandalf is wise and powerful, it is as if he looks at himself of no good use in the quest Gandalf has laid before him.

But then, Gandalf denies the Ring, and says that only Frodo can take it. This, obviously, gives him confidence as he admires and respects Gandalf. This confidence gives him the will to take the Ring, right? If not, where does the sudden will come from?

I will stalk off now, read the whole thread before I possibly post again. I hope I haven't taken the discussion far back, but you can always just not take heed to it.

Cheers,
Nova
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Old 06-30-2004, 01:25 PM   #37
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Pipe Simply elaborating on points already made...

Quote:
The ring had given him power according to his stature.
Quote:
Rather than overwhelming a person's will, the ring in fact works through a person's temperament. The ring reaches Bilbo through his delight in pranksmanship and so Bilbo is less prone to cruelty, whereas the Ring gains power over Smeagol through inciting his avarice and tendency to violence. Gandalf would in fact be made to use his pity and mercy to dominate others. Perhaps a better way to think of the Ring's influence is not that it dominates the wearer's will but that it perverts the will to achieve Sauron's intent?
I believe this is one thing that can reveal a 'character' to the Ring. It is as cunning as its master, and as good at finding evil where it already lies. Sauron used the greed of Men to turn them to darkness, and the divisions between Elvenkind and Mankind to separate the power of the Free Peoples. The Ring clearly is a manifestation of evil, which is truly the evil found in the hearts of the beings of Middle-Earth. This is where a battle between good and evil begins. Not the ideal of angels vs. devils, but the real thing: beings fighting the evil within them. As Frodo stands before the Cracks of Doom, that fight comes to a pinnacle, as he makes his choice.

Although this choice is obviously contrary to the one he makes in this Chapter, Frodo must constantly remake his decision throughout the book. This makes the battle of good vs. evil even more realistic, as it is not made in one act. Referring to the belief in an apocalypse, it seems that this battle, in truth, rages on into eternity. Even the title of the Chapter brings this to attention. 'The Shadow of the Past' A shadow has fallen on the land, and the Wise are aware of Sauron's power growing. And now they discuss the Shadow that was in the past, and also the Shadow of the future (I'd love to add more to that part, but that will have to wait until we get to Lorien. )

Quote:
So the Ring turns a person's innate tendencies towards evil
I just wanted to quickly bring up the fact that the Catholic religion teaches that a human beings tendencies are toward evil, because of the sin that's in the world. But good is there, of course. Just something to consider, as Tolkien was a Catholic, and anyone could think of it that way, separate of a religion.

-Durelin

EDIT: Cross-posted with Nova, otherwise I would have elaborated on some more points... A vicious circle, it is...

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Old 06-30-2004, 01:42 PM   #38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Durelin
I just wanted to quickly bring up the fact that the Catholic religion teaches that a human beings tendencies are toward evil, because of the sin that's in the world. But good is there, of course. Just something to consider, as Tolkien was a Catholic, and anyone could think of it that way, separate of a religion.
Hmmmmm. I suspect we are thinking of somewhat similar things, but let me clarify.

Tolkien makes the point that since Eru is a creator, and we are made in the image of Eru, then it is part of our nature to create-- and in order to glorify God, we should sub-create. I would argue that Tolkien does not consider the *desire* to subcreate a fallen desire. It is a desire, simply put.

(It is like the plain and simple desire for food-- neither good nor bad; it is not yet gluttony. Gandalf's enjoyment of a good meal is not gluttony. )

Similarly, Celebrimbor had the desire to sub-create. He did so. I do not believe Tolkien considered that sinful. It was Sauron's creation of the One Ring to dominate that was sinful. Good desire (to subcreate) was turned to evil purposes (domination.) Incidentally I don't recall that Celebrimbor sinned in all this; he was duped, but I don't remember any outright rebellion.

(Same thing with Feanor. I don't think there was anything wrong with his desire to sub-create; it was Feanor's reaction to his finished Silmarils that was sinful ("MINE").)

This is not to imply that Celebrimbor (or Feanor) was without sin; just that his desire to sub-create was not in itself bad (remember that Tolkien endorses the desire to sub-create.)

Back to your quote, Durelin; when you say that man's tendencies are toward evil, I find that an acceptable statement. But to imply that any desire that the Ring twisted for its own purposes was therefore an inherently evil desire: that I disagree with.

Gandalf says he has the desire to do good, and to show pity. **That** is the desire that he fears will be twisted by the Ring. To do good is not something that I believe Tolkien would have called a fallen, perverted, twisted desire. It is a good desire.

However, the Ring will twist it to evil. And fallen humanity has little capacity to resist that very twisting. If that is what you are referring to then we are on the same page.

Another Edit: Durelin, are we cross-editing?
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Old 06-30-2004, 01:51 PM   #39
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On the Ring

It seems to me that this is the chapter where the Ring is introduced, not only as a focal object of the story, but also as a main 'character'. It is an inanimate object, and yet it also is not at the same time. It looks after itself, can slip off a finger, and wants to be found, according to Gandalf. Now we are bringing in some other points, which I agree with: the Ring turns a person's innate tendencies towards evil, can give people power according to their stature, and some others. Not exactly your typical inanimate object! The Ring seems to have an ability to understand its bearer, if it is able to give them power and use their strengths/weaknesses. Now, where I am going with this is this: just how much is the Ring able to do and what are its weaknesses? Obviously, it can't get up and walk or talk, etc, but it can certainly get around after its own fashion and if it can work on its bearer's mind in this way, is talking really necessary? If the nature of the Ring is to work Sauron's will, how much of the Ring's power over people comes from Sauron and how much is the Ring's nature? To clarify, (not saying this is possible, but...) if Sauron were somehow destroyed and the Ring left, what would happen to it? Would it still carry out Sauron's will?
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Old 06-30-2004, 01:59 PM   #40
Durelin
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Back to your quote, Durelin; when you say that man's tendencies are toward evil, I find that an acceptable statement. But to imply that any desire that the Ring twisted for its own purposes was therefore an inherently evil desire: that I disagree with.
I really was actually not implying that, so, once again, we agree. I was simply elaborating upon the Ring's ability to use the inherent evils that exist, and often to turn a desire/thought of good into one of evil.

I wonder if desire is the best word for all of this, though it does seem to fit well when you're talking about the Ring.
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