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Old 11-20-2005, 10:04 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Silmaril LotR -- Book 6 - Chapter 9 - The Grey Havens

Just thinking about writing this post made me feel sad – not only because it’s the last chapter of LotR, and I agree with JRRT’s statement that the book’s chief fault is that it’s too short, and not only because I know of the bittersweet ending to which it brings the story. A big reason for my sadness is that we have reached the end of this project, that this post begins the last chapter discussion. I know, we will still be discussing the appendices, but that’s not the same; and though we will continue after that with chapter-by-chapter discussions of The Hobbit, my favourite book is over.

The chapter divides roughly into three sections: the first wraps up the events of the Scouring; the second tells of the Shire’s happy ending; and the third takes the Ringbearers to the Grey Havens. Despite all that, it’s a fairly short chapter.

We begin by tying up loose ends – Fredegar (no longer Fatty!) appears, and we discover that he had an unexpectedly heroic role in the Shire during the Fellowship hobbits’ absence – leading a band of rebels! Would you have thought that?! Then there’s Lobelia, and even she has changed for the good through the trials she experienced.

After Merry and Pippin played their military role in ridding the Shire of its enemies, Sam has his turn to shine in the rebuilding and replanting. He has grown and become a leader, and I am reminded of his vision of “Samwise the Strong” – he actually does have a small realm to supervise now! However, he does so without coercing others, and he does plenty of the work himself. He is generous in sharing Galadriel’s gift with his fellow countryhobbits.

1420 is the synonym for the Shire’s happy ending – the year of growth, of marvellous harvests, and of Sam and Rosie’s wedding. Yet not so for Frodo, who relives his traumatic experiences and the pain they caused him on their anniversaries.

What do you think of the fact that Merry and Pippin went on wearing their armour in peacetime in the Shire? Does it strike you as inappropriate? Were they showing off? Or was it symbolic of their allegiance to their respective liege lords? Or was it perhaps a sign of the increased watchfulness of the Shire, showing that they were ready at all times to fight for their homeland if necessary, a warning to any enemies? What do you think of the name that was given the four hobbits, the ‘Travellers’?

We come again to Bilbo’s birthday, the date that was celebrated annually – and almost two years from the time they came back to the Shire. Elrond had foretold that Frodo should look for Bilbo in a year, but he was mistaken. Any thoughts on that?

What do you think of the various title alternatives that Bilbo thought up for the Red Book? Frodo’s title comes very close to Tolkien’s.

We have two poems – another variation on Bilbo’s walking song that I find very poignant, and the song of the Elves, partly in Elvish and partly translated. There are several revelations in this section – Gildor shows up again, now finally leaving Middle-earth; and the Ringbearers are revealed for one last time.

The most moving lines of the chapter are spoken here – by Frodo, giving his reason for leaving Middle-earth; and by Gandalf in farewell. The fulfilment of Frodo’s dream comes, and Sam’s homecoming, with the famous and beloved last words of the book.

How do you feel when you read “The End”? For that matter, how do you feel now that we’ve reached the end of these discussions and the shared reading experience we have had? I can’t believe how much time has passed (1 1/2 years!) since we started, and I would like to thank all of you for making this such a wonderful experience. I have tremendously enjoyed sharing in your thoughts and feelings as you have written them, and I have learned much by reading your contributions.

For comments looking back to past and/or ahead to future discussions, I invite you to post on the Feedback and Suggestion Box thread. However, we still have the Appendices to cover in the next few weeks, and I hope you will continue reading and posting with me!
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Old 11-20-2005, 10:21 AM   #2
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As usual, I have to point out that this was written before I read Esty’s introduction, so I may go over some of the same ground - I just can’t face going over it & editing out repetitions.

‘What a tale we’ve been in, Mr Frodo!’

I can’t believe we’re finally here, that its finally over (yes, I know there are still the Appendices to go, but I almost want to end with this chapter now). Its been the most amazing experience. I’ve never read LotR with so much attention to detail, or got so much from it. I’d like to thank everyone who’s participated - & especially Esty for her amazing introductions.

Anyway......

At midsummer Gandalf appeared suddenly, & his visit was long remembered for the astonishing things that happened to all the bonfires (which Hobbit children light on midsummer’s eve). The whole Shire was lit with lights of many colours until the dawn came, & it seemed that the fire ran wild for him over all the land so that the grass was kindled with glittering jewels, & the trees were hung with red & gold blossom all through the night & the Shire was full of light & song until the dawn came.

That passage never made it into the final version of the text, but I can’t help feeling that it should have. It kind of sums up the mood & atmosphere of the Shire in that summer of 1420. The Shire, if not yet healed of its hurts, is well on its way to recovery, & we no longer have any doubts that it will pull through & be its old self again very soon. Merry, Pippin & Sam are getting back into the swing of things & everything has ‘ended better’ as the Gaffer says.

Frodo seems at first to be recovering & taking part once more in the doings of the Shire. He releases the prisoners & takes over as deputy Mayor. In fact, he has every outward opportunity to ‘go back’ - no-one is stopping him. But as he says, he has been ‘too deeply hurt’. The Shire may not be the same to him, but that is because he himself has been changed, not the place itself or its inhabitants. They may not show any interest in his ‘adventures’ but they never did care for such things.

Its not that Frodo has nothing to do. In fact, from our point of view, his role is essential: he gives us the Red Book. Without Frodo there would be no Lord of the Rings. But while his book is of the utmost importance to us, to his fellow Hobbits (Merry, Pippin, Sam & Bilbo excepted) it is just a collection of ‘silly stories’ about ‘chasing black men up mountains’ - maybe fit for reading to Hobbit children around a winter fireside - but hardly ‘sensible’ fare for grown up Hobbits.

Merry & Pippin: ‘the boys are back in town!’. They clear out the remaining ruffians, & then swan around in full armour. They are accepted back in to Hobbit society, because, well, the upper classes have always been a bit eccentric (& everybody knows they’re queer folk in Buckland). Sam: after his mad adventures has settled down in sensible Hobbit fashion & started doing some useful work at last. Frodo, however, has taken after his uncle, Mad Baggins. What do you do with someone like that? Probably best to smile & say a polite ‘Good Morning’ & move quickly on, in case he decides to start a conversation!

It seems that Sam is one of the few people to try & include Frodo, & its perhaps with Sam, alone, that Frodo tries to ‘make himself useful’. I imagine Frodo as being increasingly withdrawn, finding it harder & harder to break through his isolation. Sam seems to realise this. I can’t help but read Sam’s ‘dilemma’ over what to call his new daughter as an attempt to ‘include’ his Master & dearest friend in the happy event &, by extension, in the wider life & events of the Shire:

Quote:
‘'Well, Mr. Frodo,' he said. 'I'm in a bit of a fix. Rose and me had settled to call him Frodo, with your leave; but it's not Him, it's Her. Though as pretty a maidchild as any one could hope for, taking after Rose more than me, luckily. So we don't know what to do.'
'Well, Sam,' said Frodo, 'what's wrong with the old customs? Choose a flower name like Rose. Half the maidchildren in the Shire are called by such names, and what could be better?'
'I suppose you're right, Mr. Frodo,' said Sam. 'I've heard some beautiful names on my travels, but I suppose they're a bit too grand for daily wear and tear, as you might say. The Gaffer, he says: "Make it short, and then you won't have to cut it short before you can use it." But if it's to be a flower-name, then I don't trouble about the length: it must be a beautiful flower, because, you see, I think she is very beautiful, and is going to be beautifuller still.'
Frodo thought for a moment. 'Well, Sam, what about elanor, the sun-star, you remember the little golden flower in the grass of Lothlorien?'
'You're right again, Mr. Frodo!' said Sam delighted. 'That's what I wanted.'
I don’t think for a moment that Sam & Rosie couldn’t think of a name for their daughter. This is both Sam’s attempt to draw Frodo back, & one of the greatest gifts he could give him. Its significant, perhaps, that Frodo chooses an Elvish name, rather than a Hobbit one, & perhaps reflects his growing ‘otherworldliness’.

Frodo’s growing sense of isolation leads him to invite Sam to live with him. Sam, after all, is the only living person who has any hope of understanding Frodo, who, it seems, is desperately alone, staring into a void & unable to turn away. Sam’s repeated statement about being ‘torn in two’ to Frodo may actually have played a part in his decision to go too. Possibly he began to feel he was not only a burden to his friend, but that he was actually preventing him from living a full life with his wife & child.

Its not clear (to me) when, exactly, Frodo realises that life in the Shire is impossible, but at some point he does realise. I think its less a realisation that he has to go than that he cannot stay. He is being ‘pulled’ away, & cannot find any hold to grab onto. Its as if the Shire, like Lorien in his ‘vision’ long ago, is ‘sailing away’ from him:

Quote:
As they passed her they turned and their eyes watched her slowly floating away from them. For so it seemed to them: Lorien was slipping backward, like a bright ship masted with enchanted trees, sailing on to forgotten shores, while they sat helpless upon the margin of the grey and leafless world.
Whenever the truth dawned on him, its clear that he knew he would not live out his time in the Shire. He has now accepted his fate. He tidies up his affairs, finishes his part of the (no longer ‘his’) book, prepares for his final journey.

It seems he was expecting the Elven Host - though we’re not told how he knew the time & place of the meeting. What we will soon witness is the Departure of the Elves from Middle-earth, the culmination of their wars, suffering & sacrifice, the end of their hopes & dreams. They pass not with a bang, but not yet with a whimper. They pass into the West in humility, singing hymns to Elbereth. And two Hobbits will pass with them. Who would have thought it? Yet, it is necessary. The ‘assumption’ of Frodo & Bilbo into Paradise is right. The ‘humanity’ of the Hobbits is blessed, sanctified, through their suffering & sacrifice, & made ‘acceptable’.

Yet, the West is not the Shire, & while Bilbo may have moved on to the Mountains, Frodo, I suspect, still loves the woods, fields & little rivers. But they have been taken from him. He has had to ‘give them up, lose them.’ As he says, ‘someone has to’.

We’re told of Frodo’s vision of ‘white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.’ But this presents us with a difficulty - how do we know what Frodo saw? Who put that in the Red Book? Is that Sam’s invention, his hope for his master? We’ll never know, & in a sense, we really shouldn’t. That question: Did it really happen, did he really get to Avallone, receive his ‘reward’? adds to the poignancy of the ending.

The final words of the book, in fact the whole ending, seems too sudden - we want to know what happens next. In fact, Tolkien did write a further chapter or ‘Epilogue’ (two versions of it in fact). It supplies some answers to our questions - what happened to Legolas & Gimli? what about Celeborn? how did Sam’s family prepare for Aragorn’s visit to his realm in the north? and did Sam let Frodo-lad have his very own Dwarvish battle-axe? It was left out, in the end, because in the opinion of those who read it it was just too sentimental. Tolkien felt the story lacked a final resolving chapter, but in the end I can’t help feeling the ending we have is the right one, & the final words Sam speaks are perfect. CT comments:

Quote:
In all the texts of ‘The Grey Havens’ from the earliest draft, Sam said to Rose when he returned to Bag End ‘Well, I’m back.’ ‘Well, I’ve come back.’ does not mean the same thing.
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Old 11-20-2005, 10:55 AM   #3
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Were they showing off? Or was it symbolic of their allegiance to their respective liege lords? Or was it perhaps a sign of the increased watchfulness of the Shire, showing that they were ready at all times to fight for their homeland if necessary, a warning to any enemies?
Yes.

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What do you think of the name that was given the four hobbits, the ‘Travellers’?
Kind of reminds you of "Strider" doesn't it.

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I agree with JRRT’s statement that the book’s chief fault is that it’s too short
Actually, I think it ends at just the right spot.
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Old 11-20-2005, 03:35 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar
What do you think of the fact that Merry and Pippin went on wearing their armour in peacetime in the Shire? Does it strike you as inappropriate? Were they showing off? Or was it symbolic of their allegiance to their respective liege lords? Or was it perhaps a sign of the increased watchfulness of the Shire, showing that they were ready at all times to fight for their homeland if necessary, a warning to any enemies?
The thought occurred to me, perhaps somewhat inspired by this being November, the month of remembrance, that in a way Merry and Pippin going around in armour is a way of keeping the memory alive.

Much like the World War II veterans, and the World War Is before them, Merry and Pippin remaining in regalia is a visible reminder to the Shire of the fight it went through to free itself from the ruffians. Not exactly on World War scale, perhaps, but definitely not something to forget.
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Old 11-21-2005, 07:42 AM   #5
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'Poor Sam! It will feel like that, I am afraid,' said Frodo. 'But you will be healed. You were meant to be solid and whole, and you will be.'
It's interesting to consider the fates of the four Ringbearers. Gollum of course is dead. Bilbo on the other hand has had an unnaturally long life and remained relatively resistant to the Ring; at first I thought this might have something to do with his innocence regarding what the Ring was, but Gollum too has this innocence. Perhaps it has something to do with what each chose to do with the power of invisibility that the Ring gave them? Bilbo used it to hide from interfering relatives while Gollum used it to hunt and sneak.

Frodo has descended into illness and though he can cope day to day so long as he retreats from society, his trauma shows through especially during the anniversaries. Sam is the only bearer who has stayed relatively unscathed. He has mentally integrated his experiences and so is the one who copes the best; Bilbo also copes quite well, but he only achieves this by satisfying his restlessness and going into 'retreat' at Rivendell.

It makes me wonder if Frodo too could have gained something from a retreat to Rivendell, but this option was closed to him as Elrond was planning to leave.

It fascinates me that Tolkien was unable to kill off his Hobbits. As they are mortals then they will die eventually, but we are left with a sense of hope and longing as they leave for the Undying Lands.

Quote:
'But,' said Sam, and tears started in his eyes, 'I thought you were going to enjoy the Shire, too, for years and years, after all you have done.'
'So I thought too, once. But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.
What Frodo tries to articulate here is the sense that he has given himself up for the sake of the Shire. He is not physically dead, but he might as well be; he was driven to take the Ring to Mordor by the threat of The Shire being destroyed and it has indeed been saved, but now he takes no pleasure in it.

Frodo's words remind me of Churchill's about the RAF: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." Was Frodo a sacrifice or was he a martyr? It depends upon how willing he was to take on his task, on whether he truly understood what he was doing and what would happen to him. And on that final point, I don't actually think any of the great powers really did know what would happen to him, as the Ring seems to have had a different effect on all the Ringbearers, Isildur included.
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Old 11-21-2005, 08:33 AM   #6
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We’re told of Frodo’s vision of ‘white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.’ But this presents us with a difficulty - how do we know what Frodo saw? Who put that in the Red Book?
Quote:
. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.
There was another thread that touched on the wonderful silver/gold color scheme. This reveal at the stay at Bombadil shows to me that Tom was not a mere anomaly or afterthought. It hints of a place where the ring, or any other mortal concern, really - and in a very physical, literal sense - doesnt matter. Frodo's subconscious figures it out rather well. Regardless, Frodo gets to walk in paradise, and he deserves it.

Davem, how this gets transcribes into the Red Book is one for the ages. TC is my only good answer for that!
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Old 11-21-2005, 04:33 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by drigel
Davem, how this gets transcribes into the Red Book is one for the ages. TC is my only good answer for that!
The more I consider this, the odder it seems. Of course, it could simply be that Tolkien felt that ending was 'right' & so included it despite the 'Translator conceit', but we have to keep in mind that Tolkien begins (the Prologue) & ends (final section of Appendix F) LotR by emhasising that the book is a translation of a work by earlier writers/translators/redactors.

One possibility is that Sam, having been told by Frodo of his dream in Bombadil's house (or having read it in the Red Book) 'constructed' the ending. I like the mystery of it - was that Sam's hope for his friend? Did he so want it to be like that that he convinced himself (&/or sought to convince others) that that's 'what really happened'.

Whatever the explanation, the ending presents us with a difficulty - either Tolkien breaks the spell he has so carefully woven about LotR being a translation of an ancient book which is a true history of those times simply in order to provide a 'sentimentally satisfying' end to Frodo's story, or he is telling us something about Sam, & therefore we don't actually know what happened to Frodo.

What I 'like' about the latter option is that it makes the ending of the story even more poignant.

Of course, if read in conjunction with 'Frodo's Dreme' the ending becomes even more ambiguous. In effect we have two 'Frodo's Dremes' - the one in 'The House of Tom Bombadil' & the one in 'The Adventures of Tom Bombadil'. Which one came true?

Last edited by davem; 11-21-2005 at 04:40 PM.
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Old 11-23-2005, 05:26 AM   #8
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Ponderings...

This last chapter has quite a light and humorous tone, much like in the Hobbit. There are little jokes again and almost everything is so well.
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Grey Havens
Altogether 1420 was a marvellous year. Not only was there wonderful sunshine and delicious rain, in due times and perfect measure, but there seemed something more: an air of richness and growth, and a gleam of beauty beyond that of mortal summers that flicker and pass upon this Middle-earth.
Was it pure chance that the weather happened to be so pleasant, or was there something that Sam would have called Elf-magic involved? Was it because after such a lousy year under the repression of Sharkey's ruffians, just about everything looked so much better?
Quote:
All the children born or begotten in that year, and there were many, were fair to see and strong, and most of them had a rich golden hair that had been rare among the hobbits.
It's quite natural that there's growth in birth rate after a wartime, but what's the deal with so many kids suddenly showing a recessive trait ie. having blonde hair? Perhaps something to do with the Lady of the Golden Wood? Also,
Quote:
The fruit was so plentiful that young hobbits very nearly bathed in strawberries and cream; and later they sat on the lawns under the plum-trees and ate, until they had made piles of stones like small pyramids or the heaped skulls of conqueror
Sounds very sweet, but that's an interesting comparison. Where would a hobbit had seen so many pyramids and skull heaps that he would think of them when seeing a pile of stones? Of course imagination is unlimited, but I think that's a rather unfitting figure of speech for the Shire. Anyway, life is good and as though to complete a fairy tale ending, the old feud between the Bagginses and the Sackville-Bagginses is over. Except, Frodo is ill on the same date as the Ring was destroyed and he was wounded at Weathertop.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
Frodo has descended into illness and though he can cope day to day so long as he retreats from society, his trauma shows through especially during the anniversaries.
I always used to think that there was some kind of poison left in Frodo's body from the Nazgul's sword that made Frodo sick, but this time I read the passage, it occured to me that Frodo's illness seems much more psychological than physical. Maybe it's the same kind of feeling that elves eventually have; Frodo's body was fine, but his mind was weary. Just like the elves, he longed to get somewhere else.
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Old 11-23-2005, 07:01 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by DSoU
Was it pure chance that the weather happened to be so pleasant, or was there something that Sam would have called Elf-magic involved?
I wondered about this too. I also wonder if this 'magical' regeneration contributed to the Shire's 'withdrawal' from the world & its 'fading' into the world of legend & fairytale. Magical healing may be a convenient 'shortcut', but are there implications to it?
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Old 11-23-2005, 10:58 AM   #10
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This is truly a chapter of endings, and not just of Frodo’s journey but of his friends. Merry, Pippin and Sam of course will go on, but their path is set before them now pretty clear and Frodo is able even to prophesy about Sam’s fate – becoming, in the end, Elvish indeed, with the power of sight being granted him. It’s also the real ending of the Third Age with the passing of Gandalf and Galadriel; and it’s the ending of Bilbo’s adventures. Since that moment on Mount Doom when Frodo said goodbye to Sam it seems the book has been moving through one ending after another, and of course with the appendices to follow even this is not really the ending, not of the story for – as we have learned – no story ever really ends.

So what is it that makes this chapter the real ending? It is the ending for us, for the readers. We’ve gone so far, and through so much with these characters. We’ve come to know and love them so well and so intimately, that every time I read these pages I do feel as though I am bidding farewell to friends. I never get through the closing pages without weeping, and call me a big softy but I have tears in my eyes right now as I think about it! But Gandalf, as always, has words of wisdom for me:

Quote:
“Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”
This time I feel the force of these words of wisdom as I never have before, as this is the first time I have gone through The Lord of the Rings with other people there beside me. It’s always been a solitary act for me, but in this discussion I had your companionship with me on the road. It really does feel as though a fellowship is dissolving.

But again, the book has an answer for me, since the story does not end with the departure of Frodo into the West, but with Sam’s return to his home. That’s the real and enduring beauty of this story, for me: that it can move me to tears every time, but it’s always there for me to come back to when I need it or want it.

“I’m back.”
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Old 11-23-2005, 12:55 PM   #11
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Bilbo's last song

Day is ended, dim my eyes,
but journey long before me lies.
Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship's beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
beyond the sunset leads my way.
Foam is salt, the wind is free;
I hear the rising of the Sea.

Farewell, friends! The sails are set,
the wind is east, the moorings fret.
Shadows long before me lie,
beneath the ever-bending sky,
but islands lie behind the Sun
that I shall raise ere all is done;
lands there are to west of West,
where night is quiet and sleep is rest.

Guided by the Lonely Star,
beyond the utmost harbour-bar,
I'll find the heavens fair and free,
and beaches of the Starlit Sea.
Ship, my ship! I seek the West,
and fields and mountains ever blest.
Farewell to Middle-earth at last.
I see the Star above your mast!


There is much I would say about this and other chapters - and I will return and say them... but I feel this belongs here.
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Old 11-23-2005, 02:51 PM   #12
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And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.
What is intriguing me about this now is that I have never really stepped back and wondered how, if the whole story was not written down by Frodo, we know anything at all about what happens when he leaves the Grey Havens. Does anyone else, or rather did anyone else, just accept this end for Frodo as 'fact'?

Sam's final words are as much for the benefit of the reader as they are for himself and those around him. In a sense, we too are 'back'. We have been dragged off from familiar Bag End and taken all the way around Middle-earth, through war, horror and unearthly beauty. Now we are back home again, and we too have to go back to our daily lives. But like Sam we can't forget what we have seen and we will not be the same ever again. I'm sure Tolkien put those parting words there for us as well as for Sam.
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Old 11-23-2005, 04:35 PM   #13
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You know, Lalwendë , I'm with you. In all the times I've read this chapter, I have never thought about this point before. Davem has shown me something new. Yet, with all respect to the latter, I can't think of this description as simply Sam's imagined wish as to what happened to his friend. I believe it is what happened to Frodo when he sailed West and saw what he had dreamt of in Bombadil's house so long before. After trusting the author for so many pages on such a long journey, I accept his authority to give the reader this information, however and wherever he found it out.

Can there really be a doubt that Frodo made it to Elvenhome when Tolkien discusses this so explicitly in his Letters? We do not know if Frodo found healing but we do know that he made it to the place he foresaw in that mysterious dream. However hurt and despairing Frodo may have been, I can't help feeling that it was inevitable that he leave the Shire and go West. While certainly his injuries and despair fed into this departure, I believe that Frodo's journey to the Blessed Land has roots that go much deeper than this. Why does that dream occur long before Frodo was injured? And who sends that dream? Is it simply a figment of Frodo's vivid imagination? (I can't accept that.) Is it something that Bombadil knows and understands? Perhaps but unlikely.... Or is it a beacon of hope from beyond the bounds of Arda?

And it isn't only the dream that makes me wonder. What is utterly fascinating to me are the notes in HoMe. Yes, I know we don't want to go deeply into the material outside the text. But I don't think we can ignore it here. It's just too important. On page 53 of Sauron Defeated, Christopher Tolkien mentions that years and years before, when Frodo was still Bingo, long before the plot was hatched out, his father wrote these words: Bingo would return to the Shire and make peace, then "settle down in a little hut on the high green ridge--until one day he goes with the Elves West beyond the towers."

This to me is mind boggling. Tolkien changed so much in the story and characters, but this aspect of the Ringbearer he did not change. Even from the beginning, before the author fully understood the nature of the Ring, JRRT had decided that Frodo must go to Elvenhome. This suggests Frodo's departure is inherent to who he was -- not merely a reflection of his brokenness. No one can deny that the brokenness is there, yet so too is the nobility of character. There were moments of anguish and utter despair for Frodo, but most of the time he was able to act with real grace. Certainly, his final words in the book are both poignant and gracious. They are the words of someone still struggling to hold things together. And the voyage to the West was just that -- not a giving up for Frodo but an attempt to regain his health in both a physical and spiritual sense. For me that underscores the bittersweet nature of that final chapter. Frodo must leave because he is broken, but he must also leave because he has grown beyond the Shire. Broken or whole, he would no longer fit in...

I have more ideas about some "smaller incidents" in the early part of this chapter, but will wait till later.

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Old 11-23-2005, 05:01 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Child
Can there really be a doubt that Frodo made it to Elvenhome when Tolkien discusses this so explicitly in his Letters?
Yes, but..

Whether Frodo came to Tol Eressea is not the question - I don't doubt that he did (I can't see the Grey Ship doing a Titanic ). I was asking how Sam knew what had actually happened to Frodo, or what he had experienced. So much emphasis is placed on LotR being a translation of the Red Book. This is the only inexplicable event - no-one in Middle-earth could have known what happened to Frodo after he left the Havens. The only possibility is that Sam took Frodo's vision in the House of Bombadil as just that: a vision of a future event, &, believing that to be the case, stated it as a fact.

This opens up some very interesting questions - was Frodo's vision a kind of promise on Eru/the Valar's part, sort of 'If you see the Quest through, Frodo, this is what you'll get', or was Frodo somehow stepping outside serial time & seeing an actual future event; so that, in some sense, that 'future' had already happened, his 'story' having already been 'written', so that in his dream he was kind of flipping to the end of the book & reading the last page. He is both participant in, & 'reader' of, his own story. But if Frodo was seeing the end of his own already written story, how much free will did he actually have? Could he have altered his own story by his free choices when he had already seen how it would end? If his vision is a glimpse of his future then everything that happened to him was pre-ordained, already 'written'. Where is free will in this scenario?

Of course, Flieger has already explored this in depth.

But none of this gets us any further in answering the question: how did Sam (or whichever later redactor put it in) know what Frodo saw?
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Old 11-23-2005, 05:19 PM   #15
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But none of this gets us any further in answering the question: how did Sam (or whichever later redactor put it in) know what Frodo saw?
BTW, I didn't mean that in a literal sense. I wasn't worrying about the sailing ship keeling over (and you weren't either). Those Elves are great sailors! Sorry if I implied that.

But if the image of the white shore is only in Sam's mind, the reader does not know if that reflects the "truth". It is only Sam's hoping and wishing for a friend. (Unless perhaps, Sam has a dream that stems from the same source as Frodo's?)

I guess my gut feeling is this.... This may seem blunt and bald, but this is one point in the story when I am not going to analyze what happened. I am merely going to accept what's written on the paper as a true reflection of Frodo's journey.

If I start pulling this section apart and thinking of "why", it somehow disturbs the "magic" that, for me, is so strong at this point in the book. There is a lot in life I don't understand. This is just one more thing to add to the list. I can't understand where this description or vision comes from, but I can appreciate it. I would prefer to leave Frodo's sailing and the description of the white shores as a mystery. I have no idea if that's just me or anyone else feels this way. Of course, you should go ahead and poke and prod and question. But for me, the emotional tone of these final passages is so rivetting that I can't get beyond that. And, truthfully, I do not want to.... This is one time when the heart leads the head, and I simply follow.
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Old 11-23-2005, 05:30 PM   #16
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Ok, but leaving aside how the account got in there, what is the relationship between Frodo's 'dream' in the House of Bombadil & his 'real' experience of Tol Eressea?
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Old 11-23-2005, 05:51 PM   #17
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If we knew the answer, would the heart of the mystery be stripped away?

But still.....I would like to know the answer. Any ideas?
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Old 11-23-2005, 05:57 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by davem
Ok, but leaving aside how the account got in there, what is the relationship between Frodo's 'dream' in the House of Bombadil & his 'real' experience of Tol Eressea?
Quote:
Originally Posted by FotR
That night they heard no noises. But either in his dreams or out of them, he could not tell which, Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind: a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to glass and silver, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise.
Quote:
Originally Posted by RotK
And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.
Perhaps Frodo has this 'vision' (and it seems to be heard rather than seen) because of Tom? Tom is the 'Eldest' - and he does make the point that he was there before the way to the West was closed - and so he may have known himself what the approaches to the Undying Lands might be like. Or maybe he simply awakens in Frodo a vision of what may (or may not) be to come. What Frodo experiences in Tom's house may be a kind of epiphany, a moment of realisation (revelation?) of what might happen or might be possible for some?

I don't think it was a vision in the sense of a premonition of what would happen, but of what might happen. That might have been at the centre of Frodo's personal sense of hope through all his troubles. If so, and Sam did indeed choose the words based on what Frodo may have set down in writing already, then this too is as touching as if the words were about what truly happened to Frodo, as those words would have been about Frodo's belief.
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Old 11-23-2005, 10:32 PM   #19
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The possibility occurred to me that if one wants to somehow cram this final scene into a package that makes it both a definitive happening and acceptable within the confines of the translator's conceit, one should perhaps look at Aelfwine...

Although Tolkien seems to have decided that the Straight Road was a one-way street, he never did quite abandon the idea that Aelfwine/Eriol travels to Eressea, learns the lore of the Eldar, and transcribes it for future generations- with that knowledge somehow having to make it back to Middle-Earth, to ultimately rest in the hands of J.R.R. Tolkien...

Perhaps the view of Eressea that we are given is the universal arrival view, as seen by Aelfwine. After all, it was Tolkien's cherished conception that the Silmarillion and the Lord of the Rings be published in tandem- and Aelfwine was still conceived to be a part of the story.

A bit of stretching going on in my little theory here, and it certainly begs the question of how Aelfwine's lore made it back to Merry Olde England, but it's what came to my mind...
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Old 11-24-2005, 04:00 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
I also wonder if this 'magical' regeneration contributed to the Shire's 'withdrawal' from the world & its 'fading' into the world of legend & fairytale. Magical healing may be a convenient 'shortcut', but are there implications to it?
That's an interesting idea, I've never thought of it like that, but now that you said it, it sounds rather logical to me. When the One Ring was destroyed and Galadriel and Nenya left Middle-earth, Lothlorien started fading. Now, if the dust that Galadriel gave to Sam had got its powers from Nenya, sure the things that had been made with the help of the dust started fading as well?
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Old 11-24-2005, 11:08 AM   #21
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Tolkien

This last chapter discussion has come at a bad time for me, for I have little time to devote to the Downs this week, yet I don't want to miss out on a properly observed closure to our months of discussion, even though the Appendices appear on the horizon, like the last rays of a setting sun. Fordim, you have outdone yourself with your splendid observation that this reading has been so unlike our usual habit of solitary reading, accomplished with others at our elbows or over our shoulders..

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Originally Posted by dancing spawn
Now, if the dust that Galadriel gave to Sam had got its powers from Nenya, sure the things that had been made with the help of the dust started fading as well?
You know, this expression of Galadriel's gift took me by surprise and I had to check back with the text. Yes, Tolkien uses the word 'dust' to describe the treasures of the small box Sam receives from the Lady. Why was I so taken? Because 'dust' is so strongly connoted now for me with Philip Pullman's trilogy. And how very extraordinary are the two writers' uses of that word.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
Perhaps Frodo has this 'vision' (and it seems to be heard rather than seen) because of Tom? Tom is the 'Eldest' - and he does make the point that he was there before the way to the West was closed - and so he may have known himself what the approaches to the Undying Lands might be like. Or maybe he simply awakens in Frodo a vision of what may (or may not) be to come. What Frodo experiences in Tom's house may be a kind of epiphany, a moment of realisation (revelation?) of what might happen or might be possible for some?
davem's observation of this vision is, as so many of you have already noted, a most astute observation given the authorial conceit we have discussed over this many months. The little I can add is my remembrance that in the House of Bombadil it was Goldberry who so greatly moved and inspired Frodo that he repeats the song she sang and she acknowledges him "elf-friend." Goldberry's spell is said to be different from that of the elves, "less keen and lofty but deeper and nearer to mortal heart." Not that this particularly 'solves' the mystery here.

One point of this chapter which has always intrigued me is the passage of the fair company through the Shire, for they are already not of this (that?) world any longer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Redbook Author
Though they rode through the midst of the Shire all the evening and all the night, none saw them them pass, save the wild creatures; or here and there some wanderer in the dark who saw a swift shimmer under the trees, or a light and shadow flowing through the grass as the Moon went westward.
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Old 11-24-2005, 04:20 PM   #22
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Flicking back through the chapter I noticed the following incident:
Quote:
Sam was silent, deep in his memories. Presently he became aware that Frodo was singing softly to himself, singing the old walking-song, but the words were not quite the same.
Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate;
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.
And as if in answer, from down below, coming up the road out of the valley, voices sang:
A! Elbereth Gilthoniel!
silivren penna miriel
o menel aglar elenath,
Gilthoniel, A! Elbereth!
We still remember, we who dwell
In this far land beneath the trees
The starlight on the Western Seas.
The two songs are virtually identical in the yearning they express, yet Frodo's song looks forward to a day when he will take those 'hidden paths', while the Elves hymn looks backward, it is all about remembrance of things past. It seems that for all his 'Elvishness' Frodo is still mortal, still looks to the future. There is still something of the adventurer in Frodo. For the Elves, though, all there is is memory, the past. Frodo's tragedy is that the only place he can find healing is a place where there is no future. Yet what his song also expresses is his restlessness, his inability to settle. Perhaps the idea of the Quest, the journey, has become ingrained in him. Like his uncle he cannot settle, & interestingly neither could Gollum. Its rather as if that is an effect of the Ring - once you've possessed it you seem unable to rest. Even Sam is affected:

Quote:
There still he stood far into the night, hearing only the sigh and murmur of the waves on the shores of Middle-earth, and the sound of them sank deep into his heart.
This is not simply an 'Elvish' yearning for the Undying Lands across the Sea - though Sam will one day set sail into the West. Of course, all the four returning Hobbits are known as 'The Travellers', & I'd say that's not simply because they have travelled, but because they are now different. Certainly none of them will remain in the Shire till they die. It seems that once you step outside the bounds of the Shire you can never really return permanently. Sam, Merry & Pippin are not as deeply affected by their journeys as Frodo is by his, yet its as true for them as it is for him that there is no real going back. Mortals can never 'go back'.
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Old 11-29-2005, 01:46 AM   #23
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tidbits...

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
It seems he was expecting the Elven Host - though we’re not told how he knew the time & place of the meeting
Elrond told him few chapters back:

Quote:
For about this time of the year, when the leaves are gold before they fall, look for Bilbo in the woods of the Shire. I shall be with him.’
Truly, this is not exact instruction, not at all. But now I have something (three somethings, to be precise) to propose (all utterly 'unbacked up', of course):

1. May it be that Frodo was somewhat trained in Osanwe Kenta (remember Galadriel mentioning he began to 'see with a keen eye' in Mirror of Galadriel) by his Burden?

2. May it be that all parties involved just paid heed to significance of dates for Frodo and Bilbo and choose (once again) their birthday for a meeting date?

3. Or maybe the explanation is quite trivial, and some elven company wandering in Woody End made a detour to warn him beforehand.

As for the verse:

Quote:
Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate;
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.
It is also interesting to compare with what Frodo sang in Book I, Three Is Company:

Quote:
Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though we pass them by today,
Tomorrow we may come this way
And take the hidden paths that run
Towards the Moon or to the Sun.
The day is much nearer than in version 1 - than it was removed to some unidentified future, now it is concrete - tomorrow here seems literaly tomorrow - and indeed, few days after Frodo leaves Middle Earth forever (read: dies for those who are left on Hither shore). Here, like in elven song, he refers to Past as to the Future - and life is limited to 'today', which slips inevitably into the Future ('tomorrow') and leaves life in the past.

Also in Book 1 Frodo seems himself unaware of hidden meaning of the song in Book I (all those 'Through shadows to the edge of night, Until the stars are all alight' etc), but now his singing is conscious.
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Old 12-02-2005, 04:56 PM   #24
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One small thing that I think ought to be noted in connection with the last chapter is that the removal of the epilogue altered not only the tone of the work's end but also its emphasis - quite radically, I think.

As published, the final lines are of course:

Quote:
At last they rode over the downs and took the East Road, and then Merry and Pippin rode on to Buckland; and already they were singing again as they went. But Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the Hill, as day was ending once more. And he went on, and there was a yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap.
He drew a deep breath. 'Well, I'm back,' he said.
In some of the Book I discussions, we discussed the 'homely house' in LotR - the safe place where the company is received and offered respite. Here we have a short but strong evocation of the same thing, except that this time the house to which Sam comes actually belongs to him. Aragorn is king; the Elves have gone across the sea; but Sam's fate is to become an ordinary person, with a home and a wife and children. And insofar as that is presented as a good and desirable fate, this ending affirms that ordinary Hobbitish (and human) life. The world (this world, the ordinary world) is, after all, good.

Nothing in the epilogue mitigates that, but it does twist the whole sentiment around. This is how Tolkien intended the book to end before being convinced to drop the epilogue:

Quote:
'March the twenty-fifth!' he said. 'This day seventeen years ago, Rose wife, I didn't think I should ever see thee again. But I kept on hoping.'
'I never hoped at all, Sam,' she said, 'not until that very day; and then suddenly I did. About noon it was, and I felt so glad that I began singing. And mother said: "Quiet, lass! There's ruffians about." And I said: "Let them come! Their time will soon be over. Sam's coming back." And you came.'
'I did,' said Sam. To the most belovedest place in all the world. To my Rose and my garden.'
They went in, and Sam shut the door. But even as he did so, he heard suddenly, deep and unstilled, the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
Again, we have an affirmation of domesticity - but this time it is sharply undercut by the very last sentence. Tolkien originally intended the last line of LotR to speak of the Sea, 'deep and unstilled'. The line calls very vividly to mind Frodo's words to Sam earlier - that he, too, bore the Ring and that he may one day sail West as well. The message is clear - though Sam clearly is content in the Shire with his family, he may not be quite as whole as he thinks. Insofar, then, as Sam is a kind of 'everyman' here at the end, that 'everyman' may not be completely whole. Like Frodo, Sam may have been irreversibly changed - perhaps not wounded as Frodo was, but torn in two just the same.

I think that this is an important window into the whole issue of 'sea-longing' in Tolkien's works. For Tolkien, the sea seems to represent a kind of yearning - not an ordinary yearning or desire for ordinary things, but a profound, transcendental desire. It seems to me that it is something very much like Tolkien's 'sea-longing' that makes humans want desperately to believe in a God, or in Nirvana, or in any of the other transcendental ideals. In the Silmarillion, this is explored through Tuor and Earendil. In LotR, it is explored through Frodo. When Frodo (like Earendil) becomes unable to find contentment in Middle-earth, he must go over the sea to seek it. Just so, when a real person cannot find fulfillment in the ordinary world, he or she longs to 'go across the sea' - to find something beyond the ordinary world.

I think that the loss of the last line is the truly regrettable thing about the exclusion of the epilogue (even if that exclusion was ultimately necessary). For here Tolkien encapsulates the whole issue quite succinctly. Sam may be the most content person in Middle-earth, with his Rose and his garden, in 'the most belovedest place in all the world.' But even he hears the Sea. To me, this is one of Tolkien's most insightful comments about human nature.
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Old 10-23-2018, 07:50 PM   #25
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Will not go now into the finer points of this chapter. Just want to throw this out - is no one else surprised that Frodo named his pony Strider? Naming pets after the great ones of this world I can understand, but naming them after your friends is just too odd not to point it out.

(On an unrelated note I clearly have been neglecting my BD posting duties too long, cause my fingers now automatically type Stridor instead of Strider, when it used to be the other way around. Also not a great name for a pony.)
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