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Old 10-26-2016, 01:44 PM   #1
Fordim Hedgethistle
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Gandalf....fortune teller??

Quick Query About Something I Have Wondered About For Years:

In Gandalf's letter to Frodo in the chapter "Strider" (you all know it: the letter that Barliman neglects to deliver), Gandalf adds the following postscript:

"Do NOT use It again, not for any reason whatever!"

My Query: to that point in the text (and, I had always assumed, in his life) Frodo had only put on the Ring once: at Bombadil's house to see if it was unaltered by Tom. This of course happens just the day before Frodo receives the letter which was written by Gandalf months earlier (at midsummer). So, did Gandalf somehow foresee what Frodo was going to do and usefully add it to his letter? If so, then he would also have foreseen that the letter was going to go astray and reach Frodo only after he'd put on the Ring at Bombadil's.

All of which seems pretty unlikely to me. Gandalf with prophetic vision is something Tolkien never even hints at, and it leads into all sorts of problems with his character and actions.

So, I'm left with four possibilities:

1) There are OTHER times at which Frodo used the Ring that are simply not recorded in the tale -- but if so, when and under what circumstances are we to imagine Frodo using the Ring?

2) There is another time already there and I've just missed it somehow the dozens of times I've read the book.

3) The postscript is an editorial remnant of some kind by Tolkien -- that is, the letter originally appeared in a different context or at a different point in the story and in that original context it made sense.

4) I'm misreading the postscript completely: that when Gandalf says not to use it "again" he is not referring to a repeated action by Frodo ("Don't YOU do it again") but a repeat of the action more generally ("Don't use it again like Bilbo did").

While option four would seem to make the most sense, I just can't bring myself to buy it -- Tolkien was too careful with his language for such ambiguity and Gandalf seems adamant that Frodo not repeat his own action.

So, anyway, help?
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Old 10-26-2016, 02:11 PM   #2
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Interesting topic!

I'd think your first option the most likely, based on a few quotes.

After Bilbo's departure, but before Gandalf knew his ring was the One, G. tells Frodo:

Quote:
'But if you take my advice you will use it very seldom, if at all.
So, he didn't expressly forbid Frodo from wearing the Ring, at least in the manner Bilbo had: to escape from nosy or annoying neighbors.

Later, at Bombadil's house, when Frodo wears it:

Quote:
Frodo was delighted (in a way): it was his own ring all right, for Merry was staring blankly at his chair, and obviously could not see him.
I don't read there a sense that that was the first time Frodo had used the Ring.

And in Lothlórien, much later, Galadriel tells Frodo:

Quote:
'Only thrice have you set the Ring upon your finger since you knew what you possessed.'
Meaning, after Gandalf's talk in The Shadow of the Past, because it adds up: Frodo used the Ring at Bombadil's, on Weathertop, and at the Ford of Bruinen.
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Old 10-26-2016, 02:47 PM   #3
Fordim Hedgethistle
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A tidbit

A quick review of the relevant thread from the CBC forum finds this post:

http://forum.barrowdowns.com/showpos...96&postcount=8

In which Davem (who else?!) throws some potentially helpful light on the subject.
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Old 10-26-2016, 06:03 PM   #4
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Hmm. When I started reading this thread, my first impulse was #4 (which I seem to forgive much more easily than you too). However, Inzil makes a good case for #1, and might have me convinced. Although I feel that #4 is the simplest and most logical explanation based on what we know, Inzil does make a good case for what we don't explicitly know but might infer, and that option is truer to both Gandalf and Tolkien's characters.
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Old 10-28-2016, 11:09 AM   #5
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So why the big secret?

Well, having considered the matter I tend to subscribe to a new, combination theory I suppose -- that it was originally #3 (a fragmentary 'mistake' by the author as a result of many drafts and revisions as the text grew -- this is the point outlined by davem in the post I linked to above) but that regardless of where the strange PS came from it would tend to point to #1, that Frodo did use the Ring before learning what it was when Gandalf explained it all to him in "Shadow of the Past" (Inziladun's well made point).

But this still raises an interesting question for me: why is there no mention made AT ALL of what uses (if any, as we can still only infer) Frodo put it to? It seems an interesting gap in the book as it would have been so easy to include even just a sentence or two along the lines, "In the years Gandalf was away Frodo heeded the wizard's advice and used the Ring only in the direst of needs, such as unexpected (and always unwelcome) visits from the Sackville-Bagginses."

All of this goes to the odd gap that is the 17 years between the party and "The Shadow of the Past" during which I think we can suppose that Frodo did do some wandering about the Shire and even met with Elves (as hinted during his meeting with Gildor) -- was he using the Ring during these (also inferred) journeys? The more I've thought upon it the more it seems we have three very different possible Frodos for those years:

1) the Frodo who didn't use the Ring at all -- a cautious Frodo, ignoring the allure of the Ring before he even knows the full danger

2) the Frodo who uses the Ring lightheartedly or even a bit thoughtlessly -- so much so that there's not even a thought to record in the tale the trivial uses he put it to

3) the Frodo who uses the Ring for more serious but secret purposes -- a Frodo who puts it on in secret to slide from or around the Shire to meet with Elves and indulge in his desire for lore/adventure??

Every time I dig into this book I'm struck by just how malleable Tolkien made it: just as we're never given a clear description of Frodo's appearance, his character at this (and other) crucial moments is never strictly or carefully drawn, allowing the reader to find or co-create along with the author.

For what it's worth, 'my' Frodo is the one who uses the Ring to slide out and about the Shire in secret so he can meet with Elves.
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Old 10-28-2016, 04:43 PM   #6
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Is it not possible that, given that he was wearing his own Ring, Gandalf could tell when someone put on the One? I believe Galadriel also knew that Frodo had worn the Ring without asking him.

I think I always assumed that Gandalf somehow could just "tell", "magically" if you will, that Frodo had worn it, or had guessed.
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Old 10-28-2016, 04:59 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Zigûr View Post
Is it not possible that, given that he was wearing his own Ring, Gandalf could tell when someone put on the One? I believe Galadriel also knew that Frodo had worn the Ring without asking him.

I think I always assumed that Gandalf somehow could just "tell", "magically" if you will, that Frodo had worn it, or had guessed.
I think that may well be true, but the issue of the thread was that Frodo only put the ring on months after Gandalf wrote the letter. Even had Gandalf witnessed it himself in person, he still shouldn't have mentioned it in a letter he wrote way before.
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Old 10-28-2016, 06:14 PM   #8
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I don't see any reason to doubt that over those 17 innocent years Frodo would have used the Ring in the same way Bilbo had; after all, he was in on the secret, and there was no suggestion made to him before that pivotal April that the Ring was anything other than a useful gadget for avoiding annoying relatives and the like.
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Old 10-29-2016, 10:08 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
I don't see any reason to doubt that over those 17 innocent years Frodo would have used the Ring in the same way Bilbo had; after all, he was in on the secret, and there was no suggestion made to him before that pivotal April that the Ring was anything other than a useful gadget for avoiding annoying relatives and the like.
I think I agree with you, but if we're looking for 'any reason to doubt', Gandalf does say this in SotP:

‘Of course, my dear Frodo, it was dangerous for you; and that has troubled me deeply. But there was so much at stake that I had to take some risk – though even when I was far away there has never been a day when the Shire has not been guarded by watchful eyes. As long as you never used it, I did not think that the Ring would have any lasting effect on you, not for evil, not at any rate for a very long time. And you must remember that nine years ago, when I last saw you, I still knew little for certain.’
There's more than one way to read that, of course, including that Gandalf was being a little imprecise.

Either way, it seems like a (very slight) authorial lapse to me, that Tolkien didn't either make it more clear that Frodo had used the Ring before Bombadil's house; or alternately that that was the very first time he'd ever used it. (Though I find the latter much less likely.)

It's also possible that the question wasn't completely settled in Tolkien's mind, given the changes in the nature of the Ring and the story between his first drafts and the published work.
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