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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
davem
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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?
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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.
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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