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Old 07-27-2006, 05:48 PM   #1
Kath
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Why save them?

Not sure if this has been asked before, and not sure if it belongs here. Yell at me if either is the case.

Why does Tolkien save Frodo and Sam after the Ring is cast into Mount Doom?

We know that Tolkien was a fan of the noble sacrifice and a fantastic writer of bittersweet moments. Boromir's heroic death to try and save Merry and Pippin; the suicidal charge of the Rohirrim; Theoden's death; Gandalf's 'death'; returning to find the Shire torn to pieces - to name but a few.

To have Frodo and Sam die on the mountain after saving Middle Earth as Mordor crumbles around them would have been the ultimate noble sacrifice. Could it be that Tolkien got too attached to these characters and couldn't stand to see them die? Or that he thought after they'd been through so much they deserved a break?

Please, opinions greatly welcomed.
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Old 07-27-2006, 07:53 PM   #2
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Well, it was partly affection. But it was also to show the damage in Frodo, and the need for healing, and the whole response in the Shire.

That is rooted, I think, in the reception that soldiers got when returning to WW1 England from the front. "Roger, Pip-Pip, Old Boy, good to see you back home. Have your old job back." All very well-meaning, but for a world-war soldier, sometimes quite impossible. They were irrevocably (sometimes irreparably) changed.
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Old 07-27-2006, 10:12 PM   #3
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Tolkien

I think he became too attached to them, and I don't think he ever planned for them to die. I think mark brings up a good point when he says they also live to show Frodo's dwindling away and insufficient life after the destruction of the Ring. Also, you can't make the "chief hero" (Sam) die! The death of Frodo and Sam after all they've been through would have made the story utterly depressing.
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Old 07-27-2006, 11:30 PM   #4
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I've said something similar to this somewhere else, but I cannot remember where it is. However, I feel that most fans of literature, movies, television, etc...are accustomed and rather demand to have the good guys win in the end. Had Sam and Frodo not survived people would generally leave the book feeling a bit empty.

I personally would like to see a bit more realism in killing off the main characters on occasion. Often we see secondary characters dies ie Theoden, Boromir etc... however the author is reluctant to kill the main character because of the public's view. The Silmarillion might be an exception to this for Tolkien but then the question would be raised: Who is the main character? Morgoth? He didn't die. The silmarils? They didn't 'die' though two were lost. Feanor is not the 'main character' per se as the story isn't about him and his deeds rather the quest of the Simlarils, which he happened to create.

I found the previous post here. I'm not sure how applicable it is but I think it is of merit.
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Old 07-28-2006, 12:34 AM   #5
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I don't know why Tolkien did what he did, but I am glad he did it. I do know that, if Sam and Frodo had died, the book would have left me with a very different feeling. When I turn the last page of Tolkien's final chapter, I am filled with sadness and regret, yet a glimmer of hope remains. I've always felt that these few pages were special in showing the reader both how much had been gained and how much lost. Of all Tolkien's writings, these passages remain the most poignant and magical to me.

Not only would the death of Sam and Frodo been deeply depressing, but it would have removed much of that meaning. The tragedy at the end of the Lord of the Rings was not the death of any one or two individuals, but something much wider than that. It is the fact that an entire world was changing, and changing in such a way that Tolkien's depiction of its passing still brings an ache to my heart. I don't quite know how to say this, but are there others who sometimes wish they lived in a time or place where Elves or Hobbits were more than a figment of our imaginations? I've always had the feeling that there is something out there, something just beyond my fingertips. I catch a tiny glimpse, but then it whisks away.

The tragedy remains that Man lives in a universe where so much of the magic has departed. Like it or not, we are heirs of the Fourth Age. Even on those rare occasions when the magic is there, we simply fail to see it. Maybe the Elves faded not because of any change they went through but because of our own inability to understand and appreciate those things that can't be expressed in strictly physical terms. The ending of the Lord of the Rings makes me grieve for the passing of myth and magic in a way that the simple killing of Sam and Frodo would never have done. The death of these two beloved characters would have been a loss, but a much smaller one than the passing of a whole world, which is the final image that Tolkien chose to leave with his reader.

Finally, death is an important piece of Man's legacy; it is actually part and parcel of the new age. In the period following the destruction of the Ring, despite renewed prosperity and hope, there are to be no more immortal Elves. Man's lifespan will continue to shrink, and hobbits will diminish in size. To have abruptly killed Sam and Frodo off at Mount Doom would have made these two just another part of "Man's World", meeting their end like all those who died on the battlefield. But Frodo especially wasn't part of the new age. As ringbearers, Sam and Frodo were an important piece of the world that was passing and needed to leave like the Elves and the Ents....gently fading rather than being violently wrenched away.

Maybe Tolkien was too soft hearted, maybe he wanted to undo the massive bloodshed and horror of the First World War, and this seemed like a good way to rewrite things and bring his characters to a gentler end. Yet I also can't help but feel that he is telling us something about ourselves, the fact that we live in a world where there will be a few small victories but many great defeats stretching as far as the eye can see...a world where change and sadness and hope are intermingled. No one can escape this cycle, not even the reader sitting comfortably in a chair. This kind of heartwrenching loss and portrayal of change transcends the death of any one character. It brings us into the circle. At the end we are not only grieving for Sam and Frodo, and all the departing Elves. We are also grieving for ourselves.
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Old 07-28-2006, 08:42 AM   #6
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Besides what has been said I also think that Frodo was sacrificed. He just wasn't sacrificed in the sense that he actually physically died. But, I would say he was emotionally scarred and altered so much, that after the ring's destruction that Frodo alread committed the 'ultimate noble sacrifice.'

Once we get to Mount Doom, Frodo is no longer himself. He has lost control and his own 'mind' to the Ring:
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擭o taste of food, no feel of water, no sound of wind, no memory of tree or grass or flower, no image of moon or star are left to me. I am naked in the dark, Sam, and there is no veil between me and the wheel of fire. I begin to see it even with my waking eyes, and all else fades.攡Mount Doom
Frodo can remember nothing else, he sees nothing else, he is nothing and all that's there is the Ring...'the wheel of fire.'

Tolkien talks a little bit about memory. With Gollum he was not completely beyond redemption, he was not completely ensnared by the Ring. We are told of this 'small corner of Gollum's mind' where he still has memory of his past life, before even coming across the Ring. And most importantly he still is able to remember his name...Smeagol. Most important, because contrast that with the Mouth of Sauron who we are told was unable to remember his past name. the Mouth was completely enthralled to Sauron's service, he lost all memory of his past life. Where Gollum still had this 'small corner' left.

Frodo is almost to this point of being completely enthralled to the Ring. He remembers nothing except the Ring. It is him, the ring and 'darkness.' By the time Frodo gets to Sammath Naur the Ring has complete and total control over him:
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The suddenly as before under the eaves of the Emyn Muil, Sam saw these two rivals with other vision. A crouching shape, scarcely more than the shadow of a living thing, a creature now wholly ruined and defeated yet filled with a hideous lust and rage; and before it stood stern, untouchable now by pity, a figure robed in white, but at its breast it held a wheel of fire. Out of the fire there spoke a commanding voice.

"Begone and trouble me no more! If you touch me ever again, you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom."~Mount Doom
The Ring now has complete control over Frodo. Frodo was now untouchable by Pity, the very quality we know that Frodo had...his pity and mercy for Gollum. Now Sam sees Frodo and sees him as 'untouchable by pity.' Then we go back to the wheel of fire, and it is the Ring that makes Frodo utter those words. Which seems strange...why would the Ring make Frodo say these words of 'begone and trouble me no more and cast yourself into the Ring of Doom.' It makes it seem like the Ring wants to be destroyed, so what purpose would the Ring have in making Frodo utter these words?

I think it was necessary for the Ring to get complete and total control over Frodo, and achieve it's goal, which was to get back to Sauron. We are told in this one moment that the Ring was at it's maximum point of influence, beyond anyone's will to resist:
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I do not think that Frodo抯 was a moral failure. At the last moment the pressure of the Ring would reach its maximum - impossible, I should have said, for any one to resist,...~Letter 246
So, in order for the Ring to achieve it goal, it needs to get Frodo into the Sammath Naur. But prior to this Frodo did not seem to have the strength to do it, and suddenly he conjures up enough strength (perhaps the Ring has some part to play in that again?) And in order to get total control over Frodo, where he would claim the Ring and the Nazgul would come to bring him back to Sauron, the Ring needs to get Frodo into the Sammath Naur, where it would be at it's 'maximum point of influence.' But, the Ring did not intend for providence and Eru to step in.

Anyway, what I'm intending to show with all this, is that Frodo had already been sacrificed...he did not need to 'die' in the sense of committing and ultimate sacrificed, because besides literally being dead, Frodo actually was dead in a sense. Letter 246 from the quote above goes on to say...
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certainly after long possession, months of increasing torment, and when starved and exhausted. Frodo had done what he could and spent himself completely...
Frodo was physically and mentally drained. He had absolutely nothing left, to get the Ring to where providence could take over, it took everything out of him.

So, besides his life, Frodo had already sacrificed everything. He had sacrificed his comfortable life style in the shire, he had sacrificed every bit of mental and physical strength to get the Ring to where it needed to get to. And we see Frodo completely changed and scarred because of the Ring, so in many ways he was already dead and did sacrifice everything.
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Old 07-28-2006, 08:59 AM   #7
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I very much agree with Child; the tragedy of Frodo's and Sam's death would have taken importance from the fading of the Elves and the magic -tragedy. If there are too many big tragedies in a book, they have no impact on the reader anymore.

Kath, you mention bittersweetness. I have always considered it one of the most bittersweet - or bitter - things in LotR that though Frodo is the one who saves the world - and the Shire, he can't stay there, in the land he loves. This tragedy wouldn't exist, if Frodo and Sam died in Mt. Doom.

One aspect is that in old tales (and in Christian faith) good is rewarded and evil punished. How could such a good and loyal person as Sam face his end in a hope-forsaken, bitter place for co-saving the world, though he craves to see his home and sweetheart and old father again?
Now one might ask that wasn't Th閛den a good man too, who shouldn't have died in case good is rewarded and evil punished. The matter is different with Th閛den. He was an old man who was ready to die and saw his end, but still rode to it. He was a brave man, and he rests in peace.

Or maybe Tolkien simply loved happy endings...
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Old 07-28-2006, 09:58 AM   #8
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Did anyone, like I did when I first read LotR, find themselves fearing that there was no way out for Frodo and Sam when Orodruin started to erupt following the destruction of the Ring and hoping against hope that they would somehow be saved? The sense of relief and joy when Gandalf arrives with the Eagles is immense (and it's probably the reason why I always seem to get very emotional when the Eagles turn up in the films).

To me, the death of Frodo and Sam following the destruction of the Ring would have been unacceptably dire. But the fear that they might lose their lives combined with the joy when they are saved makes for an intensely moving experience (some might even call it Eucatastrophic ). I am sure that I am not alone in feeling that way.

It is surely no surprise that Tolkien, as a natural and masterful story-teller, should have written it the way that he did.
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Old 07-28-2006, 11:24 AM   #9
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Not happy endings, Lommy, the LotR doesn't have a happy ending.

I don't think Tolkien was terribly softhearted, either. . .I would say, he probably didn't end their lives there because it wans't a good ending to his wonderful story. It would have been a let down, a disapointment. The reader would have been left in dismay and emptiness. It would have been like in the movie when everyone's cheering because the Ring has been destroyed but then the mountain blows up and they realize that Frodo and Sam are probably dead. . .horrible thought!

But, beyond that, if Frodo and Sam had died at Mount Doom, would Tolkien have been able to have written such a perfect ending? The Grey Havens is the best ending I have ever read in any book, and I don't think that that could have been written if those two characters had already left Middle-Earth.

So, I think he did it for the reader's sake, and for the ending's sake.

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Old 07-28-2006, 01:06 PM   #10
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Interesting stuff.

A few extra points, it is a while since I read the History of the Lord of the Rings volumes but I am fairly sure that Tolkien never intended to kill Frodo and Sam because I am sure CT quoted a note that JRRT had made saying if one of the hobbits died it should be the 'cowardly Pippin' ( I think this was before Faramir arrived in the story giving Pippin scope to redeem himself).

While it does seem on the surface that a disproportionate number of major characters die (and stay dead) I think it would be hard to pinpoint any major characters whose death would have made the story 'stronger'. I seem to remember that Eowyn was originally doomed (Faramir saving the day again ). I was about 11 when I first read the book and I am sure that I would have found that unbearable.

The fact that it started as a children's book may have been a factor. Although I wouldn't say that Tolkien is particularly soft hearted on the youngstock - I think it likely that The Hobbit was the first book I read where major characters died and though I find the Hobbit's style annoying often, the death of Thorin and the summary dispatch of Fili and Kili, I still find as moving as I did when I was nine - possibly more so since at nine I was probably more upset by the goblins eating the ponies . I wonder if it is significant that apart form the Nazgul's steeds, only poor old Snowmane bites the dust in LOTR .....

For me the fate of the characters is a reflection of the major themes of the book, renewal, the triumph of hope over despair, and fellowship over self aggrandisement. The only major characters who I feel could have been killed off without compromising these to a greater or lesser extent are Legolas and Gimli (though I am fond of them both) but since they function as little more than witnesses for their declining peoples once Aragorn has taken up his military role in Rohan, I don't see that slaying them would have any useful purpose.

The healing and symbolic rebirth of Eowyn and Faramir have significance in that Faramir the steward, knows and recognises the true king, ensuring the restoration of the correct order of things (and following the model set by his kinsman, Prince Imrahil, who personally does not hesitate in acknowledging Aragorn, and who is the heir of a house who surely would have had enough of the bllod royal to make a claim to the throne but instead remained loyal to the possible return of the king).

Tolkien is also clever about making you care about minor character with a great economy of words. I know fromanother thread that I was not alone in grieving for Halbarad though he has only a couple of lines. The funeral laments are also effective.

Although, I know it is possible to read and love the book without knowing or noticing, or indeed caring, knowing about Tolkien's Catholicism, (though I know there are much better theologians than me around, I think it is fair to say that this is a more specifically Catholic concept), I do suspect that he was keen to allow his characters to make a 'good death' . Boromir and Theoden get their chance to make their peace, Boromir's final speech with Aragorn could be read as confession and absolution - although as an echo rather than an absolute representation - I don't see the LOTR as that directly allegorical (but that discussion goes on elsewhere!). Denethor rejects the chance to make a good death leading his people on the battlefield and his suicide is seen as heathen - a direct contrast to Aragorn giving up his life, surely only a few yards from the site of Denethor's pyre, which is seen as a righteous act - not fighting 'the gift of the one to men'. Although Boromir quotes Tolkien saying that Frodo's claiming of the ring was not a moral failure, and personally I think that Frodo died at Weathertop in the sense that he lost any possibility of returning to a normal life and had 'crossed to the other side' - think of Gandalf's impression of him in Many Meetings (cf CBC ), to kill Frodo at Mount Doom would have robbed him the chance of making a truly 'good death', reconciled to his life and death. Sam has to survive in order to be and do all the things that Frodo has sacrificed.

Good does triumph over evil but it pays the price. Maybe not in blood but in change Not even the remote Shire survives unchanged - although I rather like the fact that after the restitution of the monarchy in Gondor , meritocracy asserts itself in the four farthings and the gardener's son rises to equal the hereditary powers. Change is not always progress but neither is it always decay.


Another factor to bear in mind is that I think it may be a realtively modern phenomenon to perceive not killing off your heroes as a weakness. Louis de Bernieres was criticised for his ending to Captain Corelli's Mandolin - personally I am glad he found a third way between an 'unrealistic' happy ending and an unutterably bleak and hopeless one and I think Tolkien does the same. I don't think that The Grey Havens could be more effective and affecting if someone physically died. As with Aragorn giving up his life it is the fact that there is a choice, superficially tempting but wrong, that adds piquancy.
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Old 07-28-2006, 02:16 PM   #11
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A few extra points, it is a while since I read the History of the Lord of the Rings volumes but I am fairly sure that Tolkien never intended to kill Frodo and Sam because I am sure CT quoted a note that JRRT had made saying if one of the hobbits died it should be the 'cowardly Pippin' ( I think this was before Faramir arrived in the story giving Pippin scope to redeem himself).
Mithalwen -

You're right. Frodo's fate was decided very early. I remember reading in HoMe that even as far back as "Bingo" Tolkien had notes in his papers that the chief character would return from the quest, live in a small dwelling on the outskirts of Hobbiton, and eventually decide to sail west across the sea.

The decision not to kill Frodo and Sam was integral to the plot and themes of the book. It wasn't something that he decided to do at the last moment because of feelings of regret.
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Old 07-28-2006, 03:05 PM   #12
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Tolkien

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Originally Posted by Child of the 7th Age
I don't quite know how to say this, but are there others who sometimes wish they lived in a time or place where Elves or Hobbits were more than a figment of our imaginations? I've always had the feeling that there is something out there, something just beyond my fingertips. I catch a tiny glimpse, but then it whisks away.
I'm with you on that, I feel the same way.
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Old 07-28-2006, 05:18 PM   #13
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Mithalwen I certainly don't think that keeping them alive was a weakness, I just wondered at the reasons.

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Had Sam and Frodo not survived people would generally leave the book feeling a bit empty.
This makes some sense morm, but I think that people could have coped with Frodo dying. Not Sam perhaps, but Frodo yes. As Mith said, Frodo was pretty much 'dead' after the incident on Weathertop. He also becomes irrelevant in a way, as the rest of the book is more dedicated to the exploits of the other Hobbits, specifically Merry and Pippin. Frodo is part of the old world that is fading away, and while I agree that the Grey Havens is one of the most moving bits of writing I have ever read (i.e. I bawled my eyes out reading it) I'm not sure that the same effect couldn't have been accomplished by having Sam mourn for Frodo after he dies at Mount Doom, and then seeing the Elves and Gandalf leave.

Quote:
As ringbearers, Sam and Frodo were an important piece of the world that was passing and needed to leave like the Elves and the Ents....gently fading rather than being violently wrenched away.
But Frodo has been gently fading since Weathertop. His left arm became almost transparent, and from then on he suffered hurt after hurt, all the while being affected by the Ring as well. As Boromir's quotations showed, Frodo was not even himself by the time he reached Mount Doom, there was nothing of the old Frodo left. He'd faded so much through the journey that if he died doing the task he had put heart, soul and life into doing it might have been fitting.

Quote:
To me, the death of Frodo and Sam following the destruction of the Ring would have been unacceptably dire. But the fear that they might lose their lives combined with the joy when they are saved makes for an intensely moving experience.
It's almost too much of a happy ending though. Two Hobbits manage to get the whole way through Mordor, one carrying a weight only a Maia can bear, and then the land explodes around them and yet they both survive. Bittersweet moments were mentioned, here is the opportunity for a perfect one. Gandalf goes in to rescue them, but only finds one alive. There is joy in that one is saved, but sadness that one could not be. If you want a truly noble sacrifice, how about one life to save the world.

Quote:
For me the fate of the characters is a reflection of the major themes of the book, renewal, the triumph of hope over despair, and fellowship over self aggrandisement.
And sacrifice for the betterment of others. The charge of the Rohirrim for example, they didn't expect to be able to defeat Sauron's army, but they intended to save as many lives as they could. Or the march against the Black Gate, which was pretty much a suicide mission, done solely to allow Frodo and Sam to reach Mount Doom. With the former of these examples we see personal sacrifice with Theoden dying, and in the latter we see the despair of those not allowed to lay their lives on the line to try and save that of others (Merry and Eowyn).

Quote:
I don't quite know how to say this, but are there others who sometimes wish they lived in a time or place where Elves or Hobbits were more than a figment of our imaginations?
I absolutely agree, Child. Our relentless pushing forward means we don't see the magic behind things, always seeking to explain it. To live in such a world as Tolkien created would be amazing.
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Old 07-28-2006, 11:38 PM   #14
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I definitely belong to those who thinks it was absolutely essential to have Frodo survive the destroyal of the Ring. There is a message in there, and I think it is (as was mentioned) due to Tolkien's wartime experiences.

How many men in our world have survived war physically, but not spiritually, psychologically, mentally? They come back to their normal lives and find that they no longer fit in, that their experiences have changed them too much for life to ever be normal again. Often, it also happens to men who have been prisoners of war, for example, that they come back and expect things to be as they were before, but life has moved on without them for too long, and they are no longer needed.

Remember how Lt. Dan wished he had not survived in "Forrest Gump"? He thought he should have died a noble, heroic death. Well, sometimes death is a convenient way out of coping with life. Frodo is the character who shows us all of this, with an ending more bittersweet than his death could have been.
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Old 07-29-2006, 05:25 AM   #15
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Very true Esty, when people have accepted their death as inevitable, coping with life can seem very hard, and that in itself can be alienating since everyone expects them to be jsut happy to be alive.

Kath, I didn't mean you personally regarding seeing the survival of major characters as a weakness ... it is a muchmore general phenomenon - but I would revise the comment that it is a modern one - I think it is more cyclical. I think current literary/ media critics are often very much of the gritty realism school and like their endings bleak. At the other point in the cycle you have such travesties as Nahum Tate rewriting the end of Lear so that Cordelia doesn't die because it was so contrary to the worldview of the time.

I also realise I forget to state why Eowyn's rebirth is important - simply because she chooses life and with it to be a healer, gardener and mother. All are important functions for the health of her new homeland. One of the reasons Gondor fell into decline was that its ruler became more concerned with their ancestors than their progeny. Minas Tirith is a stone city in the Stoningland, it needs gardens and life. Given that Denethor, for all his fine qualities, ultimately failed and in his own despair tried to kill Faramir which would have guaranteed the end of his line - which in the light of the importance that Tolkien puts on bloodlines is a final denial of hope - I think it is important that Faramir marries and although Eowyn wears his mother's mantle, unlike poor Finduilas she has not been crushed by the shadow. It is as much a reaffirmation of hope as the finding of the white tree.

So while I think these characters survive for a reason, and to get back closer to the topic, I think that the whole end of the story would have had to be changed if Frodo and Sam had died - imagine the return to the Shire without them . And like others, I think that the ending as it stands is much more poignant - for Frodo to be saved from certain death to be returned to a home he so loves but can no longer live in would be too cruel were it not for the opprotunity for a kind of healing in West. However that boon is not itself without its cost. Tolkien gives few straightforward happy endings ....
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Old 07-29-2006, 10:41 AM   #16
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I can't help feeling that Tolkien wished to explore the effect of war on a survivor, someone who goes through the worst trauma imaginable & survives it. Sam, for all his suffering, does not go through the worst experience - Frodo does. Frodo is broken by what he goes through, but survives. The final chapter would not have been as powerful if Sam alone had survived. Frodo had to be taken to the lowest point a human could reach & still go on. Tolkien stated that Frodo expected to die in achieving the Quest. The fact that he didn't, but survived, broken & without hope, is the point.

My feeling is that Frodo had to survive - Tolkien owed a debt to those who survived the war he had fought in, not to those who died. The ones who died had found peace & could be allowed to rest. Those who survived were the ones who mattered, because they were the forgotten ones (as Esty points out). Having Frodo survive forces the reader to deal with what survivors of horror have to live with. Its too easy for us to mourn the dead, wear our poppies in November, lay a wreath & think of them as stories that have come to an end & move on. Through Frodo Tolkien forces us to confront the reality of the survivors of horror who have to live on with their experiences. They are living instances of the fact that wars don't end when the ceasefire is announced & the peace treaties signed. Wars go on as long as the survivors live. Frodo was still fighting the War of the Ring till he left Middle-earth, still trudging through Mordor, still struggling up the Mountain, still claiming the Ring. Over & over & over. His wounds never healed, he never was able to find rest.

The fact is, all the others were able to move on & find a new life - which most of the survivors of WWI did. Some weren't - & Frodo personifies them - the ones who needed to find peace but could not.

Now, this is not to treat LotR as an allegory in any way. Frodo is a broken survivor of the War of the Ring, but there are always broken survivors of Wars - in the Primary (& occasionally in Secondary) world(s); & not just broken survivors of wars, but of violence, rape, abuse - those who have to continue on without hope. The ignored & forgotten ones who we wish would go away because their very existence denies us the chance to pretend that we can all live happily ever after, whatever happens to us.

It would have been so much easier for us if Frodo had died on the Mountain, because then we wouldn't have been stuck with him moping around & making us miserable. Or if he didn't have the decency to die then at least he could have snapped out of it for our sakes so we could enjoy Aragorn's & Sam's weddings & had the 'And they all lived happily ever after.' that we deserved after our long journey through Middle-earth. But no, that bloody Frodo has to hang around, getting under our feet, making us feel guiilty, when all we really wanted was to enjoy Sam's healing of the Shire & a quiet pint in the Green Dragon.

There's always one who has to spoil the fun...
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Old 07-29-2006, 11:11 AM   #17
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Davem,

You've said this so very well. I do agree with what both you and Esty have said.
It makes me wonder what harsh dreams and distortions of reality Tolkien himself suffered after his return from the war. There must have been a lot that was never publicly expressed: both his own personal response and the suffering that he could see other veterans going through.

Do his diary contains any entries for the immediate post-war period, or was that writing done at a later date? I don't have Garth handy right now, but I suspect that even he could only dig out so much. Certainly the letters exchanged after the deaths of Tolkien's friends were suggestive. Still, there is so much in any individual's life that we don't know: things that are kept private and only hinted at in rare personal conversations. I have a feeling we are seeing only the tip of an iceberg here.
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Old 07-29-2006, 01:52 PM   #18
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Not happy endings, Lommy, the LotR doesn't have a happy ending.
That was actually partly sarcastic comment. But LotR does have a happy ending - in a way - for Frodo and Sam. And I'd still call LotR's ending more happy than sad, though that does not mean it ha a happy one. (Hey, we could start a new poll: "Does LotR have a happy or a sad ending?" )
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Bittersweet moments were mentioned, here is the opportunity for a perfect one. Gandalf goes in to rescue them, but only finds one alive. There is joy in that one is saved, but sadness that one could not be. If you want a truly noble sacrifice, how about one life to save the world.
I see your point, but I disagree.

Who of them you'd condemn to death, Frodo or Sam, and not break the story?

Frodo's fate of losing the Shire after saving it is one of the most sorrowful events in the LotR and very important for the plot. It adds the famous bittersweetness and takes the ending further away from a clear happy ending. Frodo's going to west emphasises and adds to the fading of the Elves. Thereby, in my opinion, he couldn't die on Mount Doom.

In fairytales and in Christian faith's main doctrines, which were both important to Tolkien, good is rewarded (and evil punished). Such a good and loyal person who never failed as Sam couldn't be rewarded with death in a hope-forsaken place, though he craves to see his home, sweetheart and old father again. Also, Sam is very important for the healing of the Shire. No other character could easily take his place in it. So, in my opinion, he couldn't die on Orodruin either.

So, in my opinion, there would have been no point in killing neither Frodo nor Sam only to make a more sorrowful and bitter ending, (because they're both essential for the later story).
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Old 07-29-2006, 02:41 PM   #19
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This makes some sense morm, but I think that people could have coped with Frodo dying. Not Sam perhaps, but Frodo yes.
It is funny, I feal the other way. I think there is a good reason to let Frodo live, we need to see the change that has happend and wich cannot be revoked.

Personaly I don't think that Sam is that important after Orodruin. . . atleast I think that what ever changes there was in his esteem in the Shire, could have been shown in Merry and Pippin. I might be influenced by the fact, that I at times find Sam annoying.

I actually think it could work out quite nicely with Sam dying. . . If you don't care about the christian doctrines that Lommy speaks of, that is.
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Old 07-29-2006, 02:54 PM   #20
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Personaly I don't think that Sam is that important after Orodruin. . . atleast I think that what ever changes there was in his esteem in the Shire, could have been shown in Merry and Pippin. I might be influenced by the fact, that I at times find Sam annoying.

I actually think it could work out quite nicely with Sam dying. . . If you don't care about the christian doctrines that Lommy speaks of, that is.
Well, at least if he had died Tolkien should have written Galadreil to give the earth to someone else, or Frodo to take Sam's gift with him and spread it around in his memory...

But I still think he couldn't have died. That, I think, wouldn't have made the story more bittersweet, only over-tragic. I like the plot the way it is.
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Old 07-29-2006, 07:27 PM   #21
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Hey, we could start a new poll: "Does LotR have a happy or a sad ending?"
Thinl髆ien

This is a great question, although I haven't checked to see if there's already a similar thread. I actually think a general thread would work better than a poll. Otherwise people might just "punch the button" and not explain why they felt that way.

If forced to choose, I would vote "yes, but...."
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Old 07-29-2006, 08:32 PM   #22
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Thinl髆ien

This is a great question, although I haven't checked to see if there's already a similar thread. I actually think a general thread would work better than a poll. Otherwise people might just "punch the button" and not explain why they felt that way.
There is a similar thread. . .in fact, there is a thread talking explicitly about that. It's called 'Happy ending. . .or is it?' I could figure out how to make a link, but as I don't know if I have time nor wants, I won't do that now. It's a good thread, actually. I forget who started it.

-- Folwren

EDIT: I'm adding this having read more than just Child's last post. Once again, Boromir, I apologize - I have not read all of the entire thread since my last post. I have read most of it, but the posts that I have not read, I haven't even glanced over. However, my flitting eye would just happen to catch on this concerning Sam, wouldn't it? *sigh* Ever to his rescue.

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Personaly I don't think that Sam is that important after Orodruin. . . atleast I think that what ever changes there was in his esteem in the Shire, could have been shown in Merry and Pippin. I might be influenced by the fact, that I at times find Sam annoying.

I actually think it could work out quite nicely with Sam dying. . . If you don't care about the christian doctrines that Lommy speaks of, that is.
Sam is absolutely important! Even after Orodruin! He is one of the main charactesr, and he is the main character that makes the ending so good. If it were not for Sam, the end wouldn't have been what it is. Sam Gamgee was one of the only reasons that Frodo ever stayed so long, and he was also one of the only reasons that his departure is so heartbreaking. Sam's homecoming at the very end, and his famous line that will always be quoted in my home ('Well, I'm back,' he said) is what finally tells the reader, "Yes, everything is alright, even if Frodo did have to leave."

By the way, in my sometimes overberaing opinion, Sam is never annoying. Amusing, thick headed (atimes, not often, but sometimes), childish, but not annoying.

The edit is longer than the original post, but ah me.

And for any of you think this is straying from the point of thread. . .I wouldn't say so. This is a further explenation of why Sam shouldn't have died.

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Old 04-02-2014, 03:22 AM   #23
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I rediscovered this thread looking for something else and thought I would bump it up partly because IMO it is worth a read and partly because since A Game of Thrones has come to prominence I have read comments implying that Martin is superior because he isn't afraid to kill off major characters. Now I can't judge that as I haven't got around to readin ASOIAF yet but this old thread does illustrate that Tolkien's choices are far more complex than mere squeamishness.
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Old 04-02-2014, 03:31 AM   #24
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I rediscovered this thread looking for something else and thought I would bump it up partly because IMO it is worth a read and partly because since A Game of Thrones has come to prominence I have read comments implying that Martin is superior because he isn't afraid to kill off major characters. Now I can't judge that as I haven't got around to readin ASOIAF yet but this old thread does illustrate that Tolkien's choices are far more complex than mere squeamishness.
Tolkien has never been afraid to kill his characters, but the LOTR has always been told from a Hobbit POV, which is one of the great failings of the film.

Frodo and Sam are everyday men, Frodo richer than most, but get caught up in a traumatic experience for the Common Good. Frodo is pushed to his very limits and ultimately he breaks under pressure that is too great for him to handle. Effectively Frodo can never return back to what he was. It's a very sad and bittersweet ending that Frodo can never truly recover in this world after all he gave.

Sam on the other hand is the traditional and 'lucky' hero. His experiences whilst absolutely awful are do not completely destroy him. It leaves a stain that he cannot heal, but he can at least get on with a normal life. He marries the girl and has a happy family life.
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Old 04-02-2014, 06:32 AM   #25
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While noting the observation that Tolkien always planned on having Frodo survive, I've always thought an interesting plot development (and one taking away a criticism by some at the time the book came out that just about all the major characters survive) would have to had Frodo die from Shelob's sting and Sam then carry the Ring the rest of the way---just him and Gollum.

Biggest minus might have been having to rework the bittersweet ending.
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Old 04-02-2014, 07:47 AM   #26
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I agree with the observation that Frodo's survival specifically lets the reader see the emotional and spiritual aftermath of his undertaking. Dying was what Frodo expected after the Ring was destroyed; his sense of contentment with that is evident.

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'Well, this is the end, Sam Gamgee,' said a voice by his side. And there was Frodo, pale and worn, and yet himself again; and in his eyes there was peace now, neither strain of will, nor madness, nor any fear.
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As a survivor, Frodo must confront what he saw as his "failure" at Mount Doom: not resisting the Ring at the end. It does serve to make the story more poignant.

Sam lives to be the conduit of history to future Hobbits. Through his children, he passes on his account of the War, and hopefully gives them a new found appreciation of the cost of their long time prosperity and peace.
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Old 04-04-2014, 12:24 AM   #27
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Thumbs up

Tolkien says Frodo wrote the book, and later Sam finished it. Merry, Pippin and the others told them their tales, and this was how the Red Book was written. If, Tolkien had killed Frodo and Sam, who'd have known what happened in their journey! Also, their deaths wouldn't seem like sacrifice, instead they'd be like victims of the Shadow. This way, Sam was there to tell the story, and Frodo's ultimate sacrifice became a noble one.
P.S. I apologise if someone has posted this thought before, I didn't the entire thread.
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Old 04-05-2014, 01:59 PM   #28
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How did I miss this back in the day?

Anyway, the observations about Frodo being broken war survivor are apt. Somehow this puts me in mind of Tolkien's dream of the great wave, which preceded WWI, so only if dreams can be prophetic would this work: could there be a correlation between the wave and the war?
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Old 04-05-2014, 06:58 PM   #29
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Somehow this puts me in mind of Tolkien's dream of the great wave, which preceded WWI, so only if dreams can be prophetic would this work: could there be a correlation between the wave and the war?
In Letters I can find no mention by Tolkien that he had any knowledge of the impetus of his "Atlantis" dream. Curiously, he does note that his son Michael was visited by the same dream, but that M. was the only one of his children so affected.
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Old 04-21-2014, 03:29 PM   #30
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Such an interesting discussion, I've gained many new insights from your posts! Thank you.
I would agree that the ending of LOTR is anything but happy - surviving a traumatic experience is in many ways more severe than 'a glorious death'. Frodo was not allowed noble 'martyrdom' - there was that momentary peace that he felt at Sam's side once he was relieved of the Ring, had Frodo died at that point he would have died a typical hero, relieved and immortalised by death, forever celebrated by those who remembered him.
Having Frodo return to the Shire, and to fade into relative obscurity in the eyes of the people he sought to save, is really very sad. He has no peace, tormented by memories, guilt, loss and physical hurt; he exists merely on the peripheries of Shire life.
Not every hero gets to bow out in a blaze of glory, sometimes they will simply fade, perhaps forgotten even - how many of these heroes live amongst us, every day in our own communities. The ending is achingly sad yet beautiful.

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Old 04-21-2014, 03:32 PM   #31
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It is interesting that Tolkien wrote the last chapters, more or less as Michael's guest, during the period where Michael was just putting his life together as a "broken survivor" with severe PTSD.
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Old 04-25-2014, 05:54 PM   #32
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More to the point, why didn't Gandalf and Elrond save everyone a lot of time and trouble and just hand the ring to Gwaihir and let him fly into Mordor and drop the ring into the fire?
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Old 04-25-2014, 06:39 PM   #33
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More to the point, why didn't Gandalf and Elrond save everyone a lot of time and trouble and just hand the ring to Gwaihir and let him fly into Mordor and drop the ring into the fire?
The "story" explanation could be that the Sauron's watch upon the borders of Mordor extended to the air above. The Nazg鹟 had flying steeds, and no doubt there were other flying creatures in Mordor that could have attacked the Eagles. Also, we are talking about Sauron. I don't think it's far-fetched for him to have the power to somehow stop or kill Eagles.

The "real" explanation, is that it would have been a short, boring story. That Hollywood didn't roll with an ending like that in the films is incredible.
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Old 04-25-2014, 08:23 PM   #34
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More to the point, why didn't Gandalf and Elrond save everyone a lot of time and trouble and just hand the ring to Gwaihir and let him fly into Mordor and drop the ring into the fire?
Because no one could destroy the Ring voluntarily. It wouldn't have made the slightest bit of difference had they rushed it there on Gwaihir, and besides, in these circumstances without Sauron being distracted, as he was at the Morannon, he would have easily identified the Ringbearer and recaptured the Ring.

The point is: it's impossible to just "drop the ring into the fire." There was no "easy" solution for dealing with the Ring. Let's assume Gwaihir's sent in alone. Being an Eagle, would he have claimed it? He was a sentient being, so I think we have to assume that he would. Even if Middle-earth was a Dungeons and Dragons world where Gandalf could cast some teleportation spell to transfer Bilbo or Frodo or himself or whoever from Bag End to the Sammath Naur instantaneously they still would have refused to "drop the ring into the fire." They would claim it, put it on, reveal themselves to Sauron and be destroyed. The Ring was destroyed by sheer accumulation of circumstances - which is to say, Fate, or the Will of Eru (or maybe by itself operating Frodo's curse on Gollum, or some combination thereon).
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Old 04-25-2014, 08:47 PM   #35
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More to the point, why didn't Gandalf and Elrond save everyone a lot of time and trouble and just hand the ring to Gwaihir and let him fly into Mordor and drop the ring into the fire?
The most obvious answer would be that you would condense the story from a three-book novel to a three-page instruction manual. And one page would be in English followed by the same instructions in Spanish and French.
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Old 04-26-2014, 06:10 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by Mouth of Sauron
More to the point, why didn't Gandalf and Elrond save everyone a lot of time and trouble and just hand the ring to Gwaihir and let him fly into Mordor and drop the ring into the fire?
Gwaihir would not have accepted the task.
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Old 04-26-2014, 08:16 AM   #37
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Gwaihir would not have accepted the task.
Wasn't he a Messenger of Manwë? This Eagle theory is too simple and may I say silly?
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Old 04-26-2014, 09:24 AM   #38
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Wasn't he a Messenger of Manwë? This Eagle theory is too simple and may I say silly?
The Eagles in general were servants of Manw. Therefore, as lmp said, they would not have accepted such a task. The point of the Istari was to give the Valar an indirect means of aiding Middle-earth against Sauron, not to do the job for them.
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Old 04-26-2014, 08:43 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post
The Eagles in general were servants of Manwë. Therefore, as lmp said, they would not have accepted such a task. The point of the Istari was to give the Valar an indirect means of aiding Middle-earth against Sauron, not to do the job for them.
Yes, and weren't the Elves and Men supposed to fight on their own after a battle(which one I can't say, I was told this by a friend of mine who's read The Sil)? That's why they wouldn't participate in the War of the Ring. Isn't it? Is there any other explanation?
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I read few posts where it's said that Tolkien got too connected to his characters, and that's why he didn't kill them. I'd heard somewhere that initially Tolkien planned to kill Pippin, but he could not endure the loss. So he killed Boromir (why?? ).
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Old 04-27-2014, 06:05 AM   #40
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At the risk of sending this thread in an entirely new direction, Tolkien was able to kill Boromir and "endure the loss" because with that warrior-prince's death, he was well within the borders of Northern heroic epic theme.

As for Pippin, if one reads the various events of his life, including the words Gandalf speaks to him in warning, there is plenty of foreshadowing for his death. Personally, after reading the battle at the Gates, I thought that Pippin was dead. So Tolkien was well within his artistic rights to choose to have had him killed, because it would have worked; but it would have changed the tale, made it darker, especially on the return trip, and all the events in the Scouring of the Shire.

I'm rusty on the Sil and so will leave that question to be answered by others.
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