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Old 09-06-2004, 01:31 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Silmaril LotR -- Book 1 - Chapter 12 - Flight to the Ford

This is the last chapter in Book 1. Though much of it concerns the injured Frodo and Strider’s efforts to save his life, the other hobbits have their parts to play, and one of the best-loved minor characters (though unknown to movie fans) shows up – Glorfindel. The first tiny clue to Arwen’s existence is given, though few readers will have been aware of it at first reading. There is also a fore-shadowing of the Fell Beasts. The troll “encounter” provides a light-hearted look back at Bilbo’s adventures.

Sam is presumed to be the author of this chapter’s only poem; it gives the others – and us – an additional glimpse of abilities and depths as yet unknown in him.

The suspense with which the chapter ends is wonderfully written! We see a Frodo who still has some strength and resistance against the Ringwraiths, although we are left in uncertainty of his survival at the very end.

What are your impressions upon reading this chapter?
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Old 09-06-2004, 06:47 AM   #2
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Christopher Tolkien makes some interesting observations on an early draft of this chapter:
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In this chapter it is made plain that the commands of the Ring-wraiths are communicated worlessly to the bearer of the Ring, & that they have great power over his will. Moreover the idea has now entered that the wound of the Ring-wraith's knife produces, or begins to produce, a similar effect to that brought on by putting on the Ring: the world becomes shadowy & dim to Bingo, & at the end of the chapter he can see the riders plain, beneath the black wrappings that to others cloak their invisibility.
The Return of the Shadow
While he's referring to the early drafts, I think these points are very important. The morgul blade has the same effect on Frodo as the Ring, so it is another means of enslaving & 'wraithing' an individual. Also interesting is the way Frodo is passing into the otherworld, so again we are shown that there is another, underlying 'reality' going on beneath the surface. Its like there are two stories going on, or one story going on in two worlds. Both Glorfindel & the wraiths live in both worlds - yet is it the same supernatural dimension that he & they inhabit? This would appear to bring up all kinds of metaphysical problems & possibilities. Glorfindel manifests plainly to Frodo's eyes the Holy Light of Valinor, the Light of the Trees, which he had known before Morgoth slew them, & he has spent time in the Halls of Mandos, & been purified of his 'sin' in the Rebellion. This quite probably makes him one of the most powerful beings in Middle earth. It also explains why the Nazgul flee from him.

I don't know how uncomfortable some others felt with the episode with the trolls, but to me it felt a little 'forced', as though Tolkien put it in there in order simply to tie the 'New Hobbit' in with the 'Old'. These stone trolls, with bird's nests behind their ears seem too out of place. Still, it got us Sam's song, so I'll be forgiving. It also got us his declaration that he doesn't want to be either a wizard or a warrior, & maybe, just maybe, thats a glimpse of the reason he's able to resist the lure of the Ring - he simply doesn't want anything it could offer him.

Finally, the confrontation with the riders - this shows Tolkien's superiority over the movie scriptwriters, as the culmination of this chapter simply blows away the rather silly version in the movie. Frodo's defiance of the Nazgul, in his near death state, is so moving, so inspiring - though his attempt at commanding them to obey him possibly has darker implications - that what the movie offers us in its place is simply pathetic.

(Oh, I noticed for the first time on this reading that the Nazgul attempt to stop Frodo with the Black Breath:
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A breath of deadly cold pierced him like a spear, as with a last spurt, like a flash of white fire, the elf-horse speeding as if on wings, passed right before the face of the foremost rider.
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Old 09-06-2004, 06:55 AM   #3
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Interesting thoughts, davem, and they prompted another thought - was Frodo the only one who saw Glorfindel shining in the light of Valinor? Was he able to see that because of the influence of the Ring? Could only those who had some connection with the spiritual realm see the light? If so, then there had to be at least some contact between the spiritual realms of light and darkness; apparently the Wraiths saw the light as well. I'm reminded of Biblical accounts of battles between the forces of good and evil, unseen by earthly beings.
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Old 09-06-2004, 08:50 AM   #4
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Silmaril

About the light... I think that being able to see it must have something to do with a connection to the other world. Elves must be able to see the light on each other, since they are very close to the "spiritual realm". It must be very unusual for a mortal, like Frodo, to see the light because mortals-men, dwarves, and hobbits, are more concerned with the real world, for lack of a better term.

I think Frodo could see the light because of the effects of the Morgul blade drawing him away to the spirit world.

However, I don't think Wraiths are in one place or another: They have no visible form, but are able to affect the real world. Frodo was being drawn to their halfway world and so could see the light of Valinor because he was partially in the spiritual realm.
---

I love this chapter...It starts out rather grim with Frodo being stabbed and everything, but at this point in the book, the lighter tone still has its moments, perhaps the last moments we will see of the more light writing... The whole thing with the trolls is a great example. Though at first the hobbits are frightened by the possibility of real trolls, the scene turns into a lighthearted adventure in which Strider gets a chance to joke around a little and all the hobbits get their last laugh for a while.

I loved this, too:
Quote:
'Where did you come by that [poem], Sam?' asked Pippin. 'I've never heard those words before.'
Sam muttered something inaudible. 'It's out of his own head, of course,' said Frodo. 'I am learning a lot about Sam Gamgee on this journey. First he was a conspirator, now he's a jester. He'll end up by becoming a wizard--or a warrior!'
'I hope not,' said Sam. 'I don't want to be neither!'
On a first read-through, it looks like Frodo's just carrying on with the light mood of the episode, but, coming back to this after knowing already what happens in the rest of the story, there is a definite element of truth in what Frodo says in what looks like a joking manner. Sam does become something of a warrior, and even has the Orc partols in Mordor thinking he's a fierce Elf with a sword or maybe a battle-axe!
---
I agree with davem about the scene at the ford: The book version is much more inspiring and intense. This is the hero-Frodo that doesn't come out so much in the movies. Frodo shows a great inner strength that I don't notice as much in the movie. By the force of his own will, he holds the wraiths off for as long as he can. He resists to the last, fighting so hard against the rising darkness...compared to the movie where he sits like a dummy in front of Arwen on the horse and does absoloutely nothing. I love the movies, but this scene is done much more effectively in the book. The emotions inspired are very different... PJ was going for something else... Tolkien's Frodo inspires the readers and shows just how strong he actually is... The movie shows us how strong Arwen supposedly is. Frodo's battle is much more powerful.

I don't really have an issue with Arwen being there in the movie: If they had kept Glorfindel in, but had kept Frodo weak and just sitting there, I would have had a problem with that, too. I understand that they needed a way to introduce Arwen, so I'm not picking on the fact that it was her: I'm picking on the fact that it isn't Frodo's heroism that we see.
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Old 09-06-2004, 12:34 PM   #5
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However, I don't think Wraiths are in one place or another: They have no visible form, but are able to affect the real world.
The Nazgul are product of what I call "Saurons Perfect Necromancy (SPN)".
I like to think of it like this;
The Barrow Wights were essays in the craft, just like the lesser rings were to the Smiths of Eregion.
The Nazgul were perfection in the craft, Like the Tree Elven rings.
Do you see where I am coming from?

Back on topic;
Glorfindel tells Strider to keep the hilt of the Morgul blade, so that Elrond can read the runes from it. To me this seemed very similar to the happenings in the Hobbit concerning Glamdring and Orcrist.

Also, I found that here, the Black riders seem to embed their greatest fears in Frodo. Although, to me, they seemed more threatening when they were an unknown shadow in the shire. At least back in the shire Frodo ran but with not as much fear as he had now. He now knows what they are and where they are from, this seems to leave him even more afraid of the, with obvious reasons.

Quote:
Fear now filled Frodo's mind. He thought no longer of his sword.
At Weather-top Frodo actually considered fighting, but now he is certain that he cannot match up to them, and with no hope falls into disperse.

I think it is here that the desire for the ring works against Sauron. If it was not so precious to Frodo, his will may have broken there and he would have given up the ring with no second thought. However, his great desire for the ring helps him to hold out ageist them.
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Old 09-06-2004, 01:00 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Hookbill
Glorfindel tells Strider to keep the hilt of the Morgul blade, so that Elrond can read the runes from it. To me this seemed very similar to the happenings in the Hobbit concerning Glamdring and Orcrist.
Or perhaps the morgul blade had a dual existence, it existed in slightly different forms in both worlds - its 'normal' world form had no writings on the hilt, but its otherworld form did. This opens up a whole new 'dimension' - hidden symbols & messages which can only be seen by those 'walkers between the worlds' like Glorfindel, the wraiths & Frodo. An interesting thing for me is that before treating Frodo's wound with Athelas, Aragorn takes time out to sit down & sing a song over the knife hilt! Why was this important. It reminds me of an old folkbelief (not exactly comparable, I admit), the so-called 'weapon-salve':
Quote:
In 1631, William Foster published a treatise called Hoplo-Chrisma Spongus; or, A Sponge to Wipe Away the Weapon Salve, wherein he sought to prove that this alleged remedy was magical & unlawful - he might have added, futile & imaginary.

Werenfels says; - 'If the superstitious person be wounded by any chance, he applies the salve, not to the wound, but what is more effectual, to the weapon by which he recieved it.
'Dictionary of Faiths & Folklore', WC Hazlitt (1905)
Athelas is also interesting, as its healing 'power' seems to come as much from Aragorn as from any inherent virtue it may have. (Of course, this is contradicted by a comment made by Tolkien that the healing herb Huan brings to Luthien to cure Beren was also Athelas.)
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Old 09-06-2004, 01:32 PM   #7
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For me, in this chapter Frodo proves himself as a hero for the first time. (of course you can argue there's that Barrow Downs scene when he's cutting off that spidery hand, but that was a desperate gesture, preceeded by many arguments for and against that valiant deed, some not very hero-like...):

I remember reading for the first time and becoming more and more impressed with Frodo, whereas before I was just patiently expectant. What really got to me from the start was his ability to quietly and calmly endure debilitating pains and later on, the fact that he did not ruminate on his very likely to be tragic future, not to mention the tragic outcome of his quest. The chapter is generally from Frodo's point of view, and the only time Frodo allows himself to sink in dark thoughts is when he wonders how they will get on with their journey, seeing as he's unable to walk. I find that really admirable about him. And, of course no less admirable is his final stand at the Ford. I agree with davem that the movie belittles a scene that speaks volumes about Frodo and his desires and courage. It's funny that you used the word 'inspiring' - I was about to comment that the famous line in which Frodo invokes Elbereth and Luthien the Fair sounds like it was 'inspired' to him, by whom I don't know, maybe by the proximity of Rivendell, maybe by Glorfindel.

Glorfindel is another revelation of this chapter, and one of my favourite characters. His presence, especially in the context of these troubled events is comforting and protective. He also represents a reader's first encounter with a really powerful Elf. His powers are hinted at even from the moment of his appearance, as Frodo perceives the 'white light' that engulfs him, and later on, as he is able to ease Frodo's pain and clear his vision, even involuntarily, with a simple touch. Speaking of Glorfindel's appearance on his horse, Asfaloth, here's a line that I love:
Quote:
Clearer and nearer now the bells jingled,
and clippety-clip came the quick trotting feet
As you notice, it almost rhymes and it has a lighthearted rhythm to go with it, as if to assure that this is indeed no Black Rider who approaches.
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Old 09-06-2004, 02:23 PM   #8
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The Wraith-world

While reading this chapter I had some musings on the Wraith-world similar to davem's.
Quote:
Both Glorfindel & the wraiths live in both worlds - yet is it the same supernatural dimension that he & they inhabit?
I would argue that it is in fact the same spiritual dimension, albeit different parts of it. When Frodo puts on the Ring and enters into the wraith-world, he sees them as pale-shining white figures. Glorfindel is a brightly shining figure of white light. In this way they are similar. Maybe the difference in brightness has to do with the good and evil of the being. It would seem that the wraith-world is a dimension of dim shadows in which shapes are clear but there is very little coloration. This can be gotten from Aragorn, in chapter 11
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"They themselves do not see the world of light as we do, but our shapes cast shadows in their minds, which only the noon sun destroys; and in the dark they perceive many signs and forms that are hidden from us: then they are most to be feared."
compared to Frodo here
Quote:
Frodo's pain had redoubled, and during the day things about him faded to shadows of ghostly gray. He almost welcomed the coming of night, for then the world seemed less pale and empty.
and here
Quote:
With his last failing senses Frodo heard cries, and it seemed to him that he saw, beyond the Riders that hesitated on the shore, a shining figure of white light; and behind it ran small shadowy forms waving flames, that flared red in the grey mist that was falling over the world.
Both of these examples are from later stages in the journey from Weathertop to Rivendell when Frodo is falling more and more into the wraith-world and seeing things like the Nazgűl. An interesting thing is that Frodo was able to see Glorfindel revealed in his full majesty while not wearing the Ring. This could be an indicator of how close he was coming to succombing to the Morgul blade and the Riders. The Riders too were able to perceive Glorfindel's light, according to Gandalf in the next chapter. This I would see as an argument that they are a part of the same spiritual dimension.

The first quote from Aragorn also touches on a point that I think is relevant to the Morgul blade: "they perceive many signs and forms that are hidden from us." Later Glorfindel says about the signs on the hilt: "maybe your eyes cannot see them." This would seem to indicate that only those with a connection to the spiritual realm can see/read the signs on the sword. The blade seems to have a very tight connection to the spirtual dimension; if it were just a regular sword I do not think the broken sliver would have continued to work its way inward. This is also a possible reason for why the blade disintegrated.
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Old 09-06-2004, 02:38 PM   #9
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Tolkien has spent almost all of book I (with the exception of chapters 1, 6, 7, and 8) building up the suspense surrounding the Black Riders. It is in this chapter that the suspense really pays off, and gives us a climax to the first book that is both exciting and fulfilling.

Frodo's journey in this chapter seems almost to be a miniature version of his journey in Mordor. Here it is the Morgul blade that threatens to turn him into a wraith; later it is the Ring. In both cases he becomes increasingly weak and distant, so that the real business of journeying is handled by his companions. But in both cases he is in the end separated from his companions and forced to handle things by himself. And that's where the important difference comes - in this chapter he succeeds; he has his moment of heroism where he stands up to the Black Riders.

The climax here is, as Davem has already pointed out, far better than what Jackson and his team came up with. It completely undermines the scene for Frodo to have a companion at the end. In the book, there is sort of a miniature eucatastrophe. It appears not only unlikely that Frodo will escape; it appears hopeless. He is alone across the ford from the Nazgul. He cannot outrun them and he knows no reason that they should not be able to simply cross the river and reach him. He is saved by something totally unexpected - the power of Elrond over the river. It's not a huge climax, but it fits Tolkien's usual climactic structure perfectly.

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Old 09-06-2004, 09:46 PM   #10
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1420!

Aiwendil:
Quote:
It appears not only unlikely that Frodo will escape; it appears hopeless. He is alone across the ford from the Nazgul. He cannot outrun them and he knows no reason that they should not be able to simply cross the river and reach him. He is saved by something totally unexpected - the power of Elrond over the river. It's not a huge climax, but it fits Tolkien's usual climactic structure perfectly.
Very nice point made about the structure. You get that structure throughout the story I believe. As one example, the end of the book, the destruction of the ring. Frodo fails, he decides to keep the ring for himself, and then it ends up in the hands of Gollum, and then everyone is thinking sure as heck ain't gonna be destroyed now. Well in all stories it eventually would but right now you are thinking theres still a lot of pages to go, wonder what will happen. Then something no one expects happens, some very "unusual," Gollum in all his joy slips and falls into Mount Doom.

Another point of Tolkien's structure and I wish I could draw a picture of it. But anyway...

Ok, start out, many small problems start happening, which causes our interest to be hightened. So now the "storyline" rises, and keeps rising until the highest point the "climax." Then there is the solution to the climax, and the "storyline" falls. But then another small problem/task occurs in the shire so there is a short rise at the end to catch our attention. That rise/fall after the climax is what is referred to as a "denuement" (spelling? its a stupid french term). Something that isn't very common amongst writes, most "storylines" end at the highest point, the climax then the solution. But, there are a few writers who will end their story with the slight rise in the end.
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Old 09-07-2004, 06:32 AM   #11
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Boromir88 wrote:
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As one example, the end of the book, the destruction of the ring.
Exactly. Tolkien clearly has a favorite structure for climaxes, which he applies to the small as well as to the big.

Quote:
But then another small problem/task occurs in the shire so there is a short rise at the end to catch our attention.
You're right; the scouring of the Shire is something most authors (and screenwriters) would never have done. But is there a similar after-climax here in book I or is this particular structure one he only used for the true climax? Perhaps, on an intra-Middle-earth view, the untold battle to save Frodo's life from the Morgul blade plays that role. But from a reader's point of view that isn't part of the structure of book I.
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Old 09-07-2004, 01:57 PM   #12
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[Frodo] bitterly regretted his foolishness, and reproached himself for weakness of will; for he now perceived that in putting on the Ring he obeyed not his own desire but the commanding wish of his enemies. He wondered if he would remain maimed for life, and how they would now manage to continue their journey. He felt too weak to stand.
This is one of those really great passages that Tolkien excels at. It looks like a simple description, but there are wonders to be gained from longer attention. My favourite is the telling phrase “maimed for life”. Frodo has been maimed for life, and not just in the sense that he will never fully heal, but that with this wound his ability to live well, to enjoy life, has been maimed. It hearkens to the end where he is too “maimed for life” and must seek healing in the lands and the time beyond life. I think this picks up on the points already made here about this chapter acting as a microcosm of Frodo’s whole journey.

The other aspect of the passage that I find compelling (and confusing – it’s usually one and the same thing) is the ambiguous way in which Frodo relates to his ‘failure’ at Weathertop. He offers us three different versions of what went wrong. First, he “regrets” his “foolishness”, implying that he made simple mistake, but one that he can learn from (like our favourite “fool of a Took” proves, one can overcome folly with greater wisdom and experience). At the same time, though, he “reproaches” – that is, he blames himself, not just “regretting” an unfortunate moment – for his “weakness of will.” So now it’s his fault at a more fundamental level; his will is weak. This is more disturbing than folly, for one can learn from one’s mistakes, but how can one strengthen one’s will? Possible, I suppose, but difficult. The last version is that he “obeyed” the “commanding wish” of the Witch King. So now it’s not entirely his fault, for he was being “commanded” by an outside force. So here we are with the old dilemma in our discussions of the Ring, presented in a compact form here, to be rehearsed at the Cracks of Doom in much more painful detail: is Frodo giving in to an outside force, is he failing in his own will, or is he making a mistake like anyone would? I think that the fact this is happening so early in his journeys bodes very badly for the success of the Quest!

The chapter also strengthens the resonance between Frodo and Aragorn. Aragorn says:

Quote:
‘There my heart is; but it is not my fate to sit in peace, even in the fair house of Elrond.’
And then later we get:

Quote:
He [Frodo] lay down again and passed into an uneasy dream, in which he walked on the grass in his garden in the Shire, but it seemed faint and dim, less clear than the tall black shadows that stood looking over the hedge.
For both of them, they are afflicted by their homeless state; more specifically, by the fact that they can find no rest at home, or even in the thought of home. Where their “hearts” are there is only shadow and danger that forces them away. But with Aragorn, this is a current state that can and will be fixed. For Frodo, it is now permanent, with his wounding by the Morgul blade and as is attested by the foreshadowed conclusion between himself and the Ring.

But, the chapter is not all dark, for it also hints at how Frodo will be able to succeed in his quest by highlighting the hobbitish nature that will let him destroy the Ring (or bring the Ring to the point where it can be destroyed). As they hobbits look at the stone that marks where the Dwarves hid the troll treasure:

Quote:
Frodo looked at the stone, and wished that Bilbo had brought home no treasure more perilous, nor any less easy to part with. ‘None at all,’ he said. ‘Bilbo gave it all away. He told me he did not feel it was really his, as it came from robbers.’
This is the whole point of being a hobbit it seems. We talked a lot about the mathoms and the practice of giving things away as being essential to the hobbit-spirit, and here we find that Frodo greatly admires his uncle for his ability to do precisely that. Just as Bilbo gave away the treasure he brought home from his adventure that “came from robbers” so too is Frodo now out to get rid of Bilbo’s last treasure – one that comes from the ultimate Robber, insofar as Sauron wants to take all of Middle-Earth for himself from those to whom it has been given.
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Old 09-07-2004, 02:36 PM   #13
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1420! Very well put.

Well put Fordhim I don't see how I can expand upon your points, for I think you covered it well. I will say about the whole "treasury came from robbers." It reminds me of a movie (that I can't really think of right now it might be Once upon a Time in the West), but it's where the person couldn't except "blood money" or "tainted money." Blood money, meaning that money that came from someone getting killed, or other illegal ways. In Bilbo's case this happens to be "tainted treasure" in which case he might not be able to live with that anymore and gives it up to Frodo. Which, as you say is a clue to the ending, Frodo we first see give up all that wealth of Bag End to his more hated relatives the Sackville-Bagginses, and then getting the ring to Mount Doom creating in oppurtunity for Frodo to be completely free of this "tainted treasure."

Also, here is a very pivotal part of the Book, the Wraiths are assailing Weathertop, so the Ring either stays in the hands of Frodo, or gets into the hands of Sauron's servants and ending all hope of destruction. Here we get to see the wraiths again failing to accomplish their mission, who knows why, maybe its because they aren't in possession of their 9 rings and aren't as powerful without them.

Aiwendil said:
Quote:
But is there a similar after-climax here in book I or is this particular structure one he only used for the true climax?
I wouldn't say so, because this "defeat of the wraiths" is only a temporary set back, and is still very unlikely the "quest" will succeed. I think to be able to say there is this "after-climax" in Book 1, you would have to find a solution to the "true climax," and that didn't happen. There was a temporary solution to this small, pivotal, story but in the end it didn't solve the "true climax" of the story.

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Old 09-08-2004, 12:58 PM   #14
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Healing

One thing that I have wondered for a while is that is if Aragorn's power in healing changes as the book progresses. When Frodo is injured, Aragorn's power is not enough. Is this just because Aragorn did not have the instrument necessary to remove the splinter in the wild? Or is it an extension of the idea of King as healer and that is only when Aragorn has effectively if not technically become king that he obtains his full power? I realise that the splinter was probably a major factor but the idea of a king having special healing powers was around for a long time in English history at least with Scrofula so I wonder how much was due to the actual kingship rather than the lineage.

The Black Breath also seems to have varied in its strength; Merry is relatively unscathed at Bree, here it is hard to tell how much Frodo is affected because of the physical injury, but it doesn't seem to be such a factor as it was for Eowyn and Merry at the Pelennor ( possible factors might be the greater power of the Witch King, proximity to Mordor, closer proximity to the Nazgul ie attacking him).

Another thing that I have puzzled over may have have its answers in some of the earlier discussion about the "other dimension" experienced by the wraiths and Glorfindel. It is that when Glorfindel touches Frodo's wound and he feels some comfort. Now I had wondered whether this was merely an elvish quirk or something more specific relating to Glorfindel as a powerful elf lord. Now I see it could be a more direct counteracting of the dark power by the light.

Finally on the subject of light: it hadn't really occured that Glorfindel revealed in his power might be something only Frodo might have seen. Gildor's company had a light about them if I remember correctly and I just assumed that making a mighty elf lord angry was just like increasing the wattage! But if it was something that only Frodo saw then it might tie into Gandalf's thoughts about Frodo in the next chapter, that he would become like a vessel of white light for those with the eyes to see it. I may be getting carried away here, but it seems to me that in a sense, this is Frodo's death. He has sustained an injury that will prevent him returning to his old life. He has crossed from the physical to the spiritual zone and although they leave their mark, none of the further injuries he will suffer kill him. There is the possible symbolism of the ford of Bruinen as either "crossing the river" in to death or as a kind of baptism into a new spiritual life. It may be far fetched but two other figures who are seen as vessels of white light are reborn - Glorfindel and Gandalf.

To return to solid ground from speculation, I would say that I love the way that this chapter "tidies in" Gildor. I used to think that it was a bit callous of him to abandon Frodo although I suppose he may have expected Gandalf to be at Bree and may have"tipped off" the rangers too so it is nice to know that he got messages back to rivendell (I am still digesting "osane kenta" sp? - I had wondered about elvish telepathy beforebut thought that the elves could possibly have got back to Rivendell that much more quickly).
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Old 09-08-2004, 01:13 PM   #15
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Fordim makes some important points (as usual). Its too easy to forget that Frodo is a hobbit from a non-violent culture (no hobbit of the Shire had ever killed another deliberately) who has never encountered physical violence in any form (unless we count Old Man Willow, but that was very ‘dreamlike). There have been warnings, & his room at the Prancing Pony had been ravaged, but now someone, something, had tried to kill him, & the wound he recieved was not even a normal stab wound, but one that could slowly kill him. Clearly he begins to suffer from post traumatic stress, which grows throughout this chapter. Beings are trying to kill him, simply because of the burden he carries. What we see are his attempts to make sense of it, blaming others, himself, circumstances.

What is clear is that he is the kind of person who will turn on himself & blame himself for circumstances outside his control, & we can see a foreshadowing of how he will end up. He makes himself into both a victim of circumstances & at the same time he sees himself as culpable - he has brought things on himself, its all his fault. He failed to act properly. We may feel at the end of the book almost like shaking Frodo & telling him not to blame himself, it wasn't his fault that he succumed to the power of the Ring, & he should forgive himself, but it seems even now that he's not capable of that - as far as he's concerned the terrrible things that happen to him are somehow 'deserved', he brings them on himself through his weakness & foolishness. How many times throughout his journey will he do this?

He also has a tendency to blame himself for the failures of others, as if he's taking their 'sins' onto himself. At the end he can ask Sam to forgive Gollum, even forgive Gollum himself, but he can't forgive himself for the choice Gollum made, & can't bring himself to ask forgiveness for himself, because he seems to feel he's not worthy of it. The Shire has been saved - but not for him, because he doesn't deserve it. Whether we see Tolkien himself, the survivor of the Somme battle that took the lives of two out of his three closest friends is another mattter, but all along what we see in Frodo is 'survivor guilt'. One wonders if he even feels pity for the Ring-wraiths, seeing them as not responsible for their actions, being slaves of the Ring.

Why can't he accept that other's make free choices, & are responsible for their actions, when he sees himself as responsible for everything he himself does? Its like he wants to save everyone else, but can't bring himself to see himself as worthy of being saved himself. He refuses to ride off on Asfaloth, because that would be to 'desert' his friends, its only when Glorfindel points out that if he stayed he'd put them in greater danger than if he goes, that he rides off. Later he won't even let Aragorn look at his wound after the orc stabs him in Moria, because he doesn't want any 'fuss' made.

But has he always been that way, or is it some effect of the Ring on him, some isolating effect? Does it show some perverted sense of being in control, being the one who is responsible for everything?

Mithalwen’s point about crossing the river symbolising death seem important - with each subsequent river crossing Frodo seems to move further & further ‘inward’, towards the source of the ‘magical’ core of Middle earth (as opposed to the ‘mystical’ core) Orodruin, the place where the magic came into being, the place that draws the ringbearers.
(Random thoughts...)
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Old 09-08-2004, 01:30 PM   #16
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1420! The Ring

Davem wrote:
Quote:
But has he always been that way, or is it some effect of the Ring on him, some isolating effect? Does it show some perverted sense of being in control, being the one who is responsible for everything?
I think to answer that question you got to compare Frodo's actions to the "actions" (if you want to call them that) of the Ring. You've already said how Frodo wants to blame himself for everything, and thinks he's responsible for everything, which is a valid point. Then we have...

Quote:
perverted sense of being in control
Isn't that also a "characteristic" of the Ring itself, being in control, it control's what people think, it controls how people act, it even controls the whole fate of Middle-Earth. So it could be some sort of an effect the Ring is having on Frodo. But also, you can think of it as, maybe it takes one like Frodo to be able to wield and use the ring like he did. Maybe, it takes someone, like a Frodo, one that wants to take responsibility for everything. To answer this, we got to look at the two people who actually carried the Ring as a burden to Mount Doom. Frodo and Isildur. We've already established Frodo as that "it's all my fault," and as you put it, a form of "perverted control. So now we ask was Isildur like Frodo? Was Isildur that type of person, who blamed himself for everyone's mistakes? Unfortunately, I don't know enough on Isildur to make a judgement, so I obviously can't go any further.
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Old 09-08-2004, 01:51 PM   #17
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Clearly he begins to suffer from post traumatic stress
Davem - this is something I really agree with. After I was diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) myself I viewed Frodo's sufferings in a whole new light. One of the aspects most clearly demonstrated is his pain on the anniversary of the attack, an anguish which cannot be cured, and which Frodo is unable to cope with. There is also Frodo's inability to accept the truth of what happened, that he was attacked and was not responsible; there was nothing he could do about an unexpected stabbing. He also acts out of character at stressful times - the best example being his refusal to give up the ring at Mount Doom.

Frodo's first reaction, that he may be maimed for life, rings a bell with me - it is the immediate sense of fear and regret. He then has nightmares, and imagines that Aragorn is one of the ringwaraiths; he is seeing the potential for trauma in other, harmless things. After his physical recovery, the trauma still remains to be brought to the surface under stressful circumstances, in situations which remind him of the attack, and on anniversaries.

As davem says, hobbits are not a warlike people and would never expect to be injured by a sword in an unprovoked attack, so this life event naturally takes a devastating toll on Frodo. Although I don't think PTSD was recognised until relatively recently (correct me if I am wrong), it is said that the widespread shell-shock of WWI was basically PTSD, and I don't doubt that seeing the effect that this had was translated into Tolkien's own writing when he wished to decribe the effects of the attack on Frodo.
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Old 09-09-2004, 02:55 AM   #18
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Anyone interested in an analysis of Frodo's experience of PTSD/survivor guilt might want to read Karen Milos' essay 'Too Deeply Hurt:Understanding Frodo's Decision to Depart:
http://www.geocities.com/karynmilos/toodeeplyhurt.html
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Old 09-09-2004, 06:27 AM   #19
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That is an excellent article, davem. It confirms what I had been thinking about Frodo's suffering. What interests me is that at the end he feels he must sail to the Undying Lands, this is his only hope of recovery, yet away from ME there are no Undying Lands and we must seek our own recovery in other ways, one of which may be seeking solace in LOTR itself. Frodo finds no recovery that we can see (he may find this in the West, but we don't know this), and this is one of the saddest elements of the story, that we do not know if Frodo achieved 'closure' as the counsellors call it.

In the article it raised the poisonous words of Saruman who tells Frodo that there will be no rest for him - is this Saruman's wisdom or Saruman displaying the lack of understanding which sufferers experience from other people?

I was also thinking about the Black Breath and whether this might be an emblem or symbol for depression. Certainly, I have heard people talk of depressive episodes as 'black moods' or 'black holes', and wondered if the Ringwaraiths' infliction of 'Black Breath' on others could be a symbol of people inflicting sorrow or heartache upon other people?
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Old 09-09-2004, 07:45 AM   #20
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Davem, Lalwende and all....

As a point of information, and to suggest other viewpoints on this essay.....there were two earlier threads on the Downs where this article was briefly discussed:

Here.

Also here...

The link to the original article is broken, since it has moved to a new address, but this was definitely the essay under consideration. My own feelings, then and now, are more mixed than yours. I feel the author has done valuable work in pointing to the clear evidence that some of Frodo's feelings and actions can be better explained if we view these in terms of post traumatic stress disorder (and I would say survivor guilt as well). Moreover, what we've learned from Garth's book reinforces the possibility that Tolkien's World War I experiences and feelings crept into his depiction of Frodo.

However, I am not willing to go as far as the essay suggests. I can't help but feel that she essentially portrays PTSD as the sole factor, a wholly negative one, in Frodo's decision to leave the Shire. This is too simplistic. All through the book, Tolkien delineated two sides of Frodo's persona: the "shadowed" side, which was growing under the influence of the Ring, but also the side inclined to good, that which led to mercy, his deepening relationship with Sam, and, most critically, the drive towards inner Elvish things (what we might term 'spirituality' or faerie depending on how we define things). The latter elements did not simply vanish with the failure at Sammath Naur. They may have been submerged under guilt and pain, but they still remained part of Frodo and, as such, had to play some role in his decision to leave the Shire. There was an element of longing in Frodo, longing for the Sea and what lay beyond, that not even the slopes of Mordor could totally erase. And this essay does not address or acknowledge this possibilty.

*****************

I would voice similar caution when looking at this chapter. Davem - I think it's a gem of insight to view this chapter as a foretaste or modelling of what is to come at the end of the book. And part of what comes about is Frodo's inability to accept his limitations, instead focusing exclusively on how he has failed, according himself an importance no mortal should take on. In addition to what you've cited, I would add martyr complex to that list!

Yet, having said that, I think we are in danger (like the author of the essay) in reducing Frodo to an equation, one in which we've left out essential parts. For example, you raised this question:

Quote:
But has he always been that way, or is it some effect of the Ring on him, some isolating effect? Does it show some perverted sense of being in control, being the one who is responsible for everything?
By implication, this raises a different question. It was Gandalf who chose Frodo and he stated many times in both LotR and UT that Frodo was the "best" the Shire had to offer. Even in this chapter, Aragorn states:

Quote:
Your Frodo is made of sterner stuff than I had guessed, though Gandalf hinted that it might prove so.
If Frodo had "always been that way" with some "perverted sense of being in control", then Gandalf was incorrect in his initial assessment of the Hobbit. And if we look at the "pregnant passive" that is used in connection with Frodo's choosing and accept it at face value, we would also have to say that Eru or Manwe or whoever did the choosing would also have been wrong in guiding the Ring into the hands of Bilbo and eventually to Frodo.

I don't think so. I would rather accept the author's statement, as given through Gandalf's mouth: he describes Frodo as the 'finest' Hobbit in the Shire. In one Letter, JRRT also says that these particular Hobbits (including Frodo) were "extraordinarily gifted". By these terms, whatever is happening to Frodo is the effect of the Ring, rather than a prior condition.

Admittedly, the Ring has a different impact on each individual: Frodo does not turn power hungry or end up killing someone in the way that Smeagol did. Those are not his potential shortcomings: they are instead the ones you list. The potential for his particular kind of corruption was always there in Frodo (in the same way that human limitations exist in all of us), but it is only with the Ring that we actually see it coming out and influencing his thoughts and behavior.

My own reading of the chapter is somewhat different: The Ring is working on Frodo and you have pointed to instances where the Hobbit exhibits self doubt, something that will occur more than once. Yet, this is only a single piece of the puzzle. In this chapter, Tolkien continually stresses that it is a miracle Frodo even survived such a wound. It is the heaviness of the burden that is emphasized as much as Frodo's limitations. If Frodo had already been so heavily under the influence of PTSD or the Ring that it dominated his every inner thought, he would never have managed to get to Mount Doom. The doubt and self incrimination is there, but it must be read in the context of his whole personality and actions and the dire situation he was in.

Strangely enough, my hesitations with the essay and even with stressing the inner self doubt of the chapter are similar to the way I feel about Peter Jackson's Frodo. Others on this thread have pointed out how Jackson changed the depiction of Frodo at Weathertop with sad results, but I think it is wider than that. In the movie, Frodo is portrayed almost from the start as a victim. The dilemma with Frodo is to keep the two sides in balance: victim he was, and with grave limitations and self doubt, but also an extraordinary Hobbit, likely the only one in Middle-earth who could have done what he did. It is the challenge of balancing these images that makes any interpretation of Frodo challengingly complex.
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Old 09-09-2004, 09:28 AM   #21
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D-words

Very interesting discussion of Frodo here. I think that I would like to add into the mix a different D-word from the two already being tossed around (doubt and depression) -- I would like to think about what happens to Frodo at the Ford in relation to despair.

Not despair in the sense of simple unhappiness, but despair as pertains to the loss of hope or faith. Hope is central to the story, and more often than not a character's moral fibre is defined largely in terms of how well he or she keeps hope or faith. Frodo in this chapter is having a very complex reaction/relation to hope that sets up the rest of his journey. On the one hand, after the attack at Weathertop he loses faith in himself insofar as he despairs of his own ability to resist the Ring. On the other hand, at the Ford he demnstrates a remarkable sense of hope insofar as he resists the Nazgul -- interestingly though, he does not have hope in his own abilty to resist them (his defiance is empty and he knows it, and just to make the point the Wraiths break his sword from a distance), but he obviously has hope that something will defeat the Nazgul. He is lost (to the Ring) but the cause is not.

As will happen at the Cracks of Doom, this hope is justified as Frodo is saved -- well, no he isn't, Frodo is 'doomed' to the other d-words, doubt and depression, but the cause is not. Frodo's life is already over, but the quest will go on.

So I think the ambivalence of this moment can be read in this way. On the one hand is the doubt and depression that is overcoming and claiming Frodo; on the other hand is the despair that he manages to keep at bay throughout his life. He is the victim of the former, and the heroic conqueror of the latter. In fact, his heroism only grows as his doubt and depression deepen (alliterative! ) -- the fact that he can plod on and hold to his faith, that he can not despair utterly of the quest despite the terrible toll it is exacting on his faith in himself is remarkable.

Frodo is beginning in this chapter to learn the hard lesson that will guarantee the success of the quest -- that the success and well-being of the hero is not always the same as the success of the hero's mission.
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Old 09-09-2004, 12:42 PM   #22
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I wouldn't deny Child's points regarding Frodo, but I think we have to take Milos' points on board regarding Frodo's mental state, because I think they're valid. How much hope does Frodo actually have, & how much is he simply grasping at straws? To what extent is his decision to go based more on faith than on hope?

Clearly he doesn't see himself as naturally 'fortunate', a lucky soul. throughout he's taken chances on circumstances & on others around him, & he doesn't feel that he has been lucky in those chances. If Tolkien is correct in saying that at the end Frodo feels like a broken failure that must affect his expectations of the outcome of his journey West. In the end it will come down to how we read Frodo's acts & statements as to whether we see his taking Ship as the triumph of faith over hope, or vice versa.

I am struck by his responses in this chapter to his wounding, because he expresses the extremes of both defiance & despair, hope & hopelessness. Yet the thing we have to bear in mind is that however he responds here he is responding in extremis - he doesn't have the luxury to stop & weigh up his situation calmly & objectively. He is dogmatic, judgemental & condemnatory - towards himself most of all.

Once he is able to rest & make a decision he accepts the task of taking the Ring to the fire - but does he make that choice out of defiance or despair? Is there a point when he simply resigns himself to do the task at hand, because he believes it has been ordained that he will do it, &/or die in the attempt, but that either way he has no real say in the matter?

I'm struck by something from an early draft of the meeting between Bingo & Gildor:
Quote:
'Half your heart wished to go, but the other half held you back; for its home was in the Shire, & its delight in bed & board & the voices of friends, & in the changing of the gentle seasons among the fields & trees. but since you are a hobbit that half is the stronger, as it was even in Bilbo. What has made it surrender?'
'Yes, I am an ordinary hobbit, & so I always shall be, I imagine,' said Bingo. 'But a most un-hobbitlike fate has been laid upon me.'
Then you are not an ordinary hobbit,' said Gildor, 'for otherwise that could not be so. But the half that is plain hobbit will suffer much I fear from being forced to follow the other half which is worthy of the strange fate, until it too becomes worthy (& yet remains hobbit). For that must be the purpose of your fate, or the purpose of that part of your fate which concerns you yourself. The hobbit half that loves the Shire is not to be despised but it has to be trained, & to rediscover the changing seasons & voices of friends when they have been lost
Return of the Shadow
This idea, that Frodo has a dual 'fate' seems significant, especially as, according to Gildor, only one part of that 'fate'concerns Frodo himself.
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Old 09-09-2004, 02:03 PM   #23
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Davem

As I look at the chapter again, I see more of what you're referring to. I do still think we have to perform a balancing act in terms of Frodo.

But I want to suggest one more angle that we can perhaps use for a slightly different perspective.... I'll warn you in advance that this is going to be long. I didn't know how else to get all this down.

Question: What if Frodo’s self blame is not an isolated response of one individual but part of a larger pattern, with a number of characters displaying uncharacteristically ‘negative’ feelings?

First, there’s Sam. No one mentioned the unusual scene at the beginning of the chapter. After Frodo was wounded and Strider briefly disappeared, Tolkien say this:

Quote:
Sam plainly was beginning to have doubts again about Strider; but while they were talking he returned, appearing suddenly out of the shadows. They started, and Sam drew his sword and stood over Frodo; but Strider knelt down swiftly at his side.

“I am not a Black Rider, Sam, he said gently, “nor in league with them. I have been trying to discover something of their movements; but I have found nothing…..
The italics are mine. This whole sequence suggests more than a simple case of Sam not being able to see in the dark. It’s a reflection of something happening inside Sam: potentially destructive feelings and behavior have returned, perhaps not as markedly as in Frodo but still fairly evident.

By the time Strider kneels down, Sam could not have mistaken him for a wraith, yet the Ranger feels compelled to provide an extended explanation of who he is and his loyalties. Strider reassures Sam that he is not “in league with them”. This goes beyond seeing people in the dark.

Just two paragraphs later, we get another description of Sam's behavior: “Sam choked with tears.” The Hobbit fears his friend can't resist the wraiths. Yet, in sticky situations even in Mordor, Sam doesn’t normally cry. Nor are these the “good” tears Gandalf later mentions. Given their distressing situation, the tears can only be destructive and futile. Aragorn sees the real reason for the tears and implores Sam: “Don’t despair.” Despair is the last characteristic I normally associate with Sam. Yet here, Sam can not control his negativity.

We get another uncharacteristic instance of self-doubt by Merry when he announces to Strider:

Quote:
We can not go any further…..What are we to do? Do you think they will be able to cure him in Rivendell, if we ever get ther?”
This is a Hobbit who wasn't afraid to sass back an Orc after he is kidnapped and injured! Yet, here he seems half defeated.

The companions as a whole “dreaded the dark hours” and imagined that the wraiths were “waiting to make some ambush in a narrow place.” Even Strider, though generally resourceful, “seemed tired and heavy-hearted”.

Thus, Frodo’s is not an isolated response, but part of a pattern. One obvious cause for all this is the fear instilled by the wraiths: it hangs over everything in the chapter. Yet there is a second force at work: the land itself. Here it is not a beneficent force, but presents obstacles and reinforce fears. At every step, Tolkien uses phrases like “withered leaves and grass”, “sullen hills”, “somber country of dark trees”, and “the hills began to shut them in.”

Later in the book we will encounter two “wastelands” created by the active hands of living beings – Mordor and Isengaard ( potentially the Shire as well, only the bad guys didn’t get that far.) These are wastelands like those in the modern world: fertile lands where technology and war actively mar and destroy the land.

In this chapter, the fellowship is passing through a different kind of wasteland. It is the one we see in medieval literature: the empty place where no people live. The medieval wasteland usually has the ability to corrupt spirit and defeat the body. Thus, Strider uses the actual term “wilderness” to describe the land they are going through. He clearly sees the shadow that lies over the land, the shadow that is influencing Frodo and Sam to respond in negative ways:

Quote:
“Who lives in this land? he [i.e. Frodo] asked. “And who built these towers? Is this troll country?”

“No!” said Strider. “Trolls do not build. No one lives in this land. Men once dwelt here , ages ago; but none remain now. They became an evil people, as legends tell…. But that is so long ago that the hills have forgotten them, though a shadow still lies on the land.
The point where we just begin to break the hold of the land over the fellowship is right here in the chapter:

Quote:
In the morning he work to find that the rain had stopped. The clouds were still thick, but they were breaking, and pale strips of blue appeared between them. The wind was shifting again. …..Strider went off alone, telling the others to remain under the shelter of the cliff, until he came back. He was going to climb up, if he could, and get a lie of the land.
Thus, Aragorn had to get away from the land by going up in order to cast aside its bad influence. Immediately, he is able to see the truth: they have strayed from their path and must now go in a different direction. This is what he tells his companions.

Of course, it’s possible to read all this literally – having to do with geography and such – and to understand everyone’s fears as simply a reaction to bad conditions. But it seems like there is another level of meaning here as well: the land has influenced how they react and feel and they must get back to their true selves if they are ever to break through to Rivendell.

The final moment of joy, when the sun comes flooding in, literally and figuratively, is when they see those old stone trolls. For the first time in the whole chapter, they are able to laugh:

Quote:
Frodo felt his spirits reviving: the reminder of Bilbo’s first successful adventure was heartening. the sun, too, was warm and comforting.
A few lines later Frodo blithely asserts;

Quote:
Don’t worry about me….I feel much better.
At least for the moment, Frodo like the others is back to being his true self. He must still fight the wound and the wraiths, but the shadow of the land is receding.

In this chapter, Tolkien continues to play with concepts like “history”, the “past” and ‘remembrance” It is Frodo’s memory of his own past—Bilbo’s deeds—that helps defeat the wasteland in his own head and enables him to laugh. Even more striking is how Tolkien describes the wasteland as “empty and forgetful”: Strider says that even the hills have forgotten what happened here. But Strider then reassures the Hobbits with a statement that shows his own strength as a Dunedain:

Quote:
“the heirs of Elendil do not forget all things past… and many more things than I can tell are remembered in Rivendell.
So here the remembrance of the past is positive. Without it, I doubt the group would have made it through. How Tolkien loved to play with ideas and turn them round about in each chapter!
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Old 09-09-2004, 02:51 PM   #24
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Two minor comments that can't pretend to fully address anything said above:

Davem wrote:
Quote:
Once he is able to rest & make a decision he accepts the task of taking the Ring to the fire - but does he make that choice out of defiance or despair?
I would say neither; rather: he knew that accepting the task was the morally right thing to do, unequivocally, regardless of how he felt about it. I don't know whether he felt despair or defiance or hope or all three; but I think that his decision was made without respect to these things. Later, when he effectively makes the same decision at Amon Hen, Sam correctly analyzes his predicament: he is not trying to make up his mind at all; he knows exactly what he ought to do - he is only working up his courage to actually do it.

Child of the Seventh Age wrote:
Quote:
Despair is the last characteristic I normally associate with Sam. Yet here, Sam can not control his negativity.
Recall also what he tells himself when he learns that Frodo was not in fact killed by Shelob: "The trouble with you is that you never really had any hope." Also in IV-3 we have "After all, he never had any real hope in the affair from the beginning; but being a cheerful hobbit he had not needed hope, as long as despair could be postponed."

He does not despair, but only because he can "postpone" it. Shippey cites this passage and argues that Sam is cheerful but not hopeful - one can be cheerful (outwardly agreeable, putting on a good face) with or without real inner hope or joy.
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Old 09-10-2004, 12:31 PM   #25
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The Wasteland is a strange image for Middle earth - where or what is the Grail? The Land is made waste because the Grail has been lost, yet in Middle earth there never was a Grail. There were the Silmarils, of course - did the loss of the Silmarils cause the Land to be laid waste - yet if so, how can it ever be healed, as they can never be won back. The Quest of the Silmarils ended with the First Age. I suppose the Trees could be the primal Grails - in a sense they do reapear at the end of LotR - the White (silver) Tree of Gondor & the Mallorn (gold) Tree of the Shire. Is that it? The Silmarillion proper begins with the Two Trees which are lost, bringing an end to the 'Golden Age', leading to Middle earth's slow, inevitable, descent into the Wasteland state, & it ends with the Two Trees of Middle earth in the Shire & Gondor.

To what extent was the Ring Quest a Grail Quest, as much as an anti-Grail Quest? To have both Aragorn's journey & Sam's end in the birth of new Trees seems symbolic.

It is significant that the more one pays attention to Tolkien's statements about the Land, the more 'alive' it seems, the more a conscious participant in events. The very earth of the Old Forest, not just the trees, seemed to move & have a will of its own. It is perhaps the most intensely 'feminine' presence in the story - certainly, it seems to be the most permanently 'present' feminine presence. It has 'moods', which can be so powerful they overwhelm the individuals who move across its face. Its as if Middle earth herself is also aware of her woundedness & is seeking healing, & that healing is symbolised by the two Trees.
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Old 09-10-2004, 12:55 PM   #26
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Davem wrote:
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There were the Silmarils, of course - did the loss of the Silmarils cause the Land to be laid waste - yet if so, how can it ever be healed, as they can never be won back. The Quest of the Silmarils ended with the First Age. I suppose the Trees could be the primal Grails
I think that the grail-quality of the Silmarils derives in large part from the Trees, since after the destruction of the trees the Silmarils alone contain their untainted light. If we look at the 1920s - 1930s mythology, the Silmarils will in fact be won back at the end of the world, after which Feanor will present them to Yavanna to be broken, and the Trees will be renewed. But the scale of that myth gives it more of a saviour/doomsday quality than a grail quality.
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Old 09-10-2004, 01:10 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Aiwendil
But the scale of that myth gives it more of a saviour/doomsday quality than a grail quality.
But how different are the two? The winning of the Grail in the legends doesn't deny the Second Coming of Christ - in a sense it 'foreshadows' it. The Second Coming cannot be brought about by man, but man is on a spiritual quest, symbolised by the Quest for the Grail - the two are not mutually exclusive.
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Old 09-10-2004, 03:29 PM   #28
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Quote:
It is significant that the more one pays attention to Tolkien's statements about the Land, the more 'alive' it seems, the more a conscious participant in events. The very earth of the Old Forest, not just the trees, seemed to move & have a will of its own. It is perhaps the most intensely 'feminine' presence in the story - certainly, it seems to be the most permanently 'present' feminine presence. It has 'moods', which can be so powerful they overwhelm the individuals who move across its face. Its as if Middle earth herself is also aware of her woundedness & is seeking healing, & that healing is symbolised by the two Trees. -- davem
How exactly would you consider the Old Forest to be such a 'feminine' presence? Could you please expand on that? (If it's already been explained in another of these chapter threads, please just let me know!)
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Old 09-10-2004, 04:30 PM   #29
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Quote:
But how different are the two? The winning of the Grail in the legends doesn't deny the Second Coming of Christ - in a sense it 'foreshadows' it. The Second Coming cannot be brought about by man, but man is on a spiritual quest, symbolised by the Quest for the Grail - the two are not mutually exclusive.
I both agree and disagree with you here. The peoples of M-E, in a sense, [just like those in the grail legends] have no control over when such things happen [things being the returning of the Silmaril/second coming], but in grail lore, there was a greater connection to the divine. The ring quest is fundamentally one of destruction, they are fighting against Sauron. The grail quest was simply finding a lost artifact [Yes, I realise this can be argued, it had to be "rescued" in a sense], and the outcome of which had no real bearing on when the second coming *would* come, nor how. The only real plus was for those involved, it was a spiritual cleansing. The ring quest, on the other hand, was an instance of prolonging the world of men. The Simarils would be returned no matter what, but it the Valar would not interfere in M-E, and men could go "extinct" in a fashion. The ring quest parallels the grail quest in that both are activities forshadowing a later "second coming" [both of the trees and Christ]], but the ring quest also a direct connection to whether Men would go on, as there is no undying land for Men. Had the grail not been found, Christ would still come, and the world of men would still be here [although, possibly more wicked?].
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Old 09-10-2004, 11:52 PM   #30
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Pipe My thoughts.

Sorry for breaking the flow of the topic, but such deep lore is not for me. Indeed, my thoughts would seem mundane and mediocre compared to previous posts.

But still . . .


This time, I actually read the chapter, so I have better ideas. (Last week, a friend of mine loaned the Fellowship, so I was not able to read the chapter concerned.)

Anywhen, here goes . . .

Dim Echoes of the Next Journey

There seems to be many parallels between Frodo’s journey to Rivendell and his quest to Mt. Doom. Here are some:
  • Meeting Strider at the Prancing Pony = Meeting Faramir in Ithilien.
    These two were unexpected company, and at first were much distrusted, but they gave unexpected aid in Frodo’s journey.

  • The attack on Weathertop = The attack on Cirith Ungol
    These two events gave Frodo wounds that “would never really heal.”

  • The beryl on the Last Bridge = The water found in Morgai
    They were signs that Frodo’s journey is not hopeless, that there are some people (even the Valar, it seems; I remembered from Saucie's post that the water found in the walls of Morgai may have come from Ulmo) that would aid them.

  • The confrontation at the Ford of Bruinen = The test at Mt. Doom
    Frodo failed at the threshold of the journey’s end, yet providence came to his rescue. Or, as Fordim said:
    Quote:
    . . . he does not have hope in his own abilty to resist them . . . but he obviously has hope that something will defeat the Nazgul. (Fordim Hedgethistle)
Then there is Sam and Bill.
Quote:
[Bill] was developing a expected talent for picking out a path, and for sparing its rider as many jolts as possible. (LotR I 12)
Wow. The same can be said of Sam, too, during their journey through Mordor.

Aragorn the Herb of Kings

This is the first time we are introduced to athelas, and, during the course of the tale, it seems to describe something else . . .

Quote:
[Aragorn: ]These leaves . . . I found . . . in the dark by the scent of its leaves. (ibid)
Quote:
[Ioreth: ] Why, I have not heard that it had any great virtue . . . (LotR V 8)
Quote:
[herb-master: ] It is but a doggrel, I fear, garbled in the memory of old wives. (ibid)
Let’s see . . . from the West, undistinguished, but has great virtue. Aragorn, perhaps?

Just a Few Tidbits

~ Revenge of the Barrow-blade

Can swords avenge their comrades? Looks like they can.

The Witch-King broke Frodo’s sword in the Ford of Bruinen. Then Merry's sword struck him at the Pelennor Fields.

First, we have talking swords, then emotional swords. Now avenging swords?

~ Trolls: if you’re quick you’ll see they’re false.

It was a bit of a mind teaser. After Pippin saw the trolls in the clearing, Tolkien started the next paragraph with this sentence:

Quote:
The sun was now high, and it . . . lit the clearing with bright patches of sunlight. (LotR I 12)
~ Why I am here

Glorfindel was one of the reasons I’m here poring over Middle-earth, instead of . . . gee, I don’t know where I’ll be. My sister kept on talking about a Glorfindel that was on that river, not Arwen as on the movie. That tidbit (plus a little conundrum concerning the location of Rivendell in relation to Mordor and Isengard) piqued me enough that, on the eve of New Year, 2003, I picked the Fellowship up and began reading it.
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Old 09-11-2004, 02:56 AM   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Encaitare
How exactly would you consider the Old Forest to be such a 'feminine' presence?
Well, principally in that the earth, unbound, free nature, has always been seen symbolically as 'feminine' - the Earth Mother, but speaking personally Middle earth has always seemed a feminine presence in the story, which is why I've never felt the story to be overwhelmingly 'male' dominated, as the dominant presence to me has always been Middle earth herself'. As to the Old Forest specifically, the dominant 'presence' for me was not Old Man Willow, but the River Woman, spirit of the Withywindle, the centre from which all the queerness comes. After all, Goldberry is the most mysterious & subtly powerful of all the beings we encounter in the OF.

As to Beren87's points - that would take a week's answer or none at all, so I'll have to come back to that later - though the more I think about it the more I wonder whether it wouldn't rather require a whole new thread.
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Old 09-11-2004, 08:20 AM   #32
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Davem wrote:
Quote:
Well, principally in that the earth, unbound, free nature, has always been seen symbolically as 'feminine'
Yet this is something that can to some extent vary from culture to culture. We ought to consider this from the point of view of Tolkien's mythology; if we do, we see that there is a distinction to be drawn. The earth itself - the soil, the rock, the mountains - is associated with Aule and is masculine. But the plant life that covers it - the grass, the forests, the athelas - is associated with Yavanna and is feminine.

While there is some truth in calling nature a feminine presence, I'd be wary of taking that as a simple, unambiguous fact.
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Old 09-11-2004, 08:45 AM   #33
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Well, Tolkien follows the Norse tradition (shared by the Japanese, I believe) of making the Sun female & the Moon male, whereas most cultures saw them the other way round. Yet, I don't know that Aule's (admittedly strong) association with the materials of the earth makes the earth itself 'male'. Even in the cultures that had 'Smith' gods - like the Greek Hephaestos, & the Roman Vulcan - the earth itself was viewed as female. I still can't shake the idea of not just plants, but also the earth itself being symbolically female - maybe I've read too much mythology, & am influenced by that, but in this case I don't think I'm going against what I've said in the Canonicity thread, as I don't think Tolkien ever made a clear statement on the 'gender' of Arda.
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Old 09-11-2004, 10:35 AM   #34
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Quote:
The Wasteland is a strange image for Middle earth - where or what is the Grail?
Davem The interesting thing about the chapter discussions is you never know where things are heading! Despite my use of the term, I had not thought about linking the motif of the wasteland with the Grail legends as a whole.

I do want to clarify what I initially meant, since I was coming at this from a quite different angle. I did not mean for "wasteland" to typify Middle-earth as a whole, which your question above seems to suggest. Rather I was speaking of certain specific tracts of land. Leslie Ellen Jones in Myth and Middle Earth has written about Isengaard, Mordor, and the Shire of the Scouring as examples of the wasteland operating in Middle-earth. Her contention is that these represent not the medieval wastelands of the grail legend, but "modern" ones that have been created by the hand of war and technology. The prime ingredient of a wasteland for Tolkien, according to Jones, is for it to be stripped of trees.

What struck me in reading this chapter is that the specific area through which Strider and crew are trudging in this chapter sound suspiciously like a wasteland, but one modelled on medieval rather than modern terms. I wasn't thinking about the wider ramifications of the grail legend per se. Of course, we can look back and know about the Percival of Chretien de Troyes, Eschebach's Parzifal and such. I was thinking not of this literary tradition, but of the pre-Christian myth that preceded it.

Before any of the grail legend was set on paper, there were Celtic tales of myth and faerie that embodied the idea of the wasteland. (The literary embodiment of this earlier mythic tradition does appear in the Third Branch of the Mabinogi, but the legends themselves go back much deeper.)

Unlike the grail legends which would have been accessible only to the literate and privileged, these faerie concepts of wasteland would have been widespread through the general populace. In this "popular" medieval concept, a wasteland is a general term for lands that are of no use to humans. You can't really farm or graze or even make your living by hunting there. The popular wasteland even has monstors or evil spirits. (There are hints of this in the land Gawaine must go through when he meets the Green Knight.)

In the medieval mind, there is very little sense of the wilderness as a place of renewal and beauty which was so often voiced in the romantic era. The feeling is that the best land is domesticated and undomesticated land -- in effect, a wasteland --is a curse.

I have other ideas on this, but I actually want to put them up as a separate thread so will wait to discuss them there.....
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Old 09-11-2004, 10:59 AM   #35
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I think that there is something in the idea that Middle Earth is a 'feminine' presence. Tolkien was drawing on myths, legends and histories which did hold the earth itself to be female - this is where the phrase 'mother earth' springs from. Ancient cultures regarded the land as a mysterious female power, even going so far as to construct monuments celebrating this - one of the theories behind Silbury Hill is that it was a 'Mother' monument. The feminine was seen as the mysterious bringer forth of life - as an example of archaeological theories, barrows are said to have small openings to symbolise birth. Yes, it does not say explicitly that in ME the land is a feminine presence - but looking at what Tolkien drew upon, i would like to think that it is. But this has made me think...was Eru female?
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Old 09-11-2004, 12:50 PM   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwende
Yes, it does not say explicitly that in ME the land is a feminine presence - but looking at what Tolkien drew upon, i would like to think that it is. But this has made me think...was Eru female?
Try this:http://www.unclenicks.net/Garden/body_philosophy.html

Quote:
Originally Posted by Child
(The literary embodiment of this earlier mythic tradition does appear in the Third Branch of the Mabinogi, but the legends themselves go back much deeper.)
Yes, but I don't think the Wasteland theme is limited to the Third Branch. It does have a different cause though, in that it is usually the result of the malignancy of the Otherworld beings (Caitlin Matthews has a lot to say on this subject in her two-volume study of the Mabinogion; Mabon & the Mysteries of Britain & Arthur & the Sovereignty of Britain). I do think Tolkien has leant towards the later, Christianised, view. In the earlier versions there is constant conflict between the OtherWorld inhabitants & the inhabitants of this world - which we see set out in the First Branch tale of Pwyll.

Quote:
In the medieval mind, there is very little sense of the wilderness as a place of renewal and beauty which was so often voiced in the romantic era. The feeling is that the best land is domesticated and undomesticated land -- in effect, a wasteland --is a curse.
Certainly, this comes in later, yet even in the early medieval period (not counting the writings of the Celtic saints) there is an inkling of it - in the Vita Merlini Merlin runs wild into the Caledonian forest, driven mad by his grief, & is healed by a sacred spring (& by the teachings of Taliesin on the nature of the Universe).

Clearly, though, Tolkien sees the wounding of the Land as the result of a malicious act by evil forces, a result of their malice. I think we have to distinguish between wild & waste land, though. Often in the Irish legends the Wasteland is healed by the King's union or marriage with the Goddess of the Land, the figure of Sovereignty. The Otherworld is the realm of the Fairies, the Sidhe, who are out for revenge on men who have taken over their Land & driven them into the Hollow Hills. Alongside this runs the idea of the King who fails his people, or who is simply unlucky, or in the case of Vortigern, who betrays his people, & attempts to kill the young Merlin, who's blood shed on its foundations will (he is told) enable his tower to be built. In the Prophecies which follow Merlin predicts the wasting of the Land, & ultimately the 'wasting' of the Universe, as his vision extends as far as the ending of the Universe.

Middle earth is the victim of malicious attacks by its inhabitants, & it suffers upheaval & destruction on a massive scale, & it seems to respond with an almost conscious yearning to be healed - its interesting how the 'good' characters seem to have a deep love for the land, a desire to heal it & make it whole - which Tolkien seems to explain by having them on some deep level 'aware' of Arda Unmarred - a sense that the world is not as it should be - which drives them to struggle & sacrifice themselves if necessary, to bring about its healing. This is an interesting theme for me, that it is not a mythology which offers as reward not an eternity in some Nirvana of light & peace, but in a world healed & made perfect, a physical realm. This is clearly a Christian vision - a New Heaven & a New Earth, but it touches on earlier, Pagan ideas of the sacredness of the Living Land. Tolkien never takes for granted the polluted, wounded Land - it is always a deep, profound WRONG, which must be fought, because a wounded Land wounds its inhabitants psychologically & physically - Sam, on seeing the Waste before Mordor feels physically sick.

The woundedness of the Land is reflected in the woundedness of its inhabitants, & its healing brings about their own healing - symbolised in the Two Trees which begin & end the Legendarium.
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Old 09-11-2004, 05:11 PM   #37
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Feminine Powers

Thanks for answering my question, davem. It was not exactly asking why the idea of femininity as a whole, but "Why the Old Forest?" You explained it quite well; much of Middle-earth could be considered a feminine presence, although I agree with what Aiwendil said:

Quote:
We ought to consider this from the point of view of Tolkien's mythology; if we do, we see that there is a distinction to be drawn. The earth itself - the soil, the rock, the mountains - is associated with Aule and is masculine. But the plant life that covers it - the grass, the forests, the athelas - is associated with Yavanna and is feminine.
That makes sense with the Old Forest association. But, this has strayed from the chapter and so I shall try to find feminine presence in chapter 12.

Quote:
"More deadly to him was the name of Elbereth" --Aragorn
followed by

Quote:
But even as he held it [the Witch-King's blade] up in the growing light, they gazed in astonishment, for the blade seemed to melt, and vanished like a smoke in the air, leaving only the hilt in Strider's hand.
Firstly, the name of Elbereth was important because it was as if Frodo was "invoking" her power simply by speaking her name. All evil seems to fear her and her power, as even Morgoth/Melkor did:

Quote:
Out of the deeps of Ea she [Varda/Elbereth] came to the aid of Manwe; for Melkor she knew from before the making of the Music and rejected him, and he hated her, and feared her more then all others whom Eru made.
Second, as stated before the Sun, in Middle-earth, is feminine -- different from most mythology, but it works here to support this idea. The Sun is a powerful force of nature which, like the name of Elbereth, greatly weakens evil. Instead of in the movie, in which the blade simply "evaporates" at a nice timely point after Aragorn identifies it, it only vanishes with the arrival of the Sun.

Just another enforcement of the Sun's power (although perhaps it belongs more in the "Importance of Weather" thread):

Quote:
The morning dawned bright and fair; the air was clean, and the light pale and clear in a rain-washed sky. Their hearts were encouraged, but they longed for the sun to warm their stiff cold limbs. As soon as it was light, Strider took Merry with him and went to survey the country from the height to the east of the pass. The sun had risen and was shining brightly when he returned with more comforting news.
A rather obvious statement on my part, but the Sun also serves to "light the way" and bring cheer into their hearts. Later it says that

Quote:
Even Frodo felt better in the morning light
and then

Quote:
Ever since the sun began to sink the mist before his eyes had darkened, and he felt that a shadow was coming between him and the faces of his friends.
which again, shows the weakening of evil in the daylight. That's enough for now on the Sun, there are several other references in this chapter as well. Near the end of the chapter Frodo tries to ward off the Nazgul by speaking Elbereth's name again:

Quote:
"By Elbereth and Luthien the Fair," said Frodo with a last effort, lifting up his sword, "you shall have neither the Ring nor me!

Then the leader, who was now half across the Ford, stood up menacing in his stirrups, and raised up his hand. Frodo was stricken dumb. He felt his tongue cleave to his mouth, and his heart labouring. His sword broke and fell out of his shaking hand. The elf-horse reared and snorted. The foremost of the black horses had almost set foot on shore.
This time, Elbereth's name does not daunt the wraiths. This could be because when Frodo was stabbed on Weathertop, he was not under the influence of the wraiths, since he did not have the shard of the blade embedded in him. Now with the shard within him he began to slip into the "wraith world" and therefore was weaker. Then they were able to control him, as the Witch-King did by striking him dumb. But we also must take into consideration that he was in the wraith's world when he was stabbed, since he was wearing the Ring. However, he was more of an "intruder" in their world, not yet under their influence. Because of this he was more able to resist them, and his words had more sway.

I find Nilpaurion's point about the "avenging" blade to be very interesting. Although Frodo hears a "shrill cry" when he strikes at the Witch-King, Aragorn later says that it was his cry of "O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!" which probably was its cause, and the blade did no harm. Why, then, was Merry's blade able to harm the wraith? As before, I would say that since Merry was not in the wraith world when he struck at the Witch-King, his blade could harm him, but since Frodo was, his sword had no effect on the powerful Nazgul.

Wow, I just reread this... so many quotes! I hope I actually made a point or two somewhere in between them all!
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Old 09-12-2004, 02:06 PM   #38
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@ Encaitare: you tried to explain why Frodo's sword did no harm to the Nazgűl, whereas Merry could injure the witchking. I think that Frodo simply missed the wraith and only struck its coat. If he had struck him, his blade would have shrivelled and perished like Merry's did, for "all blades perish, that pierce that dreadful King" as Aragorn says.

There is hardly anything I can write, after those deep discussions!
I agree with Child of the 7th age that there is more to Frodo than explained in the psychological analysis by Karyn Milos. (There was a discussion about that in Child's excellent thread "Frodo's sacrifice" about 2 years ago.) But this really belongs more to the end of the books.

Overall I get the impression of how long and cumbersome the way to Rivendell is and how painfully slow the progress of the fellowship , although time is pressing. Very realistic really. (In the movie, Middle-earth somehow seems much smaller...) Also it strikes me that Frodo's condition deteriorates only slowly, with intermittent recoveries. When they meet up with Bilbo's trolls he can even laugh. I was glad for thas respite! And again Sam shows us another unexpected side.
Even at the confrontation with the Nazgűl at the ford, Frodo has still enough pluck to face them and refuse their summons. (I understand that they had to rush the scenes in the movie, and even their omission of Glorfindel, but I can't forgive them the weak portrayal of Frodo! )
At my first reading I remember how thrilled I was at Glorfindel's appearance and how intrigued by the untranslated Elvish words!
The green "elf-stone" that he left on the bridge must have been the same kind of jewel as the Elessar then ?
I wonder if Frodo had heard about Luthien before, or did Strider's telling of that story leave such a deep impression that he called not only on Elbereth but on Luthien.
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Old 09-12-2004, 02:22 PM   #39
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The green "elf-stone" that he left on the bridge must have been the same kind of jewel as the Elessar then ?
I wondered about this as well, and I am pretty sure that they are of the same type. I can see why even if they weren't the same Aragorn still might take it as a sign, being Elvish and all, but I think it probably had special significance to Aragorn because it was foretold that he would take the name of Elessar. Perhaps this was why he was able to take it for a sign that he was able to cross the bridge, and not just dropped by pure chance: because it was a green elf-stone.
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I wonder if Frodo had heard about Luthien before, or did Strider's telling of that story leave such a deep impression that he called not only on Elbereth but on Luthien.
It is possible that he had heard of Luthien before from Bilbo, but I think it is more likely that the reason he used Luthien's name was because of Strider's story. Bilbo may have heard of her from the Elves and maybe even knew a good bit of her story, but he did not have the resources in the Shire that he did at Rivendell. Strider probably knew more and was perhaps better able to tell the story because he was raised in Rivendell, and it was his family history as well. Another interesting thing I wonder about is why he used Luthien's name at the ford but not when he was attacked on Weathertop. If it had been because of Aragorn's story, I would think that it would have been more fresh in his mind. On the other hand, maybe it hadn't quite sunken in yet, and being that Frodo was riding Bill and not walking, maybe he had more time to think about it, and it seemed fitting at the ford.
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Old 09-12-2004, 06:24 PM   #40
Encaitare
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Guinevere-- Yes, you're probably right, although I find it a little odd that he would "miss" the Witch-King... but then again, I have a habit of trying to make something out of nothing.
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