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Old 01-04-2006, 12:00 AM   #1
Gurthang
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A Happy Ending... or is it?

Tolkien's books end. (obviously ) From a story standpoint, it is a happy ending. Sauron is defeated, Aragorn becomes king, Frodo finds rest in Valinor, Sam marries Rosie, and on and on and on... All is well and the story is, well, done. Happy ending, right?

I'm not so sure. Despite all the happy endings and the general 'good prevailed' feeling at the end of the book, happy was not exactly how I felt. I mean, sure, I was glad that the characters completed their quests, but other than that, I felt... well, empty.

That's right, a little happy, but more empty. It was very bitter-sweet to me. Sweet, because the tale was over and evil was defeated before the end. Very, very sad because it was, in fact, the end. It was almost like I had been there with them all along, walked with the fellowship on their way to destroy the Ring, and now they all just 'end'! It's not really a feeling that has to do 'with' the ending itself, but more about the fact that it 'was' the end. The epic was over. That wondrous tale that I had been very much a part of was done, and where was I to go now? It's me, standing on a dock, watching that last ship bearing Sam dwindle in the setting sun, and realizing... they're all gone; every last one. Empty.

Am I alone in this? Does anyone else share this feeling, this bitter-sweet, happy-empty feeling?

P.S. I can imagine this must have been how Frodo felt when he returned to the Shire. How can you go back after all that has happened?
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Old 01-04-2006, 12:25 AM   #2
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Silmaril

[rambling]

I know exactly how you feel, Gurthang. For this reason I usually try to avoid the ending of movie RotK whenever we watch it again. It just makes me feel so...incomplete. Like "I know this is the end, but it just can't end like this. It's too depressing."

Perhaps the greatest cause of this melancholy - at least for me - is the (second) breaking of the Fellowship. They have endured tough times together and apart, and they certainly deserve to enjoy the fruit of their labor together! Unfortunately, I believe we have their "racial differences" to blame for their inevitable separation. They have their own lives to go back to, own ruins to rebuild, and own families and fellowmen to (continue to) nurture. In the case of Frodo and the rest, they have a ride to catch. As for me, well, perhaps I can go back to Mount Doom and re-take the Ring and start the whole thing all over again.

Another thing is that not everyone ends up happy, considering what evil they managed to escape what with Sauron not succeeding in taking over Middle-earth. Frodo, for one, is not completely happy; think October 6 (did I have that date right?). And I don't like anyone hurting when everyone's supposed to be happy. You deserve to be happy, don't you, Frodo?

It might seem a bit far-fetched, but this made me think about the kind of books we prefer to read. If, say, I'm a huge fan of fairy-tale, happily-ever-after endings, well, LotR is in some ways a tragedy. But if my melodramatic life urges me to find solace in tragedies, LotR is a fairy tale. More likely the reality is that it's somewhere in between, or a different thing altogether.

But you're right, Gurthang. LotR had been a heck of a journey, and it's just hard to accept that the rollercoaster would end just like that. And the appendices, though helpful, is not exactly an adventure I could join them in.

[/rambling]

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Old 01-04-2006, 01:20 AM   #3
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Bittersweet.... Yes, that's how I feel. And so much of my reaction has to do with my sense of loss: the loss that Frodo has experienced, the loss of the magic of an entire Age, and even some of the personal losses that I've felt in my own life. Let me try and explain....

Frodo's story is never finished. We know he went to Valinor, and we hope he found healing. Since he loved Elves and Elvish things, he might have found some solace there. There is a hint of that in Tolkien's description of Tol Eressea: the grey rain curtain parting and our tiny glimpse of the white shores and that far green country.

Yet, how can we be sure? Whenever I read the end of the Lord of the Rings, I can't help thinking of the poem Seabell, which gives us such an eerie sense of the despair and isolation that hung over Frodo's head. I almost wish I had never read that poem..... Was the Ringbearer able to put the pieces of his life back together on Tol Eressa, or was there only more pain? We stand on the shore and watch the boat recede, but we can not call it back to us or know what lies beyond.

Secondly, it isn't just the individual characters: it is a whole Age that we are losing. The Elves are leaving Middle-earth and much of the wonder and magic departs with them. Sam points out to his daughter that pieces of the magic linger on. There are still a few Elves about and the mallorn blooms in the Party Field. Sam may have that consolation, but the modern reader does not. We know that the magic will become ever more distant. There is no turning back. We live in a world that has no Elves. Occasionally, I may glimpse a little of the Shire in the eyes of my children, but I am greedy for more.

To be truthful, at the end of the book, I find myself grieving for a world, for a past, that never even existed. Rationally, I understand that. Yet, part of me does not want to accept those limitations and still yearns for something that feels as if it should have been: to catch just one glimpse of the Shire or to spend one evening with Elrond in Rivendell.

That's the craziness of the book for me. Somehow, the ending gets mixed up with my feelings about real life. There have been times in my life when I have felt real loss. Those moments have not been pleasant and have thankfully receded into the past. Yet, when I stand with Frodo in the Grey Havens, I again feel an echo of that old pain, yet now it has been draped with a gentle silver mist and I can manage it. Still, the ending reminds me of the fact that I am human. There is so much I don't know and so much I yearn for that I will never have. If Frodo is standing on the shores and mourning, I am mourning with him.

What a long winded explanation! Probably no one else personalizes the ending of the book in this way. But that surely is one of the main reasons I find the Grey Havens so poignant.
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Old 01-04-2006, 11:07 AM   #4
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There may be more than you think, Child! I think the author did exactly what he set out to do. Not as an intentional marketing ploy to make you automatically buy upcoming products. But the intention of causing the reader to feel that he/she has discovered something wonderous beyond words, beyond earthly physics, beyond human control. Yet in the discovery is the realization that what has been found must be lost. In that ending (of LOTR) was another chapter of loss that was, and will continue to be.

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Was the Ringbearer able to put the pieces of his life back together on Tol Eressa, or was there only more pain?
There is no pain in paradise, once it was removed from the circles of the world.

You have your maps and characters and beastiary. Lives lived and wars won and lost. It all adds up for a good read. But that feeling to me is the pure craft of genious. Long live that feeling!

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To be truthful, at the end of the book, I find myself grieving for a world, for a past, that never even existed.
awsome, quite eucatastrophical
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Old 01-04-2006, 11:37 AM   #5
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Drigel,

I am glad that you posted and confirmed what I am feeling. I don't want to minimize the joy that is there in the ending. Indeed, one of the reasons I have trouble with some modern fiction is the underlying sense some authors convey that nothing has any intrinsic meaning. Instead, they point to a hollowness at the core of existence.

Tolkien's writings are the opposite: his depiction of life is shot through with meaning and, because of that, there are flashes of real joy. We can see the meaning at work in the story. We can reach out and almost touch it. Yet, however hard we try, we find we can't quite get there. It is there one minute and gone the next.

The chapter on the Grey Havens is the epitome of this. It is a poignant portrayal of many good things of life: the friendship between Sam and Frodo, the wise words of Gandalf, Frodo's willingness to stand up against the night. Yet it is also a reminder that, when it comes right down to it, we are powerless to prevent bad things from happening.

My own mood can also influence my reading of the end of the book. If it's a day that I'm an upbeat hobbit with sunshine on my shoulder, I mentally add a picture of Frodo in Tol Eressea going on the assumption that he will find warmth and healing. If I am in an Elvish mood (as I am today for some unknown reason) and feeling the pressure to keep the forces of change and shadow at bay, I have a very different reaction.

I am hoping that Davem will post on this thread. There have been discussions where we've debated what Frodo's fate and sacrifice actually mean. I think it's fair to say that his own view is generally not a sunny one.
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Old 01-04-2006, 11:56 AM   #6
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Quote:
I am glad that you posted and confirmed what I am feeling. I don't want to minimize the joy that is there in the ending. Indeed, one of the reasons I have trouble with some modern fiction is the underlying sense some authors convey that nothing has any intrinsic meaning. Instead, they point to a hollowness at the core of existence.
ty. i dont post much lately, just when the spirit moves me. i agree on current authors. No minimizing here either. It's IMO what exactly what the author felt his entire life concerning his inspiration: joy and loss of a bygone era of both a physical sencse and also man's natural state. The regret after leaving the Garden.

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I am hoping that Davem will post on this thread. There have been discussions where we've debated what Frodo's fate and sacrifice actually mean. I think it's fair to say that his own view is generally not a sunny one.
Davem? Not sunny?? well, it cant always be cake for every meal, can it? How about this for davem baiting:

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We stand on the shore and watch the boat recede, but we can not call it back to us or know what lies beyond.
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I mentally add a picture of Frodo in Tol Eressea going on the assumption that he will find warmth and healing.
He did, because once the ship left the waters on the Straight Path, he died and went to heaven.

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Old 01-04-2006, 01:34 PM   #7
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Good gracious me, I don't think it's a happy ending! I don't know how he could have possibly written a better ending for such a story, but I don't think that it's a happy one. There's too much sorrow mixed into it. Too many farewells. It was too big of a price to be paid, the quest was, in order for the end to be what I would define as happy. And it wasn't just Frodo who had to make a sacrifice, and who had to go because of what he did. But also the elves. . .and many things passed over the sea with them.

For me, however, when it comes time to read that last chapter, and when I finally shut the book and gently brush the back cover with my hand and blink back the tears that always come, it's not for the elves, or for the magic, or the ending of the age, or the world, but for Sam. It's because of him that I mostly think it's a sad ending. I always finish the book asking - Why? But I don't suppose that'll ever be answered. It's just how things end, I guess. I don't suppose I can honestly say that it wasn't a somewhat happy ending. . .but I can't help but feel the emptiness that Sam must have felt, standing on the shore watching the ship until it passed from sight. And it hurts, more than cheers me.

Anyhow. . .there are lots more complicated thoughts whirling round in my head on this topic, but I think that Child has already commented on most of them, other than the one I just mentioned, so I'll let it rest.

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Old 01-04-2006, 04:19 PM   #8
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I always thought the book did not have a happy ending but the characters did live happily ever after. How so? well, here is the thing

First of all, even though the ending of the story is... perhaps ten pages long? I can't quite recall, but even if it was a whole chapter... it is still significantly shorter than the rest of the book, even though an approximate equal amount of time goes by from Bilbo's 111th birthday to the destruction of the ring. So the Fellowship does indeed last a little longer than that (There is no reason to believe that they did not keep in touch with each other, even if they did not have e-mail)

Then Frodo leaves for Valinor and it's a sweet and sour moment. We are all happy for him and at the same time we feel the pain of the hobbits. Let's not forget they are loosing Gandalf, and Galadriel too. Sam is probably the worst off as he was the closest to Frodo, the one (besides perhaps Frodo himself) who loved elves the most and they all loved Gandalf.

Still, Merry Pippin and Sam as well as Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are probably in touch with each other, maybe even visiting from time to time. On the long run, I would think that they came to terms with the loss of part of their fellowship because they ought to have known it was the best for them.

Regarding the end of an era, I don't think it was up to any of the characters to understand that. We understand it, maybe Gandalf did as well... but it was the time they were living at and it is easier for us to see things in perspective than for them.

Which brings another completely different topic.... the ending is definetly sad for us, because of many reasons.

First of all, it's the end!!! Lord Of The Rings is over!!! It's that bittersweet moment in which we realize that no matter what we read it will not be exactly the same. As Lhuna said, if it was up to me, I'd start a new adventure for the Fellowship... and another, and another. But Tolkien was smart enough to realize the story was over and that trying to stretch it any further would have been like the effect the ring had on Bilbo... stretched but not growing.

Second, as I said before, the ending is far shorter than the rest of the story although quite a bit of time comes by. For us readers, everything is still too fresh in our memories, the great adventures and the ever-lasting friendship. For the characters, instead, some time has passed (now I can't recall how much) and they have probably been able to adapt to their new situations. After all, life goes on.

On the long run, they will all understand that each has been given what is best for him and so be happy.
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Old 01-04-2006, 05:49 PM   #9
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(This is one of those posts that you don't know whether to submit or delete - well, no: you know you should delete it but you're too egotistical to bin your work....)

I've just finished a volume on Tolkien by Robley Evans in the 'Writers of the 70's series, published in 1972. He said something interesting, which I hadn't considered. This book was written before the Sil or even the Letters was published, & he mentions that Bilbo & Frodo had been granted immortality in the end - remember the 'Frodo Lives' buttons that were around in the 60's-70's?

We read LotR now with a lot of background knowledge that readers of that period didn't have. They didn't know that Frodo would eventually die in the Blessed Realm. For them Frodo was going to Heaven, to dwell eternally with the Elves. He would recieve an eternal reward in the West without actually dying.

What the post-LotR writings by JRRT have done is make his sojourn in the West a temporary thing for us, a transition period before he dies. This actually takes away the feeling that he has been rewarded for his sufferings on behalf of the people of Middle-earth. However long he got to spend in the West, he died. His time in the West is now seen (in Tolkien's words in one of the Letters) as a period in 'purgatory'. This effectively lessens the sense of 'completion' we feel when we read of his coming to Tol Eressea.

What I mean is, whether we think of Frodo's passage into the West as an allegory of his dying, or whether we see it as his going to the Earthly Paradise, the end of Frodo's story for us now is his death. He gets no 'reward'. Its as if Tolkien's essential pessimism could not allow him to let Frodo live on.

Perhaps this is the reason the ending of LotR is so moving. Everyone (apart from the Elves) dies. Whatever sacrifices they make, however much they suffer, there is no escape from death. Of course, Tolkien said LotR is about the inevitability of death. Sacrifices are made for others, so that they can go on to make sacrifices so that others still can go on. Its a story about 'sacrifice' for others. Frodo gives up his life for others, without thought for reward (which is good, because, in the long term he gets none - only a respite).

So, its about the inevitability of death & the necessity of sacrifice & the abscence of any real reward for it that we can know about or do anything much than hope for.

We could just put that down to Tolkien's pessimism - if we weren't so moved by the story. Are we also pessimists? Is that why we're moved?

Don't think so - if that was the explanation we'd finish the book with the feeling 'Huh! I knew it was like that!'

I think the sadness we feel is down to the fact that so many things have come to an end (both within the secondary world & in the primary - ie we've finished the book), but the happiness we feel is perhaps down to the fact that things do go on: Sam goes back to Rosie & Elanor, life goes on, etc, etc ...or

Maybe what we feel is not so much 'happiness' as 'completion', fulfillment, the feeling that it was all Right in the end. That we've been told a True story - that that's how the world is.

And I know none of that makes much sense.
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Old 01-04-2006, 10:13 PM   #10
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Well, it's absolutely correct that Tolkien intentionally designed the end of the book to be bittersweet. Fading and passing away is a theme that runs throughout the entire history of Middle-earth. Whether it's the Two Trees, the Noldor, the Silmarils, Numenor, or Frodo, nothing lasts forever, no matter how great or glorious it is. One day, Morgoth will return, and the Dagor Dagorath will, we must assume, wipe out many fair things.

And whether Tolkien meant it to be or not, I think that this theme in his work is a direct result of his Christian worldview. Fading is the way things are. Man lives for seventy years or however long, and then one day he dies. And he's gone, never coming back. Ultimately, fading is a result of sin.

Not intending to preach, but this is why I would face total despair, if I were not a Christian. Being such, I believe that in God, there is something that will never pass away, and one day I will join Him in a place that will never fade. It is the way of the world that all things must pass away, but one day everything will change and we will be ushered into eternity.

All right, enough of the theology. If I've offended you, I apologize; like I said, I'm not trying to preach, proselytize, or shove my religion down your throat; I'm just stating my beliefs, and I think Tolkien's were similar. Certainly, we see more than an indication of this in his works. We can assume that Eru Iluvatar, the God of Ea, never fades or passes away. And think of Galadriel's final words to Treebeard. "Not in Middle-earth, nor until the lands that lie under the wave are lifted up again. Then in the willow-meads of Tasarinan we may meet in the Spring. Farewell!"
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Old 01-06-2006, 12:48 AM   #11
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I don't think Tolkien would have wanted a "too-sweet" ending, meaning everybody is perfectly happy, perfectly satisfied with the world.

Moreover I think he had been greatly influened by his religion (see Elladan & Elrohir's post above), and I do not think he made ME a perfect world, wherein once evil is defeated, it is forever banished. I remember old Dumbledore saying to Harry, "evil cannot be fully defeated... just kept at bay" (I can't quote this, since I haven't got my HPHBP).

I suppose it applies in our very own world, and in Arda too. They can't be 100% happy, the story's end has not got to be 100% happy.

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Old 01-07-2006, 03:16 PM   #12
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You know, I just realized that this is part of what makes The Hobbit so much different from LotR. The endings are so completely opposite.

The Hobbit ends, if I recall correctly, with Gandalf and Bilbo (and others, I think) sitting around smoking pipeweed and recounting how good it is to be back to life as normal. And that's what it is. Bilbo goes back to the Shire and continues like it was before his grand adventure, that is, of course, after he gets all his stuff back. But really, that ending is really a very happy ending and almost gives the 'happily ever after' feeling.

But with LotR, as is stated many times above, is not like that at all. It's not really negative, like 'they lived miserably ever after' but there's certainly no 'happily ever after.'

This makes me think that this is why the Hobbit, on the whole, seems like such a more pleasant and 'feel good' tale as compared to LotR. Sure, I love them both, but they are very different, and this suddenly makes a lot of sense as to why.
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Old 01-27-2006, 11:38 AM   #13
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Now when I think about this I feel that LotR doesn't have a happy ending. It's bitter-sweet and more bitter than sweet. It's so so sad that the elves leave it's like the whole magic of the world just disappeared.

The quote from Lórien (which I can't quote because I don't have the book in English) always makes me so sad of the elves' departure. It's about Frodo, how he sees Galadriel as the people of later ages. I think that's the first place the reader really understands that eventually the elves must pass. And with the passing of the elves I think that the reader is also reminded that everything has to pass. That makes it so beautiful, and bitter, like life itself.

And I always start to cry when Gandalf says his famous words about crying. That really moves me, but I can't tell why.

On the other hand, from the viewpoint of literature, LotR would be probably be classified as a book with happy or semi-happy ending, if such classifications would exist.

And, it's not a happy ending for the reader either because when the book is shut you know it's over. It doesn't continue. But of course, you can always start all over...
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Old 01-27-2006, 12:30 PM   #14
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Death as inevitable ending for Men was, apparently, a by-product of Melkor's influence on them (as Andreth tells Finrod in their debate); it was also the marring of Melkor which precipitated the fading of the elves and therefore their departure. However, there is a sort of a poetic revenge (Notes on motives in the Silmarillion, Myths transformed):

"Melkor's final impotence and despair lay in this: that whereas the Valar (and in their degree Elves and Men) could still love 'Arda Marred', that is Arda with a Melkor-ingredient, and could still heal this or that hurt, or produce from its very marring, from its state as it was, things beautiful and lovely, Melkor could do nothing with Arda, which was not from his own mind and was interwoven with the work and thoughts of others"

Of even greater beauty and potence I find the BoLT version of Ainulindale:

"Through him has pain and misery been made in the clash of overwhelming musics; and with confusion of sound have cruelty, and ravening, and darkness, loathly mire and all putrescence of thought or thing, foul mists and violent flame, cold without mercy, been born, and death without hope. Yet is this through him and not by him; and he shall see, and ye all likewise, and even shall those beings, who must now dwell among his evil and endure through Melko misery and sorrow, terror and wickedness, declare in the end that it redoundeth only to my great glory, and doth but make the theme more worth the hearing, Life more worth the living, and the World so much the more wonderful and marvellous, that of all the deeds of Ilúvatar it shall be called his mightiest and his loveliest".

In a 1944 letter to his son, he describes evil as labouring with vast powers and perpetual success - yet "in vain: preparing always only the soil for unexpected good to sprout in". According to The laws and customs of the eldar, the best attitude to all the griefs and sorrows of the world would not be seeking justice, but healing:

"Healing cometh only by suffering and patience, and maketh no demand, not even for Justice. Justice worketh only within the bonds of things as they are, accepting the marring of Arda, and therefore though Justice is itself good and desireth no further evil, it can but perpetuate the evil that was, and doth not prevent it from the bearing of fruit in sorrow."

My final refference would be to Finrod's explanation of hope: of all His designs the issue must be for His Children's joy .
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Old 01-28-2006, 06:47 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by Child of the 7th age
To be truthful, at the end of the book, I find myself grieving for a world, for a past that never even existed. Rationally, I understand that. Yet, part of me does not want to accept those limitations and still yearns for something that feels as if it should have been.
Beautifully said! I feel very much the same as you wrote!
The ending is bitter-sweet, sad and yet hopeful. When I finish reading the LotR, I feel sad, but not depressed and empty!
I think this ending is beautiful and perfect, even if it makes the tears rise in my eyes. It is just like Gandalf says:
Quote:
I will not say: Do not cry, for not all tears are an evil.
I feel that there is a balance between hope and melancholy, that there is a merciful providence behind it all, in spite of the sadness that many things are irrevocably lost.
I think the following quote expresses this mood very well:
Quote:
Then Elrond and Galadriel rode on; for the Third Age was over, and the Days of the Rings were passed, and an end was come of the story and song of those times. With them went many Elves of the High Kindred who would no longer stay in Middle-earth; and among them, filled with a sadness that was yet blessed and without bitterness, rode Sam, and Frodo, and Bilbo, and the Elves delighted to honour them.
The ending of the tale of Aragorn and Arwen is even more sad, although Aragorn’s last words are full of hope (or rather “estel”, trust in Eru)

Quote:
Originally posted by Child of the 7th age
I don't want to minimize the joy that is there in the ending. Indeed, one of the reasons I have trouble with some modern fiction is the underlying sense some authors convey that nothing has any intrinsic meaning. Instead, they point to a hollowness at the core of existence.
Once more, I agree very much with you!!

Strider tells the hobbits about the song of Tinuviel:
Quote:
"It is a fair tale, though it is sad, as are all the tales of Middle-earth, and yet it may lift up your hearts"
"Lift up the heart" that is just the effect that reading the LotR has on the reader!

I also think the ending is rather realistic, in a way. It is not made sure what is really going to happen to Frodo, just as we don’t know what lies beyond the circles of the world. And the fact that the Elves, Ents, Dwarves, Woodwoses etc are all slowly going to vanish and only remain as a few misunderstood words in old poems and fairytales, and that Middle-earth and its magic will be replaced by the modern world is quite true and generates this “Heartracking sense of the vanished past” as Tolkien called it in a letter.


Quote:
Originally posted by Dirigel quoting Child of the 7th age:
Quote:
I mentally add a picture of Frodo in Tol Eressea going on the assumption that he will find warmth and healing.
He did, because once the ship left the waters on the Straight Path, he died and went to heaven.
But Tolkien said explicitly:
Quote:
from letter 181
The passage over Sea is not Death.
And I don’t agree with Davem’s opinion here:
Quote:
What the post-LotR writings by JRRT have done is make his sojourn in the West a temporary thing for us, a transition period before he dies. This actually takes away the feeling that he has been rewarded for his sufferings on behalf of the people of Middle-earth. However long he got to spend in the West, he died. His time in the West is now seen (in Tolkien's words in one of the Letters) as a period in 'purgatory'. This effectively lessens the sense of 'completion' we feel when we read of his coming to Tol Eressea.

What I mean is, whether we think of Frodo's passage into the West as an allegory of his dying, or whether we see it as his going to the Earthly Paradise, the end of Frodo's story for us now is his death. He gets no 'reward'.
No reward? But look at what Tolkien wrote:
Quote:
from letter 246:

Frodo was sent or allowed to pass over Sea to heal him - if that could be done, before he died. He would have eventually to "pass away": no mortal could, or can, abide for ever on earth, or within Time. So he went both to a purgatory and to a reward, for a while: a period of reflection and peace and a gaining of a truer understanding of his position in littleness and in greatness, spent still in Time amid the natural beauty of "Arda Unmarred", the Earth unspoiled by evil.

Bilbo went too. No doubt as a completion of the plan due to Gandalf himself. Gandalf had a very great affection for Bilbo. His companionship was really necessary for Frodo's sake - it is difficult to imagine a hobbit, even one who had been through Frodo's experiences, being really happy even in an earthly paradise, without a companion of his own kind, and Bilbo was the person that Frodo most loved.
But Bilbo also needed and deserved the favour on his own account. He bore still the mark of the Ring that needed to be finally erased: a trace of pride and personal possessivness.(...) As for reward for his part, it is difficult to feel that his lilfe would be complete without an experience of "pure Elvishness", and the opportunity of hearing the legends and histories in full, the fragments of which had so delighted him.
This feels very much like a reward to me! And the fact that he, as all mortals, will eventually die, doesn’t trouble me at all. Look at this quote:

Quote:
from letter 325:
-As for Frodo or other mortals, they could only dwell in Aman for a limited time - whether brief or long. The Valar had neither the power nor the right to confer "immortality" upon them. Their sojorn was a "purgatory", but one of peace and healing and they would eventually pass away (die at their own desire and of free will) to destinations of which the Elves knew nothing.
So Frodo will lay down his life much in the same way as Aragorn did: trusting in Eru and knowing that he has fulfilled his life .
I will much rather believe in Tolkien's explantion than worry about the mysterious and depressing poem "the Seabell"!

Quote:
originally quoted by Raynor:
Death as inevitable ending for Men was, apparently, a by-product of Melkor's influence on them
I thought death was "the gift of Iluvatar" and originally not meant as a punishment ?
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Old 01-28-2006, 09:25 PM   #16
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Davem wrote:
Quote:
What the post-LotR writings by JRRT have done is make his sojourn in the West a temporary thing for us, a transition period before he dies.
I think that Guinevere is right in arguing that Frodo's journey to the West remains very much a reward. I would only like to add that, whatever the experience of readers may have been, it seems to me unlikely in the extreme that Tolkien ever saw Frodo's sojourn in Aman as eternal. Though he turned to the metaphysical framework of Middle-earth with greater attention in the post-LotR years, the broadest elements of that framework (which makes eternal earthly life impossible for any mortal) pre-date LotR. Indeed, the necessity of mortality for humans was a crucial point in both the QS version of Earendil's story and the developing legend of Numenor.
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Old 01-29-2006, 01:34 AM   #17
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I thought death was "the gift of Iluvatar" and originally not meant as a punishment ?
I did point to this being a Mannish idea ("as Andreth tells Finrod in their debate"); indeed, it would be more 'objective' to say that 'Melkor has cast his shadow upon death and confounded it with darkness, bringing forth evil out of good, and fear out of hope' .
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Old 01-30-2006, 09:40 AM   #18
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I feel pretty sad at the end of ROTK, but it's with the appendices that I cry my eyes out. The description of the year 1541 is depressing. I understood at this moment that the story was really over when all the characters are separated from each others.
The friendship between Legolas and Gimli is also very poignant, and i always wonder what happened to them once they left ME. did they perish in the Great Sea? Did they sail forever or at least until Gimli's death (which would be terrible for Legolas, left alone in a ship in the middle of the Ocean). Would Legolas go back to Valinor after that?

That's why I barely read this part of the appendices, and when it happens, just start to read the book I again, to tell myself "i don't want this story to end".
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Old 01-30-2006, 10:09 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beleg
The friendship between Legolas and Gimli is also very poignant, and i always wonder what happened to them once they left ME. did they perish in the Great Sea? Did they sail forever or at least until Gimli's death (which would be terrible for Legolas, left alone in a ship in the middle of the Ocean). Would Legolas go back to Valinor after that?
Gimli was allowed to the Undying Lands because of his friendship with Legolas and as a favor from Galadriel. He died there, later.
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Old 09-06-2006, 03:44 AM   #20
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Thumbs up Does LotR have a sad or a happy ending?

All the three Arda books, LotR, Sil and even TH end with a loss. Yet, there is always something sweet that remains from the past and a new age begins, in good and bad.

----

However, reading through the Why save them? -thread, I decided I wanted to raise a question on Does LotR have a sad or a happy ending? As the question was similar enough, I posted it here instead of starting a new thread.

I guess most of the people (like me) would say that the end is neither happy nor sad; it has both kind of elements and you can't categorise it.

The answer which I'm after is however that if you had to say which one it is, what would you say? There can be sad elements in a happy end and happy elements in a sad end.

Is the ending more sad or happy in your opinion?

In any case, I like this thread and am glad to reactivate it, for one post at least...
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Old 09-06-2006, 04:24 AM   #21
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Not everyone's happy at the end of LOTR , let me assure you .

Sauron is gnawing himself in the shadows , unable to take form again and I'm consequently unemployed .

I was the Mouth of Sauron .

Who knows what was in JRRT's mind when he wrote the ending of LOTR ? It may be he envisaged a sequel where the main characters re-appeared but he just never had the time to write it . There was nothing to say evil couldn't stir up during the start of the Fourth Age and nothing to say Elves and/or Frodo couldn't return to Middle-Earth .

There were certainly plenty of undefeated enemies - Orcs, Haradrim , Variags of Khand , Corsairs , etc. remaining at the start of the Fourth Age - indeed numerically the were probably still much stronger than Gondor and Rohan combined. If they had been united , smart and led well, they could still have prevailed .

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Old 09-06-2006, 01:33 PM   #22
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I'd definitely say that it is neither happy nor sad...It's bittersweet, as stated before...

I came into this post thinking I'd say it was a happy ending, but then I got to thinking, ok, maybe it's technically happy: the good guys won, in as much as anyone can win in war. Aragorn became king, the Hobbits got to go home, Sam, Merry, and Pippin got married, and even Frodo found peace at last...

But I thought back, and wondered, what did I feel at the end? And the answer is this: I felt sad. I cry every time I read the end, and the tears aren't necessarily happy ones.

It's sad on one level, for me, a fan and someone who loves the book...It's sad that the story is drawing to a close, that after this, there is no more, but that's not the part that makes me cry.

On another level, as a reader, sadness is what Tolkien's ending conveyed to me. It's not sad like Shakespeare's tragic endings, where everyone dies, but all the same, I feel a definite sense of loss at the end of LOTR...I feel like I'm losing something, and that's just the only way to put it. It's probably all tied in with the fact that the characters I relate best to are the Hobbits, and particularly Sam. So I feel like I'm losing a dear friend, which isn't a happy feeling, even though it's obvious that it's better for Frodo that way...but is it better for the people who are left behind?

It's sad but true-to-life that even though the Fellowship accomplished its goal of destroying the Ring and ridding Middle-earth of evil for a while (I doubt permanently), life couldn't just go on for those involved. Legolas heard the Sea and had to live with the miserable, painful longing for it. Frodo was not whole after the experience, neither physically nor emotionally/psychologically. Sam, Merry, and Pippin ultimately lost one of their closest friends. Middle-earth lost Gandalf, and ultimately lost most of the Elves, too. (Though, of course, by then I guess the point was that the mortals were going to have to take care of themselves, and were hopefully ready for the responsibility).

So, I guess I'd say that on a logical level (a level on which I am not particularly good at thinking), the ending of LOTR is a happy one, but on an emotional, intuitive level, it is a sad ending, and it's that element that I feel more.

So sad ending is my answer, I guess, though I'm really not a pessimist at heart.
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Old 09-09-2006, 11:30 PM   #23
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According to letter #89, for Tolkien, Joy and Sorrow ultimately converge, even in the event of the eucatastrophe, the happy turn. He also notes in the Atrabeth that "sadness ... must come even from the unselfish love of anything less than Eru".
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Old 09-10-2006, 02:58 AM   #24
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What a lovely thread. As it happens, I'm currently re-reading; Frodo and Sam are on the last part of their journey to the mountain and I'm sniffling with sadness. I have this feeling I am going to have to promise myself to start all over again as soon as I get to the last page of the story proper.

While going on the ship to the West is as much of a reward as Frodo can have, it's still sad. IMO, Frodo would rather be in the Shire, which he has saved, but he just can't go home again.However, I'd like to think that when Sam gets to the West, he'd find Frodo still alive, for a while at least, otherwise, what's the point? Maybe the healing would help Frodo to live his normal lifetime, and he was, after all, only 50ish when he left, which is not old for a Hobbit.

Bittersweet is right. Yet it's nice that, despite having his mind on the West, Gandalf still thinks to make sure Sam doesn't have to go home alone after the Grey Havens, by letting Merry and Pippin know what's happening. What a nice man - er, Maia.I would love to share a pint and a darts game at the pub with Gandalf... (I keep having this vision of Gandalf arriving home in Valinor and finding several thousand years' worth of mail waiting... )
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Old 07-07-2011, 08:23 PM   #25
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Just reading all that makes me tear up all over again!

I am adding myself to the host of people who felt empty. For ME, for the Elves, for Sam, for the re-broken Fellowship, for LOTR itself, name it - just empty. I don't really like the word "bittersweet", I think "a smile through tears" is a better description for me (although they do mean pretty much the same thing... but I see a small difference...).

Really, I can't complain about the ending. It's beautifully done, and just couldn't have been done better. Also, I prefer sad endings (not necessarily tragic, but with some element of that) or those with questionmarks over them to "happily-ever-after"s.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lommy
All the three Arda books, LotR, Sil and even TH end with a loss. Yet, there is always something sweet that remains from the past and a new age begins, in good and bad.
Yes, but The Sil still is more of a tragic work, TH is more of a happy one, and LOTR is " smile through tears" - hopeful but sad, a more gentler sad than The Sil.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lommy
I guess most of the people (like me) would say that the end is neither happy nor sad; it has both kind of elements and you can't categorise it.

The answer which I'm after is however that if you had to say which one it is, what would you say? There can be sad elements in a happy end and happy elements in a sad end.

Is the ending more sad or happy in your opinion?
I'm part of "most people". I think Azaelia answered your second question very well:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Azaelia
So, I guess I'd say that on a logical level (a level on which I am not particularly good at thinking), the ending of LOTR is a happy one, but on an emotional, intuitive level, it is a sad ending, and it's that element that I feel more.
I think some quotes from the books would be appropriate:

"The world is indeed ful of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater." ~Haldir

(Although the literal/obvious/physical darkness was brought down, it still remains in different forms in ME. And you could replace "love" with "hope" and get The Grey Havens in a nutshell.)

"Among the tales of sorrow and of ruin that come down to us from the darkness of those days there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light endures." ~Of Beren and Luthien

I see Gandalf's famous line was already quoted, but I'll do it again:

"I will not say: do not weep, for not all tears are an evil."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gurthang View Post
Tolkien's books end.
But great tales never end as tales, you know that!

PS: I am against speculating about what happend to Frodo&other mortals in Valinor. It's meant to be left a questionmark - just like Bombadil, and Maglor's fate, and what happened to Ferny, and all other mysteries and enigmas. Knowing the answers to them just ruins everything. It gives you knowledge on the "logical level" - like Azaelia put it - but it takes away from the emotional level.

PPS: I hope no one will eat me for doing this, but I couldn't help thinking of Greensleeves when I was writing my post.
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Old 07-08-2011, 12:40 AM   #26
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You're definitely not alone in this. I felt exactly the same way you did. Then again, I think it just made me love the story even more. There was enough of fairy-tale happiness towards the end of the book – an ending that was cliched and sappy would, in my opinion, have killed the whole majesty of the story.

Yes, I was very sad when Frodo left, but after discovering The Silmarillion and other works regarding ME, I felt pretty elated. You can just bury yourself into any story you want.

And of course, the discussions in the Downs never lets it end
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Old 07-08-2011, 12:41 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
But great tales never end as tales, you know that!

PS: I am against speculating about what happend to Frodo&other mortals in Valinor. It's meant to be left a questionmark - just like Bombadil, and Maglor's fate, and what happened to Ferny, and all other mysteries and enigmas. Knowing the answers to them just ruins everything. It gives you knowledge on the "logical level" - like Azaelia put it - but it takes away from the emotional level.

PPS: I hope no one will eat me for doing this, but I couldn't help thinking of Greensleeves when I was writing my post.
I'd say Greensleeves has an appropriate "air" to it. Unfortunately, in my mind, it's just too tied up to Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, Peter Falk & Jack Lemon floating on an Ice Berg across the Bering Straits in "The Great Race" - and from there I just can't get back to the right feeling for Tolkien

Anywy, Tolkien did give "some" clue as to Frodo's fate (and, by extension, Bilbo's) in Letter #246
Quote:
Frodo was sent or allowed to pass over sea to heal him - if that could be done, before he died.
He would have eventually to 'pass away': no mortal could, or can, abide for ever on earth, or within time.

So he went to a purgatory and to a reward, for a while: a period of reflection and peace and a gaining of a truer understanding of his position in littleness and in greatness, spent still in Time amid the natural beauty of 'Arda Unmarred', the Earth unspoiled by evil.
So, in a sense, it may not be "objectively" as sad as it feels "subjectively":
  • Frodo is not dead or forsaken, he is with Bilbo. He is also with Gandalf & Galadriel & Elrond. He is in a place of peace and healing.
  • Sam experiences sadness at the parting, but he returns to Rosie & Elanor (and his Gaffer) and the Shire he loves. He has a full life to lead - full of service and joys received (many kids).
  • Merry & Pippin also return the the Shire they love. Both marry and raise families. Both ascend to the headship of their respective clans (Pippin becomes "The Took", Merry becomes "The Master" of Buckland. Both have the joys of widely traveling to and from Rohan & Gondor - where part of their hearts lie anyway.
Put another way, while it doesn't *FEEL* that way as written, a fair case could be made that Bilbo's proposed "ending" (at the Council of Elrond) actually came true
Quote:
And they all lived happily ever afterwards to the end of their days.
To which you might then add, in typical Hobbit fashion, Sam's rejoinder (from another occassion)
Quote:
Ahh, but where will they live? That's what I often wonder.

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Old 07-20-2014, 08:16 AM   #28
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LotR has the best ending. It's magical, poignant, outstanding, heartbreaking and hopeful. The end left me with strange feelings that I had never experienced before. It's very sad, so sad that I can't read the books again (on matter how much I want to). Sam, Merry, Pippin return home, Aragorn becomes King, Legolas and Gimli end the enmity of their races and become the great friends. But the Ring bearers leave Middle-earth. Forever. Never to return. And with that Magic ends as well. It's all is sad in the Appendices too. But it's understandable that after living "happily ever after" they'll all die. So they do, but the sadness and the feeling of loss remains. I'm unable to come out of it ever and remember how sad I was for weeks before and after I finished the books.

Among all the characters, I find Frodo's ending most appealing. It's mainly 'cause of him and his words said to Sam for reasons of leaving ME that the story becomes as poignant as it is. LotR couldn't have gotten a better ending than this.
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Old 08-21-2014, 07:33 AM   #29
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Yes I felt the same way, I thought the ending was bitter sweet, and it left me feeling bereft. Part of that was probably having to say goodbye to middle Earth and characters I had grown to love. It was a mourning period, a feeling of loss, loss that the book had ended, loss that the Elves were leaving ME forever, a sense that magic was leaving the world, that Lothlorien and Rivendell would fade and that Men would now inhabit ME with all their robust no nonsense approach, that industry would cover the land and cement would replace forests. Its a longing for the past, remembrance of a Golden Age, mortality, all things must die.
Its the bitter sweet atmosphere of Autumn when Summer is gently dying, once the leaves have fallen and the acrid smell of bonfires is in the air.
The last parts of the book from the time Aragorn is crowned, a feeling of sadness steals over me, amongst all the joy I would have quietly left the feasting, found a quiet spot away from prying eyes and I would have wept many sad tears not knowing quite why.

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Old 09-04-2014, 08:33 PM   #30
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Tolkien Proof that Tolkien is the greatest author

There are very few things that can leave you with a void after finishing them. Not just sadness that it is over, but an actual void in your existence, that you can only satisfy be reading over it again.

Tolkien was so good at what he did, that I will never be able to fill the void for the remaining 80 years of my life. I'm sure most people will have the same void, which is a hole in your existence that can be sated by reading Tolkien, but never filled unless you travel to Arda.
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