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Old 12-24-2004, 03:13 PM   #41
davem
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Originally Posted by Helen
BTW, if we are counting oathbreakers we must include Merry, who was told to remain behind and disobeyed, riding with Dernhelm instead.

With Eowyn and Merry, is Tolkien making a point that sometimes oathbreaking is neccessary?
But Merry [i]doesn't break his oath to Theoden - Theoden releases him from his oath:

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The king turned to Merry. 'I am going to war, Master Meriadoc,' he said. 'In a little while I shall take the road. I release you from my service, but not from my friendship. You shall abide here, and if you will, you shall serve the Lady Eowyn, who will govern the folk in my stead.' 'But, but, lord,' Merry stammered, 'I offered you my sword. I do not want to be parted from you like this, Theoden King. And as all my friends have gone to the battle, I should be ashamed to stay behind.'
Merry actually holds to his sworn oath despite Theoden's attempt to release him from it. It seems Merry, albeit from a society that has no apparent tradition of oath taking, takes his oath of service more seriously that Theoden does. Perhaps. Its perhaps not so simple. What Theoden actually does is to hold Eowyn to her oath of service, but release Merry from his. And the motivation seems the same in each case - to protect someone he loves. So Theoden's concern is not primarily about upholding oaths sworn to him, but protecting those he cares about.

This is different to Denethor's approach -although he too releases Pippin from his service. He does this not to protect Pippin, but to make it easier to carry out his own desires.

But where does Frodo's requiring of an oath from Gollum come into this? Frodo requires an oath from Smeagol in order to ensure his own safety & the success of the Quest.

Perhaps this is a more interesting question - not the simple fact of oaths being sworn, but the reasons they are sworn & more importantly the reasons they are demanded. Oaths are sworn, but they are not only not always held by the ones who swear them they are sometimes set aside by the ones who accepted them.

Frodo requires service of Smeagol, Theoden & Denethor accept service of Merry & Pippin. Frodo never releases Smeagol, so Smeagol in the end becomes an oathbreaker by defying Frodo to achieve his own ends. Merry & Pippin in the end are not oathbreakers as such, as they have been released from service before they disobey.

Smeagol feels bound to hold to the letter of his oath - he will not simply break it - he convinces himself that his oath was sworn not to Frodo but 'to the master of the Precious. Merry seems torn - he doesn't want to be released from Theoden's service, yet he still defies Theoden's will. If he is still, in his own mind, bound by the oath he has sworn, he should obey. If he has been released from it, he is a free agent, yet as a free agent he actually does exactly what he swore to do (he clearly intended to ride to battle with Theoden - that was the 'oath' he swore -whether Theoden understood that or not). Pippin swore his oath of service to Denethor in payment of his debt, but its questionable, at the least, whether he understood what he was swearing to.

But this seems to be the case almost across the board - how many oaths are sworn & accepted in full knowledge of what is involved. I keep coming back to Elrond's words of warning. Oaths do break many hearts & it seems that they are broken as much through ignorance of what was involved as by willfullness.
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Old 12-25-2004, 10:01 AM   #42
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I've finally been able to take the time to read all of the great contributions to this excellent topic! So much has been said that I have only two brief thoughts to add at the moment: Gollum's redeemability - I wonder if the fact that he even comes close to being redeemed is due to his hobbit-related nature? After all the centuries that he had the ring and his deep-seated addiction to it, the fact that he has any positive strength left in him shows that, like the other hobbits, he is "tough in the fibre".

Secondly, concerning Boromir: Everything that is said about his family background (father's influence, missing mother, etc.) also applies to Faramir. So what is the decisive difference? Is it the influence of Gandalf on Faramir?

An aside on the orphan issue - remember Birdie's wonderful Tolkien the Matricide thread?!
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Old 12-26-2004, 05:45 AM   #43
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Originally Posted by Esty
I wonder if the fact that he even comes close to being redeemed is due to his hobbit-related nature? After all the centuries that he had the ring and his deep-seated addiction to it, the fact that he has any positive strength left in him shows that, like the other hobbits, he is "tough in the fibre".
Possibly. Yet wouldn't that lessen the meaning - kind of attributing some 'extra' ability to hobbits that men do not have. Hobbits have a kind of innate humility, certainly, which seems lacking (at least to the same degree) in other races, but they are 'relatives of ours'.

I think Tolkien is attempting to show that no-one is beyond the possibility of repentance. Yet the further one goes down the road towards the 'ungood' the more difficult it is to 'turn around'. Its almost as if there's a kind of 'gravitational pull' towards evil, & one must watch out constantly. Like the Road itself you must beware of setting foot on it, because it can drag you off before you realise. Yet there must always be a possibility of repentance - 'damnation' (if there is such a thing in Middle earth) must be 'chosen' - or at least the choices which bring it about must be freely chosen.

So I don't think Smeagol's chance of redemtion & his rejection of it can be put down simply to him being a Hobbit. Anyone - Man, Elf, Dwarf, would have the same opportunity - I think that would be necessary: there would have to be a last chance. Though maybe for others their last chnace would have come at an earlier stage.

Quote:
Secondly, concerning Boromir: Everything that is said about his family background (father's influence, missing mother, etc.) also applies to Faramir. So what is the decisive difference? Is it the influence of Gandalf on Faramir?
It could be Gandalf's influence - but perhaps its some thing else. Boromir & Faramir are different characters - as I said eolsewhere I see Boromir as an extravert & Faramir as an introvert. Its also quite likely that the influence of Denethor on Boromir played as much a part as Gandalf's on Faramir.

Whether its because their respective nature's lead drew them to their 'teacher's' - Faramir to Gandalf, Boromir to Denethor, or whether their natures were shaped by their teacher's is another matter - I don't think anyone's answered the nature vs nurture question yet.

But that brings us to ask the same question - nature or nurture? - in regard to Eowyn & Smeagol. And if 'damnation' is choice to what extent is it 'pre-figured'? Is it in the nature of some to choose to turn from the Light, or is it a result of experiences & external influences? Melkor is the 'archetype' here, I suppose - did he always have the desire for power & control within him?

What do we know about Smeagol's influences - we only know of Deagol & his Grandmother - did they 'push' him into becoming the type of person he became, or would he have gone bad' anyway - if in a lesser way.

And finally, Eowyn. Who were her influences? Her brother, Theoden & perhaps in a way Grima. Not an ideal triad, yet she still found the inner strength to achieve her own redemption.

As does Boromir. Innate 'goodness' will out, I suppose. Perhaps Tolkien in the end favoured nature over nurture & believed that whatrever the circumstances the individual could rise above their background - something he had learned from personal experience.

So, in the end, no excuses for choosing to turn from the Light as far as Tolkien is concerned. Gollum may be deserving of pity, but he still chooses the darkness.
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Old 12-26-2004, 12:01 PM   #44
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I've got it! (I think. . .)

Seems to me, having gone through so much intelligent discussion, that what's really at stake with Boromir, Eowyn and Gollum (BEG?) is the tense relation between self-love and love directed toward the other.

Boromir is consumed with his own opinion of himself and of his role in the world -- he loves other people, but when it comes right down to it, I think that he's a vain person who loves himself before all others: or, at least, his love of himself motivates him to put himself forward, before anyone else ("Faramir, you've had that dream a dozen times, but I've had it once so I should go to Rivendell!"; "I don't see why Aragorn should lead the Fellowship!"). This is a trait that he definitely shares with his father. I think at the end of his life he does manage to move out of his self love and love Aragorn as is his due.

Eoywn is also afflicted with self-love, but she doesn't even really know it. She thinks she loves Aragorn, but what she loves is a "shadow and a dream" -- that is, she has projected onto him her own desires and needs, her own values, and she loves him for the sake of those. They are noble desires, and he is a worthy recipient of her love, but she does not truly love Aragorn-as-other, but Aragorn-as-Eowyn-wants. Her move away from this stance begins with her defense of Theoden, whom she loves, but there is still a real strain of self-love in her actions insofar as she announces her name like some all conquering hero and makes a boast about her abilities: she really does sound like Boromir in that moment. I'm not saying that she is vain or proud, or that her act is not heroic, only that she is at least in part (I think a good part) motivated by her own desires and needs as mush as she is by selfless love for Theoden.

Eowyn then has two important things happen. She falls in love with Faramir, that is, she loves someone else more than she loves herself, and simultaneously sees Aragorn for who he really is: that is, she is able to see past her-self, and the love that she has for others surpasses the love of self.

Gollum loves only his-self, his "precious". His one hope of redemption comes in the form of the love that he might feel for Frodo, but it is finally defeated. It is the consumation of his self-love that leads to his destruction: when he gets the Ring, he dies. This is probably the happiest ending possible for Gollum. If Frodo had been able to throw the Ring into the fire of his own accord, I have no doubt whatsoever that Gollum would have leapt after it, rather than live without it.

Every other character, I think, charts some way through this love of other: Gimli and Legolas, perhaps most obviously, as they learn to love one another; Merry and Pippin love one another; Sam loves Frodo and Rose; Faramir loves Aragorn; and on and on. . .people are saved, are given hope, by the love that they feel for others.

I think that as with so many other things, Frodo and Aragorn are the two most interesting characters in light of this. They are the two people most heinously betrayed by Boromir, and they are the ones who become the givers and receivers of love from Eowyn and Gollum. Aragorn loves the people who need him, and in particular Arwen and Frodo, far more than he loves himself. He is proud and noble, like Boromir, but he is not vain: his own love for his self is never stronger than what he feels for others.

Frodo is the same as Aragorn, but I think he is on a learning curve as the tale unfolds. At the outset he loves the Shire more than himself, but as he goes along he comes to love other things, higher things, as well: Lorien, Aragorn. He also learns to love a creature as loathesome as Gollum, and his love of Sam grows and deepens in tandem with his love of the corrupted Smeagol. By the end of his journey, I think that the only things that keep him going are Sam's love for him, and Frodo's love of Middle-earth -- of all that is created and good that is threatened by the Ring he bears.

So even though, in the end, his will fails and he takes the Ring, his love triumphs. In the moment in which his love of self/the Ring overtakes everything else, he is saved by the love that he has shown earlier to Gollum, the love that he has shared with Sam, and the love that he has learned for the whole of Middle-earth.

So the Beatles were right, it seems. . .all you need is love!

The interesting wrinkle from this would appear to be that the road of self-love is one that leads, specifically, to despair. To love the self over the other is a dead-end insofar as individual effort of will is not enough to succeed in this world, or to do good. It's only by loving others more than oneself that one can have hope, since it's only with and through others that we can hope to do any good in and for the world -- or for ourselves.

What a lovely idea. What a great story.
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Old 12-26-2004, 07:13 PM   #45
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More than Memory...a little wandering

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davem: But this seems to be the case almost across the board - how many oaths are sworn & accepted in full knowledge of what is involved. I keep coming back to Elrond's words of warning. Oaths do break many hearts & it seems that they are broken as much through ignorance of what was involved as by willfullness.
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Fordim (original thesis of thread):
2) They all are rather unwitting players in a larger drama that they do not fully understand.

3) They are motivated, if not defined by, desire.

4) Their failures to fulfil their desires are integral parts of the successful completion of the Quest and of Aragorn’s Return.
It is interesting to relate the nature of the oath and the relation to the desire of the oath-taker. It is when the oaths taken by Boromir, Eowyn and Gollum do conflict with their personal desires and their placing of their personal desire above their sworn oath that they come into conflict with the quest and with those to whom the oath was sworn. But this is elementary. Thus, #4 above being an equation of the failure of their desires and thus the fulfillment of their oaths would suggest the oaths were righteously taken and not so righteously broken (although grace intervenes in the cases in which the oath-breaking is repented). Perhaps they even took the oaths against their conscious or subconscious wishes, but, for either reason of recognition of its righteousness or expedience, they took the oath anyway. Their actions from thenceforward would be motivated by the conflict between their oath and their desire (#3). The interesting fact that they fulfill their oaths in an almost lefthanded way, without their knowledge, or sometimes their consent, would seem to validate #2. (Of course, I think #2 applies to pretty much everyone in the story, Gandalf included. )

davem's quote above interested me as well, especially in relation to those who did not break their oaths, namely my pet foil, Arwen. I realize that she has pledged everything for Aragorn and his future, and while reading the Tale of Arwen and Aragorn once again, the above quote resonated and proved that Elrond's words were indeed incisive and must have haunted Arwen at her end.
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'"I speak no comfort to you, for there is no comfort for such pain within the circles of the world. The uttermost choice is before you: to repent and go to the Havens and bear away into the West the memory of our days together that shall there be evergreen but never more than memory; or else to abide the Doom of Men."
'"Nay, dear lord," she said, "that choice is long over. There is now no ship that would bear me hence, and I must indeed abide the Doom of Men, whether I will or I nill: the loss and the silence. But I say to you, King of the Numenoreans, not till now have I understood the tale of your people and their fall. As wicked fools I scorned them, but I pity them at last. For if this is indeed, as the Eldar say, the gift of the One to Men, it is bitter to receive."
Arwen's loss of hope is indeed the breaking of her heart occasioned at the last by her own oath, and she had little idea of the reality inherent in the fate of Men until it befell her. I never get the feeling that she regretted her choice, but rather that she is finally beset with desire that she never expressed during the War of the Ring and the Reign of Aragorn, during which her faith did not waver. When all that she had gained is lost, she indeed pines for it and feels the personal desire that can now never be fulfilled. Perhaps this is a reflection of a yet nameless idea I have had from time to time that suggests this tendency of Tolkien's melancholy tone is the fact that all in the world must be given up, and all ties severed in the end. It puts me in mind of the "Sea Bell," which is dangerous territory indeed...but somehow, as Fordim as well as Lennon/McCartney said, the "All you need is love" idea applies as the only possible way to connect souls and build delicate structures that must fall in the end...it seems to be a colossal "I don't know" directed at the hereafter, not a hope but a black nothingness that can't be illuminated until the other side is reached. But somehow is this the "final test?" I think the glimmer of hope appears in Aragorn's last words:
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So it seems," he said. "But let me not be overthrown at the final test, who of old renounced the Shadow and the Ring. In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory. Farewell!
The final test...more than memory...it is suggestive, isn't it? But this is WAY off topic so I'll stop here!

And now, I hope that didn't cast any shadows on the discussion or stray too far. Thanks for your indulgence!

Cheers!
Lyta
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Old 12-27-2004, 04:02 AM   #46
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I think Fordim's point about love is well made. These characters all grow in their capacity to love. They begin, as Merry says, with the capacity to love what they are 'fitted to love', because they 'must start somewhere'. Their experiences enable them to love more deeply, & specifically to love 'higher' things. This is mot to say that 'higher things' are beyond thair knowledge from the start. Boromir loves his ideal 'Gondor' in much the same way as his brother - even if their concepts of that ideal differ. Eowyn loves Aragorn for the same reason - he represents an ideal. But these ideals are 'gropings' for something 'other', so to an extent they are fantasies & have little grounding in reality.

Boromir in the end discovers a higher love - not one that he could have concieved of at the start of his journey. He discovers that to die an ugly death, not on some great field of battle, with banners flying, surrounded by knights in shining armour, but on a lonely hilside, protecting two helpless hobbits, is a true sacrifice, & he is ennobled by it in a way that falling on the battlefield & being carried in state to Rath Dinen would not do. His self sacrifice there is what enables him to rise above his former state.

Eowyn discovers the same thing - she had sought a glorious death on the field, but in the end she stands against the WitchKing, not wishing for a glorious death which would bring her renown as well as peace, but only to protect Theoden.

It is this humbling that enables them to rise above their former state & gives them the capacity to transcend what they had been.

What they all discover is that these high dreams to which they had commited themsleves are not true. They are fantasies of which they need to be broken if they are to become fully & truly human.

We see the same with Frodo, who sets out to 'save the Shire' - not the real Shire, but his fantasy ideal of it. His journey will break him, but that very breaking will enable him to be remade.

They may all only be capable of 'loving what they are fitted to love' at the start, the simple everyday things - but each character's journey will enable them (through breaking them) to become fitted to love greater things.

What I find interesting is that these characters at the start love things which they are not 'fitted to love', so what they feel is not truly 'love' but rather desire. It is an ideal they yearn for. Yet it is this desire for an ideal which inspires them. The ideal exists to motivate them into action, to inspire them. Its what makes them set foot upon the Road which they believe will lead them to that ideal. Yet the journey breaks them & they end up, reborn, at a totally different location. Not where they expected to be, but in the place they should be.

Arwen is broken by the loss of Aragorn - actually, by the simple fact of death. She is broken by what we may think of as a simple 'fact'. Yet it is only a simple fact to mortals like us. To her, it is 'wrong'. She is confronted by a cosmic wrong. Its the inescapable inevitability of it which is too much for her. I suppose its the same for all the characters - for Frodo perhaps most intensely - or maybe we just see it expressed most intensely in his experience.

Love for the 'ideal' inspires & the quest to attain it breaks the questor - & that in itself is a kind of death - even if the individual doesn't actually die. That death, that breaking, is what allows transcendence, & enables the individual not only to love higher things, but to love them truly.
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Old 12-27-2004, 11:31 AM   #47
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Some nice points davem (as always) but I think that you are shifting my point a bit. I was not arguing that E, G, and B are in love with (or desire) the 'wrong' things, or simple things and that they then learn to love the 'right' things: what I'm saying is that their journey is one specifically from self-love to love of the other.

I point this out because in your post you seem to be aligning BEG with characters like Frodo and Merry. The way in which you are putting them all together works well with your formulation of growing love, but I would resist putting Merry or Frodo into the same 'camp' with BEG in terms of the self-love I am working through. I simply do not see the other 'heroes' as suffering from self love. I think that the story is really quite clear: any form of loving the self before or more than the other is extremely dangerous -- Sauron springs to mind, here. . .

I want to retain a very special sense of the role of Boromir, Eowyn and Gollum that excludes the other characters (their growth from self-love to other-love). Of course, I think that these characters must work in comparison or relation with others, but I really do want to figure out how they are unique in the story.
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Old 12-27-2004, 01:02 PM   #48
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Originally Posted by Fordim
but I really do want to figure out how they are unique in the story
.

I suppose I must ask to what extent they actually are 'unique' - as opposed to simply being 'extremes'. Many characters display this kind of self love, so we should perhaps beware of making it the be-all & end all of what motivates these three.

To what extent is their self love their defining characteristic? Actually, I don't seeEowyn displaying self love so much as self loathing. While Boromir & Smeagol wish to live she wishes rather to die. They wish to acheive some kind of worldly success & live to experience the fruits of it; she wishes for an end of what she sees as worldly toil & suffering.

This perhaps separates her out from them, rather than binding her in with them. Of course there is her love for Aragorn, which awakens the possibility of escape from her death wish, but as soon as she realises that he is beyond her she slips instantly back into it. So her natural mind set is not the same as theirs. Boromir, as far as we know, has never desired to die as Eowyn does. He wishes to live & lead. Of course, a glorious death in battle ould not be anathema to him - its perhaps (as far as he's concerned) the right way to go down - in the proverbial 'blaze of glory' - but its not something he would look for in order to escape from the burden of living. In fact he seems rather to relish life. He perhaps includes his dying as part of his 'failure'. Eowyn on the other hand seems to consider death merely as a way out. 'Living' is her failure.

And Smeagol never, as far as we know, wishes for death. Like Boromir he wants success - to live forever with his precious. Eowyn may opt for death in battle - but that's natural in a scion of the House of Eorl, but I suspect that if she had succumbed to some serious illness she would not have fought it. She had no desire to live.

This is why I'm uncertain about linking them together merely through 'self-love'. Boromir & Smeagol, perhaps, but not Eowyn. We could connect her despair with Frodo's final state. They both despair of finding peace within the world, & seek to leave it. Frodo seeks healing, yes, but mainly an end of his despair & pain. He goes in the the West because of a promise of such healing. Eowyn seems to see Aragorn as a 'symbol' of such healing for herself, so when that chance is snatched away she reverts to her original state of hopelessness & wishes to end it all. How different would Frodo's state be if he had not had the option of passing West?
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Old 02-15-2007, 02:24 PM   #49
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Further to discussions elsewhere

This is well worth HerenIstarion-ing
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