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Old 05-28-2002, 09:21 AM   #1
Child of the 7th Age
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Tolkien Frodo's Sacrifice

On Memorial Day, as I read about an uncle lost over the Pacific whom I'd never know, I remembered Frodo's words at Grey Havens:

Quote:
It must be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.
And I couldn't help but recall Frodo's sacrifice, and his decision to sail West.

It is easy to make a list of Frodo's hurts and guilt, based on the book and Tolkien's Letters. But, this doesn't address the central mystery. We never clearly see Frodo's mind, and many questions are left.

Did Frodo's decision to sail West come out of a sense of strength or weakness, and how does this affect our view of him?

Was it a desire for physical, psychological, or spiritual healing? Or simply fate?

One recent essay, linked elsewhere on this site, pointed solely at Frodo's despair, a belief he could not regain his old self so life in the Shire was unbearable. Can we read anything but sadness in this decision?

Or was something else present, something transcending the immediate hurt, which had more to do with Frodo as a prophet and seer--his longing for the Sea and visions of a distant land; his love of Elves, the elven gleam in his eye, even his elven nature; a desire for a different path in life---

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And the Ship went out into the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a green country under a swift sunrise.
How do we fit together all these pieces of such a beloved and complex character?

sharon, the 7th age hobbit

[ May 28, 2002: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
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Old 05-28-2002, 09:26 AM   #2
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well i think that he saw that he was out of place in middle-earth and that as a bearer of a ring of power he needed to pass on like the age of the rings and their bearers did.
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Old 05-28-2002, 02:36 PM   #3
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In Frodo's departure, there is the sorrow of the end of an ancient era, the incertitude of a new one.
A transition between a world doomed to vanish, evolving to a brand new world doomed to be forgetful of what had existed in order to grow up for its own.
The time of Frodo was in the past story, not fitting anymore in the young world born from the ashes of the ancient Age.
Gaining wisdom, Frodo is able to sense as the Elves that his/their "time" in "this" Middle Earth is over.
In the other hand, sailing to Grey Haven might also be a sort of re-birth for him, a return to the source of light, his new knowledge would need to improve and satisfy.
A birth is always a moment of great satisfaction and pain, and the separation of Frodo and Sam, Frodo and Middle earth is painful, and nostalgic because it is his farewell to the last links of his "preview " life.
The new Age of Middle Earth needs to move on of what was- and Frodo was one of them- , as much as Frodo needs to leave it, to evolve both.
The people who contribute to a new and better world are not unfortunatly the ones who could live and blossom in it.

Sad but hopeless.
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Old 05-28-2002, 02:41 PM   #4
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I must be sleeping or I am in broody mood
I didn't want to mean
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Sad and hopeless
But
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SAD AND NOT HOPELESS
Sorry for the mistake
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Old 05-28-2002, 04:05 PM   #5
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I don't really understand the sacrifice Frodo made by sailing to the Grey Havens.
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Old 05-28-2002, 04:11 PM   #6
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I wouldn't say it was a sacrifice either, between the wound from the enchanted Morgul blade, being poisoned by Shelob, and the effects of wearing the Ring, not to mention it being taken by Gollum and destroyed, he suffered both physically and psycologically, the only healing he could get would be in the West. Gandalf had made a remark about not knowing what would come of him, and that maybe in the end he would like glass. Or something to that effect.
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Old 05-28-2002, 06:13 PM   #7
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WOUNDS

This is a link to an interesting psychological perspective on why Frodo left Middle Earth.
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Old 05-28-2002, 06:34 PM   #8
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Pio -- Yes, I have read it and she does a very thorough job analyzing all the hurts and disappointments that Frodo has. She has pulled in a ton of references and is very thorough.

She may be a bit heavy handed on the "post traumatic survivor symptom" theme. I'm not sure if it's that or simply the process of acute grieving which is similar to but not exactly the same.

I'll tell you a personal story. This is long in the past and we are fine now, but my husband and I lost our 7 month old baby to SIDS (crib death). Immediately after that, whenever I read about Frodo's behavior following Mount Doom, I could strongly identify with him. One minute feeling ok, the next minute in deep despair. The worst times were always the anniversaries. And truly the worst thing a person could do in that situation was to sit and do nothing. It is impossible to change your attitudes just by wishing it. The only alternative was to change your behavior so that an attitude change could then take place.

In a way, I think this is what Frodo tried to do by sailing to the West. So I see it less as a response to despair or post traumatic defense syndrome, than as a positive step and an attempt to turn the corner on grief. I have no professional background in this, but I do know how I felt and reacted after facing a terrible tragedy and loss.

My other problem is this --as you can probably tell from the way I phrased this question, I think hurting and despair may be only half the story.

In the very earliest drafts of the story, while Frodo was still called Bingo, Tolkien said this character would sail at the end to the uttermost West. This was even before Tolkien knew how the story was going to end on Mount Doom, and before he knew just how injured Frodo was.

In fact, in the earliest drafts, Frodo takes an active leadership role in the Scouring of the Shire and also receives a lot of praise and gratitude from the Shire--of course, all that would change in later versions. But even with that positive spin in the earliest drafts, Tolkien still had Frodo sail West. So may be it was just inherent in who he was.

It's so easy for us to relate to the Shire. We understand the beauties of this world and of family and friends. But maybe a seer and prophet, which Frodo has become, needs something else, a different path, which most of us have trouble comprehending.

sharon, the 7th age hobbit
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Old 05-28-2002, 10:02 PM   #9
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Quote:
She may be a bit heavy handed on the "post traumatic survivor symptom" theme.
I very much appreciated Ms Milos' analysis of Frodo's wounds and his reponse to them in terms of PTSD. I'm a nurse working on a medical floor of a hospital. Many of my clients are Viet Nam vets & others are survivors of horrific childhood abuse. Sometimes I recognize the same suffering in them that I saw in Frodo. Wounds of the body and wounds of the spirit that never seem to completely heal.

Quote:
In a way, I think this is what Frodo tried to do by sailing to the West. So I see it less as a response to despair or post traumatic defense syndrome, than as a positive step and an attempt to turn the corner on grief.
I, too, think that by Frodo sailing to the West was a positive step for him - a place where he could break from the cycles of despair and pain and have the hope of healing. I often wish my clients could make this choice, to be proactive in a positive manner. But to be honest most of them can only choose to medicate themselves with drugs and alcohol which only drives the despair deeper and lets the hurt fester. I often wonder what might have happened if Frodo had not felt compelled to go into the West - would the severity of his wounding eventually have driven him mad?

I wonder, too, if even his stay in the West ever completely healed his wounds.

Quote:
But even with that positive spin in the earliest drafts, Tolkien still had Frodo sail West. So may be it was just inherent in who he was.
I can agree with this, also. But I see it as not that it was inherent in who he was. I think it was inherent in who he had become. Seer and prophet is how you name him, and I think that is true - He seemed for, or perhaps through, all his hurts, more transparent, as if there were only a thin shell between his Light and the Undying Light of the West. I only hope that his journey brought him some sort of peace and closure.

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The people who contribute to a new and better world are not unfortunatly the ones who could live and blossom in it
I really like this quote, StoneofVision! It does remind me of the Viet Nam vets I have taken care of. It's as if their experiences have ripped them out of time and they don't mesh well back into it.
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Old 05-29-2002, 06:18 PM   #10
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I'm hesitant to comment, given that people are reflecting on personal experience here, but perhaps that is the point -

Quote:
... a positive step and an attempt to turn the corner on grief. I have no professional background in this, but I do know how I felt and reacted after facing a terrible tragedy and loss ...

... maybe a seer and prophet, which Frodo has become, needs something else, a different path, which most of us have trouble comprehending
It is my wish to be fully respectful and sensitive to the identification with aspects of the book that any (or all) of us may feel in light of our own lives. This is, if not necessarily the purpose, at least the nature of art at times. It is cathartic, it can be a translucent mirror in which we see ourselves, and outside of ourselves, at the same time. This can be enlightening and liberating, and similarly humbling and challenging. And, naturally, the act of perceiving and experiencing profound themes and narratives takes place within the frame of our own emotions and psyche.

Yet I would question the rationalisation of Frodo's departure from the Grey Havens in the jargon of modern psychology, for two reasons. One is that, whilst Tolkien would nodoubt have a first-hand concept of trauma and grief from his experiences of two world wars, his culture, tradition and beliefs would seem to me to be some distance from the rather (ironically) impersonal theories of psychology that are part of modern parlance. The essence of LotR seems more rooted in epic myth than in psychodrama, and it is the moral struggles (and the physical battles) that are the true test of each character and provide the narrative with depth. The idea of "coping strategies", or "visualisation", and so on, don't exactly dovetail with the tone of the book. In addition, my second hesitation is that the applicability of psychotherapeutic terminology is limited, mainly to Frodo. Eomer, Faramir, Aragorn, Sam and so on respond to the triumphs and woes with heroic grace, stoicism, grief and so on, expressed in pretty much traditional terms.

This is not to say that the applicability of the books to our own experiences and psychology is not relevant or valuable. It is, and we can find both insight and identification. There is something of the human condition in there (in the non-human characters as well) and both wisdom and compassion. There is a narrative of healing and redemption that, whatever its terminology, we can relate to in our different ways.

Sharon's point about Frodo's status as a seer or prophet is an interesting one. There are certainly glimpses of something like this - an aura, or particular archetypal quality - associated specifically with Frodo.

In relation to the Grey Havens, however, perhaps the key element to the narrative is pathos - or poignancy - in Frodo's final departure. It may be partly "the end of an era" in mythic terms, it may be truly the end of The Fellowship or brotherhood of heroes, it may be the end of Frodo's journey of sacrifice ... it is also the moment when, for once, Sam cannot follow his beloved master. In the narrative itself it seems to me a true moment of quietness and a reflective sadness, rather than 'grief'. It is understated, dreamlike and dignified, and with Bilbo's presence, almost surreal. The passing into history, perhaps. And it offers a structural focus in the telling of the story ... instead of Bilbo's "lived happily ever after", or an interminable and somewhat cursory listing of sons, daughters, grandsons and mayoral elections, it is AN END, an exhalation. (I would have said 'closure' but that would contradict my point about psychological terminology [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] - hopefully you get my point)

I'm not sure. I think Sharon may have something, though it is rather ambiguous. I'd be interested in Tolkien's onwn thoughts, if anyone has pertinent references. Again, I ask that people please take these points on face value, as no more than light discussion of the possible interpretations of the narrative. What each learn or take from the story is precious and personal, to be cherished and respected, and I acknowledge that for myself and all readers.

Peace [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

[ May 29, 2002: Message edited by: Kalessin ]
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Old 05-30-2002, 01:01 PM   #11
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Kalessin --

Thanks for your perceptive post. We may not be as far apart in this matter as you think. I have posted on this topic in several threads, and had chosen not to go into detail here. This may have been an mistake. So let me back up and explain my thoughts.

This may be lengthy. I hope the Barrow-wight will not fine me for excessive "verbage."

Quote:
Yet I would question the rationalisation of Frodo's departure from the Grey Havens in the jargon of modern psychology...
I agree. This is what I meant when I said that the author of this article "may be a bit heavy-handed on the 'post traumatic stress disorder' theme." (hereafter cited as PTSD) Perhaps this needs to be stated more explicitly.

I have two objections to using such terminology. Like you, I have reservations about applying "impersonal theories of psychology that are part of the modern parlance".

I agree that Tolkien knew the reality of trauma and men afflicted by trauma, especially in the context of World War I and the battle of Somme in which he participated. The latter involved horrific slaughter. There were 50,000 British casualties in a single day, more than any other similar period of warfare in human history. (Fortunately, Tolkien's unit was being held in reserve and they came in a few days later to "clean up" this unbelievable carnage.)

I am certain that Piosenniel, as a nurse, would have seen heartwrenching examples of PTSD in Vietnam, and that there were parallels in behavior with Frodo. Having acknowledged this, I still believe that such terminology, and its corresponding framework, is not something Tolkien would comfortably use or identify
with.

Secondly, as a historian, I have a general aversion to seeing any individual--whether historical, literary, or legendary--reduced to a psychological cipher. I have read too much analysis which overlooks or denies the reality of ideas or ideals as a motivating force. Just look at the classic Freudian treatment of Martin Luther. And, yes, he was a character with problems, but there is more to him than an anal fixation!

What I do see is this.....

Regarding Grey Havens:

Quote:
In the narrative itself, it seems to me a true moment of quietness and reflective sadness, rather than grief.
Again, I agree. In my mind, Grey Havens is the result of Frodo going through a long period of suffering and coming to the realization that another path may allow him to heal and grow more fully than that of the Shire. He was, in effect, beginning to put grief behind him. How sad this realization must have been!

There is no doubt that, on the trip homeward, loss and grieving are there. And I think it is fair to use terms like these. Ancient and medieval man would have had no idea what PTSD was, but they were familiar with sorrow, grief, and grieving, just as they were familiar with the concept of stoicism. Given the complexity of human nature, these terms are not mutually exclusive.

So, to my mind, one can apply this frame in trying to understand Frodo's behavior. According to Websters, grief means "intense mental anguish; deep remorse; acute sorrow or the like." I definitely see this in Tolkien's writing.

While it may be a stretch to apply my own personal experience to Frodo's dilemma, it's hard not to do so. Both were basically issues of loss. And believe me when I say that some of the parallels were explicit. "Unreasoning self reproach"....that is all part and parcel of the loss of control in one's life and wondering "if only I had..."

But let's forget me and pass on to Tolkien who is admittedly more critical to this argument. Are you familiar with Letter 245 written in 1963? This is the author's assessmnt of Frodo's sorrow. Here Tolkien states that Frodo's inability to voluntarily dispose of the Ring was not a moral failure. He continues:

Quote:
But what Frodo himself felt about the event is quite another matter. He appears at first to have no sense of guilt; he was restored to sanity and peace. But then he thought he had given his sacrifice; he expected to die very soon. But he did not, and one can observe the disquiet growing in him. Arwen was the first to observe the signs, and gave him her jewel for comfort, and thought of a way of healing him (i.e. arranging passage to the West)
Tolkien continues:

Quote:
Slowly he fades 'out of the picture', saying and doing less and less. I think it is clear on reflection to an attentive reader that when his dark times came upon him and he was conscious of being 'wounded by knife sting tooth and a long burden' it was not only nightmare memories of past horrors that afflicted him but also unreasoning self-reproach; he saw himself and all he had done as a broken failure. 'Though I come to the Shire, it will not seem the same for I shall not be the same. That was actually a temptation out of the Dark, a last flicker of pride: desire to have returned as a 'hero', not content wih being a mere instrument of good. And it was mixed with another temptation, blacker and yet (in a sense) more merited, for however that may be explained, he had in fact not cast away the Ring by a voluntary act; he was tempted to regret its destruction, and still to desire it. 'It is gone forever and all is dark and empty.' he said as he wakened fom his sickness in 1420.
Tolkien tells us that it is for this reason that Frodo was allowed to sail to the West: "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 greatness, spent still in Time and the natural beauty of 'Arda Unmarred.'" The letter continues at length with details of Frodo's illness and how he finally came to the decision to depart.

Tolkien's words seem to implicitly confirm that Frodo is dealing with issues of guilt, sorrow, and loss, both human and spiritual in nature.

Finally, there is an issue I want to mention. Another reason I am uncomfortable with the PTSD essay is that the author focuses only on the negative factors in Frodo's decision, those elements which drove him to grief and despair.

But, as Tolkien clearly states, the West is not only Purgatory. It is also a reward. And it is this that I think many of us overlook with our sadness at the character's departure. As I stated in my first post, Frodo, who had become a prophet and seer (have tons of quote and examples, but don't want to get into that here) had so much in his character that needed and wanted more than the Shire could give. We are so tuned to the beautiful things of this world that it is easy for us to overlook something even more wondrous but which is beyond our limited comprehension. Frodo's first alluring glimpse of the distant shore as the ship comes out of a sheet of rain captures some of that feeling.

I was really hoping posters would identify and discuss some of those positives that underlay Frodo's yearning for the West and the Sea, even aside from character's need for healing and understanding.

Sorry this is so long, but hope it helps.

Sharon, the 7th age hobbit
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Old 05-31-2002, 12:35 PM   #12
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Sharon et al,

While I agree that Tolkien would have never heard the term PTSD, he did have a great deal of experience with "Shell Shock", the former, WW1 name for PTSD. He suffered it himself, and so did many, many other WW1 vets. He would have had extensive experience with the symptoms of it, as well as with survivor guilt etc. So it would not surprise me at all if he had worked a great deal of "shell shock" symptoms into Frodo's experience.

Much of Mordor's landscape reminds me heavily of the WW1 battlefield descriptions I have read (WW1 correspondant, Phillip Gibbs, "Now It Can Be Told", vols 1 and 2): corpses haunting the Dead Marshes... Dagorlad: blasted, polluted, oily residues, craters and mounds of slag and ash; Also applies to Gorgoroth, add to it: criscrossed with trenches, stinking, roiling with smoke and poisonous fumes... All WW1.

I think it's unwise to dismiss the shell shock elements from our understanding of Frodo simply because they are discussed using the PTSD terminology that Tolkien would not have been familiar with. Tolkien and his British culture understood what Shell Shock was. (Read Phillip Gibbs for more information on this... but only if you are not prone to depression. It is incredibly dark reading.)

Having said that, Sharon, I have been giving a lot of thought lately to your persistant stance that Valinor (Tol Eressea) was the best place for Frodo to go, and I began to realise that it's because I see The Shire, Rivendell, and Lorien as paradise that I cannot understand Frodo leaving them.


I'm still reviewing all of Frodo's "Ocean moments", dreams, comments, observations... Galadriel's song... There are plenty of them. From at least Tom Bombadil's house, he is clearly destined to go over the sea. So why does it bug me so much that he finally does?

Perhaps much of my issue with Frodo's departure is lack of understanding of how Tolken saw Valinor, and Tol Eressea.

I had read The Silmarillion long ago, but it is time to revisit it again, I think; and more importantly, I think, The Book of Lost Tales and other stories that deal with visitors to Tol Eressea and Valinor.

I see Galadriel, Elrond, and Gandalf leaving for Valinor and think nothing of it-- note, I am not happy for them at all. Nor sad. I rather think Gandalf is a bit odd for leaving his friend Aragorn in the height of his newfound happiness. Elrond I figure is eager to see his wife at long last; and Galadriel's departure makes me feel sorry for Celeborn more than anything else. So I probably don't hold Valinor in high enough esteem.

[ May 31, 2002: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 05-31-2002, 05:45 PM   #13
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Mark --

Just a quick response before I have to go prepare dinner for a whole troop of hungry hobbits (at least they eat like hobbits!).

Yes, I am sure that shell shock was known to Tolkien. And some of what Frodo went through must have been similar.

My problem is more with the terminology in the article than anything else. Once you start using modern psychological terms, I feel it influences the way we look at things. I would rather think of analogies from ancient epics or from the middle ages. I still think it's closer to the spirit of the work.

But the main problem I have with the article isn't even the terminology--it's that the author thinks in one-dimensional terms. She focuses on elements of despair and explores these thoroughly. Nowhere is there any treatment of Frodo's visions, longing for the Sea, his Elven look, etc. or of the implications of the passage from one age to another. I think these are pertinent to any understanding of why Frodo sailed from Grey Havens.

Believe me, I totally sympathize with your dilemma about Frodo. Intellectually, I feel I've come to the point that I can see many things pointing Frodo towards the Blessed Lands in addition to the element of hurting.

Remember, Tolkien said it was both a Purgatory and a reward. A reward makes no sense unless the person getting it can have some appreciation of what he or she is getting. And I think Frodo was at the point in his life and had grown enough that he could begin to appreciate what Tol Eressea offered.

Emotionally, from my point of view at least, that is a different story. I'm out there holding on to the back of the ship and trying to pull it back to the shores of Middle-earth. I don't want him to leave. I can keep better track of him here, and I understand the joys of being an honorary uncle to Sam's kids.

The Elves are different--we all know they are supposed to leave at the end of the third age so we can accept that as part of a bigger picture. Bilbo and Sam--they only come after living a full, long life on earth.

So. once again, Frodo is different. He is relatively young --53, with a normal life expectancy of 100 or more. He still has half of his life to live and he doesn't fit any of the usual categories. Plus, he's the only one leaving in a state of intermittent but acute suffering. We just want to know he is going to be alright! We worry about whether he's going to be lonely since, after Bilbo choses to go on, Frodo will be the only hobbit there till Sam comes.

Of course, we need to remember that the passage of time in the West may be totally different than Middle-earth--just look at Lorien.

I still think our ambivalent feelings have a lot to do with the fact that we are mortal creatures and feel much more comfortable with the concrete joys of everyday life rather than some distant, unknown land where the rewards seem to be, for want of a better term, spiritual. I simply can't imagine what such a place would be like. But I do think Tolkien gives us a tiny glimpse with that first description of the distant shore which Frodo sees --the same description that we had in his earlier dream in Tom's house. We have to remember that it is likely Frodo will live as many or more years in Elvenhome as he lived in the Shire. That's a lot of time for learning and growing and exploring.

There is just no easy answer on this one, I think. I know Tolkien said he worried about Galadriel after her voyage to the West. Well, here I sit and worry about Frodo.....a fictional character. Go figure!!

But the possibilities are amazing. I have recently been reading the Osanwe-Kenta essay which describes mind-to-mind communication. There are even examples of this among the Elves and Gandalf in Middle-earth. The essay states that Osanwe-kenta was far more prevelent in Arda unmarred which means it would have happened in the West with much greater frequency. And it also says all incarnates are capable of doing this --men, hobbits, etc., although it's more difficult for them than Elves, Maiar, Valar, etc.

So, in my mind's eye, I have Frodo learning to communicate like this while in the West. After all, he was able to receive Gandalf's warning to him while he had the Ring on. And he was an unusual hobbit. So you just never know; the West could have been a most amazing place, even by our standards!

sharon, the 7th age hobbit

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Old 06-01-2002, 06:40 AM   #14
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Child, you make me think new thoughts. That is a great gift (double meaning). Thank you.

Warning: rambling thoughts. "drive carefully"

I have begun to see more and more of a Celtic influence in Tolkien, due largely to having read Thomas Cahill's book, "How the Irish Saved Civilization", a slightly hyperbolic title. The Celts, before the Vikings, had this urge of westwardness. St. Brendan is the most obvious example. Tolkien's tidal wave dream also plays a large part in this westwardness theme, as he ties it to Numenor/Atlantis (which are not the same as Tol Eressea, but akin). When I read about the Celts of ages ago (and not so long ago) I find that they have, to some degree, the same feel as do Tolkien's Elves.

I bring that up because I think it has a lot to do with Tolkien's consistent intention to have Frodo go into the West. As has been said already on this thread, Frodo was going to go into the West, regardless of how hurt he was. I tend to think that Tolkien had a deep sense that this must be so. Frodo became for Tolkien his Aelfwine character from the Book of Lost Tales; Frodo as a hobbit was akin to the Rohirrim, who are Tolkien's Germanics, his Anglo-Saxons. The British people being a mix of Anglo-Saxon and Celt, it makes sense to me that Frodo, aka Aelfwine, as sensitive and Elf-loving (read for my purpose Celt-loving) as he is, would become somewhat of an Elf himself, as much as could be.

The big question for me is, was this growing Elvishness caused by the trauma of the Ring? In part. Bilbo gets to go, too. Gollum would never have been given the chance, having done evil with the Ring. Bilbo's going into the West actually seems more troublesome to me than Frodo's. Frodo is the only one who suffers to be the Ringbearer against his will, for the sake of others. Bilbo covets it for himself, and perhaps his renunciation is what saves him. The 'fea' of hobbits, humans, and elves, are the same. What happens to Frodo, then, seems to be a straightforward 'sanctification' a shedding of 'the trammels of the flesh' while still alive, such that his fea could be seen clearly by those with eyes to see. So I guess what some call 'elvishness' may not be elvishness per se, except in that Frodo's loosened ties to 'the things of this world' resemble elvishness. (how this just brought me 'de ja vu' I have not the foggiest notion, hmmm... oh well)

Okay, so I've contradicted myself. I guess I can see both things working at the same time and don't see them as mutually exclusive.

I don't have a strong desire for Frodo to stay in the Shire. In all my readings of LotR I have related to both Frodo and Sam more than any other characters. Frodo's farsightedness and dream of 'another faraway place' resonates with me deeply, so I need him to go West over sea. Sam's health and living in the now, while having been deepened by his trials, also resonates deeply with me, and I need him to stay in the Shire. That means that I maintain a split within myself in terms of what I truly desire, which has always been one of the fundamental aspects of my identity. Maybe I'm odd in that way. I doubt it, though. Can anybody else identify with this?
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Old 06-01-2002, 09:47 AM   #15
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You know what, littlemanpoet, I think that's not a bad thing that Frodo went west over the sea, a little "hobbitness " in the pure Elvish world could only make their world more interesting! [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img] lol!

Ok SOV is going back in the corner thinking a while.... [img]smilies/tongue.gif[/img]
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Old 06-01-2002, 09:58 PM   #16
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I've been trying to get up my courage to approach this topic-- I'm just going to have to jump in. I completely agree about the applicability of shell shock and WWI. I thought that that article was good in its feeling for Frodo, but completely wrong in many respects. I think that the notion that Frodo was tormented by survivor guilt about failing to save Gollum is nonsense-- he knew very well that Gollum made his choice. We may know Gollum almost made it back in the scene where he touches Frodo's knee, but Frodo doesn't. Regardless, I think both protagonist and author knew Gollum had a chance he did not take by choice.

I also think that that author misread the significance of Frodo's reaction on the anniversaries. Here I'm going to have to bring in what I know about Catholicism (my husband's faith but not mine.) I'm not talking here about religious themes or the insights of faith, but in the mental model of the world a Catholic might develop under the influence of the rituals. The way a Catholic who was responsive to the rituals might begin to define 'time.' I'm trying to explain a way of thinking about time that is available to Catholics (thought not exclusively, of course, in fact it's one of the oldest mental models in religion). Think of this as anthropology rather than theology, ok?

There is the notion of ordinary time and whatever the other time is-- sorry-- my reference resource is asleep-- the time when the savior's on earth. The church does its best to make people feel at the service that the events of the New Testament are happening again, both then and now. The palm procession is happening both in Biblical time and now, today, in this aisle by your elbow. The resurection is happening today. This is not a matter of religious themes, this is a matter of mental modelling of time, a way of understanding the passing of the year in a way that is simultaneously ordinary and transcendent. You see why I've been scared to try and discuss this! Sorry if I'm unclear. On Holy Thursday, when by tradition Christ was taken away, they bundle up the altar cloth and leave the people standing, with no goodbye and no ending, to drift away feeling loss and absence. I keep associating that ritual with all this leaving, beginning with Frodo's withdrawal from Sam during his struggle with the ring.

From what I've read of the origins of religions, this is one of the oldest ways of thinking about time: in all sorts of ancient faiths, they killed the king in the time of legends when our land was founded, but they also killed him today-- you saw the sacrifice, you may even have seen a real sacrifice. So this is not an invention of any major religion. However, it is only available to a practicing member of a religion that uses this form of ritual & attitude. Tolkien was a practicing member of a church that was strong in this, having forged its rituals in a time when few of its members were literate enough to read their holy books for themselves. Making them live the events anew each year, weekly, was the only way to deliver any understanding.

Ok, end of anthropology -- sorry! I think that Frodo relived his dark moments in this ritual sense-- these dark events with such spiritual significance for him and the world happened again for him each year at the ritual time, and would continue to do so. Frodo being so much on the other side, they really, literally, happened again to him. In some way he was literally in danger again each time. Leaving middle earth for Tol Eressea was a way of exiting ordinary time and escaping this recurrance-- in the presence of Valinor, this ritually repeating story of the salvation of middle earth would be suspended. The whole place stands outside of that story. Rituals of transcendence don't apply once you have transcended. *sigh* That's the best I can do.
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Old 06-02-2002, 08:48 AM   #17
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Nar --

This is a very intesting idea.

I believe that what you are describing is very close to the ideas of Mirciea Eliade (sp?), whom I haven't read in a number of years, but which was the basis for a course which I took on comparative religions.

And, yes, I understand the concept of the re-enacted ritual very clearly. Every year, we have two elaborate Pesach (Passover) seders in our house. We are told to retell the story in such a way that each individual feels that he or she personally escaped slavery from Egypt and went with Moshe (Moses) on his journey of discovery. (We are also told to do this at Shavuot when we must feel as if we are standing at the base of the Mountain to receive the Torah when Moses returns.)

I can see how the sailing to Elvenhome would serve to pull Frodo out of this cycle of re-enactment, to pull him out of secular and mundane time and place him in a different relationship. Tolkien was indeed very explicit that the passage of time, even in Elven lands like Lorien on Middle-earth, was quite different.

I know there is a book by Verlynn Flieger which deals with the whole concept of time in Middle-earth. It's supposed to be quite good. I've never read it, but will try to get hold of it this summer from the university library. I wonder if she deals with any of this that you raise?

Thanks for this idea.

sharon, the 7th age hobbit

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Old 06-03-2002, 01:31 AM   #18
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* a familiar figure cloaked in grey and encircled by rising pipeweed smoke enters, bowing a greeting to all present *

Hail and Well Met, Child of the 7th Age:

It is a pleasure to find such worthy discussion. Please permit me to add a few musings.

You say, “It's so easy for us to relate to the Shire. We understand the beauties of this world and of family and friends. But maybe a seer and prophet, which Frodo has become, needs something else, a different path, which most of us have trouble comprehending.”

I would venture that a seer and prophet can relate to the Shire with the acuteness of a touch from a blade of Westernesse, experiencing heightened awareness of heart even as he finds himself cut from the life he knew. For one thrust into such a life, “ordinary” and “extraordinary” even go so far as to switch places. The routine of home and hearth with pleasures so plentiful they lull you to complacency vanishes, replaced by the routine of surviving varying encounters with whatever fell creatures appear on your path while you live aware of continual risk, serving in the line of duty. Frodo’s burden is two-fold, the Ring being only one. The other burden being, responsibility. Sam, though not having Frodo’s sensitivity as a seer, shared Frodo’s road and eventually followed his friend’s path over the sea.

As for the quote you cite:

“And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a green country under a swift sunrise.”

I believe that the symbolism of the colors and motions in this quote speak to the “positives that underlay Frodo's yearning for the West and the Sea,” that you wish to see addressed. Grey = Veil. Silver = Precious. Glass = Transparency. Combination of silver with glass = Cleanness. White = Purity. Green = Life. The movement of the opaque glass rolling back reminds me of the words,
"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in
part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." 1 Corinthians 13:12

Another way to communicate the commingled nostalgia at leaving Middle Earth with anticipation of fulfillment and peace at the end of the journey West is perhaps through song.

Clicking on the link below will allow you to listen to “The Last Ship” by Glass Hammer.
http://www.glasshammer.com/audio/Gla..._Last_Ship.mp3

Clicking on this following link will allow you to read the typed lyrics to “The Last Ship” by Glass Hammer.
http://www.glasshammer.com/lastship.html

At your Service,

Gandalf the Grey
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Old 06-03-2002, 09:56 AM   #19
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Hail, Grey pilgrim,

I listen to the sorrow of the last ship, and it reminds me of a melody called "Lost Earth" ost from "the Weathering Continent" (a stretch to the Grey Haven?)
This melody is the expression of the deep desire to reach a fabulous land of wonder where ancient and legendary things of the past still live... over the Sea.
Lost Earth
Lost Horizons

With the melody come those words:

Quote:
Envisioning a transparent dream
Those mysterious eyes softly fill the body with
Words reflected in water

I’ll walk until the realm of myths
A sleep before dawn
Outside a dream about to fade away,

The sigh of the blue moon
I feel it closely even if you touch and see it in
The softly shining hair, it’s distant

The form of the endlessly beloved fingers
Embraces the thoughts about to be destroyed and sleep
Shortly returning to them once again

If the lingering midday’s pale, slight fever
Locks it up, frozen sand will take its place
Inside the heart, a melody becoming transparent
I can hear it, like eternity

My lost Earth, my lost horizon in frozen sand

inspired by the Akino Arai 's lyrics: Frozen sand
I'm desperate not able to find the full melody for you but hope the few I found will let your imagination wander in a part of my dreamworld.

Welcome in the Barrow-Downs forum ^_^

Ps hope you have reaplayer
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Old 06-03-2002, 10:28 AM   #20
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Hail and Well Met, Stone of Vision,

May your sight always be clear. * bows *

Indeed, your comparison of the songs "The Last Ship" and "Lost Earth" resonate with me. Both I think capture the mood of sailing West which the discussion here focuses on. Both are hauntingly evocative, pervaded with a sense of mystery at moving from the familiar into the unknown. And though there is the melancholy of parting and loss, it is interwoven with the graceful dignity of meeting a destiny filled with hope and promise.

If there is sacrifice in Frodo's departure, it is only so that he may achieve a greater good.

Thank you for sharing in the Music.

At your Service,

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Old 06-03-2002, 11:13 AM   #21
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Grey Pilgrim, my turn to bow,

Truthful words enchant the mind of my soul, and yours are golden.

Elen sila lumenn omentielvo *genuine smile*
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Old 06-03-2002, 05:34 PM   #22
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Here's to venturing into deep discussions; hopefully, I won't drown.

First I must remark that I find it odd that people would object to current diagnosis of a mental disorder (whatever you wish to call it) applied to a character. Reading through the analysis above merely crystalized for me a sense that I'd had all along and made it possible for me to explain it to other people. ^^ For that, I'm grateful.

Second, to address what Child said (about focusing on the one-dimensional dispair). Firstly, from what I can tell the author was focusing solely on the mental anguish Frodo experienced; the spiritual draw that the West had for him is (I feel) something else. A second thought occurred to me as I pondered this thread (as I have nearly from its inception; you people keep me up at night).

I believe that yes, the West, the Undying Lands held a draw for Frodo from the very beginning (witness, as stated, Tom Bombadil's house and the dream therein). However, had Frodo not been so wounded, I don't think he would ever have gone.

From very early on, we see that Frodo is split; in my mind, I've always thought of him having a hobbitish part and an elvish part. From the first, these two parts are in conflict: as early as "The Shadow of the Past" he feels the pull to go "adventuring", to follow Bilbo, but a part of him--the hobbitish part--holds him back.

Quote:
He began to say to himself: 'Perhaps I shall cross that River myself one day.' To which the other half of his mind always replied: 'Not yet.'
It's that hobbitish part of him that is most hurt by the trails and travails of the Quest. The elvish part first asserts itself in the Barrow, and it survives the knife at Weathertop.

His memories of the Shire and other places, comforts that his hobbitish part craves, disappear the closer we draw to Orodruin. Then, when all is done, that part tries to reassert itself. Frodo wants to go home, home which part of him identifies as the Shire.

Whether he had been so wounded or no, I believe the West would have called to him. But in other circumstances, the hobbitish part would have been to strong; the voice which said "Not yet!" too loud and assertive. There would always have been the feeling of "next year" or "after such-and-such a time" and in the end, it would have been too late.

Yet because he was so hurt--because the hobbitish part of him was nearly killed and sorely weakened--the draw to Valinor was what he gave in to.

My thoughts. Hopefully coherant (many a time, it makes much more sense in my head than when I try to put it into type).
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Old 06-03-2002, 06:38 PM   #23
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Gandalf the Grey --

Welcome to the Downs. What a great early post! (You know I don't think we have too many Gandalfs posting regularly so your moniker is especially welcomed!)

I love your analysis of the color and the motion in that beautiful quote which describes the far West. And I can see how "seeing through a glass darkly" but later clearly could surely apply.

And thank you for the links. I have the Glass Hammer earlier album (Journey of Dunadan), but not the one with Grey Havens. I went ahead and ordered the CD. Many thanks, again.

Stone of vision--

Thank you too. The words of that song are most evocative.

sharon, the 7th age hobbit
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Old 06-03-2002, 07:59 PM   #24
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Without getting into deep psycological analysis (of which I know very little) I'll just try to render the impression the final scene produced on me and my understanding of it.
While reading the book for the first time I couldn't help feeling that it all was somewhere near, just round the corner. It could be part of our world, or I so much wanted it to be (silly?) All right, the world was saved, it was changing, the elves were departing... Anyway they were not as much the part of that world (our world). But then the one who had done the most, suffered the most for the future of that world was leaving too... To me that marked the exact borderline between the two worlds, the two ages. The War with its heroism and treachery, sacrifice and temptation was over
(It must have taken 2 years for people to really live over it)And now they were - the future of their world. But Frodo had left too much of himself in the past, he couldn't belong to that new world. Yes, he had been wounded, he was suffering physicaly and mentally, but I felt he was going to the Undying Lands, where even the time goes differently, just because he didn't belong to his world any more. He was leaving the world which he loved, the world which he had sheltered from the greatest peril, to its own fate. To me his departure was even more sugnificant than the departure of the three Keepers. I cried, honestly.
Another idea just came to my mind. Speaking about folk lore and oral traditions. Great heroes seldom die in their beds (and Frodo was a hero, wasn't he?)So his departure over the Sea could give the chance to those who loved him (and the readers )to believe that FRODO LIVES
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Old 06-04-2002, 03:44 PM   #25
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Mae govannen !
I have been reading all your contributions (including the psychological essay) with the greatest interest (Though it took me hours)I just want to tell you all how much I appreciate what you have written. There is so much I agree with, but would not be able to put into words myself (English not beeing my mothertongue) I`m not sure if I should venture to contribute anything myself about the topic, it seems everything has already been said.
It always struck me that on the way to Mordor Frodo is largely seen through Sam`s eyes. Sam reveals his thoughts and feelings to the reader, but what goes on in Frodo we can only guess. The grey haven scene is so sad it made me cry, yet it is hopeful in a way and mysterious. I agree that there is more to Frodo`s decision to leave middleEarth than pain and despair.I also think that Frodo has an elvish part which makes him long for the west. Most of the other hobbits are rather simpleminded. They could neither understand nor appreciate him, among them he wouldn`t be able to develop further.The quotation from Tolkien`s letter probably explains this best.(I really would like to read his letters myself!) And since Frodo had this dream in Tom Bombadil`s house, it seems he was destined to sail west all along.? All the same, at the last goodbye I feel like I`m left there standing with Sam on the shores of middle earth with an aching and a peculiar longing in my heart...

Suilad, Guinevere

PS.I`ve just recently started using the internet and discovered this great site.I`m overwhelmed and delighted to meet so many other Tolkien-Fans from all over the world !
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Old 06-04-2002, 04:44 PM   #26
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Just a nice picture I found. If somebody finds it unappropriate, I'll remove it

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Old 06-04-2002, 04:53 PM   #27
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Old 06-05-2002, 12:22 AM   #28
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Naaramara, Akhtene, & Guinevere,

I'm really impressed by your comments. You are relative newcomers to the Downs, yet you all seem to have such interesting ideas.

Let me give you a few of my reactions. I have had a frustrating day dealing with a broken down car, so I hope I can still make sense.

Naaramare -- Your hobbit/elf contrasts are interesting. Here's how I see it.

I believe the basic divide in Frodo's soul as he struggles towards Mordor is that of good versus evil. What's so interesting is that both good and evil are growing within him at the same time. In most stories, the character has growth in one direction or the other, but usually not in both simultaneously. This must have created unbearable tension for Frodo.

Here's a few assorted examples of the "good". He does not desert his companions in the Barrow-downs by slipping on the Ring, but instead uses Sting to fight back for them all. Frodo grows in his ability to show mercy to Gollum. As his spirituality becomes more evident, he begins to experience visions and is able to appreciate the amazing otherwordly qualities of Lorien. His eyes grow with Elven light, and Faramir and Sam comment that he looks Elvish. By the end of the book, he shows increasing reluctance to use violence to resolve problems, i.e. , the Scouring, desire not to put on Sting, etc.

In regard to Frodo, I have come to feel that "Elvish" and "Elf" are almost code words for what we today might call "spirituality"--getting in touch with whatever greater meaning or Being there is beyond our individual selves. (Does anyone else feel that way?) Many of the "good" qualities listed above fall into that category of "spirtuality/Elvish". Others have wider applicability. Standing up for one's companions and showing mercy could apply, I feel, to any being on Middle-earth--hobbit, man, or Elf.

The bad, in contrast, is largely the expanding influence of the Ring: Frodo's growing desire for it, his response to Bilbo and Sam when he feels they threaten his possession of it, and, perhaps most indicative, his increasing despair. That, according to Tolkien, is the worst sin, since it assumes man is on the same level as Eru by implying that he knows the future.

After the critical moment on Mount Doom, Frodo is no longer in control of this terrible battle in his soul, an inevitable consequence for a member of fallen humanity. To me, from this point on, the central question becomes which community, the Shire or Elvenhome, will best enable Frodo to mend the wounds in his soul, which have been occasoned by this unrelenting combat of good and evil.

I agree that Frodo does have two sides to his personality, and that the quest did much to strengthen those qualities we might call "Elvish." This does bear on his final choice. Guinevere commented that, in the Shire, Frodo "wouldn't have been able to develop further". That is also the way I feel. Frodo had grown as far as he could within the Shire. To learn more and to heal, he had to reach beyond it.

Added to this is Akhtene's comment that Frodo was part of the old age, and, as this age passed, his departure was necessary. Frodo simply did not belong in the new world. This is a common theme in ancient legend and medieval literature. I think this is why, from the very beginning of his writing, when Frodo was still Bingo and the extent of his character's injuries had not even been determined, Tolkien was still certain that he would sail West at the end of the book.

I reread that essay again and I still dislike it! Nowhere is there the slightest acknowledgment that psychological factors are one element among many that would need to be addressed to obtain a complete understanding of the character.

These issues are many and varied: the Elvish nature of Frodo's soul; his longing for the Sea and his visions; Tolkien's own comment that the opportunity to sail was given as a "reward"; sailing to the Blessed West as a traditional theme in epic and medieval literature ranging from the Sidhe of Ireland to the Arthurian legends; and, the passing of one age into another and the inevitable change this motif entails. I don't expect this essay to cover all that, but it is wrong for the author to imply that the "total" answer to Frodo's dilemma lies in analyzing his quality of despair.

sharon, the 7th age hobbit

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Old 06-05-2002, 01:48 AM   #29
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Wow-- I’ve read all the comments here, more or less agreed with nearly all of them, and found myself writing out a completely different theory! I have hope that it is not entirely incompatible with what’s been expressed, however. (I hope this post makes sense to somebody; I found myself crawling out of bed to write it because it was rattling around in my head so much.)

All the references, both here and in the essay, to a feeling of doubleness seem very apt to me. There’s obviously a certain disjuncture between Frodo and the world, particularly the world of the Shire. Actually, I think it’s the Ring. It removes its wearer from physical experience. Frodo describes this experience eloquently on the way up Mount Doom: "no taste of food, no feel of water, no sound of wind, no memory of tree or grass or flower, no image of moon or star are left to me--I begin to see it even with my waking eyes, and all else fades." It causes the wearer to fade to the world and the world to fade to the Ringbearer, and the things that are lost are precisely the things that are valuable in Shire-life—-small, physical, constant joys, and they don’t come back when the Ring is destroyed. Frodo sacrificed his ability to live in the Shire long before he sailed away from it. I wonder if he knew what he was doing when he accepted the Ring.

However, Frodo’s fading, as I believe Child once pointed out in another thread, fills him with light. Because of various grounding factors—I think mostly determination in his quest and love for his companions—his fading did not empty him out the way it did Gollum; instead, he seems to have been, for lack of a more appropriate word, purified. As Naaramare pointed out, he becomes less hobbit-like, which is to say, less in touch with hobbit (worldly) things. In this sense his fading seems to me to be very like that of the Elves, who recede from the world as it changes and leave when their tasks in it are finished.

Now this is strange, because it would mean that the Ring, in Frodo, functions on both the Good and the Evil sides of things. Perhaps what occasions these changes is not the Ring itself, but Frodo’s struggle with it. He became part of this battle itself? This idea is not totally clear in my mind yet, so, please, feel free to play around with it, or anything else I say for that matter. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

Anyway, as Naaramare was saying, part of him is lost, and permanently. The positive side of this, I suppose, is that in the West he will be able to become whatever that other part of him is—transformation rather than death.

Now the one thing I can’t figure out is Sam, who was capable of shifting between the spiritual or the mundane at any moment, and who was "meant to be sound and whole." But that’s another discussion. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

--Belin Ibaimendi

[ June 05, 2002: Message edited by: Belin ]
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Old 06-05-2002, 07:28 AM   #30
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(Akhtene- Where did you find that beautiful picture? Is it from a Russian illustrator?)

Anyway, I've been following this incredible thread, but in no way felt capable of jumping in the water. I'm not that good of a swimmer.

But a question has been building in my mind while reading the discussion of Frodo's duality; his Elvish vs. Hobbit nature. Perhaps this should be covered in another thread, but I'll ask anyway.

What is the seed of this duality? Even before Frodo's flees the Shire to protect the Ring, you can see the stirrings of a restless spirit, vaguely discontent with the life he was born to, wandering the night, searching...for what? Sam believes that he is visiting the elves.

Why would the child of any Hobbit, let alone such staid, "normal" hobbits as Drogo and Primula, feel such yearnings? Bilbo's tales of adventure and travel can't have been the sole cause, though they must have certainly fed the longing. Even Tolkien's reference to his "Tookish" blood doesn't fully explain it.

One of my favorite fantasy novels deals with the theme of "The Hero of the Borrowed Heart". That every hero throughout history is given a piece of a special "fea", The Borrowed Heart, which prepares that person to play the role he was chosen for, which is to be in a certain place and time when Incarnate Evil appears in the world, and to do battle against it.

So could Frodo be, not a product of his parents, nor of Bilbo's teaching, but an actual "child" of The Valar Themselves? Chosen and sent to do a mission every bit as much as Gandalf was chosen and sent to do his mission?

If looked at this way, then perhaps Frodo was never "home" in the Shire in the first place, and his journey to the Undying Lands is not just for healing or growth, but an actual homecoming.

Hope you can deal with my run-on sentences and ramblings.
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Old 06-05-2002, 08:14 PM   #31
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Greetings Sharon, Hobbit of the 7th Age,

Many of the points you make regarding Frodo's struggle, regarding the concept of Elvishness representing spirituality, resonate with me ... and more, spark related remembrances. Please allow me to respond here to one paragraph in particular.

There is tremendous light in your words when you say:

Quote:
I believe the basic divide in Frodo's soul as he struggles towards Mordor is that of good versus evil. What's so interesting is that both good and evil are growing within him at the same time. In most stories, the character has growth in one direction or the other, but usually not in both simultaneously. This must have created unbearable tension for Frodo.
This same sense of spiritual crisis has been experienced by some of the greatest Catholic saints. I will give two examples.

1) St. John of the Cross, Spanish mystic whose most famous work is called "Dark Night of the Soul." He presents perhaps a pattern for Frodo's mysticism:

Quote:
Detachment and suffering are presented as requirements for the purification and illumination of the soul. St. John of the Cross depicts the "dark night of the soul" as "an inflowing of God into the soul, which purges it from its ignorances and imperfections, habitual, natural, and spiritual, and which is called by contemplatives infused contemplation or mystical theology." The phrase "dark night of the soul" has since become a reference to the state of intense personal spiritual struggle including the experience of utter hopelessness and isolation prior to attaining mystical transcendence.
Above quote comes from the following website:
http://www.themystica.com/mystica/ar..._cross_st.html

2) St. Faustina, Polish Nun

From Faustina's writings come the following testimony of her experiences. Compare this to the description in Belin's worthy post where he brings up Frodo's seeing only the Ring before his eyes the closer he comes to Mount Doom:

Quote:
The abyss of my misery was constantly before my eyes. Every time I entered the chapel for some spiritual exercise, I experienced even worse torments and temptations. More than once, all through Holy Mass, I had to struggle against blasphemous thoughts which were forcing themselves to my lips. I felt an aversion for the Holy Sacraments, and it seemed to me that I was not profiting from them in any way. It was only out of obedience to my confessor that I frequented them, and this blind obedience was for me the only path I could follow and my very last hope of survival.
Above quote comes from the following website:
http://www.divine-mercy.com/Child/Sa...temptation.htm

Frodo's heroism is in his struggle.

Gandalf the Grey

[ June 05, 2002: Message edited by: Gandalf_theGrey ]
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Old 06-05-2002, 08:34 PM   #32
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akhtene: Thank you for posting that wonderful picture. * bows appreciation *

Belin: Indeed many of your words helped spark my response to Child of the 7th Age. Among the concepts you've brought to the discussion that I've found especially helpful are when you describe Frodo's fading as being filled with light, and when you detail his journey towards Mount Doom regarding his growing inability to see anything but the Ring.

Birdland: As for Frodo's being chosen as Ringbearer, it all gets back to Bilbo being meant to find the Ring.

~~ Gandalf the Grey
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Old 06-05-2002, 08:37 PM   #33
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Thanks, Gandalf, I enjoyed that tremendously.

Frodo's whole experience at the Crack of Doom has reminded me of Jacob wrestling with the angel; Jacob struggles, God wins, yet Jacob wins too; Jacob gets blessed, but remains injured nonetheless.

Not that I'd compare Frodo to Jacob otherwise, but mystically, Frodo wrestles over a long night, culminating in yet another wrestling match with Smagol, in which he's injured permanently; Eru wins, Frodo wins, Frodo is blessed and freed-- but the injury remains.

Like the Dark night; we are freed by it-- but we never quite forget it, and we will never be the same.

Actually, that puts Frodo's whole experience ina new "light" for me-- and I see, Sharon, that you are right; he had outgrown the Shire; it could no longer feed his soul. I only regret that the rest of the hobbits could not sit and learn from Frodo...

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Old 06-06-2002, 10:27 AM   #34
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Hail and Well Met, Helen ...

... Or do you prefer to go by Mark 12_30?

* bows a greeting * I've admired your posts from afar.

Thank you so much for bringing up Jacob wrestling with the angel. You add another rich dimension to the discussion, and your analogy is apt and creative. And didn't Jacob too journey in search of a better life, unable to remain where he was at the time of his striving?

At your Service,

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Old 06-06-2002, 03:23 PM   #35
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Why, thank you, Gandalf.

My naming preference is a matter of whim, I'm afraid... my screen name has been Elijah (biblically, as in, Elisha's mentor) for years, but obviously, and especially on a Tolkien board, that's no longer an option!!! So I settled on Mark12_30 since it's my life verse. You may call me whatever you like...

Regarding Jacob's travels: Abraham and Isaac had dwelt in Beersheba and that is where Jacob spent his childhood; Jacob crossed the Jordan and went east, to Padan Aram, and served Laban in Haran (for Rachel and Leah).

When he returned from Haran, he wrestled with God at Penuel, and then re-crossed the Jordan. He did not go back to Beersheba-- the land of his fathers-- but dwelt in Shechem instead.

Jacob was so transformed by his wrestling experience that he was renamed Israel from that time forward. In the mystical sense, he was a new person, and did not return to his old life.
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Old 06-07-2002, 01:21 AM   #36
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This is Sharon, back from struggling with broken down machinery which isn't as much fun as posting.

I'm afraid this may be long. I have a couple of ideas I want to try out.

Also, I found a wonderful book which was extremely perceptive about Frodo--Verlyn Flieger, Splintered Light, Logos and Language in Tolkien's World. It's really one of the better pieces of Tolkien criticism I've seen. It's older --from 1983. Some of my ideas in this post are drawn from there, so I wanted to give credit.

First, about Birdland's comments on the younger Frodo. To me, it's initially less clear which direction he will go. Frodo seems pulled two different ways. On the one hand, it takes Frodo months to leave the Shire, despite Gandalf's warnings. He spent the summer saying long goodbyes to favorite spots. This is very different from Bilbo who had very short notice, then walked out of his house the next morning to start his adventure.

At the same time, however, Frodo is already stretching far beyond the Shire. He takes evening walks to find Elves and is longing for the Sea. Look at his dream in Buckland at Crickhollow when he first started on the quest:

Quote:
Then he heard a noise in the distance. At first he thought it was a great wind coming over the leaves of the forest. Then he knew it was not leaves, but the sound of the Sea far-off; a sound he hd never heard in waking life, though it had often troubled his dreams.
Note that, since it is the very beginning of his quest, these troubling dreams of the Sea had to have occurred in the Shire itself.

Frodo continues to look at a dark heath "with a strange salt smell in the air." He sees a tall white tower on a high ridge. (This is actually a reference to something in Silm, I believe.)

Quote:
A great desire came over him to climb the tower and see the Sea. He started to struggle up the ridge towards the tower: but suddenly, a light came in the sky and there was the noise of thunder.
At this very early point, he wishes "to ascend" in order to look out at the Sea, a symbol for the unknown and the infinite. Remember, too, what the Silm says about the Sea:

Quote:
...in water there lives yet the echo of the Music of the Ainur more than in any substance else that is in this Earth; and many of the Chidren of Iluvatar hearken still unsated to the voices of the Sea, and yet know not for what they listen. (LotR, I, 154)
So, even at this early point, Frodo is responding to the Music of creation. His attempt to seek the Sea, however, is interrupted by large outside forces in the dream (light and thunder), just as his actual efforts to define himself were to be diverted by the quest.

In Tolkien, the concepts of the Sea and the West and the Light seem intertwined. Frodo is not the first man who is drawn "West" (as a generic term). In the Silm, Beor, one of the earliest men, says to the Elf Finrod. "Westward our hearts have turned, and we believe that there we shall find Light." (Silm 141) Tuor, who will be the first man to wed an Elf, also travels west. The Elf Gelmir assures him of the rightness of his way and offers some initial guidance (this really reminded me of Galadriel and Frodo both in what was offered and the limitations imposed as well!)

Quote:
Though darkness you shall come to the light. We (the Elves) will set your feet on the road, but we cannot guide you far... (UT, 21)
So Frodo was not totally unique in wanting to seek the light and the West or to get help from Elves. What was unusual is that it was his doom to travel East, to go against all the impulses in his body which longed for the Sea. In the words of Verlyn Flieger, Frodo had to go against the Light in order to save it!

Just as Belin's earlier post suggests, as the Ring is unmade, Frodo is also unmade. His nature is split in two: light and dark. He begins to fade.

But remember the earlier quote by the Elf to Tuor? "Through darkness you shall come to the light." Many religions hold that, to be truly purified, you must first be broken or unmade. So again, it could be argued that what happened to Frodo is not totally unique.

What is unique or at least unusual is that Tolkien's tale only goes half way. We see Frodo sick and unhappy, and we aren't sure what will happen to him. The resolution, if there is a resolution for Frodo, is not in the book! We never see Frodo remade which is what should happen in such a spiritual cycle.

Now, why is this? There are many reasons. The earlier essay focused on the psychological elements which held Frodo back. But there are other, more important factors I believe.

Tolkien was described by his biographer as a man of opposites. One moment he could be full of life and energy, and the next moment in deep despair. Carpenter attributes this innate pessimism to the loss of his mother as well as his perception of the Christian world.

In his heart of hearts, Tolkien believed that as a Christian there would be no sustained victory in this world. He descrbes history as a "long defeat" with only small victories. He believed that the fall of man meant severence from God, at least on this earth. This pessimistic frame was further reinforced by the sense of doom and stoicism present in most ancient legends and epics which Tolkien so loved.

All of this had to have an impact on how he portrayed Frodo in the final pages. To tell the truth, I don't think the author knew any more than we do what was going to happen to Frodo in the West. The West may have been a blessed land, but it still lay within the circles of the world. Frodo would not have release from the world till he died.

The outcome for Frodo must have seemed uncertain, at least when Tolkien was in a pessimistic frame of mind.

Flieger suggests there are two possible scenarios for Frodo. The pessimistic one is that envisioned in The Sea Bell, or "Frodo's Dreme" (from the Adventures of Tom Bombadil). This is a poem which portrays a man unable to feel at home on earth or in the land of Faerie. He takes a trip to Faerie but is unable to communicate with anyone there. Nor can he speak with men back home; they do not believe him. It is a true nightmare of haunting sadness.

But there is another possible outcome suggested by the book, one which Belin put his finger on earlier. Remember Gandalf's statement (LotR, I 295)after Frodo is wounded and is just beginning to show a hint of transparency:

Quote:
Still that must be expected...He is not half through yet, and to what he will come in the end not even Elrond can foretell. Not to evil, I think. He may become like a glass filled with a clear light for eyes to see that can.
What do you think of when you read this? I immediately thought of the Phial of Galadriel, which is a splinter of the light of the Silmarils. Notice that Gandalf uses "may", not "will", suggesting the uncertainty of the outcome. But what the Maia seems to be suggesting is that Frodo may be reborn or remade after the initial tearing down.

What makes this seems most likely is the haunting vision that we discussed earlier that Frodo experienced in Tom's house. This is repeated at the very end of the book as Frodo's first sight of the blessed lands--the grey rain curtain turned to silver glass and the glimpse of the distant green country.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that Tolkien uses the word "glass" here. Perhaps it is an indirect reference not just to the dream in Bombadil's house, but also the statements made earlier by Gandalf about what Frodo "may" become which also included the term "glass."

The more I look at this, the more important the Phial of Galadriel becomes in my mind. Remember, too, that Frodo brings this with him to the ship so that it will be returned to the West.

If so, that is very good news.

Of course, we'll never know whether the optomistic Tolkien or the pessimistic Tolkien won out in this conflict. So, in the end, we are left with "estel", that hope which is based on trust rather than on the perceived realities of our situation.

One last point --Belin mentioned the relation of Sam and Frodo to the "spiritual." This is how I see them.

Every religion postulates two ways to approach the sacred: the path of affirmation and the path of negation. Some stress one more than the other, and, of course, there is some mixing as well.

The more common is the path of affirmation. Most of us learn human love first, and it is these lessons that make us want to reach out towards a possible "higher" love. This, to me, is Sam. His love for Frodo and later Rosie makes him able to serve and see beyond himself. He is so good at this that he can see the "light" already burning in Frodo which many others can not see. But, as of yet, the visible light does not shine from Sam himself. (By the way, another man with a path of affirmation would be Beren!)

There are a few rare souls, however, who chose a different path of ascent. This is the path of negation: a stripping away of nonessentials, the unmaking of the soul so it can be born again. And this, I think, is Frodo's path, and why he shines with light.

So both Frodo and Sam make it to the West, but they get there by different means.


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Old 06-07-2002, 07:16 AM   #37
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Mae govannen !
This thread seems never-ending and always brings forth new ideas which make me think deep thoughts and struggle to express them!
Birdland, your idea of Frodo being sent by the Valar is interesting and certainly worth pondering over. It is true that from the beginning of the tale, Frodo is not quite an "ordinary" hobbit, he has ulterior interests and dreams beyond a selfcomplacent hobbit-life. (By the way, I agree with Sharon that "elvish" in this case means "spiritual".) But then, Frodo was partly brought up and much influenced by Bilbo, who was by no means "ordinary" either. About Frodos parents we know nothing, apart from their tragic accident. But, looking on history, isn`t it so, that once in a while an extraordinary personality springs from apparently quite ordinary parents? Not every genius`s parents are genial. It is rather that the combined hereditary factors in an individual will only under certain outer circumstances bring forth the special characteristics of this personality. In Frodo`s case, the quest of the ring with its perils and struggles developed the elvish (ie spiritual) part of him (exactly like Naaramare wrote) where as the Hobbit part diminished (or faded as Belin described).
But I also feel strongly that the Hobbit-nature of Frodo was just as important for his ability to resist the power of the ring (and also is the reason why Sam didn`t succumb to it)To wit, modesty and the lack of ambition, the lack of greed for power or renown, the ability to be content with what one has and is. And just because this part of Frodo was nearly distroyed, he couldn`t enjoy life in the shire anymore, in addition to his grief and hurts.
So, in my opinion, Frodo couldn`t be a "child of the Valar", he was a hobbit alright, but with a specially strong "elvish" (or spiritual) side in him. Otherwise Tolkien, in one of his letters someone (I think Sharon) quoted, wouldn`t have written about him as he did. But nevertheless, the influence of otherworldly powers is there, already in Bilbo`s finding of the ring.
By the way, I also agree with Sharon that the psychological essay by Karyn Milos is cleverly written, but leaves out everything else what we have been discussing here. To me, it`s effect is somehow depressing and it makes Frodos departure from Middle-earth sound almost like suicide.

Suilad. Guinevere

PS. Only after I had written down all these thoughts (on paper, because I need much time and several attempts to express what I mean), I turned on the computer, and lo and behold, there were again seneral new and interesting contributions!The last one by Sharon impressed me most and leaves me quite speechless. There really isn`t anything more I could add, you have said everything. Thank you for sharing your thoughts !
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Old 06-08-2002, 04:42 PM   #38
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There is an amazing amound to insight here. Child, I would agree that while the article is perceptive, it doesn't take into account the combination of factors which lead to Frodo's departure from M.E. Belin's remarks about Sam make me start thinking that perhaps, beyond the spiritual and psychological dimensions there is a destiny involved in Tolkien's cosmology. All who had borne the ring were invited to go into the West, whatever degree they were wounded. It was both a choice and a destiny (that's a mystery none of us quite grasp.) That Gandalf and the elves came for Frodo at the time they did had something to do with his declining state, but perhaps more to do with their sensing that it was the appointed time to go.

Sam chose to go after his responsibilities in M.E. were fulfilled. He could, perhaps have chosen another end. I think the light began growing in his heart through his encounters with powers from the West that helped him as he struggled in Mordor. That light empowered him then, helped him grow in leadership and servanthood, and responded to a call from the West when it was time for him to go. Frodo's light led him down a more painful path and to grow in different ways...more toward the elven as many of you point out.

I think escape from pain is more a byproduct than a motive for going into the West. I somehow think living in company of Light enough of a motive...to think it was available to the elves all the time, the Noldor had seen it and left it... But that's another discussion.
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Old 06-08-2002, 07:50 PM   #39
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A few things -- Some of my ideas come from Flieger such as the two possible ends for Frodo, and how Gandalf's quote could tie into the end of the book.

The minute I read it, however, I did have images of the phial of Galadriel and how the word "glass' in the quote could relate to both the earlier dream and Gandalf's words, and how Frodo himself could be transmuted into something like a phial.

I'd also been inching towards the concept that Tolkien's innate pessimism deeply influenced his view of things in his writings--whether we're talking about the extremely sad tales of the Silm or the question of Frodo's ultimate end. Flieger only mentions it in relation to Frodo's sacrifice, but I think it bears equal if not greater weight on the shape of the ancient myth.

Loss of his parents, especially his mother, and his enforced separation for many years from Edith--in some ways Tolkien was an expert on separation and doom at a very young age. I think all that tied in to and reinforced his ideas about what it meant to be a Christian, at least within the circles of this world. It was part of the whole concept of history as a long defeat and the fall as severence from God.

Tolkien was further reinforced in all this by the ancience myths which, even more than Christianity, stressed stoic pessimism and Fate as being at the core of the universe. It's interesting that this is one of the points where his views as a Christian and as a scholar of the ancience epics come very close to touching.

Given this pessimism and his experiences as an orphan, it's not surprising that an element of Frodo's sacrifice would involve separation or severence. And that the reader, as well as the writer, would never be able to say what really happens to Frodo in the end. (Sniff!)

And I did realize that Flieger's book could easily be used as a counterweight to the too narrow focus of the earlier essay. Flieger acknowledges the concept of dispair, but puts it in such a wider context.

Another related issue.....If you look at Tolkien's mythology as a whole, not just LotR, you could easily make a case that the most important image in the legendarium (not theme, but image) is the Light. A thread on that would be most interesting.

Flieger's book explains how the Light became increasingly splintered into smaller pieces. She relates this to the philosophy of Owen Barfield which Tolkien knew and admired. Flieger discusses the Silmarils, the trees, etc. but doesn't tie in the light images to LotR except for the concept that Frodo himself represents the smallest beam or mote of light. (I didn't mention this in the post.)

There are many other references to light in LotR which she doesn't explore--the kind of things that were in our other threads dealing with the concept of the Elf-friend and the Light in Frodo's face.

You know, I'm just beginning to read and understand the Silm, and the more I read, I can't understand why so many Elves turned their back on the Light to head east. Flieger paints the interesting image of a few Men struggling towards the west like Tuor and Beor. These men come across Elves who, for whatever reason, have turned their back on the Light to go east and stay in Middle-earth. The two paths cross. The Elves may make a comment or render brief assistance. They then go their own way.

Her images have actually made me more sympathetic to Man in the stories as a whole. And Frodo, even as a hobbit, fell into the latter category. It's interesting to me that Frodo's people seem to instinctively live by at least some of the precepts of the Light, although they are not even aware of its existence.

Frodo is one of the few who seems to be awakening to that possibility. One of the more poignant scenes in this regard is when Frodo sees Faramir's men stand and face the West before dinner as a kind of prayer, and, he feels strangely inadequate:

Quote:
They were led to seats beside Faramir: barrells covered with pelts and high enough above the benches of the Men for their convenience. Before they ate, Faramir and all his men turned and faced west in a moment of silence. Faramir signed to Frodo and Sam that they should do likewise.

"So we always do," he said as they sat down: "we look towards Numenor that was, and beyond to Elvenhome that is, and to that which is beyond Elvenhome, and will ever be. Have you no such custom at meat?"

"No," said Frodo, feeling strangely rustic and untutored. "But if we are guests, we bow to our hosts, and after we have eaten we rise and thank him,"
The attention to courtesy and decency to others, joined with a total lack of any wider understanding -- that is the strength and weakness of Shire culture. And I don't see Frodo fitting into that anymore after the quest. Sam, on the other hand, is still close enough to the people, that he can act as an example and leader.

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Old 06-09-2002, 11:43 AM   #40
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Sting

What an incredible discussion!!! I feel that by wading in, I'll be way over my head...

Many of the ideas presented here have given me a lot of food for thought. I especially like the aspect of both good and evil growing in Frodo at the same time, causing and ever increasing tension. Gandalf's comments of the Dark Night of the Soul, and the almost ubiquitous references to Frodo's suffering....yet no one has discussed whyhe hadto suffer. The one thing that most everyone agrees is a thing to be avoided, a "bad" thing, is the one thing most necessary. In a sense, it was Frodo's willingness to suffer that was his "salvation" (for lack of a better term)
The other idea that i wanted to toss out was the fact that Tolkien made it clear that Frodo did not stay in the West, but that he too died and left the confines of this world...the West for him was nothis final home, but part of his journey.
 
 

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