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Old 03-10-2003, 04:06 AM   #8
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Location: In the home of lost causes, and forsaken beliefs, and unpopular names,and impossible loyalties
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davem is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.davem is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.

I think, Dininziliel, that's very profound, though, like you, I struggle with my own understanding of Tolkien's thought's on Death. Its a subject which is not really explored - maybe readers find it morbid. But I think his thoughts on Death, his understanding of it, are central to the man's writings. After all, to lose both parents at such an early age, & then two out of your three closest friends in war, must affect you profoundly. How do you hold on to your faith in God in the face of such things?On one level, maybe its possible to view the tone/mood of the whole Legendarium in that light. Not so much Death in itself, but how we respond to it.
In one of Stephen Donaldson's Thomas Covenant books the central character asks 'What's a good answer to Death?'. If we think about the issue at all, that's the central question. Not how to avoid it, but how to deal with it, live with the fact. Tolkien's answer to death seems to be, do the right (ie, the merciful, compassionate) thing in every circumstance. In the Barrow, Frodo could escape, leaving his friends, but he doesn't, he puts the whole quest, the safety of the whole world, at risk, because an act of compassion is, for Tolkien, superior. Then, he spares Gollum, not for the stupid, insulting reason that the movie makers give (Frodo saying 'I need to know he can be saved' or whatever), which is pure selfishness, but as an act of mercy, inspired by pity. At the end he even tries to spare Saruman.
We are alone in a dark world, living in a little circle of light (I'm going with Tolkien's ideas in the Beowulf essay), waiting for the 'Dragon' (death), & all we have is our own eqivalent of Galadriel's glass - 'Hope without guarantees'. Doing the merciful, compassionate, thing is 'fighting the long defeat'. And it seems to me that Tolkien is saying that's all we can do, & more, that that's required of us, by the fact of our humanity, whether there's anything else beyond this life or not.
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