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Old 01-27-2004, 01:58 PM   #81
davem
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Sting

But Tolkien does say that at the end Frodo feels like a 'broken failure'. He has a sense of having failed - probably because he had by the end convinced himself that he could after all succeed - in destroying the ring, in saving gollum & in saving the Shire. This discussion, for me, is not about outer events, which were all unavoidable - Frodo simply could not have achieved any of the things he set out to do, But the fact that he set out to achieve them, & by the end had convinced himself that he could achieve them, is what broke him. He took on tasks which he could not succeed in fulfilling, & then blamed himself. He broke & ran, claiming the Ring for himself. He knows that if he had had his way at the end he would have brought the world to disaster & ruin. His mercy to Gollum is undeniable, but so is his ultimate sin - in William's sense is to claim the Ring, putting his own desires, at last, first. He cannot forgive himself & knows he failed & cannot accept that, or live with it. He feels like the central figure in The Sea Bell, alone rejected because of his overweening pride.

The reason this thread has gone on so long, I think, is that it is a central issue. Frodo is the central character, he is the carrier of Tolkien's central message. LotR is about death, as Tolkien said. But that is also to say its about life, & our response to it. the question of whether or not Frodo fails, succumbs to 'sin' in the end is a question for all of us. Or perhaps the question is 'why do we need Frodo not to have failed. What does Frodo's 'success' or 'failure' meean to us? Frodo is a character in a story. Why do we feel so strongly about him? Only because in some way we identify with him. Tolkien is holding up a mirror to us. He is asking us a question about ourselves, & I think our position on this issue, whether we see Frodo as failing or succeeding, says a lot about us as individuals. anyone who thinks that those of us who have posted most on this topic have only been talking about Frodo at Sammath Naur, in an objective way, simply as 'literary criticism' will have missed some very important insights into the individuals who are posting. We are asking questions about our own beliefs & judgements, of ourselves, others & The Authority.
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Old 01-27-2004, 03:45 PM   #82
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Just because Frodo feels like a failure does not mean he failed. His goal, of course, was to cast the Ring into the fire, but that was an impossible task. He was to go as far as he was able, and he did. He went as far as he possibly could, until he had no will left in the matter.

Frodo did not fail, and if he did sin, he cannot be blamed for it. I do not think that at Sammath Naur, Frodo sins. He had no resistance left. He had resisted and resisted, as he had ever since Bilbo had given him the Ring. But the Ring had been gnawing at his mind ever since then, and in my mind Frodo succeeded.

I do think that Frodo sinned by still desiring it, though perhaps because of the manner in which it was wrested from him, that could not be helped. I think that the phrase "all is dark and empty" is not a part of Frodo's sin, because the Ring had been his all for so long, the only thing that mattered to him, and he had nothing to replace it with. Frodo was at peace, but he was still in a lot of pain.
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Old 01-28-2004, 03:09 AM   #83
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But he still claims the Ring. 'The Ring is mine' is more than a simple statement of ownership. It is not his, it never was, so that statement is a lie. He becomes a thief, taking & claiming as his own something which he has no right to. He gives in, on some level, makes a claim which excludes all his responsibilities to others. For all Tolkien's defense of Frodo in the letters he still states that Frodo is going into the West as a 'reward and a purgatory'. His fall, his 'sin' is inevitable, because by the end the Ring has had so much time to break him down, twist his perceptions, but on some level he knows what he has done. He set himself a task too great for him to achieve & was broken by the attempt. The extent to which he came to identify with the Ring, so that his statement 'The Ring is mine' is the same as 'I and the Ring are one. I am the Ring' is open to question. At the same time, Frodo is a free being & there must be assent, some surrender, at the end. The fact he can still speak of 'I' & 'mine' confirms this, as far as I'm concerned. The old Frodo is still 'in there'.

His 'sin' is tiny, & he cannot be blamed for it, but the consequences of it could have been terrible - hence his increasing feelings of guilt & failure. When he returns to the Shire & sees the devastation there, he knows that his claiming the Ring would have brought the whole of Middle Earth to that state. Think what must go through his mind at that point. Saruman may be responsible for the devastation of the Shire, but execpt for the 'Grace of God', the intervention of The Authority, Frodo could have been responsible for doing that to the whole of Middle Earth. At the Sammath Naur it was a little step to claim the ring as his own, but it was a step that could have brought the whole world to ruin, & Frodo knows it. The Ring is gone, & all is dark & empty, but Frodo's innocence is also gone. He knows himself, & cannot live with what he has learned. The task was too great, & should never have been given to him, because it was inevitable he would fail to achieve it, & that he would be broken by it. Tolkien is showing us a deep truth about ourselves & about The Authority.
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Old 01-28-2004, 03:34 AM   #84
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Davem,

I think your post at 2:58pm yesterday sums it up. We all have our viewpoints, and no one can say for sure exactly what happened to Frodo (except the author).

I concede now that Frodo thought of himself as a failure, as Tolikien says so in Letters, but as I've said before, this does not mean he failed, he just thinks in his own opinion (wrongly!) that he has failed. As I alluded to in a previous post, this makes his leaving Middle-earth even sadder.

Just one final point,
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execpt for the 'Grace of God', the intervention of The Authority, Frodo could have been responsible for doing that to the whole of Middle Earth.
I don't see the Gollum episode as the Grace of God, or intervention by the Authority. It was because of Frodo's Mercy that it was inevitable that something like this would happen at the Sammath Naur. I do not see this as Providence, I see this as Redemption for Frodo and Middle-earth because of his (and Sam's at the end) kindness towards Gollum.

PS 'Authority' - did you get this term from Phillip Pullman?
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Old 01-28-2004, 08:58 AM   #85
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No, I didn't get it from Pullman, I got it from Tolkien, who may, or may not, have got it from Charles Williams.

Of course, Frodo does 'curse' Gollum before entering the Sammath Naur - "Begone, and trouble me no more! If you touch me ever again, you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom."

So it may not have been The Authority who caused Gollum to fall, but Frodo, using the power of the Ring to pass a death sentence on Gollum, which would be another 'sin'. Frodo condemns Gollum to be cast into the fire if he ever comes near him again, which action, I suppose, is a precursor to his claiming it, as it shows he clearly believes he has a right to use it to sit in judgement & pass sentence on any who dare to 'offend' against him. It is a terrible thing to say, especially knowing, as he does, that it will happen, & goes against Gandalf's injunction not to deal out death in judgement. I think we're seeing Frodo moving closer & closer to making his final claim on the Ring, at this moment, (earlier still in the Tower of Cirith Ungol) so that the idea that the claim is not a conscious act, not really Frodo, but the Ring or Sauron speaking through him, is difficult to sustain. Using it to curse Gollum to death is to claim it as his own in deed, if not yet in words.
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Old 01-28-2004, 01:07 PM   #86
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Davem,

You seem to have thrown a curve ball with your last post. Are you now going against the whole premise of the book to say that Frodo did not show Gollum Mercy? That I cannot agree with........No Mercy, no redemption, which (to me) is the core of the story, not anything to do with failure/success.

Frodo's words to Gollum were one of warning. "...you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom". This did not actually happen. Frodo did not forsee this, becuase, as we know, Gollum slipped and fell. He was not cast into the Fire by Frodo or the Ring.

I believe we will not agree on the failure/success side no matter how much we post, but I have a healthy regard for all the points of view (except maybe the last one!) I've read here.

PS the reason I mentioned Pullman is that he uses the term "The Authority" in his Dark Materials trilogy. I haven't yet read Tolkien's Letters, but it's on my list, so I'll no doubt come across Tolkien's words on the Authority.
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Old 01-29-2004, 02:53 AM   #87
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Of course Frodo shows both mercy & compassion towards Gollum, but at the end he says, 'If you touch me again you will be cast into the Fire of Doom'. That is a threat. Gollum does touch Frodo again & he is cast into the Fire, which is either a result of Frodo's threat being carried out - the Ring's power of command in service of its current master, Frodo, brings about its own destruction - how's that for irony! Or Gollum's fall is 'engineered' by Illuvatar in order to bring about the destruction of the Ring, or its all just pure fluke.

But none of that is relevant to this thread, which is about what Frodo actually decides, the choice he makes. Frodo does show great mercy to Gollum, which he hasn't done anything to deserve, & his motivation is pity & compassion, but at the end he calls him a 'creeping thing' & threatens him with death if he touches him again. You could say that Frodo's mind has been warped, so that he is seeing the world & those around him through Sauron's eyes, without compassion, love, pity or mercy, & the question remains, does that vision come upon Frodo so slowly that he doesn't realise its happening, or is there a moment of choice for him, as on Amon Hen when he is trapped in a battle of wills between Gandalf & Sauron? When he threatens Gollum with death & goes on to claim the Ring, has he 'sinned' (again in William's sense) or not?
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Old 01-29-2004, 05:04 AM   #88
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Yes, this is off tangent with the question raised at the start of this topic, but it's been like it for a couple of 'pages' now, as a lot of topics go.

I believe Frodo was under total influence from the Ring at the Cracks of Doom. But what else could he do if he WASN'T to throw the Ring in? Sit there and wait for Sauron to kill all his friends and then finally notice him and claim the Ring back? No, it was a logical step to claim the Ring himself. As Frodo says to Sam earlier, he was UNDER THE RING'S CONTROL. This is what happened at the Sammath Naur. The Ring finally took total control of Frodo. But (and how many times do I need to say this), Mercy won the day. If you had to call it something, I would call it Fate. Not help from 'above' or a fluke. But FATE that this was to have happened.

So, in my opinion, the answer to the original question is that Frodo was under the total influence of the Ring, and is not to blame. My answer here has nothing to do with success, failure or 'sin'. Just a basic reply to the original question.

I am not idolising Frodo by stating this. If we look at it from an 'outside' view, how boring it would have been to have Frodo throw the ring in without much of a struggle. Tolkien got it right.
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Old 01-29-2004, 08:16 AM   #89
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So when did he surrender to the Ring, if not at the Sammath Naur? Was it when he used it to threaten Gollum with death? Was it when he claimed it from Sam at the Tower of Cirith Ungol? Was it way back - had he unconsciously claimed it when he struggled to throw it into his own fire? When did he commit the 'sin' of putting his own desire first? The further back you place that transgression, the less excuse Frodo has for it.

As for 'fate' what do you mean by the word? What is 'fate' - destiny? weird? miracle? intervention by The Authority - which Tolkien states in The Athrabeth will be the only way the world can be saved from the power of evil? Tolkien seems to say that Frodo was rewarded by The Authority for the mercy he had shown to Gollum by being 'saved' from his ultimate failure in claiming the Ring, but of course, this does bring Illuvatar close to being a murderer, in causing the death of Gollum in order to bring about the destruction of the Ring. So, from that point of view, its easier to put it down to 'accidental death'.
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Old 01-29-2004, 10:18 AM   #90
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Quote:
So when did he surrender to the Ring, if not at the Sammath Naur? Was it when he used it to threaten Gollum with death? Was it when he claimed it from Sam at the Tower of Cirith Ungol? Was it way back - had he unconsciously claimed it when he struggled to throw it into his own fire? When did he commit the 'sin' of putting his own desire first? The further back you place that transgression, the less excuse Frodo has for it.
I put it exactly at the point where Frodo said it. In other words where the Ring had pretty much taken control. Just before they climbed up Mount Doom.

Quote:
I am almost in its power now. I could not give it up, and if you tried to take it I should go mad.

Frodo to Sam, Chapter 3, Book 6, Mount Doom.
Not Sin, (no doubt he desired the Ring, but that is not a sin), but as Frodo says himself, he was under the Power of the Ring.

Quote:
Tolkien seems to say that Frodo was rewarded by The Authority for the mercy he had shown to Gollum by being 'saved' from his ultimate failure in claiming the Ring
Fine. Call it what you want then, the will of Illuvatar and not Fate, I don’t mind. It just proves my point that Mercy is what the events at Sammath Naur is about. Not failure, success or ‘Sin’.
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Old 01-29-2004, 01:54 PM   #91
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Quote:
Quote from Essex: Fine. Call it what you want then, the will of Illuvatar and not Fate, I don’t mind. It just proves my point that Mercy is what the events at Sammath Naur is about. Not failure, success or ‘Sin’.
Essex, Davem,

Hope you two don't mind if I poke my nose in here. I was an early participant, then a lurker, so just wanted to say something before my final departure from this thread.

I totally agree that mercy lies at the heart of what happened on Mount Doom in terms of Frodo, and is more central than any other concept.

However, I also feel that you can't look at either "mercy" (or conversely "sin" and "failure") in a vacuum. These terms and concepts are linked.

Take one step back from the concept of mercy and you are left with an obvious question: why was 'mercy' necessary? It was only the fact that Frodo claimed the Ring that put this whole scenario into play. If Frodo had been a perfect being, he would not have needed mercy because he could have thrown the Ring into the crack. He wasn't perfect, and he couldn't throw it in, a fact that is hinted at as far back as the fireplace at Bag-end.

So neither of these things can be seen in isolation: Frodo's failure of will (what Davem terms "sin") or Frodo's prior acts of mercy. These two are part of one equation. And just as in a chemistry problem, neither half can be ignored or set aside, or you end up with something that is less than the truth.

Tolkien makes it clear in his Letters that Frodo was doomed from the start. And he did not shrink from the using the actual word "failure' in connection with Frodo.

Quote:
...he is in a sense doomed to failure, doomed to fall to temptation or be broken by pressure against his 'will'.
The italics here are mine. (It is certainly interesting that Tolkien suggests two different options here--actively falling and broken by pressure--and does not rule out either of them, since these two views were put forward and debated earlier in this thread.)

In Letter 191, the author put Frodo's "failure" even more bluntly:

Quote:
No, Frodo 'failed'. It is possible that once the Ring was destroyed he had little recollection of the last scene. But one must face the fact: the power of Evil in this world is not finally resistable by incarnate creatures, however 'good'; the the Writer of the Story is not one of us.

Despite this failure of will, Tolkien distinguishes Frodo's shortcomings from "moral failure." He makes it quite clear that there can be no 'blame' attached to the hobbit, since "by a situation created by his 'forgiveness' he was saved himself." Tolkien also clearly states that Gandalf did not blame Frodo, even though the hobbit would have been revealed the whole truth in their conversations.

Helen is right in saying that the real burden of sadness and "sin" comes after, not before, Mount Doom. The hobbit starts out relieved and at peace, but guilt comes creeping up to plague him. He can't accept that he is a simple flawed instrument rather than a hero, and, more critically, he still desires the Ring. This is one reason he must leave the Shire and go to the West to gain healing and work through everything in his head and heart. (I do not think it is the only reason, but that is another argument and thread.)

However you interpret these scenes, Tolkien is quite clear in stating that the final outcome of Sammath Naur is determined by Eru, not merely "Fate" as Essex suggests:

Quote:
Frodo deserves all honour because he spent every drop of his power of will and body, and that was just sufficient to bring him to the destined point, and no further. Few others, possibly no others of his time, would have got so far. The Other Power then took over: the Writer of the Story (by which I do not mean myself), 'that one ever-present Person who is never absent and never named" (as one critic has said).
Essex - :The "Writer of the Story" is not "fate": it is a clear reference to God. In my mind, this is indeed "help from above."

Is Eru a "murderer" as Davem hints at in one of his posts when he speaks of Gollum's death? I don't think so. Gollum condemned himself a hundred times over. He condemned himself by slaying Deagol and clinging to life hundreds of years after he should have accepted death. He condemned himself again in that poignant scene when he touches Frodo's knee, is repelled by Sam, and then makes a decision to withdraw utterly from his "master". He condemned himself yet again by making a bargain with Shelob to slay Frodo, betraying the one being who had shown him compassion in all those years.

Gollum's fate is now sealed. He has sunk to "persistent wickedness" and "damnability", as Tolkien says. It is only a question of time until his doom is sealed. That final link in the chain comes at Sammath Naur when he again claims the Ring.

The only way in which Eru might be said to enter into this equation is in the timing, not the end result. Gollum has long ago chosen the path he will take, despite the help that is sent to him in the form of Frodo; the end of that path is clearly death and destruction. In Tolkien's words...

Quote:
"by a 'grace', that last betrayal was at a precise juncture when the final evil deedwas the most beneficial thing any one cd. have done for Frodo!
Eru was no murderer unless you feel that those who flagrantly break the moral code of the universe are not responsible for the end result which is inevitable death, physical or spiritual! (And in this situation, the two coincided.)

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

Helen,

Getting back to an old, old discussion: was it desire for the Ring, or desire to use the Ring?

We may have to disagree on this, as I feel both factors were involved. Tolkien never repudiated the ideas set down in his earlier drafts; he simply chose to keep Frodo's motives private. I've looked back through the Letters and found one or two places that also seem to imply Frodo did indeed have a desire to use the thing, but hesitate to resurrect this on the thread.

In the end, we don't know for sure. And perhaps it's meant to be that way. The central points and ideas don't change, whichever way you look at it.

And yes -- it's fun to guess. [img]smilies/rolleyes.gif[/img]

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 3:04 PM January 29, 2004: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
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Old 01-29-2004, 03:15 PM   #92
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If I may interject with an alternate theory? I'm a semi-noob so don't mind me if I'm horribly half-baked here.

So far everyone is looking at this from the perspective of the reader examining Frodo. But Frodo, Gollum, and Sam are not the only major chracters at Sammath Naur.

The Ring itself is a character and deserves some discussion here.

From the moment the ring is introduced we are told that it is, to some degree, self-aware. While it is not a sentient being per se, it is imbued with part of Sauron's consciousness.

Just as Sauron seeks the ring with all of his servants and abilities, the Ring seeks Sauron. The only way it can do this is to manipulate the mind of whomever bears it. It manipulates everyone who comes in contact with it except for Tom.

It manipulates Deagol into retrieving it. It manipulates Smeagol into killing Deagol to have it - and to keep it safe until it needs to be put into play. It manipulates Bilbo by drawing him into contact with Gollum, and then manipulates his actions later in life.

But perhaps most telling is it's manipulation of Isildur at Sammath Naur. Isildur knows from whence the Ring came, and he knows what it can do. He also knows that it is irrevocably tied to Sauron. But he can't destroy it when he should - and indeed when told to by a higher authority (Elrond).

I personally do not believe that either Frodo or Isildur necessarily failed when they were within reach of destroying the ring. If anything, Isildur is more of a failure than Frodo - because Frodo merely submits to the Ring is a moment of weakness, while Isildur is corrupted by the Ring in a moment of relative victory. But I believe "corrupted" is the operative term.

My theory, however half-baked, is that the Ring is self-aware to the extent that it knows where it needs to go to get back to Sauron, and it also knows when it is in danger.

There can be only two reasons for the Ring to return to Sammath Naur - either to be reclaimed by Sauron, or to be destroyed. The Ring uses whomever wears it to get it's will. So presumably the Ring knows what the wearer wishes to do with it.

As the Ring's power would be at it's very apex at Sammath Naur, presumably it's awareness also increases - as does it's ability to manipulate whomever possesses it. The Ring is able not only to find it's way back to Sauron, but also to find it's way out of danger at Sammath Naur - the only place it can be damaged or destroyed. At the point where it is most powerful, the Ring itself can manipulate it's bearer into removing it from danger - thus allowing Sauron another crack at finding it, and allowing itself another crack at finding Sauron.

The "failure" we speak of could really be the "success" of the Ring, the triumph over the will of it's bearer.

This would jive very well with the theory that nobody can conciously cast the Ring into the fire of their own free will. The Ring will not let them. To cast it into the fire is to let go of it - and letting go implies possession.

I don't believe that Frodo fails morally, I think - as many people seem to - that the Ring is firmly in control at Sammath Naur, no matter who wears it.
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Old 01-29-2004, 08:19 PM   #93
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A few thoughts...(if I wait for my brain to get them all together, it will be 2010 sometime...)

davem
Quote:
The task was too great, & should never have been given to him, because it was inevitable he would fail to achieve it, & that he would be broken by it. Tolkien is showing us a deep truth about ourselves & about The Authority.
I do agree with your points about Frodo knowing what he is doing and also that he could not possibly succeed. I cannot, however, agree that he should not have been given the task, for this task, important as it was, could be achieved ultimately only by The Authority, Eru, the writer of the story, who, as Tolkien points out “is not one of us.” The fact that the task is given to Frodo is in fact fortuitous, for he is probably the only one who could have gotten as far as he did with it.

Quote:
Frodo condemns Gollum to be cast into the fire if he ever comes near him again, which action, I suppose, is a precursor to his claiming it, as it shows he clearly believes he has a right to use it to sit in judgement & pass sentence on any who dare to 'offend' against him. It is a terrible thing to say, especially knowing, as he does, that it will happen, & goes against Gandalf's injunction not to deal out death in judgement
Is Frodo in fact condemning Gollum directly, or is he “merely foretelling,” much as Saruman does with Frodo later in the Shire? Your point above is interesting, inasmuch as there is some question as to the motivation of Frodo’s mercy to Gollum. First it is in conscious regard to Gandalf’s admonition, and Frodo voices his own wishes along the way that he did not place such high stock in Gandalf’s words, because he would just as soon be rid of Gollum. But Frodo, despite his wavering thoughts, does not abandon or betray Gollum. In fact, Frodo is, as Sharon says above, the one being in all Gollum’s years who had shown him mercy. Sometimes I think that the rarified nature that becomes more and more evident in Frodo as the journey progresses also causes some readers to think of him as less ‘human’ and less vulnerable to the same failings that other ‘normal’ beings are susceptible to. I think Frodo shows an amazing strength of will to overcome this “basic nature” that is so common to all. It is his conscious effort along the way, even in the face of his better judgement or his fears, that goes above and beyond and makes it impossible for me to blame him for what came along at the end, because he is fallible and heir to the native failings of incarnate beings like any other. How can I judge when I know I would never be able to measure up to that standard? I think this lesson is internalized at first within Frodo with regards to his respect for Gandalf’s stature and experience but then slowly with regards to his own insight.

I do think that davem’s point about placing Frodo’s “claiming” of the Ring farther and farther back may play a part in this tossing about of “blame,” but I think this point of view may be more of a reflection of the thoughts of Frodo himself after all is said and done. I can see him questioning his own motives in this way and finding himself wanting. I, however, cannot find fault with him, except in that he is human. Whatever fault arises from that inevitable circumstance, must be applied to us all, who have perhaps not been so sorely tested as Frodo.

I think I, like you, Child, prefer to keep the true ends obscured to some extent, but the guessing game is irresistible. Of the idea of possession vs. desire to use the Ring, the Ring as active agent, I cannot speak at the moment. I hope to participate more later! I can never resist threads like this!

Cheers,
Lyta

P.S. Someday, if I can get it together, I'll wonder aloud about the ideas of the impossibility of Frodo's task to the impossibility of the task of the Elves of the First Age against the ancient evil of Morgoth, the need for intercession from "higher powers," etc. etc., but that's for later I suppose!

I take my leave. [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]
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Old 01-30-2004, 03:06 AM   #94
davem
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I think the reason this thread has gone on for so long is that in a way what Frodo does or does not do at the Sammath Naur is the biggest event in the book. But the question is simple. Does he, in any way, claim the Ring for himself, & if so, What exactly does he think he is claiming? The other question follows from that: when Eru intervenes, is he intervening to save the world, or to save Frodo? If Frodo is claiming the Ring, & the power that goes with it, for himself then Eru's intervention could be said to be as much, or more, to do with saving Frodo, in response to the mercy he showed to Gollum, as it is to do with saving the world. If Frodo did not claim the Ring, if his mind had been overthrown, then Eru is intervening not to save Frodo from his 'sin', but to save the world in general, but not Frodo in particular, as he would be 'without sin'. But this makes Frodo 'sinless', & is that what Tolkien intended? Has Tolkien given us a world inhabited by a number of 'sinless' beings, who are not in need of being 'saved'? This would mean that at least some beings, perfect in their essential nature - ie 'unfallen' - are without need of salvation. But then, why the struggle, why would a perfect being like Frodo need to undergo the Quest? If he was perfect he would have nothing to learn, & be incapable of moral growth - yet Sarauman tells him that he has grown. He has moved from a less, to a more, perfect state. But if Frodo does need to be 'saved' then he needs to be saved from something. He must have commited some kind of 'sin', & if so, what was that 'sin', if not the claiming of the Ring? I cannot think of any other 'offence' that he has committed.

As for Eru 'murdering' Gollum - hyperbole, I admit, said for effect. Someone once pointed out to me that when Gandalf agrees with Frodo that Gollum 'deserves' death, he may have meant it differently to Frodo - intending 'death' as a release from centuries of torment, & peace at last. He could no longer live without the Ring, so only death could end his torment, & Eru, in bringing about his death at the Sammath Naur is finally forgiving Smeagol & allowing him to rest.
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Old 02-01-2004, 12:56 PM   #95
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Vitesse, your points are interesting, and the extent to which the Ring is aware and 'sentient' in itself has long been argued in many threads here, at least to the best of my memory!
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I personally do not believe that either Frodo or Isildur necessarily failed when they were within reach of destroying the ring. If anything, Isildur is more of a failure than Frodo - because Frodo merely submits to the Ring is a moment of weakness, while Isildur is corrupted by the Ring in a moment of relative victory. But I believe "corrupted" is the operative term.
Interestingly enough, I read the account of "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields" last night in Unfinished Tales, and Isildur, despite his failure to relinquish the Ring at Sammath Naur, came to understand just how unequal he was to the task of using the Ring. (Even donning the Ring at this time caused him pain!) It is to his credit that the excursion he undertook to Imladris appeared to be for the outer purpose of retrieving his wife and son but also had the hidden purpose of relinquishing the One Ring to the "Keepers of the Three," as confided to his son Elendur as they were fighting off the Orc attack at the Gladden Fields. Of course, he would have done better in this endeavor to take it to Lothlorien; at least he might have made it there!

I don't see Isildur as any more or less a failure at this task than Frodo, for neither had the strength to destroy the Ring by his own will. The circumstances of Isildur's failure to destroy the Ring do not, to my mind, have in them any more of a moral failure than Frodo's. I don't think either of them failed 'morally.' Both had the insight to realize its danger and their ultimate unsuitability to the task, but neither had the strength to withstand the pressure at the Cracks of Doom. The fact that Isildur takes the Ring as "weregild" for his father and brother merely shows the path of the evil influence to Isildur's heart. If it had not conquered him in this way, it would have found another way. If Isildur had lived, he would have had much longer to reflect on his failure and what it meant, without the reprieve at the end such as Frodo was afforded. He at least understood the need to take responsibility and attempt to make disposition of the Ring in the best way he knew.

Quote:
My theory, however half-baked, is that the Ring is self-aware to the extent that it knows where it needs to go to get back to Sauron, and it also knows when it is in danger.
Another interesting tidbit from "Disaster of Gladden Fields" is that the Ring was said to be 'broadcasting' its location in all directions, in effect drawing the dark forces toward it. Thus, we could say that Isildur was an "orc magnet," but more precisely, the One Ring was a homing beacon for the remnants of the forces of Barad-dur. I don't know how to equate this to the Ring being 'self-aware' though. I suppose that it would also broadcast in this way at the Sammath Naur, bringing all its 'protective' forces to bear on the one who bears it.

More later! I take my leave. [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

Cheers,
Lyta

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 1:57 PM February 01, 2004: Message edited by: Lyta_Underhill ]
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Old 02-02-2004, 03:56 AM   #96
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'Who' is claiming the Ring in each case, then? Frodo & Isildur's bodies, as their minds were no longer present? When did the 'real' Frodo & Isildur disappear, to be replaced by puppets, moved & inspired to speak by the Ring? So, we have the Ring in each case 'claiming' itself. Its the Ring that says 'I do not choose to do what I came to do. The Ring is mine.' This 'I' & 'mine' is the Ring referring to itself? But the first sentence would then imply that the Ring itself came to the Fire to destroy itself, but at the last minute changed its mind. No, Frodo is saying 'I came here to destroy the Ring, but now I've changed my mind, & I'm going to keep it'. As did Isildur. Both knew, on some level, that it was wrong, but it was too hard to resist. Whether that's a 'moral failure' depends on how you look at it. I would say it is a 'sin' in William's sense of the term:

'Sin is the preference of an immediately satisfying experience to the declared pattern of the Universe'.

As long as we understand 'immediately satisfying' in this situation as the avoidance of terrible suffering. In the end, the question is, is it Frodo who is speaking those words at the Sammath Naur?
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Old 02-02-2004, 10:30 AM   #97
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No, Frodo is saying 'I came here to destroy the Ring, but now I've changed my mind, & I'm going to keep it'. As did Isildur. Both knew, on some level, that it was wrong, but it was too hard to resist.
I agree with you, davem, on the point that neither Frodo nor Isildur 'disappears' when he claims the Ring. I am merely saying that they could do no other, since the pressure to claim the Ring was too great for them to bear at this point. They succumb, but they do not go somewhere else, while the 'Ring claims itself.' I couldn't really say where the semantics break down.
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'Sin is the preference of an immediately satisfying experience to the declared pattern of the Universe'.
This seems to imply that the 'declared pattern' of the Universe is ultimately followable by incarnate beings, but I think Tolkien's point is that incarnate beings cannot hope to succeed on this path without intervention (grace) from a higher power--that they are too weak to bear some burdens without help. Perhaps the fact that the Ring was lost to the attackers of Isildur and his Dunedain was also a sort of 'grace,' so that Isildur did not wholly fail in his task to keep the Ring away from Sauron's minions (but he succeeded, albeit temporarily, in a way he could never have imagined nor desired.)

More later...I take my leave. [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]
Cheers,
Lyta

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 11:33 AM February 02, 2004: Message edited by: Lyta_Underhill ]
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Old 02-03-2004, 03:29 AM   #98
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Well, I think what Williams was talking about was choice, or 'preference'. What is Frodo's preference at that point? Does he consent to the Ring's control, or not? Is he almost 'looking on', observing himself, & providing a commentary - 'Frodo, at this point, is not going to destroy the Ring. He is going to keep it'. Or is he telling us his decision? Is he telling us that he has decided to go along with what the Ring wants, give in to the temptation, & would have done so anyway, even if the Ring didn't have the power to force him.

Taking as a starting point the obvious fact that there was no way that he could have destroyed the Ring, the question is, was his will so completely broken that he had no control over his actions, or even his words, so that effectively he is an external observer/commentator on events at that point, or had he in some way consented to the Ring's dominance, & stopped struggling, surrendered the last of his will & just stopped fighting? Is Tolkien saying that in the end evil will defeat us, even if we don't give in, because its too powerful & we're too weak, or is he saying we will all give in & 'sin' in the end, because we're fallen beings.

Back to the Manichaen vs Boethean thing - Was Mani right, evil is an external force, which is too powerful for us to resist, - however hard we try we will be broken by it in the end ( which begs the question, why even bother to struggle against it in the first place), or was Boethius right, & 'sin' a human failing, a weakness, a giving in, preferring our own satisfaction over the willed pattern of the Universe. If evil wins, is that because an external enemy defeats us, or because we surrender to our own 'dark, 'sinful' side? Personally, despite everything Tolkien says about events at the Sammath Naur in his letters, I don't think, deep down he ever really comes down on one side or the other, which is what Shippey seems to think.
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Old 02-11-2004, 11:28 AM   #99
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I'm not sure if this completely addresses the fine points of your last post, davem, but I thought it an interesting reflection that might be pertinent here, even if it is written to illustrate another incident from LOTR, Pippin's stealing and use of the Palantir.

from the article "Peter, Pippin and the Palantir" at hollywoodjesus.com:
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Second, and a little less obvious, is the fact that when we transgress -- "fall", if you're Boyens and Walsh, or "sin" if you're Tolkien -- we've no one to blame but ourselves. Pippin wants to claim that he "had no notion" of what he was doing; but Gandalf chides him, "Oh yes, you had. You knew you were behaving wrongly and foolishly; and you told yourself so, though you did not listen." So the problem with sin is not in knowing the difference between right and wrong, but purely in the doing. As the Apostle Paul notes, we are "without excuse."
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Was Mani right, evil is an external force, which is too powerful for us to resist, - however hard we try we will be broken by it in the end ( which begs the question, why even bother to struggle against it in the first place), or was Boethius right, & 'sin' a human failing, a weakness, a giving in, preferring our own satisfaction over the willed pattern of the Universe.
I suppose I can't come down on one side or the other, either, as I would think both factors have an effect on what one does in the end. (Not that I have a great grasp of Manichean vs. Boethian views!). But what Gandalf said to Pippin regarding the Palantir I think could also have been said to Frodo regarding the Ring. Gandalf made sure Pippin did not come into further contact with the Palantir rather than heaping blame upon him. He shows understanding but a firm hand. So those who knew what happened at Sammath Naur showed understanding and did not blame Frodo. But, to different extents, I'm sure both Pippin and Frodo must go over in their mind what drove them to their acts. (This is not to equate the acts but to illustrate the nature of the hobbits' fall to an urge to do something they know is wrong.) I hope that comes across as I wished! If not, I blame my fuzzed out brain, which is part of me, so I must, in the end, blame myself!

Cheers!
Lyta
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