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Old 08-21-2002, 10:55 AM   #1
Child of the 7th Age
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Sting Frodo's initial delay in leaving the Shire: What does it mean?

At the beginning of the LotR, there is a major delay between when Frodo learns he must leave, and when he actually gets around to doing it. I 'd like to talk about this and what it means.

Even before Gandalf's arrival, Frodo "began to feel restless," particularly with the approach of his 50th birthday (a most dangerous time!) Old paths seemed too well travelled. He spent much time with strange wayfarers, many of them dwarves, who began appearing in the Shire. His friends watched him anxiously. So seemingly, he was preparing himself mentally to depart.

In "The Shadow of the Past" in a discssion which took place on April 12, 3018, Gandalf told Frodo of the general threat posed by the Ring. He also explained that the only way to destroy the Ring was to travel to Ordruin, the Fire Mountain, and cast the Ring in its depths. Gandalf gave Frodo words of assurance he'd help him, but said that something should be done quickly:

Quote:
"I will help you bear this burden, as long as it is yours to bear. But we must do something, soon. The Enemy is moving."
In this same scene, Gandalf picked out Sam as Frodo's travelling companion, and even suggests the pseudonym "Mr. Underhill." And although Frodo is a little frightened and tries to push the Ring story out of his head, he is thinks happily about the prospect of possibly seeing Bilbo, who left some 17 years before.

So what happens? Two to three weeks passed, and Frodo had still not done anything to prepare so Gandalf again said "You ought to go quietly, and you ought to go soon." Then Frodo made up several excuses and promised Gandalf he'd leave on or after his birthday.

At the end of June, Gandalf himself left the Shire and said that Frodo might need to leave sooner than his birthday. He promised to come get him or send word back. Of course, he didn't because we all know what happened in July! We learn later that Frodo spent all summer going about and muttering quiet goodbyes to his favorite spots.

Finally, on September 23, 3018, Frodo set off from the Shire. That means almost half a year passed between the time Gandalf told Frodo to leave the Shire and the time he actually left.

Compare that with Bilbo in The Hobbit. Gandalf visited one afternoon and, within 36 hours, Bilbo had raced out of the house to catch up with the dwarves, not even remembering his pocket handkerchief. Admittedly, Frodo had more things to worry about than Bilbo because he had to sell Bag End and find another property. But I'm quite sure Frodo would not have needed more than a month to finalize Lobelia's purchase of his house, buy another residence, and prepare his neighbors for his departure. (Believe me, we had to do this same thing in a space of only a few weeks!)

So, what does all this mean? Why does Tolkien use this delaying device at the beginning of the LotR? Did he just want to gear everything in to Frodo and Bilbo's birthday date (9/22)? Or, does it say something about Frodo' personality? And does Frodo's propensity for clinging to his home have any implications, either positive or negative, for the destrucion of the Ring? And what about comparing Frodo with Bilbo, the one person Frodo loved best in the whole world? Why are they so different in this regard? And, don't get me wrong, as many of you know, I am a big defender of Frodo. And if anyone had come to me with such a tale, it would have probably taken me even longer to get ready to go!

If this sounds like a final exam question in a high school or college literature course, you're probably right! I used to teach and loved to make my students "suffer" by thinking about impossible questions like this. But I'm also somewhat puzzled, and would honestly like your opinions. (I've got some ideas on this, but will get back with that later.)

sharon, the 7th age very long winded hobbit

[ August 21, 2002: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
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Old 08-21-2002, 11:50 AM   #2
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Sting

Sharon,

Wow, what fun.

First thought: In front of the Morannon he thought, for-- wasn't it half a day? before he decided to go south through Ithilien. He weighed, balanced, considered, pondered, and contemplated.

In contrast, how many times in The Hobbit do we watch Bilbo very briefly consider the options, and then say, Well, off we go! And off he goes.

I think that's why, in the movie-- (please, Mr. Underhill, don't nail me for wrong-forumitis) [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img] the line spoken on the bench in Rivendell, "I'm not like you, Bilbo" was so poignant to me. Frodo really is not like Bilbo. He has to steadily push or drive himself in a manner completely different than Bilbo, who seems to be able to coast along for quite a while on one good shove.

[ August 21, 2002: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 08-21-2002, 12:26 PM   #3
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Sting

Well, for one thing, I think Frodo had time to prepare. Bilbo was surprised by dwarves and he had to go then or never. Plus, Gandalf says that it should be a low key departure, so it takes some time to set that up. Also, I think he just doesn't want to leave. Unlike Bilbo, Frodo figures he will never come back, so he wants to say good bye.
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Old 08-21-2002, 02:43 PM   #4
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Sting

This needs some deep thinking.

Off the top of my head, I would say that, whereas Bilbo was rushed into his departure, by Gandalf, and the fact that the dwarves were already on their way out of the Shire, Frodo, had to first of all disguise the fact that he was leaving the Shire altogether, so as not to leave too broad a trail for any enemies to follow.

I also think that he was reluctant from the first to undertake this task, he tries to evade it by offering the ring to Gandalf.
Frodo is unlike Bilbo, he does consider carefully everything he does, he doesn't crave adventure, or renown, in the way that Bilbo, at least in his youth, had a tendency to do. Witness his reluctance to tell the Council of Elrond the tale of his journey to Rivendell, compared with Bilbo's story, which had to be halted by Elrond.

Tolkien does seem to place much significance on the fact that things always seem to happen on bithday's. Possibly this is intended to reinforce the idea that Bilbo and Frodo were 'meant' to do what they did.
Plus, we have to remember that Frodo had no idea that things had become so urgent in midsummer, due to Butterburr's forgetfulness, so as he had already said he would wait for Gandalf until his birthday, that is exactly what he did, he was also unaware at that time that anyone except Sam knew what he intended, and so felt rather more safe than he should have.

A last thought, the way Frodo behaved strikes me as more typically hobbitlike than Bilbo's behaviour. Hobbits like an easy life, unpleasant realities are therefore probably shunted to one side as long as is possible, before being dealt with. I have no proof of this, it's just an impression I have of Hobbit types.
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Old 08-21-2002, 02:45 PM   #5
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Tolkien

These are some very good points. When Bilbo had Gandalf and the Dwarves show up at his doorstep, he had to make a quick decision because they weren't going to live in his house for a few months while he decided to go or not. His departure was almost a forced one, and he didn't really have much of a choice. He probably felt intimidated, he had a wizard and 13 dwarves in his house telling him to leave with them. Frodo on the other hand only had Gandalf telling him to go, and Frodo had known Gandalf for many years already. He also is a different person, and seems a little more thought through than Bilbo. He is very cautious and doesn't want to rush into adventure. He (in the movie....plz don't hit me for this) says he always dreamt of being someplace else when he was young, but I think that when he go the chance to actually have his own adventure, he didn't know what to do.
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Old 08-21-2002, 06:38 PM   #6
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Sting

This is one of the great conundrums of the book for me, Child.

Frodo may be a sheltered creature, but he is certainly not that naive when it comes to the logistics of traveling in the wilds of Middle-Earth. Anyone from a time when all travel had to be done by foot or horseback would understand the advantages of traveling in the summer months. Milder weather, food would be more plentiful, rivers would be lower and more passable. Even our own car-crazy culture prefers traveling in summer to winter!

So why did he delay? We may be viewing the situation with 20-20 hindsight. We know that Frodo is in for a very long, dangerous journey to the very end, but at the beginning of the chapter "Three is Company", even Gandalf seems to be uncertain just how involved Frodo will be with the fate of the Ring, despite his earlier, dire warnings. He cannot even suggest a direction that Frodo might take, and implies that perhaps Frodo will be able to pass the burden of the Ring to others.

Perhaps Gandalf's ambiguity gave Frodo a false sense that the situation was not so urgent as it really was. Plus we have to remember Gandalf's promise to return and accompany Frodo and Sam on the trek. You really can't blame Frodo for waiting the arrival of as powerful a traveling companion as Gandalf before starting his journey.

But I have a feeling the real reason Frodo hesitated was that he was very aware, deep in his heart, that he and the Ring would see the journey through to the very end. There would be no other to step in and relieve him of the responsibility. And as on Amon Hen, Frodo was simply afraid.

Being a procrastinator myself, I can understand choosing a signifcant event to use as a goad to push you into facing an unpleasant task. As long as Frodo promised himself that he would start his quest after Bilbo's birthday, he could bury all his fears and dread in the background for a time, and enjoy one last summer in his beloved Shire. But when the anniverary date came, he kept his promise and set out, firmly believing that he would never survive to return home again.

It may have not been the most heroic way to handle the situation, but for Frodo, it worked.

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Old 08-21-2002, 08:16 PM   #7
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It may have not been the most heroic way to handle the situation, but for Frodo, it worked.
Well, actually, it almost didn't...
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Old 08-21-2002, 08:29 PM   #8
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Sting

Well, it may not have worked for the betterment of the quest, but at least it got him out the door. [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]
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Old 08-21-2002, 08:36 PM   #9
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Sting

I think that the delay was because there was no one to tell him go now when gandalf had gone. I think that if Gandalf had said to go he would have gone it was just he didn't want to go until he had to
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Old 08-21-2002, 08:37 PM   #10
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It is a lesson to all you procrastinators out there to set out in July rather than wait for the Nazgul to catch you in September.
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Old 08-21-2002, 09:37 PM   #11
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Sting

Quote:
But half unknown to himself the regret that he had not gone with Bilbo was steadily growing. He found himself wondering at times, especially in the autumn, about the wild lands, and strange visions of mountains he had never seen came into his dreams.
He LIKED walking in the autumn, and he got restless in the autumn. Bilbo left in the autumn, after his 111th birthday. I think it was at least partly sort of a ritual for Frodo, perhaps a hope that he might find him, or at least follow in his tracks. And the question that he asked Gildor that was most near his heart: "Tell me, Gildor, have you seen Bilbo since he left us?"

And actually, the example that Bilbo set for Frodo isn't the Unexpected party; Frodo wasn't alive for that. The example that Frodo saw, was the Long Expected Party, with its slow buildup and the giftgiving and the one last big celebration, and then the secret departure late on the day of his birthday.

And Frodo specifically did want to echo that. "What about the Autumn, on or after Our Birthday?" asked Frodo. "I think I could probably make some arrangements by then." (quote) Following Bilbo was uppermost in his mind, and the one thing that made the thought of leaving bearable.(/quote)

And Gandalf okayed it, reluctantly, but okay it he did!
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Old 08-21-2002, 10:52 PM   #12
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Eye

Great topic, and great points all around.
I particularly understand Birdland's point about using an event to sort of motivate yourself. I do that all the time. (ever hear of New Years Resolutions)
And also, it was pointed out that Frodo didn't have a great desire for glory and quests, and also thought things through and wasn't the kind of hobbit that coasted through life. I think it was these characteristics that made him the only choice to be the ringbearer. I think the manner in which he left the Shire was the only way it could be, because that was the way Frodo was. If he had tried to change his attitude or thought process, I think he would've no longer been suitable to bear the ring. Am I making sense?
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Old 08-22-2002, 12:40 AM   #13
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I find it interesting that Gandalf, despite the urgency of the ring, very much left it to Frodo to decide where and when to go. (Unlike Bilbo, whom he basically manipulated and tricked.) You have a feeling that the quest is going to depend on Frodo's strength from the very beginning, based on that deferring to his judgement. And the vote of confidence that implies. I also get a feeling that had Gandalf and others pushed him out the door, he would have developed a reliance (if not a dependency) on them, and not had the strength he needed later.

There's not only procrastination, but a willfulness about Frodo. He disagrees with Gandalf, politely, and makes up his own mind. Gandalf, even when he thinks Frodo should leave sooner, encourages that, subtly indicating the strength of mind is more important. That.. I don't know about you, but that made me instinctively feel more alone, looking at it from Frodo's point of view. That alone (heh) makes it harder to leave.

I think it's important for the pacing of the story that Frodo left slowly, like a locomotive building steam. You can almost feel how much energy it's going to take to complete the quest, just by how much it took to get it started.

It's almost like Frodo is storing up as much of the Shire as he can. This is not 20/20 hindsight on our part, he alone jumped to the conclusion that he had to leave the Shire, "This is no There and Back Again. I will be going from exile into exile."

Well, I'm falling asleee...... zzzz.. (mumble) hope this makes sense in the morning.

-Maril
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Old 08-22-2002, 01:37 AM   #14
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Sting

Quote:
"I'm not like you, Bilbo"
I can't help thinking that this dissimilarity between Frodo and Bilbo is what led to Frodo being chosen to go destroy the ring and Bilbo wasn't. In Rivendell, Bilbo volunteers to go himself, and 'fix his own mistake' - but the others don't agree ; plus Gandalf insisted a great deal that he should leave Frodo the ring.
I think that Bilbo would have had as much chance as Frodo to destroy the ring (even more so, as Bilbo succeded in giving it up when he had to, while Frodo cracked at the very last moment).
But what Gandalf foresaw was that Frodo's personality traits, that all of you have pointed out so far - his ability to think things through, his greater sense of resposibility - would make him more suitable for this quest.
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Old 08-22-2002, 08:43 AM   #15
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Nice comments, everyone. Maril, your insights in particular rung a bell for me. This is typical Gandalf – he knows just when to force things and when to pull back and let his intuition be his guide. This sort of what-does-Frodo-think mode manifests later as well, when the key decision about whether to try to move forward towards Mordor or to turn aside and head for Minas Tirith is deferred to him.
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'Well, Frodo,' said Aragorn at last. `I fear that the burden is laid upon you. You are the Bearer appointed by the Council. Your own way you alone can choose. In this matter I cannot advise you. I am not Gandalf, and though I have tried to bear his part, I do not know what design or hope he had for this hour, if indeed he had any. Most likely it seems that if he were here now the choice would still wait on you. Such is your fate.'
It also occurs to me that Gandalf wasn’t in any hurry to send the Ring out of the Shire until there was some clear sense of what was to be done with it. It’s not the sort of thing you want laying around, even in Rivendell – maybe even especially in Rivendell. The Ring’s power of temptation works even more powerfully on those who know how to wield it.
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Old 08-22-2002, 10:36 AM   #16
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Sting

Yes, until Gandalf knew that Sauron had Gollum, he probably figured the shire was as safe a place as any. Also, he probably did not feel any urgency to leave until he heard about the ringwraiths coming in search of the ring, since the rangers were guarding the shire. At this point, he tells frodo to leave quickly, but his letter never arrives.
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Old 08-22-2002, 11:28 AM   #17
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Sting

Mr. Underhill --

This is about your comments regarding the fact that Gandalf was not in a hurry to get the Ring out of the Shire given the fact that he was uncertain where it should go. I would even go a bit beyond this.

If we look at the book, we can clearly see that there is a general pattern of delay with the hobbits going from place of refuge to place of refuge, and not being in a big hurry to push on. Tolkien refers in The Hobbit to Rivendell as the "Last Homely House". This at least suggests that there were other "homely houses".

And I would put any number of places in LotR in this category--certainly Tom and Goldberry's home and Frodo's humble property in Buckland where the hobbits had such fun with their bath games and songs. Even the Prancing Pony has some small element of this--Frodo's standing on the table and singing a silly song and Merry's description of it as a "homelike" place. Although, by Bree, things are beginning to change. And, finally, there's Rivendell itself.

In each of these places the hobbits are compelled to start and restart their journey, to tear themselve away from their homely comforts and again commit themselves to going on. It's as if, as a group, they must redo Frodo's decision to leave many times over. So the story line itself preserves this sense of delay and even hesitation to charge ahead. (This is one of the things the movie totally fails to do, although it is understandable why this would be so.)

Why the delay in so many places? I'm sure Frodo's personality does play a part, but it's more than that. I think it emphasizes and re-emphasizes how important it is to have a homely house waiting for us as we go out and do our wandering. And also how hard it is for any of us to turn our backs on that place of family and comfort to go out into the night and fight evil. If Frodo had been too eager to leave, he would not have been who he was--someone who recognized the values and beauty that the Shire represented. And I think he instintively sensed those things on a deeper level than Bilbo. Hence, their different responses and Frodo's greater delay.

Tolkien spoke of this in one of his letters. He talked about the scene where Sam remembers swimming with Rosie and her brothers. And he says that having Rosie waiting for Sam in the Shire symbolized all the reasons why Sam had to go on, and actually enabled him to go on, and do what had to be done.

One of the saddest things to me is when Frodo returns to the Shire at the end and sees what has happened to it. He can not accept the fact that, in a certain sense, his sacrifice, at least for the Shire, has been in vain. His homely house has changed, and even though, we know it will be rebuilt, Frodo has a hard time seeing and accepting that. It is another reason why he is unable to achieve healing and closure within Middle-earth itself.

sharon, the 7th age hobbit
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Old 08-22-2002, 03:30 PM   #18
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1420!

Sharon, I must humbly disagree. Although the delay in the beginning of the Fellowship is unusual (months! and wasting the summer) the delays throughout the rest of the story are normal and clearly portray Tolkien's knowledge of the outdoors.

He was a real hiker, liked to walk, and one can tell from his accurate descriptions of the journey (bugs, no shelter, rain, cold, fog, getting lost) that he really knew what it was like in the outdoors. It is one of my pet peeves that so many writers conveniently locate easy-to-find, comfortable, dry caves of good size, and no bats in the middle of a forest! There. I got that off my chest.

Or they never take note of the weather, the effect it has on your journey, or of being tired, wet, or hungry.

Trust me, I know from my own hiking experience (I like to do week-long solo hikes in the Cascade mountains), once you get to warm baths and beer, uh, you don't really want to move for a while.

Your bones remember the walking and sleeping on hard ground, even as your mouth is telling the tale as if it were nothing.

Your stomach remembers the nights you couldn't get a fire lit (OK, I use a white gas camp stove, but I've had a stove crap out on me) and had to choke down beef jerkey with cold water for dinner.

And there's this period, especially after being out there a week or more, Especially if you hit hard weather (not to mention a few scares and a Nazgul or two), where it just seems to take a while for the warmth to seep back into your bones, where you're physically and mentally ready to head out again.

A five-day backpack takes minimum two days recovery, more like three.

That's with modern equipment, titanium cooksets, free-standing rip-stop nylon tents with easy set-up shock-cord aluminum poles, ultra-lite spectra cloth backpacks with padded hipbelts and computer-designed hot-**** load distribution systems, warm-yet-light mid-to-heavyweight fleece tops, 6oz easy-sleep evasote pads, quick-dry capilene long underwear and GoretexTM waterproof-breathable jackets.

It was 14-days or so just from Weathertop, carrying canvas (which soaks up water in the rain btw, almost doubling its weight) and tin, wearing bulky heavy wool, no shelter, and no hot food most of the time. Yeah, I bet they needed that miruvor.

The wind, the weather, the exertion, fills your body and mind - and it takes times for you to come back. It takes a lot out of you.

We get spoiled with our automobiles and trains and buses, where travel is relatively restful, and if you're not driving, a time to read, knit, and so forth.

It may have the effect of valuing home, but that's simply inherent to exhaustion.

-Maril
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Old 08-22-2002, 06:37 PM   #19
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Maril --

You cetainly know a lot more about cross-country hiking than I do, although I have done a fair bit of backpacking around England and Wales in my younger days. I agree with you that the hobbits needed that much time to recuperate physically. But I still think that there's more going on here than just R&R.

Small hobbit digs in toes.......

Many authors would gloss over such episodes of needed rest and relaxation. But I think Tolkien uses these stays in homely houses to reinforce his basic premise. All of these houses show things that will be lost to the members of the fellowship if they continue onward. At the same time, there is indication that a complete commitment has not yet been made, at least by Frodo. For example, in the barrow-downs, Frodo thinks of how he could put on the Ring, and run away, apologizing to Gandalf that he just couldn't help his friends. In Rivendell, particularly, Frodo felt "a dead darkness in his heart" and an "overwhelming longing to rest and remain at peace by Bilbo's side." And when he took on the quest it was "as if some other will was using his small voice." I think if we looked more closely we could find more instances of this reluctance in the early part of the book.

What makes this reluctance even more poignant is that it is contrasted with some very positive things that are going on in these homely houses. At Tom's for example, Frodo is very much taken in and attacted by the lovely Goldberry. He acts a bit silly about her and then feels embarassed by it. Why is Tolkien including this? I'm sure there are many reasons, but here's one thing we shouldn't overlook. We sense that if Frodo really commits to the trek to Mount Doom, he will be forever barred from the love of woman. In Rivendell,similarly, he found Arwen very attractive, and described her like this:

Quote:
Such loveliness in living thing Frodo hd never seen before nor imagined in his mind.
Again, there is a contrast between the comfort and beauty of the homely house and the reality of the deed he must commit to.

In the Shire itself and Buckland, and even a bit in Bree, we are treated to some of the joys of hobbit living--funny songs, dancing on tables, silly bath games, lovely lanes where hobbits like to walk, etc. Again, as readers, we begin to understand the bittersweet nature of these delights. By going ahead and making a commitment, Frodo will eventually lose all of these. And this is sadly confirmed at the end of the book when it is clear that he can not go on living in the Shire.

In Rivendell, there are the attractions of the Elves themselves and the natural world at Tom's house.

So I do agree that Tolkien recognized the realistic demands of cross-country travel, but he uses these rest stops to set up this poignant contrast between the joys of home and the necessities of pushing on. In this sense, I feel these stops are significant. Perhaps, I am wrong to use the term "delays" since they did need physical recuperation. But the Shire at the beginning and these various houses along the way reinforce to Frodo those things that he is reluctantly sacrificing. And just as he took a long time to get on the road initially, he still has reluctance in his soul when he sees and visits these homely houses. It's only after the council, when Frodo makes his final commitment, that he accepts the Ring as his doom. The homely houses and their everyday pleasures are behind him, and his reluctance is gone. In its place is the growing feeling that he will not return from the Quest alive. I just don't think this is coicidence or simple R&R.

Respectfully, a small and determined hobbit

[ August 22, 2002: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
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Old 08-23-2002, 12:37 AM   #20
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Entling sinks its roots into the soil, and reviews the question with the patience of its kind.

Hm. If we don't speak of 'delays' but rather reluctance of the heart, then I agree with you. That reluctance is most certainly there, and it underlines the poignancy of both what Frodo has to lose if he goes on, and what he stands to lose if he doesn't. No argument there.

Since the 'Last Homely House' is from the Hobbit and not the LotR I think it's a bit of a stretch to draw it into the mix. The two stories are so different. But I leave the subject be.

I'm not sure I know what you mean by Frodo's attraction to Arwen or Goldberry or forsaking the company of women. For that to be an issue there would have to be some past relationship with women in the first place, to contrast with what he was going to lose.

Frodo is 50 and a confirmed batchelor already. He may appreciate women as he appreciates the beauty of his garden, but if he set great store in a possible relationship with a woman (or Hobbit lass) he would have found one, and at least one, by that age. (One gets the impression young Pippin and yes, Sam, has more success with the ladies.)

He's quite a catch after all.
Bag End.
Youthful vigor of a 30-year-old. (!)
Related to both the Baggins And the Brandybucks, and more distantly the Tooks.
Well-liked by his neighbors.
The mystique of the famous Baggins' history to draw in the curious and adventuresome lasses. (Read: Tooks.)

Oh, I am having fun with this, imagining the damsels dashing themselves on the sheer abstract nature of Frodo's mind and personality. If he's a Libra he has Aquarious rising.

Certainly some of the girls tried.

No doubt a relative or two attempted playing matchmaker for the eccentric and conspicuously wealthy batchelor, no doubt with an ulterior motive of getting the inside scoop on those tunnels of 'jools.'

But that is just the problem, isn't it?
Frodo is too sensitive to an ulterior motive, can smell one a mile away, and it doesn't seem likely to find a single lass in the Shire who doesn't have at least one none-too-pure motive hiding under a rock somewhere.

Bilbo was a batchelor because he couldn't be bothered with the interference and complications of a woman in his life. His dramatic personality filled Bag End in such a way there was no room for anyone else, save someone as introverted as Frodo.
Meanwhile, Frodo, his very success (by Shire standards) precluded his meeting or being persued by any who would suit; while his sedendary abstract calm made it improbable he'd ever lift a finger to look on his own. If he had any hopes of finding someone, there's no sign of it.

There. The ent found something to argue with at any rate. [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]
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Old 08-23-2002, 05:16 AM   #21
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Maybe he just liked 'em tall.
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Old 08-23-2002, 07:05 AM   #22
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Maril,

Reread where Frodo sings to Goldberry, and his reaction to his own behavior, and then tell me whether you think it sounds like his first real crush.

--Helen
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Old 08-23-2002, 08:49 AM   #23
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Hullo Child of the 7th Age, and Well Met Marileangorifurnimaluim.

* bows a greeting *

Personally, I'd been under the impression that it was Old Tom and Goldberry who saw to it that Frodo and his friends were delayed ... "washing day" indeed. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

To my mind, the House of Bombadil, the House of Elrond, and Lothlórien serve as places of spiritual retreat.

As for Rivendell, please allow me to present a small bit of verse that I once composed there during one of my stays:

O Imladris! whose arch and dome
Store depth from waterfall to sky
Magnificent is Elrond's home
A haven of serenity
From which to undertake a quest
Recover strength, discover aim
Store up from life all that is best.
From hearth to heart will leap a flame
Of hope to see you on your way,
Whatever future darkness come
Meet true to self and company.

To my mind, time that meets timelessness is time well spent. Renewal, refreshment, encouragement, the making of good memories to look back on and draw strength from later on when the road darkens ... the balance of rest and exertion helps keep a proper perspective. Better to pace yourself to endure troubles in manageable portions over the long term, rather than sprint into them all at once and become overwhelmed.

At your Service,

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Old 08-23-2002, 09:24 AM   #24
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Quote:
To my mind, time that meets timelessness is time well spent. Renewal, refreshment, encouragement, the making of good memories to look back on and draw strength from later on when the road darkens ... the balance of rest and exertion helps keep a proper perspective. Better to pace yourself to endure troubles in manageable portions over the long term, rather than sprint into them all at once and become overwhelmed.
*nods in agreement with Gandalf the Grey*

The point being, I would think, that it is the being rather than just the doing which is important to Frodo's actions. *grins mischievously at her phrasing*

We see, as well, Frodo's deliberated choice rather than simple obedience to Gandalf's request, especially given that the full extent of the threat is not truly understood, neither by the readers nor by Frodo. He, and we, have yet to meet the Nazgul.

Bethberry

Edit: Thinking a bit more about this delay, I wonder if this isn't an example of the 'inexplicit' religious element in LOTR, the recognition that both labour and recreation are needed in a balanced life. I don't have time to explain this in more detail now, but thinking about the obverse of that old cliche of the "Protestant work ethic" might come into play here.

[ August 23, 2002: Message edited by: Bethberry ]
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Old 08-23-2002, 09:56 AM   #25
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Bethberry,

You delve into the mystical... I love it. Yes, being must balance doing. To me it's fascinating how much time Frodo spends listening, and thinking. The more I think about it, the more I love the long wait Sam and Smeagol had at the Morannon while Frodo made up his mind.

And that time spent at Bombadil's listening to story and song-- what was the phrase... sacred liesure? Something like that. Time spent in the presence of God. One might even say, time lavished on God. He's worth it.

And Frodo displays that, that willingness to stop and spend time and listen to the supernatural, and soak it up; I love that about him.

--Helen
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Old 08-23-2002, 10:36 AM   #26
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Hullo Bethberry,

Exactly what I was driving at, my friend! At the back of my mind, I was thinking of the Rule of St. Benedict, with all its balance between ORA ET LABORA, prayer and work, wherein it is said:

Quote:
Being Benedictine is not so much about doing as being.
(above quote taken after a quick search from a cached internet website: http://216.239.35.100/search?q=cache...hl=en&ie=UTF-8 )

Thus, your phrasing, though mischievous, is based on ancient and elegant wisdom. * bows *

I'd also had in mind those Biblical allusions along the lines of God creating the world and on the seventh day He rested, keeping holy the Sabbath Day, and "man was not made for the Sabbath, but rather the Sabbath was made for man."

At your Service,

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Old 08-23-2002, 10:50 AM   #27
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Hullo mark12_30,

And I suppose you don't consider my bringing up the House of Bombadil, Rivendell, and Lothlórien as places of spiritual retreat "delving into the mystical," eh? Even though Bethberry was kind enough to base her post off of something I'd said in mine? Really, sometimes I get the feeling that you're uncomfortable discussing Tolkien with me, mark12_30, and wonder if I'm welcome. [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

As well, I'd venture that my description of Imladris seems an exact match with the concepts you speak of regarding the sacred leisure in the Bombadil House, and the opportunities provided for Frodo to soak up the supernatural.

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Old 08-23-2002, 10:57 AM   #28
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My dear Gandalf,

*sighs* I apologise for my dull wits.

Of course your reference to Rivendell as a spiritual retreat should have made mysticism pop into my mind, precisely because of your tradition. **Should have**... didn't... I should know enough to switch gears when I read your posts. I'm sorry.

There is the one of the differences between liturgical and evangelical vocabulary, I'm sorry to say. The words "Spiritual" and "spiritual retreat" are much less of a trigger in the evangelical tradition, because there are those (many) who would argue that everything is spiritual. You'll even find those who debate on the value of evangelical "Spiritual Retreat" at all-- and on some days I'm one of them. Evangelical "retreats" can be quite bland. Frankly, I'd rather go to a rousing worship conference than an evengelical "retreat". A centering prayer weekend, now-- THAT would be tempting. See? Vocabulary... Sigh.

*shoots a wry, apologetic look at Gandalf**

On the other hand, the "being versus doing" quote quite catapulted me into my catholic reference library, finding centering prayer and John of the Cross and Brother Lawrence and... all of those wonderful contemplatives. Mystics.
Perhaps it's also partly because for many years, Rivendell was the center of Middle Earth for me, so I see it with jaded eyes. But Bombadil's house was brand-new and fresh for me as of this last reading, and I studied it with a sense of wonder.

You are correct, of course. Rivendell is a welcoming house of retreat. Perhaps Bombadil's house seemed more mystical to me (this past time through) because it seems harder to get to, and more... shall I say, mysterious? I was going to say bizarre.

Forgive me.

--Helen

[ August 23, 2002: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 08-23-2002, 12:30 PM   #29
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That would explain it, mark12_30! [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

"Spiritual retreat" now comes in many forms. The form I was referring to has much in common with your favored "rousing worship conference." In fact, I was speaking of RENEWAL WEEKEND, formally called "Christ Renews His Parish."

If you try to look up a satisfying description of Christ Renews His Parish on the Internet, one that does justice to explaining Renewal ... you won't find one, and that's on purpose. Renewal is maintained as carefully and secretly as the finest hidden kingdom of the Elves.

The first time I embarked on Renewal, I was greeted with the words: "Anyone wearing a watch, place it in this basket. The runnings of time will not affect you here." I looked up at this voice, in immediate recognition of its being Elvish. Then, the indescribable music began, or rather, we guests noticed it as we hadn't before.

How then to describe Renewal, which I first called "spiritual retreat"? One way: Go back and reread "MANY MEETINGS." Another way: With your own words, mark12_30:

Quote:
the line that sticks with me is the line that the Lorien elves say when the fellowship is given their gifts-- "We put the thought of all we love into what we make." That is their skill, their magic, their craft, their... elvishness. From Feanor to Galadriel to Arwen, that's what makes elven things, well, Elven. The thought of what they love shines through in their creations.

Even in the meals they serve and the ropes they make.
As for the House of Bombadil, I've been there too ... Old Tom works as a Historical Interpreter, and every year he and his wife open their home and host a meal for those of us who volunteer in his living history program. After dinner, we talk of adventure in the wilderness, and maybe Tom will get out his fiddle and sing. For the rest of us, he produces percussion instruments of all shapes and sizes, handing rattles and triangles to young and old, inviting us to join him. We then play games from centuries past, moving colored stones through a course of wood ... and Tom's enthusiasm urges us to play despite anyone's possible reluctance about it being a "silly children's game."

When it gets down to it, I'd say Tom Bombadil and various households of Elves offer the same sort of gift of holy renewal (spiritual retreat), though made unique through culture and personality. And bringing it back to the discussion, I'd say that Frodo is wise indeed to choose the better part, the "one thing needful" when it is presented to him, rather than rush about busy with many things, and should not be deprived of it.

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Old 08-23-2002, 03:58 PM   #30
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Gandalf the Grey and Helen/Mark,

I'm glad you two have cleared up your vocabulary differences. *smiles happily* It would indeed be intriguing to be able to include you, Helen, in the interesting discussions I have with Gandalf, who quite won the respect and admiration of my husband and children during a visit this past July.

Your reference to the Sabbath is intriguing, Gandalf, because I had not considered that, but was rather inspired by your post to think of the passage from Ecclesiastes about a time for every purpose under Heaven, and the passage from Matthew 6 about the lilies of the field, "So do not be anxious about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself."

Bethberry

PS. Sorry, I have no time to write more, for I have just returned from a four hour trip picking my children up from camp and now must take a two hour trip taking my mother-in-law home.

[ August 25, 2002: Message edited by: Bethberry ]
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Old 08-23-2002, 06:35 PM   #31
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Hi guys, busy day I see.

Helen:

Quote:
Maril,
Reread where Frodo sings to Goldberry, and his reaction to his own behavior, and then tell me whether you think it sounds like his first real crush.
Age 50 and hasn't had a crush before? On that alone I would rest my case on the degree of unimportance women have in Frodo's life. (Do bear in mind this is a woman speaking, before anyone accuses me of misogyny.) But crush (or lust) is too earthbound to apply to the near-mystical, no - ah! - wonder of Bombadil's house and Goldberry. Good word, was it Gandalf, Helen, Bethberry who used it?

Goldberry, Arwen, are all lofty and unobtainable, too distant to be objects of any realistic desire that Frodo would have to relinquish.

Good thing, too. Losing the Shire is bad enough.

-Maril

On a side note:

My dear Christian friends - Whoa!
One of these days I will have my revenge by gathering a group of fellow Buddhists of various traditions (a few Theravada, one or two Kagyud, a Gelug, and myself as Nyingmapa should do it) and storming a thread or two with impenetrable discussions of the Mahayana vs. Hinayana interpretations of Frodo's quest, tossing in off-handed quotes from the Karmapa, the Lotus Sutra, Shantideva and Dharmakirti. Would one consider Tom Bombadil to be a Dzogchen master of profound view do you think? (I would say yes.) Then you guys can sit back on your bums and scratch your heads. [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]

In the eucatastrophe thread, I took the effort of translating Buddhist Lorig, (classifications of mind) into plain english. I assumed many people would not know what I meant by such phrases 'term generality' and 'generally characterized phenomena.' So instead I described how we could define eucatastrophe's according to a set (the book? the individual character?) under consideration. I believe I made sense and left the topic open for non-Buddhists, of which there are many. Heh. Clearly.

Do please practice some very Christian generousity and do the same. I believe that Christian values and theology do translate as well as Buddhist classifications of mind. I would very much like to participate in the discussion, and with my spiritual background it would take little to make that possible - just a little less shorthand, please. Remember this board is open to all, and it's really frustrating to see the good topics run away with.

If you're curious, most of what you said made sense and was easily translatable (doing verses being - yes! Rest as spiritual renewal - of course! There's the story of the Buddha and the violinist who threw away his instrument, and the Buddha fetched it out of the brush and used it to demonstrated 'not too tight, and not too loose.' Spontaneous awareness that Gandalf the Grey describes in Tom's house is very much like the secret feast practice of the vajrayana tradition, and the Book of Revelations reads just like a vajrayana text, on and on the commonalities and fascinating topics were clear, so many directions to choose from..) What threw me was "There is the one of the differences between liturgical and evangelical vocabulary.."

aargh.

Then...

Ecclestiates and...

Oh come'on, guys. Play fair.

I have decided that every time you guys take it to the impenetrable level, I will throw in some esoteric Buddhist reference. On the topic of rest as renewal and Tom Bombadil, this from Trungpa Rinpoche on Primordial Innocence:

"We put so much emphasis on pain and confusion that we forget basic innocence. The usual approach we take toward spirituality is to look for some experience that might enable us to rediscover our adulthood rather than go back to our innocent childlike quality. There was a sense of freshness and at the same time some sense of wildness."

[ August 23, 2002: Message edited by: Marileangorifurnimaluim ]
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Old 08-23-2002, 07:19 PM   #32
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Maril--

About "Speaking Christianese"-- point taken. It is one of my pet peeves, and there I went. Sorry. I will try. Please feel free to remind me whenever I fail to translate.

Your particular frustration from my post:
"There is the one of the differences between liturgical and evangelical vocabulary.." All that means is, I belong to a looser, less formal group that has less memorised stuff and less tradition (evangelical) while Gandalf belongs to a group rich in tradition and memorised stuff (liturgical). For some reason, liturgical spiritual retreats are really spiritual-- while evangelical "retreats" tend to be just an excuse to get away from it all (IMHO). Worship conferences on the other hand tend to get good and profound. So we had a vocabulary clash, and what Gandalf was intending as a mystical reference came across to me as just... well... boring. However, if I had remember that I was reading a post by a liturgical type of fellow I would have read it differently.

Any better, or worse now? I tried.

About Frodo and Goldberry-- I grant you that Goldberry, Arwen, and Galadriel are all unattainable. (And too tall.) However, that was really my point (bear with me).

Bird mentioned, "Maybe he likes 'em tall." My comeback is, 'Maybe he likes 'em spiritual.' I tend to think that when he met genuinely spiritual females, his reaction was, "Now that's interesting-- she's interesting-- and... also quite out of my reach. Well, there it is."

The first time, he's taken off guard, and embarasses himself. The next two times, he (carefully!) remains silent. But we do read that he was struck by their beauty. And I don't think Tolkien is implying only physical good looks; I think spiritual beauty is a large part of the mix.

I think that he realised that if he had been looking for a wife, she'd have to be as interested in otherwordly things as he was, to remain interesting to him for very long. And hobbits like that, in general, and hobbit-lasses in particular-- seemed to be in short supply in The Shire. Hence... for that reason and for other reasons as well, a bachelor he remains.

Can't prove it, via Tolkien's letters or anything, but that's what it looks like to me.

--Helen

[ August 23, 2002: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 08-23-2002, 08:17 PM   #33
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Helen, you are terrific and brilliant.

Wow. I understand now the differences between a liturgical and evangelical tradition, which is very interesting. I would love to be able to connect these two defining characteristics to the names of Christian traditions, so I can carry this deeper understanding of the differences into conversations with actual Christians. It would be nice to understand the mindset in my ever-expanding effort to speak a common language of spirituality with different traditions. (A neccessity when you're from a minority religion, or you have a limited number of people to talk to!) So as not to encourage the very thing I complained about two minutes ago (heh) would you be willing to PM me? If you have time and interest to educate a Buddhist. [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

The same comparisons exist in Buddhism. The Gelug, and Buddhist traditions from Thailand & Shri Lanka, rely heavily on memorization and scholarly debate, liturgical. My own tradition has a reputation of being wild mystics in the forests - complete with the bone through the hair. [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img] Not always deservedly. [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img] So your explanation makes a great deal of sense.

Back to Tolkien before either Mr. U or the BW chides us...

Frodo's need for a spiritual companion. Hmm. Good point. I think that he found that to a large extent in his relationship with Bilbo, at least the spiritual portion (without the physical component, thank you very much, though no doubt the slash writers will run amuck with this one). That, I believe, had a lot to do with his need to leave the Shire when Bilbo did.

I am forced to revise my opinion that Sam's ignoring Frodo at a critical time was largely to blame for Frodo not reconnecting with the New Shire. Sam, despite his understanding of his master, was too earthbound and rooted to truly be the spiritual companion Frodo needed. It wasn't just the intellectual differences, as Sam's inherent goodness and 'primordial innocence' clearly struck Frodo as profound and Frodo held him in high regard - higher in fact than he held himself.

But you are right, Frodo needed a companion, someone ring his insights off of, to take his understandings to new levels and into unexpected directions.

It is very probable that this ideally would be a woman, like Goldberry or Galadriel (less so gentle Arwen - they are too much alike). Someone who challenged him, and whom he could challenge as well.

Perhaps one of the elves of Mirkwood? They are shorter I hear tell. lol

-Maril
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Old 08-23-2002, 08:22 PM   #34
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Addressing the off-topic ideas of Frodo's 'crushes'(but not to discourage them, for they are all facinating and do tie in well with the overall gist of the thread), and to simplify a quick thought, I don't think Frodo was particularly attracted to any of the wonder-women in question, tall or spiritual. Instead, he was ultra-perceptive of their elvish or otherworldly nature, which he found far more fascinating than alluring. Years of romantic history lessons from Bilbo were suddenly proven, incarnated before his eyes by three of the most powerful examples of mystical femininity that he had heard of for so many years. Each time, he stood stunned by the reality of what he faced and the fact that he was deeply entwined with them by fate. Mythical figures suddenly addressed him with the familiarity of a peer (or at least a benefactor), and he was understandably awed (but not dumbstruck - that's for Sam and Gimli) by the experience.

Sorry, just a thought with no ultimate conclusions.
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Old 08-23-2002, 09:01 PM   #35
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Bethberry:

Thank you for pointing out the passages from Ecclesiastes and Matthew 6, for they highlight for me further facets of applicable light touching on the various safe havens at which Frodo and the rest of the Fellowship of the Ring shelter at along various portions of the quest. I look forward to hearing any further related thoughts you wish to share, as time allows you. * bows *

Marileangorifurnimaluim:

Please let me know if you ever want me to clarify something that sounds too technically Christianese, and I will gladly comply as far as I'm able. I always strive for a common frame of reference.

As for your relating to my anecdotal description of my "real-life" visits to the Bombadil House, it fascinates me that you compare it to the spontaneous awareness of a vajrayana secret feast. After I'd posted my description of Old Tom the Historical Interpreter, etc, it struck me that this particular description might not qualify as a "Christian" spiritual experience, but rather as a moral good that people of all religious backgrounds can relate to.

As for your quote from Trungpa Rinpoche on Primordial Innocence ..... I can't ever recall trying to rediscover my adulthood. In any case, I assume your quote refers to Tom Bombadil in terms of innocent childlike quality? And/or the sense that Frodo should seek or strive to maintain this same quality, and that places like Old Tom's House and Rivendell can be instrumental for this purpose?

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Old 08-23-2002, 09:12 PM   #36
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Sting

BW: you wrote,

Quote:
I don't think Frodo was particularly attracted to any of the wonder-women in question, tall or spiritual. Instead, he was ultra-perceptive of their elvish or otherworldly nature, which he found far more fascinating than alluring.
But I think (Y'all correct me if I;m wrong) that it is precisely the elvish or otherworldly nature that we are equating with spirituality. In my fanfics I use the term "elf-hunter" or "elf-chaser" to describe a spiritually curious hobbit... Bilbo, Frodo, Sam. Some elf-chasers are more easily satisfied than others; I think Sam was satisfied and went home and "got a life." But I think Frodo was only made more hungry. As was Bilbo.

As far as "alluring"... then, regarding Goldberry, what do you see as having made Frodo sing, blush, stammer, and fall silent?

Alas, I'll have to wait til I'm back from vacation to find out... So long, y'all.

--Helen
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Old 08-23-2002, 09:25 PM   #37
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Sting

Goldberry was his first, and until then he was an 'uber-female' virgin. It stunned him greatly. But his stammering and blushing were a natural reaction to his suddenly obvious ignorance of the world and the powers in it (it's that ultra-awareness that I was talking about earlier that made him notice her specialness in the first place). He wasn't prepared for such an experience. Gildor was the tip of the iceberg, but Goldberry was a great sheet of ice covering a continent of the unknown and unforseen (am I waxing poetic, or what?). I never saw it as a crush. I saw it more of a Garth (from Wayne's World) "I'm not worthy!"

As for spirituality, I'll have to give it more thought [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
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Old 12-20-2004, 03:05 AM   #38
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....Just curious if anyone else has any ideas on this.

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Old 12-21-2004, 08:55 AM   #39
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On the topic of procrastination (which was way up there ) -

Perhaps Tolkien was wrote it this way (consciously or subconsciously) as a reflection of himself. Tolkien was a self-admitted procrastinator, and since he considered himself to be hobbitish, this may have just been the logical way for Frodo to act, combined with the ideas that he preferred to walk in autumn and all that good jazz.

Besides, it makes for a much more interesting story, because if he had not waited then he would not have encountered the Nazgűl, and if he had Gandalf's letter from Bree would not have been there. So maybe the delay is as much for literary purposes as anything else - and then he used it to show us some things about Frodo.
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Old 12-21-2004, 10:35 AM   #40
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Quote:
Small hobbit digs in toes.......
...the quote that endeared me to C7A the moment as I saw it, and kept me chuckling for quite some time thereafter.

Procrastination.... Isn't it the nature of testing that each test increases in difficulty? And if you're slow out of the gate on the first one, it tends to echo later. Other noted occasions for Frodo's procrastination: Amon Hen, and The Black Gate.

Also-- I'm reminded of what Sam says at Amon Hen about Frodo's fear: "Of course, he's had some schooling since then, or he'd just fling the ring into the river and bolt." Endearing; both that Frodo is afraid, and that Sam quietly understands his fear without losing respect for him.
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