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Old 03-23-2004, 11:10 PM   #1
Dininziliel
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Silmaril Nebulous "It" and Absolutes

In spring of 1420, post-Shire scouring, Frodo became ill in early March. In "The Grey Havens" we are told that Farmer Cotton
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found Frodo lying on his bed; he was clutching a white gem that hung on a chain about his neck and he seemed half in a dream. 'It is gone for ever,' he said, 'and now all is dark and empty.'
While it seems obvious that the "it" for which Frodo mourned was the Ring, there is something about those absolute terms, "forever," and "all" that causes my curiosity to nibble at the corners of possible meanings. The Ring may have been destroyed, but weren't some other things also gone forever--innocence, for instance? Was he speaking only of the emptiness in his life, or might he also have been registering the passing of a particular light and joy from ME?

The nature of the Ring has been discussed in eloquent detail, so this is not a thread about the Ring itself.

The question is: what does Tolkien tell us in his various stories, essays, and letters about the loss incurred through great and profound struggles--even when light triumphs over darkness. Is it possible to have the opposite outcome where "all is light and full of joy"?
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Old 03-24-2004, 12:18 AM   #2
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Oh, of course the innnocence was gone. The hobbits especially were forever changed, and the Shire was too. But that is something that too has been talked about many times in the B-D's before. And the "particular light and joy" passing from Middle Earth that you talk about could be the elves (or are you talking about just Frodo?). Because the War of the Ring brought the passing of the elves and that was definitely the taking of a "light and joy" that would never be seen on the shores of Middle Earth again.

Loss in victory is something that Tolkien has threaded through many of his works. I guess you could compare it to someones experience in war. You may have won the battle overall, but you could have lost your friends, and you have most definitely lost your innocence.

But I can't really answer the last part though, because that is just a thing where I can't seem to find a good example for. I think it maybe exsists, a conflict where everything and everyone comes out good, but maybe just in a perfect world
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Old 03-24-2004, 06:20 AM   #3
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I take it to mean: "It (the ring) is gone, and now all (the world devoid of all the bad - but also the good things that the existance of the ring made possible) is dark and empty." It's something that we readers can relate to - the story has come to an end.
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The question is: what does Tolkien tell us in his various stories, essays, and letters about the loss incurred through great and profound struggles--even when light triumphs over darkness. Is it possible to have the opposite outcome where "all is light and full of joy"?
I'm not sure I understand what you mean here. Are you asking 'can there be complete triumph without any loss and pain whatsoever?' or am I getting the wrong idea?
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Old 03-24-2004, 08:20 AM   #4
Nimikôi Angarauko
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I am getting the same idea Evisse, but this thread is bringing to my mind a couple of phrases "War is hell" and "In war there are no winners only losers". In my opinion I do not tihnk any one can go thruogh war, be it real or fanciful, and not be effected by it, What happens to the warriors when there is nothing left to fight? Perhaps it was the lose of innocence Frodo was talking about considering that there hadn't been a battle involving Hobbits since the battle of the greenfields, and yes i know Bilbo was in the battle of the five armies but he didn't see much action. I don't think it was the lose of innocence Frodo was talking about,but more along the lines of the lose of the world much change followed after the destruction of the Ring, which adds to the symbolism of the end of third age and begining of the fourth, Frodo was a relic of the third age ,just like Gandalf, trapped in a new era without the ability to adapt to shift of power. crap cant finish post peroid over AAHHHH
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Old 03-24-2004, 08:36 AM   #5
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What is gone, is everything the Ring came to symbolise for Frodo - power over his life, his world, his destiny. Hope (both estel & amdir ). In the end the Ring came to symbolise/mean way too much for Frodo, which stopped him being able to destroy it. Everything he cared about was symbolised by the Ring. So without it there was nothing at all. His state is possibly best understood by the fact that for him, even his innocence had become bound up with the Ring, so when it was destroyed his innocence was also.

What does the Ring not come to symbolise/contain for Frodo? What is not destroyed along with it?

The state of despair he had entered into by the end of the story is one which probably none of us can truly understand. He had no hope - neither in life, or in death. There was no light & joy here in this world - not for Frodo, & one wonders if there was for Tolkien.

Though, one has to wonder if contemplating Frodo's mindset is wise - what did Nieztsche say about staring into the void...
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Old 03-24-2004, 09:27 AM   #6
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By the end of the War of the Ring, Frodo had become attached to the Ring. He even refused to destroy it, deep in the heart of Mount Doom. It had become an integral part of him. When Gollum fell into the lava with the Ring, the emotional effect on Frodo was similar to if someone had ripped a limb or two off of him. Those scars would have still been there for a very long time.
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Old 03-24-2004, 03:24 PM   #7
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The question is: what does Tolkien tell us in his various stories, essays, and letters about the loss incurred through great and profound struggles--even when light triumphs over darkness. Is it possible to have the opposite outcome where "all is light and full of joy"?
I don't think it is. In any of the great struggles or conflicts there was at least some loss. On an even broader scope than just Frodo, in the War of the Ring think of all the losses there were. There were several people that died, for example Théoden, Hama, Halbarad, and many others. Arwen became mortal and the Elves passed away into the West. In all that suffering, victory is at best bittersweet. It can't be truly joyous because of all the loss. How can anyone come away unmarked or unaffected from a war or other bitter struggle?
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Old 03-24-2004, 04:03 PM   #8
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Dininziniel,

This is an interesting thread but I think you've raised two related issues rather than simply one.

First, there is the general theme of "loss versus joy" in Tolkien's writing. You pose the question in these terms:

Quote:
The question is: what does Tolkien tell us in his various stories, essays, and letters about the loss incurred through great and profound struggles--even when light triumphs over darkness. Is it possible to have the opposite outcome where "all is light and full of joy"?
Tolkien clearly thought there could be no joy that was pure and unblemished. At least three influences helped mold this view:
  • Tolkien's personal experience as a child and young adult, namely the loss of both his parents, and his guardian's subsequent order to separate from Edith.
  • His basic Catholic belief that the world is inherently flawed and there can be no real victory until the end of time
  • The influence of the Northern epics and legends that were equally or even more somber in tone than his own writing

All of these influenced Tolkien's portrayal of loss, which is a consistent theme throughout his writing. Which of these had the greatest impact? We can only guess, but I would think his serious difficulties in childhood had a great deal to do with how he came to feel underneath. Perhaps the other two gave intellectual expression to what lay below.

Your second question centers on Frodo and the extent to which he personally suffered loss. I find myself in a strange position here. On the one hand, no one could possibly argue that Frodo was not profoundly affected by the Ring. What happened to him left a lasting mark, and Davem has summed up this idea very well.

Yet, I wonder whether Davem hasn't portrayed Frodo in too stark terms? He and I have had a similar discussion before on suffering, so I don't think he'll be too surprised at what I'm going to say.

First, here is what Davem wrote:

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The state of despair he had entered into by the end of the story is one which probably none of us can truly understand. He had no hope - neither in life, or in death. There was no light & joy here in this world - not for Frodo, & one wonders if there was for Tolkien.
I would not say this, and I am not sure Tolkien would either.....Frodo being in a state of despair so extreme that he has no hope in life or death. That is further than I am willing to go. When I read Davem's post, I had a vivid image of the poem "Sea-Bell" in my head. There is no doubt that the nightmare Tolkien depicts in Sea-Bell was part of Frodo's experience when he returned to the Shire. But it was, in my estimation, only one part. There was more going on than that. Frodo acted as deputy mayor, and managed to live with Sam and his family.

For many years, I acted as a grief support counselor and briefly as a crisis counselor. Grief is very strange. One moment it can totally overwhelm you, and the next you manage to stagger on and go through the motions of living. I imagine Frodo's experience was similar to that: very, very bad times alternating with times where he felt empty and sad but was able to get through the day. This is how Tolkien depicts Frodo's periodic "episodes".

Strangely enough, one of the dominant expressions of ongoing grief and depression is not overt despair and reckless action but complete exhaustion and immobility. You feel as if you can't take another step forward. Because of this, it is difficult to make decisions or act in a concerted way. The fact that Frodo decided to go West in hope of finding help tells me that, as sick as he was, there was enough left inside him to try and seek a better path.

I do not see Frodo as totally devoid of hope. He still had feelings for Sam and the Shire. Because of this, Frodo was capable of recognizing that on a certain level the Shire had been saved and could even tell this to his friends. What he wasn't capable of doing was taking an active role in that saved Shire, or fitting in again.

Near the end of the book, we see the shores of Tol Eressea through Frodo's eyes:

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Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. and then it seemed to him that is in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld a white shores and beyond thema far green country under a swift sunrise.
This verbal portrait suggests a tiny glimmer of light underneath all Frodo's grief and guilt. When a person is totally immersed in despair, they are incapable of appreciating either goodness or beauty. The fact that Frodo could look on those shores and sense their underlying purity suggests that something in him was still capable of responding to goodness.

This really brings us back to Din's initial post, how Tolkien saw joy and loss as intertwined. The feeling at the end of LotR is not utter despair but rather bittersweet loss. As hurt as Frodo was, I think that this was even true for him.


Frodo was hurt, terribly hurt, but I do not see it as a hurt without hope. We don't know what happens to Frodo in the end, perhaps because Tolkien himself did not know. Perhaps he found healing in this world, and perhaps he did not. But the way Frodo is depicted in the final chapter at least suggests to me that a tiny measure of hope was there and healing was still possible.
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Old 03-24-2004, 06:59 PM   #9
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To borrow a quote from the movie,
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How do you go back?
What did Frodo have left, really? He gave up his normal life in the Shire for a life of war and misery to save the world; then when he accomplishes his task, this life too is gone? What did he have left? Sure, he had Sam and his family. I think Frodo is mourning his past lives- both of them, because in his "first" life, before the Ring, he was happy; and in his "second" life, the Quest, he had a purpose, something to hold on to. To borrow another quote:
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What are we holding onto?
Frodo's life was empty; he had superficial things, and a few friends. But even Sam could not understand what he had gone through; perhaps Elrond, Gandalf or Galadriel could have, but they weren't there. After going through what Frodo went through, everything else seems sort of unimportant. Like in the story of King Arthur and the Holy Grail, when the Knights who found the Grail were taken to heaven because they had nothing else to do. What did Frodo have to live for? Even when he had the Ring, there was more light in his world because he was battling it, and that was an act of good. But now it's just sort of... grey...
Also, remember that this took place upon the anniversary of Frodo's poisoning by Shelob. Perhaps he didn't always feel this way, just when memories came rushing in...
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When the memory of the fear and darkness troubles you...
I

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Old 03-25-2004, 03:27 AM   #10
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Child, ok, maybe I did go a bit too far - but then I wonder. If we accept the 'conceit' behind LotR - it was written by the Hobbits involved - then who exactly wrote the account of Frodo's arrival at the Undying Lands? Sam did. Is Sam constructing a 'happy ending' for Frodo's story - perhaps based on Frodo's own account of his dream in Tom Bombadil's house. We can't know if Tolkien intended us to take the last scene as an actual event in the story. For me the scene gains in poignancy if it is Sam's own invention, his own hope for Frodo's recovery. Hope poignant as grief, but hope without guarantees. The Sea Bell seems a truer reflection of Frodo's state at the end.

I still feel that Tolkien is saying something about the effect of extreme trauma - though I bow to your experience, Child. He seems to be saying that the worst part is not what it 'gives' you but rather what it takes from you. Its not that you end up with an overwhelming weight of grief, pain (physical & emotional) & terrible memories. Its that it takes something. After that kind of trauma something is gone, which can never be regained. There is a hole, a void, which rather than healing over, simply grows. I think this is what happened to Frodo. A void had been opened up with the loss of the Ring, which grew over time till it swallowed up everything he had left - or would have if he'd stayed. Its like he was watching everything he loved & cared about, his personality, his 'self' being slowly but inexorably sucked into that abyss.

Again, after Sam watches the Ship sail out of the Havens we know nothing of what really happened to Frodo or the others on that Ship, so the hope it portrays is in question - some readers will choose to accept it as a fact, others as Sam's hope for his friend. I can't help thinking that was deliberate on Tolkien's part.
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Old 03-26-2004, 11:20 PM   #11
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Quickly, addressing hope vs. despair and what happened to Frodo after departing ME—Letter # 154:
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. . . the mythical idea underlying is that for mortals, since their ‘kind’ cannot be changed forever, this is strictly only a temporary reward: a healing and redress of suffering. They cannot abide for ever, and though they cannot return to mortal earth, they can and will ‘die’—of free will, and leave the world.”
Frodo, Bilbo, Sam (and Gimli?) would heal, find peace, and then willingly leave the world. This would give hope (for those who choose good), and is perhaps what Tolkien wants us to understand about the nature of our (human) existence in this world. I know there are better Tolkien citations, but that’s the one I found first!

Now, on the original question--

I think what I was really asking was if Frodo’s experience is the natural and inescapable outcome of having carried & then lost the Ring—is the personal, inner struggle with evil & good always going to end in a living void on earth even if good wins out? This has turned out to be a slippery wicket as it seems to touch on many things yet nothing all at once. Child helped greatly by seeing two parts to this:
Quote:
First, there is the general theme of "loss versus joy" in Tolkien's writing. Tolkien clearly thought there could be no joy that was pure and unblemished.
Child then listed three reasons for this, but this is the most immediately relevant one to my mind:
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His basic Catholic belief that the world is inherently flawed and there can be no real victory until the end of time.
Child then posited the second part:
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. . . the second question centers on Frodo and the extent to which he personally suffered loss.
Being thus refreshed by the clarity of this framework I went looking for Tolkien’s words on the matter. Since I’m reading Letters of . . . from start to finish I thought I would check my notes & annotations to see what could be found. Gosh, it sure did take awhile, but the effort was rewarded in a letter I haven’t gotten to yet.
Letter #181:
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The view, in the terms of my story, is that though every event or situation has (at least) two aspects: the history and development of the individual (it is something out of which he can get good, ultimate good, for himself, or fail to do so), and the history of the world (which depends on his action for its own sake)—still there are abnormal situations in which one may be placed. ‘Sacrificial’ situations, I should call them: sc. Positions in which the ‘good’ of the world depends on the behaviour of an individual in circumstances which demand of him suffering and endurance far beyond the normal . . . he is in a sense doomed to failure, doomed to fall to temptation or be broken by pressure against his ‘will’: that is against any choice he could make or would make unfettered, not under the duress.
(This same letter also contains an answer to Firefoot’s question:
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How can anyone come away unmarked or unaffected from a war or other bitter struggle?
Tolkien/Letter #181:
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. . . I think that ‘victors’ never can enjoy ‘victory’—not in the terms that they envisaged; and in so far as they fought for something to be enjoyed by themselves (whether acquisition or mere preservation) the less satisfactory will ‘victory’ seem.
It would be impossible not to want a personal outcome to any struggle.)

So, there are two things operating simultaneously—(1) individual self, and (2) self in a flawed (Tolkien would say “fallen”) world. My orientation to LotR, and now most of Tolkien’s work as I perceive it, is its reflection of and instructive application regarding the world within me and the world outside me. I was coming at this with the presumptive notion that we all take up the Ring at some point and have the choice of wither it (and we) shall go. I wanted to know if, in this fallen world, there is a possibility for me, or anyone, to carry the Ring to Doom, cast it in, and then go home in joy and peace. Or am I (and anyone else) doomed to Frodo’s experience as Davem so chillingly described:
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There is a hole, a void, which rather than healing over, simply grows . . . which grew over time till it swallowed up everything he had left - or would have if he'd stayed . . .
According to what Tolkien said in letter #181, this latter outcome is the more likely one as it would be beyond all endurance for me (and anyone else).

(I am also recalling Tolkien’s many statements regarding the “long defeat” in the battle w/evil until the final ending of the world, but cannot recall the source.)

The immediate, natural next question is: Jeepers! Why bother? Perhaps the answer to this is the answer to Davem’s question:
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What does the Ring not come to symbolise/contain for Frodo? What is not destroyed along with it?
Last, part of the original question was: What can be found in Tolkien’s work—LotR, Letters of . . . , HoME, UT’s, Silmarillion. etc. [to further support or refute the positions presented so far?]
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Old 03-27-2004, 03:13 AM   #12
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What we don't (or I don't) know is whether Frodo would have willingly made the sacrifice he did, if he had known the ultimate outcome. Journeying to the Undying Lands would not, at the beginning, have been enough to persuade Frodo to undertake the task. If Gandalf had told him 'you'll lose everything, including yourself, everything you love, & your possibly your sanity, but you'll save the Shire & get to go into the West & live with the Elves for a while before you die', I can't see Frodo thinking 'Whoo, yeah! I'll have some of that! Where do I sign up?'

But at some point before the end, had he decided the price was worth worth paying, & was the journey up the Mountain done in full concious awareness of what he was doing - before he broke & surrendered? If not, then what kind of God or fate could force him into that position of loss - not a loving one, or possibly one who 'loved the world', but not Frodo himself very much.

Or perhaps it was only afterward, when it was all over, that he could say, 'OK, I was forced into it, I have had everything that matters to me snatched away, & I'm left with this hole in me which is going to swallow me up, but I can now see it was worth it'

Or maybe, in the end, he just had to accept that that is just 'the way things are in the world' - which for a short line is a horrible summation of our position. Thinking about that, its one of the most devastating ideas I've ever come across - Frodo goes through Hell, is destroyed by it, & in the end he says - 'That's just the way life is'. This is either despair on an unimaginable level, or its a final, desperate attempt to impose meaning on horror. Frodo is asked to do too much, & he isn't told what he is being required to sacrifice. This says something about the world & our place in it that I find deeply disturbing.
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Old 03-27-2004, 07:58 AM   #13
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This is either despair on an unimaginable level, or its a final, desperate attempt to impose meaning on horror.
I do not agree with either of these two points. Like Child, I believe that Frodo had some hope, hope of peace and healing. Despair is only for those who have no hope. On the same lines, if Frodo had hope, then there would not be that horror, because Frodo did not utterly lose everything because he had hope.

Frodo could not have known what he would go through when he volunteered to take the Ring in Rivendell. He might have had some sketchy idea, but he still believed that he would be able to go home and live in the Shire in peace when it was all over. Had he known what he would go through, perhaps he would be in somewhat of the same situation as Merry and Pippin as Gandalf describes for Elrond:
Quote:
It is true that if these hobbits understood the danger, they would not dare to go. But they would still wish to go, or wish that they dared and be shamed and unhappy.
Not exactly the same, but rather than 'danger' perhaps 'sacrifice'. It still doesn't go just right, but generally makes my point.

But the point is that even though Frodo did not realize it at first, he changed; realized the sacrifice that he would have to pay for the world to be saved. I believe he understood this, at least to a small point, when they realized there would not be enough food for them to get back. There could be no going back. Frodo and Sam had plenty of options to turn back, but they didn't, even realizing full well that if they didn't, they wouldn't go back. There came a point when they figured their task was to accomplish the Quest and die. But even in this, I believe Frodo had hope - not for himself, but for the whole of Middle-earth: that if he could cast the Ring away then the world would be saved. He accepted his task just the same when he was in Mordor as he did in Rivendell.
Quote:
Or perhaps it was only afterward, when it was all over, that he could say, 'OK, I was forced into it, I have had everything that matters to me snatched away, & I'm left with this hole in me which is going to swallow me up, but I can now see it was worth it'
Frodo wasn't forced into it though. He was willing to make the sacrifice. At the end he suffered devastating loss and pain, but he did see that it had been worth it.
Quote:
"But," said Sam, and tears started in his eyes, " I thought you were going to enjoy the Shire, too, for years and years, after all you have done."
"So I thought too, once. But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that otherrs may keep them.
It seems that Frodo was very accepting of his loss, and I believe that this is for two reasons: that he was able to see the Shire and Sam safe and in peace, and because he had hope that there still might be peace and healing for himself in some way.
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Old 03-27-2004, 11:05 AM   #14
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"What if they'd known what would happen" type questions are ultimately only an intellectual exercise that lead to Nietzschian voids if one does not pull out in time! At any rate, if it were possible to know the future, then we'd be in another reality and none of the premises of LotR would work.

Regarding the horror of going through hell to save the world/others only to reap the void . . .

Tolkien's tales are very much concerned with the Fall--which I characterize as the [vain] attempt to put personal self above God/Eru, nature, others. What dooms the Elves if not their attempt to stop time & tide (what Tolkien calls "embalming")? What was the original Fall if not Melkor trying to be Sinatra and do things his way? (Hmmm, wonder where that came from!)

I think in LotR and The Silmarillion we see where that sense of personal self leads--fear & loss. Two examples are: (1) fear of death, which was intended as a blessed gift from the "long defeat" and all forms of weariness, and, ironically, (2) inevitable loss of self. (Two examples that come readily to mind are Ar-Pharazon & Gollum, respectively.) Perhaps by the time Frodo returned to the Shire his "void" was the suspension between utter loss of self and whatever it was that the Ring did not take, as Davem so insightfully asked. Frodo was both in and out of light/darkness = "grey."

The horror comes from not trusting Eru's will and Love. Look at the results starting from the Valar (calling for the Elves to return to Valinor setting off a chain of events in The Silmarillion) to Frodo, who innocently (?) & unselfishly took on the Ring and was inevitably ensnared by it. (I can't recall now whose tag line this was, but it says it all perfectly--"Frodo could not live with having failed at an impossible task.")

We need not fear if we have sufficient faith in Eru's will; what Tolkien does so well is to show us how to walk through this "fallen" world where such faith is so hard to come by. No matter how complete the darkness seems, there is always light (darkness cannot exist without it!), and the most wonderful thing is that even the smallest amount of light can be enough--thus, there is always hope! Why? Because that's the way Eru made it be. The real world is in the invisible; this is inherent in the stories, and stated by their author.
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Old 03-27-2004, 02:49 PM   #15
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But Firefoot, Frodo goes through all that, loses everything, & then says to Sam, that's how things are in the world - what does that mean? He can only be saying the world is like that. Sometimes life (or God) requires some of us to sacrifice ourselves - our entire selves, so that others can be saved. Some of us have to be lost so that others can be found, & that's what's happened with me. I've lost everything so that you can go on living. My life for yours, my happiness for yours, my peace for yours, my hope for yours.

Has he given those things willingly, or have they been taken from him. Was there a point in his journey where he made that sacrifice willingly? Or did 'the way things are in the world' simply conspire to take them from him, whether he would or not? And was it then down to him to find a way to live with that? Did the Universe or God or whatever, simply say, 'I need this doing & Frodo will have to do it, whatever becomes of him - the task is necessary, so he will have to perform it'? And even if in the end he does 'give them up', was that simply because he knew he would lose them anyway. His claiming of the Ring at the end calls into question his real willingness to give up those things.

We don't know - each reader will decide for themselves, according to their own feelings & beliefs. We don't know, because we don't know what happened to Frodo once the ship passed out into the West. As I said, Sam must have written the account of Frodo coming to the Undying Lands - because no-one could have told him what really happened.

If we believe in a loving God, then we can hope (but not prove) that he got back everything he lost - & possibly more. But the Story doesn't say that's what happened. It holds out only the hope that he did. No guarantees. Its down to trust, in the end, apparently the more accurate translation of 'estel'.

What does it really mean to say that things are that way in the world? Is it acceptance, resignation, or despair. Hope in things beyond the world is not the same as hope within the world. Perhaps Frodo had some hope (given to him, or maybe left to him, by Illuvatar) beyond the world, but I don't see that he had any hope within the world. The world is taken from him, or he gives it up,& without the world there can be no hope within the world, so no hope for himself. Estel is hope in cosmic things, not in woods, fields & little rivers, in a pipe & a pint in the Green Dragon.

'It' is lost, & 'it' is everything a mortal in the world can find peace & happiness in. We may be made for Heaven, but we're born into the world, & our real joys are little ones. Cosmic joy sounds very nice, but most of us think of Heaven as as a place where we can enjoy those little things that made us happy here, & be with those we love. Apart from the theologians & the mystics, most of us are not drawn to an eternity of Heavenly choirs & the beatific vision of God. Even our Heaven is a little place - Niggle's Parish. We can only hope that in the end Frodo found himself there.
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Old 03-27-2004, 05:20 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by davem
But Firefoot, Frodo goes through all that, loses everything, & then says to Sam, that's how things are in the world - what does that mean? He can only be saying the world is like that. Sometimes life (or God) requires some of us to sacrifice ourselves - our entire selves, so that others can be saved. Some of us have to be lost so that others can be found, & that's what's happened with me. I've lost everything so that you can go on living. My life for yours, my happiness for yours, my peace for yours, my hope for yours.

Has he given those things willingly, or have they been taken from him. Was there a point in his journey where he made that sacrifice willingly?
Frodo made this choice willingly. He had many chances to turn back or to give up. Perhaps he did not understand the consequences of his actions; but either way he did them willingly.
Perhaps I say "willingly" to hastily. Frodo was, in a way, compelled to fulfill his Quest. But there were no outward forces compelling him; instead, there was a desire to save the world, a fear of what would happen if he did not succeed, and a nobleness that drove him to do it for the sake of the world.
Perhaps, too, he realized that the Ring would wreck his life whatever he did- for if he had not left on the Quest, he would have been consumed by it and Middle-earth would have fallen- and thought that he might as well save the world. This is a rather simplistic view, but I see Frodo's situation not as an unwilling sacrifice, but a "lesser of two evils". True, the two evils are both forced on him by the world- but no one has complete control of their lives.
On a related note, what indicates that Frodo was miserable or deep depression? My impression of the end of RotK is that he is merely changed. Remember Elrond's quote "He may become like a glass filled with light" at Rivendell? My feeling is that Frodo had changed, become more elf-like and like a "glass filled with light" and so was more suited for life over the Sea- but I don't think he was necessarily unhappy in the Shire.
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Old 03-27-2004, 07:29 PM   #17
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Firefoot - I liked your post.

Would Frodo willingly have made the sacrifice he did if he had known the outcome?

Davem ---- The cold truth is that none of us know the outcome when we agree to stick our neck out and venture on a new course. This is certainly true of a situation like Frodo's where a person does something because he is asked and he believes it to be "right". He feels compelled to do it to protect that which he loves. But it is even true of other situations in life. As Bilbo said, when you step out onto the Road, you are never certain where it might take you. You might decide to learn something new, to give your trust to someone, or perhaps to start a family. In effect, you are walking into the great unknown because none of us has the slightest idea how anything is going to turn out. We are asked to go forward on faith or hope or "estel", whatever term you prefer to use, trying to make the best choices we can. And sometimes, despite all we do, all our best efforts, our world is broken, and we are asked to deal with the results.

Frodo was in this boat. And he was certainly unique in having to face all the combined evil in the world. But in another sense, he is an "everyman", whether we look at the sad lessons of history or even each other's personal lives. So many of us are asked to deal with the unthinkable at some point: to come to grips with something that rocks us to the core. I think this is one reason we can identify with what Frodo is feeling, although the cause of his loss and suffering is different than what we have faced.

In this sense, Davem, I feel that the question you've raised is artificial. Your question simply can't be answered as long as we are mere mortals. No one, but no one, has this kind of assurance or foreknowledge: not Frodo, nor any of us.

Also, regarding your statement that there could never be any rebirth for the "old" Frodo. I totally agree with you. If and when healing comes, Frodo will be a different Hobbit. He can't go backward: it's simply impossible. But there is the possibility that he can find healing and peace and go beyond what he was before in the Shire. Somewhere in Tolkien's writings, perhaps his Letters (?), there are references to what Arda will be like at the end of time. Tolkien makes a point of saying that it will not be a replica of the world before Morgoth since there is absolutely no way to duplicate that. Because the world has been marred, it will be different in its final outcome. But it will be no less beautiful or full of meaning. This seems to go along with that famous quote in the Silm where even Morgoth's evil acts will be used by Eru to fashion wonders that Morgoth can not even imagine.

I think it is the same way for a person. If and when you go through a wrenching experience, you can't pretend it never happened. You don't forget the suffering and you can't magically turn yourself into the old person you were before. But you can become something more, something different. If Frodo can somehow find healing in the West, he would have an understanding of things that would go far beyond what he had before living peacefully in the Shire.

Symestream - I agree with you that at some point on his journey, Frodo recognized that the outcome was unlikely to be good, yet he took on the task of his own volition, even with that understanding. That recognition came only gradually. It did not fall on his head in one swift lightning bolt. But, step by step on the path to Mordor, Frodo grew in understanding.

You are right to point out Gandalf's statement about Frodo becoming like a glass filled with light, a clear reference to the phial of Galadriel, that tiny sliver of a silmaril. And also Frodo had become more elf-like. Samwise mentioned that the light in Frodo's eye was growing as the Hobbit continued on the path. Another "positive" reference that could be added to this list was Frodo's dream in Bombadil's house. Surely this early premonition of the shores of Tol Eressea suggests that Frodo was "meant" to go West, and that meaning extends beyond any immediate need for healing.

Yet I agree with Davem that Frodo was suffering at the end....the illness that came on him on March 13, the anniversary of his poisoning by Shelob and also on October 6, the date of the wounding at Weathertop. In his Letters, Tolkien discussed the fact that Frodo felt disappointed that he had been a mere instrument of Providence rather than a conventional "hero", and that part of him still desired the Ring and felt guilt about all that. So, in my view, Frodo's trip to the West was required for two reasons: to find healing and to fulfill that part of his nature that Gandalf alluded to and which found expression in the dream at Bombadil's (as well as the other dream where he climbed the tower and looked out on the Sea).

Din ,

I think you are right. It comes down to faith in Eru, or at least a basic belief in the meaning of life. And yet, if you think about, how much did Frodo actually know?

One of the things that intrigues me is that the Hobbits as a whole really had very little idea of who Eru even was. They certainly had no formal worship.

Did Frodo know about Eru? He and Sam did make reference to a few of the Valar, mainly Elbereth. Probably something, because of Bilbo's interest in the Elvish tales.When Frodo saw Faramir's men rising to face the West after eating, he felt rustic and unlearned, wishing that his own people had such a custom. Knowledge of Eru (or even the Valar) was not widespread in the Shire and worship was unknown.

According to Shippey, one of the questions Tolkien wanted to investigate in LotR was how people chose the right path before formal religious revelations had been given to the world, i.e., in the so-called "pagan" world. One of the things that strikes me is how generally moral the Hobbits are, a morality based on instinct rather than formal belief. Their fidelity puts our own world to shame! As Frodo said, there was no instance of one Hobbit killing another since they had lived in the Shire. Would that we, with all our formal beliefs, could make such a claim!
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Old 03-28-2004, 01:54 AM   #18
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Child, Ok, I've put the most extreme case in regards to Frodo's sacrifice. Clearly he was drawn to things Elvish even before the Quest, & the desire for spiritual things grew the further down the road to Hell he went. There was a growing desire for things beyond the world he knew. The hole that was opened up in him by the loss of the Ring was maybe necessary - maybe he had to be deprived - by life or God - of those little things, so that he could grow sufficiently in spiritual terms to be able to enter that greater world. Frodo as 'Everyman' does reflect our own journey, & on that level the Shire is a pre-pubescent boy's fantasy world - the world of our own childhood which must be outgrown & lost forever (save in memory). Hence Frodo's experience is 'the way things are in the World' - whether we like it or not.

But Sam also grows, without the extreme suffering & loss. And Sam's love of the Elvish/spiritual world is no less than Frodo's. Perhaps the explanation lies in the fact that while Sam loves the Elvish world, Frodo needs it. Sam is perhaps like the regular church-goer who believes, but lives a life in the world, while Frodo is like the Monk or Nun (or if we accept the Sea Bell, the Hermit), who has to leave the world & everything & everyone they love for a life of the spirit.

Frodo's last days are a dark night of the Soul, & we can only speculate how long it will go on for, even after he leaves M.E. Sam seems to think or hope it will not go on for long. Perhaps Frodo ultimately does get what he wants, as well as what he needs, but we aren't told. I still think its a valid question to ask - is there a point where Frodo does truly realise what the cost will be, & agree too pay it, or is he just swept along the Road , by God or fate, or destiny - the way things are in the world. Does he agree to 'grow', is he made to 'grow'. Does God stand back & let us grow only when we want to, or does he ''hot-house'' us (sometimes, at least)? But, in an extreme case like Frodo's, shouldn't we have to agree to that?
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Old 03-28-2004, 10:28 AM   #19
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Going back to Din's original question, I found another quote:
Quote:
But when all these things were done, and the Heir of Isildur had taken up the lordship of Men, and the dominion of the West had passed to him, then it was made plain that the power of the Three Rings was ended, and to the Firstborn the world grew old and grey.
Perhaps Frodo left not because of his pain, which was not seriously ruining his life, but because the world had grown 'old and grey' and 'dark and empty'.
I disagree that Frodo's experiences were necessarily negative ones. He grew, he changed; he became something higher. When you change, you are no longer what you were (duh!); in becoming higher and more elf-like, Frodo did lose some things- he became less like a hobbit, and so could no longer fit into their world. But, he gained some things too- he became higher and more elf-like, and was now going where he belonged. I don't want to oversimplify or reduce what Frodo went through, but I sort of compare it to growing pains.
Davem, Sam does grow; but he grows in a different way from Frodo. He is still in awe of the elves, not in sympathy (?) with them. He has become a stronger person and a nobler one- he has been "tempered", if you will- but he is not spoiled for life in the Shire. He did not have to bear the Ring, after all. He is inherently different from Frodo even at the beginning of the book; I think these inherent differences dictate in which direction each hobbit grows. OK, think of two trees. They are very short, and they lean slightly apart. If you take care of them, they will grow tall and wide, but they will still grow in the same direction they were before (barring uncommon events, which is another story...)
And, I just forgot the rest of what I was going to say.
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Old 03-28-2004, 12:06 PM   #20
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Thanks, Child.

Sam does grow, but I believe that he also suffered some as well. Not nearly to the extent that Frodo did or in the same way, but suffering none the less. Seeing Frodo suffer hurt Sam, and I think that this was his chief source of suffering: that Frodo was suffering and Sam couldn't really do anything about it. That would have been really hard for Sam. Sam grows from the journey - he becomes wiser and stronger, and like Symestreem said
Quote:
he is not spoiled for life in the Shire.
Sam didn't go through the pain that Frodo did, though there was some suffering. He was able to go back to Hobbit life. I think one of the biggest differences is that Sam gained much more than he lost, whereas Frodo lost much more than he gained.

Quote:
Originally posted by Davem:
Does he agree to 'grow', is he made to 'grow'. Does God stand back & let us grow only when we want to, or does he ''hot-house'' us (sometimes, at least)? But, in an extreme case like Frodo's, shouldn't we have to agree to that?
Frodo could have chosen to turn back at any time. He willingly went on. Whether Frodo realized it or not, by going on he was choosing to grow.

I agree with Symestreem: Frodo grew into something higher. He had to grow, and he grew into something more strong and wise. This had to be, in order that he could pass into the West and experience healing.
Quote:
"No Sam!" said Frodo. "Do not kill him even now. For he has not hurt me. And in any case I do not wish him to be slain in this evil mood. He was great once, of a noble kind that we should not dare to raise our hands against. He is fallen, and his cure is beyond us; but I would still spare him, in the hope that he may find it."
Saruman rose to his feet, and stared at Frodo. There was a strange look in his eyes of mingled wonder and respect and hatred. "You have grown Halfling," he said. "Yes, you have grown very much. You are wise, and cruel. You have robbed my revenge of sweetness, and now I must go hence in bitterness, in debt to your mercy.
This is one of the places where Frodo's growth is most evident: in the mercy he shows to Saruman. He had grown in understanding and wisdom and this is shown in how he treats Saruman. He knows that it would be better to let him go rather than to kill him.
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Old 03-28-2004, 05:19 PM   #21
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Here is a quote I found from Understanding Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings by William Ready. Not canon, of course, but expresses some of the points in clearer language. Emphasis is mine.

Quote:
All seems well, but Frodo has lost his living for his kin. While Sam, Pippin and Merry gleefully contemplate their return to the Shire, where Sam is to flourish and weather for years as the Mayor, Frodo is no more for this world; he has transcended hobbitry. His wounds will not altogether mend again in this life, and he bids farewell to Sam, wishing he were returning with him:
Quote:
But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.
An interesting excerpt, and it raises the question of which wounds Mr. Ready is referring to. Do we actually know the extent of the damage to Frodo's mind and soul? If, as has been expressed here, Frodo went through "hell" and "deepest darkness", but Sam did not, then the torment must have come in the actual Ringbearing itself, for Sam went through almost all of the same physical experiences as Frodo. But Bilbo, a former Ringbearer, is serene after he loses the Ring. So what evidence do we have to support the theory that Frodo's last days were miserable? I'm not implying that his life was a bed of roses (yuck, allergies!); I just don't think it's in a hobbit's nature to be utterly cast down.
I don't mean to harp on this theme; I'm just not convinced.
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Old 03-28-2004, 10:29 PM   #22
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I believe I heard years ago, that the Ring symbolised pure evil. Thus, inevitably, Frodo would be affected more than Sam. As for Bilbo, the Ring was asleep...it's power of evil was not awake, and thus could not do as powerful and lasting damage.

As for Frodo's hopelessness, I'm also not convinced of that.

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate;
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.


This was the song that Frodo sang as he left the Shire. It doesn't quite have the ring of despair to me.
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Old 03-29-2004, 02:18 AM   #23
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Maybe you're right - I must be honest, I've been kind of using this thread to make sense of an incident, which it wouldn't be right to go into here, but it involved something very bad which happened to a person I knew.

It all comes down to suffering & its effects. Do we grow through suffering - & even if we do, is that enough to absolve the Creator, or fate. If the suffering is so extreme it breaks us (even if we're re-made into something higher, more spiritually aware) would that be enough to make it ok to have broken us.

Sam & Frodo come through the quest at opposite ends of an extreme. They stand at the Sammath Naur, Ring gone into the Flames, & Sam tells Frodo they should get out of there, becuase its not like him to just give up, & Frodo reponds, maybe not, but its like things are in the world. Sam speaks subjectively. Frodo objectively. Sam says 'Never say die', Frodo says 'Everything dies'.

Frodo may have become more Elvish - but he's a Hobbit, not an Elf. He's lost himself - & in the end I suppose that's the 'It' we're talking about - everything that made him who he was, which became bound up with & symbolised by the Ring.

I just can't shake the feeling that what happened to Frodo was 'wrong' - even if he chose it - but it wasn't a free choice. as someone has said, it was the lesser of two evils, & that seems just plain wrong - you afre faced with choosing the lesser of two evils, & that choice breaks you. Yet, it is like things are in the world.
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Old 03-29-2004, 01:46 PM   #24
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davem, that's pretty profound. Wow.

Quote:
It all comes down to suffering & its effects. Do we grow through suffering - & even if we do, is that enough to absolve the Creator, or fate. If the suffering is so extreme it breaks us (even if we're re-made into something higher, more spiritually aware) would that be enough to make it ok to have broken us.
Turn the question around. If we have the opportunity to have the opportunity to grow, and we are not given it to save us some anguish, is that fair?

Quote:
Frodo may have become more Elvish - but he's a Hobbit, not an Elf. He's lost himself - & in the end I suppose that's the 'It' we're talking about - everything that made him who he was, which became bound up with & symbolised by the Ring.
What makes Frodo a Hobbit? A pair of pointy ears and furry feet? What you look like is a chance result of the genetic lottery. It's what you are that counts, and Frodo is different from the others that look like him. He's more 'elvish' (I hesitate to use this term, since it is not accurate- maybe saying he is 'higher' is better) to begin with. I don't know if we can really resolve this, because it comes down to who he is. Who is anyone? What makes a person them? Who am I, really?
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Old 03-29-2004, 02:50 PM   #25
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The thing with Frodo is that he grew intellectually and spiritually. The Hobbits were a fairly simple folk, with simple traditions, with simple thinking. They cared more for the homey pleasantries of life and, on the whole, were optimistic.

The elves, on the other hand, were intelligent and had a more realistic view on life. They realized that things came to an end, even good things. That's what Frodo came to realize as well.

Frodo is not a broken person. When I read LotR for the first time, that is not what instantly popped into my head. He had suffered much and grown much. He's like a tree that grows stronger through the storms. If you keep it sheltered, it won't grow as strong. During the storms it may loose a limb or two, but it's heart -- it's root-- remains the same. And in time those limbs will grow back stronger and different thatn before.

You can either view growing through anguish or not growing at all a lesser of two evils but in my mind, it is not so. Wouldn't you rather grow and discover the truth of the world, than not grow at all and live in a delusionary reality?
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Old 03-30-2004, 02:36 AM   #26
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Of course Frodo grew, but into what, & was it what he wanted to grow into? Why should he have had to grow in a way he had no say in?

In other words, growth through suffering is all very nice sounding, but in reality the process isoften just horrible & cruel, & not spiritual at all - even if we can call the result 'spiritual'. But we could also ask what makes Frodo 'spiritual' in the same way as we can ask 'What makes Frodo a Hobbit'?.

Is he a more 'spiritual' being at the end because he's lost everything he had & resigned himself to his fate - I'm not sure this constitutes 'spirituality'. But if not, what does?

He 'grows, beyond what he was, becomes too large for the little world of the Shire - but Bilbo says he loved the woods, fields & little rivers - did someone/something just decide to take them away, or did he give them up in full knowledge, or just lose them along the way - or cast them away like the Orc gear in Mordor. Had he come to a point where he thought of what he had been, a Hobbit wandering the Shire & drinking in the local pub as being somehow 'uncouth', simplistic - in a sense 'Orcish', so that he was throwing away his own past & hobbit nature along with the Orc mail & sword, & deliberately deciding to become an 'Elf'?

Yet, he's not, & can never be, an Elf, so what has he become?
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Old 03-30-2004, 12:05 PM   #27
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I don't quite understand what you mean when you ask, "What did Frodo grow into?" He didn't grow into anything at all. When you grow like Frodo did, you gain understanding of the world and how it operates. You don't grow into a different, super spiritual person.

Yes, Frodo did give it up. I believe that this has been said before, but Frodo made a conscious descision to continue his quest. Thus, he willingly gave up everything he lost (his innocense, etc). But you're forgetting that he gained so much more than he lost. He gained the joy of seeing the hobbits in peace, of seeing Middle-earth saved. He gained understanding of pity and mercy.

I do not believe that Frodo cast the Shire away like orc gear, that he viewed the hobbit ways as uncouth. That is against his very nature, and the ending would have been infused with hate, which it wasn't.

Frodo suffered much, gained much, saved much. As a reward, he went to Valinor. That's all what happened. It was the only place he could go that would ease his suffering. Isn't that worth the pain, living your life out with Bilbo and the elves? Of course, it doesn't say that his troubles were relieved, but I believe that is heavily understated.
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Old 03-30-2004, 10:35 PM   #28
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Davem, I will offer again part of the quote posted earlier from Letter #181:
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. . . still there are abnormal situations in which one may be placed. ‘Sacrificial’ situations, I should call them: sc. Positions in which the ‘good’ of the world depends on the behaviour of an individual in circumstances which demand of him suffering and endurance far beyond the normal . . . he is in a sense doomed to failure, doomed to fall to temptation or be broken by pressure against his ‘will’: that is against any choice he could make or would make unfettered, not under the duress.
Clearly, Tolkien is saying that there are circumstances which take us beyond our breaking point and do so against our will. So, yes--the tides of life can break us. Is this fair? Is this right? I think the answer depends on whether one believes she or he created her- or himself or that we are children of Eru/God. Here again we have the notion of personal self vs. self as part of a universal whole. What I wish for most in my life is to be able to hold to my faith that I am a child of Eru/God, a part of the universal whole while in the midst of St. John's Dark Night, Buchenwald, or any other thing in this world that those filled with self-will can pervert and impose--to hold onto the knowledge that there is much more beyond this life that cannot be seen. I know it can be done for there were some who emerged from such horrors into the light, assuredly not unscarred & as before, but scarred & transformed. This gives me certain knowledge that there is hope--a peace that passes understanding.

There is a difference between happiness & joy; innocence & wisdom; passion & compassion. I would rather have the latters than the formers--although the journey between those dichotomies is not one I eagerly embark upon.

Frodo could not be healed in ME, and he could be no more certain about what would happen in Valinor than he was about Mt. Doom. Yet he willingly went on both journeys.

Tolkien says that healing occurs in Valinor, ergo Frodo is healed after sailing into the uttermost West. He was a Ringbearer; we are all Ringbearers & therefore are all eligible to be healed. Frodo was willing to surrender self again to unknown & unknowable circumstances. He was not attached to self unto death of self, but was willing to surrender to his creator's will. Only a few were granted the trip to Valinor in a white ship to heal before departing their bodies. When faced with void & brokenness, where do we get to go? What do we get to do to heal? Are we not called to surrender self to our creator in order to be transformed and to experience joy again? (And no true joy is absent of sorrow.) Perhaps this post-broken surrender of self actually is, after all, our white ship into the uttermost West.

This, I think, is the harder journey of the two--many willingly attempt the journey to Mr. Doom with their Ring; almost none choose the white ship after failing the impossible task.
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Old 03-31-2004, 02:43 AM   #29
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Yet, Frodo doesn't seem to be made any happier by this process of spiritual growth he goes through. Tolkien says he considers himself to be a 'broken failure' at the end. He does sacrifice everything for others, but it doesn't really seem to bring him any sense of even 'spiritual' achievement.

I am reminded of a couple of lines from The Sea Bell, one where he arrives at Faery, & proclaims 'Here I stand, King of this land!', & then the last line, 'For still they speak not, men that I meet'. Frodo goes from being the most imporatnt person in the world, he is the central concern of the 'great', the fate of the world lies in his hand (literally). He is, in his own estimation, & whether he likes it, 'King of this Land'. Then he comes back home, a 'broken failure' & is ignored by the very people he sacrificed everything to save, but rather than blame them, he blames himself.

So, spiritual growth doesn't include, can actually preclude, happiness (of the worldly kind, at least). Then what? We should do it anyway - make the sacrifice? But Frodo's sacrifice is not made to achieve 'spiritual growth' - in fact, if that was his motivation, he would probably have run away to live on a mountain top, or at least in Rivendell with Bilbo, long before.

I'd say that 'spiritual growth' was never in Frodo's mind, & happened as a by-product, something that he had never desired. Of course, he wanted to be rid of the Ring - firstly for himself, them for the Shire, then for the world, but he didn't want to become a psuedo Elf & go live in the West, & my own feeling is that he went into the West principally because he could no longer stay in the World. He was excluded by his own final state from remaining in the Shire. He gave up most of what he loved & had the rest taken from him.

I don't think, looked at from this point of view, that 'spiritual growth' has a lot to advocate it to the layman!

But, we come back to 'trust'/estel. Faith that there is some purpose to our existence, that Spiritual growth, even if forced on us, is for something, & will be worth having. Or even if not, that the bigger picture is more important than our individual selves - our story is simply part of a greater story. As Charles Williams said (seeing us as 'strands' in a great 'Web') The strand exists for the Web, not the web for the strand'.

So, someone has to give up the things they love & care about - they have to 'grow spiritually' whether they want to or not.
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Old 03-31-2004, 11:33 AM   #30
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The sword that wounds and heals the spirit

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Is it possible to have the opposite outcome where "all is light and full of joy"?
For fleeting moments, sure. I am reminded of the beauty of the passage from "The Field of Cormallen," in which the story is told of "Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom," where Frodo's story is, for a brief, heady time, made legend, where all suffering becomes meaningful and everything has a sparkle of divine light that makes it all clear and worthwhile, and would, I think, qualify as the moment where "all is light and full of joy." But, as C.S. Lewis has observed elsewhere, joy is fleeting and full-realized only when unlooked-for, experienced in the moment.

Quote:
And all the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all men were hushed. And he sang to them, now in the Elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.
Joy, by its very nature, is a transient state, and cannot be prolonged into happiness. I think it has a different flavor altogether. Thus, on the opposite end, Frodo's episodes of darkness and despair do not last forever, but, while they do last, their effects are "like swords" that wound and devastate, rather than flow with sweetness, like the minstrel's song at Cormallen.
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One of the things that strikes me is how generally moral the Hobbits are, a morality based on instinct rather than formal belief.
A good point, Child. The force that put Frodo on his path to Mount Doom seems inevitable, a logical outcome of this instinctive moral sense. Frodo knows he must take this path, because it is the right one, the one that can save his beloved Shire and the things and people he loves. One need not ascribe such a sense to a personified higher power for it to be a valid driving force in one's actions and thoughts. Frodo takes the path he does for others, for those who will never know the depth of his sacrifice and for those few who know and accompany him along his dark path.
Quote:
It all comes down to suffering & its effects. Do we grow through suffering - & even if we do, is that enough to absolve the Creator, or fate. If the suffering is so extreme it breaks us (even if we're re-made into something higher, more spiritually aware) would that be enough to make it ok to have broken us.
davem, I think that it would be somehow limiting to ascribe suffering to the realm of "being wronged" in an absolute sense, because, in the end, it does open one's eyes, and often allows one to see into other realms, much like the Elves, I suppose. Again, I return to a quote from Child's insightful posts above:
Quote:
Because the world has been marred, it will be different in its final outcome. But it will be no less beautiful or full of meaning. This seems to go along with that famous quote in the Silm where even Morgoth's evil acts will be used by Eru to fashion wonders that Morgoth can not even imagine.
I cannot say I have grief-counselling experience, but I do have experience from the other end, having been a sufferer of things I wouldn't wish on anyone. Yet, I cannot say that these evils have made everything empty; rather, they opened my eyes and allowed me to see aspects of the world (and even into the spirit-realm if you'd like to call it that) that I could never have known without them. So, is it better to remain asleep, blind in happiness or ignorance in the protected Shire, or to experience the depth of "reality" in all its wonder and, yes, horror. I think it is easy to look into a situation that is marred by great horror and see only the horror. But there are slow awakenings, lights that come on, that cause one to look beyond the horror; in many ways, they make the horror bearable. But the fact of the horror never goes away, and the "way things are in the world" can, at times, wound beyond imagining. Certainly, in Frodo's case, the cure and redress of suffering is appropriate. The small "lights" that have grown within him, his "clear light" can become primary in the West, so that this aspect can overshadow the horror that would always live too close if he had remained in Middle Earth.

Cheers,
Lyta
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Old 04-01-2004, 02:47 AM   #31
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Yet Tolkien, through Frodo, seems to be saying that 'spiritual' growth merely brings sadness, resignation, & a sense of failure, at least within the world, & so, only has any value 'beyond the World' . In other words, only religious belief, faith in something beyond the world can give meaning to our suffering here. So, athiests actually gain nothing through suffering. Or to put it another way, unless you accept the existence of God, then the only result of extreme suffering in this world is that you will end up messed up emotionally & so broken that your life won't be worth living.

Perhaps this explains why Tolkien, for all the horror & loss he experienced on the Somme, never lost his faith, refused to give it up, as so many others did - he felt that only God could give meaning to what he'd seen, & to his life after.

So, for an athiest, LotR offers a cop out - there's no hope of happiness within the world, so Tolkien offers a deus ex machina. Because if you remove the spiritual dimension from ME, you have the story of Frodo being slowly destroyed until he dies.

It also implies that the other Hobbits, Sam, Pippin, Merry, et al are not happy, but spiritually ignorant. If the way into the West requires the kind of 'spiritual growth' Frodo has to go through, then how is it that Bilbo, Sam & Gimli pass into the West at the end without going through that degree of suffering? And if they can get there without experiencing the degree of suffering & purification Frodo does, then that implies that Frodo's suffering is not necessary to pass beyond the circles of the world - which means his suffering cannot be justified as the only way to gain Paradise. Which strengthens the sense of 'wrongness' about it, even if it is 'like things are in the world'
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Old 04-01-2004, 06:36 AM   #32
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Let me apologise, as after reading my preview I ramble about a bit here, so bear with me.........

I do not believe Tolkien is saying that for suffering to count you must believe in a God and be rewarded this way. Frodo was already rewarded by saving the Shire.
But exactly WHAT TYPE of suffering are we talking about here?

For example, in my opinion, Frodo's place on the boat was because of 2 things:

1/ Reward for defeating Sauron
2/ Healing for his WOUNDS.

I emphasise wounds, as one can read into what Tolkien says as the trip West would heal him of his PHYSICAL pains. IE Stab, Sting and Bite.

But mental pain is another thing. I think Frodo’s mental pain and suffering boils down to one point. He did not throw the Ring in the cracks of doom. It was ripped off of him and then lost in the fires of mount doom. In the end Frodo did not want to get rid of the ring. THIS is the problem Frodo has. Gollum was tormented for 60 years by losing the Ring, and Frodo had to put up with the loss for a few years as well. Bilbo seemed to handle the Ring being destroyed as he, somewhat, gave up the ring voluntarily. Would going West help him get rid of his mental aguish? I think not, unfortunately.

Also, I believe, to some extent Frodo knew what he was letting himself into. He obviously would not know the details of the pain and suffering he would go through during and after the Quest. But what we DO know is that the Quest was undertaken because of his love for the Shire and the people in it. (and maybe some forbearance on his part? See the bold text in the quote)

Quote:
I should like to save the Shire, if I could – though there have been times when I thought the inhabitants too stupid and dull for words, and have felt that an earthquake or an invasion of dragons might be good for them. But I don't feel like that now. I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.
Davem,
Quote:
Frodo is asked to do too much, & he isn't told what he is being required to sacrifice.
I’m not too sure. I think he has an inkling of what he is letting himself into, and especially what WOULD happen if the Quest was not completed. What’s the saying “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. If you had the chance to save your country, and the world as a whole, but not be able to enjoy the fruits of your labours, wouldn’t you still go ahead and do it? I hope I would.

Do not feel too sorry for Frodo, someone had to save Middle-earth, and he became Great in doing so……..
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Old 04-01-2004, 07:54 AM   #33
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But even if he had gone ahead in full agreement, knowing exactly what would happen to him - which personally I don't believe, as his final state is such that he would not have been able to understand it before it happened to him * that still doesn't make it acceptable that he is broken to such a degree. Its still 'wrong', in the same way that even if all the young men of Tolkien's generation who fought on the Somme had volunteered (& most of them did) in order to save their country, & went over the top willingly, the mass slaughter was still 'wrong', because willingness to suffer on the individual's part doesn't excuse the one who inflicts that suffering. It may be a 'fact' that that's how things are in the world, but that 'fact' is simply not good enough.


*It would almost be equivalent to saying to someone who had never felt any pain before that you were going to drill into one of their teeth, & that it would hurt - but even if they agreed to you going ahead, having no real conception of what 'hurt' means they couldn't be said to have really agreed.
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Old 04-01-2004, 09:10 AM   #34
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Davem,

I am running out the door to work, but just wanted to raise one brief but critical question:

Quote:
willingness to suffer on the individual's part doesn't excuse the one who inflicts that suffering.
I agree but exactly who is it that "inflicts" the suffering on Frodo? Tolkien seems to make it fairly clear in his writings that the suffering came because of Morgoth and Sauron who clung to their own plans for power or control rather than following along with the music that Eru had spelled out: that plus those Elves and Men who elected to follow a similar path for reasons of greed, immortality or whatever .

If Eru (or God) gives us free will to make our own choices, is he 'inflicting' suffering on us, or is he giving us the chance to function as mature beings in a very complex world?
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Old 04-01-2004, 11:27 AM   #35
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To avoid the void?

Quote:
Yet Tolkien, through Frodo, seems to be saying that 'spiritual' growth merely brings sadness, resignation, & a sense of failure, at least within the world, & so, only has any value 'beyond the World' . In other words, only religious belief, faith in something beyond the world can give meaning to our suffering here. So, athiests actually gain nothing through suffering.
I think this is what Tolkien meant by making Frodo a "sacrificial hero." Frodo couldn't gain for himself that which he saved for others. The wounds of Frodo are sufferings that cannot find redress in Middle Earth simply because of the rarification that they have caused in him. He is aware that the Shire has been saved, and he knows that he played a part, but he is discontent that he is not recognized in a traditional manner for it and that he cannot, in good conscience, share in that kind of glory.
Quote:
I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one must give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.
--Frodo to Sam in "The Grey Havens"
Quote:
Its still 'wrong', in the same way that even if all the young men of Tolkien's generation who fought on the Somme had volunteered (& most of them did) in order to save their country, & went over the top willingly, the mass slaughter was still 'wrong', because willingness to suffer on the individual's part doesn't excuse the one who inflicts that suffering. It may be a 'fact' that that's how things are in the world, but that 'fact' is simply not good enough.
It is, of course, impossible to say that slaughter and evil on any scale is 'right.' I hope I didn't say that it could be, because it cannot. But it is also impossible to deny its existence, because the wrongness does exist, and it must be dealt with as it is, not as it should be. So, Frodo's choice is really:
1) Take the Ring away from the Shire, and on to Mount Doom and have some hope that the Shire will not be devastated.
2) Give up the Ring and entrust the safety of the Shire and all of Middle Earth to someone else who has no more defense against this force you know all too well (through 17 years of possession) and give up your attempt to do good through resignation or assigning the task to another.

The fact that Frodo is the perfect one for the task and the fact that he realizes it is one thing. The fact that Frodo goes the extra step and takes on the responsibility is another. I think certainly, if he had known at the outset the depth of the suffering he would endure, he would have (at least in theory) thrown the thing away and bolted. But then, he would have a greater guilt to deal with, knowing that anyone, good or evil, benevolent or inimical, could pick it up and do what he would with it.

So, the "wrongs" I believe are perpetrated on the part of the evil forces, as Child mentions, Morgoth and Sauron and all they corrupted. The sufferings of Frodo are inflicted as a direct result of this evil. The fact that he takes them on himself, rather than allowing another or many others to suffer in his place simply points to Frodo's strength and clear sight.

This question of "why does Eru/God allow suffering in the world" has been a theme question in the world for many ages itself. If He were to simply quash Morgoth and Sauron and all their abominations and deeds, the world itself would be laid to waste and he would have to start again. Instead, the good creations fight "The Long Defeat" and thereby prove their goodness. Why fight "The Long Defeat?" Why get up in the morning when so much evil surrounds us? ...Why not? The alternative is rotting in idleness and bitterness, cursing reality for being, cursing evil for existing when one cannot simply wipe it out by asking God to use the cosmic eraser on it. "Start again!" The director might say, but, alas, the same flaws and darknesses would flow again; the universe would exist in an endless stutter of sameness, a haunted fugue with no development or resolution, waiting for the solution that can never come unless the Long Defeat be allowed to proceed to the Last Battle and the remaking of Arda. I think the inevitable outcome of the temptation to shake one's fist at God or any "higher being" is to fall into the trap of bitterness and follow the fallen into the Void, where there can be no beauty or goodness.

As a last musing, I'll review an argument that my husband, aka, "The Witch King," as I call him, differs with me about. The fact that Gandalf leaves the hobbits to fight their own battle upon the return to the Shire after the War of the Ring. Gandalf could have gone and righted all through his terrifying "Gandalf the White" presence, couldn't he? He could have saved Merry and Pippin a whole lot of trouble and kept them all from experiencing the direct threats they did experience by confronting the corruption in the Shire head-on. Mr. Witch-King believes that Gandalf should have helped them, but I disagreed and thought that Gandalf was wise to let them fight this battle on their own. In microcosm, this could be seen as a higher power allowing the lesser ones to fight a battle that must be fought. By doing so, Gandalf allows the flowering of the strength of the hobbits he knows is there. Merry and Pippin come into their own and are hailed as saviors of the Shire. They are ready for any challenge and can handle their realm without the need for intervention. This, too, is spiritual growth, albeit in a visible, physical way. It is the flowering of the sleeping Shire of the Third Age into the awake and capable Shire of the Fourth Age. It is evolution, maturation, what have you. The growth of Sam, Merry and Pippin is not the same as that of Frodo, but the growth is there and is practical.

I sure hope I haven't rambled on too long and put you all to sleep! I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have been enjoying this topic myself!

Cheers!
Lyta

P.S. I couldn't help but address this part of davem's post above:
Quote:
And if they can get there without experiencing the degree of suffering & purification Frodo does, then that implies that Frodo's suffering is not necessary to pass beyond the circles of the world - which means his suffering cannot be justified as the only way to gain Paradise. Which strengthens the sense of 'wrongness' about it, even if it is 'like things are in the world'
It is interesting to note that the instances of Frodo's woundings along the path come mainly when he loses his focus and gives in to temptations or urges that are presented by the evil he is fighting against. He gives in to the temptation to put on the Ring at Weathertop, thus opening himself to the Witch King's Morgul blade wound; Shelob gets him after he lets go his caution and runs whooping loudly along the pass, leaving Sam and all good sense behind him, and finally, his major fall to temptation at the Cracks of Doom results in his loss of the Ring and the finger on which it resides. I can't say this is a one to one causal relationship, and I do admit that Frodo is a special case, a "study of a hobbit broken down completely," so that I would not take his example as the norm for Everyman but rather a mythical example that can inspire and make one think. (I'm not sure this answers anything, but I thought it good to mention...)
Now, I'm really going...
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Old 04-01-2004, 12:08 PM   #36
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Lyta, very interesting. The only thing I strongly disagree with in your post is the point that you, and many before you, have made regarding Frodo's 'disontentment' as you call it. i.e.:

Quote:
He is aware that the Shire has been saved, and he knows that he played a part, but he is discontent that he is not recognized in a traditional manner for it and that he cannot, in good conscience, share in that kind of glory.
I have never seen ANY proof in the texts that Frodo is discontent that he is not recognised as a hero. This is totally against his nature.

Now if you can find something that proves this, be it the text or a letter from Tolkien then I will stand corrected, but I've asked this point on different threads on and on different sites before and nothing has swayed my belief.

Frodo does not need to be seen as a hero to his people. If he really wanted praise (which he didn't), then the King of Gondor kneeling before him I reckon is good enough.

Davem, re:
Quote:
Its still 'wrong', in the same way that even if all the young men of Tolkien's generation who fought on the Somme had volunteered (& most of them did) in order to save their country, & went over the top willingly, the mass slaughter was still 'wrong', because willingness to suffer on the individual's part doesn't excuse the one who inflicts that suffering. It may be a 'fact' that that's how things are in the world, but that 'fact' is simply not good enough.
Unfortunatley you are talking about a Perfect world. I think Tolkien's work is showing, that even in his Fantasy, Middle-earth is not perfect. Even the Elves themselves, his 'higher echelon', maybe comparible to Christian Angels, were not perfect. In fact they were quite a nasty bunch at times........ So, yes you can say it is 'wrong', but then not everything is black and white in this world. There are shades of grey.

PS Lyta, re the Scouring. Gandalf's work was done. I agree with your point that it helps the hobbits grow, but really his hands were tied anyway, as his job was already finished and he was in retirement! He needed to pop down to the Old Forest anyway to see Tom (his Boss) to pick up his P45!!!! Oops, opened up a can of worms there...............
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Old 04-01-2004, 12:21 PM   #37
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Essex,

You raise this point:

Quote:
I have never seen ANY proof in the texts that Frodo is discontent that he is not recognised as a hero. This is totally against his nature.

Now if you can find something that proves this, be it the text or a letter from Tolkien then I will stand corrected, but I've asked this point on different threads on and on different sites before and nothing has swayed my belief.
What about this quote from a draft letter written in September 1963? It clearly states that part of Frodo did crave recognition as a hero. The italics are my own....

Quote:
.....it was not only nightmares of past horrors that afflicted him, but also unreasoning self-reproach: he saw himself and all that he done as a broken failure. 'Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same, for I shall not be the same.' That was actually a temptation out of the Dark, a last flicker of pride: desire to have returned as a 'hero', not content with being a mere instrument of good.
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Old 04-01-2004, 01:06 PM   #38
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Lyta, I can see what you're saying, & part of me agrees with it - except the idea that his wounds could be considered his own fault for 'slipping' at certain points - it seems a bit harsh, but maybe I'm taking a too negative view of your point.

But Frodo is hardly allowed to make a free choice & is told by both Gandalf & Elrond that he is meant to have the Ring, & that the task is appointed for him & if he doesn't find a way, no-one will (shall we translate: 'if you don't succeed in detroying this Ring we'll all be killed or enslaved, & it will be all your fault'.?)

He is given a task he cannot suceed in achieving, told it will be his fault if he doesn't achieve it, & in the end is left with nothing, except the overwhelming sense of failure & only the option of exile to relieve his suffering. And, rationalise it as we will, it is wrong, & cruel, whether Illuvatar, or fate, or the Music, or Morgoth, or Sauron, or simply 'the way things are in the world' is responsible.

We, looking on from a distance, may be able to see that he's 'grown' into a more spiritual' person, but i don't get any sense that he feels that. So, what is the value to him, as opposed to all those 'charming, absurd Hobbits', & the 'great' in their palaces? What does he actually get out of it all? Not too much. So, while it might be 'fair' & good, & admirable from the perspective of others that he's done all that for them, given so much for them, while we might be able to look at him & say 'My, how he's grown!', he is broken & lost, & we have no idea what form his healing will take, how 'healed' he will feel at the end of his 'treatment'. But the rest of the world will be OK, so that's alright?

Except its not alright, really, is it? Not for him, & that's the point. What he suffers is wrong, when all's said & done. Its not really enough to say these big, cosmic battles have to be fought (which is true), because those who fight them (as with Tolkien's generation) suffer horribly so the rest of us can carry on.

Frodo doesn't actually do what's right - he really does what's 'wrong'. because as Sam says 'Its all wrong', & that's in a way what's both truly tragic, & truly admirable about him. He's placed by Eru, or fate, or the way things are in the world, without being asked, in a world that's all wrong, & is told 'Its your job to help put it right, now, get on with it - people are depending on you!' What becomes of him seems almost secondary - but its 'alright', because when he's been wrecked & broken they (the ones who put him in the position where he got broken, will come along & put him back together again, & say, 'There you are, young Hobbit, that's alright then, all better now, off you go to your destiny beyond the Circles of the World'.

It feels 'wrong', & I can't shake that feeling.

Last edited by davem; 04-01-2004 at 01:09 PM.
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Old 04-01-2004, 01:23 PM   #39
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davem,

I disagree that the ones who assigned the task to Frodo leave him hanging. The very three who assured Frodo that carrying the Ring was his task-- Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel-- are with him, on the very ship on which he sails away. They each are Ringbearers. They know (more than anyone else could) what Frodo went through. They alone (of any living creatures save the Nazgul) could empathize with him. Yes, they knew the task was impossible; they understand his final failure; they accept him nevertheless, and continue their commitment to help him.

In a sense, they are his kinsmen now.
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Old 04-01-2004, 01:37 PM   #40
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Quote:
But Frodo is hardly allowed to make a free choice & is told by both Gandalf & Elrond that he is meant to have the Ring, & that the task is appointed for him & if he doesn't find a way, no-one will (shall we translate: 'if you don't succeed in detroying this Ring we'll all be killed or enslaved, & it will be all your fault'.?)
I wouldn't say that. What I think Galadriel is that the only person who had a chance of doing it was Frodo. Everybody else was either too foolish (eg, Merry and Pippin) or had too much power that could easily be enslaved to the ring (eg, Gandalf). I believe I read in another thread once was that they knew he would fail...how could he not? They knew he was "human" and had his faults. They knew there was not much hope. Why would they blame him for that?

Of course he suffered wrong. But this is an imperfect world. No one would have suffered at all if Melkor hadn't gotten on his high horse and corrupted Middle-earth. As hard as it is to accept, this is the way that Middle-earth and our world works. It's unfortunate, but it's the hard truth. There is suffering in this world, and none of it is fair. But what can be more beautiful than a few soldiers giving up their life, their happiness, for the good of the human race? It's called self-sacrifice. Would you rather have Middle-Earth suffer under Sauron because what would happen to Frodo would be wrong? Would you rather have Sauron king of Middle-earth because what would happen to Frodo would be unfair?
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