My bad, I misread the statement on Sam and Frodo not concealing the concise details. . . . so bag that comment of mine. Perhaps we should combine the letters here to lead to a more in depth discussion? The other Letter is Letter 246 and they are related in part. I guess I'm hesitant because there is a lot more in the current letter that I hope others want to take up and discuss. Yet, I think in order to explore the issue of Sam, Frodo and Gollum in depth, Letter 246 needs to be brought in.
In Letter 246 Tolkien makes it quite clear that Frodo was not a moral failure.
"At the last moment the pressure of the Ring would reach its maximum -- impossible, I should have said, for any one to resist, certainly after long possession, months of increasing torment, an when starved and exhausted. Frodo had done what the could and spent himself completly (as an instrument of Providence) and had produced a situation in which the object of his quest could be achieved. His humility (with which he began) and his sufferings were justly rewarded by the highest honor; and his exercise of patience and mercy towards Gollum gained him Mercy: his failure was redressed."
Tolkien makes it further cleared that moral failure is when a man's effort or endurance falls short of his limits. So in this context, Frodo did not fail. Yet from Letter 181 Tolkien also points out that Frodo did fail, as the Quest itself was doomed to failure. I guess that in the sense that Frodo did not drop the ring into the fires of Mt. Doom it did fail, especially to Frodo as Letter 246 will point out. Tolkien also states in Letter 246:
"Frodo undertook the quest out of love -- to save the world he knew from disaster at his own expense, if he could; and also in complete humility, acknowledging that he was wholly inadequate to the task. His real contract was only to do what he could, to try to find a way, and to go as far on the road as his strength of mind and body allowed. He did that. I do not myself see that the breaking of his mind and will under demonic pressure after torment was any more a moral failure than the breaking of his body would have been -- say, by being strangled by Gollum, or crushed by a falling rock. That appears to have been the judgement of Gandalf and Aragorn and of all who learned the full story of his journey (putting to bed my erroneous thought from my earlier post). Certainly nothing would be concealed by Frodo!" [
Tolkien then answers the question on what Frodo felt about the events himself. After leaving Sammath Naur, Frodo had "no sense of guilt" and "was restored to sanity and peace." Frodo felt that at this point, his life was over, given up in sacrifice and that he and Sam were soon to die. Of course Frodo and Sam was saved and so the process of change began to occur within Frodo. Tolkien points out in the letter that "Arwen was the first to observe the signs, and gave him her jewel for comfort, and thought of a way of healing him."
I find that the note on this idea of Arwen to be an interesting side note. Arwen Tolkien states, Arwen was not in "direct communication with the Valar" and there was a ban for any mortal to sail into the West. Tolkien makes clear:
It is Arwen who first thought of sending Frodo into the West, and put in a plea for him to Gandalf (direct or through Galadriel, or both), and she used her own renunciation of the right to go West as an argument. Her renunciation and suffering were related to and enmeshed with Frodo's: both were parts of a plan for the regeneration of the state of Men."
Her plea then would carry extra weight and Gandalf, being the emissary of the Valar accepting that plea would ensure no trouble/questions would arise at the embarking or debarking. I had never really thought of Arwen's suffering (separation from family, giving up immortality, eventually losing Aragorn to death and her own life to death) were directly linked to Frodo. That her marriage and the opportunity to have these choices was linked to the success of Frodo, but that her suffering is linked and is perhaps equal to Frodo is not something I had really pondered.
Anyway, back to Frodo. The inner conflict of Frodo now moves into one where we see him fading "out of the picture, saying and doing less and less." Tolkien points out that
"to the attentive reader that when his (Frodo) dark times came upon him and he was conscious of being wounded by knife sting and tooth and a long burden, it was not only nightmare memories of past horrors that afflicted him, but also unreasoning self-reproach: he saw himself and all that he done as a broken failure. Though I may come to the Shire, it will seem the same, for I shall not be the same. That was actually a temptation of the Dark, a last flicker of pride: desire to have returned as a 'hero', not content with being a mere instrument of good. And it was mixed with another temptation, blacker and yet (in a sense) more merited, for however that may be explained, he had not in fact cast away the Ring by a voluntary act: he was tempted to regret is destruction, and still to desire it. 'It is gone for ever, and now all is dark and empty', he said as he wakened from his sickness in 1420."
I stated this earlier, that in Frodo's case, it was this inner conflict, this temptation to regret the destruction of the ring, and a desire for it still that are the greatest impact on post Mt. Doom Frodo. Tolkien implies that Frodo was allowed to pass over the Sea to heal him "if that could be done, before he died." I really like the words that Tolkien uses here, "So he went to both a purgatory and to a reward, for a while: a period of reflection and peace and a gaining of of a truer understanding of his position and littleness and in greatness, spent still in Time amid the natural beauty of 'Arda Unmarred', the Earth unspoiled by evil." Frodo's time over the sea was to grant him a period of healing in a world that had been unmarred from evil. More importantly I like the notion that Frodo has to get a sense of who he was and his proper place in the world. I think many if not all of us are like that. We have an image of ourselves that at times, is perhaps greater than what we are. We have dreams and have hopes, and then when we fail to live up to those dreams and hopes we also have an inner conflict. For us though we do not sail into the West to have them healed, we have to face them in the reality of life. It does make me think though of a friend who has served two terms in Iraq, lost his marriage and family as a result and has horrors from Iraq that he is having to learn to deal with. I have wondered as we have talked if he will find the peace he wants in his life? I also think inwardly, perhaps known to our spouses or significant others, are those struggles that are too personal to share yet like Frodo, cause an inner conflict where only time will grant us the peace we seek.
The point is also made that Bilbo was allowed to go because he too still had the Dark of the Ring on him as shown when he asks Frodo what happened to his Ring while they are in Rivendell. Bilbo wanted to see it again. Bilbo is also allowed to go to be a companion to Frodo so Frodo is not alone, and Bilbo had to be given the experience of "pure Elvishness" and the chance to hear the full legends and histories that he loved so much and had heard only in fragment.
In terms of Sam, I don't want to cover a lot of what has been covered in the other thread, for this is only one portion. Tolkien does state in this letter "For me perhaps the most tragic moment in the Tale comes in II 323 ff. when Sam fails to note the complete change in Gollum's tone and aspect. 'Nothing, nothing', said Gollum softly. 'Nice master!' His repentance is blighted and all Frodo's pity is (in a sense) wasted. Shelob's lair becomes inevitable. This is due of course to the 'logic of the story'. Sam could hardly have acted differently (He did reach teh point of pity at last but for the good of Gollum too late). If he had, what could then of happened?"
At this point Tolkien discusses that the nature of the story would have changed as the three go into Mordor, as would the struggle to reach Mt. Doom. The focus would have shifted from Frodo and Sam to Gollum and that the conflict would have been in Gollum over his new love for Frodo on one side, and his love and desire for the Ring on the other. Though Gollum's love for Frodo would grow daily, it would not be enough to overcome his lust/love for the Ring. In the end, Gollum would have seized the Ring and then voluntarily thrown himself and the Ring into the fire to destroy the Ring for Frodo's sake. So could have Sam made another choice? I'm not sure he could have at this time. It is clear that Gollum could have developed something more than he was, but he rejected that. I know Tolkien places blame on Sam, but Gollum certainly had a choice here and though pity almost reached him, he allowed Sam's actions to make his decision for him, thus surrendering his will to that of another, much as he had done with the Ring.
The rest of Letter 246 focuses on what would have happen had Frodo not been overcome and the eight Nazgûl had arrived. Perhaps another day.