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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2007 4:23 am 
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It is true that the perspective more and more switches to Sam, so that eventually we only see Frodo through his eyes. However, it is Gollum/Sméagol who provides the contrast to Frodo, showing what Frodo would have become, what he should have become, had he not been such an extraordinary person.

I think that many people fall into the trap of considering Frodo an “ordinary” person forced to achieve something extraordinary. Certainly, that is how Frodo saw himself, and of course he ultimately feels that he failed to achieve his task. And this misconception is actually fed by Gandalf himself, when he tells Frodo that he was not chosen for any merit that others do not possess, although he quickly amends that to say that he was not chosen for wisdom or power, leaving open the possibility that he was chosen for some other ‘merit’ that others did not possess. And of course later, in the chapter on the Barrow-Downs, the narrator states that both Gandalf and Bilbo considered Frodo the “best Hobbit in the Shire”.

Actually, it is Sam who is the ‘ordinary person’ who is forced to achieve something extraordinary. But Sam is mostly elevated by his connection to Frodo – his love for his master. Without that connection, Sam would continue to be a most ordinary figure: provincial, close-minded, and even (as Tolkien said) somewhat conceited. Sam is the most representative Hobbit in the tale, marked by "a smugness (in varying degrees) and cocksureness, and a readiness to measure and sum up all things from a limited experience ... ." (Letter 246.)

So what is it that elevates Frodo? What ‘merit’ does he possess that leads him to be chosen? What makes him the “best Hobbit in the Shire”? And how does he avoid becoming another Gollum?

Frodo, of course was “chosen” by Bilbo, who himself was chosen by Gandalf. As Tolkien says, “Bilbo was specially selected by the authority and insight of Gandalf as abnormal: he had a good share of hobbit virtues: shrewd sense, generosity, patience and fortitude, and also a strong ‘spark’ yet unkindled. The story and its sequel are not about ‘types of the cure of bourgeois smugness by wider experience, but about the achievements of specially graced and gifted individuals.” (Letter 281.)

There has been much discussion about how the quest succeeded because of the pity and mercy showed to Gollum by Bilbo and Frodo (and finally by Sam, as well); that Frodo was granted the grace to be the instrument of providence as a result. And all of this is of course true. But I think that it is simply a sign of a deeper fundamental truth.

As Tolkien stated (and we have all read in Pearly Di’s sig text), Frodo undertook his impossible task out of love (Letter 246). Not the individual love that we see motivating Sam (who loved his master above all), or even that which we see motivating Aragorn (love for Arwen was his greatest driving force). No, the Love that drove Frodo was most definitely Love with a capital L, a general Love for the world that he knew, and all that was good in it, so that he was willing to sacrifice himself for it.
That is the ‘merit’ that Frodo possessed above all others. That is what made him not just the “best Hobbit in the Shire” but the “most good” person in all of Middle-earth, a sanctified, almost angelic being. And that is what prevented him from becoming another Gollum.

The capacity to Love unconditionally.

And that, my friends, is why Frodo is not only the character most important to the greatness of LOTR, but also arguably the most important character in modern literature.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2007 11:47 pm 
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Crucifer:

Saruman! There is an answer I did not expect. I would love to hear more.


Prim:

In your view, what does Frodo do to become of another world while living in Middle Earth?

I find your explanation of why Aragorn may bow to Frodo very intriguing, but why would Sam also be outside of the rules? Is Sam also as Frodo is, or at least partially as Frodo is?


The One Ring:

I love the way you describe your first reading of LOTR. What is required, I wonder, for the layers to feel real?


Athrabeth:

Treebeard and Bombadil are great answers. I think any story which had room for these two would be something special. There are so few stories that could take them, I am sure. Story is too mild a word, perhaps --- a story must nearly be a history for a character such as Treebeard or Bombadil to have a home. I think that's because for these characters to be what they are they need to have the freedom of motion to stand at the edges of their own personal stories. Treebeard and Bombadil both temporarily weave through the plot of LOTR, but neither marches with the plot or shapes the plot. Their own personal stories are not stories of plot but stories of elucidation, I think. By story of elucidation I mean a narrative that points us to some concept that dry words cannot explain. Take, for example, the question asked by Bombadil that Athrabeth mentions:

Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless?

What does this mean? What is the nature of the answer, if there is an answer? I do not understand. To me the story of Bombadil points to the answer, as much as anything can.

A character such as Aragorn has a personal story, but it runs mostly in parallel with the larger plot. That's why he couldn't be the answer to the question I asked in the same way that Bombadil and Treebeard can. Of course Aragorn can be the answer from a different perspective.


Old_Tom_Bombadil:

Gandalf as lonely --- a interesting concept. I think he was, at times. Then I ask who he would most closely relate to, of anyone in Middle Earth during the war. None of the other Istari, really. Elrond would be a possibility, as would Galadriel. But you know I think the person Gandalf must have felt the closest kinship to is Frodo.


Voronwë:

I have to agree with Frodo as an answer, and for the reason you give. Frodo would be my first answer to my own question; Faramir second.

I think your answer may be my favorite post of yours: at least top five. ;)

Gandalf was very much like Frodo in his capacity for unconditional love, was he not? Clearly Gandalf nurtures this quality in Frodo, such as during their conversation about Sméagol. This is why I said that Gandalf must have felt a close kinship to Frodo, by the way. Gandalf and Frodo were the only two who took on the burden of loving all of Middle Earth. It is a burden because it is beyond human.

I am reluctant to say this, I suppose because it is allegory. Call it an echo, then. Tolkien, as we know, was Christian, was Roman Catholic. There is to me a clear echo of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in Illuvatar, Frodo, and Gandalf.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2007 1:22 am 
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Faramond wrote:
I think your answer may be my favorite post of yours: at least top five. ;)


Thank you, Faramond. It is always gratifying to have a post that a lot thought went into be appreciated.

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Gandalf was very much like Frodo in his capacity for unconditional love, was he not? Clearly Gandalf nurtures this quality in Frodo, such as during their conversation about Sméagol. This is why I said that Gandalf must have felt a close kinship to Frodo, by the way. Gandalf and Frodo were the only two who took on the burden of loving all of Middle Earth. It is a burden because it is beyond human.


Yes! That is an excellent observation. Gandalf, of course, could not take on the task himself, so he had to find some what with the angelic qualities that he possessed.

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I am reluctant to say this, I suppose because it is allegory. Call it an echo, then. Tolkien, as we know, was Christian, was Roman Catholic. There is to me a clear echo of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in Illuvatar, Frodo, and Gandalf.


Whether we call it allegory, or an echo, or any other label, it is the Truth. In my opinion, of course.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2007 1:39 am 
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Faramond wrote:
Prim:

In your view, what does Frodo do to become of another world while living in Middle Earth?

I find your explanation of why Aragorn may bow to Frodo very intriguing, but why would Sam also be outside of the rules? Is Sam also as Frodo is, or at least partially as Frodo is?


It's what Frodo gives up—both what he risks and what he actually loses. I'll have more to say about this, I hope, but probably tomorrow—I was up early working for a deadline and I'm burned out.

For the other question, I point to Voronwë's post above. Sam is outside the rules because he's part of Frodo, in a way. An external attribute, if that makes sense? The quest was fulfilled in part because of who Frodo was; Sam was part of that, and Aragorn bowed to them both, because Frodo inspired devotion that led Sam to become more than he ever would otherwise have been.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2007 9:10 pm 
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I hope it is okay if I jump in here. I have read the whole thread and I have a different response as to what most drew me in, what kept the story going. But it is not a "who". It is THE ring itself. Which is sort of a living entity for my reading and take on the series.

It is the reason for everything and what causes all the turmoil inside of each of the characters that we bounce every movement off of. It motivates Gollum/Sméagol, Frodo, Bilbo...action on the part of Galdalf, Galadriel, Elrond and Sam.

It is sought by great men....Boromir, Isildur. But it is corruption itself. The embodiment of evil and power. The ring causes good people to turn bad, the ring in a way manipulates the entire story.

I am still thinking and working to expand on this. I beg your forgiveness if this is not what you were looking for.

Rwhen


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2007 9:31 pm 
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OF COURSE it is okay for you to jump in, rwhen. Much more than just "okay".

And that is a very intriguing notion. I very much agree that the Ring itself is a very compelling "character" in the tale. My question, however, is this: is it the Ring itself that is so compelling, or is it the fact that the Ring acts as a proxy of Sauron himself that makes it so compelling?

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2007 9:59 pm 
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Good question, but I recall Tolkien writing several times "as if the ring had a will of its own." Such as when it "falls" off Isildurs finger and lies on the bottom of that river until...."gasp" Sméagol finds it and hides for countless years..and then again...."oops, you did it again" Sméagol loses it only at the MOMENT when Bilbo is going to be lost and in his part of that underground mess.

So, while I do agree that Sauron/Melkor....does have the influence on why the ring was made and what the intent of the making was, I think the ring "does cause things to happen" that the original maker did not intend.. (to borrow Gandalf's line.)

So that makes the ring itself a catalyst. I read this thread at the beginning of the week and have been pondering everyday since who I really thought was the one character that brings us in or keeps us interested. I wanted to know what happened to that ring. How would it affect Frodo. Would Sam have to take it. Would Gollum get it back. Why would Elrond not have destroyed it when Isildur took it to the crack of doom? I mean I know Elrond has ethics, but shoot, just elbow Isildur over the edge.

I know we would not have a story, but again...Elrond loses his faith and hope in man for this action, yet is he not also somewhat responsibile, or is he? Maybe yet again, the ring itself had something to do with why this was not settled at that time.

So some rambling here, like I said, I am still formulating the many ways that I came to "the ring" as my choice and will post more on this subject.

Thanks Voronwë for sparking more thought to my original flame.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2007 11:16 pm 
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rwhen wrote:
Why would Elrond not have destroyed it when Isildur took it to the crack of doom? I mean I know Elrond has ethics, but shoot, just elbow Isildur over the edge.

I know we would not have a story, but again...Elrond loses his faith and hope in man for this action, yet is he not also somewhat responsibile, or is he? Maybe yet again, the ring itself had something to do with why this was not settled at that time.


That's a question that may well be worth a thread all its own. I think it is fair to say that the ring had something to with that; that it was exerting influence over Elrond by reinforcing his ethical qualms at taking things into his own hands, so to speak, just as much as it was exerting influence over Isildur by reinforcing his pride and desire for power.

Of course it is just as fair to say that Elrond did not do that because it was not the Right thing to do.

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