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 Post subject: Of Frodo and Arwen
PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 2:44 am 
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At another forum, a poster made a side comment (as a criticism of PJ's films) claiming that in Tolkien's book there was no "special relationship" between Frodo and Arwen. That struck me as quite an odd statement to make, and quite untrue, despite the fact that their interactions are so limited. Frodo first sees Arwen in Rivendell and is abashed at how lovely she is. Other than a brief allusion that Aragorn makes in Lórien to her, there is no other connection between them until after the Ring is destroyed, and her marriage to Aragorn is consummated, and he approaches the King and the Queen to ask leave to go home by way of Rivendell.

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But the Queen Arwen said: "A gift I will give you. For I am the daughter of Elrond. I shall not go with him now when he departs to the Havens; for mine is the choice of Lúthien, and as she so have I chosen, both the sweet and the bitter. But in my stead you shall go, Ring-bearer, when the time comes, and if you then desire it. If your hurts grieve you still and the memory of your burden is heavy, then you may pass into the West, until all your wounds and weariness are healed. But wear this now in memory of Elfstone and Evenstar with whom your life has been woven!"

And she took a white gem like a star that lay upon her breast hanging upon a silver chain, and she set the chain about Frodo's neck. "When the memory of the fear and the darkness troubles you," she said, "this will bring you aid."


Underlying these words is profound connection between these two characters. As Tolkien notes in Letter 246, Arwen was the first to note the signs of the disquiet growing in Frodo and she "game him her jewel for comfort, and thought of a way of healing him." He then added in footnote:

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What is meant is that is was 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 prayer might therefore be specially effective, and her plan have a certain equity of exchange.


Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the special relationship between Frodo and Arwen goes to the very heart of what Tolkien repeatedly called the "real theme" of LOTR: Death and Immortality. After all, it is primarily through these two characters that Tolkien illustrates this theme, even if much of Arwen's part of the story is moved to the crucial appendix. I find the idea that her renunciation and suffering were related to Frodo's a fascinating one. It is quite obvious how her renunciation and suffering were part of the 'plan' for the regeneration of men, and I guess it is equally true that without the success of Frodo's quest (despite his own personal 'failure') that regeneration would have been impossible.

Yes, there was a special bond between these two disparate characters.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 10:25 am 
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Can't agree with you on this one V. Its too much of a stretch, making connections where they don't exist. I find Arwens relationship with Frodo to be more like that of a kindly Aunt with a young child. She "gave" him something she really had no right to give. It was the Valar who allowed Frodo to journey to the West, not Arwen. Whose place was Bilbo taking, or Sam, much later on? It doesn't matter whether Arwen asked for this grace to be given to Frodo, and incidentally, this sounds very much like one of Tolkiens rationalisations after the fact. The same is true of the gem. She gave him something that cost her little and helped him much. Who would have done less?

Tolkien wrote great prose, and that paragraph reads brilliantly and works on its own merits. It doesn't need added import, or invented relationships. Arwen barely knew Frodo, and he barely knew her. And thats fine, because sometimes people do whats good and right, just because they're good, not because they need a special bond to drive their actions.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 3:59 pm 
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Al, am I remembering correctly that you have stated in the past that you disagree with Tolkien about what the "real theme" of his work is? If one doesn't believe that the theme of death and immortality is crucial to the work, I could well understand not seeing this relationship as important. But I do believe this theme is crucial to the "meaning" of LOTR, and so I do see a profound importance to this seemingly small and insignificant interaction.

Of course it is true that it was the Valar who allowed Frodo (and Bilbo and Sam, and for that matter, Gimli) into the West, not Arwen. Tolkien explicitly says that in his "after the fact justification". The sentences before the ones that I quoted above state:

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It is not made explicit how she could arrange this. She could not just transfer her ticket on the boat like that! For any except those of Elvish race 'sailing West' was not permitted and any exception required 'authority', and she was not in direct communication with the Valar, especially not since her choice to become 'mortal'.


And the sentences after the ones that I quoted earlier read:

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No doubt it was Gandalf who was the authority that accepted her plea. The Appendices show clearly that he was an emissary of the Valar, and virtually their plenipotentiary in accomplishing the plan against Sauron. He was also in special accord with Círdan the Ship-master, who had surrendered to him his ring and so place himself under Gandalf's command. Since Gandalf himself went on the Ship there would be so to speak no trouble either at embarking or at the landing.


As for why Bilbo and Sam went, Tolkien states in his "after the fact justification" that Bilbo's going was "a completion of the plan due to Gandalf himself, both to give Frodo a companion of his own kind ("Bilbo was the person that Frodo most loved") and also because he "needed and deserved the favour on his own account." As for Sam, Tolkien doesn't specifically say (at least in that letter), but I suspect it is because, just as Bilbo was the person that Frodo most loved, Sam was the person who most loved Frodo. And, of course, Sam also "needed and deserved the favour on his own account."

However, both Bilbo and Sam (and, for that matter, Gimli) lived out their lives fully before sailing West. Frodo was the one that left Middle-earth while still comparatively young for his kind. And it makes perfect sense to me (after the fact justification or not) that Arwen would be the first to recognize Frodo's unease, and to feel a strong connection to him, given her own renunciation of her immortality.

Was all of this in Tolkien's mind when he first the passage? Actually I suspect to a large extent it was. Remember that Arwen was a late addition to the text, and her addition added a new level of complexity to the meaning of the story and its connection to the the older histories. She allowed Tolkien to incorporate this idea of the "regeneration of the state of Men" into the tale. There is no reason why this needs to be an important component of the story to all of its readers, but conversely the fact that it may not be important to some does not negate its importance to others, or to Tolkien himself.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:07 pm 
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Of course not V, and any are willing to draw whatever conclusions they like. However, I dislike the assumption that what one believes is necessarily what Tolkien intended. We all like to believe that our own assumptions are correct, but there's nothing in the text to support them. Tolkiens musings in letters to people years later are not "canon". Yes, they give glimpses into his mind at that specific moment in time, yet we know from the exhaustive work of Christopher and others (including yourself) that his mind changed regularly and fundamentally about many crucial aspects of the legendarium. To take one correspondence that Tolkien would have considered a private discussion, and to hold it up as argument for anything (as so many do all the time) is disingenuous.

People do this more freely with Silmarillion material, perhaps, because this was not published in Tolkien's lifetime, and the final material was based on multiple sources. Thats not the case with The Lord of the Rings. What is published, has been revised multiple times and appendices added, all by Tolkien himself (with the exception of a few recent typos). Tolkien had every opportunity to make Arwen more "bonded" to Frodo, yet he did not. That in itself is enough reason for me to believe that its not what he intended. Yes, she felt pity for him. Yes, she perhaps understood his loss better than most. Did they have a "bond"? Not as written.

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 Post subject: Re: Of Frodo and Arwen
PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:40 pm 
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Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
Frodo first sees Arwen in Rivendell and is abashed at how lovely she is.

Actually their near-interaction in Rivendell is slightly more developed than that. Frodo first sees Arwen at the feast, and after two paragraphs that describe her beauty and identify her, we read:

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Such loveliness in living thing Frodo had never seen before nor imagined in his mind; and he was both surprised and abashed to find that he had a seat at Elrond’s table among all these folk so high and fair.


And as Frodo leaves the Hall of Fire, he sees Arwen and Aragorn across the room:

Quote:
They spoke together, and then suddenly it seemed to Frodo that Arwen turned towards him, and the light of her eyes fell on him from afar and pierced his heart.


Of course, it only "seemed" that she looked at him.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 6:53 pm 
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Arwen's "bond" to Frodo, if any, could have also arisen because of Aragorn. Maybe, there wasn't a very strong direct connection, but she recognized the strength and suffering of Frodo, and this recognition is reflected in her words to him with the gift. Maybe, she did not have the right to give up her seat, so to speak, but the gift and her words could be considered an application with a recommendation to the Valar. She cared about Frodo enough to make this recommendation, and this caring could have arisen from Aragorn's connection to Frodo and the esteem with which he held Frodo.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 8:48 pm 
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N.E.B., that's true, of course. I thought of quoting those Rivendell passages, but I didn't really think it was necessary for the point I am making. I'm certainly curious to hear more of your thoughts on this issue.

Al, I always enjoy discussing things like this with you, because our perspectives are so different. One big difference is that I don't put much stock in the idea of "canon". I don't think that Tolkien's were ever necessarily set in stone, even after things were published. After all, which version of "Riddles in the Dark" is "canon"? I do put more store in what Tolkien said about his own work than you do, perhaps because his musings are so consistent with what I want his work to mean. I do tend to look for deeper meanings whereever I can find them.

Mahima, I agree that Arwen's caring about Frodo was certainly partly a reflection of Aragorn's strong bond with him. But I still do think there is more to it than that, and that she was particularly sensitive to what he was experiencing because of her own experience.

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 Post subject: Re: Of Frodo and Arwen
PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 10:02 pm 
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Hoo boy, the 'what's canon' and 'what's not' debate. ;) The source of much debate in the Harry Potter fandom, that!

I liked your first post, Voronwë. :) It's certainly a very beautiful transaction between Arwen and Frodo that Tolkien sets up.

I suppose I don't see a special relationship bond between them, however, because of my 'problem' (too strong a word) with Arwen as a character.

Because she ISN'T a character ... not in the fully developed novelistic sense of being a character. She's an archetype: beautiful, faithful, wise Elf-woman. That's it. Galadriel is much more interesting to me as a character. Of course practically all Tolkien's characters are archetypes, from Aragorn the quasi-Arthurian knight to Sam Gamgee the simple yet wise yeoman, but the Prof's genius is that his archetypes are three-dimensional and fascinating. :)

I don't engage with Arwen on the same level though, which is why I was wholly sympathetic to the film-makers beefing up her role in the films: I might quibble about how they went about it, but I have no objection to this in principle.

Perhaps what her gracious -- and, at some level, costly -- gift to Frodo points to is not so much a special bond between the two of them (which I can accept in theory but have a hard time actually seeing in canon) but the fact that she and Frodo both represent an abiding theme in LotR ... the 'legitimate' way to gain immortality, which is always a gift, and cannot be 'earned'. (Sauron went about it in completely the wrong way, of course.)

Not that Frodo is gaining immortality -- he will actually die on Eressëa (according to Tolkien in the Letters, large chunks of which I do accept as canon). But he gains the chance, thanks to Arwen, for peace and healing in a land which stands in the bright shadow of Valinor.

I'm not pretending this is a very well thought out post, as usual I am only thinking aloud. :)

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 10:26 pm 
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the 'legitimate' way to gain immortality, which is always a gift, and cannot be 'earned'.


Interesting. Am going to have to think about this. I'll be back.

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Yes, she felt pity for him.


I missed this the last time... why do you think she felt pity, Alatar? I didn't get that impression at all.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2009 5:46 am 
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Frodo and Arwen foil each other in odd ways. Despite, as you said, their limited interactions, they seem to each have a piece of the other. Frodo gains Arwen's journey to Valinor while Arwen takes on Frodo's mortality and suffering. She is an elf touched by humanity, he a hobbit with an elven air. I'll agree with Alatar and others that there is no special relationship between them, but that doesn't mean there can't be a connection.

It's too bad that in the film they put Arwen in Glorfindel's place but then never had her give him the jewel. It would have had a certain circularity to it. Instead, it seems like she just gave him that 'grace' to survive at all, instead of giving him comfort and then true healing. She's the only one whose 'spirit' form we see see (even though she is arguably one of the less important elves we meet in LOTR) and she is the one who sends him to Valinor, one of the most spiritual places in Arda.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2009 7:12 am 
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I have to agree that their connection, while meaningful, is not truly a 'relationship' or anything of the sort. Their interactions are too brief. Arwen makes quite the impression on Frodo when he first sees her, but there is no indication that they 'meet' - they do not exchange any words, though they clearly know who each other is second-hand. (And that of course is the scene illustrated by Anke Eissmann that we have at the top of this screen).

Frodo's interest in Arwen at this time is more akin to a fan taking an interest in a celebrity - the singer looked right at me at the concert! But we have no indication that Arwen takes any interest in Frodo or is even more than vaguely aware of him at this time.

Arwen reveals her sympathy for Frodo after the War is over, when she grants him her jewel. She understands his true position better than most (who are in the midst of hailing him as a triumphant war hero). So, she is wise, and has keen eyes, but...is it really much more than that? They have a shared circumstance - something seemingly very good with a heavy price to pay lurking in the background. They will both be giving up people and homeland.

Frodo has more significant relationships with both Goldberry and Galadriel. Goldberry inspires him to try his hand at verses, and her reaction to him makes it clear that she is impressed with this hobbit (though as a gracious hostess). Galadriel puts him to the test, and he returns the favor. He uncovers her secret (we learn of her elven Ring first). We see in Frodo's encounter with her that he has grown quite a bit since he left the Shire.

But I have to admit, I think Galadriel had more of a lasting impression on Sam (and Gimli, of course). Like Éomer, Frodo's admiration seems to be given more to the evening than the day. Arwen seems to have been of more interest to him.

Di, I don't think there is a correct way to seek immortality. It is either granted to you, or it isn't. But if there were a safe way, it would be along the lines of 'he who seeks to save his life will lose it, and he who gives up his life for my sake will save it.'


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2009 10:24 am 
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I'm wondering if everyone here is talking about the same sense of the word "relationship." I think it can be understood in a sense that doesn't mean "their friendship" or "how they got along," but rather, "who each was in relation to the other."

In that sense they would each have "known" the other quite well by the time Arwen gives Frodo the gem. Arwen would have known Frodo's whole story, so far as it had been told up to then, and I'm sure she would have honored him as Aragorn did. Frodo would have known Arwen's place and importance, and understood at least to some extent what she had lost in choosing to marry Aragorn.

It would not have to entail a "bond" in the sense of friendship or intimacy of understanding.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2009 5:14 pm 
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Yes, I'm certainly not suggesting that Arwen and Frodo were "buddies". The relationship between them that I am talking about is a spiritual one, forged from their shared experience of renunciation and suffering (as Tolkien puts it). Their relationship is as much in their respective roles in the tale as anything else.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 12:32 am 
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But there is a distinct difference between Frodo and Arwen. Frodo's suffernig had already begun and he was to find no rest in Middle Earth for his loss. Arwen's loss would not come until Aragorn's death years forward. That was when according to Appendix A that she realized the impact of her choice and its bitterness. Thus her suffering in my mind occurred then. Arwen may have known about what was to come mentally, but I'm not sure if she comprehended it until she went through it. Though like Frodo, she choose to endure what suffering she did. In the end, they both eventually escaped their suffering when death released them; though I think Frodo may have found both the acceptance and peace he sought while I am unsure if Arwen found peace, acceptance or both.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 12:42 am 
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I think she suffered loss at the time, too, AJ. The oblique reference in LotR to her farewell with Elrond, not shown and therefore more powerful, brought that home to me almost the first time I read LotR. She was saying goodbye, for all time, to a father she loved and who loved her, when in the expected course of things they would have been able to continue a living relationship until the end of the world.

It was far worse than if they were both human and one or the other were dying; in that case they could hope to see each other again beyond the circles of the world. But Arwen and Elrond knew they would have nothing: no hope, no promises. Absolute ending. :(

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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: Fri Jan 02, 2009 1:35 am 
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That is quite true, Prim. That point is actually strongly borne out in a brief statement that was (IMO unfortunately) removed by Christopher from The Silmarillion, that the only grief that may have been greater than Melian’s grief at Lúthien’s impending death was the grief of Elrond and Arwen. It is easy to lose sight of just how much Arwen was giving up in making the choice to remain with Aragorn and become mortal. She was sundered not just from her father but all of her people. And not just for the brief expanse of the life of a mortal, but for all of the millenia until the end of the world. While the full weight of this choice did not hit her until Aragorn's passing, she knew full well what she was giving up.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 5:38 am 
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I just see it differently I guess. Yes, she understood the parting with her father, and surrendering that relationship, and she may have mentally known what this meant, but it wasn't until she actually went through it, that I think she understood it. I also think that there is a difference in the sorrow of parent to child and vice versa and spouse to spouse (or significant other to significant other).

In Appendix A it states very clearly that

"When Elrond learned the choice of his daughter, he was silent, though his heart was grieved and found the doom long feared none the easier to endure."

More insight is given here
"The Third Age ended thus in victory and hope; and yet grievous among the sorrows of that Age was the parting of Elrond and Arwen, for they were sundered by the Sea and by a doom beyond the end of the world. . . But Arwen became as a mortal woman, and yet it was not her lot to die until all that she had gained was lost."

So yes, the parting was grievous for Elrond knew he was departing Middle Earth and would be forever separated from his daughter, their fates being different now as were the fates of men and Elves. Elrond had gone through this before with his brother Elros and now again with his daughter, so when he learned of the choice of his daughter, he understood what this meant. Intellectually Arwen would understand, and perhaps emotionally since the sorrow was grievous to both, but I still don't think it was until later that she fully comprehended with her soul what her decision was and its consequences.

" . . . and she stool alone by his bed. And for all her wisdom and lineage she could not forbear to plead with him to stay yet for a while. She was not yet weary of her days and thus she tasted the bitterness of the mortality that she had taken upon her."

Then comes Aragorn's words to her about having the ability to give up his life while yet in the strength of his mind and body, and then he says:

"I speak no comfort to you, for there is no comfort for such pain within the circles of the world. The uttermost choice is before you; to repent and go to the Havens and bear away into the West the memory of our days together that shall there be evergreen but never more than memory; or else to abide the Doom of Men."

Arwen replies:

"Nay, dear lord, she said, that choice is long over. There is now no ship that would bear me hence, and I must indeed abide the Doom of Men, whether I will or I nill: the loss and the silence. But I say to you, King of the Numenoreans, not til now have I understood the tale of your people and their fall. As wicked fools I scorned them, but I pity them at last. For if this is indeed, as the Eldar say, the gift of the One to Men, it is bitter to receive."

Aragorn replies:

"So it seems. But let us not be overthrown at the final test, who of old renounced the Shadow and the Ring. In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more tha nmemory. Farewell!"

It was not until she lost all that she had gained with Aragorn's death that she fully understood or comprehended what she had given up. I would say until now she may have thought about being separated from her father, but she had never realized what death meant, and how different it was from the fate of the Eldar. Thus Arwen for me, did not grasp completely what her choice entailed until Aragorn passed.

But that goes to the theme that started the thread, that of Frodo and Arwen and the theme of death and immortality. It is a very interesting discussion to have, in terms of characters and in terms of races. Are the Eldar truly immortal, or is their fëa tied to the destiny of Arda itself? Are men mortal but in the end as Aragorn hints, immortal? Can true victory over evil happen in this world or do we just have victories that are connected with spans where evil dominates?

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J.R.R. Tolkien in his 6 October 1940 letter to his son Michael Tolkien.

2. We have many ways using technology to be in touch, yet the larger question is are we really connected or are we simply more in touch? There is a difference.


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