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PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2008 6:58 am 
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I've been looking over several of the letters that I would like to discuss and get views on, and they are very, very long (some of them that is). So I thought I would pick one, give a brief overview, and then focus on one or two items, and let others come in on some of the other points.

Letter 181 is a draft letter to Michael Straight, who was the editor of the New Republic and was going to write a review of Lord of the Rings. In doing so he wrote Tolkien to inquire about several items.

First, was there 'meaning' in Gollum's role in the story and in Frodo's moral failure at the climax.

Second, whether the Scourging of the Shire chapter was directed especially to contemporary England.

Third, why the other voyagers should depart the Grey Havens with Frodo at the end of the book - - "Is it for the same reason that there are those who gain in the victory but cannot enjoy it?"

So that is the purpose of the letter.

Tolkien in replying to the first questions says:

Quote:
'Lead us not into temptation &c' is the harder and the less often considered petition. 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 the behavior of an individual in circumstances which demand of him suffering and endurance far beyond the normal -- even, it may happen (or seem, humanly speaking), demand a strength of body and mind which he does not possess: he is in a sensed 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 duress.

Frodo was in such a position: an apparently complete trap: a person of greater native power could probably never have resisted the Ring's lure to power so long; a person of less power could not hope to resist it in the final decision. (Already Frodo had been unwilling to hard the Ring before he set out, and was incapable of surrendering it to Sam.)

The Quest . . . was bound to fail as a piece of world-plan, and also was bound to end in disaster as the sotry of humble Frodo's development to the 'noble', his sanctification. Fail it would and did as far as Frodo considered alone was concerned. He 'apostatized' -- and I have had one savage letter, crying out that he shd. have been executed as a traitor, not honoured. . . .

But at this point the 'salvation' of the world and Frodo's own 'salvation' is achieved by his previous pity and forgiveness of injury. At any point any prudent person would have told Frodo that Gollum would certainly* (*Not quite 'certainly'. The clumsiness in fidelity of Sam was what finally pushed Gollum over the brink, when about to repent) betray him, and could rob him in the end. To 'pity' him, to forbear to kill him, was a piece of folly, or a mystical belief in the ultimate value -- in -- itself of pity and generosity even if disastrous in the world of time. he did rob him and injure him in the end -- but by a 'grace', that last betrayal was at a precise juncture when the final evil deed was the most beneficial thing any one cd. have done for Frodo! By a situation created by his forgiveness, he was saved himself, and relieved of his burden. He was very justly accorded the highest honors -- since it is clear that he & Sam never concealed the precise course of events. Into the ultimate judgement upon Gollum I would not care to enquire. This would be to investigate "Goddes privitee", as the Medievals said. Gollum was pitiable, but he ended in persistent wickedness, and the fact that this worked good was no credit to him. His marvellous courage and endurance, as great as Frodo and Sam's or greater, being devoted to evil was portentous, but not honourable. I am afraid whatever our beliefs, we have to face the fact that there are persons who yield to temptation, reject their chances of nobility or salvation, and appear to be 'damnable'. . . . The domination of the Ring was much too strong for the mean soul of Sméagol. But he would have never had to endure it if he had not become a mean sort of thief before it crossed his path."


There is a lot here. Frodo was placed in what Tolkien would call a "Sacrificial' situation and as such he was doomed to failure. Did Frodo know that at Bag End? Did Gandalf? Frodo I am sure did not, but surely Gandalf did, as did Elrond at the Council. So why send Frodo to his death? It is evident that after Gandalf's fall in Moria, and his meeting with Galadriel, that Frodo felt that the quest had very little if any hope/chance to succeed. Yet Frodo went on to face inevitable failure. Frodo did fail in the end as we all know, and though I hadn't considered it, he did apotatized from his mission and his trust. Was he a traitor then? No, though I am of the opinion that Frodo's failure is one of the things he struggled inwardly to comes to terms with. I think he probably felt he had reached the end destination and then failed, and regardless of his honors, he never felt he quite deserved them.

Tolkien also answers the question on Sam, whether he could destroy the ring, and it is a definite no, because no one of lesser power would resist the Ring at the end. Tolkien brought up a point here I had not considered. He states "The clumsiness in fidelity of Sam" when it comes to pushing Gollum over the edge prior to Shelob's Lair. I found this statement interesting so I explored it.

I looked up the meaning of these words (and yes, I know their meaning, but I wanted the actual definition) and found that clumsiness means awkwardly done or ill-contrived; fidelity is defined as strict observance of promises and of course loyalty. I looked more into the ill-contrived by focusing on contrived which of course means planned or to form designs or plans. One meaning then of this statement can be made that Sam, taking the promises he made to others to Frodo created a blinding loyalty. If we take the notion that Sam had planned or designed to act against Gollum if Gollum offered him the chance, then Sam's reaction to seeing Gollum touching Frodo's knee can be seen as an ill planned event to get Frodo to see what Gollum was doing. Then again, as I thought about it, it could simply mean that Sam's loyalty to Frodo was just simply awkwardly displayed when he woke up and found Gollum touching Frodo. Either way, it sealed their fate in Shelob's tunnels.

I find it interesting also that here Tolkien lets us know that Frodo and Sam never revealed the concise details of what happen at Mt. Doom (except in the Red Book). Does this surprise anyone else? Why wouldn't they reveal at least to Aragorn and to Gandalf the concise sequence of events? Frodo receives the high honors that were due to him, but I just have this sinking feeling that Frodo still felt guilty inside about not completing the quest by himself, and returning as the hero who did not fail. Sometimes those mental torments are the hardest to bear, even more than any physical scar. As stated earlier, I don't think Frodo was healed of this until he left Middle Earth. Any other ideas?

The last part has to do with Gollum. Tolkien says in another letter that if Sam had shown him compassion, pity on the stairs, that Gollum would have repented. Sam didn't show the pity at this time, and Gollum betrayed Frodo and Sam. In this letter I think Tolkien makes it very clear that it is Gollum's mean nature that led him to obtain the ring and become corrupted by it. If Gollum had not developed his mean nature, he would not have fallen to the domination of the Ring. I also after reading up on this am convinced that Gollum had to play a role in the destruction of the Ring. It had to be Gollum that destroyed the Ring. If Gollum had repented, his love for Frodo's mercy would have moved him to destroy the ring after seizing it. Since that did not happen, Gollum had to seize and take the ring from Frodo and then die by chance or divine will. If Gollum then had to be the one to destroy the Ring, does he still have free will or has that will been consumed totally by the One Ring? Has Gollum's choices led him to where he no longer has the freedom to choose? Evidence would suggest yes, his tracking of Bilbo, his turning towards Mordor, his capture and release, his following of the Fellowship and then leading Frodo and Sam; his decision to lead them to Shelob and his pursuit of them afterwards until his attack on both Sam then Frodo. Do we ever lose the opportunity to choose by becoming so enslaved to something that we lose our ability to chose and to be flexible, caring, showing pity and forgiveness?

There is a LOT more in the letter I would like to discuss and will hopefully respond as others post. I find it interesting that Tolkien agreed that "Yes, 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 more preservation) the less satisfactory will 'victory' seem." This is a fascinating statement to me that reveals much not only about the story, but also about the author.

Tolkien then describes the departure of the three ring bearers and how the elves themselves have some wonderful characteristics, yet also some serious flaws in their nature as shown in the Three Elven Rings.

To conclude Tolkien discusses Gandalf, Saruman, death and mortality and expresses that the story of Aragorn and Arwen is the most important in the Appendixes since it relates to that theme. So lots more to discuss if someone wants to go there.

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Last edited by ArathornJax on Mon Jul 21, 2008 2:48 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2008 7:13 am 
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Woohoo, another letter! And a meaty one, at that. We are going to have fun discussing this letter, I know.

But first I have to finish addressing Letter 43. :oops: I'll be back, both here and there!

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2008 8:21 am 
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Good heavens, that's a lot to chew on!

But to start with . . .

ArathornJax wrote:
I find it interesting also that here Tolkien lets us know that Frodo and Sam never revealed the concise details of what happen at Mt. Doom (except in the Red Book). Does this surprise anyone else? Why wouldn't they reveal at least to Aragorn and to Gandalf the concise sequence of events?


I'm confused by this, because in the letter you quote,

Tolkien, in Letter 181, wrote:
He was very justly accorded the highest honors -- since it is clear that he & Sam never concealed the precise course of events.


Unless "never concealed" is a typo here? But it sounds like Sam and Frodo were honest about how everything played out at the end.

I'm also intrigued by this phrase: "The clumsiness in fidelity of Sam was what finally pushed Gollum over the brink, when about to repent."

If I may play Devil's Advocate for a moment, I'd say that the figure of speech Tolkien uses here -- "pushed him over the brink" -- echoes the climactic scene and kind of works against Tolkien's own argument! Because in fact, Gollum going "over the brink" is EXACTLY what finally gets that Ring into the Fire!

The D. A. me wonders whether this wasn't really the best that could have been hoped for from Gollum! After all, if he had repented (Sam being less clumsy), what then? Would he have STAYED repented for the long haul? How could he have, considering the power of the Ring? And then his fall would have been even MORE horrible, because he would be conscious of being the traitor, having once repented, instead of being filled with completely selfish and momentary joy.

But that is a very unquakerly way to look at things, so I will now go sit in Silence for a while and repent. :)


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2008 2:37 pm 
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Teremia wrote:
The D. A. me wonders whether this wasn't really the best that could have been hoped for from Gollum! After all, if he had repented (Sam being less clumsy), what then? Would he have STAYED repented for the long haul? How could he have, considering the power of the Ring? And then his fall would have been even MORE horrible, because he would be conscious of being the traitor, having once repented, instead of being filled with completely selfish and momentary joy.


Tolkien discusses this very scenerio in the "other letter" that AJ refers to. But I suppose that should wait for a discussion of that letter.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2008 4:21 pm 
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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.

Quote:
"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:

Quote:
"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:

"
Quote:
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

Quote:
"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.

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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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PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2008 10:46 pm 
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AJ, I think discussing both letters makes sense. Even though there is a lot to cover in both letters, we have no particular time constraints. I would suggest changing the titled to "Letters 181 and 246: Gollum, Frodo, Sam etc., or something like that.

I will be back!

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 3:17 am 
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ArathornJax wrote:
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."


This is a very interesting statement, in part because it shows a temporary stage in the evolution of Tolkien's thought. This letter was written in 1956. However, just a couple of years later (sometime between 1958 and 1960) he reminds in Manwë's statements in the great debate of the Valar recorded in "Laws and Customs of the Eldar" that Valinor was most definitely not "unspoiled by evil". In discussing the strange case of Finwë and Míriel, Manwë points out that the unnatural condition of one of the firstborn children of Eru dying was the result of the marring of Arda. And, of course, Valinor is later physically marred itself by Melkor and Ungoliant when they destroy the Trees, a marring that of course has not been redressed at the time that Frodo travels West. Manwë makes it clear that Arda Unmarred has two aspects: the original state of Arda before it's marring, and Arda Healed, "which shall be greater and more fair than the first."

By removing the Undying Lands from the Circles of the World, Eru has certainly insulated Valinor and Tol Eressëa from the evils that beset Middle-earth. But I think it is incorrect to say that Frodo traveled to a place that was "untouched by evil." Rather he traveled to a place that was perhaps isolated from evil, yet certainly not untouched by it.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 5:07 am 
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I am revisiting this, because the subject came up in another thread. Specifically, the subject of Gollum's near repentance and Sam's role in foiling it. To repeat (quoting a greater length, to show the context), Tolkien wrote in Letter 246:

Quote:
Sam was cocksure, and deep down a little conceited; but his conceit had been transformed by his devotion to Frodo. He did not think of himself as heroic or even brave, or in any way admirable – except in his service and loyalty to his master. That had an ingredient (probably inevitable) of pride and possessiveness: it is difficult to exclude it from the devotion of those who perform such service. In any case it prevented him from fully understanding the master that he loved, and from following him in his gradual education to the nobility of service to the unlovable and of perception of damaged good in the corrupt. He plainly did not fully understand Frodo's motives or his distress in the incident of the Forbidden Pool. If he had understood better what was going on between Frodo and Gollum, things might have turned out differently in the end. 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 became inevitable.

This is due of course to the 'logic of the story'. Sam could hardly have acted differently. (He did reach the point of pity at last (III 221-222)4 but for the good of Gollum too late.) If he had, what could then have happened? The course of the entry into Mordor and the struggle to reach Mount Doom would have been different, and so would the ending.


That has always been my impression, even before I read Tolkien's letters. But some some to have a different impression. In the other thread that I mentioned,

Frelga wrote:
In a nutshell, I don't think it's fair to blame Sam since Gollum has already betrayed the hobbits by that time, and no amount of kindness from Sam could change that.


Would you care to comment further, Frelga, in light of Tolkien's comments? Or anyone else? I don't think that Tolkien's comments are necessarily dispositive, but they do very clearly express my own opinion on the matter.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 6:42 am 
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Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
Would you care to comment further, Frelga, in light of Tolkien's comments? Or anyone else? I don't think that Tolkien's comments are necessarily dispositive, but they do very clearly express my own opinion on the matter.


I would dearly like to hear what Tolkien thought would have happened had Sam been nice to the poor Gollum. Given, again, that Gollum has already betrayed the hobbits to Shelob.

On a tangent, I was thinking about this and other LOTR episodes recently, when considering the differences between Tolkien's and Pratchett's moral universes. It struck me that while the theme of mercy is central to Tolkien's work, his world is entirely unforgiving of a moral lapse. The good guys always offer a chance of redemption to the "bad" guys, who never, never take it. From Saruman to Gollum, Denethor and Boromir, once a character left the path of virtue, they are dead. Even Théoden, who was under the influence. Even Frodo himself is not allowed to live happily ever after, although I also think that he has attained such a refined spiritual state his trip West was the only fit reward for him.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 7:37 am 
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Didn't Lotho eventually repent?

But in general I agree with you - Tolkien's characters are archetypal "moral" or "immoral" characters and don't seem to be able to switch mid-stream. I can't believe that Gollum, after all those years, would change into a different person with a few weeks of kindness from Frodo, no matter what Sam said. If his conversion to good was fragile enough to be crushed by one simple statement by Sam, how much longer would it have lasted? How could it hold up to the power of the Ring, and the Ring's strong sense of self preservation?

I've seen what happens in real life when women are addicted to drugs or alcohol, yet love their children. Unfortunately, love does not always overcome. The spirit may be willing, but often the flesh is weak. The addiction is a gotta-have-it-right-now! feeling while love is a more abstract and long term attitude. I can't imagine a love for Frodo being stronger than a mind-eating passion for the Ring.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 7:57 am 
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narya wrote:
Didn't Lotho eventually repent?


Didn't Wormtongue kill him? I am overdue a reread. :oops: Lobelia is the only character who got a sort of redemption, IIRC.

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‘There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.’
‘It’s a lot more complicated than that -’
‘No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.’
Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 2:16 pm 
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Yes, Grima killed (and possibly ate) poor Lotho. Of course, Boromir redeems himself before he dies. But he does die.

Frelga wrote:
I would dearly like to hear what Tolkien thought would have happened had Sam been nice to the poor Gollum. Given, again, that Gollum has already betrayed the hobbits to Shelob.


But he had not abandoned them to her yet. Tolkien obviously thought to things could have gone otherwise had Gollum's redemption not been spoiled by Sam. Letter 246 goes on to say:

Quote:
The interest would have shifted to Gollum, I think, and the battle that would have gone on between his repentance and his new love on one side and the Ring. Though the love would have been strengthened daily it could not have wrested the mastery from the Ring. I think that in some queer twisted and pitiable way Gollum would have tried (not maybe with conscious design) to satisfy both. Certainly at some point not long before the end he would have stolen the Ring or taken it by violence (as he does in the actual Tale). But 'possession' satisfied, I think he would then have sacrificed himself for Frodo's sake and have voluntarily cast himself into the fiery abyss.

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AJ wrote:
Frodo was placed in what Tolkien would call a "Sacrificial' situation and as such he was doomed to failure. Did Frodo know that at Bag End? Did Gandalf? Frodo I am sure did not, but surely Gandalf did, as did Elrond at the Council. So why send Frodo to his death?


How much really did they know? Gandalf the Grey was not Gandalf the White; his perception was greatly limited. And "Even the Wise cannot see all ends." Elrond was wrong about Merry and Pippin, if only because he had forgotten the Ents, or at least couldn't foresee that events would unfold as they did.

I would say rather that the guiding principle of the Council was naked estel: placing things completely in the hands of Eru. Galadriel didn't quibble with the plan, and Faramir didn't interfere despite his common sense and legal duty. They were all aware of the risk, above all the risk of total failure and Sauron's absolute victory, against which the life of one hobbit, however brave, was part of the risk- but no more so than the lives of all the warriors who went forward knowing that they might well die. Surely Gandalf knew that Théoden, and for that matter all the Rohirrim, stood a good chance of annihilation on his advice. But they freely accepted that chance-- as did Frodo. "I will take the Ring" is perhaps the key line in the entite book.


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ArathornJax wrote:
Tolkien says in another letter that if Sam had shown him compassion, pity on the stairs, that Gollum would have repented...also after reading up on this am convinced that Gollum had to play a role in the destruction of the Ring. It had to be Gollum that destroyed the Ring. If Gollum had repented, his love for Frodo's mercy would have moved him to destroy the ring after seizing it.
Gollum would have repented, yes, perhaps to the degree that he would not have led Frodo and Sam to Shelob. However, I do not think in any case that Gollum would have destroyed the Ring or be willing allow another to destroy it. The Ring had too much power over Frodo, who was by nature a good person, to destroy it. It had even greater power over Gollum, who had born it far longer than either Bilbo or Frodo, and had used it far many more times to commit wicked deeds.

Didn't Gandalf say that the Ring looks after itself? Certainly at the Sammath Naur where it was forged the Ring was at its greatest strength. Even the phial of Galadriel would not work there. No, I don't think anyone could have willingly destroyed it. Well, except for possibly Tom Bombadil, but he would have never made that journey. Besides, as Sauron could detect Gandalf's presence he very likely would have detected Bombadil, and taken action to stop him.

ArathornJax wrote:
Frodo receives the high honors that were due to him, but I just have this sinking feeling that Frodo still felt guilty inside about not completing the quest by himself, and returning as the hero who did not fail.
I agree completely. I am sure that deep down Frodo felt he had suffered a moral failure. I know I would have had I been in his position, even after enduring all of the suffering that Frodo encountered on his journey.

ArathornJax wrote:
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."
Voronwë the Steadfast wrote:
And, of course, Valinor is later physically marred itself by Melkor and Ungoliant when they destroy the Trees, a marring that of course has not been redressed at the time that Frodo travels West.

That also came to my mind when I read about Frodo traveling to 'Arda Unmarrred'. It isn't true. Even Aman, the Blessed Realm, was not unspoiled.

Frelga wrote:
The good guys always offer a chance of redemption to the "bad" guys, who never, never take it. From Saruman to Gollum, Denethor and Boromir, once a character left the path of virtue, they are dead.

This is true even in The Silmarillion. Melkor, after having spent time in prison, is given a second chance. Instead he harbors old grudges, spreads rumors and falsehoods to flame Fëanor's jealousy and distrust of Fingolfin, slays the Two Trees of Valinor, slays Finwë, and steals the Silmarils (and other jools) before fleeing to his old fortress in the north of Middle-earth. After Morgoth's second capture, Sauron is given a chance to repent, but instead slips back into evil, assuming his master's place as the Dark Lord.

solicitr wrote:
Elrond was wrong about Merry and Pippin, if only because he had forgotten the Ents, or at least couldn't foresee that events would unfold as they did.

That's correct. Elrond wasn't wrong, at least about Pippin. Pippin foolishly dropping a stone down a well nearly sunk, no pun intended, the whole mission. Only Gandalf's heroism and, ultimately, sacrifice saved the mission from complete disaster.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2011 2:05 am 
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I don't really have anything to add to your comments, I just wanted to say how glad I am to see someone addressing some of these letters!

Thanks, Tom!

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So, let's say Sam followed Frodo's lead and showed mercy to Gollum. And suppose Gollum's devotion to Frodo grew to the point that desire for his Precious no longer drove him to evil acts. (I find that highly unlikely because of the self-deluding nature of long-term addicts.)

Even if both those changes happened, Frodo would still have failed at the end. Then what? Could Gollum willingly have destroyed the Ring, even to save Frodo? Not a chance. That would mean resisting both the lure of the Ring and fealty to his master. Gollum knew too little of love to realize that betraying Frodo by destroying what Frodo claimed as his own was the only hope for Frodo's salvation.

Who did know? Sam. Sam knew and loved Frodo, and he knew that the Ring would destroy him. He knew the Ring must be unmade, no matter what the cost. But could Sam have found the strength to wrest the Ring from Frodo, or even to push him, Ring and all, into the abyss? Unfortunately, I don't find that likely either.

If Gollum was hobbled by selfish greed, Sam was equally hobbled by loyalty and love. He hadn't been able to leave Frodo imprisoned in a tower full of orcs, even though it would have been far more sensible of him -- if all that mattered was the quest -- to slip past the tower and get a head start toward the mountain. When it came right down to it, Sam's devotion was to Frodo, not the destruction of the Ring. He would have known what had to be done, but he would not have had the heart to do it.

So while Sam's rejection of Sméagol was sad on the personal level (for both Sam and Gollum), I do not believe it would have helped the quest. Without Gollum's betrayal at the Cracks of Doom -- and his joyful, fatal misstep -- Sauron would have been the victor.

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Very nice comments, WampusCat. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you wrote. :)

WampusCat wrote:
But could Sam have found the strength to wrest the Ring from Frodo, or even to push him, Ring and all, into the abyss? Unfortunately, I don't find that likely either.

I don't, either. However, if Sam had found Frodo before Gollum did, he may very well have attempted to wrest the Ring from Frodo, if he was unable to persuade Frodo to destroy it, and sacrificed himself to save Frodo and Middle-earth. (Sam said that he'd have rather lost a hand than Frodo lose a finger.) Whether or not would Sam would have been able to wrest the Ring from Frodo is an entirely different question.

WampusCat wrote:
He hadn't been able to leave Frodo imprisoned in a tower full of orcs, even though it would have been far more sensible of him -- if all that mattered was the quest -- to slip past the tower and get a head start toward the mountain.

Very true. Sam had a difficult enough time as it was leaving Frodo's corpse (or what he thought was his corpse) to continue the mission. It was only the orcs' discovery of Frodo's body, and commenting that he was still alive, that kept Sam from continuing to Mt. Doom alone.

Voronwë the Faithful wrote:
I don't really have anything to add to your comments, I just wanted to say how glad I am to see someone addressing some of these letters!

The pleasure is all mine. I just hope you don't mind too much me dredging up some of these old posts. I've been away for awhile and had some catching up to do.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2011 1:20 pm 
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Mind? On the contrary, I'm thrilled!

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Voronwë the Faithful wrote:
Mind? On the contrary, I'm thrilled!


Same here. :hug:

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2011 3:11 pm 
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Gee, thanks! :tearsofhappiness:

"I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil."

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