The Ring: A Thesis by Per Håkan Arvidsson

Discussions of papers inspired by Tolkien's writings.
Merry
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Postby Merry » Thu Feb 01, 2007 6:18 pm

Congratulations on the new house, Beren--we hope you are happy there! Will it have a green door? (My house has a green door--not round, though.)

I think the speculating about who Tom is is a fun activity, and there are some great theories, as we have seen. My own is a non-theory: Tolkien liked the work he had previously done on Tom and wanted to include him. It fit into the legendarium as an unknown: he told us (in his letters, I think--I am away from my books and can't look it up) that he thought it was a good practice to put open questions in the story, questions that had no answers, because that's how real life is.

I think that if he had had a hidden identity in mind for Tom, he would have told us that later in his life. He answered all kinds of similar questions in his letters.

So, as they used to tell us in Catholic school when we asked hard questions: It's a mystery!
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Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Mon Feb 12, 2007 4:54 pm

Reading Per's essay again and my notes, this interested me because it set me off on a train of thought:

The One Ring promises the type of power that would interest the person in question. Sam Gamgee, Frodo's gardener, has visions of a flowering Mordor and envisions himself as a great Elf-warrior, while Boromir sees himself crushing Sauron's forces and saving Gondor.

I think this is a good observation of how the Ring starts to corrupt and draw people in, but what interests me is what Frodo envisaged as he carried the Ring towards Mordor? What sort of temptations did the Ring give him in order to win him over? Are we given any clue as to what Frodo is struggling against that might finally have led him to claim it at the Crack of Doom. It must have been more that just the desire to keep it because it was beautiful. Maybe a way to save the world without the terror of the journey to Mordor?

Any thoughts?
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Postby Merry » Mon Feb 12, 2007 7:01 pm

I think it is a brilliant device of Tolkien's NOT to reveal Frodo's interiority during the last phases of his journey. We begin to see things through Sam. All we know is that Frodo suffers. It leaves us free to wonder.
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Postby Iolanthe » Thu Feb 15, 2007 11:45 am

Yes - it would have changed the whole style of the book, detrimentally I think! But as you say, it leaves us wondering. As far as I can remember Tolkien doesn't give us any clues about Frodo, although we can see what entices Sam when he puts the Ring on and what torments poor Boromir.

We do know that he sees visions of war on Amon Hen, he sees the Eye and struggles with the temptation to just go to him saying 'Verily I come, I come to you.' He feels that he loses all will and is torn two ways as Gandalf tries to help him. But there is no hint of a desire to use the Ring's Power.
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Postby Lindariel » Thu Feb 15, 2007 8:28 pm

There are also those moments when the Ring seems to lend Frodo a sort of power and stature. Frodo does not wear the Ring, but he refers to it and/or clutches it in his hand. I'm thinking particularly of this passage from "The Taming of Smeagol":

"Swear by it, if you will. For you know where it is. Yes, you know, Smeagol. It is before you."

For a moment it appeared to Sam that his master had grown and Gollum had shrunk: a tall stern shadow, a mighty lord who hid his brightness in grey cloud, and at his feet a little whining dog. Yet the two were in some way akin and not alien: they could reach one another's minds.


Unworn, the Ring also lends power and stature to Sam in "The Tower of Cirith Ungol":

It [the orc] stopped short aghast. For what it saw was not a small frightened hobbit trying to hold a steady sword: it saw a great silent shape, cloaked in a grey shadow, looming against the wavering light behind; in one hand it held a sword, the very light of which was a bitter pain, the other was clutched at its breast, but held concealed some nameless menace of power and doom . . . .

He [Sam] sprang out to meet Shagrat with a shout. He was no longer holding the Ring, but it was there, a hidden power, a cowing menace to the slaves of Mordor; and in his had was Sting, and its light smote the eyes of the orc like the glitter of cruel stars in the terrible elf-countries, the dream of which was a cold fear to all his kind.


And finally, the Ring again gives Frodo power and stature when he faces down Gollum on the slopes of Mount Doom:

"Down, down!" he gasped, clutching his hand to his breast, so that beneath the cover of his leather shirt he clasped the Ring. "Down, you creeping thing, and out of my path! Your time is at an end. You cannot betray me or slay me now."

Then suddenly, as before under the eaves of the Emyn Muil, Sam saw these two rivals with other vision. A crouching shape, scarcely more than a shadow of a living thing, a creature now wholly ruined and defeated, yet filled with a hideous lust and rage; and before it stood stern, untouchable now by pity, a figure robed in white, but at its breast it held a wheel of fire. Out of the fire there spoke a commanding voice.

"Begone, and trouble me no more! If you touch me ever again, you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom."


We still don't know what treacheries the Ring might be whispering to Frodo, but we are given a glimpse of the kind of enhancement it lends to both Frodo and Sam.

Hmmm . . . in that final passage, it seems Frodo called upon the power of the Ring to punish Gollum should he ever touch Frodo again, and when this comes to pass, the Ring obeys this command, which proves to be its own undoing.

Also of note is the Professor's assertion that Frodo in this moment is "untouchable now by pity." Interesting!
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

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Postby Iolanthe » Fri Feb 16, 2007 2:56 pm

Very interesting, especially that last passage which I'd forgotten. It's a chilling vision of the kind of Lord Frodo would have become if he had kept the Ring after claiming it. Robed in White but unlike Gandalf the White - pitiless. Goodness without Mercy :shock: . If you can't tempt someone into evil maybe you can tempt them into Good shorn of everything but Judgement.

Out of the fire there spoke a commanding voice.

"Begone, and trouble me no more! If you touch me ever again, you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom."

Is this the Ring itself deciding that it's best chance now was staying with Frodo instead of the baser Gollum?
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Postby Merry » Fri Feb 16, 2007 9:09 pm

". . . you shall be cast yourself . . ."

An interesting sentence structure, don't you think? It's ambiguous, I think, in that it is both active and passive voice, in terms of who does the casting.
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
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Postby Lindariel » Sun Feb 18, 2007 8:37 pm

Also remember that Gollum swore an oath to Frodo "on the Precious." In the end, he breaks this oath, which would turn the Ring against him. Remember what Frodo told Gollum about swearing by the Ring: "Would you commit your promise to that, Smeagol? It will hold you. But it is more treacherous than you are. It may twist your words. Beware!" And what does Gollum promise "on the Precious"? "Smeagol will swear never, never to let Him have it . . . . I will serve the master of the Precious."

So many powers at work! Didn't Gandalf say, "Often evil will doth evil mar." So very true in this situation!

Then, there is also the working of the intangible -- the Will of Iluvatar. For not by chance did Bilbo stretch out his hand blindly in that cave and find the Ring, and not by chance did Gollum lose his footing and fall into the Cracks of Doom with the Ring in his hands. "And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined."

Given this statement by Iluvatar at the creation of Arda, how perfect is it that Tolkien hints that the Ring itself may have been the cause of its own destruction? Even the Ring becomes an instrument of the Will of Iluvatar.
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Merry
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Postby Merry » Sun Feb 18, 2007 9:56 pm

Good theology, Lindariel.
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Per Håkan Arvidsson
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Postby Per Håkan Arvidsson » Wed Feb 21, 2007 7:27 pm

This paper started as an attempt to write a more scholarly version of David Day's book, and enabled me to discuss what I, at least at the time, think that LotR is really about.

It is great fun to see some points being discussed here.

I don't really have anything to add atm. Some criticism would be interesting. Anything you do not agree with or wonder about?

Excellent posts all around!
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Postby Iolanthe » Fri Feb 23, 2007 11:26 am

As usual we have been running off on interesting tangents :lol: .

I've looked at my margin scribblings again - I'm still not convinced of Tom Bombadil's importance to LOTR in your conclusion, placing him in a Prometheus like relationship to the Hobbits. I really see him completely differently! But I think we have thrashed that one out! It's an interesting idea nonetheless and has really got us thinking about Tom again.

I think this is a good point:

The way Frodo acquired the One Ring is important. This is the first time since Isildur cut it off Sauron's hand, that it has not decided its own course.

It sort of follows on with our meanderings about Frodo and his relationship with the Ring above. Bilbo, with a struggle admittedly, freely gives it away and the Ring finds itself still in the posession of the Middle-earth race least likely to be corrupted by it and, what's more, 'back to square one'.
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Postby Lindariel » Fri Feb 23, 2007 9:45 pm

In both David Day's book and Per's wonderful essay, I keep coming back again and again to this point: Although one can clearly see the influence of the many great "Ring Quest" sagas that permeate the Nordic and Germanic cultures on Tolkien's mythos, the brilliance of his work is that he turns the basic premise of these tales upside-down. The early Ring sagas are about finding, coveting, obtaining, hording, keeping, using the powerful, cursed Ring. As the saga unfolds, we watch the progress of the Ring as it passes, often violently, from one owner to the next, bringing about the downfall of each owner in turn, until at last, the Ring is returned to its source. In Wagner's Ring cycle, this happens after Brunnhilde throws herself into the funeral pyre of Siegfried that is so all-consuming it burns down Valhalla and destroys the Gods!

But in Tolkien's tale, the goal of our heroes is to renounce, relinquish, unmake, destroy the Ring and bring down its evil creator. He repeats the pattern of returning the Ring to its source -- the aptly named "Cracks of Doom" -- but not for the purpose of reuniting the Ring to its golden source, but for the purpose of melting it to nothing so that the evil force contained inside it may be unhoused and dispersed.

It is also interesting to me that in the early sagas, the source of redemption is often redemption through earthly love. In Tolkien's tale, redemption is found through pity/mercy.

One of these days (hah!), I'm going to purchase a paperback copy of LOTR, go through it to highlight every instance of the words pity/mercy and all acts of pity/mercy, and see where that takes me. There's a paper in there!
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

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Postby Merry » Fri Feb 23, 2007 11:01 pm

I did that very thing once in Tolkien's letters, Lindariel. The importance of the concept is prime and unmistakable.
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
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all the days of your life.

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Postby Iolanthe » Sat Feb 24, 2007 4:27 pm

It's interesting that with the original Ring myths and Tolkien's new 'old' myths there is such a huge shift in perspective. Is it because we have a completely different, Christian influenced concept of the nature of evil and power? How did the early myth makers understand these things? The concept that something so powerful should be renounced, not used would have been completely alien to them. If they had sat around a fireside in their halls and been told the story of Frodo Nine Fingers and the Ring would they have thought it crazy?

Mmmm. There is an essay in there somewhere :idea: .
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Per Håkan Arvidsson
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Postby Per Håkan Arvidsson » Fri Mar 16, 2007 3:19 pm

I'm not sure about it being Christian influence exactly.

The Christian Churches are not known for their denouncement of power, although they may require that the believers do not seek power for themselves. Sure, you can say that the values of pure Christianity is all good and stuff, but then again you can say that about most any religion. The fact is that each individuals' true beliefs cannot be covered by any known religion. What Tolkien really believed in, we cannot say.

Most kinds of religion has some form of magical thinking built into it, and magic is a way to gain and/or utilize power, whether it is in form of a prayer, a sacrifice, or any other kind of ritual. Anyone who gets powerful must be careful to not do evil.

The Norse did not think this way, because to them the world was a hostile place, and the Gods their only means of salvation. Tapping into the power of the Gods was seen as necessary for their very survival. In these days of war on terror we may call our use of power necessary evil, although conservative Christian groups would name it a crusade or the good fight against evil.

A lot of work has been done to analyze Tolkien's writings from a Catholic perspective. I believe this is nonsense. I do think that Tolkien's private religious beliefs are important, but his philosophy is what we can glean, and whether that is coloured by his religion or not is another question entirely.

Think of Tolkien as part humanitarian and a part hobbit.
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