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FoTR - The Shadow Of The Past: Bk I, Chapter II
Posted: Tue Sep 27, 2005 12:09 am
The Shadow Of The Past
The world as the Shire knows it is changing. Frodo himself is becoming someone his fellow citizens say is losing his 'Hobbit-sense'. In this thread we are discussing The Shadow Of The Past and as Frodo comes to 50 years of age, his life is about to change forever.
Posted: Tue Sep 27, 2005 4:13 pm
The reader has as much idea of what grave matters lie ahead as does Frodo and Sam. Now that he is fifty, the One Ring has given Frodo a youthful appearence but the same uneasyness as Bilbo. Sam speaks of Tree-Men who's stride is 7 yards, and Elves much to the scorn of his peers. Strange Dwarves report the Enemy has arrisen in Mordor. Gandalf appears after a long absence and informs Frodo of the peril to the Shire - that Sauron, who had never much taken notice of Hobbits will seek slavery as revenge for parting him of his One Ring. We also learn in brief the history of what will be named "the long defeat."
Frodo's despair, I wish it not need happen in my time, voices for all of us who have lived through soul trying times. Gandalf's wisdom is still resonate, So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide, all we can do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us. Free will does have an interesting tension, we do not chose the larger contexts of our lives, but we still must make choices that will effect our's and other's futures.
Look well at the descriptives for Smeagol prior to the One Ring finding him. He dived, he burrowed, he tunnelled, his head and eyes were downward. A base nature that could account for simple vices would be amplified into radical evil. To have murdered, to be banished from his people, and to come to hate the sun and live in the very roots of the earth - and in the darkness to be betrayed by his Precious.
Another resonate theme for me is of pity and mercy. Gollum's ownership of the ring came to him by murder, Bilbo's by pity. Frodo claims that such a creature deserves death. Gandalf says that by all appearences he does, but the fate of many may well be ruled by the pity of Bilbo. It forces us to make very hard choices about what we often take for granted.
Posted: Tue Sep 27, 2005 4:59 pm
What wonderful ideas, Bruce! Thanks for sharing them. Tolkien emphasizes the centrality of pity in his Letters: there would be no salvation from Sauron, in the end, without the pity of Bilbo and Frodo. So what appears as a weakness to some ends ups being most powerful.
In this reading, I noticed for the first time how restless and ready to go Frodo was, even before he was authorized by Gandalf to pursue this mission. It makes me wonder if Tolkien experienced this kind of restlessness in his life. It, too, is a double-edged sword: one can see wonderful things and horrible things on adventures.
Posted: Tue Sep 27, 2005 5:31 pm
But was Frodo’s restlessness due to the Ring? It was in his possession for nine years (?) or more. Sauron was becoming powerful and knew the Ring was in Hobbiton by then. According to Appedix B, in 3017 Gollum is released from Mordor. By spring of the following year Gandalf comes to Frodo with his news of the Ring. The Ring must have been working on Frodo for the entire time with a stronger pull to cross the river just before Gandalf’s arrival.
Already there is a sense of urgency and the hourglass is tipped.
I do like how Tolkien introduces the other beings of M-e in this chapter. Through Sam’s imagination, traveling Dwarves and Elves in the night we get a taste of what’s to come. Even our favorite Ranger is given a sentence to whet the appetite.
Sam’s childlike charm comes at the end of the chapter as he weeps from being so happy to go to see the Elves. What a transformation he makes through this journey. He is hardly recognizable at the end of it all. Out of all of the entire Fellowship it is Sam who’s character changes the most I think.
Posted: Tue Sep 27, 2005 11:09 pm
Sam is, I think one of the most intersting characters.
I haven't done a lot of reading of the letters but I wonder if he compares to some of the "common men" that Tolkien would have met during his years in the "Great War". Men that in the ordinary course of their lives would never have ventured more than a few miles from where they were born both broadened and deepened by their travels and experiences in that war. It seems that Tolkien would have met many such men and watched the transformations. Of course it seems to me that it can go either way and sometimes people become smaller and more close. More protective...????
Posted: Wed Sep 28, 2005 1:18 am
Philipa, it never occured to me before that Frodo's restlessness was due to the Ring. Do you think the text suggests that? I'll read it again. I guess I assumed that it was because he had some adventurous blood and an extraordinary cousin.
elizabeth, I've read somewhere that Tolkien modeled Sam after the WWI 'batsman', a kind of manservant for a British officer. Does anybody else know anything about this?
Posted: Wed Sep 28, 2005 2:41 pm
I've always thought so too, Merry, and am now wondering where that come from. I know that this was one of the keys to Sam's character given to Sean Astin for the films (musn't mention the films
) but does it have any basis in real fact? It seem so me it must have and, as Elizabeth pointed out, Tolkien saw many Sam's transforming from simple men who had never been in the wider world, to men of extraordinary courage and tenacity in the face of horrors we can't even imagine.
I admit I'd never before considered the effect the Ring was having on Frodo in those 9 years either. Is there anything in the text at all that shows any influence? I imagined that if he wasn't actually wearing it he was safe but can that really so given everything Gandalf tells us about it in this chapter?
Posted: Wed Sep 28, 2005 2:59 pm
Iolanthe, Frodo may not have tried putting the Ring on his finger during those years, but he was wearing it on a chain -- either around his neck or attached to his waistcoat like a pocketwatch. He kept it physically on his person at all times. Also, note that folks in the Shire were already making the observation that, like Bilbo before him, Frodo seemed to be remarkably "preserved" for his age. So the Ring was already "stretching" his life, just by virtue of it being in his possession. I have no problems accepting that it was also making Frodo restless and feeling hemmed-in in the Shire, on top of whatever natural adventurousness he might have inherited from his Took ancestors. The Ring desired to return to its Master; it wanted to be on the move.
Posted: Sun Oct 02, 2005 12:16 pm
Good points, Lindariel! Of course the first thing Gandalf says to Frodo after his long absence is 'You look the same as ever, Frodo!'.
There so much back history to get on top of in this chapter. I don't know any other author who could have put such a halt on events at this early stage of a book in order to 'fill us in' and gotten away with it. It's only chapter 3 and we have 20 pages (in my copy) of converstion between two people. It's such a bold move and yet essential. The only reason it works is that the huge depth of Tolkien's creation makes it 'real' and therefore totally absorbing, and the stories we and Frodo get told by Gandalf are just so good. There is also the overwhelming sense of unease, followed by fear followed by excitiment at the fantastic journey we now know it ahead:
'There is only one way: to find the Cracks of Doom in the depths if Orodruin, the Fire Mountain, and cast the Ring in there, if you really wish to destroy it, to put it beyond the graps of the Enemy forever.'
At that point we somehow know that Frodo will be going there himself, to the Fire Mountain - how exciting is that!!! And then the whole chapter ends with Sam bursting into tears because he is finally going to see Elves. And we want to see them just as much, don't we
? Are we just as excited as Sam and as aprehensive as Frodo?
I found this chapter riveting when I first read it - but do some fail to be taken up by the long narration? Is this the point where a few people give up on the book althogther and never get to the story?
Posted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 1:20 am
Iolanthe, I think some critics have had similar thoughts about the Council of Elrond chapter: too much talk, not enough action. Shippey said it was like reading an account of a too long and not well-chaired committee meeting! But I don't agree with either criticism. What we learn in both places is that this story is not about the silly hobbits alone, but something truly earth-shaking. I was thrilled, too.
Posted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 2:25 pm
Iolanthe I suppose it would have made a difference also if the reader was digesting this stuff prior to seeing the movies. I wouldn't normally bring them into the picture but I think it would have been relevent while reading the book.
Please let me know when you all are comfortable moving on. I can whip up another thread for the next chapter when needed.
Posted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 2:36 pm
Please do so and lets move onto the next chapter.
Posted: Tue Oct 04, 2005 1:07 am
As Philipa noted, "But was Frodo’s restlessness due to the Ring? It was in his possession for nine years (?) or more. ... The Ring must have been working on Frodo for the entire time with a stronger pull to cross the river just before Gandalf’s arrival."
I missed this in the reading too. It was after Gandalf and Frodo determined the true nature of the ring that I began looking for its effects. And yes, had the feeling that "the hourglass is tipped". What a nice way to put it.
The first time I read the LOTR and I saw these words, I remember going numb, putting the book down and just coming back to them over and over ... "So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide, all we can do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us." So true.
Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2007 5:19 pm
I've just started re-reading LOTR
and this time I have forsaken my ancient, battered paperback in favour of a recently-acquired 3-Volume version. It's amazing how reading a well-loved book in a different format encourages you to look at the content in a new way. Or perhaps it's just that I'm older now . . . . I particularly noticed this passage:
'There is only one way: to find the Cracks of Doom in the depths of Orodruin, the Fire-mountain, and cast the Ring in there, if you really wish to destroy it, to put it beyond the grasp of the Enemy for ever.'
'I do really wish to destroy it!' cried Frodo.'Or, well, to have it destroyed. I am not made for perilous quests. I wish I had never seen the Ring! Why did it come to me? Why was I chosen?'
At this point Gandalf has just revealed to Frodo the true nature of the Ring and Frodo has been suggesting ways to destroy it. It struck me that at this point in the book Frodo is in exactly the same position as someone who has decided, say, to follow a particular spiritual path and found themselves immediately facing a test of some kind. Frodo's keen to see the Ring disempowered - hidden? no good. Burnt? no. Hammered? no. It has to go to the Cracks of Doom and Frodo is the only one who can start it on its journey. He is being asked, as we say, to put his money where his mouth is!
Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2007 2:43 pm
You've definitely identified a pivital point there. It is like a first 'test' - the kind that people get after the revelation of a great truth (in this case a terrible, terrifying truth). He's angry that the Ring hasn't been destroyed before and that he's been left looking after something so dangerous. But someone has to destroy it and with realisation comes responsibility. Gandalf is quite clear that Frodo has been 'chosen' at least for part of that task (did Gandalf have an inkling he would have to take it the whole way?) and he's quite clear that it's up to Frodo now to make a decision, to act on his new knowledge. It doesn't matter that it's unwanted knowledge. Through the whole dialogue Gandalf seems to be letting Frodo into the 'responsibility' part quite gently. He must keep the Ring safe, not in the Shire, and then they would see.