Aug 22 2012, 7:52am
This is a complicated question
If this was Eru's plan then it is reasonable to assume that Bilbo would also die on the trip.
Of course! Bilbo's last version of his walking-song seems clearly indicative of it:
The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.'
At least on one level, The Road is a metaphor for life; and Bilbo is clearly turning aside.
(This idea is expressed far better than I can by prof. Shippey in Author of the Century, but I think I understood it so even before reading his book.)
Note also that Bilbo's final words (in the book) are joy that he beat the Old Took by living to 131 years. Clearly time after embarking doesn't count, and Bilbo has no expectations of it.
This would be a meagre reward from Eru for their effort and pain. I do not see sound reasoning for it.
Eru is never mentioned before appendix A, and the Valar are only twice, and very opaquely. The whole strength of The Lord of the Rings is that like in the real world, we might have faith but we do not know. Had we explicitly known how Frodo is rewarded, the book would lose much of its tragic point.
Even in the Silmarillion, we do not know that Eru Himself rewards mortals for their effort and pain, and definitely not how He does it. Knowing that He is good and cares for elves and men, we can trust and believe that He does; but if so - why in Aman, of all places? This sounds more like the Elves and Valar want to keep the Ringbearers for themselves a bit, before they leave for their ultimate destiny. Even in the later letters, in which Tolkien stated that Frodo did live for some time in the Undying Lands, he called it a "purgatorio" or more pleasantly "healing".
By the way, one of the reasons hostile critics dissed The Lord of the Rings as "trash" was by their perception that no real sacrifice or pain is involved; all the good characters (except for Theoden) live happily ever after, like in any children's fairy-tale.
And as a last note - have you ever read Leaf by Niggle? One of Tolkien's short stories, which I personally love (although not everyone has a taste for religious allegory). In it, a clear vision is not a "meagre reward" but a Gift.
If they only get a glimpse of the Undying Lands why not let them die in peace in their Shire instead?
Bilbo has left the Shire forever (well, he will pass through on his way to the Havens). And Frodo cannot find peace in it any more.
However, dying in the Shire of having nothing left to live for, is being fatalistic in the opposite direction. I am not arguing that Frodo did not get to Valinor. He set out on his last, ultimate Quest. Whether he succeeded or not is a matter of faith. And I contend that leaving this to faith is exactly what makes The Lord of the Rings more meaningful, and more 'true' than Lewis' The Last Battle.
(Where is Curious? He could say this far better than I can.)
Why can they not reach the Undying Lands yet Gimli can.
Not quite! Regarding Gimli, the end of appendix A is very careful:
Here follows one of the last notes in the Red Book.
We have heard tell that Legolas took Gimli Gloin's son with him because of their great friendship, greater than any that has been between Elf and Dwarf. If this is true, then it is strange indeed: that a Dwarf should be willing to leave Middle-earth for any love, or that the Eldar should receive him, or that the Lords of the West should permit it. But it is said that Gimli went also out of desire to see again the beauty of Galadriel; and it may be that she, being mighty among the Eldar, obtained this grace for him. More cannot be said of this matter.
Also the end of appendix B has only "with him, it is said, went Gimli the dwarf" - even his embarking is a mere rumor, and nothing is said of his arriving there. The same thing goes for Sam:
1482... On September 22 Master Samwise rides out from Bag End. He comes to the Tower Hills, and is last seen by Elanor, to whom he gives the Red Book afterwards kept by the Fairbairns. Among them the tradition is handed down from Elanor that Samwise passed the Towers, and went to the Grey Havens, and passed over Sea, last of the Ring-bearers.
Once again, there is only a family tradition that he Sam left for he Havens. Of course, they can say no more.
The whole notion of going to the Undying Lands is well established in the published appendices.
Well, I've cited the sources. I think they are purposedly ambiguous, and also that therein lies their beauty.
A last thing which needs mentioning is the whole idea of being sent over the Sea as a holy mode of dying, one which Tolkien took very seriously in his retelling of the legend of King_Sheave - to which he returned twice, both in The Lost Road and in The Notion Club Papers.
"In the morning Bilbo misses breakfast. – is this the most unbelievable part of this chapter?"
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