Aug 8 2017, 6:09am
I've seen this explanation of the voice before, and have liked it.
One of the cases in which I am in the minority at the RR, is that I tend to believe that free will is supreme, and that a truly pure Frodo would have been able to cast the Ring in the Fire. It seems clear that Sauron does fear it (he did not fear Frodo would be able to cast him down, and Gollum as an unwitting agent of the Valar did not occur to him) - and even if resisting addiction becomes nearly impossible over a period of time, it is possible to postpone it for long enough to make a momentary decision, like flinging the Ring to the Fire. Maybe Grace is needed - but Tolkien fully believed in Grace, and a truly pure Frodo would be granted it.
The way I see it, is that Frodo failed because he got used to using the Ring to intimidate Gollum three times already - in The Taming of Sméagol, in The Black Gate is Closed, and in The Forbidden Pool. Three times do have a meaning - they mean that Frodo has succumbed to temptation, and at the Sammath Naur he has already fallen - so he uses it to dominate Gollum (however, not fully enough to keep up the domination when his back is turned), and then he goes to the Sammath Naur to emerge as the new Ring-maker (symbolically - but after all, he could have destroyed it but rather saved it, so he gave it a new existence), and claim it for his own.
However, this position is usually attacked - because of the incident in Bag End when Frodo balked at casting the Ring into his fire place (but a moment lately gave it to Gandalf for this very purpose), but mostly because of some of Tolkien's letters, in which he himself explained that Frodo was unable to resist the Ring.
But I still disagree - even with the author himself. For one thing, he very often had changed his mind (one need just read through HoME a bit and will encounter many such occasions), so this does not necessarily reflect the book as written; and also, at the same time he wrote those letters, he was working of the tale of Turin - in which Hurin did resist for a long time a far greater pressure by a far stronger adversary than Sauron.
Also, in the Manichaean-Boethian dichotomy (for which nowizardme cited Prof. Shippey upthread - and lest you think me wise or learned, I hasten to admit I got from the same source ) - the idea that Frodo would be unable to destroy the Ring is strictly Manichaean. So it diminishes the story; and moreover (as Shippey himself notes), Tolkien as a Catholic would know it is condemned as a heresy. If confronted, he would agree that free will with Grace can overcome even the Ring. And even had he been an atheist materialist, I would personally refuse to read the book this way.
As it turned out, Frodo was neither pure nor resisted the temptation of the Ring; so Grace did work, but not through him - rather by the crazed and thoroughly corrupted Gollum.
And all this is not to condemn Frodo: I make no claim that I, or anybody I know, would be able to do any better than him.
However, I fully agree with Prof. Shippey that much of the power of LotR is in the dichotomy. In a way, this is like the real world - one can see in it the hand of G-d, or a struggle between Him and the Devil, or as bereft of the influence of any supernatural Powers. And LotR clearly reflects it - which is why agnostics can relate to the book, while The Silmarillion will always be a work of fantasy for them.
Therefore, the Manichaean-Boethian dichotomy needs to be valid - i.e., I contend that both readings need to be (as near as possible) equally plausible: that Frodo simply failed, or that he was overcome by too strong a power.to resist.
However, if we want to follow the Manichaean reading to its utmost conclusion, I think your reading of the shining figure in white with a wheel of fire in its midst is the correct one - the Ring has taken over the Frodo-husk, and is threatening Gollum itself. Ironically, that would lead to its own destruction.
And this is not the first time such a thing happened. On Amon Hen, Frodo
heard himself crying out: Never, never! Or was it: Verily I come, I come to you? He could not tell.
And in the next paragraph
Suddenly, he was aware of himself again. Frodo, neither the Voice nor the Eye: free to choose and with one remaining instant in which to do so.
As Prof. Shippey points out, the words Verily I come, I come to you seem to be not Frodo's own, but somehow of a foreign will, reflecting a response to the command of the Eye. Assuning a Manichaean framework, that foreign will is most simply identified as that of the Ring.
However, even in this reading, Frodo did receive help by the second voice (which Gandalf later declares was his).
And his own free will triumphed.
But at this stage he was not yet worn down by thirst, weariness, physical harm (was he tortured in the tower of Cirith Ungol and how? Tolkien does not tell) and the sheer psychological burden of resisting constant temptations - both to take up the Ring, and to just give up.
And at this stage he had not really used the Ring yet. He had arguably exposed both Galadriel and Boromir, and at the very least he had used it to escape the latter - but he had not used it as a threat, to beat others to submission. However, in book IV he had done this three times already - which left him unable to resist to the end.
I hope all of this makes sense.