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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
a variation on a theme, maybe


Apr 6 2008, 1:47pm

Views: 418
a variation on a theme, maybe [In reply to] Can't Post

It’s true that the discussion in this chapter lacks someone like Elrond whose power and decisiveness are not matched by Aragorn. It’s also true, I think, that the Council of Elrond chapter served other purposes that aren’t relevant here, like introducing new people to the reader, explaining past history, revealing the motivations of several people about to go on this quest...

And Frodo himself is absent, so what is the point of discussing what Frodo should do?

First, I’ll ask a similar question: what is the point of discussing what should be done with the Ring in the Council of Elrond chapter when Elrond knows what should be done? In the later chapter, Sam knows what Frodo will do even before the discussion takes place: "Plain as a pikestaff it is" (i.e. Frodo will try to go on his own once he’s screwed up his courage), and Aragorn at least knows that Frodo has to make the decision himself, but still there is discussion of other options. Frodo isn’t present at the discussion, but he is dealing with another option quite dramatically at the time: giving the Ring to Boromir.

So what is the point of discussing these possibilities when Frodo isn’t even present? To me, the general resemblance between the two chapters resides simply in the way in which people with only partial understandings or incomplete visions seem to be grasping for a course of action as if they’re lost in a fog. Some of those other options they bring up certainly seem like the easier ones. Myself, I’m sure I would be arguing for throwing the Ring to the bottom of the Sea and hoping for the best. Or being a great procrastinator, I would probably give in to the idea of taking a detour to Minas Tirith before facing the journey to Mordor. You can feel how alluring the other options are, because they would allow Frodo to throw off the burden to someone else or at least put it off for a time. There’s a whole menu of choices that can be made by which to exercise his free will. Standing out against all this muddled thinking, though, is the simple, clear, and most difficult choice, "I will take the Ring." So I think that the discussions in both chapters serve to emphasize the heroic choice that is finally made by Frodo. They also underline the idea of fate guiding the Ringbearer on an appointed path. The other possibilities, like should three people or four go with him, or should we stop him or have a vote, turn out to be irrelevant to Frodo's main purpose, although they do at least corroborate for us what Frodo already believes: that his friends would want to go with him.

Of course, they would all be wiser to observe their surroundings or make plans to fight the orcs. But by letting us see people groping for a course of action amongst various possibilities, Tolkien shows us the limitations of knowledge in most people. Only with a more complete vision of the whole situation can Frodo make his free choice and see the way he must go most clearly. In the Council of Elrond chapter, having people from the far corners of Middle-earth fill in the story of the Ring provided the big picture; in this chapter, Frodo’s vision of Middle-earth on the Seat of Seeing provides the same kind of big picture – and having seen how war is moving on all sides, Frodo makes his decision.

Certainly, I can see that there are differences in the two chapters. I think I might see them as variations on a theme; the second time around there’s a similar scene but with some decrease in power and certainty: there’s that power vacuum you see in this chapter. The first time around, they formed a cohesive fellowship and set out together; this time, they scatter and fragment into groups. They’re not as safe as they were in Rivendell, and there’s no one as powerful and certain as Elrond or Gandalf guiding them – things are getting worse – but the end result is the same: against a background of uncertainty and the natural desire to do easier things, Frodo sees the whole state of affairs and makes his decision, and Sam takes steps, unbidden, to go with him.

Subject User Time
Breaking of the Fellowship part 5 Milady Send a private message to Milady Apr 5 2008, 12:47am
    Ok, I'll try a few of these... Laerasëa Send a private message to Laerasëa Apr 5 2008, 4:03am
    Thoughts. Curious Send a private message to Curious Apr 5 2008, 3:12pm
    I'm reminded of Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Apr 5 2008, 7:49pm
        This council, however, is incomplete. Curious Send a private message to Curious Apr 5 2008, 8:11pm
            a variation on a theme, maybe Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Apr 6 2008, 1:47pm
                Contrasting variations, then. Curious Send a private message to Curious Apr 7 2008, 1:02pm
                    By definition Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Apr 8 2008, 5:17pm
                        I agree. Curious Send a private message to Curious Apr 8 2008, 7:40pm
                        Nice point about the “Big Picture”. // N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Mar 22 2009, 9:03am
        That's interesting Milady Send a private message to Milady Apr 5 2008, 10:08pm
    Collapse sador Send a private message to sador Apr 5 2008, 9:58pm
    Panic in the Ranks Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Apr 6 2008, 11:58pm
    One thing FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Apr 7 2008, 4:51pm
    Well Darkstone Send a private message to Darkstone Apr 8 2008, 6:12pm


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