Our Sponsor Sideshow Collectibles Send us News
Lord of the Rings Tolkien
Search Tolkien
Lord of The RingsTheOneRing.net - Forged By And For Fans Of JRR Tolkien
Lord of The Rings Serving Middle-Earth Since The First Age

Lord of the Rings Movie News - J.R.R. Tolkien
Do you enjoy the 100% volunteer, not for profit services of TheOneRing.net?
Consider a donation!

  Main Index   Search Posts   Who's Online   Log in
The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
LotR Free Discussion: Are there any moral dilemmas in Middle-earth?
First page Previous page 1 2 3 Next page Last page  View All

Curious
Half-elven


Mar 18 2009, 12:20pm

Post #1 of 73 (820 views)
Shortcut
LotR Free Discussion: Are there any moral dilemmas in Middle-earth? Can't Post

Are there any moral quandries, any difficulty determining the moral choice? Or is it always a choice between the hard moral answer and the easier but wrong moral answer? For example, when Frodo is choosing between Minas Tirith and Gondor, is there any question which is the moral choice?

Come to think of it, maybe that is an example of a moral dilemma, but not for Frodo. Maybe that's a moral dilemma for Frodo's friends, and particularly for Aragorn; whether to send Frodo to Mordor, or to accompany him there. Maybe that's why fate had to intervene. And maybe Merry and Pippin, who argued that Frodo shouldn't be allowed to cross the River and head to Mordor, also faced a moral dilemma; whether to rescue their friend from a horrible fate, or to allow him to accomplish his mission.

Do you agree that Frodo's friends faced a moral dilemma at the end of FotR? Can you think of other possible examples?


entmaiden
Forum Admin / Moderator


Mar 18 2009, 1:40pm

Post #2 of 73 (241 views)
Shortcut
I'm wondering if [In reply to] Can't Post

Gandalf and Elrond allowing Frodo to take the Ring is also a moral dilemma. They know he is not equipped for the task, yet they let him go to what they think is certain death. I think Gandalf's motivation is he's letting Fate make the decision for him - he believes that Frodo was meant to have the Ring. I'm less certain of Elrond's reasons for allowing it to happen, because we don't know Elrond well.

The moral dilemma here is that Gandalf and Elrond are weighing the fate of one person against the fate of the entire world. If the Ring is not destroyed, Sauron will undoubtedly get it back and Middle-earth will be enslaved. The dilemma is somewhat mitigated because Frodo makes the choice, but his is choosing without all the facts, and Gandalf and Elrond withhold some of those facts.

Each cloak was fastened about the neck with a brooch like a green leaf veined with silver.
`Are these magic cloaks?' asked Pippin, looking at them with wonder.
`I do not know what you mean by that,' answered the leader of the Elves.


NARF since 1974.
Balin Bows


Darkstone
Immortal


Mar 18 2009, 2:18pm

Post #3 of 73 (231 views)
Shortcut
Many. [In reply to] Can't Post

Are there any moral quandries, any difficulty determining the moral choice?

Aragorn's anguish at Amon Hen is an excellent example.


Or is it always a choice between the hard moral answer and the easier but wrong moral answer?

I think it depends on how much you get into the story. If Tolkien does his job and the reader is *in* Middle-earth then the moral dilemmas of the characters become much more harder to resolve. If however the reader is comfortable, distant, and totally aware that this is just a story then the correct moral choices become obvious. It's like how everyone else's problems are easy to fix while the solution to one's own is difficult.


Do you agree that Frodo's friends faced a moral dilemma at the end of FotR?

There was the ultimate moral choice of intervention against someone's free will. M&P felt obligated to forcibly restrain Frodo for his own good.


Can you think of other possible examples?

Quite a few:


Bilbo:

Adopting Frodo.
Learning Sam his letters.


Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin:

Going on adventures.


Merry:

Obey Theoden.


Pippin:

Obey Denethor.


Merry and Pippin:

The Conspiracy.


Sam:

Spying on his master.
Abandoning Bill.
Continuing on with Frodo after Galadriel’s Mirror.
Continue on after Frodo’s death.
Suicide.


Frodo and Aragorn:

Adopting false personas.


Aragorn:

Wait for the right time to claim the throne.
Oppose his foster father.
Court Arwen.


Gandalf:

Oppose his superior.
Intervention in sovereign states.
Sacrifice the few for the many.


The Council of Elrond:

How to get Frodo to think it’s his idea to take the ring.


Gimli:

Cooperate with an Elf.
Recognize worth in an Enemy.


Legolas:

Cooperate with a Dwarf.
Recognize worth in an Enemy.

Boromir:

Cooperate with folly.


Elrond:

Appointing Merry and Pippin as the last two Walkers.


Elrond and Gimli:

Whether to bond the Fellowship with an oath.


Faramir:

Letting Frodo go.
Wasting lives doing his father’s bidding regarding the defense of the river.


Theoden and Eowyn:

Riding to Gondor.


Treebeard:

Fight evil and become extinct.


Galadriel:

Take the ring.


Celeborn:

Assist folly.


The Dunedain:

Ride to Rohan and abandon the Shire.

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



Curious
Half-elven


Mar 18 2009, 2:35pm

Post #4 of 73 (220 views)
Shortcut
Yes, I can see that. [In reply to] Can't Post

In particular, Gandalf, like Aragorn, may have faced a moral dilemma when he was deciding whether to accompany Frodo to Mordor. And, as with Aragorn, Fate intervened. Elrond seems to have foreseen these moral dilemmas in his discussion with Gimli, when Elrond refused to burden anyone but Frodo with the mission to go to Mount Doom.

And perhaps, as you say, Elrond himself faced a moral dilemma, not only about how best to help Frodo but also about how best to help the Shire, which he realized would be vulnerable. And perhaps Gandalf faced a moral dilemma when he urged Elrond to send Merry and Pippin with Frodo and Sam, instead of sending them back to the Shire to protect their homeland. Speaking of which, I wonder if the Rangers faced a moral dilemma when Galadriel sent word that they were needed in Gondor, or if Galadriel faced a moral dilemma when she sent word, knowing that would make the Shire and Bree vulnerable to ruffians.

Theoden may have faced a moral dilemma when asked to come to Gondor's rescue, knowing that Rohan was also likely to be attacked. Eowyn may have faced a moral dilemma when she decided to go with Theoden against his orders and despite the fact that she really was needed at home.

Aragorn may have faced a moral dilemma when he contemplated whether to use the palantir. Gandalf may have faced a moral dilemma when he contemplated whether to lead the Fellowship into Mordor. Denethor may have faced a moral dilemma when he send Faramir to the front lines even though he was sick -- after all, it may have been the wrong decision, but I think Denethor had the interests of Gondor in mind.

For me, the moral dilemmas in LotR don't involve personal risk, they involve putting others at risk. And now that I think it through, there are decisions that put others at risk. Some of those decisions proved so difficult that Fate intervened.

But the hobbits rarely made such decisions themselves, because they rarely think of themselves as protectors of the weak and innocent -- until the Scouring, when they are in charge of a rebellion, and face the moral dilemma of how much violence is acceptable. Frodo is very conscious of that dilemma, although most of the other hobbits are oblivious.


sador
Half-elven

Mar 18 2009, 2:38pm

Post #5 of 73 (234 views)
Shortcut
Yes [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, I agree Aragorn's dilemma and the end of FotR is a moral dilemma.
And so is Sam's, at the end of TTT.

But any others? Of course there are:
Was Boromir so clearly wrong in resisting the madness of Frodo going to Mount Doom?
What possessed Frodo to offer the Ring to Galadriel?
Was Theoden right in letting Grima go free? I agree, there was no harm done. But was Treebeard right in letting Saruman and Grima?
Was Eowyn morally right to desert, even if she went to battlefield? Remember what Aragorn told her!
Even Faramir's applauded choice - did you notice that Denethor upbraids him mainly on moral grounds, in sacrificing his family and people for the sake of an inflated self-image?
And there is also Gandalf's choice whether to pursue the Witch-king to the Pelennor fields, or to go up to the Citadel and try rescue Faramir (remember, he did not know Beregond is going to betray his duty).

And of course - all our heroes struggle against the greatest moral canker: despair, giving up trying and just falling asleep.

"Half a sticky mile from here to the gate!" - Pippin


entmaiden
Forum Admin / Moderator


Mar 18 2009, 6:09pm

Post #6 of 73 (250 views)
Shortcut
I know we've discussed Eowyn before [In reply to] Can't Post

and I'm still in the camp that she made the wrong decision and left her people. That's one of the few examples where a character faced a moral decision and (in my opinion, anyway) made the wrong choice. Most of the rest of the decisions were the right ones.

I'm not so sure the Rangers had a moral decision. We don't know how many were left behind to protect the Shire, so it might not have been vulnerable to attack.

I think Theoden did face a moral dilemma, but he tried to mitigate it by leaving his daughter behind. He considered her to be a leader equivalent to her brother, so it was less of a dilemma for him.

Good point about the hobbits - they were largely passive through the story (with the possible exception of Frodo) until they returned home. Interestingly, Frodo reverts to passivity during the Scouring.

Each cloak was fastened about the neck with a brooch like a green leaf veined with silver.
`Are these magic cloaks?' asked Pippin, looking at them with wonder.
`I do not know what you mean by that,' answered the leader of the Elves.


NARF since 1974.
Balin Bows


(This post was edited by entmaiden on Mar 18 2009, 6:10pm)


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 18 2009, 6:49pm

Post #7 of 73 (232 views)
Shortcut
Not exactly. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Interestingly, Frodo reverts to passivity during the Scouring.

I see Frodo as very actively attempting to reduce violence -- not active in the sense that the other hobbits would appreciate, but not passively standing by, either.

Indeed, one could argue that in certain situations fighting is a form of passivity, if you are doing it because everyone else is and contrary to personal convictions, i.e. "just following orders." Pacifism, on the other hand, can be quite active, and not at all passive, especially when everyone else is up in arms and you are not only refusing to bear arms but attempting to protect prisoners and calm a mob.


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Mar 18 2009, 8:20pm

Post #8 of 73 (206 views)
Shortcut
Choices of Master Samwise [In reply to] Can't Post

Before I realized that you would post another thread, I set forth that Sam agonized over moral choices over Frodo's seemingly dead body. Leave Frodo behind or stay to defend his body? Take the Ring or not? Take charge or stay in his place? Avenge Frodo or complete the mission? Seek permission or move forward? None of these came easily to him, and ultimately he didn't stick with his original decision.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Mar 18 2009, 8:24pm

Post #9 of 73 (216 views)
Shortcut
It gets even worse than that. [In reply to] Can't Post

Elrond and Gandalf knowingly expose an innocent hobbit to the most addictive thing in Middle Earth. They gamble on hobbits maybe being more resistent, but ultimately they know that Frodo cannot resist forever. They don't merely send him to likely death (which he ultimately evades by the providence of Manwe's eagles) but to certain corruption--which destroys his ability to ever return to his happy life in the Shire, no matter how hard he tries.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Mar 18 2009, 8:31pm

Post #10 of 73 (198 views)
Shortcut
Rangers and Frodo [In reply to] Can't Post

Evidently the Rangers did not have enough men to both protect the north and aid Aragorn in the south, because the Shire did get invaded, and Bree saw people murdered.

As for Frodo, he did not exactly become passive. He became pacifistic. He actively spoke up for doing right by everyone, even villains.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Darkstone
Immortal


Mar 18 2009, 8:40pm

Post #11 of 73 (202 views)
Shortcut
A true pacifist. [In reply to] Can't Post

Most of the supposed pacifists I've met are pretty violent verbally. And it's well established that words can harm just as much as fists.

The very few true pacifists I've met I admire greatly. They have far more courage than I could ever dream of having. I am in awe of them.

Frodo is a true pacifist.

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



Menelwyn
Rohan


Mar 18 2009, 8:41pm

Post #12 of 73 (193 views)
Shortcut
another one [In reply to] Can't Post

for some minor characters, namely Denethor's men, who have the choice whether to obey Denethor and thus assist in his suicide and in his intention to burn Faramir, or to disobey their duty (their oaths?) and oppose Denethor. Note that for all Aragorn's mercy Beregond still got exiled from the city for his choice, which means that there is something still wrong about what he did despite him making what in retrospect was the right choice.


Tolkien Forever
Gondor

Mar 18 2009, 8:43pm

Post #13 of 73 (249 views)
Shortcut
Actually [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not so sure the Rangers had a moral decision. We don't know how many were left behind to protect the Shire, so it might not have been vulnerable to attack.


Well, yes we do know.....

Barliman Butterbur specifically tells the Hobbits & Gandalf "You see, we're not used to such troubles. The Rangers have all gone away, folks tell me. I don't think we've rightly understood what they did for us. There's been worse than robbers around..."

The Rangers didn't just stand around & let the Ruffians take over when they were supposed to be watching the borders either.


I'm not so sure Eowyn was making any moral right or wrong choice either - it wasn't a decision based on her desire to fight versus her legal responibility to lead the reminant of the Rohirrim. That would be easy - the moral thing is to follow your orders. Tolkien in no way presents Eowyn as being in a moral delemma.
He clearly paints her as being being a love stricken, feeling rejected, 'There's no point in my living' suicidal person wrapped in their own pity, full of despair, simply seeking death.



a.s.
Valinor


Mar 18 2009, 10:59pm

Post #14 of 73 (227 views)
Shortcut
Frodo faces a moral dilemma! [In reply to] Can't Post

He must choose between self-preservation and saving other lives. Self-preservation is a moral decision, is it not--it is surely moral to decide not to kill oneself? And so is the saving of another life, or lives in this case.

Isn't that a moral dilemma by definition? Being faced with two moral decisions but not able to do both? In this case, Frodo does not feel he can do both, anyway. He fully expects that taking the Ring to Mordor means he will die. At least that's my interpretation of his action. So he cannot both preserve his own life and save other lives, and that is his dilemma.

Isn't it?

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana


Call Her Emily


Mmatmuor
Registered User

Mar 19 2009, 3:25am

Post #15 of 73 (190 views)
Shortcut
Gollum anybody? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm surprised no one's mentioned Frodo refusing to kill Gollum. Yes there was a practical reason (use him as a guide) but he had to have suspected how the ring would affect Gollum and that he would eventually be betrayed. The choice presented to Frodo seems to have both good and bad points to each side. Kill Gollum or not to kill Gollum. That is the question and the central moral dilemma of the book IMHO

(Hoody Hoo, First post).


Aunt Dora Baggins
Half-elven


Mar 19 2009, 3:51am

Post #16 of 73 (180 views)
Shortcut
Welcome, Mmatmuor! [In reply to] Can't Post

Excellent first post! I don't have any answers, but it certainly is a moral dilemma.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Curious
Half-elven


Mar 19 2009, 6:09am

Post #17 of 73 (163 views)
Shortcut
Yes, and Frodo binding Gollum [In reply to] Can't Post

to his service also presented a moral dilemma, as some (notably NZ Strider on this board) have suggested it was an act of domination that opened Frodo up to the Ring. Also, Frodo lying to Gollum at the Forbidden Pool presented a moral dilemma. The whole relationship with Gollum was filled with moral pitfalls, for Bilbo, Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas and the elves, Frodo, and Sam. Gollum did not always act like an orc and could not be treated like an orc, yet he could not be trusted, either. For Frodo, Gollum was also the rare creature weaker than himself who came under his protection, and for whom he became responsible, something that did not happen again until he returned to the Shire, and became responsible for his fellow hobbits during the Scouring.

Great point! And welcome!


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 19 2009, 6:20am

Post #18 of 73 (173 views)
Shortcut
Placing your life in danger [In reply to] Can't Post

for a worthy cause is not the same as suicide. I don't think there was any question in Frodo's mind about whether it was moral to put his life in danger -- just the question of whether he had the strength to see it through. Most of the characters are quite willing to place their own lives in danger -- it becomes trickier, though, when the moral choice seems to require placing other people's lives in danger, such as sending Frodo off to Mordor, or, for Frodo, bringing anyone with him to Mordor.


(This post was edited by Curious on Mar 19 2009, 6:21am)


a.s.
Valinor


Mar 19 2009, 10:10am

Post #19 of 73 (171 views)
Shortcut
we'll have to agree to disagree, because [In reply to] Can't Post

I interpret the story to mean that Frodo knew exactly that he was volunteering to die (even if he was spared by grace), and that he was choosing certain death over saving his own skin--and not just death but torment. His decisions involved more than placing his life in danger. He was more than brave. They were all brave.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana


Call Her Emily


entmaiden
Forum Admin / Moderator


Mar 19 2009, 12:53pm

Post #20 of 73 (151 views)
Shortcut
I think I'm with Curious on this one, a.s. [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think Frodo saw the choice between voluntary death and the opportunity to save himself. I think his choice was to offer himself so that others could survive over the destruction of Middle-earth. He knew he was the best person to take the Ring, but he was afraid of what that would mean. I don't think Frodo would ever consider that his alternative was to save himself - his life was bound up with what would happen to Middle-earth - and he felt there was no alternative. In order for there to be a dilemma, there has to be an alternative, but for Frodo the alternative never was to save himself.

Each cloak was fastened about the neck with a brooch like a green leaf veined with silver.
`Are these magic cloaks?' asked Pippin, looking at them with wonder.
`I do not know what you mean by that,' answered the leader of the Elves.


NARF since 1974.
Balin Bows


a.s.
Valinor


Mar 19 2009, 2:21pm

Post #21 of 73 (127 views)
Shortcut
that's all right, I won't hold it against you! :-) // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

"an seileachan"

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana


Call Her Emily


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 19 2009, 2:27pm

Post #22 of 73 (144 views)
Shortcut
Martyrdom is not suicide either. [In reply to] Can't Post

It's a dilemma, to be sure, and no one would blame Frodo if he weakened at the prospect (just as no one blamed him for weakening at Mount Doom). But it's not moral dilemma, because it is not a sin to die for a worthy cause, even if you know there is a 100% chance of death. And, as Sam told the rest of the Fellowship, Frodo had no doubt about what he should do, he just got weak at the knees when he thought about doing it -- and he did question whether it was right to bring anyone with him. That I see as a moral dilemma.


Darkstone
Immortal


Mar 19 2009, 2:36pm

Post #23 of 73 (186 views)
Shortcut
A fate worse than death. [In reply to] Can't Post

"If they had succeeded, you would have become like they are, only weaker and under their command. You would have became a wraith under the dominion of the Dark Lord; and he would have tormented you for trying to keep his Ring, if any greater torment were possible than being robbed of it and seeing it on his hand."

It is one thing to risk death fighting Evil. It is quite another to risk eternal damnation in servitude to Evil.

Yes, Frodo's choice was indeed a moral dilemma!

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



(This post was edited by Darkstone on Mar 19 2009, 2:38pm)


sador
Half-elven

Mar 19 2009, 2:40pm

Post #24 of 73 (150 views)
Shortcut
Could that justify suicide? [In reply to] Can't Post

Even in a Catholic frame?

It seems that this is what Denethor was actually fearing.

"Half a sticky mile from here to the gate!" - Pippin


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 19 2009, 3:11pm

Post #25 of 73 (165 views)
Shortcut
Now that's an interesting argument, [In reply to] Can't Post

and a different one. But did Frodo really have any choice about keeping the Ring, and thus risking damnation? Gandalf and Galadriel wouldn't take it from him, nor would anyone at Elrond's council. Only Boromir is willing, and Frodo knows that would be wrong. I'm not sure Frodo puts himself at any more risk of damnation by accepting the mission to Mordor. Look at Gollum. Hiding with the Ring certainly did him no good.

First page Previous page 1 2 3 Next page Last page  View All
 
 

Search for (options) Powered by Gossamer Forum v.1.2.3

home | advertising | contact us | back to top | search news | join list | Content Rating

This site is maintained and updated by fans of The Lord of the Rings, and is in no way affiliated with Tolkien Enterprises or the Tolkien Estate. We in no way claim the artwork displayed to be our own. Copyrights and trademarks for the books, films, articles, and other promotional materials are held by their respective owners and their use is allowed under the fair use clause of the Copyright Law. Design and original photography however are copyright © 1999-2012 TheOneRing.net. Binary hosting provided by Nexcess.net

Do not follow this link, or your host will be blocked from this site. This is a spider trap.