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What are the tests that LOTR characters must pass?
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CuriousG
Half-elven


May 31 2017, 12:52pm

Post #1 of 51 (3218 views)
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What are the tests that LOTR characters must pass? Can't Post

Galadriel explicitly mentions hers at her Mirror when offered the Ring by Frodo.

FFH in a recent post mentioned Frodo being tested by encountering Gollum while Aragorn has passed his test of doubt at Parth Galen and become more confident.

I'm not going to define what a test is, because it's different for every character. Nor would I suggest every character is given one by Tolkien. Still, it got me thinking, so here's my list. See if you agree/disagree and can think of others:

Feanor: when asked by the Valar to surrender the Silmarils to revive the Two Trees that have just been killed.

Gandalf vs. the Balrog. (Should he fight & reveal his power, or was there another way, like breaking the bridge, which almost worked.)

Frodo: at the end of the Council where he accepted the Ring. Then other tests such as in the Barrow he thought of using the Ring to escape and leaving his friends behind. Meeting Gollum. Maybe on Amon Hen? And did he have his own test at Galadriel's Mirror, which was why his nerve failed and he offered the Ring to her, which of course meant abandoning the quest he'd agreed to?

Sam: when he thought Frodo had died & was going to go on without him, then later when the Ring tempted him to become Gardener of Mordor.

Merry: choosing between playing dead or attacking the Witch-king.

Pippin: I want to say that disobeying Denethor and seeking Gandalf to save Faramir was his test, yet he did it with very little inner struggle. So, not sure he had a test.

Denethor: his test was did he die fighting for a doomed Gondor (in his mind), or take death early and kill his son too?

Gimli & Legolas: more subtle, but they could have maintained their noncombative animosity, but somehow cleared a moral hurdle and not only made peace, but became friends.

Boromir: I'm in doubt on this one. He died trying to save M&P to redeem himself for the attack on Frodo, but I think that was the test, and he failed. I'm not sure trying to make up for a failed test counts as another test. What do you think? Similarly, I don't think The Dead passed any test by helping Aragorn fight the Corsairs; they were just making amends for the test they failed while alive.

Gollum: he faced a test of confession to Frodo & Sam after his meeting with Shelob to betray them, and Sam helped him fail it.

Luthien: I think she initially ran from Beren because she knew that to love him would end in mortality (or some heavy duty choice) for her, and it frightened her. But she passed that test, and the rest is history.

Looking at these examples, I don't think Tolkien's tests are just about a heroic act of courage but rather about an inner moral or spiritual struggle. Does it seem he consciously set them up for most of his characters, or was it perhaps more unconscious?


noWizardme
Valinor


May 31 2017, 3:26pm

Post #2 of 51 (3139 views)
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some first thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post

This is an intriguing topic.

I agree that there's no need to assume that every character will have a test - I don't think Tolkien wrote to the kind of formula where every character had to face a test, or have a flaw, or a key colour, attribute etc. etc.

I notice that your 'tests' are of different kinds. Galadriel's is a crisis (as in "The turning point of a disease when an important change takes place, indicating either recovery or death." ) That's the earliest definition of 'crisis' , coming from Greek krisis ‘decision’, from krinein ‘decide’. The arrival of the Ring forces Galadriel into a 'things can never be the same again' moment - she must either decide to take the Ring and become The Dark Queen, or to assist it on it's way and wait to see if Frodo destroys it, or Sauron gets it. Lorien is doomed down any route.

I suppose that other 'tests' might involve a 'business as usual' option. If Bilbo had not run off after the dwarves, nothing dramatic would immediately have happened. Presumably, life would have continued on at its suffocating course. Maybe a further chance to break out into adventure would have happened, maybe not. As Sam says of some folk in tales:

Quote
I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn't. And if they had, we shouldn't know, because they'd have been forgotten.

TT


~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


CuriousG
Half-elven


May 31 2017, 6:41pm

Post #3 of 51 (3125 views)
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Good point about outcomes involved [In reply to] Can't Post

Galadriel had to choose between 2 awful outcomes: becoming evil herself, or losing Lorien and going West to become almost a nobody (or staying local and becoming a rustic folk of hill an dell). Contrast that with Frodo at the Council: had he not stepped forward, he could have spent the rest of his life in Bag End or at Rivendell, happily ever after, and let someone else carry the Ring to Mt Doom.

I won't run through all the others, but Merry vs the Witch-King was similar to Frodo in the Barrow: fight for your friend(s), or escape and live while they probably die.

Denethor was like Galadriel in facing nothing but bad choices: doomed to a last act of will (suicide), or being butchered in the sack of Minas Tirith, or in case of victory, being deposed by an upstart from Arnor.

I don't think Tolkien was writing to a formula either. I'd suggest it was a personal disposition of his that most people face at least One Big Decision in life that is a turning point for them, so it influenced his writing. And maybe it's better to call it One Big Decision than a test. In that sense, I think Fingolfin faced The Big One when he thought the Noldor were defeated and he raced off to personally fight Melkor. He didn't have to and could have stayed in Hithlum, weathering assault after assault until they were beaten down at last. Instead he chose to go out fighting and hopefully do as much damage to the Enemy as he could.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 1 2017, 11:08am

Post #4 of 51 (3101 views)
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"Trousers of Time" moments? [In reply to] Can't Post

I liked your idea of 'tests' and I hope I didn't seem to be quibbling about terminology. I also like your moments of 'Big Decision' idea - I'm seeing this as in a way quite similar, but perhaps with more of a focus on the results of the character's decision, rather that what the 'test' reveals about their character. Both are interesting ways to think about pivotal moments in the plot, or in character development (which in any case are often intertwined)!

It was also reminding me of this...


Quote
“Vimes felt the air thicken, as though history was clustering around this point, but for the life of him he couldn’t think why. This was one of those points where the Trousers of Time bifurcated themselves, and if you weren’t careful you’d go down the wrong leg -- "

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett


Again the idea is that a simple choice (or simple-seeming choice) might have profound and ongoing consequences. A Tolkien example would be Bilbo deciding to escape from the Misty Mountains without killing Gollum. Obviously there are plot consequences (Gollum is needed for the destruction of the Ring). Tolkien also suggests that there are consequences for Bilbo, and had he gone down 'the other trouser leg' then perhaps he would not have been able to surrender the Ring.

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


Eruonen
Valinor


Jun 1 2017, 3:22pm

Post #5 of 51 (3086 views)
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Sacrifice and loyalty - love for others - seem to be the dominant themes. [In reply to] Can't Post

All of which can be seen from JRR Tolkien's personal experiences and religious outlook.

https://books.google.com/...acrifice&f=false


(This post was edited by Eruonen on Jun 1 2017, 3:23pm)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 1 2017, 3:41pm

Post #6 of 51 (3079 views)
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Excellent [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, these themes are very often what the tests are about. Good point - I was bumbling on abut the circumstances of tests. Those vary, and finding the themes instead is a good approach, I think.
I think "sacrifice and loyalty - love for others" takes in pity (and or mercy); and the need to serve, which are the matter of some tests.

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Jun 1 2017, 3:43pm)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 1 2017, 3:52pm

Post #7 of 51 (3077 views)
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I fear I've conflated and confused things.... [In reply to] Can't Post

'Tests' and 'Big Decisions' are something a character would definitely notice because of experiencing some inward struggle. They are trying to do the right thing but the alternative is so tempting; or they are trying to act in some way that is different from their habitual way.

We're pretty much always going to need the author's prompts to see those, I think. Otherwise, we're left with personal preference and guesswork (e.g. does Pippin announce that he wants to join the expedition out of Rivendell only after many sleepless nights, or was it never a struggle for him?)

People acting in character can of course do something with serious consequences - e.g. some orc at Cirith Ungol started a fight over the prisoner's loot, or Butterbur forgot to send Frodo's letter. Or noWiz overthinks things. But probably that's a different covefefe...

Apologies if my tangent was unhelpful

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


Maciliel
Valinor


Jun 4 2017, 4:04am

Post #8 of 51 (3015 views)
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tests of tolkien's characters [In reply to] Can't Post

 
the valar -- resisting the urge to call the elves to aman

elwe / thingol -- resisting the urge to challenge beren to reclaim a silmaril in exchange for luthien's hand

turgon -- to heed the warnings foretold (he heeded the first, then failed at the second)


cheers --

.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


dreamflower
Lorien

Jun 4 2017, 11:33am

Post #9 of 51 (2994 views)
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Bilbo [In reply to] Can't Post

I think Bilbo's greatest test was when he had to choose whether to spare Gollum.

In fact, I think it was his choice of mercy that set the whole rest of the epic in action.

Pippin had several tests: he passed the test to take initiative when he and Merry were captured and Merry was unconscious, forcing Pippin to take the lead; he failed the test to not look in the palantir; but he passed the test in Minas Tirith. Pippin was a Took, and made his choices on impulse. That he made them quickly doesn't mean he wasn't tested.

I think Tolkien's tests for his characters simply flowed from his knowing them so well. He instinctively knew what would challenge them and how they would respond. As a master storyteller, he knew no story advances without growth for the characters, and growth cannot be measured without a test along the way.

Some people call it fanfiction. I call it story-internal literary criticism.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 4 2017, 10:14pm

Post #10 of 51 (2972 views)
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Good points, Mac, and nice to see you here [In reply to] Can't Post

Those were all people failing tests. And we could add Orodreth ignoring the warning from Ulmo that Nargothrond would be destroyed, but then there are LOTS of ignored prophecies, or Melian wouldn't have had a job.

Thingol's failed test makes a great contrast to Galadriel passing hers, given that she had long lived with him and her woodland kingdom was similar to his (though above-ground).


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 4 2017, 10:16pm

Post #11 of 51 (2970 views)
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Bilbo's pity certainly decided the fate of many--meaning the whole world [In reply to] Can't Post

And I like your summary too:

Quote
I think Tolkien's tests for his characters simply flowed from his knowing them so well. He instinctively knew what would challenge them and how they would respond.




CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 4 2017, 10:27pm

Post #12 of 51 (2972 views)
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Well, this was your test, Wiz [In reply to] Can't Post

trying to see if you'd conflate, confuse, or covfefe on us. Smile

I think we like good drama in a story that's not overdone. We couldn't have a Galadriel-like test in every chapter, or it would get tedious, but sprinkle them around the book, and they liven things up.

I missed the most obvious test, probably: Frodo at the Crack of Doom, when he fails a test after passing so many others. And I was thinking how that's always a wrenching moment in the books for me, because he and Sam have come so far and sacrificed their health and--without Deus Ex Machina Eagles--sacrificed their lives on a one-way journey, and it falls apart at the end. That is drama enough for me, but the movies didn't think so, and felt the need to add Frodo dangling over a cliff. But maybe you have to read the books to really be inside the situation in a way you can't in a movie.

Saruman fails significant tests twice, which I think is more than anyone: first with Gandalf after Isengard is ruined, and second with Frodo when the hobbits have scoured the Shire.


dreamflower
Lorien

Jun 5 2017, 1:29pm

Post #13 of 51 (2940 views)
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Thank you! [In reply to] Can't Post

I've given a lot of thought to how important that moment was, and have even written it into fanfic.

Was it a coincidence that the Eagles helped the Company only AFTER Bilbo spared Gollum? My headcanon is that it was NOT!

But then, that's just my own speculation.

Some people call it fanfiction. I call it story-internal literary criticism.


Entwife Wandlimb
Lorien


Jun 5 2017, 3:20pm

Post #14 of 51 (2943 views)
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Aragorn and Arwen's final test - despair, also Faramir [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't have time this morning to read everyone's responses so forgive me if I am repeating someone else's remarks.

I the Appendix, as Aragorn dies, he says to Arwen: "But let us not be overthrown at the final test, who of old renounced the Shadow and the Ring. In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound for ever tot eh circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory."

I take this to mean that the final test is to not despair. This seems to be Sam and Frodo's major acheivement, that they persevered as long as possible, and Denethor's major failing.

I think of Gandalf at the Council of Elrond: "Despair, or folly?...Is is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope."

And Aragorn at the Last Debate: "We come now to the very brink, where hope and despair are akin. To waver is to fall. Let none now reject the counsels of Gandalf, whose long labours against Sauron come at last to their test.”

A fool's hope to risk everything on the chance that a small hobbit can destroy the Ring before it destroys him. The test is to do what it right instead of what is expedient or safe -- the compromises of Sauron and Boromir.

In the appendix, it says: " It did not seem possible to Faramir that any one in Gondor could rival Boromir, heir of Denethor, Captain of the White Tower; and of like mind was Boromir. Yet it proved otherwise at the test." Implying that Faramir proved himself where Boromir failed. Sam thinks so, saying "Good night, Captain, my lord ... You took the chance, sir ... and showed your quality: the very highest."

Faramir, despite the pressure from his father, did not look to gain victory by taking control and seizing his fate. He tells Frodo, "We look towards Númenor that was, and beyond to Elvenhome that is, and to that which is beyond Elvenhome and will ever be.” In the Silm, it says "your home is not here, neither in the Land of Aman nor anywhere within the Circles of the World. And the Doom of Men, that they should depart, was at first a gift of Ilúvatar. It became a grief to them only because coming under the shadow of Morgoth it seemed to them that they were surrounded by a great darkness, of which they were afraid; and some grew wilful and proud and would not yield, until life was reft from them."

Facing death is a test which causes some to despair, while others hope "for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt."


Entwife Wandlimb
Lorien


Jun 5 2017, 7:54pm

Post #15 of 51 (2913 views)
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Frodo's success and failures [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkein writes in Letter 246:
I do not think that Frodo's was a moral failure. At the last moment the pressure of the Ring would reach its maximum – impossible, I should have said, for any one to resist, certainly after long possession, months of increasing torment, and when starved and exhausted. Frodo had done what he could and spent himself completely (as an instrument of Providence) and had produced a situation in which the object of his quest could be achieved. His humility (with which he began) and his sufferings were justly rewarded by the highest honour; and his exercise of patience and mercy towards Gollum gained him Mercy: his failure was redressed.

I think he failed many other tests before then, including most pointedly in FotR:
Frodo drew the Ring out of his pocket again and looked at it. It now appeared plain and smooth, without mark or device that he could see... It was an admirable thing and altogether precious. When he took it out he had intended to fling it from him into the very hottest part of the fire. But he found now that he could not do so, not without a great struggle. He weighed the Ring in his hand, hesitating and forcing himself to remember all that Gandalf had told him; and then with an effort of will he made a movement, as if to cast it away - but he found that he had put it back in his pocket.

When faced with the Riders at Weathertop, Frodo's "terror was swallowed up in a sudden temptation to put on the Ring. THe desire to do this laid hold of him, and he could think of nothing else... resistance became unbearable, and at last he slowly drew out the chain, and slipped the Ring on the forefinger of his left hand."

Again at the Bridge of Minas Morgul, "Then suddenly, as if some force were at work other than his own will, he began to hurry, tottering forward, his groping hands held out..."

He really seems to be unable to meet the requirements of the job. Gandalf admits to Pippin in RotK:
Then at last Pippin took Gandalf's hand. "Tell me" he said, "is there any hope? For Frodo, I mean; or at least mostly for Frodo."

Gandalf put his hand on Pippin's head. "There never was much hope," he answered. "Just a fool's hope..."
But he also admits "even the very wise cannot see all ends."

Frodo fails most tests except one:
"To do the job as you put it -- what hope is there that we ever shall? And if we do, who knows what will come of that? If the One goes into the Fire, and we are at hand? I ask you, Sam, are we ever likely to need bread again? I think not. If we can nurse our limbs to bring us to Mount Doom, that is all we can do.

He bears his burden to Mount Doom. He passes that test.

They all trust that Gandalf and Elrond are right when they say:
"... there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker." and "'If I understand aright all that I have heard,...I think that this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will."
They aren't really trusting Frodo - they are trusting in Providence choosing Frodo and enabling him to do what he is chosen to do.


Entwife Wandlimb
Lorien


Jun 5 2017, 8:13pm

Post #16 of 51 (2909 views)
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I'm a fan of the Fool of a Took, who persists despite his many failures [In reply to] Can't Post

Pippin was really dead weight with the Barrow Wights, cowering in fear on Weathertop, making a racket in the Mines (although nice job with the "friend" idea), carried on Caradhras, knocked on his head when defended by Boromir, he says: What good have I been? Just a nuisance: a passenger, a piece of luggage. And now I have been stolen and I am just a piece of luggage for the Orcs. He's got a point! Major screw up with the Palantir but he did not give them away! But, he escapes from the orcs and helps rally the Ents. He saves Faramir, kills a troll at the Black Gate of Moria, and rallies and leads the hobbits at the Battle of Bywater. And he makes me laugh.

Passing his tests:
“If all the seven stones were laid out before me now, I should shut my eyes and put my hands in my pockets.”

"Well, well, now at any rate I understand poor Denethor a little better. We might die together, Merry and I, and since die we must, why not? Well, as he is not here, I hope he'll find an easier end. But now I must do my best.”



CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 5 2017, 8:21pm

Post #17 of 51 (2905 views)
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So to sacrifice and loyalty we can add hope vs despair [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for all the wonderfully thoughtful examples which make such a compelling point. There are always new roots to dig up in the garden of Tolkien ideas!

And I would say that Tolkien seems to speak through Gandalf in being rather harsh in his view on Denethor giving into despair too easily.

While I've said that I don't think Pippin struggled that much with his decision to thwart Denethor's murder-suicide plan, I overlooked Beregond and Denethor's servants. Beregond most certainly had a great internal struggle about disobeying his Steward and even killing fellow servants of the Steward, all to save Faramir's life. And if he hadn't acted, Gandalf & Pippin would have arrived to find a dead Faramir, and Eowyn would have gone without her soulmate, and Gondor's leadership class would have been diminished--all but for the actions of Beregond, who was willing to sacrifice potentially his life & position in being forced to choose between loyalty to Denethor or Faramir, or maybe the real choice was in choosing what he believed the Stewardship really stood for. Likewise Gandalf criticized the servants who too willingly & uncritically obeyed Denethor's mad scheme--that was loyalty gone amiss.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Jun 5 2017, 9:32pm

Post #18 of 51 (2903 views)
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Maybe Frodo had already passed the important test... [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
I missed the most obvious test, probably: Frodo at the Crack of Doom, when he fails a test after passing so many others. And I was thinking how that's always a wrenching moment in the books for me, because he and Sam have come so far and sacrificed their health and--without Deus Ex Machina Eagles--sacrificed their lives on a one-way journey, and it falls apart at the end.

Well we know it doesn't actually fall apart at the end, and that's because of Gollum. I think actually that the most important test Frodo faces and passes, more than once, is in his pity and mercy towards Gollum. There's an early test that foreshadows this - one that never struck me as meaning very much until I noticed how much it seems to mean to Gandalf: when Frodo is in the barrow, he is tempted to escape rather than trying to save his friends. As he thinks, "Gandalf would admit that there had been nothing else he could do.” But he realises that he has a responsibility that goes beyond just passively letting things happen, and he finds his courage. As Gandalf says later, “...you have some strength in you, my dear hobbit! As you showed in the Barrow. That was touch and go: perhaps the most dangerous moment of all.” Passing that test, it seems, means a great deal to Gandalf. And it sets Frodo on the path to pass his greater test, when he has to act to save Gollum rather than passively letting him be killed - both Sam and Faramir would have done it, and Frodo could have told himself that there was nothing he could do about it. But instead he refuses to let it happen, despite the fact that he has to appear to betray Gollum to Faramir, making Gollum all the more dangerous afterwards. I think that is really Frodo's greatest test - actively protecting and caring for a creature who he knew would kill him if he got the chance.

So Gollum survives to Mount Doom, and by intervening at the crucial moment causes the Ring to be destroyed despite Frodo's failure to let it go. So Frodo seems to fail the greatest test at Mount Doom, but perhaps that wasn't really his test at all, and was always going to be beyond his strength. His pity for Gollum was his test, and because he passed that so successfully, his mission ended with a success that he couldn't have achieved any other way.


They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



Darkstone
Immortal


Jun 5 2017, 9:48pm

Post #19 of 51 (2901 views)
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Apollo 13 - "a successful failure" [In reply to] Can't Post

Besides, Frodo was named "Ringbearer", not "Ringdestroyer", and he passed a difficult enough test bearing the thing to the edge of the Cracks of Doom. Like you said, because he succeeded in that test Providence (and Baggins family pity) could do the rest. A lot of would-be heroes would give their right arms to "fail" as successfully as Frodo.

******************************************

Once Radagast dreamt he was a moth, a moth flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Radagast. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakably Radagast. But he didn't know if he was Radagast who had dreamt he was a moth, or a moth dreaming he was Radagast. Between Radagast and a moth there must be some distinction! But really, there isn't, because he's actually Aiwendil dreaming he's both Radagast *and* a moth!
-From Radagasti: The Moth Dream


dreamflower
Lorien

Jun 5 2017, 9:59pm

Post #20 of 51 (2898 views)
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Pippin [In reply to] Can't Post

Of course, in the Barrow, Pippin was dead weight as were Merry and Sam--the Barrow was Frodo's test, after all.

Pippin's first test occurred before he ever got out of the Shire, and he passed it admirably. In spite of his insouciance as the three of them (Frodo, Sam, Pippin) traveled across the Shire to Crickhollow Frodo never once suspected that Pippin knew the whole story already!

In Bree, when the ponies were stolen, Pippin was the first of the four to answer when Strider asked: "How much are you willing to carry on your backs?" The youngest member of the group answered: "As much as I must."

He also fought for his place in the Fellowship, standing up to Elrond to declare his determination to stay with Frodo.

You have a point about Weathertop, but again, it wasn't only him, and they were facing a Nazgul.

Merry and Pippin were both knocked on the head, not something I consider a failure considering they were facing full-grown Uruk-hai.

The Palantir was a huge failure, but beyond that, he made some very good decisions and accomplished quite a number of things.

And making us (and his friends) laugh is not the least of his accomplishments!

Merry and Pippin are two sides of Hobbit wisdom and courage: Merry is long-sighted; he plans ahead (such as stalking Frodo for seventeen years to make sure his cousin doesn't give them the slip); he prepares supplies and ponies for the journey; he studies maps in Rivendell; he plans the strategy that enables the hobbits to defeat the Ruffians in Bywater. Pippin's cleverness and courage come from seeing an advantage and acting on the spur of the moment. Sometimes that works out and sometimes it doesn't. But after the palantir, it almost always seems to work out. Wink

Some people call it fanfiction. I call it story-internal literary criticism.


Entwife Wandlimb
Lorien


Jun 5 2017, 10:39pm

Post #21 of 51 (2907 views)
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Good point [In reply to] Can't Post

About Ring Bearer! And I'd forgotten the touch and go bit in the Barrow-downs, FFH. I think it's in these small moments that one proves one's character. Pretty key, as you point out.


Entwife Wandlimb
Lorien


Jun 5 2017, 11:08pm

Post #22 of 51 (2908 views)
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Pippin and Merry's value to the Fellowship [In reply to] Can't Post

Laugh Pippin does a good job of keeping a secret! And I will admit that his impulsiveness seemed to be an asset as some point.

But you have to admit that it seems a couple of elves from the house of Elrond might have been more useful to the Fellowship than the two hobbits. Gandalf at first seems to argue they should let them join to spare their feelings, which reminds me of the young 17 year olds who enlisted in WWI and WWII, who Tolkien must have known well. But Gandalf also says "I think, Elrond, that in this matter it would be well to trust rather to their friendship than to great wisdom." Elrond says he was going to send Merry and Pippin back to warn the Shire, but relents and the rather arbitrary number of Nine is filled. I think even your list of accomplishments doesn't provide compelling evidence that they contributed a whole lot.

But, the timeline has 1541 being the year that King Elessar dies and that Merry and Pippin were buried alongside him. Surely there is no higher honor, showing that their friendship was invaluable to at least the king. I think the scene in Orthanc underscores their importance -- that they reminded the great men, Gandalf, Aragorn, Theoden and even Denethor, of the simple pleasures of life, and makes them laugh. I think of Thorin's quote, "“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” Pippin and Merry make it a merrier world, in a dark time. Their encouragement seemed to be tremendously important to all the "great men."


dreamflower
Lorien

Jun 6 2017, 3:43am

Post #23 of 51 (2876 views)
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Absolutely! [In reply to] Can't Post

And for as long as the Fellowship remained unbroken, they also provided Frodo with another link to home (besides Sam).

The importance of their going on the Quest however, was not so much what they contributed to the journey (though I think it more than some give them credit for) but for what they LEARNED on the journey.

Because they had a far greater role to play when they got home. Merry and Pippin differed from Frodo and Sam in one very important ways: they were heirs to the two most important titles in the Shire--the Master of Buckland and the Thain of the Shire. It was they who must lead when it was necessary to throw the Ruffians out, and they who would assert the natural order of things in the Shire against Saruman's bullies.

If they'd gone straight home to the Shire from Rivendell, they very likely would have suffered the same fate as Fatty Bolger (if not getting themselves killed) because while their heart might have been in the right place, they would never have learned what they needed to know to protect and defend their homeland.

None of this would have been evident at the time the Company was formed, and yet JRRT tells us that the Scouring of the Shire was something he had always had in mind, and it was foreshadowed in several places.

I've always felt Gandalf did not operate so much on thought and logic as he did on heart and instinct--and that's why he made a lot of decisions that seemed illogical and yet turned out for the best in the end. I think he sensed that those two needed to go as much for their own sake as for that of others. Plus, I think he knew them well enough to know they would not abandon Frodo no matter what "wiser heads" decided. He knew things "in his heart", I think more than "in his head".

It's also likely the reason he got on so well with Tooks.

Some people call it fanfiction. I call it story-internal literary criticism.


Entwife Wandlimb
Lorien


Jun 6 2017, 4:03am

Post #24 of 51 (2870 views)
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Eomer laughed at despair [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Thanks for all the wonderfully thoughtful examples which make such a compelling point. There are always new roots to dig up in the garden of Tolkien ideas!

And I would say that Tolkien seems to speak through Gandalf in being rather harsh in his view on Denethor giving into despair too easily.

While I've said that I don't think Pippin struggled that much with his decision to thwart Denethor's murder-suicide plan, I overlooked Beregond and Denethor's servants. Beregond most certainly had a great internal struggle about disobeying his Steward and even killing fellow servants of the Steward, all to save Faramir's life. And if he hadn't acted, Gandalf & Pippin would have arrived to find a dead Faramir, and Eowyn would have gone without her soulmate, and Gondor's leadership class would have been diminished--all but for the actions of Beregond, who was willing to sacrifice potentially his life & position in being forced to choose between loyalty to Denethor or Faramir, or maybe the real choice was in choosing what he believed the Stewardship really stood for. Likewise Gandalf criticized the servants who too willingly & uncritically obeyed Denethor's mad scheme--that was loyalty gone amiss.


Thanks! Good point about Beregond -- I love his story. I find the PJ scene where Gandalf strikes Denethor to be especially jarring in light of Beregond's story, and his kind exile with Faramir. Disobedience was serious business. Also reminds me of Thorin's guard (what was his name?) who let Gandalf take his staff.

On the subject of despair, I think you are right, that Gandalf shouldn't be too quick to deal out judgment. I think it's pretty hard to tell judge in the case of the Rohirrim, for example:
Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
These staves he spoke, yet he laughed as he said them. For once more lust of battle was on him; and he was still unscathed, and he was young, and he was king: the lord of a fell people. And lo! even as he laughed at despair he looked out again on the black ships, and he lifted up his sword to defy them.

He laughed at despair which is odd because it sounds a whole lot like he's giving in to despair.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Jun 6 2017, 7:33am

Post #25 of 51 (2857 views)
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One more value Pippin and Merry provide [In reply to] Can't Post

is that they are the catalyst for both Boromir and Aragorn passing crucial "tests" at Parth Galen.

By sacrificing his own life to try to save the two young and, at that point, apparently unimportant hobbits, Boromir makes amends for his fall to the Ring and dies with honour.

Then Aragorn has to make his own choice - should he go to Minas Tirith to take part in the great events that his destiny seems to be calling him towards, or should he put all that aside to try to rescue the two hobbits, despite the fact that the hobbits seem unlikely to really matter in the greater scheme of things, and despite the chances of rescuing them being vanishingly small. And he too passes his test. Earlier he was torn between his desire to go to Minas Tirith and his possible duty to go with Frodo to Mount Doom. He wasn't able to decide (and the Seat of Seeing gave him no advice), but Frodo took that decision out of his hands. Now it would be only too easy to think, yes, now the way is clear for me to go where I wanted to go, and fight for Minas Tirith. But he sees now that he can't do that, he has to sacrifice his own ambition for the sake of the hobbits. And as we know, his sacrifice, like Boromir's, will be rewarded in the end! But if Merry and Pippin hadn't been there, Boromir would have died in shame, and Aragorn wouldn't have been on the right path for the next stage of his journey to kingship.

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings


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