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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
What if Frodo and Sam had been captured at Amon Hen by the Uruk-hai?


Apr 11, 10:17pm

Post #1 of 9 (2692 views)
What if Frodo and Sam had been captured at Amon Hen by the Uruk-hai? Can't Post

If the story followed the same path as Merry and Pipin, he would have found himself entangled with the Ents in Fangorn. Would the quest to destroy the ring continued and Frodo and the other hobbits have been sent on their way? They would have backtracked to the North and West but could have used the Limlight to make thier way back to the Anduin.

What would Treebeard have thought of the Ring? Would he have sensed or recognized it? Would have had any desire for it? He was one of the most powerfule entities in Middle Earth and had his own view of the geopolitical situation. Would he have been tempted as Galadriel was or would he be more like Tom Bombadil and see no value in it?

Just some speculative questions I have about one of the turning points in the story(Breaking of the Fellowship) and how events could have unfolded differently.


Apr 12, 11:54am

Post #2 of 9 (2646 views)
Fun question [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for bringing it up.

I think I was most intrigued by Treebeard and the Ring, but the more I thought about it, the more I think he’d be immune to it. He has a lot in common with Bombadil, and I just don’t see the Ring having any more appeal to him than a Rolex watch. So, it would have been safe while Frodo was in his company.

What about Saruman? While I doubt he could sense the Ring, there is that curious phenomenon of ALG feeling an unnatural heaviness in Rohan as they pursued Saruman’s orcs, as if he cast some evil spell on him from afar (it’s never stated explicitly). So if he could do that from afar, would he, the one on the White Council most familiar with Rings of Power, have been able to sense it from Orthanc? If so, he would have shown up before all his Orcs were dead, and not after.

A bigger question I can’t answer is: would Frodo, reunited with the Fellowship in Rohan (or at the ruins of Isengard, have been able to go to Mordor with Sam? If so, would others have joined him? If they did, would we still have a Witch-king on our ends and a potential loss at the Pelennor Fields? The story starts to go badly for the West, the more I think about it.


Apr 12, 6:17pm

Post #3 of 9 (2615 views)
Too different. [In reply to] Can't Post

Would the quest to destroy the ring continued and Frodo and the other hobbits have been sent on their way? They would have backtracked to the North and West but could have used the Limlight to make thier way back to the Anduin.

Frodo might have managed to hold on to the ring since the orcs were forbidden to search the prisoners, but even if he had managed to survive the attack of the Rohirrim (probably by putting the ring on), and avoided beeing recaptured by them, Gandalf or Aragorn would have found him in Fangorn. The only reason Aragorn gave up on following Frodo to Mordor was that the company was broken, once reassembled, the Ring would have begun to work it's magic on the members again. And pehaps worse, none of the help Gandalf and Aragorn provided to Rohan and Gondor would have reached them, and there might have been no revolt of the trees against Isengard.

There are too many factor and powers involved to speculate on such a drastic change.


Apr 16, 8:48am

Post #4 of 9 (2551 views)
My answer, and then some musing about key plot points [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it's a fun question, though of course I also agree with InTheChair that it's not possible to come to any definitive answer by analysis.

It seems to me that, unless we re-write the plot wholesale, Frodo and Sam have to vanish on the way to Mordor, eluding everyone except Smeagol. Meanwhile, the rest of the Fellowship have to be forced into something they weren't expecting to do, which is to pursue the War of the Ring. That war starts out as a matter of pure survival, but because Aragorn emerges as the undisputed war leader, there's someone willing to stake everything on a diversionary attack on Mordor, which is a key element allowing the Ringbearers to succeed.

I don't think I saw the full subtlety of Tolkien's plotting until the Reading Room did the last LOTR read-through. Before that, the Breaking of the Fellowship appeared to me to be a good cliff-hanger: the sort of temporary setback that makes the story exciting but from which we expect the heroes will rebound. Instead it turns out to be a major turning point - or at least that's how it seems to me now.

When I think about these things, I then end up arguing with myself. My counter-thought is that, because of the way stories work, later events ought to follow comprehensibly from earlier ones. So, arguably, any change to the plot could be argued to have great implications. Nonetheless, Amon Hen seems to me to be one of the key plot points, in that I think a lot would have to change if these bits were changed.

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


Apr 23, 1:06am

Post #5 of 9 (2381 views)
What do you think *had* to happen vs. what were turning points? [In reply to] Can't Post

By which I mean: some things had to happen to make the plot work, whereas other things were watersheds for the plot but could have happened differently? Now for examples:

1. Frodo had to accept the Ring mission at the Council of Elrond of his own free will.
2. Gandalf had to be imprisoned by Saruman for the latter's treason to become known.
3. Gandalf had to die in Moria (so he could come back as the White and be more powerful).
4. The Fellowship had to break up at Amon Hen as you described.

Watersheds were:
1. Frodo getting stabbed at Weathertop. While this had a profound impact on his personality/spirituality and his relationship with the Ring, it didn't have to happen plot-wise. He was headed to Rivendell anyway.
2. The Fellowship sojourning in Lorien. Several of them were changed there--Frodo made more resolute, Boromir becoming more susceptible to the Ring, Legolas & Gimli becoming friends--but these developments could have been handled by other tweaks to the plot.

That's as far as I get tonight, but I was thinking ahead about Merry & Pippin as have to/or not. They were necessary for the death of the Witch-king and for saving Faramir's life, but I keep thinking that they were *not* necessary for the rousing of Fangorn against Saruman. Given the friendship between Treebeard & Gandalf--and remember Gandalf asking Treebeard for Huorns to help at Helm's Deep, which Treebeard readily agreed to in exchange for nothing--I don't see why Gandalf couldn't have roused the Ents himself if Tolkien wrote things just a little differently.


Apr 23, 12:39pm

Post #6 of 9 (2368 views)
A complex & difficult question - my answer is long, and will probably be wrong :) [In reply to] Can't Post

Arthur’s next question about the planet is very complex and difficult, and Zaphod’s answer is wrong in every important respect.

Douglas Adams, The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I think the question boils down to what I (or someone else) think the plot of LOTR is at it's most basic -- which elements can't be removed without ending up with some other story? It's probably one of those cases where discussing how and why people disagree can be fun, because that way you learn what matters to other readers. But there's little hope of arriving at some settled answer. (And if we did, we don't have a One Ring by which to force everyone else to agree with us :) )

For myself, the answer is something like:
=>I think there has to be a One Ring, which to me is a brilliant literary invention - the artefact of doom that you should get rid of but cannot. I think that an important aspect of the One Ring is that it cannot be dealt with by the conventionally mighty, whether their might is military prowess or wisdom.

=> I think we have to have hobbits, partly for continuity with The Hobbit, and mostly because I see them as the answer to the conundrum posed by the One Ring. By this I mean that a hobbit is the best chance Ringbearer - able to see the need to destroy it, willing to try, and likely to be slow to fall to its evil.

=>Then, I think, we need some more conventionally mighty folks to help the hobbit Ringbearer. They face a number of conundrums (conundra?): they have to resist the temptation to use the Ring, and need to have faith in Gandalf's weird plan of sending a small partly of inexperienced adventurers into Mordor. This means that they must agree to do the right thing, even though it looks like the chances of success are not great, and they are likely to pay personal costs for seeing it achieved. But while the Ring is plodding towards Mordor, these warriors and wizards etc. can get on with the War of the Ring. I'm not sure how quintessential it is to have the Ring carried through a war zone, but it certainly adds a lot of excitement, and the war becomes a credible diversion to distract Sauron from Ring-hunting. So I think the story is better for having that material included.

=>Lastly (but not leastly), I think, the book would be very different (and probably not nearly so successful) if it were not for the milieu of Middle-earth -- we need, I think, the various memorable locations and Tolkien's prose-poetical description of them.

That's probably not my complete list of essential points, and doubtless someone else would arrive at a different list anyway. For example, I'd be sympathetic to adding the plot-twist/eucatastrophe that the hobbit Ringbearer cannot in the end discard the One Ring, and has to be saved by his enemy (or shadow-self). And then I might admit Tolkien's idea that 'oft evil will shall evil mar'. And then, and then, and then... - the problem is that one ends up deciding that no detail can be changed :) Also, of course, we've all got used to LOTR as Tolkien published it. If Frodo and Sam had always been Frida and Samantha, maybe we'd be used to female Ringbearers. But someone doing a gender-swapped film, say, would find that getting a controversial reception, I am sure.

The idea of establishing that list (or one like it) is to establish what I think must happen in one way or another. From there one might hope to get 'watersheds' - something that would make the story work out differently at some finer level of detail. For example, that was the spirit of the OP here, I thought - had the Amon Hen attack captured the Ringbearer, is the whole plot derailed, or can you still reach the destination by a different route?

My feeling is that Amon Hen is a 'watershed' (nice term) because several subsequent events depend upon it. Pippin splashing his bathwater in Crickhollow is not a watershed because (as far as I can see at any rate) it is an incidental detail.

Of course, it must be possible to 'fix' the story after any change, if one is prepared to be silly enough ("Little did the hobbits know that a Black Rider was lurking outside the bathroom. The fear of being splashed with bathwater distracted it just before...")"...)

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 Apr 23, 12:42pm)


Apr 24, 11:10am

Post #7 of 9 (2349 views)
“the problem is that one ends up deciding that no detail can be changed” [In reply to] Can't Post

I heartily agree with you on that point. I think in every Tolkien fan’s mind, everything had to happen the way it did or it wouldn’t be LOTR, even down to the fox in the Shire talking to himself. But your comments about Amon Hen got me thinking—always dangerous, and usually subversive—about what had to happen for the plot (not for the cause of destiny) and what didn’t.

Since I’m on a bus to work, I’d sum up your Must Haves as: One Ring, hobbits to destroy it, heroes/champions to help the hobbits, and the unique appeal of Middle-earth to most readers to engage them with the story & feel that something precious (pun intended) is at stake. And you’re right, everyone would have their own list, but you’ve certainly illustrated the bedrock that the whole story is built upon.

Maybe another way to look at the issue is to ask which “what if’s” lead to credible alternative plots and which don’t.

“What if there was no One Ring?” Well, that zaps the story to death in hurry, doesn’t it?

But: “What if Denethor doesn’t kill himself?” Alternatives could be 1) he has a mental breakdown and is confined to the Houses of Healing, where Aragorn heals him after the battle and they become friends, so he gladly surrenders the rule of Gondor to him when the time comes (as Faramir did); or 2) he stays by Faramir’s side during the battle, allowing Aragorn to win the field and the army’s love, then he stirs up trouble while Aragorn marches off to Mordor, and that leads to various plot branches—he’s imprisoned/exiled when Aragorn comes back; or Faramir kills him in a tragic scene of choosing duty over family; or Aragorn comes home to find a civil war, and the victory over Sauron seems hollow (that seems like something that would happen in The Silmarillion).

I’m not advocating any changes, just saying they could plausibly exist. I don’t particularly like Denethor, but his tragic end as is sure adds punch to the story.


Apr 24, 3:32pm

Post #8 of 9 (2336 views)
Too many complications? [In reply to] Can't Post

The Fellowship doesn't really break up as it does in the book. Merry and Pippin would not have taken off, in turn, in one of the boats as Frodo and Sam did. The remaining members would have felt obligated to follow the Orcs to attempt a rescue of their companions. So we might have Frodo and Sam with the Ents, with everyone else (minus Boromir) reuniting with Gandalf (the White) and--what? Continue on to Edoras? Or entering Fangorn in search of Frodo, Sam and the Ring? And Gollum would seem to have no choice but to follow behind, perhaps roaming along the eaves of Fangorn, unwilling to enter.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock


Apr 24, 3:47pm

Post #9 of 9 (2335 views)
Here's one - 'It is a pity that Gandalf did not find out more sooner.' [In reply to] Can't Post

Here's a 'what if' that illustrates a further complication with the game:

"Fancy that ring of mine causing such a disturbance! It is a pity that Gandalf did not find out more sooner. I could have brought the thing here [i.e. to Rivendell] myself long ago without so much trouble."

Bilbo, LOTR II, 1

If we assume the word of LOTR is set as described by the time Tolkien published, then Bilbo is quite right - it does seem that the Ringbearer's mission would have been less opposed by Saruman and Sauron had it been done earlier. Frodo et al have been perilously late to act (which of course makes everything an urgent crisis - good for making the story exciting).

On the other hand, Frodo's arrival co-incides with that of several other travellers, including those who will go on to form the Fellowship, and it's pretty clear from Elrond's comments to his Council that he doesn't think this was a co-incidence. Perhaps, then, Frodo is 'meant' to dilly-dally saying goodbye to the Shire until it is nearly too late?

But, that's imagining a change to the plot as if Middle-earth was real. What confuses me, sometimes, is that I start to think about Tolkien writing the story, instead of imagining an 'what if' as a character living in Middle-earth might do. . Of course Tolkien could have had Gandalf find out more sooner had he wished (indeed, I think I recall discussions in which we scratched our heads about why Gandalf had been so slow to work it out....). I suppose that the effect would either have been that Bilbo would be the LOTR Ringbearer, not Frodo, or Frodo sets off shortly after the Long Expected Party (which is the effect that the PJ films chose). But maybe little else might have changed in terms of events: I think Tolkien could have 'just' made everything happen many years earlier.

Either sort of playing with possible alternative plots can be fun, but mixing the two kinds can be confusing!

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 Apr 24, 3:50pm)


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