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The Light in the Barrow
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noWizardme
Valinor


Nov 3, 3:32pm

Post #1 of 26 (1001 views)
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The Light in the Barrow Can't Post

In Fog On The Barrow Downs (FOTR) Frodo faints when captured by the Barrow wight. When he comes to, he is at first in darkness - and terrified of course. But his thoughts turn to Bilbo, and after a bit of narrative about hobbits having a 'seed' of courage somewhere, and Frodo being an exceptional hobbit, we get this (with my italics):


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As he lay there, thinking and getting a hold of himself, he noticed all at once that the darkness was slowly giving way: a pale greenish light was growing round him. It did not at first show him what kind of a place he was in, for the light seemed to be coming out of himself, and from the floor beside him, and had not yet reached the roof or wall.


I was thinking about this odd light. An idea that I currently like is that it is a visible manifestation of Frodo's growing courage. It is of course also very handy - Tolkien is about to give us a very visual scene, in which the lighting is a very carefully written and important part.

So I wondered whether anyone else has thought about this light, and if so what ideas you have about it. Do say!

For bonus points if you like, relate it to other occasions on which Frodo seems to be glowing, or other hobbits who experience light or dark that don't seem everyday physics.

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Nov 3, 11:03pm

Post #2 of 26 (921 views)
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Hmmm [In reply to] Can't Post

I like your idea that the light emanates from Frodo's courage, and that's never occurred to me. From my perspective, everything in the barrow is sickly and sinister, so to me the light is evil, and I think of it as a sign of the evil spirit waking up since the flies have blundered into its web and awoken its hunger. The light grows stronger as the wight becomes more active and powerful.

The biggest contrast I can think of is Frodo with the Phial against Shelob. There's a great synergy between Frodo and the Phial as he seems to turbocharge it with the courage in his heart. Sting even seems plays a part in the light show (good ol' Sting!):

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The stench of death was like a cloud about him.

‘Stand! stand!’ he cried desperately. ‘Running is no use.’

Slowly the eyes crept nearer.

‘Galadriel!’ he called, and gathering his courage he lifted up the Phial once more. The eyes halted. For a moment their regard relaxed, as if some hint of doubt troubled them. Then Frodo’s heart flamed within him, and without thinking what he did, whether it was folly or despair or courage, he took the Phial in his left hand, and with his right hand drew his sword. Sting flashed out, and the sharp elven-blade sparkled in the silver light, but at its edges a blue fire flickered. Then holding the star aloft and the bright sword advanced, Frodo, hobbit of the Shire, walked steadily down to meet the eyes.



noWizardme
Valinor


Nov 4, 2:45pm

Post #3 of 26 (845 views)
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You have the 'wight' answer, CuriousG! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I like your idea that the light emanates from Frodo's courage, and that's never occurred to me. From my perspective, everything in the barrow is sickly and sinister, so to me the light is evil, and I think of it as a sign of the evil spirit waking up since the flies have blundered into its web and awoken its hunger. The light grows stronger as the wight becomes more active and powerful.


Certainly, that works too: the light could be part of the enwighting process, and so far everything is going perfectly normally as far as the wight is concerned. But then Frodo suddenly attacks it with a 'handy' sword, and then calls for a powerful friend (which wasn't according to plan).

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Nov 4, 4:33pm

Post #4 of 26 (839 views)
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Maybe a tangent, but [In reply to] Can't Post

the wight certainly seemed intent on enwighting all of them. So, aside from the exigencies of plot, why was Frodo the only one to wake up, or even, how could he have? Was it because the wight hadn't finished its spell and its "preparations" on him as it had on his friends? Maybe in one sense his friends were already chopped up and put in the stew, while he was the next animal in line but still alive and tied to the butcher block, so to speak.


Quote
When he came to himself again, for a moment he could recall nothing except a sense of dread. Then suddenly he knew that he was imprisoned, caught hopelessly; he was in a barrow. A Barrow-wight had taken him, and he was probably already under the dreadful spells of the Barrow-wights about which whispered tales spoke. He dared not move, but lay as he found himself: flat on his back upon a cold stone with his hands on his breast.

But though his fear was so great that it seemed to be part of the very darkness that was round him, he found himself as he lay thinking about Bilbo Baggins and his stories, of their jogging along together in the lanes of the Shire and talking about roads and adventures. There is a seed of courage hidden (often deeply, it is true) in the heart of the fattest and most timid hobbit, waiting for some final and desperate danger to make it grow. Frodo was neither very fat nor very timid; indeed, though he did not know it, Bilbo (and Gandalf) had thought him the best hobbit in the Shire. He thought he had come to the end of his adventure, and a terrible end, but the thought hardened him. He found himself stiffening, as if for a final spring; he no longer felt limp like a helpless prey.

As he lay there, thinking and getting a hold of himself, he noticed all at once that the darkness was slowly giving way: a pale greenish light was growing round him. It did not at first show him what kind of a place he was in, for the light seemed to be coming out of himself, and from the floor beside him, and had not yet reached the roof or wall. He turned, and there in the cold glow he saw lying beside him Sam, Pippin, and Merry. They were on their backs, and their faces looked deathly pale; and they were clad in white. About them lay many treasures, of gold maybe, though in that light they looked cold and unlovely. On their heads were circlets, gold chains were about their waists, and on their fingers were many rings. Swords lay by their sides, and shields were at their feet. But across their three necks lay one long naked sword.



Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Nov 4, 5:02pm

Post #5 of 26 (836 views)
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A side-effect of the Ring? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
the wight certainly seemed intent on enwighting all of them. So, aside from the exigencies of plot, why was Frodo the only one to wake up, or even, how could he have? Was it because the wight hadn't finished its spell and its "preparations" on him as it had on his friends? Maybe in one sense his friends were already chopped up and put in the stew, while he was the next animal in line but still alive and tied to the butcher block, so to speak.


Perhaps the One Ring prompted Frodo to awaken, since it probably had no desire to become part of a Barrow-wight's hoard. Possession of the Ring does seem to have some affect on the perception of the bearer, though that effect is far more profound when the Ring is being worn.

#FidelityToTolkien


Solicitr
Rohan

Nov 4, 5:22pm

Post #6 of 26 (834 views)
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Subject [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

In Reply To
the wight certainly seemed intent on enwighting all of them. So, aside from the exigencies of plot, why was Frodo the only one to wake up, or even, how could he have? Was it because the wight hadn't finished its spell and its "preparations" on him as it had on his friends? Maybe in one sense his friends were already chopped up and put in the stew, while he was the next animal in line but still alive and tied to the butcher block, so to speak.


Perhaps the One Ring prompted Frodo to awaken, since it probably had no desire to become part of a Barrow-wight's hoard. Possession of the Ring does seem to have some affect on the perception of the bearer, though that effect is far more profound when the Ring is being worn.


I think the Ring is the explanation, but I wouldn't go so far as to ascribe sentience to it. I think the Ring contained a certain level of basic insect-brain programming leading it to loosen up at inopportune moments and the like, but I don't think it was hanging on its chain devising plans.

In the barrow, the Wight's chant ran into a stronger eldritch power it couldn't overcome.


noWizardme
Valinor


Nov 4, 7:31pm

Post #7 of 26 (821 views)
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What would the Reading Room be without a good tangent? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
So, aside from the exigencies of plot, why was Frodo the only one to wake up, or even, how could he have? Was it because the wight hadn't finished its spell and its "preparations" on him as it had on his friends? Maybe in one sense his friends were already chopped up and put in the stew, while he was the next animal in line but still alive and tied to the butcher block, so to speak.


First, but essentially, hats off to Tolkien - I think the scene in the Barrow is beautifully done. I also think it gets a lot of its psychological horror power from all the unanswered questions.

I think it's possible to imagine that Frodo survives for several reasons alone or in combination:

=>Simple time and process (as you're suggesting, CG) - Forodo's last to be captured, which leaves him still dressed, sane, and un-enwighted at the time he comes round, because the wight has been busy too long with its other prey. How long does it take to undress three unconcious hobbits, re-dress them, arrange them with lots of trinkets.... (ahem - this is a bit rhetorical -- it woud be a more than a little creepy if someone claimed to know the answer from experience...) or;

=>There's something special about Frodo (which is hinted at in the text, with the comment that Bilbo and Gandalf thought him the best hobbit in the Shire). Frodo has the wight stuff, we might say, or;

=>There's an intervention of 'Powers' - the Ring (as suggested in other replies to your post, CG), or the Valar or the big E nudging the table, or;

=>(or, or, or....other options ad lib )

We're left either to decide on whichever option we prefer, or to admire a well-written scene and not worry about it overmuch. Certainly I can't think of a better way of organising it than leaving Frodo conscious enough to have the temptation to flee, but to choose friendship and duty instead (plot point!!!). Moreover he's able to be our point-of-view character to the whole creepy episode (we never find out what, if anything the others remember of their capture).


My tangent to the tangent is to ask what the wight means when it says to Frodo "I am waiting for you". Waiting for the fourth fly the spider knows is entering its parlour? For Frodo specifically? For the Ring? As is often the case, the question might be more enjoyable than any possible answer....

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Nov 4, 8:34pm

Post #8 of 26 (821 views)
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How long it usually takes me to undress and redress hobbits with trinkets [In reply to] Can't Post

Oh, wait, you said answering that would be creepy, so I'll forget all about my experiences in the Barrow-wight Re-enactment Society, where we did this regularly.

But since it's still permissible to answer why it said "I am waiting for you," my gut says it's mostly to create a spooky atmosphere, and that it's something a spider says to a fly, but it could also be pragmatic, as in "The other three were easy prey, I'm glad I finally caught you." But I will go back to thinking that it's more about atmosphere.

And thanks to all for answers to my question. I would agree that the Ring is the most logical explanation. Just as it slipped off Gollum's finger because it was tired of being trapped under the mountains, and just as it slipped onto Frodo's finger to betray him in The Prancing Pony, it has some agency to it. I don't think it's highly intelligent, so I don't think it had a big plan for getting out of the barrow, but maybe it could wake Frodo up and that was all it could do.

Or then again, maybe the wight was overconfident. It had Frodo where it wanted him, and how was he going to escape? The wight had no reason to think Bombadil would show up. I'm thinking it might have been similar to Shelob, who would poison her captives just to subdue them, and who had no fear they could be rescued or could rescue themselves if they woke up. It was like a cat playing with its wounded prey before eating it.


uncle Iorlas
Rivendell


Nov 4, 9:00pm

Post #9 of 26 (811 views)
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opposing view: it's providential. [In reply to] Can't Post

Never stopped to think about that light emanating from Frodo, by the way, gotta chew on that. But just last night I read Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit to my nine-year-old and so I immediately think of Sam looking at a sleeping Frodo and seeing him, not for the first time, seem to glow from within.

Anyway, as to Frodo waking, I think it's fair game to consider the Ring as a volitional actor here, the text says as much in other places ("why Bilbo? Wouldn't an orc have been more to the Ring's liking?"), but every time I read through I become more aware of the firm hand of divine providence nudging matters at key moments. It's shot through the whole book. In the case of the barrow I would read it, roughly, as the divine prompting Frodo, as the worthiest hobbit present slash the appointed bearer of the ring slash the one best able to perceive such a call in the first place, to get up and act now. The Wise comment on such inklings and urgings from time to time, and we watch Sam experience two or three of them once Frodo is presumably spiraling into his private crucible of carrying the Ring without succumbing to it and perhaps less available to outside influences.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Nov 4, 11:07pm

Post #10 of 26 (802 views)
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Your interpretation would go back to Tolkien's comment, [In reply to] Can't Post

which he made in Letter 142: "The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision."

And though I'm not Catholic, I remember someone explaining once that the Catholic view is that no one succeeds without God's help, so the members of the Fellowship are helped along the way, and without attention being drawn to the hand at work.


sador
Half-elven


Nov 5, 1:46pm

Post #11 of 26 (743 views)
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The light is pale and greenish, so [In reply to] Can't Post

I naturally assume, like CuriousG, that it is evil. What it reminds me the most of, are the eerie corpse-lights in The Passage of the Marshes:


Quote

'Yes, yes,' said Gollum. 'But slowly, very slowly. Very carefully! Or hobbits go down to join the Dead and light little candles. Follow Smeagol! Don't look at lights!'



I note that both 'pale' and 'green' are used in the book to describe Gollum's eyes. Is he a kind of wight? Is that the future the Ring has in store for Frodo? Might that be the reason he is singled out from his friends?




CuriousG also mentioned the Phial of Galadriel as a positive light, which might be a response to the inner light emanating from Frodo; but in that case, Sam's inner light is stronger.
The Phial is also mentioned in the penultimate chapter of Verlyn Flieger's Splintered Light, in the context of another fascinating passage which might be relevant:


Quote

The colour had come back to his face, and his eyes were clear, and fully awake and aware. He was smiling, and there seemed to be little wrong with him. But to the wizard's eye there was a faint change, just a hint of transparency...
...said Gandalf to himself, '...to what he will come in the end not even Elrond can foretell. Not to evil, I think. He may become like a glass filled with a clear light for eyes to see that can'.


- Many Meetings.


Prof. Flieger discusses the price Frodo will ultimately pay for becoming 'transparent', but it appears that Gandalf does not see this as a necessarily bad thing. Is this the inner light of Frodo's spirit? And has it begun to shine in the Barrow, like you suggested?
But somehow, I find it difficult to imagine the said 'faint change' being unconnected with the Morgul-knife which stabbed Frodo.




Another, interesting thing to consider, is Goldberry's words to Frodo on their first meeting:

Quote

'...But I see that you are an Elf-friend; the light in your eyes and the ring in your voice tells it....'


This does seem to signify a special light, which is special to Frodo.
What made Frodo an Elf-friend? The only thing I can think of is Gildor's bestowing the title upon him. Does this include a special kind of blessing, or magic? Or perhaps a special protection by Elbereth - whose name Gildor invokes in his blessing?


I have written before how important I think Gildor was, and Elbereth's blessing did help indeed, at least according to Strider (Flight to the Ford):





Quote

'...More deadly to him was the name of Elbereth.'


So could it be that Gildor's blessing actually helped Frodo before, in the Barrow?


I really like the last thought. But as I replied to Curious long ago:

Quote



Quote

what is that light? Is it the light of Frodo’s soul? Is the Ring giving Frodo night vision? Is it something the Wight has cooked up? A gift from Bombadil? From the Valar?


I don't think a green light is ever a benevolent light in Tolkien.


(see the whole discussion here.)



Thinking about things I don't understand


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Nov 5, 3:53pm

Post #12 of 26 (730 views)
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Gollum a Wight? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I note that both 'pale' and 'green' are used in the book to describe Gollum's eyes. Is he a kind of wight? Is that the future the Ring has in store for Frodo? Might that be the reason he is singled out from his friends?


No, I don't think so. Tolkien tells us that Wights were evil spirits sent from Angmar to bring terror to the people of Arthedain. They are not Dúnedain made undead; rather, they inhabit the corpses of the dead buried in the barrows. If Gollum turned, he would be come a Wraith like the Nazgűl--the same fate that could have befallen either Bilbo or Frodo.

#FidelityToTolkien


InTheChair
Lorien

Nov 5, 6:42pm

Post #13 of 26 (711 views)
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I would guess no. [In reply to] Can't Post

The description 'pale greenish' is interesting. Looking at the movies and many other modern phantasy, that colour is usually reserved for things related with death and decay. For instance the green sheen of Minas Morgul in the movies.

Though Tolkien, (from my memory only now) seems to have preferred pale moonlight or pale cloud or shreds of cloud for this, on Minas Morgul and the Paths of the Dead.

At the same time green is a frequently used colour for good, such as in the Elassar, or many of the Rohirrims items.

Yet I suspect the use of pale green for decay goes back long before Tolkien, and that he rather intended to convey the eeriness of the Wights and the Barrow.


noWizardme
Valinor


Nov 6, 9:55am

Post #14 of 26 (648 views)
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Green is for Go ...no 'Ghoul' [In reply to] Can't Post

I'll agre with you folks that the colour of teh light is suggestive.

Nice to 'see' you again, sador - and thanks for those ideas and references to interesting earlier discussions.

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


noWizardme
Valinor


Nov 6, 10:42am

Post #15 of 26 (642 views)
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Frodo as hero, tool, and butterfly [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm goint to start by remembering to say I agree - I think it's pretty clear in this tale as a whole that Frodo is influenced by Powers good and bad. It's plausible that this Barrow scene involves one, or both (or, of course neither - pure chance).

Now some onwards rambling....

In nearby parts of the tale we've seen Frodo's rescue by Gildor ('chance or purpose'?) and Tom B rescuing the hapless hobbits from Old Man Willow on his (Tom's) last outing of the year down that way. Those look to me like hints that there are nudges of something helpful (Powers or Providence). There are other instances when the text hints at similar goings-on (if anyone wants to start a new thread requesting examples, I'd expect we'd come up with a pretty comprenensive list).

What to do when the text doesn't hint is of course a matter of taste. The extreme position would be to imagine there's no chance or free will in Middle-earth at all: everyone is an unknowing puppet of outside forces. I don't personally like that - for one thing , it means nobody is a hero of villain: Frodo's quest will succeed (or not) whatever he does. That makes the story rather dull, for me. Without going to that extreme, one reader can of course ascribe to Powers or Providence many things that another reader thinks are either Tolkien working his plot*, or just intended to be chance or irellevant. So that's just to say there's not much prospect of us all agreeing, nor need that we do so.

My own interpretation (and perhaps philosophical preference) is to notice occasions when what we might call for shorthand (WWMCFS) 'good' acts to cancel out WWMCFS 'evil'. In the resulting eye of the storm, Frodo is the little butterfly who can flap his wings and precipitate some vast effect, or a different one. I'd say this is pretty clear on Amon Hen, at the Council of Elrond, and for Sam in Choices of Master Samwise (Again, should anyone want to start an exercise in list-making, the Reading Room has enjoyed such things in the past, and things have been sadly quiet of late). I think that's a clever litereary scheme by Tolkien - it allows Middle-earth to have Fate and Powers and Providence and so on, but also a measure of free will. And that free will means that Frodo's choices (and willingness to be a tool) genuinely matter and make him the kind of hero he is**. I think a reading of the start of Silmarillion also suppors this as being how things 'work'. And my impression is that Tolkien holds out coercion - 'bulldozing others' wills' - as a very morrally dubious thing. So again it works for me that WWMCFS 'evil' does that (and gets addicted to it) whereas WWMCFS 'good' avoids it. Again, those ideas could be other threads, if anyone wishes).

Whether this relates to Tolkien's Catholicism at all, I'm not qualified to say. I know that (like any religion beleiving in an omnipotent and benevelent deity) Christianity has to do some theology to explain why the world readily seems to be such a chaotic and cruel shambles. I understand there's a whole pile of thoughtful work on 'the problem of evil', but I'm not up with it.

Whether all this relates author-biographically to Tolkien trying to work out why all but one of his best friends died in the First World War and what (if anything) it meant that he had survived, I also couldn't say.

Ramblings concluded....

Does all this 'butterfly in the eye of the storm' stuff happen in the Barrow? I'd currently say it's plausible, and Frodo's decision - courage and loyalty over self-reservation - could be one reason that Gandalf later picks this episode out as being important. But (and I admire Tolkien's subtelty) I also think it's plausible that Frodo resists the Ring by itself, or that Frodo gets a lucky break in coming round before the wight gets to him, and reacts as he does of his own volition. I don't myself think that the story would be better for Tolkien anvilliciiously making sure we understand exactly how to interpret things! I prefer the story as more art, and less philosophical lecture or sermon.


--
*Tolkien working his plot: What I mean here is that Tolkien, like any storyteller, needs to put his characters through some interesting and plausible adventures before they eventually succeed or not. So there's a sense in whihc 'of course' our heros are going to have soem slightly lucky escapes and close calls. If Gandalf and Frodo just teleported to Mordor in Chapter 2, dumped the Ring into teh fire easily, and then went off for a beer, it woudln't be much of a story.

**I think Frodo's willingness to be used for the 'good', with the risk of being used for the 'bad' makes him a contrast to sword-slinging or fireball-flinging hereos of other fantasy tales, or their cowboy or action hero equivalents in other genres.

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


noWizardme
Valinor


Nov 6, 1:26pm

Post #16 of 26 (629 views)
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Yikes - sometimes that's too much information ;) [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
How long it usually takes me to undress and redress hobbits with trinkets by CuriousG
Oh, wait, you said answering that would be creepy, so I'll forget all about my experiences in the Barrow-wight Re-enactment Society, where we did this regularly.


Next we'll have someone sharing that they used to enjoy being one of the hobbits on these occasions, or that they're a wight supremacist...Wink

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Nov 6, 3:51pm

Post #17 of 26 (620 views)
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We also [In reply to] Can't Post

re-enact the running on the grass scene while they wait for Bombadil to come back. See, you really didn't want to know that either. But at least I can say we are not wightists and accept everyone: living, dead, undead, evil, good, conflicted, etc.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Nov 6, 4:18pm

Post #18 of 26 (614 views)
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I personally think the tension is always there, [In reply to] Can't Post

and I was thinking of adventure stories where the weather and the environment are existential forces that help or hinder the heroes: the sudden snowstorm forcing a band to seek shelter in a cabin, or chopping their way through a jungle with machetes and fighting off snakes and mosquitoes. Heroes can contend against bigger forces than themselves while still having plenty of free will.

So that's my analogy for LOTR, where there are existential influences running from Eru to the Valar to Galadriel and Sauron, and they are just that: environmental influences, not all-powerful directors tugging at puppets on strings. The actors have free will throughout and aren't directed down a maze with a single path. I think you hit on it really well by citing Amon Hen as an example, where good and evil cancel each other out, and Frodo is free to choose what he does next, be it wise or foolish. I would say that explicit tension between powers in that scene is implicit throughout the book.

I think as a reader we are conditioned by story-telling to expect a hero to get into mortal danger and then find a lucky way out of it. You can call that "luck" whatever you want, but it's a sort of "force" or influence in a story and still allows free will.

Thinking about The Hobbit and The Silmarillion as comparisons, I would say TH deals a lot more with luck which seems non-providential. It's really hard for me to see any of Bilbo's lucky moments driven by Eru, the Valar, etc. It's just luck.

But in The Sil, things veer much more to the other side you're talking about, where Fate is ruling a lot of things, and people's lives are more controlled by outside forces. I still see plenty of free will in that book, and Tolkien makes it clear, for example, that the Noldor didn't have to fall under the Doom of Mandos, as Finarfin and his followers aptly demonstrated. But the Noldor in Beleriand were ultimately doomed to fail, just as Frodo's quest was ultimately doomed to succeed *somehow.* Turin could make all kinds of free-will decisions but still not escape the curse of Morgoth, whereas Beren & Luthien seemed to have an invisible Cupid on their side, shooting invisible arrows to help them at times, while at other times it was purely their own grit that decided their fate. But ultimately, I think Fate wanted B&L together, and it's really, really hard to read that tale and think that Tolkien would have allowed any other outcome.


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Nov 7, 9:55pm

Post #19 of 26 (513 views)
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Where the spirits of the dead marshes [In reply to] Can't Post

For want of a better description actually evil in the same way as the Barrow-Wights where? I'm not sure. They seemed evil, but on the other hand they did not seem to do a lot.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Nov 8, 3:01pm

Post #20 of 26 (468 views)
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Agreed [In reply to] Can't Post

They seemed more like "passive" evil than "actively" evil. And, Gollum survived his dive into the marshes in pursuit of them, so maybe they did no harm at all, or very little. But, there's nothing good about them either.


ElanorTX
Grey Havens


Nov 11, 4:51am

Post #21 of 26 (155 views)
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when I was a young schoolgirl and had just finished TH [In reply to] Can't Post

my parents and I visited a bookstore where I discovered the first printings of the Ballentine edition of LotR. I picked a volume up and opened it at random to the running on the grass scene. That almost turned me off to the whole series; fortunately my parents bought them for me anyway and I promptly got hooked.

"I shall not wholly fail if anything can still grow fair in days to come."



sador
Half-elven


Nov 11, 8:29am

Post #22 of 26 (149 views)
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What exactly is a Wight? [In reply to] Can't Post

As you say, Gollum is obviously not a Barrow-wight; but I don't think we ever get a clear definition of the distinction between wights and wraithes. Is there a real distinction? What exactly happened to the last prince of Cardolan? Gandalf does say that Gollum hasn't really faded, and Frodo was only near to becoming a wraith after being stabbed by a Morgul-blade.

In The Hunt for the Ring, Tolkien does write that the Barrow-wight and Old Man Willow were both somehow awakened by the Witch-king, which seems to indicate that the Ringwraiths somehow held sway over other evil spirits - so the distinction between wights and wraithes might be one of degree, rather than of kind. But some critics considered this to be actually a weakening of the story, and I tend to agree with them.

However, Minas Morgul also emanates a green light (Gollum's eyes shine green and white when near it, which is described as reflecting the Morgul-sheen). Perhaps this does indicate a connection with the light inside the Barrow, which is consistent with The Hunt for the Ring.

Thinking about things I don't understand


sador
Half-elven


Nov 11, 8:30am

Post #23 of 26 (150 views)
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Thank you! [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, I still lurk around and post occasionally. Thank you for keeping up the good work!

Thinking about things I don't understand


sador
Half-elven


Nov 11, 8:35am

Post #24 of 26 (147 views)
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Well, [In reply to] Can't Post

There is not much we know about them. But we do not know what would happen had Frodo indeed fallen deep underwater - and had the hobbits not foolishly fallen asleep on the downs, we would never know what lurked inside the Barrows.

Just on a passing note - the Jackson movies portrayal of the Dead Marshes might somehow echo the Barrow-wight, in a different setting.

Thinking about things I don't understand


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Nov 11, 1:59pm

Post #25 of 26 (141 views)
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I'm not sure that Wights were ever human. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
As you say, Gollum is obviously not a Barrow-wight; but I don't think we ever get a clear definition of the distinction between wights and wraithes. Is there a real distinction? What exactly happened to the last prince of Cardolan? Gandalf does say that Gollum hasn't really faded, and Frodo was only near to becoming a wraith after being stabbed by a Morgul-blade.


Other than wight coming from an Old English word for person or living being, I do not think that Tolkien's Wights were ever human beings. In Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien writes that the Wights were sent into the North-kingdoms at the time of the Great Plague of T.A. 1636:


Quote
In the days of Argeleb II the plague came into Eriador from the South-east, and most of the people of Cardolan perished, especially in Minhiriath. The Hobbits and all other peoples suffered greatly, but the plague lessened as it passed northwards, and the northern parts of Arthedain were little affected. It was at this time that an end came of the Dúnedain of Cardolan, and evil spirits out of Angmar and Rhudaur entered into the deserted mounds and dwelt there.


What exactly is meant by 'evil spirits' is debatable, but I interpret this as akin to the evil spirits (possibly lesser Ainur) that were placed into the bodies of wolves to produce the Werewolves that first appeared in the First Age.

#FidelityToTolkien

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