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*** Favorite Chapters – The Tower of Cirith Ungol (LOTR)
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Hasuwandil
Rivendell


Apr 6, 3:27pm

Post #1 of 40 (2523 views)
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*** Favorite Chapters – The Tower of Cirith Ungol (LOTR) Can't Post

For some reason this chapter didn't raise as many questions for me as previous chapters have. Much of it is fairly straightforward narrative rather than exposition. This is a pivotal chapter for Sam. He had the good sense to take the Ring and Sting in "The Choices of Master Samwise", but in this chapter he really comes into his own. Previously his role had been mostly to support Frodo. Now he's the one who needs to take charge.

Given that Frodo is responsible for bearing the Ring, was it necessary for Sam to become the one in charge of the quest once they arrive in Mordor? How would the quest have gone differently if Frodo hadn't been poisoned by Shelob, captured by orcs, and taken to Cirith Ungol?


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They were not forgotten. But they were far beyond aid, and no thought could yet bring any help to Samwise Hamfast’s son; he was utterly alone.


Is there any significance in Tolkien's referring to Sam here as "Samwise Hamfast's son"?


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There he halted and sat down. For the moment he could drive himself no further. He felt that if once he went beyond the crown of the pass and took one step veritably down into the land of Mordor, that step would be irrevocable.


I'm not sure I have a question for this quote, but it reminds me of Sam mentioning that a certain place in the Shire is the farthest he'd ever been from home, especially as that scene is depicted in the New Line Cinema film. In the film Frodo encourages him to take the step. In this chapter the thought of Frodo being tormented by orcs causes him to cross over into Mordor without thinking of the danger he's in.


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As it drew near the great furnaces where, in the deeps of time, it had been shaped and forged, the Ring’s power grew, and it became more fell, untameable save by some mighty will. As Sam stood there, even though the Ring was not on him but hanging by its chain about his neck, he felt himself enlarged, as if he were robed in a huge distorted shadow of himself, a vast and ominous threat halted upon the walls of Mordor. He felt that he had from now on only two choices: to forbear the Ring, though it would torment him; or to claim it, and challenge the Power that sat in its dark hold beyond the valley of shadows. Already the Ring tempted him, gnawing at his will and reason. Wild fantasies arose in his mind; and he saw Samwise the Strong, Hero of the Age, striding with a flaming sword across the darkened land, and armies flocking to his call as he marched to the overthrow of Barad-dûr. And then all the clouds rolled away, and the white sun shone, and at his command the vale of Gorgoroth became a garden of flowers and trees and brought forth fruit. He had only to put on the Ring and claim it for his own, and all this could be.

In that hour of trial it was the love of his master that helped most to hold him firm; but also deep down in him lived still unconquered his plain hobbit-sense: he knew in the core of his heart that he was not large enough to bear such a burden, even if such visions were not a mere cheat to betray him. The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command.


A chance for Sam, gardener of the Shire, to prove his quality. Few people escape so easily from the Ring's temptation, especially those who have worn it. Why is Sam one of them?

I will note here that this scene was depicted in the Rankin/Bass adaptation of The Return of the King, but not in the New Line Cinema adaptation.

I was always intrigued by the Watchers. They remind me also of a scene from The Neverending Story. Who built them? Snaga seems to indicate that they were created by the Gondorians, but if so, why do they perceive Sam as an enemy and not the orcs?


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`Yes! The Elf-warrior is loose!’ he cried. ‘I’m coming. Just you show me the way up, or I’ll skin you!’


Sam has apparently changed since the beginning of the story. One of the orcs speculated that Frodo's companion was an Elf-warrior. What is the significance to Sam of this idea?

In this chapter Sam cut's off Snaga's whip hand with Sting. Snaga rushes him, but falls to his death after tripping over the ladder-head. If I recall correctly, in the Rankin/Bass film, an orc also falls to his death trying to escape Sam. However, in the New Line Cinema film, Sam stabs an orc in the back, albeit to rescue Frodo. Does the latter action seem true to Sam's character, or not? He did threaten Gollum a bit, but he never carried through.


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‘Gilthoniel, A Elbereth!’ Sam cried. For, why he did not know, his thought sprang back suddenly to the Elves in the Shire, and the song that drove away the Black Rider in the trees.

‘Aiya elenion ancalima!’ cried Frodo once again behind him.


I like that Sam uses Sindarin and Frodo uses Quenya. Is there any significance to that? And how does Sam always know what to say or sing? Does anyone find it contrived that Sam suddenly recalls words spoken in Sindarin in the Shire half a year ago? Or can suddenly put words to one of Bilbo's songs?

Hêlâ Auriwandil, angilô berhtost,
oƀar Middangard mannum gisandid!


Solicitr
Gondor


Apr 6, 3:58pm

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‘Gilthoniel, A Elbereth!’ Sam cried. For, why he did not know, his thought sprang back suddenly to the Elves in the Shire, and the song that drove away the Black Rider in the trees.

‘Aiya elenion ancalima!’ cried Frodo once again behind him.


I like that Sam uses Sindarin and Frodo uses Quenya. Is there any significance to that? And how does Sam always know what to say or sing? Does anyone find it contrived that Sam suddenly recalls words spoken in Sindarin in the Shire half a year ago? Or can suddenly put words to one of Bilbo's songs?


Possibly because it was the only Elvish incantation Sam knew; possibly because the one time he recalled Elf-magic repelling the evil of Mordor it was Gildor's folk; or possibly the fact that the Phial represented a "star come down to earth" (as reflected also in Frodo's invocation) led him to call upon the Star-kindler. Or all three at once.

Or Eru (the universal Tolkien plot-hole stopper).


enanito
Rohan

Apr 6, 8:30pm

Post #3 of 40 (2417 views)
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Shire-life [In reply to] Can't Post


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Is there any significance in Tolkien's referring to Sam here as "Samwise Hamfast's son"?

This seems a continuation of "Frodo, hobbit of the Shire" and "Samwise the hobbit, Hamfast's son" from the last two chapters of Book IV. I think we can now see one of the payoffs of Tolkien's lingering beginning to LOTR. The unassuming, simple and decidedly unpolished Shire lifestyle, now becomes a potent antidote to the powerful influences of Evil. Without those first chapters in the Shire, we'd just have to take Tolkien's word that hobbits are remarkably resistant to many evils of the world. But we've seen in depth what hobbits are like, and we've seen Hamfast himself in action, so this means something to us as readers.


enanito
Rohan

Apr 6, 8:50pm

Post #4 of 40 (2415 views)
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Forces of Good inside the borders of Mordor [In reply to] Can't Post

I've tried racking my brain, but I cannot place where exactly I came up with this impression. But for some reason, I somehow came to the point where I expected that once inside Mordor proper, external forces for Good would completely lose their power. Maybe it's because Gandalf's sight is ever-more-clouded as the Ring moves towards and then inside Mordor. Or maybe there's something from one of the movies that led me to this. But maybe somebody in text mentions this expectation.

With this underlying impression, I always find myself "surprised" when the Phial works at the gate, or when Elvish incantations come into F&S' minds and give them moral courage and power.

Is there any reason why I would think this, besides me just getting that idea somehow in my head all-by-myself?


CuriousG
Half-elven


Apr 6, 9:10pm

Post #5 of 40 (2412 views)
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Maybe you're thinking of this, and applying it to an earlier section? [In reply to] Can't Post


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I've tried racking my brain, but I cannot place where exactly I came up with this impression. But for some reason, I somehow came to the point where I expected that once inside Mordor proper, external forces for Good would completely lose their power. ...Is there any reason why I would think this, besides me just getting that idea somehow in my head all-by-myself?



From Sam's entry to Mount Doom:


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At first he could see nothing. In his great need he drew out once more the phial of Galadriel, but it was pale and cold in his trembling hand and threw no light into that stifling dark. He was come to the heart of the realm of Sauron and the forges of his ancient might, greatest in Middle-earth; all other powers were here subdued.



CuriousG
Half-elven


Apr 6, 9:17pm

Post #6 of 40 (2420 views)
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Humility and knowing your place [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien never seems to treat ambitious people well, with Feanor, Saruman, Sauran, and Melkor as poster boys for how it goes wrong. Aragorn is an exception.

Your quote about Sam's victory over the Ring's temptation reminded me of Eowyn's reckoning, giving up her ambitious desire to be both a war hero and a queen at Aragorn's side and finding joy in the lesser role of being the Steward's wife.


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[Sam] The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command.



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[Eowyn] ‘I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun,’ she said; ‘and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.’ And again she looked at Faramir. ‘No longer do I desire to be a queen,’ she said.



CuriousG
Half-elven


Apr 6, 9:32pm

Post #7 of 40 (2406 views)
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I've always thought of The Watchers as Sauron's work (or his minions') [In reply to] Can't Post

They seem much too evil on the surface to be anything Gondor made, though it's possible they were Gondorian structures resculpted by Sauron & Co.


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They were like great figures seated upon thrones. Each had three joined bodies, and three heads facing outward, and inward, and across the gateway. The heads had vulture-faces, and on their great knees were laid clawlike hands. They seemed to be carved out of huge blocks of stone, immovable, and yet they were aware: some dreadful spirit of evil vigilance abode in them. They knew an enemy. Visible or invisible none could pass unheeded. They would forbid his entry, or his escape.

Hardening his will Sam thrust forward once again, and halted with a jerk, staggering as if from a blow upon his breast and head. Then greatly daring, because he could think of nothing else to do, answering a sudden thought that came to him, he drew slowly out the phial of Galadriel and held it up. Its white light quickened swiftly, and the shadows under the dark arch fled. The monstrous Watchers sat there cold and still, revealed in all their hideous shape. For a moment Sam caught a glitter in the black stones of their eyes, the very malice of which made him quail; but slowly he felt their will waver and crumble into fear.




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Snaga: "You heard the bell. He’s got past the Watchers, and that’s tark’s [Gondorian] work."


I understand why this seems to imply Gondor made the Watchers. My explanation is that Gondor made the fortress, so maybe a Gondorian could foil the fortress's spells against them. Or maybe the magic tradition of Gondorians, which enabled Isildur to put a curse of undying on the King of the Mountains, is legendary enough that the orcs still think they're magical.


Solicitr
Gondor


Apr 6, 9:44pm

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They seem much too evil on the surface to be anything Gondor made, though it's possible they were Gondorian structures resculpted by Sauron & Co.


Quote
They were like great figures seated upon thrones. Each had three joined bodies, and three heads facing outward, and inward, and across the gateway. The heads had vulture-faces, and on their great knees were laid clawlike hands. They seemed to be carved out of huge blocks of stone, immovable, and yet they were aware: some dreadful spirit of evil vigilance abode in them. They knew an enemy. Visible or invisible none could pass unheeded. They would forbid his entry, or his escape.

Hardening his will Sam thrust forward once again, and halted with a jerk, staggering as if from a blow upon his breast and head. Then greatly daring, because he could think of nothing else to do, answering a sudden thought that came to him, he drew slowly out the phial of Galadriel and held it up. Its white light quickened swiftly, and the shadows under the dark arch fled. The monstrous Watchers sat there cold and still, revealed in all their hideous shape. For a moment Sam caught a glitter in the black stones of their eyes, the very malice of which made him quail; but slowly he felt their will waver and crumble into fear.




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Snaga: "You heard the bell. He’s got past the Watchers, and that’s tark’s [Gondorian] work."


I understand why this seems to imply Gondor made the Watchers. My explanation is that Gondor made the fortress, so maybe a Gondorian could foil the fortress's spells against them. Or maybe the magic tradition of Gondorians, which enabled Isildur to put a curse of undying on the King of the Mountains, is legendary enough that the orcs still think they're magical.


This one always seemed to me to be a plot-hole. The TCU was built by Gondor after Sauron's overthrow, and even though apparently Orcs have infested the place since the Great Plague, Sauron has only been in Mordor for 60 years or so and presumably was rather occupied rebuilding Barad-dur- who has time to enchant evil statues? I suppose a bored Nazgul might have come up the hill from Minas Morgul.....


noWizardme
Half-elven


Apr 7, 2:00pm

Post #9 of 40 (2336 views)
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Quick observation for now [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for running this one Hasuwandil! A quick observation for now, and I'll hope to return later to try and answer some of those questions Smile
At different times I've read this chapter in 3 different ways:
1) [and possibly the best] on my first reading I was totally lost in the story and reading along in a frenzy of wanting to know what was going to happen next. How was Sam going to manage such an impossible rescue, if he could manage it at all?

2) A little later a certain level of 'fridge logic' set in. "I say Tolkien old chap, it's a tad convenient that all the orcs kill each other, don't you think?"

3) Later still, and mostly to do with out 2016 read-through, it began to seem as if all the orcs killing each other was totally consistent with how Middle-earth seems to 'work', and how Tolkien creates a word in which there can be both fate and free will. Nothing and nobody is beyond redemption (is how it works, I think). There is always a choice that might work, but it could be hard to spot, apparently foolish, require huge amounts of bravery, effort and sacrifice (or other difficulties that mostly avoid a situation where the characters just glide through their lives as if on some fairground ride or 'rail shooter'). And there's no guarantee of surviving to see how (if at all) one's choices helped things worked out.The virtues and abilities required are also not the cliched macho ones of pot-boiler fantasy fiction, necessarily. I wonder whether any other characters than Sam would have gone through with this piece of total apparent lunacy, which then turns out to be a workable solution (the only one??) to saving Frodo and the quest?

4) As for (4) if there is to be one - well let's see what new ideas appear now we're discussing the chapter again!

Oh, and I love the Watchers as well - one of those unexplained and perhaps inexplicable things that somehow seem entirely natural and appropriate to their place in the story.

~~~~~~
"Yes, I am half-elven. No, it does not mean that I 'have one pointy ear' "
Sven Elven, proprietor of the Rivendell convenience store.


enanito
Rohan

Apr 7, 2:32pm

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Evil stepping on its own toes [In reply to] Can't Post

I wonder how many times before this has happened, with the vaunted Hosts of the West completely clueless? I can imagine the men of Gondor huddled behind the walls of Minas Tirith, unaware that the tower of Cirith Ungol or Minas Morgul was once more, yet again, completely unmanned because of some internal feud where everyone died. The Nazgul must have gotten tired of cleaning up these messes, which is likely why it uttered such a ghastly shriek when finding out ("oh no! not again...")

And ever wonder why Morgoth waited so long between his attacks during the long years of the First Age? Perhaps because his forces kept killing each other, forcing him to maintain the illusion of numberless hosts underneath Thangorodrim, whereas Angband was quite empty half the time? Wink


(This post was edited by enanito on Apr 7, 2:34pm)


noWizardme
Half-elven


Apr 9, 9:56am

Post #11 of 40 (2041 views)
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A Tolkien favourite to be sure, but one that is not too unrealistic in principle? [In reply to] Can't Post

Certainly Tolkien seems to like plot twists whereby Evil is self-defeating. So in this case trying to keep invaders out ends up letting them in, and elsewhere Saruman ends up having been extremely helpful to the cause of defeating Sauron.

But I'm also thinking how this seems a little like real life. I don't think it would be a good idea to try and decide which historical, political or other organizations to label as 'evil' or 'good'. But it certainly seems to me that a lot happens (or doesn't happen) in real life because of motives such as self-aggrandizement, personal jealousy, and inter-factional disputes that seem bizarre to someone not in one of the groups.

~~~~~~
"Yes, I am half-elven. No, it does not mean that I 'have one pointy ear' "
Sven Elven, proprietor of the Rivendell convenience store.


squire
Half-elven


Apr 9, 12:32pm

Post #12 of 40 (2040 views)
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'Evil defeats itself' in the real world is merely justification after the fact. [In reply to] Can't Post

The differences between fiction and fact are as many as the similarities. One difference is that in real life, it wasn't clear in the past what the future would bring. Thus someones or some party's actions, which seem later on to have been self-defeating or contrary to their self-interest, may not have seemed so at the time.

As you say, good and evil are not the best characterizations in real life, but we see the above circumstances often enough in military history, which favors a kind of deterministic story-telling because the winners and losers of a war are usually pretty obvious when the fighting stops. And the popular imagination thrills to accounts of how a losing side "shot itself in the foot" or "made the biggest mistake in the war" by over-reaching, continuing with an over-stretched offensive, underestimating an enemy's resistance or reserves, etc. so that the "tide turned" and the eventual winners "finally" won.

But most historians resist the idea that something had to happen and could have been reliably foreseen from the beginning were sufficient wisdom available. And so do most people in their own lives - ideas about preordination notwithstanding. The winners write history, and people only see a story in a life with a dramatic narrative and a rise and fall - or fall and rise - after the life has entered the past.

And this is where fiction comes in, as fiction fulfills our desire to make these retrospective stories more artistically satisfying by cleaning up messy details and omitting contrary indicators. Our need to make sense out of random patterns, which is a basic survival strategy, leads us to see stories in real life whether they're there or not, and to write stories that evoke real life to reinforce that instinct.

Fantasy actually isn't that different. For all that it breaks some of the rules of real life, it never breaks them all at once because it needs to be believable in order to function as story-art (as Tolkien noted in his 'On Fairy-stories', by the way).

So here in the Tower of Cirith Ungol, Tolkien has set himself a near-impossible task, that originated back in Bag End when a single hobbit was delegated with the task of entering the evil fortress-land of Mordor, undetected. Just as Bilbo could not credibly be the one who killed Smaug, so that a contrived weakness in the dragon becomes his undoing via a game of telephone from Bilbo to Bard, so here it was not credible that Sam could kill any, much less all, of the orcs who guard the Tower and hold Frodo captive. So Tolkien once again imaginatively contrived a circumstance, whereby a hobbit could be a hero and still remain a hobbit: have all the hundreds of orcs kill each other, down to a last two who Sam can overcome by hobbity stealth and luck.

I think what makes this ridiculous gag work is, one, the skill with which the orcs have been portrayed as simultaneously utterly evil and mindlessly robotic, and two, the skill of the thrilling and descriptive writing solely from Sam's point of view, so that we never have to confront the miraculous mechanics of the actual conflict among the competing and mutually suicidal orcs.

(I love the idea that, logically by this example, orc-outposts must regularly self-immolate in Mordor, and the Nazgul's cry at the end of the chapter is the equivalent of the potted plant's "Oh no, not again!" in Hitchhiker's Guide!)



squire online:
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enanito
Rohan

Apr 9, 3:39pm

Post #13 of 40 (2019 views)
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Sam meant to kill Snaga - why not let it happen in book? [In reply to] Can't Post

One benefit of the movies for me, is that it often makes me think about certain book scenes and question "why?". When Sam stabs the orc in the back in the movie, obviously PJ felt this was important (cinematically? thematically? who knows). And in the book, it seems clear that Tolkien purposefully decided on this "fortunate happenstance" when Snaga trips and falls to his death.

So I also ask "why?". It might have made Sam a bit more complicated if he had ever killed another creature, as opposed to remaining relatively pure and unblemished by his version of There And Back Again. Perhaps Fate was sparing Sam from that burden? But as I read the chapter, Sam was intent on doing what was necessary to save Frodo - he cut off Snaga's hand, and I feel he would have killed Snaga if needed.

So I think I lean towards preferring Sam killing, rather than the trope of a bad character tripping and falling to his doom.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Apr 9, 6:48pm

Post #14 of 40 (2004 views)
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Sam's kill rate [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree it's an odd choice to NOT have Sam kill Snaga. (Just noting below that in Moria, Sam killed an orc.) I guess my gut tells me it's the Heavy Hand of Fate here, the same Heavy Hand that neatly (and incredibly) had the orcs eliminate each other so Sam could literally walk into an enemy fortress. It almost seems like Tolkien invented the Watchers on the fly so that it didn't seem *too* easy for Sam to stage his rescue. Maybe Tolkien's intent was to tell us that luck was on the side of Sam & Frodo, and right now they really needed some good luck? Just a guess.



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When thirteen had fallen the rest fled shrieking, leaving the defenders unharmed, except for Sam who had a scratch along the scalp. A quick duck had saved him; and he had felled his orc: a sturdy thrust with his Barrow-blade. A fire was smouldering in his brown eyes that would have made Ted Sandyman step backwards, if he had seen it.



enanito
Rohan

Apr 9, 7:12pm

Post #15 of 40 (2002 views)
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Now you made me go back and read that whole part! [In reply to] Can't Post

I had not remembered, even from previous Read Thru's, that Sam had killed an orc in Moria. And of course when I went back to read the section you quoted, just like it always happens, I couldn't just stop reading... so I had to keep going until after the Bridge of Khazad-dûm! And yes (sniff), just like always, Gandalf fell again into the chasm...


CuriousG
Half-elven


Apr 9, 7:35pm

Post #16 of 40 (1992 views)
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Well, maybe on one of our re-reads, Gandalf will win the battle right there on the bridge and swagger away as victor.. [In reply to] Can't Post

Though of course somehow, I think Tolkien fans need that tragedy. But I know what you mean. *sniff*


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Grief at last wholly overcame them, and they wept long: some standing and silent, some cast upon the ground.


I wish the movies had been "braver" in the sense of showing them all crying instead of just the wimpy hobbits, but I guess if macho men on screen cry, then ticket sales aren't as good. It's not about "to cry or not to cry," it's the sense of family the fellowship had developed and the consequent, shared sense of loss that overwhelmed them all. *sniff*


noWizardme
Half-elven


Apr 10, 10:24am

Post #17 of 40 (1932 views)
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Shot in the Balkans [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not sure, squire, whether your are silently agreeing with my point that all kinds of strange things can contribute to what does or does not happen? You might be taking that as stated and moving onto the next interesting point. But you might be expressing a difference of opinion. If so, I'd like to understand that better, because I think it might be lost on me at present. TO assist, this post is a mixture of pointing out agreement, and trying to explain my earlier point more fully.

Let me right away agree with you that stories are of course an art form, with a storyteller of some kind arranging things artistically to achieve entertainment, or thought about certain themes (or whatever). History is not an art form (probably), though writing good history books probably is. So in this case Tolkien had, I believe already sketched out the scene at Mount Doom. To get there he clearly has to get Sam and Frodo out of their current fix. Of course he could also theoretically have changed his mind and come up with some other climax -- but he didn't and that's probably just as well. My amateur dabblings in history suggest that there have been historians who see history as some sort of direction (the working out of God's Will, or the inevitable progress of the Marxist Class Struggle, or the inevitable triumph of some national or other group). Of course those historians don't agree with each other -- how could they? -- or with other historians who see things as less deterministic (fair enough?).
So I agree with that difference, but it makes me think that good storytelling often involves disguising this difference. Common gripes I see about stories include that it looks too much like success is achieved by unlikely co-incidences, or that someone acts out of character because it's convenient for the storyteller, or that something else happens that is not 'believable' (by which I think people mean it stops them suspending disbelief). I think here Tolkien is helped (or is relying upon) it being totally in character for Sam choosing to save Frodo over everything else, and he's also, I think, helped by what can be amusingly shorthanded as the 'Rule of Cool':

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The limit of the Willing Suspension of Disbelief for a given element is directly proportional to its awesomeness.

Stated another way, all but the most pedantic of viewers will forgive liberties with reality as long as the result is wicked sweet or awesome. This applies to the audience in general; there will naturally be a different threshold for each individual. Also known in some circles as a "rad herring", in which something doesn't make sense within the guidelines of the story's reality, but it's too cool not to include it.
The Rule of Cool - article on TVtropes.


Now to explain my post title, which comes from musing about why things happen (expanding on the point I made in my last post). I think I'm agreeing with you [squire] once again in saying that, once something has happened, a set of causes and effects can be projected backwards. For a few events maybe that's a linear chain, and all other things going on at the time seem irrelevant. Or maybe it's a complex web of things, such that multiple failures have to align to cause, say the accident at Three Mile Island, or the sinking of the Titanic, or how come a disease outbreak becomes a pandemic. What the webs or chain are, and which are the most important bits, is of course often going to be a matter of opinion and balancing accounts. Sometimes those chains or webs might involved "For want of a nail a shoe was lost" - some apparently trivial thing that is involved in a cascade of escalating effects. Sometimes a single critical mistake or brilliant decision can be found, perhaps to do with insubordination, incompetence or other faults. But it's always arguable that that particular action was only critical because everything else was finely balanced, or all ready to be triggered. That might explain why a lot of stuff goes more or less according to plan despite all the turf-battles, personal jealousies, misunderstandings and self-aggrandizement that seems to dog many a project

How I think about this in Tolkien (and to an extent in real life) is that things are often very unstable. Frodo's mithril coat causes an all-out riot. But it's believable to me that this is like shooting an Archduke in the Balkans - it only has such a drastic effect because many pressures have built up, new opportunities have suddenly presented themselves, everyone is excited and confused, and restoring the former order either doesn't work or isn't attempted. Maybe, looking back, it seems almost inevitable that Shagrat and Gorbags troops would come to blows over something, or that there was very likely to be a general European war some time around 1914. Maybe, looking forward from before that had happened, it was very hard to see things as they seemed so clearly to be in hindsight.

Finally, I think storytellers who want to write heroic stories can make a lot of use of the "For want of a nail a shoe was lost" instability of things. It can put your fairly every-man hero at just the right point where they can start some huge chain of events. The alternative is to make them a superman (or indeed, actually make them Superman). But I suppose that appeals to a different kind of wish-fulfillment in the audience. One kind of story is imagination oneself 'far awesomer', if not 'the most awesomest'. The other recruits our secret hopes that we might do something awesome despite our limitations.

~~~~~~
"Yes, I am half-elven. No, it does not mean that I 'have one pointy ear' "
Sven Elven, proprietor of the Rivendell convenience store.


Solicitr
Gondor


Apr 10, 7:09pm

Post #18 of 40 (1902 views)
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Common gripes I see about stories include that it looks too much like success is achieved by unlikely co-incidences, or that someone acts out of character because it's convenient for the storyteller, or that something else happens that is not 'believable'.


Pratchett dubbed this "narrative causality."

Of course, on the Discworld narrative causality is a law of physics....


Elizabeth
Half-elven


Apr 15, 7:29am

Post #19 of 40 (1485 views)
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"Knowing your place" [In reply to] Can't Post

For a great swath of history this was considered a good thing, and Tolkien seems to agree. But it's also an incantation to dissuade lower class people from attempting to "rise above their station" and attempt upward mobility, which is more highly regarded nowadays. As LOTR is a morality tale, and Samwise ends up being mayor (which is a position of respect though not much power) and happy, it's a happy ending. Merry and Pippin, both upper-class hobbits, also are happy, maintaining their nobility and ties to the King. Frodo, the hero, is odd man out.


Solicitr
Gondor


Apr 15, 4:13pm

Post #20 of 40 (1439 views)
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I think [In reply to] Can't Post

that to me, perhaps the most moving moment in the entire book, and certainly one of the very most important, occurs in this chapter, when Sam tells his despairing master "I took it, Mr. Frodo. And I've kept it safe." The Quest is still alive, and Sauron has NOT won.

And then gives it back.. Spontaneously, without pressure- when had that ever happened?


squire
Half-elven


Apr 15, 6:44pm

Post #21 of 40 (1424 views)
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It is remarkable that Sam returns the Ring to Frodo [In reply to] Can't Post

But it's consistent with his ability to forswear the Ring's temptation earlier (Samwise, hero of the age, etc.).

Sam seems to be yet another example of how the Ring has almost no purchase on a being who does not desire power over others. Not that hobbits are immune, but it takes more time and longer possession for the full effect to lock in.

That said, just as with the dream-temptation in the open pass, here in the tower we see indications that Sam is already much taken by the Ring:
Sam fumbled for the Ring and its chain. `But I suppose you must take it back.’ Now it had come to it, Sam felt reluctant to give up the Ring and burden his master with it again. ...
[still not giving it back] 'You’ll find the Ring very dangerous now, and very hard to bear. If it’s too hard a job, I could share it with you, maybe?’
`No, no!’ cried Frodo, snatching the Ring and chain from Sam’s hands. - LR VI.1
For all the pathos of their subsequent reconciliation, at this moment Sam and Frodo are fighting over the Ring, and if Sam does not actually claim it, neither does he "spontaneously, without pressure" give it to Frodo. He keeps holding it while trying to negotiate a way to share it, until Frodo finally just grabs it from him. Sam is completely torn in two between his subordinating love for his master and his own desire for the Ring.



squire online:
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Kimi
Forum Admin / Moderator


Apr 15, 10:21pm

Post #22 of 40 (1409 views)
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I find it interesting that [In reply to] Can't Post

the path of Sam's Ring-temptation here is via his desire to protect Frodo; to bear the burden for him. As you say, the thought of having power over others had almost no purchase on Sam. But telling himself that he would be protecting Frodo in bearing the Ring touches that great heart of his.


The Passing of Mistress Rose
My historical novels

Do we find happiness so often that we should turn it off the box when it happens to sit there?

- A Room With a View


No One in Particular
Lorien


Apr 16, 1:19am

Post #23 of 40 (1384 views)
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Sam the Wise [In reply to] Can't Post


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the path of Sam's Ring-temptation here is via his desire to protect Frodo; to bear the burden for him. As you say, the thought of having power over others had almost no purchase on Sam. But telling himself that he would be protecting Frodo in bearing the Ring touches that great heart of his.


Similar to Gandalf, who says that the way to his fall would be pity, and the desire to do good, which would eventually devolve into darkness. I feel like eventually the Ring would have gotten Sam; it just might have taken quite a while. It would likely work on him through that desire to save Frodo, and to a lesser extent everyone else. After all, what better way to serve them than to control everything so no one can ever get hurt again...?

While you live, shine
Have no grief at all
Life exists only for a short while
And time demands an end.
Seikilos Epitaph


noWizardme
Half-elven


Apr 16, 11:49am

Post #24 of 40 (1319 views)
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Quite so [In reply to] Can't Post

[Gives Elizabeth a wave - lovely to 'see' you!]
I think Sam is the closest Tolkien gives us to the 'clever lad' figure of folktales - the common man (often a Miller's son*) who ends up Mayor of London, or joining the nobility through cleverness rather than hereditary warrior- or kingly- battle-awesomeness. Arguably Sam does get pretty close (is Mayor and master of Bag End and friend of the King Shire nobility? It's arguable, but I don't' like arguing all that much). Aragorn, I suppose is more the man who will become King, and this will be a success because being king is his place as well as Aragorn being the person who arguably deserves to be king because of his qualities. But it's not Aragorn's place to (for example) live longer than he should, and he quite didactically makes that point in his Appendix (I mean that place in the book, not that part of Aragorn's digestive system Smile )

So maybe, 'knowing your place' in LOTR means correctly judging the right (?heavenly mandated?) scheme of things, rather than sticking to your position in the social hierarchy? That idea might also cover Feanor and Denethor as well - it seems to me that they are insisting that their respective Humpty Dumpties be put back together again, rather than realizing that the world has changed, doesn't care that they are stamping their tiny feet about this, and they should seek another role in the new circumstances. Possibly I could throw Saruman in with this group -his personal Humpty Dumpty in pieces on the floor is his position as leader of the wise.

Which is kinda interesting perhaps. The first know your place is reactionary - the powerful people are probably powerful because they deserve to be, or are destined to be. The second is different - the powerful people are not always right, and don't automatically deserve to be respected or to remain powerful. And of course all this co-exists with (or perhaps is exemplified by?) the paradox that the Ring brings - the Ring is especially dangerous to (and through) a powerful figure.

I think there's also an important point or moral about egotism. I also feel that Aragorn is the leader-as-servant - he seems to serve a goal beyond his own ego, and where he can he creates situations that enable others to give their best (he doesn't feel the need to keep them down in case they overshadow him). I recently pointed out that similarity with Eowyn (As Dernhelm she takes Merry along with her, even though, at least as far as I can see that increases her risks of detection and disgrace, rather than being a cunning plan to maximise her own selfish goals.) There's also, of course a similarity here with Sam - leading without egotism for a higher goal.


--*And more rarely, clever lass. I think it's often a Miller's son because millers worked with the most complex machines around, and tended to be the local inventors. In real life can think of a few figures in the early Industrial revolution who were Millers. Come to think of it though, the Hobbiton Miller's son doesn't do too well!

~~~~~~
"Yes, I am half-elven. No, it does not mean that I 'have one pointy ear' "
Sven Elven, proprietor of the Rivendell convenience store.


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Apr 16, 1:16pm

Post #25 of 40 (1313 views)
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Saw the Half-wise [In reply to] Can't Post

Just to put a little break on all the Sam-love here, It should be reminded that Sam's love for Frodo was really a very jealous, selfish, egotistical love that had (as Tolkien himself pointed out) "an element of pride and possessiveness." It was because of this that Sam failed at his real test, when his jealous love of Frodo destroyed Gollum's moment of redemption, which directly led to Frodo's own final moment of failure and the need for providence to step in and complete the destruction of the Ring.

Without that moment of failure, there would have been no need for Sam to "succeed" at giving the Ring back to Frodo (and even there, it was his prideful, possessive love of Frodo that allowed him to do so).

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire

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