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Old 05-23-2019, 02:04 AM   #1
Urwen
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Character redemption

Is it possible that some Tolkien characters could have been redeemed without dying/being killed?
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Old 05-23-2019, 02:21 AM   #2
Huinesoron
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Is it possible that some Tolkien characters could have been redeemed without dying/being killed?
Yes: Osse. He defected to Morgoth, but Uinen was able to successfully plead for leniency and bring him back to the side of the Valar.

I would argue that both Maedhros and Maglor have redemption plots: Maedhros when he surrenders the High Kingship (though obviously he turns bad again by the end) and Maglor when he throws the Silmaril into the Sea.

There's actually not that many 'is redeemed and dies' plots in Tolkien. Turin, if you consider him in need of redemption. Boromir, always. Arguably Thorin. But the likes of Maeglin, Feanor, Saruman, Denethor, Gollum - they aren't redeemed. They die (so to speak) in their sins.

Can you present support for your view that redemption == dying in Tolkien? Because I've just named six characters with redemption arcs, split evenly between living and dying.

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Old 05-23-2019, 02:25 AM   #3
Urwen
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You just named five characters who died without being redeemed, which is what this topic is all about. In a manner of speaking, death is their 'redemption', in a loose sense of the word.
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Old 05-23-2019, 03:19 AM   #4
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You just named five characters who died without being redeemed, which is what this topic is all about. In a manner of speaking, death is their 'redemption', in a loose sense of the word.
I mean... arguably in the case of Gollum, since he actually achieved something good by his death. But I don't see any of the other four as being redeemed by their deaths. They die bad - Maeglin is killed for attempted infanticide, Feanor spends his last words condemning his children to a hopeless war, Saruman dies a petty tyrant, and Denethor burns himself in despair. There's no redemption there - no 'death as atonement', as we might expect from Biblical stories like Judas.

I think that speaks to Tolkien's worldview. He was quite happy to have characters with a grey edge to them - Turin or Eowyn, for instance. They could be redeemed, or find happiness, and that wasn't a problem. But once someone made a deliberate, informed choice to do evil, he really didn't go in much for redemption arcs.

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Old 05-23-2019, 03:26 AM   #5
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Sorry, I meant that their deaths themselves mean they can't do evil things anymore, and are therefore 'redeemed'. And I agree with you for the most part (Lomion's case is an exception).
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Old 05-25-2019, 11:03 AM   #6
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Sorry, I meant that their deaths themselves mean they can't do evil things anymore, and are therefore 'redeemed'. And I agree with you for the most part (Lomion's case is an exception).

I wouldn't call that "redemption," that's just a guarantee against recidivism.

Possibly the only "redemptive deaths" in Tolkien are those of Turin and Boromir. Gollum was acting fully in accord with his evil character, and just happened to fall (or was pushed)- no redemption there, even if good happened to come from his death.
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Old 05-25-2019, 03:11 PM   #7
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Sorry, I meant that their deaths themselves mean they can't do evil things anymore, and are therefore 'redeemed'. And I agree with you for the most part (Lomion's case is an exception).
I agree with Hui and William. The other characters didn't regret what they did, and they did not die with any "good intention". And I hate to break it to you, but neither did Maeglin. Redemption has a necessary element of self-initiation: an understanding that one did wrong, regret, desire to undo or fix the damage. Turin and Boromir have that, and for them the price of the undoing process is their deaths. But Maeglin doesn't have any of that. He does not regret any of his misdeeds and only deepens them. His death is not the price he chooses to pay for his atonement, it's an unfortunate outcome. As Hui said, Maeglin died with his sins.


What I am curious to know people's thoughts on is Grima, because I love that scene and his character there. I wouldn't go as far as to say he is redeemed, but he does have a glimmer of light in a Gollum 2.0 kind of way. He is about to turn his back on his past and learn a little love and kindness. Then Saruman crosses the line and pushes him into a state of hatered and rage, which is how he dies. Grima dies having paid for his sins, though not really regretting them (sorry that it failed but not that he did it sort of feeling), having opened a door into a better way of living but not stepping through it. How is he to be judged?

Mind you, I'm not sure that Grima killing Saruman is a sin in the same way, say, Turin's murders are, even the accidental ones. It's justice and poetic justice, it doesn't seem wrong in context. But it's also not right, again given the context of forgiveness as the emphasized virtue.

Now that I think of it, with his death Grima paid for Saruman's death, not for anything else he's done or been. But what was he at the end? Did he die Gollum or Smeagol?
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