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Old 10-04-2004, 11:12 AM   #1
tar-ancalime
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Sting "You carry the fate of us all, little one."

OK, I know this is the Books forum, and that's a line from the Movie, but hear me out:

I've been thinking about Frodo lately, my interest having been sparked by Child of the 7th Age's comments on the "Unstuck in Time" thread. I'd like to share my crackpot theory and invite comments, criticism, or maniacal laughter:

I was thinking that Frodo isn't just a member of the Fellowship; in an important way, he IS the Fellowship. Long after the Fellowship is physically broken, it remains whole in Frodo and the things he carries (much like the Tim O'Brien book): he wears a Dwarvish shirt, carries an Elvish sword and cloak, and of course bears the Ring that controls the fate of the world. In this way he's going forward bearing the standards of not just the hobbits, but also the Elves and the Dwarves: together, these are the three races that will diminish, sail away, and/or hide deeper in the earth after the end of the Third Age. This is why Frodo doesn't carry any tokens of Men: when he destroys the Ring, no Men need to accompany him because he isn't destroying their world or their way of life. This is underscored by Merry's and Pippin's oaths to Rohan and Gondor, respectively: those hobbits who remain "in the world" and fight in the conventional war swear their allegiance to the race that will prevail in the age to come, while Frodo's journey into Mordor need only be accompanied by those races destined to fail.

This ties in with my opinion (posted on the Chapter-by-Chapter forum) that the Fellowship itself is largely symbolic: it works on two levels. First there is the physical Fellowship consisting of the Company of Nine, and then there is the wholly symbolic Fellowship consisting only of Frodo and the items that have been given to him.

It's not until very late in the story that Frodo loses his Elvish and Dwarvish gifts, and even then Sam tries to keep them for him. The end of the journey, in which Frodo is naked and alone, is the part I"m having trouble reconciling with my theory (I told you it was a crackpot idea!). Does the fact that he loses his tokens deflate my theory, or can the journey through Mordor be seen as separate from the rest of the Quest, a time when all Fellwoships must fail and Frodo must look into the Void on his own?

( haven't got time now, but I will post again later with links to the other two discussions I mentioned.)
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Old 10-04-2004, 01:20 PM   #2
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1420! Good Theory.

Tar-ancalime, I like this theory you have come up with, and here's my two cents.

As brought up in the "Chapter-by-Chapter" threads, Frodo is a person that not only blames himself for HIS OWN mistakes, but he blames himself for the MISTAKES of OTHERS. It's like some sense of "perverted control," he puts all this blame on himself, and basically "accepts" the sins of others. This sort of goes on with your point about the Elvish cloak and sword, and the Mithril. I do think that it is to symbolize eventhough the Fellowship has broken physically, the fellowship still remains in Frodo, or as Frodo. I'll have to do some more thinking on your other point however, about Frodo was bearing these Dwarvish and Elvish items with him, because they are the races that are falling, slipping into decline. I'm not sure about that yet, I'll have to do more thinking, but I like the connection you made about Frodo symbolizing "The Fellowship." Or I wonder, if you think, that the bearing of these "foreign items" is more of a way to stress Frodo putting everyone's mistakes on his shoulders. Literally, that's how it is, the fate of Middle-Earth rests on Frodo's shoulders, he's bearing this with everyone's life at risk, he fails Middle-Earth is doomed, he suceeds all is happy. So, I wonder if it's more symbolism by Tolkien, on Frodo "carrying" the weight of the World on his shoulders.
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Old 10-04-2004, 01:35 PM   #3
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Frodo's own

I think that it's okay to say that the Fellowhip is really Frodo's Fellowship. The quest was his in the first place. Since it's no small chore that Frodo takes, all of Middle Earth with him. with its fate resting around his neck. So it is proper for 8 other people to take on the quest with him.

At the very end of the story, though, we see Frodo naked. What I think about that is that Frodo confronts his task alone for the first time, in the middle of it all. Now that he is at Mordor, he may turm his back on the quest now that he finds that he has survived it and thinking that not "all that."

At that "naked moment," the choice of giving up the ring to the fires of Mordor lie solely on Frodo. It's his decision in the end, and no matter how pure he is, as a Hobbit far removed from the "outside" world, the Ring chooses no one and corrupts nevertheless. Had the entire Fellowship been there, then it would have been chaos with everyone arguing about who should throw it in and who shouldn't, or worse: who should finally keep it and kill everyone in the end.

So to answer your question, Frodo does looks into the Void on his own. He is the Ring bearer, and he has to face the task of facing the Void. The Quest that he finishes brings him to himself. All of the Fellowhip have other things to fulfill, and he is left alone.
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Old 10-05-2004, 01:34 PM   #4
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Thanks for the thoughtful replies!

Boromir88, interesting idea about Frodo taking on the sins of others. Do you think of this as having a Christian resonance? In other words, are the Cracks of Doom Frodo's Crucifixion? Is the ship from the Grey Havens his Ascension?

(I'm using the word "resonance" here because I stand firm in my position that Tolkien didn't put any overt Scriptural references into his writing; I think he kept the influences of his faith on a more thematic level.)

Neferchoirwen, you are spot-on here:

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the Ring chooses no one and corrupts nevertheless.
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Old 10-06-2004, 09:43 AM   #5
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Boots Just a little note..

Interesting discussion Tar-Ancalime.

It's interesting what Boromir says, about taking the sins of the others. But when thinking this over and reading Tar-ancalime's last post, I must say that I question it.

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Boromir88, interesting idea about Frodo taking on the sins of others. Do you think of this as having a Christian resonance? In other words, are the Cracks of Doom Frodo's Crucifixion? Is the ship from the Grey Havens his Ascension?
Oh, well, maybe.. (?) Galadriel points out very clearly that Frodo is the only one who can do this; save Middle-earth. Jesus too, was The Rescuer.. Frodo takes the sins of others and accepts them. Jesus, according to the Bible, did as well. Frodo leaves Middle-earth after accomplishing his task; casting the ring into the flames of Mount Doom. Jesus dies (crucified) after spreading his message.

All in all for both for them: MISSION COMPLETE.

But why would Tolkien make Frodo a Middle-earth Jesus? That sounds odd to me. He was trying to make a mythology, not a new Bible.

Are we somewhat tearing Lord of the Rings to pieces by trying to interpret every single little detail? And can we interpret it differently? Sometimes I am under the impression that since we know that Tolkien was a Christian, we try interpreting his works exactly in that direction. What if we didn't know this? Would we think differently of things, and this matter? I'm aware that authors often are influenced by things, such as religion, but surely to a certain degree. Personally, I have difficulties believing he would intentionally make LOTR a new Bible.

PS! Here is a link to a great post. This is more on the Christianity question, about bearing the sins, and Frodo being a Middle-earth Jesus. Christianity. The whole thread is rather fascinating

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Old 10-06-2004, 12:39 PM   #6
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Thumbs up Yikes! Can of worms...open...

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Sometimes I am under the impression that since we know that Tolkien was a Christian, we try interpreting his works exactly in that direction.
Novnarwen, I'm with you. Personally, I definitely prefer to come to Tolkien's work with a broader outlook, but I know that many readers do interpret his work with an eye towards Christianity. I was wondering if this was the way Boromir88 was thinking of it, given his comments about Frodo "taking on the sins" of others in Middle-Earth. Care to weigh in, Boromir88?

Interesting link, too--there have been lots of discussions on the Downs about Tolkien's relationship to Christianity, but I do think the most important point to be made is this (and I've said it before): these books are for EVERYONE to read, and the themes within them are universal enough for everyone to be able to understand them. These stories are neither parables nor fables, which may be why they are so rich and seem so ripe for analysis (as in this forum). There are always many possible interpretations, none of which cancels out the others--the more we can know or intuit about these works, the better.
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Old 10-06-2004, 02:20 PM   #7
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If any character were to be considered a Christ figure, I would say it would have to be Gandalf. But as is laid out in the beginning of FotR, the book is not meant to be an allegory, but to be applicable. So I suppose we can apply it to nearly any situation we like and somehow come up with something reasonable.
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Old 10-06-2004, 02:38 PM   #8
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1420!

Tar-ancalime, being christian myself, I do like to sort of look at how Tolkien incorporates religion into his books. For example Eru, Valar, as Encaitare said ,Gandalf. For an honest answer, when making my comments about Frodo, christianity/religion never happened to pop into my mind. I do see what you mean though, how the phrase "taking on sins" is on the religious side.
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Old 10-07-2004, 10:18 PM   #9
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Tolkien

"The Lord of the Rings is a fundamentally religious and Catholic work. Unconsciously so in the writing, but consciously in the revision." - J.R.R. Tolkien

Although Tolkien "detest[ed] allegory in all its forms" (Prologue, The Lord of the Rings), he had a very definitely Christian worldview, and that shines through in all his writings. Obviously, The Silmarillion is very Christian in its account of the creation of Arda by Eru Iluvatar, and the fall of Melkor.

There are in fact three of what you might call Christ figures in The Lord of the Rings, though none of them present a complete picture of Jesus: each prominently display a different quality.

First, and first noticed on this thread, is Frodo. He is a Christ figure in the sense that he sacrifices everything he has and is to save his beloved Shire, and also Middle-earth. His torturous bearing of the Ring is very similar to Jesus taking the sins of mankind upon Himself. Obviously Frodo is incomplete in that he fails in the end and his Quest is only allowed to succeed through divine grace.

Second, there is Gandalf. Gandalf also makes a sacrifice on a slightly smaller scale: sacrifices himself to preserve the Quest and the lives of the rest of the Company in Moria. He is rewarded for this sacrifice by being allowed to return, in greatly enhanced power. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the main similarities between Gandalf and Jesus are their perfection, their sacrifice, and ultimately, resurrection. However, Gandalf is also incomplete: obviously, he is not God Himself, and like Frodo, depends on God's grace to vindicate him.

Finally, there is Aragorn. In Aragorn we see the kingly nature of Jesus, the promised Messiah of the Jews. Aragorn and Jesus are both descended in a right line from famous and powerful kings. Yet both hide their glory and majesty -- for a little while. They each have a job to do on Earth, albeit that the jobs are completely different ones. Obviously, Aragorn is also an incomplete Christ figure because, unlike Gandalf and Frodo, he makes no real sacrifice (other than waiting all those years to marry Arwen, and this is inconsequential). He is obviously not perfect.

So, in Frodo we see Jesus' sacrifice, in Gandalf we see His Resurrection, and in Aragorn we see Him as the King of Kings.

I'm not suggesting that Tolkien intentionally put Christ-like characteristics in these three main characters in LOTR, but it is certainly intriguing, especially for someone who is a Christian like he was, and like I am. Whether Tolkien intended it or not, these three main characters each point us, in different ways, to Jesus Christ.
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Old 10-08-2004, 06:04 AM   #10
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1420!

Tar-Ancalime:
Quote:
Boromir88, interesting idea about Frodo taking on the sins of others. Do you think of this as having a Christian resonance? In other words, are the Cracks of Doom Frodo's Crucifixion? Is the ship from the Grey Havens his Ascension?
I think that is a good possibility, thanks for bringing that up. I can see how the cracks of doom would be Frodo's crucifixion, there he doesn't physically die, but he is mentally dead, at this time probably thinking he's failed there is no hope left. The Grey Havens would be the only logical choice for Ascension, he's been wounded and needs to seek healing, to do that he goes to the Grey Havens. It's not like he doesn't love middle-earth anymore, but he isn't happy there, and he wants to be healed from his morgul wound. Similar to Celebrian.

Elladan, first off GREAT POST! I enjoyed reading it.
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Obviously Frodo is incomplete in that he fails in the end and his Quest is only allowed to succeed through divine grace.
I think Tolkien deals a lot with divine grace and a lot with fate. On the fate note, look at the Istari. Radagast represents Yavanna, so he of course, likes nature and birds. Saruman and Sauron (I know he's not an Istari, but might as well add him in too), are from Aule, they greed for money/power. Also, the Dwarves and Noldor are from Aule, they greed for riches and adore the items they make from their own hands. Gandalf was said to not really represent any Valar, but he was most like Manwe, so it is he who stays loyal to his quest and complete's the Istari's task. I believe that has something to do with fate, sort of like, you don't have control of what you do, it's who you are from, or who you represent, and that's who you end up in becoming.
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Old 10-08-2004, 10:42 AM   #11
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Going back to

"taking on the sins of Middle Earth."

I generally agree with Frodo taking on a significant role in the middle of a eucatastrophy, bringing the One Ring to Mordor doesn't mean that he is taking on the "sins" of the entire world per se. In comparison to Christ, what he did was more than just throwing some "nuclear bomb" into where it should be. "Sins" right there seems to me as a heavy word.

Although, it is enough to say that Frodo did the improbable (because no one else would wanted to deal with the Ring and Mordor ever) and that made him Christ figure enough.

I agree more with the idea of Gandalf as a prophet. He does have a stellar identity (literally) more than the characters he interacts with will ever realize. He does remind me of Jesus Christ the man who gave up being a divine being in Heaven to help save the people of earth. But Gandalf takes on a more "behind the scenes" part in the comings and goings of Middle Earth. The amazing thing about him is that he puts up with the humans he deals with, and harnesses a lot of patience laced with a lot of fascination when he goes around. Call that unconditional love. But I don't find him of a Christ figure in that he did not sacrifice anything compared to what Frodo did. He was more of a fact-finding initiator and ambassador.

I do get it that Frodo, Gandalf and Aragorn put together make the complete picture of Christ. But the one who does it for me most is Frodo.

(as of this post, an earth quake just happened; at first, I thought I was getting dizzy and began to worry about forgetting the whole point of this post--oh well)
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Old 10-08-2004, 03:48 PM   #12
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Great post, Neferchoirwen!

I didn't intend to say that the Ring is the sins of Middle-earth, but it certainly is a good symbol for them. It represents the desire that was the first sin of Melkor: desiring power apart from Eru. It is also like sin in its (almost) irresistability to all (except Bombadil, of course).

Gandalf is very much a prophet, I agree, but his powers seem to go a bit farther than that. His healing of Theoden is, perhaps, the act of a prophet, but the charge to dispel the Nazgul in the fields of Pelennor is beyond any mortal's ability (and, obviously, we know he isn't mortal).

Tolkien called Gandalf "strictly an angelos" (the Greek word with the dual meaning of "angel" or "messenger"). This is a good way to describe him because, as mentioned, he is of divine race, and he was sent by the Valar with the explicit purpose of being a messenger to the Free Peoples of Middle-earth.

I agree with your comments on Gandalf and Frodo. This is certainly a fascinating discussion, and I look forward to more feedback.
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Old 10-08-2004, 04:58 PM   #13
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Great posts, everyone!

The Elves, the Hobbits, and the Dwarves (and the Ents, too) are the diminishing races of Middle-Earth at the end of the Third Age. Why must Frodo take their tokens with him to Mount Doom? Why are Men, who will be the dominant race of Middle-Earth in the following Ages, only so peripherally involved in Frodo's symbolic Fellowship? Along the way, Men like Aragorn and Faramir provide aid to Frodo, but they never continue to travel with him in the way that Elves and Dwarves do (in the form of the items he is given). They remain in their own world, to fight different kinds of battles.

And most interesting to me (because I can't seem to reconcile it with my idea yet), why is it necessary for Frodo to lose the symbols of the other races and face the chasm naked and alone?
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Old 10-08-2004, 05:31 PM   #14
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Tolkien

Quote:
And most interesting to me (because I can't seem to reconcile it with my idea yet), why is it necessary for Frodo to lose the symbols of the other races and face the chasm naked and alone?
We must all fight evil, every single one of us. We can have help, but ultimately it comes down to us. Ultimately the individual decides whether he will give in willingly, or go down fighting. Nobody can help us with that at the bitter end. It is ultimately up to us.

Unfortunately, no one can win that battle, hence Frodo's defeat.
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Old 10-08-2004, 05:35 PM   #15
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1420!

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Unfortunately, no one can win that battle, hence Frodo's defeat.
Praise Gollum! For just happening to slip in and take the ring with him!
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Old 10-09-2004, 09:22 PM   #16
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No, praise Eru. Nothing "just happens" in Middle-earth, least of all the destruction of the Ring.

"Some other will than the Ring's was present. I can only say that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker." - Gandalf, Book I, Chapter II

"No, chance brought me then, if chance you call it." - Tom Bombadil, Book I, Chapter VII

"I think this task has been appointed for you, Frodo, and if you do not find the way, no one will." - Elrond, Book II, Chapter II

"A chance-meeting, as we say in Middle-earth." - Gandalf, Appendix A
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Old 10-09-2004, 09:33 PM   #17
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1420!

Ahhh, I stand corrected, it seemed to have slipped my mind, how Tolkien deals with the "fate" of the middle-earth peoples. Can't we give Gollum a little love? lol.
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Old 10-10-2004, 10:13 AM   #18
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Gollum props, or something like it

A train of thought...

Frodo brought the Ring to where it belongs (clearly, evil has no place in middle earth...unless of there are those who choose to fight it), but inspite of his purity (his hailing from the Shire which says a lot about obscurity, and his intentions to go at this alone risking the loss of his identity and wholesome self), he lost it and decided that the Ring was his at the last minute.

Enter Gollum. He is no longer a hobbit, and was forgotten by his own people, and Shire-folk barely remember a Smeagol existing when they were still cave-dwellers. He couldn't be called a Hobbit, and so he was a race of his own, a glitch brought by the malice of the Ring.

Both he and the Ring don't belong to ME, and so into the fires of Mordor do they perish.

They were glitches, and Frodo had to do the dirty work.
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Old 10-10-2004, 07:56 PM   #19
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Both he and the Ring don't belong to ME, and so into the fires of Mordor do they perish.

They were glitches, and Frodo had to do the dirty work.
I suppose that was why Agent Elrond figured it was a good thing for Frodo to go... "Gollum and the Ring are a virus... and Frodo is the cure."
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Old 10-11-2004, 11:15 AM   #20
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Joke's on me

Quote:
Originally Posted by Encaitare
I suppose that was why Agent Elrond figured it was a good thing for Frodo to go... "Gollum and the Ring are a virus... and Frodo is the cure."
ok...It's weird to admit that I just got the agent Elrond virus joke just now.

I never realized that that's what it meant, and how seriously I thought about it. Must be the late night/early morning brain lapse.

Oh jeepers.
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Old 10-15-2004, 06:07 AM   #21
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Obviously Frodo is incomplete in that he fails in the end and his Quest is only allowed to succeed through divine grace.
No, not divine Grace, but (if you must, divine) REDEMPTION.

Everyone talks about Frodo Failing (even tolkien mentions it in his letters). But HE DID NOT. By his and Sam's kindness towards Gollum in not killing him on the many occasions that felt they might have a right to, Frodo did not fail.

If gollum was dead, frodo would have been accosted, and (no doubt) after a brief struggle would have succumbed to the Nazgul and finally Sauron.

But, because of their Kindess, Frodo (and Middle-earth) were redeemed. (again I think tolkien mentions this in his letters). Gollum intervened and fell into the cracks of doom. There was no other way that the Ring would have ended up there. No one could throw it in of their own accord. Frodo, in his great wisdom, realised this just before he entered the Sammath Naur.
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'No, no, Sam,' he said sadly. 'But you must understand. It is my burden, and no one else can bear it. It is too late now, Sam dear. You can't help me in that way again. I am almost in its power now. I could not give it up, and if you tried to take it I should go mad.'
But he continued on his Quest, without hope. This, in itself, is enough to redeem him for me, but his kindess to gollum is what really helped him COMPLETE HIS QUEST.

Therefore Frodo did not fail. It really does bug me when people (and it seems a majority of people) say he failed.

Well done Frodo.
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Old 10-15-2004, 12:49 PM   #22
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1420! Depends on how you look at it.

Essex, I couldn't agree with you more, but I think there are two ways that we can look at this.

First, the personal test. It's a person vs. the Ring, a person's own will vs. the will of the ring. Galadriel faced this test, she suceeded, Faramir faced this test, he suceeded. Boromir faced the test, he failed. Frodo, faced this test and he failed. He fell to the power of the ring, he failed the "personal test," but in Frodo's defense who wouldn't have. Anyone, and I MEAN ANYONE, would have failed (excluding Bombadil), if they were in Frodo's situation.

But second, the "personal test" wasn't the "quest" (sorry for the rhyming). The quest was to destroy the ring, and isn't that what Frodo did? He got the ring to Mount Doom creating an oppurtunity for the Ring to be destroyed. Also, as you said, just having Gollum live, helps that quest suceed. Just getting the ring to Mount Doom creates an oppurtunity for the Ring to be destroyed, and it is.

So, if you ask did Frodo fail the "personal test,"- his will against the Ring's, yes he did. But, if you ask, did Frodo fail the quest? No, because the quest was to destroy the ring, he himself didn't destroy it, but he created the oppurtunity for it to be destroyed.
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Old 10-18-2004, 05:05 AM   #23
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Boromir,

That's exactly what I've been trying to say for the past few years on various lotr forums, but couldn't quite get there. To me, you have explained the situation perfectly.

Cheers!
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