It wasn’t until after Monday’s class that I realized that I was very bothered by the fact that Frodo failed to carry out his task completely, though I didn’t really know why. I let the realization sink in for a while, and it was then that I decided to think about why it bothered me, which then took me to broader questions…
Frodo Baggins’ story and his journey seems to be sort of an allegory to our lives and the things we face every day, a fact that makes him a very relatable character. Just like Frodo’s constant torment and temptation with the Ring, here in the primary world many of us are often tempted to do things that are not considered good, and we often feel like giving in to our “sinful nature”. All of us, in both our world and Tolkien’s world, have an infinite number of choices to make, but there’s always that shadow of temptation hanging above our heads that makes our decisions harder to make. It sounds like a simple thing, comparing our lives and struggle to that of Mr. Baggins, but then one might have to think about what that means in the context of the larger scope of the story, the one that deals with the One Ring and its effect on Middle-earth and its inhabitants.
In letter 246, Tolkien responds to a comment regarding Frodo’s “failure” and says, “At the last moment the pressure of the Ring would reach its maximum—impossible, I should have said, for anyone to resist, certainly after long possession, months of increasing torment, and when starved and exhausted” (Pg 326). Although he includes all the circumstances that would justify the failure to destroy the Ring, the part of “impossible to resist” stuck out to me the most. What does this say about the power of evil in the whole of Tolkien’s world? What about our own world?
If, as Tolkien says, no one could have completed the task, does it imply that the evilest of evils cannot be defeated by will alone? After all, Frodo’s will was overpowered and he couldn’t let the Ring go after holding on to it for so long. Other people who came into contact with the Ring made their choice to either take it (like Boromir would have done if Frodo hadn’t put the ring on and disappeared) or to resist it (like Faramir and Galadriel). But ultimately it was a different position for Frodo, to bear the Ring and have it in his possession, and it was in this situation that the choices and the will of the person in question were in the most danger. In the readings that we did, we saw the instances in which Frodo’s will fought against and was tested by some seemingly greater will. As the story progressed, Frodo’s resistance kept getting weaker and weaker (with the exception of the scene at Cirith Ungol where he manages to stay his hand from reaching the Ring) and his inner conflict within his will affects the last choice he makes. Though we were not privy to Frodo’s thoughts during the last scene at Mt. Doom, the fact that he said “…I do not choose to do now what I came to do…” (Pg 945) and kept the Ring seemed to be, in my opinion, not because he wanted to keep it for himself, but because he took the action that did not require the strength he did not have. He might have wanted the ring; but on the other hand he simply might not have wanted to fight anymore (again, Tolkien seems to justify this in the quote above). I think these are two very different reasons, and although they might not have changed outside things like his actions, we as readers can afford to look at the bigger picture and, while accepting the “failure” on Frodo’s part, we can also understand where he was coming from. I think that despite the “failure” that DID happen, this can be a small point in Frodo’s favor—after all, it was HIS journey that brought the ring to the edge of the volcano and together with some stroke of chance (or was it?) led to the destruction of the volcano.
This does not lessen the fact that I was bothered by the failure, however, and I think that the main reason of this was because of how I read into this failure and what it could (and might) tell me about our lives here in the real world. If we, as readers, start making connections between ourselves and the characters (like many of us might have done with Frodo Baggins), we come up with more questions: does the Ring signify the worst of evils that we face in our world? Are we helpless against it? After this, we might think about the parallels between our lives and Frodo’s life, and that would then lead to us thinking about the type of journey we are in and the type of person we have to be in order to be successful in that journey (if that success is up to us at all). Allegorically speaking, not all of us are on the most perilous journeys to destroy the ultimate evil; some of us come across smaller obstacles and temptations that are considerably easier to deal with. If we happen to be on a BIG one though, are we all Frodo Bagginses? SHOULD we be Frodo Bagginses? Is there a difference between our world and Tolkien’s that might help us achieve success if we WERE Frodos, or one that would not require us to be Frodos at all? Mayhap we could afford to be Faramirs and Galadriels….
- Seleste M.