Episode 188 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member
SESSION 188

Comment on Bilbo and Gandalf’s growing understanding:
  • After Bilbo’s experience in the Hall of Fire with Frodo and the Ring, it’s likely that Bilbo now finally better understands Gandalf’s behavior towards him regarding the Ring in the past.
  • While Bilbo claimed ignorance of this while speaking to Frodo in the Hall, it’s unlikely that he was completely unsuspicious about the Ring and why Gandalf was so concerned about it.
  • It’s highly likely that when speaking to Gandalf the next morning before the Council, Bilbo revealed his new understanding, and this had an influence over their later interactions.
  • While this may have caused Gandalf to be unusually gentle and respectful of Bilbo during the Council, he would still have been cautious about Bilbo’s possible temptations by the Ring.
  • Gandalf understands that though Bilbo has uniquely given up the Ring and triumphed over his need for it, the connection still remains, and it is something that he will carry the rest of his life.
  • As no one has ever given up the Ring voluntarily, the long-term effects of that are unknown, and Gandalf’s affection for Bilbo would lead him to not wanting to put Bilbo in that position again.
  • Both his refusal of the Ring and his rejection of it in the Council are recapitulations of this act. If he was forced to struggle with the Ring anew, it makes these refusals just as heroic as the first.
All the Council sat with downcast eyes:
  • This moment seems to be both the climax and perhaps the entire purpose of the Council.
  • Note: The use of “noon-bell” shows that this is a special bell that everyone in Rivendell would recognize, and also Bilbo hasn’t quite missed the meal that he complained of earlier.
  • This answer seems to be in response to Bilbo’s question about the identity of the messengers.
  • Note: While a readthrough of this chapter takes a couple of hours, many of the earlier speakers are quickly summarized, and we know that Elrond, Bilbo, and Frodo spoke at great length on the history of the Ring. Therefore, this meeting has probably gone on for several hours by this time.
  • What are the Council considering while in deep thought? It’s possible that they are self-reflecting on whether they should go themselves and even are shamed for not volunteering.
  • Many of the other councilors may not hesitate out of fear, but out of waiting for wise counsel.
  • It’s possible that many of the council members already suspect that Frodo must be Ring-bearer.
  • Frodo seems to suspect this, and to wonder if the others in the Council are thinking about him.
  • This is also a momentous decision for the future of the West, and no one wants to speak rashly.
  • Frodo may believe that none of them want to speak for him and are waiting for him to speak up.
  • Note: In the films, Frodo is shown to be giving up the Ring when it is placed on the plinth for all to see, and it is made the focus for the Council and treated as though it was an object to be sacrificed. This is different from the book in that Frodo does not display the Ring for very long and already feels the difficulty in giving it up, which may play into his mixed feelings here. Gandalf also has been clear that Frodo would end up as the Ring-bearer, and seems to place his faith in that, unlike in the film where he seems to have his hopes for Frodo disappointed.
  • Elrond probably didn’t need the Council to be convinced of Frodo being the Ring-bearer but does seem to gain certainty about it. Otherwise, this council seems to be for Frodo’s benefit.
  • It’s also certain that they need Frodo to volunteer, as he can’t be compelled, due to the Ring.
  • This is why Elrond and Gandalf have spoken so obliquely, as they didn’t want to push Frodo.
Awaiting the pronouncement of some doom:
  • It’s clear that Frodo is feeling an internal pressure to volunteer, and not just from the Council.
  • This doesn’t seem to be fear, but self-awareness of his path, even if he would rather not take it.
  • The use of “doom”, in the sense of “judgement”, shows that he was expecting to be told this.
  • Note: Tolkien’s use of the word “doom” in this sense is not necessarily negative but shows that a decision which has been made is then enacted, such as in the councils of the Valar, in which Mandos, the “doomsman of the Valar”, pronounces his dooms of the Valar’s decisions. This makes the desired state and actual state and moves the decision from an idea to a fact.
  • Gandalf had already tried to reassure Frodo with the idea that his possession of the Ring is a doom placed upon him, but Frodo found no comfort in that, and rejected it in Bag End.
  • Gandalf had presented the possibility that Frodo would not have to go to Mount Doom after all, and this was not done falsely, but also show Frodo that he is not trapped and still has a choice.
  • Note: Tolkien makes a particular choice in using the indicative mood of “as if he was awaiting” instead of the subjunctive mood of “as if he were awaiting”. The subjunctive is a statement of a wish for something not presently happening, while the indicative is a statement of present fact. By using the indicative, this shows that Frodo believed this to be factually true in that moment.
  • The dread that falls on Frodo is opposed by his hope that it might not happen in the end, but it is fruitless due to the vanity of his hope which makes it futile and makes the dread even greater.
  • The hope that Frodo had cherished was amdir, but it has been thwarted by this great dread.
  • Is this dread a bad thing? He is clearly anticipating evil that will befall him, and his own sacrifice.
  • Note: There is a biblical parallel to the Garden of Gethsemane, in which Jesus experiences great dread and fear on the night before his arrest and death. While it’s possible to make a simplistic and untrue reading of Frodo as a Christ-figure, this particular parallel is an appropriate reading.
  • This places Frodo in the position of the victim of a doom, like a prisoner awaiting his sentence.
  • Note: There is a difference between dread and fear, which are not direct synonyms. Fear deals in future possibilities, while dread is about future certainties, but these can exist simultaneously. These are both different from terror, which is a reaction to a clear and present danger. It seems as though dread is a human experience, associated with the ability to reason and anticipate, which doesn’t require certainty, but the perception of certainty, and is also related to despair.
As if some other will was using his small voice:
  • It’s significant that the doom is never spoken over Frodo, until he speaks it over himself
  • The use of the word “will” in his statement shows that Frodo is making an active choice, but this is paradoxically contrasted with the idea that some other will is using him in that moment.
  • If the Ring is influencing Frodo in this moment, it is when Frodo feels this other desire to stay.
  • However, this other will using his voice could only be the “other powers” at work in the story.
END OF SESSION
 

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