Episode 197 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member

Counting days in Rivendell:
  • As before, during the Council, Frodo’s desire to remain in Rivendell doesn’t carry the markers of a Ring temptation, as he wishes to stay with Bilbo here, instead of abandoning everyone.
  • This desire seems to come more from Frodo’s hobbit natural desires for hearth and home.
  • Bilbo’s answer to Frodo’s question about how long he’ll stay in Rivendell at first seems to be simple ignorance of how long the scouting will take but is revealed to be a vaguer sense.
  • Does time work differently in Rivendell, as it clearly does for the Fellowship in Lothlórien?
  • Note: It is a common trope of fairy-stories that time passes in an unusual way in Faerie, such as one returning to the mundane world to find that a century has passed without them knowing.
  • Bilbo’s words seem to recall this idea, as, though having retired to Rivendell, it is strange for a mortal. Though still in the mortal world, Rivendell is also a realm of the Elves, not of mortals.
  • However, Rivendell is not Faerie; it is a memory of the true Faerie for the sake of the Elves that remain in Middle-earth, which is why it is referred to as “the last homely house east of the Sea”.
  • Note: It will be pointed out by Aragorn later that time still moves everywhere, despite anyone’s subjective experience of it in a given place, because Time is the life of Eä and the one constant.
  • What Bilbo seems to be referring to his own experience living in Rivendell, where the needs and ways of counting time are not the same as they would have been in his mundane life outside it.
  • Living among Elves, who may not need to count days, it would be easy to lose track of time. Bilbo is enjoying the bliss of Rivendell without any cares for the passage of time or the year.
  • Note: In The Hobbit, Bilbo observes that good times are usually not noteworthy or memorable.
  • Immortals would have a very different relationship to time, as there is always more time left.
  • Note: It is also possible that Elrond’s Ring is having a preserving effect, though this seems to be different to the effect that Galadriel produces with her Ring in Lothlórien, given her intentions. Rivendell acts as a refuge, and is a place of safety, as well as a place to meet for counsel. Lothlórien is not open to outsiders in this way and remains unknown to the greater world.
All endings dark and unpleasant:
  • Bilbo’s primary concern is still Frodo’s state of mind, to which a definite answer won’t really help, as it would invite him to count down the days and therefore focus on the end of that time.
  • Bilbo wants Frodo to focus on enjoying the time that they have, however long it is they have.
  • By suggesting working on the book projects, Bilbo is recalling the fact that his book was a shared secret between them. It’s possible that Frodo had helped him before, and he is recalling this.
  • Even if Frodo was not involved with the book before, by inviting him to help now shows that Bilbo acknowledges the growth and changes that Frodo has undergone during his own journey.
  • He is not simply trying to distract Frodo from his own journeys to come, since he refers to starting a new book about that journey once they are done with Bilbo’s older adventures.
  • This also invites Frodo to think about his journey with the Ring as a beginning rather than an ending, and that he has already done deeds worthy of setting down in writing for the future.
  • It is also an expression of hope, as he would not invite Frodo to start a book he doesn’t plan to finish, and he challenges Frodo to contemplate the ending of his quest, though in Bilbo’s terms.
  • Bilbo frames his adventure as though it were a work of fiction, asking if Frodo has thought of an ending, implying that Frodo has some power to determine the end of his journey’s story.
  • This is related to Elrond’s comments about the importance of Frodo’s choice to take the Ring, regardless of what he has the power to do about it, so Bilbo invites him to make use of his will.
  • The ending that Frodo can choose is not about what will happen to all of them, but rather the manner in which they meet their fate, and what part he will play with regard to his choices.
  • It challenges him to think about the bigger picture and his role in making choices within that.
  • Bilbo’s idea for a “good ending” is not supposed to be original, or as if he’d just thought of it, but to push Frodo in the direction of hope, which he will need if he is to carry out his task.
  • There is a distinction between “good endings” and “happy endings”, but Bilbo wants Frodo to keep open the possibility that Gandalf and Elrond see of both success and survival.
  • Note: The dichotomy of happy and good endings will come up again at the Grey Havens when Gandalf says that “not all tears are an evil” when the hobbits part ways as Frodo and Bilbo leave.
  • Frodo seems to at least understand what Bilbo’s saying, though he neither accepts nor rejects it.
  • While Frodo is not depressed, he is at a precipice from which Bilbo wants to pull him back. Frodo has made the decision to move forward but is anxious about the most predictable outcomes.
  • Frodo is not foreseeing what will happen to him specifically, but rather has a sense that this journey, and especially its ending will not be like Bilbo’s, as this is not a treasure hunt.
  • Note: Bilbo will eventually be proven right that they will all settle down and live happily ever after, though not in Rivendell nor in the Shire, but in the Undying Lands in the end.
And where will they live?
  • The fact that both Bilbo and Frodo have now given up Bag End is important to Sam’s future, too.
  • While Sam may come off as glum in response to Bilbo’s imagining of a happy ending for them all, Sam is also assuming that they will survive to deal with whatever problems come after that.
  • In this way, Sam is actually more optimistic than Frodo, who assumes this is a one-way trip.
  • Sam’s idea of a happy ending, as a gardener, is getting to deal with all these mundane problems of building a home and worrying about weather and seasons and the doings of neighbors.
  • Sam doesn’t seem to be reproaching Frodo for selling Bag End, but while being practical about the future, that is premised on the assumption of their survival, and includes all of them.
  • While Sam may not be keyed into the higher things that Bilbo and Frodo are hinting at, Sam is at least in the same position as Frodo, in that he will actually be going in the journey, unlike Bilbo.
  • Note: Sam’s relationship with the concept of hope, in all it’s forms, is very complicated. While Sam is clearly practical, the use of the term “realist” is unclear, as the question then becomes what a “realist” believes reality to actually be. The question then becomes the mindset with which Sam approaches his world, or in his terms, what kind of story that he is currently in.