Frodo and Narrative Perspective

SilkWeskit

New Member
First off, I'd like to give a shout-out to likelyabot for bringing up the subject in the most recent episode (Session 217: The Quest Begins) of how much (or little) of the remainder of the strory is told from inside "Frodo's head", as distinct form third-person neutral narration. I'm glad he did so, as this has been a specific concept I've been mulling over for some time now, but haven't found the right opportunity to bring it up.

As TwoJuiceMan suggested in the Discord chat that someone do, I am looking into the possibility of writing a paper on the subject of this shift in narrative perspective for a future moot, but I'm trying to find the right way to quantify and draw conclusions.

I've been trying to reconcile the loss of Frodo's narrative perspective (as a literary styling of Tolkien's to show character alteration) with the story also having the framing of a "found work" as well as a document of historical events cobbled together by multiple hobbits, including Frodo himself well afterwards, and revised by at least one human editor (not including Tolkien).

Clearly the omniscient narrative point of view shifts heavily to Sam from Book 4 onwards, following him exclusively when he and Sam are separated at Cirith Ungol, but we don't seem to get much from his viewpoint for long stretches before then. Even those we do get don't have the emotional underpinnings that would be expected considering we were getting full accountings of dreams back in Book 1.

There may be multiple confounding things at play, and we as readers may also be trying to read too much into Frodo's "absence" from his own story.

- The effects of struggling with the ring itself, as he and it approach the land of its making, and while its Master is putting forth so much energy to find it, may have much greater (and earlier) effect on Frodo's mind and will than he even relates late in the story. This deadening of his inner voice may be Tolkien's way to signal the growing struggle for a good while before the end.

- The effect of the attack on Weathertop and Frodo's carrying of the shard may have had much more serious and permanent damage to Frodo than were ever discussed openly in the narrative, and have muted his inner monologue, except under certain specific circumstances. It may even be possible that he is only "roused" to the point of having his thoughts and emotions expressed in the presence of High Elves in places like Rivendell and Lorien, or with their aid (Miruvor, white gem from Arwen), or when he feels direct threats to himself and the ring (being tracked by Gollum, and on Amon Hen). If the effect of the wounding is being protrayed this broadly in the telling of the story, and with only the help of Elves to abate it, it would go a long way to solidifying Frodo's absolute need to go to Valinor, purely so he can have respite from an otherwise permanent condition.

- It may simply be that Tolkien either had nothing for Frodo to add, and that he preferred to have the reader experience the emotional impact of the story through its least knowledgeable character in a given group (Sam to Mordor, Pippen across Rohan, Gimli through the Paths of the Dead), in order to make the experience more ("R"-word deleted here).

My question now is how to go about attacking the issue, in that simply counting times Frodo is said to have done something for a specific reason doesn't necessarily equate to having really spent time "in his head", and I'm open to any thoughts on how to develop a way to draw solid conclusions.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
I think one would need to do some research to see if there is any basis for the supposition that we don't 'get inside Frodo's head so much after Rivendell. We do get inside his head at various times. One example would be in Moria when we learn that Frodo is staggered to think that he has been walking about with the price of the Shire under his jacket; he wonders if Bilbo knew; he wishes with all his heart that he was back in the Shire and had never heard of Moria or mithril - or the Ring. In the very next paragraph, we learn that 'dread came over him'. We then get his thoughts reported, "I must have nearly fallen asleep on guard', 'I was on the edge of a dream'.

A little later, in the chamber of Mazarbul, we are told, "suddenly, and to his own surprise, Frodo felt a hot wrath blaze up in his heart." A little later, "Frodo thought he could hear the voice of Gandalf above, muttering words."

On the hike out of Moria, Gimli says he heard nothing behind them. Frodo, "looked at Sting, and the blade was dull. Yet he had heard something, or thought he had."

As the party crossed the Nimrodel into Lorien, Frodo, "felt that the stain of travel and all weariness was washed from his limbs." A little later, "Almost Frodo fancied that he could hear a voice singing, mingled with the sound of the water."

That's quite a few times that we have been 'inside Frodo's head' in just 22 pages of text I picked at random (and I may have missed a few examples). I think the hypothesis that the amount of times the story is told from inside Frodo's head has lessened requires testing before it is adopted.

I think starting with a simple count by chapter of instances where we get the perspective from inside Frodo's head (for those chapters where Frodo is present) would be a good first step.
 

SilkWeskit

New Member
Fair enough. Gather evidence first, tackle conclusions after. I think I heard that in school once, not sure, wasn't paying attention.
 
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Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
Agreed, Flammifer - I think the shift comes with the breaking of the fellowship - and for Frodo, of course, that means Amon Hen. Even Sam's rushed attempt to catch him as he is leaving is told from his point of view. After that I think it's not until they get back to the Shire that the story is again told clearly from Frodo's viewpoint. The Mordor part of that story is told by Sam, except for bits like his seeing Sam as a Gollum-like creature (as he saw Bilbo in the Hall of Fire) when Sam finds him in the tower of Cirith Ungol. Frodo's point of view in Mordor is really dominated by the Ring and his struggle with its power over him, which leaves him completely exhausted and less aware all the time of everything else.

After the split, we get different points of view as they must have been told to both Frodo and Sam by Merry, Pippin, and Gimli and/or Legolas. And Gandalf. I don't think we ever get inside Aragorn's head - even the finding of the sapling of the White Tree could have been told to Frodo by Gandalf. Do we ever see Aragorn alone? I can't think of anytime we do.
 
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Lincoln Alpern

Active Member
I don't think we ever get inside Aragorn's head - even the finding of the sapling of the White Tree could have been told to Frodo by Gandalf. Do we ever see Aragorn alone? I can't think of anytime we do.
I can think of precisely one instance, off the top of my head. At Parth Galen, during the time where they're still all trying to figure out whether to go directly to Mordor, or to swing by Minas Tirith first. Aragorn is trying to make up his mind about the best path, and the narrator mentions at one point that his plan before Moria had been to accompany Boromir to Minas Tirith because he thinks it's time for the Heir of Elendil to join the war against the Dark Lord, but with Gandalf out of the picture he now feels more responsible for the fate of the Ring and the Ring-bearer, as well, so he's wracked with indecision.

This passage stuck out to me for a long time, and as a younger reader (read: listener), I was under the misapprehension it actually referred to Gandalf, not Aragorn, in part due to a confusion in the wording. But I wonder if part of my mistaken understanding might be due to the fact that we so rarely get a direct peak into Aragorn's head that the passage comes across as jarring.
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
Yes, at Parth Galen we come closest to Aragorn's thoughts - I think more, though, of his hesitancy on Amon Hen, when he sees Frodo's footprints heading downward, but still wants to continue up to the Seat of Seeing. There is no one else with him, so that can come from nobody but him.
 

SilkWeskit

New Member
Yes, at Parth Galen we come closest to Aragorn's thoughts - I think more, though, of his hesitancy on Amon Hen, when he sees Frodo's footprints heading downward, but still wants to continue up to the Seat of Seeing. There is no one else with him, so that can come from nobody but him.
Yes, it's going to be hard to untangle, because an analyst has to grapple with both what Tolkien the author wants the reader to know through the use of third-person omniscient narration at a given point in the story, as well as what can feasibly be assumed to have been remembered and relayed to the chroniclers within the framing of a historical document. In this case, do we get this little from Aragorn because Tolkien wants him to be a stoic enigma of singular purpose, or does he just have a crappy memory for this kind of remembrance, or was he just too darned busy to be interviewed after the dust settled to have much make it into the Red Book? Inquiring minds...
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Getting inside Frodo’s head: The Statistics:

Methodology: I went through each chapter looking for instances where the narrative voice gave us insight into Frodo’s thoughts, emotions, dreams, or visions. I did not include Frodo’s own reports in dialogue as to these things. I did not include observations from others as to Frodo’s thoughts or emotions. I did not include narrator accounts of what Frodo saw, unless what he saw was obviously more or different to what others would have seen. I went through TLOTR at a pretty fast skim, so may have missed instances.

Here is the count by chapter of ‘getting inside Frodo’s head’:

Book I

Chapter 1. – A Long Expected Party: 3

Chapter 2 – The Shadow of the Past: 15

Chapter 3 – Three is Company: 16

Chapter 4 – A Short Cut to Mushrooms: 6

Chapter 5 – A Conspiracy Unmasked: 2

Chapter 6 – The Old Forest 4

Chapter 7 – In the House of Tom Bombadil: 9

Chapter 8 – Fog on the Barrow-Downs: 13

Chapter 9 – At the Sign of the Prancing Pony: 7

Chapter 10 – Strider 4

Chapter 11 – A Knife in the Dark: 5

Chapter 12 – Flight to the Ford: 15

Book II

Chapter 1 – Many Meetings: 11

Chapter 2 – The Council of Elrond: 6

Chapter 3 – The Ring Goes South: 10

Chapter 4 – A Journey in the Dark: 6

Chapter 5 – The Bridge of Khazad-Dum: 5

Chapter 6 – Lothlorien: 13

Chapter 7 – The Mirror of Galadriel: 4

Chapter 8 – Farewell to Lorien: 5

Chapter 9 – The Great River: 4

Chapter 10 – The Breaking of the Fellowship: 13

Book IV

Chapter 1 – The Taming of Smeagol: 4

Chapter 2 – The Passage of the Marshes: 4

Chapter 3 – The Black Gate is Closed: 5

Chapter 4 – Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit: 1

Chapter 5 – The Window on the West: 2

Chapter 6 – The Forbidden Pool: 6

Chapter 7 – Journey to the Crossroads: 2

Chapter 8 – The Stairs of Cirith Ungol: 11

Chapter 9 – Shelob’s Lair: 6

Chapter 10 – The Choices of Master Samwise: None – but Frodo was unconscious throughout.

Book Vi

Chapter 1 – The Tower of Cirith Ungol: 4

Chapter 2 – The Land of Shadow: 3

Chapter 3 – Mount Doom: 1

Chapter 4 – The Field of Cormallen: None

Chapter 5 – The Steward and the King: 1

Chapter 6 – Many Partings: 2

Chapter 7 – Homeward Bound: 1

Chapter 8 – The Scouring of the Shire: 1

Chapter 9 – The Grey Havens: 1



If there is a pattern to instances of ‘getting inside Frodo’s head’, it would seem to be a gradual decline in instances until Book VI, when the decline becomes more pronounced.

Book I gets inside Frodo’s head once every 2 pages on average. Book II gets inside Frodo’s head once every 2.5 pages on average. Book IV gets inside Frodo’s head once every 3.1 pages on average (eliminating chapter 10, where Frodo is unconscious throughout). Book Vi gets inside Frodo’s head once every 9.9 pages on average.
 

SilkWeskit

New Member
Book I gets inside Frodo’s head once every 2 pages on average. Book II gets inside Frodo’s head once every 2.5 pages on average. Book IV gets inside Frodo’s head once every 3.1 pages on average (eliminating chapter 10, where Frodo is unconscious throughout). Book Vi gets inside Frodo’s head once every 9.9 pages on average.
Well even your quick glace shows a statistically significant drop-off in Frodo's narrative perspective, and thanks for doing the legwork. I'm thinking I will still need to go through almost a sentence-by sentence review for thoroughness, and to see if the comments are correlated to anything external or proximate.
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
How do you figure that in the last chapters? The scouring of the Shire is clearly told from Frodo's perspective - we see only what he sees, and get his thoughts about much of it, though I haven't done a count. We feel his alienation and his distress at what has happened to the Shire and at the violence. The last chapter is told from further away - we get Frodo's anniversary reactions but a lot of that is from Sam's viewpoint. Frodo's writing in the Book ends somewhere in here, so the rest is all Sam.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
How do you figure that in the last chapters? The scouring of the Shire is clearly told from Frodo's perspective - we see only what he sees, and get his thoughts about much of it, though I haven't done a count. We feel his alienation and his distress at what has happened to the Shire and at the violence. The last chapter is told from further away - we get Frodo's anniversary reactions but a lot of that is from Sam's viewpoint. Frodo's writing in the Book ends somewhere in here, so the rest is all Sam.
Hi Rachel,

I am not counting 'telling from Frodo's perspective' as 'getting inside his head'. Nor do I count Frodo revealing thoughts or emotions through dialogue. I only count the narrative voice telling us what Frodo is thinking or feeling or dreaming, or seeing (and seeing, only if what he is seeing seems like some sort of vision, rather than just a description of the external world). I do not count instances where a thought or emotion is ascribed to more people than Frodo (such as, 'The Hobbits felt a growing dread'). I also only count 1 per paragraph. Though we might get several of Frodo's thoughts or emotions in a single paragraph, it is generally during one instance of 'seeing inside Frodo's head'.

By that methodology, I found only one instance of 'getting inside Frodo's head' in 'The Scouring of the Shire'.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Well even your quick glace shows a statistically significant drop-off in Frodo's narrative perspective, and thanks for doing the legwork. I'm thinking I will still need to go through almost a sentence-by sentence review for thoroughness, and to see if the comments are correlated to anything external or proximate.
Hi SilkWeskit,

The Chapters where we 'get inside Frodo's head' 10 or more times are: The Shadow of the Past, Three is Company, Fog on the Barrow-Downs, Flight to the Ford, Many Meetings, The Ring goes South, Lothlorien, The Breaking of the Fellowship, and The Stairs of Cirith Ungol. So I would speculate that we get inside of Frodo's head most often; early (when Frodo's character is being established); and then often at times of crisis or drama.

I have not done the analysis, but I got the impression that the percent of narrative voice diminishes (particularly in Book IV, and the early chapters of Book VI) and the percent of dialogue increases. In dialogue, Frodo often reports what he is thinking or feeling, but I do not count Frodo's speech about his thoughts or emotions as 'getting inside Frodo's head'. (However, Frodo's dialogue about his thoughts and emotions does a similar job in conveying them to the reader.)

I think that where we really see a decline in 'getting inside Frodo's head' is in Book VI. However, we never see this narrative perspective totally disappear.
 

Forodan

Active Member
There is one more consideration when considering the presentation of 'internal knowledge' of Frodo's mind in the narrative. The author does have goals or intentions for the character, after all...

Sam is the most closely drawn character, the successor to Bilbo of the first book, the genuine hobbit. Frodo is not so interesting, because he has to be highminded, and has (as it were) a vocation. The book will prob. end up with Sam. Frodo will naturally become too ennobled and rarefied by the achievement of the great Quest, and will pass West with all the great figures; but S. will settle down to the Shire and gardens and inns.
-- Letters, #93 (to Christopher Tolkien, 24 December 1944 )
If the character is supposed to be 'ennobled' and 'rarefied' then he will necessarily be distanced from the audience. Telling the readers a character's mundane thoughts is one thing. Trying to relate their 'ennobled' state that way would only look silly. They would continue to have their mundane thoughts, of course, but they would also be capable of other (very diffuse and difficult to name) concerns. For either Frodo or Aragorn, narrating their respective 'higher awareness' in a stream of consciousness fashion would be something close to impossible. Aragorn starts out well beyond the ordinary, of course. Frodo gradually becomes something beyond the ordinary and so is gradually distanced.
 
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