Session 8 Summary

Tony Meade


Comment on Frodo’s resistance to the truth:
  • It is very easy to be unsympathetic towards Frodo because of his reactions to Gandalf’s news.
  • Tolkien is not trying to make a bigger point here; he is just following the story and giving the characters the reactions that they would have in those circumstances.
  • Frodo’s horror at Gollum being a hobbit is not just snobbery. It is horror that someone like him could become something like that, which is something alien to his experience.
  • He also has to deal with the idea that it could happen, or is happening, to him and Bilbo.
  • In Ted Sandyman and Lotho Sackville-Baggins, we can see the corruption and degradation of hobbits by other means.
Comment on pronunciation variations and discrepancies:
  • Tolkien himself varied in pronunciations, just as a real speaker of a real language.
  • The pronunciation guide in the appendices is supposed to be a guide, not laws.
  • Part of this is in the variation of speech caused by the natural flow of speech.
The backdrop of the conversation:
  • The narrator is giving us a scene of vernal beauty, unlike autumnal beauty. This is a beginning.
  • This is a rare occasion where we get Gandalf’s point of view in the description.
  • It is pointed out that Gandalf has aged, which calls into question to the relationship of the Maia spirit to the wizard’s body. This is unusual among immortals.
  • The parallel between the morning of the beginning Bilbo’s journey and this morning is emphasized. It was a morning like this that adventure found Bilbo.
Gandalf talks about the global threat:
  • Gandalf pivots from talking about the direct threat to Frodo from the Ring.
  • He now talks about Sauron’s threat to the whole world, and his return after defeat.
  • Frodo reacts in a very understandable way to this news, similar to Théoden and Denethor later.
  • Gandalf initial agreement that he wishes it had not happened in Frodo’s time is a wish for his friend’s welfare. This is not a wish that it didn’t happen at all, as this is his mission.
  • This is related to the “other power” at work. If this is fate, then everyone has to play the hand they are given.
  • Gandalf emphasizes that this crisis is also an opportunity and a means to oppose Sauron, even it is a dreadful chance that brought it about.
  • He also emphasizes the “we” in this situation. They are in this together, and they are supported by other powers and people.
Sauron’s eye turns to the Shire:
  • Gandalf finally reveals that not only has Sauron returned and is gaining strength, but he is now aware of the Shire, Hobbits, and Frodo personally, and is looking for him.
  • He also goes through Sauron’s reasoning in working out the identity of the One Ring.
  • He also hints that Sauron suspects who the bearers are the Elven Rings are. There is some doubt about the fate of the Dwarven Rings.
  • Sauron also has Gollum captive, and Sauron would know about the nature of the One Ring enough to recognize the effects on Gollum.
Frodo reacts to Sauron’s threat:
  • Frodo once again reacts in an understandable way, wishing that things had gone differently.
  • Frodo sees Bilbo’s refusal to kill Gollum as a missed opportunity.
  • Gandalf seizes this opportunity to tell Frodo that this would have made this worse.
  • Gandalf is using the word “pity” in the sense of “compassion” or “sympathy”, not in the negative sense that modern readers might bring to it. This is different from commiseration.
  • This kind of pity does not depend on the person having gone through the same thing, but rather that they put themselves in the other person’s place.
  • He makes it clear that Bilbo’s beginning his possession of the Ring with pity.
  • The modern sense of pity often has a selfish, condescending quality.
Gandalf tries to convert Frodo:
  • Frodo reacts with a complete lack of pity for Gollum.
  • Gandalf emphasizes that Gollum is theoretical to him, but that seeing him in person is different.
  • Frodo is shocked that Gollum has not been put to death yet for all his crimes, which include infanticide and cannibalism.
  • Gandalf admits that the just punishment for Gollum’s crimes is indeed death.
  • Gandalf’s admonition of restraint in dealing out death in judgement is not against legitimate governments’ use of capital punishment, but a plea to an individual to resist giving into revenge.
  • Once again, Gandalf emphasizes hope in the face of terrible facts, even to the curing of Gollum.
  • He also intuits that Gollum’s connection to the Ring will lead him to having a part to play later.
  • The conversation reveals something of Gandalf’s character. He focuses on curing over punishing, and that’s a moral principle.
  • He’s also willing to rely on his intuition about future events.
Gandalf explains himself:
  • Frodo is really grasping at straws in his desperation (“struck by lightning”), questioning why he was allowed to keep the Ring for so long, instead of doing something else years ago.
  • Gandalf explains that there were no other good choices, and that Frodo was the best option.
  • Frodo questions why Gandalf did not have him destroy the Ring earlier, and Gandalf humors him by asking him to try. This is the only way that he can prove the Ring’s hold over Frodo.
  • Gandalf could have told Frodo that the Ring could not be destroyed at the beginning, but he felt that he needed to test Frodo’s connection to it first, and to lead him there organically.
  • This is the first time that we see the Ring acting from the point of view of the person being acted upon, as we follow Frodo’s thoughts as presented by the Ring. In the scene with Bilbo, we only witnessed it from outside, in Gandalf’s point of view.
  • The Ring is clearly resisting Frodo’s desire to destroy it by planting thoughts of its own beauty.
  • The division of Frodo’s mind is shown beginning here, as his will being interfered with.
On the quest of Mount Doom.
  • Frodo deflects the need for the Ring to be thrown into the fires of Mount Doom.
  • He understands that the Ring needs to be destroyed, and wants it destroyed, but resists doing it himself. He pleads weakness.
On the choice of the Ringbearer:
  • Gandalf praises Frodo by highlighting his weakness, not his strengths.
  • He emphasizes that Frodo’s humility makes him the perfect person to protect the Ring, because he is the least likely to fall to the temptation.
  • He also emphasizes that the choice of Frodo by the power that chose him is about that power and its plan, not about Frodo’s specialness. That means that he needn’t worry about the choice.
  • This is a fate vs. free will issue. It is clearly fate that chose Frodo, but Frodo must make the correct choices and use whatever he has to do what he has been chosen to do.
  • Frodo tries the one last alternative other than taking on the Ring, which is giving it to Gandalf.
  • Gandalf is clearly afraid of the temptation that Frodo presents him. Gandalf is admitting that when it comes to the temptation of the Ring, he would fail where Frodo might succeed.
  • There is irony in that while pity was the path that saved Bilbo from a worse fate under the Ring’s influence, it is pity that would cause Gandalf to fall into evil, according to him.
Gandalf presents the choice:
  • Gandalf emphasizes that while it’s clear what needs to be done, and that fate has chosen Frodo to do it, Frodo must choose it willingly and knowingly.
  • He cannot allow Frodo to be like Bilbo and get swept up in an adventure he didn’t choose.
  • He also reassures Frodo that he will help him for as long as he can.
  • The moment of Frodo is looking into the fire is parallel to the moment Bilbo is enchanted by the Dwarf song at the Unexpected Party.
  • Unlike Bilbo, who comes to himself, and refuses the adventure at that time, when Frodo comes back to himself, he makes the choice to take on the burden.
  • Frodo frames the choice as something he must do, not what he necessarily wants.
  • He acknowledges the danger to himself, the harm it will cause him, and does not assert ownership of the Ring, only his guardianship of it. He makes the choice in exactly the right way.
  • He goes one step further and is willingly making a sacrifice of his life in the Shire in order to protect the Shire hobbits, even at the cost of all he owns and his own safety.
  • Frodo’s sigh afterwards seems to be an acknowledgement that he is losing the Shire, which causes him to repent of his somewhat snobby attitude towards the Shire and the other Hobbits.
  • Frodo also acknowledges that this will not be an adventure like Bilbo’s. He is not going there and back again. He is, however, moved by the memories of Bilbo’s adventure.
  • Where does this desire come from? Is it the Ring or by some other power?
  • In the original drafts, it was explicitly the Ring’s temptation. In this version, this seems to be an affirmation of those travel dreams from within himself by the other power. It is a calling.
  • The difference seems to be the positive feelings that come up. This is not the Ring.
Gandalf’s blessing of Frodo’s choice:
  • Gandalf’s praise of Hobbits in general is to spare Frodo’s embarrassment at his praise.
  • Gandalf is not being insincere about this generalized praise; he means it both ways.
  • He also is leaning into Frodo’s humility, as that is necessary for his success.
Note: Coming up is the “infenestration” of Sam Gamgee, as the opposite of “defenestration”.