No Blame for Boromir? (Or Smeagol, Isildur, etc.)

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Re: Who/how Long

Post by MayorOfLongview » Mon Dec 29, 2003 7:16 pm

idoron wrote:
MayorOfLongview wrote:I think you'd have to fall back on Tolkien's Christianity at that point. What did he think of pre-destination for instance. Did Judas really have a choice? I think Judas had free will, but God was aware of the choice he'd make beforehand. My opinion would still be that free choice played a factor. Gandalf KNEW he couldn't resist it, so he made the CHOICE not to handle it. We make those choices everyday regarding one temptation or another. I believe therefore that Tolkien would say that each person was responsible for their own response to the ring. Boromir WAS warned of the ring's power, but continued to flirt with it until it finally destroyed the Fellowship and his life.
Steve


Are they responsible for their inital response only? Or every response, every time? Again, both Boromir and Frodo fall to it, but Frodo gets praise, Boromir does not.

Smeagol didn't even have the opportunity to know that it needed resisting, though.

And Tolkien's value judgement of the characters is seperate from the telling of the story. That doesn't mean he is right or wrong, and his feelings should be considered, but are no less valid than ours.


But in Frodo's case, he was taking a risk on behalf of the free people of Middle-earth. The wise knew that it was a 'burden' and that he might fall in the process. Maybe like when Christ became sin for the sake of mankind. Of course, he (Frodo) did fall at the end - but he was praised for bearing the burden and completing the task he agreed to undertake. And if we can use my Chritianity argument for Smeagol, I believe that he would still have had some knowledge that he was about to touch something evil. I think Tolkien would argue for free will in every instance of contact and submission to the ring.
Back to Boromir, I still compare it to temptation. He was warned, he ignored the warnings, he fell to the evil of the ring. BUT - he got a last chance to redeem himself and he did. He shook himself free of the temptation (too late to save the party from disaster maybe) and fought a noble fight in defense of the hobbits. Aragorn said he died well. In fact, he and Legolas sang him a mighty two-page dirge and said much in praise of him at his death.
So, in a way I guess it did overpower him for a few moments. But could it not be said that he gave over his will to the ring? Isn't that what happens when men confront strong temptation? Of course I'm only hammering on this point because I think that's the way that Tolkien might have viewed it. I tend to view the whole of LOTRs with a slant toward Christianity these days.
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Re: Who/how Long

Post by idoron » Mon Dec 29, 2003 9:20 pm

MayorOfLongview wrote:But in Frodo's case, he was taking a risk on behalf of the free people of Middle-earth. Of course, he (Frodo) did fall at the end - but he was praised for bearing the burden and completing the task he agreed to undertake.


I don't see the connection.

There is the matter of the "nine fingers" that is not really pursued by anyone. The journey was a struggle, but had not Smeagol been there it would have all been for naught and Frodo's struggle would have been meaningless.

MayorOfLongview wrote:And if we can use my Chritianity argument for Smeagol, I believe that he would still have had some knowledge that he was about to touch something evil.


At the time of the forging of the rings, Sauron could still take physical form and of all the elves in Eregion at the time only 2 suspected him of being less then he presented himself as being ("Lord of Gifts"). Surely if Sauron in the flesh can fool the Eldar who dwelt in the Undying Lands before the days of the Sun, the Ring could fool a simple member of the river folk dwelling east of the Misty Mountains. Point: I don't think anyone not knowing what the ring was would necesarily think it was evil. Biblo sure didn't in the dark, Deagol doesn't seem to have when he found in at the bottom of the Anduin. They probably found it <i>attractive</i>, or should I say <i>precious</i> but that is quite a different thing.

MayorOfLongview wrote:I think Tolkien would argue for free will in every instance of contact and submission to the ring.


Is that a valid argument? {Playing Devil's Advocate} Steph said she read that JRRT said Frodo had no ability to resist the Ring at the Cracks of Doom. So that is an important question. There are some points of disparity between Christianity and the Ethics/Morality of Middle Earth and one needn't look to hard to find them.


MayorOfLongview wrote:Back to Boromir, I still compare it to temptation. He was warned, he ignored the warnings, he fell to the evil of the ring. BUT - he got a last chance to redeem himself and he did. He shook himself free of the temptation (too late to save the party from disaster maybe) and fought a noble fight in defense of the hobbits. Aragorn said he died well. In fact, he and Legolas sang him a mighty two-page dirge and said much in praise of him at his death.
So, in a way I guess it did overpower him for a few moments.


That is the crux of the issue. Is Boromir responsible for trying to take the Ring if he was "overpowered"? He (in this model) would be responsible for not putting it out of his mind, toying with the idea but what if overpowered?

MayorOfLongview wrote:But could it not be said that he gave over his will to the ring? Isn't that what happens when men confront strong temptation?


Explain.
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Re: Who/how Long

Post by MayorOfLongview » Mon Dec 29, 2003 10:15 pm

idoron wrote:
MayorOfLongview wrote:Back to Boromir, I still compare it to temptation. He was warned, he ignored the warnings, he fell to the evil of the ring. BUT - he got a last chance to redeem himself and he did. He shook himself free of the temptation (too late to save the party from disaster maybe) and fought a noble fight in defense of the hobbits. Aragorn said he died well. In fact, he and Legolas sang him a mighty two-page dirge and said much in praise of him at his death.
So, in a way I guess it did overpower him for a few moments.


That is the crux of the issue. Is Boromir responsible for trying to take the Ring if he was "overpowered"? He (in this model) would be responsible for not putting it out of his mind, toying with the idea but what if overpowered?

MayorOfLongview wrote:But could it not be said that he gave over his will to the ring? Isn't that what happens when men confront strong temptation?


Explain.


I guess what I'm trying to say is that Boromir allowed himself to be overpowered, or at least put himself in a position to be overpowered, thus he was responsible.
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Frodo's Choices

Post by idoron » Tue Dec 30, 2003 12:36 am

New Strain of discussion.

At the Council of Elrond we read this of Frodo's decision to take the Ring to Mordor:

<blockquote>At last with an effort he spoke, and wondered to hear his own words, as if some other will was using his small voice.
'I will take the Ring,' he said, 'though I do not know the way.'</blockquote>

Hmmmm. So did Frodo really choose to take the Ring, or did some "Other Will" force him to. Later Elrond says:

<blockquote>'I think that this task is appointed to you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will.</blockquote>

and then continues

<blockquote>But if you take it freely, I will say your choice is right</blockquote>

Elrond did not have all the facts, and his is just opinion. Not knowing Frodo was a conduit for something else's will, Elrond thought Frodo made the choice to take the Ring. But Frodo didn't really make a choice he sort of stood there and let it happen.

So here Frodo did not have free will to decide. he was, in his own words "being used." By whom? Eru? Manwe? The Ring?

Also, we see here that Elrond is, in fact, incorrect about the "predestination" of the quest. Yes, apparently Frodo was meant for the Quest, but Frodo did not find a way. But someone else did (Chance? Gollum? Smeagol? The same power that made Frodo go?).
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Re: Frodo's Choices

Post by MayorOfLongview » Tue Dec 30, 2003 8:45 am

idoron wrote:New Strain of discussion.

At the Council of Elrond we read this of Frodo's decision to take the Ring to Mordor:

<blockquote>At last with an effort he spoke, and wondered to hear his own words, as if some other will was using his small voice.
'I will take the Ring,' he said, 'though I do not know the way.'</blockquote>

Hmmmm. So did Frodo really choose to take the Ring, or did some "Other Will" force him to. Later Elrond says:

<blockquote>'I think that this task is appointed to you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will.</blockquote>

and then continues

<blockquote>But if you take it freely, I will say your choice is right</blockquote>

Elrond did not have all the facts, and his is just opinion. Not knowing Frodo was a conduit for something else's will, Elrond thought Frodo made the choice to take the Ring. But Frodo didn't really make a choice he sort of stood there and let it happen.

So here Frodo did not have free will to decide. he was, in his own words "being used." By whom? Eru? Manwe? The Ring?

Also, we see here that Elrond is, in fact, incorrect about the "predestination" of the quest. Yes, apparently Frodo was meant for the Quest, but Frodo did not find a way. But someone else did (Chance? Gollum? Smeagol? The same power that made Frodo go?).


You've got me there Josh! lol
But a legalist might mince words over 'as if'. What was meant by 'as if'. Was Frodo just the 'willing' vessel of some 'inner voice'?
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Post by idoron » Tue Dec 30, 2003 9:13 am

I would like to know who the other will is.

We also see this kind of thing later it the book, the "Inspired Cry" in Shelob's Lair.

Anyway, even if it is some other will imposing itself on Frodo to take the ring, I don't know that one should jump to the conclusion that all decisions regarding the Ring are like that. But I think it shines light on the Smeagol situation.
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Tue Dec 30, 2003 1:12 pm

It's the Balrog debate, only in another form! "his wings stretched out like a shadow" - does that mean he has wings or not? (PLEASE don't try to answer that question) It's a debate about a text that, isolated, is somewhat ambiguous. But I think, in context, that we can say that Frodo chose to take the Ring. He was just very reluctant. Hasn't that ever happened to you before, where you're really really dreading to say something, but you know you should, and when you finally do, it's really weird? And it hardly sounds like you at all? I know I'm insane, but maybe someone else knows what I'm talking about too. I think that's what Tolkien was talking about. Because Frodo is kind of thinking the whole time that he really should take it, but he's afriad to admit it. Besides, if Frodo has no free will initially, that ruins the story.
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Post by idoron » Tue Dec 30, 2003 3:47 pm

Sam Gamgee wrote:It's the Balrog debate, only in another form! "his wings stretched out like a shadow" - does that mean he has wings or not? (PLEASE don't try to answer that question)


Are you sure? I know the answer. :wink:

And you got it backwards. So I guess you think they have wings. "the <b>shadow</b> about it reached out like two vast <b>wings</b>"

Sam Gamgee wrote:It's a debate about a text that, isolated, is somewhat ambiguous. But I think, in context, that we can say that Frodo chose to take the Ring. Hasn't that ever happened to you before...


Yes it has, but I don't think that is what happened here. If Gandalf is right and the losing, finding, and passing of the ring that resulted in Frodo's carrying it was of a greater power than the Ring, then I doubt it would have been left at that. If Frodo's 'free will' decided to forget the whole Ring thing, who knows where it would have ended up (well, On Sauron's finger probably). I doubt this "other power" would have orchestrated all that and left it to chance.

Sam Gamgee wrote:Besides, if Frodo has no free will initially, that ruins the story.


I don't think so. There are a lot of things that we have no choice in and it doesn't ruin our lives. I don't think the greatness of the story is that Frodo chose to take it. There is so much more there. What is important is that he went. Against all odds. And everything else that flowed out of that.
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Tue Dec 30, 2003 4:18 pm

You know what? it DOESN'T MATTER if Balrogs have wings! I don't CARE! ;)

Saying that Frodo had no choice but to accept is like saying God/Illuvatar isn't powerful enough to work with our free will, so he takes it away. And that's not true. Illuvatar may have moved events and moved or influenced people's will, but he would never take it away. If he is the equivalent of the God Tolkien believed in as a Roman Catholic, he is able to work through the free choice of human beings without having to control it.

And I was exagerating about the ruining of the story. :lol: Sorry.
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Post by idoron » Tue Dec 30, 2003 4:51 pm

Sam Gamgee wrote:Saying that Frodo had no choice but to accept is like saying God/Illuvatar isn't powerful enough to work with our free will, so he takes it away. And that's not true. Illuvatar may have moved events and moved or influenced people's will, but he would never take it away. If he is the equivalent of the God Tolkien believed in as a Roman Catholic, he is able to work through the free choice of human beings without having to control it.


Well, there's an easy item to discuss. :wink:

it is sort of an exercise in futility. Was Frodo chosen because he would choose to take the Ring? If so, what is with the "seeming to be another will not his own" thing? but if the Ring was chosen to come to him, does he have a choice? Especially if he was chosen because he would say yes?

I don't know what Tolkien would think, I am not familiar with the official Catholic position on predestination/fate. or with Tolkien's own feelings about it.
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Tue Dec 30, 2003 5:23 pm

Creatures always have a choice. No matter what they choose, they'll be aiding God's plan, because he works through evil to make the greater good - like in the Sil. He can move free will freely, but he can't do something completely against the creature's will. He can work with the creature's will, though, and give them the strength to choose the good. Virtue is a habit. The more a creature chooses the good, the more they lose their ability and desire not to chose the good. Or, if they deliberately refuse to choose the good, that becomes a habit as well. For those who have narrowed their will by the habit of vice, such as pharaoh, God isn't violating their will, he's only using it as they've formed it. Only it's not like the process of their forming it is entirely left to the creature itself. God can rescue some people from vice, if he chooses, for he is merciful, or he can leave them there, because he is just, and he will reward those who choose virtue by aiding them, for he is merciful and just. That was a paraphrased quote from Augustine. But that gets into predestination, which doesn't seem entirely necessary to go into while we're still talking about LotR.

Merry Christmas. There's the basic Catholic view for ya. :) Or at least my best attempt at summarizing it. Of course, I can't talk about everything, so I kind of simplified it. Grace comes in there too, and then you have grace and free will, which is a mystery that can't be fully separated or explained, in the end.

So applying it to your questions, I would say that perhaps Frodo was chosen because Illuvatar knew he would take it, but he still may have a chance to refuse. He may not have taken it, and maybe there was no way he would take it, judging by the character he has formed, but it was still open and with his will. He did have an initial choice to get to that character that would accept the Ring, though, and maybe that's the key issue. Well, ok, I guess this does get to Predestination. But I don't want to go there unless absolutely necessary. did the above satisfy you?
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Post by idoron » Tue Dec 30, 2003 8:56 pm

Sam Gamgee wrote:Did the above satisfy you?


No. But that's OK. I suspect that pursuing that line of reasoning would not get us anywhere. (If it can't be resolved in the Real World how could we take it to Arda and expect to get anything done)

I'll have to ponder this a little.
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Post by MayorOfLongview » Wed Dec 31, 2003 7:47 am

At last an answer...

"If you re-read all the passages dealing with Frodo and the Ring, I think you will see that not only was it quite impossible for him to surrender the Ring, in act or will, especially at its point of maximum power, but that this failure was adumbrated from far back. He was honoured because he had accepted the burden voluntarily, and had then done all that was within his utmost physical and mental strength to do. He (and the Cause) were saved - by Mercy: by the supreme value and efficacy of Pity and forgiveness of injury."Letter #191
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Post by idoron » Wed Dec 31, 2003 12:50 pm

MayorOfLongview wrote:"If you re-read all the passages dealing with Frodo and the Ring, I think you will see that not only was it quite impossible for him to surrender the Ring, in act or will, especially at its point of maximum power, but that this failure was adumbrated from far back. He was honoured because he had accepted the burden voluntarily, and had then done all that was within his utmost physical and mental strength to do. He (and the Cause) were saved - by Mercy: by the supreme value and efficacy of Pity and forgiveness of injury."Letter #191


Interesting. I wonder if the taking of the ring refers to Bag End or Rivendell.

The Cause was saved by Mercy. The Mercy of whom? The Pity/Forgiveness is probably the pity of Bilbo and Frodo (pity for Gollum).

It was impossible to surrender the Ring. Interesting. So the Ring had a grip on him "far back" from the Cracks of Doom. So really, it is Frodo's will that drives him to Mordor, but not to "take the ring" if you follow. He couldn't give it up, as long as he had it, things are OK, wherever he is going. The Ring probably wouldn't object going to Mordor ("home"). If he tried going somewhere else, what would have happened.
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Wed Dec 31, 2003 2:48 pm

Thank you, Steve! That was the letter that I mentioned I heard of earlier. I just didn't know which one!

I thought the Mercy was referring to Frodo's.

Ok, I don't think the Ring had complete posession of him every step. Quite honestly - you know that one scene were he can't walk anymore so he starts to crawl? - I don't think it was the Ring driving him to do that. He couldn't surrender it, but he didn't put it on and claim it until the very end, not even when he was really tempted to outside Minas Morgul. So he has some will in what he'll do with it, at least until Samoth Nair (sp?) at the cracks of doom, but he was powerless to surrender it.
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