The fear may have passed and Faramir proved faithful even though he has discovered that he has the Ring of Power within his grasp, but it has been too much for Frodo. “A great weariness came down on him like a cloud. He could dissemble and resist no longer.”
As we said some weeks ago Frodo has never lied to Faramir but he has done all that he can to hide the truth knowing what the truth can do. He has tried with all the strength he has to prevent Faramir from learning what it is that he carries. But now Faramir does know and Frodo has no strength left.
“I was going to find a way to Mordor,” he said faintly. “I was going to Gorgoroth. I must find the Mountain of Fire and cast the thing into the gulf of Doom. Gandalf said so. I do not think I shall ever get there.”
It is as if Frodo no longer has any will left in the matter. It is not even his choice as to whether he goes to Mordor. “Gandalf said so.” This is a thing that children say when they try to excuse themselves upon being caught doing something naughty. They try to pass the responsibility onto someone else, someone with sufficient authority to explain their actions. To do such a thing is not the action of a hero but Frodo is passed caring about being a hero, passed caring about being the centre of the story. He just has a task to fulfil; a job to do.
There are times in our lives when we seek for a sense of vocation, a word which means being called. We need such a sense to give us strength to do the hard things when they come. Perhaps Frodo briefly had such a sense when he first learnt what it was that he possessed in his front room before his fireplace with Gandalf. At that moment he a great desire “to follow Bilbo, and even perhaps to find him again.” It was a desire “so strong that it overcame his fear”. It was not a calling to do a great deed but it was enough to get him out of his front door and onto the journey. When the debate in the Council of Elrond concluded with the decision to take the Ring to Mordor Frodo had no such desire but a “great dread”. His longing was to remain at peace with Bilbo in Rivendell and so great was that longing that when eventually he did speak it was if “some other will was using his small voice”.
I said just now that we need a sense of vocation, a sense of being called to do something, to give us strength when times get hard. Perhaps I should have said that with the really important things there will come a time when we no longer have any sense of vocation at all. The really important things are too big for us. Indeed if the thing that engages our best and our truest is not too big for us then maybe it is not that important. It is one of the key elements of the imagery in the most ancient forms of the Christian rite of baptism that the one who is baptised is plunged into the waters of death and of chaos. As they do so they find that Christ has already made this journey, the journey into the deep waters of death, but that he has overcome our ancient enemy and death no longer has any power over him. Baptism is thus not just a cleansing from all that is passed but a prophecy of what lies ahead. As Jesus says to the disciples who want greatness, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with.” How can we face such things without the same sense of dread that Frodo felt that day in Rivendell? And if we do continue the journey then there will be times when we have no strength left just as Frodo has none at this moment.
And what happens next when there is no strength?
7 thoughts on “I Do Not Think I Shall Ever Get There”
Oh Stephen, what a wonderful post.
To me it made me feel this way – although I would think there are so many routes from this point forward. I suppose, for me, we find that the strength we feel comes from ourselves can run dry… But the strength needed for tasks greater than us… This reminds me of what you say about emptying. When we are truly empty and *cannot* find strength to continue, it is only then that we are sometimes able to feel the strength that fills the emptiness… That comes from other sources and guides our feet onward even in our exhaustion. And friends, too… Sam will “carry” Frodo… That strength in emptiness… Sometimes we have to be open and humble enough to receive it as it flows through true friendship – which is surely a source of great grace…
Thank you for your encouragement, Victoria. I think you are right when you speak of *receiving* strength and so what we must work to develop is an openness of spirit. How that differs from the spirit of our fearful age that seeks to close doors and then to lock and bar them. When you read The Lord of the Rings you find that one of the reasons why Sauron has been able to achieve such dominance is because his foes are suspicious of one another.
It is, of course, friends of whom I will speak next time. I love the way you end your comment when you speak of true friendship as being “a source of great grace”.
Beautiful as ever! Especially the bit about how we need a vocation to make it through the hard times, but that when we need it most, we cannot find it – it’s sad, but beautiful at the same time.
I have quite a bit of catching up to do now that I’m back to blogging. I can’t wait to see what else you have to say on Faramir.
It’s great to hear from you again and I hope you enjoyed a good summer. Thank you for describing my writing as “beautiful”. That is a great encouragement. As to the question of vocation it seems to me that Frodo’s journey is one that goes on when vocation fails. In that respect it is different from Sam’s whose vocation is simple, to stay with Frodo until the very end. And so it never fails, except in that heart rending moment in the pass of Cirith Ungol when he decides that to be faithful to Frodo he must try to take the Ring to the fire.
I think this one warrants several readings, with time in between for thinking. Very powerful. And perhaps there are different answers, depending on the cause of weariness/emptiness.
I look forward to any further thoughts you might have on this. I love Frodo because he struggles with despair. I feel myself to be his brother in this and yet he keeps on going.
It is a powerful thing, to keep putting one foot in front of the other.