I began to write in this blog about the journey of Frodo and Sam from the Emyn Muil at the beginning of March in 2015 and now, about a year later, it is time to leave them where Tolkien does, at the gates of the orc tower that guards the pass of Cirith Ungol before it descends into the land of Mordor.
“The great doors slammed to. Boom. The bars of iron fell into place inside. Clang. The gate was shut. Sam hurled himself against the bolted brazen plates and fell senseless to the ground. He was out in the darkness. Frodo was alive but taken by the enemy.”
We have been on such a journey in this last year! We began with the frustration of the hobbits as they went round and round the hills of the Emyn Muil and then the capture of Sméagol and, for a time at least, his taming. Together with them we crossed the Dead Marshes and reached the Black Gate that was shut against them. Then we turned south for a time until we entered the spoiled beauty of Ithilien, Tolkien’s “dishevelled dryad loveliness.” In Ithilien we met the noble Faramir who showed the hobbits the true Gondor, born of Númenor and of the faithfulness of the Elf Friends, of Elendil and of his forefathers, Eärendil and Beren, and of his foremothers, Elwing and Lúthien. Then after an all too brief rest in the refuge of Henneth Annûn we journeyed on with Frodo and Sam and their treacherous guide into the Morgul Vale, climbed with them up the stair to Cirith Ungol and to Shelob’s Lair. There we encountered the horror of the monster that dwelt in those tunnels of darkness visible but we also saw the inbreaking of the wondrous light of the Star Glass of Galadriel, the Morning Star of Eärendil, the Silmaril of Fëanor, and we saw Sam, the hero in the darkest moment, driving away the traitor, Gollum, and vanquishing Shelob herself. Shelob is defeated but not before she has stung Frodo and rendered him helpless. Sam takes the Ring from Frodo believing himself to be the last remaining member of the Fellowship and begins his journey towards the Cracks of Doom and the Ring’s destruction only to find that a company of orcs has found Frodo and taken him alive into their guard tower. Frodo is a prisoner inside it and Sam is shut out.
And that is how it ends, at least for now. The door is shut. Frodo is a prisoner. Sam is shut out. I don’t blame Tolkien for stopping here. It’s as Frodo put it when he and Sam were talking about stories just before they entered Shelob’s Lair:
“You and I, Sam, are still stuck in the worst places of the story, and it is all too likely that some will say at this point: “Shut the book now, dad; we don’t want to read any more.”
So this post on my blog is dedicated to all who feel stuck, who feel they have reached a dead end in their lives. There is no way that Frodo and Sam can rescue themselves from this situation. Frodo is drugged and bound and soon he will be naked. Sam is one small hobbit and even if he uses the Ring it wouldn’t be long before he gets the attention of the last being in the world that he would ever want to meet. They cannot save themselves. Help will have to come to them from outside. It will come to you too. Ask for it.
This is no accident on Tolkien’s part. He wanted to tell a story in which the world was saved by the small. He believed (and so do I) that such a story was true to the Christian faith in which he believed. If you want to follow this thought further then listen to this talk by Brenton Dickieson http://apilgriminnarnia.com/2016/02/01/a-hobbits-theology-2016-pub-talk/ He puts it really well.
But now we have to leave Frodo and Sam. Next week we will be with Gandalf and Pippin once more. See you then.
24 thoughts on “Farewell (for a while) to Frodo and Sam”
Aww, darn! Oh well, Pippin’s cute too. And Merry. In my fanfictions Pippin calls Merry “Mer-Mer”. Well, bye, Frodo and Sam. You’re separated and sad. Too bad for you. And neither of you is conscious. But that’s okay.
So all kinds of bad things can happen and we can still be OK? That’s a good lesson to learn.
Yes. Yes, I absolutely meant that. Wow, I accidentally said something super smart.
It was super smart but no accident, I suspect!
I didn’t mean to do it but God might have.
That is a good thought to hold onto. To enjoy the gifts God gives you and to be thankful for them. Have a great day!
Beautifully written again. I was sad when I saw your title, thinking you were going to move on to other blogs, like poetry you write in the shower, or how to grow organic vegetables in a post-nuclear containment zone. But the road does go ever on. And on.
Thanks for the nod. It is a thought I am steadily working on. I was glad to give the talk because I am sort of stuck in it–unable in a Phd just to write a book for fun, yet not wanting to let it go. We’ll see.
I really would like to be able to write poetry in the shower and my wife and I would like to buy a plot of land here in the Shire to grow organic vegetables (I missed the nuclear holocaust!)
Thanks for the encouragement to stay on the road with Tolkien. I have learnt so much on this journey and your talk has been a part of that. Is there a further reflection on the relationship between Aragorn who must exercise authority as king and his entrusting of the north to Sam and hobbit politics? Sam becomes more kingly and Aragorn more hobbit like?
“unable in a Phd just to write a book for fun, yet not wanting to let it go. We’ll see.”
I am no prophetess, but I somehow have no doubt that the book, or books you want to right “just for fun” are meant to be. And if that is so, I am sure you will find a way to write them when it’s time.
Until then, may you have some peace in the tasks at hand.
I know that this thought was meant for Brenton but I hope you both don’t mind me butting in! I am watching my daughter, Bethan, going deep inside a long essay and preparing to go to Cambridge for further research next year (proud Dad, I know, but I think that is allowed to fathers!). It really does feel as if there little room for play. I agree with Jubilare though, that the struggle for keeping a space for fun is worth the effort. The phrase from Hebrews, “Strive to enter that rest” comes to mind.
I don’t mind you “butting in” at all. 🙂
This is a fun discussion. Thanks for the encouragement!
Yes, I think these books will come. The one that keeps bugging my brain is even further from PhD, and it could be awesome. Super nerdy. But need to finish the job ahead of me.
We’ll see. I suspect a patron will come along and offer me a salary to just stay home and write. Any day now….
Lol! My friend Stephanie and I talked about that very thing, then speculated on the dangers of a patron wanting to meddle in the work. 😉
I have considered trying to write a novel for the Patreon crowd. But I find the thought intimidating. 😛
Still, take breaks sometimes for personal writing? I know it’s hard, with the brutal double-schedule of a Phd and a parent, but… maybe?
Actually, this might be behind Paul’s struggle in 1 Thess 2:1-10. Dio Chrysostom talked about it: I am too ashamed to beg, unable to work with my hands, and a patron reduces my freedom as a philosopher. It’s a tough little celtic knot.
I do need the breaks. And soon.
If only we could find the scissors…
I hope you get one soon, my friend.
That reminds me of the story of the Unrighteous Steward in Luke’s Gospel. He is a character with whom I strongly identify.
In the musical world Sergey Perkoviev went back to the Soviet Union in order to benefit from state remuneration and access to a special retreat for composers. The government kept their side of the bargain. The down side was that with the freedom from financial worries you also got Joseph Stalin and the secret police. Composers like Igor Stravinsky and Sergey Rachmaninov always worried about money but didn’t have to worry about the KGB. As the saying goes, you pay your money and you make your choice!
I do hope that will happen! I am sure that your students will benefit from you doing your day job until it does.
We’ll see. There are days when I wonder!
“They cannot save themselves. Help will have to come to them from outside. It will come to you too. Ask for it.”
This as the point at which the tears that were ungraciously blurring my vision, making reading difficult, decided to move on and wash my face. On the bright side, that made reading a little easier. 😉
God’s blessing be upon you.
And on you.