Frodo and Sam are a Part of Intimate and Great Events in Mordor.

It is not long after Frodo and Sam’s escape from the Tower of Cirith Ungol that the pursuit of their enemies begins. But they are able to escape by sliding into the dark down a steep slope at the end of which their fall is broken by a particularly unpleasant thorn bush. After this they begin to follow a way northward always seeking for a way east towards their goal at Orodruin, Mount Doom.

As they journey on Tolkien shows us two things that run together in his narrative. One is Frodo and Sam’s experience of the journey. Frodo is capable of short bursts of energy but is soon exhausted by them. The weight of the orc gear that Sam found in Cirith Ungol to disguise him is soon too much for him. Added to this, the Ring is an increasing burden not just to his body but to his mind and soul too. “This blind dark seems to be getting into my heart,” he says.

Sam’s spirits rise and fall quickly, buoyed by a moment of good fortune then brought down by anxiety for Frodo, but always ready again for another cause for thankfulness.

And such causes are at hand, even in the dark land of Mordor, for alongside the experience of the hobbits runs the events in the world about them. As they struggle onward the Battle of the Pelennor Fields is taking place beyond the western border of Mordor that they have just entered at such great peril. A war is taking place in the skies and the smokes of Mordor are giving way to a fresh wind from the sea that will bring Aragorn and his host up the Anduin from Pelargir. And even as Sam becomes excitedly aware of the battle in the skies the cry of a Nazgûl goes up but this time with no sense of threat. “It was a cry of woe and dismay, ill tidings for the Dark Tower. The Lord of the Ringwraiths had met his doom.”

Closer to them, Sam’s desire for light and water expressed in a plea to the Lady of Lothlórien is quickly met. The light breaks through the shadows by means of the retreat of Sauron’s smokes while the water comes in the form of an oily steam that trickles across their path. To the hobbits the finding of the stream, whose water they would have disdained had they met it in the Shire, is just as worthy of praise as the great events out westward. Sam declares that if he ever meets the Lady again he will tell her!

In these few brief pages Tolkien wonderfully weaves together the personal and intimate events of our lives with the great events that go on around us. Of course the death of the Lord of the Nazgûl was an event that was deeply personal for Éowyn and Merry but it was also an event of the greatest significance in the history of Middle-earth. Tolkien’s experience of war in the trenches informs this reality. For the protagonists each event is intimate. Sam falls asleep in the most unlikely places as soldiers, sleep deprived, must have done even in the midst of battle and the filling of a waterbottle is an event as much a cause of joy as a victory.

Too much is happening for the hobbits to be more than briefly aware that their story is woven into others but Tolkien steps away from the sheer rush of events to reveal this ever intricate weaving of a pattern in which we are always a part even when we are entirely unaware of it. It is the kind of perspective that can be achieved on reflection and points us to the value of taking such opportunities.

Sauron is only too aware of the “great” events but he has lost a sensitivity to the intimate. One cannot imagine him enjoying a glass of water, savouring its coolness in his mouth. Perhaps that is why he is vulnerable to hobbits who have spent centuries engaged in the small and have only been brought into the great very much against their will and, perhaps, shows us that something has been lost in his practice of reflection showing that it is possible for one of great intellect to lose the means to achieve wisdom.

 

11 thoughts on “Frodo and Sam are a Part of Intimate and Great Events in Mordor.

  1. After he was caught in the drowning of Numenor, Sauron “could never again appear fair to the eyes of Men”. Perhaps this loss of sensitivity is a physical manifestation of that.

    • Sauron’s physical degeneration is a major theme in Tolkien’s legendarium. He is in the process of becoming disembodied. But I can’t imagine Sauron ever taking someone out to dinner for the sheer pleasure of their company. I am sure that he kept company with Ar Pharazon but always for the purpose of power, never delight.
      On that matter, I have for some time now been pondering Ray Kurzweil’s hope for digital immortality. It seems to me that the Inklings would have recognised that desire and that they wrote about it. The NICE are trying to achieve it in “That Hideous Strength” and Ar Pharazon desires it. Tolkien rather wonderfully asks the next question by means of his immortals which is, what do we do with immortality once we have it? I would be really interested to know what you think about this.

  2. What interesting thoughts! C.S. Lewis said much the same about the pleasure of small things celebrated amidst the ruin of war. Alas for Sauron who lost the savor of such things so very long before this. What a poverty to live such a way.

    Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your reminder of Lewis’s pleasure in small things in time of war. It is a small thing but, of course, that is the point. It begins to strike me that those who devote their lives to the pursuit of power must become desensitised to small things and consequently they become vulnerable to those things. Hobbits are only of interest to him because he thinks that one has for the time possessed the Ring. But he also thinks that this is an accident and that the Ring will inevitably go to one who is more powerful. “Wise fool!”
      I am fascinated by Gandalf’s pleasure in small things. The Shire, fireworks, pipeweed, good beer and even hobbits are all beneath Sauron’s attention but not his. And it makes all the difference.
      Tolkien tells a story that shows that the biblical insight that the foolish things of the world shame the wise is actually reality and not mere wishful thinking.
      Once again, many thanks, and God bless you 😊

  3. I can’t help but quote Thorin here: “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world”. Pleasure and happiness can often be found in small things around us, most of which can’t be bought for money or, if they’re bought, it doesn’t diminish their value. In our age of striving for more material wealth, power, greatness and recognition, enjoying a simple glass of water is a treat for those who know how to value such small things.
    And Sauron doesn’t sound like a good dinner companion to me. I bet he would be a bore 😀

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