In the last few weeks on this blog we have been thinking about the love story of Aragorn and Arwen “both the sweet and the bitter” as Arwen herself calls it. Now we return to the moment in which the sweetness is at its most intense. It is the first days of the marriage of Aragorn and Arwen after their long separation and for Aragorn all is healed. When Frodo comes to see the king and queen to ask permission to go home he is kingly in all that he offers. “If there were any gifts that I could give that could match with your deeds you should have them; but whatever you desire you shall take with you, and you shall ride in honour and arrayed as princes of the land.”
This is seemly and befits a king in his triumph and bliss but Arwen sees more keenly, even in her happiness. She speaks of her father departing for the Havens and that because she has made the choice of Lúthien she will not go with him. Then she speaks to Frodo showing that she understands the extent of the price that he has paid and the hurt that he has taken, wounded by the Nazgûl knife, the sting of Shelob and the tooth of Gollum and perhaps most of all by the Ring that he bore to its destruction and yet did not choose to destroy it at the end needing the crazed passion of Gollum to enable him to accomplish his task. Others, like Aragorn, rightly honour him for all that he has done, but he gives no honour to himself.
“In my stead you shall go, Ring-bearer, when the time comes, and if you then desire it. If your hurts grieve you still and the memory of your burden is heavy, then you may pass into the West until all your wounds and weariness are healed.”
We will return at a later time to think more about Frodo’s need for healing and a little of the means by which he will be healed but it is worth noting here that he is freely offered, by the grace of the Valar and the loving choice of Arwen, that which long before Ar-Pharazôn sought to seize by force. He is granted free passage to the Undying Lands. But note that he is not granted the immortality of the Elves but the gift of healing. When he is healed, when his soul learns again its true road to heaven and he is wholly free of the burden of the Ring at last and he has lived out his days then he will die. The tragedy of Ar-Pharazôn is that he sought to gain something that was never his and so lost the gift that was his for ever and could not be lost unless it was cast away.
In 1912 the artist Giorgio de Chirico painted The Enigma of Arrival and the Afternoon. In the painting two figures are seen walking through a classical landscape as the ship that has perhaps brought them there is seen already in full sail and leaving on its way to somewhere else. In 1987 the great Trinidadian novelist V.S Naipaul made this the title of one of his finest works. In it he tells of a man who is constantly in search of a home but finds that as soon as he reaches a place it begins inexorably to move away from him. His arrival coincides with its departure. It is a beautiful and poignant description of the endless flow of things. There are moments within this exquisite work in which, in a Proustian manner, Naipaul makes time almost stop still for a moment, but I had to use the word, almost. Time does not stand still. This tragic insight is displayed in a comic courtesy soon after the scene that we have considered in The Lord of the Rings when the quarrel between Éomer and Gimli over the question as to whether the Lady Galadriel is the most beautiful of all ladies is at last resolved. Éomer begs Gimli’s forgiveness. He cannot call Galadriel the most beautiful for now he has seen the Queen Arwen. Gimli forgives him but with great sadness. “You have chosen the Evening; but my love is given to be Morning. And my heart forbodes that soon it will pass away for ever.”
This week’s artwork is a digital reproduction of the The Enigma of Arrival and the Afternoon by Giorgio de Chirico downloaded from Pinterest.
6 thoughts on “The Enigma of Arrival. Frodo makes Preparation to Go Home.”
The enigma of arrival – how well that captures Frodo’s eventual return to the Shire. I will be ruminating on this notion today and again I am sure. Thank you as ever for your post, Stephen, and for sharing de Chirico’s artwork with us.
At this point of the story not even Frodo knows the full extent of his own enigma arrival but I note that it is his desire to see Bilbo that is more important to him. Thanks as always for reading and commenting ☺
Yes, you’re right – his longing to see Bilbo.. that is interesting, makes me wonder about Frodo’s attachment to the Shire, did it diminish after Bilbo left. I think perhaps it did. I often wish we could have seen even more of Bilbo and Frodo’s relationship on the page, rather than mostly hear about it… but I better understand now why Tolkien does not give us that.
Nicely put. That encourages me to think more about the relationship between Bilbo and Frodo.
I love the art and how appropriate it is. Arwen saw similar wounds in her mother and begged the might boon that Frodo have the same choice Celebrian did in seeking the West to heal. What that King sought in desperate pride to wrest for himself Frodo here receives as a gift he did not seek but receives as a great grace for his humble service. The King lost his life, Frodo here will regain it. Love what your meditations bring out.
Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie 😊
Thank you once again for your insights, Anne Marie and for bringing to my attention the healing of Celebrian in the West. How important that must have been for Arwen. How wonderful to seek to extend the same grace to Frodo.
God bless you 😊