After Sam and Rosie Cotton are married they move into together with Frodo in Bag End. It is a good arrangement for all. Sam and Rosie have a fine home in which to raise a family together. Frodo has kind and loving friends to watch over him. Sam is close enough to the Gaffer to keep an eye on him. But not too close.
It is the beginning of a golden age in the history of the Shire. Restoration work is underway everywhere and everything returns to how it was but perhaps it is even more beautiful than it was before the troubles. Tolkien gives us a vision, perhaps, of how England might have been restored after the destruction of the Second World War. One thinks of the beautiful medieval city of Coventry that was badly bombed during the war and its ancient cathedral almost completely destroyed. It is a grim joke told by the people of that city that the Luftwaffe only began the destruction of the city. It was completed by the city authorities. It is as if Lotho Pimple and Ted Sandyman had seized control of the country after the war for long enough until they had changed it for ever.
Not so the Shire. The Shire is seized, not by brutalist architects, but by a spirit of merriment. And the spirit is manifested above all in Merry and Pippin. “The two young Travellers cut a great dash in the Shire with their songs and their tales and their finery, and their wonderful parties. ‘Lordly’ folk called them, meaning nothing but good; for it warmed all hearts to see them go riding by with their mail-shirts so bright and their shields so splendid, laughing and singing songs of far away.”
Merry and Pippin bring something new to the Shire in a way that even hobbits, that most conservative of peoples, could receive. They give the Shire back to itself but more itself than ever it was before. And there is one other who does this work also and that is Sam the Gardener who will eventually take the name of Gardener for his family.
Sadly there is one who cannot share this joy, delight and glory and that is Frodo. It is not that Frodo becomes angry or embittered, withdrawing into a windowless inner darkness. It is just that Frodo has been hurt and cannot wholly be healed in Middle-earth.
Sam is away in March in the Year of Plenty on his duties as forester to the Shire. All his attention and his energy is given to looking forward. So he misses March 13th, the day one year before when Frodo lay helpless, poisoned by Shelob, a prisoner of the orcs in Cirith Ungol, and the Ring was gone. On that day Frodo had not known that Sam had taken the Ring in order to prevent it from falling into the hands of the orcs but what Frodo relives a year later is not a sense of misery at the failure of the mission but an utter emptiness because the Ring has gone. It is the same emptiness that Gollum felt when Bilbo took the Ring and which was to fuel his obsessive search thereafter. The Ring has a hold over Frodo from which he can never wholly escape.
This is an experience that the Shire cannot share. The story of the Ring and its utterly malevolent maker is something that it has never shared. Even when the Ring was in the Shire it remained hidden and it was only revealed for the briefest of moments in the uncanny goings on at Bilbo’s farewell party. And when the War of the Ring came to the Shire it was through Saruman and his brigand ban, already defeated though able to do some small mischief before being caught. The Shire never shared Frodo’s heroic sacrifice of himself and so it cannot understand it. As Frodo himself says: “I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me.”
Frodo is the wounded healer, the prophet without honour in his own country. Merry, Pippin and Sam are all closer to the Shire and are able to bring the great story of deliverence to their people in such a way that they can receive it and learn to be grateful for it. For Frodo healing must come somewhere else.
23 thoughts on ““I am Wounded; it will Never Really Heal”. Frodo Begins to Fade Away From the Shire.”
I found this story of Frodo not being to heal as one of the most profound And worthy of discussion themes of the whole book. Tolkien would have this story in there because as soldiers of world wars, not everyone returns home to be normal. I find it heart breaking Frodo Cannot find his peace in the Shire but I expected it too. That is the reason why I love him more for the sacrifice he has made for Middle-earth.
I couldn’t agree with this more. Frodo’s sacrifice is sometimes too great to fathom.
It is a very great sacrifice indeed although Frodo did not know how great it would be when he first decided that leave the Shire.
That might be a mercy in itself. Who among us would undertake such a role if we knew the full measure of such darkness?
Perhaps none of us would.
Perhaps not. I’d like to believe some of us could, but it’s one of those great unanswerable questions. I think none of us could even know until faced with such a reality.
Indeed. Thank you so much for sharing this.
Yes, I am sure that Tolkien was thinking especially of the experience of soldiers returning from the First World War not least his own experience.
The line about “knife, sting, and tooth” leaves out the real cause of Frodo’s illness. I wonder how to interpret that?
Is it that Frodo was either unaware or, perhaps, could not yet face the truth about himself? I think that it might be the latter and it causes me to feel even more for him. I am so glad that the book ends with him leaving Middle-earth in search of healing.
It is heartbreaking what happens to Frodo and worse still his ‘unreasoning self-reproach’ as Tolkien called it – blaming himself for claiming the Ring and it was the Ring that claimed him. He did so much for the Shire, very nearly died for it, and no one cares. I think he did go into a ‘windowless inner darkness.’ Prayers for anyone even now who is in such a hellish place.
True indeed that it is good none of us know what is ahead. Frodo mentions this after waking in Rivendell and being glad he did not know the full peril he was in after being wounded or he would have been too terrified to go on. Bilbo did not know how he barely cleared the ceiling when he jumped over Gollum in the goblin tunnels. He didn’t know the danger of approaching Smaug the second time. Since they did not know, they could not be paralyzed by the knowledge of what great danger they were in.
Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing this, Anne Marie. I have been thinking about it a lot over the last couple of days. I do not blame the Shire folk for not understanding Frodo. His story is so remote from their life experience. It is even remote from the good folk of Gondor too. I think of how Ioreth tells it to her kinswoman. That Frodo and Sam had gone alone into Mordor and set fire to the Dark Lord’s tower. Sam becomes the keeper of the truth; the witness to the journey from the Emyn Muil to Orodruin and there are some who receive his story.
I agree with you that there are times when Frodo enters the windowless room so I had to think hard about what I was trying to say here. I think that it is that he does not get lost there. When the call comes for him to make the journey to the Grey Havens he is at peace with leaving the Shire. He is not bitter that he has not been able to save the Shire for himself or angry against his fellow hobbits. I hope (as I think you have mentioned before) that Gandalf brought him to his own teacher, the Lady Nienna, and that she was able to heal him of that “unreasoning self-reproach”.
God bless you, Anne Marie, and thank you for your continued encouragement 😊
Beautifully put, Stephen. Wounded by blade and sting and tooth. And it is that last, which took the Ring from him, which has the most lasting effect, both internally (Frodo’s inability to completely free himself from the loss of the Ring) and externally (he’s now missing an appendage).
Beautifully put! I like your connection between the finger and the Ring. A connection that Frodo shared with Sauron. This gives me much to think about. Thank you 😊
Ah yes. Interesting link to Sauron.
Frodo’s being unable to heal has always been to me one of the saddest things in the whole story. It’s painful that he doesn’t belong to this newly restored Shire — where he would have become very happy under other circumstances.
Thank you, Olga. It is sad but Frodo meets his fate with great courage. It makes one think about where our true home lies. Perhaps that question belongs even more to Elrond and Galadriel but Frodo is one who lives in more than one world even at the start of his adventure.
A beautiful reflection on a profound and true bit of writing. A comparable story is told by. C S Lewis about Elwin Ransom’s wound, that will never be healed until he returns to Perelandra. Dear Christ, how I long for the ship that will take me out of here to where my wounds will be healed and I will never have to listen to another lie being told.
Thank you so much for the comparison with Ransom’s wound. I think that you are right about it. Whether there is a direct link or that both Lewis and Tolkien were pointing to the suffering of Christ for the world I don’t know. More recently Henri Nouwen wrote a profound study on pastoral work entitled “The Wounded Healer”. I don’t think that Nouwen draws on Lewis and Tolkien but it is a title that seems to describe Frodo and Ransom perfectly.
Frodo and Ransom bore their wounds with great courage and faith and I pray this for you also and that you will be a source of healing for others too.
I don’t know if I would have trained as a doctor if I had known at the outset what it would cost me. We all get wounded.
But Frodo does eventually take ship into the West. I am very grateful for Annie Lennox’s wonderful song of that name, which I sing often and have requested for my funeral. There is a hope.
I am married to a doctor and I have to watch her keep on giving and giving, constantly pushing herself to the edge of exhaustion. Society seems on the one hand to give a certain status to doctors and then to resent, to envy, the very same status that they have given. Equally it has long struck me that few people have the ability or the willingness to try to put themselves into the shoes of another. By the very fact that doctors are elevated in status either to admiration or resentment most people thereby do not think that they can ever understand still less empathise with the doctor’s experience.
I read back your comment that you posted in August 2018 before any of us had ever heard of Covid 19. I prayed for courage and faith for you back then and I do so once more. God bless and keep you in all your trials.
I find it amazing that two of my favorite writers of all time end their stories with descriptions of the protagonist being a wounded healer. My wife of 60 years has born that title since early in her life, as a christian counselor she has received much return on the effects of the blade, the sting, and the tooth as she willingly shares the strength so miraculously given with others living in windowless rooms.
Thank you so much for sharing this. What a wonderful appreciation of your wife.