“We Must Send The Ring to The Fire”. Elrond Concludes The Debate on What To Do With The Ring.

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R Tolkien (Harper Collins 1991) pp. 257-260

After Gandalf ends his tale about his long journey, his battle with the Nazgûl upon Weathertop that the hobbits and Aragorn had witnessed from a distance and his long ride northward upon the mighty Shadowfax in order to draw some of his enemies, at least, away from the Ring and its bearer, he apologises to Frodo and then asks:

“Well, the Tale is now told, from first to last. Here we all are, and here is the Ring. But we have not come any nearer to our purpose. What shall we do with it?”

What Shall We Do With The Ring?

In response to a consideration of Gandalf’s question Elrond makes brief reference to Saruman’s treachery and the dangers of studying too closely the arts of the Enemy. But he gives his closest attention to a reflection upon Frodo’s story subtly drawing both him and hobbits into the long tale of the years. The Shire is placed at the edge of the great primeval forest and hobbits are named as neighbours to Iarwain Ben-adar, oldest and fatherless, Tom Bombadil of the eastern edge of The Old Forest. Briefly the thought is considered that Bombadil might be asked to be guardian of the Ring but Gandalf swiftly dismisses the idea. “He would be a most unsafe guardian; and that alone is enough”.

Perhaps most significantly Elrond speaks of Frodo and hobbits with respect and some surprise. “Of the tales that we have heard today the tale of Frodo was most strange to me. I have known few hobbits, save Bilbo here; and it seems to me that he is perhaps not so alone and singular as I had thought him. The world has changed much since I was last on the westward road.”

Elrond leaves that thought hanging as the Elves begin to debate whether the Ring should be hidden in some fashion or destroyed. Should it be taken westward to the Undying Lands where it will lie beyond the reach of Sauron? Elrond is confident that those in the Undying Lands would refuse to receive the Ring. For them the memory of Feänor and the corrupting power of the Silmarils will be fresh. Not that the Silmarils were evil in themselves but that Feänor’s absolute desire to possess something that he had made at all costs corrupted him absolutely. It led to the rebellion of the Noldor and the kinslaying at Alqualondë, the only occasion of violent death in the long history of Valinor. Neither the Elves nor the Valar would give welcome to an object of power that was inherently evil.

Ted Nasmith’s imagining of the Kinslaying at Alqualondë

Glorfindel suggests that Saruman’s lie, that the Ring had rolled down the Anduin to the depths of the ocean should be made true. They should cast it there themselves. But Gandalf dismisses this idea. No solution to the problem of the Ring will be permanent save its destruction and so Elrond brings the debate to its conclusion.

“But it seems to me now clear which is the road that we must take. The westward road seems easiest. Therefore it must be shunned. It will be watched. Too often the Elves have fled that way. Now at this last we must take a hard road, a road unforeseen. There lies our hope, if hope it be. To walk into peril- to Mordor. We must take the Ring to the Fire.”

The taking of the hard road, the road into peril, lies at the very heart of Tolkien’s meditation on the problem of evil. He gives no attention whatsoever to the question of why there is evil in the world. It is here and that is all we need to know. And he rejects the two solutions to the problem of evil in our own time, that either we flee from it to some absolute place of safety or that we overcome it by some greater force, defeating evil with evil. Next week we will give greater consideration to this latter solution thinking about Boromir’s suggestion that the Free Peoples use the Ring against its maker. It is enough to know now that Elrond and the Wise reject this possibility. There is only the hard road. The road into the very heart of darkness allowing it to do its very worst. The way of the cross.

The Hard Road

2 thoughts on ““We Must Send The Ring to The Fire”. Elrond Concludes The Debate on What To Do With The Ring.

  1. When i was a little girl, some one told me always to walk with my head held high… to stand straight, and walk lightly but straight forward. To look the world in the eye. It wasn’t about pride. It was about not being beaten down by what the world throws, and also keeping peace and groundedness. Sometimes it is really hard to face into evil, and just walk onward. But it is the only journey if we are to get through to the other side. There is that dogged determination in the hobbits, that accepts the only path, and is somehow rooted in their comfort in their hobbitness, their groundedness… that somehow seems to carry them through astonishingly, resilient against evil. I have as usual not your gift for words, Stephen, i hope you can glimpse my thought path in my incoherence.

    I recently began reading a book, i don’t know how it will unfold, i’m only a bare few percent into its pages, but it opens talking about freedom. That there is a freedom even amongst the greatest evil and despair and pain which is somehow rooted in your belief in your freedom to forgive. I hesitate to unfold that here, but i wonder if there is a freedom (and that ability may flow from it – we see it perhaps maybe perhaps in Frodo and Gollum) that is rooted in your stability in who you are, and that you are following the path laid out for you. The hobbits seem, with a few wobbles, to have an unerring courage rooted in their ability to discern, and their huge belief in who they are as hobbits, despite the world’s varying impressions of them?

  2. Thank you so much for this heartfelt reflection, Victoria. I have been thinking a lot about hobbits in my current series of blog posts that follow the Council of Elrond and go onto the choosing of the company that will accompany the Ringbearer to Mordor. One of those thoughts is about the Shire as a place of rest for Gandalf and, perhaps even more significantly, a place of play. Fireworks, good food, beer and pipeweed. But he needs someone who is both able to keep what has attracted him to the Shire but to be able to transcend it also. Quite literally to leave it behind. And so he thinks first of Bilbo and the rest is history; or at least as Tolkien tells the story.
    It is the love that they have for Frodo and the deep pity that they feel for the terrible burden that has been placed upon him that gives them their courage. In following Aragorn and Glorfindel in charging the Nazgûl at the Fords of Bruinen when it seems that Frodo might be captured they quite literally forget themselves. Death is the likely outcome of their bravery but all that matters to them is their friend.
    I look forward to reading your further thoughts as you indicate about freedom and forgiveness.

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