“Who can now hold the fords when the King of the Nine Riders comes? And other armies will come. I am too late. All is lost. I tarried on the way. All is lost. Even if my errand is performed, no one will ever know. There will be no one I can tell. It will be in vain.”
And so once more Frodo falls into despair as the sable clad armies of Minas Morgul pass by him on their way to take the fords of Osgiliath and then onward to assail the mighty fortress of Gondor itself, Minas Tirith. For Frodo Gondor now bears a human face and it is Faramir’s face that he can see as he watches the Lord of the Nazgul pass him by. His body still carries the memory of the wound that he received at the hands of that fell king at Weathertop. Now he sees him at the head of armies. Who can withstand him?
At all times Frodo has lived at the edge of his despair on his journey and most especially after the fall of Gandalf in Moria and then the attempt by Boromir to seize the Ring at the Falls of Rauros and the sundering of the Fellowship. At all times he is exhausted and as, he says to Sam, the Ring is “heavy on me, Sam lad, very heavy. I wonder how far I can carry it?” Yet time and again he finds strength to go on. We remember the refreshing dream just before the Black Gate and his laughter at the song of the Oliphaunt that Sam sings. We remember most of all the unexpected friendship that he found in his meeting with Faramir. Each moment has been unlooked for but each has found him out and given him strength to journey on once more. Now as he gazes upon the armies of Mordor and weeps in his despair it is a voice that reaches out to him.
“Wake up, Mr. Frodo! Wake up!”
And something in the voice, for it is Sam’s voice, calls him back to the Shire and to Bag End where everything is at peace, where he is at home. And in the inbreaking of the memory of home and of peace, entirely unsought for, he finds strength once again. “Despair had not left him, but the weakness had passed.” He knows what he must do even if there is nothing left to save and no one that he can tell. “What he had to do, he had to do, if he could, and that whether Faramir or Aragorn or Elrond or Galadriel or Gandalf or anyone else knew about it was beside the purpose.”
The purpose is the task itself and few people ever reach the maturity that Frodo displays here. It is an essential part of our growing up that we want to please the important people in our lives. At first this means our parents and grandparents. I still carry in my heart words of praise and encouragement that my grandmother spoke to me at a key moment in my life. They will always be a source of pleasure and of strength to me. But there comes a point when to go in search of such praise and to need someone to tell will keep us from doing the work that we came to this life to do. There comes a time when we must bid farewell, first to our grandparents and then to our parents, and even if we have had the fortune to find wise and kindly fathers and mothers in the communities, in the organisations, in which we have lived and worked there comes a time when we find that they must leave us. If there are to be such fathers and mothers then we must become them ourselves. The moment when we come to this place will be a lonely one but those who reach it and who do not flee from it as Frodo does not flee from it now are those who bring strength and blessing to others on the same journey.