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J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord Of The Rings

Prolixic

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Good links Marie. They go a long way towards explaining what Bombadil is, to be sure, even though most of what they talked about wasn't in the Fellowship. A reader can't really pick any of it up in the context of the book itself. Bombadil appears as this manlike persona that interrupts an errand to get some lillies for his Lady to save a handfull of wayward hobbits. Then saves them again from the Barrow Wights. I have to say, savage_henry, that your friends might be a bit shortsighted--don't take offence please most of the folks I know look down their nose at me if I mention SciFi or Fantasy. Like most of the characters or places in Tolkein's works it seems that there was a purpose and a place even if we couldn't see it--poor us.

Personally, I think Bombadil makes people uncomfortable because he is geeky, eccentric, and generally unconcerned with anything but his lands and his Lady. He is happy being himself, he wears bright colors and even stockings with high boots and is still manly, and simply is. People don't like being reminded that whats in you matters more than what you have, do, or wear. It would be tough going putting that in a movie and expect people to watch it when what they really came to see was Aragorn's sword glittering and orc heads flying from great swings of Gimli's axe!
 

Dawn

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I would have liked to see Tom in the movie, but think, since he didn't do anything to move the story along he was omitted. I know they had though decisions to make...what to leave in...what to leave out. As it is, the movie is too lengthy for some. Not for me, though. I'm ready to see the extended version.

Now that I know we don't have to use spoilers, I have a question that's been bothering me since I finished Return of the King. Where are they going when they go "West"? Are they dying? I didnt' think so at first, since Elrod would rather Arwin to join the others elves when they retreat to the "West". But when Frodo, Bilbo and Sam join them, I started to wonder. Why did Sam have to wait until he was dying? The same for Bilbo.

Please excuse me if I didn't spell any other the characters' names correctly. I don't have the books on hand.
 

Prolixic

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I got the impression that there its the place that the elves go when they get weary with Middle Earth or get done with what they need to do. They don't die unless they are killed by something--immortal I guess is what they are, so they have to sail there. I think the Return of the King has a map of the place? The Silmarillion has a good explanation too. Some of those essays on the links that Marie posted on this thread have good information on it. I also remember reading somewhere that it was where the creators of the world lived? Something like that. And Elbereth is supposed to be there, who is apparently very important to the Elves because they are always talking about her.
 

Dawn

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I have yet to read Silmarillion. I'll have to get a copy soon. I just spent the weekend viewing all of The Lord of The Rings extended version DVD. Wow! I didn't think I'd get into all of the back story behind the film, but I was sucked into it. I'm ready for more. Silmarillion, here I come.
 

Marie

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Where are they going when they go "West"? Are they dying? I didnt' think so at first, since Elrod would rather Arwin to join the others elves when they retreat to the "West". But when Frodo, Bilbo and Sam join them, I started to wonder. Why did Sam have to wait until he was dying? The same for Bilbo.

I had the same feeling than Dawn, I think they are dying. We are in Middle Earth, so the passage from life to death is bound to be something more symbolic than simply dying (not true for those who died in battle though). They sail away and if I am not mistaken that's how the passage from life to death is represented in some mythologies (crossing of a river or a sea). Are you sure Sam is going too Dawn? He waves them away from the shore and he goes back to become the mayor of Hobbiton (in my edition, there's a chronology of the fourth age of Middle-earth).
What makes me think Tolkien intention was to represent a symbolic kind of death is that all the people who go are weary, sick (remember: Bilbo can't even concentrate on what he's told, would the story take place on earth, I'd say he suffers from Alzheimer!) . Besides, more revealing element, before Saruman is killed, he tells Frodo: " do not expect me to wish you health and long life, you will have neither". With that in mind, when I reached the end, I understood they died...
 

Dawn

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Sam is not allowed to go when Frodo leaves. He can't go until he's old and, I believe, is about to die. For that matter, if it's a reward for saving the world, why can't he go when Frodo does? Surely he's earned it.

What has me puzzled, if it is a representation of death, is why Elrod would prefer Arwen to join the other Elves when they go to the West instead of staying with Aragorn? If it's not death, then why can't she go after she's lived a long life, like Sam? And what about Aragorn?

I'm so confused.
 

Marie

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I am confused too. In my edition, the appendix features the tale of Aragorn and Arwen. Arwen doesn't go West but goes to alone to the land of Lorien: "she laid herself to rest upon Cerin Amroth; and there is her green grave". So it is clear she dies there (after Aragorn has died). A little above this passage, it is written that Arwen is alone in Lorien since"Galadriel has passed away and Celeborn also was gone".
So Galadriel going West seems to mean she dies... As for the rest I'm lost. I don't understand why Arwen and Aragorn don't go West at the end of their lives...
 

funes

New Member
I, too, was puzzled by this business about "going West". In my opinion, it represents not so much the deaths of the travellers as it does the end of their way of life and history. In this sense, you could view the flight West in comparison with something like Adam and Eve's flight from Eden, or the end of Camelot. For a story that is so intensely concerned with it's own past and sense of place, it is every bit as sad an ending as literal death.
I also got the feeling that the coming age at the end of the trilogy was to be the age of "Man". It seems to me to be a sort of thematic truism that this "Rise of Man" (or, in other contexts, the coming of the "Machine Age", etc.) invariably drives "magic" before it (Rationalism vs. Romanticism).
I just finished reading John Crowley's book Little, Big and found very similar themes in it (and Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy).
 

Dawn

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That sounds right to me, but still . . . how can the hobbits go? Why can't Arwen and Aragorn?
 

funes

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Well, the hobbits can go because they are creatures which belong to the old, passing age, like elves and Orcs and the whole thing. Aragorn can't because he is the leader of Men (who are in the ascendancy in Middle Earth). Arwen, if I remember correctly, renounced her Elvin qualities (or whatever) to marry Aragorn, thereby joining the ranks of "Man".
You can also see this change in Middle Earth as a representation of becoming an adult. A child who believes in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, etc., lives in a magical, epic sort of world. With the coming of maturity, that "world" is lost. I think that that quality of the "going West" is what gives it it's particularly poignancy.
 

Prolixic

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Well I think funes just blew that one out of the water. Good shootin' Tex!

Anyway, I agree with you about the sad part. Its even sadder because unlike Adam and Eve, the Elves, Gandalf were leaving because of what they were not because of what they did--I mean it wasn't punishment. Although I guess both groups earned it in different ways. To me the passing away of childhood makes more sense. Do you think Tolkein felt that in the world around him?
 

Dawn

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Well I think funes just blew that one out of the water. Good shootin' Tex!

Here, here! funes, that makes sense to me. It is sad, however. Of course, the loss of innocence and the end of childhood IS sad.

Do you think Tolkein felt that in the world around him?

I think Tolkien was concerned with the speed at which technology was taking hold. The world was becoming very "modern" or very fast. Perhaps he would have preferred Hobbiton, where change was not highly valued. Hard work and the enjoyment of life was more important. No rubbish about adventures, either.

And my two sense about the ending -
I would have preferred a happy-ever-after ending for Frodo. Like...Frodo remains in Hobbiton for a while...gets restless...leaves Hobbiton for more adventures...visits the members of the Fellowship...falls in love...etc.

I'm such a sap!
 

funes

New Member
Thanks, first of all, for the kind words.
I would hesitate to put words in Tolkien's mouth or head (after all, he labored long and hard against the interpretation of LOTR as Axis vs. Allies history), but I think most people, in some way or another, are aware of that feeling of things "passing away". Maybe they understand it as a simpler way of life being pushed aside. Maybe they understand it simply as "The Good Old Days" (though it cuts a little deeper than nostalgia).
In any event, it is a feature of the human condition. There prob'ly isn't a person alive in the 40+ age range who doesn't wistfully hark back to some "magical" summer.
(As an aside, Prolixic, one could argue that Adam and Eve were cast out because of what they were (i.e. human/fallible) rather than what they did; but, that's a whole other can of worms. Either way, the comparison was hasty and ill-considered on my part.)
 

Prolixic

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Dawn wrote:
I'm such a sap!

Yup. But don't worry, you're in good company. The world would be kinda boring without sap's to read books...and write them.

P.S. For example, most fiction books have little romance in them. Even Tolkein sprinkled a bit through LOTR, i.e., Arwen and Aragorn (true love, sigh) and even Aragorn and Eowyn from Rohan (Love scorned for a higher calling.) See? We're all saps.
 

Prolixic

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As funes pointed out Tolkein wasn't at all interested in having his work seen as an allegory to WWII but...is there anyone besides me who thinks the Shire sounds a lot like England sounds? Perhaps thats it: I've never set foot in either one of them and so what I know about them is from what I've heard or read. (Not that I wouldn't like to visit either.) I know that some folks live in England. What do you think?
 

funes

New Member
Like you, I really don't know much about England (a day in Canada is as close as I've gotten), but it certainly seems like the Shire and its inhabitants are modeled on a certain vision of England and it's people.
Having said that, though, I think it has far more to do with Tolkein being British, and writing from his experience, than any purposeful, thematic or allegorical motives.
If he had grown up in, say, Chicago, the Shire would probably remind us of the Great Prairie or something (at the very least).
 

Dawn

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I found my answer about death and the Grey Havens in The Silmarillion. I meant to bookmark the page so I could quote directly, but didn't so I'll have to improvise. (Trying to search for a quote in Silmarillion is almost as much a challenge as reading it.)

The Grey Havens is NOT death. Elves can go there to rejuvenate, but they don't die. Tolkien says that the elves will live until the end of the world, dying when the earth does. They can die by violence, etc. but not of old age.
 

Deerskin

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Hi all! I'm new to this site but not to Tolkien. I've taken part (on other sites) in many discussion's on this subject since reading the Silmarillion for the first time last year.

The land 'west of the sea' is where the elves sail to when they depart middle earth (being 'immortal' in that they are bound to the world until it's end); they are departing to a land where the Valar (most easily likened to 'angels') live. After the War of the Ring, the ringbearers are allowed to depart with them to attempt to find healing from their wounds (though they will, as mortals, eventually die there). Frodo leaves with Bilbo (whether instead of Arwen or at the request of Galadriel is debatable) and Sam leaves later, following his master because he too was a ringbearer.
The fate of the elves is complex, as they are bound to the world until it's end. Arwen (as a half-elven) is given the choice, to depart with her father and share the fate of the Elves or to stay in Middle Earth and chose mortality (in which case she will die as a mortal and her 'soul' will share the fate of Men - which is unknown). Therefore her parting with either her father or her love will be beyond the end of the world, her spirit will be bound to one fate or the other.

Does this help? Great to find so much interest in one of my favorite authors here - hope to 'speak' to you all soon!
 
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