{Selected Student Submitted Questions are linked to this page}


AS TOLKIEN MOVES THE TRILOGY TO ITS CONCLUSION, it would serve us well to recall the major influences on his thinking and artistic development that should synthesize here:

  1. Anglo - Saxon heroism and the comitatus code--The Monsters and Critics Essay
  2. Romanticism--love of nature, respect for the imagination, sub-creation, love of children, respect for the simple, Wordsworth--Fairy Tale Essay
  3. Roman Catholic philosophy--Sacred Scripture & See the table of contents for this course, noting especially #2--Jesus on Children getting into heaven.
  4. Recall the moral and philosophical protocols derived from these influences? Do they conflict?

The many literary / philosophical allusions we have examined including:

  1. Beowulf
  2. Paradise Lost
  3. The Odyssey
  4. The Silmarillion
  5. Sacred Scripture
  6. Locke;'s Essay on Human Understanding; Descartes' Meditations
  7. Plato's Republic
  8. Various romantic period poets: Wordsworth, Shelley Keats.
  9. Dr. Freitas' questions on the nature of evil.


A . Recall the events at the end of Book IV. What had happened to Sam and Frodo?

B. We will examine Tolkien's opinion of Sam--vices and virtues. His role in the final moments of the quest is momentous. Define his essential virtue and character defect.

C. The tone is horrid: "He was in a land of darkness, where the days of the world seemed forgotten, and where all who entered were forgotten too."

D. Recall Dr. Freitas' questions regarding evil and its origin--correlate with the temptation Sam has to use the ring--does he become more appreciative of Gollum as Pippin did earlier with Denethor? What tremendous irony appears?

E. Why were the fortresses of Mordor built?

F. There is a bit of Paradise Lost here. Recall Satan's soliloquy in Book IV. What prevents regeneration completely? Does Sam have a Gollum side in this chapter? What for Sam prevents that side from destroying his "Smeagol" half? Apply Kant's Categorical Imperative

"Act only in accord with a principle which you would at the same time will to be a universal law."

G. Evil once again defeats itself as Sam discovers when...?

H. Sam vs. Shagrat? Comical? Absurd? In what sense? Yet another Biblical Old Testament allusion.

I. "Sam felt that he could sit like that in endless happiness." Sit like what? Why?

J. Certainly the 'passing' of the PRECIOUS dramatizes what we have suspected all along regarding Gollum and Frodo. Look at the language.

K. Recall Atticus line in To Kill A Mockingbird: "You never really know a man till you walk a mile in his shoes."

L. The commentary on ORCs and their origin deconstructs sub-creation. Do you recall a moment in The Silmarillion that comes close to this? What is the difference there?

M. Flashback to Volume I, Fog on the Barrow Downs. Evaluate the moral tone of this chapter. Think about other characters from Biblo to Boromir to Denethor. What do they have in common? Contrast with Sam and Frodo.

N. Read the following from Conrad's Heart of Darkness:

The reaches opened before us and closed behind, as if the forest had stepped leisurely across the water to bar the way for our return. We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness. It was very quiet there. At night sometimes the roll of drums behind the curtain of trees would run up the river and remain sustained faintly, as if hovering in the air high over our heads, till the first break of day. Whether it meant war, peace, or prayer we could not tell. The dawns were heralded by the descent of a chill stillness; the wood-cutters slept, their fires burned low; the snapping of a twig would make you start. We were wanderers on a prehistoric earth, on an earth that wore the aspect of an unknown planet. We could have fancied ourselves the first of men taking possession of an accursed inheritance, to be subdued at the cost of profound anguish and of excessive toil. But suddenly, as we struggled round a bend, there would be a glimpse of rush walls, of peaked grass-roofs, a burst of yells, a whirl of black limbs, a mass of hands clapping, of feet stamping, of bodies swaying, of eyes rolling, under the droop of heavy and motionless foliage. The steamer toiled along slowly on the edge of a black and incomprehensible frenzy. The pre-historic man was cursing us, praying to us, welcoming us -- who could tell? We were cut off from the comprehension of our surroundings; we glided past like phantoms, wondering and secretly appalled, as sane men would be before an enthusiastic outbreak in a madhouse. We could not understand because we were too far and could not remember because we were travelling in the night of first ages, of those ages that are gone, leaving hardly a sign -- and no memories. "The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there -- there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly, and the men were -- No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it -- this suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity -- like yours -- the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough; but if you were man enough you would admit to yourself that there was in you just the faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you -- you so remote from the night of first ages -- could comprehend. And why not? The mind of man is capable of anything -- because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future. What was there after all? Joy, fear, sorrow, devotion, valour, rage -- who can tell? -- but truth -- truth stripped of its cloak of time. Let the fool gape and shudder -- the man knows, and can look on without a wink. But he must at least be as much of a man as these on the shore. He must meet that truth with his own true stuff -- with his own in-born strength. Principles won't do. Acquisitions, clothes, pretty rags -- rags that would fly off at the first good shake. No; you want a deliberate belief. An appeal to me in this fiendish row -- is there? Very well; I hear; I admit, but I have a voice, too, and for good or evil mine is the speech that cannot be silenced...]


A. Re-enter Gollum?

B. Key quote: "In horror they stumbled on."

C. What line of Frodo echoes the LAST DEBATE'S discussion of strategy by Aragorn and Gandalf?

D. As we have come to expect, biblical allusions abound in the Sam-Frodo anti-quest.

E. In this chapter, Tolkien's three belief systems foreshadow victory; quite ironic given Sam and Frodo's plight:

  1. Anglo-Saxon: some albeit unlikely warriors are on a quest to 'slay the dragon.'
  2. Romantic--at the very edge of Mount Doom, how does the sky change?
  3. Roman Catholic--What does Sam say, and who misreads it?

F. There is a direct allusion to King Lear here. Apply the quote:

Cordelia: How does my royal lord? How fares your Majesty?
Lear: You do me wrong to take me out o' th' grave.
Thou art a soul in bliss; but I am bound
Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears
Do scald like molten lead.
Cordelia: Sir, do you know me?
Lear: You are a spirit, I know.

Although set in pre-Christian times, for us a Mordor-setting, Shakespeare dramatizes the agony of a soul as it attempts to confront its own demons and those in the macrocosm. The love of Cordelia has often been seen as a significant redemptive force in Lear's existence, but not without irony given the play's existential ending. Will Tolkien see matters differently? The allusion will appear again in MOUNT DOOM.

G. Tolkien's use of PERILOUS should always be noted? How does it appear here?

H. Another Tolkien word is FATE. Recall Boethius (click here). To what word is it linked in this chapter that, when recalling The Silmarillion, and various allusions to LOTR, [Three is Company], ensures victory in the midst of despair.

I. We have noted before both the importance of dreams and fire imagery. What then is the import of the narrative of Frodo: "His sleep had been uneasy, full of dreams of fire..."

J. Why are these lines so significant:

"The Dark Power was deep in thought, and the Eye
turned inward, pondering tidings of doubt and danger:
a bright sword, and a stern and Kingly face it saw
and for a while it gave little thought to other things;
and all its great stronghold, gate on gate, and tower
on tower, was wrapped in a brooding gloom."

Recall an event in THE PASSING OF THE GREY COMPANY that at the time seemed madness, but now is contributing significantly to victory.

K. Who is the "black sneak...that gobbler?"

L. Sam's wisdom counts for more that Saruman. For example, why could Sam utter: "If this nice friendliness would spread about in Mordor, half our trouble would be over." but not Saruman? To what did he refer? Later he reminds Frodo of certain past activity? Should he?

M. Sam's Christ - like devotion to Frodo becomes more and more apparent. What does he do for his Master, that Frodo himself does not know. And the biblical allusion?

N. What happens to Frodo at end of the chapter? Look at the last sentence.





1. Have the events of LOTR led logically, rationally, morally, psychologically to this moment?
2. How is fate involved?
3. Do the major characters behave as expected?
4. Did evil defeat itself?
5. To what degree is divine providence in evidence?
6.An obvious question, but nonetheless rich in complexities, concerns heroism and who fulfills the quest. We will read what Tolkien himself thought, but who deserves credit?

A useful start would be to determine the nature of the heroic for Tolkien. Obviously, the three belief systems offer differing perspectives. Can a romantic - Anglo-Saxon - Catholic hero exist? Are Tolkien's heroic characters one dimensional? What do they have in common? Let's add to that the Greek perspective what did Aristotle say? See the Poetics.

Review also from this site, comments on the nature of an epic hero.

If you were to identify so- called heroes from various texts studied, how would they compare to those in LOTR:

  1. Achilles
  2. Odysseus
  3. Oedipus
  4. Job
  5. Beowulf
  6. Jesus Christ
  7. Milton's Satan?
  8. Rousseau
  9. Victor Frankenstein
  10. Hamlet
  11. Othello
  12. Macbeth
  13. J.Alfred Prufrock

Of course the list might consume many more bites of data: whom would you add?

We know enough of Tolkien's beliefs to construct a profile of the heroic. His letters of course provide additional insight:

We are finite creatures with absolute limitations upon
the powers of our soul-body structure either in action
or endurance. Moral failure can only be asserted,
I think, when a man's efforts or endurance falls short
of his limits, and the blame decreases as that
limit is closer approached. Nonetheless I think it
can be observed in history and experiences that some
individuals seem to be placed in 'sacrificial' positions:
situations or tasks that for perfection of solution demand
powers beyond their utmost limits, even beyond all
possible limits for an incarnate creature in a physical
world in which a body may be destroyed, or so maimed
that it affects the mind and will. Judgment upon any such
case should then depend on the motives and disposition
with which he started out, and should weigh his actions
against the utmost possibility of his powers, all along the
road to whatever proved the breaking point.

{Tolkien adds a footnote to this comment regarding the role
of grace which he argues will be given by God in a measure
sufficient "...for the accomplishment of the task appointed
to one instrument in a pattern of circumstances and other

[Letters, pp. 326-327]

Herein we see echoes of course of a Roman catholic ethic and Kant's idea of the disposition of the moral agent.

An illuminating secondary source is Chapter IV of Bradley Birzer's JRR Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth, entitled Heroism, pp. 67-87 . [My comments are in brackets...]

  1. Evil will fail to corrupt the good
  2. Christian heroism is contingent on being receptive to God's grace [See the letter above.]
  3. The child [recall Wordsworth] will prove the most heroic
  4. The hero must accept the will of God, however painful and seemingly illogical [Recall the Oedipus dilemma--what happens to anyone, regardless of motive, who defies the Gods. Sophocles argues that man is absolutely subordinate to the divine will, even and perhaps especially when obedience seems most absurd.]
  5. Birzer cites Tolkien's comments on Gawain as hero: "His motive is a humble one: the protection of Arthur...from indignity and peril...He is involved therefore in the business, as far as it was possible to make the fairy-tale story go, as a matter of duty and humility and self-sacrifice." (p. 72).
  6. The hero categorically rejects recognition, and serves because to obey and love are the great commandments of God.
  7. Heroes love the simple, the beautiful and the child's perspective.
  8. Temptation must be resisted. [Tolkien would argue that the desirability of anything does not necessarily validate its excellence. Rejecting the pragmatic, the instant gratification syndrome and the expedient, he would, in the words of the President of the UFP, accept the axiom that just because we can do a thing, does not mean that we should.]
  9. Heroes in Tolkien seek the good, subordinate personal ambition to serve, seek openness and friendship, employ fraternal correction [Frodo's: "stern pity"], and love a child-like perspective.
  10. Birzer ends his chapter by quoting what he believes to be Tolkien's summary of his heroes' code:

"The story is cast in terms of a good side, and a bad side,
beauty against ruthless ugliness, tyranny against
kingship, moderated freedom with consent against
compulsion that has long lost any object save mere
power...I've always been impressed that we're here
surviving because of the indomitable courage of quite
small people against impossible odds: jungles; volcanoes
wild beasts...they struggle on, almost blindly in a way."

(p. 86-87)

We can now apply these ideas to MOUNT DOOM, noting for now that at least in theory, Tolkien's heroic code seems to embrace all three elements of his belief system.

A. Does Tolkien see Sam as a priest?

B. Intellectually as with Gollum, Sam often misses the point, but his faith matters more. Thus he questions going to Moria (what archetype?), but quite rightly feels that Gandalf would never have allowed Frodo go without hope? What is the biblical allusion regarding grace?

C. The Trilogy, it has been noted, dramatizes dualisms: Sam / Frodo; Smeagol / Gollum; Theoden / Denethor; Faramir / Boromir etc. Such holds true with ideas and concepts: much tension exits in this chapter between hope and despair. Can we add: Frodo / Gollum

D. What does LEMBAS do, and not do for Sam and Frodo?

E. Recall the WHEEL OF FIRE allusion in Chapter II. Why does it appear again here?

F. From where do they get their strength? To read this chapter on a literal level is absurd. Recall from the FT Essay, recovery, escape and consolation leading to the good catastrophe. How does that happen here? Define the heroism of Sam and Frodo.

G. Sam sees Frodo on the bring of collapse when Gollum attacks. We know his struggles from Book IV--his profile, his addiction to the ring, his bipolar personality, his moral struggle, and the debate over whether Sam or Frodo's view should prevail? Is he wicked in this scene?...

Wicked master cheats us, cheats Smeagol, gollum.
He mussn't go that way. He musstn't hurt
Preciouss. Give it to Smeagol, yess, give it to
uss,! Give it to uss.

H. Explicate the lines. Who is speaking? Characterize the moral struggle. Tolkien's non-dramatic narrative is a significant clue:

...but whatever dreadful paths, lonely and hungry
and waterless, he had trodden, driven by a devouring
desire and a terrible fear, they had left grievous
marks on him. He was lean, starved, haggard,
thing, all bones and tight-drawn sallow skin.

A perfect description of a drug addict. Pity?

I. Sam's point of view is morally and psychologically complex. Apparently the scene changes. What confronts the ruined lust driven shadow consumed with rage is a Frodo:

...untouchable now by pity, a figure robed in white
but at its breast it held a wheel of fire.

Interestingly, pity seems nullified. Why? Who is speaking through Frodo? Is there a time when in the Christian ethic, pity will be replaced by something else?

J. As Sam prepares to defend Frodo, Gollum changes:

Don't kill us...Don't hurt us with nassty cruel steel!
Let us live, yes, live just a little longer. Lost lost!
We're lost. And when Precious goes, we'll die, yes,
die into the dust.

Pity? Again a perfect description of the drug addict. There is a saying: "How do you know an addict is lying?" Answer: "Every time he/she opens their mouth." Addicts are master manipulators. Is Gollum here? Sam does waver after all: "...deep in his heart there was something that restrained him..." [from killing Gollum]. Perhaps the reason is one of the moral turning points of the tragedy:

He himself, though only for a little while, had borne
the Ring, and now dimly he guessed the agony of
Gollum's shrivelled mind and body, enslaved to that
Ring, unable to find peace or relief ever in life again.

Tolkien writes that Sam cannot articulate what he feels, but are we meant to?

K. Much has been written regarding Frodo's line at the 'crack of doom.' including Tolkien's evaluation of the scene as recorded in his letters:



L. Recalling our protocols for the heroic, did Frodo fail, and if so morally, intellectually, physically? On what level?

M. Note straight away, the consequences:

  1. Sauron becomes aware of "the magnitude of his own folly."
  2. Sauron's minions become terrified and confused as the EYE focus on Mount Doom--is evil defeating itself?
  3. Gollum and Frodo confront one another for the last time:



4. HAMLET sets out to avenge the death of his father, and indeed Claudius dies, but was the death part of a plan, or in a burst, of passion and what difference does it make? Hamlet does tell us about providence in the fall of a sparrow; is there providence here?

  1. Gollum craves the ring
  2. Sam appears to have pity
  3. Frodo takes the ring
  4. Gollum bites Frodo's finger and has finally his PRECIOUS
  5. He dances LIKE A MAD THING?
  6. He falls into Mount Doom with his ring

{This section provoked considerable debate when discussed by our class. Issues:

5. Some allusions:

Is that not Gollum?

Would Jung' perspective validate Gollum's struggle as depraved or heroic, or are these aspects of the same perspective? Jung does believe we all have a shadow, which, like Tolkien, he defines from a religious perspective: "Blindly, he [man]...strives against the salutary dogma of original sin, which is yet so prodigiously true. Yes, he even hesitates to admit the conflict of which he is so painfully aware...:" [On the Psychology of the Unconsciousness in Two Essays on Analytical Psychology]

Click here for the Jung source.

6. Some critical perspectives: Do you agree?

Tolkien: Consult Tolkien's letters to determine what he thought of the events in this Chapter, especially regarding Frodo's heroism.

Some secondary sources:

Stanton (Hobbits, Elves and Wizards): "Gollum plays the part that Gandalf had long ago said he would: as Isildur cut the Ring from the hands of Sauron at the end of the Second Age, So Gollum bites the Ring (and its accompanying finger) from Frodo's hand and falls into the abyss to end the Third."...Thus the Pity that Frodo has shown toward Gollum several times proves to be the crucial emotion in the story, so far as the success of the quest is concerned. That is, Pity for the hapless Gollum, victim of the Ring, and by that victimization its hateful defender, caused Frodo to show him mercy--to spare his life..."Judge not that ye be not judged." (pp. 84-85)

Birzer (Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth): "While there are many manifestations of grace in The Lord of the Rings, the mot important and the most telling examples revolves around the relationship between Gollum and Frodo...he feels pity and mercy for the poor creature...rather than making him bitter, or filling him with lies, the ring is finally unable to corrupt Frodo, and he even learns mercy in spite of its painful presence...Gollum [as a result of pity] nearly repents of his past is precisely because Frodo learns to understand the wisdom of mercy that the ring is destroyed in the end...grace intrudes in the form of the corrupted hobbit Gollum...Illuvatar thus demonstrates his sovereignty and his love through the unlikely character of Gollum." (pp. 59-60)

[As validation, recall Illuvatar words following Melkor's deceit:

...but that he may know, and all the Ainur, that I
am Illuvatar, those things that ye have sung, I
will show them forth, that ye may see what ye
have done. And thou Melkor, shalt see that no
theme may be played that hath not its uttermost
source in me, nor can any alter the music
in my despite. For he that attempteth this
shall prove but my instrument in the devising
of things more wonderful, which he himself
hath not imagined.
(p.6) ]

If correct, the tale must validate "things more wonderful" so the catastrophe indeed will be good. For support, study carefully the last paragraph in the Chapter.

From a rather in depth on line course from Barnes and Noble University on Tolkien: "Gollum's end may be Tolkien's response to the eternal question, particularly troubling for Christians, of the role of Evil in a world created by an allegedly benevolent God. Gollum is evil--even before acquiring the Ring he was a weak and sneaky individual; he murdered to obtain it and is willing to murder to again to recover it; even when the minuscule embers of goodness are rekindled in him, he chooses betrayal instead. Although Sam's brusqueness may have quelled Gollum's softening, Gollum still had the choice to ignore Sam and follow his growing love for Frodo's kindness. Gollum's evil is unambiguously a matter of his own free will, even though his choices put him in the thrall of a much stronger power that makes subsequent choices for evil increasingly easier to take."

"Thus, although Gollum's (inadvertent) destruction of the Ring not only causes the destruction of Sauron and all of his works, and also saves Frodo from the consequences of his claiming of the Ring, Gollum's own act, as far as he was concerned, grew out of an evil impulse: he wanted the Ring, and he took it. Even if the only thing he wants from its power is to have fresh fish from the sea three times a day, his lust for that power cause him to break all the laws of the social contract."

As noted, the chapter raises issues regarding the problem of evil. In addition to consulting Dr. Freitas' Questions, note the following outline:

I. the traditional argument states that: the problem of evil would make no sense unless we posit there is an idea that a wholly good God exists. Therefore...

a. a good thing will always eliminate evil as far as possible, so an all powerful God “must” be able to eliminate evil, and...
b. good is opposed to evil, so evil should be overcome, [but]
c. evil is here. How would Tolkien respond?

II. To summarize the problem, note that there are differences between logic and truth as the Medieval scholastics well knew:

a. All men are mortal , John is a man, John is mortal may indeed be logical and true, but
b. All men are 6' feet tall, John is a man, John is 6' tall, may indeed be logical but obviously not true. What happens if we apply this to point I.

III. So what can we say about God?--argument for a good God as mandated by Aquinas:

a. there must be a ‘first mover’ that directs all to a good end
b. there must be a ‘first cause’ that is God that wills the good
c. there must be one necessary thing before time to make a world
d. universal laws are intelligent, so there must be an intelligent creator. Tolkien of course says this. God loves us and wants what is best for us as parents do for children, so that the entire quest from the Shire to Mount Doom validates a divine plan at work which we cannot fully comprehend. Tolkien dramatizes this by fragmenting the company.

IV. COUNTER-ARGUMENT: for a God that is limited

a. how can we be free if God knows all, so if we are really free, God does not know all.
b. why cannot the universe have caused itself in the eternal sense as the Greeks believed of the form of the good?
c. couldn’t the universe have been made by more than one being?
d. the problem of evil...

V. Obviously, Tolkien would reject such arguments out of hand relying instead on faith to transcend reason and logic. Must a character to do the same to be heroic in the Tolkien sense?

VI. How then must a hero expect God to act?

a. why did God not prevent the holocaust? 9-11?
b. why did not Illuvatar simply erase Sauron's empire with an act of his will?

VII. Issues to consider: What does Tolkien believe?

a. must evil exist to validate the good? Does God need evil? Did Illuvatar need the rebellion of Morgoth?
b. do we learn from evil?
c. should we always remain in the garden, the shire?
d. are Frodo and company better for their trials
e. did a greater good come about?
f. did Jesus have to be crucified before His resurrection?

VIII. Must we be more specific in defining the kinds of evil

a. metaphysical--all must be less than God (the evil of privation)
b. natural--elements conflict in nature--natural disasters
c. moral--receives most of the attention: the paradox of God's foreknowledge conflicting with man's free will.
d. an instructive parallel is Paradise Lost (Book III):

For man will hearken to his glozing [Satan's] lies,
And easily transgress the sole command,
Sole pledge of his obedience: So will fall
He and his faithless progeny: Whose fault?
Whose but his own? ingrate, he had of me
All he could have; I made him just and right,
Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.
Such I created all the ethereal Powers
And Spirits, both them who stood, and them who fail'd;
Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell.
Not free, what proof could they have given sincere
Of true allegiance, constant faith or love,
Where only what they needs must do appear'd,
Not what they would? What praise could they receive?
What pleasure I from such obedience paid,
When will and reason (reason also is choice)
Useless and vain, of freedom both despoil'd,
Made passive both, had serv'd necessity,
Not me? they therefore, as to right belong'd,
So were created, nor can justly accuse
Their Maker, or their making, or their fate,
As if predestination over-rul'd
Their will dispos'd by absolute decree
Or high foreknowledge they themselves decreed
Their own revolt, not I; if I foreknew,
Foreknowledge had no influence on their fault,
Which had no less proved certain unforeknown.
So without least impulse or shadow of fate,
Or aught by me immutably foreseen,
They trespass, authors to themselves in all
Both what they judge, and what they choose; for so
I form'd them free: and free they must remain,
Till they enthrall themselves; I else must change
Their nature, and revoke the high decree
Unchangeable, eternal, which ordain'd
Their freedom: they themselves ordain'd their fall.
The first sort by their own suggestion fell,
Self-tempted, self-deprav'd: Man falls, deceiv'd
By the other first: Man therefore shall find grace,
The other none: In mercy and justice both,
Through Heaven and Earth, so shall my glory excel;
But Mercy, first and last, shall brightest shine

Would Tolkien accept this? Notice especially the emphasis on mercy and grace, and justice especially in light of the current chapter.

IX. Do we learn from evil? Do the characters? Perhaps the remaining Chapters will validate?

X. Who is Lord of the Ring, then?



A. Tolkien's use of language to describe the various cycles of nature is important. It helps dramatize the nature of good and evil. Don't forget the powerful epic simile ("As when....")

B. Myth and legend likewise immortalize Frodo and Sam.

C. Evaluate the imagery, the appearance of Eagles and the pronouncement of Gandalf.

D. Describe the "terrible but impotent" shadow that passes. What is it?

E. As Sam and Frodo converse immediately after the ring is destroyed, what tone prevails? Why? Think of Europe after WW II. Does Tolkien have an equivalent of the Marshall Plan?

F. Sam once again imagines himself in legend and song as he did long ago: Recall THE
and THE RIDERS OF ROHAN chapters in THE TWO TOWERS. Of course THE MYTHOPOEIA provides the poetic umbrella.

G. Tolkien, as most romantics, uses dreaming imagery to describe Sam's awakening in Ithilien. Nature imagery (what kind?) plus the month suggest a Medieval poet? Who? What is the biblical correspondence?

H. Who is the king that greets the embarrassed hobbits? They really are "...a long way...from Bree." Recall what we discussed earlier regarding the nature of evil as you study Sam's reaction to his newly earned status. Does this chapter validate him and Frodo as heroes in Tolkien's sense?

I. Sam indeed is right in remarking how Pippin and Merry have grown. They all have. Would this have happened without evil?

J. Gandalf's validation of Aragorn's kinship ends the chapter. There is a Macbeth allusion.


A. Hope and despair mix in this chapter; is such part of Tolkien's beliefs? Find examples.

B. How would feminists react to Eowyn's presence? Given the roles of Eowyn and Arwen in this chapter, it would be well to review the commentary from The Silmarillion section of this site concerning the autobiographical elements of that work:


(...and Tolkien's views on women)

CHAPTER ONE : OF THE BEGINNING OF DAYS: As the creation myth unfolds, the Spring of Arda blossoms with Yavanna's love of all that grows manifest in planting the seeds of the two trees. The role of women in Tolkien should therefore be noted; Dr. Freitas has observed that given an all male Company, what role does Tolkien envision for women? It is quite true, perhaps coming from his experiences in WW I, that Tolkien did see the world from a male perspective, and the quest is a military adventure. The adventures of Eowyn thus merit considerable attention as does the role of Arwen, including the changes Jackson made in the movies.

Carpenter notes that Tolkien's attitude toward women was shaped by two people. His mother Mabel who died of diabetes in 1904 when he was 12, and his marriage to Edith Bratt [who was born out of wedlock herself] in 1916 (They had been engaged in 1914). He had been forbidden to see her as early as 1909 by his guardian Father Francis, and Tolkien complied. The loss of his mother was a blow, Carpenter notes, from which he never recovered. Tolkien said, "My own dear mother was a martyr indeed, and it is not to everybody that God grants so easy a way to his great gifts as he did to Hilary [his brother] and myself, giving us a mother who killed herself with labour and trouble to ensure us keeping the faith." Carpenter further believes that Tolkien's profound spiritual perspective comes from a devotion to his mother and that the faith was a compensation for her loss (p. 34). I think this suggests that additionally given his interests in Medieval romances, his mother becomes a surrogate for the Virgin Mary, whose chastity nonetheless allowed the birth of Jesus.

Further, his love affair with Edith contravened the mores of the time, which further shaped his views. Tolkien notes that Father Francis called the liaison "evil and foolish." (p. 48). When Tolkien was beyond the legal age for a guardian, he did propose to Edith, who broke her engagement to another, and the two were married, with Father Francis' consent, but not enthusiasm. Although Tolkien loved his wife, his academic career and military service placed him largely in the company of males, and although he had too much moral vision to be a misogynist, his biography and education suggest that the company of males (today we would say 'bonding") was what he preferred. Chapter V of Carpenter's biography seems to sustain this:

  1. He did not encourage her to pursue any intellectual activity because he did not consider it to be a necessary part of her role as wife and mother, and partly because his attitude to her in courtship (exemplified by his favourite term for her, "little one," was not associated with his own intellectual life; to her he showed a side of his personality quite different from that perceived by his male friends. Just as he like to be a man's man among his cronies, so at home he expected to live in what was primarily a women's world." (Carpenter, p. 170)
  2. Carpenter concludes that although the Tolkien's were happily married, the world of Oxford academically and to some degree socially was not for women, and Edith knew it.
  3. We find in a letter dated 6-8 March, 1948 advice to his son Michael, who was contemplating marriage ...
      1. To view women as sexual objects only is damaging to their souls and the man's
      2. The Genesis myth he believes sustains this view morally
      3. Friendship between male and female without sex is possible, but not likely (Letters, p 48)
  4. Carpenter parallels this, saying Tolkien, "...believed that this was one of sad facts of a fallen world, and on the whole he thought that a man had a right to male pleasures, and should if necessary insist on them." (p. 174).
  5. He argues that two other issues further complicated their relationship: her jealousy regarding C.S. Lewis, and his wife's anti-catholic bias. Although she had converted, (Tolkien felt mission-bound to do that for people), Edith apparently found her husband's religiosity confining and rigid. They later reconciled on this issue.

It would be quite incorrect, though to present these conclusions as the only ones. Carpenter notes that anyone visiting the Tolkiens could not but note how much they loved each other especially regarding their devotion to the children.

Consequently, Tolkien's letters sustain a conflicted view of the role of women, one which we today would regard as blatantly misogynistic, and simultaneously the opposite. I quote from the same letter:


  1. He admits to falling in love at 18, but regrets (undoubtedly influenced by Father Francis) that such harmed his academic career.
  2. He stipulates that not seeing Edith for three years was the right, and that he would not have blamed her for marrying someone else.
  3. He ends the letter by noting how difficult his financial circumstances made having a family, and adds, "Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament...There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth, and more than that: Death: by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, by the taste (or foretaste), of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained or take on that complexion of reality, eternal endurance, which every man's heart desires." (Letters, pp. 48-54)

Psychologically the comments are fascinating. Tolkien seems to be endorsing in his last comment what he early rejected: the ideal role model for a man's love must be a man; thus eliminating the distractions women impose. In my GOTHIC HORROR class, I teach Matthew Gregory Lewis' THE MONK. Although Tolkien was no Ambrosio, an interesting sociological parallel emerges. Matilda insists in seducing the Monk, that his education, his view of women had been perverted by corrupt institutions. Obviously Tolkien would reject that view out of hand, but the historical misogynistic misread of Genesis did have its educational impact, and Tolkien was a victim of it.

There are two evidences that suggest he knew this at least potentially. In the Letters, he warns Michael, "Grave abuses were as much an element in Christian 'liturgical' behaviour from the beginning as now...Roman Catholics still suffer from disabilities not even applicable to Jews...As a man whose childhood was darkened by persecution, I find this hard. But charity must cover a multitude of sins!" (pp. 394-395)

I wonder if Tolkien is thinking of our current topic? His writings might suggest the affirmative. Literature of course functions as catharsis especially for Romantics. In The Silmarillion, the Tale of Beren (mortal) and Luthien (elf-maiden) is one of the most beautiful. The chapter outlines the joys and pains of the union of the man Beren, and the Elf-maiden, Thingol's daughter Luthien. To prove her love for Luthien, Beren agrees to seek one of the jewels Melkor stole for Thingol who of course wishes it for himself. Finrod agrees to go along on the quest to honor a pledge he had made when Finrod's father saved his life. They are trapped by Sauron, and both are cast into a deep pit. Beren is freed, but Finrod is killed. Beren now with the help of Luthien, approach Melkor and take one of the jewels from his crown. Melkor's wolf~beast Carcharoth severs Beren's hand and swallows it along with the jewel. Driven mad with pain, the wolf attacks Doriath ironically fulfilling Thingol's hope. Thingol sanctions the union of Beren and Luthien, but in the quest to kill the wolf, Beren is mortally wounded, but he lives long enough to get the jewel and give it to Thingol. Luthien agrees to stay in middle earth and accept mortality. From the union of the two will eventually come an event that will in no small measure save the company in LOTR.

Carpenter outlines the facts of composition. Tolkien and his wife would take long walks in the woods, and he recalls, "Her hair was raven, her skin clear, her eyes bright, and she could sing---and dance." She sang and danced for him in the wood, and from this came the story....The tale...was the one most loved by Tolkien, not least because at one level he identified Luthien with his wife.

Some autobiographical moments...

  1. "Luthien danced upon a green hill, and suddenly she began to sing...
  2. " But as she look on him, doom fell upon her, and she loved him; yet she slipped from his arms and vanished from his sight..."
  3. Beren: "And here I have found what I have sought not indeed, but finding what I would possess forever. For it is above all gold and silver and beyond all jewels...For Luthien your daughter is the fairest of the Children of the world."
  4. Luthien stood upon the bridge, and declared her power...But Beren came deep was his anguish [over the death of Finrod] that he lay still...Then thinking him dead, she put her arms about him and fell into a dark forgetfulness. But Beren coming back to the light out of the pits of despair lifted her up...[and]...went free again and together walked through the woods renewing for a time their joy."
  5. Luthien to Beren: "You must choose, Beren, between these two: to relinquish the quest and your oath and seek a life of wondering among the face of the earth; or to hold your word and challenge the power of darkness upon its throne. But on either road, I shall go with you, and our doom shall be alike."
  6. Luthien song casts a spell on Morgoth who wears the crown with the Silmarils, and "As a dead beast Beren lay upon the ground, but Luthien touching him with her hand aroused him, ..and he drew forth the knife Angrist, and from the iron claws that held it he cut a Silmaril."
  7. Although mortally wounded by Carcharoth, Berens's spirit lingers until Luthien "...came to say her last farewell."
  8. NOTE THAT HER SONG ECHOES THE CREATION MYTH, AND IS A SUB-CREATION IN ITS OWN RIGHT; (RITE): " The song of Luthien before Mandos was the song most fair that ever in words was woven, and the song most sorrowful that the world shall ever hear. Unchanged, imperishable, it is sung still in Valinor beyond the hearing of the world, and listening the Valar are grieved. For Luthien wove two themes of words, of the sorrow of the Eldar and the grief of Men, of the Two Kindreds that were made by Illuvatar to dwell in Arda, the Kingdom of the Earth amidst the innumerable stars. And as she knelt before him her tears fell upon his feet like rain upon the stones, and Mandos was moved to pity who never before was so moved, nor have been since."
  9. Acting to fulfill the will of Illuvatar, Mandos offers a choice: "Because of her labours and her sorrow, she should be released from Mandos, and go to Valimar, there to dwell until the world's end among the Valar, forgetting all griefs that her life had known. Thither Beren could not come...But the other choice was this: that she might return to Middle-earth, and take with her Beren, there to dwell again, but without certitude of life or joy. Then she would become mortal..."


1-How do the excerpts mime Tolkien's view on marriage and love?

2-How does the tale emanate from the creation myth?

3-What choice did Luthien make?

4-From the choice comes a great good that will have a profound influence on the victory over Sauron.

5-Just as The Wife from Bath's Tale mirrors the narrator's subconscious desire for more than control, so Beren and Luthien reveals much of Tolkien's attitudes toward women. There is much pathos in what he told Christopher:

She was (and knew she was) my Luthien. I will say no more now. But I should like ere long to have a long talk with you. For if as it seems probable I shall never write any ordered biography--it is against my nature, which expresses itself about things deepest felt in tales amid myths--someone close in heart to me should know something about things that records do not record: the dreadful sufferings of our childhood, from which we rescued one another, but could not wholly heal wounds that later often proved disabling; the suffering that we endued after our love began all of which (over and above personal weaknesses) might help to make pardonable or understandable, the lapses and darknesses which at times marred our lives--and to explain how these never touched our depths nor dimned the memories of our youthful love. For ever (especially when alone) we still met in the woodland glade and went hand in hand many times to escape the shadow of imminent death before our last parting. (Carpenter, pp. 109-110)

Chapter 22, OF THE RUIN OF DORAITH, discussed below will have further autobiographical significance in relation to Luthien and the Silmaril.

Right after that, Tolkien was in combat. There is reason for charity: Tolkien struggled to reconcile two discordant opposites: a sociology that mandated women second-class existences, with a personal ethos that asserted the opposite. But his view of women profoundly influenced the direction the quest was to take. Luthien and Lady Galadriel, without whom Sauron would have been successful, are featured prominently in The Silmarillion. Galadriel's role in the cyn-slaying is discussed below.

C. Motifs in the chapter include archetypical nature images such as analyzed by Frye: Apply his perspective to the event in the chapter. For more details, see his ON SHAKESPEARE, FABLES OF IDENTITY: STUDIES IN POETIC MYTHOLOGY and ANATOMY OF CRITICISM. Note that Frye is a romantic period critic:

1--"I suggest that it is time for criticism to leap to a new ground from which it can discover what the organizing or containing forms of its conceptual framework are. Criticism seems to be badly in need of a coordinating principle, a central hypothesis which will see the phenomena it deals with as parts of a whole." Frye identifies a crux of romantic period criticism. What do you know about Tolkien that might benefit from an application of this passage. Do you think Tolkien would be aware of potential conflicts, and how is LOTR a response? Recall for example, the Beregond-Faramir paradox alluded to in The Pyre of Denethor and The Siege of Gondor chapters above. How in this chapter does Aragorn resolve the matter?

2--Historical criticism:

A--MYTH--hero is superior in kind to other men, a divine being, story about a god-would this apply to Gandalf? What transpires between him and Aragorn in this chapter? Note too Aragorn and Faramir
B--ROMANCE--hero is superior in degree--laws of nature slightly suspended-legend.--The exchange between Aragorn and Beregond offers an example of moral superiority validated in humility
C--HIGH MIMETIC MODE--Hero superior to other men-but subordinate to nature--epic--tragedy--The presence of the sapling from Telperion ("...out of the very edge of the snow...") suggests the romantic perspective of man's relationship to nature
D--LOW MIMETIC MODE--common humanity--hero is one of us--comedy--certainly Merry and Pippin would qualify here.
E--IRONIC MODE--hero inferior to us, bondage, etc--does Tolkien do this with Eowyn ("I am a shieldmaiden, and my hand is ungentle," she warns Faramir, but what does he tell her regarding Aragorn and himself? Does she change? How would a feminist respond? We recall earlier her lamenting to Aragorn (Chapter II: The Passing of The Grey Company): "Shall I always be left behind when the Riders depart to mind the house while they win renown and find food and beds when they return...All your words are but to say: you are a women, and your part is in the house."

3-Thematic Modes and Character:

A--HIGH mimetic--society is centered around the court and the city--does Aragorn suggest high mimeticism? Who else recalling the end of the chapter?
B--LOW mimetic----the individualized creation of romanticism-- Beregond would qualify here as would Eowyn after her conversation with Faramir. Recall a line in Hamlet: "He is a prince out of thy star."

4-Archetype: "A symbol usually an image which recurs often enough in literature to be recognizable as an element of one’s [literary] experience as a whole..." What are the images in this chapter, and what do they morally validate?

A--vegetable world of garden, forest, park--the poetry of Wordsworth, Keats
B--animal world-usually the sheep--Wordsworth
C--mineral world-the stone and the city--A Midsummer Night's Dream

Note that each of these is present in the chapter either directly or indirectly. For example, the conclusion of the chapter suggests the end of MND. How does the play and chapter end? What does the ending symbolize to a Catholic and Romantic?

5-Does Tolkien in general and this chapter validate the hiearchy? The chapter is filled with hierarchical symbolism. Remember the chain of being as one of the oldest ideas in history, predating Christianity. See my British Literature web site. Match a character to the category:

A--divine world = society of gods = One God--or his representative? How is Aragorn crowned?
B--human world = society of men = one man-the king or steward? How does Aragorn react to being crowned?
C--animal world = sheepfold = one lamb
D--vegetable world = garden or part = one tree of life--obviously a key symbol
E--mineral world = city = one building, temple, stone

6--From these come the macrocosmic / microcosmic imagery common in Shakespeare's plays and LOTR:

7-"Innocence and experience" {Blake}--the cyclical movement of success and decline...looking for rhythm--how to capture a lost rapport with nature--the will is to synchronize human and natural energies (Conrad's Heart of Darkness)--"All the important recurrences in nature, the day, the phases of the moon, the seasons, and solstices of the year, the crises of existence from birth to death, get rituals attached to them, and most of the higher religions are equipped with a definite total body of rituals suggestive...of the entire range of potentiality significant actions in human life." Certainly Tolkien would accept Frye's comment, as evidence abounds in the trilogy.

8-"The myth is the central informing power that give archetypical significance to the ritual and archetypical narrative to the oracle. Hence the myth is the archetype..." The crowning of Aragorn is ritualistically complex. Who crowns him, and why? There is a hierarchy established. Who is the oracle in this chapter?"

A--the divine world, the process is that of death and rebirth of disappearance and return --vegetation myths--there is an important exchange between Gandalf and Aragorn that touches on death and rebirth.
B--fire world of heaven --cyclical rhythms of the sun and moon--recall Chapter II of The Silmarillion, Of the Sun and Moon and the Hiding of Valinor. Therein appears a direct reference to what this chapter will allude: " But when at last the Valar learned that the Noldor had indeed passed out of Aman and were come back to Middle-earth, they arouse and began to set forth in deeds those counsels which they had taken in thought for the redress of the evils of Melkor. Then Manwe bade Yavanna and Nienna to put forth all their powers upon the Trees. But the tears of Nienna availed not to heal their mortal wounds; and for a long while Yavanna sang alone in the shadows. Yet even as hope failed and her song faltered, Telperion bore at last upon a leafless bow one great flower to silver, and Laurelin a single fruit of gold...and Manwe hallowed them...Isil the Sheen the Vanyar of old named the Moon, flower of Telperion in Valinor; and Anar the Fire-golden, fruit of Laurelin, they named the Sun...for the Sun was set as a sign for the awakening of Men and the waning of the elves, but the Moon cherishes their memory." (pp. 113-114) The connection back to the First Age is awesome.
C-the human world--between the spiritual and animal cycle of life and death
D--animal lives--subject to nature--sheep in comedy; wolf in tragedy
E--vegetable world--cycle of the seasons--Prosperine--garden in comedy; forest in tragedy--such is a major motif in the trilogy and this chapter
F--mineral world / civilized life--growth, maturity, decline of a civilization--ubi sunt--city or temple in comedy; deserts, rocks in tragedy--cities and towers are self-evidently important: Gondor.
G--water symbolism--rain to spring to fountain to rivers to snow etc. comedy--the river; tragedy is the sea--see the discovery of Telperion's fruit at the edge of the snow, and note what Tolkien says regarding how it came to be there?

9-Are these macrocosmic / microcosmic seasonal correspondences relevant to LOTR?

A-Spring and Romance

1--The birth of the hero suggests an Anglo-Saxon motif, but how does the chapter suggest a different kind of birth? Look at the nature imagery.

2--Birth--revival--resurrection--creation--defeat of the powers of death / winter (thus a cycle)

3--study Sir Gawain and the Green Knight--remember Tolkien translated this poem.

B-Summer: Comedy and Pastoral (for comedy, think MND again and how Dante uses the word)

1--The hero embarks on a quest; this should be self - evident, but whose quest appears to be ended?

2--The journey, the struggle, the exultation of the hero (discovery / recognition) Tolkien has been validating this for most of the trilogy since the days of STRIDER in Volume I. How is it validated here?

3--Archetype of Adam and Eve--the sacred marriage--Jesus is referred to as the new Adam, and Mary the new Eve. What sacred union (s) occur here?

4--Elements of the comic vision from the human perspective--that is important recalling Dante's comedic vision, but remember this is a cycle, and we only see part of the whole.

C- Autumn: tragedy and elegy:

1--As we move in cycle to the darker side, there would appear to be victory, but by no means is everything settled. Why cannot it be? The hero is confronted with something from beyond the sense world--source of their strength and their fate. That is certainly true regarding the defeat of Saruon and the presence of the fruit of Telperion. Much in the Trilogy cannot be explained literally, so who for example could have foreseen that a hobbit would help a wizard to crown a king?
2--Tragedy exhibits the omnipotence of an external fate--man the gods / fate and choice. For Tolkien, does fate = God's will from a Roman Catholic perspective? Were the events in this chapter, looking backward now, meant to happen. Remember the decision Aragorn had to make when the company split, and he knew not the fate of Frodo and Sam? What did he say? Does this scene validate what he tells Beregond?
3--The tragic process must be a violation of a moral law--human or divine; the flaw of Aristotle must have a connection with a kind of wrongdoing. Discuss whether the flaw of Oedipus is the same as Macbeth and the characters in LOTR.
4--The innocent suffer in tragedy--and sometimes the suffering is so intense that it would appear that the good never fully recovers. Who articulates this view in the current chapter, and as a counterpoint, for example, where in the beginning of The Silmarillion is the paradox addressed. Recall a line in Shelley's Ode to the West Wind.
5-An important issue is the freedom of the protagonist / hero--Recall Paradise Lost III as cited above. Would Tolkien accept this perspective of Frye: "The tragic poet knows his hero will be in a tragic situation, but he exerts all his power to avoid the sense of having manipulated that situation for his own purposes. He exhibits his hero to us as God exhibits Adam to the angels..."?
6-The hero must have the strength to withstand the onslaught of fortune, fate etc. Depending on your choice of hero for the Trilogy, how does he/ she manage to garner that strength? It would seem that suffering is a necessary condition for moral growth from Achilles who exists in "splendid isolation" for the ideals he articulates in Book IX of The Iliad to Luke Skywalker in the popular culture.

D-Winter: Irony and Satire:

1--"Satire is militant irony"
2--Do you find evidence here or elsewhere in LOTR of this mode?
3--At first glance, the answer seems no, but look carefully for a Gandalf-Aragorn exchange and what follows.


A. Sometimes evil seems much in control by constantly exploiting what appears to be the naiveté of the good. Does that happen again, and with whom?

B. The motif which seems to dominate the chapter is Anglo-Saxon: regarding whom and why?

C. Is what happened to Biblo a warning?

D. What is the choice of Arwen, and what does she foresee for Frodo? What gift does Frodo receive from her? Recall the debate between mortality and immortality stands as one of Tolkien's central moral themes. What did Illuvatar give men and elves, and why does each seem envious of what the other has:

...for Elves and Men are the children of Illuvatar...[Illuvatar said] "Behold
I love the Earth, which shall be a mansion for the Quendi and the Atani! But
the Quendi shall be the fairest of all earthly creatures...But to the Atani I will
give a new gift." Therefore he willed that the hearts of Men should seek beyond
the world and should find no rest therein; but they should have a virtue to shape
their life, amid the powers and changes of the world, beyond the Music of the
Ainur, which is fate to all things else...But Illuvatar knew that Men, being set
amid the turmoils of the powers of the world would stray often and not use their
gifts in harmony..."It is one with this gift of freedom that the children of Men
dwell not only a short space in the world alive, and are not bound to it, and
depart soon whither the Elves know not. Whereas the elves remain until the end
of days, and their love of the Earth and all the world is more single and more
poignant therefore, and as the years lengthen ever more sorrowful. For the elves
die not till the world dies, unless they are slain or waste in grief (and to both
these seeming deaths they are subject); neither does age subdue their strength,
unless one grow weary of ten thousand centuries; and dying they are gathered to
the Halls of Mandos in Valinor, whence they may in time return. But the sons of
Men die indeed, and leave the world; wherefore they are called the Guests, or
the Strangers. Death is their fate, the gift of Illuvatar, which as Time wears even
the Powers shall envy. But Melkor has cast his shadow upon it, and confounded
it with darkness, and brought forth evil out of good, and fear out of hope."
(pp. 38-39)

Such would appear to be a retelling of the Genesis story, wherein Adam and Eve have practical immortality until the snake introduces evil and temptation making them long for what they do not have. So the elves may represent man before the fall, and men in Middle Earth are those after the fall. As Wordsworth notes, echoing Plato, we long for immortality, the "trailing clouds of glory" from which we came. See his Ode: Intimations of Immortality.

Recall too in Morgoth's Ring, edited by Christopher Tolkien, there is an extensive philosophical debate between Finrod [wisest of the elves, first met men in Beleriand, imprisoned with Beren], and Andeth [female, daughter of Boromir, called wise in thought] regarding immortality: Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, pp. 304 ff. Some highlights:

  1. Andreth argues that although the legends that preserve conventional wisdom substantiate that Melkor indeed brought evil of out good, yet the fact remains that before such occurred, elves and men were substantially different: "...the ordained interval remains," she argues, (p. 309) suggesting that such deprives men of hope. For her the question becomes moot, since the elves really do not know death.
  2. Finrod of course is worried. If men were created in this mode, a loss without apparent redress (p. 311), then what must be the implication: "...but to change the doom of a whole people of the Children, [as apparently Melkor did] to rob them of their inheritance: if he could do that in Eru's despite, then greater and more terrible is he by far than we have guessed...Valinor and the Mountains of the Pelori are builded [sic.] on sand." (p. 312)
  3. Andreth continues, insisting that men were "...born to life everlasting, without any shadow of any end." (p. 314) [This seems to contradict the earlier Silmarillion citation, but note from the Chapter therein entitled Of Men: "...Men have feared the Valar, and not understood the purposes of the Powers being at variance with them, and at strife with the world...Immortal were the Elves, and their wisdom waxed from age to age, and no sickness nor pestilence brought death to them. Their bodies indeed were of the stuff of the earth, and could be destroyed; and in those days they were more like to the bodies of Men, since they had not so long had been inhabited by the fire of their spirit, which consumes them from within in the courses of time. But Men were more frail, more easily slain by weapons or mischance, and less easily healed; subject to sickness and many ills; and they grew old and died. What may befall their spirits after death the Elves know not. Some say that they go to the halls of Mandos...The fate of Men after death, maybe, is not in the hands of the Valar, nor was all foretold in the Music of the Ainur." [p. 121]
  4. Such may be the crux of the present debate. The Church had argued that although Adam and Eve had bodies, they in the garden enjoyed preternatural gifts which in effect bestowed practical immortality.
  5. An essential element here is whether there on earth can be harmony between body [hroa] and soul [fea]. How these related to elves and men was apparently different, although the common point was that separation was unnatural, and not meant to be until corrupted by Melkor. [p, 330-331] For example, then in the Genesis story, Adam and Eve do not cover their bodies until AFTER the disobedience. The difference seems to be that the elves had as a matter of Illuvatar's will the right to exist in the blessed realm, while men did not. Note that in Tolkien's mythology, each wants what the other has. The cyn slaying is result of elvish defiance of Illuvatar's' travel ban," and "the gift of men" is their yearning for completeness elsewhere: Men "...look at no thing for itself, that if they study it, it is to discover something; that if they love it; it is only (so it seems) because it reminds them of some other dearer thing? Yet with what is this comparison? Where are these other dearer things.?..."
    1. For Plato of course, the soul seeks union with the forms, especially the form of the Good
    2. For Tolkien, the answer is God: to paraphrase Boethius: happiness is seeking the greatest good, and the greatest good is God, so happiness is seeking God.
    3. What for Tolkien corrupts this "logic?"
  6. Andreth questions the apparent body-soul dichotomy, saying that the body should not simply be thought of as a temporary dwelling for the soul [Wordsworth's "prison house"], because true harmony implies a union. If the body were a prison, then its origin would have to be from evil, or Melkor designed to corrupt. The answer of Finrod suggests a Catholic and Platonic / romantic perspective:
    1. The church teaches the reunion of the body and soul at the end of the world, suggesting both in harmony would constitute heaven: "The term flesh refers to man in his state of weakness, and mortality. The "resurrection of the flesh"...means not only the immortal soul will live on, but that even our "mortal body" will come to life again." [Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 990, p. 258.] See also The Apostle's Creed: "I believe in...the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting, Amen." Finrod echoes this in that, he believes, men are the "...heirs and fulfillers of all: to heal the Marring of Arda, already foreshadowed before their devising; and to do more, as agents of the magnificence of Eru: to enlarge the Music and surpass the vision of the World!" [p. 318]. Tolkien here defines sub-creation. Recall the musical themes of the creation process.
    2. Keats suggests that man brings his own body and soul into harmony, and that heaven would really be on earth, thus deficient if its essence were just the soul in union with God. When Andreth wishes to know this new reality, Finrod disclaims philosophical and creative equality with Eru, but speaks of a vision in which the splendor of such a reality is potentially revealed as a state of "...Bliss beyond bliss..."[that] "...should make the green valleys ring, and the everlasting mountain-tops to throb like harps." [p. 319]. This echoes The Silmarillion and Keats' letters which employ also music and dream-vision images.
  7. What makes this possible for Tolkien as the conversation continues is hope--hard to define, but in the Christian scheme of salvation history, FAITH.
  8. In validation as Finrod sees some earthly skepticism, he argues that perhaps a beginning was made today, in that it may well have been ordained for an elf and mortal women, coming from estranged races, were conversing.

E. What does the union of Faramir and Eowyn allow?

F. Regarding the last chapter, interlace a motif with the Treebeard, Gandalf conversation. What does the latter say regarding "The New Age..."? Why does the former let Saruman go, and what is Gandalf's response? Interestingly, what does Treebeard identify as his flaw? Assess the motive of Treebeard, and the biblical allusion Gandalf offers in response?

G. Do you think this chapter has a pessimistic tone? Who speaks for Tolkien here, and what was one of his great concerns? The meeting with Saruman dramatizes several theological and psychological themes:

  1. What is offered Saruman and by whom?
  2. Is his response in terms of tone and content the same as when we saw him in The Voice of Saruman, Volume III?
  3. What does Saruman prophesy? Is he accurate?
  4. Who is with him? Do you feel pity for either character?

H. Tobacco again plays a prominent role as it did in Flotsam and Jetsam, Volume III. For now, the purpose seems to be the dramatization of Merry's generosity.

I. Frye's nature archetypes appear again: As Frodo takes his leave of Biblo in Rivendell, what does Tolkien do with setting and why? Any Foreshadowing? Why does Frodo say, "Something of everything, Sam, except the Sea."

K. As part of the nature imagery, study the parting words of Elrond to Frodo. Why does the latter keep them to himself?

L. Finally, note the tone of the chapter. Despite an apparent overwhelming victory, was only a battle won, and not the war? What does Tolkien believe?


A. CYCLE IMAGERY (OR PERHAPS RING STRUCTURE COMMON TO ORAL EPICS) is important in this Chapter. Have evil forebodings come true? What has happened at The Prancing Pony?

B. Certainly the nature - images of Frye are dramatized here. Correlate setting with moral progressions. Does Tolkien believe that morality is cyclic and contingent on circumstance?

C. Notice again, as Butterbur warns Gandalf, they are short of tobacco?

D. Remember Bill Ferny, and who are the newcomers? Can evil be fully purged?

E. Does the fact that Aragorn is now king help alter the tone?

F. There is an important flashback to The Mirror of Galadriel chapter. What did Sam see, and is it coming true now? Remember that this is more that superficial crystal ball magic. "The mirror is dangerous as...." Why? What would have happened if Sam had returned to the Shire straight away?

G. There is a very clear biblical allusion at the end of the chapter. When in Sacred Scripture were similar words spoken and by whom? The epic seems to have gone full circle again. Frodo and Sam and Merry and Pippin are THERE AND BACK AGAIN. What must they do?


A. By now we know that evil defeating itself is axiomatic for Tolkien. Apply to this chapter noting the roles of Sharkey--aka_______, Lotho, and Wormtongue. Are Christian values in evidence?

B. And again, season imagery predominates..why is the season Autumn?

C. Pity and laughter--who was undone before by these? Is history about to repeat itself?

D. Compare the description of Coketown in Hard Times by Dickens to The Shire as the hobbits find it now. Both novel and epic strongly parallel.

E. If Pippin, for example, would have behaved before the quest, say at the Council of Elrond, as he does here, would the effect be the same? What has happened? Remember what Aragorn told him before they departed?

F. Notice what Frodo absolutely rejects as a means of scouring the Shire.

G. Rousseau's philosophy predominates in this chapter: click here for details and make comparisons to this chapter. What did he, for example, regard as man's real original sin that Tolkien very clearly dramatizes.

H. The Battle of Bywater (1419)--tranpose the numbers and comment on: "It was one of the saddest hours in their lives." What makes Sam cry that flashes back to Volume I and Bilbo? Why does Sam say what he witnesses is worse than Mordor? How does Frodo respond? What is Tolkien's moral perspective?

I. Frodo's attitude toward Sharkey (aka)________never more clearly dramatized Tolkien's Catholic perspective often articulated by Gandalf. Even though the latter is not present, he really is: "I will be with you all days, even..." said who to whom?

J. What happens to Wormtongue and Saruman? Is this poetic justice? Did it have to happen? Did they define their own fate a long time ago? Recall Milton.


A. Many fairy tales end with "And they lived happily ever after." Does this apply?

B. If Tolkien were to have written a sequel, predict from this chapter what might have happened?

C. The Grey Havens were established by Cirdan, who avoided the quarrels of the first age, and possessed one of the rings, Narya, until he gave it to Gandalf. What do they represent?

D. How is the Shire rejuvenated so quickly? What Tolkien "fantasy" applies?

E. What season do we have, and correlate with Frodo's illness. Why is he ill?

F. As Frodo drops more and more out of sight, Sam laments that a prophet is never honored in his own country. Is that it? Of what is Frodo thinking? How is he wounded?

G. Sam and Rosie of course marry, and their daughter is named Elanor--what does the name mean?

H. Why from a thematic (vs. Dramatic) reason does Biblo's journal end? Given Tolkien's views in the FT Essay, what will happen next?

I. Study Frodo's song and who responds. What is said? What is happening, and is Tolkien optimistic? The appearance of Elrond and Galadriel and what they have [Nenya] signals the end of something, and the beginning of something else. Make this question more specific. What does Tolkien believe?

J. Although Sam is denied permission to go to the Havens, Frodo tells him he "...cannot always be torn in two..." What does that mean?

K. Study carefully Frodo's last long remark to Sam, beginning "So I thought too once..." How does it summarize Tolkien's philosophies? Does it reflect Catholic, Romantic and Anglo-Saxon beliefs synthesized, or does Tolkien believe that is impossible?

L. Imagery of song, dreaming and water end the Trilogy. Study the romantic and moral implications of each. Why do the last words in the LOTR matter so much?