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Re: Re: Spotty Review

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  • tghsaw
    ... From: To: Sent: Sunday, February 01, 2004 4:06 AM Subject: [mythsoc] Digest Number 1486 ... Tolkien s
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 1, 2004
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      ----- Original Message -----
      From: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
      To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Sunday, February 01, 2004 4:06 AM
      Subject: [mythsoc] Digest Number 1486

      > ________________________________________________________________________
      > >I've often thought that Frodo sacrificing himself at Mt.
      > >Doom to destroy the ring would be a plausible ending for LOTR.
      >
      > No, because that would be suicide, and completely antithetical to
      Tolkien's
      > morality. Even Gollum doesn't commit suicide, though in the drafts
      Tolkien
      > does consider the idea of having Gollum do so.
      >



      No, if that had been necessary for the Ring's destruction, Tolkien would
      have considered it self-sacrifice, not suicide. It would be akin to a
      soldier throwing himself on a hand grenade to save others. "No greater
      love..."

      Tolkien gets into some speculation himself, on what might have happened if
      Gollum hadn't been present. One possibility he mentions is that Frodo might
      have been able to recover himself--for a moment--after the Ring's takeover,
      and realizing that he wasn't able to throw the Ring into the fire would have
      jumped in with it. This wasn't necessary because Gollum was
      present--because of the mercy of Bilbo, Frodo and, finally, Sam. [I don't
      have the Letters at hand, but IIRC it's in the later part of letter #246.]

      If Frodo had chosen to jump in even though it wasn't necessary (say, because
      he felt he couldn't live without the Ring), that would be a completely
      different situation--and suicide.

      --Trudy
    • David Bratman
      ... No, there s a fundamental difference between self-sacrifice and suicide. Doing something noble in the full expectation that you ll be killed is one thing;
      Message 2 of 2 , Feb 1, 2004
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        At 07:21 AM 2/1/2004 -0600, Trudy wrote:

        >No, if that had been necessary for the Ring's destruction, Tolkien would
        >have considered it self-sacrifice, not suicide. It would be akin to a
        >soldier throwing himself on a hand grenade to save others. "No greater
        >love..."

        No, there's a fundamental difference between self-sacrifice and suicide.
        Doing something noble in the full expectation that you'll be killed is one
        thing; killing yourself in the full expectation that the result will be
        noble is quite another. Part of the difference lies in the fact that in
        both cases you could be wrong. The soldiers of Rohan believe they will
        probably be killed both at Helm's Deep and at the Pelennor Fields: but in
        both cases some survive.


        >If Frodo had chosen to jump in even though it wasn't necessary (say, because
        >he felt he couldn't live without the Ring), that would be a completely
        >different situation--and suicide.

        But how would you know for sure whether it was necessary or not? This is
        what I find so artificial about moral dilemma problems of the "You have
        water for two people for two days and you're three days walk from the
        nearest oasis" type. In the real world, these figures would all be guesses
        or rough approximations, and the resulting uncertainty of whether a
        self-sacrifice would be either necessary or sufficient would play an
        irreducable role in the moral situation.


        >Tolkien gets into some speculation himself, on what might have happened if
        >Gollum hadn't been present. One possibility he mentions is that Frodo might
        >have been able to recover himself--for a moment--after the Ring's takeover,
        >and realizing that he wasn't able to throw the Ring into the fire would have
        >jumped in with it. This wasn't necessary because Gollum was
        >present--because of the mercy of Bilbo, Frodo and, finally, Sam. [I don't
        >have the Letters at hand, but IIRC it's in the later part of letter #246.]

        It is, but look carefully at what Tolkien writes. (It's on page 330.)
        "Frodo too would then probably, if not attacked, have had to take the same
        way: cast himself with the Ring into the abyss."

        Two things about this:

        1) Note the "probably": Tolkien has in fact written himself into a corner
        here, and there is no way out that he is comfortable with. Remember that
        these are unsent drafts of a letter: Tolkien is thinking aloud as he writes.

        2) Tolkien writes "the same way": the same way as what? Answer, the same
        way as Gollum, described in the previous paragraph. And look at what he
        says of what Gollum would have done with the Ring had he not fallen: "I
        think that in some queer twisted and pitiable way Gollum would have tried
        (not maybe with conscious design) to satisfy both [his loyalty to Frodo and
        his lust for the Ring]. ... 'Possession' satisfied, I think he would then
        have sacrificed himself for Frodo's sake and have _voluntarily_ cast
        himself into the fiery abyss."

        Note the wording here:

        "I think." Tolkien is still not sure, and not comfortable with any of this.

        "Some queer twisted and pitiable way." This is what Tolkien thinks of
        suicide as a self-sacrifice: he understands, but he does not approve.


        - David Bratman
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