Nov 6 2009 4:12pm

LotR re-read: Two Towers IV.6, “The Forbidden Pool”

cover of The Two Towers Time for chapter IV.6 of The Two Towers, “The Forbidden Pool,” in our Lord of the Rings re-read. As always, spoilers for all of LotR and comments after the jump.

What Happens

Faramir wakes Frodo and asks him to come outside. They (and Sam) go to a high spot next to the falls, where they see Sméagol diving in the pool. Frodo begs Faramir not to shoot: Sméagol is his guide and is only looking for fish. Faramir will not let him go free, however, and says he must be captured or killed. Frodo asks to be allowed to go down to the pool.

Frodo hears Sméagol lament the loss of the Ring and say he will strangle the Men who will take it. He tells Sméagol that Men will kill him if they find him; Sméagol refuses to leave until he has finished his fish. Frodo threatens Sméagol with the Ring, says he must trust him, and tells him to go up the path. Sméagol smells the Rangers and accuses Frodo of treachery just before he is captured.

They are taken to Faramir, who accepts Sméagol’s promise never to come back to, or speak of, the hidden location. Faramir releases Sméagol to Frodo’s custody (and releases Frodo to travel as he will), but demands that Sméagol tell him where he plans to lead Frodo. Sméagol is forced to confirm that he intends to use the pass at Cirith Ungol. Out of Sméagol’s hearing, Faramir counsels Frodo not to go, arguing that Sméagol is hiding something and that Cirith Ungol has an evil name. Frodo points out the lack of other options, and Faramir sighs and bids him farewell.


Short chapter, mostly big-picture comments.

Such as: Someone explain to me why honesty wouldn’t have worked? Why Frodo couldn’t have said, “Sméagol, you have wandered into a forbidden place by accident. There are Men with bows pointed directly at you, and if you do not come with me right now and talk with their leader, they will kill you. I can’t stop them, but I don’t want you to die, so please come with me?”

Note that Frodo doesn’t even start out with the complete truth: he says, “We are in danger. Men will kill you, if they find you here.” Men have already found him, but Frodo implies that they haven’t and thus that the danger is not yet imminent—which is when Sméagol refuses to come until he’s finished his fish. Then Frodo feels out of options and resorts to threatening Sméagol with the Ring: not a happy situation to introduce a Ranger into, and from there it all goes downhill.

Frodo might have thought he couldn’t convince Sméagol if he told him the truth, and then Sméagol’d get killed, which would be bad. But I’m not convinced: I think Sméagol is still sane enough to be able to choose possible captivity over certain death. And you know, if he chooses “wrongly”? It’s still his choice to make.

This doesn’t seem to be the straw that eventually breaks Sméagol, but it doesn’t help any (the green light comes into his eyes when he smells the Ranger). Frodo even recognizes that “certainly what (he) did would seem a treachery to the poor treacherous creature,” but does it anyway because he believes that he is “sav(ing) his life in the only way he could.” Like I said, I’m not convinced that it is the only way. But beyond that: you know in The Princess Bride, when Count Rugen tells Inigo, “You’ve got an overdeveloped sense of vengeance. It’s going to get you into trouble someday”? I often think it would make a good fill-in-the-blank quiz. Me, the blank is “responsibility,” and it does get me into trouble, though not dagger-in-the-gut levels thereof. But the master-servant relationship apparently lends itself to particular heights (or depths) of overdeveloped senses of responsibility.

* * *

On to Sméagol/Gollum.

When Faramir asks him his name and business, he says, “We are lost, lost. No name, no business, no Precious, nothing. Only empty. Only hungry; yes, we are hungry. A few little fishes . . . ” People have mentioned Ungoliant with regard to Gollum in the comments, so this caught my eye as it hadn’t before.

And, also, it’s very sad.

Does Faramir have some supernatural mental abilities? Consider:

Slowly Gollum raised his eyes and looked unwillingly into Faramir’s. All light went out of them, and they stared bleak and pale for a moment into the clear unwavering eyes of the man of Gondor. There was a still silence. Then Gollum dropped his head and shrank down, until he was squatting on the floor, shivering. ‘We doesn’t know and we doesn’t want to know,’ he whimpered. ‘Never came here; never come again.’

‘There are locked doors and closed windows in your mind, and dark rooms behind them,’ said Faramir. ‘But in this I judge that you speak the truth. . . . ’

Then, later:

 ‘It is called Cirith Ungol.’ Gollum hissed sharply and began muttering to himself. ‘Is not that its name?’ said Faramir turning to him.

‘No!’ said Gollum, and then he squealed, as if something had stabbed him. ‘Yes, yes, we heard the name once. . . . ’

He seems to be able to not only discern but compel truth in a way that feels more than simply force of personality. Which, again, is another thing I hadn’t noticed before. I’m not sure what I think of it generally, but it may explain some things when we get to Denethor.

I like Faramir’s honesty about himself in this chapter. He admits that he would like to ask Frodo to break faith with Sméagol, “For it seems less evil to counsel another man to break troth than to do so oneself,” and that he doesn’t know any better plan but still doesn’t want him to go. I was a little surprised at how blunt he was about his expectations at the end of the chapter, though: “It is a hard doom and a hopeless errand. . . . I do not hope to see you again on any other day under this Sun.” Ouch.

* * *

To end on lighter notes:

Sméagol and the fish before Faramir is funny, both in his description—“A very miserable creature he looked, dripping and dank, smelling of fish (he still clutched one in his hand)”—and when he drops the fish after hearing that its price is death.

Tolkien gets right the position of the full moon in the sky, having it set near dawn. I doubt he saw this as remarkable, but it wasn’t until I took an astronomy class in high school that I really paid attention to the moon, possibly because I grew up in the suburbs.  But I notice it now when fiction takes artistic license with the moon’s phases, which seems to be fairly often.

Back on the road, next time.

« Two Towers IV.5 | Index| Open thread: fiction responses »

Kate Nepveu was born in South Korea and grew up in New England. She now lives in upstate New York where she is practicing law, raising a family, and (in her copious free time) writing at her LiveJournal and booklog.

Susan James
1. SusanJames
LOL Kate- after rereading LOTR as an adult, I found myself paying so much more attention to the moon and her phases. He does seem to mention it a lot. Its good to know he gets it right, though not surprising as he was such a detail oriented guy.

I agree with you that I didn't quite get why Frodo felt he couldn't tell the truth. And I HATE this part of the movie where the tall warriors of Gondor kick wretched, skinny Gollum like a bunch of thugs. Faramir would never allow that.

And yes, he as a man of Westernesse had abilities such as foresight and character readings. There is a passage about a woman maybe Aragorn's mother) where her particularly exceptional skill in forsight is mentioned. That may be in the Appendix, so perhaps you've never read it. It could also be in the Simlarillion. But anyway, yes they had powers we lesser mortals don't though some were more gifted than others.
2. DemetriosX
I've always been bothered by Frodo's approach here, on the one hand, but on the other, I've never really seen an alternative such as you propose. It might have worked, but I'm not sure I can really see Sméagol willingly giving himself up to captivity, no matter how temporary Frodo promises him it will be. (His experiences with being held captive, even by Aragorn and Gandlaf, have not given him a whole lot of reason to go quietly.) Of course, you could also read it as the influence of the Ring, making Frodo more devious and less straight-forward.

As for Faramir's skills, SusanJames @1 has much of it. This is more of us being shown Faramir as a true heir of Westernesse, the sort of thing we spent a lot of time talking about in the last chapter. I think we're also getting a glimpse of him as a "Leader of Men" who can read those he encounters and tell when they're dissembling. There may also be a touch of the old adage "You can't cheat an honest man," which fits rather well with Tolkien's moral view.

That said, I think Gollum's "{s}queal..., as if something had stabbed him" and confession about Cirith Ungol was not forced by Faramir. I think it is more a matter of Sméagol forcing Gollum to tell the truth. Note that in the passage you quoted, he is always called Gollum and there is, IIRC, a bit of backsliding into more Gollum-like behavior in this scene. This is Sméagol giving Gollum a nasty pinch to make him behave.
3. sofrina
my main impression of the chapter was pity for gollum's starving. i sort of didn't think of him as human and all the time he can't tolerate the hobbits' food, i just sort of thought it didn't matter till we get here.

then i'm also sure in "the hobbit" it's mentioned that gollum's been known to steal a sleeping baby or tackle a small goblin to eat from time to time. which counters the pity a little.
4. pilgrimsoul
There's no need to attribute anything to Faramir beyond experience and intuition. Ask any teacher. The signs are there to read for those who know.
5. Foxessa
Frodo betrayed Gollum here.

Who knows what would have happened if Frodo hadn't played Smégol's trust in Frodo at this point.\

Mayhap even that the Ring would have returned to its creator.
Iain Coleman
6. Iain_Coleman
Tolkien spent ages getting the phases of the moon right. It's good to hear it's appreciated.
Kate Nepveu
7. katenepveu
SusanJames @ #1 (and on preview, Iain_Coleman @ #6), I should say I haven't been keeping track of the moon phases with relation to the calendar, but at least he doesn't have the full moon hanging next to the setting sun, you know?

Also, I have read the Appendices, I just don't remember a lot of the stuff about Gondorian history!

DemetriosX @ #2, but should Smeagol have the _choice_ whether to give himself up to captivity? I don't know, maybe I'm overreacting because I find this chapter upsetting, but if it were me, I'd want the choice.

Interesting thought about Smeagol making Gollum confess about Cirith Ungol. First, the narrative _always_ calls him Gollum, so that doesn't tell us anything one way or another. But you're right that the debate Sam overhears ends with Smeagol still objecting to the idea of Cirith Ungol, just overpowered by Gollum--for the moment? That kind of interaction between them isn't something I'd thought of before, so I'll have to turn it over some more. Thanks.

sofrina @ #3, yes, he is really sincerely starving. And if I hadn't eaten in days, picked some apples off an apparently-wild tree, and then was told that I was going to die for eating them . . . well, I'd be cranky too.

pilgrimsoul @ #4, I might prefer intuition, actually--still haven't decided--but the weight of the descriptions made me wonder, you know?

Foxessa @ #5, well, the Ring returning to Sauron is not exactly desirable!

But this reminds me of a reference I heard years ago, which now is as good a time as any to mention: apparently someone asked Tolkien once in a letter what would have happened if Gollum didn't betray them. IIRC, he responded that he wouldn't have been able to keep from taking the Ring at Mount Doom, but then would have jumped into the fire of his own accord. Which I thought at the time would have been a lot better; we'll see what I think now.
Soon Lee
8. SoonLee
Foxessa @5: I thought it was very clumsily handled by Frodo and lying to Gollum does make it a betrayal.

This sequence made me uncomfortable because I expected more of Frodo.
j p
9. sps49
"Don't want fish." Ha!

That's probably what I would've tried in a similar situation.
10. PhlEck
But in truth Frodo has been lying to Gollum all along, just as Gollum has been lying to him; their goals have always been opposed. Gollum/Sméagol has been living in a fantasy world, enjoying both the presence of the Precious and the kindness of Frodo, but this would never have lasted, nor could it ever have ended well. And regardless of how much he might pity him, Frodo needs Gollum to guide him to Mordor so that he can destroy the Ring. And Frodo will do no less than Gollum to ensure that he meets his goal; his role of the kindly "Master" has always been a fraud, because he was always willing to betray his servant. What makes these chapters so compelling and uncomfortable to me is this realization that there can be no happy ending for both Gollum and Frodo.
That Frodo denies Gollum an informed decision (to submit or to be killed) seems appropriate to me, because no matter how much we might want Frodo to be "good" and "just", he's not; his goal is to destroy the Ring, and Gollum is a tool to achieve that end, and Frodo is treating him as such. And if we recoil from this, I think that this is how Tolkien wants us to react. If Frodo had avoided betraying Gollum here (by giving him a choice), it would only be delaying the inevitable. Frodo would always betray him in the end.
11. dr. thanatos
Re: The Amazing Faramir! See Him Read Your Mind!

I'm of two minds on this.

First of all, I am reminded of my mother making me look her in the eye and tell her something she suspected was a lie; worked every time.

But I'm also minded that elves, wizards, and Sauron could speak mind to mind.

Pippin says "he didn't speak so you could hear, he just looked at me and I understood."

When everyone's heading home at the end, Gandalf, Elrond, Celeborn, and Galadriel sit and remember ages past; there's a specific description that says that no one seeing them would have noted the conversation, but that their thoughts flew back and forth.

Gandalf gives Pippin a good hard looking at after the Palantir episode and judges him foolish but honest.

I don't remember Aragorn doing this specifically, but it seems that the ability to communicate mind to mind, and to look into someone's mind, is an ability that Elves and Wizards have; is it unreasonable to assume that their students, the Numenoreans, would have learned this? And we are reminded that Faramir and his father Denethor are two in whom the blood of Numenor runs true.

I submit that there is ample evidence that Faramir's interrogation of Smeagollum involves more than just Sherlockian deductive logic, and that he is using "that old Numenorean mind trick."
12. DBratman
Tolkien sweated blood over getting the Moon's phases rights, even rewriting sections of the book because he couldn't get the Moon where he had artistically wanted it to be. (He used a recent year's almanac as his guide for phases and rising/setting times.)

I'd have to check this, but I don't recall Tolkien writing that Gollum would have jumped into the Fire of his own accord had he not fallen, in the story we now have; only that he had considered and rejected that as a plotting option. But, as I say, I'd have to check. He did write on what would have happened had Frodo kept the Ring and the Nazgul arrived, and it would not have been good: they would have wheedled it away from him and into Sauron's hands.

I agree with earlier comments: Frodo had good reason to suspect that Gollum would have flat refused to see Faramir voluntarily, even under pressure, and he preferred to betray Gollum to save Gollum's life. But you're right that it does not show Frodo in good light, especially his self-justification for it. Maybe it is, as someone said, an early sign of the Ring's control. (Wait till we get to Sam as Ringbearer.)
jon meltzer
13. jmeltzer
Yes, Frodo is slipping here; this is the second time he's threatened to use against the Ring against Gollum, something he shouldn't even be using as a bluff. This foreshadows book 6, when he does not bluff.
14. hapax
"something he shouldn't even be using as a bluff."

Just how badly does Frodo want an excuse to use the Ring?
Dave Bush
15. davebush
I agree with DBratman @ 12.

Frodo didn't see it as a choice to be left up to Gollum. He saw the choice as either betray Gollum or watch his only chance of getting into Mordor die as he runs.

Nothing in Gollum's character would lead to him voluntarily surrendering.
Kate Nepveu
16. katenepveu
PhlEck @ #10: But in truth Frodo has been lying to Gollum all along, just as Gollum has been lying to him; their goals have always been opposed.

Oooh. Yes. You're very right. I can't find that Gollum ever _asks_ why Frodo wants to go to Mordor, so I don't think Frodo lies to him, but that's a minor thing in context.


Dr. Thanatos @ #11, to add weight to your conclusion: you had emotional history with your mother that made looking her in the eye significant; Smeagol has none such with Faramir.

DBratman @ #12, jmeltzer @ #13, hapax @ #14: I don't know why I keep forgetting to consider the Ring's influence on Frodo. Maybe these sections are tighter-third than I realized.
Roy Ayres
17. Rgemini
Faramir's farewell to Frodo:
Until that time, or some other time beyond the vision of the Seeing-stones of Numenor, farewell!
There was some discussion in earlier chapters about the Palentir and whether the White Council would really have overlooked them all this time. For me, Faramir's farewell says that this is a genuine plot hole. It has the air of a proverb and it seems very unlikely that the Palentir would otherwise be forgotten by Gandalf. Unless Saruman was working to make sure they were overlooked ...
Tony Zbaraschuk
18. tonyz
I think Frodo is using the Ring here, not just threatening Gollum with it. It's a very fumbling use, but I think the Ring responds to Frodo trying to convince, and then order, Gollum. And, yes, Frodo's lack of honesty is probably partly because of the Ring getting its hooks into him.
Roy Ayres
19. Rgemini
I'm confused about Gollum's appearance. The rangers of Ithilien talk about a 'black kingfisher' and a 'black squirrel escaped from Mirkwood' but when he blinks he 'hides the malice of his eyes with their heavy pale lids'. It's hard to visualise a different appearance from the one in the film, which was brilliant, but I wonder how Tolkien saw him originally.
John Massey
20. subwoofer
Yes there do seem to be layers of distrust and misinformation here. Frodo is bending the truth to Gollum in terms of the end result of the Ring.

Gollum is shining on Frodo, because once they go up the back way, all bets are off...

Faramir- I have always felt he got the short end of the stick from his dad. Things may of turned out differently if he was sent to the Council instead of his brother. His reflection and his decisions here speak volumes for his character and how he may of changed the dynamic of the Fellowship...In the end, his judgments are blunt but accurate.

Kate Nepveu
21. katenepveu
Rgemini @ #17, re: Faramir mentioning the Seeing-stones; note also that the proverbial air of his comment implies that he doesn't know that his father is making active use of one.

tonyz @ #18, can you expand on what makes you think that Frodo is actively using the Ring?

Rgemini @ #19, good question--Gollum was a hobbit, and spent years and years in the dark, so I don't see any way he could be other than pale-skinned intrinsically. Maybe he was filthy when he was mistakened for a black animal?

subwoofer @ #20, I know we've talked before about what would have happened if Faramir went to Rivendell instead of Boromir . . . but I can't find it now for the life of me.

(Randomly: our dog says hi to your dog. Not that she likes other dogs, generally, but talking dogs must stick together.
22. Confusador
One of the things I love about this book is how nuanced it is; we can see why Frodo does what he does, even if we disagree. He's not so concerned about Gollum choosing death instead of captivity because he's concerned about his well being, but because he thinks Gollum's survival is necessary to save the world. And as other's have said, he's also acting under the influence of the ring.

Of course, none of that justifies anything, which becomes especially important because Frodo knows it, and he knows what he's doing is wrong. At the end it tears him up because everyone is holding him up as the Hero of the World and he knows that really he failed, miserably and repeatedly. Even we here expect better of him!

I think it's a much better portrayal of heroism and virtue than you get most places: you don't have to be perfect, and do actually get points for effort.
23. sofrina
subwoofer – simply put, the events in LOTR can’t happen any other way. The entire story is a cosmic convergence eons in the making. It is boromir’s fate to answer the call to Rivendell, and then to break the Fellowship. It faramir’s fate to survive into the new Age and marry the Lady of the Shieldarm. Faramir would not have broken the Fellowship, which at the least would lead to Frodo’s capture by the Uruk-Hai and may have even lead to the death’s of some of the others. Boromir would not have let Frodo pass on to Mordor with the Ring. He would have taken the hobbits to Denethor.

Each player must take the path that they do in order for the War of the Ring to be won, Sauron defeated and the Age of Men set off to a good start. Every subsequent, pivotal move in the war – in Mordor, in Fangorn, in Orthanc, in Rohan, in Gondor, at the Black Gate and on Mount Doom – stems directly from the breaking of the Fellowship at the Rauros.

All of these fates were assigned long before the people were actually born. How else could an elf battling the Witch-King know that he would be defeated by small people on the Pelennor Fields centuries later?
24. Confusador
kate @ # 21 re: tonyz @ #18 - The reason I've always attributed Frodo's actions with Gollum as using the Ring are twofold: In the first place is the fact that it is his possession the Ring that gives him power over Gollum at all, and I don't see much difference between "I could put it on and order you" and "It is mine and I order you". In the second place is that Galadriel says in order to use the Ring he would need to "train his will to the domination of others," which is exactly what he's doing here.
25. Carbonel
Nos .24 & .18 have it: we know that the ring does corrupt Frodo in the end, and we know that he fights it. Tolkien is showing how even a humble and decent person with almost no desire for power and rule can be tempted. I think no. 10 spotted the hook the ring used--Frodo's fear that without Gollum his quest must fail, too much fear to give Smeagol a choice that could doom them all, too much fear to trust to doing what Frodo knew was right. No-one, no matter how virtuous is temptation-proof.

As for Faramir and his character and abilities: Faramir is Argorn-lite. How do you convey something as trancedent as Pure Kingliness(TM)--what Aragorn will become when he casts off the shadow of Strider-the-ranger and comes into his own? Show a much lesser but still same-in-kind version to which the reader can relate. You'll percieve it on the "pits of evil" side of things in the Saruman/Sauron relationship as well.

Come to think of it you could probably get some kind of lit.crit. paper out of characterization parallels in LOTR :-)
26. Mrdangam
@SusanJames. just a nitpick - in Tolkien's Elvish mythology, the Moon was male, and the Sun female.

With regards to Frodo lying to and ordering Gollum, I think he felt trapped. He's already said how unfit he feels to undertake this mammoth-sized job.

I myself have always thought that Gollum would never have trusted Frodo to lead him safely through a short period of captivity at the hands of humans, without the compulsion of the Ring. Any lies, etc, would merely be the surface clutter on a seriously paranoid mind that had already decided to twist the oath already sworn on said Ring.

So he told the lies that were as near to the truth as he could manage, and Gollum followed. Not a nice predicament.
27. debraji
Re: comments #1 & 6 - I just went to the exhibit of Tolkien manuscript pages at Fordham Univeristy in NYC yesterday. On one page Tolkien listed times for moonrise & moonset, the phase of the moon, and moments in the text where a character could see something by moonlight.

The exhibit displayed only about 24 pages--the inscription on Balin's tomb, drawings of the gates of Moria with wonderfully delicate elvish calligraphy, working out the text and a possible illustration of the dwarves' book ("we can't get out...drums, drums in the deep").... There was a table comparing the Shire calendar to ours, and another tracking the movements of groups of characters (Frodo & Sam, Pippin & Gandalf, Aragorn & friends, Orcs & Enemies, Gollum...).

Too small an exhibit, but lovely to see!
28. ElaineT
it seems very unlikely that the Palentir would otherwise be forgotten by Gandalf. Unless Saruman was working to make sure they were overlooked ...

I suspect the actual explanation is that JRRT didn't think of them fast enough...(I'm resisting digging out Letters. But within the story context, Gandalf isn't much of a gadget guy. He's a people person. Saruman being a tech geek would be more likely to think of such things as the seeeing stones and try to find one.

And I've also wondered about Gollum's descriptions varying from pale to black.
Kate Nepveu
29. katenepveu
sofrina @ #23, and yet the individual choices _have to_ matter or else there's neither triumph nor tragedy. It's a fine line to walk.

Confusador @ #24, ouch, you're right: training his will to the domination of others, indeed. I still suspect there is a difference between actually putting the thing on or not, but that's more intuitive than anything.

Carbonel @ #25, it'll be interesting to see if the Aragorn-Lite nature of Faramir--which I think you're right that we're supposed to perceive--actually ends up transferring to Aragorn later, or if the different approaches to developing the characters leaves Aragorn more of a cipher.

debraji @ #27, how wonderful! Thank you for the report. Hmmm, I will be in NYC for the very last day of the exhibit, but it's only open between 10 & 2, so I won't make it. Oh well!
30. sofrina

i'm not saying the individual choices don't matter. i'm saying the crucial choices are laid before the people who can make them. “I think that this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will” applies to Frodo and everyone else. they are all critical players in the war.

the valar laid out the path a long time ago. but they allow free will to reign. the free people of middle-earth must *earn* their salvation by choosing the right option.

my point is that the war could not be won if faramir had been in the fellowship and boromir been leading the party in ithilien. neither is capable of filling the other's shoes. faramir would not have fallen to the ring, confronting frodo with another vivid example of the ring's power and forcing frodo's hand. and it was necessary for frodo to leave the group at that point.

all these events are interdependent. if not the breaking of the fellowship, then merry and pippin don't go to fangorn, rohan and gondor. if they don't make that journey, the ents don't shut saruman down, theoden is not revived and marshalled, dernhelm is not inspired to join the army, merry - and merry's special blade - do not come to the pelennor, the witch-king is not defeated... you get my point.

all of these people were brought together in the nick of time, and it was up to each of them to be all that they possibly could in order to achieve the victory over sauron. any wrong choice could have toppled the entire effort.
31. DonnaIsme
Sofrina (23) -- Actually, it appears that Faramir was supposed to be the one to go to Rivendell and join the fellowship of the ring. He dreamed multiple times to seek Imladris and find help and some answers there. But his father forebade him to go. Boromir had the dream once, and went. It is perhaps an illustration of fate and God's will vs. the free will of individuals. It was not preordained that any of them do what was needed. Some accepted the call, and some didn't.

There's another place in the novel that illustrates the idea, but I just joined the re-reading, and I can't remember right now where in the story that incident is.
32. DonnaIsme
I don't think it follows, by the way, that if Faramir had gone, Boromir would have been leading the party in Ithilien. Denethor put his younger son into more danger than he would have his older son, I think.
jon meltzer
33. jmeltzer
Denethor has sent the heir of Gondor on a months long mission to unknown territories far beyond the border, and, now that Boromir is known to be dead, is sending the new heir on a potentially dangerous mission to no man's land. He's being reckless with his sons' lives, as well as the future of the realm, and we're going to see more of this later.
34. DonnaIsme
Yes, that is certainly true; I agree. (33)

My larger point is that, while Frodo's choice may be crucial, and no one but he could succeed in carrying the ring to Mordor without being overcome by it, not everyone else's role is "it can only be accomplished this way and no other." We see a (so to speak) second-choice Gondorian join the Fellowship because Faramir was prevented from going. It does not seem that what appears in hindsight to be one necessary step after another was predetermined by the Valar. (A story, and life itself, become unsatisfactory if you believe that everything is already worked out in advance.)

I recall now, in the scene of the mirror of Galadriel, there was a warning of interpreting what the mirror showed as a vision of what would certainly happen.

It's strange, isn't it, that Denethor absolutely refuses to let Faramir undertake the journey, no matter how passionately he pleads for it, and yet lets his older son do it? Favoring Boromir even in something like that -- he can't refuse him, or believes in him more, or what?
35. Cordy Groo
It seem likely Denethor trusted Boromir's obediance more than Faramir's, given the description (in the appendices) of his preternatural insight into peoples' characters. Faramir is not just Aragorn-lite but can also be contrasted to Eómer, in fact their whole families. Theoden loses his heir, comes to his senses and forgives Eómer for following his own conscience ("Faithful heart may have froward tongue", whereas Denethor accuses Faramir of being more loyal to Gandalf than to himself.
Iain Coleman
36. Iain_Coleman
I always wonder if Boromir really had the dream, or if he just said he did in order to go on a jolly.
Kate Nepveu
37. katenepveu
Iain_Coleman, I can't believe that Boromir would lie about that. Or even talk himself into believing that he had.
jon meltzer
38. jmeltzer
@34: Well, he does that because Faramir didn't exist as a character when Tolkien wrote Book 2 :-)
jon meltzer
39. jmeltzer
But more on the father-sons relationship. As Gandalf says, Faramir is the son more like Denethor - he's Denethor without the gloom, introversion, and depression. I can see Denethor preferring the son who is not like him - the son who has the image of being the ideal captain and knight, rather than the one he feels psychologically threatened by.
40. DonnaIsme
@38 -- Didn't Boromir mention his brother (although not by name) at the Council of Elrond? So, if Faramir was not yet a fully-thought-out character as Tolkien wrote the chapter, he was one that had to be developed when the story reached Minas Tirith. (Unless, of course, Tolkien created Faramir and then went back and revised the Council of Elrond to insert that seed of a brother-brother conflict.
jon meltzer
41. jmeltzer
@40: It was revised. Tolkien brought Faramir into the story as "Falborn, a ranger of Ithilien", but then later realized who he really was, a bit to his surprise:

A new character has come on the scene (I am sure I did not invent him, I did not even want him, though I like him, but there he came walking into the woods of Ithilien): Faramir, the brother of Boromir ...

Letters #66
Gilmoure Gylbard
42. Gilmoure
One thing I always thought weird was that Faramir just let them go off wandering through Ithilien with a dark creature as a guide. Still, Faramir's got the shinning so I guess that's part of it.

It reminds me of the errantry stories from the King Arthur stories and from the Silmarillion.
43. pilgrimsoul
@debraji 27

The word of the day is--EVNY
Michael Ikeda
44. mikeda

The only alternative to letting them wander through Ithilien is to keep them prisoner indefinitely, which Faramir thinks (with good reason) is a bad idea.


Agreed. I can't see Boromir lying about something like that. He said he had the dream because he did have it.

Although the possibility that Boromir's dream was just a dream and not a message cannot be ruled out from the text.

(I do think that both brother's dreams were messages, mostly because that seems to fit better with the rest of the story.)
45. debraji
If you want to see a sample of Tolkien's handwriting, take a look at this letter he wrote in answer to a fan with an interesting surname:
46. pilgrimsoul
47. radagastslady
re Faramir and Denethor. We must remember the price of Faramir's life was his mother's death. Denethor is behaving in many ways like so many other fathers who have lost a wife in childbirth. Faramir cannot satisfy his father because Faramir murdered the beloved wife.
Michael Ikeda
48. mikeda

Finduilas (Denethor's wife) didn't die in childbirth. According to the chronology in Appendix B, Faramir was born in 2983 and Finduilas died in 2988.

The account in Appendix A says "But it seemed to men that she withered in the guarded city, like a flower of the seaward vales set upon a barren rock. The shadow in the east filled her with horror, and she turned her eyes ever south to the sea that she missed."
Tony Zbaraschuk
49. tonyz
Getting back to Frodo's use of the Ring, I believe at one point Frodo specifically tells Gollum "Precious says: do this". Which is about as close to direct proof as I think we're going to get (short of Sam's vision of the Ring on the slopes of Mt. Doom).

The other reason is simply that Frodo is trying very hard to persuade and command Gollum at this point. I don't think the Ring could have _not_ come into use at this point; it's exactly what it does, what it was made to do, and Gollum is already under its authority. No, it doesn't go all reverse video glow on us, but the Ring doesn't work like that: it's a thing of the spirit, and works on the spiritual level far more than the material one. (One of the many ways in which Jackson fundamentally failed to grok the Ring for the films, IMO.)
Francesca Forrest
50. Asakiyume
@tonyz --I had never thought of this possibility, but I like it. You've made me want to rethink all of Frodo's actions since becoming ringbearer to see if I could find more examples of similar.

Boy, the movie so poisoned me on Frodo--hard to go back to thinking of him as book!frodo, with a little more meat on his bones and personality to him.

Kate, I really like your point about Frodo's dishonesty here--which I think contributes to my liking Tonyz's interesting solution, so to speak. I find few things more annoying than unnecessary deceit, which, furthermore, just make problems down the line (or contribute to them).

Who was it who wondered at Faramir's judgment, letting Frodo go off, led by Smeagol? I wonder at that, too. The plot demands that Frodo go on, but if Faramir thinks there's no way that Frodo can succeed... I do wonder, too, at his decision.
Terry Lago
51. dulac3
Asakiyume @50: Sure, we can wonder at the logic of Faramir letting Frodo go off like this, but is it really fundamentally different from the whole quest of the Fellowship in the first place which was contrived and sanctioned by Elrond and Gandalf? Neither of them had any assurance that their mad plan to walk the ring straight into its master's hands would work, but they knew it was the only option regardless of how contrary to common sense it was. They knew that they had to rely on something other than rationality to help the quest succeed and so put their hope in providence and took the only option open to them.

Faramir is said to have been an apt pupil of Gandalf and perhaps some of this quality of wisdom (call it foresight or faith) rubbed off on him. He certainly had no better options to provide.
52. DBratman
Asakiyume @50 wrote: "Boy, the movie so poisoned me on Frodo--hard to go back to thinking of him as book!frodo, with a little more meat on his bones and personality to him."

And people say that movies can't ruin books because the book is still on the shelf. Hah!
53. pilgrimsoul
Nice to see you here!
Andrew Foss
54. alfoss1540
Regarding Frodo's thoughts about Smeagol/Gollum - and comments about Movie vs Book Frodo. I was struck by the quote:

"Frodo shivered, listening with pity and disgust. He wished it would stop, and that he never need hear that voice again. Anborn was not far behind. He could creep back and ask him to get the huntsman to shoot. They would probably get close enough, while gollum was gorging and off guard. Only one true shot, and Frodo would be through with him forever."

MovieFrodo would not have thought this thought. Far too much chivalrous-good in that character. Book Frodo definitely had more feeling. Not everyone can be good and do and think the right things all the time. He proves in the next line true to keeping Gollum around, for whatever reason - mostly Gandalf. But the thoughts crept in.

This struck me because it shows the depth of how disgusting gollum is to all who see him. I loved Movie Gollum for lots of reasons - ignoring the darkness issues of course. As for the book, we must remember that he is an evil, wretched creature who was seriously bent from a very young age and allowed to fester over far too many years after.

Despite protecting and using gollum, Frodo still sees him for what he is.
Chris Meadows
55. Robotech_Master
The discussion of Boromir being "fated" to fall to the Ring's allure (but getting the nice consolation prize of a year's supply of Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco Treat—er, that is, a noble death in battle) puts me in mind of some things I've heard mentioned about Judas Iscariot, the Biblical figure whose name has become synonomous with "vile traitor".

There are a number of theories about why he sold Jesus out. One is that he was just greedy and wanted the money. (Though it's hard to imagine someone with that much greed ever being accepted as a Disciple in the first place.) Another is that he felt betrayed by Jesus preaching peace and nonviolence, rather than kicking the unwanted Roman overlords out of Israel. Some people even think Judas might have had the idea that if Jesus were captured, he'd have no choice but to start kicking Roman butt, rather than die (kind of like a 1st-century Rambo or Chuck Norris) and thought he was doing Israel a favor by setting up that kind of situation.

His road to Hell might have been paved with good intentions, but the fact remains that Judas fundamentally had to betray Jesus, or Jesus wouldn't be able to do the whole "die on the cross and then rise from the dead" thing. According to Wikipedia, there have been a lot of theological arguments over whether he actually had any choice in the matter (and hence free will). If not, he really kind of got a raw deal.

I wonder if Boromir had one, too? If it was necessary that he try to take the ring and then die in order to get the party to split up, it really doesn't say nice things about the Valar for forcing him into it.
Kate Nepveu
56. katenepveu
Robotech_Master, I just finished re-reading Raphael Carter's _The Fortunate Fall_, which as the title suggests is very concerned with this question. (Jo Walton has a terrific review of it here on this very site.)

But I don't think I agree, on due reflection, that Boromir's fall was necessary and fated. That Faramir was apparently "supposed" to go on the quest is of course a strong argument against the Valar pushing Boromir. But it seems to me that the key results of the split are two: it's only Sam and Frodo, now reducing the vulnerability of people to the Ring, and they come upon Gollum and must rely on him. But the first is its own solution: if it hadn't been Boromir it would have been someone else, either another human falling to the Ring or some non-Ring force that forced Sam and Frodo to go alone. And from there the rest can follow.

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