The value of misinformation

That sounds like a paradox doesn’t it?  How can misinformation be valuable?  Well…in literature it can be a great thing.  I think many people, including myself at one point, don’t realize how masterful Tolkien’s use of misinformation is in LotR.  This is a factor that is even further blurred due to the meshing of storylines, found in the films. 

When you read the book, I’d like you to pay attention to where and when Tolkien ends and begins books 3, 4, and 5.  These factors are very important. 

Fourth book: Frodo, Sam and Gollum.  During the entirety of book three we readers are left to wonder what their fate is.  Do they live?  Are they captured?  And as we move through Frodo, Sam and Gollum’s journey to Mordor, we find the same questions being raised about the rest of the Nine Walkers.  Whether we follow Frodo and Sam or the other of the nine, each story is mutually exclusive.  You’re left to wonder, like the characters themselves.  You feel the same doubt.  At the close of book four and The Two Tower, we are left in a state of shock.  There is confusion about the fate of Frodo…is he dead or alive?  Will the orcs kill him?  Torture him?  Will he reveil the Quest?  And Sam too.  Can he save Frodo?  Will he also be captured?  Or failing, will he go on alone. 

In book five, we are transplanted back to the world of Gondor and the main focus of the war.  We are still left to wonder, however, and often the fear is great that the Ring has indeed been recovered by the Enemy.  The tension builds and boils when the Mouth of Sauron produces Frodo’s mail coat and cloak and Sam’s knife.  All of the sudden all hopes seem dashed.  We are brought to the brink of despair and then dropped back into Frodo and Sam’s story.

We rejoice to find Frodo is saved…though already frightful signs of the Ring’s hold are appearing.  The reader now thinks of Aragorn and his army.  Can Frodo and Sam fullfill their quest in time?  Will they be caught and cause a second darkness?  When they reach Mount Doom, Frodo seems half dead and Gollum has reappeared…the outlook does not look good.  Yet by some twist of fate the Ring is destroyed.  We have a moment of eucatastrophe. 

The separation of the plot based upon the separation of the companions is masterful.  It can also be seen in 1. Pippin and Gandalf 2. Merry and 3. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli.  In every case, the separation causes great tension and suspense.  At all times the outcome seems to waver on a knife’s edge.  It is because of this literary devise. 

I understand why it was not used for the films…yet at the same time I can envision how powerful the films could have been using the book’s structure as a guide.

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