Frodo and the hold of the Ring

The hold of the Ring on Frodo appears to be an obvious relationship.  Yet, like the hold of the Ring on Bilbo, the Ring’s effects require some study.  In the movie, the passage of time is not clear in the beginning of the film.  Between the long expected party, and Frodo’s quest, seventeen years pass, making Frodo fifty years old.  This is not a coincidence.  Bilbo, leaving for the quest to Erebor, was also fifty years old.  By this time, Frodo is beginning to feel the desire to adventure and see the world.  As with Bilbo, it is important to study the effects of the Ring in the beginning of the Lord of the Rings.  It is crucial to understanding the full scope and consequence of the future plot.

When Gandalf returns to the Shire, knowing now the danger of the Ring, he performs the final test: fire.  He asks Frodo for the Ring.  Frodo complies, but with apparent reluctance.  Then, suddenly, Gandalf casts the Ring into the embers of Frodo’s fire.  Frodo’s response is immediate distress; he rushes to get the tongs and fish the Ring out.  Gandalf has to restrain him.  The Ring’s hold is already quite strong, Frodo wishes no hurt to the Ring, and does not seem capable of it.

Gandalf explains the history of the Ring and the danger to the Shire to Frodo.  The final solution is reached: the Ring must be destroyed.  This a crucial moment in the tale, one that was unwittingly dropped from the film.  At this moment, Frodo proposes to destroy the Ring himself, to take a hammer to it perhaps.  Gandalf encourages him.  So Frodo pulls out the Ring and looks at it.  He is drawn by its beauty and preciousness.  He had removed the Ring with the intent of throwing it into the hottest section of his fire.  But now he could not without great struggle.  He has to forcefully make himself remember and believe all that Gandalf has told him.  This is important.  Just moments ago, he had been totally  convinced, enough so to make the initial decision to do away with the Ring.  But the Ring protects itself. 

With an extreme effort, Frodo finally moves to cast the Ring in the fire.  And what happens?  Somehow both his hand and the Ring end up back in his pocket. 

It doesn’t matter that neither hammer or fire would have consumed the Ring.  What matters is Frodo’s intent.  He is resolved to destroy the Ring, at first.  Then, through some outer force, he doubts himself and doubts Gandalf’s wisdom.  Frodo reasserts himself, however, and harnesses his will to destroy the Ring.  But he doesn’t succeed.  The Ring and his own attachment to it, on some subconscious level change his gesture to return the Ring to his pocket.

This moment is of utmost importance.  Hobbits, according to Gandalf and the wise, are quite resilient to the power of the Ring.  And yet, after little use, the Ring appears to have complete hold over Frodo.  This explains and brings new meaning to all subsequent scenes of the Lord of the Rings.  It is not to say that Frodo is weak, or that he never can defy the Ring or turn its power to his own use.  However, it is obvious that the Ring’s power over Frodo is more far reaching than most would suspect.

Think on it.

Frodo is sent on a quest to destroy the One Ring.  That is his goal.  What is the Ring’s goal?  To return to Sauron.  For a time, the purpose of the Ring and the purpose of Frodo coinside.  But remember, as Frodo penetrates Mordor and comes closer to his goal, the burden and power of the Ring increase.  It now truly begins to fight Frodo’s quest.  How can Frodo ever have been expected to destroy the Ring, when he cannot even cast it into a fire?  And, more importantly, how can Gandalf, being cognizant of this failure, still have hope?  This scene, from the very beginning, calls the entire quest into question and doubt.  How may the Ring be destroyed? 

It is this scene, more than any other, that begins to establish the themes of hope and grace.  They often grow out of hopelessness.  This moment makes the final eucatastrophe potent and meaningful.


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