Trust (noun): charge, custody, or care
To Trust (verb): to permit to remain or go somewhere or to do something without fear of consequences
What does it mean to trust someone? And is trust healthy? Can it be in error, yet this still be a possitive outcome?
These three questions are at the core of “A Conspiracy Unmasked.” Frodo’s idea of trust follows the definition of the verb above. He expects to be let alone to follow his own path and keep his own secrets. His trust is a personal trust; that of one who feels responsible and unwilling to draw others into his misfortune. His trust is the trust of non-interferance, not the true trust of friendship.
The conspiracy, however, embodies the noun of trust. Friends are entrusted with the care of each other. To look after one another and support each other in all circumstances. Though misguided, Frodo in large part also follows this definition. He believes he is caring for the safety and innocence of his friends by keeping them in the dark and preventing them from joining him. The conspiracy’s spying on Frodo is a literal betrayal of Frodo’s trust, a betrayal of his privacy and an accusation against his ability to care for himself. This may seem a great betrayal, a sign of an utter lack of trust, but it is not. It is the firm espousal of Friendly Trust, which closely relates to the noun’s definition.
It is a grey area. But I think one of the main points of this chapter is to reveal the nature of true friendship. Not passing friendships and acquaintances, but true life-long friendships. In these, part of the role of the friend is to look out for the other, even if that means guarding them from themself. This is a truth that even Frodo comes to realize, which is evident in his quick and unresisting acceptance of Pippin and Merry into his quest.
This is a pivotal moment in the book in terms of characterization. Here we see the true depth of friendship and love between the four (five including Fatty) hobbits and the lengths they will go to look out for one another. And this is before any of the character growth at the core of the tale! It also is great evidence of the real cunning and intelligence of hobbits, if they choose to use it. Up until this point intelligence was a largely ignored or even scorned aspect of hobbit life. One has only to think of how the hobbits thought of Bilbo.
I’d like to use this opportunity to compare this vignette to the moment of meeting in the film adaption. In the film Merry and Pippin appear out of nowhere, run into Frodo and Sam, fall down a cliff and almost a split second later decide to go with Frodo. From the long expected party we get a pair of miscreants, and pretty stupid/immature ones at that. The only purpose I can see here is speed, nothing else can be gained here. Instead, a great jewel of characterisation is lost and cast aside.