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Thread: Did Frodo fail?

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I have been reading the Letters of JRRT and have come across these particular letters that talk about Frodo and his final decision at Mt Doom to claim the Ring as his own. It says a lot of things.

We all know about how Frodo acted at the very last, he couldn't resist the temptation. But is that a failure? Did Frodo fail? Tolkien gives a great big paragraph of explanation and analysis on this, but I want to see what everyone actually thinks. Did Frodo, in your very personal opinion, fail?
I don't think Frodo failed his mission. He didn't destroy the Ring himself, which he can't be blamed for as everybody would've been overcome by the Ring at that point, but still the Ring was destroyed - which would never have happened if he didn't make it all the way to the Sammath Naûr.

If he had succumbed earlier, then Sauron would've reclaimed his Ring. But (unfortunately) that did not happen, due to Frodo's stamina.
In psychoanalytic terms, Frodo did not fail but succeeded. The success came through the fact that Gollum can be viewed as Frodo's Shadow, or a part of Frodo’s ego that only split off due to repression and guilt. The Shadow or Double can also be seen as a Messenger of Death, making us face our own mortal being yet immortal soul. As you can see, Gollum is actually that part of Frodo (and every human's ego) that is repressed, (the pleasure principle and the id), as we move from childhood into adulthood. Gollum's actions establish the reality principle in Frodo’s life, which is what all of us face as we move from childhood into adulthood. Frodo no longer longs to go back to the Shire, for it represents childhood, and he has come to accept death and the passing of life, which is more than most of us can say. Man, Aragorn, adulthood has been established in its rightful place in the passage of life.

(Of course, on the flip side, the installation of the reality principle could be seen as a neurotic symptom of the human race in general.)
Frodo only failed in his own eyes, in that he couldn't destroy the Ring in the end, so when push came to shove, Gollum had to do it by accident, though we only have that report from the two eye witnesses, neither of whom can be said to have actually seen Gollum when he went over the edge, due to his wearing Exhibit A.

In fact Frodo may have pushed Gollum over the edge: Sam out of respect and friendship, may have covered up for him. Or mayhaps Sam did the dasterly deed himself, unbenounced to Frodo, who was so filled with dispair over losing the ring, that he couldn't see clearly and Sam took advantage of the situation.

Whatever the truth, Frodo succeeded because he befriended Gollum and let him tag along, long enough that he knew where to find the hobbits at the end, in order for the Ring to be destroyed once and for all. Frodo got the Ring to where it needed to be and facilitated Gollum being there for the final curtain call even, if it was against both their wishes at the time.
FRODO HAS FAILED, BUSH HAS THE RING!
lol i love that
Thanks everyone for your great answers... we have all talked more or less about the problem of Gollum. How many of you think that Frodo's task succeeded in the end because of his compassion for Gollum? Or was it because Gollum had been evil at heart and core all through? Or was the task's success nothing more than a lucky joining of Fates?
I think it's a combination of the three.

If both Bilbo and Frodo hadn't spared Gollum's life, Frodo would never have reached Mt Doom (and the Ring would not have been destroyed), hence compassion plays an important role in the quest, together with friendship, endurance and loyalty.

I think it was fated that Gollum, Sam and Frodo would be reunited, to create the possibility that Gollum would still be redeemed - a chance Gollum finally squandered when he decided to get Shelob involved.

In the very end though, it was sheer luck that Gollum stumbled into the fires - but if this didn't happen, i believe either Frodo or Sam would've pushed the lil scoundrel into the fires.
At the very last moment Frodo put on the ring and claimed it for his own. If it was soley down to him, then yes I believe he would have failed to destroy the ring. Gollum did not give him much of an opportunity in which to repent his decision and change his mind, but even if he had, I don't think the chances of Frodo repenting were very high. The closer Frodo got to Mount Doom the greater the ring began to burden and corrupt him. At the last he could not destroy the ring, but claiming it for his own was probably something he had been fighting off for a while.

Although he himself failed at the last, the ring was nevertheless destroyed. Frodo achieved much by getting the ring as far as he did without becoming corrupted. I doubt many others would have carried it so far without claiming it. Also, although he most likely did not anticipate the eventual outcome, Frodo did befriend Gollum, without who's help he would have struggled to reach Mount Doom.

In this deed we have Gandalf to thank much for. It was he, who in Moria, suggested to Frodo that Gollum would prove useful. I'm not sure how great a role Gandalf saw Gollum playing, but he certainly saw he had a role to play. Frodo may have failed at the end, but Gandalf covering all eventualities, certainly didn't.
Thanks again for the great replies! I was actually afraid this thread would be a two-person convo between me and Miruvor. Dunce Smilie
I think frodo did fail, as it was his job to destroy the ring and he didn't manage to do so and was finally overcome by it. of course, he did a great job up to then, no need to discuss that.
however, it's the mission - destroying the ring - that didn't fail and that remains the main thing, it's less important who destroyed the ring and why.
I have been marvelling over the fact that Frodo actually managed to resist the Ring for so long. Everyone agrees with me that Frodo has extraordinary strength of resistance? Well then, what do you guys think gave Frodo this strength? Was it because of his beloved Shire? Or was it because he knew so many lives were at stake? Or maybe he hated Sauron too much?

But look at it from another point of view. Frodo was not the only one who loved the Shire, nor was he the only one who knew the importance of this task. Everyone knew that the Ring must be destroyed at all costs. But why then, is Frodo the Ringbearer? What gave him the courage stand up and volunteer for it when nobody else would?
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But why then, is Frodo the Ringbearer? What gave him the courage stand up and volunteer for it when nobody else would?

Fate put words into Frodo's mouth :

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Frodo glanced at all the faces, but they were not turned to him. All the Council sat with downcast eyes, as if in deep thought. A great dread fell on him, as if he was awaiting the pronouncement of some doom that he had long foreseen and vainly hoped might after all never be spoken. An overwhelming longing to rest and remain at peace by Bilbo's side in Rivendell filled all his heart. At last with an effort he spoke, and wondered to hear his own words, as if some other will was using his small voice.
`I will take the Ring,' he said, `though I do not know the way.'

(from FOTR, the Council of Elrond)

Or maybe it was the Ring itself that put these words into Frodo's mouth, as it was trying to get back to its master - which i highly doubt, as only near the very end it was able to influence Frodo's mind.

Elrond himself seemed to sense that it was indeed fate that had chosen Frodo :

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Elrond raised his eyes and looked at him, and Frodo felt his heart pierced by the sudden keenness of the glance. `If I understand aright all that I have heard,' he said, `I think that this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will.

(from FOTR, the Council of Elrond)
But why did Fate have to choose him? He must have some qualities that set him apart from others. I find it hard to believe that Fate would just flip a coin and go ," Oh look it's Frodo!"
Like all hobbits, Frodo was hardy and possessed an extreme amount of stamina, yet unlike other hobbits Frodo was not isolationist and was interested in the stories, peoples and lands outside the Shire, just like his uncle. He was adventurous. The same fate that made Bilbo find the Ring underneath the Misty Mountains, set Frodo on course.

Frodo was able to look beyond the Shire, and understand that the Ring was a threat to the entirety of Middle-Earth, and was willing to leave the Shire for that.

No other hobbits, safe for Bilbo, would've been willing to leave the Shire.

Thanks Mir for your great answers as always. Do you think Frodo was just born with this trait or was it because Bilbo had some effect on him? In the Hobbit it said a load of things about Bilbo's Tookish blood urging him to go on the adventure. Do you think Frodo was just born that way with the "Tookish blood" strong in him? And I still don't understand why it had to be a Hobbit who did the task. Couldn't they just find any person? They could just as easily choose a hardy man from the North or a smarter Dwarf from the Mines or somebody else.
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And I still don't understand why it had to be a Hobbit who did the task. Couldn't they just find any person? They could just as easily choose a hardy man from the North or a smarter Dwarf from the Mines or somebody else.

It didn't necessarily have to be a hobbit. It just turned out to be a hobbit who 'volunteered'.

Besides, Frodo was not alone his task. The Fellowship consisted of 9 people.

About Frodo's character, remember that Frodo was adopted by Bilbo at a very young age, after the death of his parents. Bilbo's education and nurture surely had a major impact on Frodo.
Frodo would not have been quite a decent Ringbearer, had he been adopted by the Sackville-Bagginses, for instance.
I think that Frodo did fail in his tangible goal-destroying the RIng. However I think that as a character in general he succeeded to a great degree, because he never wavered in attempting to carry out the task Fate gave him. For me at least, the lesson here is that it some things we are "assigned" (take that in the broadest sense) to do are just beyond our natural ability and while we thus may not be able to accomplish them, we never completly fail as long as we put everything we have into it. This is an idea much in keeping with the Nordic myths Tolkien so admired: the idea that heroism does not depend on "winning" but on sticking it out.
Frodo did not fail. well, he kinda did. but w/e. hmm, so far this isnt going very well. lets start over
Frodo both failed and did not fail...hmmm...
and this children, is y Elrose doesnt post in these threads :-R (c? i made a new smiley)
Thank you for your insightful comment, Elrose.

I could very very very easily drag this conversation to the issue of free will! But that won't do any good! I'll just say, applying my personal 'computer virus' analogy, that it was anticipated that Frodo might not be able to destroy the ring. I believe Gollum was a backup plan in case Frodo did not destroy the ring. In this sense, we cannot put it down to Frodo alone. It'll be a combined effort of Frodo, Gollum and also Sam. I'd say, together, they succeeded!
The "backup plan" would be quite unstable then...
I think I can elaborate a bit on my previous post.

I think if you look at only Frodo, he had proabably failed the moment the Orcs captured him. If there was no Sam, the Ring would have gone to Sauron then. Further back, if there was no Gollum, would Frodo and Sam have ever turned towards the Morgul Vale? Quest would have probably failed with the attempt to cross the Black Gate.

It's kind of fitting that Gandalf felt that he didn't know what part exactly Gollum would play. Probably because Eru himself didn't know either. Fate, which put the words in Frodo's mouth at the council, as Miruvor said, is probably Eru's will. Maybe Frodo was the chosen one, because he was strong enough? Maybe, it was anticipated that Frodo on his own, no matter how much strength he showed, wouldn't finish the task? But if he did, would Gollum be needed at the Mount Doom? Probably not. Maybe that's what Gandalf didn't know... whether Frodo himself would finish the task...

Hence, I say, it isn't down to Frodo alone. It was a combined effort of Frodo, Sam and unknowing to himself, Gollum. Together, the three of them succeeded!
I think Gandalf knew Gollum would help destroy the Ring. When something as evil and as seductive as the Ring is to be conquered, thenit's quite obvious that good alone cannot conquer evil. Evil can be defeated only by the combination of good and evil itself. Isn't that why we always say "evil destroys itself"?
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I believe Gollum was a backup plan in case Frodo did not destroy the ring. In this sense, we cannot put it down to Frodo alone. It'll be a combined effort of Frodo, Gollum and also Sam. I'd say, together, they succeeded!

I think it was predestined that Sam, Frodo and Gollum would be joined together, but apart from that it all comes down to the free will of the three: Gollum had to chance to refuse the Ring and again become Sméagol, but he chose the other path when he decided to go to Shelob; Sam had the chance to kill Gollum just before the end, but didn't; Frodo had the choice to either destroy the Ring, or take it for himself, and he chose the latter.

Neither of these choices were 'predestined' (otherwise there wouldn't even be a choice), hence i don't believe Gollum was a 'backup plan' of some sort, as Gollum stumbling into the fiery abyss was the result of a myriad of choices of so many ppl.

I don't believe that the destruction of the Ring, as described in LOTR, was predestined; there had been earlier chances to destroy the Ring (Isildur, for instance) but due to the choice of certain subjects, evil endured. If the mission in LOTR had failed, there would've been another chance to destroy evil years after Frodo made it to Mt Doom.

I believe in the very end when Frodo stood above the fiery chasm, it could've gone either way.

Only the ultimate destruction of evil, by the death of Morgoth, was clearly predestined by Eru. After his, Arda would be broken and remade, following the Second Music of the Ainur.
Next time, tell me to explain myself better! As it is, I'm too sleepy to explain... Goodnight! Some other time!
Well I'm glad someone explained it clearly... I get it now. And you're avatar's cool, Miruvor! Floyd, is yours supposed to be Liverpool at Istanbul?
Liverpool?! Uh oh, now you've offended him.
Blah! I like Liverpool, but no way am I putting up an Istanbul image! (Actually I won the bet that day about Milan losing on penalties and Sheva and Pirlo both missing theirs... But I didn't expect Milan to lose after going 3-0 up!) Anyway, my id is floyd_n_milan! That's AC Milan!! And my avatar is bird's eye view of the San Siro with a "Campioni" banner help up by the crowd after Milan last won the Serie A!

Sorry about this completely off topic post! But I'm too passionate about AC Milan and football!
Off topic sure, but I can't help adding that I'm a Liverpool fan myself... AC Milan, good team, and the game at Istanbul was a great one. I couldn't believe Liverpool would win myself after the 3-0. And those nasty Milaners were booing them, but the good old reds showed them, eh?
The Reds had luck on their side in the second half, that's all. Sheva usually doesn't miss 2 open goal opportunities in a row, not to mention a penalty (although Mr Dudek was allowed to stand 2 yards in front of his goal for some reason, so one shouldn't really wonder).
Ooooooh! This could end up in flame wars! Tongue Smilie Better stop here Wink Smilie

P.S. Although, it seems that I have Miruvor on my side Tongue Smilie
No worries, floyd, i just voiced my opinion as a neutral spectator of the mentioned epic duel in Istanbul...
Moderator Smilie We do have a footie thread in one of the taverns. Try using the new search function on the home page and see if you can find it. Elf With a Big Grin Smilie

Meanwhile back on the topic, whatever it was ...
There is no such thing as a search function yet available.
Oh, that Google thingy in the middle of the page now searches P-T, well how about that? Elf Sticking Tounge Out Smilie
Google thingy?????
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Google thingy?????
On the Home page, look below the Firefox ad for the words 'Search Planet-Tolkien with Google'. Below them is an input box where you can enter your query word(s) and click [Search]. Make sure the Web circle isn't dotted.
Oh that thing... never took much notice of it.
Frodo, to my mind,didn't fail at all anymore than a prisoner of war who is tortured and tormented and made to go without sleep or dark to sleep in or food until he just says things and that is that.
Frodo was not equipped with any special skills or understanding when he set forth to save the Shire and ultimately all of Middle Earth. He was gentle , overweight, a pacifist.
What he accomplished is nothing short of miraculous. That he was so harmed in mind and body by the end that he could no longer even envision that which he had loved at one time, that he no longer had any strength except to breathe in and out is the reason he claimed the ring for his own. It had all but consumed his very will. I think he was a grand hero.
You didn't see anyone else at the council of Elrond rushing up to take the ring and go to that most dread of all places. Only him.
"I will take the ring"...."only I don't know the way.".
He is my hero.
LeeLee, Frodo is also my hero, and has been since I first read LotR. However, I feel I must disagree with you. Frodo failed. Sam failed to protect his master. Merry and Pippin failed to remain with Frodo to the last as was their stated purpose. Aragorn failed to preserve the fellowship in the absence of Gandalf who failed when he fell in Moria. The Elves failed to stem the effects of time and had to leave ME. The dwarves lost Moria. Gollum failed in death.

One of the most important themes running through JRRTs work is fighting the Long Defeat. Continuing to fight in the face of certain failure and defeat is the true face of courage. That things came out as well in the end as they did is due to the confluence of forces set in motion by Eru. I also do not see the ending of LotR as an unqualified victory. The Elves at best gained a truce in which to leave their beloved ME. Frodo and Bilbo had to leave as well. Sam, Merry and Pippin lived out lives in the shadow of the momentous events of their youth. The Entwives were dead. Orcs were not exterminated. The Age of Men would end badly. The only hope is that things will be better with the new music.
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Sam, Merry and Pippin lived out lives in the shadow of the momentous events of their youth. The Entwives were dead. Orcs were not exterminated. The Age of Men would end badly. The only hope is that things will be better with the new music.

I'll have to respectfully disagree with a couple of statements... the future at the end of LOTR didn't look so bleak as you put it.

Sam, Merry & Pippin all received great renown and stature in the Shire... Sam became Mayor of the Shire several times, Merry master of Buckland... Sam did leave Middle-earth after the death of Rosie, but Pippin & Merry lived out the last years of their lives in happiness in Minas Tirith, where their death beds would ultimately be placed next to King Elessar's.

Quite the opposite happened to the Hobbits : they arose from the shadows and were greater when they returned to the Shire than when they left a year ago.

It is true that Orcs were not exterminated right after the downfall of Sauron, but they certainly would be during King Elessar's reign... and even if there were still some alive, they would not pose a threat anymore without Sauron's malice to guide them - at least not more a threat than any random brigand in Gondor.

As for the Age of Men, we are still in it are we not? Wink Smilie

JRRT himself wrote in his Letters that Frodo failed (I myself have quotes this part somewhere on the forum, I'm surprised it is not quoted in this thread), but could not be blamed for failing. No one, really no one, would have gotten as far as Frodo & Sam did.
Virumor, ya got me! I was just too lazy to go upstairs to get my copy of Letters. Your comment about the us being in the age of men, my point exactly. Though orcs are no more, and without straying into politics or religion, I don't think we're better off. Apparently Merry and Pippin never had families of their own and Sam did leave behind children and grandchildren for life. Bleak, no, well, maybe, but the point is that is the duty of every true man and woman to share their giftings and provide light in the darkness. Actually my major criticism of the movies is that they concentrated too much on the great and not enough on the ordinary. Farmer Maggott for one. Fredegar Bolger for another. Tom Bombadil (ordinary by virtue of limiting himself within his borders.)
Victory in spite of weakness and failure. Perhaps I long for another time and another place. What's that German word for a longing for a place one has never been?
All us little folk must do our part as illustrated by the conversation of Strider and Barliman in the Prancing Pony. Barliman "...what the likes of me can do against, against---"
"Against the Shadow in the East," said Strider quietly. "Not much, Barliman, but every little bit helps...." Fellowship Chapter 10 Strider
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But why did Fate have to choose him? He must have some qualities that set him apart from others. I find it hard to believe that Fate would just flip a coin and go ," Oh look it's Frodo!"


I actually really love the idea that it was simple chance that Frodo ended up with the ring. I always got the feeling from the books that he only found himself in all this by accident and did the best he could. The idea of the "accidental hero" always appeals to me, the idea that heros are simply people who take on a task to the best of their ability and go further than they thought they could. No one knows what they can or can't do until they try it, and Frodo found inside himself the strength and courage to destroy the ring. He went beyond himself in so many ways, carried it so far and went through so much, mentally and physically, I can't really see any way he failed at the end. Did he fail to destroy the ring? Yes, sure. No arguments there - I've read the book! But the quest was not his alone, Gollum was touched by the story, Sam helped him bear his burden and many others also contributed. In a battle, if was tired and could go no further, strike no more blows, could we say he failed? Despite being on the winning side? He simply came to the end of what he could bear. The quest was completed, Frodo did incredible things, the world was saved. He did not fail.
This quote has probably be already done above but I quickly looked through and couldn't see it so just in case:

"Frodo deserved all honour because he spent every drop of his power of will and body, and that was just sufficient to bring him to the destined point, and no further. Few others, possibly no others of his time, would have got so far. The Other Power then took over: the Writer of the Story (by which I do not mean myself), 'that one ever-present Person who is never absent and never named." - 192 From a letter to Amy Ronald 27 July 1956

So as the quest was for Frodo to actually destroy the Ring, I suppose he did technically fail. However becuase Frodo had shown pity on Gollum many times earlier this was judgment enough for Eru to finally give him the 'final push' so to speak.

Sorry again if this has already been quoted...
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Apparently Merry and Pippin never had families of their own and Sam did leave behind children and grandchildren for life.

Both did marry (Merry married Estella Bolger and Pippin married Diamond of Long Cleeve) but only Pippin had a child : Faramir Took who married Goldilocks, one of the many children of Master Samwise.

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Victory in spite of weakness and failure. Perhaps I long for another time and another place. What's that German word for a longing for a place one has never been?

Weltschmerz, which is spleen in English and mal du siècle in French.

I know that feeling very well, my friend.
How in the world did I miss the marriages of Merry and Pippin! Thanks for the info. I really am not a pessimist at all; there are many joys to savor in this old ME.

I personally think frodo fail but i do not grudge him anything. He did much and endured much to reach mount doom. And you could not expect him to complete his task because i read somewhere though i cannot remember where (as usual) because it is said that even sauron could not separate himself from his ring for long. And anyway if frodo had not reached mount doom, gollum would never had stumbled into the fire.
Frodo did not fail, as the ring was destroyed and Sauron defeated and everything ends happily ever after.
However, Frodo did not succeed either, or the success was not his or anyone elses. Frodo did not wish to cast the ring into the cracks of doom and neither did Gollum. However fate decided that Gollum would bite off Frodo's finger with the ring on it and fall into the cracks of doom with the rings.
If Frodo did not fail but did not succeed what did he do???
He did both.
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