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Thread: Most Costly Mistake Poll

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I chose 'Boromir's falling to evil and trying to take the Ring from Frodo' as the most costly, in that it ended with the loss of the lives of both Boromir and Denethor, leaving Minas Tirith without it's best commanders.

After long thought, I have since reconsidered and have decided that Pippin's stone probably led to the loss of Gandalf's life and guidance. This was such a horrible thing that it required the outside intervention of Eru & Company to get the derailed quest back on track. Had this intervention not been forthcoming, Rohan would have fallen with along with Minas Tirith and Gondor soon after, and eventually all of Middle-earth. "For want of a nail, the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe ..."

What led you to choose the mistake you did and have you since reconsidered?
I chose "none of the above". The reason being is that i belive every single one of these "mistakes" led to a good thing. You just have to look at the whole thing and fit the little pieces inside... If i had to choose one id pick...Boromir or perhaps Bilbo telling Gollum his name.
I voted for Boromir succumbing to the Ring (he did not fall to evil, for he eventually repented), as it not only ripped Gondor of its fiercest warrior and commander but also hastened Denethor's fall. And for this there was no patching up/divine intervention possible, like with Gandalf.
This was a difficult one. I chose Barliman not delivering the letter to Frodo, for Frodo would have set off earlier from the Shire if he had received the letter. I guess no one is too certain what would have happened if Frodo set off sooner, but he at least may not have been hunted like a dog and may not have received the wound on Weathertop. It was either this one or "none of the above" to me, for I, too, believe that most of the things led to good, for when Gandalf fell into shadow, he arose with more power. Yes, Boromir attempting to take the Ring was a costly mistake, but it pushed Frodo to go to Mordor, for he saw even more truly the evil nature of the Ring, and I'm sorry to say, but Gondor was left with an even better commander in the more patient and thoughtful Faramir. But, I do agree that they were deprived of the strength of a great warrior in the rash Boromir.
I agree with your first choice, Grondy. All the other choices are plausible in this poll. But I think that each of those choices was able to be compensated for, thwarted, overcome, turned to good, and finally benefited all concerned. But in the case of Boromir, though he repented before he died, he did indeed die. The Company lost a member, and this was the only time they actually lost someone by death. Gandalf's death was not at all the same. There was no way that he would have been allowed to "leave" ME with his duty unfulfilled. Whether the intervention of Eru was necessary or not, he would have had to return because the demise of Sauron was his quest. (Even the first time I read LOTR, before I knew anything of Tolkien's underlying thoughts on this, I remember thinking "This can't be the end of Gandalf!") The death of Boromir alone, of all these choices, is the one thing that cannot be undone in the plot of the story. That is what makes it poignant. Hence, my choice remains the same.

And by the way, when are we going to be able to view the results of all those past polls? I have been able to see none save the very first. I want to see the others, too. Grep, when are you going to "fix" whatever it is, so that we can all enjoy those results?
I looked at each event individually to try and figure out exactly which negative outcome could be directly correlated to the event, and in the end I found only one bad thing could be isolated with one choice. Allow me to elucidate:

1. Bilbo telling Gollum his real name: Sauron would likely have been able to find the shire from Gollums description of a hobbit alone, regardless of whether there was a name attached to that description. The nine would have ridden to the shire in search of the ring, although they wouldn't have headed directly to bag-end. Perhaps that would have given them enough proximity to "feel the presence of the ring" and find Frodo anyway. So no "fer-sure" bad outcome here.
2. Barliman Butterbur failing to deliver Frodo's letter from Gandalf: This has a bad outcome - Frodo getting injured on the road to Rivendel, a wound which he carries for the rest of his life. If the letter had reached him when it was supposed to Frodo would have left the shire long before the nine left minas morgul. The attack would not have happened.
3. Pippin tossing the stone into the well in Moria: We don't know, according to the books, that this allerted the orcs to the presence of the fellowship. For all we know they could have tripped onto them anyway. No "fer-sure" bad consequence.
4. Boromir falling to evil and trying to take the Ring from Frodo: Boromir may have died anyway since the party was attacked by a large number of orcs. The only real thing that this incident caused was Frodo leaving suddenly and his only taking Sam. This was likely a good thing as I don't know if the rest of the fellowship would have been able to slip into Mordor. Frodo got in as a captive and the only reason Sam got in was because he was invisible wearing the ring. No "fer-sure" bad consequence.
5. Samwise leaving Frodo for dead after Shelob's attack: Good thing, not a bad thing. If he hadn't taken the ring on himself after finding Frodo "dead" the orcs may have kept searching (tracks and such) until they found both Sam and the unconscious body of Frodo. No "fer-sure" bad consequence.
6. Gandalf deciding to hunt for Gollum instead of directly returning to Bag End: Well if his message had gotten through okay he wouldn't have needed to get back so much, and his searching for Gollum and getting Aragorn on the track did in the end do some good so it was "kinda" worth it.
7. Frodo's table dance in Bree: The Nazgul were onto him at this point anyway, and nothing really happened as a direct cause of this action besides a little finger being pointed at him.
8. Gandalf setting Grima free: Nothing that bad here, the palantir was even tossed out of Isengard because of the worm. I'd say it's a good thing.
9. Pippin looking into the Palantir: Not bad at all. This action allowed the crew to learn a little, showed both Aragorn and Gandalf that they shouldn't really use the palantir, and caused Sauron a fair bit of confusion and wrath towards Isengard.

So to make a very long speal short I chose Barliman failling to deliver Frodo's letter. Frodo got hurt as a direct consequence of not leaving before the nazgul were on the way. Please feel free to refute any of the points that I have made.
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And by the way, when are we going to be able to view the results of all those past polls? I have been able to see none save the very first. I want to see the others, too. Grep, when are you going to "fix" whatever it is, so that we can all enjoy those results?


I fixed it weeks ago, you could try clicking the previous poll results link, or the one below.

previous polls
I chose the fool of a Took, for the reasons Grondy listed. In the end the Nines trip to Bag End and pursuit of Frodo could have been averted no less than three ways; by Bilbo not mentioning Bag End, by Gandalf returning instead of haring off after Gollum or by Barliman delivering his letter. Had any of these three things not happened Frodo sets out much earlier and the Nine arrive only to find him long gone and the trail cold.
Actually to me the most costly mistake was Isildúr not destroying Sauron's Ring after cutting off Sauron's finger, but it didn't make it to the poll. It should've ended there and then, imo (but who can blame Isildúr? he was so lonely and hurt after daddy and lil bro had died).

It wouldn't have given us LOTR, but it would've saved a couple millions of fictitious lives.
MILLIONS?!!! That seems an overestimation, given the combined might of the Free Peoples in the War of the Ring only mustered 20,000-30,000 soldiers. I doubt the loss of military life topped a quarter millon between Wars of the Ring. If three times as many civilians died (which I doubt) it could reach one million, but that seems unlikely. However, I do agree that, at least within the context of the Trilogy, Isildurs failure to destroy the Ring was the most costly "mistake." But can this truly be called a mistake? Neither Gandalf nor Galadriel would touch the filthy thing for fear of being corrupted by it; can we fault Isildur for falling prey to a temptation too great for the eldest of the Noldor in Middle-earth, too great even for a Maia of not inconsiderable power and wisdom? It's not obvious when we first encounter Isildur, but by the end of the Trilogy I was forced to conclude "yeah, Isildur was always going to keep the Ring; the only question was how we would rationalize it."
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MILLIONS?!!! That seems an overestimation, given the combined might of the Free Peoples in the War of the Ring only mustered 20,000-30,000 soldiers.

There's 3,000 years of war and violence all over Middle-earth, and there's not only the Free Peoples who had casualties, but also Orcs, Dunlendings, Haradrim & Easterlings.

3,000,000 casualties (for instance) in 3,000 years, makes 1,000 each year - which doesn't sound so unrealistic, considering it probably was much more, since there was always some battle going on in those years - war in Eriador vs Angmar, war between Orcs & Dwarves, Smaug routing the Dwarves, civil war in Gondor, wars between Gondor & Haradrim/Wainriders, war between Elves & Dol Guldur in Mirkwood, war between Dunlendings & Rohirrim, battle of Five Armies, etc.

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can we fault Isildur for falling prey to a temptation too great for the eldest of the Noldor in Middle-earth, too great even for a Maia of not inconsiderable power and wisdom?

The temptation was not too great for Gandalf, nor Galadriel.
So you think if the Ring was destroyed Smaug wouldn't have descended on Erebor? The Haradrim and Wainriders wouldn't have come to Gondor? And the war between Orc and Dwarf, that's the fault of the Balrog in Moria, not the Ring. Not EVERYTHING bad that happens is tied to the Ring; it just seems that way sometimes. And a thousand a year doesn't sound like a lot, but as an AVERAGE it just doesn't work, not because of the Ring alone. How many died as a result of Isildurs choice in, say, 3000 TA? 2999? As a practical matter I just don't see how it's tenable.

As for the temptation of Gandalf and Galadriel, true they resisted, but they also went to lengths NOT to phyically be in possession of the Ring, not even for a moment. Gandalf alone had it for even that long, and that separated from him by an envelope I don't doubt he took great care to hold by an off corner, that is, one WITHOUT the Ring nestled neatly inside. It's clear neither he nor Galadriel wanted the Ring to be physically in their possession, knowing full well it would consume them, if not dominate them then turn them to an evil caricature of themselves. I don't find it the least shocking Isildur could no part with it than they once he held it in his hand.

And besides all that, if we get down to it, and don't restrict ourselves to the Trilogy proper, the greatest and most tragic mistake was releasing Melkor in Valinor.
I agree mostly with Mungo. Looking at the choices it seems the only one that had a truly negative effect in the end was Gandalf' letter being delayed and Frodo suffering from his wound for the rest of his life as a consequence. Everything else had a point - means justifies the end, as Eru would say. Or even the end justifies the means.

Yes, it was a shame that Boromir died but the good thing was that Frodo left quickly and undetected. Ultimately it was Boromir's own fault that he died and OK, a slap across the wrists would have been better but at least he was no longer a loose cannon.

I shall now go and vote for Gandalf's letter. Bad Barliman!
I'm glad ye agree with me, but I don't think that all of the other options had a "point".

My main issue was causality - we cannot say that Boromir trying to take the ring from Frodo caused his death, so we can't link "Boromir's death" to "his going kinda loopy for a minute". After all there is no real good that came from Bilbo's telling his real name to Gollum, it's just that we can't prove that any bad stuff happened as a direct consequence. Causality is the key.

I agree with Vir on the point that the ring not being tossed into the fire 3000+ years before would have to be counted as the biggest mistake. We can "fer-sure" say that a lot of bad stuff happened because the evil bauble remained intact. I may have to change my vote to "None of the above".
I think they had a 'point'. Bilbo revealing his name enabled Gollum to track the Ring and thus team up with Frodo and Sam and lead them to Mount Doom. Pippin may have attracted the orcs thus leading to Gandalf's death after which he returned enhanced. Boromir's lapse caused Frodo to leave suddenly and secretly and avoid getting caught. Samwise saved the Ring from capture. Gandalf delaying enabled him to find evidence that Bilbo's ring was The Ring. Frodo's table dance made them all aware of the danger they were in. Gandalf freeing Grima sent him back to Saruman and it was Grima who threw the Palantir down. Pippin looking into it misinformed Sauron and distracted him.

The only point I can see to the delayed letter which led to Frodo being stabbed was it enabled PJ to bring Arwen into the story.

As for voting none of the above - why? The question is 'which of these mistakes was the most costly?' Not which was the biggest mistake in LotR. You only need compare and select from the choices given even if you can think of something else which was more costly. In fact, I think that last choice should be unavailable.
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And besides all that, if we get down to it, and don't restrict ourselves to the Trilogy proper, the greatest and most tragic mistake was releasing Melkor in Valinor.

That's because Manwë at that point couldn't understand what evil was, because he had not an ounce of evil himself. Therefore i would not call it a mistake, and if you do, it should be attributed to Eru for he created Manwë.

The most tragic mistake would then be Melkor putting in thoughts of his own into the Music.
Well, while I won't go so far as to say Eru intended the evil of Morgoth, he DID anticipate it. In the long run, according to him, despite Morgoths worst efforts, thanks to Erus vision there's a net gain, an improvement in Arda. Now, it's true Manwe, and all the Valar with the possible exceptions of Tulkas and Mandos, had no understanding of the evil that is Morgoth, but that makes it no less a mistake on the part of the King of the West.
Well, one can always blame it on Nienna who stood up for Melkor. Who knows, maybe they had something going on back in them Timeless Halls? Or maybe Nienna still had a crush on Eru's "bad boy" ? :-P
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Neither Gandalf nor Galadriel would touch the filthy thing for fear of being corrupted by it
That was only after they learned from Elrond of his unproductive jaw-boning trial with Isildur toward the tossing of the Ring into the Fiery Crack of Doom and of the after effects of that failure. Without Elrond's story, had they found it laying beside the road, they would have picked it up and fallen under the spell of its glamour.
Vee, darling, you assume a positive correlation between the actions and the results. For example:
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"Bilbo revealing his name enabled Gollum to track the Ring and thus team up with Frodo and Sam and lead them to Mount Doom"

How was Bilbo's name a use to Gollum? He wasn't the sort that could go upto random people in the shire and ask "Excuse me, would you mind telling usssssss where we could find Masster Bagginses please?". Anyway, he found them while travelling in the wild/moria where a name is inconsequential. I believe he was drawn to the ring, and would have found his way to Frodo and Sam regardless of whether or not he knew the name Bilbo Baggins.
I'll leave you two to it.

To Grondy I say, when you put it that way, Isildurs "mistake" in addition to not being a true act of his will, actually AVERTS disaster. I mean, when you put it in terms of Gandalf and Galadriel having the benefit of that hindsight, without it and Elronds account of it, what does Gandalf do when he encounters the Ring? In whose hands would he consider it safe from Sauron 'til it can be destroyed? Can you say, "Sauron the Black?" (I knew you could.) It's a good thing Elrond went with Isildur to Orodruin, eh?
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I chose "none of the above". The reason being is that i belive every single one of these "mistakes" led to a good thing. You just have to look at the whole thing and fit the little pieces inside..


Reading through the list I was coming to the same conclusion, and it was good to find most of you in agreement that most of the incidents were either necessary or actually led to a greater good. At the moment, Boromir being corrupted seems to be the favourite. Okay, it led to the death of Boromir, which in turn pushed Denethor over the edge, but I always saw that as necessary in getting Frodo and Sam to leave the Fellowship. Had they not sneaked away, the whole Fellowship may have been captured by Saruman's Uruk hai rather than just Merry and Pippin. Whatever, it may have altered the whole chain of events that led to the Ents destroying Isengard and freeing up the Rohirrim to ride to Gondor's aid.

In the end I went for Gandalf hunting for Gollum rather than returning to Bag End. From what I can see, there was no greater good that came out of this, but it did lead to Frodo being wounded on Weathertop. Some may argue that by being late, Gandalf visited Saruman who then revealed his deceit, but I think Gandalf would have gone there anyway, irrespective of whether he had spent time chasing Gollum.

To me the single most costly mistake made by anyone in LotR was Sauron creating the Ring. He had placed a lot of his own power into making it, but for most of its existence he was not in possession of it. Worse for him, although it gave his spirit an anchor preventing his death, it did also give his enemies a way to slay him forever.
In my oppinion i chose the Bilbo saying his name to Gollum, it would have saved Frodo the trouble of being so wary of the black riders, and his name would be not so important if you get me???
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To me the single most costly mistake made by anyone in LotR was Sauron creating the Ring. He had placed a lot of his own power into making it, but for most of its existence he was not in possession of it. Worse for him, although it gave his spirit an anchor preventing his death, it did also give his enemies a way to slay him forever.


I think that was the point - the ring spread saurons will/evil/karma/coffee throughout middle earth without him ever leaving mordor. How many fell victim to gollum - how many before smegol found the ring?
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the ring spread saurons will/evil/karma/coffee throughout middle earth without him ever leaving mordor.

I think you are confusing the Ring with Melkor's fortress of Utumno. The Ring did only use its influence when it was in the possession of someone - for instance, ordering Orcs to ambush and kill Isildúr and his men.
I have to agree with Grondy, although I think that by Bilbo telling his name and Frodo putting the ring on when he was EXPRESSLY forbidden to do so caused great trouble and speeded things up so that there was not time to do things properly. But as Illuvatar was , in the end in control, all turned out okay. Still the casualties I think would not have been so great if some of those mistakes had not occured.