Wow, what a huge amount of insight to be shown, I appreciate all this discussion and expansion on my ideas. If I may respond to the commentary since I posted: (keep in mind please that I am reading for the first time and only starting TTT)
I definitely agree that the hobbits are growing and developing both as individuals and as a race, and that this follows my original thinking that the hobbits are very childlike. I can see this even as I read TTT for the first time, and absorb the idea that Frodo is prepared to abandon the Fellowship and continue on to Mordor alone, and also as I read about Merry and Pippin's courage after the Orcs kidnap them, and Sam's level of perception at finding Frodo. It seems that the hobbits in this story all go through a growing up period, do we think this is an actual changing of the hobbits or merely an unfolding of what we learn about them?
What an interesting comparison to the Taoist "uncarved block". I don't know if I agree completely that something untouched and simple retains its dignity and strength...although I think we have already discussed that keeping the hobbits and the Shire safe and comfortable is a noble pursuit, that there is a quiet dignity and beauty in the hobbits way of life that IS worth protecting. But does naivete really bring out our strength as much as harship, both for us and the hobbits alike? Indeed, I think we find our strength in facing challenges and overcoming them, we only know what we are really made of when we are forced, by life events, to use it. Perhaps there are two faces to beauty and one of them is the eventual coming of age of the hobbits as a race, even if this is a bittersweet reality.
So what is to be said about Frodo's acceptance of the Ring? Do you think that Frodo really knows what he is getting into or does he decide out of ignorance? Do you think that Frodo would have chosen differently with more information in the beginning? (I would hope for the sake of his character, that he would have done the same knowing what he was in for or not.) Does he make selfish choices or not? It seems that each answer to each question would say different things about Frodo.
I personally think that both things happen in different times, and what may seem like a small chore at first, albeit a daunting task for a home-loving hobbit, grows in magnitude from what Frodo originally thought as the story unfolds. At first, Frodo is only concerned with getting the Ring out of the Shire, which would seem both selfish and selfless...seeing as how the choice is not only about Frodo himself but is really only for the hobbits and the shire. It may be that Frodo is thinking (somewhat realistically) "how hard can it be? I will take the Ring to Rivendell and come back home", even if he does respect the grave manner in which Gandalf speaks about the Ring, not discounting it. Still, it may seem to him that the scariest thing he will face is leaving home even if he is on a very important errand. And then the Riders do find Frodo's trail...and he begins to feel the evil surrounding the Ring...and he starts to realize the magnitude of what he is doing. And certainly after the Counsel of Elrond in Rivendell, Frodo knows that he is much more wrapped up in this than he originally was, because it seems that Frodo realizes at that point that even if he doesn't know everything about the Ring, he knows that it is powerful enough to start corrupting even the Counsel as they discuss what to do with it (thinking of Boromir here). Frodo's motive then expands to not only include himself and his people's way of life in the Shire, but all of middle earth...making him wayyyyyyyyy more than just a selfish little hobbit...when he takes it upon himself to carry the Ring into Mordor.
Another thought I want to pose about Frodo's character...what do you think of this? How important is the Took Blood in this particular family of hobbits to the unfolding of events in the story?? We learn from "The Hobbit" that Bilbo blames his Took blood for the somewhat spontaneous way that he flies out of his home (without a HANDKERCHIEF no less ) to catch up with the dwarves, when he just as easily could have stayed home after the dwarves left his home on the morning of the beginning of his own adventure. But go he does, despite his upbringing as an honorable hobbit with no need for adventure. I guess for Frodo, my question is: How much do we think Bilbo's experience (and maybe the Took blood both directly and indirectly) has shaped Frodo into the kind of hobbit who would decide to carry the Ring. It is pretty much agreed I think that the Ringbearer would need to be someone who is resilient to its power, and his innocence as a hobbit does give Frodo that strength...but could or would any ordinary hobbit have done this? Or is there something special about Frodo, even if he and Bilbo are considered an oddity to other hobbits, that makes him the only hobbit that will do?
SIGH...such a beautiful story, and so rich a discussion, but enough for now. I look forward to replies and more commentary from you all. By the way, how many times do you think it is necessary to really get a good handle on LOTR? :read: