Frodo also refused to destroy it in the very end, didn't he? Would that take his 'privilege' away too then?
This is a very valid point you have raised here Vir, and it is true that Frodo did fail in the end. Thankfully the good professor left us the answer to this question sometime around the early winter of 1956 in a letter to Michael Straight (letter #181, and the same one that’s been mentioned in this thread a few times now).
Here’s the quote with the answer,
But at this point the ‘salvation’ of the world and Frodo’s own ‘salvation’ is achieved by his previous pity and forgiveness of injury. At any point any prudent person would have told Frodo that Gollum would certainly betray him, and could rob him in the end. To ‘pity’ him, to forbear to kill him, was a piece of folly, or a mystical belief in the ultimate value-in-itself of pity and generosity even if disastrous in the world of time. He did rob him and injure him in the end – but by a ‘grace’, that last betrayal was at a precise juncture when the final evil deed was the most beneficial thing any one could have done for Frodo! By a situation created by his ‘forgiveness’, he was saved himself, and relieved of his burden. He was very justly accorded the highest honours - since it is clear that he and Sam never concealed the precise course of events.
So there we have it, straight from Tolkien himself, by a situation created by his forgiveness, Frodo was saved, redeemed, and still worthy and deserving of the title and privileges of Ring-bearer. Tolkien also states further in that letter that after the events at Shelob’s lair, Gollum was lost, and all chance of repentance for him was gone, no matter if some circumstances had changed.
Perhaps, if Frodo hadn't failed in the end and just have destroyed the Ring, then Gollum would've been released by his burden and returned at least slightly normal again, or like with the Three, it would've been the total end of Gollum as well.
It’s the latter of the two possibilities you’ve addressed here Vir, just like with the Keeper’s of the Three, the destruction of the One would have been the total end for Gollum too, but that’s probably a whole other topic on it’s own.
There is no mention of repentance or decision to take the Ring anywhere in the Silmarillion or in LotR other than...
Isildur’s repentance is chronicled in detail in the tale Disaster Of The Gladden Fields
in Unfinished Tales.
Vee, I totally understand your stance about personally choosing to adhere to the published versions of the Sil, and LotR due to some contradictory problems that arise, and generally this is a practice that I follow for the most part as well. I choose to stick with the published version of the Sil most of the time, but also understand, and acknowledge that often times Tolkien had other thoughts about certain events, and had some alternate versions of some of the stories we know.
In the case of UT however, I think one can accept almost everything in there as relevant and valid, and definitely additional essential canon to the stories we love. If my memory is serving me correctly, with the exception of a few of the stories in UT (the chief being the Narn I Hin Hurin
, and The History Of Galadriel And Celeborn
), there is actually very little told in UT that is in conflict with anything we know from either the Sil, or LotR. The great majority of what’s in UT definitely adds to what we know, and is very consistent in accordance with Tolkien’s other writings.
It’s been a little while since I’ve last read the specific chapter Disaster Of The Gladden Fields
, but I have read it a few times overall, and from what I can remember, the only conflict from what we know in published versions of the Sil, and LotR are just some specific details concerning the exact manner, and location of Isildur’s death? The rest of what’s in that chapter greatly adds to what we know, and I think is safe for those of us who wish to accept as canon.
I feel Tolkien does make it clear in that chapter that Isildur had realized the error of his ways, and that he wished to repent, and in fact was on his way to Rivendell to surrender the Ring to Elrond, and admit his mistake. For me personally, I definitely do believe this to be true.
However, we all know that the Ring betrayed Isildur to his death, and thus he was not afforded the chance at ultimate repentance. He did wish to repent, and after I read UT for the first time, Tolkien had redeemed Isildur in my eyes, but there is a difference between wanting to do something, and then actually following through with it.
I also agree with Vee’s point in that it is taking on the responsibility of the Ring that makes one a Ring-bearer, and that responsibility is to ensure its destruction. The reasons that Isildur, and Frodo took the Ring were completely different from one another.
So I would have to say that in my own personal opinion, due to the circumstances and events we know to be acceptable canon, that Isildur and Gollum could not be considered Ring-bearer’s. I do feel that it could have been possible though if Isildur had managed to turn over the One successfully to Elrond, thus gaining repentance, that he might have been granted the privilege of getting to go to Aman by the grace of the Valar?