Why didn't the Ring try and get to Gollum sooner in Mordor?

Discussion in '"The Lord of the Rings"' started by BalrogRingDestroyer, May 10, 2018.

  1. BalrogRingDestroyer

    BalrogRingDestroyer Member

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    The Ring is treacherous to anybody (save Sauron) that wears it or gets it:

    1.) It corrupted Isildur so that he spared it. It then moved off his finger so that he'd be spotted by orcs. (Luckily for Middle Earth, the Ring appears to have fallen into the water, rather than stay in his possession and get taken by orcs.)

    2.) Deagol finds it later, but is murdered by his cousin Smeagol.

    3.) The Ring eventually ditches Smeagol, where it is found by Bilbo.

    4.) The Ring tries and fails to get Bilbo caught by the goblins (it jumps off his finger when he is near the door).

    5.) Bilbo very reluctantly gives up the Ring to Frodo.

    6.) Frodo has many close calls with the Ring when the Nazgul are near (likely the scheme of the Ring to make Frodo give himself away)

    7.) The Ring tries to tempt Sam when he gets it, but luckily Sam decides to destroy it rather than use it to be Lord Gardener of Middle Earth.

    8.) The Ring corrupts Frodo, who claims it, thus revealing himself to Sauron, but then Smeagol shows up and inadvertantly destroys the Ring


    What I don't get is why the Ring, during the painful trek across Mordor, didn't try and jump off Frodo's finger and try and get found by either an orc, or Smeagol (who would have tried to get OUT of Mordor, and would have most likely been caught, as they were already looking for him too anyway). Heck, the Ring could have tried to ditch Frodo during the fight with Smeagol on the slopes of Mount Doom before the final confrontation.
     
  2. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Lurking in the Chetwood

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    Good question.

    First, I would point out that Frodo never wears the Ring in Mordor; he puts it on only at the edge of the pit, a moment of awful and climactic -- I might say Wagnerian, drama -- it's no accident that the scene is set at the "Cracks of Doom".

    The easy answer is that the Ring "knew" that Frodo would fail, that it would prove the stronger in the end. But that is too easy an answer; things are more complex than that.

    Tolkien deliberately made the nature of the Ring ambiguous, as he did with many other things; as we know, he "cordially disliked allegory", which means he didn't want his work pinned down to an "A=B" interpretation. This is not surprising: most authors don't like allegorical readings of their works, other than the ones they point to themselves.

    And literature doesn't really work that way; it can't be a simple or one-level activity, or it would amount to nothing more than a parable, a piece of discursive writing wearing a fictional mask.

    When it comes to the Ring, yes, it is obviously a "force" of evil, but the question Tolkien constantly poses is, from where does this evil flow? From the Ring itself, or from the evil inherent in a fallen world, of which we are denizens? That is, is the Ring an autonomous, "sentient", if you will, actor in evil? Or is it more like a "psychic amplifier", as T.A. Shippey put it, its power allowing characters to give play to their own baser desires?

    Tolkien doesn't make it easy to decide: in the scene at the Pony:
    "For a moment, he wondered if the Ring itself had not played him a trick; perhaps it had tried to reveal itself in response to some wish or command that was felt in the room".

    Note the ambiguity in the wording: For a moment; perhaps; some wish or command. That last raises the obvious question: whose wish? Bill Ferney's? The (ahem) squint-eyed southerner's? That seems hardly likely: the Nazgul would certainly never have blabbed about something so vital to two such lowlifes. Who or what then? Tolkien doesn't say.

    Note also the wording in The Hobbit as we have it now:

    "Whether it was an accident, or a last trick of the ring before it took a new master, it was not on his finger."

    This was a revision made in 1951, after LOTR was completed; in the original version, the "trick of the ring" is absent: the narrator concludes it was "Accident, I think, because the hobbit was not used yet to his new treasure".

    In fact, in the early drafts of LOTR Bilbo parts with the Ring more or less freely;
    Gandalf merely tells him that the "trick" is to pass it on "with a light heart", a common trope in fairy tales. The idea of the "joke" originally comes from Gandalf! This was changed, as the nature of the Ring evolved.

    Shippey examines the ambiguities concerning the Ring, and two possible views of the nature of evil they evoke, which he calls the "Boethian" and the "Manichaean", in his book Author of the Century. In many ways, his discussion raises more questions than it answers, but I'd heartily recommend it, if you want to delve more deeply into the thorny subject of the symbolism and function of the Ring.

    The truth could be simply that Tolkien was not sure himself, or that the conflict between two of his "philosophical" sources, his upbringing as a Christian, and his immersion in the Northern tradition, led him to leave the ambiguity unresolved, as Shippey suggests.

    I think the likeliest answer is that, as an author , he found himself in the position of Milton, whose Adam is "free to stand, though doomed to fall". As the critic Northrop Frye says, "this argument is so bad that Milton did well to ascribe it to God".
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2018
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  3. Merroe

    Merroe Active Member

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    Indeed, BalrogRingDestroyer, can you tell us when Frodo/Sam held the Ring on a finger of theirs within Mordor?
     
  4. Alcuin

    Alcuin Registered User

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    Until his emotional or mental collapse in Sammath Naur, Frodo never wore the Ring in Mordor. Sam was wearing it when entered Mordor, but before he saw Orodruin:
    It’s a fair (if speculative) question to ask if Sam would have succumbed to the Ring were he wearing it when he saw Orodruin, though: Frodo lost control of his hands when on the road to Sammath Naur he got a glimpse of Barad-dûr through the clouds; but of course, Frodo was much more deeply effected by long exposure to the Ring, which beat constantly upon his will to persevere in refusing to wear it.

    The Ring seems to “seek” those who are stronger than Frodo: it seems to “want” a powerful bearer. Upon learning its nature, Frodo immediately and without prompting offers it to Gandalf. He immediately and without hesitation gives it to Bombadil upon request. In The Prancing Pony, I think Aragorn was tempted to take it: he certainly had the opportunity, and scared the three Hobbits in the sitting room. When told that Aragorn was Isildur’s Heir, Frodo leaped to his feet expecting Aragorn to demand its return. Frodo offered it without reserve to Galadriel, who was tempted but rejected it. Boromir was overcome by temptation. Faramir was tempted but rejected it in a manner strikingly similar to Aragorn’s.

    The Ring changed size, density, and weight: the law of conservation of mass doesn’t seem to apply to it. (Maybe its mass is moving back and forth between the normal world and the wraith-world.) Bilbo warned Frodo of it; so did Gandalf. I am not certain that is anything other than a failure to understand its nature and workings. I am most reluctant to assign “intelligence” to the Ring: I think that would make it a “person”, when Tolkien describes it as a “machine” on several occasions across many years. It sounds more to me like a very sophisticated computer, one that a naïve or inexperienced real person might mistake for another real person, when in fact it is, for want of a better word, “programmed” to act the way it does. Frodo noted that it seemed that either he or the Ring was “reluctant” for Gandalf to touch it; but the narration mentions no “reluctance” in the presence of Bombadil or Galadriel: it might be “programmed” to avoid someone like Gandalf, the kind of person (e.g., an unambiguous Maia) whom Sauron could foresee as an enemy. (Who knows what “emanations” the Ring detected from Gandalf?)

    As for Frodo’s temptations to put on the Ring in the Woody End when the Nazgûl was sniffing him out, in the barrow, in The Prancing Pony when he fell, and on Weathertop when the five Nazgûl attacked, I am inclined to attribute those to the machinations of Sauron: Sauron knew the Nazgûl would probably have an easier time capturing the bearer should they discover him if he wore the Ring (unless he was particularly powerful and had learned how to use it, in which case Tolkien’s notes (cited in Reader’s Companion) say that such a bearer could “compel a Nazgûl to leave him unmolested at the least,” implying that a very powerful and knowledgeable bearer (e.g., Gandalf or Elrond) might convert a Nazgûl to his service). If we think of the Ring as a highly sophisticated computer or machine, it might have been a fairly straightforward matter to equip the Nazgûl with some means to activate it so that it exerted additional force upon the bearer to put it on, or even move his hands, as happened in the Woody End and, probably, in The Prancing Pony. With no Nazgûl in the barrow, the temptation to put on the Ring was more easily shaken off by Frodo, though Gandalf told him it was “perhaps the most dangerous moment of all.”

    All in all though, an excellent question, BalrogRingDestroyer. My one pick is that Sam didn’t “decide[] to destroy [the Ring] rather than use it”: his loyalty to Frodo, captured by the Orcs at the end of Two Towers, drove his decision, along with “his plain hobbit-sense… ‘And anyway all these notions are only a trick.’”
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2018

  5. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Lurking in the Chetwood

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    Interesting points.

    I'd hesitate to use computers or machines as analogies for the Ring; for one thing, I don't think Tolkien's mind ran to that sort of thing. My only vague memory of his referring to the Ring as a "machine" is as a literary "device". However, if you can point me to such references, I'd appreciate it.

    It seems to me that he was careful not to link Sauron and his works with "technology", for the most part; the Technologist of Middle Earth is Saruman: "He has a mind of metal and wheels", says Treebeard. And Pippin, describing the assault on Isengard by the Ents, tells Aragorn how "When Saruman was safe back in Orthanc , it was not long before he set some of his precious machinery to work". He might be the villainous mastermind in some forties serial!

    If I had to choose an analogy, I'd go with something like magnetism, perhaps. As Aragorn says, the Ring "draws" the Nazgul. They themselves seem to operate in a kind of "field": their power is not physical, but a "force-field" affecting the psyche of those around them, and which they can "cloak" to a certain extent with their, well, cloaks.

    I'd strongly resist any notion that either Aragorn or Faramir were "tempted" by the Ring. There's no suggestion of it in the story; far otherwise: Aragorn is Isildur's heir, and carries the burden of mending "Isildur's fault". Faramir has had the result of falling prey to the Ring directly in front of him, when he saw Boromir's body.

    Besides, I believe Tolkien made clear it was simply not in their character. It's interesting to note that both were "disciples" of Gandalf, a situation welcomed by Elrond, and resented by Denethor.

    Lastly, I agree that Frodo certainly begs Gandalf to take the Ring; I wouldn't go so far as to say he offers it to Galadriel "without reserve". In fact, I'm not sure he "offers" it to her, really. His actual words are:

    'You are wise and fearless and fair, Lady Galadriel,' said Frodo. 'I will give you the Ring, if you ask for it. It is too great a matter for me.'

    Compare his words to Gandalf:

    'You are wise and powerful. Will you not take the Ring?'

    The difference is subtle, but there, I think. In the episode with Gandalf, he had only just learned something of its terrible power and history, and was fearful, and desperate to rid himself of its burden. By the time he got to Lothlorien, he had learned much more, both about the Ring, and himself. As a matter of fact, that may be what Gandalf meant when he said the episode in the Barrow was "perhaps the most dangerous moment of all", for it was there that Frodo discovered his courage. In any event, he doesn't strike me as actively trying to get Galadriel to take the Ring, so much as expressing his willingness to surrender the burden of it to one of great power and wisdom.

    Yet I agree that it was an attempt to rid himself of it; his second attempt, I'd say, after his first with Gandalf. The other episodes you mention I would put in the category of special cases, but I won't go into that now.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2018
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  6. BalrogRingDestroyer

    BalrogRingDestroyer Member

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    I'm not sure, as I haven't read Return of the King in a year or so, but I thought Sam may have had it on briefly while going to rescue Frodo from that tower.
     
  7. Alcuin

    Alcuin Registered User

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    I will do as best I can: most of my books are packed; Letters of JRR Tolkien is out, however, and I can reference it.

    Letter 131 to Milton Waldman contains a passage I will quote in full only because it goes to the heart of the issue for both Sauron and the Elven Ringsmiths of Eregion, whom he deceived in order to ensnare them: the issue is central not only to the One Ring, but to all the Rings of Power. I have underlined the portion of the passage most relevant to your request.
    The footnote to this passage reads
    Sauron and Saruman were both in their beginning Maiar of Aulë the Smith. They were much alike in origin and in nature. Saruman was selected by Aulë specifically because of this affinity to Sauron’s original nature and thus Saruman’s native ability to understand him and his machinations; unfortunately, it led to Saruman’s succumbing to many of the same temptations, so that as the War of the Ring opens, Saruman has become not an embryonic Sauron, but Sauron in his “youth” of evil, following the same path for many of the same reasons. Sauron, of course, grasped this immediately, and having long trained his will and greater native strength to the domination of others, quickly cowed Saruman, but could not control him.

    Sauron, Saruman, and the Dwarves are all “folk of Aulë,” and like Aulë are all drawn to machines and constructions of various sort: engineering, if you will. This is not evil, but the temptation to obtain power over others, to force others to one’s own will, misshapes and misdirects the good that might be otherwise achieved.

    I must elide a good deal of wonderful commentary by Tolkien on the nature of the Rings and the Elves’ motivations to make the Rings, but from the same Letter 131,
    About the same time, in Letter 153, Tolkien wrote,
    I think Humphrey Carter also discusses the nature of the Ring as a “machine”, but since my books are packed, I cannot dig it out; likewise my History of Middle-earth is not immediately accessible tonight, but I believe it is touched upon there, too. I will point out, however, that when Arthur C Clarke says in his third law,
    he is almost paraphrasing Tolkien in his discussion of the difference between magia and goeteia in Letter 155, which reads in part,
    In other words, magia is, for the Elves (and Sauron) a machine, though (probably) not in the same physical sense as our automobiles or computers, yet serving the same function.

    The One Ring, indeed all the Rings of Power, are essentially “machines” to those who made them, but they are “magic” as far as Men (and Hobbits) are concerned. Like real-world machines, they work according to discoverable and reproducible methods: late in the Third Age, Saruman made himself a Ring of Power after the fashion of Sauron’s and the Elves’ original Second Age designs. No doubt, he hoped, without the “back door” to the bearer’s will and mind that Sauron had built into the original Rings of Power; though perhaps any inherent necromantic properties left Saruman more vulnerable to Sauron’s influence.

    Let us address the rest of your (excellent) post later: this reply has been long enough!
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2018
  8. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Lurking in the Chetwood

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    Thanks for the references, but golly, now I feel bad for causing you to type out all those quotes! I should have mentioned that I have the Letters -- in fact, I'd just been going through them, looking for "machine" references. I didn't find them (I only looked at entries for "The Ring" in the Index). So thanks again.

    I suppose we could just trade Letter numbers back and forth between ourselves, but I guess that wouldn't be fair to those without a copy (but why don't they have one? Every Tolkien fan should! :)).

    The connection with Aule is very suggestive, in fact reminded me of something from The Book of Lost Tales, which I'll try to look up sometime today.

    Meanwhile, I'll just say that my impression has always been that Saruman, as the Philosophus Gloriosus character in LOTR, was a pale imitator ("I am Saruman Ring-Maker!") trying to achieve through "technology" what Sauron (and Morgoth before him) did through "magic" (an awkward term, given Tolkien's differing definitions of it -- does "innate power" do better?).

    Not that Sauron didn't use technology: the mighty siege machines at Minas Tirith demonstrates that. Though here again, given what he says about the Orcs in The Hobbit makes me diffident about assigning their source.

    OTOH, the technological associations with Sauron seem somehow more "distant" than with Saruman: note the much more "close-up view" of the blasting fire at Helm's Deep, compared to that at the Rammas Echor, for instance.

    More later.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2018
  9. BalrogRingDestroyer

    BalrogRingDestroyer Member

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    The Elven Rings didn't make one invisible. Galadriel wore one right in front of Frodo and he could see her.
     
  10. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Lurking in the Chetwood

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    I don't think that claim has been made here, has it? No, it is the Elven rings that are "invisible", hidden from Sauron, and anyone else, except in unusual circumstances:

    " '. . .as Ringbearer and one that has borne it on finger and seen that which is hidden, your sight is grown keener. . .And did you not see and recognize the Ring on my finger? Did you see my ring?' she asked, turning again to Sam.

    'No, Lady,' he answered. 'To tell you the truth, I wondered what you were talking about. I saw a star through your fingers.'"

    Tolkien said in a letter that, as Sauron had no involvement in the making of the Three, nor ever touched them, they did not have the property of making one invisible.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2018
  11. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    I would say Sam saw Nenya but didn't recognize it for what it was.
     
  12. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Lurking in the Chetwood

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    Though Tolkien , as usual, leaves it ambiguous, that's quite possible, which is why I put "invisible" in quotation marks; misdirection and "camouflage" are still "hidden". Like the Elven cloaks.

    Here's a question: the Three lost their power in Middle Earth, after the destruction of the One. Would (or could) this power be renewed in Aman?
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2018
  13. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    Heheh... yep, and actually I had a longer argument ... then realized (noticing your quotation marks) that you didn't necessarily say the Three were themselves actually invisible -- so then I quickly edited my post down to my one sentence opinion...

    :)

    ... which opinion, I realize, is not the majority view about this -- or is usually not, anyway.
     
  14. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Lurking in the Chetwood

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    Really? If that's the case, then I'm somewhat surprised-- other than the episode with Galadriel, I don't recall any passages that would lead readers to conclude that the Rings were actually invisible.

    As I tend to repeat ad nauseum, Tolkien leaves much about the Three ambiguous, or simply unexplained. Frodo says "Galadriel wields the Elven-ring". Does this imply she wears it constantly? Can it be "wielded" without putting it on? Possession alone seems to confer a power of some kind. Recall Sam's "other vision" of Frodo on Mount Doom, as "a figure robed in white, but at its breast it held a wheel of fire".

    Of course, Tolkien drew on a long and varied tradition. One trope is the magic ring whose power is "turned off" by turning its stone or bezel inward toward the palm; sometimes that makes the Ring invisible as well.

    Certainly Elrond's and Gandalf's powers were enhanced by the rings in their possession; whether they were wearing them "invisibly" or not is a question I don't believe Tolkien answers.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2018
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  15. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    Yes, in my experience anyway, Sam's answer to Galadriel has seemingly been enough to have some folks present, as if fact, that Nenya was actually invisible -- and some add that no one ever notices any of the Three (Frodo aside), until the One has been destroyed.

    So when my opinion comes along that (I think) they were visible, but "hidden" when necessary, it's usually in counter to this.

    One of my arguments has been that people in Middle-earth can wear jewelry :D
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2018
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  16. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Lurking in the Chetwood

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    Aragorn did, anyway. :)

    Getting back to Alcuin's points about the associations with Aule: as I said, you reminded me of the passage in "The Fall of Gondolin" describing the war machines created for the assault. They seem to have been based on the tanks and flamethrowers of WW I, as far as the imagery goes, but with added "magic" (there's that word again). The "monsters of iron" seem simple enough, but the "others" that were "given hearts and spirits of blazing fire" pose a problem: the "hearts" could just be a metaphorical word for "engines", perhaps, but "spirits" implies something more, I think, given Tolkien's use of the word elsewhere, as in, say, Melkor's attraction of "lesser spirits" along with Maiar. Were some of these "lesser spirits" infused into the machines? There was clearly a difference in Tolkien's mind, for the one carried Orcs inside, while the other could be "ridden" only by Balrogs, themselves creatures of fire.

    As always, there's ambiguity: to create these "monsters", Melko "assembled all his most cunning smiths and sorcerers". Note that: smiths and sorcerers. Did the smiths handle the purely "technological" aspects of the machines, while the sorcerers had the job of imbuing them with life (or "life")? OTOH, metal-smithing has been associated with magic or sorcery, from as far back as records go, all the way up through Renaissance alchemy. It's a difficult knot to untangle.

    Who knows what form all this would have taken, had Tolkien completed his rewrite of the Gondolin story, rather than abandoning it? The "Balrogs in hundreds" would would have almost certainly dissappeared, for instance, but we'll never know what other changes might have been made. (I'll just insert here my lament that Tolkien never returned to the manuscript; I understand that he wanted to work out the philosophical/theological implications of his creation for himself first, but I'd much rather have what was shaping up to be a magnificent tale, than more pages of speculation on hroa and fea).

    In any event, his somewhat confused discussion of magia and goetia leads me to think that he wasn't sure himself where the line was. It's suggestive, for instance, that in that Letter 155 he says:

    "Anyway, a difference in the use of 'magic' in this story is that it is not to be come by by 'lore' or spells; but it is an inherent power not possessed or attainable by Men as such."

    Then added a note in the margin:

    "But the Numenoreans used 'spells' in making swords?"

    He's trying to differentiate mortals from "immortals" here, of course, but the unsureness comes through.

    I'd still hold to the idea that there is a fundamental difference between Saruman and Sauron, beyond their vastly different levels of power. I may be way off, but the impression I've always had, ever since my very first reading, was that
    Saruman's efforts to replicate Sauron's "achievements" were based on a sort of outside-looking-in, artificial imitation of them. In fact, Gandalf uses the word "imitation" in describing Saruman's works.

    "Artificial" and "artifice" come from the same root, but "artifice" can mean both "artful", "ingenious", and "deceitful", "fraudulent". Which definition would fit Saruman's ring, I wonder? He boasts of himself as "Saruman the Wise, Saruman Ring-maker", but he brings forth no evidence that his ring has any actual "power" at all.

    I could suggest "technology" vs. "techne" as an opposed pair, and apply the latter to Sauron's (and Melkor's) works, as it involves the idea of an innate ability, rather than a mere application of method; but it also includes the idea of "art", which Tolkien attributes to the "magic" of the Elves.
     
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