Wednesday, March 9, 2011
"The Ring is Mine!" -Tolkien's Writing Choices
A lot of people have (understandably) made postings about our debate in class, so I promise I'll avoid being redundant in this post. The posts that have been made argued for Frodo's success and failure really well, so instead of arguing that point, I want to look at the moment of "failure" in Mount Doom and why Tolkien chose to write it the way he did.
I've often wondered why, at the crux of the story, Tolkien chooses to have his wholesome hero succumb to greed and corruption. When Frodo announces that he is taking the Ring for himself, Tolkien dashes all of the reader's expectations and hopes. The reader, having followed Frodo thus far, is rallying for his success; personally, I always believed that Frodo would show the resolve that Isildur lacked.
I try to understand this writing choice by considering alternatives. If Frodo had cast the Ring into the fire with no internal struggle at all or with minimal struggle, then the Mount Doom scene might not have felt like a climax for me, although I'm sure Tolkien could still have written it in a cathartic way. I would've doubted that the Ring was that powerful to begin with, if it couldn't sway Frodo's mind in the heart of Sauron's realm. Also, such passivity on Frodo's part would've cheated the hobbit out of a major shift in character, the outcome of all his trials.
In the end, I wouldn't have wanted Tolkien to write the scene any other way. We talked yesterday about Tolkien's multi-step ending to The Return of the King, and how he never cared much for writing conventions. I think this is the same thing. Tolkien didn't care to gratify the reader by giving us the ending we expected; instead, he took a risk, both for himself and for his character, and gave the scene depth by doing so.