Sunday, October 18, 2015

Fate/Destiny and Free Will

A theme prominent in each of Tolkien's works has been fate/destiny. With it, though, Tolkien has included the importance of choices - free will. We haven't discussed free will very often in class but I have found it to be a vital part of Tolkien's myths. Although most of his characters know that they are fated to do or be something in the big scheme of things, it is completely up to them whether or not they decide to accept that fate. Neither Bilbo nor Frodo Baggins were forced to leave their comfortable hobbit hole, they chose it of their own free will. There were outside factors influencing them of course, but they could have stopped and turned back at any point in their journey and revoked their responsibilities.
On the other hand, when characters are deprived of their free will, it is due to an evil force. The most obvious example of this is The One Ring. Sauron's goal is to deprive everyone of their free will, and the ring is the catalyst through which this can occur, and why it's so important in The Hobbit and LOTR. Another example is Orcs. They also have been deprived of their free will because though they are inherently evil, they can make their own decisions up until the point that affects their destiny. Sauron has ultimate control over their fate. Are there any other examples supporting or otherwise that you all can come up with relating to free will in Tolkien's myths?

1 comment:

Nienna said...

I think the notion of free will is essential to understanding Tolkien's works. As a devout Christian it is likely that Tolkien placed much emphasis on the notion of free will. Free will in the Christian faith is the origin of sin and also what sets men apart from angels. This notion of free will informing destiny is evident in the decision of Frodo to carry the ring. Though it is clearly fated that he should be the ring bearer it is up to him to choose to do so. The ability to choose ones path separates a god like Iluvatar or the Christian God from a dominate ruler like Morgoth or the devil. Free will seems to inform Tolkien's conceptualization of good and evil. The children of Iluvatar have free will where the spawn of Morgoth do not.