Saturday, October 17, 2015

Inherent and Circumstantial Destiny

In class on Thursday we discussed different elements of fate and destiny in The Hobbit.  One thing that came up is how Tolkien presents destiny as being simultaneously inherent and circumstantial.  Bilbo was destined to go on this journey with the Dwarves.  His destiny was due in part to his Tookishness.  The Took part of him compelled him to go.  This part was his inherent destiny.  The circumstantial part is that fact that Gandalf named him the group's burglar.  He placed that on Bilbo, and Bilbo had to live up to it.  In this, Bilbo's destiny is both in and out of his control.  He was destined to go an adventure like this (the Tookish part of him would never let him stay in the Shire his entire life), and yet it was up to him how it would play out.  We see this also with Thorin.  According to his lineage, he was destined to be king under the mountain.  But because of his circumstances and choices, his reign was very short lived.

This is easy to see in Tolkien's other works as well.  Aragorn was destined to be the king of Gondor, but the War of the Ring temporarily prevented him inheriting the kingdom.  Had he decided to take the throne anyway, he may have been faced with another war between himself and Denethor.  His circumstances caused him to wait longer, and as a result he was able to reign longer and more successfully.  Can you think of other examples in Tolkien's sub-creation in which a character's destiny is both inherent and circumstantial?   If their circumstances had been different, do you think they still would have fulfilled their destiny?  How would the fulfillment of their destiny look different?

1 comment:

Oromë said...

The idea that fate is both inherent and circumstantial is an important theme in Tolkien's works for a variety of reasons, but I think the most important reason is because the circumstantial aspect of fate gives the characters the ability to choose how to realize their own destiny. Fate is not an unavoidable end, but rather the culmination of various choices that bring about a certain outcome. This entire discussion made me think of a quote I really enjoyed from the final chapter of The Hobbit, where Gandalf tells Bilbo, "Surely you don't disbelieve the prophecies because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself?" For Tolkien, fate does not determine a person's life, but rather a person's life and choices determine fate.