'...falling asleep again'


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'...falling asleep again'

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From the LotR Quote Game:

'Well, here we are, just the four of us that started out together,' said Merry. 'We have left all the rest behind, one after another. It seems almost like a dream that has slowly faded.

'Not to me,' said Frodo. 'To me it feels more like falling asleep again.'

From Prim: It almost sounds as if Frodo doesn't want to return? Any thoughts tg?

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Lots of thoughts, but I don't know if any of them are valid.

I don't think there’s any question that, in some ways, Frodo doesn't want to return.

After all, he never expected to. When he stepped out of Bag End and followed Bilbo over the low spot in the hedge, his assumption was that he was going into lifelong exile from the Shire – to protect it by taking the danger with him: ‘Even if my feet can never stand there again.’ Permanent exile isn't a certainty when he leaves – He does say “I wonder if I will ever look into that valley again” (emphasis added). But there’s something about the way Frodo faces the future, not just at the beginning but all through the book, that I can kind of relate to. In order to keep his will bent on going forward, he has to mentally and emotionally break away from what he’s leaving behind. Selling Bag End to the S-B’s is like sounding a death knell for any expectation of coming back to the Shire. He accepts from the beginning that the Quest of Mount Doom is likely going to be one-way (‘...and all are dark and unpleasant.’), and becomes more sure of that as he goes on.

I have a hard time explaining this, maybe because it’s how I experience things so I've never had to put it into words. That line of Frodo’s has always seemed natural to me – not strange or puzzling at all. Going forward, like Sam, with the goal of returning to where you were is hard for me to “feel.” For Sam, that was what kept him going, but I think it would have held Frodo back. In the “’Not getting’ Frodo” essay written between the second and third movies, I said something about Frodo needing to lose hope for his own future in order to give everything he had to the Quest. He can't worry about holding onto any of his identity with the thought that he might need it later, much less any of his mental or physical strength, and he can't waste any of his energy on thoughts of the future. In a way, being a realist – or even a pessimist – gets Frodo through what he needs to get through and allows him to “spend every drop...”. That might be part of the reason that (as Tolkien tells us) he was able to get the Ring farther than almost anyone in history could have, and possibly farther than any other person living in Middle-earth at the time. Just part of the reason but, I believe, an important part.

Frodo expected “the end of all things” to be the end. Just as he hadn't allowed himself to look back at what he'd left behind, he hadn't allowed himself to look any further ahead than the destruction of the Ring – ‘...if the One goes into the fire and we are at hand, are we likely to need bread ever again?” Because of this, I think in his mind the Quest more or less became his entire life, with nothing before it and nothing following it. So having that finished and returning to where he'd been before his “life” began, would seem like falling back into the same sleep he felt he'd been in earlier. Another thing I've experienced but don't know how to explain is that when you've purposely cut all of your ties with a part of your life, and expect to never return to it, unexpectedly being able to return to it isn't always a happy thing. It can be jarring and confusing to the point that it seems unreal, so falling asleep could describe that state of mind, too.

At the point in the story where the quote occurs, the whirl of events and partings that has kept the hobbits occupied is over. Falling asleep again in the Shire gives time for the “temptation from the dark” to deepen: his desire to have returned a hero and his “unreasoning guilt” at not having been able to destroy the Ring, as well as that phantom desire for the Ring that Bilbo also experienced.

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Something that makes Frodo different from the other three Travellers is his age. He’s about 12 years older than Merry and Sam, and Pippin’s even younger. I was thinking about this lately when I was disagreeing with the idea that LotR is a “coming of age” story for Frodo. I'd say that it is a coming-of-age story for the other three, who grow and learn through experience and then return home to become adult leaders in their community. That’s what heroes in coming-of-age stories are supposed to do. But that’s not Frodo’s story. When he leaves the Shire, he’s 50 years old and has been on his own and in an adult role in the community for 17 years – he’s almost certainly been the Mr. Baggins of Bag End longer than Bilbo was before his adventures. And even more important than chronological age is the awareness that the Quest is the fulfillment of his adult life – not the beginning of it. If you believe that people are born for certain purposes, his was over, and he'd given his complete self to it in a way the other three hadn't been called upon to do. You might put the others in parallel with Aragorn, with their most important work still ahead of them, and Frodo in parallel with Gandalf, Galadriel, or Elrond. Like them, with the downfall of Sauron his time is over, at least in Middle-earth, and his work completed. Coming home as more-or-less traditional coming-of-age heroes, the other three are coming back from a temporary adventure into their “real lives,” so feel as if a dream is fading and they're waking up. Frodo’s finished what he knows will always be the most “real” part of his life so he feels as if he’s falling asleep.

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Any thoughts?

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Copyright 2008 by Trudy G. Shaw

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