Riv. 10 ~ Council of Elrond 4: 'Though I do not know the way', plus “The Counsel of Elrond”.
I really love Elrond’s speech to Frodo after he volunteers to take the Ring. It's so gratifying to hear someone as wise and respected and powerful as Elrond say, for all to hear, that in taking up the Quest Frodo has chosen to do that which puts him in the company of the great. Even if “all the mighty elf-friends of old, Hador, and Húrin, and Túrin, and Beren himself were assembled together," Elrond declares, "your seat should be among them.” How Sam’s bosom must have swelled hearing that.
None of that made it into the film. It didn't spoil the scene for me, but I did miss it. Not a few non-book people I talked to who saw FOTR said they were mystified by the ease and speed with which the council members, all warriors and respected leaders, accepted Frodo’s offer to carry the Ring to Mordor. Why in the world, these people asked, would they have done that? “The Elf guy puts forward a desperate mission that’s going to be the life or death of the whole world," they'd say. "Then Frodo, who’s this nice little hobbit guy from the country, stands up and says he’ll take it, and they’re all, like, ‘Awesome, dude! Heck, we’ll even come with you!’ In real life they'd have said "Thanks, but no thanks".
In the book, however, the assembled council hears the story of Frodo’s journey to Rivendell. In the film, there is no hint that the story of Frodo's struggles and perils, and particularly his confrontation with the Witch King, is known to any but the folk of Rivendell. The story of Frodo’s survival against such odds would strongly recommend him for the job. (Actually, since Frodo in the film does not resist the Witch King the way he does in the book, either on Weathertop or at the ford of Bruinen, there is little reason to think the film's council would be particularly impressed by his fitness for the job, even if they knew.)
But even more, it is the way Elrond speaks to Frodo in the council’s presence that persuades them. Frodo is not only suited to take on the Quest, he is meant for it. “If I have understood aright,” Elrond says, “this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will. This is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their quiet fields to shake the towers and counsels of the Great.” This is quite a declaration, especially coming from Elrond.
LOTR doesn’t tell anything much about Elrond’s earlier history, but it spans three Ages. His personal life has been marked by repeated experiences of sorrow and loss, at the hands of the Enemy and at the hands of the Elves, specifically the doomed and driven sons of Feanor. Long before the advent of the Ring he's seen what overweening desire for a unique treasure can do to individuals and to the wider world. In his public life, Elrond is a healer, but also a warrior, and, along with Galadriel, the most respected leader and counsellor of the free peoples of Middle-earth. For Elrond to accept Frodo’s offer and to proclaim its high worth, even its destined nature, is a tremendous declaration of faith in Frodo’s character and suitability to the task. In the book, the council’s acceptance of Frodo’s offer isn’t a matter of the Big Folk indulging a well-meaning but ill-suited, ill-prepared little hobbit. The weight of Elrond’s pronouncement, putting what Frodo is going to do on a par with the the great heroes of the First Age, persuades and assures them that Frodo is the one.
There is another aspect to Elrond’s acceptance of Frodo’s offer, apart from the way it commends and affirms the offer so strongly. Elrond says of what Frodo has volunteered to do, "[I]t is a heavy burden... So heavy that none could lay it on another." As if to reassure himself, Elrond adds, "I do not lay it on you." The aspect I am speaking of is Elrond's regret. He believes in the rightness of Frodo's offer, but he cannot help simultaneously experiencing regret. No matter how noble the mission and how justified, to send someone on what is almost certainly a suicide mission cannot be easy, especially where there is love and affection. The film does manage to include a sense of this sorrowful regret, but it is conveyed through the response of Gandalf when he hears Frodo saying “I will take the Ring to Mordor”.
If this aspect of Elrond's feelings is not really developed in the book scene – Elrond's regret at being instrumental in sending Frodo on the Quest – jan-u-wine has done so in The Counsel of Elrond. I have been waiting for a year to post this poem but didn't have a suitable entry. I think now I do. The poem appears below the screencaps.
I should say that I do love this particular moment in the film scene. In his close-ups, after he has said "...though I do not know the way", Frodo seems filled with light. His face radiates everything right and good. This is one of the moments in which I get a sense of Frodo's "transparency" from the Morgol wound. While it is true he is being bathed in golden light, he seems to glow just as much from within.
I talked above about the people who wondered why on earth the council in the film accepted Frodo’s offer the way it did. When I look at Frodo's face I have no trouble. Who could not see his bright, shining spirit, his humility, his noble soul, his courageous heart? I have learned that when I watch LOTR my mind automatically fills in from the books, although I am barely aware of it. I find it particularly so in the case of film Frodo. This may seem like I am just glossing over the films' inadequacies, but I think it is a good thing. There is an extraordinary richness to watching the films with the wealth of the book to draw upon. The films are a feast, with plenty to satisfy the heart and mind. But with the book at the back of one's mind, one may not only feast, but "fill up the corners".
Book scene: from The Council of Elrond.
No one answered. The noon-bell rang. Still no one spoke. Frodo glanced at all the faces, but they were not turned to him. All the Council sat with downcast eyes, as if in deep thought. A great dread fell on him, as if he was awaiting the pronouncement of some doom that he had long foreseen and vainly hoped might after all never be spoken. An overwhelming longing to rest and remain at peace by Bilbo’s side in Rivendell filled all his heart. At last with an effort he spoke, and wondered to hear his own words, as if some other will was using his small voice.
‘I will take the Ring,’ he said, ‘though I do not know the way.’
Elrond raised his eyes and looked at him, and Frodo felt his heart pierced by the sudden keenness of the glance. ‘If I understand aright all that I have heard,’ he said, ‘I think that this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will. This is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their quiet fields to shake the towers and counsels of the Great. Who of all the Wise could have foreseen it? Or, if they are wise, why should they expect to know it, until the hour has struck?
‘But it is a heavy burden. So heavy that none could lay it on another. I do not lay it on you. But if you take it freely, I will say that your choice is right; and though all the mighty elf-friends of old, Hador, and Húrin, and Túrin, and Beren himself were assembled together, your seat should be among them.’
Frodo: I will take the Ring to Mordor, though ... though I do not know the way.
[Gandalf comes to Frodo and puts a hand on his shoulder.]
Gandalf: I will help you bear this burden, Frodo Baggins, as long as it is yours to bear.
Aragorn: Rising from his seat: If by my life or death I can protect you, I will.
[Aragorn kneels before Frodo.]
Aragorn: You have my sword.
Legolas: Coming to stand beside Frodo: And you have my bow.
Gimli: Coming to stand beside Legolas. And my axe.
[Boromir walks slowly towards Frodo to stand before him.]
Boromir: You carry the fates of us all, little one. Aragorn places his hand on Frodo’s shoulder. If this is indeed the will of the Council, then Gondor will see it done.
The Counsel of Elrond
~ by jan-u-wine
If, by his loss, a world be saved...
none would question, none
would say me nay.
Much is made of the wisdom of my people.
with this choice, I do not feel wise.
Long ages of their small lives have I endured,
still I love them,
still, with sadness, see their worth.
Like flowers they are,
the world for but a breath's span...
errant blossoms scattered by thoughtless winds.
We are ancient,
unmoving trees who must stand,
and see all we love,
all we know,
wither to dust and destruction.
The evil which he has borne hence
If I could but hide It here....
Why do I hesitate?
Why does regret
sing its sorrow within my heart?
In his innocence, in the very beginnings of his desire, it is fore-ordained:
He will stand forth.
As yet, he knows not enough of fear....
(though of evil, he is learning).
My own kin I have given more easily over....
and they may not know
life beyond the gates that await this one.
I have not the passion for life,
the caring for this world
I once had.
Let it be in his small
hand that the future stays
I am weary.
I saved him.
I saved him.
Who now will save
from the bitter consequence of this sad choice?
In what dremes remain to me,
waking dremes among leaves
fallen from autumn-quieted branches,
my heart hears the calling of the Sea.
~ Riv. 9: Council of Elrond 3 – ‘I will take it!’, plus jan-u-wine’s “Heir to the Dreamer”.
~ Riv. 11: Council of Elrond 5 – ‘We're coming, too!', plus jan-u-wine’s 'On Being Part of a Grand Story'.