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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

Frodo's assumption into heaven

Posted on 2005.06.15 at 00:40
Tags: , ,
I have talked about this in emails to various conversation partners, but the following thought has been a consolation to me. That is, Tolkien gave Frodo a very great grace (according to his own beliefs) as to what would be his death. Tolkien let Frodo sail to the Undying Lands to sojourn until he died a bodily death, laying down his life, at last, voluntarily, as the faithful Men of the first houses did in the First Age of Middle-earth. Frodo then would be whisked off to Mandos, the House of Waiting for the dead of all the races, where his liminal self would wait until ... until whatever the fate of mortals was, beyond the Circles of the World.

What is the particular grace in this? It is that Frodo did not have to die in the Shire after years of decline and suffering? Of advanced age or disease, beating his body into a husk? No; like Mary or Enoch, Frodo was "lifted up" by the boat that sailed out of the Grey Havens on the 'straight road', directly to the lands that never know decay.

I am thinking of this because tonight my daugher asked me to stop off after work and rent Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Watching it tonight, this 1977 film did not look any older to me than it did when it was released. That made me happy.

As I watched this film tonight, a film I had adored when I saw it as young woman, I kept thinking, "Wow! How many times did Peter Jackson see this? How much of it seeped into his unconsciousness - or that of Boyens and Walsh?"

It had so many parallels for me with LotR ... it is the story of an "everyday, ordinary guy" - sort of hero, Roy [Richard Dreyfus], who eventually is whisked up and away to "heaven" - quite apart from any plan of his own. We see in the film how he (and others) is "called" by an initial contact and then an overpowering vision to travel away to another world with another people - a people gracious and good and filled with light. No, Spielberg's child-like, light-filled aliens don't look quite like Elves, but they may as well be.

But the "calling" sunders Roy from his family and community as it summons him to travel single-mindedly to the volcanic mountain of his vision, which turns out to be a tall, striated, flat-topped cone of rock rising out of the midst of a plain where he will meet whomever or whatever it is that has been calling him. It is not an active volcano like Mt. Doom, but is the exposed chimney of an extinct one, "Devil's Tower" in Wyoming, (U.S.A.) -- a site sacred to the native tribes of that region; a holy place according to their beliefs.

I thought there were many specific parallels between LotR and Close Encounters. Early in CE, when small alien craft are first encountered, the hero and others are caught on the road, overtaken by mysterious, rushing lights - (space craft)- beautiful but frightening -- you can almost hear them yelling, "Get off the road!" (but they are only mildly discomfited since the craft aren't Black Riders). Then there is a chase scene in which the "gatekeeper" is overidden: the craft whoosh through a highway toll booth stop, followed by police cars;e the tollkeeper nearly flattened. The main visual comparison, of course, is that in both the heroes in are being drawn to a mountain; a volcano; where they will meet their doom -- whatever it is.

Besides this, the similarity I see is between the fate of the "regular guy" hero who hears the call in this film and the "regular guy" in LotR (Frodo). Roy is called to struggle against all odds to meets his fate on the top of that flat-topped mountain, and, in so doing, be pulled by his fate out of his familiar milieu to enter an unknown, "celestial destiny." Yet, even as he leaves, he remains a regular human being, but his experiences have made him no longer suited to live among his fellow humans the way he had.

Anyway, the film was great. I loved it that Spielberg had the alien culture communicate with the peoples of earth by the use of majestic major chords (those that responded favourably on earth would intone it back). I kept thinking of the music that brought Arda into being, or the idea of "the music of the spheres" that Dante used in his "Comedy".

~ Mechtild

Here's a screencap of EW as Frodo from RotK, bathed with ethereal, golden light, a foretaste of his doom, the good, restoring part of it in Aman:

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

~ Mechtild


(Anonymous) at 2005-06-15 07:06 (UTC) (Link)
Good morning.

You have a great Live Journal Mechtild.

Great insights regarding the similarities between LOTR and CE.

My thanks also to Ariel for preserving the archives.

I am not going to abandon Frodo. His fate has touched and inspired me - Elen síla lumen omentielmo.


P.S. KD is still on the blink – does anyone know what has happened?
pearlette at 2005-06-15 08:02 (UTC) (Link)
Este, unfortunately Moggy seems to be on holiday and doesn't seem to be contactable. I have no idea if anyone can sort KD out before he gets back.
pearlette at 2005-06-15 08:01 (UTC) (Link)
Lovely post, Mechtild. Really lovely post. :)

The 'assumption into (Elf)heaven' is so Catholic. Of course. I never saw that before. :)

And great comparison with COTK! (Can you believe ... I've never seen it!! I've never really been into aliens.) You make me want to see it.

I know there's a reference to Frodo going to the Halls of Mandos in HoME somewhere (forget where) but do other hobbits go to Mandos when they die then? :confused: In various parts of the mythology, the Rohirrim and the Dwarves refer to the 'hall of their fathers' when they die ...

If Eressea was meant to be both a purgatory (i.e. a place of purification) AND a reward, then WHY does Frodo have to go through Mandos? Can't he just go straight to Heaven, after laying down his life in Elf-heaven? *grumble*

Of course, Tolkien avoids any sort of explicit Christian reference in his mythology, rightly so ...

That screencap of Frodo asleep in the Houses of Healing, bathed in light, is one of the sublime moments in the film trilogy. Frodo is a 'glass filled with a clear light for eyes to see that can'. (FOTR, 'Many Meetings').

mechtild at 2005-06-15 13:29 (UTC) (Link)

It posted! - I thought the computer ate it

I wrote the above late last night, hit "preview" and it disappeared (you can tell it was never edited, I hope). I just came in this morning to re-write it. Well!

Estë, thank you for your comment. And it's great to see you, esp. when the sheep are scattered during K-D's mysterious down time.

Pearl, what I know about the afterlife Tolkien envisioned for the races comes strictly from the HoME and Letters. But Men (and, as a close relative of men, hobbits), when they die bodily, go to the "House of Waiting," which is Mandos, named for its Vala who presides over it, but a different "part" of it than Elves do when they die a bodily death. Then, Men [I would say this means "mortals," but I don't remember if JRRT included Dwarves, because of their unusual genesis at the over-anxious hands of Aule] "go where the immortal Elves and even the Valar know not -- beyond the Circles of the World; some have said, to live in Eru's presence, but that is not known" [only an approximate, remembered quote].

After a time in Mandos where they consider the lives they have led (sounds kind of purgatory-ish), if they wish it -- Elves are re-embodied (sort of "re-consitituted" from their original selves, including their bodies), and may live again, enfleshed once more, in the Undying Lands. Some very few have returned in this "reincarnated" manner to M-E, but that is very exceptional [e.g. Glorfindel]. Elves are "immortal" but only in so far as the span of their lives is tied to the life span of Arda. Their lives will end, but only when Arda ends. After that? The Elves assume that they will simply cease to be, but "no one knows."

In Frodo's case, when he is "lifted up" [as I called it] and carried with Bilbo and their Elf and Maia companions to the Undying lands, he still is alive, bodily. He goes to Mandos when he dies, bodily. He will die, bodily, just like every other mortal. His gift in going to Tol Eressea instead of dying in M-E, as I see it, is, of course, that he has an opportunity to be healed in spirit there, before he dies. But also, since "there is no stench of decay; no illness; no stain" in the Undying Lands, the death he will die will be a graced one such as that of the first Edain. Beor, one of the first of Men, befriended by Finrod Felagond, merely became aged; he "wore out" before he surrendered to death. When the first of the Edain felt ready, they would lay down to die and death would take them. It wasn't until their descendants in Numenor began to fear death (in spite of their gift of longer lives) that they began refusing this voluntary relinquishing of life and just passing on, but clung to it, going past the "right" time and becoming wracked with illness and senility until life was wrested from them, dying in bitterness against their will. I am not reading this out of the text, so I could be screwing this up a little, of course.

If you want to read about the post-death of mortals, the very clearest thing JRRT ever wrote, to my knowledge is embedded in the text (and the notes of Christopher Tolkien) of the previously unpublished, Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth ["Debate of Finrod and Andreth"], in Morgoth's Ring, Vol. 10. It depicts Finrod talking with Andreth, an aunt of Beren, about the respective destinies of the Elves and Men. He wrote it well after LotR, so it represents his mature thought on the subject, which tended to evolve over time (look how much he tweaked his interpretation of Galdriel!).

I could dig you out some cool quotes re: Frodo in particular, but they say essentially what I said above.

~ Mechtild
(Deleted comment)
pearlette at 2005-06-15 17:43 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Another shot I love of Frodo being "borne up"

OMG, I love that so much.

It's ... it's HOLY.

Transcendant. Luminous.

Frodo looks as if he thinks he's died. And he is at peace.


You know, I'd love to have that as a poster ... it's such a remarkable image.

maeglian at 2005-06-15 22:10 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Another shot I love of Frodo being "borne up"

I agree - that scene is fantastically moving. The beautiful soprano in the background, and Frodo being lifted, seemingly thinking "so this is what dying feels like" and evidently at peace with that..... **sigh**

What really struck me in looking at the picture now, is the absence of the Ring. The open shirt has been looking just like that to ensure we've been shown the Ring over and over - and suddenly it's gone. There's nothing there (but alabaster) - though the traces remain. The Ring's absence is so *noticable* - and so in tune with the picture in total!
mechtild at 2005-06-15 23:14 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Another shot I love of Frodo being "borne up"

You wrote,

What really struck me in looking at the picture now, is the absence of the Ring. The open shirt has been looking just like that to ensure we've been shown the Ring over and over - and suddenly it's gone. There's nothing there (but alabaster) - though the traces remain. The Ring's absence is so *noticable* - and so in tune with the picture in total!

But, Maeglian, do you know what? It never really even registered with me that the Ring was no longer around his neck -- not after looking at the screencap all these times and having swooned away in ecstatic rapture in the theatre over and over (um…17 -18 times? -- my worst secret is out!). That is so great of you to point it out. You are right about his shirt being open. The look of it says the same thing to the audience, visually, as Frodo did in words, when he said five minutes earlier he said of fallen Barad-dur in exhausted, jubilant near-disbelief: “It’s gone!”

I noticed his shirt was open in Mordor more than usual, too, but I thought it was so we could see what a mess the Ring was making of his skin, as it got heavier and heavier. But, wow, yes – it’s also so that we can see that bruised neck and chest at this sublime moment -- finally free of its tormentor.

Yes, the scoring was breathtakingly right for the scene. Shore did marvellous work supporting that scene, and Renee Fleming was perfection singing it. It was as if we, the viewers, got to share the experience, that feeling with Frodo, bearing borne up and away, so soft and light and silky. Nothing terrible; in fact blissfully welcome.

~ Mechtild
elasg at 2005-06-16 10:53 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Another shot I love of Frodo being "borne up"


You guys are so transcendental... and here I was just thinking the 'girls' (Fran and Co.) were giving us a nice thrill. Gawd! Burst my bubble, will ya?
mechtild at 2005-06-17 22:10 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Another shot I love of Frodo being "borne up"

Oh, Ariel; there, there. No need to scrape your toe along the ground over your interpretation of Walsh and Boyen's motives in baring the alabaster neck and chest.

After all: What did the professor say about applicability, hmmm? Of course each viewer is going to bring her own perspective to seeing the film, just as each reader takes her own meaning from the book.

If you see a nearly destroyed but utterly hot, open-shirted hobbit being borne up on the wings of bliss just as though he had only just survived Middle-earth's most soul-and-body shaking consummation ("Sweet heaven, Ariel! Take this burden from me!"), who am I to say thee, nay? If you look at those hot lava floes and see steaming rivers of halfling seed issuing past -- in fact, if you see the whole erupting volcano as one giant metaphor for Frodo's cataclismic orgasm at having the Ring destroyed -- well, I won't argue with you. I could be led to see it that way, too. Easily (you know how I love symbolism...).

Why, if you made a manip of him being carried up and away not clasped in eagle talons, but held between the thighs of some winged Vala-sent maia, I would be first to want to see it! And if you wanted to depict him unclothed, too, I am sure I could interpret it as Frodo being extra freed of the Ring. In fact, far more freed-looking than if he only had his shirt open.

Well, I must shower. Seriously! I just got up. Out of bed. From sleeping. Stop! *grins*

~ Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-02-23 13:58 (UTC) (Link)

Another shot I love of Frodo being "borne up"....

I just couldn't resist including this screencap [from one of the most sublime moments in film] in this series of replies....

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

In case I don't post in this string of comments again, I thought I'd note that the similarities between LotR and Close Encounters only go so far. After all, Roy is being drawn to the mountain to encounter something wonderful. Frodo is drawn to meet something absolutely evil.

In Spielerg's tale, it seems clear that the world is sustained and "watched over" by powers that are good, signified by aliens who are benevolent and gracious; they do not come to do evil, only good. In Tolkien's tales, it is far less clear that good is in charge of the world. Spielberg is not unaware of great evil and depravity (cf. Saving Private Ryan; Schindler's List), but his world view, and his final call on the goodness and potential of the human person is essentially an optomistic one. Like Fran Walsh's TTT Sam, he could say "there's some good in this world and its worth fighting for."

Tolkien's world view seems far darker. One fights because one must, whether a good is achieved or not, or whether the world is worth it. Obviously he loved the natural world and he loved many people, but I think his view of the human person, especially, was not optomistic at all. Goodness and beauty are transcendantals, and anything like their pure form is not to be found in Arda marred. One still may experience them, though as if reflected, in the guarded enclaves of the Elves. Lucky Frodo (and Bilbo and Gimli and Sam) to see them made incarnate in Aman, where Arda is still unmarred. *sniffle*
shirebound at 2005-06-17 22:17 (UTC) (Link)
My goodness, what a lovely and interesting comparison! I've seen "Close Encounters" many times, but it will now have a whole new meaning for me.

the heros in both are being drawn to a mountain, a volcano, where they will meet their doom, whatever that is.

mechtild at 2005-06-17 23:18 (UTC) (Link)

Greeting, Shirebound!

Shirebound, thanks so much for commenting. Close Encounters is a great film, I think. I think the LotR films are even greater, in spite of any grousing you will hear from me about this or that diminishment done to book by the film adaptation. (The diminishments suffered by the character of Frodo, of course, grieve me the most.)

This will sound a silly question, but, just out of curiosity, do I know you by another name? New to LJ's as I am, I am only just learning that many people I have met on Tolkien messageboards have different names in the world of LJ.

Very quickly (I'm making dinner), I want to say that I clicked your own LJ; I couldn't resist. I cruised at 100 miles an hour through the "do hobbits have big feet?" discussion. What happened in the end of the discussion? It looked to me that my own recollection was being seconded: Tolkien stressed their long, slender fingers, not big feet, as such.

(Also, where do the pointy ears come from? I adore them in the films, but are they ever mentioned in the books? Maybe you can ask that, next.)

As for where the big feet originated, in terms of PJ's films, I have a feeling ithe design idea came from the work of various Tolkien illustrators. Hobbits have been drawn very many ways by many illustrators, but a number of prominent ones gave them big hands and feet, sort of like a badger in an old children's story, perhaps (badgers live in holes in the ground, too, don't they?)

I am pretty sure I have seen a copy of an illustration that Tolkien drew of Bilbo, holding a pipe, standing in a very capacious Bag End. His feet are not noticeably large, nor is his tummy noticeably fat. The furniture looks sort of 18th-19th century English (I'm not good at antiques).

~ Mechtild
shirebound at 2005-06-17 23:37 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Greeting, Shirebound!

Hi! *waves*

'Shirebound' is the only online name I've ever had. I started writing LOTR fanfiction in May 2002 under this name, and I've been 'shirebound' ever since. I post at Stories of Arda, West of the Moon, and fanfiction.net. I don't think I ever participated in any messageboards, due to lack of time.

I love bringing up subjects in my LJ that are open to interpretation (or research) such as the hobbits' "big feet". The consensus seemed to be that Tolkien (the artist) and other artists who have depicted the hobbits visually almost always showed them with sligthtly oversized feet; however, no one could remember any written description of the feet other than the curling hair and leathery soles.

As for the pointy ears, I'm reading through The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (very slowly), and he mentions in a letter to a friend that he envisioned the hobbits' ears as slightly pointed (although less pointed than the ears of elves). If I can ever find it again, I'll get the exact quote for you.

*sigh* I do love hobbits.

mechtild at 2005-06-17 23:52 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Greeting, Shirebound!

"As for the pointy ears, I'm reading through The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (very slowly), and he mentions in a letter to a friend that he envisioned the hobbits' ears as slightly pointed (although less pointed than the ears of elves). If I can ever find it again, I'll get the exact quote for you."

Oh, thank you for any actual references you might provide, shirebound. If it is from "Letters," you need only provide the number of the letter. I was a scholar, once, and I still love knowing the exact source for something.

As for Tolkien drawing his hobbits with big feet, I hadn't noticed that. I did notice the length of Bilbo's fingers, though. But, it would make sense it their feet were also "long and slender" if their fingers were. They often match in humans. The Stoors, perhaps, were not only "long" in their hands and feet, but "broader". (I think I must have been a Stoor; no wonder I love a Harfoot/Fallohide mix!)

~ Mechtild
shirebound at 2005-06-18 00:01 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Greeting, Shirebound!

I found it! In Letter 27, Tolkien states, "...A round, jovial face; ears only slightly pointed..." There *may* have been a second quote, and if I ever come across it, I'll send it to you.

It's much more satisfying researching hobbits than dusting my apartment.

mechtild at 2005-06-18 00:15 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Greeting, Shirebound!

Thanks so much! I opened up the book to #27 and there it was. Very gratifying! I noticed he didn't mention big feet, though; only furry, unshod ones.

~ Mechtild

P.S. Go dust that apartment, you negligent hobbit-fan, you.
(Anonymous) at 2005-06-20 12:37 (UTC) (Link)
Well, Mechtild, I've finally made it to your live journal. Back pain has kept me away from the infernal computer - sitting was a no-no - so I wasn't able to investigate your new project. I see you're off to a roaring start!

I've made a note to hire 'Valmont' a.s.a.p. Sounds fascinating! :P I, too, now see BookFrodo as quite Colin Firth-ish. Colin would have made a very acceptable MovieFrodo, I think; though I'm very happy with Frolijah.

Regarding your musings on Harry Potter, you might try to get Magpie in here. I seem to remember she has a foot in both fandoms. I've read the HP books and seen the movies - once each. They're entertaining, but I can't take them seriously.

Thanks for your comments on 'Close Encounters'! The parallels with LotR had never occurred to me. Trivia time: did you know that the little ditty the aliens used first appeared in a James Bond film? I kid you not. Can't remember which one it was, but the tune was punched out on a door lock.

I've re-watched RotK this last week, while unable to sit, and somewhere (in the actors' commentary perhaps, or was it on one of the behind-the-scenes discs? Anyway - ) the 'hobbits' said that if they could talk to Tolkien they'd ask him why the hobbits had to have big hairy feet. Poor things, how aghast they would be if they knew that, as far as canon's concerned, they didn't have to have *big* feet at all. They could have just had a bit of hair glued on their bare feet in the morning and had another hour or two in bed. Naughty PJ!

mechtild at 2005-06-20 13:21 (UTC) (Link)

Scarlet! Knock me down!

Scarlet, I am very sorry to hear you are having back pain. I loathe that, too. I remember kneeing in front of the computer a few months ago for a week when it flared up, since I couldn't sit. When I had beautiful Frodo images up on the monitor (when are they not? *grin*), I am sure it looked highly idolatrous to anyone looking round the door.

Thank you for the tip on Magpie. She wrote my favourite Frodo posts at TORc, if I had to choose one person's work. But I don't know that I would want to start an in-depth Harry Potter conversation since I never have read them or seen the films. I don't have the time to do so any time soon, either.

The Close Encounter's "alien music" was in a James Bond film? How amusing! I think I have seen only two Bond films and I can't remember hearing it in those, but that was thirty years ago or more.

As for Colin Firth, he is a far more versatile actor than I tend to remember, since I only re-watch him in the roles which make me swoooon. But he plays worthless, negligible men just as well as admirable ones (I am thinking of that film about the Irish friends with Minnie Driver). If he should play a really cruel, mean and nasty person, I suspect he could do that beautifully as well.

Yes, it was a shame the hobbits had to wear those giant feet. Personally, I thought they added nothing to the characteriztion and the foot hair was far too sparse, in my opinion, as if the straggly hair on their calves were merely extended to the tops of their insteps. But PJ obviously loved all those big-footed illustrations and just "had to have them" for his film.

~ M
(Anonymous) at 2005-06-21 06:53 (UTC) (Link)

Well...I dunno ...
Go away for ten days and what do I find on my return ???

A new recruit to LJ for me to regularly annoy !!!

Well done Mechtild, for taking the plunge, and starting your own journal...

I do know that you will have lots more freedom here than at KD, in terms with what you can get away with, and with what you talk about...no fears of going off-topic here...the topic is just what you care to make it !!

I got back yesterday from my holiday ( four days in Vienna, three days in Prague, and four days in Cesky Krumlov, in the southern part of Bohemia, in the Czech Republic ) and came straight here from my e-mail you sent me...thanks for that ! I hear that KD has had some problems while I've been away..Oh well, seems OK now, so I hope you will carry on posting there too !!

Meanwhile, I have bookmarked your new venture, and will keep an eye on you, just in case !!!
By the way, your journal entries are too wide for my screen, and I have to keep panning from side to side to read every line...any solutions ? It may be due to wide pictures stretching the post, but maybe some technical expert could send you a solution...does anyone else have this problem ?

mechtild at 2005-06-21 13:29 (UTC) (Link)

Wendy! I was beginning to wonder....

Well, Wendy, I was beginning to wonder where you were. I hadn't seen a post of yours at K-D or TORc for donkey's years. Your holiday sounds as thought it must have been fascinating. I have not been to any of those places except the Vienna train station for an hour, LOL.

Thanks so much for that idea on the stretched-wide entries. I went back and reduced all my posted photos to be no wider than 700 pixels, just to be safe (the screencap at the top of this entry had been 900). It looks normal on my current screen. Is it normal, now, on yours?

Again, thanks so much for stopping by! I hope to have fun in this place, Wendy -- with a brief haitus for an upcoming family visits (we are going away on Friday for two weeks; I'll post a notice).

~ Mechtild

(Deleted comment)
mechtild at 2005-06-21 16:37 (UTC) (Link)

Hello, White Gull!

White Gull, thank you for posting that poem. Thinking of that film scene, I could imagine those thoughts going through Frodo's mind at some deep level below conscious thought.

I especially liked the sound of your final stanza,

Oh Lord, is this a dream?
The beat of your wings lifts me so I can see
A far gleam
Of shores where white gulls' haunting cries call to me
- Come be free.

I enjoyed the internal rhyme of "dream" and "gleam" (well, it feels like internal rhyme when you say it, although not when you look at the way it's printed) and the alliteration that you have going on in it. It has a rich aural "feel" to me.

~ Mechtild
julchen11 at 2006-06-09 04:27 (UTC) (Link)
It's always wonderful to stroll through your archive. I love your posts, all the comments here. All things said above are so true, I only agree with your friends. I have to save this one. To re-read it again, to think about it and I promise you I'll come back, I know there's something to say. I'm at a loss of words now.
Take care dear, I love it to be here.
See you later

mechtild at 2006-06-09 04:58 (UTC) (Link)
Julchen, you are lovely to say all these things. *smooch*

ecause you posted a comment on this post from a year ago, I scrolled down and saw a lot of things. For one things, Shirebound posted. I hadn't realised she had posted all that long ago. She's someone I only met on LJ. Isn't it cool?
julchen11 at 2006-06-09 05:05 (UTC) (Link)
It must be a wonderful feeling for you to re-read this all again. I'm always stucked in your journal, I've spent most of my time the last few days here. There's so much to read, to think about and to 'listen'.
It's like all people here are talking to me. I can't say how much I love it.
mechtild at 2006-06-09 05:09 (UTC) (Link)
Wow! That is so neat!
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