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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

Nan Gagnon's "Reunion", plus Jan-u-wine's "Across So Wide a Sea"....

Posted on 2006.12.02 at 06:10

Comments:


pearlette
pearlette at 2006-12-06 11:33 (UTC) (Link)

Long post!!

Mechtild, it's so interesting how we all read LOTR in such different ways. :)

I'll tell you something shocking: I read the ending of LOTR before I read the book! Isn't that shocking? I'd had The Hobbit read to me at the age of eight and I fell in love then with Tolkien's world. I began reading LOTR when I was 11 but it was just a bit too much ... my 11-year-old brain began to get bogged down in the history, and besides, the Barrow-wight was scary. I didn't get round to reading LOTR properly until I was 21, and then I couldn't put it down. But before I read it, when I was about 14, I browsed through my sister's copy of LOTR and read the ending!!!! And I also read some of the Appendices, which simply fascinated me.

Oddly enough, this didn't spoil the book when I at last read it all the way through. Good grief, I'd even read the crucial moment when Frodo refuses to destroy the Ring! But somehow I was so enthralled and enchanted by the book that I somehow determined to *forget* that I'd read the end, and thus the story was not spoilt for me. When I read the chapter on Mount Doom, the tension was real and gripping and Frodo and Sam's painful journey up the mountain felt like it took forever.

I therefore think that the blow of Frodo's departure from Middle-earth was softened for me, because I already knew the ending. I found it very sad and elegiac and bittersweet, and the place where he was going was oh so mysterious ... but it didn't devastate me.

And I already knew that Sam sailed, because I'd read the Appendices. So I already had a more positive spin on the ending, I didn't see it as hopelessly sad.

As for the whole 'destined to be together' aspect, well that was my view long before I read any slash. And even now I don't necessarily see it in a slashy way. Sam has a deep devotion and love for Frodo, a non-sexual love that is just as great as his earthy, romantic, sexual love for Rosie. I think that's why I find the F/S dynamic so incredibly powerful. Not that sexual love isn't important, it's a wonderful and exhilarating part of life, but Tolkien points us to a love that is just as great: it's just not a sexual one. This is one of the things that gives LOTR its transcendental quality. Tolkien gives us agape love rather than eros love.

I am greatly influenced by the BBC radio LOTR, since that dramatisation so perfectly captures the depth of the relationship between Frodo and Sam. And it was the BBC LOTR that at last made me cry at the Grey Havens ... the book never made me do that. (Because I already knew the ending and was expecting that.)

I like PJ's Grey Havens. It's a beautiful and emotional scene, as well handled as it could have been. My only very minor complaint is the scenery. I think I'd have preferred waves crashing on the shore, rather than the very beautiful but static (and curiously uninhabited) Mithlond that we see in the film. But I totally get what PJ was trying to do ... Mithlond in the film is a dreamy place, a place where time has stood still, those towers and colonnades perfectly preserved although there seem to be no Elves around ... Film Mithlond serves as the Gateway to Frodo's Paradise. :)

And Film Frodo's smile is the crowning glory ... that is the note of hope that makes it all bearable.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2006-12-06 14:36 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Long post!!

What an interesting story of how you first experienced LotR! Well, now millions of new readers know what happens at the end because they watched the films first. It hasn't hurt their appreciation, either. And it would cut the intensity of those moments of grief and despair, I guess, to know going in that a) Gandalf wasn't gone for ever when he fell in Khazad-dum (another moment where I threw the book on the floor and sobbed, disconsolate, unable to go on reading for hours b) Frodo wasn't really dead when Sam found him in the pass of Cirith Ungol (more of the same) and c) Sam would be reunited with Frodo across the Sea (totally undone).

I think we have spoken about PJ's Havens scene before. I, too, missed the scene's greyness. But I've made my peace with the elegiac tone and come to find it beautiful, if different, realising as you do that it's supposed to show what Frodo is entering into, not what he's leaving or what Sam and his friends are feeling.

As for the "destined to be together" theme for Frodo and Sam, I perfectly understand the impulse to want it, since my feeling of that sentiment was what made me crazy at the book's ending all those years ago -- because I thought that would NOT happen. That destiny seemed to have been squelched with a heavy authorial boot.

Once I did discover they would be reunited, I was ecstatic, but for the reasons you describe. For how could such a loyal, to-the-grave relationship of love and friendship--between two people who had been through so much together, totally alone, totally dependent on one another--be sundered the way it had been at the end of the story (or so I thought)? I was thrilled and gratified to see that in the end that destiny I had yearned for would be fulfilled.

But when I began to read fic, perhaps because I was reading only highly-rated selections (...why was that I wonder? *cough*), I began to think this interpretation was exclusively and necessarily a slash interpretation. I became irritated by stories that portrayed Frodo spending decades whingeing over Sam's absence until such time that Sam had finished "doing his duty" as husband and father (whether willingly or pining back in the Shire), sighing for when Sam would get back over the Sea so they could snog again in uninterrupted bliss (Sam conveniently youthened). It seemed to trivialize the sort of deep healing and contentment I had been picturing, which had more to do with the healing and contentment of the soul rather than the sort that pertains between two characters getting back at last into the clinches.

This happens in some het stories I've read, too, and I don't like it any better there: stories in which being reunited with his Middle-earth lover is portrayed as the emotional climax of his story, the zenith of its meaning.

In the world of Harem canon, although Frodo spends a lot of time receiving sexual and emotional consolation from his lasses, in the good stories it's clear that Frodo is merely a sojourner there with them, that his doings with them are penultimate, that he's destined for something beyond romantic love and a blissful sex life. And the Harem scenario is frankly and cheerfully AU. It doesn't pretend to be a part of canon. I expect canon Frodo and Sam stories, if they are good, to better reflect the way Tolkien has written his secondary world, including its treatment of what Frodo was meant to enjoy in his years of healing on Tol Eressea. If the story portrays that as the consummation of True Love, and that's it, I'm not satisfied.

If I had been reading more gen fic about post-Quest and post-Havens Frodo, I would have seen how nearly universal this take on Frodo and Sam's destiny is. Also, I have to say there are some VERY famous Frodo/Sam fics I still haven't read which do take their stories all the way to the Undying Lands, stories which may do justice to a slash Frodo and Sam reunited that doesn't make that reunion -- as the consummation of a sexualized love affair -- the virtual be-all and end-all of their fates.

Sorry - I AM being long-winded. You don't have to answer this, Pearl. It must be the early-morning coffee. I'm just spewing. *rolleyes*
pearlette
pearlette at 2006-12-06 23:05 (UTC) (Link)
Mechtild, I am enjoying this conversation. :)

It seems that for you, for many years, the possibility of a reunion between Frodo and Sam seemed to have been squelched with a heavy authorial boot. I always found hope in Frodo's beautiful and affirming words: "... Do not be too sad, Sam. You cannot always be torn in two. You will have to be one and whole, for many years. You have so much to enjoy and to be, and to do."

I became irritated by stories that portrayed Frodo spending decades whingeing over Sam's absence until such time that Sam had finished "doing his duty" as husband and father (whether willingly or pining back in the Shire), sighing for when Sam would get back over the Sea so they could snog again in uninterrupted bliss (Sam conveniently youthened).

LOL! Yes, I'm pretty much allergic to fanfics that portray Sam as unhappy in the Shire once Frodo had left, and putting up with Rosie and the kids as a second-rate choice. Sam IS torn between his devotion to his master and his love for Rosie ... and yet he could have kept both master and wife, had Frodo decided not to sail. But Frodo is determined to sail. He has made his mind up. It's a sad choice, because Frodo has decided that he no longer belongs in Middle-earth. He is too deeply hurt to remain - too scarred, I believe, by the marks that bearing Sauron's token left on his soul. But it's also a hopeful choice - Frodo sails because he knows he is going to a place where he can be healed.

In the world of Harem canon, although Frodo spends a lot of time receiving sexual and emotional consolation from his lasses, in the good stories it's clear that Frodo is merely a sojourner there with them, that his doings with them are penultimate, that he's destined for something beyond romantic love and a blissful sex life. And the Harem scenario is frankly and cheerfully AU. It doesn't pretend to be a part of canon.

That's the Harem world in a nutshell. :) Beyond all the blissful fantasy sex and the emotional comfort provided for Frodo on Eressea is a recognition of the higher purposes that always undergird Tolkien's great mythos. 'Frankly and cheerfully AU' - absolutely. It's fun! - but it also stems from a deep love for the character and his universe.

I expect canon Frodo and Sam stories, if they are good, to better reflect the way Tolkien has written his secondary world, including its treatment of what Frodo was meant to enjoy in his years of healing on Tol Eressea. If the story portrays that as the consummation of True Love, and that's it, I'm not satisfied.

No, because it doesn't reflect Tolkien's worldview. Agape, divine love, love that is not self-interested, is the highest form of love, not eros. Sam shows some of this totally unconditional, self-sacrificial love in his care for Frodo and unquenching loyalty to him as they trudge through the hell of Mordor. Frodo shows it in his unflinching commitment to the Quest and to do the right thing: he is also prepared to sacrifice himself - not for Sam, although he loves him - but for the Shire and for the world.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2006-12-07 00:53 (UTC) (Link)
I am enjoying this, too, Pearl. I'm glad you liked my Harem comments, Pearl. I have made its study a pastime of mine. *grin*

Sam IS torn between his devotion to his master and his love for Rosie ... and yet he could have kept both master and wife, had Frodo decided not to sail. But Frodo is determined to sail.

That's a good point, Pearl. Frodo would have been happy being both Mr. Frodo's devoted Sam and the husband of Rosie and father of her children. But would he have ever done what he did in Frodo's absence in terms of taking his place as valued leader in the Shire, helping his people transition into the Fourth Age? I think probably not. He wouldn't want to put himself forward, but always defer to Mr. Frodo, urging him to take the lead. I think assuming his place as a good master, just as he had been a good servant, is part of what Frodo's leaving allowed Sam to be.

However, I do think that however "one and whole" Sam was in Frodo's absence, he never lost his underlying longing to sail - symbolized in his hearing the call of the Sea - and be with the person with whom he'd shared the most important era of his life. Sam may have been given the task of leadership in the Fourth Age, but his heart belonged to the Third and its leaders, most especially the Ring-bearer. By the way, I read your story and thought you lifted that theme up very well - Sam's continued Sea longing, in spite of his real happiness in M-E with his family. One can have more than one happiness in life, and more than one love, but usually one loyalty prevails.

No, because it doesn't reflect Tolkien's worldview. (...) Sam shows some of this totally unconditional, self-sacrificial love in his care for Frodo and unquenching loyalty to him as they trudge through the hell of Mordor. Frodo shows it in his unflinching commitment to the Quest and to do the right thing: he is also prepared to sacrifice himself - not for Sam, although he loves him - but for the Shire and for the world.

I am glad you brought up the difference in the foci of these two characters. They are bound together, but their eyes are not directed at the same thing. Sam's focus was on Frodo and Frodo's welfare; Frodo's was on the Quest and the Quest's welfare. The combination of the two made their mission a success. In the Undying Lands, though, I imagine their foci becoming more unified, but not on each other.

The visual metaphor I was thinking of for Sam and Frodo all day long was from the Shelob sequence (book). They make me think of Hansel and Gretel, going deeper and deeper into the dark unknown, hand in hand: to encourage each other, stay together, and out of sheer dread: but their eyes are fixed on the darkness ahead.

In the Undying Lands, I imagine their eyes becoming more and more fixed on the unknown ahead, not dark this time, but unknown and perhaps a little scary, so that eventually they will be like Hansel and Gretel again, moving towards their destiny literally or emotionally hand-in-hand, with their eyes fixed upon whatever waits for them, behind the veil.

I have always thought of Frodo's primary archetype as the pilgrim; fandom and further reading has helped me see Sam joining him in that state, until they are pilgrims together in the end, on the road, sojourners, going they know not where -- but with hope.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2006-12-07 01:17 (UTC) (Link)
You know, Pearl, I want to stop and thank you for coming in here to "chinwag" (as Maewyn would say) about the entries, Frodo, and Tolkien. I really appreciate it. I did one of those stat-programs that are floated around for free, to get a reality check on who actually commented in this journal. You were the winner. You even beat Este! You have thoroughly, continually enriched my posts here by bringing your wit, taste, insight and deep feelings to your comments.

Also, I wanted to add that your story ("Beyond the Sunset") struck me as one that fulfills a deep desire in Frodo fans to see their hero really truly healed on Tol Eressea; and that Sam, too, finds real wholeness across the Sea. It is a fic that portrays them both deeply happy and content, which I very much appreciate.
pearlette
pearlette at 2006-12-07 10:05 (UTC) (Link)
He wouldn't want to put himself forward, but always defer to Mr. Frodo, urging him to take the lead. I think assuming his place as a good master, just as he had been a good servant, is part of what Frodo's leaving allowed Sam to be.

Absolutely. "You are my heir, Sam" - the life that Frodo should have had in the Shire (including a wife and children, waaah) he bequeathes to Sam. Deliberately. He knows that by leaving, Sam can step out of his shadow. That's not Frodo's prime motivation for leaving, of course, but it's a positive spin-off.

Cuz Frodo Baggins rocks. *heart* *heart* *heart*

However, I do think that however "one and whole" Sam was in Frodo's absence, he never lost his underlying longing to sail - symbolized in his hearing the call of the Sea - and be with the person with whom he'd shared the most important era of his life. Sam may have been given the task of leadership in the Fourth Age, but his heart belonged to the Third and its leaders, most especially the Ring-bearer. By the way, I read your story and thought you lifted that theme up very well - Sam's continued Sea longing, in spite of his real happiness in M-E with his family. One can have more than one happiness in life, and more than one love, but usually one loyalty prevails.

The human condition is complicated. :) And even in our most intense happiness there can be an element of bittersweetness, loss, yearning ... a a minor chord playing. We are creatures made for immortality who are trapped in time. CS Lewis puts this sort of thing far better than I do. :)

Tolkien intimates very strongly at the end of LOTR and in other parts of his writing, that the sound of the Sea will haunt Sam for the rest of his life. He won't forget the promise that Frodo made him. And he won't hear the Sea all the time ... a rich, happy, fruitful life awaits him. But he will hear it now and then. And he won't forget.

I have always thought of Frodo's primary archetype as the pilgrim; fandom and further reading has helped me see Sam joining him in that state, until they are pilgrims together in the end, on the road, sojourners, going they know not where -- but with hope.

Oh, that's lovely. :) Yes, I see Frodo as a pilgrim. Definitely. And so was Sam.

You have thoroughly, continually enriched my posts here by bringing your wit, taste, insight and deep feelings to your comments.

Well, you will keep writing these awesome posts and posting up beautiful artwork. ;)

Also, I wanted to add that your story ("Beyond the Sunset") struck me as one that fulfills a deep desire in Frodo fans to see their hero really truly healed on Tol Eressea; and that Sam, too, finds real wholeness across the Sea. It is a fic that portrays them both deeply happy and content, which I very much appreciate.

Thank you ... and yes, what can I say? I like to see our hobbit-lads happy. :) There's enough heartbreak in their stories back in Middle-earth, the mortal lands. :(

Mind you, The Silmarillion is even worse ...!
Mechtild
mechtild at 2006-12-07 13:51 (UTC) (Link)
We are creatures made for immortality who are trapped in time.

*wibbles*

Ah, the Sil. If I ever finish with Frodo fic, I next would like to read Sil fics. I love reading back tales from HoME drafts, and the fuller treatments of Sil stories in JRRT's Unfinished Tales. I am sure there must be a lot of good Sil-based fic out there. And I'll bet most of it seethes with the blood, sex, guilt, and angst that the histories related in the Sil are full of, along with all the transcendant, magical parts. What a shame JRRT never had the time and energy to flesh it out the way he did LotR. I guess I'll have to read it in heaven if I get there.
pearlette
pearlette at 2006-12-07 15:12 (UTC) (Link)
The Silmarillion is too sad for heaven ... :) Although it's very biblical in its narrative style and it does contain some of the most beautiful and sublime writing I've ever read in my life. Tolkien simply surpasses himself in his magnum opus, the work of his heart. He has this way of painting vistas in my mind. In fact, The Silmarillion reminds me of a Turner painting ... vast, glorious, mysterious, transcendant, with flashes and glimmers of light flickering on the horizon, or nearby in pools of silver.

I've read Sil four times and each time it does my head in. I can never keep track of who is who or of what happened when ... all the battles blur into one. This is why I don't have the energy for Silmarillion fanfic, although I'm sure it's extremely good stuff. I have a hard enough time with the source material. Perhaps the fanfic would help me make more sense of it. :p

But actually, I think I'll just read Sil again ... at some point.

And I love Unfinished Tales!
Mechtild
mechtild at 2006-12-07 20:48 (UTC) (Link)
So, getting in the Sil mood, ey?

The Silmarillion reminds me of a Turner painting ... vast, glorious, mysterious, transcendant, with flashes and glimmers of light flickering on the horizon, or nearby in pools of silver.

Good, Pearl, that. It is what you say, epic, nay, biblical in diction and feel. But it was reading the fuller drafts and the Unifinished Tales stories that made it really live for me in my imagination. Those pulled me in and involved me in stories of the characters more than the Sil itself did. When I read the Silmarillion again, I got far more out of it because so much backstory was in my mind before I started out.

I can never keep track of who is who or of what happened when ... all the battles blur into one.

This was a big obstacle for me which I addressed intentionally, unable to stand constantly looking up names in the Companion and poring over the maps. I made a chart and a time-table, and my own maps. All that stuff was spread about in the texts, of course, but it was making the charts and maps myself that helped me remember. I kept them by me whenever I was reading -- as well as the chart of the types of Elves and houses of Men etc. It made the story exponentially more interesting to me, knowing who was whom and where they were supposed to be. I know few would want to do that, but I found it well worth it.
pearlette
pearlette at 2006-12-07 22:52 (UTC) (Link)
Oh wow, what an undertaking! :) What a fab thing to do! :)

I could certainly use similar charts, timetables and genealogies ... :)
Mechtild
mechtild at 2006-12-08 00:38 (UTC) (Link)
Your icon SLAYS me! Yes, they are a big help to me. Like having a royal family tree out on the coffee table when I am watching Shakespeare or historical costume dramas from BBC.

Pearl, I see that you posted a tantalizing-looking entry on the setting for the Grey Havens. I am writing recs for the het challenge at Lotr_fic_recs at the moment, but I hope to read it with greater attention later tonight. (I got a heads-up from our most beloved guardian of Frodo het, Ariel, that the challenge had been up for a few days and NO ONE had recced anything. Disgraceful! We are working to remedy that. *grin*)
pearlette
pearlette at 2006-12-08 16:49 (UTC) (Link)
*shows icon again* :p

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