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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

Moria Pt. 3: The Mithril Shirt ~ A Screen Icon

Posted on 2007.02.21 at 10:18


notabluemaia at 2007-02-22 00:00 (UTC) (Link)
A fascinating post, Mechtild.

For me, as I've said elsewhere (and fairly often), LotR has been a part of my spiritual journey since first I encountered Bilbo at age 8. I see JRRT's views on spirit and the working of grace in the world written deeply into LotR (at a mythic level) - there, in his words, as the table or person that Picasso painted are still there in his refracted images. I do not think that JRRT meant to write religion, nor to limit the book's meaning only to those who shared his faith, but rather to write deeply about how he believed the world moves, and never to write a world in contradiction to the one he believed in.

The mithril vest, its 'worth greater than the value of the Shire...', is a mere token to Frodo's own worth; the reaction of his fellows in the film to seeing it is similar to their reactions later at seeing another, Gandalf, returned to them from seeming death. The vest is a lorica - and for me, emblematic of the hymn most important to me (for many reasons), St Patrick's Breastplate (which inspired the first novel length LotR tale I wrote, and write still).

Today at Ash Wednesday services, I thought of Frodo, and of his willingness to give himself as a sacrifice, of the degree to which he was caught between temptation and evil.

Thinking on the ways in which LotR intersects with spirituality compels me (as well as simple love for the text, the films, the characters). I have enjoyed reading your thoughts very much, and thank you for this carefully considered, lovely post.
mechtild at 2007-02-22 04:46 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for your comment, Nota, gracious and insightful. You are so right to compare the Company's awed reaction to Frodo's revelaling of the mithril shirt to the reactions of Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas to the revelation of Gandalf in Fangorn, un-looked for, blinded by the light of his transfigured self, back from the dead.

And I, too, can see the shirt as a metaphor or sign for Frodo himself, although the comparison works better for me if the glittering shirt is covered by his ordinary Shire clothes.

Above, Eandme also compared the mail shirt to the spiritual "breastplate" St. Paul talked about. I agree that that's a very strong related image. I liked what Peachy said, too, referring to the notion of the shirt being a sign of divine [literally, from the Valar] protection and favour. What she said also encouraged me to compare Frodo himself to the mithril shirt, which you did so well above. She said this about the Tower scene:

You're right about its
'divine protection' treatment. I think that's why we feel such outrage when the Orcs take it. Not because it's a costly thing, or so much because it's beautiful, or even because Frodo has been robbed of such protection - but because it's a precious gift of grace.

If you extend her thought -- that it's an outrage that the Orcs paw over the mithril shirt because it's a precious gift of grace -- it's the same sort of outrage to think of Frodo being pawed over by them, since he, too, is a precious gift of grace. Watching them fling the shirt around, almost pulling it apart as they fight over it as spoils makes me think of them doing that to Frodo as their captive. Thank the Valar Sauron wanted him delivered to Barad-dûr in good condition!

Some fans have strongly identified Frodo with Sting as his special avatar -- slender, small, and light; seemingly not much of a weapon compared to a sword, but perfect for the job, as it turns out. Elvish, too. ;)

But the mithril shirt is what most moves me as a physical metaphor for Frodo. When that little shirt is revealed among the tokens by the Mouth of Sauron outside the Black Gate(book scene, not film), my heart constricts. As I imagine that little thing, so fine, so radiant, on display as a spoil, I can't help thinking of its wearer, also finely made, strong and full of light. And as you point out, like the shirt, his worth is beyond reckoning; this rare and "best hobbit in the Shire".
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