Refusing to Wield a Sword
by Primula, with responses
Every time I read through LOTR, I always noted how Frodo refused to use
a sword. By the end of TTT and into ROTK, he will not defend by means
of arms, and doesn't even want to bear a weapon at all. In my younger
days I vaguely thought that it had something to do with his being more
"aware" of things in general - the wisdom aspect. That meeting violence
with violence wasn't the "answer" etc. etc. Then later, I wasn't sure
what it was that made him conclude so decisively that he would never be
a warrior in that sense of the word again. It even seemed selfish, in a
way, for it forced those around him (such as Sam) to bear the
responsibility of defending him without his pitching in and doing his
part, so to speak.
What I was thinking this morning was that it
may have been something different - not pacifism or "being a victim"
but more along the lines of addiction recovery. When someone is
recovering from alcoholism, they must gain the self-dicipline to never,
never put themselves in a situation that is tempting to their weakness.
They do not go to a bar, not even to "just use the phone" - the
temptation is there, and it will overcome them if they do not remove
all opportunities for it to do so. They acknowledge that they cannot
withstand it and take measures to fortify so they will not fall.
If the Ring, as movie-Frodo so succintly
summed up "Only has the power to destroy" and he must keep bearing it,
he is forced into a situation where dominance, power-by-force and
destruction are the overriding tempation it is singing into his mind
every hour of every day. If it was urging him to take up his sword and
slay Sam, for instance, he would after a time have to conclude that he
was essentially weaker than the Ring and that it might overcome him. He
could not be apart from it, so he did the only other thing he could -
he removed the weapons, lest he use them improperly against some other
being. He could no longer trust his own judgement as to whether that
other creature was evil or good or even if it was what it appeared to
be. (remember his thinking Bilbo, and Sam, were orcs?) A sword in his
hand could have been very akin to a bottle of the finest in the hand of
a recovering alcoholic. Plus a "friend" quietly, persistently urging
him to drink.
As I wrote
yesterday, I don't see the Ring as an addiction. Frodo is an
abuse survivor, barely. Perhaps he is, in truth, an abuse victim, for
he does not survive it with any sort of real recovery. My premise for
this train of thought is that addiction and abuse share several
similarities but there is a major difference. Alcohol, tobacco, drugs,
none of those things GETS anything out of the relationship. Those
things are in and of themselves passive. One may choose to take them or
not. One may not choose how one's body will respond to them, but the
initial choice is the individual's. With abuse, it is passed, one
person to another. There is no choice. The abuser has an agenda, just
as the Ring did. The abuser benefits from the manipulation of the other
person, in one way or another, just as the Ring did. There is an
individual will driving the abuse, just as the Ring did. It is agreed
that the Ring wanted to return to the hand of Sauran. Alcohol and drugs
do not want to return to their maker; tobacco does not wish to return
to the fields. They have no want, no desire, no need. Quite different
from the Ring. The Ring was malicous and used whoever was available to
fill its own need regardless of the cost to any and all it came in
contact with, in fact, it preferred to twist as many as possible,
whenever, wherever, and however possible.
Like the child of an abuser, Frodo is
helpless against it. He loves and hates it. How many children have died
protecting their abuser? How could Frodo possibly pass this along to
someone else? The love/hate relationship is ever present, yet Frodo
knows it is all wrong and what must be done to make things right and
fights with all his heart and soul to accomplish that end.
My feeling about him and his refusal to bear
arms is akin to not wanting to become like his abuser. The Ring can
only destroy. A sword in his hands will only destroy, just like the
Ring. I'm not certain he wanted to be defended, even by Sam. But to
pick up a sword would be to acknowledge that the Ring was right, one
must destroy to survive.
Children of abusers frequently become abusers
themselves, either to not feel alone, or out of anger, or because they
don't know this is not normal, or for the power over someone else. Be
that as it may, Frodo was willing to sacrifice everything, to not
become like his abuser, the Ring.
your point about the distinction between abused and addicted, but an addict has a craving, a
need for the
substance once the addiction is in place. And Frodo did choose
take on the burden, to risk the addiction. He hated it, yes, but he
also needed it and missed it terribly when it was gone. I think the
addiction analogy is very useful (at least for me) in understanding
what Frodo felt for the Ring. But your abuser/abused analaogy is also
really helpful in understanding what the Ring was doing to Frodo, and
then in a far more subtle and complicated way, what Frodo was feeling
for the Ring.
been tormented by the Ring's images and delusions of
destruction, dominance and violence, Frodo rejects anything that can be
used to further those ends. Also, if the Ring has shown Frodo the very
darkest and foulest elements of his being, he could be rejecting those
aspects by rejecting tools that are favored and used by those impulses.
Frodo did not initially choose to take on the burden,
it was given to him
and the spell of the Ring began it's work in the moment it was past to
Frodo. He chose to continue to carry the Ring until someone was
who'd know what to do with it and then finally realized he must carry
it to the end.
Abuse can be addictive. How many abuse
victims are in one abusive relationship after another? How many
battered women die at their husbands hand because they don't feel they
can make it alone or simply don't want to be alone? Often it is a
matter of believing this is normal or all one deserves or simply not
knowing how to change.
This is so true.
This is part of the problem that I see have with the unfairness of it
all. Frodo never asked for the ring. He was surprised when Gandalf told
him it was included in the packet of documents. As soon as it was oput
of the packet, it began to work on him. He had no problem as it sat in
the packet. All it took was to touch it...
Some victims of abuse stay with a partner
because they know no better and associate love with the abuse. They
cannot give up the abuser just as Gollum could not give up the ring.
Bilbo struggled with it and Gandalf with a slight of hand tricked him
into letting the ring go. Even for Frodo in the short time he had the
ring as compared to the others, for Gandalf to try to force him to get
rid of the ring would have destroyed his mind. Already the love-hate
relationship was beginning to work, though he would not know its
existence yet. Just some thoughts.
Hmmm, but isn't there a difference
between his refusal in Mordor, and the refusal in Gondor?
Selfish? Yes, that is one way of looking at it.
Another is along the lines of the pacifists who would rather die
themselves than harm another being. Or, in this case, would rather die
than risk yielding to those dark aspects revealed to him by the Ring.
The other hobbits coould see right and wrong as fairly black-and-white
and so had no problems with taking up arms to drive out the ruffians.
Frod has a much more intimiate and deeper understanding of right and
wrong, good and evil.
It's a definite possibility that while they're
in Mordor and the Ring is increasing its hold on Frodo and driving him
further into madness. He can't trust himself not to succumb to the
madness, not to attack or hurt Sam or himself, so he removes the
threat. He also needs all of his strength just to keep going and so
even the weight of the sword would be intolerable, much as he says the
mithril shirt was at times.
But what about after the Ring is destroyed?
When he is asked to dress in rags for his presentation to the King and
he does not want to wear Sting? At that point I don't think he would be
thinking he could be a threat to Sam or anyone else. At that point it
seems like a rejection of something more, and I think that Ladyhawk's
idea works. And then again, much later in the Shire, he will not raise
a weapon or threaten harm to anyone, but does what he can to help in
preventing unnecessary bloodshed. I think his exposure to the pure evil
of the Ring, and its exposure of his darkest nature, combine to make
him prefer personal harm or death over inflicting harm or destruction
on another, something that the Ring would have been enticing and
encouraging him to do.
See, now another random thought pops in, and
that could be another reason he had to leave ME. I understand burn
victims are extraordinarily sensitive to heat and have a much lower
tolerance for it than more normal people. After what Frodo had been
through, wculd he not be that sensitive to violence - physical,
emotional, mental - inflicted by one person upon another? Would he have
found even ordinary pettiness, bickering, maliciousness to be
extraordinarily painful to endure or witness? Gossip that in the past
had been nothing serious, just a bit of fun, would suddenly become as
hard to bear as watching someone be physically beaten? An exceptional
sensitivity to cruelty, mingled with a desperate fatigue of his spirit?
Your analogy to burn victims is very interesting, but
I wonder if it would be more likely that
Frodo (and the other hobbits) would actually have become DE-sensitized
to violence. After all, think of doctors in the emergency room who get
used to all the blood and gore that they are exposed to, or soldiers
who, after staring in horror at their first sights of dead bodies, can
pass them casually later on. After all, isn't this why there is the
outcry against violent TV programs, movies, and video games -- that it
desensitizes people to violence?
I think that might be the case with
Merry and Pip
most of the violence they saw was external to them (tho' Merry had the
Black Breath affect him, and Pip looked into the Palantir). But when
Pip looks in the Palantir he is totally horrified and feels almost
violated by his direct contact with Sauron. Sauron's mocking laugh is
like being shredded by glass, and Pip can't break the contact. Now
think of Frodo having almost that type of contact for months on end,
and it growing in power and intensity as Frodo's strength wanes. And
when it's not viciously mocking and shredding, it's presenting
delusions like the ones Sam saw for his brief time as a ringbearer.
Also, people who've actually experienced
violence seem to go one of two ways - they can become desensitized, or
they abhor and avoid it at all costs, and are really upset by even the
suggestion. I can see Merry and Pip having a more balanced or even
slightly desensitized approach, but Frodo's experience was more
prolonged (the contact with the Ring was constant and intimate, whereas
M&P saw periodic skirmishes or a few terrible battles).
Now Sam, hmmm, he had brief contact with
the Ring; he saw a few small fights; he watched and cared for Frodo as
Frodo was consumed. I really don't know how he would fit in with these
thoughts, other than his very solid, balanced, grounded nature would
help him deal with the violence in the Shire. hmmmm, must consider.....
There is also another way people can react to violence besides being
desensitized or overwhelmed
by it, and it is when they Understand where it comes from, seeing it
'from above' if I might say that, neither denying it or being
completely under its emotional control. There are many examples of
that, especially among survivors of torture or concentration camps,
many people are destroyed, but there are people who really acquire a
certain (and I say a 'certain') serenity or at least an understanding
after having gone through it, and that makes them more capable of
standing firm in the tempest, never accepting violence around them, but
understanding the greater scope of what motivates human beings. All
things become relative, in a way.
I guess my point is that sometimes people
just see and experience so much violence and abuse that, far from
becoming desensitized, are able to fully see it for what it is, and to
take position as to never allow it to happen again. I think this is
what Frodo might have experienced.
Frodo, by the end of ROTK, had gone through
so much horror, but being who he was, he just went beyond it, beyond
any form of antagonism actually, seemingly seeing evil as a deviation
from something that used to make sense (Saruman). That is what is
making him such a poweful and inspiring character.
Frodo was already a very sensitive being; compassionate and
somewhat moody. If the Ring had had its way, Frodo wouldn't have cared
one iota about those around him. Being the Hobbit he was he struggled
deeply with what he saw and perceived. He knew his judgements were
impaired. But, I also think he reached a point of not caring anymore
other than to finish his task. In Gondor, it seems to me that he was
making more of a statement: that he wanted nothing more to do with
anything that would cause hurt to another. I agree with your comment on
Frodo's sensitivity towards violence in all respects.
Excellent thoughts, though I am not sure it
wasn't more akin to fear
that he would be overcome and not know what he did with the weapon. ie:
had he been armed in the tower when Sam revealed the Ring would he have
used Sting to get it back? It seems like you say that he resolved
himself to the fact that it was just too dangerous for him to be armed.
Later on It feels more like the passive
issue. He has seen so much hurt, and anguish that he can not
intentionally do harm no matter the reason. HE had no heart for
Each perspective above really seems to play a key
part in every aspect of Frodo and the challenge of the ring. The
abuse, the sensitivity - all are great thoughts about what Frodo might
have been going through with the progression of the control of the ring
over him and then with what happens to him afterwards. I think each
instance is quite valid and perhaps played a part in this tale.
Highly sensative... yes, the burn victim
anology is quite telling
and he has been burned by the Ring, terribly, not just in body but in
spirit. So that which hurts the spirit, like pettiness, would perhaps
seem like sandpaper on raw skin.
I do agree he preferred to die over harming another, not that he
expected others to die on his behalf.
Interesting thoughts everyone... My take on this is that Frodo let go of any weapons because
he realised that that was not his role anymore, to hold a sword or draw
any weapon at anybody. Though when he comes back to the Shire, Pippin
says to him that his being 'shocked and sad' will not help prevent the
fighting from happening, Frodo's answer shows that he knows quite well
that it might indeed happen. He is not the kind of pacifist that will
deny violence when necessary, his vision is much too broad now not to
see it. But I think that from the moment he realises that weapons are
not useful anymore for what HE has come to do, be it in Mordor or back
in the Shire, he simply does not tolerate them on him anymore. It is
the act of a free spirit, in my opinion.
I think that far from being a victim or
anything (as to why he refuses to bear weapons), he knows perfectly
well where he stands. It is not, in my opinion, about letting others
defend him and he doing nothing to participate in the fight. On the
contrary, his task, and later, his kind of leadership could not be
anyone else's and simply did not involve using weapons, but trying to
make everyone understand that they were to be used in extreme
situations only. No-one is blaming him for his position either, Frodo
is valued for his leadership and for helping the others hold their
temper. He does not need a sword to do that...
Frodo and Faramir are the only ones to my
knowledge, to clearly state that they will avoid any killing if they
can, even killing enemies. Faramir might have wanted to do it, but
maybe only Frodo, being a hobbit and not a soldier, had the luxury to
concretely let go of his sword...
...As for the sword – Frodo
drew his sword against the Nazgul at the ford but it didn’t really
help…( but I love that scene!) By the time he reached Mount Doom he has
been confronted with such an evil – something you can’t fight with a
sword. The fight with the ring was inside him. His will was his weapon.
When all was over Frodo didn’t want to be presented as the great hero
(shining armour and all that) maybe because he thought that he had
failed. If not for Sam and Gollum the end would have been different and
though I don’t think it was a failure Frodo maybe had a different
feeling about it.
Later in the Shire I think he was upset at
the thought of bloodshed there. Like it would taint the land where he
hoped he would find peace. And he had a different understanding of