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.


I see 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 to 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.

Having 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.

Ladyhawk again:

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 found 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.....

Fan Forever:

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 perhaps 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 fighting.


Each perspective above really seems to play a key part in every aspect of Frodo and the challenge of the ring. The addiction, 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.

Fan Forever:

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 Saruman.