The Great Escape

by Varda

Someone called The Lord Of The Rings 'escapist fantasy'. If this is escapist, I'll stay in the real world. Nearer to the mark, although not true either, is that it is a cruel book. Sam sums it up; 'He (Frodo) has had a cruel time!' he says to Aragorn as soon as they are out of Mordor.

Is any hero in Western literature battered in mind or body as much as Frodo? But he 'wins'. And the others, do some of them fare any better? Gandalf sort of melts back into the matrix, care of the Grey Havens. Aragorn finds his kingdom, but loses Gandalf, his great guide and friend. Arwen gets Aragorn, but ends up a sad widow, dying after him. Sam loses his beloved Frodo and Legolas takes Gimli his friend to the West, but still lives to see him die.

And the great ones of Middle Earth, Elrond and Galadriel, their triumph involves exile and the loss of all they hold dear. And in the struggle with evil, although they are 'good', the nature of their power means they cannot wield it to help the Ringbearer; in L?rien Sam says 'we better be on our way, these folk can't help us'. Some keen-eyed gardener!

And this healing to be found away beyond the sea, what is it? Evil experience and pain are part of our lives. To wipe all that out would be to wipe out other things as well, such as the memory of Sam's heroic efforts to aid and comfort Frodo in Moria. To suggest one can be lost but the other retained is to forget the holistic nature of human experience, and Tolkien shows great respect for the holistic nature of human experience everywhere else. Or perhaps it is only a spiritual purging,in which case the Grey Havens are just oblivion of the character.

A few people answered my posts on Frodo's suffering to remind me that there are no happy endings. Actually, I can cope with that; I can cope with the idea of heroes simply dying, even with suffering unresolved. But the Grey Havens ending is like a sugar coated cyanide capsule.

Then there is the business of defeating evil. After this, in this new age, there will be no evil? None at all? This seems unrealistic. Or perhaps it will not be like Sauron, who is in a league of his own when it comes to evil. Maybe it will be smaller scale, more mundane and petty. The Age of Gold has gone not to the Age of Silver but straight to the Age of Lead.

But there has to be evil, or there would be no possibility of moral choice, no right and wrong. Frodo tells Sam to keep the book so that later ages will value what they have and learn of the Great Danger. But every age learns according to their own experience. In a later, shorter-lived age, populated by moral Yahoos, will sacrifice and deferred reward mean anything?

If great evil is no longer on the earth, there will be no Saruman, but no Frodo either. If Sauron had a better eye for propaganda maybe he should have put out a slogan; 'Destroy me? Destroy yourselves'.

In the old war film, The Great Escape, the prisoners of war tell each other that planning their escape has kept them alive. Then they are re-captured and executed. The Lord of The Rings is not just a cosmic 'Catch 22', is it?

Apologies for more than usually pessimistic musings, all this talk of parties I missed is getting to me......sorry :-(