LOTR: The great cover-up

13 April, 2016

Has the climax of Lord of the Rings, the destruction of the One Ring, ever seemed a little anticlimactic to you?

Has Sam’s role in book three ever seemed a bit – I dunno – superfluous? I mean, he carried Frodo at one point. Ok, and rescued him from the orcs. But the story might be a little stronger without a sidekick. Is he just there as a comment on the great british working class?

Oh incidentally, you know how Frodo tells Sam the ring will destroy him? Why? Why would it destroy Sam and not Frodo? Because Sam is lower class – like Smeagol – whereas Frodo is a property owner. Oh Britain, thy name is snobbery!

Getting back to it – why is there that scene where Frodo is just finishing up transcribing the record of is adventures, and it turns out to be the book we are reading? Isn’t it a bit awkward? Wouldn’t it have been better if that coda hadn’t been there?

Well, I’ll tell you why it is there. Whenever an author takes pains to let us know that a book is narrated by a character in the book, that is telling us that the book is not written from a neutral, third party perspective. It’s telling us that not everything is as it seems, that not everything is to be belived.

Smeagol/Gollum. What a survivor! Centuries old. Walked across middle earth. Survived. Spent centuries in goblin caves in the Misty Mountains. Survived. You know how Boromir said “one does not simply walk into Mordor”? Gollum walked into Mordor. Several times. And out again. He knew all about Shelob, and fully expected to be able to retrieve the ring from the lair of a demon spider that had lived since the end of the First Age.

And in the end, he just tripped off a precipice in a moment of sheer inattention and “Oops!” into the lava.

Do you believe that?

Why was Sam there? In that moment, in that scene? Why had the fates conspired to put him there, trailing Frodo all the way?

He had a job to do. A destiny to fulfil. Because at the end of all things, Frodo could not destroy the ring. Just couldn’t do it. It fell to Sam to do the necessary. Motivation? Hell yes – that business with the Lembas on the way in, on top of everything else. He was primed for his moment.

Read it again. Sam destroyed the great ring. Sam brought down Sauron. Sam ended the third age of the world. Sam – it was Samwise Gamgee, a simple gardener from the Shire, who finally made that decision, who acted. Who did the thing.

And Frodo wrote it out of the book, because when all’s said and done, it was murder. Oh yes, layers of motivation. But one of those layers was simple spite.

And that’s how it went down, there on Mt Doom, that morning at the end of the Third Age. That’s what happened, and why.

So don’t believe everything you read. Not when you are warned that the narrator might have an agenda.

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