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Frodo's fate
ambree40
I still remember the first time I read Lord of the Rings. I was completely absorbed by the story but after I had finished it, I was depressed for weeks. My depression was mainly caused by how I felt about Frodo’s fate: SO VERY UNFAIR!!

I was still young and expected a happy ending. On reading the story again (many times), I have come to understand why Frodo had to go into the West. But that first feeling of depression has lingered. One of the reasons is probably that I was ill prepared for the way Tolkien ended his story. In the context of the mythology of the Red Book, Frodo is largely taken out of the equation after the Ring has gone, because Sam has become the narrator. That made it difficult for me to understand how Frodo must have felt.

Much to my surprise, the films helped to fill this gap. I could finally SEE how Frodo felt. Ever since I came to Live Journal I have wanted to document what I saw of Frodo’s feelings. And this is the first in a series of posts in which I want to share my impressions.

Frodo from the Cracks of Doom
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to the Grey Havens
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Part 1: Lost Soul

Frodo at the Crack of Doom

The first film scene that added to my understanding of Frodo’s feelings is where he is trying to throw the Ring into the Crack of Doom. In the book, all we read is what Sam hears when Frodo has just lost his battle with The Ring and claims It for his own:

“I have come, but I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!”

The film scene shows in painful detail how Frodo fights his desperate battle with The Ring, how he loses that battle and how that costs him his soul. For me, it is the most powerful scene of the whole Trilogy.

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Every time I see this scene I am reminded of an anecdote about what happened on set after they had finished shooting. I believe it was Peter Jackson who told us in the EE commentaries that the crew gave Elijah a big hand when they were done, a thing that doesn’t happen very often. I can only add my own applause to theirs.


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Elijah's performance through all of the movies is excellent, but this scene has always amazed me. It is an outstanding and, imho, sadly underrated performance.

Agreed, Addie. It was an outstanding performance and Elijah should have received much more credit for it than he actually got. Every time I watch this scene it takes away my breath.

Frodo’s fate: SO VERY UNFAIR!!

This is the very thing that inspired most of my fanfic. It's been very important to me that Frodo receive the comfort, respect, attention, healing, and peace that he so richly deserved.

How interesting that Frodo's fate inspired most of your fanfic. I love to read it.
I always feel about Frodo like Sam did when they were back in the Shire: "Sam was pained to notice how little honour he had in his own country". Actually, I feel the same way about Frodo's actor.

I've always had trouble understanding why Frodo physically suffered so terribly after the quest and had to leave middle earth. My only consolation was that eventually Sam crossed the sea to join him.

I see what you mean. As Frodo said himself in the film: Some hurts go too deep.
I'm glad that Tolkien added the appendices to his book. Otherwise we wouldn't even have known that Sam eventually joined Frodo across the sea.

I remember that story too - - Elijah was just up on a stool, bare stage, green screen. And he was so powerful the crew burst into spontaneous applause. Gulp. To me the best part (and most likely Elijah's intuitive doing) was that tiny smile/sneer at the end that so mirrored that of Isildur. Wow...

Elijah was just up on a stool, bare stage, green screen.

Ooooh, I didn't know that.

"Elijah's intuitive doing"
I've always wondered if Elijah had actually seen Isildur's scene when they filmed this. Perhaps, it's just the independent interpretation of two very talented actors, portraying characters that know what they do is wrong but can't resist.
I've always found Elijah a very intuitive actor. Combined with intelligence and empathy for the character, that's an incredible combination.

Great collection of stills. It's almost like watching ROTK again. I'm looking forward to "Confusion and Loyalty."

Edited at 2013-12-08 02:13 am (UTC)

Glad you liked it, Yeux. I had great fun making & selecting the screencaps. The next installment has to wait a bit as I just got myself back to finishing the painting my house. ;-)

Very interesting, thanks for sharing :-)

Thank you, Jane. You're welcome. :-)

What a powerful writer Tolkien is. You may read many a modern writer and not have such a feeling of empathy towards a character as we feel for Frodo. And when you consider that Tolkien actually painted very little of Frodo's interior struggle (for, after all, the book was not about Frodo!), then it is even more amazing how the courage of this small heart captured us.

I read LOTR when I was about 13 and was devastated at the ending. Later, as I aged, I came to understand it, but was devastated in other ways.

I think the two things that really "got" me about this scene were: during Frodo's final struggle to retain his own identity, you can hear his heart beating. It gets slower and even fainter and then stops. And then the single tear. The last act of Frodo *as* Frodo. Is he weeping for himself? i should think so. What would it be like to have fought that foul thing all the way to the very edge of Doom, only to loose oneself (and all of ME) in the end.

Lovely acting on Elijah's part. I've not seen him do the like since, or am i just prejudiced to this particular role? Or is the person(ality) of Frodo so very strong that it drew from his actor somethign that he won't experience again? It's disappointing to me on almost a personal level.

(I've heard many opin that the Frodo-sneer and the Isildur-sneer were one of PJ's patented 'book-end" moments)

Edited at 2013-12-08 03:30 pm (UTC)

“What a powerful writer Tolkien is“
Frodo is a unique character and the empathy towards him that Tolkien creates is extraordinary. Looking at the screen-captures again, the images that “got” me the most are those between that single tear you mention and the last ones where his face shows pure evil. In those few moments, Frodo’s face is almost child-like, as if the last remnant of his own personality is bewildered by what has just happened to him (wiping away a tear of my own).

“It's disappointing to me on almost a personal level”
I don’t share that disappointment at all, Jan. The role of Frodo was unique in the scope it created for the actor but I have seen moments in his more recent films where I thought he personified what THAT character felt in an equally impressive way. For me, he has the ability to evoke strong emotions without doing much at all. Just one example to show you what I mean (from Everything is Illuminated): http://www.frodolivesin.us/eii/id14.htm
I’ve seen it in some of his other films and, most recently, in his role of Ryan in Wilfred.

Thanks for commenting, Jan. It's much appreciated.


Edited at 2013-12-08 05:25 pm (UTC)

he has the ability to evoke strong emotions without doing much at all.

I read some comments, about many of his performances, saying that he is an actor who knows how to use limited resources to convey many emotions.

Thanks for that gallery.

Thanks for commenting on this point, jaramajo. I agree completely with those comments. It's so interesting to read what people think about Elijah's acting; you read such contrasting opinions. People often don't know what to think about an actor like Elijah, who chooses such varying, unexpected, and even controversial roles. I think it depends on what people expect, not on what the actor and the film-maker are trying to do. And Elijah is trying to do many different things. I find that fascinating.

In those few moments, Frodo’s face is almost child-like, as if the last remnant of his own personality is bewildered by what has just happened to him

I think the only way we could even approach this sort of experience would be to be a victim of a split personality. How would it feels to have one's self smothered, done to death by some other life force? A crime far worse, imho, than murder or physical rape, yet a combination of both of those acts.

On EW's acting: oh, i think that perhaps I just cannot be satisfied when it comes to an actor whose work I have really enjoyed. I liked his work in EII a lot. I liked the film a lot.

Wilfred, I'm afraid, is just not my cup of tea. I wonder, sometimes, when I watch Elijah, if he is not more in love with the idea of acting than with acting itself. I wonder if his best destiny might not lie on the other side of the camera. He's an energetic, intelligent and supremely enthusiastic young man. There are many roads he has yet to walk down.

And I hope that you can see him in Grand Piano, awesome.

So you saw it and liked it? Great!
I have been looking forward to this film ever since I read a review which said: "...Wood carries the film, finding a believable and compelling arc for a character whose default setting might in lesser hands be desperation. ... But through Wood, the character convincingly evolves over the course of the film ...".
Well, that sounds like Elijah at his best.

Magnificent performance of Elijah, because aside a couple of phisycal scenes, all Elijah's work is based in his glance and in his great job "playing" piano.
It's one more of his top performances, and he has several.

I felt exactly the same when I read the books - really depressed. When I went to see FOTR for the first time, I hadn't finished reading the trilogy. I was about half way through FOTR and because of the massive effect the film had on me I couldn't wait to finish the book and buy the other two as quickly as possible. But oh dear - I'll never forget reading of Frodo's departure in ROTK. I felt like flinging the book across the room and screaming at Tolkien for this ending. I literally dreaded seeing this on screen. As you say, when we see the effect leaving has on Frodo - the return of colour to his face and the smile - it does make it easier. Even so, I still found it very upsetting. I wanted him to stay in The Shire with his friends.

>>Every time I see this scene I am reminded of an anecdote about what happened on set after they had finished shooting. I believe it was Peter Jackson who told us in the EE commentaries that the crew gave Elijah a big hand when they were done, a thing that doesn’t happen very often. I can only add my own applause to theirs.<<

Actually, I don't think this is mentioned in the commentary though I could be mistaken. I know I read about it in Brian Sibley's biography of PJ. Of course, we never heard about this from Elijah. How very typical!! Such a brilliant performance.

Thanks for this great post, Ambree. The screenshots are great. Looking forward to the next one:)

Glad you liked the post, Paulie. It was a joy to make and select all the screenshots.

“I felt like flinging the book across the room and screaming at Tolkien for this ending”
That describes my own reaction pretty accurately but it didn’t prevent me from starting to read the book again straight away. You may remember that I once wrote about my reluctance to see the films because LOTR was such a cherished book. But this post (and the next) explains how the film actually helped me to accept the ending on an emotional as well as an intellectual level. It was not only seeing Frodo’s smile when he has boarded the ship but also to be shown, in tiny moments, how much he was still suffering after the Ring was destroyed. So, I wanted to make this series of posts as a tribute to the film-makers and the actor who brought Frodo to life. :-)

Mine too. elijah was so awesome throughout. The film showed this awful moment very well, the most brutal of the rapes from the Ring that Frodo had to endure and the one he could not win against in the end. I think the same thing is happening in the book but is not written about. In one of Tolkien's letters, he says Frodo may not have had any memories of himself of that battle with the Ring. It's telling that the whole scene is from Sam's POV in the book. And you can plainly see what that would have done to Frodo's understanding of what happened and his terrible self-condemnation that followed after when he heard Sam tell him what he had said at that time- I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine. That seems to clearly indicate that Frodo freely chose to renounce the Quest, but the truth is that Frodo literally did not choose. The choice was made for him. I don't think Sam was aware of all that was going on within so could only tell his beloved master what he heard. I hope in the West Frodo finally understood what had then place and there was more than one way ' I do not choose' could be interpreted. Looking forward to more!

Namarie, God bless, Antane :)

Hi Antane.
I totally agree with what you say here. Frodo quite literally did not choose. It was The Ring making that choice for him. You talk about Frodo's terrible self-condemnation. That wasn't so clear to me from the book, either. But it was made very clear in the film and that’s one of the things I want to show in the follow up posts. I think Tolkien chose to write the last part of the Saga from Sam's perspective for two reasons. The first is that Frodo couldn't write about is, either from lack of memory or because it was too painful. The second and most important reason may be that Tolkien wanted to set up the mythology of the "Red Book", and the way it was preserved among Sam Gamgee's descendants.
I'm still working on the follow up posts, trying to decide which film scenes to include because some of them deviated so widely from the Book, but I'll get to it.
Thanks for commenting, Antane!

Have you read The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien? Frodo's self-condemnation is clearest there in the Profesor's his thoughts about Frodo at this time, the "unreasoning self-reproach" that follows, and what he thought of Frodo's thoughts about going West. He treats Frodo as an individual in his own right, not merely a sub-creation. If you don't have it or can't get it, I can probably send you the pertinent sections. It's fascinating to read. His suffering is not entirely clear in the book but it's there (I don't think Frodo wanted to leave much in writing for he knew Sam would see it). The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are also clearly there for those who know of such things. I don't find it clear in the films except for that passing reference to There are some wounds that go too deep, that have taken hold and of course the silent and terrible suffering seen in his eyes at the Grey Havens but that is more grief he must leave those he loves so deeply because his pain is deeper than self-reproach. Do you see it elsewhere than that? It's frightening that there was a force in his life (his PTSD and lingering lust for the Ring) than not even Sam's love and the love Frodo had for his heartbrothers could overcome. I wish all those who suffer this way had such a place to go to heal from it.

Namarie, God bless, Antane :)

I have read The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. We have the book here and I must find the sections about Frodo's "unreasoning self-reproach" again. Isn't it interesting how Tolkien talks about Frodo as an individual in his own right? I find that fascinating. From the first time I read the book Frodo has also been a very real person to me!

I saw Frodo's self-reproach more clearly in the film than I read it in the book. Actually, one of my planned posts has the title: "The Guilt and The Shame". I have planned screencaps from several scenes in Minas Tirith for that post. You'll see what I mean when I get to it.

The lingering lust for the Ring is clearly shown in the film when Frodo rides with Bilbo in the cart to the Grey Havens. It's also mentioned explicitly in the book when Frodo is ill at Farmer Cotton's.

I have always hoped that Frodo found some measure of healing for his damaged soul in the Undying Lands. But we’ll never know.




I had forgotten about those scenes. Yes, those would fit too. Elijah's got the most expressive eyes. They say so much without saying a word.

As far as healing, well, that is what fanfic is for! :) He has a rough road for sure, but he does heal, in my stories and others.

I'm glad you have the book! :) Just look in the index and that will guide you to the right sections again.

Namarie, God bless, Antane :)

"Elijah's got the most expressive eyes. They say so much without saying a word."
Exactly!


"that is what fanfic is for"
And that's why I like fanfic! :-)

Have a good weekend!

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