Frodo Finds a Direction

Jessica Harnsberger '07, English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2003

Upon receiving the ring as a gift from his older cousin Bilbo, Frodo Baggins learns about its mysterious nature and dangerous history from the wise elder Gandalf. In telling the great story of the One Ring, Gandalf only begins to convey the incredible task which lies before the young hobbit. Frodo soon realizes that some force of destiny has caused this ring and, consequently, this task to fall into his hands. After making the necessary preparations, Frodo speaks with Gandalf one last time before embarking on his journey:

"As for where I am going," said Frodo, "it would be difficult to give that away, for I have no clear idea myself, yet."

"Don't be absurd!" said Gandalf. "I am not warning you against leaving an address at the post-office! But you are leaving the Shire -- and that should not be known, until you are far away. And you must go, or at least set out, either North, South, West or East -- and the direction should certainly not be known."

"I have been so taken up with the thoughts of leaving Bag End, and of saying farewell, that I have never even considered the direction," said Frodo. "For where am I to go? And by what shall I steer? What is to be my quest? Bilbo went to find a treasure, there and back again; but I go to lose one, and not return, as far as I can see."

"But you cannot see very far," said Gandalf. "Neither can I. It may be your task to find the Cracks of Doom; but that quest may be for others: I do not know. At any rate you are not ready for that long road yet."

"No indeed!" said Frodo. "But in the meantime what course am I to take?"

"Towards danger; but not too rashly, nor too straight," answered the wizard. "If you want my advice, make for Rivendell. That journey should not prove too perilous, though the Road is less easy than it was, and I will grow worse as the year fails."

"Rivendell!" said Frodo. "Very good: I will go east, and I will make for Rivendell. I will take Sam to visit the Elves; he will be delighted." He spoke lightly; but his heart was moved suddenly with a desire to see the house of Elrond Halfelven, and breathe the air of that deep valley where many of the Fair Folk still dwelt in peace. [pp.64-65]

Questions

1. Frodo asks several questions in a row that do not have clear answers. What do they reveal about Frodo's thoughts? What other purpose do they serve?

2. Gandalf, though wise, cannot give Frodo all the answers he seeks. Why is this important? How and why does Tolkein place Gandalf on a more human (or hobbit) level?

3. Gandalf tells Frodo to direct his course "towards danger; but not too rashly, nor too straight." What does this imply about Frodo's journey? How is Frodo supposed to interpret this advice?

4. Frodo feels the great burden of his task, but, in final paragraph of this passage, he seems hopeful and excited about the journey. He feels a sudden desire to experience adventures: in which other novels have we already seen this?

References

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring. Houghton Mifflin, Boston: 1966.


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Last modified 25 February 2004