Many Partings

Brooke Wolfe '07, English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2003

When Gollum enters the action, the reader cannot help but focus all attention on the slimy, detestable, green-eyed creature who refers to himself as "we." Despite these odious traits, even Frodo, whose ring Gollum tries to steal numerous times, has sympathy for him and rescues him from Faramir's men. At one point he even considers killing Gollum, has his sword raised to him, but "pity stayed him" (II, 411). Frodo feels sympathy for him because he understands the burden of bearing the ring, believing that they can "reach one another's minds" (II, 285). The reader likewise cannot help but develop pity for complex character that lies in Gollum, especially when he transforms back into his original self, the hobbit-like Smeagol with pale eyes and a willingness to help his new master. Sam maintains suspicion of the creature throughout their encounters, no matter what transformation he takes. However, he treats Smeagol a bit kinder by referring to him as Slinker rather than the stinker he believes Gollum to be.

Like the chapter in book VI of Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien had to part with his long-time friend of a complex relationship, C.S. Lewis upon his death in 1973. The two Inklings employed similar writing characteristics, some of which are evident in a passage in the chapter entitled "Many Partings" in Return of the King. Both wrote fantasy, both correlated their mythology with their Christian faith, and both believed that worlds of mythology are based upon the humble and common things of life (Duriez 92). Although the chapter is close to the middle of the book, it is merely the beginning of the end of the fantastic journey. The reader is still enticed to stick with the long series until the very end.

But all save Legolas said that they must now take their leave and depart either south or west. "Come, Gimli!" said Legolas. "Now by FangornŐs leave I will visit the deep places of Entwood and see such trees as are nowhere else to be found in Middle-earth. You shall come with me and keep your word; and thus we will journey on together to our own lands in Mirkwood and beyond." To this Gimli agreed, though with no great delight, it seemed.

"Here then at last comes the ending of the Fellowship of the Ring," said Aragorn. "Yet I hope that ere long you will return to my land with the help that you promised."

"We will come, if our own lords allow it," said Gimli. "Well, farewell, my hobbits! You should come safe to your own homes now, and I shall not be kept awake for fear of your peril. We will send word when we may, and some of us may yet meet again at times; but I fear that we shall not all be gathered together ever again.

Then Treebeard said farewell to each of them in turn, and he bowed tree times slowly and with great reverence to Celeborn and Galadriel. "It is long, long since we met by stock or b stone, A vanimar, banimalion nostari!" he said. It is sad that we should meet only thus at the ending. For the world is changing: I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, and I smell it in the air. I do not think we shall meet again."

"And Celeborn said: "I do not know, Eldest." But Galadriel said: "Not in Middle Earth, nor until the lands that lie under the wave are lifted up again. Then in the willow-meads of Tasarinan we may meet in the Spring. Farewell!"

"I fear it may be so with mine," said Frodo. "There is no real going back. Though I may come to the shire, it will not seem the same; for I shall not be the same. I am wounded with knife, sting, and tooth, and a long burden. Where shall I find rest?"

Gandalf did not answer. [Tolkien 280]

Questions

1. Joy is a trait most often associated with C.S. Lewis and his book, Surprised By Joy. However, eucatastrophe, or joy as an inconsolable longing to obtain undying lands of the uttermost west, or a longing of the sea is evident in J.R.R. Tolkien as well. Where do we see his characters with such a longing?

2. Both Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien believed worlds of imagination are based on the humble and common things of life. Tolkien even lived a very ordinary life taking his family on vacation to normal places and not varying too much from his everyday routine of being a professor, grading, taking care of family matters, writing fantasy, and staying up way too late at night. What are the humble and ordinary places in Middle Earth that reflect his seemingly average lifestyle?

3. Tolkien hints at his views of feminine spirituality with his characterizations of Galadriel in the trilogy and Varda in the Silmarillion. What can we tell of these views from the characterizations and where else do we see MacDonald make such connections in his characters?

4. Tolkien obviously tries to portray a very large span of time with his inclusion of Aragorn as the last of the Dunedain and his very extensive ending to the trilogy; which is not at all a true ending, but merely a continuation of more ages to come. How does Lewis succeed in making Narnia a long span of time? Is it as long as the three ages of Middle Earth? Does it seem rushed or create confusion for the reader since every time the children return to Narnia a different span of time has elapsed?

5. What language adds to the sadness of their partings? Where else does Lewis portray the kind of sadness we sense in the farewells of the fellowship?

References

Duriez, Colin. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship. Hidden Spring, New Jersey: 2003.

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Return of the King. Ballantine Books, New York: 1966.

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Return of the King. Houghton Mifflin, Boston: 1966.


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Last modified 3 March 2004