Suicide themes in LOTR

What do you think of Tolkien on the silver screen...? Whether Bakshi, Jackson, or whoever else, come on in and discuss your reflections, opinions, and memories...

Postby laureanna » Fri Oct 24, 2003 11:10 am

One of the most stunning images in TTT is at Osgiliath, is when Frodo is about to slip on the Ring, but Sam tackles him, and Frodo lets out a scream. I have always found that scene to be the most moving part of TTT. But the more I think about it, the more I realize how un-Tolkien the scene is. Most interpret Frodo’s scream as rage against someone trying to steal the Ring, but I see it as something far different -- anguish that Sam won’t let him go through with his actions, after he has mentally committed himself to do so. <BR><BR>The effect of the Ring on Frodo, as PJ has portrayed it, is similar to the seduction of suicide. Frodo is exhausted beyond reason, and giving into the Ring offers a false hope of escape from pain, mental torment, and futility. Movie|Frodo’s shoulders slump with relief as he starts to slip on the Ring, as he is filled with the peaceful release that the battle he can’t win is finally over. But this momentary vision is ripped away as Sam tackles him, and his reaction is grief and protest. This portrayal of Movie|Frodo is fundamentally different from Book|Frodo. There are times when the Ring seems to overpower Book|Frodo, but he still tries to battle the Ring, and doesn’t succumb until the end. Movie|Frodo at Osgilliath is more of a parallel with Book|Denethor, who, under the influence of Sauron, has lost hope in this world and wants to get it over with.<BR><BR>What are the other suicide allusions in LOTR? There is the moment when Book|Sam contemplates ending it all after losing Frodo to Shelob, but even in his grief he is too level headed to consider the possibility seriously. <BR><BR>Most of the “to death and glory” actions by the other characters are not suicidal, because they see their actions as beneficial for others, even if the odds they will survive them are slim. They may look like they are committing acts of desperation, but they still have hope, however small. In the movies, these actions would include the “last march of the Ents”, the various charges at Helm’s Deep, and Merry and Pippin’s sudden heroics against the cave troll and the orcs at Amon Hen. Even Frodo’s volunteering to take the Ring, at the Council of Elrond, could be included as an action that will probably lead to death, but which will worth doing. Book|Dernhelm’s actions were more borderline suicidal, because she didn’t have much to survive for, in her mind. It will be interesting to see how PJ “simplifies” her character. <BR><BR>The way that PJ is portraying the departure of the elves has some parallels with suicide. I don't think that was Tolkien's intent. But it does seem unreasonable to viewers that the elves would voluntarily abandon Middle Earth, especially such beautiful places as Rivendell and Lothlorien. There is nothing in the movie to show that "the Undying Lands" is a better place.<BR>
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Postby Linden » Fri Oct 24, 2003 11:18 am

Eomer on pelennor fields following the death of Theoden and Eowyn - as he believes.
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Postby akallabeth » Fri Oct 24, 2003 11:25 am

<i>Eomer on pelennor fields following the death of Theoden and Eowyn - as he believes. </i><BR><BR>But this is not suicide in the normal sense. This is blind rage and destructive despair. He is not going out to die, he rides out to destroy with no hope of coming out of it.
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Postby Macsen » Fri Oct 24, 2003 11:46 am

What about THE actual suicide by Denethor? He does want glory in a way- not to die and suffer by the hand of Sauron.
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Postby Linden » Fri Oct 24, 2003 11:52 am

"Death death death! Death take us all!" "Death! Ride, ride to ruin and the world's ending!"<BR><BR>Sounds suicidal to me, if not pre-meditated like Denethor's fall. Yes it is "I will die but you will die with me" passion, but I would call it a suicidal madness.
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Postby AlphaHelix » Fri Oct 24, 2003 1:33 pm

I don't think suicide is the right word for what the Rohirrim charge represents. In my mind, at least, I have always distinguished clearly between something that is sort of kamikaze in nature and something that is suicidal. It's kind of hard to explain, but for me the word suicide carries conotations of things that are not present at that point..<BR><BR>Errr... I don't post much anymore, and ToRC was probably the only place that I really spent alot of time writing at... I hope I still remember how to write a cohesive response >=)
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Postby laureanna » Fri Oct 24, 2003 2:00 pm

Sounds good to me AH and Akallabeth. The Rohirrim charge has the hope of at least doing major damage to the enemy. It is a rational exchange made by fairly unimpaired minds to do the only thing left to them to do.<BR><BR>Most people who haven't experienced suicidal thoughts try to understand suicide on a rational basis. They call Kamikaze pilots suicidal, but many weren't. What Kamikazes were doing was self-destructive as an unintended consequence, but they often succeded in their life's mission to do great damage to the enemy. In the same way, some people attempting suicide may be doing it to hurt others on the way out. They often do so in a way that there is at least a slim hope of being caught and rescued. <BR><BR>But the other kind of suicide is when a person simply loses touch with reality, and is convinced that he can't endure the pain of another day in this world. When he leaves, he doesn't really care what is left behind. That's what Movie|Frodo looked like to me at Osgilliath, and that's the part I find so un-Tolkien.<BR> <BR>Another scene that is a gray area is when Frodo is about to make the dash to the Black Gates, and Sam is ready to follow him. PJ takes great care to show that Frodo is in a lucid moment, and not affected by the Ring. He has just heroically and resourcefully saved Sam's life. He's not the zombie of Osgilliath at this point, but someone who has weighed all the alternatives and discovered that the only one left is rushing the gate.
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Postby Linden » Fri Oct 24, 2003 2:47 pm

laureanna,<BR><BR><i>But the other kind of suicide is when a person simply loses touch with reality, and is convinced that he can't endure the pain of another day in this world. When he leaves, he doesn't really care what is left behind.</i><BR><BR>But this is excactly Eomer's sentiment - he no longer cares to live. He is not a "kamikaze" who is hoping to save the day by his death.<BR><BR>While he has not surrendered he has lost hope.<BR><BR>AlphaH - it is not the charge of the Rohirrim at Eomer's command I am referring to, but Eomer's state of mind. That being said, Eomer's charge is not planned for tactical advantage, but is a mad destructive rush that likely resulted in more deaths than otherwise might have occurred.<BR><BR>I am not sure how this might play in the movie, nor Eowyn for that matter. I suspect it will be included.<BR><BR>The Frodo scenes you mention l - those seem to me to represent surrender of the will, rather than suicide perhaps - and this is something that Frodo does show in the books I think - running madly toward Minas Morgul and his defeated state on the tower of Cirith Ungol when he believes the Ring has been taken from him by the orcs.
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Postby akallabeth » Fri Oct 24, 2003 2:58 pm

<i>Sounds suicidal to me, if not pre-meditated like Denethor's fall. Yes it is "I will die but you will die with me" passion, but I would call it a suicidal madness. </i><BR><BR>I think if Eomer could have killed all the enemy without his own death, he would have. So, unlike suicide, he was not desiring to die, but was mad with rage to the point of no longer caring whether he did die or not. I find this difference a significant one. The one (suicide) has as its goal ones own death. The other (wild rage for vengence?) does not have as its goal one's onw death, but moves forward even in the face of certain death.
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Postby orodreth111 » Fri Oct 24, 2003 3:03 pm

<BR>..And another take..<BR><BR>Arwen's decision to forsake her Elven heritage and willingly accept the doom of man could in itself be percieved as a sort of suicidal gesture, albeit motivated by love.
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Postby Linden » Fri Oct 24, 2003 3:33 pm

akallabeth, Tolkien writes "a fey mood took him" fey = fated to die. He then says "...Death take us all!"<BR><BR>I believe you are over-narrowing the accepted definition of suicide/suicidal.<BR><BR>While he does not take his hand to himself he cares nothing for life at that point (yet the author does spare him <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0>). So a person who crashes an auto into an opposing force <i>believing he will die</i> is not suicidal? Should he survive would that negate the mood under which the action was undertaken?<BR><BR>Well that's probably enough pedantry for an afternoon (though perhaps my argument for a broader definition doesn't really qualify for the honor) - or at least until the next post <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0><BR><BR>Interesting thought about Arwen.
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Postby Diamond of Long Cleeve » Fri Oct 24, 2003 3:39 pm

<i>But the other kind of suicide is when a person simply loses touch with reality, and is convinced that he can't endure the pain of another day in this world. When he leaves, he doesn't really care what is left behind. That's what Movie|Frodo looked like to me at Osgiliath, and that's the part I find so un-Tolkien.</i><BR><BR>Well, I certainly find it un-Frodo. <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-sad.gif"border=0><BR><BR>It's a very very powerful scene, and the acting is pretty amazing, on both Elijah's and Sean's parts ... but oh, I do miss my Book!Frodo sometimes. <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-sad.gif"border=0><BR><BR>I think Book Sam's temptation to suicide (after he thinks Frodo has died) is very serious, which is why it's so moving. As you say, laureanna, his hobbit-sense pulls him back from the brink. Nonetheless, it's a serious temptation.<BR><BR>I am not sure whether Film Frodo's Osgiliath moment is akin to being SUICIDAL though: it's more about the surrender of his will to the Ring.
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Postby Magpie » Fri Oct 24, 2003 4:07 pm

<i>I am not sure whether Film Frodo's Osgiliath moment is akin to being SUICIDAL though: it's more about the surrender of his will to the Ring. </i><BR><BR>I think this is an inherent problem in trying to dramatize the story. We need to see when the ring is exerting its own will onto Frodo. I think they've chosen one of the only ways to do it. If Frodo was shown to be physically controlled while horrified he would look silly, plus it wouldn't indicate the way the ring really works (by making the person think they want to put it on). <BR><BR><b>Of course</b> Frodo isn't willingly sacrificing himself--how could someone like that make it to Mount Doom? When Frodo is in control, going into Osgiliath, he makes it clear what his real desires are and they're not about death.<BR><BR>-m
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Postby Entwife_of_Fangorn » Sat Oct 25, 2003 6:35 am

Interesting thread.<BR><BR>Magpie, I agree with you that the depiction of Frodo was done that way specifially to get a difficult concept across on screen. It certainly was a dramatic way to show the evil effect of the Ring ultimately on Frodo's soul<BR><BR>And Laureanna, I do think you're on to something here. Frodo does seem to have found a momentary peace by abandoning the struggle against the Ring, and is furious that Sam stops him from surrendering to it. <BR><BR>It seems that another function of that scene is to show Sam as the giver of hope and courage for Frodo. Frodo is engulfed in his own pain, to the point where he doesn't even apologize to Sam for almost stabbing him, but whispers brokenly, "I can't do this, Sam." Sam pushes Frodo to look beyond his own pain and see that the quest has a larger meaning worth fighting for. Sam inspires him to keep up the struggle. <BR><BR>I suspect that in ROTK we won't see Frodo this despairing again. I think Sam has put the iron in his soul in that scene. But we will see loss of hope of a different kind. Frodo does abandon all hope of ever returning alive from the quest, yet still slogs on, committed to the horrible physical and psychic struggle. "Lead me, Sam, " he says in ROTK, "as long as you've got any hope left. Mine is gone." Sam, for a while longer at any rate, clings to the belief that not only will they make it to Mt. Doom, but will live to tell the tale.<BR><BR>Which is what makes it so moving when Sam too gives up any hope that they can make it back alive. "Slowly a new dark thought grew in (Sam's) mind. Never for long had hope died in his staunch heart..But the bitter truth came home to him at last... There could be no return." And yet despite this, they still stay faithful to the quest, slogging away toward Mt. Doom.<BR><BR>"His will was set, and only death would break it."<BR><BR>God, I love these books (and movies)!
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Postby Edhelwen » Sat Oct 25, 2003 12:27 pm

Eowyn always has been, and always will be what I consider suicidal. She is definitely depressed and her actions are without hope. Every one else is fighting because it is either that, death or slavery. She wants to fight. She wants to die for glory, because that way her life will be worth something...<BR><BR> Frodos action seemed to be too soon. He does give in to the ring but only at the very end though the Nazgul sequence gives some nice foreboding.<BR> Sam would probably never think of suicide in so many terms. He is too level-headed to be properly drawn in to something like that.<BR>There is not too much suicide in Tolkien but what there is does not surprise me. Do you really think that the World War soldiers would not have such thoughts?<BR><BR>Ed.
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Postby sylthian » Sat Oct 25, 2003 1:33 pm

The movie scene where he falls, willingly, into the Dead Marshes. Had Sam not been there - mission accomplished. <BR><BR><BR>I'd never thought of suicide as a theme until mentioned - now it's starting to make me look at both books and movies with a different light entirely. Suicide, of course, being an enormous NO NO to Catholics and that could be why Tolkien explored the subject?
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Postby laureanna » Sat Oct 25, 2003 6:13 pm

Sylthian, I don't think Frodo had <i>anything</i> on his mind in the Dead Marshes - I think he was completely zoned out and didn't wake up till he hit the water and got a nassssty surprise.<BR><BR>Tolkien said that his books were about life/death and hope/despair, so the themes would cover death due to despair or suicide. He certainly gives his characters all sorts of reasons to die.<BR><BR>Ed, I agree with you. Not only did Tolkien experience the horrors of war, but his sons came back changed, too.<BR><BR>EntoF, one of the reasons I started this thread was to address suicide, and use the movies for examples, because several posters on other threads were complaining that suicide is a supremely selfish act, which I completely disagree with. You describe Frodo's and later Sam's state of mind very well. Being engulfed in despair is not selfish but simply blindness to everyone and everything.<BR><BR>Linden, you could be right about Eomer. In both the Osgilliath/Frodo scene I described and the Eomer post Eowyn scene you described, the change of heart is rather sudden and irrational.
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Postby Morwen_Steelsheen » Sat Oct 25, 2003 9:53 pm

What??? There was no suiciede in the movies! <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-confused.gif"border=0>
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Postby sylthian » Sat Oct 25, 2003 10:52 pm

LMAO!!!!!!!!! This is why we eat our young <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-devil.gif"border=0>
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Postby ccmsOrlilvr » Sat Oct 25, 2003 11:04 pm

*Runs around thread laughing hysterically.*<BR><BR>(I seem to be doing that a lot tonight. <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-rolleyes.gif"border=0>)<BR><BR>I know something you don't know. I know something you don't know . . . <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-tongue.gif"border=0>
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Postby laureanna » Sun Oct 26, 2003 5:15 pm

Thanks for lightening up the thread, you guys. I'd offer you some chocolate but it does not appear that you need any more stimulants.<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif"border=0>
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Postby ccmsOrlilvr » Sun Oct 26, 2003 5:27 pm

*boing boing boing boing boing boing boing boing boing boi-*<BR><BR>What on earth do you mean?<BR>
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Postby mrs_whatsit » Sun Oct 26, 2003 6:53 pm

CC- now I'm going to drive myself mad wondering what you know that I don't know.<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-tongue.gif"border=0>
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Postby akallabeth » Mon Oct 27, 2003 8:06 am

<i>akallabeth, Tolkien writes "a fey mood took him" fey = fated to die. He then says "...Death take us all!"</i><BR><BR>There are several possible meanings for "fey":<BR>1. Fated to die, doomed to death; also, at the point of death; dying. <BR>2. Leading to or presaging death; deadly, fatal.<BR>3. Accursed, unfortunate, unlucky.<BR><BR>But let's assume that #1 is what Tolkien had in mind (its an old word, not used much anymore, and I can't be sure how one might be expected to read it). "Fated to die" and desiring death as an end to life are different things. One can feel "fated to die" and yet not desire death, whereas one could desire death but not feel "fated to die" (in fact perhaps the opposite, that one is going against the "proper" course of things and controllign one's own destiny by death).<BR><BR><i>I believe you are over-narrowing the accepted definition of suicide/suicidal.</i><BR><BR>Perhaps, but then its an issue of semantics. I would distinguish Eomir's state quite strongly with Denethors, for example, and cannot bring myself to place them both under a single category like suicide because of the difference I see.<BR><BR><i>So a person who crashes an auto into an opposing force believing he will die is not suicidal? </i><BR><BR>But why would the driver do that? If the main goal is the drivers own death, then it would be suicide as I think of it. But I think Eomir was not charging into the thick of battle only to find the sword. He fought fairly well for seeking that, no? I think he road in with wrath and dark vengence, feeling fated to die, perhaps, but going on beside that because he was mastered by his anger. It is the presence of the anger that tips this away from suicide, in my mind. <BR><BR>'Death! Ride, ride to ruin and the world's ending!"<BR><BR>This seems an idea of death and destruction far beyond himself.
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Postby sylthian » Mon Oct 27, 2003 8:46 am

However, there is also this definiton of 'fey' #3 is the one to which I am more accoustomed. (this excerpt from dictionary.com)<BR><BR> 1. Having or displaying an otherworldly, magical, or fairylike aspect or quality: “She's got that fey look as though she's had breakfast with a leprechaun” (Dorothy Burnham).<BR> 2. Having visionary power; clairvoyant.<BR> 3. Appearing touched or crazy, as if under a spell.<BR><BR><BR>Doesn't maddness also enter the equation? Was Eomer hopeless, suicidal or (for however brief) insane? Does hopelessness lead to madness leading to suicide?
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Postby Queen_Beruthiel » Mon Oct 27, 2003 8:53 am

Doesn't Sam think that Frodo is in a "fey" mood as he runs ahead of him out of Torech Ungol?<BR><BR>I think we need another definition of the word: "crazed" is a possibility. Strange? Spell-struck? <BR><BR>I think Shakespeare uses the word in that sense once or twice. I'll try to dig something up which might throw light on this. <BR><BR>
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Postby robo » Mon Oct 27, 2003 9:12 am

Bilbo's disappearance at his birthday party could also be seen as a suicide.
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Postby wilko185 » Mon Oct 27, 2003 9:37 am

I also wouldn't choose to describe Éomer as suicidal exactly, even when he says <i>"Death take us all!"</i>. All the Rohirrim take up his mood, which I see as almost a beserker spirit, not caring about one's own survival, and hence all the more successful in battle. Éomer can be described as BOTH "appearing touched or crazy"" and "full of the sense of approaching death" IMO.<BR><BR>As Romes pointed out in another forum, in the Sil Tolkien calls Fëanor "fey" just before his death, and <i>all</i> the meanings supplied in this thread could be applied to him. Maybe Tolkien intended such multiple resonances.<BR><BR><BR>Merry sees Éowyn as "one without hope who goes in search of death". But even she I don't see as despairing as Denethor did. The way she "seeks death" is a little like Éomer's, though a deliberate decision not an emotional reaction. She must know she has the possibility of achieving glory instead of death (though more likely, death AND glory). In a version of the Tale of Years in HOME 12, Tolkien writes<OL>The greatest deed of that day was the deed of Éowyn Éomund's daughter. <b>She for love of the King</b> rode in disguise with the Rohirrim and was with him when he fell. By her hand the Black Captain, the Lord of the Ringwraiths, the Witch-king of Angmar, was destroyed.</OL>This is an uncanonical and compressed summary, but it does show Tolkien seeing another motive beyond her own death in Éowyn's actions.<BR><BR><BR>BTW, the original idea in this thread of Frodo actively seeking an end to his suffering seems to me not at all in keeping with the book, where Frodo represents Endurance beyond Hope. But I interpret the Osgiliath scene as him not being himself, not under his own control in that moment.
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Postby niamh » Tue Oct 28, 2003 1:56 pm

<i>Maybe Tolkien intended such multiple resonances.</i><BR><BR><BR>I'm pretty sure he did. Quotes and text somewhere.......<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0><BR><BR><BR><BR>By the way, has everybody overlooked Faramir?????????? <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-shocked.gif"border=0><img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-shocked.gif"border=0><BR><BR><BR>
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Postby Queen_Beruthiel » Tue Oct 28, 2003 2:10 pm

I got this from yourdictionary.com:<BR><BR>Having or displaying an otherworldly, magical, or fairylike aspect or quality: "She's got that fey look as though she's had breakfast with a leprechaun" (Dorothy Burnham). <BR>Having visionary power; clairvoyant. <BR>Appearing touched or crazy, as if under a spell. <BR><BR><i>Scots</i><BR>Fated to die soon. <BR>Full of the sense of approaching death. <BR><BR>All those meanings at once, I think, could apply to several different characters: Frodo at Torech Ungol, Eowyn as she sets out for Gondor, Denethor certainly, but definitely not to Sam, not for a minute.<BR><BR>
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