How would LOTR read if Frodo had died at Mount Doom?

As everyone knows, The Lord of the Rings is based on historical events*–the exploits of Frodo Baggins, his servant** Samwise, and their companions during the war that ended the Third Age and restored the heirs of Isildur*** to the throne of Gondor. The book we have is a translation by Professor Tolkien of an ancient text written by a certain notorious Burglar (Book 1), the burglar’s nephew & heir (Books II-VI), the mayor of Hobbiton (the very end of Book VI), the Master of Buckland (the Prologue), and various anonymous Gondorian scribes (Appendix One and the non-halfling poems).

Frodo, in short, was the prime author of this text.

But what if he hadn’t been? It’s easy to imagine him succeeding in his quest yet not surviving the RingWar. The confrontation at Orodruin was a very near thing, after all. Frodo might easily have fallen into the lava just as Gollum did,***** or perished before the Eagles arrived to save him. If that had happened, I can also imagine Samwise and Meriadoc deciding to finish the book in his memory.

How would the text read then?

  • Well, that’s the central conceit of the text, and certainly what I’m sticking with.

** Some might say sexually frustrated boyfriend sublimating his lust in gardening, but they’re just haters.

***Yeah, that’s right, the heirs of ISILDUR. Not Elendil. Who cut the ring off Sauron’s hand? Isildur, that’s who. Give the Man his props!

****Though of course there was no silly wrestling match. That is a vicious lie put about by that guy who directed that movie with the giant monkey. But I will not speak ill of him, for despite his other sins he did bring Kate Winslet into our lives, and as she is the next-to-last vestige of Eldarian beauty in Mortal Lands, he is to be forgiven.

*****Don’t bother looking for a fifth footenote. Tain’t there. I just like typing asterisks.

Interesting. I will assume that if Frodo perished on the monuntain, so would have Sam. Seems silly to assume that one would die but the other would be rescued to write the story.

Given that, then, most of the work would be the same. Obviously all that happened to the other members of the fellowship could be documented and added to Bilbo’s Red Book. I would presume that most of what happened to Frodo and Sam up to their meeting with Faramir could be generally documented by him (although certainly with less exact dialog). After that, though, the story would have to take a bit of a leap of faith –

“Meanwhile, as we were getting our collective butts kicked at the Black Gate, somehow Frodo and/or Sam must have managed to escape all of Sauron’s servants and assorted evils and tossed the Ring in. Bummer that the mountain blew them up. Oh, well … let’s head home and see what’s cooking in the Shire.”


Frodo was in pretty bad shape by then, and it’s not hard to imagine him being in even worse shape. All it takes is imaginging a little less lembas, or Shelob pumping a little more venom into him, or a the Orcs taking a little longer to get bored torturing him. He could have succeeded at Mount Doom & still perished.

Incidentally, I should probably have phrased the question better. I really mean to imagine that Frodo dies before ever writing his part of the book. That is, he could have been rescued alive by the Eagles but perished in Minas Tirith. That would have, among other things, changed the tenor of Elessar’s coronation. Though what I’m really looking for is how Sam’s POV (and, I suppose, Merry & the various scribes) would have been different with Frodo’s death. The story would be much more of a hagiography, I think.

I think that makes sense. Given Sam’s humility, and his admiration and love for Frodo, I’d suspect that Sam would paint Frodo as even stronger, and even more responsible for the successful destruction of the Ring, while downplaying his own role.

I understand that it’s POSSIBLE – I just thought that it was silly to think that the book would be any different. Frodo and Sam’s POV were generally equal as they experiences all that last stuff together. I don’t think it’s fair to say that Frodo wrote the book alone. He was merely the scribe, not the “author” if you get my distinction. Obviously, this is the case as there is a ton of stuff that he wasn’t there for. He obviously got everyone’s story and documented them together(including Sams’ POV as there are parts documented from when Frodo is asleep and/or captured). So my point was that if EITHER Frodo or Sam survived long enough to tell their story to ANYONE, the documentation of said would be relatively the same, except missing the parts where the other was absent.

However, if neither survives (and we already know that Gollum did not), that whole part of the story from after they left Faramir’s care would be wholly undocumentable and therefore left to only speculation by the survivors.

Edit: Okay, I see what you’re saying here – it’s possible that Sam’s humility would downplay his own role, although I see the book as a bit of a collabrative effort, so I doubt that once all the storys had been told, that the end result would be much different. The more interesting question to me is what would everyone have speculated had happened in Mordor if neither Sam or Frodo survived.

Forgive me if this sounds insulting, but I think that’s silly. Both Frodo & Sam have very specific points of view and see the story differently. Consider, for instance, the sequence in which Sam realizes that he is living a story akin to the Silmarillion and tells the tale as he thinks his children will hear it, and Frodo observes that Sam is omitting all mention of himself. Consider also that the compassionate speculations as to Gollum’s inner life could only have come from Frodo’s pen, as Sam never really understood or sympathized with Gollum. Gollum surely comes off as simply villainous rather than tortured and conflicted if Sam were the author.

It would read like - well, the Appendices. The tale of the Ring War would be the tale of the actual war - major engagements with lots of witnesses. The quest of the Fellowship would be little more than a footnote - some might believe that the Fellowship’s success was the reason for Sauron’s otherwise inexplicable decline, but professional historians would probably suggest internal politics, economic problems, or other issues as the explanation.

Frodo dies on the ascent of Mt. Doom, the ring is grabbed by Gollum, who, after murdering the meddlesome Samwise Gamgee, is captured by orcs. The orcs squabble over the ring until one of the Ring Wraiths recovers it and duly delivers it to Sauron the Great. Sauron then establishes a disciplined and dignified rule over all of Middle Earth by crushing the puny humans and their silly mythology, rightfully establishing the versatile and ruthless orc as the master race of Middle Earth. The elves, by this time, are irrelevant.

I, for one, welcome our new incorporeal overlord.

Maybe. But let’s take for example Sam’s bravery after Frodo was captured. Certainly Sam’s humulity would make him downplay himself in re-telling that story, as he could tell it any way he wants since he was the only one there. However, ultimately, the “true” story is understood and documented. What you mention about Gollum is a good point, although if Sam survived to tell the tale, I believe that the telilng and retelling of the story to Gandalf, Aragorn and others would eventually bring the reality of the situation to light (much like Bilbo’s telling and retelling of how he found the RIng in the first place), so that the “history” that we read now would be more or less the same. JMHO :slight_smile:

Well I know in the original version it starts with Frodo floating face down and a voice over says, “Yes this is Mount Doom, Mordor, Middle Earth. It’s about 5 o’clock in the morning…”

Well assuming Frodo perished but Samwise survived, the Red Book may well have not been completed. But assuming it was, I suspect Bilbo would have turned the difficult job over to Meriadoc with a lot of help from Samwise. We would have lost a lot of the insight into what Frodo went through of course.

There is a good chance Meriadoc would have sped up parts Frodo and Sam’s journey to and through Mordor. That is generally the slowest part of the book though. I imagine we would have had less Elven lore and more on Rohan and Gondor. Samwise would probably have minimalized his own part and Meriadoc may have to. So it may well have been playing up the heroism of Frodo more and the various human warriors they encountered.

It sounds like you’re saying that Sam & Merry would not have written it at all. Is that what you mean to suggest? Because, remember, I am assuming that Frodo dies either at Mount Doom or in Gondor, and that (b) afterwards, a grief-stricken Sam (and probably Merry) decide to finish Bilbo’s book for him. (Remember that Bilbo finished There and Back Again in Imladris before the younger hobbits arrived, and presumably wrote Book I of LOTR (which is much more like T&BA than the other five section) while they were on their quest.

I’m NOT assuming that scribes of Gondor wrote everything. Even in that case, I expect that Elessar would have given strict orders not to downplay the Hobbits’ role. Though book-Aragorn isn’t much like movie-Aragorn, I think they’d both agree that the Frodo & Sam were the real heroes of the story and needed to be praised, and that would have been particularly important to them had Frodo died.

Or another thing to think about – how did those guys know that throwing the ring in the Fire would even destroy it. Seems like a bit of an assumption. Had they tested out destroying other Rings of Power? Of course not! “Gee, we can’t think of any other way to destroy it … and this plan is just so crazy, it has to work!!!”

What if Frodo got all the way there, threw it in, and it just floated there, glowing in power, beckoning Sauron to hop on over and grab it? :smack:

Yes, I agree with this point, which is why I think the end result wouldn’t be much different. Aragorn and Gandalf would make sure that the “true” events came out and were pieced together based on Sam’s and everyone’s recollections and POV’s and were eventually documented as such. Much like how they eventually pieced together the history of the Ring from Gollum’s warped recollections and POV, Bilbo, Gondor writings, etc.

The problem would be if neither Sam nor Frodo survived to tell any tale to piece together.

JMHO again … :slight_smile:

One of the many sins of Tolkien would have been undone, namely that of entirely omitting the pivotal role of a certain Druid of Karana, temporarily summoned to Middle Earth to sort things out, and teach Gandalf what a DPS caster is all about.

Yeah, ok, so “Look to the East at dawn of the fifth day” sounds cool, but hey, looking to the South at noonish on the fourth day would work too, and Oak is just not a morning person.


What Exit?'s speculation sounds about right to me; the Hobbits also could’ve had some help from a Gondorian scribe/ghostwriter. I think Gandalf and Aragorn would’ve insisted that Frodo get his props for his vital role in Sauron’s downfall - there’s very little danger he would’ve been forgotten.

I don’t see Gandalf as having much to do with the composition of the Red Book. That’s definitely something he would feel had to be left, for good or ill, in the hands of men. For one thing, he would have trusted Aragorn to oversee it properly, just as he trusted Frodo to write it correctly in the “real” history. For another thing, I don’t imagine that he’d hang around Middle-earth as long as he did if Frodo had died. I’ve always taken it that he stayed as long as he did so that he could accompany Frodo and Bilbo on that final voyage, and I don’t imagine that Bilbo would want to stick around either.

That freaking low-DPS Angel/Wizard hybrid got the glory, when Oak actually did the work. And yea, verily, did Oak lead the Council of War alliance into the battle at Helms Deep, from the South did they strike with Karana’s fury, and they smote the orcs before them. Tolkien was clearly an anti-druidite.

You’re right to some degree about all of this. However, in the days in Gondor immediately following Sauron’s downfall is when the Fellowship came back together to all tell their stories once and for all. And on the trip back to Rivendell which Gandalf accompanied them. It is during this period that I believe Gandalf would want to hear the “truth” and would have probed enough to be satisfied that the real and complete story was out. I beleive that he did do this, in fact. After that, whoever eventually wrote the thing down wouldn’t drastically change this. So, yes, while the eventual documentation would be entrusted to the hobbits, Gandalf would have already shaped the complete story, much like I believe he did in the way it actually played out. :slight_smile:

Also, I think Gandalf and Galadriel hung around a bit to “heal the hurts” of Sauron (also Gandalf wanted to have that “chat” with Tom Bombadil), but I agree that they might not each have lasted as long because, in part, they were waiting for Frodo to feel the need to go.