It’s one of those things that Tolkien leaves deliberately vague, which is one of his charms. The transition from a being of pure spirit and boundless power, to a powerful but temporal being in a physical body (Olorin to Gandalf the Grey back to Olorin and then to Gandalf the White) undoubtedly has lots of rules and ramifications that Tolkien declines to spell out in detail.
Yes, apparently being truly embodied sounds like a real drag.
The world was changing and the time of the Elves was nearing its end. Defeating Sauron was actually a test to see if Man was worthy of inheriting the world. Just as a parent might guide a child riding a bike for the first time, eventually the child is on his own. The Wizards were sent to guide, but not do much more. The Elves, as well, could assist, but it was ultimately up to Man to take on the mantle of caretaker of Arda. This was why the Eagles stayed clear.
As for the plan, one has to consider the nature of the Rings of Power. They all work by amplifying innate tendencies of the bearers. The 9 for Men amplified their lust for power, the 7 for Dwarves amplified their desire for riches, the 3 for Elves amplified their desire for stasis and preservation, and the One Ring would amplify whatever its bearer already was. This was why Gandalf believed the Hobbits might be useful. He had studied them and their nature for years and generations. They were generally without ambition. Their biggest concerns were food, drink, gardening, and their own genealogy. There’s a running gag in LOTR that most people, if they’ve even heard of “halflings” they have no stories of them. Some of that was their generally insular nature and some was that even when out in the world, they had a talent for not being noticed (as Gandalf discovered when hiring Bilbo as a burglar). Gandalf was hoping that the effect of the Ring on a hobbit would be minimal due to their modest nature. He followed one particular family that was somewhat adventurous, as he needed one that would at least leave the Shire, but was still “hobbity” enough to not let the Ring affect him so much.
So, the hope was to somehow take advantage of the Hobbits’ natural tendencies and abilities. They had no full plan, but Gandalf hoped that by putting things in motion, giving the Ring to a Hobbit and moving Aragorn to take on his Kingly destiny, that “fate” would do what it would do.
and no interest in machines more complicated than a garrotte or a Luger.
The actual truth about Bombadil, of course, is that he doesn’t fit the theology as described. But if you need to fit him in, he’s a minor god, not a demigod or angel, like Gandalf.
The actual truth about Tom Bombadil is that he’s a pair of Balrog wings in a trenchcoat. nods sagely
Methinks you were watching the wrong Ralph Bakshi Wizard.
Peace be with you…
From Bored of the Rings:
I think that last is right. He definitely was above the Maier. It was movie-Gandalf that was afraid to handle the ring; book-Gandalf had no problems touching it, but did not wear it. I’d bet if he’d had, he would have gone invisible – unlike TB who did not – but we’ll never know for sure.
I think that the category that Bombadil fits into is “those beings who are Tom Bombadil”. He’s his own unique sort of thing, and there aren’t any other beings who are fundamentally like him.
But if you insist on putting him in a category with other beings, I suppose that he could be a fey, like Goldberry or Ungoliant. Though it’s not a category that Tolkien goes into much detail about, in the finished works.
Your full post was ingenious, but Gandalf didn’t give the ring to a Hobbit. (Long after Isuldir was killed Déagol found it in the Anduin River; Smeagol / Gollum killed Deagol for it; Bilbo discovered it in Gollum’s cave and later reluctantly left it to Frodo.)
When thinking about the Fellowship’s plan, what was Boromir’s plan?
Boromir: “It is a gift, let us use it against the enemy”
Elrond & Gandalf: “Not a good idea, but we’re curious: How do you plan to use it?”
Boromir: “We’ll ___________.”
Boromir (and Faramir) want to use the Ring against Sauron’s forces. What does he plan to do with it?
Yes, I know the answer is “greed would overcome him and he’ll turn into a new Dark Lord”. Let’s set that aside, since they didn’t know that. They genuinely believed they could make a use out of it to defend their homeland. They appeared sincere, neither was thinking “Heh-heh, those fools, the ring will be mine.” How did they think would it help Gondor? What would they have done with it?
Boromir wears the Ring and marches at the head of the armies of Gondor. It enhances his abilities as a leader, and his enhanced abilities as a leader further enhance the fighting ability of his troops, and so on. That’s really more the Ring’s primary use than the whole invisibility thing (which won’t work against serious enemies anyway): The invisibility is just a fluke side effect.
“It’s magic, right? Big magic, or we wouldn’t all be pissing our pants over it. I’m sure there must be some way to use this amazing scary superweapon to amazingly scare the other guy.”
Thanks. Yeah, I kind of yadda yadda’d that. He trusted fate had made the correct decision for Frodo to have it. I suspect he even primed the pump a bit to encourage Frodo to do the job for the reasons already mentioned.
Had events gone a little differently:
Aragorn: We’ve defeated Saurons forces in the North and have him bottled up beyond the wall. What of your mission to find The Ring and its bearer?
Gimli: Aye. We found the ringbearer. The new ringbearer.
Gimli: Aye Sam has it. And he’s used it for that which wanted the most.
Aragorn: He used it to marry Rosie didn’t he??
Gimli: Aye…ten kids. And they own five bars in Hobbitton and Bree…
Aragorn: Don’t tell me…
Gimli: I couldn’t help it. I bought a franchise. And a time share.
I believe the Fellowship’s plan was to conduct an impromptu incursion into Mordor to dispose of the Ring in the fires of Mount Doom. Frodo sort of serving as a “mission specialist” as “ring bearer” due to hobbits humble nature being less susceptible to the corrupting influence of the ring. Presumably Gandalf (strategy), Aragorn (recon), Legolas (sniper), Gimli (sapper/combat engineer) and Baromir (assault) collectively bringing enough combat experience and knowledge of local geography to navigate and either evade or neutralize any threats they may encounter along the way. The entourage of additional hobbits mostly serving as support and comic relief.
But, as Mike Tyson said, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. This particular one-two mouth punch being Gandalf’s fall and the Uruk Hai killing Baromir and scattering the rest. But that didn’t change the overall objectives, so Frodo and Sam continued on, making their way to the objective and utilizing whatever resources they found at their disposal.
Right. And as Gandalf pointed out, he would attempt to use the ring from a desire to do “good”. But it would “wield a power too great and terrible to imagine.” IOW, it would corrupt Baromir’s intentions and he would probably soon find himself at odds with Rohan and every other nation within marching distance.
One interesting issue is this: If Sauron gets the Ring, it’s game over, man. If the Ring is out of play, and Sauron overwhelms Middle-Earth, it’s also all over (and Gondor, the last major bulwark against Sauron, is in trouble). But those are not the only bad endings possible. If Sauron is overthrown by a powerful entity in control of the Ring, Middle-Earth is still screwed - it will be ruled by a dark lord or lady with a different name but no major difference in ruling strategy. It’s an open question of who could bear the Ring and use it offensively without being enslaved by Sauron - Saruman and Gandalf both could (but would become dark lords) and Galadriel believed that she could (and would thus become a dark lady). I’m pretty sure that Boromir would become another Nazgul, though, while Aragorn might very well be strong enough to … just become a different dark lord.
The good guys have a really narrow path to victory - keep Sauron’s armies from winning long enough for the Ring to be destroyed by someone strong enough to resist the temptation to use it aggressively - and in fact, there is apparently no such person (Frodo couldn’t do it, after all).
Sam is the person who could do it.
There is nobody at all who can resist the ring, because of the fallen nature of creation. Only the intervention of ‘grace’ allowed the ring to be destroyed.
See Tolkien Letters #181: