This week's Tolkien thread: how could the Ringwar have been won if Frodo had died ?

Just doing my bit to keep well he’s back, Malacandra, and the rest of my fellow Tolkienites happy.

For purposes of this discussion, let’s treat this as part of the Great Game. That is, assume that the events of The Lord of the Rings actually happened substantially as related, that the worldview presented there and in The Silmarillion is the correct one; in short, that Professor Tolkien truly was the translator, not the author, of the Red Book. Kay?

As we all know, nothing happens in Arda without the ultimate sanction of Eru Ilúvatar. As is written

The free wills of his Children are the nearest thing there is to an exception, but even though the All-Father permits Elves*, Men†, & Dwarves‡ freedom from his direct control, he nevertheless remains sovereign: acting usually through agents, occasionally directly and subtly, and once or an age in incontrovertible, dramatic, world-rending fashion. In the long run, all conflicts end so that good win and evil is hosed.

But that’s the long run. Being eternal, the All-High has a somewhat different view of what “long run” means than Men, Elves, or even Ainur. Sauron and Melkor were both permitted to be free and malevolent for hundreds if not thousands of years. Eru was always going to smack them down, ultimately, but not necessarily in what we’d call a timely fashion.

With all that in mind … how would the War of the Ring have turned out if Frodo had died before completing his mission? Consider any or all of these three crucial points:

  1. The broken bit of Morgul blade travels a bit more quickly through Frodo’s veins. Glorfindel still manages to get the younger Mr. Underhill to Rivendell, but he dies despite Elrond’s best efforts. Thus a different Bearer must be found.

  2. A certain cave-troll chances to aim a little higher in Moria, missing Frodo’s mithril-shielded midriff and skewering him through the throat. Gandalf falls in battle with the Balrog soon thereafter, leaving Aragorn in command of a quest with neither a quester nor a plan for succession.

  3. Having never seen a halfling before, Shelob misjudges how much poison is needed to keep on alive but immobile. Sam takes the ring as in the “true” history, but is never given fresh hope by overhearing the Orcs’ conversation; he is only reinforced in his belief that his master is dead.

So there are your scenarios; feel free to add your own. How could providence have recovered from these three cataclysms.

Anyone? Brandybuck?
*Assumed here to include Orcs. Though I still don’t agree to the consensus from last week’s thread.
†Including Hobbits. And girls. Who cares what Glorfindel thinks “Man” means?
‡So they’re *adopted *children. Big woof. Eru still leaves room for them at the table at Thanksgiving. “He’s a very nice prince.”

Are we stipulating that Gandalf, Aragorn, and Galadriel et al. are correct in their assumption that they can’t take the ring themselves?

Because lacking any other option, I’m betting one of them tries.

Alternatively, I think Sam could pull it off.

If the storyteller told it differently than he chose to tell it, how would he choose? Remember the point of all this is an exercise in storytelling, Eru being the storyteller and the Professor being his scribe?

In the only performance of the section of the holy music we have, it is performed the way it is performed, and the scribes rough drafts reflect that his Longbottom leaf was of insufficient quality, or poorly transported. Holy writ is, after all, Holy writ.


Depends on which option you pick, of course.

If Frodo dies at Rivendell, then you have many possible Ring-Bearers: the three young Hobbits, Bilbo, Gandalf, Aragorn, & everyone else at the Council of Elrond. The Council is, of course, an even bigger downer than it was “before.” I suspect Bilbo would try to get it very hard under such circumstances, as he’d be consumed with guilt. (No less than Gandalf, but not only would Gandalf not take it, but I suspect Elrond & Glorfindel would work together to dissuade him, and likewise Elrond & Gandalf would dissuade Glorfindel, and Glorfindel & Gandalf, Elrond.) Under such circumstances I think Merry would have stepped up; he is the most able of the remaining hobbits. But Sam’s not going to be as supportive of him as he was of Frodo; Pip would be, but while he’s smarter than Sam, he’s less of a, ah, man.

If Frodo dies in Moria, then Merry is the only reasonable choice, but I don’t know what Boromir does under such circumstances.

If Frodo dies in Shelob’s lair…well, I’m not sure. On the one hand, Sam is going to be both filled with determination to do this one last service for his beloved master, and in better physical and emotional condition anyway. But he’s also going to kill Gollum on sight. I suspect he’d win that fight, but taking revenge that way might make him easier for the ring to dominate.

Anyway, I have an SAT tutorial to give, so I’m off.

I, personally, think that the result is that Sam takes the ring, and wandering aimlessly in Fordor, dumps it into a likely looking tar pit, which helpfully adds “floop!” to the situation. :smiley:

Would Eru have allowed Sauron to win? Cover all the lands in darkness and have
him dominate all life? Would Eru simply be all “Oh well, that’s the way the cookie
crumbles. Serves them right for taking those rings.”

Then again, it wouldn’t have been so bad if you were an Easterling/Haradrim vs someone from Rohan/Gondor. They seemed to do okay under Sauron’s dominance.

#3. Sam carries the ring to Mt. Doom, fights Gollum, throws both Gollum and the ring into the volcamo.

#2. Aragorn assigns Sam to take the ring. Boromir thinks better than to try talking Sam out of the ring, because Sam is one tough fucking hobbit. I don’t know if the orcs take Sam back to Saruman or not.

#1. If Frodo bites it before the council at Elrond’s, I have no idea who takes the ring or how far they make it. Without Frodo, I don’t think Gandalf would invite the three remaining hobbits to the council, and why should he? Whether Gandalf & Elrond allow it or not, the three remaining hobbits probably decide they’d rather sneak off back to the Green Dragon and get drunk than go for a walk to Moria. Something about hobbits being good at burglary and hiding from the big folk, but that might not work on elves. They would probably be followed by Saruman/Sauron’s spies on the way home, maybe get captured. Gandalf would know to keep the ring away from Boromir, and might appeal to Aragorn to carry the damn thing. They wouldn’t allow Gimli to carry it either. Legolas probably wouldn’t want to carry it. I can only see that leaving Aragorn, and he feared that he would be tempted beyond his reisitance by the ring’s power.

Of course, the most likely possibility for any of these scenarios is that Radagast shows up and solves everything.

But if not:

  1. I think Gandalf intuited that the Ring could only be borne safely for any length of time by a Hobbit, so he would most likely have steered the Council around to that point of view in any case. At that point, Sam would have been the least likely choice as Ring-bearer, and Pippin was the youngest and twitchiest, though Bilbo might have put in a good word for him. Ultimately it seems like Merry would have been most likely to take up the burden.

How would that have significantly affected the Quest in the long run? There’s no guarantee that Merry would have survived Moria, unless Bilbo decided to give him the mithril coat along with Sting. That seemed like kind of a personal gesture between Bilbo and Frodo, but it’s hard to say. On the other hand, just because Merry was the new Ring-bearer doesn’t necessarily imply he’d be skewered by the exact same cave-troll. On the other other hand, the mithril coat is also responsible for the Orcs fighting each other at Cirith Ungol, so it could also cause problems down the line. Maybe the foresight of Galadriel would have provided suitable substitutions.

It would have been Merry faced with the decision about which course to take at Esgaroth. Having carried the Ring for less time, he might have been less concerned about its effects in Minas Tirith and more inclined to trust the strength of the Fellowship. If the confrontation with Boromir played out the same, he might have decided to go it alone anyway, which would mean that Pippin would be captured by the Orcs alone, though his later escape and the situation with the Ents and Saruman should play out about the same. Sam, I think, would stick with Merry out of a desire to see the Quest through to the end.

From there it gets murkier. Would Merry have the same inclination to spare Gollum’s life as Frodo did? If not, there would be no one to guide them into Mordor. Eowyn would probably die in battle, since Merry wouldn’t be around to stab the Witch-King. Would the Witch-King’s continued presence have resulted in a successful siege?

Merry would have had more initial resistance to the pull of the Ring, not having been injured as Frodo was, but he might have been more susceptible to its call in the long run. After all, Frodo had Bilbo to look toward as a role model. But with Sam along to keep Merry on the straight and narrow, I think there’s a good chance the Quest would still succeed.

  1. Mostly as above, I should think. Although Aragorn might have instinctively taken the burden of the Ring up at that point, he would not have had to bear it long before arriving at Lothlorien, and I think Galadriel’s counsel would likely have steered him toward the correct choice: one of the Hobbits should hold the Ring. On the other hand, actually wielding the Ring at any point would probably set off Sauron’s Heir-of-Isildur alarm big-time, so I presume he’d have the good sense to keep it in a bag or something.

  2. Even if he knew Frodo was dead, Sam would still have to make his way through Cirith Ungol. The Orcs would still fight over Frodo’s mithril coat, and Sam would overhear it. He probably wouldn’t be able to retrieve Frodo’s body, but he’d be better off in terms of provisions, because he wouldn’t have to share waybread. Plus he’d probably end up abandoning those damn pans a lot earlier, which would certainly help. Once they entered Mordor, it was pretty much all Sam’s show anyway. He’d surely kill Gollum when given the chance, but it wouldn’t matter. Sam wouldn’t hesitate at the Crack of Doom. But between the oppressive weight of the Ring and the death of Frodo, he wouldn’t have any hope left either. He’d deliver the Ring to the heart of Orodruin with a running leap, and the Eagles would find no one left to rescue.

Because Sam would have been saved by Radagast!

On the one hand, I think Meriadoc & Samwise insist on finishing Frodo’s mission, and Peregrin wants to go alone. On the other hand, Elrond puts his foot down about Pippin. We sometimes forget that a 29-year-old-Hobbit is NOT quite an adult; Pippin was still a kid, and Elrond didn’t want him going in the first place. When one Hobbit has already died trying to fulfill this quest, Elrond insists even more strongly.

As I wrote above: I think the problem with that scenario is that Sam’s killing of Gollum isn’t going to be self-defense in this scenario; it’s going to be vengeance, and evil. If Gollum doesn’t show up, Sam probably does have the juice to give up the ring voluntarily–not because he has mroe willpower than Frodo (he doesn’t) but because he hasn’t been carrying the damn thing around for the last several months and had his spirit tormented by it. But deciding to murder Gollum is going to give the Ring a hook into him, I think.

Scenario #1: Frodo dies before the Council occurs. Hobbits excluded, much controversy over who will take the ring where, Aragorn and Eowyn pull a Beren/Luthien, tromp on off into Mordor, have many adventures along the way, one or the other dies destroying the ring, but this time Mandos is not moved. Tragic loss to save Middle-earth.

Scenario #2: Frodo buys it in Moria. Sam carries the ring, gets beguiled in Lothlorien, Galadriel succumbs to temptation, takes ring from Sam with his permission, she arises in might for a time, eventually does battles against Sauron’s forces in Mordor, Sam tags along, intervenes in confrontation between Sauron and Galadriel, mediates truce, becomes ring-bearer for the wedding of Sauron and Galadriel (Celeborn having been slain aforehand) but substitutes fake ring, runs off, destroys One Ring during the wedding night. Alternatively: When Galadriel and Sauron battle, she is slain, Sauron immobilized, Sam slips in and runs off with ring, throws into cracks of doom. In either scenario, Gollum’s presence ensures ring goes into fire, and so does Sam.

Scenario #3: Frodo succumbs to Shelob. Sam carries ring into Sammath Naur, kills Gollum, falls into the fire.

I’m not sure it would work that way; firstly, it would at minimum be BOTH vengeance and self-defense. Remember, the next time Sam met Gollum was when he attacked them to take the Ring. Frodo and Sam together spared him that time, despite that fact. But Sam by himself, after Gollum got Frodo killed? He wouldn’t hesitate long enough for Gollum to even plead his case.

Anyway, just because an act is evil doesn’t necessarily mean that it serves the will of the Ring. Killing Gollum doesn’t really seem like an act that can be twisted toward persuading Sam to keep the Ring for himself; rather, it would probably seem like one more sign that the end was near at hand. It might harden Sam’s heart further, but that’d just make it more likely that he’d give up and throw himself in with the Ring at Mount Doom.

Terrifel, you know I am your #1 fan, but that was no cave troll that tried to skewer Frodo. How could you let PJ do that to you. :([sup]*[/sup]
I think if Frodo had died early then Merry would indeed have been the next Hobbit to take up the burden. This is would have led to several problems Merry’s right hand would have been Pippin and not Sam. Sam probably would have just stay behind in Rivendell with Bilbo. The odds are that the Ents would never have been roused up in time to save Rohan. Even if Rohan won, it is unlikely that they could have mustered a decent force to help Gondor and been on time. Events probably would not have led to Strider going to Rohan and thus take the Paths of the Dead and helping to save Minas Tirith.

Merry might have made it to Mordor despite Pippin as he might well have had more help. As Frodo and Sam would probably not have been part of the Nine Walkers, Glorfindel would have been one of the Nine and may well have kept the party from losing Gandalf. No one living in Middle-Earth knew more about fighting (and defeating) Balrogs than Glorfindel. I wonder who the ninth walker would have been? Erestor, Elladan, Elrohir or another Ranger?

So Merry would have hopefully made it close to Mordor and actually had Gandalf to spirit him through using whatever secret plan Gandalf had in mind.
[sup]*[/sup] :wink:
(More wild conjecture later, I need to help my kids with something)

It was Skald! He said it first! I was simply responding to the proposed scenario. I am not to blame here! I was the subject of external influence! It was crass misdirection, I assure you. Skald is the author of all evil, you know that! My own purely innocent and trusting nature often leads me astray in such matters.


Is it anywhere intimated that of all living creatures in Middle Earth it is Frodo alone who must bear the ring? Or was it simply he was Bilbo’s nephew and happened to be made of the right stuff to be a Ringbearer?

About all I remember clearly is that Gandalf is certain that the One Ring’s strange journey- kept for ages by Gollum and then brought out into the world by Bilbo- was ultimately no coincidence. I can only suppose that it was destined that somehow the Ring would end up at Mount Doom one way or another. If Frodo had died anywhere along the way, it could only mean that he was meant to get the ring that far so someone else, who wouldn’t have been able to carry it all the way from the Shire to Mount Doom, could finish the job.

My best guess is that one hobbit or the other would be the Ringbearer because the whole point of the quest was the hobbits’ being below the radar. Sauron had never even heard of them before he interrogated Gollum. The whole idea of the Fellowship turned out to be a sort of feint: the mighty warriors drew off attention while two diminutive nobodies managed to sneak into Mordor almost unnoticed. Merry and Pippin even served pretty much as decoys when Saruman was looking for the one with the Ring.

Or maybe Sauron would have conquered the world, but it would have been ultimately all right because Eru would have come up with something really, really big to right the balance.

I dunno about this; after all, we’re talking about Sam “At the request of my two friends, I’ll use my gardening job as an opportunity to spy on my employer and the dangerous wizard” Gamgee here. I doubt he’d stay behind knowing that they were headed into mortal danger. As Pippin said: “Then, Master Elrond, you must throw me in prison, or send me home tied in a sack; for otherwise I shall follow the Company.” I think that’d be Sam’s attitude as well, albeit with a lot more stammering and forelock-tugging.

Thanks for the thread, Skald. Some great answers here. Work has not allowed me time to contribute - not that I’d have much to add. An alternate history timeline for Middle Earth is hard to come up with - The Professor made everything in his world fit together so perfectly.
Without Frodo, the Free Peoples might have survived, but what a different story it would have been.

Keep in mind, Gandalf knew that Hobbits had a surprising resistance to the Ring’s pull. Even Gollum, who kept the thing for centuries, had never faded into Wraithdom, and the Ring seemingly couldn’t dominate him sufficiently to force him to leave his cave either. Hobbits might be fairly disposable in other regards, but they are a necessity if you need someone humble enough that a Ring of Power can’t corrupt him with visions of omnipotence. When the Ring tried to use its typical modus operandi to corrupt him in Mordor, Sam realized immediately what a stupid idea that was. It might be easy to persuade a scion of Numenor that he can wield the power of a Maiar, but a Hobbit is going to take a lot longer to persuade. The will of Sauron simply had no common ground with Hobbits to work on.

So I think that in the absence of Frodo, Gandalf would have made sure that the other Hobbits attend the meeting, because only they could carry the Ring without quickly falling to temptation. Except maybe Pippin. I think that Pippin was probably a contingency of last resort in that regard. In fact I think Gandalf would have seriously considered Bill the Pony as a Ring-Bearer first.

If Frodo dies before the Council of Elrond, then Sam is the Bearer.

It can’t be safely thrown into the Sea, Boromir mustn’t have it, Tom Bombadil would mislay it, Elrond, Gandalf + Aragorn won’t take it, Bilbo’s too old, Legolas + Gimli don’t offer (and Gimli just might try to retake Moria wearing the Ring :eek: ) … which leaves the hobbits.
Good choice, because both Bilbo and Frodo have resisted the urge to wear IT.

Elrond admires Sam, who attends secret meetings uninvited.
Gandalf knows that Sam is loyal, even to the memory of Frodo.

Pippin is too young. Merry is sensible and would be 1st reserve.

#1 - I can’t see any of the Hobbits getting the Ring if Frodo dies before the Council. Remember, Gandalf thought Frodo was the best Hobbit in the Shire, while it’s obvious to all at that point that Sam, Merry & Pippin can’t be trusted with a burnt out match (apologies to HL). At the Council, half the reason they made Frodo the ringbearer was because he already had the damned thing. Gandalf might make a half hearted attempt to convince the Council to give one of the other hobbits the Ring, but at that point, the only logical ringbearer is Aragorn.

So Aragorn takes the Ring, tries to make his way to Mordor, eventually succumbs to the temptation, puts it on, make himself King of Gondor & ruler of the elves, beats Sauron in a bloody war that leaves half of his kingdom wrecked, managing to kill off Denethor & sons in the process. After the war, he sets up a harem with Arwen, Eowyn, Rose Cotton, & some shaved dwarfs.

#2 - Even less reason to give the ring to anyone but Aragorn. Gandalf & Frodo are dead, the other 3 hobbits still haven’t done anything useful, there’s no one else around. Aragorn takes it, see #1.

#3 - I can’t see any way the war could have been won in this case. Sam with the Ring and no Frodo? He’ll be captured within hours.