Downsizing Frodo: More responses
Juliet Waldron’s essay “Downsizing Frodo” has produced more thoughtful responses from TORN readers. Tiel Jackson wrote: “I was reading the Juliet Waldron essay and some of the replies that you posted on the web, and it got me thinking. I’m not sure if I’m for or agin it, but– it seems to me a lot of what’s going on with the Frodo/Sam/Gollum storyline is that Jackson & Co. recast it as a romance.
“Before I go any further with that, I should say I don’t believe that relationship was meant to be seen as being at all sexual– I frankly think it’s a sad comment on our society, that people aren’t able to see love and affection without reading sex into it. Be that as it may. A romance in which the principal’s devotion and unanimity never wavered would be… well… boring. That’s pretty much how Frodo and Sam are in the book– even though Frodo has these flashes of Ring-induced paranoia, they never last for more than a couple minutes.
“Instead, Jackson & Co. give us a classic love triangle, leading to jealousy, separation, betrayal, rescue and reconciliation. This is very much a standard adventure/romance novel formula. I think this may account for some of the movies’ popularity with female moviegoers, which apparently has a lot of industry people scratching their heads– it’s the kind of story we’re used to reading, once you get past the fact that the “lovers” are both guys, the dynamic is very familiar.
“The other thing that comes out of that is that Frodo’s injury by Shelob and capture by the Orcs appear as direct consequences of– and maybe punishment for– his having trusted Gollum over Sam. In the book it seems like, if Sam had been first out of the tunnel, he’d have been stung instead of Frodo. There’s no particular moral lesson there. Does that make Frodo a “stronger” or “weaker” character? I dunno.
“Clearly Jackson & Co. chose to put Frodo through some different and more visible set of trials than what he’s described as going through in the book. (That slow wasting of the will would be very difficult to portray in movie terms, I think.) Part of that is that Frodo gets his heart broken by Gollum. Like I said at the beginning, I’m not sure if I’m for or agin it, but I can see why they might have chosen to play it that way. I don’t think it was a cheap decision, and in the end that’s all you can really ask.”
Melilot tended to confirm that the discussion raised by Juliet’s essay is an important one:
“I found the essay by Juliet Waldron very interesting. I translated it into spanish and posted it in a local Tolkien forum and it has certainly caused a stormlike reaction! The funny thing is that most of the members in such forum didn’t seem to be that much interested in Frodo until I posted that… odd. They are more into the discussion of, shall I say, “stronger” characters, and specially into elf warriors and the race of men. I’m one of the very few whose all time fave characters is actually Frodo, or any other hobbit for that matter, so I thought I was going to be quite ignored by posting that, but, boy was I wrong!.
“I must say that I partially agreed with some of Ms. Waldron’s comments about Frodo (who coincidentally, is my favourite LoTR character, alongside with Faramir). It’s been really very hard for me to cope with PJ’s Frodo. It’s all become a bit of a mess in my head, because, also coincidentally, I happen to really enjoy Elijah Wood as an actor, yet somehow I cannot seem to reconcile his Frodo with mine. I have watched the three films countless times. I read Tolkien 27 years ago for the first time and in the latter years I have become sort of a diehard “analyst” of his works.
“I very much agree than in this now “post PJ” era for Tolkien readers, the once famous “Frodo Lives!” has turned into “Frodo Failed!” and that is nothing short of shocking and worthy of analysis. I have encountered lots of “new” LoTR fans who seem to practically ignore Frodo’s role and, more bitterly, Frodo’s aura and particularities after watching the movies. I find this somewhat hard to cope with, I actually hardly ever thought that this beautiful, quiet, pious and insighftul character would be getting such a dismissive treatment, and for as much as I completely adore all three movies, I believe this new thread is closely related to the treatment Frodo was given in them.”
Marlene B. found a new interpretation of the scene where Frodo appears to offer the Ring to the Ringwraith on the walls of Osgiliath:
“Both rebuttals are great and well circumstantiated. Now I have to totally agree with EVERYBODY (sigh!). Truth be told, the basic conflict is as it always was- book vs. film. It cannot be solved. The media are too dissimilar cannot be compared and each one follows a different logic.
“But having read many versions of the Osgiliath scene I feel I might as well volunteer (inflict?) my own.
“Although Frodo is not quite himself at that point, due to the call of the Nazgul, I don’t think he goes up that building completely against his will (note purposeful gait). I think his action (and intention) indicate the deep desperation and hopelessness of Frodo at this point in time. What we could consider his lowest point (he has finally realized how desperate the whole thing is but hasn’t yet found in himself the bravery he will later display).
“You will notice the Nazgul is not expecting him up there. It arrives called in by the ring. Also significant is the fact that the only way the Nazgul could actually see Frodo clearly, would be for him to put the ring on. He actually wants the wraith to see him and quite simply kill him and put him out of his suffering. Of course, (as with on impulse suicide attempts) the whole thing has not been thought over or planned ahead. He is just answering the wild desire (arguably half his, half infused by the wraiths) to “end it all.”
Finally, Parmendiriel talks about the difference between Sam’s more visible physical heroism, and Frodo’s internal struggle which is harder to portray on film, in her weblog entry here. She links to Juliet’s essay, in case you’re wondering what everyone’s talking about.
I don’t know. That is the way I read it first time I saw it.”
This is such an interesting topic. I’m away travelling for the next 2 weeks so the topic is regretfully closed as far as I’m concerned, however. Tehanu over and out.Posted in Old Special Reports on February 25, 2004 by Tehanu