The Battle for Middle-Earth: Tolkien's Divine Design in Lord of the Rings

By Fleming Rutledge | Go to book overview

chapter two
Book II: The Ring Goes South

Transparency, for Good or Ill

During the sojourn in Rivendell, Gandalf notices Frodo’s increasing “transparency” since his wound on Weathertop and observes: “He may become like a glass filled with a clear light for eyes to see that can.” This is a familiar trope for the saints of God (in the New Testament, this means all Christians). They are not sinless or perfected in this life. They are, however, in the process of being made transparent to the realm of the Holy Spirit. The light of Christ shines through the saints as Gandalf hopes light will shine through the “chink” in Gollum’s mind. But it is by no means certain that this will take place in the Ringbearers. The reverse process had been happening to Bilbo. The reader may remember that Bilbo wanted to get away from Hobbiton because he felt “thin and stretched.” The Ring had been working on him.

Part of Bilbo wanted to get away, but the stronger part wanted to possess the Ring permanently. We have seen that without the intervention of Gandalf at Bag End, Bilbo would have become transparent to the realm of darkness, not light. The central question therefore remains: How will Frodo, carrying the Ring on his person so long, through so many trials, resist that same relentless, malevolent pressure? Gandalf poses the question and places his bet on Frodo becoming transparent for good rather than evil. Is Gandalf right? We who follow the story for its entire length will become so convinced of Frodo’s dependability – in spite of Tolkien’s many countervailing hints – that we will begin to take it for granted, all the way to the very slopes of Mount Doom, so that most readers will even forget that there is a question. Therein lies the subtlety and the genius of Tolkien’s astounding dénouement – toward which this study, like the saga itself, will steadily build.

-89-

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The Battle for Middle-Earth: Tolkien's Divine Design in Lord of the Rings
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Prologue - The Hobbit 21
  • Chapter One: Book I 47
  • Chapter Two: Book II 89
  • Chapter Three: Book III 147
  • Chapter Four: Book IV 195
  • Chapter Five: Book V 239
  • Chapter Six: Book VI 321
  • Acknowledgments 373
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