The Fellowship of the Ring
Compassion and Forgiveness Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
"What in the name of wonder?" began Merry, feeling the golden circlet that had slipped over one eye. Then he stopped, and a shadow came over his face, and he closed his eyes. "Of course, I remember!" he said. "The men of Carn Dûm came on us at night, and we were worsted. Ah! The spear in my heart!" He clutched at his breast. "No! No!" he said, opening his eyes. "What am I saying? I have been dreaming." (1.8.46)
The ghosts of the Barrow-downs in the Old Forest seem to possess Merry, Pippin, and Sam – Merry at least can remember getting a spear to the heart. Merry literally feels the pain of this long-dead warrior. We can understand ghosts looking for sympathy or compassion from living people; but why then try to kill these living people with a buried sword? If you're dead, what's the point of trying to bring other people down with you? This is the one aspect of ghost stories that's tough to understand: why be cruel after you've died? What difference will it make to you?
"They come from Mordor," said Strider in a low voice. "From Mordor, Barliman, if that means anything to you."
"Save us!" cried Mr. Butterbur turning pale; the name evidently was known to him. "That is the worst news that has come to Bree in my time."
"It is," said Frodo. "Are you still willing to help me?"
"I am," said Mr. Butterbur. "More than ever. Though I don't know what the likes of me can do against, against –" he faltered. (1.10.57-62)
In the early days of The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo and the Hobbits are so new to adventuring that they have to rely almost entirely on the compassion of other people: Farmer Maggot steps up and helps them get out of the Shire. They are saved from certain death twice by Tom Bombadil in the Old Forest. And here, the innkeeper Butterbur is volunteering to help Frodo as best he can, even against "the Shadow in the East" (1.10.63). What would have happened to Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin if they hadn't been able to rely on the kindness of strangers? When do they each start to face their adventures on their own? What does it take for them to become more self-reliant?
With his last failing senses Frodo heard cries, and it seemed to him that he saw, beyond the Riders that hesitated on the shore, a shining figure of white light; and behind it ran small shadowy forms waving flames, that flared red in the grey mist that was falling over the world.
The black horses were filled with madness, and leaping forward in terror they bore their riders into the rushing flood. Their piercing cries were drowned in the roaring of the river as it carried them away. Then Frodo felt himself falling, and the roaring and confusion seemed to rise and engulf him together with his enemies. He heard and saw no more. (1.12.121)
Tolkien gives horses a lot of credit for self-consciousness. For example, Glorfindel's Asfaloth bears Frodo across the Ford of Bruinen even when Frodo doesn't really want to go; Asfaloth follows Glorfindel's orders, regardless of Frodo's feelings on the matter. And of course, let's not forget the Riders of Rohan and Gandalf's super-intelligent horse Shadowfax. These horses all appear capable of making their own decisions about who to follow and how far. So if these horses are good horses, surely the horses of the Ringwraiths are evil – evil, and apparently okay with that, since they willingly carry the Ringwraiths. At the same time, we can't help but feel that it's not the horses' fault they were raised by Sauron. How can horses be evil by nature? Why should they have to die in a flood, just because their passengers are wicked? How responsible are the horses of Lord of the Rings for the deeds of their owners?