The Return of the King
by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Return of the King Good vs. Evil Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph).
The river-bed was now some way below the path. [Frodo and Sam] scrambled down to it, and began to cross it. To their surprise they came upon dark pools fed by threads of water trickling down from some source higher up in the valley. Upon its outer marges under the westward mountains Mordor was a dying land, but it was not yet dead. And here things still grew, harsh, twisted, bitter, struggling for life. In the glens of the Morgai on the other side of the valley low scrubby trees lured and clung, coarse grey grass-tussocks fought with the stones, and withered mosses crawled on them; and everywhere great writhing, tangled brambles sprawled. Some had long stabbing thorns, some hooked barbs that rent like knives. The sullen shrivelled leaves of a past year hung on them, grating and rattling in the sad airs, but their maggot-ridden buds were only just opening. Flies, dun or grey, or black, marked like orcs with a red eye-shaped blotch, buzzed and stung; and above the briar-thickets clouds of hungry midges danced and reeled. (6.2.44)
As Frodo and Sam trudge through Mordor, they discover (much to their surprise) that, as unhappy and polluted as this land is, it's not quite dead yet. There are still living things: thorny plants and biting flies. They aren't nice living things, to be sure, but they are still clinging to life in this unhealthy place. So here is our question: is the persistence of life itself a sign of lingering goodness in this land? Or do these scrubby trees and "hungry midges" form part of the evil of Mordor? Given Tolkien's affection for all things green, would you say that the things that still grow in Mordor, "harsh, twisted, bitter, struggling for life" though they may be, symbolize hope for Mordor's rebirth? Or are they just part of the horrifying landscape of the Land of Shadow?
Sam struggled with his own weariness, and he took Frodo's hand; and there he sat silent till deep night fell. […] There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master's, ceased to trouble him. He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo's side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep untroubled sleep. (6.2.49)
At long last: a moment of clarity. Sam sees that their current struggles against Sauron (while still important) cannot touch "light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach." As pressing as the evil all around them may be, Frodo and Sam's doom is still dwarfed in importance by the larger good of the universe. Sam's sudden faith in the basic goodness of creation is what soothes his fear and allows him to sleep.
"It all began with Pimple, as we call him," said Farmer Cotton; "and it began as soon as you'd gone off, Mr. Frodo. He'd funny ideas, had Pimple. Seems he wanted to own everything himself, and then order other folk about. It soon came out that he already did own a sight more than was good for him; and he was always grabbing more, though where he got the money was a mystery: mills and malt-houses and inns, and farms, and leaf-plantations. He'd already bought Sandyman's mill before he came to Bag End, seemingly.
"Of course he started with a lot of property in the Southfarthing which he had from his dad; and it seems he'd been selling a lot o' the best leaf, and sending it away quietly for a year or two. But at the end o' last year he began sending away loads of stuff, not only leaf. Things began to get short, and winter coming on, too. Folk got angry, but he had his answer. A lot of Men, ruffians mostly, came with great wagons, some to carry off the goods south-away, and others to stay." (6.8.166-7)
"Pimple" is, of course, Lotho Sackville-Baggins. Farmer Cotton is sharing the story of his fall into greed and wickedness with Frodo and Merry. The first part of Lotho's story could be the self-made-man story for any number of businessmen working in capitalist economies: Lotho starts with some money, which he uses to invest in "mills and malt-houses and inns, and farms, and leaf-plantations." And he keeps pouring the profits from these enterprises into more industries, for even greater profits. When does Lotho cross the line from savvy businessman to exploitative monster? How does Tolkien seem to regard the world of business in general, based on this description? When does business go from good to evil?