R The Barrow-Downs: Articles - The Quest for the Empirical Hobbit - Anagnorsis - The Recognition

Today's Date in the Shire
26 Foreyule
T.A. 3018 - The Fellowship of the Ring departs Rivendell at dusk.
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The Quest for the Empirical Hobbit:
A Comparative Study of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
Anagnorsis - The Recognition


To Bilbo, the Battle of Five Armies is very much the end of his adventures. There is not much celebration to talk about, and indeed not much to celebrate. There has been many losses and much damage, and now starts a period of healing. Bilbo and Gandalf are very soon on their way home, which is uneventful and quite pleasant. They take their time, and stay to enjoy the hospitality of Beorn, and Elrond. " 'So come snow after fire, and even dragons have their ending!' said Bilbo, and he turned his back on the adventure" (H 270). He feels weary, and he is longing for the quietness and the warmth of Bag End: "the Tookish part was getting very tired".

The result of Sam and Frodo's efforts is much greater. Sauron has been defeated and banished from the confines of the world. On the fields of Cormallen, the heroes are recognised, and there are many happy meetings of old friends. Later we also see the restoration of the King, something Frye attributes to the particular dragon-killing theme (189), as seen in Bilbo, but that concept seems to be applicable to the romance in general. We even have the marriage so typical of the Shakespearean comedy, e.g. in Much Ado About Nothing, which Propp has as his thirty-first and last function. Aragorn marries his queen, Arwen, and later Sam gets his Rose Cotton. The festivities are extensive, and goes on for a long time before our heroes at last can turn their feet to the journey back home.

In both novels, the return to the Shire is not what is to be expected. They come back to a state of chaos and bewilderment. Bilbo finds that he is considered dead, and that his Bag End is up for auction. Frodo and his company return to a much more complex situation. Saruman has in his last efforts to do mischief, taken control over the Shire and its hobbits. He has made himself dictator, and has started a meticulous destruction of the country, symbolised by modern technology and its pollution. With the return of the heroes, there is also a return of courage and determination. The four hobbits have outgrown their fellow countrymen in more than one aspect, and they are able to infuse new life in them. The revolt is started which, in the end, results in the overthrowing of Saruman and his gang.

This adventure is not Frodo's, or even Sam's, but Merry's and Pippin's. Even though the achievements of Frodo and Sam are much greater, Merry and Pippin become the true heroes of the Shire. The matter of the Ring is not of great importance in the Shire, in fact many hobbits have not even been aware of the goings on of the world and the danger they have all been in. To them, what counts are the affairs of the Shire, and consequently it is Merry and Pippin who are the saviours of the world. To a more ambitious hobbit, this ignorant reception would be offensive and insulting, but fortunately, this does not bother Sam or Frodo, who are quite happy to continue their lives in silence and obscurity.

Here the story could end in happiness and harmony, as it did in The Hobbit, but it does not. The experiences of Frodo have been to rough for him to forget, and thus be able to go on with his old life: "he bears forever the three wounds: knife-wound of Weathertop, for folly; the sting of Shelob, for over-confidence; and the finger torn away with the Ring, for pride" (Zimmer-Bradley 124). His burden has been taken away with the destruction of the Ring, but the wounds he carries inside never heal. He is constantly reminded of them, both physically and mentally. He is trying to cope with life for Sam's sake, but in the end he has to give up that fight. He sees the inner turmoil of Sam, who is split between the love for Frodo, and the love for his new family, which he had hoped Frodo also would be a part of: "You cannot always be torn in two. You will have to be one and whole, for many years. You have so much to enjoy and to be, and to do" (LR 1067). This is where we see one of the positive effects of Frodo's experiences. He has achieved a new insight and compassion for the things and people surrounding him, and in that respect he has become a fulfilled hobbit. Zimmer-Bradley (124) sees this compassion in his treatment of the defeated Saruman. Even though Saruman tries to kill him, he will not retaliate: "Do not kill him even now. For he has not hurt me" (LR 1057).

In the end, Frodo leaves the Shire, and joins up with many of his old friends on their journey to the Grey Havens. This is a theme that goes through the work, and we should be well prepared for this kind of ending. This new age arisen is the age of Men, and the era of the Elves is come to an end:

For the Third Age was over, and the Days of the Rings were passed, and an end was come of the story and song of those times. With them went many Elves of the High Kindred who would no longer stay in Middle-earth; and among them, filled with a sadness that was yet blessed and without bitterness, rode Sam, and Frodo, and Bilbo, and the Elves delighted to honour them. (LR 1067)

With the destruction of the Ring, Frodo becomes himself again, and this proves that the Ring is to be blamed for the change in his character (Sale 282-283), and as we have seen he "is no more for this world....he has transcended hobbitry" (Ready 56).

It is a bitter-sweet ending, but in the end it all makes sense to us, and this is the way it must be. The Fourth Age has begun, and there is no room for elves, wizards, and damaged hobbits. As Galadriel, Elrond, Gandalf, Frodo, and Bilbo set sail for the West and leave Middle-Earth in the Arthurian spirit, we see that the happy ending in The Hobbit is just temporary. Bilbo is not unhurt by his adventures, even if he at the time stood tall and faced his events with an admirable degree of courage. As Sam comes home after seeing his friends off, he can start his new life as a father, and Rose has finally got a whole husband: "Well, I'm back" (LR 1069).

Continue to: Conclusion

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