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that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you
give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.
For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
Later in the same conversation in Book
I, Chapter 2, Gandalf again explores—though
this time more dimly—the hand of fate in the world of Middle-earth.
The wizard’s words are again a gentle rebuke to Frodo, who bemoans
the fact that Gandalf did not kill Gollum when he had the chance,
even though the wretched creature “deserves” death. Though Gandalf
does not know how exactly, he does have a sense that Gollum has
some further role to play in the story of the Ring. Indeed, as we
see later in The Two Towers and The Return
of the King, the wizard is correct. On a plot level, predictions such
as Gandalf’s serve to maintain suspense and create a sense of foreboding
or anticipation, foreshadowing coming events but not telling us
whether they are near or distant. On a more figurative level, however,
Tolkien uses these prophecies and predictions to remind us of the
presence of fate, which has assigned roles to all of the characters—roles
that even the wisest and most powerful among them do not yet know
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Fellowship of the Ring!