The Fellowship of the Ring

J. R. R. Tolkien

Book II, Chapter 10

Summary Book II, Chapter 10

Though Tolkien—who resisted highly theoretical interpretations of his work—would likely find any reading linking him to Freud somewhat inappropriate, the point remains that the scene at Amon Hen serves as a dramatic representation of the role of free will and the part it plays in the battle between reason and desire. Frodo, in saying that he is affected by duty and desire, but not totally identified with either, describes the condition of every human being, pointing out the basic conflict that Freud discerned at the core of human nature. What makes Frodo unique is that he is willing to meditate on the matter. His introspective moment at Amon Hen is a time of self-exploration, which in turn is a sign of wisdom. It is impossible to imagine an evil warlord like Sauron meditating on his conflict between duty and desire. Frodo’s wisdom also distinguishes him from characters like Boromir, for example, who are inordinately subject to stormy fits of passion and desire. Though we are given indications throughout The Lord of the Rings that Frodo is fated to be the Ring-bearer, Tolkien uses episodes such as the one at Amon Hen to remind us that self-knowledge, and the wisdom that springs from it, make Frodo worthy of his destined role.

Frodo and Boromir are the two focal points of the conclusion of The Fellowship of the Ring, and the contrast between them shows us the diverging developments they have undergone in the story thus far. At the beginning, Frodo and Boromir are committed to the same cause, and they appear to be of more or less similar character. Frodo, however, has kept his original honesty, as we see from his sincere conversation with himself at Amon Hen, while Boromir has become deceptive, not admitting to the rest of the Fellowship that he has tried to take the Ring from Frodo. Frodo has also kept his original selfless devotion to the Fellowship, which has led him to break away from the rest of the group in order to spare them the dangers and hardships he knows they would face if they stayed with him. Sam shows a similar sense of devotion in insisting on following his master, come what may. Boromir, by contrast, has become selfish, betraying his companions for the goal of possessing the Ring. The contrast in moral attitudes between Frodo and Boromir could hardly be greater. The Fellowship of the Ring ends with the struggle between Frodo and Boromir not only for reasons of plot, but also for symbolic meaning. Two examples of opposite moral paths bracket the closing of the first volume of The Lord of the Rings, hinting at the enormous moral opposition to come.