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The Return of the King

J. R. R. Tolkien

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 4

“But do you remember Gandalf’s words: Even Gollum may have something yet to do? But for him, Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring. The Quest would have been in vain, even at the bitter end. So let us forgive him! For the Quest is achieved, and now all is over. I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.”

Frodo shares this calm reflection with Sam at the end of Book VI, Chapter 3, as Mount Doom explodes and crumbles around them. Their somewhat leisurely conversation belies the fact that they have suffered from exhaustion and physical danger for so long, as well as the fact that Mordor is rupturing into a virtual apocalypse around them. The moment highlights one of Tolkien’s strongest narrative devices—the juxtaposition of intimate personal moments against the backdrop of cosmic or earthly crises. This tension between the great and the small drives the entire plot of The Lord of the Rings—which revolves around the idea of two lowly hobbits not simply embarking on a quest but, as the critic Roger Sale puts it, descending into hell. Tolkien uses the device to emphasize the deep friendship between Frodo and Sam. Not only does the physical destruction of Mount Doom signal the climax of Tolkien’s tale, but it also suggests that the moment represents the pinnacle of the two hobbits’ friendship.

Frodo himself points out another irony: it is not he who finishes the quest they have traveled so far to achieve, but Gollum, the Ring’s greatest hoarder, who has completed the task. Frodo cites Gandalf’s prediction from the early chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring—that Gollum would invariably play a part in the fate of the Ring. Frodo has shown great patience and mercy toward Gollum throughout the second half of the quest. It remains unclear to what degree Gandalf’s foreshadowing has remained in the back of Frodo’s mind, inspiring his clemency for the miserable Gollum. Either way, a sense of divine providence and fate looms over the events that transpire at the Cracks of Doom, evoking a perfect blend of chance and retribution in Gollum’s fall. In this regard, Frodo and Sam’s calm discussion of Gollum’s actions in light of the destruction around them hints that a greater, unknown power of good is protecting them.