Despair or Folly?

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Despair? ‘Despair or folly,’ said Gandalf. ‘It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt.’

How can we dismiss such words from one of the Wise? We can because there was so much at stake. The rediscovery of the One Ring was a great, great burden for Middle-earth and its finding brought a huge amount of death and suffering. The War of the Ring was devastating but yet only one event of many. Gandalf’s plan still worked out—if barely and by chance, luck and the right set of circumstances at the right times.

From the loss of Gandalf to the Balrog and the breaking of the Fellowship, we have the reincarnation of Gandalf, even more powerful than before; from the destruction at the Hornburg to a new day; from Sam and Frodo being seen by Gollum only for Gollum to help out; from being captured by Faramir turning into a wonderful help with food, advice and staves; from the escape of Shelob and Kirith Ungol; being captured by the Orcs but escaping when the different orcs meet their captors; even as Frodo claimed the One Ring there is despair!

But all of the scenes of despair are part of the same story and that’s significant: ‘No, sir, of course not. Beren now, he never thought he was going to get that Silmaril from the Iron Crown in Thangorodrim, and yet he did, and that was a worse place and a blacker danger than ours. But that’s a long tale, of course, and goes on past the happiness and into grief and beyond it—and the Silmaril went on and came to Eärendil. And why, sir, I never thought of that before! We’ve got— you’ve got some of the light of it in that star-glass that the Lady gave you! Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on. Don’t the great tales never end?’ Sam says to Frodo. Frodo answers that they never end but the people do and that their part will end later—or sooner.

Frodo claims the One Ring, and it would have been destroyed utterly if not for Gollum biting the Ring off his finger and Ilúvatar making him fall into the Secret Fire and so destroying the Ring. Barad-dûr falls; the power of the Three Rings is ended. After a brief battle in The Shire, there was ‘an air of richness and growth, and a gleam of a beauty beyond that of mortal summers that flicker and pass upon this Middle-earth.’

As history shows us, we always come back stronger after a fall, even if not any wiser. Indeed, our world has known much more grief and despair than we have now, and here we are again. The will to survive is too strong to be ruined by anything but a nuclear war or something beyond our control; we’re in control now and we will pull through.

Cody Ferguson

Cody is an avid reader, passionate about Tolkien’s Legendarium, programming and is a proud participant and winner of the International Obfuscated C Code Contest (IOCCC). He writes about the Legendarium on his website ( and loves to help people where he can. In his free time, he can be found reading, programming, laughing and spending time with his beautiful, lovely and loving girlfriend.

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