Pity and Mercy + Was there a true hero in Lord of the Rings?

Do pity and mercy mean the same thing? Or are they different? We are going to explore what the two terms mean, and why it is important in Lord of the Rings.

Pity didn't always seem to have the negative connotation it does today.

Psalm 72:13 describes pity in the sense of compassion: "He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death."

This seems to describe pity along the lines with mercy.

Mercy might just be achieved in more of a physical sense, while pity is more about thinking, "gee, I really feel for what so-and-so is going through," and mercy would be something that is acted upon, which may or may not be influenced by pity.

Meanwhile, Sam bore the ring for one day, which was the day that he started to perceive the evil of Sauron. However, Tolkien cites this moment probably before that, in Book 4, Chapter 4 - in letter # 246.

You can see that in the beginning of Book IV, Frodo sort of understands the weight of the ring with Gollum but Sam wasn’t too sure. That was something that took me a while to sort of notice what was going on there.

At first I thought it was shown that Frodo was able to show compassion to Gollum in the sense of loving those who persecute you, and I still wonder whether that is. Since after all, it didn't seem like Gollum was trying to persecute; he could also be just trying to claim the ring for his own personal reasons, liking how the ring feels on him...the long life, invisibility,...etc. Gollum could be suffering from something like an addiction - which sort of twists the lies making them truth in his head among other issues (the birthday present, etc).

But it seems that Tolkien was trying to say that this empathy that Frodo shows towards Gollum was noble but hard to understand.

Some people tend to be put in these sacrificial positions, as Frodo did - since he took this quest out of love. Thus, he was given grace at the end of Council of Elrond to answer the call.

It could also show the importance of empathy and compassion. But it seems to me that Frodo was able to show compassion to Gollum first, and after Sam started to understand then he was also able to show compassion.

"Frodo indeed 'failed' as a hero...I do not think that Frodo's was a moral failure.

At the last moment the pressure of the Ring would reach its maximum-impossible, I

should have said, for anyone to resist, certainly after long posession, months of

increasing torment, and when starved and exhausted. Frodo had done what he could

and spent himself completely (as an instrument of Providence) and had produced a

situation in which the object of his quest could be achieved...Frodo deserved all

honour because he spent every drop of his power of will and body, and that was just

sufficient to bring him to the destined point, and no further. Few others, possibly

no others of his time, would have got so far."

- J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter #246

Here, it seems to me that Tolkien suggests that Frodo was the main hero, if there is one. Surely, he probably couldn't have gotten by without his fellowship, especially with Sam by his side, but I think we need to be careful before saying that Sam was the real hero and not Frodo. I wonder if it's also because of modern values, more so than what the movies did. While I had some gripes about the movies still (no adaptation is perfect), this was not one of them.

Again, I'm not downplaying Sam's devotion and grace throughout the series. It probably just seemed to be what they set out to do.

And Sam started out a little bit not really understanding what Frodo had to go through, and then after carrying the ring for a day he started to understand. But he decided he couldn't carry the ring anymore after that. Sam was Frodo's gardener so people seem to take issue with him being Frodo's "servant," but I guess being his gardener had much to do with it.

And lastly - from my comment on The Broken Sword's video:

Honestly, I can still see the general struggles that Frodo went through in the films.

Sure, there are some details that were left out, like his age, etc. But I think the

general struggle that he undertook were either: portrayed well, and if it wasn't it's

mainly because it's generally hard to portray certain things in film. I've already

knew who he was. I think it might've just been more like when people see him, they

don't really see what he went through, thinking that he's just "sitting on a ring"

without thinking about what he's carrying and what the ring actually entails. A more

simplistic way of saying this would be that it seems not to be about the movies, but

more the modern values of what entails a hero (though it's also not just about modern

values). I also find his strength to be inspiring in our lives as well!

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