We Need to Talk About Frodo

Recently there was a Lord of the Rings marathon on television, and seeing as it’s been a while since I visited Middle Earth, I decided to watch. As I watched, I realized that Frodo Baggins deserves way more credit than he gets. So many people talk about how Frodo is weak, how all he does is walk around and whine and he must be weak because he barely makes it to Mt. Doom. Well. I have a bone to pick with you people.

In my opinion, Frodo’s journey throughout the Lord of the Rings is the most difficult because most of the battles he fights are mental. Sure he walks a long way, but walking that far would take its toll on anyone, and the entire time, the ring is waging war on his mind. As someone who knows what it’s like to feel you have to enter your mind armed to the teeth, I think Frodo needs a little respect. The ring is doing everything it can to be reunited with its master, and as the book/movie progresses, you can see the toll that takes on Frodo. He grows quiet, smiles less, is weakened due to lack of appetite, and all the while the ring is literally digging into his neck. His skin is rubbed raw from the metal, and yet he still goes on. That is brave. That is courageous.

In the Two Towers film, Frodo, Sam, and Gollum have been brought to Osgiliath by Faramir, and a Nazgul attacks. There is moment when Frodo is done. He’s tired. He’s had enough, and he goes to meet the Nazgul on a bridge, ready to give up the ring and be finished with it all. I don’t see this as weak. I see this as realistic. When you are so mentally exhausted and an outlet is presented, the temptation to give in is so strong. It’s in this moment when Sam saves the day, knocking Frodo over and removing the ring from the grasp of the Wraith. When Frodo realizes what he’s done, that he nearly gave in and put a sword to Sam’s neck, you can see the horror wash over his face. Sam, being the incredible friend that he is, gives Frodo the encouragement he needs to hear the form of this incredible speech- “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding onto something.” And then Frodo looks at Sam with such despair and hopelessness in those big, blue eyes and asks, “What’re we holding onto, Sam?” And Sam Gamgee, the wonderful, steadfast gardener gives Frodo the hope he needs when he says, “That there is some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.” This simple truth is enough to get Frodo up, to get him on his feet and ready to keep going. The reminder that the shadows pressing on his mind won’t linger, that when the sun comes again it will be more glorious than ever compared to the present darkness gives Frodo something to cling to. It’s amazing that he can keep going and it’s true; he wouldn’t have made it very far without Sam.

Which brings me to another point. A side note, really. There are those who mock or twist the relationship between Frodo and Sam; try to make it into something it was never meant to be. That makes me so angry because what wouldn’t you do for your friend? If your friend is struggling, do you leave them to wallow and thrash in the muck or do you offer to help them? To carry them if they need it? Of course you do. You sit with them and remind them of the good things, you cry with them, and encourage them, and you love them. You do everything Sam did for Frodo because that is what friends do for each other. Okay. Done with that. Back to Frodo.

I relate to Frodo and his mind wars so much. The devil loves to attack my mind, to wear me down and try to get me to quit, and there have been two times in my life when Frodo and his determination have been so encouraging to me. In the Return of the King film, there are three scenes that will always bring tears to my eyes.

The first comes after he evades Shelob the spider for the first time and he collapses, just so tired. When he “wakes up”, the Lady Galadriel is before him and she reminds him that he is the only one who can complete the task set before him. When she extends a hand to Frodo, he looks from her face to her hand, resolve settling over his features, and he decides to keep going. Even though the odds are overwhelmingly against him, he gets to his feet and keeps going. People underestimate how difficult that is. And, like before with Sam, having Galadriel show faith in him is enough to keep him believing in himself and his quest.

The second is when he and Sam are crawling up the side of Mt. Doom. Their lips are cracked, steam is curling up from the rocks, and Frodo falls. He lands on his chest and eyes the top of the mountain. They are so close to their goal, and Frodo is at the end of his strength. But even so, he still tries to crawl up the side of the mountain; inching his way up until he grabs a loose rock and falters. The music in that scene is incredible. You can feel how hard it is for him, how he’s trying everything to accomplish what he set out to do, but his body is spent. It’s at this point when Sam proves his loyalty and strength as Frodo’s friend. He reminds him of what will come when the task is completed. He reminds him of home. And when he sees how mentally lost Frodo is, he carries him to the top. He can’t take the ring from Frodo, he can’t get rid of the burden for him, but he can help him make it to the end. I can’t tell you how often this has mirrored my life. When I’m struggling, my friends and family come alongside me and help me make it to the end of the day or week or hour, depending on the situation.

The third is a scene that isn’t in the book, but I love it so much. After Frodo and Gollum have fought over the ring and Gollum and the ring have been consumed by the lava, we see that when Frodo went over the edge with them, he managed to catch himself. Just barely. He’s holding on by a hand, and when Sam reaches over to help him, Frodo tries to grasp his hand, but misses. Then we see Frodo look down to lava and then back to Sam. Elijah Wood kills me in this scene. His face is so sad, so tired, so ready to be done with everything. He wants to let go. It would be easier to let go. The physical and mental battles have taken their toll, and letting go means an end to all of that. Elijah manages to convey all of that perfectly with just a look and it’s heartbreaking. Sam can see what Frodo is thinking. He sees the look on Frodo’s face, and it scares him into pleading with Frodo, “Don’t you let go. Don’t let go.” It takes a moment, but Frodo clenches his jaw and reaches for Sam again, and this time it works. Sam grabs Frodo, pulls him up, and they race out of Mt. Doom. As they sit on a rock, Frodo glances around, looking more light and free than he has in ages and proclaims, “It’s over. It’s done.”

So. There you have it. Frodo Baggins is an incredible character. He is selfless. It would have been easier for him to ignore the problem with the ring and go back to the Shire and live his life. He is determined. He keeps going. Seems like a little thing, but it isn’t. And he is brave. He is so brave to keep going when everything is screaming at him to stop. When the ring and all the darkness that comes with it are trying to pull him under, he has the courage to look up, grit his teeth, and keep going. That is so brave. And so overlooked. So, here’s to you, Mr. Baggins. Here’s to your amazing strength of character and here’s to getting the appreciation you deserve.


Dragons are Time Wasters

This actually happened a long time ago, and I’ve been meaning to post it because I think it’re pretty funny. Once upon a time, I was working on the book in a Barnes and Noble in KC when my mind wandered. Sherlock was at lunch, so I just gchatted her until she got back and it was awesome.

me: Once upon a time, a girl named Katie sat in a Barnes and Noble cafe while she worked on her book. It was great fun for her, and even though she had to pee, she wanted coffee
Sent at 1:52 PM on Friday
me: She stared blankly at the cover of a book, trying to get a sentence right in her head, and as she watched, the dragon on the cover of the book moved!
She squinted, convinced her eyes were playing tricks on her. But no, the dragon was alive!
It crawled out of the book and roared, sending the people of Barnes and Noble into a panic
All except the girl. She stared the shiny green dragon down, and it didnt blink as it stared back at her.
Cautiously, the girl stretched her hand toward the creature, and it pushed the end of its nose into her hand. The moment they made contact, the girl was transported with the dragon into a whole new world
Sent at 1:55 PM on Friday
me: This new world was strange. The ground was pink and the sky was gold, and giant flowers rose into the sky.
The dragon stretched its leathery wings, and the girl decided to see if she could ride it. The dragon didnt protest as she struggled onto its back, and once she was settled, it leapt to the sky.
Cold wind bit at the girls face as they flew, but she was too happy to notice or care
me: Suddenly the girl noticed a glittering dragon approaching, and on its back sat a very familiar face. It was her friend Pretty Princess!
Her dragon was stunning as to be expected – its scales were finer than any diamond, and it glittered like a tiara in the sun
Sent at 2:04 PM on Friday
me: “How did you get here?” The girl named Gravity asked with a laugh,
“I was at work,” Pretty Princess said, “and then this dragon crawled out of the computer screen.”
Sent at 2:05 PM on Friday
me: “I wonder why we were brought here,” Gravity mused.
Pretty Princess nodded, pushing her blond hair out of her eyes.”Maybe they need our help?”
(its almost scary how easy this story came to me hahaha)
Cali: (eeeeeeeeeeeeee I love)
me: Suddenly a great black dragon dropped from the sky, causing the glittering dragon and the green dragon to dive toward the earth. Gravity and Pretty Princess shrieked as they spiraled to the earth, and Gravity squeezed her eyes shut, convinced her dragon wasnt going to stop in time.
The green dragon landed with a jarring thud and when Gravity opened her eyes, she saw they were standing alongside Pretty Princess and her dragon
The mighty black dragon stood before them, and the girls nearly fell off their dragons in shock with it spoke to them
“My name is Smaug,” he said in what can only be described as a sexy voice. “And I require your help.”
(Ignore that I think Smaug is red in the book?)
me: “Smaug?” Gravity said, exchanging a glance with Pretty Princess. “Why do you need our help?”
Sent at 2:13 PM on Friday
me: Smaug sighed, and his great shoulders slumped. “It is understandable that you would be wary of me. That wretched hobbit changed the story and made me out to be the villain, but that is simply not the case.”
“Oh it’s not?” Pretty Princess asked doubtfully.
Cali: sarcastically
me: You’re right haha
“Oh its not?” Pretty Princess asked sarcastically.
Sent at 2:16 PM on Friday
me: “No,” Smaug snorted. “The wretched hobbit and that filthy, thieving Thorin Oakinshield stole from me. I was the true king under the mountain. Thorin is a greedy dwarf and concocted a ridiculous fairytale about how I stole from him.” The dragon huffed, sounding amused and irritated.
“Why should we believe a word you say?” Gravity asked, gripping the green dragon as the creature shifted.
Smaug regarded the girls with a fiery gaze. “I suppose that is a fair question,” he said finally. He took a step back and growled, which caused the green dragon and the glittery dragon to shake both girls from their backs and onto the ground
Sent at 2:22 PM on Friday
me: Before the girls could protest, the green dragon pressed its snout against Gravity’s temple, and the glittering, diamond dragon did the same to Pretty Princess
And once their minds were filled with the histories of the dragons, and they saw that the story Smaug told was true.
(Plot twist – holler)
Cali: I am loving this
Sent at 2:28 PM on Friday
me: Hahaha me too
Sent at 2:29 PM on Friday
me: When the presentation was over, the girls looked at each other, and then at Smaug, who was watching them sadly.
“You had a family,” Gravity whispered.
“And Thorin took them from you,” Pretty Princess said angrily. “Of course we’ll help you.”
Sent at 2:31 PM on Friday
me: “You are greedy though,” Gravity said after a pause. “If you were to give up the mountain, Thorin would return your family.”
“What’s left of it,” Smaug said bitterly. “And yes. Dragons love treasure. After what you were shown, you should understand this.”
Gravity winced, but nodded.
“So where do we begin?” Pretty Princess asked, leaning against her sparkling dragon.
“We begin,” Smaug said, sexy dragon voice growing determined, “by waging war on the Lonely Mountain.”
Bum bum bum to be continued
This is an odd headcannon fanfiction thing. Brought to you by the mind of Katie. Haha
Cali: J’ADORE.

Mischief Managed

Horses are Magic

The human-equine bond is a powerful thing, especially when it comes to trust. It’s almost indescribable, this bond. It’s a mutual and unspoken promise that I will keep you safe no matter the circumstances. It’s beautiful and comforting and I have been so lucky to have had that for sixteen years with my equine soul mate. But this isn’t about Scout. Not yet. I can’t yet. When I do, it will encompass more than just trust and it will be a beautifully written tribute to him and our years together. I could write about my Country Bumpkin, but he and I have such an odd relationship that this post would be pages and pages long. I know him pretty much as well as I know Scout, but ours is a quirky pairing. He’ll get a post sometime as well. He’s earned it.

Instead, I’m going to focus on when I was working at the Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish, Montana. Even though I was only at the Bar W for two months, I can think of several times where a foundation of trust was laid and built upon. I’ll go horse by horse to keep it simple.

Walter. My darling little Walter is a chestnut gelding with a wide blaze and two socks splashed on his lower legs. He’s not the biggest horse at the ranch, but he is solid muscle, and he was the first horse I rode on a trail ride in Montana. It was a loping trail ride which meant that we were galloping up old, rocky fire roads in a group of around ten or so people. Having had a horse trip and fall on me while cantering once, I’m uneasy when it comes to galloping over unfamiliar ground, so I was a little wary when the ride started. But Walter kept me safe-he listened and responded to every command and by the end of the ride, my nerves were gone. Walter was who I wanted when I had to take my first trail ride out by myself. He’ll do anything you ask him to, and that unwavering dependability makes him a treasure. Having ridden him frequently, I was extremely happy when my barn manager, Lindsay, suggested I ride him for the photography week photo shoot. Part of the shoot required that we gallop the horses as fast as we could across the pasture. No problem, except that the pasture is littered with gopher holes (see previous uneasiness due to riding accident). Walter and I were slated to go first, and I made a joke about being nervous and then explained why. Which got an, “Oh. Well that makes sense,” form Lindsay. Then she looked at me and said, “Just trust Walter. He’s a good horse and he knows where to put his feet.” And there it was. As soon as she said it, it was so easy. The fear was gone and we shot across that pasture faster than I’ve ridden in a long while. And Walter didn’t so much as stumble. It was exhilarating and solidified Walter as my go to horse for any situation I was unsure about.

For example, I had to take a trail ride out as storm was rolling in, and Walter was my guy. As a rule, the ranch rides in all weather except lighting, and after watching the radar, we figured we would be fine. I had two women from LA with me, and one had never ridden before, so I was hoping the dark cloud would veer away. As we set out, a chilly breeze picked up and light rain pelted our faces. We got almost halfway through the ride without getting terribly wet, and then the skies opened and we didn’t stand a chance. Luckily we were already in the woods, but even so, we were soaked to the bone within minutes. Thank goodness the girls took it all in stride. Yes they were cold, but they “felt like legit cowgirls” and laughed about it while trying to take pictures without ruining their phones. That was a relief for me, because while they were enjoying themselves, I had an eye to the sky and an eye to the trees. The wind was blowing hard; the Tamarack trees groaned and snapped as they were pummeled by the breeze, and I needed to be ready to act in case a tree fell. In the midst of unpredictable weather, it was such a blessing to know that Walter was solidly beneath me while my attention was elsewhere. He plodded along, completely unfazed by the driving rain and hail, and we ended up having a fun time, despite nearly freezing to death. It was also cool to see that, while I trusted Walter to be awesome, he trusted me enough to go where I asked him, despite the rain, wind, and hail.

Pilgrim. My sweet Pilgrim became my favorite and I don’t know how it happened. He is a big, mahogany bay with three socks, a stripe smeared down from his forehead to his nose, and he is scared of everything. Our first interaction involved me accidentally scaring him with a rake and him pulling back against the hitching post so hard I thought he was going to rip it from the ground. Then the first time I rode him on a trail ride, a mountain biker came screaming down a hill behind us and he spooked badly. But there was something endearing about him when he was scared. He responded to me, to my voice and my legs, and I developed a fierce protectiveness over him. I didn’t want anyone else to ride him because they might not understand his quirks, they wouldn’t know how to reassure him. He was a horse I had to be confident for, and we worked well together. There were also times, like with Walter, where I had to just blindly trust that he would get me up or down a mountain and, like Walter, he never let me down. He was a blast to ride on the steep hills-cantering up them and jumping over fallen logs, and his excitement and energy were contagious.

I took him into several situations where he was nervous, but because I exuded confidence to him, and he trusted me, we made it through the scary stuff flawlessly. One time Monica and I were given permission to explore a new trail, so we set off, curious as to what we would find. One of the first things we came across was a collection of giant, yellow earth movers. Monica’s horse, Jose, is also afraid of everything, and when we saw the terrifying machines we exchanged grim smiles and a, “well, this will be fun.” As we rode near the yellow beasts, I pressed my legs against Pilgrim’s sides, and murmured encouraging words to him. Much to my surprise and delight, neither horse so much as snorted at the machines. It was a wonderful feeling, and we had such a blast exploring the new trail with our favorite horses.

On one of the last days at the ranch, Eli and I were asked to bring the draft horses from the front pasture to the barn. We decided to pony the horses (lead them back while we’re on horseback) and I picked Pilgrim as my mount, knowing this would be a test. Both Pilgrim and Eli’s horse, Jill, were nervous when we got to the front, and when we led the draft horses over to them, they stiffened, eyes growing wide. Eli and Jill were leading the two Percheron geldings, Duke and Dutch. They are monstrously huge horses, but they couldn’t be sweeter. Pilgrim and I got the Clydesdale mares, Missy and Bee. Also huge, but sassy over sweet. So, after saying a quick prayer, I tied Missy and Bee together, mounted Pilgrim, and we set off down the road. We started off badly; Bee kept trying to crowd my sweet Pilgrim, edging close to him and trying to bite him. I could hear Eli laughing as I kept up a steady stream of “Back off, Bee, I like Pilgrim better than you. If you bite him I’ll hurt you. It’s okay Pilgrim, you’re doing wonderfully, and I’ll give you grain when we get back.” We kept this up until Bee snaked her head out and tried to bite Pilgrim on the neck. Supremely annoyed, I flicked her on the nose which was a mistake because she pulled back and I lost my hold on the lead rope. So, I had to get off Pilgrim and catch the girls again which was a process because Pilgrim did not want to get close to them. He followed me like I asked, but very stiffly and I was just so proud of him for that. Eventually I got the girls and we continued to the barn, encountering a trail ride and a vehicle along the way. After being bopped on the nose, Bee behaved herself, and while Pilgrim pranced the whole way back, he did everything I asked him to. He trusted me enough to let me take him on this scary adventure and he’s big enough and strong enough he could have easily bucked me off and sought the safety of the barn. It’s incredible that he trusted me so much, and it made all the work I did with him prior to that extremely validating.

If I could, I would buy both of these horses in a heartbeat. Pilgrim has the potential to be an amazing horse, and while he is skittish, he doesn’t scare me. I want to put the work into making him awesome because he proved he has a beautiful ability to trust and learn. Walter would be the horse I would never have to worry about. I logged so many miles on him- rode him to Canada even, and I could ride him without thinking about what I was doing. In the midst of working through insurmountable grief after losing Scout, there was something comforting in being able to find a couple horses that I could bond with. No horse will ever be able to replace Scout, but these two helped me to work through the pain, reaffirming my belief that horses are magic and that equine therapy is the best therapy.
pilgrim and walter

Mischief Managed