So, I have Janice to thank for sending me this link, which I wd otherwise have missed.
Stephen Colbert has long been notable for being a self-confessed Tolkien fan (indeed, a Tolkien nerd), and proud of it.
Typically this has taken the form of his display of knowledge that shows he's not just read THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE HOBBIT but THE SILMARILLION as well and is conversant with the VALAQUENTA and AINULINDALE, able to recall facts about the books off the cuff. Now for the first time he's moved from being just a fan (albeit a famous one) to, I wd argue, being a Tolkien scholar as well.
In a recent segment Colbert offered up an insight into THE LORD OF THE RINGS I don't remember ever coming across before. In essence, he argued that Gandalf knew Frodo would fail in his quest to destroy the Ring, because he'd seen with his own eyes that Frodo could not throw the ring into his own fire at Bag-End. Letting that sink in, I think Colbert is on to something here, and that it's a major point that had never occurred to me.
If Gandalf sees for himself that Frodo is already too tightly tied to the Ring even before settting out on his quest, then he knows that Frodo will never be able to toss the Ring into the Fires of Doom. However good-intentioned Frodo is, he's already too far in the power of the ring.
Therefore, I think it's fair to extrapolate that Gandalf must have had a contingency plan: that another person (himself, Sam, Strider) would need to be there to take the final step after Frodo had accomplished the grueling task of getting the Ring to the right place at the right time. That is, unknown to himself, Frodo's quest was never to destroy the ring: it was to bring the ring to the place where it could be destroyed. And he achieved his task, at great cost, and was duly honored for it, but privately haunted for failing in the second test (a bit like Gawain's hyper-honor at the end of SGGK).
That's where my cogitation on Colbert's observation led me, anyway; I'd be curious what others make of it.
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