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At the moment when they should be overflowing with joy, when they have just saved Middle-earth by finally managing to drop The One into the uniquely Ring-destroying lava pit, Frodo is talking about how this is "the end" and that "everything" is coming to an end now.

But they actually succeeded with the highly unlikely to succeed mission. Gollum did not get it and then hand it over to Sauron. It fell into the lava. Sauron no longer had almost any of his power. His armies were now easily beaten. That was the whole point!

Have I misunderstood something about the basic premise of the entire epic journey? Why is Frodo acting as if it was all lost and that they failed? Even if they didn't expect the Eagles to come and bring them back, should they not be happy to have saved all the others? Hobbits, especially not these two ones, don't seem that egotistical at all.

And Sam does not exactly put up an argument. The whole scene really bewildered me.

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    Frodo meant that HE and SAM were going to die because of the lava. It was the end of all things for the two of them. And Sam thinks this too -- he'll never make it back to the Shire to marry Rosie Cotton.
    – nebogipfel
    Aug 4, 2022 at 20:06
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    If it was not the world came to an end, it was at least the 3rd age. Knowing that this would be the end of the Elves in Middle Earth (plus the end of most the things he knew, for good or for bad) might personally feel like the end of the world to Frodo. And as he other comment noted, he might even mean their own death. Aug 4, 2022 at 20:08
  • All the answers here are good examples of why it could have been or was. Aug 4, 2022 at 22:32
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    K S, welcome to CV. Although I had a different read on Frodo and Sam's emotional condition after the ring is destroyed, I can understand that how we perceive and experience emotions varies a lot from one person to another. I see that your question has attracted not one, but three interesting answers, and am puzzled by the downvotes. Downvoters: it is easy to understand something if you already understand it.
    – Lexible
    Aug 5, 2022 at 15:29

4 Answers 4

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The basic answer is that Frodo is a pretty real person, not a cardboard fantasy hero. Real people, when they have exhausted themselves physically and spiritually -- spent every last bit of themselves -- and now are faced with certain death, don't find "overflowing with joy" as their most common emotional state.

It's also worth noting how Frodo and Sam's journey from the Shire to Mt. Doom gets darker and darker, the Shire and then their friends and finally even Gollum fall away, the countryside changes from beauty to desolation. In every way, both metaphorically and physically, their lives narrow and diminish and pull in to the point where it's just them and the rest of the world is like a dream. And now they are exhausted, wounded, waterless, foodless and sitting on the side of erupting volcano wondering if the poison gasses will kill them before the lava does.

Seeing this as the end of everything in what's left of their world is excusable.

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Over time, the One Ring consumes and corrupts the souls of the ring-bearers. By the time the Ring was destroyed, Frodo's whole being had become inextricably linked to it. Remember, at the end, Frodo couldn't bring himself to throw the Ring into the fire, he claimed it for himself, it had taken over so much of him. When it was extinguished by the fires of Mount Doom part of Frodo went with it. Frodo felt bereaved and desolate because the Ring had gone and he couldn't imagine a future with out it.

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  • Except that once the Ring was destroyed, ask that was wrought with it ended, too. This is most visible in Bilbo, whose age caught up with him, but also in the three elven rings. Jul 4, 2023 at 12:13
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You haven't misunderstood the point of the mission, but for Frodo there's an additional aspect -- he failed in his quest.

From The Return of the King, Book VI, Chapter 3, "Mount Doom:"

'I have come,' [Frodo] said. 'But I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!'

...

'Precious, precious, precious!' Gollum cried. 'My Precious! O my Precious!' And with that, even as his eyes were lifted up to gloat on his prize, he stepped too far, toppled, wavered for a moment on the brink, and then with a shriek he fell. Out of the depths came his last wail Precious, and he was gone.

Yes, the Ring is no more. Yes, Sauron is forever defeated. But no, Frodo's charge was to destroy the Ring. He claimed its power for himself, instead.

He and Sam had completely spent themselves. They had done as much as anybody could. But it still wasn't enough, and the mission was only saved by a chance-meeting, as we say in Middle-earth.

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    He did not fail in his quest, he succeeded beyond hope! As Tolkien said in one of his letters, Frodo expended his last reserves of strength, both physical and moral, and got the Ring to the one place where it could be destroyed: the place where Providence did destroy it. He was not charged with destroying it but "The Ring-bearer is setting out on the Quest of Mount Doom. On him alone is any charge laid: neither to cast away the Ring, nor to deliver it to any servant of the Enemy nor indeed to let any handle it, save members of the Company and the Council, and only then in gravest need."
    – Mark Olson
    Aug 6, 2022 at 15:18
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    @MarkOlson - The question was not what you feel about it, nor what I feel about it, nor what Tolkien felt about it, nor even what Aragorn felt about it. From Frodo's point of view, he failed in his quest. It is relevant to OP's question about Frodo's emotional response. Rather than effect the destruction of the Ring, he did the opposite. Instead of completing his errand, he claimed the One Ring's power for himself.
    – Lesser son
    Aug 7, 2022 at 0:26
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Frodo mentions to Sam, regarding rationing:

'I don't know how long we shall take to - to finish,' said Frodo.'We were miserably delayed in the hills. But Samwise Gamgee, my dear hobbit - indeed, Sam my dearest hobbit, friend of friends - I do not think we need give thought to what comes after that. To do the job as you put it - what hope is there that we ever shall? And if we do, who knows what will come of that? If the One goes into the Fire, and we are at hand? I ask you, Sam, are we ever likely to need bread again? I think not. If we can nurse our limbs to bring us to Mount Doom, that is all we can do. More than I can, I begin to feel.'

The Ring is a powerful artifact. Maybe its destruction will cause a big explosion, or the mountain to dissolve, or some other dire thing. That didn't end up happening, but they have no provisions and are on an erupting volcano with rivers of lava around. Then so he is still resigned, and says:

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.

He knows the Ring is destroyed, but doesn't expect to be rescued, and therefore thinks he and Sam are going to die there on the mountain.

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