Back to the Lord of the Rings. This post will be about the Dead Marshes that Frodo, Sam and Gollum go through, but it will also show the true symbolism of swamps and marshes in myths and legends. Sam says “There are dead faces in the water”. Gollum replies “They are dead elves, men and orcs”. What are the myths and Lord of the Rings trying to show us with swamps and marshes?
I have seen researchers equate swamps and marshes with all bodies of water when they are trying to make sense of the myths. They do this because water was very important to the ancients in life and myth. As you will see the wet lands have a total different meaning than other bodies of water. For the most part with bodies of water you have to know the culture to understand what they are trying to say. For example in Egyptian myths when they talk about the ocean or sea, most of the time it is the sky or the night sky. Swamps and marshes seem to have a universal meaning.
To understand what Tolkien and the myths are saying you have to realize they are talking about the swamp of human emotions. Humans do not let emotions flow through them, they bottle them up. The sign for emotions is water(see Magic). Water that does not flow becomes stagnate and rotten. We are expressive beings and when we hold those emotions in, mainly bad ones, we become very mean-spirited or spiritually dead. Because we are expressive beings we want people to feel like us. When we are happy we want people to be happy or hang around other happy people. Because everyone is holding their emotions in they become grouchy or mean. When they do something mean to someone, the first reaction is to be mean back. We do this consciously and subconsciously. If I am miserable, everyone is going to be miserable. Misery loves company, but every emotional state loves to be around the same emotional state.
This is what the myths are referring to when they have demonic and evil spirits in the swamp. They are talking about the negative emotions that are backed up in people. Being miserable, fearful, jealous, angry, hateful and just plain mean to other people. Each character is symbolizing one or more of these negative emotions. Most of them are trying to lure you into the swamp. Misery loves company. Some researcher will say they are just saying that a swamp or marsh is dangerous. As I have said many times before, the ancients were very intelligent. They knew not to go into a swamp especially at night. They just told people don’t go in there or you will get eaten by a crocodile or some other beast that makes the swamp their home. The ancients knew that nothing in nature is evil. “It is as it is.” Emotions are another story, they are very complex. So they embedded them in their fantastic stories.
In Lord of the Rings you will notice that when they enter the Dead Marsh they are in a doom and gloom mindset. They are in the negative emotional mindset. As they make their way through the marsh, they see the dead faces in the water. This is symbolizing the dead masses in their swamp of backed up emotions. Gollum tells them “Don’t follow the lights”. Meaning don’t follow the light of the masses, follow your own light. He also tells them be careful or you will fall in and become just like them. Frodo falls in and the dead start surrounding him. This is his mind being overcome by negative emotions. Being in this environment will do that to you. Gollum pulling him out is him snapping out of it and leaving the environment. Remember every character in this story is an aspect of you. Gollum reminds him “Don’t follow their light”, follow your own light.
Now I will give you something in magic so you can try to break this negative cycle(See Magic). This is another big reason why wizards and witches do not fit in with the masses. They don’t like the negative cycles. When someone is negative toward you, don’t be reactive. Realize that they don’t really know what they are doing. Be the one to break the cycle. When you have someone who you don’t like or is negative towards you, make your magic a win-win situation. Visualize something good happening to them like a promotion that they have to move for or them meeting their soul mate, preferably in a different location. Not only is it positive for them it is positive for you, a win-win. Lifting them up will help them treat other people better and give them a chance to break the negative cycle themselves. I’m not saying they won’t slip back, they probably will, but it gives them a chance to become positive. When you practice your magic and end it with “Bless all involved and hurt no one”, you will start reaping the rewards of your cycle.