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Old 08-07-2005, 03:49 PM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Silmaril LotR -- Book 5 - Chapter 06 - The Battle of Pelennor Fields

This chapter picks up the narrative where Chapter 4 ended - with the Nazgűl King at the Gate of Minas Tirith. Though things are not going as he planned, he is not defeated yet.

The narrator describes the battle scene, following Théoden, and only after he falls do we get Merry's point of view again. Dernhelm is revealed and Éowyn's bravery sparks Merry's courage so that, between the two of them, they accomplish the seemingly impossible task. This scene provides us with some of the most famous lines of the story - and sheer endless debates on the prophecy concerning the Witch King's death and the part the two and their weapons had to play in it.

I was struck by Éowyn's fearlessness in rereading this chapter. Do you think this results from her upbringing and Rohirric tradition, or is it because of her hopelessness, which is greater than any fear?

How does Théoden's death scene with his words to Merry affect you?

Merry asks the question about Gandalf's whereabouts for the readers; it will be answered in the next chapter.

What do you suppose Éomer thought when he saw his sister on the battlefield instead of safe at home, where he must have assumed she was? He asks if it is madness or devilry, so he obviously didn't know of her presence with the troops. Does his fey mood help or hinder the battle? A bit later, we read, "his fury had betrayed him".

Isn't it unusual that Snowmane, a horse that has such a terrible role in the death of its master, is buried with a gravestone that even has a poem on it?

Do you remember your first reading of the book - did you think Éowyn was dead, as did Merry and the Rohirrim? Prince Imrahil, a favourite minor character of many, plays a small but important part here.

The battle continues, and things worsen for the allies, seeming to get even worse with the arrival of the Corsair ships. Even the wind that had seemed friendly to them now seems to have brought more hosts of enemies.

Then comes Arwen's finest hour! The banner she made for Aragorn turns their hearts to hope and the tides of the battle to victory.

Hard fighting and high losses finish off the chapter, with a glimpse of a future song by a Rohirric poet.

Let's discuss the poetry in this chapter as well as the events - there are several short poems in addition to the longer one at the end. Though relatively short in length, the chapter is packed full and gives us much to talk about!
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Old 08-08-2005, 01:04 AM   #2
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affect me? yes, it does...

I won't come out with analysis this time round, but as one of the questions posed in Esty's initial post inquired about feelings, let me state that this is a chapter to send shivers down my spine more often than not (only surpassed by Rohirrim horns in the morning by the end of chapter 4 with regards to intensity of shivers ). My skin prickles as I read through the verses of the chapter:

Quote:
Mourn not overmuch! Mighty was the fallen,
meet was his ending. When his mound is raised,
women then shall weep. War now calls us
and

Quote:
Out of doubt, out of dark to the day’s rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope’s end I rode and to heart’s breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
First is what he soothes his men with, caring for them, but for himself is the second verse, stating the loss of hope.

But Aragorn is again symbolic figure, the King to bring the Hope back, and his dialogue with Éomer upon their foretold meeting on the battlefield is another piece to make my hair stand on end:

Quote:
Thus we meet again, though all the hosts of Mordor lay between us,’ said Aragorn. ‘Did I not say so at the Hornburg?’
‘So you spoke,’ said Éomer, ‘but hope oft deceives, and I knew not then that you were a man foresighted. Yet twice blessed is help unlooked for, and never was a meeting of friends more joyful.’ And they clasped hand in hand
Though it is unclear whether Aragorn is a Seer of a kind, or it is luck that brought them than and there to make Aragorn's words true, but one tends to believe it is not merely luck, but Luck in a sense of Fate.

And as is oft with Tolkien, the chapter resolves not in a tense of the battle, but in a tender reflection upon future lament made for the fallen, thus, indirectly hinting there will be a future, giving the attentive reader hope that despite present horror and hopelessness, there still will be people to sing:

Quote:
We heard of the horns in the hills ringing,
the swords shining in the South-kingdom.
Steeds went striding to the Stoningland
as wind in the morning. War was kindled.
There Théoden fell, Thengling mighty,
to his golden halls and green pastures
in the Northern fields never returning,
high lord of the host. Harding and Guthláf
Dúnhere and Déorwine, doughty Grimbold,
Herefara and Herubrand, Horn and Fastred,
fought and fell there in a far country:
in the Mounds of Mundburg under mould they lie
with their league-fellows, lords of Gondor.
Neither Hirluin the Fair to the hills by the sea,
nor Forlong the old to the flowering vales
ever, to Arnach, to his own country
returned in triumph; nor the tall bowmen,
Derufin and Duilin, to their dark waters,
meres of Morthond under mountain-shadows.
Death in the morning and at day’s ending
lords took and lowly. Long now they sleep
under grass in Gondor by the Great River.
Grey now as tears, gleaming silver,
red then it rolled, roaring water:
foam dyed with blood flamed at sunset;
as beacons mountains burned at evening;
red fell the dew in Rammas Echor.
This is a song made some generations after, lamenting, yes, mouring is not that intense as if they were personally involved, it is more close to tender sadness than to soaring pain of bereavement, but this very tenderness of the lament is what gives hope more than anything all will come to a 'good end'

Talking of feelings again, it helps (in my personal case, of course) to 'feel the chapter' even more intensely if reading it simultaneously listening to Nightwish, album 'Century Child', specially 'End of All Hope' song, the very thing I'm doing alongside composing this post
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Old 08-08-2005, 11:45 AM   #3
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Éowyn's courage is a highlight in this chapter. I think there are several factors that bring out her fearlessness.

Hopelessness is a major factor. For the last few chapters, she has been looking for death, and it is that impression which remained with Merry during their ride together. But even more than despair, I think Éowyn draws on love for Théoden.
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'Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!'
A cold voice answered: 'Come not between the Nazgűl and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.'
A sword rang as it was drawn. 'Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may.'
'Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!'
Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. 'But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund's daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.'
Her answer to the Witch King isn't resignation to death or defeat, but one of defiance in defense of her "lord and kin." So while her journey to battle may have been born out of loss of hope, here at least I think she is acting not only out of the recklessness of despair, but also out of both her upbringing in Rohan and a love that outweighs any fear. All three acting together are an amazing combination.
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Old 08-08-2005, 12:12 PM   #4
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The episode of Theoden's fall, the Witchking's defeat, and the victory (and wounding) of Eowyn and Merry is the iconic episode of this Chapter, but to me the part that always stands out in my mind is the onslaught of the Rohirrim AFTER Theoden's death as Eomer- and the subsequent passage:

Quote:
Out of doubt, out of dark to the day rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!


These staves he spoke, yet he laughed as he said them. For once more lust of battle was on him; and he was still unscathed, and he was young, and he was king: the lord of a fell people. And lo! even as he laughed at despair he looked out again on the black ships, and he lifted up his sword to defy them.

And then wonder took him, and a great joy; and he cast his sword up in the sunlight and sang as he caught it. And all eyes followed his gaze, and behold! upon the foremost ship a great standard broke, and the wind displayed it as she turned towards the Harlond. There flowered a White Tree, and that was for Gondor;, but Seven Stars were about it, and a high crown above it, the signs of Elendil that no lord had borne for years beyond count. And the stars flamed in the sunlight, for they were wrought of gems by Arwen daughter of Elrond; and the crown was bright in the morning, for it was wrought of mithril and gold.

Thus came Aragorn son of Arathorn, Elessar, Isildur's heir, out of the Paths of the Dead, borne upon a wind from the Sea to the kingdom of Gondor; and the mirth of the Rohirrim was a torrent of laughter and a flashing of swords, and the joy and wonder of the City was a music of trumpets and a ringing of bells. But the hosts of Mordor were seized with bewilderment, and a great wizardry it seemed to them that their own ships should be filled with their foes; and a black dread fell on them, knowing that the tides of fate had turned against them and their doom was at hand.

East rode the knights of Dol Amroth driving the enemy before them: troll-men and Variags and orcs that hated the sunlight. South strode Eomer and men fled before his face, and they were caught between the hammer and the anvil. For now men leaped from the ships to the quays of the Harlond and swept north like a storm. There came Legolas, and Gimli wielding his axe, and Halbarad with the standard, and Elladan and Elrohir with stars on their brow, and the dour-handed Dunedain, Rangers of the North, leading a great valour of the folk of Lebennin and Lamedon with the fiefs of the south. But before all went Aragorn with the Flame of the West, Anduril like a new fire kindled, Narsil re-forged as deadly as of old; and upon his brow was the Star of Elendil.

And so at length Eomer and Aragorn met in the midst of the battle, and they leaned on their swords and looked on one another and were glad.
Of the death of Theoden and the Witchking episode, the part that chokes me up the most is Theoden's farewell to Merry. That Theoden, at the point of his death, has time to think of Merry when his body is in great pain, and he has many others who will miss him even more:

Quote:
'Farewell, Master Holbytla!' he said. 'My body is broken. I go to my fathers. And even in their mighty company I shall not now be ashamed. I felled the black serpent. A grim morn, and a glad day, and a golden sunset!'

Merry could not speak, but wept anew. 'Forgive me, lord,' he said at last, 'if I broke your command, and yet have done no more in your service than to weep at our parting.'

The old king smiled. 'Grieve not! It is forgiven. Great heart will not be denied. Live now in blessedness; and when you sit in peace with your pipe, think of me! For never now shall I sit with you in Meduseld, as I promised, or listen to your herb-lore.' He closed his eyes, and Merry bowed beside him. Presently he spoke again. 'Where is Eomer? For my eyes darken, and I would see him ere I go. He must be king after me. And I would send word to Eowyn. She, she would not have me leave her, and now I shall not see her again, dearer than daughter.'
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Old 08-08-2005, 12:36 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Celuien
But even more than despair, I think Éowyn draws on love for Théoden.

...here at least I think she is acting not only out of the recklessness of despair, but also out of both her upbringing in Rohan and a love that outweighs any fear. All three acting together are an amazing combination.
Celuian, that is a wonderful thought - Éowyn acts out of love, and that is what turns the tide!
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Old 08-08-2005, 07:52 PM   #6
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Along a similar line, it is fear for another rather than himself that awoke Merry's slow-kindled courage of his race.
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Old 08-09-2005, 11:16 AM   #7
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These staves he [Eomer] spoke, yet he laughed as he said them. For once more lust of battle was on him; and he was still unscathed, and he was young, and he was king: the lord of a fell people. And lo! even as he laughed at despair he looked out again on the black ships, and he lifted up his sword to defy them.
I can understand in a way why he has this reaction. I have of course never been engaged in a battle. But I know that when so many things have gone wrong, if I'm having a really bad day, and there's really nothing I can do about any of it, I have two options. I can either be distraught and cry about it, or I can laugh my head off because the world is so bizarre. More often than not I go for the latter, and just get giddy.

More substantial thoughts when I have the book with me.
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Old 08-09-2005, 02:00 PM   #8
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So passed the sword of the Barrow-downs, work of Westernesse. But glad would he have been to know its fate who wrought it slowly long ago in the North-kingdom when the Dunedain were young, and chief among their foes was the dread realm of Angmar and its sorcerer king. No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will.
I found this interesting - what is the nature of the WK's 'sinews' if they are 'unseen' - in fact, what is 'undead flesh'? Maybe we've all seen too many vampire movies, heard too many references to the 'Undead', but if 'flesh' is not 'alive' what is it? The WK's flesh, his 'sinews', are bound to his will by a 'spell'. It seems that in his 'will' resides his 'power' over his 'flesh'.

So what seems to have happened is that the moment the Barrow Blade entered his 'flesh' it broke his 'will' - ie the 'spell' of the blade bound about with spells for the bane of Mordor remember) was intended to overcome the 'spell' which held the WK's sinews to his will.

So, what we see is a kind of 'battle of wills' - which the WK loses. The magic of the blade is more powerful than the 'magic' of the WK. So, we have an example of Numenorean 'magic' (possibly Elvish in origin) overcoming the power of Sauron in the WK. Not having any information to hand & the Encyclopedia of Arda & Foster's Guide not being much help, does anyone know whether the WK was a Numenorean himself?

Whatever. What we also have is Eowyn's naming of him 'dwimmerlaik' or phantom. He has 'sinews', he can wield a mace & break her arm, yet it seems that he is rather a 'will', controlling a physical vehicle, & that his 'body' is as much a thing subject to his will as is his Fell Beast or the mace he uses. Its as if the Barrow Blade severs 'him' (his 'will') from the physical realm, breaks his hold on this world, & the result is that he is removed into the other world forever. He (like the High Elves) has existed in both realms, but unlike the Elves he has, since his subjugation to Sauron, truly belonged only in the other world. Only his 'will' enabled him to control things in this world. He is truly a 'wraith', a 'phantom'. The Barrow Blade has cut his link with this world. Its interesting that in folklore the inhabitants of the other world, the fairies, fear iron as it makes them powerless to act on one who bears it.

Certainly, what we witness on the Pelennor is yet another crushing of Sauron's power at the (long dead) hands of a Numenorean. Just as a Numenorean blade (symbolically - I know Narsil was made by Telchar!) cut the Ring from his finger & destroyed his body 'cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will.' so his greatest servant suffers the same fate. Sauron must have felt both anger & fear when he realised his servant's fate.

EDIT

Quote:
Originally Posted by Celuien
...here at least I think she is acting not only out of the recklessness of despair, but also out of both her upbringing in Rohan and a love that outweighs any fear. All three acting together are an amazing combination.
What strikes me most in this context is the different responses of Eowyn & Denethor. Both face the same fate (as they believe at least) - their own deaths, the death of a close relative, the ending of their House. But they respond in opposite ways. Denethor seeks to make his own death, his son's & his House's end a fact - its as if he has decided that its so inevitable that he'll join it & help it happen. Eowyn on the other hand, for all she believes herself to be seeking death actually isn't, & when it comes to it she faces it down. If she must die she will go out with a bang. Denethor literally goes out with a whimper.

Both have been through the most severe depression - clinical depression we might say - death is at the end of the road each has chosen, but when they get to that end, confront death face to face, Eowyn defies it. And she does it without any real hope of success - unlike in the movie, where she says she will 'kill' the WK if he touches Theoden in the book she merely says she will smite him - 'knowing' that that will make not a bit of difference. The point is that when it comes to it, when all she can do at the last, is 'spit' in her enemy's eye before he kills here she does precisely that.

The WK is a symbol for both of them, Denethor & Eowyn, he is their 'depression', the black cloud that has covered them for so long, made (undead) flesh. Denethor allows himself to be consumed by that cloud, Eowyn strikes at it. If she calls him 'phantom' it is both because that is his true nature & also because he is the 'emptiness', the 'nothingness' of her life. When she cries 'Begone foul Dwimmerlaik!' she is crying out as much at her own, internal, WK as against her foe on the battlefield. That act of defiance, as anyone who has suffered from depression will tell you, is what seperates the 'victims' from the 'survivors'. Its not the fact of death - which is inevitable - but our response to it, which is important.

But what of Eomer? What is his response to the death of his kin & the seeming inevitability of his own death & the destruction of his people?

Quote:
'Eowyn, Eowyn!' he cried at last. 'Eowyn, how come you here? What madness or devilry is this? Death, death, death! Death take us all!'
Then without taking counsel or waiting for the approach of the men of the City, he spurred headlong back to the front of the great host, and blew a horn, and cried aloud for the onset. Over the field rang his clear voice calling: 'Death! Ride, ride to ruin and world's ending!'
Perhaps a little too close to Denethor's for comfort?

Last edited by davem; 08-09-2005 at 03:11 PM.
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Old 08-09-2005, 03:03 PM   #9
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does anyone know whether the WK was a Numenorean himself?
That knowledge does not exist, unfortunately.
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Old 08-09-2005, 03:18 PM   #10
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Perhaps a little too close to Denethor's for comfort?
With one key difference: Denethor's is "Death take us all! Let's kill ourselves before our enemies kill us!" whereas Eomer's is more like "Death take us all! Let's kill as many of our enemies as we can before we die!"

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Old 08-09-2005, 04:25 PM   #11
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Right, where to start...?

Firstly, I liked what Celuien says about Eowyn's love. I think that what drives her to join the men in battle is love, unrequited love for Aragorn, and it is certainly love that gives her the courage to face the WK. That was a great insight! perhaps it is at this moment that Eowyn realises who she really does love, and that is her Uncle - this is a strong bond, possibly much stronger than the bond of the soldier and his superior/king/captain. The WK lacks anything approaching Love and this makes for a good opposite force. In addition, it shows that in Tolkien's world (and also in our own), the strength of Love is greater than the strength of Hate.

In this chapter are those terrifying lines:

Quote:
He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye
I hadn't thought about these lines all that much until Eomer of the Rohirrim brought them up in another discussion, and now I can't get them out of my mind.

I still want to know what the 'houses of lamentation' are. Could they be something to do with what Gandalf says? The 'abyss' that was prepared for him? Or are they some kind of alternate Halls of Mandos? If both are different places, I do wonder just what kind of punishment an eternal abyss might be for a figure such as the WK; only a place which deprived such a figure of any power might be truly a threat.

Quote:
And so in this place and that, by burned homestead or barn, upon hillock or mound, under wall or on field, still they gathered and rallied and fought until the day wore away.
This line I find gives us some interesting detail about the place where this battle takes place. Unlike the bleak and empty plain as seen in the films, this Pelennor is clearly a living landscape, a place which had been filled with farms and homes, it even has a field system with walls. Clearly this would affect the battle itself. it is easy to imagine the broad sweeping scenes of the films with horsemen and Mumakil thundering about, but going by this description it might have been a much more difficult environment for a battle, even taking into account that the enemy forces may have knocked down any buildings.

We also learn some facts about the enemies, that the Easterlings are experienced in battle, and the Corsairs strike fear into the hearts of the Gondorians (hinting at their past history of conflict). I do wonder who are the 'Variags of Khand'? When first mentioned I took them to be Men, but along with the orcs they fear light and I wonder exactly what race they belong to. This is something I shall have to look up.

Quote:
to the land of the Haradrim came only a tale from far off: a rumour of the wrath and terror of Gondor
Despite the elation brought about by victory, I also felt a little sad when I read this line. The way it is worded, mentioning Gondor is the same breath as wrath and terror, I do wonder if it is intended to have that effect, to make us stop for a moment and think of the effects of war, even on the enemy. It is clear from it that the men who went to fight did not return, and their people would be left to survive without them. Likewise, it throws into relief the fate that would have faced Rohan if things had not gone their way.

I also was quite taken with the description of the evening sun hitting the battlefield and river and making them look as though they were bloody. It makes me think of a tale I heard from someone I know who was working in Africa and saw the waters of Lake Victoria (I hope i've got the right lake there!) turn red one day; the red was the blood washing downstream after a confrontation between Hutu and Tutsi forces.

The description of the origins and breeding of the WK's steed are also interesting, and suggest that it is one of a breed of creature that has somehow survived from ancient times. And where are the 'forgotten mountains cold beneath the Moon'? Are there parts of Middle-earth where the sun does not reach? Maybe this is Khand and might explain why the Variags shun the light? Yet in the midst of the description of this terrifying creature I found something which made me smile:

Quote:
the Dark Lord took it, and nursed it with fell meats
As a fan of The League of Gentlemen, I wondered if Hilary Briss might have been the Dark Lord, feeding creatures on 'special stuff'.
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Old 08-09-2005, 04:46 PM   #12
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I still want to know what the 'houses of lamentation' are. Could they be something to do with what Gandalf says? The 'abyss' that was prepared for him? Or are they some kind of alternate Halls of Mandos?
I doubt that. This was something that belonged to Sauron and Sauron only had power in Middle Earth.

I suspect that it was Sauron's torture chamber, perhaps where he cooked up his necromancy.
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Old 08-10-2005, 05:53 AM   #13
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It also struck me that Eowyn standing over Theoden in battle with the Witch King paralleled Sam's confrontation with Shelob. Both faced a terrifying evil force far stronger than themselves out of love and loyalty to another.

Eomer does seem uncomfortably close to Denethor with his response to Eowyn's apparent death. I like Firefoot's explanation. Another example of a Rohirric warrior using despair as motivation to achieve victory in battle, or is this revenge?
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Old 08-10-2005, 08:49 AM   #14
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One of my favorite chapters, as I'm sure it is for everyone else.

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Then Theoden was aware of him, and would not wait for his onset, but crying to Snowmane he charged headlong to greet him.
No hesitation, no doubting. Folly, or strategy? I would say it was leadership in it's purest sense. King vs. King. Leader upon leader. No directing from the rear ranks in this heroic clash.

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A creature of an older world maybe it was, whose kind, lingering in forgotten mountains cold beneath the Moon, outstayed their day, and in hideous eyrie bred this last untimely brood, apt to evil.
Vivid, descriptive, heroic style, almost poetic. Wonderfull! This chapter is full of such examples. As if a thousand songs were sung of the events in this chapter alone.

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Down, down it came, and then, folding its fingered webs, it gave a croacking cry, and settled upon the body of Snowmane, digging in its claws, stooping its long naked neck.
I can almost hear the good Professor's voice recite that.

Quote:
A swift stroke she dealt, skilled and deadly. The outstretched neck she clove asunder, and the hewn head fell like a stone. Backward she sprang as the huge shape crashed to ruin, vast wings outspread, crumpled on the earth; and with its fall the shadow passed away.
A truly Rohirric manuver. Kill the steed and then deal with the rider.

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Shapeless they lay now on the ground, torn and tumbled; and a cry went up into the shuddering air, and faded to a shrill wailing, passing with the wind, a voice bodiless and thin that died, and was swallowed up and was never heard again in that age of this world.
Whither anon will he be heard again?

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Old 08-10-2005, 01:54 PM   #15
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Random thoughts:

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Farewell, Master Holbytla!' he said. 'My body is broken. I go to my fathers. And even in their mighty company I shall not now be ashamed. I felled the black serpent. A grim morn, and a glad day, and a golden sunset!'
A reference to Rohirric beliefs here. The Rohirrim apparently are ancestor worshippers. Theoden will go to be with his ancestors, whose opinion & judgement on his actions is important to him. He has had standards to live up to which he feels he has finally lived up to. He has achieved the fame necessary to stand in their company. The interesting thing is that he seems to feel that his 'fathers' still 'live' in some form, in some other 'place'. Is this some place of their own invention? Have they picked up a belief in the Valar through their contact with Gondor, or is this a survival of older beliefs they brought south with them?

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For a moment the thought flitted through Merry's mind: 'Where is Gandalf? Is he not here? Could he not have saved the king and Eowyn?'
This is clearly the question uppermost in the reader's mind in this context. But it will not be answered till the next chapter. Merry's sense, though, is that Gandalf should have been there - almost as though he knew on some level that it was Gandalf''s task, in which he 'failed'. We also get the sense that Gandalf also felt he had 'failed'.

Quote:
And all eyes followed his gaze, and behold! upon the foremost ship a great standard broke, and the wind displayed it as she turned towards the Harlond. There flowered a White Tree, and that was for Gondor;, but Seven Stars were about it, and a high crown above it, the signs of Elendil that no lord had borne for years beyond count. And the stars flamed in the sunlight, for they were wrought of gems by Arwen daughter of Elrond; and the crown was bright in the morning, for it was wrought of mithril and gold.
So we see Arwen's banner unfurled. It is Aragorn's proclamation of his heritage & his claim to the Kingship. In a sense its a repetition of his earlier challenge to Eomer - I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn - will you aid me, or thwart me?'

Finally, this is the third chapter which culminates (or nearly does & if I'm right about the last 'paragraph' in the previous chapter actually being 'verse') in a poem made 'long after' the events of the chapter. There are two 'effects' of these 'later interpolations' - one, they emphasise that what we are reading is a 'compilation', a work put together by various hands over a long period, first by Bilbo/Frodo/Sam & afterwards translated & added to by others - notably Findegil the King's scribe - & in the last instance by Professor Tolkien (unless we count the translators of LotR who have followed Tolkien) two, they reveal for attentive readers that 'long after' the events we're reading about there would be song makers in Rohan still around to compose heroic elegies to the fallen.

I think this accounts for Eomer's sudden bursting into alliterative verse at his discovery of Theoden's body. In a sense, the events of this chapter are like the ending of the last one - we're not reading reportage here, but a heroic legend, probably originally set down in verse. How this fits in with the 'conceit' of the story being set down relatively soon afterwards by Frodo is a more difficult question. He would certainly have got the story from Merry, who was a knight of Rohan, & may have leant towards a 'print the legend' approach - who can say?
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Old 08-11-2005, 06:13 PM   #16
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A reference to Rohirric beliefs here. The Rohirrim apparently are ancestor worshippers. Theoden will go to be with his ancestors, whose opinion & judgement on his actions is important to him. He has had standards to live up to which he feels he has finally lived up to. He has achieved the fame necessary to stand in their company. The interesting thing is that he seems to feel that his 'fathers' still 'live' in some form, in some other 'place'. Is this some place of their own invention? Have they picked up a belief in the Valar through their contact with Gondor, or is this a survival of older beliefs they brought south with them?
Thorin says something very similar at his death. The Rohirrim may have picked it up from the dwarves in the days when they lived up north. They also had extensive contact with Gondor even before they went north so both...perhaps.

However, I think "worship" is far too strong a word for it. "Respect" might be a better term. Just because you desire the good opinion of somebody does not mean that you worship them (even if they are dead.)

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Old 08-12-2005, 01:04 AM   #17
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Ah, this is one of my favorite chapters, for so many reasons.

One of the things I've found interesting about this chapter is the way it manages to give the reader a sense of the family feelings of Theoden and his 'adopted children', Eomer and Eowyn. They are his own kin to start with, and Eomer is the next in line biologically, but there is a sense of sincere caring between the three of them. As Celuien points out, Eowyn is strongly motivated to take her stand against the Witch King out of love for Theoden. I agree that she is more motivated by that love than by her despair and her upbringing. Eomer's cry of "Death take us all!" after Eowyn is found dead (he thinks) on the battlefield is despairing, but I think it's despair rooted at least partially in shock and grief at having lost the very last members of his family -- one of whom he thought safe back in Rohan. And as he is dying, Theoden thinks of his place among his ancestors as well as the family he's leaving behind, specifically calling Eowyn "dearer than daughter".

Compare the feelings these three express in their words and actions to Denethor's treatment of Faramir!
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Old 08-20-2005, 07:54 AM   #18
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Some rambling observations here for this incredible chapter, which I must say has always drawn from me strong emotions.

Estelyn mentioned how the title of our last chapter used alliteration. There's lots in the poems in this chapter which imitate Old English style--which I would assume comes from Frodo the real narrator rather than be one of Merry's perceptions--but one of my favourite lines is the following:

Quote:
And now the fighting waxed furious on the fields of the Pelennor; the din of arms rose upon high, with the crying of men and the neighing of horses.
There's a great deal said in LotR about the rightful or proper relationship with the nature world, but not much said about how humans treat animals. Wasn't it in "On Fairy-stories" that Tolkien said one of the three most great desires was to understand animals? Here of course the horses and 'elephants' are bred as war machines.

The strange winged creature who bears the Witch King. Where does it come from? It is a creature out of a dark, primeval past, as Shelob and Ungoliant?

Quote:
it was a winged creature: if bird, then greater than all other birds, and it was naked, and neither quill nor feather did it bear, and its vast pinions were as webs of hide between horned fingers; and it stank. A creature of an older world maybe it was, whose kind, lingering in the forgotten mountains cold beneath the moon, apt to evil. And the Dark Lord took it, and nursed it with fell meats, until it grew beyond the measure of all other things that fly;
I cannot recall now what we discussed about Ungoliant's history, but now I am wondering just what this older world was. Is there anything elsewhere which explains how it fits into the Legendarium?

Quote:
but Gothmog the lieutenant of Morgul had flung them into the fray; Easterlings with axes, and Variags of Khand, Southrons in scarlet, and out of Far Harad black men like half-trolls with white eyes and red tongues . . . . East rode the knights of Dol Amroth driving the enemy before them: troll-men and Variags and orcs that hated the sunlight.
I thought that evil could not create. In discussion of Melkor's intent with Luthien, there was serious debate about whether he could procreate. So how can we have half-trolls? Or does this rather signify the depths of depravity that men are capable of?

There is one other passage that I think is highly ambiguous. (I'm not sure if we will be called upon to suggest a movement between Frodo's recollections and his POV and his attempt to suggest Merry's POV.)

Quote:
These staves he [Éomer] spoke, yet he laughed as he said them. For once more lust of battle was on him; and he was still unscathed, and he was young; and he was king: the lord of a fell people.
What is going on with this description of the Rohirrim as "a fell people"? We've just been given a description of the Dark Lord feeding the Witch King's flying creature with "fell meats" as a way to develope evil. Why now--at this moment of Éomer's battle lust and in the midst of the most incredible battle chapter of the book--are his people described as fell?

There's a possibility of answer at the end of the chapter:

Quote:
And in that hour the great Battle of the field of Gondor was over; and not one living foe was left within the circuit of the Rammas. All were slain save those who fled to die, or to drown in the red foam of the River.
In my understanding of warfare (which is limited and partial I admit), the souls of soldiers were vouchedsafe by the idea that they were to fight to defend themselves and take a military target but not to take up the deliberate intent to kill. (It's a fine line, I know, but one which speaks to the integrity of the individual soul.) The most foul form of war gave the command, "take no prisoners" where even those enemy who surrendered or who were incapacitated were to be killed. Is that what happened here? Or was the blood lust so great upon them?

I'm probably bringing in primary world assumptions about war, but I wonder if there is not something here which suggests Tolkien's own conflicted attitudes about war. Is there a Middle-earth Clausewitz?
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Old 08-20-2005, 08:05 AM   #19
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So how can we have half-trolls? Or does this rather signify the depths of depravity that men are capable of?
Same way we can have half-orcs probably.
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Old 08-20-2005, 08:49 AM   #20
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So it's just another sleight of fiction then, eh, Kuru? And "fell people" as well will fit that category.
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Old 08-20-2005, 09:44 AM   #21
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Boots Yet another instance where things revolve around the word "like."

The word "like" is used. For somebody like me, in order to be consistent, I must take the view that these were not in fact half-trolls but only looked like...er...I mean similar to a troll.

Not to get too technical but I see a number of problems with breeding humans and trolls together.

Quote:
And "fell people" as well will fit that category.
I think "fell" is a morally neutral way of saying "dangerous" or "unpleasant." It would be both to be at the sharp end of the Rohirrim army and the food given the fell beast (which was also dangerous and unpleasant) was probably not the most savory of substances.
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Old 08-20-2005, 04:25 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Kuruharan
I think "fell" is a morally neutral way of saying "dangerous" or "unpleasant." It would be both to be at the sharp end of the Rohirrim army and the food given the fell beast (which was also dangerous and unpleasant) was probably not the most savory of substances.
Hmm. Well, it is not my experience of the word 'fell' to say it is morally neutral.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OED
1. of animals and men, their actions and attributes: Fierce, savage; cruel, ruthless; dreadful, terrible. Also in cruel and fell, fierce and fell. Now only poetical or rhetorical.

2. Of things, esp natural agents, weapons, diseases,suffering etc: Keen, piercing, intensely painful or destructive. Of poison: deadly. Still dial. in colloquial use, in literature only poetic and rhetoric:dire appaullingly cruel or destructive.
However, it still seems to me that to describe both the food of the beast and the Rohirrim with the same word collapses the distance between the two at the moment of pitched battle when the difference seems so very important. They share the same quality.
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Old 08-20-2005, 05:38 PM   #23
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Hmm. Well, it is not my experience of the word 'fell' to say it is morally neutral.
Imagine that, you've been having a new experience all these years and you didn't even know it.

Quote:
1. of animals and men, their actions and attributes: Fierce, savage; cruel, ruthless; dreadful, terrible. Also in cruel and fell, fierce and fell. Now only poetical or rhetorical.
Well, warfare requires this sort of thing and the Rohirrim were fighting a war.

Quote:
However, it still seems to me that to describe both the food of the beast and the Rohirrim with the same word collapses the distance between the two at the moment of pitched battle when the difference seems so very important. They share the same quality.
A) I think you are grasping at straws in taking a rather narrow instance and making a bit much of it.

B) What do you expect? Look at it as a part of Tolkien's empathy to show that fighting against the Free Peoples was an unpleasant experience for those involved and he appreciated that as an author.
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Old 08-20-2005, 05:54 PM   #24
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Shield <-- shield of a fell people

Dictionary.com says...

Quote:
1. Of an inhumanly cruel nature; fierce: fell hordes.
2. Capable of destroying; lethal: a fell blow.
3. Dire; sinister: by some fell chance.
4. Scots. Sharp and biting.
I think that definition 2 was what Tolkien has in mind; it shows what exactly the Rohirrim are capable of in what they think is their last hour. He could have described them as valiant or brave or noble, but we already know that. If we go by definition 2, we can see that they've been acting 'fell' all along even if they haven't been defined as such, charging at the foe crying 'Death!' and hacking off the heads of evil beasts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bb
However, it still seems to me that to describe both the food of the beast and the Rohirrim with the same word collapses the distance between the two at the moment of pitched battle when the difference seems so very important. They share the same quality.
Maybe Sauron fed the beast with Rohirrim.
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Old 08-21-2005, 09:17 AM   #25
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Maybe Sauron fed the beast with Rohirrim.
Anything is possible.
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Old 08-21-2005, 10:39 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Encaitare
Maybe Sauron fed the beast with Rohirrim.
Ah, Encaitare, what a splendid entrance to the Chapter by Chapter discussions! Where logic splitteth hairs, humour gels.


Quote:
Dictionary.com says...

. . . .

I think that definition 2 was what Tolkien has in mind; it shows what exactly the Rohirrim are capable of in what they think is their last hour. He could have described them as valiant or brave or noble, but we already know that. If we go by definition 2, we can see that they've been acting 'fell' all along even if they haven't been defined as such, charging at the foe crying 'Death!' and hacking off the heads of evil beasts.
Now I'll admit I'm as given to tossing out quotations from dictionaries as any one here (although I don't share completely Fordim's total admiration for the OED) but sometimes I wonder how people managed to understand books and new vocabulary before our great Dr. Johnson wrote our first illustrious dictionary and Noah Webster enlightened Americans about new ways to spell old words. How did they do it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuruharan
A) I think you are grasping at straws in taking a rather narrow instance and making a bit much of it.

B) What do you expect? Look at it as a part of Tolkien's empathy to show that fighting against the Free Peoples was an unpleasant experience for those involved and he appreciated that as an author.

You know, you could be right, Kuru--straws making good strawmen--but I just sort of thought that Tolkien fans might be somewhat as curious about the ways of language as Tolkien was himself and when a rather unique word is used uniquely to describe two 'sides' in the major battle chapter of the book, well, gosh, it was just too tempting to make hay.
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Old 08-21-2005, 12:05 PM   #27
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Fell is a word that interests me in the way Tolkien uses it so I think it's a good topic to discuss. I think that he was trying to make the point that 'fell' beasts and 'fell' Rohirrim warriors were taken by the same mood of anger - the first cannot but help be 'fell' as this is how they are bred to be, but the second can help it - which emphasises just how committed to battle they are.

The word itself is interesting as it has a Norse origin, whereas in the geographic sense 'hill' (and even 'mountain') is a lot more mild. As a child I imagined all fells to be tough places to walk, while hills would be gentler. Norse names such as Scafell or Helvellyn sound far more foreboding than names such as Losehill which sounds much softer. Tolkien also uses the term 'fey' to describe the moods of characters in the book, which always strikes me as alike to 'faerie' - does he mean to conjour up an idea that the mood which takes people at this point could be both noble and at the same time perilous?

About animals in LotR - I wonder if I am the only one who feels a little sad that the Oliphaunts and other creatures seem to die out after the War of the Ring? Maybe it is a symptom of modern times that we feel sadness for such creatures and the way they are exploited?
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Old 08-21-2005, 04:42 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by Bęthberry
You know, you could be right, Kuru--straws making good strawmen--but I just sort of thought that Tolkien fans might be somewhat as curious about the ways of language as Tolkien was himself and when a rather unique word is used uniquely to describe two 'sides' in the major battle chapter of the book, well, gosh, it was just too tempting to make hay.
Rather than make an edit to my post, I thought it preferable to add something in a new post.

One of the things which intrigues me no end about Tolkien was how he could maintain a love and great delight in the warrior epics of old in the face of his experience in the trenches of WWI. There are many ways this seeming contradiction can be resolved, of course, and none of them would be to the discredit of Tolkien. But finding the same word used for both sides really tweaked my curiosity about this point.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lal
Fell is a word that interests me in the way Tolkien uses it so I think it's a good topic to discuss. I think that he was trying to make the point that 'fell' beasts and 'fell' Rohirrim warriors were taken by the same mood of anger - the first cannot but help be 'fell' as this is how they are bred to be, but the second can help it - which emphasises just how committed to battle they are.

. . .
Tolkien also uses the term 'fey' to describe the moods of characters in the book, which always strikes me as alike to 'faerie' - does he mean to conjour up an idea that the mood which takes people at this point could be both noble and at the same time perilous?
'fell' and 'fey' indeed, Lal, they are fascinating words to use. 'fey' elements in fairy stories always suggest to me danger and intrigue, of the kind that might lead to either death or greater knowledge. A risk that might not always pertain in the primary world.
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Old 08-22-2005, 02:22 PM   #29
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The only point that I would like to make about this chapter is that, for me, it is genuinely productive of eucatastrophe. I remember very clearly my first experience of the book and reading of the approach of the ships up the Anduin. I was convinced that it wal all over and that the corsairs had come but then lo! out comes Aragorm (with the banner of Arwen, yes yes Esty) and like a miracle the tide of battle is turned.

This is a triumph of two things: first, of Aragorn's skill as a leader. All that he has done and said to this moment has led to this moment. He has returned (it's happened, the King has returned) and he has done so to save his city -- wow wow and again, wow. Just as the hand of Eru/providence will intrude into the story at the Crack of Doom as reward for Frodo and Sam's endurance, so too does Aragorn intrude into the story of Gondor -- which as Denethor has long realised is a story of defeat -- as a reward for their endurance. And this is why I think that Tolkien makes sure that Denethor is so problematic: for the return of the King is not the result of the steadfast adherence to an ideal of the nobility but of the unrelenting, silent and unnamed courage and fealty of the people. Throughout the battle we see that it is the common soldier who must be heartened by Gandalf or inspired to fight on. I mean, by and large the leaders don't do so well: Faramir is felled, Theoden dies, Eowyn and Merry are removed from the field of battle -- sure they all do great things, but they're not the ones who turn the tide: it's the common soldiers, lead by and inspired by their King. Aragorn does not win the battle, he leads his followers to victory -- an important point, insofar as it is the people who will recognise him as Elessar thus making him King.

The other thing that makes this productive of that sudden joyous turn, for me, is the craft and art of Tolkien. He has crafted a truly ripping yarn indeed, having left Aragorn's story incomplete a while back, and carefully managed the narrative to this point, it's easy to forget that Aragorn is on his way: with everyone saying "where's Rohan" it distracts us from the real question of "where's the King?" So when it happens its as big a surprise for the reader as it is for the characters in the tale: a not-incosiderable feat. In this way, it's not just the hand of Eru we see at work, but the hand of the writer.

And just to round out HI's excellent observation about the giveaway at the end of this chapter. With that song that will be "later made" and sung for years about the victory, the story acknowleges that the good side is going to win: it gives the game away. But that's all part of the eucatastrophe again insofar as this moment acknowleges that Aragorn's miraculous return is not just a moment in a battle, but the definite turning point in history; everything has changed because of this, forever.

Perhaps the greatest testimony to Tolkien's story-telling ability is that this moment is so soon forgotten and we are once again on the edge of our seats with Frodo and Sam, hoping that things will turn out all right for them!
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Old 08-29-2005, 11:01 AM   #30
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Oh, this chapter paints such vivid pictures!

We see many portraits of the characters, details and qualities that rise to the surface as they each contribute in their own way. There are two potent images that I find particularly striking in particular, the first one being that of Eowyn facing the WK with his defeated steed at her feet. Tolkien tells us in the midst of the battle “with its [the winged creature’s] fall the shadow passed away. A light fell about her, and her hair shone in the sunrise.” I can see this very clearly in my mind’s eye, a very dramatic snapshot of Eowyn alone, though surrounded by so many. Yet the sun, seemingly so distant, is rising on the rim of the land and she is held, lit by the streaming sunlight. The dawning of some new future.

Another ‘snapshot’ is of Aragorn.

Quote:
Thus came Aragorn son of Arathorn, Elessar, Isildur’s heir, out of the Paths of the Dead, bourne upon a wind from the Sea to the kingdom of Gondor….
Did this bring to anyone else’s mind memories of Elendil and his arrival in Middle-earth? As though Gondor has a chance at a new beginning? Note that he was ‘bourne upon wind from the Sea.”

It is also interesting that among the characters that we have been following, the ones who would not be considered ‘key players’ by a military strategist score some impressive victories that are highlighted by Tolkien. Of course I am referring to Eowyn and Merry’s defeat of the WK. It is sad in a way that it over shadows Theoden’s own defeat of the King from Harad. But perhaps this is a good thing as the WK’s defeat is prompted out of love and concern more then duty etc.

Also touching was Eomer’s speech to rally his men even as he grieves.

In short this chapter reminds me of a old painting of a crowded battlefield, and everywhere you look some story is unfolding. All of them important.
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Old 08-29-2005, 11:25 AM   #31
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About animals in LotR - I wonder if I am the only one who feels a little sad that the Oliphaunts and other creatures seem to die out after the War of the Ring? Maybe it is a symptom of modern times that we feel sadness for such creatures and the way they are exploited?
Nice to see someone picked this up!

We are so accustomed, I think, to hearing about the wonderful horses of Rohan and their expert masters that I think we tend to forget the use of and fate of other animals in the battle. Is there any suggestion in any of Tolkien's other writings about why the oliphaunts die out? To be honest, I cannot help thinking--and I know this is irrelevant--of George Orwell's essay, Shooting an Elephant .

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Originally Posted by Hilde Bracegirdle
In short this chapter reminds me of a old painting of a crowded battlefield, and everywhere you look some story is unfolding. All of them important.
Oh, how very apt, Hilde! A Bruegel battlefield, with no one central focus.

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Old 11-10-2005, 02:43 AM   #32
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Silmaril *pops in*

Eowyn fought as a woman.

She could have trembled in fear before the Witch King, surrendering to hopelessness in full knowledge that there's no way she can defeat him. (After all, she was of the 'race' of Men.) Or she could have chosen to ignore the Witch King's statement and continue to fight as a man, as Dernhelm. In doing so, she would be less likely to be underestimated in terms of strength. A woman in the midst of battle could either have been played around with (so to speak) or slain right away by such a powerful enemy, no matter how skilled she might be.

But Eowyn risked her life by letting down her hair and revealing her womanhood. She most probably had no idea that there is a prophecy concerning her foe's fall, so that knowledge could not aid her. For all she knew, she was just taking a bold yet stupid move, not to mention clarifying things. But her boldness was rewarded. Where sufficient strength could have been found not, victory emerged.

(I don't know if that was clear, but the general idea sure made sense in my mind.)

*disappears like a bubble*
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Old 07-15-2007, 11:42 PM   #33
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But Eowyn risked her life by letting down her hair and revealing her womanhood. She most probably had no idea that there is a prophecy concerning her foe's fall, so that knowledge could not aid her. For all she knew, she was just taking a bold yet stupid move, not to mention clarifying things
But she does know- Witchy-poo just told her himself.
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