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Old 01-20-2005, 06:21 PM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Shield LotR -- Book 3 - Chapter 07 - Helm's Deep

The Rohirrim and the four remaining Fellowship members leave Edoras with a growing feeling of doom - darkness and heavy air reflect the near-hopeless situation. Yet the presence of two persons gives hope - Théoden and Gandalf - and dawn is said to bring hope.

The Battle of Helm's Deep only takes up a few pages in the book, though the account is packed full of dramatic action. There is a brief break for a parley scene with Aragorn, then the fighting continues. Finally dawn brings the rescue - Erkenbrand, Gandalf, and the trees.

How important is this chapter to you? Which characters and storylines do you like best? Do you appreciate the battle scenes?
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Old 01-23-2005, 11:47 PM   #2
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Old 01-24-2005, 03:29 PM   #3
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Just going to jump in here before even reviewing the chapter carefully and fully to say that I love the Battle of Helms Deep. Esty is quite right in pointing out how brief the battle is -- every time I read the book I am struck by how little 'space' the battle is afforded in the narrative, despite its immense importance to the story.

The one thing about this chapter that's always bothered me is, I must admit, the head count (heh heh) kept by Gimli and Legolas in their competition. There's two things about it: first, it seems a bit blood thirsty of them to be competing at all; second, I've never fought in a medieval campaign, but I have fought with a sword (you know, tournaments, with safety equipment and everything) and there is just no way that one fighter can be so overwhelmingly good that he can wipe out that many opponents. And certainly not two: either the orcs are incompetent or Gimli and Legolas are getting a bit of 'help' from the author.

I only mention this as it is one of the only points in the book where the enchantment fails for me. But more of substance when I have reviewed the chapter.
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Old 01-24-2005, 04:46 PM   #4
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I liked the head count. Tolkien often has his heroes slay unrealistic numbers of enemies (Hurin slew something like 70 Trolls in one part of a battle). My favourite characters are always the insanely great ones, I have never been a fan of "realistic" characters that "the reader can relate to". Something that can cause somewhat of a problem in my fiction writing class where the Professor wants you to do it a certain way, the way that modern writers agree is the "right" way.
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Old 01-24-2005, 05:31 PM   #5
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Sting

I have just finished re-reading the Two Towers and I was thinking of the movie so when I read the chapter Helm's Deep I was once again surprised at how short the battle is. (Especially compared to the movie)
I was reading at a fast pace and suddenly there was the end of the chapter!!!
In this chapter you can see that the old myths and legends inspired Tolkien. In those myths the main heroes would always kill an improbable number of enemies which is exactly what Gimli and Legolas do. However I like their game because it gives the reader heart. At the beginning of the battle you are thinking, oh no how are they ever going to win this? However, because of the game you begin to forget about the hoplelessness of the battle.
But my favourite moment is when the horn is blown and Theoden rides forth with Aragorn, now if you want heroics,you got it. Then suddenly Erkenbrand comes as well and that is like the cherry that is put on top of the whipped cream and ice cream.
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Old 01-24-2005, 07:35 PM   #6
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This chapter serves as something of a climax for book III. It's interesting to compare this with the climaxes of books I and II, each of which occurs in the final chapter of its respective book. This climax is greater, though, than either Frodo's escape from the Nazgul at the fords or the breaking of the Fellowship, and this may account for the extra space given to the denouement.

As Estelyn and Fordim have both noted, the battle itself is rather short - about 9 pages in my edition, with 16 total in the chapter. This is a beautiful illustration of the principle that, for maximal impact, it is the build-up to an important event that must be emphasized, not the event itself. We have been slowly building up to this climax more or less since we first encountered the Rohirrim in III-2, and more rapidly building up to it since the previous chapter. This is the same thing that was done in II-5, where the actual appearance of the Balrog takes up very little space, but the whole chapter builds toward it. Perhaps the prime example of this technique is still to come - in "The Siege of Gondor".

This is one of two major battle scenes in the novel (the other being the Battle of the Pelennor Fields), and, to my taste, this is the better written. I think that action scenes, and particularly battle scenes, in both books and movies, are harder to do than is generally thought. How can an author convey an event of such scope? And how can it be made interesting? For combat alone is not interesting; in fact, it can easily become very dull and tedious. I think that Tolkien found perfect answers to those questions in this chapter. The way to convey a battle is to give it a plot. It is not really a single piece of action. It is rather a series of dramatic events linked together. The narrative of the battle must have an overall shape, just as any narrative must, with its high points and low points, its moments of suspense and moments of surprise, and, most of all, the same forward momentum that a large-scale plot has. That is what Tolkien does here. We have first the arrival at Helm's Deep and the preparation; then the rearguard is driven in from the Dike; then the host of the enemy approaches and sends arrows over the walls; then Aragorn, Eomer, and Gimli make their sortie; twice then the enemy creeps into the culvert, the second time using Saruman's blasting powder; etc. Where someone with less talent would simply write a battle scene, Tolkien provides a series of events linked into a battle story.

About the game between Legolas and Gimli. Fordim makes two points, the second of which I'll consider first:

Quote:
I've never fought in a medieval campaign, but I have fought with a sword (you know, tournaments, with safety equipment and everything) and there is just no way that one fighter can be so overwhelmingly good that he can wipe out that many opponents. And certainly not two: either the orcs are incompetent or Gimli and Legolas are getting a bit of 'help' from the author.
I think there may be a kind of tension in LotR between two impulses, the realistic and the mythological. Middle-earth is so believable, so internally consistent and thoroughly described, that it feels "realistic". In a way then it seems quite fair to complain when characters perform feats that are blatantly unrealistic - like killing forty-two Orcs. But Middle-earth is mythological as well. As Neithan points out, Hurin is said (in the '77 Silmarillion) to have killed seventy trolls at the Nirnaeth. Now, it is not clear whether or not this actually derives from Tolkien (if it does, it must come from a Narn text that CRT does not give in full). But the motif, if not the exact number and description, certainly come from Tolkien - in GA Hurin kills a hundred Orcs. This is quite in the heroic tradition - the Iliad, for example, ascribes deeds of impossible valour to its heroes.

As for Fordim's first complaint:

Quote:
it seems a bit blood thirsty of them to be competing at all
I would say yes, it does come across as grim and bloodthirsty (though also slightly humorous). I don't see that as a problem. War is grim and bloody, and those that fight in it must deal with that in some way. In real life, fighter pilots, for example, do count their kills. I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were some World War I antecedents for such grim joviality.
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Old 01-25-2005, 06:54 AM   #7
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We might think Anduril is ‘just’ a sword but in this chapter we see it presented heroically, in terms of what it symbolises, and also in terms of its heritage and nobility. In the previous chapter, Aragorn is told to leave it outside Meduseld as Theoden will not have weapons carried in his hall by visitors. In Aragorn’s refusal more is displayed than simply his inexperience in matters of diplomacy; his obstinacy also displays the symbolic significance of Anduril, not just to Aragorn, but to Middle Earth as a whole.

The full significance of the weapon becomes apparent in this chapter:

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Anduril rose and fell, gleaming with white fire. A shout went up from wall and tower: 'Anduril! Anduril goes to war. The Blade that was Broken shines again!"
Does Anduril really glow with white fire? Does the blade contain the divinity of Light? Is it a metaphor for the speed and agility with which Aragorn wields the sword? Or is it a metaphor for the beauty and precision apparent from the craft involved in making the blade? Certainly, its reputation has preceded it; it is easy to imagine Hama talking to the other men about how the blade was left outside the Meduseld doors and his excited talk as he describes it to his comrades, much as military men today might talk reverently about a new plane.

But the cries of the men as Anduril is wielded also reveal their hope, perhaps that a ‘hero’ of old has returned, certainly that the heroism of old has returned:

Quote:
The men of Rohan grew weary. All their arrows were spent, and every shaft was shot; their swords were notched, and their shields were riven. Three times Aragorn and Eomer rallied them, and three times Anduril flamed in a desperate charge that drove the enemy from the wall.
The above passage is interesting as the efforts of Aragorn are mentioned separately to the efforts of Anduril. This quite definitely places the weapon in the area of myth, bringing to mind the way that King Arthur is always mentioned with Excalibur; the sword is not a mere part of his kit, it is something which he has access to, as though his possession of the blade infuses him with a far greater strength. Historically, the wealthiest swordsmen would have blades tailored to their needs, as the weight and balance of a sword in comparison to the person using it is vital, so strength and skill would be the result of a tailored blade, but the inherent myth of a weapon is also important. If it has a ‘myth’ attached, the mere sight of such a blade can cause psychological harm to the enemy:

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A broad stairway climbed from the Deep up to the Rock and the rear-gate of the Hornburg. Near the bottom stood Aragorn. In his hand still Anduril gleamed, and the terror of the sword for a while held back the enemy, as one by one all who could gain the stair passed up towards the gate.
This quite intense chapter includes descriptions of the physical fighting, the battle strategies, and the heroism of individuals, but Tolkien has also imbued it with a sense of the mythic. The idea of Excalibur is something of an archetype to us, and we recognise instantly what it means for a man to wield a blade with a history, and we can accept that he who wields it will have the strength to fight against what seem to be insurmountable odds. Tolkien takes care to mention how the arrows of the men have been depleted (unlike in films where the supply seems magically endless) and he makes sure we can see that the odds are very definitely against those we are 'rooting for', and it is against this background that the archetype of Anduril stands out, and also that acts of heroism can be seen in stark contrast to the bleak prospects.
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Old 01-25-2005, 02:27 PM   #8
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Another chapter in which we witness Hama's adoration for Gandalf....
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"What does that mean?" said one of the guard to Hama.
"That Gandalf Greyhame has need of haste," answered Hama. "Ever he goes and comes unlooked for."
"Wormtongue, were he here, would not find it hard to explain," said the other.
"True enough," said Hama, "but for myself, I will wait until I see Gandalf again."
"Maybe you will wait long," said the other.
Some other things I noticed on Theoden and Aragorn....

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"It will go ill with Wormtongue, if Gandalf comes upon him," said Theoden. "Nonetheless I miss now both my counsellors, the old and the new. But in this need we have no better choice than to go on, as Gandalf said, to Helm's gate, whether Erkenbrand be there or no.
Quote:
"I fret in this prison," said Theoden. "If I could have set a spear in rest, riding before my men upon the field, maybe I could have felt again the joy of battle, and so ended. But I serve little purpose here."
Quote:
"It is said that the Hornburg has never fallen to assault," said Theoden; "but now my heart is doubtful. The world changes, and all that once was strong now proves unsure. How shall any tower withstand such numbers and such reckless hate? Had I known that the strength of Isengard was grown so great, maybe I should not so rashly have ridden forth to meet it, for all the arts of Gandalf. His counsel seems not now so good as it did under the morning sun."

"Do not judge the counsel of Gandalf, until all is over, lord," said Aragorn.

"The end will not be long," said the king. "But I will not end here, taken like an old badger in a trap. Snowmane and Hasufel and the horses of my guard are in the inner court. When dawn comes, I will bid men sound Helm's horn, and I will ride forth. Will you ride with me then, son of Arathorn? Maybe we shall cleave a road, or make such an end as will be worth a song-if any be left to sing of us hereafter."
These quotes show the differences between Theoden and Denethor. Why Theoden is your typical heroic King of the middle-ages, and Denethor once great, is in rapid decline. "I will not end here, taken like an old badger in a trap." Theoden refuses, now, to sit back and die in the tower, to sit back and be conquered. He will ride out (and even for the similar reasons as Treebeard and the ents, "maybe it will be worth a song.")

Theoden is starting to doubt Gandalf's counsel, however he is still willing to listen to it. Despite his uncertainty, he basically steps down to Gandalf. Whether Theoden sees Gandalf's counsel as foolish or not, he still steps down, and listens to it. Another difference from Denethor. Even when he is in doubt of Gandalf's words to meet Saruman head on, he still makes the decision to ride out, not just to Helm's Deep, but to what he believes the last moments of his life. "I will bid men sound Helm's horn, and I will ride forth."
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Old 01-25-2005, 03:00 PM   #9
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"I fret in this prison," said Theoden. "If I could have set a spear in rest, riding before my men upon the field, maybe I could have felt again the joy of battle, and so ended. But I serve little purpose here."

Just a quick point here - what similarity between the feelings of Theoden and Eowyn - feeling trapped and wishing to escape in battle. I never really noticed it before.
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Old 01-25-2005, 03:28 PM   #10
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I was struck by what may seem at first a throwaway line:

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Men said that in the far-off days of the glory of Gondor the sea-kings had built here this fastness with the hands of giants.
This is reminiscent of the opening lines from the Anglo Saxon poem 'The Ruin':

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The city buildings fell apart, the works
Of giants crumble
. Tumbled are the towers
Ruined the roofs, and broken the barred gate,
Frost in the plaster, all the ceilings gape,
Torn and collapsed and eaten up by age.
And grit holds in its grip, the hard embrace
Of earth, the dead-departed master-builders,
Until a hundred generations now
Of people have passed by. Often this wall
Stained red and grey with lichen has stood by
Surviving storms while kingdoms rose and fell.
And now the high curved wall itself has fallen.

The heart inspired, incited to swift action.
Resolute masons, skilled in rounded building
Wondrously linked the framework with iron bonds.
The public halls were bright, with lofty gables,
Bath-houses many; great the cheerful noise,
And many mead-halls filled with human pleasures.
Till mighty fate brought change upon it all.
Slaughter was widespread, pestilence was rife,
And death took all those valiant men away.
The martial halls became deserted places,
The cities crumbled, its repairers fell,
Its armies to the earth. And so these halls
Are empty, and this red curved roof now sheds
Its tiles, decay has brought it to the ground,
Smashed it to piles of rubble, where long since
A host of heroes, glorious, gold-adorned,
Gleaming in splendour, proud and flushed with wine,
Shone in their armour, gazed on gems and treasure,
On silver, riches, wealth and jewellery,
On this bright city with its wide domains.
Stone buildings stood, and the hot streams cast forth
Wide sprays of water, which a wall enclosed
In its bright compass, where convenient
Stood hot baths ready for them at the centre.
Hot streams poured forth over the clear grey stone,
To the round pool and down into the baths.
This is so close in mood to this section of LotR. the Numenoreans built Helm's Deep 'with the Hands of Giants', & as with the Romans of the poem their works have crumbled. Helm's Deep had fallen into disrepair & has had to be rebuilt:

Quote:
There in the Hornburg at Helm's Gate Erkenbrand, master of Westfold on the borders of the Mark, now dwelt. As the days darkened with threat of war, being wise, he had repaired the wall and made the fastness strong.
The Gondorians may be the last remnant of the people of Numenor but they & their works have begun to crumble, & it is left to their 'inheritors', the men of Rohan, to repair what they had made & make it strong. The glory of Gondor may flourish under Aragorn's rule, but the Gondorians will eventually pass away, like the Romans, leaving only memories & song.

Then we have the 'fire of Orthanc'. This is gunpowder, obviously. It is the source of Gandalf's fireworks, but turned to destruction. Effectively what we see is 'Art' turned into the Machine. Fireworks are ephemeral, they burst in light & noise & then pass into nothing. Saruman's 'blasting fire' is designed to desroy, to reshape the world. It blasts even the works of the 'giants' into nothingness. This is the beginning of the modern world, or of modern warfare - if they aren't the same thing. (Well, that's not strictly true, I suppose, not if we accept the early 'Fall of Gondolin', where 'tanks' are employed by Morgoth.) This is an intrusion of the 'primary world' into the 'secondary world'. The 'blasting fires' of WW1 have intruded into Middle earth.

In so many ways Saruman embodies the ‘modern world’. He is responsible for bombs & factories, deforestation, genetic engineering & double-think. He is a ‘man’ born outside his time. He belongs in the primary world of the 20th century, not in the secondary world of Middle earth.

The peoples of Middle earth mayl win out over Saruman the wizard, but what he represents will in the end win out over Middle earth. He will ultimately win out over Sauron himself. Sauron is a Mythological figure, & belongs in Middle earth. Saruman is all too ‘real’, in a sense all too mundane,in his attitudes & behaviour. The glory of the Dark Ages is at an end, & that end is shown here taking root in the mythological world. The orcs may be slaughered in their thousands, but they keep on coming. Legolas & Gimli hack them down & crow about their achievement, but the orcs keep on coming. The trees may tear them limb from limb but the victory will be short lived. Helm’s Deep is a victory, but it is merely a respite in the ‘long defeat’.

Quote:
The hosts of Isengard roared, swaying this way and that, turning from fear to fear. Again the horn sounded from the tower. Down through the breach of the Dike charged the king's company. Down from the hills leaped Erkenbrand, lord of Westfold. Down leaped Shadowfax, like a deer that runs surefooted in the mountains. The White Rider was upon them, and the terror of his coming filled the enemy with madness. The wild men fell on their faces before him. The Orcs reeled and screamed and cast aside both sword and spear. Like a black smoke driven by a mounting wind they fled. Wailing they passed under the waiting shadow of the trees; and from that shadow none ever came again.
Well, yes, maybe, & that’s all very well, but this victory too shall pass & the White Light will be broken & the White Page overwritten. Helm’s Deep is a little victory, of Light over Darkness, of White over Black, of Art over the Machine. Yet the defeat of the forces of darkness here will bring a dawn that will soon be obliterated in the clouds wreathed by Sauron.
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Old 01-26-2005, 12:02 AM   #11
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Legolas' and Gimli's contest at Helm's Deep by Athaniel.
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Old 01-26-2005, 09:13 AM   #12
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This chapter begins and ends with moments in which we have images of darkness and shadows, light and wind. As the Rohirrim march toward Helm’s Deep they are pursued by the shadows of Mordor:

Quote:
The rising sun was hazy, and behind it, following it slowly up the sky, there was a growing darkness, as of a great storm moving out of the East.
At the end of the battle, the Orcs are driven to their destruction in another very different kind of shadow:

Quote:
The White Rider was upon them, and the terror of his coming filled the enemy with madness. The wild men fell on their faces before him. The Orcs reeled and screamed and cast aside both sword and spear. Like a black smoke driven by a mounting wind they fled. Wailing they passed under the waiting shadow of the trees; and from that shadow none ever came again.
I like the point made by davem that this Battle is but a transitory moment of light and victory in an ongoing war, but I’m not so sure that the chapter is as dour as he makes it out to be. Yes, this is not the Big Victory in the War, and yes there is no final or absolute victory over evil, but these images, I think, give a hint of a deeper transformation that is being wrought in the nature of the world. At the beginning of the chapter we have the “growing darkness” of a coming storm “moving out of the East.” The shadow of Mordor is such that it makes the sun “hazy” and even threatens to overwhelm it as it follows the sun up the sky, like a predator. But at the end of the chapter this imagery is both recalled and reversed. Recalled in that the Orcs are driven into and destroyed by “the waiting shadow of the trees” – and just in case we missed it, Tolkien repeats the image in the next clause: “and from that shadow none ever came again.”

So we have the Shadow of Mordor at the beginning of the chapter, threatening to overwhelm the sun and take possession of the sky, but by the end of the chapter the shadows we see are those of the trees. I think that this is looking ahead to a time when, after the War, the Shadow is gone, but there remain still shadows in the world. That is, the dominating presence of Sauron (Evil) will be destroyed, along with the danger that this shadow presents to the sky and the sun (divine or eternal things that are over the earth?), but naturally there will remain “shadowy” things in the world, like the huorns, that are not Evil, but dangerous, even perilous. The shadows they cast do not threaten the sky or the sun, but those who walk into them in an Orc-like manner.

But this imagery of shadow and light is not just recalled at the end, but also reversed, I think. At the beginning of the chapter the Shadow is being spread from the East by the wind of Mordor (the storm); at the end of the chapter, it is the “mounting wind” of the White Rider that drives the Orcs “like a black smoke” into the shadows of the trees. I find this fascinating – Tolkien could have so easily had the imagery around Gandalf and the trees be all about light and life and greenery (the radiance of the White Rider drove the Orcs into the verdant green of the trees; and from that dark green none ever came again?). But he chose not to do it this way; in effect, he decided that rather than setting up an absolute binary opposition of good and evil through the relatively simple and even expected dark and light imagery, he would work through the relation is a more complex way. The forces of good are still light (White Rider, the sun) but they operate to some extent in the same manner as the forces of evil (like a wind, with and through war). The other point of comparison is that both good and evil are associated with darkness and shadows: it’s just that while Sauron wants His Shadow to dominate the world, Gandalf is willing to work with the shadowy forces of the natural world: to accept them for what they are and to respect them. Sauron wants his Shadow to destroy the light; Gandalf is a figure of light who is happy to accommodate the shadows. . .because they are part of the world.

One last thing that occurs to me in response to Lalwende’s point about Aragorn and Anduril. Lal asks:

Quote:
Does Anduril really glow with white fire? Does the blade contain the divinity of Light? Is it a metaphor for the speed and agility with which Aragorn wields the sword? Or is it a metaphor for the beauty and precision apparent from the craft involved in making the blade?
The idea of the “white fire” as a metaphor got me to thinking. It seems to me that the whole question of magic in Middle-earth can be understood metaphorically. Metaphor is a weird kind of thing – it is a way of saying something that is patently untrue (even false) but getting away with it because there is an appeal to the ‘real’ truth of the statement. For example, when someone says that their life is “a sea of troubles” their statement is clearly not true in two ways: they are not really on the ocean, and how can there be a sea made of “troubles” in the first place? But because the speaker is using a metaphor there is no falsehood or impossibility, because we all understand what the speaker ‘really’ means.

But in Middle-earth this line between the false or impossible statement and the real meaning falls apart: in a way, metaphor is not compatible with magic – when Tolkien says “the trees whispered their secrets to one another” it really happens. If I said this in the ‘real’ world it would be a metaphor, but in Middle-earth it is literally true. That’s why I think that Lal’s question is both an extraordinarily good one, but also misleading, insofar as this is another instance in which something that would be metaphorical in our world is not in Middle-earth. I would suggest that the answer to each of Lal’s questions is the same: yes, yes, yes and yes. This is a world of magic in which swords glow with a divine light, but it is also a story told to people who live in the primary world, so this glow becomes a metaphor for a variety of other things.

I’m not sure this is making sense. . . Inside the story, there is no metaphor around or about the blade’s glow: it really is glowing. But when we read it, in a world where there are no glowing swords, the only way to bring it into our own experience is to make it into a metaphor for something. This really is different from a text that is about a world that has no magic: for example, there are lots of accounts of Medieval battles in which soldiers’ swords were said to “smoke” with the blood of their enemies – such statements are necessarily metaphorical both inside the text and outside of it. Not so with Middle-earth: the magic of that world can only be experienced by us, in our non-magical reality, in a distant and secondary way – metaphor becomes a poor substitute for the magical reality we are reading about.
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Old 01-26-2005, 10:17 AM   #13
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Fordim: An interesting idea about metaphors, though I think I may disagree. You say:

Quote:
But in Middle-earth this line between the false or impossible statement and the real meaning falls apart: in a way, metaphor is not compatible with magic – when Tolkien says “the trees whispered their secrets to one another” it really happens.
I don't think that this can be true, at least not entirely. There are still things that are possible in Middle-earth and things that are impossible. There are still metaphors in the texts that are merely metaphors and not literally true. The trouble is that the existence of magic often makes it difficult to decipher which statements are metaphors and which are describing true but strange things. This is what leads some to hold fast, for example, to the absurd notion that Felarof, the horse of Eorl, could fly because he had wings on his hooves.

It does, then, make sense to ask whether some statement is true or is a metaphor. Either Anduril gives off light or it doesn't; and it's not inconceivable that Tolkien could have intended it not to magically shine and still have written what he wrote, intending it as a mere metaphor.

To take a similar example: it is said in book V chapter 4 of the Witch-king's sword that "flames ran down the blade". Now for years I thought the Witch-king had a sword that was literally on fire. Only a few years ago did I realize that this statement follows a description of the great fires and red light out beyond the gate, in the field of Pelennor. Now when I re-read this it comes across to me quite clearly as meaning that the Witch-king's sword, raised in front of this red glare, is outlined by the fires behind. Now I could be wrong - maybe the sword really is on fire. But clearly it is at least possible (and, I think, probable) that the statement is not literally true.
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Old 01-26-2005, 10:30 AM   #14
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Quote:
To take a similar example: it is said in book V chapter 4 of the Witch-king's sword that "flames ran down the blade". Now for years I thought the Witch-king had a sword that was literally on fire. Only a few years ago did I realize that this statement follows a description of the great fires and red light out beyond the gate, in the field of Pelennor. Now when I re-read this it comes across to me quite clearly as meaning that the Witch-king's sword, raised in front of this red glare, is outlined by the fires behind. Now I could be wrong - maybe the sword really is on fire. But clearly it is at least possible (and, I think, probable) that the statement is not literally true.
Ah, Derrida would be happy. . .the more you try to make sense of it, the more the text deconstructs on you. That line between the literal and the figurative is perhaps more slippery than you think, probably, or maybe not. . .
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Old 01-26-2005, 11:19 AM   #15
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Silmaril Prof Hedgethistle proves the existence of Balrog's wings ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fordim
Inside the story, there is no metaphor around or about the blade’s glow: it really is glowing. But when we read it, in a world where there are no glowing swords, the only way to bring it into our own experience is to make it into a metaphor for something.
So those shadows that stretched to the walls weren't metaphorical - inside the story they really were wings.
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Old 01-26-2005, 12:07 PM   #16
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1420!

About the contest, and the number of kills for Gimli and Legolas, how they seem a bit unrealistic (as well as Hurin), even within the context of Middle-earth....It might just be a thing of rational vs. irrational. These occurences happen every day in reality, things that society can't explain, but they happen...miracles.

I mean how does a guy get a nail shot in his head and doesn't realize it until 6 days later that his head is throbbing. Goes in to get an x-ray and there's a nail in his head. It went through his brain, I believe his eye nerve, yet after the nail's removal he had no mental damage or loss of vision. How does something like this happen? Don't know, but it does. Just a matter of an irrational occurence that can't be logically explained, yet we still try to explain it.
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Old 01-26-2005, 12:16 PM   #17
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Well I don't know how Gimli could have possibly beat Legolas given that Legolas:
a, had a head start
b, had hands that move quicker than sight
c, was shooting/kniving people which has to be quicker than an axe ehich you have to swing....
d, had couple of feet height advantage on the dwarf and the enemy...

Methinks Legolas thresw the contest....
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Old 01-26-2005, 02:57 PM   #18
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Flaming swords

I just found this from Websters 1913 dictionary:

Quote:
\Brand\, n. [OE. brand, brond, AS. brand brond brand,
sword, from byrnan, beornan, to burn; akin to D., Dan., Sw.,
& G. brand brand, Icel. brandr a brand, blade of a sword.
[root]32. See {Burn}, v. t., and cf. {Brandish}.]
threw it
on a matted roof. --Palfrey.

2. A sword, so called from its glittering or flashing
brightness. [Poetic] --Tennyson.

Paradise, so late their happy seat, Waved over by
that flaming brand. --Milton.
So there is clearly an ancient connection between swords & fire. In Frodo's song of Gandalf in Lorien he refers to Gandalf's 'burning brand'. I can't help speculating on Tolkien's inspiration for the glowing Elvish swords that run through the Legendarium. Anduril is the Flame of the West, & the name is probably significant. We have to remember that Anduril's 'fire' is clearly seen in battle at close quarters, from a distance & is easily recognised by all observers. I don't think we can simply dismiss the possibility that it did produce some form of light...
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Old 01-26-2005, 04:11 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fordim
Not so with Middle-earth: the magic of that world can only be experienced by us, in our non-magical reality, in a distant and secondary way – metaphor becomes a poor substitute for the magical reality we are reading about.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
Now I could be wrong - maybe the sword really is on fire. But clearly it is at least possible (and, I think, probable) that the statement is not literally true.
Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
We have to remember that Anduril's 'fire' is clearly seen in battle at close quarters, from a distance & is easily recognised by all observers. I don't think we can simply dismiss the possibility that it did produce some form of light...
Even here we cannot say if the image of Anduril flaming is a metaphor or not. It could be metaphor within the story, within that world but presented to us as real magic, or it could be the other way around, real magic in Middle Earth which we cannot comprehend so is presented to us as metaphor! This is one of the reasons I like Tolkien's writing so much; it is befuddling and even a few words can be turned about until we can find a meaning. We have read so far into this tale and have seen so many unbelievable things that the idea of a sword which flames is not one we are able to entirely disbelieve. If this had happened in The Shire, in the first few chapters, then we would say "that is definitely a metaphor", but now we've gone far beyond that, and are deep into the realms of myth so we can't just dismiss it.

I think this is why the Balrog wings debate is so strong; at that point we are in the changeover from the comfortable into the unfamiliar. At Helm's Deep we are quite out of our comfort zone so the image of a flaming sword is one we can't quite grasp. I like this, as it means we can read the text in many ways, just as we can read mythology in many ways. Interpretation comes into play, and I find that fascinating and rewarding. I like to think that the image could be both real and metaphor, both at once, depending on how we see it, just as it might appear in different ways to those actually involved in the battle itself.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fordim
Ah, Derrida would be happy. . .the more you try to make sense of it, the more the text deconstructs on you.
Isn't that the whole reason for the 'Downs? To drive us all deeper into madness as we chew over every last morsel?
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Old 01-26-2005, 04:52 PM   #20
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More on Anduril: (from Encyclopedia of Arda)

Quote:
Details of the original forging of Elendil's sword are difficult to determine. It was made by Telchar of Nogrod, who also made the Dragon-helm of Dor-lómin. Helpfully, a passage in Unfinished Tales tells us that the Dragon-helm was originally made for Azaghâl of Belegost, who died in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad in I 471; in order to make the helm specifically for Azaghâl, Telchar must have been working at about this time. Though we can't be certain of Narsil's origins, then, we can fairly safely place its forging in Telchar's workshop in Nogrod, probably during the fourth or fifth centuries of the First Age.

The Sword was broken in the War of the Last Alliance, with the fall of Elendil. Its burning light was lost, but Elendil's son Isildur used its broken shards to cut the Ruling Ring from Sauron's finger. The shards were eventually brought to Imladris, and they became an heirloom of the House of Isildur. During the War of the Ring, the sword was reforged, its light was rekindled, and it was borne by Elendil's distant descendant Aragorn, who renamed it Andúril.
Under Telchar we also get the following information:

Quote:
A Dwarf of Nogrod in the Blue Mountains, and one of the greatest smiths in the history of Middle-earth. Among his works were Angrist (the knife that freed the Silmaril from the Iron Crown), Narsil (the sword of Elendil, later reforged for Aragorn as Andúril) and the Dragon-helm of Dor-lómin.
Its interesting to speculate on whether Gimli's words:

Quote:
'Well, if it has Anduril to keep it company, my axe may stay here, too, without shame.'
are a reference to Anduril's Dwarfish origin.

Even more interesting is the fact that a dwarf made a sword which 'glowed'. We know Elvish blades like Sting, Glamdring & Orcrist shone when Orcs were near, but does this show that the Dwarves had access to the same 'technology'. Had they learned it from the Elves, or the Elves from them? Or were Sting, Glamdring & Orcrist also os Dwarvish make?

Whatever, I think we have to acccept that Anduril, the Flame of the West, did shine, literally, not 'metaphorically'. (Thanks must go to my 'researcher' in this, Lalwende )

(p.s. just remembered the line from 'Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Nirnoediad:

'The light of the drawing of the swords of the Noldor was like a fire in a field of reeds;' )

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Old 01-26-2005, 09:44 PM   #21
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The Idea of the metaphors is very interesting because I never thought of it that way.

As soon as I begin to read LOTR I am in ME and I never question these things. I just take everything Tolkien writes as it is. If he says the sword of the Nazgul is surrounded by flame I picture that way.

For me it is not difficult to do this because I seperate myself from the real world and am completely submerged in the fantasy world. Of course this is really easy with ME.

As has been said before there is an almost historical feel to LOTR. This is why I even believe that Legolas and Gimli were able to kill so many orcs. I just don't think about the possible and inpossible anymore. Especially with this Chapter Helm's deep. the description of it all is so accurate I don't question it.

This is just one of the chapters that shows that LOTR is a master piece because I just believe everything.
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Old 01-30-2005, 04:58 AM   #22
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Silmaril Aragorn's Kingship Trial Part 2

With Gandalf again gone, Aragorn is subject to his second test in preparation for his kingship. First, he builds more on his relationship with Eomer and Theoden, to strengthen the ties of alliance between Gondor and Rohan in the future. Yes, Aragorn has been in Rohan before, serving under Thengel, Theoden's father (oh my, I actually forgot his name then!) - but now this is a different king, and a more dangerous time. It is also in Aragorn's fighting alongside the Rohirrim that Gondor somehow aids Rohan in its war.

Also, just before this chapter, it is usually Gandalf who speaks to Theoden while the others just listen on. Now it is Aragorn's turn to do the conversing.

Secondly, this is his chance to "practice" for the larger battle that is to come. Anduril has been sheathed for so long, and here it gets to do its thing again. Ditto for Gimli's ax and Legolas' bow and knife.
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Old 02-02-2005, 07:54 PM   #23
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Pipe Re: 40+ Kills

I don’t think this is that incredible.

Húrin’s killing of seventy trolls (or a hundred Orcs) I find more incredible, him being all alone, and all. But remember, Morgoth said that Húrin should be taken alive, and this is the greatest warrior of Men. Now that I think of it, it becomes less and less incredible.

Now, we turn to the Helm’s Deep non-Men. Remember, they were in a protected place, supported by war-worthy Men.

Legolas uses a bow, a long-range weapon. With his first salvo he killed twenty. I think his quiver would have held that much. Then he killed four with knife-work. Well, he was almost surely supported by the knives of Rohirrim archers—probably with some Rohirrim swordsmen. Then we don’t hear of any more kills until he reached thirty-nine, when he sent the first Orc behind Aragorn to the Void. Before that he was perhaps obtaining arrows shot by the Orcs at them—after all, they are of almost the same size as his Galadhrim-issue. His last two kills may be arrows gleaned the same way, or less probably, knife.

Now we turn to Gimli. His first two kills was recorded. Nothing incredible about that. Then he kills nineteen after the first breakthrough via the culvert. But in this attack he was supported by Gamling and the Men of Westfold. Then we never hear of him again until he killed twenty-one more Orcs when he retreated to Aglarond. He was supported by, of all the people, Éomer, plus some other Men. And they were in a cave, with Rohirrim as guides. Surely they would have contrived an ambush of some sort. That should be enough to account for his last kills.

I say again, it’s not that incredible.
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Old 02-02-2005, 07:54 PM   #24
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Sting Still catching up ...

It is surprising, given that this was my favourite Chapter when I first read the book, that I have relatively little to say on it.

As far as the depiction of the battle is concerned, I do think that Aiwendil hit the nail on the head when he described it as a series of linked dramatic events (see his post #6 above). It is portrayed as a series of incidents, each involving the principal characters, linked by a general description of the battle's progress, in particular the development of the Orcs' assault. It struck me that this is similar to the way that a battle might be portrayed on film - as a series of encounters/incidents linked by overview shots of the battle. Tolkien's skill as a story-teller enables him to deploy this technique to marvellous effect in this Chapter.

Another theme that links the events of the battle, and indeed of the entire Chapter, and also parallels them is the weather. Rather than blathering on at length here about this, I will simply provide this link to my post on The Symbolic Significance of Weather.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Fordim
... there is just no way that one fighter can be so overwhelmingly good that he can wipe out that many opponents. And certainly not two: either the orcs are incompetent or Gimli and Legolas are getting a bit of 'help' from the author.
Well, as others have noted, this is in keeping of the deeds of the great warriors of legend and myth. But I also think that an argument can be made out for its feasibility. It is entirely credible that Legolas would score 20 kills with his bow - 1 for each arrow in his quiver. It does require that he delivers a fatal wound with every shot, but then he is an elf. He could then easily score a further 21 kills with his knives (as a nimble and lightly armoured Elf he has an advantage over Orcs in hand-to-hand combat) and with the arrows that he picks up on the field of battle. As for Gimli, he gets his chance when the Orcs break through and later in the Deep and the caves. I see no reason why he should not be able, on occasion, to kill 2 or 3 at a time with his axe, requiring only about 20 swings of it. He is less dextrous than Legolas, although more heavily armoured, but he would have had an advantage over Orcs "in the narrows" of the Deep. Theoden says that none can force an entrance there against determined men, so it clearly had impressive defensive capabilities. All-in-all, I don't see why skilled warriors such as Legolas and Gimli should not achieve the totals that they do against the likes of Orcs. And anyway, I like their "keeping tally", so there.

Finally, this Chapter contains one of the most (unintentionally) funny lines in the book:


Quote:
Aragorn and Legolas went now with Éomer in the van.
I wonder who was driving?
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Old 02-03-2005, 11:34 AM   #25
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Sorry, I don't spend any time on this chapter by chapter boards. I couldn't devote time to reading the book again when we started this off last year. pity really. Once I finish my new Adrian Mole book (best set of books I've ever read other than LOTR) I'll try to devote time to reading LOTR yet again. these threads give as good a reason to do it than anything else.

Anyway to my point.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lathriel
But my favourite moment is when the horn is blown and Theoden rides forth with Aragorn, now if you want heroics,you got it.
This is one of the key moments to me from the book regarding Aragorn's character. Theoden is asking Aragorn to ride out to his Death with him. There is no hesitation from Aragorn in Tolkien's text.
Quote:
'The end will not be long,' said the king. 'But I will not end here, taken like an old badger in a trap. Snowmane and Hasufel and the horses of my guard are in the inner court. When dawn comes, I will bid men sound Helm's horn, and I will ride forth. Will you ride with me then, son of Arathorn? Maybe we shall cleave a road, or make such an end as will be worth a song-if any be left to sing of us hereafter.'
'I will ride with you,' said Aragorn.
I know I may be reading too much into one sentence, but this really strikes a chord with me. To me, Aragorn knows that what he has been building up to for for all his life (the Kingship of Gondor) is now lost. He excepts Theoden's request without hesitation, he does not think of hiding in the Caves, or talking Theoden into holding on for more time.

PS I know Aragorn argues with Theoden before this on Gandalf's whereabouts and seems to cling to hope that Gandalf will arrive somehow, but to me, I read this as a false hope, just a rebuttal to Theoden's point on Gandalf's counsel not looking too good in the morning light.
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Old 02-03-2005, 11:52 AM   #26
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Silmaril Estel

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Originally Posted by Essex
I know Aragorn argues with Theoden before this on Gandalf's whereabouts and seems to cling to hope that Gandalf will arrive somehow, but to me, I read this as a false hope ...
A small hope perhaps, but not a false hope. Then again, there was little hope of the Ring Quest succeeding and Gandalf knew (and said) as much. Aragorn has proved a worthy student of Gandalf since, like Gandalf does with the Ring Quest (and most particularly when he sacrifices himself for the sake of the Felowship in Moria), he is putting his faith in hope. Indeed, he is living up to the name that his mother gave him.
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Old 02-03-2005, 12:06 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpM
Finally, this Chapter contains one of the most (unintentionally) funny lines in the book:

Quote:
Aragorn and Legolas went now with Éomer in the van.

I wonder who was driving?
Who was driving? Depends if it was a black van; in which case, probably Mr T.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpM
As far as the depiction of the battle is concerned, I do think that Aiwendil hit the nail on the head when he described it as a series of linked dramatic events (see his post #6 above). It is portrayed as a series of incidents, each involving the principal characters, linked by a general description of the battle's progress, in particular the development of the Orcs' assault. It struck me that this is similar to the way that a battle might be portrayed on film - as a series of encounters/incidents linked by overview shots of the battle. Tolkien's skill as a story-teller enables him to deploy this technique to marvellous effect in this Chapter.
That's a very good point about the same technique being used in films. It brings to mind war films, where the action of a battle is often best portrayed via the experiences of various combatants; we can 'see' the battle as those involved see it, from the point of view of those who die or are injured, and from those who survive, which enables us not only to follow the 'story' of the battle but also to gain something of how it might have felt to be involved.

Strangely enough, this film technique could almost be applied to LotR in general, as we 'see' Middle Earth through various eyes. We are never in one place for very long (the chapters are shorter than you might expect for an 'epic' novel), and successive chapters with a lot of exposition are often linked by others which take us along on a journey to the next part of the story. It is an episodic novel in this respect, yet with a strong underlying feature in that we are taking the journey and discovering the landscape of Middle Earth along with the characters.
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Old 02-03-2005, 02:49 PM   #28
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Lalwende wrote:
Quote:
That's a very good point about the same technique being used in films. It brings to mind war films, where the action of a battle is often best portrayed via the experiences of various combatants; we can 'see' the battle as those involved see it, from the point of view of those who die or are injured, and from those who survive, which enables us not only to follow the 'story' of the battle but also to gain something of how it might have felt to be involved.
I think that this is largely true. But I would also note that this plotted-battle technique is not something that all or even most films do (though perhaps it's something that good ones do). To take a well-known example: consider two Star Wars space battles, the one at the end of Episode IV and the one at the end of Episode I. In Episode IV, the battle is not just an episode of action; it has a narrative of its own and is cut in just such a way that the viewer can very easily grasp that narrative. A real sense of the geography of the Death Star trench, of the strategies of the Rebels and the Imperials, and of the successes and failures of each side is conveyed. In short, the battle is easy to follow. The space battle at the end of Episode I does not have a real story; it consists of rapid shots of various actions (flying, shooting, exploding) but it does not connect these shots into a coherent narrative; the battle is easy to watch, but not easy to follow. (Note that I am not bashing Episode I here; I merely think that in this particular instance Episode IV surpasses it).

Helm's Deep is like the Death Star battle. The attentive reader easily grasps the geography, the strategies, and the overall arc of the battle. I would contrast this with the Battle of the Pelennor Field, where the battle itself is more of an amorphous entity and we do not closely follow the particular ups and down of the fighting - not that this is really a flaw, since there are other things going on at that point more important than the battle at large.
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Old 02-26-2005, 07:17 PM   #29
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notes from reading, before reading thread:

More catsup
Notes from reading chapter prior to reading thread:

Much of my underlining and highlighting had to do with the layout of Helm's Deep and comparison to the movie, which I will endeavor to skip.
Seen dimly through the mists of antiquity... I love this sort of thing:
Quote:
Men said that in the far-off days of the glory of Gondor the sea-kings had built here this fastness with the hands of giants.
...and this:
Quote:
In him lived again the valour of Helm the Hammerhand.
Strider in a poetic moment; he is usually so practical, this was nice to see:
Quote:
‘Would that day was here and we might ride down upon them like a storm out of the mountains!’ said Aragorn. ‘It grieves me to fly before them.’
For just a moment, Legolas is seen in a vulnerable light. An elf, appreciating comfort! He is usally so steady and upbeat, this comes as a suprise, and a welcome window into his soul:
Quote:
‘But you are a dwarf, and dwarves are strange folk. I do not like this place, and I shall like it no more by the light of day. But you comfort me, Gimli, and I am glad to have you standing nigh with your stout legs and your hard axe. I wish there were more of your kin among us. But even more would I give for a hundred good archers of Mirkwood. We shall need them. The Rohirrim have good bowmen after their fashion, but there are too few here, too few.’
Interesting to compare how the movie-folk morphed the scene between Eomer, Gimli, and Aragorn at the gates into just a scene between Aragorn and Gimli (which I did enjoy.) But here's the essential pithy quote from Eomer:
Quote:
But oft the unbidden guest proves the best company.
From an archer's perspective this is especially poignant because shooting with someone else's arrows isn't easy!
Quote:
‘Two?’ said Legolas. ‘I have done better, though now I must grope for spent arrows; all mine are gone
The importance of Lore to good morale:
Quote:
...said Aragorn. ‘Is it not said that no foe has ever taken the Hornburg, if men defended it?’
‘So the minstrels say,’ said Éomer.
‘Then let us defend it, and hope!’ said Aragorn.
A moment of real vulnerability followed by delightful humor:
Quote:
Aragorn gained the door, and swiftly it clanged to behind him.
‘Things go ill, my friends,’ he said, wiping the sweat from his brow with his arm.
‘Ill enough,’ said Legolas, ‘but not yet hopeless, while we have you with us. Where is Gimli?’
‘I do not know.’ said Aragorn. ...
...said Legolas. ‘But I wish that he had come this way. I desired to tell Master Gimli that my tale is now thirty-nine.’
‘If he wins back to the caves, he will pass your count again,’ laughed Aragorn.
Once again, an archer's heart goes out to Legolas:
Quote:
‘I must go and seek some arrows,’ said Legolas. ‘Would that this night would end, and I could have better light for shooting.’
Interesting that a grey-elf here prefers daylight. I always imagined that a Mirkwood elf would have no problem seeing in the dark. Maybe he's just stating a preference rather than a need; fair enough, if so.

I found the doubts of Theoden especially poignant. "I fret in this prison." "I serve little purpose here." "My heart is doubtful." "The end will not be long." And yet... "When dawn comes... I will ride forth." There is courage! To look death in the face, and ride out to meet it... foreshadowing Pelennor in all its bloody valor and glory: "Death they cried with one voice..."

Quote:
And with that shout the king came. His horse was white as snow, golden was his shield, and his spear was long. At his right hand was Aragorn, Elendil’s heir, behind him rode the lords of the House of Eorl the Young. Light sprang in the sky. Night departed.
...
There suddenly upon a ridge appeared a rider, clad in white, shining in the rising sun. Over the low hills the horns were sounding. Behind him, hastening down the long slopes, were a thousand men on foot...
...
The White Rider was upon them, and the terror of his coming filled the enemy with madness. The wild men fell on their faces before him. The Orcs reeled and screamed and cast aside both sword and spear. Like a black smoke driven by a mounting wind they fled. Wailing they passed under the waiting shadow of the trees; and from that shadow none ever came again.
Comparison/ contrast:

Quote:
rev19.11And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. 12His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. 13And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. 14And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
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Old 05-15-2005, 05:02 PM   #30
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I am lagging very very far behind, but still trying to follow. I enjoy reading all the interesting posts, but there is hardly anything left for me to say.

I notice how Gimli is here portreyed as valiant and hardy, not at all the laughing stock they made of him in the movie! Legolas respects him, and his words
Quote:
... and dwarves are strange folk. (...)But you comfort me, Gimli, and I am glad to have you standing nigh with your stout legs and your hard axe. I wish there were more of your kin among us.
speak of quite a different relationship than the silly (and really quite mean) joke about "shall I describe it to you or shall I fetch a box.?" in the movie. .
And it is the counterpart to Gimli's words when entering Fangorn in "The White Rider"
Quote:
...though Elves of any kind are strange folk. But you comfort me. Where you go, I will go."
Gamling and his men also estimate Gimli and ask his help to block the culvert where the orcs had come through.
And Gimli saves Eomer's life, no less!
Also, in the hunt after the orcs with Aragorn and Legolas, it is never said that he lagged behind because of short legs. On the contrary, dwarves are very enduring.(and not just boasting to be so)
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Old 05-08-2009, 11:23 AM   #31
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This is just conjecture, but could the Siege of Alkmaar been an influence for the Battle of Helm's Deep?

Now, I read about this in a history book by H.G. Wells, and the link was the only one I could find that tells more details of the story, so some of you may know the story differently. Anyway, basically some General decided to 'increase the morale of the public' by slaughtering all of the inhabitants of the town that he was about to besiege. He had a professional army at his disposal, and also within that had a set of 'select' soldiers, which were better at soldiering than average. In the last town he attacked, he hung only 900 of its inhabitants, and still no one was taking him seriously nor showing signs of improved morale, and so he decided that Alkmaar would have to be a better show.

The inhabitants of Alkmaar, now properly motivated, decided to fight back by any and all means.

After raining much artillery down on the city, the General's select soldiers stormed the city only to be repelled by what ended up being a bunch of fishermen (persons, as I assume that all men, women and children took part in the defense). A breach in the city wall had been made but did not help the attackers. By days end, a thousand or so attackers lay dead, while the city's defenders lost merely a handful. The next day, the General bombarded the city again, but then decided to move on, as the ground was starting to get soggy. The city had opened up sluiceways, and so were letting the ocean in, making it hard for the General's soldiers to not be cranky.

The city let the General know that, should the attack continue, they would let the entire ocean in and flood the entire area, drowning the General and his soldiers along with all of their own crops and livestock. Seemingly they had a strong aversion to being hung.

The General, seeing how badly his men performed against motivated defenders, suddenly found an honorable way to retreat, stating that it was not the city defenders that made him turnabout, but the ocean, which no one could resist.

Anyone else see Helm's Deep, and the cleansing of Orthanc here?
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Old 11-06-2009, 07:30 AM   #32
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Old 09-19-2018, 07:52 AM   #33
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Like some of my ancient predecessors on this thread, my first thought reading through this time was that "Helm's Deep" is a rather short chapter--and, related to that, reading it through, it always seems a bit shorter reading it than movie-tinted memories make it. That said, I think it's better in the book, where the overall impression (and others above commented upon Tolkien's narrative methods) is of an actual battle--that is, Tolkien's narration feels closer akin to historical battle accounts (whether written or something filmed, like Band of Brothers to capture a historical account) than it does to the movie version of its account! I suspect, leaning on the foregoing posts here, that a great of this sense to me has to do with the pauses and waiting that are part of the battle. No doubt, the fact that Tolkien had actually participated in real battles aided their creation here.

He wrote it over a decade ago, so I will not hold Aiwendil to defend himself, but I disagree when he writes:

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Originally Posted by Aiwendil View Post
This chapter serves as something of a climax for book III. It's interesting to compare this with the climaxes of books I and II, each of which occurs in the final chapter of its respective book. This climax is greater, though, than either Frodo's escape from the Nazgul at the fords or the breaking of the Fellowship, and this may account for the extra space given to the denouement.
Of course, Aiwendil wisely says "Helm's Deep" is "something" of a climax--a nice way to wiggle out from my disputation that this chapter is not, in fact, the true climax of Book III. I would agree that it is a false climax of sorts--and, certainly, the movies made it into the climax of the book--but the true climax of Book III is "The Voice of Saruman."

Saruman is the defining character of Book III: from Boromir's death, to the Three Hunters' quest, to the death of Théodred, to the defense of Helm's Deep, to the march of Ents, all the main plot actions of the "good" characters are in response to him. Even the shining revelation of Gandalf the White is a reaction to Saruman's evil and failure. That is why I would say that the true climax of the book is the confrontation at Orthanc and the true denouément doesn't begin until thereafter. The Battle of Helm's Deep is an important move on the chessboard: boxing Saruman in and removing one of his great tools, but it's arguably no more significant than the Ents' destruction of Isengard and both seem to be to be set-up for the true climax of the book.
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Old 09-19-2018, 11:42 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
Of course, Aiwendil wisely says "Helm's Deep" is "something" of a climax--a nice way to wiggle out from my disputation that this chapter is not, in fact, the true climax of Book III. I would agree that it is a false climax of sorts--and, certainly, the movies made it into the climax of the book--but the true climax of Book III is "The Voice of Saruman."
Well, perhaps "Helm's Deep" is not the tallest peak but it is a significant one. And though the logical conclusion is, as you well demonstrate, "The Voice of Saruman", the battle can rival it for the greatest emotional excitement. All the preceding events lead up to Helm's Deep progressively: the tension only builds. And logically it is just as you say, it all leads to Saruman - but emotionally, there is a gap that breaks the build-up effect. "The Road to Isengard" is somewhat slow and transitional in nature; though full of tension for the characters, it is more like waiting-time for the reader. Of course the worry and excitement come back when first we meet the hobbits again in a very merry chapter, and then we're anxious to know the result of the parley and we cross our fingers that Theoden will keep his head - but that seems like a peak of its own, isolated from the peak of Helm's Deep.

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Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
Like some of my ancient predecessors on this thread, my first thought reading through this time was that "Helm's Deep" is a rather short chapter--and, related to that, reading it through, it always seems a bit shorter reading it than movie-tinted memories make it. That said, I think it's better in the book, where the overall impression (and others above commented upon Tolkien's narrative methods) is of an actual battle--that is, Tolkien's narration feels closer akin to historical battle accounts (whether written or something filmed, like Band of Brothers to capture a historical account) than it does to the movie version of its account! I suspect, leaning on the foregoing posts here, that a great of this sense to me has to do with the pauses and waiting that are part of the battle. No doubt, the fact that Tolkien had actually participated in real battles aided their creation here.
I never counted the pages, but it always seemed a long chapter to me. You feel the time going slowly by. The attackers do this for a long time. Then they do that. Then there is a skirmish. Then people talk. Then they wait. Then they wait more. Then another fight breaks out, and it takes a long time to subdue. Is this night ever going to end? How many events can happen in just a single night! The chapter gives me more awareness of the time passing; it seems like a long chapter because it feels long. I suppose it's just as you said, a more believable version of a battle - you believe it more and you experience it better. I don't remember what exactly the movie has done with the battle, but if it really is long then it's definitely for a different reason.
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Old 09-19-2018, 01:17 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
I never counted the pages, but it always seemed a long chapter to me. You feel the time going slowly by. The attackers do this for a long time. Then they do that. Then there is a skirmish. Then people talk. Then they wait. Then they wait more. Then another fight breaks out, and it takes a long time to subdue. Is this night ever going to end? How many events can happen in just a single night! The chapter gives me more awareness of the time passing; it seems like a long chapter because it feels long. I suppose it's just as you said, a more believable version of a battle - you believe it more and you experience it better. I don't remember what exactly the movie has done with the battle, but if it really is long then it's definitely for a different reason.
I definitely agree--and I think that the mental impression of the chapter having so much going on in it, which feels as though it drags long through the night, is why, upon actually reading it, it seemed surprisingly short. Compared with something like "The Council of Elrond," it was a quick read--I not only got through it in one baby's nap, I actually ran out of chapter! It's an effect of pacing more than content, and it's impressive.
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