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Old 06-04-2005, 01:39 PM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Silmaril LotR -- Book 5 - Chapter 02 - The Passing of the Grey Company

This chapter takes us back to Rohan, jumping back in time to the point of Gandalf and Pippin's leaving. Since only one hobbit remains there, it is Merry's point of view from which we experience the events, at least at first. When he leaves, we stay with Aragorn, then later switch to Gimli for the passing of the Paths of the Dead.

There is much drama and suspense in this chapter, and the various characters must accept the paths laid before them. Merry's fate to accompany Théoden is told to him by Aragorn; Aragorn's is shown to him by the Palantír, in fulfillment of Malbeth's prophecy; and Éowyn's task is confirmed by Aragorn's refusal to allow her to accompany him. In these various occurrences, we see him showing himself as king more and more.

We are introduced to the Dúnedain and to Elrond's sons - what impresses you most about them?

Malbeth's prophecy gives us some alliterative poetry to look at. How clear are those words to you?

In my opinion, the emotional highlight of the chapter is the conversation between Aragorn and Éowyn. She states her feelings as plainly as she can in her situation, and we can feel her anguish. There are many memorable lines in that passage - which ones leave the strongest impression on you?

What do you think of the passage of the Paths of the Dead?
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Old 06-13-2005, 02:00 AM   #2
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Silmaril

(I must say this should be a chapter with a lot of interesting discussions, and I'm looking forward to thought-provoking posts...and greater participation by other BDers.)

With Gandalf once again gone, I sort of expected Aragorn to take over the tasks the wizard unexpectedly left behind: one, to assume leadership of the rest of the Fellowship; and two, to maintain the strong ties they have formed with Rohan. But earlier on in the chapter Aragorn was already certain that he has a different path to follow than that Gandalf forged for him. The remaining members of the Company - Legolas, Gimli, and Merry - still look to him for leadership and express their desire to follow him wherever he goes. Curiously though, Merry seemed to want to come just so he could be of use, more than any reason else. His attitude at this time was endearing; he really wanted to help, but he acknowledged the fact that he could be bothersome to the Riders. We see his level of security take a slight plunge as he begins to entertain thoughts of being useless and unneeded, more so this time since Pippin was not with him to share with the feeling as he did at the foot of Orthanc. A little later, as they have encountered unknown travellers in the forest, he once again "felt more like unneeded baggage than ever." With the help of his survival instinct, he recovered from the feeling and tried to make himself useful. Following his line of thought,

Quote:
Supposing the king's small escort was trapped and overcome, but he escaped into the darkness - alone in the wild fields of Rohan with no idea of where he was in all the endless miles?
it would seem that he was only after his own welfare, or at least thinking more of himself than the others. But later on, when they are assured that the travelers are friends, we see this is not so.
Quote:
...but it seemed that there would be no need to die in Théoden's defence, not yet at any rate.
This early, without a command or imposition but by his own will, he chooses to fight for the king and offer his own life for him, if needs be.

The king and the hobbit's conversation afterwards is one of the most touching dialogues in all the books. It seems to me here, though, that Tolkien was already setting the stage for Théoden's death. Just when the king becomes a little more "human" by showing his sensitivity to Merry's needs, just when their relationship becomes official and more intimate, just when Merry (and the reader) begins to sincerely love him...Théoden foretells his death through a simple phrase: "For a little while."

Shifting gears...The final trial for Aragorn in preparation for his kingship has come the moment he decided to take the Paths of the Dead. I find it funny that this same man who once warned Gandalf of going into Moria is about to go through another dangerous road himself. (Hmm...Aragorn has inherited Gandalf's flair for dark, scary pathways! ) In both situations they have this in common: they consider the end more important than the means. Gandalf led the Fellowship through Moria despite the warnings and the danger because the Ring has to reach Mordor somehow. Aragorn is going through the Paths of the Dead despite the Rohirrim's fear and trembling, Eomer and Théoden's disappointment, and the fact that he is leaving Merry alone with the Rohirrim because he has to reach Minas Tirith, and attend to an unfinished business along the way. Once he becomes king, he can no longer think about his own safety, nor that of any single person or a handful of people. He has to think about the welfare of the kingdom as a whole. Even if the means seems dangerous, hopeless, or even strange, he has to resort to them if left with no other choice. Aragorn acknowledged the drive of need, more than his fear, or his unwillingness, or anything else that might serve as a hindrance.

If there is anything Aragorn has mastered in this circumstance that would be beneficial to him when he becomes king, it is leadership. Being a leader is not just about pushing the people you lead to go where they need to go. At the risk of getting no for an answer, Aragorn told Gimli and Legolas:
Quote:
"Therefore, only of your free will would I have you come, for you will find both toil and great fear, and maybe worse."
But apparently, the two have completely accepted Aragorn's leadership. Halbarad, for his part, did not discount the dangers...
Quote:
"This is an evil door," said Halbarad, "and my death lies beyond it."
but he followed nonetheless.

Finally (for now), I believe these words say all about what Aragorn has exemplified at that time:
Quote:
"But we must go in, and therefore the horses must go too," said Aragorn. "For if ever we come through this darkness, many leagues lie beyond, and every hour that is lost there will bring the triumph of Sauron nearer. Follow me!"
Then Aragorn led the way, and such was the strength of his will in that hour that all the Dúnedain and their horses followed him.
I'll let the book speak for itself. Now is that guy swoon-worthy or not?

EDIT: I suddenly had the urge to ask...why is the chapter entitled the way it is? Is the passing literal, or figurative?

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Old 06-13-2005, 07:43 AM   #3
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What do you think of the passage of the Paths of the Dead?
Problematic...difficult. How were these spirits denied the Gift of Men for so long? Was it in some way their own choice to remain and by the time Aragorn came along they had changed their minds and decided they wanted to go West?

(I think in some ways Tolkien had written himself into a strategic box. Too many enemies to deal with effectively. The Dead may be similar to the Eagles in some ways. Yes, you may attack me now. )
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Old 06-14-2005, 11:12 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Kuruharan
Problematic...difficult. How were these spirits denied the Gift of Men for so long? Was it in some way their own choice to remain and by the time Aragorn came along they had changed their minds and decided they wanted to go West?
I got the impression that the denial of the gift of men was a curse based on their earlier treachery. Aragorn offered them a chance to redeem themselves and thus be released to wherever men go when they die.
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Old 06-14-2005, 01:35 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aldarion Elf-Friend
I got the impression that the denial of the gift of men was a curse based on their earlier treachery. Aragorn offered them a chance to redeem themselves and thus be released to wherever men go when they die.
It does seem that the reason is Isildur's curse:

Quote:
But the oath that they broke was to fight against Sauron, and they must fight therefore, if they are to fulfil it. For at Erech there stands yet a black stone that was brought, it was said, from Númenor by Isildur; and it was set upon a hill, and upon it the King of the Mountains swore allegiance to him in the beginning of the realm of Gondor. But when Sauron returned and grew in might again, Isildur summoned the Men of the Mountains to fulfil their oath, and they would not: for they had worshipped Sauron in the Dark Years.

Then Isildur said to their king: "Thou shalt be the last king. And if the West prove mightier than thy Black Master, this curse I lay upon thee and thy folk: to rest never until your oath is fulfilled. For this war will last through years uncounted, and you shall be summoned once again ere the end."
This gets back to the importance of oaths and oathbreaking. The Dead are bound by their promise, and so long as it remains unfulfilled, they must remain. However, I don't think it is within Isildur's power to keep them from going on to their ultimate fate. Sauron's keeping the Nazgul is the only other example I can think of where the sprits of Men have been prevented from passing beyond the world. Wild thought: having sworn their oaths, perhaps Eru has stepped in to temporarily rescind the gift until they make good on the oath.
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Old 06-14-2005, 01:56 PM   #6
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Wild thought: having sworn their oaths, perhaps Eru has stepped in to temporarily rescind the gift until they make good on the oath
I'm not too sure about that. Doesn't Tolkien say that Eru only directly intervened in the breaking of Numenor and the return of Gandalf? Keeping the spirits of the dead in Middle earth was not something the Valar were empowered of themselves to do (although they apparently could.)

As I said, it is a very problematic part of the story.
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Old 06-15-2005, 05:50 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuruharan
I'm not too sure about that. Doesn't Tolkien say that Eru only directly intervened in the breaking of Numenor and the return of Gandalf? Keeping the spirits of the dead in Middle earth was not something the Valar were empowered of themselves to do (although they apparently could.)

As I said, it is a very problematic part of the story.
Well, like I said, it's just a wild thought. Quite a problematic part of the story.

Maybe stepping in isn't quite the right term. Something more along the lines of triggering a consequence pathway related to swearing their oath would be more accurate. And there is the issue of who does have the authority to keep the dead in Middle earth, since neither the Valar or descendants of Isildur can be responsible.

I'll have to look around for the statements on direct intervention - no time to check just now...
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Old 06-15-2005, 06:58 AM   #8
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What I'm going to put down is a speculation, or impression rather.

What Aragorn does, if fighting fire with fire as he puts against Sauron forces similar to his own

What Isildur has done, seems a repetition on a minor scale of what Sauron has done to his Ringwraiths, so oathbreakers leave an impression (left on me when I pondered the subject) of neither alive nor dead rather than dead proper.

It is just as good that in fighting fire with fire, Aragorn extinguishes both fires. Rare case, as usually the excersise is likely to bring more fire about
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Old 06-16-2005, 02:08 AM   #9
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Silmaril That good night...

What authority does Isildur have to keep the Dead from completely departing from Middle Earth? After all, he himself is merely a Man. I think Eru and the Valar may have in some way sanctioned Isildur's curse, to give the Dead a chance to turn from the dark side.

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Old 06-16-2005, 12:42 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HerenIstarion
What Isildur has done, seems a repetition on a minor scale of what Sauron has done to his Ringwraiths, so oathbreakers leave an impression (left on me when I pondered the subject) of neither alive nor dead rather than dead proper.

It is just as good that in fighting fire with fire, Aragorn extinguishes both fires. Rare case, as usually the excersise is likely to bring more fire about
My post(s) proper on this thread will have to wait till next week, but on this point it seems to me that what Sauron has done to the Ringwraiths seems pretty much summed up by the WK's threat to Eowyn - 'Thy flesh shall be devoured, & thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.' In other words, he is threatening her with the fate he & his compatriots have themselves suffered - that she will be made a wraith.

I suppose it adds a poignancy to his words, & brings out the horror of his own existence. I wonder if there was a hint of regret & suffering in his words to her. On one level he is describing his own state - but more of that, perhaps, in the relevant chapter.

Whether this is similar to what Isildur caused to happen to the Oathbreakers is another question. Clearly, even if it is similar, it is not the same, as they retain a hope of redemption. Perhaps this is because they did not surrender to Sauron completely, merely refused to fight against him. They seem to have refused to serve the Good, rather than actively choosing to serve the Bad - a sin of omission, rather than comission.

Surely their flesh was 'devoured' & their minds/spirits left 'naked', but not to the Lidless Eye. They are bound to their Oath, their sworn word, not to Isildur himself. It is not so much, in my opinion, that Isildur, or even Eru, has rescinded their 'Gift', but rather that they themselves have bound themselve to a course of action in the world & that they cannot leave the world till that Oath is fulfilled. As we speculated in the 'Oaths & Oathbreaking' thread, it seems that Oaths in Middle earth had a power over those who swear them - even if they swear in fear. Their Oath binds them & it overrides the gift till it is worked through.

So, in short, I don't think the gift was rescinded or overridden, merely put on hold till they could do what they swore to do. Its almost like, as Bilbo & Smeagol experienced with the Ring - they didn't get more life, they just 'continued' existing. Their bodies died but their spirits (the part of them that swore the Oath, if you like) just 'continued', till the thing that bound them within the circles of the world had been removed.

Long way of saying I think H-I is right
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Old 06-17-2005, 07:47 AM   #11
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White-Hand

Something odd which may explain an earlier part of LotR struck me in this chapter. When the Dunedain are riding up this is the description:

Quote:
The pursuers brought their steeds to a sudden stand. A silence followed; and then in the moonlight, a horseman could be seen dismounting and walking slowly forward. His hand showed white as he held it up, palm outward, in token of peace; but the king's men gripped their weapons. At ten paces the man stopped. He was tall, a dark standing shadow. Then his clear voice rang out.
Then Merry has the following thoughts:

Quote:
Merry breathed a sigh of relief. He had thought that this was some last trick of Saruman's, to waylay the king while he had only a few men about him
To me it is clear that the upheld, white hand must be some sign of peace in Middle Earth, certainly amongst the Dunedain, and as likely as not a universal sign amongst Men, or else it would not have been given. Yet the sign is viewed with suspicion and immediately I thought of Saruman's 'white hand' symbol. This is then backed up by the fear that Merry felt, as he associates the symbol with Saruman himself.

There was discussion about what Saruman's white hand symbol might mean, and this has made me think that perhaps Saruman made use of pre-existing gesture of friendship and peace in order to create his own symbol. His symbol was made in mockery of the sign for peace between Men, or did he utilise it at first to win their confidence and trust?
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Old 06-18-2005, 05:39 AM   #12
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Silmaril

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
His symbol was made in mockery of the sign for peace between Men, or did he utilise it at first to win their confidence and trust?
He may not have actively done so, but Saruman sought to win Rohan's friendship - and with it their confidence and trust - through Grima. The rest of the Rohirrim may not have trusted him, but Theoden did and that's all that matters. In view of this, it's interesting that the Ents toppled the 'statue' of the White Hand, as if saying that they have seen through his deceit and they are permanently cutting off any friendship they used to have with Saruman.

It's funny, though, how Halbarad's hands showed white while his shadow was dark, like he was indeliberately used to see if the Rohirrim have really learned their lesson!
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Old 06-18-2005, 06:42 AM   #13
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Pipe Re: Dead Men of Dunharrow.

I had this theory regarding the fate of the Dead Men:

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It had been held lawful only for the King of Númenor to call Eru to witness, and then only on the most grave and solemn occasions. The line of the Kings came to an end in Ar-Pharazôn who perished in the Downfall; but Elendil Voronda was descended from Tar-Elendil the fourth King, and was held to be the rightful lord of the Faithful, who had taken no part in the rebellion of the Kings and had been preserved from destruction.
UT III 2 - endnote 44
Perhaps the people of the King of the Mountains had sworn an oath not dissimilar to the one sworn by Éorl to Cirion. And since both Isildur and Cirion called Eru in witness, any effects of those oaths will be upheld by Eru. (Me--from Strange Curses!)
Of course, why Eru would intervene on behalf of Isildur is something I do not know. Unless he knows that someday, some ragged, rugged King-wannabe would want ride off to his rightful kingdom with some sort of an army. I think this goes in with his style, for if you remember he tells Melkor (and perhaps that word is for all who follow in his path) that:
. . . [T]hou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined
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Old 06-20-2005, 08:24 AM   #14
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'Shall I always be chosen?' she said bitterly. 'Shall I always be left behind when the Riders depart, to mind the house while they win renown, and find food and beds when they return?'
'A time may come soon,' said he, 'when none will return. Then there will be need of valour without renown, for none shall remember the deeds that are done in the last defence of your homes. Yet the deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.'
And she answered: 'All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour,
you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more.
But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death.'
'What do you fear, lady?' he asked.
'A cage,' she said. 'To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.'
'And yet you counselled me not to adventure on the road that I had chosen, because it is perilous?'
'So may one counsel another,' she said. 'Yet I do not bid you flee from peril, but to ride to battle where your sword may win renown and victory. Would not see a thing that is high and excellent cast away needlessly.'
'Nor would I,' he said. 'Therefore I say to you, lady: Stay! For you have no errand to the South.'
'Neither have those others who go with thee. They go only because they would not be parted from thee – because they love thee.' Then she turned and vanished into the night.
Éowyn's anger and bitterness stands out for me here. I think it also shows some the reason for her attraction to Aragorn, as the head miltary leader and future king. But I also think her confusion shows as well: she says that the others who are going with him go only because they love him, as she believes she does. She isn't differentiating the type of love for a leader from the type of love for a spouse. I thought this was an interesting letter about Éowyn's feelings:

Quote:
Letter 244:
Eowyn: it is possible to love more than one person (of the other sex) at the same time, but in a different mode and intensity. I do not think that Eowyn’s feeling for Aragorn really changed much: and when he was revealed as so lofty a figure, in descent and office, she was able to go on loving and admiring him. He was old, and that is not only a physical quality: when not accompanied by any physical decay age can be alarming or awe-inspiring. Also she was not herself ambitious in the true political sense. Through not a ‘dry nurse’ in temper, she was also not really a soldier or ‘amazon’, but like many brave women was capable of great military gallantry at crisis.
I suppose she learns the difference later after meeting Faramir in Minas Tirith since her feelings never actually change.

Something that stood out in the conversation with Aragorn was Éowyn's sudden use of thee instead of you. The only other instance where she uses that word was in a cermonial salute to Theoden after his recovery. I'm wondering if the sudden switch was intentional to show familiarity after she declares her love for Aragorn or if the appearance is more related to style changes in the chapter.
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Old 06-20-2005, 10:53 AM   #15
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I find the "Passing of the Grey Company" to be a... difficult.... chapter to write on.

It's very much a filler chapter, moving things forward. And yet, at the same time, it has some very important and essential parts, such as the Eowyn/Aragorn discourse.

One thing that I find somewhat... annoying about this chapter, is the fact that Aragorn's confrontation with Sauron is just passed over, referred to after the fact. As a result, this is an almost-forgotten episode compared with some, but in reality it is an event comparable to the Battle of the Pelennor or for the Morannon in what effect it has upon Sauron and the deployment of his troops.

Had Tolkien chosen to give us a firsthand look at this incredibly important, and epic, episode, I imagine that the movies would have been rather different...
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Old 06-21-2005, 02:11 PM   #16
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Formal Language

Quote:
Originally Posted by Celuien
Something that stood out in the conversation with Aragorn was Éowyn's sudden use of thee instead of you. The only other instance where she uses that word was in a cermonial salute to Theoden after his recovery. I'm wondering if the sudden switch was intentional to show familiarity after she declares her love for Aragorn or if the appearance is more related to style changes in the chapter.
I don't have the books in front of my right now, but in one of the appendices, the one on the languages of Middle Earth, Tolkien explains that when the English translation switches to the more formal "thees" and "thous" it indicates that the characters have switched to an older, more formal version of their language.

Maybe someone with the books handy can elaborate.
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Old 06-21-2005, 08:36 PM   #17
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Here it is, Aldarion.

From Appendix F, Section II: On Translation

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The Common Speech, as the language of the Hobiits and their narratives, has inevitably been turned into modern English. In the process the difference between the varieties observable in the use of the Westron has been lessened. Some attempt has been made to represent these varieties by variations in the kind of English used; but the divergence between the pronunciation and idiom of the Shire and the Westron tongue in the mouths of the Elves or of the high men of Gondor was greater than has been shown in this book. Hobbits indeed spoke for the most part a rustic dialect, whereas in Gondor and Rohan a more antique language was used, more formal and more terse.

One point in the divergence may here be noted, since, though often important, it has proved impossible to represent. The Westron tongue made in the pronouns of the second person (and often also in those of the third) a distinction, independent of number, between 'familiar' and 'deferential' forms. It was, however, one of the peculiarities of Shire-usage that the deferential forms had gone out of colloquial use. They lingered only among the villagers, especially of the West-farthing, who used them as endearments. This was one of the things referred to when people of Gondor spoke of the strangeness of Hobbit-speech. Peregrin Took, for instance, in his first few days at Minas Tirith used the familiar form to people of all ranks, including the Lord Denethor himself. This may have amused the aged Steward, but it must have astonished his servants. No doubt this free use of the familiar forms helped to spread the popular rumour that Peregrin was a person of very high rank in his own country. [1]

1. In one or two places an attempt has been made to hint at these distinctions by an inconsistent use of thou. Since this pronoun is now unusual and archaic it is employed mainly to represent the use of ceremonious language; but a change from you to thou/thee is sometimes meant to show, there being no other means of doing this, a significant change from the deferential, or between men and women normal, forms to the familiar.

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Old 06-21-2005, 11:12 PM   #18
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Silmaril New things…and forgive the length.

Halbarad said of what he bore when Aragorn asked him about it…
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‘It is a gift that I bring you from the Lady of Rivendell. She wrought it in secret, and long was the making. But she also sends word to you: The days now are short. Either our hope cometh, or all hopes end. Therefore I send thee what I have made for thee. Fare well, Elfstone!
It’s interesting to note that Halbarad did not actually define what he was bringing, but Aragorn figured it out. Perhaps it was the words that came with the gift that made it known. Their only hope at the time was for Aragorn to be made king, for as Elrond told him (as mentioned in the Appendix),
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‘Maybe, it has been appointed so, that by my loss the kingship of Men may be restored. Therefore, though I love you, I say to you: Arwen Undómiel shall not diminish her life’s grace for less cause. She shall not be the bride of any Man less than the King of both Gondor and Arnor.’ (italics mine)
All hopes end if this does not come to pass, if Sauron is not defeated. Another curious thing is that Arwen made it in secret, alone. Did she not want her father to see that she is (or will be, as we shall see chapters from this) instrumental in Aragorn’s victory and thus, in the end, their sundering for eternity? After Aragorn told Halbarad to bear it for him for the meantime, he looked away "to the North" and "fell silent and spoke no more." He’s thanking her through osanwë?

I have been wondering about this for the longest time, and only now did I finally understand how the Dúnedain have come. This was the response of Gimli and Legolas when Merry asked that:
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‘They answered a summons, as you heard,’ said Gimli. ‘Word came to Rivendell, they say: Aragorn has need of his kindred. Let the Dúnedain ride to him in Rohan! But whence this message came they are now I doubt. Gandalf sent it, I would guess.’
‘Nay, Galadriel,’ said Legolas. ‘Did she not speak through Gandalf of the Ride of the Grey Company from the North?’
Looking back at the return of Gandalf in The White Rider, he told Aragorn this message from Galadriel:
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Where now are the Dúnedain, Elessar, Elessar?
Why do thy kinsfolk wander afar?
Near is the hour when the Lost should come forth,
And the Grey Company ride form the North,
But dark is the path appointed for thee:
The Dead watch the road that leads to the Sea.
Aragorn, at that time, said nothing about this. But going back to this chapter, we can see that he has not forgotten the words; indeed, the circumstances are about to make them happen. Had Pippin not found the Palantír, had he not taken a look at it, had Gandalf not laid the charge of guarding it to Aragorn, no one would ever have found out the unexpected peril approaching Gondor. At first it seemed to me that Aragorn had broken his word in The Palantír
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‘Receive it, lord!’ [Gandalf] said: ‘in earnest of other things that shall be given back. But if I may counsel you in the use of your own, do not use it - yet! Be wary!’
‘When have I been hasty or unwary, who have waited and prepared for so many long years?’ said Aragorn.
‘Never yet. Do not then stumble at the end of the road,’ answered Gandalf.
for it has been only days since they had this conversation. But it was as if everything had been ordained and predestined, bringing about a turn of events that probably even Gandalf would never have foreseen. It was these series of happenings that confirmed for Aragorn the road he must take, and despite his reservations and Éowyn’s pleas later in the chapter, he must not be dissuaded. It was a different case for his companions, however. As he said to Éowyn:
Quote:
‘It is not madness, lady,’ he answered; ‘for I go on a path appointed. But those who follow me do so of their free will; and if they wish now to remain and ride with the Rohirrim, they may do so. But I shall take the Paths of the Dead, alone, if needs be.’ (italics mine)
Aragorn did two things at the same time as he said this: one, he explained the situation to Éowyn; and two, he has given his companions a chance to take a different road if they desire so. A perfect mix of predestination and free will this is, if I may say.

Speaking of Aragorn and Éowyn… there is more to their conversation than what they actually talk about and the emotions revealed. There is a shifting in their relationship as they talked. The last time they met, there is an invisible barrier of respect and unfamiliarity between them. But as Aragorn mentioned the road he is about to take:
Quote:
Then she stared at him as one that is stricken, and her face blanched, and for long she spoke no more, while all sat silent. ‘But, Aragorn,’ she said at last, ‘is it then your errand to seek death? For that is all that you will find on that road. They do not suffer the living to pass.’
At the prospect of losing the one she loves, she breaks, for her part, the barrier of respect by questioning his will. Interestingly, this coincides with the first time she has ever mentioned Aragorn’s name. But Aragorn maintains the barrier by referring to her still as ‘lady’. That night, Éowyn continued to take advantage of the now-open line of communication from herself to him:
Quote:
‘Aragorn,’ she said, ‘why will you go on this deadly road?’
‘Because I must,’ he said. ‘Only so can I see hope of doing my part in the war against Sauron. I do not choose paths of peril, Éowyn. Were I to go where my heart dwells, far in the North I would now be wandering in the fair valley of Rivendell.’
Now it was Aragorn who mentioned Éowyn’s name! But then right after that he finally revealed that he loves someone else. We do not know if Éowyn understood this, but afterwards she "laid her arm on his hand." Note that this is the first time either of them made deliberate physical contact with the other. (On a side note, it was at the very first, accidental, physical contact they had that Aragorn probably found out Éowyn’s feelings for him. Remember? The cup?) Perhaps it was the mention of her name that prompted Éowyn to do this, for by saying her name Aragorn has finally completely broken the barrier between them. Éowyn’s next words, though, brought an unexpected twist:
Quote:
‘Lord,’ she said, ‘if you must go, then let me ride in your following.
Just when the barriers are gone, Éowyn seemed to create another! But this time, I believe, the word ‘lord’ is used to mean ‘master’. The one who calls the shots. The one who is followed. And that’s exactly what Éowyn wanted Aragorn to be for her. Aragorn’s mention of Éowyn’s name brought about his turn, this time, to question Éowyn’s desire to follow him, just as Éowyn had done the first time. Their debate continues, and in the end, when neither of them would give in to the other, they closed up the barriers once again. Éowyn emphasized the return of their ceremonial respect for and relative unfamiliarity towards each other by using the word ‘thee’ (thanks to Aldarion for pointing it out and Encaitare for the quote), but, ironically, coupled it with the explicit revelation of her feelings.

The next day, we see that Aragorn has once again maintained his respect towards Éowyn as he called her “Lady of Rohan,” but Éowyn made a final act of desperation: she called him by name and knelt before him, but still referred to him as ‘thee’ or ‘thou’. Aragorn refused, but this time, moved by his emotions, he "[took] her by the hand and raised her." We can see that saying ‘nay’ to such a lady was no easy thing for him, perfectly gentlemanly as he is. *swoons, and falls over*

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Old 06-22-2005, 11:54 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Lhunardawen
Éowyn emphasized the return of their ceremonial respect for and relative unfamiliarity towards each other by using the word ‘thee’ (thanks to Aldarion for pointing it out and Encaitare for the quote), but, ironically, coupled it with the explicit revelation of her feelings.

The next day, we see that Aragorn has once again maintained his respect towards Éowyn as he called her “Lady of Rohan,” but Éowyn made a final act of desperation: she called him by name and knelt before him, but still referred to him as ‘thee’ or ‘thou’. Aragorn refused, but this time, moved by his emotions, he "[took] her by the hand and raised her." We can see that saying ‘nay’ to such a lady was no easy thing for him, perfectly gentlemanly as he is. *swoons, and falls over*
Actually, my understanding of the thou/you shift, and the bottom of the above quote provided will bear me out, is that in a conversation where the usage of you/thou shifts back and forth, "you" is a more respectful, more 'distant' usage, while "thou" is more familiar, the sort of thing a husband and wife would use when talking to each other.
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Old 06-22-2005, 06:56 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Formendacil
Actually, my understanding of the thou/you shift, and the bottom of the above quote provided will bear me out, is that in a conversation where the usage of you/thou shifts back and forth, "you" is a more respectful, more 'distant' usage, while "thou" is more familiar, the sort of thing a husband and wife would use when talking to each other.
Why, indeed the quote says that! Maybe only this part of the previous quote stuck to me:
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Since this pronoun is now unusual and archaic it is employed mainly to represent the use of ceremonious language
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Old 06-23-2005, 04:57 PM   #21
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In this chapter we get to see more of Eowyn and we get to know more of her feelings. Of course we already know that she cares for Aaragorn but now we also learn what she fears
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"A cage,-to stay behind bars, untill use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire."
(This is exactly what would happen if Sauron won.) Already Eowyn is stuck in one place and she is not given the freedom that she craves. She wants to be known because she hopes that this way she will also have more freedom and more of a say with what she wants to do, not what others want her to do.
But I do understand why Theoden wants her to stay behind at Edoras. He knows he can trust her and he knows that she will make the right desicions.
Those are som short thoughts for now. I'll probably post some more later.
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Old 06-23-2005, 05:08 PM   #22
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But I do understand why Theoden wants her to stay behind at Edoras. He knows he can trust her and he knows that she will make the right desicions.
Well, actually, evidence suggests that Theoden only thinks he can trust her and that she will do the right thing. What she did was not what he was expecting, to say the least.
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Old 06-24-2005, 12:16 AM   #23
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Well, actually, evidence suggests that Theoden only thinks he can trust her and that she will do the right thing. What she did was not what he was expecting, to say the least.
Interesting...

I think Theoden really trusted her from the beginning. After all, he agreed to Hama's(?) suggestion of putting her into position without a shadow of a doubt. And I do think that Eowyn had every intention of remaining in Edoras, though it is certain that she has entertained the thoughts of leaving her responsibility behind every once in a while. But Aragorn's 'visit' she did not expect, and that was the final nudge that made her set aside her uncle's charge. Correction: will make her.
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Old 06-24-2005, 08:41 AM   #24
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It certainly put the temptation in mind.

I think that her belief that Aragorn was going to his death in the Paths of the Dead probably spurred her as well.

My point was more that Theoden was ultimately mistaken in his belief in the reliability of Eowyn's behavior. She may have intended to remain behind, but then she was exposed to pressure.

Pressure made her behave in a way that was perhaps a little...*hoom-hoom*...hasty.
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Old 06-24-2005, 09:17 AM   #25
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'Too often have I heard of duty,' she cried. 'But am I not of the Houseof Eorl, a shieldmaiden and not a dry-nurse? I have waited on faltering feet long enough. Since they falter no longer, it seems, may I not now spend my life as I will?'
'Few may do that with honour,' he answered.
Theoden seems to have strongly impressed duty onto Eowyn. With the high value placed on duty and honor, he would have had no reason to think that Eowyn would abandon her charge, even if te thought had crossed her mind. I agree that her belief that Aragorn was going to his death helped spur her on to the decision; perhaps it was also related to the realization that Aragron did not return her love.

At any rate, it was fortunate that she did finally choose to leave Edoras.
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Old 06-24-2005, 09:54 AM   #26
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Theoden seems to have strongly impressed duty onto Eowyn.
This is true. But to some extent I think he may have been putting feelings and impulses onto Eowyn in his own mind that were inaccurate (this is a common problem).

He does not seem to entirely understand the impact all those years of taking care of him and listening to Wormtongue has had on her.
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Old 06-24-2005, 12:01 PM   #27
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This is getting to be a discussion for another thread, but...

If Eowyn is selfish in abandoning her responsibility, and wishing to go off to war and glory, is Theoden not equally guilty? After all, as both an old man and the king of Rohan, it would be more natural for him to remain at home, instead of Erkenbrand, and send the younger marshals out to command the army. Instead, he wants one last gasp at glory.

Now, I admit that Theoden had some more altruistic reasons than that- such as the morale it gives his men, but to Eowyn it might appear as such.

Perhaps Eowyn is following her uncle's example: first she does her duty, as does he, then she goes chasing after glory, as does he.
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Old 06-24-2005, 01:14 PM   #28
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s Theoden not equally guilty? After all, as both an old man and the king of Rohan
No not at all. In a warlike society, such as the Rohirrim, if the king is able to ride and lead the army to war, it is the duty of the king to ride and lead the army to war. That is part of his job description.

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but to Eowyn it might appear as such.
I seriously doubt that.

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Perhaps Eowyn is following her uncle's example: first she does her duty, as does he, then she goes chasing after glory, as does he.
I don't think so.
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Old 06-24-2005, 02:19 PM   #29
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is Theoden not equally guilty? After all, as both an old man and the king of Rohan
Remember, even when Theoden was under the influence of Saruman and Grima, it was still evident that he had some strength in him. He may be getting on in years, but he's hardly weak.

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No not at all. In a warlike society, such as the Rohirrim, if the king is able to ride and lead the army to war, it is the duty of the king to ride and lead the army to war. That is part of his job description.
Also, this was to be a last stand of sorts, and knowing they'd be greatly outnumbered, the Rohirrim would need all the morale they could get. To be fighting alongside the king would probably inspire his men to fight harder. It's more heartening to have the king right there than doing what might be seen as hiding away where it was safe.
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Old 06-24-2005, 10:43 PM   #30
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When I said that Theoden trusted Eowyn I meant that he knew that of all his captains etc.(who were going to war anyway) she would be the most capable of ruling Rohan if a crisis arose.He knew that she was strong enough.
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Old 06-25-2005, 09:12 AM   #31
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When I said that Theoden trusted Eowyn I meant that he knew that of all his captains etc. she would be the most capable of ruling Rohan if a crisis arose.He knew that she was strong enough.
True. Being of the royal family helped too.

(Actually, being of the royal family was the decisive factor).
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Old 06-25-2005, 03:18 PM   #32
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First of all, apologies for my late arrival! Secondly, further apologies if I repeat what others may have posted to some degree, as I feel a bit rushed. Thirdly, even more apologies for this being a bit long - I’m trying to get a fortnight’s posts into one. If anyone feels daunted, as the poet said, ‘Look, & pass.’

1

The chapter begins with Gandalf & Pippin having just departed - the Fellowship, having in part rejoined, has now broken up again. This fragmentation will continue in this chapter. Only four of the original nine remain. Soon three will depart - Aragorn, Legolas & Gimli - & Merry will be left alone. Its often overlooked that he, of all the Fellowship is left completely alone with ‘strangers’. Its understandable in a way that he feels like a piece of luggage. Merry ends up isolated from kith & kin, having to make his way among a group of men who all know each other, share a history & cullture & with high matters on their minds. He is a Hobbit who set off for an adventure many months back, who in many ways had been the leader of their expedition at the start. Even after their capture at Parth Galen, when it was just him & Pippin, one got the sense that (as far as he was concerned at least) he was the ‘leader’. To go from that to feeling like ‘a piece of baggage’ must have been a shock to the system to say the least. The appearance of the Dunedain can only have added to his feelings of insignificance. Great deeds are afoot - what can one lone(ly) Hobbit do but get in the way?

One can feel his despair:

Quote:
'Don't leave me behind!' said Merry. 'I have not been of much use yet; but I don't want to be laid aside, like baggage to be called for when all is over. I don't think the Riders will want to be bothered with me now. Though, of course, the king did say that I was to sit by him when he came to his house and tell him all about the Shire.'
'Yes,' said Aragorn, 'and your road lies with him, I think, Merry. But do not look for mirth at the ending. It will be long, I fear, ere Theoden sits at ease again in Meduseld. Many hopes will wither in this bitter Spring.'
He has not been much use, he says, no-one could possibly want to be bothered with him. Even though Aragorn tells him that his road lies with Theoden, he offers little hope for that road. Perhaps Aragorn’s own feelings of despair cloud his judgement, but from Merry’s point of view the situation could hardly seem worse. Worse will come, of course, but he will pass through the coming darkness. I can’t help but be reminded of the end of Bilbo’s tale. Both he & Merry find themselves in the midst of a terrible battle where the one they swore to serve is killed & both are made into better people as a result. Through suffering & loss they find maturity. Its also interesting that like Bilbo, Merry goes on to write books. There is a difference though - Bilbo’s books - his ‘Translations from the Elvish’ - deal with high & ancient glories of the lost past, whereas Merry’s are about the simple things of the Shire. As he will tell Pippin later, it is best to love first what you are fitted to love..& the soil of the Shiire is deep.

For now, though, his mind is on the situation at hand. He will die defending the King if needs be - like Fili & Kili long ago.


2

The Dunedain appear - summoned by Aragorn? Well, only in wish. Thirty have come with Halbarad, along with the Sons of Elrond. Thirty? What point is Tolkien making here? That the Dunedain of the north are a fading people - even gathering thirty together was a major achievement. Denethor, it seems, is right - if Aragorn is not exactly the last of a ragged house he is pretty close to being so. But these are Dunedain. Even thirty of them is a force to be reckoned with. They each bear a single star as insignia - as did the seven shipe that survived the downfall of Numenor - Seven Stars & Seven Stones & One White Tree....

It is Elrohir who passes on his father’s word about the Paths of the Dead, & Aragorn rejects it. This is interesting in itself. If he knows the words of the Seer & believes himself to be the Heir of Isildur then it is his destiny to take that road, but he is here seeking to avoid it. Halbarad then shows him the Standard of Arwen. This is the Standard of the King of the Dead - Aragorn himself, not the leader of the dead host. Yet Arwen has made this standard. The one who stands beneath that standard is King of both the Living & the Dead. In this we see Arwen’s foreknowledge & her power manifest. She is a ‘shadowy’ figure, little glimpsed in the story itself, but here she seems to be a ‘power’ - like her foremothers, Galadriel, Luthien & Melian. Whatever device she has woven onto the standard is invisible to mortal eyes - only the dead may read the signs upon it. As has been said before, the High Elves live in both worlds at once. Legolas will later say that he does not fear the dead, & in the folklore Tolkien drew upon the Elves have a close association with the dead - often there is no distinction made between them.

3

Aragorn looks into the Palantir, confronts & challenges Sauron

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'I have looked in the Stone of Orthanc, my friends.'
'You have looked in that accursed stone of wizardry!' exclaimed Gimli with fear and astonishment in his face. 'Did you say aught to--him? Even Gandalf feared that encounter.'
'You forget to whom you speak,' said Aragorn sternly, and his eyes glinted. 'What did you fear that I should say to him? Did I not openly proclaim my title before the doors of Edoras? Nay, Gimli,' he said in a softer voice, and the grimness left his face, and he looked like one who has laboured in sleepless pain for many nights. 'Nay, my friends, I am the lawful master of the Stone, and I had both the right and the strength to use it, or so I judged. The right cannot be doubted. The strength was enough--barely.'
He drew a deep breath. 'It was a bitter struggle, and the weariness is slow to pass. I spoke no word to him, and in the end I wrenched the Stone to my own will. That alone he will find hard to endure. And he beheld me. Yes, Master Gimli, he saw me, but in other guise than you see me here. If that will aid him, then I have done ill. But I do not think so. To know that I lived and walked the earth was a blow to his heart, I deem; for he knew it not till now. The eyes in Orthanc did not see through the armour of Theoden; but Sauron has not forgotten Isildur and the sword of Elendil. Now in the very hour of his great designs the heir of Isildur and the Sword are revealed; for I showed the blade re-forged to him. He is not so mighty yet that he is above fear; nay, doubt ever gnaws him.
Aragorn states his right to the stone - a right even Sauron himself does not have. In the battle of wills Aragorn came out the victor, wrenching the stone from the control of Sauron himself. Sauron has seen Aragorn - but in ‘other guise’ than Gimli sees him - what ‘other guise’? Legolas has already seen Aragorn with a ‘crown’ of flame flickering on his brow in the earlier confrontation with Eomer. How did Sauron see him? It seems that Aragorn is also a ‘dweller in both worlds’ - he is not what he seems. But with the passage of time that ‘inner’ Aragorn is surfacing, breaking through. This is not so much an evolution as a gradual revelation of his true nature.

Quote:
Over the land there lies a long shadow,
westward reaching wings of darkness.
The Tower trembles; to the tombs of kings
doom approaches. The Dead awaken;
for the hour is come for the oathbreakers:
at the Stone of Erech they shall stand again
and hear there a horn in the hills ringing.
Whose shall the horn be? Who shall call them
from the grey twilight, the forgotten people?
The heir of him to whom the oath they swore.
From the North shall he come, need shall drive him:
he shall pass the Door to the Paths of the Dead.
Here we have a glimpse of Aragorn, the King to come, seen by Malbeth centuries previously. Malbeth has seen that Aragorn shall walk the Paths of the Dead. So, what of free will in Middle earth? In a sense Aragorn has already walked the Paths of the Dead, because Malbeth has ‘seen’ him do it. So, where did Malbeth’s vision have its origin? Eru?


4

Aragorn leads the Grey Company into the Underworld, dwelling place of the Dead who have bound themselves to an eternity between the worlds, unable to die unless they are released by the heir of the one to whom the Oath they swore. They cannot release themselves from the oath of service they swore. It is binding on them.

Quote:
The company halted, and there was not a heart among them that did not quail, unless it were the heart of Legolas of the Elves, for whom the ghosts of Men have no terror.
What do they fear? Ghosts? Horror of the fate of the Oathbreakers? What power do the Oathbreakers have? Simple terror. Certainly this is what they use against the enemy when they come face to face with them later. It is the horror of death without release that the Oathbreakers exude, an eternity spent in the dark, not alone, but with others suffering in the same horrific way, horror feeding on horror with no end in sight, in full knowledge that they have brought it on themselves.

Yet Aragorn can release them, & he summons them to follow:

Quote:
'The Dead are following,' said Legolas. 'I see shapes of Men and of horses, and pale banners like shreds of cloud, and spears like winter-thickets on a misty night. The Dead are following.'
'Yes, the Dead ride behind. They have been summoned,' said Elladan.
The Elves can see the Dead following their company. Its interesting the way the Oathbreakers are called the Dead, capitalised. they are truly ‘Dead’ - bound within the Circles of the World by their oath. Mortals die, yes, but this is a release, a moving on to their destined home. The Oathbreakers cannot move on. They are the dead who cannot ever truly die.

Quote:
Long had the terror of the Dead lain upon that hill and upon the empty fields about it. For upon the top stood a black stone, round as a great globe, the height of a man, though its half was buried in the ground. Unearthly it looked, as though it had fallen from the sky, as some believed; but those who remembered still the lore of Westernesse told that it had been brought out of the ruin of Numenor and there set by Isildur at his landing. None of the people of the valley dared to approach it, nor would they dwell near; for they said that it was a trysting-place of the Shadow-men, and there they would gather in times of fear, thronging round the Stone and whispering.
The Dead can pass out from their dwelling & gather at the Stone brought by Isildur from Numenor. The stone is (or was) clearly sacred. What kind of ceremony was involved in the Oathtaking is difficult to imagine, but it was obviously not just a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that the Oathbreakers would ‘help out’ if they weren’t too busy that day. They swore an oath that would bind them, living or dead. Again, we see the power of oaths in Middle earth - once sworn they are inescapable. At this point we may remember that Merry himself has just sworn an oath of service to Theoden. The chapter begins with an oath sworn out of love by a simple Hobbit, which we may find touching. It ends with a display of the consequences of taking such an oath.

Aragorn summons the Dead to serve not him but the oath they swore. He is not binding them to his service but rather offering them a way out of Death. They not only accept but seem driven to do what they must to achieve release:

Quote:
and the Shadow Host pressed behind and fear went on before them, until they came to Calembel upon Ciril, and the sun went down like blood behind Pinnath Gelin away in the West behind them.
This is the chapter in which Aragorn’s true nature is made manifest to all. He has become King in all but title.
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Old 06-26-2005, 05:37 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by Formendacil
Perhaps Eowyn is following her uncle's example: first she does her duty, as does he, then she goes chasing after glory, as does he.
Actually, I was under the impression that she was chasing death at the time.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Encaitare
Also, this was to be a last stand of sorts, and knowing they'd be greatly outnumbered, the Rohirrim would need all the morale they could get. To be fighting alongside the king would probably inspire his men to fight harder. It's more heartening to have the king right there than doing what might be seen as hiding away where it was safe.
It could also have been his way of making things up to the Rohirrim after being such a useless king for so long.

Anyways, davem, what took you so long?

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
If he knows the words of the Seer & believes himself to be the Heir of Isildur then it is his destiny to take that road, but he is here seeking to avoid it. Halbarad then shows him the Standard of Arwen.
Perhaps he is still in a bit of denial about his kingship before being shown the standard, or he still desires to ride with the Rohirrim. It is interesting that indirectly, it was Arwen who nudged him into 'accepting his kingship'. (Undoubtedly, she has a lot to benefit from that.) Also, we see that Aragorn looked into the Palantir after being shown the standard. That act was the start of his 'journey' to kingship, as what he saw finally convinced him to take the Paths of the Dead. Not only that, he finally revealed himself to Sauron through the Palantir. All in all, he proved himself to be its rightful owner - to be king.
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Old 06-26-2005, 06:40 AM   #34
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Perhaps he is still in a bit of denial about his kingship before being shown the standard, or he still desires to ride with the Rohirrim.
I don't think he was in denial about his kingship. In the movies he was but I don't get that impression from the book. He may have been in doubt about which was the best way to go though...
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Old 06-26-2005, 12:25 PM   #35
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Baldor the Hapless

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Away to the left something glittered in the gloom as Aragorn's torch drew near. Then Aragorn halted and went to look what it might be.
'Does he feel no fear?' muttered the Dwarf. 'In any other cave Gimli Gloin's son would have been the first to run to the gleam of gold. But not here! Let it lie!'
Nonetheless he drew near, and saw Aragorn kneeling, while Elladan held aloft both torches. Before him were the bones of a mighty man. He had been clad in mail, and still his harness lay there whole; for the cavern's air was as dry as dust, and his hauberk was gilded. His belt was of gold and garnets, and rich with gold was the helm upon his bony head face downward on the floor. He had fallen near the far wall of the cave, as now could be seen, and before him stood a stony door closed fast: his finger-bones were still clawing at the cracks. A notched and broken sword lay by him, as if he had hewn at the rock in his last despair.
Aragorn did not touch him, but after gazing silently for a while he rose and sighed, 'Hither shall the flowers of simbelmyne come never unto world's end,' he murmured. 'Nine mounds and seven there are now green with grass, and through all the long years he has lain at the door that he could not unlock. Whither does it lead? Why would he pass? None shall ever know!
The first time I read this chapter I was struck by the finding of the body at the door. This is an ioncredibly creepy moment. as the Comppany pass through the Paths of the Dead they find a corpse. He is not one of the Dead - he is merely dead. At this point in the narrative we are told nothing about him - although Aragorn seems to know his story he does not ellucidate for the benefit of his companions. In fact, it is not till the next chapter that we start to be given his background:

Quote:
It is said that when the Eorlingas came out of the North and passed at length up the Snowbourn, seeking strong places of refuge in time of need, Brego and his son Baldor climbed the Stair of the Hold and so came before the Door. On the threshold sat an old man, aged beyond guess of years; tall and kingly he had been, but now he was withered as an old stone. Indeed for stone they took him, for he moved not, and he said no word, until they sought to pass him by and enter. And then a voice came out of him, as it were out of the ground, and to their amaze it spoke in the western tongue: The way is shut.
'Then they halted and looked at him and saw that he lived still; but he did not look at them. The way is shut, his voice said again. It was made by those who are Dead, and the Dead keep it, until the time comes. The way is shut.
'And when will that time be?' said Baldor. But no answer did he ever get. For the old man died in that hour and fell upon his face; and no other tidings of the ancient dwellers in the mountains have our folk ever learned. Yet maybe at last the time foretold has come, and Aragorn may pass.
We perhaps learn a little here about the nature of Baldor: he is not afraid to challenge this mysterous figure, the ‘guardian of the Door to the Paths of the Dead. He is also, it seems, an impatient young man. His innate curiosity comes across in the fact that though the man has told him that the way is shut until the time comes Baldor demands to know when that time shall be. This incident clearly plays on his mind - he cannot let it go. It seems to eat away at him, until opportunity arises:

Quote:
'No man knows,' said Theoden: 'yet ancient legend, now seldom spoken, has somewhat to report. If these old tales speak true that have come down from father to son in the House of Eorl, then the Door under Dwimorberg leads to a secret way that goes beneath the mountain to some forgotten end. But none have ever ventured in to search its secrets, since Baldor, son of Brego, passed the Door and was never seen among men again. A rash vow he spoke, as he drained the horn at that feast which Brego made to hallow new-built Meduseld, and he came never to the high seat of which he was the heir

(2512-70: 2. Brego. He drove the enemy out of the Wold, and Rohan was not attacked again for many years. In 2569 he completed the great hall of Meduseld. At the feast his son Baldor vowed that he would tread 'the Paths of the Dead' and did not return.*2 Brego died of grief the next year.)
At Theoden’s funeral we are given Baldor’s ‘nickname’:

Quote:
Then a minstrel and loremaster stood up and named all the names of the Lords of the Mark in their order: Eorl the Young; and Brego builder of the Hall; and Aldor brother of Baldor the hapless.
It’s interesting to look at the varioous meanings of the word ‘Hapless’:http://thesaurus.reference.com/search?q=hapless. There are various meanings, ranging from unlucky to cursed.

So, Baldor swears his rash vow at the feast, & dies mysteriously on the Paths of the Dead. We don’t know what he sought, but its clear that he didn’t die trying to escape from the Paths, but to get through the door he found in the cave wall:
Quote:
He had fallen near the far wall of the cave, as now could be seen, and before him stood a stony door closed fast: his finger-bones were still clawing at the cracks. A notched and broken sword lay by him, as if he had hewn at the rock in his last despair.
It seems his ‘despair’ was not related to his inability to escape but to his inability to get through the door. What was on the other side - or, more importantly, what did Baldor believe was on the other side of it? Had the dead shown him something, only to take it away? Could he have escaped but chose not to go, preferring to die there? Or was it that he had become trapped by the Dead & saw the door as his only escape from them? We’ll never know, & I think that’s why this episode is at once so mysterious & disturbing. We both want to know what happened and at the same time do [/i]not[/i]!

Something else struck me. Baldor’s place in the royal line is taken by his younger brother, Aldor:

Quote:
2544-2645: 3. Aldor the Old. He was Brego's second son. He became known as the Old, since he lived to a great age, and was king for 75 years. In his time the Rohirrim increased, and drove out or subdued the last of the Dunlendish people that lingered east of Isen. Harrowdale and other mountain-valleys were settled.
Is anyone else struck by the similarity between Baldor/Aldor & Boromir/Faramir? The older brother in each case is reckless, proud & ‘hapless’. Each falls, to be replaced by a wiser younger brother, who is more suited to rule. Maybe it was better in each case that the older brother died. Boromir redeems himself in his fall, Baldor, on the other hand, remains an example of folly. In the end, whatever vow he took in the Hall that night is not recorded - to go & return? To dare the Paths whetever betide? To test the old man’s words? Like the exact reason for his death in the darkness, we’ll never know. Certainly, it seems his fate was sealed by the old man’s words. And given the situation of the old man, one may be forgiven for wondering if, after all Baldor was cursed.
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Old 06-27-2005, 01:42 PM   #36
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To borrow Davem's quote...

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The company halted, and there was not a heart among them that did not quail, unless it were the heart of Legolas of the Elves, for whom the ghosts of Men have no terror.
I find this an interesting line- almost the illustration of the difference between Elves and Half-Elves. Remember, Elladan and Elrohir are not mentioned here!

Quite often, I feel, people have the tendency to focus on the Elven-half of the Half-Elves. Perhaps that's because the most prominent Half-Elves: Earendil, Elwing, and Elrond chose Elven-kind. And as noted when Elladan and Elrohir arrive at the start of this chapter, the Elvish blood in them differentiates them immediately from their human kindred the first time we speak of them:

Quote:
"But even as Aragorn, they are courteous, if they break their silence," said Legolas. "And have you maked the brethern Elladan and Elrohir? Less sombre is their gear than the others', and they are fair and gallant as Elven-lords; and that is not to be wondered at in the sons of Elrond of Rivendell."
And Elladan and Elrohir are only approximately one-quarter Elf, as their mother was a full-blooded Elf.

Not a huge point, to be made, but I found it fascinating to see a hint of "Man" in these Half-Elves so often portrayed only according to their Elven "half".
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Old 06-29-2005, 08:58 AM   #37
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In this chapter a lot of things happen, some of which I remembered clearly (e.g. the scene with Eowyn) and others I had quite forgotten (eg that the rangers had brought Aragorn's horse Roheryn, and how their horses had such a love for their masters that they followed them into the path of the dead.)

I quite agree with Davem about Merry!

Aragorn becomes more and more a hero who is more than human. He even has the strength to wrench the palantír from Sauron! - yet this description is very touching
Quote:
He looked like one who had laboured in sleepless pain for many nights
and shows that he is not a "superman".
Quote:
originally written by Formendacil:
One thing that I find somewhat... annoying about this chapter, is the fact that Aragorn's confrontation with Sauron is just passed over, referred to after the fact.
This would be very difficult to describe - I think it is much more effectful to have just Aragorn tell about it, and show the effect it had on him.

I, too, wondered about Malbeth's prophecy. For how long had Aragorn known that he was the one it referred to ? Still, I think he was not constrained to go that way, it was just that he had that option, that nobody else had. The silver horn Elrohir gave to him (another fact I had forgotten) must have been Isildur's, and Elrond had kept it for that purpose.

The meeting with Eowyn is a very well known and beloved scene, and many girls I know sort of identify with her rebellious longing for freedom and great deeds.(not me, though, I'm more the stay-at-home-type ) It is quite exceptional for a woman in that time, and very brave, to reveal her feelings in that way!
Quote:
Lhunardawen wrote:
Actually, I was under the impression that she was chasing death at the time.
I'm not quite sure here either. First, Eowyn was dismayed that Aragorn would choose the Paths of the Dead because she was convinced that he would not survive it. Then she offers, nay begs him, to take her with him. Did she mean to die together with him? If he would have ridden to battle with Théoden and Eomer, would she still have wanted to accompany him?

And here is this theme again (that I pointed out in the chapter "The stairs of Cirith Ungol", about Frodo):
to do one's duty is what is most important, not the striving after individual happiness (as it is in most modern novels.); even if one gets no renown for it. This has become a very rare virtue nowadays!
Quote:
Eowyn: "....may I not spend my life as I will?"
Aragorn: "Few may do that with honour."
Aragorn: Then there will be need of valour without renown, for none shall remember the deeds that are done in the last defence of your homes. Yet the deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised."
Aragorn himself puts duty over what he would prefer to do:
Quote:
"Because I must." he said. "Only so can I see any hope of doing my part in the war against Sauron."
Halbarad, too, does what he feels to be his duty, even if it may cost his life:
Quote:
"This is an evil door" said Halbarad "and my death lies beyond it. I will dare to pass it nonetheless."
I have had discussions (in a German Forum) with people who critiziced Tolkien's style for being "not emotional enough", because the thoughts and feelings of the protagonists were not described elaborately. To them, the characters seemed somehow "flat" and "cold". I myself don't have that impression at all!
Of course, we cannot see into Aragorn's mind like into that of Sam and the hobbits, because he is an almost mythical hero to look up to, not to identify with. So we see him only "from the outside" , yet such descriptions like
Quote:
And he turned and looked away to the North under the great stars, and then he fell silent and spoke no more while the night's journey lasted.
and
Quote:
Then he kissed her hand, and sprang into the saddle, and rode away, and did not look back; and only those who knew him well and were near to him saw the pain that he bore.
speak more than a thousand words and give a glimpse of emotion and character depth.


Something which makes me wonder, is the stone of Erech: a globe that has the heighth of a man, and has been brought from Númenor and set up by Isildur himself.. Surely there must have been a reason to take this heavy thing aboard a ship when fleeing from disaster? It must have had special power, I guess. And did that power have anything to do with the effect of the oath they swore upon that stone?
Quote:
Lhunardewen wrote: What authority does Isildur have to keep the Dead from completely departing from Middle Earth? After all, he himself is merely a Man.
I wondered if it has anything to do with the stone of Erech.

Aragorn tells the Dead:
Quote:
"...and when all this land is clean of the servants of Sauron, I will hold the oath fulfilled."
What exactly does he mean by "all this land"? Not the whole realm apparently, because he will release them after the battle with the corsairs at Pelargir. (Obviously, PJ had the opinion that this was too early! ) Perhaps he means the land that the oathbreakers had originally inhabited?
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Last edited by Guinevere; 06-29-2005 at 09:01 AM. Reason: a mistake when quoting
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Old 06-29-2005, 12:43 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by Guinevere
Halbarad, too, does what he feels to be his duty, even if it may cost his life:
You remind me of a point I wanted to bring up here: Habarad does die on the Fields of Pelennor - was this an example of foresight, or simply pessimism that proved true? If it was the former then it shows amazing courage to go forward with Aragorn. I suspect this was a case of foresight, as why else would Tolkien put that scene in?

Quote:
Something which makes me wonder, is the stone of Erech: a globe that has the heighth of a man, and has been brought from Númenor and set up by Isildur himself.. Surely there must have been a reason to take this heavy thing aboard a ship when fleeing from disaster? It must have had special power, I guess. And did that power have anything to do with the effect of the oath they swore upon that stone?
I seem to remember from HoMe that the Stone of Erech was originally to be a Palantir...
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Old 06-29-2005, 03:04 PM   #39
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'All is well,' said Aragorn, turning back. 'Here are some of my own kin from the far land where I dwelt. But why they come, and how many they be, Halbarad shall tell us.'

'I have thirty with me,' said Halbarad. 'That is all of our kindred that could be gathered in haste; but the brethren Elladan and Elrohir have ridden with us, desiring to go to the war. We rode as swiftly as we might when your summons came.'

'But I did not summon you,' said Aragorn, 'save only in wish. My thoughts have often turned to you, and seldom more than tonight; yet I have sent no word.
Here I get the sense that many are looking out for Aragorn, prepared to give him help where he did not seek it or ask for it, but where others can see it is needed. At first it seems Aragorn has summoned his kindred himself, but it appears they have been brought here at the instigation of Galadriel. As an aside, it is still possible that she had read Aragorn's 'wishes' in the field; he would have had considerable powers of osanwe having lived amongst the Elves, but I would assume Galdriel had greater such skills and he could not block his mind to her, even if he wished.

Yet Aragorn has not asked for his kindred to ride to him, it has been done on his behalf. This throws into relief Gandalf's parting words about the Palantir. He has acted as a mentor to Aragorn, it also appears that Galadriel and Elrond are doing the same. The ways of Elves and Men may have parted, but in some cases they clearly have not.

Quote:
'I bring word to you from my father: The days are short. If thou art in haste, remember the Paths of the Dead.'
'Always my days have seemed to me too short to achieve my desire,' answered Aragorn. 'But great indeed will be my haste ere I take that road.'
'That will soon be seen,' said Elrohir. 'But let us speak no more of these things upon the open road!'
Even Elladan and Elrohir seem 'in' on the higher powers which are hoping to guide Aragorn. They do not only bring a message to him but when Aragorn expresses his doubts, they dismiss them. Is there anything wrong in the actions of the Elves in guiding Aragorn to such a great extent? Here we have a Man with the greatest potential of his time, and yet the Elves are giving him much more than strategic guidance.

However, in this chapter we also get to see Aragorn's growing self assurance:

Quote:
You forget to whom you speak,' said Aragorn sternly, and his eyes glinted. 'What did you fear that I should say to him? Did I not openly proclaim my title before the doors of Edoras? Nay, Gimli,' he said in a softer voice, and the grimness left his face, and he looked like one who has laboured in sleepless pain for many nights. 'Nay, my friends, I am the lawful master of the Stone, and I had both the right and the strength to use it, or so I judged. The right cannot be doubted. The strength was enough--barely.'
When he speaks to Gimli here at first he is harsh, even boastful, and he brings up the mistake he almost made at Edoras. These are hints of the older Aragorn who is now slowly changing into the kingly Man he will become. Maybe it is the renewed influence of the familiar Dunedain which causes him to slip back into his old manner for a moment? But his arrogance soon falls away again and he states the facts as he saw them, that he was entitled to use the Palantir, and he emphasises just how difficult it was for him to use it. He shows that the experience has humbled him.

Quote:
'If you would understand them better, then I bid you come with me,' said Aragorn; 'for that way I now shall take. But I do not go gladly; only need drives me. Therefore, only of your free will would I have you come, for you will find both toil and great fear, and maybe worse.'
Aragorn now makes the first use of this leadership tactic, offering the chance to turn down a mission, just as he does on the way to the Black Gate. This also shows his growing confidence. He is assured that Legolas and Gimli are his friends and would not think of turning aside, and he is confident enough to make it so that they would also find it hard to refuse in any case.

Quote:
Bells were ringing far below, and all men fled before the face of Aragorn; but the Grey Company in their haste rode like hunters, until their horses were stumbling with weariness. And thus, just ere midnight, and in a darkness as black as the caverns in the mountains, they came at last to the Hill of Erech.
What I want to know is what would have happened to the Grey Company if they had not reached the Stone of Erech before midnight?
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Old 06-29-2005, 03:27 PM   #40
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Just in passing, I have to quote Aragorn's response to Gimli after looking in the Palantir from an early draft:

Quote:
'You looked in the Stone?' said Gimli, amazed, awestruck & rather alarmed. 'What did you tell - him?'

'What did I tell him? said Aragorn sternly, & his eyes glinted. ' That I had a rascal of a rebel Dwarf here that I would exchange for a couple of good orcs, thank you!...'
Also, on the Stone of Erech, the development of the idea is kind of interesting. Originally it was to have been a Palantir, then there was to have been a Palantir in a Tower at the site. Finally, we just have the great stone. It seems that in Tolkien's mind there was to have been some kind of 'link' between the Palantir of Erech & the Dead. The only thing that springs to mind is that the Palantiri were not simply a means of seeing what was happening in the present moment, but also, in some way, retained images of the past - things that had been seen in them. Maybe the Stone of Erech would have shown the original meeting of Isildur & the men of the Mountain, kind of duplicating the moment of their swearing of service to Isildur & his heir - pure speculation for novelty value.
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