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Old 01-03-2010, 02:51 PM   #1
Ibrīnišilpathānezel
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Question Thrice shall pay for... what?

This is something that popped into my head during a long drive this morning. For some reason, the Eagles came to mind, specifically Gwaihir, which brought to mind a recent discussion concerning Gandalf's apparent "weight" after his rescue from Zirak-zigil. Before the gates of Mordor, after the Ring has gone into the fire and Gandalf asks Gwaihir to take him to find Frodo and Sam, he says, "Thrice shall pay for all, if you are willing."

Pay for what?

I have heard many debates as to whether or not Gwaihir is the King of the Eagles in the Hobbit, and this comment of Gandalf's alone would convince me that he is not. After all, if the various rescues and conveyances were to be considered part of a repayment for Gandalf having healed the wound of the Eagle King and Gwaihir was that King, then this would be the fourth time he came Gandalf's aid, not the third (and that isn't counting the help in the Battle of the Five Armies). If that is so, what debt was Gwaihir repaying? Is it some kind of Eagle honor thing, that the kin and/or vassals of the King owe the Wizard a debt for saving his life, or did something else happen? I've been going through various books looking for an answer, but danged if I can see one. Am I just missing this in my haste, or was it something left unanswered? Any thoughts?
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Old 01-03-2010, 03:04 PM   #2
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Gandalf was chosen as one of the emissaries to Middle-earth by Manwė, who could be said to be the ultimate authority of all birds in Arda. I've always thought the Eagles' aiding Gandalf throughout his time there to be due to that, mostly. He still could have healed an eagle-lord of an arrow-wound to seal their friendship even more, though.
Perhaps in that quote Gandalf meant 'If you do as I ask just once more, I will consider your service to me at an end'. After all, Gandalf knew at that time that Sauron had fallen, and his mission, and time in Middle-earth, were over.
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Old 01-03-2010, 03:20 PM   #3
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I have no doubt at all that the Eagles were friendly toward Gandalf because of his affiliation with Manwe (since it seems that every time they show up, Gandalf is there and somehow involved). It's the nature of that particular comment that really puzzles me. "Twice you have borne me, thrice shall pay for all." He's been counting, which makes it seem (to me at least) as though there is some specific debt involved, to which he is referring, but which is never specified.

I kinda like the idea of it being a subtle way of saying that the Eagles' service to that particular servant of Manwe would be over, though.
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Old 01-03-2010, 03:35 PM   #4
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From LotR Book VI, The Field of Cormallen, it seems to me that Gwaihir's brother Landroval, rather than Gwaihir himself, was the King of Eagles mentioned in The Hobbit:
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There came Gwaihir the Windlord, and Landroval his brother, greatest of all the Eagles of the North, mightiest of the descendants of old Thorondor
If the rules for Eagle royalty were similar to those observed among earthbound bipeds, it would make sense for the King not to go venturing forth far and wide from his own realm that often (unless he was leading his host to war, as in the Battle of the Five Armies and the Battle of the Morannon), whereas Gwaihir, as the King's (presumably) younger brother, would have had more freedom to deal actively with matters of foreign policy (such as rescuing allied Wizards from towers or mountain tops). He may even have been acting as the King's emissary, paying Gandalf for a service not given to himself but his brother, when Landroval's other royal obligations kept him from coming to Gandalf's aid in person.
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Old 01-03-2010, 07:36 PM   #5
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From LotR Book VI, The Field of Cormallen, it seems to me that Gwaihir's brother Landroval, rather than Gwaihir himself, was the King of Eagles mentioned in The Hobbit:
That could be the case, but I don't think the quote you cite is conclusive. It could also be read that Landroval and Gwaihir were the 'greatest of all the Eagles of the North'.
Nevertheless, you're probably right about Gwaihir not being the 'king' of the Eagles. Whenever he's mentioned, it always seems to be in the terms of his being the 'swiftest', or having 'far-seeing eyes', and you'd think if he was the ruler of the Eagles that fact would be somewhere noted.
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Old 01-05-2010, 09:06 AM   #6
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Nevertheless, you're probably right about Gwaihir not being the 'king' of the Eagles. Whenever he's mentioned, it always seems to be in the terms of his being the 'swiftest', or having 'far-seeing eyes', and you'd think if he was the ruler of the Eagles that fact would be somewhere noted.
Well the eagles are names as vassals of Gwaihir and Landroval, however only Gwaihir bears the name "the Windlord"; considering the nature of this race, this title should establish his prominence among all the other eagles - I am not quite sure we can imagine another title surpassing it in significance.
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Old 01-05-2010, 11:34 AM   #7
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Well the eagles are names as vassals of Gwaihir and Landroval, however only Gwaihir bears the name "the Windlord"; considering the nature of this race, this title should establish his prominence among all the other eagles - I am not quite sure we can imagine another title surpassing it in significance.
Now you mention it, it strikes me that "Windlord" is almost a paraphrase of Manwe's own title - Lord of the Breath of Arda. That certainly does suggest he was an Eagle of exceptionally lofty rank. Landroval's name, in comparison, merely means something like "Broad Wing", if I remember my Sindarin right - indicative of stature but not status. Good point.
But if we assume Gwaihir was the King of Eagles from TH, something seems wrong with Gandalf's mathematics, as Ibrin pointed out at the start. Don't pretend Wizards can't count!
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Old 01-05-2010, 11:42 AM   #8
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Well the eagles are names as vassals of Gwaihir and Landroval, however only Gwaihir bears the name "the Windlord"; considering the nature of this race, this title should establish his prominence among all the other eagles - I am not quite sure we can imagine another title surpassing it in significance.
Then again, Windlord could have been simply another reference to his exceptional speed and flying ability. As I said though, there's certainly room for question there.
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Old 01-05-2010, 03:28 PM   #9
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It's even possible that Gwaihir is the current king of the Eagles, since quite a few years have passed since TH, and his predecessor might well have died, from age or illness or an orc arrow (though why the Eagle king should be running errands to Orthanc for Radagast is another thing that makes me think he isn't). Which still makes me wonder: what debt does Gwaihir owe to Gandalf, that thrice should pay for all? It's an untold story, as far as I can tell, and my digging through the HoME books hasn't provided any greater illumination yet.

*sigh*
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Old 01-05-2010, 03:40 PM   #10
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It could just be a literary red-herring (hmm...is that a term? ) used by Tolkien to justify the Eagles insertion into the story. Tolkien calls the Eagles "dangerous machines" that have to be used sparingly, because they are servants of Manwe, and having the Eagles constantly get Gandalf out of tough situations is cheap writing.

Maybe Tolkien just wrote an unexplained "debt" Gwaihir owed Gandalf, to somehow justify Gwaihir's timely appearances and rescues?
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Old 01-05-2010, 05:54 PM   #11
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Another possibility came to mind, prompted by something I remembered Bilbo saying in The Hobbit.

The quote from ROTK that began this thread runs thus:

Quote:
'Twice you have borne me, Gwaihir my friend,' said Gandalf. 'Thrice shall pay for all, if you're willing.'
When telling the Dwarves he was willing to go back down the tunnel to see if Smaug was gone, Bilbo said:

Quote:
"'While there's life there's hope!' as my father used to say, and 'Third time pays for all!'"
The 'and' indicates the 'Third time' bit was another of Bungo's sayings. Might Gandalf not have been merely using a little phrase he picked up among those charming and absurd Hobbits, having no particular meaning behind it?
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Old 01-05-2010, 06:52 PM   #12
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Might Gandalf not have been merely using a little phrase he picked up among those charming and absurd Hobbits, having no particular meaning behind it?
I suspect that this may well be the answer. 'Third time pays for all' is a proverbial saying, apparently dating from the 16th century. And we know how much Hobbits love their proverbs, saws and sayings! As I recall, Sam also refers to the phrase at some point, as one of the many that his old Gaffer used to say (perhaps that's where Bungo picked it up from).

Its meaning is seemingly similar to the phrases 'third time lucky' and 'third time's a charm', involving the concept that a third attempt is somehow likely to be more successful than previous attempts (possibly related to the idea of three as a lucky number). The 'pays for all' part, it seems, is intended to convey the idea that this third successful attempt will make up for the disappointment of earlier unsuccessful attempts.

How this relates to Gandalf's words to Gwaihir, I am not sure. Obviously, his earlier journies on the Great Eagle's back were not failures. His use of the phrase, though, suggests to me that he merely intended this to be the final of his journies with the Eagle. In other words, another way of saying 'This will be the last time I burden you, old friend'.

As for the possible contradiction between Gandalf's words and the number of times he may have been borne by Gwaihir, this may simply have been Gandalf misremembering, but I would think the most likely explanation is that Gwaihir (whether King or not) is not the same Eagle as the King of the Eagles that bore him in The Hobbit.
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Old 01-05-2010, 08:07 PM   #13
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I suspect that this may well be the answer. 'Third time pays for all' is a proverbial saying, apparently dating from the 16th century. And we know how much Hobbits love their proverbs, saws and sayings! As I recall, Sam also refers to the phrase at some point, as one of the many that his old Gaffer used to say (perhaps that's where Bungo picked it up from).
Ah! You're right about Sam saying it at least once.

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'Gollum!' he called softly. 'Third time pays for all. I want some herbs.'
That after Gollum had brought him the rabbits, then water in Ithilien.
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Old 01-05-2010, 08:40 PM   #14
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I'll grant that this does sound like a Hobbit bit of phraseology. Even so, Bilbo and Sam don't bother to mention the other previous instances that are being counted as a part of the third time; Gandalf does. It makes me think that something particular was in his mind. As for Tolkien's... well, perhaps he was thinking of Gwaihir as the Eagle King in TH? Heaven knows, it must have been tough to keep so many details perfectly straight in his own mind. Hmmm.... Maybe, if Gwaihir and the Eagle King are the same bird, then the instance in TH didn't count because it was a group rescue and not a personal favor for Gandalf alone...?

Still puzzling....
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Old 01-05-2010, 10:12 PM   #15
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I'll grant that this does sound like a Hobbit bit of phraseology. Even so, Bilbo and Sam don't bother to mention the other previous instances that are being counted as a part of the third time; Gandalf does. It makes me think that something particular was in his mind.
Not to belabour the point, but Bilbo said it another time, before the previous quote I mentioned.

Quote:
"If you mean you think it is my job to go into the secret passage first, O Thorin Thrįin's son Oakenshield, may your beard grow ever longer," he said crossly, "say so at once and have done! I might refuse. I have got you out of two messes already, which were hardly in the original bargain, so that I am, I think, already owed some reward. But 'third time pays for all' as my father used to say, and somehow I don't think I shall refuse."
It's not proof by any means, but the recurrence of the phrase throughout the books pretty well convinces me it was just a throwaway remark on Gandalf's part, possibly having the dual meaning of a subtle 'Thank you and Good Night' to Gwaihir.
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Old 01-06-2010, 09:19 AM   #16
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Not to belabour the point, but Bilbo said it another time, before the previous quote I mentioned.
Okay, go ahead and belabor it. I forgot the entirety of that particular passage (as I haven't been consulting TH directly and admittedly don't know it as well as the other books. I read LotR when I was 11 and loved it. I kept trying to read TH and didn't manage to get through it until I was somewhere in my 20s. Different style of presentation, I suppose).

There does seem to be a certain "after this, I will ask nothing more of you" aspect to Gandalf's statement. And if one looks at Bilbo's statement, there appears to be an oddness to it, in that Bilbo owes the Dwarves nothing, they are in fact in his debt, and yet they are asking more of him. Which gives the phrase an almost "third strike and you're out" feel, saying that he will allow this much and no more. So perhaps it really is the nature of the phrase that bears the closer examination and not a debt that may not even exist. The point of confusion, in my muzzy brain at least, is no doubt the matter of the Eagle King who owed a genuine debt to Gandalf.

As I can get into etymology and semantics just as happily, I find that giving the exchange between Gwaihir and Gandalf more thought, Gandalf's addition of "if you are willing" would indicate that the phrase is being employed in the Hobbitish manner that Bilbo used. He is in Gwaihir's debt, and if Gwaihir is willing to do this final favor, he will ask no more of him, even though Gwaihir appears perfectly willing to do more, as he answers "I will bear you whither you would, though you were made of stone" (quoting from memory, here, please excuse any errors).

Okay, so it would seem that the Hobbits have a somewhat peculiar phrase that Gandalf adopted and applied to matters between himself and Gwaihir. I'll buy that. And I'll also buy the truth that no matter how many times you've read a beloved book, there are always things you miss.
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