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Old 03-08-2005, 07:40 PM   #1
Feanor of the Peredhil
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Silmaril No Living Man

Feeling slightly guilty for not having a half dozen quotes and sources at the ready. I've been encouraged to post this thread any how. (Searches came up with related topics, but nothing close enough for me to tug the topic in my direction).

The Witch King cannot be killed (edit: hindered) by any living man. That's a given. We already know that. So the theory (which works, of course), is that, by default, he can be killed (edit: hindered) by a living woman. But what about an unliving man? Isn't that a second default? What of the Dead Army? What effect would the King of the Dead, who no man but Aragorn can command, have?

It has been pointed out that the Dead Army doesn't necessarily weild death, but the Witch King isn't exactly alive, is he?

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Edit:
Quote:
"Hinder me? Thou Fool. No living man may hinder me!" (RotK, The Battle of the Pelennor Fields, page 127)
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Old 03-08-2005, 07:47 PM   #2
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Actually, I think the book says he WILL not be killed by any man, but my books are at home and I am not. In other words, it's not mandatory, it's just a prediction of how it will actually turn out to be (and so it does!)

Of course that does not answer your question. Could a non-living man kill him? I suppose, the King of the Dead could knock him off, or the barrow-wight (though he was in control of the barrow-wight himself.) It's been speculated that even a man could kill him, just that it was fortold that's not the way it would happen. No Living Man Would kill him. It'd be something else.
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Old 03-08-2005, 08:20 PM   #3
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Tolkien

"Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall," is what Glorfindel said. No mention in there of "living." I think that was added over the years. So maybe an unliving woman could have killed him.
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Old 03-08-2005, 08:24 PM   #4
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1420!

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Actually, I think the book says he WILL not be killed by any man, but my books are at home and I am not. In other words, it's not mandatory, it's just a prediction of how it will actually turn out to be (and so it does!)
That's what Glorfindel (and some other dude) says. Definitely a lot different than "no man COULD kill the Witch-king." To say "could" would mean absolutely no man would be able to kill the Wikkie.

Where as said by Glorfindel means "no man WILL kill the Wikkie," could mean that it's possible a man could kill the WK, but he won't be killed by man. Then there's even the possibility that the quote only means "men" as in the race, not as in male. Possibly Gandalf, Glorfindel, Elrond...etc would have been able to kill the WK, but we will never know. I doubt a "man" would have been able to kill the WK. I mean Earnur already challenged him (said to be the best mortal fighter during his time) and ended up losing, so...I don't know maybe Hurin?

I think it's also clear that a man could have killed the WK (if they had the Sword of westernesse). If Merry was a tad taller and had stabbed the WK in the back...hmmm...

As for a question about an "unliving" man. I don't know, it doesn't mention the Army of the Dead to be used for fighting purposes, but were just used to scare off the pirates. Could they have been effective in the "living Middle-earth?" Effective as in being able to kill others from another parallel dimension? There's all sorts of dimensions in Middle-earth, and I'm just getting myself more confused, maybe something I need to think on when I'm well rested.
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Old 03-08-2005, 08:26 PM   #5
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this is from the book at the battle. as he comes for Theoden, Eowyn steps in front, and action.

Quote:
Eowyn- "Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!"

Witch King- "Come not between the Nazgul and his prey! Or he not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye."

Eowyn- "Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may."

Witch King- "Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!"

Eowyn- "But no living man am I! You look apon a women. Eowyn I am, Eomund's daughter. You stand between me and lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him."
so to me i think he is just saying that any other "man" would not have the strength or courage to defeat/kill him. and that it took someone with extreme courage to stand up to him. thats just me. bc i would consider Merry a man, wouldnt you? some may say no he was a Hobbit well then speaking like that wouldnt it fit to say that an elf would be able to kill him then? in my opinion it was just a boast of his power.
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Old 03-08-2005, 09:12 PM   #6
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Sting Man! Indeed not!

First of all, can a mature male hobbit be called a man?

Lolidir wrote:
Quote:
bc i would consider Merry a man, wouldnt you? some may say no he was a Hobbit
Let's go to a good source on this question:

Quote:
'I will vouch for him before the seat of Denethor,' said Gandalf. 'And as for valour, that cannot be computed by stature. He has passed through more battles and perils than you have, Ingold, though you be twice his height; and he comes now from the storming of Isengard, of which we bear tidings, and great weariness is on him, or I would wake him. His name is Peregrim, a very valiant man.'

'Man?' said Ingold dubiously, and the others laughed.

'Man!' cried Pippin, now thoroughly roused. 'Man! Indeed not! I am a hobbit and no more valiant than I am a man, save perhaps now and again by necessity. Do not let Gandlaf deceive you!'
If a hobbit says that a hobbit is not a man, then I think that question is settled.

This is of course the reason why we debate whose blow actually killed/destroyed the Witch King - Eowyn's or Merry's. (But that is discussed on another thread.)

But back to the initial question posed by Feanor of the Peredhil which I think I can paraphrase as 'Could the Witch King have been killed by an unliving man or unliving woman?ĺ.

Note that Glorfindel does not include the adjective 'living' in the following excerpt from Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers; I, The N˙menorean Kings; (iv) Gondor and the Heirs of Anarion (just before The Stewards section):

Quote:
ĺEńrnur now rode back, but Glorfindel, looking into the gathering dark, said: ôDo not pursue him! He will not return to this land. Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall.ö These words many remembered; but Eńrnur was angry desiring only to be avenged for his disgrace.
So, 'Could the Witch King have been killed by an unliving man or unliving woman?ĺ
is not relevant to the actual 'prophecy' by Glorfindel. Sorry about that. (I really didn't know what my conclusion was going to be until I searched through the quotes.)
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Old 03-09-2005, 03:20 AM   #7
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Pipe The Gift of Prophecy.

Only ╔owyn (with the help of Merry, of course) could have killed the Witch-King. No other.

To prophesy you have to go beyond the constraints of time and see . . . well . . . time. Case in point: Remember the vision of AinulindalŰ? This is where the Ainur got some of their prophetic ability from. Add to that their personal contributions to the making of Eń, they know pretty much more about the future than anyone else in Arda.

So, when Glorfindel says, "Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall," he already saw Witch-King's fall in Minas Tirith, brought about by ╔owyn. As ╔owyn didn't exist yet at that time (or perhaps the vision was not clear--I don't know), I don't think he could have put a name to the face he saw.

Of course, this introduces the predestination vs. free will debate into the mix.
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Old 03-09-2005, 09:26 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Nilpaurion Felagund
Of course, this introduces the predestination vs. free will debate into the mix.
A bit more than that.

You brought up the AinulindalŰ. Remember one of the major points of that first book of the Silmarillion?

Men are not bound by the Music of the Ainur. They have the power to make their own fate in the world.

So this whole matter becomes very confusing. The Witch-king, after all, is a man, albeit one immensely changed from his original, natural, form. But is his fate affected by this? Is he not free from the constraints of predestination?

And what about ╔owyn and Merry? Hobbits are considered to be a sub-race of Men, and so both of these two, although not Men in the sense of the prophecy, are still Men in the sense that they are not bound by the AinulindalŰ.

What I think needs to be differentiated here is the difference between HAVING to do something, and CHOOSING to do something. The Ainur, and all those bound by their Music, HAVE to do things when it tells them to. Their lives, to a certain extent, at least, are bound by it. Men (incl. women, children, and hobbits) do not have to do things.

My take on Glorfindel's prophecy therefore, is this: when Glorfindel was making his prediction, he was saying that the Witch-king would be felled "not by hand of man", because his Elven foresight told him that was how it would happen. It told him that Merry and ╔owyn would CHOOSE to do what they did, thus resulting in the death of the Witch-king.

The technical aspects of what they did could have been accomplished by a couple of ordinary men. Say some Ranger of Arnor armed with the barrow-sword, and some unhorsed Gondorian knight with an ordinary sword, in much the same way that it actually happened ten centuries after Eńrnur. There was nothing "magic" or harmful to the Witch-king about Merry and ╔owyn being not-Men. It was simply a combination of circumstance and choice.

The Witch-king wasn't DESTINED to fall by "not-men", but Glorfindel foresaw that he WOULD. There is a distinction, although I suppose it IS a very fine one.
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Old 03-09-2005, 12:33 PM   #9
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Yeah, what they said.

Formendacil & Nilpaurion Felagund have said what I could not manage last nite, partly because I don't know enough about the fate/free will stuff in Ea (having not yet finished reading the Silmarillion) and because I was far too tired to compose a coherent argument. Thanks for the knowledgable & well-articulated posts.
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Old 03-09-2005, 03:07 PM   #10
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Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall
This is most likely some kind of foresight. It does not mention anyone specifically, and as such could easily betray that Glorfindel had some kind of knowledge of what it would take to despatch the WK. Saying that it would not be by the hand of Man might also suggest that it could be Elf, Dwarf, Hobbit, Ent or even Orc who might do the deed. So though this is some kind of foresight, it is also very open to a range of possibilities.

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Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!
There is another possibility of meaning behind this statement. It is in the words living man, which could also mean that no man alive at that time could hinder him. This leaves open the possibility that there may once have been or could have been in future, such a man who could have hindered him. Though whoever would be willing to try such a thing would be foolish. Certainly, one of the weapons of the WK is fear, and he would have been all too aware that it would be unlikely that any man would dare to try and stop him.
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Old 03-09-2005, 04:12 PM   #11
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Silmaril

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Could they have been effective in the "living Middle-earth?" Effective as in being able to kill others from another parallel dimension?
The Witch King is not exactly alive though, is he. Which probably explains why, when boosting his own ego, he didn't say "Fool! No living man can kill the likes of me! Me, the Unstoppable. Me, the Greatest. Me..." You get the idea. The question is not really that of the Witch King being killed, because he's already dead. Or at least, not living.

Quote:
Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall
Like Lal said, this prophecy is rather vague. If Glorfindel had said "not by the hand of Man", it would be different. If he'd said "not by the hand of a man", it would be different. If Glorfindel said "Don't bother going after him, there's a pretty blonde chick and a midget who are going to remove him from our plane of existence in the future", I wouldn't have bothered wasting bandwidth.

Quote:
Of course, this introduces the predestination vs. free will debate into the mix.
And so was it predestined that Eowyn and Merry would manage to be together at that time? Or was it pure dumb luck, and if Merry had smelled pipe-weed at the wrong moment, the world would have to wait another millenia before the right circumstances arose? Was it an exact guarantee that these two would be the ones to defeat the Wikkie (as he was so cutely nicknamed), or was the prophesy loop-holed enough that a dead guy trying to get back into Eru's good graces could fix the problem.

Quote:
Certainly, one of the weapons of the WK is fear, and he would have been all too aware that it would be unlikely that any man would dare to try and stop him.
The Dead Army also wielded fear. As I recall, that was their primary weapon.

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Old 03-09-2005, 05:22 PM   #12
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Sting Man?

Saying 'living man' would imply that a dead man or a living non-man would be able to kill him. In this situation, one must define a man...what makes Aragorn a man? Because technically, a woman can still be called a 'man' in the sense that 'man' can mean human. In this case, a woman would not be able to hinder the Witch King, but a hobbit, dwarf or other, even in the case that he is masculine, would.

Interesting, though. I had never thought of it before.
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Old 03-10-2005, 11:04 AM   #13
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I don't think the WK's declaration of invulnerability had anything to do with Glorfindel's prescience. They didn't exactly move in the same circles, and I think it might be silly to imagine Glorfindel's simple statement would develop the kind of high-profile full-on prophecy status that it had in the movie.

He may have considered himself untouchable out of sheer cockiness, and maybe it was partly due to motivational propaganda from Sauron. Or perhaps it was his knowledge of his own nature, which is more complete than ours, that led him to conclude that he was invulnerable to those in the living realm. I happen to like the feel of this last scenario most. It makes sense that the WK's confidence would come from knowing that there were no more Dunedain--the only line of Men with enough spiritual potency to challenge him. Along with this reasoning, it has been proposed in the past that the Witch-King's words "no living man" might be Tolkien alluding to the dead maker of the dagger of Westernesse as WK's true bane. The dagger, some argue, is what "hindered" him, and allowed for the finishing blow 2 THE FASE.

I apologize if I've duplicated anyone's arguments as I really only skimmed the thread.
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Old 03-10-2005, 12:43 PM   #14
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I see it as quite possible that Glorfindel's "prophecy" came to the Witch-King's attention and that he misinterpreted it as a condition rather than an instance of foresight.

Perhaps he extracted it from Earnur under torture. Assuming that he captured the unfortunate fellow rather than dispatching him outright, it is quite possible that he would have been interested to learn what the Free Peoples knew of him.

Hmm. A rather unpleasant thought occurs. Bearing in mind what the Witch-King told Eowyn that he had in mind for her, it seems to me that Earnur might have met quite a horrific end indeed ...
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Old 03-26-2005, 06:29 AM   #15
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It is the prophecy of Glorfindel that is misleading, what we are all looking for is him to say "Not by the hand of A man will he fall", therein lies the confusion , Man is not Elf, Dwarf, Orc, Troll, Istari, Ent etc (Hobbits are deemed to be of the family of men, as are the Druedain), Should Glorfindel have said: "Only by the hand of a female of the race of Man will he fall" , then we would all be happy. Man can mean the whole race, A man is male. When Glorfindel speaks the prophecy is he thinking that Man is too weak to destroy this being, is he wrong, was he thinking of Man at the time of The Battle of Fornost or Man for all time?, not all prophecy comes true.

"Remember that the mirror shows many things, and not all have yet come to pass. Some never come to be, unless those that behold the visions turn aside from their path to prevent them.

Fate in this sense cannot be written in stone, what Glorfindel did not say is as important as what he did
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Old 03-26-2005, 10:43 PM   #16
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1420! Fall off his steed in laughter

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Should Glorfindel have said: "Only by the hand of a female of the race of Man will he fall" , then we would all be happy. Man can mean the whole race, A man is male.
*Imagines* "Only by the hand of a midget wielding some old rusty blade will he fall!" prophesied Glorfindel.

Hello guys (and gals)!
I might point out that to be entirely technical: the sword itself is instrumental to WK's downfall.

Quote:
So passed the sword of the Barrow-downs, work of Westerness. But glad would he have been to know its fate who wrought it slowly long ago in the North-kingdown when the Dunedain were young, and chief among their foes was the dread realm of Angmar and its sorcerer king. No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will.
It remains to be questioned what did Glorfindel meant when he said the WK will "fall"? "Fall" can also be explained as drop. And Lo! Did he fall when that little knee-stabber struck!

So as not to split hairs, I suggest that we do not take the prophesy literally...
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Old 03-28-2005, 08:16 PM   #17
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Re:

Hey, it was Merry and the Barrow Sword that killed him, not Eowyn.

And while Hobbits are related more closely to men than elves or dwarves, they aren't men. Eowyn is a woman, but she's of the race of men.

Merry killed him. Tolkien was pretty damn descriptive, Merry's blade unraveled the sinews of his existence. Then Eowyn practically drove her blade into thin air (as opposed to phantom face).

He was already falling apart at the seams when she stabbed him, she just sped up the process a little bit, with some extra damage.

Quote:
Do not pursue him! He will not return to this land. Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall."
He LITERALLY fell because Merry stabbed his knee. Anyway, Glorfindel didn't really say "Not by the hand of man will he die." Just fall. And Merry did just that, knocked him down.

And anyway, I can't actually remember any instance of the quote from the movie;

Quote:
The one who they say can't be killed by the hands of any living man.
So, it's a moot point.
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Old 03-29-2005, 07:14 AM   #18
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White-Hand Co-incidence?

I just realised that it is difficult to understand how old Witchking just fall like that. To be precise, observe:

There were nine Ringwraiths during the attack on Weathertop. All nine escaped unscathed. But look at the situation:

Quote:
At that moment Frodo threw himself forward on the ground, and he heard himself crying aloud: O Elbereth! Gilthoniel! At the same time he struck at the feet of his enemy. A shrill cry rang out in the night; and he felt a pain like a dart of poisoned ice pierce his left shoulder.
Same kind of sword, same race of hobbit, different results.

Frodo probably missed... Which is extremely ironic: considering the fact that if he did strike, the story could probably have ended a few chapters earlier...
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Old 03-29-2005, 07:59 AM   #19
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Ironic indeed, Crispy. You've made me laugh. But I like the line of thought that Keeper has shown: by the hand of a hobbit did the Wikkie fall. By the combined hands of a hobbit and a woman did he actually "die" (sort of... you know. )

So, like we've been discussing, Glorfindel's prophecy

Quote:
"Do not pursue him! He will not return to this land. Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall."
is kind of... loopholed. Very open to changes. Example: what would have happened if a crow (they like shiny things) had swiped Merry's sword and, finding it too heavy, dropped it as it was flying over the Witchking's head? Not by the hand of man... it's by the claw of a bird, that the Witchking would be stabbed. Entertaining notion, yes?

And at this point, we aren't really worried about pure and simple death, because as we've been shown, bad guys never seem to actually die. But if Glorfi's prophecy was so open to interpretation, wouldn't there be a chance for the Dead Army to swarm him like they did to that poor innocent Oliphaunt in the movies?

Fea

PS: yes, I am dogging the Dead Army. It's my thread and I can.
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Old 03-29-2005, 09:58 AM   #20
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Feanor of the Peredhil wrote:
Quote:
is kind of... loopholed. Very open to changes. Example: what would have happened if a crow (they like shiny things) had swiped Merry's sword and, finding it too heavy, dropped it as it was flying over the Witchking's head? Not by the hand of man... it's by the claw of a bird, that the Witchking would be stabbed. Entertaining notion, yes?
I must say that this line of inquiry seems pointless to me. Glorfindel made a statement about what would happen, not what could happen. In the event, that statement turned out to be true. I don't understand what a "loophole" is in the context of such a statement, nor why he would want to avoid them.

The Saucepan Man wrote:
Quote:
I see it as quite possible that Glorfindel's "prophecy" came to the Witch-King's attention and that he misinterpreted it as a condition rather than an instance of foresight.
Actually, once the prophecy has been made, presuming that everyone agrees it is true, it seems to me that there is no difference between condition and foresight. If Glorfindel has made the prophecy, then the Witch-king knows that he will not be killed by a living man. The reason people get confused by this is, I think, that to state it that way is to reverse the causality. Properly, one might say that if the Witch-king was killed by a living man, Glorfindel would not have made the prophecy.

The confusion that so often surrounds this prophecy is, I think, the same as the confusion that surrounds the issue of the "counterfactual" in philosophy of meaning and philosophy of science. It is my opinion that you get into trouble anytime you closely consider a statement of the form "if X had happened then Y" when in fact X did not happen.
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Old 03-29-2005, 10:25 AM   #21
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Originally stated by Aiwendil

Quote:
I don't understand what a "loophole" is in the context of such a statement, nor why he would want to avoid them.
I'm not saying that Glorfindel should avoid loopholes, but that the stating of the prophecy leaves room for several possibilities. Not that he should or shouldn't have spoken exactly as he did, simply that he did, and that's that. Once it's decided whether or not the prophecy can be taken differently than is commonly accepted, we can continue on to discuss just what *could* have happened.

Quote:
I must say that this line of inquiry seems pointless to me.
And is there point to spending years arguing about pointy Elf ears and Balrog wings? Debate is simply "what if", and my debate is saying "Well, what if the prophecy could have been taken differently? Could the story line have changed?" No point, as you would have it, simply intellectual debate on random possibilities based on the text.

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Old 03-29-2005, 10:37 AM   #22
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who's prophecy is it?

Perhaps Glorfindels observation was already stated to the Witchking by Sauron a thousand years earlier.
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Old 03-29-2005, 12:13 PM   #23
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I've got a little something to toss on the fire.

I don't have my books, so someone else needs to look up the exact quote, but I remember in LOTR Appendix A it mentioned that TWK was terrified of Boromir I. How do we explain that?
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Old 03-29-2005, 01:07 PM   #24
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Boromir son of Denethor (after whom Boromir of the Nine Walkers was later named) defeated them and regained Ithilien; but Osgiliath was finally ruined, and its great stone-bridge was broken. No people dwelt there afterwards. Boromir was a great captain, and even the Witch-king feared him. He was noble and fair of face, a man strong in body and in will, but he received a Morgul-wound in that war which shortened his days, and he became shrunken with pain and died twelve years after his father.
It sounds to me like the WK feared Boromir not as a threat directly to himself, but as a threat to the forces of Mordor in general. After all, what's a leader without troops to command? The WK probably feared Boromir as a leader and captain of men, not as a threat to bodily harm to himself.
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Old 03-29-2005, 01:55 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
Actually, once the prophecy has been made, presuming that everyone agrees it is true, it seems to me that there is no difference between condition and foresight. If Glorfindel has made the prophecy, then the Witch-king knows that he will not be killed by a living man.
No practical difference perhaps, but a distinction should nevertheless be made. Assuming that the Witch-king learned of Glorfindel's words, it appears from his words to Eowyn that he misinterpreted them to mean that he could not be killed by any man, whereas in fact they signified that he would not be killed by any man.

As matters turned out, the practical effects were the same. But it is conceivable that his mistaken interpretation of the words caused him to act differently than had he interpreted them correctly. In seeing them as a statement on his invunerability, he might have intepreted the word "man" liberally to denote any member of the "humanoid" races, prompting him into more reckless behaviour on the battlefield whereas, had he understood that they were a prophecy, he might perhaps have interpreted the word more rigidly (since a prophecy, by its very nature, arises from a very specific set of circumstances).

Quote:
The winged creature screamed at her, but the Ringwraith made no answer, and was silent, as if in sudden doubt.
Quite possibly, this marks a sudden realisation on the Witch-king's part of his erroneous intepretation of Glorfindel's words.
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Old 03-29-2005, 02:26 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Hot, crispy nice hobbit
It remains to be questioned what did Glorfindel meant when he said the WK will "fall"? "Fall" can also be explained as drop. And Lo! Did he fall when that little knee-stabber struck!
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Originally Posted by Keeper of Dol Guldur
He LITERALLY fell because Merry stabbed his knee. Anyway, Glorfindel didn't really say "Not by the hand of man will he die." Just fall. And Merry did just that, knocked him down.
As I understand it, to "fall" in Tolkien's use of the word, literally means to die, or at the very least, to fall into evil or darkness. To fall is often seen used to express death in battle in noble terms, as seen on gravestones of soldiers; "fell in battle" is quite a common phrase to see on such monuments. I am quite sure that there must be an interesting history behind the term - any thoughts would be welcome. Is it linked to the term "to fall from grace"?
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Old 03-29-2005, 02:47 PM   #27
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In her book 'A Question of Time' Verlyn Flieger quotes from an unpublished note of Tolkien's on 'Elvish Time':

Quote:
"In Elvish sentiment the 'future' was not one of hope or desire, but a decay & retrogression from former bliss & power. Though inevitably it lay 'ahead', as of one on a journey, "looking forward" did not imply anticipation of delight. "I look forward to seeing you again" did not mean or imply "I wish to see you again, & since that is arranged/& or very likely, I am pleased". It meant simply "I expect to see you again with the certainty of foresight (in some circumstances) or regard that as very probable - it might be with fear or dislike, 'foreboding'" Their position , as of latter day sentiment was of exiles driven forward (against their will) who were in mind or actual position ever looking backwards".
Flieger interprets -

Quote:
"Tolkien's Elves, who, facing toward their past, are 'backed' into the future by those who follow. Men are 'proceeding' into the future, while Elves are 'receeding' into it."
Don't know what (if anything) this adds to the discussion. Certainly it shows that (certain) Elves (in certain circumstances), can see into the future. Of course, the problem with this is that it seems to imply thqat the future is in some way 'fixed'. Did Glorfindel 'foresee' the death of the WK as a fact. This is probably tied in with the Music - certain things are foreordained - they will happen, hence they have 'existed' from the beginning as 'facts', & are unavoidable.

But this discounts the possibility of free will. Did Eowyn & Merry have any freedom at all - & perhaps more importantly, did the WK?

At the same time, one could ask what exactly Glorfindel did foresee? From his words its possible that he either saw what did happen - ie, he saw that at some future date a hobbit & a woman would bring down the WK or he 'saw' what didn't happen - ie he didn't 'see' a man being responsible for the WK's death. The words of the 'prophecy could imply either. Whichever it was, Glorfindel states very clearly a 'fact'. The question is whether that 'fact' was how the WK would die or how he wouldn't.
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Old 03-29-2005, 04:21 PM   #28
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Feanor of the Peredhil wrote:
Quote:
No point, as you would have it, simply intellectual debate on random possibilities based on the text.
I didn't mean that it's wrong to ask the question. I meant only that the question "could the Witch-king have been killed if X happened?" seems to me to have no satisfactory answer, because (like all counterfactuals) it's not in fact a well-formulated question.

The Saucepan Man wrote:
Quote:
No practical difference perhaps, but a distinction should nevertheless be made. Assuming that the Witch-king learned of Glorfindel's words, it appears from his words to Eowyn that he misinterpreted them to mean that he could not be killed by any man, whereas in fact they signified that he would not be killed by any man.
Ah, I see. When he says "No living man may hinder me" it does sound like he interprets the prophecy as a statement about the capabilities of living men - so perhaps he misunderstands the metaphysics of the situation.

Quote:
But it is conceivable that his mistaken interpretation of the words caused him to act differently than had he interpreted them correctly. In seeing them as a statement on his invunerability, he might have intepreted the word "man" liberally to denote any member of the "humanoid" races, prompting him into more reckless behaviour on the battlefield whereas, had he understood that they were a prophecy, he might perhaps have interpreted the word more rigidly (since a prophecy, by its very nature, arises from a very specific set of circumstances).
But this would be a misunderstanding of the word "man", not of the nature of the statement. He might have understood that it was a prophecy and still misinterpreted "man" and behaved recklessly. Once the statement has been made, it is not relevant to the Witch-king's behavior whether it is a prophecy or a condition; for if it is true he can safely assume that he will not be killed by a living man. Once the prophecy has been made, it does mean that he can charge into an army of living men without fear of being killed, for if he were killed, the prophecy would not have been made. The only room for misunderstanding that I see is in the interpretation of "living man".

Davem - interesting thoughts. I read and enjoyed Flieger's book a year or two ago, and in general I agree with her conclusions. But any attempt to deal with Elvish foresight does seem to lead to metaphysical difficulties. Of course, a reductionist/positivist like me would say that such difficulties are already built into any universe that contains "free will", so that there's little use in worrying about further difficulties specifically associated with prophecy.

However, with regard to the connection between foresight and the Elvish view of time, I should point out that foresight comes to humans in Tolkien's work as well - even to those with no trace of Elvish ancestry, for example, Huor in his words to Turgon at the Nirnaeth.
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Old 03-29-2005, 05:22 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
Once the statement has been made, it is not relevant to the Witch-king's behavior whether it is a prophecy or a condition; for if it is true he can safely assume that he will not be killed by a living man.
My point was merely that the Witch-King's might construe the words differently (and therefore act/react differently) depending upon whether he interpreted them as a statement on his nature or as a prediction of future events. It's unlikely perhaps that his behaviour would have altered radically, but it nevertheless highlights, I think, that there is a distinction to be made between Glorfindel's words correctly intepreted as a prophecy and the same words misinterpreted as a statement of current (and ongoing) fact.
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Old 03-29-2005, 08:23 PM   #30
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Just to address Hot and Crispy's statement which, strangely, no-one bothered to do
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Same kind of sword, same race of hobbit, different results. Frodo probably missed...
After Weathertop, Aragorn found something:
Quote:
'Look!' he cried; and stooping he lifted from the ground a black cloak that had lain there hidden by the darkness. A foot above the lower hem there was a slash. 'This was the stroke of Frodo's sword,' he said. 'The only hurt that it did his enemy, I fear...'
Frodo did strike at the feet of his enemy, but he definitely missed. Probably had his eyes closed, or his stroke went astray when he hit the ground.
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Old 03-29-2005, 09:08 PM   #31
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Yes, Frodo missed. Between Weathertop and Rivendell, his right arm gave him no trouble and he was even able to brandish a sword at the fords. He would not have been able to do that had his sword actually touched TWK.

Also, Frodo's sword remained intact, did it not? Aragorn said "all blades perish that pierce that dreadful King". If Frodo's sword did not perish, then it did not touch TWK.
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Old 03-29-2005, 09:11 PM   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
Ah, I see. When he says "No living man may hinder me" it does sound like he interprets the prophecy as a statement about the capabilities of living men - so perhaps he misunderstands the metaphysics of the situation.
Is this an exact quote... Lemme check...


It is! Aha, then my little train of thought is not to be derailed by a movie-made line.

So, no living man may hinder him....

WRONG!!!

The Witch-king has a short memory. Aragorn did just that with a couple of firey sticks on Weathertop. In addition, I believe that one could mention more than a few examples in battle.

So, is this just a mis-statement of the prophecy, which was not worded such, or is it a bit more indicative of whether or not the prophecy was really vaild in the first place?

Was Glorfindel perhaps just saying that to get Earnur to calm down? To not go kill himself maybe? Perhaps he honestly thought that the Witch-king was too strong for any human?

Just a few thoughts to stir into the mix.
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Old 03-29-2005, 09:29 PM   #33
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Thanks for digging that quote up for me, Firefoot. Here it is again-
Quote:
Boromir was a great captain, and even the Witch-king feared him.
You interpreted it like this-
Quote:
It sounds to me like the WK feared Boromir not as a threat directly to himself, but as a threat to the forces of Mordor in general. After all, what's a leader without troops to command? The WK probably feared Boromir as a leader and captain of men, not as a threat to bodily harm to himself.
That may be correct, but perhaps it isn't. It said TWK "feared" him. If Boromir couldn't actually harm TWK, in other words all Boromir could do was lead his forces well, I don't think TWK would "fear" him. It seems like such a general way to use a strong word. It's more likely TWK would be annoyed by Boromir or hate Boromir.

Now, if it said "TWK feared what Boromir could accomplish" or "TWK feared that Boromir could severely hamper his plans" then I'd understand that because his fear is about Boromir doing non-personal damage to him, but since it simply says that "TWK feared him", it somehow makes me think it was personally as well as militarily.

I don't know... maybe I'm thinking too hard.
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Old 03-30-2005, 03:31 AM   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpM
Assuming that the Witch-king learned of Glorfindel's words, it appears from his words to Eowyn that he misinterpreted them to mean that he could not be killed by any man, whereas in fact they signified that he would not be killed by any man.
I'm just picking up on this, as it seems SpM is picking up on the idea of how words can be interpreted and then misapplied. I agree that the WK could have heard of Glorfindel's words. And while he could well have misapplied them to his eventual disadvantage, he could also in the intervening time have gained much from these words. If it was known that he was in some way 'invincible' then it can only have added to his reputation; in much the same way as terrorists depend upon the climate of fear, the WK could have gained much from the fear he caused in the hearts of Men. If you 'knew' that this figure was in some way untouchable then would you want to be the one who challenged him?


Quote:
Originally Posted by the phantom
since it simply says that "TWK feared him", it somehow makes me think it was personally as well as militarily.
Perhaps, following on from what I've said above, it is that the WK knew that Boromir was unmoved by the fearsome reputation of the WK? If one of the WK's prime weapons is to foster fear and terror then all it takes is for one person to be unafraid for a chink to appear in that armour.

I wonder if Merry and Eowyn (and Frodo) knew anything of the WK's reputation? Surely they did. But if not, perhaps this may account for their lack of fear in confronting him. Certainly Gandalf is afraid of him, which might seem surprising, but then Gandalf must have known about his reputation more than most.
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Old 03-30-2005, 07:33 AM   #35
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It is so very elegant

Being a man far from physics, I still got hold of several ideas, among which:

Observation does change the process observed.

What it has to do with prophecies:

Situation A Earnur tries to pursue Witch King, Glorfinded, judging from some data we are unaware of, warns him that 'man' can not kill him. It may be a prophecy/insight proper (like to opening of the window into another time and actually seeing 'how it happened/is going to happen'), it may be a wish to keep Earnur from foolish actions, it may be both. Glordfindel being what he is, his words are taken at face value and made somehow 'canon'. Start of the rumour: "Glorfindel said Witch King can not be killed by a man" (when all he actually said was 'Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall' which may mean a lot of things. What exactly 'doom' and 'fall' may mean to be dealt with some other time, or in some other thread )

Situation B Years pass, Witch King roams to and fro, is now and again challenged by 'living men' (Earnur included) who eventually all get killed not specifically because they are men but because Witch King is really hard to kill. The rumour grows the empirical bird - kind of confirmation of its 'truthfulness', conclusion drawn is as follows: 'See, Glorfindel said so, and indeed we see it happen - no man can kill him' (When all that happened was that noone yet killed him)

Situation C Witch King, who is aware of the situation, himself starts to believe the truth of the situation (BTW, on Wheathertop the truth of the statement was not tested - as we learn later on, wraiths withdrew of their own will, deeming their goal accomplished, waiting for Frodo to become a wraith himself). His belief also is confirmed all the time - he is not killed but kills himself

Situation D Belief on the part of Witch King mades him reckless - "I'm not going to be killed" motto makes him enter duels he would (probably) otherwise shy (encounter with Gandalf by the gate, per instance) away from or enter in with more caution. Such behavioral pattern ends him up headless - rushing in to be beheaded by a woman and a man (hobbits are men, whatever they themselves say)

Very elegant - Actually, Witch King is killed as a result of the prophecy made by Glorfindel . Or, back to physics - Glorfindel observing the future in fact conditiions it. (No knowing what would have happened if the prophecy haven't been made)

Conclusion: Witch King could have been killed by anyone of any race with enough guts and prowess to perform the act. His actual mode of death was at the same time a consequence of the prophecy and its confirmation.

(The situation is reminiscent to Sci-Fi 'Time-Loop Problem', when hero is sent on some mission into the future by himself returned from said future (Lem's Star Diaries, per instance, Diary #20), and it is inexplicable how the 'latter one' of himself who came back got into the future in the first place, and where (or when, rather) got he at the moment of becoming 'earlier' one, the one who was left behind when the former 'earlier' one become 'latter' one by traveling into the future in his stead. Stumbling sentences, I know, I've got lost myself)
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Old 04-01-2005, 09:30 PM   #36
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Question Killing the dead

Just how tough is it to kill a Nazgul?

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"The Winged Messenger!" cried Legolas. "I shot at him with the bow of Galadriel above Sarn Gebir, and I felled him from the sky. He filled us all with fear. What new terror is this?" "One that you cannot slay with arrows," said Gandalf
Big question mark there... A Nazgul will not die even if Merry and Eorwyn stick him full of arrows. But...

Quote:
No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will.
Only with a Westerness sword (not elven by the way) wielded by a midget, can a Nazgul be killed. The point is not even whether Glorfindel's prophesy would come true: the point is there has to be a method to killing a Nazgul. The Witchking is chief among the Nazgul, and as so counted among their numbers.

Considering the fact that the Ringwraiths could not be drowned, the number of ways to slaughter one of them seems pretty limited... One can argue that if the Westerness made those swords that are powerful enough to gut a Nazgul, they won't have fallen in the first place. Of course, they don't have hobbits then, but if hobbits are just midget men, then I can see pretty much no reason why someone didn't just come along a thrust a Westerness dagger at the WK.
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Old 04-01-2005, 10:01 PM   #37
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Pipe Daggers.

Quote:
. . . I can see pretty much no reason why someone didn't just come along a thrust a Westerness dagger at the WK. (HCNHobbit--sorry for the abbreviation )
Nobody could come close enough.
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Old 04-01-2005, 10:26 PM   #38
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Re:

See, now ... the Witch-King was the one who thought no living man could kill him, Glorfindel's prophecy has nothing to do with that.

It's not like the W-K actually heard Glorfindel say that. He probably didn't. He just assumed he was immortal in every way, not just prolonged, wraithy life.

And he assumed wrong.

Meanwhile, Glorfindel's prophecy remains true, but has nothing to do with the quote "No living man may hinder me."
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Old 04-01-2005, 10:32 PM   #39
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Silmaril

In light of this discussion, I saw this in The Siege of Gondor:
Quote:
The Nazgul screeched and swept away, for their Captain was not yet come to challenge the white fire of his foe.
In this situation, Gandalf did hinder WK, but there seems to be a rematch in sight because of the word yet. But they never meet again, as we see later on in the story. Can we then say that Gandalf has successfully hindered WK as opposed to WK's later claims as he conversed with Eowyn? After all, Gandalf here is not a man...or is he?
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Old 04-01-2005, 10:53 PM   #40
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Hot, crispy nice hobbit has just left Hobbiton.
Palantir-Green Knee-stabber

Quote:
Nobody could come close enough. - Nilpaurion Felagund
That was an understatement: The Westerness swords that the hobbits got were actually daggers found by Ol' Tom the Merry Fellow at the Barrowdowns:

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For each of the hobbits he chose a dagger, long, leaf-shaped, and keen, of marvellous workmanship, damasked with serpent-forms in red and gold.
But back to the question of the entire thread, I doubt there are really any other way that the Witchking can be killed, let alone the other eight. Elves were said to have power over things both seen and unseen (See Chapter: Many Meetings), and are thus unafraid to contest the Ringwraiths. But if we are to go into the exact method of how an Elf (say Elrond or Glorfindel) can bring about the demise of the Witchking, we are most likely to be talking about a contest of will-power... hardly of physics. So in that sense, it is pointless to go through the mechanics of how the old ghouls could "die" as long as it dies.

Taken in that sense, anyone with the will-power to spear a Nazgul in the eye can kill it. It is uber-strange however, that nobody have the will-power to kill or even maim one of them for nearly an entire age. We were told of course that the Nazgul are afraid of fire, even though Sauron likes to use it.

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Strider laid his hand on his shoulder. 'There is still hope,' he said. 'You are not alone. Let us take this wood that is set ready for the fire as a sign. There is little shelter or defence here, but fire shall serve for both. Sauron can put fire to his evil uses, as he can all things, but these Riders do not love it, and fear those who wield it. Fire is our friend in the wilderness.'
But Gandalf, who is supposed to be a powerhouse of will-power can't even beat them at Weathertop, and presumably with fire:

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"Perhaps," said Strider. "For myself, I believe that he was here, and was in danger. There have been scorching flames here; and now the light that we saw three nights ago in the eastern sky comes back to my mind. I guess that he was attacked on this hill-top, but with what result I cannot tell. He is here no longer, and we must now look after ourselves and make our own way to Rivendell, as best as we can."
Granted that Gandalf was tired and outnumbered one to nine, we are still left with the conclusion that the Ringwraiths were completely unscathed for their next uncounter with Aragorn and the hobbits. Big question as to how powerful Gandalf was in comparison with a Dunedain and his halfling cronies... Besides, I am still left speechless with the notion of girl-cum-hobbit willpower combined to "fall" the old geezer of a Nazgul...
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'He wouldn't make above a mouthful,' said William, who had already had a fine supper, 'not when he was skinned and boned.'

Last edited by Hot, crispy nice hobbit; 04-02-2005 at 01:34 AM.
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