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Old 09-04-2005, 01:11 PM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Silmaril LotR -- Book 5 - Chapter 09 - The Last Debate

This chapter begins with a “weather report” – a fine day after the battle! The readers join Legolas and Gimli for their entrance to the city – a rare departure from the hobbit point-of-view. Their friendship shows to fine advantage, though their differences are still marked. Each sees the city with his people’s eyes, and both offer their cooperation for its rebuilding. They also see men differently – what do you think of their respective opinions?

Legolas’ ability to see more than meets the eye shows several times in this chapter, beginning with his first meeting with Imrahil. Later we notice that he saw Éowyn’s feelings for Aragorn when they left for the Paths of the Dead; apparently, Gimli didn’t. We also read of his feelings upon seeing the seagulls, several times; Galadriel’s words are fulfilled – what are your feelings upon reading this? Merry and Gimli protest that the world would be duller and that the Elves are still needed by other races.

Tolkien uses one of his typical techniques of telling the story after the event here; we didn’t know what happened on the way to Pelargir, since suspense was vital to surprise us with the coming of the ships. However, for all those who want to know more, he lets Legolas and Gimli tell the hobbits details. How is the Elf’s part of the story different than the Dwarf’s?

We have a poem, sung by Legolas. As far as I can tell, it’s free poetry, since it has neither rhyme nor alliteration, but perhaps some of our literature experts can tell us more about it.

Besides Imrahil, who does have an important role to play at this part of the narrative, another very minor character is named – Angbor, Lord of Lamedon, called “the fearless” by Aragorn. Why do you think he is especially brave, and is that important to the events at Pelargir and afterwards?

We get additional glimpses of Aragorn’s character as well – Gimli and Legolas speak of his ability to lead by the sheer force of his strong will – and by the love of his followers. Here too Legolas sees deeper:
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In that hour I looked on Aragorn and thought how great and terrible a Lord he might have become in the strength of his will, had he taken the Ring to himself. Not for naught does Mordor fear him. But nobler is his spirit than the understanding of Sauron…
An interesting insight for the many “What if someone else had taken the Ring?” discussions!

We have another example of the important role of nature, in this case the wind, aiding the ships’ progress, enabling them to reach the city on time.

The second part of the chapter takes the readers along to the decision-making meeting of the Captains and Gandalf. I find it very interesting to see how Gandalf takes Denethor’s words, not rejecting them, but finding out how much actual truth there is in them, and then interpreting them differently than the Steward had meant them. Here we see Gandalf as the one who explains the possibilities to the others, and their respect for him and his judgement causes them to agree, though his words are not ‘prudent’, as he says.

One passage of his speech strikes me as being very similar to what he told Frodo, way back in the Shire, about making the best of the times and tasks given to us:
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Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.
There we have another reference to ‘weather’ as a vital plot device, almost a ‘character’!

It’s very interesting to see the replies of the others and the reasons they give for agreeing. What do you think of those respective reasons?

The planning is not reckless, as Minas Tirith is not left undefended. What is your opinion of the military strategy decided upon? With the acknowledgement of their hopeless situation, humanly speaking, the chapter closes.
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'Mercy!' cried Gandalf. 'If the giving of information is to be the cure of your inquisitiveness, I shall spend all the rest of my days in answering you. What more do you want to know?' 'The whole history of Middle-earth...'
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Old 09-04-2005, 01:43 PM   #2
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This chapter divides neatly into two, & in a way its interesting to compare them. The first half is basically backward looking - it is Gimli & Legolas recounting the events of their journey from Erech to Minas Tirith to Merry & Pippin. The second half of the chapter looks forward - the Captains of the West make their plans.

I think this is significant in that it is Gimli, a dwarf & Legolas, an Elf, who dominate the first half of the chapter. Both are members of races whoo are passing (or will pass) from Middle-earth. Their view of the future is pessimistic, & Legolas seems even more pessimistic than Gimli - in the short term:

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Gimli:'There is some good stone-work here,' he said as he looked at the walls; 'but also some that is less good, and the streets could be better contrived. When Aragorn comes into his own, I shall offer him the service of stonewrights of the Mountain, and we will make this a town to be proud of.'
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Legolas;'They need more gardens,' said Legolas. 'The houses are dead, and there is too little here that grows and is glad. If Aragorn comes into his own, the people of the Wood shall bring him birds that sing and trees that do not die.'
For Gimli, it is a matter of when Aragorn becomes king, for Legolas it is a question of whether he will.

As to the longer term, their positions seem reversed:

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'It is ever so with the things that Men begin: there is a frost in Spring, or a blight in Summer, and they fail of their promise.'
'Yet seldom do they fail of their seed,' said Legolas. 'And that will lie in the dust and rot to spring up again in times and places unlooked-for. The deeds of Men will outlast us, Gimli.'
'And yet come to naught in the end but might-have-beens, I guess,' said the Dwarf.
'To that the Elves know not the answer,' said Legolas.
Gimli here sees Men as doomed to fail in everything they attempt, while for Legolas they are not without potential. For good or ill Men will outlast the other races. Interestingly, it seems that their positions have changed - we began with Gimli speaking hopefully of Aragorn’s victory while Legolas questioned it, & now it is Legolas who prophecies Men’s spirit will not be defeated, & that however dark things may seem there is always hope. Yet Legolas is not speaking in this last conversation of Aragorn himself, but of Men generally. Aragorn may fail, but his ‘seed’ will not. Gimli, rather, has placed his faith in Aragorn himself, not in the race of ‘Men’. Legolas sees the ‘big picture’ - as befits an ‘immortal’, Gimli, a mortal (albeit a very long lived one), thinks of the here & now. The long term future is dark & probably without much hope, but in his time there may be some light at the end of the tunnel.

The defeat of the enemy at Pelargir shows Aragorn in a different light. He is not seen by the inhabitants of the lands through which he leads his force as their champion or liberator - he is the King of the Dead, a figure of fear. Indeed, in an earlier draft he is called by them ‘’Lord of the Ring(s) (in that draft Galadriel was to have given Nenya to him to be the wedding ring he gave to Finduilas, the ‘proto-Arwen’). Aragorn would have been very ‘close’ to Sauron symbolically - ruler of the Dead, & even bearer of Sauron’s title. the words of Gimli & Legolas seem to point up this similarity:

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Gimli;Strange and wonderful I thought it that the designs of Mordor should be overthrown by such wraiths of fear and darkness. With its own weapons was it worsted!'
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Legolas;'Strange indeed,' said Legolas. 'In that hour I looked on Aragorn and thought how great and terrible a Lord he might have become in the strength of his will, had he taken the Ring to himself.
If we add to this Aragorn’s black banner, his arrival at the Harlond in the ships of the enemy, his use of the Palantir - which up to that point has such strong associations with the enemy (forget for a moment the background history of the Stones) it seems that something rather ‘strange’ is going on. Aragorn is using the ‘weapons of the enemy to ‘worst’ it. It seems that what we’re seeing is Aragorn taking back, one by one, the things Sauron has claimed for his own & using them to defeat him. His banner is black, but is replaced once its job is done, the Dead are released, the ships are left behind. If nothing else he is establishing his right to rule, in defiance of Sauron - whatever Sauron does Aragorn does better: he takes up the weapons Sauron has used & turns them on him & them casts them aside. This is not merely about defiance, or challenge - it is about humiliation. What Aragorn is doing is making Sauron look pathetic. Whatever Sauron throws Aragorn hurls back. As Legolas says: ‘Not for naught does Mordor fear him.’

Yet something else happened on the riverside - Legolas heard the crying of the gulls & something awoke in him which cannot ever go back to sleep. He may have stepped out of the Elvish world to play his part in the events of the War of the Ring, but the cry of the gulls has called him back. Even the pleas of his friend cannot call him back to the world.

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Never in all my life had I met them, until we came to Pelargir, and there I heard them crying in the air as we rode to the battle of the ships. Then I stood still, forgetting war in Middle-earth; for their wailing voices spoke to me of the Sea. The Sea! Alas! I have not yet beheld it. But deep in the hearts of all my kindred lies the sea-longing, which it is perilous to stir. Alas! for the gulls. No peace shall I have again under beech or under elm.'
'Say not so!' said Gimli. 'There are countless things still to see in Middle-earth, and great works to do.
And here we see the difference between Elves & mortals - for mortals who are doomed to leave the world 'There are countless things still to see in Middle-earth, and great works to do.’, while for Elves, who are doomed to remain in the world forever there is, sooner or later, the Sea & the forgetting of ‘countless things in Middle-earth’.

I’ll come back to the second part of the chapter later - if no-one beats me to it.
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Old 09-04-2005, 02:40 PM   #3
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'And doubtless the good stone-work is the older and was wrought in the first building,' said Gimli. 'It is ever so with the things that Men begin: there is a frost in Spring, or a blight in Summer, and they fail of their promise.'
'Yet seldom do they fail of their seed,' said Legolas. 'And that will lie in the dust and rot to spring up again in times and places unlooked-for. The deeds of Men will outlast us, Gimli.'
'And yet come to naught in the end but might-have-beens, I guess,' said the Dwarf.
'To that the Elves know not the answer,' said Legolas.
Quote:
'Strange indeed,' said Legolas. 'In that hour I looked on Aragorn and thought how great and terrible a Lord he might have become in the strength of his will, had he taken the Ring to himself. Not for naught does Mordor fear him. But nobler is his spirit than the understanding of Sauron; for is he not of the children of Luthien? Never shall that line fail, though the years may lengthen beyond count.'
'Beyond the eyes of the Dwarves are such foretellings,' said Gimli. 'But mighty indeed was Aragorn that day.
When Gimli and Legolas talk, they sum up what Aragorn and Gondor could or could not be; their talk shows two different ways of viewing the idea of Kingship. Gimli focusses on the practical while Legolas speaks of destiny.

Gimli talks of stone while Legolas talks of gardens. Gimli talks of military might and leadership while Legolas talks of ancestry. Gimli talks of Men lacking consistency of effort while Legolas talks of hope in the future. Here are two differing viewpoints but both are right.

Minas Tirith needs both stronger walls and more gardens to be both well protected and beautiful, to fulfill its potential. Aragorn's strength comes both from his honed skills and his nobility. Without his ancestry he could not be King, but without the leadership qualities he has acquired he would not be the King that he could be, he maybe even could not be King at all, as it is his leadership which gets him through the trials he must face. And Aragorn is the latest from a line of Men who have been diminished, but his Kingship could be the beginning of a renemwal of that line.

When Legolas says that the deeds of Men "will outlast us, Gimli" these words are tinged with sadness. It acknowledges that Elves and Dwarves will not be around for much longer, that Men will be the dominant race in Middle-earth. Even Merry notices that this may come to pass, and he doesn't seem to look upon the prospect with much acceptance:

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'Dull and dreary indeed!' said Merry. 'You must not go to the Havens, Legolas. There will always be some folk, big or little, and even a few wise dwarves like Gimli, who need you. At least I hope so.
The words of Gimli and Legolas also acknowledge that the deeds of Men will have far reaching consequences; what they do, good or bad, will last and have effects, and the Elves and Dwarves will have little and eventually no influence on what passes in the future. Men are shown as effectively a mystery to Legolas when he says "the Elves know not the answer".

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Ere that dark day ended none of the enemy were left to resist us; all were drowned, or were flying south in the hope to find their own lands upon foot. Strange and wonderful I thought it that the designs of Mordor should be overthrown by such wraiths of fear and darkness. With its own weapons was it worsted!
Even the minions of Mordor can be made to feel afraid. I think that fear is the weapon referred to here, as fear seems to be the chief weapon of the Nazgul; the Haradrim and Corsairs are just Men themselves and when confronted with something they do not understand they are terrified, just as the Men of Gondor and Rohan are when the Nazgul fly. The Grey Host bring with them a reputation and it is this which terrifies - whether they are quite the same kind of 'weapon; as the Nazgul is another question.
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Old 09-07-2005, 03:07 AM   #4
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This is a difficult chapter for me to get through, probably because it's somewhat like 'The Council of Elrond' in FOTR: structurally, really really important because it ties up loose ends and sets up so much of the remainder of the book...but I don't seem to be as engaged in this chapter as I am in most of the rest of LOTR.

I'll take up Davem's challenge and focus on the debate between the Captains about the next step. The thing I find most interesting here is the choice in front of them. As Gandalf says,
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This war then is without final hope, as Denethor perceived...You have only a choice of evils;
Interestingly, the first reaction to Gandalf's speech is from Prince Imrahil, and he is not happy with what he thinks Gandalf is saying:
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Then would you have us retreat to Minas Tirith, or Dol Amroth, or to Dunharrow, and sit there like children on sand-castles when the tide is flowing?
I've always wondered if he's unhappy because he would rather go out and face Mordor rather than hiding behind his walls and being perceived as a coward, or if he himself recognizes the importance of buying time for the Ringbearer.

Another thing I've noticed about this chapter is that even if the Ringbearer succeeds, Sauron will not be completely destroyed.
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If it [the Ring] is destroyed, then he will fall; and his fall will be so low that none can forsee his arising ever again. For he will lose the best part of the strength that was native to him in his beginning, and all that was made or begun with that power will crumble, and he will be maimed forever, becoming a mere spirit of malice that gnaws itself in the shadows, but cannot again grow or take shape. And so a great evil of this world will be removed.
Hmmm, falling past the point of rising again...losing the best part of his strength, along with the things made with it...being maimed forever. But *not* being utterly destroyed. Is this because of Sauron's origins as a Maia? And come to think of it, Morgoth the Vala wasn't destroyed either! Eru cast him into the Void beyond the doors of the world, but didn't kill him. He's still out there somewhere...




Sauron after the fall of Barad Dur: "I'm not dead yet!"
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Old 09-07-2005, 12:16 PM   #5
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Victory cannot be achieved by arms, whether you sit here to endure siege after siege, or march out to be overwhelmed beyond the River. You have only a choice of evils; and prudence would counsel you to strengthen such strong places as you have, and there await the onset; for so shall the time before your end be made a little longer.'
Gandalf sums up the situation pretty starkly. They are fighting without any real hope. the most logical reaction would be to run & gather what strength they could to hold out as long as possible. The only 'hope' of victory is no real hope at all - that somehow Frodo will find a way to destroy the Ring. What hope Gandalf himself has of that happening is not made explicit. What he is doing here though is to confront Imrahil in particular, & through him the rest of the commanders, with what they actually have been doing for so long - he says the 'wisest' course is to run & hole up. Imrahil responds by condemning that policy & Gandalf comes back with 'Well, if its such a bad idea, why have you been doing exactly that all this time. It has to be said. The Captains of the West need to have a mirror held up to themselves.

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Have you not done this and little more in all the days of Denethor? But no! I said this would be prudent. I do not counsel prudence. I said victory could not be achieved by arms. I still hope for victory, but not by arms.
Exactly what 'hope' Gandalf has is not clear - is it hope that Frodo will succeed, or that in some way Eru will make everything well? Yet he is not so full of 'hope' that he has lost touch with reality:

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'Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary. Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wberein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.
In short, he is reiterating the advice he gave to Frodo: 'All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.' Life is a battleground - 'sin is behovely' as Julian put it. All one can do is one's best, & live in hope.

Again, we see Aragorn's pro-active defiance of Sauron - he declares that he has shown himself to Sauron in the Palantir. Basically, he is telling his fellow leaders that he has thrown down the gauntlet to Sauron. In Frodo's words he is saying 'I purpose to enter Mordor - I do not ask anyone to go with me.' Or in his own words to Eomer: 'I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn: willl you aid me, or thwart me?' Everything about Aragorn's behaviour seems to be an attempt to make Sauron believe he has the Ring.

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'As Aragorn has begun, so we must go on. We must push Sauron to his last throw. We must call out his hidden strength, so that he shall empty his land. We must march out to meet him at once. We must make ourselves the bait, though his jaws should close on us. He will take that bait, in hope and in greed, for he will think that in such rashness he sees the pride of the new Ringlord: and he will say: "So! he pushes out his neck too soon and too far. Let him come on, and behold I will have him in a trap from which he cannot escape. There I will crush him, and what he has taken in his insolence shall be mine again for ever."
We see again that claiming the Ring is not the same thing as mastering it. Even if Aragorn has the Ring he can still be defeated & the Ring wrested back.

Again, Gandalf reiterates the hopelessness of their position:

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'We must walk open-eyed into that trap, with courage, but small hope for ourselves. For, my lords, it may well prove that we ourselves shall perish utterly in a black battle far from the living lands; so that even if Barad-dur be thrown down, we shall not live to see a new age. But this, I deem, is our duty. And better so than to perish nonetheless--as we surely shall, If we sit here--and know as we die that no new age shall be.
Not only is he now telling them that there is little hope of survival in their confrontation, but that it would be better not to survive it if it means that Sauron gains the victory. They must do everything they can because its better to die doing what's right than to live as slaves. This is a difficult idea - because the Captains have not only to make that decision for themselves but also for those who serve them.

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At length Aragorn spoke. 'As I have begun, so I will go on. We come now to the very brink, where hope and despair are akin. To waver is to fall. Let none now reject the counsels of Gandalf, whose long labours against Sauron come at last to their test. But for him all would long ago have been lost. Nonetheless I do not yet claim to command any man. Let others choose as they will.'
Hope & despair are now 'akin'. To 'waver is to fall' - or as Galadriel said 'The quest stands on the edge of a knife: stray but a little & it will fail, to the ruin of all.'

Eomer's response is simple & to the point:

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'As for myself,' said Eomer, 'I have little knowledge of these deep matters; but I need it not. This I know, and it is enough, that as my friend Aragorn succoured me and my people, so I will aid him when he calls. I will go.'
He will trust Aragorn, & repay the 'debt' he owes him. This sums up the attitude of his folk. Eomer, interestingly, refers to Aragorn not as his 'king' but as his friend. His friend is in need so he will do whatever is necessary to aid him. Imrahil's position is diferent. Aragorn is his 'liege-lord', & he will obey his command.
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'As for me,' said Imrahil, 'the Lord Aragorn I hold to be my liege-lord, whether he claim it or no. His wish is to me a command. I will go also.
I wonder which attitude Aragorn preferred? His last words sum up again his own position:

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'If this be jest, then it is too bitter for laughter. Nay, it is the last move in a great jeopardy, and for one side or the other it will bring the end of the game.'
He has fixed upon his goal, & nothing will now deter him from it. Hope & despair are truly akin, & like Frodo on Amon Hen caught between the Voice & the Eye he too must have 'writhed' - yet, also like Frodo, he was able to seperate himself from those two 'powers' & make his choice:

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Then he drew Anduril and held it up glittering in the sun. 'You shall not be sheathed again until the last battle is fought,' he said.
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Old 09-08-2005, 05:10 AM   #6
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Going against what we might expect of fiction in terms of entertainment, Tolkien presents the reader with the proceedings of in-depth meetings or Councils in LotR; they convey a lot of useful information, and they are intended to show how decisions are reached, but they might be expected to make for dull reading. Meetings in general are neither action filled nor are they magical, but Tolkien writes of them in a compelling style. In both this chapter and in The Council of Elrond he manages to present fascinating and complex discussions. Not only that, but he also uses the proceedings to explain to the reader how seemingly reckless plans are made. Arguments for and against different actions are broken down and dispensed of with care, and without boring the reader. I think this reflects his own skills in presenting arguments. As an example, On Fairy Stories demonstrates how he could take a topic and break it down into relevant areas, discussing each and examining, then dismissing, arguments until he came to a conclusion.

Gandalf takes an interesting role in this council. Is he the chairperson? Or the invited expert? At this stage it might be expected that Aragorn, or perhaps Imrahil acting as Steward, would lead discussion but it is Gandalf who does so. Perhaps this is as he is relatively impartial compared to the two Men who would make obvious candidates to take the lead. It is also a credit to them that they allow Gandalf to do this and do not immediately seek the ‘power’ of leading the talk.

In this chapter Gandalf demonstrates his sheer mastery of ‘counsel’. Without any preamble he gets straight to the point and shows those assembled exactly the situation that they face. He even goes as far as to begin by addressing the situation as negatively as possible, yet he does this in order to have the leaders gathered there consider the options realistically:

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I do not bid you despair, as he did, but to ponder the truth in these words.
Gandalf is addressing a group of leaders who are fresh from a great victory, and it would be all too easy at this point for them to become complacent. This is why he immediately states the gravity of the situation. The following interchange between Imrahil and Gandalf illustrates why Gandalf has to approach the matter in this way. He is about to introduce a strategy that might seem like madness and so he must first have the leaders address the reason why previous strategies under Denethor have failed:

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You have only a choice of evils; and prudence would counsel you to strengthen such strong places as you have, and there await the onset; for so shall the time before your end be made a little longer.'

'Then you would have us retreat to Minas Tirith, or Dol Amroth, or to Dunharrow, and there sit like children on sand-castles when the tide is flowing?' said Imrahil.

'That would be no new counsel,' said Gandalf. 'Have you not done this and little more in all the days of Denethor? But no! I said this would be prudent. I do not counsel prudence. I said victory could not be achieved by arms.
Gandalf then reveals why he proposes a new strategy, and talks openly of The Ring at last:

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For into the midst of all these policies comes the Ring of Power, the foundation of Barad-dur, and the hope of Sauron.
After pressing on the group assembled exactly why preventing Sauron from getting the Ring should be the next and ultimate objective, he also underlines that this is not a task which will destroy evil for ever. But likewise, this kind of seemingly desperate task has had to be carried out before and will probably have to be faced again in many years to come; they are not the only leaders in all the years of the world in what they now face.

Only after preparing the ground for his strategy does he invite the others to speak and contribute; he has gained their interest and now he describes what he proposes, his ‘counsel’. But this is no ordinary ‘counsel’. Gandalf has prepared the ground to present his argument carefully and skilfully. He has shown the group the worst that can happen, he has shown them the despair inherent in their situation, has dismissed the alternatives and then he gives them what he proposes, which is a suicide mission. In our position having read the book, we know that events will not turn out that way, but viewed at this point, what Gandalf suggests is madness.

Gandalf builds his words up into a crescendo at this point:

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We must push Sauron to his last throw. We must call out his hidden strength, so that he shall empty his land. We must march out to meet him at once. We must make ourselves the bait, though his jaws should close on us. He will take that bait, in hope and in greed, for he will think that in such rashness he sees the pride of the new Ringlord: and he will say: "So! he pushes out his neck too soon and too far. Let him come on, and behold I will have him in a trap from which he cannot escape. There I will crush him, and what he has taken in his insolence shall be mine again for ever."

'We must walk open-eyed into that trap, with courage, but small hope for ourselves. For, my lords, it may well prove that we ourselves shall perish utterly in a black battle far from the living lands; so that even if Barad-dur be thrown down, we shall not live to see a new age. But this, I deem, is our duty. And better so than to perish nonetheless--as we surely shall, If we sit here--and know as we die that no new age shall be.'
Four sentences begin with ‘we must’, then he repeatedly uses the words ‘he will’ and even uses the words he can imagine (foresee?) Sauron using. This is where Gandalf shifts into another gear using words descriptive of action, telling the assembled group what is going to happen, giving objectives. His words are clear, almost blunt. He is able to do this at this point as he has gained the attention of the others. He finishes off by talking of duty, the possibility, almost certainty, of death, but stirring the listeners into wanting to be courageous. After he has spoken this time, there is silence.

Aragorn is first to speak having considered the words and he has been stirred to approval. He answers for himself alone. He says that Gandalf’s proposal ought to be approved, but that everyone must make up their own mind. Gandalf has appealed directly to each listener’s personal sense of duty; they all quickly follow up Aragorn in mandating the proposal.

Gandalf gets the approval of all the leaders concerned before allowing room for debate, the time to get into the details which could have bogged the meeting down. He is the kind of chairperson every such council or meeting should have, as he unequivocally states his position and seeks approval before anyone can get into details and arguments. Time is short, and he knows this. And maybe this shows why strong-willed leaders such as Denethor did not like Gandalf’s ‘counsel’; he is skilled at getting the point across and an expert in persuading an audience to his view. Yet he does not give the appearance of ‘forcing’ anyone into approval. To disagree with counsel like that might make any leader seem churlish, even if they were strong minded enough to argue against Gandalf.
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Old 03-09-2019, 08:43 PM   #7
Galadriel55
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Legolas and Gimli have a curious thing going on where anytime they have a polite disagreement and one of them runs out of arguments they still want to put in the last word and answer with a vague statement like "to that Elves don't know the answer" or "Dwarves do not look that far ahead" (paraphrased from memory). It seems to work in their weird relationship dynamic that whoever loses the debate gets to have the satisfaction of the last word, and everyone is happy.

The flashback to the remainder of Aragorn's story is not just demanded by the curiosity of him showing up unexpectedly on enemy ships, but is also hinted at by his words to Merry at the Houses of Healing about clearing his path with fire and sword and not having eaten or slept. If we weren't impressed by him in The Paths of the Dead, we have to be now. We get a sense of the terror of the Dead and the strength required to keep them in obedience through more eyes now: not just Gimli but all the people that they meet, friend and foe alike. I believe the most terrified people during the attack of the dead were the chained rowing slaves, experiencing the same fear as the others around them but unable to act on the impulse to run or hide. It's the same chains that saved them though, preventing them from jumping overboard in the same madness as their masters. Though we know practically nothing of Angbor, the fact that he stayed to meet Aragorn automatically makes him a likable character - a brave and responsible leader.
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Old 03-10-2019, 02:14 PM   #8
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Tolkien's narrative choice to make the arrival of the black fleet at the Battle of the Pelennor a eucatastrophe is the cause of this chapter. For that reason, half of it really isn't in the movies, not in this position anyway. It's the sort of chapter that would make a killer flashback episode in a television series, especially if you consider that what's going on "at present" (i.e. planning the assault on the Black Gate) is directly tied to what happened "in the past" (Aragorn's march through the Paths and his victories in the South.

"The Last Debate" is very much a high-level view of the plot, looking at the War from Sauron's level more than any other. Arguably, to Sauron, Aragorn's victory at Pelargir was more significant than the Pelennor. This was a supernatural victory and one made by the candidate he most suspects to have the Ring. Meanwhile, the Pelennor--from Sauron's perspective--was more of a mixed bag. Losing his cloud cover AND the Witch-king in one battle is ominous, but it was an acceptable--and temporary--setback once the Rohirrim overthrew Saruman and Aragorn succeeded at Pelargir. And, from Sauron's point of view, it was luck not skill on the part of the West, since Gandalf appears to have been quite ineffective during it. If Gandalf quails to face the Witch-king and Aragorn has the Ring, this is good news for Sauron.
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