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Old 01-20-2005, 06:40 PM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Silmaril LotR -- Book 3 - Chapter 08 - The Road to Isengard

Light and victory begin this chapter, and it wraps up the happenings with the awakened forest. We see the victors handling their enemies differently - the orcs are destroyed, the men of Dunland spared and set to work.

Gimli's description of the Glittering Caves gives yet another glimpse of his eye for beauty and the Dwarven ideals. His friendship with Legolas is shown in their promise to accompany each other to the sights that each one of them feels most important.

The horrible change to the valley of Isengard is described - first through Saruman's corruption of it, then through the destruction by the Ents.

And last, but most certainly not least, the travellers meet Merry and Pippin (again)! The conversations and their actions are so typically hobbitish, giving a welcome touch of comic relief to the serious situation. I enjoy them tremendously at every rereading.

Which part of this chapter is your favorite? Which descriptions of landscapes affect you? Which characters do you enjoy most?

(Thread will open on Sunday/Monday, January 30 - 31)
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Old 01-30-2005, 09:02 PM   #2
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Old 01-30-2005, 11:10 PM   #3
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One of my favourite parts in this chapter is Gimli's description of the glittering caves. I can picture them so well and the description is so accurate it becomes real.
In this chapter you also get the feeling that the friendship between Legolas and Gimli is rapidly growing. Especially when they promise to eachother that Legolas will see the glittering caves and Gimli will see Fangorn forest. Both of them are more willing not only to face eachothers differences but to accept them. They no longer hold onto their prejudices as before but are willing to see Fangorn forest or the glittering caves and to form their own opinion.
Also the reunion between the hobbits and Legolas and Gimli makes me feel very happy. Most of the book has been pretty dark so far and it is nice to read about a victory and friends seeing eachother again.
I always thought the Huorns were neat. Despite the fact that they helped to clean up the orcs I thought they were creepy when I first read the book. (and still do)Also because you don't know what they are untill Legolas,Gimli, and Aragorn hear merry and Pippin's story.
This little technique that Tolkien uses of keeping a reader in the dark for as long as possible keeps me reading and re-reading LOTR.It keeps me from getting bored with the book. (Plus of course the wealth of detail)
Overall this chapter has a feeling of transition for me. You can simply feel that fortune might be turning to the heros' favour despite all odds. This chapter always gave me a feeling of hope. The battle Helm's Deep is won and as I've said before friends reunite. I think Merry and Pippin's speech is so typically hobbitish that I have to smile every time as I read it.
Whatever happens Hobbits are still able to stay so optimistic it makes me wish I had that same talent.
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Old 01-31-2005, 11:04 AM   #4
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For me the most striking part of this chapter is the long description of Isengard - the section beginning "Beneath the mountain's arm within the Wizard's Vale . . ." As unremarkable as these paragraphs may seem when compared with such scenes as the battle of Helm's Deep, I think that this description exemplifies certain aspects of Tolkien's writing style and ability.

First, there is the mere fact that this account is placed here. Up to this point the narrative in this chapter has followed our heros as they deal with loose ends from the battle and start on the journey toward Orthanc. If I had been writing this chapter, I probably would stayed with these viewpoint characters exclusively, describing Isengard as they come to it, from their perspective. Now of course that's because I don't have anything remotely like Tolkien's grasp of the technique of story-telling - but after all, it does seem like the more natural thing to do, and I'd guess that few writers, even good ones, would think to break away from that viewpoint and move to, as it were, a higher perspective, to give a more distant and objective description of Isengard before proceeding.

Yet this is something Tolkien does quite often. It happens constantly in the Silmarillion - many transitions are effected by "Now it must be told . . ." or "Now the tale turns to . . ." and very often we are pulled out of our perspective in time and space with references to events that occur later on and far away. This happens less in LotR, but it still happens. Most often we are only briefly taken out of viewpoint, but the passage in this chapter is not unique. Another notable one that occurs to me at the moment is an account of Shelob toward the end of book IV.

These passages make the narrative voice of LotR the so-called "omniscient narrator". I think that this is an important point to note when one considers Tolkien in relation to other modern authors. I would say that most current fantasy writers (and indeed most current commercial authors) tend to use the "third person limited" voice, in which, though the prose is still in third person, each scene is told the perspective of one of the characters in that scene.

I would go so far as to say that this is one of the ways in which modern fantasy fails when compared with Tolkien. For - and I admit that this is speculative - I think that there is something about the fairy-story as a genre that lends itself to the omniscient narrator. I'm not entirely sure why this is. In part, it may be that the omniscient narrator, in a manner of speaking, is capable of lifting the story up out of the mundane and making it bigger than the individual perspectives within it. That is certainly something that happens in this instance; in a way the shift in perspective is very cinematic. It's as though we follow the characters with close shots and shots from their perspective as they move toward Isengard; then when they finally approach it, the camera jumps to a high wide shot of the whole area. In a movie this would have the effect of opening up the story, making it feel big or expansive - and I think it is the same effect that Tolkien achieves here.

Perhaps a more mundane reason that this omniscient viewpoint is effective is simply that it allows the narrator to more effectively communicate information to the audience. In a limited perspective (and most of all in first person) the author must contrive it that all the information the reader needs to know must be accessible to the narrator. If this chapter were told strictly from the perspective of the main characters, it would take quite a while for the reader to grasp the layout of Isengard, as the characters slowly approached it and entered it. The omniscient voice allows Tolkien to simply tell us what we need to know.

That's a somewhat long analysis of a fairly short passage, but I think that Tolkien's narrative voice is an interesting and under-discussed subject.
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Old 01-31-2005, 02:00 PM   #5
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There was another interesting narrative point which I noticed as I read of the discussion between Theoden and Gandalf. It almost seemed as if in this conversation Tolkien was 'stepping out of the text' to tell us something about the nature of the story, where we have been, and what we are about to face, yet he does this via two of the characters. He also seems to be telling us something of the nature and history of myth and folklore. Taking the conversation bit by bit, several thoughts struck me as interesting:

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"They are the shepherds of the trees," answered Gandalf. "Is it so long since you listened to tales by the fireside? There are children in your land who, out of the twisted threads of story, could pick the answer to your question. You have seen Ents, O King, Ents of Fangorn Forest, which in your tongue you call the Entwood. Did you think that the name was given only in idle fancy? Nay, Theoden, it is otherwise: to them you are but the passing tale; all the years from Eorl the Young to Theoden the Old are of little count to them; and all the deeds of your house but a small matter."
Here we have Gandalf/Tolkien telling us about the nature and the origins of story-telling, 'tales by the fireside', and finding an answer hidden within many threads and plot twists. Gandalf/Tolkien also tells us how names are not merely plucked from thin air but are carefully chosen to reflect the nature of things in this story. He also lets us know that in comparison to this story, we are comparatively small, we are just a 'small matter' in contrast to the great deeds here related to us.

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The king was silent. 'Ents!" he said at length. 'Out of the shadows of legend I begin a little to understand the marvel of the trees, I think. I have lived to see strange days. Long we have tended our beasts and our fields, built our houses, wrought our tools, or ridden away to help in the wars of Minas Tirith. And that we called the life of Men, the way of the world. We cared little for what lay beyond the borders of our land. Songs we have that tell of these things, but we are forgetting them, teaching them only to children, as a careless custom. And now the songs have come down among us out of strange places, and walk visible under the Sun."
And now we have Tolkien writing of how we have suddenly been confronted with these weird and wonderful tales, stories we know so well that we can tell them to children, but that as adults we have 'forgotten' that they could have a basis in fact, that they really could be true. We are concerned, like the Rohirrim, with our daily lives, yet these stories and these other realities exists on the very borders of our lives, and when we finally hear such tales we are transfixed.

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'You should be glad, Theoden King," said Gandalf. "For not only the little life of Men is now endangered, but the life also of those things which you have deemed the matter of legend. You are not without allies, even if you know them not."
This seems to be Tolkien telling us that these ancient tales (and maybe other ancient things) are actually in danger of being lost, and yet we should be careful as they are valuable to us, as valuable as allies.

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'Yet also I should be sad," said Theoden 'for however the fortune of war shall go, may it not so end that much that was fair and wonderful shall pass forever out of Middle-earth?"
Theoden's response reflects our own feelings, that despite what we may do, many of the 'old tales' will inevitably be lost. And perhaps the fact that some will invariably be lost should make us particularly careful with those that we still have? Also, here Tolkien seems to some up much of what we have already read about, the loss of the Elves and the decline of the Ents, aspects of the life in Middle Earth that will inevitably be lost to some extent as the story concludes.

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"It may," said Gandalf. "The evil of Sauron cannot be wholly cured, nor made as if it had not been. But to such days we are doomed. Let us now go on with the journey we have begun!"
Finally the voice of Gandalf/Tolkien tells us that the evils of the world will never be wholly eradicated, in both our world and in Middle Earth, and that this is our 'doom' which we must accept before we can continue, both in our own lives and within the story. A great battle has taken place and much of Middle Earth has been turned upside down, we must here take a breath and take stock, in the middle of the story, before we can carry on.
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Old 01-31-2005, 02:53 PM   #6
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Even as he spoke, there came forward out of the trees three strange shapes. As tall as trolls they were, twelve feet or more in height; their strong bodies, stout as young trees, seemed to be clad with raiment or with hide of close-fitting grey and brown. Their limbs were long, and their hands had many fingers; their hair was stiff, and their beards grey-green as moss. They gazed out with solemn eyes, but they were not looking at the riders: their eyes were bent northwards. Suddenly they lifted their long hands to their mouths, and sent forth ringing calls, clear as notes of a horn, but more musical and various.
The calls were answered; and turning again, the riders saw other creatures of the same kind approaching, striding through the grass. They came swiftly from the North, walking like wading herons in their gait, but not in their speed; for their legs in their long paces beat quicker than the heron's wings. The riders cried aloud in wonder, and some set their hands upon their sword-hilts.
'You need no weapons," said Gandalf. "These are but herdsmen. They are not enemies, indeed they are not concerned with us at all."
So it seemed to be; for as he spoke the tall creatures, without a glance at the riders, strode into the wood and vanished.
We encounter here beings with their own agenda, beings who 'reck little' of the affairs of men, of their wars & struggles. Yes, men have their own stories, of which the Ents may know something, but at this time they are not concerned with those stories. The Ents & their Huorns have not come to save the people of Rohan, but to bring about the utimate destruction of Saruman. Two battles have been fought at Helm's deep, two battles against the forces of Saruman - they just happen to have co-incided at this time & place - or is it that simple?. The Ents have their own concerns & as far as these men are concerned they 'look & pass'. As Treebeard has said, he is not altogether on anyone's side, because nobody is altogether on his side.

There has been a battle of men against monsters, against the 'darkness' personified, but there has been another battle, a mythical battle of the trees & the forces which seek to wipe them from the earth. Its as if these two battles eched each other, or perhaps its the same battle taking place on two planes - the mundane & the supernatural - simultaneously.

What is strange though is that these two battles are fought against the same enemy - as if Saruman himself is fighting both a natural & a supernatural battle - as if he seeks a victory on the supernatural as well as the natural plane. We seem have another example of the 'two worlds' which Tolkien says the Elves inhabit. No victory achieved in only one of those worlds will suffice. Its almost as if Saruman has had to fight on two fronts & suffered a defeat in both.

WE learn a lot about Saruman in this chapter. We learn his true desire, & all his clever philosophising in his talk with Gandalf is exposed. He wants to be Sauron:

Quote:
But Saruman had slowly shaped it to his shifting purposes, and made it better, as he thought, being deceived--for all those arts and subtle devices, for which he forsook his former wisdom, and which fondly he imagined were his own, came but from Mordor; so that what he made was naught, only a little copy, a child's model or a slave's flattery, of that vast fortress, armoury, prison, furnace of great power, Barad-dur, the Dark Tower, which suffered no rival, and laughed at flattery, biding its time, secure in its pride and its immeasurable strength.
He has studied his enemy too closely for too long, until the experience has become like staring into a mirror. He looks at Sauron & sees himself magnified. He looked upon Isengard & could in the end only see that it wasn't yet Barad Dur. He looked at himself & in the end could only see that he wasn't yet Sauron. He has made himself into a pathetic copy of another, one greater than himself. All his talk of 'breaking' & 'overwriting' is shown up for what it is - he doesn't desire to be himself, he desires to be someone else. 'What does it profit a man if he gain the entire world & yet lose himself?'

Well, it doesn't profit Saruman at all. He loses everything in the end, because he fails in his attempt to gain the world, or rather the worlds, as well as sacrificing himself to his own desires. He ends not with the Ring, but with 'blood' on his hands, & that 'blood' is not just that of the people of Rohan, it is also his own. He has sacrificed himself in an act of spiritual suicide. He has taken his own life, 'killed' himself, in his desire to be someone else - Sauron.
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Old 01-31-2005, 09:03 PM   #7
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Wow, you all are a hard act to follow! Some truly excellent posts here. Just one point I want to make about the different feel of this chapter. Tolkien is a master of building tension, often he let's it slowly build up and then releases it temporarily only to bring it back bigger than before. That is partly what this chapter does though at a greater scale. It is a break in the tension of the overall story, which is taken up again when the focus is brought back to Sauron.
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Old 02-02-2005, 06:03 AM   #8
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This is my favourite chapter.
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Old 02-02-2005, 04:27 PM   #9
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I do find the conversation of Legolas & Gimli regarding the Caves interesting for what it tells us about their relationship. For all their friendship Legloas still clearly sees Gimli as materialistic & fails to understand that his friend could have anything more than a mercenary interest in the Caves' contents. And this comes after Gimli has been waxing lyrical about their beauty & declaring that Dwarves would consider them a place of pilgrimage.

One does have to ask whether Gimli would have had such feelings before he encountered & fell in love with Galadriel, but it does seem a bit unfeeling of Legolas to be so judgemental & condemnatory. Perhaps his predjudices remain despite all he has learned. Indeed, it seems that Gimli is the 'sensitive' one in this relationship, & Legolas is betraying the Elves' innate (but false) sense of 'superiority' over other races. I wonder if Tolkien is making a point here about his primary creation - they aren't in any way 'ideal' beings. They are smug, controlling & 'holier than thou' to a deeply unhealthy (& unpleasant) degree. Of course, they have their virtues, which at the least balance out such faults, but those faults are there. Legolas needs putting in his place - he is 'talking like a fool' & Gimli is right to point this out to him.

Legolas quite rightly accepts his friend's reprimand - he seems almost shocked when, finally, the implications of Gimli's words penetrate his Elven 'superiority'. Legolas has so far been in the role of 'teacher' - he has told the others about his people, has advised & made 'suggestions' - but one can't help feeling he has learned little: probably because like most of his kindred he has felt he had nothing to learn. Gimli, a mortal, has taught Legolas a valuable lesson here, & perhaps a seed has been planted in the Elf's heart. I can't help but wonder whether he has begun to realise that, like all his kindred, he is not needed any longer to guide & teach the 'younger children'. They can fend for themselves. His time is over. It is time to think seriously of saying 'Goodbye'.
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Old 02-02-2005, 05:20 PM   #10
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The Dwarves, the Elves, and the Glittering Caves

I have always been moved by Gimli's response to the Caverns of Helm's Deep. It reminds me every time of the lines from the Dwarves' song at the beginning of the Hobbit:
Quote:
There many a gleaming golden hoard
They shaped and wrought, and light they caught
To hide in gems on hilt of sword.
On silver necklaces they strung
The flowering stars, on crowns they hung
The dragon-fire, in twisted wire
They meshed the light of moon and sun.
Even though the works mentioned in the poem aren't in their natural setting (like the caves), there is clearly a well-expressed and aesthetic appreciation for objects of beauty above and beyond pride in the works of their hands and commercial value. There is appreciation for, and imitation of nature here. It also strikes me that Gimli's appreciation for the caves is less sterile and stone-oriented than one generally associates with dwarves. He admires the caves in their natural setting because they look like living things, like flowers and underwater plants and the hands of Galadriel. He refers to them as "glades of flowering stone."

davem said:
Quote:
Gimli's words penetrate his Elven 'superiority'. Legolas has so far been in the role of 'teacher' - he has told the others about his people, has advised & made 'suggestions' - but one can't help feeling he has learned little: probably because like most of his kindred he has felt he had nothing to learn.
I think there's a rather interesting point about the ancient enmity of elves and dwarves here as well. How often have Dwarves and Elves in their long history dwelt in the same halls? Menegroth, Nargothrond, the Halls of the Elven Kings of Mirkwood were all the result of the combined craftsmanship of Dwarves and Elves, and most decorated with very natural motifs (weren't Menegroth's columns carved like trees and its roofs like intertwined branches?). Khazad-dum and Eregion both profited from each others' influence.

Really, the Elves and Dwarves have much in common when it comes to taste and craftsmanship. Elves seem a bit more idealistic, they love the "original" natural phenomena and channel their power through stone (rings, etc.) to preserve it and preserve through representation only in addition to the originals or when the originals cannot be saved, whereas Dwarves seem content to surround themselves with representations. But both seek to preserve (and perhaps improve?) nature, to freeze it in stone, so to speak. But perhaps in recent times Dwarves have fallen away a bit from that ideal (from all accounts, I think that Erebor was a fairly utilitarian dwelling) and Elves, in their superiority, refuse to see that the Dwarves' project is similar to their own (although perhaps different in style).

It's nice to see Legolas and Gimli each discovering that the other has his own tastes and is capable of appreciating his companions'.

I supsect I've rambled.

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Old 02-02-2005, 06:45 PM   #11
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1420!

A brief comment for now:

This is also one of my favorite chapters, along with The Shadow of the Past, The Council of Elrond, And the chapter with Theoden's speech and charge.
When reading it I have to have a plate of bacon, fried pork roll, some crusty Italian bread (nicely buttered) and a bit of beer, for when the Three Walkers meet Merry and Pippin and get some nice snacks. (One of the nice movie bits are the shots of hobbits preparing food in FOTR). Although it's always seemed a bit out of character for Strider to stay with them rather then going immediately to meet Treebeard.
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Old 02-03-2005, 12:21 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by davem
WE learn a lot about Saruman in this chapter. We learn his true desire, & all his clever philosophising in his talk with Gandalf is exposed. He wants to be Sauron
This is where we finally hear the narrator's absolute word on Saruman, and he tells us that he was indeed trying to be like Sauron. Until now, we've only heard via the voices of other characters what Saruman is all about. We've heard what Gandalf has to say about him at the Council of Elrond, and we accept this because we have grown to love and trust Gandalf, both through The Hobbit and the early chapters of LotR. We also see something of Saruman's nature through the actions of Grima, and reports of his raids on Rohan. Then we see a little more of this to devastating effect at Helm's Deep. But it is not until now that the narrator steps in and tells us what he is like. And we still haven't even heard Saruman speak for himself.

This is wonderful character building, and dare I say it, Saruman comes across as far more sinister than Sauron because of this. He has met and dealt harshly with one of our most loved characters, and several other characters have had dealings with him. These are real, tangible events, unlike the dark, slightly mysterious psychological effects which Sauron has on his enemies. I also think it is testament to Tolkien's writing that he can have us invest so much in characters like Gandalf and Theoden, that we are prepared to believe that what Saruman has done to them is diabolical, even though we have never yet 'met' with this character. This all sets the scene perfectly for The Voice of Saruman, as we have heard all these tales, and now we have had the narrator himself step in and tell us just how terrible he is.
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Old 02-04-2005, 12:58 AM   #13
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Thoughts on how this chapter may fit in....or an unexpected detour

I think Davem is on to something:

Quote:
There has been a battle of men against monsters, against the 'darkness' personified, but there has been another battle, a mythical battle of the trees & the forces which seek to wipe them from the earth. Its as if these two battles eched each other, or perhaps its the same battle taking place on two planes - the mundane & the supernatural - simultaneously.
Perhaps the battle of the trees is one instance of the general progression from the mundane to the mythic and supernatural that dominates the early pages of the story? I would definitely agree that the Ents and Huorn are mythic but they are not the only glimpses we get of this other plane.

We begin in the Shire, a thoroughly mundane world. Throughout the early chapters of the book, but especially in Lorien, we gain small glimpses of the Elvish connection with the mythic, as reflected in Galadriel or her Phial and its tiny sliver of a Silmaril. Yet we are still in the world of manlike beings and recorded history.

Sauron’s forces actually benefitted from the power of the “mythic” or “supernatural” long before Frodo and company did. The Barrow-wight and the Nazgul, and even more the Watcher in the Water and the Balrog, push the story back to the edge of legend. To me, creatures like the Watcher or the Balrog are more than mere "monstors". The two are as much part of myth, and are just as alien to Man, as would later be true of the Huorn. Whether these various creatures were intentional or accidental allies of Sauron is not always clear, but they all had personal reasons for supporting the cause of the dark shadow. The same (in reverse) will also hold true for the Ents and the Huorn.

By the time the group reaches Moria, all traces of the mundane world have been stripped away but the members of the fellowship have yet to tap into anything remotely as powerful or as mythic as the Balrog. Frodo carries the Phial, for example, but does not see a use for it yet. The climax of all this is the seeming end of hope with the death of Gandalf by a 'supernatural' creature.

I don’t think it’s coincidental that the return of Gandalf coincides with the emergence of the Huorn and the Ents, in effect the release of the mythic for the benefit of the ‘good guys’. What happened to Gandalf can only be described as “mythic” –certainly far beyond anything we understand of the mundane world. The transformed Gandalf is, I think, the catalyst for drawing the mythic plane into closer alignment with the natural one. This chapter, ‘The Road to Isengard’ chronicles that shift, showing how mythic creatures like the Huorn and Ents bring their strength to bear against Saruman. How ironic that Saruman should be destroyed by the very “mythic” forces that he gave such little credence to, preferring to manufacture his own modern versions of 'old' things.

Gandalf’s words to Theoden suggest that, even at this point in the story, Men have serious difficulties recognizing supernatural aid. The istar points out that young children in Rohan would probably have done a better job than the King in recognizing the Ents for what they really are :

Quote:
‘You should be glad, Théoden King,’ said Gandalf. ‘For not only the little life of Men is now endangered, but the life also of those things which you have deemed the matter of legend. You are not without allies, even if you know them not.”
There is another irony here. Just at the point when Tolkien gives us our first clear glimpse of the mythic rising up against the “modern” villain Saruman, we are reminded that the realm of the supernatural is being shut off from Man, and will no longer be accessible to us. Theoden’s reply to Gandalf concerning this withdrawal is among the most poignant in the chapter, as is the King’s earlier reference to the difficulties of his old age. Both passages reinforce the reality that Man lives in the mundane world, is subject to the ravages of time, and is lucky to get even the tiniest glimpse of the mythic:

Quote:
Theoden on old age: ‘My men are weary with battle,’ said the King; ‘and I am weary also. For I have ridden far and slept little. Alas! My old age is not feigned nor due only to the whisperings of Wormtongue. It is an ill that no leech can wholly cure, not even Gandalf.’
Quote:
On the withdrawal of the ‘magic’: ‘Yet also I should be sad,’ said Theoden. ‘For however the fortune of war shall go, may it not so end that much that was fair and wonderful shall pass forever out of Middle-earth?’
Strange…..but the older I get, the wiser Theoden seems.

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Old 02-05-2005, 03:42 PM   #14
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Before I turn the page to the next chapter, I would like to mention how much I enjoy the ending of this one - it's so very hobbity!
Quote:
'So that is the King of Rohan!' said Pippin in an undertone. 'A fine old fellow. Very polite.'


The preceding pages also have such wonderful humour - Merry's high-falutin' language, used with tongue in cheek; Gimli's "torn between rage and joy"; Théoden's 'It cannot be doubted that we witness the meeting of dear friends" - all bring welcome yet subtle comic relief into the story. (...too subtle for the movies, apparently. )
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Old 02-05-2005, 04:11 PM   #15
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Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Pipe

Quote:
"For one thing," said Theoden, "I had not heard that they spouted smoke from their mouths."

"That is not surprising," answered Merry; 'for it is an art which we have not practised for more than a few generations. It was Tobold Hornblower, of Longbottom in the Southfarthing, who first grew the true pipe-weed in his gardens, about the year 1070 according to our reckoning. How old Toby came by the plant ..."

'You do not know your danger, Theoden," interrupted Gandalf. "These hobbits will sit on the edge of ruin and discuss the pleasures of the table, or the small doings of their fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers, and remoter cousins to the ninth degree, if you encourage them with undue patience. Some other time would be more fitting for the history of smoking
And another favourite bit for me is the attempted discourse on the history of smoking. This was to have been much longer but eventually found its way into the foreword, but its one of those pleasant diversions that the Hobbits often provide us with, as though Tolkien had himself stopped for a smoke at this point.
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Old 02-05-2005, 05:01 PM   #16
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So Theoden comes to promise Merry he will hear more about pipeweed later on.

I think it is sad that Merry and Theoden never get the chance to talk about it.

I always thought that they would get a chance to talk so when Theoden dies it came as a shock to me. (It still does when I re-read LOTR which is weird since I know he is going to die)
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Old 02-06-2005, 02:25 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
I do find the conversation of Legolas & Gimli regarding the Caves interesting for what it tells us about their relationship.
Legolas to be so judgemental & condemnatory. Perhaps his predjudices remain despite all he has learned. Indeed, it seems that Gimli is the 'sensitive' one in this relationship, & Legolas is betraying the Elves' innate (but false) sense of 'superiority' over other races. I wonder if Tolkien is making a point here about his primary creation - they aren't in any way 'ideal' beings. They are smug, controlling & 'holier than thou' to a deeply unhealthy (& unpleasant) degree. Of course, they have their virtues, which at the least balance out such faults, but those faults are there. Legolas needs putting in his place - he is 'talking like a fool' & Gimli is right to point this out to him.

.
Although as an "elf-fancier" , Legolas was one of my favourites when I first read the book, even I would admit that he makes his fair share of "silly" and inane remarks. I wouldn't be quite as harsh as davem's character assassination but Elves in general do seem to have a major problem of relating to mortals. Which I guess is understandable - especially since most of them have few dealings with them other than the Dunedain who are the most "elvish" of men - though I wouldn't particulary expect Legolas to be in this category as the Mirkwood elves traded with the "ordinary" Lake men. I would put a lot of this down to the ennui "disengagement" discussed widely elsewhere of the Exiles preparing to return rather than quite such major character flaws. Gildor may have made the dismissive comment about mortals not being their concern but he nevertheless takes steps to safeguard the hobbits as far as he can and to alert Rivendell to their peril.

Other examples of the elf's insensitivity are his flippant comments on Caradhras and his comment that the hobbits should dig a hole if they did not want to climb trees to escape from Orcs. However I cannot think of a similar one after Gimli's rebuke. He becomes a more thoughtful elf and his comments in Minas Tirith - will be far removed from those at Helms deep.
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Old 02-20-2005, 01:43 AM   #18
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As a quite shallow person, I find it easy to smile and laugh and giggle at many scenes in the LotR books. But one of the scenes that reached out and tugged at my heartstrings was that of the meeting between the hobbits and Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas, as well as Theoden's polite and humble remarks. I remember myself squirming in my seat, giggling wildly as I read through that part. Until now I find it a great misfortune that what was promised in that scene will be broken in the end. (No need to be specific. Hint: Theoden and Merry )

davem (on Elven Superiority):
I found myself nodding to your words, but I thought I would defend Legolas a bit... At the beginning of the chapter, as Gimli and Legolas met again, the Elf admitted his defeat in their game for he was so glad to see Gimli safe. Do not these words presage that he is letting go of his "superiority" little by little?

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Old 03-02-2005, 09:46 PM   #19
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catch-up, notes from reading prior to reading thread

Gandalf is persistently mysterious throughout this chapter as shown in several quotes following:
Quote:
‘Hail, Lord of the Mark!’ said Éomer. ‘The dark night has passed and day has come again. But the day has brought strange tidings.’ He turned and gazed in wonder, first at the wood and then at Gandalf. ‘... You are mighty in wizardry, Gandalf the White!’
‘That may be. But if so, I have not shown it yet. "
Quote:
‘And what may be the answer to your riddle?’ said Théoden.
‘If you would learn that, you should come with me to Isengard’ answered Gandalf....".... There we may see strange things.’
Quote:
‘Let the Orcs lie,’ said Gandalf. ‘The morning may bring new counsel.’
Quote:
‘What has become of the miserable Orcs?’ said Legolas.
‘That, I think, no one will ever know,’ said Gandalf.
All that gandalfian mystery makes the next quote all the more fun:

Quote:
Gandalf laughed long and merrily.
Gandalf lectures Theoden about Old Wives Tales:
Quote:
‘You need no weapons,’ said Gandalf. ‘These are but herdsmen. They are not enemies, indeed they are not concerned with us at all.’
So it seemed to be; for as he spoke the tall creatures, without a glance at the riders, strode into the wood and vanished.
‘Herdsmen!’ said Théoden. ‘Where are their flocks? What are they, Gandalf? For it is plain that to you, at any rate, they are not strange.’
‘They are the shepherds of the trees,’ answered Gandalf. ‘Is it so long since you listened to tales by the fireside? There are children in your land who, out of the twisted threads of story, could pick the answer to your question. You have seen Ents, O King, Ents out of Fangorn Forest, which in your tongue you call the Entwood. Did you think that the name was given only in idle fancy? Nay, Théoden, it is otherwise: to them you are but the passing tale; all the years from Eorl the Young to Théoden the Old are of little count to them; and all the deeds of your house but a small matter.’
Commentary by the fords of Isen is provided by Eomer...
Quote:
"Maybe he is boiling all the waters of Isen, and that is why the river runs dry.’
...He always brings me a fond smile.


The lovely glimpses of the distant past:
Quote:
Partly it was shaped in the making of the mountains, but mighty works the Men of Westernesse had wrought there of old...
Once it had been green and filled with avenues, and groves of fruitful trees, watered by streams that flowed from the mountains to a lake. But no green thing grew there in the latter days of Saruman. ...
It was fashioned by the builders of old, who smoothed the Ring of Isengard, and yet it seemed a thing not made by the craft of Men, but riven from the bones of the earth in the ancient torment of the hills. A peak and isle of rock it was. black and gleaming hard: four mighty piers of many-sided stone were welded into one, but near the summit they opened into gaping horns. their pinnacles sharp as the points of spears, keen-edged as knives. Between them was a narrow space, and there upon a floor of polished stone, written with strange signs, a man might stand five hundred feet above the plain....A strong place and wonderful was Isengard, and long it had been beautiful; and there great lords had dwelt, the wardens of Gondor upon the West, and wise men that watched the stars.


Tolkien's commentary, I think, that the works of any "evil Genius" point to their true and original father:
Quote:
...for all those arts and subtle devices, for which he forsook his former wisdom, and which fondly he imagined were his own. came but from Mordor; so that what he made was naught, only a little copy, a child’s model or a slave’s flattery, of that vast fortress. armoury, prison, furnace of great power, Barad-dûr...

Quote:
"Two hundred leagues, through fen and forest, battle and death, to rescue you! "
I think I finally figured out that a "league"-- three miles-- is the distance a normal footsoldier or a man travels in an hour. When Gimli says two hundred leagues, that's in essence saying 'two hundred hours worth' of travel, although they ran and rode much of it. Still, Gimli's indignation is easier to understand if we imagine it in those terms. How long would it take me to travel two hundred leagues-- six hundred miles? Frodo traveled 17 miles a day from Bag End to Rivendell. Maybe I could make twenty, if I was lucky. It would take me .... hmmmm... (mark12_30 does some calculations on fingers) Thirty days? To find my quarry 'feasting and idling and smoking. Smoking!'

Theoden, bless him, takes Gandalf's words about the legends of the past, to heart:
Quote:
"The days are fated to be filled with marvels. Already I have seen many since I left my house; and now here before my eyes stand yet another of the folk of legend. Are not these the Halflings, that some among us call the Holbytlan?’
It seems significant to me that Pippin remained in his napping posture until he heard Theoden's comment:
Quote:
"No report that I have heard does justice to the truth.’
Merry bowed; and Pippin got up and bowed low.
Merry had been busy being polite this whole time. Pippin had been (for a hobbit) extremely un-polite! Still flat on his back! But at this moment, he both stands, and then bows low.

Merry is magnificent and delightful, polite, astute, and shrewd:
Quote:
‘He left a message,’ said Merry, ‘and I was coming to it, but I have been hindered by many other questions. I was to say that, if the Lord of the Mark and Gandalf will ride to the northern wall they will find Treebeard there, and he will welcome them. I may add that they will also find food of the best there, it was discovered and selected by your humble servants.’ He bowed.
Gandalf:
Quote:
For Treebeard is Fangorn, and the eldest and chief of the Ents, and when you speak with him you will hear the speech of the oldest of all living things.’
I wonder. When Gandalf says "living things", is he implying that Ents are 'things'-- body first, soul second? As opposed to, say, a Maia or a Vala, who was spirit first, then body? Maybe I'm being affected by Morsul the Dark's theory that Ents turn into trees in order to 'die'... But Ents, it seems to me, are wood first, speakers second. Whereas Maia and Vala are speakers first, and flesh second. (I suspect also that Tom Bombadil might fit into this category... just a thought.) Anyway, maybe when Gandalf says "you will hear the speech of the oldest of all living things" maybe he's talking about the oldest Thing that has 'come to life'-- not the oldest being (which would be those beings that had spirits before Arda was made.) So maybe Tom is the Oldest spirit clothed with a body, but Treebeard is the oldest Object-turned-sentient.
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Old 05-18-2005, 05:31 PM   #20
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I made notes about what moved me and interested me most in this chapter-
the conversation of Gandalf and Théoden about the Ents and the "fireside tales" and the sadness because much that is fair and wonderful will pass away.
but I see that Lalwendë has written exactly about that and I couldn't agree more!
This passage is so typical for Tolkien - it relates to the story and yet it is a truth. The Ents have passed away and only the unexplained word is left in some old texts - Tolkien had to re-invent a meaning.

I was also moved by Gimli's description of Aglarond - it shows that he has the soul of a poet! Here we see how he and Legolas have become friends indeed. It is so important to them to share what they delight in, that they will overcome their reluctance to strange places.
Quote:
Davem wrote:
I do find the conversation of Legolas & Gimli regarding the Caves interesting for what it tells us about their relationship. For all their friendship Legloas still clearly sees Gimli as materialistic & fails to understand that his friend could have anything more than a mercenary interest in the Caves' contents.
Well, my impression was that Legolas had this opinion of dwarves in general, but not about Gimli, who seems to him an exeption in his appreciation of beauty.
"But do not tell all your kindred!" he warns him.
I agree with Davem about the Elves general sense of "superiority", but I feel this more about Gildor, or Haldir, or Lindir in Rivendell... Legolas himself never strikes me as particularly smug or "holier than thou". I rather think he is really quite modest - he is just "Legolas the Elf" and never mentions that he is the son of a king, and readily accepts Aragorn as his leader.


But there is one thing in this chapter that makes me wonder:
When the company have reached the Fords of the Isen, Théoden says:
Quote:
"Alas! Must we pass this way where the carrion-beasts devour so many good Riders of the Mark?"
and then Gandalf shows them the mound on the islet
Quote:
"Here lie all the Men of the Mark that fell near this place," said Gandalf.
"Here let them rest!" said Éomer. "And when their spears have rotted and rusted, long still may their mound stand and guard the Fords of Isen!"
Why on Earth is Théodred never mentioned ? After all, it is here that the king's son fell, and to go by U.T., he must also be buried here ! (His last words were: "Let me lie here until Éomer comes!") Already in the preceding chapters I thought it rather strange that Théoden doesn't mourn for his son. (Only Grima mentions his death) And now he passes his grave (or at least the place where he fell) and not one word about Théodred!
(Perhaps Movie-théoden overdid it a bit, but on the whole I thought that it was a good idea in the movie to show Théodred's funeral and his father's grief.)

Has anyone an explanation for this?
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Old 09-19-2018, 01:13 PM   #21
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Pipe

Although I argued, only a thread ago, that the denouément of Book III doesn't come until after "The Voice of Saruman," there is nonetheless something of a denouément feel to "The Road to Isengard," coming as it does after the heights of "Helm's Deep." If the plot is a series of peaks and valleys, this chapter is a valley rather than a peak.

Nonetheless, it is laden with some of the most beautiful parts of the entire book. Both Gimli's description of the Glittering Caves and his pact with Legolas could be mentioned here, or the mystery of the wood, or the description of Isengard. I would also include the passing of the wood back to Fangorn past our company--a passage I don't recall noting before.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tuor of Gondolin View Post
Although it's always seemed a bit out of character for Strider to stay with them rather then going immediately to meet Treebeard.
I think Tuor has a point here, though I'm not going to characterise it as "out of character." Rather, I think that, left to his own devices, Aragorn probably *would* be more curious to go and meet Treebeard. The fact that he does not do so is a revelation of character. After pursuing the Hobbits across Rohan and into Fangorn, Aragorn still has a "duty" to the Fellowship (as we see in the next chapter, not necessarily an unpleasant duty). It's sort of like a father taking off time from work when something major and ambitious is being tackled to see a child's ball game: the investment of his time in a personal matter when there is something major tugging at him demonstrates the importance he places on the personal relationship.
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