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Old 02-13-2005, 12:46 PM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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White-Hand LotR -- Book 3 - Chapter 10 - The Voice of Saruman

This is another chapter with very little action, some description and much dialogue, and it is one of the most fascinating, masterfully written by Tolkien. A very personal memory that I treasure is that of a live internet reading, via voice chat, with various participants in three countries sitting at their PCs, books in hand, reading the different characters. The highlight was Squatter and Rimbaud’s fantastic interpretation of the two wizards; hearing their expressive voices with the very appropriate British accents was a thoroughly enjoyable experience! If you ever sit down to do a reading with friends, this chapter is a great one!

It begins with a slight change of location; we follow the remaining Fellowship members over to Orthanc, where they (and we) stay for the rest of the chapter. The ruins of the surroundings are described, the participants listed, and then the story begins. Gríma’s presence in the tower is revealed, after which Saruman speaks. I find Tolkien’s paragraph on the effect of the voice fascinating; it echoes Gandalf’s warning of the danger that Saruman still poses.

Gandalf’s restraint in letting those spoken to answer for themselves without his active influence contrasts sharply with Saruman’s persuasion. Indeed, the difference between the two wizards is one of the most important aspects of this chapter.

Interestingly, the first one to speak against Saruman is Gimli; that reinforces what we have read about the toughness of Dwarves to corruption by others. I love his words: “The words of this wizard stand on their heads. In the language of Orthanc help means ruin, and saving means slaying, that is plain.”

The second one to speak is Éomer, with a nice analogy – “So would the trapped wolf speak to the hounds.” He reminds Théoden of those who died at the hands of Saruman’s orcs, those who meant so much to him personally. What gives Éomer the resistance – the strength of youth, or is it some other characteristic? Do his words influence Théoden’s reaction, or would the outcome have been the same without them?

Théoden’s reply is preceded by much suspense, and begins without dispelling it until the third repeat of the words “We will have peace”. One sentence that he says to the wizard reminds me of the situation we discussed at the gate of the Golden Hall, where Aragorn resisted giving up his sword at first: ”…were you ten times as wise you would have no right to rule me and mine for your own profit as you desired…”

Saruman’s wrath lets him lose control of his reaction – his ensuing “Gibbets and crows!” speech reveals him as he really is.

Though Saruman speaks down to Gandalf both literally and figuratively, Gandalf shows how he has changed in relation to him. “I fear I am beyond your comprehension.” A wonderful proverbial statement follows: “The guest who has escaped from the roof, will think twice before he comes back in by the door.” Then comes an offer of repentance: “Will you not come down?” I see that as having a strongly figurative meaning behind the literal one – to repent, Saruman must come down, humble himself. That proves to be too difficult for him; “Pride and hate were conquering him.” Like Sauron, he mistrusts others, thinking that they will have the same motivation he does, and cannot imagine that Gandalf would not wish to rule over him. “I do not wish for mastery.”

Then comes Gandalf’s verdict, casting him out of the order and Council, and the breaking of his staff, followed (literally!) by the Palantír.

I can’t help but wonder – and this is a good topic for speculative discussion – what difference could Saruman have made in the War of the Ring had he repented and helped them?

The chapter ends with Treebeard and the Ents, who will keep watch over Orthanc and its inhabitants.
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Old 02-14-2005, 12:41 PM   #2
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I think what struck me most on reading this chapter, especially after watching the EE of RotK last night, was Gandalf’s motivation in seeking out Saruman. What was supremely present in the book, & entirely absent in the movie, was mercy. The more I read this chapter the more I feel that. Gandalf wants to redeem Saruman. He doesn’t want him to be forever lost. Saruman, however, cannot let go of his desire to rule, to control. The interesting thing about this is that it is Gandalf, who has no desire for rule or control over anyone or anything, who has the greater power.

Saruman has devoted himself to enhancing his power, to the extent that he has almost become a slave to his own desire. Its almost as if he has created this fantasy alter-ego, coming to see himself as ruler of Middle earth, ordering all things to his will, & is in the end unable to free himself of that desire, even when it is plain that it will never be. He is stuck, in a cleft stick of his own cutting. He is trapped in his fantasy & not only can he not extricate himself from it, he even slaps away the helping hand Gandalf offers him.

He has become so screwed up that he, like Sauron, can only understand power. He cannot think that anyone with the capability to rule & dominate others would not use that power. He can only think that Gandalf wants to replace him in Orthanc. No other behaviour on Gandalf’s part is conceivable to him. He accuses Gandalf of desiring the ‘Keys of Barad-dur itself, I suppose; and the crowns of seven kings, and the rods of the Five Wizards.’, because those are the things he himself desires & he cannot think that Gandalf, or anyone else, would not desire them.

Poor Saruman, what place is there for a failed megalomaniac in Middle earth, what is he to do, what can he contribute? ‘A little mischief in a mean way.’ Its a terrible fate he chooses for himself. Its as if his response to Gandalf here seals his fate. If he could have accepted Gandalf’s mercy maybe he could have avoided his nasty little death in the Shire, but perhaps even by this time he was too far gone. Or maybe he preferred his fate to accepting mercy from a former subordinate.

But as I said, it seems to me that Gandalf’s primary motivation is mercy. He wants to ‘save’ Saruman even more than he wants his aid in the war. One can imagine Gandalf’s frustration. Saruman has been completely defeated, humiliated & broken, yet still he will not accept help, still he tries his ‘tricks’. Just as Saruman has been backed into a corner & lashes out in impotent fury, so, in the end, does Gandalf himself. He cannot leave Saruman with any power, but neither, & more importantly, can he leave him with any hope of reasserting himself. So he must break Saruman’s staff & cast him from the Order & the Council - perhaps in the hope that once he realises he can never go back to what he was he will find a new path.

It is interesting that Gandalf has taken over the role of ‘White Wizard’. Whether this is because Saruman forsook the role, or because Gandalf, when he ‘strayed beyond thought & time’ was given the role & title, is not clear. What is clear is that there can only be one White Wizard’ in Middle earth. Certainly Saruman does not realise Gandalf has taken up this mantle.

It does seem like Gandalf has supreme wizardly authority over both Order & Council - though I can’t help wonder whether Gandalf consulted with Galadriel (& possibly Elrond via sanwe) before deciding on this course of action. Surely he would not have the authority to cast Saruman from the White Council without the agreement of the other members.

In the end he crawls back into Orthanc, broken & humiliated before those he sought to humble. Gandalf has cast him down, as he did earlier with Wormtongue. But Saruman is himself a ‘wormtongue’. He speaks like a dragon - like Smaug & Glaurung - using twisted words to manipulate others & bend their wills to his own. In the end fails & Gandalf brings light into the darkness created by their webs of deceit, & both end up cast down from their positions of power.

A sad chapter - especially so when read in the light of Ainulindale.
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Old 02-14-2005, 01:19 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by davem
It is interesting that Gandalf has taken over the role of ‘White Wizard’. Whether this is because Saruman forsook the role, or because Gandalf, when he ‘strayed beyond thought & time’ was given the role & title, is not clear. What is clear is that there can only be one White Wizard’ in Middle earth. Certainly Saruman does not realise Gandalf has taken up this mantle.
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Originally Posted by davem
Poor Saruman, what place is there for a failed megalomaniac in Middle earth, what is he to do, what can he contribute? ‘A little mischief in a mean way.’ Its a terrible fate he chooses for himself. Its as if his response to Gandalf here seals his fate. If he could have accepted Gandalf’s mercy maybe he could have avoided his nasty little death in the Shire, but perhaps even by this time he was too far gone. Or maybe he preferred his fate to accepting mercy from a former subordinate.
Once Saruman broke the Light and became 'Saruman of many colours' the position of White Wizard must have effectively become vacant. He cannot be both White and Many-Coloured, certainly not in the defined moral structure of Arda. Once Saruman took the step to break the Light he effectively became a heretic. The concept of 'White' possibly encompassed the powers of all the other wizards, which may be what 'the rods of the five wizards' refers to, and also as White light encompasses all colours; it is composed of those colours and has no substance without them. Saruman of course, in breaking the Light, broke his own power in terms of Arda.

Saruman may be refusing to accept that Gandalf has taken over his former role; after all, he may well assume that with his inceredible intelligence he has achieved something beyond the bounds of the established order in becoming 'many-coloured'. He may be labouring under the false belief that his new found power is somehow 'outside' the established order. But it is not. 'White' encompasses all the other colours, and without this his power is rendered fragile.

Gandalf must neutralise Saruman's power as it is unstable in terms of the world they exist in; it exists outside the existing moral framework. All this makes me wonder what is the significance of the wizard's staff, what does it do and what does it symbolise.
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Old 02-14-2005, 01:42 PM   #4
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An excellent post, davem! The points about mercy are especially well-noted. This dominant theme of Tolkien's is sadly given a much diminished impact in the movie.

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Originally Posted by davem
It does seem like Gandalf has supreme wizardly authority over both Order & Council - though I can’t help wonder whether Gandalf consulted with Galadriel (& possibly Elrond via sanwe) before deciding on this course of action. Surely he would not have the authority to cast Saruman from the White Council without the agreement of the other members.
It would seem that the White Council of the Third Age (in contrast to that held in the Second Age after the War in Eregion), was convened by the authority of the Istari. After all, it only begins meeting once they arrive in Middle-earth, and Saruman seems to be the Head of the Council, just because.

I mean, we know that Galadriel would have preferred Gandalf as head of the Council. Elrond and Gandalf seem to be best friends. Cirdan gives Gandalf Narya. So how is that Saruman is the head of the council? Because he is the White Wizard. At least as I interpret it, the White Council was a creation of the Istari for the commom defence of middle-earth, and was naturally headed by the White Wizard.

Besides which, Gandalf had returned as the White Wizard, that is, the chief emissary of Manwe, King of Arda. His authority is pretty much undisputed. And from inference, it would seem that Gandalf would have been in the right to take supreme control over the armies of the West, had he not been under orders from Valinor to convince and not control.

Less specifically,

"The Voice of Saruman" is possibly my favourite chapter in the Two Towers. I love the high concentration of dialogue, especially Saruman's great speeches. One thing though, that has always made me ponder is the Palantir. Gandalf says that there were probably few things in Orthanc that were as valuable that he could have thrown away, but I've always wondered what other things there were. As noted in Unfinished Tales, Saruman was a packrat, and had all sorts of valuables in his tower. What else was there other than the Elendilmir and Isildur's ring-chain? What else could Grima have possibly thrown down at Gandalf. Or was he aiming at Saruman?
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Old 02-14-2005, 01:45 PM   #5
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How nicely said! I also have felt this to be a sad chapter. With Sauron, you know that he is an out and out baddie. There was never a realistic chance that he would ever turn back and find another path.

But with both Saruman and Gollum, Tolkien was careful to leave open the door to the possibility of forgiveness and a change in behavior. That has to be telling us something about how Tolkien viewed mankind and the possibility of individuals pulling back from evil. It's also interesting that in this chapter Gandalf is putting into action the very lesson he spelled out earlier to Frodo: that of showing mercy.

In reference to Esty's earlier question about how Saruman could have "helped", my feeling is that Gandalf was actually taking an enormous risk. What if Saruman had said yes? Could Gandalf and Argorn ever really have trusted Saruman to play a role in the fight against Sauron? It's hard for me to imagine that. Yet Gandalf is willing to stick his neck out and possibly imperil the entire cause in order to give Saruman one more chance to reach out, accept mercy, and begin a new path in life. It's almost like a statement on the worth of the individual: that sometimes we must set aside the grandest of causes and focus on the right or wrong in terms of the single person standing in front of us.

In another sense Gandalf gives us a foreshadowing of the role that Frodo will attempt to play with Gollum later in the book. He's reminding the reader not to forget the theme of mercy because it's going to come up again and again. And eventually it will be Frodo who will "assume" Gandalf's role, the same role that the istar plays in this very chapter, and again offer mercy to Saruman himself. No wonder that Saruman can say Frodo has "grown"! Perhaps, Saruman was actually remembering the time when Gandalf had tried to do the same thing at Isengard and was feeling particular bitterness at those memories, since the istar has now fallen so far that he must accept "mercy" at the hands of a hobbit.

Aragorn's absence from this chapter is striking. Except for one brief reference that he will stand beside Gandalf, the future King of Gondor is simply missing. By leaving out Aragorn's character, Tolkien focuses more clearly on the duo of Gandalf and Saruman, giving us a stark picture of the contrast between the two istari . Putting Aragorn into this mix would essentially have muddied the waters.
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Old 02-14-2005, 08:37 PM   #6
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Wonderful posts so far ...
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He cannot think that anyone with the capability to rule & dominate others would not use that power. He can only think that Gandalf wants to replace him in Orthanc.
Interesting observation davem, and very similar to Sauron. He thinks that Aragorn has the ring and has come to challenge him, to overthrow him, because that's what HE would do. In his own pride he doesn't realize that anyone would destroy the ring, let alone TRY to destroy it.
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Gandalf stirred, and looked up. "What have you to say that you did not say at our last meeting?" he asked. "Or, perhaps, you have things to unsay?"
Saruman paused. "Unsay?" he mused, as if puzzled. "Unsay? I endeavoured to advise you for your own good, but you scarcely listened. You are proud and do not love advice, having indeed a store of your own wisdom. But on that occasion you erred, I think, misconstruing my intentions wilfully. I fear that in my eagerness to persuade you, I lost patience. And indeed I regret it. For I bore you know ill-will; and even now I bear none, though you return to me in the company of the violent and the ignorant. How should I? Are we not both members of a high and ancient order, most excellent in Middle-earth? Our friendship would profit us both alike. Much we could still accomplish together, to heald the disorders of the world. Let us understand one another, and dismiss from thought these lesser folk! Let them wait on our decisions! For the common good I am willing to redress the past, and to receive you. Will you not consult with me? Will you not come up?
Saruman is given an oppurtunity to "unsay" what he said with Gandalf the last time they met. However, Saruman doesn't do this, he sort of beats around the bush saying "maybe I came off wrong, and I regret that, this is what I meant..." but it just goes back to not "unsaying," but "resaying."

After all this, again Theoden doubts Gandalf. It was before in Helm's Deep when Theoden said something like..."If I knew then what I do now, maybe I wouldn't have listened to Gandalf." Now Theoden thinks Gandalf is going to go up their and talk with Saruman, and make an alliance with him....
Quote:
Even in the mind of Theoden the thought took shape, like a shadow of doubt: "He will betray us; he will go - we shall be lost."
A wonderful simile, and we get a different effect of Saruman's powerful voice. It's not the motivational pep-talker, not the "join me," not the sad puppy dog eyes, instead of all this it's casting fear and doubt into Theoden (as well as everyone else). It's making them doubt Gandalf and gets them into thinking he will betray them.
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Then Gandalf laughed. The fantasy vanished like a puff of smoke.
Formendacil:
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I mean, we know that Galadriel would have preferred Gandalf as head of the Council. Elrond and Gandalf seem to be best friends. Cirdan gives Gandalf Narya. So how is that Saruman is the head of the council?
I wondered about that too, and wonder if Saruman sweet talked his way into the position. But who knows? In his earlier days he was definitely kind, and worthy of such a position, he just turned down the wrong path.

Some other things I noticed, is Gandalf does warn about Saruman's voice, and we do see it have an effect (on the soldiers) but it seems that he's lost some of his potency.
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"If we speak of poisoned tongues what shall we say of yours, young serpent?" said Saruman, and the flash of his anger was now plain to see. "But come, Eomer, Eomund's son!" he went on in his soft voice again...
(emphasis mine)
Then Theoden...
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"A lesser son of great sires am I, but I do not need to lick your fingers. Turn elsewhither. But I fear your voice has lost its charm."
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The Riders gazed up at Theoden like men startled out of a dream. Harsh as an old raven's their master's voice sounded in their ears after the music of Saruman. But Saruman for a while was beside himself with wrath. He leaned over the rail as if he would smite the King with his staff. To some suddenly it seemed that they saw a snake coiling itself to strike.
Then we have the famous "Gibbets and Crows..."

Edit: I meant to answer one of the questions proposed by Estelyn, but I just plump forgot...
What would Saruman be able to contribute? Well if he was fully redeemed and he was never going to turn back down the path of evil, and Gandalf could trust him, I would say a lot. Afterall he and Galadriel threw Sauron out of Dol Guldur, grant it he might have grown in power since, but still. On a lighter note, that Voice might come in handy when facing an overwhelming horde of orcs.

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Old 02-17-2005, 03:08 PM   #7
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Suddenly another voice spoke, low and melodious, its very sound an enchantment. Those who listened unwarily to that voice could seldom report the words that they heard; and if they did, they wondered, for little power remained in them. Mostly they remembered only that it was a delight to hear the voice speaking, all that it said seemed wise and reasonable, and desire awoke in them by swift agreement to seem wise themselves. When others spoke they seemed harsh and uncouth by contrast; and if they gainsaid the voice, anger was kindled in the hearts of those under the spell. For some the spell lasted only while the voice spoke to them, and when it spoke to another they smiled, as men do who see through a juggler's trick while others gape at it. For many the sound of the voice alone was enough to hold them enthralled; but for those whom it conquered the spell endured when they were far away, and ever they heard that soft voice whispering and urging them. But none were unmoved; none rejected its pleas and its commands without an effort of mind and will, so long as its master had control of it.
This description of exactly how Saruman's voice works on the minds of listeners reminds me very much of hypnotism, something which I have practised myself, and had done to me in return. During hypnosis, it is important to keep the voice extremely low and soft, only raising it once you wish the person being hypnotised to 'wake'. The process depends on the psychological willingness of the person who is undergoing hypnosis. Here Tolkien describes exactly the different effects of various people when undergoing the technique. Some seem to lack total control and are very open to suggestion, while others are only partially open to the technique. The third group Tolkien mentions seem to be those who we might see on one of these (in my opinion, exploitative) TV shows and hence highly vulnerable to such persuasion. Finally Tolkien says how it took great will power to resist entirely; this is the only instance where his description diverges from real hypnosis, as a significant number of people simply cannot accept the process.

In terms of Middle Earth, I think Tolkien is here describing the effects of sanwe to a certain extent. Saruman here is openly talking rather than projecting thought in any way (although this could also be going on) and he is talking mostsly to Men, who seem the most susceptible to the technique. Gimli resists, and we do not know the reactions of Legolas or the Hobbits, but Saruman is clearly used to talking to men and knows what words to use to persuade them.

There is the distinct possibility that Saruman is simply extremely skilled with words, as his statements seem carefully constructed, bringing to mind the way that managers are trained to broach bad news to their staff, by coating criticism in sweeter words. Saruman even begins a plea to Gandalf by offering an apology, followed swiftly by criticism, and then by flattery. It is a classic case of a 'bad news sandwich':

Quote:
I fear that in my eagerness to persuade you, I lost patience. And indeed I regret it. For I bore you no ill-will; and even now I bear none, though you return to me in the company of the violent and the ignorant. How should I? Are we not both members of a high and ancient order, most excellent in Middle-earth?
The same effect is seen in the following:

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But if I am a murderer on that account, then all the house of Eorl is stained with murder; for they have fought many wars, and assailed many who defied them. Yet with some they have afterwards made peace, none the worse for being politic.
Saruman certainly relies upon confusing those who listen to him, and couching criticism within more pleasant words is a good way of doing this. In a meeting with Saruman it would be wise to take a tape recorder, or else have the capacity for memory that Gandalf has:

Quote:
But you, Saruman, I understand now too well. I keep a clearer memory of your arguments, and deeds, than you suppose.
I was thinking again about Grima in this chapter. Why does he throw the palantir from Orthanc? It is clear he was aiming at either Saruman or Gandalf, and as Aragorn says he could possibly not decide which wizard he hated more. He would hate Gandalf as he was the catalyst for ruining all his plans and hopes, but he would also hate Saruman as he had failed to deliver what he had promised in return for his treachery. Perhaps the palantir was an object symbolic of his frustration, as its easy to imagine Grima lurking while Saruman consulted the stone, perhaps thinking that this was at the root of his ruined schemes. For Grima there is now no going back to his old life, as his treachery was exposed back in Edoras:

Quote:
See, Theoden, here is a snake! With safety you cannot take it with you, nor can you leave it behind. To slay it would be just. But it was not always as it now is. Once it was a man, and did you service in its fashion.
Yet he was obviously a man of some influence even before Saruman 'bought' him. He seems to have been a part of Theoden's court, possibly he was even an adviser. His name and ancestry are known:

Quote:
"The wise speak only of what they know, Grima son of Galmod. A witless worm have you become. Therefore be silent, and keep your forked tongue behind your teeth. I have not passed through fire and death to bandy crooked words with a serving-man till the lightning falls."
What drove him to this? It seems in this chapter that he has finally realised his mistake and he attempts to kill either Saruman or Gandalf. It would not matter which he killed, as the removal of either would benefit him. If he killed Gandalf then he and his master could resume their plans; if he killed Saruman then he might be seen to have redeemed himself and so earn pity.

The contrast between Grima and Saruman is clear. Grima is confused and desperate and attempts to get himself out of the situation, even if he has no clear idea of exactly how to do this. Saruman is clearly still a little shocked at what the Ents have done:

Quote:
You may find the Shadow of the Wood at your own door next: it is wayward, and senseless, and has no love for Men.
But what prevents Saruman from attempting to save himself is his pride. He fears Sauron, and possibly also Gandalf, but more than this, he fears to walk out of Orthanc without his power and status, to become a mere worm like Grima.
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Old 02-20-2005, 01:28 AM   #8
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Wonderful posts, everyone. The first time I read this chapter, I thought only that it contained a dialogue of great substance between the two Wizards. I was deeply moved by the eloquently expressive words; I can almost hear them saying the words themselves complete with feelings. Through your posts I was able to see that there's a certain sadness that envelopes their speech.

It is very interesting that in this chapter, Saruman has used all the weapons he can grasp as he is backed into a corner. As an animal is most dangerous when trapped, Saruman has shown the full extent of the power of his words, not to mention his voice. His speech mirrored that which the devil uses; in this chapter, three weapons in the devil's arsenal are utilized by Saruman -- showing himself to be the Prince of lies.

First off is temptation, wherein the devil offers something we may possibly need or want that we are not sure he can really give, so that he can subtly get something else he wants.
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Despite the injuries that have been done to me, in which the men of Rohan, alas! have had some part, still I would save you, and deliver you from the ruin that draws nigh inevitably, if you ride upon this road which you have taken. Indeed I alone can aid you now.
But now that his army has been defeated in Helm's Deep, and Orthanc destroyed by the Ents, what aid can he really give, as Eomer later points out? We are not sure what exactly, but Saruman has something to gain from Rohan if the king agrees to his offer. But Gimli, of all those who were present, saw through the tempting words and openly exposed Saruman's lies. Saruman makes his offer a second time, now making his intentions clearer:
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Will you have peace with me, and all the aid that my knowledge, founded in long years, can bring? Shall we make our counsels together against evil days, and repair our injuries with such good will that our estates shall both come to fairer flower than ever before?
There is no doubt that these words are far more appealing than those that preceded them. You can almost see Theoden staring at a distance, seeing Saruman's words come true in his mind in full detail. That's why it is someone closer to him that offers the king another point of view this time. Eomer bid him come back to reality and remember the hurts Saruman had caused him. For one last time Saruman offers peace and friendship, and with a good choice of words (and timing) Theoden voices out his refusal and awareness of Saruman's desperate lies.
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You hold out your hand to me, and I perceive only a finger of the claw of Mordor. Cruel and cold!
But Saruman does not stop with Theoden. Deeming the Men hopeless and undeserving of his offer, he turns to Gandalf.
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But you, Gandalf! For you at least I am grieved, feeling your shame. How comes it that you can endure such company? For you are proud Gandalf -- and not without reason, having a noble mind and eyes that look both deep and far. Even now will you not listen to my counsel?
With these words, Saruman exerted such a great effort for it was no mere Man he was tempting. With his offer of friendship and counsel comes the choice for Gandalf to forsake his task the way Saruman did. It came as a surprise to the Men around, even to Theoden, that Gandalf declined.

Deception is the second weapon Saruman has used. This is evident in his voice, as the chapter describes (I will not anymore quote it). From the way he speaks, you would think he is the victim in the whole ordeal, when in reality he is the antagonist. Subtly he forces the people listening to look away from the truth that he is cruel, and thrusts to their faces the lie that he is kind and forgiving.

Finally, when he could not get his way in either methods, he goes to Plan C: accusation. He made the house of Eorl responsible for the destruction they might face for refusing him. He accused Eomer of having a poisoned tongue. He accused even the Ents: "...that which help you cannot count on again. You may find the Shadow of the Wood at your own door next: it is wayward, and senseless, and has no love for Men." He accused Gandalf of having intentions like his own. And he accused everyone of being "cut-throats and small rag-tag" that dangle at Gandalf's tail. These words are supposed to produce doubt in each heart that leads to dissension, as well as condemnation. But in the end, Saruman still did not succeed.

One thing I realized from this chapter is that just like Gandalf and the rest, I face a similar battle everyday with evil. These same weapons are being used against me, day after day after day. But the question for me is, will I be faint of heart like the Rohirrim? Or will I see through these lies and emerge victorious, like Gandalf did?

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Old 02-20-2005, 03:01 AM   #9
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Setting the stage for the next chapter...

One of the things Tolkien does so well is setting the stage for the events in the next chapter. Yet he often does it in such a subtle way that the reader is not wholly aware of the importance of his words, or how things will develop later in the tale.

A case in point is the hobbits' conduct and feelings as they sit at the bottom of the steps and listen to the conversation going on 'above' them. Tolkien tells us this:

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.... Merry and Pippin sat on the bottom step, feeling both unimportant and unsafe.

"Half a sticky mile from here to the gate!" muttered Pippin. "I wish I could slip off back to the guardroom unnoticed! What did we come for? We are not wanted."
Even before the appearance of the palantir, discontent is beginning to brew inside Pippin. Although both hobbits feel unimportant and unsafe, Pippin is the one who is upset enought to put his feelings into words. Undoubtedly, this discontent stems partially from Pippin's natural Tookish inquisitiveness: his desire to hear and know everything, a trait that will soon get him into definite trouble. But I can't help feeling this isn't just good natured inquisitiveness: there is a touch of shadow at its base, especially in the reference to "We are not wanted".

Nor is it accidental that Tolkien gave these words to Pippin rather than Merry. This scene foreshadows the one in the next chapter where Pippin, already under the influence of the Stone, is bothered by the fact that Merry was the one chosen to ride with Gandalf. His real reason for this, of course, is his desire to pump information out of Gandalf and, even more, to get closer to the Stone.

At the end of this chapter, it is Pippin rather than Merry who goes bounding off to retrieve the ball. And this sets the reader up for the events in the next chapter. Yet I can't help wondering why it was Pippin and not anyone else who ran to retrieve it. Was it Tookish curiosity, pure and simple? Just coincidence? Or is there something "addictive" within the ball that it would actually reach out and touch Pippin's discontented mind even when he was doing nothing more than looking at the Stone from afar?

I may be reading too much in here. The palantiri are not inherently evil objects, like the ruling ring or the other rings that fell under its dominion. Yet it often seems dangerous for a mortal to get near any 'magical' object crafted by Elven hands, whether or not the original intent was ill. From other scenes and references in the Legendarium, the palantiri would seem to exercise a negative or even addictive influence when the Stones are wielded by those who are not their rightful owners. This seems especially the case when the user is already discontent and unhappy, the chief example being Denethor. And it is clear from the earlier scene in the chapter that Pippin was already feeling discontent. So was it mere chance, Tookish curiosity, or something more that set Pippin racing after that crazy ball?
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Old 02-20-2005, 06:12 AM   #10
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Yet it often seems dangerous for a mortal to get near any 'magical' object crafted by Elven hands, whether or not the original intent was ill. From other scenes and references in the Legendarium, the palantiri would seem to exercise a negative or even addictive influence when the Stones are wielded by those who are not their rightful owners. This seems especially the case when the user is already discontent and unhappy
I've wondered about this in the past. Of course, there is the simple (simplistic?) explanation that Tolkien was a devout Christian & would have a very low opinion of anything that smacked of the 'occult', & was simply warning his readers not to 'dabble' in the Black Arts.

But I wonder if it is so simple. Perhaps its more a question of 'right'. Only certain individuals hava a 'right' to use 'magical' implements. Certainly we have Aragorn's warning in reference to Anduril:'Death shall come to any man that draws Elendil's sword save Elendil's heir.' The question arises as to whether Saruman himself had a 'right' to use the Palantir. I wonder whether there is more to this issue of 'right' - what constitued such a 'right' & how was it conferrred & by whom? Was there some kind of ceremony or investiture, or at least a 'training course'? Or are we back to the thorny issue of bloodlines.

Whether the barrow swords come into this is another question. They were given to the hobbits by Tom & were clearly 'magical', being 'woven about by spells'. It is interesting that all four hobbits carry 'magic' swords & seem not to come to harm as a result - in Merry's case the very opposite. Did Tom 'confer' the blades on the hobbits in some way? Perhaps his defeat of the Barrow Wight gave him some kind of 'authority' over the contents of the Barrow. Which gets me thinking about the way they aquire them in the movie - invested with arms by the last decendant of the Kings of Arnor...
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Old 02-20-2005, 07:08 AM   #11
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With these words, Saruman exerted such a great effort for it was no mere Man he was tempting. With his offer of friendship and counsel comes the choice for Gandalf to forsake his task the way Saruman did. It came as a surprise to the Men around, even to Theoden, that Gandalf declined.
When Saruman speaks to Gandalf he does seem to have to exert more effort into it. Perhaps this hints again at the use of osanwe and that Gandalf would be all too well aware of the need to exercise unwill, to close his mind to these words. In his final struggle with Gandalf he seems to put all his might into his words:

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So great was the power that Saruman exerted in this last effort that none that stood within hearing were unmoved. But now the spell was wholly different. They heard the gentle remonstrance of a kindly king with an erring but much-loved minister. But they were shut out, listening at a door to words not meant for them: ill-mannered children or stupid servants overhearing the elusive discourse of their elders, and wondering how it would affect their lot. Of loftier mould these two were made: reverend and wise. It was inevitable that they should make alliance. Gandalf would ascend into the tower, to discuss deep things beyond their comprehension in the high chambers of Orthanc. The door would be closed, and they would be left outside, dismissed to await allotted work or punishment. Even in the mind of Theoden the thought took shape, like a shadow of doubt: "He will betray us; he will go--we shall be lost."

Then Gandalf laughed. The fantasy vanished like a puff of smoke.
In this instance everyone listening is held under the control of what Saruman says, to the extent that they cannot really hear or understand his words. It makes me think that if you were to hear this yourself it might even seem as if Saruman were speaking in another tongue. I like the image that Tolkien uses here, of being shut out on the other side of a door. Those listening feel as though they are eavesdropping and such an endeavour rarely brings the listener the full story, just as happened to Sam when he was eavesdroping on Frodo and Gandalf at Bag End. The listeners cannot comprehend what is said so a 'shadow of doubt' forms in their minds and would possibly remain had Gandalf not broken the spell.

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The palantiri are not inherently evil objects, like the ruling ring or the other rings that fell under its dominion. Yet it often seems dangerous for a mortal to get near any 'magical' object crafted by Elven hands, whether or not the original intent was ill.
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Originally Posted by davem
Perhaps its more a question of 'right'. Only certain individuals hava a 'right' to use 'magical' implements. Certainly we have Aragorn's warning in reference to Anduril:'Death shall come to any man that draws Elendil's sword save Elendil's heir.' The question arises as to whether Saruman himself had a 'right' to use the Palantir. I wonder whether there is more to this issue of 'right' - what constitued such a 'right' & how was it conferrred & by whom?
I think that the answer could lie in intent. The only object portrayed as inherently dangerous is the One Ring, and possibly the Nine to Men yet presumably not to other races. Other objects are not obviously inherently evil, they just seem to have been used for evil intent, or even simply the wrong intent, as with Pippin and the palantir. Tolkien may be saying that to dabble with things without a clear mind and a clear purpose would and could be dangerous, but I don't think he is saying that every such object is inherently evil.

The interesting thing here is how would anyone know what was and what was not evil? And if it was not evil then how would anyone know how to use an object correctly? If you saw a gold ring in a cave you would never suspect it as evil, just as if you might not think there was anything wrong with playing with Anduril if you saw it propped against a wall outside Meduseld.

The palantiri were not made with evil intent, so I would say that to use them with evil intent would be to turn their very nature on its head and risk evil coming from their use. To use them with goodness of heart, which Pippin was not doing, should mean that they would react and respond in the correct manner. If the weapons found in the Barrow were made with the intention of doing great or good deeds, then to use them in this way should also protect the bearer from any possibility of being harmed by their 'magic'.
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Old 02-20-2005, 01:04 PM   #12
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I would not push the guilt to the Palantír, that he attracts Pippin in such a heavy way. The Palantír is indeed a magical thing, but there is nowhere (I hope) an evidence, that he attracts other character in that heavy way. Only using it can have some changings of the psyche of the user.
Rather would I search the guilt by Pippin himself. He is very predestinated from the character for such a deed. Of all Hobbits he seems to be the youngest from character and does many things very imprudently. One event, which is very similar to the Palantír-event, is the story with the stone and the well in Moria.

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Pippin felt curiously attracted by the well. While the others were unrolling blankets and making beds against the walls of the chamber, as far as possible from the hole in the floor, he crept to the edge and peered over. A chill air seemed to strike his face, rising from invisible depths. Moved by a sudden impulse he groped for a loose stone, and let it drop. He felt his heart beat many times before there was any sound. Then far below, as if the stone had fallen into deep water in some cavernous place, there came a plunk, very distant, but magnified and repeated in the hollow shaft.
Pippin is here also very attracted by this "mysterious" hole in the ground. He must fathom it out, In this special case, he must throw a stone into it, to explore how deep the hole goes and where the air came. Moved air in Moria? Really weird!
Pippin seems to be really vulnerable to those mysterious things. That fit also his character and way of life very well.
In the case of the Palantír, it must be similar. A mysterious Stone, what could that be? Just have a short look upon it.

A good reason for Gandalf for trying to bring Saruman back on the right way, could be, that Gandalf knows of the circumstances, which have brought Saruman on the wrong way. At the beginning none is evil and Gandalf (Olorin) as an Ainu must know that (if he hadn't forget it in his body).
Gandalf mentioned that Saruman was not always evil, he came as a good one (proud, but good). And he knows surely, how the embodying of an Ainu trouble the psyche. Tolkien said in one of his letters (shame on me, I can't find it), that the Istari had to suffer not only the suffers of the body, but have to suffer also in that way, that every Istar is in danger, that he will get stiffened by one goal or strategy how longer he is embodied. The Istar will try everything that he is right in his strategy.
The could be a reason of Sarumans refusing attitude. But it could also be the reason, why Gandalf tried to persuade Saruman, because he knows, that it is not Saruman's full failure.
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Old 02-20-2005, 03:56 PM   #13
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The very last paragraph of this chapter struck me today. Treebeard pledges the Ents to watch over Isengard and Saruman. What he says is not an oath, so he could not be accused of oathbreaking later on, but it does sound like a promise, doesn't it?
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Until seven times the years in which he tormented us have passed, we shall not tire of watching him.
That sounds like a very long time; however, Treebeard released Saruman a relatively short time later, a matter of weeks or months. Was Saruman's voice so powerful that an Ent broke his promise? That is a grave matter indeed!
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Old 02-20-2005, 04:23 PM   #14
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The very last paragraph of this chapter struck me today. Treebeard pledges the Ents to watch over Isengard and Saruman. What he says is not an oath, so he could not be accused of oathbreaking later on, but it does sound like a promise, doesn't it? That sounds like a very long time; however, Treebeard released Saruman a relatively short time later, a matter of weeks or months. Was Saruman's voice so powerful that an Ent broke his promise? That is a grave matter indeed!
Well, technically, he didn't promise not to release Saruman, he just said the Ents wouldn't get tired of watching over him any time soon. From what's said later he didn't release Saruman because he got tired of watching him, but because he couldn't stand to see him caged. Besides, Treebeard is responding to Gandalf's statement that Saruman must not be allowed to escape - which he doesn't.....
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Old 02-20-2005, 04:33 PM   #15
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...sounds like loyer's talk, davem...
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Old 08-13-2006, 06:35 AM   #16
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Staffs 'n' stuff

Just struck by the 'breaking of the Staff' thing. It could be seen to be a display of power on Gandalf's part, breaking Saruman's Staff, & therefore breaking his power, but is that the case? My feeling is that when Gandalf breaks Saruman's Staff he is actually taking away his authority as head of the Istari. We see with Denethor that in breaking his Staff he is casting aside his rule of Gondor. Denethor turns his back on authority (but not on 'power' - he still desires to 'rule his own end') & wishes to go his own way. Gandalf cannot take away Saruman's power, only his authority.

So, Staffs seem less to do with 'power' & more to do with 'Office' - ie the bearer of a Staff has a certain 'rank'. In both cases, with Saruman & with Denethor, there is a confrontation with Gandalf, & in both cases it is Gandalf who is left with Staff intact. But perhaps more interesting is that with Saruman the contest is between Wizards & Gandalf comes out on top, with Denethor it is a contest of 'Stewards' ('I also am a Steward, did you not know?' he asks Denethor).

So, a Staff is a symbol of office, & the breaking of it symbolises the withdrawal of that role. When one's Staff is broken one's authority is ended. But perhaps it goes deeper than that - there is clearly a difference between breaking one's own Staff & having it broken for one - there are two voluntary breakings of Staffs in LotR - Denethor's has been mentioned already, but Gandalf also breaks his Staff - in Moria. Interestingly in both these cases death follows almost immediately. It is as though to break one's Staff is to lay down one's life (there was speculation in a talk at Tolkien 2005 that when a Steward was about to surrender his office he would break his Staff & the next Steward would recieve a new one).

Gandalf's authority over Saruman seems to come as much from Right as from 'power'. Saruman obeys Gandalf not simply (if at all) because Gandalf is more powerful, but rather because, in Middle-earth, Authority, place in a hierarchy, has 'power' in & of itself. Aragorn can safely use the Palantir not simply because of any physical/mental power he has but because his Numenorean inheritance gives him authority to use it.

Of course these 'badges of Office' are not limited to Staffs. Elendil's Sword springs to mind for one...
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Old 09-24-2018, 08:31 AM   #17
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White-Hand

I almost have nothing to say here-- and not just because I said it all 14 years ago in one of the earliest posts of my Downsian existence! There's something about the most important chapters that seems yo discourage rambly side-investigations, because the main meat of the chapter is so important.

I said a few chapters ago, during this reread, that this is the true climax of Book III. Saruman has been the animating antagonist since the arrival of the Uruk-hai at Parth Galen and he is here exposed and defeated in a way that he was not before, not when the Riders destroyed Ugluk's company, nor at Helm's Deep, nor even when the Ents took Isengard. It's fitting that the book with the most military action thus far is shown to be driven by an intellectual enemy--all the bloodshed, burning, and loss experienced at the hands of Saruman's forces stems from his personal faults and his non-physical powers. Saruman, as has been noted by many before me, is probably the most 20th century character in the book, a villain who could as easily have factored into World War II as the War of the Ring.
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