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Old 12-02-2020, 12:34 PM   #1
Victariongreyjoy
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Question about the Grey Company

How could 30 dunedain rangers change the outcome of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields? Were these rangers like a elite-force with the same strength as Aragorn and just wiping out Mordor's 100k orcs with easterlings and souhtrons just like a piece of cake?
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Old 12-02-2020, 03:36 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Victariongreyjoy View Post
How could 30 dunedain rangers change the outcome of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields? Were these rangers like a elite-force with the same strength as Aragorn and just wiping out Mordor's 100k orcs with easterlings and souhtrons just like a piece of cake?
Though the Rangers were indeed a more formidable force than their numbers alone suggest, they did not change the outcome on Pelennor. Aside from the Rangers, Aragorn also brought with him a significant number of fighters from the south of Gondor, after removing the threat of corsairs that kept them behind. Plus, the demoralizing surprise factor of enemies appearing on allied ships.

If you're interested in the military side of the battle, I recommend checking out this thread: http://www.forum.barrowdowns.com/showthread.php?t=19363. It links to a series of articles analyzing the battle from a strategic point of view and describes how big each force was and what is their role and impact. I found this series very enjoyable and informative, I highly recommend it.
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Old 12-02-2020, 04:10 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
Though the Rangers were indeed a more formidable force than their numbers alone suggest, they did not change the outcome on Pelennor. Aside from the Rangers, Aragorn also brought with him a significant number of fighters from the south of Gondor, after removing the threat of corsairs that kept them behind. Plus, the demoralizing surprise factor of enemies appearing on allied ships.
Which sparks the opposite question for me, and I'm somewhat surprised to find I don't know the answer: why did the Grey Company come down at all, given that Aragorn achieved his goals with a) ghosts and b) Gondorians? Were they there symbolically - "look, Arnor's in this war too!" - or did they actually serve a... y'know useful purpose? I refuse to believe Elrond sent them all that way solely to give Estel a cross-stitch his girlfriend made him!

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Old 12-02-2020, 06:16 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
Which sparks the opposite question for me, and I'm somewhat surprised to find I don't know the answer: why did the Grey Company come down at all, given that Aragorn achieved his goals with a) ghosts and b) Gondorians? Were they there symbolically - "look, Arnor's in this war too!" - or did they actually serve a... y'know useful purpose? I refuse to believe Elrond sent them all that way solely to give Estel a cross-stitch his girlfriend made him!

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Moral support?

Because otherwise Galadriel's rhymes-via-Gandalf wouldn't rhyme anymore?

Also, as a more serious meta reason, because the Shire needed to be suddenly unprotected for storytelling purposes.



Seriously though, great question. If I were to explain it with proper forward-oriented thinking, it would be like this. Aragorn says, "I have not summoned you, save only in wish". Perhaps there is something of the supernatural, or perhaps Galadriel or Elrond are doing their mysterious Elvish foresight things - though if it was Elrond, it's not clear why "word came to Rivendell" as opposed to "Elrond said so". Their coming was pre-arranged some time ago, considering that even in great haste it took them time to reach Rohan; thus, likely pre-arranged with some vague foresight in mind without specific purpose. Two other things arrive with the Rangers: Arwen's banner and Elrond's advice. Neither would be worth riding to Rohan at full speed, but since the trip is happening anyway, these things get taken along for the ride. And in making the trip from vague foresight and tagging these things on, they actually retrospectively provide the reason why there was the foresight: Elrond's words push Aragorn to decide on the Paths of the Dead (based on his initial response, he wasn't really considering that option before), and set in motion his whole plan with using the palantir, and freeing up Gondor's population to fight off Mordor's invasion. This would be a lot more entertaining in a time travel universe, where someone gets to go back in time and be the mysterious voice that speaks the summons, trying to find precisely the right time and the right words so that the Rangers arrive with the keys to the puzzle in hand at the right moment, creating a stable time loop which ends in Aragorn's victory. Here's one for the fanfics!

Erm. In other words. If you already know the outcome, you can justify the preceding actions whichever way you like. And I think I like the sound of this: if it wasn't for Halbarad's company coming to follow their chieftain into hellfire and beyond, the War might not have been won. Because it can be rationalized this way. Ha.
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Old 12-03-2020, 11:28 AM   #5
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Dol Amroth?

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Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
Though the Rangers were indeed a more formidable force than their numbers alone suggest, they did not change the outcome on Pelennor. Aside from the Rangers, Aragorn also brought with him a significant number of fighters from the south of Gondor, after removing the threat of corsairs that kept them behind. Plus, the demoralizing surprise factor of enemies appearing on allied ships.

If you're interested in the military side of the battle, I recommend checking out this thread: http://www.forum.barrowdowns.com/showthread.php?t=19363. It links to a series of articles analyzing the battle from a strategic point of view and describes how big each force was and what is their role and impact. I found this series very enjoyable and informative, I highly recommend it.
Was the other reinforcement the Swan Knights of Dol Amroth?
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Old 12-03-2020, 12:39 PM   #6
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Was the other reinforcement the Swan Knights of Dol Amroth?
I think they were already there. Hang on, let me get the books (I'm so pleased to have them back, can you tell? ^_^)

Right, here we are, in RotK:

Quote:
Originally Posted by RotK 1: Minas Tirith
And so the companies came and were hailed and cheered and passed through the Gate, men of the Outlands marching to defend the City of Gondor in a dark hour; but always too few, always less than hope looked for or need asked. The men of Ringló Vale behind the son of their lord, Dervorin striding on foot: three hundreds. From the uplands of Morthond, the great Blackroot Vale, tall Duinhir with his sons, Duilin and Derufin, and five hundred bowmen. From the Anfalas, the Langstrand far away, a long line of men of many sorts, hunters and herdsmen and men of little villages, scantily equipped save for the household of Golasgil their lord. From Lamedon, a few grim hillmen without a captain. Fisher-folk of the Ethir, some hundred or more spared from the ships. Hirluin the Fair of the Green Hills from Pinnath Gelin with three hundreds of gallant green-clad men. And last and proudest, Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth, kinsman of the Lord, with gilded banners bearing his token of the Ship and the Silver Swan, and a company of knights in full harness riding grey horses; and behind them seven hundreds of men at arms, tall as lords, grey-eyed, dark-haired, singing as they came.

And that was all, less than three thousands full told.
So Imrahil and his company were part of the 3000 who reached Minas Tirith before it was besieged. Then later, we see who Aragorn brought with him:

Quote:
Originally Posted by RotK 6: The Battle of the Pelennor Fields
East rode the knights of Dol Amroth driving the enemy before them: troll-men and Variags and orcs that hated the sunlight. South strode Éomer and men fled before his face, and they were caught between the hammer and the anvil. For now men leaped from the ships to the quays of the Harlond and swept north like a storm. There came Legolas, and Gimli wielding his axe, and Halbarad with the standard, and Elladan and Elrohir with stars on their brow, and the dour-handed Dúnedain, Rangers of the North, leading a great valour of the folk of Lebennin and Lamedon and the fiefs of the South. But before all went Aragorn with the Flame of the West, Andúril like a new fire kindled, Narsil re-forged as deadly as of old: and upon his brow was the Star of Elendil.
The allied armies converge from three sides: Imrahil from the west (ie, the city), Eomer from the north (somewhere along the Rammas, I think), and Aragorn from the south (the docks). The structure isn't entirely clear at a quick glance - I can see how you could connect Dol Amroth to Aragorn's group! The key is that 'great valour' I've highlighted. Lebennin and Lamedon are essentially the east and west halves of Gondor south of the mountains, so very large areas. Gimli explains, a little later, how they came to be on the ships:

Quote:
Originally Posted by RotK 9: The Last Debate
‘That night [after the Dead had driven off the corsairs and been released] we rested while others laboured. For there were many captives set free, and many slaves released who had been folk of Gondor taken in raids; and soon also there was a great gathering of men out of Lebennin and the Ethir, and Angbor of Lamedon came up with all the horsemen that he could muster. Now that the fear of the Dead was removed they came to aid us and to look on the Heir of Isildur; for the rumour of that name had run like fire in the dark.

‘And that is near the end of our tale. For during that evening and night many ships were made ready and manned; and in the morning the fleet set forth.
Which makes sense, since you can't man a fleet of ships with only 30 men! Tolkien specifically describes them as having 'many oars', so you're looking at at least 100 men per ship. Some ancient ships, for instance under the Byzantine Empire, pushed towards 300 crew each!

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Old 12-03-2020, 03:41 PM   #7
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Tolkien doesn't directly say--at least, that I can recall--why the Grey Company was important, if indeed it was, but I think there's a symbolism to it that makes a lot of sense in Middle-earth AND explains why it was dropped from the movies.

Basically, the Grey Company transforms Aragorn from a lone hero to a lord. Before they show up, he's a hero, certainly, and kingly--but other than lineage and his person, he's not a king-candidate: and his arc over Books III & V is becoming one.

The arrival of his people fits that point excellently because they arrive right before he challenges Sauron in the palantír: so as he marches to war thereafter, he's marching with at least a token force that says "here is the King of Arnor; here is the Heir of Isildur."

But Sauron's not the only audience: he's also bolstering his lordliness to the people of Gondor. When he arrives like the wind to Pelargir, he's not just a hero leading the army of the dead, he's a leader of men marshalling the army of the dead. The fact that he has a retinue is important (though it's implicit not explicit) in winning the respect of Angbor and the other southern Gondorians: here are people to vouch for him and his lineage.

The idea that a king is just a prince who's the heir to the last king doesn't quite fly--historically, an heir too young to be a leader in his own right (a child) was always a dicey prospect to succeed. If you look at Faramir, he's already "the Captain" and has his own band of men--it's not just that he's Denethor's son. (This is presumably true of Boromir as well, but we don't get to see it in the firsthand narrative.)

But this is always why the Grey Company is dropped so easily from the movies: because Peter Jackson's Aragorn is a hero, not a lord, and his arc isn't the same as Aragorn's more carefully-laid triumpt in the Books. Movie-Aragorn sort of falls into becoming king reluctantly, while book-Aragorn has worked uphill to accomplish a mightly goal: the Dúnedain arriving and marching with him are a step toward that goal. Without them, he'd just be a man with a sword; with them, he's the Heir of Isildur. Even then, it takes the Army of the Dead and impeccable timing at the Pelennor, and the semi-related suicide of Denethor to let everything slot in for his becoming king.
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Old 12-03-2020, 03:54 PM   #8
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That is a really good point, Form. Really really good point.

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Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
Which makes sense, since you can't man a fleet of ships with only 30 men! Tolkien specifically describes them as having 'many oars', so you're looking at at least 100 men per ship. Some ancient ships, for instance under the Byzantine Empire, pushed towards 300 crew each!
Many of these ships were also apparently manned (oared?) by captive Gondorians, who presumably didn't ditch after being freed by the Dunedain. So Aragorn had an army of fighting men and a group of men familiar with the workings of the ships under his command.
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Old 12-03-2020, 10:24 PM   #9
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Since the Corsair fleet supposedly numbered fifty "great ships" and scores of lesser ones, and since Aragorn packed them full (remember, the forces he sent marching north on foot were just the ones that wouldn't fit)- and since T also uses the term "dromonds", which I think refers to the "great ships," we are talking about 50 ships of ca. 300 men apiece (the size of a Byzantine dromond), or 15,000 men in the 'great ships' alone.

Also, besides the Lebennin men who had actually been fighting at Pelargir, there was also a substantial number of other Gondorians who had followed A. once the terrifying Dead had passed.

---------------------
Having said that, the Dunedain were probably superb fighters, worth way more than 30 ordinary fyrdsmen.
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Old 12-12-2020, 07:16 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Victariongreyjoy View Post
How could 30 dunedain rangers change the outcome of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields?
There were not just 30 Rangers from the North that came with Aragorn to Minas Tirith. There were also Men of Gondor from the Southern fiefs such as Lamedon and Lebennin in the ships [The Battle of the Pelennor Fields]. The Easterlings, Variags, and Southrons saw the ships “filled with their foes”.

As far as the Rangers are concerned they were not the only Dúnedain in the Battle of Pelennor. There were Dúnedain from the South there in much greater numbers. In the books there are only a few Dúnedain like Aragorn, Denethor, and Faramir who are depicted with expressions of Dúnedain traits that are stronger than normal. However, the other Dúnedain were certainly mightier than other men. When they are seen they tend to be like men to boys in relation to other men [The Passing of the Grey Company, The Steward and the King].
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Old 12-25-2020, 12:04 PM   #11
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The arrival of the Grey Company could also make one reflect on the importance of Aragorn's travels in his earlier years.

The Grey Company does not contain all of the adult male Rangers, but "...all of our kindred that could be gathered in haste..."

There doesn't seem to be a clear answer as to how large the surviving population of Dunedain remained in the north. I've read some articles dealing with it, one conjecturing that there may have been hundreds or many hundreds, but that perhaps not all males became Rangers, but lived in settlements with the women and children, playing their part in supporting village life.

Tolkien describes the Rangers in the chapter, "At the sign of the Prancing Pony":
"But in the wild lands beyond Bree there were mysterious wanderers. The Bree-folk called them Rangers, and knew nothing of their origin. They were taller and darker than the men of Bree... They roamed at will southwards, and eastwards even as far as the Misty Mountains; but they were now few and rarely seen. When they appeared they brought news from afar, and told strange forgotten tales which were eagerly listened to; but the Bree-folk did not make friends of them."

We know from what Gandalf told Butterbur that they also journeyed north to Fornost.

Suppose for discussion's sake that three times the number of adult male Rangers that rode with the Grey Company were spread across Eriador, defending the Shire and Bree and the surrounding lands from a different kind of danger than that facing Gondor. As Aragorn says to Boromir at the Council of Elrond:

'Peace and freedom, do you say? The North would have known them little but for us. Fear would have destroyed them. But when dark things come from the houseless hills, or creep from sunless woods, they fly from us. What roads would any dare to tread, what safety would there be in quiet lands, or in the homes of simple men at night, if the Dunedain were asleep, or were all gone into the grave?'
'And yet less thanks have we than you. Travellers scowl at us, and countrymen give us scornful names. "Strider" I am to one fat man who lives within a day's march of foes that would freeze his heart, or lay his little town in ruin, if he were not guarded ceaselessly. Yet we would not have it otherwise. If simple folk are free from care and fear, simple they will be, and we must be secret to keep them so. That has been the task of my kindred, while the years have lengthened and the grass has grown.'


I don't get the feeling the Rangers ever fought with all of their numbers together, as one unit, in major skirmishes, as did Eomer's Eored. And certainly not as a mounted unit as they have formed as the Grey Company in this particular instance. Clearly, there was a band of them at Sarn Ford who tried to resist the Nazgûl and were scattered or killed. And it seems another band east of Bree. To me they are a bit reminiscent of Barahir's band back in the First Age – a force of irregulars.

Had Aragorn's fighting experience been limited to that kind of guerrilla warfare, while he would still be a great leader of men – partly through his nature, partly through things he learnt from Elrond during his youth and partly through his long life – he would not had the skills of a great general of large armies.

He turned 20 in 2951 and left Rivendell for a life in the wild after learning of his true identity from Elrond and suffering heartbreak after realizing his infatuation for Arwen could come to nothing. "For 30 years he laboured in the cause against Sauron."

We can speculate (I think) that the first six years might have been spent with his people in Arnor. In 2956, he befriended Gandalf. And it is for 23 years starting in 2957 that he undertakes his great journeys across much of the Middle-earth, serving as "Thorongil" with Thengel in Rohan and then with Ecthelion II in Gondor before trekking "...even into the far countries of Rhûn and Harad where the stars are strange."

Surely it is the experience he gleaned fighting in, and then commanding, successively larger and larger military units in his time in Rohan and Gondor that make him the general he is by the time he takes part in the War of the Ring; and beyond that when as King Elessar he took the armies of Gondor (accompanied by that of Rohan), "beyond the Sea of Rhûn and on the far fields of the South..."

Much of the time following his return from those travels must have been spent back in Arnor (though some significant time is spent east of the Anduin in the search for Gollum). During these years in Arnor, he receives the nickname "Strider" from the people of Bree. As Chieftain during this time, did he travel from one sub-group of Rangers to another (with or without Roheryn as the situation required) keeping informed, raising morale, helping deal with issues in various areas? I don't know. I suppose such travel would explain him being a frequent enough visitor to Bree to garner a nickname. Certainly, he had enough flexibility in his role that when he received Gildor's message that Frodo was heading east bearing a great burden, he was able to patrol the East-West Road and intercept the four Hobbits when they finally parted with Tom Bombadil.

Additional thoughts:
Interesting that Aragorn recognised Bombadil as he was saying farewell to the hobbits considering how many at Rivendell seem to have forgotten his existence.
And, clearly, Bombadil knows of the important role the Rangers play in guarding the Shire, referring to it when he gives the hobbits the Barrow-blades – "Few now remember them," Tom murmured, "yet still some go wandering, sons of forgotten kings walking in loneliness, guarding from evil things folk that are heedless." Indeed, he might well be referring to Aragorn himself.
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Old 12-25-2020, 02:52 PM   #12
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Well, yes-but...

Aragorn doesn't actually engage in much "generalship," beyond ordering Angbor to march north to MT, and in his establishing the defensive formation before the Morannon. He is far more a warrior-king, as are Theoden and Eomer and Dain, leading the charge and wading in with his sword. That's not a role compatible with generalship- which is actually demonstrated by Denethor, and he even explains it to Pippin.

Simply put, a leader can either fight, or he can run things (from behind the lines, preferably on a hilltop with good visibility); he can't do both, at least not beyond the small-unit tactical level .
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