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Old 01-10-2005, 03:15 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Narya LotR -- Book 3 - Chapter 05 - The White Rider

The main event in this chapter is something very unusual and definitely mythological – the return of a dead character. Tolkien masterfully builds up the suspense begun by the appearance of the old man in the previous chapter and lets his readers share the impressions of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli – thinking that it is Saruman and attempting to defend themselves against his danger; uncertainty; and finally overwhelming joy.

The chapter begins with the search for Merry and Pippin – and ends without having found them, though there is certainty of their safety. Aragorn shows his ability as “the greatest … huntsman of this age of the world” by not only finding their tracks but interpreting them rightly. Legolas’ interpretation gives the Elf a rare opportunity to show his humor. The Three Hunters enter yet another location of Middle-earth that is considered dangerous, though fortunately not for them.

Much of the chapter consists of dialogue, especially Gandalf’s retelling of his fate after the meeting. He also puts other events in their right context with his explanations. We get a glimpse of the greatness of his nature and are introduced to Shadowfax.

For first time readers of the book, this chapter is very suspenseful; I remember almost holding my breath while reading it. How did you experience it? What parts are important to you and for the story? What do you think of the character development?
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Old 01-10-2005, 11:05 AM   #2
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Let me add one more important thing in this chapter that we can discuss - Galadriel's messages to Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli. The first two are prophetic poems (in rhyme form), with rather depressing and hidden meanings, the one to Gimli is brief - do you think what she says about laying his axe to the right tree has a meaning that is important to the plot, as the other two messages do?
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Old 01-10-2005, 12:14 PM   #3
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One of the aspects about LOTR which I like is the occasional "history
and/or background" observations/commentaries. Gandalf's here are
especially revealing, especially explaining what would otherwise seem
rather curious, Sauron's frantic haste in attacking Minas Tirith and his
overall psychological makeup.
Quote:
...he does not yet perceive our purpose clearly. He supposes that we were all going to Minas Tirith; for that is what he would himself have done in our place...Indeed he is in great fear, not knowing what mighty one may suddenly appear, wielding the Ring, and assailing him with war...Wise fool. For if he had used all his power to guard Mordor, so that none could enter, and bent all his guile to the hunting of the Ring, then indeed all hope would have faded: neither Ring nor bearer could long have eluded him.
Also, the above observation of "not knowing what mighty one" seems at variance with the general view, shared by Tolkien himself in "Letters", that
probably only Gandalf could use the Ring against him (ignore PJ's movie
view in toto about no one using the Ring, that's an overinterpretaion/simplistic
view). Gandalf's statement here, which seems to be quite definitive (and by Gandalf the White) would seem to say that a number of candidates might use the Ring: Denethor, Theoden, Gandalf, Aragorn, Faramir, etc. And how would the Ring react to a woman wielding it (Eowyn)? Perhaps that would really put Sauron
off his game.
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Old 01-10-2005, 01:56 PM   #4
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I suppose a few things struck me instantly - the first, Gandalf's claim that he was 'sent back'. Tolkien comments on this in Letter 156:

Quote:
"Naked I was sent back - for a brief time, until my task is done." Sent back by whom, and whence? Not by the "gods" whose business is only with this embodied world and its time; for he passed "out of thought and time". Naked is alas! unclear. It was meant just literally, ''unclothed like a child" (not discarnate), and so ready to receive the clothed like a child" (not discarnate), and so ready to recelve the white robes of the highest. Galadriel's Power is not divine, and his healing in Lorien is meant to be no more than physical healing and refreshment. ''.
So, it wasn't the Valar - not even Manwe himself - who sent Gandalf 'back' into the world. It must have been Eru Himself. It seems that Gandalf literally died in his confrontation with the Balrog, & unlike an Elf it seems that he was not destined simply return to Valinor to be clothed in another form & remain forever within the Circles of the World. He truly died & passed into the presence of Eru. This is odd, in the light of other statements by Tolkien that once the Ainur had entered into the world they had to remain there till its end.

Then we have his summoning of Shadowfax:

Quote:
Gandalf caressed him. 'It is a long way from Rivendell, my friend' he said; 'but you are wise and swift and come at need. Far let us ride now together, and part not in thiis world again.
Its interesting to speculate on how Shadowfax knew of Gandalf's 'need' of him. Perhaps the answer can be found in an earlier draft:

Quote:
'The earliest extant account of Gandalf's summons to Shadowfax with his three great whistles, and his coming across the plain to the eaves of Fangom with Arod and Hasofel returning is already exactly as in IT (see p. 432); and this seems to fit the story in the present text, for Gandalf says to Shadowfax 'It is a long way from Rivendell, my friend; but you are wise and swift, and come at need,' and he says to Legolas 'I bent my thought upon him, bidding him to make haste; for yesterday he was far away in the south of this land.' (Treason of Isengard)
Perhaps we have here another example of Osanwe? Gandalf summons Shadowfax 'in thought' (as Aragorn will later summon the Dunedain. Of course this opens something of a can of worms - does Shadowfax have a 'soul'? Is he capable of Osanwe himself?

Finally for now, a fascinating insight into one of the powers of wizards from an early draft:

Quote:
In the first draft Gimli asks: 'That old man. You say Saruman is abroad. Was it you or Saruman that we saw last night?' and Gandalf replies: 'If you saw an old man last night, you certainly did not see me. But as we seem to look so much alike that you wished to make an incurable dent in my hat, I must guess that you saw Saruman [or a I vision>] or some wraith of his making. [Struck out: I did not know that he lingered here so long.]' Against Gandalf's words my father wrote in the margin: Vision of Gandalfs thought. There is clearly an important due here to the curious ambiguity surrounding the apparition of the night before, if one knew how to interpret it; but the words are not perfectly clear. They obviously represent a new thought: arising perhaps from Gandalf's suggestion that if it was not Saruman himself that they saw it was a 'vision' or 'wraith' that he had made, the apparition is now to emanate from Gandalf himself. But of whom was it a vision? Was it an embodied 'emanation' of Gandalf, proceeding from Gandalf himself, that they saw? 'I look into his unhappy mind and I see his doubt and fear', Gandalf has said; It seems more likely perhaps that through his deep concentration on Saruman he had 'projected' an image of Saruman which the three companions could momentarily see. I have found no other evidence to cast light on this most curious element in the tale; but it may be noted that in the time-scheme deriving from the time of the writing of 'Helm's Deep and 'The Road to Isengard' my father noted of that night: 'Aragorn and his companions spend night on the battle-field, and see ''old man" (Saruman). ' (Treason)
The idea that Gandalf could (unconsciously) 'project' an image of Saruman which others could see is fascinating. More Osanwe here? The Istari, it seems are capable of both astral & thought projection, but the former seems the most interesting in the light of Osanwe - was it possible to 'detatch' the Fea from the Hroa? If so, was this a 'technique' which could be mastered by others? Could it even be made to happen to someone against their will? This could explain the Nazgul - were they Hroa-less Fea?

Perhaps there's a clue to this in the Witch King's threat to Eowyn:

Quote:
'Come not between the Nazgul and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.'
Perhaps he's threatening her with what happened to him at Sauron's hands?
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Old 01-10-2005, 07:32 PM   #5
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Boots Riddlers

Ah, dear, obligations, obligations. For now let me provide this one observation about this chapter.

I cannot now read this chapter, particularly Aragorn's and Legolas's discussion of the interpretation of "signs" , with Gimli's contributions as well, without being reminded of something. Their querulousness over the riddle of the knife and lembas crumbs, the cut ropes and the drying mallorn leaf, reminds me so much of Downer's habits of yaying and nay-saying over points of interpretation of LotR.

I mean, really, when you read of the interpretations of "the bound prisoner" and "some other signs near at hand that you have not considered", and of "how do you suppose" and "that is my tale. Others might be devised", I cannot help but recall the Canonicity thread, the various threads over evil, and of course the current Balrog's wings and elf earz threads.

I suspect here Tolkien is giving us a slight Inkling of the kinds of discussions which the walls of the Bird and Baby witnessed. All seriously done, of course. But oh how that word "signs" has undergone some considerable discussion since these words were put to press.
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Old 01-10-2005, 07:34 PM   #6
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brief comment

Quote:
Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar
do you think what she says about laying his axe to the right tree has a meaning that is important to the plot
If I were a Freudian... but luckily, I'm not one

Hence, I believe it is just a general piece of advice and, at the same time, expression of special sympathy Galadriel has for the dwarf. It almost feels like she's doing her [kind of] duty towards Legolas and Aragorn - the former as a neighbouring elven Kindgom's ruling house member, the latter as kinsman and future son-in-law (and important political entity, or showing promise of becoming one in the future).

With Gimli, on the other hand, it feels like she simply likes the chap, as an interesting, a bit strange, curious, and above all, cute person. Something like a flirt, but Eru forbid think otherwise, innocent flirt. A mother too? Or as an aunty with grown-up children may have special affection for a younger nephew. Galadriel is almost always very lofty, goddess-like (even in her temptations). I reckon Gimli is a medium to show us she's a woman as well, however unwomanlike she may seem (despite her beauty, or even bacuase of her beauty) at times.
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Old 01-10-2005, 09:20 PM   #7
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A few scattered thoughts, as always.

It struck me that it is greatly to Tolkien's credit that, Gimli having sought to explain the old man that appeared to them as a "phantom of Saruman", he can have Aragorn reply "It is likely enough" and get away with it. He has built up the credibility of the fantasy to such an extent by this point that we do not question the fact that Gimli's musings on phantoms might provide a "likely" explanation.

I was interested in the quote that davem gave from Treason of Isengard:


Quote:
It seems more likely perhaps that through his deep concentration on Saruman he had 'projected' an image of Saruman which the three companions could momentarily see.
I have always been somewhat disinclined to see the old man as Saruman, given the startling similarity of his description to that of Gandalf when he does appear to them in this Chapter, the fact that the old man appears to mean no harm to them and the fact that the horses are (as it turns out) crying with joy rather than fear. I did therefore think that one possible explanation of the incident is that the old man is a "projected" image of Gandalf, either conjured up jointly in the minds of the Three Hunters (a kind of "mass halucination" which foreshadows Gandalf's reappearance to them) or an image projected by Gandalf himself (unconsciously - hence his later lack of awareness of the incident). It is interesting to see that Tolkien was thinking along similar lines, albeit with Saruman rather than Gandalf as the "projected" image.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry
I cannot now read this chapter, particularly Aragorn's and Legolas's discussion of the interpretation of "signs" , with Gimli's contributions as well, without being reminded of something. Their querulousness over the riddle of the knife and lembas crumbs, the cut ropes and the drying mallorn leaf, reminds me so much of Downer's habits of yaying and nay-saying over points of interpretation of LotR.
Which is probably why I enjoy this part of the Chapter so much. I love the way in which Tolkien constructs a riddle and then solves it via Aragorn. And these passages serve a multiple purpose. They once again point up Aragorn's skill at reading the signs that have been left behind (surpassing Legolas in this regard), provide some welcome humour (particularly in Legolas' comments concerning the propensity of Hobbits to value food in the direst of circumstances and in his light-hearted analyis of the clues), and they engage the reader (even though, or perhaps precisely because, the reader already knows the solution to the riddle).

One thing does mystify me in connection with the Three Hunters' eventual meeting with Gandalf. Although it clearly serves to heighten the tension of the moment, I do wonder why Gandalf chose to be so darn mysterious in his approach, keeping his face hooded and greeting them like strangers. It is almost as if he wants them to mistake him for Saruman. Is he perhaps playing a trick on them? Or even teaching them a lesson - not to go on the attack when not in full possession of the facts? But the latter explanation would go against his later comment:

Quote:
But, of course, I never blamed you for your welcome of me. How could I do so, who have so often counselled my friends to suspect even their own hands when dealing with the Enemy.
So, why is Gandalf so mysterious here?

Moving onto the much discussed topic of Boromir and his redemption, there is a nice comment here by Gandalf:


Quote:
But he escaped in the end. I am glad. It was not in vain that the young hobbits came with us, if only for Boromir's sake.
Surely a clear indication that Boromir was in the end free of the Ring and that his valiant defence of Merry and Pippin does indeed redeem him. For me, this makes it clear that, when Aragorn tells the dying Boromir that he has conquered, he is talking of Boromir's will rather than his strength in arms against the orcs.

Most of the remainder of the Chapter is taken up with Gandalf's tale - a wonderful piece of exposition (surely an authorly crime ) which brings together much of what we have learned in recent Chapters and explain precisely how they affect the state of play between the Free Peoples and their Enemies.

I found the following passage concerning Gandalf interesting:


Quote:
He rose and gazed out eastward, shading his eyes, as if he saw things far away that none of them could see. Then he shook his head. "No," he said in a soft voice, "it has gone beyond our reach. Of that at least we can be glad. We can no longer be tempted to use the Ring. We must go down to face a peril near despair, yet that dealy peril is removed.
It seemed to me, on reading this again, that Gandalf is here contemplating the possibility that, were it not beyond his reach, he might be tempted to use the Ring against Sauron. The deceits of the Ring are great indeed if even Gandalf recognises that he might have succumbed to them (as a companion to the Ringbearer, rather than as the Ringbearer himself). Does this not put Boromir's downfall in rather a different context?

Finally, to pick up on a few points made earlier:


Quote:
Originally Posted by Estelyn
do you think what she says about laying his axe to the right tree has a meaning that is important to the plot, as the other two messages do?
Is this perhaps related to Gimli mistaking Gandalf for Saruman? Might Galadriel be warning him to be sure of his enemy before going on the offensive? Although, if so, it is rather late with regard to his mistaking Gandalf's identity, and it would seem to go against the comment by Gandalf quoted above. Alternatively, it might be a warning to Gimli not to go about hacking trees with abandon when in Fangorn - although this would merely be repeating Legolas' warning to him on entering the wood.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Tuor of Gondolin
Also, the above observation of "not knowing what mighty one" seems at variance with the general view, shared by Tolkien himself in "Letters", that probably only Gandalf could use the Ring against him
Although there is perhaps a distinction to be drawn between what Sauron might fear and what would happen in practice. Sauron may have overestimated the power that the Ring could confer upon one less powerful than him.


Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
This is odd, in the light of other statements by Tolkien that once the Ainur had entered into the world they had to remain there till its end.
But wasn't Gandalf a special case, in that Eru's direct intervention was required to "reclothe" him and allow him to return incarnate to carry on his mission? Perhaps, in light of this, Gandalf's spirit needed to travel beyond the Circles of the World, even though this might not be the "normal" fate of an incarnate Ainu upon the death of his or her physical body.
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Old 01-11-2005, 07:05 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
Perhaps we have here another example of Osanwe? Gandalf summons Shadowfax 'in thought' (as Aragorn will later summon the Dunedain. Of course this opens something of a can of worms - does Shadowfax have a 'soul'? Is he capable of Osanwe himself?
I like those cans of worms.

If Shadowfax is one of the Mearas who themselves were brought from Valinor, then there is the possibility that he is capable of osanwe. It is shown that Shadowfax reputedly will only bear the King of Rohan and that it is astonishing that he allows Gandalf to ride him; perhaps these horses do possess sentient thoughts. After all, we have giant eagles which are sentient beings, why should we not have horses? I wonder if it is mentioned anywhere whether the Mearas had links to the Maiar in some way?

Felarof, ancestor of Shadowfax, was reputed to be able to understand human speech; if so, then perhaps as Incarnates, these creatures could use some form of osanwe.

The following quote which Saucepan Man has picked up on has been interesting to me since I read osanwe-kenta:

Quote:
He rose and gazed out eastward, shading his eyes, as if he saw things far away that none of them could see. Then he shook his head. "No," he said in a soft voice, "it has gone beyond our reach. Of that at least we can be glad. We can no longer be tempted to use the Ring. We must go down to face a peril near despair, yet that deadly peril is removed.
The instant I read this passage again, I thought of the possibility that Gandalf was trying to use osanwe in order to 'see' if Frodo was in any kind of trouble; this would also explain some of the strange dreams that Frodo might be experiencing, after all, he does not know about Unwill. And the fact that Gandalf gets to a point where he can no longer 'trace' Frodo also suggests that the borders of Mordor present much more then mere physical barriers. There is another passage in which Tolkien seems to write of Gandalf's mental struggle with Sauron, is this osanwe? :

Quote:
"...The Ring now has passed beyond my help, or the help of any of the Company that set out from Rivendell. Very nearly it was revealed to the Enemy, but it escaped. I had some part in that: for I sat in a high place, and I strove with the Dark Tower; and the Shadow passed. Then I was weary, very weary; and I walked long in dark thought."
And in the following passage, is Aragorn referring directly to Osanwe? One of the features of osanwe is that it works more effectively when two people are close in terms of friendship, and that it can in many cases substitute for an excess of words in conversation (much in the way that old friends often complete sentences for one another and need few words):

Quote:
"In one thing you have not changed, dear friend," said Aragorn: 'you still speak in riddles."

"What? In riddles?" said Gandalf. 'No! For I was talking aloud to myself. A habit of the old: they choose the wisest person present to speak to; the long explanations needed by the young are wearying." He laughed, but the sound now seemed warm and kindly as a gleam of sunshine.

"I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses," said Aragorn. "Will you not open your mind more clearly to me?"
Finally, where did Gandalf go to?

The following suggests some kind of void. Is it the void outside Arda?

Quote:
Then darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell.
But then the following suggests that he was in a transcendent place, aware of the entirety of existence all at once. Was he aware that he was just one part of the universe? Or aware that he was the universe? or both?

Quote:
I was alone, forgotten, without escape upon the hard horn of the world. There I lay staring upward, while the stars wheeled over, and each day was as long as a life-age of the earth. Faint to my ears came the gathered rumour of all lands: the springing and the dying, the song and the weeping, and the slow everlasting groan of overburdened stone.
This makes me think more deeply about Gandalf. Is he somehow much more than one of the Maiar? Does this have something to do with the Secret Fire?
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Old 01-11-2005, 02:09 PM   #9
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A couple of things occured to me on skimming over the chapter again just now:

Quote:
'Yes. I am white now: said Gandalf. 'Indeed I am Saruman. one might almost say. Saruman as he should have been. But come now, tell me of yourselves! I have passed through fire and deep water since we parted. I have forgotten much that I thought I knew, and learned again much that I had forgotten. I can see many things far off, but many things that are close at hand I cannot see. Tell me of yourselves!
What could Gandalf mean - 'I can see many things far off, but many things that are close at hand I cannot see.'? Clearly he's not claiming that his resurrection has made him 'longsighted'. Perhaps the 'things far off' are spiritual realities - ie the 'realities' of the spiritual realm, & the 'things close at hand' are the things of the world. He has 'forgotten much' - mundane, everyday things - even his own name (the one given to him by the peoples of Middle earth we must assume, not his 'true' name, Olorin). But it seems that he has re-learned his mission, & the spiritual truths which motivated it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwende
This makes me think more deeply about Gandalf. Is he somehow much more than one of the Maiar? Does this have something to do with the Secret Fire?
I wondered about this, too. It appears that he has undergone a true re-birth, & is closer to what he had been when he first set foot in Middle earth. What 'Light' he shines with is another question. Is it the Light of Valinor, or is it the light of the Secret Fire, gifted him by Illuvatar when he had passed beyond thought & time? Is he any longer merely a 'Servant of the Secret Fire' - has he now become a Master of it?

The other passage which made an impression:

Quote:
The others gazed at them in silence as they stood there facing one another. The grey figure of the Man, Aragorn son of Arathorn, was tall and stern as stone,his hand upon the hilt of his sword; he looked as if some king out of the mists of the sea had stepped upon the shores of lesser men. Before him stooped the old figure. white. shining now as if with some light kindled within, bent, laden with years, but holding a power beyond the strength of kings.
Aragorn manifests the 'power of Kings', but it is 'merely' worldly power in this context. Gandalf's power is 'beyond the strength of kings', for it is a spiritual power. Aragorn is 'put in his place here'. But Aragorn happily submits to Gandalf's superiority:

Quote:
'Do I not say truly, Gandalf,' said Aragorn at last, 'that you could go whithersoever you wished quicker than I? And this I also say: you are our captain and our banner. The Dark Lord has Nine. But we have One, mightier than they: the White Rider. He has passed through the fire and the abyss, and they shall fear him. We will go where he leads.'
Aragorn displays his humility here, before Gandalf, & before what Gandalf symbolises, & we know by this that he will be a great King.
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Old 01-11-2005, 02:20 PM   #10
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'Do I not say truly, Gandalf,' said Aragorn at last, 'that you could go whithersoever you wished quicker than I?
I wonder if Gandalf was now allowed to take on spirit form for instant transportation? Or is Aragorn only saying that his innate nature would have that ability, though he does not make use of it? (My thoughts here tie in with the Ainur/wings question...)
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Old 01-11-2005, 02:55 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
It appears that he has undergone a true re-birth, & is closer to what he had been when he first set foot in Middle earth. What 'Light' he shines with is another question. Is it the Light of Valinor, or is it the light of the Secret Fire, gifted him by Illuvatar when he had passed beyond thought & time? Is he any longer merely a 'Servant of the Secret Fire' - has he now become a Master of it?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Estelyn
I wonder if Gandalf was now allowed to take on spirit form for instant transportation? Or is Aragorn only saying that his innate nature would have that ability, though he does not make use of it? (My thoughts here tie in with the Ainur/wings question...)
It seems Gandalf has 'learned' something, indeed, that he has truly changed his nature. He has been returned from, a place where he ought not to have been able to journey back from. He seems more powerful, and more holy. And now for the really outrageous question: Is this really Gandalf at all?
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Old 01-12-2005, 06:49 AM   #12
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Pipe There's this question that has been bothering me for quite some time now . . .

[Gimli: ]If we do not find them soon, we shall be of no use to them, except to sit down beside them and show our friendship by starving together.
[Aragorn: ]If that is indeed all we can do, then we must do that.
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What is it with Aragorn that he had been willing to die (and thus abandoning his claim to kingship, plus leaving his promise to Boromir unfulfilled) for Merry and Pippin? What does he see in this situation that I do not? Has he somehow become like Gandalf, tapping into a higher guidance, and obeying it, knowing that it knows best? Or what?
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Old 01-12-2005, 08:20 AM   #13
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Nilpaurion Felqagund -

I am reading Aragorn's decision as strictly a question of morals. Time and again, Tolkien makes the point that we must focus on the immediate problem at hand and make a judgment according to what is right or wrong in that situation, even if long range considerations would seem to suggest otherwise.

In a similar way, Frodo makes the decision to show mercy and concern for Gollum even though this would not seem prudent in terms of his long-term plan of destroying the Ring. It would seemingly make more sense to "get rid" of Gollum by any means available. Yet, by doing so, Frodo would have lost the core of who he is.

This also applies to Aragorn. What kind of the king would he make if he is the type of person who deserts those closest to him? Not the kind of king whom Tolkien could respect. Aragorn's first responsibility lies with the hobbits: they have trusted him as their leader, and he can not betray that trust. In a similar way, Gandalf "throws away all" to fight the Balrog (you know---the wingless one ), even though he must have known it was a fight he could not win. There is a point where moral issues come to the fore and dwarf all other considerations. You do the "right" thing and hope that other things will fall in place. At the same time, you use every means available to try and extricate yourself from the situation in practical terms. If he and the hobbits had found themselves "starving", Aragorn would have made every effort to find some way to overcome that problem. Still, though practical considerations are important, it is the moral questions that come first.

One more example of "visible souls".....
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Old 01-12-2005, 09:29 AM   #14
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First, the Saruman/Gandalf "old man" who comes to the Three Hunters. Here's a wild idea, but isn't there a tradition in certain Christian faiths/stories of the "unseen third" who walks beside us through life, and that person being Christ? Is there some way of looking at this strange third person (not really Gandalf, not really Saruman) as an actually divine vision??? Like I said, just a real wing-dinger of a speculation. . .

Quote:
It was a sore trial for such a man: a warrior, and a lord of men. Galadriel told me that he was in peril. But he escaped in the end.
This is an interesting ‘final word’ on Boromir, isn’t it? Here we have Galadriel and Gandalf both effectively weighing in on the tricky topic of Boromir and rather unambiguously stating that he “escaped” his peril in the end – he did in fact die in honour, as Aragorn said, and not as a slave to the Ring or himself. It’s also interesting that Gandalf seems to have such sympathy for Boromir, acknowledging that he fell because of his greatness: “a warrior and a lord of men.” He’s not saying that Boromir was weak or flawed. In fact, what he’s saying about Boromir is precisely what he is depending upon Aragorn for! He’s returned to get Aragorn back in the action.

And once again, we see in this chapter the kind of hero that Aragorn is. He’s willing to lay aside his life and his dreams for the sake of Merry and Pippin. He’s not about taking care of himself, but of others. He is motivated by a selfless love of those who need him…best stop, in danger of swooning.

Quote:
That we should wish to cast him down and have no one in his place is not a thought that occurs to his mind. That we should try to destroy the Ring itself has not yet entered his darkest dream. In which no doubt you will see our good fortune and our hope.
Quote:
So between them our enemies have contrived only to bring Merry and Pippin with marvellous speed, and in the nick of time, to Fangorn, where otherwise they would never have come at all!
I love these two moments in which Gandalf, now the White, reveals so much to us about the nature of evil in Middle-earth, and about the relation between good and evil. The great weakness of evil is its inability to judge or think in the way so beautifully demonstrated by Aragorn. If he is able to think only of the other, evil (Sauron) is able only to think of the self: he cannot even imagine that others would want to destroy his Ring. He is so consumed by the self that he cannot see beyond the limits of his own eye/I – great irony: the eye is blinded by the I. What I find most remarkable about this revelation of Sauron’s one weakness is how Gandalf calls it their “good fortune and hope.” It is not a strategic result of their work on Sauron that has made him weak, and it is not a flaw or chink in his armour that they can take advantage of, but the result of “fortune” (how things are, the way things work in the fabric of Middle-earth) and therefore a source of “hope.” Like Aragorn, Gandalf is here suggesting that the way to proceed is by giving oneself over rather than putting oneself forward. Just as Aragorn is willing to die for Merry and Pippin, Gandalf was willing to die for Middle-earth, and remains willing to follow “fortune and hope” rather than act against Sauron directly – as he says, Black is mightier than White. He cannot defeat Sauron, but he’s willing to do what he must in the defeat that he hopes fortune has allotted for Sauron.

And there is real reason for hope, insofar as Gandalf also points out the essentially self-defeating nature of evil. He recognises that what appears to be a source of despair and loss (the capture of Merry and Pippin) is actually a source of happiness and good. Fortune, apparently, works in mysterious ways…

There’s one more very interesting passage:

Quote:
Dangerous!…And so am I, very dangerous: more dangerous than anything you will ever meet, unless you are brought alive before the seat of the Dark Lord.
The suggestion here seems to be that the real danger to the peoples of Middle-earth is not really evil, but power. Perhaps not even this: perhaps the only real danger is that of beings who put themselves forward before all others. Boromir almost did this, but “escaped” in the end. Aragorn refuses to do this – he does not put himself forward, but is called by those who need his strength. Evil is merely the result of power that seeks to fulfil itself, or power that follows its own desires rather than submitting to the needs of others. So rather than attacking the evil outright or directly (that is, the White wizard attacking Sauron) the only hope of Middle-earth is to destroy Sauron’s self-directed-power (the Ring). Do away with that, and the evil that is the result of that will crumble away.

EDIT: very nice point, Child, about the necessity of making small, local decisions of right and wrong, versus attempting to grapple with the rather more abstract and unweildy notions of good and evil. If everyone just did what was right for their neighbour then the Good would take care of itself!
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Old 01-12-2005, 10:52 AM   #15
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One interesting point about this chapter: I recall (though I cannot find it at the moment) Tolkien saying in Letters that he did not think LotR perfect and offering as an example of a flaw the manner of the presentation of Gandalf's return. I have never quite understood this. What is the flaw? Is it that he did not make the most of the suspense available at this point? Probably not; Tolkien rarely thought in such terms. Is it that some other scenario for Gandalf's re-entry into the story would have been more believable or better suited to the plot? Perhaps, but it's difficult to see why his appearance in Fangorn is unsatisfactory. Is it that Gandalf's explanation of his death and return should have been stronger or clearer? But if so, then the flaw would have been quite easy to fix merely by altering Gandalf's speech.

Davem wrote:
Quote:
What could Gandalf mean - 'I can see many things far off, but many things that are close at hand I cannot see.'? Clearly he's not claiming that his resurrection has made him 'longsighted'. Perhaps the 'things far off' are spiritual realities - ie the 'realities' of the spiritual realm, & the 'things close at hand' are the things of the world. He has 'forgotten much' - mundane, everyday things - even his own name (the one given to him by the peoples of Middle earth we must assume, not his 'true' name, Olorin). But it seems that he has re-learned his mission, & the spiritual truths which motivated it.
This is a valid reading. But I always understood Gandalf's claim in a more mundane sense. After Gandalf's return, the chapter consists primarily of a discussion of Frodo's mission, the politics of Isengard and Mordor, and so on. Gandalf has a lot to say with regard to these big issues - yet, at first, he barely recalls the name "Gandalf". He sees (i.e. knows about or understands) things that are far off, the broad strokes of the struggle, but there are small things, things close at hand, that he does not know. It is as if he was for a time taken outside the world and allowed to look down upon it from a distance, so that he saw it as a player sees the chessboard, not as a chess-piece sees it. And indeed, from this point onward, Gandalf always seems to be thinking in very broad terms about the war and the quest.

In this connection, I have always thought that the answer to The Saucepan Man's question:
Quote:
One thing does mystify me in connection with the Three Hunters' eventual meeting with Gandalf. Although it clearly serves to heighten the tension of the moment, I do wonder why Gandalf chose to be so darn mysterious in his approach, keeping his face hooded and greeting them like strangers.

. . . is simply that they are "close at hand" and Gandalf literally cannot at first recall them.
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Old 01-12-2005, 12:27 PM   #16
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Gandalf's Last Stand

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Originally Posted by Child of the 7th Age
In a similar way, Gandalf "throws away all" to fight the Balrog (you know---the wingless one ), even though he must have known it was a fight he could not win.
I'm confused. I thought that Gandalf had indeed defeated the Balrog, except that the Balrog, in his final blow up from the abyss, pulled Gandalf in after.

Here's something from the movie that blew me away - by the time Gandalf fell into the abyss, the whip had long since been released from his legs. Couldn't they have simply pulled him up at that point?
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Old 01-12-2005, 12:52 PM   #17
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There are many interesting ideas here. But, like Aiwendil, I'll start by considerng the question that Saucepan Man raised earlier:

Quote:
One thing does mystify me in connection with the Three Hunters' eventual meeting with Gandalf. Although it clearly serves to heighten the tension of the moment, I do wonder why Gandalf chose to be so darn mysterious in his approach, keeping his face hooded and greeting them like strangers. It is almost as if he wants them to mistake him for Saruman. Is he perhaps playing a trick on them? Or even teaching them a lesson - not to go on the attack when not in full possession of the facts? But the latter explanation would go against his later comment:

But, of course, I never blamed you for your welcome of me. How could I do so, who have so often counselled my friends to suspect even their own hands when dealing with the Enemy.
I was reading the chapter at work this morning ( ) and came to the same conclusion that Aiwendil did, although by a separate route. I, too, was left with the impression that Gandalf quote honestly could not remember many things closest to him, and inadvertently gave the impression that he was attempting to "disguise" himself. Quite the opposite was the case. Being so close to the mysterious and other-worldly transformation that had taken place 'beyond' Arda, he did not have the guile to think in terms of something so mundane as "disguise".

Now, I'd like to creep a little further out on the limb.....

Gandalf's vision and understanding have been sharpened in many important respects, but clouded over in another sense, something which Aiwendil has addressed. But he is not the only character in the chapter whose vision and understanding have been obscured. This entire chapter seems to be about what we see and fail to see, and how limited our understanding is.

First, take a look at the description of Gandalf. He is described as being an "old beggar man" who uses a staff and wears a ragged grey garment. His head is bowed, but the members of the fellowship can still make out a wide-brimmed hat and a beard. This doesn't sound like a disguise to me; the description actually sounds similar to the way Gandalf appeared in the earlier chapters. His garments are a bit more raggedy, which would not be surprising if someone was returning from a battle with a Balrog. The fact that Gandalf's head is bowed could be a function of weariness or an indication of someone absorbed in deep thought. Despite the hood that Gandalf wore, Aragorn could still make out his eyes underneath, and there is even reference to Gandalf's "hooded brows", so something of the latter must have been visible, if only a glimpse.

Given this familiar description, I would argue that, in any ordinary situation, the members of the fellowship would and should have been able to recognize Gandalf, once he came out from behind the trees. There could be two reasons for the fact that they did not recognize him. First, the transformation beyond Arda could have changed Gandalf to the point that he was no longer the same person. Lalwendë mentioned this in her own post when she asked if Gandalf was a different person. Secondly, it is possible that the blindness of Aragorn, Gimli, and Legalos did not lie in any disguise by Gandalf but in shortcomings of their own.

I feel there is enough evidence to suggest that both of these things may have contributed to the fellowship's inability to "see" Gandalf the White. First, we know from other passages that Gandalf has changed, not only physically but in terms of his personality. His very "essence" seems to have changed. The cantankerous, feisy, and very human figure becomes someone who almost seems to be a "holy" warrior, who is somewhat removed and even aloof, and thinks in broad terms about the war and the quest. This change in personality comes close to a change in being, so it's not surprising that Legalos, Gimli, and Aragorn had trouble "seeing" him.

Yet part of the problem also seems to be their own limitations: as incarnate flawed creatures, they can only see in part. Throughout the Legendarium, Tolkien stresses that, outwardly, good and evil can be hard to distinguish: fair things can indeed be evil. Sometimes, good and evil are so close to be outwardly indistinguishable. There is the comment much earlier in regard to Aragorn and his "foul" appearance. There is also the fact that Gandalf returns in "white", making him appear similar to Saruman. The difference lies not on the outside. It can not be perceived by the eye, but only by the heart. In both the "vision" in the early part of the chapter and Gandalf's own real appearance at this point in the story, the travellers are confused by the outer similarities between Saruman and Gandalf. Only gradually is their inner sight restore.

Thus, it is Aragorn who is first able to recognize that the "old man" is more than an old man:

Quote:
Yet it seemed to Aragorn that he caught the gleem of keen eyes and bright from within the shadow of the hooded brows."
Words like "gleem" and "bright" can only be veiled references to "light", the term that Tolkien loved to use for "goodness". Although Aragorn can not see fully, he is the first to glimpse this light within Gandalf.

In this subsequent passage, Aragorn feels as if he has been wakened from sleep:

Quote:
....'As for my name?' he broke off, laughing long and softly. Aragorn felt a shudder run through him at the sound, a strange cold thrill; and yet it was fear or terror that he felt: rather it was like the sudden bite of a keen air, or the slap of a cold rain that wakes an uneasy sleeper.
To me, this sleep is one that afflicted Legalos, Gimli, and Aragorn from the very beginning of the chapter. Only now is the curtain slowly drawing back. It is noteworthy, I think, that the horses greeted the shadow figure with glee even the evening before. They could apparently sense what Tolkien's notes hinted at (thanks so much to Davem for that reference): that the projection had come from Gandalf's mind---the mind of someone full of goodness but still confused by things close at hand, someone who could not yet fully recall known people or even recognize his own actions. The horses had enough innate sense to recognize the light in the vision the evening before and rejoice in it. Yet Aragorn awakes to the realization and the light only when he hears the words "As for my name...." Still, he is the first of the company to do so. By the end of the chapter, everyone's sight has been restored, and Gandalf is on his way to recovering at least some of the close-at-hand details he'll need to carry on the fight.
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Old 01-12-2005, 12:59 PM   #18
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Aldarion,

Excuse me for popping in again. I am thinking in shorthand and not explaining things in detail.

Good question that needs more explanation! What I meant to say was that Gandalf could not win the fight except by giving up his own life. There are hints of this in his earlier reluctance to go through the mines of Moria. He sensed that something waited for him there that, by himself, he could not overpower and simply walk away.

By agreeing to give up his own life, Gandalf was seemingly letting go of all chances of personally defeating Sauron. This is something that Tolkien himself discusses in the Letters. I don't have them at hand, but I recall that he said something to the effect that Gandalf agreed to lay his own interests aside and hand matters over to the "Authority" (meaning Eru) trusting that things would somehow come out right in the end.

Hope this helps.
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Old 01-12-2005, 02:46 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
The idea that Gandalf could (unconsciously) 'project' an image of Saruman which others could see is fascinating. More Osanwe here? The Istari, it seems are capable of both astral & thought projection, but the former seems the most interesting in the light of Osanwe - was it possible to 'detatch' the Fea from the Hroa? If so, was this a 'technique' which could be mastered by others? Could it even be made to happen to someone against their will? This could explain the Nazgul - were they Hroa-less Fea?
Reading Morgoth's Ring today the following passages about the nature of the houseless fea caught my eye:

Quote:
...wander houseless in the world, unwilling to leave it and unable to inhabit it, haunting trees or springs or hidden places that once they knew. Not all of these are kindly or unstained by the Shadow.
Quote:
Some are filled with bitterness, grievance, and envy. Some were enslaved by the Dark Lord and do his work still, though he himself is gone.
From this it is clear that in the case of Elves, there certainly were Hroa-less Fea. And they were clearly not always to be trusted. Although those Elves who had 'faded' were a different matter and occasionally appeared to Men, much to their delight. The comparison here reminds me of the difference between visions of ghosts or spectres and visions of angelic or faerie figures.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Child
First, the transformation beyond Arda could have changed Gandalf to the point that he was no longer the same person.
Was Gandalf sent back in a different body? Did his Hroa change? I'm not clear on the point, but do the Maiar also return to the Halls of Mandos, with the possibility that they too can be returned ina new body?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Child
This entire chapter seems to be about what we see and fail to see, and how limited our understanding is.
That's a good point! It does seem that this chapter somewhow explores 'sight' on many levels. There is our 'failing' to see, quite literally, coupled with our failure to see what is beyond or just outside our normal comprehension. Tolkien also explores how we 'see' people in a particular 'from' but they may not always appear in that 'form'. Interestingly, Tolkien plays with a strong image, that of the Old Man or Hermit. Do Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli see this image at first, instead of 'seeing' Gandalf? And by doing this, is Tolkien asking us as readers if we 'see' Gandalf in a certain way up until this point and he now wants us too to look at him in a whole new 'light'?
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Old 01-12-2005, 03:06 PM   #20
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This post is directed mostly to Fordhim, and mostly at Boromir (mutters of "What a surprise ").
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This is an interesting ‘final word’ on Boromir, isn’t it? Here we have Galadriel and Gandalf both effectively weighing in on the tricky topic of Boromir and rather unambiguously stating that he “escaped” his peril in the end – he did in fact die in honour, as Aragorn said, and not as a slave to the Ring or himself.
Nice point, and of course, I agree. But what is it that actually makes Boromir die in honor, and not as a slave to the Ring? Here are some interesting finds....

One of my favorite quotes ever, in a book, comes from Heroes, byRobert Cormier. When the man who is a hometown hero, as well as a war hero, rapes a highschool girl, he says "Does one sin of mine wipe out all the good things I have done?"

I just felt like posting that because I love the quote. Now onto the question of "How is it that Boromir retains his honor?" A quick run down of the closing events....

Boromir tries to take the ring (an act of sin)
He realizes he's wrong, and rushes to defend the hobbits
In defending the hobbits, he sacrifices himself and is slain
He confesses his wrong to Aragorn, who in a way blesses him. "You have conquered!"

People are quick to jump that this is an example of Christianity, well not necessarily. It's almost to christianity (not quite), but in fact, resembles more the Norman/Anglo-Saxon theology...

It follows the Anglo-Saxon/Norman law of Compensation.

Compensation meaning, that because you have broken the law, by injuring or killing, you must compensate for those sins. Now Boromir didn't break the law, but he broke his oath to help Frodo, and did try to harm him. Now in order for his salvation he must compensate for these sins. In Anglo-Saxon culture there are two ways you can do this...

One, you must pay lots of money, and confess your crimes publicly.

Or...

You must forfeit your own life, but on top of that...you must confess your crimes, and then do an act of love to "make up" for those you have hurt (Frodo). This happens to Boromir...

He commits a crime
He sacrifices his life
He confesses to his sins
His act of love is defending Merry and Pippin.

Aragorn, the priest figure, declares that he has conquered, and "fully compensated" himself for his crimes.

To give a modern day situation, since this we can tie into our Justice System. If you break into someone's house and steals valuables. Then are caught, and found guilty in court. You first must confess/apologize for your crimes. Then there are various ways to compensate yourself, or sacrifices yourself. Whether this is jail time, community service, or payment of the valuables...etc. Until the court decides that you have been "fully compensated" for your crimes, hence the Laws of Compensation.

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Old 01-12-2005, 04:30 PM   #21
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I've perhaps always just taken Gandalf at his word when he says that he is no longer Gandalf the Grey -- i.e. he truly is a new person or being: Gandalf the White is Saruman as he was meant to be. Given that he is literally a new person, it would make sense that he has forgotten much that was close to Gandalf the Grey, who died in Moria.

I'll go back to my bizarre 'hidden third' person: Gandalf the White is neither Gandalf the Grey nor Saruman the White, nor is he an 'amalgam' of the two or the 'synthesis' of them. He is the resolution of the differences between these two figures with the creation of a new being.

Hmmmmmm. . .
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Old 01-12-2005, 06:21 PM   #22
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A few quotes from "Letters" which seem relevant to some above Gandalf
observations:

Quote:
I think the way in which Gandaldf's return is presented is a defect, and one other critic, as much under the spell as yourself [Tolkien letter is addressed to Robert Murray, S.J.] curiously used the same expression: 'cheating'. That is partly due to the ever-present compulsions of narrative technique. He must return at that point, and such explanations of his survival as are explicitly set out must be given there-but the narrative is urgent, and must not be held up for elaborate discussions involving the whole 'mythological' setting.....Gandalf really 'died', and was changed: for that seems to me to be the only really cheating, to represent anything that can be called 'death' as making no difference. 'I am Gandalf the White, who has returned from death'. Probably he should have said to Worrmtongue: ' I have not passed through death (not 'fire and flood').....the return of Gandalf is as presented in this book a 'defect' and one I was aware of, and probably did not work hard enough to mend.
("letters" # 156)

Quote:
Gandalf alone [of the wizards] fully passes the test, on a moral plane anyway (he makes mistakes of judgment). For in his condition it was for him a sacrifice to perish on the Bridge in defence of his companions, less perhaps then for a mortal Man or Hobbit, since he had a far greater inner power than they; but also more, since it was a humbling and abnegation of himself in conformity to 'the Rules: for all he could know at the moment he was the only person who could direct the resistance to Sauron successfully, and all his mission was in vain. He was handing over to the Authority that ordained the Rules, and giving up all personal hope of success. That I should say is what the Authority wished, as a set-off to Saruman. The 'wizards', as such, had failed; or if you like: the crisis had become too grave and needed an enhancement of power. So Gandalf sacrificed himself, was accepted, and enhanced, and returned. 'Yes, that was the name. I was Gandalf.' Of course he remains similar in personality and idiosyncrasy, but both his wisdom and power are much greater.....He was sent by a mere prudent plan of the angelic Valar or governors; but Authority had taken up the plan and enlarged it, at the moment of its failure.
("Letters", # 156)
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Old 01-12-2005, 07:50 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Esty
I wonder if Gandalf was now allowed to take on spirit form for instant transportation?
I would say that the restrictions still largely applied, just as they originally applied to Saruman - who he is, in effect, replacing. He still seems to remain bound by them for the remainder of the book. Perhaps they were "relaxed" slightly, but I think that it is more that, as Gandalf the White, he had a greater reserve of "innate" power with which to fulfil his mission within the preordained strictures.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Nilp
What is it with Aragorn that he had been willing to die (and thus abandoning his claim to kingship, plus leaving his promise to Boromir unfulfilled) for Merry and Pippin?
I rather thought that Gimli's comment had been an example of grim humour and that neither he nor Aragorn really expected to starve if they pursued the Hobbits' trail into the depths of Fangorn. But it does show that, having made a commitment to find Merry and Pippin, he feels duty bound to follow it. Just as he could not leave them to their fate back at Parth Galen (when the same considerations were in play), he cannot do so now. Although he knows that they are free from the Orcs they are still in peril as far as he is concerned. It is only when he learns of their safety from Gandalf that he feels able to abandon the chase.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Child
I am reading Aragorn's decision as strictly a question of morals. Time and again, Tolkien makes the point that we must focus on the immediate problem at hand and make a judgment according to what is right or wrong in that situation, even if long range considerations would seem to suggest otherwise.
I take the point that, like Gandalf, he lays his own interests aside and trusts to a higher power so that he is able to address the problem at hand. Although I wonder how applicable that lesson is in reality? Time and time again, it seems to me, governments, companies and individuals fall into error when they make short-term decisions to address immediate issues, rather than taking the longer term view. The difference here, I suppose, is that the "short-term" solutions taken by Gandalf and Aragorn are not in their own interests, but rather run contrary to them. They are, as Child and Fordim have said, making a personal sacrifice rather than furthering their interests.


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Originally Posted by Aiwendil
In this connection, I have always thought that the answer to The Saucepan Man's question ... is simply that they are "close at hand" and Gandalf literally cannot at first recall them.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Child
I, too, was left with the impression that Gandalf quote honestly could not remember many things closest to him, and inadvertently gave the impression that he was attempting to "disguise" himself. Quite the opposite was the case. Being so close to the mysterious and other-worldly transformation that had taken place 'beyond' Arda, he did not have the guile to think in terms of something so mundane as "disguise".
No, I didn't really suppose that Gandalf was deliberately springing a surprise on them. But the passage still seems strange to me. Some of his features may have been visible, but they were still hooded and those that were visible were hidden under his brows. Since the Three Hunters recognise him almost immediately when he casts of his grey rags and hood, I would surmise that he was unrecognisable up to that point. And, deliberately so, it would seem. Why else would he wear grey rags and a hood?

As for the way in which he addresses them as strangers, my initial reaction, too, was that he could not recall them (just as he could not, at first recall the name Gandalf). But this does not square with him making straight for them. Why would he purposefully make towards them, up a narrow stone stair in a cliff face, if he did not know who they were? Indeed, he seems to have been following them through Fangorn. He knows, before meeting with them, that they have been tracking two small hobbits, whom he knows to be Merry and Pippin. Indeed, the whole of his speech concerning Merry and Pippin, before he reveals himself, seems to have a deliberately mysterious air about it.

Perhaps your explanation is the correct one. It certainly seems to be the only logical one which does not involve some intention to mislead on Gandalf's part. But it still does not sit entirely easily with me.
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Old 01-13-2005, 12:40 AM   #24
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Why didn't they recognise the 'resurrected' Gandalf? I suppose there could be some reference to the appearance of the risen Jesus to some of his followers on the road to Emaus in Luke:

Quote:
'And beholde, two of them went that same daye to a toune, whych was from Jerusalem about thre scoore forlonges, called Emaus, and they talked togedder of all thinges which had happened, And it chaunsed, as they commened togedder, and reasoned, that Jesus hymsilfe drue neare, and went with them. Bur their eyes were holden, that they coulde not knowe hym...

And it cam to passe as he sate at meate wyth them, he toke breed and blessed yt, and brake ytt and gave it unto them. And their eyes were openned. And they knewe hym.
Maybe the eyes' of the 'Three Hunters' were 'holden' in the same way.....
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Old 01-13-2005, 04:00 AM   #25
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Indeed, davem. The similarity there is striking. But why were the eyes of the Three Hunters "holden"? It serves only to precipitate their attack upon Gandalf (apart, of course, from the literary device of heightening the tension).
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Old 01-13-2005, 04:58 PM   #26
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Fordim wrote:
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I've perhaps always just taken Gandalf at his word when he says that he is no longer Gandalf the Grey -- i.e. he truly is a new person or being: Gandalf the White is Saruman as he was meant to be. Given that he is literally a new person, it would make sense that he has forgotten much that was close to Gandalf the Grey, who died in Moria.
Now this is an interesting point. What does it mean to say that Gandalf the White is a "new person"? An entirely new person, as distinct from Gandalf the Grey as is Aragorn or Frodo? Surely not. He is called by the same name, he has the memories of Gandalf the Grey (even if here they are at first distant or difficult to access), and he largely acts like Gandalf the Grey. But if not a wholly distinct person, then what?

To put it another way, surely the spirit, the eala, of Gandalf the White is the same entity as that of Gandalf the Grey. If so, then it seems to me that the changes seen in his character after his death and return should be viewed in the same way that we view ordinary character development. He has had certain extraordinary experiences, and they have changed him in certain ways - just as Frodo, for example, undergoes a much slower process of change over the course of the novel.
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Old 01-13-2005, 09:52 PM   #27
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Perhaps we have here another example of Osanwe? Gandalf summons Shadowfax 'in thought' (as Aragorn will later summon the Dunedain. Of course this opens something of a can of worms - does Shadowfax have a 'soul'? Is he capable of Osanwe himself?
In regard to "summoning" horses, here's an excerpt from UT: A Description of Numenor:
Quote:
In Numenor all joruneyed from place to place on horseback; for in riding the Numenoreans, both men and women, took delight, and all the people of the land loved horses, treating them honourably and housing then nobly. They were trained to hear and answer calls from a great distance, and it is said in old tales that where there was great love between men and women and their favourite steeds they could be summoned at need by thought alone.
This is in reference to the Numenoreans, but if they could do it, so could Gandalf, I'm sure. There was certainly love enough between him and Shadowfax.
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Old 01-14-2005, 07:35 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Aiwendil
To put it another way, surely the spirit, the eala, of Gandalf the White is the same entity as that of Gandalf the Grey. If so, then it seems to me that the changes seen in his character after his death and return should be viewed in the same way that we view ordinary character development. He has had certain extraordinary experiences, and they have changed him in certain ways - just as Frodo, for example, undergoes a much slower process of change over the course of the novel.
This is of course a very good point. While it's always tempting to go off on flights of thought about what strange reasons there might be for the change in Gandalf there is also the fact that he has gone through intense trauma which would by its nature change him ireevocably, just as it did Frodo. So why would we view Frodo's chages on a more 'worldly' level? I suppose the difference is that Gandalf is one of the Maiar and so we tend to view him on that level, while Frodo is a 'mere' mortal, so we view his changes thorugh our own perceptions and understanding. Gandalf is different, so we have to think differently to understand his changes. Or do we?

Quote:
Originally Posted by gorthaur_cruel
This is in reference to the Numenoreans, but if they could do it, so could Gandalf, I'm sure. There was certainly love enough between him and Shadowfax.
That's a nice quote you picked up on. I think that the Numenoreans in some way represented the 'heights' of mortal kind, how far they could get to and what was achieveable - at least those of Numenor who were on the side of 'good'. I think that it is entirely possible that such Numenoreans were aware of and could use the skills of osanwe in much the same way as the Elves did. Perhaps they were able to tune into this and speak to their horses in this way.

On a more worldly level, when I read about Gandalf's ability to speak with Shadowfax and train him to his calling I often think of tales of 'horse-whisperers', who are able to take what to all intents and purposes is a wild horse (and they are very temperamental, sensitive creatures) and by way of words and gestures, effectively 'tame' it.
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Old 01-16-2005, 10:06 AM   #29
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Pipe

I'm not replying to myself here. No, I have a new thought, though a slightly odd one. Almost as soon as I woke up this morning I started wondering if Gandalf, if he was 'reborn' as Gandalf the White, would still be a keen smoker? I thought - surely he wouldn't be a smoker at all, if he has trouble thinking of the name he has commonly gone by in Middle Earth, then why would he still have a pipe-weed habit? Yet there is one reference to him requesting pipe-weed after his resurrection:

Quote:
'That is just what we should like, too,' said Gandalf. 'We are not tired. We have been taking things easy. We were wet, cold and hungry, but all that you have cured. Come, sit down! And if you have any pipe-weed, we'll bless you.'
and in HoME an earlier draft has Gandalf add:

Quote:
Ours has long since been finished
Which means he was including himself in the request.

This is on the return to Bree in RotK. I then decided (by way of scientific comparison or something similar) to compare this to references to Gandalf's habit in FotR and I could find just four references. So there isn't a huge difference, and this could possibly be accounted for by the lack of pipe-weed in the southern lands where much of the action takes place.

Yes, an odd thing to think of, but surely he wouldn't have retained the habit?
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Old 01-16-2005, 03:59 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
...surely he wouldn't have retained the habit?
Not if he wanted his robes, hair, fingernails, etc. to stay white!
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Old 01-20-2005, 04:43 AM   #31
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Gandal's journey to Moria ; nameless things

Only a few random thoughts, in their 'raw' form, starting from a passage in this chapter:

Quote:
"Far, far below the deepest delvings of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he. Now I have walked there, but I will bring no report to darken the light of day. In that despair , my enemy was my only hope and I pursued him, clutching at his heel."
(Gandalf)

Now there are a couple of things that made me read this part a couple of times over. First, it's this morbid curiosity about the 'nameless things' that 'gnaw' (*shudder*) at the roots of the earth and of which even Gandalf is afraid. In fact, he is more afraid of these things than of the Balrog.
Why does he not want to speak of them? Is it because he wants to shorten his tale? Because he did not want to 'scare' Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas? (highly unlikely) Maybe because the 'nameless things' are not to be named, or described, according to the old superstitions? Anyway his brief report is much more chilling than if he were to describe in detail what he saw. The fact that even Sauron knows these things not, means that they were probably creatures brought by Melkor at the beginning of Arda, before even Elves awoke. Are they intelligent beings then, like the Balrog? Or merely beasts, like the Watcher in the Water? Why did they not attack Gandalf? They would most probably be there still, even after Sauron was destroyed and will continue to be there until the end of the world. A new warning for those who would venture too deep in Moria...

Secondly, I can't help but wonder why did the Balrog 'fled into the dark tunnels', and not finished the battle with Gandalf right where they started it. Did he want to lure Gandalf deeper into the tunnels known only by him, because he thought he had a better chance of defeating him there? But - did Gandalf really defeate the Balrog, since they both met a similar fate? The difference was that Gandalf was sent back (by the Valar?) to fight for the forces of the good "until his task is done". If Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas were not so confused with the constant turnabouts of events and exhausted by their journey, they would have guessed in these words of Gandalf's that their quest was meant to end well. The Powers that Be had already decided that. What would have been the reason to send Gandalf back only to fail? Gandalf knows it, though he never says it plainly, but speaks in riddles:
Quote:
"We meet again. At the turn of the tide. The great storm is coming, but the tide has turned."
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Old 01-20-2005, 08:23 AM   #32
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Quote:
"Far, far below the deepest delvings of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things.''
I just googled these:

Quote:
"In Norse mythology, Yggdrasil ("The Terrible One's Horse"), also called the World Tree, is the giant ash tree that links and shelters all the worlds. Beneath the three roots the realms of Asgard, Jotunheim, and Niflheim are located. Three wells lie at its base: the Well of Wisdom (Mímisbrunnr), guarded by Mimir; the Well of Fate (Urdarbrunnr), guarded by the Norns; and the Hvergelmir (Roaring Kettle), the source of many rivers.

Four deer run across the branches of the tree and eat the buds; they represent the four winds. There are other inhabitants of the tree, such as the squirrel Ratatosk ("swift teeth"), a notorious gossip, and Vidofnir ("tree snake"), the golden cock that perches on the topmost bough. The roots are gnawed upon by Nidhogg and other serpents. On the day of Ragnarok, the fire giant Surt will set the tree on fire".

and:

"In Norse myth, Nidhogg ("tearer of corpses") is a monstrous serpent that gnaws almost perpetually at the deepest root of the World Tree Yggdrasil, threatening to destroy it. The serpent is always bickering with the eagle that houses in the top of the tree. Nidhogg lies on Nastrond in Niflheim and eats corpses to sustain itself. It is not the only serpent whose task it is to destroy the World Tree; other serpents include Graback, Grafvolluth, Goin and Moin."
These serpents are not nameless, of course, but they do gnaw at the 'roots' of the World Tree...

There's also an eagle involved. And I do begin to wonder about the similarity between Ratatosk & Radaghast
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Old 01-21-2005, 05:25 AM   #33
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Silmaril

First of all, just a tiny observation.
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Thus it was that I found you but lately gone. I tarried there in the ageless time of that land where days bring healing not decay.
I have always thought that somehow, Lothlorien derived its name from Lorien, the place where the Vala Irmo and his wife Estë dwells...a place of rest and healing. Now I know that indeed, Lothlorien was fashioned to be like Lorien, only the former is in Middle Earth and is ruled by the Elves Galadriel and Celeborn.

I know that this chapter is supposed to be about Gandalf, but I couldn't resist. The chapter tells so much about Aragorn and his future kingship.
Quote:
"Yes, we will set out together. But I do not doubt that you will come there before me, if you wish." (Aragorn)
Aragorn was talking about their arrival in Rohan, but is this not reminiscent of what happened some place else? Yup, you got it. Minas Tirith.

Again, Aragorn was revealed to be a king both in body and spirit.
Quote:
The grey figure of the Man, Aragorn son of Arathorn, was tall, and stern as stone, his hand upon the hilt of his sword; he looked as if some king out of the sea who stepped upon the shores of lesser men.
Gandalf, on the other hand, was shown so:
Quote:
But before him [Aragorn] stooped the old figure, white, shining now as if with some light kindled within, bent, laden with years, but holding a power beyond the strength of kings.
Light. Gandalf has hope for Middle Earth, and is Middle Earht's source of hope. He also has hope that one day, the Man before him would be crowned king. A power beyond the strength of kings. Gandalf is an Ainu, who were once the rulers of the world. It is fitting so that he has a power to rival a Man's. And he it will be who would pass on the rule of Middle Earth over to a king.

But despite this, Aragorn knows his time has not yet come. He remains dependent on Gandalf:
Quote:
We will go where [the White Rider] leads.
Now is that swoon-worthy or swoon-worthy?

In light of this, I recall Nilp's post in "The Bridge of Khazad-dum," about Aragorn's first crowning occuring before Gandalf's death. And there came Aragorn's first trial for kingship. He took command of the Fellowship in Gandalf's place, making decisions that the wizard was supposed to make. In "the Departure of Boromir" we saw Aragorn having to decide between two roads, and he thought that he might be making a mistake in his choice. But in this chapter, Gandalf assured him that he has made the right decision: to follow Merry and Pippin. He has even mimicked Aragorn's words, that the Ringbearer and his Quest is in their hands no longer. Aragorn has passed his first test.

But the second test is about to come. I will not mention it yet...still weeks away before the proper chapter.

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Old 01-24-2005, 09:55 PM   #34
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Pipe Late stuff.

This chapter is peculiarly close to me, as it provides me with a Middle-earth version of one of my interests: foreign policy analysis. Of course, then, “foreign” policy depends on one man (or Maia), and, by reading the mind of the leader, Gandalf was able to predict the actions or reactions of the “nation” the leader rules over.

Oh, and one more thing: It seems that the Professor himself (using Gandalf) had answered the age-old Balrog-wing question:
[Gandalf: ]Time is short. But if there were a year to spend, I would not tell you all.
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Old 02-21-2005, 08:09 PM   #35
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straggler straggles on...

Straggling footnotes....

One of my favorite lines from Legolas:

Quote:
Being pleased with his skill, he then sat down and quietly ate some waybread! That at least is enough to show that he was a hobbit...
Here Gimli reminds me of Boromir, at the eaves of Lorien, asking for "a plain road though it led through a hedge of swords"--
Quote:
‘Then we must go in, too,’ said Gimli. ‘But I do not like the look of this Fangorn: and we were warned against it. I wish the chase had led anywhere else!’
Another endearing comment from Legolas:
Quote:
I could have been happy here, if I had come in days of peace.’
Here Aragorn defines loyalty and duty. In light of his hopes to marry Arwen, it is an eye-opener; he is first and foremost a man of principle:
Quote:
said Gimli.".... If we do not find them soon, we shall be of no use to them, except to sit down beside them and show our friendship by starving together.’
‘If that is indeed all we can do, then we must do that,’ said Aragorn. ‘Let us go on.’
Another nice quote from Legolas:
Quote:
Few can foresee whither their road will lead them, till they come to its end.
I was delighted by this joviality from Gandalf:
Quote:
Indeed my friends, none of you have any weapon that could hurt me. Be merry! We meet again.
...and intrigued by these contrasts of knowing and unknowing, remembering and forgetting, seeing and unseeing:
Quote:
I have forgotten much that I thought I knew, and learned again much that I had forgotten. I can see many things far off, but many things that are close at hand I cannot see.
I find this deeply intriguing:
Quote:
It was not in vain that the young hobbits came with us, if only for Boromir’s sake.
I was also struck by how much Saruman DIDN'T know-- where were his powers of Osanwe? Has he lost them, being dependant on the palantir? How can he NOT see so much nowadays?
Quote:
He has no woodcraft. He believes that the horsemen slew and burned all upon the field of battle; but he does not know whether the Orcs were bringing any prisoners or not. And he does not know of the quarrel between his servants and the Orcs of Mordor; nor does he know of the Winged Messenger.’
Gandalf's discourse on dangerous friends is so enjoyable. "You are beset with dangers, Gimli son of Gloin..."

"the path that seemed right" -- This was extremely encouraging:
Quote:
‘Do not regret your choice in the valley of the Emyn Muil, nor call it a vain pursuit. You chose amid doubts the path that seemed right: the choice was just, and it has been rewarded. For so we have met in time, who otherwise might have met too late.
And this, also encouraging:
Quote:
"Go where you must go, and hope!"
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Old 02-22-2005, 03:35 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by Mark 12_30
I was also struck by how much Saruman DIDN'T know-- where were his powers of Osanwe? Has he lost them, being dependant on the palantir? How can he NOT see so much nowadays?
I had to pick up on this point, didn't I? I was jesting last night about my seeming obsession with osanwe...

I've thought about this myself, about how Saruman did not know that the Orcs had been waylaid. If osanwe is a gift given to all sentient beings then surely the orcs would have possessed this skill themselves? It should be the case that the orcs' minds were opened in order for Saruman to communicate, but the thought has passed through my mind that maybe they needed to close up their minds, to exercise unwill. Saruman's aims were covert and he needed to keep the mission secret from Sauron, so maybe his orcs by neccesity had to exercise unwill.

Of course, his excessive use of the palantir could quite easily have clouded his own mind, as it certainly clouded his judgement.
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Old 02-22-2005, 03:46 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
Of course, his excessive use of the palantir could quite easily have clouded his own mind, as it certainly clouded his judgement.
It does make me wonder whether the regular use of 'magical' technology could cause one's innate abilities to atrophy. Perhaps this applies across the board - maybe constant use of a 'magical' sword would lead to the user to lose some of their skill with normal blades, as such skills would be less necessary if the sword carried extra power in & of itself. Is Tolkien making a subtle point about how dangerous our dependence on technology is? We know that our ancestors had greater powers of memory than we do, simply because they had to remember more, not having such easy access to sources of information.

Just speculating.....
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Old 02-22-2005, 09:47 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by davem
It does make me wonder whether the regular use of 'magical' technology could cause one's innate abilities to atrophy. Perhaps this applies across the board - maybe constant use of a 'magical' sword would lead to the user to lose some of their skill with normal blades, as such skills would be less necessary if the sword carried extra power in & of itself.
I think that in the case of the palantiri for example, when they were used for good intent then they can only have enhanced the user's abilities, but it is entirely possible that excessive use would damage innate abilities. This seems to be what has indeed happened with Saruman, he sought further knowledge and eventually was 'caught'. Though I'm not so sure his innate abilities disappeared entirely. As seen in the Voice of Saruman chapter, he was still dangerous. It might also have been in the interests of Sauron not to have Saruman lose his mind entirely.

About swords - they often seem to possess some kind of 'magical' quality both in Tolkien's works and in other literature. Swords are usually invested with names and a great heritage; even their maker is usually remembered. Yet I wonder whether these swords really do all have magical qualities. A sword is a more complex weapon that it at first might appear, and they were often crafted with their user in mind, as length of blade and weight of hilt needed to be 'tailored' for most effective use. So perhaps Tolkien is echoing this sense that a sword would indeed be 'special' to its bearer. To lose such a personally tailored weapon would mean having to use something not suited to the bearer, and thus it would be less effective. And of course, to have no sword at all would make a person highly vulnerable, so it would be invested with yet more meaning and significance.
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Old 02-22-2005, 11:34 AM   #39
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Osanwe, Gandalf, and Shadowfax in the published TTT

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
Its interesting to speculate on how Shadowfax knew of Gandalf's 'need' of him. Perhaps the answer can be found in an earlier draft:

Quote:
'The earliest extant account of Gandalf's summons to Shadowfax with his three great whistles, and his coming across the plain to the eaves of Fangom with Arod and Hasofel returning is already exactly as in IT (see p. 432); and this seems to fit the story in the present text, for Gandalf says to Shadowfax 'It is a long way from Rivendell, my friend; but you are wise and swift, and come at need,' and he says to Legolas 'I bent my thought upon him, bidding him to make haste; for yesterday he was far away in the south of this land.' (Treason of Isengard)


Perhaps we have here another example of Osanwe? Gandalf summons Shadowfax 'in thought' (as Aragorn will later summon the Dunedain. Of course this opens something of a can of worms - does Shadowfax have a 'soul'? Is he capable of Osanwe himself?
(Was it Aragorn or Galadriel who summoned the Dunedain?)

Quote:
We rode as swiftly as we might when your summons came.’

‘But I did not summon you,’ said Aragorn, ‘save only in wish. My thoughts have often turned to you, and seldom more than tonight; yet I have sent no word.
Quote:
‘Why have they come? Have you heard?’ asked Merry. He had now dressed, and he flung his grey cloak about his shoulders; and the three passed out together towards the ruined gate of the Burg.

‘They answered a summons, as you heard,’ said Gimli. ‘Word came to Rivendell, they say: Aragorn has need of his kindred. Let the Dúnedain ride to him in Rohan! But whence this message came they are now in doubt. Gandalf sent it, I would guess.’

‘Nay, Galadriel,’ said Legolas. ‘Did she not speak through Gandalf of the ride of the Grey Company from the North?’

‘Yes, you have it,’ said Gimli. ‘The Lady of the Wood! She read many hearts and desires. Now why did not we wish for some of our own kinsfolk, Legolas?’
However, back to Shadowfax and Gandalf.

Near the end of The White Rider chapter (of TTT, canon) is this exchange:
Quote:
‘Now I understand a part of last night’s riddle,’ said Legolas as he sprang lightly upon Arod’s back. ‘Whether they fled at first in fear, or not, our horses met Shadowfax, their chieftain, and greeted him with joy. Did you know that he was at hand, Gandalf?’

‘Yes, I knew,’ said the wizard. ‘I bent my thought upon him, bidding him to make haste; for yesterday he was far away in the south of this land. Swiftly may he bear me back again!’
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Last edited by mark12_30; 02-22-2005 at 11:38 AM.
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Old 09-11-2018, 06:20 PM   #40
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Leaf

As excellent a chapter as "The White Rider" is, I sort of get where Tolkien is coming from in identifying it as a weaker point in the story, sandwiched as it is between two stellar chapters. Indeed, prior to reading this thread, my thoughts as I reread were mired in "Treebeard": I noticed, perhaps consciously for the first time, that the main part of this chapter takes place on what Tolkien very deliberately names (and capitalises) as Treebeard's Hill.

It's an interesting point to me because in our last dramatic meeting on this hill, Treebeard is loth even to call it that, such a hasty name for something that has been there since the mountains were reared. We talked a lot in that chapter about how Entish is a language where every name is a story, and by virtue of these two chance meetings on it, this hill is getting some mighty chapters to add to its tale: the destinies of many peoples changed because of two related encounters here.

Before, it was just a hill; now, it is Treebeard's Hill. Not the whole story of an Entish name, but maybe a name to preserve the memory of Treebeard for a time when the Ents are forgotten--as I learned thanks to Tolkien, place-names preserve some of the oldest linguistic pieces, through conquests and language-changes.
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