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Old 05-24-2021, 08:02 AM   #1
Huinesoron
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Pipe Characters paying attention

In the aftermath of the attack on Weathertop, Frodo is half-dozing when he hears this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by FotR: Flight to the Ford
'Look!' he cried; and stooping he lifted from the ground a black cloak that had lain there hidden by the darkness. A foot above the lower hem there was a slash. 'This was the stroke of Frodo's sword,' he said. 'The only hurt that it did to his enemy, I fear; for it is unharmed, but all blades perish that pierce that dreadful King. More deadly to him was the name of Elbereth.'
A full chapter later, Frodo again has to face the Nazgul, and what do we see?

Quote:
Originally Posted by FotR: Flight to the Ford
]With a great effort Frodo sat upright and brandished his sword.

'Go back!' he cried. 'Go back to the Land of Mordor, and follow me no more! ' His voice sounded thin and shrill in his own ears. The Riders halted, but Frodo had not the power of Bombadil. His enemies laughed at him with a harsh and chilling laughter. 'Come back! Come back!' they called. 'To Mordor we will take you!'

'Go back!' he whispered.

'The Ring! The Ring!' they cried with deadly voices; and immediately their leader urged his horse forward into the water, followed closely by two others.

'By Elbereth and Lúthien the Fair,' said Frodo with a last effort, lifting up his sword, 'you shall have neither the Ring nor me!'
It doesn't work, but it's clear Frodo was paying attention to Aragorn when he talked about what is effective against the Nine. He listened! And just like a real person, he took what was said in his hearing and he remembered it for when it became relevant again.

Are there other examples of characters actually listening to what they're told? Not when they're specifically sat down and told "Young Hobbit, this is important", or when they refer back to it by saying "Gandalf told me that I must watch for this" - but just times when the actions they take clearly show that something that happened around them actually sank in, despite not being obviously relevant at the time.

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Old 05-24-2021, 01:25 PM   #2
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Didn't Frodo also remember the Elves' song scaring off a Black Rider before he said it the first time, and Sam remember it too when calling to Elbereth in Cirith Ungol. Granted, that's observing, not listening, but ....

Frodo cried out 'O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!' when he struck the Nazgul's feet at Weathertop.
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Old 05-26-2021, 01:37 AM   #3
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Yes, Elbereth almost definitely came from Gildor and company in both cases, although when the Hobbits meet the Elves Frodo is shown to have previously known the name and known that it signified they were Noldor. The knowledge that the name could be harmful to the Nazgul? I'm not sure, but I think Aragorn might be being sarcastic when he says that. In other words, no point attacking them with weapons, you may as well shout names at them for all the good it will do.

That interpretation would be more in-character for Gandalf than Aragorn, I'll admit, but it still seems valid nonetheless.

The name Luthien definitely csme from Aragorn's story.
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Old 05-26-2021, 02:50 AM   #4
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Sting

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Originally Posted by mhagain View Post
The knowledge that the name could be harmful to the Nazgul? I'm not sure, but I think Aragorn might be being sarcastic when he says that. In other words, no point attacking them with weapons, you may as well shout names at them for all the good it will do.

That interpretation would be more in-character for Gandalf than Aragorn, I'll admit, but it still seems valid nonetheless.

The name Luthien definitely csme from Aragorn's story.
I don't know why Aragorn would be sarcastic at that point, at least that is what never occurred to me. As Hui quoted, he says "More deadly to him was the name of Elbereth." That does not sound to me like sarcasm. You are anyway right that Aragorn is not even the type to be sarcastic, and certainly not in such a situation where they're having half-dead Frodo. He is being very serious.

I find it very interesting that Frodo adds the name of Lúthien at the Ford - I would imagine that it is his own "upgrade", a try if, perchance, since the name of Elbereth seemed to "work", adding another big name from Elven mythology might produce the same effect. He probably remembered it because he recently heard Strider's story about Beren and Lúthien. Maybe he even figured that since the name of Elbereth last time got rid of the Witch-King, but not quite (he still managed to hurt Frodo), perhaps now using two names before he is in the danger of being stabbed might chase the Nazgul off for good.
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Old 05-26-2021, 04:46 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pervinca Took View Post
Didn't Frodo also remember the Elves' song scaring off a Black Rider before he said it the first time, and Sam remember it too when calling to Elbereth in Cirith Ungol. Granted, that's observing, not listening, but ....
I'd forgotten the song having the same effect; good catch. And I didn't even realise that Sam thought back to it! He was there when Aragorn mentioned the effectiveness of the name of Elbereth, so I think it counts.

It's interesting that Sam's invocation is close to the song in Rivendell - most of the words come directly from the hymn - but is adapted to be a direct appeal (that tiro is a dead giveaway, being the same word as Tirith). I don't think I've ever actually seen in translated before; it doesn't show up in the lists of poems; but in the Common tongue it would be something like this:

O! Elbereth Star-Kindler
From the heavens all-seeing
To thee I cry from 'neath death's shadow:
O! Watch and ward me, Angel of Everwhite!


It's a good one, especially from someone who doesn't speak Sindarin. ^_~

hS
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Old 05-26-2021, 09:55 AM   #6
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It strikes me that the Nazgul at the Fords were somewhat nonplussed by the fact that Frodo resisted at all. They withdrew at Weathertop not because Aragorn fought them off (curse you, PJ!) but because Mission Accomplished. They had stuck the Ringbearer with a morgul-blade, and it was just a matter of time-- rather like an assassin using a lethal but slow-acting poison.

Within a matter of days Frodo was supposed to be a wraith and wholly under their command. After all, it certainly would have been the case even for "mighty warriors of Men!" The W-K here was operating on insufficient data: to wit, a Hobbit's remarkable toughness (although Gollum might have given him a clue, had he thought about it).
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Old 05-26-2021, 10:40 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
although Gollum might have given him a clue, had he thought about it.
Bad inderdepartmental communication or Sauron being a control freak? Assuming it was Sauron alone who tortured Gollum and he didn't send his minions a memo about it.
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Old 05-26-2021, 11:45 AM   #8
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Gollum definitely met Sauron in person, he knew how many fingers he had.
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Old 05-26-2021, 01:40 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by mhagain View Post
Gollum definitely met Sauron in person, he knew how many fingers he had.
But the Nazgűl necessarily didn't, exactly. Maybe Sauron indeed didn't hand out the memo.

Anyway, as it is explained in, I believe, The Treason of Isengard, or maybe even in the Unfinished Tales, the Nazgűl didn't really know what to make of the Hobbits and were kinda afraid of Frodo, thinking that he was some super-powerful creature who had been able to avoid them very cunningly and when he (unlike 99% of the population of Middle-Earth) didn't only just run away screaming when facing the Witch-King, but even attacked him AND hit him, they freaked out and retreated from Weathertop. Sure, they considered it a "succesful assassination-poisoning attempt", but they were probably not very keen on repeating the experience.
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Old 05-26-2021, 06:37 PM   #10
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I wasn't thinking so much of Gollum holding up under torture, as the fact that he had had the Ring for some 600 years and still wasn't a wraith.
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Old 05-27-2021, 02:52 AM   #11
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'And it seems that hobbits fade very reluctantly.'
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Old 05-27-2021, 06:04 AM   #12
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But Gollum was not a good example, even if the Nazgűl had have a full briefing about his 'encounter' with Sauron. He had come to Mordor following only some kind of general 'message' from Sauron to all hating the West to join under his 'banner'. At least that is what the books tell us. And even so Sauron had perceived that Gollum was not fully under his control, he had let him go, which must mean he did believe he would do only harm to Saurons enemies.

We do not know how long it took the Nazgűl to come under Saurons control and they held the Nine while Sauron had the One in his control. In addition, we do not know if Gollum would be able to tell his age even in rough estimate. So, on the one side the 600 years might be normal, or at least the time that they could estimate that Gollum had held the Ring didn't struck them as overlong.

Anyhow Gollum was never touched by a Morgul-blade. And we do not know if before Fordo any Hobbit had ever been felt the effect of such a blade - most probably not. But however, I think, we underestimate the influence of Aragorn's dealing with the wound. Hobbits might be of harder stuff than Men (specially in the mental or moral build as that would be the characteristic under attack by the magic of the blade), but without Aragorns care, I think Frodo would not have keep it up much longer than any 'normal' victim the Nazgűl had have experience with.

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Old 05-27-2021, 10:20 AM   #13
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I think we got a bit sidetracked; if I am not mistaken, this whole debate about Gollum came up only because he came up as proof of Hobbit-toughness. And that came up only as a side-remark about something WK might have thought of, and that came up only in relation to yet another side-remark that the Nazgűl may have been surprised by Frodo's resistance.

And that all being said, the entire argument stands on the assumption that the Nazgűl knew that Gollum was the same type of creature as the Hobbits. I am sort of wondering whether it might not have been beneath their discernment capabilities.
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Old 05-27-2021, 10:32 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post

And that all being said, the entire argument stands on the assumption that the Nazgűl knew that Gollum was the same type of creature as the Hobbits. I am sort of wondering whether it might not have been beneath their discernment capabilities.
Well, in The Hunt for the Ring Tolkien wrote that the Nazgul did know this, whether by their own observation or because Sauron told them, but at any rate they began their search for "Baggins" in the vales of Anduin because they assumed that a creature of Gollum's race would hail from the same area. This cost them precious time, eventually permitting Frodo's leaving Bag-end in the nick of time.
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Old 05-27-2021, 12:19 PM   #15
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To this day I’m secure in my knowledge I would’ve died in the barrow because how Frodo remembered a whole dang song Bombadil said once is beyond me.
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Old 05-27-2021, 02:15 PM   #16
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To this day I’m secure in my knowledge I would’ve died in the barrow because how Frodo remembered a whole dang song Bombadil said once is beyond me.
Now THAT is one catch for the topic! Even though the whole episode before it is rather a case of the characters NOT paying attention: Bombadil explicitly told them to avoid the standing stones, and, well...
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Old 05-27-2021, 02:56 PM   #17
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Now THAT is one catch for the topic! Even though the whole episode before it is rather a case of the characters NOT paying attention: Bombadil explicitly told them to avoid the standing stones, and, well...
Thinking about the fact that Frodo seems to pay most attention when a song's involved, I wandered over to his lament for Gandalf, and, er:

Quote:
From Wilderland to Western shore,
from northern waste to southern hill,
through dragon-lair and hidden door
and darkling woods he walked at will.
I'm pretty sure Gandalf never went anywhere near Erebor when Smaug was alive, and I'm positive he didn't go through the Back Door before it got destroyed. So was Frodo not paying attention to Uncle Bilbo when he rambled on about his adventures?

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Old 05-28-2021, 08:02 AM   #18
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I'm pretty sure Gandalf never went anywhere near Erebor when Smaug was alive, and I'm positive he didn't go through the Back Door before it got destroyed. So was Frodo not paying attention to Uncle Bilbo when he rambled on about his adventures?
I actually always read this as two separate pieces of information: through Dragon-lair (he was at least around) and then some other, completely unrelated hidden door, which, since it was mentioned alongside the dragon lair, ergo perhaps around the same time, I thought it might refer to Gandalf's infiltration of Dol Guldur. (Which would on the contrary prove that Frodo was perhaps paying too much attention.)

Anyway, if the hidden door is separate from the dragon lair, then it could of course refer to anything, the thing Frodo might have freshly in his mind being of course the famous "Mellon door", the Eregion gate to Moria.
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Old 05-28-2021, 08:08 AM   #19
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I actually always read this as two separate pieces of information: through Dragon-lair (he was at least around) and then some other, completely unrelated hidden door, which, since it was mentioned alongside the dragon lair, ergo perhaps around the same time, I thought it might refer to Gandalf's infiltration of Dol Guldur. (Which would on the contrary prove that Frodo was perhaps paying too much attention.)

Anyway, if the hidden door is separate from the dragon lair, then it could of course refer to anything, the thing Frodo might have freshly in his mind being of course the famous "Mellon door", the Eregion gate to Moria.
It's certainly possible; but the lack of commas in "through dragon-lair and hidden door /
and darkling woods" suggests that they may well be a single list. 'Dragon-lair' has to be Erebor, and 'darkling woods' sounds like Mirkwood - which would fit very firmly with a Hobbit-theme, and not work at all for LotR (Gandalf wasn't with Frodo for any forests!).

Good point about the Moria-gate, though; given that we're told this is only scraps of the original dream-song, that's probably a good interpretation.

hS
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Old 05-28-2021, 08:19 AM   #20
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It's certainly possible; but the lack of commas in "through dragon-lair and hidden door /
and darkling woods" suggests that they may well be a single list. 'Dragon-lair' has to be Erebor, and 'darkling woods' sounds like Mirkwood - which would fit very firmly with a Hobbit-theme, and not work at all for LotR (Gandalf wasn't with Frodo for any forests!).

Good point about the Moria-gate, though; given that we're told this is only scraps of the original dream-song, that's probably a good interpretation.

hS
Well, but if the dragon lair, hidden door and presumably Mirkwood are meant to be a part of the same journey, then actually it makes MORE sense to assume the hidden door refers to Dol Guldur, as the Moria door passage happened elsewhere and half a century later.

Sidenote: I am also very much suspicious about the "southern hill". If we disregard the easy and boring option that Frodo's grasp of southern geography is too weak and he just had to quickly think of something that rhymes, or the other undoubtedly funny option that he is hinting at Gandalf's unrecorded trips for inferior pipeweed to Southlinch (although that would not make sense time-wise; I doubt Frodo or indeed anyone knew or cared about Breeland pipeweed before the crisis caused by Sharkey); anyway, disregarding those, this seems like yet another bit of insight into the obscure "Incánus in the South" business!
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Old 05-30-2021, 11:51 AM   #21
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"Southern hill" might refer to Amon Lanc, the hill in southern Mirkwood upon which Dol Guldur stood. Or just possibly the hill on which Edoras was built. If we need further south, the hill-like Minas Tirith, or even the headland of Dol Amroth.
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Old 05-31-2021, 03:11 AM   #22
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"Southern hill" might refer to Amon Lanc, the hill in southern Mirkwood upon which Dol Guldur stood.
WHY THANK YOU!!!

But now, this makes perfect sense! This only supports my theory that it is about Dol Guldur!

What we have here, in that case, is parallelism on two subsequent lines:

From Wilderland to Western shore,
from northern waste to southern hill,
through dragon-lair and hidden door
and darkling woods he walked at will.

So we can divide this part of the song among two themes: one related to the Dragons (one of the "big baddies" Frodo knew that Gandalf had a hand in getting rid of; the chief villain of Bilbo's story) and the second related to Sauron, the Necromancer of Dol Guldur (the other "big baddie" Frodo knew that Gandalf opposed; the villain of Frodo's own story).

Thus, the Dragon-related part is the "northern waste" (cf. the map in the Hobbit, "far to the North, the Withered Heath whence came the Great Worms"), pertaining to the place where dragons are known to come from. And "dragon-lair" being obviously associated with the Dragons and Smaug (he originally too came to Dale from the North where the rest of his kind live).

And secondarily, if we take William's (not mine, see! Therefore trustworthy, independent source!) postulate that "southern hill" is Amon Lanc/Dol Guldur, the hill in the south of Mirkwood (where Gandalf went secretly to ascertain Sauron's presence), then we have "southern hill" as well as "hidden door", which also points to the fact that Gandalf entered Dol Guldur secretly. Both relate to the other big feat of Gandalf's, his scouting of Dol Guldur.

***

Sidenote: Actually, if you want to divide this whole strophe without leaving anything unassigned, you could also assign the first line ("Wilderland") to the Dragon and the last one ("darkling woods") to Sauron. It would work as well, the poetic language is not that precise in terms of geography. (In reality, "the darkling woods" are a part of "Wilderland"; but as words, the term "Wilderland" may evoke Dragons, whereas "darkling woods", as a periphrasis to Mirkwood, may point more specifically to the Necromancer. Especially with the use of the word whose root is "dark-", further evocative of the themes of darkness, the Dark Lord and so on.)

Or option B, you can just say that line 1 and 4 simply frame the whole verse, being parallel or synonymous to each other (delineating the space in which Gandalf moved: the first line externally by describing the border - the utmost limits from-to; the fourth line internally, describing it based on what lies inside the border: majority of the space delineated in verse 1 is filled by "darkling woods").

Ta-dum!
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Old 06-06-2021, 06:22 AM   #23
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It doesn't work
On what in the story is this conclusion based?
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Old 06-06-2021, 03:33 PM   #24
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I’m not necessarily sure this counts. But considering how he’s usually portrayed as a sort of bumbling type character, Pippin knowing about the ring and understanding that it was to be kept secret and while not knowing the full scope was able to glean its importance stands out for me.
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Old 06-06-2021, 10:18 PM   #25
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Well, Pippin is impetuous and tends to speak and act without thinking- but he is very clever. Flighty and unreliable, unlike the steady Merry, but he's a bright one, not stupid at all.
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Old 06-07-2021, 01:51 AM   #26
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On what in the story is this conclusion based?
Quote:
'By Elbereth and Lúthien the Fair,' said Frodo with a last effort, lifting up his sword, 'you shall have neither the Ring nor me!'

Then the leader, who was now half across the Ford, stood up menacing in his stirrups, and raised up his hand. Frodo was stricken dumb. He felt his tongue cleave to his mouth, and his heart labouring. His sword broke and fell out of his shaking hand. The elf-horse reared and snorted. The foremost of the black horses had almost set foot upon the shore.
I don't see any indication in that paragraph or the rest of the chapter that Frodo's words had any effect. You could argue that it would have, or why would the Witch-King bother to shut him up, but I don't think it did.

I guess it's possible that standing up to silence Frodo delayed the Witch-King by a crucial second or two; if he'd been slightly faster he would have been on the shore when the flood came. But it's also possible to stand up in stirrups while the horse keeps moving, so that's not a certain point.

Do you get something different from the text? I'd quite like it to have an impact, it's a great line, so I'm open to persuasion. ^_^

hS
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Old 06-07-2021, 06:32 AM   #27
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I had not reread it before I posed my question, so thank you, Huinesoron, for quoting the text. It appears that you are correct.

My thought was that if the name Elbereth does have greater power than Frodo's sword (it is not Sting and not Elven), then it would have an effect.

However, there are extentuations to consider: first, perhaps the words coming from a more powerful being such as an Elf, might have had a greater effect. But more likely, by the time they had come to the river, Frodo was at an extremity, his will having been taxed for days since Weathertop.

So perhaps the words did have an effect, but the Nazgul had too great an advantage that, by this time, Frodo was not able to overcome by using the Name.
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Old 06-07-2021, 11:53 AM   #28
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I don’t have much to back this up other than vague hypothesis based on the Nazgul’s abilities.

Maybe the strength of Elberoth isn’t the name but the hope it imbues. Nazgul obviously deal in fear and menace. To the point being being nearby you can feel them. So what happens if you counter that with hope?

Is there any solid evidence emotions can affect them in a similar way?
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Old 06-07-2021, 12:59 PM   #29
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I’m not necessarily sure this counts. But considering how he’s usually portrayed as a sort of bumbling type character, Pippin knowing about the ring and understanding that it was to be kept secret and while not knowing the full scope was able to glean its importance stands out for me.
One thought about Pippin that I read elsewhere on the web and really liked:

Pippin does a Gollum impression to Grishnakh, who instantly recognizes it. Pippin has never met Gollum. Which means that when telling his adventures, Bilbo must have done a killer Gollum impersonation, and Pippin paid attention and remembered!
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