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Old 06-15-2002, 05:42 PM   #1
The Silver-shod Muse
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When I was reading the Sil, I came across this passage from when Turin Turambar is readying to slay himself with his blade, Gurthang:

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"Hail Gurthang!...Wilt thou therefore take Turin Turambar, wilt thou slay me swiftly?"

And from the blade rang a cold voice in answer, "Yea, I will drink thy blood gladly that I may forget the blood of Beleg my master, and the blood of Brandir slain unjustly. I will slay thee swiftly."
I am curious to know how this sword talks to Turin. I was ready to take it at face value and assume that somehow the sword developed telepathy and transferred this message in a cold voice to Turin, but after considering the circumstances I'm wondering if this just wasn't Turin's guilty conscience. After all, why else would the sword remember the blood of Beleg and Brandir slain unjustly?

I would attribute it to Turin's self-loathing for what he had done and subsequently hallucinating if not for the scene in TTT when Sam gives the Lorien rope a tug and it comes down to him as if it had a mind of its own.

Does Tolkien himself say anything about these mysteries? Perhaps the will of the maker goes into the object and "inhabits" it, as did Eol's ill will manifest itself in Gurthang, but there seems to be very few examples of this outside of the One Ring, which was obviously the most overt. Can beings beside elves accomplish this on the subtler level? There don't seem to be any examples of men's or dwarves' tools behaving strangely, but maybe I've overlooked them. Any ideas?
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Old 06-15-2002, 05:49 PM   #2
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<font color=gold>Hmmm... interesting indeed. I always imagined that only he heard it. I don't think that it could've spoken loud and clear enough for anyone else to hear had they been around.
Then again, The Silmarillion as a whole seems a lot more "magical" than the trilogy does. In a way it's kinda like the Bible in it's metaphorical uses (whether they are truly metaphors or not).
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Old 06-15-2002, 06:06 PM   #3
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Turin's sword was Gurthang. I've always attributed Gurthang's speech to Turin as the sword Gurthang being inhabited by the spirit of Eol. I figure if anyone’s going to be afraid to accept the summons of Mandos it's going to be Eol. I don't see why Eol's fea (which refusing the summons of Mandos would be trapped wandering around Middle Earth) wouldn't be able to inhabit the sword that he made. Every race was capable of creating items of lore, imbued with special properties. The barrow swords are examples of this, as are the dwarven doors of Moria. Yet I do not think that there are any examples of any non elvish or maia created objects actually having wills of their own. The fea of the non elvish races are not bound to Middle Earth. Subsequently the dwarves, men, hobbits, orcs, etc… do not have as much control over their fea.
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Old 06-15-2002, 11:37 PM   #4
Kalimac
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Muse, neat question! One of those ones which gets twistier by the minute when you think about it - which is a good thing, don't mistake me [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]. Thingol, your answer about Gurthang is really clever; I'd be inclined to say that's the best explanation. There are plenty of magically-endowed objects out there (all of Elvish make, as you say) but very few that talk, in fact I can't think of anything that does except of course for Gurthang. The only caveat I'd have about it is that while the sword may have been "inhabited" by Eol, the words don't sound quite like him. The bit where the sword gives its reasons; about avenging Beleg and Brandir "who was slain unjustly" makes it sound like Gurthang has loyalties outside of itself, and thus that there was a theoretical possibility that it could refuse to kill Turin if circumstances had been different and the sword thought him innocent of wrongdoing. Eol - and I may have missed something or be misremembering, but anyway - he doesn't seem like that type of personality. Not that he'd have any objection to killing Turin, just that he wouldn't feel like he had to state his case that way; his response in non-sword form would probably have been a statelier version of "Of course I'll kill you. Why not?"

OTOH the only alternatives that I can think of to its being inhabited by Eol's fea are these; the first is that possibly the Sil is being metaphorical and it actually was just Turin thinking to himself or experiencing a hypnagogic vision or whatever the best term is when someone convinces himself that he's being spoken to by someone/something unearthly. The second is that Gurthang basically operates on the same pattern as Sam's Lorien rope which "came at his call". The Lorien rope doesn't talk, obviously, but what it and Gurthang have in common is that they are both loyal to the spirit of their creators, so to speak. That is, Sam and the makers of the Lorien rope are both on the same side, have the same love of righteousness and loyalty (and of craft and ropemaking, for that matter) so it makes sense that the rope would "answer" to Sam, since he shared a mindset with its creators and it was being loyal to that.

Gurthang is an Elvish creation too, but was created by a very different sort of Elf. Eol was by no means the same sort of personality as the Elves of Lorien, so the type of loyalty with which his sword was imbued was quite different; it was loyal, but in a cruel and hard way, and the strength and unbendingness of its loyalty would transform its owners into similarly hard people, or encourage it in owners who were already bent that way (Turin was warned against the sword, I believe). Its rigid loyalty made it easy for the sword to exact vengeance; it's hard to see the Lorien rope being quite so enthusiastic about a similar project.

As for why it would talk - all I can guess is that since Gurthang was made in the days when the Elves were strong, and the rope when the Elves were fading and leaving, that the potency of the Elves' craft was also much more in the days of the Silmarillion, so that the power the Lorien rope had was just a shadow of the power in Gurthang. I don't believe the sword spoke so that others could hear, though. That would be a little clumsy; more efficient to just zap the thought directly to Turin's brain.
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Old 06-16-2002, 07:43 AM   #5
Thingol
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Not to be tedious, but Beleg, not Turin, was warned about Gurthang [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]. When reading the Silmarillion I always got the impression that Eol liked to hear himself talk. He's always telling Aredhel and Maeglin about how the Noldor "stole" the land and brought the wrath of Morgoth down on Beleriand. It pained Eol to restrain his words when confronted by Celegorm and Curufin. Eol was not really evil, per say, he was proud, stubborn, and somewhat misguided, but he wasn't evil. He believed the Noldor stole the land and brought evil into Beleriand. He did after all live near the sons of Feanor, who were responsible for killing his kin at Alqualonde, and weren't exactly apologetic about it. Eol believed that his hatred of the Noldor was justified. On the other hand he imprisoned his family and killed his wife. But Eol still gives reasons for attempting to kill his son, he is not a cold blooded murderer. Turgon's laws are being unjustly enforced on him. Maeglin is his son and Eol believes that he has the right to control his son's fait. Eol's values might be twisted, but he still believes they are just. He is too stubborn to change and abandon his old hatreds. Like Eol, the sword Gurthang is described as hard and unforgiving. I do not see a prolem with Eol wanting to justify killing Turin. I agree that Gurthang probably didn't actually speak with words, just zapped the thought directly to Turin's brain. Lol, nice way of putting it. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

[ June 16, 2002: Message edited by: Thingol ]
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Old 06-17-2002, 08:33 AM   #6
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I had considered that Eol's fea might have "possessed" the sword, but as Kalimac pointed out, the sword didn't seem to behave like Eol at all. Why would Eol care about Beleg and Brandir? Was Eol yet dead when the warning was given Beleg about the sword?
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Old 06-17-2002, 09:57 AM   #7
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Was Eol yet dead when the warning was given Beleg about the sword?
Yes he was.
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