Tolkien Geek

Blogging J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and other aimless pursuits.


TTT: Bk 3, Ch 5

The White Rider
"We meet again. At the turn of the tide."
While Merry and Pippin are talking with Quickbeam on the second day of the Entmoot, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli survey the battleground left by the Men of Rohan and the Orcs. It is daybreak and the three hunters continue to search for signs of their little friends. They are wary of their encounter the night before and keep an eye out for Saruman. Aragorn finds a Lorien leaf that once held some lembas bread. The trail has grown warm again. Using his tracking skills, Aragorn uses additional evidence - an Orc dagger, cut-up cord and small footprints - to guess the fate of the hobbits. Through some strange circumstance they were able to escape their captors, after which need drove them into Fangorn. Despite their trepidation, they follow the trail into the forest. Legolas senses that it is old and full of memory. As a Wood-Elf, he appreciates its dark beauty though Gimli feels no desire to tarry.

Eventually they find themselves at the very shelf where Merry and Pippin met Treebeard. In the distance they see an old man walking among the trees. His head was bowed and he is dressed in rags. They wait as the old man ascends the hill, anticipating some evil magic of Saruman. The old man speaks: "Well met indeed, my friends." Aragorn asks his name. The old man replies, "Have you not guessed it already? You have heard it before, I think." At that moment, he draws away his grey cloak. They see that underneath he is clothed all in white and it shines upon them. "Mithrandir!" cries Legolas, "Mithrandir!" It is Gandalf!
"They all gazed at him. His hair was white as snow in the sunshine; and gleaming white was his robe; the eyes under his deep brows were bright, piercing as the rays of the sun; power was in his hand. Between wonder, joy, and fear they stood and found no words to say."

They cannot believe their eyes. It is there old friend, lost in Moria but now returned. In casting aside the weapons of the three hunters, the wizard reveals a greater power than that which was wielded by the Grey Pilgrim.

Bewildered, Gimli asks him why he is now dressed in white. He says, "Indeed I am Saruman, one might almost say, Saruman as he should have been." The four of them spend some time bringing themselves up to speed on their adventure. Gimli asks if it was Gandalf that they had seen the night before. It was in fact Saruman that they had seen, venturing east to discover what had become of his Orcs and the hobbits. But he was too late, for the Orcs were destroyed and the hobbits had escaped into Fangorn. However, the fate of the Ring eluded Saruman. If fact, it was because of his fear that it might fall into the hands of Theoden, King of Rohan, that he unleashed his Orc army to assail the forces of that land. Gandalf knows that Merry and Pippin are with Treebeard and the Ents and he knows that they have been roused to anger against Saruman. And of course when the Ents arrive, Saruman will be left undefended. Their path does not lie toward Isengard. He tells them they must now journey to Edoras in Rohan to aid King Theoden. But first, Legolas wants to know what happened to Gandalf since his descent into the abyss in Moria.

Gandalf did reach the bottom of the chasm - "the uttermost foundations of stone" - with the Balrog. They continued to fight for many days under the mountain until they came to the endless stair, built by Durin's folk in the Second Age. It led all the way to the peak of the Silvertine, the mountain immediately to the south of Caradhras. There, exposed to the harsh snows of the mountain top, was Durin's tower.

Gandalf was finally able to destroy the Balrog, sending it crashing down into the side of the mountain. At that point, Gandalf's body was broken and his spirit journeyed, straying "out of thought and time" to the Undying Lands in a way that defied time and space. But he was sent back in a new body: "Naked I was sent back - for a brief time. Until my task is done." Gwaihir, the Lord of the Eagles had been sent by Galadriel to search for Gandalf. For she new his true nature and hoped that he would somehow survive. The eagle bore him back to Lothlorien where he was clad in his current raiments and crafted a new staff from the wood of the Mallorn tree. Interestingly enough, Gandalf managed to retain possession of his sword, Glamdring. Tolkien never comments on this remarkable feat in any of his writings. Again, Gwaihir carried him south to search for the Fellowship and was able to catch up with his friends at Fangorn.

At this point, I think it would be appropriate to shed some light on Gandalf's "true nature" as well as give some background on the wizards. Who were they? Where did they come from? And how was Gandalf able to return after death? Most of the answers can be found in Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-Earth.

Gandalf and the other wizards, also known as the Istari, were all Maiar spirits but of varying rank and status. They were sent by the Valar, possibly at the instruction Eru Iluvatar, to Middle-Earth to assist Men and Elves in their struggle with Sauron, whose power was growing again in the Third Age. The story, they way Tolkien conceived it, is that some of the Valar asked for volunteers among the Maiar to accept this task. The first was Curumo. He was chosen by Aule to make the journey. Curumo would become Saruman the White and was appointed the leader of the Istari. With him, he took Aiwendel - who would become Radagast the Brown - at the request of Aule's female counterpart, Yavanna. The Vala Orome chose Alatar, who took with him Pallando. These two were known as "the blue wizards". Lastly, Manwe chose Olorin. For though Olorin was not considered to be as wise and powerful as Curumo, Manwe recognized in him the qualities of humility and compassion.

There may have been more, but Tolkien only addresses these five Istari directly. These "emissaries" took the form of men "already old in years but hale in body, travelers and wanderers, gaining knowledge of Middle-Earth and all that dwelt herein, but revealing to none their powers and purposes." Though they were not subject to dying natural physical deaths, they experienced fear, pain and weariness as well as hunger and thirst as a mortal would. And their physical incarnations could be slain.

They went to Middle-Earth by ship to the Grey Havens at the Gulf of Lune, at approximately the year 1000 of the Third Age. Cirdan the Shipwright was one of the few who knew of their origins, having seen them all arrive. Gandalf was the last of the five to reach the Havens and Cirdan, who was the bearer of Narya the Elven ring of fire, felt that the grey wizard was actually the greatest of the Istari and gave to him that ring. He told Gandalf that it would aid him in the "great labours and perils" that lay before him. Eventually, Saruman would learn of this gift and it led to a secret animosity and ill-will in him towards Gandalf.

Gandalf, as it turned out, was the only one of the Istari who remained faithful to his mission. Radagast had become so enamored of the birds and beasts of Middle-Earth that he forsook Elves and Men. Saruman grew proud and desired power, and so became ensnared by Sauron. Not much is know of the fates of the blue wizards, Alatar and Pallando, for they traveled far into the eastern lands of Middle-Earth and never returned. Not only did Gandalf adhere to the "rules" given to him by the Valar, but he fully passed the tests on a moral plane as well. By his sacrifice at the bridge of Khazad-Dum, he had given up any hope of personal success in the conflict with Sauron and saved the remaining members of the Fellowship.

Because of this, Gandalf earned the blessing of Eru. In an uncharacteristic intervention, he sent Olorin back to Middle-Earth as Gandalf the White. Or seen in another way, Gandalf: Reloaded. He is given the mantle of leadership that Saruman had ceded. His task was not yet finished and he was given greater power, though he was still prohibited from using his power to take on Sauron directly. The overthrow of Sauron had to come as a result of the choices made and actions taken by Men. Rather, Gandalf's role was to rally and unite the free peoples to oppose the Dark Lord - all the while knowing that the true hope of the word rested on the shoulders of a hobbit, who even now was approaching Mordor through the Dead Marshes. Though exactly what fate lie ahead for Frodo and Sam, Gandalf could not be sure.

Now the task at hand was to journey at great speed to Edoras. Gandalf's steed, Shadowfax, that bore him first from Rohan to Rivendell now accompanied him. Shadowfax was one of the Mearas, Lords of Horses. The Mearas were descended from those brought to Middle-Earth by the Valar during the Elder Days. Shadowfax's presence was what called Hasufel and Arod away from their camp and they were now with him. The four friends then headed south and as they passed by the Gap of Rohan, they saw a great smoke rising from the direction of Isengard. Legolas asked what it may be. "Battle and war!", said Gandalf, "Ride on!"

[Chronology: March 1st - March 2nd 3019 T.A.]

Next: The King Of The Golden Hall

(revised 9/17/06)


TTT: Bk 3, Ch 4

"Don't be hasty, that is my motto."
Merry and Pippin continue their journey through the forest. It is dim and stuffy and they continue to follow the Entwash, for at least it is a source of fresh water. As they ascend a hill to breathe cleaner air, they encounter a most peculiar creature. Here they meet Treebeard:
"They found that they were looking at a most extraordinary face. It belonged to large Man-like, almost Troll-like, figure, at least fourteen foot high, very sturdy, with a tall head, and hardly any neck. Whether it was clad in stuff like green and grey bark, or whether that was its hide, was difficult to say. At any rate the arms, at a short distance from the trunk, were not wrinkled, but covered with a brown smooth skin. The large feet had seven toes each. The lower part of the long face was covered with a sweeping grey beard, bushy, almost twiggy at the roots, thin and mossy at the ends. But at the moment the hobbits noted little but the eyes. These deep eyes were now surveying them, slow and solemn, but very penetrating."
Ah, Treebeard. I read through this chapter many times and found it somewhat dull, struggling to keep alert and stay focused on the story. But after seeing his incarnation in PJ's "The Two Towers", I have gained a new appreciation for the old Ent. He's quite an interesting character.

In Letter No. 180, (14 January 1956), Tolkien wrote:
"though I knew for years that Frodo would run into a tree-adventure somewhere far down the Great River, I have no recollection of inventing Ents. I came at last to the point, and wrote the 'Treebeard' chapter without any recollection of previous thought: just as it now is."
In fact, at one point, Tolkien envisioned Treebeard as a malevolent character. In the original draft of the chapters in Rivendell, Gandalf tells Frodo of his delay: "I was caught in Fangorn and spent many weary days as a prisoner of the Giant Treebeard." (The Return of the Shadow, p 363) Of the name "ents", Tolkien mentions in Letter No. 157 (27 November 1954): "I always felt that something ought to be done about the peculiar Anglo-Saxon word ent for a 'giant' or mighty person of long ago". Again, here is an example of how Tolkien uses the language (or word, in this case) first and builds the story upon it.

While Treebeard tells the hobbits what he is called by others, he doesn't give them his true name. Again, the taboo of revealing one's name comes up again. We alluded to Tolkien's use of this cultural superstition back when we first met Aragorn as Strider. In fact, Treebeard is taken aback that Merry and Pippin are so quick to volunteer their own names to him. The other reason he holds back is that his name in Old Entish - is very long. For he explains that it is like a story, growing all the time. And it generally takes a long time to say anything in Entish "because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to."

He agrees to take Merry and Pippin back to his home. As he carries them, Treebeard explains that Ents are tree-herds, shepherds of trees. Some Ents, he says, have been growing "treeish" as of late - very still and very quiet. He recalls a time in the Elder Days when most of Middle-Earth was covered in forest and he recites a poem filled with place names that the hobbits (and most readers) don't recognize - Ossiriand, Neldoreth, Dorthonian. These are all places in the land of Beleriand as it existed in the First Age before the defeat of Morgoth, west of what was now the Ered Luin (Blue Mountains). Tolkien has many stories about these lands in The Silmarillion.

They arrive at Treebeard's house - Wellinghall - in the center of the forest. Merry and Pippin quench their thirst on Ent-Draughts, which have a rejuvenating effect on them. The sustenance of the Ents, Ent-Draughts were a drink concocted by the Ents from the waters of mountain springs and had special properties. The hobbits could feel its power flowing through them as they drank and one of the effects would be to make them grow noticeably taller. Again, Tolkien introduces a drink with remarkable envigorating qualities, like the miruvor and the orc-liquor. Treebeard takes a load off by lying down (he's not "bendable" enough to be able to sit) and he asks the hobbits to tell him their tale. Starting with the Shire, they recount everything that has happened to them including the doings of Saruman.

Treebeard is concerned about Saruman, who has been his neighbor for many years. The wizard would often talk with Treebeard, asking for information on a number of topics. But Saruman never reciprocated, which disappointed the Ent for he was always eager for news of the outside world. But lately, Treebeard had begun to notice a change in Saruman. He suspects that the wizard is plotting to gain power. As the Ent explains:
"He has a mind of metal and wheels; and he does not care for growing things, except as far as they serve him for the moment. And now it is clear that he is a black traitor. He has taken up with foul folk, with Orcs."
He speculates that the reason Orcs now traveled so freely through these lands is on account of a black evil that Saruman was brewing. He knows of his felling of trees for wood to feed the fires of Orthanc. There always seems to be smoke rising from Isengard. As Treebeard ruminates on all of this, a surge of anger rises in him. And it is here that he decides that something must be done about Saruman. While he knows it will be a challenge, he is resolved to rouse his fellow Ents to congregate for a meeting on this subject. Unfortunately, there aren't as many Ents as their used to be, for there have been no Entlings (or Ent children). The female Ents - or Entwives - went away long ago and the Ents have no idea what became of them.

Treebeard recounts that tale of the Entwives, a "strange and sad story". The Entwives it seems took to tending gardens, shrubs and other lesser growing things instead of forests. Just prior to the end of the First Age, the Entwives crossed the Anduin and settled in an area along the eastern banks. This land was now called the Brown Lands - they became desolate and wasted from the war between Sauron and the Last Alliance. The Ents always hope that one day, they will find the Entwives again. Treebeard tells Merry and Pippin to get some sleep while he goes about and gathers the other Ents.

I find it interesting that Treebeard's presence in the film The Two Towers is so prominent when he only appears at length in this one chapter. But his role in the War of the Ring is critical. And even though a character like Tom Bombadil appears in three chapters, his relationship to the plot is not nearly as critical (short of saving the hobbits from Old Man Willow and the Barrow-wights, of course). This is a particularly long chapter that covers everything up until the attack on Isengard, after which we won't see Treebeard again until chapter nine.

Anyway, the next morning Treebeard wakes the hobbits and takes them to the meeting place of the Ents which is an open glade called Derndingle. There they have an Entmoot - or staff meeting if you will - to discuss the latest with Saruman and decide whether or not they will take action to put a stop to his mischief. As the Ents gather, the hobbits notice that they are all different in appearance and take on the characteristics of the type of tree they are responsible for - beech, oak, fir, birch, rowan, linden, etc.

As the Entmoot commences, Merry and Pippin wait on the outskirts of Derndingle. Eventually they are joined by a younger - and especially "hasty" - Ent called Quickbeam; "They have called me that ever since I said yes to an elder Ent before he had finished his question." Quickbeam is sent to keep the hobbits company and he talks to them about his first-hand experiences with the damage Saruman and his Orcs have done. The Entmoot continues for a second and then a third day. Meanwhile at this same moment, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli have arrived at Fangorn Forest and entered it looking for the hobbits. They are about to encounter the White Wizard.

Later that afternoon of the third day, there was suddenly a clamor from the Entmoot. The Ents had sufficiently worked themselves up into a frenzy and have decided to go to war against Saruman. Tolkien describes this change in the Ents: "It seemed now as sudden as the bursting of a flood that had long been held back by a dike." Interestingly enough, this figurative image will become a literal one later on. Marching west in a straight line, the Ents were off to Isengard; "We come, we come with horn and drum: ta-runa runa runa rom!" Pippin observes to Treebeard that the Ents have certainly made up their minds quickly (which is a sharp contrast to the way the hobbits view the Entmoot in the film). Treebeard is a bit surprised himself:
"Indeed I have not seen them roused like this for many an age. We Ents do not like being roused; and we never are roused unless it is clear to us that our trees and our lives are in great danger. That has not happened in this Forest since the wars of Sauron and the Men of the Sea. It is the orc-work, the wanton hewing - rarum - without even the bad excuse of feeding the fires, that has so angered us; and the treachery of a neighbour, who should have helped us. Wizards ought to know better: they do know better. There is no curse in Elvish, Entish or the tongues of Men bad enough for such treachery. Down with Saruman!"

The rousing of the Ents is clearly meant to represent the unpredictable power of nature that can ruin even the most carefully laid plans. Here it is Saruman whose underestimation of this power power leads to his undoing. The attack of the Ents on Isengard will prove to be a tremendous turn of fortune for the enemies of Sauron. Bringing Merry and Pippin with them, Treebeard and the Ents drew ever closer to the great cleft at the foot of the Misty Mountains: the Nan Curunir, the Valley of Saruman.

[Chronology: February 28th - March 2nd 3019 T.A.]

Next: The White Rider

(revised 9/14/06)


TTT: Bk 3, Ch 3

The Uruk-Hai

"We are the fighting Uruk-hai! We slew the great warrior. We took the prisoners. We are the servants of Saruman the Wise, the White Hand: the Hand that gives us man's-flesh to eat. We came out of Isengard, and led you here, and we shall lead you back by the way we choose."

Now what about those hobbits? To find out, Tolkien has to go back in time a few days. Pippin wakes to find himself surrounded by hideous Orc faces. He remembers that he and Merry were running through the woods at Parth Galen when they ran smack into a bunch of Orcs. Rather than kill the hobbits, they seized them. He remembers Boromir appearing and fighting the band of Orcs - slashing away at them and killing a good number of them. But he became a lone target of the Orc arrows and the last Pippin remembers of Boromir he was laying back against a tree, plucking an arrow out of himself. He wonders why they are still alive.

As he and Merry lay on the ground, they are guarded by two Orcs of Mordor, who are eager to feast on their flesh but are under orders from the Orcs of Isengard. Merry was still unconscious. There are several tribes of Orcs and because they couldn't understand each other, they had to resort to the Common Speech. Because of this Pippin could understand what they said. One of them reminds the others that his orders were to bring back hobbits - alive and unspoiled. One of them had something that Saruman desperately wanted; something for the war that was about to begin. Of course what they didn't know was that the one hobbit they needed is the one they didn't get. They were also forbidden to search them for Saruman feared what the Orcs would do if they in fact found the Ring. So until they were brought to Isengard, they had no way of knowing if they were successful.

It is also clear that there are also Northern Orcs from the Misty Mountains among them. The larger and stronger Uruk-hai from Isengard are clearly dominant, viewing the others as inferior. This of course breeds resentment among the other Orcs. The Mordor Orcs are led by one called Grishnakh, who desires to lead them to Mordor. For a winged Nazgul awaits them on the eastern side of Anduin. But Ugluk, the Uruk-hai leader, stands his ground insisting that the hobbits are brought to Isengard. A fight erupts. In the confusion, Pippin cuts the rope that binds his hands with a knife from a fallen Orc and he re-wraps them to hide the fact that his hands are really free.

Ugluk then rouses the hobbits and makes them follow on foot. It is here that Pippin removes his Elven brooch and lets it fall to the ground. His hope is that Aragorn will find it, though he is not very optimistic at the prospect. They travel for two more days until they approach the edge of Fangorn forest. Here they rest. Grishnakh, who had sneaked off during the prior skirmish now returned with more Orcs bearing the sign of the Red Eye. Ugluk asks of the Nazgul and Grishnakh tells him they are not yet allowed to cross the River. Sauron is saving them for greater need.

The Orcs passed around flasks of a strange liquor that, while burning to the throat, helped relieve the aches and fatigue in their strained legs. They even forced some of this vile liquid on the hobbits to help keep them conscious. I couldn't help but notice the similarity here to the use of the Elvish cordial called miruvor that the Fellowship shared on their journey to keep their strength up. Both drinks must originate from a similar source. But, just as Orcs are twisted perversions of Elves, this drink is extremely unpleasant to the taste in contrast to the fragrant properties of the miruvor.

The Riders of Rohan became aware of them when a scout observed them descending the slope of the Emyn Muil onto the grassy plains. Now the horseman stalked them and after some time the Orcs become aware of this. Further down on the edge of Fangorn, the Orcs make a camp and find themselves encircled by the Rohirrim, who remain out of sight during the night. Grishnakh comes upon Merry and Pippin and begins to search them. If he can find this powerful thing that they have, perhaps he can bring it to Sauron. Pippin plays with his mind a little, making Gollum-like noises and goading Grishnakh that the Uruk-hai will get the prize he is looking for. Out of anger and frustration, the Orc picks up the two hobbits and quietly carries them away from the camp. The Rohirrim had surrounded the band of Orcs in a circle, preventing their escape.

Now, out of sight of Ugluk and the others, he means to kill them. However, the ring and glint of his sword as it is being unsheathed gives him away to the Men of Rohan and they kill him. The other Orcs are alarmed by Grishnakh's cries and the Rohirrim charge the camp. The hobbits, who are passed over by the men, realize that they had been taken to the outside of the perimeter and were now free to escape. Using his free hands, Pippin cuts the remaining bonds with Grishnakh's sword and they run from the skirmish.

Merry leads Pippin to cover. For having studied many maps of these lands while in Rivendell, he guesses that they are along the banks of the Entwash, and this leads them straight into Fangorn forest. The news of the destruction of the Orcs never reaches either Isengard or Mordor, though the smoke that rises from their burning pile is "seen by many watchful eyes". Eyes of the forest and creatures that the hobbits will soon meet.

[Chronology: February 27th - February 28th 3019 T.A.]

Next: Treebeard

(revised 9/12/06)


TTT: Bk 3, Ch 2

The Riders Of Rohan
'What news from the north, Riders of Rohan?'
Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli cross the western Emyn Muil in pursuit of the Orcs. At this point, they believe they're taking the hobbits to Isengard, but they're not sure by which route. At the edge of the hills, the land slopes down and becomes the East Wall of Rohan leading to the open grassy plains of that land. They descend to the plain and discover the grass trampled. The trail is still fresh, but the Orcs have advanced far ahead, because they travel both by day and night. Along the way, Aragorn spies a leaf-shaped brooch from one of the hobbits' Elven cloaks.

After journeying straight through for a day and a half, the hunters decide that not only do they need to rest at night, but they could potentially miss an important clue, similar to the brooch, in the darkness. The next morning began their third day of pursuit, ever sustained by the lembas bread they had received in Lothlorien. However, the trail is beginning to show signs of growing cold. The lands before them are empty of both man and beast, which seems strange to Aragorn. They rest again that night. Meanwhile, what the reader does not know is that the Orcs are at that moment running into some problems with their hobbit captives as well as the men of Rohan.

The next morning, there is a red dawn and Legolas feels it is a sign of some sort. Eventually, they come upon a spot where the Orcs rested. Aragorn estimates the Orcs are about 36 hours ahead of them and likely approached Fangorn Forest as early as the night before. They are beginning to grow weary and pessimistic about their chances of ever catching up to them. They continue on. The next day, the fourth of the journey, Legolas sees a dark shape moving across the plain. It is a band of riders numbering some one hundred and five in strength. While they don't yet know if they are friend or foe, Aragorn knows that they are from Rohan. Whether or not the rumor that the men of Rohan are in league with either Saruman or Sauron is true, they have little choice but to wait for the band to overtake them.

As the sound of galloping hoofs grew louder, the hunters get a closer look at the riders:
"Their horses were of great stature, strong and clean-limbed; their grey coats glistened, their long tails flowed in the wind, their manes were braided on their proud necks. The Men that rode them matched them well: tall and long-limbed; their hair, flaxen-pale, flowed under their light helms, and streamed in long braids behind them; their faces were stern and keen. In their hands were tall spears of ash, painted shields were slung at their backs, long swords were at their belts, their burnished shirts of mail hung down upon their knees."
These were the Riders of Rohan; the Rohirrim. In creating this race of men, akin to the Woodland men and Beornings in the North, Tolkien wanted to represent the early Anglo-Saxons or rather how the Anglo-Saxons might have been if not for the Norman Invasion of England in 1066. Tolkien always believed that if these early Britons had horses, a strong cavalry like the Rohirrim, that they could have repulsed William the Conqueror and preserved the culture that existed in the England of the early Middle Ages. Further, according to Tom Shippey, Tolkien's creation of the Rohan was driven by his desire to showcase some of the Old English that he was so fond of. As he explains in The Road To Middle-Earth:
"He wrote the fiction to present the languages, and he did that because he loved them and thought them intrinsically beautiful. Maps, names and languages came before the plot. Elaborating them was in a sense Tolkien's way of building up enough steam to get rolling; but they had also in a sense provided the motive to want to. They were 'inspiration' and 'invention' at once, or perhaps more accurately, by turns."
Now Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli find themselves surrounded by the horsemen and staring at the business end of dozens of spears. Here we meet Eomer, son of Eomund and nephew of King Theoden of Rohan. Though we do not find out his name until a little exchange he has with Gimli that I always love. The Dwarf says "Give me your name, horse-master, and I will give you mine, and more besides." The sheer audacity of a four-foot dwarf mouthing off to this tall man with an army behind him was played to the hilt in the film, The Two Towers. Although this incident nearly gets out of control, the tension is soon relieved when upon further discussion, each party is convinced that the other is not allied with dark forces.

Eomer explains that the Orcs they are hunting have been destroyed at their hands along the forest-eaves of Fangorn. None were left alive. When Aragorn asks of the hobbits, he reports that he and his men noticed no one but Orcs. While Aragorn reveals their purpose for being in Rohan, he keeps secret the business of the Ring. News of the deaths of both Gandalf and Boromir weigh heavily on Eomer and he is amazed that they have traveled some forty-five leagues in only four days. I note here that for purposes of consistency, Karen Wynn Fonstad, in her book The Atlas of Middle-Earth, uses a standard three miles per league in her maps - which would make their journey about one hundred thirty five miles. Eomer reveals that Rohan was been fueding with Orcs since they stole nine black horses from them several years earlier, obviously for the foul purpose of bearing the Nazgul. In fact, he says, some of the Rohirrim are currently in the midst of battle with them.

He also gives the hunters a warning about Saruman, who has claimed much of their land and closed the Gap of Rohan that lay between the end of the Misty Mountains and the range of the White Mountains.
"It is ill dealing with such a foe: he is a wizard both cunning and dwimmer-crafty, having many guises. He walks here and there, they say, as on old man hooded and cloaked, very like to Gandalf, as many now recall."

The Sindarin Elvish name for Saruman is Curunir, or "man of skill". And the valley in which he settled in Isengard is often called Nan Curunir, or the "wizard's vale". The name is also synonymous with "crafty or cunning".

Eomer not only agrees to let them go freely in Rohan but he gives them two horses to aid them. Their names are Hasufel and Arod. In Old English, their names mean "grey-coat" and "swift", respectively. Eomer asks only that they be returned when their need for them has ended. Aragorn rides Hasufel and Legolas rides Arod without a saddle and bridle (as is the custom of the Elves) with Gimli riding in back. Eomer bids them farewell. After a time, they come upon the smoldering pile of Orcs that the Rohirrim had left, the ashes still hot and smoking. There is no sign of Merry and Pippin.

Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli make camp, wondering what to do next. They are wary of the forest but think it may be necessary to enter it. Aragorn explains that this forest is very old, one of the last remnants of an ancient forest that once stretched across all of western Middle-Earth and even to lands that now lay below the sea. He notes it is as old as the "Old Forest" east of the Barrow-Downs. And we all know what a friendly place that was. Aragorn takes care that Gimli does not cut any fresh wood for their fire, but rather uses only dead wood.

That evening they sleep. But Gimli is wakened by a rustling of trees. At the edge of the firelight, he sees an old man, wrapped in a great cloak with a wide-brimmed hat pulled over his eyes. Aragorn and Legolas also awake and try to speak to the old man, who then disappears. Later, they find that the two horses are gone. They remember the words of Eomer, warning them of Saruman: "he walks about like an old man hooded and cloaked". Aragorn notes that this man wore a hat, not a hood. What Tolkien writes about the old man, leads the reader to wonder if it somehow could be Gandalf, possibly as a vision. Christopher Tolkien confirms that this in fact may have been his father's original intention. We learn later, of course, that this is not the case.

In any event, he does not appear to them again, nor do the horses.

[Chronology: February 26th - February 30th 3019 T.A.]

Next: The Uruk-Hai

(revised 9/11/06)


TTT: Bk 3, Ch 1

The Departure Of Boromir
"'Farewell, Aragorn! Go to Minas Tirith and save my people! I have failed!'
'No!' said Aragorn, taking his hand and kissing his brow. 'You have conquered. Few have gained such victory. Be at peace! Minas Tirith shall not fall!'
Boromir smiled."

In Tolkien's original draft, the material in this chapter was originally part of the text intended for "The Breaking of the Fellowship". If one reads The Lord of the Rings as it is presented in a single volume, that is obvious for the flow of the action is interrupted in what seems an unnatural way. And this is a fairly short chapter. Of course, in order to have readers clamoring for more in 1954, the publishers obviously preferred a more ambiguous cliffhanger. So the material was split so that the first volume, The Fellowship of the Ring, ended with Frodo and Sam's crossing of the Anduin to the eastern banks. In The Two Towers, the story picks right up where Fellowship left off...

Suddenly, the great horn of Gondor blew. Aragorn, now at the summit of Amon Hen, knew that Boromir was in need. He could also hear the harsh voices of Orcs coming from the bottom of the hill. As he raced down the hill, the yells of the Orcs died away. Finally, in a glade about a mile from the boats, he finds Boromir, riddled with arrows with black feathers. Despite a valiant fight, Boromir has been mortally wounded trying to protect Merry and Pippin, who were taken alive by the Orcs. Boromir's death scene is made more poignant in the film version, but he confesses here to Aragorn that he tried to take the Ring from Frodo.

After telling Aragorn of the fate of the hobbits, he begs him to go to Minas Tirith and save his people. Aragorn assures him that Minas Tirith will not fall (thought he does not know yet if that will be his destination). Before Boromir can speak again, he dies. Sean Bean's portrayal of Boromir ends with his establishing a closer connection to Aragorn, who pledges to save "our" people. Boromir acknowledges Aragorn as "my brother, my King". This is something he refused to do at their first meeting in Rivendell. I always felt that in this version, Boromir at least dies with more hope that the quest has not ended in vain.

Soon, Gimli and Legolas arrive. They are left with a number of decisions to make. Should they leave Boromir's body or bury it? Should they follow Merry and Pippin or go east to help Frodo? In fact, at this point they are not sure where Frodo has gone. There isn't enough time to bury Boromir or even build a cairn over his body. So they decide to set him adrift in one of the boats, with his weapons and the weapons of the Orcs he has slain to ensure that, in this way, "no evil creature dishonors his bones". Tolkien, being a student of Norse culture and mythology, I believe saw this as a version of a "viking funeral" although without the immolation part.

Originally, when Aragorn explains what happened to Boromir he gives them the whole story, including the encounter with Frodo. From Tolkien's first draft:

'Something happened on the hill to make him fly. I do not know all, but I know this. Boromir tried to take the Ring by force.'
Exclamation of horror from Legolas and Gimli.
'Think not ill of him,' said Trotter. 'He paid manfully and confessed.'
Then Tolkien wrote in pencil "Don't let Trotter tell of Boromir's misdeed?" The final version reads:
'He fled, certainly,' said Aragorn, 'but not, I think, from Orcs.' What he thought was the cause of Frodo's sudden resolve and flight Aragorn did not say. The last words of Boromir he long kept secret.
Exactly why this was changed is not made clear. Tolkien makes no comment on it in any of his letters and Christopher Tolkien does not seem to have found any explanation among his father's notes. We can only speculate that, feeling a sort of kinship to Boromir, he didn't want to tarnish his heroic deeds. Perhaps Aragorn felt that it could just as easily have happened to him were he in the same situation and didn't feel it was his place to judge. In any case, the ultimate reason for Frodo fleeing the company was irrelevant to the situation at hand.

There are a couple of plot points worth mentioning. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli scour through the weapons and trinkets of the Orcs and manage to find the Numenorean blades that belonged to Merry and Pippin. Aragorn takes these for safe-keeping to return to the hobbits, reminding Legolas and Gimli of the Orcs aversion to touching such blades of Westernesse. Merry's of course plays an important part in the slaying of the Witch-King. Peter Jackson's film, The Two Towers never really accounts for Merry keeping his blade of Lothlorien in his possession. Though a sheath of his Elven blade is found by Gimli, where is the knife?

Aragorn and company also notice that this is a strange batch of Orcs. Most are taller than most, and have many characteristics of men. These are in fact, Uruk-Hai. Saruman "bred" them, though Tolkien doesn't go into much detail as to exactly how - only that they were crossed between standard Orcs and goblin Men. What Tolkien meant exactly by "goblin men" has never been explained. We know that Orcs are descended from Elves that were corrupted and twisted by Morgoth in the First Age. But what exactly "goblin men" are is an unanswered question.

Does this mean "male goblins", those Orcs that were more primitive that lived in both the Misty Mountains and Ered Mithrin ("grey mountains") to the north? Whatever the ingredients in the mixture, these Uruk-Hai were given the benefit of greater size and strength as well as the ability to travel in sunlight, and at great speed. Some "sorcery" of Saruman, perhaps. These particular Orcs were identified as being commanded by Saruman because of the mark of the "white hand" upon their shields and "S" runes on their helms.

Anyway, they set Boromir adrift in one of the boats toward the Falls of Rauros:
"The River had taken Boromir son of Denethor, and he was not seen again in Minas Tirith, standing as he used to stand upon the White Tower in the morning. But in Gondor in after-days it long was said that the elven-boat rode the falls and the foaming pool, and bore him down through Osgiliath, and past the many mouths of Anduin, out into the Great Sea at night under the stars."

Then Aragorn and Legolas sing a lament to Boromir. The song is in three verses in which they ask the winds of the north, south and west to give them news of "Boromir the Fair". They do not ask the eastern winds for they come from the lands of Mordor. Aragorn notices that there were only two boats on the shore of Nen Hithoel. Two packs are missing and Aragorn notes the direction of hobbit footprints. He concludes that Frodo and Sam have taken the journey to Mordor.

Now Aragorn is faced with a grave decision; should he go east to follow Frodo or west to help Merry and Pippin? His heart tells him that Frodo's fate is no longer in his hands. He is also unwilling to abandon the hobbits to torment and death. He tells Legolas and Gimli that they must travel light and move swiftly west. Of course, his instructions do not include the corny line from PJ's film "let's hunt some Orc". Fortunately, the trail of the Orcs is not hard to follow as they delight in destroying the land that they pass through.

So, the three hunters set off on a chase that would be "accounted a marvel among the Three Kindreds: Elves, Dwarves and Men". The sun sinks into the west as evening falls over the land.

[Chronology: February 26th 3019 T.A.]

Next: The Riders Of Rohan

(revised 9/11/06)


Introduction: The Two Towers

When we cracked open the covers of The Fellowship of the Ring, we began the journey. That journey continues with The Two Towers. Now, however, the story is split. Tolkien decided on a unique way of telling this phase of the story. As the Fellowship is broken, so are the story threads. And they will not come back together until all the surviving members of the Fellowship are reunited at the end. If you look at this map, you can see the Falls of Rauros at the base of Nen Hithoel, the lake where they parked the boats. On the eastern side of the lake, we follow Frodo and Sam's approach to Mordor and on the western side we follow Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas as they track Merry and Pippin.

When Tolkien published this second volume at the end of 1954, it was no doubt that the continued journey of the Ring was the most anticipated part of the story as readers already surmised the danger that Frodo and Sam were approaching. For this reason, it is easy to understand why Tolkien would save it for the second part of the book. Also, the tension of not knowing the fate of Frodo and Sam heightened the suspense of the events that unfolded in the "western" story. The reader knows that if the Ring were to fall into Sauron's hands then everything else would be for naught. He experiences the same uncertainty as Aragorn, Theoden, Gandalf and even Saruman. Phillipa Boyens, one of the writers of PJ's films, notes in one of the DVD documentaries that by leaving the "eastern" story for last readers were highly motivated to get there. But Tolkien also had avoided the "eastern" story at first as he had the "western" more fully developed in his mind. He notes in the Foreward to the Second Edition that he continued as far as Chapter 3 of Book V, "and there as the beacons flared in Anorien and Theoden came to Harrowdale I stopped." Christopher Tolkien marks this point as the end of 1942 and it wasn't until 1944 that his father began again, returning to the Frodo and Sam story in Mordor.

For new readers who saw the films first, this format must seem a little confusing (if not frustrating) but it's important to note that by arranging the story this way, the reader is able to stay focused on one part of the story at a time. If you think of how many new people and places that Tolkien introduces in Book III, you can appreciate why he might want your complete attention before he cuts back to Frodo and Sam. It does help one better appreciate the story, however, by having a sense of the big picture. So first I will cover the material in Book III. Then as I write about the journey of Frodo and Sam, I will include in each post a summary of the events from the other parts as they match chronologically with that chapter. I plan to continue this little extra item for The Return of the King as well, until all of the story threads are woven back together.

Now we begin with The Departure Of Boromir...

(revised 9/11/06)



Well, folks. I am taking a short break.

The demands of this little project are taking its toll. I'm not going so far as to say that I've bitten off more than I can chew, however certain constraints have forced me into following a much slower pace that I had anticipated. I had planned to be halfway through The Two Towers at this point. It's not that I underestimated the amount of work it would be. My mistake was overestimating the amount of time I would be able to dedicate to it. As such, when combined with the other priorities in my life, it seems like I haven't been able to come up for air. At times, my frustration has even led me to be a bit impatient and defensive with some of the comments left here. This will not do at all.

At first I toyed with the idea of taking a long break, not starting up again until maybe the first of the year. But not only would that make it too difficult to get back into the routine, it's hardly fair to the handful of readers that have gotten "sucked into" this and look forward to the next post. So I am making a compromise between what I want to do and what I need to do. I won't be posting for about a week. During that time I will be getting some much needed rest and recharging my batteries. I'll also be tending to matters that have fallen by the wayside over the last six weeks or so.

Expect that I will take a similar break after The Two Towers. Also, it's likely that I won't be finishing Return of the King until well into January (yes, I intend to post on the Appendices as well). Being as the story is now about to get more complicated I will be trying to include maps whenever I can and at Book Four, I plan to include a section at the end of each post called "meanwhile, on the eastern/western side of the Anduin" that tells you exactly where the other stories are in relation to the one being read. So, for example, if Sam and Frodo are meeting Faramir for the first time, I'll briefly describe what Merry and Pippin as well as Gimli, Legolas and Aragorn or doing at exactly that moment. Should be interesting.

I ask for your pardon and patience for a short while.

So, until the horn of Gondor sounds, I'll see ya later.


Book Two Chapters

1) Many Meetings

2) The Council Of Elrond

3) The Ring Goes South

4) A Journey In The Dark

5) The Bridge Of Khazad-Dum

6) Lothlorien

7) The Mirror Of Galadriel

8) Farewell To Lorien

9) The Great River

10) The Breaking Of The Fellowship

FOTR: Bk 2, Ch 10

The Breaking Of The Fellowship
"Is it not a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt for so small a thing?"

Aragorn leads the company to the shores of Parth Galen, the lawn that lies at the foot of Amon Hen. That night, after they make camp, Aragorn is restless and uneasy. He wakes Frodo and, telling him he senses danger, he asks the hobbit to remove Sting from its sheath. As he does, they see the edges of the blade glowing ever so slightly. It was a sign that Orcs were in the area, though not yet close. And from what side of the River they could not tell. They know that they must continue on first thing in the morning.

After breakfast, Aragorn calls the company together to decide at last which way they will now go, for they must decide soon now that the threat of Orcs grows near. In a deft example of delegation, he tells Frodo that, as he is the Ringbearer, he alone must decide. Frodo needs some time to reflect and think about his choices, though it is likely that he is pretty sure which way he's leaning - the more difficult choice of Mordor. He goes off to be alone but while the others do not stare at him Boromir's eyes follow Frodo intently. Boromir knows that this would be his last chance to convince him - and by extension, the Fellowship - to go to Gondor.

After he sits for a while, Frodo is startled to see Boromir; his face is smiling and kind. He offers to help the hobbit with his counsel but Frodo tells him that he knows what he must do and that he is afraid of doing it. There is an uncomfortable silence, disturbed only by the sound of the Falls off in the distance. Boromir understands what Frodo means by this and he tries not to react and tip his hand. His words are friendly and comforting and he asks Frodo if he could see the Ring again. Frodo's heart goes cold and he catches a strange gleam in Boromir's eyes. The realization that he has reason to be afraid only reinforces his decision. He tells Boromir that, as was discussed at the Council of Elrond, the Ring cannot be used because of it's evil.

Boromir's disposition changes gradually from kindness to impatience to excitement:

"So you go on," he cried. "Gandalf, Elrond - all these folk have taught you to say so. For themselves they may be right. These elves and half-elves and wizards, they would come to grief perhaps. Yet often I doubt if they are wise and not merely corrupted. We of Minas Tirith have been staunch through long years of trial. We do not desire the power of the wizard-lords, only strength to defend ourselves, strength in a just cause. And behold! in our hour of need chance brings to light the Ring of Power. It is a gift, I say; a gift to the foes of Mordor. It is mad not to use it, to use the power of the Enemy against him. The fearless, the ruthless, these alone will achieve victory. What could not a warrior do in this hour, a great leader? What could not Aragorn do? Or if he refuses, why not Boromir? The Ring would give me power of Command. How I would drive the hosts of Mordor, and all men would flock to my banner!"

Frodo makes it clear to Boromir that he will not go to Minas Tirith and he recoils from him. This frustrates Boromir more and he begs him to "lend" him the Ring, promising not to keep it. Frodo refuses. Now Boromir flies into a rage and the emotion that he has bottled-up inside up to this point is unleashed. Reminding Frodo that the Ring only came to him by "unhappy chance", he says "It might have been mine. It should have been mine. Give it to me!"

When Boromir told Elrond at the start of their journey that he did not desire to "go forth as a thief in the night", he probably could not imagine himself acting as one. But now his desire for the Ring drove him. He tries to take it by force and Frodo desperately slips the Ring onto his finger and disappears. Boromir screams after Frodo, accusing him of seeking to betray them and take the Ring to Sauron. Then he trips and falls, sprawled on his face. As he gets his bearings, he seems to come to his senses. "What have I done?" he asks himself. He calls for Frodo to come back.

The character of Boromir was never one that I could easily connect with very well - a man so stern and proud and seemingly, at first, so selfish. He always came across to me as unsympathetic. Sean Bean's performance in Peter Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring, however, changed this. On screen, he was able to convey a sense of vulnerability and even humility that I was never really able to derive from the books. It made him more human in my eyes. Now I am always moved by his contrition, his sacrifice for Merry and Pippin and his final connection that he makes with Aragorn - all of which we will not see until the beginning of The Two Towers.

Frodo scrambles up to the summit of Amon Hen and to the throne atop the Numenorean ruins. He sees many visions while in the wraith-world, presumably with the assistance of the power imparted by the High Seat of Seeing. He sees far and wide in all directions, from Isengard in the west to the mouth of Anduin emptying into the Sea in the south. And he sees many signs of war. Then he feels the Eye of Sauron searching him out, moving across the Emyn Muil to Amon Lhaw and Tol Brandir, getting closer to him. The desires to leave the Ring on - controlled by the Eye - and to take it off - coming from a Voice in his head - tear at him, the conflict is overwhelming.

"The two powers strove in him. For a moment, perfectly balanced between their piercing points, he writhed, tormented. Suddenly he was aware of himself again. Frodo, neither the Voice nor the Eye: free to choose, and with one remaining instant in which to do so. He took the Ring off his finger. He was kneeling in clear sunlight before the high seat. A black shadow seemed to pass like an arm above him; it missed Amon Hen and groped out west, and faded. Then all the sky was clean and blue and birds sand in every tree."

Frodo realizes that he must leave the company behind to spare them harm, as Boromir's actions were proof that the evil of the Ring was already at work on them.

Meanwhile back at the camp, Sam tells the others that he believes Frodo is resolved to go to Mordor, and if he knows his Master he will decide to go alone. When Boromir returns, Aragorn asks him what happened to Frodo. He recounts the story - all but the part about him trying to take the Ring. Aragorn suspects the missing part of the tale. Sam dashes off to find Frodo, and soon Merry, Pippin, Legolas and Gimli follow after them. Aragorn instructs Boromir to follow and look after Merry and Pippin, as he heads off after Sam.

When Aragorn catches up with Sam, they continue together up the slopes of Amon Hen. However, Sam cannot keep up and he slows down. Suddenly, it occurs to him that in order to go toward Mordor, Frodo would have to cross the River. Sam turns around and heads back to the boats. Frodo is in fact already off the shore in one of the boats when Sam comes charging down after him. Frodo had put the Ring back on and his invisibility made a curious sight for Sam, who saw one of the boats seemingly launch itself into the river. Sam almost drowns trying to catch up to Frodo. He gropes for Frodo's unseen hand. His Master pulls him up onto the boat, taking off the Ring to finally reveal himself. His plan of solitary escape had been thwarted. Sam convinces his Master not to leave without him. He must go with him. Frodo is touched by Sam's devotion and is glad that he will not be going all alone after all.

The last words spoken in this first volume of The Lord of the Rings are the exact same words said in the final scene of the film, which I thought was a nice touch. Speaking of the friends they leave behind, Frodo says, "I don't suppose we shall see them again" to which Sam responds, "We may yet, Mr. Frodo. We may." They head quickly towards the eastern shores, the first step on their journey to Mordor.

Talk about a cliff-hanger.

Here ends Book Two of The Fellowship of the Ring. The story continues in The Two Towers, but first a brief Introduction.

[Chronology: February 26th 3019 T.A.]

(revised 9/7/06)


FOTR: Bk 2, Ch 9

The Great River
"Sam looked from bank to bank uneasily. The trees had seemed hostile before, as if they harboured secret eyes and lurking dangers; now he wished that the trees were still there. He felt that the Company was too naked, afloat in little open boats in the midst of shelterless lands, and on a river that was the frontier of war."
As Tolkien began to plan the story from this point forward, there were many unanswered questions in his mind as to some of the specific things that would happen to each character, but Christopher Tolkien wrote that his father never seems to have doubted that, after the breaking of the company, the plot would separate into the "eastern" story of Frodo and Sam and the "western" stories of the remainder of the Fellowship. And that each would be moving away from Anduin, in opposite directions. As we wrap up the first installment of The Lord of the Rings, the Great River of Anduin represents the common path that continues to keep the company together before the break finally takes place.

Stopping each night to break camp, the Fellowship continue to ride the boats almost passively at the whim of Anduin, for "they let the River bear them on at its own pace, having no desire to hasten towards the perils that lay beyond, whichever course they took in the end." They travel through lands that Frodo describes as "wide and empty and mournful" that are still touched by winter. And the threat of Orcs who "can shoot their arrows far across the stream" looms about them. A feeling of insecurity is growing among them.

After several nights, they camp on a small eyot close to the western bank. Sam confides in Frodo that, although he is unsure whether or not it was a dream, he thought he saw a log with eyes that one moment was there behind them and in another moment was gone. Frodo thinks back to the eyes he thought he had seen looking up at him through the trees of Lothlorien. He shares with Sam that he suspects it is Gollum following them. And, of course, he is correct. They decide not to trouble Aragorn about it but that they should be more watchful. Later as Frodo sleeps, Gollum comes within yards of him. Frodo awakens, drawing Sting from its sheath which frightens the intruder away. When Aragorn sees this he tells Frodo that he has been aware of the "little footpad" since Moria.

Many readers miss the significance of what happens next. Legolas, with his keen Elven eyes, spots an eagle in the northern sky. He is flying southwards. Legolas says that it is "a hunting eagle. I wonder what that forebodes. It is far from the mountains." Actually, as we shall find out later, the eagle is in fact Gwaihir. He is bearing on his back a certain wizard - "reborn" as it were - who is searching for them.

The next night, as they approach the rapids of Sarn Gebir, Orcs suddenly begin to fire arrows at them from the eastern bank. Struggling to avoid both the arrows and the rapids, they thrust the boats toward the western shore. They disembark quickly and, as a dread fall upon them, Legolas looks up to the dark skies.
"Even as he did so, a dark shape, like a cloud and yet not a cloud, for it moved far more swiftly, came out of the blackness in the South, and sped towards the Company, blotting out all light as it approached. Soon it appeared as a great winded creature, blacker than the pits in the night. Fierce voices rose up to greet it from across the water. Frodo felt a sudden chill running through him and clutching at his heart; there was a deadly cold, like the memory of an old wound, in his shoulder. He crouched down, as if to hide."
The black shape is a Ringwraith, who like Gandalf was also searching from the air for them on the back of a Fell Beast. Legolas' arrow finds its mark in the winged steed and the beast swerves away and down towards the gloom of the eastern shore. They do not, however, know yet what it was. While Frodo suspects it was a Black Rider, he does not share this fear with the Company.

Boromir informs Aragorn that the farthest he can go with them before turning west to Minas Tirith is at the Falls of Rauros. They carry the boats along a track that gets them past the rapids. This distance is only a couple of miles. Though the task is hard, the boats are lighter than ordinary ones and Aragorn and Boromir carry them each, one by one, to the spot where they can once again return to the River. They decide to rest and continue in the morning.

As they follow the last leg of their River journey, Frodo sees two great rocks approaching on either side of Anduin, which turns into a narrow gap between them. It is the Argonath, or the Pillars of Kings. The website known as "The Thain's Book" writes that Argonath means "stones of the kings" from ar meaning "royal, king" and gonath meaning "stones." I also observed that, in deriving the name, Tolkien very well may have intended that the AR should represent Arnor and the GO is for Gondor (ARnorGOndorNATH). Frodo is awestruck as the carved figures of either side of him loom before him.
"Upon great pedestals founded in the deep waters stood two great kings of stone: still with blurred eyes and crannied brows they frowned upon the North. The Left hand of each was raised palm outwards in gesture of warning; in each right hand there was an axe; upon each head there was a crumbling helm and crown. Great power and majesty they still wore, the silent wardens of a long-vanished kingdom. Awe and fear fell upon Frodo, and he cowered down, shutting his eyes and not daring to look up as the boat drew near. Even Boromir bowed his head as the boasts whirled by, frail and fleeting as little leaves, under the enduring shadow of the sentinels of Numenor. So they passed into the dark chasm of the Gates."
The crossing of this threshold at the stone feet of the sons of Elendil, Isildur and Anarion, is symbolic in that it represents the stage of the quest when the Fellowship will soon break and the War of the Ring will shortly begin.

As the boats flow into Nen Hithoel, the long oval lake that stands above the Falls of Rauros, the party steers towards the western bank. In front of them lay three peaks. There is Amon Lhaw, the hill of hearing, to the east. Amon Hen, the seat of seeing, lay to the West. And in the middle, rising out of the falls like a cone, was Tol Brandir also called the "Tindrock". It was said that no man or beast had ever been known to set foot upon its precipitous sides.

They could go no further without going east or west. The time for deciding which path to follow was now upon them.

Next: The Breaking Of The Fellowship

[Chronology: February 16th through February 26th 3019 T.A.]

(revised 9/7/06)


FOTR: Bk 2, Ch 8

Farewell To Lorien
"Now is the time", he said, "when those who wish to continue the Quest must harden their hearts to leave this land."
All of the members of the Fellowship are resolved to continue, though they are not all agreed as to what should be their ultimate destination. Journeying south by boat on the River Anduin, they will decide later on what side of the river they will land and continue on foot - either west to Minas Tirith or east towards Mordor. Though they don't know it yet, the west bank will prove to be just as dangerous as the eastern shore because of the machinations of Saruman.

The next morning, the company assembles along the havens of the Silverlode on the southern side of Lothlorien. Aragorn is torn about where he should lead them.
"His own plan, while Gandalf remained with them, had been to go with Boromir, and with his sword help to deliver Gondor. For he believed that the message of the dreams was a summons, and that the hour had come at last when the heir of Elendil should come forth and strive with Sauron for the mastery. But in Moria the burden of Gandalf had been laid on him; and he knew that he could not now forsake the Ring, if Frodo refused in the end to go with Boromir. And yet what help could he or any of the Company give to Frodo, save to walk blindly with him into the darkness?"
While Boromir openly states that his destination is to be Minas Tirith, he agrees to continue with the company until they reach the point when he must turn west. He continues to try and persuade them to accompany him to the White City of Gondor, convinced that it is the wisest choice. Frodo seems to sense the Boromir's conviction may lead to a confrontation before long.

As they pack their supplies, each of them is given a store of lembas bread. The special Elven waybread has properties that will keep a large-sized man on his feet while journeying all day. I always kind of considered this device to be a cheat on Tolkien's part, to allow the travelers (Frodo and Sam in particular) to continue on in places where food was not readily available. At least it provides for an amusing exchange between Legolas and Gimli where the Dwarf, mistaking it for merely a kind of cram (or granola bar of sorts) woofs down a whole cake in one sitting. In the film, PJ plays up the hobbits' infamous appetite when (in the Extended Edition of Fellowship) Pippin admits to eating four or them, after which he lets out a little gas.

They are also given Elven cloaks with green, leaf-shaped brooches for fastening them around their necks. The cloaks will aid them by giving camouflage that will adapt to whatever terrain they find themselves in. The cloaks were woven by Galadriel herself with her maidens and they come to be the emblem or uniform, if you will, of the Fellowship. Indeed, each of them will keep theirs even after their adventures are over.

After they receive a quick tutorial about the boats they are given, the party arranges themselves with Aragorn, Frodo and Sam in one boat, Boromir with Merry and Pippin in another and Gimli and Legolas in the last. The swift current takes them down the Silverlode towards the point where it joins with the Anduin. Galadriel, traveling in a swan-shaped boat sings a song as they go. It is a lament to the waning days of the Elves, and the final lines read as:
"O Lorien! Too long I have dwelt upon this Hither Shore
And in a fading crown have twined the golden elanor.
But if of ships I now should sing, what ship would come to me,
What ship would bear me ever back across so wide a Sea?"
The boats approach a green sward, or triangular area of land, that is formed by the confluence of the Rivers Silverlode and Anduin known as the "angle" or "Egladil". Here they have a parting feast and drink a cup of farewell. In Tolkien's outlines, it seems that he originally intended to have the "scene with Boromir and the loss of Frodo" take place here at the angle, but later decided to move it to later in their journey, at Parth Galen.

Before they depart, there is the famous "gift-giving" scene where Galadriel bestows to each of the Fellowship special tokens, some of which will play a role in the story later on. In addition to a sheath for Anduril, Galadriel gives to Aragorn a clear green stone "set in a silver brooch that was wrought in the likeness of an eagle with outspread wings". In the original draft of this chapter, Tolkien starts playing around with the character's true name or name that is bestowed upon him by the Elf-queen. Tolkien's son, Christopher, plotted the evolution of these various names that follow a circular progression, which looked something like this:

Aragorn (or Trotter) > Elfstone > Ingold > Elfstone (> Trotter) > Aragorn

Because the Dunedain were fluent in Elvish, Tolkien thought he would give Aragorn a more Elvish name that he would go by in Lothlorien, as given to him by Galadriel. At the gift-giving scene, her original line was: "Elfstone is your name, Eldamar in the language of your fathers of old, and it is a fair name" (The Treason of Isengard - History of The Lord of the Rings, Part 2, page 293) The line in the final version of Fellowship of the Ring reads as: "In this hour take the name that was foretold for you, Elessar, the Elfstone of the House of Elendil!"

Of the remaining gifts, Boromir is given a belt of gold and Legolas gets a special bow and quiver of arrows. Merry and Pippin receive small silver belts. In the film, however (the Extended Edition) the two hobbits are given Elven daggers. The reason for this change is that because Jackson cut out the scene on the Barrow Downs where the hobbits acquire blades of Westernesse, he needed to find another way to give Merry something with which he could stab the Witch King in the back of the leg at the Battle of the Pelennor. For Sam, the "gardner and lover of trees", Galadriel gives a small box of earth from her garden. She tells him:
"It will not keep you on your road, nor defend you against any peril; but if you keep it and see your home again at last, then perhaps it may reward you. Though you should find all barren and laid waste, there will be few gardens in Middle-Earth that will bloom like your garden, if you sprinkle this earth there. Then you may remember Galadriel, and catch a glimpse far off of Lorien, that you have seen only in our winter. For our spring and our summer are gone by, and they will never be seen on earth again save in memory."
It would seem that she had also seen the Shire being destroyed in the Mirror as well and foresaw Sam's use of the soil in healing it. When looked at in this context, it is a very hopeful gift for her to give. It will serve to be one final legacy of the High Elves in Middle-Earth when all other traces of them are gone. The concept of transplanting and renewing is used again in this story, with the replanting of the White Tree of Gondor, which traces its lineage back to Valinor in the Elder Days as told in The Silmarillion.

Gimli says he is satisfied with the memory of Galadriel's beauty as gift enough. When she insists that there must be something he desires, one might expect a Dwarf to request gold or something else of great value. But Gimli names a single strand of her hair, that he might set it in crystal as an heirloom and "a pledge of good will between the Mountain and the Wood until the end of days". Galadriel is touched and she gives him three strands. She also declares that so long as hope against the darkness does not fade, that one day his hands will flow with gold, yet "over you gold shall have no dominion". This is a blessing on Gimli from her that he will ever be free of the greed that characterizes his people as a reward for his humble and meaningful request to her.

To Frodo, she gives a glass phial that contains the light of Earendil's star - a light that was cauth in the waters of her fountain. That star that now shown in the heavens was once the single Silmaril that Earendil brought with him to Valinor back in the First Age. Tolkien uses this to tie in the ancient history of the Elves he will later develop in The Silmarillion. "May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out." Indeed it will.

As the Fellowship bids farewell to Lorien, Galadriel sings again, this time in Quenya, the language of the Noldor Elves. It's important to remember that Tolkien, a professor of languages, created Quenya as a completely new language. Containing elements of Finnish, it has a complete vocabulary, syntax and set of grammatical rules. There are actually people who study Quenya as a real language. Of course there are also people who study Klingon, but Quenya is much more pleasing to the ear. They sail down the remaining length of the Silverlode and into the Anduin. The chapter ends with the following exceptionally-written passage:
"Far into the dark quiet hours they floated on, guiding their boats under the overhanging shadows of the western woods. Great trees passed by like ghosts, thrusting their twisted thirsty roots through the mist down into the water. It was dreary and cold. Frodo sat and listened to the faint lap and gurgle of the River fretting among the tree-roots and driftwood near the shore, until his head nodded and he fell into an uneasy sleep."

Safety was now behind them. They will not know it again until the quest is ended.

Next: The Great River

[Chronology: February 15th through February 16th 3019 T.A.]

(revised 9/6/06)


FOTR: Bk 2, Ch 7

The Mirror Of Galadriel
"'Do you advise me to look?' asked Frodo.
'No,' she said. 'I do not counsel you one way or the other. I am not a counsellor. You may learn something, and whether what you see be fair or evil, that may be profitable, and yet it may not. Seeing is both good and perilous.'"
As night falls, the Elves light the Mallorn trees with lamps that gleam with silver, green and gold. The Fellowship approaches the largest of the trees where Celeborn and Galadriel dwell. Haldir climbs up first, followed by Frodo and Legolas, to a large platform that supports a house the size of a large hall. Their hosts are waiting for them, seated in a chamber filled with soft light. They rise to greet them.
"Very tall they were, and the Lady no less tall than the Lord; and they were grave and beautiful. They were clad wholly in white; and the hair of the Lady was a deep gold, and the hair of Lord Celeborn was of silver long and bright; but no sign of age was upon them, unless it were in the depths of their eyes; for these were keen as lances in the starlight, and yet profound, the wells of deep memory."
They welcome each member of the company, including Gimli, in friendship. Galadriel notices that Gandalf is not with them nor can she perceive him from afar. Aragorn recounts their experience in Moria. Celeborn is at first resentful of the Dwarves because of the Balrog but Galadriel reproaches him, saying essentially that Gandalf knew the risks of the journey and that Gimli shouldn't be held responsible for the wizard's fate. She then speaks of the beauty of Khazad-Dum as it was in the Elder Days. Gimli, in turn, is struck by her beauty and by the love and understanding in the heart of someone who he would have once considered an enemy. To Galadriel he says, "Yet more fair is the living land of Lorien, and Lady Galadriel is above all the jewels that lie beneath the earth!" Celeborn asks Gimli's pardon for his harsh words.

Galadriel, considered the wisest of Elves in Middle-Earth, is intimately familiar with the history of the Ring for it is she who first summoned the White Council to discuss its possible whereabouts and what the implications would be should it be at last discovered. The last meeting of the Council took place at the time of the events of The Hobbit, when Gandalf went to pursue other business while Bilbo and the Dwarves entered Mirkwood. In fact if Galadriel had her way, Gandalf would have been chosen to lead the Council rather than Saruman who was the ranking wizard. She bids the members of the Fellowship to get some rest but not before using her powers to read each of their thoughts. Her gaze somewhat disturbs each of them, except for Aragorn and Legolas.

To gain a better understanding of Galadriel and the events that follow, it helps to know some of her backstory - most of which is included in both The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales (Keep in mind I am summarizing as briefly as possible). After the Elves were created by Eru Iluvatar before even the First Age of Middle-Earth, they were summoned by the Valar to cross the Sea and live with them in Valinor. Valinor was illuminated by the two trees, Telperion and Laurelin. Morgoth used an enormous spider called Ungoliant (Shelob's mamma) to poison and destroy the trees. He also stole the three Silmarils that Feanor had crafted, which contained the light of the trees. Feanor swore an oath that bound himself and all of his descendents to the recovery of the jewels through any means. Against the wishes of the Valar, Feanor rebelled and led a host of Noldor Elves back to Middle-Earth to pursue and make war on Morgoth.

After this disobedience, the Elves were barred from returning to the Undying Lands and were considered exiles. Galadriel joined this Exodus, though she had already desired to return to Middle-Earth for her love of it. At the end of the First Age, the Valar finally intervened on behalf of the Elves and Men in the War of Wrath against Morgoth. The Elves were then pardoned and allowed to return across the Sea if they so wished, but by a way that only special ships could journey, as Valinor had then been removed by Eru from the confines of the world. While many of the Elves stayed for some time, once Sauron was defeated at the end of the Second Age by the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, they began to gradually take the journey back to Valinor. For they were growing weary of fighting "the long defeat" against the evil of the world.

Galadriel refused the pardon of the Valar, making it clear that she wished to remain. She used the power of the Elvish ring, Nenya, to create the paradise of Lothlorien. Because of her pride and hubris in acting "godlike" with the ring's power, she remained barred from Valinor by the Valar. Despite her best efforts, the power of her realm was no longer enough to keep out the evil of Mordor and it would only be a matter of time before his forces would overrun Lothlorien if the Ring was not destroyed.

Now back to the story. Sam describes the way he felt when Galadriel looked at him: "She seemed to be looking inside me and asking me what I would do if she gave me the chance of flying back home to the Shire to a nice little hole with - with a bit of garden of my own." It seemed that each of the Fellowship was offered a similar temptation to break the company if they so chose. In doing so, she was testing the loyalty and commitment of each of them. For she knows that the "Quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while all the Company is true."

As in Rivendell, time in Lothlorien was difficult to mark. They arrive on January 17 and several weeks pass - though to them it feels like less as if time somehow moved slower there than it did in the outside world. Essentially, it did through the power of Nenya.

One day as Sam and Frodo are out walking in Lorien, Galadriel appears and beckons them to follow her. She leads them into an enclosed garden. In the center stands a basin on a pedestal, into which she pours some water from a nearby stream. Explaining that this is the Mirror of Galadriel, she asks them to look into the reflection of the water. Frodo asks what she expects them to see and she tells him it will show him things that were, things that are and things that yet may be. But she also warns them that they can't be sure which.

Sam looks, hoping to see a glimpse of home. At first he sees a strange vision:
"Frodo with a pale face lying fast asleep under a great dark cliff. Then he seemed to see himself going along a dim passage, and climbing an endless winding stair."
This would seem to be a premonition of going through Shelob's Lair and up the stairs of the tower of Cirith Ungol. Then the images shift to scenes of the Shire being razed: trees being felled, Bagshot Row all dug up and a tall red chimney belching black smoke. Sam immediately wishes to go back and stop all of this. But Galadriel warns him that the mirror is a dangerous guide because since it shows things that have not yet happened, it could lead them off the path that would prevent them from happening. In any event, there is little Sam could do if he went home. Only by completing the quest, could he hope to save the Shire.

Frodo now looks. He sees a twilit land and a long road.
"Far away a figure came slowly down the road, faint and small at first, but growing larger and clearer as it approached. Suddenly Frodo realized that it reminded him of Gandalf. He almost called aloud the wizard's name, and then he saw that the figure was clothed not in grey but in white, in a white that shone faintly in the dusk; and in his hand there was a white staff. The head was so bowed that he could see no face, and presently the figure turned aside round a bend in the road and went out of the Mirror's view. Doubt came into Frodo's mind: was this a vision of Gandalf on one of his many lonely journeys long ago, or was it Saruman?"
Tolkien already hints that we may see Gandalf again. Frodo sees parts of what would be the Battle of the Pelennor Fields at Minas Tirith. Then the Mirror goes dark. The Eye of Sauron, rimmed with fire, appears. The black slit of its pupil opened on a pit into nothingness. Galadriel says she also perceives the eye casting its gaze toward Lothlorien. This is a rare instance where Tolkien describes the Eye of Sauron. It was an image often over-looked before Peter Jackson's films. The director used it as the only representation of the Dark Lord other than his incarnation in the prologue of "The Fellowship of the Ring".

Frodo notices the Elven ring, Nenya, on Galadriel's finger. It is hidden from the sight of all, save other ringbearers. Frodo can see it, but Sam cannot. She explains that if his quest fails all will be laid waste by Sauron, but should he succeed then Nenya's power will diminish and Lothlorien will fade. Frodo offers to give the Ring to Galadriel, for she is "wise and fearless and fair." Now it is Galadriel's turn to be tempted. Frodo's possession of the Ring has increased his ability to sense the thoughts and desires of others so he is tuned in to Galadriel's repressed desire for the Ring. In Peter Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring, this scene is portrayed much more dramatically but the words are almost identical.

She acknowledges that she has greatly desired it, but as she seems to become taller and more illuminated she warns Frodo:
"In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!"

But Galadriel resists the temptation, which is probably very difficult for her. For with the Ring she could maintain and even grow the magic and power of Lothlorien. "I pass the test", she says with the realization that she will once again be allowed to return to Valinor. "I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel." Whatever the fate of the Ring, she can now receive the pardon of the Valar and take the ship over the Sea, via the straight road, to the Undying Lands. Galadriel then announces that the time is drawing near for them to depart Lothlorien. They must leave the next morning.

Next: Farewell To Lorien

[Chronology: January 17th through February 14th 3019 T.A.]

(revised 9/5/06)