Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Defense of the Homburg -- Wait, What?


That would be a Homburg on Churchill's head.

In a pdf of Tolkien's letter to Forrest J. Ackerman (of Famous Monsters of Filmland fame) about a possible film of The Lord of the Rings, we find a rather strange proof of just how important it is to proofread the documents one scans:
I am afraid that I do not find the glimpse of the 'defence of the Homburg' – this would be a better title, since Helm's Deep, the ravine behind, is not shown – entirely satisfactory. It would, I guess, be a fairly meaningless scene in a picture, stuck in in this way. Actually I myself should be inclined to cut it right out, if it cannot be made more coherent and a more significant part of the story. .... If both the Ents and the Hornburg cannot be treated at sufficient length to make sense, then one should go. It should be the Hornburg, which is incidental to the main story; and there would be this additional gain that we are going to have a big battle (of which as much should be made as possible), but battles tend to be too similar: the big one would gain by having no competitor.*
(Letters, no. 210) 
While this conjures many an image of Churchill as Théoden King, a role he would have truly relished playing, I shall leave the inevitable re-imagining of the king's dialogue into Churchillian cadences to my reader.**

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*In an aside I find it interesting to note that Tolkien would have chosen to discard the Battle of Helm's Deep as incidental, rather than scant the Ents. Peter Jackson of course made precisely the opposite choice, and has met much criticism in some circles for it.


**Presumably Churchill would have found something to say about the fact that his mother, Jenny Jerome, was no more a native of England than Théoden's mother, Morwen of Lossarnach, was of Rohan. It could be adduced as proof that he was born to play the part. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Guest Post: Jeremiah Burns on Haldir the Troll (FR 2.vi.348-49)




From time to time I have remarked on passages in which I think Tolkien may be having a bit of fun with his readers. This morning my friend, +Jeremiah Burns, drew another one of these to my attention over on G+. As is often the case, we found ourselves wondering how we had missed this one before. Here is Jerry's post in full:


Haldir: trolling before the Internet was a thing.
'Happy folk are Hobbits to dwell near the shores of the sea!' said Haldir. 'It is long indeed since any of my folk have looked on it, yet still we remember it in song. Tell me of these havens as we walk.' 
'I cannot,' said Merry. 'I have never seen them. I have never been out of my own land before. And if I had known what the world outside was like, I don't think I should have had the heart to leave it.' 
'Not even to see fair Lothlórien?' said Haldir.
[Said with a certain irony, as Merry is currently being led through Lothlórien blindfolded, and has not truly been given a chance to see Lothlórien or form an opinion of its fairness.]

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Haldir, I would add, is one of the Elves who said that Sam breathed so loud they could shoot him in the dark (FR 2.vi.342). So clearly he has a certain wry humor.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

'Radagast The Bird-Tamer!' and the Characterization of Saruman (FR 2.ii.238-39)

Radagast's Cunning © Lucas Graciano 
At the Council of Elrond Gandalf describes Radagast as 'a master of shapes and changes of hue; and he has much lore of herbs and beasts, and birds are especially his friends' (FR 2.ii.257), and then says that he had asked him to tell 'all the beasts and birds that are [his] friends' to bring word of the Nine to Gandalf and Saruman at Isengard (2.ii.257).  Gandlaf then tells of Saruman's reaction to the mention of Radagast:
'Radagast the Brown!' laughed Saruman, and he no longer concealed his scorn. 'Radagast the Bird-tamer! Radagast the Simple! Radagast the Fool! Yet he had just the wit to play the part that I set him. For you have come, and that was all the purpose of my message. And here you will stay, Gandalf the Grey, and rest from journeys. For I am Saruman the Wise, Saruman Ring-maker, Saruman of Many Colours!'
...
'I liked white better,' I said.
(2.ii.238-39)
Note the chiastic word order of the repeated Radagasts and Sarumans. Saruman begins with Radagast's color and ends with his own; ends with Radagast's simplicity and foolishness and begins with his own wisdom; and in the middle, further accentuated by capital letters and hyphenated compound words, are the characteristics on which he heaps the greatest scorn and in which he takes the greatest pride: Bird-tamer and Ring-maker. Chiasmus is of course an ancient rhetorical device, long a part of the arts of persuasion for which Saruman was justly renowned (TT 3.ix.567). Yet Gandalf wryly punctures all his rhetoric with a few pointed words.

The subtlest and best touch of all, however, is 'Bird-tamer' itself, which reveals far more about Saruman than Radagast. For Saruman can only see Radagast's relationship with the birds as one of power and mastery. In Saruman's eyes he has tamed rather than befriended them.  Seeing no possibility but power, he parallels and contrasts Radagast's Bird-taming with his own Ring-making. Thus his own rhetoric betrays him, revealing that mastery, not friendship, now characterize him and his relations with others. 

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

In/Of, Or, What's a Little Preposition Between Friends?

Note that Galadriel says:

'For the Lord of the Galadhrim is accounted the wisest of the Elves of Middle-earth,'
not

'For the Lord of the Galadhrim is accounted the wisest of the Elves in Middle-earth.'
Born in Middle-earth*
Born in Aman

Just sayin'.


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*Obviously, this whole post is a joke. I am, however, following the tradition found in The Silmarillion (114, 234, 254, 298, 321, 331) and almost elsewhere else that he was a 'prince of Doriath', not the very late variation that he was of the Teleri of Aman. For discussion of Galadriel, Celeborn, and their history, see Unfinished Tales, 228-267. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Galadriel and the Fall of Gandalf


It's that woman again


My last post looked at Celeborn's famously poor showing as the wisest of the Elves of Middle-earth. Here I want to take a quick look at Galadriel in the same scene.
When all the guests were seated before his chair the Lord looked at them again. 'Here there are eight,' he said. 'Nine were to set out: so said the messages. But maybe there has been some change of counsel that we have not heard. Elrond is far away, and darkness gathers between us, and all this year the shadows have grown longer.'

'Nay, there was no change of counsel,' said the Lady Galadriel speaking for the first time. Her voice was clear and musical, but deeper than woman's wont. 'Gandalf the Grey set out with the Company, but he did not pass the borders of this land. Now tell us where he is; for I much desired to speak with him again. But I cannot see him from afar, unless he comes within the fences of Lothlorien: a grey mist is about him, and the ways of his feet and of his mind are hidden from me.'

'Alas!' said Aragorn. 'Gandalf the Grey fell into shadow. He remained in Moria and did not escape.'

(FR 2.vii.355)
From the very first we can see that she perceives more than he does, not in the sense that she may be wiser or more intelligent than he is, but the juxtaposition of his words and hers suggests that her perceptions take in a wider world, at least as far as Gandalf is concerned. Celeborn and Galadriel do not share altogether the same frame of reference. She speaks of Gandalf as if she can still somehow sense him. She does not know where he is, or what he is thinking, but he is still out there somewhere. 

That Gandalf is 'hidden' in 'a grey mist' is an enticing detail, since when Frodo looks into Galadriel's mirror later in this same chapter, he twice sees a mist: first one that clears to reveal to him a vision of the Sea (FR 2.vii.364), which hobbits, mistakenly, regard as 'a token of death' (FR Pr. 7); and then he sees a 'small ship, twinkling with lights' 'pass away' into 'a grey mist' (FR 2.vii.364). That ship of course is the same one Frodo dreams (or has a vision) of in Fog on the Barrow-Downs (FR 1.viii.135), and upon which he sails into the West in The Grey Havens (RK 6.ix.1030). And in both of these passages the farthest shore is at first obscured by 'a grey rain-curtain'. 

What comes next in this scene is also intriguing. For Galadriel says not a word in response to Aragorn's euphemistic announcement of Gandalf's death. In fact she says nothing at all until he tells the tale up to their arrival at the bridge and the coming of the Balrog. When she does speak, it is to pull Celeborn back from his hasty remarks, to reaffirm that none of Gandalf's deeds were 'needless', and to greet with 'love and understanding' the member of the Company who has in fact suffered the most, Gimli, who has endured the loss of Balin and the dwarves of Moria, has seen his people's worst nightmare drag Gandalf into the abyss, and has so far met a rather hostile reception in Lothlórien (FR 2.vii.356). Is it an accident that she proceeds immediately from this to a statement that directly touches upon her wider perceptions and then to a demonstration of them?
'But even now there is hope left. I will not give you counsel, saying do this, or do that. For not in doing or contriving, nor in choosing between this course and another, can I avail; but only in knowing what was and is, and in part also what shall be. But this I will say to you: your 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.' 
And with that word she held them with her eyes, and in silence looked searchingly at each of them in turn. None save Legolas and Aragorn could long endure her glance. Sam quickly blushed and hung his head. 
At length the Lady Galadriel released them from her eyes, and she smiled. 'Do not let your hearts be troubled,' she said. 'Tonight you shall sleep in peace.' Then they sighed and felt suddenly weary, as those who have been questioned long and deeply, though no words had been spoken openly.
(FR 2.vii.357, emphasis mine)
Her statement that she can 'avail' only through her knowledge of the past, the present, and 'in part' the future gives an authority none question to what she says about the hope and the precariousness of their quest. But note also that Galadriel does not say that she knows what may, or what might, or even what will be. She states that she knows some of what shall be. Shall is at least emphatic, and at most denotes necessity. Thus Galadriel here speaks not of possibilities, but of certainties. Yet we can also see her phrase 'in part' reflected in her later remarks about what one may see of the future in her Mirror:

'For it shows things that were, and things that are, and things that yet may be. But which it is that he sees, even the wisest cannot always tell.'
(2.vii.362)

'Remember that the Mirror shows many things, and not all have yet come to pass. Some never come to be, unless those that behold the visions turn aside from their path to prevent them.'
(2.vii.363)
this is beginning to look like an obsession
But for all the caution with which she warns against the indeterminacy of a future which is always in motion, there is something of which she is quite sure, as her use of shall attests. What can Galadriel mean? I believe we need to see her hint that she still perceives Gandalf in context with Gwaihir's statement to Gandalf that Galadriel had sent him looking for him (TT 3.v.502), which in turn leads to a question: why send an eagle to look for someone who had fallen to his death in a profound abyss beneath a mountain range? I would suggest that the future which Galadriel knew in part was Gandalf's death at the hands of the Balrog atop Zirakzigil and his return as Gandalf the White. (Recall that Frodo also sees Gandalf the White without realizing it in the Mirror -- 2.vii.363-64). It was only when Aragorn brought word of his fall at the bridge that she became certain, and stepped in to help keep the Company from straying too far before he returned. A look at the chronology presented in The Tale of Years is revealing here.
January
15. The Bridge of Khazad-dûm, and fall of Gandalf. The Company reaches Nimrodel             late at night.
17. The Company comes to Caras Galadhon at evening.
23. Gandalf pursues the Balrog to the peak of Zirak-zigil.
25. He casts down the Balrog, and passes away. His body lies on the peak.

February
15.* The Mirror of Galadriel. Gandalf returns to life, and lies in a trance.
16. Farewell to Lórien. Gollum in hiding on the west bank observes the departure.
17. Gwaihir bears Gandalf to Lórien.
(RK App. B 1092)
The first thing we may notice is that Galadriel's initial perception that Gandalf was 'hidden' was more accurate than what the Company had actually seen with their own eyes. She learned of his fall when she met the Company on 17 January, but Gandalf did not die until the 25th. It also seems hardly coincidental that the day on which he returned to life is also the day on which Galadriel brought Frodo and Sam to the Mirror and told them it is time for the Company to move on (FR 2.vii.366).* The facts of the story almost invite us to conclude that Galadriel kept the Company in Lothlórien, 'in the ageless time of that land where days bring healing and not decay' (TT 3.v.503), until Gandalf revived; only then did she send them on their way, rested and recovered from the shock of the loss they thought they had suffered, and tested in ways that prepared them all, even perhaps Boromir**, to be the right people in the right place at the right time.

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*Hammond and Scull (2005) 718, point out that editions prior to 2005 wrongly dated the Mirror episode to 14 February, which does not match the events as described in the text. The episode takes place 'one evening' (2.vii.360), and Galadriel tells Frodo and Sam the Company must depart 'in the morning' (366). Directly after she says this, at the beginning of the next chapter, we read 'That night the Company was again summoned to the chamber of Celeborn' (2.viii.367). The demonstrative that and the adverb again can together refer only to the same evening as in The Mirror of Galadriel. Since the morning on which the Company departs is 16 February, and there is no evidence for an extra day, 15, not 14, February must be the correct date. This has no effect on my argument, but readers with an edition from before 2005 might note a discrepancy that needs to be explained.

**This may seem surprising, but it may be that by confronting Boromir with the temptation he felt to take and use the Ring Galadriel actually saved him. The self-knowledge she gave him created a conflict within him that came to a head on the slopes of Amon Hen. Without that knowledge or that conflict, he could never have pulled himself back and repented for his failed attempt to take the Ring from Frodo. His successful repentance forms an interesting counterpoint to Gollum's failed repentance. So I guess I've just thought up another article. You know, I'm convinced that at the end of one of these veins of mithril is a Balrog.