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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Gandalf had a lotta splainin' to do!


Dec 1 2012, 8:11pm

Views: 2192
Gandalf had a lotta splainin' to do! [In reply to] Can't Post

“But we were too late, as Elrond foresaw. Sauron had also watched us, and had long prepared against our stroke...” (Gandalf, in LotR, Council of Elrond)
"Ere long now," Gandalf was saying, "The Forest will grow somewhat more wholesome. The North will be freed from that horror for many long years, I hope. Yet I wish he were banished from the world!"
"It would be well indeed," said Elrond; "but I fear that will not come about in this age of the world, or for many after." (End of The Hobbit)

This exchange rather puzzles me.
A. Are they disagreeing?
Clearly, they are disagreeing about the likelihood of some future event. Anyone knows what that feels like: you cannot tell who is right, until the future comes about.

B. And considering what we know from The Lord of the Rings, isn't Elrond ultimately wrong?
Well, ultimately, yes – in that, in The Lord of the Rings, as you note, Sauron is completely destroyed through the fantastic set of coincidences that constitute Frodo’s quest. But so what? Why should we judge Elrond erroneous for fears that, frankly, were eminently reasonable and logical according to everything he knew at the time?

According to The Tale of Years, it took Sauron just a decade to re-conquer Dol Guldur!
C. [So], once The Lord of the Rings was written, wasn't Gandalf shown wrong, as well?
Absolutely. I have always held Gandalf frickin' responsible for the entire sorry mess that is the Hobbit-LotR timeline regarding the One Ring and the rise of Sauron. Call me critical – that’s just the way I am.

D. Or was Gandalf referring to a different conversation altogether – perhaps some meeting of the White Council, during which Elrond expressed his doubts of the projected attack on Dol Guldur?
That’s certainly one way of fudging the difference between the two books on this episode. In The Hobbit conversation given above, Elrond doubts that the Necromancer can be destroyed, not that he can be evicted from the North. At the Council of Elrond, Gandalf implies that Elrond foresaw that the Necromancer had voluntarily abandoned his tower in Mirkwood, not been driven from it by the Council.

E. Did Gandalf encounter more opposition than just Saruman's delaying tactics?
We never hear enough details about the so-called Council to be sure what the internal politics were. Gandalf implies in the very late text Quest of Erebor that the Council’s debates were dominated by him and Saruman; he says that if he was not at the meeting that year, things would go Saruman’s way, and that he “had to convince the Council” to attack the Necromancer. It seems to me that the Elves were undecided about the need to take action. Saruman encouraged this passivity and Gandalf opposed it.

The only other clue we have here is Galadriel’s cryptic remark that she had been in favor of Gandalf “leading” the Council in its beginnings. This always struck me as odd, because it puts Elrond down as being against Gandalf. In my opinion, some of Tolkien’s weakest writing is when he tries to explain stupid actions by folk whom he describes as Wise.

Gandalf's words before the 1966 edition were actually "The North will be freed from that horror for many long ages," without the qualifier "I hope". This was revised by Tolkien, so as not to make him look too mistaken. In that context, Elrond's contradiction has some meaning.
F. Was it worth making this whole exchange meaningless?

(The original quote is actually “The North is freed from that horror for many an age.”)

It’s a can of worms, to be sure. The thing to remember is that in The Hobbit, they disagreed about whether the Necromancer would ever actually be destroyed, no matter where he settles after leaving Mirkwood and the North for good (“many an age”). In LotR (and after its writing), the pertinent question became how long he would be out of their hair after leaving Mirkwood, with his ultimate fate much more distant and hence less interesting. Thus the revision: the effectiveness of the eviction becomes a matter of years, not ages, in Gandalf's eyes. Maybe it makes him look less obtuse to LotR readers, although frankly the more Gandalf knows about this subject the less wise he becomes. But Hobbit readers never notice - why should they? The Necromancer is a boogieman, not Sauron the Great.

G. Or do you feel it didn't really change the meaning?
It did change the meaning – as per above.
Therefore naught was done at that time, though Elrond's heart misgave him, and he said to Mithrandir:
'Nonetheless I forbode that the One will yet be found, and then war will arise again, and in that war this Age will be ended. Indeed in a second darkness it will end, unless some strange chance deliver us that my eyes cannot see.' from Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

Now this is better! Not only it makes Elrond a true seer, it also makes him a close ally of Gandalf against Saruman!
H. Right?
Right. But it sucks as drama. Elrond is as much as saying that a “strange chance” is exactly what to be on the lookout for. And what stranger chance is there for Gandalf to contemplate than a hobbit finding one of the Great Rings in a cavern of the Misty Mountains, within a few weeks of Elrond’s comment?

I. On the other hand, does it fit with the conversation in The Hobbit?
Not at all.

J. And why didn't it prompt Gandalf to realize that Bilbo had found the One before sixty years have passed?
That’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question that Tolkien could never bear to ask, much less answer. When you read Shadow of the Past and The Council of Elrond in LotR, you can see him carefully steer around the entire problem.

K. Would Gandalf blindly prefer Saruman's word to Elrond's?
According to Gandalf, Saruman was the Ring expert in the Council, and Elrond knew little more than he did. What we never ever hear is when Gandalf told Elrond about Bilbo’s ring. Surely it was part of the story of Bilbo’s adventures, which were told in full at Rivendell during their return passage to Hobbiton? Quite frankly, one cannot tell of the destruction of Smaug without including the fact that the hobbit was invisible while chatting with the dragon and finding his weak spot. What did Elrond know, and when did he know it, him with his oh-so-wise foreboding of the One “yet being found” and of “strange chances” being needed to defeat Sauron. Hmmm.

Of course, since Elrond evidently opposed the attack on the Necromancer (by the reasoning in E. above, not to mention that in The Hobbit Elrond knew nothing about it until Gandalf passed through the following spring), it's possible that Gandalf mistrusted Elrond in this matter almost as much as he did Saruman. We know that, after Bilbo's party, Gandalf said he awoke to the possibility that the ring was the One. "But I spoke of my dread to none, knowing the peril of an untimely whisper, if it went astray." Surely this means he did not even tell Elrond; in fact, the first person he seems to tell is Aragorn: "I opened my heart to Aragorn, the heir of Isildur."

So, assuming Elrond knew of Bilbo's ring by the end of The Hobbit adventure, he no more thought that it might be the One than Gandalf did, despite the fact that both of their minds had just been considering Sauron and the nature of his threat. And when many years later Gandalf did start thinking along the right lines, he did not trust Elrond enough to tell him, any more than he did Saruman. I wonder when Elrond first learned the truth. Could it have been seventeen years after telling Aragorn? Could it have been only when Frodo was on the Road? Glorfindel when he finds Frodo says that Gandalf has not been to Rivendell, but that only nine days ago, "Elrond received news that troubled him. Some of my kindred ... sent messages as swiftly as they could. They said that ... you were astray bearing a great burden without guidance."

Sounds like Gandalf, when he escaped from Saruman and the Nine and got to Rivendell just before Frodo himself did, had a lotta splainin' to do!

All good stuff to talk about when considering the train wreck that is The Hobbit when read closely as a prequel to LotR. More later, if I can find time.

squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary

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Subject User Time
The Last Stage, part V - Prophecies and Providence sador Send a private message to sador Nov 20 2012, 7:33pm
    The Necromancer Hamfast Gamgee Send a private message to Hamfast Gamgee Nov 20 2012, 11:26pm
        In The Hobbit alone, you are right. sador Send a private message to sador Nov 22 2012, 3:53pm
            The name of the Necromancer FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Nov 24 2012, 5:43pm
                But I thought sador Send a private message to sador Nov 25 2012, 9:11am
                    That's the odd thing. FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Nov 25 2012, 10:52am
    prophecy, providence and pforesight telain Send a private message to telain Nov 22 2012, 6:22pm
        True or false viviosns? sador Send a private message to sador Nov 23 2012, 10:48am
    Both no and yes... FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Nov 24 2012, 5:13pm
        Thank you! sador Send a private message to sador Nov 25 2012, 9:52am
            Thank you for the excellent summary FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Nov 25 2012, 3:53pm
    Gandalf had a lotta splainin' to do! squire Send a private message to squire Dec 1 2012, 8:11pm
        The Hobbit a train wreck as a prequel to Lotr????????????? Hamfast Gamgee Send a private message to Hamfast Gamgee Dec 4 2012, 12:21am
    Thanks for a wonderful post! Ardamírë Send a private message to Ardamírë Dec 3 2012, 9:15pm


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