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LotR, Book III Discussion: The Road to Isengard
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Curious
Half-elven


Feb 27 2011, 1:25pm

Post #1 of 94 (1213 views)
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LotR, Book III Discussion: The Road to Isengard Can't Post

I’ve decided to pose my questions in one long post, rather than breaking it up into installments. Feel free to response in installments, though, or to respond only to the questions that are of interest to you. Also, feel free to raise your own questions, or to comment on anything I ignored. The floor is open; all thoughts on the chapter are welcome.

Summary
The battle is won, and the various principles reunited. The Rohirrim wonder at the forest that has appeared overnight. Instead of an explanation, Gandalf offers a riddle, and asks Theoden to come with him to Isengard. The King agrees, although he does not understand. But before he goes he send messengers throughout the Mark calling for an assembly at Edoras. Then Theoden, Eomer, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and twenty other Rohirrim rest and prepare to go with Gandalf to a parley at Isengard.

Meanwhile, Erkenbrand enlists the Dunlendings in the cleanup and promises them amnesty if they will take an oath not to return in arms, nor march with the enemies of Men. The Rohirrim are amazed because Saruman told them the Rohirrim burned their captives alive.

The bodies of the Rohirrim are buried in two mounds, except for Hama, who gets a separate grave. No orcs survive, and the people wonder what to do with so many orc bodies, but Gandalf (who apparently needs no rest) suggests waiting for morning.

Beginning just before sunset, Gandalf and Theoden and the others going to Isengard pass through the mysterious wood, where a road has opened up for them. Legolas wants to investigate but Gimli protests, and then turns to a different topic, the wonderful caverns of Helm’s Deep. Gimli and Legolas agree that if they survive the war, they will visit both the caverns and Fangorn together. The party passes through the woods and sees three ents, who ignore them. Gandalf tells Legolas not to speak with them. Gandalf explains that they are ents, and that they are allies Theoden did not know he had.

After four hours of easy riding under a nearly-full moon, they reach the Fords, and find that the river has dried up. They wonder about it, but Gandalf does not explain. They hear wolves and Theoden worries that they are devouring his dead riders. Gandalf shows him that his men have been buried on an eyot (small island) in the middle of the Fords. He explains that more men were scattered than slain in the battles of the Fords, and that he had set some to make this burial, and then on to Edoras to defend Theoden’s home.

As they get closer to Isengard they see clouds of steam above the Wizard’s Vale. They halt and make camp at midnight. Meanwhile, in the night the huorns leave Helm’s Deep and in the early morning, before sunrise, the huorns pass Theoden and his party on either side of their camp. Theoden's party can see little, as the huorns are hidden in gloom. Later that same night there is a rush of water and the river Isen flows again.

Back at Helm’s Deep the huorns left behind the Death Down, on which no grass will ever grow and no man will ever step, which apparently covers the slain orcs -- although no one knows if that includes the orcs who had fled into the wood.

In the morning Theoden's party approaches Isengard through a heavy mist with growing dread, as the narrator describes the ring-wall of stone in the shelter of the mountain-side which Saruman had filled with barracks and shafts, and the roads leading to Orthanc, the citadel of Saruman in the center of the vale. The narrator contrasts what Isengard used to be to what Saruman had created, and tells us that Saruman was deceived, for all his so-called improvements produced only a little, laughable copy of Mordor and Barad-dur.

As they come near to the doors of Isengard the mist finally clears, and they see that the doors, the tunnel, and the entire wall are in ruins, and that the ring beyond is filled with steaming water filled with floating wreckage. Orthanc stands in the center unbroken, but surrounded by water.

Suddenly they became aware of two small figures near them, lying on the ruins of the gate at their ease, with bottles and bowls and platters laid beside them, one asleep, the other smoking. These of course are Merry and Pippin, and Merry, who was awake but apparently not very alert, finally notices the visitors and springs up to give his greeting to Theoden and the Rohirrim. He ignores his friends, but Gandalf pries out the name of Treebeard, while Gimli erupts with (mock?) rage and genuine joy.

The Rohirrim laugh at this meeting of old friends. Theoden reveals that he has heard of hobbits, but knows no stories about them. He asks about the smoking, and Merry begins a dissertation on the subject before Gandalf interrupts him and asks where to find Treebeard. Merry directs him and the King to the northern wall, and assures them that they will find food there selected by the hobbits. Theoden bids farewell to the hobbits, and Pippin pronounces the King “‘A fine old fellow. Very polite.'”


Questions

This chapter starts out quite formally: “So it was that in the light of a fair morning King Théoden and Gandalf the White Rider met again upon the green grass beside the Deeping-stream. …” Then Gimli appears and immediately compares his kill total to Legolas’s, which changes the tone of the passage. Why does Tolkien start out so formally? Why does he have Gimli change the tone? What is the effect of moving back and forth between formal and less formal passages?

When Eomer mistakenly credits Gandalf’s wizardry for the appearance of the forest, Gandalf says he has not yet shown that he is mighty in wizardry. We know he means he did not conjure up the forest, but what about earlier events? Does this mean Gandalf’s healing of Theoden involved no wizardry? Or is he only speaking of his role in the battle?

The Battle of Helm’s Deep is a prelude to the Siege of Minas Tirith. In both cases Gandalf is drawn out of the battle; at Helm’s Deep to round up reinforcements, at Minas Tirith to rescue Faramir and care for the victims of the Black Breath. However, Gandalf seems much more frustrated about it in Minas Tirith, whereas here he seems content with his part, or lack of a part, in the battle. What is the difference?


Quote
’Ere iron was found or tree was hewn,
When young was mountain under moon;
Ere ring was made, or wrought was woe,
It walked the forests long ago.’


This is the riddle Gandalf offers about the Ents. Is Gandalf quoting something, or did he make up this rhyme/riddle on the spot? The reference to the ring sounds spontaneous, rather than quoted, since the Ring is of present concern but was not necessarily of concern in the past. Actually, Treebeard should be older than the moon, if the story of the Two Trees is to be believed. According to that story, Galadriel is older than the moon, and Treebeard is apparently older than Galadriel. However, woe is much older than the ring or the moon or even the mountains. Does any of that matter? Should we grant Gandalf/Tolkien poetic license and not nitpick?

Throughout this chapter Gandalf will play coy about the Ents and what they have accomplished at Isengard. Why? Shouldn’t Theoden be informed of the Ents’ victory over Saruman? Shouldn’t the whole of Rohan be informed by the messengers Theoden sends, so that they no longer need to worry about that particular threat? Is this an instance where Tolkien’s desire to tease and surprise the reader causes Gandalf to be unnecessarily coy? Or was it just too hard for Gandalf to credibly explain what happened without letting Theoden see for himself?

Not even one orc remained alive after the battle. That is convenient, but is it credible? Wouldn’t even one orc surrender? And, surrendering, wouldn’t even one orc be captured? Did the huorns slaughter the last of the orcs, or did some turn back from the huorns only to be slaughtered by the Rohirrim? Does anyone find this genocidal slaughter disturbing? Is it any less disturbing because we can blame the orcs themselves for refusing to surrender? Or because the orcs are, after all, monsters? Why or why not?

What would the huorns have done if the Dunlendings had run their way? Would they have distinguished between men and orcs?

Why did the men of Dunland believe Saruman’s claim that the Rohirrim burned their captives alive? The Rohirrim were long-time neighbors; didn’t they know perfectly well how the Rohirrim treated captives? Or is it possible that Saruman’s claims were based on some truth? After all, Helm Hammerhand was a fierce opponent. We know that at one time the Rohirrim hunted the Drúedain for sport. Is it possible that at some point in history the Rohirrim did burn captives alive, perhaps as a form of execution? Wouldn’t it be like Saruman to base his lies on truth, and to use a history of misunderstandings and sometimes shameful acts against the Rohirrim when inciting the Dunlendings?

Erkenbrand gives the Dunlendings amnesty. Did he consult with Theoden about this before Theoden went to sleep? Later King Elessar will give the human armies who fought for Sauron similar amnesty. Are they naive? Is the power of the oath in Middle-earth strong enough that it can be counted upon to bind former enemies? Shouldn’t they seek some kind of reparations? Was Tolkien indirectly commenting on the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, which demanded heavy reparations from the Germans and therefore may have led to World War II? Is it possible that the mercy of Theoden and King Elessar would also be wise in the Primary World where mere oaths are less likely to bind an opponent? Is it also possible that such mercy might be unwise? Is it a risk worth taking?

Or is the mercy shown the humans and the lack of mercy shown the orcs a symptom of the unreality of Middle-earth, where evil is externalized in monsters? By showing mercy to humans and no mercy to orcs, does Tolkien have it both ways, giving us violence without guilt next to moralizing about violence? Do heroic romances need a few guilt-free slaughters?

By blurring the distinctions between orcs and humans, Tolkien raised some troubling questions about orcs which he never resolved to his own satisfaction. Yet it seems to me that he deliberately blurs those distinctions in LotR by setting up Saruman’s breeding program and by portraying orcs as similar to human ruffians. By the end of the story, in the Scouring of the Shire, the ruffians and the half-orcs have become indistinguishable. Do you agree that Tolkien deliberately blurs the distinctions between humans and orcs? If so, why do you think Tolkien does that, despite the problems it creates? Isn’t he undermining the guilt-free premise of his own monster-driven heroic romance? Why would he do that?

The death of Hama, the captain of Theoden’s guard, gets special attention. We got to know Hama briefly, and he helped Gandalf by allowing him to keep his staff when confronting Wormtongue. But is the death of one minor character and many anonymous characters enough to bring home the tragedy of war? Or is Tolkien at fault for allowing so many of his major characters to survive? Does he glorify war by doing so? Or does he clearly distinguish this war fantasy from war in the Primary World? How can the survival of so many major characters be justified, either by the internal rules of Tolkien’s fantasy (were they protected by Higher Powers?) or by artistic license (is it okay for Tolkien to follow the artificial rules of the genre?).

Two mounds for the Rohirrim, a separate grave for Hama, and, for now, the orcs left in vast heaps. Did I miss something? What happened to the bodies of the Dunlendings? Why doesn’t Tolkien say what happened to them?


Quote
'It is hot in here,' said Legolas to Gandalf. 'I feel a great wrath about me. Do you not feel the air throb in your ears?'

'Yes,' said Gandalf.


Is this a sixth sense available only to elves and wizards, or something humans might experience, although perhaps in a different context? Have you felt the tension in the air? Has it made you sweat, made you feel hot and bothered? Has such tension ever caused the air to throb in your ears (or possibly, caused your heart to pound, which feels like a throbbing in your ears)?

How do we sense tension or wrath before anyone has erupted in anger? Does the air really change, or do we feel like it does because of the human body’s internal reaction to tension and stress? Would someone who cannot read human emotions and knows nothing of the situation feel the air change? If Legolas and Gandalf hadn’t said anything, would Gimli and the men have sensed anything?

Is Legolas describing a real change in the air, or his own physical reaction to the emotions of the huorns, which he can read and of which Gandalf is already aware? Why does Tolkien describe Legolas’s reaction in terms we can almost recognize from our own experiences? Did Tolkien imagine that trees could feel anger in the Primary World, and that he could almost sense such anger? Or am I making too much of this?

What could have become of the orcs who fled into the woods other than burial? Could they have been eaten? Other ideas? What is Tolkien implying might have happened?

Are the huorns good? Or are they neutral or even potentially evil forces, like the trees in the Old Forest, who have aligned with the good guys only because they hate the orcs? Does that explain their lack of mercy towards the orcs? Does it make it somehow more palatable than if the Rohirrim had conducted the slaughter? Why or why not?


Quote
'And,
Legolas,
when the torches are kindled and men walk on the sandy floors under the echoing domes,
ah!
then,
Legolas,
gems and crystals and veins of precious ore glint in the polished walls;
and the light glows through folded marbles,
shell-like,
translucent as the living hands of Queen Galadriel.

There are columns of white and saffron and dawn-rose,
Legolas,
fluted and twisted into dreamlike forms;
they spring up from many-coloured floors to meet the glistening pendants of the roof:
wings,
ropes,
curtains fine as frozen clouds;
spears,
banners,
pinnacles of suspended palaces!

Still lakes mirror them:
a glimmering world looks up from dark pools covered with clear glass;
cities such as the mind of Durin could scarce have imagined in his sleep,
stretch on through avenues and pillared courts,
on into the dark recesses where no light can come.

And plink!
a silver drop falls,
and the round wrinkles in the glass make all the towers bend and waver like weeds and corals in a grotto of the sea.

Then evening comes:
they fade and twinkle out;
the torches pass on into another chamber and another dream.

There is chamber after chamber,
Legolas;
hall opening out of hall,
dome after dome,
stair beyond stair;
and still the winding paths lead on into the mountains' heart.

Caves!

The Caverns of Helm's Deep!

Happy was the chance that drove me there!

It makes me weep to leave them.'


Tolkien does himself proud with this word picture. But how likely is it that no dwarves had ever seen the caverns of Helm’s Deep? How likely is it that no one has mined the caverns for the gems and crystals and veins of precious ore that can be seen in the walls? How likely is it that gems and crystals and veins of precious ore are all visible in the same cavern? Does Tolkien go over the top here? Is that okay in a fantasy?

I love the image of an underground pond as smooth as glass disturbed by a small drop of water which makes the reflection wrinkle. But how much time did Gimli have to explore “‘chamber after chamber ... hall opening out of hall, dome after dome, stair beyond stair’”? Wasn’t he fighting the orcs?

Why did Gimli save his comments until now? Doesn’t this sudden change of subject seem out of place? I know it sets up the agreement between Legolas and Gimli to visit both the caverns and Fangorn, but does it seem forced?

When Gimli and his fellow dwarves move in to the caverns of Helm’s Deep after the war, how do they earn a living? By giving tours? Doesn’t that seem unlikely?

Gimli claims that he is not unique, that “‘[n]o dwarf could be unmoved by such loveliness,’” and that “‘[n]one of Durin's race would mine those caves for stones or ore.’” But doesn’t Gimli seem different from the bumbling, pompous, greedy dwarves of The Hobbit; the sometimes sinister, greedy dwarves of The Silmarillion; or the unwise, greedy dwarves in LotR who dug too deep in Moria, and then, under Balin’s leadership, returned too soon? Is this a side of dwarves that was for some reason hidden in The Silmarillion and The Hobbit? Or is Gimli more unusual than he realizes? After all, how many dwarves befriend elves like Gimli does? Is this Galadriel’s blessing of Gimli at work, i.e., “‘... your hands will flow with gold, and yet over you gold will have no dominion’”? Is Tolkien attempting to rehabilitate the stereotype of dwarves he himself created? Or is he highlighting how Gimli differs from other dwarves, as Galadriel predicted?

Why did the ents ignore Gandalf and Theoden and his party at Helm's Deep? Why did Gandalf tell Legolas not to speak with the ents?


Quote
’But here beside the mound I will say this for your comfort: many fell in the battles of the Fords, but fewer than rumour made them. More were scattered than were slain; I gathered together all that I could find.’


Is it a good thing that the Rohirrim scattered when attacked at the Fords? Was it a deliberate strategy? If so, why didn’t they have a rendezvous point already selected? Why didn’t they continue to harass Saruman’s army? If it wasn’t deliberate, what does it say about their discipline? Why didn’t they scatter at Helm’s Deep?

How did Gandalf persuade the Rohirrim to follow his orders? Weren’t they still under the impression that Wormtongue was in charge and Gandalf was an unwelcome outsider?

Isengard is yet another Middle-earth fortress built beneath higher ground which an enemy could capture. In this case the enemy also captured the source of the water flowing through Isengard, and used it to flood the valley. Isn’t it basic strategy to capture the high ground, and to build fortresses on the highest ground available, so that the enemy has to attack from below? Why does Tolkien insist on placing his fortresses beside mountains that offer an enemy a wonderful place to attack from above? Why do the enemies, for the most part, ignore this advantage?

Are there other flaws in the design of Isengard and Orthanc? Why, for example, create such a large perimeter wall, that could only be defended by thousands of soldiers? Why create so many shafts, and so few buildings to rival Orthanc? Why is Orthanc in the center of the circle, so far from the gates? Why was the source of water apparently outside of the walled perimeter? Why wasn’t there a bolt hole Saruman could use to escape? Why didn’t Tolkien see those flaws? Or if he did see them, why didn’t he care?

This may be the only instance in LotR where the story has strayed away from the hobbits and now returns to them without first filling in the gap. We don’t know what has happened, and Gandalf apparently does not want to spoil the surprise. Unlike King Theoden, we at least know what the ents had planned. But when the riders encounter the dried up stream and see clouds of steam, like the riders we have to guess at the meaning.

Why didn’t Tolkien take us back in time to when we last saw Merry and Pippin, and continue the narrative from that point? Or, alternatively, why didn’t Tolkien leave more of Merry and Pippin’s adventures a mystery to be cleared up later? Why did we follow them up to a point, and no farther? What is the effect of introducing the hobbits now as if they are strangers?

Tolkien plays the encounter with Merry and Pippin for humor. Merry apparently tries to give a formal speech, but his attempt is undermined by his failure to notice the arrival of the visitors, Pippin’s failure to wake, the evidence that they have been eating, drinking, smoking, and sleeping, and the amusement of his audience. Did Merry care? Did he really intend to give a formal greeting and fail badly, or did he know that his speech would be more amusing than it was impressive? Certainly he does not seem flustered by the response. Is he oblivious, or was his tongue firmly in his cheek? Is this any way to address a king? How would Denethor have reacted?

Tolkien once again plays with the contrast between formal and informal speech, but in a slightly different way than at the beginning of the chapter. Here Merry is in the unusual position of giving a formal speech to a king, and it comes across more like an amusing parody of epic romance. Merry either fails utterly in his supposed task, or never took his task seriously in the first place. As in the beginning of the chapter, though, Gimli punctures the pretense of formality. Why does Tolkien deliberately undermine or even mock formality at the beginning and end of this chapter, even though in many other chapters of Book III such formality is taken quite seriously? Is Tolkien making light of his own mock-archaic prose and dialogue, which was especially prevalent in this Book when the hobbits were absent? Why? Why now?

Other than failing to be alert and attentive and neat, is there anything else the hobbits did wrong in this encounter? Or maybe not wrong, exactly, since they did nothing to offend, but is there anything else they did or failed to do that caused them to be treated as something other than full-fledged warriors? After all, Gimli is almost as short as they are, yet no one questions his value in a fight. Of course, when Gimli first met the Rohirrim he almost got himself killed. Would the hobbits have won more respect if they had been more fierce? Should they have said something about their daring escape from the orcs and taken more credit for rousing the ents? Should Merry have held his tongue about pipeweed? Why didn’t they do so?

One of the great advantages and disadvantages of a hobbit is the likelihood of being underestimated by foe and friend alike. What do you think Theoden thought of hobbits after this encounter? What about Aragorn, who knew them better, but nevertheless will refuse to take Merry with him to the Paths of the Dead? Have Merry and Pippin’s friends underestimated them? What if Merry and Pippin had been alert and attentive and had put the food and drink and pipeweed away? Would that have changed how they were treated down the road?

There is a true mystery hidden in this encounter which will not be cleared up until the Scouring -- where did Saruman get pipeweed? But the dire implications of this find do not yet hit home. Why does Tolkien hide the import of this find? Why does he say anything about it at all? What is the point of a hint no one is likely to understand until after the story is over? The story is, of course, full of such hints. What is the point?

By my count Aragorn has two lines in this chapter, one offering to care for Gimli’s head wound, and the other asking Gandalf about the fumes above Isengard. Why does Aragorn play such a small role in this chapter?


(This post was edited by Curious on Feb 27 2011, 1:33pm)


PhantomS
Rohan


Feb 27 2011, 7:39pm

Post #2 of 94 (417 views)
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Ok here we have this forest....please keep axes stowed away in the upper compartment or under your seats..... [In reply to] Can't Post

When Eomer mistakenly credits Gandalf’s wizardry for the appearance of the forest, Gandalf says he has not yet shown that he is mighty in wizardry. We know he means he did not conjure up the forest, but what about earlier events? Does this mean Gandalf’s healing of Theoden involved no wizardry? Or is he only speaking of his role in the battle?

By removing Grima Gandalf had already gotten the open road to healing Theoden, who just needed Gandalf's 'magic frown' (which he used with Bilbo), which is not anything mighty or new (Saruman might have a bigger frown). Gandalf lets it rip against the Balrog, and later at the Morannon where he's the only person glowing with his own light in that dark place.

The Battle of Helm’s Deep is a prelude to the Siege of Minas Tirith. In both cases Gandalf is drawn out of the battle; at Helm’s Deep to round up reinforcements, at Minas Tirith to rescue Faramir and care for the victims of the Black Breath. However, Gandalf seems much more frustrated about it in Minas Tirith, whereas here he seems content with his part, or lack of a part, in the battle. What is the difference?

With the Hornburg Gandalf had a reason to leave the battle, which determined its outcome. He also had the Huorns, who were his heavy artillery. In Minas Tirith he had to contend with a similarly powerful mage- the Witch King- and is more angry that the supposed leader of Gondor is going crazy , leading to the beloved leader of Rohan to his death and nearly ending the line of Stewards. Denethor also disrupts the peace of the tombs, and at the worse time- I can see how angry Gandalf can be. Had Denethor kept his cool, Theoden might still be alive and well.

It was Aragorn who healed the people with Black Breath; when Imrahil and Gandalf rush through the streets they are given some hope, but temporary hope.


Quote
’Ere iron was found or tree was hewn,
When young was mountain under moon;
Ere ring was made, or wrought was woe,
It walked the forests long ago.’

This is the riddle Gandalf offers about the Ents. Is Gandalf quoting something, or did he make up this rhyme/riddle on the spot? The reference to the ring sounds spontaneous, rather than quoted, since the Ring is of present concern but was not necessarily of concern in the past. Actually, Treebeard should be older than the moon, if the story of the Two Trees is to be believed. According to that story, Galadriel is older than the moon, and Treebeard is apparently older than Galadriel. However, woe is much older than the ring or the moon or even the mountains. Does any of that matter? Should we grant Gandalf/Tolkien poetic license and not nitpick?

Gandalf hangs out with the Hobbits and Bilbo the Riddle-Master; chances are he knows how to mash it up from time to time. As for Ent-kind being older than the moon, Gandalf is not talking about their exact origin- the Ents merely walked the forests before Beleriand was sunk, which makes them very old. They were also present before the Dwarves awoke (ere iron) or Men (trees were hewn). "Wrought was woe" can refer to virtually anything that isn't the Ring- Smaug destroyed Dale and took Erebor, the Elves saw their world decay away, the Numenoreans went bad, the WK killed off most of Arnor, Gondor imploded in Kin-strife etc- the Ents predate all that; what woe exists when Yavanna makes her request to Manwe? Yes, Morgoth had thumped the Towers of Light but hardly anyone is sad. What Gandalf may imply is Feanor making woe, as all the Noldor's divisions start with him and his Oath. The point of the verse is that Ents are old, and older than any history can remember.

Throughout this chapter Gandalf will play coy about the Ents and what they have accomplished at Isengard. Why? Shouldn’t Theoden be informed of the Ents’ victory over Saruman? Shouldn’t the whole of Rohan be informed by the messengers Theoden sends, so that they no longer need to worry about that particular threat? Is this an instance where Tolkien’s desire to tease and surprise the reader causes Gandalf to be unnecessarily coy? Or was it just too hard for Gandalf to credibly explain what happened without letting Theoden see for himself?

Gandalf has to 'litmus test' Theoden by taking him to Orthanc, but is sure he will pass. As for not telling everyone else, Saruman might still have spies who may waylay the road. Tolkien does tease the characters, but only to have them more relieved to see Merry and Pippin alive again. Telling everyone talking tree-shepherds destroyed an fortress Gondor built and unplugged a giant dam? Gandalf the Loony, they'll call him.

Not even one orc remained alive after the battle. That is convenient, but is it credible? Wouldn’t even one orc surrender? And, surrendering, wouldn’t even one orc be captured? Did the huorns slaughter the last of the orcs, or did some turn back from the huorns only to be slaughtered by the Rohirrim? Does anyone find this genocidal slaughter disturbing? Is it any less disturbing because we can blame the orcs themselves for refusing to surrender? Or because the orcs are, after all, monsters? Why or why not?


The Uruks ran into the 'forest' and got themselves ground to dust. The Rohirrim were on the other side, so it's death by spears or spores. Orcs never surrender, not even in the Hobbit, and they expect to win by numbers. Luckily for us the Dunlanders stopped and surrendered- otherwise it'd be really horrible.

What is disturbing is that the Rohirrim actually hunted the Wild Men of Druadan at one point- can't they tell the difference at all??

What would the huorns have done if the Dunlendings had run their way? Would they have distinguished between men and orcs?

I dare say so. Gandalf tells the Rohirrim not to go there as well- Huorns probably don't want to spare anything, even with the Ents to manage them. Don't wanna die, stay out of the nasty forest!

Why did the men of Dunland believe Saruman’s claim that the Rohirrim burned their captives alive? The Rohirrim were long-time neighbors; didn’t they know perfectly well how the Rohirrim treated captives? Or is it possible that Saruman’s claims were based on some truth? After all, Helm Hammerhand was a fierce opponent. We know that at one time the Rohirrim hunted the Drúedain for sport. Is it possible that at some point in history the Rohirrim did burn captives alive, perhaps as a form of execution? Wouldn’t it be like Saruman to base his lies on truth, and to use a history of misunderstandings and sometimes shameful acts against the Rohirrim when inciting the Dunlendings?

As Rohan seems to have very few places to put prisoners, the truth might be that the Rohirrim never bury their opponents- Eomer casually sets fire to Ulguk's group of dead Uruk-hai, and the Rohirrim don't seem to be carrying ropes or irons to capture people; perhaps they don't take prisoners at all? Their enemies have been very fierce people- the Balcoth, Orcs, wild boars, Gondor's enemies and even a Dragon long ago. They might not burn people, but they rarely leave them alive! Might explain how Saruman's lie worked- a Dunedlish prisoner of war mgiht be executed, and the corpse burned out in the open, and the Dundelings think he was burned alive.

Erkenbrand gives the Dunlendings amnesty. Did he consult with Theoden about this before Theoden went to sleep? Later King Elessar will give the human armies who fought for Sauron similar amnesty. Are they naive? Is the power of the oath in Middle-earth strong enough that it can be counted upon to bind former enemies? Shouldn’t they seek some kind of reparations? Was Tolkien indirectly commenting on the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, which demanded heavy reparations from the Germans and therefore may have led to World War II? Is it possible that the mercy of Theoden and King Elessar would also be wise in the Primary World where mere oaths are less likely to bind an opponent? Is it also possible that such mercy might be unwise? Is it a risk worth taking?

The Dundelings are hardly in a position to pay any kind of reparations- Erkenbrand makes them rebuild the walls their friends blew up, and later Aragorn gets an ambassador from them. They were in fact Rohan's vassal state, so they may have been paying some kind of tribute until Isengard was taken over by their kin and then by Saruman. Aragorn meanwhile does offer all of the Easterlings and all of the Southrons amnesty, but of course these are broad terms for diverse peoples we never really get to know; some might turn on Aragorn and fight again while others may stay out or even help Aragorn and Eomer out of obligation to the pacts.

The Haradrim seem to be able to pay reparations, but what can they give to Gondor that it doesn't already have? In the past they sent princes to be hostages in the Gondorian court, but that hardly helps anything. Better to be at peace than continually aggravate your powerful southern neighbour.

Or is the mercy shown the humans and the lack of mercy shown the orcs a symptom of the unreality of Middle-earth, where evil is externalized in monsters? By showing mercy to humans and no mercy to orcs, does Tolkien have it both ways, giving us violence without guilt next to moralizing about violence? Do heroic romances need a few guilt-free slaughters?

Orcs are shown to be completely merciless and never asking for any, plus of course other races consider them filth unworthy of such a priveldge; Tolkien made them less than human on purpose, I suppose in order for us all not to wonder how they actualy felt. Tolkien throws some curve balls our way as well- Shagrat and Gorbag sound like typical people in a unit, while Ulguk and Grishnakh are deadly realistic in their arguements.

The death of Hama, the captain of Theoden’s guard, gets special attention. We got to know Hama briefly, and he helped Gandalf by allowing him to keep his staff when confronting Wormtongue. But is the death of one minor character and many anonymous characters enough to bring home the tragedy of war? Or is Tolkien at fault for allowing so many of his major characters to survive? Does he glorify war by doing so? Or does he clearly distinguish this war fantasy from war in the Primary World? How can the survival of so many major characters be justified, either by the internal rules of Tolkien’s fantasy (were they protected by Higher Powers?) or by artistic license (is it okay for Tolkien to follow the artificial rules of the genre?).


It's the Comic Book Writer Problem- how can you tell a story when your major characters can die in the story? The answer is to get rid of minor characters or supporting characters. Gimli gets a close shave of course, but Frodo in particular is wounded to his core while the younger Hobbits are traumatized by their ordeal, seemingly masking it behind their good humor. Pippin also saw Faramir almost get burned alive, plus got grilled by the Steward. They aren't dead, but none of them can say they 'survived unscathed' apart from Aragorn of course; but then again most of his life has been really tough and there were perhaps many close shaves in those days.

Two mounds for the Rohirrim, a separate grave for Hama, and, for now, the orcs left in vast heaps. Did I miss something? What happened to the bodies of the Dunlendings? Why doesn’t Tolkien say what happened to them?

Like I said earlier, the Rohirrim are probably going to burn them. Or use them to stuff the walls, but that's 300 stuff :P


Quote
'It is hot in here,' said Legolas to Gandalf. 'I feel a great wrath about me. Do you not feel the air throb in your ears?'

'Yes,' said Gandalf.

Is this a sixth sense available only to elves and wizards, or something humans might experience, although perhaps in a different context? Have you felt the tension in the air? Has it made you sweat, made you feel hot and bothered? Has such tension ever caused the air to throb in your ears (or possibly, caused your heart to pound, which feels like a throbbing in your ears)?

The air isn't throbbing, that's your own heartbeat becoming apparent as you focus away from your environment- the veins transmit it all over our throat and nose areas, and our outer ear is sensitive enough to pick up on the accelerated pulse. Elves and Wizards might get it more than we do, as they are made part of this world.

How do we sense tension or wrath before anyone has erupted in anger? Does the air really change, or do we feel like it does because of the human body’s internal reaction to tension and stress? Would someone who cannot read human emotions and knows nothing of the situation feel the air change? If Legolas and Gandalf hadn’t said anything, would Gimli and the men have sensed anything?

We are empathic beings, so we respond to the people around us consciously and unconsciously, picking up facial and vocal cues. And who says Gimli can't read human emotions? The only reason we don't get to hear what he feels is usually because he's mumbling about his own discomfort.

Is Legolas describing a real change in the air, or his own physical reaction to the emotions of the huorns, which he can read and of which Gandalf is already aware? Why does Tolkien describe Legolas’s reaction in terms we can almost recognize from our own experiences? Did Tolkien imagine that trees could feel anger in the Primary World, and that he could almost sense such anger? Or am I making too much of this?


Legolas is a Wood-Elf and he's commented on the air in Fangorn before- the Elves taught the Ents and Huorns to talk, and now he's getting a live feed of some really angry trees talking to each other. The experience is the same if one is translating to a large group of people the needs of a superior; you are sandwiched, and no one really knows how you feel because you're the only one speaking both languages. But you feel the same way as any other person in that situation, whatever race they are.

What could have become of the orcs who fled into the woods other than burial? Could they have been eaten? Other ideas? What is Tolkien implying might have happened?

The wolves ate them, if I recall from the text. I don't think the Huorns would hurt wolves. Or they would do an Old Man Willow and just absorb them.

Are the huorns good? Or are they neutral or even potentially evil forces, like the trees in the Old Forest, who have aligned with the good guys only because they hate the orcs? Does that explain their lack of mercy towards the orcs? Does it make it somehow more palatable than if the Rohirrim had conducted the slaughter? Why or why not?

Treebeard speaks of them like wild animals that need to be corralled and kept quiet by Ents, as well as being like naughty children. Most prominently the Huorns hate everything on two legs, so being unleashed against the Orcs is simply the good guys pointing this doomsday weapon in the right direction and ducking for cover. The Ents are the only thing keeping them in line ,so far.

The Rohirrim are already exposed as a warlike people, so if they killed all the Orcs it wouldn't surprise anyone- they were the ones under attack anyway.


Quote
'And,
Legolas,
when the torches are kindled and men walk on the sandy floors under the echoing domes,
ah!
then,
Legolas,
gems and crystals and veins of precious ore glint in the polished walls;
and the light glows through folded marbles,
shell-like,
translucent as the living hands of Queen Galadriel.

There are columns of white and saffron and dawn-rose,
Legolas,
fluted and twisted into dreamlike forms;
they spring up from many-coloured floors to meet the glistening pendants of the roof:
wings,
ropes,
curtains fine as frozen clouds;
spears,
banners,
pinnacles of suspended palaces!

Still lakes mirror them:
a glimmering world looks up from dark pools covered with clear glass;
cities such as the mind of Durin could scarce have imagined in his sleep,
stretch on through avenues and pillared courts,
on into the dark recesses where no light can come.

And plink!
a silver drop falls,
and the round wrinkles in the glass make all the towers bend and waver like weeds and corals in a grotto of the sea.

Then evening comes:
they fade and twinkle out;
the torches pass on into another chamber and another dream.

There is chamber after chamber,
Legolas;
hall opening out of hall,
dome after dome,
stair beyond stair;
and still the winding paths lead on into the mountains' heart.

Caves!

The Caverns of Helm's Deep!

Happy was the chance that drove me there!

It makes me weep to leave them.'

Tolkien does himself proud with this word picture. But how likely is it that no dwarves had ever seen the caverns of Helm’s Deep? How likely is it that no one has mined the caverns for the gems and crystals and veins of precious ore that can be seen in the walls? How likely is it that gems and crystals and veins of precious ore are all visible in the same cavern? Does Tolkien go over the top here? Is that okay in a fantasy?

The cavern here is behind a mighty fortress that is manned by watchful folk- which is why it's likely that Gimli bases his colony at Helm's Deep so no naughty thieves or Dragons come calling (again). The Rohirrim (apart from Fengel) don't have much use for gems and gold, and don't have the skill to mine it properly anyway. While Khazad-dum is a Dwarven marvel, Aglarond is a natural spectacle for Gimli, like the Mirrormere or the Arkenstone. Legolas not understanding is just like how Men don't understand Elven advice or love for the old days.

I love the image of an underground pond as smooth as glass disturbed by a small drop of water which makes the reflection wrinkle. But how much time did Gimli have to explore “‘chamber after chamber ... hall opening out of hall, dome after dome, stair beyond stair’”? Wasn’t he fighting the orcs?

Now where did those stairs and chambers come from? Isn't Aglarond untouched by any mining activities yet? Gimli was stuck in the caves with Eomer when the Wall was breached, and the Saruman Army made for the Keep and the Giant Boulder That Squishes Everyone.

Why did Gimli save his comments until now? Doesn’t this sudden change of subject seem out of place? I know it sets up the agreement between Legolas and Gimli to visit both the caverns and Fangorn, but does it seem forced?

Last time he spoke of something like this, it was of the lost Dwarrowdelf and ancient legend- now this is something alive and in front of him; how can he resist? He couldn't say something like this in the battle, probably get himself thumped by an angry Eomer. With Legolas, whom he travelled with extensively in Lothlorien, he can provide the commentary for once. Gloin speaks movingly of the works in the Lonely Mountain to Frodo- Dwarves love to talk about their work, and Gimli can't wait to tell Legolas. I love how Gimli denies that the Dwarves will strip-mine the cave- finally, a broken stereotype about them!

When Gimli and his fellow dwarves move in to the caverns of Helm’s Deep after the war, how do they earn a living? By giving tours? Doesn’t that seem unlikely?

By doing what they've done for ages- make stuff for Men, who give them food and gold. Remember, they also have the contract to fix up Minas Tirith from top to bottom ("and the Folk of the Mountain labored..."), which is likely to be richly rewarded. Plus, Dain was 'fabulously rich' when he died- do Dwarves need money more than food? There are plenty of mountains in the White Mountain Range- they can leave Aglarond alone as their art haven and start somewhere else- Misty Mountains are also possible, and they've lived in Dunland before. The digs of the Dead Men are also free, if anyone dares....

Gimli claims that he is not unique, that “‘[n]o dwarf could be unmoved by such loveliness,’” and that “‘[n]one of Durin's race would mine those caves for stones or ore.’” But doesn’t Gimli seem different from the bumbling, pompous, greedy dwarves of The Hobbit; the sometimes sinister, greedy dwarves of The Silmarillion; or the unwise, greedy dwarves in LotR who dug too deep in Moria, and then, under Balin’s leadership, returned too soon? Is this a side of dwarves that was for some reason hidden in The Silmarillion and The Hobbit? Or is Gimli more unusual than he realizes? After all, how many dwarves befriend elves like Gimli does? Is this Galadriel’s blessing of Gimli at work, i.e., “‘... your hands will flow with gold, and yet over you gold will have no dominion’”? Is Tolkien attempting to rehabilitate the stereotype of dwarves he himself created? Or is he highlighting how Gimli differs from other dwarves, as Galadriel predicted?

Gimli probably has never met anyone from the other Houses, apart from the Broadbeams or Firebeards that moved in with the Longbeards. Yet Aglarond seems to be unique, even more than Moria or Erebor. No other place in Middle Earth has gems in the walls and silver pools , all made by nature.

The stories of the Silmarillion were written by Elves, so no one really knew what the Dwarves were doing apart from dealings with Elves and Men. There was a feast in Nogrod that Eol was invited to, for instance that we get no news of- what are they celebrating? Why were the Petty-Dwarves kicked out of the Houses? What did Dwarves do for fun? What do Dwarf-children play with? We are never told, as the tale is never told by a Dwarf- apart from Gimli. Balin was duped by false rumors, but Khazad-dum was a lure for all Dwarves, their 'Numenor' as it were.

The mithril was down in the deeps- there was no other way to get it, unfortunately.

Why did the ents ignore Gandalf and Theoden and his party at Helm's Deep? Why did Gandalf tell Legolas not to speak with the ents?


Probably if the Ents stay still, the Huorns will also stay put.


Quote
’But here beside the mound I will say this for your comfort: many fell in the battles of the Fords, but fewer than rumour made them. More were scattered than were slain; I gathered together all that I could find.’

Is it a good thing that the Rohirrim scattered when attacked at the Fords? Was it a deliberate strategy? If so, why didn’t they have a rendezvous point already selected? Why didn’t they continue to harass Saruman’s army? If it wasn’t deliberate, what does it say about their discipline? Why didn’t they scatter at Helm’s Deep?

Their rendezvous point was probably the Hornburg, so that is ruled out. As for scattering, it reduces the chance of being hunted down. They are the natives of this land, so finding individual hidey-holes is not a problem. I personally wouldn't harrass 10,000 irate, hungry Orcs and Men.

How did Gandalf persuade the Rohirrim to follow his orders? Weren’t they still under the impression that Wormtongue was in charge and Gandalf was an unwelcome outsider?

Theoden is in charge, and as long as he doesn't protest it's OK.

Isengard is yet another Middle-earth fortress built beneath higher ground which an enemy could capture. In this case the enemy also captured the source of the water flowing through Isengard, and used it to flood the valley. Isn’t it basic strategy to capture the high ground, and to build fortresses on the highest ground available, so that the enemy has to attack from below? Why does Tolkien insist on placing his fortresses beside mountains that offer an enemy a wonderful place to attack from above? Why do the enemies, for the most part, ignore this advantage?

The actual fortress is Orthanc, but as for the mountain arguement it seems to work in the case of Minas Ithil, which is in a ridiculous place to start with- seriously Elendil, did you build a city on Mordor's wall on purpose??? That said, the Dark Lord doesn't seem to have anyone who can scale mountains and attack in earnest. Those Misty Mountains are really tall and that dam must have been Gondor-made in order for the Ents to destroy it.

Are there other flaws in the design of Isengard and Orthanc? Why, for example, create such a large perimeter wall, that could only be defended by thousands of soldiers? Why create so many shafts, and so few buildings to rival Orthanc? Why is Orthanc in the center of the circle, so far from the gates? Why was the source of water apparently outside of the walled perimeter? Why wasn’t there a bolt hole Saruman could use to escape? Why didn’t Tolkien see those flaws? Or if he did see them, why didn’t he care?

I think Saruman invented the shafts for his industrial war machine, and Isengard was meant to be some sort of watch-tower rather than a proper fortress. The Tower should be at the center of the circle- it has a Stone of Seeing that is supposed to be able to see in all directions and the stones might be some sort of distance gauge. Minas Tirith has similar circles, though half of each circle is in a mountain- The White Tower of Ecthelion might actually be in the middle of the city.


Tolkien plays the encounter with Merry and Pippin for humor. Merry apparently tries to give a formal speech, but his attempt is undermined by his failure to notice the arrival of the visitors, Pippin’s failure to wake, the evidence that they have been eating, drinking, smoking, and sleeping, and the amusement of his audience. Did Merry care? Did he really intend to give a formal greeting and fail badly, or did he know that his speech would be more amusing than it was impressive? Certainly he does not seem flustered by the response. Is he oblivious, or was his tongue firmly in his cheek? Is this any way to address a king? How would Denethor have reacted?

He was being tongue in cheek, and of course he didn't know Theoden was king at all. Remember, hobbits speak in jest when in tense moments, and Merry still has the PTSD from the Orc-kidnapping and slaughter, and now the Ent-march. he's not about to cry, but he knows at least Gandalf and Aragorn will understand. Denethor would have him caned and taught proper elocution.


One of the great advantages and disadvantages of a hobbit is the likelihood of being underestimated by foe and friend alike. What do you think Theoden thought of hobbits after this encounter? What about Aragorn, who knew them better, but nevertheless will refuse to take Merry with him to the Paths of the Dead? Have Merry and Pippin’s friends underestimated them? What if Merry and Pippin had been alert and attentive and had put the food and drink and pipeweed away? Would that have changed how they were treated down the road?


The Paths are Aragorn's personal road, which is why no man of Rohan is coming with him as well. Merry has spent time in a dead man's Barrow- and that one time is enough to put him off anyway. Theoden's opinion is unknown yet- Hobbits are a legend to his people, albeit a bit changed; they don't live in sand-dunes (where the heck did the Rohirrim even hear of sand-dunes and deserts?)after all. Even if the Hobbits had put all that stuff away, they'd still be left behind-what wins Theoden's heart is Merry's willingness to tell him everything. I personally don't want the Hobbits to be any different- even at 131 Bilbo is proud to have beaten the Old Took, and that's how it should be.

There is a true mystery hidden in this encounter which will not be cleared up until the Scouring -- where did Saruman get pipeweed? But the dire implications of this find do not yet hit home. Why does Tolkien hide the import of this find? Why does he say anything about it at all? What is the point of a hint no one is likely to understand until after the story is over? The story is, of course, full of such hints. What is the point?

Aragorn suspects something sinister, but everyone comes to the conclusion that Saruman was simply a secret smoker and a hypocrite; or that he lavished his human troops with the best food and smokes. We know where he got the leaf- Pippin will identify it as Southfarthing weed, Longbottom variety. We just don't know from who and why he needs the weed.

By my count Aragorn has two lines in this chapter, one offering to care for Gimli’s head wound, and the other asking Gandalf about the fumes above Isengard. Why does Aragorn play such a small role in this chapter?

Gandalf is in charge here along with Theoden. Aragorn is a bit part in what happens next, as the chapter is mostly Gandalf filling Theoden in on what is going on, and reintroducing the Hobbits to the Fellowship members, as well as reconciling the Ent storyline with the Rohan storyline. What does Aragorn have to say anything about that? not much.




Curious
Half-elven


Feb 27 2011, 8:27pm

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That was quick! [In reply to] Can't Post

I have some thoughts about your thoughts, but I'll wait for some more responses first.


Hamfast Gamgee
Gondor

Feb 27 2011, 11:41pm

Post #4 of 94 (317 views)
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Good idea [In reply to] Can't Post

To do it this way with the shorter chapters. This gives me a whole week to think of an answer.


CuriousG
Valinor


Feb 28 2011, 1:20am

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A visit to the bad neighbor [In reply to] Can't Post

When Eomer mistakenly credits Gandalf’s wizardry for the appearance of the forest, Gandalf says he has not yet shown that he is mighty in wizardry. We know he means he did not conjure up the forest, but what about earlier events? Does this mean Gandalf’s healing of Theoden involved no wizardry? Or is he only speaking of his role in the battle?

Overall in the trilogy, there are more hints to Gandalf's great powers than we get to see them in action. When he does use them, we're not there to see up close and get just a brief description: fighting the Nazgul on Weathertop, fighting the Balrog. (Fighting the Wargs was an exception.) More of his teasing here.

I'm sure Gandalf summoned the storm and healed Theoden with his magic staff. Otherwise, he would have left the staff outside. If Narya did everything, he wouldn't need the staff.

The Battle of Helm’s Deep is a prelude to the Siege of Minas Tirith. In both cases Gandalf is drawn out of the battle; at Helm’s Deep to round up reinforcements, at Minas Tirith to rescue Faramir and care for the victims of the Black Breath. However, Gandalf seems much more frustrated about it in Minas Tirith, whereas here he seems content with his part, or lack of a part, in the battle. What is the difference?

Gandalf did basically nothing in Minas Tirith once he and the Witch-King both withdrew. In Rohan, he played a major role in reassembling Theoden's forces and leading the charge that helped end the battle, so he played a crucial role. And he seems most content when he's working behind the scenes and organizing, which is his Prime Mission.

Throughout this chapter Gandalf will play coy about the Ents and what they have accomplished at Isengard. Why? Shouldn’t Theoden be informed of the Ents’ victory over Saruman? Shouldn’t the whole of Rohan be informed by the messengers Theoden sends, so that they no longer need to worry about that particular threat? Is this an instance where Tolkien’s desire to tease and surprise the reader causes Gandalf to be unnecessarily coy? Or was it just too hard for Gandalf to credibly explain what happened without letting Theoden see for himself?

I've found the Gandalf/Theoden exchange awkward. For all Theoden knows, Saruman is waiting with another army to slaughter him when he shows up with a piddly score of men. Gandalf should at least tell him he won't be in danger, and that Saruman's wings have been clipped. Something besides "Trust me," which is stretching it too far. It might be Tolkien wanting to illustrate that mortals should have faith in angelic beings when all reason says not to; I dunno.

Not even one orc remained alive after the battle. That is convenient, but is it credible? Wouldn’t even one orc surrender? And, surrendering, wouldn’t even one orc be captured? Did the huorns slaughter the last of the orcs, or did some turn back from the huorns only to be slaughtered by the Rohirrim? Does anyone find this genocidal slaughter disturbing? Is it any less disturbing because we can blame the orcs themselves for refusing to surrender? Or because the orcs are, after all, monsters? Why or why not?

I agree with Tolkien Forever's observation:
If you notice, most of Yolkierns battle share one thing in common: one side annihilates the other. That almost never happens in real life.

My guess is the Huorns killed any orc left alive. And despite what I said earlier about the head-counting game, I don't find this genocidal slaughter disturbing. For me it's probably the difference between when orcs seem like individuals or a mass of evil. Counting the heads of 42 individuals puts them in a different light than this big blot of darkness that's been eliminated.

What would the huorns have done if the Dunlendings had run their way? Would they have distinguished between men and orcs?
Given Gandalf's repeated warnings to "the good guys," the Huorns would kill anything, anyone. Even us devotees in the Reading Room. I don't think Huorns are evil. More like big vicious dogs that can guard your home and can keep you safe and also rip an intruder to shreds. It's not anything moral about the dogs; they're just dangerous.

Why did the men of Dunland believe Saruman’s claim that the Rohirrim burned their captives alive? The Rohirrim were long-time neighbors; didn’t they know perfectly well how the Rohirrim treated captives? Or is it possible that Saruman’s claims were based on some truth? After all, Helm Hammerhand was a fierce opponent. We know that at one time the Rohirrim hunted the Drúedain for sport. Is it possible that at some point in history the Rohirrim did burn captives alive, perhaps as a form of execution? Wouldn’t it be like Saruman to base his lies on truth, and to use a history of misunderstandings and sometimes shameful acts against the Rohirrim when inciting the Dunlendings?

There has been contact between the peoples of Dunland and Rohan, as Gamling notes when he says their language used to be spoken in the Westfold. But contact doesn't mean all-knowing. It was probably a general suspicion that Saruman inflamed with a specific. The Dunlendings hate the Eorlingas for getting Calenardhon instead of them, and you always look for new reasons to hate someone you already hate for something else.

Outside the story, I think Tolkien was showing how leaders lie to their armies about the enemy to scare/motivate them. It's always happened, as recently as WWII. It also depicts the Dunlendings as ignorant and easily led astray, so Cirion made the better choice.

Or is the mercy shown the humans and the lack of mercy shown the orcs a symptom of the unreality of Middle-earth, where evil is externalized in monsters? By showing mercy to humans and no mercy to orcs, does Tolkien have it both ways, giving us violence without guilt next to moralizing about violence? Do heroic romances need a few guilt-free slaughters? Yes x 3

By blurring the distinctions between orcs and humans, Tolkien raised some troubling questions about orcs which he never resolved to his own satisfaction. Yet it seems to me that he deliberately blurs those distinctions in LotR by setting up Saruman’s breeding program and by portraying orcs as similar to human ruffians. By the end of the story, in the Scouring of the Shire, the ruffians and the half-orcs have become indistinguishable. Do you agree that Tolkien deliberately blurs the distinctions between humans and orcs? If so, why do you think Tolkien does that, despite the problems it creates? Isn’t he undermining the guilt-free premise of his own monster-driven heroic romance? Why would he do that?

Hmmm. He does blur them, yet oddly, they remain distinct, don't they? Orcs with human genes still behave with the full range of evil orc behavior and look like orcs. But "squint-eyed southerners" and ruffians, while sinister, act like bad Men: it's somehow hard to see them eating people, or torturing them to death with sadistic glee like orcs. That didn't happen in the Shire, even under Sharkey: they beat people and locked them up, but it was the Tooks that did the killing first. Even with the interbreeding, they somehow remain distinct as one or the other. Ugluk doesn't write poetry or confide in the hobbits he has human doubts and remorse: part human genetics, but thoroughly orc. Maybe it's all in the upbringing.

The death of Hama, the captain of Theoden’s guard, gets special attention. We got to know Hama briefly, and he helped Gandalf by allowing him to keep his staff when confronting Wormtongue. But is the death of one minor character and many anonymous characters enough to bring home the tragedy of war? Or is Tolkien at fault for allowing so many of his major characters to survive? Does he glorify war by doing so? Or does he clearly distinguish this war fantasy from war in the Primary World? How can the survival of so many major characters be justified, either by the internal rules of Tolkien’s fantasy (were they protected by Higher Powers?) or by artistic license (is it okay for Tolkien to follow the artificial rules of the genre?).

Ha ha, that's what I said last week. It's improbable but necessary that the main characters survive for the story's sake. What's interesting about Hama is that I like him quite a bit, but we have so little exposure to him. Great character-sketching on Tolkien's part.

Two mounds for the Rohirrim, a separate grave for Hama, and, for now, the orcs left in vast heaps. Did I miss something? What happened to the bodies of the Dunlendings? Why doesn’t Tolkien say what happened to them?

Great point, I missed that. I'm guessing they got a mound too, he just didn't mention it; perhaps he forgot to. I don't think their corpses were burned. It seems that that is a special treatment reserved for orcs.

What could have become of the orcs who fled into the woods other than burial? Could they have been eaten? Other ideas? What is Tolkien implying might have happened?

Part of what makes magic magical is that it's mysterious, so Tolkien deliberately doesn't tell us. My guess is they were clubbed to death by branches.

I love the image of an underground pond as smooth as glass disturbed by a small drop of water which makes the reflection wrinkle. But how much time did Gimli have to explore “‘chamber after chamber ... hall opening out of hall, dome after dome, stair beyond stair’”? Wasn’t he fighting the orcs?

Why did Gimli save his comments until now? Doesn’t this sudden change of subject seem out of place? I know it sets up the agreement between Legolas and Gimli to visit both the caverns and Fangorn, but does it seem forced?


It has always seemed forced to me. Yes, the caves had no doors, and the orcs did attack them, so Gimli should have been busy fighting. He dead get that head wound somehow. Maybe he took a break after that, and then he toured the caves. But his enraptured, very lengthy description seems out of place to me. Also somewhat out of character. He's never waxed so poetic about anything before to such great lengths such as Khazad-dum (gives a song, then won't talk) or Durin's Mirrormere. He gushed over Galadriel's hair, but not for this long.

When Gimli and his fellow dwarves move in to the caverns of Helm’s Deep after the war, how do they earn a living? By giving tours? Doesn’t that seem unlikely?

How do Elves make a living? The economy in M-E is never clear.

How did Gandalf persuade the Rohirrim to follow his orders? Weren’t they still under the impression that Wormtongue was in charge and Gandalf was an unwelcome outsider?

Excellent question. Even after Wormtongue has been chased off, we have that exchange between Hama and a companion when Gandalf "deserts" Theoden's army. Hama is sure he's up to some mysterious good, while the companion is sure Gandalf will betray or desert them. So why do all these scattered troops, who don't even know what happened at Edoras, follow Gandalf? My guess is he's revealing his irresistible charisma as White Rider to them. And maybe a dubious leader is better than none at all when you're defeated and scattered.

Isengard is yet another Middle-earth fortress built beneath higher ground which an enemy could capture. In this case the enemy also captured the source of the water flowing through Isengard, and used it to flood the valley. Isn’t it basic strategy to capture the high ground, and to build fortresses on the highest ground available, so that the enemy has to attack from below? Why does Tolkien insist on placing his fortresses beside mountains that offer an enemy a wonderful place to attack from above? Why do the enemies, for the most part, ignore this advantage?

My questions also. The closest answer I have is that higher ground only works if you have proximity to the fortress below. My impression of Isengard's surroundings is that the hills aren't all that close, possibly not even close enough to shoot arrows at the wall defenders from above, so the worst an attacker can do is see movements inside the walls. But in all the other cases, I'm equally befuddled. There are a few exceptions: Amon Sul and Gondolin were built on high ground. Well, okay, two exceptions.

Are there other flaws in the design of Isengard and Orthanc? Why, for example, create such a large perimeter wall, that could only be defended by thousands of soldiers? Why create so many shafts, and so few buildings to rival Orthanc? Why is Orthanc in the center of the circle, so far from the gates? Why was the source of water apparently outside of the walled perimeter? Why wasn’t there a bolt hole Saruman could use to escape? Why didn’t Tolkien see those flaws? Or if he did see them, why didn’t he care?

I think Tolkien was reasonable here. If Saruman had kept his army in Isengard, it probably could have defended the walls against non-Ent armies. As for bolt holes, I think part of the reason the Ents flooded the place was to keep the wizard from escaping through an underground passage. True, a really good bolt hole would have issued outside the walls where the flood wouldn't reach it, though possibly having that much water pouring in to the place would have flooded underground passages wherever their exits were.

The shafts showed how twisted and unwise Saruman had become: torturing the earth in some industrial nightmare for no good reason. I suspect he didn't want another building to rival Orthanc in any event, right?

What is the effect of introducing the hobbits now as if they are strangers?

This works for me. We usually see through the eyes of the hobbits. It's kinda fun to see them as others do. Besides the fun, it may help the story develop as the hobbits go from being four travelers in a group of nine to being isolated hobbits among other races. We get a glimpse of how those races will see them, including how things get a bit carried away and Pippin becomes a Prince with a rescuing army to people in Minas Tirith.

Is this any way to address a king? How would Denethor have reacted?

Possibly it's to show once again how good-natured Theoden is. Denethor would probably have been sarcastic and contemptuous. (Well, wasn't he always?)

Tolkien once again plays with the contrast between formal and informal speech, but in a slightly different way than at the beginning of the chapter. Here Merry is in the unusual position of giving a formal speech to a king, and it comes across more like an amusing parody of epic romance. Merry either fails utterly in his supposed task, or never took his task seriously in the first place. As in the beginning of the chapter, though, Gimli punctures the pretense of formality. Why does Tolkien deliberately undermine or even mock formality at the beginning and end of this chapter, even though in many other chapters of Book III such formality is taken quite seriously? Is Tolkien making light of his own mock-archaic prose and dialogue, which was especially prevalent in this Book when the hobbits were absent? Why? Why now?

We revisit this in the Houses of Healing, immediately after Merry has been called back from the dead. He banters with Strider, who banters back, then briefly has a profound observation to share with Pippin, then returns to hobbit banter, even saying that they can't live long at top (meaning like serious, formal royal figures). I could be wrong, but I don't think Tolkien is doing any mocking, just showing contrasts. I'm reminded of Rivendell, where everyone is fairly solemn, especially at the Council of Elrond, but Pippin says irresponsible things like calling Frodo "Lord of the Ring," which mortifies Gandalf.

There is a true mystery hidden in this encounter which will not be cleared up until the Scouring -- where did Saruman get pipeweed? But the dire implications of this find do not yet hit home. Why does Tolkien hide the import of this find? Why does he say anything about it at all? What is the point of a hint no one is likely to understand until after the story is over? The story is, of course, full of such hints. What is the point?

The point might be to give some credibility to the later plot development of Saruman not only going to the Shire, but taking it over. If you were sketching out this story, and you wanted Saruman killed in front of Frodo at the door of Bag End, how would you get him there? This makes it happen.

What does seem peculiar is that only Aragorn is concerned, and the hobbits themselves see nothing unusual about a product from their homeland being shipped so far away. Does this mean the Shire exported pipe-weed all over Middle-earth? Did it export other things too? I thought it was isolated and barely had contact with Bree, only a short journey away. It's a different story for toys and fireworks from Dale to come to the Shire: Dwarves are world-roaming merchants, but not hobbits. Or did Merry and Pippin just assume that Dwarves had bought and sold the Longbottom Leaf? That could be a plausible explanation.

Thanks for an excellent posting with so many thought-provoking questions, Curious! Now, what am I going to do for fun on the Web the rest of the week?





a.s.
Valinor


Feb 28 2011, 4:21am

Post #6 of 94 (337 views)
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woe as in malediction; and about those orcs... [In reply to] Can't Post


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Ere ring was made, or wrought was woe,


...However, woe is much older than the ring or the moon or even the mountains.




I don't think Tolkien means "woe" as in sorrow. I think he means "woe" as in a malediction. Since it's coupled with rings, I'd imagine it has something to do with the making of something physical ("wrought") like the rings, and the doom they spell for the Elves et al.




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Is Tolkien attempting to rehabilitate the stereotype of dwarves he himself created? Or is he highlighting how Gimli differs from other dwarves, as Galadriel predicted?




Gimli is special: his personality has been enriched and enlightened by relationship with High Elves. The closer a hero is to Elvendom, in Middle Earth, the more noble. Elves dispense holiness, as it were.



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is the mercy shown the humans and the lack of mercy shown the orcs a symptom of the unreality of Middle-earth,




Hell, no. Seems very real world to me. Think of Darfur. The course of history contains way too many examples of humans deciding some humans are worthy of mercy and some are not human at all and therefore need extermination.



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Do you agree that Tolkien deliberately blurs the distinctions between humans and orcs? If so, why do you think Tolkien does that, despite the problems it creates?




I don't know, really, in the end. Orcs are the one thing I really do not like about LOTR.

Well, Bombadil's poetry excepted.

Cool

a.s.

"an seileachan"



PhantomS
Rohan


Feb 28 2011, 12:21pm

Post #7 of 94 (305 views)
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be hasty! [In reply to] Can't Post

errr yes. I was watching some live sports on TV, clicked on the RR and decided to answer your questions right there to work off the rage at seeing my team lose a game they should have won easily.


Curious
Half-elven


Feb 28 2011, 1:00pm

Post #8 of 94 (350 views)
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You could raise some question of your own, [In reply to] Can't Post

if you like.

I do intend to respond to these answers after we get a few of them, so maybe that will start a conversation.


CuriousG
Valinor


Feb 28 2011, 1:27pm

Post #9 of 94 (334 views)
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Ents neglecting hobbits [In reply to] Can't Post

Does anyone else find it strange that Merry and Pippin were left on their own while the Ents demolished Isengard? It seems that the Ents were numerous enough that they could have spared at least one Ent, such as Quickbeam, to look out for the hobbits. Besides the fact that the two almost drowned (and an Ent nearby could have ripped apart the wall and lifted them above the water level, and taken them quickly to dry ground, there were other perils. It was very possible that not all of Saruman's minions were gone from Isengard. Some could have been in hiding in the very room the hobbits went into. Though Merry and Pippin are toughened by their adventures, they're still not first-rate fighters and probably would have been captured or killed if there were 5-10 Saruman soldiers lurking about.

I understand that Treebeard didn't want the hobbits on his shoulders while he was bashing in the walls, etc, yet it's a bit perplexing that he leaves them on their own.


Curious
Half-elven


Feb 28 2011, 3:29pm

Post #10 of 94 (341 views)
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Excellent question! [In reply to] Can't Post

We know, at the very least, that there are some stray wolves out there. And Gandalf was concerned that some "wolf-riders and plunderers" might have ridden to Edoras. Soon after, one of the Nazgul will visit Isengard -- suppose he had seen hobbits at the front gate! Suppose a few ruffians had returned to Isengard with a supply of pipeweed from the Shire? And as you note, there could be nasty surprises in Isengard itself. There are many dangers still to be feared, and the hobbits are not keeping alert.

On the other hand, the ents do seem to be stretched thin. We know there are not many of them left, and this is more activity than they have had in many an Age. Quickbeam is keeping an eye on Saruman, but could also be keeping an eye on the front gates. He can move quickly when needed.

Yet after surprising the hobbits, none of their friends voices any concern for their carelessness. On the contrary, they join them for a picnic and a smoke and show no interest in keeping a watch. They seem quite confident that none of the bad guys would dare return to Isengard now, if indeed any of them are still alive. They probably aren't even thinking about Sauron's bad guys, who normally are a long way from Isengard.

Based on the behavior of all concerned, it seems as if they have concluded that victory over Saruman is complete, and there is simply no need to keep a watch by the gates to Isengard, except to welcome friendly neighbors.

This is also a part of Tolkien's typical rhythm, where each victory is followed by rest and reflection and conversation -- and food and drink and often a smoke. And laughter, even in the midst of war. Then he builds up to the next conflict.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 28 2011, 3:33pm

Post #11 of 94 (322 views)
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Some random answers [In reply to] Can't Post


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This chapter starts out quite formally: “So it was that in the light of a fair morning King Théoden and Gandalf the White Rider met again upon the green grass beside the Deeping-stream. …” Then Gimli appears and immediately compares his kill total to Legolas’s, which changes the tone of the passage. Why does Tolkien start out so formally? Why does he have Gimli change the tone? What is the effect of moving back and forth between formal and less formal passages?

I think Gimli plays the role of the hobbits when there are no actual hobbits around. Tolkien likes to puncture the formality of High Romance with hobbit humour, showing that the same events can be seen from different perspectives - and that the easily-overlooked, smaller heroes are in their own way just as heroic as the High Heroes of the Romance.


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When Eomer mistakenly credits Gandalf’s wizardry for the appearance of the forest, Gandalf says he has not yet shown that he is mighty in wizardry. We know he means he did not conjure up the forest, but what about earlier events? Does this mean Gandalf’s healing of Theoden involved no wizardry? Or is he only speaking of his role in the battle?

It reminds me of Galadriel not knowing what is meant by "magic". What Gandalf has done is simply work with nature - so yes, from his point of view the healing of Theoden was natural, I think. It took his charismatic voice, some hopeful tidings, and of course that very convenient storm - but storms do blow up quickly in the mountains, and can be seen approaching while they're still miles away, so Gandalf's "magic" so far may be no more than an ability to understand and work with the power of nature. Like Galadriel, he doesn't call that magic.


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Throughout this chapter Gandalf will play coy about the Ents and what they have accomplished at Isengard. Why? Shouldn’t Theoden be informed of the Ents’ victory over Saruman? Shouldn’t the whole of Rohan be informed by the messengers Theoden sends, so that they no longer need to worry about that particular threat? Is this an instance where Tolkien’s desire to tease and surprise the reader causes Gandalf to be unnecessarily coy? Or was it just too hard for Gandalf to credibly explain what happened without letting Theoden see for himself?

I'd go with your final suggestion. As Theoden says, such things are only found in tales for children and he finds it very hard to credit them even when he sees them with his own eyes. So sending a message involving such "fairytales" would probably be met with disbelief anyway - and might even make the recipients of the message doubt the truth of any of it. I think that has a lot to do with Gandalf's coyness here in general. This is not something you can just announce with a straight face and expect to be believed!


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Not even one orc remained alive after the battle. That is convenient, but is it credible? Wouldn’t even one orc surrender? And, surrendering, wouldn’t even one orc be captured? Did the huorns slaughter the last of the orcs, or did some turn back from the huorns only to be slaughtered by the Rohirrim? Does anyone find this genocidal slaughter disturbing? Is it any less disturbing because we can blame the orcs themselves for refusing to surrender? Or because the orcs are, after all, monsters? Why or why not?

I don't think an orc would ever attempt to surrender, both because he knows he would be slaughtered anyway, and because his hatred of his enemies wouldn't let him even consider such a thing. Some may flee, but the Rohirrim wouldn't hesitate to shoot them down as the ran, I think - we saw in the battle at the eaves of Fangorn with Eomer's riders that all orcs were shot whether or not they were fighting, including the one who was trying to escape with Merry and Pippin. I guess I don't register this as "genocidal slaughter" which feels like an anachronistic concept to me. Within the world of the story, the orcs are monsters. If you are going to have heroes who are the archetypes of courage and goodness, then I guess you have to have an enemy that is the archetype of inhumanity and evil. That's part of the concept of the High Romance - the dragon, the monster, or whatever it is the hero must slay, is the "other".

Tolkien combines the High Romance, though, with a more modern take on the morality of killing via the hobbits, especially with Frodo and Gollum, but also with Sam's musings on the humanity of the fallen Southron and maybe even with the hobbits' perceptions of the orcs they meet. I think (although I may have forgotten something) that it's only through the hobbits' eyes that we see those more "human" characteristics of the orcs.


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By blurring the distinctions between orcs and humans, Tolkien raised some troubling questions about orcs which he never resolved to his own satisfaction. Yet it seems to me that he deliberately blurs those distinctions in LotR by setting up Saruman’s breeding program and by portraying orcs as similar to human ruffians. By the end of the story, in the Scouring of the Shire, the ruffians and the half-orcs have become indistinguishable. Do you agree that Tolkien deliberately blurs the distinctions between humans and orcs? If so, why do you think Tolkien does that, despite the problems it creates? Isn’t he undermining the guilt-free premise of his own monster-driven heroic romance? Why would he do that?

I guess I partly answered this question already, in that I would say it's not exactly a "blurring" that's going on, but two different perceptions - the ancient worldview of the High Romance, and the more modern moral stance of the hobbits. It certainly does raise questions that, as you say, Tolkien was never really able to reconcile. The two ways of looking at the problem of evil (what Tom Shippey calls the Manichean, or "external" and Boethian, or "internal") are explored in the separate threads of the story but are never resolved.


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Is this a sixth sense available only to elves and wizards, or something humans might experience, although perhaps in a different context? Have you felt the tension in the air? Has it made you sweat, made you feel hot and bothered? Has such tension ever caused the air to throb in your ears (or possibly, caused your heart to pound, which feels like a throbbing in your ears)?

How do we sense tension or wrath before anyone has erupted in anger? Does the air really change, or do we feel like it does because of the human body’s internal reaction to tension and stress? Would someone who cannot read human emotions and knows nothing of the situation feel the air change? If Legolas and Gandalf hadn’t said anything, would Gimli and the men have sensed anything?

This is certainly a human sense, unless I'm either a wizard or an elf, because I've definitely felt it myself! Legolas always seems the most highly-attuned of the company, so I guess he became aware of it first, but I bet everyone else was feeling it subconsciously even before he spoke. I expect the air really was hard to breathe in there, with that mist and everything. Like Fangorn earlier, there could really be a shortage of oxygen amongst the trees, depending what that mysterious mist is...


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What could have become of the orcs who fled into the woods other than burial? Could they have been eaten? Other ideas? What is Tolkien implying might have happened?

I like to imagine that the orcs were "composted" - that after they died (of suffocation?) they rotted down, in the perfectly natural life-cycle of the forest.
The byproducts of that decomposition could even explain the mist and the shortness of breath. The ents and the forests have become "hasty", after all - that's what we'll find in Isengard too, the natural ability of trees to break stone, divert water and destroy the works of man, just highly speeded up. The forests are only doing what they always did (including spreading and moving), except they are doing it overnight instead of over centuries.


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Tolkien does himself proud with this word picture. But how likely is it that no dwarves had ever seen the caverns of Helm’s Deep? How likely is it that no one has mined the caverns for the gems and crystals and veins of precious ore that can be seen in the walls? How likely is it that gems and crystals and veins of precious ore are all visible in the same cavern? Does Tolkien go over the top here? Is that okay in a fantasy?

I like the way you've reformatted it into poetry. I have to admit I found it a bit overlong and OTT when I read it as prose just now. But it is a lovely word-picture if you take the time to savour it like poetry. I don't know how likely it is that gems and precious ore might have been left in the ground - not so unlikely, perhaps, in an unspoiled world where only a few have mining techniques. I seem to recall that Tolkien visited Cheddar Gorge - if so, could that be an inspiration for the description?


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Why didn’t Tolkien take us back in time to when we last saw Merry and Pippin, and continue the narrative from that point? Or, alternatively, why didn’t Tolkien leave more of Merry and Pippin’s adventures a mystery to be cleared up later? Why did we follow them up to a point, and no farther? What is the effect of introducing the hobbits now as if they are strangers?

One possibility might be that Tolkien didn't want to show this most "magical" part of the story in "real time". CuriousG makes the point that most of Gandalf's most impressive magic happens "off-stage" (and even the exception he mentions, the warg battle, happens in the dark). The ents' attack is being given the same treatment, told only in flashback. Tolkien likes to keep the magic subtle and ambiguous - note also that we never see the mysterious "forest" on the move, but only hear it in the dark.

Introducing Merry and Pippin as if they are strangers is an interesting way of showing the two points of view as they finally come together again. First we see how odd the hobbits seem within the High Romance. And then Merry opens his mouth and we're back in the familiar world of the hobbits.

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



(This post was edited by FarFromHome on Feb 28 2011, 3:38pm)


squire
Valinor


Feb 28 2011, 8:55pm

Post #12 of 94 (335 views)
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1. Some thoughts and answers to Questions A-Y. [In reply to] Can't Post

Summary
The battle is won, and the various principles reunited. The Rohirrim wonder at the forest that has appeared overnight. Instead of an explanation, Gandalf offers a riddle, and asks Theoden to come with him to Isengard. The King agrees, although he does not understand. But before he goes he send messengers throughout the Mark calling for an assembly at Edoras. Then Theoden, Eomer, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and twenty other Rohirrim rest and prepare to go with Gandalf to a parley at Isengard.

This chapter starts out quite formally: “So it was that in the light of a fair morning King Théoden and Gandalf the White Rider met again upon the green grass beside the Deeping-stream. …” Then Gimli appears and immediately compares his kill total to Legolas’s, which changes the tone of the passage.
A. Why does Tolkien start out so formally?
He is narrating the epic conclusion to an epic battle.

B. Why does he have Gimli change the tone?
I disagree that the tone changes significantly. True, Gimli speaks in quoted dialogue, which is a more informal convention than strict third-person narrative. But he speaks quite formally, as does Legolas in response, and then Théoden and Éomer exchange news as well, in appropriately formal language. To the degree that Gimli and Legolas’ first subject of conversation is their mock-humorous orc-killing competition, the effect is to represent the release of tension that both parties must have felt as to whether their friends had survived the night.

C. What is the effect of moving back and forth between formal and less formal passages?
Well, it doesn’t go back and forth.

When Eomer mistakenly credits Gandalf’s wizardry for the appearance of the forest, Gandalf says he has not yet shown that he is mighty in wizardry.
D. We know he means he did not conjure up the forest, but what about earlier events?
Gandalf clearly has his own standards of what constitutes “mighty wizardry”.

E. Does this mean Gandalf’s healing of Theoden involved no wizardry?
What Gandalf says here is that rather than use his wizardry, which is Éomer’s term meaning I suppose “magic”, he rode a fast horse and “gave good counsel in peril”. Although it’s not clear whether Gandalf is including the healing of Théoden in his demurral, we could easily take it that way. In which case his transformation of Théoden really was nothing but the courage to defy Wormtongue and Théoden’s own prohibitions, and physically coach Théoden to recover his own native strength. Gandalf’s strength of character and leadership is unsurpassed, but it is not really “magical.” The muting of Wormtongue was wizardry, perhaps, but hardly a mighty example; and the thunderstorm was a happy coincidence.

F. Or is he only speaking of his role in the battle?
That, too, of course.

The Battle of Helm’s Deep is a prelude to the Siege of Minas Tirith. In both cases Gandalf is drawn out of the battle; at Helm’s Deep to round up reinforcements, at Minas Tirith to rescue Faramir and care for the victims of the Black Breath. However, Gandalf seems much more frustrated about it in Minas Tirith, whereas here he seems content with his part, or lack of a part, in the battle.
G. What is the difference?
1. The forces of Rohan and Saruman were more evenly matched. 2. Rohan was not as central to the grand strategy as Gondor was. 3. Gandalf knew he could out-think Saruman. 4. Gandalf knew that Treebeard was involved, so that Saruman’s forces would not be able to follow up a victory in any case.

Quote
’Ere iron was found or tree was hewn,
When young was mountain under moon;
Ere ring was made, or wrought was woe,
It walked the forests long ago.’

This is the riddle Gandalf offers about the Ents.
H. Is Gandalf quoting something, or did he make up this rhyme/riddle on the spot?
I always assumed that Gandalf is quoting from his vast store of old lore here, as he did about Galadriel in Edoras, and as he will with Pippin when he contemplates the palantír’s history.

The reference to the ring sounds spontaneous, rather than quoted, since the Ring is of present concern but was not necessarily of concern in the past. Actually, Treebeard should be older than the moon, if the story of the Two Trees is to be believed. According to that story, Galadriel is older than the moon, and Treebeard is apparently older than Galadriel. However, woe is much older than the ring or the moon or even the mountains.
I. Does any of that matter?
I’m not sure I entirely agree with your premise that the rhyme is of flawed construction. The reference to the Rings of Power sounds authentic in an old rhyme of lore – we repeatedly hear that people used to know of the Rings but have long forgotten them. The Ents were supposedly created before the Moon was, but it’s unclear when they were “awoken” by the Elves and began walking around. Although of course “woe” in Middle-earth goes back to the original rebellion of Melkor, this rhyme seems to belong to a later age, what with its mention of the Rings rather than the Silmarils, for instance. In that case, perhaps the “woe” referred to is the return of Sauron to the Westlands after the fall of Morgoth – correlating with the Ents’ own perception that their Golden Age in Beleriand was followed by a Silver Age in Eriador before the Second Age’s War of Sauron and the Elves.

J. Should we grant Gandalf/Tolkien poetic license and not nitpick?
Well, I don’t agree that it’s poetic license. But I do like to nitpick, of course.

Throughout this chapter Gandalf will play coy about the Ents and what they have accomplished at Isengard.
K. Why?
As Gandalf says later on regarding his and Aragorn’s little Midsummer wedding surprise, sometimes it’s just plain fun to build a mystery for the sheer pleasure of the reveal. And if we may refer to the Gandalf of The Hobbit, we know he is vain about his ability to pull off strategic surprises (e.g., “explain his own cleverness” etc.).

L. Shouldn’t Theoden be informed of the Ents’ victory over Saruman?
What’s the rush? After all, it’s pretty clear that Isengard had been “emptied” and that the armies that came forth had been decisively defeated. Whether Isengard is a ruin or a fully intact fortress, it is nothing but a defensive shell at this point. But if we want to be more critical, we can guess that Gandalf felt that Théoden needed yet more “shock treatment” in order to lock in his loyalty to Gandalf’s grand strategy.

M. Shouldn’t the whole of Rohan be informed by the messengers Theoden sends, so that they no longer need to worry about that particular threat?
This is the same question as above, since presumably whatever was appropriate to tell Théoden would be appropriate to tell the mobilizing clans of the rest of the Kingdom. What the messengers are authorized to say is that the armies of Saruman have been fully defeated, and yet it is necessary to come to the weapontake ASAP. Why would anyone need to know more than that?

N. Is this an instance where Tolkien’s desire to tease and surprise the reader causes Gandalf to be unnecessarily coy?
To pull back one level of story, clearly Tolkien is teasing us for maximum dramatic effect. But the lack of realism is not as dire as you assume.

O. Or was it just too hard for Gandalf to credibly explain what happened without letting Theoden see for himself?
Seeing is believing, after all. As I said, Gandalf may have decided that Théoden is not yet fully prepared to take direction on faith alone.

Not even one orc remained alive after the battle.
P. That is convenient, but is it credible?
Yes. That is, yes in the context of this fantasy. Or are you asking whether it is somehow credible in our world, where orcs do not exist?

Q. Wouldn’t even one orc surrender?
We are given to believe, consistently throughout the story, that orcs just do not surrender. There is mention I believe of orcs feigning surrender or death in order to surprise and kill those unwary enough to walk unguarded on a battlefield. As can be imagined, a little of that behavior goes a long way in training the good guys to take no prisoners.

R. And, surrendering, wouldn’t even one orc be captured?
Well, as per above, they don’t surrender. So no, one would not then be captured.


Since you seem skeptical of this whole line of behavior in wartime, I have to say I am reminded of the characteristic training of Japanese soldiers in the Second World War. They were very strongly motivated neither to surrender nor to be captured. Yet being human, of course some few did – and they were either slaughtered by suspicious / angry American & Australian soldiers, or were taken prisoner and treated somewhat humanely depending on the circumstances, much to their surprise and often shame.

And of course, the orcs are not human. They are “goblins” or “demons” incarnated to serve the personification of Evil on earth, the devil himself, Sauron and before him Morgoth. Why is it so hard to accept the dictum that they fight to the last and then die, as is depicted here?

S. Did the huorns slaughter the last of the orcs, or did some turn back from the huorns only to be slaughtered by the Rohirrim?
What does it matter?

T. Does anyone find this genocidal slaughter disturbing?
Genocide is always disturbing. Given the correlation of the forces of good and evil here, I expect we are supposed to recognize that reading about the genocide of the Rohirrim after an orcish victory would have been even more disturbing.

U. Is it any less disturbing because we can blame the orcs themselves for refusing to surrender?
I’m not sure we can “blame” the orcs for behaving in what seems like a highly conditioned way. As above, I don’t think surrender was an option for them. What is tragic here is that, perforce, Tolkien must maintain that the orcs, though brutish, are sentient and alive in the essential meaning of the terms. To kill them all, even in self-defense, is horrifying – and so it is to read about. Yet Tolkien abstracts the issue because he has to, referring to the entire episode in an almost matter-of-fact way; and I think we are meant to understand that the Rohirrim have done the same thing, in order to stay sane while fighting such a monstrous enemy.

V. Or because the orcs are, after all, monsters?
As I’ve said, I think that is the whole point and the only point.

W. Why or why not?
Um… what is this in reference to, now?


X. What would the huorns have done if the Dunlendings had run their way?
Quite probably killed them too. I don’t see the huorns as being very discriminating with regard to “all that go on two legs”, once they’ve been given permission to act freely by their herders the Ents. Later on, Merry and Pippin will confirm this impression.


Y. Would they have distinguished between men and orcs?
How would they do that? Smell? Vision? Their sensory apparatus is poorly understood, I would say, and probably restricted to temperature and touch and perhaps air composition (CO2 respirers vs. oxygen respirers?).

Thoughts on this section.
I like the reference to Gimli’s bandage being linen. It opens up the whole question of whether cotton was native to the north-western parts of Middle-earth at this time. It also reminds us how little we really know of the material culture of the Rohirrim. Do we even know what their staple grain food was, or what meats they most commonly ate?

Gandalf laughs “loud and merrily” at the Rohirrim’s puzzlement over the huorn-wood. Is this the first time that Gandalf’s inner mirth, so often remarked on later, finds its way out? Is this connected with his perception back at Fangorn, when talking with Aragorn, that the “tide has turned”? Or is he just mocking the rubes?

Along with Gandalf’s Ent-lore rhyme, which we discussed, Gandalf remarks that Ents walked the earth “ere elf sang or hammer rang”. Two thoughts here: First, even more than in the rhyme, this makes the Ents or the verse indeterminate in age; for surely the Elves sang before they “woke” the Ents as Treebeard put it. Second, Gandalf’s rhymed phrasing itself would fit as a preceding line to the quatrain that he recites. Did he start to speak about the Ents to Théoden, unconsciously quote a line from the rhyme of lore in the course of speaking, and then once started, seamlessly pick up the verse itself as a verse?

I like Gandalf’s “dare you!” approach to inviting Théoden to Isengard. When Théoden at first demurs the invitation, Gandalf says fine, I’ll see you in Edoras in a few days. Theoden caves at once, and meekly agrees to come along. With the bold be bold, as Paul Kocher remarks on Aragorn’s method of dealing with Éomer. It is clearly the best way to deal with the Rohirrim in general.

When Théoden chooses twenty men to accompany him to Isengard, I wonder if that number is somewhat random, or whether it represents an actual military unit of command, since it is just one-sixth of the 120 men of Éomer’s eored in the earlier chapter.

Théoden’s comments on his old age, and the description of his sleep as being the soundest in many years, are tantalizing in their portrait of a real man beneath the kindly but stately effigy that we have gotten to know. Does Tolkien consciously or unconsciously resist his occasional temptation to write a novel rather than a romance?



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FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 28 2011, 9:38pm

Post #13 of 94 (319 views)
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Quote
When Théoden chooses twenty men to accompany him to Isengard, I wonder if that number is somewhat random, or whether it represents an actual military unit of command, since it is just one-sixth of the 120 men of Éomer’s eored in the earlier chapter.

That sounds likely. Wasn't the score, or twenty, commonly used for counting in Anglo-Saxon times?


Quote
Théoden’s comments on his old age, and the description of his sleep as being the soundest in many years, are tantalizing in their portrait of a real man beneath the kindly but stately effigy that we have gotten to know. Does Tolkien consciously or unconsciously resist his occasional temptation to write a novel rather than a romance?

This little comment about Theoden's sleep does seem to take us into the king's personal experience in a "novelistic" way, it's true. And yet I'm not sure that's really how it's meant. Theoden's sleep is quite likely a matter of record, since Anglo-Saxons usually slept communally. His companions were probably struck by his sleeping "such a sleep of quiet as he had not known for many years," and would have seen it as the fulfilment of Theoden's prediction a couple of chapters ago:
"‘Nay, Gandalf!’ said the king. ‘You do not know your own skill in healing. It shall not be so. I myself will go to war, to fall in the front of the battle, if it must be. Thus shall I sleep better.’" (The King of the Golden Hall)
(It's all foreshadowing for Theoden's final "sleep" on the Pelennor, perhaps, but I think this "sleep of quiet" could be seen as a meaningful element in the full legendary tale of Theoden, rather than a novelistic insight into the "real man".)

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



(This post was edited by FarFromHome on Feb 28 2011, 9:42pm)


Felagund
Lorien


Feb 28 2011, 9:49pm

Post #14 of 94 (354 views)
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In a "marginal jotting", included in Unfinished Tales (Chapter 'The Drúedain'), Tolkien mentions that a remnant of Saruman's soldiers escaped south and west to Drúwaith Iaur. Their fortunes didn't improve much there though - they were set upon by Drúedain, whose ancient hatred of Orcs would have meant even less mercy than the from Rohirrim.


Curious
Half-elven


Feb 28 2011, 10:16pm

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I'll definitely turn to them when I have some time, and I look forward to your next installment.


Curious
Half-elven


Feb 28 2011, 10:17pm

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Kimi
Forum Admin / Moderator


Feb 28 2011, 11:16pm

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I seem to recall that Tolkien visited Cheddar Gorge - if so, could that be an inspiration for the description?

You're quite right. From Letter 321, 1971:

"I was most pleased by your reference to the description of 'glittering caves'.... It may interest you to know that the passage was based on the caves in Cheddar Gorge and was written just after I had revisited these in 1940 but was still coloured by my memory of them much earlier before they became so commercialized. I had been there during my honeymoon nearly thirty years before."


The Passing of Mistress Rose
My historical novels - all royalties currently going to Christchurch earthquake relief.

Do we find happiness so often that we should turn it off the box when it happens to sit there?

- A Room With a View


squire
Valinor


Mar 1 2011, 12:17am

Post #18 of 94 (363 views)
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2. Some thoughts and answers to Questions Z-ZZ. [In reply to] Can't Post

Summary
Meanwhile, Erkenbrand enlists the Dunlendings in the cleanup and promises them amnesty if they will take an oath not to return in arms, nor march with the enemies of Men. The Rohirrim are amazed because Saruman told them the Rohirrim burned their captives alive.

The bodies of the Rohirrim are buried in two mounds, except for Hama, who gets a separate grave. No orcs survive, and the people wonder what to do with so many orc bodies, but Gandalf (who apparently needs no rest) suggests waiting for morning.

Z. Why did the men of Dunland believe Saruman’s claim that the Rohirrim burned their captives alive?
Quite possibly such episodes had occurred. The Rohirrim are deliberately given a bit of an “edge” in our eyes, having been “barbarians” relative to Númenor in the not-so-distant past. It is also possible that the Dunlendings practice fire-torture also, so that they readily believe the same stories told about their enemies. This is a common phenomenon with warring cultures.

AA. The Rohirrim were long-time neighbors; didn’t they know perfectly well how the Rohirrim treated captives?
As above, I believe it is a little more complicated than that. Very likely both sides traded with each other, and interbred in the marginal lands, in between episodes of vicious territorial wars. I’m thinking of analogies with the non-native (mostly European) displacement of native cultures during the imperialistic years of the modern era, as I suspect Tolkien is.

BB. Or is it possible that Saruman’s claims were based on some truth?
As I said above, it is indeed “quite possible”. The key is “some truth”, which is the most dangerous type of lying – and the one that Saruman excels at.

After all, Helm Hammerhand was a fierce opponent. We know that at one time the Rohirrim hunted the Drúedain for sport.
CC. Is it possible that at some point in history the Rohirrim did burn captives alive, perhaps as a form of execution?
Helm was a cold-blooded killer, to be sure – it would be interesting to contrast his legend of death by ice with the one presented here of death by fire. But we do not know for sure that the Rohirrim hunted the Druedain for sport. As has been discussed here before, a glimpse at the map shows the Druedain forest to be well within Gondor’s borders and far from Rohan. The interchange between the Druedain leader and the King of Rohan, standing in as a King of Men in general, is thus highly interpretable.

Nevertheless, we do not need the enigma of the Druedain to get in the way of this question. I guess we have to contrast the likelihood that the Dunlendings would be too familiar with the Rohirrim to fall for total lies by Saruman, with the fact that Erkenbrand is actually quite merciful to them in the current instance. Perhaps the best solution is to avoid general statements like “the Rohirrim did burn captives alive at some point in history” and propose that some Rohirrim may have done so under certain circumstances. It is interesting that in Appendix A.II, where Tolkien works out the societal dynamics of Rohan in a little more detail, he distinguishes between the more crude and brutal Rohirrim of the Western Marches, typified by Freca (whom Helm insultingly but tellingly calls “Dunlending”), and the slightly more civilized aristocracy of the central provinces as represented by Helm. Freca might barbeque a captive, Helm would not. It’s not much to go on, but seemingly Tolkien wants it both ways here, and arranges things so he can have them.

DD. Wouldn’t it be like Saruman to base his lies on truth, and to use a history of misunderstandings and sometimes shameful acts against the Rohirrim when inciting the Dunlendings?
Well yes as above, regarding Saruman. But I’m not sure we can go so far as to call burning alive “shameful” in the context of human societies: Native Americans expected the ordeal by fire to reveal an enemy warrior’s true grit and they gave him great honor if he did not cry out; and it was after all a legitimate punishment in “civilized” Europe for centuries. Tolkien is just not credible if he truly expects the reader to take on faith that Saruman’s lies were entirely baseless. (Although, as we know, Tolkien really is highly susceptible to just this kind of melodramatic Dudley Do-Right vs. Snidely Whiplash stuff.)

Erkenbrand gives the Dunlendings amnesty.
EE. Did he consult with Theoden about this before Theoden went to sleep?
I very much doubt it. His words and actions reinforce our already highly-developed sense that the Rohirrim are suspicious but honorable towards their human enemies, whenever possible. The contrast with the orcs’ treatment is, as far as I can tell, the only point of the entire scene.

Later King Elessar will give the human armies who fought for Sauron similar amnesty.
FF. Are they naive?
You mean Elessar and Erkenbrand? In context, I would say no. Again and again, we are told that the hostile Men who oppose or attack the Western civilizations only do so under incitement by one Dark Lord or another, or due to the later “hatreds and evils” that a Dark Lord has bred, as the Rohan Appendix concludes. Mercy is the best policy once military superiority is established, and these Kings know it.

GG. Is the power of the oath in Middle-earth strong enough that it can be counted upon to bind former enemies?
Yes, within reason. Isn’t it implied that the Mountain Men of Dwimorberg and Dunharrow had been enemies of Gondor? Isildur subdued them and bound them to his kingdom by Oaths, which they later foreswore -- much to Isildur’s surprise. Not that it worked out well for them, either.

HH. Shouldn’t they seek some kind of reparations?
I don’t think the Rohirrim own the Dunlendings any reparations at this point. It’s been a long time since the land changed hands, frankly.

II. Was Tolkien indirectly commenting on the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, which demanded heavy reparations from the Germans and therefore may have led to World War II?
He said of similes like this, “The economic situation was entirely different.” Anyway, the question of reparations is not in the text. Your contra-historical (both on the fictional and real-world levels) analysis would be much more effective if it were.

JJ. Is it possible that the mercy of Theoden and King Elessar would also be wise in the Primary World where mere oaths are less likely to bind an opponent?
Diplomatic treaties are the direct descendants of oaths between kings and peoples. A treaty imposed by conquest (like this oath, in the story) is unwise unless the conquered party can be made to perceive that the treaty’s terms are also in its own interests going forward. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn’t. One could suggest that a less-harsh treaty, under some circumstances, could be to the benefit of the conquering party, as you suggest here. But there are no rules in life or diplomacy – only principles which exist in permanent conflict.

KK. Is it also possible that such mercy might be unwise? Is it a risk worth taking?
As above: sure, such mercy might also be unwise. It all depends. The calculation of risk must be highly specific. What worked in one negotiation or war will not necessarily work in the next one.

LL. Or is the mercy shown the humans and the lack of mercy shown the orcs a symptom of the unreality of Middle-earth, where evil is externalized in monsters?
Yes, of course.

MM. By showing mercy to humans and no mercy to orcs, does Tolkien have it both ways, giving us violence without guilt next to moralizing about violence?
There’s not a lot of violence given us by the author – that is left to our imaginations. When reading these chapters, my imagination focuses on the fear, and the horror, rather than the violence. But as per my CC. answer above, I agree with you that Tolkien wants something here both ways.

NN. Do heroic romances need a few guilt-free slaughters?
I think you have leapt a little far from one fantasy to an entire genre that is millennia old, during which many of these terms altered in moral weight. Is the slaughter in the Iliad guilt-free? The Book of Esther? Beowulf? The Chanson de Roland? Morte d’Arthur? Revenge of the Sith? But start with this clarification: whose guilt is supposing to be missing here, the author’s, the reader’s, or the protagonists’?

By blurring the distinctions between orcs and humans, Tolkien raised some troubling questions about orcs which he never resolved to his own satisfaction. Yet it seems to me that he deliberately blurs those distinctions in LotR by setting up Saruman’s breeding program and by portraying orcs as similar to human ruffians. By the end of the story, in the Scouring of the Shire, the ruffians and the half-orcs have become indistinguishable.
OO. Do you agree that Tolkien deliberately blurs the distinctions between humans and orcs?
I think it’s more accurate to say he blurs the distinctions between orcs and orcs. The problem in the books is not evil Men like the Ruffians or the Dunlendings. The problem is orcs who kill without hesitation, cannot surrender, and yet can speak of their feelings, fears, and dreams as his leading orc-characters do.

PP. If so, why do you think Tolkien does that, despite the problems it creates?
He has no choice, since he is writing a moral parable of the modern world in terms that predate the modern.

QQ. Isn’t he undermining the guilt-free premise of his own monster-driven heroic romance?
Again I’m not sure who or what is “guilt-free” in this book. But The Lord of the Rings is not driven by its monsters. If anything, it is driven by guilt.

RR. Why would he do that?
Since I’m not yet sure that he did it, whatever it is that he did, I’m not prepared to answer this.

The death of Hama, the captain of Theoden’s guard, gets special attention. We got to know Hama briefly, and he helped Gandalf by allowing him to keep his staff when confronting Wormtongue.
SS. But is the death of one minor character and many anonymous characters enough to bring home the tragedy of war?
Are you sure the author’s goal was for these elements to bring home the tragedy of war to the reader? ‘Cause I don’t think it was. I think Tolkien is far more concerned with justifying sacrifice. Hama, as the King’s captain, or at least the only one we know by name, receives an honored burial. We may nod in agreement, or we may question: is that right? is that enough?

I think Tolkien understood survivor guilt as well as anyone, but we must remember he was hardly alone in this; his entire society was being driven by survivor guilt in the years when he wrote these passages.

TT. Or is Tolkien at fault for allowing so many of his major characters to survive?
Which ones should he have killed? Each of his major characters is major because they have a major part to play or to symbolize (i.e., Legolas and Gimli, otherwise two sure candidates for an arrow in the eye at Pelargir, Pelennor or the Black Gate) all the way to the end of the story. All we can say rather than “you’re at fault” is that we would have written a different book.

UU. Does he glorify war by doing so?
I agree that he glorifies war to a degree, but not by having his major characters survive the battles they are involved in. His methods are more subtle and intricate than that. And as I argue above, he tends to question what it is to “glorify” something even as he does it.

VV. Or does he clearly distinguish this war fantasy from war in the Primary World?
How much more clearly could he do so? Readers who try to see analogies with the real world in LotR, tend to focus on 20th century World Wars which were fought with high technology, mass armies, and modern political ideologies. As Tolkien notes with dismay, none of these are to be found in his fantasy – his real-world analogues are rather to medieval wars which were fought for dynastic or religious reasons using troops driven by feudal oaths. It is the personal – or again, the moral – element in war that interests him, not the details of the fighting; and I think he felt the moral aspect would be more clear if the reader was not distracted by reading about combats in the familiar terms of his or her own time. The danger was that his readers’ only previous access to medieval warfare was in fact highly romanticized by Victorian redactors of medieval traditions. He himself was somewhat susceptible to this as well. But still, he overcame this pretty well, since he directed attention to where he wanted it by almost completely de-emphasizing the combat scenes (something the New Line films outright refused to do, for reasons too complicated to get into here).

WW. How can the survival of so many major characters be justified, either by the internal rules of Tolkien’s fantasy
(WWa. were they protected by Higher Powers?)
There’s no indication of this in the text. Later, at the Pelennor Fields, the three heroes are said to be unscathed due to their very high native virtues.

or by artistic license
(WWb. is it okay for Tolkien to follow the artificial rules of the genre?)
Even by the terms of your question, it is not “artistic license” to follow the “rules” of a genre, is it? But then it’s not clear to me what Tolkien’s genre was at the time he was writing, nor do I know what the “rules” (are there any that are not “artificial”?) were for it, whatever it was. I suspect Tolkien realized that if you kill someone off before the end of a story, there had better not be anything left for that person to do (Boromir: dead, out of Aragorn’s way. Gandalf: dead, needed again, comes back to life. Frodo: dead, still needed, so not dead after all). As I note above, that wasn’t the case here, and is further proof that LotR is not exclusively about war.

?
I’m not sure I agree that this is an issue in the first place, that has to be “justified”? Justified to whom?

Two mounds for the Rohirrim, a separate grave for Hama, and, for now, the orcs left in vast heaps.
XX. Did I miss something?
You tell us.

YY. What happened to the bodies of the Dunlendings?
What bodies? “A great many of the hillmen” survived to surrender. One might almost suspect that the orcs were the only ones to assault the Wall and the Keep, and being at the forefront of the siege were the ones most targeted by the counterattacks at dawn.

Interestingly, when Gamling describes the hill-men or “wild men” to Aragorn and to us, he says they will “not give way … until Théoden is taken or they themselves are slain.” Tough guys! However, when Aragorn warns the horde of the doom he foresees, the orcs jeer but the wild men pause and look doubtful. Then when the cavalry … I mean, when Gandalf and Erkenbrand show up, it is the orcs that panic and run into the mysterious woods; while the wild men “fell on their faces before him” and so are presumably spared. So, although they may have gotten their hair mussed, I’d say the wild men sustained relatively few casualties, especially compared to the total wipe-out that the orcs suffered.

ZZ. Why doesn’t Tolkien say what happened to them?
He does. He says they were put to work burying the dead and heaping the orcs, and then were pardoned and sent home on parole.

Thoughts on this section.
Not only are there no particularly specific descriptions of fighting in the previous chapter, here there is no dwelling on the prospect of a recent battlefield (the smells, the sounds, the sights – all terrible in the extreme according to every account I have ever read). Instead the emphasis is on the moral lessons to be learned by the Dunlending prisoners, very much along the lines of “clean up your mess, promise not to do it again, and behave.” The question posed seems to be not, what have you learned by dying? but rather, what have you learned by surviving?

Hama’s grave is “alone under the shadow of the Hornburg” but there is no mention of a mound or marker. We know the Rohirrim favor mounds as a memorial device, and see it many times in this book. There is also the idea of the spears as markers. Did Hama get any of these? How will his grave be found in a few years?

The heaps of orcs are said to be too great, not just for burning which is imaginable, but also for burying, which I find harder to comprehend. What are all those Dunlendings for, if not to dig the Mark’s greatest orc-cemetery? I can think of two reasons for the dilemma, before we resort to the obvious. One, the soil of the Deep was glacial, stony and hard to dig – all available effort had gone into the mounds of the Rohirrim and there was no good land left for the orcs. Two, burial was too dignified for the orcs – burning was thought to be the right way for them, as Éomer established in the Fangorn battle. Neither of these is very credible, in my opinion. Why could the orcs not be buried by honest P.O.W. manual labor?



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Elizabeth
Valinor


Mar 1 2011, 5:25am

Post #19 of 94 (337 views)
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As most of us know, the Weinsteins insisted that Jackson have one of the hobbits die in his proposed 2-movie treatment. And fans of both books and movies often say how shocked and saddened they were when Boromir and Gandalf died. Those deaths were in Book 2 -- thereafter, no one of real significance died except Théoden, and we were give massive buildup to that happening.

Do we need the sharp pain of losing someone we care about to understand how big the stakes are, or do we just need to get our emotional juices properly flowing? What do important deaths do for a story? Is it a convention of dramatic fiction that we have been educated to expect, or does it serve an important artistic point?

I can still remember reading the books for the first time. I did, actually, expect one of the hobbits to die. I figured Sam as most likely, or possibly Pippin, and that expectation continued right through the Scouring. I was very relieved when it didn't happen, but also a tiny bit let down. I can't articulate why, maybe for the basic reason that we like to read sad books or see weepy movies.

When this topic has come up here in the past, someone has usually said that Tolkien was "a real softie" who couldn't bring himself to kill one of his dear hobbits, and that's probably true. But I suspect that the deeper motivation is also what you said about the lack of detailed battle sequences: this book isn't about that, it's about moral choices, more than fighting and dying. All our characters get them, and all except poor Boromir survive the moral challenges as well as the fighting.






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squire
Valinor


Mar 1 2011, 12:56pm

Post #20 of 94 (338 views)
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Summary
Beginning just before sunset, Gandalf and Theoden and the others going to Isengard pass through the mysterious wood, where a road has opened up for them. Legolas wants to investigate but Gimli protests, and then turns to a different topic, the wonderful caverns of Helm’s Deep.

Quote
'It is hot in here,' said Legolas to Gandalf. 'I feel a great wrath about me. Do you not feel the air throb in your ears?'
'Yes,' said Gandalf.

AAA. Is this a sixth sense available only to elves and wizards, or something humans might experience, although perhaps in a different context?
It never occurred to me that the Men of Rohan did not feel the same tension that Legolas and Gandalf did. I see now that perhaps the Elf and the Wizard are the spokesmen for the feeling because Men would not be as sensitive to the mysterious emotions of the Trees. But then, why bother to have Elf and Wizard speak of something that the reader, identifying with Men, might think that he or she would not also feel?

BBB. Have you felt the tension in the air?
Yes, both physically such as when a storm is impending, and metaphorically when strong conflicting emotions are present in a room. The former I have always understood is actually a function of static electricity and barometric pressure in the atmosphere. The latter I have often wondered about: how do we feel a collective emotional tension in a group? I guess it must be a combination of breathing patterns, body language, and perhaps even hormonal emanations.

CCC. Has it made you sweat, made you feel hot and bothered?
Sweaty, hot and bothered? Oh, Curious! Here? Now? This is so sudden!

DDD. Has such tension ever caused the air to throb in your ears (or possibly, caused your heart to pound, which feels like a throbbing in your ears)?
No, actually. When my ears throb, it’s because I feel tense, not the group. Obviously, the group’s tension could cause or reinforce my own. But I do not think the air itself is throbbing when it’s clearly the blood in my auditory regions.

EEE. How do we sense tension or wrath before anyone has erupted in anger?
My best bet is stated above.

FFF. Does the air really change, or do we feel like it does because of the human body’s internal reaction to tension and stress?
Again, my best bet is stated above. I don’t think the air changes as much as we think it does due to our incorrectly interpreted perceptions.

You’re not entirely clear here as to whether you mean ones own body’s reaction to internal tension and stress, or to other people’s. It’s other people’s effect on us that I find more mysterious, since it involves unspoken communication.

GGG. Would someone who cannot read human emotions and knows nothing of the situation feel the air change?
Unless I’m right about hormonal emanations or related smell functions, I don’t think the air itself changes in a room full of tense people. It just feels like that, because we would have to receive any communication of emotion through the air, via sound, sight, and (I think) especially hearing of others’ bodily vital signs. I’m not sure what kind of “someone” you have in mind that “cannot read human emotions” – even the horses can do that.

HHH. If Legolas and Gandalf hadn’t said anything, would Gimli and the men have sensed anything?
I think they would have sensed much of the same stimulations, but would have ignored or downplayed the significance or implications. I would guess that the Elf and the Wizard are more in tune with the idea that everything felt in the “tunnel” in the woods is due to conscious activity by the trees. The Men, on the other hand, may just feel “creepy”. And maybe hot and bothered, but medieval cavalry would have no problem identifying where that feeling came from, having just ridden past a crowd of adoring women singing their praises.

III. Is Legolas describing a real change in the air, or his own physical reaction to the emotions of the huorns, which he can read and of which Gandalf is already aware?
I would say – no, I have said – the latter.

JJJ. Why does Tolkien describe Legolas’s reaction in terms we can almost recognize from our own experiences?
Obviously, so we as readers can identify with the sentiment expressed. But after all, this short journey is just a reprise of what the hobbits went through in their first hour or two in the Old Forest.

KKK. Did Tolkien imagine that trees could feel anger in the Primary World, and that he could almost sense such anger?
No, I don’t think so – not rationally, at least. I do think Tolkien projected his feelings about trees, very much so. What I find interesting is his ability to record his own fear of what he imagines the trees might be feeling, if trees were sentient. He says he takes the trees’ side, but more often he takes the humans’ side and enjoys the resulting shiver.

LLL. Or am I making too much of this?
No, no.

MMM. What could have become of the orcs who fled into the woods other than burial?
Just strangulation, then burial. Remember that nutrients in the ground – buried flesh decaying into protein and other organics, perhaps – form part of a tree’s food cycle.


NNN. Could they have been eaten?
Ah. You think? See above.

OOO. Other ideas?
Old Man Willow attempted to entomb the hobbits within his trunk. I’m still not sure why from a literal or scientific point of view. Magically or metaphorically, perhaps it was being suggested that the hobbits’ bodies and souls could provide some kind of spiritual or enslaved sustenance to the old tree. If so – if that is possible in Middle-earth – then we might imagine the orcs suffering similar fates here.

PPP. What is Tolkien implying might have happened?
He uses the terms (via Gimli) of “crushing and strangling”, and so do the hobbits later when describing the Ents’ attempts to catch Saruman. Given all the emphasis throughout Book III on Ents and their trees being “limb-lithe”, etc., I think this is the most reasonable explanation.

QQQ. Are the huorns good?
No. They are not sentient at a high enough level of intelligence to develop moral concepts.

RRR. Or are they neutral or even potentially evil forces, like the trees in the Old Forest, who have aligned with the good guys only because they hate the orcs?
“Good, neutral, potentially evil” are all irrelevant descriptors here. These are the arboreal equivalent of herded wild animals. I’m not sure they have the independent capability to “align” themselves with the Ents, either. I think the analogy of Ents as being herders of the trees suggests that the Ents dominate and control the Huorns entirely through force of will combined with a treeish empathy that the Huorns do respond to.

SSS. Does that explain their lack of mercy towards the orcs?
Who has been asking for explanations? Since Chapter 3 we have heard that the Trees of Fangorn Forest are aware of and hate the orcs’ wanton cutting and destruction.

TTT. Does it make it somehow more palatable than if the Rohirrim had conducted the slaughter?
I suppose so. Frankly, given Éomer’s performance in Fangorn earlier, I think had the Rohirrim had to slaughter all the Orcs of Isengard, they would have done so in a short passage notable for its use of artificial diction and remote narrative.

UUU. Why or why not?
As per my answer.

Quote
'And,
Legolas,
when the torches are kindled and men walk on the sandy floors under the echoing domes,
ah!
then,
Legolas,
gems and crystals and veins of precious ore glint in the polished walls;
and the light glows through folded marbles,
shell-like,
translucent as the living hands of Queen Galadriel.

There are columns of white and saffron and dawn-rose,
Legolas,
fluted and twisted into dreamlike forms;
they spring up from many-coloured floors to meet the glistening pendants of the roof:
wings,
ropes,
curtains fine as frozen clouds;
spears,
banners,
pinnacles of suspended palaces!

Still lakes mirror them:
a glimmering world looks up from dark pools covered with clear glass;
cities such as the mind of Durin could scarce have imagined in his sleep,
stretch on through avenues and pillared courts,
on into the dark recesses where no light can come.

And plink!
a silver drop falls,
and the round wrinkles in the glass make all the towers bend and waver like weeds and corals in a grotto of the sea.

Then evening comes:
they fade and twinkle out;
the torches pass on into another chamber and another dream.

There is chamber after chamber,
Legolas;
hall opening out of hall,
dome after dome,
stair beyond stair;
and still the winding paths lead on into the mountains' heart.

Caves!

The Caverns of Helm's Deep!

Happy was the chance that drove me there!

It makes me weep to leave them.'

Tolkien does himself proud with this word picture.
It is a famous passage, indeed. I think your blank-verse arrangement suffers from too many one-syllable or one-word lines. They slow down the reading unnecessarily, and cheapen the effect to be had when one word is genuinely enough to merit a line.
VVV. But how likely is it that no dwarves had ever seen the caverns of Helm’s Deep?
Seems likely enough. Tolkien’s Dwarves do not seem to be explorers.


WWW. How likely is it that no one has mined the caverns for the gems and crystals and veins of precious ore that can be seen in the walls?
Very likely. This is a pre-industrial era, in an underpopulated land. It’s not clear just how much gem-grade material there is, either. Gimli is, as they say, somewhat transported.

XXX. How likely is it that gems and crystals and veins of precious ore are all visible in the same cavern?
I’m no expert, but this I would say is a keeper. I don’t think limestone caverns have gems or minerals such as would be found in igneous rock formations. Again, I’m no expert so perhaps such things can happen.

YYY. Does Tolkien go over the top here?
Well, Gimli does. For Tolkien, I’m not sure where “top” was. This one is mostly distinguished for length. Tolkien usually flies shorter flights of verbal fancy.

ZZZ. Is that okay in a fantasy?
Well, sure! It’s okay in poetry as well; and I’ve seen verbal pyrotechnics in modern literature also. The trick is maintaining balance and taste. Part of this passage’s effectiveness is that we are surprised to hear Gimli speak so eloquently and sensitively.

Thoughts on this section.
There is an interesting example of Tolkien’s episodic writing style when he is rearranging the pieces for his next big game. After we read of Erkenbrand’s lecture to the Dunlendings, setting them to work on the burial duties, the next two paragraphs describe the parallel results for the Rohirrim and the orcs: two mounds raised for the Riders plus a solo grave for Hama; and the vast pile of orc-corpses that no one knew what to do with. Finally, we hear Gandalf advising them to wait until the next day before making a decision on the problem.


There is then a break in the text, which in LotR usually signifies a change of scene or a lapse of time. In fact, it takes us to the afternoon of the same day, when Théoden and the others have rested and are preparing to depart. Suddenly time shifts: we find that “the work of burial was then but beginning”, and Théoden presides at the burial of Hama. So… what was the sense of the preceding passage? We now see that the narrator had, quite reasonably given the scale of the work, described the “two mounds were raised” and “a grave alone” from an indefinite future, long after Théoden’s departure. So when, then, did Gandalf advise the burial parties to wait for a day on the orc problem? Before or after the work of collecting and burying the bodies was done? At the point of reading, it certainly felt like after, but now we see that cannot have been right.


The general feeling I get in my mind from reading these two sections is like the wheels of my car suddenly spinning before regaining traction. You ignore it, but wonder what that was.



The part about the road through the huorn-wood has some interesting bits. For one thing, the way only becomes apparent when they approach it. Evidently they are surprised to find it – thus it was not apparent from a distance. Did the trees suddenly move to make the opening, without the Riders perceiving the motion? Even more remarkably, the path or road is open to the sky above. A “golden light” illuminates the way. This sounds a bit like Lothlórien or some place even more blessed; one can practically hear the choir singing. Even though the golden light could reasonably be interpreted as afternoon sunlight, that is not how it reads because of the setting and the contrast with the shadows everywhere else. And finally, regarding our discussion whether everyone can “feel” the hostility in the air, it is very clear here than everybody can hear the hostile voices of the trees. The bit about the throbbing air is just window-dressing on an already highly wrought atmosphere.

Finally, I note that Legolas uses “miserable” to characterize the orcs who disappeared into the forest never to be seen again. That is a remarkably sympathetic word, no matter how it is construed.



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CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 1 2011, 1:50pm

Post #21 of 94 (282 views)
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Great observations [In reply to] Can't Post

Both of these slipped past me.


Quote
The part about the road through the huorn-wood has some interesting bits. For one thing, the way only becomes apparent when they approach it. Evidently they are surprised to find it – thus it was not apparent from a distance. Did the trees suddenly move to make the opening, without the Riders perceiving the motion? Even more remarkably, the path or road is open to the sky above. A “golden light” illuminates the way. This sounds a bit like Lothlórien or some place even more blessed; one can practically hear the choir singing. Even though the golden light could reasonably be interpreted as afternoon sunlight, that is not how it reads because of the setting and the contrast with the shadows everywhere else. And finally, regarding our discussion whether everyone can “feel” the hostility in the air, it is very clear here than everybody can hear the hostile voices of the trees. The bit about the throbbing air is just window-dressing on an already highly wrought atmosphere.

I have always felt that the Huorn wood was dangerous and menacing. I never thought about the path, how it appeared, and how it's illuminated. Maybe it's the Ents herding the Huorns who provide the safe passage, and maybe the golden light is somehow Gandalf's conjuring (though that seems unlikely). Treebeard had those vessels of ent-draught that produced light when he breathed on them, and trees don't exist without light (even dark, scary ones), so maybe there's some Ent/Huorn light ability for this glow. Just wild guesses.



Quote
Finally, I note that Legolas uses “miserable” to characterize the orcs who disappeared into the forest never to be seen again. That is a remarkably sympathetic word, no matter how it is construed.

That's an odd remark for a couple reasons. They were trying to kill him the night before. Maybe this shows the moral superiority of Elves that they can feel a little sympathy for orcs? Yet not very likely. Or he thinks they came to a miserable end even though of all races, Elves are closest to Ents and one would think there was some shared respect/amity between them, so he'd identify with and approve of the Huorn forest and whatever it did and not worry if they made the orcs miserable or not.

But maybe he was just using "miserable" in its other sense, as a simple pejorative, and he thought they got what they deserved. As in, "I hope that miserable jerk who stole my car gets into a nasty wreck with it." There's no sympathy there; quite the reverse.


Darkstone
Immortal


Mar 1 2011, 3:54pm

Post #22 of 94 (330 views)
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This chapter starts out quite formally: “So it was that in the light of a fair morning King Théoden and Gandalf the White Rider met again upon the green grass beside the Deeping-stream. …” Then Gimli appears and immediately compares his kill total to Legolas’s, which changes the tone of the passage. Why does Tolkien start out so formally?

So it will be historically memorable, like featured speaker Edward Everett’s two-hour long oration at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg Pennsylvania, November 19, 1863. I mean, every American remembers what was said on that occasion!


Why does he have Gimli change the tone?

Middle-earth will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.


What is the effect of moving back and forth between formal and less formal passages?

The juxtaposition of the ideal with reality, beauty with brutality. The flowery lofty language is interrupted by the inconvenient evidence of the reality of war. No matter how noble the language you wrap it in, war is all about killing people. One wonders what went through Tolkien’s mind as he listened to the soaring speeches by politicians welcoming the boys home from the trenches.


When Eomer mistakenly credits Gandalf’s wizardry for the appearance of the forest, Gandalf says he has not yet shown that he is mighty in wizardry. We know he means he did not conjure up the forest, but what about earlier events? Does this mean Gandalf’s healing of Theoden involved no wizardry?

It’s an acknowledgement of the different possible interpretations, the healing school versus the exorcism school. (Again with Tolkien teases us with the Balrog Wings Syndrome!)


Or is he only speaking of his role in the battle?

Or Shadowfax’s role.


The Battle of Helm’s Deep is a prelude to the Siege of Minas Tirith. In both cases Gandalf is drawn out of the battle; at Helm’s Deep to round up reinforcements, at Minas Tirith to rescue Faramir and care for the victims of the Black Breath. However, Gandalf seems much more frustrated about it in Minas Tirith, whereas here he seems content with his part, or lack of a part, in the battle. What is the difference?

In both cases he is cleaning up other people’s messes. It’s understandable with Theoden because of his condition, but Denethor should have known better.


This is the riddle Gandalf offers about the Ents. Is Gandalf quoting something, or did he make up this rhyme/riddle on the spot?

A little of both. I bet Gandalf could give Weird Al Jankovic a run for his money.


The reference to the ring sounds spontaneous, rather than quoted, since the Ring is of present concern but was not necessarily of concern in the past. Actually, Treebeard should be older than the moon, if the story of the Two Trees is to be believed. According to that story, Galadriel is older than the moon, and Treebeard is apparently older than Galadriel. However, woe is much older than the ring or the moon or even the mountains. Does any of that matter?

Does the movement of the Magician’s left hand matter in the trick he does with his right? Exactly what is Gandalf doing while he plays "confuse a Rohirrim"?


Should we grant Gandalf/Tolkien poetic license and not nitpick?

Each reader responds according to their own personality.


Throughout this chapter Gandalf will play coy about the Ents and what they have accomplished at Isengard. Why?

The Rohirric reputation of the Ents is still in the process of being rehabilitated.


Shouldn’t Theoden be informed of the Ents’ victory over Saruman?

Don’t be hasty.


Shouldn’t the whole of Rohan be informed by the messengers Theoden sends, so that they no longer need to worry about that particular threat?

Which is worse: Keeping vigilance until the news is verified, or relaxing vigilance until the news is verified?


Is this an instance where Tolkien’s desire to tease and surprise the reader causes Gandalf to be unnecessarily coy?

He’s following the Washington Post rule of two sources before going with a story. Obviously Woodward and Bernstein learned everything they knew from Gandalf..


Or was it just too hard for Gandalf to credibly explain what happened without letting Theoden see for himself?

Why didn’t Gandalf explain to Frodo that Bilbo’s ring was The One Ring way back in chapter one?


Not even one orc remained alive after the battle. That is convenient, but is it credible?

Consider Gyokusai (literally “shattered jade”), also known as a Banzai charge, where Japanese soldiers facing certain defeat would make a suicidal charge en masse to avoid capture and dishonor.


Wouldn’t even one orc surrender?

It took Japanese soldier Teruo Nakamura 29 years, though in fact he was Taiwanese.


And, surrendering, wouldn’t even one orc be captured?

Once a nation’s soldiers get a reputation for not surrendering it often becomes self-fulfilling as the other side assumes any attempt to surrender is a trick and shoots any enemy soldier with their hands up before they can try anything. And when word gets around enemy soldiers know it's futile to try to surrender so they don't. It's kind of a chicken-egg situation.


Did the huorns slaughter the last of the orcs, or did some turn back from the huorns only to be slaughtered by the Rohirrim?

Doesn’t matter. They’re still dead.


Does anyone find this genocidal slaughter disturbing?

Genocide usually is.


Is it any less disturbing because we can blame the orcs themselves for refusing to surrender?

That’s often how society deals with an uncomfortable tragedy: Blame the victim.


Or because the orcs are, after all, monsters?

We are all monsters in some manner to somebody.


Why or why not?

Because.


What would the huorns have done if the Dunlendings had run their way?

“Dunlending: The Other White Meat.”


Would they have distinguished between men and orcs?

I doubt they would make a distinction. Their motto is probably “Two legs bad, root system good.”


Why did the men of Dunland believe Saruman’s claim that the Rohirrim burned their captives alive?

He’d never lied to them before. That they knew.


The Rohirrim were long-time neighbors; didn’t they know perfectly well how the Rohirrim treated captives?

Prisoner: The Black Pearl! I've heard stories. She's been preying on ships and settlements for near ten years. Never leaves any survivors.
Jack Sparrow: No survivors? Then where do the stories come from, I wonder?

Of course, maybe there weren’t any Dunlending survivors to come back and tell stories…


Or is it possible that Saruman’s claims were based on some truth?

The best lies are built on truth.


After all, Helm Hammerhand was a fierce opponent. We know that at one time the Rohirrim hunted the Drúedain for sport. Is it possible that at some point in history the Rohirrim did burn captives alive, perhaps as a form of execution?

Nah. They never used burning alive as execution, only as sport.


Wouldn’t it be like Saruman to base his lies on truth, and to use a history of misunderstandings and sometimes shameful acts against the Rohirrim when inciting the Dunlendings?

He’s got a great future in American politics.


Erkenbrand gives the Dunlendings amnesty. Did he consult with Theoden about this before Theoden went to sleep?

Well he sure couldn’t do it *after* Theoden went to asleep.


Later King Elessar will give the human armies who fought for Sauron similar amnesty. Are they naive?

It’s much more fun hunting free-range Dunlendings.


Is the power of the oath in Middle-earth strong enough that it can be counted upon to bind former enemies?

Of course! Look how sacred oaths were to the Men of the Mountains! (Er, wait…)


Shouldn’t they seek some kind of reparations?

What exactly is the monetary value of a straw hut? Still when the Edoras Public Library burned down both books were lost. And one hadn’t even been colored in!


Was Tolkien indirectly commenting on the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, which demanded heavy reparations from the Germans and therefore may have led to World War II?

Only as applicability, not as allegory.


Is it possible that the mercy of Theoden and King Elessar would also be wise in the Primary World where mere oaths are less likely to bind an opponent?

As US President Ronald Reagan liked to say, “Trust, but verify”, which was an old Russian proverb often quoted by Vladmir Lenin. I haven’t found any Reagan quotes regarding the “opium of the masses” or “debauchery of the currency”, though it would be awfully funny if I did.


Is it also possible that such mercy might be unwise?

US recidivism for murder is either 67% or 42% or whatever number suits you.

Though I’ve often argued that Bilbo’s pity toward’s Gollum cost a lot of babies’ lives.


Is it a risk worth taking?

Supposedly criminal recidivism is closely correlated with psychopathy. As long as an Orc is not psychopathic he should be re-integrated into society but what are the odds?


Or is the mercy shown the humans and the lack of mercy shown the orcs a symptom of the unreality of Middle-earth, where evil is externalized in monsters?

One definition of Mercy defines it as undeserved leniency or compassion.

But in Middle-earth one gets what one deserves…


By showing mercy to humans and no mercy to orcs, does Tolkien have it both ways, giving us violence without guilt next to moralizing about violence?

That’s why the faces of Imperial Stormtroopers are hidden. It’s also the basis of the first law of internet communication: “Anonymity plus internet equals total jerk.”


Do heroic romances need a few guilt-free slaughters?

If you want to identify the story with an historical past, then yes. But modern sensibilities usually conflict with those of eras such as Medieval Europe or Sengoku Japan.


By the end of the story, in the Scouring of the Shire, the ruffians and the half-orcs have become indistinguishable. Do you agree that Tolkien deliberately blurs the distinctions between humans and orcs?

When does a human become unworthy of mercy? When does a human become a monster? Your mileage may vary.


If so, why do you think Tolkien does that, despite the problems it creates?

So people will ask themselves questions like these.


Isn’t he undermining the guilt-free premise of his own monster-driven heroic romance?

Only if you think about it.


Why would he do that?

He’s a professor. Making people think is what he does.


The death of Hama, the captain of Theoden’s guard, gets special attention. We got to know Hama briefly, and he helped Gandalf by allowing him to keep his staff when confronting Wormtongue. But is the death of one minor character and many anonymous characters enough to bring home the tragedy of war?

It depends on how big your personal monkeysphere is.


Or is Tolkien at fault for allowing so many of his major characters to survive?

It could happen. It depends on your position. If you’re at the top looking down you don’t see many Generals or Colonels getting killed. If you’re at the bottom, however, all you see are mounds and mounds of dead Privates.


Does he glorify war by doing so?

Not if the reader thinks.


Or does he clearly distinguish this war fantasy from war in the Primary World?

Nope. That’s why it’s applicable.


How can the survival of so many major characters be justified, either by the internal rules of Tolkien’s fantasy (were they protected by Higher Powers?) or by artistic license (is it okay for Tolkien to follow the artificial rules of the genre?).

Most of them are of the ruling upper class. Those types don’t tend to get killed in war. (But revolutions can wipe them right out.)


Two mounds for the Rohirrim, a separate grave for Hama, and, for now, the orcs left in vast heaps. Did I miss something?

The Big Blue Dragon?


What happened to the bodies of the Dunlendings?

Huorn mulch.


Why doesn’t Tolkien say what happened to them?

Sometimes Tolkien gets a bit prissy.


Is this a sixth sense available only to elves and wizards, or something humans might experience, although perhaps in a different context?

We are Elves and Wizards. Unfortunately we are also Orcs and Ogres.


Have you felt the tension in the air?

Especially when everyone at the dinner table is eyeing the last pork chop.


Has it made you sweat, made you feel hot and bothered?

It’s a lot like being in love.


Has such tension ever caused the air to throb in your ears (or possibly, caused your heart to pound, which feels like a throbbing in your ears)?

Even worse I suffered a myocardial infarction, which sounds awfully funny, but it isn’t.


How do we sense tension or wrath before anyone has erupted in anger?

Because somewhere deep in our unconscious we know that something’s going to hit the fan but our conscious is trying to lie to itself that everything is okay. It might also have something to do with the overlapping of people's Kirilian auras but I doubt it.


Does the air really change, or do we feel like it does because of the human body’s internal reaction to tension and stress?

It depends if there are deadly weapons involved.


Would someone who cannot read human emotions and knows nothing of the situation feel the air change?

Dogs are good at this.


If Legolas and Gandalf hadn’t said anything, would Gimli and the men have sensed anything?

Sure, but Dwarves and Men tend to ignore their feelings. Elves and Wizards are more touchy-feely which is why they are more likely to get hit with sexual harassment suits.


Is Legolas describing a real change in the air, or his own physical reaction to the emotions of the huorns, which he can read and of which Gandalf is already aware?

Besides pheromones that say “Your place or mine?” there are also pheromones that say “Everybody run like a rabbit!!”


Why does Tolkien describe Legolas’s reaction in terms we can almost recognize from our own experiences?

Because Elves aren’t Vulcans.


Did Tolkien imagine that trees could feel anger in the Primary World, and that he could almost sense such anger?

Supposedly heads of lettuce scream as they are picked. So the heads of lettuce in the last row are pretty well freaked out by the time you get around to them.


Or am I making too much of this?

There are no such things as stupid questions, only stupid answers, which I provide in abundance.


What could have become of the orcs who fled into the woods other than burial?

Maybe they suffered the horrible fate of Boba Fett who was digested alive over thousands of years after he fell into the sarlacc. Or maybe huorn spawned face-huggers implanted alien embryos in their chests to hatch and eat their way out. Or maybe the huorns realized the Orcs were just misunderstood creatures of nature whose true home was in the beautiful forest and so they allowed the Orcs to frolic carefree in their branches for the rest of their happy happy lives. (I really wouldn’t count on that last one.)


Could they have been eaten?

If you consider slowly being dissolved over time by a plant’s digestive juices as being eaten, then yes.


Other ideas?

The final stage of Elf devolution: Sindar >>> Orcs >>> Keebler Elves.


What is Tolkien implying might have happened?

The Huorns and the Orcs are One. At least until excretion.


Are the huorns good?

At what?


Or are they neutral or even potentially evil forces, like the trees in the Old Forest, who have aligned with the good guys only because they hate the orcs?

As the Even-Starr Commonwealth Creed states, “There is no such thing as bad trees, only bad tree herders”.


Does that explain their lack of mercy towards the orcs?

“The quality of mercy is not strain'd, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath”, but you know how trees quickly suck up moisture.


Does it make it somehow more palatable than if the Rohirrim had conducted the slaughter?

Sure.


Why or why not?

The cold-blooded murder of a bad guy makes you just as bad as them, but “cold-sappy murder” just sounds silly.


Tolkien does himself proud with this word picture. But how likely is it that no dwarves had ever seen the caverns of Helm’s Deep?

There used to be a sign at the entrance that said “You must be this tall to enter”.


How likely is it that no one has mined the caverns for the gems and crystals and veins of precious ore that can be seen in the walls?

Supposedly Gondorian business interests restricted mining in order to artificially inflate the value of gems and crystals.


How likely is it that gems and crystals and veins of precious ore are all visible in the same cavern?

If I remember ore genesis aright it’s highly unlikely that both would be present in the same geological formation.

Also gems in the wild are not really that impressive. They only scintillate after they’re cut so the gems in the walls shouldn’t be sparkling unless the Rohirrim are pulling a con game on the Dwarves by salting the mine.


Does Tolkien go over the top here?

He only went over the top at the Somme.


Is that okay in a fantasy?

Fantastic events are why you’re reading fantasy.


I love the image of an underground pond as smooth as glass disturbed by a small drop of water which makes the reflection wrinkle. But how much time did Gimli have to explore “‘chamber after chamber ... hall opening out of hall, dome after dome, stair beyond stair’”?

Depends on how fast he is. Dwarves are natural sprinters.


Wasn’t he fighting the orcs?

He was. After he found them searching chamber after chamber, etc.


Why did Gimli save his comments until now?

Dwarves, like Ents and Mr. Ed, only speak when they have something to say.


Doesn’t this sudden change of subject seem out of place?

Precisely. Along with the sudden change of place. This means something.


I know it sets up the agreement between Legolas and Gimli to visit both the caverns and Fangorn, but does it seem forced?

All actions and events in a novel are forced because all writing is choosing.


When Gimli and his fellow dwarves move in to the caverns of Helm’s Deep after the war, how do they earn a living?

Dwarves are natural entrepreneurs. Two Dwarves could settle down in a deep dark cavern and make fortunes selling each other rocks. I bet both could also raise happy families and send the kids to Harvard.


By giving tours?

Every Tuesday and Thursday during summer holiday.


Doesn’t that seem unlikely?

Just as unlikely as Dwarves existing in the first place.


Gimli claims that he is not unique,…

He is the modest-est Dwarf that ever lived.


..that “‘[n]o dwarf could be unmoved by such loveliness,’” and that “‘[n]one of Durin's race would mine those caves for stones or ore.’” But doesn’t Gimli seem different from the bumbling, pompous, greedy dwarves of The Hobbit; the sometimes sinister, greedy dwarves of The Silmarillion; or the unwise, greedy dwarves in LotR who dug too deep in Moria, and then, under Balin’s leadership, returned too soon?

There is only One True Dwarf and his name is Gimli.


Is this a side of dwarves that was for some reason hidden in The Silmarillion and The Hobbit?

It wouldn’t be if Gimli had been featured in them.


Or is Gimli more unusual than he realizes?

Show me any other Dwarf that single handed could bring peace between the Elves and Dwarves, defeat Durin’s Bane, lift Moria’s Curse, avenge the taking of the Seven, bring peace to the spirit of Thorin II, found and grow a thriving Dwarven colony within his own lifetime, and act as a New Prometheus to the Men of Middle-earth, all the while keeping the Ringbearer safe by creating various diversions. He no doubt could have also seduced Galadriel away from Celeborn but he was just too noble.


After all, how many dwarves befriend elves like Gimli does?

Even Elves want to be members of The Dwarf’s posse.


Is this Galadriel’s blessing of Gimli at work, i.e., “‘... your hands will flow with gold, and yet over you gold will have no dominion’”?

The Wisdom of The Dwarf: Wealth is but a tool, not an end of itself.


Is Tolkien attempting to rehabilitate the stereotype of dwarves he himself created?

It’s only the truth. Gimli is just that Awesome.


Or is he highlighting how Gimli differs from other dwarves, as Galadriel predicted?

Gimli is Chuck Norris’s role model.


Why did the ents ignore Gandalf and Theoden and his party at Helm's Deep?

Neither have sent the Ents any Christmas Cards for a terrible long count of years.


Why did Gandalf tell Legolas not to speak with the ents?

Spite. But such happens even with the best of us.


Is it a good thing that the Rohirrim scattered when attacked at the Fords?

Sure.


Was it a deliberate strategy?

The number one strategy for Personal Security is a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation.


If so, why didn’t they have a rendezvous point already selected?

Pre-planned rally points are good ideas until they are overrun by the enemy.


Why didn’t they continue to harass Saruman’s army

Probably no officers to get them killed, er, that is, to lead them. Non-coms are more concerned with getting their men to safety.


If it wasn’t deliberate, what does it say about their discipline?

High brittleness.


Why didn’t they scatter at Helm’s Deep?

Nowhere to run.


How did Gandalf persuade the Rohirrim to follow his orders?

Probably left notes under the mantle clocks of their huts.


Weren’t they still under the impression that Wormtongue was in charge and Gandalf was an unwelcome outsider?

It’s known as choosing the lesser of two evils, and Gandalf wins that contest hands down.


Isengard is yet another Middle-earth fortress built beneath higher ground which an enemy could capture. In this case the enemy also captured the source of the water flowing through Isengard, and used it to flood the valley. Isn’t it basic strategy to capture the high ground, and to build fortresses on the highest ground available, so that the enemy has to attack from below?

That’s exactly why the fortress of Orel was taken over and over.

But then, Isengard is only an ad hoc fortress, just as Minas Tirith is only an ad hoc capital.


Why does Tolkien insist on placing his fortresses beside mountains that offer an enemy a wonderful place to attack from above?

He has the military savvy of Ivan the Terrible?


Why do the enemies, for the most part, ignore this advantage?

I’d say the difficulty of command control, especially when your troops are bloodthirsty undisciplined savages. You want your troops kept nearby in neat little controllable packets even though that way they make excellent targets. You give such a unit autonomy they’re liable to end up a dozen miles in the opposite direction. Drunk.


Are there other flaws in the design of Isengard and Orthanc? Why, for example, create such a large perimeter wall, that could only be defended by thousands of soldiers?

It depends. Long seemingly indefensible walls are usually meant to be used as anvils to the army’s hammer. That is, pin the enemy against the wall and kill them when they can’t retreat.


Maybe more later.

******************************************
Pippin: "When you guys fall in the forest, does it make a sound?"
Bregalad: "Are you kidding? Scott fell last week and he hasn't shut up about it since!"


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 1 2011, 4:17pm

Post #23 of 94 (337 views)
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You crack me up! [In reply to] Can't Post

But then you also educate me about the fortress of Orel and Ivan the Terrible.

I'll say more later, I hope.


Aunt Dora Baggins
Half-elven


Mar 1 2011, 5:38pm

Post #24 of 94 (289 views)
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All right, I have to get back to work, [In reply to] Can't Post

but reading this post was a lot more fun. Notes under the mantle clocks! :-D

I think you'd better help yourself to some cookies, Darkstone. You deserve a whole plateful.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




sador
Half-elven


Mar 1 2011, 5:47pm

Post #25 of 94 (320 views)
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Comments on the chapter's summary [In reply to] Can't Post

I’ve decided to pose my questions in one long post, rather than breaking it up into installments. Feel free to response in installments
Thank you, I will. I just wonder how many parts will it take?

It turns out that you have less questions on the second part of the chapter - the actual Road to Isengard. Rather than following the order of the chapter, I will start with those parts of your summary on which you have hardly asked.


After four hours of easy riding under a nearly-full moon,
This is really surprising. Has Gandalf forgotten his own warning about security? Is he sure that there are no stray Orcs around? There sure are wolves. Even if a parley with Saruman is needed, what of the missing link between him and Mordor?

they reach the Fords, and find that the river has dried up.
Doesn't the Road follow the Deeping stream? Wouldn't that be the natural way, and if so, does the lower part of Isen flow?
Or did the trees block the way and open a different one? That would surely be suspicious!

They wonder about it, but Gandalf does not explain.
Does he know? I somehow remember that the second flooding was his idea, wasn't it?

They hear wolves and Theoden worries that they are devouring his dead riders.
I wonder what the fords looked like, and consequently, how the wolves crossed the river. Does this seem passable to wolves? Or was the location chosen wrong? Or were the wolves sent East of the river, through a less easy terrain but avoiding the Fords?

Gandalf shows him that his men have been buried on an eyot (small island) in the middle of the Fords.
Which doesn't really negate the possibility that some were indeed devoured.

He explains that more men were scattered than slain in the battles of the Fords, and that he had set some to make this burial, and then on to Edoras to defend Theoden’s home.
You've asked about this, so I'll answer next time.

As they get closer to Isengard they see clouds of steam above the Wizard’s Vale.

Are these visible from afar by moonlight?

They halt and make camp at midnight.
Which is when a waxing moon usually sets, isn't it?

Meanwhile, in the night the huorns leave Helm’s Deep and in the early morning, before sunrise, the huorns pass Theoden and his party on either side of their camp. Theoden's party can see little, as the huorns are hidden in gloom.
And no moon (unless I was wrong in my pervious comment, which is quite likely).

Later that same night there is a rush of water and the river Isen flows again.
Surprising from Treebeard. One would think he would stop the flooding at daylight.

Or do you think this was done to make the place more suitable for receiving such eminent visitors?

Back at Helm’s Deep the huorns left behind the Death Down, on which no grass will ever grow and no man will ever step, which apparently covers the slain orcs -- although no one knows if that includes the orcs who had fled into the wood.
There will be another such mound, on the Pelennor Fields. But I wonder how come there are no such accursed spots from previous wars - or if there are, why do we always miss them?

In the morning Theoden's party approaches Isengard through a heavy mist with growing dread, as the narrator describes the ring-wall of stone in the shelter of the mountain-side which Saruman had filled with barracks and shafts, and the roads leading to Orthanc, the citadel of Saruman in the center of the vale.
Somehow this sentence reads less well than your usual brilliance. Is Tolkien doing a voiceover?

The narrator contrasts what Isengard used to be to what Saruman had created, and tells us that Saruman was deceived, for all his so-called improvements produced only a little, laughable copy of Mordor and Barad-dur.
Was Mordor a little copy of Angband? Angband of Utumno? Where either of these laughable?

I must say that to make all those changes in Isengard, on the backdoor of Gondor and Rohan, with less manpower at a short time, and secretly - is no mean feat.

As they come near to the doors of Isengard the mist finally clears, and they see that the doors, the tunnel, and the entire wall are in ruins, and that the ring beyond is filled with steaming water filled with floating wreckage.
Why is the water steaming?

Orthanc stands in the center unbroken, but surrounded by water.
Like Tol Morwen?

Suddenly they became aware of two small figures near them, lying on the ruins of the gate at their ease, with bottles and bowls and platters laid beside them, one asleep, the other smoking.

Quote
Ho! Ho! Ho! To the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe
Rain may fall, and wind may blow
And many miles be still to go
But under a tall tree will i lie
And let the clouds go sailing by

For "tree" insert "tower".

These of course are Merry and Pippin, and Merry, who was awake but apparently not very alert,
Merry is one of my favourite characters. But I am afraid you are right.

finally notices the visitors and springs up to give his greeting to Theoden and the Rohirrim. He ignores his friends, but Gandalf pries out the name of Treebeard, while Gimli erupts with (mock?) rage and genuine joy.
You've asked about that, so I'll answer later.

The Rohirrim laugh at this meeting of old friends.
It is probably nice to see that the stout orc-slayer with the terrifying axe has got a human, even child-like side to him.

Theoden reveals that he has heard of hobbits, but knows no stories about them.
I still wonder about their changing their voice to resempble the piping of birds. Why couldn't Bilbo preform an owl-screech in Roast Mutton? Or at least suggest a different call?

He asks about the smoking, and Merry begins a dissertation on the subject before Gandalf interrupts him and asks where to find Treebeard.
The best part is how Merry manages to shift the blame for the digression to Theoden's shoulders.

Merry directs him and the King to the northern wall, and assures them that they will find food there selected by the hobbits.
But he doesn't tell them they will have only water to drink! Good one!

Theoden bids farewell to the hobbits, and Pippin pronounces the King “‘A fine old fellow. Very polite.'”
Probably yawning before saying that, and hiccuping after.


"Let me think!" - Aragorn.

The weekly discussion of The Lord of the Rings is back! Please join us in the Reading Room for Book III.

"Eomer says there’s always smoke above that valley. However, he’s never seen anything like this, and these are steams, not smoke. He suggests Saruman is boiling the Isen (Again, Gandalf suggests he’s right…wow, he really likes messing with people!)."
- Milady.


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