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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Tolkien at UVM - 2012 summer - week 3 - army of the dead

bglenney_uvm
The Shire

Jul 21 2012, 3:48pm

Post #1 of 6 (296 views)
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Tolkien at UVM - 2012 summer - week 3 - army of the dead Can't Post

When the Heir of Isildur summons the spirits of the Dead at the Stone of Erech, a pact is made: if they help Aragorn rid "this land" of the servants of the Enemy, he will consider their oath fulfilled. "This land" seems to have meant the southern (coastal) lands of Gondor around the Anduin's delta, and the Shadow Host, as they're called, helps Aragorn defeat the army of Southrons even as they are preparing to embark in their black fleet up the Anduin.

Question: Could Aragorn have used the words "this land" to mean Gondor (or even Middle-earth) and kept this army of the dead in his service not only in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields but also in his march on the Morannon. In fact, why doesn't he lead this army against Sauron's forces in Mordor? Is it merely that they owed Isildur's Heir service in one battle, or might Sauron have wrested control of them away from Aragorn in his own realm?


Elizabeth
Valinor


Jul 21 2012, 6:06pm

Post #2 of 6 (111 views)
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They did what Aragorn needed. [In reply to] Can't Post

Their effect was mainly to terrify the enemy such that they fled, lept into the water and drowned, or surrendered. I'm not sure how effective the Dead would have been as fighters. Nor is it clear whether they would be as effective in terrorizing the orcs and other non-humans surrounding Minas Tirith.

Aragorn needed the ships and the assistance of the fighters who were otherwise engaged in defending their land from the enemy, and he needed to get them to the Pelennor fast. I believe he considered the Dead's work done and dismissed them so he could get on with his task. Whether he could have kept them on longer is unclear; it was his choice not to.






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Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


Mim
The Shire

Jul 21 2012, 10:13pm

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Aragorn keeps his promises. [In reply to] Can't Post

I think the implication is that of Aragorn were to hold them longer, keep them in his service beyond what the ghost army believe to be their oath then he would not be a just king. I think of his releasing them a one of the first tests of Aragorn as a king making big decisions on, essentially, foreign policy. The ghost army are redeeming themselves for help promised in one battle, were Aragorn to press them into any more service he wouldn't be such a good king.


Curious
Half-elven


Jul 22 2012, 3:07am

Post #4 of 6 (99 views)
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First of all, the Shadow Host broke their oath [In reply to] Can't Post

by failing to show up for one battle, so it is appropriate that one battle will redeem them. Second, they are most effective against humans. Against the Nazgul, not only would they have been less effective, but it is quite possible the Witch-king would have wrestled control from Aragorn.


Felagund
Lorien


Jul 23 2012, 7:16pm

Post #5 of 6 (89 views)
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easy prey for the Necromancer [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree, taking the Army of the Dead to Mordor would have been folly (not to mention stretching the oath to breaking point). Power over the world of shades was a Sauron speciality, and he'd been in the business a long time - note his summoning of the shade of Eilinel back in the First Age. Aragorn would have been just a junior 'necromancer', up against The Necromancer himself. Anyway, I suspect Gandalf would have counselled against Aragorn going to Mordor with the Dead.

Another practical reason not to take the Army of the Dead any further than Pelargir - I'm not sure the soldiers of Gondor and Rohan would have been so keen to follow Aragorn in the company of wraiths. When Aragorn arrives at Linhir with his Shadow Host "defenders and foes alike gave up the battle and fled". In fact, apart from Angbor of Lamedon, none of the Men of Gondor are brave enough to rally to Aragorn until after the Army of the Dead is dismissed.

Welcome to the Mordorfone network, where we put the 'hai' back into Uruk


CuriousG
Valinor


Jul 24 2012, 5:19pm

Post #6 of 6 (181 views)
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I think you nailed the answer [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Another practical reason not to take the Army of the Dead any further than Pelargir - I'm not sure the soldiers of Gondor and Rohan would have been so keen to follow Aragorn in the company of wraiths. When Aragorn arrives at Linhir with his Shadow Host "defenders and foes alike gave up the battle and fled". In fact, apart from Angbor of Lamedon, none of the Men of Gondor are brave enough to rally to Aragorn until after the Army of the Dead is dismissed.

I would add that if someone saw the movie first, they might perceive (as a friend of mine does) the Army of the Dead as a sort of super-army: excellent in combat, and they couldn't be killed, so the perfect army to wipe away Sauron's armies not just from Minas Tirith, but everywhere, right? But the movie didn't show the men of Minas Tirith running in terror in the opposite direction that the orcs ran--or even running alongside them!--which is what would have really happened, if we're to judge from what happened in the south.

A smaller issue would be that the Army of the Dead is a corrupt thing. Not as bad as the Ring, but still corrupt, and just as using the Ring for good is a doomed effort, maybe trying to use the Dead for good would have eventually backfired also.

 
 

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