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Tolkien's universe as solid and consistent/inconsistent, and his writing process
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Apr 7 2013, 3:08pm

Post #51 of 57 (522 views)
Those safest with the Ring are those who know their limits [In reply to] Can't Post

Those safest with the Ring are those who know their limits: the Hobbits (naturally humble), Gandalf (with a wobbly moment at Bag End) and Faramir. Movie-Aragorn is also much concerned with his weaknesses, book-Aragorn less so, I think (always intends to go to Gondor, until he's left leading the Fellowship after Moria and has a higher responsibility for a time)

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....


Apr 7 2013, 4:52pm

Post #52 of 57 (574 views)
The wimpy Black Riders [In reply to] Can't Post

The Black Riders might be a good example for the growth of Tolkiens story causing him some consistency difficulties. In Unfinished Tales, there's a chapter ( The Hunt for the Ring) where he tries to address some of the problems, but digs himself deeper in, I think.

In The Hunt we learn that Sauron has a problem once he has interrogated Gollum: his enquiries about Shire and Baggins are foiled by the Rangers, and also by Sauron's counter-espionage. Additionally, there would be a problem that any agent sent to get the Ring would be corrupted by it and try to keep it. Save one:

At length he resolved that no others would serve him in this case but his mightiest servants, the Ringwraiths, who had no will but his own, being utterly subservient to the ring that had enslaved him, which Sauron held.

Now few could withstand even one of these fell creatures, and (as Sauron deemed) none could withstand them when gathered together under their terrible captain, The Lord of Morgul. Yet this weakness they had for Sauron's present purpose: so great was the terror that went with them (even invisible and unclad) that their coming forth might soon be perceived and their mission be guessed by the Wise.

But Sauron's analysis seems faulty at several points:

Saruman alone seems to have noticed the Nazgul are at large, and he of course uses that to his own ends. The other Wise seem to be surprised, and need to be alerted by Gildor.

The Riders can engage hobbits in conversation without inducing complete terror: Gaffer Gamgee or Farmer Maggot find them alarming and unpleasant, but not terrible.

Four frightened new-to-this hobbits and a Ranger withstand several of these fell creatures at Weathertop, and one frightened Bolger hobbit gives them the slip at Crickhollow.

For creatures utterly enslaved to Sauron's will, the Black Riders seem disappointingly unwilling to pile in. Why not drive everyone out if Bree in shrieking terror, then ride the hobbits down? Why not press the attack after Weathertop? True, the Riders have discovered that the hobbits have some of the few weapons that could actually harm a wraith. But You'd expect Sauron to get them to attack anyway and take casualties if necessary, and for them to be too utterly enslaved to resist. Having the Ring brought home by the last surviving Nazgul would be an acceptable piece of military arithmetic, you'd think.

I wonder whether the Nazgul grew in the telling, leaving Tolkien with some misdirection to do to cover up their earlier failings (Long Leagues of Eriador etc..,)

And I wonder whether he found he liked the "fear cuts deeper than swords" theme he was getting? The Nazgul are only fearsome by your consent in some way. So the folk-wise but bucolic hobbit gaffers don't see it, and the resolute (Aragorn, Frodo, Faramir, Merry, Eowyn, even "Fatty" Bolger) can feel the fear and fight them anyway. If you dare defy something that though itself safe from defiance, it can be surprised, confused and weakened. Does that not sound like a very Tolkienish theme?

(PS the "wimpy Black Riders" title is in homage to Curious' 2010 discussion of A Knife in the Dark http://newboards.theonering.net/forum/gforum/perl/gforum.cgi?do=post_view_printable;post=274928
It's a great discussion, and the one that first brought mr to TORNet)

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....


Apr 7 2013, 8:16pm

Post #53 of 57 (521 views)
Generally, I see the Weathertop episode as a flaw [In reply to] Can't Post

And I grumble about it, because it's such an important event in the story, but it doesn't stand up to scrutiny, or even Brethil's affectionate scrutiny.

One wimpy excuse I can come up with for their wimpiness is that they were not all assembled to attack Frodo as they were when they besieged Gandalf on Weathertop. If you think of basic bully behavior, bullies are weakest when few in number and without others to do their dirty work for them, and they often bully others to hide the fear inside themselves. So, the Black Riders didn't have their whole gang together and were afraid of the Barrow swords, so they lost their nerve as bullies do. But see, there again the excuse fails, because they still come off as wimps. I'm back to thinking this is weak spot in the story and I wish Gwaihir had showed up to drive off the Nazgul--Deus Ex Machina sorely needed to save the plot at this point.

BTW, reading that post from years back makes me ask: Curious, are you still with us? Lurking, perhaps? I sure miss all your bullet-proof conclusions and hope you're doing well.

(This post was edited by CuriousG on Apr 7 2013, 8:20pm)


Apr 8 2013, 12:00am

Post #54 of 57 (512 views)
Yeah it does so stand up to scrutiny, Tolkien explains it in length. The following paraphrases as the books are not handy to my location, I will have to start taking them everywhere with me. [In reply to] Can't Post

They recognised Aragorn was a person of power although they did not know who he was. The whole Aragorn is only a man/ranger (Tolkein says the Nazgul thought he was "just a Ranger") argument that some put up is a bit of a straw man and ignores the fact that Tolkien wrote in the appendices he was the greatest man of his time. Of consideration too is Unfinished Tales-Gladden Fields footnotes, Aragorn more than any of his forefathers as noted by Elrond who recalled them, was like Elendur and his grandsire Elendil the Tall. Both mighty men, majestic and humble with it too. Think of the way the Mouth of Sauron could not withstand his gaze or the flickering crown Legolas sees on Aragorns brow when he declares himself on the plains of Rohan to Eomer and Co. it is a hint at his hidden power, the inheritance of his Numenorean bloodline. In short...do not fuss with Aragorn.

There are the aforementioned Barrow blades which the Nazgul feared.

The name of Elbereth that Frodo cried was a terror to the Nazgul. Frodo defied them whereas they did not think this would happen at all/to this extent. They knew nothing of the "slow kindled courage" that is naturally within all Hobbits, sometimes well buried under too many pies.

The Nazgul retained the abilities of their life (martial prowess as an example) and clearly the Witch King at least had sorcerous ability, but they had no special physical powers apart from the unreasoning fear they created, but on the fearless or those who overcame the fear this becomes irrelevant. The Witch King is noted as having greater demonic force by the time of the Battle of the Pelennor Field due to Saurons influence/power increasing.

Finally and possibly most relevant they did not not feel the need to overcome them that night on Weathertop as they thought the Morgul wound would do its work, but due to their unfamiliarity with Hobbits they did not realise that Frodo's resistance to it would be so great.

So in conclusion.

1) The Nazgul are not weak at Weathertop, they make a certain tactical decison based on how the situation unfolds.
2) Aragorn is awesome.
3) Hobbits are brave and resistant to a greater extent than the enemy knows.
4) The Witch King is a slow learner and/or arrogant and only realises this when Merry helps deal to him in front of Minas Tirith.

(This post was edited by ElendilTheShort on Apr 8 2013, 12:03am)


Apr 8 2013, 9:45am

Post #55 of 57 (559 views)
Aragorn's role at Weathertop is very interesting. [In reply to] Can't Post

Aragorn's role at Weathertop is very interesting. As a character he is on a slow-burn transformation from the bedraggled Strider (as first encountered in Bree) to King Elessar. ElendilTheShort is of course right - he's the greatest man of his age. But we don't see that yet (and only catch glimpses of it for a while yet)

Movie-Aragorn drives off the Nazgul with an heroic sword fight. But book-Aragorn's involvement in the fight at Weathertop is seen only sketchily by the audience. Our point of view is a fainting, wounded Frodo, seeing Aragorn arriving with fire-brands after Frodo has been wounded. Then we learn a little more from what the others tell him once he comes round. Aragorn's performance is such that Sam's suspicions of him re-awaken for a time (he draws his sword and stands over Frodo's body when Aragorn approaches). What we really don't get is a sort of heroic heir-of Elendil moment (e.g. a shining white figure driving the Nazgul away, similar to Frodo's glimpse of Glorfindel in Frodo's last moments of consciousness at the Ford).

Several things may be going on - the hobbits (and the audience) are slowly building our trust in Aragorn & our knowledge of his capabilities. Tolkien may have decided against revealing too much too soon. Also, I know that in early drafts, Aragorn was Trotter, a hobbit-adventurer. I don't know (someone will Smile ) whether the Weathertop scene was originally written with Trotter and then changed to Aragorn: if so, some aspect of Trotter might perhaps be still clinging to Aragorn at this point.

The whole episode was very well analyzed for plotholes and puzzles and their solutions in that 2010 thread - I realise that the link I posted earlier was for a print view Blush: here's a more user-friendly link.

My conclusions are that Tolkien goes out of his way to force the hobbits and Aragorn into a confrontation with the Black Riders (it's a bit questionable as to whether 'tis a good idea for them to go to Weathertop anyway). Then he seems to go out of his way to leave them unaided, for a suspenseful, long period of creepy persuit (Ch 12). No Gandalf arriving dramatically with thunderbolts, as he does to rescue Bilbo and the Dwarves from the Goblin King in the Hobbit. (Gandalf, of course, is on a makeover of his own - more powerful and serious a figure in the LOTR than in the Hobbit.)
No early arrival of Glorfindel or some other powerful figure to re-enforce Aragorn, then evacuate a wounded Frodo in something like the movie's equestrian rescue.
No Eagles (though I am at least a bit thankful for that.)

Indeed, Tolkien has Gandalf reason that he's more valuable leading some of the Black Riders away than finding Frodo and withstanding them. Tolkien also sends Gandalf off into the rough country and loses him there (a little lame, IMHO:at what other time does Gandalf ever get lost?). It's as if he especially does not want help to arrive from the expected quarters, and definitely not until the last moment.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....


Apr 8 2013, 5:31pm

Post #56 of 57 (460 views)
Reread my Faramir again... [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To
Those safest with the Ring are those who know their limits: the Hobbits (naturally humble), Gandalf (with a wobbly moment at Bag End) and Faramir. Movie-Aragorn is also much concerned with his weaknesses, book-Aragorn less so, I think (always intends to go to Gondor, until he's left leading the Fellowship after Moria and has a higher responsibility for a time)

I see Olorin knowing his limitations (and having divine insight into his own fears, which he chooses to face) and I see Hobbits not wanting dominion. Aragorn has the warning of Isildur to keep as watchman to his heart. Rereading Faramir still gives me the feeling that if anything he is fatalistic, comparing his people to a springless autumn and fearing that even the Sword of Elendil will only put off the dark days for a short while. So not sure if I see the knowing limitations parallel so much as honorably anticipating the end of all he loves, as bit different than the other examples.

Hell hath no fury like a Dragon who is missing a cup.


Apr 8 2013, 6:43pm

Post #57 of 57 (500 views)
And what makes absolutely no sense [In reply to] Can't Post

is Gandalf letting go of his horse and heading to Rivendell on foot. He should have ridden directly to Rivendell to get help and return with it to both look for Frodo and hold off the Black Riders. Which is exactly what Elrond did when he got the message from Gildor. It is a contrived plot point to give them, as you say, a suspenseful, long period of creepy pursuit, which leads to a nice climax at the Ford of Bruinen. Even on my first read as a kid, Gandalf's story didn't make sense to me. But I'll add that I enjoyed the long, creepy pursuit and the climax at the Ford. (Hey, there should have been Eagles at the Ford, too...)

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