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Gandalf's geo-politic outllook

Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Oct 25 2013, 11:03pm

Post #1 of 5 (374 views)
Gandalf's geo-politic outllook Can't Post

Slightly a strange title to a thread, I suppose, but I can't think of a better one for this topic! But I have noticed that Gandalf's opinion of the military struggle against Sauron seems to change in the trilogy. When he is with Frodo in the shadow of the past, he tells Frodo that the West will be very hard put to it, against Sauron. But he does not say that the struggle would be hopeless. Now compare this to what he says to the Captains in the last debate. He says that the struggle against Sauron without the destruction of the Ring is without final hope and that they can only hope to withstand siege after siege unless the One Ring is destroyed.
So, why has Gandalf's opinion seemingly changed? Is it the change from been the grey to the white? Has he gained more knowledge of the strength of Sauron? Or was he counting on Saruman's forces, thinking of Saruman as a friend when he was talking to Frodo. Did Saruman have that much strength?


Oct 26 2013, 12:39am

Post #2 of 5 (218 views)
The story, though not in Gandalf's voice, changes its mind as soon as the Council of Elrond [In reply to] Can't Post

[said Galdor] '...What power still remains lies with us, here in Imladris, or with Cirdan at the Havens, or in Lórien. But have they the strength, have we here the strength to withstand the Enemy, the coming of Sauron at the last, when all else is overthrown?’
‘I have not the strength,’ said Elrond; ‘neither have they.’

[said Galdor.] '...Only the waning might of Gondor stands now between him and a march in power along the coasts into the North; and if he comes, assailing the White Towers and the Havens, hereafter the Elves may have no escape from the lengthening shadows of Middle-earth.’ (both from LotR II.2)

I agree that in Bag End, Gandalf seems to offer some slight hope of resistance to the Dark Lord, barring his recovery of the Ring. But - if I may step outside the story - that is the earliest of the author's attempts to define Sauron's power, both with and without the Ring. Later, to justify the desperate move of trying to destroy the Ring rather than hide it, he ups the ante by saying that Sauron can, yes, destroy the West even without it. Therefore, the mission to Mordor becomes the only feasible choice. I suggest that Tolkien simply didn't think the difference between I.2 and II.2 was large enough to justify further rewriting.

I like your guess that Saruman's treachery is the key to the change in the Wise's analysis of the strategic problem, but I don't think that makes as much sense as the above idea: that the change is driven by the need to create the Quest of Mount Doom.

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

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Oct 26 2013, 4:59am

Post #3 of 5 (228 views)
The more he learns, the worse it gets. [In reply to] Can't Post

As you note, in the early scenes Gandalf still thinks of Saruman as an ally. By the time of the Council of Elrond, he's learned the harsh truth (as has the author, as squire notes). But there are also tough lessons about the strength of Gondor and its allies both on the coast and in Rohan. As the quest proceeds, things go from bad to worse: Gondor's military leader is killed, and Rohan barely survives a bruising battle, with massive casualties. By the time the Battle of the Pelennor Fields is over, the West is surviving by a hair, so Gandalf's bleak assessment in the Last Debate is informed by a lot of rough experience.


Oct 28 2013, 12:38pm

Post #4 of 5 (166 views)
"Hope" over time [In reply to] Can't Post

There was Denethor's short-term despair, which Gandalf seemed to echo, that Sauron was mobilizing enough armies to pummel Gondor that they would be worn down eventually. But even if a new Last Alliance emerged from the mists and stormed Mordor and drove Sauron into that mysterious vacation home he has Back East, he'd be back again in a few centuries.

I think that's one possible way of interpreting Gandalf's geopolitical view. You can beat down Sauron repeatedly, but as long as the Ring exists, you have no hope of beating him forever, hence they had to take advantage of the situation and make a final end of it, whatever the risk and cost.

Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Oct 31 2013, 12:49am

Post #5 of 5 (138 views)
It is interesting [In reply to] Can't Post

Looking at what Gandalf says to various people at different times. When he first re-appears as Gandalf the White, he gives an account of the state of Global affairs to Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas and in various chapters he seems to return to his theme with he climax of his strategy coming in the last debate.


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