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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Gandalf vs. the Witch-king


Oct 30 2013, 10:01pm

Post #1 of 6 (525 views)
Gandalf vs. the Witch-king Can't Post

I've been listening to the audiobook and just got through the Battle of the Pelennor fields and the destruction of the Witch-king by Eowyn and Merry.

On a couple of occasions, Gandalf remarks that he should have been out on the field of battle, and but for the madness of Denethor, he might have averted much "woe and bitter loss."

I assume he means Theoden's death and Eowyn's and Merry's unfortunate contact with the Witch-king.

But would he really have averted these events or was it inevitable? If he had been free to join the battle, would he have been able to destroy the Witch-king? What about the prophecy? Does "not by the hand of man" include a Maia? What would have been the outcome if he had simply driven the Witch-king away again for a time?

"BOTH [political] extremes are dangerous. But more dangerous are team fanboys who think all the extremists are on the OTHER side." (CNN reader comment)

It is always those with the fewest sensible things to say who make the loudest noise in saying them. --Precious Ramotswe (Alexander McCall Smith)


Oct 31 2013, 6:15am

Post #2 of 6 (256 views)
I think he means he could have saved Théoden. [In reply to] Can't Post

Kings are valuable. If Gandalf could have prevented Théoden's death, he would have had one more powerful ally. Not that Éomer wasn't valuable, but Théoden's age, experience, and reputation were far more so. Gandalf might also have prevented more deaths among the Riders and other allies, thus leaving a stronger force to go to the Black Gate.

More importantly, had Denethor not succumbed to his madness, Gondor itself would have been a stronger ally in the next phase of the struggle.


Oct 31 2013, 3:44pm

Post #3 of 6 (253 views)
I don't think JRRT was consistent with the fallibiilty of the Witch King. [In reply to] Can't Post

Being a wraith, undead Nazgūl,

At Fornost, Glorfindel confronts the Witch-king, who flees into the night.

Glorfindel said:
"Do not pursue him! He will not return to these lands. Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man shall he fall."

At Weathertop
"Though successfully driven off by Aragorn,"

The age old question - if an elf and a man could chase old Wtichy away, Gandalf certainly had no fear being a Maia. It does seem that the Witch King was somehow enhanced by Sauron at Minas Tiirith...what that consisted of we don't know. The ability to strike fear in those he faces was well known. The flaming sword may have been a new weapon but what powers it had are a mystery.


Oct 31 2013, 6:52pm

Post #4 of 6 (233 views)
"Chase off" vs. "destroy" [In reply to] Can't Post

We've spent a fair amount of time here discussing why the Nazgul were so easily chased off from Weathertop. The general conclusion seems to be that they were content to let Frodo's wound do its work, although that isn't terribly satisfying.

In any case, they were chased off by Glorfindel, as you say, by Aragorn, and by Gandalf while pursuing Faramir & co. There is no need to debate whether Gandalf could have saved Théoden by "destroying" the Witch King. He could have done as well by keeping WK at bay.

So, it could be that JRRT was consistent as regards WK by keeping his powers consistently ambiguous, beyond the obvious terror factor.

Tol Eressea

Oct 31 2013, 7:18pm

Post #5 of 6 (219 views)
Fear vs, Force [In reply to] Can't Post

I really like your ideas here!

I would only add that as mortals, all the players in this game were subject to both fear and physical forces. Fear can distort perception, and predispose us to act irrationally. We might know that something cannot hurt us, but we cringe anyway. We have an instinctual part of us that both helps and hinders us. How many times have soldiers in a superior position deserted their post for a (mis?)perceived danger?

The W-K might have known that he was Man/Elf/Maiar-proof, but I'd wager that an Elf-Lord in his wrath is pretty terrifying!!

I think of Gimli's statement that 'With it's own weapons (fear and shadow) was it worsted!!'

Call me Rem. Rembrethil is a lot to type!!


Nov 3 2013, 2:50am

Post #6 of 6 (232 views)
I'm pretty sure that the Witch-king was a lot more fallible than he thought he was [In reply to] Can't Post

It's always been my opinion that the further away from their Master they were, the less power they had; so in the North they weren't quite so strong as they were when they came South. Also I do believe that hundreds of years of being dominated by the One, the Nine were more or less sapped of any will of their own, and possibly lacked initiative for any action that was not directly sanctioned by Sauron. If Sauron had ordered Frodo to be made a wraith, then they would not try to kill him. So combine the fact of being far away from their Master, and being less able to think for themselves I think their actions at Weathertop are not so inexplicable.


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