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**Unfinished Tales Discussion - The Hunt for the Ring
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CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 10 2014, 11:32pm

Post #1 of 61 (816 views)
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**Unfinished Tales Discussion - The Hunt for the Ring Can't Post

Welcome to the Hunt for the Ring! Everyone is invited to join the conversation, as long as you know what the Ring is.

This is an exciting and fascinating chapter for me because it adds to the suspense in hunting down that darned Ring, the least of rings, a mere trifle that Sauron fancies. As LOTR readers, we knew he was after it, but we never saw things from the enemy POV.

What we learn:

1. Nagzul
a. They get lost and confused in daylight. -- doesn't this seem almost comical?
b. They don't like to cross water. -- as Tolkien noted himself, this was untenable.
c. They can travel unseen and unclothed. -- so why did it matter if they were unhorsed in Elrond's flood of Bruinen?
d. Even though they are Sauron's greatest and most trusted servants, he can threaten them with dire punishment if they displease him. -- What in the world would he threaten them with?!!!?

2. Sauron
a. He's perceptive enough to sense that Gollum in "indomitable."
b. He's not perceptive enough to know when Gollum is lying.
c. He's cautious and calculated in his moves, and takes great care to hide his moves from the Wise. Clearly he fears them. Yet every thought he has seems to be a strategic one. Did he have any hobbies besides designing the destruction of his foes?

Saruman
a. Frightfully insecure and jealous of Gandalf even though he's his superior (has anyone else ever had a boss like this?).
b. Wily at all times
c. In one version, he repents of his evil ways and turns to Gandalf for help, but only too late.
d. He didn't just buy goods from the Shire, he documented its geography and social structures with spies, and in one version, visited it himself.

Wormtongue
a. He was so cowed by the Nazgul that he never told his master that they had waylaid him and successfully interrogated him.

More questions:
  • Why is Golllum indomitable but the Nazgul are not?
  • Why does a small band of the Dunedain of Arnor stand a better chance of withstanding the Nazgul (possibly led by Aragorn) than the more numerous Dunedain of Gondor led by Boromir and Faramir?
  • The Saruman-Gandalf jealousy was profound and caused great harm. Was Gandalf partly responsible for it in his benign detachment? What could he have done to defuse Saruman's rivalry, if anything?
  • If Galadriel could see into the hearts of everyone, could she see into Saruman's? Why didn't she detect his treachery sooner?
  • What do you make of the Saruman repentance version? Is that a little too contrived that it didn't work out at the last minute? Even so, doesn't it make him a more complex, partially sympathetic character?
  • Does this chapter seem oddly comforting, seeing Sauron cautious and in doubt and his servants making mistakes?
  • Is Sauron acting like the typical evil overlord in this story, or is he atypical?
  • Should any of this have appeared in LOTR, either the main story or the appendices?
Finale: One big problem with the logic in LOTR is exacerbated by all the detail given here regarding Aragorn taking Gollum on a needlessly long journey to Thranduil's realm instead of to Lorien or Rivendell. Was Tolkien contriving this plot point as an excuse to insert Legolas into the story and have a non-Rivendell, non-Lorien Elf in the Fellowship?


Hamfast Gamgee
Gondor

Mar 11 2014, 12:07am

Post #2 of 61 (417 views)
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1d [In reply to] Can't Post

Good point! Sauron couldn't do the Nazgul physical harm, they didn't have bodies. He couldn't kill them and besides the Nazgul might even have liked that. He couldn't do them any more hurt than their souls were in anyway. Perhaps Sauron was bluffing?


Nerven
Rivendell

Mar 11 2014, 9:33am

Post #3 of 61 (412 views)
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Galadriel [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
If Galadriel could see into the hearts of everyone, could she see into Saruman's? Why didn't she detect his treachery sooner?



I think she did, that´s why she wanted Gandalf to be head of the council and Saruman later on stated that Galadriel always mistrusted him, so she probably sensed that something was wrong with him, but how should she prove it, he is after all send by the Valar and so higher in authority than her and just claiming that, withoout having evidence would be not that clever especially with her backround as rebel.


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Mar 11 2014, 11:30am

Post #4 of 61 (391 views)
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What's the deal with Gollum? [In reply to] Can't Post

I do like the idea of a cold war before the War of the Ring starts - Sauron, Saruman & Gandalf & Co. each trying to find out what they can about the Ring, but hampered by the need not to give away any clues to the other parties.

But Gollum is a bit of a mystery. I'll just about go along with him being hard to dominate because he's a Hobbit and they have a high level of Ring-resistance. But the idea is very much that he's been set loose to do something to take part in some plan of Sauron's. I've wondered what this plan would be. Why send Gollum to hunt for the Ring: what on his resume makes him more suitable than other servants? Not loyalty, surely.

My best guess is that Gandalf & Co. wouldn't be at all surprised to find that Gollum was looking for Bilbo - so possibly Gollum can be found to be searching without suspicion leading promptly back to Sauron.

But that raises a problem - if he were to find the Ring, Gollum would surely claim it. So Sauron must have some plan for this eventuality. We have discussed this kind of thing before, & among the ideas is a nice one that the Ring tends to turn its new owner into a megalomaniac. That could be a happy property, from Sauron's POV - the new owner is likely to bring him or herself to Sauron's notice before he or she is ready to survive that. On the other hand, a new fledgling Ring Lord might also be noticed by the other Powers in the current scramble - it's not so safe a mechanism as it used to be.

There still remains a problem though - it seems odd for Sauron to send out the Nazgul on the grounds that they are unsuitable on all count's except absolute loyalty, but also to send out other searchers. If he can send out Gollum, why not, say, Men who are under his control? Or a general bulletin to all the orcs? Is Tolkien trying to have it both ways here?

Whatever Sauron's plan with Gollum is, he's willing to go to the considerable trouble of busting him out of Mirkwood. (At one point I ran a Pollantir about Gollum's escape BTW, & some entertaining ideas emerged: http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=578663#578663 )

~~~~~~

"… ever let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.”
Arthur Martine

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Mar 11 2014, 11:55am

Post #5 of 61 (395 views)
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Oh those wimpy Black Riders! [In reply to] Can't Post

I remember originally reading this chapter hoping to settle a point of confusion - why are the Black Riders so utterly useless in FOTR? There seems to be a disjoin between their reputation as Sauron's best troops, with complete mindless loyalty to him, and their lacklustre and incompetent performance In capturing the Ring:

Court martial charges:
1) It seems odd that they don't seize the Ring at the Prancing Pony - nuts to better opportunities later in the 'Long Leagues of Eriador', get it now, darn it! Sauron really should not care if you burn the place down and drive the population shrieking into the Wilderness. Some casualties among the Nazgul and some drawing attention to the Ring-hunt would be acceptable to Sauron, you'd have thought?

2) Worse, the Riders attack on Weathertop but (a) are driven off satisfied by wounding the Ringbearer and (b) then vanish until their last unsuccessful encounter at the Ford. It doesn't seem tenable too me that they are utter slaves to Sauron's will on the one hand but are able not to attack for fear of the Barrow Blades on the other. Once again, you'd expect Sauron to be entirely content to lose many of his Nazgul to get the Ring NOW, rather than wait on the effect of a longer-term plan wouldn't you?

This Tale looks a lot like it was written to tie up lose ends and concerns like this - it hadn't yet go there, for me at least.

How did Tolkien end up in this hole (if you agree it's a hole)? My guess is that it's to do with the writing process of FOTR. The idea of the Black Riders seems to have come to Tolkien suddenly and fairly early. But they (and the Ring) were not yet as dangerous as they were to become. Meanwhile, some set pieces on the journey to Rivendell fell into place: the meeting with Gildor; the Prancing Pony; the detour to Weathertop and the attack there. Those milestones stayed in place while the Black Riders were becoming ever more Sauron's elite troops. I wonder whether that's where the mismatch comes from? It's a subtle one which doesn't detract from the story for readers interested enough to engage in 'Fridge Logic'
http://tvtropes.org/...php/Main/FridgeLogic


Finally - Curious G wonders what kinds of punishments Sauron might inflict on the Nazgul. I have read (somewhere...) the interesting speculation that the Witch King speaks to Eowyn from personal experience when he says:



Quote
he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.


~~~~~~

"… ever let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.”
Arthur Martine

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 11 2014, 12:48pm

Post #6 of 61 (384 views)
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The mismatch and the merge re: The Black Riders [In reply to] Can't Post

I certainly get the sense while reading LOTR that the Nazgul in FOTR are different from those in ROTK, and your phrasing works for me:


Quote
Those milestones stayed in place while the Black Riders were becoming ever more Sauron's elite troops.

The Nazgul in Eriador are rather like Bill Ferny: sneaky, mean bullies who, like any bully, can be discouraged by confrontation. In ROTK they are the elite troops. Tolkien employs them very differently across the books and it feels like he's merged two separate entities.

I've heard it said that the Nazgul are more potent when closer to their power source (Sauron), but that doesn't account for the Witch-king of Angmar being so powerful while far away, including his ability to conjure up evil spirits and create the menace of the Barrow-downs. (I like this chapter's connection that has him stir them up again while he's in the neighborhood.)

Overall, I agree with you that Tolkien was trying to tie up loose ends here. And he did a good job vs Fridge Logic, though no interesting story every completely stands up to Fridge logic.

What he should have done: sent out the Nazgul on their winged steads instead of horses, and kept a couple of them flying back and forth between the searching party and Barad-dur. Who cares if the Wise found out he was on the move? It wasn't like they could stop him. Then when they locate the Ring itself, Sauron goes in person to get it, and who was going to stop him? That's my Fridge logic, but it would then be a very short and one-sided story.







noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Mar 11 2014, 2:32pm

Post #7 of 61 (370 views)
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Give me a fridge large enough and beer to stock it… [In reply to] Can't Post

…and I probably won't be heard of for some time… (or I might move the Earth).

It's amazing how much scrutiny Tolkien's work does stand up to, of course.

~~~~~~

"… ever let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.”
Arthur Martine

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 11 2014, 3:53pm

Post #8 of 61 (370 views)
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The Gollum Gambit [In reply to] Can't Post

Sauron didn't trust Gollum as a servant, but he did trust his nose for finding the Ring. He had him followed and knew Aragorn had taken him to Mirkwood, and sprung him from jail there, expecting to continue following him. He didn't count on losing track of that wascally wobbit, and his instincts were right that Gollum would eventually wind up finding the Ring again. I suppose once the Black Riders had seen/stabbed Frodo and knew who the Ringbearer was, Gollum lost his importance to Sauron, though he did order his Mordor Orcs to capture him alive if possible, so he didn't lose all importance.

The Gollum/Frodo connection in LOTR makes a good story as a horrific before/after tableau of the Ring's effect on hobbits, and good vs evil. What I find interesting in this chapter is the thought of Sauron meeting Gollum, and I wonder how much they understood each other via their connection to the Ring and despite their widely divergent origins? They were both evil, and both had been good in the beginning. They both wanted the Ring and wanted to use it for selfish ends. I'm not suggesting they were buddies and confidants, because it's clear they hated each other, but how much did they instinctively understand each other? It seems to me that any other mortal could be hauled before Sauron and be scared and confused, but in Gollum's situation, did his long possession of the Ring give him any insight into Sauron, and was that partly why he was "indomitable?" Or was it wholly his hobbitness that made him so hard to dominate, or maybe just his personality and centuries of solitude and malice that made him indomitable?


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Mar 11 2014, 5:51pm

Post #9 of 61 (352 views)
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Flappy Bird and Phelbotinum [In reply to] Can't Post

(I deny having been at the logical beers in the logical fridge Crazy )

Recently I was reading about the computer games designer's problem - If the game is too difficult, people give up in frustration. if it's too easy it is boring. If it is just in the butter zone it has the odd effect on the human brain of making you shriek alternately with frustration and adulation. It tricks the brain into thinking you've achieved something worthwhile. Then the games designer has a Flappy Bird like success on his or her hands.

I've been thinking that there's a similar butter zone for writing - too much mystery and the story becomes frustrating an incomprehensible. Too much explanation, and the story kludges up.Speculative fiction writers have it worse: they can't actually explain things to an arbitrary degree, because they are explaining things which <sotto voice> don't actually work.</sotto voice>. Simple boredom at the amount of explanation might be the danger in a police procedural or historical novel, whereas speculative fiction writers can't explain the Time Machine or how Galadriel's Mirror works, because these things cannot truly be explained.

In FOTR, I think one of the best things about the Black Riders is that they are a series of unknowns - who are they and what do they want? Why don't they attack? Now the they'e attacked, is Frodo doomed? Now that they've attacked, where have they gone? When and how will they attack again? A reader can only have this pleasure in full on the first reading, though the writing still remains effective (for me at least) after many re-readings. Later, there is no need for the Nazgul to be mysterious; and they are portrayed as the powerful foes this part of the plot now requires.

What is possibly quite interesting in this Unfinished Tale is that Tolkien does not reach for the phlebotinum in order to explain how the mysterious but ultimately bumbling FOTR Black Riders are also the mega-badass ROTK Nazgul:

Phlebotium...

Quote
Phlebotinum is the versatile substance that may be rubbed on almost anything to cause an effect needed by a plot. Examples include but are not limited to: nanotechnology, magic crystal emanations, pixie dust, and Green Rocks.
In essence, it is plot fuel. Without it, the story would grind to an abrupt halt. It's science, it's magic, it's strange things unknown to science or magic. The reader does not know how Phlebotinum would work and the creators hope nobody cares.
http://tvtropes.org/...n/AppliedPhlebotinum

So it's easy to see some potential hackery solutions: There is some magic stuff or force which diminishes with distance from Sauron so that the FOTR Black Riders are less powerful than the ROTK ones. Or, conversely, post Rout at the Ford, the retrning Nazgul get sprinkled with extra Phlebotinum thereby becoming Super-nazgul. Or, Sauron deliberately de-Phlebotniumized his troops before sending them off after the Ring, because in their full form they're just too darned Baddass for Eriador, & will draw way too much attention to themselves...

I suppose the alternative, before LOTR was published, would have been to keep the full Nazgul for ROTK, and have some lesser kind of creature for FOTR, thereby sticking to the tried & trusted 'Sorting algorithm of Evil' ("Villains will appear in strictly ascending order by menace" - http://tvtropes.org/...rtingAlgorithmOfEvil ). That's a possible tack, I suppose - there are meant to be many rings of power, and in early drafts there was the idea that the Dark Lord gave away plenty in order to ensnare the unwary into wraiths. And at one point, Tolkien was musing whether the Black Riders were mounted Barrow Wights. So arguably he had a stock of lesser wraiths there. But it is not a path he chose to take.


So, to sum that all up - You see why it's better if we let Tolkien drive.Wink

Anyways - that doesn't seem to be where he's going in this Unfinished Tale. OK so there's some flirting with giving the Black Riders hydrophobia and poor day vision, but by and large Tolkien's sticking with his ROTK-level Nazgul & trying to explain their ineptitude. I'm not sure that would work.

~~~~~~

"… ever let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.”
Arthur Martine

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Brethil
Half-elven


Mar 11 2014, 8:06pm

Post #10 of 61 (352 views)
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Great format CG [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
and delineation of the ideas here! Including the contradictions!Cool

1. Nagzul
a. They get lost and confused in daylight. -- doesn't this seem almost comical?
b. They don't like to cross water. -- as Tolkien noted himself, this was untenable.
c. They can travel unseen and unclothed. -- so why did it matter if they were unhorsed in Elrond's flood of Bruinen?
d. Even though they are Sauron's greatest and most trusted servants, he can threaten them with dire punishment if they displease him. -- What in the world would he threaten them with?!!!?

I for one like both the sunlit issue and the running water issue...it would make for interesting spanners in Sauron's works and mechanical aspects to the tale *if* they could be tenable and consistent. That however, is easier said than done! I have always taken the 'unhorsed' problem as if they have to have dealings with the living in a tangible, 'get-stuff-done' way and thus are clothed and visible - as close to 'life' as they could be, and thus cannot travel via spirit - they needed beasts to carry them as they are slow in the material world. So it doesn't slow them in a spirit form but it means the interactions with the living are now a royal PIA - unless you just want to play a lively round of 'Hobbiton Poltergeist' and simply freak everyone out (while laughing wildly).As far as threats - I guess in the spirit plane there are worse things than wedgies. (?)


2. Sauron
a. He's perceptive enough to sense that Gollum in "indomitable."
b. He's not perceptive enough to know when Gollum is lying.
c. He's cautious and calculated in his moves, and takes great care to hide his moves from the Wise. Clearly he fears them. Yet every thought he has seems to be a strategic one. Did he have any hobbies besides designing the destruction of his foes?
Yes, is the lying and the 'indomitable' part one and the same? That Sméagol is still in there, with Hobbit-like good sense, and that's the part Sauron doesn't get and cannot dominate? I think its all about intellect for Sauron: objectify and conquer. So yes, he seems to have that one hobby! Unless we count those toothpick models of Minas Tirith and Orthanc.

Saruman
a. Frightfully insecure and jealous of Gandalf even though he's his superior (has anyone else ever had a boss like this?).
b. Wily at all times
c. In one version, he repents of his evil ways and turns to Gandalf for help, but only too late.
d. He didn't just buy goods from the Shire, he documented its geography and social structures with spies, and in one version, visited it himself.
The jealousy and pettiness of Saruman is really focused with the Shire business. The fake disinterest and even mock Gandalf for smoking...was it all to elevate the Shire to more of a crucial yet hidden realm and further explain why (as we discussed in the last chapter) the Hobbits were largely ignored and/or forgotten?

Wormtongue
a. He was so cowed by the Nazgul that he never told his master that they had waylaid him and successfully interrogated him.
Well I dunno about cowed...that seems more like prudence! ("yeah, boss, I sold you out...": not the safest thing to say!!!!!!) Laugh

More questions:
  • Why is Gollum indomitable but the Nazgul are not? Hobbit-like origins and lack of greater ambitions? The size of one's wants seem to make you more or less a marked target for Sauron. Gollum never wanted more than small, mean things for himself, in a small, mean way.

  • Why does a small band of the Dunedain of Arnor stand a better chance of withstanding the Nazgul (possibly led by Aragorn) than the more numerous Dunedain of Gondor led by Boromir and Faramir? Good question. The statement of the de-centralization and less 'political' nature of the Rangers of the North, making them more morally fit to defeat centralized and utterly political Sauron? JRRT says in Letters that the major flaw of Denethor's thinking was the 'political': us versus them, geography as a moral stamp. (?)


  • The Saruman-Gandalf jealousy was profound and caused great harm. Was Gandalf partly responsible for it in his benign detachment? What could he have done to defuse Saruman's rivalry, if anything? Actually more than detached...that one trick with the smoke-rings is pretty provocative!!!! (though in a larger sense, accidentally so.)


  • If Galadriel could see into the hearts of everyone, could she see into Saruman's? Why didn't she detect his treachery sooner? Perhaps sensing something and not preferring him to head the White Council...which interestingly seems to have come so much out of the TH/LOTR morph in it development. I wonder if this idea leads us down a blind alley though: if she *could* then it leaves her as well as Gandalf majorly blundering in judgment (Gandalf on the Ring, Galadriel on Saruman). The only option is to presume with his powers of voice/convincing that he has powers of inner concealment as well?


  • What do you make of the Saruman repentance version? Is that a little too contrived that it didn't work out at the last minute? Even so, doesn't it make him a more complex, partially sympathetic character? The timing is a bit pat...its an unintended irony that Gandalf's escape would have been the final lynchpin in his downfall of pride! So that is neat. (Too neat? Maybe.)


  • Does this chapter seem oddly comforting, seeing Sauron cautious and in doubt and his servants making mistakes?
  • Is Sauron acting like the typical evil overlord in this story, or is he atypical?
  • Should any of this have appeared in LOTR, either the main story or the appendices? I do like the 'mistakes' idea: it was a big world, with little communication, and this shows it. Sauron is a bit atypical I think: in the biggest way, allowing Sméagol to run free even though he is not conquered (a dark parallel to Gandalf allowing Frodo to leave with the Ring?)
  • I think I would have loved to see that snarky Council dialogue on the Appendices!


Have an idea relating to the world of JRR Tolkien that you would like to write about? If so, the Third TORn Amateur Symposium will be running in the Reading Room April, 2014. *The Call for Submissions is up*!





(This post was edited by Brethil on Mar 11 2014, 8:07pm)


CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 11 2014, 8:48pm

Post #11 of 61 (337 views)
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Snarky Sharkey [In reply to] Can't Post

Do you suppose the real origin of "Sharkey" was not "sharku" but "snarky?" How prescient of Tolkien to guess at slang in 2014. But if Saruman was The Lord of Snarkiness, who was the Lady? (Gee, that question sounds snarky all on its own.)

That's a wonderful scene of Gandalf blowing many rings of smoke in front of Saruman and then dashing them with his hand. So symbolic! Though I'm glad it didn't make the final edit, because while it makes Gandalf seem powerful and dangerous, it also seems a little too dark for him, or too prescient, and we see in LOTR that he often lacks prescience. If he really knew it all, it wouldn't be so good. Similarly, I'm glad for the sake of the story that Galadriel might distrust Saruman, but if she spotted him as a traitor too soon, that would also be less satisfying for the plot.


Hamfast Gamgee
Gondor

Mar 12 2014, 12:00am

Post #12 of 61 (354 views)
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Saruman was a good guy [In reply to] Can't Post

For most of his time on Middle-Earth. If a bit prideful and slightly too interested in evil arts. Even Aragorn and Gandalf said he was a mighty friend at first. So I suspect that Galadriel gave up the mind tricks with him.


Neldoreth
The Shire


Mar 12 2014, 2:58am

Post #13 of 61 (327 views)
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Gollum at Thranduil's realm [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi! I'm new here, but I think I'm ready to jump in. I'm trying the quote option, but if it doesn't work the way I mean it to, please forgive me!

Quote
Finale: One big problem with the logic in LOTR is exacerbated by all the detail given here regarding Aragorn taking Gollum on a needlessly long journey to Thranduil's realm instead of to Lorien or Rivendell. Was Tolkien contriving this plot point as an excuse to insert Legolas into the story and have a non-Rivendell, non-Lorien Elf in the Fellowship?


On your final point, it _is_ possible that the plot point is only a way to introduce Legolas into the Fellowship. However, when I read this I thought that perhaps Sauron saw Lorien and Rivendell as the bigger threats. He had one of his servants stationed at Dol Guldur, so he probably thought all bases were covered as far as Thranduil was concerned. I'm not sure Sauron knew that Galadriel and Elrond were part of the White Council, but if he were aware of "the Wise," he would perceive them as the the larger threat. If that is the case, then having Gollum imprisoned for his own safety in Thranduil's realm makes sense and would be the best course for Aragorn to take.


Brethil
Half-elven


Mar 12 2014, 3:26am

Post #14 of 61 (312 views)
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Welcome Neldoreth! [In reply to] Can't Post

So, a tactical under-the-radar move to get Gollum tucked away in Thranduil's realm? Interesting idea, and it fits in with Thranduil's isolationism in that it might be a more secure spot, given his insular reign. Not a lot of information or travelers going in and out...

Have an idea relating to the world of JRR Tolkien that you would like to write about? If so, the Third TORn Amateur Symposium will be running in the Reading Room April, 2014. *The Call for Submissions is up*!





noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Mar 12 2014, 10:02am

Post #15 of 61 (342 views)
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Dark instinct? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Sauron is a bit atypical I think: in the biggest way, allowing Sméagol to run free even though he is not conquered (a dark parallel to Gandalf allowing Frodo to leave with the Ring?)


That's a really interesting idea. Gandalf does a lot of things by instinct (and, at least by the time Tolkien was writing Quest for Erebor, he seems to be imagining that Gandalf's instincts are how he gets hints from the Valar or from Eru). Quite apart from how that fits into Tolkien's view of things, it make a great reason for Gandalf to reach a conclusion he couldn't get to by intellectual reasoning. Gandalf's key decisions (Bilbo must go to Erebor! Gollum must be spared! Frodo must take the Ring to Mordor!) are on this basis.

So it's fun to wonder whether Sauron makes odd choices on instinct based on influence from somewhere....

A couple of related points about instinct come to mind:

1) Saruman seems all powerful intellect and not at all happy to go by instinct- that seems to be a key difference between him and Gandalf.

2) There seems to have been a fair amount of instinct in Tolkien's writing practices - he'd decide something was so, & see if he could make sense of it. He was a pretty stringent self-editor, but where there are odd things left it means it's hard to decide whether it doesn't make sense & Tolkien didn't spot that, or it does make sense given the appropriate realizations...

~~~~~~

"… ever let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.”
Arthur Martine

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


sador
Half-elven


Mar 12 2014, 12:48pm

Post #16 of 61 (297 views)
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That's a lot of questions. [In reply to] Can't Post

I probably won't be able to answer them all in one go. In this point I'll just make two general remarks, and will return to your questions later:




This is an exciting and fascinating chapter for me because it adds to the suspense in hunting down that darned Ring, the least of rings, a mere trifle that Sauron fancies.
I have to quote an eminent critic, who apparently disagrees with you:




Quote

(The Quest of Erebor and The Hunt for the Ring)... Little more than pedantically clarify or make explicit features of the original story that are more than acceptable as they stand... Tolkien's careful spelling out of Sauron's strategic judgements and choices... Is therefore artistically redundant and in fact disharmonious with the presentation in LotR, from a hobbit's eye-view, as a remote though terrible power.


- Brian Rosebury, Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon, ps. 209-210.


I tend to agree with Rosebury; as you've pointed out, this chapter tends to highlight rather than explain some of the plot-holes in LotR. On the other hand it is fascinating to see how Tolkien was trying to make sense of the different movements of the Enemy. And unlike the previous chapter, it does not superimpose LotR on The Hobbit, so the effect is less jarring.


You also didn't mention the different vrsions of the story, but threated the main version (A) as the 'story', ignoring the others. Personally, I find the story of Wormtongue's double betrayal a bit too much, although it might give a third reason as to why he threw the palantir out of Orthanc - lest Sauron reveal who the traitor was, as another means of tormenting Saruman.
I think version (C), according to which Ferny's Southren friend in Bree was the traitor, is the most convincing (especially once Aragorn raised the question in Flotsam and Jetsam, whether he was working for the Riders as well as Saruman, and who was he betraying); I note that Ferny was recruited to Saruman's service, and was rewarded with a lucrative post at the Brandywine Bridge, but the Dunlending was never heard about again. Was he done in by one of the other ruffians, or was he shot down by the Tooks? Perhaps he never made it back to the Shire; but it could also be that after the Riders were destroyed, the spell was lifted and he could not keep the secret any longer. I would like the idea that Wormtongue was the one to order his killing - a nice turnabout from version A!
As Christopher Tolkien notes, version (C) also fits with the dates given in appendix B; so if we consider the published LotR as canon (possibly the only book which deserves this apellate), it should be the accepted one; however, Christopher himself publshed (A) as the main text, and in the BBC 1981_radio_series, he gave the adaptors permission to use it, so his opinion clearly is different (or was in 1980).



CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 12 2014, 9:09pm

Post #17 of 61 (282 views)
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Unexpected moves [In reply to] Can't Post

Welcome, Neldoreth, and thanks for joining in!

Good point about the ultimate aim here. This chapter reads, as Wiz said, like a Cold War of sneaky moves, and taking Gollum to Lorien or Rivendell would seem like something Sauron would expect, so why not take him to an unexpected destination and hope to keep him in the dark about it for as long as possible?


CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 12 2014, 9:18pm

Post #18 of 61 (274 views)
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Dark parallel [In reply to] Can't Post

Wow, Breth, I agree with Wiz that that's a fascinating perspective. For all the re-reading one can do, I'd never thought of that parallel before. I wonder how intended or accidental it is? The white wizard uses one hobbit as his agent (or pawn, according to Saruman), and the dark wizard uses an Anti-hobbit as his pawn. It didn't work out so well for the dark side, but in my opinion, it was a smart move by Sauron. He knew better than anyone the nature of the Ring, and he could count on it rightly to attract Gollum to it, given enough time, and it would certainly be no problem liberating it from him if he did happen to recover it. Really, except for that misstep at the Crack of Doom, one could say that Sauron's plan was right all along. Imagine Gollum running out of Mt Doom ahead of the lava--Sam was more concerned with helping Frodo than capturing Gollum, so Smeagol would go free, and when the Nazgul eventually found him, he'd be easy prey.

There is that sense in Quest for Erebor of Gandalf using people as pawns. It's hard to get away from it. Saruman exaggerated it, but I feel like it's there, and it was his explicit mission to get other people to fight Sauron than do it himself.

Which takes us back to the Cold War, where the US and USSR did their fighting by proxy. Another parallel.


CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 12 2014, 9:37pm

Post #19 of 61 (271 views)
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Commonalities [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, I focused on commonalities between the versions deliberately in order to avoid the mind-numbing pedantry that Rosebury alludes to, unless there was something that struck me as exceptional, like the version where Saruman repents and runs to Gandalf for help.

Tolkien seems almost incapable of writing about characters without some empathy (think of the Orcs in LOTR). I get a vague sense of that empathy in this story too. I can feel the Chief Nazgul's frustration at the fruitless search for the Ring in the Anduin, then added to that frustration are threats from his master over his failure, then things only get worse when he gets to Isengard and founds an ally is a traitor. I won't say I feel sorry for him, but I can recognize him as a person in a predicament. Of course I much prefer NOT to think of him that way and want him to be the Big Bad Guy. This examination of him reveals a lot about Tolkien as a writer and a person: a hawk for details and logic, constantly probing for flaws and looking for corrections, and unintentionally providing a little humanity to one of his most evil characters.


CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 12 2014, 9:54pm

Post #20 of 61 (276 views)
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The Wizard personality test [In reply to] Can't Post

Your post made me think of the interview question, "If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?" But insert Wizard, and it's fun to think about.

1. Saruman: intellectual, rational
2. Gandalf: intuitive
3. Radagast: a withdrawn environmentalist
4. Blue Wizard: enigmatic

It seems to me that Saruman is more intellectual and rational than Gandalf in some ways, but more at the mercy of his emotions in other ways. The problem starts all the way back in Valinor (to skip ahead to the Istari chapter) where he resented Varda's little compliment for Olorin, and that resentment/competition/insecurity just got worse and worse over time, twisting him into a closeted Gandalf-wannabe who lost all sight of his true mission. In that sense Saruman lost all touch with his instincts--he should have remembered what he was and why he was there. Gandalf's instincts kept him on track. Even though he made mistakes in judgment, he never strayed from the purpose of his mission.


CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 12 2014, 10:05pm

Post #21 of 61 (274 views)
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Indomitable Gollum [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Why is Gollum indomitable but the Nazgul are not? Hobbit-like origins and lack of greater ambitions? The size of one's wants seem to make you more or less a marked target for Sauron. Gollum never wanted more than small, mean things for himself, in a small, mean way.

All true. Yet the more I think about this, the less I'm sure of it. I think Tolkien's intent is that Gollum was indomitable because of his residual hobbitness, but the Ring was the master of Gollum and had twisted him physically and mentally into a caricature of malice, so was it the malice in him that made him unbeatable? Because it seems that to be confronted by the maker of the Ring and the one who wants it back, Gollum's deepest instincts would be aroused to counter Sauron as a rival.

This had happened even to Frodo. When Gollum attacked him outside the Sammath Naur in LOTR:

Quote
"This was probably the only thing that could have roused the dying embers of Frodo's heart and will: an attack, an attempt to wrest his treasure from him by force."

This was Frodo's dying will fighting to protect his precious, his dark side at work, not his noble side trying to fulfill the quest. So if the Ring could have that effect on Frodo, it would be multiplied in Gollum, of course, and I wonder if it steeled him against the Dark Lord?


CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 12 2014, 10:11pm

Post #22 of 61 (296 views)
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Maybe bluffing? [In reply to] Can't Post

I have trouble too figuring out what would seem horrible to them. Maybe there are things in the spirit world that scare spirits, however. They were afraid of Glorfindel at the Ford of Bruinen, and what exactly could he have done to them with his bright light and burning sticks? That's not clear to me.

I suppose if it hurts them to hear "Elbereth," maybe they can be harmed in ways that don't make sense to mortals.


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Mar 12 2014, 10:13pm

Post #23 of 61 (275 views)
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Oh, THAT interview question [In reply to] Can't Post

You mean, I shouldn't answer "sometimes I +am+ a tree, and sometimes I ent?"

~~~~~~

"… ever let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.”
Arthur Martine

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 12 2014, 10:16pm

Post #24 of 61 (296 views)
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What I was thinking [In reply to] Can't Post

was the last few White Council meetings, where first Saruman persuaded them not to drive Sauron out of Dol Guldur because he wanted him nearby to wake up the Ring so he could find it himself, then later agreeing to drive him out because he was getting too potent. Those were two times, at least, that he was being a complete fraud to the White Council, even if he'd been a good guy earlier in his career. Did Galadriel sense it? It might have been that she only felt a vague misgiving and had no idea he was truly a traitor; maybe she just thought there was something wrong with him that she couldn't identify and therefore couldn't explain. Or maybe she didn't pick up on it at all.


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Mar 12 2014, 10:20pm

Post #25 of 61 (275 views)
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Saruman, more and less emotional [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
It seems to me that Saruman is more intellectual and rational than Gandalf in some ways, but more at the mercy of his emotions in other ways.


I think that's right. I've met people a bit like that (many of them in academia; a group Tolkien would of course have known well). They don't notice (or perhaps trust) their emotions, but still have them. So the non- rational side of things tends to build up and up then discharge unexpectedly. The Saruman- Gandalf jealousies do rather remind me of academic spats over who got the Professorship.

~~~~~~

"… ever let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.”
Arthur Martine

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"

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