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**Fellowship of the Ring Discussion - Council of Elrond - Thread 3 of 4: “I still want to know a good deal, especially about Gandalf.” Gandalf’s tale **
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noWizardme
Valinor


Apr 12 2015, 10:23am

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**Fellowship of the Ring Discussion - Council of Elrond - Thread 3 of 4: “I still want to know a good deal, especially about Gandalf.” Gandalf’s tale ** Can't Post

Welcome to the third thread of discussion of the FOTR chapter Council of Elrond. Last time we discussed Boromir and Aragorn’s interaction, reaching the point where Boromir doesn’t directly answer Aragorn’s decision to reforge the Sword that was Broken and go to Minas Tirith: he asks for more proof that the ring he has seen is the One Ring, Isildur’s Bane.

This starts a discussion of the finding of the Ring, and of Gandalf’s adventures in discovering what it is. That is, we are onto the “Agenda Item” Elrond had expected to follow directly from his own account of Isildur (which Boromir interrupted). So by page this thread covers from “To some Bilbo’s tale was wholly new” to “But we have not yet come any nearer to our purpose, What shall we do with [the Ring].”

Later this week, I plan to post my final instalment - What shall we do with [the Ring]? By page, that will cover from “But we have not yet come any nearer to our purpose, What shall we do with [the Ring].” to the end of the chapter. Thematically, it will naturally cover the Council’s decisions. Also, I’m looking forward to discussing what all this might mean about fate, divine or supernatural intervention and free will in Middle-earth.. The last thread is also the obvious point to pick up Any Other Business (this is a committee meeting chapter, after all!)

What follows is a digest of this section of the chapter, with some questions and comments. Please feel free to answer any, all or none of the questions - the idea is to have a discussion, not to pose a quiz. Alternatively, please do ask your own questions, or to make your own comments, opinions and observations.

In summary this thread is Gandalf’s account which does three things:
1) It fills us in about Gandalf’s researches leading up to his discussion with Frodo back in Shadow of the Past (as an aside we learn that Gollum has been captured, rescued and is now loose). All except the news of Gollum's escape is extra detail for things Frodo (and we readers) already know from Shadow of the Past.
2) It gives us an account of Gandalf’s capture by Saruman - all new information to us, and our only real description of Saruman before his defeat in the War.
3) Then Gandalf describes his movements during the days of Frodo’s journey from Hobbiton to Rivendell.

Gandalf’s account seems to have several purposes: he aims to prove to the Council that Frodo’s Ring must be the One Ring: he starts to do that by producing logical arguments, but quickly turns to telling a story.. He explains why Saruman is not present. He apologises - to Frodo for not being available to guide him to Rivendell, and more generally (and less directly) he apologises for taking so long to realise the predicament that they all are now in.

So, as some general discussion prompts:

Is the information we get from Gandalf about his reasoning and movements interesting, or could we do without this angle on the events we’ve already seen? If it is repetition of an earlier chapter, why does Tolkien not summarise it much more concisely? Does Gandalf’s account shed useful light on his character (and on Aragorn’s and Gollums)? If so, in what way(s)? Or is Tolkien frying other fish?

What does the downfall of Saruman, as related here, tell us about evil in Middle-earth?


We see Saruman mostly through this account already of Gandalf's- when our embedded hobbit reporters actually see him, he is defeated. Does this have an effect on how we perceive Saruman? Is it supposed to?

As usual, a more detailed analysis of the chapter and some discussion prompts follow: please use them if they are helpful.

~~~~~~

"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!"

This year LOTR turns 60. The following image is my LOTR 60th anniversary party footer! You can get yours here: http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=762154#762154


noWizardme
Valinor


Apr 12 2015, 10:40am

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“I still want to know a good deal, especially about Gandalf.” Gandalf’s tale - detail [In reply to] Can't Post

This is a summary of the events of this section of the chapter, and some comments and discussion prompts. Please read (or not read) and use (or not use) as you see fit!

Bilbo is asked to speak, and then Frodo. Since we readers already know that part of the story, it is glossed. We get a humorous poke at Bilbo - who asks for refreshment, but then enjoys telling his part of the story at length. Then Frodo speaks, more reluctantly as fits what we know of his character.

Speaking for us readers, perhaps, Frodo and then Galdor of the Havens point out that there is a lot we don’t know about Gandalf. Galdor expressly seconds Boromir’s question - “may we not hear the proofs [that Frodo’s ring is the One Ring]?”

Gandalf answers Galdor’s question with logic- what other Ring would Sauron pursue in the way they have seen? Gandalf could carry on in that way - arguing that (1) Frodo's Ring matches exactly the description of the One Ring made by Isildur (especially the hidden inscription), and; (2) Frodo's Ring is shown to be a Great Ring because it prolongs mortal life. But if it is a Great Ring it cannot be one of the 3, 7 or 9 because it does not match their descriptions (they have jewels) and in any case their whereabouts are known. Logically therefore, Frodo's Ring must be either the One Ring, or a previously unknown Great Ring which resembles the One Ring closely. Line of Argument (3) Is that Isildur disappeared MIA in the place later inhabited by Smeagol and his clan. So Gandalf can make a credible reconstruction of the Ring's movements. But this argument is more corroboration than the key part of the proof, I think. Instead of replying by setting out the logic, however, Gandalf tackles the question as Elrond did: by giving an historical and eye-witness account Any thoughts about why Gandalf proceeds in this way? Would it have been more or less convincing had summarised the logical case instead?

Then he launches into an account of Sauron’s eviction from Mirkwood, and Saruman’s assurances that the Ring was not an issue.
Mirkwood is a reasonable place to begin the tale, but do you also see some level of Gandalf kicking himself for not having figured things out sooner?


Gandalf describes how his misgivings strengthened over time, and his decision to recruit Aragorn and look for Gollum. Aragorn and Gandalf describe the start of their hunt together, and Gandalf turns to his idea of looking in the Minas Tirith archives, where he discovers Isildur’s manuscript, and thinks of the experiment of throwing Frodo’s ring into the fireplace at Bag End to reveal any hidden inscription. He sets off for The Shire to do this, but learns that Aragorn has captured Gollum., so turns aside to interview him.
Is this an odd choice of priorities, actually? If Gandalf is confident that his proof lies in an experiment at Bag End, why not do that first?

Aragorn describes his adventures seeking and capturing Gollum. Gandalf describes interrogating Gollum, and learning that the had gained long life from owning the Ring (a power only the Great Rings wield).

Gandalf then turns to his Bag End experiment, and shocks the meeting by speaking in the Black Speech. Then he reveals that Gollum has also been interrogated by Sauron - who should be assumed to know pretty much all the information that Gandalf has gathered.

Talk turns to Gollum’s fate, and Legolas reveals the news that Gollum has in fact escaped (or, quite likely, been rescued).

Gandalf now describes his summons from the Shire to Orthanc, and gives a long account of his interview and imprisonment by Saruman, and his escape. This is actually the only time we “meet” Saruman before his defeat, so it’s our main opportunity to assess him, and the effects of a lust for the Ring that he has studied but never seen.

After an account of his meeting with Radagast and his unfortunate decision to trust Butterbur to deliver an urgent message to Frodo, Gandalf gives us a brief description of Orthanc. It’s immediately apparent when he meets Saruman that something is wrong.

Saruman is rude to Gandalf, accusing him of arrogance and of concealing information from Saruman (as head of the White Council). He scoffs at Radagast’s stupidity, and then declares himself to be Wise, Ringmaker and “of Many Colours”. He brushes aside Gandalf’s response in order to make what is evidently a prepared speech.
I presume there is deliberate irony in Saruman accusing his colleagues of being arrogant, secretive and stupid and himself wise, when the opposite would see to be the case?

Saruman’s first proposal is that he and Gandalf should join with Sauron, and attempt to steer Sauron’s policies. There is no realistic alternative. The ends will justify the regrettable means. When Gandalf objects to this idea, Saurman floats the idea that they (together) should control the Ruling Ring. When Gandalf laughs at that idea as impossible, Saruman imprisons him.
Is it a surprise, in a fantasy work with a big theme of the heroic rejection of evil, to find a character making a very realpolitik-sounding speech about compromise and regrettable necessities?

What do you suppose is Saruman’s real plan and what is being said to try to win over Gandalf? Does Saruman really propose steering Sauron, or does he plan all along to supplant him as soon as practical?

"...frightful evil can and does arise from an apparently good root; the desire to benefit the world and others - speedily and according to the benefactor's own plans - is a recurrent motive." Wote Tolkien (in a 1951 letter to Milton Friedman, in which Tolkien outlined themes in his Middle-earth writings). Is that the stage Saruman has reached, or is he beyond that and only out to benefit himself?

We are used to characters being tempted by the Ring (or denying that temptation) when they have an opportunity to seize it. What of Saruman - he’s come nowhere near it. Is the Ring driving him crazy, or have his researches into Ring-lore been fatal, or is he a tragic character bound to be brought down by his character flaws, with the Ring being just the best option for getting the power he wants?


Gandalf describes his escape to Rohan, telling us a little of the perilous state of that realm (something we might remember when our characters journey there).

Finally, Gandalf describes his journey from Rohan to the Shire on Shadowfax the Wonderhorse, his attempts to catch up with Frodo, and what he knows or infers about the movements of the Black Riders.
Note the massive indirect compliment that Gandalf pays Aragorn, when he learns that the hobbits are off with “Strider” and then feels able to stop for a rest himself. Along with their joint account of the capture of Gollum, I think it helps build up Aragorn as one of Gandalf’s most trusted friends and helpers. Additionally of course, Aragorn is one of the very few people with whom Gandalf has discussed the Ring (compare Saruman!). I don’t think we knew that about Aragorn’s status in Gandalf’s eyes before?
Is this setting up Aragorn as the natural choice for the informal second-in-command of the Fellowship? Is it helping Aragorn’s stock in Boromir’s eyes?

That then brings things up to date, and Gandalf comments that they still have to decide what to do with the Ring (a discussion we shall leave for our final thread).
As I see it, we readers have it confirmed that Gandalf caused the strange flashes that were seen from Weathertop, and of course we were wondering why Gandalf didn’t come to rescue Frodo. Is this just filling in background detail, or am I missing important things?

A quibble: As regards why Gandalf can’t join Frodo, Tolkien has him arrive in the Shire super-fast, but then have to kill time getting lost so that he can’t do much. Is this a fossil from older plot-lines, before Gandalf has to journey back from Orthanc? Wouldn’t it be simpler if Shadowfax were a noble steed but slower, and to have Gandalf head direct to Rivendell from Rohan, and perhaps only just arrive before Frodo does?

To say a bit more about the idea that Gandalf ought to have gone to Rivendell first: I’m seeing Rohan - Rivendell as a shorter journey than Rohan- Hobbiton. And it seems a fairly reasonable plan to hasten to Rivendell (where Gandalf ought to expect Frodo to be by now, if he had set off when instructed in Gandalf’s letter). At Rivendell get news, and warn of Saruman’s treachery. If Frodo had not reached Rivendell, Gandalf could proceed back down Frodo’s assumed route from The Shire as the best way of meeting him, possibly assisted by mobilizing others in Elrond’s household to join the search.

~~~~~~

"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!"

This year LOTR turns 60. The following image is my LOTR 60th anniversary party footer! You can get yours here: http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=762154#762154


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Apr 12 2015, 10:29pm

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I think to be honest this is just how things are in ME and in real-life sometimes, people do go out of their way on wild goose chases to no apparent overall goal, but these things happen. In the case of Tolkien here, I think he just did not want Gandalf to be the one to easily sheperd Frodo to Rivendell with maybe just one adventure like Bilbo had. I think he just wanted Frodo to have a tougher time. Plus to have the opportunity to meet people like Aragorn, Bombadil etc. Might make for a longer and better tale, and who are we to judge?


CuriousG
Half-elven


Apr 13 2015, 1:10am

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When Wizards go bad [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the latest (and much-awaited) installment of analysis, Wiz!

Is the information we get from Gandalf about his reasoning and movements interesting, or could we do without this angle on the events we’ve already seen? If it is repetition of an earlier chapter, why does Tolkien not summarise it much more concisely? Does Gandalf’s account shed useful light on his character (and on Aragorn’s and Gollums)? If so, in what way(s)? Or is Tolkien frying other fish?

It certainly is a repetition of The Shadow of the Past, but I was rather lost on my first time through the book, and this chapter dives deeper into the same topic, so I found it helpful and was grateful. How much did Tolkien intend this as a pedagogical device ("Those thick readers need repetition every few chapters"), I'm not sure. He might have thought it was a good way to tie everything together while giving readers insight into Gandalf, who until now has been something of a cipher, so I especially appreciate his long-winded personal story so I can figure out more what he's like.

It says something that he's not interrupted or contradicted by others present; indeed, held in high esteem. The Gandalf we saw in the Shire was a fireworks expert and seemed an eccentric if magical old man. This Gandalf reveals more about how powerful he is as a shaper of world events.

What does the downfall of Saruman, as related here, tell us about evil in Middle-earth?
We see Saruman mostly through this account already of Gandalf's- when our embedded hobbit reporters actually see him, he is defeated. Does this have an effect on how we perceive Saruman? Is it supposed to?
Honestly, on first read, I was thinking, "Who's Saruman, and where is he, and why am I supposed to care about him?" I wasn't sure if he'd ever reappear in the story or not, especially since it's clear they needed to avoid him, and Sauron was the real threat anyway. Subsequent reads made me appreciate Gandalf's story a lot more, in particular Saruman having rings on his fingers, as if he were attempting to make his own Rings of Power, a Sauron-wannabe in every detail.

I like the contrasts of the before/after-defeat Saruman. I figured anyone more powerful than Gandalf, who could hold off the Nine, had to be very powerful, and I still found him scary in defeat with his cunning and his Voice. Isn't it remarkable that we learn so much about this evil character when as readers, we never come face to face with Sauron?


CuriousG
Half-elven


Apr 13 2015, 1:41am

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Aren't we meddling in the affairs of Wizards? [In reply to] Can't Post

Any thoughts about why Gandalf proceeds in this way? Would it have been more or less convincing had summarised the logical case instead?
As a reader I felt rather smug by this point in the Council, because I already knew it was the One Ring, and the Wise (and Average) were still demanding proof. I'm not sure why Gandalf needs to make things so ironclad--I'd say sending the Nine to capture him is all the proof you need, especially when the other Rings are accounted for. But I think since the story is epic, the justification for the Quest is epic as well. I've seen fantasy movies where people decide in a couple minutes of dialogue or less that they have to stop The Evil Overlord, and when it's rushed, it feels like a forgettable TV episode. Digging into all these different epochs, places, and races gives us a sense of Middle-earth's vast scope, the difference between being a trench soldier and being a stenographer at the Yalta Summit in World War 2. Same war, but vastly different perspectives on it.

Mirkwood is a reasonable place to begin the tale, but do you also see some level of Gandalf kicking himself for not having figured things out sooner?
Gandalf seems to be both proud and capable of self-blame at the same time. I feel like he kicks himself a lot for missed clues and other opportunities. By contrast, Saruman probably never questions himself, and look how he turned out.

Is this an odd choice of priorities, actually? If Gandalf is confident that his proof lies in an experiment at Bag End, why not do that first?
I think there is some logic in this. The Ring still seems safe in the Shire, and the search for Gollum was so long and arduous, if I were Gandalf, I'd want to drop everything and see him too.

I presume there is deliberate irony in Saruman accusing his colleagues of being arrogant, secretive and stupid and himself wise, when the opposite would see to be the case?
You presume correctly, young Skywalker.

Is it a surprise, in a fantasy work with a big theme of the heroic rejection of evil, to find a character making a very realpolitik-sounding speech about compromise and regrettable necessities?
Funny that you ask this question, because I've always had that reaction, like Saruman was lifted from the day's news headlines, some 2nd-ranking politician talking about going along with the 1st-ranked ones to work within the system for the better good. Sometimes they're delusional, sometimes they have a point. But yes, this is realpolitik all the way. Tolkien can dismiss allegory all he wants, but this sounded to me like people capitulating to Hitler to try to stave off worse things.

What do you suppose is Saruman’s real plan and what is being said to try to win over Gandalf? Does Saruman really propose steering Sauron, or does he plan all along to supplant him as soon as practical?
Real plan? Betray everyone and become the new Dark Lord. Period. He's actually very simple in that respect, thinking he's fooling everyone but really fooling himself with his fancy talk.

We are used to characters being tempted by the Ring (or denying that temptation) when they have an opportunity to seize it. What of Saruman - he’s come nowhere near it. Is the Ring driving him crazy, or have his researches into Ring-lore been fatal, or is he a tragic character bound to be brought down by his character flaws, with the Ring being just the best option for getting the power he wants?
I don't think this is the agency of the Ring acting on Saruman but his own frustration with the failed war against Sauron and his growing corruption to gain more power for himself just for its own sake. The Ring is just another way to get more power, but I think he'd be corrupt if it had rolled into the Sea and was completely lost. The Istari were a failure as a group, with only 20% of them remaining on task. Galadriel will admit to Frodo that she had wondered for many years what she'd do with the Ring if she got it somehow, and I think that's her own power-lust working on her, not the Ring.

Is this setting up Aragorn as the natural choice for the informal second-in-command of the Fellowship? Is it helping Aragorn’s stock in Boromir’s eyes?
Actually, I don't think Boromir respects anyone present very much, including Gandalf, so this isn't improving his perception of the Man Who Would Be King. If Aragorn had an army 10,000 strong march up to Rivendell's gates, THAT would impress the Steward's son, but not much else.

A quibble: As regards why Gandalf can’t join Frodo, Tolkien has him arrive in the Shire super-fast, but then have to kill time getting lost so that he can’t do much. Is this a fossil from older plot-lines, before Gandalf has to journey back from Orthanc? Wouldn’t it be simpler if Shadowfax were a noble steed but slower, and to have Gandalf head direct to Rivendell from Rohan, and perhaps only just arrive before Frodo does?
I like your solution instead of the convoluted and implausible one we get. If Tolkien were alive and I could beg for a rewrite, I'd ask for that: Gandalf shows up late instead of early. He could even show up after all the drama at the Ford of Bruinen, having just escaped Isengard and ridden straight for Imladris to get help, and also because he could reasonably assume that Frodo had obeyed orders and was already there. It would make a lot more sense. If only...


(This post was edited by CuriousG on Apr 13 2015, 1:41am)


Darkstone
Immortal


Apr 13 2015, 3:57pm

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"Not as the third" [In reply to] Can't Post

Any thoughts about why Gandalf proceeds in this way?

The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience. … The law embodies the story of a nation’s development through many centuries, and it cannot be dealt with as if it contained only the axioms and corollaries of a book of mathematics. In order to know what it is, we must know what it has been, and what it tends to become. … The substance of the law at any given time pretty nearly corresponds, so far as it goes, with what is then understood to be convenient; but its form and machinery, and the degree to which it is able to work out desired results, depend very much upon its past.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., The Common Law.

Similarly, I image long-lived beings like Elves and Istari may appreciate conclusions reached by logic, but it is the conclusions reached by experience and the lessons of history that are truly convincing to them. Over the centuries they’ve seen the illogic of the world and the repetition of folly.



Would it have been more or less convincing had summarised the logical case instead?

Might have worked better for Boromir.


Then he launches into an account of Sauron’s eviction from Mirkwood, and Saruman’s assurances that the Ring was not an issue.
Mirkwood is a reasonable place to begin the tale, but do you also see some level of Gandalf kicking himself for not having figured things out sooner?


Who would go ? For they must be mighty, peers of Sauron, but must forgo might, and clothe themselves in flesh so as to treat on equality and win the trust of Elves and Men. But this would imperil them, dimming their wisdom and knowledge, and confusing them with fears, cares, and weariness coming from the flesh." But two only came forward: Curumo, who was chosen by Aulë, and Alatar, who was sent by Oromë. Then Manwë asked, where was Olórin ? And Olórin, who was clad in grey, and having just entered from a journey had seated himself at the edge of the council, asked what Manwë would have of him. Manwë replied that he wished Olórin to go as the third messenger to Middle-earth (and it is remarked in parentheses that "Olórin was a lover of the Eldar that remained," apparently to explain Manwë's choice). But Olórin declared that he was too weak for such a task, and that he feared Sauron. Then Manwë said that that was all the more reason why he should go, and that he commanded Olórin (illegible words follow that seems to contain word "third"). But at that Varda looked up and said: "Not as the third;" and Curumo remembered it.
-Unfinished Tales, The Istari

I think Gandalf is losing that self-doubt he started out with and coming to realize he’s going to have to be the one to lead the Wise, the Fellowship, and the defense of Middle-earth and yes he’s kicking himself for not realizing it sooner.


Gandalf describes how his misgivings strengthened over time, and his decision to recruit Aragorn and look for Gollum. Aragorn and Gandalf describe the start of their hunt together, and Gandalf turns to his idea of looking in the Minas Tirith archives, where he discovers Isildur’s manuscript, and thinks of the experiment of throwing Frodo’s ring into the fireplace at Bag End to reveal any hidden inscription. He sets off for The Shire to do this, but learns that Aragorn has captured Gollum., so turns aside to interview him.
Is this an odd choice of priorities, actually?


Not really. All the experiment really shows is that Bilbo’s ring has glowing letters like the One Ring. Exactly how common is that little trick among magic rings anyway?


If Gandalf is confident that his proof lies in an experiment at Bag End, why not do that first?

Experiment versus experience.


Gandalf then turns to his Bag End experiment, and shocks the meeting by speaking in the Black Speech.

Nice point. Just because someone speaks in the Black Speech doesn’t make them the Enemy, and just because a ring is engraved with the Ring Verse doesn’t make it the One Ring.


Then he reveals that Gollum has also been interrogated by Sauron…

Now this really means something!


Talk turns to Gollum’s fate, and Legolas reveals the news that Gollum has in fact escaped (or, quite likely, been rescued).

Captain of the Guards Tauriel is dead?!?!?


Gandalf now describes his summons from the Shire to Orthanc, and gives a long account of his interview and imprisonment by Saruman, and his escape. This is actually the only time we “meet” Saruman before his defeat, so it’s our main opportunity to assess him, and the effects of a lust for the Ring that he has studied but never seen.

So everything we know about Saurman is filtered through Gandalf. Does Gandalf have a vested interest in making Saurman a bigger threat than he is, or a lesser?


After an account of his meeting with Radagast and his unfortunate decision to trust Butterbur to deliver an urgent message to Frodo….

I would have thought Bob or even slowcoach Nob better choices, but what do I know?


… Gandalf gives us a brief description of Orthanc. It’s immediately apparent when he meets Saruman that something is wrong.

So much for being forewarned by echoes of the Music of the Ainur.


Saruman is rude to Gandalf, accusing him of arrogance and of concealing information from Saruman (as head of the White Council). He scoffs at Radagast’s stupidity, and then declares himself to be Wise, Ringmaker…

So between Celebrimbor, Sauron, Saruman, and who knows who else, exactly how many rings with glowing letters are there floating around in Middle-earth?


…and “of Many Colours”.

Yellow in front, brown in back.


He brushes aside Gandalf’s response in order to make what is evidently a prepared speech.

Not only The Voice, but a well thought out and carefully polished version of The Voice especially crafted to convince and dominate the unknowing and unprepared Gandalf! How could it possibly fail?


I presume there is deliberate irony in Saruman accusing his colleagues of being arrogant, secretive and stupid and himself wise, when the opposite would seem to be the case?

Saruman the Weinie.


Saruman’s first proposal is that he and Gandalf should join with Sauron, and attempt to steer Sauron’s policies. There is no realistic alternative. The ends will justify the regrettable means. When Gandalf objects to this idea, Saurman floats the idea that they (together) should control the Ruling Ring. When Gandalf laughs at that idea as impossible, Saruman imprisons him.

That certainly went well….


Is it a surprise, in a fantasy work with a big theme of the heroic rejection of evil, to find a character making a very realpolitik-sounding speech about compromise and regrettable necessities?

Yes, but that’s what makes Tolkien unique. It’s not the struggle between Black and White that interests him, but the choice between Grey and White. That’s why we get so much more of Saruman, Boromir, and Denethor and so little about Sauron, WiKi, and MOS.


What do you suppose is Saruman’s real plan…

”’Oh, I'll just magically win the race just because I really want to!’”
-Wreck-It Ralph (2012)


…and what is being said to try to win over Gandalf?

If that’s the best he can come up with after a long period of preparation I wonder that he’s able to convince crebain to fly.


Does Saruman really propose steering Sauron, or does he plan all along to supplant him as soon as practical?

He was hoping Gandalf could come up with an idea so he could steal it.


"...frightful evil can and does arise from an apparently good root; the desire to benefit the world and others - speedily and according to the benefactor's own plans - is a recurrent motive." Wrote Tolkien (in a 1951 letter to Milton Friedman, in which Tolkien outlined themes in his Middle-earth writings).

Most academic policies begin like that as Tolkien would know.


Is that the stage Saruman has reached, or is he beyond that and only out to benefit himself?

Yes. The benefit most tyrants seek at that stage is to show everyone how right they are no matter how wrong they were.


We are used to characters being tempted by the Ring (or denying that temptation) when they have an opportunity to seize it. What of Saruman - he’s come nowhere near it. Is the Ring driving him crazy, or have his researches into Ring-lore been fatal,…

”It is perilous to study too deeply the arts of the Enemy, for good or for ill.


… or is he a tragic character bound to be brought down by his character flaws,…

“Manwë always liked you best!!”


… with the Ring being just the best option for getting the power he wants?

But at that Varda looked up and said: "Not as the third;" and Curumo remembered it.


Finally, Gandalf describes his journey from Rohan to the Shire on Shadowfax the Wonderhorse…

So called because everyone wonders what he’ll do next!


Note the massive indirect compliment that Gandalf pays Aragorn, when he learns that the hobbits are off with “Strider” and then feels able to stop for a rest himself.

If he’d only known about Glorfindel taking charge he could have taken a whole month off!


Along with their joint account of the capture of Gollum, I think it helps build up Aragorn as one of Gandalf’s most trusted friends and helpers.

What about Glorfindel?


Additionally of course, Aragorn is one of the very few people with whom Gandalf has discussed the Ring (compare Saruman!).

But what about Glorfindel?


I don’t think we knew that about Aragorn’s status in Gandalf’s eyes before?

You’d think the disaster at Weathertop and all Aragorn’s missteps until Glorfindel took over would count for something. I think Aragorn has something on Gandalf. Probably saw something nasty in the woodshed during one of Old Took’s Midsummer’s Eve parties.


Is this setting up Aragorn as the natural choice for the informal second-in-command of the Fellowship?

Unnatural choice.

“Actually I was just on my way to Australia…”
-Support Your Local Sheriff (1969)

Or in Aragorn’s case, “I was just on my way to Minas Tirith.”


Is it helping Aragorn’s stock in Boromir’s eyes?

Couldn’t hurt. I mean, “Wizard’s Pupil” is just such a ringing endorsement in Gondor.


As I see it, we readers have it confirmed that Gandalf caused the strange flashes that were seen from Weathertop,…

I still think it was aliens.


…and of course we were wondering why Gandalf didn’t come to rescue Frodo.

He didn’t want to get upstaged by Glorfindel.


Is this just filling in background detail,…

He’s obfuscating the issues by being irrelevant. Or as they say in Middle-earth, irroliphaunt.


…or am I missing important things?

We all are. Life is just too short.


A quibble: As regards why Gandalf can’t join Frodo, Tolkien has him arrive in the Shire super-fast, but then have to kill time getting lost so that he can’t do much. Is this a fossil from older plot-lines, before Gandalf has to journey back from Orthanc?

I’m thinking it’s a veiled reference to the wartime experiences of 2nd Lieutenant Tolkien: “Hurry up and wait” and “The captain couldn’t find his backside with an orienteering compass and a grid map.”


Wouldn’t it be simpler if Shadowfax were a noble steed but slower, and to have Gandalf head direct to Rivendell from Rohan, and perhaps only just arrive before Frodo does?

Or even simpler just taken Gwaihir. But it’s not the destination but the journey that matters. After all, LOTR is basically a travelogue of Middle-earth.


To say a bit more about the idea that Gandalf ought to have gone to Rivendell first: I’m seeing Rohan - Rivendell as a shorter journey than Rohan- Hobbiton. And it seems a fairly reasonable plan to hasten to Rivendell (where Gandalf ought to expect Frodo to be by now, if he had set off when instructed in Gandalf’s letter). At Rivendell get news, and warn of Saruman’s treachery. If Frodo had not reached Rivendell, Gandalf could proceed back down Frodo’s assumed route from The Shire as the best way of meeting him, possibly assisted by mobilizing others in Elrond’s household to join the search.

Everybody makes fun of Radagast stopping in mid-step going “Squirrel!!” but obviously he’s got nothing on Gandalf being distracted by something shiny.

******************************************
No Orc, No Orc!!
It's a wonderful town!!!
Mount Doom blew up,
And the Black Tower's down!!
The orcs all fell in a hole in the ground!
No Orc, No Orc!!
It's a heckuva town!!!

-Lord of the Rings: The Musical, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green


noWizardme
Valinor


Apr 13 2015, 4:42pm

Post #7 of 33 (3616 views)
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How to convince - personalities [In reply to] Can't Post


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Gandalf answers Galdor’s question with logic- what other Ring would Sauron pursue in the way they have seen? Gandalf could carry on in that way - arguing that (1) Frodo's Ring matches exactly the description of the One Ring made by Isildur (especially the hidden inscription), and; (2) Frodo's Ring is shown to be a Great Ring because it prolongs mortal life. But if it is a Great Ring it cannot be one of the 3, 7 or 9 because it does not match their descriptions (they have jewels) and in any case their whereabouts are known. Logically therefore, Frodo's Ring must be either the One Ring, or a previously unknown Great Ring which resembles the One Ring closely. Line of Argument (3) Is that Isildur disappeared MIA in the place later inhabited by Smeagol and his clan. So Gandalf can make a credible reconstruction of the Ring's movements. But this argument is more corroboration than the key part of the proof, I think. Instead of replying by setting out the logic, however, Gandalf tackles the question as Elrond did: by giving an historical and eye-witness account Any thoughts about why Gandalf proceeds in this way?
Would it have been more or less convincing had summarised the logical case instead?


This was reminding me how I worked differently with 2 of the best-ever bosses I have had.

Boss One would certainly want a short email setting out
The situation
A recommended action
If relevant, other options (e.g. do THIS if you want to solve the problem completely, but do THIS if you want to get some benefit without spending much).

If that all made sense to her, she's probably email back just "OK", and that would be the plan.

Boss Two, however, would want access to all the data so as to reach his own conclusion, then he would decide whether any recommendation made sense.

They were both really effective, competent people and both good to work for - but they were probably at different extremes of how they liked to make a decision.

So - maybe Gandalf (and Elrond) are gauging their audience as folks who need all the data for themselves (like my Boss Two)...

~~~~~~

"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!"

This year LOTR turns 60. The following image is my LOTR 60th anniversary party footer! You can get yours here: http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=762154#762154


Darkstone
Immortal


Apr 13 2015, 4:47pm

Post #8 of 33 (3633 views)
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Triple modular redundancy [In reply to] Can't Post

"Just the place for a Snark!" the Bellman cried,
As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
By a finger entwined in his hair.

"Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true."

-Lewis Carroll, The Hunting of the Snark


Is the information we get from Gandalf about his reasoning and movements interesting,…

Yes.


… or could we do without this angle on the events we’ve already seen?

That too.


If it is repetition of an earlier chapter, why does Tolkien not summarise it much more concisely?

A lot of folk tales use the “repetition-break” structure. Also a lot of comedians.


Does Gandalf’s account shed useful light on his character (and on Aragorn’s and Gollums)?

Sure.


If so, in what way(s)?

Denethor is set up as suspicious, and possibly corrupted via a Saruman connection. Gandalf and Aragorn are portrayed as accomplished travelers who are not afraid to get their hands dirty. Aragorn is not afraid to do what has to be done though it drifts to the grey side of things, presaging his morally perilous use of the Dead. We hear directly of Aragorn’s travels around Mordor which will be echoed by Frodo’s journey. Perhaps most importantly we learn how wild and untamable Gollum is so we will be surprised and maybe a bit suspicious how “easily” Frodo is able to tame him later on.

Again, the “repetition-break” of folk tales.


Or is Tolkien frying other fish?

“Indeed if fish had fish-lore and Wise-fish, it is probable that the business of anglers would be very little hindered.”
-"Note 9" from the "Author's Notes on the 'Commentary'" from the Commentary on The Debate of Finrod and Andreth in HoME X, Morgoth's Ring.


What does the downfall of Saruman, as related here, tell us about evil in Middle-earth?

Same as Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: "the banality of evil”.


We see Saruman mostly through this account already of Gandalf's- when our embedded hobbit reporters actually see him, he is defeated.

Kinda like how we hear so much about Denethor, Theoden, and The Lady of Lorien before we finally meet them. They're never how we think they are.


Does this have an effect on how we perceive Saruman?

Sure.


Is it supposed to?

Repetition-break.

******************************************
No Orc, No Orc!!
It's a wonderful town!!!
Mount Doom blew up,
And the Black Tower's down!!
The orcs all fell in a hole in the ground!
No Orc, No Orc!!
It's a heckuva town!!!

-Lord of the Rings: The Musical, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green


Dame Ioreth
Tol Eressea


Apr 14 2015, 12:29pm

Post #9 of 33 (3547 views)
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This is an aside about Saruman, since this is the first time we "meet" him [In reply to] Can't Post

What, if any, conclusions can be made of the this description of Saruman's actions based on the facts that they are:
  1. Gandalf's retelling - why do we trust his version? I do implicitly and I'm not sure why I do. I keep coming back to "He's Gandalf, that's why." in my mind. What makes him, after only a few chapters, a reliable narrator. He's a king-maker, we find out in the end. He's also willing, (grudgingly but still willing) to sacrifice individuals to the greater good. He's got an agenda too, just like Saruman. But we trust him to "do the right thing". And we trust him to be telling the truth about Saruman also. It's the only time we really meet Saruman, so Gandalf's story has to be a faithful retelling of events. We trust the author to have put the story in the right hands. Why?
  2. Saruman's "upbringing" vs. Gandalf's "upbringing" - does it matter what their mentors back in the West were like? Can we guess at the on-the-side instructions that may have been given to each of the Maiar by their mentors? Saruman came first to Middle Earth. He's had the longest foothold and the longest time to look around and see what forces are at work in Middle Earth. He's the oldest, he's associated with Aule, the smith. Does that mean he would have a background knowledge and therefore a thirst for more knowledge about rings of power - any rings of power - and especially this ring of power? Does Gandalf "know him from the old days" and therefore not as surprised that Saruman was seduced by the power of the ring? Did Aule give Saruman instructions on the side to take down Melkor's representative in Middle Earth? Was is a grudge between Valar that spilled over into Middle Earth with willing participation of Saruman to see that payback was made?

Excuse the Tookish questions and the possible derailment of the discussion but I've always wondered at that the characters of the Maiar and this is a chapter that had me digging into the Silmarillion and appendices.

.
Heed WBA when building blanket forts.
ITLs don't get enough FAS. :)

Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings






noWizardme
Valinor


Apr 14 2015, 1:00pm

Post #10 of 33 (3543 views)
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Not a derailment at all - very much the kind of thing I was wondering... [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't personally think that Gandalf is portraying Saruman dishonestly - but like you it is interesting to note how trustworthy we find Gandalf!

I thought CuriousG made a good point (now where was it...) that we don't see Sauron either. Nor do we really see what the Ring can do - until it is destroyed. Maybe there is a theme there?

~~~~~~

"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!"

This year LOTR turns 60. The following image is my LOTR 60th anniversary party footer! You can get yours here: http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=762154#762154


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Apr 14 2015, 11:08pm

Post #11 of 33 (3515 views)
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Maybe Boromir was thinking [In reply to] Can't Post

'This Saruman doesn't sound too bad to me!'


CuriousG
Half-elven


Apr 14 2015, 11:42pm

Post #12 of 33 (3509 views)
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Great questions, Wise Lady Ioreth [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm so sucked into canon, I would never question Gandalf, but you're right, it's worth doing so. He even boasts to the hobbits that he doesn't tell them everything and doesn't feel any moral need to, so he certainly does hold back on vital information. How much is he holding back on Saruman?

What strikes me is his comment:

Quote
‘At first I feared, as Saruman no doubt intended, that Radagast had also fallen. Yet I had caught no hint of anything wrong in his voice or in his eye at our meeting. If I had, I should never have gone to Isengard, or I should have gone more warily."

What Gandalf is saying is that he could have detected something wrong with Radagast, and if so, he would have gone to Isengard warily, or not at all. Wait a minute! This means he finds his fellow Istari capable of doing wrong, that this is thinkable. To me it seems unthinkable, as unthinkable as saying, "Glorfindel wouldn't look me in the eye, so I suspected he was lying, and that meant that Elrond was fallen too, so I would never go to Rivendell." Hard to imagine Gandalf saying that! So if it's quite possible for him to be suspicious of his fellow Maiar/Wizards, what kind of an shaky opinion of them did he have before this series of events?

And linked to this is my wondering why things went so badly so fast between Saruman and Gandalf when they met up. Gandalf doesn't go through anything like, "Saruman! I'm shocked, shocked I say! We used to go golfing in Valinor, we sang songs at the feet of Manwe. You're the last person I would EVER think capable of betraying the Valar and Eru." I mean, we don't get anything like that at all. Instead they argue, and Gandalf winds up in jail, more like a fly caught in a trap than a close friend betrayed.

Saruman's past: we are left to speculate what agendas they were given aside from the official one from the council of the Valar. The Blue Wizards were of the nature-loving kind, like Radagast. Were they told that preserving nature was as important as defeating Sauron, and that's why they turned aside from their Prime Task? I can't imagine Aule counseling Saruman to do anything wrong, but did he ask him to bring back the One Ring out of curiosity rather than destroy it? That's far-fetched, but how about Aule telling Saruman that he's up against another former Aule-Maia (maybe Saruman and Sauron worked the forge bellows together as apprentices and have an old bond), and he should use his own special knowledge of smithcraft to oppose Sauron if he hoped to win? If all the Istari had side agendas, what was Gandalf's?


Brethil
Half-elven


Apr 15 2015, 3:05am

Post #13 of 33 (3489 views)
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Gandalf's Tale [In reply to] Can't Post


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Any thoughts about why Gandalf proceeds in this way? Would it have been more or less convincing had summarised the logical case instead? Mirkwood is a reasonable place to begin the tale, but do you also see some level of Gandalf kicking himself for not having figured things out sooner? Is this an odd choice of priorities, actually? If Gandalf is confident that his proof lies in an experiment at Bag End, why not do that first?

Great questions - which I am combining answers to. And I think it plays again into two things: the meld of the books and Gandalf's relationship with Saruman the White. With Gandalf as a common element, his departure from the journey through Mirkwood with the Company is touched upon as the opening of the proofs narrative. Neatly done. As far as the eyewitness aspect, I feel like Gandalf and Aragorn here are two parts of a tale; clearly Aragorn knows what Gandalf knows and they seem to rather work the room to tell the complete tale.
I think at this juncture with Saruman revealed to him, Gandalf now regrets his delays and is also hurt by the loss of Saruman as he should be. In truth, much of his activities seem to indicate those misgivings of his heart that he refers to. It seems that they were more of an attempt to prove to himself that this was NOT the One, and that Saruman was therefore both right and trustworthy. A sideways glimpse into their relationship and its importance to Gandalf, which we see now only at the breaking. I think then it may relate quite a lot to Saruman, and what his betrayal means to Middle-earth and to Gandalf personally.









Is it a surprise, in a fantasy work with a big theme of the heroic rejection of evil, to find a character making a very realpolitik-sounding speech about compromise and regrettable necessities? What do you suppose is Saruman’s real plan and what is being said to try to win over Gandalf? Does Saruman really propose steering Sauron, or does he plan all along to supplant him as soon as practical?

"...frightful evil can and does arise from an apparently good root; the desire to benefit the world and others - speedily and according to the benefactor's own plans - is a recurrent motive." Wote Tolkien (in a 1951 letter to Milton Friedman, in which Tolkien outlined themes in his Middle-earth writings). Is that the stage Saruman has reached, or is he beyond that and only out to benefit himself?



I would like to think at this point Saruman may be trying to persuade Gandalf that he means to 'steer' Sauron...but his reaction to Gandalf's lack of immediate subservience tells me that his arrogance has indeed passed the point of 'steering' and gone to the despotic (which is just about the worst crime of all to JRRT, I think).








We are used to characters being tempted by the Ring (or denying that temptation) when they have an opportunity to seize it. What of Saruman - he’s come nowhere near it. Is the Ring driving him crazy, or have his researches into Ring-lore been fatal, or is he a tragic character bound to be brought down by his character flaws, with the Ring being just the best option for getting the power he wants?




The Ring to Saruman is only an intellectual reality: thus the temptation does indeed come from within I think. It makes me wonder about the wizard who chose the imposing Tower of Orthanc versus the perhaps humbler one who rejects the trappings of power to roll like a stone to where the need takes him. Gandalf may have been the only one who succeeded among the Istari; but I imagine that Saruman could be argued to have failed the most spectacularly.






Is this setting up Aragorn as the natural choice for the informal second-in-command of the Fellowship? Is it helping Aragorn’s stock in Boromir’s eyes?

Hmm. Not sure hanging with Wizards would do that! I tend to think it would widen the gulf. So perhaps it exists to stress the contrasts and set up the scathing comment from Denethor to Faramir about his eyes following Gandalf too closely: and since father and son are alike in many ways my guess is this is the feeling Boromir will have arrived with.



As I see it, we readers have it confirmed that Gandalf caused the strange flashes that were seen from Weathertop, and of course we were wondering why Gandalf didn’t come to rescue Frodo. Is this just filling in background detail, or am I missing important things?


Its great detail. And I think it gives us a fabulous hint of Gandalf's power without overstating it.







A quibble: As regards why Gandalf can’t join Frodo, Tolkien has him arrive in the Shire super-fast, but then have to kill time getting lost so that he can’t do much. Is this a fossil from older plot-lines, before Gandalf has to journey back from Orthanc? Wouldn’t it be simpler if Shadowfax were a noble steed but slower, and to have Gandalf head direct to Rivendell from Rohan, and perhaps only just arrive before Frodo does?



Hmm. I see your quibble and I am not sure I have an answer for it; some of the time-and-map issues that get raised often evade me - its nor my forte at all. If Gandalf's intent were to accompany Frodo in any part of the trip, or even as it turns out to run interference for the Nine, I guess he has to head for Hobbiton first? But that's probably far too simple an explanation.









Brethil
Half-elven


Apr 15 2015, 3:18am

Post #14 of 33 (3485 views)
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I like this [In reply to] Can't Post


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It certainly is a repetition of The Shadow of the Past, but I was rather lost on my first time through the book, and this chapter dives deeper into the same topic, so I found it helpful and was grateful. How much did Tolkien intend this as a pedagogical device ("Those thick readers need repetition every few chapters"), I'm not sure. He might have thought it was a good way to tie everything together while giving readers insight into Gandalf, who until now has been something of a cipher, so I especially appreciate his long-winded personal story so I can figure out more what he's like.

It says something that he's not interrupted or contradicted by others present; indeed, held in high esteem. The Gandalf we saw in the Shire was a fireworks expert and seemed an eccentric if magical old man. This Gandalf reveals more about how powerful he is as a shaper of world events.


A great summation.



Isn't it remarkable that we learn so much about this evil character when as readers, we never come face to face with Sauron?




Which maybe makes some of Saruman's purpose the humanization of evil? The overweening yet 'good beginnings' of the evil of Sauron - closest to Absolute - rather defies humanizing or softening (cat jokes acknowledged, too little too late Sauron) whereas maybe Saruman who also clearly started with so much good can be portrayed more accessibly since he is Gandalf's contemporary (and we can relate to him)?










Brethil
Half-elven


Apr 15 2015, 3:19am

Post #15 of 33 (3487 views)
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How much of TH makes Gandalf reliable, do you think? [In reply to] Can't Post

Or do you get that sensation in the free-standing view of LOTR too?








noWizardme
Valinor


Apr 15 2015, 7:51am

Post #16 of 33 (3476 views)
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Gandalf is a weird kind of "reliable" in The Hobbit [In reply to] Can't Post

He goes off to do his own inscrutable stuff. He might come back in time to get you out of a scrape, or he might not.

Perhaps that works better in The Hobbit - it was intended as a children's book, and Gandalf is like grown-ups are to a child: the local neighbourhood versions of the Trolls or Spiders might have you well strung up by the time Mum or Dad looks up from what they are doing...

That won't wash in LOTR of course, both because it is more pitched at adults, and because safe disposal of The Ring so clearly ought to be Gandalf's top priority. he has to be first captured and then die in order to avoid him chaperoning Frodo too much.

~~~~~~

"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!"

This year LOTR turns 60. The following image is my LOTR 60th anniversary party footer! You can get yours here: http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=762154#762154


Dame Ioreth
Tol Eressea


Apr 15 2015, 9:29am

Post #17 of 33 (3470 views)
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See, that's the thing... [In reply to] Can't Post

Take a look at The Hobbit - When you add Gandalf leaving the dwarves on their own, when you find out that Gandalf had his own reasons for urging the dwarves to take back Erebor, when you think that he knew of the dragon, and even knew possibly that there was something icky in Mirkwood, and when you think about the history of the Erebor Dwarves with Thranduil and his folk that Gandalf absolutely knew about... he was putting an awful lot of beings in motion to make that part of his plan a reality and there was a very real chance that folks were going to die.

So, if you sit down and think about it and make an honest list of pros vs cons for trusting him, it's really not so overwhelmingly favorable. And that's the children's book! But we do. We like him. And I can't figure out why we do except to point to his humility, his service to the greater good and to smaller peoples and possibly to his caring nature when it comes to those he puts in harms way. He doesn't do it lightly, does he. It's deadly serious with him.

.
Heed WBA when building blanket forts.
ITLs don't get enough FAS. :)

Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings






Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Apr 15 2015, 12:29pm

Post #18 of 33 (3469 views)
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Gandalf in 'The Hobbit' [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
He goes off to do his own inscrutable stuff. He might come back in time to get you out of a scrape, or he might not.

Perhaps that works better in The Hobbit - it was intended as a children's book, and Gandalf is like grown-ups are to a child: the local neighbourhood versions of the Trolls or Spiders might have you well strung up by the time Mum or Dad looks up from what they are doing...

That won't wash in LOTR of course, both because it is more pitched at adults, and because safe disposal of The Ring so clearly ought to be Gandalf's top priority. he has to be first captured and then die in order to avoid him chaperoning Frodo too much.



Although Gandalf does not discuss his hidden agenda and fears for the North in the book (except very briefly with Elrond at the end) he is quite upfront about his intentions. He says from the beginning that he will be unable to remain with the company all the way to Erebor, otherwise Bilbo would have been the fifteenth member, not the 'lucky number'. As it is, he remains with Thorin and his group for longer than he ever intended.

"At the end of the journey, all men think that their youth was Arcadia..." - Phantom F. Harlock


sador
Half-elven


Apr 15 2015, 3:01pm

Post #19 of 33 (3459 views)
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would you prefer - [In reply to] Can't Post

Is the information we get from Gandalf about his reasoning and movements interesting, or could we do without this angle on the events we’ve already seen?
We could; but I guess the infodump leaves us all a bit breathless, so we could use a break.

Would you prefer another round of Bombadillian poetry?

If it is repetition of an earlier chapter, why does Tolkien not summarise it much more concisely?
For one thing, I think Tolkien was presumotous enough to hope people will read the book a second time. As much of book I is spent wondering "where is Gandalf?", on a second reading one has many "a-ha!" moments.

Does Gandalf’s account shed useful light on his character (and on Aragorn’s and Gollums)? If so, in what way(s)?
Yes, but I'm in a hurry right now. Maybe tomorrow, in my response to the longer post (it will also give me time to think).

Or is Tolkien frying other fish?
Fish are good - whether fried, baked, roasted or salted.

But I personally don't like sushi.

What does the downfall of Saruman, as related here, tell us about evil in Middle-earth?
It must be uprooted, because it is contaminates!

We see Saruman mostly through this account already of Gandalf's- when our embedded hobbit reporters actually see him, he is defeated. Does this have an effect on how we perceive Saruman? Is it supposed to?
It is supposed to; but judging by what I've read in the RR - most people make their opinions on Saruman based on the latter chapters.



noWizardme
Valinor


Apr 15 2015, 3:06pm

Post #20 of 33 (3457 views)
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:) That Gandalf chap is a merry old fellow... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Is the information we get from Gandalf about his reasoning and movements interesting, or could we do without this angle on the events we’ve already seen?
We could; but I guess the infodump leaves us all a bit breathless, so we could use a break.

Would you prefer another round of Bombadillian poetry?


Bombadillian poetry - like Bilbo reciting:

That Gandalf chap is a gruff old fellow
He smokes too much and his teeth are yellow
?

I see what you mean - lets keep it as it is
Wink

~~~~~~

"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!"

This year LOTR turns 60. The following image is my LOTR 60th anniversary party footer! You can get yours here: http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=762154#762154


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Apr 15 2015, 10:33pm

Post #21 of 33 (3451 views)
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Speaking of Gandalf and Aragorn [In reply to] Can't Post

There was one point where they did differ. When Gandalf was rescued by Gwaiher, he did question the trustworthiness of Rohan. Aragorn had no doubts about Rohan and believed the tale of them giving horses as tribute no more than Boromir. So at least on this issue he agreed with Boromir over Gandalf, interestingly. Though possibly Gandalf did have justifications for not been too trustworthy towards Rohan as evil was at work in that country.


noWizardme
Valinor


Apr 16 2015, 9:53am

Post #22 of 33 (3426 views)
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Already "The Voice" does not spin chairs, when victims come prepared [In reply to] Can't Post

I like that reading that Saruman is using The Voice for his prepared speech.

Otherwise, it is hard to see why he blows it in the way he does - appearing in his odd new costume, and immediately being rude...

...OK, maybe he has always been rude - but you might think that, having tricked Gandalf into coming to Orthanc, he'd keep up the trickery - play along with the ruse that he only wants to help Gandalf counter the Nazgul, until he has learned all he can. As it is, I think Gandalf quickly decides to tell him nothing.


So - either:
he has misjudged his audience enough to think that an explicit statement of his new self-image will go down well. Perhaps a bit like Richard of York, who - if I recall - walked up to the Throne & put his hand on it to see how the other nobles would react to a fairly obvious claim that he (not Henry VI) should be king. (They reacted badly it turned out).

Or: he can't control himself, & all that resentment pours out (though in that case why the rainbow-robe getup).

So I now prefer the idea that Saruman thinks The Voice will be sufficient: maybe he thinks Gandalf will agree to even [In The Voice]: "Now Gandalf, come look at my experiments with orcs! I'm sure you will agree that they are magnificent!"

But (as Gandalf later comments on his return visit to Orthanc) actions speak louder than words - even words in The Voice

~~~~~~

"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!"

This year LOTR turns 60. The following image is my LOTR 60th anniversary party footer! You can get yours here: http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=762154#762154


(This post was edited by noWizardme on Apr 16 2015, 9:54am)


noWizardme
Valinor


Apr 16 2015, 11:26am

Post #23 of 33 (3417 views)
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Aragorn's comment on Rohan leads to an interesting exchange with Boromir - what do you think of it? [In reply to] Can't Post

It's a thought-provoking exchange that I missed in the Boromir--Aragorn thread, so thanks for raising it!

For reference: Gandalf has just briefly described his cool reception in Rohan after his rescue from Orthanc, and has reported Gwaihir's comment that Rohan pays a tribute of horses to Mordor. Then this:



Quote
Then he [Shadowfax] must be a noble beast indeed,' said Aragorn; 'and it grieves me more than many tidings that might seem worse to learn that Sauron levies such tribute. It was not so when last I was in that land.'

'Nor is it now, I will swear,' said Boromir. 'It is a lie that comes from the Enemy. I know the Men of Rohan, true and valiant, our allies, dwelling still in the lands that we gave them long ago.'

'The shadow of Mordor lies on distant lands,' answered Aragorn. 'Saruman has fallen under it. Rohan is beset. Who knows what you will find there, if ever you return?'

'Not this at least,' said Boromir, 'that they will buy their lives with horses. ...


Later, in TT, as Eomer and his troop are riding up Aragorn reassures Gimli about this rumour ("I believe it no more than did Boromir." he says). So it is interesting that Aragorn and Boromir contrast so much at the Council.

In our current chapter, Aragorn certainly does not flatly argue with the rumour in the way Boromir does. I wonder why?

I can just about read " it grieves me more than many tidings that might seem worse to learn that Sauron levies such tribute. It was not so when last I was in that land" as skepticism about this rumour: just possibly as a very indirect denial of it. Certainly a compliment to how things were in Rohan when Aragorn last visited (and the fact he's been there is in itself an interesting crumb of information!) But Aragorn's other words make it clear he understands that things could have deteriorated since - that doesn't' seem to sit with outright disbelief.

Does Boromir really have the better insight here, do you think , or is he being automatically loyal to his country's allies,who are otherwise unrepresented in this meeting? His words could be read as rather naive: a foolhardy belief in the incorruptibility of men of the South, perhaps.

Conversely, Is Aragorn really open-minded about this rumour at this point (despite what he claims later), or does he really disbelieve it ? If he disbelieves it, why is he so muted? Another character might welcome an opportunity to find common ground with Boromir, especially now that Boromir is very likely to have some influence on how Aragorn's plan to regain his throne works out.

As one interpretation, I wonder whether Aragron is being careful not to contradict or sidetrack Gandalf: Gandalf was in Rohan most recently, of course, and did get a disappointingly hostile reception. This is probably a sore point for the wizard. I very much read Gandalf as someone who genuinely strives for humility and patience but finds it hard to maintain them: we several times see him snap at someone then immediately follow up with something to soften the blow. (An example comes up next chapter where he insists quite rudely that he alone didn't receive any "eye-openers" from the meeting, then immediately turns that into a compliment for Bilbo and Frodo). So I imagine that Gandalf's reception in Rohan smarted - all the more that he was now in urgent need of help to repair a serious, possibly fatal, mistake. In his haste, he may also have seen what Gwaihir has led him to expect - so the rumour would seem entirely credible to him. And, as he himself says, the treason of Saruman had shaken his faith.

So possibly Aragorn is being kind to his friend and mentor, or possibly he is being careful not to lead the meeting down the rabbit-hole of speculating how things stand in Rohan, especially when Gandalf has just said "The rest must be more brief..." (Was Elrond already giving Gandalf 'Chairman's Eye' - willing him to conclude swiftly- do you think?)

Or possibly Aragorn thinks that Boromir is naive in his trust of the Rohirrim (my reading until now; but that requires that he mis-remembers or mis-represents his thoughts later)?

Or possibly, it's another example of Bormir seeming always to tackle things head-on, while Aragorn is more willing to watch, wait and assess?

Interesting insights into the characters of the two men and the wizard here, I now think!

~~~~~~

"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!"

This year LOTR turns 60. The following image is my LOTR 60th anniversary party footer! You can get yours here: http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=762154#762154


(This post was edited by noWizardme on Apr 16 2015, 11:36am)


CuriousG
Half-elven


Apr 16 2015, 11:21pm

Post #24 of 33 (3382 views)
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Of Rohan and exported horse-burgers [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Later, in TT, as Eomer and his troop are riding up Aragorn reassures Gimli about this rumour ("I believe it no more than did Boromir." he says). So it is interesting that Aragorn and Boromir contrast so much at the Council.

In our current chapter, Aragorn certainly does not flatly argue with the rumour in the way Boromir does. I wonder why?

This blatant contradiction always jumps out at me. How can Aragorn tell Gimli that he never believed that rumor when he let Gandalf air it without contest in Rivendell? And really, the way we as readers get to know the Rohirrim, we know that they'd never give away their horses in tribute, which makes Gwaihir an unreliable gossip. (Just another reason why you can't trust the Eagles to take the Ring to Mt Doom.) It seems as far-fetched as saying, "Rumor has it all the hobbits in the Shire have stopped eating and drinking and have grown ten feet tall." It contradicts their basic nature and is not a slight shift in politics.

I think the only way out on this one is your point that Aragorn doesn't want to contradict Gandalf in public, and he's not vested enough in Boromir to support him against a friend. But I don't think Boromir is being naive; he's the expert on this point, and far more reliable than a feather-brained Eagle.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Apr 16 2015, 11:26pm

Post #25 of 33 (3374 views)
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The Voice, or pride? Or both? [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree Saruman is using his snake-charm Voice on Gandalf, and it's remarkable that it fails so miserably. Even Gandalf the White seems partially affected by it.

But to me what is more at work here is Saruman's overweening pride, and pride in Tolkien's world always makes people do and say stupid things. The White Wiz has convinced himself he's the next ruler of Middle-earth, or at least #2 ruler until he can double-cross and unseat #1, so he's treating his former colleagues like puppets and minions. And if you've ever had a co-worker get promoted and watch their ego balloon out of control so they stupidly alienate their former friends and allies, this is pretty plausible.

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