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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
How Arnor managed to hold off The Witch King for so long?
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Victariongreyjoy
Rivendell


Dec 18 2017, 8:23pm

Post #1 of 30 (2429 views)
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How Arnor managed to hold off The Witch King for so long? Can't Post

If the WK was full of a terror aura, why couldn't he scare off Arnor to defeat? Or was Arnor fully prepared and could resist him by stronger will power?


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Dec 18 2017, 8:43pm

Post #2 of 30 (2383 views)
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Limits [In reply to] Can't Post

Any aura of fear that the Witch-king possessed likely could only affect opponents that were in his immediate vicinity. It's not as though he could spread it across an entire battlefield. And those of sufficient strength of will could attempt to resist it; Eärnur was able to do so, though his horse was not so fortunate.

Arnor, though, was already divided long before the kingdom of Angmar arose around TA 1300. Rhudaur was controlled by Hill-men loyal to Angmar only 50 years later. Cardolan was overrun in the year 1409 and fell for good in 1636 due to the spread of the Great Plague. Arthedain was the only one of the North-kingdoms to hold out until the last years of the twentieth century of the Third Age when Fornost fell in 1974.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock


Victariongreyjoy
Rivendell


Dec 18 2017, 8:48pm

Post #3 of 30 (2378 views)
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Dunedain weapons and experience [In reply to] Can't Post

Do you think their experience of dealing such a foe before Arnor's time could have contributed to their resistance against wraiths? I mean during the age of Numenor and the War of the elves, the numenoreans were in battles with other forces of Sauron besides orcs, men and trolls? Like wights, vampires or demons? I read also the dunedain of Arnor had weapons like the blades of westerness to counter evil spirits?


(This post was edited by Victariongreyjoy on Dec 18 2017, 8:55pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Dec 18 2017, 9:16pm

Post #4 of 30 (2372 views)
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It's hard to say. [In reply to] Can't Post

We don't have any record of Wights appearing before the middle of the Third Age. Sauron's Vampiric servant Thuringwethil was slain in the First Age and we don't have any information on any others like her. Likewise, I don't know of any Balrogs surfacing again after the First Age other than Durin's Bane. Werewolves persisted, but no later beasts reached the notoriety of Draugluin or Carcharoth. Even the Nazgûl don't seem to have been employed directly against the Númenóreans until perhaps the Last Alliance of Elves and Men (and possibly not until the rise of Angmar in opposition to the North-kingdoms).

Still the Men of Westernesse could not have been complete strangers to supernatural foes, as the daggers from the Barrow-mounds that Tom Bombadil distributed among Frodo and his friends proved most effective against such opponents. Those knives though were wrought by Men of the North-kingdoms, not in Númenor.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Dec 18 2017, 9:27pm)


Victariongreyjoy
Rivendell


Dec 18 2017, 9:33pm

Post #5 of 30 (2362 views)
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Dagger of Westernesse [In reply to] Can't Post

It seems they were created by the dunedains in Cardolan to fend off WK forces. But they were embedded in magic later by Tom Bombadil?

http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Daggers_of_Westernesse


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Dec 19 2017, 12:48am

Post #6 of 30 (2331 views)
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Probably enchanted when they were made. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
It seems they were created by the dunedains in Cardolan to fend off WK forces. But they were embedded in magic later by Tom Bombadil?


No, I don't think that Tom had anything to do with enchanting the daggers. Spells were put on them when they were forged. Maybe the Dúnedain had help from the Elves.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock


squire
Half-elven


Dec 19 2017, 2:29am

Post #7 of 30 (2329 views)
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"Dagger of Westernesse" seems like an odd term, but ... [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien certainly never called them that. I wonder who coined the term?

Daggers, I looked them up, were for close combat in medieval warfare when knights were unhorsed and swords were no longer in the picture. Only then did a knife-fight become a possibility - daggers (double edged short blades) were useful because they could be plunged into the gaps in the enemy's armor. On the other hand, they could be blocked easily by the swipe of an arm, or the complexity of a joint in the armor.

The idea that the daggers in the Barrow had been enchanted, so that they had extraordinary power against the Nazgul, assumes that a Dunadan would engage in hand-to-hand combat with a Ringwraith, with knives (dagger type knives) as the weapon of choice. I'm not saying that's not possible -- I'm saying that's not likely, except the plot of the story demands it be so.



squire online:
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Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Dec 19 2017, 3:42am

Post #8 of 30 (2319 views)
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Daggers of Westernesse [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
"Dagger of Westernesse" seems like an odd term, but ...
Tolkien certainly never called them that. I wonder who coined the term?


No, you're right, Tolkien did not use that exact phrase. However, he did refer to the blades as daggers and he did write that they were crafted by the Men of Westernesse. So the phrase is not overly outlandish.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock


noWizardme
Valinor


Dec 19 2017, 2:54pm

Post #9 of 30 (2281 views)
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‘Old knives are long enough as swords for hobbit-people" [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
"For each of the hobbits he chose a dagger, long, leaf-shaped, and keen, of marvellous workmanship, damasked with serpent-forms in red and gold. .... ‘Old knives are long enough as swords for hobbit-people,’ he said. ‘Sharp blades are good to have, if Shire-folk go walking, east, south, or far away into dark and danger.’"

Tom Bombadil hands out the Barrow-blades, FOTR


This is probably yet another case of 'it depends on how you imagine it', but I'm imagining that we've got something that looks more like a sword than a bowie knife, when a hobbit is holding it. So I'm thinking it's about half the length of a sword, hobbits being about half the size of Men. (Yes, I know 'how long is a sword' is a question with many answers :) )

Anyway, I'm imagining something more like a seax https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seax or gladius https://en.wikipedia.org/.../Gladius#Description
than a misericorde (which was designed for a quick, single handed coup de grace when grappling) https://en.wikipedia.org/...Misericorde_(weapon)

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Dec 19 2017, 3:14pm

Post #10 of 30 (2280 views)
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Short swords for Hobbits [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
This is probably yet another case of 'it depends on how you imagine it', but I'm imagining that we've got something that looks more like a sword than a bowie knife, when a hobbit is holding it. So I'm thinking it's about half the length of a sword, hobbits being about half the size of Men. (Yes, I know 'how long is a sword' is a question with many answers :) )

Anyway, I'm imagining something more like a seax https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seax or gladius https://en.wikipedia.org/.../Gladius#Description
than a misericorde (which was designed for a quick, single handed coup de grace when grappling) https://en.wikipedia.org/...Misericorde_(weapon)


As you already noted, Tolkien gives a fairly vivid description of the blades: "For each of the hobbits he chose a dagger, long, leaf-shaped, and keen, of marvellous workmanship, damasked with serpent-forms in red and gold." So, yes, I see them as similar in appearance to a Roman gladius (but smaller).



"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Dec 19 2017, 3:15pm)


Victariongreyjoy
Rivendell


Dec 19 2017, 3:47pm

Post #11 of 30 (2258 views)
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Dunedain and magic [In reply to] Can't Post

So the dunedains were more like a elite force of men and magic could only be done by the elves? The only magic I assume the dunedain had access to was the palantir.
Arnor had battalions of elite fighting force with strong will and more fearless than middle men, and I guess they didn't need magic to hold off the WK and his forces? Because if they weren't afraid of the aura of terror by the WK, they would fight back at him and he would cowardly be driven back. I suppose that's the only logic reason I can think of on how they managed to fend him off so long. I just read that the WK forces were black numenoreans, trolls, orcs and wargs. We can perhaps assume he was the only supernatural foe besides the barrow down wights?


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Dec 19 2017, 4:51pm

Post #12 of 30 (2251 views)
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Re: Dunedain and magic [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien was vague on the Dúnedain and how much access they had to magic. We know that Sauron took Black Númenórean servants and taught some of them sorcery. The ability to work magic might have been tied to an individual's connection to the Music of the Ainur; it might have even allowed for the presence of hedge wizards among common Men in Middle-earth. There might have been Men of Westernesse that were capable of weaving spells into the weapons that they crafted. We just don't know with any certainty.

As you note, Dúnedain lords could be taught to use the palantíri that were brought to Middle-earth from Númenor, though the Seeing-stones were actually wrought by Fëanor. The Mouth of Sauron, though he was likely born late in the Third Age, was described as a sorcerer.

If a Dúnadan of Cardolan or Arthedain had confronted the Witch-king directly then he might well have been daunted by the power of the Nazgûl-lord. However, the Dúnedain were valiant and strong, and one would have had at least a chance of resisting it. Remember that Sauron himself was confronted at the end of the Second Age when he still possessed the One Ring. Even before that, he surrendered to the armies of Númenor and was taken prisoner (though he took the opportunity to corrupt the Númenóreans and their king, which might have been his goal all along).

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock


Victariongreyjoy
Rivendell


Dec 19 2017, 5:12pm

Post #13 of 30 (2244 views)
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Sauron [In reply to] Can't Post

I guess Sauron had a much more dread and worse aura of terror than the WK? I mean he is by definition the great evil of ME during the second and the third age. And if the numenorean army could defeat him during the war of the elves, made him submit to them and defeated him one more at the war of the last alliance, it proves these guys were one tough SOB. I don't think middle men like Rohan or Dale could do such a thing.


(This post was edited by Victariongreyjoy on Dec 19 2017, 5:17pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Dec 19 2017, 5:35pm

Post #14 of 30 (2242 views)
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Sauron and Ar-Pharazôn [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, Sauron didn't even pretend to put up a fight against Ar-Pharazôn's army. That's what led me to the speculation that, upon learning of the tremendous size of the Númenórean force, the Dark Lord decided on a different approach.

However, all of this was long after the War of the Elves and Sauron that ended in the year 1701 of the Second Age (though that war was won with the help of Númenor).

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock


InTheChair
Rivendell

Dec 21 2017, 9:58pm

Post #15 of 30 (2135 views)
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Were not these all knives of some young prince of Cardolan? [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
The idea that the daggers in the Barrow had been enchanted, so that they had extraordinary power against the Nazgul, assumes that a Dunadan would engage in hand-to-hand combat with a Ringwraith, with knives (dagger type knives) as the weapon of choice. I'm not saying that's not possible -- I'm saying that's not likely, except the plot of the story demands it be so.


It is strangely convenient. I do not remeber if it is ever stated that the Cardolans made these knives specifically to be effective against the Ringwraiths, or wraithes and wights of any kind, though it is probably implied.

A different connection is that it was the Witch-King who came to the barrows and awoke the barrow-wights, while the swords were in the barrows. If their special powers were connected with that then they could have been just regular well made daggers that somehow practiced upon in some similar mysterious fashion as the rings were. Not that there is the slightest hint of anything like that in the texts, or that it is even probable, but only as an option if we wish to reject the idea that they were made for their purpose.


Silverlode
Forum Admin / Moderator


Dec 21 2017, 11:23pm

Post #16 of 30 (2134 views)
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After Merry uses his to wound the Witch-king... [In reply to] Can't Post

We have this passage, which seems to imply to me that, during the period of war between the Dunedain and Angmar, all their weapons were designed with that in mind.


Quote
So passed the sword of the Barrow-Downs, work of Westernesse. But glad would he have been to know its fate who wrought it slowly long ago in the North-kingdom when the Dunedain were young, and chief among their foes was the dread realm of Angmar and its sorcerer king. No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will.


When weapons are made for a war in which the main antagonist is a sorcerer, it makes sense to develop and produce weapons that have some effectiveness against that, like inventing specialized ammunition (tank rounds, armor piercing, etc) in the era of modern warfare. With the Witch-king as ruler of the kingdom, I think it's also reasonable to assume that magic or sorcery was practiced in lesser ways by many of his officers, and he may have laid some sort of spells on his armies as well. So I don't think the ability to harm the WK is a singular quality of this one weapon, especially since there were other such blades given out to the other hobbits; I think that anti-sorcery designs were a general focus of the weapons manufacture of the Dunedain of the North-kingdom in that era. When it says "no other blade", I think that means "no other type of blade". No blade made by other smiths for other purposes could have done what this one did. But I bet if one of the other hobbits had been there with Merry, their Barrow blade would have worked as well.

Silverlode

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.




squire
Half-elven


Dec 21 2017, 11:57pm

Post #17 of 30 (2136 views)
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That classic passage elides the concepts of 'sword' and 'dagger' [In reply to] Can't Post

For poetic purposes, Merry's blade becomes a 'sword' here in order to evoke the kind of magical heroism that swords have in this kind of romance.

But as noted, it was no sword. It was a short-bladed dagger, which warriors in the hand to hand combat era carried for a close-up struggle with an armored opponent. The short blade could fit through gaps in armor and disable if not kill. And in fact Merry, through virtue of his height and stealth, "stabbed him from behind, shearing through the black mantle, and passing up beneath the hauberk had pierced the sinew behind his mighty knee." (LotR V.6, bold by squire) Just the kind of combat the blade was designed for.

However, could the forger of the dagger really have imagined a man of Westernesse engaging in hand-to-hand combat with a Nazgul? I think we may as well concede that that is what is being said here. And we do see, elsewhere in the stories, evidence that the Dunedain were capable of overcoming the wraiths' terrible power of fear: Aragorn on Weathertop, Earnur at the battle with Angmar, and of course Eowyn at just this moment.

Her sword has no enchantment that we know of, and it deals the Witchking a wound equally bitter, destroying the creature completely. In this case, instead of woven spells from the Barrow-hoard, we imagine that her blade has the particular power of her sex - the power of the Virgin against the Demon - combined with the unique prophecy or curse that Glorfindel invoked a thousand years before.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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No One in Particular
Rivendell


Dec 23 2017, 3:31am

Post #18 of 30 (2067 views)
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Daggers of Westernesse [In reply to] Can't Post

 
While it might seem a tad implausible to engage a Nazgúl in a knife fight, I think it quite likely that the actual full size swords the Arthedainians...Arthedonians..Men of Arthedain used probably had the same properties as their knives and daggers.

In fact, If I were the King, fighting a losing battle against foes like the Witch King, I'd stack as many decks as I could. Battle Hammers? Swords? Pole Arms? I would imagine they "enspelled" anything they possibly could to fight Angmar.

While you live, shine
Have no grief at all
Life exists only for a short while
And time demands an end.
Seikilos Epitaph


FarFromHome
Valinor


Dec 23 2017, 10:57pm

Post #19 of 30 (1990 views)
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And it also depends how the magic is done [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien is always vague about magic, but for things like this it often seems that the "magic" is really a secret and now-lost technology. So if the Men of Westernesse had metalworking skills that now seem like magic, they would surely have used the same techniques for all the blades they forged. As you say, why wouldn't they use all the skills they had against such a powerful enemy.

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



InTheChair
Rivendell

Dec 25 2017, 3:31pm

Post #20 of 30 (1940 views)
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Maybe there wasn't any magic in the knives at all? Just the combination of a Woman, a Hobbit and unusual courage? [In reply to] Can't Post

One issue to have with it, its that if the men of Cardolan had such skill at that time, when Elrond and the remnants of the Noldor were still in Rivendell, you'd think that Elrond with the good memory of Elves would remember how to make them and share that knowledge with the allies when Sauron returns.

One possibility is that it was only the men of Cardolan who knew how to make these and they were not friendly with the Elves. Or the making of the magic of the knives was of such nature, that they could only be forged while the witch-king was in power in the North.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Dec 25 2017, 4:02pm

Post #21 of 30 (1943 views)
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There must have been some magic in that Barrow-knife they found. [In reply to] Can't Post

For when thrust into the Witch-king's knee, be began to dance around!


In Reply To
Maybe there wasn't any magic in the knives at all? Just the combination of a Woman, a Hobbit and unusual courage?


I think that Tolkien, himself, answered that question pretty definitively:

Quote
So passed the sword of the Barrow-downs, work of Westernesse. But glad would he have been to know its fate who wrought it slowly long ago in the North-kingdom when the Dúnedain were young, and chief among their foes was the dread realm of Angmar and its sorcerer king. No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to its will.


It seems clear that the dagger had some innate power of its own, though we might be able to extend that power as well to the other three blades of Westernesse that Bombadil distributed to the Hobbits.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but do not think for one second that I am one of them." - Sherlock


Attalus
Lorien


Jan 5, 7:41pm

Post #22 of 30 (1486 views)
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Magic Blade? [In reply to] Can't Post

As you say, Tolkien was vague about magic. Galadriel herself is cryptic when she says that the Mirror was "Elven Magic" but didn't understand the term (different word in Sindarin?- that would be like JRRT) as it seemed to also apply to "the deceits of the Enemy." I recall a long discussion on Another Forum about this, with posters about equally divided as to the meaning of "no other blade." I was (and am) of the party that Pippin or Sam''s blade would have done the same thing. There was even the opinion that Merry's blade "did for" the W-K and that Eowyn stroke was essentially superfluous. I do not subscribe to this theory, and argued against it, evincing the words of the "Bard of Rohan". My own view is that Merry's blow paralyzed the W-K (knit his undead sinews to his will) though that was not very popular!Wink

We are the fighting Uruk-Hai! We slew the great warrior! Well, yeah, first he killed a bunch of us and another whole lot of Mauhúr's lads, and we had to shoot enough arrows into him to drop a Mûmak. But we got him!

(This post was edited by Attalus on Jan 5, 7:45pm)


Elthir
Grey Havens

Jan 9, 8:53pm

Post #23 of 30 (1382 views)
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stagnant sinews [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
(...) My own view is that Merry's blow paralyzed the W-K (knit his undead sinews to his will) though that was not very popular!


Well, I agree with this... so that's two Wink

If you unknit a person's will to his/her sinews (poetic as this is), he or she won't be able to do much moving of said sinews.

I believe the Wraith had time to block Eown's strike (as Eowyn staggers up when Merry calls her name)...

... but you need sinews to do this, and the will to move 'em. So you need these thing knitted.

Smile


Attalus
Lorien


Jan 9, 8:59pm

Post #24 of 30 (1374 views)
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Then There's a pair of us! [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!


Heh, the other poster grew quite irate, especially when I took the sentence apart, word for word. "Well, that's all well and good, Attalus, the dictionary is our friend and all that..." ...and then went on to opine that the words didn't mean what I thought they meant. Which is curious, since everybody Tolkienesque knows how particular Tollers was about words, Wink

We are the fighting Uruk-Hai! We slew the great warrior! Well, yeah, first he killed a bunch of us and another whole lot of Mauhúr's lads, and we had to shoot enough arrows into him to drop a Mûmak. But we got him!


squire
Half-elven


Jan 9, 9:55pm

Post #25 of 30 (1371 views)
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Paralysis? S'news to me. [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it's important to read the epitaph for the blade, with its explanation of the magic involved, in comjunction with the actual cut that Merry made, a page or so before:
But suddenly he too stumbled forward with a cry of bitter pain, and his stroke went wide, driving into the ground. Merry’s sword had stabbed him from behind, shearing through the black mantle, and passing up beneath the hauberk had pierced the sinew behind his mighty knee. - LotR V.6
So one actual sinew was cut, causing the demon to drop one leg and "stumble forward", taking his mace blow into the ground beside Eowyn. Thus "as the great shoulders bowed before her", she made her final thrust, putting the sword through his head. There's no indication that he 'had time to block' her strike, and no call to invoke paralysis to explain her swordplay -- it says he's still bent over nearly double only a second or so after Merry's strike.

As to the use of the plural in the subsequent commentary, "breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will", I've always taken that to mean that the spell, which works on all his sinews (more generally, it's the spell that allows his "undead flesh" to be animated at all), was only broken for the specific sinew that Merry cut.

It's the simpler explanation: magic weapon cuts undead flesh which other weapons could not have cut, but weapon only cuts it where applied.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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