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I just had to post this passage from RotK

Lily Fairbairn
Half-elven


Jan 8, 10:07pm

Post #1 of 20 (742 views)
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I just had to post this passage from RotK Can't Post

This has been my favorite passage in all of literature since I first read it, when I was 16 years old. When I tell you that my oldest grandchild is almost 15, you'll understand that that was a long time ago.

To this day, this passage gives me cold chills and makes my eyes well up, not just with the scene itself, but with the absolute perfection of its language. English prose gets no better than this.

The Return of the King, Chapter IV. "The Siege of Gondor"

...Thrice the great ram boomed. And suddenly upon the last stroke the Gate of Gondor broke. As if stricken by some blasting spell it burst asunder: there was a flash of searing lightning, and the doors tumbled in riven fragments to the ground.

In rode the Lord of the Nazgul. A great black shape against the fires beyond he loomed up, grown to a vast menace of despair. In rode the Lord of the Nazgul, under the archway no enemy ever yet had passed, and all fled before his face.

All save one. There waiting, silent and still in the space before the Gate, sat Gandalf upon Shadowfax: Shadowfax who alone among the free horses of the earth endured the terror, unmoving, steadfast as a graven image in Rath Dinen.

"You cannot enter here," said Gandalf, and the huge shadow halted. "Go back to the abyss prepared for you! Go back! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your Master. Go!"

The Black Rider flung back his hood, and behold! he had a kingly crown; and yet upon no head visible was it set. The red fires shone between it and the mantled shoulders vast and dark. From a mouth unseen there came a deadly laughter.

"Old food!" he said. "Old fool! This is my hour! Do you not know Death when you see it? Die now and curse in vain!" And with that he lifted high his sword and flames ran down the blade.

Gandalf did not move. And in that very moment, away behind in some courtyard of the City, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of wizardry or war, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn.

And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns. In dark Mindolluin's sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the North wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow....


squire
Half-elven


Jan 8, 10:42pm

Post #2 of 20 (700 views)
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Yes, absolutely one of the classic scenes [In reply to] Can't Post

As you do, I always get a chill up my spine at "Horns, horns, horns." It is fabulous writing.



squire online:
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CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 8, 11:39pm

Post #3 of 20 (689 views)
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I can re-read that 1000 times and still get chills. [In reply to] Can't Post

The buildup of tension is almost unbearable. And so many things are at play:
1. The loneliness of heroism (Gandalf being the only one holding the gate while Gondor's army has fled, and the Nazgul has an army at his back).

2. The wonderful nobility of Shadowfax, who's even braver than Pippin, either out of loyalty to Gandalf or some horse bravery of his own or some innate virtue against evil.

3. The entire tableau of defiance against horrible odds.

4. Somewhat oddly, but endearingly, the cock crowing, indifferent to war, but let's face it, it would have died in that city's slaughter, so that wasn't enlightened indifference. But it represents that there's still a world going on that isn't all about war and malice and despair or hope, just a world with a heart that keeps beating no matter what.

5. Then the total OMG! moment of the horns, horns, horns. Wow. It's a cliche to have the cavalry show up at the darkest moment to save the day, but it doesn't feel like a cliche at all.


Cygnus
Rivendell


Jan 9, 1:26am

Post #4 of 20 (691 views)
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One word [In reply to] Can't Post

Wow!

"I found it is the small things.....everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay.....simple acts of kindness and love." - Gandalf


entmaiden
Forum Admin / Moderator


Jan 9, 1:55am

Post #5 of 20 (683 views)
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Yes - still gives me chills [In reply to] Can't Post

I could read that every day, and it would still send a chill up my spine. Thank you!


Kimi
Forum Admin / Moderator


Jan 9, 5:36am

Post #6 of 20 (672 views)
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Yes, a wonderful passage [In reply to] Can't Post

and one of my favourites. It quite literally sends a shiver down my spine.


The Passing of Mistress Rose
My historical novels

Do we find happiness so often that we should turn it off the box when it happens to sit there?

- A Room With a View


grammaboodawg
Immortal


Jan 9, 11:25am

Post #7 of 20 (654 views)
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*mods up* [In reply to] Can't Post

This passage is one of the reasons I love this story so much. *still tearing* One of the parts I anticipate as I approach it... then holding my breath as I read on...

Thank you, Lily...




sample

We have been there and back again.


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NottaSackville
Tol Eressea


Jan 9, 12:27pm

Post #8 of 20 (646 views)
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Thank you, Lily! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

Happiness: money matters, but less than we think and not in the way that we think. Family is important and so are friends, while envy is toxic -- and so is excessive thinking. Beaches are optional. Trust is not. Neither is gratitude. - The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner as summarized by Lily Fairbairn. And a bit of the Hobbit reading thrown in never hurts. - NottaSackville


Alassëa Eruvande
Valinor


Jan 9, 2:24pm

Post #9 of 20 (647 views)
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My favorite part also, [In reply to] Can't Post

both book and movie, although I would dearly have loved to hear the cock crow in the movie. Oh well.
If I had a Passage-A-Day calendar of Tolkien quotes, this would be the passage on every day. Laugh



I am SMAUG! I kill when I wish! I am strong, strong, STRONG!
My armor is like tenfold shields! My teeth like swords! My claws, spears!
The shock of my tail, a thunderbolt! My wings, a hurricane! And my breath, death!


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 9, 3:08pm

Post #10 of 20 (641 views)
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Maybe onamatopeic too? [In reply to] Can't Post

Elsewhere we were discssing what horns (as in made from animal horn, not modern brass instruments) sounded like. Putting that together with this, it suddenly occurs to me that the “horns, horns, horns” might be the sound as well as the meaning. Here’s someone playing some horns - see what you think. https://youtu.be/Uh1dYVloUqc

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


Lily Fairbairn
Half-elven


Jan 9, 3:35pm

Post #11 of 20 (637 views)
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The punctuation is great, too [In reply to] Can't Post

I happened to pick up Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots and Leaves yesterday, and read her chapter on the classic use of colons, semi-colons, exclamations marks, etc. This passage uses them all to perfection.

A lesser author would have ended with "Rohan had come at last!" But by using only a period/full stop, Tolkien ends the scene with a sense of relief and release, and yet also with the knowledge that it's not over yet, there's more to come.

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow....


Lily Fairbairn
Half-elven


Jan 9, 3:37pm

Post #12 of 20 (637 views)
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I would like to have heard the cock crow, too [In reply to] Can't Post

Although I have to admit, while I love many of the scenes in the movies, Jackson's version of this particular scene fell very flat for me. To diminish Gandalf's agency and make him seemingly helpless before the Nazgul.... No. Just no. Unsure

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow....


Lily Fairbairn
Half-elven


Jan 9, 3:38pm

Post #13 of 20 (630 views)
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Cool! Thank you! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow....


Lily Fairbairn
Half-elven


Jan 9, 3:40pm

Post #14 of 20 (636 views)
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And of course I only now see the typo! [In reply to] Can't Post

That would, of course, be "Old fool!" not "Old food!"
Blush

Yet more proof that auto-correct is not necessarily a helpful thing.

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow....


Lily Fairbairn
Half-elven


Jan 9, 3:41pm

Post #15 of 20 (631 views)
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See... [In reply to] Can't Post

…all the wonderful material you have to look forward to?

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow....


Alassëa Eruvande
Valinor


Jan 9, 3:51pm

Post #16 of 20 (631 views)
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I agree about Gandalf. [In reply to] Can't Post

But it's the horns that get me every time. And the part you mention about the period instead of an exclamation mark. I hadn't really paid that much attention to that detail, but you are right. Rohan had, indeed, come at last, but it's not over, yet.



I am SMAUG! I kill when I wish! I am strong, strong, STRONG!
My armor is like tenfold shields! My teeth like swords! My claws, spears!
The shock of my tail, a thunderbolt! My wings, a hurricane! And my breath, death!


Elberbeth
Tol Eressea


Jan 9, 4:21pm

Post #17 of 20 (618 views)
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Definitely chills -- every time.// [In reply to] Can't Post

 

"There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark."


jlj93byu
Rivendell

Jan 9, 4:27pm

Post #18 of 20 (624 views)
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Agreed, though I find a silver lining... [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree with your take on this scene and how it diminishes Gandalf. This scene in the book, as you shared it, really is one of the greatest literary passages ever. As usual, my hair was standing on end as I read it in your post, despite the fact I'm busy at work right now!

As for the scene in the movie, there was a lot I liked about it, the visuals, the flaming sword, until Gandalf seemed diminished as you pointed out. In my efforts to curb my frustration, I appreciated the silver lining that it does make the sacrifice and efforts of Rohan and the Rohirrim much more meaningful, as it could be said that their arrival was perfect timing for Gandalf. Of course, another hard thing I have with that is that to most people, they appear to literally save Gandalf--had they not arrived, many assume Gandalf would have fallen (his staff had just been destroyed, after all), so in a cinematic sense, it heightens the heroism of their arrival and sacrifice. For us die hards, of course then the debate becomes what WOULD have happened had Gandalf faced the Nazgul in that state. It's more complicated than merely assuming he would have quickly been killed and that's that (most average movie goers would probably have easily made that assumption).

This just illustrates the complicated relationship I have with the films--which I love--but the quibbles I have with things like this. I have had many debates with myself over things like this!


(This post was edited by jlj93byu on Jan 9, 4:29pm)


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 9, 5:48pm

Post #19 of 20 (614 views)
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Horn prequel [In reply to] Can't Post

I think one reason the simple repetition of "horns, horns, horns" grips us as readers here is that there was the previous scene at Helm's Deep, when all seemed lost (and the defenses were breached there too), and it almost seems like an angelic host has appeared, blowing trumpets on the hills to signal the change in tide of battle. That was the time when blowing horns meant salvation; going farther back, poor Boromir blowing his horn didn't save him from death, and somehow on first read, I thought it would.



Quote
the great horn of Helm rang out.

All that heard that sound trembled. Many of the Orcs cast themselves on their faces and covered their ears with their claws. Back from the Deep the echoes came, blast upon blast, as if on every cliff and hill a mighty herald stood. But on the walls men looked up, listening with wonder; for the echoes did not die. Ever the hornblasts wound on among the hills; nearer now and louder they answered one to another, blowing fierce and free.



InTheChair
Lorien

Sun, 1:27pm

Post #20 of 20 (56 views)
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The siege of Gondor [In reply to] Can't Post

A fine ending to one of Literature histories best chapters when it comes to slowly building up a sense of immediate doom.

 
 

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