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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Some thoughts about Aragorn and leadership
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Dunadan of North Arnor
Bree

Jun 20, 12:35pm

Post #26 of 67 (3616 views)
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That “Shakespeare exercise” is interesting but [In reply to] Can't Post

not exactly what I was thinking.

The Hamlet/MacBeth scenario you cited seems to have them transposed at later stages in their lives (ie. the beginnings of their respective plays), well after their nurture/upbringing laid much of the foundation for their future. Which, aside from space/time continuity issues, it actually doesn’t address my proposal. (I mean Lady MacBeth coming with MacBeth to suddenly be Hamlet & Ophelia? What is this proposing but to prove a dislike for Hamlet, and by extension here, Turin).

I’m thinking of a little more digestible scenario imo of, say, Eru switching the babies at birth (of course in the parallel Arda he crafts in his spare time) to see what their individual natures/DNA will bring to their respective situations.

The important questions may therefore be:
1. Would Turin (raised as Aragorn) be more tempted by the Ring?
2. Would Aragorn (raised as Turin) be able to singlehandedly slay Glaurung?
3. How would Morgoth’s curse on Hurin’s family affect Aragorn, versus Sauron’s (the Ring’s) ‘curse’ on Isildur’s line affect Turin?
4. Would Turin have committed to Arwen?
5. Would Aragorn have committed to Finduilas?
(Etc, analyzed according to what Tolkien wrote)

So yes, I’m separating Nature from Nurture, and yes, I agree with Solicitr about Morgoth’s curse being absolute and inevitable on Turin, and yes, Hamlet and Turin are 2 of my favourite fictional characters, so I’ll defend them both to my death.

Smile


(This post was edited by Dunadan of North Arnor on Jun 20, 12:43pm)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jun 20, 7:03pm

Post #27 of 67 (3586 views)
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"Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?" [In reply to] Can't Post

"Uh, I think so Brain, but this time, you wear the tutu."

Maybe you're a little irritated that I didn't correctly guess what you meant. That would seem a little unreasonable. Anyway, you've cleared up now what you did mean, so all's well that ends well.

However, the point of the game I was suggesting (and which we now all appreciate is a different scenario to the one you have in mind) isn't to 'prove a dislike' for either character, nor to extend that dislike to anyone else.

You're right that the idea of the game is indeed to imagine switching the fully-formed characters, whose ways of thinking we understand from ther respective plays. 'Space/time continuity issues' don't need to bother us in such thought experiment games, I think. The point is to use that to show that what is needed for the plot of Macbeth is someone who grasps ambitiously at a dubious opportunity, not someone like Hamlet who wouldn't. Similarly, what is needed for the plot of Hamlet, if it is not to be all over in a couple of scenes, is someone who doesn't act immediately. It's supposed to point out in an amusing way how each plot relies upon a characteristic (or character flaw) of the protagonist.

Anyway that game does what it does, and one can find these things interesting and amusing, or not.

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


No One in Particular
Lorien


Jun 22, 12:49am

Post #28 of 67 (3472 views)
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Hurin [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Certainly some bad things happen that are outside of his control like killing Beleg and Glaurung's antics, and he is not without some admirable qualities. But he also brings quite a lot on himself through his own foolishness and many character flaws (some of which he shares with his mother). It's both-and. Nargothrond falls because of his stubbornness and pride, for one.

Also, doesn't it say at one point that Morgoth was afraid his curse might fail? That doesn't sound like an absolute immutable decree.


That wasn't in the published Silmarillion, as far as I remember, but was a recurring theme in some of the HoME material.

I agree about your other point; Turin was cursed, but he did have some agency within the scope of that curse. If, for example, he had returned to Doriath to face Thingol's justice after the accidental slaying of...that one Elf whose name I have forgotten, it would have changed the entire course of his life.

Of course, whatever decisions he made, the Curse of Morgoth Upon the House of Hurin was still a thing. Or to put it another way,

It could have been different, but it might not have been any better.

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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 25, 2:03am

Post #29 of 67 (3187 views)
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That "one Elf whose name I have forgotten" had several names. [In reply to] Can't Post

He's called "Saeros" in The Silmarillion. In the earlier-written Book of Lost Tales, he had been named "Orgof". in The Children of Húrin, Christopher Tolkien kept the name "Saeros" despite having found notes in which his father indicated he wished to rename the character "Orgol".


Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.


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CMackintosh
The Shire

Jun 30, 9:47am

Post #30 of 67 (3028 views)
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Orgof - Orgol [In reply to] Can't Post

Is a play on words. I don't know what either Orgof or Orgol would've meant in the Grey Elf language at that stage of development, but it reminds me of the Old French/Middle English word Orgulous - Prideful, Arrogant, which occurs in several Middle English literary contexts and also in Spencer's The Fairy Queen as a (self)conscious harking back to mediaeval literature. Rather like his bilingual Orthanc pun.


Omnigeek
Lorien


Jul 3, 10:36pm

Post #31 of 67 (2706 views)
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Oh yay, an academic’s view of leadership [In reply to] Can't Post

I tend to be skeptical on most psychology “research” I come across but perhaps that’s because I’ve been trained in engineering and physical sciences where you actually have to prove causal relationships and do some math.

How does the good professor measure competence versus confidence, humility versus charisma, etc.? How did he determine what the outcomes would have been with different leaders in particular situations? How did he establish statistically significant controls and measures?

Let’s go to WWII for some examples. Not many women leaders to choose from to prove or disprove his last contention but we can look at specific leaders and their results:
Nimitz: Competent, confident, humble, huge amounts of integrity, spectacular performance in the Pacific
MacArthur: Competent (once he got out of the Philippines), confident (perhaps overly so), neither humble nor charismatic, narcissistic to the hilt, got blindsided in the Philippines despite hours’ notice from the Pearl Harbor hit but planned and led successful fight against the Japanese
Eisenhower: Competent in his diplomacy, humble, not terribly charismatic, lots of integrity, no narcissism, lacked tactical brilliance but was able to hold the Allied coalition together
Patton: Spectacularly competent as a combat commander and with strategy and tactics, horribly incompetent at diplomacy, proved reasons for his confidence, not so much charismatic as a showman with specified reasons for his showmanship and relied on his professional reputation more than personal charisma, professional integrity but did whatever he needed to do to win including directing his men to appropriate supplies from other units, lacked humility but had reasons for his pride, somewhat narcissistic (but again, more for showmanship than actually thinking he was a peacock)
Montgomery: Competent in prepared defenses, not so competent in taking the offense (see Operation Market-Garden), overly confident, hardly charismatic as he pissed off even other British commanders, lacked any sort of humility even in the face of failure (again, Market-Garden), constantly blamed others for his failures, probably the premier peacock of WWII leaders
Stalin: Incompetent at everything but exercising dictatorial power in the USSR, confident, lacked humility, used his totalitarian powers to compensate for lack of any charisma, lacked any sort of integrity, acute paranoia indicates he was anything but narcissistic
Bradley: Competent in diplomacy, tactics, and strategy albeit less than Eisenhower in the first and less than Patton in the second and third; confident, humble, had bucket loads of integrity.
Spruance: Competent, confident, humble, had integrity. Selected by Nimitz to lead the Midway Task Force and succeeded spectacularly.

The success of all of the above and many more can be measured by the results they achieved as well as the problems they encountered and overcame (or fell to).

In later eras, JFK was more confident than competent, had bucket loads of charisma with little demonstrated humility, and was hugely narcissistic but is often cited as an example of desired leadership.

I could go on but I think you get the point. The professor presents false choices and the qualities he cites are only a portion of the equation that makes a good leader. Ultimately, the point of leadership is to get other people to do what you want or need them to do because the leader can’t do everything him or herself so s/he needs a good measure of charisma and confidence.

The problem you have with rating fictional leaders is that they are fictional and often Mary Sues. They have the qualities the authors want them to have and they succeed or fail as the authors want them to.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jul 3, 11:42pm

Post #32 of 67 (2700 views)
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"Nothing is so good for the morale of the troops as occasionally to see a dead general." [In reply to] Can't Post

A quote by Viscount Slim that Tom Shippey has cited as being pertinent to Tolkien's theory of leadership. Apparently his troops were very fond of him.


Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.


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Discuss Tolkien's life and works in the Reading Room!
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CuriousG
Half-elven


Jul 4, 3:35am

Post #33 of 67 (2681 views)
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Not really [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
The problem you have with rating fictional leaders is that they are fictional and often Mary Sues. They have the qualities the authors want them to have and they succeed or fail as the authors want them to.


The point behind the discussion focused on leaders' traits and effectiveness within LOTR. Yes, it takes imagination to compare, analyze, and extrapolate their behavior in different situations, and that's part of the fun of reading and discussing fiction. At the same time, an author cannot simply make any ol' character a successful leader. Bill Ferny? Wormtongue? No. Why? Because authors still have to work within the realm of plausibility with readers and can't manipulate everything to their own ends. So, analyze the background the assumptions and you'll see the intersection between plausibility in the real world, which is an exacting standard, and fictional characters in a novel.

And real leaders? It's not like there's 100% scientific consensus on who were the great leaders in past and present. Subjectivity always plays a role. Thanks for your thoughtful list of good examples.


squire
Half-elven


Jul 4, 1:15pm

Post #34 of 67 (2642 views)
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Are commanders always leaders? [In reply to] Can't Post

I like your in-depth analysis of the characteristics of some of the top military commanders in the war. But I began to wonder if they were really leaders in the sense that, say, Aragorn is portrayed as being in the LotR book. The difference, I think, is that a leader establishes a personal connection with those he (or she) leads. Whether it is by actual human contact or by effective broadcasting, the effect is that each member of the mass group believes he is being led, not just ordered, by the leader.

Now, as amazingly effective as men such as Nimitz, Eisenhower, Bradley, and Spruance were, I never got the impression that the average swab or dogface identified with them, or believed they were being led into battle by them. Indeed, the primary difficulty of mass warfare is that the commander must lead from the rear, which (as has been noted already in this thread) does not tend to inspire those on the front lines. Thus the term commander is more appropriate, and leader is being used more for tradition and emotion than anything else.

Counter-examples from your list might include Patton, Stalin, and MacArthur. Facts about incompetence are overwhelmed by their ability to use rhetoric, PR, and state-sponsored propaganda to convince their armies that they were, in fact, leading the fight (although I suspect that even with these leaders their press accounts and historians may overstate the degree to which the average infantryman bought into the leadership message!)

What is the difference with Aragorn - and others of his fictional and even historical type? I would start with the simplest part: the armies were smaller, much smaller. A lord and general of six thousand men can be seen and heard by every fighter in a matter of a few weeks of training and marching. Second, in older warfare the lord and leader did in fact lead: fighting at the front, though protected to be sure by a guard to ensure his survival.



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Solicitr
Rohan

Jul 4, 2:31pm

Post #35 of 67 (2633 views)
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Yes [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Montgomery: Competent in prepared defenses, not so competent in taking the offense (see Operation Market-Garden), overly confident, hardly charismatic as he pissed off even other British commanders, lacked any sort of humility even in the face of failure (again, Market-Garden), constantly blamed others for his failures, probably the premier peacock of WWII leaders


Add to that a pathological tendency to claim credit for things he didn't do. He would actually go on fishing trips and send friends salmon from the fishmongers under the pretence he caught them! More seriously, Ike almost fired him - in fact had drafted the order - due to Monty's shameless press conference after the Bulge. (Churchill and Marshall talked him out of it)


Omnigeek
Lorien


Jul 5, 12:21am

Post #36 of 67 (2576 views)
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Yes, by definition [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I like your in-depth analysis of the characteristics of some of the top military commanders in the war. But I began to wonder if they were really leaders in the sense that, say, Aragorn is portrayed as being in the LotR book. The difference, I think, is that a leader establishes a personal connection with those he (or she) leads. Whether it is by actual human contact or by effective broadcasting, the effect is that each member of the mass group believes he is being led, not just ordered, by the leader.

Now, as amazingly effective as men such as Nimitz, Eisenhower, Bradley, and Spruance were, I never got the impression that the average swab or dogface identified with them, or believed they were being led into battle by them. Indeed, the primary difficulty of mass warfare is that the commander must lead from the rear, which (as has been noted already in this thread) does not tend to inspire those on the front lines. Thus the term commander is more appropriate, and leader is being used more for tradition and emotion than anything else.

Counter-examples from your list might include Patton, Stalin, and MacArthur. Facts about incompetence are overwhelmed by their ability to use rhetoric, PR, and state-sponsored propaganda to convince their armies that they were, in fact, leading the fight (although I suspect that even with these leaders their press accounts and historians may overstate the degree to which the average infantryman bought into the leadership message!)

What is the difference with Aragorn - and others of his fictional and even historical type? I would start with the simplest part: the armies were smaller, much smaller. A lord and general of six thousand men can be seen and heard by every fighter in a matter of a few weeks of training and marching. Second, in older warfare the lord and leader did in fact lead: fighting at the front, though protected to be sure by a guard to ensure his survival.


In my response, I defined leadership — and therefore the metric for measuring it — as the ability to get others to do the tasks desired/needed. In that sense, all commanders are and must be leaders (whether or not they are GOOD leaders is a whole other question). Note that this quality doesn’t necessarily require making a connection with the ones doing the work (although it definitely helps).

My point in the list I cited was simply to call out examples of leaders that other people could look up or understand easily and compare to the list of attributes cited by the paper in question. I wanted to avoid political figures because I didn’t want to get into political discussions in this thread and because the effectiveness of the military commanders is much easier to discern and agree on. There’s very little argument about the outcomes at Midway, Normandy, or the Netherlands or the effectiveness of Operation Torch or Patton’s breakout in the Ardennes.

Eisenhower and Bradley were remarkable for just how well they bonded with the troops and Patton’s relative charisma with his troops can be measured by just how many men in Third Army liked to brag about being with “Old Blood ‘n Guts”.

In the same vein, Aragorn’s leadership in LOTR can be measured by his ability to get Theoden and the Rockrimmon to support Gondor, rally the Dead to fulfill their long-ignored pledges, etc. After Gandalf fell in Moria, Aragorn rallied the Fellowship and continued leading them to safety until Frodo and Sam left (and Merry and Pippin were captured). Beyond commanding a single army, Aragorn managed fragile and touchy alliances and then bonded the kingdom together again after defeating Sauron.

One of my few complaints about FOTR was that the Aragorn I saw in the first movie was too hesitant, too unsure of himself. Aragorn in the books was never a strutting peacock but he also wasn’t hesitant or self-questioning. He recognized his duty as Isildur’s Heir and did it. Aragorn in TT was much better, rising to his position and duty.

Also in TT, Theoden asks his squire (?) if he trusts his king and is told, “your men, my lord, will follow you to whatever end.” We don’t see what he did to earn this trust but whatever he did in the past, he is able to compel them to do what he needs them to. Prior to that, Eomer managed to hold together his band of Rohirrim despite Wyrmtongue’s intrigues. Both are examples of effective leadership according to the measure I proposed.


squire
Half-elven


Jul 5, 1:14am

Post #37 of 67 (2566 views)
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And yes, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

I see that you defined leadership for the purposes of your post -- I'd missed that.

But I wonder if your definition doesn't indeed invite my contrast between commander and leader. In a modern mass army, the general in chief issues orders which subordinates all the way down the chain of command must obey under penalty of mutiny, no matter what their opinion or knowledge of the man who gave them their orders. Thus others do his bidding due to his command rank, not to his leadership qualities. It seems to me that leadership is getting men to do what you need or want -- when you have no real way to compel them to do so. In a modern context, that might mean entering a grey area where leadership proves superior to mere command rank: getting men to do more than the minimum required, or to do their duty when no one is watching, or to take initiative in hope of recognition and praise.

Now, I don't doubt that the great military leaders we're discussing had leadership qualities that affected their immediate staffs, inspiring them to perform their duties for better or worse as per your allowance for leaders being better or worse. But I do question that their commands were obeyed all the way down the line, to the battle fronts, because of their leadership qualities being apparent to the millions of men under their command.

I do agree with you about Aragorn (in the book, and in the second two films) and Theoden being presented as natural and effective leaders. Again, I'd argue that follows from the old-fashioned medieval style of warfare being conducted, based on feudal models where obedience was far more 'optional' for subordinate lords and even footsoldiers.



squire online:
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Omnigeek
Lorien


Jul 5, 1:42am

Post #38 of 67 (2567 views)
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As I said, the effectiveness of leadership can be debated [In reply to] Can't Post

By definition, a commander must be a leader but not all. I’ve endured some commanders who used intimidation to enforce their desires. IMO, they were leaders ... poor ones. Anytime someone has to pull rank in order to get things done, someone is failing as a leader and/or follower (and probably more than one person is failing).

One of the reasons commanders have commander’s calls or speak at mass formations is to have an opportunity to speak directly to (and sometimes with) the troops. I’ve known numerous commanders from O-5 (commander/lieutenant colonel) to O-10 (general) who made it a point to get out and talk directly to the people who were doing the work.

The more distance between the commander and the front line, the more you’re having to deal with the old “telephone” problem but make no mistake that Patton’s men in Sicily or the Ardennes were unclear on what he wanted them to do or that the men of the 101 Airborne felt distant from Brig Gen McAuliffe at Bastogne. Ike made a point of circulating among the troops before they embarked for the D-day invasion and you can see the effects they had in the diaries and comments from the surviving soldiers.

I will admit that I stacked the deck a little by selecting WWII as that kind of personal leadership has (IMO) diminished somewhat in contemporary times but that’s a different (and long) discussion better conducted in another thread. My main intent was to use those examples to show that the “choices” cited in the OP were false ones and that leadership needs to be judged by what it accomplishes.

The notion that choosing leaders based on “either-or” selection of the six attributes listed is just silly as is the contention that those six characteristics are segregated by gender (the logical conclusion from the contention that choosing competence over confidence, humility over charisma, etc. would result in more female leaders).

The situation where leaders get selected by being confident and charismatic despite being incompetent and lacking integrity occurs (IMO) most often in politics or political situations which really doesn’t apply to Aragorn or any of the situations posited in Tolkien’s universe. The Silmarillion certainly lists more than a few leaders who were incompetent or lacked integrity but they weren’t “selected”.


squire
Half-elven


Jul 5, 1:49am

Post #39 of 67 (2553 views)
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That makes sense. Thanks! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 



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noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 5, 9:05am

Post #40 of 67 (2512 views)
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I think we have a straw man to retire [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
The notion that choosing leaders based on “either-or” selection of the six attributes listed is just silly as is the contention that those six characteristics are segregated by gender (the logical conclusion from the contention that choosing competence over confidence, humility over charisma, etc. would result in more female leaders).


But that isn't what Dr Chamorro-Premuzic says in his talk.

I suggest watching the video to which I linked in the OP (10 mins of your time, and you must have spent much more than that already in misunderstanding it). Of course maybe you did do that already, But if so I can't see how you could conclude what you concluded.

My approximation of what he says is that people appointing leaders are often fooled by characteristics that look like the desired ones, but aren't. At no point does he say that it's a binary thing (that you're competent OR confident etc.)

" that those six characteristics are segregated by gender" is indeed what Dr Chamorro-Premuzic says his data set supports (though that bit isn't terribly relevant to the discussion about Tolkien characters).

You are correct in the logical conclusion that Dr Chamorro-Premuzic reaches from his work - if these apointment mistakes were corrected in real life we'd get better leaders of all genders, but women would co-incidentely be benefitted because they are less likely to be 'wrongly' appointed. (Again, that bit isn't terribly relevant to the discussion about Tolkien characters).

Naturally, my summary may contain it's own misconceptions, and so if anyone really wants to pick Dr Chamorro-Premuzic's work apart, I suggest that they go do their own reading of what he's done.

Now if it's your contention that the modern military is less easily fooled when apointing leaders then that's a relief. It hasn't always been so though - in the past, nominated commander has often been settled by family tree, or by who has come out on top in palace politics.

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


Solicitr
Rohan

Jul 5, 2:31pm

Post #41 of 67 (2472 views)
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"And are 'Leaders' the same as 'Heroes' (legendary solo warriors)?" [In reply to] Can't Post

Not necessarily. Exhibit A: Achilles

(Tolkien would have said the same of Beowulf. He's very critical of Beowulf going Full Hero vs the dragon, rather than being a responsible king and going in with, or sending in, a whole buncha warriors. He never criticizes Hrothgar for letting Big B take on the dirty jobs)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 5, 4:48pm

Post #42 of 67 (2440 views)
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"confident and charismatic despite being incompetent and lacking integrity" - Sounds like Saruman to me.// [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 5, 5:45pm

Post #43 of 67 (2440 views)
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leadership — the ability to get others to do the tasks desired/needed [In reply to] Can't Post

I like that defintion, but I'd like to add to it a couple of further aspects if I may. I'd say there's more to leadership than just effectiveness.

The tasks needed/desired by whom?
Leaders are entrusted with considerable power in order to benefit those who have so entrusted them, according to some concept of what's good. It's not OK for them to abuse that power for their personal benefit instead. Not OK for the people they lead, and often leads to the ruin of the leader.

I'd say that's a difference between Aragorn and Sauron. Tolkien doesn't give us, as far as I recall, any idea of how Sauron's proposed domination of the world benefits anyone except Sauron, and to me Sauron seems to be entirely about expanding his power because of his need to be powerful.
I read Saruman as being on a slippery slope towards Sauron-hood - he thinks (or tries to persuade peoeple he thinks) that he's acting for the Greater Good. But I find it easy to read him as using this as a cover for his own pride and narcissism.

Conversely, I think Tolkien assumes that a Gondorian domination of the Fourth Age will be a Good Thing in some wider way than 'good for Aragorn', or even just 'good for the people of Gondor'.
In real life of course it is debatable whether Good Men make Good Kings and lead Good Nations to produce a Greater Good. Let the historians decide whether there's ever been a real-life Good Empire. But LOTR is a fantasy story, so can be allowed to rest there.


tasks needed/desired achieved in what way, and at what cost?

In Reply To
Beyond commanding a single army, Aragorn managed fragile and touchy alliances and then bonded the kingdom together again after defeating Sauron.


I agree. I'd add to it that I think it matters how this was done. Putatively, Aragorn could have seized the Ring and tried to get others to do the tasks desired/needed by using it. I'd go as far as to say that a lot of LOTR is about the moral choices around that, rather than 'how can I do the tasks desired/needed' most efficiently.The Ring is the ultimate efficiency hack. But becauseof the moral effects of getting what you want more and more quickly it's unsafe to use it, even if you desire to do good. In fact, I'll quote you Tolkien on that point:


Quote
"...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."

JRR Tolkien, in a 1951 letter to Milton Waldman, an editor, (about the potential publication of what was to become The Silmarillion).



(Just to make sure I'm clear: I'm no suggesting that you were holding the opposite POV, I'm just agreeing with and then extending your point in order to offer new material for discussion).

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


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jul 5, 7:40pm

Post #44 of 67 (2429 views)
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Aragorn does seem to have the Midas touch [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm thinking in particular about using the palantir. Using the stones led to Saruman's betrayal of The Good Cause and also Denethor's madness, so it seems that one can almost blame the victims here, saying if they hadn't used them, they'd still be good and sane, respectively.

But Aragorn's use of Saruman's palantir, while causing a great but temporary strain on him, gave him valuable insight on Sauron's plans, thus leading to him seizing the fleet headed toward Minas Tirith and saving the day. There were no negative repercussions, except that Sauron was disturbed seeing Isildur's Heir in the palantir and launched his attack sooner than Gandalf expected (and almost before Rohan could arrive), but that may have also contributed to his defeat.

Means justifying the end
Re: your comment on this topic, I'll ask Saruman to be the spokesperson, since he turned out so well:


Quote
We may join with that Power. It would be wise, Gandalf. There is hope that way. Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward for those that aided it. As the Power grows, its proved friends will also grow; and the Wise, such as you and I, may with patience come at last to direct its courses, to control it. We can bide our time, we can keep our thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order; all the things that we have so far striven in vain to accomplish, hindered rather than helped by our weak or idle friends. There need not be, there would not be, any real change in our designs, only in our means.”


Tolkien, J.R.R.. The Lord of the Rings: One Volume (p. 259). HMH Books. Kindle Edition.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 6, 9:48am

Post #45 of 67 (2333 views)
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Aragorn's palantir gamble - why does it work? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for this CuriousG. Aragorn's palantir performance might be a good place at which to restart!

I agree - Aragorn is the only palantir user who we see get valuable information from using the palantir. What he learns (The Corsairs are coming!) saves Gondor. The others (we've argued before) get information that may be accurate technically, but it leads them astray (or, maybe, they allow it to lead them astray).

If you'd like to read my thoughts on why Aragorn does better than the others, my own personal view is that he's:,


  • the right person (in title and in character);

  • he's using it with the right intention, and;

  • he knows what he's getting himself into.



As heir to the Kingdoms, he's the rightful owner of the palantirs (which he points out both to Gandalf and Gimil, so I suppose that's impoartant). More speculatively, I think it might be important that Aragorn is using the palantir for its proper purpose: weren't they set up for the defence of the realm? That is exactly what Aragorn does with it, when he's wrested it from Sauron. Compare the others -

Saruman has a dodgy title to the palantir he's found, and as to his use of it Gandalf says "Fool! To keep it secret, for his own profit." (LOTR TT Ch 11, The Palantir).

Pippin is drawn to the palantir with no right to use it, no idea of what it is, and a strange greedy curiosity to find out. Maybe that's why it doesn't end well (though I agree it also seems that Sauron might have done something to this palantir to make it tempting).
Gandalf has the humility to admit that he might have also done badly, had he decided 'to probe the Stone myself to find its uses' (ibid).

Denethor has more right to use his palantir, and often seems to use it for what I've assumed is the 'right intention'. I notice he gets more information that Saruman, but Gandalf says "I fear that as the peril of his realm grew he looked in the Stone and was deceived: far too often, I guess, since Boromir departed." (ROTK, Ch 7 The Pyre of Denethor). So maybe Denethor is mis-judging his capabilities (grief-stricken, he's not tough enough to use the Stone). Or maybe he's mis-using it in some way (looking everywhere for Boromir's body, or some other personal distraction from the stern business of ruling). In any case, he's betraying his office. He's Steward and should loyally welcome teh rightful King. Instead what he does do is to resent Gandalf bringing up 'this Ranger of the North to supplant me... I will not bow down to such a one...'. (ibid) So a failure of humility, and self-interest over duty I think.

How this all works out mechanisticaly is anyone's guess. And I don't get the impression that Tolkien is all that interested in working out science-fiction type mechanisms for things. He's more interested (I think) in writing things that 'feel' right, and in what I've seen called 'the edges of ideas' (how a gadget works exactly isn't necessarily as interesting as what effect having it has on the characters*). I have this vague feeling that magical things - and perhaps all kinds of things - in Middle-earth have a bit of volition. Maybe (to parpahrase Gandalf on the Ring the palanrir wants to help Aragorn? But that's just how it seems to me. Clearly, Sauron is also in the picture, with sort of ability to manipulate what Denethor sees, and to compel Saruman to 'report'. But none of that is explained either.



Quote
it seems that one can almost blame the victims here, saying if they hadn't used [the palantirs], they'd still be good and sane, respectively.


I think that's an interesting point. I suppose that one could fault both Saruman and Denethor (as above). I see Saruman as being driven Shakespearean trgedy like (?) by his character flaw - he's over-confident, narcissitic and over-reliant on his charisma. Gosh - it's almost as if the video I linked to in my OP was kinda relevant to this discussion....Wink


What does this have to do about Aragorn and leadership?

...which we've been discussing at least some of the time on this thread. Certainly Aragron has that 'midas touch' (as in 'things work out for him'). At a simple level his gamble to try the palantir pays off because that's the plot Tolkien has chosen (one of Omnigeek's points earlier). But (as per CuriousG in reply to Omnigeek) the story's going to be rubbish if Tolkien just lets any old thing work - he has to come up with something that makes Aragorn's success credible. I think Tolkien succeeds (see my analysis above).

We've earlier had a discussion about whether fate, or some such similar thing, is on Aragorn's side. That would be a sort of in-world author (Eru or the Valar, perhaps) helping Aragorn out. That's possible, but that subthread ended up in a gumtree about thought experiments. So maybe Aragorn makes the right choice and is assisted - I don't see how we could tell definitively (or need to do so).

What do we think about Aragorn's confidence (one of the things suggested in the OP was that good leaders were not over-confident)? Well of course, Aragorn pulls it off, so we end up deciding that he'd judged his abilities correctly. I like the way that it's set up - when Gimli gasps that Aragorn has dared look in 'that accursed stone of wizardry' he's giving my first-time reader reaction. I suspect this is what Tolkien intended. Later, I become convinced that, far from taking an insane risk, Aragorn has correctly judged a calculated risk.

Another leadership thing comes up - Aragorn's acting for the benefit of his people, the Greater Good. He's putting them in danger (I believe that his palantir gamble is part if his effort to make himself and Gondor a diversion, so that Frodo may succeed in the Ring drop). But he's doing the right thing, rather than mis-using his tool for personal gain. He shows 'integrity rather than narcissism' He does not, for example, use the palantir to spy on Denethor, in the hope of digging up some dirt about his possible rival for the leadership of Gondor ('ends justify the means dontcha know'). Nor does he nervously snoop on his friends and supporters to check that they love him enough.

That's the sort of thing I had in mind when I started this thread, anyway.


--
*

Quote
The Edges of Ideas
The solution to the “Info-Dump” problem (how to fill in the background). The theory is that, as above, the mechanics of an interstellar drive (the center of the idea) is not important: all that matters is the impact on your characters: they can get to other planets in a few months, and, oh yeah, it gives them hallucinations about past lives. Or, more radically: the physics of TV transmission is the center of an idea; on the edges of it we find people turning into couch potatoes because they no longer have to leave home for entertainment. Or, more bluntly: we don’t need info dump at all. We just need a clear picture of how people’s lives have been affected by their background. This is also known as “carrying extrapolation into the fabric of daily life.”

The Turkey City Lexicon - a primer for SF workshops' by the SFWA

https://www.sfwa.org/...er-for-sf-workshops/


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


(This post was edited by noWizardme on Jul 6, 9:50am)


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jul 6, 3:51pm

Post #46 of 67 (2281 views)
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OMG, a footnote. How academic of you. :) [In reply to] Can't Post

Just kidding. That's actually a great, concise articulation of how Tolkien and other writers avoid infodumps. I've certainly been turned off by any number of fantasy and scifi novels by the mind-numbing explanations behind things. And conversely, when things don't get explained at all, I also get annoyed, so the key is to have Goldilocks do the writing to get it just right.

Re: intent and integrity of leaders and faithfulness to office. You hit on an important point here, where I'd say Saruman scores about a 0 very early on when we look at his intents. He didn't use the palantir to find new ways for the White Council to defeat Sauron but for personal gain, even if his own notions of what he was after were foggy and unformed at first.

Denethor, however, might score a 10/10 in patriotic defense of his country, so that's a good intention. But intentionally keeping Aragorn from his rightful throne is a big failure of the office of Steward; the whole idea was supposed to be temporary. That's kinda like Hosni Mubarak's "emergency decree" in Egypt giving him absolute power that lasted 20+ years--a leader with no integrity in the real world. (He just came to mind; of course we can find others, but that's not the point here.)

So given Denethor's mixed score, I'm thinking of your 3 bullet points about why Aragorn was able to use the palantir without harm while Denethor could not. I guess I would add a 4th point, which is Aragorn only used it once, and Denethor used it repeatedly, and honestly, doesn't Denethor seem like a drug addict, the way he needs a fix from the palantir even as each dose eats away at his mind? But drug addiction aside, I would say as a Steward wanting to preserve Gondor from Sauron's annihilation, he was the right person and had the right intent, though he didn't know what he was getting into, i.e., the slow corruption of his mind by Sauron. I think his excess pride was the culprit here. Aragorn is confident and proud in a Goldilocks way: he gets it just right but doesn't overdo it. He knows if he spends all day gazing into the palantir, even after wresting it from Sauron's control, that his enemy could likely find ways to get at him.

To go back to your OP,


Quote
Chamorro-Premuzic shows that if leaders were selected on competence rather than confidence, humility rather than charisma, and integrity rather than narcissism, we would not just end up with more competent leaders, but also more women leaders."


one discrepancy I spot is that Aragorn isn't very humble. Like Faramir, he has wonderful charisma that makes people want to serve him, but if I think in particular of his proud words at Edoras and also to Eomer upon first meeting, I see a lot of pride not seen in other characters. I might argue that Gandalf is less proud, or that his pride is more mixed with humility:

Quote
Aragorn stood a while hesitating. ‘It is not my will,’ he said, ‘to put aside my sword or to deliver Andúril to the hand of any other man.’

‘It is the will of Théoden,’ said Háma.

‘It is not clear to me that the will of Théoden son of Thengel, even though he be lord of the Mark, should prevail over the will of Aragorn son of Arathorn, Elendil’s heir of Gondor.’



Quote
Aragorn threw back his cloak. The elven-sheath glittered as he grasped it, and the bright blade of Andúril shone like a sudden flame as he swept it out. ‘Elendil!’ he cried. ‘I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, and am called Elessar, the Elfstone, Dúnadan, the heir of Isildur Elendil’s son of Gondor. Here is the Sword that was Broken and is forged again! Will you aid me or thwart me? Choose swiftly!’


I think I'd give Aragorn a pass when he spoke to Eomer because he needed to establish his credentials as a traveling royal and not a ruffian in the wild. But it's hard to see him as anything other than a snob when he won't be parted from Anduril at Meduseld. Still, it's not a fatal flaw like it is with Denethor, and if Aragorn were too perfect, he wouldn't be credible as a character, which means we wouldn't be discussing his merits as a leader.





Omnigeek
Lorien


Jul 7, 1:35am

Post #47 of 67 (2209 views)
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Aragorn using palantirs [In reply to] Can't Post

I never thought there was any mystery as to why Aragorn was able to use the palantir[/] safely while others were not. Magic in Middle-earth seems to be like that found in Scandinavian mythology: enhancing desired natural properties or creating properties linked to the object’s intended function. As stated above, the palantir were created to assist the King(s) and Aragorn was the rightful King so entitled to use them. It seemed to me that Sauron corrupted his palantir, bending it to his will like so many other things.

Denethor was also able to use the palantir but Sauron was able to influence what he saw. Denethor thought he could spy on Sauron to gain intelligence but instead the palantir worked like a double agent. Everything Denethor saw was true but Sauron’s influence made sure he only saw scenes that would cause him to despair and work his way into madness. I always figured this required many viewings for the scenes to work their insidious effect.

Aragorn didn’t have this issue as he used the palantir to transmit and he only used it for a brief period. He worked his will on the palantir rather than letting Sauron work his will on it and he limited his exposure. It’s possible Aragorn might also have fallen to despair had he used the palantir for an extended period. (BTW, the judgement Aragorn displayed here is also an essential quality for effective leadership.)


Quote
For do I not guess rightly, Aragorn, that you have shown yourself to him in the Stone of Orthanc?'
'I did so ere I rode from the Hornburg,' answered Aragorn. 'I deemed that the time was ripe, and that the Stone had come to me for just such a purpose. It was then ten days since the Ring-bearer went east from Rauros, and the Eye of Sauron, I thought, should be drawn out from his own land.



noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 7, 11:40am

Post #48 of 67 (2127 views)
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Addictive palantirs [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

Denethor used it repeatedly, and honestly, doesn't Denethor seem like a drug addict, the way he needs a fix from the palantir even as each dose eats away at his mind? But drug addiction aside, I would say as a Steward wanting to preserve Gondor from Sauron's annihilation, he was the right person and had the right intent, though he didn't know what he was getting into, i.e., the slow corruption of his mind by Sauron. I think his excess pride was the culprit here.


Yes - palantirs do seem to get a grip! I like the passage where Gandalf muses about the palantir:



Quote
"How long, I wonder, has he been constrained to come often to his glass for inspection and instruction, and the Orthanc-stone so bent towards Barad-dûr that, if any save a will of adamant now looks into it, it will bear his mind and sight swiftly thither? And how it draws one to itself! Have I not felt it? Even now my heart desires to test my will upon it, to see if I could not wrench it from him and turn it where I would–to look across the wide seas of water and of time to Tirion the Fair, and perceive the unimaginable hand and mind of Fëanor at their work, while both the White Tree and the Golden were in flower!’ He sighed and fell silent."


I suppose we can't be sure whether 'And how it draws one to itself! ..' etc refers to a palantir now that Sauron has done something to it, how much that compulsion might have been exercised on Debethor, or whether all palantirs are at least a bit like that.

I also like the ambiguity - is there some kind of outside force, urging someone towards unwise palantir use? (That would presumably be something Sauron has done). Or is there a big dose of regular temptation about palantirs anyway [1]? On my first (pre-Silmarillion) readings, the references to Tirion etc. went over my head of course, I assumed that Gandalf was aware of the potential for his curiosity to get him into trouble - like Pippin on steroids [2]. Nowadays I realise that Gandalf might yearn to see again things he saw in his youth. Feasibly it's a rare moment of insight into the price Gandalf pays for al those years of his mission outside paradise - just sometimes old Olorin gets homesick and nostalgic for the old days.

--

[1] It's a bit reminiscent of Prof Tom Sippey's thoughts about the Ring:

Quote
The Ring's ambiguity is present almost the first time we see it, in 'The Shadow of the Past', when Gandalf tells Frodo, 'Give me the ring for a moment'. Frodo unfastened it from its chain and, 'handed it slowly to the wizard. It felt suddenly very heavy, as if either it or Frodo himself was in some way reluctant for Gandalf to touch it.
Either it or Frodo.... The difference is the difference between the world views I have labelled above as 'Boethian' and 'Manichaean'. If Bothius is right, then evil is internal, caused by human sin and weakness and alienation from God; in this case the Ring feels heavy because Frodo (already in the very first stages of addiction, we may say) is unconsciously reluctant to part with it. If there is some truth in the Manichaean view, though, then evil is a force from outside which has in some way been able to make the non-sentient Ring itself evil; so it is indeed the Ring, obeying the will of its master, which does not want to be identified.Both views are furthermore perfectly convincing. ...The idea that on the one hand the Ring is a sort of psychic amplifier , magnifying the unconscious fears or selfishnesses of its owners, and on the other that it is a sentient creature with urges and powers of its own, are both present from the beginning..."

Prof. Tom Shippey' in "JRR Tolkien, Author of the Century”



[2] Well, not literally Pippin on steroids - a suspiciously muscular hobbit with a squeaky voice. I mean, of course, 'like Pippin's case, but more so'. But it means we can have two footnotes, footnote fans! [3]

--
[3] "FootFEET!" (But neither of them is on a table). And get me with my new Meta-footnote!
Smile

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


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 7, 12:36pm

Post #49 of 67 (2120 views)
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Proud words at Edoras [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
one discrepancy I spot is that Aragorn isn't very humble. Like Faramir, he has wonderful charisma that makes people want to serve him, but if I think in particular of his proud words at Edoras and also to Eomer upon first meeting, I see a lot of pride not seen in other characters. I might argue that Gandalf is less proud, or that his pride is more mixed with humility:
Quote
Aragorn stood a while hesitating. ‘It is not my will,’ he said, ‘to put aside my sword or to deliver Andúril to the hand of any other man.’

‘It is the will of Théoden,’ said Háma.

‘It is not clear to me that the will of Théoden son of Thengel, even though he be lord of the Mark, should prevail over the will of Aragorn son of Arathorn, Elendil’s heir of Gondor.’


I have a few thoughts about this.

1) Aragorn has some control over his pride, and uses it to get what he wants

I can't think of an occasion on whcih Aragorn's pride is his downfall (have I missed anything?)

I notice that Aragorn is able to flash the Royal Charisma when it is to his advantage (the example of his first encounter with Eomer is the best one). There, I read him as using it as a tool. Earlier in his life, he's spent time with the Rohirrim, and he knows the sort of behaviour they expect from a warrior and war-leader. He judges it right, and Eomer is duly impressed, and Aragorn gets what he needs (safe passage rather than arrest). Compare Aragorn's behaviour at Bree. He doesn't reel off his titles to Frodo or Butterbur (a wise decision). As I said earlier he's entitled (in a literal sense ‘I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, and am called Elessar, the Elfstone, Dúnadan, the heir of Isildur Elendil’s son of Gondor.) but not entitled in a modern sense (believing himself [unjustly] to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment on account of his social status).

2) My defence of Dr Chamorro-Premuzic's applicability to Aragorn, Middle-earth, Tolkien etc.
Earlier up the stack, different people suggested that Dr Chamorro-Premuzic's ideas didn't really apply to a character like Aragorn. I agree - partially. Smile
Dark-age-ish Kings and leaders came from a society different to our current one, and it's reasonable to expect their ideas of how a person should carry themselves not to be identical to ours. But I'd expect that a dark age warrior would still prefer a competent leader who faithfully and carefully served a higher cause than an over-confident, incompetent glory-hound. So Dr Chamorro-Premuzic's remarks seem widely-applicale enough to me to be at least partially relevant.

Oddly, Tolkien addressed this. Tolkien's The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son concerns the Battle of Maldon. This was lost by an English force after they gave away an advantage of the terrain (they had their enemy penned behind a causeway) in order to try for a 'fair' battle and a more glorious victory. Tolkien's play discusses whether this was tragically noble or (in the terms we're using here) incompetent leadership.

A further point is that Aragorn is a fictional character, written for modern consumption. Readers are likely to judge his behaviour and infer his motives thorugh the prism of their modern values. There's one of your 'Goldilocks' things here - it would probably strike a false note if Aragorn sounded and behaved like a modern person. But it would take a lot of time and good writing to bring modern readers fully into a very different mindset; and Tolkien has other things to do.

3) leaving his sword behind is tricky for Aragorn
On my first reading I remember being puzzled by his behaviour. He seems about to jepordise the meeting Gandalf needs, and that doesn't seem at all in character. I now have the following ideas about the fuss Aragorn makes:

  • His sword has long been a credential. Presumably that's why he was carrying it at Bree - as he says then, a broken sword would not be much use as a weapon. Should he go to Godor to pursue his claim to throne, the sword will be an important proof. Aside from that, it's a darned fine sword, adn his most precious heirloom. Perhaps it is understandable he's reluctant to risk it being stolen.


  • The politics are tricky. Were Aragorn King of Gondor already, Theoden would be his inferior - King of a land granted to Rohan by treaty (and a key ally). That's not the case yet, and Aragorn needs Rohan's support if he's ever to get as far as being King. After this bit of techiness over the sword, he doesn't press his poltical claims at all, I notice. He thereby avoids any trouble over who is the leader. But, pulling the other way, it could be that it's expected for him to make a fuss, that a bit of a show of pride is needed (just as in front of Eomer), and he'll lose respect if he just meekly unbuckles.


  • Lastly, I can read it that it's all deliberate - one of those double-acts that Aragorn and Gandalf seem to drop into (like at the Council of Elrond, where they support each other in the account of the capture of Gollum, whilst giving Aragorn a perfectly natural opportunity to impress Boromir wiht stories of his exploits). Possibly Aragorn has some inkling of what Gandalf is going to do, and a fuss over the sword is a distraction. Having forced Aragorn to hand over his supremely awesome sword, this argument goes, Hama might forget to - or feel too embarressed to - insist on taking Gandalf's staff too. Especially when Gandalf has been so nice and reasonable in talking badcop Aragorn down.




Take your pick (or of course folks might have other theories).

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


(This post was edited by noWizardme on Jul 7, 12:49pm)


squire
Half-elven


Jul 7, 1:37pm

Post #50 of 67 (2114 views)
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Olorin, or Oh! Lore in the First Age? [In reply to] Can't Post

I have always read Gandalf's musing about using the palantir to try to visit the First Age and 'meet' Feanor as a reminder to the reader of his scholarly side in the midst of his being general-in-chief of a world war - the mind of a wizard who loves lore and craft, and knows well of Feanor and would dearly love to have met him. It's rather like giving a Nobel-winning physicist a time-machine and hearing him say he's off to visit Aristotle, Kepler, Newton, and Einstein.

I see where you're coming from with your take, but it never occurred to me he was speaking 'as' Olorin here. My impression is that Tolkien buries that side of Gandalf quite thoroughly in the book, as it tends to flatten him into someone who doesn't actually belong in the Third Age.



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