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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Some thoughts about Aragorn and leadership
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CuriousG
Half-elven


Jul 7, 2:16pm

Post #51 of 59 (1395 views)
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That one works [In reply to] Can't Post

While Aragorn does come off as boorish, that may very well have been the intent of playing good Wizard/bad Ranger. Even on my first read, I knew Gandalf was up to something with that staff, and I think any reader would--and certainly his fictional companions knew it too. So yes, it was probably a deliberate distraction along with, as you say, his genuine attachment to Anduril.


In Reply To
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.




CuriousG
Half-elven


Jul 7, 9:43pm

Post #52 of 59 (1361 views)
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A bit more on palantiri [In reply to] Can't Post

Browsing Letters, I found this by accident today in #96, just after Tolkien has discussed Eden as a conceptual pull on him (and everyone) without needing to be a literal spot on the Earth, representing nostalgia for a lost, near-perfect past.


Quote
There are two quit diff. emotions: one that moves me supremely and I find small difficulty in evoking: the heart-racking sense of the vanished past (best expressed by Gandalf’s words about the Palantir); and the other the more ‘ordinary’ emotion, triumph, pathos, tragedy of the characters. That I am learning to do, as I get to know my people, but it is not really so near my heart, and is forced on me by the fundamental literary dilemma. A story must be told or there’ll be no story, yet it is the untold stories that are most moving.


Wittingly or not, Tolkien seems to have made the palantiri a window onto his own soul, where he deeply yearns for an Eden (or Valinor) just beyond view, and untold stories where only hints and suggestions exist, goading people into wanting more details to fulfill their curiosity. Sort of like a drug addiction, but not the same. More of an instinctive inner yearning, so like any instinct, it can leave even the Wise (like Gandalf) feeling helpless in its grip.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 8, 12:38pm

Post #53 of 59 (1297 views)
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Or: 'O lore, in which we don't always find simple answers?' [In reply to] Can't Post


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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.


I agree, that's what the passage probably conveys to readers of LOTR who haven't read other material about Gandalf's past history as Olorin. It's also, as it happens, how I interpteted the passage until yesterday.

But, as I wrote my last post, I found myself wondering why readers who have access to the posthumosly-published stuff wouldn't expect Gandalf to have access to Olorin's memories. So now I see two ways of interpreting that detail.

It's hardly a matter of import, I think, since the passage works to the same overall effect --Gandalf realises that he wants to do something that he shouldn't -- whichever interpretation one makes of why he wants to do it.

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


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 8, 12:39pm

Post #54 of 59 (1293 views)
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That's a lovely find! // [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.


Solicitr
Rohan

Jul 10, 4:12am

Post #55 of 59 (1070 views)
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Ooh, [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
  • 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.



  • I like that! I must admit, I'd never read it that way.

    OTOH, would Aragorn stoop to deceit? (and if it was all an act and he really didn't mind leaving Anduril with Hama, then it was deceitful, even including spoken lies)


    noWizardme
    Valinor


    Jul 10, 9:42am

    Post #56 of 59 (1020 views)
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    OTOH, would Aragorn stoop to deceit? [In reply to] Can't Post


    In Reply To
    OTOH, would Aragorn stoop to deceit? (and if it was all an act and he really didn't mind leaving Anduril with Hama, then it was deceitful, even including spoken lies)


    I agree - deceit seems a bit out of character too. Perhaps, like Farmir, he "would not snare even an orc with falsehood", in which case this theory falls.

    But On The Third Hand - I don't think Aragorn actually says anything untrue (unless I've missed something).

    First he says 'it is not my will' to leave the sword behind. That's probably true - he doesn't want to do it. But as Hama promptly points out he should do it, and Aragorn seems to accept that - at least he now advances another point.

    Aragorn then says that he'd be perfectly willing to leave a lesser weapon behind (again probably true).

    So one could imagine it as a deception (like appearing around Bree as 'Strider', perhaps), but not a spoken lie. Or is that too legalistic?

    Yet another theory, should anyone want one, is that Aragorn is learning that 'Every man has something too dear to trust to another' (as Aragorn himself says at the end of this passage). A similar test passed by Pippin when he drops the Lorien broach as a signal to any pursuers. Aragorn praises that ("One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters' - TT Ch 9, Flotsam and Jetsam). And the book contains other precious treasures to cast away - I can think of Frodo's Ring, Arwen's immortality, or the expat Little Elvenhomes created from the powers of Rings and so undermined by its destruction. So perhaps that's a theme there.

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


    Roverandom
    The Shire


    Jul 12, 8:48pm

    Post #57 of 59 (715 views)
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    Commanders, Leaders and Heroes [In reply to] Can't Post

    Sorry to have been away for so long, but I have been following this most excellent discussion! I apologize, in advance, for what will probably a lengthy entry, but I have several thoughts on this subject, in no particular order, and in reply to various posts by many others in the thread:

    I agree with what seems to be the majority consensus with regards to the definitions of the three roles I have listed in my subject line. In real-world history, we could probably substitute "general" for "commander", someone who must, by necessity, control large armies from the rear, keeping an eye out for the big picture and opportunities to shift resources to take best advantage of changing events. I would put Denethor in this category, but not Theoden. Real-world commanders are usually judged after-the-fact. How successful were they in accomplishing their goals? The examples of Eisenhower and Nimitz, among others listed, are, by most accounts given credit for the successes of their campaign. In American football terms, they are the game-manager quarterbacks, as opposed to charismatic gunslingers like Brett Favre, and the term "competence", already mentioned by others, seems an appropriate description. I think the interesting situation occurs when a commander's results blur the historical narrative. By most accounts, Lee was considered the more brilliant battlefield general, but he still lost to the competent Grant, the latter knowing that he had exploitable advantages at his disposal that Lee did not. Which, then, was actually the better commander?

    As opposed to the commander, the leader does seem to have his boots on the ground, and that, as has been pointed out, is where the charisma factor comes into play, but with the following admonition: most people alive in the world today have a hard time with the blurring of history and fiction. Are we remembering Patton the actual WWII leader or the Patton played by George C. Scott? Did Henry V lead from the front, or was that just Kenneth Brannagh? That's where purely fictional characters like Aragorn have the advantage! Their only judges are the readers, and the author can make them into whatever he or she wishes. Real-world leaders, like the commanders, are judged by history. Patton was charismatic (at least George C. was!) and successful. Custer was charismatic and a complete failure. Here's where I would put Theoden, who absolutely lead from the front, was certainly successful, and was, arguably, more charismatic than Aragorn. Other fictional leaders, charismatic and otherwise, who achieved varying degrees of success in their careers: Thorin Oakenshield, Robb Stark, and Darth Vader. I would also classify Gandalf as a leader, rather than a commander, due to his personal involvement in events.

    Moving on to heroes, I put them into two, overlapping circles. In fact, this whole exercise might benefit from a large-scale Venn diagram! There are heroes like Turin, Beowulf, Wart from T.H. White's The Sword in the Stone, Luke Skywalker, and Harry Potter. While they may or may not represent a larger constituency and can receive help from other characters along the way, they illustrate the importance of the One. Their successes, or failures, are primarily achieved through individual skill or determination. These characters usually rise from anonymity to great heights. The fact that they usually have some sort of magical weapon never hurts. I could think of no real-world example of the lone hero. Even Alvin York had command of a small number of men. The other circle contains the charismatic leader, and in the area where the two intersect we find Aragorn. Still with the magic blade and the destiny and all that, but both charismatic and competent, inspiring others to succeed.

    The example of Achilles was brought up, and I was thinking of his place in the discussion. While he has all the markings of a traditional lone hero (self-confidence to the point of arrogance, magical armor, etc.), let's not forget that he was also a charismatic leader of the Myrmidons, the most feared military unit on the plains of Troy. So much so, that even the armor of Achilles, worn by Patroclus, spurred them to glory and routed every Trojan from the field save another hero: Hector. Turin reminds me quite a bit of Achilles, the tragic hero (more blurring of lines and roles).

    For just as there has always been a Richard Webster, so too has there been a Black Scout of the North to greet him at the door on the threshold of the evening and to guard him through his darkest dreams.


    Hasuwandil
    Bree

    Jul 12, 11:19pm

    Post #58 of 59 (697 views)
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    Leaders, Heroes, and Sidekicks [In reply to] Can't Post

    It seems to me that the "hero's journey" is a journey from being an ordinary person to being a leader. However, since the focus is on the hero, less attention is paid to his followers. Still, Luke Skywalker was a leader by the time of the final trench run on the first Death Star, and later he was "Commander Skywalker". Beowulf was already a leader when we first meet him, with a retinue of fourteen warriors, but he achieves his notable deeds alone. I'm not sure how that fits in with the "hero's journey". Towards the end of his life he is a king. However, he only commands eleven warriors. Perhaps only eleven volunteered to fight the dragon? As it turned out, most of them chickened out, and he ended up fighting the dragon with only one companion.

    Hêlâ Aurwandil, angilô berhtost,
    oƀar Middangard mannum gisendid!


    Hamfast Gamgee
    Grey Havens

    Mon, 10:23am

    Post #59 of 59 (401 views)
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    Maybe one difference was [In reply to] Can't Post

    That Aragorn simply had better friends and support than Turin. Gandalf, Elrond and the Elves of Rivendell, his fellow Rangers even the denzens of Bree and the Hobbits of the Shire might have had an influence. In the case of Turin he does have companions, but they simply don't seem of the same quality. But in some ways, the two are so similar in personality that if there had been a movie done of the Silm at the same time of Lotr they could both have been played by Viggo!

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