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Old 10-04-2004, 03:30 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Silmaril LotR -- Book 2 - Chapter 04 - A Journey in the Dark

As the previous chapter ended in defeat, this one begins with the decision whether to accept that defeat or to rise to the challenge of a new (the only remaining) possibility. Frodo shows his strength in deciding to go on. It’s interesting that Gandalf stresses the reason for entering Moria, not only because the other choices are too risky or take too much time, but because their attempt at Caradhras exposed them and they must now “vanish from sight for awhile”.

Aragorn shows his gift of foresight in warning Gandalf of the personal danger facing him in Moria.

Before they disappear, they are attacked by Wargs; warding them off makes Gandalf’s presence even more visible – interesting that he always exposes himself when he must use his Maian powers, as fire is his element. (That’s another reason it’s probably good that he didn’t go on with Frodo – would he have been able to restrain himself to remain secret?)

After that, we have another weather change to their disadvantage – is there actually a purposeful mind behind that, or is it a coincidence that is only felt to be personal malice to them?

I find it significant that we are shown that Gandalf is not omniscient – he is uncertain of the way to the Gates of Moria, does not know the password, and later falters when he must choose the way through the caverns.

Another much-discussed enigma is presented in this chapter – the Watcher in the Water. Is it a single or multiple entity? More interesting is the question of its arousal – was it already triggered when the Fellowship waded through the water, or was it Boromir’s stone that angered it? Sam shows heroism in saving Frodo at this point.

In Moria, we are given some insights into Dwarven culture, both in the Dwarrowdelf excavation and in Gimli’s poem. We are introduced to mithril, and in finding Balin’s grave, the chapter ends with yet another defeat, that of the last Dwarven attempt at retaking Moria.

That’s a wealth of material to discuss!
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Old 10-04-2004, 08:04 AM   #2
davem
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Gandalf stood up & strode forward, holding his staff aloft. 'Listen, Hound of Sauron!' he cried. 'Gandalf is here. Fly, if you value your foul skin! I will shrivel you from tail to snout, if you come within this ring.'....

When the full light of morning came no signs of the wolves were to be found, & they looked in vain for the bodies of the dead.
This is interesting - did Tolkien, the Professor of Anglo Saxon, the great philologist, seems not to realise (or has Gandalf fail to realise) that there is all the difference in the world between a wolf & a hound!

But is it that simple? These 'wargs' are neither wolves nor hounds. they are supernatural beings, which seem at first to be real creatures, not illusions - we could expect Gandalf at least to know an illusion, yet he seems as convinced as the others that they are facing a real physical threat. But his words are interesting - 'Hound of Sauron'. Are these creatures that Sauron has sent, magically created to attack the Fellowship & then disappear when their task is done?

In British folklore there is the Wild Hunt:

Quote:
Ghost stories featuring black dogs must be numbered in hundreds. In many instances, the dog is a fearsome hound, with glowing eyes & slavering jaws, which haunts lonely lanes late at night. In many others, it is associated with the devil, & a pack of savages hounds are, of course, an integral feature of the Wild Hunt. Barguest, Padfoot & Shrike are names sometimes given to phantom hounds.

The Wild Hunt is a common feature of northern mythologies...What are they hunting? In Norse mythology anyone who crossed their path was fair game. He was liable to be snatched up & transported to a distant land, & he must never speak of his experiences, for even to mention the huntsman meant death...
Whitlock, 'In Search of Lost Gods'
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Some of the spectral dogs which are said to haunt the north & east coasts of England may owe their existence to a far-off memory of the Vikings. When the Norsemen invaded, they brought with them their own legends of the Hounds of Odin, the ghostly war-dogs of their chief god.
'Reader's Digest Book of Folklore, Myths & Legends of Britain',
It seems that here Tolkien is again making use of a folkloric tradition in his work, taking an ancient image & transferring it to Middle earth, partly for reasons of strengthening its claim to be 'a mythology for England', partly to give an 'explanation' for the tradition by giving us its 'original' form. We can see how the Hobbits would take the story of the attack by 'Hounds of Sauron', modify them & pass them on down through the ages, till they were taken up by the later Pagan peoples & then the Christians, till the 'Hounds of Sauron', passing through the stage of being 'Hounds of Odin', finally become 'Hounds of Satan'.

Yet, in their Middle earth context, how can they be explained - 'real', physical 'wargs' which disappear in the morning light - like the blade of the Morgul Knife? Are we again dealing with two worlds? Do these 'Hounds of Sauron' exist, like the Ringwraiths, in the OtherWorld, & like them are able, with Sauron's will, to pass from that world into this one in order to do Sauron's will, & then return back whence they came? Once again, one is struck by the sense that the War of the Ring is not simply a war between good & evil in this world, but a war being fought by the forces of two worlds, or 'dimensions'.

A few other points - CT gives us a translation of Gandalf's opening spell: 'Elvish gate open now for us; doorway of the Dwarf-folk listen to the word of my tongue.' He also quotes Tolkien (if memory serves) as saying that he didn't want the incident of the entrance to Moria to resemble the account of trying to gain entrance to the Lonely Mountain in the Hobbit, yet in some ways it definitely does.

Gandalf's instruction, once in the mines, to 'Follow my Staff', did cause Biblical echoes to spring to mind for me - Thy Rod & thy staff they comfort me. We also have him handing out to each of his followers the flask containing the magical/mystical/supernatural liqour Miruvor, & spending a night sitting in meditation, while all his companions sleep, & we know he goes on to face death & resurrection, involving a descent into the Underworld. One does have to wonder whether this is one of the 'Catholic' themes which were 'consciously' placed in the revision.

Finally, on a personal note, the drawing of the Doors of Moria struck me forcibly, because a couple of weeks back in Oxford I saw the original manuscript page. The detail was amazing - as was that on the original paintings for the Hobbit - if anyone thought that the originals were large size & had been substantially reduced for the book - they weren't. If you have a copy of TH with Tolkien's colour plates, take another look at them, because he painted them, with all that detail, effectively at the size you see them in the hardback.
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Old 10-04-2004, 01:02 PM   #3
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Davem, I like the point you have made about the wolves. Here is a little more...

Quote:
"It is as I feared" said Gandalf "These were no ordinary wolves hunting for food in the wilderness. Let us eat quickly and go."
You can tell Gandalf feels unsure, or uneasy, about not finding any trace of the wolves, or finding none of the dead bodies. They definately seem to be from another world/dimension.
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Old 10-04-2004, 02:51 PM   #4
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There are three chief underground adventures in LotR, of which this is the first (the others being Shelob's lair and the Paths of the Dead). What occurred to me on re-reading this chapter is that all three of these subterranean journeys have rather explicit associations with death and rebirth - three times we go down into the Underworld. Traditionally, of course, the hero dies (literally or metaphorically), travels to the Underworld, and later emerges and returns to life (sometimes going to the Underworld means literally going to the place where the dead abide, sometimes it means, say, being encased in carbonite in Jabba's dungeon). But in our LotR examples, who is it that "dies"?

The answer, though perhaps obvious, is interesting. In Moria, it is clearly Gandalf who dies. In Shelob's lair it is Frodo - who does not literally die, but is poisoned and mistaken for dead. In the Paths of the Dead, it is Aragorn, whose "death" is not biological at all, but is more like Odysseus's or Aeneas's. Now it has often been remarked that Gandalf, Aragorn, and Frodo are the three heroes of the book. I think it's interesting that this view holds up so well - we even find that each of the heroes has his own journey into the Underworld. I suspect also that those three journeys each reflect the nature of the relevant character, though how they might do so is not immediately obvious to me, and I don't have time to ponder it at the moment. It's an interesting triple parallel to think about, though.


Davem wrote:
Quote:
Yet, in their Middle earth context, how can they be explained - 'real', physical 'wargs' which disappear in the morning light - like the blade of the Morgul Knife?
I don't see any reason to think that they were not "real". As you point out, Gandalf certainly considered them a threat.

I have always guessed that they were like the "werewolves" of the Silmarillion - demonic spirits (Maiar perhaps?) in wolvish bodies. Remember that Sauron always had an affinity with these creatures - he was once the master of Tol-in-Gaurhoth, the Isle of Werewolves; he even took wolf form for his battle with Huan.
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Old 10-04-2004, 04:03 PM   #5
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Pipe

In reference to comments above about Gandalf's fallibility in this chapter and
the wolves possibly being Maiar, it's interesting how Maiar have far more
direct influence on Middle-earth history then Valar: Melian, Gandalf, and
Radagast, and on a somewhat less positive side Sauron,
Saruman, and Balrogs. Any intervention by Valar are, even when
significant, like Ulmo with Tuor, fleeting, presumably because of the
overwhelming influence they would exert otherwise (as Melkor did when he
insisted on prolonged interaction with Middle-earth). It was the (relative)
weakness of Sauron vis-a-vis Melkor, further diluted by his putting much of
his power into the Ring, that made resistance feasible against him. And while
the Istari
Quote:
were forbidden to reveal themselves in forms of majesty, or to seek to rule the wills of Elves and men by open displays of power
(UT)
even Melian had clear restrictions on power and knowledge (not even knowing
of events in Valinor after she left).
Gandalf does generally act, even as Gandalf the White, largely as an
adviser (and without even once whacking any Gondorian with his staff ). That he has to reveal his powers at times (Caradhras, the
wolves, the Balrog, shows just how desperate events had become, partially
because of the betrayal of their mission by Saruman.
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Old 10-04-2004, 04:20 PM   #6
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Aiwendil wrote:

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Now it has often been remarked that Gandalf, Aragorn, and Frodo are the three heroes of the book.
I've always happened to believe Gollum was the hero of the book/hero of Middle-Earth. May sound wierd, but Gollum was the one who destroyed the ring, whether it was intentional or not. The whole fate of Middle-Earth was saved because Gollum happened to slip in.

Quote:
I don't see any reason to think that they were not "real". As you point out, Gandalf certainly considered them a threat.
I would guess that there would be a trace of them if they were "real." Even if they were demonic spirits, in a physical wolvish body, there would be some sort of trace of them. A body, tracks, but there wasn't and Gandalf did say that those weren't your ordinary wolves. Atleast, we can agree that they weren't ordinary
wolves looking for meat, they were most likely from Sauron.
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Old 10-05-2004, 02:49 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boromir88
I would guess that there would be a trace of them if they were "real." Even if they were demonic spirits, in a physical wolvish body, there would be some sort of trace of them. A body, tracks, but there wasn't and Gandalf did say that those weren't your ordinary wolves. Atleast, we can agree that they weren't ordinary
wolves looking for meat, they were most likely from Sauron.
I'm more & more struck by the similarity between these 'wolves' & the Morgul Blade - both are physically present in the world, both are capable of doing physical harm, yet both disappear without leaving any evidence of their existence once their work is accomplished.

As to their being maiar, well, one would have to say 'How are the mighty fallen!'. But Tolkien was never really clear whether there were any other 'spiritual/supernatural' beings in ME who weren't Maiar, so its arguable that that's what they were. But, unfortunately, without a ME equivalent of Dionysius the Areopagite all we have is speculation. I will still stick to my original feeling taht Tolkien is making use of folkloric & mythic traditions in this case, even when he hadn't found a way to fit them all into a 'theology' of Middle earth. There's actually no reason to believe that the 'wargs' were actually alive in any sense, any more than the Silent Watchers were - & I don't think they were maiar - unless we call every apparently conscious supernatural being a 'maiar', which I think will cause more problems than it solves.

On the 'deaths' of the three main characters, I have to agree, though - passage into the Underworld, the realm of the Ancestors, was always symbolic of a death/re-birth journey - long before Christ's Harrowing of Hell. We can see Gandalf facing his own 'Shadow', dying & being re-born 'purified' - he is literally 'born-again' (initiates of the ancient mystery religions wre often referred to as 'twice-born'). Aragorn also in a sense confronts his own 'Shadow', in that he takes over the role of Isildur, & 'kills' the part of himself which corresponds to his ancestor - desire for power, to rule according to his own will, refusal to submit to anyone.

Its also odd that Frodo confronts Shelob in a tunnel - because Hobbits live in tunnels. Is there something symbolic about Shelob - does she symbolise the cloying, suffocating nature of Frodo's life in the Shire, & does that life also 'die', & get left behind - is this the point at which Frodo realises that 'there is no real going back'? Bilbo entered a tunnel & found a dragon waiting; Frodo finds a spider. Terrible powers of life & death dwell in the deep places of the world, & once one enters that realm there really can be no going back.

(Just fumbling with these ideas - they need more thought).
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Old 10-05-2004, 07:34 PM   #8
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And I have finally caught up with the current chapter, although I still have a lot of catching up to do on the other chapter discussions.

This is quite an eventful chapter. Two hostile encounters, much conversation which helps build up the characters (particularly those to whom we have only recently been introduced) and a whole new realm to discover.

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
These 'wargs' are neither wolves nor hounds. they are supernatural beings, which seem at first to be real creatures, not illusions - we could expect Gandalf at least to know an illusion, yet he seems as convinced as the others that they are facing a real physical threat. But his words are interesting - 'Hound of Sauron'. Are these creatures that Sauron has sent, magically created to attack the Fellowship & then disappear when their task is done?
In this chapter and the last, I am not quite sure which foes are sent by whom (and the films have probably contributed to my confusion here). It seems likely that Saruman has sent the Crebain, since they hail from Fangorn and Dunland, near to Isengard. So it logically follows that, his spies having spotted them, he would be the one to bring on the hostile weather which besets and diverts them. Yet the weather on Caradhras and the falling boulders are described in terms of a hostile yet neutral force (apologies if this has already been discussed, but I haven't read the discussion on the previous chapter yet). And Saruman would have a motive in wishing to prevent the Fellowship using the Redhorn Pass, since that might lead them to the Gap of Rohan (given the apprehension of terrible danger in Moria). Then again, Sauron would quite possibly have a motive in pushing the Ring towards Moria, assuming that he knew what lay in wait for the Fellowship there. And he would be aware of the Ringbearer's general location, even assuming that the Crebain were not sent by him. As for the Wolves, as davem notes, Gandalf certainly seems to believe that they are creatures of Sauron.

So what exactly are the Wolves? Aragorn refers to them as Wargs and I have to admit that I had assumed that this is what they were, having not previously paid much attention to the disappearance of the bodies of those that fell in the attack. But this certainly stood out to me this time round and it made me wonder as to their nature too. My first reaction was to still regard them as creatures of the physical world, since they are harmed by (non-magical) weapons and driven off by fire. Yet the Ringwraiths, who are most definately not creatures of the physical world, are driven off by fire too. And the Witch-King's doom is brought about by normal weapons (albeit one with an appropriate history in the case of Merry's Barrow Blade). So I suppose it is quite possible that these beasts were not of the physical realm.

Having said that, I am quite taken by Aiwendil's suggestion that they may have been Werewolves. After all, Werewolves were identified by Gandalf only three chapters before (in Many Meetings) as numbering among the servants of Sauron. Not all Werewolves would necessarily have been as powerful as Carcharoth and Draugluin. And if they were spirits housed in Wolf form, they need not necessaily have been Maiarin spirits.

I like the way in which Tolkien foreshadows both of the attacks in this chapter. With the Wolves this occurs in the paragraphs immediately preceding that in which they are first encountered. We are led into thinking that it is the wind that is howling and the suddeness of the realisation (prompted by Aragorn's realisation) that it is not the wind but Wolf-voices is striking. The Wolves appear practically out of nowhere (again lending a superstitious aura to them).

With the Watcher, the initial clue as to its presence is provided further in adavnce of its attack. The moment we hear the "swish, followed by a plop" and see the ripples on the dark lake (through the ears and eyes of the Fellowship), we know that there is something nasty lurking in the water. This heightens the sense of danger (for the reader) as the Fellowship tarries outside the West Door of Moria. Frustratingly, the Fellowship seems all but oblivious to the danger that the lake holds (and which has been hinted at to us). When Boromir throws a stone into the lake it is the sort of thing which might provoke an involuntary groan from the reader, even if he or she is reading the book for the first time.

So, with the Wolves, the attack occurs suddenly, almost out of nowhere. With the Watcher, we have a slow lead up to the attack in which the victims (but not the reader) seem oblivious to the danger. Both of these devices have been used many times in horror films and have become somewhat cliched. Yet Tolkien pulls them off wonderfully here, even reading it afresh now.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Estelyn Telontar
Another much-discussed enigma is presented in this chapter – the Watcher in the Water. Is it a single or multiple entity?
Well before the films, I had settled on the idea of a single kraken-like creature (although, unlike a squid, its tentacles are referred to as being fingered). But what really interests me about the Watcher is that (as Gandalf silently notes) it makes straight for the Ringbearer. Is it acting on Sauron's will, or is it drawn by the Ring? Also, is there intent in its barring of the West Door or does this occur by chance?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Estelyn Telontar
I find it significant that we are shown that Gandalf is not omniscient – he is uncertain of the way to the Gates of Moria, does not know the password, and later falters when he must choose the way through the caverns.
I think it is important that we get this sense of fallibility in Gandalf. It lends credibility to him as a character and brings with it the realisation that he may not always be able to protect his companions. It is essential that we truly believe that they are in very real danger and not simply "under the wing" of an all-powerful being. The same applies, to an extent, with Aragorn, when he acknowledges that he led the Company "almost to disaster in the snow". Again, it lends an air of fallibility to a character who, until now, has been portrayed as pretty darn perfect. (The same feeling is conveyed by his feelings of doubt following Gandalf's fall in Moria.)

Frodo's apprehension of soft footfalls and the two pale points of light like luminous eyes hint to us that Gollum is on the trail of the Fellowship. It's subtle, but its there nonetheless. Given the Watcher's demolition of the Western Door, I had always wondered how Gollum had entered Moria, thinking it unlikely that he would have been able to slip in at the same time as them without being seen. It was only when I read Unfinished Tales (The Hunt for the Ring) that I realised that he had been travelling west through Moria when they arrived and that he picked up their trail there.

Two questions concerning Pippin and the well. First, why is he so "curiously attracted" by it? We all know that he is an inquisitive fellow (parallels with Smeagol?), but it seems to be a stronger attraction than simple curiosity. What is it that draws him to it in such dangerous surroundings?

And what exactly is it that he wakens when he tosses the stone in? Is it the Balrog? If so, if the soft splosh of a stone falling into water can awaken it, then it hardly seems as if it was sleeping too soundly. In these circumstances, Pippin can hardly be blamed for its appearance. Surely it would have apprehended the Fellowship in any event. Or does the stone simply alert the Orcs to their presence? And what does the hammer signify? Why a hammer? Is it an Orcish signal?

Finally, as one who found his way to LotR via The Hobbit and loves the allusion to events and characters in that book, I have always found the end to this chapter profoundly saddening. Of Thorin's company, Balin was the one who always showed Bilbo the most kindness and, ultimately, became the closest to him.
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Old 10-06-2004, 01:41 PM   #9
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I hadn't previously thought about the significance of the wolf attack, beyond finding it frightening, but I'm glad this has been brought up as I've now noticed a few things about it. Gandalf brings the group within a ring of stones for protection and forbids the creatures to come within it - this is a very 'magical' image, reminiscent of a priest using the protection of a circle of standing stones, or of the circle of protection which Wiccans use.

This image I find powerfully 'magical':

Quote:
There was a roar and a crackle, and the tree above him burst into a leaf and bloom of blinding flame. The fire leapt from tree-top to tree-top. The whole hill was crowned with dazzling light.
What is really odd about this event is that not only have the fallen 'wolves' disappeared completely, but the arrows are found lying on the ground, as though they have been removed from the bodies of the creatures. To me, it as though these are not mere wolves or wargs, but something else, something which could indeed be werewolves. These are creatures which could possibly have not only removed their dead kin, but have removed the weapons which killed them.

I've removed my normal signature for this post, being as it's about wolves; it might have been a bit confusing!
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Old 10-06-2004, 03:48 PM   #10
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“A Journey in the Dark” indeed! This is the darkest chapter yet, with the possible exception of that other darksomely titled chapter, “Shadow of the Past.” The supernatural nature of those wolves has always creeped me out, but I’d never really considered it much beyond that until now. Frankly, I don’t know what they are, and I think that is why they are so ‘successful’ as a threat. We don’t know who sent them, why they attacked where they did, what they were, or where they went. It just goes to prove that it’s what you can’t see which scares you the most. Also nicely develops the idea of Sauron as being the master of deception and lies: they weren’t “real” wolves at all, but illusory/empty copies or images of wolves.

But back to the darker elements I was on about. There are a lot of very depressing and even melancholic touches to the chapter, making the ‘journey in the dark’ as much metaphorical as literal. Even before the Fellowship gets to Moria there are any number of quite sad moments: the argument between Gimli and Legolas over the lost friendship between their kinds; Pippin’s self doubts about his usefulness on the journey; Aragorn’s doubts and self recriminations for leading them to “disaster” on Caradhras; Boromir’s continual grumbling and griping. What most significantly stands out for me with Boromir in this chapter is his failure to understand that the Fellowship is not a democracy in which his voice is the equal of the others:

Quote:
‘I will not go,’ said Boromir; not unless the vote of the whole company is against me. What do Legolas and the little folk say? The Ring-bearer’s voice surely should be heard?’
I mean there he is with the Man he now knows is his King, not to mention Mithrandir, and he is still holding himself forth as their equal, and arguing against them? This does not bode well for the future hopes of Aragorn to rule in Gondor! What’s more, Boromir’s sentiment is rather dismissive of Gimli – is he classing the Dwarf as one of “the little folk” or is he pointedly not seeking his opinion? It’s also chilling that his final attention is to Frodo: is he a little too interested in Frodo already?

Once inside the mines we get the history lesson about the loss of the Dwarven realm. With the added touch that mithril, this fabulous material, has almost entirely been given in tribute to Sauron. This moment is to pile loss upon loss. Then we hear about how Frodo is already beginning to change under the influence of the evil that besets him:

Quote:
Though he had been healed in Rivendell of the knife-stroke, that grim wound had not been without effect.
And then of course, at the end of the chapter, they find Balin’s tomb. This is a long catalogue of defeat, despair and dismay! But wait, there’s even more! In his repulse of the warg attack, Gandalf is presented as a powerful wizard, champion of good and protector of the Fellowship – but look at how he is described:

Quote:
In the wavering firelight Gandalf seemed suddenly to grow: he rose up, a great menacing shape like the monument of some ancient king of stone set up on a hill. Stooping like a cloud, he lifted a burning branch and strode to meet the wolves. They gave back before him. High in the air he tossed the blazing brand. It flared with a sudden white radiance like lightning; and his voice rolled like thunder.
Hmmmm…a shadowy “menacing shape” wielding a fiery weapon and roaring like thunder…is it just me or are we being treated to a preview of the Balrog here?

I’m not honestly entirely sure why the chapter seems so determined to be relentlessly bleak. Even in the defeat at Caradhras, the Men were strong enough to find a way through the snow, Legolas made light of it, Gandalf’s fire was a protective and comforting presence, and they ended the chapter alive and safe. This first ‘real’ trial of the Fellowship is much more complete and total. After reading Aiwendil’s engrossing theory about the death of the heroes, it occurred to me that perhaps this chapter is so dark for it marks the death of the Fellowship. In the next chapter, Gandalf, their leader, is about to die and with that the Fellowship will begin to break up. It’s always struck me how brief a time (in the narrative) that the Fellowship is together – really only three chapters, and all three of them are surrounded by defeat and despair. It’s almost as though the purpose of the Fellowship is realised most fully in its failures – they can’t get over Caradhras, they get mired in disputes and unhappiness in Moria, Gandalf falls. Could it be, perhaps, that the role of the Fellowship is a flawed one? We were talking in the last chapter discussion about the relation between the nine walkers and the nine riders – could it be that in the plan to counter Sauron with an ‘equal but opposite force’ they are playing right into his hands? The strategy of the Fellowship is to match Sauron mano-y-mano, but this doesn’t work. Perhaps the Fellowship exists in the tale to show that any such way of thinking, even when undertaken by the good, is doomed to failure, and in the end all we can depend upon is the ‘letting go’ of others and plodding hope of individuals like Frodo and Sam?

Just some scattered thinking to add to the mix.
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Old 10-06-2004, 04:10 PM   #11
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1420! My two cents

Good post Fordhim, you've brought up some interesting discussion questions.

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I mean there he is with the Man he now knows is his King, not to mention Mithrandir, and he is still holding himself forth as their equal, and arguing against them?
We know, it's Boromir's nature to argue, if you don't agree with him. First we have Moria, then we see it again where he doesn't want to enter Lothlorien, then he argues with Aragorn travelling down the Anduin. Maybe, that's why I like him, because he speaks his mind. You are correct, this does not look well for Aragorn to be "king." We know Boromir wants the sword to return back to Minas Tirith, he comes out and says it at the council, but I'm not totally sure he wants the person wielding the sword to come to Minas Tirith.

Quote:
It’s almost as though the purpose of the Fellowship is realised most fully in its failures – they can’t get over Caradhras, they get mired in disputes and unhappiness in Moria, Gandalf falls. Could it be, perhaps, that the role of the Fellowship is a flawed one?
You are correct, the Fellowship ends in total despair and disaster. Gandalf dies, Boromir dies, Aragorn faces his "mental" test as he's doubting his decisions, and wishes Gandalf was still there. But, in all this total chaos look what springs from it, a friendship. First, we have 9 people, joining together, forming a fellowship, to help Frodo. Ok, they are all getting to know eachother, pretty close friends, then when the fellowship breaks, look at the friendships that spring off that. Aragorn/Legolas/Gimli, Merry/Pippin, Sam/Frodo. They are smaller, yet stronger, friendships then the original fellowship of 9. Legolas and Gimli create a relationship never seen between an elf and dwarf, Sam was just a servant to Frodo before, and now he's Frodo's best, most loyal, friend. Merry and Pippin were close friends from the beginning, but I still believe they grew a stronger friendship, as we get to see on Pelennor fields. So from the group of 9, we'll call it a "loose friendship", not really strong, and as you say it just seems one despair after another. It breaks, and out pops out, smaller, stronger bonds, between the fellowship members. So, I disagree, the fellowship wasn't a failure. Yes, it failed to stay together, but even seperated there was still that "fellowship," and a "stronger friendship," then the original fellowship. The Fellowship's task was to help Frodo, we know it's an extremely low possibility that they will suceed. We also know anyone may leave when they desire too, so you may look at it, like it was "doomed" or "destined" to fail. But, without that original fellowship, you wouldn't have those smaller, stronger bonds, I mentioned. And without those smaller "fellowships" the quest would surely have been lost.

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Old 10-06-2004, 05:32 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Professor Hedgethistle
But back to the darker elements I was on about. There are a lot of very depressing and even melancholic touches to the chapter, making the ‘journey in the dark’ as much metaphorical as literal.
What really struck me, in terms of the bleakness of this chapter, is the number of times that Moria is mentioned as a place of dread and fear before the Fellowship even enters it:


Quote:
On all the others a dread fell at the mention of that name. Even to the hobbits it was a legend of vague fear.
Hold up! It must be a pretty fearsome place if rumour of it has penetrated even the Shire's insular society.


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"It is a name of ill omen," said Boromir.
Ill omen indeed.


Quote:
"The name of Moria is black"
Boromir again. And he's right. The name means "Black Pit" (although Gandalf chastises him for comparing it to Mordor).


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"I too once passed the Dimrill Gate," said Aragorn quietly; "but though I also came out again, the memory is very evil. I do not wish to enter Moria a second time."
Oo'er! It can't be a very nice place to be if it even unsettles Aragorn. Incidentally, it is interesting that his memory of it is of a "very evil" place, given that he also has a feeling that it will be particularly dangerous for Gandalf. I had always thought of this as a premonition of sorts, but did he perhaps pick up some vague impression as to what sleeps there the last time he passed through?


Quote:
"There it lies," he said, pointing away south-eastwards to where the mountains' sides fell sheer into shadows at their feet."
Gandalf is talking of the west wall of Moria. It lies in shadow.


Quote:
Beyond the ominous water were reared vast cliffs, their stern faces pallid in the fading light.
An even earlier hint that danger might lurk the lake before the west wall. But also the cliffs in which the unseen gate lies are described as stern. Not a particularly good omen.


Quote:
Under the looming cliffs they had looked like mere bushes, when seen far off from the top of the Stair; but now they towered overhead, stiff, dark, and silent, throwing deep night-shadows about their feet, standing like sentinel pillars at the end of the road.
Even the holly trees which stand either side of the west gate, trees of a type which had previously brought comfort through their association with the Elven realm of Hollin, are described as dark, shadowy and forbidding.

The language used in these descriptions of Moria, together with the changed landscape and the other dark touches that Fordim mentions, all contribute towards the bleakness of this chapter. But they also ensure that we can be in no doubt, as the Fellowship enter Moria, that it is a dark and dangerous place indeed.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Fordim again
I’m not honestly entirely sure why the chapter seems so determined to be relentlessly bleak.
I wonder whether there is any connection between the bleakness of this chapter and the darkness of the years in which Tolkien was writing this section of the book. In the Foreword, he writes:


Quote:
In spite of the darkness of the next five years I found that the story could not now be wholly abandoned, and I plodded on, mostly by night, till I stood by Balin's tomb in Moria. There I halted for a long while.
Like Tolkien, the Fellowship have been plodding on through dark times up to this point. I wonder if the journey had become so bleak that he was unsure where it should go from here (metaphorically speaking). Of course, when he resumed nearly a year later, the darkness only grew before the light of Lothlorien was reached.
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Old 10-07-2004, 03:06 AM   #13
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Tolkien

To me, here Tolkien is kind of making the beginning of this chapter more friendly to fans of "The Hobbit". Alike to "The long expected Party" Tolkien is making another reference to the Hobbit and making those who read the Hobbit with enthusiasms have the feeling that it is indeed a sequel.

Here, of course, I am referring to the incident with the Wolves. It has a lot of similarities with a parallel incident in "The Hobbit" Which was just AFTER a journey through dark, and this is just BEFORE a journey through dark (Which again, Gandalf lights their way through). Here once again, Gandalf is using his 'magical' powers to help the company out of trouble, by setting the wolves and the surrounding hills a blaze. Ironically, in much the same way that Gandalf saves them with fire, it is also to be an end to his life as Gandalf the Grey...

In contrast to what is in the film versions, I like the fact that Gimli dose not really like the idea of going to Moria (Who would?). The suggestions are all there that Balin failed in his quest to reclaim Moria, the fact that news suddenly stopped said more than enough for me.

More than anything, I lived the diagram of the door of moria. Its one of the few artworks of Tolkien’s that is always used, Unlike Orthank and some others.
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Old 10-07-2004, 07:35 AM   #14
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SpM, I've always been so intrigued by the fact that Tolkien paused for such a long time in the writing "by Balin's Tomb" (it was for a period of some years wasn't it?). The end of this chapter has a very conclusive and final feeling. The same thing happened to Tolkien, of course, at the end of "At the Sign of the Prancing Pony" as he thought about where the hobbits would or should go next. I wonder if the pause here had more to do with what had to happen next. In the next chapter, Tolkien was faced with a hard decision: to 'kill off' one of the most important characters and really begin sending the story into new directions that would both expand the task of the writer (by splitting up the Fellowship, he would have to tell three stories, not just one) and also move it into a much darker and dangerous world.

Perhaps the way to read the journey through Moria is not so much as a passage of transition for the heroes, but for the story itself. To this point, the tale is a fairly familiar one (Hookbill's points about the references to The Hobbit are behind this thought), but with the journey into Moria, we find that the story of TH really is dead -- Balin is gone, the wargs are not just wolves but spectral beings of an altogether more sinister nature, the company is not a jolly bunch of friends who stick together to the end. The world that awaits the Fellowship on the other side of Moria is both more marvellous (Lothlorien) and more dangerous (Mordor) than anything we've seen to this point. We've been talking on and off throughout all the chapters about the movement that Frodo makes from the real world of waking experience into the dream/magic/dangers of faerie. Working out from that, could we not say that the current chapter is where the reader finally begins to make the same transition? Not just into fairy (as we've been immersed in fantasy from the first page) but from the familiar (The Hobbit, and more significantly, the relatively familiar and comfortable tropes of folklore and fairy-tales) into the truly marvellous and new. We the readers are moving from the known and knowable, to the unknown and unknowable.

I mean, horsemen in black are frightening, but they are not Balrogs; what is more, the Nazgul are explained to us very clearly, but the nature (and even the anatomy) of the Balrog is famously difficult to determine. And while Rivendell is wonderful, it is no Lothlorien; what's more, Rivendell is a place of answers and counsel, Lothlorien is a land of questions and mystery. It just occurs to me that the 'speaking fox' of chapter (was it three?) may make a lot of sense when put beside the spectral wargs -- we've come a long way, as readers, from the childish fairy tales of talking animals, with which we are all familiar, to these mysterious and unknowable creatures that disappear in the light.
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Old 10-07-2004, 08:01 AM   #15
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Certainly, when Tolkien 'halted by Balin's tomb' the story was very different in terms of mood & characters - Aragorn hadn't appeared - he was still the hobbit, Trotter - the Company consisted of him, Gandalf, Boromir & four hobbits, & Tolkien simply had no idea where he was going with it.

You almost get the impression from reading the early drafts that the story was dependent on getting the setting right - once he'd achieved an understanding of the world of Middle earth, what it looked like, felt like, he could then proceed with the story, because at that point it all came together - an example would be the Trotter character - CT speculates that his father 'realised' the Ranger was not a hobbit in the Caradhras section, where he had to be carried down from the mountain with the other hobbits. So, the wise, resourceful ranger hobbit had to be changed to a man if he was not to suddenly be reduced by a snowstorm to a rather pathetic figure.

One thing that does come across in reading this chapter is Tolkien's incredible skill at creating 'realms', indeed, whole societies. Its easy to underestimate his ability because he is so good at it - but when you think about it, all he had was a few vague legends & odd references to 'elves' & 'dwarves'. Yet the societies he creates are absolutely believable - Moria convinces us on every level; not just on the level of its physical nature & structure, but its history, its 'mood' - it even seems to have a 'personality' of its own - & in this chapter Tolkien truly does justice to the Dwarves, who have been up to this point a villainous, selfish, ugly little race, or a resource for supplying 'comic relief' - putting on one side for a moment the last chapters of The Hobbit - here, though, we see them as a race of wise, thoughtful, emotional & creativebeings, with a potential for greatness equal to any of the other races.

I can't help wondering if to some extent Tolkien was 'making amends' to the beings he'd created, after the bad press he'd given them up to that point
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Old 10-07-2004, 03:28 PM   #16
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Thinking about how this chapter manages to convey an air of menace, one striking aspect is the number of untold stories which are mentioned in passing. Some of these are retold elsewhere, but others are not, and we can only darkly imagine them.

We hear of Aragorn's passage through Moria, and it brings up the question of what he was doing there, and what frightened him. Gandalf too has passed through Moria, at least once, maybe more often; to what depths did he descend looking for Thrain? We also hear of a tale that I for one would like to hear more about, and that is Gandalf's adventure into Dol Guldur. And it is plain that there are stories that the Dwarves have never told.

This is clever technique as the tension is built up whenever we hear mention of another dark, perilous journey. Dangers are hinted at but never described. This not only adds to the tension and atmosphere of foreboding, but also adds yet more depth to the whole story. The fear of the Fellowship in this chapter is not based on something vague, but is built on tangible evidence, and the fact that we hear only hints of it from those few in the company who have experienced it, makes it yet more sinister.
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Old 10-07-2004, 03:50 PM   #17
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Excellent thoughts on the untold stories, Lalwendë! There is yet another, with only the briefest of mentions - Queen Berúthiel and her cats! Apparently Tolkien himself had no idea of their story when he wrote LotR - in Letter 163 he says:
Quote:
I have yet to discover anything about the cats of Queen Berúthiel.
In Letter 174 he says:
Quote:
I do not think that anything is referred to in The L. of the R. which does not actually exist in legends written before it was begun, or at least belonging to an earlier period - except only the 'cats of Queen Berúthiel'.
(A similar comment is found in a footnote in Letter 180.) In the Notes on the chapter 'The Istari' in UT, Christopher Tolkien writes:
Quote:
Even the story of Queen Berúthiel does exist, however, if only in a very 'primitive' outline, in one part illegible.
He goes on to relate that story, which I will not repeat, as I'm sure most people here have read it.

That one line has sparked much interest, so much so that an RPG based on Queen B. and her cats was written on the Downs some time ago!
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Old 10-08-2004, 06:59 AM   #18
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1420! Much Foreboding.

I liked your post Lalwende. Here is a bit of what I have to add. You mentioned this "hint of danger" and of lots of Foreboding. Not only the Dark Moria side of Foreboding, but a lot of foreboding for the Fellowship as well. We have Gandalf and Boromir get into several small, sort of humorous scraps. Boromir doubting Gandalf, and saying "who will now lead us," Gandalf saying "I will." Also, the whole bit of arguing about even going to Moria. We see Boromir and Gandalf get into disagreements, throughout this chapter, and as I said earlier, it is slightly comedious. Is this a sign of the Gandalf/Denethor debates, I always looked at those slightly comdedious as well. I just sort of read those 2 people's words as being sarcastic. Reminds me of "Romeo and Juliet" at the beginning, when the Montagues and Capulets are using the name "sir" as not something "noble/honorable title" but as a sarcastic mocking.

Then we have Aragorn, speaking as if Gandalf is going to die (which he does). But, even before it happens he says things like...

Quote:
...He has led us in here against our fears, but he will lead us out again, at whatever cost to himself....
Quote:
"One of you might have fallen in and still be wondering when you were going to strike the bottom," said Aragorn to Merry. "Let the guide go first, while you have one."
This is no doubt some foreboding evil of what is to become of Gandalf. But, is this Aragorn's gift coming to him? Like, he knows an evil will befall on Gandalf before they leave Moria? Or is this Aragorn giving compliments to Gandalf, like he puts his life in front of ours, and to make use of a good guide?

So far, we have the Fellowship members arguing throughout Caradhras and into Moria, and we have these hints that something ill will happen to Gandalf. It doesn't look good for the Fellowship. Then we have....

Quote:
Pippin felt curiously attracted by the well.
Here we have the Pippin we all love, the curious Pippin, curiosity killed the cat. Wait, didn't we just have Aragorn speak of Queen Beruthiel's cats?

Then we hear the "tap-toms" and as Gimli puts it "sounds like hammers." More foreboding ill. After their rest, it's not looking good for Gandalf, he stays up on watch through the whole night, so there's no way he's even somewhat refreshed.

Quote:
For eight dark hours, not counting two brief halts, they marched on; and they met no danger, and heard nothing, and saw nothing but the faint gleam of the wizard's light.
Is this the deep, quiet breath, before the big plunge? I sense an uneasy quietness and so does Frodo.
Quote:
...Frodo's spirit rose a little; but he still felt opressed, and still at times he heard, or thought he heard, away behind the company and beyond the fall and patter of their feet, a following footstep that was not an echo.
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Old 10-08-2004, 07:05 AM   #19
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Herm -- it occurs to me: it is in Moria that Frodo loses his first guide (Gandalf) and begins to acquire his last (Gollum); is part of the purpose of this chapter to set up Gollum as Gandalf's replacement? In a sense, Gandalf's sense of uncertainty, his foreboding, his reluctance, and -- let's face it -- his general inability to hold the Fellowship together comes out very clearly in this chapter. Contrast this to the certainty of Gollum. He never loses his way, even in "the dark places of the Earth" and he never leads Frodo wrong. He does lead him into evil (Shelob) but not through any 'wrong turning'.

I have no time to work this out in full, so I hope somebody else will, but I'm beginning to think that for the task which awaits Frodo on the other side of Moria, Gandalf is not the right or appropriate guide, but Gollum is. . .
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Old 10-08-2004, 11:11 AM   #20
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1420!

I can't expand upon it Fordhim, except to say it makes perfect sense.

Gollum gets away from them Mirkwood elves, nearly escapes Aragorn, and he knows secret passage ways. Passageways through Emyn Muil, the Dead Marshes, passages into Mordor. Besides the fact he was trying to lead Frodo into death, he was a very competant guide. Gandalf, really vague, he doesn't know where to go in Moria, he leads them into the mighty storms of Caradhras, but there's where they're different, Gandalf tries to lead Frodo and the company out of trouble (which he fails). Gollum tries to lead Frodo into trouble, he suceeds. I still don't see what Tolkien is trying to do with this, is it to show the weakness of Gandalf and the depth of Gollum? I don't know yet.
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Old 10-08-2004, 07:05 PM   #21
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1420! Let's hear it for Pippin!

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Originally Posted by Boromir88
Here we have the Pippin we all love, the curious Pippin, curiosity killed the cat.
As I said earlier, it seems to me that this is more than simple curiosity. His attraction to the well is described as curious, ie "not what would ordinarily be expected". Why is he so attracted to it?

Pippin is habitually portrayed as an inquisitive character. But I think that its worth looking at the things that he is "curiously" attracted to. The two obvious examples are this well and the Palantir. In both cases, they are means of communicating with dark forces. At the bottom of the well, there is a dark force lurking - perhaps even the Balrog itself. The Palantir was being used by Saruman to communicate with Sauron. In both cases, Pippin ends up communicating with these dark forces himself and alerting them to his companions' presence. Yet at the same time, his actions ultimately have a beneficial effect.

I may be biased as, second to Bilbo, Pippin is my favourite character, but I do think that this incident bears some consideration. Up to now, Pippin has not really played a significant role in the story. His main contribution has been to provide a humourous comment every so often and get told off by Gandalf every so often. Even Merry has played a more active role, as chief "conspirator" in the Shire, in displaying some knowledge of the Old Forest and, of course, in his encounter with a Black Rider.

So I think that this incident marks Pippin's real "entry" into the story. And what an entrace! Whether his actions awaken the Balrog or alert the Orcs, it is certainly portrayed as the catalyst for the events of the next chapter. Ultimately, it is his "foolish" behaviour here which leads to Gandalf's death and "re-birth" as the White. And if Gandalf had not come back as the White, the struggle against Sauron would most certainly have been more difficult. We will come on to discuss the incident with the Palantir, but it is Pippin's attraction to that object which results in Gandalf being in Minas Tirith during its seige, and quite possibly saves the city from desolation.

I'm not sure where I am going with this, but Pippin's "curious attraction" to dark things does seem somehow to be tied up with enabling Gandalf to bring his powers to bear for the good of Middle-earth. There is a link between the two of them, and it goes further than Pippin simply being the foil for Gandalf's irascibility.
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Old 10-09-2004, 02:41 AM   #22
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Yes, Saucy - I can remember that we've discussed Pippin's instinctive aspects and his closeness to all things spiritual, though I don't remember which thread that was. Often, those character traits are attributed to women, aren't they? And perhaps Merry's organisational abilities and skills as a "do-er" are more masculine, which would mean that the two of them complement each other. Mind you, that's not intended to be a generalization of feminine and masculine character, but as there's no female in the Fellowhip, Pippin seems to be the one who takes that role to some extent. There has to be someone ("dumb blonde" ) to whom things are explained, someone who follows the others' lead, someone who makes mistakes that turn out to be for the good because of some instinctive sense that can't be logically explained.

I'm not sure whether those spontaneous thoughts hold water, but it's worth thinking about.
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Old 10-09-2004, 07:22 AM   #23
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Elsewhere, I've likened the Merry-Pippin relationship/pairing to the Frodo-Sam relationship/pairing. I think that we can look at them, not so much in gender terms, but in terms of awareness and intuition. That is, Merry and Frodo 'do good' consciously, whereas the 'good' that comes from Pippin's and Sam's actions is unconscious, insofar as they aren't trying to accomplish the Good (i.e. bring about Gandalf's transformation, destroy the Ring) but are just 'being' good (i.e. true friends, loyal, perhaps a bit foolish).

Merry and Frodo are players in a larger plan who are aware that they are players in a larger plan -- they have roles to perform which they can identify and pursue. Pippin and Sam aren't aware of their roles, but perform them anyway for the sake of the other people they love.

This, incidentally, brings me back to the Gollum-Gandalf association I was thinking about above: they dramatize in the most extreme way this conscious/unconscious accomplishment of good. Nobody knows more about the situation and what needs to be done than Gandalf, and nobody knows less about the situation than Gollum (who is wholly concerned with himself). It is interesting that the consciously good character falls to his death with the Balrog, while the unconsciously 'good' character falls to his death with the Ring. Both falls are necessary for the accomplishment of the Good, but it would seem that Tolkien is in some way privileging the unconscious or unknowing/intuitive characters in this respect. Frodo depends upon Sam; Pippin gets Gandalf to Minas Tirith; Gollum destroys the Ring.

Herm. . .hoom. . .baroom-boom -- mustn't be hasty with this idea. . .will wait for later chapters to see how it plays out. . .
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Old 10-09-2004, 12:40 PM   #24
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Peregrine: a pilgrim or traveller in a foreign land; to live in a foreign country, to go on a pilgrimage; - to traverse- foreign looking;a complet & systematic course or round; a sojourn abroad.
Pippinsomething or someone especially nice, attractive, good.(Chambers Dictionary)

I think this pretty much sums up Pippin - especially nice, attractive, good on a pilgrimage or sojourn abroad.

He's very much like the Grail knight Perceval, or Peredur, innocent but curious, getting himself into various scrapes, but coming through in the end. He is drawn to 'dark things, but not out of malice, or a tendency towards evil, but out of curiosity, a desire to discover things. In a sense he is like the medieval pilgrims - he has a goal but is not averse to stepping aside & following his curiosity, or even like the Fool in Tarot, shown about to step off a cliff into the unknown, with a little dog pulling at his stocking, trying to hold him back from disaster, but he himself ignores it, as he is full of trust in God, fate, the Universe, whatever label you want to attatch.

Actually, its that innocent trust that preserves him, endears him to us, makes us care about him. Its not that he is unaware of dangers, of the risks he faces & even leads others into - its that his trust, his belief that whatever happens, 'All shall be well, & all shall be well, & all manner of thing shall be well' (Mother Julian of Norwich) that makes him so necessary to the Fellowship. His innocence may infuriate but it also uplifts.

In the end, he does learn the lessons that he needs to, but he is never overwhelmed by what he faces, & never loses his innocent joie de vivre. If he & Merry make their way home from the haves laughing & singing, I bet its Pippin who starts them off, because he, of all of the Companions, knows that there is light beyond any apparent darkness & joy beyond the walls of the world.
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Old 10-09-2004, 05:32 PM   #25
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1420!

Davem, thanks for providing us with the word origins of peregrin and Pippin. Tolkien does seem to use common words to give description, or information about his characters. A quick example would be the word sylvan, which means a "forested areas, arcadian." Hence, Silvan Elves.

SpM I never really thought about Pippin like that before. Now, it makes me wonder if Pippin's curiosity stopped a whole lot of "bad" from happening. It makes me wonder, if Pippin's viewing of the palantir sped up Gandalf leaving Rohan for Minas Tirith. We have Gandalf and everyone sort of lounging around in Rohan, just getting done with war, and Saruman, and if Pippin hadn't of looked in the palantir, who knows, maybe Gandalf wouldn't have been in such haste to get to Minas Tirith. But, I will save that part of the convo when the time is right .
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Old 10-09-2004, 08:49 PM   #26
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As Esty said, Merry is more of a doer, while Pippin is more of an instigator, even though he doesn't intend to be. Pippin seems to get things rolling, and Merry helps finish them off in the end. I suppose the best example (or the best that I can think of, anyway) would be Pippin's looking in the Palantir causing Gandalf and Pippin's arrival at Minas Tirith, thus beginning the action there, and then Merry eventually reaching the city and helping to finish things off by aiding in the slaying of the Witch-King.

Not sure if that was entirely relevant to the chapter... *sidles off quietly*
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Old 10-10-2004, 12:57 AM   #27
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Just a last couple of thoughts on this chapter - first Holly. This is a tree with a lot of symbolism. As an evergreen it symbolised everlasting life; in Christian belief it was associated with the Crown of Thorns, with the berries symbolising the drops of blood. It was also used as a barrier to keep out natural & unnatural enemies. It was believed that no evil could pass a barrier or gateway of holly. So its quite symbolic that the Elves planted holly trees at the doorway to Moria, & also quite significant, given what is to happen, that they are thrown down (much to Gandalf's regret).

The second thing (maybe this is me reading too much into the story) is that the Moria episode begins with Frodo being grabbed by the ankle by the Watcher, & ends with Gandalf being 'grabbed' round the knees by the Balrog's whip & pulled into the depths - almost as if someone is to be taken by evil, & Gandalf has substituted himself for Frodo - 'Greater love hath no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends'.
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Old 10-17-2004, 11:39 PM   #28
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Pipe (As if more thoughts can't be squeezed out of this chapter.)

Sorry for being quite late. Two chapters late, to be specific.

But these thoughts must be said. Be free, my words!

Gandalf's flowchart.

I should have discussed Gandalf's reason for the passage of Moria in the previous chapter, but it seems better to put them here, as most of my quotes come from this chapter.

There are two levels to Gandalf’s reasoning, whether be it choice of Ringfinder, Ringbearer, or a proper path.

I. The Immediate

Quote:
[Gandalf: ]To do that I used in my waking mind only such means as were allowed to me, doing what lay to my hand according to such reasons as I had. (UT III 3)
The quote seems pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll add a comment anyway. Every decision Gandalf makes has a reason that is sufficient for him, however it may seem to anyone else. (Case in point: why need a stolider breed in a hobbit going on an adventure, or why bring that hobbit at all? Those are my personal doubts, and before you barrage me with answers, we’ll move on to the next.)

II. Higher Guidance

Quote:
To Gandalf the far-off memories of a journey long before were now of little help, but even in the gloom and despite all the windings of the road he knew whither he wished to go; and he did not falter as long as there was a path that led toward his goal. (LotR II 4 – emphasis mine)
Quote:
[Aragorn: ]He will not go astray—if there is any path to find. He has led us here against our fears, but he will lead us out again, at whatever cost to himself. (ibid)
Here in the modern times we call such things luck, or fate, or intuition. But in Middle-earth it is something else. From such trivial task as choosing the right path through Moria to such major decisions as choosing to march to Morannon, Gandalf remained faithful to the One that put him on this mission, knowing that this “fool’s” quest to Mt. Doom (and indeed, his entire quest in Middle-earth) would be finished by his master, accepting any limitations as a part of his decision to trust higher guidance (as we will see in the next chapter). We may not know the reason for his actions (perhaps even he himself does not, at times) but we need not have one. Hey, after all, they worked, didn’t they?

Pippin and the Atani

Once, as part of a reply to Fordim’s “Paired Characters in LotR” thread, I tried to determine whether Merry and Pippin’s link to Rohan and Gondor, respectively, has a deeper significance. I ended up not posting it because I lacked the sufficient proof to make it stand. But now I know my research has not been all in vain. Whee!

Pippin’s “flirtation” with the darkness mirror’s Men’s (specifically, the Atani's) dealing with the darkness at large. At first, it was out of innocence; hey, he didn’t know what was in the well! The same can be said of Men. Morgoth came and seduced them to darkness while they were still new to the world.

Then the second was out of defiance. He wanted a look at the palantír, and he was gonna get it himself. Now tell me: doesn’t this remind you of a certain golden king? Wanted a taste of that immortal land, sent an army to take it? Now here is where it gets stickier: as a result of the Downfall, Elendil and his sons ended up where they were needed. Horse ride to Minas Tirith, anyone?

Some Comments

1.

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So from the group of 9, we'll call it a "loose friendship", not really strong, and as you say it just seems one despair after another. It breaks, and out pops out, smaller, stronger bonds, between the fellowship members. (Boromir88)
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. . . shared fear wasn’t something to overcome. It was the mutual support system that turned people of disparate backgrounds and intellects and interests into a single bonded organism . . . It was what made a whole greater than the sum of its parts (Op-Center: Mirror Image)
At first, these people had their own reasons for joining the Fellowship. Boromir and Aragorn were off to Minas Tirith. Sam, Merry, and Pippin still think of this as a hobbit walking-party. In a word, the Fellowship was unglued.

For a moment, during the Warg attack, they became united. They all feared the attackers, and that forced them to aim for one thing. But as the fears subsided, they disintegrated again. Once again, it was a fear (of Moria this time) that forced them together again. Clearly, this Fellowship would not go far without fear to bind them, but they couldn’t do their mission if they kept focusing on an immediate fear.

After the breaking, they all became bound by some shared fear. The Three Hunters feared for Merry and Pippin. Merry and Pippin feared the Orcs (who can blame them?) Frodo and Sam feared the deadly effect of the Ring on the rest of the Companions. Later their old fears subsided but new ones took their place. Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli feared for Rohan, then Gondor. Merry and Pippin feared Isengard, then Merry (with Éowyn) feared for Théoden, while Pippin (with Beregond) feared for Faramir. Their shared fears progressed from the immediate to something worthy of the quest.

Of course, their bond didn’t remain fear forever (case in point: Legolas and Gimli) but it was due to the fears they shared that they were knit together more closely than anything else. And more quickly, might I add.

2.

Uh, Fordim . . .
Quote:
. . . Boromir’s sentiment is rather dismissive of Gimli — is he classing the Dwarf as one of “the little folk” or is he pointedly not seeking his opinion? (Fordim)
Gimli already voiced his opinion. He was the first to speak up.
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Old 01-09-2007, 03:46 AM   #29
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I am currently reading the Lord of the Rings to my girlfriend, and this is the chapter we've just finished, so I'll write about it now...over two years after the last post...

What struck me at this last reading was how "disunited" the Fellowship is after their first near-disaster of the snow. They are beginning to bicker amoung themselves; Gandalf seems short-tempered and he and Aragorn seem to be a bit quarrelsome with each other--though Aragorn does seem to constantly defer to Gandalf; Merry and Pippin (at the gate) openly seem to doubt Gandalf(Why doesn't Gandalf do something quick?); Gandalf mock-threatens taht he's going to bash Pippin's head upon the stone-wall; Boromir voices his opposing opinion strongly; Sam angrily resists the abandonment of Bill.
Somehow this strikes me as quite realistic: they ARE under a lot of stress; they DID almost freeze to death the night before; they were attacked by vicious, supernatural wolves; they haven't had much sleep; they are "footsore and tired" and generally creeped out by the oily mere.

This discordant quality and clashes of personality are somewhat dulled down by the horror at the gate and the subsequent march into the ruins and the hardhships it holds. Again, you see it after Pippin's disastrous folly at the Well. Gandalf growls at him and tells him to throw himself in next time.
A bit later, Gandalf speaks kindly to him and tells him to go to sleep.
Pippin overhears him muttering "I know what's the matter with me. I need smoke!"
I wonder if this isn't somehow an echo of Tolkien(the smoker)'s own occasional impatience with his own children--it was somehow beautiful to me to see Gandalf doubting not only his way in the Mines, or his decision in bringing the Ring(and the others) there, but his own rather grumpy attitude brought about by his dependency on smoke!

(I guess this has already been written about on this thread!)

Upon first reading I think that I thought and hoped the "tom-tapping" might have been the missing dwarves--but somehow knew that it wasn't.

The Mithril lecture is another fine example of Tolkien expanding the imaginary world and giving it depth and history.



I think that this chapter, along with a half-dozen others of hte LOTR is an example of some of the finest descriptive, atmosphere-building writing in the book. The far-off echoes of the signal-hammer is quite scary.

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Old 01-09-2008, 08:56 AM   #30
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Virtual wargs?

It's funny that it never struck me as odd before (maybe it did), but reading about the wolves/wargs, I now find it odd that they disappear by morning's light. After reading this thread (and davem's various explanations), I guess others find them odd as well. Some thoughts:
  • Why do they wargs disappear at dawn, yet are physical enough to be slain by real weapons?
  • Why do the Hounds of Sauron wait until it is almost light to attack?
  • Gandalf is concerned on Caradhas about starting a fire. When he finally does, he states that he has written 'Gandalf is here' for all to see. Why then does he torch every tree in the ring when the wargs attack, as surely this says, 'Gandalf is now here' for all to see?
  • To me, the "Hounds of Sauron" echoes the 'hounds of Hell,' though I'm not sure where that phrase arises (I know that it appears in Vincent Price's monologue in Michael Jackson's song "Thriller," but somehow I'm not sure that that counts). And it would have to be Sauron, as no other enemy quite compares (i.e. "Go back, Hounds of Sandyman!")
  • Why are there no other examples of disappearing organics in Middle Earth? Or, as stated, are these creatures like Sauron, who, at the drowning of Númenor, leaves his body behind? One wonders if these creatures current best form were wargs, what options were then available when/if they reincarnated ("Oy! The Aardvarks of Sauron are upon us!")

On another note, this is a wonderful chapter with my favorite, Gandalf, guiding the Fellowship through the dark with nary a misstep.
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Old 05-04-2008, 11:39 AM   #31
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I apologize for taking some time, but this is a long chapter and I had lots of other things to do lately. But now, let us take a closer look at this particular chapter.

It maps the journey from the feet of Caradhras to the Gates and then inside, almost all the way through Moria (although the whole chapter after this one is devoted to Moria as well). If I start from the end, then it's worth mentioning that the Fellowship was probably very lucky this time. "It was good that the Company had such a guide", indeed, since the three roads choice they went pretty straight and fast. Just imagine what maze must have Moria been! I really like the way Khazad-Dum is depicted, and how its current emptiness and darkness (ah! The chapter title is really appropriate) is put into contrast with Gimli's poem.

Mentioning chapter title, one thing I realised this time that I did not notice before, although now thinking of it it seems pretty important and maybe very important and seemingly intentional (I would like to know if others noticed it or if they did not, like me): Gandalf keeps talking all the time (since the chapter before) about "another dark road", which is slowly building a tension, and when it finally comes to that, this is repeated as well (at night!), and when we really come to Moria, we see it's indeed dark - and all of it corresponds with the chapter title. I honestly confess I never thought that Gandalf's hints about dark paths may have any connection with the chapter title. Do you think they do? Because the word "dark" or "darkness" seems to have a prominent role in this chapter, and helps to make its atmosphere.

I should also point out one impressive thing about this chapter: there are whole two illustrations (if you can call it that) in this chapter, which you don't have anywhere else in LotR (unless you count the Ring script). Of course you can have plenty of illustrations in LotR, but these I would think are in any edition of LotR, are they? And they are "original": the Gate (quite impressive, I was never able to read half of it, but I always liked to check the depiction with the description - and I was seriously impressed when I found out that the treebranches' ends are supposed to be moons) and Balin's tombstone. Quite nice, isn't it? Was the Prof in "drawing mood" when writing this particular chapter? Apparently he was

Balin's tomb and the whole scene is moving anyway, and the last words of the chapter still move me when I read it. Although I found out I have to reflect it always to actually realise the dead Balin is THE Balin, the wonderful good fella from the Hobbit! How sad!

Before it, we learn briefly about the history of the Dwarves and mithril, and we hear (or are reminded of) some "Durin's Bane" - now one has to wonder, what kind of a horror will that be, and will the Company be forced to face it? Another thing I noticed this time was that the Dwarves have another secret word for mithril in their own (secret) language. I wonder what may that be, don't you as well?

Now to the beginning of the chapter again: I see the strange Wolves whose bodies disappear (but there are all the arrows that hit them!) were discussed at length here, so whoever is interested, I forward him to what was said here. Only for myself I could say that it's really odd, until last year - and it's really right about a year ago now - I didn't actually realise the wolves disappeared. Or I didn't mind. I thought "well they were probably wargs, and clever ones, and for some reason they took their dead away" - when I even thought about it. And Gandalf's words "these were no ordinary wolves" I interpretated just that way: they were not wolves, but Wargs, clever ones, and sent here on purpose, which is supported by the fact that they took away their dead. Only the radio play of LotR I heard last year made me realise what's actually written in the books, as the play contained added words of Gandalf: "They were not common wolves - they were beasts created by Sauron's sorcery!" And I, being very catchy when it comes to canonicity, said: "What the heck?" And then looking into the book, I at last realised this interpretation is quite plausible.

And last, but not least:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar View Post
Another much-discussed enigma is presented in this chapter – the Watcher in the Water. Is it a single or multiple entity? More interesting is the question of its arousal – was it already triggered when the Fellowship waded through the water, or was it Boromir’s stone that angered it? Sam shows heroism in saving Frodo at this point.
One note to this. The Watcher (although we don't know here that it is that! And I actually had problems connecting "the Watcher" with the creature - some giant octopus for sure, although who knows if we are not being mislead by countless illustrators, and not even mentioning the move) has also reached for Frodo first of all people. A "coincidence"? Even if we didn't know how "coincidences" work in Middle-Earth, the fact that this is pointed out in the text speaks about something else. So what? Was the Watcher specifically instructed by Sauron? (But what did he tell him? "If you see a fella with a golden ring, eat him, but keep the ring until I come?") Or was he just an evil creature who was drawn by the Ring? (But Balrog isn't?) To me, the Watcher looks a lot like the Barrow-Wight: green, slimy... erm... I meant: it's an evil creature, but I'd think it has its own will and is only "stirred by the evil will of Sauron", much like the Wight was. To the questions Esty posed I would also add "Where did he come from?" or "How did he appear there?" and mainly, when; as we learn later that he was there definitely by the time Balin's group dwelt there.

So what do you think about this chapter? Anything to add? Anything you remember? Anything that had strong impact on you? Or anything you consider dull?
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Old 05-05-2008, 05:47 AM   #32
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Quote:
One note to this. The Watcher (although we don't know here that it is that! And I actually had problems connecting "the Watcher" with the creature - some giant octopus for sure, although who knows if we are not being mislead by countless illustrators, and not even mentioning the move) has also reached for Frodo first of all people. A "coincidence"? Even if we didn't know how "coincidences" work in Middle-Earth, the fact that this is pointed out in the text speaks about something else. So what? Was the Watcher specifically instructed by Sauron? (But what did he tell him? "If you see a fella with a golden ring, eat him, but keep the ring until I come?") Or was he just an evil creature who was drawn by the Ring? (But Balrog isn't?) To me, the Watcher looks a lot like the Barrow-Wight: green, slimy... erm... I meant: it's an evil creature, but I'd think it has its own will and is only "stirred by the evil will of Sauron", much like the Wight was. To the questions Esty posed I would also add "Where did he come from?" or "How did he appear there?" and mainly, when; as we learn later that he was there definitely by the time Balin's group dwelt there.
The Balrog was not moved by the Ring I think, for a few different reasons.

1. Gandalf was at full power, defying the Balrog, and to Gandalf was its attention drawn instead of to the Ring.

2. The Balrog was higher or equal in rank with Sauron by Morgoth's old standards. Why would the Balrog be enticed by a lowly creation of a lesser Maia in the Second Age? The Balrog was far older than the Ring.

3. The Balrog was a servant of Morgoth, not a seeker of personal power which the Ring could provide. Unlike dragons or Sauron, Balrogs seem more docile (!!) and obedient.

4. The Balrog was obedient to Morgoth, not Sauron, and would not serve him.

It is interesting to note that Frodo has no compulsion towards the Ring this entire chapter (by my memory).
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Old 05-05-2008, 06:55 AM   #33
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The Balrog was higher or equal in rank with Sauron by Morgoth's old standards. Why would the Balrog be enticed by a lowly creation of a lesser Maia in the Second Age? The Balrog was far older than the Ring.
I am sure that Sauron is higher in rank.

Not that it means he is any more powerful, maybe just more cunning. We do know, however, that at the very least taht Gothmog (the Balrog) was.

Whether the Balrog in Moria was or wasn't could be open to debate.
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Old 05-05-2008, 09:03 AM   #34
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Concerning Sauron and the Balrogs, Tolkien (in L144) says,

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The Balrog is a survivor from The Silmarillion and the legends of the First Age. . . The Balrogs, of whom the whips were the chief weapons, were primeval spirits of destroying fire, chief servants of the primeval Dark Power of the First Age. They were supposed to have been all destroyed in the overthrow of Thangorodrim. . . But it is here found. . .that one had escaped and taken refuge under the mountains of Hithaeglin (the Misty Mountains).
Of Sauron, he says (in L131)

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In The Silmarillion and Tales of the First Age Sauron was a being of Valinor perverted to the service of the Enemy and becoming his chief captain and servant. . . He becomes a reincarnation of Evil, and a thing lusting for Complete Power.
I think their fates alone show who was the more powerful and masterful. The Balrog fled and hid for most of the next two ages of the world, at the most terrorizing the inhabitants of Khazad-dum and driving them from their home. Sauron went out and set himself as the new Dark Lord, effectively bringing about the destabilization of many cultures in Middle-earth, and bringing about through his deceits and machinations the utter downfall of Numenor. And since in UT, Manwe says that those who are to be sent as the Istari "must be mighty, peers of Sauron," one might well conclude that the Balrog, if he recognized what or even who Gandalf was, would see him as a very immediate threat, to be dealt with at once. The arrogance to which evil often succumbs might make the Balrog think that he could easily deal with this enemy and then go after the Ring (which was still a source of power, especially to any being powerful enough to actually wield it), and perhaps as always, pride went before a fall.

That, however, is really more relevant to chapters to come, I think.

About the illustrations in this chapter: I find it interesting that this still survived as the chapter with the most illustrations, since there were still more that Tolkien had lovingly and painstakingly drawn that were omitted from it. The pages he made from the Book of Mazarbul (complete with damage from fire and water) were intended to be included in this chapter, but were left out, much to his disappointment. I've seen them, and I can understand his feelings. A lot of work went into their making, and they would have been more fascinating to look at than the inscription on Balin's tomb. Constraints of budget, alas.
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Old 08-21-2018, 03:09 PM   #35
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Too much HoME in my blood has me fascinated that, with the end of this chapter, we basically reach the first great pause in the composition of The Lord of the Rings, and the book that resumed later from this point is a lot closer to the finished product than what we had before, which means--at least to a slight extent--that I read the adventures up to the end of this chapter slightly differently than I do those after. Yes, the Wargs after Caradhras are deeper and more serious than the wolves of The Hobbit, but the story still feels a bit more episodic and Hobbit-sequel-esque than the story after Moria.

In a very real sense, to play off an earlier post, not only do the heroes undergo a symbolic (or real, in the case of Gandalf) death when entering underground passages, but the book itself does.

By the way, I wonder if part of what got Tolkien going again was the realisation that Gandalf needed to die here--and, eventually, be reborn. Gandalf up to this point has not be the deus ex machina-prone wizard of The Hobbit, but a far more fallible figure: he fails to arrive before Frodo sets out, and that absence haunted the book till Rivendell. Even once we know what Gandalf faced, he is not the same force of "adult" knowledge in this book as in its predecessor. Thorin would never had contended so consistently with Gandalf over a path of travel as Aragorn does here, though he was far more likely to disagree to disagree with the wizard.

The disagreement between Gandalf and Aragorn was actually the biggest element that stuck with me this reread, if only because Aragorn is always portrayed prior to leaving Rivendell as Gandalf's great friend and helper--and prior rereads had made predominant in my mind the overall deference that Aragorn shows Gandalf, especially as Gandalf the White. And Aragorn is still respectful here, but he definitely disagrees.

I love Moria--I tend to love every new kingdom Tolkien introduces along the road, from Bree through Gondor, but having been elsewhere encountering some childhood memories associated with The Hobbit, I've been thinking about the comparisons between Moria and the Lonely Mountain, and there's almost no comparison: Moria a far richer, more deeply visualised place, and the comparative richness of its description as compared with the Lonely Mountain's simpler exploration in The Hobbit is appropriate. It is one of the crimes of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy that it transgressed my mental pictures of things by making Erebor even vaster and more impressive than Moria.
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Old 09-02-2018, 01:20 PM   #36
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Quote:
"Well, here we are at last!" said Gandalf. "Here the Elven-way from Hollin ended. Holly was the token of the people of that land, and they planted it here to mark the end of their domain, for the West-door was made chiefly for their us in their traffic with the Lords of Moria. Those were happier days, when there was still close friendship at time between folk of different race, even between Dwarves and Elves."
You get a feeling in the "happier times" Hollin and Moria were vibrant and wealthy centers. Where the friendship between Elves and Dwarves were beneficial to both races and their respective kingdoms. Now this journey by the Fellowship is rather like a depressing reminder that the emptiness, and darkness of Hollin and Moria wasn't always the case. The friendship between the Elves of Hollin and Lords of Moria ended and with that, there is no signs of life, other than wolf howls and ominous drum-beats, and vague reminders by Gandalf that there were once "happier times" in these lands.

I like Gandalf's temperament in this chapter. You easily recall the instances where he snaps at Pippin's questions and curiosity. But he also doesn't put up with Gimli and Legolas' nonsense over who's to blame for the falling out between the Hollin Elves and Moria dwarves:

Quote:
"I have heard both," said Gandalf; "and I will not give judgement now. But I beg you two, Legolas and Gimli, at least to be friends and to help me. I need you both. The doors are shut and hidden, and the sooner we find them the better. Night is at hand!"
More noticeable is all the times he has a go with Boromir in these chapters. Pippin's questions are silly, but ultimately innocent and not intended (by Pippin) to question Gandalf's leadership:

Quote:
"What are you going to do then?" asked Pippin, undaunted by the wizard's bristling brows."
The "bristling brows" was actually Gandalf's reaction to Boromir's questioning. Pippin, like other instances, had bad timing and was also on the receiving end of Gandalf's temper. But his question was not asked as an attack on Gandalf's character. Pippin doesn't doubt Gandalf's leadership, Boromir quite openly does this right before Pippin's wrong question at the wrong time:

Quote:
"Then what was the use of bring us to this accursed spot?" cried Boromir, glancing back with a shudder at the dark water. "You told us that you had once passed through the Mines. How could that be if you did not know how to enter?"
Boromir's openly challenging and questioning Gandalf's leadership, and pretty much calling Gandalf a liar by bringing them all here. This of course puts Boromir in a bad light to readers. However, Boromir's character is that of a soldier and war-leader. It's his greatest weakness, but also the reason for his redemption. He perceives everything through the lens of battles and weapons, he's practical. Leadership on a battlefield is quite different than Gandalf's leadership. Boromir, "the General," knows it's foolish to lead his soldiers to a place telling them he's been there before, but when they get there "uhh..I need help finding the entrance and I'm not even sure I remember how to get in if we find the doors." To make those choices on a battlefield would be rightfully foolish for any general.

However, this isn't a field of battle, and Gandalf displays a different form of leadership. Leadership which Aragorn says is "never useless" and would even cost Gandalf his life, if it was necessary. I'm interested in seeing if and how Aragorn displays both Boromir's and Gandalf's leadership, which came to a head in this chapter (and interestingly is a precursor to Gandalf's and Denethor's views on "Stewardship.")
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