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Old 07-30-2005, 01:21 PM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Shield LotR -- Book 5 - Chapter 05 - The Ride of the Rohirrim

Isn't it interesting that even the title of this chapter, which concerns the Rohirrim, with their alliterative poetry, is alliterative?! We readers are taken back to Merry's point of view again, which is quite hopeless for much of the account. His feeling of smallness and uselessness is clearly shown to us, and we can identify with that sense of being a very small frog in a gigantic pond. He does not yet realize that he will be making waves that will have a decisive part in the outcome of the battle!

The separation of Merry and Pippin shows us how important communication is to Hobbits - Merry wishes to be able to talk to Pippin and has no one who will speak or listen to him.

We are introduced to the Woses - and by name to their leader, Ghân-buri-Ghân. They are another example of how Tolkien did not always make the good characters good-looking - like Strider, they look foul and feel fair. At first, Merry was apprehensive, especially of their drums. However, aside from minor misunderstandings at the beginning of their speech with the Rohirrim, they are soon trusted and play an important role in getting the horsemen to Gondor quickly and secretly. Did you share Merry's apprehension when you first read this chapter? How do you feel about the Woses now?

Wídfara is one of those very minor characters who is probably forgotten by all but ardent fan readers - why do you think he is introduced by name and with dialogue? (In a movie, that would have cost extra!)

The change of wind in this chapter seems to parallel the change in the tides of battle - there is more hope in the final few paragraphs than there has been in most previous chapters. Théoden shows his bravery, not only with stirring lines that must touch the readers' hearts, but also by his actions. What kind of strength must it take to blow a horn so that it breaks?! He leads at the head of his troops, and is compared to one of the gods, Oromë.

His bravery inspires his troops and puts fear into the hearts of their enemies. Now we remember the last sentence of the previous chapter - the horns of Rohan that stopped the advance of the Witch King into the city of Minas Tirith. Is this a eucatastrophe?

Do the descriptions of "joy of battle" and singing that was "fair and terrible" strike you as paradox? Can you feel a connection between battling and singing, or does that seem irreconcilable to you?
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Old 07-30-2005, 02:49 PM   #2
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Some thoughts of one of my favourite chapters

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Wind is changing!
I have always wondered what was so special in the wind changing. The Wild Men and Rohirrim weren't aware of Aragorn sailing up Anduin so what did it matter where the wind blew? Especially Theoden's reaction to Widfara's news about the wind is surprisingly strong:
Quote:
If you speak truly, Wídfara, then may you live beyond this day in years of blessedness!
Was it just a psychological thing, a hope of a "change in the tides of battle" as Estelyn said?

I guess that Ghân-Buri-Ghân and Rohan's army were so close to the sea and Anduin that they could feel the wind turn from land breeze to sea breeze which is a sign of a day.
For those who don't share the same enthusiasm for geography; land breeze is a local wind blowing at nights to the sea. Sea breeze blows at days from the sea's high pressure to land's low pressure area. The wind changes because sea warms up and gets cold slower than land areas and that makes low and high pressures switch places daily.
If that's the case, it probably was reassuring to know that it wasn't an eternal night but it was actually dawning.


I've read this following passage six times or something...
Quote:
Far away and almost straight ahead there was a red glow under the black sky. They were drawing near the Rammas of the Pelennor; but the day was not yet come.
... and I just realized that there weren't street lamps in Middle-earth. Well, of course I knew that but I hadn't thought of how dark there must have been at nights.

I remember when I was at the charming are-we-there-yet-age and we were driving home from our summer cottage. When driving in dark, a red glimmer behind forests meant that we were approaching a city and it was a nice feeling to know that we'd be home soon.
But in the light of my new observation () it must have been one spine-chilling sight for the army to see a red gleam on the horizon knowing that it wasn't the Sun rising (and definitely not the street lamps shining) but Gondor burning.


This chapter flows beautifully. In the beginning the mood is very bleak. But the aid of the Woses kindle a hope in the Rohirrim (and in the reader, too). I found the Wild Men trustworthy from the beginning but I think that's because I had never heard of them before. There must have been quite colourful rumours and tales floating around of the mysterious people who live in the forests, so it's no wonder that the Rohirrim might have felt uneasy about them.

The atmosphere grows towards an emotional climax. I think it's very moving to hear Theoden calling Eomer his son and if Tolkien compared Theoden to a vala, his ride must really have been something magnificent.

This chapter's last line is a real gem, I think.
Quote:
And then all the host of Rohan burst into song, and they sang as they slew, for the joy of battle was on them, and the sound of their singing that was fair and terrible came even to the city.
I believe Tolkien knew what he was talking about when he wrote about the "joy of battle". The last paragraphs of the Ride of the Rohirrim might give a romaticized image of war waging but that's one of the things that make us want to go to Middle-earth; it's more beautiful than the real world. Good overcomes evil. I think that's a pretty good reason to sing.
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Old 07-31-2005, 10:05 PM   #3
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Musings...

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The host was bivouacked in the pine-woods that clustered about Eilenach Beacon...
"Bivouac" -- just took the time to look that up. Useful word.

Quote:
He [Merry] wondered, too, if the old King knew that he had been disobeyed and was angry. Perhaps not. There seemed to be some understanding between Dernhelm and Elfhelm, the marshal who commanded the eored in whichthey were riding. He and all his men ignored Merry and pretended not to hear if he spoke. he might have been just another bag that Dernhelm was carrying. Dernhelm was no comfort: he never spoke to anyone. Merry felt small, unwanted, and lonely.
Even though Merry feels lonely, I think it's nice that the Rohirrim are acting, as if they know how badly he wants to fight alongside them and are willing to overlook the act of disobedience.

Ghan-buri-Ghan is interesting. He's described as pretty much everything that our hero men such as Aragorn and Faramir are not: short, squat, "thick and stumpy," hardly regal or lordly. His speech is harsh. And ten bucks says he hasn't got those noble grey eyes. But even so, he's clearly intelligent and a good and honest man, especially as we see when he says that if he leads the Rohirrim astray, they may kill him.

Theoden's speeches to his men are truly stirring. Here I can maybe see why some would say that it's a glorification of war, but it's really not. It's a depiction of men (and a lady ) going into battle with their heads held high, even though they don't expect to survive. As for the "joy of battle"... well, I guess you could find a grim sort of pleasure in taking down the enemy which is threatening your people and all that's good. It seems fine that they sing in battle. The Music of the Valar is supposed to be in and at the root of everything, so it makes sense that music should be a part of all aspects of life. A personal note, I think that anything stirring is worthy of music, no matter what's happening. A movie would be next to nothing without its score, after all.

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Old 08-01-2005, 06:18 AM   #4
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Ghan-buri-Ghan is interesting. He's described as pretty much everything that our hero men such as Aragorn and Faramir are not: short, squat, "thick and stumpy," hardly regal or lordly. His speech is harsh. And ten bucks says he hasn't got those noble grey eyes. But even so, he's clearly intelligent and a good and honest man, especially as we see when he says that if he leads the Rohirrim astray, they may kill him.
Very true. But he did have one quality about him that would be considered 'lordly' by his own folk: his small beard. I had never thought anything of this before, but I had been flipping through UT the other day and caught the mention of this - among the Wild Men, beards are rare and those who have them take pride in it. So it caught my eye when I was reading this chapter - unlovely though he may be, he is not without his own lordly quality.

Old Ghân is currently one of my favorite minor characters. More than once during this reading, I laughed at some of his comments, notably:
Quote:
"Wild men have long ears and long eyes;"
It's clear what he meant, but obviously the idiom didn't translate so well.
Quote:
Many paths were made when Stonemen were tronger. They carved hills as hunters carve beast-flesh. Wild Men think they ate stone for food."


But then, he also shows a great deal of sense, and somehow manages to make all the words and promises of the Rohirrim to sound, hm, superfluous. Ghan's got his priorities straight, no doubt about that. Once the orcs are killed, he does not want thanks, but to be left alone.

Aditionally, it struck me as interesting that Tolkien chose to use the word "uncouth" to describe the Wild Men's language. This is a word more commonly used to describe Orcs and their languages. Perhaps this is another instance of "look foul, feel fair"?
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Old 08-01-2005, 10:26 AM   #5
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There seemed to be some understanding between Dernhelm and Elfhelm, the marshal who commanded the eored in which they were riding. He and all his men ignored Merry and pretended not to hear if he spoke....A tall figure loomed up and stumbled over him, cursing the tree-roots. He recognized the voice of the marshal, Elfhelm.
I think this is significant - not just Elfhelm, but his men also, studiously ignored the presence of Merry, even when they know he is there without the permission of Theoden - in fact that Theoden has forbidden his to accompany the Riders to Minas Tirith. Of course, it could be argued that this is a ‘dispute’ between Theoden & Merry & none of their concern, but it does make one question Theoden’s absolute control over his men. Maybe they believe Theoden is wrong. They know of Merry’s sworn oath of service to the King. They will, it seems, help him to serve out his oath. I think we see here a contrast between Rohan under Theoden & Gondor under Denethor - In Gondor Denethor’s rule is absolute & his word is law: to defy the command of the Steward is treachery. In Rohan there is a ‘higher’ law, & it has its roots in the Oath.

Quote:
'I am not a tree-root, Sir,' he said, 'nor a bag, but a bruised hobbit. The least you can do in amends is to tell me what is afoot.'
'Anything that can keep so in this devil's mirk,' answered Elfhelm. 'But my lord sends word that we must set ourselves in readiness: orders may come for a sudden move.'
Elfhelm’s use of devil here is interesting - ‘devil’ comes from ‘deo falsus’ - ‘false god’. This ‘mirk’ is supernatural in origin & the Rohirrim know it well. They are caught up in a supernatural battle, of course, but they ride to it nonetheless. Sauron is a ‘false god’ to them - so does this imply that they have a knowledge (& if so, how detailed) of the real God? Theoden is later compared to Orome - by whom? Frodo who wrote the Red Book, Findegil, the King’s Copyist, Tolkien the ‘translator’, or by the storyteller of Rohan who must have supplied this account (unless that was Merry - which begs a greater question, about the Hobbit’s theological knowledge).

So we come to Ghan-buri-ghan:

Quote:
Remnants of an older time they be, living few and secretly, wild and wary as the beasts. They go not to war with Gondor or the Mark; but now they are troubled by the darkness and the coming of the orcs: they fear lest the Dark Years be returning, as seems likely enough. Let us be thankful that they are not hunting us: for they use poisoned arrows, it is said, and they are woodcrafty beyond compare.
Elfhelm’s words here ‘wild & wary as beasts’ are again interesting for what they half-hide, half-reveal, about the Rohirrim. Elfhelm comppares the wild men to ‘beasts’. A little later we hear Ghan-buri-ghan’s plea to Theoden:

Quote:
'But if you live after the Darkness, then leave Wild Men alone in the woods and do not hunt them like beasts any more.
So, the Rohirrim don’t only think of the Wild Men as ‘beasts’, they hunt them like beasts also! This recalls the Elves’ hunting of Dwarves in the First Age. We see that the Wild Men are in many ways more decent & compassionate than our ‘heroes’. The Rohirrim are in trouble & the Wild Men come to their aid, though it would seem that they have so far recieved from them little better than they could expect from Orcs. It seems that Ghan-buri-ghan is a leader of a people on the edge of extinction, hunted by both sides, desperately looking to ensure the survival of his people - so desperate is he, in fact, that he will offer to help those who may well have hunted his own loved ones down like ‘beasts’. One cannot avoid a sense that Theoden’s attitude to his ‘(& the West’s) saviours in their darkest hour is a little condescending....

Quote:
There sat Theoden and Eomer, and before them on the ground sat a strange squat shape of a man, gnarled as an old stone, and the hairs of his scanty beard straggled on his lumpy chin like dry moss. He was short-legged and fat-armed, thick and stumpy, and clad only with grass about his waist. Merry felt that he had seen him before somewhere, and suddenly he remembered the Pukel-men of Dunharrow. Here was one of those old images brought to life, or maybe a creature descended in true line through endless years from the models used by the forgotten craftsmen long ago.
To step outside the story for a moment, what we have here is something along the lines of what Tolkien did with ‘Ents’. Ents appear in anglo-Saxon peoms as ‘giants’ & are associated with ancient ruins. Tolkien knew they had once been part of English mythology, & so ‘knew’ that they belonged in Middle earth. Same with ‘Woses’. They too were part of English mythology & so belonged in Middle-earth too. Tom Shippey in the documentary ‘JRRT A Film Portrait of Tolkien’ mentions a road in Leeds, near the University where Tolkien taught, called ‘Woodhouse Road’. the usual interpretation of ‘Woodhouse’ is ‘House in the Woods’ but Shippey says that Tolkien, taking the local pronunciation of the name - ‘Wood’oose’ would very likely have interpreted it as referring to Woodwose (‘wudu-wassan’). The wild man of the woods is a common figure in medieval (& earlier) legend, & crops up in the Arthurian legend.


Quote:
'Let Ghan-buri-Ghan finish!' said the Wild Man. 'More than one road he knows. He will lead you by road where no pits are, no gorgun walk, only Wild Men and beasts. Many paths were made when Stonehouse-folk were stronger. They carved hills as hunters carve beast-flesh. Wild Men think they ate stone for food. They went through Druadan to Rimmon with great wains. They go no longer. Road is forgotten, but not by Wild Men. Over hill and behind hill it lies still under grass and tree, there behind Rimmon and down to Din, and back at the end to Horse-men's road. Wild Men will show you that road. Then you will kill gorgun and drive away bad dark with bright iron, and Wild Men can go back to sleep in the wild woods.'
Putting aside Ghan’s (ironic?) reference to ‘Wild Men & beasts here, we have an example of folk memory - he is recalling times long past, when the Numenoreans came into Middle earth & began the building of Gondor. These ‘Stonehouse-folk’ were seen as more than human - they carved hills & ate stone. They were either monsters or divine - either way they were ‘unnatural’ beings, who shaped the earth to their own ends, rather than, as the Wild Men, living in harmony with it.

Quote:
Many busy there. Walls stand up no longer: gorgun knock them down with earth-thunder and with clubs of black iron.
'But if you live after the Darkness, then leave Wild Men alone in the woods and do not hunt them like beasts any more.
Ghan knows about ‘gunpowder’ - he calls it ‘earth-thunder’. And it does come from the earth - Salt Peter, charcoal & sulphur make gunpowder. To him it is a thunder that comes from the earth not the sky & the gorgun control it - it serves them. Also interesting is his comparison of the ‘bright iron’ used by the Rohirrim with the ‘black iron’ used by the Orcs.

The final scene, of Theoden leading the charge, is pure ‘poetry’.

Quote:
Fey he seemed, or the battle-fury
of his fathers ran like new fire in his veins,
and he was borne up on Snowmane
like a god of old, even as Orome the Great
in the battle of the Valar when the world was young.
His golden shield was uncovered, and lo! it shone
like an image of the Sun, and the gr*** flamed into green
about the white feet of his steed. For morning came, morning
and a wind from the sea; and darkness was removed,
and the hosts of Mordor wailed, and terror took them,
and they fled, and died, and the hoofs of wrath rode over them.
And then all the host of Rohan burst into song,
and they sang as they slew, for the joy of battle was on them,
and the sound of their singing
that was fair and terrible came even to the City.
(Now, has anyone noticed how, because I bolded the 'gr' in 'grass' the censorship programme here in the Downs has turned the last three letters into asterisks - funny, or just sad?)
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Old 08-01-2005, 10:54 PM   #6
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Do the descriptions of "joy of battle" and singing that was "fair and terrible" strike you as paradox? Can you feel a connection between battling and singing, or does that seem irreconcilable to you?
Historically speaking this type of thing is rather common. Lots of peoples had customs of singing when they were going into battle. I am personally a little skeptical about how much singing took place during actual scrapping. Fighting is hard work. I wouldn't think one would have the energy (or air) to do much else during those moments. In spite of this, the idea for this was certainly present in many places.
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Old 08-02-2005, 07:02 AM   #7
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There seemed to be some understanding between Dernhelm and Elfhelm, the marshal who commanded the eored in which they were riding.
I noticed this 'understanding' too, but drew something different from it. Rather than reading it as some kind of insubordination towards Theoden, I took it to mean that perhaps 'Dernhelm' had exerted some kind of influence over Elfhelm. Wouldn't a Marshall such as Elfhelm be aware of all the men he had in his command? So I wonder how Eowyn got away with her disguise. Either she took the place of a man she knew had not turned up to join the party of riders, or Elfhelm had not done a proper 'head-count' due to the rush to leave Rohan, though I think the latter might be unlikely as the Riders seem to be organised. I think it is quite possible that Elfhelm knew full well who Dernhelm really was, and if so this leaves open interesting possibilities.

Quote:
before them on the ground sat a strange squat shape of a man, gnarled as an old stone, and the hairs of his scanty beard straggled on his lumpy chin like dry moss. He was short-legged and fat-armed, thick and stumpy, and clad only with grass about his waist. Merry felt that he had seen him before somewhere, and suddenly he remembered the Pukel-men of Dunharrow. Here was one of those old images brought to life, or maybe a creature descended in true line through endless years from the models used by the forgotten craftsmen long ago.
I'm very fond of the Woses as they are such intriguing people. They seem to have a quality of older cultures from our own world, and I'm sure others have wondered if this is what Tolkien was drawing upon.

Quote:
Wild Men live here before Stone-houses; before Tall Men come up out of Water.
They have existed in Middle-earth before the Numenoreans returned, presumably in the wild lands east of Beleriand, and whereas we are told that many Men turned to the ways of Morgoth, these Men did not, which also makes me wonder what other cultures are still undiscovered in Middle-earth.

In the passage where Ghan-buri-Ghan is described, he somehow reminds me of a Hobbit - "short-legged and fat-armed, thick and stumpy" - and if having a beard is quite rare amongst their people, as Firefoot says, then this is another similarity. I wonder if they were also related to the 'river-folk' who numbered Gollum amongst their kin? Maybe Merry was seeing himself reflected in the older, wilder face of Ghan-buri-Ghan?

In any case, they are certainly enigmatic. I do like the way Tolkien has included these 'glimpses' of other cultures in Middle-earth, but has not explained them thoroughly. As in our world, we cannot hope to do more than speculate about them, and this adds to how fascinating they are.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dancing spawn of ungoliant
I have always wondered what was so special in the wind changing. The Wild Men and Rohirrim weren't aware of Aragorn sailing up Anduin so what did it matter where the wind blew?
Why is the wind changing? Is it to do with the arrival of Aragorn and the dead Men? Is it Eru intervening? Or can Sauron only sustain the mirk for so long (I wonder if he has got the Mithril shirt by this time, as this might distract him)?

The effect is clear though, as a change in the wind would blow away that mirk, and part of the purpose of it is to protect/support the Mordor Orcs. Without the gloom the Orcs may be less effective, and therefore it would be an excellent sign for it to disperse.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Esty
Do the descriptions of "joy of battle" and singing that was "fair and terrible" strike you as paradox? Can you feel a connection between battling and singing, or does that seem irreconcilable to you?
This has troubled me in the past, but singing and chanting into battle has been used through history as a morale booster, so it is not quite as incongruous as it might seem against the message that war is ultimately a destructive act. I think that playing music into battle is still used to this day by US troops, and while it may seem brutal to us that soldiers sing and are 'entertained' as they kill, it is an age-old method of raising both morale and adrenalin. I don't know if Tolkien had any experience of this himself in WWI.
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Old 08-02-2005, 12:52 PM   #8
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The description of the attack of the Rohirrim and of their "fair and terrible " singing is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful images from LOTR. I doubt that there has been any reader that has not been moved by that scene. And it seems to fit very well with the way the Rohirrims are described by Aragorn, in "The Two Towers" , chapter two, "The Riders of Rohan":
Quote:
...singing many songs after the manner of the children of Men before the Dark Years.
I like the fact that they are compared to the children of Men. Maybe this gives them a way of thinking which is different from that of the Men of Gondor, they see things in a much more simple manner, as the first Men used to. More simple, true, but maybe also wiser, who can tell? And maybe that is why they sing during the attack and feel such a joy and a desire to fight. These things are inside them, as they were inside their ancestors. Who knows, maybe they are inside us too, we have never been faced with the situation to see how we would react. Even I, when I watch the charge of the Rohirrim from ROTK the movie for the twentieth time, feel my mind go blank and I start trembling and clenching my fists.
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Old 08-03-2005, 11:47 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar
Do the descriptions of "joy of battle" and singing that was "fair and terrible" strike you as paradox?
I think that the idea of "joy of battle" is not unrelated to the very real phenomonon of "blood lust" that still occurs in the heat of battle to this day. I have not personally fought in a war, but have listened to those who have. They say that in the middle of a firefight, especially when your side is winning, men can lose control of their faculties (become fey, if you will) and essentially go on an unstoppable killing spree that doesn't end until all their enemies (and occasionally some friends) are dead. From what I understand, there is an aspect of "positive" emotion in this, or at least "feel-good" emotion. Thus, "joy" of battle.

What think ye?
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Old 08-07-2005, 07:12 PM   #10
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I'm really surprised that this chapter is getting so few responses, after how many people said they were looking forward to it.

Maybe it's because this chapter is so amazing by itself that people don't want to break the enchantment by over-analyzing?

Well, a final comment from me, since I didn't have time last time when I posted:
Quote:
Suddenly the king cried to Snowmane and the horse sprang away. Behind him his banner blew in the wind, white horse upon a field of green, but he outpaced it. After him thundered the knights of his house, but he was ever before them. Eomer rode there ,the white horsetail on his helm floating in his speed, and the fron of the first eored roared like a breaker foaming to the shore, but Theoden could not be overtaken.
This description has always awed me; it has been one of the few that I have always been able to picture in my head (even before the movies), which is neat for me since the words tend to be my picture rather than actually imagining the events. But I think this description, as well as the rest of the charge, which I never really took so much note of until this reading, is amazing. The part about the possible defeat and turning around before even trying to fight, then charging anyway was beautiful.
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Old 08-10-2005, 03:09 AM   #11
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As I sadly don't have the book with me at this point, I will only speak about the scene that is most vivid in my mind, that is of course, the final one of the chapter.

The mood that grips the Rohirrim at this stage is similar to the so called 'beserk' mood that the Viking warriors used to indulge in at times, although Tolkien thankfully lacks in gruesome detail in favour of an epic big picture. The so called 'beserker warriors' dressed in animal skins and caught in the battle frenzy commited various acts of cruelty like ripping limbs off with bare hands. They became legendary and their behaviour made them very frightening to their enemies. I think this is also what Aldarion was referring to as 'blood lust' (correct me if you has something else in mind).

Quote:
These things are inside them, as they were inside their ancestors.
Yes, and this also fits with Tolkien's obvious inspiration from Anglo-Saxon culture for the Rohirrim. He greatly admired their culture and way of life, and he preferred their simplicity to the evolution brought on by Norman conquest.

This battle scene, does seem to be as Estelyn put it quite the paradox. I'd even be so bold to say it's a paradox when it comes to the feelings it awakens in the reader. We are moved, in spite of ourselves, in spite of us thinking of ourselves as civilised people not delighting in battle and slaughter :P. But in the end, what moves us are words, polished words, poetry, as Davem brilliantly points out. I doubt many of us would be moved by it were we to be there at the centre of blood and gore. But I think a storyteller's aim is not to make us feel what we would if we were there ourselves, but to make us feel like the central characters of the story, like Theoden, Eomer, Eowyn, and the other Rohirrim that stood on that hill and watched Minas Tirith overcome with enemies. And if we, while reading it, feel a bit of their cold fury and grim pleasure in the destruction of evil, then Tolkien has proven his genius once more. And we have once more proven to ourselves our ability to immerse completely into a well written book and come out a little richer in feelings.
I think it would be dumb to generalize from here and say that battles are glorified, or even worse, to use such scenes as an attempt to justify modern day wars, which habit frankly disgusts me. Sorry for the brief slip into subjective mode.

As for the singing....I think I have a pretty good idea what Theoden and his men were singing as they rode into Gondor. Has anyone heard the Italian power metal band Rhapsody? They have a couple of really epic songs that echo LOTR to me, and the song 'Knightrider of Doom' reminds me very powerfully of the ride of the Rohirrim. I'll quote the chorus here to give you a taste of it:
'In this blood red dawn / I will wash my soul to call the spirit of vengeance / To deny my wisdom for anger/ To break the scream of the silent foe and be a Knightrider of Doom."
Give this song a listen if you're open to new experiences .
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Old 08-11-2005, 08:51 PM   #12
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Pipe Hi!

I've been reading and rereading the chapter for quite some time now, and I have been unable to get anything from it ( Firefoot), except this: The three chapters involving the actual Ride of the Rohirrim (including the last section of the chapter before it, and the first section of the one after it) has always moved me to tears, ever since I first read them (on the first week of January, 2003). Something here stirs me, though I don't know what.

Just yesterday, I decided to drop the book (and the analysis of the actual text), and decided to look into me: What does it move? Where does it touch me?

I came up with this.

If The Two Towers is a book about overcoming mistrust, then The Return of the King is about friendship--in its truest form, the "lay down his life for his friends" type. The Rohirrim and Sam knows this type of love, and it moves them:
[Sam: ]I'll get [to Mt. Doom], if I leave everything but my bones behind. And I'll carry Mr. Frodo up myself, if it breaks my back and heart. So stop arguing!
LR VI 3
"Alas!" said Théoden. "Then Denethor has heard no news of our riding and will despair of our coming."
"Need brooks no delay, yet late is better than never," said Éomer. "And mayhap in this time shall the old saw be proved truer than ever before since men spoke with mouth."
LR V 5
I have also been reading UT III 2: The Chronicles and Cirion and Eorl (as support material for my aborted analysis), and I came across this:
. . . Cirion and Eorl were moved . . . by the great friendship that bound their people together, and by the love that was between them as true men.
UT III 3 iii
So, these two (the Dúnedain and the Rohirrim) have been bound by friendship ever since way back! Now I wonder, what happened to the Gondorians? Why did they despair? Did they really think that the Rohirrim would forsake them?

Of course, for a while, that thought entered Théoden:
A smell of burning was in the air and a very shadow of death. The horses were uneasy. But the king sat upon Snowmane, motionless, gazing upon the agony of Minas Tirith, as if stricken suddenly by anguish, or by dread. He seemed to shrink down, cowed by age. Merry himself felt as if a great weight of horror and doubt had settled on him. His heart beat slowly. Time seemed poised in uncertainty. They were too late! Too late was worse than never! Perhaps Théoden would quail, bow his old head, turn, slink away to hide in the hills.
LR V 5
Why did he not turn back? Hope?
Then suddenly Merry felt it at last, beyond doubt: a change. Wind was in his face! Light was glimmering. Far, far away, in the South the clouds could be dimly seen as remote grey shapes, rolling up, drifting: morning lay beyond them.
ibid
Or was it because his friend was in danger?
But at that same moment there was a flash, as if lightning had sprung from the earth beneath the City. For a searing second it stood dazzling far off in black and white, its topmost tower like a glittering needle: and then as the darkness closed again there came rolling over the fields a great boom.
ibid
So I guess that was what moves me: A friendship, tested by trials, is proven true.
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Old 08-15-2005, 02:09 AM   #13
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Firefoot: You're most probably right. This chapter is just so beautifully poignant that over-analysis can ruin its magic.

And you've just done an over-analysis of the text, kiddo.



The first thing that struck me here is Merry's selflessness.
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Poor Pippin, shut up in the great city of stone, lonely and afraid. Merry wished he was a tall Rider like Éomer and could blow a horn or something and go galloping to his rescue.
I'm quite sure a lot of kids have wished they could be something, but mostly for their own benefit. Merry here mirrors the sentiment of a child who wishes to be like someone else - someone he obviously admires though not explicitly stated - not so he could have renown and glory, but to save his friend. How swoon-worthy is that? Not again...

I have to admit I have never exactly been a fan of the Wild Men. Sure, I appreciated all their help, but I did not find them very much worthy of attention. After reading the chapter again, I finally found why you people hold them in such high esteem. But I noted a difference between them ('fauna') and the Ents ('flora'). The Ents had a direct participation in the War by attacking Isengard, while the Wild Men refused to do any such thing. Is this due to a certain degree of bitterness they felt towards the Men? (I would say that this same feeling of bitterness had a part in driving the Ents to fight Saruman.) Or does it have something to do with the nature of their people?

Again, the Wild Men are also a bit reminiscent of the Dead. It was Aragorn, heir to the throne of Gondor, who summoned the Dead - who themselves were once Men, but now bereft of restful peace and dignity. They were recalled on oath, and unless they fulfill it the peace they desire would continually elude them, which is possibly why they finally came when Aragorn summoned them.

The Wild Men, on the other hand, were under no oath; in a sense, they are a free people, having no imposed ties with anyone else. How they came to meet with Theoden and the Rohirrim I haven't found in the book, but they seem to be creatures feared yet hunted. The Rohirrim asked for their help, which they have freely given (though not in the way the Horsemen requested), and were willing to be killed if they failed. (Does this constitute an oath?) They expressed intense hatred towards Orcs, a reason for them to agree to help. But in one sense they also have this similarity with the Dead:
Quote:
'Then you will kill gorgűn and drive away bad dark with bright iron, and Wild Men can go back to sleep in the wild woods.' (Ghân-buri-Ghân) (italics mine)
Finally, this chapter (in some way) foretells the manner of Sauron's downfall:
Quote:
'Even in this gloom hope gleams again. Our Enemy's devices oft serve us in his despite. The accursed darkness itself has been a cloak to us.' (Éomer)
And later:
Quote:
But the mind and will of the Black Captain were bent wholly on the falling city, and as yet no tidings came to him warning that his designs held any flaw.
Like unto the master is the servant, eh? (Many thanks to Nilp for that. )

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Old 08-15-2005, 04:25 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Lhunardawen
The Rohirrim asked for their help, which they have freely given (though not in the way the Horsemen requested), and were willing to be killed if they failed.
This is not my reading of the situation. If we look at what Ghan-buri-ghan actually says:

Quote:
'Dead men are not friends to living men, and give them no gifts,' said the Wild Man. 'But if you live after the Darkness, then leave Wild Men alone in the woods and do not hunt them like beasts any more. Ghan-buri-Ghan will not lead you into trap. He will go himself with father of Horse-men, and if he leads you wrong, you will kill him.'
what comes across is that the Wild Men are not giving their help freely, but rather because they've been hunted by the Rohirrim (possibly, for all we know, to the point of near extinction). When Ghan says 'if he leads you wrong, you will kill him.' I don't think he's freely offering his life as a pledge of his faithfulness, but simply stating a fact, based on his experience of the Rohirrim he & his people have encountered. He's saying 'I know you bloodthirsty horselords, you killers of my kin. If you hunt & kill us for no reason at the best of times, then I know for certain that if I mislead you now you'll kill me. I'll help you but please stop killing us.'

Basically, he's smart enough to know that there's no hope of survival if the orcs win, & little more if the Rohirrim win, but he's doing what he can for his people.
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Old 08-17-2005, 02:51 AM   #15
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But what of Théoden's response, "So be it!"?
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Old 08-17-2005, 04:48 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Lhunardawen
But what of Théoden's response, "So be it!"?
I don't think he & Ghan were reading from the same hymn sheet. Or maybe Theoden was just being condescending - I don't know. What's interesting to me about this 'relationship' is that the Rohirrim saw the inhabitants of the Druadan forest as being only useful for hunting until they were in trouble & needed something from them. At that point they were willing to make use of them. I'd probably take Theoden's words as accepting Ghan's help & agreeing that he's stop his people hunting the Wild Men. Notice he doesn't deny Ghan's statement that the Rohirrim had hunted the Wild Men. Its as if he's saying 'I realise now that you people have your uses, so we'll keep you around.'

This is a subject that I haven't seen discussed much. The tendency is to see the Rohirrim in a heroic light, but Tolkien clearly states that they had hunted the Wild Men - he didn't have to put that in. Taking into account the Rohirrim's approach to the Dunlendings what we see is perhaps something 'darker' in their attitude to the native inhabitants of their land - maybe 'ethnic cleansing' wouldn't be too extreme a label to put on it. I've certainly seen that accusation levelled at the incoming Anglo-Saxons regarding their behaviour to the native Britons they encountered when they came to Britain - notably in Peter Beresford-Ellis's book 'Celt & Saxon'.

In their own way they are as insular & contemptuous of other peoples as the Gondorians. Tolkien doesn't hide this fact, or try & pretend that all the enemies of Sauron are a bunch of goody-goodies. Peoples & races live insular lives in closed off communities & this manifests in at best suspicion, through contempt & hatred to, at worst, ethnic cleansing & genocide. True friendship between members of different races is rare. The Gimli-Legolas friendship is unique & every alliance between different races is held up by Tolkien as unusual & worthy of special comment. Read in the light of the Silmarillion the 'Fellowship of the Ring' is truly an amazing thing - its far from the norm in Middle-earth to see members of diverse races coming together in that way - & that's only because of the extremity the West finds itself in.....
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Old 08-17-2005, 08:54 AM   #17
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I've been thinking of a point for some time and it appears that this is the right place to offer it for discussion. It really concerns these two chapters, five and six, of Book III, as well as the early sections on The Shire.

I would agree with davem [! ] that there are very sombre implications to the discussion between Theoden and Ghân-buri-Ghân that certainly recall a terrible and long history of 'ethnic cleansing.' This is very much a 'real politik' discussion of alliance in hard times against a common foe rather than any kind of rapproachment between the two races. But I will leave this point for my main, rambling, thoughts.

Given the association (application?) between the Rohirrim and the ancient Anglo-Saxons, it appears that Tolkien 'split up' his depictions of the English nation into two groups of peoples in Middle-earth: the industrious, largely-peaceful, somewhat sweet and very endearing Hobbits, and the stern, fierce tribe of the warrior code, the Rohirrim. To the Rohirrim, as to the other groups of the race of "Men" Tolkien gives the terrible battle frenzies, the glorification and justification of war, the militaristic and authoritarian social organisations, the insularity which can lead to genocide. We are told through suggestions and matter of fact statements that the hobbits have had troubled times in the past (the Bonfire Glade, the Hedge between Bucklebury and the Old Forest, some distrust amongst the Stoors, Fallohides, and Harfoots), but the eloquence of words, the sweet sweeping along of the reader in the enchantment of the description and narrative is not given to this aspect of hobbit history.

Why not?

It is almost as if Tolkien provided an 'idealised' version of the English nation but to do so he had to acknowledge the very much more terrible aspects of it in another form. To the race of men who are outside The Shire, those 'continental' tribes who foment so much of the violence in Middle earth, he gives the terrible destructive aspects of European history, invasion, conquest, genocide. (He omits slavery, I think, for the good side and assigns that to Mordor and Sauron.) It is true that Tolkien uses hobbits to develope the trope of the Ring (Bilbo, Gollem/Smeagol, Frodo) but perhaps he can do that mainly because he creates hobbits in the first place as so innocent? (Another way of viewing this is to see the heroic ideal of the English nation coming to the salvation of all men, but this is a different discussion.)

Anyhow, I find it interesting that Tolkien splits up his depiction of the English into essentially two different peoples, a shadow and an idealised version.

Any thoughts?
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Old 08-17-2005, 09:39 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bb
To the Rohirrim, as to the other groups of the race of "Men" Tolkien gives the terrible battle frenzies, the glorification and justification of war, the militaristic and authoritarian social organisations, the insularity which can lead to genocide
In an article in the lat,est Amon Hen (The Modern Rohirrim by Jason Finch) There's a discussion on the way the Anglo Saxons were percieved at the time Tolkien wrote LotR. He writes:

Quote:
When JRRT wrote LotR the Anglo-Saxons were effectively an unknown people, archaologically speaking. In the late 1940's over 1,100 A-S cemetaries were known of & had been excavated to varying degrees against less than ten excavated settlements. Burials can reveal a lot about how people died & how the living treated the dead, as well as revealing some indications about how life was lived, but this bias in the evidence would have given an incomplete picture, not helped by other biases...

It was believed that A-S England had been a largely empty land, with a small population & was still largely covered with woods...

There were some towns, such as London, but the picture was for the most part of an England of simple farmers & small settlements surrounded by forexts & with few or no comforts, ruled by warlike barbaric illiterate lords, just looking after the land until the Normans turned up & defeated them in five minutes...
In short, the image of the Anglo-Saxons Tolkien had in mind was very similar to the one he presents in LotR. But Finch goes on to point out that:

Quote:
Considerable evidence has been found for large scale A-S manufacturing of pottery, jewellery, & metalworking at a number of towns...

Far from being an illiterate society it appears that later A-S England was as literate as any in Europe. In fact this level of literacy meant England was the most centralised & organised nation of its time, with what can only be described as a proto-civil service in existence.
Now, it will be argued that the period of Anglo-Saxon England which Tolkien was basing his Rohirric culture on was earlier than that just prior to the Norman Conquest, but the point is, he did not know much about the day to day life of the A-S peoples. His knowledge would have been drawn from the poems (Beowulf, Finnsburg, The Wanderer, The Seafarer, Maldon, etc. in conjuntion with the limited knowledge gained from graves So, in effect, he used the 'idealised' A-S world of heroic myth ('confirmed' by the swords, daggers, etc found in the graves), to create the Rohirrim.

The Rohirrim are his 'fantasy' Anglo-Saxons, 'idealised' in one sense into a warrior elite, but certainly not 'idealised' in the moral sense. So, as Bb says, it seems that Tolkien has 'split' the 'English' into two, the peaceful, bucolic world of the Shire is one, the illiterate warrior culture of Rohan is the other. What both groups share, however, is mistrust of the 'outsider' - even, in the case of the Hobbits, of some of their fellow 'insiders' ('They're queer folk in Buckland.')
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Old 08-17-2005, 12:41 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
What both groups share, however, is mistrust of the 'outsider' - even, in the case of the Hobbits, of some of their fellow 'insiders' ('They're queer folk in Buckland.')
Yes, you are right. I think we went into the insularity of the Hobbits in some detail when we discussed the early Hobbit chapters here on the CxC forum.

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
Now, it will be argued that the period of Anglo-Saxon England which Tolkien was basing his Rohirric culture on was earlier than that just prior to the Norman Conquest, but the point is, he did not know much about the day to day life of the A-S peoples. His knowledge would have been drawn from the poems (Beowulf, Finnsburg, The Wanderer, The Seafarer, Maldon, etc. in conjuntion with the limited knowledge gained from graves So, in effect, he used the 'idealised' A-S world of heroic myth ('confirmed' by the swords, daggers, etc found in the graves), to create the Rohirrim.

The Rohirrim are his 'fantasy' Anglo-Saxons, 'idealised' in one sense into a warrior elite, but certainly not 'idealised' in the moral sense
Well, I'm not sure his depiction of the Rohirrim is limited simply to the Anglo-Saxons, nor to their literature alone. The dating of, say, Beowulf is a notoriously debatable point among OE scholars--ranging over at least two hundred years, if not five hundred--so I'm not sure how closely we can pin down Tolkien's view to a historical sense of the period.

Nor would Tolkien have been limited merely to the battle poems, as the OE corpus includes a fair number of religious poems, poems of exile and longing, riddles, legal papers, to say nothing of Alfred's Doomsday entries. I think the warrior aspect of the Rohirrim owes as much to other warrior epics as to the Old English poems alone. And I wouldn't want to ignore the influence of WWI, as you so ably argued in your thread about that recent bio on Tolkien.

But I think your earlier post hit something important. There are aspects to the Rohirrim which don't derive from the Anglo Saxon period per se or the warrior epics of other nations, however much the militarism of the period shows in LotR. And that is the Woses and Ghân-buri-Ghân. I cannot recall anything like it in the OE literature I have read, although there is much about foreigners, foes, enemies and fearful monsters.

It is a remarkably complex depiction. It seemingly begins with the derisive attitude towards those who don't speak well a foreign language--the 'uncouth' remark--and extensive descriptions of the ugliness of the man--ugliness meaning largely 'not like the tall, fair-haired Rohirrim and Gondorians'. But Ghân-buri-Ghân shows himself a very apt diplomat, very astute at handling this kind of conversation. The reference to hunting his people is particularly telling I think in terms of Tolkien's inclusion not of an Anglo-Saxon feeling towards others but a modern interpretation.

I guess what I am trying to say is that, at the beginning of the interview I think the narrator's voice implies a Rohirrim attitude towards the Wild People, one of thinly veiled disgust or dislike, as if they aren't truly 'people'. But by the end of the passage I think the perspective has shifted to create a more sympathetic attitude towards Ghân. Of course, I could be all wet and wrong, but I sense that Tolkien was including here his thoughts about European attitudes towards 'the dark continent'. Or the Australian attitude towards the Aboriginal tribes there. Or the Native peoples--First Nations--in North America.

So, I wouldn't say the depiction of the Rohirrim is 'idealised' even by epic proportions. I think it represents in part a logical extension of some of the qualities in the earlier heroic literatures. It is a heavily nuanced depiction.
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Old 08-17-2005, 01:25 PM   #20
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So, I wouldn't say the depiction of the Rohirrim is 'idealised' even by epic proportions. I think it represents in part a logical extension of some of the qualities in the earlier heroic literatures. It is a heavily nuanced depiction.
Well, I said they were 'idealised' in one sense - which I think they were, in that they are much closer to the 'Anglo-Saxons' of the epic tradition than the real Anglo-Saxons:

Quote:
The Rohirrim are his 'fantasy' Anglo-Saxons, 'idealised' in one sense into a warrior elite, but certainly not 'idealised' in the moral sense.
Quote:
I guess what I am trying to say is that, at the beginning of the interview I think the narrator's voice implies a Rohirrim attitude towards the Wild People, one of thinly veiled disgust or dislike, as if they aren't truly 'people'. But by the end of the passage I think the perspective has shifted to create a more sympathetic attitude towards Ghân.
It may simply be that we are seeing through Merry's eyes & it is his attitude that changes. We see a similar change happen in Sam when he encounters the fallen Easterling.

Quote:
Of course, I could be all wet and wrong, but I sense that Tolkien was including here his thoughts about European attitudes towards 'the dark continent'. Or the Australian attitude towards the Aboriginal tribes there. Or the Native peoples--First Nations--in North America.
It may relate certainly to the way native Africans were treated, given Tolkien's country of birth. I also wonder whether the events on the continent at the time of writing may have played a part in his thinking as well. Ghan was a human being who was seen as little better (or perhaps even worse) than an animal - certainly the 'ethnic cleansing' suggestion is speculation on my part & came to me today - earlier I suggested the Rohirrim saw the Wild Men as 'beasts' to be hunted. I'm not sure which attitude is more appalling to the modern mind - if the Rohirrim thought if them as 'animals' to be hunted that could at least be put down to stupidity on their part. If it was 'ethnic cleansing' that more than borders on Fascism.

Tolkien felt that the Nazis had corrupted the 'noble Northern spirit' by their race doctrine & the attitudes & behaviour that resulted. I don't know if any of this feeling was in his mind as he wrote this chapter - a 'parable' for the Germans?

Of course, I'm pushing this too far - because its not how I usually approach the text now. What was in Tolkien's head, or may have been, is beyond me. Certainly, though, a reader may find a certain applicability to the situation at the time of writing. The episode is convincing within the context of the story, & doesn't require any 'outside' knowledge to make sense.
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Old 08-17-2005, 02:20 PM   #21
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Another take on this fascinating line of discussion...

I think it is all too easy to simply equate Rohirrim with Anglo-Saxons but what we have to remember is that the reality of Saxon England was both different and more complex. In practical terms there are major differences such as the Anglo-Saxons did not ride horses into battle. This was also the period when the Vikings were both invading and settling in the British Isles and the two cultures co-existed, and the older Romano-British people had not all been pushed to the fringes of the island as some were assimilated. In addition, the Scots and Welsh had their own cultures. I think the Rohirrim display more than just Anglo-Saxon traits, and we could say that all the cultures of Middle-earth to some extent represent aspects of the British people.

The Anglo-Saxons were certainly aggressive in conquering England to begin with, and though they did settle down very quickly, they still exploited those British people who were not on their side. One of the old words for Welshman also meant 'slave', and slavery was a major trade for these people. Perhaps the hunting of the Woses might echo this dark past of the English, hunting and trading their own neighbours.

Within the context of Middle-earth the idea that the Rohirrim were less than perfect does 'fit'. The Numenoreans themselves were less than perfect, landing on the coasts of Middle-earth and exploiting their fellow Men (which makes me wonder if millenia of resntment had built up in such peoples as the Corsairs and Haradrim against 'oppressive Numenoreans').

If there is a lesson in this, then perhaps Tolkien is showing how the Woses are dignified, and though they have been oppressed by the Rohirrim in the past, they are willing to help their distant kin. Whether this is the 'noble savage' concept I don't know, and likewise, I'm not certain if that concept is 'correct' in itself, but in any case, the Woses do teach the Rohirrim a valuable lesson.
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Old 08-17-2005, 04:39 PM   #22
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Co-incidentally, I just came across a piece in the latest Tolkien Studies. In the 1920's Tolkien translated a section of Gerald of Wales 'Description of Wales' (circa 1191) into Anglo-Saxon for a colleague at Leeds University. Just prior to that section are these words of Gerald's:

Quote:
The English, I say, want to drive the Welsh out of the Island & capture it all for themselves. The Welsh, who for so long ruled over the whole kingdom, want only to find refuge together in the least attractive corner of it, the woods, the mountains & the marshes, to which they have been banished for their sins, so that there for a given time they may in want & poverty do penance for the excesses which they committed when they were prosperous.
I can't help wondering if Tolkien had this in the back of his mind...
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Old 08-19-2005, 07:46 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar
Do the descriptions of "joy of battle" and singing that was "fair and terrible" strike you as paradox? Can you feel a connection between battling and singing, or does that seem irreconcilable to you?
I have just come from watching a television documentary which reminded me of these words of Estelyn's.

The documentary concerned the story of what I suppose can be called the original suicide bombers--at least of the twentieth century--the Japanese kamikaze pilots of WWII.

I won't go into the very fascinating story of how the Japanese military developed the concept of the kamikaze missions, but will restrain myself only to the relevant point.

Apparently, the pilots for each mission were named and then sent to climb a steep hill covered in bamboo. At the top of the hill was the air strip where their planes were waiting for takeoff. I saw the man who made the decisions of which pilot to send describe the occasion. (Well, he was speaking in Japanese and I read the subtitled translations.)

He said the pilots would sing songs as they trod up the bamboo hill. He even sang one of them for the interviewer. Very clearly he was suggesting that the songs helped prepare the pilots for their mission.

There is a museum dedicated to the stories of the kamikaze pilots. The last story in the museum is about a man who was refused, over and over again, every time he volunteered for a kamikaze mission. He was refused because he was married with three young daughters. Finally, his wife drowned the daughters and then killed herself. He was then accepted for a kamikaze mission.

War does very horrible things to people and art--song--can help that happen.
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Old 08-21-2005, 04:46 AM   #24
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davem, I see that what we have here is yet another problem with the 'meaning' of the books. Frankly, I never thought there would be another way of reading Ghân's and Théoden's conversation; it only occured to me when I read your post, and then I was surprised that there is actually a different point of view to the whole thing. Maybe part of the reason I was locked into my interpretation of the text is that I never really considered that Wild-Men-hunter nature of the Rohirrim that Ghân hinted at. Please accept my gratitude for giving me a new perspective.

But if I could defend myself, my understanding came from the context of the course of their conversation.

The first thing we have heard from Ghân (through Merry) implies that the Rohirrim requested the Wild Men to fight with them.
Quote:
'No, father of Horse-men,' he said, 'we fight not. Hunt only. Kill gorgűn in woods, hate orc-folk. You hate gorgűn too. We help as we can. (italics mine)
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'But our need is for aid in battle,' said Éomer. 'How will you and your folk help us?'
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'Bring news,' said the Wild Man... (again, emphasis mine)
Later, after the Rohirrim are informed of the gravity of the situation in Minas Tirith, Théoden and Éomer express alarm and some despair, to which Ghân says:
Quote:
'Let Ghân-buri-Ghân finish!' said the Wild Man. 'More than one road he knows. He will lead you by road where no pits are, no gorgűn walk, only Wild Men and beasts...Wild Men will show you that road.'
From this point on, I understood that Ghân was undoubtedly willing to help in any way he could - in fact, he seemed to be very eager to help considering how he brushed off Théoden's and Éomer's interruption. I thought that perhaps his eagerness was because the Wild Men would have this benefit if all goes well until the end:
Quote:
'Then you will kill gorgűn and and drive away bad dark with bright iron, and Wild Men can go back to sleep in the wild woods.' (emphasis mine)
Of course there's no sense accusing Ghân of self-centeredness at this; he was only declaring what they as a people can gain if the war is won. As far as he and the Wild Men are concerned, peace is the only reward for their help.

So Théoden 'receives their offer,' then comes the discussion of the terms of their agreement. Rohan offers a rich reward and its friendship if the Wild Men are faithful. Ghân refuses this and gives his terms: If Rohan survives the war, they are to 'leave Wild Men alone in the woods and not hunt them like beasts anymore.' And as if to somehow guarantee his faithfulness despite the absence of a reward, Ghân says that he himself will go with the king, and gives them the right to kill him if he proves unfaithful. Rohan accepts this.

The idea I get from this whole conversation is that Ghân still bears the pain of his people being hunted down like beasts, yet he is willing to forget the offense for the sake of Middle Earth. It seems to me, then, that the Wild Men are more civilized than I would care to think.
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Old 03-09-2019, 11:02 AM   #25
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"The Ride of the Rohirrim" builds slowly--we get a glimpse of their arrival in the eucatastrophe of the last chapter, but now we have to rewind to see how it comes about, the tension rising again until its release in the rush across the Pelennor at the end of the chapter--and when it did come, I'm swept up in it. If this were a first time read, there's almost no chance I'd have stopped between chapters; even rereading, the momentum nearly swept me right into "The Battle of the Pelennor."

It's impressive how, though we know they charge from the end of the last chapter, that there's still doubt about what Theoden will do.

The meeting of Ghan-buri-ghan is a unique episode in the books, and it contrasts in interesting ways with Aragorn's adventures with the Dead Men of Dunharrow: the Druedain must have been there before the Dead Men (kin of the Dunlendings, we're told in UT) and probably were first displaced by them. But where the Dead Men are more politically displaced by the Numenoreans (and the later Rohirrim), the Druedain are almost more of a mythological displacement. The Dead Men are displaced like the Celts being driven west by the Anglo-Saxons, but the Druedain are like the builders of Stonehenge: unfathomably older and unknown.

EDIT: I meant to say something, and then forgot, about the role of weather in this chapter: the turning of the wind is much highlighted and it's almost as important to the victory of the West as the arrival of the Rohirrim or Aragorn's fleet. Manwe's timing is subtle in the narrative but perfect.
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