May 26 2009 1:52pm

LotR re-read: Fellowship II.10, “The Breaking of the Fellowship”

cover of The Fellowship of the Ring And we conclude the first book of The Lord of the Rings with “The Breaking of the Fellowship.” After the jump, the usual spoilers and comments.

(Guys, we’ve actually finished the first book! A third of the way done, woo!)

What Happens

The Company camps on the west bank. Sting shows orcs near, but Frodo and Aragorn cannot tell on which side of the river. The next morning, Aragorn sets out the Company’s choices: to go east, or west, or their separate ways. No-one says anything. Aragorn tells Frodo that, as the Ring-Bearer, he must choose his own path. Frodo asks for, and is granted, an hour in solitude to choose, and wanders away uphill.

Frodo is no closer to a decision when he is startled to find Boromir watching him. Boromir progresses from trying to persuade Frodo to come to Minas Tirith, to asking for the loan of the Ring, to demanding the Ring, to attempting to take the Ring by force. Frodo puts on the Ring and flees. Boromir pursues in vain, then seems to come to his senses when he trips and falls, weeping and calling for Frodo to come back.

Frodo does not hear Boromir; he has fled to the Seat of Seeing at the top of Amon Hen. Still wearing the Ring, he sees war everywhere he looks, until finally his gaze is caught by the Dark Tower, Barad-dûr. There he senses a searching Eye, which has almost located him when he throws himself off the Seat. He feels two powers striving in him, the Eye and a Voice that calls him “fool” and tells him to take off the Ring. Then he became aware of his power to choose and does, taking off the Ring. The Eye passes him by.

Frodo resolves to go to Mordor alone, since either he cannot trust or does not wish to risk the others. He puts the Ring back on and heads for the boats.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the rest of the Company has been debating what they should do and what Frodo is thinking. Boromir arrives and tells them that Frodo vanished up to an hour ago. Merry, Pippin, Gimli, and Legolas run off to look for him. Aragorn, having failed to get them to search in an orderly fashion, charges Boromir with guarding Merry and Pippin and begins tracking Frodo.

Sam starts out in Aragorn’s company but falls behind and realizes that Frodo has decided to go alone. He arrives at the shore in time to see an apparently-empty boat leaving. He wades into the river; Frodo pulls him out and returns them to the shore. When Frodo realizes that Sam will not be left behind, he admits to being glad. They cross to the eastern shore, and the book ends with them looking for a path into the Land of Shadow.


This is actually less of a cliffhanger than I’d remembered. Frodo and Sam have come to a turning point in their story, the end of one phase and beginning of another, as the text says. And we know that orcs are near-ish, but not that they’re on this bank of the river and thus that the remnants of the Company are in imminent danger. However, I have absolutely no idea how I reacted, when I first read this, to a whole book of no Frodo and Sam. What did you all think? (I’ll save talking about the other effects of splitting up the story this way for later on.)

By the way: what does it say that the very first time the Company is referred to as the Fellowship (at least if searching my e-copy can be trusted), is in the chapter title that announces its Breaking? (Aragorn calls them a fellowship, lower-case, when he tells them it’s time to decide at the start of the chapter.)

* * *

I was impressed by how Boromir progresses to trying to take the Ring by force. It’s a lovely demonstration of how the Ring works: not an instant switching to Evil, but a gradual insidious rational-sounding seduction. (Yes, this does make my questions about people touching the Ring much less important.) I particularly like how it plays on his sense of Gondor: its worth, its people’s distinctiveness (not “elves and half-elves and wizards”), and its Númenórean heritage (conveniently ignoring the source of that heritage). Plus, it uses the feeling that the plan to destroy the Ring has basically no chance of working—which is entirely rational, as far as I can see. Finally, it was a nice touch to have Boromir offer Frodo a guilt-free way out of his burden. I don’t think it would have worked even if he’d given Frodo a chance to accept the offer, but it was a canny move.

* * *

In comments to the last post, legionseagle proceeded on the assumption that Aragorn knew that the Ring was affecting Boromir. This surprised me because the principal point about Aragorn’s leadership that I wanted to bring up here was whether Aragorn failed as a leader by not noticing Boromir’s state.

(I don’t think Aragorn failed by not attempting to guide the Company. It’s very important that Frodo make his own choice, and Aragorn recognizes this. Plus, Aragorn is on record as thinking very poorly of Frodo’s chances in Mordor, but he knows that he doesn’t have any better option for destroying the Ring, so what’s he going to say?)

Right. Back to the Boromir question. I have never found anything in the text indicating that Aragorn noticed what was happening to Boromir. And I have two reasons for thinking that this absence means that he didn’t notice, as opposed to that Tolkien choose not to mention it. First, he says to Boromir, “I do not know what part you have played in this mischief, but help now!” I read this to indicate newly-dawned suspicion (as shown just before in his “hard and not too kind()” look), being set aside for more urgent matters. Second, if he did notice, I find it hard to believe that he wouldn’t have taken appropriate precautions such as, for instance, paying attention to Boromir’s whereabouts while Frodo was off by himself.

In other words, the choice is between Aragorn not noticing, or not taking proper action in response. Neither speaks well of him, but the first seems both preferable and more plausible, inattention being less culpable than failure to protect—even if inattention is difficult to reconcile with the kind of awareness that spotted Gollum following them basically from the beginning.

What do you all think?

* * *

 In other character news, this is the chapter where Sam comes into his own. He is not only correct in his assessment of Frodo and Boromir, but he says so and acts on it. I think he says more in this chapter than in most of the rest of this book total.

Merry and Pippin are Frodo’s friends and concerned for him, but they don’t respect his decision to seek the destruction of the Ring over his own safety, as they both want to stop him going East. I will do them the credit of thinking that they are solely motivated by his welfare, even though they don’t want to leave him but also don’t want to go to Mordor. (Gimli and Legolas say the same, but at least they only want to pressure Frodo by presenting him with their vote for Minas Tirith, and don’t propose to actively stop him.)

* * *

At the Seat of Seeing:

Did anyone else spot “Fool” as coming from Gandalf, the first time they read? I’m sure I didn’t, though it seems so characteristic now that I know.

I like the way Frodo’s visions are presented, first the landscapes and then, oh look, war everywhere.

It is definitely early days for Frodo in terms of the Ring’s influence on him, when he can put the Ring back on, just moments after Sauron was seeking it, with no apparent trouble.

* * *

And to wrap up, a look back at the structure of the book.

  1. Many Meetings: Recaps and reunions
  2. The Council of Elrond: Info-dump of Doom, the sequel.
  3. The Ring Goes South: The start of the journey up through the retreat from Caradhras.
  4. A Journey in the Dark: Wargs, the Watcher in the Water, and finding Balin’s tomb.
  5. The Bridge of Khazad-dûm: Attack by orcs and a Balrog; Gandalf falls.
  6. Lothlórien: Healing water on the way to Caras Galadhon.
  7. The Mirror of Galadriel: Meeting Galadriel and Celeborn; mourning; the Mirror.
  8. Farewell to Lórien: Gifts and parting.
  9. The Great River: Travel, with glimpses of Gollum and a winged Nazgûl.
  10. The Breaking of the Fellowship: Boromir tries to take the Ring; Frodo and Sam leave.

There are definite parallels with the first book. The closest is the first two chapters, followed by the just-past-midbook, rather lengthy, interludes of peace and safety. But the peril and action is more intense early in this book, as opposed to late in the previous: post-Lórien is a lot quieter than I’d remembered, and Lórien longer.

Next time, a cinematic interlude before we start re-reading The Two Towers.

« Fellowship II.9 | Index | Fellowship movie re-watch »

John Rodenbiker
1. jrodenbiker
I'd forgotten that the orc attack and death of Boromir don't happen in _Fellowship_, but in _Two Towers_.

Apparently, I've seen the movies too many times recently and have neglected my reading!
David Goldfarb
2. David_Goldfarb
That orc attack happens in about two sentences, entirely offstage. Blink and you'll miss it. So it's easy to forget where it happens.
Andrew Foss
3. alfoss1540
Who notices Boromir? - All of the Hobbits notice him being wierd - remmember Merry and Pippin's comments on the Boat Ride. Also Galadriel. Otherwise I think the rest are pretty clueless of his intentions and thoughts, as most of them see what he is asking - going to minas Tirith - as a pretty good destination.

On the seat - I was clueless the first few times - At first it seemed like a self admonishment by Frodo. Now it is more obvious. Though I do not believe Gandalf comments on this later when he relates about his celestial whereabouts.

I too looked at the section with Boromir more closely this read. I have always been conflicted about Boromir as a character - especially after further reading and rereading of the series. At first, he is charming and heroic. Sean Bean's portrayal left me much more conflicted. Before the movies, I had not recognized the strength of his resolve to break with the Fellowship at this juncture of the story - always believing in the group staying together. But then circumstances break them apart - and leave Boromir dead. In the end the slit is for the best.

Aragorn not pushing either way may be indicative of the problems that it could cause - as taking the rigng from a ringbearer causes madness - Gollum - and withdrawal - Bilbo. It is a strong and seductive drug.
4. DemetriosX
It's easy to forget that Boromir doesn't die until the first chapter of TT. In several editions that I have seen, the recap at the beginning also recaps the first chapter of TT before the reader has read it! For the movie, it made sense to end the first film with the opening material of TT. Otherwise, you end in medias res, which is a fine way to start, but a bad way to finish. Also, then you have to drag out the involvement of Sean Bean who would then only appear in the film long enough to have a cheesy death scene.

Somehow, I've always heard the "Fool" comment in Bilbo's voice. I don't know why, just that it seems like simple, hard-headed Hobbit sense. But Gandalf would seem to be obvious for anyone who knows what's coming.

I think that what I like best here is the Sam, who has generally been portrayed as not necessarily all that bright (maybe a bit of Hobbit classism?), apart from trotting out a few bits of poetry, uses his head. Indeed, he is the only one to do so. The sudden panic that fills the company when Boromir announces Frodo's disappearance has always seemed a bit strange to me, almost like an outside force. Sam is the only one to resist it and think his way through the problem.

It's been over 30 years (closer to 35 really), but I do seem to recall being a bit surprised when the attention of the next section was off of Frodo. But the first half of TT has always been my favorite part of the whole trilogy, followed by all the rest with Merry and Pippin from here on out. TBH, I find most of the stuff with Frodo and Sam boring from here on, while Merry and Pippin get out there and do stuff.
5. legionseagle
One of the big clues as to Boromir's state of mind is when in "Farewell to Lorien" he says "...folly to throw away" and then corrects himself to "It would be folly to throw lives away" which Frodo clearly sees as a big reveal and looks to Aragorn to see if he's spotted anything and can't tell one way or the other. If that isn't maintaining a poker face on Aragorn's part, then his "failure by inattention" is certainly very culpable.
JS Bangs
6. jaspax
DemetriosX @ 4: The word "Fool" always struck me as a typical Gandalf-ism. He's also famous for "fool of a Took" and "Fly, you fools!" So his addressing Frodo as "fool" makes perfect sense.

Despite this, I don't think that I ever clearly identified the speaker in this section as Gandalf until now.
Hugh Arai
7. HArai
The very first time I read LotR, as a 9 year old, I thought Boromir was not going to fall to the ring. I think I had the idea that with Gandalf and Aragorn there and especially with Galadriel's testing, Boromir would recognise the ring's pull and overcome it. The hobbits were discovering the wider world, Legolas and Gimli were discovering elves weren't as bad as dwarves thought and dwarves weren't as bad as elves thought, Aragorn had taken up Anduril. I thought Boromir would learn from the hobbits that being the biggest and strongest and the best fighter doesn't always help.
I remember being very disappointed in Boromir. He was a good guy and the good guys were supposed to overcome, right?

Now I think he only just failed right then. I think he was balanced right at the edge which is why Galadriel's testing shook him so much and why neither Aragorn or Galadriel did anything preemptive - he hadn't fallen yet. I think he wanted to resist taking the ring but he honestly could not conceive of how they could destroy the ring successfully. That would explain his escalating progression. As it became more and more clear he couldn't convince Frodo to go to Minas Tirith, he lost it. I think he really did snap out of it when he fell, he was so evenly balanced. My reading is that in the end he had the same lack as his father - he couldn't bring himself to hope.
Mitchell Downs
8. Beamish
What is the literal "Breaking of the Fellowship"?

I think for Tolkien the whole action beat that is the the attack of the orcs, the death of Boromir and capture of Merry & Pippin is subsequent to the Breaking; so naturally it fits into the next book. Even though Bakshi and Jackson chose look at all of it together in their films - and it works there, in the book it is unnecessary.

As I read it the first time, and still do now, the Breaking of the Fellowship is when Boromir tries to take The Ring by force. Once that trust has been broken - so is the Fellowship. Everything else is the effect of the Breaking - from Frodo fleeing with Sam, to the events of the first chapter of the TT.
Charles Dunkley
9. cedunkley
I think Boromir had the same failings as his father Denethor, and perhaps because of Denethor's already encroaching madness. Boromir was sent because Denethor believed Boromir was strong willed enough to ensure the Ring came to Minas Tirith. That driving need, instilled in Boromir by his father, combined with being worn down from the constant vigilance and fighting against Mordor, was enough for the Ring to choose him as its victim.

As for Aragorn, I think he was too preoccupied with trying to figure out what path to take. From what I recall he and Gandalf had worked out their path to this point and Aragorn was torn within about what he should do. He certainly felt the calling of Minas Tirith, but Boromir and Denethor's attitudes would make that a difficult path.

Samwise seems to be the only one who is able to keep his head straight at this point. Is it the power of the Ring, sensing an opportunity to get away from the Hobbits, that clouds everyone at this point? I don't know.
Kate Nepveu
10. katenepveu
alfoss1540 @ #3, yes, Gandalf does comment later that it was him: when he's reunited with Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas, he says, "The Ring now has passed beyond my help, or the help of any of the Company that set out from Rivendell. Very nearly it was revealed to the Enemy, but it escaped. I had some part in that: for I sat in a high place, and I strove with the Dark Tower; and the Shadow passed."

Since, as you say, Merry & Pippin do notice Boromir's acting weird on the boats, I have to think that Aragorn was too busy paddling or thinking or whatnot, but it's tough.

DemetriosX @ #4, yes, I did wonder about the "sudden panic" that strikes everyone when Frodo's reported to have disappeared, but there just doesn't seem to be any textual evidence about its source. And the first half of _TT_ has always been my favorite too, so I'm eager to see how it holds up.

legionseagle @ #5, I'd forgotten that Aragorn in mentioned after Boromir's "folly" comment: "Frodo looked at Aragorn, but he seemed deep in his own thought and made no sign that he had heeded Boromir’s words." Umm, well, Boromir's said to speak "softly"? No, it's not satisfactory, but nothing about the situation is.

HArai @ #7, welcome, and very interesting about your first reactions to Boromir. I agree that he fell _just_ then, and that the straw was that Frodo wasn't agreeing to go to Minas Tirith, and hadn't been since Lorien.

Beamish @ #8, yup, not only is the Breaking when Boromir falls, but doing anything more with the non-Frodo-and-Sam characters really *does* lead to cliffhangers.

cedunkley @ #9, Boromir insisted he should come instead of Faramir, and "Loth was my father to give me leave," so I'm not sure how much we can blame Denethor--I'll have to examine his attitude when we get there.
Charles Dunkley
11. cedunkley
katenepvue, I'd forgotten that line. It's been too long since I've read these books. I used to read them once a year when I was younger. I think I'm due for another read.
j p
12. sps49
I read the "Take off the Ring, fool!" the same as Obi-Wan's "Run, Luke, run!" (my first read was Fall 1977); a guiding voice from beyond, but unmistakeably Gandalf.

Aragorn didn't notice for several reasons- the team as a whole, Gollum, their path, and overt hazards from outside the Company. Boromir was also very much a peer of Aragorn, and he may have implicitly trusted him from the start. The hobbits, however, are predisposed to distrust Men due to their size and novelty; plus they are here to look after Frodo, and would be on the lookout for any potential threat- and everything is new and potentially dangerous to them, nobody reminds them of fun times in Gondor.

Boromir was not nearly as flawed as Denethor, who was influenced by Sauron via the palantir. He realized his error, repented, and did his utmost to defend Merry and Pippin. Faramir's sighting of him later with his peaceful countenance bears this out (am I too early with this?).
13. Confutus
The first time I read this was about 1974, and I think even then I recognized the voice which told Froda to take the ring off as Gandalf, working from the beyond somewhere, although I certainly didn't expect him to actually put in appearance. When he claimed later that he had been helping Frodo, I was not surprised.

We see a couple of times that the Ring tends to induce a paranoia, and Frodo is exceptionally sensitive to certain things anyway, so he has reason to watch Boromir especially closely. Sam's more suspicious to begin with. He spotted a covetous gleam in Bormomir;s eye as as early as the council of Elrond and is also watching him closely. Between the two of them, they see and notice signs of Boromir's increasing struggle with temptation that others of the company miss. Aragorn is too absorbed with his own conflict of duties to notice. Legolas and Gimli are entirely oblivious,

I don't think it was clear to either Denethor or his two sons what "Isildur's Bane" really was. Boromir seems to have had no clue until the council of Elrond, and it was a surprise to him. Both Denethor and Faramir thought long and hard about what it might mean, afterward. Faramir's guesses were shrewd and close, but he hadn't quite reached the conclusion. Denethor seems to have been even closer and shrewder, and Faramir's report seems to have confirmed what he had already guessed, but Denethor characteristically kept what he knew or guessed strictly to himself.

Denethor had always favored Boromir, who was more like him in mood and temperament than Faramir was. He also knew that the "Counsel to be taken" in Imladris was likely to involve both Elrond and Gandalf, neither of whom he liked or trusted. Boromir was simply the more likely to represent his will and wishes in whatever was going on.

From Denethor's later actions and comments, it's evident that he would have siezed the Ring with little more compunction than Saruman would have. In comparison, it's rather to Boromir's credit that he resisted the lure as long and as well as he did.

I've been wondering how much Sauron was trying to take a direct hand from afar. Did Boromir fall to temptation, or was he pushed? Sauron was certainly watching. Within the hour that Frodo left to go and meditate, there was Boromir's attempt to take the ring, the Eye almost catching Frodo atop Amon Hen, and an extraordinary madness that made Aragorn's attempt to organize the search ineffective. This could scarcely have been better timed to create confusion so that his orcs could sieze the advantage, and the ring.
14. DemetriosX
As others have noted here without saying so directly, an important factor in Boromir's fall is that this was not his journey to make. It was Faramir who was given the vision and presumably was meant to make the trip. OTOH, because Boromir went, Faramir was in a position to provide Sam and Frodo invaluable help at a crucial time. There is a sort of "hand of fate" aspect to all of this, which is probably not surprising, since that was something very prevalent in the northern European myths which inspired Tolkien.
Terry Lago
15. dulac3
I don't think the confusion of the party after Frodo's disappearance is all that surprising really. The one indispensible person, who has physical possession of the single item that can give undisputed victory to the Dark Lord, is missing somewhere in the nearby wilderness when they know that enemies are close by seems ample cause for this to me. Add to this the fact that two of them are young relatives of his with little experience of the world who are prone to run off at a moment's notice and I can see confusion errupting very quickly.

On Aragorn's leadership: it may not have been exemplary, but I would reiterate that he never intended to lead the fellowship, certainly not after this point, when he fully intended, I think, to go to Minas Tirith. Both he and Gandalf may have dropped the ball in not planning what to do after this point in the journey, but since it was essential that they let the Ringbearer make up his own mind and he had been undecided the whole time, I don't know what else he could have done.

He did, apparently, miss Boromir's slip into temptation, but I don't think this makes him the idiot some seem to imply. I don't know if he ever really thought anyone in the fellowship would try to seize the ring and his preoccupation in Lorien was due, I think, both to his own personal musings about his memories of Lorien and Arwen as well as his internal grief/confusion over the loss of Gandalf. I imagine he was going through a lot of inner turmoil at this point, feeling in an acute way the newly imposed burden of leadership, which was likely to lead him away from his chosen path, and thus missing a furtive glance and murmured comment from Boromir seems allowable, or at least believable, to me.

Sam is indeed the exemplar here. He shows his hard-headed common sense and justifies (not for the last time) Gandlaf's choice of companion for Frodo.
16. DBratman
Isildur's Bane: I recall but cannot find a direct statement that the nature of Isildur's fate was not known in Gondor. Faramir does ask Frodo directly what "Isildur's bane" may be, and Frodo replies cryptically, "That is hidden. Doubtless it will be made clear in time." However, when Sam blurts out the words, "the Enemy's Ring," Faramir at once knows what he is talking about, so he knows about the Ring and its value, whether or not he also knows about its fate in Men's hands after it was taken from Sauron.

The voice crying "fool": Tom Shippey has some interesting comments on this, in The Road to Middle-earth:

"This is a scene which has puzzled and irritated critics. Dr C.N. Manlove writes 'the Voice' off as 'providential', and clearly thinks it one more example of the 'biased fortune' which in his opinion makes it impossible to take the story seriously. Actually the Voice is Gandalf's, as we might have guessed from its asperity, and as is anyway confirmed on p. 484."

(p. 484 is where Gandalf tells the Three Hunters, "Very nearly was revealed to the Enemy, but it escaped. I had some part in that: for I sat in a high place, and I strove with the Dark Tower; and the Shadow passed.")
Agnes Kormendi
17. tapsi
I certainly did not recognise the warning voice as Gandalf's, but this last chapter has always been something of a blur for me. As I recall, the first scene I've ever read from LotR was the opening scene of The Two Towers (I found the book lying on my mother's pillow), and by this point I knew I was extremely close to the moment that got me hooked on the entire series.

I find Boromir an extremely tragic figure, but I think even though he had to die for trying to force Frodo, he did realise what he'd done, and repent. I'm not sure I like the idea that the most this could buy him was dying with honour, but I think it shows that his heart was in the right place, only he let despair overcome him. And apparently the situation in Gondor justifies that; even Faramir seems desperate when they meet him. I am certain Denethor would not have regretted trying to take the Ring by force, so both his sons surpass him in this respect.
j p
18. sps49
Aragorn might have wanted to go to Gondor if he'd had his druthers, and Boromir wanted to go (with the Ring) for sure, but the toughest part of the journey is about to begin. I would look poorly on anyone who would choose to abandon the Ring-bearer at this stage, even Boromir.
Hugh Arai
19. HArai
I think the reason the questions of leadership, loyalty and in Boromir's case, despair come up here is that this is as far as knowledge and experience and planning takes them.

Step 1) Rush the Ring to Anduin
Step 2)
Step 3) Rule the world! Err... I mean destroy the Ring. Yay!

That Step 2 there... it's a doozy!

Look at all the experienced members of the party. Boromir,Gimli,Legolas all vote for Minas Tirith. Even Aragorn wants Minas Tirith. From a practical standpoint, it's the way to go. Opposing that are the Wise: Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel all say take the ring to Mt.Doom. All they've put forward for a plan is: Hope you get there somehow. Trust in fate. Most of the Fellowship is willing to try if that's what Frodo chooses, but still none of them will claim it's a real plan. I think they are operating on personal loyalty to Frodo and a belief that the Wise really are just that. Boromir on the other hand, I think still sees his first duty as being to Gondor and he's always had doubts about trusting in "Wizards and Elvish Wights". He just can't make the leap of faith.
20. Elaine T
Since, as you say, Merry & Pippin do notice Boromir's acting weird on the boats, I have to think that Aragorn was too busy paddling or thinking or whatnot, but it's tough.

This may be totally off base, due to my inexperience in boats, but as written, Boromir does it in the boat - I always picture a canoe - and his boat, with Merry and Pippin inside it is behind Aragorn and Frodo's. So since one paddles facing the direction one is going, how much would Aragorn see? Why Merry and Pippin wouldn't say anything about it to someone else, though, baffles me a bit.

#14 - Boromir did get the dream, once. Faramir got it multiple times. But as he did dream it once, he was called. As Aragorn was called by it, to Minas Tirith, which is enough for me to see him terribly conflicted after Gandalf falls. He either ignores where the Powers (and having been raised by Elrond, he probably has a good understanding of them, and what it means when they intervene so overtly) are calling him, or abandons Frodo to probable failure and death.

I think Frodo knows that Aragorn needs to go to Minas Tirith because of the dream, it's not that he thinks it's a better choice for the company as a whole.

On the sudden madness .... I do wonder if some power was influencing everyone. It seems clearly marked as unnatural. Sauron, or not. Could it be the Valar? In the end they needed to break up, after all. If Merry and Pippin hadn't gotten to Fangorn Saruman would have been a huge problem undealt with. Rohan may have fallen before Minas Tirith. Aragorn wouldn't have been able to take the paths of the dead and save the day.

OTOH, Sam is the one least affected and he's the one who seems least affected by the Ring, so maybe it was Sauron/the Ring, trying to be caught. Or a combination, rather like what happened in Gollumn's tunnel back in the Hobbit.
Soon Lee
21. SoonLee
It was apparent to me that it had to be Gandalf even on first reading.

IIRC, there was a discussion later (when Frodo & Sam meet Faramir?) that in Gondor, that Isildur was known to have been killed by orc arrows, so it was unclear why Isildur's Bane would be such a big deal; orc arrows are common.
Kate Nepveu
22. katenepveu
cedunkley @ #11, hey, I had to go look it up, and I'm the one doing the re-read, here . . .

sps49 @ #12, interesting about Aragorn seeing Boromir as an implicit peer or, at least, someone _like him_ in a way that the hobbits naturally wouldn't. Makes sense.

DBratman @ #16, re: the nature of Isildur's fate and whether it was known in Gondor, are you thinking of this in the Council of Elrond? Elrond says that Isildur cut the Ring from Sauron's hand, and "At this the stranger, Boromir, broke in. 'So that is what became of the Ring! . . . we believed that it perished from the world in the ruin of his first realm.'"

HArai @ #19, it's like that Sidney Harris cartoon . . .
23. DemetriosX
Boromir as Aragon's peer: I hadn't really thought about it before, but there is something to that. For all that he was raised by Elves, Aragorn still spends a lot of time with the Dunedain. Boromir is the only other human in the group. Also, assuming everything goes well and Aragorn reclaims the crown of Gondor, Boromir will be his right-hand as the heir of the Stewards.
24. Elaine T
Isildur's fate, as far as Gondor knew, according to Faramir while discussing Isildur's Bane with Frodo: "An orc arrow slew Isuldur, so far as old tales tell. But orc-arrows are plenty, and the sight of one would not be taken as a sign of Doom by Boromir of Gondir. Had you this thing in keeping?"

Several pages later Faramir picks up the subject again of Isildur's Bane, speculating that it is a might heirloom and a matter of contention among the company. Along with this he comments about Mithrandir/Gandalf "... he was eager for stories of Isildur, though of him we had less to tell; for nothing certain was ever known among us of his end." And he goes on to say he guesses that Isildur took something from Sauron's hand, and that was what Gandalf was concerned about. He is only now making a connection between that and Isildur's Bane. And some pages later, Sam shoots his mouth off.

This is all in TT, Window on the West, chapter.
Hugh Arai
25. HArai
katenepveu@22: Thank you so much for that link. It is exactly what I was thinking of but I could never find it because I was mistakenly certain it was a Far Side cartoon.

DemetriosX@23: It seems to me that Boromir's attempt on the ring and Aragon's destiny unfairly overshadow the fact that Boromir is one hell of a person. The fact that Faramir (no idiot and quite something himself) loves and respects him, the honor the people of Gondor hold him in and his sense of duty to them, his performance on Caradhras and in Moria, his remorse for trying to take the Ring from Frodo, and his sacrifice for Merry and Pippin all indicate that to me. The tragedy is that (as Faramir points out) the Ring and Aragorn's claim to the throne were basically the two things best designed to trip him up and he got smacked with both at once.

Comparing re-reading this chapter to when I first read it, I'm always struck by how what the Fellowship (and 9-yr old me) all felt was "abandoning Frodo to probable failure and death" turned out to be the very best thing they could have done. Definite hand of the Valar vote here.
26. Viviannn
I think I always recognized, "Fool! Take off the ring!" as coming from Gandalf, perhaps because of his parting words to everyone at Moria: "Fly, fools!"

The question of why didn't Aragorn see that something was eating at Boromir is an interesting one. Certainly Boromir advertised it extensively. I wonder if it is because of Aragorn's big character flaw: arrogance. Aragorn (notice the similarity of the name to the word "arrogance": coincidence?) displays his arrogance most blatantly when he refuses, at least initially, to leave his sword with the doorwarden when going to see King Theoden. He behaves badly, almost brattily.

Aragorn is a man of "high blood," as Tolkien puts it somewhere (part of his eugenic/racist attitude that is so jarring today), and is only too well aware of it. Boromir is also one of the high-born; he's not descended from kings, but from the stewards of kings, so, close enough. Aragorn sees Boromir as something of a peer, and above other people. Because Boromir is a peer, Aragorn automatically thinks highly of him and tends to disregard anything that doesn't fit his inner picture of Boromir as a noble man.
27. clovis
Re: Aragon's Leadership
I feel that Aragon's 'failure of leadership' is more a result of Tolkien's somewhat heavy-handed foreshadowing of Boromir's fall. Incidentally and personally, this is the only chapter I find Boromir's character believable and sympathetic, his regret always rang true.
As to the sudden panic, I always put this down to the heightened atmosphere of the moment and the fact that the Fellowship still has not recovered from the death of Gandalf and so is, in effect, leaderless.
On the other hand, Tolkien had to split the Fellowship somehow. Here's Kingsley Amis discussing a disasterous and idiotic decision made by James Bond in the novel 'Dr No':

' has got to be captured by Dr No somehow, and the various distracting elements - the girl, Quarrel's hideous death, the weird appearance and frightening behaviour of the buggy - may with luck prevent our noticing that Bond is termporarily helpless in his creator's grip.'
The James Bond Dossier
Kingsley Amis
28. MTG
Re Aragorn (and others) not noticing Boromir's descent to betrayal, I think it's important not to let knowledge of the eventual outcome ("Give me the Ring!") with what's apparent to the observers. In my mind, there's a discussion on the fly between the Three Hunters as they cross the Emyn Muil along the lines of "I knew he was unhappy about destroying it, but I never thought he'd actually try to seize it."

Only Gandalf really has an appreciation of the insidious power of the Ring. He would have spotted the danger had he been there, no doubt.

Vivianne@26: Being asked to leave Anduril at the doors of Meduseld was akin to asking the US President-Elect to leave the Constitution at the door. It's much more than just a sword in this context (see when Aragorn reveals himself to Sauron via Palantir later - he uses Anduril as proof-of-identity).

And Boromir has proved his credentials in spades as regards his courage and devotion to the cause of fighting Sauron. What everyone else in the Fellowship misses here is his despair - which I'm inclined to see as his own 'choice' rather than some lever the Powers use to get everyone going the right way.
29. DBratman
Kate @22, Elaine T @24, and SoonLee @21 have all found elements of what I was thinking of when I referred to evidence that the exact nature of Isildur's fate was unknown in Gondor. Thanks.

The idea of Aragorn being blind to Boromir's faults is an interesting one, but I'm not sure how well the specific descriptions of it hold up. Aragorn knows the Ring is dangerous; he does not desire to use it, and keeps well away from claiming it. This is a major difference from the Aragorn in the films, who seems to fear that he's inherited some sort of genetic weakness from Isildur.

This is in fact more like Boromir. Boromir has been told clearly that the Ring cannot be used, and neither Aragorn nor Gandalf grasps that Boromir doesn't really believe it. As a man of war, Boromir believes that sufficient application of force can solve any problem. (Remind you of anyone in recent history?) The Ring is an overwhelming force; Boromir considers it insane to throw it away. He views the plan the way HArai describes it @ 19. Gandalf would reply, yes, step 2 is indeed a doozy as you say, but it's the only chance they have. Also, as Boromir and some critics fail to appreciate, Middle-earth is a moral world where, if you put forth your utmost effort, fate and "chance" (always a loaded word in Tolkien) will indeed aid you. But you have to put forth that effort first. There's no "free gift."
Hugh Arai
30. HArai
DBratman @29: That's a very good point, I think. Aragorn, the Elves and Gandalf know (or were!)enough of the history of Middle-earth to know to if you strive hard enough, long enough and steadfastly enough there will sometimes be aid unlooked for. Boromir hasn't got this perspective to comfort him.
Soon Lee
31. SoonLee
Viviannn @26:
Aragorn is a man of "high blood," as Tolkien puts it somewhere (part of his eugenic/racist attitude that is so jarring today), and is only too well aware of it.

It didn't seem so bad to me and I wonder if it's because of differing backgrounds. Our current head of state is still Queen Liz the second.
32. legionseagle
SoonLee@31 You make an interesting point about Liz II. I'm not sure that living under a modern constitutional monarchy isn't more removed from LOTR notions of kingship even than living under a Republic, though. I mean, "In place of the Dark Lord you would set up a Queen!" loses a lot of resonance if one of your key mental images for "queen" equates to "miniature person in pink, followed everywhere by corgis, has appalling taste in hats".

I think there are three things being conflated here; first, whether the whole business about Aragorn's birth, and the blood of Numenor running more purely in him than in other men of the era can be equated to twentieth century eugenic/racist theories or whether it is simply part of the heroic milieu - after all, tracing one's descent from the gods is all part of the epic tradition. Secondly, how far Tolkien's own personal politics feed into the overall structure of LOTR including the "bloodline" issues. Thirdly, whether having a constitutional monarch as Head of State necessarily makes citizens of a nation more likely to accept racist ideologies than those living under different constitutional arrangments, which is where I think the distraction creeps in (and I'm English myself).

I have, to accompany the read-through, also re-read Tolkien's letters and have to say that on political grounds there are certain areas where I've had to hold my nose, grit my teeth and remind myself very forcibly that having shitty personal opinions does not prevent people from creating great works of art - Wagner, Eliot, Pound and Kipling all spring to mind.

But I think there's a level in LOTR in which personal belief transmutes itself into something more universal, which is part of the essence of art - the ability to speak to all types and conditions, but it does still carry the flavour of the soil it grew in and how that flavour falls on the tongue is going to be really affected by how each individual palate has been cultivated. To a degree national influences are going to be reflected in how problematic issues are processed by the reader, certainly, but there are different strands in everyone's national experience,also. If you've had quite a lot of exposure to people like William Morris, for example, that's going to make parts of the LOTR resonate while others are more likely to fall flat.

A rather roundabout way of saying "It's always more complicated!"
Hugh Arai
33. HArai
It seems clear the abilities separating the Numenoreans (and so Aragorn)from other Men are tied to their descent from Elves and even a Maiar.
It also is evident that the inhabitants of Middle-Earth believe in hereditary rulership.

I am uncertain to what extent that indicates or advocates eugenic/racist theories. After all, Feanor and his sons were held as one of the noblest houses of the Elves and they made horrible mistakes more than anyone else. Numenor fell because of their hereditary king's lack of wisdom and they had the "purest" blood. Isildur failed to destroy the Ring when he had a chance. It doesn't seem like "proper bloodlines are the most important thing" is the message Tolkien was providing. At least, speaking for myself, that's not the message I received. I'd be interested in other perspectives.

As for Aragon's arrogance: I've always felt he was one of the least arrogant nobles Tolkien presented. Obviously peoples milage may vary.
Terry Lago
34. dulac3
I have to admit that hearing Aragorn called arrogant really causes a disconnect in my brain. I am having a hard time seeing anywhere that arrogance is ever expressed, explicitly or implicitly, by him. Sounds more like a modern distaste with the concept or aristocracy/nobility in general and a blanket assumption that any member of this class must be an arrogant prick.

Also, the racist card is used way too much against Tolkien, usually I find by those who have not read very widely in his works. As has already been pointed out it is very often those members of the "purest" and most powerful races who perform the worst deeds and end up being punished for it, usually in horrible ways. The simple fact that Tolkien has the epic convention of descent from the gods, and hence powerful bloodlines, in his works does not make him anything close to a Nazi. He seems to make it pretty clear that 'pure blood' won't do a lick to save you, or ensure the rightness of your actions, unless they're backed by moral intent and genuine wisdom.

From Feanor to Turin to the last King of Numenor there are plenty of 'pure blooded' 'good guys' (or should-be-good-guys if the racce argument were to hold) who display less than savoury characteristics and who are punished for their evil actions or poor judgement. Even in LotR we have the 'little guy' as the true hero, not the foretold King of the true blood. I guess you can rankle at the very fact that there are 'big vs. little' people in Middle Earth at all and it's not one big happy commune, but I think that displays the prejudices of the reader at least as much as those of Tolkien. The fact is that all societies have many strata that make them up and Tolkien in no way states that anyone on this scale is useless or unimportant...pure of blood or otherwise.
35. legionseagle
As I commented above, Tolkien's work - most specifically The Hobbit and LOTR transcend the personal prejudices of Tolkien the Man, which (I believe) is what Art (I use the capital deliberately) can and should do. My extreme disapproval of Tolkien (the Man, not the Artist)'s political views are entirely based upon his letters and other "Real World" indications of what those views are.

I do think Tolkien was a highly intelligent, nuanced individual whom (assuming a TARDIS) - if I had met him in full political swing at some cocktail party in the mid 1940s - I would probably have backed away from pronto, but who was also a great genius engaged on a great work of Art.
Terry Lago
36. dulac3
I was more responding to Viviannn's criticism than you legionseagle, though I'd be curious exactly which letters gave you the squeebies so I could go check them out.

I'm also sure there's plenty about Tolkien the man that I'd dislike as opposed to Tolkien the artist if I ever met him, but I think the way people label him as racist mainly because of the existence of the Numenoreans and some stray comments about the Numenorean bloodline producing a powerful result is unfair; especially if you look at the wider context of the members of these so-called pure bloodlines and powerful households and see what a mixed lot you have. Nowhere from an analysis of his works in this way do I come away with the idea that Tolkien somehow felt that 'pure blood' justified the individual or their actions (though it may have allowed them to be more powerful or stronger than others). Tolkien's moral judgements are always based on the free actions and decisions of the individual, not on their heritage.
Kate Nepveu
37. katenepveu
Viviannn @ #26, _did_ Boromir advertise it extensively? Or is it that Tolkien only mentions him when he's doing something plot-relevant and, post-Lorien, that means falling under the Ring's influence?

The only thing I can think of that might be called "extensive" is his behavior in the boats, and even that could be open to more than one interpretation. (It is also behind Aragorn, as Elaine T points out, but then so was Gollum.)

But I think I read Aragorn's behavior somewhat differently from you in general. I was struck, for instance, at how much Aragorn _didn't_ pull the "hey, rightful King by birth here" on Boromir at the Council of Elrond.

General comment on purity of blood and such: yes, it's true that there is a relatively weak correlation between purity of blood and virtue in the stories, but still, the idea of a genetic hierarchy is just always going to weird me out, even when lots of other mythologies have done it before, etc etc etc. This relates to the Problem of the Orcs, about which more later.

As for fate/chance eventually rewarding effort in Middle-earth because it's a moral universe: maybe, and maybe you're one of the Children of Hurin, and here's the thing: _how do you know ahead of time_?

Instead, I would say that the most textually-supportable flaw of Boromir's is that he's too insular to recognize the wisdom of Elrond and Gandalf when they say the Ring can't be used. If you take their certainty out of the picture, he looks a lot more reasonable, up to the point where he snaps and tries to rob Frodo.
38. legionseagle
dulac3: I'm working from the Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien; edited by Humphrey Carpenter Allen & Unwin 1981 and the letters which (in particular) squick me are his letter of 6 October 1944 (letter 83) in which Tolkien expresses his support for Franco and his contempt for those who disagree( "But hatred of our church is the real only final foundation of the C of E -") and the letter where Tolkien tells his appalling son (in December 1943) that he regards the victory of Hitler as equivalent to the victory of "American sanitation, morale-pep, feminism and mass production -"(I do have the cite but would be encouraged to believe others had the honest to acknowledge it existed).
Hugh Arai
39. HArai
katenepveu @37: I can certainly understand the idea of genetic hierarchy weirding you out. I have no intention of dismissing that. My argument is that to me Tolkien is saying Aragon is long-lived, foresighted and has healing powers (is like an elf basically) because he's partially descended from elves and a Maia. To me, Tolkien doesn't say that's why Aragon is the rightful King. Aragorn is the rightful king because his dad was Arathorn, not because he's a superior genetic breed. Hereditary rulership has it's own issues but to me, those seem to be the ones involved. I'm not sure I'm explaining what I mean very well though...
40. DBratman
dulac3, by all means read the letters, and perhaps you will find as I do that their import is entirely different from what has been suggested here. Just for one thing: Tolkien wasn't a Fascist, he was a Catholic, and his political views were governed by that, and I cannot figure out the purported reading of #53 in the slightest.

You might also read his robust denunciations of Hitler and Nazism in #30 and #45, and his dismay at orclike behavior by both sides in #71 and #81.
Terry Lago
41. dulac3
DBratman @40: I have read the Letters and found them both insightful and enjoyable. I was curious which of them caused the reaction legionseagle mentioned. I may have found some of the letters expressive of a man of his times, but I didn't find any offensive.
42. legionseagle
dulac3@41 Well, I appear to be in a minority here, but I find letter 83 (in particular) very offensive. It isn't just that I find support for Franco offensive in itself (though it is a political stance I do find inherently offensive) but the way in which Tolkien chooses to dismiss the intelligence and motivations of those who disagree with him on the topic of Franco (in that particular case, C.S.Lewis).
43. DBratman
Tolkien in letter #83 sounds to me like a man upset because his intelligence and motivations had been dismissed by those who disagreed with him. He is dismayed by Lewis having fallen into the trap of believing every atrocity attributed to Franco and dismissing any attributed to the other side. (Notice that Tolkien is not insisting that Franco is pure.)

And did Lewis, beneath his surface friendship to Catholics, have a "deep laid hatred" (as Tolkien puts it) of that church? I'm afraid that there is much evidence that he did. Tolkien knew him very well for many years, and testifies to many harsh experiences (some noted in the Carpenter biography).

Lewis was an Ulster Protestant, and prejudice against Catholics was bred in him from childhood. He says so, outright, in his memoir Surprised by Joy. He also says that friendship with Tolkien overcame this, and it did so in some respects, but there may have been a deeper level Lewis was unaware of. (Just as you will often hear from blacks that white people who think they've overcome racism still display it in ways they're unaware of.)

Tolkien's recorded these problems in the context of reading Lewis's book Letters to Malcolm. A keen analysis of the anti-Catholicism permeating that book, and which is likely to be what distressed Tolkien about it, by Eric Seddon was published in Mythlore 99/100 in 2007.
44. legionseagle
However much evidence exists as to whether Lewis was, or was not, an anti-Catholic bigot, this isn't the elephant in this particular living room.

There is a lot about Franco anyone might reasonably disapprove of, and which plenty of people did disapprove of, at the time (for example some of the Left's 'corduroy panzers' whom Tolkien sneers at in the letter did not, in fact, flee to America but left their bones in Spain).

The specific things one might disapprove of about Franco were that he was a fascist dictator who overturned the democratically elected government of his native Spain in a military coup backed by Hitler and Mussolini, perhaps especially because it gave Hitler a chance to practice tactics such as saturation bombing of civilian targets which might come in handy later.

Where Tolkien suggests that the only motive anyone (not merely Lewis) might have for expressing disapproval of Franco is anti-Catholic bigotry I find thata piece of political reductionism which I find hard to stomach. The blanket condemnation of the CofE which he then goes on to make ("hatred of our church is, after all, the real only final foundation of the CofE") is, itself, a piece of nasty sectarianism.

Furthermore, Tolkien goes on to talk about Campbell's stories and how "the one I most enjoyed was the tale of greasy Epstein (the sculptor) and how he fought him and put him in hospital for a week". A victory, I'm sure, in which Campbell's twenty-year age advantage on "greasy" Epstein mattered not one iota to the fairness and justness of his cause - whatever that may have been.

And as for the rest of letter 83 -"If a ragnarok would burn all the slums, and gasworks, and shabby garages, and long arc-lit suburbs it cd. for me burn all the works of art - and I'd go back to trees." - well, what about the people living in the slums and the arc-lit suburbs? Are they to burn too?

As I said, I do not think Tolkien's personal politics do particularly affect the greatness of his achievement in LOTR. But I do find them very distasteful.
45. DBratman
"This isn't the elephant in this particular living room." Actually, it is, because Tolkien is not here to praise Franco, but to discuss anti-Franco prejudice.

"Franco ... was a fascist dictator who overturned the democratically elected government of his native Spain in a military coup backed by Hitler and Mussolini." Actually the political situation in Spain was far, far murkier than that. The Republic's political legitimacy was much more questionable than "democratically elected" implies, and from Tolkien's point of view the expropriation of Church property by the government and the mass murder of priests and nuns (not by the government, but they were unable to stop it) were offensive in the highest degree.

Whether Franco's reaction, which was billed as a defense of the Church, was justified is highly arguable. But that's the point: it's arguable.

And if you can point to Hitler and Mussolini supporting one side, you can point to Stalin supporting the other. It was a pretty distasteful situation altogether.

I do not see where "Tolkien suggests that the only motive anyone (not merely Lewis) might have for expressing disapproval of Franco is anti-Catholic bigotry." From the sentence, "C.S.L.'s reactions were odd," the rest of the paragraph is all about Lewis, not about anti-Francoites in general. And the burden of Lewis's reaction is not "expressing disapproval of Franco" but "believing all that is said against Franco, and nothing that is said for him," which turns out to consist of accepting one side's atrocity stories and ignoring the other's, rather than engaging in a serious discussion of either side's political legitimacy.

If you were to take your argument that Franco "was a fascist dictator who overturned the democratically elected government of Spain" and turn it into a claim that every story about bad deeds committed by Franco's forces was true, and every story about bad deeds committed by the noble Republicans was false, then you'd be doing what Tolkien complained of.

"The blanket condemnation of the CofE ... is, itself, a piece of nasty sectarianism." It does give that impression, but it is also a reaction from a man whose best friend had, on other occasions, made him feel like "a shabby little Catholic," in Tolkien's own words. Anti-Catholic prejudice was strong in England, and Tolkien's view of the CofE's foundation is reductionist but correct. He's in a position a bit like an American Indian grumbling about the whites, not that the "foundation" was the same, but that he had cause to feel aggrieved over centuries of bad treatment. And Tolkien's real point was that that attitude found concrete expression in Lewis.

I'll give you "greasy Epstein." Tolkien probably knew nothing about Epstein, though I'm sure he disliked Epstein's work artistically, and he here seems infected by Campbell's boorishness. I don't know the background of this particular story, but it's relevant that Campbell was a pathological liar and braggart about his own heroic accomplishments. Though he was also charismatic and charming, and even Lewis, who disagreed with almost everything Campbell said, greatly enjoyed meeting him.

As for the "ragnarok," do you think Tolkien is actually setting out a practical blueprint for city planning? Surely a man may vent his spleen in private conversation with his son without having his politics condemned wholesale thereby. Were we all held to that standard, very few would pass. You imagine Tolkien "in full political swing at some cocktail party," but he would be unlikely to do anything of the sort at such an occasion - giving him all the more need to express himself privately. In any case, the Inklings, where all the above took place, was a private gathering of friends (to which Campbell was invited, Lewis doing so after having made it clear that he didn't share Campbell's opinions) who were used to furious argument. Lewis, who took Blake's motto "Opposition is true friendship" to heart, would vehemently have agreed.
Soon Lee
46. SoonLee
But she's our "miniature person in pink, followed everywhere by corgis, has appalling taste in hats"!!! And that gives us the right to criticise her & family, but woe betide any upstart furriners that dare do the same!

I confess to some confused & inconsistent feelings about the whole thing: the inherent superiority of certain 'races of man' & the right to rule based on accidents of birth are not ideas I believe in. But none of that stopped/stops me from enjoying a great piece of writing. It is a work of fiction after all.
Kate Nepveu
47. katenepveu
HArai, I think you're right that the text does take the attitude that the immediate reason that Aragorn is the rightful King is his unbroken line of descent, and not the content/source of that line besides "from other Kings"--but they are awfully closely related since I don't think there's any instance in the extended history of Middle-earth where the leadership of an established ruler of "lower" blood is challenged by someone of "higher" blood.

Or, as you say, yes, hereditary rulership has its own issues. =>
Hugh Arai
48. HArai

"High" and "Low" seem to be at least in part related to exposure to the Valar: the elves that settled in Valinor and their descendents are the "High Elves", the Men that settled Numenor and their descendents are the "High Men".

Looked at it that way, we have Thingol challenged by the returning Noldor, especially the Sons of Feanor. That does seem to be it though. Of course when all of Elven nobility seems to be what? 4 generations and 7 families? there isn't much movement going on :)

For the Men, again I think you're right since "high" challenging "low" always seems to be the Numenorean lineage conquering Sauron's followers. I guess there's Hurin and Turin always ending up in charge, but hey... cursed by Morgoth.

I think having thought about it though, the biggest textual argument against "purity of blood" is that the 4 Elf/Man unions are all loving and good for the world, the lovers and their families (except arguably in Arwen's case). Heck, we can throw Thingol and Melian in there too. Mixing is a good thing.
49. Firefly
Viviannn @26: I think you misinterpret Aragorn's behaviour at Edoras. Far from throwing a tantrum, he's being carefully diplomatic by the standards of the Rohirrim. Remember this isn't civilised Rivendell, or even fairly-civilised Gondor: we're in Warrior-Hero country, modelled by Tolkien on the Germanic epics he was so familiar with. The arrival at Meduseld in fact closely mirrors passages in Beowulf.

In that poem, the hero and his warband arrive at the hall of the Danish king. The warden says something like, "Heavily-armed strangers, declare your lineage and be quick about it!" and Beowulf immediately begins, "My father was the famous chieftain Ecgtheow..." and so on. King Hrothgar then considers what he knows about the visitors, and receives them with appropriate ceremony. In this sort of warrior culture 'stranger' can equate to 'enemy' unless custom is precisely followed, so it's not arrogance but essential etiquette to keep stressing who you are and what is due to your status.

Things don't go as smoothly at Edoras, thanks to Wormtongue. Aragorn has been a warrior of Rohan, and knows the demand that the party disarm is an improper one, a studied insult which has to be responded to, since letting it pass would cause their standing to plummet and reduce the chances of getting the Rohirrim on their side. His answer amounts to a reminder of his stupendous credentials combined with a rebuke to Théoden for discourtesy, followed by an unfavourable comparison of Meduseld with a woodman's cot. Háma is probably burning with shame, not to mention apprehension. Insults are not trivial in this culture, and he isn't being entirely ironic when he asks if Aragorn wants to fight all the men in Edoras; by his lights, a sufficiently pissed-off hero might decide to do just that.

Aragorn can now let Gandalf defuse the situation, honour having been satisfied and Wormtongue's first attempt to sabotage the meeting evaded. Háma is impressed with his dignified restraint (instead of thinking "What a wimp, fancy just handing over his sword!"), and everyone in Edoras will shortly know who he is and be equally impressed.

In case anyone has missed the point Gandalf repeats it in his "The courtesy of your hall is somewhat lessened..." speech; by which he doesn't mean merely "Ooh, how rude!" Discourtesy from a king is against custom, unlucky, dangerous, likely to create discord; which of course was just what Wormtongue had in mind. It's also the sort of thing Théoden's unpopular grandfather was notorious for, and you can bet there's been some muttering about him lately.

All that said, the description 'bratty' isn't inappropriate to heroic behaviour. Epic heroes from Homer onwards have tended to be bratty about their status. Imagine what would have happened if anyone had told Achilles to leave his kit at the door!
Kate Nepveu
50. katenepveu
Firefly, I should really read Beowulf, huh? And I'd completely forgotten about Theoden's grandfather and will have to look him up.
Hugh Arai
51. HArai
Firefly@49,Kate@50: The stories and behavior of all the Edain have always seemed strongly influenced that way to me. Complete with pride in lineage, tremendous determination/stubborness, oaths with unpleasant consquences and of course nasty things happening to people who deal with dragons.
52. joyceman
I know this is long dead but...

Can anyone more linguistically talented parse out what Boromir means when, while trying to persuade Froco, he claims to be '...neither theif nor tracker'

I get theif, but why tracker?
Soon Lee
53. SoonLee
Maybe because both thieves and trackers operate under conditions of stealth and Boromir, proud Man that he is, of noble lineage, feels that it would be beneath him to skulk around.
Hugh Arai
54. HArai
Joyceman@52: I think that was a dig at Aragon and the Dunedain who have fallen to be "mere rangers" and not "True Men" like Boromir. Part of Boromir's rationalization of why he should have the ring and not Aragorn.

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