of the Rings : Book 2, Chapter 9
The Great River
A Discussion Led by Eledhwen
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Chapter 9: 1. The Great River - Eledhwen
1. Welcome to the Great River. Anduin, running through the lands of Middle-earth from North to South, passing through barren wastes, verdant grasslands, dank marshes, and rich coastal country. A barrier every bit as enormous as the Misty Mountains, particularly to the water-shy hobbits.
Tolkien leads us into this wild
country with another of those pieces of elegant description with which LOTR
is strewn, and in particular he says, “There
was no sign of living moving things, save birds. Of these there were many …”
This desertion of the lands must be a fairly recent occurrence in the long
history of Arda, for Gollum grew up alongside Anduin, in the Gladden Fields
where Gil-galad and Isildur fought their last battle against Sauron. Once,
it seems, this area was populous. In your opinion, was the reason for people
leaving the riverbanks simply the threat of Sauron, or is it more
have become quite inhospitable - Blue
You have Dol Guldur across the River, from which Sauron had been trying to search the Anduin until ousted by the White Council; Sauron repopulating Moria with Orcs; Saruman searching the river himself; and more recently, with the threat of war from both Saruman and from Mordor, the people of Rohan having depopulated the Eastfold.
The vale of Anduin - Idril
Many different peoples lived in the vale of Anduin at one point or another. The Rohirrim originally came from the more northerly areas. The ancestors of the Hobbits originally lived there, too, and had enough contact with the Rohirrim to be remembered in their legends (as well as in commonly derived words like "hobbit" and "holbytla"). Dwarves lived in the northernmost part of the valley, in the Grey Mountains, and had interaction with the Rohirrim as well (e.g., the necklace made from the teeth of of Scatha the Worm). The Entwives had gardens along the more southerly parts of Anduin.
I think many of the people of Anduin left because of Sauron's influence. Certainly this was true of the Hobbits' ancestors, although some communities such as Smeagol's and Deagol's never did migrate across the mountains. The Dwarves abandoned the Grey Mountains due to problems with dragons. The gardens of the Entwives were destroyed in the Second Age and became the Brown Lands.
The Rohirrim had lost population during the plague, were troubled by the rebirth of evil in Mirkwood and the Misty Mountains, and I think may have overgrazed the area in which they lived. Rohan was originally a province of Gondor, Calenardhon, that was virtually depopulated by the plague; the Stewards invited the Rohirrim to live there in order to have a strong ally along their frontier.
Later on, by the time of The Hobbit, men from the south were slowly making their way back into the valley of Anduin. I think they may have been of the same ethnic group as the men of the Long Lake, Dale, etc. The temporary banishment of the Necromancer/Sauron by the White Council probably did much to encourage resettlement of the area. Grimbeorn the Old (either the son or grandson of Beorn) was their leader at the time of LOTR.
Sounds like it had become
Orc country. - Annael
No doubt because of Sauron. After the Dwarves were forced to abandon Moria and Sauron's power grew again, all the country between Dol Guldur and Mordor became dangerous.
Gil-galad and Elendil - Kimi
Fought their last battle against Sauron within Mordor itself, near the Barad-dur. Before entering Mordor, they fought a great battle on the Dagorlad before the gates of Mordor. The Gladden Fields, where Isildur died, was quite a long way north.
The Brown Lands that the Company can see across the River were blasted during the wars against Sauron. The Wold must have become undesirable then, too.
Further north, including the Gladden Fields area where Smeagol came from, Tolkien says (in a letter) that Smeagol's folk may have fled from the shadow of Dol Guldur. Human communities close enough to be threatened by Dol Guldur may have done the same.
There were also disasters
like the Great Plague of 1636 that devastated Gondor and spread into
Eek! - Eledhwen
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Chapter 9: The Great River: 2. Boromir - Eledhwen
2. Boromir is depicted as growing tenser and tenser on the River, making his companions Merry and Pippin restless and ill at ease. Based on the evidence in this chapter, and previous events, is it possible for the reader to guess ahead here, and work out what Boromir will try to do? Or could his tension be attributed to the long journey, jealousy of Aragorn perhaps, and a wish to get back to Minas Tirith? What did you think on first reading these sections of the book?
As I recall . . . - Annael
Even on the first read I thought it all had to do with the Ring. It never occurred to me that Boromir had any issues with Aragorn. At this point we're still getting everything from the hobbits POV and they don't seem to notice much about other people's interactions! I am looking forward to seeing how Aragorn's and Boromir's relationship is handled in the movie.
The clues are all there - Blue
Boromir's reaction when corrected at the Council of Elrond; the testing of his heart by Galadriel in Rivendell; and now his slow descent into apparent madness.
I think that we can guess at this point that Boromir will do something desperate, as he is consumed by desire for the Ring. The only question is what, and when.
I'm with you - Frodo
that the evidence is there for a crisis of faithfulness on Boromir's part. I also concur that we cannot predict (in a FIRST reading) Boromir's future behavior.
I use for evidence the way Tolkien reveals the Boromir/Frodo interaction in the next chapter. Boromir is a complex character who can swing quickly from an almost involuntary succumbing to the voice of temptation, to a fevered attempt at persuasion, to a fell mood, to humble repentance, and finally to an honorable and noble sacrifice and end of his life, all within a few minutes of time.
IMHO, there are too many variables and complexities of human behavior for us to predict the actual path that Boromir would choose. Tolkien wrote characters with depth and complexity. I think it more than possible for Tolkien to have chosen alternatives to the actual end of Boromir that still would have advanced the plot and been consistent with the character development to that point in the narrative.
Or, to put it another way, yes, the hints are all there for what eventually took place, but what took place was not the SOLE outcome necessitated by the foreshadowing of the text.
notice Boromir's behavior??? - Binky
Pippin and Merry did...and I think Aragorn as well (as was mentioned keeping Sam and Frodo with him) but up til now Frodo seems more concerned with Gollum...and perhaps with Gollums designs on the ring...yet
he knew Boromir wanted him to go to Minas Tirith...but did he realize how deperate Boromir had become????
that the passage about Frodo noticing.. - Patty
what he said in Lorien was when I first believed that Boromir would be major trouble, although I "first" read this story far too long ago to remember what my first impression was.
But clearly from the first this story is told from the little people's perspective, and they are suspious of the big people until it is proven that they can be trusted. Boromir, for all his galantry at Caradhras never gave you reason to believe that the side he showed you in Rivendell, full of pride and later stating that it was folly to throw it away--he never gave you reason to believe that he didn't deserve those suspicions.
I think here it is
obvious... - leo
that Boromir is after the Ring, no need to explain why:) All that he is doing seems to be thinking about the Ring, watching Frodo, thinking about the Ring, etc. etc.
it's like a climax you can predict...
The groundwork was already
laid at The Coucil of Elrond - Nenya
I believe the readers are intended to guess at Boromir's intentions, or at least guess that the temptation will eventually prove too great for him. This isn't a spoiler, but instead gives the readers a good chance at looking closely at the rest of the company, and getting a feel for their resolve as well, contrasted against Boromir's actions. It also serves as a great example of how powerful the lure of the ring is, and so having the reader slowly drawn along with Boromir's descent into temptation rather than to be completely fooled until the actual confrontation between Boromir and Frodo serves as a great illustration of the Ring's powers.
I was never in doubt - Pteppic
what caused Boromir's tension on the river. I don't know if I expected him to go for the ring, but I knew he would cause trouble eventually. I get very suspicious or maybe even paranoid aobut characters (it took me a long time to trust Strider completely, even after Weathertop), so when Boromir said what he said during the Council of Elrond, I thought it very plain that he didn't take the dangers of the Ring seriously, or was blinded by the power it offered. This was, for me, confirmed with the visit to Lothlorien, and Galadriel's "promises". Again, I don't think I predicted exactly what Boromir would do, but I was sure he'd cause trouble.
Nice one, Sherlock. Or should I say, 'Trust No-One' Mulder. :-) - AlanPartridge
The Truth Is Out There! *casts a paranoid look over his shoulder* - Pteppic
I think we've had enough
hints - Kimi
to know that Boromir wants the Ring to come to Minas Tirith. I can't remember what I thought when I first read it, but Boromir betrayed his feelings in Lorien.
(As an aside: I suspect that it's no coincidence that Aragorn put Frodo and Sam in his boat, to keep them a little further from Boromir.)
The gleam in Boromir's eyes is another clue that he's increasingly likely to do something desperate to prevent the Ring's being taken to Mordor.
First reading? What's
that? - AlanPartridge
According to a book I'm reading for my Uni course, there really is no such thing as a first reading. We all interpret 'new' texts in the light of previous ones we've read. Also I can't remember what I thought when I read it the first time.
However, for the attentive reader (or the one who knows what is happening) there are a number of clues dropped by Tolkien, as you have stated.
The fact that Tolkien goes as far to tell us that Merry and Pippin are made uncomfortable by his strange mood and mutterings is a big clue that Boromir is not right in himself.
Your points about jealousy and desire to get to Minas Tirith are perceptive too, for surely they are linked to his desire for the Ring. As he gets nearer to his home he is reminded how desperate its situation is becoming and how much strength will need to save it. His jealousy of Aragorn also fuels the desire that with the ring he could stand against the upstart ruffian who claims to be king od *his* land.
Asking is it possible for the reader to guess ahead? Hmmm...not even the wise can see all ends - but some people are good guessers. My friend's dad guessed the Tyler Durden thing in Fight CLub and we didn't guess it.
Likewise some ppl remember somethings and others don't.
I think Tolkien wanted the attentive reader a chance to guess, but to not give it away too obviously. We know something is wrong with Boromir; but what is it?
I believed the ring - Binky
was working its evil on Boromir. I had my suspicions about him from the begining...back in Rivendell I thought he was going to be some kind of trouble.
interesting how Lorien
worked on the others for the better and they seemed to either make
more firm their own decision to go forward (Frodo,Sam,Aragorn)...or
their own personal conflicts were resolved (Gimli and Legolas)...yet
it seemed not to had any kind of positive effect on Boromir. What
did he do while there? Sit under the mallorn trees and sharpen his
sword and mutter about perilious things...???
It seems he came out with his own jealousy and paranoia even stronger than before.
It seems he not only took his peril with him...it doubled while he was there...
Cool..."Sit under the mallorn trees and sharpen his sword and mutter about perilious things... - AlanPartridge
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Chapter 9: The Great River: 3. Gollum - Eledhwen
3. Another ‘did you work this out?’ question. Gollum has been following the Fellowship since Moria, presumably picking up their trail whilst journeying westwards through the Mines, and turning back to follow them. His footsteps were noticed by Frodo in ‘A Journey in the Dark’, and again on the borders of Lórien, coupled with the brief sight of his bulbous eyes. Now Sam, Frodo and Aragorn agree that it is indeed Gollum who is trailing them, but did you as the reader beat them to it? In addition, how has Gollum changed from the slimy but slightly comic creature we last saw in The Hobbit, declaring “We hates it for ever!” as Bilbo escaped from the goblins?
Even this many years later - Stumpy
I can remember thinking how the sound behind Frodo made me think of Gollum and Bilbo under the mountain. I was fairly certain it was Gollum, and was not surprised when he caught up to them at Lorien.
I figured it out . . . - Annael
when they were in the tree on the borders of Lothlorien. When I first read about the footsteps in Moria, I had no clue what they were, only that the Fellowship was being followed. I probably thought they had something to do with why Aragorn was so fearful of Moria. But when Haldir talked about something like a "large squirrel" in the tree, the light dawned.
I think that it became
obvious in Lorien - Blue
When he crept up to the Elves' flet. I don't think that I figured it out when he first showed up in Moria. This, to me, is one of the big "what if" moments in LOTR. The Elves could easily have shot and killed him, they refrained from doing so only because they were afraid of alerting the orcs who were patrolling the area as well. What if they had done so?
Obviously, Frodo and Sam might not have been able to pick their way through the Dead Marshes. Once to the Black Gate, they had no idea how else to enter Mordor. Would they, as Frodo stated, have simply walked to the Gate and be captured because they knew no other way? This is a critical moment, because the Elves had no reason to spare Gollum at this point - far more perilous to Gollum than even at the secret pool in Ithilien when Faramir spared him.
it was Gollum in Moria. - septembrist
Gollum's hate and cunningness quotients have increased at least tenfold since The Hobbit. Not only does he lose the Ring to Baggins, he goes out to find it and is imprisoned by Sauron himself. It would certainly give me an axe to grind.
Gollum hid in Moria to
escape the Nazgul - Idril
He made his way through the mines to the west gate (the one through which the Fellowship entered), but was unable to open it from the inside. The entrace of the Fellowship was extremely fortunate for him! Another one of the long chain of coincidences surroinding the Ring? Apart from other ways that he could have discovered the Fellowship (spying on them, following their noise/scent, etc.), perhaps the Ring drew Gollum onward.
The Ring did draw him,
didn't it? - AlanPartridge
Maybe subconsciously, like the power of Sauron drew Gollum to the borders of Mordor where he was captured.
Yes, I think so - Idril
Gollum's long posession of the Ring had left its mark, and he was very sensitive to its influence. I think it subconsciously drew him westward in Moria to the place where the Fellowship was about to enter ... considering how huge the mines were, it's unlikely that he'd spotted them otherwise.
it's hard to say... - leo
because I can't remember reading it for the first time, but I guess after Lorien it's obvious that Gollum is following them...
I guessed in Moria too... - AlanPartridge
I think that was perhaps too obvious. What else had glowing eyes in the LOTR universe that would track Frodo and not attack the Fellowship.
I wanna do some reading to answer the question about Gollum.
I think I guessed in Moria. - Kimi
I'm sure I knew in Lórien.
Gollum is a good deal more frightening than he was in "The Hobbit". The fact that we've yet to get a good look at him (in LOTR) increases this sense of menace. And we know from Gandalf's account that Gollum has been through some hideous experiences in the years since he lost the Ring.
The fact that he's been described as a sort of ruined hobbit makes it even worse, too; in "The Hobbit" we had no real idea what sort of creature he was. Now we can envisage him as a damaged version of the hobbits that we are already fond of.
my suspicions in Moria - Binky
and like Kimi had it confirmed right before the fellowship entered Lorien.
I remembered wondering as I read the book the first time if Gollum would show up again and how.
Its a bit sad to think of one of those lovable hobbits as almost beyond redeemption...
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Chapter 9: The Great River: 4. the land
grows dark - Eledhwen
4. More description takes us swiftly down the river, the atmosphere darkening as we travel south with the Fellowship. What techniques does Tolkien use here to add tension and foreboding?
Lots of things start to
add up - Blue
The river, which is at first quite calm, becomes more dangerous, with rapids.
An attack from the orcs. Nazgul overhead.
Boromir is going slowly mad.
The open land on either side of the river becomes hilly, eventually closing them in on either side - even the Argonoth is threatening...to all but Aragorn.
list. I'd add . . . - Annael Nice, both. - Eledhwen
being on the river gives the sense of being carried away, not entirely in control, not knowing what's around the next bend, danger appearing without warning - as happens when they are nearly swept into the rapids of Sarn Gebir. An underlying theme here is not being able to see ahead. The fog on the river echoes the fog in the minds of the Fellowship about what to do next.
I hadn't thought about hills or fog.
Nice, both. - Eledhwen
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Chapter 9: The Great River: 5. the winged
shape - Eledhwen
The next Event to befall them is the ambush by the Orcs and the felling of the winged shape in the sky. Frodo’s old wound hurts and all of the Fellowship feel foreboding and fear at its presence. However Legolas keeps cooler and shoots it down so it falls on the eastern bank. It is now five and a half months (October 11 to February 23) since the Nazgűl were swept away at the Ford of Bruinen. Plenty of time, it seems, for them to get back to Mordor and be re-horsed. Is there any doubt that this shadow is a winged Nazgűl-steed, presumably carrying a Ringwraith; and if not, why does Gimli say it reminds him of a Balrog?
Gimli has never
encountered a Nazgul before. - Annael
He has no other reference for the dread the Nazgul inspires, except the dread they all felt on beholding the Balrog.
Mm-hm - Ophelia
I'm with AlanP here. - Kimi
As he said, we're told later that a winged Nazgul had its steed shot from under it; and of course the Lord of the Nazgul arrives at the Pelennor on a winged beast.
Gimli is sensing evil of a supernatural kind when he makes the remark. It's his first close encounter with a Nazgul, and only his second encounter with truly creepy evil, so it's not too suprising that he'd make the link.
too... - leo
I couldn't have possible be a Balrog, they don't need no beasts to fly on:)
It *is* a Nazgul.... - AlanPartridge
there can be no debate after Ugluk's (or Grishnakh's perhaps) comment about the 'steed' being shot out from the Rider.
Grishnakh is very aware of the Nazguls' power and doesn't like Ugluk's comments. However the point is they both know a flying Nazgul is around and that one had its steed killed by an archer. That archer is Legolas.
Gimli says it feels like a
Balrog because they both carry an evil presence with them. It can't of
been the Balrog because by this time Gandalf had defeated it on
Zirakzigal and that was the last Balrog around in those days.
The Balrog is an falen Maia and so would carry and aura of menace from its presence in the spiritual, wraith realm: we know that the Nazgul carry an aura of menace and srike fear into their victims hearts. The fact that Frodo's wound aches is another sign: the wound aches presumably because it is near the evil that caused it - or at least an evil of the same kind.
was the messenger who came - Binky
to the dwarves to ask about their ring? Wasn't that a Nazgul??? Or some other fallen being??? Didn't Gimli see him???
Mouth of Sauron. - septembrist Yes, I agree.
And Sauron wouldn't have trusted.. - Patty Agreed ... - Idril
Celebrindal True, it could
be... - AlanPartridge
I think it was the Mouth of Sauron. His speech is quite refined and cunning. A Nazgul would not or could not have such a conversation as happened in Dain, however short it was.
such delicate negotiations to an underling, even though he was a nazgul. This goes back to the question we had about their abilites and organization skills during the Prancing Pony chapter.
I think the Mouth of Sauron is the prime suspect here, too. Although it could have been any high-ranking, trusted human servant of Sauron.
I'd never thought of that before.
Yes, I agree.
And Sauron wouldn't have trusted.. - Patty
Agreed ... - Idril
True, it could
be... - AlanPartridge
Good Point! I
presumed it was a Nazgul... - AlanPartridge
but who's to say Gimli was there when he arrived?
The whole Dwarf population of Erebor couldn't have stood on the gates to hear him, whatever he was. So Gimli was not necessarily there by any means, and it probably would not have been made common knowledge, talking about rings and such matters.
No, I think it's safe to say Gimli associated the evil he felt with the Nazgul, mistakenly (but perceptively) with the evil he felt with the Balrog, and that he had not felt the feeling before.
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Chapter 9: The Great River: 6. Time - Eledhwen
The issue of time is brought up by Sam of the common sense in the passage about the phases of the Moon, and we are given one of those glimpses into past history. Where else in LOTR is this time issue brought up, and how do you think they will bring it across in the films?
Time and Lorien - Kimi
It just struck me that this losing track of time is a fairly common motif in stories of the Faerie Realm: the man who somehow finds his way into this realm, stays a night or a few nights, and returns to the ordinary world to find that he's been gone for a year and a day, or perhaps for many years.
In this case, it helps emphasise the "otherness" of Lorien. It is a place where the Elder Days live on.
Time and past history is
evident - Stumpy
In the burial mounds of Rohan and the tombs of Minas Tirith. In the history of Moria. The mysterious Pukel Men.
I'm not sure if that's whate you were getting at, but there's a sense of long history in those things. The tombs and Pukel men should be easy enough to portray visually as ancient. The history of Moria can be discussed at Balin's tomb.
Besides Rivendell and
Lorien - Blue
the only place that I can think of so far where the Hobbits lose track of time is in Bombadil's house. As he is telling them his stories, they have no idea whether they have listened for hours or even days. Later, Sam and Frodo have a hard time remembering in Mordor how long it has been since they did various things in Ithilien - but that is more a matter of fatigue. Pippin loses track of how long he and Gandalf ride to Minas Tirith.
I think that it will be very difficult in the films to fully capture the sense of passage of time. It's an easy thing to write - "after a fortnight in the wild, they arrived at....", or "four days later..." - and quite another to put it on film. Even in reading the books, I recall having less than a full appreciation sometimes for how long some things actually took.
In Rivendell... - AlanPartridge
and I think someone said it below before: in Rivendell the elves remember the past; in Lorien they live in the past, albeit one which is rapidly fading.
I would guess it was something to do the rings and the masses of powerful and wise elves living together...but anyway, the time distortion seems to be a product of living like elves, where the past is like a waking dream, the present is a river that flows into the future, which is looked at with sadness.
I think it was... - leo
Aragorn who said this, either him or Legolas, I think it won't be that hard to bring this over in the films. The only visible diffirence is that in Lorien the fellowship didn't see a moon, and they did in the rest of the story. So by just not showing a moon in the the bits about Lorien, they'll get quite far, of course they can put in some minor hints like ppl looking up to the stars or such...
Interesting how in
the begining of the book - Binky
there are careful notes made 'they were three days out from Bree' and things like that..but as the story progresses no one is able to keep track because things move so quickly...or so slowly.
I remember how amazed Pippin is when he realizes his adventurs with the orcs and the Ents covers only nine days...
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Chapter 9: The Great River: 7. Aragorn - Eledhwen
Boromir’s stubbornness is increasing, and for the first time he starts to question Aragorn’s judgement in matters relating to their onward journey. However Aragorn is beginning to show his true leadership qualities, in deciding about the boats and taking the right course in carrying them down Sarn Gebir. This episode is quickly followed by the (wonderful) Gates of the Argonath scene. All too often we forget that Aragorn is heir to the throne, a king in exile, yet here his two sides, and his human qualities, are skillfully drawn together. How has he developed from being the rough Strider of Bree to the leader of Men we see now? And how much more development does he need to become a realistic king-figure?
Transformations - Blue
We have seen Aragorn transformed a couple of times previously: (1) in Rivendell, after the banquet, Aragorn appears with Arwen dressed in elven armour - and Frodo is surprised by his noble appearance. Soon, however, he changes back into his Ranger attire; (2) In Lorien, when Frodo sees his as he was in the past on Cerin Amroth, again attired, this time in white, as an elven price as he was when he and Arwen pledged their troth; and (3) Now, as he enters his ancient land of Gondor, passing beneath the Pillars of the Kings.
But, as you say, there are steps yet to be taken. The most significant step may well be when he meets Eomer - the great "Choose swiftly" speech. Here, for the first time, he proclaims openly his kingship to a stranger. Although, for strategic purposes, he conceals his identity to Saruman, and refuses to enter the gates of Minas Tirith as a king after the Battle of the Pellenor, I think that this proclamation, more even than the unfurling of his black standard in battle, or before the Stone of Erech...or even challenging Sauron through the Palantir - all of which are important - is what makes him kingly. The other things are more to the point of whether he can prevail in a desparate battle and remain king.
Actually he was the commander of the Rangers of the North so he already had some leadership experience, and do not forget he had fought for Gondor under a different name, which is described in the appendix.... - dudalb
In the earlier part of the
book - Kimi
Aragorn seemed to some extent to be deliberately cloaking his nobility. His rough appearance was partly due to the rough life he led, but when he washed and changed at Rivendell he was soon revealed as a man of far greater stature than the hobbits had earlier assumed.
We had another glimpse of this nobility in Lorien, when we also saw (through Frodo's eyes) Aragorn as a much younger man. And now, as Aragorn draws closer to the heart of the kingdom that he is heir to, his heritage is making itself more evident.
Aragorn did not expect to lead the Company; only the loss of Gandalf thrust him unwillingly into that position. He's still torn as to what he should do when they have to abandon the boats and decide which direction they should take after that. After Frodo's disappearance and Boromir's death, he continues to doubt and blame himself, lamenting that all his choices go amiss.
To me, Aragorn's essential development comes around the time he decides to take the Paths of the Dead. This is a place that strikes dread into the hearts of the Rohirrim; none but the Dunedain, Legolas and (a rather reluctant) Gimli dare take that path. Two big events happen before Aragorn makes that decision: the Dunedain arrive, and he wrests the Palantir from Sauron's grasp. The arrival of his friends and kinsmen puts great heart into him; even more importantly, IMHO, is the gift they bring from Arwen. Not only is he given a tangible reminder of the woman who is his major motivation; the emblems on the banner she has made him mean that by raising it he will be openly claiming the Kingship. The palantir he claims (rightfully) as an heirloom of his house; I suspect that, had he not already had the boost to his confidence that the arrival of the Dunedain and Arwen's gift, the struggle to wrest the palantir to his own use would have taken an even harder toll on him.
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Chapter 9: The Great River: 8. The River
itself - Eledhwen
How big a part do the River itself, and the other rivers of Arda, play in the history of Middle-earth? Aside from the obvious major event of Isildur losing the Ring in it, how does Tolkien use the River imagery and metaphor, specifically in LOTR but also in The Silmarillion?
Lack of water and
pollution - Idril
I agree with what everyone else is saying about Tolkien's symbology of rivers. In general, water is associated with the forces of goodness in Tolkien. Absence of water is almost always the sign of evil. It's no accident that the fortress of Sauron is located in a desert (Mordor), or that Morgoth turns Ard-Galen, the verdant plain before his fortress of Angband, into a dry, ashen wasteland, Anfauglith.
The forces of evil do sometimes destroy or pollute the sources of running water. I can think of four instances where running water is perverted to evil:
- The beautiful falls and pools of the Ivrin river are destroyed and fouled by the dragon Glaurung.
- The damming of the Sirannon, the gate-stream of the western gate of Moria. The dam dries up the river, and the unwholesome lake it creates is the home of the evil Watcher in the Water.
- The Morgulduin, which is turned poisonous from the evil sorcery of Minas Morgul.
- During the Scouring of the Shire, the Water is polluted from Sandyman's new mill. (The Water reverts back to its original state after the new mill is torn down.)
thinking of the passage in Mordor - Blue
Where Sam and Frodo are desperate for water, and they find a trickle of water flowing down from the mountains, which they can drink. Here Tolkien has this long, lyrical passage about how this stream came to be there, the remnant of a rain that had the misfortune to fall on the slopes of the borders of Mordor and to be doomed to evaporate in ruin of Mordor instead of flowing back to the sea.
Almost all of the rivers of Middle Earth flow back to the sea in the end, to be reunited with Ulmo. And, while the providence of this stream being available to Frodo and Sam cannot be denied, there is a poignancy to this passage in light of Tolkien's broader cosmology.
Excellent point Idril! - Annael
Rivers tend to be a good
thing for Sauron's enemies - Narya
Frodo is saved by a river when pursued by the Nazgul at the Ford
Anduin is the means by which the fellowship make much progress after their long stay in Lothlorien.
Rivers guard the borders of Lothlorien and Rivendell, and of the Shire.
Although Isildur drowned in Anduin, it was the River that hid the ring for countless years.
There are no rivers near Sauron's abode, and the Nazgul are reported to be afraid of rivers.
Maybe Tolkien was in some way influenced by the tradition that running water is a powerful defence against evil. Maybe it is something to do with Ulmo or Osse. But the impression I get is that rivers, as such, tend towards good alignment, if this is possible.
The Rivers of Arda - GaladrielTX
The rivers are forces of overwhelming power and are associated with fate. Tolkien writes, “…the Elves say that the spirit of Ulmo [Lord of Waters] runs in all the veins of the world.” In the First Age, the rivers carry news to Ulmo, and his power flows from them to assist the Children of Ilúvatar in their struggle against Morgoth. The power of the River Narog long kept Nargothrond secret so that it could be a force to keep Morgoth at bay. Níniel has a foreboding of her fate when she sees Teiglin for the first time, and a waterfall on that river is named the Shuddering Water. Later, Níniel meets her fate in the river when, in grief over what she believes is the loss of Túrin and from the full knowledge of what it is that she has forgotten, she casts herself over a cliff into Teiglin. Upon learning of this, Túrin slays himself at the river’s side.
However, Ulmo withdraws much of his power from the rivers toward the end of the First Age, and it seems that by the Third Age the rivers have become more “wild”. The Forest River that runs through Mirkwood has the power to cast those unwary enough to fall in, into a deep sleep. Strange things seem to happen around the Withywindle, and Celeborn has cautionary words about parts of the Entwash. To sensible hobbits like Sam, rivers are not to be toyed with. Indeed, the Fellowship almost meets with disaster when the powerful current of Anduin takes them farther than expected.
Yet, despite Ulmo’s
reluctance to meddle in the affairs of Middle-earth after the War of
Wrath, the rivers are still powerful enough and associated enough with
Ulmo that evil things, like the Nazgűl, fear to cross them. (It is also
said that Ulmo never wholly forsook Middle-earth.) After Nimrodel meets
her fate, she returns to the stream that is her namesake, and her voice
could afterward be heard there, and bathing in the waters has a
wholesome effect. Perhaps the two most significant events of the Third
Age occurred in the river Anduin, for it is there that, as Eledhwen
mentions, Isildur loses the ring; but it is also there that Gollum finds
the ring and events are set in motion that will ultimately conclude with
the downfall of Sauron.
Excellent work, GalTX - Kimi
Nice summary, GTX! - Idril Celebrindal
Rivers & Such - Ophelia
I was about to ask something similar to this. Frequently, a river represents the journey of life, the flow of it (ie Huck Finn, Heart of Darkness, even Disney's Pocahontas). Does Anduin do that?
Anduin is the center of ME. It passes through Wilderland, between the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood, down through time to divide Mordor and Gondor, ending at the sea which can be said to represent eternity.
"The Road goes ever on and on"...
In LOTR Anduin is that road, the one which brings all the paths and errands together.
hehe - Arathorn
As all river, it has a valley, and could be used either for sailing the river, or for walking/riding along the valley. So it's obviously a main road for ME.
They play a big part, but then Rivers have played a huge role in real history also... - dudalb
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Chapter 9: The Great River: 9. Points of View - Eledhwen
In previous chapters we have seen how the characters see events from different perspectives. What is strange and wondrous to one is commonplace to another. From whose point of view is this chapter written – from the hobbits’, with their fear of water; from Aragorn’s, a king finally returning to his own lands; from Boromir’s, as he ponders the Ring and longs for the towers of his home; or from the point of view of the unlikely duo of Legolas and Gimli, who perhaps are not so personally involved in the Quest?
"And one hobbit!" - Kimi
Merry from the previous chapter, when he pointed out to Celeborn that not all hobbits are afraid of boats!
We see at least briefly into the minds of all members of the Company except Boromir in this chapter. Boromir is descending into the madness that will cause him to snap in the next chapter, so it's not surprising that the author doesn't take us into his mind.
We have a brief glimpse of Legolas dreaming of home, and of Gimli dreaming of encasing Galadriel's gift in gold. With Merry and Pippin, we see their growing unease in Boromir's company. We see into Aragorn's thoughts enough to know that he is concerned that the Enemy has been on the move, and that he is still torn between which direction he should take when the Company divides.
But the bulk of the chapter is from the points of view of Sam and Frodo. When we get our glimpse of Aragorn the heir of Elendil, it is through Frodo's eyes.
For the most part, Tolkien keeps to his usual hobbit-centric viewpoint in this chapter.
place. What a horrible place!... - Patty
Sam's view of the Gates of Argonath is pretty plain...I expect if I were that small and I came up against statues that huge I would probably feel the same way. Yes, Tolkien's view here has returned to hobbit-centric.
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Chapter 9: The Great River: 10. Looking
behind, looking ahead. - Eledhwen
Interestingly, in the first drafts of LOTR, ‘The Great River’ is one of the closest to the finished book, save for certain differences in names and geography - Aragorn is still being referred to as ‘Trotter’, and at the Argonath (called the Gates of Sarn-Gebir) some uncertainty about the true identity of ‘Trotter’ can be seen, as Tolkien makes him originally the great-grandson of Isildur. But that is apart from the chapter and is more concerned with the drafting of LOTR as a whole. Otherwise the major events are the same – the sighting of Gollum; Sam’s comments about the passage of Time; the felling of the winged Nazgűl; and Boromir’s growing unease. Chapter 9 is an important transition-chapter between two more static turning points in the story – the sojourn in Lórien, and the Breaking of the Fellowship and the death of Boromir. On a personal level, do you have any hopes or fears for this chapter as it may be portrayed in the movies?
My answer to this would be that I’d like the fact they spend ten days on the river to be shown; I want the Argonath scene to be amazing, both in terms of set and also Aragorn’s portrayal; and, on a silly level as an oarswoman myself, I hope they can paddle well!
[N.B. The original draft of ‘The
Great River’ is printed and discussed in Volume 7 of the ‘History of
Middle-earth’ series, The
Treason of Isengard. ]
like to see the ten days feel like ten days. - Beren11:11
It's kind of tense in the implied monotony of ten days floating into uncertainty, you know? And I really want to feel that tenseness from this scene in the movie.
I remember.. - leo
a very cool computeranimated pic from the boats of the Fellowhip 'floating' through the Argonnath (probably because it's on my desktop:)), wich I think is so very cool, if they keep this in, and the acting is done good, this part of the movie couldn't possibly get worse for me...
I'd like to see - Kimi
a range of scenery, as described in the book; this would also help emphasise that, as you say, they spend quite some time on the River.
I'd like to see some of our famous rapids!
I hope the Argonath will look amazing.
And in contrast with these big things, I hope we'll see Boromir's descent into madness portrayed subtly but chillingly. I want to see Merry and Pippin's unease; they know that something is wrong, but it doesn't seem big enough for them to trouble Aragorn with it. I want to see the fact that Frodo and Sam are becoming closer, with their quietly sharing the burden of keeping watch for Gollum. I want to see Aragorn's nobility revealed and feel a shiver down my spine, not think "here we go again, the old glimpse-of-Aragorn's-nobility-revealed-for-a-moment-then-as-quickly-cloaked-again."
yeah! - Annael
I want that moment at the Argonauth to be shiver-inspiring too. I must say the original conceptual art for the movie is just what I wanted.
As a former whitewater kayaker, I hope they do Sarn Gebir justice. I've seen too many movies where people are paddling madly for their lives in a class II rapid.
Why did everyone
(except Aragorn) consider - Binky
the Argonath a terrible place? Sam even said so out loud...and Boromir bowed his head...I would think if one of us went down a seldom traveled path and suddenly came across the Pyramids or some other great ancient work we might be awestruck...but would we think it a horrible place???
did it send out strange vibrations or something? Did Boromir perhaps associate them with Aragorn's claim and knowing in his heart the claim was genuine... and bowed his head because he didn't like the thought of it... ???
Ever been in a deep river canyon? - Annael When I took a
boat voyage through the Grand Canyon of the Colorado I
thought of the Argonanth - dudalb yes I
have...wasn't particularly scared though... :) - Binky Binky
The sun is shut out, it's dark and can be cold, the sound of the river echoes up against the canyon walls, and you're suddenly aware that there's no place to stop, you have to let the river take you. Yes, it can be scary.
I'm more frightened in a 'canyon' made by skyscrapers but I think the analogy is still the same... :0
When I took a boat voyage through the Grand Canyon of the Colorado I thought of the Argonanth - dudalb
have...wasn't particularly scared though... :) - Binky
LOL! - Annael
I find that kind of canyon scarier too! But I can believe Sam was scared on the river.
I think that is
because... - Patty
the statues were likenesses of giant people. This would be particularly frightening to the small hobbits, as indeed, it would be to me, as I said in my post below. A geometric shape, such as a pyramid probably wouldn't frighten me as much except in that is evidence of a larger ( powerful) being's hand.
ok...but what about Boromir's reaction??? - Binky
that Tolk.'s using the word "terrible" here... - Beren11:11
... in a different way. That is, it's frightening, but more in the sense of the awe inspiring sublimity of it. Like, they're obviously not fearing evil from this place -- it's of Gondorian origin -- but they are all dwarfed by the sheer magnitude and power of it, and probably by the connection they feel with the aeons of history that it represents.
I agree. Similarly to when Elrond is described as looking "grim and terrible, yet wise" - Caleniel
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Chapter 9: The Great River: 11.
Summing up - Eledhwen
First of all, thanks everyone for contributing; I originally thought this chapter would be easy to lead, but then found that it wasn't! Anyway, like Kimi last week, sorry for not joining in more, but I have read every message and made notes.
The Fellowship of the Ring have left Lothlórien on their way south, travelling in the grey elven-boats given by Celeborn. On either bank lies the Brown Lands; an inhospitable region which was once green and healthy, but is now desolate and populated by Sauron's orc armies. Many birds fly overhead, including phalanxes of black swans. The Company is uncomfortable and nervous, particularly Boromir. As he gets closer to his home in Minas Tirith the desperation of his city's situation is preying on him, and the folly, as he sees it, of destroying the Ring is everpresent in his mind. The clues Tolkien has given us about Boromir's increasingly fragile state of mind are being drawn together.
The Fellowship, and particularly Sam, notice that something is following them, and Frodo and Sam share their suspicions with Aragorn. Gollum has been following them since Moria, and again scattered clues are pulled into place for the reader. Gollum has already changed from the slimy creature we saw in The Hobbit, showing the effect of his imprisonment in Mordor in his cunningness and hatred of the hobbits.
The tone of the chapter grows ever darker as the hills build up on either side, threatening and claustrophobic. The Company are going faster now, and the rapids of Sarn Gebir approach quicker than even Aragorn guessed. The River is carrying them away into the unknown.
They are not alone in the region, as the sudden orc attack shows. However orcs are not the worst they have to fear, and a dark shadow overhead casts fear into all their hearts. Frodo's old knife wound aches with the approach of the winged shadow, but even after Legolas has shot it down from the sky, he will not voice his suspicions that it was a Nazgűl of the air.
The Fellowship's unease grows, and Sam ponders time and its passing. Aragorn is showing stress and tension from being forced into leading the Fellowship. However his kingly side is brought out in a dramatic scene as they pass between the Gates of the Argonath, entering the realm of Gondor by one of the main north-south routes through Middle-earth. On the River they are guarded against the enemies of Sauron, running water being an image of purity and power. The River is taking them to their destiny, but none knows where this shall lead. Decisions have to be made, and the next chapter will be the first breaking-point in the story.
An additional thought I had, which doesn't really fit into the summary, is that rivers play an important role in the destinies of all the Fellowship. Boromir will be carried to the Sea on Anduin, his last journey. Aragorn sails to victory at the Pelennor by river too from the ports at Pelargir. Merry and Pippin's development is largely influenced by the waters of the Entwash; Frodo and Sam are given extra hope and life through the stream in Mordor. Gimli and Legolas are least touched by rivers, but water is vital, particularly for Legolas. As GaladrielTX, in her brilliant post on Rivers, said, water is a power for good, the influence of Ulmo being enormous even in the Third Age. In the end, the water-reference is why I, an Aquarian, swimmer and rower, wanted to lead this chapter! Thanks to all again for joining in!
Eledhwen! - leo
as always, a great summing up!
I have to say I really enjoy reading all your thoughts on these subjects we discuss over here...
Why, thank you, Eledhwen! - GaladrielTX
I hadn't even considered the fates of the Fellowship. This is why I enjoy these discussions so much: someone always has something interesting to say that would never have occurred to me. Thank you for being our leader this week.
Thank you Eledhwen! - Annael
Once again my ideas about the book have been expanded. The point about rivers and water was especially interesting to me.
Nice summing up! - Beren11:11
I came in late in the week (again), but as always, was totally enriched! Thanks Eledhwen!
Thank you. A great job again this week. - Blue Wizard
Very well done - Stumpy
Thanks for that fine effort! Kimi and GalTex were also very impressive with their thoughts.
Thanks, Stumpster. - GaladrielTX
And thank you, Eledhwen
for... - Patty
leading this chapter. Great job. The River as metaphor "carrying people on to their destinies certainly sticks out.
Thank you.... - Binky
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