Friday, February 2, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: The White Rider (TTT 3, 5)

And so Gandalf returns, with Tolkien melding the scenes of Christ's Resurrection and Transfiguration into one when a returned-from-the-dead Gandalf appears to his followers in shining white robes with eyes "piercing as the rays of the sun." This is the only place where the book that is "neither allegorical nor topical" (p. xvi) strikes me as a bit heavy-handed with the religious imagery (even more so than in "In the House of Tom Bombadil")... and I don't mind it a bit! Huh.

So... Gandalf is back, we're all going to Edoras, hooray!

Favorite Lines:

"That would not baffle a Ranger," said Gimli. "A bent blade is enough for Aragorn to read" (p. 477).

"Few can foresee whither their road will lead them, till they come to its end" (p. 481).

"It was not in vain that the young hobbits came with us, if only for Boromir's sake" (p. 485).

"A thing is about to happen which has not happened since the Elder Days: the Ents are going to wake up and find that they are strong" (p. 488).

"Go where you must go, and hope!" (p. 489).

Discussion Questions:

Gandalf says of Sauron: "That we should wish to cast him down and have no one in his place is not a thought that occurs to his mind" (p. 485-6). Does that ever seem a little convenient to you? That Sauron hasn't even considered that they might all want to be totally free?

Gandalf says that he has returned "at the turn of the tide. The great storm is coming, but the tide has turned" (p. 484). What do you think he speaks of, that has turned the tide? Is it himself returning, more powerful than before? Or Frodo making up his mind to take the ring into Mordor and not to Minas Tirith?


  1. OK, this is what I thought of when I got to this part about Gandalf: remember the part when the children in Narnia meet Santa Claus, and he gives them gifts, and he shows them that the snow is melting??? That is what came to my mind. In that way, the tide is turning...and yes, I felt like it was because he returned renewed and charged (with more power).

    1. Ruth, haha! It does seem a bit like that part of TLTWATW, doesn't it? I hadn't made that connection. Interesting.

  2. I always thought that Gandalf's comment regarding Sauron was on point. People who are particularly concerned with something (such as power) tend to superimpose their own motives on others (since I like power, they must be after power, too; since political prestige is my ultimate goal, that must be this religious group's goal, too). I always thought it an interesting statement on how people behave when they have something they're afraid to lose.

    As to his comments on the turn of the tide, I was always baffled by his perspective; I always felt that this was one f the most dangerous portions of the story where so much was at stake and was rather baffled as to why Gandalf thought the tide had turned.

    1. RM, totally! I have a note on my wall where I keep story-telling notes that reminds me that we all believe others think and feel the way we do. When that's not true at all.

      I think that "the turn of the tide" means when the tide stops coming in and starts going out (or vice versa). You don't notice it for a long time even though the tide has switched. Similarly, I think Gandalf is saying that even though it's not obvious yet, good is beginning to edge out evil.

  3. Ha, I had that same sensation when I was reading this chapter, that Tolkien had borrowed this time much from Christ's resurrection. Gandalf is now garbed in white and his friends don't recognise him, much like Christ's disciples failed to see him returned.

    I thought Gandalf's words about Sauron were very true. Powerful people tend to think that everyone wants to be like them and this might be especially true of dictators of all sorts, who think that the only possible successor would be another of his/her/its kind. Sauron fails to foresee the destruction of the Ring because he cannot think that any ring-bearer would renounce its power, the limitless power it would grant him, for some greater good.

    And about the tide that has turned, I'm not really sure about what Gandalf could mean by that. I think that the main change for him and the company is that now they have some hope. Gandalf is returned and the Frodo left to destroy the Ring unaware of Sauron. They seem to have a minimal advantage and that gives them some hope.

    1. Irene, yeah. I'm never sure quite what Gandalf is referring to there. Maybe it's cool that it could refer to multiple things.


What do you think?

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