Monday, March 26, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: The Passing of the Grey Company (ROTK 5, 2)

Another looooooong chapter. Good thing there are some shorter ones ahead.

I love when Halbarad and the other Rangers arrive -- it's such a bright spot of joy for Aragorn amidst all this Very Important Stuff that's been going on. And it's so cool that Elrond's sons, Elladan and Elrohir, come too. They're quiet, but intriguing. And have grey eyes. You knew I was going to mention that, of course. And I did.

Interestingly, Aragorn says that the Men of the Mountains "had worshipped Sauron in the Dark Years" (p. 765). As far as I can remember, that's the only time the word "worship" gets used in this whole trilogy. They talk about power, they talk about Sauron having control of places and people, but I do not recall any other place where someone is said to have worshiped him. Hmm.

Poor Eowyn. She yearns for Aragorn so much, and he keeps trying to tell her that his heart is not available. He even tells her, "Were I go to where my heart dwells, far in the North I would now be wandering in the fair valley of Rivendell" (p. 766). And yet, she still keeps hoping. She really makes me so very sad here.  Still, maybe Aragorn could have been a little more direct?  You know, said, "I'm in love with someone else." Stopped paying her compliments like, "I walked in this land ere you were born to grace it" (p. 766). I mean, it's one thing to be gentlemanly, Aragorn, but it's totally another to say nice things to someone you obviously know liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiikes you.

Anyway, I love the way Theoden treats Merry, don't you? With kindness and respect and interest. It's so completely the reverse of how Denethor treats Pippin. And both Merry and Pippin swear fealty to a powerful ruler, but for totally different reasons. Pippin does it out of obligation, honoring not Denethor, but Boromir. Merry does so out of love and respect for Theoden. I've talked before about how there are a lot of mirror-image things going on in these books, events in one book being repeated in a different way in another book. This is the clearest instance of that, I think. As Jane Chance pointed out in The Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power, Theoden and Denethor's names even kind of reflect each other. The-o-den. Den-e-thor. One is a kind and loving leader who "commands through respect and love," and the other is a "tyrant [who] commands his followers by edict, rule, law" (p. 90 in TLOTR: The Mythology of Power). I find comparing the two of them so fascinating.

But moving right along, there's one thing about the whole Paths of the Dead section that has always bugged me. Legolas says he will go with Aragorn because he "[does] not fear the Dead" (p. 764). And when they reach the Dark Door, it says "there was not a heart among them that did not quail, unless it were the heart of Legolas of the Elves, for whom the ghosts of Men have no terror" (p. 769). But what about Elladan and Elrohir? They're Elves too! Has Tolkien totally forgotten about them for a while? I kind of feel like he has, because a few paragraphs later, Gimli says, "Here is a thing unheard of... An Elf will go underground and a Dwarf dare not!" (p. 769). Shouldn't he say, "Elves will go underground" instead? And then at the end of the chapter, it says, "No other mortal Men could have endured it, none but the Dunedain of the North, and with them Gimli the Dwarf and Legolas of the Elves" (p. 772). Um... AND Elrohir and Elladan! (I actually have that written in my copy.)

One last thing: I so sympathize with Gimli. As they walk the Paths of the Dead, "he was ever hindmost, pursued by a groping horror that seemed always just about to seize him" (p. 770). That is exactly what chases me up the stairs if I have to be the last one going to bed at night.

Favorite Lines:

"He was tall, a dark standing shadow" (p. 757).

More than ever he missed the unquenchable cheerfulness of Pippin (p. 762).

And she answered: "All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death" (p. 767).

Discussion Questions:

Do you think Tolkien forgot about Elrohir and Elladan?

Eowyn is very upset that she has to stay with her people and be their leader instead of riding to danger and glory with Aragorn. Do you think being leader of all Rohan in the king's absence is unglorious? Why does Eowyn?

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