Elrond: More sentimental than Machiavellian?

Darren Grey

The question has been raised of what Elrond is trying to accomplish with his squirrels aside. Can I suggest he's not trying to do anything? There is a presumption that he is somehow trying to push the hearts and minds of the Council in a particular direction, or set them up to a particular frame of mind about hobbits or anything else, but I don't see any evidence of that approach in Elrond's personality. We see it in Gandalf, certainly, with him as a clear mover and shaper of things throughout Middle-Earth. And when it comes to a later disagreement over what to do with Merry and Pippin it is Gandalf who wins the argument over Elrond. Without evidence we shouldn't presume Elrond to be over-thinking the results of his words in the ways being considered.

Elrond we instead see as a neutral chair of this meeting who is happy to let things go where they will. He enforces no order, allows interjections and long riddle tales, and does not push any particularly strong opinions. He leaves the floor open for anyone to speak. I don't see any sign that he wants anything other than the free exchange of opinions and for the Council to come to an independent conclusion.

When he contributes himself (other than introducing people) it is mostly to recount history and contextualise discussion, and delving quite heavily into the history too. His first major speech is the history of the Rings of Power and of the fall of Numenor, which seems to dive more into some of that past than is really necessary for the Council's deliberations (did they need to know about the full glory and fall of Numenor story?) His diversion to "yet not so many, nor so fair, as when Thangorodrim was broken" is a clear example of him engaging in pure sentimentalism. I see his squirrel speech as being very similar - Frodo's tale stirs up memories of the past and he can't help but reflect back on them and on how the world has changed. This isn't Elrond trying to achieve anything, it's just him being himself.

(I also think that from an author perspective this is all just a set up for "Bombadil will fall, Last as he was First", which sounds like a line Tolkien fell in love with and would not remove. He can't fit that line in without some sort of reflection on Frodo's tale. Also Tolkien loves expository dialogue, and this whole chapter is full of digressions like this with no purpose other than to throw in more exposition of the world.)
I tend to agree, I think the squirrel talk also harks back to the ‘kind as Christmas’ Elrond from The Hobbit. Now Elrond has definitely evolved in what Tolkien writes here, but he’s not so far removed that he’s become a different character entirely. And his memories do give the sense that he’s a warm person with some love and concern for the forests and beasts.

I also agree that it flows well into the discussions around the Old Forest as well though.


New Member
I'm with you too on this. I haven't been fond of reading this whole council as Elrond having a definite conclusion that he's leading people to. If Elrond is indeed as wise as I think he is, he would listen to the information revealed in the council with an open mind and come to a judgment after all the information comes out. I don't think one gets to be called Wise by rushing to judgment on things.

If we read this as Elrond trying to steer everyone towards his conclusion, then this digression into squirrels and Tom Bombadil requires a lot of explaining away that doesn't ring true to me. And it's not really a Council anyway, but a sort of manipulation of those present. But if instead he is actually carefully considering all information and trying to use this council to help him decide what should be done, his question about Bombadil is instead an expression of his own indecision. He's pondering a course he hadn't yet considered. "What if Bombadil could help us, should we pursue that option?"

I think there's plenty of evidence to support the fact that he is actually learning new things in this council ("the tale of Frodo was most strange to me..."). And coming up soon in the council, albeit several months by session reckoning ;) Elrond will sum up things by announcing "But it seems to me NOW clear which is the road that we must take." By "now" I take him to mean that this is the moment he has finally achieved clarity and made his decision. His mind was not made up until then.


New Member
I was going to write my own post on the Elrond and his squirrels question, but as you touch upon my answer I'll just put my thoughts here.

We see different "mooting" styles amongst the Free Peoples. The most extreme example is clearly the Ents. Can you imagine if Treebeard was chairing this meeting? Bilbo would not have been happy!

Another example that stands out is from the beginning from the Hobbit. The Dwarves have a type of Council. They appear to use song as an integral part of the meeting, so much so that Thorin is a bit taken aback when Bilbo wants everything laid out again.

This brings us to Elves (or half-Elves). How do they debate problems? They certainly aren't fond of giving advice. It would make sense that they would like to follow down seemingly irrelevant threads before coming to any sort of conclusions. When left to themselves it is probably even worse - remembering forward to how long it took Elrond to say farewell to Galadriel and Celeborn on the way back North from Minas Tirith. I believe that Gandalf knew this and was pushing as much as he could so that the meeting didn't take days.

So I agree, this is in my mind just Elrond being Elrond, or indeed Elrond being an Elf.