Episode 129 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member
SESSION 129

Comment on Aragorn uncloaked:

  • When standing in the Hall of Fire during the Elbereth song, Aragorn is seen wearing a “star”.
  • Later, we find out that a broach in the shape of a rayed star is the insignia of the Rangers, so it would seem that this is what Aragorn is wearing here, though Frodo doesn’t know that.
  • It would seem that here in Rivendell, Aragorn has no need to conceal his identity, and therefore can wear this insignia openly, unlike in Bree, where it would raise suspicions and questions.
  • This is a follow-up on his recent identification as the Dúnedan, though we don’t know that yet.
  • Aragorn’s close proximity to Arwen is an expression of their relationship, and Elrond’s tacit acknowledgement and approval of their love, as well as Aragorn’s closeness with them both.
  • Frodo, like the readers at this point, don’t know anything explicit about their relationship, and therefore it is a surprise to Frodo that Aragorn marries Arwen in Minas Tirith.
  • Elrond’s withholding of permission to marry until Aragorn is king has the shape of a fairytale trope of having the male lover accomplish an impossible task before he can marry the princess.
  • However, while appealing to that shape, even remembering Thingol with the parallel with Beren and Lúthien, rather of sending Aragorn to his death, he wishes for Aragorn to fulfill his destiny.
  • Elrond is turning that tradition, in which the intention is to deny their request, on its head. He is using their love as the spur to accomplish the task, which in this case, benefits the whole world.
  • If his kingship is accomplished, which is only possible if Sauron is defeated and the Ring destroyed, then they will be able to marry. If they fail, then it would be impossible anyway.
  • Elrond is in a different position from Thingol, in that he knows the consequences of this choice.
  • In comparison to Thingol, Elrond is making a much more positive and constructive condition. This is an entirely unselfish proposition, as he is doing it solely for their good and the world’s.
  • If Sauron is defeated and the Ring destroyed, his realm will fail anyway, so this is not about him.
  • As Galadriel says, doom has come to them either way. Whether they lose of win, this is the end.
  • Note: Elrond’s depiction in the films was more resistant and reluctant toward Aragorn than he is in the book, where he openly accepts Aragorn as kin. What is lost is Elrond’s sense of kindness.
  • It’s clear in the Appendices that Elrond and Aragorn view each other like father and son. Elrond has none of the negative reactions that Thingol had toward Beren, but instead understands.
  • For Frodo, the idea that anyone, even someone like Aragorn, now that Frodo knows who he really is, would be able to marry someone like Arwen seems impossible.
  • Even in the previous instances in the First Age, one of the Edain marrying one of the Eldar came as a shock, and it hasn’t happened since then. There were no unions in the Second Age.
  • This shock and surprise would carry over to any first-time reader of The Lord of the Rings, especially those who haven’t read The Silmarillion and know about the other two unions.
  • Note: The idea that Imrahil had Elvish ancestors predates the idea of the marriage of Aragorn and Arwen being the third union, but he kept it in, with the notion that this a separate category. In Tolkien’s exploration of that story, the elf-maiden Mithrellas doesn’t marry her human lover and delivers her mortal child into his care. Their fates are not joined together, like in the other unions. This is much more like a traditional medieval fairy romance.
Comment on the division of the Ages:
  • What defines an Age, and who determines when one Age ends, and another begins? How do they know when an age is ending? Is there an expected timeline for future Ages?
  • The Second Age is less clear than the First and Third, defined by the defeat of the Dark Lords.
  • In modern history, most of our divisions are more arbitrary and less defined by real differences. The divisions are usually based on time broken up into equal units of time.
  • In these definitions of Ages, it is less defined by the passage of time or important events, but in a change in the world and the way it works.
  • The fact that the end of the Ages being anticipated points to an understanding that the world will be qualitatively different, which certain people can feel coming as things change.
  • Many of the major events would not have been obvious to those outside of the geographic areas where they took place, but the end of the Ages is signaled by a perceptible global change.
  • The end of the time of the Elves is not only something that happens, but something that has been known about in advance for a long time. The final fall of Sauron doesn’t cause it.
  • The end of the Second Age could plausibly be linked to the fall of Númenor and the changing of the shape of the world but is instead tied to the first fall of Sauron against the Last Alliance.
  • This convention of the numbering of years seems to be a Gondorian tradition since they time it from the fall of Elendil and the beginning of the age of Gondor.
  • Aragorn decrees the beginning of the Fourth Age based on the destruction of the Ring, so this is something that was done in Gondor. In the Shire-reckoning, the old calendar simply continued.
  • However, the Gondorian recognizes that there’s something universally different about the Ages.
  • There are correlations between the falls of the Dark Lords and the end of Ages, but this is not necessarily the root cause, especially in the case of Sauron with Second and Third Ages.
  • The beginning of the Fourth Age is different because of the departure of the Elves and the beginning of the dominion of Men, not because of the destruction of the Ring and Sauron.
  • These are not coincidences either, but they are not the root causes of the change of Ages.
  • Specifically, with Gondor, their counting is also tied to the events that affect them locally, but this is not definitive for all Middle-earth, such as in the Shire, who may or may not know of it.
(continued below)
 

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Tony Meade

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(continued)

Isildur took it, as should not have been:
  • It’s important to remember that the story of Isildur taking the Ring is not widely remembered.
  • Boromir says that he has heard of the Ring, but he implies that this is not common knowledge.
  • The fact that Isildur took the Ring is news to Boromir. It’s not clear if this lore was lost or deliberately kept secret, though the latter seems more likely, since it is about the royal house.
  • If people believe that the Ring was destroyed then, there would be no call to remember it.
  • What do these tidings mean to Boromir? Does he immediately want to use the Ring against Sauron? It isn’t really a question of a right to own the Ring, but the fact that it still exists.
  • We don’t know what Boromir knows about the Great Ring, beyond that it is powerful, and perhaps that the Ring gave Sauron power over the other Rings of Power.
  • Boromir isn’t ignorant, even if he’s not as learned as some others. It seems as if there have been many questions and theories among the educated in Gondor as to the fate of the Ring.
  • His interest in the question isn’t purely scholarly but is more practical that theoretical. It may be that this question has been long-standing in his life, and this is not the first time he thought of it.
  • Note: At this point, Boromir and most of the others have no idea that the Ring is there in the room, and Boromir doesn’t connect the words “Isildur’s Bane” from his dream to the Ring.
  • Boromir’s choice to interrupt Elrond is significant, just as Frodo had done about Elrond’s age. This shows that he is heavily invested in this story and what it might mean for the future.
  • Elrond’s response turns the conversation by deflecting any view that the survival of the Ring is good news. He wants to make sure that they all know that it should have been destroyed.
  • The repetition of the verb “took” emphasizes that it was the taking of the Ring that was bad.
  • Taking the Ring from Sauron by force is a good thing on the whole, as it deprives Sauron of his power and defeats him, but it is the taking it unto himself that should not have been.
  • Gandalf has already made the point that the way one acquires the Ring matters in how the new owner will interact with it. He originally took it to disarm Sauron, which is a good thing.
  • The use of the word “marked” means that not only were Elrond and Círdan unable to convince him to destroy the Ring, few actually noticed or ever knew that he took the Ring.
  • This acts as an explanation as to why that tale is not told in Gondor. There were only two witnesses, Elrond and Círdan, and neither of them were from Gondor.
  • Note: Based on what is told about Círdan elsewhere, his presence and participation in this final combat with Sauron is surprising, as is his survival.
Warning flags of the One Ring:
  • From what we have seen so far, it is clear that Isildur is claiming the Ring and stating his right to it. The idea of weregild is uncomfortably close to the excuse of it being a birthday present.
  • Note: Weregild is an old Germanic concept of paying a monetary price to the family of a person who is killed in order to make things right and settle the account, so avoiding a blood feud.
  • This is a legalistic doctrine, so Isildur is using this as a way of establishing a legitimate claim to the Ring on legal grounds. The problem is that weregild has to be given willingly, and it wasn’t.
  • This is parallel to Gollum’s claim, which wasn’t actually a birthday present. Maybe it came on his birthday, but it wasn’t given as a present. Like Isildur, it was taken as loot from a slain enemy.
  • So, in both cases it’s a plausible fiction that they tell themselves to justify their claim to the Ring.
  • Note: Bilbo does something similar in the first edition of The Hobbit, in that he justifies keeping the Ring because he thought that Gollum was going to give it to him anyway. This version is preserved as the false story that he told to the Dwarves and wrote in his version of the book. Bilbo is made uncomfortable by this recollection when he tells the true story to Glóin here.
  • Why did so few people mark what Isildur did? At this moment, Isildur is not only the new High King, but the greatest hero of the Age, having thrown down the Enemy and taken his weapon.
  • One might expect Isildur to have displayed the Ring as a trophy of the great victory of Gondor. It would also act as a proof of Sauron’s defeat and the restoration of peace in their lands.
  • Note: That Isildur wears the Ring openly in the film is entirely plausible, based on this idea.
  • The fact that Isildur keeps this a secret is therefore significant. He may not have been furtive about it, as Elrond witnessed it, but he did not talk about this to anyone in the South.
  • Note: The document that Gandalf finds in the archives of Minas Tirith is a private document. This is why it was so hard to find, and why so few have ever read it or remembered the lore.
  • Elrond is now implying that Isildur’s secrecy is another warning sign of what it meant for him.
  • Note: This is not a diminishing of the greatness of Isildur, or an idea that Elendil might have acted differently. In fact, it is the great that are most in danger of this kind of temptation. Humility is a protection from it, and there is no evidence that Elendil or Isildur were humble.
  • They know in Gondor that Isildur died on the way north, but they don’t know anything about the Ring’s role in his death, believing it destroyed. Faramir only knows that Isildur died from arrows.
  • Therefore, the meaning of the name “Isildur’s Bane” is only known in the North, not Gondor.
The choices of Master Elrond:
  • Why didn’t Elrond or Círdan talk about the fact that Isildur took the Ring? They could have spread news of this, but there is no good reason to do so, and many possible bad consequences.
  • The Elves do not want to speak about the Rings of Power, nor do they want to besmirch the reputation of Isildur among the people of Gondor, which might create resentment and enmity.
  • It would also act as an invitation for others to seek the Ring, knowing that it survived and was somewhere in the world to be found. Sauron and Mordor would also hear of it soon enough.
  • Note: The reason that this story survived in the North is because the only survivor of the Gladden Fields went to Arnor, via Rivendell. Elrond may have told Valandil the true story, but also to keep this a secret within his line, and as a cautionary tale. Aragorn certainly knows of it.
  • Elrond would not have known that it stayed in the river, only that Isildur died and that he had the Ring with him when it happened. Also, Saruman has told them it was rolled to the Sea.
  • The quote gives from Isildur is certainly the response to his counsel to destroy the Ring. Elrond doesn’t denigrate Isildur for his choice, as he would have a right to the spoils of war.
  • Elrond also has few options after Isildur decides not to destroy the Ring. If he or Círdan took the Ring by force, even intending to destroy it, the Ring would use that to corrupt their intentions.
  • Elrond is wise enough to know that he may have to play a longer game, as Isildur will be returning north after his time in Gondor, and there may be more opportunities to persuade him.
  • He and Círdan are also in danger as bearers of the Elven Rings, and forcing Isildur to use the One Ring, which rules their Rings, would possibly put their realms in danger.
  • Elrond emphasizes that Isildur’s death has saved them all from a darker fate, such as his becoming another Dark Lord himself, or being consumed by the Ring.
  • Note: In Unfinished Tales, Tolkien attempts to rehabilitate Isildur by having him say that he intends to give up the Ring to the Wise when he gets back to the North. Having had the Ring for some time, he thinks better of it and understands more about its nature. However, he doesn’t actually do it the way Bilbo did, and Gandalf may be referring to Isildur when talking to Frodo about Ring-bearers wanting to give up the Ring but being unable, despite their good intentions.
END OF SESSION
 

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