Episode 154 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member
SESSION 154

Gandalf’s hope for Gollum’s cure:
  • Though Aragorn had spoken of his pity for Gollum, when learning of his escape, he also emphasizes the threat that this poses for them.
  • Gandalf was fully aware of this threat, and the need to keep him under guard, but his primary motivation is about his being cured of his evil, which is driven by more than just pity.
  • If Gollum is able to be cured, then there is hope for a cure for Bilbo and Frodo. Gandalf understands that he is partly responsible for what happens to the hobbits with the Ring.
  • There is also a chance that if Gollum can be cured, he could be an ally with useful knowledge.
On the reconnection to The Hobbit:
  • This is one of the few places, aside from Gollum and the Ring, where the plot events of The Hobbit are explicitly recalled in this story as part of the current plot and world-building.
  • However, the Gollum chapter was rewritten afterwards for the story of The Lord of the Rings.
  • Tolkien has distanced himself from many aspects of the world of The Hobbit, such as the stone-giants, which he kept for a while before changing Treebeard into the first concept of the Ents.
  • Other important artifacts, such as the Arkenstone, are no longer mentioned, as they are awkward now that the world of The Hobbit is now part of the world of The Silmarillion.
  • There are atmospheric references to The Hobbit, such as when Merry and Pippin compare Fangorn Forest to Bilbo’s description of Mirkwood, or their song modeled after the Dwarves’.
  • Glóin’s presence itself is a connection, but initially that was not connecting the two stories, but more like sequel material, learning what happened to the characters of The Hobbit since then.
  • This mention of his imprisonment in the halls of the Elvenking is one of the places where we are asked to reconcile the events of The Hobbit with the new information that we receive here.
  • The depiction of the wood-elves in The Lord of the Rings is different from The Hobbit, which was more like fairy story traditions, and show them as more petty and worldly than later described.
  • Gandalf’s interruption is understandable, but it doesn’t allow Legolas to respond to Glóin directly, or to explain the difference in depiction of the wood-elves.
  • Based on the depiction in The Hobbit, there would be no reason to trust the Elvenking and his folk to hold a prisoner the way that Aragorn and Gandalf see them as trustworthy.
  • While the narrator of The Hobbit tells us that the wood-elves are “good people”, it is not explained in that story, while here their pity and wisdom is shown in Gollum’s treatment.
  • However, that pity and wisdom need to be explained in light of their treatment of the Dwarves.
  • Note: In Irish mythology, the Sidhe were often addressed as the “good folk” in order to stay on their good side, and to avoid addressing them in an incorrect manner that would draw their ire.
  • While Thorin was openly disrespectful to the Elvenking, Balin had been more reasonable, and this makes the Elvenking’s treatment of the Dwarves more unsympathetic.
  • Tolkien seems to be inviting us to close the gap between the two depictions in our own minds.
  • There is also a difference in the depiction of Dwarves as a people, which evolved from an explicitly unheroic origin to the more noble depiction through Gimli, and later, the appendices.
  • The older depiction of the Dwarves might have led them to bargain with the messenger from Mordor, while they would have been suspicious of Sauron’s generous offer, rather than resist.
  • Glóin’s arrival and tale of Dáin’s refusal to deal with Mordor starts to make the link to the heroism of Gimli, and to let us know that the Dwarves of Erebor have changed over the years.
  • It’s possible that the wood-elves have changed slightly, at least in their view of the Dwarves.
  • Bilbo’s perspective as the author of the story of The Hobbit is also a biased point of view. He does come to admire the wood-elves overall, but his friendships are with the Dwarves.
  • It’s unclear how much Gimli is an outlier among the Dwarves from the beginning, but he will become one by the end of the story, like Legolas, as they both are changed by the experience.
  • The depiction of the wood-elves is made more complex by the idea that Elvenking had a personal issue with the Dwarves which led him to act outside his normal character.
Glóin’s old memories are stirred:
  • How were the misunderstandings set right between Erebor and Mirkwood? It’s not clear, but there may have been some combination on financial compensation paid and political alliance.
  • Glóin’s brief relapse to the earlier mindset shows the fragility of the alliance among the free peoples, as we had seen with Boromir’s touchiness about the greatness of Gondor.
  • Note: In the films, this tension is made more explicit in the breakdown into open conflict during the Council of Elrond among the councilors, though it is more subtext in the book. Tolkien understood that Glóin would not be able to allow Legolas’ talk to go unchallenged, as this would be inconsistent with both Glóin’s character and the nature of the Dwarves.
  • Which grievances is Gandalf referring to? Is this only the recent ones, or going back to Doriath?
  • Note: Christopher Tolkien has admitted that the death of Thingol and fall of Doriath material was undefined when he edited The Silmarillion and was forced to create some of it. This makes it unclear which grievances are in Gandalf’s mind at the time this was written. In early versions, the Longbeards were involved in Doriath, but Tolkien reversed this explicitly in The Hobbit.
  • Gandalf’s ultimate point is that these grievances are still open and therefore should be avoided.
  • Note: Given the nature of Dwarves, there are likely many more grievances that we don’t know about, as the ones we learn of are depicted from the Elvish point of view only.
  • It is important that though Glóin can’t help but react, he does let this go quickly so they can move on. This shows growth in their character as diplomatic in response to Gandalf’s appeal.
  • Note: This change begins at Thorin’s deathbed, in which he questions the Dwarvish mindset.
The mystery of Gollum’s escape:
  • The fact that Legolas’ only guess is that this escape was contrived by Gollum leaves open as to how this was done, and for what reason he would be helped by the servants of the Enemy.
  • It seems that there was communication between Gollum and these attacking forces, as this was the only day that he had refused to come down out of the tree, showing foreknowledge.
  • Though its possible that Gollum could see the attack coming from the top of the tree and took advantage, given Bilbo’s view from the top of the trees, this seems unlikely.
  • The Elves would also have been aware of the attack if Gollum could also sense it coming.
  • If Gollum’s escape were coordinated with the Enemy, this means that there would be a mode of communication, an ally which he contacts, and that he is important enough to he rescued.
  • An act of Providence seems unlikely, as Gollum’s evil would not only seem to preclude that, and in cases where it is in effect, a providential explanation seems to be the only one possible.
  • Note: In The Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius asserts that there is no real luck, and though the workings of the universe may appear like arbitrary chance to observers, there are always underlying causes creating these effects.
  • Its unsurprising that the Enemy knew that Gollum was in Mirkwood, as Gandalf is sure that he was allowed to leave Mordor for a purpose, and it’s likely that he was followed.
  • There is much talk of enemy spies among birds and beasts, even around the Shire. This might explain how Aragorn could be followed with Gollum all the way to Mirkwood undetected.
  • If any spies were birds or beasts, this would also explain why Gollum was not rescued earlier.
  • It’s not clear how Sauron would control or communicate with his bestial or avian spies, though direct control over them seems unlikely, as that would preclude the need for the Nazgûl.
  • Within Mirkwood, the spiders seem likely candidates for agents of the Enemy, and this connects with Bilbo’s experience in the treetops, and it prefigures Gollum’s relationship with Shelob.
  • Why would Sauron be concerned about Gollum’s capture? He would not be afraid of anything that Gollum may reveal, as he doesn’t attempt to silence Gollum, but to free him.
  • What did Sauron hope to gain by allowing Gollum to leave Mordor? He couldn’t and didn’t help Sauron to find the Shire, but he may be useful in locating the Ring if it were to leave the Shire.
END OF SESSION
 

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