Episode 167 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member

The undoing of Saruman’s plot:
  • Note: The use of “try and” instead of “try to” is probably an idiomatic construction rather than a simple grammatical error on Tolkien’s part. It was a common British expression in Tolkien’s time, and this was one of the many conflicts he had with the American publishers over edits and corrections of non-standard American usages in his text, along with spelling and capitalizations. Tolkien does also use “try to”, such as in elevated or more formal speech, or in narration.
  • Gandalf’s confidence in Radagast is justified in that while Saruman’s deception may have worked, any attempt at persuading Radagast had failed since Radagast did not deceive him.
  • Radagast’s simplicity also precludes his lying, while Saruman may see it as a weakness in him.
  • Gandalf is good at reading people and their hidden intentions, as was seen with Bilbo, and in how he detects something underhanded with Saruman when he arrives at Isengard.
  • Since Gandalf spends two months trapped atop Orthanc, he has a lot of time to consider this.
  • Both Gandalf and Radagast are operating in good faith in hope of collaboration, even though Saruman is not, and that gives Providence a chance to operate outside of Saruman’s plans.
  • Note: When Gandalf returns as the White, he will act in cooperation in the way that Saruman should have, which is one of the ways that he is “Saruman as he should have been”.
  • While its unknown how Saruman got his bird spies, his role of many colors may lead him to do things that Radagast had done as the Brown, including bird-taming, which is an infringement.
  • Note: By cultivating friends in the Shire and taking up smoking pipe-weed, he is also infringing on Gandalf’s domains, but in a twisted way, since he seeks influence and domination, in the end.
  • It seems that Saruman’s attempt to take on the roles of the other wizards is both transgressive, but also wrong-headed and corrupt, as his intentions are exploitative and self-centered.
  • Note: It’s notable that Saruman’s spies are crows, as they are depicted by the ravens in The Hobbit as crude and untrustworthy, and so they and the Dwarves are proved correct.
Radagast’s many friends of old:
  • This moment is when it is revealed that Gandalf had known about the escape of Gollum before Legolas’ revelation in the Council, though he had planned to share it during his story, too.
  • It doesn’t seem as though he had shared that with Aragorn yet, as Aragorn reacts with shock.
  • Gandalf’s faith in Radagast is touching, but also informative of Radagast’s character. Radagast would have to make a very personal betrayal beyond Saruman’s power, which he doubts.
  • We don’t know how long Radagast has been gone from Rhosgobel, but there’s no indication that Radagast has changed his habits, except for the pressing matter of the Nazgûl.
  • Gandalf’s assumption that he returned to his friends in Mirkwood shows his deep roots there.
  • The fact that the Eagles of the Mountains, especially Gwaihir, begin doing as Radagast asks and go far and wide is a big deal, and also shows that Radagast has great influence with them.
  • Gwaihir’s long relationship with Gandalf also plays a part in his willingness to help in this case.
  • Note: The Eagles, as presented in The Hobbit, are more in a fairy-tale role, being merely giant talking predatory birds. Only in The Lord of the Rings are they associated with the Eagles of Manwë and Gwaihir is retconned as their lord, whom Gandalf healed from an arrow wound. That story is reminiscent of the Greek fable of Androcles and the Lion in their relationship.
  • Frodo had gotten a glimpse of the eagle in his dream of Gandalf while in Tom Bombadil’s house.
  • It’s not surprising that the Eagles have spotted the Nine Riders, but their description as going “hither and thither” shows that they don’t know how to locate the Shire and so are wandering.
  • This news might have given Gandalf comfort and assurance that there was still time to assist Frodo before the Riders reach him, which is better than the worst-case scenario he imagined.
  • Note: Some of Tolkien’s later retcons are contradictory or confusing, which is owed to their unfinished and unresolved state, which makes it hard to draw any conclusions from them.
  • While the Nazgûl had not seen Hobbits before, they would not see in the normal sense, anyway. Gollum would not have been any help in this regard, as even he didn’t make that connection.
Gwaihir the Windlord, swiftest of the Great Eagles:
  • Gwaihir may be slightly sarcastic with Gandalf in his protestations, which matches the interactions Bilbo had with them in The Hobbit, as they teased him about looking like a rabbit.
  • By referring to the end of summer, Gandalf is making an understated reference to the two months he was trapped on top of Orthanc, as he has been there since July.
  • The title of “Windlord” seems to be a reference to his authority over the other Eagles, his superlative speed, and possibly a mastery of the winds under the authority of Manwë.
  • The word “Great Eagles” is about more than their size but is also not specific as to their nature.
  • Note: The original readers of The Lord of the Rings would remember the Eagles from The Hobbit but would not have the associations from The Silmarillion that we have. Therefore, while Tolkien is recontextualizing the Eagles here, we are only given a sense of their authority.
  • Saruman’s ground pursuit of Gandalf seems futile, but it is his only choice, as without Gandalf, he has lost all his leverage with Sauron and any lead on the Ring, so he has to try to catch him.
  • While Saruman was correct that Gandalf could not escape on his own, he didn’t count on outside help, or didn’t know about the Eagle, and assumed he was on the run on the ground.
  • It’s unlikely that the Valar are unaware of Saruman’s activities, but they have allowed the Istari to make their own choices and to face the consequences for those choices, too.
  • The use of the word “pursuit” implies that Saruman may be making assumptions about how far the Eagle might carry Gandalf and where he might go and sending the wolves and orcs there.
  • Gandalf suggests that others are able to perceive when he puts forth his power, so even if Saruman was not able to see his staff alight, be may still be aware of Gandalf’s activities.
Not to the ends of the earth:
  • While the relationship between Gandalf the Grey and Gwaihir is similar to the one they have in The Hobbit, this will change when he becomes the White later and their roles change.
  • There is no mention of the gold collars that the Dwarves made for the Eagles in The Hobbit.
  • When Tolkien identifies these Eagles as the Great Eagles of the First Age, he makes it clear that the Eagles who rescued Beren and Lúthien also rescue Frodo and Sam on Mount Doom.
  • Gwaihir’s position precludes his giving unlimited help to Gandalf the Grey, and he gives a naturalistic explanation for his unwillingness similar to the one they gave in The Hobbit.
  • There is also a sense in that Gwaihir is unwilling to do this because it’s not his job to do it.
  • Saruman seems ignorant of the presence of the Eagles, but he also was unaware of the Ents.
  • Gwaihir did not come to rescue Gandalf, but to deliver messages, so this is a eucatastrophe.
  • The Eagles have rescued people before in special circumstances, so this isn’t outside their purview to intervene, but it’s not clear how much is at the behest of Manwë or independent.
  • It’s also not clear what their normal role for Manwë is, as either heralds or watchful stewards.