Words with old Gamgee:
Words with old Gamgee:
- There are some statements reported by Gandalf that seem to be for the sole benefit of Sam, as well as Bilbo and Frodo, as they are not entirely germane to his story, since only they know him.
- Gandalf had spent months imagining worst case scenarios about Frodo’s fate, and had used all haste to get there, as his fear has grown as he rode north, based on reports of the Black Riders.
- He received these reports of the division of the Riders presumably from refugees on the Road.
- Why did the Riders divide their forces? This is only just after they have learned that they have reached the Shire, and before that they know that Frodo is on the Road heading east.
- Those that enter the Shire seem not to include the Witch-king, and they weaken themselves by splitting up, so the reason must be to do with their lack of surety and power in the Shire.
- As in the attack in the dell under Weathertop, the hesitation of the Nazgûl outside the circle was not a tactical decision, but because they were resisted and not all together as the Nine.
- The fact that the Witch-king sends his lieutenant and two of the others show that they have been wrongfooted by the power they encounter in the Shire and is unsure what to do next.
- If the others with the Witch-king were waiting to cut Frodo and the others off on the Road, they are again baffled by their trip into the Old Forest, which would be unexpected.
- Note: To some extent, the Ringwraiths lack of power in the Shire is due to the growing of the story as Tolkien went along in writing the story, but he later retconned this in light of their greater strength near Mordor and against other enemies.
- The mission of reclaiming one hobbit and the Ring doesn’t require all of their number, in their estimation, but there is a sense of the Witch-king has underestimated the Shire Hobbits.
- Note: In the big picture, the Witch-king is not a frontline general, and is described by Denethor in similar terms to himself and Sauron, sending forth his minions to fight in his stead. His entry into the gates of Minas Tirith is a symbolic statement of his perceived triumph.
- The response of the Hobbits, such as Gaffer Gamgee and Farmer Maggot, does not seem to be the terror the Riders expect. Sam’s conversation with his father reveals his befuddlement only.
- The refugees on the Greenway do seem to suffer this terror, such that Gandalf can sense it.
- It’s not clear if the lack of terror is a symptom or cause of the Ringwraiths’ lack of power in the Shire. The ignorance of the Hobbits may play a part in this, but also their inherent qualities.
- Note: They may have encountered the Sackville-Bagginses at Bag End. While Lobelia would’ve resisted the Riders, the corruption of Lotho may make him more susceptible to their power.
- The mention of Gamgee would not only entertain and reassure the Bagginses and Sam, who would’ve worried about him after learning more, it would testify to the Council about Hobbits.
- The members of the Council who have knowledge or experience of the Nazgûl, such as Boromir, would understand that the Gaffer’s ability to shrug off an encounter with them is telling.
- Gandalf also does Frodo a favor by allowing Sam to continue to focus on serving his master.
- By including this encounter with the Gaffer, Gandalf also communicates his own relief at finding Hobbiton relatively normal after having the Ringwraiths pass through leaving it unscathed.
- The anticlimax of Gamgees “few words to the point” also reveals their relative safety, for now.
- The Gaffer’s assertion of Lobelia as “the worst” thing that could happen not only shows his ignorance at how bad things could become but has an inherent dramatic irony.
- Since it seems the Gaffer had much to say, it is conspicuous that Gandalf chooses this quote. The Gaffer not only gives voice to Gandalf’s fears of the Ring, but what will happen later in the story.
- Gamgee chooses the word “worst”, not “worse”, meaning that he thinks this is the nadir now.
- Gandalf shows patience with the Gaffer, given his anxiety, but is also in great haste and needs to find out if Frodo and/or Sam are dead, of which the Gaffer doesn’t understand the danger.
- This compressed version of this story is inline with his promise to speed up the narrative.
- Gandalf doesn’t explain the actual worst-case scenario, including the risk to Sam himself, though he does try to hint at the Gaffer’s lack of perspective without spreading despair or fears.
- The Gaffer has no idea of Frodo’s business, only that Sam is going to assist him, and this keeps both his hopes and his fears small and pedestrian, as revealed in his concerns for Sam’s service.
- Note: Sam ironically gets mixed up in the affairs of his “betters”, just as the Gaffer feared, but Sam grows in stature as a result, which everyone but the Gaffer seems to perceive. The Gaffer’s concerns are limited to the loss of his waistcoat in the barrow and Sam’s wearing of armor.
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