Episode 174 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member

Shadowfax departed:
  • The use of “master” to describe Théoden is an acknowledgement that he had possibly imposed upon Théoden’s hospitality by taking Shadowfax, however reluctantly it was given.
  • Gandalf doesn’t feel at this time that he can make any claim on Shadowfax, but he also has no doubt that Shadowfax would be able to return to Rohan out of his own sense of obligation.
  • Gandalf doesn’t speak of Shadowfax as a possession or servant, but as a friend with agency. This is important, as Gandalf’s close personal connections are few, even including the hobbits.
  • Shadowfax not only owes allegiance to Théoden, but also has subjects among the horses.
  • How would Gandalf call Shadowfax, except in Rohan? He probably couldn’t, as he doesn’t do it.
  • Note: The relationship between Gandalf the White and Shadowfax is different from that of Gandalf the Grey. It may be that the relationship reaches its full fruition after his return.
  • This may also be a statement of faith on Gandalf’s part that he will find Shadowfax again when Gandalf needs him, but there is also the sense that Shadowfax will himself perceive that need.
  • Note: There will be evidence later that Shadowfax is a sentient horse through his behavior. There is also probably a relationship between Snowmane and Shadowfax, as the mearas are associated with the king’s house and seems to provide the king’s personal horse.
  • Note: The name Shadowfax is derived from an Anglo-Saxon term meaning “grey hair”. This is important because he is a grey horse, not a white horse as he is usually depicted. This particular grey has special properties, looking lighter or darker depending on the light conditions.
The Tale is now told, from first to last:
  • Why is “Tale” capitalized? The “first” seems to refer to Elrond’s tale, and “last” is at the Fords of Bruinen, so the Tale is the story of the One Ring, start to finish, of which this is pivotal moment.
  • Note: While Sam’s later insight about being still in one of the great tales is about Beren and Lúthien, Gandalf here points out that the tale of the Ring is also one of the great tales.
  • Gandalf seems to imply that the new chapter of the Tale that will begin here is the last chapter.
  • Why does Gandalf make an obvious statement about the presence of the Ring? Gandalf seems to go out of his way to make the point that it’s up to them collectively to decide what to do.
  • He also places them on one side and the Ring on the other as opposing forces in this battle. It also encourages solidarity, which is exactly what the Ring will oppose, as it divides people.
  • Elrond had already emphasized early on that they had been brought together for this purpose, though he didn’t make clear what that purpose was, which Gandalf now says explicitly.
  • It hasn’t been a given that it was the purpose of the Council to make this decision, since none of the councilors had arrived with this in mind, nor expecting to have a vote in the decision.
  • The outsiders to Rivendell and the Wise might assume that they will be told what will happen, not to decide what will happen in an open debate in which they will have a voice.
  • Some there, such as Boromir, believe that the purpose is to oppose Sauron directly, perhaps through the power of the Wise, and may see the Ring as a tangential subject, not the point.
What shall we do with it?
  • There is also no expectation among any of them that they would get a say over the disposition of any of the Rings of Power, considering their history and the way that they were passed on.
  • By not saying that they have the Ring, but that they are only in the same location, Gandalf distances the Council from the Ring and avoids any implication of ownership of it.
  • Gandalf speaks of the Ring as if it were a dangerous enemy prisoner, not as their possession.
  • He leaves the question open by asking what they will do “with it”, and not “to it”. This may also allow him to reveal those who may have any designs on the Ring aside from destroying it.
  • We know that Elrond and Gandalf are pushing the Council towards the decision to destroy it, since Gandalf has known that it must be taken to Mount Doom since he told Frodo in Bag End.
  • However, while that decision could be imposed on the Council, they don’t do that as they believe that it must be entered into willingly, having reached the same conclusion on their own.
  • In a sense, the Council is a recapitulation of the Last Alliance, and must choose to join together.
  • Likewise, Gandalf and Elrond seem to know that Frodo is called to carry the Ring, but he must allow Frodo to make that choice himself, regardless of if his calling was revealed by Providence.
  • Note: There is not a good backup plan should Frodo not choose to do it, even among the other hobbits. Perhaps Gimli, as dwarves are not as susceptible to the outside wills of others.
Of the tales we have heard this day:
  • Elrond seems to deflect the transition from Gandalf’s call to action by commenting on the details of Gandalf and Frodo’s stories, respectively. This is perhaps to relieve the tension.
  • This also reveals the width and breadth of his lore, as well as putting it all in perspective.
  • Firstly, Elrond emphasizes the surprises, such as the negative surprise of Saruman’s treachery, and the positive surprise of the resilience of the hobbits, evidenced by Frodo and Bilbo.
  • Why does Elrond refer to the historical features of Eriador? This seems to eventually lead back, geographically, to Isengard, though this seems to be his stream of consciousness.
  • Elrond also seems to be following up on points from earlier, which wouldn’t have been appropriate to justify an interruption, but which he now wants to clarify.
  • This also seems to support Frodo’s story, reinforcing the veracity of the things he described.
  • While it serves as a warning that even Saruman could fall to the Ring, any of the Wise could, too.
  • it also allows him to set up Frodo as a possible Ring-bearer, since he has shown that hobbits generally are extraordinary, and Frodo in particular, which is in opposition to the great ones.
  • The role of Providence is also being hinted at here, as it has played a role in all of Frodo’s adventures, which reinforces Gandalf’s assertion that it was Providence that chose Frodo.
  • There is an emphasis on the depth of time in Elrond’s experience, including his memories of Tom Bombadil and the Barrow-wights, the ancient beings who Frodo encountered.
  • Note: There is no mention of Goldberry, which may mean her marriage is a recent event. Also, the time of the deforestation of Eriador was during the Second Age by the Numenoreans.
  • What is strange about Frodo’s tale? The fact that these ancient beings have become involved don’t point to an emergence from dormancy, but rather the connection to events in the Tale.
  • Elrond can relate to this story, as it reminds him of stories that he once knew, but with a new, strange character. In a way, this is a fairy-story as experienced by one of the denizens of Faerie.
  • Note: It’s also possible that this is partly Tolkien’s inside joke about rambling faculty meetings.