Episode 176 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member

Only postpone the day of evil:
  • Glorfindel is moving the discussion away from the question of who should take possession of the Ring, and back to what they must do with the Ring, regardless of who carries it.
  • This is because hiding the Ring would not change the outcome of the coming war.
  • It’s not clear if Glorfindel is more familiar with Tom Bombadil than Galdor, but he is speaking about the big picture based on what is commonly, but not universally, known among the Elves.
  • Note: While Tom Bombadil is usually removed from adaptations, it is ironic that he is a topic of so much important discussion in the Council that could change the story.
Power to defy our Enemy is not in him:
  • The three possible persistent states of the Ring are that Sauron recovers the Ring, or the Ring is made inaccessible to Sauron, or the Ring is actively kept from Sauron but available.
  • Sauron does not need to recover the Ring to win the war militarily, so simply keeping it from him does not avail them in victory, but if Sauron recovers it, he will definitely win.
  • It’s not as clear here as it becomes later that Sauron can win without the Ring, but they do know that simply trying to keep the Ring from him is a waste of time and probably impossible anyway.
  • Gandalf’s assertion that Sauron needs the Ring to Frodo in Bag End was based on his incomplete information at the time, and his lack of personal experience of Sauron, unlike Elrond’s.
  • That statement was made before knowing of Saruman’s treachery, and doesn’t account for the changing state of power with Sauron and his servants, such as the Ringwraiths.
  • Gandalf’s real point in saying this to Frodo was for him to understand the stakes of doing his part in protecting the Ring and keeping knowledge of it from the Enemy and his spies.
  • While they are able to resist Sauron as long as he doesn’t have the Ring, they still can’t win.
  • Boromir has more recent information on the growth of Sauron’s military strength than the rest of the Council, and that power will continue to grow right up until the invasion of Gondor.
Last as he was First, and then Night will come:
  • Note: There is a parallel between the notion of only Tom Bombadil remaining after Sauron conquers the rest of the world, and what happened with the Elves when they held out on the island of Balar after all of Beleriand had fallen to Morgoth. They still held out hoping for deliverance or at least a eucatastrophe, even if they were all destroyed in the process.
  • Glorfindel uses the capitalized words to confer First and Last on Tom as if they were titles.
  • The second darkness, which is capitalized as Night, is to return the world to the way it was in the beginning, before there was any light. This is an extension of Sauron and Morgoth’s nihilism.
  • Note: Tolkien used the term “nihilism” to describe the Dark Lords’ tendency to want to simply destroy everything once owning and controlling it all exclusively became unlikely. It is the next step down their dark path, born out of spite and feeling wronged by the Powers in resisting them, as shown in the Darkening of Valinor as a microcosm of that ultimate nihilism and self-destruction. This began in the Music, when Melkor wanted to control the themes, but then drown them out. Morgoth was further down that path than Sauron, but Sauron is on the same trajectory. This results in self-destruction, as shown most clearly by the fate of Ungoliant.
  • Sauron would not be able to create a second Void or defeat the Valar, though he might be able to if he freed Morgoth, but Glorfindel is speaking of Sauron’s intentions, not his capabilities.
  • Sauron had already begun the process of self-destruction with his creation of the One Ring.
  • Note: As stated during the Music, it can’t be destroyed by any discord, though causing trouble. These themes of nihilism and self-destruction play out in all evil characters, regardless of scale.
Such power is in the earth itself:
  • Galdor doesn’t seem to be identifying Tom Bombadil with the Earth, but he does imply that their powers come from the same source and are part of the same metaphysical system.
  • He contrasts this kind of power with that which is with the Elf-lords. While this maybe reveals the locations of the Elven Rings, he also asserts that Elvish power is different from Tom’s.
  • The creation of the Rings by Celebrimbor was done to focus the power of the bearers toward a particular take, but not to make them more powerful than they are natively.
  • Sauron is weaker without the Ring because of the part of his strength he put into it, but it doesn’t make him more powerful than he was originally, only able to focus his power on control.
  • The wielders of the Rings ultimately matter more than the Rings themselves, in terms of power.
  • It’s possible that the strength that the Smiths of Eregion expended to create the Rings of Power made them vulnerable and unable to resist Sauron when he attacked them to collect the Rings.
  • This also means that this power came from the Elves, who as Children of Ilúvatar bring new power into Arda from outside it, being given it by Eru through the creation of their fea.
  • Arda contains power that it was given in its creation through the Music and its shaping and inhabitation by the Ainur who bound themselves to Arda from beginning to end.
  • Note: The power that is in the earth is also shown in local powers such as at Caradhras. This is paralleled by Tom making himself one of those localized spirits by binding himself to Goldberry.
  • This relationship between the Ainur and the earth itself is a kind of closed system, as expressed in physics. In that model, external energy would be added and subtracted through the Children.
  • Within that closed system, there is still entropy and the allowance for free interactions inside it.
  • In the end, Sauron is part of the system of the Ainur and Arda, and therefore is free to make choices, including destructive ones, but he cannot be removed from the system.
  • Also, it is not in Tom Bombadil’s remit to resist Sauron. That is left to the Children of Ilúvatar.
  • The torture and destruction of “the very hills” is exemplified by the desolation of the Brown Lands by Sauron, which led to the disappearance of the Entwives, but this is also typical of evil.
  • Note: This notion of a desolation surrounding the abode of evil is a constant in Tolkien and seems to be an inevitable consequence of their actions and character, set to the scale of their power. The final image of this is the desolation of Bag End before the Scouring of the Shire.
The strength to withstand the Enemy:
  • While Galdor first references the Elf-lords around Middle-earth, he also references the Wise and other folk gathered at the Council to see if they collectively have the strength to resist Sauron.
  • Elrond references himself singularly, seeming to acknowledge the presence of his ring, but also the others, in that even together, combining their strength, could not prevent Sauron’s victory.
  • This shows that none aside from the Ring-bearers know that Gandalf, not Círdan, is one of them.
  • The indirectness of Elrond’s response is in answer to Galdor’s veiled reference in his question. He is clearly still trying to avoid talking about the Elven Rings, even among those in this Council.
  • These references would not be clear to those who are not among the Wise or White Council.
  • It is also important that Elrond is emphasizing that power to resist Sauron militarily or with other power is not what the Rings were created to do, and therefore don’t have that ability anyway.
To send it over the Sea, or to destroy it:
  • Glorfindel is attempting once more to bring the Council back to the question of their choice as to what to do with the Ring. While he only suggests two, there are other options, too.
  • By leading with sending the Ring over the Sea, he seems to connect it to his experience in Valinor, and he knows that the Valar could successfully keep it from Sauron forever.
  • Could those in Valinor be trusted not to be corrupted by the Ring? If it were left with someone like Eärendil, he might be tempted to use the Ring to return to Middle-earth, which he desires.
  • Note: It’s important to avoid an equivalence between the Silmarils and the Ring. The Silmarils were created without evil, and what evil was done in their name came from the desire of the people to possess them, such as from the Oath of Fëanor, and external factors such as the dragon’s power laid on the Nauglamír before a Silmaril was set in it. The Ring was created with evil intent in the first place, and its evil affects people, despite their intentions otherwise.
  • Why should it be that the Ring belongs solely to Middle-earth, and can’t be taken to Valinor? How does Elrond know that the Valar would reject it, and why does everyone accept this?