Episode 179 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member

Long yet will that march be delayed:
  • Galdor’s mention of Gondor’s waning makes another interruption by Boromir inevitable.
  • While Boromir is partly defending the reputation of Gondor in his response, and still behaving provincially, he is also making a valiant vow to stand against Mordor until they are destroyed.
  • Boromir also speaks for hope, at least for a while, without denying the waning of Gondor, which is prepared to sacrifice itself and its people to defend the rest of Middle-earth in resistance.
  • While Gondor could be bypassed to go into the North and West, defeating Gondor is very important to Sauron personally, as they have been his primary enemy since their establishment.
  • Galdor is primarily focused on his mission as it relates to the departure of the Elves, which is not inherently selfish, but more narrowly towards Elves, while Boromir is concerned for everyone.
  • Boromir doesn’t seem to be openly chastising the Elves for being concerned with their escape plans from Middle-earth, though it could be implied in its relation to Galdor’s prior statement.
  • The use of the word “will” is important, as it relates to their own strength and abilities only.
  • Note: There is an element of what Tolkien called “northern courage” in Boromir’s resolve to fight to the death in a losing cause. This is in reference to Norse mythology and legendary past.
Yet its vigilance can no longer keep back the Nine:

  • While Galdor is correct in his statements about Gondor, he seems to unfairly hold them responsible for the Ringwraiths getting into the North, which they couldn’t have prevented.
  • Galdor may be speaking out of fear again, rather than with knowledge of the real situation.
  • He seems to be saying that the time is past to be in a defensive posture, as it is not infallible, but while interchanging the march of the armies for the Ringwraiths, he is still moving the goalposts.
  • Note: Timescales for the Elves are very different from that of mortals, as in the Annals of Aman, it is many years between the speech of Fëanor and the actual Flight of the Noldor, though the emphasis was on their haste and the fiery mood of the Noldor to set off from Valinor.
  • Galdor seems to be brushing off the sacrifice of Gondor as insufficient and ultimately irrelevant.
  • Note: While Elves struggle with understanding the natural deaths and ultimate fate of Men, they do have experience of being slain in battle. However, there is a cultural gap between Men and Elves in terms of their priorities and may not understand the need for their sacrifices.
  • Galdor may not understand the need for the sacrifice of so many Gondorian lives, as it does not save any of them in the end. Nor solve the ultimate problem of Sauron, and specifically the Ring.
  • Note: Later, Faramir will say that Boromir has more in common with the Rohirrim than with the Numenoreans of old, and therefore may be too willing to take a “northern courage” approach. While the view of Men is better suited for the momentary, the worldview of the Elves is wider and better suited to the big picture and the long view of history and events in that context.
Who will read this riddle for us?
  • Erestor understands that this is a tense moment of impasse and seeks to both break this tension and bring things back to the main point of the Council’s decision about the fate of the Ring.
  • The appeal to Glorfindel’s statement allows Erestor to use everyone’s respect for him to refocus.
  • Erestor seems to set up Elrond to respond, but as a sincere appeal to his wisdom on this point.
  • The use of the word of “riddle” is significant in light of Bilbo’s story, but he doesn’t seem to be referencing that. It’s also significant that he refers this question to Elrond and not Gandalf.
  • It’s also important that Erestor refers to this as a riddle and not a dilemma. A dilemma would imply that there is a choice between the two viable options, rather than both being impossible.
  • Erestor does imply that there is an answer, but that it is not obvious, which is how riddles work.
None can foretell what will come to pass:
  • Elrond immediately sets expectations downwards by declaring that though he will give his advice, he cannot predict, like a fortune teller, what will happen on any path they choose.
  • He is reminding everyone, like Gandalf did, that they must choose without any surety of success.
  • If Boromir came to Rivendell like seeking an oracle, Elrond is saying that this is not what he does.
  • Note: In Tolkien’s revisions of the Ainulindalë, as presented in Morgoth’s Ring, the elvish frame presents within it their theories as to human fates, of which they are unsure. This is different from the version without the frame, which seems to speak with ultimate divine authority.
  • Having set expectations, Elrond does make a very strong statement as to what he believes.
  • While Elrond had discussed this with Gandalf, who was sure that taking the Ring to Mordor was the only course, it’s possible that he has only just now become clear on this for himself.
  • Elrond probably felt that he needed to keep his options open and hear all the testimony of the members of the Council before he came to a final conclusion, though it now seems simple.
We must send the Ring to the Fire:
  • Elrond shifts himself syntactically in his final statements, which become more staccato and fragmentary. This may point to Elrond working this out spontaneously as he is speaking.
  • There seems to be a pause before “therefore”, as he makes a turn in the path of his thinking.
  • This turn is away from the obvious path he was seemingly following and in an unexpected direction toward his conclusion. His reasoning for the turn begins with the phrase “too often”.
  • The phrase “now at this last” seems to prevent the argument that the Elves must make a choice that is against their usual tendencies and to do the task that seems to be set before them.
  • He also seems to connect to Gandalf’s earlier statement regarding the responsibilities they have.
  • While it’s important that they are doing something that Sauron doesn’t expect, the weight of his argument doesn’t rest on this, but rather what now seems obvious, even if it seems impossible.
  • The traditional Elvish paradigm has been to either accomplish something through their own craft, or to leave Middle-earth, but Elrond speaks against doing either of these things.
  • This is the thing that they hadn’t thought of, and therefore that road is unforeseen by them.
  • Note: This choice is parallel to the stories of Beren and Lúthien and the voyage of Eärendil, in which they took what seemed an impossible and unforeseen path to accomplish their task.
  • By using the appositive statements, Elrond shows that this also spontaneous on his part.
There lies our hope, if hope it be:
  • Elrond is pushing them to think in a counterintuitive way, seeing the best path as the hardest and most dangerous, rather then the easiest and safest and most sure of success.
  • When Elrond says, “if hope it be”, “it” refers to the road itself, though he is invoking hope.
  • The last appositive statement is created by an even more dramatic pause than before.
  • This invocation of the idea of hope linked to their peril shows that Elrond is theorizing here.
  • What kind of hope is Elrond speaking of? Amdir or estel? Since he makes the hope conditional, it seems that he is referring to amdir, though this distinction may be lost in the translation.
  • However, he seems to say that they must ultimately rely on estel, like Gandalf had said before.