Episode 182 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member
SESSION 182

Nothing is evil in the beginning, reconsidered:
  • An old and common criticism from those that are unfamiliar with the actual text of The Lord of the Rings is that the moral universe is simplistic and binary, which is far from the truth.
  • There are clear moral choices in the text, and Tolkien is unambiguous about the difference between right and wrong, but the criticism that the characters are simplistic is incorrect.
  • While there are both very good and very evil characters, even among those there are complexities, which is revealed by Elrond’s statement about the nature of evil itself.
  • Tolkien’s had many problems fitting Orcs as a race into his morally complex and theologically consistent world and was uncomfortable with making them inherently corrupted and evil.
  • If the Orcs are creatures of free will like the other Children of Ilúvatar, then to treat them in the like the heroes in the text, as simply pawns or robotic servants to be killed is morally wrong.
  • In The Book of Lost Tales, the Orcs were non-living constructs of Morgoth without free will or souls, but that concept becomes more complicated after the writing of The Lord of the Rings.
  • Tolkien never settled on an alternate concept for the creation of the Orcs, though Christopher chose the “corrupted Elves” concept because it was part of the text that was most complete.
  • However, this means that Christopher often left out more advanced concepts because they were incomplete or unwritten into the narrative, which would mean more composition by him.
  • The Orcs served the role of enemies that it was acceptable to hate, as they were not creatures of God and therefore not worthy of mercy or pity, but by personalizing them later, this changes.
  • Note: In Star Wars, the stormtroopers serve a similar role, being faceless and dehumanized.
  • Elrond is making a big statement to the Council that anyone can fall and be as evil as Sauron.
  • While Tolkien created many theological problems for himself by standing on the principles that nothing is evil in the beginning and that evil can not create, but he seems willing to do that.
  • During the writing of The Lord of the Rings, the Orcs sill seem to only be constructs, shown by the scorekeeping at Helm’s Deep, but with Shagrat and Gorbag at Cirith Ungol, this changes.
  • Tolkien spoke about the applicability of this concept in his letters. While Tolkien felt that there were moral absolutes involved in the World Wars, he felt that there were “orcs on both sides”.
  • It’s notable that surviving humans in the battles are spared, while orcs are usually exterminated.
  • This problem is less to creatures like trolls and dragons, especially the latter, in Tolkien’s stories.
  • Some of the other solutions to the Orc creation problems was to make them evil spirits that incarnated in animal bodies, and therefore were outside of the mercy of the Children of Ilúvatar.
  • Even the idea of corrupted Elves is not well-explained in either practical or metaphysical terms.
  • Christopher leaves leeway in this explanation by making it an unproven rumor among the Elves.
  • There is an air of impatience with Boromir in Elrond’s tone, as if Boromir has overstepped here.
We must trust to such weapons as we have:
  • Boromir does submit to the judgement of the Wise, though he doubts the wisdom in their choice. He seems to be considering the choice not to take up the Ring as a kind of timidity.
  • Galdor has expressed the Elvish predilection to simply leave Middle-earth for Valinor in times of peril and evil, from which Elrond has expressed the need to turn away in this case.
  • While Boromir understands the risk of a new Ring-lord, he believes that the benefits outweigh the risks, and that the Men of Gondor would be able to take on those risks without falling.
  • Elrond has fully explained the risks, so Boromir cannot rebut his and Gandalf’s arguments that the Ring would harm the owner, but he has classified the Ring as simply a weapon to be used.
  • Even if the Ring-lord may do harm with the Ring, it may seem acceptable to avert destruction.
  • As a soldier and a diplomat, he understands that he must submit to the rulings of the Council, but he would still see this decision as inadequate to the military threat as he understands it.
  • It doesn’t seem at this point that Boromir is concerned with his own personal glory or honor.
  • Though Boromir believes in himself and the Men of Gondor’s trueness and unwillingness to submit, he has no data for believing in any chance they would not be corrupted by the Ring.
  • Since only a Dark Lord can be the true Lord of the Ring, either Sauron must reclaim it, or a new Ring-lord must become evil in order to use it to defeat Sauron, which Boromir misunderstands.
  • There is a sense in which the Ring cannot truly be used against Sauron, as it is Sauron in a way.
  • Sauron believes that he has a plan that will defeat the Free Peoples even if they use the Ring.
  • Note: It’s important to remember that Boromir will change over time, and we can’t import his later actions as interpretations as to what is happening with him in the Council. While a seed of corruption has been planted in him by the Ring here, it has not grown in the way it will later on.
(continued below)
 

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Tony Meade

Active Member
(continued)

While the Wise ones guard this Ring, we will fight on:
  • As a captain, Boromir might even view the corruption of the Ring as self-sacrificial, even if that meant that he agreed to be killed after using the Ring as the price for saving his city and people.
  • Note: There is an irony in the idea of using the evil of the Ring to defeat Sauron, because this is in fact how evil works, and how the Ring is destroyed, since evil is always self-destructive.
  • Boromir uses the phrase “so be it” to refer to Elrond and Gandalf’s refusal to wield the Ring.
  • Note: Boromir is not the ruler in Gondor, so he would be used to acquiescence to rulings.
  • Since he has already stated that Gondor cannot ultimately win, and only that they can delay Sauron, it shows that this acquiescence is a resignation to that fate, despite what he’d hoped.
  • Boromir has introduced a divide between the Wise and Gondor, saying that they are in different camps with regards to what to do to defeat Sauron, so he will go with his people’s mission.
  • He seems to have forgotten about sending the Ring to the Fire, or at least he sees this as an impossible solution that no longer needs to be considered, despite Elrond’s resolution.
  • Boromir seems to be removing himself from further considerations or counsels, with no further part to play, but he has forgotten that Elrond has said he does not wish to guard the Ring.
  • He may be trying to distance himself from the Ring by calling it “this Ring” in a slighting way.
Mayhap the Sword-that-was-Broken may still stem the tide:
  • Boromir may be asserting that he must take the Sword as his weapon, since he cannot take the Ring, though as a metaphorical acknowledgement of the coming of Aragorn, it is a challenge.
  • While Boromir has said before that courage needs first strength, and then a weapon, his challenge to Aragorn is he has the strength, now that he has the weapon, meaning the Sword.
  • Boromir doesn’t seem to be disrespecting Aragorn, but this is a question of Aragorn’s legitimacy given his appearance compared to the legendary images of the old kings from long ago.
  • This may be a sign of a loss of faith in the Council by Boromir, which is projected upon Aragorn.
  • In challenging Aragorn to prove himself, he may be trying to be motivating as a captain.
  • Note: Aragorn’s growing desire to go to Minas Tirith as the journey goes forward may have been shaped by his relationship with Boromir, which begins here in the Council, in these moments.
  • Aragorn doesn’t take the opportunity to bristle, but simply states his intentions with humility.
  • By using the word “we”, Aragorn is making a promise to Boromir himself, which acts as an oath.
  • Note: In Tolkien’s stories, oaths have power and importance for those they are made between. Aragorn will speak later as if he is bound by duty and obligation to go to Minas Tirith in the end.
  • Boromir challenges Aragorn again on his urgency, which shows his frustration and sense of rivalry, which he doesn’t have with Elrond and Gandalf, so he can take this out on Aragorn.
  • He was also told to “seek for the Sword-that-was-Broken”, which he has now found in Aragorn.
  • Boromir doesn’t grudge Aragorn ownership of the Sword, but sees them as one, nor does he challenge Aragorn’s rights or claim, but he does feel empowered to challenge Aragorn to come.
  • Having been denied the use of the Ring, he may see this as the way to not leave empty-handed.
  • As the idea of estel is harder to accept, he is purely concerned with amdir and pragmatism.
  • In using the phrase “stem the tide”, Boromir shows that he doesn’t expect to win, but only to slow down the eventual and inevitable defeat of Sauron for as long as the possible can.
  • The word “mayhap” is a weaker word than “maybe”, as it expresses more doubt in events. Overall, Boromir has accepted that Gondor is on their own, without the help they truly needed.
  • Note: Gandalf will also use the tide metaphor later in other contexts, though in different ways.
May the day not be too long delayed:
  • Boromir makes a humble admission in his understanding that Gondor needs help, though he cannot ask for it, as that was not his mission in coming here. This seems to be aimed at Elrond.
  • Aragorn has passed Boromir’s challenges by rising to the occasion with a meaningful promise, which Elrond echoes here in his response that others are also fighting alongside Gondor.
  • Boromir seems to be accusing the Wise of doing nothing, and that this is their usual choice.
  • Elrond expresses the notion that the biggest reason that Boromir isn’t aware of others resistance to Sauron is because those things have been kept secret for just that reason.
  • The “other realms” that Elrond refers to are not only the other nations in Middle-earth that Boromir knows about, but also those that are not physical realms in the same way as Gondor.
  • Elrond emphasizes that this is also a spiritual war, and that those other powers are acting. This is probably an oblique reference to the Valar and their emissaries, who Boromir cannot perceive.
  • Note: While Boromir, and Gondor in general, may be thought of as ignorant for not having knowledge beyond their borders, in pre-modern times, maps were rare and difficult to create. As readers, we are privy to much more knowledge of the world than the characters in the story.
  • In Gondor, the Anduin is known as “the river of Gondor”, but Elrond emphasizes that not only are there lands north of Gondor’s borders on the river, but that those boundaries have shrunk.
  • This is a call for humility for Boromir with regards to Gondor, and that Sauron is the enemy of the whole world, not Gondor only, even if Sauron has a personal grudge against them.
  • While Gondor may be Boromir’s world, it is not the whole world which is resisting Sauron.
END OF SESSION
 

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