Episode 185 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member

Comment on Boromir’s interpretation of Elrond and the Three Rings:
  • It’s possible that Boromir may see the way that the Elves have used their rings in a self-serving way, and not for the benefit of all the peoples of Middle-earth, especially Gondor.
  • Note: While Tolkien didn’t intend for the use of the Three Rings to be suspicious, he did have their use be typically Elvish, and in line with their behavior in The Silmarillion. A parallel of this kind of removed and hidden realms is Gondolin, which like Valinor, is marvelous but isolated.
  • While the impulse to preserve the bliss of earlier times is understandable, but it can be problematic when it defies the normal course of time and change inherent in nature.
  • The prophecy of Mandos that the Noldor who linger in Middle-earth will diminish to shadows of regret in the eyes of Men is not the pronouncement of doom, but a foretelling of the outcome.
  • Therefore, one answer to that inevitability would be to use the Rings to forestall it for a time.
  • Overall, the invitation of the Elves to live in Valinor is suggested to be dubious, as the Elves might have brought the whole of Middle-earth to a higher level of bliss, rather than hoarding it.
  • Elrond is sincere when he explains that he and the other Ring-bearers are resisting Sauron, too.
  • Galadriel suggests later that she is in an ongoing, unseen spiritual conflict with Sauron herself.
  • Everyone at the Council is shown in some way responsible for saving the world from the threat of Sauron, whether they are responsible for creating that danger or not.
Thus we return to the destroying of the Ring:
  • Erestor shows his value as a counselor by redirecting the conversation away from the Three Rings and back onto the destroying of the One Ring, though he asks the difficult questions.
  • Erestor is not challenging the wisdom of Elrond, but he is acknowledging the inevitable thoughts of everyone else in the Council about the viability of Elrond’s plan to destroy the Ring.
  • When Erestor refers to “finding of the Fire”, does he mean an invasion the Last Alliance? They know the location of the Cracks of Doom, but they don’t know how they could reach them.
  • Having agreed that there is no military strength for a new Last Alliance, Erestor seems to be clarifying the argument as to any kind of strength they can use to approach Mount Doom.
  • While Erestor clearly has faith in Elrond’s wisdom, he now invites Elrond to answer these obvious objections, and to provide them with amdir for this plan to destroy the One Ring.
  • However, Erestor is himself unable to see how they do this and reach the Cracks of Doom.
Despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt:
  • This famous statement by Gandalf is a contradiction of Erestor’s lack of hope, and presents despair as an act of pride, rather than an exercise in wisdom, or rather the opposite of wisdom.
  • Note: This pairing of pride and despair will become most clear in Denethor later in Gondor.
  • Given the many examples of eucatastrophe throughout the history of Middle-earth, and though this is not something to be counted upon, they introduce doubt into an inevitably bad end.
  • Amdir itself is not bad, but it is simply a more practical form of hope, and Gandalf reminds them that all amdir is not lost. It is only in the total failure of amdir that one chooses estel or despair.
  • Having already pointed out the series of unlikely events that have brought the Ring into their power to destroy it at all, Gandalf emphasizes that they must act with faith that all is not lost.
  • Acting in faith is in a sense always “blind faith” because faith requires belief without certainty.
  • Gandalf’s argument here is practical, showing that the ultimate necessity is to destroy the Ring.
  • The false hope Gandalf refers to is the idea that they can win the war in any other way, though he is proved right in saying that others may accuse them of folly, as Denethor will later do.
  • None of this is to say that the plan to send the Ring to Mordor is not extremely high-risk, but the risk of disaster by trying it is actually less than playing it safe by taking one of the other paths.
Let folly be our cloak:
  • Gandalf is counting on Sauron’s particular kind of wisdom, which would lead him to make the same assumptions that they have tried to dispel, seeing false hope in the other paths.
  • Gandalf is also counting on Sauron’s inherent self-interest and pride, which would lead him to not expect an obvious sacrificial attempt to destroy the Ring, rather than use it against him.
  • Using the Ring, practically speaking, is a much better plan, but one with only bad consequences.
  • What conclusion the Council is coming to is that losing is preferable to winning in a corrupt way, and therefore bringing down the consequences of that corruption down on future peoples.
  • Sauron would not consider ends beyond those most likely to achieve his ends, no matter what.
  • Note: Gandalf will repeat and extend this argument when he advises attacking the Black Gate.
Small hands do them because they must:
  • This is a not very subtle nomination, and vote of confidence, of the hobbits in taking the Ring.
  • Elrond not only confirms the singular necessity of destroying the Ring, but also acknowledges both the difficulty and the lack of resources that they have for the finding of the Fire.
  • However, he doesn’t suggest sending the strongest possible force, as he might be expected to do. His suggestion that strength and wisdom can’t help them succeed seems counterintuitive.
  • While strength and wisdom are available to the party, he is not counting on those things alone.
  • Elrond seems to be saying that no matter how practically they attempt to be, this will not make the ultimate difference, and he is pointing to the larger pattern of Providence shown so far.
  • There is a sense that, as shown in The Hobbit, while Gandalf was looking for a traditional hero to go on an adventure, they would be better served with the kind he actually found in the Shire.
  • This is informed by Elrond’s earlier speech about who should carry the Ring, and how Bombadil had shown them that the strong and wise are the ones most at risk if they chose to carry it.
  • Note: While the scale is different, the heroes of The Silmarillion were also small hands in relation to the Valar and other great ones in moving the wheels of the world, because they must.
  • The Ring has been brought to the Council by small hands, including Frodo, Bilbo, and Gollum.
  • Note: The greatest example of this will be Sam, and none of the Wise could have done better.
  • There is probably a pregnant pause after the end of Elrond’s statement, before Bilbo speaks.
  • Neither Gandalf nor Elrond address the military question that Erestor had raised earlier. This statement about strength and weakness are the unique counsels promised in Boromir’s dream.
  • Elrond already seems to be thinking of a small adventuring party rather than an army, and approaches this as a quest rather than a council of war and is considering who should go.
  • While Elrond has kept the floor open for input all along, ultimately this is his decision to make.
  • Note: The choice of the word “quest” may seem obvious to readers now, partly due to Tolkien’s use of it in this book, and as become common in roleplaying and video games. However, in Tolkien’s time, this was not obvious, and he would have associated it with the kinds of quests found in older literature, such as Arthurian stories and has its origins in Latin through French. It shares a root with “question”, and implies something which is sought, including answers. In a sense, this may be the opposite of a quest because Frodo is not being sent to find something, but to destroy it instead, and Frodo has already pointed out this difference with Bilbo’s story. While the company will have an end goal in a location they already know, so it is only the means and strength to accomplish it that will remain sought for until the end. This is paralleled to the quest for the Holy Grail, which is the culmination of the Arthurian stories, but also is about faith.