Episode 195 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member

Gandalf’s perch upon the window-sill:
  • How is Gandalf sitting in the window? Is he on the outside? Is the window-sill low to the floor?
  • He seems to have perched himself with his legs on the outside and is turning his upper body to speak to the hobbits, and when he stands, he does so outside the window, leaning inwards.
  • The window-sill, in order to be useful as a window to the hobbits, would have to be relatively low to the ground, perhaps two feet or so. This may be a special hobbit-sized room for Bilbo.
  • The bow seems ironic or self-deprecating and seems to be from the outside before he leaves.
  • Since Gandalf is only speaking to the hobbits for a few minutes, it would seem that the window is too low to comfortably stand without having to stoop, so it’s more comfortable to sit.
  • Note: This kind of stage direction and specifics of postures and positions is unusual in Tolkien’s writings, so this seems to be a moment when he had a clear picture of the scene and the room.
  • This shows something about Gandalf’s character, especially his humility and his casual comfort with the hobbits, since sitting on a window-sill is something that would be unusual for others.
Until we have found out about the Riders:
  • It isn’t a given that the scouts sent out would be looking for the Black Riders specifically, as they also need to know the best possible route, given the spies and other enemy servants abroad.
  • What do they need to find out about the Riders? Their location, disposition, or activities?
  • Merry asks the obvious question, which allows Gandalf to explain this for all of the hobbits.
  • Note: Merry’s question also allows Gandalf to answer this for the readers who might be wondering the same thing, given the climactic nature of what happened at the Fords. Also, Tolkien was appealing to much older folklore regarding evil creatures having an aversion to crossing running water, and while he didn’t give that particular weakness to the Ringwraiths, he does conjure up that kind of imagery in their hesitance to the attempt the crossing. This aversion was present in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, unlike sunlight, which is a creation of the movies. This is likewise present in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and The Wizard of Oz. While Tolkien toyed with this idea, but he realized that it was impractical for the Riders to travel.
The power of their master is in them:
  • The explanation of the Ringwraiths up to this point was that they were ensnared by the promise of immortality through the Nine Rings, though not in the way that those mortal kings expected.
  • In another sense, this power also acts as a snare in that it gives Sauron power over their wills.
  • That Sauron’s power would be within the Ringwraiths might not seem intuitive in that bargain.
  • While we know that Sauron placed a great deal of his native power into the One Ring, but just as Morgoth did before him, he has begun spending his power to both strengthen and control.
  • Note: This is evidenced by the way the orcs behave when Sauron’s will is removed from them once Frodo claims the Ring at the Cracks of Doom, devoid of purpose and willingness to fight.
  • Sauron feels that he must do this in order to ensure that his servants are as great as possible.
  • The Ringwraiths seem to be a special case, as though Sauron’s orcs and human servants may stand or fall in defeat along with him, the very survival of the Nazgûl seems dependent on his.
  • By using the phrase “by him”, rather than “with him” it suggests that Sauron is the agent of this, rather them being tied together in a kind of solidarity with the Ringwraiths, which he is not.
  • Note: Gollum seems to understand this later, in his instinct that when the Ring is destroyed, he will die into the dust”, and that the destruction of the Ring will be the final cause of that.
  • It’s possible that Gandalf is omitting the role of the Nine Rings and their relationship to the One Ring in sustaining their lives as a kind of shorthand for the dependence on Sauron.
  • Sauron can only fall if the Ring is destroyed, and if that happens, then the Nine will also fail.
  • In the context of the Council of Elrond, Gandalf may assume that they already understand this.
Unhorsed and unmasked:
  • What does Gandalf mean by “unmasked”? That they are now unhorsed is understandable.
  • This doesn’t simply mean that they have lost the cloaks they used to be visible, but more that their identity has been revealed, as the guise of the Black Riders was intended to conceal that.
  • If the bodies of the Nazgûl are formless, then the act of clothing themselves must be magical.
  • Therefore, their unmasking seems to be nonphysical, as their power is primarily a spiritual kind.
  • They have disguised themselves to be mistaken for a person, in order to interact with people.
  • There is also a sense in which once they have lost this mechanism to interact with the physical world, it requires them to return to Mordor, which would make them less dangerous.
  • It would also seem that this ability to interact physically is given to them by Sauron as needed.
  • This explains why they get stronger as they get closer to Mordor, as they are closer to Sauron.
  • While it seems that their invisibility and incorporeal state would make them ideal spies, it seems that they are impelled to return to Sauron in this state, as their independence may also be lost.
  • Since their sight was already limited as the Black Riders, it’s possible that they are completely blind to the physical world without that guise and power, and only have spiritual senses left.
  • Therefore, Gandalf’s is noting that the scouts are ensuring that none of the Nazgûl escaped this.
  • It doesn’t seem to have been the physical water, but the spiritual power in the river that brought about the Ringwraith’s downfall, both its native power and what is added into it.
  • This would refer to spirits that live in the river, which would respond to Elrond’s command.