Episode 201 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member

Eight out of the Nine accounted for:
  • It’s not clear who Gandalf is addressing with this statement, whether Frodo or one of the others.
  • This transition from the narrator to the end of a conversation seems disjointed and unusual.
  • Note: A similar thing happens in The Silmarillion in transitions from the historical to narrative.
  • The most likely candidates are Frodo, Sam, or Bilbo as the transcribers of this conversation.
  • This seems to be in the spirit of the previous passages which account for the passage of time.
  • Since the end of this passage is in Gandalf’s voice, it implies that he gave the previous report.
  • Gandalf’s emphasis on the word “empty” shows that the Ringwraiths have not only lost their physical disguise but have also lost any power put into them to interact with the physical world.
  • These powers must have come from Sauron and was given to them specially for this mission.
  • In a sense, what had been “filling” the Ringwraiths was Sauron himself, and that is taken away.
  • This also helps reveal the nature of the Ringwraiths in their normal state, empty and shapeless, and though they retain their sense of identity and will, are completely trapped and enslaved.
  • Note: Sauron will not only “refill” the Ringwraiths with this power again after they return to Mordor, but he will also increase the amount and kinds of powers with which he fills them later.
  • This similar to the state of the Barrow-wight after it was cast out by Tom Bombadil, though in its case, it had no worldly master to which to return, and was left to wonder in the darkness.
  • Note: While the Ringwraiths will be released from enslavement by the destruction of the Ring, Sauron’s and Saruman’s own fates will be more like the Barrow-wight, cast out and powerless.
  • The assault of the River was not only physical but also spiritual, and those two things are clearly connected. Therefore, they were injured both physically and spiritually by the Bruinen.
  • This shows that the destruction of the physical body of a spiritual being has consequences for that being, just as it did for Sauron in his previous forms, being injured and weakened by it.
  • Note: The same will be true of Gandalf, the Balrog, and Saruman when their bodies are killed.
  • Sauron does a perversion of the Valar’s incarnations of the Istari into permanent physical bodies in the way that he re-embodies the Ringwraiths to interact with the physical world.
  • While Gandalf’s exertion of power to help Bilbo resist the Ring in Bag End came with his talk of “uncloaking” and revealing his true nature, the uncloaking of the Ringwraiths does the same.
  • The fact that many of the Wise cloak their true power shows humility and stands in contrast to the forceful show associated with the villains, who lord their power openly to dominate others.
  • Note: Whatever power Sauron put into the Ringwraiths would probably be lost to him as well, when the Ringwraiths are destroyed and that power emptied from them, as this happened to Morgoth. It was just this risk that probably caused Sauron to only empower them with the minimum power required for them interact with the world. He will have to take an even greater risk of the same kind when he increases their power after their return. It’s also possible that a similar phenomenon happened to Saruman in his attempt to control Théoden when he failed.
Obliged to return to their Master:
  • Gandalf uses the word “obliged” to show that not only are the Ringwraiths compelled to return to Mordor, but that it will be difficult for them and require great effort to get back to Sauron.
  • This obligation means that setting out soon is better than later, as it creates a clear opportunity.
  • What other servants of the Enemy is Gandalf referring to here? Orc armies surely, but this seems not to include birds and beasts, nor the Men that he has enlisted as spies and agents.
  • Whoever these servants are, they are not local to the lands of the West and come from Mordor.
  • Gandalf himself seems to be unsure of what kind of servants Sauron might use against them.
  • The fact that the Ringwraiths are held up as the most terrible of Sauron’s servants shows this in comparison to other servants of the Enemy, but who would inspire fear in a similar way.
  • Note: Gandalf distinguishes in Bag End between servants and chattels. The world “chattels” implies ownership like property, while “servants” implies a level of consensual obedience. Referring to the Ringwraiths as servants shows their own complicity in their current state.
  • We know that Sauron still has werewolves, just as he did in the First Age at Minas Tirith.
  • Note: This status of servant is not denigrated by Tolkien, but in the case of both Sam and Gandalf, it is held up as a virtue, in that they have willingly submitted themselves to help others.
We must delay no longer:
  • There are three ways that the Enemy could find the Fellowship once it sets out: to follow them from Rivendell, to wait for them to be revealed on the way, or to search the lands for them.
  • If Sauron were sure of their direction of travel, he could simply place sentries where they would have to pass to find them, and thus, why it’s important for that direction to be hidden from him.
  • It’s also reasonable to for Sauron to assume that they would remain in Rivendell for a while.
  • Does Gandalf intend to draw Sauron into a fruitless attack on Rivendell while they escape? Maybe, but their plan clearly doesn’t depend on doing that, and would be foolish to attempt.
  • If the servants of Sauron did intend to attack Rivendell, they would be limited in the ways that they could approach it. They’d likely have to go up the Anduin valley and through the passes.
  • This is why it is important that the Eagles have not seen any such attempt by Sauron so far.
  • While there are still risks in going south on the west side of the mountains, it is the best route.
  • The scattering of the Ringwraiths is also important because there is clear evidence that the Nazgûl are stronger together than they are apart, so scattering them makes them weaker.
  • This strengthening may come from the reuniting of the power that was put into them by Sauron.
  • It’s possible that if they were still united, they might still be a threat, but it may also be that their current emptiness and shapelessness prevents their reunion and joining their strengths again.
  • This mystery shows that Saruman’s intention of studying the arts of the enemy did have a practical utility, as it would explain what Gandalf is unsure about, but it has great temptations.