Episode 306 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member

Finding the way home in a blind night:
  • While having the characters reference a story that they might be familiar with, but the audience isn’t, adds to a sense of depth in the created world, it’s not clear who Aragorn is directing it to.
  • It is clear that some in the Company, but not necessarily all of them, and it’s unclear who that is.
  • There is an implication that the Company understands the reference, as none of them question it, and the narrator moves on to describing more of their journey, taking this idea for granted.
  • The narrator seems to know the reference and is assuming that anyone reading this also would.
  • With his admonition to not be afraid, this seems to be directed at the hobbits, though it is possible that Boromir is also part of Aragorn’s intended audience, though neither are named.
  • All that is revealed is that it was “the others” generally, and they all seem to have accepted it.
  • Given that Tolkien’s later story is about a Gondorian queen, it implicitly retcons this moment.
  • The implication of the story is that the tale of Queen Berúthiel and her cats was not of great historical significance, and therefore not be widely known outside of certain circles in Gondor.
  • Aragorn likely knows it from his time living in Gondor and serving Ecthelion II in Minas Tirith.
  • Boromir would know this, and Aragorn knows that, and is using this to reassure Boromir about the dark, while the hobbits know Gandalf and have probably heard of great deeds of his before.
  • Based on Bilbo’s stories, they know that Gandalf will do whatever it takes to get them out alive.
  • Boromir only would know Gandalf by reputation in Gondor, which might be tainted by his father’s opinion, and he would need to be reassured about his abilities as he must rely on this.
  • Legolas would also be affected by Aragorn’s reassurances in that the great among his own people in Rivendell hold Gandalf in such high esteem and have tales they tell of his great deeds.
  • Therefore, Tolkien’s later version of this story turns this into an Aragorn and Boromir moment.
In many places holes and pitfalls:
  • The previous description did not emphasize these kinds of obstacles, but rather the grand and intricate nature of their surroundings, and the dark and confusing nature of traveling through.
  • This introduces the physical depth of the city and its many layers, which leads to fall dangers.
  • Water doesn’t grab their attention because of the need to drink, but the sound reminds them of deep machines, and not just rushing water which is running naturally though its own course.
  • What other sounds besides the water would make them think of mill-wheels are unknown.
  • It does point to the fact that there was more of the city beneath them and built structures there.
  • There are implications that the possible presence of machines below has negative associations.
  • While mills themselves are not evil or destructive machinery, their association with corrupt millers, such as the Sandymans in Hobbiton, might remind the hobbits of bad things generally.
  • Watermills are seen by Hobbits as the most complicated machinery they are comfortable with.
  • Note: The traditional association of millers with corruption in medieval literature, due to their abuse of the monopoly they hold in the processing of grain, is reflected in the hobbits’ mistrust and enmity with Ted Sandyman. The Gaffer’s objection to the new mill isn’t the mill itself, but that it is big for bigness’ sake, and there isn’t enough grist to grind at the mill in the first place. While Tolkien often spoke against the evils of industry, he was not opposed to all technology.
  • The image of a waterwheel seems out of place, being an agrarian machine, so this association is being made by the hobbits with the kind of running water necessary to turn a wheel like this.
  • If there is a waterwheel, it might have rather been used in mining or smith work, not farming.
  • When they imagine what lies at the bottom of the chasms, it is the lower city, not empty space.
Over the dreadful gap:
  • A seven-foot gap would be a large jump in the dark for a regular sized person, and for Pippin this would be more than twice his height, so his hesitation is understandable given what is below.
  • This is a familiar kind of fear different from the dread caused by walking in the strange darkness.
  • Hobbits seem to be good leapers based on stories, such as Bilbo’s leap in the dark over Gollum.
  • Note: It is likely not a coincidence that both Bilbo’s and Pippin’s leaps are both seven feet, which is significant, because the first was over Gollum and the second is just before Gollum returns, as well as setting the stage for Pippin’s dropped stone with the sounds of waterworks below.
  • Sam’s muttering is clearly to himself, ruing his forgetfulness and its potential consequences.
  • Note: Tolkien holds onto this thread, setting up Sam’s wishes being fulfilled later in Lothlorien.
  • It is surprising that all of the other members of the Company did not bring rope with them.
Of evil ahead and evil following:
  • Note: Frodo’s trustworthiness as narrator is in question here due to the transitions of thought and his speculating as to their causes. It’s possible that Sam made some of these interjections.
  • Frodo seems to make a connection between his bad feelings and the original knife-wound, but he also associates it with useful things, such as his night vision, and there appear to be others.
  • His bearing of the Ring seems to be mentioned as a non sequitur, and this is the first time that the weight of the Ring and the burden he carries has been mentioned, along with their effects.
  • Frodo’s responsibility has been clear before, but not the actual burden of bearing the Ring.
  • He had pledged to guard the Ring back in Bag End and to take it to Rivendell, though he doesn’t speak of delivering the Ring there, and does not speak himself as the unique bearer of the Ring,
  • His awareness of the change in him done by the knife-wound is paired in his mind with the Ring.
  • Frodo first felt the weight of the Ring when Gandalf asked for by the fireplace in Bag End, which seemed to indicate that the Ring forbode being thrown in the fire, though Frodo didn’t know.
  • He is now aware that the Ring can change him in the way that the knife-stroke has changed him.
  • Frodo then associates both the wound and the ring with his uneasiness and sense of dangers.
  • His prior experience of being pulled into the spirit world seems to have left him with a permanent ability to perceive it, and this has manifested itself as his ability to see in the dark.
  • This also seems to manifest as his ability to perceive the evil ahead of him in time and space, but the Ring would also cause him to see the evil on all sides and to push him in certain directions.
  • Frodo might also perceive creatures of evil intent through both the knife-wound and the Ring.
  • This could also lead to a temptation to despair, in order to move him to give in or give up.
  • He now realizes that the Ring is not only changing him, but permanently damaging him, too.
  • Frodo had resisted this idea when confronted with what the Ring had done to Gollum before.
  • Gripping his sword shows his determination to keep going and not to give into his despair.


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