Episode 93 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member
SESSION 93

Comment on the choice of Elbereth and Lúthien:
  • The attempt to use Elbereth’s name again isn’t the same this second time, as the first time he was doing it seemingly involuntarily. This time he is using it consciously and differently.
  • Why invoke Lúthien? As far as we know, Frodo doesn’t know the full story of Beren and Lúthien, and he only knows as much as he’s been told by Strider.
  • Lúthien isn’t a figure to whom one can pray. She’s dead and no longer in the circles of the world.
  • Even though Lúthien, in the full tale, defeats Sauron, Frodo doesn’t know that part yet.
  • Note: The original reading audience for The Lord of the Rings did not know that, either, as The Silmarillion would not be released until 1977, after Tolkien’s death.
  • What does Frodo know about Lúthien from the story he is told? Strider emphasized her beauty, her rescue of Beren from Sauron, their triumph over Morgoth, and her death and self-sacrifice.
  • Strider downplays the resurrection of Beren and Lúthien, but he speaks of their descendants.
  • The pairing of Lúthien with Elbereth may have to do with the light Strider describes in her face.
  • This idea of light might be very present to Frodo’s mind as the darkness is overwhelming him.
  • It’s also possible that the power in the story of Beren and Lúthien demonstrated in Weathertop to repel the Ringwraiths is in his mind, but only if he understood that had happened.
  • He would not have an association with the name of Lúthien directly, as he had an association of power with the name of Elbereth before he even met Gildor and his folk.
  • Frodo is probably not reasoning this out. This is probably a spontaneous invocation, based on her association with light and standing up to darkness.
  • Note: That they are both women echo Catholic invocations of female saints, especially the Virgin Mary, and he is calling them, like saints, to intercede for him.
  • Note: There seems to be an association of light and beauty with strength, much as Sam does in Mordor, when he sees the star. This insight is about faith, which is also what Frodo is thinking.
  • Note: In the period after the time in Lothlorien, Galadriel will be invoked in a similar way. The main difference will be that they will have met Galadriel personally, unlike Lúthien or Varda.
The Witch-king’s final move:
  • This moment is the most powerful that we have seen the Witch-king behave so far.
  • Why does Frodo’s heart begin to labor? is this because of the wound, or directly from this?
  • The breaking of the sword is important, as it is one of the swords possessed of the red flash that had daunted the Ringwraiths before. It is broken at the hilt, like the Witch-king’s knife.
  • The sword was made for the destruction of the Witch-king, and it has been a symbol of Frodo’s resistance so far, so it’s breaking is a signal of the end of that resistance.
  • Asfaloth’s reaction shows that he is not cowed by this, but he is affected somehow.
  • It’s not clear if the leader is the one in the front who nearly reaches the shore, but it seems so.
  • The Witch-king has stopped Frodo from being able speak, maybe to prevent him from making more invocations. This is the second time that there has been an intervention in his speech.
  • Note: There are two “cleaving’s” in the paragraph, thought the word is only used twice. His tongue cleaves to his mouth and the sword is cleaved in two. The verb “cleave” is a contranym that means both one thing and it’s opposite, in this case to join together and to split apart.
  • This is not the first time that Frodo has come up against an agent of evil that he cannot defeat no matter what he does. He is not on equal footing with the Witch-king.
  • He has been helpless before, such as against Old Man Willow and the Old Forest in general.
  • Why didn’t the Witch-king break the sword on Weathertop? He probably had been surprised by the appearance of the sword the first time, but also, he didn’t believe that it was necessary.
  • Frodo also wasn’t alone the first time; therefore, the breaking wouldn’t have made a difference.
  • The Witch-king is claiming Frodo this time. The Witch-king had been attempting to subvert Frodo’s will without his knowing before, but now he is doing it openly and in plain sight.
  • Frodo is unable to do anything to defend himself, but he has still not submitted to them.
  • This last attempt to claim Frodo is through force, having seen that he will not submit to them.
  • It seems remarkable that Frodo is still able to resist at all, given how close he is to succumbing to the Morgul wound. This is partly why Glorfindel wanted Frodo on the horse, to buy him time.
  • The cleaving of the tongue and of the sword are depriving Frodo of his two weapons to resist.
  • Does the presence of Glorfindel matter here? He has said that he can’t oppose all nine Riders together, which they are now, but there is an urgency in dealing with Frodo first.
  • The normal Ringwraith tactic is to spend a long-time inducing fear, which is not available here.
  • Also, there is the unknown quantity of the hobbits that are with Glorfindel and Strider.
  • Is Asfaloth responding with fear or aggression? This may be fear, as it is different from the defiance that he showed earlier when he turned to face them, but he could be ready to fight.
(continued below)
 

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Tony Meade

Active Member
(continued)

The river rises:
  • Can everyone see the white flames and the horses in the river waters? Frodo can now see the Ringwraiths uncloaked, so he can see the spirit world, so maybe only he can see this, too.
  • Note: Gandalf’s magic isn’t usually only for certain eyes. He usually does things in the open and his flames are always visible to all eyes. However, perhaps one of Gandalf’s fireworks look different to Frodo through his current vision.
  • What is the point of the horses? This doesn’t seem to be to put on a show or intimidate anyone, which would be to bluff or fool someone. This flood is real and effective on its own.
  • Perhaps it is simply a show of force or defiance, but why horses, and not a different animal?
  • It’s important that the horses in the water have riders, and so they are white riders on white horses there to ride down the Black Riders on black horses.
  • The reference to white fire also recalls Asfaloth’s burst of speed just before crossing the Ford.
  • If these horses are visible generally, then the intended audience for the horses wouldn’t be the Black Riders, but the people on the shores; Frodo, Glorfindel, Strider, and the other hobbits.
  • In this case, it may be a form of encouragement for their allies. This is to give them strength in the spiritual warfare against the Black Riders, in knowing that the cavalry has arrived.
  • Indirectly, the message could for the Black Riders and even for Sauron. The Riders’ retreat in dismay shows that they are affected by this imagery in the flood.
  • The Witch-king is struck down at the moment where he exerts the most power.
  • Note: There is a parallel to Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, who is struck down at the moment where he thinks he will triumph at last over the white whale, as well as Pharaoh and his army, who are swept away in the Red Sea after pursuing the Israelites across it during the parting.
  • Is this a deus ex machina? The term refers to a moment in a story where a god descends and just undoes everything that has happened in the story. This flood is more like Tolkien’s term “eucatastrophe” which refers to a sudden turn of events to the positive, but it is within the parameters of the story and follows logically from the choices of the characters, even if initially unexplained. The flood adds new significance to Frodo’s crossing of the river, showing that his accomplishment mattered even more than he realized, but had to accomplish it first.
Frodo’s failing senses:
  • This description is tenuous, with Frodo not exactly sure what he is seeing in his condition.
  • The white light must be Glorfindel, as Frodo would remember this from their first meeting.
  • The small shadowy forms would certainly be the hobbits, but would they include Strider? They are all far away and would therefore look small in his eyes.
  • Frodo is seeing the flames the way the Ringwraiths do, and Strider has told them that they don’t love fire. This means that the fire is visible in the wraith world and is perhaps partly spiritual.
  • Frodo’s visual palette is reduced to black, white, grey, and the only color is he can see is red.
  • It seems important that he can see his friends now, but he can no longer recognize them.
  • The hobbits haven’t seemed to have drawn their swords, which raises the question as to whether Strider or Glorfindel is even aware that they have them.
  • They seem to have stopped to kindle fire, and this will be confirmed later by Gandalf.
  • Although Merry’s sword is the only one directly identified as wound with spells, Tom Bombadil seems to imply that they all are, and the red flash of Frodo’s sword seems to confirm this.
The black horses’ madness:
  • Why are the horses driven to madness? Are they afraid of Glorfindel, or perhaps the river?
  • There are many things that would scare even a normal horse, from the fires to the flood to seeing three of their number washed away in front of them, and horses are herd animal.
  • The fear of their Riders would also be communicated to the horses through their senses.
  • Is Glorfindel responsible for drowning the horses, and is it appropriate for him to do so?
  • The fact that the horses run into the river deliberately show their madness, but why?
  • This madness seems to go beyond fear, and they are not in control of their faculties.
  • Note: Ponies fare much better in The Lord of the Rings than in The Hobbit, but not horses.
Frodo’s senses fail:
  • There is a cliffhanger ending, in that he seems to be included with the fall of his enemies, but this is doubly ominous as he had started to become like his enemies in other ways.
  • Frodo is definitely fainting and losing consciousness, but the idea of falling is also metaphorical.
  • The suspense is not only whether or not he escaped the flood, but if he’s taken by the wound.
  • Frodo does not see anything after the flood, and all his experiences are felt rather than seen.
  • The word “falling” is used twice, first about the grey mist, so Frodo may be also falling like that.
  • Note: There is a sense of the baptismal in the river flood, and that is associated with death and renewal or resurrection. This are twisted versions of this in the descriptions of death and undeath in Dracula, and similarly, this is what happens to the Ringwraiths through their rings. This will continue to play out later with Frodo in Rivendell when he wakes up after this, though the idea of drowning and emerging a new creature could be bad here, like the Ringwraiths.
  • The fact that Frodo has invoked Elbereth and Lúthien gives us a clue as to what side Frodo will come down on, but Frodo, and the readers, only have his faith as to what will happen to him.
  • The emphasis is on the negative in that “he heard and saw no more”. All those things have been lost to him, and it seems like the end of the progression he has been on since Weathertop.
  • Note: There is a parallel with Pippin’s loss of consciousness at the end of Book Five, and all of the books, save the last one, end with a hobbit-oriented cliffhanger.
END OF SESSION
 

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NotACat

Active Member
The main difference will be that they will have met Galadriel personally, unlike Lúthien or Varda.
I don't recall whether we mentioned it at the time, and obviously the first-time reader could not know, but Galadriel has herself met both of those eminent ladies herself in person!
 

Tony Meade

Active Member
Since we’re supposed to be approaching this from the point of view of a first time reader, whenever someone is talking about something outside of the scope of the passage being discussed at the time, I try to highlight it with that “Note:” tag.
 
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