Eye-openers. What do you think?

Kate Neville

Well-Known Member
I've been exchanging thoughts with Rachel Port on the Narnion thread, but I'd like a wider response. I want to know what y'all think an eye-opener is. I see two justifiable readings.

Rachel seems to think that "eye-opener" refers to the story or story-teller that/who elicits a reaction of surprise from the audience. The evidence for that is the reading that Bilbo seems to say that Legolas' story was an eye-opener for Gandalf. I fully understand that reading.

On the other hand, Bilbo also says that everyone had an eye-opener, but clearly most of the Council attendants didn't say anything. Also, Gandalf says that he was the only one not surprised, although it is clear that his news about Saruman was a huge surprise to most of the Elves. If the eye-opener is the story, Gandalf was full of them.

I admit it is a phrase with multiple readings, and I've read it both ways. But I come down on the side of "eye-opener" as a description of a response.

What says the Council of Corey?

The referenced passage us below.

Nothing decided!’ cried Pippin. ‘Then what were you all doing? You were shut up for hours.’

‘Talking,’ said Bilbo. ‘There was a deal of talk, and everyone had an eye-opener. Even old Gandalf. I think Legolas’s bit of news about Gollum caught even him on the hop, though he passed it off.’

‘You were wrong,’ said Gandalf. ‘You were inattentive. I had already heard of it from Gwaihir. If you want to know, the only real eye-openers, as you put it, were you and Frodo; and I was the only one that was not surprised.’


Here's the context, Kate. I think it shows that Gandalf was not surprised by the hobbits' stories, though everyone else was.
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
Thank you Kate. Taking it over here is a good idea.

To be clear, as I have always understood it, "eye-opener" means surprise. So in the passage quoted could be written thus:


Nothing decided!’ cried Pippin. ‘Then what were you all doing? You were shut up for hours.’

‘Talking,’ said Bilbo. ‘There was a deal of talk, and everyone had a surprise. Even old Gandalf. I think Legolas’s bit of news about Gollum caught even him by surprise, though he passed it off.’

‘You were wrong,’ said Gandalf. ‘You were inattentive. I had already heard of it from Gwaihir. If you want to know, the only real surprises, as you put it, were you and Frodo; and I was the only one that was not surprised (by you).’


I take this to mean that Gandalf, being the only one of the Wise to go in for hobbit-lore, was the only one in the Council not surprised by the nature of the hobbits and their stories, by the qualities of character their stories showed them to have. But his saying he was not surprised is only about the hobbits; he had plenty of other surprises.

I think the difference I have with Kate is that I see "everyone had an eye-opener" to mean that everybody had his eyes opened by something that was said or done in the Council. Gandalf's story was full of surprises for most people present, but it was the hearers who had their eyes opened by what he told. In other words, to be surprised is to have an eye-opener - the person who tells the surprising story is not having an eye-opener.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
I agree that 'having an eye-opener' is the same as 'being surprised'. Everyone at the Council was surprised by something, except possibly Gandalf and Elrond?

Did anything at the Council surprise them?

Now I agree that Gandalf's comment that he was not surprised might mean not surprised by the hobbits' tales (after all he already knew all of them). But it might mean that he was not surprised by anything at the Council?

This might be literally true. Boromir might have told Elrond about his Dream when he arrived in the early morning before the Council, and Elrond might have told Gandalf. However, this could have only been very shortly before the Council. Likewise, Elrond might have learned of the escape of Gollum from Legolas before the Council. Gandalf and Elrond would certainly have discussed the treason of Saruman before the Council.

So, it could well be that Gandalf and Elrond both had no 'surprises' during the Council. But then, why would Gandalf say that he was the only one who was not surprised? What surprised Elrond?

My main candidate for what surprised Elrond is Bilbo volunteering to bear the Ring on the Quest. Elrond knew Bilbo as a quiet, scholarly, poetic and sedentary guest in Rivendell. The bold, swash-buckling, adventurous side of Bilbo might have come as a surprise to him? Perhaps not so much to Gandalf?

The other thing that might have come as a surprise to both of them was Boromir's Dream. Sure, Boromir might have recounted the Dream to Elrond sometime between when he arrived at Rivendell, "in the grey morning", and the start of the Council. I assume 'the grey morning' indicates dawn, before sunrise. Sunrise on the 25th of October, if Rivendell is about the latitude of Oxford, is at 6:47am. But actual sunrise in Rivendell would have been somewhat later, as 'the sun rose over the distant mountains'. So, let's guess that Boromir arrived in Rivendell sometime between say 6:00 and 7:00. Let's guess the Council started at 8:30. So in the 1.5 - 2.5 hours between arrival and the Council, Boromir could have told Elrond the Dream, and Elrond could have told Gandalf. But the timing is tight.

Also, would Boromir have blurted out the entirety of his Dream riddle to Elrond immediately upon first meeting? It seems unlikely. Boromir is an accomplished diplomat, and not entirely trusting of Elves. I imagine his introduction to Elrond might have been along the lines of 'I bear tidings from Gondor, and seek counsel from Elrond, loremaster, and others in Imladris on the perils facing our times'? Would Boromir have revealed the Dream to Elrond right away, or would it have been an 'eye-opener' to Elrond and Gandalf during the Council?
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
Elrond first met Bilbo on his first adventure, don't forget. He'd remember that when Bilbo offered again, I think, just as Gloin did - and of course, Bilbo had just told the story of that adventure to the whole Council.

I think saying that Bilbo and Frodo were the only eye-openers was a kind of compliment to them, which is part of why I assume he is saying he wasn't surprised by how remarkable they were, though everyone else was - the two statements were part of the same sentence, after all.

Gandalf has probably already told Elrond about Gollum's escape in the days between his arrival at Rivendell and the Council. He and Elrond have clearly consulted a good deal about Frodo's condition and the whole situation - and possibly Aragorn has been part of some of the consultations, because he can both give information about Frodo and of course, his declaration of who he is will be a significant part of any such meeting.

But Gandalf and Elrond cannot have known the content of what everyone at the Council reported - a number of people were present whose reports we don't hear. Boromir's arrival and prior meeting with Elrond are interesting to speculate about. When Boromir arrived, he was probably admitted by some of the elves on duty. He would have told them he had come from Gondor to see Elrond and ask for his counsel. I think placing this arrival between 6 and 7 AM makes sense, as Flammifer posits. Some of this time would have been taken up by that explanation and the attendants going to tell Elrond. I imagine Elrond would have come to see him, but this meeting would only be a few minutes. Boromir would have told Elrond he was the son of the Steward of Minas Tirith, and briefly told his errand. Elrond would have said that there was going to be a Council very soon, and invited Boromir to take some refreshment and attend the Council, which would address his question.

I think the Council would have startted earlier than 8:30, 8:00 at the latest, and don't forget that everyone else was already seated when Gandalf and the hobbits arrived. There wouldn't have been time for much else to happen between Elrond and Boromir.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
I like your suppositions Rachel, but, as Gandalf said that he was the only one who was not surprised (whether by the whole Council, or just by the tales of Frodo and Bilbo), then what do you think it was that surprised Elrond?
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
‘You were wrong,’ said Gandalf. ‘You were inattentive. I had already heard of it from Gwaihir. If you want to know, the only real eye-openers, as you put it, were you and Frodo; and I was the only one that was not surprised.’

That is one sentence, so I maintain that the second clause is a continuation of or response to the first. And in that case, Elrond himself says that he found Frodo's tale most strange, that perhaps Bilbo is not as special as he had thought. I interpret that as surprise.
 
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Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
I think saying that Bilbo and Frodo were the only eye-openers was a kind of compliment to them
I can't help thinking of the exchange between Frodo and Merry over Lobelia's insult to Frodo "...you're no Baggins - you - you're a Brandybuck!" the day after the Birthday Party: "'It was a compliment,' said Merry Brandybuck, 'and so, of course, not true.'"
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
‘You were wrong,’ said Gandalf. ‘You were inattentive. I had already heard of it from Gwaihir. If you want to know, the only real eye-openers, as you put it, were you and Frodo; and I was the only one that was not surprised.’

That is one sentence, so I maintain that the second clause is a continuation of or response to the first. And in that case, Elrond himself says that he found Frodo's tale most strange, that perhaps Bilbo is not as special as he had thought. I interpret that as surprise.
Well, Gandalf said to Frodo, "You have talked long in your sleep Frodo, and it has not been hard for me to read your mind and memory." So, Gandalf knew Frodo's tale long before the Council of Elrond. I cannot believe that he did not relay it to Elrond.

I agree that Elrond found Frodo's tale most strange, but surely it was a tale he had heard before the Council. So that would not count as an 'eye-opener' at the Council. So, I still ask, If Gandalf was the only one who was not surprised, what surprised Elrond?
 

Anthony Lawther

Well-Known Member
I wonder whether Elrond truly expected Frodo to volunteer. With so many various people brought to the Council without a summons, perhaps he was thinking that Providence had supplied a new bearer to replace the recently injured one.
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
Well, Gandalf said to Frodo, "You have talked long in your sleep Frodo, and it has not been hard for me to read your mind and memory." So, Gandalf knew Frodo's tale long before the Council of Elrond. I cannot believe that he did not relay it to Elrond.

I agree that Elrond found Frodo's tale most strange, but surely it was a tale he had heard before the Council. So that would not count as an 'eye-opener' at the Council. So, I still ask, If Gandalf was the only one who was not surprised, what surprised Elrond?
He of course knew much of the story, not just from what Frodo muttered in his delirium, but from Aragorn and the other hobbits. It wasn't the story that was a surprise. It was the person himself - how he spoke, how he handled questions, his humility, his stamina. He says he has not known hobbits other than Bilbo, whom he has thought exceptional. Now he has to rethink that, seeing what Frodo is. That's what I've been trying to say: Gandalf is saying that Frodo and Bilbo in themselves were the suprise - and of course, going in for hobbit-lore, and knowing Bilbo and Frodo for years, he already knew their worth.

Remember, some of those present knew nothing of hobbits except perhaps as part of children's tales, and others only knew of them as people who avoided contact with the world and lived in holes in the ground, or the elves who knew Bilbo plus those tales. Bilbo and Frodo would definitely be eye-openers.
 
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Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
I wonder whether Elrond truly expected Frodo to volunteer. With so many various people brought to the Council without a summons, perhaps he was thinking that Providence had supplied a new bearer to replace the recently injured one.
Elrond might have kept that as an option at the start of the Council, though he knew the danger the Ring would pose in the hands of those powerful enough to wield it. But I think he has been evaluating Frodo, as a physician, and in relation to Gandalf's opinion that Frodo was the chosen Ring-bearer.
 

Kate Neville

Well-Known Member
I wonder whether it was Sam who was the surprise -- not the fact of his presence, as I am very sure that Elrond knew he was there from the beginning -- but the fact that this young hobbit, who was generally in awe of all things Elvish, dared to not only attend a secret Council but to speak up in front of everyone. I imagine it was the fact of Sam that convinced Elrond to yield to Gandalf and send Merry and Pippin.

[Be that as it may, I don't think Elrond came anywhere near to having an 'eye-opener' moment. After a couple of Ages, one acquires an excellent poker face.]
 

Kate Neville

Well-Known Member
Thank you Kate. Taking it over here is a good idea.

To be clear, as I have always understood it, "eye-opener" means surprise. So in the passage quoted could be written thus:


Nothing decided!’ cried Pippin. ‘Then what were you all doing? You were shut up for hours.’

‘Talking,’ said Bilbo. ‘There was a deal of talk, and everyone had a surprise. Even old Gandalf. I think Legolas’s bit of news about Gollum caught even him by surprise, though he passed it off.’

‘You were wrong,’ said Gandalf. ‘You were inattentive. I had already heard of it from Gwaihir. If you want to know, the only real surprises, as you put it, were you and Frodo; and I was the only one that was not surprised (by you).’


I take this to mean that Gandalf, being the only one of the Wise to go in for hobbit-lore, was the only one in the Council not surprised by the nature of the hobbits and their stories, by the qualities of character their stories showed them to have. But his saying he was not surprised is only about the hobbits; he had plenty of other surprises.

I think the difference I have with Kate is that I see "everyone had an eye-opener" to mean that everybody had his eyes opened by something that was said or done in the Council. Gandalf's story was full of surprises for most people present, but it was the hearers who had their eyes opened by what he told. In other words, to be surprised is to have an eye-opener - the person who tells the surprising story is not having an eye-opener.
Actually, Rachel, I don't think we're very far apart in our interpretation. I think I just take a slightly broader interpretation: an eye-opener can refer to the story told that causes listeners' eyes to widen in surprise and/or to a listener who reacts visibly to a surprising story/fact. [Those who can control their emotions might be surprised, but not give that surprise away, thus not being 'eye-openers'.]

Anyway, I've never thought Gandalf was right. Boromir was surprised by learning that Isildur had cut the Ring from Sauron's hand. Gandalf himself was 'astonished' that Frodo had dreamed of him on top of Isengard. Legolas was dismayed when he learned how important a person Gollum was, and Aragorn was surprised that the Elves had let Gollum escape. I expect the dwarves were surprised as well, but dwarves strike me as being generally unwilling to let their emotions show.

Gandalf just likes having the last word.
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
Very likely, Kate. I'm taking a long look at how it's been so hard for me to say clearly what seems obvious to me. I just took Gandalf's words literally - the hobbits were the really unexpected thing at the Council.
 

Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
an eye-opener can refer to the story told that causes listeners' eyes to widen in surprise and/or to a listener who reacts visibly to a surprising story/fact. [Those who can control their emotions might be surprised, but not give that surprise away, thus not being 'eye-openers'.]
I've always taken "eye-opener" as something that causes you to reconsider, and see something in a new light, and suddenly understand things that never made an impression on you before; surprise is involved, but it is the new and deeper understanding achieved that is key to an eye-opening experience.

When you google eye-opener, it gives you this:
  1. an event or situation that proves to be unexpectedly enlightening.
    "a visit to the docks can be a fascinating eye-opener"

  2. NORTH AMERICAN
    an alcoholic drink taken early in the day.
"Unexpectedly enlightening" is exactly what I was reaching for. And I think it applies to the Hobbits more than any of the other revelations at the Council. But Boromir's dream is right up there, too; who would have thought a mere Man would appear with a message from the Valar (if that's what it was)?
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
"Unexpectedly enlightening" is exactly what I was reaching for. And I think it applies to the Hobbits more than any of the other revelations at the Council. But Boromir's dream is right up there, too; who would have thought a mere Man would appear with a message from the Valar (if that's what it was)?
Thank you. Exactly - it's the hobbits themselves who are the revelation.

As for your second eye-opener - yes, but that's because they haven't met Faramir. :)
 
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