Findegil and the Ford - a theory

Bruce N H

Member
Hi all,

I've got a private theory about the additions by Findegil, which I was afraid I'd have to sit on for about ten years, but the Ford of Bruinen passage gives me an opportunity to explore now.

We know from the Prologue that "much annotation, and many corrections, especially of names, words, and quotations in the Elvish languages" were added in Minas Tirith, along with the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, and also Bilbo's Translations from the Elvish (i.e. the Silmarillion). We also know that Findegil's version was completed 172 years after the events of the book. The first part of my theory is that it was Findegil who also incorporated a lot of the songs that had been written in King Elessar's court, or in Rohan, that hobbits would not have had access to. Some of these are quoted directly, like the song from the Muster of Rohan ("From dark Dunharrow in the dim morning ...). There is even a notation with that song that the ride of the Rohirrim was the subject of verse "for many long lives of men thereafter", so that could not have been written by Frodo or Sam, leaving it to a later editor like Findegil. Similarly we get the song of the fall of Theoden at the end of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, again noting it was written "long afterward".

Many of the passages in the Gondorian chapters are written in a "high" language, and not just quotations but also the narrator. E.g. "Thus came Aragorn son of Arathorn, Elessar, Isildur's heir, out of the Paths of the Dead, borne upon a wind from the Sea to the kingdom of Gondor..." or "Verily this is a sapling of the line of Nimloth the fair; and that was a seedling of Galathilion, and that a fruit of Telperion of many names, Eldest of Trees." (Okay, that one's not narration.) or "Upon the very Eve of Midsummer, when the sky was blue as sapphire and white stars opened in the East, but the West was still golden". These are some of the very events that would be mostly likely to be immortalized in song by minstrels of King Elessar's court - the triumph in battle, the finding of the white tree, the royal wedding. The second part of my theory is not just that these are in a higher language because they were written by Findegil, but that he was actually adapting songs into prose form.

This brings me, at long last, to the Ford of the Bruinen. Last week we made much of the almost poetic nature of the paragraph on the next to last page of Flight to the Ford beginning with "Fear now filled all Frodo's mind", with its alliteration, rhymes and near-rhymes, and imagery. I'd propose that once again we see the hand of Findegil. This is surely another event that would have been immortalized in song by some minstrel of Elessar's court - here we see the Ringbearer, the King, and the hero of Gondolin facing off against the Witch King of Angmar and the other Nazgul, the perfect subject for a heroic song. I think Findegil adapted this hypothetical song into the prose passage we see here, but it still bears the fingerprints of the original poet.

Anyway, that's my theory. The next challenge is to try to recreate the Q-source that these passages were drawn from.

Bruce / Bricktales
 

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
There is even a notation with that song that the ride of the Rohirrim was the subject of verse "for many long lives of men thereafter", so that could not have been written by Frodo or Sam, leaving it to a later editor like Findegil. Similarly we get the song of the fall of Theoden at the end of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, again noting it was written "long afterward".
I like it, but I'd caution against leaning too heavily on "for many long lives of men thereafter" as evidence. That is very easily alternately explained as a hobbitish "and they lived happily ever after", written long before "ever after" comes to pass. The way Bilbo would end There and Back Again if no more adventures came up.
 

Zephen12

Member
I think turning songs into prose is a fascinating theory, and I will be paying close attention. Can we get an archive of poetic prose in LotR, a record of the times Tolkien gets “high and poetic”?
 

Kate Neville

Active Member
I've been re-reading The Hobbit (for another project). It is, for most of its length, a true children's story, in tone and structure. But at the very moment when Bard nocks his black arrow for his final shot, the language becomes closer to that of Lord of the Rings. There are even little snippits of alliterative prose:'straight from the string;' 'so fierce was its flight.' The story never becomes truly epic, because it retains the voice of the narrator (primarily in commenting on Bilbo's actions/feelings), but it grows into something more serious than the dish-juggling of the Unexpected Party or the talking troll-purse. Is there prose more poetic than Thorin's dying words? Tolkien can no more resist waxing poetic than he can resist putting the story of Beren and Luthien into every other Middle-earth tale.
 

Marielle

Well-Known Member
These are some of the very events that would be mostly likely to be immortalized in song by minstrels of King Elessar's court - the triumph in battle, the finding of the white tree, the royal wedding. The second part of my theory is not just that these are in a higher language because they were written by Findegil, but that he was actually adapting songs into prose form.
Bruce, I was thinking something very similar while listening to the session! Well, you surpassed me -- I thought that it was likely a Findegil passage, one of high mythos, but I didn't consider it might be an adaptation of a song (though I should have, since I was also mentally comparing it to Théoden's departure for Minas Tirith!).

I like it, but I'd caution against leaning too heavily on "for many long lives of men thereafter" as evidence. That is very easily alternately explained as a hobbitish "and they lived happily ever after", written long before "ever after" comes to pass. The way Bilbo would end There and Back Again if no more adventures came up.
I appreciate the caution, but the optimistic ending seems to be a Bilbo-specific conceit, considering he begins with the ending and all that, and I doubt that Frodo especially, but also Sam, would have the same optimistic mindset. Also, I don't think any of our three hobbit authors could be the composers of the purported Rhohirric songs, since none of them actually spent much time with the men of Rohan -- but that is a debate best to have in 5 years or so.
 
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