Glorfindel's bells (or I suppose Asfaloth's bells)

Bruce N H

Hi all,

I've been catching up, since I often catch only part of a class and three podcasts were posted to iTunes this weekend. Anyway, in the last class before the Christmas/New Year's break, we were discussing the bells on what I assume is Asfaloth's harness*. We discussed that Glorfindel is not trying to be stealthy, because he's such a bad-ass that Nazgul flee at his approach. Further, the bells are kind of a warning to the Nazgul saying something like "Run away! Someone is coming who is so confident they don't need stealth, probably a great elf-lord, probably even that same one who chased us away a few days ago!"

But what if the bells are actually a positive weapon against the Nazgul. Corey has spent a lot of time over the past year establishing that confrontations with the 9 are primarily spiritual battles, that they are often not driven off by skillful swordsmanship or wizardly spells (though that does happen with Gandalf on Weathertop), but rather by merriment and camaraderie. Bells are a happy sound (btw, so is "Tra-la-la-lally"), and so might actually drive the 9 away. I think it was mentioned right at the end of that class how bells drive out the devil in medieval superstition (think, e.g. of the "Night on Bald Mountain" portion of Fantasia), and Corey noted that bells also drive away fairies, but still I think Tolkien maybe drew on that idea here.

Bruce / Bricktales

*I just looked back at that paragraph and at least at that point it never says where the bells actually are. Maybe they are on Glorfindel. Maybe he wears shoes with long pointed toes that curl up and have jingle bells like Santa's elves.


Pulling material from later in the book (*gasp* a full three pages), I can confirm that there are bells on Asfaloth himself. Whether Glorfindel is also wearing bells is undetermined. I think that the bells are a positive weapon, but not a formidable one. If nothing else, the speed of Asfaloth is more important than his bells when the company is ambushed. Bells have a happy jingle when they bounce loosely, but the bells are referenced as shrill when Asfaloth goes running. At that point, no amount of jingling would do Frodo much good, and speed is seen as the better option. And yet, I do not think that that would discount the bells.