The Influence of Elrond's Response to Gandalf's Tale


New Member
The different points Elrond highlights seem disjointed, especially in light of the tale just finished by Gandalf: the betrayal of Saruman, the peculiar nature of hobbits, the Barrow-wights, the Old Forest, and Tom Bombadil. However, Elrond is the greatest of the Lore-Masters, he is well-equipped to spin a tale that will stir the very hearts and minds of his audience. He seems to be doing just that with these ‘idle thoughts’ and directing, or rather shepherding, the Council down the inevitable path toward the only viable solution they have in dealing with the Ring.

He begins by addressing the ‘bombshell’ revelation from Gandalf, that Saruman has betrayed them, yet this is an afterthought as something rather unremarkable, if not expected. While Elrond is nonplussed by the actions of Saruman, the reader should be likewise unsurprised by the attention shone to the hobbits. He does so in an innocuous and passing fashion, but teases the audience just enough that the hobbits will surely not be overlooked as the debate progresses.

Elrond proceeds to connect the hobbits with the Barrow-wights, the Old Forest, and Tom Bombadil, all in response to the question posed by Gandalf about the fate of the Ring. These analogies may seem divorced from the direction Gandalf had led the Council with his tale, but looking closer a clear connection can be seen between these points and the context of the struggle now facing the Council and Middle Earth- the conflict between the free peoples and the dominating power of the Ring.

The Barrow-wights are a concrete example of how the ancient evils are once again active and benefiting from the growing power of the evil shadowing the lands. The are close to many of the most peaceful and seemingly secure lands in Middle Earth, yet they have, over untold years, passed into legend and ghost stories told around campfires.

What comes next seems to be almost wholly unconnected to what else is being discussed, as Elrond remembers the expansive and encompassing history of the Old Forest, and how it, at one time, covered a large swath of the land. This may simply be a trip down memory lane, but that doesn’t square with typical Elrond behavior. Forests were vitally important during the Middle Ages, so much so that aristocrats and nobility would do battle to defend them. There are many tales and histories of the various “Royal Forests” of the time, and the harsh penalties for the unwelcome visitor who violated the sovereign territory of the monarch who held absolute sway over them . Yet even more interesting then the history of royal real estate is the place held by forests in medieval literature and the symbolic value they held for both the writer or poet and the society, culture, and governance of the land.

Forests were places of power, romance, and mystery. They were boundaries between the end of the civilised world and the wild untamed lands where strange creatures of all stripes dwelt. It was a place that tested and refined the fortitude and courage of the brave and a realm where ordinary folk entered only to emerge as heroes. The forest was the sanctuary of the fearless, the solace of the mad, and the refuge for those seeking to unshackle themselves from the conventions and constraints of society.

It was a lawless place where liberty lived unchecked by the civilised world. It was the buffer between the ruling elite and the churning masses. The degradation and destruction of these forests symbolised the mundane world breaching not only the realm of fantasy but exposing the aristocracy to the scrutiny of the mob. Likewise, deforestation provided access to the incoming storm that was industry and commerce and all the ills it held for the rustic and idyllic lands once kept safe by the wall of trees.

Elrond was not merely remembering the woods of his younger years but was following up on the spotlight he pointed at Frodo by his earlier comments. He was signaling to the listeners that a surprisingly extraordinary but still untested hobbit entered the forest, but there he found wisdom, faith, courage, and the potential to become Great and do great things.

Finally, Elrond draws attention to Tom Bombadil and the mystery and power he held. This was done not to offer an option for the Ring’s fate, but planted this notion in the minds of key audience members for the purpose of quickly considering and discarding Bombadil as a possible escape route for what must be done.

There was no need for a “Gandalf face-palm” as a response to Elrond's lapse into whimsy. Rather it would seem to be a choreographed maneuver orchestrated by Gandalf and Elrond to guide the Council to unify around the only viable choice they had to deal with the growing power of the Enemy, to give them the courage necessary to make these difficult decisions, and the confidence that the choice of the hobbits was the best hope for all the people of Middle Earth.


New Member
(Not sure on the etiquette to replying first to my own post, but oh well)
The final comment by Elrond before the debate gets into fully swing is his musing about whether he "should have summoned him (Bombadil) to our Council." Earlier Elrond proclaims that though they (the Council) was "called hither," he was not the one who did the calling. It is interesting and telling that he should shift course here of all times. This seems to be further evidence that Elrond was influencing and guiding the path of the debate that would follow.