LotRFI Pt.48 The Grey Company

The Grey Company was one of the most unexpected occurrences in all LotR to me. They show up in Rohan completely unheralded and change the course of the narrative entirely. As I said before, I did not read any contextual material in my first reading, so my entire experience with the sons of Elrond up to this point was their small roles in Rivendell. Therefore, it was completely unexpected that this troop of brave men that were not really introduced earlier should come into the story and completely alter Aragorn’s plans.

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Image copyright Inger Eledfelt

While this may seem like a coincidental intrusion by the writer, it is explained well enough by the characters that it did not detract from my enjoyment of the story. It made sense to me that Galadriel would send what aid she could to Aragorn, and that the sons of Elrond would be the ones entrusted with such an important message (RK, V, ii, 775).

I will be honest and admit that I did not understand who ‘the Lady of Rivendell’ was or what she could have made for Aragorn (RK, V, ii, 775). I assumed that this was a reference to Elrond’s previously unmentioned wife and she was sending some gift to Aragorn as a source of comfort like the way that Mrs. Maggot send mushrooms with Farmer Maggot.

I followed Aragorn’s decision to use the Palantir and to ride on through the Paths of the Dead. I loved the description of the Paths and the other-worldly feel of these passages.

‘Signs and figures were carved above its wide arch too dim to read, and fear flowed from it like a grey vapor…Aragorn led the way, and such was the strength of his will in that hour that all the Dúnedain and their horses followed him’ (RK, V, ii, 786).

The Paths were different from the rest of the places that the company visits, except perhaps the elvish cities. These passages convey a sense of ineffability even as they try to describe most of the mundane actions throughout the sequence. In other words, I enjoyed how the narration mainly focuses on tangible facts, but still hints at something more. This reinforces both the ethereal feel of the pass, but also Aragorn’s strength of character.

The way that the Grey Company delivers the eucatastrophe at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields gives me chills every time I read it. Their unexpected arrival is foreshadowed well by their abrupt entrance to the narrative in Rohan. This kind of surprise meeting is now expected from the Dúnedain. The first time I read it, however, I was flabbergasted. I felt like Sam when he wonders if

‘everything sad [is] going to come untrue’ (RK, VI, iv, 951).

Their arrival just in time to ensure victory for the Gondorians was completely unexpected and drained me emotionally.

On a side note: Jackson gets the Ride of the Grey Company completely wrong. He establishes a king of the dead that Aragorn talks to and negotiates with, which is not accurate. I knew on my first reading that Aragorn was the king of the dead. This is why they follow him, they owe their allegiance to him.

Where Do We Go From Here?

To the Houses of Healing, then to examine the last stand

What Do You Think?

How did you first interpret the ride of the Grey Company?

Did you see Aragorn as the King of the Dead?

Did I miss something? Let me know!

LotRFI Pt.46–​Éomer

I mentioned Éomer’s first encounter with the protagonists in Pt. 22. Like many other characters, I mistrusted him at first, but then came to respect his demeanor and his bravery. The reader is reintroduced to Éomer at Edoras. Here he is reinstated as one of Théoden’s top commanders. From this point on, Éomer plays the part of a stout warrior, and steadfast advisor on military matters. He is impressive in this role, and takes after his uncle with his tenacious spirit.

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Image copyright John Howe

As I read through LotR for the first time, I really liked Éomer. He struck me as a kind of balance between Strider as he appears in the beginning of the book and Aragorn as he is revealed as king in the end. He was unapologetically of high birth in his society, but was unpolished and even plain in his manner. This allowed him to be very likable, but to command respect, similar to what I saw in Théoden.

A large distinction that I made between Éomer and Théoden is that Théoden becomes close to the Fellowship through being an equal in stature to Gandalf and a fatherly figure to the hobbits. Éomer, on the other hand, seemed to establish a brotherly relationship with Aragorn and a playful rivalry with Gimli. While both of these relationships elevated the characters above the hobbits, and therefore above the reader, they were different in that Théoden seemed much more interested in the hobbits than did Éomer.

Shifting focus, this elevated stature of Éomer allowed him to be a heroic figure to me. His cares and worries seemed to be larger than those of the hobbits. Where the halflings are often concerned with a sense of belonging, Éomer knows his place, and is concerned more with how to lead his people correctly.

His position of authority makes his valiant stand on the battlefield even more impactful. While I am presenting my current thoughts on Éomer’s alliterative exclamations at a conference in 2018, I do want to cover my initial reaction to his heroic feats during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.

Just as Théoden’s call to charge gave rise to some mad fire inside my little eleven-year-old frame, so too did Éomer’s despair at seeing his uncle and sister dead on the battlefield. At the time of my first reading, I was fortunate enough to have never lost someone close to me. Even still, I could find a sense of pain and loss something similar to what Éomer must have felt. His heartrending cry chilled me to the bones:

“‘Éowyn, Éowyn!’ he cried at last. ‘Éowyn, how come you here? What madness or devilry is this? Death, death, death! Death take us all’” (RK, V, vi, 844).

It was through these passages that I learned what it meant to be fey. Éomer’s complete abandonment of strategy in favor of making his death meaningful was utterly beyond my experience. His laughter in the face of battle was terrible and terrific. He was awe-inspiring in two ways: one of the most courageous and stupid things I had ever read. I was so grateful when Aragorn swooped in and saved Éomer, because I had given up hope that this courageous man would ever see another day.

Where Do We Go From Here?

To take a look at Denethor and see what his problem is.

What Do You Think?

How did you react to Eomer’s reckless abandon in battle?
What did you think of his relationship to the fellowship?
Did I miss anything? Let me know!

LotRFI Pt.45–Éowyn

A Bit of Background

I must admit that Éowyn was a very difficult character for me to understand the first time I read LotR, and I am still not sure that I understand her entire character arc. I am sure that there are scholars and critics better able, and in a more appropriate place, to comment on her portrayal as a woman and to her motivations and resolution. Let me clarify, then, that what I am trying to convey here is the understanding that I had of Éowyn as an eleven-year-old boy, whose life experiences did not include putting myself in other people’s shoes very often except through literature.

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Image copyright Donato Giancola

Since I was still an immature reader, though I was probably advanced in ability for my age, I would say that I lacked the kind of empathy that comes through life experience. I tried to understand everything I read through my own frame of reference. I literally thought about each character’s actions and tried to understand how I would have to feel in order to act the way they did. As we grow up, this kind of reading, I believe, becomes less necessary, as we can relate characters’ actions to other people’s actions and feelings easier because we have experienced more. Regardless, this means that I was attempting to understand how an eleven-year-old boy from the southern US would have to feel to act the way that Éowyn does…I am sure you can see how this was a flawless interpretation technique.

My Reading

From this vantage point, I was able to understand many of Éowyn’s early actions. She was proud, and she wanted to help her king and people through action. This was not difficult for me to understand. Pride is something I relate to very easily, having had an abundant share of it myself. I understood entirely why Éowyn wants to, and ultimately does, ride into battle with her kin. The difficulty for me came about when I tried to understand Éowyn’s very complex interpersonal relationships.

I should perhaps remind everyone that in my first reading I did not read any introductory material or any of the appendices. This means that I was completely unaware of the relationship between Aragorn and Arwen until much later. This influenced my interpretation of Éowyn because it means that I was completely unaware that Aragorn’s comment about Rivendell was a romantic refusal.

‘“Were I to go where my heart dwells, far to the North I would now be wandering in the fair valley of Rivendell”

For a while she was silent, as if pondering what this might mean’ (RK, V, ii, 784).

To me, this was simply a statement that people do not always get what they desire. Aragorn would rather be at peace in a place that he loved than leading men into battle.

The most resonant statement for me was that Éowyn feared ‘a cage’ more than anything else (RK, V, ii, 784). This statement resonated with me on the same level as Merry’s experience during his time in Rohan. They both wanted to be helpful, but were being stereotyped as lesser and ignored.

Finally, I want to talk about Éowyn’s epic stand (I will talk about her relationship with Faramir and the Houses of Healing in a later post). While Éowyn was a complicated character to me, I had no difficulty appreciating her courage and valor in standing up to the leader of the Nazgûl. She becomes enraged after her uncle is mortally wounded and, in her bravery, she challenges and defeats the fearsome foe. She delivers one of the most marvelous lines of prose I have ever read:

‘But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Eómund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him’ (RK, V, vi, 841).

The dramatic tension leading up to this moment was so powerful, and I remember cheering out loud when she stands up to him and reveals herself. This was truly a remarkable passage to me as a first-time reader.

As a side note: perhaps the strong impact of this moment, the strength in Éowyn’s identification as a woman in the midst of the largest battle in the text, is what blinded me for so long to the valid claims that Tolkien does not include enough women in his narrative. I held on to this one climactic instant and made it a pinnacle of the story, which it is, but I allowed it to obfuscate shortcomings which were related to it.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Let’s talk about her brother Eomer, then talk about Denethor.

What Do You Think?

How did you approach Eowyn’s character in your first reading?
How did you react to her stand against the Nazgul?
​Did I miss anything? Let me know!

LotRFI Pt.44–The Horns of the Rohirrim

This pivotal moment in the battle for Minas Tirith was like a lightning bolt in my young reading experience. For a bright and shining moment, the forces of good asserted itself over all of the battle and shouted aloud that it would not be vanquished. I still get chills every time I read the end of “The Ride of the Rohirrim” (RK, V, v). The blaring of the horn, which signals the steadfast defiance of the Rohirrim in the sight of overwhelming odds was (and still is) enrapturing.

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Image copyright Angus McBride

I do not know why or how an eleven-year-old who knows nothing of medieval warfare or modern warfare or even of true difficulty and hardship, should become so enthralled with the kind of bravery put forth by Théoden and the Rohirrim in this moment. Whatever the cause, I was ready to leap from my seat and charge into battle, whatever that might have meant to me at the time.

 

 

Perhaps a relatable metaphor here would be the hobbits’ incredulity on parting from Tom Bombadil:

‘They took a deep draught of the air, and felt that a skip and a few stout strides would bear them wherever they wished. It seemed fainthearted to go jogging aside over the crumpled skirts of the downs towards the road, when they should be leaping, as lusty as Tom, over the stepping stones of the hills straight towards the Mountains’ (FR, I, viii, 136).

The hobbits are so enraptured by their experience with Tom and Goldberry that they feel capable of performing feats on-par with Tom himself. In much the same way, the sounding of the horns of Rohan intoxicated me and made me feel as if I could perform feats of courage akin to those of the riders. An important note, though, is that neither the hobbits, nor I, are truly capable of emulating the actions we were so inspired by. In the case of the hobbits, they are naive and became foolhardy. In my case, however, reality checked my emotions, and I simply kept reading, although perhaps more voraciously than before.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Let’s take a closer look at Eomer and Eowyn!

What Do You Think?

What was your first reaction to the horns of the Rohirrim?
Has your reaction changed over time?
​Did I miss anything? Let me know!

LotRFI Pt.42–Merry

While I saw Pippin’s lightheartedness as a very relatable trait, I was also able to identify with Merry during certain points of the epic. Unlike my adulation of Pippin’s jovial nature and individual growth, my identification with Merry was from a negative perspective.

 

Merry’s time alone in Rohan was perhaps the most affective part of his story for me. His time with Théoden begins in happiness. He is honored and sits next to the king and regales him with stories (RK, V, iii, 796). When word comes that the Rohirrim must go aid Gondor, Théoden telld Merry that he cannot go with them.

‘You shall abide here, and if you will, you shall serve the Lady Éowyn, who will govern the folk in my stead’ (RK, V, iii, 803).

Merry becomes indignant because he does not wish to be left out:

‘But, but, lord,’ Merry stammered, ‘I offered you my sword. I do not want to be parted from you like this, Théoden King. And as all of my friends have gone to battle, I should be ashamed to stay behind…tie me to the back of [a horse], or let me hang on a stirrup, or something.’

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Image copyright John Howe

This kind of useless bargaining and pleading between someone lower in position and a figure in authority reminded me very much of interactions I had had with my parent not many years before reading LotR (and perhaps some interactions even at the time of reading, if I am honest with myself). In a sense, Merry’s subordinate role in Rohan as a figure of entertainment one moment and as a burden the next mirrors a lot of the childhood experience.

The next chapter set in Rohan (RK, V, v) opens with Merry reflecting on his isolation. To make matters worse, the first interaction Merry has is with Elfhelm the Marshal who trips over him and curses him as a tree root. Merry stands up for himself, saying:

‘I am not a tree-root Sir…nor a bag, but a bruised hobbit’ (RK, V, v, 831).

Although his daring is not rewarded very kindly, as Elfhelm still calls him ‘Master Bag’ at the close of their conversation (RK, V, v, 831). Then Merry is overlooked as he ‘crept’ close enough to the conversation between Théoden and Ghân-buri-Ghân to narrate the scene for the reader (RK, V, v, 832).

The Rohirrim constantly ignore and/or disregard Merry. Perhaps this is a kind of othering. While it can, of course, be interpreted in many ways, this othering always reminded me of those times when adults would tell me to settle down, be quiet, and stop getting in the way. This really resonated with me as a child. Though I had what I would consider a happy childhood, I certainly experienced this kind of reprimand on occasion. The kind of loneliness and isolation that can accompany such an encounter feels on-par with what Merry experiences in Rohan. I could easily relate to the feeling of dejection that Merry feels.

My reflection on Merry’s part at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields and the Scouring of the Shire will come later.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Onward, to battle!

What Do You Think?

How did you read Merry’s experience in these chapters?
Do you think this reading is feasible or insane?
​Did I miss anything? Let me know!

LotRFI Pt.41–Pippin

Pippin has always been my favorite hobbit. I was first interested in him because of how funny he is in the first book, especially in “Three is company” and “Shortcut to Mushrooms.” He remained my favorite because I appreciated his process of maturation as the story progresses.

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Image copyright Greg and Tim Hildebrandt

His cheerful spirit serves as a comedic relief during many of the less active passages in the text. From his snarky comment in Rivendell,

‘”Gandalf has been saying many cheerful things like that”’ (FR, II, i, 226)

to his curiosity in Moria, which lands the Fellowship in some trouble, Pippin remains fairly charming and lighthearted. It is not until Gandalf grows angry and berates Pippin

‘”Fool of a Took…This is a serious journey, not a hobbit walking party. Throw yourself in next time, and you will be no further nuisance. Now be quiet!”’ (FR, II, iv, 313)

that he starts to transform into a more serious and responsible character. This interaction in Moria, reminded me of a parent scolding a child. Pippin did something which was outside the normal expectations and it could have, and ultimately has, dire consequences. Gandalf chides him in the way that a concerned mother or father might express exasperation at a child who touches a stove or runs into the street. This confrontation seemed to me to be the starting point for Pippin’s transformation.

The two places where Pippin’s character shows real growth are in his actions to escape the Uruk-Hai in Rohan, and in his time spent in Gondor. When he is with the Uruk-Hai, Pippin is not a passive observer of events. Instead, he keeps his wits and not only manages to escape, but also leaves a clue for the Three Hunters to follow.

Pippin’s largest step toward becoming a responsible adult is his time spent in Gondor. Here he volunteers his service to the steward of Gondor to repay his debt to Boromir:

‘”Little service, no doubt, will so great a lord of Men think to find in a hobbit, a halfling from the northern Shire; yet such as it is, I will offer it, in payment of my debt.”’ (RK, V, I, 754/5).

He feels accountable for Boromir’s death and seeks to make amends. Not only does this act show Pippin becoming more mature, but it puts him in a role of responsibility. A role which he performs very well. His next show of responsibility is that he chaperones Bergil, Beregond’s son, around Minas Tirith. Pippin no longer interacts with Bergil as his equal, though he cannot resist an occasional joke, but he sets restrictions on Bergil and enforces them. Finally, Pippin’s decision to disobey Denethor’s wishes and save Faramir shows the kind of complex reasoning and questioning of authority that is typically associated with maturity. He is not simply rebelling against authority because it is authoritative, nor is he blindly following it. He weighs consequences and decides to act in the way he think is best. Though I could not have expressed ,many of these concepts in this way when I was a kid, I certainly respected Pippin’s growth as an individual, and understood that he had earned responsibility and was using his judgement wisely.

Pippin’s story is a bildungsroman. This greatly impacted me in my first several readings of LotR. I will talk about the Scouring of the Shire in a later post, but I think the arc of Pippin’s character is clear already. He stays jovial throughout the text, I love his interaction with the Three Hunters in “Flotsam and Jetsam,” but he matures over the course of his journey. This is why Pippin was, and still is, my favorite hobbit from LotR.

Where Do We Go From Here?

We will look at Merry next, then explore the Battle of Pelennor Fields.

What Do You Think?

What did you think of Pippin in the early parts of the text?

Did your impression of him change as he developed over the course of the story?

Did I miss anything? Let me know!

LotRFI Pt. 30–Helm’s Deep

It seems that everyone remembers Éomer’s act of courage at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields as the high point of Rohirric culture. Théoden’s stand at Helm’s Deep, however, foreshadows that brave stand. This battle has always had a unique place in my understanding of Tolkien’s world. It is the place where I really understood for the first time what I would later understand to be ‘northern courage.’ The bravery to understand that defeat is certain, but not to cower and to fight on against overwhelming odds. This is one of the few major themes of Tolkien (e.g. ‘the machine’) that I perceived in my first reading.

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Image copyright Paul Lesaine

Aragorn’s act of looking out from the gate and confronting the Uruk-Hai is an essential preface to this kind of bravery. My first reading of this scene, I thought that perhaps Aragorn was fay and reckless (although I would not have used these terms at the time, instead probably opting for the less-specific crazy, stupid, brave, until I learned better words to describe the action). This also bolstered the themes of honor and duty that I began to perceive starting with Frodo’s decision to carry the Ring in Rivendell.

I did not really understand the courage behind Aragorn’s words until the scene where he and Théoden lay their plans to ride out:

‘The end will not be long…but I will not end here, taken like a badger in a trap…When dawn comes, I will bid men sound Helm’s horn, and I will ride forth. Will you ride with me then, son of Arathorn? Maybe we shall cleave a road, or make such an end as will be worth a song—if any be left to sing of us hereafter” (TT, III, vii, 539).

This brave face assumed at a time when hope seems lost always shocked me as a child and resonated with something inside of me. I could not describe it the, and I cannot describe it well now. It stirs in me a desire to be as brave and noble as these characters and to not fear death. This is, of course, a bizarre feeling for someone so privileged as I have been and it is nonsensical, but it is true. The riding out of the king and Aragorn with the horns blowing has always given me chills and stirred my sympathies.

Other important notes about my first read through of Helm’s Deep are:

This is the first time that I felt the eucatastrophic moment in LotR in the same way that I felt it in H.

I enjoyed the fighting game of Gimli and Legolas far more than I ought at such a young age. Perhaps this was because of my naivete as a child, and this game was reminiscent of the light treatment that authors frequently use of difficult ideas when writing for children. Tolkien himself used this same kind of technique in H.

As an interesting bit of ‘misreading,’ I always envisioned the causeway from the keep to lead into the part of the stronghold behind the battlements, not out from the battlements. I suppose I assumed this because it would make the keep a stronger fortress. I imagined that Aragorn and Théoden rode out into the host who had flooded past the battlements after the hole was blown open. This made more sense to me as to how they were cut off from the caves. Though I admit that it makes the pincer maneuver with the reinforcements harder to imagine later on.

As a side note: the description immediately following Aragorn’s words has been variously interpreted:

‘Even as they spoke there came a blare of trumpets. Then there was a crash and a flash of flame and smoke…’ (TT, III, vii, 537).

Jackson showed a runner with a torch igniting a stack of bombs. Others have suggested that this passage describes a projective weapon, like a missile. For my own part, I have always agreed that this was a bomb and not a projectile weapon. I feel certain that Tolkien would have described a projectile weapon in greater detail.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I want to talk about Gimli and Saruman before I head into book four.

What Do You Think?

How did you first interpret the bravery of Aragorn and Théoden?
​Is this moment as impact as Éomer’s ?
​Did I miss anything? Let me know!

LotRFI Pt. 29–Wormtongue

As you have no doubt gathered, I was not a very trusting child. Each time members of the Fellowship come across a character whose motives could be questioned, or where there was any vagueness whatsoever, I was quick to ascribe the worst to them. Finally, I found the kind of character I was waiting for in Wormtongue. He was deceitful, treacherous, and calculating: exactly what I expected from Maggot, Bombadil, and Aragorn when I first encountered them.

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Image copyright Suzanne Helmigh

The way that Wormtongue manipulates the interaction between Théoden and Gandalf from the very beginning made me mistrustful of him. I always felt that the way Théoden stands to deliver his opening volley at Gandalf and then quickly sits again was reminiscent of someone reciting something from memory. In fact, I was reminded sharply of Sam, standing up to recite verse when he was amongst the trolls.

The fact that Wormtongue took over immediately after this speech and was the true opponent of Gandalf in dialogue made me wonder if he had written this speech for Théoden. I assumed that this was the typical modus operandi for Wormtongue. He would feed an opening monologue to Théoden, who would exclaim it from rote, and then Wormtongue would actually deal with conversations. This would lend him the king’s credibility and make it seem that they were in agreement on everything. Additionally, this process would allow Wormtongue to further his brainwashing of Théoden with every interaction, as he attempts to do when talking with Gandalf.

I think Gandalf’s power in dealing with Wormtongue is that he is quick to identify this technique and challenges it from the beginning. He ignores Wormtongue initially, and directly addresses Théoden around him. After Wormtongue’s tirade against Gandalf, Gandalf disregards the abuse, instead saying:

‘The courtesy of your hall is somewhat lessened of late, Théoden son of Thengel…[we] have passed through the shadow of great perils to your hall’ (TT, III, vi, 139).

Wormtongue tries to reassert himself into the conversation, disparaging that the traveler’s road took them through the Golden Wood. To this, Gandalf sings, and then castigates Wormtongue for speaking ill of things he has no knowledge of.

The interaction where Gandalf dismisses Wormtongue is interesting. As he cowers away from Gandalf, Wormtongue says:

‘Did I not counsel you, lord, to forbid his staff? That fool, Háma, has betrayed us!’ (TT, III, vi, 140).

This is the clearest indication so far that the power of the wizards is bound up in their staff. I think this is the point when the observation finally sunk in for me in my first reading. I did not know whether the power itself was in the staff, or if the staff was simply the most effective tool for channeling a wizard’s power. Perhaps I thought of the staff in the same way I thought of lightsabers in the Star Wars universe, something which I was incredibly familiar with. They were implements which harnessed the innate powers of the individual to a greater extent than could otherwise be achieved.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I think we will stop by Helm’s Deep, then take a look at Saruman!

What Do You Think?

What was your initial impression of Wormtongue?
What did you make of the importance placed on Gandalf’s staff?
Have I missed anything? Let me know!

LotRFI Pt.28–Théoden’s Transformation

My interpretation of the passage where Théoden shakes off the depression which has paralyzed him has changed greatly over the years. Initially, I thought that Gandalf was responsible for dispelling some effect that was placed on Théoden. I thought that Théoden’s malaise was some sort of enchantment that was placed on him by Wormtongue.  That Gandalf was a strong enough sorcerer to ward off the spell and return Théoden to his proper state.

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Image copyright Jay Johnstone

Many fans will notice that this interpretation is very close to Jackson’s portrayal of the event. Interestingly, when I saw Jackson’s interpretation of this scene, which agreed with my own, but made more explicit the conflict, I realized that I was wrong.

Instead of confronting some spell placed on Théoden by Wormtongue, Gandalf’s approach is a bit more nuanced. It is true that he initially uses his magic as a means of daunting: Gandalf cows Wormtongue before he addresses Théoden. When he talks to Théoden, however, the atmospheric changes that take place are the result of Théoden’s actions, not their cause. This becomes obvious in the passage where Théoden descends from his throne:

‘Slowly Théoden left his chair. A faint light grew in the hall again’ (TT, III, vi, 515).

Notice that the atmosphere does not respond to Gandalf here, but to Théoden. Gandalf is responsible for taking away Grima, who has restricted Théoden’s actions for a while, but only Théoden can throw of the burden which is placed upon him. This harkens back to Gandalf’s role as a kindler of spirit, not as the conquering hero. His task is to allow Théoden to show forth his true courage in overcoming the malaise himself.

Once the two men are outside and Gandalf is able to whisper to Théoden, there is no magic. Gandalf simply tells Théoden of deeds that may bring hope and fortify his mind against the gathering darkness. The movies overplay Gandalf’s use of magic here quite considerably. It is true that he manipulates the weather, but after this first show of strength, his main focus is on fermenting Théoden’s will, not destroying Saruman or Wormtongue.

Where Do We Go From Here?

To Wormtongue and Saruman!

What Do You Think?

How did you perceive Theoden’s transformation?
Did you like Jackson’s vision of the transformation?
​Did I miss anything? Let me know!

LotRFI Pt. 27–Concerning Théoden

When I first came across Théoden, I thought he was a withered old king and that Éomer would soon replace him. This made sense as a means to establish a leader in Rohan sympathetic to the Fellowship. His transformation into a true king was quite a marvel to me, and I found his reinvigorated personality to be magnetic.

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Image copyright Michael Kaluta

Théoden’s persona as the protector of his people made him a kind of father figure to me in my first reading. I loved his courage in the face of adversity and his determination to defend others. He is the kind of leader who has always inspired me: one who leads by example, not by command. I have such a hard time expressing my response to Théoden. This is one of those rare instances where something seems too important for words. The thoughts and feelings are there, but the words fail.

Whenever I revisit the text, I am shocked at how small Théoden’s role actually is. I always conflate his importance to me personally with his prominence in the text.

His role as the stalwart leader who comes to the aid of Gondor in the last moment foreshadows Aragorn’s arrival in similar circumstances. Unlike Aragorn, however, Théoden is not destined to keep his kingship. The fateful events surrounding the House of Eorl at the Pelennor Fields make me cry every time. I always want to save Théoden, so I can watch he and Merry settle in to have a long talk about herb-lore.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I want to talk specifically about Théoden’s transformation, then move on to address Wormtongue and Saruman.

What Do You Think

What was your very first impression of Théoden?
How did you react to his demise?
Did I miss anything? Let me know!