Tolkien Tuesday #26

~ 12 July 2022 ~

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we begin Book 2, Chapter 2: The Council of Elrond.

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Frodo wakes feeling refreshed and hoping he might find the time to go for a walk and explore the valley. Gandalf explains that it might be impossible as the council set for that morning has much to cover.

A bell rings out and the council is called. Bilbo and Frodo follow Gandalf, and Sam, forgotten for the time being, follows behind. Introductions are made, and it appears that men (Boromir from Gondor), elves (Legolas from Northern Mirkwood, Galdor from the Grey Havens) and dwarves (Gloin and his son, Gimli from the Lonely Mountain) have all travelled to Rivendell for counsel from Elrond, on matters which are related.

Gloin begins by saying a messenger from Mordor arrived at the Lonely Mountain, asking after Bilbo and the ring he found. Elrond then gives a history of the ring spanning thousands of years, from its forging to when it went missing after Isildur’s death. Then Boromir explains the dream which brought him to Rivendell, and how Gondor, almost alone (apart from the men of Rohan) fight to keep the Enemy at bay, but it is a battle they are starting to lose. Aragorn reveals the Sword that was Broken. Elrond reveals that Aragorn is Isildur’s heir. Frodo reveals the Ring.

Bilbo gives a true account of how he came across the ring when playing a dangerous game of riddles against Gollum. Frodo then gives an account of all their adventures since the ring came into his possession.

Galdor, wishing to be certain that this is the Great Ring, asks for proof, as well as an explanation as to why Saruman, an expert on ring lore, isn’t at the council. Gandalf then explains how the ring, when thrown into fire, reveals an inscription which Isildur made a note of, written in the language of Mordor. He then says that after speaking with Gollum, Sauron knows the One Ring has been found, and that it was in the Shire, which itself is confirmed by Frodo’s tale of being pursued by the Ringwraiths.

This chapter is one of my favourites in The Lord of the Rings, as here we have major overlapping with and interconnection between The Hobbit and The Silmarillion. The scale of information is vast, as is the timeframe being covered.

Interestingly, I thought this is the first chapter where the setting played a lesser role than in previous chapters. Once we get past the opening passages, our focus no longer remains in Rivendell but instead, follows the different narrators as they add their stories to this great narrative. Again we are reminded that there are so many different threads woven into the one storyline.

Next week we will finish reading The Council of Elrond.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

As Elrond shared his part in the tale of the Ring, he quoted Isildur’s attempt to justify the keeping of the ring:

“This I will have as weregild for my father, and my brother,” he said.

Weregild. Unless your interests lie in Anglo-saxon, Norse or Germanic history, weregild is something you might not have come across before. But fifteen hundred years ago, to around the early medieval period, it was a concept enshrined in law. It was an agreed sum representing the value of a person which, should they be injured or killed, was then owed to the family by the person responsible. This legal compensation and form of restitution was supposed to prevent family feuds from breaking out as wronged parties sought revenge for crimes against them and theirs. These blood feuds could last for generations.

Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Germanic stories often told of these blood feuds, and the payments ascribed by the law courts to prevent them, for example in the Icelandic epic Njal’s Saga (see my review for it here). And perhaps the most famous reference in literature to weregild is to be found in Beowulf, a translation of which Tolkien himself wrote.

Elsewhere

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Speaking of Beowulf, The Tolkien Society, on their FAQs page, has a couple of book lists that might appeal to those who have wondered what might have inspired Tolkien’s writing.

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

Why do you think Aragorn wears his travel-worn clothes to such an important meeting?

Aragorn, as Bilbo’s poem explains, is a lesson in what you see may be misleading. Dressed as a ranger rather than Isildur’s heir, he blends in and is missed, rather than stands out and commands attention. Overlooked, he has the opportunity to study those around him and analyse how they react to certain things.

But also, and this especially important given Boromir’s arrival, playing at being a king before he is crowned a king makes for some very blatant antagonism at a time when you want people to pull together. And besides, such behaviour, I would think, is outside of Aragorn’s nature…

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21 thoughts on “Tolkien Tuesday #26

  1. I agree with your thoughts on why Aragorn wears his scruffy clothes, it helps him blend into the background. I also think when we do see him in his finery it creates an even bigger contrast, leaving an impression.

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  2. Great insights again, Sammi. I never noticed the weregild thing because it never occurred to me that it was a special term. The first several of my many readings of LOTR were done in German. Wergeld in German isn’t a common term, but not unknown. So I always just read past it, LOL:
    About the setting being less important in this chapter: great point. But in a way, it still is. For me, now, Rivendell feels like a Nexus. It is a place that brings the threads together, that gets things into motion, a very important place and not only one where you go to rest and feast. To me, it almost feels like a character of its own. So, indirectly, I’d say, the setting is still important.
    The question: What you and poetisatinta said, but I think most of all, it’s the garb of the Dunadain. He isn’t king yet but he is a Ranger, a man of the North with everything that comes with that identity. And like dwarves, elves, Hobbits and Boromir of Gondor do, he represents his people, where he came from. And is dressed like them. Perhaps. 😉

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    • I love that description, Gabi of being Rivendell being a nexus. That’s perfect! I also like how you describe it as almost being a character of its own – that’s how I used to think of Bodmin Moor in Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn. I love it when a place feels so much more than simply a setting. 🙂 I also agree with what you say about Aragorn 🙂

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  3. Hi, Sammi. I agree with Gabby regards Aragon’s garb. Also, being drenched in Anglo-Saxon and more than a little dipped in Scandinavian, like Gabby I wasn’t thrown by mention of wergild.
    You mention Tolkien & Beowulf, but have you read his academic work: The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun? If not, I recommend ❤️​

    Liked by 4 people

    • I didn’t think you or Gabi would be thrown by the term. I’m not entirely sure I thought anyone would. But I do love how Tolkien’s fiction and his academia intersect at that point 🙂
      Thanks for the recommendation. I have a copy of The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun but have not done more than flick through it yet…every time I want to read Tolkien, it’s Middle Earth that wins, but I will get to it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It would figure that the longest chapter so far, is the one I fell behind with!
    I agree with Gabi that Rivendell feels like the heart of the place. Sacred, almost.
    As for Aragorn, I feel he has way more freedom in dressing down and being the ranger he is at heart. How best to serve your people than to be amongst them. Like any true leader, he will put himself on the front lines, first, so to speak and to do so, must not stand out. (Even if he does in such a sumptuous setting!)
    For me, it was dizzying all the names in the telling of the tales.

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  5. Hi Sammi — sorry I’m falling behind! I’ve been traveling for three weeks to family reunions and now am prepping to move across the country in two weeks (EEP). But let me pause a moment to comment on one or two posts to catch up a bit.

    That’s a good question – Aragorn had been dressed in fine Elven mail the night before when he was seen seated by Arwen, although looking back I see that he still had his dark cloak on then. So why wear travel clothes at the council? Well, why not? To me this was his normal garb, showing that he is ready at any moment to act, which for him means being a ranger. I like how you say he does not want to “play” at being king, especially in front of Boromir. And why would he? Although he is Isildur’s heir, there have been many of those over the years, and no others have been crowned, so he is wise to be modest until he has earned the right to act more like a king. He talks about the Dunedain working in the shadows to protect the people of Middle Earth and not expecting or even wanting recognition. I can imagine how it must be for him to have been secretly carrying around this broken sword, as his father did before him, and back for so many generations, believing he held it for his own sons and theirs to follow. So I like that he recognizes clearly that now is the time. “But now the world is changing once again. A new hour comes. Isildur’s Bane is found. Battle is at hand. The Sword shall be reforged. I will come to Minas Tirith.” I wonder at what earlier point he realized that this heavy burden has fallen to him? Wow.

    BTW, I also recognized the word weregild right away and knew what he meant, but you’re right that other readers might have been confused.

    I really enjoyed hearing all the stories of what’s happened so far, especially to help clear up some mysteries from the hobbits’ perspective about what Gandalf has been doing. I also really enjoyed the history and the descriptions, especially of Gondor. It was a LOT of details, but getting them across as stories told to the others made them more palatable and less like a long boring info dump.

    A few things I noticed this time around:
    * Elrond pointing out that he has not actually *called* the council. Here’s the line I marked of Elrond’s speech: “That is the purpose for which you are called hither. Called, I say, although I have not called you to me. strangers from distant lands. You are come and are here met, in this very nick of time, by chance it may seem. Yet it is not so. Believe rather that it is so ordered that we, who sit here, and none others, must now find council for the peril of the world.” I’d never really thought about it but assumed that everyone else at this meeting was there on purpose and knew each other, except for the hobbits. But instead there’s a sense that it is their fate or destiny to form this particular fellowship.

    * This made me notice more than before the role of dreams – Boromir is here because of a dream that he and yet-unnamed brother Faramir had which reminded me of the prescient dreams that Frodo had. Again, like there is a good power at work.

    * That Celebrimbor hid the three Elven rings from Sauron, which helps explain why they can use them without danger. I also didn’t remember the risk that their magic might end when the One Ring was destroyed. That puts a poignant spin on Elrond and Gandalf arguing to destroy the ring, knowing how it might affect their own powers.

    * Bilbo’s sheepish admission that he lied before about how he got the ring from Gollum. Very relatable, to embellish and even lie about questionable deeds to make yourself look better. Good for him that he admits it and tells the truth now.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow! I’m so behind with comments at the moment, Joy. I hope the move is going well / has gone well! How exciting!! 🙂

      So many fantastic insights here, Joy. I like what you said about Aragorn, and I thought you would know about weregild. Like you, I found it interesting to hear all the stories and you’re right, it didn’t feel like an info dump at all.

      I never really thought about how they all came to be there at the same time either, although I remembered what had brought Boromir (the dream), and I remembered what news Legolas had to share but could not remember if that was the reason for his actually going to Rivendell. As for the message from Dain, I had quite forgotten that. You’re right at there being a sense of fate and destiny working here.

      The power and use of dreams does seem to be a well-used device in the story, and its prevalence is becoming more apparent than I think I realised before.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I had not noticed it before either, that everyone came to Rivendell uninvited and they decided to have this Council to discuss their joint issues. Which is weird because I just noticed that when they bring up Tom Bombadil, Elrond says that maybe he should have invited Tom to “our council.” Um, what? Nobody was invited. How would that have worked? Maybe, he should have invited Tom to ask for his counsel and then he would have been here with everyone else? (That said, I really appreciate Gandalf’s insights, as someone who clearly has known Tom a long time, of how and why it wouldn’t work to ask for Tom’s help in this particular matter.)

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