The Barrow blades (again)

68 views
Skip to first unread message

Jamie Armstrong

unread,
Aug 13, 2001, 4:22:08 PM8/13/01
to
Having disappointed Steuard with my "NOT creation" threads in rabt(sorry
:) ) I feel really guilty, so I'm posting this to make up for it: hopefully
it'll ease the bitterness a bit!

I've recycled a number of posts of mine for this, but added some new stuff
as well, so don't worry if you start having deja-vu... I started this ages
ago, then go bored, so it isn't properly finished. I thought I'd post it now
in a vain effort to get rabt back OT! All comments and thoughts welcome :)

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Were the Barrow blades magical?

The general arguments in favour of this theory are as follows:

1 - when the Hobbits and Strider are attacked by 5 of the Nazgûl on
Weathertop (FotR, A Knife in the Dark), a number of things happen. The first
is that Frodo, after putting on the Ring, draws his sword:

"...it seemed to him that it flickered red, as if it were a firebrand."

This flickering effect was taken to mean that the blade was betraying its
magical nature: elsewhere in Tolkien's work Elvish blades flicker blue when
they are near Orcs, and it was assumed that this was a similar effect.

2 - after attacking Frodo and wounding him with a Morgul knife, the five
Nazgûl withdraw, rather than pressing home their advantage. This was taken
as being evidence that they had something to fear, and the natural
assumption was that they feared the Barrow Blades, because they were magical
in some way, and therefore posed them a significant threat. For this to work
it must also be supposed that they had originally entered the dell with the
intention of retrieving the Ring there and then.

3 - Aragorn himself comments on the nature of the blades, and seems to prove
that they were magical:

"'No Orc tools these!" he cried. 'They were borne by the hobbits. Doubtless
the Orcs despoiled them, but feared to keep the knives, knowing them for
what they are: work of Westernesse, wound about with spells for the bane of
Mordor.'" (TT, The Departure of Boromir)

The key word here being "spells" of course.

4 - The defeat of the Witch King at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields:

"No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt
that
foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that
knit his unseen sinews to his will." (RotK, The Battle of the Pelennor
Fields)

It is argued that only a magical weapon can destroy a spell, and therefore
that Merry's sword must have been magical. Those who support the Magic
sword's theory believe that it was, and that it was only by Merry's stabbing
of the Morgul king that Éowyn was able to dispatch him with her own, mundane
weapon.

These then are the basic arguments in favour of the swords being Magical.
Now, I'm a bit of an awkward sod, and I *really* don't like the whole
concept of magical weapons at all :) So I came up with the following attempt
to refute the argument, and to try and prove, once and for all, that the
Hobbits swords were nowt special!

Aragorn's use of the word "spells"

"'No Orc tools these!" he cried. 'They were borne by the hobbits. Doubtless
the Orcs despoiled them, but feared to keep the knives, knowing them for
what they are: work of Westernesse, wound about with spells for the bane of
Mordor.'" (TT, The Departure of Boromir)

While the quote about the swords being "wound about with spells for the bane
of Mordor" appears persuasive, there are problems with it, if you refuse to
take it at face value. Firstly, how does Aragorn recognise that the swords
have spells on them? Certainly I think he would have recognised the fact
that the swords were of Númenórean origin from their design, but this does
not mean that they were necessarily magical. There is no instance in Lord of
the Rings of Aragorn being able to manipulate magic: his ability as a healer
stems from his position as King, even one who has not yet been crowned. It
is not magic. Likewise, he is able to use the palantír and to wrench its
control from Sauron because it is his birthright: he is the rightful heir to
the stone, and the stones recognise that authority. Besides, this is
evidence of Aragorn utilising magic *through* a conduit vessel, not using it
directly himself, which is what would be necessary for him to be able to
detect any inherent spells. Indeed, there is no evidence of any mortal being
able to directly manipulate magic: Tolkien himself dismissed the
possibility:

"... a difference in the use of 'magic' in this story is that it is not to
be come by by 'lore' or spells; but is an inherent power not possess or
attainable by men as such. Aragorn's 'healing' might be regarded as
'magical', or at least a blend of magic with pharmacy and 'hypnotic'
processes. But it is (in theory) reported by hobbits who have very little
notions of philosophy and science..." (Letters, #155)

Secondly, it depends on how the word "spells" is interpreted. It can be
taken directly, so as to mean exactly that. Or it could be interpreted as a
bit of hyperbole on the part of Aragorn: given that it seems unlikely that
he could detect a spell on the sword this must seem most likely. An
alternative reading could be that the 'spells' referred to are actually
curses uttered by the sword-smith while he was making the weapons.

It should also be noted that the Orcs did not fear to touch the blades, only
to keep them as booty. If the swords had "spells for the bane of Mordor",
then surely this would have had some sort of detrimental affect to all of
the servants of Sauron, not just the Ringwraiths, which should have
manifested itself when one of his servants touched them. But nothing
happened. It seems more likely, therefore, that they would not keep them
because of what they represent: the last and strongest of Sauron's enemies,
and the agents of his downfall at the end of the Second Age. I can't see any
of Sauron's servants wanting to be caught with any of those tokens about
them!

Descriptions of the swords

It was suggested that the description of the swords might lead to some clue
as to whether they had a magical nature. The argument being that if there
were any runes on the blades this could indicate a spell that was placed
onto the weapons:

"For each of the hobbits he [Tom] chose a dagger, long, leaf-shaped, and
keen, of marvellous workmanship, damasked with serpent-forms in red and
gold. They gleamed as he drew them from their black sheaths, wrought of some
strange metal, light and strong, and set with many fiery stones." (FotR, Fog
on the Barrow-downs)

No mention of any runes here, and one would have expected Tolkien to comment
on
it. The passage continues:

"Whether by some virtue in these sheaths or because of the spell that lay on
the wound, the blades seemed untouched by time, unrusted, sharp, glittering
in the sun."

Surely if there was a spell within the swords, that would have helped to
preserve them. And yet there is no suggestion of that whatsoever - the
credit is given to the sheaths or to a spell on the horde, but not the any
magic in the swords themselves. This seems to indicate that the swords had
no spells cast upon them. However, there is one suggestive quote in The
Return of the King:

"He [Pippin] drew his sword and looked at it, and the intertwining shapes of
red and gold; and the flowing character of Númenor glinted like fire upon
the blade." (RotK, The Black Gate Opens)

This is a slightly ambiguous line, in that it could be taken to refer to
writing on the blade, or else the characters could simply be the designs of
serpents mentioned above.

The Weathertop scene

The 'Flaming' Blade

First we must tackle the issue of the flickering blade:

"...it seemed to him that it flickered red, as if it were a firebrand."

This is easily explained, as there is in fact a big roaring fire behind
Frodo. The blade is therefore simply reflecting the light of the fire.

However, some doubted whether fire was visible in the Wraith world. At first
sight this seemed like a very good counter-argument, but checking elsewhere
in the text, revealed little if any evidence to support it. According to
Aragorn, "Sauron can put fire to his evil uses... but these Riders do not
love it, and fear those who wield it." (FotR, A Knife in the Dark). This
suggested that fire is very visible in either worlds, or else how could they
see what they fear? A little later we have this description:

"Even as he swooned he caught, as through a swirling mist, a glimpse of
Strider leaping out of the darkness with flaming brand of wood in either
hand." (FotR, The Knife in the Dark)

This is what Frodo sees after the Nazgûl attack, but before he takes off the
Ring. It is clear therefore that fire is at least visible in the wraith
world. There is also this quote from the following chapter to consider:

"With his last failing senses Frodo heard cries, and it seemed to him that
he saw, beyond the Riders that hesitated on the shore, a shining figure in
white; and behind it ran small shadowy forms waving flames, that flared in
the grey mist that was falling over the world."
(FotR: The Flight to the Ford)

From these two passages it is abundantly clear that in both the mundane and
the
spiritual realms fire shines brightly - in fact it flares. It therefore
seems
logical to suppose that even the reflection of flames on the blade of a
sword would cause that weapon to shine bright, rather than any magical
nature inherent in the blade itself.

The Nazgûl Attack

First of all, let us look at what Tolkien had to say about the confrontation
at
Weathertop in a letter:

"Strider does not whip out a sword... Why then make him do so here, in a
contest that was explicitly not fought with weapons?" (Letters by JRR
Tolkien,
#210)

Admittedly this is not 'canon', especially as it dates to 1958. But it does
pose an interesting question. If the conflict between the five Nazgûl, and
Aragorn and the 4 hobbits is not physical, then what else is it? It is
certainly not a magic contest: the
Riders use no magic in the whole episode. Fear? Again, there is no contest:
the Nazgûl have little to fear of the hobbits: only Strider presents a
serious challenge, and as you say, he would be hard pressed to take on all
five. So what then can this contest be? Surely it must be a contest of
wills: Frodo against the Nazgûl King. And Frodo loses - the Witch king is
able to make the Ringbearer reveal himself, and can then single him out for
the attack. Of course, as was said above the letters are not 'canon' -
Tolkien is notorious for contradicting himself, and so we must seek further,
clearer evidence:

"...at last he [Frodo] slowly drew out the chain, and slipped the Ring on
the forefinger of his left hand

"Immediately, though everything else remained as before, dim and dark, the
shapes became terribly clear... There were five tall figures: two standing
on the lip of the dell, three advancing. ...Their eyes fell on him and
pierced him, as they rushed towards him. Desperately, he drew his own
sword... Two of the figures halted. The third was taller than the others...
He sprang forward and bore down on Frodo."(FotR, The Knife in the Dark)

Now, while it is true that two of the advancing enemy halt when the knife is
drawn, giving support to the theory that they feared the weapon, the King
does not hesitate, and instead "springs" forward. Surely if he feared
Frodo's knife, he too would have at least hesitated before attacking,
prophecy or no prophecy?

Also, it is clear from the passage that Frodo's is the only one of the
Barrow blades that is drawn during the attack. Now, I could conceivably
admit the possibility that the Nazgûl feared all four of the blades, if they
were drawn and were all magical. But only one? And it's wielder badly
wounded, so that he can not possibly put up a fight against them? It does
not seem very likely. The Nazgûl faced a foe of equal numbers in the dell,
but not of equal strength. All four of the hobbits were terrified by the
ordeal, with Merry and Pippin were cowering on the ground. Sam was trying to
hide behind his master, and even Frodo was in great fear. Only his own
internal fight against the urge to put the Ring on made him face the Black
Riders, and he eventually lost and was forced to wear it.

Therefore there must have been another motive behind their reluctance to
pursue their advantage. Simple fear of a few bits of metal in the hands of
opponents who were cowering in terror cannot have been the reason: the
Nazgûl must have been excellent swordsmen, given the amount of time they had
to practice. All five of them had their swords drawn, and once Frodo had
been taken care of by the King, getting rid of Aragorn, then turning on the
other three would have been fairly easy. But this is obviously not what
happened, and so another reason must be sought.

The Witch king has the knife already drawn, and ready to use when he enters
the dell. Only the Witch King attacks the five: and even then he only
singles out Frodo after he has put the Ring on. Surely the implication of
this is that the Nazgûl had no intention of attempting to seize the ring
that night: had they wanted to they could have dealt with all five of the
companions, even if Aragorn had been able to take one or two with him.
Costly as this would have been to Sauron, I'm sure he would have accepted
the loss of two or three of his Ringwraiths in return for the final
extinction of the Line of Elendil, and even more importantly the recovery of
the Ruling Ring.

The text would therefore appear to indicate that the Nazgûl had a
pre-arranged plan when they entered the dell, in which the others would drop
back, and only the Witch King would attack. Look at the disposition of the
five: two at the lip of the dell, two half-way between the lip and the fire,
with just the King attacking. That is not an offensive position: indeed it
is extremely defensive. It allowed the King to stab the Ringbearer, and to
then withdraw behind the protection of his comrades. Had they been
attempting to get the Ring, surely all five would have been spread out
across the dell, and would have advanced as one?

It seems more likely that their plan all along was simply to attack the
Ringbearer, wound him with the Morgul knife, and then wait until he was
fully under their control before making him bring the Ring to them. The ease
with which they broke Frodo's will would have made them even more certain
that this plan would succeed. They did not expect Frodo to be so resilient
to a wound which Gandalf said would have defeated many strong warriors in
only a few days. Eventually they realised their mistake, and were forced to
act openly and to ride down the Ringbearer's party at the Ford. But by then
it was too late: Frodo had been
able to hold out just long enough to reach safety.

Therefore, the evidence points firmly towards the Nazgûl withdrawing from
the dell
because they believe that their task has been completed. There is, from the
evidence put forward, actually no evidence to support any theory
that they were afraid of the Barrow blades at all: whether they were magical
in nature or not, there is no earthly reason for them to withdraw in the way
they did, unless some other explanation be offered. This has been done with
the argument given above.

The Witch King's death

"No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt
that
foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that
knit his unseen sinews to his will." (RotK, The Battle of the Pelennor
Fields)

The sword thrust distracted the Witch King, broke his concentration, and
caused him to loose control of the form, which his will had made his body
assume. That line is simply referring to the fact that Merry managed to deal
a wound
which was as bad to the Nazgûl King as any that could have been dealt by
Aragorn, or anyone else. And besides, that line cannot contradict that fact
that it was Éowyn who finished off the King of Angmar with her apparently
mundane weapon.
Éowyn
The key part of the quote is "No other blade... would have dealt that foe a
wound so bitter...". Note the use of the word would, rather than the word
"could". It suggests that other weapons could have been used to deal a
similar, though not quite as effective, blow, and negates the idea of any
magical nature about the sword.

Other evidence

In early drafts of LotR Tolkien appears to have considered the concept of
magical swords, or at least swords that had some sort of harmful effect to
the Nazgûl:

"But for that 'short cut' you would not have met old Bombadil, nor had the
one kind of sword the Riders fear." (HoME VI: The Return of the Shadow, At
Rivendell, p.213)

Christopher says that this draft was on a loose scrap of paper, and believes
it is part of the third draft. There is a very important footnote attached
to this though:

"An isolated note says: 'What of the sword of the Barrow-wights? Why did the
Black Riders fear it? - because it belonged to Western Men.'" (RotS, p.218)

It seems that Tolkien was still uncertain at the time he wrote this as to
the nature of the swords: his isolated note can be taken either way, and
could suggest that after the
original concept that the swords were magical, he decided that they were
feared simply because they were made by Númenóreans - they would represent
Sauron's enemy that finally defeated him, and stole from him the Ring.

It must be significant, however, that the first quote was removed from by
the time of the final draft: it implies to me that Tolkien had dismissed the
idea of the Nazgûl being afraid for the swords. Of course, it can be assumed
that the notion remained implicit, but unspoken. But it seems odd that
Tolkien doesn't make it clearer, if this was the case: it is out of
character for his writing, which is usually very attentive to these details.
It seems fair to assume therefore that the fact that the magical nature of
the knives was not made explicit points in entirely the opposite direction:
that Tolkien, after considering the possibility of magical 'Nazgûl-busting'
weapons, eventually decided against the idea.

There is one final and highly important piece of evidence that needs to be
put in place. I cannot take credit for this: it was pointed out by another
poster on the group who only goes by the name of Stephen, and I would feel a
fraud if I did not give proper credit for this:

"Then the leader, who was now half across the Ford, stood menacing in his
stirrups, and raised up his hand. Frodo was stricken dumb... His sword broke
and fell out of his shaking hand." (FotR, The Flight to the Ford)

This quote explodes the idea that the Nazgûl had anything to fear from the
Barrow blades: with one wave of his hand the Witch King was able to break
the weapon. If he could have done it at the Ford, then he could also have
done it on Weathertop.

Also, consider that in 'The Return of the King', Sam's captured sword is
taken to Barad-dûr, and is handled by none other than the Mouth of Sauron in
front of the hosts of the West. Again, if these blades had a magical nature,
surely the weapons would have been carried by someone of less importance
than the future Tyrant of Isengard and Lieutenant of Sauron, in case there
were any accidents. But the Mouth has no qualms about handling the weapon,
so again, this implies that there is no spell on it.

And one final point, which if not addressed would lead to accusations of
bias, is that of Tolkien's letter which looked at whether or not Men were
able to manipulate magic:

"Anyway, a difference in the use of 'magic' in this story is that it it not
to be come by by 'lore' or spells; but is an inherent power not possessed or
attainable by Men as such. Aragorn's 'healing' might be regarded as
'magical', or at least a blend of magic with pharmacy and 'hypnotic'
processes. But it is (in theory) reported by hobbits who have very little
notions of philosophy science; while A. [Aragorn] is not a pure man, but at
long remove one of the 'children of Lúthien'." (Letters, #155)

In the margin Tolkien had written:

"But the Númenóreans used 'spells' in making swords?"

It is clear that Tolkien had two concepts in his mind when writing the
above. On the one hand he refused to accept the idea that Man is able to
manipulate magic. Yet at the same time he did consider the notion that they
Númenóreans placed spells on their swords. The most important part of the
footnote would appear to be the question mark at the very end: it strongly
implies that Tolkien was merely postulating the possibility that the swords
were magical, not that he accepted it. Even more significant is the fact
that the text comes from a draft letter, and was not included in the final
version. Surely something this important would have been incorporated into
the final text? Yet Tolkien discarded it, which suggests that he ultimately
could not resolve the dichotomy he had put before himself. It seems fair
therefore to suppose that the long passages (there are others not quoted
above) in which Tolkien refutes the idea that Man is able to directly use
magic should be allowed to take precedence over what is, after all, one
remark made with no evidence to support it.

Earlier drafts:

The following is a list of quotes taken from volumes VI-IX of The History of
Middle Earth (HoME) series (aka The History of The Lord of the Rings) which
is a collection of the various drafts of LotR. It must be
stressed that these quotes should not be taken as 'canon' as they simply
represent ideas and concepts which did not necessarily make it into the
final edition of LotR, either because they were rejected by Tolkien, or
because they could not be fitted in to the text. They are therefore only
included to attempt to throw some light on what Tolkien's opinion of the
magic swords concept was. Page numbers refer to British paperback editions
of the HoME volumes.

The Return of the Shadow, 'The Barrow-wight':

"Tom puts a blessing on the gold... none of the hobbits will have any..."
(p125)

This quote is taken from the first version of the chapter, and appears to
indicate that at this point, Tolkien did not feel it necessary to arm the
Hobbits, as they take nothing from the hoard at all.

"Tom chose for them 'bronze swords, short, leaf-shaped, and keen'..."
(p.128)

This is from the second drat of the same chapter, and seems to suggest that
Tolkien saw nothing special about the blades, and so only gave them the
barest possible description.

RotS, 'The Attack on Weathertop':

The text differs very little from that given in LotR, with Frodo's sword
described as seeming to flicker like a firebrand. Also, although in the
earlier versions there were only three Nazgûl involved in the attack, their
behaviour is no different, with only the Witch King attacking 'Frodo'.

RotS, 'From Weathertop to the Ford':

Here too there is very little difference, with the Nazgûl leader able to
break Frodo's sword with a gesture.

The Treason of Isengard, 'The Departure of Boromir':

No mention at all is made of the hobbits swords being thrown away by the
Orcs and then recovered by Aragorn, either here or later in the early drafts
that see the Three Hunters reunited with Merry and Pippin. Consequently
there is no mention of any spells on the swords by Aragorn. This seems to
indicate that the format that appears in LotR is a late concept to Tolkien.

The War of the Ring, 'The Battle of the Pelennor Fields':

"She [Éowyn] raised her shield, and with a swift and sudden stroke smote off
the bird's head. It fell, its vast wings outspread crumpled, and helpless on
the earth. About Éowyn the light of day fell bright and clear. With a
clamour of dismay the hosts of Harad turned and fled, and over the ground a
headless thing crawled away, snarling and snivelling, tearing at the cloak.
Soon the black cloak too lay formless and still, and a long thin wail rent
the air and vanished in the distance." (p.366)

It's clear from this passage that Tolkien originally had no concept that
Merry would give any aid to Éowyn when she faced the Witch King. Of course,
in the scene above it appears that he does not die, only withdraw. The point
is that Éowyn managed to see him off without any magic sword to help her. It
is therefore not unfair to assume that this carried on into the later
versions of the text in an unspoken way.

WotR, 'The Story Foreseen From Forannest', and 'The Black Gate Opens':

In both these draft chapters no mention is made of Pippin's sword at all.

Conclusion:

So are the Barrow Blades magical? The honest answer has to be that, as has
been demonstrated, there is enough evidence to support both points of view,
but not enough to conclusively prove the point one way or another.

Bit of a cop-out, really :)

--
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Website: http://www.geocities.com/jamie.armstrong/
Email: Jamie.A...@genie.co.uk
or: Jamie-A...@dirt-pixie.freeserve.co.uk
-------------------------------------------------------------------------


Lord Jubjub

unread,
Aug 13, 2001, 7:14:50 PM8/13/01
to
<Snip nice long discussion>

I would not say the sword itself is magical. But magic can exist in
objects--the Rings of Power and the Nazgul blade. Likewise, the Mouth
of Sauron was a sorcerer. Whatever Tolkien said about men and magic
afterwards, while writing LOTR, he definitely had objects that could do
supernatural things.

But these items did things only when they were used. Unused, they
exerted little or no power. Thus the Mouth could handle Sam's sword
without fear. The orcs discarded Merry's and Pippin's swords because
they were superstitious and likely afraid to feel the bite of the blades
in their backs (courtesy of their fellow orcs). The One Ring was
somewhat special due to the amount of personal power Sauron put into it.
Nonetheless, it could only truly exert its power when worn.

Were the Nazgul frightened of the blades at Weathertop? Probably, which
is why they didn't grab Frodo, then. Why take an unnecessary risk? The
King of the Nazgul was confident enough in his abilities to avoid the
blade during the few seconds needed to stab Frodo.

Did Aragorn recognize the spells? No, he recognized that the designs on
the blade meant that spells had been cast on them. The men of Numenor
had extensive knowledge of elvish work. They build Orthanc and Amon
Hen. They knew something about enbuing inanimate objects with certain
powers. The blade of the swords were embued with the ability to dispel
the cohesion of a wraith-spell.

Note that Merry's blade was destroyed after he stabbed the Witch-King,
but that the wraith spells were dispersed. Given time, the WK would
have recast those spells and regained his protection. But until he
could do so, he was vulnerable to any weapon as a mortal would be. His
taunt to Eowyn was merely a bluff.
--
Lord Jubjub
Ruler of the Jabberwocky, Guardian of the Wabe, Prince of the Slithy Toves,
Leader of the raths, Keeper of the Bandersnatch

Johnathan George

unread,
Aug 13, 2001, 11:34:13 PM8/13/01
to

Jamie Armstrong wrote:
>
<snip lots of stuff>
>
> Therefore, the evidence points firmly towards the Nazgűl withdrawing from


> the dell
> because they believe that their task has been completed. There is, from the
> evidence put forward, actually no evidence to support any theory
> that they were afraid of the Barrow blades at all: whether they were magical
> in nature or not, there is no earthly reason for them to withdraw in the way
> they did, unless some other explanation be offered.

It seems to me that the reason the Nazgul didn't kill them all and take
the ring was that they didn't really know what they were dealing with.
It may not have been obvious to them that Frodo wasn't really strong
enough to use the ring as a weapon against them. I think that if
Aragorn, for isntance had had the ring, and had used it against the
Nazgul, he may well have been able to defeat them... after all Sauron
was frightened into making his greatest error when he thought that
Aragorn might have control of the ring.

The Nazgul may even have recognized that Aragorn was one of the
Dunadain, and assumed that whoever was actually the ring bearer would be
more powerful than him. So they may have assumed they were facing a
much more powerful threat than they really were. I think if they had
realized how easy it would have been to take the ring then and there,
they would have done it.

So I guess I'd agree that in this case, the magic swords theory doesn't
get much support, although I think that overall there is some pretty
good evidence (Aragorns comment about spells etc.) thaat they were
magic, and no direct evidence that they weren't, so I still lean toward
that interpretation.

Johnathan

Fox

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 12:52:43 AM8/14/01
to
Not having kept up with all the discussions here, I'll just have to
interject my own humble opinion.

I think the Nazgul retreated simply for the reasons put forth by Tolkien.
They did not expect to be resisted for one, and the other was simply their
fear of fire. They thought with the sort of injury Frodo had received would
subdue him to their will long before they could make it to Rivendell, so why
take unnessesary risks? Also, Gandalf had drawn some of them off, and they
were thus even less to take on resistance.

Did they realize what the barrow blades were? Perhaps, but maybe not,
espeically in the heat of battle. If for instance, the King of the Nazguls
realized the dagger (these were dagger btw, not swords.. just swords to
hobbits :) ) was of Westerenesse make, and would undo the knit of his undead
spirit, would he have so casually dismissed Merry as a 'worm in the mud'? I
doubt it.

Anyways, I'll have to try to jump into more discussions.. it's fun ;)

Fox


Johnny1A

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 2:41:26 AM8/14/01
to
Lord Jubjub <jub...@ev1.net> wrote in message news:<jubjub-76848C....@newsa.ev1.net>...

Why is everyone assuming that Aragorn has no special powers?
Remember, Aragorn is not entirely Atani. His power as healer derives
at least in part from his descent through many ages from Luthien, and
thus Melian. Remember, Eldrond was _not_ a king, but he had even
greater healing powers than Aragorn.

While I agree that most Men had no 'magical' powers, the Numenoreans
_did_ have some sort of power (though it might not be 'magic' in this
context). Faramir dreamed of the Downfall of Numenor, Denethor could
often perceive the thoughts of others, etc.

I suspect it's quite possible that Aradel might have _sensed_
something about the blades, though I doubt he could do much more than
that. I just thought it would be a good idea to keep in mind that
Aragorn has Elven and Ainur blood.

Shermanlee

Jamie Armstrong

unread,
Aug 13, 2001, 8:43:51 PM8/13/01
to

"Lord Jubjub" <jub...@ev1.net> wrote in message
news:jubjub-76848C....@newsa.ev1.net...
> <Snip nice long discussion>

Wot, you read it? Like, *all* of it? Wow!


>
> I would not say the sword itself is magical. But magic can exist in
> objects--the Rings of Power and the Nazgul blade. Likewise, the Mouth
> of Sauron was a sorcerer. Whatever Tolkien said about men and magic
> afterwards, while writing LOTR, he definitely had objects that could do
> supernatural things.

Oh certainly _ I'm not suggesting that there are not magical objects in ME.
My point was that Tolkien said in his letter that Men cannot manipulate
magic, and therefore by extrapolating that knowldegin into LotR, no
Numenorean smith can have created a magical blade, because to do so they
would have had to have been able to get the magic into the sword in the
first place. Either that or the swords were made by an elf. Or Sauron ;)

Of all the instances of mortals using magic, I cannot think of a single one
in which they do not use a conduit of some sort: be it palantir or ring.
Ther is no evidence that a mortal can directly use magic: I suspect because
their bodies cannot take the strain, but I'm not sure if that's just my own
view, of if I've read somewhere that Tolkien believed that.


>
> But these items did things only when they were used. Unused, they
> exerted little or no power. Thus the Mouth could handle Sam's sword
> without fear.

Or else because they weren't magical :) Besides, a sword with magical
properties has the potential to do great damage if

> The orcs discarded Merry's and Pippin's swords because
> they were superstitious and likely afraid to feel the bite of the blades
> in their backs (courtesy of their fellow orcs).

Hmm... Orcs stabbing Orcs in the back with Numenorean blades. What a irony!
But why wouldn't they be afraid of being stabbed by other Orcs using Orcish
swords? It doesn't make sense.

> The One Ring was
> somewhat special due to the amount of personal power Sauron put into it.
> Nonetheless, it could only truly exert its power when worn.
>

Mmm... what about tempting Boromir? It did a brilliant job of getting him
uner it's control, without him even touching it.

> Were the Nazgul frightened of the blades at Weathertop? Probably, which
> is why they didn't grab Frodo, then. Why take an unnecessary risk? The
> King of the Nazgul was confident enough in his abilities to avoid the
> blade during the few seconds needed to stab Frodo.

Sorry, but as I went to great lengths to point out, this just doesn't work.
After all, they had the Ring in front of them: it's definitely worth
sacrificing one of them - even the King - to gain it back for their master.
Especially given the likely consequences when Sauron found out that they let
it get away! Unless there was another plan of course...


>
> Did Aragorn recognize the spells? No, he recognized that the designs on
> the blade meant that spells had been cast on them.

I'll buy that...

> The men of Numenor
> had extensive knowledge of elvish work. They build Orthanc and Amon
> Hen. They knew something about enbuing inanimate objects with certain
> powers. The blade of the swords were embued with the ability to dispel
> the cohesion of a wraith-spell.

... but not that. It doesn't make sense to me to make a long knife an
anti-Nazgul weapon. A git big sword, sure, but a knife?


>
> Note that Merry's blade was destroyed after he stabbed the Witch-King,
> but that the wraith spells were dispersed. Given time, the WK would
> have recast those spells and regained his protection. But until he
> could do so, he was vulnerable to any weapon as a mortal would be. His
> taunt to Eowyn was merely a bluff.

Interesting idea, but agian I don't buy it. AFAIC, Eowyn would have killed
the King even if Merry only distracted him, rather than stabbing him. This
is what Tolkien originally envisioned, before he introduced Merry to the
action.

Jamie


Morgil Blackhope

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 5:56:12 AM8/14/01
to

Jamie Armstrong kirjoitti viestissä <9l9cun$n69$1...@newsg3.svr.pol.co.uk>...

>It should also be noted that the Orcs did not fear to touch the blades,
only
>to keep them as booty. If the swords had "spells for the bane of Mordor",
>then surely this would have had some sort of detrimental affect to all of
>the servants of Sauron, not just the Ringwraiths, which should have
>manifested itself when one of his servants touched them. But nothing
>happened.

Maybe we will see in the movie, how one of the Orcs picks up the
knife and then melts away screaming, while his companions look
in terror. ;)

Morgil


Öjevind Lång

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 5:55:15 AM8/14/01
to
Fox hath written:

>Not having kept up with all the discussions here, I'll just have to
>interject my own humble opinion.
>
>I think the Nazgul retreated simply for the reasons put forth by Tolkien.
>They did not expect to be resisted for one, and the other was simply their
>fear of fire. They thought with the sort of injury Frodo had received
would
>subdue him to their will long before they could make it to Rivendell, so
why
>take unnessesary risks? Also, Gandalf had drawn some of them off, and they
>were thus even less to take on resistance.


Still, considering that Aragorn describes them as terrible, and goes pale
when he mentions them, they are remarkably shy and circumspect during the
Hobbits' trek to Rivendell.

Öjevind


Robert Strickland

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 7:36:01 AM8/14/01
to
> > Were the Nazgul frightened of the blades at Weathertop? Probably, which
> > is why they didn't grab Frodo, then. Why take an unnecessary risk? The
> > King of the Nazgul was confident enough in his abilities to avoid the
> > blade during the few seconds needed to stab Frodo.
>
> Sorry, but as I went to great lengths to point out, this just doesn't
work.
> After all, they had the Ring in front of them: it's definitely worth
> sacrificing one of them - even the King - to gain it back for their
master.
> Especially given the likely consequences when Sauron found out that they
let
> it get away! Unless there was another plan of course...

I think you may be overlooking the fact that they were in the presence of
Aragorn, the heir of Isildur, as well. While he was only armed with flaming
brands, I would think that he would be the source of some concern for the
Nazgul. With him present attacking and snatching the ring probably wouldn't
be a piece of cake and therefore not something to be taken lightly.

I think it should also be remembered that the Nazgul probably feared the
Ring as well. They would've known full well that if Frodo chose to take the
ring as his own that he would then have had the power to command them.

Lastly, I think the idea that they would wager one or more of their
'unlives' against the posibility of grabbing the ring exhibits a very
modern, calculating and thoroughly un-Tolkien sensibility.

Rob


Tar-Ithil

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 10:40:14 AM8/14/01
to
What happened to Elured and Elurin?


Jamie Armstrong

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 10:37:25 AM8/14/01
to

"Robert Strickland" <robertst...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:9lb2dm$8td$06$1...@news.t-online.com...

> > > Were the Nazgul frightened of the blades at Weathertop? Probably,
which
> > > is why they didn't grab Frodo, then. Why take an unnecessary risk?
The
> > > King of the Nazgul was confident enough in his abilities to avoid the
> > > blade during the few seconds needed to stab Frodo.
> >
> > Sorry, but as I went to great lengths to point out, this just doesn't
> work.
> > After all, they had the Ring in front of them: it's definitely worth
> > sacrificing one of them - even the King - to gain it back for their
> master.
> > Especially given the likely consequences when Sauron found out that they
> let
> > it get away! Unless there was another plan of course...
>
> I think you may be overlooking the fact that they were in the presence of
> Aragorn, the heir of Isildur, as well.

And I think *you* are giving Aragorn too much credit! :)

> While he was only armed with flaming
> brands, I would think that he would be the source of some concern for the
> Nazgul. With him present attacking and snatching the ring probably
wouldn't
> be a piece of cake and therefore not something to be taken lightly.

Yeah, but they didn't *know* who he was. As far as the Nazgul were concerned
he was just another random pleb.The first Sauron hears of there being an
heir to Isildur is when Aragorn uses the Palantir at Helms Deep - then he
was afraid. But not before. So there was no reason for the Nazgul to fear
him as anything special.

and anyway, I don't think Aragornm *was* anything special: at least he was
not someone who could long resist 5 of them alone. He doesn't appear to have
any particular powers to help him defeat such foes. After all, Aragorn fears
the Riders almost as much as the Hobbits do - more ins some ways, because he
knows exactly whjat they are. Remember his warning to Frodo at the Pony:
"'They are terrible!' ....his face was drawn as if in pain, and his hands
clenched the arms of his chair." (FotR, Strider). Also, to the best of my
knowledge, Aragorn never names the Nazgul: he calls them The Riders, The
Servants of the Enemy, but does not explicitly name them. That suggests to
me that he knows he has very little chance of opposing them successfully.


>
> I think it should also be remembered that the Nazgul probably feared the
> Ring as well. They would've known full well that if Frodo chose to take
the
> ring as his own that he would then have had the power to command them.
>

Nope - Tolkien stated in a letter that this could not have happened:

"I do not think they could have attacked him with violence, nor laid hold
upon him or taken him captive; they would have obeyed, or feigned to have
obey any minor commands of his that did not interfere with their errand -
laid upon them by Sauron, who still through their nine rings (which he held)
had primary control of their wills." (Letters, #246 - p.331)

That was the whole point of sending the Ringwraiths after the Ring: even if
someone else tried to use the Ring to command them, they would fail because
Sauron possessed their rings. After all, Frodo *does* put on the Ring, and
yet he is attacked with the Morgul knife.

> Lastly, I think the idea that they would wager one or more of their
> 'unlives' against the posibility of grabbing the ring exhibits a very
> modern, calculating and thoroughly un-Tolkien sensibility.

Perhaps. Although, I wouldn't agree: Denethor states in ROtK "Much must be
risked in war" - so it isn't really "un-Tolkien" an attitude.

Jamie


Jamie Armstrong

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 10:39:08 AM8/14/01
to

"Morgil Blackhope" <more...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:9las2s$870bm$1...@ID-81911.news.dfncis.de...
If that does happen I'll personally murder PJ!!!

Jamie


Jamie Armstrong

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 11:01:45 AM8/14/01
to

"Johnny1A" <sherm...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:b3030854.0108...@posting.google.com...

<snip>


>
> Why is everyone assuming that Aragorn has no special powers?
> Remember, Aragorn is not entirely Atani. His power as healer derives
> at least in part from his descent through many ages from Luthien, and
> thus Melian.

That's a big assumption to make! It's a long descent from Melian to Aragorn:
there's nothing to suggest that any powers passed to the mortal line. After
all, the bloodline must have been 'weakened' by the heirs of Isildur having
to marry Numenorean women not of any particular lineage.

> Remember, Elrond was _not_ a king, but he had even


> greater healing powers than Aragorn.

He was an elf though! Well, half-elf, anyway :)

> While I agree that most Men had no 'magical' powers, the Numenoreans
> _did_ have some sort of power (though it might not be 'magic' in this
> context). Faramir dreamed of the Downfall of Numenor,

A dream. He dreamt a dream. Hardly signs of any power: he must have read
about the Downfall a few times! Have never dreamt of something you've read?
;)

> Denethor could
> often perceive the thoughts of others, etc.
>

Well, that's one interpretation,. I suppose. I've always assumed that that
passage:

"He has long sight. He can perceive, if he bends his will thither, much of
what is passing in the minds of men, even those that dwell far off." (RotK,
Minas Tirith)

meant that he was very perceptive, and able to read body-language, rather
than minds. After all, he had access to the Palantir, so that explains how
he was able to know of things far off, although Gandalf didn't realise that
at the time, and attributed it to something else.

> I suspect it's quite possible that Aradel

Aradel? Is that a typo, or is ther yet another pseudonym for Aragorn which
I've missed?

> might have _sensed_
> something about the blades, though I doubt he could do much more than
> that. I just thought it would be a good idea to keep in mind that
> Aragorn has Elven and Ainur blood.

It's a fair point, but I just don't think that is the reason for Aragorn's
healing abilities. I just think it's a virtue of kingship. After all,
Aragorn was able to pull Merry, Eowyn and Faramir out of their maladies, yet
could do nothing for Frodo on Weathertop: Elrond had to do that. The only
difference as far as I can see is that on Weathertop Strider was just a
Ranger, but in Minas Tirith Aragorn had just fought a major battle, and was
more or less recognised as being the King by the population, whether he
wanted to be or not.

Jamie


Morgil Blackhope

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 12:15:33 PM8/14/01
to

Jamie Armstrong kirjoitti viestissä <9lbhlq$gad$2...@news5.svr.pol.co.uk>...

>
>"Morgil Blackhope" <more...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
>>
>> Maybe we will see in the movie, how one of the Orcs picks up the
>> knife and then melts away screaming, while his companions look
>> in terror. ;)
>>
>If that does happen I'll personally murder PJ!!!

But then I cannot sue him for stealing my idea!

Morgil


A Tsar Is Born

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 12:22:30 PM8/14/01
to
"Lord Jubjub" <jub...@ev1.net> wrote in message
news:jubjub-76848C....@newsa.ev1.net...
> <Snip nice long discussion>

which I missed, which means I'll probably bring up points already decided,
in a manner not unlike that of Gandalf when getting the trolls to continue
arguing in The Hobbit....


> I would not say the sword itself is magical. But magic can exist in
> objects--the Rings of Power and the Nazgul blade. Likewise, the Mouth
> of Sauron was a sorcerer. Whatever Tolkien said about men and magic
> afterwards, while writing LOTR, he definitely had objects that could do
> supernatural things.
>
> But these items did things only when they were used. Unused, they
> exerted little or no power.

Not at all. The orcs are afraid to touch the swords. The elven rope "burns"
Gollum. The orcs perceive the Ring even when it isn't being used.


>Thus the Mouth could handle Sam's sword
> without fear.

The Mouth is a living human. That's an advantage over a Wraith when dealing
with objects that have anti-Wraith spells cast on them.


>The orcs discarded Merry's and Pippin's swords because
> they were superstitious and likely afraid to feel the bite of the blades
> in their backs (courtesy of their fellow orcs).

...who are unarmed? I don't think so.

> The One Ring was
> somewhat special due to the amount of personal power Sauron put into it.
> Nonetheless, it could only truly exert its power when worn.

No. Sam scares Shagrat half to death with it, even though he's NOT wearing
it; similarly Frodo terrifies Gollum and Sam has a vision of him, though
Frodo is not wearing the Ring.
Gandalf is afraid even to touch it.


> Were the Nazgul frightened of the blades at Weathertop? Probably, which
> is why they didn't grab Frodo, then. Why take an unnecessary risk? The
> King of the Nazgul was confident enough in his abilities to avoid the
> blade during the few seconds needed to stab Frodo.
>
> Did Aragorn recognize the spells? No, he recognized that the designs on
> the blade meant that spells had been cast on them. The men of Numenor
> had extensive knowledge of elvish work.

The spells were not put on the blades by Elves but by the Dunedain of the
North who were in battle with the Witch-King. They were specific about whom
they wished to attack, and the Wraiths could sense this.

> Note that Merry's blade was destroyed after he stabbed the Witch-King,
> but that the wraith spells were dispersed. Given time, the WK would
> have recast those spells and regained his protection. But until he
> could do so, he was vulnerable to any weapon as a mortal would be. His
> taunt to Eowyn was merely a bluff.

Well, he knew Glorfindel's prophecy.

Parmathule


John R. Cooper

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 1:13:08 PM8/14/01
to
On Tue, 14 Aug 2001 16:01:45 +0100, "Jamie Armstrong"
<Jamie-A...@dirt-pixie.freeserve.co.uk> wrote:

>It's a fair point, but I just don't think that is the reason for Aragorn's
>healing abilities. I just think it's a virtue of kingship.

I don't understand how being a monarch bestows supernatural healing
powers. Could you explain this?

Thanks,
- John

Jamie Armstrong

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 1:43:53 PM8/14/01
to

"John R. Cooper" <jo...@jrcooperREMOVE.com> wrote in message
news:dtmint0jqre7ek3c9...@4ax.com...
Explain? No. Give an hysterical parallel, - yes :)

In Medieval England, the King (and only the King) was believed to have the
power of healing Scrofula, or King's evil, simply by touch. It was a power
based purely on being King.

Jamie


Jamie Armstrong

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 1:46:15 PM8/14/01
to

"Morgil Blackhope" <more...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:9lbia5$8hcbm$1...@ID-81911.news.dfncis.de...
All right then, you sue him, then once you've got every penny you can out of
him, I'll kill him - that way he can't take it to appeal :) Of course, I
demand 50% of your winnings...

Jamie


Jamie Armstrong

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 2:34:12 PM8/14/01
to

"Fox" <som...@home.com> wrote in message
news:v82e7.30010$c8.98...@news1.denver1.co.home.com...

> Not having kept up with all the discussions here, I'll just have to
> interject my own humble opinion.
>
> I think the Nazgul retreated simply for the reasons put forth by Tolkien.
> They did not expect to be resisted for one, and the other was simply their
> fear of fire. They thought with the sort of injury Frodo had received
would
> subdue him to their will long before they could make it to Rivendell, so
why
> take unnessesary risks? Also, Gandalf had drawn some of them off, and
they
> were thus even less to take on resistance.
>
> Did they realize what the barrow blades were? Perhaps, but maybe not,
> espeically in the heat of battle. If for instance, the King of the
Nazguls
> realized the dagger (these were dagger btw, not swords.. just swords to
> hobbits :)

Yes, I know, and I 've made that point a few times myself in other
discussions. MAybe I should have included it again!

> was of Westerenesse make, and would undo the knit of his undead
> spirit, would he have so casually dismissed Merry as a 'worm in the mud'?
I
> doubt it.

Good point.


>
> Anyways, I'll have to try to jump into more discussions.. it's fun ;)
>

Certainly is!

Assuming you can get past any interminably long and boring posts...

Jamie


Jamie Armstrong

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 2:30:05 PM8/14/01
to

"A Tsar Is Born" <ench...@herodotus.com> wrote in message
news:3b794...@news.starnetinc.com...

> "Lord Jubjub" <jub...@ev1.net> wrote in message
> news:jubjub-76848C....@newsa.ev1.net...
> > <Snip nice long discussion>
>
> which I missed

No, it was just a very long-winded postn by me. If you missed it then well
done! :) More likely it just hasn't popped up on your server yet.

> which means I'll probably bring up points already decided,
> in a manner not unlike that of Gandalf when getting the trolls to continue
> arguing in The Hobbit....
>
>
> > I would not say the sword itself is magical. But magic can exist in
> > objects--the Rings of Power and the Nazgul blade. Likewise, the Mouth
> > of Sauron was a sorcerer. Whatever Tolkien said about men and magic
> > afterwards, while writing LOTR, he definitely had objects that could do
> > supernatural things.
> >
> > But these items did things only when they were used. Unused, they
> > exerted little or no power.
>
> Not at all. The orcs are afraid to touch the swords.

That's one thing I addressed in my original post: the Orcs threw the swords
away "as if they burned". It doesn't say they *did* burn them.

> The elven rope "burns"
> Gollum. The orcs perceive the Ring even when it isn't being used.
>
>
> >Thus the Mouth could handle Sam's sword
> > without fear.
>
> The Mouth is a living human. That's an advantage over a Wraith when
dealing
> with objects that have anti-Wraith spells cast on them.
>

I've always had a problem with the Mouth: if he's a living man, how then did
he outlive everyone elxe of Numenorean race? After all, he is supposed to
have entered Sauron's service in the Second Age. Surely Sauron can't prolong
life? Not even the Ring could do that. SO that suggests to me that there is
some magic at work preventing him from aging, in which case he ought to be
influenced by any object designed to harm the servants of the enemy: after
all, while I will conced that there is a refernece to spells being on the
sword in LotR, nowhere in the text does it say that these are anti-wraith
spells: you are just assuming that they are. What it actually says is
"spells for the bane orf Mordor" - so it ought to affect the lieutenant of
Sauron. Yet it doesn't..


>
> > The One Ring was
> > somewhat special due to the amount of personal power Sauron put into it.
> > Nonetheless, it could only truly exert its power when worn.
>
> No. Sam scares Shagrat half to death with it,

Sam doesn't do anything: the Ring just reacts.

> even though he's NOT wearing
> it; similarly Frodo terrifies Gollum and Sam has a vision of him, though
> Frodo is not wearing the Ring.
> Gandalf is afraid even to touch it.
>
>
> > Were the Nazgul frightened of the blades at Weathertop? Probably, which
> > is why they didn't grab Frodo, then. Why take an unnecessary risk? The
> > King of the Nazgul was confident enough in his abilities to avoid the
> > blade during the few seconds needed to stab Frodo.
> >
> > Did Aragorn recognize the spells? No, he recognized that the designs on
> > the blade meant that spells had been cast on them. The men of Numenor
> > had extensive knowledge of elvish work.
>
> The spells were not put on the blades by Elves but by the Dunedain of the
> North who were in battle with the Witch-King. They were specific about
whom
> they wished to attack, and the Wraiths could sense this.

Supposition.

Jamie


James Giles

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 2:59:10 PM8/14/01
to

"Jamie Armstrong" <Jamie-A...@dirt-pixie.freeserve.co.uk> wrote in message
news:9lbr5t$vif$1...@news6.svr.pol.co.uk...
...

> In Medieval England, the King (and only the King) was believed to have the
> power of healing Scrofula, or King's evil, simply by touch. It was a power
> based purely on being King.

In early Europe, people believed that all ruling Kings (Queens) had
healing powers. What's really wierd is why did that superstition
later focus (in England at least) on just Scrofula?

--
J. Giles

Vulpecula Mordax

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 3:05:43 PM8/14/01
to

Jamie Armstrong <Jamie-A...@dirt-pixie.freeserve.co.uk> schreef in
berichtnieuws 9lbr61$vif$5...@news6.svr.pol.co.uk...

| I've always had a problem with the Mouth: if he's a living man, how then
did
| he outlive everyone elxe of Numenorean race? After all, he is supposed to
| have entered Sauron's service in the Second Age. Surely Sauron can't
prolong
| life? Not even the Ring could do that.

The Ring DID prolong life. That's why Gollum is still alive. That's why
Bilbo got so old. Because of the Ring.

Tom


Russ

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 3:17:08 PM8/14/01
to
In article <9lbsuq$p55$1...@news.planetinternet.be>, "Vulpecula Mordax"
<vmo...@geocities.com> writes:

The OP is incorrect. Badad-dur first rose again when Sauron reinhabited it
after leaving dol Guldur.

Russ

grimgard

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 3:46:24 PM8/14/01
to

Jamie Armstrong wrote:
>
> "Johnny1A" <sherm...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
> news:b3030854.0108...@posting.google.com...
>
> <snip>
> >
> > Why is everyone assuming that Aragorn has no special powers?
> > Remember, Aragorn is not entirely Atani. His power as healer derives
> > at least in part from his descent through many ages from Luthien, and
> > thus Melian.
>
> That's a big assumption to make! It's a long descent from Melian to Aragorn:
> there's nothing to suggest that any powers passed to the mortal line. After
> all, the bloodline must have been 'weakened' by the heirs of Isildur having
> to marry Numenorean women not of any particular lineage.
>
> > Remember, Elrond was _not_ a king, but he had even
> > greater healing powers than Aragorn.
>
> He was an elf though! Well, half-elf, anyway :)

From The Houses of Healing in The Return of the King:

"Aragorn went first to Faramir, and then to the Lady Eowyn, and last to
Merry. When he had looked on the faces of the sick and seen their hurts
he sighed. 'Here I must put forth all such power and skill as is given
to me,' he said. 'Would that Elrond were here, for he is the eldest of
all our race, and has the greater power.'"

That would seem to indicate that Aragorn's and Elrond's healing powers
sprang from a common source.

grimgard

Jamie Armstrong

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 4:12:00 PM8/14/01
to

"Vulpecula Mordax" <vmo...@geocities.com> wrote in message
news:9lbsuq$p55$1...@news.planetinternet.be...

>
> Jamie Armstrong <Jamie-A...@dirt-pixie.freeserve.co.uk> schreef in
> berichtnieuws 9lbr61$vif$5...@news6.svr.pol.co.uk...
> | I've always had a problem with the Mouth: if he's a living man, how then
> did
> | he outlive everyone elxe of Numenorean race? After all, he is supposed
to
> | have entered Sauron's service in the Second Age. Surely Sauron can't
> prolong
> | life? Not even the Ring could do that.
>
> The Ring DID prolong life. That's why Gollum is still alive.

He is? Gosh - and I thought he fell into the Cracks of Doom ;)

> That's why
> Bilbo got so old. Because of the Ring.
>

Yes, perhaps I should have used a different word: extend might have been a
better choice.

What I meant was that the Ring could *extend* the life-span of it's owner,
but that it could not *increase* the amount of life. As Gandalf said:

"A mortal... who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but he does not
grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is
weariness." (FotR, The Shadow of the Past)

That was what confused me about The Mouth - he wasn't wearing a Ring, so I
didn't get how he apparently lived so long - but I've just re-read the
passage in question, and I see that I missed the bit where it said that he
entered Sauron's service *after* the Dark Tower was rebuilt. I thought that,
as he was a Dark Numenorean, he had entered Sauron's service the first time
round. After all, that would explain how he had forgotten his name!

Apologies to all for being so dense.

Jamie


the softrat

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 6:27:56 PM8/14/01
to
On Tue, 14 Aug 2001 10:13:08 -0700, John R. Cooper
<jo...@jrcooperREMOVE.com> wrote:
>
> I don't understand how being a monarch bestows supernatural healing
>powers. Could you explain this?
>
It was a widely held pre-modern belief that God (or the gods) so
accepted a monarch that he had extraordinary powers. In many cultures,
the king was considered to be a god or the son of a god as well. The
ability to heal by touch is just one of those powers.

Note that many clergy of many religions are also supposed to have the
same or similar healing power. They acquire it upon ordination
(apparently even if it is self-ordination). In some places appearance
of the healing power is one of the signs that they are 'called' to the
clergy.


the softrat
mailto:sof...@pobox.com
--
I don't get even, I get odder.

Tiffany Case

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 8:58:48 PM8/14/01
to
Jamie Armstrong wrote:

>Were the Barrow blades magical?

>
> The general arguments in favour of this theory are as follows:

<snip>

Wow. This is a heckuva good post. Really cool.

I'm going to chime in with my own views on the magical barrow blades debate
(hey, everybody else probably will). Whenever the "magical sword" argument
comes up on rabt, my stomach always churns. I've been trying to figure out why
I have such an intensely negative reaction to that theory, and I've decided
that it's because the magical blade argument cheapens everything that's great
about Tolkien's writing.

The death of the Witch King is a masterpiece of dramatic irony. He cannot be
defeated by any man, but he falls at the hands of a woman and a hobbit. This
is great stuff. It's as good as the final act of Macbeth (the "none of woman
born" prophecy). I like to think of the comment about the barrow blade as an
echo of that irony. It was made for the war against Angmar, but instead the
maker and his entire civilization were destroyed. Ages later, that one remnant
of the north kingdom turns up, through a very unlikely chain of events, to
hamstring the witch king when he least expects it.

Basically, I like to think of the fact that Merry was using a sword from the
old north kingdom as an additional piece of dramatic irony tacked onto the main
point of the story, which is primarily about Eowyn and Merry and their very
different kinds of courage.

I don't like the idea that Merry's sword was a specially made anti-Nazgul
weapon for several reasons. For one thing, it implies a form of magic that's
inconsistent with the rest of LotR. Tolkien's magic always seems more subtle
and indirect and not a case of some poor swordsmith whipping up a batch of
"special anti-Nazgul blades" for tomorrow's battle. The people who harp on the
special sword argument always seem to me to be echoing video game logic. It's
like saying that to defeat the wizard guarding Level 6 you have to get the
amulet out of the secret chamber on Level 3. It's too mechanistic. It doesn't
work for me to think of magic as just a huge game of rock-paper-scissors or
anti-Nazgul spell defeats ringwraith unseen sinews spell.

My second problem with the magic sword theory is that it gives no credit to
courage or willpower. It implies that all it took to get rid of a ringwraith
was the right kind of weapon. It asks us to believe that if Merry had used a
regular sword, his strike would have done nothing and the Witch King would have
won.

Finally, my impression from reading the LotR appendixes was that nobody knew at
first that the Witch King was really the chief of the Nazgul. Unless there is
some other source that I'm unaware of, I fail to see why anyone would know to
make an anti-ringwraith blade to fight someone who was thought to be a regular
man.

Hooray. This is my longest post ever!

-TC

David Salo

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 9:02:22 PM8/14/01
to
In article <9lbr61$vif$5...@news6.svr.pol.co.uk>, "Jamie Armstrong"
<Jamie-A...@dirt-pixie.freeserve.co.uk> wrote:


> I've always had a problem with the Mouth: if he's a living man, how then did
> he outlive everyone elxe of Numenorean race? After all, he is supposed to
> have entered Sauron's service in the Second Age. Surely Sauron can't prolong
> life? Not even the Ring could do that. SO that suggests to me that there is
> some magic at work preventing him from aging, in which case he ought to be
> influenced by any object designed to harm the servants of the enemy: after
> all, while I will conced that there is a refernece to spells being on the
> sword in LotR, nowhere in the text does it say that these are anti-wraith
> spells: you are just assuming that they are. What it actually says is
> "spells for the bane orf Mordor" - so it ought to affect the lieutenant of
> Sauron. Yet it doesn't..

The Lieutenant of Barad-dûr is probably long-lived (as a Númenórean
should be) but he did not enter Sauron's service in the Second Age but
the late Third Age; he should be about Aragorn's age, that is, around
90. He is certainly not meant to be thousands of years old.

My own, unsupported opinion is that he was actually a Gondorian.
The 'King's Men' of Umbar had centuries earlier been absorbed by the
Haradrim; but in Gondor there was, I believe, a 'secret society' of
King's Men that maintained Sauronian traditions throughout the reigns
of the Kings and Stewards. Naturally, someone of this family would be
an excellent candidate for service under Sauron when he returned to
power, and also a perfect ambassador to the people of Gondor, whose
language and manners he would know perfectly.
The 'secret society' would have survived the fall of Sauron, and is,
I believe, what is referred to in 'The New Shadow'.

David Salo

James Giles

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 9:37:57 PM8/14/01
to

"Tiffany Case" <perso...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:3B79C93D...@yahoo.com...

> Hooray. This is my longest post ever!

And a very good one. I'll save it - it's a 'keeper'.

--
J. Giles


Russ

unread,
Aug 14, 2001, 11:35:57 PM8/14/01
to
In article <140820012003169193%ds...@usa.net>, David Salo <ds...@usa.net>
writes:

> The Lieutenant of Barad-dûr is probably long-lived (as a Númenórean
>should be) but he did not enter Sauron's service in the Second Age but
>the late Third Age; he should be about Aragorn's age, that is, around
>90. He is certainly not meant to be thousands of years old.
>
> My own, unsupported opinion is that he was actually a Gondorian.
>The 'King's Men' of Umbar had centuries earlier been absorbed by the
>Haradrim; but in Gondor there was, I believe, a 'secret society' of
>King's Men that maintained Sauronian traditions throughout the reigns
>of the Kings and Stewards. Naturally, someone of this family would be
>an excellent candidate for service under Sauron when he returned to
>power, and also a perfect ambassador to the people of Gondor, whose
>language and manners he would know perfectly.
> The 'secret society' would have survived the fall of Sauron, and is,
>I believe, what is referred to in 'The New Shadow'.

Why? We know there were many Numenorean havens and settlements in the south of
Middle-earth. A Black Numenorean could easily have come from one of them and
not Umbar. Or simply that he is descended from Black Numenoreans much as no
one would blink if Aragorn (or Faramir or Denethor) were referred to as an
Arnorean or even an Numenorean, since that blood ran true in them. The Mouth
might be the evil version of a Faramir.

Russ

Morgil Blackhope

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 4:25:54 AM8/15/01
to

Jamie Armstrong kirjoitti viestissä <9lbhlp$gad$1...@news5.svr.pol.co.uk>...
>

After all, Aragorn
fears
>the Riders almost as much as the Hobbits do - more ins some ways, because
he
>knows exactly whjat they are. Remember his warning to Frodo at the Pony:
>"'They are terrible!' ....his face was drawn as if in pain, and his hands
>clenched the arms of his chair." (FotR, Strider).

That must be why he didn´t get any sleep that night. :)

Morgil


T.T. Arvind

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 6:18:04 AM8/15/01
to

John R. Cooper <jo...@jrcooperREMOVE.com> did boldly declaim:

>
> I don't understand how being a monarch bestows supernatural healing
> powers. Could you explain this?
>

Now >where< is Louis Epstein when we need him? <drc>

Meneldil

RLV

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 8:03:23 AM8/15/01
to

"Tiffany Case" <perso...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:3B79C93D...@yahoo.com...

A very good one.

You probably hit the nail in the head because you are looking at the right
place. Usually the reasons looked for are internal to the text. Thus the
look for "historical" references to magic swords and such. But the fact is
that LoTR is, surprise!, a novel. Tolkien was a writer, and not a bad one.
He knew how to add drama and significance to scenes. He was more careful
with internal logic than most, but it was not the most important things. He
surely could have prepared a detailed explanation on how the blade may have
been magical or not, but it wasn't important. The real reasons are
(possibly) these you point to. IOW, to make a better story.


R.L.V.
~~#~~
"Tilde POWER!"

Jamie Armstrong

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 7:10:43 AM8/15/01
to

"Tiffany Case" <perso...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:3B79C93D...@yahoo.com...

<snip some thought-provoking comments>


>
> Hooray. This is my longest post ever!
>

And an excellent one too - you managed to vocalise what I had always felt,
without ever being sure exactly *why* I was so strongly opposed to the
concept of magic swords. For me, the idea that there are nazgul-busting
knives makes LotR look like it's just another fantasy story by another hack
fantasy writer: it's the sort of thing Eddings would come up with (if he
could think that long about his plot). Tolkien's too good for that. I
especially liked your drawing a parallel with Macbeth for the prophecy.

I also see that, in sifting the text for evidence one way or the other, I
completely missed the wood for the trees, in that what is important in the
With King's death *is* that Merry overcomes his complete terror and manages
to give the Wraith a nasty injury. To suggest that if Merry had tried to
attack the king with an ordinary kitchen knife he would have failed is a
nonsense, and completely misses the whole point of the story: Frodo is an
*ordinary* hobbit who inherits an extraordinary weapon, which he manages to
destroy without any special powers at all. Merry's heroism in first
overcoming his fear, and then in wounding his enemy is equal to Frodo's
heroism in taking the Ring to the Cracks of Doom. This is the whole point
of LotR for me: that humble people can achieve greatness and heroism without
having any special abilities, or any artificial aids. I'm sure (in my own
mind) that this is what Tolkien meant to convey, and in that case the
concept of magic swords runs counter to this.

Jamie


Jamie Armstrong

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 7:16:41 AM8/15/01
to

"grimgard" <grim...@prodigy.net> wrote in message
news:3B797F90...@prodigy.net...
Not really: you are assuming that the statement about "eldest of all our
race" is linked to the one of Elrond having the greater power. All it says
is that Elrond has more power in healing than Aragorn - Elrond's had a
great deal of practice over the ages to make sure his healing abilities
are better than some upstart nephew :)

Jamie


Jamie Armstrong

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 7:38:43 AM8/15/01
to

"David Salo" <ds...@usa.net> wrote in message
news:140820012003169193%ds...@usa.net...

Yes, I realised that.


>
> My own, unsupported opinion is that he was actually a Gondorian.
> The 'King's Men' of Umbar had centuries earlier been absorbed by the
> Haradrim; but in Gondor there was, I believe, a 'secret society' of
> King's Men that maintained Sauronian traditions throughout the reigns
> of the Kings and Stewards. Naturally, someone of this family would be
> an excellent candidate for service under Sauron when he returned to
> power, and also a perfect ambassador to the people of Gondor, whose
> language and manners he would know perfectly.
> The 'secret society' would have survived the fall of Sauron, and is,
> I believe, what is referred to in 'The New Shadow'.
>

Sorry to be awkward, but:

"...it is told that he was a renegade, who came of the race of those that
are named Black Numenoreans; for they established their dwellings in
Middle -earth during the years of Sauron's domination, and they worshipped
him, being enamoured of evil knowledge." (RotK,

If he is of the Black Numenoreans, then the most likely place he came from
is Umbar, which was taken by rebels of the Kingdom. I can't believe that
there were any Black Numenoreans living in Gondor 100 years before the War
of the Ring.

Jamie


Russ

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 10:01:00 AM8/15/01
to
In article <9ldqli$ctm$5...@newsg2.svr.pol.co.uk>, "Jamie Armstrong"
<Jamie-A...@dirt-pixie.freeserve.co.uk> writes:

>Sorry to be awkward, but:
>
>"...it is told that he was a renegade, who came of the race of those that
>are named Black Numenoreans; for they established their dwellings in
>Middle -earth during the years of Sauron's domination, and they worshipped
>him, being enamoured of evil knowledge." (RotK,
>
>If he is of the Black Numenoreans, then the most likely place he came from
>is Umbar, which was taken by rebels of the Kingdom. I can't believe that
>there were any Black Numenoreans living in Gondor 100 years before the War
>of the Ring.
>

I think the wording is important too. It says he "came of the race of those
that are named Black Numenoreans." It's like saying of Aragorn, Faramir or
Denethor: he came of the race of those that are named Numenoreans"

Russ

Russ

Tom Welch

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 10:09:06 AM8/15/01
to
grimgard spewed mental ooze in alt.fan.tolkien:

And it goes to the point as to why Aragorn did nothing for Frodo at the
crossing of the Ford. He lets the more powerful healer tend to the sick...
not to mention that he is already skirt-chasing after Elrond's daughter. He
is wise not to show-up the lord of the house in that position.

--
If you're going to have a complicated story
you must work to a map; otherwise you'll never
make a map of it afterwards.
J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973)

Jouni Karhu

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 11:54:20 AM8/15/01
to
"Jamie Armstrong" <Jamie-A...@dirt-pixie.freeserve.co.uk> wrote:
>
>I also see that, in sifting the text for evidence one way or the other, I
>completely missed the wood for the trees, in that what is important in the
>With King's death *is* that Merry overcomes his complete terror and manages
>to give the Wraith a nasty injury.

How would the sword being magical _in any way_ lessen Merry's bravery
in hitting the Witch-King in the first place?

>To suggest that if Merry had tried to
>attack the king with an ordinary kitchen knife he would have failed is a
>nonsense, and completely misses the whole point of the story: Frodo is an
>*ordinary* hobbit who inherits an extraordinary weapon, which he manages to
>destroy without any special powers at all.

Even if the attack had failed to do any damage at all, the attack
itself would not have been any less heroic. If anything, it would have
been _more_ heroic. After all, the hobbits had to know that they were
not carrying around "ordinary kitchen knives".

And I would like to remind you that Frodo _failed_. Only his earlier
show of mercy towards Gollum made it possible for the Ring to
eventually be destroyed (by Gollum).

>Merry's heroism in first
>overcoming his fear, and then in wounding his enemy is equal to Frodo's
>heroism in taking the Ring to the Cracks of Doom. This is the whole point
>of LotR for me: that humble people can achieve greatness and heroism without
>having any special abilities, or any artificial aids. I'm sure (in my own
>mind) that this is what Tolkien meant to convey, and in that case the
>concept of magic swords runs counter to this.

So The Sword That Was Broken was just an old sword, carried around for
sentimental value? The Palantir mere baubles? It was Frodo's and Sam's
heroism that shone, not Galadriel's Phial? These all were things of
magic, but they themselves were worthless; they required someone to
wield or use them. Remember King Arthur and the Sword in the Stone?

Magical swords and other gadgets have _always_ been a very important
motif in legends. And, I repeat, the heroism doesn't come from
succeeding; it comes from _trying_. The tragical heroes are maybe the
most remembered of all.
--
'I have something to say! | 'The Immoral Immortal' \o JJ Karhu
It is better to burn out, | -=========================OxxxxxxxxxxxO
than to fade away!' | kur...@modeemi.cs.tut.fi /o

ste...@nomail.msu.edu

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 12:38:40 PM8/15/01
to
In rec.arts.books.tolkien Jamie Armstrong <Jamie-A...@dirt-pixie.freeserve.co.uk> wrote:

: "grimgard" <grim...@prodigy.net> wrote in message
: news:3B797F90...@prodigy.net...
:>
:> "Aragorn went first to Faramir, and then to the Lady Eowyn, and last to


:> Merry. When he had looked on the faces of the sick and seen their hurts
:> he sighed. 'Here I must put forth all such power and skill as is given
:> to me,' he said. 'Would that Elrond were here, for he is the eldest of
:> all our race, and has the greater power.'"
:>
:> That would seem to indicate that Aragorn's and Elrond's healing powers
:> sprang from a common source.
:>
: Not really: you are assuming that the statement about "eldest of all our
: race" is linked to the one of Elrond having the greater power. All it says
: is that Elrond has more power in healing than Aragorn - Elrond's had a
: great deal of practice over the ages to make sure his healing abilities
: are better than some upstart nephew :)

I think that is a pretty good assumption. Honestly, I do not
see how you can intrepret the sentence to mean other than "I wish Elrond
was here. He has the greater healing power because he is the
eldest of all our race." Otherwise, why would Aragorn mention
that he is the 'eldest of all our race'?

Stephen

Jamie Armstrong

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 1:55:45 PM8/15/01
to

"Jouni Karhu" <kur...@modeemi.cs.tut.fi> wrote in message
news:3b7a9879...@news.cc.tut.fi...

> "Jamie Armstrong" <Jamie-A...@dirt-pixie.freeserve.co.uk> wrote:
> >
> >I also see that, in sifting the text for evidence one way or the other, I
> >completely missed the wood for the trees, in that what is important in
the
> >With King's death *is* that Merry overcomes his complete terror and
manages
> >to give the Wraith a nasty injury.
>
> How would the sword being magical _in any way_ lessen Merry's bravery
> in hitting the Witch-King in the first place?

It doesn't, of course. I apologise: I used the word 'bravery', when in fact
I mean to talk about Merry and Eowyn's *achievement*. It *does* lessen that:
it says that the defeat of the WK was entirely down to the very lucky fact
that Mery had a sword which would hurt him. When that isn't the point: the
point is that Mery and Eowyn together stood (well, knelt!) against him and
defeated him without help.

Look at Glorfindel's prohecy of the WK's demise:

"Far off yet is his doom, and , and not by the hand of man will he fall."
(RotK, Appendix A)

Note that Glorfindel doesn't say anything about any magic weapons in his
prophecy: the only condition is that no man will kill the Witch King. And
Glorfindel doesn't tell Earnur not to go after the Lord of the Nazgul
because he hasn't got the right type of sword. Also, look at the Witch
King's reaction to Eowyn's revelation that she is a woman:

"...the Ring-wraith made no answer, and was silent, as if in sudden doubt."
(RotK, The Battle of Pelennor Fields)

So, the King is suddenly afraid - not because of any magic swords, but
because he is finally confronted with an oponent who really can harm him: a
woman.

I'm quite confused by those who believe the swords were magical: can anyone
explain exactly *why* they want to believe that this is the case? Without
quoting the couple of bits of text that make reference to spells. Until I
read rabt, I never even contemplated the idea that the swords were anything
other than ordinary weapons.

IMO, it's much simpler if all the Barrow blades are not magical when it
comes to the final showdown with the Witch King - it requitres no
elaboration of the plot. To believe that the swords *are* magical, you have
to create a reason for how the Hobits got them (Tom *knew* they were magic);
get round the fact that of all the Barrows in all the world, they walked
into that one (or were magic weapons two-a-penny on Middle-earth?); then
'prove' that the Nazgul fear the weapons (Weathertop, which actually isn't
the case); and finally, claim that, of all the opponents on the field, the
Witch King just happened to be unlucky enough to run across then one that
could actually do him any harm. It get's even worse if you claim that only
Merry's sword could hurt the King, because you are then forced to accept a
whole string of coincidences. People round here are fond of Occam's Razor:
applied to this argument, you have to go for the non-magic side.


>
> >To suggest that if Merry had tried to
> >attack the king with an ordinary kitchen knife he would have failed is a
> >nonsense, and completely misses the whole point of the story: Frodo is an
> >*ordinary* hobbit who inherits an extraordinary weapon, which he manages
to
> >destroy without any special powers at all.
>
> Even if the attack had failed to do any damage at all, the attack
> itself would not have been any less heroic. If anything, it would have
> been _more_ heroic. After all, the hobbits had to know that they were
> not carrying around "ordinary kitchen knives".
>
> And I would like to remind you that Frodo _failed_. Only his earlier
> show of mercy towards Gollum made it possible for the Ring to
> eventually be destroyed (by Gollum).

Yep. Irrelevant to this discussion though. And it doesn't make Frodo any
less heroic.


>
> >Merry's heroism in first
> >overcoming his fear, and then in wounding his enemy is equal to Frodo's
> >heroism in taking the Ring to the Cracks of Doom. This is the whole
point
> >of LotR for me: that humble people can achieve greatness and heroism
without
> >having any special abilities, or any artificial aids. I'm sure (in my own
> >mind) that this is what Tolkien meant to convey, and in that case the
> >concept of magic swords runs counter to this.
>
> So The Sword That Was Broken was just an old sword,

Yep.

> carried around for sentimental value?

Well, it was a symbol of the Heir's of Isildur, so basically yes. It had no
functional value.

> The Palantir mere baubles?

Of course not.

> It was Frodo's and Sam's
> heroism that shone, not Galadriel's Phial?

Yeah yeah...

> These all were things of
> magic, but they themselves were worthless; they required someone to
> wield or use them.

Yeah. So? That has nothing to do with the swords: it doesn't prove they had
any magical property. Or are you trying to prove that mortals *could* use
magic? In which case you are missing the point: men couldn't *directly*
manipulate magic, but they could use conduit devices such as Rings,
Palantiri, Phials, etc.

> Remember King Arthur and the Sword in the Stone?

Yes.


>
> Magical swords and other gadgets have _always_ been a very important
> motif in legends.

But this is LotR. There is no need to assume that what applies in legends
applies here. You can if you want to, but there's no need for it.

Jamie


grimgard

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 3:13:14 PM8/15/01
to

Jamie Armstrong wrote:
>
>
> > From The Houses of Healing in The Return of the King:
> >
> > "Aragorn went first to Faramir, and then to the Lady Eowyn, and last to
> > Merry. When he had looked on the faces of the sick and seen their hurts
> > he sighed. 'Here I must put forth all such power and skill as is given
> > to me,' he said. 'Would that Elrond were here, for he is the eldest of
> > all our race, and has the greater power.'"
> >
> > That would seem to indicate that Aragorn's and Elrond's healing powers
> > sprang from a common source.
> >
> Not really: you are assuming that the statement about "eldest of all our
> race" is linked to the one of Elrond having the greater power. All it says
> is that Elrond has more power in healing than Aragorn - Elrond's had a
> great deal of practice over the ages to make sure his healing abilities
> are better than some upstart nephew :)
>
> Jamie

Yes, I am assuming that. That's why the two statements were in the same
sentence. It may not constitute absolute proof to a philosophy student,
but I feel confident that most reasonable people would interpret that
statement to mean that Elrond has the greater power *because* he is the
'eldest of all our race.'

grimgard

grimgard

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 3:17:17 PM8/15/01
to

David Salo wrote:
>
>
> The Lieutenant of Barad-dûr is probably long-lived (as a Númenórean
> should be) but he did not enter Sauron's service in the Second Age but
> the late Third Age; he should be about Aragorn's age, that is, around
> 90. He is certainly not meant to be thousands of years old.

Just out of idle curiosity, how did you come up with the sobriquet 'the
lieutenant of Barad-dur' for the Mouth of Sauron? I've never known him
to be called that before, at least, not that I can recall.

grimgard

John R. Cooper

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 3:18:24 PM8/15/01
to
On Wed, 15 Aug 2001 18:55:45 +0100, "Jamie Armstrong"
<Jamie-A...@dirt-pixie.freeserve.co.uk> wrote:

>It get's even worse if you claim that only
>Merry's sword could hurt the King, because you are then forced to accept a
>whole string of coincidences. People round here are fond of Occam's Razor:
>applied to this argument, you have to go for the non-magic side.

One could also argue that the manner in which the Ring goes from
Isildur's possession to destruction in Mount Doom is also an
incredible series of coincidences that defy Occam's Razor. Most folks
accept the notion that Bilbo, for instance, was fated to recover the
Ring as Gandalf suggests in LotR. When Fate intervenes like this, the
Razor can't really be applied since what would "logically happen" is
discarded in favor of the preordained outcome(s).

If such a classic element of drama does indeed exist in Tolkien's
work, then it could be argued that fate can also put a Barrow blade
from another Age, designed to harm wraiths, into the hands of a hobbit
who is (perhaps also) fated to participate in the prophetic undoing of
the Witch King.

Cheers,
- John

grimgard

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 3:29:37 PM8/15/01
to

First, I think you're actually missing some of the irony that Tolkien
intended here. Of course the Dunedain of the North did not make the
barrow blades to be anti-Nazgul weapons. However, at the time period
during which the blades were probably made, the Witch-king of Angmar was
the their chief antagonist. I'm sure that the swordsmith in question
had no idea that the weapon would be used to help destroy his foe many
centuries in the future. And I really disagree that the idea of a sword
with some magical power is in any way inconsistent with Tolkien's use of
magic in Middle-earth. After all, it's not like Merry just pointed the
sword at the Witch-king and he dissolved or something. We don't really
understand the subtleties of the magic which 'knit his unseen sinews to
his will,' so it seems natural that we don't understand the subtleties
of the magic which could break that spell either. Personally, I don't
picture Mandrake the Magician speaking Words of Power over the sword or
anything like that. I imagine something more like a Numenorean smith
forging the sword and his intense hatred of the Witch-king somehow
making its way into the weapon, much as the Elves' love for nature made
its way into the Elven cloaks that they wove. It seems likely enough
that the Numenoreans learned to make weapons from the Elves in the first
place,
and there seems to be no doubt that the Elves were capable of making
'magic' weapons. I don't think it's too great a leap to suppose that
the Numenoreans may have learned something of this from them. For that
matter, the Elves don't really seem to understand the concept of 'magic'
to begin with, they just see it as a part of the process.

grimgard

Jamie Armstrong

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 3:31:02 PM8/15/01
to

"grimgard" <grim...@prodigy.net> wrote in message
news:3B7ACA3E...@prodigy.net...
You are right. He is actually referred to as "The Lieutenant of the Tower of
Barad-dur" (RotK, The Black Gate Opens) - completely different :)

Jamie


grimgard

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 3:34:22 PM8/15/01
to

Well, Frodo also had a magic sword. Not to mention a coat of mail
which, although never described as magical, certainly seems to be more
than a little extraordinary. Then too, there was the Phial of
Galadriel, which got them past the Silent Watchers. And, of course,
Frodo would have failed completely in the end if Gollum hadn't come
along and bitten off his finger. >-/

grimgard

Jouni Karhu

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 3:35:18 PM8/15/01
to
"Jamie Armstrong" <Jamie-A...@dirt-pixie.freeserve.co.uk> wrote:
>"Jouni Karhu" <kur...@modeemi.cs.tut.fi> wrote in message
>news:3b7a9879...@news.cc.tut.fi...
>> "Jamie Armstrong" <Jamie-A...@dirt-pixie.freeserve.co.uk> wrote:
>> >
>> >I also see that, in sifting the text for evidence one way or the other, I
>> >completely missed the wood for the trees, in that what is important in
>the
>> >With King's death *is* that Merry overcomes his complete terror and
>manages
>> >to give the Wraith a nasty injury.
>>
>> How would the sword being magical _in any way_ lessen Merry's bravery
>> in hitting the Witch-King in the first place?
>
>It doesn't, of course. I apologise: I used the word 'bravery', when in fact
>I mean to talk about Merry and Eowyn's *achievement*. It *does* lessen that:
>it says that the defeat of the WK was entirely down to the very lucky fact
>that Mery had a sword which would hurt him. When that isn't the point: the
>point is that Mery and Eowyn together stood (well, knelt!) against him and
>defeated him without help.

I think that before we continue any further, we'd better clear up some
things -- are we talking about the same things, do we think certain
words mean the same thing, etc.

I think Eowyn killed the Witch-King.

I think that "magical sword" is any that "contains mystical
qualities".

>Look at Glorfindel's prohecy of the WK's demise:
>
>"Far off yet is his doom, and , and not by the hand of man will he fall."
>(RotK, Appendix A)
>
>Note that Glorfindel doesn't say anything about any magic weapons in his
>prophecy: the only condition is that no man will kill the Witch King. And
>Glorfindel doesn't tell Earnur not to go after the Lord of the Nazgul
>because he hasn't got the right type of sword. Also, look at the Witch
>King's reaction to Eowyn's revelation that she is a woman:

And of course, it was a standard issue Rohan sword, wielded by Eowyn,
that killed him. Are you familiar with Celtish legends? Many a hero
had a powerful geas that could only be nullified by very specific
circumstances -- that were fulfilled by sometimes amazing
coincidences.

>"...the Ring-wraith made no answer, and was silent, as if in sudden doubt."
>(RotK, The Battle of Pelennor Fields)
>So, the King is suddenly afraid - not because of any magic swords, but
>because he is finally confronted with an oponent who really can harm him: a
>woman.
>
>I'm quite confused by those who believe the swords were magical: can anyone
>explain exactly *why* they want to believe that this is the case? Without
>quoting the couple of bits of text that make reference to spells. Until I
>read rabt, I never even contemplated the idea that the swords were anything
>other than ordinary weapons.

"The swords" -- by this you mean the barrow blades and _only_ the
barrow blades? And we should prove that they are magical without using
any proof that can be found from the text?

>IMO, it's much simpler if all the Barrow blades are not magical when it
>comes to the final showdown with the Witch King - it requitres no
>elaboration of the plot. To believe that the swords *are* magical, you have

Then why is so much attention paid to where the hobbits got the blades
from? If it did not matter with what weapon Merry hits, why not just
use his own butterknife? Why all this -- in this case -- unnecessary
rigamarole about the barrow blades?

>to create a reason for how the Hobits got them (Tom *knew* they were magic);
>get round the fact that of all the Barrows in all the world, they walked
>into that one (or were magic weapons two-a-penny on Middle-earth?); then

Some subtle guidance from Eru? :) How did Conan just happen to fall in
just that one tomb that contained the Atlantean sword?

>'prove' that the Nazgul fear the weapons (Weathertop, which actually isn't
>the case); and finally, claim that, of all the opponents on the field, the
>Witch King just happened to be unlucky enough to run across then one that
>could actually do him any harm. It get's even worse if you claim that only

Well, Eowyn was near his King and of course the Witch-King would seek
out the King of his enemies. No great coincidence at all, if you ask
me.

>Merry's sword could hurt the King, because you are then forced to accept a
>whole string of coincidences. People round here are fond of Occam's Razor:
>applied to this argument, you have to go for the non-magic side.

Well, certainly those weren't the only Westernesse-made blades in the
world.

>> Even if the attack had failed to do any damage at all, the attack
>> itself would not have been any less heroic. If anything, it would have
>> been _more_ heroic. After all, the hobbits had to know that they were
>> not carrying around "ordinary kitchen knives".
>>
>> And I would like to remind you that Frodo _failed_. Only his earlier
>> show of mercy towards Gollum made it possible for the Ring to
>> eventually be destroyed (by Gollum).
>
>Yep. Irrelevant to this discussion though. And it doesn't make Frodo any
>less heroic.

But above you said that it was the achievements that made them heroic.
So is Gollum the hero here?

>> The Palantir mere baubles?
>
>Of course not.

So if there _are_ magical things in the world, why can't the swords be
magical? Was Sting just a common longknife? Or do you just disbelieve
that even though the other swords are magical (using my definition),
these barrow blades aren't?

>Yeah. So? That has nothing to do with the swords: it doesn't prove they had
>any magical property. Or are you trying to prove that mortals *could* use
>magic? In which case you are missing the point: men couldn't *directly*
>manipulate magic, but they could use conduit devices such as Rings,
>Palantiri, Phials, etc.

...and swords.

>> Magical swords and other gadgets have _always_ been a very important
>> motif in legends.
>
>But this is LotR. There is no need to assume that what applies in legends
>applies here. You can if you want to, but there's no need for it.

Tolkien did write the Middle Earth stories as an epic.

grimgard

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 3:41:13 PM8/15/01
to

Jamie Armstrong wrote:
>
>
> I'm quite confused by those who believe the swords were magical: can anyone
> explain exactly *why* they want to believe that this is the case? Without
> quoting the couple of bits of text that make reference to spells. Until I
> read rabt, I never even contemplated the idea that the swords were anything
> other than ordinary weapons.

Heh, well, can anyone tell me why they believe that Gandalf had any
magical powers? Without quoting the few instances where he actually
used them. I mean, I really hope this isn't a serious question,
especially after the citations you posted in the arguments you presented
in favor of the swords being magical. I mean, I understand your
arguments against that point of view, but if you honestly can't
understand the arguments in favor of it, then I have to conclude that
you must be awfully narrow-minded, and I would certainly hate to think
that of anyone on *this* newsgroup. :)

grimgard

Jamie Armstrong

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 4:34:58 PM8/15/01
to

"Jouni Karhu" <kur...@modeemi.cs.tut.fi> wrote in message
news:3b7ac9e2...@news.cc.tut.fi...

> "Jamie Armstrong" <Jamie-A...@dirt-pixie.freeserve.co.uk> wrote:
> >"Jouni Karhu" <kur...@modeemi.cs.tut.fi> wrote in message
> >news:3b7a9879...@news.cc.tut.fi...
> >> "Jamie Armstrong" <Jamie-A...@dirt-pixie.freeserve.co.uk> wrote:
> >> >
>
> I think that before we continue any further, we'd better clear up some
> things -- are we talking about the same things, do we think certain
> words mean the same thing, etc.
>
> I think Eowyn killed the Witch-King.
>
Hurrah! :)

> I think that "magical sword" is any that "contains mystical
> qualities".

I think a "magic sword" is any that has any unusual properties, *except* in
the case of Elvish blades, which can sense enemies. I don't think that is
magic so much as an inherent property of all Elvish blades. So I think that
makes our arguments compatible :)


>
> >Look at Glorfindel's prohecy of the WK's demise:
> >
> >"Far off yet is his doom, and , and not by the hand of man will he fall."
> >(RotK, Appendix A)
> >
> >Note that Glorfindel doesn't say anything about any magic weapons in his
> >prophecy: the only condition is that no man will kill the Witch King. And
> >Glorfindel doesn't tell Earnur not to go after the Lord of the Nazgul
> >because he hasn't got the right type of sword. Also, look at the Witch
> >King's reaction to Eowyn's revelation that she is a woman:
>
> And of course, it was a standard issue Rohan sword, wielded by Eowyn,
> that killed him.

Yup. Although some here will, I think, dispute that.

> Are you familiar with Celtish legends?

I'm afraid not.

<snip>


> >
> >I'm quite confused by those who believe the swords were magical: can
anyone
> >explain exactly *why* they want to believe that this is the case? Without
> >quoting the couple of bits of text that make reference to spells. Until I
> >read rabt, I never even contemplated the idea that the swords were
anything
> >other than ordinary weapons.
>
> "The swords" -- by this you mean the barrow blades and _only_ the
> barrow blades?

Yes.

> And we should prove that they are magical without using
> any proof that can be found from the text?
>

No, what I want to know is why *you* (as in your side of the argument)
*want* to believe in magic swords. Tiffany explained very eloquently why
she and I (at least) don't like the idea as a story external concept. What
I'm curious about is why you all like the concept. To explain that I don't
want - or need - references to any story internal explanations.

> >IMO, it's much simpler if all the Barrow blades are not magical when it
> >comes to the final showdown with the Witch King - it requitres no
> >elaboration of the plot. To believe that the swords *are* magical, you
have
>
> Then why is so much attention paid to where the hobbits got the blades
> from?

Because it is designed to give us an appreciation of the history of
Middle-earth, and also to provide a bit of action in the early part of the
story: after all, Tolkien couldn't have the Hobbits captured by the Nazgul,
as that would be absurd. Frodo has to demonstrate that he is a brave Hobbit,
and that he won't just lie down and give in if he gets into trouble. it also
establioshes what sort of personality he has: someone who is ultimately
brave, and very loyal to his friends.

> If it did not matter with what weapon Merry hits, why not just
> use his own butterknife?

Cos he didn't have it on him :) And butterknives are notoriously blunt: no
use at all as a weapon... Besides, he was in a battle, and had his sword at
hand: what else would you reach for? ;)

> Why all this -- in this case -- unnecessary
> rigamarole about the barrow blades?
>

Why do you think it's unecessary? As I said above, the point of the chapter
concerning Tom is that we get an idea of the great history of Middle-earth.

> >to create a reason for how the Hobits got them (Tom *knew* they were
magic);
> >get round the fact that of all the Barrows in all the world, they walked
> >into that one (or were magic weapons two-a-penny on Middle-earth?); then
>
> Some subtle guidance from Eru? :)

Well, yes, it's possible I suppose. Still seems to be inventing more and
more things to explain it all though!

> How did Conan just happen to fall in
> just that one tomb that contained the Atlantean sword?

Dunno, you tell me!
(I haven't read any Conan stuff yet. In fact, I'm not all that familiar with
fantasy writing, really: I've read Eddings, Feist, Peake, Pratchett, Lewis,
and a bit of 'In Viriconium' (whoever wrote that))


>
> >'prove' that the Nazgul fear the weapons (Weathertop, which actually
isn't
> >the case); and finally, claim that, of all the opponents on the field,
the
> >Witch King just happened to be unlucky enough to run across then one that
> >could actually do him any harm. It get's even worse if you claim that
only
>
> Well, Eowyn was near his King and of course the Witch-King would seek
> out the King of his enemies. No great coincidence at all, if you ask
> me.
>

I was actually thinking of Merry, not Eowyn.

> >Merry's sword could hurt the King, because you are then forced to accept
a
> >whole string of coincidences. People round here are fond of Occam's
Razor:
> >applied to this argument, you have to go for the non-magic side.
>
> Well, certainly those weren't the only Westernesse-made blades in the
> world.
>

Of course not, but are you saying that *all* Numenorean blades had magical
properties? I don't believe that *any* did.

<snip>

> So is Gollum the hero here?
>

He's the tragic hero, certainly. Arthur Miller would I'm sure recognise him,
and place him alongside Willy Loman. (in case you are lost, I'm talking
about Miller's play 'Death of a Salesman' :) )

> >> The Palantir mere baubles?
> >
> >Of course not.
>
> So if there _are_ magical things in the world, why can't the swords be
> magical?

Because! ;)

I just don't like the concept. It's like the last Harry Pottry book: J K
Rowling has introduced the concept of an unblockable spell which can kill
it's target: I don't *like* that. It creates all sort of textual weaknesses
(for me). It's the same for the idea of magic swords. It's an unnessecary
complication (in my view).

> Was Sting just a common longknife?

Well, yes. It had traits common to all Elvish blades (extremely sharp, and
glow in the dark feature) but I don't view that as magic, just...
Elvishness.

> Or do you just disbelieve
> that even though the other swords are magical (using my definition),
> these barrow blades aren't?
>

I'll answer that below.

> >Yeah. So? That has nothing to do with the swords: it doesn't prove they
had
> >any magical property. Or are you trying to prove that mortals *could* use
> >magic? In which case you are missing the point: men couldn't *directly*
> >manipulate magic, but they could use conduit devices such as Rings,
> >Palantiri, Phials, etc.
>
> ...and swords.
>

+++Out Of Cheese Error+++

;)

I just don't accept the idea of magic swords: ever since I played Advanced
Heroquest I've dested the entire concept! And there's no evidence that I can
recall anywhere in Tolkien's *completed* writings (including The Sil) of
there being any magical swords/knives/bows/arrows/spears etc. So why assume
it here?

> >> Magical swords and other gadgets have _always_ been a very important
> >> motif in legends.
> >
> >But this is LotR. There is no need to assume that what applies in legends
> >applies here. You can if you want to, but there's no need for it.
>
> Tolkien did write the Middle Earth stories as an epic.
>

True, but that doesn't mean you can assume that everything that applies in
ancient heroic tradition will also apply to LotR.

Jamie


Jamie Armstrong

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 4:37:50 PM8/15/01
to

"grimgard" <grim...@prodigy.net> wrote in message
news:3B7ACE3F...@prodigy.net...

>
> Well, Frodo also had a magic sword.

Really? Where?

Not the "flickering red" line: I explained that one!

> Not to mention a coat of mail
> which, although never described as magical, certainly seems to be more
> than a little extraordinary.

It's made of mithril! Of course it's extraordinary!

Jamie


Jamie Armstrong

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 5:08:34 PM8/15/01
to

"grimgard" <grim...@prodigy.net> wrote in message
news:3B7ACFB9...@prodigy.net...

>
>
> Jamie Armstrong wrote:
> >
> >
> > I'm quite confused by those who believe the swords were magical: can
anyone
> > explain exactly *why* they want to believe that this is the case?
Without
> > quoting the couple of bits of text that make reference to spells. Until
I
> > read rabt, I never even contemplated the idea that the swords were
anything
> > other than ordinary weapons.
>
> Heh, well, can anyone tell me why they believe that Gandalf had any
> magical powers? Without quoting the few instances where he actually
> used them. I mean, I really hope this isn't a serious question,
> especially after the citations you posted in the arguments you presented
> in favor of the swords being magical.

Well, you're the second person who misundertood what I mean, so I must have
done a bad job of phrasing the question: I want to know why you want to
believe in the magic swords: I know what the evidence is within the tex, but
I want to know whether you had any sort of pre-concieved ideas of magic
weapons (from RP games for example, or other fantasy writers). I've said why
I don't believe in my response to Journi

> I mean, I understand your
> arguments against that point of view, but if you honestly can't
> understand the arguments in favor of it, then I have to conclude that
> you must be awfully narrow-minded, and I would certainly hate to think
> that of anyone on *this* newsgroup. :)
>

Of course I understand the arguments in favour: I incorporated them into my
original post didn't I? ;) I even *accept* your side of the argument has a
valid case (is not that generous of me?). I just think you're all wrong :-P

Jamie


Öjevind Lång

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 5:30:55 PM8/15/01
to
Tom Welch hath written:

[snip]

>And it goes to the point as to why Aragorn did nothing for Frodo at the
>crossing of the Ford. He lets the more powerful healer tend to the sick...
>not to mention that he is already skirt-chasing after Elrond's daughter.
He
>is wise not to show-up the lord of the house in that position.


Which position?

Öjevind

"Dead Ewoks don't talk. But then, living Ewoks don't talk either."

(From "The Diary of a Redneck Jedi")


Tiffany Case

unread,
Aug 15, 2001, 5:28:25 PM8/15/01
to
grimgard wrote:

>
> First, I think you're actually missing some of the irony that Tolkien
> intended here. Of course the Dunedain of the North did not make the
> barrow blades to be anti-Nazgul weapons. However, at the time period
> during which the blades were probably made, the Witch-king of Angmar was
> the their chief antagonist. I'm sure that the swordsmith in question
> had no idea that the weapon would be used to help destroy his foe many
> centuries in the future.

No, I'm not missing the irony. I spent a paragraph of my post explaining that the
use of the barrow blade is ironic for exactly the same reasons that you give.

> And I really disagree that the idea of a sword
> with some magical power is in any way inconsistent with Tolkien's use of
> magic in Middle-earth.

Of course it's not. But just because swords with magical powers are consistent with
Tolkien's writing does not mean that every form of magic that rabt users choose to
ascribe to them is also consistent. I've tried to explain why the "anti-Nazgul
sword breaks Nazgul-invincibility-spell" argument strikes a false note for me.

>

> After all, it's not like Merry just pointed the
> sword at the Witch-king and he dissolved or something. We don't really
> understand the subtleties of the magic which 'knit his unseen sinews to
> his will,' so it seems natural that we don't understand the subtleties
> of the magic which could break that spell either.

This argument is rarely given such subtlety on rabt. Maybe it's people's need to
defend their position, but I've read countless posts where people try to explain
exactly what the special spells were that held the ringwraiths together and how the
sword managed to break them.

I also have trouble buying a textual explanation that requires you to infer the
whole "magic sword" idea from some scattered and shaky evidence and then asks you to
go back and add your own layers of subtlety to make that idea work.

> Personally, I don't
> picture Mandrake the Magician speaking Words of Power over the sword or
> anything like that. I imagine something more like a Numenorean smith
> forging the sword and his intense hatred of the Witch-king somehow
> making its way into the weapon, much as the Elves' love for nature made
> its way into the Elven cloaks that they wove.

I picture much the same thing. However, I imagine the power of that smith's will
working (through fate and the grace of Eru, of course) by making sure that the sword
survives and makes a very improbable journey to the battlefield where it is finally
used. That strikes me as a very consistent with the workings of fate in Tolkien's
writing. That the smith's hatred would produce a spell-breaking sword does not.

> It seems likely enough
> that the Numenoreans learned to make weapons from the Elves in the first
> place,
> and there seems to be no doubt that the Elves were capable of making
> 'magic' weapons. I don't think it's too great a leap to suppose that
> the Numenoreans may have learned something of this from them. For that
> matter, the Elves don't really seem to understand the concept of 'magic'
> to begin with, they just see it as a part of the process.

-TC

Geza Giedke

unread,
Aug 16, 2001, 9:05:10 AM8/16/01
to
"Jamie Armstrong" <Jamie-A...@dirt-pixie.freeserve.co.uk> asked:

> Were the Barrow blades magical?


> 3. - "'No Orc tools these!" he cried. 'They were borne by the
> hobbits. Doubtless the Orcs despoiled them, but feared to keep the
> knives, knowing them for what they are: work of Westernesse, wound
> about with spells for the bane of Mordor.'" (TT, The Departure of
> Boromir)


> 4. - "No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it,
> would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead
> flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will."
> (RotK, The Battle of the Pelennor Fields)

these two quotes make it IMHO very likely that the blades were indeed
magical.

> Now, I'm a bit of an awkward sod, and I *really* don't like the
> whole concept of magical weapons at all :) So I came up with the
> following attempt to refute the argument, and to try and prove, once
> and for all, that the Hobbits swords were nowt special!

Let's see what you can do...

But first there is an awkward point of definition. What is "magic"?
As, IIRC by pointed out by Stanislaw Lem, "any sufficiently advanced
technology is indistinguishable from magic".
Now, were the Palantiri, was the Tower of Orthanc magic, how
about the curse cast by Isildur on the renegade king, or moon-letters
and the like; sheaths that completely prevent rusting of the sword
inside, necklaces that fit any bearer perfectly?
I'll put all of those examples in the "macigal" realm, thogh
technological realizations for some of them might be envisioned today.

ad 3)
> Besides, this [using the palantir] is evidence of Aragorn utilising
> magic *through* a conduit vessel, not using directly himself, which
> is what would be necessary for him to be able to detect any inherent
> spells.

only if the "spells" were hidden by magic: any run-of-the-mill hobbit
could detect that Elven swords from Gondolin or the One Ring were
magic, couldn't they?

> Indeed, there is no evidence of any mortal being able to directly
> manipulate magic: Tolkien himself dismissed the possibility:

ack

> Secondly, it depends on how the word "spells" is interpreted. It can
> be taken directly, so as to mean exactly that. Or it could be
> interpreted as a bit of hyperbole on the part of Aragorn: given that
> it seems unlikely that he could detect a spell on the sword this
> must seem most likely. An alternative reading could be that the
> 'spells' referred to are actually curses uttered by the sword-smith
> while he was making the weapons.

is Aragorn prone to hyperbole? i believe not - i find the literal
interpretation of "spells" more convincing

> It should also be noted that the Orcs did not fear to touch the
> blades, only to keep them as booty. If the swords had "spells for
> the bane of Mordor", then surely this would have had some sort of
> detrimental affect to all of the servants of Sauron, not just the
> Ringwraiths, which should have manifested itself when one of his
> servants touched them.

why should it? if you've played Rolemaster or the like, you'll know
about <insert race/species>-slaying weapons: harmless to touch, but
yery efficient when used against the appropriate opponent.

> It seems more likely, therefore, that they would not keep them
> because of what they represent: the last and strongest of Sauron's
> enemies, and the agents of his downfall at the end of the Second
> Age.
i agree, but don't see this as a strong point against "magic" in the
swords


It was suggested that the description of the swords might lead to some clue
as to whether they had a magical nature. The argument being that if there
were any runes on the blades this could indicate a spell that was placed
onto the weapons:

"For each of the hobbits he [Tom] chose a dagger, long, leaf-shaped, and
keen, of marvellous workmanship, damasked with serpent-forms in red and
gold. They gleamed as he drew them from their black sheaths, wrought of some
strange metal, light and strong, and set with many fiery stones." (FotR, Fog
on the Barrow-downs)

No mention of any runes here, and one would have expected Tolkien to comment
on
it. The passage continues:

"Whether by some virtue in these sheaths or because of the spell that lay on
the mound, the blades seemed untouched by time, unrusted, sharp, glittering
in the sun."

> Surely if there was a spell within the swords, that would have
> helped to preserve them.

hey, what do you mean? "one spell to do them all", i.e. preservation,
detecting, annoying, and hurting all servants of the Dark Lord etc. I
think

And yet there is no suggestion of that whatsoever - the
credit is given to the sheaths or to a spell on the horde, but not the any
magic in the swords themselves. This seems to indicate that the swords had
no spells cast upon them. However, there is one suggestive quote in The
Return of the King:

> "He [Pippin] drew his sword and looked at it, and the intertwining
> shapes of red and gold; and the flowing character of Númenor glinted
> like fire upon the blade." (RotK, The Black Gate Opens)

i find the use of the word "charcters" very strong support for some
writing on the swords, though by no means strong evidence for magic.

> "...it seemed to him that it flickered red, as if it were a
> firebrand." This is easily explained, as there is in fact a big
> roaring fire behind Frodo. The blade is therefore simply reflecting
> the light of the fire.

i agree

"Strider does not whip out a sword... Why then make him do so here, in a
contest that was explicitly not fought with weapons?" (Letters by JRR
Tolkien,
#210)


> It is certainly not a magic contest: the Riders use no magic in the
> whole episode.
[...]
> Surely it must be a contest of wills: Frodo against the Nazgûl
> King. And Frodo loses - the Witch king is able to make the
> Ringbearer reveal himself, and can then single him out for the
> attack.

i agree about the "contest-of-wills" part; and if you tell me how ui
can "will" sombody else to hand me over his purse and walk away with a
smile, then I'll agree that no magic was involved in this contest ;-)


> The Witch king has the knife already drawn, and ready to use when he
> enters the dell. Only the Witch King attacks the five: and even then
> he only singles out Frodo after he has put the Ring on. Surely the
> implication of this is that the Nazgûl had no intention of
> attempting to seize the ring that night: had they wanted to they
> could have dealt with all five of the companions, even if Aragorn
> had been able to take one or two with him. Costly as this would
> have been to Sauron, I'm sure he would have accepted the loss of two
> or three of his Ringwraiths in return for the final extinction of
> the Line of Elendil, and even more importantly the recovery of the
> Ruling Ring.

i am sure that the Nazgul did not know who that ranger was with whom
the hobbits had joined; Aragorn did reveal himself in the palantir and
that ("to kno