Chapter of the Week: LOTR Bk 2 Ch 6: The King of the Golden Hall

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Belba Grubb from Stock

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Aug 9, 2004, 4:03:10 PM8/9/04
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Chapter of the Week: The Lord of the Rings, Book 2
Chapter 6 - The King of the Golden Hall

To check out the other Chapters of the Week or to sign up to do a
chapter of your own, go to http://parasha.maoltuile.org.
_____________________________________________________

"Men need many words before deeds," says Gimli, but it takes more
than words to heal Theoden so he and Rohan can rise to the biggest
challenge they have faced in many years. Few words indeed pass
between Eowyn and Aragorn, yet both their hearts are troubled. And of
what use are words to the one who rides at the head of a host of
warriors to do great deeds; what comfort can any words bring to the
one left behind, standing at the doors of an empty house?
______________________________________________________

SUMMARY:

After a long ride with only a few hours' rest, Gandalf, Aragorn,
Legolas and Gimli come within sight of Edoras and Meduseld at dawn.
Gandalf counsels them all to "draw no weapon, speak no haughty word"
until they come before Theoden, for war is abroad in the land and the
Rohirrim are watchful.

The travellers ride on toward Edoras and at the foot of its walled
hill pass many grass and flower covered mounds - seven on the left and
nine on the right - where the Kings of Rohan are buried. Aragorn
chants the Hymn of Eorl as they pass by the silent mounds.

At the gates of Edoras they are challenged by many armed men and learn
that Theoden's counselor Wormtongue two nights ago ordered that no
stranger should pass the gate. Gandalf manages to get them admitted
to the city, and Hama, the Doorward of Theoden, makes a judgment call
and allows Gandalf to keep his staff as the travellers enter Meduseld
and come before King Theoden, who is seated on his throne in Meduseld
and accompanied by his counselor Grima Wormtongue and a woman clad in
white. Theoden challenges them and asks "Gandalf Stormcrow" why he
should be welcomed. Grima takes it from there and after "bandy[ing]
crooked words with a serving-man" for a while Gandalf makes the
lightning fall, knocking Wormtongue out and challenging Theoden to
listen to what he has to say. Theoden gets up, and with the help of
the woman, who is his niece Eowyn, paces through the hall and goes
outside with Gandalf, leaving his former counselor sprawled out on the
floor. Once outside Theoden sends Eowyn away, but not before she and
Aragorn have become aware of each other.

Gandalf heals Theoden and asks him to release Eomer from prison,
telling the king the news as they wait for Eomer to be brought before
Theoden. Eomer appears and offers Theoden his sword, who at Gandalf's
urging takes it and is inspired to shout a call to arms. Now healed,
Theoden asks Gandalf for advice and is told to trust Eomer and to "do
the deed at hand," which is to head west with an army and destroy the
threat of Saruman while sending the women and children of Rohan up
into the mountains for refuge while the warriors are gone. Theoden
agrees and orders an immediate muster of all the men living nearby.

Grima is brought out and revealed by Gandalf as a spy of Saruman.
Theoden offers Grima Wormtongue a horse and a choice: to ride with
them to war and prove himself in battle or to leave under penalty of
Theoden's wrath, if they ever meet again. Grima takes the horse and
leaves. While the Rohirrim who live nearby gather, Theoden feeds his
guests, arrays the Three Hunters in such gear of war as they need, and
at Hama's request puts Eowyn in charge of the Eorlingas while he and
Eomer are gone. When the muster is complete and more than a thousand
men are at the gate, armed and mounted, ready to go, Theoden proclaims
Gandalf a chieftain of the Eorlingas and officially gives him
Shadowfax. Gandalf is revealed to all as the White Reader and the
assembled warriors give a great shout:

'Our King and the White Rider!' they shouted. 'Forth
Eorlingas!'

The trumpets sounded. The horses reared and neighed.
Spear clashed on shield. Then the king raised his hand,
and with a rush like the sudden onset of a great wind the
last host of Rohan rode thundering into the West

Far over the plain Eowyn saw the glitter of their spears, as
she stood still, alone before the doors of the silent house.

DISCUSSION POINTS:

1. What is the significance of the seven mounds being on the left
(east) and the nine on the right (west)?

2. If this hasn't already been addressed in other threads, did Grima
order no strangers to be admitted before or after Eomer arrived at
Edoras? It seems that Eomer couldn't have gotten there by the night of
the 30th when the order was issued. If that's the case, then why did
Grima issue the order (how had he learned of the presence of these
strangers)?

3. Just a comment: I enjoyed Aragorn's hesitancy to leave his newly
reforged sword at the door, and only just now appreciated that he did
so only after Gandalf had set down there the sword that had once been
Turgon's. And then Aragorn assists Gandalf in getting admitted to
Meduseld with his staff in hand. Teamwork. There's a lot of
undercurrent here, as elsewhere at various points, part of what makes
this writing so enjoyable.

4. Comments on Meduseld, the great hall and its furnishings? It
reminds me a little of the hall of Beorn with the fire burning on the
long hearth in the middle of the hall, but it is so richly furnished
and ornately carved. The Rohirrim certainly are artisans and
craftsmen as well as free spirits and ready warriors.

5. Speaking of staffs, is there any "magical" significance in
Theoden's staff, other than its role as a prop to convince him he was
old and weak? It's worth noting, given the remarkable description of
the man "so bent with age he seemed almost a dwarf," that Theoden is
only 71. Aragorn, in comparison, is 88. Did JRRT make an effective
choice not to reveal Theoden's actual age within the story, saving it
for the appendices?

6. Just how, exactly, does Gandalf heal Theoden?

7. Was that the best way to handle Grima? (Of note is Gandalf's pity
or mercy, though he doesn't use the word.) I'm afraid I would have
shouted "off with his head!" and so eventually would have saved
Saruman's life (and Lotho's, too?).

8. Now, what does Gandalf tell Theoden in secret there as they look
East. I assumed it was of Frodo and the Ring, but then while they are
eating Gandalf speaks of a secret hope which he can't speak of even to
Theoden. This has always confused me.

9. Comment: I would refer anyone (nobody on this list, of course) who
use the words "Tolkien" and "sexist" in the same breath to this scene
where Theoden says Eomer is the last of the line of Eorl and is
corrected by Hama, who along with the rest of the Eorlingas loves
Eowyn and wishes her to lead them while the warriors are gone. And
Eowyn is such a strong character - in this chapter we first meet her,
and she really plays a very small role, but that last vision of her is
strong enough to last and allow the reader to accept her as a major
character when the action moves to Dunharrow and beyond. I haven't
figured out quite how JRRT does it, but it is very effective!

And your comments, thoughts and ….?

Taemon

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Aug 9, 2004, 4:55:13 PM8/9/04
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Belba Grubb from Stock wrote:

> 9. Comment: I would refer anyone (nobody on this list,
> of course) who use the words "Tolkien" and "sexist" in
> the same breath to this scene where Theoden says Eomer is
> the last of the line of Eorl and is corrected by Hama,
> who along with the rest of the Eorlingas loves Eowyn and
> wishes her to lead them while the warriors are gone.

And that wouldn't be sexist? ;-)

T.


Joe

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Aug 9, 2004, 7:16:06 PM8/9/04
to

> 1. What is the significance of the seven mounds being on the left
> (east) and the nine on the right (west)?
>

The appendices point out an end to one direct line of descent, I believe
during the great plauge out of the East.


> 2. If this hasn't already been addressed in other threads, did Grima
> order no strangers to be admitted before or after Eomer arrived at
> Edoras? It seems that Eomer couldn't have gotten there by the night of
> the 30th when the order was issued. If that's the case, then why did
> Grima issue the order (how had he learned of the presence of these
> strangers)?
>

Perhaps he picked up a certain elation from Eomer.


> 3. Just a comment: I enjoyed Aragorn's hesitancy to leave his newly
> reforged sword at the door, and only just now appreciated that he did
> so only after Gandalf had set down there the sword that had once been
> Turgon's. And then Aragorn assists Gandalf in getting admitted to
> Meduseld with his staff in hand. Teamwork. There's a lot of
> undercurrent here, as elsewhere at various points, part of what makes
> this writing so enjoyable.
>

And the Film's alteration of this scene, the whole physical custody of
Andûril etc. etc.especially grating. Tolkien leaves us wishing for certain
things to happen, and the filmmakers oblige us in some instances (Eagle
pounding the crap out of Nazgul and steed), but others like this reveal a
staggering lack of vision.

> 4. Comments on Meduseld, the great hall and its furnishings? It
> reminds me a little of the hall of Beorn with the fire burning on the
> long hearth in the middle of the hall, but it is so richly furnished
> and ornately carved. The Rohirrim certainly are artisans and
> craftsmen as well as free spirits and ready warriors.
>

Viking longhouse, I suppose.


> 5. Speaking of staffs, is there any "magical" significance in
> Theoden's staff, other than its role as a prop to convince him he was
> old and weak? It's worth noting, given the remarkable description of
> the man "so bent with age he seemed almost a dwarf," that Theoden is
> only 71. Aragorn, in comparison, is 88. Did JRRT make an effective
> choice not to reveal Theoden's actual age within the story, saving it
> for the appendices?
>

Yes, but it's unclear to me. I didn't mind looking up things like ages in
the Tale of Years.


> 6. Just how, exactly, does Gandalf heal Theoden?
>

I think by simple persuasion, nothing more.

> 7. Was that the best way to handle Grima? (Of note is Gandalf's pity
> or mercy, though he doesn't use the word.) I'm afraid I would have
> shouted "off with his head!" and so eventually would have saved
> Saruman's life (and Lotho's, too?).
>

Gandalf practiced what he preached, never took a life out of revenge. "we
cannot see all ends", but maybe he does?

> 8. Now, what does Gandalf tell Theoden in secret there as they look
> East. I assumed it was of Frodo and the Ring, but then while they are
> eating Gandalf speaks of a secret hope which he can't speak of even to
> Theoden. This has always confused me.
>

Perhaps the Paths of the Dead? Theoden was better off not expecting a
rescue from Aragorn.

> 9. Comment: I would refer anyone (nobody on this list, of course) who
> use the words "Tolkien" and "sexist" in the same breath to this scene
> where Theoden says Eomer is the last of the line of Eorl and is
> corrected by Hama, who along with the rest of the Eorlingas loves
> Eowyn and wishes her to lead them while the warriors are gone. And
> Eowyn is such a strong character - in this chapter we first meet her,
> and she really plays a very small role, but that last vision of her is
> strong enough to last and allow the reader to accept her as a major
> character when the action moves to Dunharrow and beyond. I haven't
> figured out quite how JRRT does it, but it is very effective!
>

> And your comments, thoughts and ..?
>

There's little evidence of sexist leanings in his writings.


Matthew Bladen

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Aug 9, 2004, 7:39:02 PM8/9/04
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In article <WATRc.61513$M95.35718@pd7tw1no>, Joe
<j...@all.spammers.must.die.die.die.com> says...

>
> > 1. What is the significance of the seven mounds being on the left
> > (east) and the nine on the right (west)?
> >
>
> The appendices point out an end to one direct line of descent, I believe
> during the great plauge out of the East.

Rather, the attack on Rohan by the Dunlendings during which Helm and his
two sons perished. Frealaf, his sister-son, who retook Edoras and slew
the usurper Wulf, established the second line. (Eomer, as Theoden's
sister-son, stood at the head of a third line)
--
Matthew

Michelle J. Haines

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Aug 9, 2004, 9:55:47 PM8/9/04
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In article <2ilfh0he3qqo5mgoc...@4ax.com>,
ba...@dbtech.net says...

>
> 1. What is the significance of the seven mounds being on the left
> (east) and the nine on the right (west)?

That's where the line of kings was broken, and the succession passed
to a nephew (I think?) instead of a son. That's why, later,
Theoden's mound is the last in that line, and Eomer's death starts
another row.

> 3. Just a comment: I enjoyed Aragorn's hesitancy to leave his newly
> reforged sword at the door, and only just now appreciated that he did
> so only after Gandalf had set down there the sword that had once been
> Turgon's.

I always found this glimpse of arrogance on his part a bit off-
putting, myself.

Michelle
Flutist

--
Drift on a river, That flows through my arms
Drift as I'm singing to you
I see you smiling, So peaceful and calm
And holding you, I'm smiling, too
Here in my arms, Safe from all harm
Holding you, I'm smiling, too
-- For Xander [9/22/98 - 2/23/99]

Kristian Damm Jensen

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Aug 10, 2004, 6:58:11 AM8/10/04
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Belba Grubb from Stock <ba...@dbtech.net> wrote in message news:<2ilfh0he3qqo5mgoc...@4ax.com>...

<snip>

> 1. What is the significance of the seven mounds being on the left
> (east) and the nine on the right (west)?

Seven and nine are, of course, traditional, even magical, numbers.
Further it means that when ended the first and second line will both
contain nine mounds.

<snip>

> 2. If this hasn't already been addressed in other threads, did Grima
> order no strangers to be admitted before or after Eomer arrived at
> Edoras? It seems that Eomer couldn't have gotten there by the night of
> the 30th when the order was issued. If that's the case, then why did
> Grima issue the order (how had he learned of the presence of these
> strangers)?

Let's see:
27. Éomer ... sets out from Eastfold about midnight to pursue the
Orcs.
28. Éomer overtakes the Orcs just outside Fangorn Forest.

And we know this to just before nightfall. In other words: from
Eastfold to Fangorn approximately 18 hours.

29. The Rohirrim attack at sunrise and destroy the Orcs.
30. Éomer returning to Edoras meets Aragorn.
.. and this at a point from where it takes Aragorn the rest of the day
to reach Fangorn. They may not have moved as fast as the Rohirrim,
though.

Assumption: The return from Fangorn was in less haste than the ride
out. The return ride may have been shorter, since they returned to
Edoras, and we don't know the starting point. (But it couldn't have
been far from Edoras, since Eomer knew Theodon opinion of this
venture.)

No, I don't think the return ride could have been accomplished in one
day. But maybe a scout could have ridden before the eored, telling of
the news.

<snip>

> 5. Speaking of staffs, is there any "magical" significance in
> Theoden's staff, other than its role as a prop to convince him he was
> old and weak?

None, I think.

> It's worth noting, given the remarkable description of
> the man "so bent with age he seemed almost a dwarf," that Theoden is
> only 71. Aragorn, in comparison, is 88. Did JRRT make an effective
> choice not to reveal Theoden's actual age within the story, saving it
> for the appendices?

Ages aren't referred to very often in the story at all. (Apart from
the hobbits'.) Rather the significance is in the appearence, you are
only as old as you feel.

To compare with Aragorn is meaningless; his lineage gives him a far
larger expected livespan.

<snip>

> 7. Was that the best way to handle Grima? (Of note is Gandalf's pity
> or mercy, though he doesn't use the word.) I'm afraid I would have
> shouted "off with his head!" and so eventually would have saved
> Saruman's life (and Lotho's, too?).

Never one to miss an opportunity to let a sinner redeem himself, is
he? The offer to and his Grimas rejection is a nice foreshadowing of
the later exchange with Saruman.

> 8. Now, what does Gandalf tell Theoden in secret there as they look
> East. I assumed it was of Frodo and the Ring, but then while they are
> eating Gandalf speaks of a secret hope which he can't speak of even to
> Theoden. This has always confused me.

Me too.

<snip>

Regards,
Kristian

Christopher Kreuzer

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Aug 10, 2004, 3:55:00 PM8/10/04
to
Kristian Damm Jensen <da...@ofir.dk> wrote:
> Belba Grubb from Stock <ba...@dbtech.net> wrote in message
> news:<2ilfh0he3qqo5mgoc...@4ax.com>...
>
> <snip>
>
>> 1. What is the significance of the seven mounds being on the left
>> (east) and the nine on the right (west)?
>
> Seven and nine are, of course, traditional, even magical, numbers.
> Further it means that when ended the first and second line will both
> contain nine mounds.

Really? Theoden will be the eighth mound on the left, as is shown in his
funeral scene. We are not told where Theodred is buried, but I would
assume that being told that there are eight mounds on the east-side
after Theoden is buried, means that lines ends with eight mounds, not
nine. and as others have said, Eomer will start a new line.

<snip>

Christopher

--
---
Reply clue: Saruman welcomes you to Spamgard

Christopher Kreuzer

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Aug 10, 2004, 4:08:19 PM8/10/04
to
Joe <j...@all.spammers.must.die.die.die.com> wrote:

> Belba wrote:
>> 8. Now, what does Gandalf tell Theoden in secret there as they look
>> East. I assumed it was of Frodo and the Ring, but then while they
>> are eating Gandalf speaks of a secret hope which he can't speak of
>> even to Theoden. This has always confused me.
>
> Perhaps the Paths of the Dead? Theoden was better off not expecting a
> rescue from Aragorn.

No. Gandalf refers to Merry and Pippin as "sharers of this secret hope",
so that rules out the Paths of the Dead. Gandalf means Frodo and the
Ring.

The first secret that Gandalf whispers to Theoden as they look east does
appear to be the mission of Frodo and Sam, which is still strange as I'd
have thought Gandalf is being indiscreet to tell even someone like
Theoden.

The second secret, that Gandalf keeps hidden, seems to be referring to
what Merry and Pippin might have told Saruman under torture. Which is
the fact that Sam and Frodo are abroad bearing the Ring.

It seems plain that Gandalf is referring to the same secret that he has
previously revealed to Theoden, but note his words:

"even to you, lord, I cannot yet speak openly"

Which implies to me that he has spoken secretly or cryptically to
Theoden, as we saw in the scene where he whispers to Theoden and then
says aloud:

"Verily, that way [East] lies our hope..."

I just get the impression that Gandalf is being cryptic while trying to
give hope, and not doing a very good job of it. He is being too cryptic
to inspire much hope, and revealing too much to any potential spies.

Note that Gandalf cannot be talking about Aragorn as the "secret hope",
as Aragorn has already revealed himself to Eomer as Elendil's Heir. Or
Isildur's Heir. Hmm. Let's not start that Elendil/Isildur thing again!

Prai Jei

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Aug 10, 2004, 4:12:00 PM8/10/04
to
Belba Grubb from Stock (or somebody else of the same name) wrote thusly in
message <2ilfh0he3qqo5mgoc...@4ax.com>:

> 2. If this hasn't already been addressed in other threads, did Grima
> order no strangers to be admitted before or after Eomer arrived at
> Edoras? It seems that Eomer couldn't have gotten there by the night of
> the 30th when the order was issued. If that's the case, then why did
> Grima issue the order (how had he learned of the presence of these
> strangers)?

Eomer was not be a stranger so would not be affected by Grima's ban.
Possibly the ban was a general precaution, though more likely other lesser
spies had informed him of the imminent approach of Gandalf and the others.

> Theoden gets up, and with the help of
> the woman, who is his niece Eowyn,

> [snip]


> 9.  Comment: I would refer anyone (nobody on this list, of course) who
> use the words "Tolkien" and "sexist" in the same breath to this scene
> where Theoden says Eomer is the last of the line of Eorl and is
> corrected by Hama, who along with the rest of the Eorlingas loves
> Eowyn and wishes her to lead them while the warriors are gone.  And
> Eowyn is such a strong character

The relationship ibetween Theoden and Eowyn is described in the text as
"sister-daughter", similarly "sister-son" elsewhere. Modern English
"nephew" and "niece" are not used. We are to understand that in Rohan
society paternity is not recognised, so these relationships are the closest
we officially have to a man's descendants. Part of the Welsh epic
Mabinogion turns upon the same point, with paternity recognised in Gwynedd
(NW Wales) but not in Dyfed (SW Wales).
As for Eomer being the last of the line, presumably Salic law has not yet
been superceded in Rohan by the Stanley Doctrine, sorry, by the
Tar-Ancalimë law. which would allow Eowyn to succeed.
--
Paul Townsend
I put it down there, and when I went back to it, there it was GONE!

Interchange the alphabetic elements to reply

Christopher Kreuzer

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Aug 10, 2004, 4:13:52 PM8/10/04
to
Belba Grubb from Stock <ba...@dbtech.net> wrote:
> Chapter of the Week: The Lord of the Rings, Book 2
> Chapter 6 - The King of the Golden Hall

<snip most of nice summary>

> When the muster is complete and more than a thousand
> men are at the gate, armed and mounted, ready to go, Theoden proclaims
> Gandalf a chieftain of the Eorlingas and officially gives him
> Shadowfax. Gandalf is revealed to all as the White Reader and the
> assembled warriors give a great shout:

I hadn't noticed before that Gandalf was proclaimed as a chieftain of
the Eorlingas. I also note with interest that he picked up a new title:

Gandalf the White Reader?

Seems curiously appropriate though! :-)

> 'Our King and the White Rider!' they shouted. 'Forth
> Eorlingas!'

White Rider sounds so much less interesting...

> The trumpets sounded. The horses reared and neighed.
> Spear clashed on shield. Then the king raised his hand,
> and with a rush like the sudden onset of a great wind the
> last host of Rohan rode thundering into the West
>
> Far over the plain Eowyn saw the glitter of their spears, as
> she stood still, alone before the doors of the silent house.

Powerful imagery.

> DISCUSSION POINTS:

<snip>

> 4. Comments on Meduseld, the great hall and its furnishings? It
> reminds me a little of the hall of Beorn with the fire burning on the
> long hearth in the middle of the hall, but it is so richly furnished
> and ornately carved. The Rohirrim certainly are artisans and
> craftsmen as well as free spirits and ready warriors.

Meduseld should also remind you of Hrothgar's hall in Beowulf, or the
other way around, depending on which you read first.

<snip>

Christopher

--
---
Reply clue: Saruman welcomes you to Spamgard

"This tale grew in the telling, until it became a history of the Great
War of the Ring..." - J.R.R. Tolkien (Foreward to LotR)

Shanahan

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Aug 10, 2004, 9:41:46 PM8/10/04
to
Michelle J. Haines <mha...@io.nanc.com> declared:
> ba...@dbtech.net says...

>>
>> 3. Just a comment: I enjoyed Aragorn's hesitancy to leave his
>> newly reforged sword at the door, and only just now appreciated
>> that he did so only after Gandalf had set down there the sword
>> that had once been Turgon's.
>
> I always found this glimpse of arrogance on his part a bit off-
> putting, myself.

I think it's another one of the *many* Beowulf echoes in the
Rohirric parts of the story (following is from the scene at the
entrance to Hrothgar's meadhall Heorot):
'To you I am commanded to say by my valorous lord,
the leader of the East Danes, that he knows your noble
history,
and you are to him, over sea-swells,
--bold in thought-- welcome hither;
now you may enter in your war-gear,
under visored-helmets, to see Hrothgar;
let battle-boards here await,
and wooden slaughter-shafts, the result of words.'
Then the mighty one arose, about him many warriors,
the glorious troop of thanes; some waited there,
guarding the gear of war as the hardy leader bade;

In other words, they can wear their helmets and mail inside, but
can't bring their weapons in. Beowulf, of course, yields, because
he says he doesn't need a weapon against Grendel anyway! He'll
fight him barehanded! Sheesh.
Frankly, I prefer Aragorn's respect for his sword ("And I would do
as the master of the house bade, were this any sword but Andúril"),
to Beowulf's attitude.

Ciaran S.
--
We are the origins of war. Not history’s forces
nor the times nor justice nor the lack of it
nor causes nor religions nor ideas nor kinds
of government nor any other thing.
We are the killers; we breed war.
We carry it, like syphilis, inside.
Dead bodies rot in field and stream because
the living ones are rotten. For the love of God,
can’t we love one another just a little?
That’s how peace begins. We have so much to
love each other for. We have such possibilities,
my children; we could change the world.”
- Eleanor, _Lion in Winter_

Shanahan

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Aug 10, 2004, 9:52:49 PM8/10/04
to
Prai Jei <pvsto...@zyx-abc.fsnet.co.uk> declared:

> The relationship ibetween Theoden and Eowyn is described in the
> text as "sister-daughter", similarly "sister-son" elsewhere.
> Modern English "nephew" and "niece" are not used. We are to
> understand that in Rohan society paternity is not recognised, so

I would word this differently. In Rhohirric society, paternity is
recognised; it is merely reckoned differently than we do. The
sister-son is the natural heir if there are no direct male
descendants. There are many societies where sister-sons are the
heir, period.

> these relationships are the closest we officially have to a
> man's descendants. Part of the Welsh epic Mabinogion turns upon
> the same point, with paternity recognised in Gwynedd (NW Wales)
> but not in Dyfed (SW Wales).
> As for Eomer being the last of the line, presumably Salic law
> has not yet been superceded in Rohan by the Stanley Doctrine,

> sorry, by the Tar-Ancalimė law, which would allow Eowyn to
> succeed.

I'm remarkably uninformed about the Salic Law, being an American.
<g> Could you explicate? Maybe we are saying the same thing after
all.

Ciaran S.
--
Could you vague that up a little for me?

Shanahan

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Aug 10, 2004, 9:44:30 PM8/10/04
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Christopher Kreuzer <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> declared:

> Kristian Damm Jensen <da...@ofir.dk> wrote:
>> Belba Grubb from Stock <ba...@dbtech.net> wrote in message
>>
>> <snip>
>>
>>> 1. What is the significance of the seven mounds being on the
>>> left (east) and the nine on the right (west)?
>>
>> Seven and nine are, of course, traditional, even magical,
>> numbers. Further it means that when ended the first and second
>> line will both contain nine mounds.
>
> Really? Theoden will be the eighth mound on the left, as is
> shown in his funeral scene. We are not told where Theodred is
> buried, but I would assume that being told that there are eight
> mounds on the east-side after Theoden is buried, means that
> lines ends with eight mounds, not nine. and as others have said,
> Eomer will start a new line.

Would Theoden be buried in these particular mounds? He was never a
ruling king, only the heir to the throne. I get no impression from
the text that heirs are buried in these mounds.

Ciaran S.
--
> There is no doubt that in real life, the zombies of
> Dawn2 would be scarier and deadlier.
"It's sentences like this that make Usenet worthwhile."
-Kevin Cogliano

Stan Brown

unread,
Aug 10, 2004, 7:41:10 PM8/10/04
to
"Belba Grubb from Stock" <ba...@dbtech.net> wrote in
rec.arts.books.tolkien:

>1. What is the significance of the seven mounds being on the left
>(east) and the nine on the right (west)?

Thanks for getting us started!

I can't recall whether this is later discussed in the novel proper,
but your answer is in Appendix A:

"Then Fréaláf, son of Hild, Helm's sister, ...

"Helm was brought from the Hornburg and laid in the ninth mound. ...
When Fréaláf died a new line of mounds was begun."

In other words, the Rohirrim considered it a new dynasty when a
nephew ("sister-son") succeeded an uncle. Or, if not actually a new
dynasty (since Théoden was still "of the House of Eorl"), at least a
glitch in the succession.

Éomer when he dies would have been laid in the first of a new set of
mounds since he was Théoden's sororal nephew and not his son. "17.
Théoden. ... He fell before the gates of Mundburg. For a while he
rested in the land of his birth, among the dead Kings of Gondor, but
was brought back and laid in the eighth mound of his line at Edoras.
Then [i.e. with Éomer, the next king] a new line was begun."

>6. Just how, exactly, does Gandalf heal Theoden?

I believe he did it with his own innate power, aided by both his
staff and the Red Ring. Circa told Gandalf that the Red Ring could
"rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill." I believe that
Gandalf was not imposing_ healing on Théoden, but _unlocking_
Théoden's own internal desire to be well and free of Wormtongue's
domination and his own apparent dotage.

>7. Was that the best way to handle Grima? (Of note is Gandalf's pity
>or mercy, though he doesn't use the word.) I'm afraid I would have
>shouted "off with his head!" and so eventually would have saved
>Saruman's life (and Lotho's, too?).

"Even the Wise cannot see all ends." If you go around killing people
who have misbehaved, you become no better than the Dark Lord. Exile
has always seemed a fitting punishment for Grima IMHO, particularly
as they first gave him a chance to reform and work honestly for
Théoden again.

--
Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems, Tompkins County, New York, USA
http://OakRoadSystems.com
Tolkien FAQs: http://Tolkien.slimy.com (Steuard Jensen's site)
Tolkien letters FAQ:
http://users.telerama.com/~taliesen/tolkien/lettersfaq.html
FAQ of the Rings: http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/ringfaq.htm
Encyclopedia of Arda: http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/default.htm
more FAQs: http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/faqget.htm

Stan Brown

unread,
Aug 10, 2004, 7:44:21 PM8/10/04
to
"Kristian Damm Jensen" <da...@ofir.dk> wrote in
rec.arts.books.tolkien:

>Belba Grubb from Stock <ba...@dbtech.net> wrote in message news:<2ilfh0he3qqo5mgoc...@4ax.com>...
>
>> 1. What is the significance of the seven mounds being on the left
>> (east) and the nine on the right (west)?
>
>Seven and nine are, of course, traditional, even magical, numbers.
>Further it means that when ended the first and second line will both
>contain nine mounds.

THE KINGS OF THE MARK in App. A says that Théoden is the 8th and
last of the second line, and Éomer starts the third line.

Shanahan

unread,
Aug 10, 2004, 10:26:05 PM8/10/04
to
Shanahan <pog...@bluefrog.com> declared:
<snip>

> Would Theoden be buried in these particular mounds? He was never
> a ruling king, only the heir to the throne. I get no impression
> from the text that heirs are buried in these mounds.

Um, oops, make that "Theodred".

Ciaran S.
--
"I'm too old for this. I should be at home,
playing canasta with Radagast."
- mst3k

Emma Pease

unread,
Aug 10, 2004, 8:02:14 PM8/10/04
to
In article <cfbkl...@enews3.newsguy.com>, Shanahan wrote:
> Prai Jei <pvsto...@zyx-abc.fsnet.co.uk> declared:
>> The relationship ibetween Theoden and Eowyn is described in the
>> text as "sister-daughter", similarly "sister-son" elsewhere.
>> Modern English "nephew" and "niece" are not used. We are to
>> understand that in Rohan society paternity is not recognised, so
>
> I would word this differently. In Rhohirric society, paternity is
> recognised; it is merely reckoned differently than we do. The
> sister-son is the natural heir if there are no direct male
> descendants. There are many societies where sister-sons are the
> heir, period.

In Rohan, I suspect that a brother or a brother's son might be next
but that probably does not break the line. I also don't recall cases
where this happens in Rohan's history. A sister-son is a new line and
is probably next if there is no brother's son.

I do wonder how much Eomer inherited because he was the sister son of
Theoden or how much because Theoden named him heir.

>> these relationships are the closest we officially have to a
>> man's descendants. Part of the Welsh epic Mabinogion turns upon
>> the same point, with paternity recognised in Gwynedd (NW Wales)
>> but not in Dyfed (SW Wales).
>> As for Eomer being the last of the line, presumably Salic law
>> has not yet been superceded in Rohan by the Stanley Doctrine,
>> sorry, by the Tar-Ancalimė law, which would allow Eowyn to
>> succeed.
>
> I'm remarkably uninformed about the Salic Law, being an American.
><g> Could you explicate? Maybe we are saying the same thing after
> all.

Salic law is usually short hand for a rule that states that no woman
can inherit nor can inheritance go through the female line. If Rohan
had Salic law, Eomer would not have inherited.[1]

Emma

[1] Edward III of England challenged this definition of Salic law
which is one reason the Kings of England also called themselves Kings
of France until the late 1700s. Edward III claimed the French throne
through his mother who was a French princess (and quite notorious).


--
\----
|\* | Emma Pease Net Spinster
|_\/ Die Luft der Freiheit weht

Emma Pease

unread,
Aug 10, 2004, 8:20:52 PM8/10/04
to
In article <2ilfh0he3qqo5mgoc...@4ax.com>, Belba Grubb

from Stock wrote:
> Chapter of the Week: The Lord of the Rings, Book 2
> Chapter 6 - The King of the Golden Hall
>
> To check out the other Chapters of the Week or to sign up to do a
> chapter of your own, go to http://parasha.maoltuile.org.
> _____________________________________________________
>
> "Men need many words before deeds," says Gimli, but it takes more
> than words to heal Theoden so he and Rohan can rise to the biggest
> challenge they have faced in many years. Few words indeed pass
> between Eowyn and Aragorn, yet both their hearts are troubled. And of
> what use are words to the one who rides at the head of a host of
> warriors to do great deeds; what comfort can any words bring to the
> one left behind, standing at the doors of an empty house?
> ______________________________________________________

> DISCUSSION POINTS:
>

> 2. If this hasn't already been addressed in other threads, did Grima
> order no strangers to be admitted before or after Eomer arrived at
> Edoras? It seems that Eomer couldn't have gotten there by the night of
> the 30th when the order was issued. If that's the case, then why did
> Grima issue the order (how had he learned of the presence of these
> strangers)?

Time line

Feb 26
- Breaking of the Fellowship

Feb 27
- midnight, Eomer starts pursuing the Orcs (is this midnight of the
26/27 or 27/28?)

Feb 29
- dawn, Eomer attacks and destroys the orcs

Feb 30
- morning, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli meet Eomer returning to Meduseld
given horses
- late afternoon, arrive at Fangorn and start searching the battlefield
- night, horses run off, old man sighted

- Start of the Entmoot. Merry and Pippin meet Bregalad

- Evening, Grima has the gates of Edoras barred

Mar 1
- Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli go into Fangorn. Meet Gandalf
- Noonish, party leaves for Edoras
- Rest a few hours in the night

- sometime this day/evening Eomer comes to Edoras and is imprisoned

- Day 2 of the Entmoot

- Frodo, Sam, and Gollum begin passage of the Dead Marshes

Mar 2
- Early morning, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli reach Edoras
- mid-afternoon, Theoden heads to the fords of the Isen
- evening, Theoden's forces camp after 5 hrs ride

- Second battle of the Fords of Isen fought and lost

- Afternoon, Entmoot finishes.
- Night, Ents reach Isengard
- Night, last of Saruman's army heads south
- Night, Ents attack Isengard

- Frodo, Sam, and Gollum finish the passage of the Dead Marshes

My guess is that Saruman might have asked Grima to have the gates
barred in hopes of depriving any of the Grey Company that survived the
attack from aid. How much did Saruman know about the raid at Rauros?
How much did Sauron know? My guess is that both knew a raid had
happened and that the orcs were heading back to Fangorn. Saruman,
according to Gandalf, did not know there were any prisoners nor that
his orcs had quarrelled with the orcs of Mordor. Sauron knew both of
these. However, I think that Saruman knew or suspected the Grey
Company had been attacked (either by palantir or by his bird spies)
and would guess that survivors might ask for aid from Rohan. Why wait
till the evening of the 30th? Possibly because that was the fastest
he could get the order to Grima.

Did Saruman know that Aragorn spoke the language of the Mark and had
served a previous king and therefore was not a stranger to Rohan and
not likely to fall under the provisions of the bar?

> 6. Just how, exactly, does Gandalf heal Theoden?

By giving him hope. Gandalf wields the red ring of fire whose power
is to give hope.


> 7. Was that the best way to handle Grima? (Of note is Gandalf's pity
> or mercy, though he doesn't use the word.) I'm afraid I would have
> shouted "off with his head!" and so eventually would have saved
> Saruman's life (and Lotho's, too?).

But would have deprived the group of the Palantir. Remember it is
Grima who throws it out of Isengard.

> 8. Now, what does Gandalf tell Theoden in secret there as they look
> East. I assumed it was of Frodo and the Ring, but then while they are
> eating Gandalf speaks of a secret hope which he can't speak of even to
> Theoden. This has always confused me.

I don't think he told Theoden outright about the ring but I think he
did state that there was a hope of defeating Sauron.

Christopher Kreuzer

unread,
Aug 10, 2004, 8:35:27 PM8/10/04
to
Shanahan <pog...@bluefrog.com> wrote:
> Shanahan <pog...@bluefrog.com> declared:
> <snip>
>> Would Theoden be buried in these particular mounds? He was never
>> a ruling king, only the heir to the throne. I get no impression
>> from the text that heirs are buried in these mounds.
>
> Um, oops, make that "Theodred".

Maybe he is buried in the same mound as Theoden? Or another mound
somewhere else. I'm being influenced by the film of course....

Christopher Kreuzer

unread,
Aug 10, 2004, 8:37:26 PM8/10/04
to
Shanahan <pog...@bluefrog.com> wrote:

> I think it's another one of the *many* Beowulf echoes in the
> Rohirric parts of the story (following is from the scene at the
> entrance to Hrothgar's meadhall Heorot):

<snip>

Thanks for the Beowulf quote. Do you have the description of Heorot
handy, to compare to the description of Meduseld. I'm actually reading
Beowulf (Heany translation) at the moment...

Christopher Kreuzer

unread,
Aug 10, 2004, 8:43:33 PM8/10/04
to
Emma Pease <em...@kanpai.stanford.edu> wrote:

<snip>

> My guess is that Saruman might have asked Grima to have the gates
> barred in hopes of depriving any of the Grey Company that survived the
> attack from aid. How much did Saruman know about the raid at Rauros?
> How much did Sauron know? My guess is that both knew a raid had
> happened and that the orcs were heading back to Fangorn. Saruman,
> according to Gandalf, did not know there were any prisoners nor that
> his orcs had quarrelled with the orcs of Mordor.

Where does Gandalf say this? Was it in the White Rider chapter? What
else did Saruman know? Did he know of Gandalf's fall and return?

<snip>

> Did Saruman know that Aragorn spoke the language of the Mark and had
> served a previous king and therefore was not a stranger to Rohan and
> not likely to fall under the provisions of the bar?

You would have thought so.

<snip>

>> 8. Now, what does Gandalf tell Theoden in secret there as they look
>> East. I assumed it was of Frodo and the Ring, but then while they
>> are eating Gandalf speaks of a secret hope which he can't speak of
>> even to Theoden. This has always confused me.

Not "can't speak of", but "cannot _openly_ speak of".

> I don't think he told Theoden outright about the ring but I think he
> did state that there was a hope of defeating Sauron.

That sounds about right. Any spies reporting that back to Sauron would
have re-inforced the impression that a Ringlord was gathering an army to
attack Sauron, diverting Sauron's attention from Mordor. I still think
it was a bit silly of Gandalf to make some of the more open comments he
does about Frodo's quest.

Matthew Bladen

unread,
Aug 10, 2004, 9:03:43 PM8/10/04
to
In article <MPG.1b83271e7...@news.odyssey.net>, Stan Brown
<the_sta...@fastmail.fm> says...

> "Belba Grubb from Stock" <ba...@dbtech.net> wrote in
> rec.arts.books.tolkien:
>
> >1. What is the significance of the seven mounds being on the left
> >(east) and the nine on the right (west)?
>
> Thanks for getting us started!
>
> I can't recall whether this is later discussed in the novel proper,
> but your answer is in Appendix A:
>
> "Then Fréaláf, son of Hild, Helm's sister, ...
>
> "Helm was brought from the Hornburg and laid in the ninth mound. ...
> When Fréaláf died a new line of mounds was begun."

I think it might be mentioned in LOTR VI.6 'Many Partings' when Theoden
is interred. There's definitely a king-list in the narrative as well as
in Appendix A, but I'm away from my books at present and can't check.

It sticks in my mind because for years the only version of LOTR I was
familiar with was the one-volume paperback that only had 'Aragorn and
Arwen' and none of the other appendices, so there were lots of items in
the book that I wanted to know more about (like the Chieftains of the
Dunedain mentioned in 'Aragorn and Arwen'). The House of Eorl was one
subject that the book *did* cover in some detail.
--
Matthew

Dirk Thierbach

unread,
Aug 11, 2004, 3:57:31 AM8/11/04
to
Belba Grubb from Stock <ba...@dbtech.net> wrote:
> _____________________________________________________
>
> "Men need many words before deeds," says Gimli, but it takes more
> than words to heal Theoden so he and Rohan can rise to the biggest
> challenge they have faced in many years. Few words indeed pass
> between Eowyn and Aragorn, yet both their hearts are troubled. And of
> what use are words to the one who rides at the head of a host of
> warriors to do great deeds; what comfort can any words bring to the
> one left behind, standing at the doors of an empty house?
> ______________________________________________________

I enjoyed that. Thanks.

> 4. Comments on Meduseld, the great hall and its furnishings?

The parallels to Beowulf have already been mentioned. IIRC the word
Meduseld "meat-hall" is also used in Beowulf, and the description
includes the golden roof. The whole scene with Hama is also taken
from Beowulf; Shippey describes that in detail.

> 5. Speaking of staffs, is there any "magical" significance in
> Theoden's staff, other than its role as a prop to convince him he was
> old and weak?

I don't think so.

> 6. Just how, exactly, does Gandalf heal Theoden?

Both Theoden and Denethor are "plagued" by Despair. Theoden has been
under the influence of Grima for a long time, and this is the result.
And the cure for Despair is Hope -- which is what Gandalf gives him,
even if it is only hope to die heroically in battle. The "letting in
of light" is symbolic in this respect. Denethor, OTOH, is too proud te
let himself healed in that way.

At least that's how I read it. The "germanic theory of courage" was
very important to Tolkien.

And it's a pity none of this comes across in the films. Both Theoden
and Denethor are reduced to simple parodies.

- Dirk

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Aug 11, 2004, 7:19:09 AM8/11/04
to
in <2c9e2992.0408...@posting.google.com>,
Kristian Damm Jensen <da...@ofir.dk> enriched us with:

>
> Belba Grubb from Stock <ba...@dbtech.net> wrote in message
> news:<2ilfh0he3qqo5mgoc...@4ax.com>...
>>

<snip>

> Let's see:


> 27. Éomer ... sets out from Eastfold about midnight to pursue the
> Orcs.
> 28. Éomer overtakes the Orcs just outside Fangorn Forest.
>
> And we know this to just before nightfall. In other words: from
> Eastfold to Fangorn approximately 18 hours.

As Éomer must (in particular if he took off at that time, since this was
after the news of Théodred's death had reached Edoras) have taken off
from Aldburg, which was in Folde, this would mean that he and his éored
travelled longer than Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli in about the
same amount of time, despite Gandalf's assertion that the path found by
Shadowfax would be faster. I can't imagine how that could possibly be.

I am now completely convinced that Éomer set out just after midnight on
the 27th (midnight 26th/27th), a few hours after learning about the
descent of the Orcs from Emyn Muil, instead of waiting more than a day
and setting out just before midnight (the 27th/28th).

> 29. The Rohirrim attack at sunrise and destroy the Orcs.

As Emma has pointed out they stayed the night after felling the trees, so
they must have set out towards Edoras on the morning of the 30th -- a
journey that must have taken them longer than the approximately 18 hours
that Gandalf's party use.

<snip>

> Assumption: The return from Fangorn was in less haste than the ride
> out. The return ride may have been shorter, since they returned to
> Edoras, and we don't know the starting point.

We do know that Éomer's éored were quartered at his home in Aldburg in
Folde, and it seems a fair assumption that this would be where he learned
about the Orcs.

> (But it couldn't have been far from Edoras, since Eomer knew Theodon
> opinion of this venture.)

Does he say other than "I went without the king's leave"? That, IMO,
means that he had not asked for leave (probably guessing the answer would
come from Wormtongue) or had at least not received any answer for his
request (one of Wormtongue's schemes? Discussing the matter with the king
and promising to send a negative answer along with the message of
Théodred's death?).

Éomer probably knew that his ride wouldn't be well receieved (his troops
were at least close enough to Edoras to help the defence of that town),
but it doesn't appear to me that he had been prohibited to go.

> No, I don't think the return ride could have been accomplished in one
> day. But maybe a scout could have ridden before the eored, telling of
> the news.

Or, IMO more likely, Éomer had sent a message to Edoras explaining things
before (or when) he rode north. Saruman was aware of the Company of the
Ring travelling south, and he may have told Wormtongue to make sure that
no strangers got refuge in Edoras. Wormtongue might have made the
connection between the Orcs and Saruman's request and then spent a couple
of days persuading Théoden into abandoning the traditional rules of
hospitality (quite a drastic step).

<snip>

--
Troels Forchhammer

A good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.
- (Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!)

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Aug 11, 2004, 7:39:52 AM8/11/04
to
in <MPG.1b83271e7...@news.odyssey.net>,
Stan Brown <the_sta...@fastmail.fm> enriched us with:

>
> "Belba Grubb from Stock" <ba...@dbtech.net> wrote in
> rec.arts.books.tolkien:
>>

<snip>

>> 6. Just how, exactly, does Gandalf heal Theoden?
>
> I believe he did it with his own innate power, aided by both his
> staff and the Red Ring. Circa told Gandalf that the Red Ring could
> "rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill."

Circa? ;-)

> I believe that Gandalf was not imposing_ healing on Théoden, but
> _unlocking_ Théoden's own internal desire to be well and free of
> Wormtongue's domination and his own apparent dotage.

That is my impression as well.

Gandalf's mission is, IMO, best described in UT 4,II 'The Istari':
"[...] their emissaries were forbidden to reveal themselves in
forms of majesty, or to seek to rule the wills of Men and
Elves by open display of power, but coming in shapes weak and
humble were bidden to advise and persuade Men and Elves to
good, and to seek to unite in love and understanding all those
whom Sauron, should he come again, would endeavour to dominate
and corrupt."

"... bidden to advise and persuade ... unite in love and understanding
..." This seems to me the key, and we are elsewhere told that Gandalf did
stay faithful to his mission. However, Tolkien also says that "When he
speaks he commands attention; the old Gandalf could not have dealt so
with Théoden, nor with Saruman." As I read this it implies that his
dealing with Théoden is not as much a matter of working magic upon
Théoden, but of "commanding attention" -- the 'new' Gandalf (the White)
is capable of making, by his presence alone, Théoden listen where he
would have ignored Gandalf the Grey.

I don't think that Gandalf had to exorcise some evil possession of
Théoden as he does in the film (though I can appreciate the reason for
this scene seeing how "The Voice of Saruman" is reduced). It was, IMO,
rather a question of breaking Gríma's influence over Théoden and his
habitual self-image as weak, old and frightened. Kindling his heart.

<snip>

--
Troels Forchhammer

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would
be a merrier world.
- Thorin Oakenshield, 'The Hobbit' (J.R.R. Tolkien)

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Aug 11, 2004, 8:02:56 AM8/11/04
to
in <VYdSc.3164$Pl6.33...@news-text.cableinet.net>,
Christopher Kreuzer <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> enriched us with:

>
> Emma Pease <em...@kanpai.stanford.edu> wrote:
>>
>> My guess is that Saruman might have asked Grima to have the gates
>> barred in hopes of depriving any of the Grey Company that survived
>> the attack from aid. How much did Saruman know about the raid at
>> Rauros? How much did Sauron know? My guess is that both knew a raid
>> had happened and that the orcs were heading back to Fangorn.
>> Saruman, according to Gandalf, did not know there were any prisoners
>> nor that his orcs had quarrelled with the orcs of Mordor.
>
> Where does Gandalf say this? Was it in the White Rider chapter? What
> else did Saruman know? Did he know of Gandalf's fall and return?

Indeed:

"He has no woodcraft. He believes that the horsemen slew and
burned all upon the field of battle; but he does not know
whether the Orcs were bringing any prisoners or not. And he
does not know of the quarrel between his servants and the Orcs
of Mordor; nor does he know of the Winged Messenger."

Saruman, however, might have felt the Three Hunters fighting against the
"unseen barrier" created by his will, and thus deduced that some of the
Company of the Ring were pursuing his Orcs -- he must have known that the
company were travelling south, and that they had reached the Emyn Muil.

If he somehow sensed the pursuit of his Orcs (whether by feeling the
opposition to his will, seeing the Three Hunters in the palantir or
whatever), he would have done so the 27th or 28th -- getting a message to
Wormtongue ordering him to get the gates barred, and then have Wormtongue
to pursuade the king to give the order might easily put it at the evening
of the 30th.

Sauron, on the other hand, by Gandalf's words knew that "the messengers
that he sent to waylay the Company have failed again. They have not found
the Ring. Neither have they brought away any hobbits as hostages."
Grishnákh went off with his company and came back -- presumably he went
to speak to the Nazgûl waiting on the east-bank of the river (and got
orders to go, with new reinforcements, to try to get the prisoners from
Uglúk's company, I would guess).

>> Did Saruman know that Aragorn spoke the language of the Mark and had
>> served a previous king and therefore was not a stranger to Rohan and
>> not likely to fall under the provisions of the bar?
>
> You would have thought so.

I am less certain, but it is possible.

<snip>

--
Troels Forchhammer

"He deserves death."
"Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some
that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager
to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all
ends."
- Tolkien in The Fellowship of the Ring

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Aug 11, 2004, 8:06:16 AM8/11/04
to
in <NgnSc.22420$k4.4...@news1.nokia.com>,
Troels Forchhammer <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> enriched us with:

>
> in <2c9e2992.0408...@posting.google.com>,
> Kristian Damm Jensen <da...@ofir.dk> enriched us with:
>>

<snip>

>> (But it couldn't have been far from Edoras, since Eomer knew Theodon
>> opinion of this venture.)
>
> Does he say other than "I went without the king's leave"?

Found it myself in the Tale of Years: "Éomer against Théoden's orders


sets out from Eastfold about midnight to pursue the Orcs."

Given Éomer's comments at the time I think it likely that it was against
Théoden's standing orders, and that he had not been prohibited this
expedition explicitly.

<snip>

--
Troels Forchhammer

And he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of
wisdom.
- Gandalf, 'LotR' (J.R.R. Tolkien)

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Aug 11, 2004, 8:39:35 AM8/11/04
to
in <slrnchipi...@munin.Stanford.EDU>,
Emma Pease <em...@kanpai.stanford.edu> enriched us with:

>
> In article <2ilfh0he3qqo5mgoc...@4ax.com>, Belba Grubb
> from Stock wrote:
>>

<snip>

>> 7. Was that the best way to handle Grima? (Of note is Gandalf's pity
>> or mercy, though he doesn't use the word.) I'm afraid I would have
>> shouted "off with his head!" and so eventually would have saved
>> Saruman's life (and Lotho's, too?).
>
> But would have deprived the group of the Palantir. Remember it is
> Grima who throws it out of Isengard.

Good point!

We know of course the value of pity in Tolkien's universe -- it was
discussed at length a few months ago:
http://groups-beta.google.com/group/rec.arts.books.tolkien/browse_frm/thread/117f8ac7c4bc08d4/
http://tinyurl.com/6e2a8

In general, as I read Tolkien's words, mercy and pity are good things in
themselves. Good or bad may come of it, but showing mercy and pity should
be done without regard for whether it is prudent or whether good or evil
is likely to come of it.

"In this case the cause (not the 'hero') was triumphant,
because by the exercise of pity, mercy, and forgiveness of
injury, a situation was produced in which all was redressed
and disaster averted. Gandalf certainly foresaw this. See
Vol. I p. 68-9.[1] Of course, he did not mean to say that
one must be merciful, for it may prove useful later - it
would not then be mercy or pity, which are only truly
present when contrary to prudence. Not ours to plan! But we
are assured that we must be ourselves extravagantly generous,
if we are to hope for the extravagant generosity which the
slightest easing of, or escape from, the consequences of our
own follies and errors represents. And that mercy does
sometimes occur in this life."
(Letters #192, 1956)

Looking at the situation a bit cynically, it was necessary, I think, that
Saruman should die, and by allowing Gríma Wormtongue to live Tolkien
avoided that his Hobbits were tainted by that deed (the same goes for
Lotho -- "there is to be no slaying of hobbits, not even if they have
gone over to they other side" -- Frodo got his wish, but possibly only
because Wormtongue had been so
obliging as to do the dirty work on Lotho).

Another question would be whether Théoden would have been ready to order
his counsellor put to death: was Gandalf's healing strong enough for
that, or did he need to see, by Wormtongue's own choice, who Gríma truly
was?

Recall that Théoden, in the next chapter, on the way to Helm's Deep
admits to missing /both/ Gandalf and Gríma, so I'm not sure he would have
been easy for him to order him killed at once (though he would probably
not have any mercy after hearing that "some say also that Wormtongue was
seen earlier, going northward with a company of Orcs.")

--
Troels Forchhammer

My adversary's argument
is not alone malevolent
but ignorant to boot.
He hasn't even got the sense
to state his so-called evidence
in terms I can refute.
- Piet Hein, /The Untenable Argument/

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Aug 11, 2004, 9:25:06 AM8/11/04
to
in <2ilfh0he3qqo5mgoc...@4ax.com>,
Belba Grubb from Stock <ba...@dbtech.net> enriched us with:

>
> Chapter of the Week: The Lord of the Rings, Book 2
> Chapter 6 - The King of the Golden Hall

<snip>

> "Men need many words before deeds," says Gimli, but it takes more
> than words to heal Theoden so he and Rohan can rise to the biggest
> challenge they have faced in many years. Few words indeed pass
> between Eowyn and Aragorn, yet both their hearts are troubled. And of
> what use are words to the one who rides at the head of a host of
> warriors to do great deeds; what comfort can any words bring to the
> one left behind, standing at the doors of an empty house?

"'Do you find it easy to get drunk on words?'
' So easy that, to tell you the truth, I am seldom perfectly
sober.'"
(Sayers, /Gaudy Night/)

Love it ;-)

<snipping summary>

Thanks again for an excellent introduction, Belba.

> DISCUSSION POINTS:
>

Snipping points that have been thoroughly discussed elsewhere:

> 3. [...] There's a lot of undercurrent here, as elsewhere at
> various points, part of what makes this writing so enjoyable.

Agreed. And it is these undercurrents, whether intended by the author or
not, that keeps us going. Had Tolkien's works only offered what is
obvious at the top level of the text, they would never have seen the
popularity they enjoy, or have offered us the many opportunities for
interesting discussions.

> 5. [...] It's worth noting, given the remarkable description of


> the man "so bent with age he seemed almost a dwarf," that Theoden is
> only 71.

The line of Éorl became 60 (Éorl), 58, 101, 99, 86, 80, 74, 73, 68
(Helm), 72, 90, 71, 60, 73, 83, 75, 71 (Théoden) and 93 (Éomer).

I was about to ask 'only?' and note that the life expectancy was lower
'back then', but apparently this isn't so -- the average age at death of
the kings of the Mark was 77 and a number of them died in battle. It
would appear that Théoden's age was "only 71".

In that case it is indeed noteworthy that Théoden is described as looking
that old -- of the kings that lived shorter than Théoden, only Brego (58)
didn't die violently and he died of grief over Baldor (Folca (60) died of
tusk-wounds from 'the great boar of Everholt' and Éorl (60) 'fell in
battle in the Wold').

Helm still went forth alone among his enemies, "and slay many men with
his hands" at 68 years of age, which serves to contrast Théoden's bent
and aged appearance.

> 8. Now, what does Gandalf tell Theoden in secret there as they look
> East. I assumed it was of Frodo and the Ring, but then while they are
> eating Gandalf speaks of a secret hope which he can't speak of even to
> Theoden. This has always confused me.

I'll admit to having been confused as well.

I am sure that Gandalf does tell Théoden about Frodo and their hope
("Verily, that way lies our hope where sits our greatest fear. Doom hangs
still on a thread. [...]"). Later he says about Merry and Pippin "sharers
of a secret hope, of which even to you, lord, I cannot yet speak openly"
but he goes on to imply that Théoden knows something about this hope,
"Dare you think of what they might now be suffering, or what Saruman
might now have learned to our destruction?" I assume that there were
other tables than the kings (at which 'sat Éomer and the four guests' and
Éowyn waited on the king -- other people may have waited on Éomer and the
four, and other tables may have been nearby where other of the Rohirrim
ate, and Gandalf could not speak /openly/ even to the king, but he could
(as he had done before) speak to him in secret.

<snip>

--
Troels Forchhammer

The idea of being *paid* to govern is terribly middle-class :-)
- Igenlode on AFPH

Prai Jei

unread,
Aug 11, 2004, 2:36:03 PM8/11/04
to
Emma Pease (or somebody else of the same name) wrote thusly in message
<slrnchiof...@munin.Stanford.EDU>:

> In article <cfbkl...@enews3.newsguy.com>, Shanahan wrote:
>> Prai Jei <pvsto...@zyx-abc.fsnet.co.uk> declared:

>>> As for Eomer being the last of the line, presumably Salic law
>>> has not yet been superceded in Rohan by the Stanley Doctrine,

>>> sorry, by the Tar-Ancalimë law, which would allow Eowyn to


>>> succeed.
>>
>> I'm remarkably uninformed about the Salic Law, being an American.
>><g> Could you explicate? Maybe we are saying the same thing after
>> all.
>
> Salic law is usually short hand for a rule that states that no woman
> can inherit nor can inheritance go through the female line. If Rohan
> had Salic law, Eomer would not have inherited.[1]

It's most recent invocation in the UK was in 1837 when Victoria came to the
British throne but could not also inherit the electorship of Hanover since
that was governed by Salic law and thereby restricted to male heirs.

By contrast, the Stanley Doctrine (from Doc Smith's "d'Alembert" series) and
the Tar-Ancalimë law both specify that the eldest child, whether male or
female, shall be heir. ISTR this applies in Sweden.

Kristian Damm Jensen

unread,
Aug 11, 2004, 2:51:37 PM8/11/04
to
"Christopher Kreuzer" <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> wrote in message news:<oK9Sc.2933$pa4.31...@news-text.cableinet.net>...

I should check better before posting. You correctly assumed that I was
assuming to more mounds, for Theoden and Theodred respectively.

It is pointed out that after Theodens burial there are eight mounds.
Since I can't reasonably argue that they hadn't burried Theodred at
that time, I must concede that he was probably not awarded a mound in
the noble lines.

Futhermore, in "The Road to Isengard" we read:

And they saw that in the midst of the eyot a mound was piled, ringed
with stones, and set about with many spears.
"Here lie all the Men of the Mark that fell near this place," said
Gandalf.
"Here let them rest!" said Éomer. "And when their spears have rotted
and rusted, long still may their mound stand and guard the Fords of
Isen!"

Theodred could very well be among them.

Regards,
Kristian

Stan Brown

unread,
Aug 11, 2004, 8:39:31 PM8/11/04
to
"Troels Forchhammer" <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote in
rec.arts.books.tolkien:

>in <MPG.1b83271e7...@news.odyssey.net>,
>Stan Brown <the_sta...@fastmail.fm> enriched us with:
>>
>> "Belba Grubb from Stock" <ba...@dbtech.net> wrote in
>> rec.arts.books.tolkien:
>>> 6. Just how, exactly, does Gandalf heal Theoden?
>>
>> I believe he did it with his own innate power, aided by both his
>> staff and the Red Ring. Circa told Gandalf that the Red Ring could
>> "rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill."
>
>Circa? ;-)

Oops -- sorry, I thought I had clicked on "Círdan" in my spell
checker. :-)

>> I believe that Gandalf was not imposing_ healing on Théoden, but
>> _unlocking_ Théoden's own internal desire to be well and free of
>> Wormtongue's domination and his own apparent dotage.
>
>That is my impression as well.
>
>Gandalf's mission is, IMO, best described in UT 4,II 'The Istari':
> "[...] their emissaries were forbidden to reveal themselves in
> forms of majesty, or to seek to rule the wills of Men and
> Elves by open display of power, but coming in shapes weak and
> humble were bidden to advise and persuade Men and Elves to
> good, and to seek to unite in love and understanding all those
> whom Sauron, should he come again, would endeavour to dominate
> and corrupt."

Right -- I agree that's a good description. As we all know, the
restrictions were loosened a little bit when Eru sent Gandalf the
White back. He engaged in direct military action at the gate of
Minas Tirith, and was de facto ruler of the City during the crucial
battle. But he did it with the willing consent of all Men, and he
didn't try to hold on to that power when the crisis had eased.

>I don't think that Gandalf had to exorcise some evil possession of
>Théoden as he does in the film

That disgusted me! It would have taken no longer to show the scene
as Tolkien described it. (I nearly wrote, "as it actually happened."
I've gotta get out more. :-)

Stan Brown

unread,
Aug 11, 2004, 8:45:43 PM8/11/04
to
"Troels Forchhammer" <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote in
rec.arts.books.tolkien:

>We know of course the value of pity in Tolkien's universe -- it was

Nice -- both the long URL and a short one. Great for folks who read
these posts in the archives.

>In general, as I read Tolkien's words, mercy and pity are good things in
>themselves. Good or bad may come of it, but showing mercy and pity should
>be done without regard for whether it is prudent or whether good or evil
>is likely to come of it.

I think pity and mercy have value in our universe also, not only to
their objects but to the people who practice pity and mercy. If you
have pity and show mercy, you are a different kind of person from
someone who is ruthless. When Gandalf tells Frodo that Bilbo took
little hurt from the Ring because he began his tenure with an act of
pity, I think he speaks a universal truth.

>Another question would be whether Théoden would have been ready to order
>his counsellor put to death: was Gandalf's healing strong enough for
>that, or did he need to see, by Wormtongue's own choice, who Gríma truly
>was?

I think when Grima spat at the King's feet, any last lingering
doubts Théoden _might_ have had were removed. :-) Théoden was a
kindly man, and not "hasty" as Treebeard would have said --
otherwise he would have ordered Wormtongue's execution for that act
alone.

>Recall that Théoden, in the next chapter, on the way to Helm's Deep
>admits to missing /both/ Gandalf and Gríma,

I may be wrong, but I've always read that as a mere rhetorical
device by Théoden.. I can't give a good paraphrase, but my
impression was not that he actually missed Wormtongue, simply that
he was finding his powers of decision rusty and remarking on it. Of
course he did rise to the occasion.

Stan Brown

unread,
Aug 11, 2004, 8:48:45 PM8/11/04
to
"Prai Jei" <pvsto...@zyx-abc.fsnet.co.uk> wrote in
rec.arts.books.tolkien:
(salic law)

>It's most recent invocation in the UK was in 1837 when Victoria came to the
>British throne but could not also inherit the electorship of Hanover since
>that was governed by Salic law and thereby restricted to male heirs.

I don't believe there _was_ an electorship of Hanover for anyone to
inherit. Hanover had been erected into a kingdom at the close of the
Napoleonic Wars. And that's a good thing, because the Holy Roman
Empire had been terminated in 1806. Thirty-one years later, there
couldn't very well be an elector of a defunct empire.

Shanahan

unread,
Aug 11, 2004, 11:33:28 PM8/11/04
to
Emma Pease <em...@kanpai.stanford.edu> declared:

> In article <cfbkl...@enews3.newsguy.com>, Shanahan wrote:

[snip stuff on Salic Law and Rohan]

> [1] Edward III of England challenged this definition of Salic law
> which is one reason the Kings of England also called themselves
> Kings of France until the late 1700s. Edward III claimed the
> French throne through his mother who was a French princess (and
> quite notorious).

Thanks for the info, Emma.
Would that be the Demon Countess of Anjou, by any chance?

Ciaran S.
--
Dalai Lama at his birthday party:
"Oh wow, nothing! Just what I always wanted!"

Shanahan

unread,
Aug 11, 2004, 11:29:54 PM8/11/04
to
Kristian Damm Jensen <da...@ofir.dk> declared:

<snip>

> Since I can't reasonably argue that they hadn't buried Theodred


> at that time, I must concede that he was probably not awarded a
> mound in the noble lines.

Only because he didn't live to inherit the throne, not because he
wasn't noble! ;)

> Futhermore, in "The Road to Isengard" we read:
> And they saw that in the midst of the eyot a mound was piled,
> ringed with stones, and set about with many spears.
> "Here lie all the Men of the Mark that fell near this place,"
> said Gandalf.
> "Here let them rest!" said Éomer. "And when their spears have
> rotted and rusted, long still may their mound stand and guard the
Fords
> of Isen!"
> Theodred could very well be among them.

I would agree. Unless his body was destroyed by the Orcs who took
the garrison at the Fords during the Second Battle of the Fords of
Isen, that is probably where he would lie. His last words were
"Let me lie here - to keep the Fords till Éomer comes!" (to Elfhelm
and Grimbold, UT, 'Battle of the Fords of Isen').

Ciaran S.
--
It's a grand life, if you don't tire.
- gaelic proverb

Shanahan

unread,
Aug 12, 2004, 12:03:13 AM8/12/04
to
Christopher Kreuzer <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> declared:

<snip>
> Thanks for the Beowulf quote. Do you have the description of
> Heorot handy, to compare to the description of Meduseld. I'm
> actually reading Beowulf (Heany translation) at the moment...

Unfort, I haven't been able to find any really complete
descriptions of Heorot. Here's some bits and pieces:

a grand mead-hall, [to] be built by men
which the sons of men should hear of forever,
and there within share out all
to young and old, such as God gave him,
except the common land and the lives of men;
Then, I heard, widely was the work commissioned
from many peoples throughout this middle-earth,
to furnish this hall of the folk. For him in time it came to
pass,
early, through the men, that it was fully finished,
the best of royal halls; he named it Heorot,
he whose words weight had everywhere;
he did not lie when he boasted; rings he dealt out,
riches at his feasts. The hall towered,
high and horn-gabled;

he dwelt in Heorot, the richly-adorned hall

[This one's pretty humorous:]
The noble hall broke into a din; the Danes all were,
--the citadel-dwellers-- each of the bold,
earls in the flood of bitter drink; enraged were both
fierce hall-wards; the hall resounded.
Then it was a great wonder that the wine-hall
withstood the war-fighters, that it did not fall to the
ground,
the fair mansion but it so firm was
inside and out with iron-bands
skilfully smithed; there from the floor broke away
many mead-benches, I heard,
adorned with gold, where the enemies struggled;
it was not thought before, by the sages of the Scyldings,
that it ever by means any men
splendid and bone-adorned, could break it up,
cleverly cleave asunder, not unless fire's embrace
swallowed it in inferno.

Then the order was promptly given the interior of Heorot
to furnish by hands; many there were,
of men and women, who the wine-hall,
the guest-hall prepared; gold-glittering shone
woven tapestries along the walls, many wondrous sights
for each of the men, who on such stared;
that bright building was badly broken up
all inside secure with iron-bands,
hinges sprung open; the roof alone remained
entirely sound

The best site I've been able to find on the web about Beowulf is
www.heorot.dk. Great site, lots of nifty stuff, parallel
translation, sound bytes of bits being read aloud, cool artwork...

Ciaran S.
--
"...the desperate assumption that somebody--
or at least some _force_--is tending
that Light at the end of the tunnel."
-h.s. thompson

AC

unread,
Aug 12, 2004, 12:43:35 AM8/12/04
to
On Tue, 10 Aug 2004 19:41:10 -0400,
Stan Brown <the_sta...@fastmail.fm> wrote:
> "Belba Grubb from Stock" <ba...@dbtech.net> wrote in
> rec.arts.books.tolkien:
>
>>6. Just how, exactly, does Gandalf heal Theoden?
>
> I believe he did it with his own innate power, aided by both his
> staff and the Red Ring. Circa told Gandalf that the Red Ring could
> "rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill." I believe that
> Gandalf was not imposing_ healing on Théoden, but _unlocking_
> Théoden's own internal desire to be well and free of Wormtongue's
> domination and his own apparent dotage.

I agree. It was not an act of domination, but an act of reawakening the
fires that Wormtongue had all but put out. I don't think we ever see a
better example of how Gandalf battled Sauron than in the healing of Theoden.
Gandalf urges the Free Peoples with wisdom and hope, against Sauron's use of
fear and hatred upon His servants and slaves.

(It also happens to be one of my favorite scenes in LotR, right up there
with the attack the Ford, the death of Denethor and the battle of Pellenor).

--
Aaron Clausen
mightym...@hotmail.com

WOODY: How's it going Mr. Peterson?
NORM : It's a dog eat dog world out there, Woody, and I'm wearing
milkbone underwear.

Kristian Damm Jensen

unread,
Aug 12, 2004, 3:36:24 AM8/12/04
to
"Troels Forchhammer" <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote in message news:<NgnSc.22420$k4.4...@news1.nokia.com>...

> in <2c9e2992.0408...@posting.google.com>,
> Kristian Damm Jensen <da...@ofir.dk> enriched us with:

<snip>

> > (But it couldn't have been far from Edoras, since Eomer knew Theodon
> > opinion of this venture.)
>
> Does he say other than "I went without the king's leave"? That, IMO,
> means that he had not asked for leave (probably guessing the answer would
> come from Wormtongue) or had at least not received any answer for his
> request (one of Wormtongue's schemes? Discussing the matter with the king
> and promising to send a negative answer along with the message of
> Théodred's death?).
>
> Éomer probably knew that his ride wouldn't be well receieved (his troops
> were at least close enough to Edoras to help the defence of that town),
> but it doesn't appear to me that he had been prohibited to go.

More than that. When later Gandalf discuss the events with Theoden he
says og Wormtoungue "He persuaded you to forbid Éomer to pursue the
raiding Orcs." This is never contradicted.

If this is true then Eomer did indeed discuss the matter with the king
and he did disobey a direct order.

<snip>

Regards,
Kristian

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Aug 12, 2004, 4:52:45 AM8/12/04
to
in <2c9e2992.04081...@posting.google.com>,

Kristian Damm Jensen <da...@ofir.dk> enriched us with:
>

<snip>

> More than that. When later Gandalf discuss the events with Theoden he


> says og Wormtoungue "He persuaded you to forbid Éomer to pursue the
> raiding Orcs." This is never contradicted.

Yes, I found that as well after posting about the entry in the Tale of
Years. Don't know where I had put my recollection there ;-)

I still wonder whether Éomer hadn't received the negative answer when he
rode out (I do believe he did so a few hours after receiving the message
about the Orcs' descent, so his message to the king might well have been
something along the line of "I'm going after these Orcs -- see you when
I'm back").

> If this is true then Eomer did indeed discuss the matter with the king

Or at least inform him, and Wormtongue discussed it with the king.

> and he did disobey a direct order.

Given the situation in Rohan I suppose that even riding out against the
Orcs without the express permission from Théoden would be disobeying a
direct (standing) order.

--
Troels Forchhammer

+++ Divide By Cucumber Error. Please Reinstall Universe And Reboot +++
- (Terry Pratchett, Hogfather)

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Aug 12, 2004, 7:51:12 AM8/12/04
to
in <MPG.1b8487c45...@news.odyssey.net>,

Stan Brown <the_sta...@fastmail.fm> enriched us with:
>
> "Troels Forchhammer" <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote in
> rec.arts.books.tolkien:
>>

<snip>

> I think pity and mercy have value in our universe also, not only to
> their objects but to the people who practice pity and mercy.

Mine was an attempt to keep the discussion at the level where the
positive effects of pity and mercy are demonstrable (because Tolkien's
beliefs influenced the way he made these things work in Middle-earth). I
do agree that these are (positively) valuable in the primary world as
well.

> When Gandalf tells Frodo that Bilbo took little hurt from the Ring
> because he began his tenure with an act of pity, I think he speaks
> a universal truth.

I agree.

>> Another question would be whether Théoden would have been ready
>> to order his counsellor put to death: was Gandalf's healing strong
>> enough for that, or did he need to see, by Wormtongue's own choice,
>> who Gríma truly was?
>
> I think when Grima spat at the King's feet, any last lingering
> doubts Théoden _might_ have had were removed. :-)

You're probably right (this happens after he had been given the choice).
"His hands worked. His eyes glittered. Such malice was in them that men
stepped back from him. He bared his teeth; and then with a hissing breath
he spat before the king's feet, ..." I agree; there can hardly be much
doubt after that.

> Théoden was a kindly man, and not "hasty" as Treebeard would have
> said -- otherwise he would have ordered Wormtongue's execution for
> that act alone.

He was also honourable: he had promised Wormtongue a horse and a choice,
and couldn't, with honour, back down on that even if Wormtongue had
already made his choice clear.

>> Recall that Théoden, in the next chapter, on the way to Helm's Deep
>> admits to missing /both/ Gandalf and Gríma,
>
> I may be wrong, but I've always read that as a mere rhetorical
> device by Théoden.

I guess that you're right.

LotR III,7 'Helm's Deep'
" 'It will go ill with Wormtongue, if Gandalf comes upon him
said Théoden. 'Nonetheless I miss now both my counsellors, the
old and the new. But in this need we have no better choice
than to go on, as Gandalf said, [...]"

> I can't give a good paraphrase, but my impression was not that he
> actually missed Wormtongue, simply that he was finding his powers
> of decision rusty and remarking on it.

Right -- it was the councelling he missed more than the actual
counsellors. I think you're right (I suppose that wanting him to miss
Gandalf personally, I have interpreted it from that angle).

> Of course he did rise to the occasion.

He did indeed.

--
Troels Forchhammer

Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind.
- (Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man)

Stan Brown

unread,
Aug 12, 2004, 8:17:04 AM8/12/04
to
"Troels Forchhammer" <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote in
rec.arts.books.tolkien:
(Stan Brown wrote, about Grima Wormtongue's spitting at the King's
feet)

>> Théoden was a kindly man, and not "hasty" as Treebeard would have
>> said -- otherwise he would have ordered Wormtongue's execution for
>> that act alone.
>
>He was also honourable: he had promised Wormtongue a horse and a choice,
>and couldn't, with honour, back down on that even if Wormtongue had
>already made his choice clear.

True, but the spitting was a new offense, lese majeste.
http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=lese+majeste&db=*

I think Théoden would have been very much within his rights to have
W whipped or punished more severely, and that would not have been
backing down on the choice he had offered W.(*)

I'm not saying Théoden _should_ have done that -- showing continued
forbearance as he did was more truly kingly.

When I first read LotR I didn't think much of Théoden. As the years
have passed I now see him as a greater and greater figure -- not one
of the mythic heroes like Beren and Aragorn, but giving every ounce
of what he had and doing his absolute best for hie people and his
own honor. Not just a great king, but a good man.

(*)In our modern-day world, if you're let out of jail on probation
and you commit a crime, you're sent back to jail for that crime and
nobody says that the state went back on its word by revoking your
probation.