27 March 2017

'Fear not' and μὴ φοβεῖσθε -- The King Revealed (FR 2.ix.393)

'The Pillars of the Kings' © Ted Nasmith

Reflecting on Stephen Winter's latest post on the hands of the King made me think again of this passage, which led me to see suddenly an allusion to scripture I had not seen before, but which now seems so obvious, as such things always do. Consider: 

Sheer rose the dreadful cliffs to unguessed heights on either side. Far off was the dim sky. The black waters roared and echoed, and a wind screamed over them. Frodo crouching over his knees heard Sam in front muttering and groaning: 'What a place! What a horrible place! Just let me get out of this boat, and I'll never wet my toes in a puddle again, let alone a river!' 
'Fear not!' said a strange voice behind him. Frodo turned and saw Strider, and yet not Strider; for the weatherworn Ranger was no longer there. In the stern sat Aragorn son of Arathorn, proud and erect, guiding the boat with skilful strokes; his hood was cast back, and his dark hair was blowing in the wind, a light was in his eyes: a king returning from exile to his own land.
(FR 2.ix.393)

And Matthew 14:22-33 (KJV):

22 And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. 
23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. 
24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. 
25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. 
26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. 
27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. 
29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. 
30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. 
31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? 
32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. 
33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

We know from Mark 6:48 and John 6:19 that the apostles were rowing, just as the members of the Fellowship were rowing, which strengthens the possible link. We might even allow that Tolkien is a being a bit sly and mischievous, with Sam's swearing that he'll never stick even his toes in a puddle again if he gets out of the boat alive paralleling Peter's trying to walk on water, too. Moreover, the phrase present in Matthew, Mark, and John, μὴ φοβεῖσθε, which the KJV renders 'be not afraid' may equally well be translated 'fear not.' 

Of course Tolkien is not suggesting that Aragorn is Christ or even Christlike. Nor am I. The sword Aragorn brings is no metaphor. And a moment after he is revealed to Frodo as a king returning to his own land, his doubts about the course he should now take resurface and he wishes for the counsel of Gandalf.  Rather it is the demonstration of the King within him to those in the boat, just as it is Jesus' demonstration to his disciples that he is the Son of God, that lies at the heart of this parallel. In this moment those who follow them see them as far more than they had seen them before. 

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26 March 2017

Leonard Nimoy reads Ray Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains."

"That's what Bilbo Baggins Hates!" Tolkien Reading Day (+1) 2017




frange vitra et catilla!
cultros tunde, furcas flecte!
Bilbo Baggins odit illa --
nunc et cortices incende! 
textum seca, sebum calca!
lactem funde cellae terra!
linque in tapeto ossa!
vinum sperge super porta!
has patellas aestu lava;
has contunde magna clava;
si nonnulla sint intacta, volve ea e culina! 
Bilbo Baggins odit illa!
cave! cave! haec catilla!

(translation by Mark Walker, "Hobbitus Ille" ©  HarperCollins Publishers Ltd 2012)

Chip the glasses and crack the plates!
Blunt the knives and bend the forks!
That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates –
Smash the bottles and burn the corks! 
Cut the cloth and tread on the fat!
Pour the milk on the pantry floor!
Leave the bones on the bedroom
mat! Splash the wine on every door!
Dump the crocks in a boiling bowl;
Pound them up with a thumping pole;
And when you’ve finished, if any
are whole, Send them down the hall to roll!

That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates!
So, carefully! carefully with the plates! 

19 March 2017

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied

Ophelia, by James Waterhouse, 1889


Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,—so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.

Edna St. Vincent Millay 

18 March 2017

Review: The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-Earth

The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-Earth The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-Earth by Ralph C. Wood
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

No one could seriously deny that Tolkien’s Middle-earth resonates with the message and values of Christianity. Not only was Tolkien himself a devout Roman Catholic, but he was steeped in Old and Middle English literature, one of the oldest works of which, Crist, contains the lines that became the first inspiration for the world he, to use his own term, sub-created:
éala Éarendel, engla beorhtast,
ofer middangeard monnum sended

Hail Earendel, brightest of angels,
Sent over middle-earth to men.
These words embedded within a poem about Christ were, for Tolkien, a powerful evocation of an earlier pagan story, now lost, ‘something very remote and strange and beautiful…if I could grasp it, far beyond ancient English’ (Carpenter, Tolkien, 64). Far more than the legendary ‘In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit’, with which so many are familiar, the words ‘éala Éarendel’ sparked the invention of a vast body of tales that have become in a very real sense a mythology many would wish to call their own, a mythology in which pagan and Christian resonate with each other. (Perhaps there’s a larger lesson to be learned there.) For, as Tolkien saw it and wrote it, all myths contain truth because they echo the Evangelium, the myth that was true.
The Evangelium has not abrogated legends; it has hallowed them, especially the “happy ending.” The Christian has still to work, with mind as well as body, to suffer, hope, and die; but he may now perceive that all his bents and faculties have a purpose, which can be redeemed.’ (On Fairy-stories, ¶ 103)
On this showing we should expect to find that the ‘pagan’ or ‘non-Christian’ world of Middle-earth exists in harmonious counterpoint with the world of Christianity, with its perspectives and its values. This is especially so since Middle-earth is our world. The events of the legendarium took place in a ‘historical period [that] is imaginary’ (Letters, no. 183), a time so long ago that only snatches of the memory of those days, like the Éarendel of Crist, remain.

Professor Wood does a good job of detailing for us the ways in which we may find those perspectives and values woven into fabric of Tolkien’s tales. His is a worthy endeavor that provides the reader with much to think on, and it is important to bear in mind that he has ‘undertake[n] not a scholarly study so much as a theological meditation on The Lord of the Rings.’ For there are moments where Professor Wood seems to push the limits of applicability much too far, as when he says that in describing the relationship of Saruman and Wormtongue Tolkien is stating ‘one of the deepest of Christian truths: all love that is not ordered to the love of God turns to hatred.’ Now their relationship certainly ended in hatred, but I see no evidence that love of any kind ever existed between the two. Wood also at times mars the credibility of his own arguments by getting his facts wrong. He claims, for example, that Frodo sees ‘Sauron himself’ when he sees the Eye in Galadriel’s mirror. Not so, except perhaps in a metaphysical sense. The giant flaming eyeballs of filmdom aside, ‘Sauron himself’ has a physical form. Gollum says he has only ‘four fingers on the Black Hand, but they are enough’, and Pippin’s description of what he saw in the palantír points towards a human appearance. Wood also confuses the Witch-king with the Mouth of Sauron, and gets the ages of the four hobbits wrong while making a point precisely about their ages.

Where Professor Wood’s understanding of the facts of Middle-earth most fails the needs of his meditation is in his mistaken belief that Middle-earth and our world are not the same. In his final chapter he discusses The Athrabeth Finrod a Andreth, or, The Debate of Finrod and Andreth, which, among other things, raises the possibility that one day Ilúvatar himself will become incarnate within Arda in order to heal the harm that evil has done. Because of his misunderstanding, Wood does not see that Tolkien is talking about The Incarnation, not just an incarnation. But Middle-earth is not a parallel world like Narnia, with a unique incarnation of its own. The incarnation Finrod and Andreth anticipate is the evangelium itself.

11 March 2017

Did Boromir fall? (RK 5.iv.813)





'Comfort yourself!' said Gandalf. 'In no case would Boromir have brought it to you. He is dead, and died well; may he sleep in peace! Yet you deceive yourself. He would have stretched out his hand to this thing, and taking it he would have fallen. He would have kept it for his own, and when he returned you would not have known your son.' 
(RK 5.iv.813)
To judge by Gandalf's contrary to fact conditional statements, about what would have happened (but did not) if Boromir had taken the Ring (which he did not), Gandalf does not believe that Boromir fell by attempting to seize the Ring, but was redeemed by his immediate recovery and self-sacrifice. However close he may have come to a fall, taking the Ring is clearly the critical step in that descent.

This is consistent with Gandalf's statement that 'Galadriel told me that [Boromir] was in peril. But he escaped in the end' (TT 4.v.496), as well as the refusal of Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel to take the Ring (FR 1.ii.61; 2.ii.267, vii.x365-66).  We may also point to Aragorn's response to Boromir's dying declaration that he has failed: 'No! .... You have conquered. Few have gained such a victory' (TT 3.i.414).

None of which is to claim that it wasn't all a very near run thing for poor Boromir.


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Salvador Dalí and Walt Disney


There's really not much to say here except: watch this.


09 March 2017

"And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking" -- A Case in Point

The Angelus -- Jean-Francois Millet


Tolkien was appalled by our modern obsession with speedy locomotion. It annihilates space, he said, blinding us to the glories that we are traversing. As with much of modern technology, he feared that jet travel is yet another instance of what Thoreau called "improved means to unimproved ends." We take off from New York or Atlanta and land in Cairo or Delhi a few hours later, as if these vastly different cities in vastly different countries were abstract and featureless places, mere dots on a map. No wonder that Tolkien penned a tart note to one year's income tax payment, refusing his support of supersonic jet travel: "Not a penny for Concorde." 
Ralph C. Wood. The Gospel According to Tolkien


And as if in answer there came from not too far away another note. For at the bottom of this page on my screen is the following message:

"7 hrs 35 mins left in book"

QED

There has to be a place and a time where all this haste stops, just stops, just stops.  And that place and that time must be home, where we may be enchanted out of the world where we lay waste our powers, and recover our selves from the hasty, locomotive days outside our door. Or, as Pink Floyd tell us:

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.
Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today,
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.
And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you're older,
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.
Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time,
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines.
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way.
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say .
Home, home again,
I like to be here when I can.
When I come home cold and tired
It's good to warm my bones beside the fire.
Far away, across the field
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spell.
Time, David Gilmour and Richard Wright. 


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04 March 2017

'She died' -- The Choice of Lúthien and the Destiny of the Elves (FR 1.xi.191-93)



In one of the most disappointing scenes in the extended edition of Peter Jackson's film, The Fellowship of the Ring, Strider and the hobbits are encamped in the wild. Frodo wakes to hear Strider singing The Lay of Leithian.  When Frodo asks him how the story ends, Strider murmurs sadly: 'She died.'  Given the fundamental and essential importance of the Tale of Beren and Lúthien to Tolkien's legendarium, as a lifelong reader of his works I could only be stunned by the choice Jackson made. I could only laugh in disbelief. I still do.

Now, whatever my opinion of the choice Peter Jackson made, it's his right as the film-maker to make it.  Clearly, since he chose to undermine the moral stature of nearly every mortal human in the story, and to change Aragorn from someone who has labored all his life towards this hour into someone full of doubts who has avoided the path that is as much his heritage as his destiny, the Tale of Beren and Lúthien cannot play the same role. To be fair, these choices make it very difficult to include it in any other way than he has done, as a sad commentary on the choice Arwen must make if she is to be with Aragorn. It is a limited and personal perspective.

How different a role The Lay of Leithian plays in Tolkien. There, in a tense moment as the Ringwraiths are closing in on them, Strider sings a song not only of sorrow, but of joy and love, of sacrifice and victory against a heartless darkness. Unlike the bit of Bilbo's simple translation of The Fall of Gil-galad, which Sam had sung to them just that morning and which ends in sadness and uncertainty, Strider's rendering of the Lay is as lush and intricate as the fates of its heroes, with final words that echo onward through the reunion beyond death of Beren and Lúthien to the renewed triumph of Eärendil and the Silmaril that they had made possible.

The Sundering Seas between them lay,
And yet at last they met once more,
And long ago they passed away
In the forest singing sorrowless 
(FR 1.xi.193)

Like the earlier but harder to understand fairy-tale encounter with Tom Bombadil, or like Gandalf's prosaic and terrifying history lesson in The Shadow of the Past, this is one of the moments in the text when the world of Middle-earth suddenly opens up for both hobbits and readers alike. This was especially so for those of us who read The Lord of the Rings before The Silmarillion was published and before instant resources like The Tolkien Gateway came to exist.  This poem was all we had. With the Lay's moving account, and with Strider's commentary not only on what the future held for Beren and Lúthien and their descendants, but even on the prosody of the verses he has just chanted, fairy-story and history come together and come alive as they have not done before.

Part of what accomplishes this blending is the aptness of the tale to the situation in which Strider and the hobbits find themselves, menaced by the same darkness that destroyed Amon Sûl centuries ago, the same darkness that centuries earlier than that Gil-galad had set forth from this place to fight. Though Gil-galad's star fell into shadow, Beren and Lúthien won a silmaril from the darkness against all hope, and to revive hope that jewel became a star to rise above all darkness.

Part of what accomplishes this is the unexpected elan with which the till now dour and wry Strider tells it. The depth of his sudden passion carries with it conviction:
As Strider was speaking they watched his strange eager face, dimly lit in the red glow of the wood-fire. His eyes shone, and his voice was rich and deep. Above him was a black starry sky.
(FR 1.xi.194)
Part of what accomplishes this is the enchanting beauty of the verses themselves. We've already heard quite a few poems before now, pub songs and bath songs and walking songs from the hobbits, the impossibly lofty hymn to Elbereth, the chill spell of the Barrow-wight, and the running wonder and delight of Bombadil. But we haven't heard anything that tells a story with such beauty and power. I'm sure I can't speak for everyone, but it was these verses in particular that first seized me and shook me and made me pay attention to Tolkien's poetry.

And the last part of what accomplishes this blending comes from outside The Lord of the Rings itself. For as Corey Olsen has recently argued, and I believe quite rightly, it is here, with the introduction of the story of Beren and Lúthien into this story, that The Lord of the Rings, and perforce The Hobbit as well, become once and for all part of the world of The Silmarillion. The literal globing of Arda that began with The Fall of Númenor is now literarily complete. The lines that were parallel on the flat world cross on the round. The Elrond, Necromancer, and Gondolin of The Hobbit are no longer lesser, alternate universe versions of themselves. This meeting of the worlds of myth and history gives a life to them that they did not have before, and so transforms the Tale of Beren and Lúthien into a means by which past, present, and future are linked together and may be measured against each other.

Thus Frodo and Sam's discussion of this tale on the stairs of Cirith Ungol gives them strength and courage to go on, and even to laugh at the darkness before they reach the pass; it gives Sam the courage to fight on against Shelob, just as Beren fought against the spiders in Nan Dungortheb; and when Frodo seems dead it gives him the resolve to go on living when all seemed lost, as Beren did, and as Túrin did not.  (The names of both heroes are evoked in this episode.) And just as the light of Eärendil's star in the phial of Galadriel enables Sam to rescue Frodo from the tower, so the glimpse he has of the star itself allows him to grasp the meaning of the Tale:
There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.
(RK 6.ii.922)
It is this same light and beauty arising from the Tale of Beren and Lúthien that moves Strider so in the dell beneath Weathertop. But the Tale plays more than one role here. For if Frodo and Sam are repeating it on the level of the quest, Aragorn and Arwen are repeating it on the level of the love story. At first of course the readers don't know that, nor do they receive the least hint until Arwen enters the scene at Rivendell, where she is described in a lofty language similar to that which Aragorn used of Lúthien herself:
So it was that Frodo saw her whom few mortals had yet seen; Arwen, daughter of Elrond, in whom it was said that the likeness of Lúthien had come on earth again; and she was called Undómiel, for she was the Evenstar of her people. Long she had been in the land of her mother's kin, in Lórien beyond the mountains, and was but lately returned to Rivendell to her father's house.  
(FR 2.i.227).  
So we see here a connection established between Arwen and Lúthien, but her link to Strider remains unexpressed. Bilbo's words to Aragorn after dinner -- 'Why weren't you at the feast? The Lady Arwen was there' -- allude to it, but not so clearly that Frodo gets it, since he is surprised to see Aragorn at her side later that evening (FR 2.i.238). Yet, although the relationship of Arwen and Aragorn becomes more apparent with time (FR 2.vi.352; viii.375; RK 6.ii.775, 784; vi.847), it does not truly emerge until late in the tale that their love rehearses the key element of Beren and Lúthien's. Arwen herself makes it explicit: 'I shall not go with [my father] now when he departs to the Havens; for mine is the choice of Lúthien, and as she so have I chosen, both the sweet and the bitter' (RK 6.vi.974). It receives its fullest expression, however, only in The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen as the two confront the choice of Lúthien and its inevitable consequence: death.

Which brings us back to 'she died,' a summary not without its importance. When the Aragorn of the film says it, he does so as if there were nothing more to say: no victory over Morgoth, no return from death, no silmaril, no Eärendil, no star to dispute the darkness forever. It is a story, in short, with no hope. This very hopelessness, however, allows us to see how ripe with hope Aragorn's telling of this tale is in the book; and when we turn again to The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen the reason Aragorn finds such hope in The Tale of Beren and Lúthien becomes clearer:
'And Arwen said: "Dark is the Shadow, and yet my heart rejoices; for you, Estel, shall be among the great whose valour will destroy it."  
' But Aragorn answered: "Alas! I cannot foresee it, and how it may come to pass is hidden from me. Yet with your hope I will hope. And the Shadow I utterly reject. But neither, lady, is the Twilight for me; for I am mortal, and if you will cleave to me, Evenstar, then the Twilight you must also renounce." 
'And she stood then as still as a white tree, looking into the West, and at last she said: "I will cleave to you, Dúnadan, and turn from the Twilight. Yet there lies the land of my people and the long home of all my kin."
(RK A.1061)
'Yet with your hope I will hope' and 'I will cleave to you, Dúnadan' -- these are the words that inspire Strider at Weathertop as he sings the same song as when he first met Arwen and mistook her for Lúthien. Even in that moment Arwen said 'maybe my doom will not be unlike hers' (RK A.1058). Thus The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen expands our view of this scene. For by her choice Arwen does not just pledge herself to him, or merely repeat the choice of Lúthien, as romantic as that might be. She renews that choice by embracing the doom of Lúthien,
This doom [Lúthien] chose, forsaking the Blessed Realm, and putting aside all claim to kinship with those that dwell there; that thus whatever grief might lie in wait, the fates of Beren and Lúthien might be joined, and their paths lead together beyond the confines of the world. So it was that alone of the Eldalië she has died indeed, and left the world long ago. Yet in her choice the Two Kindreds have been joined; and she is the forerunner of many in whom the Eldar see yet, though all the world is changed, the likeness of Lúthien the beloved, whom they have lost.
(Silm. 187)
And
"I speak no comfort to you, [Aragorn said] for there is no comfort for such pain within the circles of the world. The uttermost choice is before you: to repent and go to the Havens and bear away into the West the memory of our days together that shall there be evergreen but never more than memory; or else to abide the Doom of Men."
"Nay, dear lord," [Arwen] said, "that choice is long over. There is now no ship that would bear the hence,and I must indeed abide the Doom of Men, whether I will or I nill: the loss and the silence. But I say to you, King of the Númenoreans, not till now have I understood the tale of your people and their fall. As wicked fools I scorned them, but I pity them at last. For if this is indeed, as the Eldar say, the gift of the One to Men, it is bitter to receive." 
"So it seems," [Aragorn] said. "But let us not be overthrown at the final test, who of old renounced the Shadow and the Ring. In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory, Farewell!"
(RK A 1062-63)

One of the most remarkable aspects of these passages from both tales, if taken together, is that in the end it is the Man who offers hope to the Elf. She must now hope with his hope, since she cannot foresee the end. Through the Choice of Lúthien the Man can offer the Elf something beyond memory, something beyond the bondage to the circles of the world to which the Elves are of their nature subject. What is more, since 'in her choice the Two Kindreds have been joined', and since through Arwen this choice was renewed, does this not suggest that the same hope may be in store for all Elves, and that they will not perish utterly with Arda at the world's ending? Is this then the 'release from bondage' which the very title of The Lay of Leithian proclaims?


To conclude that this is so would perhaps be hasty, and to argue that Lúthien and Arwen play some kind of messianic role would be foolish. Tolkien was seldom so clumsy. Yet it is clear that the Elves had their concerns about what would become of them after the end of the world (Silm. 42; Morgoth 311-26).  The Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, moreover, discusses these matters of life, death, and 'immortality', specifically in the context of 'the gulf that divides our kindreds' (Morgoth 323, emphasis original).  Finrod even suggests that part of the original role of Men might have been to help bring Elves across the gulf by facilitating the healing of Arda (Morgoth 318-19). Finally the dialogue of Finrod and Andreth ends with their discussion of the sad tale of the love of Andreth and Finrod's brother Aegnor, which could not bridge that gulf and join the kindreds as Beren and Lúthien were destined to do (Morgoth 323-25). Even so in its very last words Finrod asks Andreth to await Aegnor and himself in whatever light she finds beyond death (Morgoth 326), just as Lúthien later asks a dying Beren to wait for her (Silm. 186).

To be sure, some passages in the Athrabeth anticipate the biblical story of the Fall and the Incarnation, but that is hardly all there is. It is impossible not to see the Tale of Beren and Lúthien prefigured in the desperate lives of Andreth and Aegnor.  This attention to their failure to join their kindreds, presented in the culmination of the Athrabeth's discussion of life and death and the fates of Men and Elves in and beyond this world, is not to be slighted. It underlines the importance of those later loves that succeeded in bridging the gulf between the kindreds. Lúthien's departure beyond the circles of the world is as significant for the future of the Elves as Eärendil's rising as a star in the West is for the struggle against The Shadow. Each of them is a pathfinder and a testament to the 'deeper kind' of Hope or 'trust', the Elvish word for which is Estel (Morgoth 320).  It is also Aragorn's Elvish name, by which Arwen calls him in sorrow as he dies. The last word we hear from the mouth of Arwen Evenstar, who shared the doom of Lúthien and now shares the bitter gift of mortals, is hope.


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02 March 2017

Troilus and WHO? (RK 6.x.892-93)



Then Pippin stabbed upwards, and the written blade of Westernesse pierced through the hide and went deep into the vitals of the troll, and his black blood came gushing out. He toppled forward and came crashing down like a falling rock, burying those beneath him. Blackness and stench and crushing pain came upon Pippin and his mind fell away into a great darkness.  
'So it ends as I guessed it would,' his thought said, even as it fluttered away, and it laughed a little within him ere it fled, almost gay it seemed to be casting off at last all doubt and care and fear.  And even then as it winged away into forgetfulness it heard voices, and they seemed to be crying in some forgotten world far above: 
'The Eagles are coming! The Eagles are coming!' 
For one moment more Pippin's thought hovered.  'Bilbo!' it said. 'But no!  That came in his tale, long, long ago. This is my tale, and it is ended now. Good-bye!'  And his thought fled far away and his eyes saw no more. 
(RK 6.x.892-93)

What first drew my attention here is the peculiar use of 'thought' in the second and fourth paragraphs, which is quite similar to its use in the famous scene in which Gollum's two 'thoughts' struggle with each other while Sam listens, fascinated and appalled (TT 4.ii.632-34). While there 'thought' seems very close to what we would call 'personality,' here 'consciousness' is a better fit. The word 'consciousness' did not enter English before the 17th Century, and the meaning in question here -- 'the totality of the impressions, thoughts, and feelings, which make up a person's conscious being. In pl. = conscious personalities' (OED sv. 5, emphasis original) -- seems to have awaited the invention of Locke.  Given Tolkien's linguistic predilections, it is not hard to see why he would have preferred 'thought', since MED þoht (3c, d) offered the requisite meanings.  

I am as yet, however, unaware of any use of þoht to describe situations similar to those we see in these two passages of Tolkien.  (If any reader knows of one, please, do let me know.)  So I began to think that perhaps I should look for passages with similar elements.  Almost immediately Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde came into my mind, specifically the scene in which Troilus dies:


1800   The wraththe, as I began yow for to seye,
       Of Troilus, the Grekes boughten dere;
       For thousandes his hondes maden deye,
       As he that was with-outen any pere,
       Save Ector, in his tyme, as I can here.
1805   But weylawey, save only goddes wille,
       Dispitously him slough the fiers Achille.

       And whan that he was slayn in this manere,
       His lighte goost ful blisfully is went
       Up to the holownesse of the seventh spere,
1810   In convers letinge every element;
       And ther he saugh, with ful avysement,
       The erratik sterres, herkeninge armonye
       With sownes fulle of hevenish melodye.

       And doun from thennes faste he gan* avyse
1815   This litel spot of erthe, that with the see
       Embraced is, and fully gan* despyse
       This wrecched world, and held al vanitee
       To respect of the pleyn felicitee
       That is in hevene above; and at the laste,
1820   Ther he was slayn, his loking doun he caste;

       And in him-self he lough right at the wo
       Of hem that wepten for his deeth so faste;
       And dampned al our werk that folweth so
       The blinde lust, the which that may not laste,
1825   And sholden al our herte on hevene caste.
       
(Troilus and Criseyde, V.1800-1825)


(*gon (11a) = 'proceed to', 'set about', 'go to', as in 'go to sleep'.)

Now clearly Pippin's experience here is meant to remind us first of all of Bilbo's at the Battle of Five Armies, when the Eagles came and Bilbo was knocked unconscious, but woke to find himself 'not yet one of the fallen heroes' (Hobbit 298-99). But there's more to it than that. Bilbo has no 'thought' as he loses consciousness. His reflections come after he revives. 

What happens to Pippin's 'thought' is far more like the experience of Troilus' 'goost': both of them laugh and undergo a profound change in attitude towards the troubles of the world of which they are letting go. Each of them believes his tale is over. True, Pippin is not in fact dying, but he thinks he is. So, the contrast between him and Troilus is also noteworthy. His 'thought' flies 'away', but Troilus' 'goost' rises heavenward. Troilus looks back down at the 'woe / of hem that wepten for his deeth so faste' and dismisses it; Pippin hears the 'voices...crying from some forgotten world above' (emphasis added) and dismisses them and the hope the coming of the Eagles should offer. These directions reflect the differences in world view in each work. Chaucer's Troy is Medieval and Christian, whereas Tolkien's Middle-earth is pre-Christian and without any concept of a heaven above. Hence also Tolkien drew on a word like þoht rather than 'goost'. Whether hobbits have any notion at all of a continued existence after death is unknown and doubtful. And perhaps as a final bit of the absurdity that has often attended this once 'fool of a Took', Pippin is ignominiously squashed by a troll he has killed himself, while Troilus, a great warrior, is killed by the greatest of all warriors. In both cases, however, the dignified serenity both Troilus and Pippin attain with their last thoughts is remarkable. For neither of them could be said to have possessed that before.

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