22 September 2016

In Dwimordene, In Lórien (TT 3.vi.514)

'Then it is true, as Éomer reported, that you are in league with the Sorceress of the Golden Wood?' said Wormtongue. 'It is not to be wondered at: webs of deceit were ever woven in Dwimordene.' 
Gimli strode a pace forward, but felt suddenly the hand of Gandalf clutch him by the shoulder, and he halted, standing stiff as stone. 
     In Dwimordene, in Lórien
     Seldom have walked the feet of Men,
     Few mortal eyes have seen the light
     That lies there ever, long and bright.
     Galadriel! Galadriel!
     Clear is the water of your well;
     White is the star in your white hand;
     Unmarred, unstained is leaf and land
     In Dwimordene, in Lórien
     More fair than thoughts of Mortal Men.
Thus Gandalf softly sang....
(TT 3.vi.514)
This post had its start in a conversation with some friends, one of whom, +simon cook, wondered if Gandalf's use of the word 'Dwimordene' indicated that these verses might be of Rohirric origin. It is an excellent question, since Dwimordene is clearly what the Rohirrim call Lothlórien. The context suggests it, since it is Wormtongue who first uses the word, and Wormtongue's suspicions of Dwimordene echo Éomer's (TT 3.ii.432). (We take it as axiomatic, that if Wormtongue and Éomer agree on something, it must be a true reflection of Rohan.) The Old English etymology of the word indicates it. Dwimordene is the 'valley' (dene) of  'illusion, delusion, apparition; phantom; error, fallācia, phantasms' (dwimor), or, 'phantom vale' as glossed in the index of Unfinished Tales. And, as +Benita Prins rightly pointed out, Eorl himself used this very word to describe Lothlórien (UT 298, 307). That Eorl did so five hundred years earlier not only tells us that he and his people had this view of the Golden Wood even from afar, but it also suggests that perhaps the name Dwimordene had been handed down from their ancestors who dwelt much closer to Lothlórien before migrating into the North (RK App A 1063-64).

The poem itself, however, argues against an origin in Rohan, except in the sense that, as I think, Gandalf is composing it there ex tempore in answer to Wormtongue's sneering hostility. In the first place the poem is in iambic tetrameter and rhymes (AA BB CC DD EE AA), whereas every other example of Rohirric verse is alliterative (TT 3.vi.508; RK 5.iii.803; v.838; vi.843-44, 847, 849; 6.vi.976).  The structure and substance of the poem also emphasize not only that few men have ever been there, not only that few have ever seen the light of Galadriel, who is the center of the poem, but also that Mortal Men could not even imagine the beauty of Lórien and its Lady. It is quite simply beyond them.

To call Lothlórien Dwimordene is, therefore, a mark of ignorance, and Gandalf weaves in other mysterious details that underscore such ignorance. The 'star' refers to Galadriel's ring, but it is a reference detectable by only a few, just as Sam could only see 'a star through [her] fingers' (FR 2.vii.366).  '[U]nmarred, unstained' both recall an older age of the world, a time that Galadriel preserves in Lothlórien (FR 2.vi.347, 350-51, 352; vii.365; viii.377; ix.388-89). Finally Gandalf's apostrophe to Galadriel evokes Beren's 'Tinúviel! Tinúviel!' in The Lay of Leithian (FR 1.xi.192), creating a whole metrically complete line from the repetition of a single name used in the same way syntactically; and the last line also alludes to Lúthien and the lay with its echo of 'more fair than mortal tongue can tell' (Silm. 178).  Gandalf's response to Wormtongue, therefore, is, quite literally, a poetry slam, in which he uses Wormtongue's insult to point out how little he knows, how little he can imagine, and, as if that weren't enough, he conjures the beauty, power, and poetry of Galadriel through allusions that none of the Rohirrim could possibly understand.

Nor is Dwimordene the only word in which the Rohirrim use the root 'dwimor'. We encounter it again in 'the black Dwimorberg, the Haunted Mountain, in which was the Door of the Dead' (RK 5.ii.785)'. Every reader will recall also Éowyn's defiance of the Witch-king, 'Begone, foul dwimmerlaik' (RK 5.vi.841), a word Tolkien himself glosses (RK 1151) as meaning: 'work of necromancy, spectre', and which derives from the Middle English dweomerlac, that is, 'magic art, witchcraft'. Éomer, finally, calls Saruman 'a wizard both cunning and dwimmer-crafty, having many guises' (TT 3.ii.437), which comes from Middle English dweomercræft, 'witchcraft' or 'sorcery'. Tolkien's orthography here is curious. The latter two of these words clearly descend from Middle English, and first two from Old English. This makes me wonder if dwimmerlaik and dwimmer-crafty are meant to reflect 'modern' coinages, while Dwimordene and Dwimorberg come from an older form of the language of the Rohirrim. No one would have been more aware than Tolkien that in five hundred years the tongue must have changed and developed new words with altered spellings.

So twice now we have seen the suggestion that 'Dwimordene' expresses an attitude towards the uncanny nature of Lothlórien that has existed over quite a long time, for at least the five hundred years since Eorl the Young led the Éothéod out of the North to the Field of Celebrant. The relevant passage in Unfinished Tales is also revealing:
For when at last the host drew near to Dol Guldur, Eorl turned away westward for fear of the dark shadow and cloud that flowed out from it, and then he rode on within sight of the Anduin. Many of the riders turned their eyes thither, half in fear and half in hope to glimpse from afar the shimmer of the Dwimordene, the perilous land that in legends of their people was said to shine like gold in the springtime.
(UT 298)
While Dol Guldur and the Dwimordene each stir up fear in the riders, they turn away from the darkness of the one and towards the shimmer of the other in hope. Their hope is equal to their fear. This suggests, that like Sam Gamgee centuries later, these mortals see both similarities and differences in 'elf magic' and 'the devices of the enemy' (FR 2.vii.362).  Dwimmerlaik and dwimmer-crafty exist along the same continuum of meaning. Yet by the end of the Third Age the eyes of Rohan had ceased to look towards Lórien with hope, and, as it seems, dwimor/dwimmer no longer admitted any positive connotations. The Rohirrim of these years are more like most of Sam Gamgee's fellow hobbits, who through ignorance and insularity had grown suspicious and fearful of the Elves. Just as the riders of Eorl had turned their eyes towards the Elves in hope against the darkness, the hobbits -- and the Eorlingas -- of Sam's day had turned theirs away:
And as the days of the Shire lengthened they spoke less and less with the Elves, and grew afraid of them, and distrustful of those that had dealings with them; and the Sea became a word of fear among them, and a token of death, and they turned their faces away from the hills in the west.
(FR Pr. 7)
Finally, note also that it was the Dwimordene, not a Dwimordene. That is, it was a definite and famous place, as its establishment in 'the legends of their people' indicates. And being 'perilous' is a defining attribute of Faërie throughout Tolkien. Unlike the peril of Dol Guldur, however, it is a peril that visitors bring with them.



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