Happy (belated) New Year, and welcome back to the Tolkien Re-read! I had some (three) cancelled flights due to the weather here in NYC, so please forgive the lateness of this post. I can and will do better.
Let’s start with a quick review of what happened last time: Our little band of adventurers finally made it to Rivendell, Frodo was healed by Lord Elrond Half-Elven, Gandalf returned, Elrond hosted a merry feast, Frodo met the dwarf Glóin (of The Hobbit fame) and there’s probably something going on between Aragorn-of-the-many-names and Arwen (Elrond’s daughter).
Reminder that previous posts for the Tolkien Re-read (including my re-read of The Hobbit can be found here.
A note on spoilers: There might be some ahead. Posts will mostly keep in time with the chapter(s) under discussion, but I can’t guarantee I won’t geek out about related things from later in the trilogy or elsewhere in Tolkien lore. Avoid the footnotes if you’re worried about spoilers—they contain the worst of my nerd babble.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS
The Fellowship of the Ring – Book II
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
Chapter 2: The Council of Elrond
Frodo spends the morning after Elrond’s feast walking along the riverside terraces of Rivendell with Sam at his side. They run into Bilbo and Gandalf, who remind Frodo of the “great council” to be held that day. Frodo is less than enthusiastic, though, and hopes to have time for a hike along the valley.
(Don’t get your hopes of Frodo. These are dark times, and dark times call for lenthy discussions of dark things. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t fangirling in anticipation of discussing said dark things.)
After some more chit-chat, a bell sounds the warning for the start of the Council (because Elrond calls his councilors the way highschools call students to class rooms) and Gandalf leads Bilbo and Frodo (and Sam, who was not invited but follows anyway) to the meeting place.
The Council of Elrond, A List of Attendees
◊ Elrond, Gandalf, and Frodo (obviously)
◊ Glorfindel, Glóin, and Aragorn
◊ Gimli, Glóin’s son
◊ Erestor, Elrond’s chief elf-councilor
◊ A gaggle of lesser, unnamed elf-councilors
◊ Galdor, an elf from the Grey Havens (an elven port city) who was sent by Círdan the Shipwright1
◊ Legolas, son of Thranduil, Elf-king of Mirkwood (you remember Thranduil, yes? From The Hobbit? Of course you do.)
◊ Boromir, a Man from Gondor and the son of Denethor, Lord of Minas Tirith
Once everyone is introduced to everyone else, the Council gets down to business. First on the agenda is the sharing of news. It’s mostly bad (surprise), but particularly alarming is the news from Erebor (aka the Lonely Mountain).
News From Erebor, or What Glóin Had to Say
◊ Years ago, many dwarves in Erebor started speaking of returning to Moria (the once-great Dwarven city in the Misty Mountains, now long-abandoned).
◊ Despite the dangers known to reside in Moria (orcs, goblins, and worse—”the nameless fear”), Balin took a host of dwarves, including Ori and Óin, and left to reclaim it.
◊ Dáin, King of Erebor, initiallyreceived word from Balin that Moria had been retaken, but no one has heard from Balin and company in almost thirty years.
(I think, in this case, no news is probably not good news.)
Glóin also tells the Council that, a year ago, a messenger came from Mordor to Dáin with an offer of friendship from “Lord Sauron the Great.” The terms were simple: Sauron will return the Seven (the Rings of Power that once belonged to the Dwarves) in exchange for information on hobbits, specifically a thieving hobbit who took “a little ring, the least of rings” which Sauron “fancies.” Dáin (wisely) gave no answer.
Favorite Quote Break!
Mordor Messenger: Find only news of the thief, whether he still lives and where, and you shall have great reward and lasting friendship from the Lord. Refuse, and things will not seem so well. Do you refuse?
Dáin: I say neither yea nor nay. I must consider this message and what it means beneath its fair cloak.
Mordor Messenger: Consider well, but not too long.
Dáin: The time of my thought is my own to spend.
Mordor Messenger: For the present.
The messenger’s return to Erebor is imminent, and he’ll expect an answer. Dáin, unable to betray the location of a hobbit (who is most certainly Bilbo) to the Enemy, but also unable to refuse aid (because Sauron probably isn’t the sort to accept no for an answer), sent Glóin to Rivendell to warn Bilbo and seek Elrond’s council.
“There is naught that you can do, other than to resist, with hope or without. But you do not stand alone.”
(Elrond, so helpful. What was that thing Frodo said about Elves and council? Oh yes: Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.)
As it turns out, the purpose of the Council might actually be helpful to Glóin and Dáin, at least in shedding some light onto the ring Sauron is after. Which brings us to the second point on the agenda: a ring has been found and it is probably the Ring. Brace yourselves, folks, Elrond has a whole lot say on this topic.
The Rings of Power, An Abridged History
◊ They were forged in the Second Age2
◊ During that time, the Elves of Eregion3 were BFFs with the Dwarves of Moria, and both valued knowledge above all else
◊ Sauron used their eagerness for knowledge to deceive them—under his instruction, the smiths of the Elves and the Dwarves excelled in their craft above and beyond anything that had been seen before or has been seen since
◊ The Elven-smiths created the Rings of Power—the Three (for the Elves), the Seven (for the Dwarves), and the Nine (for Men)
◊ Meanwhile, Sauron made the One to be the master over all rings so that, through it, he could seduce the lords of Elves, Dwarves, and Men to his will
◊ Celembrimbor, Elven-smith and the maker of the Three, was immediately aware of Sauron’s betrayal and hid them
◊ War and strife and the end of an Age followed
How, exactly, did the Elves and Dwarves fall for Sauron’s deception? How did they not recognize him as an evil thing who was once the most loyal servant of Morgoth (the great enemy of Middle-earth in the First Age)? Well, the thing about Sauron is that before he was a huge fiery eye, even before he was this guy, he could take physical form. And that means when he was tutoring Elves and Dwarves in the making of fancy magical rigns, he looked more like this, or possibly this if Peter Jackson got it right4, and he answered to the name Annatar the Fair. Point is, dude looked good. And he was smart to boot, with loads of wisdom on the crafting of things, because Sauron was originally one of the Maiar (powerful beings who served the Valar, the creators the world).
(Oops. Was that my outside voice? It’s probably safe to say that if I lived in Middle-earth I would succumb to the One Ring and follow Sauron fairly easily. I know, messed up. Let’s move on.)
Elrond—who definitely did not ramble on about Sauron like I just did—next talks about Númenor and the return of the Kings of Men to Middle-earth after its destruction.
(More of Sauron’s handywork. Tricksy little bastard.)
He tells of Elendil, Isildur, and Anárion, and the founding of Arnor in the North and Gondor in the South, and of how Sauron attacked those realms. And he speaks of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men and the gathering of the hosts of Gil-galad (Elven-king) and Elendil (King of Men).
Relevant Quote Break!
Elrond: I remember the splendor of their banners. It recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days5 and the hosts of Beleriand6, so many great princes and captains were assembled. And yet not so many, nor so fair, as when Thangorodrim7 was broken, and the Elves deemed that evil was ended forever, and it was not so.
Next, Elrond describes the Battle of Dagorlad8, in which he fought with the forces of Gil-galad against Sauron. Both Gil-galad and Elendil died in this battle, but Elendil’s son Isildur took Narsil (his father’s shattered sword) and used it cut the Ring from Sauron’s hand. This defeated Sauron (and ended the war) but it didn’t destroy him because (being tricksy) Sauron tied his spirit to the Ring, which Isildur kept for his own.
Not long after, Isildur died, the Ring vanished, and the shards of the sword Narsil were given to Isildur’s son, Valandil, who was then a child living in Rivendell.
But wait, there’s more, because the fate of Valandil’s heirs (and those of his cousin Melendil) is point three on the agenda, although nobody knows it yet: who is the heir to the throne of Gondor?
After the Defeat of Sauron, A Brief History of the Kingdoms of Men
In the North (Arnor)
◊ The Men of Westernesse deserted the crumbling remains of the once-great city Annúminas
◊ Valandil’s heirs settled at Fornost9 but that, too, is now long abandoned
◊ The men that remain of this kingdom (including the heirs of its kings) are now Rangers, like Aragorn
In the South (Gondor)
◊ The heirs of Melendil (son of Isildur’s brother Anárion) thrived in the cities of Osgiliath (Citadel of the Stars) on the Anduin River, Minas Ithil (Tower of the Rising Moon) at the feet of the Mountains of Shadow, and Minas Anor (Tower of the Rising Sun) at the feet of the White Mountains
◊ In Minas Anor, in the court of the king, there grew a white tree10 brought from Númenor
◊ When the line of kings eventually failed, the white tree withered
◊ Once again, evil things came out of Mordor and Minas Ithil fell, becoming Minas Morgul (Tower of Sorcery), and Minas Anor was renamed Minas Tirith (Tower of Guard) and there is now constant fighting between the two while Osgiliath, which lay between them, has been abandoned
Here, Elrond finally comes to the end of what he knows about rings and relevant history. There was a lot, so let me sum up: Sauron deceived the Elves and Dwarves into making the Rings of Power, Sauron made the One Ring and battled against the people of Middle-earth, Sauron was defeated by Isildur (weilding Narsil) but not destroyed, Isildur took the Ring, Isildur died, the Ring vanished, Narsil went to Rivendell, Isildur’s heirs became Rangers in the north, the heirs of Isildur’s brother became kings in the south, the line of kings has been broken. Oh, and Sauron is back and currently searching for a ring.
Questions, comments? Too bad, Boromir has something to say.
Gondor is Still Pretty Great, Guys—or What Boromir Had to Say
◊ There is still pride and dignity in Gondor, even though the line of kings (read also “noble blood of Númenor”) has been spent
◊ The deeds of Gondor are great (its men fight the servants of Mordor even now) and the rest of the world has no idea what danger it is in (Gondor is the only thing standing between the West and all the Mordor nasties)
◊ The Nameless Enemy (aka Sauron) has returned, smoke rises from Orodruin (aka Mount Doom), and the power of Mordor is growing
Like Glóin, Boromir has also come to Rivendell seeking Elrond’s council. A dream has haunted the sleep of his younger brother (it’s also haunted Boromir, but mostly just his brother) since Mordor’s strength began to grow.
In that dream the eastern sky grew dark and there was a growing thunder, but in the West a pale light lingered, and out of it came a voice, remote but clear, crying:
Seek for the sword that was broken:
In Imladris it dwells;
There shall be counsels taken
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That Doom is near at hand,
For Isildur’s Bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand.
Boromir and his brother couldn’t decipher the meaning of this dream (because this is fantasy and most dreams are prophetic, it is known), but they did figure out that “Imladris” is the old Elven name for Rivendell. So, despite the fact that the dream came mostly to Boromir’s brother, it was decided (by Boromir, much to his father’s displeasure) that Boromir should be the one to travel to Rivendell (he did it to protect his brother, honest) to discover what he can.
Lucky for Boromir, all the things in the dream are at the Council. Let’s break it down:
◊ Seek for the sword that was broken—This is Narsil, and we learned in Chapter 10 that a broken sword is currently in the posession of Aragorn.
◊ There shall be council taken—The Council of Elrond, obviously.
◊ There shall be shown a token—A ring, probably.
◊ For Isildur’s Bane shall waken—Isildur’s Bane is just another name for the Ring.
◊ The Halfling forth shall stand—Frodo, also obviously.
Questions, comments? Still too bad, because now Aragorn has something to say—er—do. He stands and places his broken sword upon the table.
Relevant Quote Break!
Boromir: Who are you?
Elrond: He is Aragorn son of Arathorn, and he is descended through many fathers from Isildur Elendil’s son of Minas Ithil. He is the Chief of the Dúnedain in the North, and few are now left of that folk.
Translation? He is Aragorn, son of Arathorn, and you owe him your allegiance because he is Isildur’s heir and heir to the throne of Gondor.
[Insert incredulous silence from Boromir here.]
Sensing a chance to be rid of the Ring (since it was once Isildur’s and Aragorn is apparently his heir), Frodo jumps up and suggests that Aragorn take it, because it kind of belongs to him, maybe. Aragorn (of course) refuses, and Gandalf tells Frodo to bring out the Ring for the Council to see. Which brings us the the fourth point on the agenda: has the One Ring been found? (Spoilers: yes.)
Frodo does as he’s told and brings out the Ring. Elrond declares it to be Islidur’s Bane, and there is much murmring.
Relevant Quote Break!
Boromir: Is then the doom of Minas Tirith come at last? But why should we seek a broken sword?
Aragorn: The words were not the doom of Minas Tirith, but doom and great deeds are indeed at hand. For the Sword that was Broken is the Sword of Elendil [treasured] by his heirs when all other heirlooms were lost; for it was spoken of old among us that it should be made again when the Ring was found. Now you have seen the sword that you have sought, what would you ask? Do you wish for the House of Elendil to return to the Land of Gondor?
Boromir: I was not sent to beg any boon, but to seek only the meaning of a riddle. Yet we are hard pressed, and the Sword of Elendil would be a hope beyond our hope—if such a thing could indeed return out of the shadows of the past.
Boromir’s stubborn doubt of Aragorn causes Bilbo to burst out in his defense with a lyric of his own making:
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken:
The crownless again shall be king.
Bilbo then tells Boromir that if he journeyed a hundred and ten days to hear Elrond’s council, he should listen to it. Because, seriously, if Elrond says Aragorn is the heir of Isildur, it’s probably true.
Aragorn, for his part, understands Boromir’s doubts (he doesn’t look much like Elendil or Isildur, afterall), and he says as much—right before declaring that, whatever Boromir wants, he will be coming to Minas Tirith. Isildur’s Bane has been found, war is coming, and Narsil must be reforged. And that’s the end of that.
Or not, because Boromir also doubts that the Ring Frodo bears is actually Isildur’s Bane because can anyone really identify something lost so long ago?
(Quit questioning the word of the Wise, Boromir. There’s room for you and Aragorn in Minas Tirith.)
In answer, Elrond calls on Bilbo to tell the Council about finding the Ring in Gollum’s cave (which we’ve heard before). Next, Frodo shares the events of his journey from Hobbiton to Rivendell while carrying the Ring—including his encounters with the Black Riders.
When Frodo finishes, the Council (and not just Boromir) still don’t want to believe that the Ring is the Ring, and some wonder why the wizard Saruman isn’t present at this rather dire meeting, since he is considered one of the Wise. For this, Gandalf is called upon to share his part of the story—mostly that bit where he disappeared for the whole book. He likes to do that, Gandalf. Happened in The Hobbit too.
And, so, Gandalf finally reveals what he’s been up to since Chapter 3.
That’s it for this post! Where did Sam disappear to? What happened to Gandalf while he was off screen? Will the Council believe Isildur’s Bane has been found? Will Boromir say the thing?? Stay tuned for the conclusion of Chapter 2.2, same Elf-time, same Elf-channel!
While I’ve got your attention, what did everyone think of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug? The Legolas-Tauriel-Kili thing was a little…odd to me, but I liked everything else. So much material was pulled from sources outside of The Hobbit that it’s kind of impossible for me not to like it. That bit in Dol Guldur with Gandalf and Sauron? Loved it. Plus, the pacing and tone was much more even than the first movie. And how fabulous was Thranduil? I mean, seriously? So great.
Love the latest Hobbit movie? Hate it? Sound off in the comments!
USELESS TRIVIA FOOTNOTES
1 Círdan the Shipwright: One of the oldest and wisest of Elves, and the bearer of one of the Three Rings of Power: Narya. Spoiler in white: Círdan gave Narya to Gandalf.
2 Second Age: The time between the Fall of Morgoth (which marks the end of the First Age) and the Defeat of Sauron after the Ring was cut from his hand by Isildur (which marks the end of the Second Age). The Lord of the Rings occurs during the Third Age.
3 Eregion: aka Hollin was an Elven kingdom west of the Misty Mountains. It fell during the battle between the Elves and Sauron in the Second Age.
4 If Peter Jackson got it right: It’s a little known fact (one I just discovered, actually) that in early versions of the script for The Return of the King, Sauron was going to appear in his fairer form near the end of the film. He was to walk out of Mordor during the final battle when Aragorn called him forth, he’d say some things, and then expload via blinding light into his armored form to fight Aragorn. Instead, we got Aragorn vs Troll, but apparently footage of Aragorn vs Sauron still exists and, yes, I will be spending my weekend scouring the extended editions for it.
5 Elder Days: Refers to the time of the Elves, the eldest children of the Valar. Namely, the First Age.
6 Beleriand: The name, in the First Age, of Eriador—the Shire is now located in what was once West Beleriand. Remember the Old Forest? More on that later.
7 Thangorodrim: The great fortress of Morgoth, Enemy of the Peoples of Middle-earth in the First Age.
8 Battle of Dagorlad: The battle plain of Dagorlad, just outside of Mordor, is now known as the Dead Marshes.
9 Fornost: According the Prologue, the hobbits of the Shire were once under the rule of the King at Fornost.
10 White Tree: The white tree that grew in Minas Anor/Tirith was planted from the seed of a tree Isildur brought from Númenor, which can be traced all the way back to Telperion in Valinor, one of the Two Trees that lit the world before the sun and moon.
Logan Balestrino is the Publishing Assistant for Del Rey/Spectra and Digital Content at the Random House Publishing Group. She is prone to Doctor Who rants, anime marathons, and extensive ramblings on Elven lineage and the creation of language in Middle-earth. When Logan isn’t working or hanging upside down at her aerials class, she can usually be found saving Hyrule or talking herself out of buying another pair of shoes.