2004-08-02 13:51:20 UTC
Chapter 5 - The White Rider
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Still looking for Merry and Pippin, the 3 companions are camped out at
the edge of Fangorn forest, close to where the orc bodies were burned by
the riders of Rohan. They wait for daylight to decipher the riddles in
the ground. As a ranger, Aragorn can read even a "bent blade (of
grass)" to find signs in it. The 3 crawled and groped on the ground,
combing the battlefield for signs or tokens of the hobbits. Aragorn
finds a mallorn leaf of Lorien, with some bread crumbs beside it
(lembas) and some cut cords. There is some nice dialogue between the
three about what the signs all mean. They figure that the hobbit(s)
have escaped via Fangorn, and they decide to go after them. More signs
await them furthur on.
A word about Fangorn. Gimli the dwarf finds the forest threatening,
because they were warned about it by Celeborn. (For more on this
warning check in the discussion to the chapter "Riders of Rohan.")
Legolas feels that there is only the faintest echo of "dark places where
the hearts of the trees are black. There is no malice near us; but
there is watchfulness and anger." The trees have been harmed. 
They find the footprints of both hobbits near the Entwash river, from
two days before. Later near the end of Treebeard's Hill they find more
hobbit marks, and some strange tracks which Aragorn does not understand.
They look around from the ledge, and see the Great River, and an old
man dressed in rags walking in the trees. Again, they felt suspicuous,
and as in the case of Fangorn itself, something "held a hiddenpower--or
They try to attack him but Aragorn restrains them, saying it is not
right to "shoot an old man so, at unawares and unchallenged, whatever
fear or doubt be upon us. Watch and wait!" The man tries to talk to
them but they continue to stand wary.
He toys with them a bit, talking to them as a friend, before the grey
cloak falls off and they see a white one beneath. They think it is
Saruman, and attack him, but they fail. They look at him closely and
find it is Gandalf.  Gandalf informs them that he *is* Saruman, but
Saruman as he should have been.  He has gained more powers of
foresight, but become less perceptive of things nearby. (Like a
mathematician in a sense, forgetful about everyday concerns.) They
exchange stories. Gandalf remarks Boromir suffered a sore trial for a
Gandalf then explains how he sees things at that point in time. The
Enemy knows the Ring is abroad, but he thinks that the Ring is being
taken to Minas Tirith. He thinks it would be used to attack him, as he
would do if he were in that position. That they would destroy the ring
and let no-one take his place is something he has not even considered.
So rather than defend Mordor, which would have been a devastating blow
to the ringbearer, Sauron attacked Minas Tirith instead.  
Gandalf explains about Treebeard and why Fangorn is "dangerous". It is
dangerous in the sense that he himself is, and all people (with power)
are dangerous. It seems that in Tolkiens universe everything is
inherently dangerous to its foes, in the natural world. 
Once more the old, ancient aspect of Fangorn is highlighted. Fangorns
"long slow wrath is brimming over." Compare with the haste of the Dark
Lord. "The Ents are going to wake up and find that they are strong."
Compare to the fear and weakness of Sauron.  Aragorn is told to go
to Edoras, and reveal himself (with his sword) for the purpose for which
he has waited so long. 
Gandalf then lets them know how he escaped from Moria. "Long I fell,
and he fell with me. His fire was about me, and I was burned." (Note
how he uses the passive voice for the Balrog, and the active voice for
himself.) They escaped the abyss; Gandalf following the Balrog (who
knew his way around.) Then on the mountaintop Gandalf threw him over
the side. "Then darkness took me." "I was sent back--for a brief
time."  "...the slow everlasting groan of overburdened stone."
Gandalf calls Shadowfax, and he arrives with the company's horses.
Legolas understands what made the horses whinny and neigh (Chapter
2)--they had met Shadowfax, their leader.  They set out for Rohan,
to meet King Theoden.
Q1. What had harmed the trees?
Q2. Why all the ancient, hidden power, menace concentrated into one
place? What a contrast to Gondor and Mordor--the former all ancient
little power, the other all power but with no ancient roots.
Q3. What veil was over Aragorns sight that prevented him from seeing
Q4. What is he talking about ("I am Saruman?")? We need more
explanation of this than that.
Q5. Is the Ring more of a trial for those in positions of power, than
for other folks? Does this explain why hobbits such as Sam are less
likely to succumb to it?
Q6. Gandalf says about Saruman that "he has no woodcraft." What does
Q7. Gandalf says to Gimli who almost attacked him "Bless you, Gimli son
of Gloin! Maybe you will see us both together one day and judge between
us!" Why bother with this passage? It has a Biblical ring to it.
Q8. What is the significance of having Treebeard named Fangorn, the same
name as the Forest? It sounds like an ancient Greek practise of
personifying abstract concepts with individual characters e.g. Psyche,
Q. Why does Gandalf say "I am ... Gandalf the White, but Black is
mightier still?" What is the hierarchy of colours?
Q10. What a downer, to go and reveal yourself to rustic little Rohan. I
wonder what this little plot twist was for.
Q11. What does "then darkness took me" mean?
Q12. Who "sent" Gandalf back?
Q13. "The slow everlasting groan of overburdened stone." Would anyone
want to interpret this as an allegorical description of the proletariat?
Q14. Was there predestination or some other power at work, maybe
Gandalf, who forced the horses to flee to make the company go to
Fangorn, knowing that they would not need horses in there?
Any other comments, suggestions, banter, just go ahead.