In the sixth chapter of The Two Towers, Gandalf and his companions go to confront ThÃ©oden and it’s not what I expected. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Lord of the Rings.
CHAPTER SIX: THE KING OF THE GOLDEN HALL
I’m starting to see how Tolkien is going to give me a lot more story than I thought there was going to be, though I admit that I feel like I’m in the dark here. This is a good thing! It’s terribly exciting not just to go into a series so unprepared, but I’m still surprised that I somehow did not pick up any significant details about this book over the years. This is all a genuine surprise to me.
I admit that this might be one of the reasons I’m enjoying myself, but I’d also like to think that I truly do admire and appreciate this novel. The story is fantastic, yes, but most days, I find myself in awe of the scope of Middle-earth. As a writer, and one who is working on my first novel NOW THAT I HAVE ACTUAL TIME, The Lord of the Rings is making me re-think the concept of a setting in a book. The fictional world of Middle-earth is so immense and so complete. And I haven’t even read the appendices or the Silmarillion! I don’t even know THE HALF OF IT. I suppose I was worried that all the information Tolkien provides would bore me. It’s one of the only things I really knew about The Lord of the Rings that applied to the entire novel: J.R.R. Tolkien created a total world.
It’s impressive to me that even as we move into the second “book” and inch ever closer to Mordor, there’s still stuff for me to learn. There are still entire towns and cities for Tolkien to create for me, and it’s here in chapter six that a part of Rohan is given more detail.
I’d forgotten that Legolas can see farther than most creatures ever, and I instantly wanted that power. I’m nearsighted, so this would be a blessing. I was also just completely exhausted reading the first couple pages of this chapter. It’s one of the things I’m happy that Tolkien constantly acknowledges. This journey is not easy on the bodies of the travelers, and that’s not even taking into account the idea of mental exhaustion. But whatever Gandalf has planned for ThÃ©oden must be important since he has them press on overnight just to reach the King of the Mark of Rohan in time.Â At the same time, Tolkien also makes a point to focus on the idea that war is beginning to fray the nerves of people in this part of Middle-earth. Gandalf warns that they all must be careful as they come upon the Rohirrim.
Actually, that’s a great thing I’d like to discuss. More than ever before, the threat of war looms. It affects the characters in this novel in ways we’ve not seen, and the cold treatment they all receive by the guard of Edoras is a sign of how things are changing in Middle-earth. I admit that I am starting to get a bit antsy about the idea of a gigantic battle in this book, and I have a feeling I might actually get one.
Well, I’m skipping ahead. Let’s discuss Edoras and the DISASTER that happens once they’re allowed inside. I do love how formal everyone speaks in Middle-earth, how important family names and histories are for even the most basic of requests. I mean, the fact that Aragorn can namecheck a king or two and it’s like owning a skeleton key is just a beautiful thing to me. But, as I’ve said before, it’s the small details that make this book so entertaining to me, and Tolkien is the master of providing them to us. Eldoras is no exception, and it’s one of those settings in The Lord of the Rings where I just love it so much that I want to go live there. I love the stony path that cuts through town, the wood houses, the stone channel, and the SPRING BURSTING FROM BENEATH THE STONE SHAPED LIKE A HORSE’S HEAD. Sweet summer child, I am SO PREPARED TO LIVE OUT MY DAYS HERE.
Upon arriving at the Golden Hall, we’re treated to a scene that I can’t help but interpret as being one of the funniest things in the entire book. I do think it’s purposely played to be a bit silly, even if it does have serious implications for the story later in this chapter. HÃ¡ma (BLESS HIS SOUL) is required to ask that everyone coming any further must leave all weapons before entering. I was not surprised at all that Aragorn refused to do so. I think he’s possibly the most reasonable member of the Company, but he’s got an ego that clashes with that reason from time to time. This is a perfect example of that. Yes, AndÃºril is an ~*important sword*~ and I get Aragorn’s hesitance to give it up, but he’s perhaps a bit too stubborn about it. Gandalf had just warned them not to be abrasive with the people of Edoras, and Aragorn is already ignoring that. It is beautiful to me that after Aragorn makes this huge scene about no one touching his precious mansword (THAT SOUNDS DIRTY I’M SORRY) and such, Gimli is like MEH WHATEVER and puts his axe down. Even better? After all this talk of sacrificing weapons for the sake of satisfying ThÃ©oden and the customs of Edoras, Gandalf refuses to give up his staff. YOU SASSY WIZARD. I LOVE YOU. I am so glad he is back. THE SASSINESS QUOTIENT HAD DROPPED FAR TOO LOW FOR ME TO HANDLE.
Aaaaannndddd then it’s all just fucked up. I didn’t expect that the meeting with ThÃ©oden would go particularly well, as Gandalf had already warned the group that things weren’t well here, but I certainly did not anticipate downright rejection on the part of ThÃ©oden. It was interesting to me that ThÃ©oden harked on a single point: that Gandalf always brought about bad news, bad tidings, or bad luck. Wormtongue, who appears to be some sort of assistant or official counsel to the King of the Mark, makes the same point, though he adds that Gandalf meddles. Even if this is ultimately shown to be an attempt by Wormtongue to thwart Rohan, I still think there’s some truth here. Gandalf really does meddle! He is a brilliant wizard and he’s rarely shown to be wrong, but he appears in people’s lives, changes them, and then leaves. I would actually be happy to see Tolkien address this further myself.
For now, though, Gandalf proves to be more useful and sneaky than ever, and I sat with my mouth agape as he threw off his cloak, revealing that his little hobble was a ruse to get past HÃ¡ma with his staff. We really haven’t seen Gandalf at full power much in this book and in The Hobbit, and I think it’s one of the best choices that Tolkien made for this character. When he does show off how powerful he is, it’s much more shocking to me. I mean, come on:
He raised his staff. There was a roll of thunder. The sunlight was blotted out from the eastern windows; the whole hall became suddenly dark as night. The fire faded to sullen embers. Only Gandalf could be see, standing white and tall before the blackened hearth.
In the gloom they heard the hiss of Wormtongue’s voice: ‘Did I not counsel you, lord, to forbid his staff? That fool, HÃ¡ma, has betrayed us!’ There was a flash as if lightening had cloven the roof. Then all was silent. Wormtongue sprawled on his face.
HOW BADASS IS THIS? I adore that Tolkien does not even bother to describe the mechanics of the magic that Gandalf uses. Because of this, it’s much easier to believe that he has this unending capacity to do weird and powerful shit that we can’t even begin to imagine. His display, his spectacle of light and dark, is what convinces ThÃ©oden to cast off the darkness of his own doubt and fear, the very thing that had been keeping him reticent towards joining any sort of fight against the Dark Lord. I JUST LOVE THIS, OKAY?
Also, what is with Aragorn and pretty ladies? I cannot pretend to understand the moment between Ã‰owyn and him at all, except that apparently Aragorn constantly has these earth-stopping moments of attraction to every woman he comes across.
I suppose I don’t technically understand what happened with ThÃ©oden either. Gandalf shows him the beauty of his land, and he’s suddenly “freed” from something? Did Wormtongue cast a spell on him, or was this meant as a way to highlight how much he’d been taken in by another person? I do think it’s the latter, especially since Gandalf makes reference to Wormtongue’s “wit” more than once. I think this is a case of simply having a bad advisor, one who emotionally and politically manipulated the situation so that the King of the Mark would be extremely reluctant to do anything, going so far as to turn on his own people (like Ã‰omer). Yet it’s Gandalf who is able to break this attitude out of ThÃ©oden, and it’s neat to me that it just took him showing him another perspective.
And so it comes about that ThÃ©oden will lead his people to war, first against Isengard and the evil will of Saruman. First, though, HÃ¡ma brings Wormtongue before ThÃ©oden and SHIT GETS REAL. I simply believed that Wormtongue was just an ambitious person, one who wanted his own things for Rohan, but Gandalf surprised me when he accused Wormtongue as being paid by Saruman. WHAT? WHAT? OMG HE IS LIKE A SPY. holy shit THIS IS SHIT GETTING REAL. I was impressed with Gandalf’s decision to allow Wormtongue to live and choose his fate, and it’s something that relates to what I brought up earlier. Gandalf meddles, yes, but he leaves people with a choice. He did this with Bilbo in The Hobbit, and he did it with Frodo at the beginning of the book, and now he gives Wormtongue a choice: stay with his people and fight against Saruman, or return to the master who paid him to betray the people of Rohan. He chooses to flee, and I honestly wasn’t surprised about that. How could anyone trust him if he stayed? I think it is important, though, that Tolkien doesn’t choose to portray Wormtongue as a man who existed to be evil. There’s an entire section where Gandalf discusses the fact that at one time, he really was a “friend of Rohan.” NOW IF ONLY THIS COULD BE APPLIED TO SOME OF OUR ANTAGONISTS. You know, the Orcs perhaps? I’M JUST SAYING.
As the town prepares for war, with all the non-warriors leaving to some protected place in the mountains, I was both disappointed and impressed with the treatment of women. Are there no women Rohirrim? Like, seriously, not one warrior or rider who is a woman? But then both HÃ¡ma and ThÃ©oden name Ã‰owyn as the heir in case the King does not return, and there is literally NO ARGUMENT ABOUT IT AT ALL. No shitty moments of people going, “Well, gosh, can we really leave a lady in charge?” Nope, everyone is like WELL, THAT IS RATHER SENSIBLE AND PERFECT. I am so conflicted!
‘I will forget my wrath for a while, Ã‰omer son of Ã‰omund,’ said Gimli; ‘but if ever you chance to see the Lady Galadriel with your eyes, then you shall acknowledge her the fairest of ladies, or our friendship will end.’
GIMLI YOU COULD NOT BE ANY MORE PERFECT. I think this is the best sentence in the entire goddamn book. Oh my god, Gimli loves Galadriel so much.
Did anyone else think this chapter ended on a rather somber note? I was excited that the Riders were off to fight Saruman, especially as a unified group, but the last image we get is of Ã‰owyn, alone at the doors of the Golden Hall, a silent town before her. Ugh, is that foreshadowing? WHAT IS HAPPENING?