This post is a continuation of my reflections from my fall reread of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. An introduction to this series can be read in this post. The other parts in this series can be found via the links below.
The Two Towers
Do you remember your first reading of The Lord of the Rings? What was your reaction when you discovered Gandalf was not dead, as you and the members of the Company believed, but fully alive?
In this quote, I wonder if Tolkien has a different definition of dangerous than we are familiar with. Gandalf is speaking of Fangorn as though he were a friend and Gimli muses that he thought Fangorn was dangerous. Gandalf replies,
“Dangerous!”cried Gandalf. “And so am I, very dangerous: more dangerous than anything you will ever meet, unless you are brought alive before the seat of the Dark Lord. And Aragorn is dangerous, and Legolas is dangerous. You are beset with dangers, Gimli son of Glóin; for you are dangerous yourself in your own fashion. Certainly the forest of Fangorn is perilous—not least to those that are too ready with their axes; and Fangorn himself, he is perilous too; yet he is wise and kindly nonetheless.”1
It seems in the Middle Ages, dangerous meant “difficult to deal with, arrogant, severe,” stemming from an old definition of danger meaning “power, power to harm, mastery, authority, control.”2 Perhaps this is the definition Tolkien had in mind.
Pride is quick to unjustly accuse others of pride. Saruman is the head of the White Council, but when he and the other Istari came to Middle-earth from over the Sea, Círdan the Shipwright felt that Gandalf (who came last and cloaked as the lesser) was the greatest of them.3 In other works by Tolkien, namely Unfinished Tales, Saruman senses Gandalf’s hidden power and resents and fears him. Here in Isengard, he openly accuses Gandalf of pride: “I endeavoured to advise you for your own good, but you scarcely listened. You are proud and do not love advice, having indeed a store of your own wisdom.”4 Yet Saruman’s curt refusal of Gandalf’s help and mercy is a showing of his own greater pride.
Why does Sam despise Gollum so much? Sam is not usually so eager to think ill of any, though as I mentioned in Part 2 of this series, he is quick to discern evil. But Gollum has done no great evil before Sam reveals his dislike. True, Gollum has a reputation for sneaky behavior and is more than capable of treachery. Sam considers his position of guard and companion seriously and he fears for Frodo’s safety. Is it too much to think that Sam is jealous of Gollum because Frodo trusts him also, instead of Sam alone?
In Chapter 4 of the fourth book we meet Boromir’s brother Faramir. The two are strikingly different, yet curiously similar. They are Men of Gondor and, as Faramir says, “truth speakers”: boasting seldom and then performing, or dying in the attempt.5 Though Boromir is ever ready to proclaim the greatness of Gondor he speaks little of his own deeds. Both are men of few but shrewd, and at times haughty, words. They are fearlessly valiant and their lives are of little value in their own eyes when faced with the safety of their city or those in their care.
1J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers, Book 3, Chapter 5
3“But Círdan from their first meeting at the Grey Havens divined in him the greatest spirit and the wisest.” J.R.R. Tolkien, Unfinished Tales, edited by Christopher Tolkien, Part 4.2
4J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers, Book 3, Chapter 10
5Ibid., Book 4, Chapter 5