FoTR - The Bridge of Khazad-dûm: Bk II, Chapter V

A chapter by chapter as well as general discussion of Tolkien's masterpiece
Merry
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Postby Merry » Wed Dec 06, 2006 4:52 am

Well, you know, Airwin, I think there are many, many points in the story. Any time we try to nail it down to one point, we miss the point, maybe. (That makes no sense, I know!) But in his letters, Tolkien says that the story is 'fundamentally Catholic'. Many, including myself (I'm a Catholic), have speculated about what that means, since he doesn't exactly identify it with a big neon sign! One speaker at the Oxford conference said that if the LOTR were a painting, the religious element would be the canvas, not the paint.

I do think that one of the strengths of LOTR is that JRRT doesn't try to smack us in the face with it. Subtle, our author was! 8)
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Beren
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Postby Beren » Mon Dec 11, 2006 2:31 pm

"I am a servant of the secret Fire, weilder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun. Go back to the shadow! You cannot pass."

This one sentence is incredible... I have taken months trying to figure out its complete meaning. You can work word by word or piece by piece. In this one sentence is enough for some pages of analysing.
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Lindariel
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Postby Lindariel » Mon Dec 11, 2006 5:23 pm

Beren, I love this passage too, and it is certainly full of many possible meanings. With the assistance of The Encyclopedia of Arda, here are some of the possibilities:

"I am a servant of the secret Fire"

Secret Fire: The fire at the heart of the World

"Therefore Iluvatar gave to their vision Being, and set it amid the Void, and the Secret Fire was sent to burn at the heart of the World; and it was called Ea." -- Valaquenta

A mysterious power, never explained in detail, that seems to represent the principle of existence and creation. Little can be said of it for certain, though it seems to be identified with, or at least connected to, the Flame Imperishable of Ilúvatar. When Gandalf met the Balrog on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, he spoke of himself as a servant of the Secret Fire. It has been conjectured that these words referred to his fire-ring Narya, but it seems unlikely that he would reveal this to a bitter enemy. More plausibly, Gandalf's words identify him as a servant of the power of Ilúvatar.


"Wielder of the flame of Anor"

Flame of Anor: A power wielded by Gandalf

A mysterious power claimed by Gandalf in the face of Durin's Bane. It is nowhere else referred to, and so its particular meaning remains unclear. Anor is the Sun, and so literally the 'flame of Anor' would be the light of the Sun, which originated in the fiery fruit of Laurelin, one of the Two Trees of Valinor. Gandalf seems to be referring, then, to the power he gains as a servant of the Lords of the West, in defiance to the corrupted darkness of the Balrog.

Alternatively, it has been suggested that Gandalf is referring here to Narya, the Ring of Fire that he bore. This idea certainly fits with the notion that he was the 'wielder' of the Ring, and that it had a fiery character. However, it seems highly unlikely that Gandalf would want to reveal his ownership of a Ring of Power - a matter of utmost secrecy - to one of his greatest enemies.

Actually, the 'flame of Anor' seems to have been a product of simple textual evolution. The earliest forms of this passage were variations on: 'I am the master of White Flame. The Red Fire cannot come this way' (and one variation mixes in the idea of Black Shadow, too). These terms seem to be symbolic - 'white' for the powers of good, but 'red' or 'black' for Sauron and his servants. As the text developed, the 'Red Fire' and 'Black Shadow' were lost. The 'White Flame' remained, but developed into the more poetic 'flame of Anor'. On this reading, then, the 'flame of Anor' doesn't refer to a specific thing, but is Gandalf's way of announcing what he stands for, or perhaps his power as a servant of the Valar. This seems to give further support to the first possibility mentioned above. (The original texts for this passage are found in The History of Middle-earth volume 7, X The Mines of Moria (2): The Bridge).


"The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun."

Flame of Udun: The Balrog of Morgoth

Gandalf's name for the Balrog that dwelt in the depths of Moria, that he faced on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, and ultimately defeated. 'Flame' is a reference to its nature as a fire-demon, while 'Udûn' was the name of Morgoth's oldest and greatest fortress in the north of the World, more commonly called Utumno, and the Balrog's ancient home.

There is no direct connection between this 'Udûn' and the rounded valley to the northwest of Mordor with the same name. There is an indirect connection, though: that region also took its name from the stronghold of Sauron's master.


"Go back to the Shadow!"

Shadow: The shroud of darkness

A term that apparently refers to the bewilderment and darkness accompanying certain enchantments. Sauron's tower of Barad-dûr was surrounded by Shadow, and the term is also associated with the land of Lórien and with the Ents.


Therefore, I would render Gandalf's statement as follows:

"I am a servant of Eru Ilvatar, the Creator, wielder of [the power of the Sun, the power of the Lords of the West (Light/Right), the power of Narya the Fire-Ring]. You will not defeat me or pass by me to assail my friends. The power given you by your master Morgoth will not help you to defeat me, creature from Utumno. Go back to your hiding place in the bowels of the earth/Go back to your master in his nothingness! You will never defeat me."

Your thoughts?
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

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Postby Beren » Mon Dec 11, 2006 5:45 pm

I can follow but i do not agree... personally i see the "Go back to the schadow" revers to the fact that the Balrog is a creature from the first era and does not belong in this period of time... he CANNOT PASS does not only mean he cannot cross the bridge, but refers that he cannot stay in this age and needs to GO BACK. "Go back to the shadow" means go back to the nihilistique nothingness of Morgoth, where you belong (read HOME X).
Literary translated Udûn means "dark pit", the house of Morgoth under Thangorodrim (not of Sauron! he again refers to the first age) - which was also called the 'underworld'. So "The Flame of Udûn" means the flame of the underworld. This means the Balrog.

As we know Gandalf he does not reveal much of what he thinks. Why would he say these words to the Balrog... did he really want to say that he wielded a ring of power? Did he want the Balrog to know this? Even his companions did not know.

About the Flame Imperishable we can read this interesting quote (in Morgoth's Ring):
Quote:
The 'Flame Imperishable' appears to mean the Creative activity of Eru (in some sense distinct from or within Him), by which things could be given a 'real' and independent (though derivative and created) existence.


So this means the Ainur could use this 'secret fire' as long as they used it in harmony with the music. The ones who where playing the music right had much more chance to find this fire, while the others could not find it. But it does not mean that the others (the evil ones) could not use some kind of other fire (flame). I think what Gandalfs tries to say is this: I'm am the 'good', the white light, you are evil 'the black' go back to the age where you belong.
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Postby Philipa » Tue Dec 12, 2006 2:05 am

Beren I think your interpretation is spot on. My gut feeling about where the Balrog was being sent back to by Gandalf was a hunch and the same. Only knowing the Balrog was from the first age and the creation of Morgoth was the clue.
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Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Wed Dec 13, 2006 5:23 pm

I always thought that the 'Shadow' meant back to the depths of Moria, but then I'd never noticed the capital letter, which certainly makes it something more! It's good to look at this wonderful passage in more detail - it's a thrilling moment in the book, perhaps because it hints at all sorts of mysteries about Gandalf.
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Beren
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Postby Beren » Thu Dec 14, 2006 8:43 am

It indeed does... funny thing is here Gandalf first mentions he is a "steward" and he does say this a second time to Denethor the steward of Gondor. Fascinating thing is that he says... i'm a steward also, didn't you know. Here we see clearly what Gandalf means. He serves all things created for the Good of Illuvatar. He seeks no dominion, he seeks to serve. He places his stewardship in comparison to the stewardship of Denethor. The steward of Gondor had forgotten what stewardship actually meant and even let people call him Lord. The same happens on the bridge where Gandalf shows himself a true steward and opposes the Balrog.
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Postby Iolanthe » Fri Dec 15, 2006 5:44 pm

Excellent point, Beren. I'd never made that steward connection before. I've read other pieces where people make arguments that certain characters in LOTR are created in opposition to each other, but this is a new one to me. The good and bad Steward. Very revealing. No wonder Gandalf has so little patience with Denethor. I've found the passage:

"'Unless the king should come again?' said Gandalf. 'Well, my lord Steward, it is your task to keep some kingdom still against that event which few now look to see. In that task you shall have all the aid that you are pleased to ask for. But I will say this: the rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?' And with that he turned and strode from the hall with Pippin running at his side."

Nice to see such an important detail carried through to a later scene like this.
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Beren
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Postby Beren » Fri Dec 15, 2006 5:48 pm

After reading the books for over 50 times you start noticing such things... haha... I was actually thinking about the stewardship of Gandalf earlier this week. It is very important in understanding Gandalf if we understand what he means with being a steward. Also it opens a question to all of us... can we be like stewards for our own world?
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Merry
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Postby Merry » Sat Dec 16, 2006 6:06 am

'Stewardship' has become an important word in post-Vatican II Catholicism. It refers to our service, in time, talent, and treasure, to the Church, our community, and the world. I don't know that it was used much by Catholics during Tolkien's time, though. Or maybe he was ahead of his time in his use of the idea.
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Lindariel
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Postby Lindariel » Sat Dec 16, 2006 11:03 pm

Merry, there is the parable of the wise and foolish stewards in the New Testament that certainly conveys the concept of our collective and individual responsibilities to make the very best use of our talents and resources. To do less is to repudiate the life and the gifts that have been given to us.

I think this idea flows very well into Gandalf's charge as a Steward of Middle-earth -- to use all his talents and resources to ensure that Middle-earth survives and thrives.
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

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Postby Iolanthe » Thu Dec 21, 2006 11:06 am

Stewardship is also another quality that separates Gandalf from Saruman - it's selfless serving not self-serving. Saruman falls into the latter whereas Gandalf never forgets why he has been sent.
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Lindariel
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Postby Lindariel » Thu Dec 21, 2006 3:38 pm

I think Gandalf's faithfulness in his service as one of the Istari in Middle-earth is due to the extensive time he spent as the Maia Olorin visiting with Nienna the Vala and learning the qualities of Pity and Mercy from her.

Throughout the book, Gandalf's instinct is to try to heal and understand, rather than condemn out of hand. He praises Bilbo's act of Pity to Gollum and seeks healing for Gollum with the Wood-elves after Aragorn succeeds in capturing him.

Even in his dealings with Saruman, Gandalf is merciful, giving him many opportunities to repent what he has done and join the Men of the West in their cause. But Saruman is completely unrepentant, and Gandalf is left with no choice but to break his staff. Later, the olive branch is extended to Saruman once again when the party traveling back to Rivendell encounters Saruman and Grima on the road. With Saruman, I think Gandalf is very careful to remember "there but for the grace of Eru go I."

I found the following interesting passage about the selection of the Istari in the Unfinished Tales this morning:

Most of the remaining writings about the Istari (as a group) are unhappily no more than very rapid jottings, often illegible. Of major interest, however, is a brief and very hasty sketch of a narrative, telling of a council of the Valar, summoned it seems by Manwe ('and maybe he called upon Eru for counsel?'), at which it was resolved to send out three emissaries to Middle-earth. 'Who would go? For they must be mighty, peers of Sauron, but must forgo might, and clothe themselves in flesh so as to treat on equality and win the trust of Elves and Men. But this would imperil them, dimming their wisdom and knowledge, and confusing them with fears, cares, and weariness coming from the flesh.' But two only came forward: Curumo [Saruman], who was chosen by Aule, and Alatar [one of the Blue Wizards], who was sent by Orome. Then Manwe asked, where was Orolin? And Olorin, who was clad in grey, and having just entered from a journey had seated himself at the edge of the council, asked what Manwe would have of him. Manwe replied that he wished Olorin to go as the third messenger to Middle-earth (and it is remarked in parentheses that 'Olorin was a lover of the Eldar that remained', apparently to explain Manwe's choice). But Olorin declared that he was too weak for such a task, and that he feared Sauron. Then Manwe said that that was all the more reason why he should go, and that he commanded Olorin (illegible words follow that seem to contain the word 'third'). But at that Varda looked up and said: 'Not as the third'; and Curumo remembered it.

The note ends with the statement that Curumo [Saruman] took Aiwendil [Radagast] because Yavanna begged him, and that Alatar took Pallando [the other Blue Wizrd] as a friend.


Interesting, yes? It seems Gandalf began his mission to Middle-earth in complete humility, i.e., feeling unequal to the task and afraid of Sauron. And in Curumo/Saruman's response to Varda's comment that Olorin would not be 'the third', we see the beginnings of the conflict between Saruman and Gandalf.

There is also this interesting passage from the Unfinished Tales that provides additional fuel for Saruman's enmity towards Gandalf:

But Cirdan from their first meeting at the Grey Havens divined in him [Gandalf] the greatest spirit and the wisest; and he welcomed him with reverence, and he gave to his keeping the Third Ring, Narya the Red.

'For,' said he, 'great labors and perils lie before you, and lest your task prove too great and wearisome, take this Ring for your aid and comfort. It was entrusted to me only to keep secret, and here upon the West-shores it is idle; but I deem that in days ere long to come it should be in nobler hands than mine, that may wield it for the kindling of all hearts to courage,' And the Grey Messenger took the Ring, and kept it ever secret; yet the White Messenger [Saruman] (who was skilled to uncover all secrets) after a time became aware of thie gift, and begrudged it, and it was the beginning of the hidden ill-will that he bore to the Grey, which afterwards became manifest.


Your thoughts?
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Merry
Varda
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Postby Merry » Thu Dec 21, 2006 3:56 pm

Good scholarship, Lindariel. I think somewhere in the letters is Tolkien's statement that Pity is the prime virtue in the story, as I imagine he thought was true in real life. I also think it's interesting that Varda is Gandalf's sponsor, as it were. While Manwe, I guess, is supposed to be the chief of the Valar, in our stories, it seems that Varda is the prime mover. So does Gandalf have that touch of the divine feminine that makes him more successful as a steward?
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
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all the days of your life.

Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Fri Dec 22, 2006 1:23 pm

The urge to nurture and preserve?
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