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FoTR - Lothlórien: Bk II, Chapter VI

Posted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 11:15 am
by Iolanthe

Cerin Amroth

© Riv Res

The darkness of Moria is over, but the darkness of loss still hangs heavily over the Fellowship. Aragorn is now leading them and they must seek refuge and healing in the Golden Wood. Aragorn and Legolas are both glad to make for Lothlórien, and the Hobbits are full of wonder as they approach but Gimli is not so sure - not everyone is welcome. There is a long journey yet before they can reach safety and Gollum is following them. And then there is a bit of bother with a blindfold…

Let’s talk about the approach to Lothlórien, the ‘heart of Elvendom on earth’ and the mixture of apprehension and wonder the Fellowship experience as they journey from darkness into light.

Posted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 5:21 pm
by Merry
Love this chapter! When I am bent and wounded from the darkness of this world, I sometimes read it as an antidote.

Posted: Fri Jan 12, 2007 12:38 am
by Lindariel
Ah! This is the chapter in which Legolas sings the Song of Nimrodel and Amroth! It is just beautiful and so sad. I also love that Frodo -- and by extension the other members of the Fellowship -- feel that "the stain of travel and all weariness was washed from his limbs" as he waded across the Nimrodel. The first step towards unburdening their grief.

Posted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 4:48 am
by Merry
This chapter really is all about healing, isn't it? What is our author telling us about what really heals the soul?

Posted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 2:44 pm
by Iolanthe
I think your right Merry, although I feel more of that in the next chapter and this is just the start of the process. I think Tolkien's instincts are spot on when he leads us to Lothlorien at this point in the book, he paces the story very well and knows when we (and they) have had enough and need some R&R. And it's good to know after all the darkness and despair that there is still a safe haven and untouchable good left in the world.

But healing is the key. Healing for Frodo at Rivendell, healing here for all of the Fellowship, healing from the King in Gondor, healing at the end when Frodo sails West. It's a recurrent theme isn't it?

Posted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 4:35 pm
by Merry
Yes. I think we can see the Shadow of WWI in the background again.

Posted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 5:39 pm
by Iolanthe
Still on the theme of healing, looking through this chapter again has made me realise that we get another example of Aragorn's healing here. When they are hastening for Lothlorien and the Hobbit's fall behind we see all of Aragorn's concern. He tends to Sam and Frodo with water steeped in athelas and we get the first glimpse of Bilbo's wondrous Mithril shirt!

Posted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 6:11 pm
by Merry
I love that scene, Iolanthe! Aragorn's line, something like, 'We should have tended to your hurts, even if all the orcs in Morder were upon us,' always touches me: Aragorn's keen moral vision. There's also a wonderful clue there: our author tells us that Sam bore his scar to the end of his days! At least we know that Sam doesn't die soon!

So what is Tolkien telling us in the Lorien chapters about what heals?

trees and flowers

Are there more?

Posted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 8:00 pm
by Lindariel
I'd add skillful, caring hands, wisdom, and contemplation to the list.

I, too, love the scene in which Legolas notices that the wounded hobbits have fallen far behind, and an anguished, self-admonishing Aragorn rushes back with Boromir to carry them to a place where they can be tended.

In the course of my Tolkien-based fiction writing, I have given a lot of thought to Aragorn's healing abilities and the old saying in Gondor that "the hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known," and I have the developed the following theory.

I believe the ability to heal with athelas, the laying on of hands, and the summoning of the lost spirit "from the dark valley," comes down to Aragorn through the line of the Numenorean Kings from their original progenitor Elros Tar-Minyatar, twin brother of Elrond Half-Elven. They in turn received this ability as direct descendants of Luthien the Fair, and she received it from none other than Melian the Maia. Hence, this special ability to heal has a divine source.

Granted, not all of the Numenorean Kings were healers. Some had no interest or training, some gave themselves over to evil, but the capacity to heal was somehow sustained in the northern line until it could be revealed once again in Aragorn II, who had been fostered and trained by Middle-earth's master healer -- Elrond.

If you look through Tolkien's work, all of the characters that are especially associated with healing are from Luthien's line. Luthien herself miraculously heals Beren on several occasions -- on one occasion Huan brings her a special herb to assist her in healing Beren. "With that leaf she staunched Beren's wound, and by her arts and by her love she healed him . . . ." Is this the first use of athelas?

Elrond's healing abilities are hailed by Aragorn thusly, "Would that Elrond were here, for he is the eldest of all our race, and has the greater power." By "race" I believe Aragorn is indicating that Elrond is the eldest of the line of Luthien remaining in Middle-earth. What other "race" could he be referring to that both Aragorn and Elrond have in common and of which Elrond would be "eldest"?

Then, of course, there is Aragorn, whose healing methods and abilities are the most extensively described by the Professor. "The hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known"; I believe this old saying was maintained and passed down in Gondor because the blood-line of the Numenorean Kings could ultimately be traced back to Melian the Maia. The rightful king can be recognized because he possesses a divine ability to heal.

In his hands, athelas has healing virtues that it does not express in the hands of others. Recall what the herb-master of Gondor had to say about athelas: "But alas! sir, we do not keep this thing in the Houses of Healing, where only the gravely hurt or sick are tended. For it has no virtue that we know of, save perhaps to sweeten a fouled air, or to drive away some passing heaviness. Unless, of course, you give heed to rhymes of old days which women such as our good Ioreth still repeat without understanding.

When the black breath blows
and death's shadow grows
and all lights pass,
come athelas! come athelas!
Life to the dying
In the king's hand lying

Also, remember Faramir's words at Aragorn's coronation:

"Men of Gondor, hear now the Steward of this Realm! Behold! one has come to claim the kingship again at last. Here is Aragorn son of Arathorn, chieftain of the Dunedain of Arnor, Captain of the Host of the West, bearer of the Star of the North, wielder of the Sword Reforged, victorious in battle, whose hands bring healing, the Elfston, Elessar of the line of Valandil, Isildur's son, Elendil's son of Numenor. Shall he be king and enter into the City and dwell there?"

This is not to say that there weren't other skillful healers among both men and elves -- certainly there were -- those skilled with herbs or who had abilities to heal through song or chanting. Glorfindel is the most immediate example that comes to mind. But I think the special, quasi-divine ability to heal with athelas is reserved especially to the descendants of Luthien.

Any thoughts? Have I missed another great healer somewhere?

Posted: Sun Jan 21, 2007 11:04 am
by Iolanthe
What wonderful insights, Lindariel! I've enjoyed reading your post so much. You've tied together so many threads and hints through the Sil and LOTR. Tolkien sets up the gift that reveals Aragorn to the Gondorians as the true King with these small scenes of Hobbit healing, so important when you know the whole story but easy to pass by when reading the book for the first time.

I love the thought that it has come down from Melian, through Luthien, fostered by Elrond and manifest in the returning King. Maiar, elves and men.

Posted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 4:48 pm
by Beren
There are some occasions where we can see healers at work in the books, most of them mentioned by you already... but here we go with some of my views (adapted from a post i did on board which is now far gone and forgotten, luckely i saved the drafts):

The only time we see an Elf heal someone is Glorfindel, who searched the wound [Frodo's] with his fingers, after which Frodo felt a little warmer and his vision cleared. But Glorfindel said "this is beyond my skill to heal." Elrond did much more, but we don't see what or how he did it, only that he "drew forth a splinter." Hard to say whether he used conventional surgery or magic or both, but evidently the wound had healed over by the next day when Frodo woke up. It's interesting to note that both Aragorn and Glorfindel say they don't have the skill to heal it. Probably Aragorn had noticed the broken tip of the knife before it melted, and guessed he could do little without surgery. So for sure Elrond is a very powerfull healer!

The some more about "The hands of the King"
'Here I must put forth all such power and skill as is given to me,' he said. 'Would that Elrond were here, for he is the eldest of all our race and has the greater power.'

It's hard to tell which parts of Aragorn's healing are
1) Númenorean medicine
2) Elvish medicine, no doubt taught to him by Elrond
3) something innate and peculiar to the King, which is a common motif in certain "king archetypes".

However, that quote suggests Aragorn has enough skill/training to match Elrond; his power is just less. Power from where? If Elrond is the "eldest" of Aragorn's race, then it's not Elf or Mortal to whom he's referring, but to descendents of Lúthien who inherited Maiar blood from her mother. So also here we are on the same track! (like minds think alike hehe)

The we see the healing of Frodo on Weathertop: Aragorn sings strange words over the Morgul-knife, whispers something to Frodo, and then bathes the wound with athelas. Hard to say whether this is Númenorean (is he singing in Adunaic?) since he's using an herb of Númenor, or whether this is Elrond's training.

Frodo, Sam, Gimli are all healed by Aragorn during their journeys. We don't see how Aragorn healed Gimli at Helm's Deep, but for Frodo and Sam's bruises and gashes after the Moria-fight, Aragorn simply gives them first aid and again bathes the wounds with athelas. No singing here: that was evidently a response to the evil enchantment on the Morgul-knife.

Healing "The Black Breath": The rhyme implies that the king alone is able to combat it. The Númenoreans who made up the rhyme would have no idea whether Elves like Elrond could also combat it, but Aragorn's comment about Elrond implies that yes, he also could deal with this.

Later when Aragorn heals Faramir we encounter some strange behavior. Before Aragorn gets his hands on athelas, he does go into a trance:
Now Aragorn knelt beside Faramir, and held a hand upon his brow. And those that watched felt that some great struggle was going on. For Aragorn's face grew grey with weariness; and ever and anon he called the name of Faramir, but each time more faintly to their hearing, as if Aragorn himself was removed from them, and walked afar in some dark vale, calling for one that was lost.
Whatever he's doing, he's awake and lucid the instant Bergil rushes in with some leaves. Aragorn seems to have reached Faramir's mind somehow by doing this, because Faramir knows who he is immediately. That could also be because Faramir's got special blood himself. Frodo says he has "an air of wizards", and what are wizards? Maiar!

The healing trance is used to pull someone back from the brink of death. I don't know whether this would work with just anyone, or whether it's because both of them have a tiny amount of Maiar blood. Again, I say Maiar, not Elven, because otherwise Aragorn wouldn't have said it was something peculiar to Elrond's bloodline.

Most interesting maybe is how Aragorn actually does heal people, we see some variations. Let us take a look at them:

Aragorn does something specific to fight the Black Breath: he lays the leaves in his hands and breathes on them. The hands of the king, and most importantly his own breath, are needed to combat this unique malady.

He doesn't even bother to bathe Faramir's wounds; he just holds the steaming bowl up to his face. The scent, the air, is what's needed to combat Black Breath. Faramir instantly wakes up.

For Éowyn he again does something specific for the person to "summon" her, kissing her on the brow before using athelas (also yakking rather a lot before doing anything, silly epic heroes). In Éowyn's case he bathes her arm and forehead. He can't reach her spiritually as he did Faramir; her bond with her brother is stronger, so Éomer much call her as Aragorn did the Steward.

We don't see what he does for Merry (or Frodo and Sam at the Fields of Cormallen), but again, it appears that the treatment varies widely depending on the spiritual/mental state of the patient, as well as the nature of the wound. If the patient's spirit is resilient, which is a special trait of hobbits, they'll bounce back easily, but if the patient has taken a bad blow, the healing won't work (Éowyn, Celebrían). And it requires both "power" and "skill". The skill is that Aragorn knows how to vary the treatment according to circumstances.

Ok, so far my views, anyone else has more on this?

Posted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 6:05 pm
by Lindariel
Terrific Beren! I was so excited to see that you came to the same conclusion that "eldest of all our race" refers to the descendants of Melian/Luthien. Like you said -- great minds think alike!

Posted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 7:16 pm
by Merry
Terrific essay, Beren! I had not thought to try to distinguish among modes of healing.

Also, I had never had the impression that Elrond's removal of Frodo's splinter had anything to with surgery. I imagined something on the order of magnetism, I guess! But these are just impressions in the absence of real evidence.

Posted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 9:48 pm
by hope
Great stuff Beren :D

Loads to think about and to study, thanks :) and fab start to this Lindariel :D

Posted: Thu Feb 01, 2007 11:49 am
by Iolanthe
Very interesting analysis. thank goodness you kept that post, Beren, and didn't have to reconstruct all that fascinating evidence.

Discussing this has made me realise just how much healing there is in LOTR. It's surprised me how often Aragorn's skills are called upon. I'd forgotten Gimli and the detail we are given about the healing of Eowyn, Faramir and Merry has made me overlook Frodo and Sam. Healing Frodo after his long burden of the Ring must have been a struggle worse than the Black Breath.

Leaping ahead, my favourite line in the whole book is 'My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?...........For who would lie idle when the king has returned'. It thrills me just typing it. Joy, recognition, service, hope, it's all there. In healing Faramir there has been a unique connection, a meeting more intense than finding each other on the battlefield or formally in the city. It's full of that 'something more' that makes LOTR so much more than the fantasy adventure bad critics see.