Archive for the ‘2 – The Passing of the Grey Company’ Category

Short end to the chapter today, more important for the lands that Aragorn and the Grey Company pass through, and the fear that is brought before them by the rumor of the dead marching.


First Mentions:

-Tarlang’s Neck: Pass between the White Mountains and a southern spur. We go that way!

-Calembel: Town on the way. Mostly deserted, with that war going on and all.

-Ciril: River running down through Calembel. Did you know that there are a lot of rivers in Gondor? There are seven main ones, in fact. SEVEN. Always seven.

We didn’t hear about these lands earlier when Pippin watched men marching in. We do hear about Lamedon, which our heroes have just passed through briefly, though their men were nondescript. Presumably, Calembel has sent some folks to help in the fighting, but it doesn’t sound like a very populated area overall, so I guess they weren’t that important.

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You know what else isn’t that important? This page. It’s just people walking, or fast animal walking, or something like that. And the days are getting darker until the sun disappears completely. They’re getting close.

No one dies today.

“But the next day there came no dawn, and the Grey Company passed on into the darkness of the Storm of Mordor and were lost to mortal sight; but the Dead followed them.”

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Success is great, especially when you’re taking a huge gamble that everyone else is afraid to take.

In short, Aragorn gets confirmation from the dead that they will fight for him.

They could have just called...

They could have just called…

The riders go through the lands, where people are in hiding, and come to the Stone of Erech, a man-height stone placed here when Isildur landed from Númenor. The conversation (between Aragorn and a disembodied voice) is pretty simple. Aragorn asks why they have come. They respond that they have come to fulfill their oath. And that’s settled. Aragorn has a dark banner unfurled, that was brought along with the rangers, and I would assume that this is a kingly war standard.

First Mentions:

-Pelargir: Largest port of Gondor, and in constant conflict with corsairs from the south. Come to think of it, most of the borders of Gondor are always in constant conflict.

So…that was easy. Really. Did Aragorn stop at Staples before heading out this morning? I’m getting a sense that fortunes are turning, even though there’s so much left to accomplish. I figure that something good had to happen at the beginning of Return of the King, since Frodo and Sam were left on such a cliffhanger at the end of Two Towers. We’re feeling better now, so this next battle part won’t be such a trying ordeal.

Yes, ha ha, there’s a battle coming up. I don’t even know if that counts as a spoiler, since it’s been so obvious.

Lots of bad coupons going around.

Lots of bad coupons going around.

On an unrelated note, I watched parts of Return of the King on TV before I started writing. Golly, that’s so different! The plot diverges more and more the further you get from the beginning (the very beginning, that is), and the interspersing of Frodo and Sam’s bits in with the rest of the gang breaks everything up, even though it really does keep the entire story driving that way.

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And those poor country folk! They’re so scared!

No one dies today.

“Then there was silence, and not a whisper nor a sigh was heard again all the long night. The…”

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I don’t know what that means, but today’s page basically shows me that the Paths of the Dead aren’t as scary and long as everyone expected them to be. They’re all out of them already.

A light appears at the end of the cavern, and the group comes out into a gorge of sorts. Remounting the horses, Legolas notes that the dead are following, so I guess that’s been going…well? Either way, the gorge opens into a lush valley. This is actually a place where the people of Gondor live. Aragorn calls for all to ride quickly. They must reach the Stone of Erech before the end of the day.

That’s it?

That tunnel was so long!

That tunnel was so long!

All of a sudden, the darkness ends, and the terror partially subsides. Oh, the dead are following us? That’s okay! Don’t worry about it. That’s as much as anyone says about it. What? I’d be freaking out, that’s for freaking sure. I think it’s more terrifying to know that your fears have been confirmed, and that something has been following you all this time. There they are, menacingly walking right behind you. Doesn’t that give you a chill? No? Apparently not so here.

Aragorn! Leading the pack! I guess he’s really just that good. HE’S JUST THAT GOOD.

Also, apparently the whole “calling back at the dead” thing worked pretty well. I wish there was more suspense about that.

WAIT, what am I saying? Am I wishing that this was longer and more complicated? Sometimes, I don’t understand myself.

I'm not sure where I want this to go.

I’m not sure where I want this to go.

Side note: this valley was one of those that sent men to Minas Tirith, and Pippin watched them march in. This was the lord Duinhir, with sons Duilin and Derufin, and five hundred archers. Just so you know, for reference.

No one dies today.

“‘We must come to the Stone of Erech ere this day passes, and long still is the way.’ So…”

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Today, the book suddenly becomes a horror thriller.

But actually, when else were you expecting to hear whispers from the edges of the darkness, and see dead bodies groping at locked doors?

Tra la la...

Tra la la…

Gimli’s caught up, and Aragorn is leading the group through the darkness. A dread feeling follows them, but there’s not much you can do about that. As they walk, the cavern opens up, creating more fear, and a glimmer of something can be seen. Aragorn approaches it, and finds a skeletal body reaching for a door. He then calls back, presumably to the dead themselves, asking for their pardon to pass.

This can’t possibly end well.

Interestingly, the legendarium believes that these bones belong to the son of a king of Rohan. Baldor, oldest son of Brego, the second king of Rohan, was said to have disappeared while trying to take the Paths of the Dead. Aragorn references the flowers that grow on the mounds of the kings in Rohan, which made me look up the possibility that this skeleton was someone important. We’ll see if that becomes apparent tomorrow, or maybe further on in the journey.

Or perhaps he's part of a skeleton gang.

Or perhaps he’s part of a skeleton gang.

Meanwhile, will Aragorn’s gambit of calling out to the dead pay off? Are they even deep enough in the cave to call attention to themselves yet? It seems like they just entered. I don’t know. There is a moment explaining that time is passing by strangely in here. Perhaps they’ve gone further already than was expected. Again, I don’t know.

Let’s find out!

No one dies today.

“The others pressed on, but he was ever hindmost, pursued by a groping horror that seemed always just about to seize him; and a…”

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Now presenting: the return of fast animal walking!

Cue music!

Cue music!

I guess Aragorn did fast animal walk his way across most of Rohan just a few short days ago, but I forgot to mention it, so whatever.

Anywhozzle, the whole company, yes, COMPANY, is off to ride to horrible dark places. Even Legolas doesn’t like the feeling of the trees they ride under, and everyone is scared of the gaping hole in the mountain that they find themselves in front of. Halbarad notes that the horses don’t want to enter, though Aragorn has a mind to force them to. Everyone walks in, men leading horses, except for Gimli. The dwarf is afraid to go underground. He summons all his courage, and sprints in.

First Mentions:

-the Dimholt: Grove of trees being passed through. Generally speaking, if it begins with “dim”, it’s bad. This is bad.

Similarly to the road to Isengard, a foreboding stone sits in the path just before entering the mountain. And this is where the dread starts to affect the horses most of all. There’s something to be said for signposts in Middle-earth, the symbolic ones where you can just absolutely tell that things are going downhill. They mean a lot, both literally and emotionally, affecting those passing by.

Like that, but worse.

Like that, but worse.

Also, in movie-related moments, the partial comedic relief of Gimli bemoaning even Legolas being unafraid to walk underground is pulled straight from the text, line for line. I’ve heard fans groan about Gimli being used too often for relief, but, right here, it’s true to the book. Can’t argue with that.

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Halbarad says he’ll die in the mountain! Will he change our last line?

No one dies today.

“He could see…”

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Aragorn’s not staying in one place for long at all. By the time morning hits, it’s time to go. He, Legolas, Gimli, and the rangers mount up and ride out, but not before Éowyn makes one more last-ditch effort to come along. She falls to her knees begging, but Aragorn still says no. He rides away in quiet pain.

Well, I have a guy for you!

Well, I have a guy for you!

First Mentions:

-the Dwimorberg: The Haunted Mountain, under which the dead…um, live. It sounds as evil as it is.

-the Door of the Dead: Entrance to their evil lair! MWAHAHAHA!!

I feel like I need to check back in with our movie parallels here, or…non-parallels. A lot is different, including, what I find to be the most interesting, that Aragorn isn’t going under the mountain with just Legolas and Gimli. This whole troop of rangers is coming with him. That’s a lot of people. It’s less scary that way! Does Aragorn need a whole group of backup dancers swordsmen to watch his back? Okay, maybe his leadership skills are growing, but I like seeing him take this path in as much danger as possible. Not so much when you’ve got a whole band of dudes to bail you out if you need it.

Everyone needs a good backup routine.

Everyone needs a good backup routine.

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Oh, and all the people of Rohan hanging out at Dunharrow are too superstitious to see Aragorn off. How dare he go to the Paths of the Dead! Let’s stubbornly not wish him luck in that TERRIBLE EVIL PLACE.

Makes sense to me.

No one dies today.

“‘The times are evil enough.'”

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Well, that has the possibility of being a good song lyric.

Remember what I wanted yesterday, for Éowyn to break out? I was right!

-Who's the other guy? -Oh, he's Left.

-Who’s the other guy? -Oh, he’s Left.

The side of Éowyn that’s tired of taking care of everyone left behind from the wars has shown up. She thinks that Aragorn wants to ride off into some glorious end, and all that will be left for her is the task to wait for the conquering armies to burn her house down around her.

Aragorn, naturally, sees the duty in this, and wishes that Éowyn would stay and bring help for those who remain.

There’s actually a bit of this that doesn’t have to do with gender roles. Éowyn sees herself as a member of a proud house. Because of her nobler upbringing, she knows how to do many things, such as wielding a sword or riding horseback. She’s done with always being the one that they leave to take charge of the house. She could fight just as well as any of the men. Why not leave some lower class woman to take her place? If it’s a matter of class, why not leave a man, and let those who want to fight do so?

Éowyn also mentions wanting to run off and follow Aragorn, and in this, I actually do have to say that she’s a little out of her depth.

Trust me, it's relevant.

Trust me, it’s relevant.

No matter whose job it is to watch over the flock of Rohan, they can’t leave it and find something else to do. That’s a responsibility that needs handling. For all that I see Éowyn’s points, she’s being a little irresponsible.

Again, if this has something to do with romantic emotions, I can understand it a little more. But still, that hasn’t been established officially.

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Compound words! Pah.

No one dies today.

“‘Yet I do not bid you flee from peril, but to ride to battle where your sword may win renown…'”

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It’s all about being polite.

"Pardon me, madam. May I venture to my certain doom?"

“Pardon me, madam. May I venture to my certain doom?”

The conversation today between Aragorn and Éowyn is painful, as each tries their best to politely tell the other their wishes. Aragorn is, naturally, explaining his course of action to take the Paths of the Dead. Éowyn, not so subtly, is trying to stop him, mostly for love.

Well, the love part is debatable, but the narrative seems to indicate that she can’t let him out of her sight. After he leaves to go to bed, she follows him to his tent.

First Mentions:

-Harrowdale: The valley that contains Dunharrow, where there is, effectively, only one way in or out. The other is cursed…but not for Aragorn.

Almost every line spoken here begins with a “Lord” or “Lady”. Almost every time. The propriety is killing me. It’s probably the most shown by anyone up to this point, and it’s all because both are somehow afraid to show their feelings. If Éowyn truly does have feelings for Aragorn, then her hesitance is justified. We can all get that. In Aragorn’s case, his hesitance is more a symptom of his still green leadership skills. He’s getting better, especially in making this choice to take the dangerous road, but he still can’t bear to break hard news to someone with…well, feminine feelings.

Feminists, have at me.

Feminists, have at me.

I don’t want to be sexist here, but I’m working with the cards I’m dealt. This book has, what, three halfway decent female characters? It’s not equal in any way, and Aragorn is treating Éowyn as such. Sure, she’s the one who fights against all this, and this is probably her first moment to do so. Unfortunately, Aragorn treats her as if she can’t handle the truth. If anyone can, she can, though. Right now, she’s basically the mother figure for all of Rohan while the strongest men are fighting their wars. Part of me really hopes she gives Aragorn the business when she’s got him cornered tomorrow.

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Come on, Éowyn, you’ve got to take this one of two ways now. Don’t fall at his feet. Please?

No one dies today.

“He turned and saw her as…”

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With Legolas and Gimli pretty much in tow, Aragorn lays down some history of the men of the mountains. They once swore allegiance to Isildur, back in the founding of Gondor. However, when called upon to fight against Sauron, they balked, having once worshiped him in the past. Isildur then cursed them, and their spirits haunt the Paths of the Dead.

Aragorn calls out for all to join him, and he, Legolas, and Gimli walk out to lead the rangers. They ride quickly to Edoras, then Dunharrow, where Éowyn welcomes them. Oh yeah, her!

The one who likes swords.

The one who likes swords.

Today, strangely enough, is about timelines. On the most basic level, the reason for why this chapter (and last, mind you) is laid out in this manner becomes apparent. Gandalf and Pippin left first from the pack, and arrived at Edoras before continuing to Minas Tirith. Théoden rode next, but is taking slower hill roads to make his way across country. Aragorn is leading his rangers quickly across the plains, and so comes to Edoras after Gandalf and Pippin, though before Théoden. Théoden himself is also headed to Dunharrow, but will take much longer. Aragorn’s hope is in speed.

For all that, we’re following groups as they move from place to place chronologically. It wouldn’t have made sense for the narrative to stay with Merry, because he’ll arrive at these places after Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. And even though the plotline of this chapter hasn’t caught up to as long as we spent with Gandalf and Pippin, it would be too hard to keeping jumping back and forth from Minas Tirith to Rohan. It’s simpler with this division. Get their action out of the way first, then spend time with those left behind. We’ll probably move to Merry and his ride with Théoden next.

Next…more of a timeline question.

I still can't wrap my mind around Zelda's timeline.

I still can’t wrap my mind around Zelda’s timeline.

The men of the mountains swore an oath to Isildur before the first war with Sauron and the Last Alliance. But…Isildur wasn’t the king of Gondor then. He was the prince, yes, but Elendil was king. Why were they swearing to Isildur? Was there another battle with Sauron, after the one where Elendil was slain and Isildur took the ring, where the mountain men could have faltered?

Ah, ah! Wait. The internet has answered this for me. Though Elendil was king of both Arnor and Gondor, he ruled in the north, and left Gondor to the rule of Isildur and Anarion, his sons. So, at the time before the first war, Isildur would have had substantial ruling powers in Gondor to take oaths from the men of the mountains. There it is.

You know, I could delete that first paragraph there, and make it look like I knew what I was talking about all along, but it’s about the journey, you guys, not the destination.

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The English. So much blame.

No one dies today.

“And when they sat at supper with her, they talked together, and she heard of all that had passed since Théoden rode away, concerning which only hasty tidings had yet reached her; and when she heard of the battle…”

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I’m now coming live from my new place in Austin! However, once again, it was quite the day. That, and then I stayed up too late because I finally had a place to myself for the first time in like a week. I have issues with that.

But, forward unto dawn, friends!

Does that phrase exist normally?

Does that phrase exist normally?

This page is all about Aragorn asking Legolas and Gimli to come willingly with him into a horrible place. As if the name “Paths of the Dead” wasn’t creepy enough, Aragorn recites an old prophecy that calls to him to risk everything. Elrond’s sons brought these words back to his mind, and it seems right that he should be the one to fulfill them. Naturally, Legolas and Gimli are eager to follow.

First Mentions:

-Malbeth the Seer: Soothsayer of old Arnor. Foretold the line of kings ending in the north, and also Aragorn’s journey to the Paths of the Dead.

-Arvedui: Last king of Arnor. This also makes him a very distant relative of Aragorn’s.

-the Stone of Erech: Great stone upon a hill where the men who haunt the Paths of the Dead swore an oath to fight for Isildur. That…didn’t work out.

All in all, the prophesy is pretty straightforward. It clearly tells of the dead men who failed Isildur rising to regain their honor. However, it doesn’t say much about who it will be (other than Isildur’s heir) to call them forth. The tale mentions the man coming from the north in great need, as Aragorn is. The lines seem to come together, so it isn’t a huge stretch for Aragorn to see his part in fate. Thanks for keeping it simple, Malbeth.

Wait...Macbeth? There's some prophesying going on there.

Wait…Macbeth? There’s some prophesying going on there.

Middle-earth doesn’t typically deal in a lot of prophecies, at least not as much as other fantasy worlds do. However, those that do appear are very important, and most often involve Aragorn. They don’t always prophetize about characters, but when they do, they prefer Aragorn.

Speaking of involving Aragorn, did you expect this chapter to turn around from Merry and be about him? That was a sudden change.

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Italics! Always a good decision for riddles and prophecies.

No one dies today.

“‘I hope that the forgotten people will not have forgotten how to…'”

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