The Blade of Westernesse and the Witch King

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halfir 20/Mar/2006 at 06:36 PM
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No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter,cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will.’ {ROTK-The Battle Of The Pelennor Fields}

Merry’s use of the blade reclaimed from the Barrow-wight’s hoard {FOTR-Fog On The Barrow downs} had proved an integral part of the demise of the Witch-king.

What has not been so clear - until the seminal LOTR Companion- by Hammond &Scull is the Witch-King’s very real and undrestandable fear of those Blades of Westernesse.

On p.180 of the Companion Hammond & Scull quote from an unpublished manuscript in Marquette MSS (Marquette MSS 4/2/36) from The Hunt for the Ring.

Although the quote in general is related to why the Witch King did not immedaitely follow-up the Weathertop attack it throws into stark relief  the potency of the weapons wielded by Frodo and latterly Merry, that had been recovered from the Barrow-wight’s hoard.  As such, it highlights even more strongly the significance of the blade  on the Pelennor Fields in the destruction of the Witch-king.

’But above all the timid and terified Bearer had resisted him, had dared to strike at him with an enchanted sword made by his own enemies long ago for his destruction. Narrowly it had missed him. How had he come by it -save in the barrows of cardolan. Then he was in some way mightier than the B{arrow} -wight; and he called on Elbereth, a name of terror to the nazgul. He was then in league with the High Elves ofthe Havens.

Escaping a wound that would have been as deadly to him as the Mordor -knife to Frodo (as was proved at the end), he withdrew and hid for a while, out of doubt and fear both of Aragorn and especially of Frodo. But fear of Sauron , and the forces of Sauron’s will was the stronger.{My bold emphasis and underline}.

This seems to place much greater emphasis on the importance of Merry’s blade in the Witch-king’s demise than some have previously allowed for.

 

 

lotrbigdog 20/Mar/2006 at 07:07 PM
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Master Halfir:  may I venture a question?  Should we indeed take Tolkien’s words literally, that any other blade would not have dealt the Witch King such a blow?  I think not, because what happened when Eowyn stabbed him?  He was destroyed.  I cant see that the blade was extremely important.  Perhaps the fact that it was one of the blades of westerness, but say that Gandalf stabbed him in the same place, with a different blade from the same barrow?  Would it have any difference? 

Sure, the blade was important.  However, I think it has more to do with where it was actually made, and the time period when it was made.  The witch king was a threat when the sword was made, therefore, it seems only natural that the makers would find some way to make it "more deadly" to him.

Tuna 20/Mar/2006 at 08:34 PM
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lbd- I can only venture that Tolkien’s statement of "No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter" does not refer to other blades of Westernesse. I think the important part is that it an enchanted sword made by his own enemies long ago for his destruction, which halfir quotes. It is the type of blade that causes the downfall. The intent of its forging and enchantment, specifically the destruction of the WK as shown by the newly revealed quotes, yields its potent effects against the WK, and any other similar sword enchanted and forged with the same intents, would have a similar effect. This seems to be what you’re talking about, and is, as I see it, what halfir is saying as well.
halfir 21/Mar/2006 at 03:56 AM
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Tuna: X(
lotrbigdog 22/Mar/2006 at 07:12 PM
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It sounded like lord halfir was singling out Merry’s own sword as the only weapon that would hurt the WK.  However, I find it hard to believe that such weapons as Anduril, Glamdring, and Sting, would not inflict damage on the WK.  Could it not be so?  Or does it have more to do also with who is wielding the sword?  If Aragorn, for arguments sake, took a stab at the WK with Anduril, and then with Merry’s sword, would neither hurt the WK? 

I really find it hard to believe that these weapons would not have a disastrous effect on the WK, if wielded by the correct person.  Any thoughts?

Oin 22/Mar/2006 at 08:48 PM
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halfir: I must disagree with you that the use of the sword of the Barrow-downs has been underestimated and overlooked by many in its importance to the downfall of the Witch-king. The Witch-king feared the sword(s), certainly - I do not dispute that - but I do dispute the accuracy of Tolkiens drafts regarding the wound Frodo would have inflicted on Weathertop:

"Sam does not ’sink his blade into the Ringwraith’s thigh’, nor does his thrust save Frodo’s life. (If he had, the result would have been much the same as in III 117-20: the Wraith would have fallen down and the sword would have been destroyed.)" (Letter #210)

On Weathertop, when Frodo makes his stabbing attempt at the Witch-king, he is not even aiming for the thigh, but merely the feet:

’At that moment Frodo threw himself forward on the ground, and he heard himself crying aloud: O Elbereth! Gilthoniel! At the same time he struck at the feet of his enemy. A shrill cry rang out in the night; and he felt a pain like a dart of poisoned ice pierce his left shoulder." (FotR: A Knife in the Dark)

If I may refer back to the first quote: first, Tolkien establishes that Frodo’s life would not have been spared had Sam essentially did what Merry did at the Pelennor Fields: hamstring the Witch-king. The WK still would have been functioning and still would have been able to kill Frodo. The blade does not significantly hamper the Witch-king in any way - it momentarily cripples him, certainly, but he would still  be able to kill Frodo, just as he would have been able to kill Eowyn had she not destroyed him first. I would therefore say that the Marquette drafts are "obsolete" in a sense - the stab Frodo made would not have been deadly to the Witch-king - how could it, if even a stab to the thigh of the WK by Sam would not have saved his master’s life?

Did the sword of the Barrow-downs destroy the Witch-king? No. Could it have? Of course, had its bearer gotten the same opportunity that Eowyn had to stab the Witch-king between the crown and the mantle. Could the downfall of the Witch-king have been achieved had the WK been hamstrung with a wound by a "normal" sword? I believe so - perhaps the sword could not have inflicted the same amount of damage as the Barrow-downs sword did, but it still would have achieved the same purpose: if Eowyn’s "normal" sword could kill (or to be more precise "reduce to impotence") the Witch-king, then another of its kind could certainly hamstring him.

Master of Doom 22/Mar/2006 at 09:33 PM
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It seems to me that a sword had to have pierced the Witch-king before.  Or else, how could Aragorn have known that the swords that struck him dissolved like Merry’s Barrow sword did?

"...but all blades perish that pierce that dreadful King." (FotR, Flight to the Ford)

There is no way he could have known this if the Witch-king had not been pierced before.  So obviously at some point in time such an event had to have happened.  It is equally obvious that he survived it, though, so the question remains whether or not a regular sword could have ultimately ’killed’ him by itself.  Personally, I see no reason to doubt that one could have.  Otherwise the Wraiths would have had no reason to fear Glorfindel like they did.  He certainly did not have a Numenorean sword.

halfir 22/Mar/2006 at 10:03 PM
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"...but all blades perish that pierce that dreadful King." (FotR, Flight to the Ford)

MOD: I find the gloss you put on this strange. Previous attempts on the Witch-king by swords that lacked the runic power of the Cardolan Barrow sword had failed to affect him- thus the blade and its runes are a critical factor in effecting his demise.

And the Wraiths would have feared Glofindel for what he was - an elven high-lord  of great power - who had previously scared the Witch-king into flight, whatever sword he was carrying, as Frodo’s use of the name of Elbereth demonstrates.

and he called on Elbereth, a name of terror to the Nazgul.

Alcarináro 22/Mar/2006 at 11:07 PM
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Sorry, halfir, but that’s faulty reasoning. I think it is quite easy to imagine a scenario in which someone (whether the Lord of the Nazgul or not, for it really doesn’t matter to make the point) is stabbed, slashed, or otherwise attacked with a sword and survives. Cutting off a single finger does not deal death; a person can survive being stabbed in the leg. Thus, just because ’previous attempts on the Witch-king by swords that lacked the runic power of the Cardolan Barrow sword had failed to affect him’ by no means even begins to imply that he could not be defeated in such a manner.
halfir 23/Mar/2006 at 03:22 AM
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Elelnhir:The faulty reasoning is all yours. Why on earth do you think that Tolkien wrote in terms:

with an enchanted sword made by his own enemies long ago for his destruction.?

And why do you think in ROTK The Battle of the Pelennor Fields he wrote:

’No other blade  not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will?

It is quite clear from both quotes that it is the runic spell inherent in the swiord that damages the Witch -king so fatally - breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will

Master of Doom 23/Mar/2006 at 05:52 AM
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How could the blade have been that specifically powerful?  Enchanted or whatever it was, it was made by men.  Doesn’t Tolkien say in a Letter that magic was not attainable by men ’as such’?  If I’m not mistaken, how could they have made these magical blades?

Túrin 23/Mar/2006 at 07:11 AM
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I have to say I’m with halfir on this one.

Master of Doom,

Doesn’t Tolkien say in a Letter that magic was not attainable by men ’as such’?

Well, we also have the statement: "It is very smooth and hard. Some wizardry is in it, perhaps, older and stronger than Saruman’s." (TTT, Flotsom and Jetsom) The ’it’ being the tower of Orthanc, and we know that the Numenoreans/Dunedain constructed it. And the outer wall of Minas Tirith is the same way, and unless I’m mistaken, there is something magical of sorts at Amon Hen and Amon Lhaw.

I don’t think we need to worry about the "how" so much as the fact that Tolkien certainly considered the sword enchanted, or at the very least it was in some way able to break the spell, and that is something its like was unique in.

I myself have generally taken a middle road on this - if properly placed, Merry’s attack could have been sufficient, but since it was in a non-lethal place, it ’merely’ opened the WK to defeat by a regular blade, which was before unable to harm him. Enter Eowyn and you know the rest.
Phil_d_one 23/Mar/2006 at 07:39 AM
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I’m not completely understanding what is being proposed. Is it that the sword of the Barrow-Downs, being created with the express purpose of defeating the Witch-King, would have dealt more harm to the Witch-King than any other blade? Or is that no other blade could harm the Witch-King? If it is the former, then I am in full agreement. But the latter?

Boromir son of Denethor (after whom Boromir of the Nine Walkers was later named) defeated them and regained Ithilien; but Osgiliath was finally ruined, and its great stone-bridge was broken. No people dwelt there afterwards. Boromir was a great captain, and even the Witch-king feared him.
(Appendix A: Annals of the Kings and Rulers, Gondor and the Heirs of Anarion, Emphasis is Mine)

Why would the Witch-King fear him if he could not be harmed by him? Reference is being made to the words surrounding the importance of Merry’s blade in defeating the Witch-King, but I think that these do not in any way suggest that the Witch-King could not be harmed by any other blades.

No other blade not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will
(TRotK (I) The Battle of the Pelennor Fields, Emphasis is Mine)

It does not say that no other blade would have dealt the Witch-King a wound, but a wound ’so bitter’. Any blade would have harmed the Witch-King, but those of the Barrow Downs were particularly harmful to him. Personally, I see suggesting otherwise little different to suggesting that Frodo could only be harmed by a Morgul Blade, based on the quote in the opening post.

Alcarináro 23/Mar/2006 at 08:01 AM
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halfir, all you have done is show that the Barrow-blade was more potent than any other blade, that it alone was so more effective at dealing with the Lord of the Nazgul than any other type of blade would be. What you claim you have done, and which you most certainly have not done, is show that it is the only method to defeat the Lord of the Nazgul. We all know that the Barrow-blade had a very serious effect on that Ringwraith. Such is clear even without these new quotes you have brought. So you have shown something that we already know, and now you are trying to make an absolute. All you have is something that proves one proposition, nothing that disproves the other.
Kirinki54 23/Mar/2006 at 08:08 AM
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For each of the hobbits he chose a dagger, long, leaf-shaped, and keen, of marvellous workmanship, damasked with serpent-forms in red and gold. They gleamed as he drew them from their black sheaths, wrought of some strange metal, light and strong, and set with many fiery stones. Whether by some virtue in these sheaths or because of the spell that lay on the mound, the blades seemed untouched by time, unrusted, sharp, glittering in the sun.

’Old knives are long enough as swords for hobbit-people,’ he said. ’Sharp blades are good to have, if Shire-folk go walking, east, south, or far away into dark and danger.’ Then he told them that these blades were forged many long years ago by Men of Westernesse: they were foes of the Dark Lord, but they were overcome by the evil king of Carn Dűm in the Land of Angmar. (FotR)

 

So passed the sword of the Barrow-downs, work of Westernesse. But glad would he have been to know its fate who wrought it slowly long ago in the North-kingdom when the Dúnedain were young, and chief among their foes was the dread realm of Angmar and its sorcerer king. No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will. (RotK)

 

Well, obviously they could make those blades; they exist in the mythos. I also find it interesting that Tom personally selected the blade for each of the Hobbits, but I am not certain how far to go with that.

 

Halfir, the previously unpublished manuscript certainly reinforces what was originally published in LotR. (Was the manuscript dated?) I, like Túrin, have also believed that the Barrow-blade made the WK ‘killable’ (or possible to render impotent, to be technical), an effect only these designated blades could achieve.

Woggy Hardbotom 23/Mar/2006 at 08:21 AM
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No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will. (RotK, Battle for Pelennor Fields)

I had always taken this quote to mean, as Turin states, opened the WK to defeat by a regular blade, which was before unable to harm him.

Phil - The Witch-king may have feared Boromir for reasons other than the fact that his sword could deal to him a harmful blow.  Perhaps he thought Boromir capable of orchestrating a force that would be able to defeat his own army, and considering the cheif export of the Witch-king was fear, I feel that if an entire force of soldiers were left to face the Witch-king by himiself, he would not induce enough fear into them to be effective.
Perhaps he feared Boromir because he knew he was capable of regaining Ithilien.

Master of Doom 23/Mar/2006 at 09:20 AM
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For those of you who think that Merry stabbing the Lord of the Nazgul made it possible for a regular sword to affect him, what do you think would have happened if he had been stabbed without the use of the Barrow blade first?  Would the sword pass straight through him?  Would it glance off of him?  I don’t think so.  What spell was broken?  I have always interpreted it as the spell that kept him together physically, as his body would have deteriorated long ago without the spell of the Ring.  So the actual purpose of the spell was to hold him together.  Therefore, even if a regular blade struck him, it would have broken this spell, as it would have (theoretically) cut his flesh and sinews apart.

 

We do know that a spell does not require magic to defeat it.  The spell of the Barrow was broken by leaving the treasure outside of it.  Gandalf’s shutting spell in Moria could have been broken by brute strength.  Saruman’s spell was broken simply by Gandalf laughing.  Because of this, I don’t think that the magical qualities of the blade played nearly as big a part in this scenario as you are claiming.  The Barrow blades were not made specifically to fight the Witch-king.  They were made to fight all the servants of Sauron.  It just so happened that Angmar was at it’s peak at the time of their creation.  The spells that were wrought upon the blades had nothing to do with the Witch-king specifically though, they were simply for use against Mordor in general.

 

Quickly they searched the bodies of the Orcs, gathering their swords and cloven helms and shields into a heap. ’See!’ cried Aragorn. ’Here we find tokens!’ He picked out from the pile of grim weapons two knives, leaf-bladed, damasked in gold and red; and searching further he found also the sheaths, black, set with small red gems. ’No orc-tools these!’ he said. ’They were borne by the hobbits. Doubtless the Orcs despoiled them, but feared to keep the knives, knowing them for what they are: work of Westernesse, wound about with spells for the bane of Mordor.  (TTT, The Departure of Boromir)

 

Because of this, I see no reason to believe that the magical qualities of the sword had any more importance in killing the Witch-king than they would have in killing any other servant of Mordor.

Phil_d_one 23/Mar/2006 at 10:24 AM
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Woggy: I do not wish to get into a debate about semantics with you, but look at the text I quoted. If it was fear of his regaining Ithilien, then the fear would have been mentioned before, and not after the statement of that fact. And I see the fear here being a very personal fear, but I cannot prove that point any more than you can prove yours

And with this comment, you illustrate the very point I am trying to make: I feel that if an entire force of soldiers were left to face the Witch-king by himiself, he would not induce enough fear into them to be effective. Why would he need to be effective? Unless they had swords of the type that the Hobbits later retrieved from the Downs, no soldiers could do any harm to the Witch-King, and so he would have nothing to be afraid of. And yet we find that he flees from Glorfindel, and he is afraid of Boromir. Not to mention that if he could not be harmed by any weapon other than these special swords, why didn’t he just march into Gondor and kill everyone in sight? Why did he pause when Gandalf challenged him at the Great Gate? Why was he afraid (or close enough) when Eowyn revealed herself? I cannot see your position as being a sustainable one.

My question remains: What, Woggy, is there to suggest that the Witch-King could only be harmed by a sword of the Barrow Downs?

Túrin 23/Mar/2006 at 02:06 PM
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Master of Doom,

What spell was broken? You have answered that question yourself, but I think you fail to keep in mind another aspect when comparing a Barrow-down blade to a regular sword, the fact that:

"No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will" (RotK, Battle of the Pelennor Fields)

What is the wound so bitter? I do not think we can doubt that it is indeed the breaking of the spell, and Tolkien is explicitly telling us that normal swords cannot deal this wound, that only the Barrow-down blade, due to it’s special properties, was able to give the WK such a strike.

As to what would happen if Eowyn had attacked before Merry? I think her sword would have shattered (because "all blades perish that pierce that dreadful King." (FotR, Flight to the Ford), but I do not think that the WK would be at all "felled". IF he was harmed to any significant degree, I think he would still be a very large danger, and would still be very much ’alive’ (in his sense). After all, how do you expect to ’kill’ someone if you are unable to seperate his body from his will? Normally this occurs when the hroa becomes uninhabitable by the fea, due to mutilation of the hroa, or the general wearing out with age as Men experience, etc. However, the case is different with the Nazgul; with the use of magic they have managed to stay attached to their hroa far past the point where it would become uninhabitable. I fail to see how getting stabbed in a critical area would change that fact. So there is a hole in his head, big deal, it is magic which allows the WK to stay bound to his body in the first place, and to change that fact one needs to break the spell.

We do know that a spell does not require magic to defeat it..... Because of this, I don’t think that the magical qualities of the blade played nearly as big a part in this scenario as you are claiming.

However, as I have pointed out, Tolkien does rather clearly point out the fact that regular swords would not have been able to deal such a blow to the WK whereas the enchanted Barrow-sword could. While magic does not always need magic to combat it, I think in this case it most certainly does.

Phil,

Consider the difference of being harmed/felled (as in at Pelennor), and being trapped and made captive. The WK would be fare more useful in every way if he was able to command armies and direct opposition to Gondor as opposed to if he was locked away in some deep dungeon. Boromir I, by strength of arms, might have been able to make the WK captive in such a manner.

Not to mention, Gondor and Arnor were of old in close communication, how do we know that the WK didn’t fear the possibility of Gondor having similar weapons to those which the Hobbits obtained? Maybe it was that the WK was frightened because only one so forward in arms as Boromir I would be able to have the possibility of threatening the WK in such a manner.

Speculation, yes, but fair speculation considering Tolkien gives us little indication as to precisely why the WK feared Boromir I.
Master of Doom 23/Mar/2006 at 02:26 PM
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Turin : As Phil pointed out earlier, that quote can also be interpretted to mean only that the wound was bitter, and that no other blade could have hurt him quite so much.  It does not prove that no other blade could ’cleave his undead flesh or break the spells that knit his unseen sinews to his will.’

As far as your reasoning as to what would happen if a regular blade struck the Nazgul,  there is no reason to think that the blades all shatter like that.  Merry’s just dissolved.  That is how I imagine it happened before.  It seems more likely to me that the fate of Eowyn’s sword was a little different, striking the killing blow and all.  Also, if no other blade could hurt him, then why didn’t he storm Minas Tirith himself?  Nothing could have stopped him except a Blade of Westernesse according to that theory. Gandalf didn’t have one.  Neither did Glorfindel, either time.  Why didn’t he just kill them then?  Obviously he was not that invincible. 

Also, as I pointed out, the blades were not made to fight the Witch-king.  They were made to fight Mordor.  Why should the spells of the blades then have any extra special potency over the Witch-king?

Túrin 23/Mar/2006 at 02:51 PM
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Master of Doom,

I don’t buy into Phil’s argument in the least. While I am no master of grammar, I don’t think that the sentance "No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will" (RotK, Battle of the Pelennor Fields) can be interpreted in a manner other than saying that regular blades cannot break the WK’s spell.

Also, if no other blade could hurt him, then why didn’t he storm Minas Tirith himself? Nothing could have stopped him except a Blade of Westernesse according to that theory.

Wrong. Nothing else could have ’felled’/’slain’ him except a Blade of Westernesse. As I mentioned, by brute force, the WK could be halted and even made captive.

Gondor and Rohan have brute force, at least enough for that. To get rid of this force, the WK needs his own host, and thus he must assume the role of general to command this host to overthrow that of Gondor and Rohan. Twice at least Tolkien mentions something to the effect of "but it was no brigand or Orc-chieftan who lead the assault". The WK must be general, to properly direct the host. If he charges in single-handedly, he might then be captured, or even merely prevented from giving orders. He needs to maintain the direction and command of his host, which at the moment was firghtened and about ready to break - hence he leaves Gandalf at the gate when Rohan arrives on the scene.

As to in the North - look at where they are - in the North, in what was Arnor. The WK has been in the North for quite a long time, fighting a dwindling foe which nonetheless had the weapons which could defeat him. Then comes Gondor, far more powerful than Arthedain had ever been. How would the WK know that they had no such swords among them, or that nobody had given such weapons to them? And too we have the problem of too many people vs one WK. Even if the WK knew they had no Blades of Westerness, Gondor (and not to mention some rather powerful Elves) DID have brute force, and thus would be able, regardless of how many he killed, to bear down on him eventually and perhaps capture him. Instead he could flee and be a thorn in the side of Gondor for generations to come.

Also, the Elves and likely some more noble Gondorians would have the name "Elbereth" which halfir has quoted about: "and he called on Elbereth, a name of terror to the Nazgul."

As to the fate of the blade - perhaps I should have said "break" as opposed to "shatter". The main point is that the sword would break and the WK would be unharmed (or minimally harmed).

Also, as I pointed out, the blades were not made to fight the Witch-king. They were made to fight Mordor. Why should the spells of the blades then have any extra special potency over the Witch-king?

The fact that normal blades could NOT break the spell would lead to this conclusion. Regular blades can kill Orcs, as can enchanted blades. Tolkien tells us that normal blades cannot break the spell, so it would be the enchantment on the Barrow-down blade which is critical in this case.
Phil_d_one 23/Mar/2006 at 02:55 PM
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Turin:

What is the wound so bitter? I do not think we can doubt that it is indeed the breaking of the spell, and Tolkien is explicitly telling us that normal swords cannot deal this wound, that only the Barrow-down blade, due to it’s special properties, was able to give the WK such a strike. Tolkien isn’t saying anything of the sort. You would be correct if the words were ’would have dealt that foe a wound’, but the quote has the qualifier ’so bitter’. He is saying that the sword of the Barrow Downs could affect the Witch-King to a degree that any other blade could not. This is not a matter of yes or no so much as varying degrees. Hence, that quote does not show that any other blade could not affect the Witch-King, only that no other blade could affect the Witch-King as much as the sword of the Barrow Downs.

With regards to your take on Boromir, I personally find your interpretation to be highly subjective, and somewhat of a stretch made to serve the purpose of furthering your point. Far more likely, as I’m sure you’ll admit, is the most evident interpretation, that Boromir (and hence, his sword) could harm the Witch-King. But never matter, Boromir was just a single example. Let me repose my question, which has now been reiterated by MoD. Why did he fear Glorfindel? The idea of being made captive again? But this escape doesn’t always hold. Why was he cast into doubt when he saw Eowyn? He didn’t know about Merry and the sword, so he should have known himself to be invulnerable. Similarly, why did he pause when Gandalf opposed him at the Great Gate? Why didn’t he storm the city alone, since nobody could harm him? The list goes on and one. It simply is not plausible, from where I’m standing.

<simul, but at the very least, my questions regarding Eowyn and Gandalf certainly stand>

Alcarináro 23/Mar/2006 at 03:10 PM
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Nothing else could have ’felled’/’slain’ him except a Blade of Westernesse.
It has been proven that these type of blades are especially potent against the Lord of the Nazgul. I fail to see where it has been proven that nothing else was potent in the least.

None who have given such a statement have backed it up with proof. You can quote that ’sinew’ quote all you want. But there are reasons that it fails. The Barrow-blade temporarily incapacitates the Lord of the Nazgul. All it seems to be is make a wound more serious than it would have been. A normal stab in the back of the knee would most likely have made him stutter, but probably not fall to the ground (which he began doing).

I fail to see how the fact that blades would break means that blades would break and deal no harm. Any blade breaks when, Barrow-blade or not. I find it odd that you’d think the Lord of the Nazgul could be stabbed forever in the face and yet continue to live. Why do I find this odd? Because it is a stabbing and after a breaking. Eowyn drove the blade through the Ringwraith’s head, and then it broke.

Normal blades can’t break the spell. And? Exactly how does this mean that normal blades are unable to ’kill’ him? This seems to be a leap of faith upon which the opposition rests. Where is the evidence?
Túrin 23/Mar/2006 at 03:13 PM
Politician of Umbar Points: 16612 Posts: 23336 Joined: 14/Sep/2003
Phil,

This is not a matter of yes or no so much as varying degrees. Hence, that quote does not show that any other blade could not affect the Witch-King, only that no other blade could affect the Witch-King as much as the sword of the Barrow Downs.

I fully agree. You’ll note that I’ve been not been disputing that regular swords can harm the WK, to some degree. What I am disputing is that regular swords can break the spell. I think that the "wound so bitter" is without question "cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell", and Tolkien is saying this is beyond the ability of a regular sword.

Why did he fear Glorfindel? As I’m sure you’ve seen in my just-previous post, because Glorfindel, by the nature of who he was, knew the name of Elbereth and most likely used it, and such caused terror to the Nazgul and he’d rather not face it.

Why Eowyn? Think of the prophesy of Glorfindel. The WK heard that his Fall would come not by the hand of man. Eowyn right there claims to be no man and revealed herself as such. The WK might have 1) thought he had misinterpreted the prophesy or 2) been therefore paranoid of something to defeat him (ie: suspecting something magical in her possission and trying to find out before attacking). I don’t think this is the stumbling point you think it to be.

Why at the Black Gate? I must ask: what pause? Are you talking the moment where he stands up and tosses some arrogant words at Gandalf? Or when he leaves - to reassume command of the army, as I pointed out in my previous post. The host of Mordor was wailing and fleeing, so the WK needed to get it back under control. Read the opening parapgraph of "Battle of Pelennor Fields". Victory was slipping away, so the WK went off to change the fact, as the battle was far from decided.
Túrin 23/Mar/2006 at 03:20 PM
Politician of Umbar Points: 16612 Posts: 23336 Joined: 14/Sep/2003
Elenhir,

The reasoning for why normal blades cannot ’kill’ the WK is provided in my post at Thursday, March 23, 2006 at 14:06. It was magic which allowed the WK to bind his hroa to fea past the natural state in the first place. Thus, one must break the spell the WK uses to hold his body to his will in order to effectivly ’kill’ the WK.

None who have given such a statement have backed it up with proof.

On the contrary, I believe I have given evidence. How can you kill something if you cannot seperate his hroa and fea? If the WK is forcibly making his fea stay in his hroa, as seems the case, then it doesn’t matter what damage you might deal to the hroa, you need to prevent the fea from foricibly inhabiting the hroa - ie: breaking the spell. Only a Blade of Westernesse could do such, so only a Blade of Westernesse could evvectivly ’kill’ the WK.
Master of Doom 23/Mar/2006 at 03:27 PM
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Another point of interest: The Nazgul were barred at the Fords by some of the Dunedain.  I suppose that the Dunedain could have had Numenorean swords, though I doubt if they were laced with the magic of the Barrow blades.  So why didn’t the Nazgul just walk past them, if they could not be killed?

And Turin, I still fail to see why magic was necessary to break that spell.  Brute force was enough to break other spells, so why not this one?

Alcarináro 23/Mar/2006 at 03:58 PM
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And Elk, I bid you look to the first quote Oin gave. It makes it quite clear that the Barrow-blade does not deal death to the Lord of the Nazgul. If the magic of the blade ’killed’ the WitchKing, severing completely mind from body, Tolkien would not have said that he would have ’fallen down’. ’Fallen’ perhaps, but the second word makes it clear that it is not some permanent thing. It would seem rather that the Barrow-blade temporarily ’paralyzes’ the link between mind and body, effectively impeding any will of action for a certain duration of time. I see no reason to think that would kill him (unless of course, the wound was to a more critical place, like the chest or head), but rather simple incapacitate, and make it easier for him to be slain. Which is what Eowyn did by stricking a blow through his head.
Ragnelle 23/Mar/2006 at 04:22 PM
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Brute force was enough to break other spells, so why not this one?

Wile I am not Turin, I would think the most obivous answer is "because Tolkien said so". Tolkien is the autor and inventor of this world and when he says that no other blade could break the spell, I would belive him. He made the world, and he knows what can or can’t be done. Some things may not be clear, but here I find Tolkien very explisit.

It may be that my understanding of the English language is incompleate, but I do not see why the quote given here so many times, does not indicate that Merry’s blade could (or did) kill the Witch-king. I would take "wound so bitter" to mean that the wound was fatal, especially when it is said in the same sentence that the blade was "breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will". I do not see how this is any more a leap of faith than the other interpetation, and if both are leaps of faith, who is to say which is wrong? I find that emphesizing Merry’s sword will give a simpler exlanation to the Witch-king’s fall, and the simpler solution is very often the correct.

But again, I may be ignorant of sublteties in the English language that may make this more complecated than it seems to me. If so, please explan in simple words that a non-native speaker can understand.

Eologos 23/Mar/2006 at 06:21 PM
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I wish to comment on an earlier post by Oin. He says Tolkien was in error about Frodo’s aiming for WKs thighs, citing Tolkien’s "struck at the feet of his enemy." I would like to point out a literary device known as synecdoche--a part put for the whole. Tolkiien’s belief that Frodo struck at WKs leg reflects a pretty tall mark for a hobbit. The sense is not in aiming for a foot; but rather, it is Frodo trying to cause his enemy to fall, to lose his footing, just as we speak of a dead warrior as "fallen". Tolkien did not literally mean that Frodo was trying to stab WKs feet. Think about the logic: Frodo did not, with a single strike, aim for BOTH feet. It must be synecdoche (e.g., The sails pointed north toward Iceland, implying the entire ship set out towards the destination of Iceland).

I am a New Soul, I hope this is an appropriate place for this comment.

 

Eologos 23/Mar/2006 at 06:50 PM
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Phil_d_one writes: "Why was he cast into doubt when he saw Eowyn? " He knew he could not be killed by mortal man. I think seeing a woman before him, caused momentary confusion because her presence did not fit his paradigm and interpretation of his immortality. It is the classic Macbethean flaw: Macbeth trusted in the witches prophecies, for he had been told that he could not be killed by one "of woman born," and his kingdom would last "’til Birham Wood comes to Dunsinane" (I hope I have remembered the quotations correctly). The point is--well read Macbeth and you’ll know the parallel. Consider also how close Shakespeare’s play is to Tolkien’s mythos.
Túrin 23/Mar/2006 at 07:00 PM
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Elenhir,

When did I say that Merry’s stab was one which instantly severed the WK’s fea from his hroa? Note that I don’t say that in the least, I say:

I myself have generally taken a middle road on this - if properly placed, Merry’s attack could have been sufficient, but since it was in a non-lethal place, it ’merely’ opened the WK to defeat by a regular blade, which was before unable to harm him. Enter Eowyn and you know the rest.

Yes, Merry broke the spell. But the WK was still quite the powerful guy, Tolkien even says it at the beginning of The Battle of the Pelennor Fields. I don’t see why my view should assume that the WK would instantly be defeated. Quite the opposite, the WK is tied inexorably to his Ring of Power, which is itself tied to the One Ring. I view the spell which Merry broke as something independant, not just a ’natural’ side effect of wearing the Ring, something that the WK put on himself using the power the Ring afforded him.

Master of Doom,

Ragnelle said it how I think, for the most part. Yes, some spells could be broken by brute force, but Tolkien makes it clear (in my perspective) that this one could not. He makes the rules; just because other spells could be broken by force doesn’t mean this one can if he says it cannot.

And if the Dunedain are good enough of swordsmen, then the Nazgul cannot get past them. There is a difference between not being slain by normal swords and being so powerful you can walk through anyone.
Phil_d_one 24/Mar/2006 at 06:31 AM
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Eologos: He also knew, by the reasoning propounded in this thread, that he was invulnerable to anybody who did not have a sword of the Barrow Downs. Eowyn was one of the Rohirrim (and the Witch-King would have known this, since she was wearing the appropriate armour and was among their number), and therefore she would not have had a sword of the Barrow Downs. If the Witch-King could not be harmed by any blade that was not one of those, then he should have had no reason to fear Eowyn.

Turin: When Gandalf opposes him, the Witch-King halts in the gateway. (and the huge shadow halted). But the point I am making is that it simply is not plausible for the Witch-King to be completely invulnerable to any weapon other than the swords of the Barrow Downs. I mentioned Boromir, Glorfindel, Gandalf and Eowyn. I find the answers to each one a bit of a stretch -- any elf was likely to use the name of Elbereth, so why did he fear Glorfindel? And see my response to Eologos above regarding Eowyn. And then MoD mentions the Dunedain at the borders of the Shire, and any other battle the Witch-King was involved in. If he was undefeatable unless the enemy had a sword of the Barrow Downs, why didn’t the Witch-King single handedly destroy any army he faced? You say that just because he couldn’t be harmed by any blades, it doesn’t mean he could ’walk through anyone’. But how long can a duel last when one of the combatants is completely invulnerable?

Ragnelle: I find that emphesizing Merry’s sword will give a simpler exlanation to the Witch-king’s fall, and the simpler solution is very often the correct. Which is the simpler option? That Merry’s sword did more damage to the Witch-King than any other blade could or that, regardless of what common sense would say, the Witch-King was invulnerable to any other weapon?

Ragnelle 24/Mar/2006 at 09:08 AM
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Phil_d_one: Why it is against common sense that the Witch-king was invunlnerable? Or perhaps it is more correct to say, why is it aganst the rules of ME? The Nazgul are not killed by the flood sent by Elrond. And Gandalf states that the Nazgul can not be slain by arrows:

"The Winged Messanger!" cried legolas. "I shot him with the bow of Galadriel above Sarn Bebir, and I felled him from the Sky. He filled us all with fear. What new terror is this?"

"One that you cannot slay with arrows," said Gandlaf. "You only slew his steed. It was a good deed; but the Rider was soon horsed again. For he was a Nazgűl, one of the Nine, who ride upon winged steeds." TTT, The White Rider. My emphasis

I grant that Gandalf is talking about arrows and not swords, but if we are to talk common sense, then something that can be slain with a sword can also be slain with an arrow. Yet the Nazgűl cannot be slain by arrows, and not by a great flood full of boulders. If mere physical damage could undo them, they would have died in the flood. I find nothing strange in saying that something that can not be slain by floods or arrows can not be slain by an ordenary sword either. Again it is back to what Tolkien tells us is the case.

He tells us that the Nazgűl are not killed by things that ordenarily would kill a man. And then he says "No other blade". He is the autor and inventor, and I find no reason to contradict him here. Common sense or no. It is against common sense that eagles can speak, yet we have no problems acsepting it in LotR. Many places in LotR follows common sense. Some does not, and the Nazgűl are among those things. We must here follow Tokien, who, as Turin put it, "made the rules". If he says they are different, then they are. If he says that the sword matters, then it does. This is the simpler explanation I advocate.

Phil_d_one 24/Mar/2006 at 10:29 AM
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Ragnelle: Thankfully, I have an example that perfectly (almost uncannily) parallels the one you put forward.

The Nazgul survived the flood, granted. Gandalf survived a terminal velocity fall onto still water with enough strength to then fight for a week while climbing up the Endless Stair, and arriving at the top with enough strength still to eventually knock the Balrog off the mountainside. Gandalf was in human form, and this would kill a human, so Gandalf survived something that would kill a normal human. So, with the reasoning you put forward, this would seem to suggest that Gandalf cannot be harmed by any weaponry.

Gandalf says the Nazgul cannot be harmed by arrows, granted. He also says that he himself cannot be harmed by weapons. So by your reasoning, Gandalf cannot be harmed by any weaponry.

’Yes, you may still call me Gandalf,’ he said, and the voice was the voice of their old friend and guide. ’Get up, my good Gimli! No blame to you, and no harm done to me. Indeed my friends, none of you have any weapon that could hurt me.
(TTT (I) The White Rider, Emphasis is Mine)

But we know that neither of these is true. Gandalf was an Istar, and the Istari could be killed by weaponry, as is perfectly evidenced when Saruman is killed by Grima, who slits his throat with a pretty average knife. So it must be concluded that the reasoning I propose here to suggest that Gandalf is invulnerable to weaponry is faulty.

And since this perfectly parallels your own example, I daresay the reasoning there is equally faulty. With regards to the quote, is it possible that you are taking it far too literally (see the Gandalf quote I provide). And with regards to the flood, you say it yourself, why is it that Tolkien’s works must conform to the general laws of science (see the Gandalf example I provide).

So now I can address your questions.

Why it is against common sense that the Witch-king was invunlnerable? Or perhaps it is more correct to say, why is it aganst the rules of ME? I have already made this clear. If he was invulnerable to all weaponry except the swords of the Barrow Downs, why is it that he did not march right through any army that opposed him, killing everybody in sight? It is against the ’rules of Middle-earth’ because we know that he does not do this, that he behaves exactly as one would expect from someone perfectly vulnerable to all weaponry.

If he says that the sword matters, then it does. Of course it matters. Nobody is arguing that. I am arguing that the Witch-King could be harmed by any weaponry, and there is no quote that says that this is not true, if that is what you are looking for.
Túrin 24/Mar/2006 at 02:02 PM
Politician of Umbar Points: 16612 Posts: 23336 Joined: 14/Sep/2003
Phil,

So you are suggesting then that Tolkien is indeed wrong?

"One that you cannot slay with arrows,"

I’m not sure sure how that can not be taken literally.

Out of interest, when DO we see Gandalf getting hurt after the point in your quote? Off-hand I cannot think of any such instance.

And there is something else that should be noted - your questions do not require answers. Tolkien did indeed write that there should be many things which are unexplained. The main issue is the interpretation of the Pelennor Fields quote. Yes, Gandalf has two statements saying someone cannot be slain or cannot be harmed; but one at least - the one involving the WK - is backed up by the narrarator.

And I’ll ask of you: How do you intend to kill someone if you are unable to prevent his fea from forcibly inhabiting his hroa? If you cannot undo the magic which allows the WK to stay in his hroa, you cannot slay him. Note this is not saying that breaking the spell kills the WK on the spot, but that it is a necessary prequel.
Phil_d_one 24/Mar/2006 at 02:21 PM
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Turin:

Wrong? Who said Tolkien was wrong? First and foremost, remember that both quotes in question are spoken by Gandalf, not Tolkien. Tolkien tells us specifically that his character’s thoughts are not his own, so Gandalf can be wrong without Tolkien being wrong (as you, with your study into the Uruk-Hai, should know well enough). In any case however, I said that one shouldn’t take that quote literally. Gandalf is, in my view, referencing the fact that one cannot kill the Nazgul as easily as the steed. That is how it can be taken in another way to the literal. And yes, similarly Tolkien tells us that Gandalf cannot be harmed by weapons.

none of you have any weapon that could hurt me.
(TTT (I) The White Rider, Emphasis is Mine)

No, we do not see Gandalf hurt. But Gandalf is an Istar, and we know that the Istari can be killed by weapons, as Saruman is killed by Grima’s knife (and there is no reason to assume that this knife was anything but ordinary, incidentally). Is Tolkien (or rather, Gandalf) wrong here? I don’t see why this should be so. There is an important difference between speaking metaphorically and lying.

But your final arguments? You have, to put matters simply, stated that the questions I have posed do not need answers, attempting to wave them off thus, and then posed questions of your own. What is to stop me saying only Tolkien did indeed write that there should be many things which are unexplained in answer to your question? We both know that selectively choosing which questions to answer, which to ignore, and which to label as ’main issues’ is no way to handle a debate. I do not find the main issue to be that individual quote. I find the main issue to be simple and straightforward plausibility. And see this as the main issue because it is non-subjective, unlike the interpretation of that quote. If the Witch-King was invulnerable, he would have taken full advantage of that fact. He didn’t, ergo he was not.

Master of Doom 24/Mar/2006 at 02:23 PM
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Turin: If you cannot undo the magic which allows the WK to stay in his hroa, you cannot slay him.

As I have pointed out previously, magic is not required to undo another bit of magic.  I see no reason to believe that the WK spell was some super-special magic, so I see no reason to believe that magic was required to break it.

No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will

This is not proof of that, at least not the way I have read it.  If it said ’dealt that foe a wound, cleaving the undead flesh...’ then yes, that is what it would mean.  But the qualifier ’so bitter’ changes the meaning.  At least, it adds another possible meaning, in that no other blade could deal him so bitter a wound by cleaving his flesh.  Not that no other blade could wound him at all.  In other words, another blade could have cloven his undead flesh, but it would not have been as bitter of a wound.  The way I see it, the wound was not bitter because it clove his undead flesh.  The wound was bitter because of the magic on the blade.  You seem to have precluded that the quote has to mean that no other blade could have cloven the undead flesh at all, which it does not.

Túrin 24/Mar/2006 at 03:56 PM
Politician of Umbar Points: 16612 Posts: 23336 Joined: 14/Sep/2003
Phil,

Gandalf has been enhanced in power and wisdom and returned until his task is completed. Saruman had not died and been sent back. Perhaps, due to this, there is indeed more to Gandalf than meets the eye. I am fully aware that Gandalf can be wrong without Tolkien being wrong. However, as I pointed out in my previous post: at least one of Gandalf’s statements - that concerning the WK - is backed up by the narrarator.

The gloss that you put on the arrow quote introduced by Ragnelle is, in my view, rather sketchy. Remember that hardly a word in LotR went without due consideration. I think if Tolkien was saying what you want the passage to say it would be worded more to the effect of, "That one you cannot slay so easily". But it clearly is not worded in that manner.

Don’t pretend to lecture me on debating methods, I know full well what I’m doing. Am I being somewhat of a hypocrit in dismissing those side questions and asking my own? Of course! Is it somewhat a tounge-in-cheek reply? Certainly! However, if you, as you seem to be doing, insist on repeating "If he was invulnerable to all weaponry except the swords of the Barrow Downs, why is it that he did not march right through any army that opposed him, killing everybody in sight?", despite its being answered (he can be overpowered and chained - thus neutralized without being slain or even harmed), then you certainly should expect to provide an answer to side questions of my own. Or we can just agree to drop the side issues and drive at the main issue.

The main issue is plausibility? Plausibility is determined by Tolkien. For example:

"But I should actually answer: I do not care. This is a biological dictum in my imaginary world." (Letter #153)

Tolkien doesn’t care about what’s plausible or not in RL, this is his world, he makes the rules. So anything that is obvious in RL cannot be assumed to apply here. I’m not trying to skew any viewpoint when I say the main issue is the interpretation of the Pelennor Fields quote. That is, as I see it, the primary issue to deal with. It determines plausibility, if you will.

"No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will." (RotK, Pelennor Fields)

Either one interprets this as saying that regular blades could not deal the "wound so bitter" (that being cleaving the undead flesh and breaking the spell) which the Barrow-blade did, or one interprets it as saying that the Barrow-blade was merely more potent than other blades. I think it clear that the former is the case, you are suggesting the latter.

If the former is the case, then it is not plausible that regular weapons can slay the WK. If the latter is the case, then it is plausible.

So yes, I do think that the interpretation of the Pelennor Fields quote is the primary issue. I prefer to take the Pelennor Fields quote along with Gandalf’s other two statements literally, rather than an altered interpretation of the PF quote which would make at least one if not both of Gandalf’s statements wrong.

Master of Doom.

And as I have pointed out: the fact that some spells are broken by strength/physical means does not imply that all can be.

As to the quote, I don’t agree with your interpretation. I think that the quote is clear in saying that regular swords could not do what the Barrow-blade did, and then it described what made the wound "so bitter"; that being cleaving undead flesh and breaking the spell. I think that is the simplest and most logical way to read the passage, and thus my stance on the situation.
Ragnelle 24/Mar/2006 at 03:59 PM
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Master of Doom. I fail to see how this quote can mean "that no other blade could deal him so bitter a wound by cleaving his flesh" (My empasis). It may be that I am ignorant to this rule in English grammar, but I have not come upon an instance where a comma replaces the word ’by’. I know it can replace ’and’, but ’by’ is new to me. To me it seems like the last parts of the sentence is a description of how that wound is bitter, namly that it clove the undead flesh and in that way broke the spell.

And you cannot escape the fact that Tolkien in this quote states that no other blade could break the spell. And not in the voice of any character. And you have not adressed the point you try to make in the beginning of your post, that this quote is not proof that the spell can not be broken by force. Whether you think another blade could wound the Nazgul or not, Tolkien still says that no other blade could do what Merrys sword did, which was to break the spell.

Phil_d_one: you wrote:’Yes, you may still call me Gandalf,’ he said, and the voice was the voice of their old friend and guide. ’Get up, my good Gimli! No blame to you, and no harm done to me. Indeed my friends, none of you have any weapon that could hurt me.
(TTT (I) The White Rider, Emphasis is Mine)

But we know that neither of these is true. Gandalf was an Istar, and the Istari could be killed by weaponry, as is perfectly evidenced when Saruman is killed by Grima, who slits his throat with a pretty average knife. So it must be concluded that the reasoning I propose here to suggest that Gandalf is invulnerable to weaponry is faulty.

And said that this paralles my example. I’m sorry, but it does not. Gandalf speaks of the weapons that the Three Hunters have, not of any weapon at all. Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas don’t have any weapos that could hurt Gandalf, and so Gimli does not have to worry about making a dent in Gandalf’s hat.  Gandalf’s statement does not imply that no weapons can hurt him at all.

And he says this after the battle with the Balrog, after he has been sendt back enhanched by Eru. Saruman was not. If there is any compearson, the Witch-king was the one with the added demonic force, which would make more invounreble than the other Nazgűl at Pelennor. Yet it is said of all the other (weaker) Nazgűl that they can not be slain by arrows (by Gandalf after his return). So, you see, your example is no parallell.

It is explisitly said that the Istari can be slain by ordanary means, and just as explisitly said that the Nazgűl can not. They are wraths, living in a wrath-world, outliving their normal life. The Istari is incarnated and bound to follow the rules of incarnated creatures (their bodies can be slain).

As for the trustworthiness of Gandalf’s statements. I note that you refer to Tolkien’s stament that his charachers’ thoughts are not his own. This is true, to a degree. That statement was writen about Treebeard in relation to the creation of orcs and trolls.

"Treebeard is a character in my story, not me; and though he has great memory and some earthy wisdom, he is not one of the Wise and there is quite a lot he does not know or understand." Letters #153

I do not recall any instance where Tolkien says the same about Gandalf, how is one of the Wise. I also not that Tolkien a little later in the same letter credits Frodo with having more insight in the matter. So while we can distiquish between what Gandalf says and what Tolkien says, or what a character says and what the autor says, still some characters are more trustworthy than others. And somethimes (quite often actually) the autor can, and does, use his characters to tell us importaint facts about his story and world. So while Gandalf can be mistaken, he is generaly to be trusted, and more after he returned enhanced than before; he is often the means by which Tolkien tells us facts about his world and its history.

To this we must add what is said of the Nazgűl by others, and that (with the quote in question which is spoken by the narrator, not a character) strengthen rather than weaken the image Gandalf draws. Can you show me a quote that contradicts these statements? Or that would sugest that Gandalf does not know what he talks about in regard to the Nazgűl?

As for why he did not walk right though the defence: he is not Superman. That the Nazgűl can ot be killed does not mean they can not be overpowered, not that they have suprehuman strenght. They actually don’t have very great strenght on the physical level and their chief weapon is fear.

"Their peril is almost entirely due to the unreasoning fear which they inspire (like ghosts). They have no great physical power against the fearless; but what they have, and the fear that they inspire, is enormously increased in darkness." Letters # 210

Though the Wich-king has "added demonic force" Ibid at the battle of Pelennor Fields, still his main strength is fear. Walking right though all defences recuries a bit more than just inwoundrebility, it requres some physical strenght as well. And there are other things than weapons that can hinder him, among other things Gandalf’s powers, which have already (when they meat at the gate) driven several Nazgűl away when Gandalf recues Faramir.

Eladar 24/Mar/2006 at 04:00 PM
Foolhardy Ent of Fangorn Points: 1948 Posts: 1306 Joined: 25/Feb/2005

But we know that neither of these is true. Gandalf was an Istar, and the Istari could be killed by weaponry, as is perfectly evidenced when Saruman is killed by Grima, who slits his throat with a pretty average knife. So it must be concluded that the reasoning I propose here to suggest that Gandalf is invulnerable to weaponry is faulty.

Do we know this for sure?  You can make the assumption that Gandalf the White was a vulnerable as Gandalf the Grey, but that is simply an assumption.

As to the topic of the thread,  Gandalf’s comment about Glorfindel and how the Ringwraith reacted to Glorfindel’s presence leads me to believe that Glorfindel or any elf who lived in both worlds could kill the W-K.  

Kirinki54 24/Mar/2006 at 04:51 PM
Librarian of Imladris Points: 2897 Posts: 1354 Joined: 17/Nov/2005

Bitter might seem like a weak and ambiguous qualifier that could as well be swapped for another adjective like for example ‘serious’, or something else that denotes a degree referring to the noun ‘wound’. From the debate I assume (perhaps incorrectly) that some posters interpret it this way.

 

But bitter comes from the Indo-European root bheidh-. The definition is ‘To split’. Germanic derivatives refer to ‘biting’.

 

It is my assumption that Tolkien well knew this, and my following assumption is thus that his choice of words was done deliberately. The two following subordinate clauses start by ‘cleaving’ and ‘breaking’ respectively. We could then assume that bitter was chosen to link to those following clauses. We would then get a chain of action from the verbs: split – cleave – break.

 

If this is correct, Tolkien might have meant that only this blade could initiate the process of incapacitating the WK, rendering him impotent.

 

For what it is worth…

Master of Doom 24/Mar/2006 at 04:52 PM
Torturer of Mordor Points: 2358 Posts: 1327 Joined: 26/Aug/2003

Turin, my point is that we know that spells in general do not need to be broken by a magical means.  I concede that there is no quote saying that this spell can be broken by physical means, but my point is that there is no quote that says it can’t.  Given this, I don’t see why we should not assume that it is a normal spell, able to be broken by means other than magic, rather than assuming it is some special kind of spell.  My belief seems to follow the general rules of magic in Middle-earth.  Yours is speculation that this spell is somehow different than the others we see.

Ragnelle, I was paraphrasing the quote to try and prove my point, not trying to prove that a comma can be substituted for a preposition.  I’ll try to do it better.  What you believe it says is:

No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will.  The wound was also more bitter than any other could have been.

With this interpretation, yes, it would mean that no other blade could have wounded the Witch-king.  However, my interpretation, with emphasis put on the qualifier, is:

No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter.  The blade cleaved the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will.  

If you look at it my way, you will see that the bitterness was attributed to the wound.  There is nothing there to show that the bitterness no other blade could have caused had anything to do with the cleaving of the flesh.  Because of this, I believe a regular sword could still cleave the flesh just as effectively as the Barrow sword, but it would not have been as bitter.

So basically we have the argument that the blade cleaved the flesh, caused a wound that none could have been more bitter than, and because nothing could be more bitter than it, nothing else could have caused the wound.  Speaking generally, that kind of circular logic is not a proper method of deduction.  I much prefer my interpretation, which I personally feel is more linear in it’s logic, in which the blade cleaved the flesh, causing the most bitter wound possible, rather than causing the only wound possible.  It’s not a matter of whether it hurt the Witch-king or not, it’s a matter of how much it hurt him.  Nothing could have hurt him more than Merry’s blade.  I just don’t think that this implies that nothing could have hurt him to a lesser degree than Merry’s blade.

And you cannot escape the fact that Tolkien in this quote states that no other blade could break the spell.

No, he does not.  That is jumping to conclusions.  The blade caused a bitter wound.  The blade broke the spell.  Why does that have to mean that the bitterness of the wound broke the spell?  I don’t understand why you are all making that intuitive leap without reasoning.

And you have not adressed the point you try to make in the beginning of your post, that this quote is not proof that the spell can not be broken by force.

If my reply to Turin is not enough of a point, I will reiterate it.  We know for a fact that spells can be broken by physical force rather than magic.  So, in order to say that this spell could not be, you must prove that this spell was different than the other spells we see in Tolkien’s writings.  Since there is no such proof saying that this spell was any different, I don’t think I should have to show proof that it was the same.  It should logically follow that this spell, which is in no way shown to be different, follows the mold of the rest of the magic of Middle-earth, which would mean it could have been broken by brute force, ie a regular blade.

 

 

Now, if we want to take everything in this context as strictly as possible regarding literalness, I would like to point out that the whole thing collapses on itself.  ’No other blade’ - Well, I’m sorry, but there were at least three other blades that could have done the exact same thing, and probably many more in the Barrows, or possibly passed down through time to the Dunedain.  Merry’s sword was not one of a kind at all, as Frodo, Sam, and Pippin all carried one just like it.

Master of Doom 24/Mar/2006 at 05:01 PM
Torturer of Mordor Points: 2358 Posts: 1327 Joined: 26/Aug/2003

Sorry for the double post, but Kirinki’s post has made me think.  (I simuled with him)  Now, Tolkien was certainly a literary genious, and that is just the kind of wordplay you would use.  However, could you please refer to a source that confirms this information, Kirinki?  After a quick google search, I came up with this:

Indo-European Root Etymology

bheidh-
To trust, confide, persuade.
Derivatives include bide, fiancé, and infidel.
  1. Probably Germanic *bdan, to await (< "to await trustingly, expect, trust"). ABIDE, ABODE, from Old English bdan, to wait, stay.
  2. FIANCé, FIDUCIAL, FIDUCIARY; AFFIANCE, AFFIANT, AFFIDAVIT, CONFIDANT, CONFIDE, CONFIDENT, DEFIANCE, DEFY, DIFFIDENT, from Latin fdere, to trust, confide, and fdus, faithful.
  3. Suffixed o-grade form *bhoidh-es-. FEDERAL, FEDERATE; CONFEDERATE, from Latin foedus (stem foeder-), treaty, league.
  4. Zero-grade form *bhidh-. FAITH, FAY3, FEALTY, FIDEISM, FIDELITY; INFIDEL, PERFIDY, from Latin fids, faith, trust.

Clicking on a few other sites gave me similar results.  I don’t know if I have done something wrong, but I can’t find any information connecting bitter with bheidh, nor bheidh with the infinitive ’to split’.
Ragnelle 24/Mar/2006 at 06:37 PM
Guard of the Mark Points: 2850 Posts: 4765 Joined: 11/Sep/2002

Master of Doom. You do not seem to understand what I am trying to say. I will try to be clearer. Both I and Turin (if I have not misunderstood him) am saying that this quote is contradicting your statement that the spell binding his will and sinwes together could be broken by brute force. And my point about the comma was to show why I can not accsept your interpetation of the sentence. It was the breaking of the spell that made the wound so bitter, and that breaking was linked to the cutting of his undead flesh. And I fail to se how even the pharaphrasing you have given it, change this. What made the wound so bitter, if not the breaking of the spell? How could the spell be broken in a less bitter way?

And I do not agree with the interpetation you atribute to me. My pharaphasing would be, as I have already given in my interpetations, that noe other blade could have wounded him so bitterly as to cleave his flesh and break the spell. Therfore no other blade could have cleaved his flesh and broken the spell. That is not a circular argument. But you seem to have decided that all spells can be broken by force, adn therefore this must as well. This makes you interpetate the quote the way you do for else if does not fit. This is not interpetation, it is making the quote fit. You may not do this on purpose, but you are ignoring what the text is saying in favour for a perconsepted idea. The interpetation given by Turin and mysef is consistent not only with the quote itself, but also with other statements given about the nazgűl, both in the text og LotR itself, and in letters and drafts by Tolkien, as given by halfir in the begning of this tread, by Turin and by myself.

The blade caused a bitter wound.  The blade broke the spell.  Why does that have to mean that the bitterness of the wound broke the spell?  I don’t understand why you are all making that intuitive leap without reasoning.

And I do not see how you get this from what I have said. I have not said that the bitterness of the wound broke the spell. I have said the the bitterness of the wound consists in the breaking of the spell. Again I ask, what did the bitterness consist of, if not the breaking of the spell and the cleaving of the flesh. And in this I am not alone. The Norwegain transator of LotR has translated this sentence this way:

"Ingen annen klinge, om den sĺ var svingt av mektigere hender enn disse, kunne tilfřyd denne fienden sĺ bittert et sĺr og klřvd hans udřdelige kropp, og slik brutt trolldomskraften som bandt de usynelige senene til viljen" Ringenes Herre, sl*get pĺ Pelennor slettene

Treanslated back, it would say: "No other blade, even though it was wielded by mightier hands than these, could have given this enemy so bitter a wound and cleaved his undead flesh, and thus broken the spell that knit the unseen sinwes to the will"

Here the translator clearly sees the cleaving of the flesh and the breaking of the spell as something this blade, and no other could have done. (I have ephmezied the most relevant changes). I grant that this, as all translations, is an interpetation, but it is not a ramdom one, nor do I think a translator as good as Bugge (the Norwegian translator which is considered a very good one) are prone to "intuitive leaps without reaoning". You want to put stress on the qualifier without given that qualifier any meaning. What made the wound so bitter? That is what the rest of the sentence is explaining. That is what you ignore to answer. Without answering what mankes the particular wound so bitter, how can you say that the breaking of the spell has nothing to do with the bitterness of the wound?

That the swords of Sam and Pippin, and Frodo’s before it broke and he got Sting instead, might have had the same spells and thus been able to do the same, is not a problem to me, though when Tolkien says "no other" I tend to belive him. Still those swords where of the same kind and if we presume that they were wrought with the same spells as Merry’s was, then they could co the same. This does not mean that any sword would do, but on the conterary emphesize that a sword wrought spesificly for this purpose must be used to have any singificant effect on the Witch-king. halfir as said as much further above in a previous andswer to you.

Master of Doom 24/Mar/2006 at 07:25 PM
Torturer of Mordor Points: 2358 Posts: 1327 Joined: 26/Aug/2003

You do not seem to understand what I am trying to say. I will try to be clearer. Both I and Turin (if I have not misunderstood him) am saying that this quote is contradicting your statement that the spell binding his will and sinwes together could be broken by brute force.

I would appreciate it if you could cite a reason for this then.  Just because you disagree with me does not make you right.  I have already given you a reason why I find your opinion to be incorrect.  It just doesn’t make sense to consider that this spell was different than other spells when there is no textual evidence to show that it was.

And I fail to se how even the pharaphrasing you have given it, change this. What made the wound so bitter, if not the breaking of the spell?

Because usage of the English language allows it.  The use of the words ’so bitter’ make the sentence have a different (possible) meaning than the one that you are saying is an indelible fact.  In my opinion, the wound was bitter because of the spells put on the Barrow blade, not because the Barrow blade was able to break this spell.  It is my opinion that any blade could have broken the spell, just as force can break a shutting spell or the spells of Saruman, and the text, when interpretted the way I see it, supports that.

But you seem to have decided that all spells can be broken by force,

Can you give one example of a spell that cannot be broken by force?  There is no textual evidence that this one cannot, and so if it could be, it would be a spell outside of the normal given sphere.  There is no insinuation that this spell is inherently different than the spells that can be broken with force, so I can see no reason to assume that it could not be broken in like fashion.  If you disagree, please tell me what you believe was so special and different about this spell that made it different than the spells of Gandalf, Saruman, Melian, Luthien, et al.

This makes you interpetate the quote the way you do for else if does not fit. This is not interpetation, it is making the quote fit.

How exactly can you argue this?  It is fact that other spells can be broken by force.  If you want quotes, I can provide them.  You are the one who is trying to make this quote fit with your own view, by saying this spell is special and different from other spells in that it cannot be broken by force.

Also, I am unable to find an argument that has not been rebutted by either Elenhir, Phil, or myself.  If you wish to rebut the rebuttals, please do so.  But do not say that the quotes that have been provided are absolute truth, because as this thread indicates, there is argument for each and every one of them.

Again I ask, what did the bitterness consist of, if not the breaking of the spell and the cleaving of the flesh.

If I cut myself, it will hurt.  If I cut myself and pour salt on the wound, it will hurt more.  The one that hurts more is more bitter.  Because of the magic of the Barrow blade, the wound hurt more.  That does not mean that a regular blade would not have hurt.  And that certainly does not mean that the Barrow blade was the only blade capable of causing any wound at all.

As for that translation, that is something for me to think about.  I do not profess to be absolutely right.  I am simply arguing my stance, because I believe it is more likely in the story, and because I do not think that your theory is very plausible.  The translation is nice evidence, but translators are not always correct, and sometimes language barriers do not even allow the correct literal translation at all (though I do not suspect that this is the case here).

What made the wound so bitter? That is what the rest of the sentence is explaining. That is what you ignore to answer. Without answering what mankes the particular wound so bitter, how can you say that the breaking of the spell has nothing to do with the bitterness of the wound?

I apologize for not explaining my explanation of the bitterness previously.  As I said above, it was more bitter because it hurt more than another wound would have, not because it was the only thing that could hurt at all.  I am not arguing that Merry’s blade did not break the spell, I am arguing that it would have been possible for another blade to have done so as well.  See my reasoning above for why I believe the spell could have been broken without the use of the magic of the Barrow blade.

This does not mean that any sword would do, but on the conterary emphesize that a sword wrought spesificly for this purpose must be used to have any singificant effect on the Witch-king.

As I have shown in previous posts, the spells put on the Barrow blades had nothing to do with the Witch-king specifically.  They were wrought with ’spells for the bane of Mordor’.  Yes the Witch-king falls under that generalization, but they were not imbued with a special Witch-king killing power.  They were made to combat all evil, which happened to include the Witch-king.  Why then the blades should hold some special power over the Nazgul that they do not hold over all evil in general is something about your argument that I do not understand.

Ragnelle 24/Mar/2006 at 08:11 PM
Guard of the Mark Points: 2850 Posts: 4765 Joined: 11/Sep/2002

Master of Doom: as it is late for me, and I feel my patience running out, I will be brief and rather return to this at a later moment, but there are some things you say that i can not leave unanswered.

As for your presumption that the spells on the Barrow-swords had nothing to do with the Witch-king, I will ask you to look again on the Quote given by halfir in the very first post of this tread, where it is said that the spells on the swords are made for the Witch-king’s destruction. I also invite you to ook on the wider quote in which the sentence we have debated is situated:

"So passed the sword of the Barrow-downs, work of Westernesse. But glad would he have been to know its fate who wrought it slowly long ago in the North-kingdom when the Dúnedain were young, and chief among their foes was the dread realm of Angmar and its sorcerer king. No other blade, not though mightier hans had vielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will." RotK, The Battle of the Pelennor Fields

So the Witch-king is spesifically named as the chief foe of the maker of the sword. That does strongly imply that the spells on it was there to umnake the spell holding him together, and that implication becomes stronger when we see it together with the quote halfir opened the tread with. It is also noteworthy that the nazgűl pause when they see Frodo’s sword at Weathertop, and his sword "flickered red, as if it was a firebrand." FotR, A Knife in the Dark

I also find it improbable that Tolkien thought it worthvile to elaborate on Merry’s sword if the only thing it did was hurt a bit more than another sword would do. I also fail to see how a sword would hurt more than another unless it was able to give a more grievious wound. "Bitter" in this context, seem to me to indicate "fatal". And again, if another sword could pierce him and break the spell, how can that be done in a less bitter way?

And please provide me with a quote that says this spell can be broken by brute froce. That other spells can, has nothing to do with it, unless you can show that all spells can. Your asumtion is that all spells can be broken that way, but you can not asume that, you have to prove it. That means giving me a quote that says all spells, also this, can be broken by mere force. "Most spells" is not good engouhg, and you can not use this spell as proof, as your interpetation of the quote is determened by your asumption that all spells can be broken by force. I have stated why I think this spell could not be broken by force: Tolkien says so. Not only by this quote, but in the statements that the nazgűl can not be slain by arrows. If mere force can break the spell, then an arrow fired by suficient force would be able. But that is not given as an option. Why would anyone need to make special swords to destroy the Witch-king if any ordenary sword would do? That is just too much work. 

I do not see why Tolkien would make such a fuss over this sword unless it could do something no other could.

But I will have to return to this when I am rested and less testy.

Master of Doom 24/Mar/2006 at 11:39 PM
Torturer of Mordor Points: 2358 Posts: 1327 Joined: 26/Aug/2003

it is late for me, and I feel my patience running out,

Before I even begin, I would like to apologize.  I am not trying to antagonize you at all.  I simply disagree with your view, and would like you to see mine, because I think it is more viable.  The least I can ask of you is to at least have patience with me.

So the Witch-king is spesifically named as the chief foe of the maker of the sword.

I would like to know exactly why this matters?  This quote does not disclude the Witch-king at all, but it does show that he was not an integral part of the spell.  He may have been their chief foe, but we are told specifically that the Barrow swords werewound about with spells for the bane of Mordor.’  So why is the Witch-king any more important in these spells than Shagrat, Khamul, the Mouth of Sauron, Gorbag, the unnamed Nazgul, or Sauron himself?  I can see no reason to believe this.  All of these characters were destroyed without the use of a Barrow blade, so since there was no specific incantation or spell on the blade for the Lord of the Nazgul, I still see no reason to believe that he could not be destroyed in like manner without the use of the sword from the Barrow-downs.

If you don’t accept this, I would like to ask you if Narsil, Orcrist, Belthronding, Anguirel, Glamdring, Sting, Gurthang, or Ringil were necessary to defeat Morgoth?  Obviously the answer is no.  Yet he was the chief foe of these people when these weapons were created.  It is the same argument, and it has no real basis.  The weapons may have helped, but they were not mandatory at all.  I will state again that this is what I am arguing: not that Merry’s sword was not helpful, but that it was not integral.

It is also noteworthy that the nazgűl pause when they see Frodo’s sword at Weathertop

The Nazgul also paused when they were confronted by Boromir I, the Dunedain at the Fords, Glorfindel (more than once), and Gandalf (also more than once).  None of these characters carried a Barrow blade.  Your own logic works against you here.  If the Nazgul paused when they faced Frodo because they were scared of being harmed, then they must also have feared harm from these other characters, right?  If that is the case, then other weapons could obviously hurt them, since these other characters did not have Barrow blades.

I also find it improbable that Tolkien thought it worthvile to elaborate on Merry’s sword if the only thing it did was hurt a bit more than another sword would do.

He did not elaborate on it because of what it had the potential to do, he elaborated on it because of what it did do.  Was Narsil necessary to cut the Ring from the finger of Sauron?  Was Ringil necessary to stab the foot of Morgoth?  Was Gurthang necessary to slay Glaurung?  Was Angrist necessary to cut the Silmaril from the Crown?  The answer to all of these is no.  However, because they did accomplish these things, they were elaborated upon.  Likewise, the sword of Meriadoc was elaborated upon because it, too, did a great thing.  (note that I do not say that nothing else could have done what it did)

I also fail to see how a sword would hurt more than another unless it was able to give a more grievious wound.

Then you need to take another look at the text.  Boromir I was pierced with a Morgul blade.  It caused him to die early.  Frodo was likewise pierced.  It nearly caused him to become a wraith.  Both of these wounds were more painful and dangerous than a regular wound would have been.  Yet a regular wound still would have affected them, right?  If my logic is flawed, please let me know.  Yes, the Witch-king’s wound was more grievous than a regular wound.  What you are saying is that there is no grievousness at all.  You say that the Barrow blade alone could affect him, and therefore the Barrow blade could cause the only wound he could sustain.  If the wound was more bitter, does that not require some other wound to be less bitter?  So would it not be necessary for him to be able to sustain a lesser wound?  According to your argument, the answer is no, as nothing else could even cause him a wound.

And again, if another sword could pierce him and break the spell, how can that be done in a less bitter way?

Essentially, you are arguing that every death and every wound is as painful as any another.  I disagree.  Being stabbed and being smothered are two different deaths, yet being stabbed is more painful, and therefore more bitter.  There are many ways to be wounded, and many ways to die.  Some happen to be more ’bitter’ than others.

And please provide me with a quote that says this spell can be broken by brute froce. That other spells can, has nothing to do with it, unless you can show that all spells can.

I find your reasoning to be flawed here.  There is no quote, as I have said.  Yet you have no quote to back up your position either.  So let’s look at it a different way:

We never see Frodo die, right?  But we know hobbits can die, therefore we assume that Frodo can die, simply because we know that hobbits can die and that Frodo is a hobbit.  Likewise, we know that spells can be broken by force.  Just because this spell is not specifically said to be unable to be broken by force (just like Frodo is not specifically said to die) does not mean that it cannot be.  Using this analogy, saying that this spell cannot be broken by force is like saying that Frodo cannot die.  There is no proof against it, yet the logical analysis tells us that your theory is incorrect.  I will say: if you don’t understand why I think this spell could be broken by force, I don’t know what to say.  In this thread, I have explained it four times.  If you do understand what I am saying, either rebut it or concede.  Do not keep bringing up the same position after I have argued against it, as though I had not already done so.

Your asumtion is that all spells can be broken that way, but you can not asume that, you have to prove it. That means giving me a quote that says all spells, also this, can be broken by mere force. "Most spells" is not good engouhg

You know very well that you cannot prove your claim any more than I can prove mine.  Therefore this is beyond quotes.  If you can come up with a reasoning that betters mine on this subject, I will concede.  However, if you can provide no better proof than ’becasue I think so’ while I say ’because I think so because: this’ then I will have to believe that my position is better supported.  I have provided reasoning, at least.  You have not so much as done that.  The only reason that this particular spell would be different than others would be to support your own claim and disprove mine.  I see no such reason.

Tolkien says so

And I have stated that with full use of the English grammatical system, this quote is perfectly capable of meaning something other than what you think it means.  Until you can somehow prove that it means what you think it means, I will not believe that it does not mean what I think it means (which is perfectly grammitcally correct).

Why would anyone need to make special swords to destroy the Witch-king

As I have shown, no such swords were ever made.  The sword that killed the Witch-king was made to combat Mordor in general, not the Lord of the Nazgul.

That is just too much work.

This implies Occam’s Razor.  Yet if we bring that into play, your entire argument goes straight out the window, as it is much easier for any blade to defeat the Witch-king than just one very specific one.

I do not see why Tolkien would make such a fuss over this sword unless it could do something no other could.

Again: Narsil, Angrist, Anguirel, Anglachel, Ringil, Belthronding, et al.   There are many weapons that Tolkien ’makes a fuss over’ that could have been superceded by another weapon.  The fact that they were not is what made them important.

But I will have to return to this when I am rested and less testy.

I sincerely hope that you are not testy.  I am not trying to get on anybodies nerves, I am simply trying to make my own view seen.  If it is flawed, I’m sure it will be proven so.  Otherwise, there is no need to get mad. 

Kirinki54 25/Mar/2006 at 01:43 AM
Librarian of Imladris Points: 2897 Posts: 1354 Joined: 17/Nov/2005

Sorry for the double post, but Kirinki’s post has made me think.  (I simuled with him)  Now, Tolkien was certainly a literary genious, and that is just the kind of wordplay you would use.  However, could you please refer to a source that confirms this information, Kirinki?

Oops! Sorry for my typo, MOD! One h too much.  

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition.  2000.
 

Appendix I

Indo-European Roots
 
ENTRY: bheid-
DEFINITION: To split; with Germanic derivatives referring to biting (hence also to eating and to hunting) and woodworking.
Derivatives include bite, bitter, and fission.
1a. beetle1, bite, from Old English btan, to bite; b. tsimmes, from Old High German bzan, bizzan, to bite. Both a and b from Germanic *btan. 2. Zero-grade form *bhid-. a. bit2, from Old English bite, a bite, sting, from Germanic *bitiz; b. (i) bit1, from Old English bita, a piece bitten off, morsel; (ii) bitt, from a Germanic source akin to Old Norse biti, bit, crossbeam. Both (i) and (ii) from Germanic *bitn-; c. suffixed form *bhid-ro-. bitter, from Old English bit(t)er, “biting,” sharp, bitter. 3. O-grade form *bhoid-. a. bait1, from Old Norse beita (verb), to hunt with dogs, and beita (noun), pasture, food; b. abet, from Old French beter, to harass with dogs. Both a and b from Germanic *baitjan. 4. bateau, boat; boatswain, from Old English bt, boat, from Germanic *bait-, a boat (< “dugout canoe” or “split planking”). 5. Nasalized zero-grade form *bhi-n-d-. –fid, fissi-, fissile, fission, fissure, vent2, from Latin findere, to split. (Pokorny bheid- 116.)

http://www.bartleby.com/61/roots/IE48.html

Phil_d_one 25/Mar/2006 at 06:28 AM
Shipwright of Umbar Points: 13181 Posts: 12667 Joined: 14/Jan/2004

I go to sleep and this is what happens

Turin:

Gandalf has been enhanced in power and wisdom and returned until his task is completed. Saruman had not died and been sent back. Perhaps, due to this, there is indeed more to Gandalf than meets the eye. Gandalf is an Istar before and after he returns from death. The Istari, as evidenced by Saruman, can be killed by ordinary means. Thus, by logical deduction, it follows that Gandalf could be killed by any means. And yet he says that Anduril, Legolas’ bow and Gimli’s axe cannot harm him. Ragnelle argues that does not say that no weapons can harm him, just that the weapons of Aragorn et al cannot. But this makes no difference to the point – why cannot the weapons of the Three Hunters hurt him (including none other than Anduril!), but any other weapon can? So, by your reasoning, no weapon can harm Gandalf. Which is false. You are saying that I am wrong to gloss over the quote pertaining to the Nazgul and yet there is no problem with glossing over this?

 

I think if Tolkien was saying what you want the passage to say it would be worded more to the effect of, "That one you cannot slay so easily" Why didn’t Gandalf then say ‘I am now too powerful for you to harm easily’?

 

You don’t like the word plausibility? Let’s try another: Common Sense. This is not a matter of plausibility in the sense that you are referencing. Why do we believe that men couldn’t fly? Because they never act in a way that would indicate that they do. If they could fly, we expect that we would see a man fly during the course of the works. Similarly, if the Witch-King were invulnerable to practically all weaponry, we would expect him to act in a way that would indicate this. He doesn’t.

 

But yes, let us move on to the Pelennor Fields quote. My question is one and simple. If Tolkien meant that no other blade could harm the Witch-King, why oh why did he add ‘so bitter’? Along these lines I’d also add the quote that halfir provided in the opening post.

Escaping a wound that would have been as deadly to him as the Mordor -knife to Frodo (as was proved at the end),

The quote says that the wound of the blade of the Barrow Downs would have been as deadly to the Witch-King as the Morgul Blade would have been to Frod. But assuming that the blades of the Barrow Downs were the only blades that could do any harm to the Witch-King, there would be no concept here of ‘deadly’ or ‘not deadly’, and so the comparison makes no semantic sense. If, on the other hand, all blades could harm the Witch-King, but the blade of the Barrow Downs was especially deadly, the quote makes sense.

Eladar: Do we know this for sure?  You can make the assumption that Gandalf the White was a vulnerable as Gandalf the Grey, but that is simply an assumption. Both are Istari. Gandalf the Grey is only more vulnerable in that he is less powerful, and thus easier to overcome. But if you were to loose the same arrow at both of them, striking them in the same place, I see no reason to assume that they would be affected differently.

Eladar 25/Mar/2006 at 10:44 AM
Foolhardy Ent of Fangorn Points: 1948 Posts: 1306 Joined: 25/Feb/2005

Both are Istari. Gandalf the Grey is only more vulnerable in that he is less powerful, and thus easier to overcome. But if you were to loose the same arrow at both of them, striking them in the same place, I see no reason to assume that they would be affected differently.

Simply because you see no reason to assume otherwise means that it is not an assumption?  Are the bodies of Gandalf the White and Gandalf the Grey the exact same?

Gandalf was carried by the eagles several times.  Gandalf was carried by an eagle in The Hobbit, when escaping from Orthanc, after his resurection at Zirak-zigil and finally at Cormallen.  Here are some comments concerning these flights:

"Ever am I fated to be your burden, friend at need," I said.

"A burden you have been," he answered, "but not so now.  Light as a swan’s feather in my claw you are.  The Sun shines through you.  Indeed I do not think you need me any more: were I to let you fall, you would float upon the wind."   ~ The White Rider

His body after ressurection was different.  It was not the same weight.  He was now as light as a feather.  He was much heavier before, otherwise he would not have been a burden the first time.  There was definitely a change in the very nature of his body.   It continued much later into the story.

"Twice you have borne me, Gwarihir my friend,’ said Gandalf.  "Thrice shall pay for all, if you are willing.  You will not find me a burden much greater than when you bore me from Zirak-zigil, where my old life burned away." ~ The Field of Cormallen

Perhaps now you can see a reason to question the idea that the bodies of GtW and GtG being the same.

Master of Doom 25/Mar/2006 at 11:54 AM
Torturer of Mordor Points: 2358 Posts: 1327 Joined: 26/Aug/2003

Eladar: His body was different, but I see no reason to believe that this somehow made him invulnerable.  If you would continue with your first quote rather than cutting it off there, it says:

"’Do not let me fall!’ I gasped, for I felt life in me again."

To me, the ’again’ seems to imply that it was the same, or at least much the same, life that he had had before, when he was definitely able to be killed.  In the Tale of Years, we also have:

Feb 14  The Mirror of Galadriel.  Gandalf returns to life and lies in a trance.

So he returns to life.  This also strongly implies that it was the same kind of life that he had before, in which it was possible to die.

Also, why do you think Gandalf the White was no longer an Istari? 

Wizard is a translation of Quenya istar (Sindarin ithron): one of the members of an "order" (as they call it), claiming to possess, and exhibiting, eminent knowledge of the history and nature the World.  (UT, The Istari)

...he has captured Frodo, but Gandalf refuses to treat (a horrible dilemma, all the same, even for a wizard) (Letter 91)

So Gandalf the White, at the Black Gate, is still considered a Wizard.  Wizards = Istari.  Therefore, Gandalf the White is most certainly an Istar.

As I have pointed out, Istari can be killed.  Since Gandalf the White is as Istar, he can be killed.

By ’incarnate’ I mean they were embodied in physical bodies capable of pain, and weariness, and of afflicting the spirit with physical fear, and of being ’killed’, though supported by the angelic spirit they might endure long, and only show slowly the wearing of care and labour. (Letter 156)

Unless you are arguing that the body of Gandalf the White is not a real, physical body (even though he obviously is), I don’t see how you can say that he could not die.  He was granted more power when he came back, he was not granted invincibility.

Ragnelle 25/Mar/2006 at 12:03 PM
Guard of the Mark Points: 2850 Posts: 4765 Joined: 11/Sep/2002

Master of Doom: I am trying to be patient, only saying that this is much harder when I am tired. Now I have sleept and hopefully can be more calm, but just to explain the reason for my anger, which is something I do not expect you to know, nor being anything you have done on purpose: You accused be of faulty logic.That presses a button in me that makes me go . And you did it by putig words in my mouth that I have not spoken. You atributed an interpetation to me that I do not, in fact, have. That makes me think that you have not unerstood what I have been trying to say, and it makes me angry. Throw in staying up to late, and there you go. I am not blaiming you, but this is how I react (just aks my debate-captain Rock). Now, since I have rested, but still have the feeling we don’t understand one another, I will, once more, try to explain myself.

First, to take the asumtion that all spells can be broken by mere force. You mention Melian here, which I do not find a good example. Her spell around Doriath could not be brocken by mere physical strength, but required another kind of power. It was not Beren’s physical strenght that allowed him to pass the Girdle, and neighter was it physical strength that enabled Caracharoth to pass, but the power of the Silmaril and fate. No army, however strong, could pass until Melian lifted the Girdle.

"...and Melian put forth her power and fenced all that dominion round about with an unseen wall of shadow and bewilderment: the Girdle of Melian, that none thereafter could pass against her will or the will of King Thingol, unless one should come with a power greater than that of Melian the Maia." Sil, Of the Sildar

"And one of Men, even of Bëor’s house, shall indeed come, and the Girdle of Melian shall not restrain him, for doom greater that my power shall send him" Sil, Of the comming of the Men into the West. My emphasis

"And he passed though the mazes that Melian wove about the kingdom of Thingol, even as she had foretold; for a great doom lay upon him." Sil, Of Beren and Lúthien. My emphasis

"Nothing hindered him, and the might of Melian upon the borders of the land stayed him not; for fate bore him, and the power of the Silamril that he bore to his torment." Ibid. My emphasis

This is what is said of the Girdle of Melian, and nowhere is it said that physical strenght helped anyone enter against the will of Melian. Fate, and the power of the Silmaril is mentioned, which is not the same as physical strength. A spell may be broken by a more powerful conter-spell, but that is not the same as physical force.

The dragon-spell put on Turin by Glaurung could not be broken by force either, or he might have been able to move to save Findulas when she was taken past her. But he could not escape it until Glaurung lifted it.

As for the spell Gandalf tried to put on the door in Moria, that is one spesific kind of spell and the rules of that does not have to apply to all other spells in ME. What Gandalf says about it, is:

"I could think of nothing to do but to try to put a shutting-spell on the door. I know many; but to do things of that kind rightly requires time, and even then the door may be broken by strenght." FotR, The Bridge of Khazad-dűm

There is not mention of spells in general here, and no implications that this refers to all spells. The Doors of Durin could not be forced open from the outside. And destroing the door is not exatly the same thing as breaking the spell.

So, for all the reasons I have given above, I do not find your thesis that all spells can be broken by physical force to be correct. I have found instances where it could not

In adittion, the asumtion "no spell whatsoever" is a dagurous statement. It is a preconcived asumtion that can not be proven in. In sience, this kind of statement is shuned, because it is like saying all ravens are black. But that we can not know. We can only know that we have never seen a white raven. But the white raven can exist even if we have not seen it.

"And please provide me with a quote that says this spell can be broken by brute froce. That other spells can, has nothing to do with it, unless you can show that all spells can.

I find your reasoning to be flawed here.  There is no quote, as I have said.  Yet you have no quote to back up your position either.  "

As you can see, i have provided both quotes and other reasons, and my resoning, as shown with the example of the white raven, is not flawed. Unless the statemen "all spells can be broken by force" is true, showing that one spell can, wil not prove that another, different kind of spell, can be broken that way too. And since the statement  "All spells can be broken by force" is not axiomatic - not a self-eveident truth - it has to be proven. You can not prove it, but I have, above, disaproved it. The only proof you can have to show this statement to be correct, is by a quote that explisit states that this is the case. Or show that every spell is, or is said to can be, broken by force. That is the problem of induction, that a rule based on it can not be proven since not every canse can be seen (because it includes both past, present and future cases).

We never see Frodo die, right?  But we know hobbits can die, therefore we assume that Frodo can die, simply because we know that hobbits can die and that Frodo is a hobbit.  Likewise, we know that spells can be broken by force.  Just because this spell is not specifically said to be unable to be broken by force (just like Frodo is not specifically said to die) does not mean that it cannot be.  Using this analogy, saying that this spell cannot be broken by force is like saying that Frodo cannot die.  There is no proof against it, yet the logical analysis tells us that your theory is incorrect.  I will say: if you don’t understand why I think this spell could be broken by force, I don’t know what to say.  In this thread, I have explained it four times.  If you do understand what I am saying, either rebut it or concede.  Do not keep bringing up the same position after I have argued against it, as though I had not already done so.

If you have argued against this, then I have not understood the argument, indeed not seen it, other than as a statement. I am sorry for this lack, but it is no greater than your lack of not seeing my arguments. As shown above, I do not axept your statement, not does your example with Frodo convince me. We are, in fact, told that Frodo dies. Tolkien does so in Letter #154, #246, #297 (footnote) and #325, so I belive it is quite well-documented. And you allegory breaks down as the spells we are told can be broken (though see above for the Gandalf-quote dealing with it), is not of the same kind as the spell kinting the unseen sinews of the Witch-king to his will, while Frodo is a hobbit and thus of the same kind as those you compear with. Your allegory can as well be taken to illustrate that Frodo does not die, as we are told the Elves do not. Compearing apples and pears does not help us.

And I have never said "beacuse I belive it" and not given a reason, any more than you do. Please refraind from such comments, at least if you want me to be patient; comments like that offend me more than mere scolding or name-calling would do. It is as bad as accusing me of flawed logic. I do not expect you to know this, nor do I think you meant to offend, that is why I am telling you.

Now to my statement that the runes on the blade was but there to the destruction of the Wich-king.

First: the sword is wrought with spells for the destruction of Mordor. This we both agree.
Secondly: It is wrought in the North-kingdom. This we both can agree to as well.
Thirdly: The Witch-king was the chief foe of the North-kingdom and of the maker of the sword. That too is stated in the quote I have given. I will give it again and show how this is, since you do not seem to understand it.

"So passed the sword of the Barrow-downs, work of Westernesse. But glad would he have been to know its fate who wrought it slowly long ago in the North-kingdom when the Dúnedain were young, and chief among their foes was the dread realm of Angmar and its sorcerer king. No other blade, not though mightier hans had vielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will." RotK, The Battle of the Pelennor Fields

Now the sorcerer king of Agmar can not be any other than the Witch-king of Agmar, which is the Nagűl in question. I wonder how you can say that this quote does not discuss him? "That foe" in the quote, is the Wich-king, who has just been destroied. That is why the maker of the sword would be glad to know its fate: it had fullfilled its purpose. And the Witch-king is spesificly named even when the hobbits are given the swords by Bombadil:

"Then he told them that these blades were forged many long years ago by Men of Westernesse: they were foes of the Dark Lord, but they were overcome by the evil king of Carn Dűm in the Land of Angmar" FotR, Fog on the barrow-downs

The evil king kan not be any other than the Witch-king, who brought the North-kingdom to an end.

"For at that time the realm of Angmar arose in the North beyond the Ettenmoors. Its lands lay on both sides of the Mountains, and there were gathered many evil men, and Orcs, and other fell creatures. [The lord of that land was known as the Witch-king, but it was not known until later that he was indeed the chief of the Ringwraiths, who came north with the purpose of destroying the Dunedain in Arnor, seeing hope in their disunion, while Gondor was strong.]" RotK, Appendix A,iii

So, Mordor’s representative in the North at the time the swords from the Barrow-downs were forged, was the Witch-king. The Witch-king, being a Nazgűl, a wraith, is not easily destroied. The asumtion that the spells put upon the swords were targered to the Witch-king is therefore not very far-fetched. Why target Orcs, who can be killed my much less elaborate means, or a person that is not even born at the time (The mouth of Sauron)? As for Sauron or the other Nazgűl: I would think that spells that could destroy one Nazgűl can destroy the others as well, no difference there, and Sauron has at this point not taken form, nor does he come to the North. The most logical thing is to make a weapon that adresses your most present treath. To the maker of the sword, that was the Witch-king and so the deduction that the spells where targeted at him, is not unreasoneble. Here common sense do have its use. Would you, faced with one enemy make a weapon to destroy another which is not present? And would you make a complicated one if a simple would do? No, you would not.

Now as to the pausing of the Ringwraiths when they saw Frodo’s blade on Weathertop. Do you seriously propose that Frodo at this point would be seen as equal to Gandalf, Glorfindel and Boromir I in powers? Gandalf and Glorfindel has other powers than mere strength, and Boromir I had armies to back him up. He is also described as being "strong in body and in will" RotK, App A, iv. From what we know elsewhere, the last part, his strong will, might have been a tad more improtaint than his physical strength. The Ringwraiths were not physically strong, but had fear as their chief weapon. If a man did not fear them, they could not do all that much to him. But if he did fear them, then his physical strenght would help him much - he would be too afraid to use his strength.

But Frodo is at this point neither stong in body or will. The only reason the Nazgűl can have to pause when confronting him, is his sword. That is not the case with the others you name, and so my logic is intact. The sircumstanses are different, and so can not be compeared. And to say that the swords of the other men, are the reason for the Nazgűl’s pause, when there are so many other plauseble reasons, and their swords are not mentioned in the context, seems a little narrow to me.

That is just too much work.

This implies Occam’s Razor.  Yet if we bring that into play, your entire argument goes straight out the window, as it is much easier for any blade to defeat the Witch-king than just one very specific one.

Yes, I bring in Occam’s Razor, but it does not trow my argument out of the window, as you seem to think. I deal with the text, and in the text much is made of Merry’s sword. Why, if just any sword would do? In the text, it is said: "No other blade, not though mightier hans had vielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will." RotK, The Battle of the Pelennor Fields

In the text, the magic, if you will, of the Barrow-down swords are brought to our attention more than once. And in the quote given by halfir above it is spesificly said that these blades were made for the destruction of the Witch-king. All this are facts of the text that must be explained. The most simple explanation for the things said about the blade and the nazgűl, and for the fuzz Tolkien makes about the blade of Merry and its destruction (he makes no such comments on the sword of Éowyn that likewise breakes), is that this sword did what no other could. That the breaking of the spell could not have been achived with a blade that did not have the same spells of destuction on it. It might be easier to have the Witch-king wounreble to all swords, but then it would also be much easier not to comment on Merry’s blade. If it was not vital to the destruction of the Witch-king, why fuzz? And since he does fuzz, then less explenation is needed if we say that the sword was vital. The fuzz is there, and since Tolkien was not prone to put in things that did not matter, explaining it away, which is what you try to do, is much more complecated than to axept the explanation given: "No other blade could."

As for "Narsil, Angrist, Anguirel, Anglachel, Ringil, Belthronding, et al. " it is not said of them "no other". It is said of Merry’s blade. That is the great difference.

Now to the argument of "bitter" and, to throw in Phil_d_one’s argument, "deadly".

First, I am not arguing that all fatal woulds are equaly painfull. But I do not see how a would that severs the spell keeping the Witch-king together can be less bitter than a wound that does the same thing. Nor do I see how it can be less deadly. I am now trying to be as precise as I can. I am saying that the bitterness and deadliness of the would Merry dealt the Witch-king consists in the breaking of "the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will". The breaking of that spell in possible because of the spells put on his blade, and can not be done with a blade that does not have those spells. That means that, yes, I do not think Anduril would help much in this matter. I find that to say that the bitterness consisted in more pain, does not explain the text. Nor do I see how this same wound could have been less bitter unless the results where different. For the text implies that if Merry had used another blade, the wound would not be as bitter. Yet Merry could have cut him the same place. Unless another blade would have affected the Witch-king differently by not cutting his undead flesh, or broken the spell, or both, I do not see how the wound would be less painful or less deadly.

And, to bring in Krirnki’s exelent reacherch, if ’bitter’ and ’bite’ are related, then a reading of the quote in question that I have been inclined to mention, but not been sure if was possible, seems not that far-fetched  after all. In this context "a wound so bitter" can be read "a wound so fatal", i.e a wound that bites so deep. Now how can a wound that breaks the spell that holds will and sinwes together be less fatal that the one Merry gives? How can it be less deadly?

There is also one thing not yet brought up in relation to the Witch-king’s destruction. The likeness to Achillies. He could only be wounded in the heel, and so he was slain by a poisonous dart. An arrow or a sword that did not carry poison would not have killed Achillies, even if it pierced his heel (or that will be common sense - a pieced heel is not usually fatal by itself). And so a sword that could not break the spell that keept will and body together, would not be deadly to the Witch-king.

Phil_d_one: But assuming that the blades of the Barrow Downs were the only blades that could do any harm to the Witch-King, there would be no concept here of ‘deadly’ or ‘not deadly’, and so the comparison makes no semantic sense.

I do not quite see it like that. In fact I do not see how the consept of ’deadly’ or ’not deadly’ could not arise even if the Barrow-down blades were the only ones that could harm him. If only they could harm him, then they would indeed be deadly to him. And Aragorn does not see it fit to fight the Nazgűl with swords on Weathertop. He tells the Hobbits to get some of the longer sticks used for the fire, not to draw their swords. Of couse Aragorn is on all-knowing, but unless it was known that swords usually were no good against the Ringwraiths, why should he have done so? He probably did not know at the time about the spells on the Hobbits’ swords, and so he would not think that they would do much good.

The Istari, as evidenced by Saruman, can be killed by ordinary means. Thus, by logical deduction, it follows that Gandalf could be killed by any means. And yet he says that Anduril, Legolas’ bow and Gimli’s axe cannot harm him. Ragnelle argues that does not say that no weapons can harm him, just that the weapons of Aragorn et al cannot. But this makes no difference to the point – why cannot the weapons of the Three Hunters hurt him (including none other than Anduril!), but any other weapon can? So, by your reasoning, no weapon can harm Gandalf. Which is false. You are saying that I am wrong to gloss over the quote pertaining to the Nazgul and yet there is no problem with glossing over this?

While you adress Turin, I would like to comment on the way you use my argument. I maintain that Gandalf is speaking spesifically of the Three Hunters, that does not imply that all other weapons can hurt him but theirs. It means that there are many weapons, now after his return, that can not hurt him, and theirs, including Anduril, is among them. That does not mean there are no weapons that can harm him, not that theirs are the only that can’t. But when he speaks of the Nazgűl he says "no arrows", which include all arrows in the group that can not kill them. Thus he says two very different things, which we can not compeare the way you do.

Arothir 25/Mar/2006 at 12:27 PM
Captain of Dol Amroth Points: 5022 Posts: 5104 Joined: 25/Jul/2003
Ok this is confusing to me, these are blades of Westernee, aka Numenor.  The witchking did NOT wage war on Numenor directly, as Angmar was not built up until the third age. True the Witchking may have existed, some speculate that he was numenorean, but the idea that the blades were made to fight a war against hte Witchking is hard to fathom, since the blades are second age while Angmar and the Witchkings war on the dunedain is third age.
Eladar 25/Mar/2006 at 01:13 PM
Foolhardy Ent of Fangorn Points: 1948 Posts: 1306 Joined: 25/Feb/2005

To me, the ’again’ seems to imply that it was the same

To me, the ’again’ means that he was alive again.  It says nothing about the kind of body in which his spririt resides.  You are clearly making an assumption.

So he returns to life.  This also strongly implies that it was the same kind of life that he had before

Once again, your assumption.  Since it is your assumption, it strong implies.  I find the authority you give your views to be a problem in our discussion.  You do not admit that your assumptions are simply assumptions and are not fact. 

Also, why do you think Gandalf the White was no longer an Istari? 

Because I define the Istari as those who were sent by the Valar to carry out the Valar’s plan.  Gandalf the White does not fit this description.

So Gandalf the White, at the Black Gate, is still considered a Wizard.  Wizards = Istari.  Therefore, Gandalf the White is most certainly an Istar.

You are correct, if one defines an Istar as someone called a wizard by those who lived in Middle-earth.

As I have pointed out, Istari can be killed.  Since Gandalf the White is as Istar, he can be killed.

Your cirucular argument is sound, as long as one accepts your assumptions.  I do not, therefore I disagree with this statement.  It is simply your assumption.

Unless you are arguing that the body of Gandalf the White is not a real, physical body (even though he obviously is), I don’t see how you can say that he could not die. 

I don’t believe I said he could not die.  I simply said that his body was different.  It is more difficult to kill.  I do not believe Gandalf the White existed in a human body.  I believe he existed in the kind of body that the Maiar would natural clothe themselves in.

Ragnelle 25/Mar/2006 at 01:27 PM
Guard of the Mark Points: 2850 Posts: 4765 Joined: 11/Sep/2002

Arohir: I will try to explain. The swords in question was not made in Numenor, but in the North-kingdom after the fall of Numenor, and after the Last Alliance. It is said of Merry’s svord

"So passed the sword of the Barrow-downs, work of Westernesse. But glad would he have been to know its fate who wrought it slowly long ago in the North-kingdom when the Dúnedain were young, and chief among their foes was the dread realm of Angmar and its sorcerer king." RotK, The Battle of the Pelennor Fields. My emphasis

The emphazied part tells us about the maker of the sword, that he was a Dunedain that lived in the North-kingdom (arnor, or one of the kingdoms that where made when Arnor spilt up) at the time when the Witch-king was active there. The use of ’Westernesse’ is to emphizise, I think, the conection to the knowledge found in Numenor, and that the maker(s) were of Numenorean desent. Arwen calls Aragorn "King of the Numenoreans", though Numenor is long gone. I think this is something simular.

Master of Doom 25/Mar/2006 at 01:44 PM
Torturer of Mordor Points: 2358 Posts: 1327 Joined: 26/Aug/2003

Ragnelle: Good point with Melian.  I went from memory rather than looking it up, and that quote is different than I remembered.  Because of this, I will change my thesis, though not the spirit of the argument.  Rather than say that all spells could be broken by force, I will rather say that spells did not require magical means to break them.  Regardless of how or why, Beren did get in without magic.  As for Glaurung, that spell was never broken, so I don’t think it is a very good argument.  Perhaps someone slapping Turin in the face would have woken him up, we just don’t know because it didn’t happen.  That is how I feel about the Witch-king.  A good stab in the face by a regular sword could have done wonders, but it didn’t happen, so we aren’t sure.

As far as the shutting spell: I think this concept is where you and I differ.  In my opinion, breaking the door would break the spell.  If the spell is there to keep a door closed, and then there is no door, that spell cannot still be working, can it?  How can the spell still be keeping a door closed without a door?  So yes, I do think that the spell would have been broken along with the door, because the spell cannot exist without the door.

Likewise, that is my opinion of the Witch-king.  I think that if a regular blade would have cut his undead flesh, it would have seperated his sinews.  Therefore, the spell would be broken, without any magical Barrow blade properties, because a spell cannot be holding togther sinew that is cut apart.  It was being held together against the test of time, considering it was a 4000 year old human body, not against weapons to make him invincible. 

I believe that the magic in the blade is what made the wound so bitter.  Do you deny that use of the words ’so bitter’ implies that another wound could have been less bitter?  Honestly, I think that the inclusion of that small phrase makes it more likely to turn to my interpretation, since the quote means what you interpret it as without it added in.

As you can see, i have provided both quotes and other reasons, and my resoning, as shown with the example of the white raven, is not flawed.

But I am still waiting on reasoning for why the Witch-king’s spell could only be broken by magic.  Other spells were not like this.  We are not told that this one is like this.  So why should we think that it is like this?  This is my point, because this would be a major stumbling block to my theory.  However, as it stands, I don’t see any reason to believe that my interpretation is wrong.  In fact, given what we know about other spells, I think that it is likely correct.  I understand your raven analogy, but since Tolkien never tells us that there is a white raven, we can’t say that there is a white raven any more than we can say that there isn’t, so if my argument is unacceptable, then so is yours, and that just opens up a whole new can of worms.

We are, in fact, told that Frodo dies. Tolkien does so in Letter #154, #246, #297 (footnote) and #325, so I belive it is quite well-documented.

Fine, replace Frodo with Farmer Maggot.  The point still stands that your assumption that the spell could only be broken by magic is an unwarranted one.

Also, I understand perfectly that the Witch-king was the chief foe of Cardolan when the blades were made.  I don’t see why this means that they were specifically made to kill him.  As I pointed out in my previous post, Ringil, Glamdring, Belthronding and the rest were not made specifically to kill Morgoth, so why should we believe that the Barrow blades were made specifically to kill with Witch-king?  Since we are specifically told by Aragorn that the blades were made to combat Mordor, I don’t understand why you continue to say that they were specifically deadly to the Witch-king, when they were not made to specifically combat him.  They were made to combat evil in general.

The most logical thing is to make a weapon that adresses your most present treath.

No, the most logical thing to do is to make a weapon that addresses all of the threats, so that when you defeat one, you are not caught with your pants down against another.  You certainly don’t want to win a battle only to lose the war. 

it is not said of them "no other". It is said of Merry’s blade. That is the great difference.

Yes, but this is assuming that your interpretation of that quote is correct.  The way I see it, the only thing that no other blade could have done was hurt him as badly.  Another blade could, however, have hurt him.

As for the Nazgul halting on Weathertop, it is interesting to note that the Witch-king shows no such hesitation.  Perhaps the other Nazgul stopped advancing because the Witch-king lunged at Frodo.  In fact, it is not until Frodo pulls out his sword that the Witch-king rushes him.  To be honest, I don’t even see any evidence to indicate that the Nazgul even acknowledged the sword.  It is merely two successive statements.  Frodo pulled out his sword.  Then the two flanking Nazgul stopped while the Witch-king rushed forward to stab him.  What else would they do, hold Frodo down while the WK stabbed him?  In any case, the Witch-king did not show any sign of fear or hesitation like you say he did, and as he is the Nazgul in question, I think that this is important.

Yes, I bring in Occam’s Razor

So let me get this straight.  You think it follows Occam’s Razor to assume that the WK was invulnerable to any sword except a Barrow sword, which were made in Arnor by someone who would not have even known what the spell on the Nazgul was?  Only elves would have known anything about the magic of the Rings, assuming that it was not an additional magic of Sauron, in which case nobody would know about it.  That is simpler than the theory that the WK could be harmed by another blade, and he just wasn’t?

In the text, it is said: "No other blade, not though mightier hans had vielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will." RotK, The Battle of the Pelennor Fields

Yes, I know what the text says.  Problem is, I interpret it differently than you do.  There is more than one possible meaning, yours is not the only one.  Why is yours more correct than mine?  Your interpretation seems to require more assumptions than mine.  This is why I like mine better, because it is easier and simpler than conjuring up a whole scenario about an invulnerable Witch-king.

And in the quote given by halfir above it is spesificly said that these blades were made for the destruction of the Witch-king

I don’t disagree with what you are saying, but I disagree with what you mean by it.  They were made for his destruction, but they were not made specifically for his destruction.  They were made for the destruction of Mordor, so yes, he was included in that, but they were not made to be bona fide Witch-king killers.  I still see no reason to believe that the blade was any more deadly to him than to any other servant of Sauron.

"a wound so bitter" can be read "a wound so fatal",

First of all, I’m confused again.  Are you arguing that the Barrow blade killed him?  Because I was of the opinion that Eowyn’s sword did that, that Merry’s was just a distraction or an opening for her.  Either way, your statement here is wrong.  ’So’ is showing a difference in degree.  A wound can be less bitter, or more bitter, so ’so’ fits there.  However, fatal is one thing.  Something can’t be less fatal or more fatal; either way it’s fatal, and your dead.  Replacing bitter with fatal does not really work grammatically, and since I don’t believe Merry’s blow was the one that killed the Witch-king, I don’t know why we would do so anyway.

But I do not see how a would that severs the spell keeping the Witch-king together can be less bitter than a wound that does the same thing.

Here is an overly simplistic explanation.  If someone cuts themself on their arm, it will hurt.  If someone cuts themself on the arm in the exact same place with the same knife, same size cut etc, and then dump salt on it, it is going to hurt a lot more than the first cut.  In effect, they are the same wound, but one hurts a great deal more.  That is what I think the magic did to the Witch-king.  Not that it broke the spell, but that it made the breaking of the spell especially painful for him.  Hence ’so bitter’ meaning more bitter, as opposed to how another wound could be less bitter.

I find that to say that the bitterness consisted in more pain, does not explain the text.

Only in the way you interpret it.  From my position, it coincides perfectly with the text.

The likeness to Achillies.

The way you seem to be interpretting it, he seems to have more likenesses to Superman than Achilles.  He’s invincible, except there is one thing that can hurt him... Barrow Kryptonite!  As far as Achilles, any poisoned dart would have done, but they had to be in a certain place.  With your argumentation for the Witch-king, only a handful of weapons could even be used, but they would be effective anywhere (I assume, unless his knee was special for some reason).  That actually seems to be the opposite of Achilles.

And so a sword that could not break the spell that keept will and body together, would not be deadly to the Witch-king.

I agree, that’s why I think a sword could have broken the spell.  It’s kind of like Glorfindel’s prophecy.  No man would kill him, not that no man could kill him.  I’m seeing it that way.  No blade besides a barrow blade did break the spell,  not that no other blade could  break the spell.

Master of Doom 25/Mar/2006 at 01:53 PM
Torturer of Mordor Points: 2358 Posts: 1327 Joined: 26/Aug/2003

Eladar:  I did not make any assumptions.  It does not matter whether or not the people of Middle-earth called the Istari wizards or not.  The point is that istar and wizard are the exact same word, just in different languages.  Tolkien tells us that Gandalf the White was a wizard outside of the cosmology, in the Letters, so there is no room for disagreement.  Since wizard means istar, Gandalf the white was an istar.  Tolkien also said (in an Essay, not in a narrative, so again there is no room for disagreement) that Istari could be killed.  What assumptions have I made?  Gandalf the White could be killed.

And if your posts were not trying to say that Gandalf the White could not be killed, then I don’t see why they were posted in this discussion at all, since we were not discussing the physical make-up of Gandalf the White’s body, but rather whether he was invincible or not.

Eladar 25/Mar/2006 at 02:06 PM
Foolhardy Ent of Fangorn Points: 1948 Posts: 1306 Joined: 25/Feb/2005

Since wizard means istar, Gandalf the white was an istar. 

You are absolutely correct from your point of view.

but rather whether he was invincible or not.

Invincible or not?  I thought it was about whether or not Gandalf’s statement was true.  Just because those weapons could not damage him, does not mean he was invincible.

Master of Doom 25/Mar/2006 at 02:18 PM
Torturer of Mordor Points: 2358 Posts: 1327 Joined: 26/Aug/2003

You are absolutely correct from your point of view.

Is there another point of view?  It sure seems that another point of view would have to clash with Tolkien’s.  What exactly is your point of view?

Just because those weapons could not damage him, does not mean he was invincible.

It was brought up in the context regarding the plausibility of the Witch-kings supposed invincibility to regular weapons, and you know that very well.  And either way, what his body is made up of had nothing to do with the discussion at hand.  Even the bodies of the Ainur were able to be harmed by weapons, as Fingolfin stabbing Morgoth shows, so even if Gandalf could not be harmed by weapons, it was not because of the form he embodied.

Eladar 25/Mar/2006 at 03:01 PM
Foolhardy Ent of Fangorn Points: 1948 Posts: 1306 Joined: 25/Feb/2005

Is there another point of view?  It sure seems that another point of view would have to clash with Tolkien’s. 

That is because you are both arrogant and ignorant.  This is not a good combination.

From Letter 156:

that is, with the other Istari, wizards, ’those who know’, an emmissary form the Lords of the West, sent ot Middle-earth, as the great crisis of Sauron loomed on the horizon.

Here we have Tolkien defining wizards as emisaries from the Lords of the West.  In case you do not know, the Lords of the West are the Valar, led by Manwe.  The same Letter says:

The ’wizards’, as such had failed; or if you like: the crisi had become too grave and needed an enhancement of power.

The wizards failed. This means that the Istari failed.  When the Istari failed, Eru stepped in and put into place his own plan.  Gandalf the White is no longer an emmissary of the Valar, but of Eru himself.

 

Now that you’ve been enlightened, I hope your point of view has been changed on this matter.  If not, at least I’ve tried.  Since this thread is supposed to be about the Barrow Wight Blades and not Gandalf, I’ll leave it at that.

Master of Doom 25/Mar/2006 at 03:41 PM
Torturer of Mordor Points: 2358 Posts: 1327 Joined: 26/Aug/2003

Eru stepped in and put into place his own plan.  Gandalf the White is no longer an emmissary of the Valar, but of Eru himself.

Eru did not change the plan, he enhanced it.  What was different about it, other than it’s scope?  Gandalf was still an emissary of the Valar, but in addition to that, he had also become an emissary of Eru.

"Elsewhere is told how it was that when Sauron rose again, he [Gandalf] also arose and partly revealed his power, and becoming the chief mover of the resistance to Sauron was at last victorious, and brought all by vigilance and labour to that end which the Valar under the One that is above them had designed." (UT, The Istari)

Note that the Valar and Eru had a part in the designs, designs that Gandalf made victorious.

that is, with the other Istari, wizards, ’those who know’, an emissary form the Lords of the West, sent ot Middle-earth, as the great crisis of Sauron loomed on the horizon.

How can you read this to mean that the only definition of Istar is emissary of the Valar?  If the Valar had sent another Maia to Middle-earth, would that Maia have been an Istar?  He could be, but he would not have to be, so this definition is flawed, in my opinion.  Note also that in your quote, Istari is immediately followed by ’wizards’ as though to clarify.  ’Emissaries of the Valar sent to combat Sauron’ is a generalization about the Istari, it is not the definition.  That is no different than saying that the Istari were all Maiar.  It is a generalization, not a defintion. 

"It was afterwards said that they came out of the Far West and were messengers sent to contest the power of Sauron" (UT, The Istari)

While it is not definitive proof, the index of the Sil defines Istari as: The Wizards, not as Emissaries of the Lords of the West.

The ’wizards’, as such had failed

First of all, we know from later writings that Tolkien changed his mind, and that the Blue Wizards did not fail, so this quote is obsolete anyway.  It the time it was written though, it was of course true.  Radagast was a recluse, the Blue Wizards had failed, Saruman had fallen, and Gandalf was dead.  There was no hope, until Eru intervened.  It says they had failed, not they did fail.

 

That is because you are both arrogant and ignorant.  This is not a good combination.

I bet this will make a lot of people giggle at the hypocrisy of it all.

Now that you’ve been enlightened, I hope your point of view has been changed on this matter.  If not, at least I’ve tried.  Since this thread is supposed to be about the Barrow Wight Blades and not Gandalf, I’ll leave it at that.

Eladar 25/Mar/2006 at 03:55 PM
Foolhardy Ent of Fangorn Points: 1948 Posts: 1306 Joined: 25/Feb/2005

How can you read this to mean that the only definition of Istar is emissary of the Valar? 

It is not the only definition, it is the definition which I choose to use.  You choose to ignore this definition for another.  To say that I’m choosing one and you are not is simply hypocritical.

If the Valar had sent another Maia to Middle-earth, would that Maia have been an Istar?

Since that did not happen, we do not know.  If Ainur more powerful than the Valar entered Ea, would they be called Valar?  Possibly, possibly not.  We don’t know, it didn’t happen.  If I were to enter Middle-earth would I be like the other Men?  I don’t know, it didn’t happen.  Making us situations which did not happen to prove some point doesn’t do us a whole lot of good.

 ’Emissaries of the Valar sent to combat Sauron’ is a generalization about the Istari, it is not the definition. 

So the circle continues....

First of all, we know from later writings that Tolkien changed his mind, and that the Blue Wizards did not fail, so this quote is obsolete anyway. 

You really like to twist the subject don’t you.  The wizards had failed.  Their mission would fail without Eru’s dirct intervention.  What in the heck does this have to do with the Blue Wizards? 

There was no hope, until Eru intervened.  It says they had failed, not they did fail.

Yes, it said they had failed.  If you took a test and you find out that you had failed that test, does that mean you actually did fail the test?

 

Túrin 25/Mar/2006 at 05:13 PM
Politician of Umbar Points: 16612 Posts: 23336 Joined: 14/Sep/2003
Ragnelle -- Another excellent post.

Master of Doom,

I will change my thesis, though not the spirit of the argument. Rather than say that all spells could be broken by force, I will rather say that spells did not require magical means to break them.

This change in stance is quite minor and does not really address the issues Ragnelle raised. There is a difference between not requiring magic to be broken and being able to be broken by physical means.

Regardless of how or why, Beren did get in without magic.

Yes, Beren got in without magic. However, that is not the point, the point I believe Ragnelle was making (and if not, I shall make it here) is that Melian’s spell could not be broken by physical means. A hostile army could not enter Doriath. Ever were they to advance yard by yard, chopping down every tree and burning everything in site, an army couldn’t enter Doriath. Physical means were useless. It was a spell that could not be broken by physical power.

As for the shutting-spell, Gandalf is rather clear that it is the door which would be broken. He mentions nothing of the spell being broken, I don’t think we should extend his words to mean that. He says the door, thus it is the door which is concerned. The spell would no longer be doing anything, but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily broken with the door.

As to the Dragon-spell, think of Nienor. Despite being led around, spoken to (spoken at might be more accurate), the Dragon Spell was not broken, it remained for quite some time, until Glaurung was dying and removed the spell.

You might argue that by killing Nienor the spell would be broken, but I don’t think that would be a very strong argument, it would be like breaking the door, it’s a ’trivial solution’, as we call it in mathematics, since it doesn’t really show anything. The equation x(x-2)=0 can be solved by taking x=0, but that’s generally not really of interest or concern; x=2 is much more interesting solution (I was going to make an analogy using eigenvalues and eigenvectors, but that would be hard to type and explain if you are not familiar. Destroying the subject the spell is like the trivial solution, breaking the spell is like a non-trivial one (in the case of the WK, the matter is slightly altered as destroying the subject requires breaking the spell)

It was being held together against the test of time, considering it was a 4000 year old human body, not against weapons to make him invincible.

That is what the spell is? Are you sure? I read the spell as binding his sinews to his will - this would be holding it togather against the test of time, and against weapons, diseases, and other potential harms.

Do you deny that use of the words ’so bitter’ implies that another wound could have been less bitter? Honestly, I think that the inclusion of that small phrase makes it more likely to turn to my interpretation, since the quote means what you interpret it as without it added in.

No - we are suggesting that the "less bitter" would be the non-breaking of the spell. Ragnelle and I read the remainder of the sentence as describing what made the would be "so bitter". Note that no actual comment is made of the sword’s magical attributes - only he fact that regular blades could not have dealt a would so bitter, and that the wound consisted of cutting the undead flesh and breaking the spell. The natural reading is that the cutting and spell-breaking is what makes the wound so bitter. There is no mention of the magic on the blade, you are supplying that to the quote from knowledge obtained elsewhere in order to explain your argument.

But I am still waiting on reasoning for why the Witch-king’s spell could only be broken by magic. Other spells were not like this. We are not told that this one is like this. So why should we think that it is like this?

We are equally not told that mere physical strength was enough to break this spell. Physical strength was not effective on all spells. Why do we need to superimpose other knowledge when there is a simpler explination for the quote: that being that only the Barrow-blade could break the spell. I think that the burden of proof is on you, as your theory is the one which requires us to look beyond the immediate passage for ways to explain, and an explination which then assumes that at least two of Gandalf’s statements are incorrect.

I, like Ragnelle, think you are comparring apples to organges with your Frodo argument. For mortals, we know that the general rule is dying after their alloted span of years. We do not know the general rule for spells, thus we cannot say what is an exception, and what can be assumed about spells. Just because the WK’s spell is not said to be unable to be broken by force does not somehow mean that it can be broken by force. We don’t know the general rule so we can’t say, without evidence, that the spell could be broken by force. What evidence do we have to suggest that the spell could indeed be broken by force?

Tolkien says that the Barrow-sword broke the spell. Ok, that is one way to break the spell. What are other ways? Magic in Middle-earth is not very precise, we cannot say that any spell can be broken by force, or that any spell could be broken by a counter spell; we simply don’t know until Tolkien tells us! We know one way - the Barrow-blade, what reason do we have to suggest that other blades could also break the spell? The inclusion of "so bitter" cannot come into play, as it is clear that we disagree as to how it should be interpreted.

Heck, it might not even be the spells on the Barrow-blade which broke the spell on the WK, but we know the Barrow-blade - for whatever reason - was a means to break the spell, and the only means we are told of to break the spell.

Since we are specifically told by Aragorn that the blades were made to combat Mordor, I don’t understand why you continue to say that they were specifically deadly to the Witch-king, when they were not made to specifically combat him.

Out of interest - what Mordor? Gondor had watch upon Mordor; nobody was there - at least nothing that could have been a threat to Arnor in the least.

And there is more to note - the "bane of Mordor" quote was spoken by a character, who was in all likelyhood speaking in present-day terms. The WK was the chief captain of Mordor, and thus spells directed at the WK are indeed quite significant to the fate of Mordor.

Also, note that there are spells on the blade. Multiple spells. Is it too hard to imagine that some spells might somehow inflict more pain on someone who is evil (as hard as it is to imagine a sword not inflicting added pain on one man but then several generations down in the line [of Castamir and his followers] doing just that), and that other spells might be working against the Nazgul or WK specifically? Considering how critical the situation in the North with the WK was and how much of a clear and present danger he represented, I don’t find it a stretch at all to have a spell or two directly aimed at breaking the WK’s spell.

As to not winning a battle only to lose the war, remember that the WK was readily apparent. Not until about 1940 TA did Arthedain even really consider that there might be someone more powerful behind the WK. They didn’t realize before then that he was a Nazgul (and didn’t while their realm lasted, I believe). To them, the WK - to them at least - WAS the war, defeating him would mean victory.

So let me get this straight. You think it follows Occam’s Razor to assume that the WK was invulnerable to any sword except a Barrow sword, which were made in Arnor by someone who would not have even known what the spell on the Nazgul was? Only elves would have known anything about the magic of the Rings, assuming that it was not an additional magic of Sauron, in which case nobody would know about it. That is simpler than the theory that the WK could be harmed by another blade, and he just wasn’t?

In short - yes; because your theory has assumptions and all else of its own which you don’t point out.

The Dunedain had over 600 years of fighting the WK, I would not find it unreasonable that they manage to find out what is effective against his spells and what is not effective (they don’t have to stab him, just encounter his spell, which we know can be placed on other objects). And given what I said about spells earlier, I don’t find it unreasonable that regular weapons wouldn’t break the spell.

And you fail to mention this, but consider a given man who is not evil. If he suddenly went over and aligned himself with Sauron, would one of the Barrow-blades then be extra harmful to him? I don’t find my theory any more unreasonable than this, and in fact less shakey.

Yes, I know what the text says. Problem is, I interpret it differently than you do. There is more than one possible meaning, yours is not the only one. Why is yours more correct than mine? Your interpretation seems to require more assumptions than mine. This is why I like mine better, because it is easier and simpler than conjuring up a whole scenario about an invulnerable Witch-king.

An ’invulnurable’ Witchking (though I don’t think Ragnelle or I are saying he is invulnerable, only that the spell needs breaking and only the Barrow-swords and break the spell - a different case than saying unharmable) is not all that hard to imagine considering Tolkien says that the Nazgul cannot be slain with arrows. We have more assumptions than yours? If that is the case, then we at least have fewer assumptions that contradict other text and/or require a non-literal gloss over passages, namely the arrow-quote and Gandalf’s other quote about having no weapons which can harm him.

We are not ’conjuring up’ a scenario - we are interpreting the arrow-quote literally and making sure to NOT assume anything about spells. We know of one way to break the WK’s spell. How do you know there is another way to acomplish it? Tolkien certainly doesn’t tell us one!

That actually seems to be the opposite of Achilles.

It was an analogy, not a perfect translation. The WK is like Achilles in the sense that he has, from all appearences, one weakness which can slay him: the Barrow-blade. Similarily, Achilles has one weakness which can slay him: a strike at his heel. The fact that the specifics don’t match up isn’t a concern, that’s not the point, the point is about a supernatural being with a specific weakness.
Master of Doom 26/Mar/2006 at 02:11 PM
Torturer of Mordor Points: 2358 Posts: 1327 Joined: 26/Aug/2003

This change in stance is quite minor and does not really address the issues Ragnelle raised. There is a difference between not requiring magic to be broken and being able to be broken by physical means.

And there is a difference between not requiring magic to be broken and requiring magic to be broken.  My point is that if you don’t think I can say that the spell could have been broken by physical means because there is no textual evidence, then you can’t say that it could only be broken by magical means, because neither statement can be proven using the text.  I think half the problem here is we are seeing the spell as something different.  I think that it is there to help him survive, since it would be impossible for him to do so on his own.  It seems to me that you are saying that not only did it keep him alive, it greatly enhanced his strength to the point where no weapon could hurt him.  I must ask what makes you think that your theory (if I did indeed interpret your theory correctly) is correct?  If that truly is your theory, how could Sauron have become so powerful as to cast such a spell, and if he could, why didn’t he cast it on himself?  (If you think the Witch-king cast the spell, Sauron would have come by it either way)  It seems odd for him to give his servant such a power but not use that power for himself.  Also, how would this fit in with Tolkien’s description of magia and goeteia in Letter 155?

The spell would no longer be doing anything, but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily broken with the door.

I am not talking about the ’to shatter’ definition of broken here, I am talking about the ’render useless’ definition.  In order for a spell to be working, it has to be doing what it is supposed to be doing.  If it is supposed to be holding a door shut, then it has to hold a door shut to work.  If the door is broken, the spell can no longer be working, obviously.  By breaking the door, you indirectly break the spell (render it useless) as well.  Since a spell is not a physical thing, I think that the ’render useless’ definition of broken is the only one that can be used.

As to the Dragon-spell, think of Nienor. Despite being led around, spoken to (spoken at might be more accurate), the Dragon Spell was not broken, it remained for quite some time, until Glaurung was dying and removed the spell.

Alright, I’ll retract the whole spell argument, since it really is a tangent anyway.  However, since you have proven that all spells act differently, I still see no reason to believe that magic and magic alone could break the Witch-king’s spell.  However, I admit that it is an assumption to say that a regular sword could have done so, as I have no proof (likewise it is an assumption to say that a regular sword could not have broken the spell).  I’ve thought about this for a while now, and I think I figured out why I truly like my theory so much better than yours.  My reasoning shall be forthcoming.

That is what the spell is? Are you sure? I read the spell as binding his sinews to his will - this would be holding it togather against the test of time, and against weapons, diseases, and other potential harms.

Oh really?  I must say, since my brain is telling my fingers what to type at this very moment, and the fact that my fingers are actually doing it sure makes it seem to me that my sinews are bound to my will.  However, I certainly think that I could be killed by something other than a Barrow sword.  Why do you think your theory is correct?  It seems to add a whole new depth to the words ’sinew’ and ’will’, even if you use the ’mainstay of power’ definition (which I don’t think should come into play, considering the use of ’undead flesh’ as a part of the body in the context, which implies that sinew means nothing more than tendons and muscle).

No - we are suggesting that the "less bitter" would be the non-breaking of the spell.

Then I think I must be misunderstanding your position.  What would happen if I cut off the Witch-king’s head with a regular sword?  The spell would not be broken, according to you, so he wouldn’t die?  That makes no sense.  And yet, if I can wound him in a ’less bitter’ way, then why can’t I cut off his head?  I think I need some clarification about exactly what affect regular blades had on the Nazgul according to your theory, because after this comment I think I may have it all wrong.    It seems that you are saying that no blade could wound him at all until the spell had been broken.

Note that no actual comment is made of the sword’s magical attributes - only he fact that regular blades could not have dealt a would so bitter, and that the wound consisted of cutting the undead flesh and breaking the spell. The natural reading is that the cutting and spell-breaking is what makes the wound so bitter. There is no mention of the magic on the blade, you are supplying that to the quote from knowledge obtained elsewhere in order to explain your argument.

Now I am really confused.  This is my theory here.  Yes, granted there is nothing in the quote that says anything about magic.  Yes, I make the assumption that the magic made the wound bitter, but I must say I think that is a pretty safe assumption.  Tolkien often left us to connect the dots, rather than spell every little thing out.  However, given what you have just written, I must ask why it is that you think no other sword could hurt the Witch-king, if the magical properties of the Barrow blade are not what broke the spell?  If it was the physical power of the blade, then this supports my theory that the spell could be broken by physical means.  Is there another option besides the physical power or the magical power?  If so, I am not seeing it, so if you say that the magical properties did not break the spell, I don’t see how you can disagree with me.

Heck, it might not even be the spells on the Barrow-blade which broke the spell on the WK, but we know the Barrow-blade - for whatever reason - was a means to break the spell, and the only means we are told of to break the spell.

Well, I must say that since I have a theory that I can find no flaws with, I am going to go with that rather than sit here and guess that there is some unexplainable reason for the Barrow blade to be the only possible blade to hurt the WK.  Perhaps it’s wrong, but things like Tom Bombadil already bother me enough.  I like to explain things rather than leave them as enigmas, so when it is possible to do so, I will do it.  I have never said that my statement is undeniably correct, so take it with a grain of salt if you wish.  It is what I believe, and I have given you my reasonings.

the only means we are told of to break the spell.

And the only person we are told of who killed Saruman is Grima.  Does that mean that only Grima could kill Saruman?  I don’t think so.  This is not a logical argument.  If you say that I can’t say there was another way to break the spell because there is no quote that says so, then I say you can’t say magic was the only way to break the spell, because there is no quote that says so.

Out of interest - what Mordor? Gondor had watch upon Mordor; nobody was there - at least nothing that could have been a threat to Arnor in the least.

An interesting question, but quite simple to answer.  Yes, Angmar was a realm in and of itself, but it was certainly a part of Mordor.  Angmar was Mordor just as much as Dol Guldor was Mordor.  Was not Spanish Florida still a part of Spain before being gifted to the United States?  Or to put it in Middle-earth terms, was Umbar not still a part of Numenor in the Second Age?  Same difference.

And there is more to note - the "bane of Mordor" quote was spoken by a character, who was in all likelyhood speaking in present-day terms. The WK was the chief captain of Mordor, and thus spells directed at the WK are indeed quite significant to the fate of Mordor.

This is possible, but the wording makes it awkward in my opinion.  Still doesn’t answer how a man could unexplainably know a counter spell for the Witch-king’s spell to put it on this blade.

To them, the WK - to them at least - WAS the war, defeating him would mean victory.

First of all, I was not even considering the Middle-earth situation when I said that, I was speaking in general, as Ragnelle was in the quote I replied to, where she stated that this was common sense.  In a general situation, I don’t think that is common sense at all, so I said so.  However, I still don’t think you get it.  If the blades were made by Men in Arnor to kill the Witch-king specifically, why didn’t they put the spells for his destruction on a bigger sword? Remember, the hobbit’s blades were only knives.  How often is a knife going to come into play when fighting such a foe on the battlefield (aside from the obvious stab him in the knee / face strategy)?  It does not seem likely, in my opinion, that they would have wasted their time creating a weapon specifically to kill the Witch-king that would have been ineffective.  It does make sense to me that they would make general purpose weapons though, so that is what I choose to believe, and I don’t have to stretch the text to do it.

I don’t find it a stretch at all to have a spell or two directly aimed at breaking the WK’s spell.

It is not this that I find the stretch, it is the logic behind it (or lack thereof).  I do not see why they would have put such a spell on small, all but useless blades.  I do not see where they could have learned the spell in the first place.  And I do not see why such blades would be the only thing that could break the spell.  That would have made him unkillable for 2500 years before the blades were created!  This is what I find to be a stretch.

(they don’t have to stab him, just encounter his spell, which we know can be placed on other objects)

I don’t follow you here.  What else was the spell cast on?

And you fail to mention this, but consider a given man who is not evil. If he suddenly went over and aligned himself with Sauron, would one of the Barrow-blades then be extra harmful to him? I don’t find my theory any more unreasonable than this, and in fact less shakey.

Why?  It is magic after all.  I don’t find this any more unreasonable than a splinter casually pushing it’s way into your heart, or a word causing a door to explode.  It would not be extra harmful, though.  That is not what I am saying.  I am saying it would hurt more.  It would burn, sting, whatever.  It would be bitter.  Bitterness has nothing to do with causing damage (often the two are directly related, but they certainly don’t have to be, sometimes a tiny papercut can hurt much more than a sizable wound), it has to do with pain.  How much pain something causes.

Tolkien says that the Nazgul cannot be slain with arrows

No, Gandalf says that.  Do I think Gandalf was lying?  No.  Do I think he was speaking figuratively, or even perhaps prophecizing a bit?  Yes.  Gandalf also says ’Do as I say!  Swords are of no more use here!  Go!’ as the Fellowship flees from the Chamber of Mazarbul.  I certainly don’t read this to mean that there were any enemies there that could not be slain by a sword.

(though I don’t think Ragnelle or I are saying he is invulnerable, only that the spell needs breaking and only the Barrow-swords and break the spell - a different case than saying unharmable)

Then what are you saying?  If I can’t kill him without a Barrow blade, and I don’t have a Barrow blade, then isn’t he invulnerable in effect?  Until a Barrow blade comes into play, there is no way to kill him, so if there is no such blade on hand, he is unbeatable.  (correct me if I’m misinterpreting)  Anyway, as I said earlier, I realized why I do not want to accept your theory.  It completely ruins my perception of the Witch-king, and of the Nazgul in general.  How could Gandalf have possibly overcome them on Weathertop if he had no way to harm them?  They must have retreated like wimps because they were scared of fire.  The same applies to any scene I see the Nazgul in.  I can’t help but look at it and think, ’Gee, if he really can’t be harmed, he sure is a complete fool for doing this or for not doing this.  If you see it in another light, fine, but that is why I have been so reluctant to give ground here.  As it stands, I still see no reason to think my theory is incorrect, and since my theory helps make the story more enjoyable for me, I’m going to stick to it until it can be disproven.  As I have said though, I understand that my way is not the only way to interpret it.  It’s the way I interpret it, because it makes the most sense to me, and because it makes the story more enjoyable for me.

Túrin 26/Mar/2006 at 03:48 PM
Politician of Umbar Points: 16612 Posts: 23336 Joined: 14/Sep/2003

Master of Doom,

If that truly is your theory, how could Sauron have become so powerful as to cast such a spell, and if he could, why didn’t he cast it on himself? (If you think the Witch-king cast the spell, Sauron would have come by it either way) It seems odd for him to give his servant such a power but not use that power for himself.

What’s to say that such a protective spell was in place before the Last Alliance? Perhaps seeing the death of his master, the WK studied and did his black magic stuff so as to make himself more powerful. It is certainly possible to gain power in that effect - the "added demonic power" of the WK at Pelennor Fields is proof enough that the Nazgul were not ’maxed out’, that they could become more powerful.

I’m not quite sure how you see Letter #155 as presenting any problems to my theory - Tolkien says both sides use both types of magic. Having a magia spell which affects the capability of regular weapons to harm the WK seems like it would be a "’magic’ that produces real effects in the physical world" (Letter #155) .

However, since you have proven that all spells act differently, I still see no reason to believe that magic and magic alone could break the Witch-king’s spell. However, I admit that it is an assumption to say that a regular sword could have done so, as I have no proof (likewise it is an assumption to say that a regular sword could not have broken the spell).

Yes, both are indeed assumptions - I think mine is less risky though, as it is being more rigid and taking the stance "Tolkien only told us this way" rather than the "This should make sense". And that is one reason that I like my theory better than your viewpoint.

I should have been more clear with the description of how I read the spell:   I certainly see it as protecting against the test of time, but also against other risks. I see it not as a "protection" spell as much as a "habitation" spell, if that makes any sense. Preserving the body seems to be natural, no spell needed (consider Bilbo’s situation for reasoning - I doubt he cast a spell of any sort). I would thus read the spell as allowing the WK to stay attached to his body despite the fact that nature would demand his fea leave his hroa. This demand can take different forms, including age, violence, disease, etc.

Then I think I must be misunderstanding your position. What would happen if I cut off the Witch-king’s head with a regular sword? The spell would not be broken, according to you, so he wouldn’t die? That makes no sense. And yet, if I can wound him in a ’less bitter’ way, then why can’t I cut off his head? I think I need some clarification about exactly what affect regular blades had on the Nazgul according to your theory, because after this comment I think I may have it all wrong.    It seems that you are saying that no blade could wound him at all until the spell had been broken.

Don’t get worried that you’re misinterpreting, I don’t think you are, I’m more changing the wording of my stance so that it aligns more closely with the text and drops assumptions. I’m saying, effectivly:

Tolkien only tells us that the Barrow-blade was able to break the spell. He tells us no other means to break the spell. A strictly non-assuming interpretation of that would imply that only the Barrow-blade was able. Also, Tolkien does not tell us why the Barrow-blade was able to break the spell. I would suggest that the magic on the blade is the reason, but cannot be 100% certain. All I can be certain of is that the Barrow-blade could break the spell and other blades could not. (This according to my reading of the Pelennor Fields quote).

Does this mean that the WK couldn’t be harmed by non-Barrow-blades? Pretty much, it would seem; but as opposed to making statements which I’m then required to prove to a person who is proving to be quite a match, I’m switching to merely a strict interpretation and trying to free my theory of as many stated assumptions as possible. Essentially, I’m acting like Descartes - doubt everything (though unlike him I’m not going to demand irrefutable proof, as I think we both realize such doesn’t seem to exist in this case).

Yes, I make the assumption that the magic made the wound bitter, but I must say I think that is a pretty safe assumption. .... If it was the physical power of the blade, then this supports my theory that the spell could be broken by physical means. Is there another option besides the physical power or the magical power? If so, I am not seeing it, so if you say that the magical properties did not break the spell, I don’t see how you can disagree with me......Well, I must say that since I have a theory that I can find no flaws with, I am going to go with that rather than sit here and guess that there is some unexplainable reason for the Barrow blade to be the only possible blade to hurt the WK.

I don’t think you fully realized my reasoning in that. I am by no means suggesting that the magical aspect was NOT what broke the spell. I am merely being strict in reading the text - Tolkien didn’t tell us exactly why, only that the Barrow-blade did it and other blades couldn’t. This would lead me to conclude it is something other than the physical force the blade offers, but that doesn’t allow me to say what about the Barrow-blade broke the spell, only that regular blades didn’t have the necessary aspect.

And the only person we are told of who killed Saruman is Grima. Does that mean that only Grima could kill Saruman? I don’t think so. This is not a logical argument. If you say that I can’t say there was another way to break the spell because there is no quote that says so, then I say you can’t say magic was the only way to break the spell, because there is no quote that says so.

But here you are again making a comparison to something which we know the general rule of - mortality. We do not know the general rule for breaking spells, hence extrapolating is not as reliable as it is when looking at mortality. The rule is that incarnates can be slain, so it would make sense that anyone could indeed slay Saruman. We don’t know of any general rule about breaking spells, so saying that there are other means of breaking a spell about which Tolkien gives a single means of breaking is something that cannot just be done. While there might indeed be another way to break the spell, we don’t have a general rule to induct from and Tolkien tells no other way, hence I don’t think it’s a safe stance to take.

Good point about Mordor--Spain. I’d not thought of that. Anyway, that was just a curious thought.

Still doesn’t answer how a man could unexplainably know a counter spell for the Witch-king’s spell to put it on this blade.

Well, the Dunedain were neighbored on both sides by Eldar who had either had a hand in making the Rings of Power, knew a lot about them, possessed one or more (though the locations of possessors would likely not be known to the Dunedain), or had seen first-hand the effect of the Rings, it is quite plausible that the Dunedain were educated in the craft. Yes, it’s an assumption, but not pressing anything onto Tolkien, for the Dunedain were more friendly with the Elves.

Or, of course, the Dunedain could easily have encountered some of the WK’s spells in the battlefield. Remember that the WK had Morgűl spells on that blade he stabbed Frodo with - evidence that he, too, could put spells on other objects. The Dunedain in their wars would inevitibly encounter these (why make spells if one does not use them, after all?) and thus had something to test and expirament on.

Why only daggers? Well, why did the WK not have the spells that were on the Morgűl knife on his sword? Letter #155, however, does point out a possibility, that being that "the magia may not be easy to come by" (Letter #155)

The answer: ease. Magia isn’t overabundant (especially where Men are concerned!), so they cannot design all their swords with magic spells. The more limited the scope of the magic, the easier and more numerable the daggers which can be produced so that more soldiers/nobles/whoever would have the powerful weapon(s).

No, Gandalf says that. Do I think Gandalf was lying? No. Do I think he was speaking figuratively, or even perhaps prophecizing a bit? Yes. Gandalf also says ’Do as I say! Swords are of no more use here! Go!’ as the Fellowship flees from the Chamber of Mazarbul. I certainly don’t read this to mean that there were any enemies there that could not be slain by a sword.

But note that Gandalf did not say they swords wouldn’t slay anyone, just that their swords wern’t of use, it wasn’t worthwhile to stand anymore due to the fact that a Balrog was coming; which might indeed mean that the swords literally wern’t of use considering all three Balrog deaths we know of are associated with a fall (or drowning, depending on how you see Gothmog’s death), as opposed to a sword.

How could Gandalf have possibly overcome them on Weathertop if he had no way to harm them? They must have retreated like wimps because they were scared of fire.

And the name of Elbereth, being who he is, Gandalf would certainly know that name and use it, I imagine.

As to you last paragraph at large - I do agree after our already long discourse that the matter can be up for interpretation; but I think my stance is the better one. Big surprize, I know.

I feel like I’m forgetting to say something, but at a quick glance I can’t seem to figure it out (that’s one of the problems with this huge lore discussions!). If you notice anything apparently missing or forgotten, please do point it out (as I’m sure you would anyway).

**

Ragnelle 26/Mar/2006 at 04:36 PM
Guard of the Mark Points: 2850 Posts: 4765 Joined: 11/Sep/2002

Turin: And thanks for your kind comments. They meant a lot to me.

Now, I will at the moment only comment briefly on the question of Agmar and the statement by Aragorn that the spells were for the destruction of Mordor. Turin has commented that it is said by a character in a situation that would be different form the one when the blades were made. That is significant, to a degree. But what I would like to point out, is the timeline.

After the defeat of Sauron there is put a watch on Mordor, and if there was evil there, it remained hidden. Sauron has defenitly fled the country. And Gondor grows strong.

In 1050 of the Third Age a shadow falls on Greenwod. This is the first sign that Sauron is returning, but nothing is know, and noone seem to suspect him. In ca 1100 TA it is thought to be a Nazgűl in Dol Guldur.

About 1300 TA there is an increase in evil things. "Orcs increase in the Misty Mountains and attack the Dwarves. The Nazgűl reappear. The chief of these comes north to Angamar." RotK, App B There is no mention of evil in Mordor though, and nothing is said of Sauron at this point.

In 1640 TA the watch on Mordor is abandoned.

In 1975 TA the Witch-king is driven form the North (the North-kingdom ends in 1974 TA) and in 1980 he comes to Mordor and gathers the Nazűl. This is the first appearance of Mordor in the Tale of Years since the watch was abandoned, and only the second since the beginning of the Third Age.

So at the time when the blades where made, there is no power in Mordor to fight. But there is a Witch-king right next door. When i spoke of common sense, I spoke of what would be common sense in this spesific situation.

And, Master of Doom, you seem to persist in overlooking the quote given by halfir at the begining of this tread, where it is said that Frodos sword from the Barrow-downs where "an enchanted sword made by his own enemies long ago for his destruction." (se the opening post). ’He’ is the Wich-king, something that is clear form the context of the quote. So, we here have Tolkien’s words saying that the swords form the Barrow-downs, and all the swords are treated as a group without indication that they were different form each other, were enchanted for the destruction of the Witch-king. I do not even have to make any kind of asumtion about this, unless it is the asumtion that the quote given by halfir is correct. halfir is not known for falsifying quotes, and I see no reason to doubt him on this.

Other things will have to wait, it is past midnight for me...

Master of Doom 26/Mar/2006 at 06:25 PM
Torturer of Mordor Points: 2358 Posts: 1327 Joined: 26/Aug/2003

Ragnelle:  Your post is shorter, so I’ll reply to you first. 

As far as your timeline reasoning goes, I think I described my take on that pretty well in my previous post to Turin.  Angmar was a part of Mordor.  After all, the Nazgul could do nothing that Sauron did not wish them to do.  "At length [Sauron] resolved that no others would serve him in this case but his mightiest servants, the Ringwraiths, who had no will but his own..." (UT, The Hunt for the Ring)  Angmar could not have been independent from Mordor.  To say anything about Mordor would certainly include Angmar during the years it existed, so to say that the blades were made for the bane of Mordor means that they were made for the bane of Angmar, as well as the rest of Mordor.

And, Master of Doom, you seem to persist in overlooking the quote given by halfir at the begining of this tread, where it is said that Frodos sword from the Barrow-downs where "an enchanted sword made by his own enemies long ago for his destruction."

First of all, I would like to point out that the quote in question is from an unpublished draft.  Do we have any way to know that this idea was still what Tolkien would have published before his death?  I will not argue this, however, as I do think the quote is valid.

I don’t see how I have overlooked the quote though.  It does not conflict with my theory at all.  If it said ’made specifically for his destruction’ then it would.  I am not arguing that the blade was not made to destroy the Witch-king, I am saying that it was made to destroy other servants of Sauron as well.  The blade was made for the very destruction of Mordor.  As a part of Mordor, the Witch-king falls under this category, so yes, it was made for his destruction, as well as made for the destruction of the rest of Mordor.

If you think that the Barrow blade was made specifically to kill the Witch-king, are you implying that the same blade would not have had a similar effect on the other Nazgul?  If not, then it is obvious that the blade was not made just for the destruction of the Witch-king.

TurinWhat’s to say that such a protective spell was in place before the Last Alliance? Perhaps seeing the death of his master, the WK studied and did his black magic stuff so as to make himself more powerful.

I don’t want to throw your own words back at you, but you did say this earlier: "I read the spell as binding his sinews to his will - this would be holding it togather against the test of time, and against weapons, diseases, and other potential harms."  And then in this post you said  "I certainly see it as protecting against the test of time, but also against other risks."  Now, there is only one spell that was broken, so if you believe that the spell had anything to do with holding his body together against Time, then I think it would have been necessary for it to be in place long before the Last Alliance, since the Lord of the Nazgul had been around for at least 1200 years by then.  Time certainly would have already been taking it’s toll on his body by then if it were not already protected.

I’m not quite sure how you see Letter #155 as presenting any problems to my theory - Tolkien says both sides use both types of magic. Having a magia spell which affects the capability of regular weapons to harm the WK seems like it would be a "’magic’ that produces real effects in the physical world" (Letter #155).

I guess it doesn’t in a very provable way, but the way the entire Letter is written, I got them impression that magia was something a bit less potent than what you are describing.  Making a mortal body resistant to all but a few special weapons seems to be far larger in scope than producing fire in a wet faggot.  I guess that does not make it impossible at all, it is merely the impression that I got. 

I should have been more clear with the description of how I read the spell:   I certainly see it as protecting against the test of time, but also against other risks. I see it not as a "protection" spell as much as a "habitation" spell, if that makes any sense. Preserving the body seems to be natural, no spell needed (consider Bilbo’s situation for reasoning - I doubt he cast a spell of any sort). I would thus read the spell as allowing the WK to stay attached to his body despite the fact that nature would demand his fea leave his hroa. This demand can take different forms, including age, violence, disease, etc.

I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is I disagree with here, but there is definitely something setting of an alarm in my head.  There may have been a difference with Bilbo because he had the One, not one of the Nine.  Also, I think Gollum would be a better example, since he had outlived his lifespan because of the ring effects, while Bilbo had not.  However, would we say that Gollum had ’undead flesh’?  I’m not sure what my point even is, but it just doesn’t seem right.  I’ll think about this and possibly address it again later.

(though unlike him I’m not going to demand irrefutable proof, as I think we both realize such doesn’t seem to exist in this case).

Amen to that!

I don’t think you fully realized my reasoning in that. I am by no means suggesting that the magical aspect was NOT what broke the spell. I am merely being strict in reading the text - Tolkien didn’t tell us exactly why, only that the Barrow-blade did it and other blades couldn’t. This would lead me to conclude it is something other than the physical force the blade offers, but that doesn’t allow me to say what about the Barrow-blade broke the spell, only that regular blades didn’t have the necessary aspect.

I may be looking at this too close-mindedly, but I can see no other explanation than either physical or magical.  What other quality could the blade have had?  I think it had to be one of these two things, and not some third, unmentioned thing.  As I have said, Tolkien often left us to connect the dots, but he did not leave us unsolvable mysteries.

But here you are again making a comparison to something which we know the general rule of - mortality. We do not know the general rule for breaking spells, hence extrapolating is not as reliable as it is when looking at mortality. The rule is that incarnates can be slain, so it would make sense that anyone could indeed slay Saruman. We don’t know of any general rule about breaking spells, so saying that there are other means of breaking a spell about which Tolkien gives a single means of breaking is something that cannot just be done. While there might indeed be another way to break the spell, we don’t have a general rule to induct from and Tolkien tells no other way, hence I don’t think it’s a safe stance to take.

Ok, let me use a different example then.  You have shown that we do not know the rules of spells.  But what about the ones that we see?  The Balrog’s counter-spell in Moria, for example.  Just because the only spell that we actually see break Gandalf’s spell is the Balrog’s counter-spell, should we take it for granted that only the counter-spell of Durin’s Bane could defeat Gandalf’s spell?  This seems to be what you are saying about the Witch-king’s spell.  I know this topic is kind of off on a tangent, but I’m determined to come up with a relevant analogy to support my theory yet!

Well, the Dunedain were neighbored on both sides by Eldar who had either had a hand in making the Rings of Power, knew a lot about them, possessed one or more (though the locations of possessors would likely not be known to the Dunedain), or had seen first-hand the effect of the Rings, it is quite plausible that the Dunedain were educated in the craft. Yes, it’s an assumption, but not pressing anything onto Tolkien, for the Dunedain were more friendly with the Elves.

There have been threads with this theme in the past, and the consensus has been that the Elves did not tell Men about the Rings of Power.  I can provide links if you want, but I’m a bit to lazy to look for them right now.    If you have reason to think otherwise, by all means post it, and then I’ll have to find those threads.  If you believe that, though, then I don’t think that the Dunedain would have even known about the Rings.  The Numenoreans certainly had no clue when Ar-pharazon took Sauron to Numenor, and if I remember correctly, Isildur did not fully understand the implications of the One when he took it.  Considering this, and the fact that the Dunedain did not even realize that the Witch-king was a Nazgul until well into their wars with him, I don’t think that this is a plausible explanation.

Or, of course, the Dunedain could easily have encountered some of the WK’s spells in the battlefield. Remember that the WK had Morgűl spells on that blade he stabbed Frodo with - evidence that he, too, could put spells on other objects. The Dunedain in their wars would inevitibly encounter these (why make spells if one does not use them, after all?) and thus had something to test and expirament on.

Ah, but remember we can’t assume things about spells.  Why then do you assume that the spell of a Morgul blade is similar at all to the spell the held his sinew to the Witch-king’s will, or even the spells of the Barrow blades?  If I can’t make spell assumptions, I won’t let you either.  Without the actual body of the Witch-king (or perhaps another Nazgul) I don’t think that a trial and error ’test and experiment’ method works in this situation, especially considering your next point of magia being hard to come by.  If it was rare, they wouldn’t have much to ’test and experiment’ with anyway.

Why only daggers? Well, why did the WK not have the spells that were on the Morgűl knife on his sword? Letter #155, however, does point out a possibility, that being that "the magia may not be easy to come by" (Letter #155)’

He would not have put such a spell on his sword because he did not want everyone that he killed to become a wraith.  The dagger was not something that he seemed to use very often.  I am sure there were plenty of times where real death was preferable to trying to turn someone into a wraith, so it is natural for him to want a weapon without that particular spell.  This is, of course, assuming that the morgul blade was not made especially for Frodo, which I do not believe was the case.

The answer: ease. Magia isn’t overabundant (especially where Men are concerned!), so they cannot design all their swords with magic spells. The more limited the scope of the magic, the easier and more numerable the daggers which can be produced so that more soldiers/nobles/whoever would have the powerful weapon(s).

I think I must be reading this a different way than you.  Magia is hard to come by, yes, but once one has come by it, he should then have it.  As I understand it, this magia is not a quantitative thing.  Having more of it doesn’t seem to make it more potent.  Therefore, I don’t see why the magia put in the knives of the Barrow downs would not have also been sufficient for a full sized sword.

But note that Gandalf did not say they swords wouldn’t slay anyone, just that their swords wern’t of use, it wasn’t worthwhile to stand anymore due to the fact that a Balrog was coming; which might indeed mean that the swords literally wern’t of use considering all three Balrog deaths we know of are associated with a fall (or drowning, depending on how you see Gothmog’s death), as opposed to a sword.

But the point of this argument is the literal interpretation of words.  Swords certainly were of use in this situation, even if they were impractical.  Embodied Ainur could be harmed by swords, and since that is what a Balrog is, there should be no difference.  No, using the swords would not have won them the fight.  But if even one more orc had been killed by a sword, then the sword would have been useful.  Therefore, when translated literally, Gandalf is wrong here.  But, because I know and agree with your explanation, I don’t think he was wrong.  Therefore, I don’t feel that it is beneficial to translate every last word in the Lord of the Rings literally.  If we are to do that, then even according to your theory it would seem that the Nazgul are able to be killed by maces, spears, clubs, and things of that sort, since we are only told that arrows can’t kill them and blades except Barrow blades couldn’t.  Would you try to defend that point?  I doubt it, but that is where literal translation takes us.

And the name of Elbereth, being who he is, Gandalf would certainly know that name and use it, I imagine.

Since my point in that paragraph was to emphasize how ridiculous the Nazgul looked to me when trying to see them through your theory, painting this picture in my head of Gandalf screaming, ’Elbereth, Elbereth, Elbereth Gilthoniel!’ at the Nazgul and causing them to scream, cover their ears, and run away crying is not helping any.    More seriously, if Gandalf knew so much, that the name of Elbereth was the only thing he could effectively fight them with, why did he use his powers?  Frodo and the rest saw what seemed to be a lightning storm on Amon Sul on their way there, which they later find out was Gandalf and the Nazgul fighting.  Incidentally, this lightning storm is described in much the same way as the Battle of the Peak, when Gandalf was using his power against the Balrog.

As to you last paragraph at large - I do agree after our already long discourse that the matter can be up for interpretation; but I think my stance is the better one. Big surprize, I know.

Yes, I know.  I do feel childish to have to end such a long debate with ’I LIKE MINE BETTER NYAH NYAH’, but that is truly how I feel, so I can’t really back down. 

Ragnelle 27/Mar/2006 at 06:10 AM
Guard of the Mark Points: 2850 Posts: 4765 Joined: 11/Sep/2002

Master of Doom: I have not time for more than a short answer at the moment, but you are splitting hairs. I have never said that the Barrow-down blades could not kill other Nazűl and I do not see the great practical difference between "made for his destruction" and "made spesificly for his distruction". You seem to be under the impression that I advocate the weiv that since the blades where made to destroy the Witch-king, it would have no effect on anything else. I am not. I am saying these swords were made to destroy the Witch-king. Period. Nothing more or less. And in this I only ecco the quote given by halfir at the opening. And that qoute is not unpublished any more - or how would halfir know of it? It is puplished in the seminal LOTR Companion- by Hammond &Scull.

Neither do I se how the Nazgűl’s servitude to Sauron comes into play. What I talk about is the situation the maker of the swords are. To him, Mordor is no treath, and he does probably not know that the Withc-king is a Nazgűl. If you see the quote I have given in my post of Saturday, March 25, 2006 at 21:03 you will see that it was not know until later that the Witch-king was the lord of the Nazgűl. The blades were probably made before 1409 TA when the last king of Cardolan died as it is thought that the barrow were the swords were found, was his grave.

"Some say that the mound in wich the Ring-bearer was imprisoned had been the grave of the last price of Cardolan, who fell in the war of 1409" RotK, App A, iii

And in the quote halfir gives, it is mentioned that the Witch-king thinks Frodo must have gotten his blade from the barrows of Cardolan. If this is correct, and I see only evidence that point that way, then the blades were made before 1409 and before the watch on Mordor were abandoned by Gondor. And so the runes would be for the destruction of Mordor only because the Witch-king was a servant of Mordor, and not bacause the maker of the swords tageted Mordor. The other way around for what you say. If you want common sense, this is it. If you die in this battle, there is no more wars for you to win...

Master of Doom 27/Mar/2006 at 10:14 AM
Torturer of Mordor Points: 2358 Posts: 1327 Joined: 26/Aug/2003

Ragnelle: I do not see the great practical difference between "made for his destruction" and "made spesificly for his distruction".

Allow me to explain my view.  Guns were created for World War II.  Lot’s of them.  And they were created for the destruction of the maker’s enemies.  For example, I would say that guns made in England were made for Hitler’s destruction.  However, just because I say that, does that mean that these guns would have been any more or any less effective against some poor German recruit?  Weapons kill meat shields just as well as they kill officers.

By the way, this argument is completely tangential.  I only brought the point up to show how it fit in with my theory, not to poke a hole in yours.  It still textually fits your theory just fine, regardless of whether we use my view or your view. 

And that qoute is not unpublished any more - or how would halfir know of it? It is puplished in the seminal LOTR Companion- by Hammond &Scull.

Here again, you refute something that has no bearing on the argument.  I pointed something out, and then said that it was irrelevant because I agreed with you anyway.  But it is always best to cover all the bases, or risk leaving a giant hole in the argument that is much harder to surmount when coming back to look at it rather than addressing it right away.  That is all I meant by saying this.

Also, your logic here is incorrect anyway.  The HoME series is all published too.  But if something being published makes it completely true, then it is true that there were thousands of Balrogs, Treebeard was evil, and Aragorn was a Hobbit.  Those are all published ideas.  My point was that just because someone else published something, we can’t know if it was accepted or rejected by Tolkien before his death.  We have to take the last thing he said on the topic to be the correct thing, so if there was a later quote that contradicted your quote anywhere, then your quote would be completely invalid.  This is why we know there were only 3 to 7 Balrogs, when most of Tolkien’s drafts involve armies full of them - because his last thoughts on the topic were that there were only 3 to 7.  Once more I will state, however, that I do not think this is the case in this situation, and that the quote in question is perfectly valid.

Neither do I se how the Nazgűl’s servitude to Sauron comes into play.

Ok, let’s take a look at a couple of quotes. 

"At length [Sauron] resolved that no others would serve him in this case but his mightiest servants, the Ringwraiths, who had no will but his own..." (UT, The Hunt for the Ring)

"The lord of that land was known as the Witch-king, but it was not known until later that he was indeed the chief of the Ring-wraiths, who came north with the purpose of destroying the Dunedain in Arnor, seeing hope in their disunion, while Gondor was strong." (RotK, Appendix A)

So, logic dictates that if the WK’s will was Sauron’s will, and the WK had a purpose in Arnor, then that purpose must have been Sauron’s.  The WK was not allowed to run off and start his own Kingdom.  The Doom of the Ring wouldn’t allow it.  Therefore I conclude that Angmar is a part of Mordor.  I gave an example earlier.  Do you deny that Umbar was a part of Numenor after it was built?  It is the same argument, in effect. 

this is correct, and I see only evidence that point that way, then the blades were made before 1409

I agree that the blades were buried with the last Prince of Cardolan.  I disagree with your logic regarding the date though.  Cardolan lasted until the Great Plague, which did not come about until the days of Argeleb II, around TA 1636.  Therefore, I would guess that is the date when the swords would have to have been made by.  However, I think that the Witch-king was probably discovered to be a Nazgul even before 1409.  By that time, the Dunedain were getting quite a bit of help from Lindon, and Cirdan and the rest would have to be stupid not to realize what was going on, wouldn’t they?  It sure seems like they would have figured it out anyway.  If so, then the blades could have been created any time between TA 1300 and TA 1636.  I don’t see how when the blades were made is really relevant to this argument though.

However, upon thinking about these last points, I have thought of something very pertinent.  The Witch-king remained a threat in the North until TA 1975.  The blades must have been buried by TA 1636, with the last Prince of Cardolan, as you have pointed out.  So if these blades were so imperitive to the destruction of the Witch-king, and they were made for his destruction as you are claiming, why exactly would the Dunedain bury them with a corpse when they had not yet defeated the Witch-king?  Wouldn’t they have used them to go fight him?  To me, this doesn’t make any sense, unless the Barrow blades were not nearly as important as you are claiming them to be.

If you want common sense, this is it. If you die in this battle, there is no more wars for you to win...

Why do you think great strategists plan campaigns?  Yes, of course you plan to win the battle, but you also look ahead and plan to win the war.  Tried and true military strategy says you are wrong here.  Or would you tell MacAurther, Alexander, Napolean, Rommel, and innumerable others that they were wrong to plan ahead and you are right that the only important thing is the here and now?  Besides, what should the Dunedain have been more worried about?  The Witch-king?  Or the thousands of orcs, men, and other fell creatures that were fighting them as well?  Seems to me it would be worth defending against the onslaught of the massive army rather than the solitary person anyway.  Do you disagree?

Ragnelle 27/Mar/2006 at 05:21 PM
Guard of the Mark Points: 2850 Posts: 4765 Joined: 11/Sep/2002

I really should sleep instead of answering this at this point, but...

If you doubt my date on the last prince of Cardolan, go check your books. I have given no deduction to get to that date, but a quote which states that the last prince of Cardolan died in the wars of 1409. I have given refereces to it: Appendix A, iii in RotK. Do you doubt me? Then check the refence, don’t sneer about my logic. (I have told you that that sort of thing gets on my nerves and make me angry. So unless you want me angry, please refrain.) Some of the people remained, yes, but I still would think it more probable that anything in the mund was made before the price was burried, and at least not many years later. Who opens a mund to put new things in after hundreds of years? Noone. Evidence still point to the blades being made at some point between the Witch-king’s comming and the last prince of Cardolan’s death , somewhere between 1300 and 1409.

The relevance, though I do not depend on this for my view, is to show you why I find it more probable that the spells on the Barrow-down swords where made to destroy the Witch-king as an idipendent agent, and not only as part of Mordor. Mordor was not, and would not for a long time, be any treath. The Witch-king was. This has nothing to do with planning ahead or not in a war. It has to do with facing what is the main treath to you. Gandalf lays no plans for the evil he is sure will come in the ages after Sauron’s fall.

"Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary. Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they may have is not ours to rule" RotK, The Last Debate

Of course Gandalf is looking at a much wider picture than we are takling about, but it is still true that the present danger is the one that must be adressed first. Napolion could plan ahead, yes, but he was not invaded, he was the invader. The invaded - which the Dunedain of Cardolan was - must face the treath of the invation before they can even think of more distant treaths. And Mordor was no treath. Not until after the Plauge, not until after the Witch-king has left the North in 1975 TA and re-entered Mordor in 1980 TA. How farsighted do you purpose this sword-smith to be? There is a very great differnce between a military campain to conquer the world, and defening your home. Yes, you need some planing ahead for both, but the first give you far better chances for this than the second.

And, I repeat, I an not sugesting that the Barrow-down swords were only effective against the Witch-king, or even only against Nazgűl. They are swords. They are sharp. They cut and stab. They can be used just like any other blade could, and would be as efficient for that use as any other blade. But they don’t need spells to do that. They don’t need spells to kill Orcs or men, or most other fell beats. For that they only need to be sharp and strong, as was the many other swords they did have (or do you think I mean these blades where the only weapons they had?). So why put spells on the blades? For an enemy that can not be killed otherwise. And the only one we are told about that fit that description, the only one we are told have a spell knitting his sinwes to this will, is the Witch-king. I will happely include the rest of the Nazgűl in this, if that makes you happy. But the sword-smith did not need to know that the Witch-king was a Nazgűl to make the sword. He only needed to know about the spell that had to be broken. They could have found that out by experience, and then if there were simular spells on the other Ring-wraiths, then the blade would work on them too, even if by accident. But you seem to say that the effect on the Withc-king was just a side-effect, almost accidential. that I find highly improbable. If I have misunderstood you, then please correct me.

Besides, the Witch-king was the leader of all these other enemies. Are you not the none sugesting that they need to worry about the leader of the foe and not only the foe right in front of you? So a blade that could help against orcs and other such beast, and at the same time be effective against their leader, would be far better than one just helping against the orcs. Is not that your argument for claiming that the spells were for the destruction of Mordor? And I maintain that you need at lest survive the battle if you are going to win the war.

You seem to think that the battle is between Cardolan and Mordor. It is not. It is between Cardolan (or rather the North-kingdoms) and Angmar. The war against Angmar is the one they need to win. Mordor is at this point beaten. Knowing that the Witch-king is a Nazgűl does not alter this. Sauron is beaten, and it is not until 2060 TA that the Wise begin to suspect that he is taking shape in Mirkwood, and that is not confirmed until 2850 TA!  neither Sauron nor Mordor poses any kind of treath while Angmar stands.

A litterary narrative has this caracteristic that what is told is what the autor finds it nessesary for us to know, or what is significant to the tale. Other things are cut out. Tolkien found it significant enough to tell us that Frodo was thought to have been trapped in the mund of the last price of Cardolan. He found it significant enough to tell us that the swords the hobbits got form that mund were made of a people that were from Westerness but overcome by an evil king in Angmar. He finds it significant enough to tell us that this is the Witch-king, the lord of the Nazgűl. He finds it significant enough to tell us that no other blade than one of these swords could wound that king so bitterly, breaking the spell that kept him alive. All this, when a normal sword would do? Tolkien uses many words, but I do not find that he wastes them. It is a waste of words to build up all this when a normal sword will do. That you like it more does not take away the problem your interpetation presents: that Tolkien has build up all this for nothing. That the maker of the swords would put spells on a blade used agains a foe for which the spells are effective only as a by-product. That Gandalf is wrong, and that someone that can not be killed by a flood with grinding boulders in it, can never the less be killed by an orderansy sword. It is as improbable that someone can survive being hit by the flood Elrond sends, possible involving being crushed by a boulder in white water, as it is that they survive being stabbed in the face. Yet the Nazgűl survive this. And they are wraiths, living in the wraith-world. Normal rules of living and dying do not apply to them. And against this you would keep your interpetation because "noone can survive being stabbed and I like my interpetation better"? All interpetation must be done in context, and you ignore the wider context of the Pelenor Fields-quote.

You even seem to ignore the smaller context of the quote. Merry have time to stab the Witch-king, see him and Eowyn fall, talk to Theoden, see Eomer come and recive the banner, Theoden to die and Eomer to find his sister, then riding off shouting "Death!". And then, he goes to pick up his sword, adn sees that it smokes and melts while he is looking. It takes that long for the sword to melt after he has stabbed the Witch-king. This is the sword that merely brought the Withc-king "more pain" than another sword would? Eowyn’s sword shatter instantly.

I am not the one the make the Barrow-down swords importaint. Tolkien is, by marking them as different and significant. And the Witch-king treathened other kingdoms than Cardolan, such as Arthedain. And they may have been burried with that last prince for safe-keeping against a day when the Witch-king could be defeated. The Witch-king ravaged Cardolan in1409. Its boundaries where the Brandywine, the Greyflood and the Great Road (which must be either the Greenroad or the road that goes to Rivendell, I don’t see any other roads that can fit). Weathertop was on the border of Cardolan and Rhudaur and a source of strife. Here is a map with possible borders. Sorry for the Norwegian names for some of the things, but I don’t have an English map on my computer. I have used much the same borders as the Encyclopedia of Arda, but the only thing I am uncertain of is the southern border, which do not consern for me here.

When the Witch-king invaded Cardolan, Araphor son of Arveleg fought back from Fornost and the North Downs and some of the people also held out at what became the Barrow-downs and the Old Forest. What happened to the rest of the country, is not told, but the people there was probably redused significantly and I am not sure if the kingdom survived, as it is said that the last prince of Cardolan died in 1409. Arveleg ruled Arthedain, so his son would still rule that land even if Cardolan were lost. Argeleb, the father of Arveleg, had claimed lordship of all Arnor since there were no other desendant of Isildur at the time. So the line could have contiued in Arthedain even though Cardolan was lost with only few people living there. But this is an digression, only showing how the date 1409 can be given by Tolkien as the death of the last prince of Cardolan even though he also says that the end of the Dúnedain of Cardolan came with the Plauge.

But I thought I would show this to explain why the blades could have been burried with Arveleg though the Witch-king was still a treath: the land was overrun and they might not have much hope to get at him for the moment. To prevent the swords from being lost, captured by the Witch-king’s hosts, they may have burried them with their last prince.

There is also another possible explanation. Elrond repelled the Witch-king for a time, and Angmar did not rise again until 1974. No dates are given for this but it seems to have happened before the Plauge, and is said to happen about the same time as the Stoors leav the Angle. That occured about 1356, so I am not certain of the time-line here. But it may seem like the Witch-king actually was repelled and Angamar subdued shortly after the ravishing of Cardolan. That would make it paluseble that the swords were burried with Arveleg, as the treath seems to have lessened, maybe even though gone.

All this is still not very importaint to me. Tolkien indicates strongly that the blades where from the barrow containing Arveleg, and that they were made during the wars with Angmar, which would date them somewhere between 1300 and 1409. He also indicates, at least as strongly, that these blades are significant. That he does not explain why importaint blades are burried in this fashion, is to me less importaint. I can think of reasons, but I do not need them. It is to me suficcient that he tells us, or indicates strongly, that it is so. Sufficient, at lest, for me to take it into consideration when I look at the quote concerning Merry’s blade.

And please, refain for commenting on my logic. My logic is perfectly fine, even if you don’t see it. Of course I know that not everything in HoME is correct, I was merely pointing out that the quote in question has been publised. It is not incompatible with what was published in Tolkien’s lifetime and we have nothing that point to him changing his mind. It might be a text somewhere that do, but we don’t have it. And until that proof is presented, this is not a text to overlook. You say yourself that you do not doutb it, then why do you wish to explain away what it says?

Your explanation of the Nazgűl’s utter servitude to Sauron does still not convince me that it has anything to do with whether the spells were directet primeraly at Mordor or The Witch-king. It explains how spells directed at teh Witch-king can be said to be directed at Mordor, but does nothing to prove that the spells were directed directly at Mordor, and only indirectly at the Witch-king. One, it took time before it was known that the Withc-king was a Nazgűl. If the swords where made before that, the smith would have no reason to conect Angmar and Mordor. We do, but he wouldn’t. We are not told when this became appearent though, so he could have known. Still there is little reason for him to aim his spells primarily at Mordor, as Mordor is beaten at the time, and the primary treath is the Witch-king. So, you see, it is about what comes first; what is the primary aim. If you say that is Mordor, then I disagree, and find it improbable. If you say that though the Witch-king, Mordor is targeted, then I can agree.

The reason that I do not find your arguments on this very relevant, is that when it comes to what the spells are aimed at, it does not depend on logical arguments about whether Angmar can be seen as a colony of Mordor or not, but of the knowledge and conserns of the maker of the sword. And I do not think these more teoretical musings where present in his mind. To him the facts of a wraith-foe invading, or treathening to invade, where far more improtaint than a distant foe defeated and a land under close watch.

halfir 27/Mar/2006 at 07:26 PM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

Ragnelle: How utterly delightful to see you back in fine posting form. We have missed your excellent contributions in AL- I so happily remember the excellent posts you gave us in Largo’s wonderful- though flawed- threads on Hope.

Having started this thread I have been inundated with an RL tsunami of work and am just emerging from the volume.

I see that many errors, misinterpretations, personal agendas, and downright mistakes are littering this thread and I will shortly return to enlighten the ignorant, chastise the miscreant, and correct the errors of the plain downright wrong!X(

Great to see you posting again. I hope this means you are joining our debates once more.X(

Master of Doom 28/Mar/2006 at 12:55 AM
Torturer of Mordor Points: 2358 Posts: 1327 Joined: 26/Aug/2003

If you doubt my date on the last prince of Cardolan, go check your books.

You’re right, I read the first three words of that quote, recognized it, and moved on.  I had forgotten the last part though, concerning the year, so my reasoing is incorrect.  It does make me wonder, though, how the Kingdom continued for 200 years without a ruler. 

don’t sneer about my logic.

Regardless of what you think, I am not sneering at anything.  If this is a debate, then I think I am allowed to disagree with your claims as I see fit.  In this case, I was completely incorrect, and I freely admit that.  However, even when I thought I was correct, I was not trying to undermine you in any way.  I was only trying to correct you, which it turned out you did to me.

Mordor was not, and would not for a long time, be any treath. The Witch-king was.

I still don’t see why you disagree with me about the Witch-king being a part of Mordor.  When I say Mordor in that context, I am including Angmar, which includes the Witch-king.  Again, I did not bring up this point to refute you.  I brought it up to show that it fits fine with my own theory.

Mordor was not, and would not for a long time, be any treath. The Witch-king was.

In this case, the Witch-king = Mordor.  If you have evidence to prove the contrary, I would like to see it.  That would be interesting, since it would have to prove Aragorn to be irrevocably wrong.  (which is certainly not impossible)  I have already shown you my position on this issue, supporting my opinion.  I have yet to see yours, other than that you think that Angmar and Mordor are two seperate entities. (for which I see no support)

It has to do with facing what is the main treath to you.

A well known example against this is America in WWII.  Japan was by far the biggest threat to America.  Yet where did the main bulk of US troops go?  To Europe, to fight Germany and Italy, that’s where.  I am not arguing that the Witch-king was a threat.  I am now arguing strategy, in which you are incorrect.  If you wish to continue this tangential argument, I must suggest we do it in another thread.  If you are arguing Middle-earth scenario, then I still think that thousands of orcs and men could do more damage than the Witch-king by himself, and therefore making a weapon especially for his destruction would (or at least should) have been secondary to defeating his armies.

The invaded - which the Dunedain of Cardolan was - must face the treath of the invation before they can even think of more distant treaths.

You misunderstand me.  I am saying that they should have been more concerned with the massive armies of Angmar, and not the Witch-king.  To say that the Barrow blades were made for both purposes seems implausible to me.  How often do we see someone run into battle with a knife (which the Barrow blades were)?  What good would a knife be against a troll, orc, or even a man with a sword?  They would have wanted swords (or other longer-ranged melee weapons) to fight this immediate threat, and not knives.

They can be used just like any other blade could, and would be as efficient for that use as any other blade.

They were not.  They were knives to men, they were only sword sized for Hobbits.  Men did not (to the best of my knowledge) ever rely on the use of knives in battle.  Why should we assume that these were used in such a fashion then?

They don’t need spells to kill Orcs or men, or most other fell beats.

Again, in battle they would have been nearly useless versus Orcs of Men with swords.  The Dunedain wielding a Barrow blade would have been cut down before he could even get close enough to the enemy to strike.  This makes zero sense to me, so unless you can prove that knives were effective battle weapons, I don’t see your point.

So why put spells on the blades? For an enemy that can not be killed otherwise.

Why did the Witch-king use a Morgul blade (with spells) against Frodo when he could have used a regular blade?  He could have killed Frodo with his sword and taken the Ring right then and there.  A better example exemplifying my interpretation would be Boromir I.  Why stab him with a Morgul blade when a regular blade would have sufficed?  I would think it would be to make him suffer, and this is what I think the Barrow blade spell was used for.

Are you not the none sugesting that they need to worry about the leader of the foe and not only the foe right in front of you?

How efficient is it to put resources towards the killing of the leader when his armies will fight on against you anyways?  I can’t think of many examples of this particular theory being put to use in our own history, and even fewer examples of this strategy even being successful.  That doesn’t make you wrong, but it makes it likely that you are wrong.

So a blade that could help against orcs and other such beast, and at the same time be effective against their leader, would be far better than one just helping against the orcs.

As I have said above, I doubt that the Barrow blades could have been very successfully used against common Orcs or Men in battle.  Because of this, I don’t think your explanation can be correct.

Is not that your argument for claiming that the spells were for the destruction of Mordor?

Let me state this one last time.  This was not an argument meant to refute you.  Your view fits in perfectly with my argument.  I brought this up only to show that the Barrow blade was not specifically made to kill the Witch-king and nothing else.

But you seem to say that the effect on the Withc-king was just a side-effect, almost accidential.

No, I am saying that it’s (magical) effect on the Witch-king was not instrumental in his death.  I am saying that I think he could have died without the magical qualities of the blade.  The blade was made to hurt the Witch-king, and I am not denying that.  I am saying that it was not the only blade ever that could even wound him, as you are saying.

You seem to think that the battle is between Cardolan and Mordor. It is not. It is between Cardolan (or rather the North-kingdoms) and Angmar. The war against Angmar is the one they need to win.

When you give me proof, or even logical reasoning that Angmar in this case is not synonymous with Mordor, I will address this.  As it is, I have given you my argument.  If you choose to disbelieve it, fine, but I would like to know your reasoning behind thinking that they were two completely different things before I even comment on it.  Thus far, you have proven no such reasoning, other than that they had different names.

He finds it significant enough to tell us that no other blade than one of these swords could wound that king so bitterly, breaking the spell that kept him alive.

THIS IS NOT FACT.  When you can accept that it is ok for me to have a different view then you, perhaps you will better be able to understand my arguments.  Even if I am incorrect, you have thus far provided no undeniable evidence to prove that my way of interpreting the Pelennor Fields quote is wrong.  You act as though I am disagreeing with what Tolkien wrote, when in fact, when I interpret the quote as I do (with perfectly acceptable use of the English language) you are the one that is in direct opposition to what Tolkien has written.  Either prove that your interpretation is correct, or quit using it as an argument, because until it is proven, it is not valid.

It is as improbable that someone can survive being hit by the flood Elrond sends, possible involving being crushed by a boulder in white water, as it is that they survive being stabbed in the face.

If you think that such a thing MUST kill somebody, you should talk to a friend of mine, who survived in a flooded river for 3 (THREE) full days, while being beaten and battered by debris the whole time.  (Grand Forks, North Dakota: there is a flood almost every year.  I believe his particular story came from the one in 1998, and I can check if you want)  Is it unlikely that such a thing would kill someone?  Certainly not.  Is it certain that such a thing would kill someone?  Again, certainly not.  Therefore saying that the Nazgul were unable to be killed by the flood just because they weren’t killed is a false statement.

"noone can survive being stabbed and I like my interpetation better"?

How is that any worse than your "I interpret this this way, so it has to be correct" argument?  Aside from the Pelennor Field quote, which can be interpretted other than you say it can, can you give me any argument that the only way to kill a Nazgul was with a Barrow blade?  Remember again, Gandalf fought them off at Weathertop, using force (lightning storm seen by the Hobbits) and the Dunedain were able to keep them from crossing the Fords for a time.  How do you explain these circumstances if the Nazgul could not be harmed by anything other than a Barrow blade?

Basically what I am saying is this.  I have instances where Nazgul were fought off without Barrow blades.  You say only Barrow blades could hurt the Nazgul.  Can you explain this without saying ’Because Tolkien says so!’ when the question of whether or not he actually said so is what we are debating?

And they may have been burried with that last prince for safe-keeping against a day when the Witch-king could be defeated.

Look at the reverence given to the Tomb of Elendil.  Look at the reverence shown in both the barrows of Rohan and in Rath Dinen.  Look at the Haudh-en-Ndengin upon Anfauglith.  I cannot conceive of the Dunedain using a house of the dead as a secret weapons depot.  It just doesn’t seem to fit into Middle-earth in my opinion.  Besides, if the ones who hid the blades didn’t think they could get away without being killed and having the blades taken, then why would they hide them in such a place, where it was unlikely that they would ever be found?  And if they did think they could get away, why did they not just bring them along?

I am not sure if the kingdom survived

Just for future reference, it had to have, as it did not end until the Great Plague.

But this is an digression, only showing how the date 1409 can be given by Tolkien as the death of the last prince of Cardolan even though he also says that the end of the Dúnedain of Cardolan came with the Plauge.

Yeah, like I said earlier, my reasoning here was incorrect.  I did not read the relevent quote closely enough. 

To prevent the swords from being lost, captured by the Witch-king’s hosts, they may have burried them with their last prince.

This seems unlikely to prevent loss, since anyone who knew where they were hid and got away should have taken them with them, if they were so important.  Since nobody tried to take them away, it seems to be that they may not have been as important as you claim.  Also, though the Dunedain would not have known this, I don’t think the blades would have ever been captured.  More likely they would have been left behind, just as they were by the Uruk-hai at Parth Galen.

 There is also another possible explanation. Elrond repelled the Witch-king for a time, and Angmar did not rise again until 1974. No dates are given for this but it seems to have happened before the Plauge, and is said to happen about the same time as the Stoors leav the Angle. That occured about 1356, so I am not certain of the time-line here.

I’m not positive either, but since the Stoors migrated in 1356, it seems likely that the narrative is a bit out of order here (there is nothing to suggest that this is chronologically incorrect), which would mean that this subduing of Angmar happend before the War of 1409.  Also, even if your reasoning is correct, I don’t see why the Dunedain would have buried the Barrow blades without having defeated the Witch-king if said blades were of such utter importance, whether he was actively attacking or not.

That he does not explain why importaint blades are burried in this fashion, is to me less importaint.

I can see why, considering it throws a wrench in your theory.  However, as you have not yet proven your theory to be the correct one, this is a very valid issue that needs to be addressed.

I was merely pointing out that the quote in question has been publised.

And I was merely pointing out the fact that being published does not necessarily make it fact.   I do not wish to explain it away.  As I said earlier, holes such as this are better filled when one comes across them, rather than tripping over them later.  However, as I agree with you on this subject, I think it can be dropped now.

It explains how spells directed at teh Witch-king can be said to be directed at Mordor, but does nothing to prove that the spells were directed directly at Mordor, and only indirectly at the Witch-king.

That’s probably because this is not what I mean.  Again, this is completely tangential, but I am frustrated that I cannot make my point (however unimportant to the argument it may be) seen here.  The spells were not directed directly at anything.  I believe that the spells were made to combat evil in general.  If you persist in saying that the spells were directed only at the Nazgul, then please tell me why you believe so, without using the Pelennor Fields quote, which you have not proven that you are interpretting correctly.

One, it took time before it was known that the Withc-king was a Nazgűl.

As I stated earlier, I think once the elves entered the battle-field it would have been found out pretty quickly who the Witch-king truly was.  This was well before 1409, giving plenty of time for the blades to be made.  If you think the elves would not have recognized the Witch-king, please give reasons.

If you say that is Mordor, then I disagree, and find it improbable.

If you still do not understand what I mean, then I give up.  This is an inconsequential argument anyway, as I have said before.  The threat was not the Witch-king, the threat was Angmar (in general).  Defeating the Witch-king would not beat his armies.  Defeating his armies, however, would have greatly weakened his power.  He would not have been much of a threat without his armies.

So we have this situation:  Kill the WK, and be overrun by Orcs, Men, etc.  Or defeat said Orcs, Men, etc and let the WK run away crying to Sauron.  The second option seems much more beneficial and plausible to me, I must say.

but of the knowledge and conserns of the maker of the sword.

This is one of my primary reasons for not agreeing with you.  How could one of the Dunedain of Cardolan have come up with the only possible way to kill the WK?  That does not seem plausible to me.  I don’t see how the Barrow blades’ creator could have had such knowledge about the spells of the Nazgul to put a counter-spell on the blades.

halfir 28/Mar/2006 at 03:58 AM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

I am saying that I think he could have died without the magical qualities of the blade. 

MOD: Then you, like others in this thread are allowing your speculation to overide the text. I shall demonstrate why tomorrow.

Ragnelle 28/Mar/2006 at 08:31 AM
Guard of the Mark Points: 2850 Posts: 4765 Joined: 11/Sep/2002

halfir: Thank you . Hopefully I am back for a long time now. I have missed the Lore-discussions and I look forward to your posts in this tread.

Master of Doom: again time resticts me, so this is just a quick answer, but you seem determined the refute statements I have not made. I have not said that the Barow-down blades where made only to kill the Witch-king and nothing else. If you look, you’ll see that I say that the spells (or at least one spell) was made primarily for the destruction of the Witch-king, something that is soundly based in the quote given by halfir which we both axept. ’Primarily’ does not mean ’only’, it means "earliest in time or order of development; most important, fundamental; mainly" (see Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary).

The rest will have to wait, probably to tomorrow.

Master of Doom 28/Mar/2006 at 12:36 PM
Torturer of Mordor Points: 2358 Posts: 1327 Joined: 26/Aug/2003

halfir:  Then you, like others in this thread are allowing your speculation to overide the text. I shall demonstrate why tomorrow.

I’m looking forward to it.  Unless you have more relevant quotes, I don’t understand why my interpretation is unacceptable.  And unless said interpretation is unacceptable, then I am not in conflict with the text.

Ragnelle:  but you seem determined the refute statements I have not made. I have not said that the Barow-down blades where made only to kill the Witch-king and nothing else.

As I have said in my last three posts, I am not trying to refute anything by explaining why the ’bane of Mordor’ and ’his destruction’ quotes fit with my theory.  You are the one who began arguing the point, which never conflicted with your theory at all.  I was merely covering my bases, so that you could not pull that quote out later and try to use it against me.  It was never meant to refute anything that you said, only to show how it fits in my own theory.  Not everything I have said is a refutation to one of your points.  I have points of my own as well.

 

I have a few more questions to ask regarding some holes I see in your theory as well.  Did Earnur have a Barrow blade?  To say so would be making a large assumption, I think, considering Earnur does not seem to ever have had dealings with Arnor before then.  He sailed from Gondor to Lindon, and by the time he got there, Arthedain was destroyed.  Besides, it seems that the Northern Dunedain buried the swords some 500 years before this, anyway.  So why would he ride off to fight the Witch-king at the Battle of Fornost ’desiring only to be avenged for his disgrace’?  Why did he go to accept the Witch-king’s challenge (TA 2050) if he had no hope of winning?  Surely his pride was not that great, that he would attack a foe that was (to him) unbeatable.  While it is said that Earnur was not the wisest guy around, it seems ridiculous to assume he was that stupid.

Ragnelle 29/Mar/2006 at 02:36 PM
Guard of the Mark Points: 2850 Posts: 4765 Joined: 11/Sep/2002

Master of Doom: It seemed to me that you were refuting me. Happy to see that you are not, though I still don’t agree to the emphasis you seem to put on "bane of Mordor". To me - and if I have misuderstood, please tell me - it seems that you would put things in the oppsite order of what I do. You seem to be saying that the spells were primarely for the destrucktion of Mordor, and secondarely for the destruction of the Witch-king. Or for the destruction of the Witch-king only because he was part of Mordor. It is this I disagree with and find inprobable as I would put it the other way around: it was primarely for the destruction of the Witch-king, but since he can be said to be a part of Mordor, it was also for the destrucktion of Mordor. Though I must also add that I do not think it would have been thought of this way when the blades were made. The situation for Aragorn is different, and so his statement makes sense in context.

I am not asuming that Earnur had a blade such as the Barrow-dwon blades. We can not know how many such blades where made, we only hear about the four blades the hobbits recive which do not have to mean they were the only ever made. I do not, however, asume from this that there were unlimited numbers of such blades and that they were wide-spread. It is quite probable that the four swords Bombadil gave the hobbits were the only ones, and I will, to make things simpler, asume that there only were these four. Therefore I do not think that Earnur had one.

Now, since this is about 500 years after the last prince of Cardolan died, and persumably the blades were burried with him, the skill of making such swords may have been lost, and since Arthedain was lost, maybe none told Eanur about the spell? Glorfindel does not mention any spell in his prophesy, though it is not unreasoneble to think that he knew a lot about the Nazgűl even then.

So while it is possible to think that Earnur knew something of both the strenght and weaknses of the Witch-king, it is not certain and it would be an asumption to say so.

But even asuming that Earnur had been told that the Witch-king could not be killed by normal means, I actually don’t find it that hard to belive that Earnur would be "that stupid" as you put it. Looking up you quote, I see that in context - and everything must be seen in context, it is the alpha and omega of interpetation - it is not improbable that Earnur would want to ride off "desiring only to be avenged for his disgreace." (RotK, App A iv) In context, the story goes as following.

"But it is said that when all was lost suddenly the Witch-king himself appeared, blak-robed and black-masked upon a black horse. Fear fell upon all who beheld him; but he singled out the Captain of Gondor for the fullness of his hatred, and with a terrible cry he rode straight upon him. Eärnur would have withstood him; but his horse could not endure that onset, and it swerved and bore him far away before he could master it.

Then the Witch-king laughed, and none that heard it ever forgot the horror of that cry. But Glorfindel rode up then on his white horse, and in the midst of his laughter tha Witch-king turned to flight and passed into shadows. For night came down on the batterfield, and he was lost, and none saw wither he went.

Eärnur now rode back, but Glorfindel, looking into the gathering dark, said: "Do not pursue him! He will not return to this land. Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall." These words many remebered; but Eärnur was angry, desiring only to be avenged for his disgrace." Ibid

Now, Earnur has just lost controll of his horse and been disgraced by the Witch-king, there is no wonder that he is angry, at least not since he was not unlike Boromir from the fellowship (or rather, Boromir was like him). That, and the description of him in the paragraph that follows this quote, tells us that he was a proud man, and prided himself in his prowess of arms and weapon-games. His inability to controol his horse and stand against the Witch-king, would have hurt his pride, and in a man with a "hot mood" Ibid and which are described as "like his father in valour, but not in wisdom" Ibid this hurt pride would be a powerfull emotion. It would be a shame buring him, and this indeed the Witch-king uses to lure him. That he in his anger should have forgotten, or disregarded any report he might have been given regarding the Witch-king, is not very suprising. We know Golrfindels prophesy did not make much of an impression on the Captain of Gondor, even if he did heed his command of not pursuing him. That the king of Gondor, being the same man, were not restrained after being tauted twice by the same enemy, is likewise not that strange. As Xenophon says:  "A fit of passion is a thing with no foresight in it, and so we often have to rue the day when we gave way to it." Xenophon: The Art of Horesemanship And a fit of passion is a good example of Earnur when he acseped the Witch-king’s challenge.

Besides, would he have had to kill the Witch-king to win? iIt was though in Gondor that Earnur was trapped and killed in Minas Morgul in torment. If Earnur could make the Witch-king flee, that would have been a wictory as well. Though I do not think it nesseary for Eanur to have thought that way to find it probable that he would go off to fight him anyway. Pride and anger are good enough explenations. We all do stupid things in anger. Or pride. Remeber that Denethor in his pride though he could have keept the Ring safe, and unused. Denethor knew to much not to know the danger, but in his pride he thought he could overcome his desire to use it. Or in his pride he thought he could safely and successfully use it.

Agian the rest of your comments must wait, it has become late again for me.

Master of Doom 29/Mar/2006 at 03:53 PM
Torturer of Mordor Points: 2358 Posts: 1327 Joined: 26/Aug/2003

Ragnelle: To me - and if I have misuderstood, please tell me - it seems that you would put things in the oppsite order of what I do. You seem to be saying that the spells were primarely for the destrucktion of Mordor, and secondarely for the destruction of the Witch-king.

I think you pretty much understand me.  I am not trying to put emphasis on the fact that the spells were made for Mordor in the primary sense, I am just trying to show that they were not made solely to combat the Witch-king, which I think we agree on.  I do put less emphasis on the spells themselves overall, though, which is pretty obvious considering the debate we are having. 

maybe none told Eanur about the spell?

It is a possibility, but can you think of any good reason that either Cirdan or Glorfindel would not have told him as much?  Cirdan was very wise, so if the Dunedain knew about any weakness of the Witch-king, surely he did as well.  And Glorfindel also knew quite a bit about the Witch-king, and should have imparted such knowledge if your theory is true.  I can’t think of any reasons why Earnur would then remain uninformed of the Witch-king’s supposed ’invulnerablility’.  Also recall that the Witch-king laid seige to and eventually took Minas Ithil after the Battle of Fornost but before Earnur accepted the challenge.  If anyone had known about these swords, certainly they would have come forward then.  And I cannot believe that the knowledge of them had been lost, for Aragorn knew what they were, some thousand odd years later.  Therefore, as important as these swords were (in accordance with your theory), someone out there had knowledge of how to defeat the WK, and did not come forward with it.  I just don’t understand why events would have taken place in this fashion.

By my theory, however, this series of events makes perfect sense.

So while it is possible to think that Earnur knew something of both the strenght and weaknses of the Witch-king, it is not certain and it would be an asumption to say so.

Yes, it is an assumption, I do not deny that.  My point is, if we look at it from your theory, it doesn’t seem to make sense at all.  I am not trying to prove my theory any longer, as Turin and I agreed several days ago that such proof does not exist.  I am now trying to prove that my theory is more viable and realistic (Tolkien realisitc, not reality realistic)  If there is any proof, I think it would be found in a more obscure quote, the likes of which halfir, geordie, and Kirinki like to post.  Until such a quote can be found though, I am choosing to believe what makes sense.  My point with this entire Earnur thing is that if we look at your theory, there are things that simply don’t make sense (to me anyway, perhaps there is a logical reason I have not thought of).  Because of this, I think it is more likely that the more plausible theory with assumptions is more likely to be correct than the one that doesn’t make sense.

Also, note here that I am not trying to say that your theory doesn’t make sense, per se.  I am saying that it doesn’t make sense to me. 

and everything must be seen in context, it is the alpha and omega of interpetation - it is not improbable that Earnur would want to ride off "desiring only to be avenged for his disgreace." (RotK, App A iv) In context, the story goes as following.

He desires to be avenged in the heat of battle.  He actually rides off to face the challenge some seventy years after that battle.  I doubt if his only desire for 70 years was revenge on the Witch-king, so to say that he was still blinded by such rage at that time seems very improbable to me, though admittedly, not impossible.  Mardil does have to ’stay his wrath.’  It is certainly possible to be wrathful and still think straight though.  This would seem especially true if he had any knowledge about how impossible it would be to kill the WK.  What would be worse for such a proud man?  To fail once?  Or to fail twice?

 

And this last comment is a bit off topic, but thank you for posting that Xenophon quote.  I found it very interesting.  I knew the general psycological implications before, but I had never heard that particular quote.  Very interesting, to say the least.

Ragnelle 30/Mar/2006 at 03:18 PM
Guard of the Mark Points: 2850 Posts: 4765 Joined: 11/Sep/2002

Master of Doom: Earnur would not have to nurse a 70-years old grudge to ride off in anger. The Witch-king mocks him, and I think he does so with purpose so that Earnur would foolishly axept the challenge.  As you comment, Mardil have to clam him down even the first time, about 68 after the incident in the north. The realavnt passages are:

"When Eärnur received the crown in 2043, the King of Minas Morgul challenged him to single combat, tauting him that he had not dared to stand before him in battle in the North. For that time Mardil the Steward restrained the wrath of the king." RotK, App A iv

"Eärnur had held the crown only seven years when the Lord of Morgul repeated his challenge, tauting the king that to the faint heart of his youth he had now added the weakness of age. Then Mardil could no longer restrain him, and he rode with a small escort of knights to the gate of Minas Morgul." Ibid

Now, from the quotes I have given before conserning the character of Earnur and the description given here, it seems quite clear to me that Earnur was tauted past his endurance and would have gone to answer the challenge no matter what he knew or did not know about the Witch-king. What Glorfindel or Cirdan had told him (or not) more than 70 years ago, would not matter even if he remebered it. He certanly did not heed Glorfindels prophesy, which we know wihtout doubt that he heard.

And halfir as already provided an obskure quote, what makes you think another would convince you? Or will only a direct quote form Tolkien stating: "Merry’s sword was crutial to the destruction of the Witch-king" convince you? Cause the quote is pretty clear to me...

Glad you liked the Xenophon-quote. I ommitted the first part, since I did not think it had anything to do with the discusion, but in full it runs: "Never deal with a horse when you are in a fit of passion. A fit of passion is a thing with no foresight in it, and so we often have to rue the day when we gave way to it." Xenophon: The Art of Horesemanship

Of course a Rider would find a quote like that.

Master of Doom 30/Mar/2006 at 07:02 PM
Torturer of Mordor Points: 2358 Posts: 1327 Joined: 26/Aug/2003

Ragnelle: I agree that it was overmastering pride and wrath that did cause Earnur to eventually accept the challenge.  My point here though is that if the Witch-king were invulnerable save to a Barrow blade, it seems that Earnur would have known this.  Assuming he did, then his utter stupidity was greater even then his pride and wrath.  If the Witch-king could not be slain without a Barrow blade, and if Earnur knew this, then he rode off knowing that he would die, as that was the only possible outcome.  This does not seem right to me.  Either he should not have been King because he was far too stupid or else nobody told him about the purported invulnerablity of the Witch-king.  Both of these conclusions are difficult, as there are many questions and problems presented by them.  However, if we look at it from an angle (my angle) where the Witch-king did not require a Barrow blade to die, then none of these questions or problems arise, as it makes perfect sense.

it seems quite clear to me that Earnur was tauted past his endurance and would have gone to answer the challenge no matter what he knew or did not know about the Witch-king.

I simply don’t think that taunting can be credited to such an extent.  What if someone taunted him to go jump off a cliff, and then continually called him a wimp for not doing it?  Do you think he eventually would have jumped off the cliff ust because this person was taunting him and hurting his pride?  In both cases, the result of his succumbing to his pride was certain death.  But this question of Earnur’s masochistic tendencies does not arise if we look at the situation from my point of view.  I am not saying that what you are saying is impossible, I am just saying that my way seems much more plausible to me.

And halfir as already provided an obskure quote, what makes you think another would convince you? Or will only a direct quote form Tolkien stating: "Merry’s sword was crutial to the destruction of the Witch-king" convince you? Cause the quote is pretty clear to me...

I’m sorry, but with what your arguing, I basically would need a quote saying that the Witch-king was unable to be harmed by any weapon other than a Barrow blade.  I see no evidence for this anywhere.  Sure, the Barrow blade was made for his destruction, but that quote has nothing at all to say about whether or not it was the only weapon ever made that could harm the Witch-king.  That is what you are claiming, and that is what I am opposing.  I am not opposing that the Barrow sword was an important factor in the Witch-king’s defeat, I am opposing that it was the one and only possible way to defeat him at all.  Yes, I have seen proof of the blade’s importance, but I never disagreed with that ( it was the absolute necessity for the blade that I disagreed with).  I have not, however, seen proof to back up the claim that the Witch-king was undefeatable without one of the Barrow swords.

Bearamir 06/Apr/2006 at 12:54 PM
Emeritus Points: 16276 Posts: 16742 Joined: 21/Sep/2008

Ladies & Gentlemen:  This thread has been nominated for move to Ad Lore.  Given that this thread is excellent, with your kind permission I am going to do so.  

For everyone else who wishes to post, a small reminder is in order:  once this thread moves to Ad Lore, there will be some expectations as to the quality of the posts.  So, moving forward, please remember that Ad Lore is for the in depth discussion of topics pertaining to the Lord of the Rings, and try to avoid extraneous chat.   From this point on, I *will* be deleting posts that do no serve to advance the topic, or add materially to the discussion.

Best of Luck (and congratulations once again).

halfir 06/Apr/2006 at 03:22 PM
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Bear: Thank you for transferring this to AL. I feel somewhat guilty in that having started this thread I left it, but RL has proved something of an impossible taskmaster these last few weeks. However, I now have some time and intend to give my ’pennyworth’ to the fascinating and challenging debates that have preceded.
Arduvei 06/Apr/2006 at 05:49 PM
Mercenary of Minas Tirith Points: 558 Posts: 107 Joined: 02/Apr/2006
I think Eowyn could not have slain the witch king, nor any other, save with a blade made in westernesse for his downfall. Merry broke the power that was on him, the shield that protected him from harm, by stabbing his leg. This opened him to other attack, and at this point, any one could slay him, if they possesed sufficient courage. Another possibility is the prophecy about his death. This may have been a spell of some kind, and one wonders what would happen if a woman of Arnor stabbed his face like Eowyn finally did In the distant future (from Arnor)
Istanira 06/Apr/2006 at 06:24 PM
Soldier of Mordor Points: 1596 Posts: 1367 Joined: 05/Nov/2005
hmmm, well this thread has touched upon many aspects of the Barrow blade and the WK’s doom and then some more! but I want to throw into the mix another quote from the fantastic book that halfir began the whole thread when he quoted TLoTR: A Reader’s Companion by Hammond and Scull, which I have only begun skimming along with this thread. Perhaps this text takes the thread back a step or two in its progression, and if that is so, I apologize. But it does bring up a point to consider...

841 (III: 116) Chapter on The Battle of the Pelennor Fields, ’No living man may hinder me’. ’...Readers have debated, inevitably to no firm conclusion, whether Eowyn or Merry killed the WK. Some have held that Merry plays the greater part, because of the remark that ’no other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will’. (Book V, Ch. 6 p. 844, III: 120). Writing in ’Beyond Bree’ for Oct. 1990, Nancy Martsch says that she took this passage to mean ’that Merry was able to hamstring the WK and Eowyn was able to finish him off with a thrust to the throat. Perhaps an enchanted blade could do greater damage.’ (p. 6). Later, in ’Beyond Bree’ for Feb. 1992, in light of draft texts for TLoTR, she concludes that the larger question of credit for the WK’s death is best summed up in Gandalf’s words in the fair copy manuscript: ’Not by the hand of man was the Lord of the Nazgul doomed to fall, and in that doom placed his trust. But he was felled by a woman and with the aid of a halfling’ (War of the Ring, p. 390)

Gandalf’s use of the phrase, ’felled by a woman and with the aid of a hafling’ seems to contradict (though ’contradict’ is perhaps too strong of a word) the initial passage halfir quoted that Merry may have played a more important role in the WK’s downfall than was initially given.

Also, I don’t know if this matters, either, but does anyone think it odd that the Dunedain would spend their energy and talents on spells for mere ’knives’ instead of full-fledged, man-sized, Witch-King-destroying swords? Perhaps that’s just too practical of me to think such a thing--I would have thought that knives would not be used in battle with the Witch King...
Arduvei 06/Apr/2006 at 06:51 PM
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there may have been enchanted swords in the barrow. The hobbits would not have taken them though, as they would be over large. Also, it would be easier to make knives than swords, and blades of such quality would be long in the forging, longer still for a sword. And the Dunedain may have wanted more faster.
Istanira 06/Apr/2006 at 07:01 PM
Soldier of Mordor Points: 1596 Posts: 1367 Joined: 05/Nov/2005
well Arduvei, that’s sort of my point of the query--it’s not about the Hobbits wielding knives, of course that’s all they would be able to handle (Man-sized knives serve as swords to small Hobbits); but I am wondering why a mere knife would/could hold so much fear for the WK? And why would the Dunedain, way back in the depths of time and at perhaps (though I’m not positive) the height of their power in ME, bother to cast such powerful spells on little knives when they would probaby fight the WK with swords?
Arduvei 06/Apr/2006 at 08:04 PM
Mercenary of Minas Tirith Points: 558 Posts: 107 Joined: 02/Apr/2006
Because the hobbits need weapons. And they might have, or (this is taking it a little far) have created them for the purpose of asassination, not open battle. There is little writng on the second age and the beggining of the third, mainly the Akallabeth and Unfinished Tales. Also, because its a book and it is better like that somehow.. Istanira, i don’t like to say this, but there may be no practical explanation.
halfir 06/Apr/2006 at 11:09 PM
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Istanira: I don’t agree that Gandalf’s comment militates against the significance of the wound Merry gave the Witch King. And I don’t agree at all with Nancy Martsch’s conclusion, either in the original Beyond Bree journals- which I possess- or in the later quote given in Hammond & Scull.

Unfortunately I have not been able to comment as this thread has progressed because of RL commitments, but now that i have some time I will detail my own view- substantiated by text- of how I feel the Witch-king’s demise should be viewed.

And Ms. Martsch’s comment has one major flaw- Tolkien did not use that passage in the final version. Using earlier drafts to aid our understanding can be a primrose path- and in this instance Ms. Martsch has walked down it!

goldenhair 08/Apr/2006 at 07:11 AM
Scholar of Isengard Points: 1480 Posts: 1194 Joined: 10/Dec/2002
Halfir,

I agree with the words Tolkien lays out. However, that does not suggest pre knowledge by the Witch King.

It seems to me that we know only in retrospect the implications of the power of the spells laid on this blade. While JRRT may use nice foreshadowing with Tom B. selcting blades of Westenesse, that does not imply that we or the witch king should understand the significance. If the witch king did understand the significance, he would only fear non-men who carried the proper blade (Glorfindel for one would not qualify).

Nor am I convinced the witch king even knew of Glorfindels prophesy. Glorfindel says
"Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall."

Witch King says;
"No living man may hinder me."

Certainly seems WK knows of the prophesy. However, if he knows of the prophesy, one would assume fear of Gandalf at the gate(as we can be sure Gandalf is not a man). No, I think the arrogance displayed by WK is because of the "added demonic force" instilled in him by Sauron. (sorry if I have misquoted here.


Ragnelle 08/Apr/2006 at 03:57 PM
Guard of the Mark Points: 2850 Posts: 4765 Joined: 11/Sep/2002

Perhaps I should not abandon this debate now that it has been trasfered...

Master of Doom: Of course your own explanation makes more sense to you, or you would not have held it. However, it does not make sense to me. I think one reason is that you seem too hung up on what would be probable in the primary world, while I am more conserned about the logic of the narrative. Let me explain what I mean by this.

By narrative I am not here only speaking about the story Tolkien tells, though it is part of it, but of the way he tells it. There are many ways in which to tell a story, and the same incident can have a whole new meaning if told in a differnt context or a different maner. A very good example (though it deals with spoken lines, and not a whole story) is the use Peter Jackson has made of one of Faramir’s sayings in his movie. The line in question is this:

"A chance for Faramir, Captain of Gondor, to show his quality!" TTT, The Window on the West

Now in Tolkien’s story, Faramir is jesting with the hobbits. Perhaps they don’t think much of the jest, but never the less; Faramir does not mean what the hobbits think he is saying. He has no intention to take the Ring. In Jackson’s movie he says the exact same words, but their meaning is the opposite; he does intend to take the Ring. Context and sub-text is changed, and so the meaning of the words change.

Incidents in a story change meaning depending on their context, in the same way. When we are told about things, where we are told about it, and how we are told about it, dictates the significance and meaning of incidencts and information we are given. The structure of the narrative is what builds the story and the menaing of the story, and this has its logic.

Now what I probably should do, and what I think I will do when I get the time, is to gather what is said about the Barrow-down blades, and of the Witch-king and the Nazgűl and look at it in context. What I think we will find, is that this material will point in the direction of my take. Of course, or I would not have held it. And the only thing pointing against it would be the quite normal asumtion that you’d die if someone drives a sword though your head. The problem with that is that this is a story that does not allways follow the logic of the primary world (even though it does so most of the time), and that the evidence in this case indicates that this is one of the times it does not.

Back to the narrative logic. I am a story-teller. When I tell a story I allways knows more about the story then I tell, so what I choose to tell is only what I find is either nesserary for my audience to know in order to follow the story, or significant to the meaning of the sotry. Mostly those two go together. While I have to be more selective than an autor, the same still applies to a writen story. Tolkien does not tell us everything, so what he does tell us, must be what I found it nesseary for us to hear about.

The properties of the Barrow-down blades are mentioned several times, both when the hobbits aquire them and later. The fate of Merry’s sword is differnt from other swords (Éowyn’s just shatter imidiantly) and Tolkien finds it significant to mention its anonymus maker and what damage it made to the Witch-king. It has earlier been linked to the Witch-king by the foreshadowing made by Bombadil.

Tolkien also tells us, though Gandalf, that the Nazgűl in general are not easily destroied, even that they can not be killed by arrows. They are wraiths, living in a wraith-world and needing cloackes to have a shape in this world. The Witch-king’s flesh is "undead". Their main weapon is fear. They are not unlike ghosts in many ways.

When I put all these things together, I find the notion that any blade would have served against the Witch-king to be one that goes against the narrative logic. If that notion is correct, then all this is just much ado about nothing, and while that is fine in a Shakespear-commedy, I do not think The Lord of the Rings falls into that category. I find it unbelivible that Tolkien should have wasted time, space and ink on something that where of no consequence.

And I will return to gather those quotes (unless halfir has beat me to it) when time allows

halfir 08/Apr/2006 at 04:00 PM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

goldenhair: But this  unpublished quote from Hunt For The Ring, with which I opened this thread,  certainly reinforces the staement made about the Blade ofWesternesse in ROTK The Battle of the Pelennor Fields. I excerpt from that earlier post:

"On p.180 of the Companion Hammond & Scull quote from an unpublished manuscript in Marquette MSS (Marquette MSS 4/2/36) from The Hunt for the Ring.

Although the quote in general is related to why the Witch King did not immedaitely follow-up the Weathertop attack it throws into stark relief  the potency of the weapons wielded by Frodo and latterly Merry, that had been recovered from the Barrow-wight’s hoard.  As such, it highlights even more strongly the significance of the blade  on the Pelennor Fields in the destruction of the Witch-king.

’But above all the timid and terified Bearer had resisted him, had dared to strike at him with an enchanted sword made by his own enemies long ago for his destruction. Narrowly it had missed him. How had he come by it -save in the barrows of cardolan. Then he was in some way mightier than the B{arrow} -wight; and he called on Elbereth, a name of terror to the nazgul. He was then in league with the High Elves ofthe Havens.

Escaping a wound that would have been as deadly to him as the Mordor -knife to Frodo (as was proved at the end), he withdrew and hid for a while, out of doubt and fear both of Aragorn and especially of Frodo. But fear of Sauron , and the forces of Sauron’s will was the stronger."{My bold emphasis and underline}.

This seems to place much greater emphasis on the importance of Merry’s blade in the Witch-king’s demise than some have previously allowed for.

I will explain later why I think we are justified in praying  this in aid.

Arduvei 09/Apr/2006 at 11:48 AM
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Another thing is the fact that they were afraid of fire. There may have been some sort of fire-spell on the blades, and (i think, although i may have remembered incorrectly) there was stylized fire on their blades. Another thing is their fear of water (The Hunt for the Ring). Both of these fears prove that they can come to harm, and by varied means beside spell swords.
Ragnelle 09/Apr/2006 at 01:41 PM
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Arduvei: I am not sure that "having fear for" and "can be harmed by" is quite the same thing here. Usually, yes, there will be a conetction, but we know that all the wraiths survive being sweept away by the flood Elrond sends, and Gandalf is quite sure they are not killed, even before they had been able to determin the fate of the Riders.

"’And that is the end of the Black Riders?’ asked Frodo.

’No,’ said Gandalf. ’Their horses must have perished, and without them they are crippeled. But the Ringwraiths themselves cannot be so easily destroied.’" FotR, Many Meetings.

And their fear for both fire and water seems to be different from our normal cation against these things, more like fobies, though not exatly the same thing. (I will not go near spiders, no matter how small and harmless so you could block my path quite effetivly by puting lots of spiders there, and they don’t have to be poisonous. There are no poisonous spiders in Norway, but I still hate them.) I have thought of it more in the same category as wampires not being able to cross running water: a weakness that does not nesserally have a rasional explanation. At leat not the simple: it can kill them. Fire and floods can kill us as well, yet we don’t display a particular fear for neither element.

Again we return to the fact that this is a story. Telling stories is an artform in which some aspect(s) of the primary world often are higlighet. Of course stories are told for their own sake, but in the telling - an spesially in good story-telling - the story-teller wil highlight some things that are of interest, and will also seek to create an atmsophere. C.S. Lewis speaks of this i his essay "On Stories" (published in Of This and Other Worlds)

"Different kinds of danger produce different kinds of of fear. There may come a point at which fear is so great that such distinctions vanish, but that is another matter. There is a fear which is twin sister to awe, such as a man in wartime feels when he first comes within sound of the guns; there is a fear which is twin sister to disgust, such as a man feels on finging as snake or scorpion in his bedroom. There are taut, quivering fears (for one split second hardly distinguishable from a kind of plesasurable thrill) that a man may feel on a dangerous horse or a dangerous sea; and again, dead, squashed, flattened, numbing fears, as when er think we have cancer or cholera. There are also fears which are not of danger at all: like the fear of some large and hideous, though innocous, insect or the fear of a ghost. All this, even in real life. But in imagination, where the fear does not rise to abject terror and is not discharged in action, the qualitative difference is much stronger." S.C.Lewis: Of This and Other Worlds,  On Stories

It seems that not everyone enjoys these differences in atmosphere that Lewis talks about here (he calls it "the ’something else’" Ibid and seperates it form mere excitement), but I am among those that do, and I find it quite importaint not only to my enjoymet of a story, but to the understanding of a story.

This conserns also the Nazgűl, and my understaing of them. They are wraiths, much in the same category as ghosts. More physically dangerous than the average ghost, but still they mostly relly on fear, just as the Dead are repored to do by Legolas. One of my main objection to the presentation of the Nazgűl in Jackson’s movie, was that we very early see them killing a hobitt, and to me that broke the spell. Anyone could have done that, and it does not make them any more scary. The fear they install is not the fear of simply death (they can kill you), but more a fear of the undead; of ghosts, of wraiths.

So, the way in which Tolkien presents the Nazgűl, the Ringwraths, puts them in a category of being that is conected to ghosts, wraiths, the undead; in short, the spirit world or the supernatural (whatever word you would like to use to descibe it). That they are not subject to the same physical laws as we, or that they have fears not nesserrally conected to things that could bodily harm them, is not then strange. And the notion that ordernary pain or harm would hinder or destoy them works the same way as having them use a sword to kill a hobitt: it seems inapropriate. It breaks the spell of the story and is not in character.

Master of Doom 09/Apr/2006 at 03:06 PM
Torturer of Mordor Points: 2358 Posts: 1327 Joined: 26/Aug/2003

Ragnelle: They are wraiths, much in the same category as ghosts.

I have had this argument before, and been unable to come up with a reasonable conclusion, because there are a few quotes that can be read differently, much the same as with the barrow blade quotes.  However, I certainly don’t see the Nazgul as ghostly.  They are simply invisible.  They break down doors, ride horses, hold swords, and stab people.  In my opinion, logic dictates that they are a real physical being, not a ghost.  Note that the Dead never touch anything.  Also, the Dead can cross over water.  The Nazgul can’t.  They just seem to me to be on two different levels, and I have never attributed the Ringwraiths with ghost-like qualities aside from their invisibility.

Though I don’t remember for sure, I am pretty sure wraiths do not have ghost connections by definition in Middle-earth.  There was a thread on the translation of Nazgul a while back, and it was decided that it is made up of Nazg-gul meaning Ring-wraith.  However, -gul is translated more appropriately as (and this is paraphrasing) ’any of the major invisible servants of Sauron’.  Or something like that.  Nothing about ghostiness anyway.  I’ll see if I can find that thread.

I find it unbelivible that Tolkien should have wasted time, space and ink on something that where of no consequence.

Remember Tom Bombadil? 

I will reply more to your previous April 8 post later. 

Ragnelle 09/Apr/2006 at 04:13 PM
Guard of the Mark Points: 2850 Posts: 4765 Joined: 11/Sep/2002

Master of Doom: while Tom Bombadil has never quite caught my imagination, I don’t see him as being of no consequence. After all, he furnished Merry with his sword, didn’t he

I do not think, however, that you have quite understood what I have meant. I do not say that the Nazgűl are ghosts, I say they affect us, the readers, and the characters around them in the story, in a simular way as do ghosts. The words used to describe them point in the dirction of the undead, and I have also likened them in certain respects to vampiers. That does not mean that I think they drink blood, or chrumbles to dust in daylight.

Anyway, I take after Tolkien in likening (not equaling) them with ghost:

"It is based on a misconseption of the Black Riders thoughout, which i beg Z to reconsider. Their peril is almost entirely due to the unreasoning fear which they inspire (like ghosts). They have no great physical power against the fearless; but what they have, and the fear they inspire, is enormously increased in darkness." The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien #210. My bold emphasis and underlining

Again, we seem to aproach this from very different points. My concern at the moment is with the story as a written narrative, a book. Not sience of ME. Whether the Nazgul has the same physical struckture as a ghost or not, is not what I find importaint, but the assosiations the descriptions of them bring. And the definition of the word "wraith" is in my dictionary: "ghostly image of a person seen shortly before or after his death; ghost: a wraith-like figure, ie a very thin person." Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary

And now I ask you to read this before you say this is not a Nazgűl: I am talking about the conotations to the word ’wraith’, in other words, what assosiations that are conected to that word. I am not talking about, at the moment, how the Nazgűl can best be classified in a Tolkien Beastary. (Yes, I notice the David Day assosiation with the last part, but I was not thinking about him. I also apologise for the exsessive bolding, but I wanted to be clear on this point.)

So Tolkien, both with his compearson with ghosts in the letter, and more importaintly by his use of the word ’wraith’ in ’Ring-wraith’, paints us a picture of these creatures that sugests to us something more than merely an invisible man, something simular in our imganination to either ghosts or undead creatures. Further the Ring-wraiths are faded Men, mortals outliving their time that have faded and now live in the wraith-world. Their main veapon is unreasonable fear, just like the main (if not only) weapon of the Dead is fear. I am not saying that the Nazgűl are the same ’biological’ type of creature as the Dead (or ghosts), but that our asosiation, our imagination, conects them as having something in common. There are more than one way to classify a creature, you know. Human beings are mamals, placing us in the same category as whales and mice, but also bipeds, placing us in the same category as chickens. That don’t sugest that we have wings or tails or beathe though a hole on our backs. When I put the Nazgűl in the same category as ghosts, that does not mean that I say they can walk though walls.

**C**

_Anarion_ 10/Apr/2006 at 04:26 AM
Stablehand of the Mark Points: 237 Posts: 8 Joined: 09/Apr/2006
It seems pretty obvious that the barrow blade had great significance in slaying the witch king, but it does say  "breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will" in which case, merry’s barrow blade would have broken the spell protecting the witch king, and from then onwards perhaps any blade would be able to wound or kill him. There is also the possibility that eowyn’s blade was westernesse in origin, therefore also being able to wound the witch king. It may also be that he was injured not because of the blade but because neither of his assailants were men, (merry being a hobbit, and eowyn being a woman) which fulfils the prophecy that no man can kill him.
_Anarion_ 10/Apr/2006 at 04:34 AM
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come to think of it, there must have been some physical embodiment of the nazgul because they still wear armour under their cloaks, so they must be able to be damaged physically, in essence i am saying that there must still be enough substance to them to be able to hold weapons, ride horses, etc. They are neither living nor dead, and i think the reason why they are invisible is that the longer they are enslaved to the one ring, they will continue to wither until they are no longer even wraiths and will just be a shadow with a mind and will. This is similar to what happened to gollum, with him wasting away and becoming thinner, and more evil, although the ringwraiths have been exposed for far longer than gollum.
Jedi Ranger 11/Apr/2006 at 05:09 AM
New Soul Points: 460 Posts: 222 Joined: 28/Feb/2006
what was so special about the blade? what was different about it that made it able to kill the witch king and pierce his skin?  It looked to me that when pippiin took the sword it was a regular sword made out of regular metal but it had those intricit designs.  That seemed to me to be the only factor that made it different from other swords. what made it that way?
Master of Doom 11/Apr/2006 at 08:33 AM
Torturer of Mordor Points: 2358 Posts: 1327 Joined: 26/Aug/2003

Ragnelle: The problem with that is that this is a story that does not allways follow the logic of the primary world

I agree, but most basic principles do apply.  Gravity, for example.  However, more to the point, I don’t think that I don’t really think your logic follows with the logic of the rest of the story.  If it were possible to make someone invulnerable to all but a certain few specific weapons, then why would Sauron have not done it himself?  Or Saruman?  Or even Melkor?  If it was possible for a servant, why wouldn’t the master have that power (and use it) as well?  Do you think (theoretically) that Melkor could have killed the Witch-king without a Barrow sword?    Also following this train of thought, there are all the times when the Nazgul acted in a fashion consistent with the assumption that they could be harmed, even though there was no Barrow sword around.  So I have arrived at my position by looking at both real life logic and book logic.

while Tom Bombadil has never quite caught my imagination, I don’t see him as being of no consequence. After all, he furnished Merry with his sword, didn’t he

 Ok, you got me there, but you knew what I meant.   The baths at Crickhollow, specifically telling us what gifts were given to whom by Bilbo, the fox that watched the Hobbits...  There are certainly things that are of no consequence, though I do not consider them ’a waste of time, space, or ink.’

and I have also likened them in certain respects to vampiers. That does not mean that I think they drink blood, or chrumbles to dust in daylight.

Then excuse me if I have missed something, but where are you going with this ghost point?  If being likened to vampires doesn’t mean they drink blood, I don’t see how being likened to ghosts would mean anything about noncorporeality or being unable to be stabbed.

I am not saying that the Nazgűl are the same ’biological’ type of creature as the Dead (or ghosts), but that our asosiation, our imagination, conects them as having something in common.

I agree with you that the Nazgul certainly had an air of ’ghostiness’ about them, but I don’t really see what it has to do with the topic at large.  Most people associate the Balrog with a huge beast with horns and wings, but that is really not the case.  Similarly, even though we may associate the Ringwraiths with ghosts, I don’t see how that has any bearing on what actually happened.

Anarion: There is also the possibility that eowyn’s blade was westernesse in origin, therefore also being able to wound the witch king.

It was not the fact that the blades were from Westernesse that made them ’special’ in the sense that we are talking about in this thread, it is the spells that were put on it.  The barrow blades were ’wound about with spells for the bane of Mordor’  I don’t think it is a safe assumption to say that every sword made by the Numenoreans would have had these spells on them, especially after my discussion with Turin about the nature of Tolkien’s magia, which is somewhere further up this thread.  So while it could be possible that her blade was from Westernesse, that would not automatically make it as potent as the Barrow blades were.

Imperial Powers: what was so special about the blade?

As I said to Anarion, it was the spells on the Barrow swords that made them special.  Some people believe that these spells were what killed the Witch-king.  I am of the opinion that the spells just made the blade more effective and potent.  In either case, it is certain that it was the spells on the sword that made it different than any other regular sword.

**C**

Istanira 12/Apr/2006 at 08:03 PM
Soldier of Mordor Points: 1596 Posts: 1367 Joined: 05/Nov/2005
Originally posted by halfir on Thursday, April 06, 2006

Istanira: I don’t agree that Gandalf’s comment militates against the significance of the wound Merry gave the Witch King. And I don’t agree at all with Nancy Martsch’s conclusion, either in the original Beyond Bree journals- which I possess- or in the later quote given in Hammond & Scull.

Unfortunately I have not been able to comment as this thread has progressed because of RL commitments, but now that i have some time I will detail my own view- substantiated by text- of how I feel the Witch-king’s demise should be viewed.

And Ms. Martsch’s comment has one major flaw- Tolkien did not use that passage in the final version. Using earlier drafts to aid our understanding can be a primrose path- and in this instance Ms. Martsch has walked down it!



halfir, if you are using the specific quote that you are, the one you open up this thread with--one that was ’unpublished’ , I wish to understand why the H&S quote from Ms. Martsch, as published in their book ’LoTR Companion’, referenced above, does not count because you say it was ’not in the ’final’ version’?

I do not doubt your reasoning or criteria necessarily; in fact, you probably have some explanation as to why you disregard that particular M.Martsch quote. I do wish, though, to understand what is the criteria for dismissing some unpublished references and not others that are also unpublished? Can you please explain what you’re thinking? How do you know which unpublished references to disregard, and which ones to accept? thanks!
halfir 12/Apr/2006 at 09:16 PM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

Istanira: the published work of LOTR contains nothing that confirms Ms. Martch’s supposition. Moreover, she made that comment lacking any knowledge of Tolkien’s comments in The Hunt For the Ring  - unpublished Marquette document- which saw the light of  day in 2004 when Ms. Martch’s comments were made some 12 years or more earlier.

Moreover, the comments that Scull and Hammond brought to light in the unpublished Marquete document are totally in alignment with the published LOTR text:

Marquette

’But above all the timid and terified Bearer had resisted him, had dared to strike at him with an enchanted sword made by his own enemies long ago for his destruction. Narrowly it had missed him. How had he come by it -save in the Barrows of Cardolan. Then he was in some way mightier than the B{arrow} -wight; and he called on Elbereth, a name of terror to the Nazgul. He was then in league with the High Elves ofthe Havens.

Escaping a wound that would have been as deadly to him as the Mordor -knife to Frodo (as was proved at the end), {p.180 of the Companion  -Hammond & Scull quote from an unpublished manuscript in Marquette MSS (Marquette MSS 4/2/36) from The Hunt for the Ring- my bold emphasis and underline.}

ROTK

’No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe  a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will.  {ROTK- The Battle Of The Pelennor Fields - my bold emphasis and underline}

RL is still causing me time complications but I will endeavor to set out my own view of the situation as I see it  - comprehensively- very shortly.

Istanira 13/Apr/2006 at 06:42 AM
Soldier of Mordor Points: 1596 Posts: 1367 Joined: 05/Nov/2005
thanks for that explanation halfir--I see, it’s about the year of publication of the Marquette paper which makes it the more valid; and the M. Martsch proposition was made on writings that were not, in the end, adopted by Tolkien.
halfir 13/Apr/2006 at 03:37 PM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

Isatnira: The real validation in my opinion is the fact that there is a direct correlation between the unpublished Marquette document, which was probably written by Tolkien c.1954-55 and the published text which was finished some time before that. The two texts align, persuading me that Tolkien wrote the Marquette text in the context of the LOTR text, in this instance. That this was not always the case is shown by the published Hunt For The Ring  - UT -where the name Khamul is used for one of the Nazgul, while LOTR emphasizes their Namelessness.

Moreover, if CT had had this available to him when he published UT it  might well have actually appeared in published form. Remember that in UT  (1980) he refers -in the chapter on The Istari to some of his father’s writings that he could not decipher. By 1996 in HOME 12 The Peoples of ME he had managed to decipher them and they form the esay on the Five Wizards which gives us new and dramatic information on Tolkien’s later thinking about the Blue Wizards. Some 16 years before- 1980 when UT was published- this was unavailable to CT.

halfir 06/Jun/2006 at 06:31 AM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

But if you are asking who defeated the Lord of the Nazgul, then the answer must be that both Eowyn and Merry did so, and if I were to be asked to name one, I would say that Merry had a larger contribution than did Eowyn.

 

http://www.lotrplaza.com/forum/display_topic_threads.asp?ForumID=22&TopicID=202745&PagePosition=1&PagePostPosition=1

 

Phil-d-one: A Daniel come to judgement!X(

 

<Nessa Edit:  Indeed!>

halfir 13/Jun/2006 at 03:53 PM
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While I will return to this subject in detail at  a later date  I would draw the attention of readers to a letter from Tolkien- written in 1963 and not contained in Carpenter’s Letters - to Anneke C. Kloos-Adriansen and P.Kloos regarding the incident of the Witch-king’s knife on Weathertop and Merry’s blade in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields:

{these} were intended to be integrated with the entire mytho-historical background, events in an agelong war. Frodo received his wound from the Witchking under Weathertop, the bulwark of the ancient fortified line made by the Numenoreans against his kingdom:Meriadoc’s dagger was taken from the gravemounds of the same people. It was made by smiths who knew all about Sauron and his servants , and made in prophetic vision or hope of ending just as it did’ {Hammond&Scull LOTR Companion p. 564. my bold emphasis}

So ’any old blade’ just won’t do!X(

Tolkien’s letter also underwrites the view of Phil_d-one, quoted above!

Arthur Weasley 14/Jun/2006 at 06:58 AM
Banned Points: 4289 Posts: 3987 Joined: 29/Nov/2002

When Merry stabbed the WitchKing in the back of the knee, the implication is that he distracted the WitchKing just long enough for Eowyn to slam or stab her longsword through his invisible head.  So while Eowyn provided the ’coup de grace’ which actually killed the WitchKing, it was Merry who made that blow possible.  The blade that Merry used was originally forged in the North Kingdom (Arnor/Arthedain) while the WitchKing of Angmar was leading his long war for the North Kingdom’s destruction.  It is ironic and somehow cool realizing that whomever (whoever?) actually crafted the blade in the past would probably have been thrilled to know that the blade he created would actually cut/wound the greatest of Arthedain’s enemies.  Perhaps a parallel would be someone here in the United States who built the missle or bomb used to kill ElZakawai or the one that will be used to kill Osama Bin Laden one day (let’s hope soon).

Ragnelle 14/Jun/2006 at 02:19 PM
Guard of the Mark Points: 2850 Posts: 4765 Joined: 11/Sep/2002

halfir. Thank you for that quote. I see that I need to get that book.

DarthEnalan: If you read the intire tread a bit more careful, you’ll se that many considder Merry’s contribution to be a bit more than just a distraction. To be fair many think as you do also, but I belive the evidence is against them (of course, or I would not hold the position I do hold )

halfir 14/Jun/2006 at 04:26 PM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

Darth Enalan: The blade that Merry used was specifically crafted for that purpose:
It was made by smiths who knew all about Sauron and his servants , and made in prophetic vision or hope of ending just as it did’ {Hammond&Scull LOTR Companion p. 564. my bold emphasis}

Ragnelle: I will shortly set out -in extenso- the reasons I hold the same view that you do- but this letter strengthens them immeasurably.X(

Arthur Weasley 15/Jun/2006 at 06:43 AM
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I guess we will agree to disagree Halfir and Ragnelle.    Maybe I am old fashioned but if it is not written by Tolkien is it merely opinion.  I have read the thread carefully and I am confident in my opinion.  Hammond and Scull are just opinion.  I was under the impression that not until Araphant’s reign in Arthedain did they realize that Sauron "some single power and will was directing the assaults from many quarters upon the survivors of Numenor."  So unless Merry’s particular blade was fashioned in the last 50 years before Arthedain fell, I believe my interpretation would be more valid.  Always remember to consult primary source material.
Ragnelle 15/Jun/2006 at 07:06 AM
Guard of the Mark Points: 2850 Posts: 4765 Joined: 11/Sep/2002

DarthEnalan: Sorry, it looked form your post as if you had not read the tread.

The quotes given by halfir is in fact writen by Tolkien; letters not included in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien but published in Hammond&Scull  LOTR Companion. And I ague in several posts that Merry’s sword probably were made before 1409 (see the post at March 28 02:21 and March 27 15:10) well before the fall of Arthedain and not primarily directed at Sauron, but the Witch-king of Angmar, which is the same as the Lord of the Nazgűl. I ague this from the text given in LotR itself - aspecially Appendix A. I also show the relevant quotes from LotR where the magic of Merry’s sword is commented upon.

So while I are within your right to disagree, please do not imply that either halfir or I argue from the oppinions of others and disregard Tolkien’s text. Our oppinion (or at least mine, halfir can speak for himself *g*) is based on the LotR-text itself, and the quotes from Tolkien’s letter merely streghtenes you view (as halfir already have comented). Anyway; the letters are writen by Tolkien as well, so your dismissal is made on an incorect asumtion.

halfir 15/Jun/2006 at 07:30 AM
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DarthEnalan: Always remember to consult primary source material.

And always try and read posts with comprehension.

a letter from Tolkien- written in 1963 and not contained in Carpenter’s Letters - to Anneke C. Kloos-Adriansen and P.Kloos regarding the incident of the Witch-king’s knife on Weathertop and Merry’s blade in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields

And how does

I believe my interpretation would be more valid. 

square with


but if it is not written by Tolkien is it merely opinion?

As it is you are factually incorrect as the Letter written by Tolkien clearly demonstrates.

Arthur Weasley 15/Jun/2006 at 01:14 PM
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I have been going through my Letters of JRR Tolkien and I still believe I am correct.  Hammond and Scull are just opinion.  Forgive me for challenging popular notions.  Still, this sort of nitpicking is fun.  No harm meant.
Ragnelle 15/Jun/2006 at 01:32 PM
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DarthEnalan: You will not find these letters in that book. I have already explained that they are not included in that volume. That does not mean that they are not writen by Tolkien: not all his letters are published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. He still wrote them, just as he wrote the letters published in Letters.
geordie 15/Jun/2006 at 02:30 PM
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In addition to what halfir and Ragnelle have said, I’d like to point out that Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull are not merely voicing opinion, nor voicing popular notions. They are two of the best Tolkien scholars around.

As for working with primary sources - they have been granted access to Tolkien’s original letters and papers by his son Christopher. As has been said several times; the letter which halfir quotes was written by JRR Tolkien himself, and can in no way be described as mere opinion, nor ’popular notions’.

I agree that it does help if you read the primary sources. The book by Hammond and Scull is as near as we are going to get to much of Tolkien’s original work. As has also been said - it helps to actually read the thread.
Lord of the Rings 15/Jun/2006 at 03:52 PM
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I look forwards to your post, Halfir. I have read through this thread (although skimming when people seemed to be repeating themselves). I am anticipating a solid and textual analysis to put things concisely in a clear light.
halfir 15/Jun/2006 at 04:42 PM
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LOTR: I always give a solid textual analysis- look at my Tom B thread!X( But text has to be interpreted and there appears to be among some- I do not include you in this stricture- a strange belief that I have to ’prove’ my interpretation- which is impossible as it is an interpretation- and they simply have to assert theirs! At the moment we have essentially two schools of thought- based on mainly the same text. I say mainly as Tolkien’s 1963 Kloos Letter on the subject- introduced by me- is the first time that that piece of evidence has been used in this thread. And I presume you are allowing the words of the Master-on the book that he wrote- to count as ’evidence’ even if it is not contained in the text!

Darth Elanan: You seem unable to understand the fact that the Letter quoted was written by Tolkien! Since Carpenter’s Letters was published a series of Tolkien letters has come to light- some from private collectors or from correspondents with Tolkien who, until after Carpenter’s work, had not deemed fit to allow their letters from Tolkien to be made public. geordie has also explained that Hammond&Scull- apart form being world-renowned Tolkien scholars had access to documents that Carpenter did not see. It is one thing to challenge another’s interpretation - and BTW that is all your own comments on the matter  are- and quite another to claim a Letter written by Tolkien isn’t! Do you think Hammond &Scull made it up?X(

Lord of the Rings 15/Jun/2006 at 05:00 PM
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I was not trying to insinuate that you would not be textual, Halfir, I’ve seen enough of your threads to know that. I was just contrasting my expectations for he post with some of the ideas (non-textual) that I have seen in this debate. Not to say there haven’t been some excellent points in the debate so far, either.
halfir 15/Jun/2006 at 06:29 PM
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X(
halfir 18/Jun/2006 at 08:15 PM
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A little ’pot bolier’  to while away the time until I have finalized the marshalling of my -lengthy - text regarding the relative roles of Eowyn and Merry in the despatch of the Witch -king.

In ROTK-Battle Of The Pelennor Fields the Witch-king says to Dernhelm/Eowyn- thinking him to be a man:

’Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me.’

We know that by the time of the siege of Gondor that the Witch-king’s powers had been enhanced by Sauron with  ’an added demonic force’ (Letter # 210)  and it is not unreasonable to posit that this  increased his confidence in his interpretation of Glorfindel’s propecy. But even without that added force, the prophecy must have given him great confidence.

If that is the case- and for the sake of this post let us assume it is- how should we interpret this statement in ROTK App A The Stewards?

Boromir son of Denethor (after whom Boromir of the Nine Walkers was later named) defeated them and regained Ithilien; but Osgiliath was finally ruined, and its great stone-bridge was broken. No people dwelt there afterwards. Boromir was a great captain, and even the Witch-king feared him. He was noble and fair of face, a man strong in body and in will, but he received a Morgul-wound in that war which shortened his days, and he became shrunken with pain and died twelve years after his father.

 

And just a note on the OED definition of hinder: To do harm to; to obstruct or impede; to delay or frustrate action.

 

On any of those definitions the Witch-king in his use of hinder is effectively stating his belief in his ’unstoppability’ as far as living man’ is concerned.

 

 

 

 

Mireth Guilbain 19/Jun/2006 at 12:22 PM
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I am still catching up on everything that has been said previously in this thread, but I wanted to first congratulate all of you on a marvelous discussion.

Halfir, I can’t tell you how delighted I am to return to the Plaza and find that you are still crafting such wonderfully challenging, deep discussions. Much has changed around here in the past year, and it warms my heart to find that you have not.

Now, for your ’pot-boiler’:

It seems clear to me that Boromir I was more than just a ’great captain’. Based on the text that you provided from the Appendices, I would suggest that, like Denethor II and Faramir, the blood of Westernesse ran more strongly in him than in others. Even in that brief mention of him, it’s shown how much strength he truly had.

"...he received a Morgul-wound in that war which shortened his days, and he became shrunken with pain and died twelve years after his father." It took 12 years for him to succumb to a wound from a Morgul-blade? This, to me, indicates his tremendous inner strength. Recall Gandalf’s comments about the Morgul-blade which pierced Frodo...

I have known strong warriors of the Big People who would quickly have been overcome by that splinter, which you bore for seventeen days.” (FOTR, “Many Meetings”) Gandalf states that Frodo is ’stronger’ than many Men, because he was able to bear a splinter of a Morgul-blade for longer than most Men could. The major difference that I see between Frodo’s wound and Boromir’s is that we know a splinter remained in Frodo’s wound. What, if anything, do we know about Boromir’s?

 

We know at least one other thing about Morgul-wounds (and if there is more info already in this thread or a different one, I would appreciate being pointed in the proper direction), which also comes from Gandalf.

"They tried to pierce your heart with a Morgul-knife which remains in the wound. If they had succeeded, you would have become like they are, only weaker and under their command." (ibid) According to this, being pierced by a Morgul-blade effectively renders one a wraith. Boromir, on the other hand, did not become wraith-like. He became "shrunken with pain" and died young, but something in him was able to fight the effects of the Morgul-wound.

 

A Man with such strength may very well have given the Witch-King pause. If he really was more like the Men of Westernesse than other Gondorians, and the blades (such as Merry’s) which were capable of bringing about the WK’s destruction were forged by Men of Westernesse, is it so difficult to imagine that the WK would fear what Boromir was truly capable of?

 

Arthur Weasley 19/Jun/2006 at 05:35 PM
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Halfir - I believe that Hammond and Scull are simply extrapolating interpretations and drawing conclusions which are clearly debatable.  Again forgive me for disagreeing with you on this.   Upon further reading, I think Hammond and Scull drew incorrect interpretations about what they discussed.  The blade that Merry used was probably forged by a patriotic weaponsmith who lived in Arnor/Arthedain and the comment about "wound so bitter" is a reference to the satisfaction that weaponsmith would have gotten if he knew that one of his short swords would eventually wound the Witchking rular of Angmar whom eventually destroyed the North Kingdom. Hypothetical example: If I were a gunsmith, I would be delighted to know if one of the guns I made or even repaired was the ine that eventually shot Osama Bin Laden.  And Merry very gallantly stabbed the Witchking in the back of the knee (themal artery most likely) which caused him sudden pain and distracted him long enough for Eowyn to finish him off.  This is clearly written in The Return of the King. 
Arthur Weasley 19/Jun/2006 at 05:38 PM
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The Hobbit’s weapons had absolutely nothing to do with why the Witchking and his Nazgul cohorts retreated from Weathertop/Amon Sul.  They got what they wanted by piercing Frodo with their enchanted Morgul blades which they hoped would reduce Frodo to a junior wraith under their control.  The Witchking probably hoped that the wound and splinter would have quickly overcome Frodo and did not expect the Hobbits to possess a bit more than typical resistance.
Ragnelle 19/Jun/2006 at 05:51 PM
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DarthEnalan: You seem to be unable to grasp that the quotes given by halfir are not writen by Hammond and Scull, but by Tolkien. Hammond and Scull quote from letters writen by Tolkien that are not published before. Or do you think they make it up? That is a serious accusation - fabricating evidence!

As for your interpetation of the LotR-quote given so many times before, I find it unconvinsing. There is no evidence that the sword-smith was particulary ’patriotic’ - a consept that is farily recent - only that he lived in the North-kingdom and his chief foe was the Witch-king. We are also told that it took time to make it ("wrought it slowly" RotK, The Battle of the Pellenor Fields) and that he would be glad to know its fate. The comment about the bitter wound is not a referece to the smith, but to the power of the blade itself.

halfir 19/Jun/2006 at 06:15 PM
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Darth Enalan: There comes a point when the obdurate refusal to acknowedge a fact becomes so absurd that no further communication makes sense. Hammond & Scull extrapolate nothing- they are simply reproducing a letter Tolkien wrote. I am seriously beginning to doubt that you even possess a copy of the LOTR Companion as you assertions are quite simply nonsensical with regard to what Hammomnd & Scull have done

As to you own theory I totally agree with Ragnelle- its untenable.

I suggest that rather than clutter this thread with constant reiteration of your own -untenable- theory - you start a thread of your own and leave us to continue our discussion quite separately.

Arthur Weasley 19/Jun/2006 at 08:22 PM
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Halfir - It is only natural to condemn what you do not agree with but I am just as entitled to express my opinion on this forum as any other.  Hypothetical issues aside of what Tolkien may or may not have meant, I just respectfully disagree with your view.  You seem to be disturbed by this and we can continue to go back and forth or stop if you wish.  However, you really have no right to "suggest," (intending to intimidate or order) me away from this thread.  Perhaps I am mistaken on our discussion subject but I do not think so.  Is this really so challenging for you to accept or even tolerate?  Perhaps I may move on to other threads but certainly not because you consider yourself so awesome and powerful.  Perhaps you should practice patience and tolerance by simply accepting this kindly disagreement and constructive observations of your statements.  I would never ask someone else who had different views from mine to ’shut up and leave.’  Instead after discussion, and the disagreement still existed, I would accept it.  If this reply seems harsh, it is only because you might not respect my motives if I did not respond now.  Please consider carefully all that I have said. 
halfir 19/Jun/2006 at 08:44 PM
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Darth Enalan: If you were disputing my interpretation of a text I would have no problem. But you are not. Your are questioning the veracity of a Letter written by Tolkien, published for the first time, like several others, in Hammond&Scull’s Companion.

They make no comment on the Letter- they just publish it. And you keep referring to them as ’simply extrapolating interpretations and drawing conclusions which are clearly debatable.’ which they do not do!

My issue is not with your interpretation of that sequence in LOTR - which Ragnelle in my view has ably disposed of- but your continued harping on Hammond & Scull having done something that they demonstrably have not.

And I note you skillfully avoid answering whether you have a copy of the Companion and whether you have read it.

 And yes,  I do take proprietal interest in my thread to ensure that we keep to the main frame thesis advanced in the first post- {a role of stewardship encouraged by the Admin in this particular forum cf. BB’s post in Ad Lore Forum Restructuring above}. Thus if your contribution  is simply to question the veracity of basic source material then we cannot carry the argument forward as we are not working on an even playing field, and it is better you take that debate elsewhere.

I am not asking you to leave because of your own interpretation- I am suggesting that if you cannot accept the fact of a key piece of evidence as being by Tolkien- and not as being a concoction or extrapolation by the editors who reproduced it- then you are acting as a road block to our continued discussion and it is better you start your own thread on the subject.

I don’t know how many times I have to reiterate the point that however right or wrong your own interpretation may be- and I certainly don’t agree with it- Tolkien’s letter as contained in Hammond & Scull is just that - Tolkien’s letter- not Hammond & Scull’s concotion or elaboration.

I am not asking you to ’shut up’ because of your views on how we should interpret the LOTR text I am asking you to accept that the Kloos letter is one hundred percent Tolkien. How we then use it is up to us, but please let’s not continue down the path that it has somehow been fabricated by the editors in question or used by them in some unseemly way- they simply reproduced it.

 

Arthur Weasley 20/Jun/2006 at 05:32 AM
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Halfir - Actually I do own copies of the Companion, Tyler’s work and many other Tolkien related books.  As a historian, I served in a small way the committee that invalidated the supposed Hitler papers in 1992 so I believe I am entitled to question the voracity of Hammand and Scull.  They claim their material was new and never published before yet most of it seems to come from Humphrey Carpenter’s book "The Letters of JRR Tolkien."  As far as our discussion goes, I already said above that you may be right though I am entitled to express my opinions.  However, I believe that you owe me an brief apology for your somewhat belligerent "suggestion" posting above explaining that you were mistaken in attempting to compell me to remove the "clutter," of my opinions.  SImply because you start a thread does not give you the authority to control the content or arbitrarily and capriciously order/forbid people to comment on it.  Only the Administrators (the Powers of Valinor) of this website may do that.  Whenever I post a thread, I am encouraging discussion and debate from others which also helps me learn more and consider new views.  All of thisnow may seem "clutter," to you but I am speaking about basic politeness.  I will even now pledge to accept any apology forthcoming from you but I do still expect one.

halfir 20/Jun/2006 at 06:49 AM
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DarthEnalan: I am completely flummoxed by your latest response. If you do indeed own a copy of the Hammond &Scull  LOTR Comapnion then I cannot for the life of me conceive how you can posssibly state:

They claim their material was new and never published before yet most of it seems to come from Humphrey Carpenter’s book "The Letters of JRR Tolkien."

as it just is not the case. Their references are legion, more than 19 detailed  pages of  primary and secondary sources- of which the Letters is but one!

And their academic standing and personal probity is beyond any dispute- authoring /editing as they have -together or with others- JRR Tolkien A Descriptive Bibliography, JRR Tolkien Artist and Illustrator, Roverandom; the 2004 LOTR edition, and the LOTR Companion - to name but some of their major works.

As to your Hitler Diaries pedigree on source validation I have also worked in the field of primary source validation at the Institute of Historical Research and against that background I find absolutely no supporting evidence for the allegations that you make that their work ’seems to come from Humphrey Carpenter’s book "The Letters of JRR Tolkien."

As to the picture you paint of me ’arbitrarily and capriciously order/forbid people to comment ’  I have done nothing of the sort.

I stated- quite reasonably:

I am not asking you to leave because of your own interpretation- I am suggesting that if you cannot accept the fact of a key piece of evidence as being by Tolkien- and not as being a concoction or extrapolation by the editors who reproduced it- then you are acting as a road block to our continued discussion and it is better you start your own thread on the subject.

As to:

because you start a thread does not give you the authority to control the content .... Only the Administrators (the Powers of Valinor) of this website may do that. 

I very clearly said:

And yes,  I do take proprietal interest in my thread to ensure that we keep to the main frame thesis advanced in the first post- {a role of stewardship encouraged by the Admin in this particular forum cf. BB’s post in Ad Lore Forum Restructuring above}.

There is nothing arbitrary or capricious about that.

And as to an apology I have no intention for apologizing for something I have not done.

But this discussion has now reached the point when it itself interferes with the free-flow of the thread and as far as I am concerned it is now closed.

 

halfir 20/Jun/2006 at 07:02 AM
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Mireth Guilbain: Welcome back!X( Yopu have been sorely missed in this and other Lore forums. How propitious that it should be you who is the first to comment on our ’pot-boiler’.

You wrote-inter alia-

A Man with such strength may very well have given the Witch-King pause. If he really was more like the Men of Westernesse than other Gondorians, and the blades (such as Merry’s) which were capable of bringing about the WK’s destruction were forged by Men of Westernesse, is it so difficult to imagine that the WK would fear what Boromir was truly capable of?

 

So the Witch-king perhaps feared a combination of a man of such prowess armed with a blade that itself could bring doom? That I could well understand, but if the Witch-king truly believed:

 

No living man may hinder me.’

 

surely he would believe himself invulnerable - whatever the weapon in question?

 

A nice little wrinkle , don’t you think, which was why I have asked the question?

 

Arthur Weasley 20/Jun/2006 at 08:30 AM
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I am disappointed in you Halfir.  It is a shame that you lack the character to apologize when you have clearly made a mistake.  I pity you also if you keep ordering those people about who may disagree with you.   

Mireth Guilbain 20/Jun/2006 at 08:35 AM
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Perhaps the passage of time might allow for the change in the WK?

Boromir I reigned as Steward between T.A. 2477-2489. Boromir was, arguably, the greatest captain to lead Gondor during the Reign of the Stewards. After Boromir  died, was there anyone of such stature that might have posed a threat to the WK?

By the time LOTR begins, no one in Mordor knows of the existence of Aragorn. Sauron was not even aware if the line of Isildur still existed.
“…for the Wise then knew that the Enemy was seeking to discover the Heir of Isildur, if any remained upon earth.” (ROTK, Appendix A(v))
The Witch-king’s comment to Eowyn/Dernhelm, "No living man may hinder me," was delivered in T.A. 3019, more than 500 years after Boromir’s death. Perhaps the apparent dwindling of the Numenorean line and the lack of a leader with the prowess of Boromir has lead the Witch-king to the belief that there is no "living man" who is capable of "hindering" him.
 

halfir 20/Jun/2006 at 08:54 AM
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MG: I recall before in several threads that you managed to anticipate a viewpoint I myself held!X( I too had thought that the passage of time and the disappearance of warriors of   Boromir’s stature  could have caused an increase in confidence on the part of the Witch-king- that and the very obvious fact that Boromir -whom he feared- had not  in fact caused his demise! And your conclusion is one that I too had arrived at:

Perhaps the apparent dwindling of the Numenorean line and the lack of a leader with the prowess of Boromir has lead the Witch-king to the belief that there is no "living man" who is capable of "hindering" him.

And I suppose too one could see a ’self-fulfilling’ aspect to the prophecy - which had been heard by others than the Witch-king and had passed into almost a ’folklore ’ i.e.

The prophecy says no No living man may hinder  the Witch king (I am here using the WK’s own words), no living man has hindered the Witch king- therefore no living man did hinder the Witch king because there was always that psychological prophetic barrier to overcome, reinforced by the fact of the lack of harm to the Witch-king!

Supposition  and circular I freely admit, but not imposssible.X(

It will be interesting to see what others think about the general question.

 

Boromir88 16/Jul/2006 at 10:00 PM
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I’ve always felt like Merry’s Barrow-blade did something that no other blade was capable of doing.  I briefly talked about it in another thread, but will expand some more here.

 ’I thought they were all destroyed in the flood,’ said Merry.
 ’You cannot destroy Ringwraiths like that,’ said Gandalf.  ’The power of their master is in them, and they stand or fall by him.  We hope that they were all unhorses and unmasked, and so made for a while less dangerous; but we must find out for certain.’~The Ring Goes South

If we believe what Gandalf is saying, then Sauron’s power is tied into the Ringwraiths.  It is bonded to them, and they ’stand and fall by him.’  So, if we accept what Gandalf is saying, as long as Sauron’s power (the Ring) is still intact the the Ringwraiths would also still be intact.

Also note that the term ’destroyed’ is used here.  I think in Tolkien destroy and kill have seperate meanings.  Someone can kill Sauron, but he could not be destroyed, Sauron could die/be killed, but his spirit could not be destroyed.  So, Gandalf isn’t necessarily saying that the Ringwraiths could not be killed, but they could not be destroyed in that manner, because Sauron’s power is in them.

But, I do feel that the Barrow-blade was specially designed to bring down the Witch-King and in fact it lived up to exactly what it was made to do.  All these quotes deal with an importance of spells, breaking, and bringing the ultimate downfall of the Witch-King:
work of Westernesse, wound about with spells for the bane of Mordor.

No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will.

’But above all the timid and terified Bearer had resisted him, had dared to strike at him with an enchanted sword made by his own enemies long ago for his destruction.

What I take from these is:
1) The Barrow blade was specifically designed and wound with spells to be the ’bane of Mordor.’  I don’t think this is really being debated.

2) ...breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will... Now sinew, besides a tendon, is also a mainstay of strength or physical/muscular power.  So, the spell was broken, and the strength and power of the Witch-King, his ’sinews’ that were bound to his will were destroyed and broken by the Barrow-blade.

3) ...made by his own enemiesl ong ago for his destruction...now destruction is used here again.  I take this as meaning the total annhilation of the Witch-King.  Not simply being killed, but completely destroyed.

So, I guess where I’m getting at is the Barrow-blade was special in the sense that it could do what no other sword could have done.  It was specially wound with spells to be the ’destruction’ of the Witch-King.  And that’s what it does.  The Witch-King loses all strength and power that were in his will, the sword ’broke the spell.’ 

Does this mean now that the Witch-King actually was completely destroyed?  Not his spirit of course, for I don’t think spirits could be destroyed, but destroyed in the sense that the WK would no longer return?  For if we take what Gandalf says as accurate the Ringwraiths’ power were bound to Sauron and the Ring, they ’stand and fall together.’  But the Barrow-blade is able to break this, all his ’sinews’ to his will were broken.

I don’t see another blade couldn’t have dispatched the Witch-king.  Afterall Aragorn could have just chopped off his head?  I think common sense can tell us that.  But, the Barrow-blade didn’t kill the Witch-King, it destroyed him, it was his ’bane.’  He had lost his strength and power as the spell bound to his will was broken.  And that I think I can safely say that only the Barrow-blade could accomplish.

Boromir88 17/Jul/2006 at 03:57 PM
Merchant of Minas Tirith Points: 3627 Posts: 2473 Joined: 24/Mar/2005

Just some more things that I have found which catch my eye.

’The power of their master is in them, and they stand or fall by him.’
This, coming from Gandalf, may not be seen as entirely accurate.  But I think we would have to accept what Gandalf is saying here, because when the Ring is destroyed the remaining Nazgul are destroyed:
And into the heart of the storm, with a cry that peirced all other sounds, tearing the clouse asunder, the Nazgul came, shooting like flaming bolts, as caught in a fiery ruin of hill and sky they crackled, withered, and went out.~Mount Doom

Notice that and the similarity with the death of the Witch-King:
The crown rolled away with a clang.  Eowyn fell forward upone her fallen foe.  But lo!  the mantle and hauberk were empty.  Shapeless they lay now on the ground, torn and tumbled; and a cry went into the shuddering air, and faded to a shrill wailing, passing with the wind, a voice bodiless and thin that died, and was swallowed up, and was never heard again in that age of this world.~Battle of Pelennor Fields

And finally the similarity with Saruman’s death:
To the dismay of those that stood by, about the body of Saruman a grey mist gathered, and rising slowly to a great height like smoke from a fire, as a pale shrouded figure it loomed over the Hill.  For a moment it wavered, looking to the West, but out of the West came a cold w/ind, and it bent away, and with a sigh dissolved into nothing.~Scouring of the Shire

I guess where I’m getting at, is...did the Barrow-blade actually destroy the Witch-King?  Did it sever Sauron’s power from the Witch-king’s will...and in effect destroying the WK?

halfir 17/Jul/2006 at 04:50 PM
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Did it sever Sauron’s power from the Witch-king’s will...and in effect destroying the WK?

Sadly I have no time to join your discussion in any detail, but I should like to compliment you on your last two posts,,which- apart from one or two questions - which I will return to later-I find a most excellent summation of the situation and one that I couldn’t have bettered myself.X(

Tolkien tells us  -Letter # 246 that the ’Witch King had been reduced to  reduced to impotence after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields which I think must be glossed as meaning his spirit is not finally extinguished (for he is ultimately mortal) until the One is destroyed. But the point you make is one that has exercised my mind too. And I totally agree that the blade in question was fashioned with a purpose and a destiny in mind and that the idea that ’any old blade’ would have done, adavanced by the ignorant, is complete nonsense. Indeed, in one of my earlier posts  I use evidence from Tolkien to makes it quite clear that this is not the case.

Ecthelion Anor 02/Aug/2006 at 08:07 PM
Labourer of Minas Tirith Points: 132 Posts: 73 Joined: 31/Jul/2006
I think the demise of the Witch-king was partly due to the blade of Westernesse. Another help was the will of Merry to help Eowyn or Dernhelm as she is known defeat the Lord of the Nazgul. Another element was the will of Eowyn to defend Theoden.
king_dain 16/Sep/2006 at 08:47 PM
Trader of Erebor Points: 165 Posts: 36 Joined: 13/Sep/2006
i dont think that the sword of westerrness had any matter in the defeat or were in fact that he was stabbed i think it was who stabbed wich with the saying no maan there was a hoobbitt and a woman no man so to venture that question would be un important an di dont think gandalf could kill him for he is man and he wouldnt get a chance to stab him because of the magic that surrounds the witch king
Aganaphel 17/Sep/2006 at 02:23 PM
Miner of Mordor Points: 951 Posts: 116 Joined: 01/Sep/2006
Very interesting discussion.

I agree that the quote from Reader’s Companion leaves no doubt that the Blade of Westernesse was indeed the nazgul bane.

I wish to comment on one point in the discussion: Boromir I.

I am afraid some of you overestimate the man. Sure he was a noble warrior, but the quote "even the Witch-King feared him" does not necessarily mean that the Witch-King feared for his own life. He might have been apprehensive of Boromir’s skills as a great captain: and indeed Boromir reclaimed Ithilien, the possession of which was vital to Minas Morgul.

In the case of Glorfindel the Witch-King did fear for his own life, so he took to flight when the Elf-Lord confronted him in TA 1975. But in the case of Boromir I, Witch-King clearly fought with him personally, (unless he sent one of the lesser Ringwraiths), because how otherwise would Boromir receive his Morgul wound? I guess such weapons were wielded only by nazgul.

Mireth Guilbain wrote: ."It took 12 years for (Boromir I) to succumb to a wound from a Morgul-blade? This, to me, indicates his tremendous inner strength."

Not necessarily. Frodo was wounded in the left shoulder. The Witch-King was aiming for the heart, but missed. The shred of the knife had a short distance to travel to the heart and it was quite difficult to remove the splinter on its way.

Very probably Boromir was wounded in some other place. He was at war, likely clad in a mail-shirt, so only his legs remained vulnerable.
A morgul-blade is a fragile weapon, it breaks easily. I doubt it could pierce even a leather jerkin, much less a mail-shirt. Likely, Boromir was wounded in the leg. Probably the blade left no splinter at all, only poison was left in the wound. Even if there was a splinter, it could have been removed on its long way to the heart. Gondor healers were skillful, probably some other help was available (maybe Gandalf? or Saruman?)
I am sure the splinter was removed, otherwise, EVEN after 12 years, Boromir would have become a wraith, but not died naturally as we are told he did.
Once the splinter was removed, 12 years was quite a realistic time for the poison to work on a strong man. I am afraid, hadn’t Frodo been taken to Valinor, he would have died in some years from the Morgul poison as well.
Boromir88 18/Sep/2006 at 06:55 PM
Merchant of Minas Tirith Points: 3627 Posts: 2473 Joined: 24/Mar/2005

i dont think that the sword of westerrness had any matter in the defeat~king dain

The problem with this claim is that several times the blade is mentioned as being a truly magical and special blade. 

1. ...wound about with spells for the bane of Mordor.

2. ...had dared to strike at him with an enchanted sword made by his own enemies long ago for his destruction.

3. No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter,

The emphasis Tolkien continually put on the Blade I think makes it specially significant in the Witch-King’s death.  Now the first two quotes one can argue, well they designed the blade, and specially wound it with spells to destroy the Witch-King, but that doesn’t mean the blade was effective in doing so.  However, I think with the third quote put in with the other two, there is good enough support to show that the Barrow blade had a special significance in the Witch-King’s downfall.  It wasn’t something an ordinary blade would have been able to do.

Also the issue with ’no man could kill the Witch-King’ which has been discussed time and time again.  It’s a prophesy that says ’not by the hands of a man WILL he fall,’ it doesn’t say anything about the fact that a Man could not kill the Witch-King, just that it will not be a man to kill him.

NightRider17 07/Nov/2006 at 03:46 PM
Youth of Imladris Points: 78 Posts: 18 Joined: 05/Nov/2006
The blade obviously has much importance of the defeat of the witch king. The westernesse blades were made to defeat mordor and the agents of Sauron. Tolkein does emphasize it’s importance alot and by no means did it kill the witch king, but it did weaken him...weakin him enough for Eowyn to deal the killing blow.