This is my May follow-up post for LOTR Read-Along hosted by Lorren at The Story Girl. It includes SPOILERS.
Well, there we are, crisscrossing Rohan, getting ready to take down Saruman. Just a little short ride to Helm’s Deep, where we encamp, then let them come and get us, if they can. After all, Helm’s Deep has never been conquered when defended by Men. Ha!
All, right, now seriously. I haven’t read as much of the Two Towers as I had hoped to (but I have read whole lot of other things, of course). I have come through Chapter Six of Book Three and the Rohirrim host is riding to Helm’s Deep to meet the armies of Isengard.
Last month, Lorren suggested a few interesting discussion points considering Gandalf and his rebirth, the Ents, and the Rohirrim and their culture. I decided to make a few comments on each of those points in this post.
Gandalf is widely recognised among Tolkien researchers as one of Christ-like figures in The LOTR (others being Frodo and Aragorn). As Christ, Gandalf dies and resurrects. The Gandalf before death is more human-like and weaker than the one after. He is sent back for a short while with new powers to help the peoples standing against Sauron.
Gandalf, formerly the Grey – that is the average, indefinable figure – is now the White, a clearly defined opponent to the Black. As Christ, Gandalf has to endure his own Calvary in order to later reveal his power. Gandalf is not recognised by his companions when they meet again in Fangorn, which is similar to Christ not being recognised by his disciples on the way to Emmaus. These parallels have probably come very naturally to Tolkien, since he was a devout Catholic indeed.
Tolkien was much disillusioned by the Industrial Revolution and its effects on nature as well as on people. He gave nature its own voice through the Ents. Ents are giant tree-shepherds who walk and talk. They represent a sheer force of nature. Nature is impartial, it does not take sides in wars or favour nations, and it can be benevolent and cruel to everyone alike. Therefore, Treebeard is on nobody’s side, because nobody is on his side. Yet, nature can be destructive to those who do not respect it, as it can be seen in the fall of Isengard.
The first people who find themselves at war in The LOTR are the Rohirrim, the people living on the wide plains of Rohan and at the foot of the White Mountains. They are horse-masters, they love their horses as much as their families. Rohirrim are great warriors, “proud and wilful, but they are true-hearted, generous in thought and deed; bold but not cruel, wise but unlearned, writing no books but singing many songs.” They are friends of the people of Gondor. “They do not lie, and therefore they are not easily deceived.” Though simple on the outside, the Rohirrim have rich tradition both spiritually and materially (the king’s hall is thatched with gold).
I think I have read somewhere that Tolkien shaped the Rohirrim after the traits of Germanic and partly perhaps Slavic tribal tradition. This is reflected in Germanic sounding names, such as Herugrim and Mundburg, whereas Meduseld sounds Slavic. Living in a Slavic country with a strong Germanic tradition, I feel quite close to the Rohirrim and their life.
Overall, Rohirrim are an interesting people, so are the Ents, and I really enjoy reading about them, as I discover something new each time. But this is generally the case with The LOTR. No matter how many times you read it, you can still discover something new to think about.