A Tolkien Virgin: The Return of the King - Book V - Chapter 3 - The Journey Continues
The Muster of Rohan
"[Merry] was on a road the like of which he had never seen before, a great work of men's hands in years beyond the reach of song. Upwards it wound, coiling like a snake, boring its way across the sheer slope of rock..."
When Theoden and the Riders return to Dunharrow, there is a short conversation about Aragorn going by way of the Paths of the Dead and how they are all mostly certain that he is lost, even if there is a slim chance according to legend that he will be allowed to pass unharmed. Well, we all already know that he passed it. We know that he summoned the Dead and that he's on his way without a hitch. Realistically, of course, Theoden et. al. would have had the conversation Tolkien wrote, but, it could have added to the tension of the passing of the Paths of the Dead if we read this conversation and the legend of Baldor before. Not that we needed more tension in the last chapter, and furthermore it wouldn't work chronologically, but their concerns being voiced post-success felt out of place.
A messenger arrives and Theoden is presented with the Red Arrow. At first, Theoden's reaction seems appropriate, but then he says it's going to take him a week to get ready and complete the journey to Minas Tirith. Hirgon was a bit dismayed and so was I. If my concept of time in this story isn't off, that would certainly be too late. But then the dark gloom comes and thankfully Theoden has a change of heart--feels the urgency and makes ready to go immediately.
Merry begs not to be left behind, but Theoden won't let him go. So, Dernhelm, obviously Eowyn in disguise, helps him out and lets him ride with her. How will her disobedience be repayed I wonder? And Merry's too, for that matter.
I've also come to notice that all of our hobbits are split up now. We've got Frodo taken captive; Sam with the ring on trying to figure out how to rescue Frodo; Pippin who has sworn fealty to the Steward of Gondor; and Merry who has sworn fealty to Theoden King of Rohan. That's interesting, isn't it? Talk about plot complications.
The one thing that grabbed me most in this chapter was a tangent to the story themselves. I guess the history major in me feeds on these tidbits of history we are fed along the way. In this case it's the Pukel-men and Dunharrow itself. No one knows who made them or why. It's Tolkiens history behind the story, as I've pointed out a hundred times, that adds so much to the depth of the narrative. The various locations aren't shallow settings whose sole purpose is to be a setting in which the characters interact. The locations have a reality of their own, apart from the characters. Not many authors do this as well as Tolkien.
And I liked how Tolkien has Merry take time to notice the Pukel-men and how he describes Merry's reaction to them.
Oh and it was nice to get a little follow up on last chapter: Baldor it was who lay before the Door of the Dead. But, we still don't know what secrets are hidden behind that door. And I wonder, now that Aragorn has summoned the Dead, is there anyone left to protect that Door? I mean, if they did, that would suck for the Dead guy or guys who don't get to have peace while everyone else goes and fulfills their vow. If none of the Dead stayed behind, then, heck someone should get in there and see what was hidden for all those years, huh!? Even looting old Baldor's corpse would be a profitable venture, eh? But that would be wrong, right?
Yeah, well, that's it for now, I'm afraid.
till next time,