September 18, TA 3018

Tolkien Calendar: The Great Years

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January 15, TA 3019

Gandalf falls at Bridge at Khazad-Dum

"In the Halls of Moria" by Alan Lee
On the first night in Khazad-dum Pippin drops the rock into the well. After a hope inspiring pause, out of the depths the company hears: tap-tom, tom-tap.... tap-tom, tom-tap, tap-tap, tom. The fellowship passes a tense night but nothing further happens on that night or for the next 2 days.

After two marches the company reaches the room where they find Balins tomb and the hope that Gimli carried dies. They read the account of what happened in the room and while they are there they are attacked by orcs. The company manages to escape but not before Frodo takes a memorable blow from an orc javelin, which he miraculously survives. But, during the struggle, Gandalf is drained fighting some unknown evil while defending the doors.

The Company runs for the bridge; hope of escape is in sight. The orcs are far away and separated from the crew by a chasm. It looks like the company is going to make it across Durin's bridge and then Legolas and Gandalf see that nameless evil - a Balrog. Even weakend he is able to send the Balrog to the depths but Gandalf falls with it.

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January 17, TA 3019

The Company comes to Caras Galadhon at evening.

Our beloved author continues his pattern of darkness and light in The Lord of the Rings. After the dark days and the disappearance of Gandalf into the dark abyss, we, along with the Fellowship, require some light, healing, and new life. And so we enter the blessed land of Lothlorien. In it we find all the things that Tolkien must have learned healed the soul after death in warfare: beauty, quiet, music, remembrance, nature, reverence, and friendship. Haldir says it best, to a blindfolded Merry as they approach the City of Trees:
'The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.'
The anticipation of the healing beauty of Lothlorien is carried on the wind in the leaves of the mallorn trees long before the Fellowship nears Caras Galadhon. Legolas and Aragorn seem always to say the name of the land with a reverential sigh: "'Lothlorien!' said Aragorn. 'Glad I am to hear again the wind in the trees!'" Indeed, the mallorn trees seem to have a mysterious life of their own, as Frodo feels when he touches one: " . . . never before had he been so suddenly and so keenly aware of the feel and texture of a tree's skin and of the life within it. He felt a delight in wood and the touch of it, neither as forester nor as carpenter; it was the delight of the living tree itself."

Only with such a deep and elemental experience of life itself can our heroes recover from the devastating death of Gandalf, their leader and guide. During their stay in Lothlorien, each member of the Fellowship establishes again his relationship with what is true, good, and beautiful, in order to prepare for the rest of the journey.

Perhaps as an illustration of this, Frodo finds his mysterious friend, Aragorn, holding a blossom of elanor on the hill of Cerin Amroth, murmuring perhaps the most beautiful words in the trilogy, "'Arwen vanimelda, namarie!'".

Images © Cerin Amroth by Alan Lee.

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January 23, TA 3019

Gandalf pursues the Balrog to the peak of Zirak-zigil.

Gandalf's fall from the Bridge of Khazad-Dum precipitated an epic battle with the Balrog in the bowels of Moria. They fell long and long, and then Gandalf pursued his enemy through many forgotten passages deeper under the Mine than any Dwarf had ever delved--terrible places made by things for which there was no name, things older than Sauron. At last the Wizard, following the Balrog in despair and hope, was led back to the known realms of Moria, to the fabled Endless Stair which spiraled up and up through the whole edifice until it exited in Durin's Tower on the pinnacle of Zirakzigil. There Gandalf struggled with the Balrog, in the unseen Battle of the Peak, heralded by thunder, lightening, fire, and smoke. Here only the words of Tolkien will do:
I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and
broke the mountain-side where he smote it in his ruin. Then
darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time, and I
wandered far on roads that I will not tell.
Most Tolkien authorities believe that Gandalf actually died at this point, to be returned to Middle Earth by the Valar to finish his task.
Naked I was sent back--for a brief time, until my task is done.
Gwaihir the Windlord, King of the Eagles, finds him on the mountain, and takes him to Lorien to heal, and he does, but Gandalf the Grey is gone. Gandalf the White has taken his place--the White Rider has come to do battle with Sauron.

Calendar entry by librislove

Images © "In the Halls of Moria" by Alan Lee.

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January 25, TA 3019

Categories: Tolkien Calendar

Gandalf casts down the Balrog, and passes away. His body lies on the peak.

In many ways this is Gandalf's defining moment, almost one might say his graduation day. Until now he has been known as Gandalf the Grey, of lesser power than his fellow Wizard gone amuck, Saruman. Well, today he catches up in the power department. It takes the defeat and casting down of the Balrog...Gandalf's trial by accomplish this, and Tolkien describes it is his hallmark brilliant fashion.
Those that looked up from afar thought that the mountain was crowned with storm. Thunder they heard, and lightening, they said, smote upon Celebdil, and leaped back broken into tongues of fire. Is not that enough? A great smoke rose about us, vapour and steam. Ice fell like rain...

...And naked I lay upon the mountain-top. The tower behind was crumbled into dust, the window gone; the ruined stair was choked with burned and broken stone. I was alone, forgotten, without escape upon the hard horn of the world. There I lay staring upward, while the stars wheeled over, and each day was along as a life-age of the earth. Faint to my ears came the gathered rumour of all lands: the springing and the dying, the song and the weeping, and the slow everlasting groan of overburdened stone. And so at the last Gwaihir the Windlord found me again, and he took me up and bore me away.
That he lay naked on the peak has always brought to me a vision of rebirth. This born-again Gandalf would be tested, but ultimately would become the key instrument in the shaping of the future of Middle-earth...with a little help from his friends.

Images © "Gandalf" by Alan Lee.

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February 14, TA 3019


The Mirror of Galadriel



While the Fellowship rests at Caras Galadon, Galadriel invites Sam and Frodo to look into her mirror--a basin filled with clear water that can show the viewer glimpses of scenes far away in time and space. While the hobbits see the Mirror as elven magic, Galadriel does not understand that concept of it; to her it is an artifact of her people. It can help clarify, but is "dangerous as a guide of deeds," for those who turn from their appointed path to try and ensure that their visions happen can bring ruin. Sam sees the destruction of the Shire and his Gaffer turned out of Bagshot Row when he looks, and more ominously, a foreshadowing of the hobbits' encounter with Shelob. He is badly affected--for a brief time he is tempted to abandon the Quest and Frodo and return home. But he masters himself, declaring "I wish I had never come here, and I don't want to see no more magic." Frodo sees Gandalf and Bilbo, and visions out of history, as well as a brief glimpse of Aragorn and the corsairs and the battle at Minas Tirith. Then in horror he sees the Great Eye, and knows it to be seeking him, and that for now the Ring is hidden only by his faltering will. His hopeless response is to offer the burden to Galadriel, but when she refuses the Ring, he realizes he must complete the Quest to prevent the utter ruin the Mirror has shown him. Thus the Mirror becomes both a tool to test the steadfastness of those who look in it, and a strength to their resolve. One can only wonder--what would Boromir have seen in the Mirror, and would it have made any difference to him? Or to the Quest? Perhaps it would have been so, and that it why he was not invited to look.

The Phial that Galadriel gives to Frodo as his parting gift from Lorien contains water from the basin--water which reflects the light of Earendil's star. Like the Mirror itself, the light of the Phial serves to strengthen resolve and courage.




It is probable that Gandalf actually died after the epic Battle of the Peak with the Balrog. He explains it thus--"Then darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads I will not tell." But the Valar, and perhaps Eru himself, were not done with him, and his spirit was sent back to his body to finish to work he had been sent to Middle Earth thousands of years before to do. Only Tolkien's words will serve here:
And naked I lay upon the mountaintop. . . I was alone, forgotten, without escape upon the hard horn of the world. There I lay staring upward, while the stars wheeled over, and each day was a long as a life-age of the earth. Faint to my ears came the gathered rumour of all lands: the springing and the dying, the song and the weeping, and the slow everlasting groan of overburdened stone"
And so Gandalf receives a vision of the life spirit of Middle Earth itself--a life he is dedicated to saving. He waits quietly for the Windlord to bear him to Lothlorien to heal and take counsel, so he can take up his task again.

Images © "Cerin Amroth" and "Caradhras" by Alan Lee.

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Last edited: 20 September 2012 12:07:08