Friday 17 May 2019

The first enchantment of Lord of the Rings

Ever since my first reading, the episode when Frodo, Sam and Pippin meet the High Elves (led by Gildor Inglorien) in the Shire, walk with them, and are given an outdoor feast at Woody End, has been one of my very favourites in the book. I now perceive that I have been responding to the first enchantment of the story, as experienced by the protagonists.

For Sam and Pippin, this is the first time they have met elves at all; for Frodo, it is implied this is his first meeting with High elves; those elves thousands of years old, who were born in the undying lands and dwelt with the gods - and who regard themselves as exiles in Middle Earth.

The enchantment is perceived in the beauty of the singing, the language, and the light (reflected starlight and a glow like that of the not-yet-risen moon) that surrounds the elves as they walk through the Shire.

At first the elvish conversation is rather superficial, indeed more than a little facetious and condescending (since elves tend to regard mortal hobbits as children); but quite quickly a tone of seriousness enters, as the elves realise that the hobbits are being pursued by Nazgul, and therefore 'great matters' are afoot.

The feast is permeated with a magical quality - the food and drink are better than mortals can contrive; and an act of enchantment is performed by Gildor on Frodo, which has the immediate and permanent effect of making Frodo into an elf-friend (a change that is immediately visible to The Wise) and a prophetic dreamer.

I find the combination of The Shire - an 'English' countryside very familiar to me from childhood - and elvish magic to have irresistible appeal.


Keri Ford said...

The last time I read the Fellowship, I was surprised by how much i liked the start, the setting, the homeliness and then the move towards initial wonder and strangeness. I think I share something of Bilbo's sense of wanting to stay home in the Shire. I visited Hobbiton in the Waikato a few years ago and it was a strong emotional experience for me as Hobbiton had represented home for me imaginatively since I first read of it and the recreation is set in the Waikato where I grew up which has a very distinct climate, so it worked very strongly upon my imagination. However, i would like to spend sometime with the High Elves.

Bruce Charlton said...

Keri - I can see that would be a powerful combination! All the five main point-of-view hobbits have that combination of loving The Shire and also respecting and having yearning for the elvish and 'high' - even Pippin!

jana gatien said...

Do you think the elves are elves or do you think the elven race represents angels? Some of which are fallen... some look out for men and other creatures, some prey on them... I seem to remember that orks were once elves, who were tortured and mutilated. How does a vampire become a vampire? He is bitten by a vampire. The original vampire: ahriman/satan? Some angels fell under his influence?

Bruce Charlton said...

@jg - No, elves are meant to be an earlier 'phase' of humans; always intended to be superceded by Men. The Archangels are the Valar and the lower angels are the Maia (like Sauron and Gandalf).

It is implied that Eru is the same one-God worshipped by Jews, Muslims and some Christians (I say 'some' Christians, because some Christians have always had a different concept of God, and (because of Jesus being fully divine) are not strict monotheists - and I am one of them!)

However, these all seem to be the same 'species' - at least, elves and humans can interbreed, and elves and Maia (Thingol and Melian) - which suggests that all are of one 'kind' at differentl levels.

Orcs seem to be originally ruined elves, and later were also interbred with Men - eg Uruk Hai; and it is speculated that some orc chiefs (like Azog) were Maia in orcish form (like wizards were in Man form).