The Grey Havens Group Palantir has seen and heard much, but it is unpredictable and often fell. As the mists clear, the withered leaves of past conversations are revealed in barest shreds…
The “Strider” chapter is wonderful in its fuller introduction of the character, demonstrating his fragility or brittleness as a character. He is not a simplistic hero, he is full of doubts, and that is very clear in his initial interactions with the hobbits. In particular, his expressed desire to be accepted by them without further proofs (Gandalf’s letter) very poignantly points to a sensitivity usually not seen in the hero.
Strider has a plethora of names, given, fated, yet to be given, which define small facets of his character. The profligate use of names reflects the use of naming as a lexical unit, and listing as a form of establishing prestige in mythology, all of which lend an almost demigod character to Strider. Overshadowing all at this period in his life, however, is his love of Arwen and the thought of Elrond regarding this union. All of this, the sense of duty and humility of stature as opposed to the Eldar, bear directly on Strider’s notable fragile self worth and near obsessive compliance with duty.
How Strider describes the Black Riders and the moments afterwards is very illuminating. It is clear Strider must have intimate knowledge of the Riders. Perhaps he was one of the Rangers at Sarn Ford, which would mean he’s run up against them little over a week ago. Or perhaps it is racial memory. There is a moment of silence, when Strider closes his eyes and a pained look comes over him; is this Remembrance or Sight?
St Therese of Lisieux and her little way were reflected in this chapter. The idea of the Little Way is a continuous thread throughout the narrative, that even the smallest of good deeds are instrumental in the defeat of evil. Thus any help Butterbur may give will suffice. As St. Therese was a very important figure of devotion in the trenches during WWI, it is possible Tolkien was thinking of her. The idea of the smallest deeds or the smallest people building to victory is one that to keep an eye on.
Who actually attacks the Inn? Tolkien is an author who usually should be taken at his word; so it may not be Black Riders, but instead Bill Ferny, the Gatekeeper and the Southerners who attack the Inn and attempt to murder the hobbits.
The meeting closed with some discussion of Gandalf’s powers and the nature of his mission, a bit on the rustic mischief of Nob, and the continuing battle between Frodo and the Ring for dominance and control.
… until the hour of our next meeting.