This chapter is so full of references to the Old English language and Anglo-Saxon culture that we feel we have stepped out of Middle-Earth and into medieval England as it was in the days before the Norman Conquest. Hrothgar, the king in the Beowulf epic, would feel right at home in Théoden’s court, and Aragorn recites a few lines of poetry that seem to be taken straight from The Wanderer, a well-known Old English elegy.
That said, the remaining members of the Fellowship have not escaped a chain of events that is very Middle-Earth indeed. We analyze the character of Théoden before and after his “enlightenment.” What is going on with him? What kind of spell was he even under?
This fascinating chapter kicks off a comparison of two apparently different Gandalfs (Gendelf?), the old and the new, the Grey and the White. What exactly has happened to our beloved Pilgrim? Imagery of light and dark pervades this episode as we contemplate Gandalf’s journey and transformation.
The lectio section asks the question: how can you trust people or situations that could pose a threat to you? How can you come to feel comfortable, even at home, among forces that could spell your destruction?
We discuss the sad history of the Ents and Entwives. But there are also silver linings in this half-chapter, like the notion of having a network of friends in one’s old age. Nathan analyzes the hell out of the name “Quickbeam.”
Courage has been deemed the theme of this chapter. We examine the motives of the Ents in their sudden—hasty?—departure for Isengard.
What is it like to be an Ent? This episode—or half-episode, since we think “Treebeard” has got enough to work with for two full shows—gives us an anthropological overview of a new species, the Ent, just as we learned about Orcs in the previous chapter.
Of course, Ents are anything but new, and have a rich cultural heritage which we are made privy to in this chapter. We discuss the contemplative lens through which Ents see the world.
In this episode, in the spirit of Éomer’s exchange with Aragorn, we discuss how to make decisions in tough or novel political times. We also examine—carrying on the discussion from last chapter—what may be seen as the absurdity of Aragorn’s hope that Merry and Pippin may yet be alive.
We also see a huge amount of Anglo-Saxon—that is to say, Old English—influence in this chapter, in people- and place-names in the kingdom of Rohan. We will be on the lookout for more such encroachments from Tolkien’s day job as an Old English philologist in future chapters!
The Tolkien Heads are back in action after our winter hiatus! In this episode we jump right into The Two Towers.
In a slightly reworked format for the chapter review, Nathan declares this chapter’s theme to be decisions, and indeed the chapter is packed with decisions, choices, and minor crises. We focus in particular on Aragorn’s decision-making process, and a few examples that lend themselves to analysis.