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?
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!