Book 1, Chapter 10: Strider

The Hall of Fire's extended chapter by chapter discussion of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings
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Voronwë the Faithful
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Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Oh man! I CAN imagine how hard that would be. I don't know if I could do it.
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Post by Impenitent »

I remember my first encounter with Strider - and with Butterbur, for that matter - and I recall distinctly the dread I felt for Frodo. It seemed so evident that one or both had nefarious purposes underlying the desire to speak with Frodo privately. Up until Gandalf's letter was revealed I was with Sam, urging Frodo not to trust him! :rofl: Strider could so easily have come by his information by foul means.

I tend to be suspicious and to see ominous shadows everywhere.
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Post by ArathornJax »

Strider was one of my favorite characters, and still is. He is a rock in the midst of confusion, and his destiny and heart is tied directly to the fate of the Ring. For me, Strider is a mystery at first, and is one of the characters that I don't think I understood until a re-reading of the text. Besides all that he is at first, all that he will become, Strider/Aragorn's story is a that of a love story. I firmly believe that his motivations are tied to his love of Arwen and thus he uses all of his skills and knowledge to further the success of the quest in order to accomplish the desire of his heart, Arwen.
1. " . . . (we are ) too engrossed in thinking of everything as a preparation or training or making one fit -- for what? At any minute it is what we are and are doing, not what we plan to be and do that counts."

J.R.R. Tolkien in his 6 October 1940 letter to his son Michael Tolkien.

2. We have many ways using technology to be in touch, yet the larger question is are we really connected or are we simply more in touch? There is a difference.
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Post by solicitr »

Back when I was in the Canoe Club, longer ago than I would care to admit, I undertook to read the LR aloud to my g/f remotely, one chapter at a time. Onto cassettes, despatched with typical military sluggishness halfway around the world from Gonzo Station.

Anyway, the next (much delayed) reply from her after reading this chapter was that she had fallen in love with Strider and because she couldn't wait to learn more about him had bought and finished the books herself!
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Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

That's a sweet story, Soli (or perhaps bittersweet?).
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Post by Inanna »

theduffster wrote:Try to imagine how hard it is for me to NOT discuss the story with her, and just let her discover it for herself. I was biting my tongue to keep from giving away important information. I do not want to spoil it for her!! :help:
I remember in my first read, I was aghast when Gandalf fell.... I only knew one more person (at work) who'd read the book before me. I pestered and pestered him to tell me what happened. He finally gave in.
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Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

There's a lot we still haven't talked about regarding this chapter. Only a bit has been said about Gandalf's letter, and the various interactions between the hobbits, Strider, and Butterbur. And nothing at all has been said yet about Merry's encounter with the Black Riders.

But I want to go back to something that I said earlier, that no one responded to. I'll quote Wayne and Christina, who in turn quote Paul Kocher's Master of Middle-earth (which I have been reading recently), regarding the line "If I was after the Ring, I could have it -- NOW!":
Paul H. Kocher observes that 'like every other leader of the West' Aragorn is given 'one fateful chance' to yield to the temptation of the Ring. 'But he conquers it and is never bothered by it again. ... And by his pledge of help he subordinates his own ambitions to their [the hobbits] safety as bearers of the Ring.'
Is Kocher right? Is Aragorn really tempted by the Ring at this moment? Certainly it is not as clear as Galadriel's temptation, or even Gandalf's, but still the signs are there.

He stood up, and seemed suddenly to grow taller. In his eyes gleamed a light, keen and commanding.

For a long time, I thought that this, and the words that follow, where he lays his hand on the hilt of his ineffectual sword, were just for effect, and that he wasn't really tempted to take the Ring. But I think that gleam in his eyes is particularly telling, as well as the illusion that he grew tall and imposing. I think that just as Frodo sees Galadriel as a beautiful and terrible Queen, so too do the Hobbits get a brief vision of Aragorn as the Ring Lord, should he choose to step over the line at the fateful moment.

Quite an important sequence, when looked at from that point of view, hidden in plain sight, as it were.
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Post by Elentári »

I agree, it is certainly subtle...I don't think anyone reading for the first time would get it, because we don't really understand the power of the Ring yet. Strider seems to be illustrating that if he was an enemy and imposter he could have taken the Ring & killed the hobbits already, rather than saying well, actually it's mine but I don't want it!

Frodo doesn't know who Strider is until the Council of Elrond, which gives us the more obvious scene of temptation - Frodo, on hearing who Aragorn is, offers him the Ring verbally:

"Then it belongs to you, and not to me at all!" cried Frodo in amazement, springing to his feet, as if he expected the Ring to be demanded at once.
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Post by Alatar »

Its a nice idea, definitely, and could be read that way. Whether or not it was intended is probably moot, and not something we're ever likely to know, but its an interesting angle. I'm sure you'll be unsurprised to hear I'm inclined to accept the face value reading of the situation, but I'll grant the alternate reading has value too.
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Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

If I'm surprised at all it is that you grant the possibility of validity of an alternative reading. ;)

I agree, Elen, that it is not something that a reader would ever pick up on a first reading. It is only after multiple readings and endless analysis that it would stand out. As for the scene during the Council, I see that as more of a scene of realization for Frodo than of temptation for Aragorn. Tolkien certainly gives us know hints that he is tempted, as he does here.
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Post by Pearly Di »

I'm with Al on this one. The 'face value' interpretation of this phrase:

He stood up, and seemed suddenly to grow taller. In his eyes gleamed a light, keen and commanding.

That says to me that the Hobbits are seeing a glimpse of the Dunedan, the Númenórean. 8) Not necessarily that Aragorn is suddenly feeling Ring-lust.

I am not sure how much Tolkien revised his early drafts (I've never waded through much of HoME, finding most of it incomprehensible :help: ) but it seems to me that much of the early part of LotR was the Professor writing at full throttle, caught up in his own story without much idea of where it is heading. ;) Yet. ;) He admitted as much in the Introduction. :D

I really liked this chapter when I first read it. Oooooh, new plot twist! (At long last we were actually getting on with the story, after that big diversion in the Forest ... :D )

Like Impy, I was incredibly suspicious of Strider. Who WAS this guy and what did he really want with Frodo and the Hobbits?

Dun-dun-DUN! :D
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Post by solicitr »

Actually this chapter (or rather the Bree section, since the chapter-divisions changed) was one of the most rewritten and overhauled parts of the book, right up there with the Council of Elrond. At one point Tolkien had alternative versions in blue ink and red ink, uncertain which one to use! The complications involved the transmission of Gandalf's letter, how much Butterbur knew, the subplot of Odo Took/Hamilcar Bolger (ultimately Fatty Bolger, but given his own 'adventure' in early versions)- and the whole question of what had happened to Gandalf, since the Saruman-story evolved rather late.

However, it's certainly the case that most all this had been settled before the Lórien chapters were written, and I don't think that when written, Strider's 'increase' was any more significant than Gandalf's 'increase' at Bag End was: more a hint of temper and frustration than anything, and so a fallback on auctoritas.
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Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Actually this chapter (or rather the Bree section, since the chapter-divisions changed) was one of the most rewritten and overhauled parts of the book, right up there with the Council of Elrond.
And yet once again some of the language was in place virtually intact from the very start, even when that language turned out to have a very different meaning once the characters changed.
"Among the tales of sorrow there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures."
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Post by Teremia »

Two things I love in this little chapter:

1. "'I am older than I look. I might prove useful [....] You may escape from Bree, and be allowed to go forward while the Sun is up; but you won't go far. They will come on you in the wild, in some dark place where there is no help. Do you wish them to find you? They are terrible!'
The hobbits looked at him, and saw with surprise that his face was drawn as if with pain, and his hands clenched the arms of his chair....."

It's easy enough to tell us that Strider is older than he looks, but I love the way the words that escape his lips at the end of that speech ("They are terrible!" ) and his drawn face give us a feeling for Strider as someone with a great deal of history behind him. He's a super-hero who is also human & compassionate: he knows what it's like to face frightening things.

2. Gandalf's letter, especially the third footnote, after the prophetic verses (Renewed shall be blade that was broken,/The crownless again shall be king.):

"PPPS. I hope Butterbur sends this promptly. A worthy man, but his memory is like a lumber-room: thing wanted always buried. If he forgets, I shall roast him. Fare Well!"

Even before my own memory was the cavernous, cluttered lumber-room it now is, I loved this cheerful bit of warning and threat, and now, of course, I feel myself a Proper Butterbur in most respects, butterburying deep in my frazzled mind all sorts of important information like names and urgent tasks.

I think the discussion of the moment where Aragorn grows tall (and acquires gleaming eyes) has been interesting. It's not really temptation, directly, it's temptation-at-a-remove: he may be partly illustrating the power of one who takes the Ring -- but he's ILLUSTRATING it, not experiencing the temptation directly. And the kingliness in his bearing is not just the Ring-fantasy sort of kingliness but a glimpse of the true kingliness in him.
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Post by theduffster »

I think "butterburying" should be added to our lexicon.
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Post by Primula Baggins »

I'm ashamed to admit that I can never read Gandalf's letter without thinking of its parody in Bored of the Rings, where the final postscript is "Don't take any oaken thruppences."
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
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Post by Impenitent »

Primula Baggins wrote:"Don't take any oaken thruppences."
:D :D :D

I've never read Bored of the Rings, so that really made me laugh! I'll use the phrase, you betcha bottom thruppence (oak!)
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Post by Teremia »

Oh, dear, are oaken thruppences not as good as the other kind?

<goes through pockets>
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Post by solicitr »

Like Impy, I was incredibly suspicious of Strider. Who WAS this guy and what did he really want with Frodo and the Hobbits?

Dun-dun-DUN!
Actually my reaction was Frodo's- an enemy would have seemed fairer and felt fouler. And I sort of anticipated Strider's comments, reckoning a real Evil Minion would simply have coshed or shivved Baggins without the idle chitchat.

Dang, I was one cynical ten-year-old!
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Post by theduffster »

Hmm, interesting, I remember that I never doubted for a moment that Strider was a good guy.
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