Mood music – Song of Eärendil or Eärendil was a mariner
I wanted to re-read The Fellowship of The Ring, specifically the Council of Elrond chapter, as I’ve been thinking about making a game where the players are at a council. Council of Elrond, Game of Throne’s small council, Congress of Vienna – that kind of thing.
I read the preceding chapter, Many Meetings, so that I would have all the minor context details refreshed. I actually got a lot more out of Many Meetings than The Council of Elrond.
In order of appearance the interesting things were:
…And Elves, Sir! Elves here, and Elves there! Some like kings, terrible and splendid; and some as merry as children.Sam to Frodo
I found this quite interesting as the merry-ness of some elves doesn’t get represented in wider Tolkienian fantasy (or Tolkien-esque fantasy) nearly as much as the kingly-ness of some elves.
This exchange between Gandalf and Pippin was also excellent, there’s such a strong sense of character here.
It reminded me of all those jokes about campaigns which want to be LOTR but end up as Monty Python – there’s a vast gulf between the two, but there’s space for humour and playfulness in LOTR.
At one point, Bilbo is struggling with some song lyrics that Elrond has insisted must be finished before the evening’s gathering, and asks after Aragorn to help him. This is apparently a habit of theirs. I really like this detail and it’s one of many that occur at this part of the book, as Aragorn transitions from Just Some Ranger to The Heir of Isildur.
The song that Bilbo writes is about Eärendil the mariner. The song reveals that he was an elf from long ago who was a traveler, and that he was entwined with the Silmarils and the Valar. There’s a lot in there, but the bit that really struck me is that the Valar make a sky ship for him from mithril and elven-glass. And that he became a star. This reminds me somewhat of Ramandu, a character in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader who is a star who hangs out on an island. It also makes me think about how pedestrian some of the Tolkien-esque media is compared to the actual legendarium. Edit: my point here is that Tolkien’s works are presented generally within quite strict and mundane parameters, which his actual works don’t adhere to. Another striking bit was that Eärendil’s wife takes the form of a bird to fly with him.
In the next chapter, Elrond reveals that Eärendil is his father. Aragorn talks of the cheek of Bilbo to make a song about Eärendil in Elrond’s house, but Elrond encourages Bilbo. I think Elrond was very pleased with Bilbo’s song, not least because the other elves wanted Bilbo to recite it again, but because of the next passage which I found interesting. (Oh and remember that phial that Galadriel gives Frodo, the one of shining light, that is used to fight of Shelob? It is the light of Eärendil’s star.)
Bilbo and Frodo want to leave the singing in Elrond’s hall to go and have some quiet talk. Bilbo says:
It is difficult to keep awake here, until you get used to it. Not that hobbits would ever acquire quite the elvish appetite for music and poetry and tales. They seem to like them as much as food, or more.
At first I misread this to mean that Elves take their sustenance as much from music etc. as from food, which would be really interesting, but that’s not really the point of this passage. This passage is telling us a lot about both Hobbit culture and Elven culture in one swoop.
Bilbo notes that the Elves really like music and poetry and tales. From Bilbo’s perspective, they like them as much as food or more. This is a very odd comparison for a human to make – imagine someone saying ‘I like TV as much as I like bagels’. It’d be odd for a human to compare entertainment with food in such a way, they are on two different scales.
But its not odd for a Hobbit to make such a comparison because of how much Hobbits like food. The best way for Bilbo to make Frodo understand how much the Elves like music is to compare it to how much they both like food. And this is coming from a Hobbit who regularly writes songs, and has more than one ‘favourite bath-song’.
The only thing of note from the chapter Council of Elrond was that there is much less interpersonal drama than in the movies, particularly surrounding Boromir. He and Aragorn come up with a plan to re-forge the shards of Narsil and ride together to Minas Tirith to support its defense.
There is also a line that Gwiahir the Eagle says to Gandalf
I was sent to bare tidings, not burdens
Which pretty definitively puts to bed the ‘fly the ring to Mordor’ argument.
Overall I found lots of little surprises in the small section I read. My measure of ‘What is Tolkienian’ is broader than it was before.
If you liked the mood music by Colin J Rudd, here’s his rendition of the Song of Durin, which I find far more soulful than many of the grander renditions online. He has many more renditions of other Tolkien songs.