m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...

Alas for Gimli son of Gloin

Now I remember why I used to read The Lord of the Rings over school vacations: it’s long. I’m not a regular doorstop fantasy trilogy reader, so it’s still long every time. But Gimli’s parting from Galadriel near the end of The Fellowship of the Ring has reminded me why, in my quest to become a doorstop fantasy trilogy writer, I started with dwarves:

The travellers now turned their faces to the journey; the sun was before them, and their eyes were dazzled, for all were filled with tears. Gimli wept openly.

“I have looked the last upon that which was fairest,” he said to Legolas his companion. “Henceforward I will call nothing fair, unless it be her gift.” He put his hand to his breast.

“Tell me, Legolas, why did I come on this Quest? Little did I know where the chief peril lay! Truly Elrond spoke, saying that we could not foresee what we might meet upon our road. Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back. But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy. Now I have taken my worst wound in this parting, even if I were to go this night straight to the Dark Lord. Alas for Gimli son of Gloin!”

“Nay!” said Legolas. “Alas for us all! And for all that walk the world in these after-days. For such is the way of it: to find and lose, as it seems to those whose boat is on the running stream. But I count you blessed, Gimli son of Gloin: for your loss you suffer of your own free will, and you might have chosen otherwise. But you have not forsaken your companions, and the least reward that you shall have is that the memory of Lothlorien shall remain ever clear and unstained in your heart, and shall neither fade nor grow stale.”

There’s a bit more to the scene, but I didn’t type it up so what I found online will have to suffice.

I was thinking about how Gimli’s unexpected and unique romanticism (vs. Gloin’s indistinguishable comic sturdiness as one of thirteen dwarves in The Hobbit) parallels Frodo’s gravity (vs. Bilbo’s more comical character there). The Elves, the Men, and the Wizards are all more serious races here, but they could be viewed as simply misunderstood by the childlike characters of The Hobbit.

The hobbits and the dwarves, being the protagonists of a children’s book, were in more need of the extreme makeovers they got in The Lord of the Rings, and more available for serious revision. Neither was an important race for Tolkien; Khuzdul was his most neglected language and dwarves did as much ill as good in his earlier ages. Hobbits were clearly created whole-cloth for the purpose of the eponymous book. They don’t fit the earlier Middle Earth any better than Tom Bombadil or the missing Entwives do.

There’s nothing particularly deep there; the quote from Gimli interested me partly because I’d forgotten all about his thing with Galadriel, just as I’d forgotten (briefly) that Eowyn survived. But I can’t forget Frodo.