October 17, 2013

LOTR Strangers

Down to the last few pages now.  We've been reading The Lord of the Rings most nights since our first encounter last April.  The fun's not quite over - we're currently scouring the Shire, and that led to a fine Stranger moment:
The man stared at him and smiled. ‘A beggar in the wilderness!’ he mocked. ‘Oh, is he indeed? Swagger it, swagger it , my little cock-a-whoop. But that won’t stop us living in this fat little country where you have lazed long enough. And’ - he snapped his fingers in Frodo’s face - ‘King’s messengers! That for them! When I see one, I’ll take notice, perhaps.’  
This was too much for Pippin. His thoughts went back to the Field of Cormallen, and here was a squint-eyed rascal calling the Ring-bearer ‘little cock-a-whoop’. He cast back his cloak, flashed out his sword, and the silver and sable of Gondor gleamed on him as he rode forward.  
‘I am a messenger of the King,’ he said. ‘You are speaking to the King’s friend, and one of the most renowned in all the lands of the West. You are a ruffian and a fool. Down on your knees in the road and ask pardon, or I will set this troll’s bane in you!’ The sword glinted in the westering sun. Merry and Sam drew their swords also and rode up to support Pippin; but Frodo did not move. The ruffians gave back. Scaring Bree-land peasants, and bullying bewildered hobbits, had been their work. Fearless hobbits with bright swords and grim faces were a great surprise. And there was a note in the voices of these newcomers that they had not heard before. It chilled them with fear. 

This is my second favorite stranger moment in The Lord of the Rings.  There are quite a few, but for me none surpasses Aragorn's presentation of his credentials to Éomer, not only for its dramatic power, but for his calling bullshit on Rohan's rationalizing and claims of neutrality:
Éomer raised his sword, and things might have gone ill, but Aragorn sprang between them, and raised his hand. ‘Your pardon, Éomer!’ he cried. ‘When you know more you will understand why you have angered my companions. We intend no evil to Rohan, nor to any of its folk, neither to man nor to horse. Will you not hear our tale before you strike?’  
‘I will ,’ said Éomer lowering his blade. ‘But wanderers in the Riddermark would be wise to be less haughty in these days of doubt. First tell me your right name.’ 
‘First tell me whom you serve,’ said Aragorn. ‘Are you friend or foe of Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor?’ 
‘I serve only the Lord of the Mark, Théoden King son of Thengel,’ answered Éomer. ‘We do not serve the Power of the Black Land far away, but neither are we yet at open war with him; and if you are fleeing from him, then you had best leave this land. There is trouble now on all our borders, and we are threatened; but we desire only to be free, and to live as we have lived, keeping our own, and serving no foreign lord, good or evil. We welcomed guests kindly in the better days, but in these times the unbidden stranger finds us swift and hard. Come! Who are you? Whom do you serve? At whose command do you hunt Orcs in our land?’ 
‘I serve no man,’ said Aragorn; ‘but the servants of Sauron I pursue into whatever land they may go. There are few among mortal Men who know more of Orcs; and I do not hunt them in this fashion out of choice. The Orcs whom we pursued took captive two of my friends. In such need a man that has no horse will go on foot, and he will not ask for leave to follow the trail. Nor will he count the heads of the enemy save with a sword. I am not weaponless.’  
Aragorn threw back his cloak. The elven-sheath glittered as he grasped it, and the bright blade of Andúril shone like a sudden flame as he swept it out. ‘Elendil!’ he cried. ‘I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, and am called Elessar, the Elfstone, Dúnadan, the heir of Isildur Elendil’s son of Gondor. Here is the Sword that was Broken and is forged again! Will you aid me or thwart me? Choose swiftly!’


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