Merry, the Witch-king and Gandalf''s "Second Sight"

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Post by Radaghast on Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:20 pm

This is probably a minor point (or maybe even less than minor) but it kind of niggles at my mind a bit: In the chapter "Houses of Healing", when Gandalf comes to take Merry to the HoH, he says "He should have been borne in honour into this city..." meaning, of course, Merry's (till then unacknowledged) part in killing the Witch-king. But Gandalf wasn't there to witness it, so how could he have known about it? Of course, this is covered in the previous chapter, "The Pyre of Denethor", which tells of Gandalf standing on the walls and looking out where he "beheld with the sight that was given to him all that had befallen..." Later, in the HoH, Gandalf tells those around him of Eowyn's and Merry's feat, saying, "For long have I stood by them, and at first they spoke much in their dreaming, before they sank into the deadly darkness. Also it is given to me to see many things far off."

However, I'm wondering if this wasn't hastily tacked on to cover an oversight, because this is the first I'm remembering this "second sight" of Gandalf's being mentioned. I could very well be wrong here, and I hope someone tells me if I am.

So, were there references to this ability before this? The ability to see things "far off", including into the past?

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Post by Pettytyrant101 on Fri Feb 14, 2014 7:42 pm

Not sure if its specifically mentioned as being a power Gandalf has prior to that but the concept of seeing details of things far off, whether its Frodo with the Ring, Arwen wathching over Aragorn, or even the planantir is well established as a 'power' in the book world.

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Post by Radaghast on Fri Feb 14, 2014 7:55 pm

Interesting. Next time I read LotR, I'll look out for it. This is the first time this has ever occurred to me, btw.

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Post by Radaghast on Fri Feb 14, 2014 11:53 pm

Another reason it feels tacked on to me is that, unless there are other uses of this ability that I'm missing, in this instance all it does is tell Gandalf what Eowyn and Merry did and that's so he can tell others; there doesn't seem to be anything more significant to it than that.


Last edited by Radaghast on Sat Feb 15, 2014 12:16 am; edited 1 time in total

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Post by Pettytyrant101 on Sat Feb 15, 2014 12:11 am

Maybe he never saw anything and just worked it out- Im guessing he would have spotted the blades the hobbits got from the barrows and being a wizard known they were magical and bound with 'we hate Angmar' spells.

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Post by Radaghast on Sat Feb 15, 2014 12:16 am

But did he ever say anything about those blades?

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Post by Pettytyrant101 on Sat Feb 15, 2014 12:18 am

No, but Im sure he would have noticed them as one professional to another. And Frodo apparently rambled about the barrows in his sleep to Gandalf as he recovered in Rivendell.

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Post by Radaghast on Sat Feb 15, 2014 12:45 am

I guess I just kind of wish Tolkien would have revealed this more organically, i.e. by having Eowyn tell the story when she came to.

Then again, I suppose it's somehow fitting that Gandalf would have known about it.

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Post by halfwise on Sat Feb 15, 2014 2:14 am

When Frodo was at Amon Hen, Gandalf 'stood in a high place' and struggled with Sauron to save Frodo from being revealed. His words could be heard in Frodo's head: "Take it off! Take it off you fool! Take off the ring!".

Tolkien leaves these little gems for the reader to put together later. It's at least a hundred pages into the next book before we hear Gandalf alluding to it. I always enjoyed the fact that sometimes you had to read it several times before all the pieces come together. With Tolkien when it does come together it's always crystal clear, not so with other writers like Faulkner or Joyce.

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Post by Radaghast on Sat Feb 15, 2014 2:18 am

Hm. I suppose that would count. Thanks, Halfwise.

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Post by halfwise on Sat Feb 15, 2014 3:27 am

Aragorn foreseeing that he and Eomer would meet in front of Minas Tirith...one of the  Rangers foreseeing that his death lay beyond the door to the Paths of the Dead (though I think that happened much later, not sure why the door was significant)....Frodo foreseeing the names of Sam's children....

Seeing the future is pretty well ingrained in LoTR. Seeing the present doesn't seem so surprising.  Gandalf's sight over the field of the Pelenor always felt very organic to me, especially in his incarnation as Gandalf the White.

Actually, come to think of it...when Theoden and company set off from Edoras to Helm's Deep, Gandalf stopped and looked across the fields, then suddenly declared haste was needed and took off.  He returned days later with Erkenbrand. His ability to scan the whole situation from afar was actually pretty well established by the time he reached Minas Tirith.  I seem to remember after Faramir related Frodo was passing by Minas Morgul Gandalf scanned Mordor from the balcony of his room, and declared the Ring beyond aid but at least safely beyond their grasp.

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Post by Radaghast on Sat Feb 15, 2014 3:51 am

Fair enough, though the bit I refer to has him looking into the past. But it makes sense if it works both ways.

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