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2001 Jun 05: "The Return of the King: BOOK V - Chapter 5"

The Ride Of The Rohirrim

I find it touching how often Merry thinks of Pippin, missing him or worrying about him.

Was amused by the following Merry quote:

'I am not a tree-root, Sir,' he said, 'nor a bag, but a bruised hobbit. The least you can do in amends is to tell me what is afoot.'

I found the appearance of the Wild Men somewhat baffling. They seemed rather uninteresting compared to the other characters in LOTR. Or have I missed something? Good to see the pace picking up again after the Wild Man and his pals left. Interesting that according to the narrative, no Rider of Rohan ever see them again. So their only appearance in the entire book (except for the statues briefly seen earlier) was in these few pages?

Very exciting end to the chapter, and cool to see what happened during the previous chapter intersect with this part of the storyline. The tension is killing me.

When is Dernhelm/Eowyn going to do something? What's happening with Faramir and Denethor? Am I right about Eowyn?

Yes, I'm getting impatient! :-) There's obviously a major battle coming up, and I'm worried about who survives and who doesn't. If anything happens to Merry or Pippin or Galadriel or Gandalf or Eowyn or Aragorn or Gimli or Legolas or Faramir or Frodo or Sam, I'm going to be really upset.


[Previous entry: "The Return of the King: BOOK V - Chapter 4"] [Next entry: "The Return of the King: BOOK V - Chapter 6"]

Replies: 68 comments

Debbie, I've caught up and am one chapter ahead of you (thanks to be _just_ sick enough to stay home today). Regardless of what happens to whom, you'll be upset: it's that kind of story. But it's the how, not the what, that inspires great belief in these books.

I'll agree that the hobbits are the "humanizing" elements. But the other folk have a magic of their own, just higher and more unreachable.

Posted by Judith @ 2001 Jun 05 11:45 AM EST

KEEP READING!!!! Your love and concern for the characters is very heart warming. It's hard to say something without giving anything away.......Just Keep Reading.

Posted by Big Mike @ 2001 Jun 05 11:46 AM EST

LOL! I was wondering when nagging questions about Bill would come up again!

As for Ghan-Buri-Ghan and his crew, its an element that Tolkien intended to amplify in the pre-history, thus making this sort of inclusion more logical. The Woses were members of one of the Three great Houses of Men who avoided corruption by Morgoth in the 1st Age. There are a couple mentions of them in Tolkien's Unfinished Tales, including mention of some of them going to Numenore with other survivors of the War of the Jewels, but leaving when they (unlike any of their fellow Numenoreans) foresaw the fate of the island nation. They and their ilk lived in those woods north of Minas Tirith for centuries. So, if one is aware that Tolkien has set up this forest as their habitation, their inclusion makes sense. As it stands though, they do seem a little deus ex machina-ish. But I liked them anyhow.

Keep readin', Deb! 8-)> What comes next was declared by C.S. Lewis to be the greatest piece of epic writing since the Iliad. And whatever you might think of the Iliad, that's the highest possible praise from a scholar like Lewis. 8-)>

Posted by Nathan @ 2001 Jun 05 11:47 AM EST


The Wild Men are one of the few things in LOTR that just don't quite ring true for me. For one thing, I feel that their depiction borders on condescension, and the fact that they sort of pop up unexpectedly, and disappear just as quickly lends a sort of Deus ex Machina aura to the whole thing. However, this slight flaw is certainly not enough to affect my deep love of LOTR...:-)

Posted by Jeff Bohnhoff @ 2001 Jun 05 11:49 AM EST


Thanks for the background on the Woses. If the good Prof had put a touch of that background into the text of LOTR, then most of my qulams would be taken care of. I was amused to see your posting referring to Deus ex Machina, which apoparently you slipped in just as I was composing mine...:-)

Posted by Jeff Bohnhoff @ 2001 Jun 05 11:52 AM EST


How funny is this? we both referred to the Woses as being Deus ex Machina-ish! LOL! 8-)>

Posted by Nathan @ 2001 Jun 05 11:55 AM EST

Aren't *we* the Wild Men?

Posted by Emre @ 2001 Jun 05 12:01 PM EST


I'd be tempted to say that "Great minds......", except that in my case I know better! :-)

Posted by Jeff Bohnhoff @ 2001 Jun 05 12:02 PM EST

Seriously, I think the Wild Men are an example of something that is so often missing from fantasy novels.

These Wild Men are, I think, colour and background. Not required, incidental, but serving to demonstrate that there is more to Middle Earth than what we encounter.

Most fantasy novels are defined by their maps; the borders seem to be impassable cliffs. A strange, small, homogeneous, smoothe, sere "world" most authors and their creations inhabit.

Whereas here, the unexpected pops up even when riding from Rohan to Gondor. More like the real world, I think.

Posted by Emre @ 2001 Jun 05 12:10 PM EST

I think the problem with the Woses is that they aren't anticipated at all. Almost everything else that's encountered in LoTR (which is basically just a story constructed to hit every interesting place on the ME map) is mentioned in some way before they get to it, or is connected to something that has gone before. Imagine if they were trying to cross Caradhras and failed, and Gandalf just said, with no shadowy discussions before hand "Hey, good thing there's this big tunnel under the mountain!" Doesn't work as well. If Tolkien had said -something- about the Woses ahead of time, it would've much improved their appearance. I still like them a lot, though!

Posted by Nathan @ 2001 Jun 05 12:21 PM EST

There were the Pukel-men statues on the road to the paths of the Dead

Posted by Greg @ 2001 Jun 05 12:30 PM EST

"If anything happens to Merry or Pippin or Galadriel or Gandalf or Eowyn or Aragorn or Gimli or Legolas or Faramir or Frodo or Sam, I'm going to be really upset."

I love to see your list growing by each chapter! :-D

I do agree with Emre that the Woses does give a feel of an EVEN GREATER world out there. And the tension towards the rohirrim is great, everything isn't completly black/white and good/bad! But I also have to admit that they come off a bit shallow.

It's hard to comment now without spoilers (and I don't want to do that!), so I just join the chant: just keep reading!

Posted by Martin @ 2001 Jun 05 12:32 PM EST

Tolkien's backstory for the wild men is tremendous -- intrigue and plot and many bloody wars over the succession of their king....

What, you never heard of the War of the Woses?


Posted by Rob Wynne @ 2001 Jun 05 12:40 PM EST

Ahh! You're getting to the best chapter. Keep reading! (I've had the upcoming "Battle of the Pellenor" fields memorized from the time I was 11.) It's great stuff to declaim from the sofa-tops.

Posted by Ruth Lampi @ 2001 Jun 05 12:40 PM EST

I completely agree with Nathan that the lack of anticipation for the Woses is a bit jarring. Just having Eomer or Theoden mention them in passing in a earlier chapter would have been enough. I don't think that the statues of the Pukel men are sufficient foreshadowing in this case. I also think that their depiction is less sophisticated than that of the other races/characters in LOTR. Ghan-Buri-Ghan's "pidgen" dialect makes me cringe a little. However, in the totality of LOTR, these are really minor quibbles.

Posted by Jeff Bohnhoff @ 2001 Jun 05 01:10 PM EST

Way to go Debbie!! I can't wait for you to read more! I finished LOTR (again) on Sunday night and it broke my heart (again). I haven't had a chance to read all of the coments yet, but someone said something about the feeling after ROTK of the "Tolkien Void". It is so very true so I will urge you to keep reading, but urge you to take your time as well.

Hurrah! Fantastic that you'd be up to reading the Hobbit! I'd also be interested in any discussions on the Silmarillion.

About the wild men of the woods: JRRT doesn't expound upon them at all in LOTR, but I liked them anyway. Unfinished tales makes some great comments about them. I think Rob, you may be confusing them with the men who lived west of Helm's Deep. As far as I know the Druedain (as they were called by the Eldar) did not have kings or wars amongst themselves. The professor describes them as "unlovely to look upon" but "their laughter was a surprise: it was rich and rolling, and set all who heard it, Elves or Men, laughing too for its pure merriment untainted by scorn or malice." He also says, "they fought in silence and did not exult in victory, not even over orcs, the only creatures for whom their hatred was implacable." Also "their knowledge of all growing things was almost equal to that of the Elves", and the had the "capacity of utter silence and stillnes, which they could at times endure for many days on end, sitting with their legs crossed, their hands upon their knees or in their laps, and their eyes closed or looking at the ground."

Having their own language and little contact with other races in these days is probably the reason they spoke haltingly in the Common Speech, not because of their intelligence. I believe that Tolkien wanted to show that they had an inherent wisdom and peacefulness of a sort not possessed by men.

Posted by Phil @ 2001 Jun 05 01:18 PM EST


War of the Woses!!! LOL! An instant classic in the pun world!

Posted by Charly @ 2001 Jun 05 01:22 PM EST

LOL! Really Ruth?! The entire chapter?! I've got to get started on that myself! : )

ps. TO fill my tolkien void I picked up Tales form the Perilous Realm in advance a couple weeks ago. Adv, of Tom Bombadil is a sure cure!

Posted by Phil @ 2001 Jun 05 01:23 PM EST

No, it was a pun, see....oh, nevermind.:)

It didn't help that my gd&r got eaten because i put it in angle brackets. Oh well :)


Posted by Rob Wynne @ 2001 Jun 05 01:34 PM EST

No, it was a pun, see....oh, nevermind.:)

It didn't help that my gd&r got eaten because i put it in angle brackets. Oh well :)


Posted by Rob Wynne @ 2001 Jun 05 01:34 PM EST

I think you guys are missing a part of the significance of the Woses. One of the points of this story is that everyone has their part to play in the War of the Ring. Some like the dwarves of the Lonely Mtn. and the Men of Dale, we hear about only remotely.

This is a case of yet another obscure people (besides the hobbits) who do their small part to fight the evil of Sauron. And the fact that there is no other prelude to them (besides the Pukel men) just goes to show that you might find help that is unexpected, yet crucial.

Posted by Royce Wilkinson @ 2001 Jun 05 01:43 PM EST

"The least you can do in amends is to tell me what is afoot.'" Yes, the hobbits are always humanizing the story. About the time you want to know what's going on, one of them inevitably says or or at least thinks "What's going on? And where's the food?"

Keep reading Deb. Don't go too fast - and enjoy, enjoy!

Posted by Jan @ 2001 Jun 05 01:44 PM EST

I have always found this part of LOTR the hardest to read. On my re-read this time I'm keeping pace with you Debbie well actually I'm following you. So I'm reading with having read your comments. It's added a new flavour to the read. Thanks!

Posted by Heather @ 2001 Jun 05 01:59 PM EST

Glad to see your interest is still there Debbie... For off the wall humor on the LOTR maybe FoxTrot can liven it up. Here is a link to the UCOMICS site where you can get the 6 episodes mentioned on TORN

Posted by Bob @ 2001 Jun 05 02:04 PM EST

There is no Spoiler in them that I could see...

Posted by BOb @ 2001 Jun 05 02:07 PM EST


I can certainly see your point about the Woses, but still from a literary point of view, their unanticipated appearance is still jarring. This is the only case I can think of that an entire race just sort of pops in and out like this. It can be argued that this lends the sense of the unexpected, but it could just as easily be said that having a UFO drop in and blast Sauron's armies with a death ray would be "unexpected" too. I realize this is an extreme example, but my point is that foreshadowing is one of the things that marks good writing, and Prof Tolkien does it masterfully in almost every other case. I'm not saying that an entire paragraph of exposition would have been needed, but even some previous passing reference to the possibility that such a race *might* exist would have completely solved my difficulty with this section of the story.

Posted by Jeff Bohnhoff @ 2001 Jun 05 02:37 PM EST

Those are great!!

Posted by E. Gamgee @ 2001 Jun 05 02:37 PM EST

The Dead around the stone of Erech were introduced with scarcely any more warning than the Woses.

Large chunks of TROK were only lightly redrafted. In many instances the published text is almost identical to the very first draft.

To write prose of this quality on the first draft shows Tolkiens great skill and command of his plot, but it may also have produced the occasional deus ex machina.

Posted by Robert @ 2001 Jun 05 03:07 PM EST

The example of the foreshadowing of the Ents is the best example of how Tolkien introduces a new element with great style. The few scattered references to Fangorn let you know that there's -something- there, but you never get a sense for what that might be. Keeps the ents from seeming random (though I think that they still wouldn't have seemed terribly out of line if they'd just appeared suddenly)

Posted by Nathan @ 2001 Jun 05 03:24 PM EST

but the difference with the Dead around the stone is that the Paths of the Dead were discussed for several chapters - the results of going through might be a surprise, but the fact that -something- happens is not. As it stands with the Woses, there's no way to anticipate that -anything- is going to happen.

Posted by Nathan @ 2001 Jun 05 03:28 PM EST

Re: The Ents' foreshadowing

The reasons the Ents are foreshadowed is because Tolkien had a different role in mind for them when he first started off; at one point, he was planning on Treebeard being a bad guy who holds the Hobbits (Frodo and Sam) captive! But good old JRRT had a change of heart.

Posted by Huan @ 2001 Jun 05 04:28 PM EST

Did I ask you? Darned HoME knowitalls! ;-P

That explains the -way- the Ents are foreshadowed, but not the -why-. The reason they're foreshadowed is because its a good idea to do things like in literature. You can make up anything you want at any time you want, but if you make a given surprise feel like it proceeds naturally from the narrative somehow, you've committed an act of literature 8-)>

Posted by Nathan @ 2001 Jun 05 04:49 PM EST

Re: The Woses and their unexpectedness,

Have to fall on the side of the 'a surprise is as good as a rest' argument here. I don't see how 'foreshadowing' makes for any better writing at all. It is certainly a way of making explicit the richness of a written world but should not preclude the occurance of *surprises*. Life is like that, things that everyone calls coincidence or dumb luck just happen without the requirement for motive. When we see them in a book some folks cry 'Deux Ex Machina' but as he was fond of pointing out Tolkien usually got to parts in the story, as he was writing, where he too was wondering what was going to happen next. I bet he breathed a huge sigh of relief when Ghan Buri Ghan stepped out of the bush. :)

Having the Merry wonder about the Pukel men was enough of a hint about *something* in 'them there parts'. The fact that the statues of the Woses mark the switchbacked road from Dunharrow certainly seems to be a silent commment about a people from a distant past. Odd that folks should get so bent about the 'suddenness' (or lets be honest here the *contrived* nature) of the Woses when we heard not a peep at the *astounding* coincidence of Boromir's brother bumping into Frodo and Sam in the middle of nowhere. We have to accept the element of 'Fate' in a myth of this sort or else we'd be nitpicking every little detail that strikes us as wonky.

Posted by Paul H @ 2001 Jun 05 04:54 PM EST

The way he deals with the Woses is just so different from the way that everything else in the books is approached. And you're right the a real surprise shouldn't be precluded, but something like that should only be done for a really good reason, and the Woses are incredibly minor (they exist just to show the Rohirrim a path through a forest). Maybe he felt that they were too minor to give them any attention, but it seems that even having Pippin hearing drums from the wood when he and Gandalf rode by would have been sufficient.

Posted by Nathan @ 2001 Jun 05 05:13 PM EST

Ah, Debbie, I have already thought you've forgotten your favorite sentence about being upset! :o))))
And again a word about Billy, at last :o))))
I think I'm going to read those chapter too, it is so thrilling!!!!!

Posted by Katerina Str. @ 2001 Jun 05 05:14 PM EST

The Battle of the Pelennor is one of my favourite parts of the book too. I won't say more on the subject, just now... must... contain... spoilers....

About the Woses - they were unexpected because everyone forgot about them, just like the Ents (who didn't get any introduction either, remember). They actually help to refute the idea that Tolkien was racist - a bunch of non-tall, non-blue-eyed-and-blond 'savages' help to turn the tide against Sauron.

Posted by Keith Fraser @ 2001 Jun 05 06:09 PM EST

Hmmmm, I feel like I'm talking about this point a bit too much, but even though I still love the Woses, its still a valid complaint about this part of the book. The ents -were- introduced, Keith. Tree men were mentioned in the first book (admittedly, this was probably a reference to trolls or some such, not ents specifically), and the Fellowship is heartily warned to avoid Fangorn Forest because of how wierd and old it is. This introduces the fact that there's something unusual lurking there, a something which ends up being the Ents. Foreshadowing without giving away anything about what is going to be encountered.

Posted by Nathan @ 2001 Jun 05 06:21 PM EST

I thought the lack of forshadowing for the Wild Men was good. The more Tolkien let you know that they were going to pop up, the more you would have expected of them and then been let down because their story is no more than a chapter long. So with an almost unnoticable intro you are told that there is some history to this place, but you don't have any idea of how or if it will affect anything.

Posted by Me @ 2001 Jun 05 06:30 PM EST

In FotR, early on before the Hobbits leave the Shire. Sam is at the Green Dragon when someone mentions that there was a walking tree man on the Westmarch. Merry made mention that the Old Forest had laid seige on the hedge in the past. The fact that the trees move and Old Man Willow has some control points to the fact that they are Hurans, which are related to the Ents. They also recieve warning about entering Fanghorn. So you can't really say that there wasn't any forshadowing of the Ents.

Since the books are supposed to be a history and mythology of England, I always thought of the Woses as the representation of the Picts even if the description doesn't fit. The Picts were considered wild and the Woses like the Picts were a Neolithic culture.
Just as the Rohirrim represent The Saxons and the Numenorean's represent the Roman's(IMO.)

Posted by J'nae Rae Campbell @ 2001 Jun 05 06:32 PM EST

I think there is some misunderstanding about what foreshadowing is here. It doesn't necessarily mean that the author spills the beans and tells you in advance that such and such a character is going to pop up and save the day at a particular time. If Tolkien had somehow given a clue to the existence of the Woses previously, I really don't think that many readers would have been anticipating their appearance at the moment the Rohirrim needed help getting to Gondor. However, when they did appaear, many readers would have thought "cool, these are the guys he referred to back in chapter xx". I just don't buy the contention that because life has completely unexpected surprises, that therefore this is OK in literature. Good literature is not merely a description or depiction of "real" life, otherwise we could all be great novelists by simply describing what happens to us each day. Literature is something else, and foreshadowing is one of the major tools used to present it effectively. I've read many bad fantasy novels where the hero pulls powers out of thin air as needed, or a needed Talisman or helper appears with no warning. These certainly create an element of "surprise", but they make for crappy writing, in my opinion. Let me stress again that in this regard the Woses are a minor "transgression", and certainly do nothing to diminish the overall brilliance of LOTR. However, it is not a perfect book, and I feel this is one of its imperfections. I agree with J'Nae that the Woses could resonably be seen as representing the Picts. This doesn't change my feeling that they could have been introduced into the story a bit more gracefully.

Posted by Jeff Bohnhoff @ 2001 Jun 05 07:49 PM EST

I found some interesting things in The War of the Ring - History volume VIII:

In the original draft of Helm's Deep, the Wild Men were allied to the Orcs in the battle (as they later became in Two Towers). I suppose this was to add tension later when Theoden would not know to trust these new Wild Men near Minas Tirith. If such is the case, then there would be no need to foreshadow the Wild Men (who later became the Dunlendings) because they were introduced as the enemy, much like the Orcs (although they were never described as Orc-like).

Again, in a later draft of the Ride of Rohirrim, the Woses appear as "the dark men of Eilenach (which later became Druadan Forest)" In that version, it is a force of Woses and Treebeard, with the Ents!, that attack the Orcs guarding the roads north of Minas Tirth while the Riders race on.

What's really cool is that in the Unfinished Tales, you find that the Dunlendings, the Woses, AND the peoples of the vales of Erech were all related and once populated the White Mountains from East to West. It was they, as a single proto-civilization, that created the Pukel-men before they were driven out by the Late Numenoreans/Early Gondorians.

I find this facinating in that Tolkien created an entire living pre-Gondorian civilization with hints and pieces all the way from Isengard to Minas-Tirith.

Posted by mcdowalj @ 2001 Jun 05 07:52 PM EST

From Unfinished Tales:

Pukel-Men, describes not only the statues but is the name of the people itself -

"The Pukel-men" occupied the White Mountains (on both sides) in the First Age. When the occupation of hte coastlands by the Numenoreans began in the Second Age they survived in the mountains [near Andrast]. Another rmenant survied at the wastern end of the range [in Anorien]. At the end of the Third Age the latter, much reduced in numbers, were believed to be the only survivors; hence the other region was called "the Old Pukel-wilderness". It remeined a "wilderness" and was not inhabited by Men of Gondor of of Rohan, and was seldom entered by any of them; but Men of Anfalas believed that some of the old "Wild Men" still lived there secretly."

Where am I going with all of this? Well Tolkien was playing word-games with us. "Woses" is a modernization of an Anglo-Saxon word 'wusa', which is actually found only in the compound 'wudu-wasa "wild man of the woods."

Tolkien wrote a note on this beside a draft: a reference to tribes of "Wild Men," fishers and fowlers, on the coasts of Enedwaith, who were akin in race and speech to the Duedain of Anorien."

So you see? We saw the Wild men at the battle of Helms Deep, Merry sees the Pukel-men, then we see the Woses. Makes sense to me.

Posted by mcdowalj @ 2001 Jun 05 08:11 PM EST

First of all, I'd like to once again thank you for sharing with us; I'm very eagerly awaiting your reactions to the next chapter. I think you'll enjoy it (I won't make any bets on whether it will make you _happy_ or not).

The thing that's inspired me to write this time is the ongoing discussion of the Wild Men. First of all, I'm not so sure that the Woses are related to the Dunlendings (as recently suggested by "mcdowalj"): from the comments in _Unfinished Tales_, I got the impression that the Woses never interbred with the other human groups. Just as importantly, it seems fairly clear that none of them would _ever_ ally themselves with Orcs. Thus, I can't believe that the Dunlendings and the Woses were related in any direct way. In fact, I think that the Dunlendings were more closely related to the Dead Men; I don't think that either of those groups was descended from the Edain (I'm open to correction on that point, of course). As you point out, there _were_ other communities of Woses scattered about the area, though.

As for the suddenness of the introduction of the Wild Men, I really don't see why the Pukel-men don't serve as a perfectly good "foreshadowing" of them. Those old statues suggest that other people lived in the area long before (and I at least found myself intensely curious about them), exactly as the warnings about Fangorn suggest that something odd lived there before we were introduced to the Ents. Neither example of "foreshadowing" gives the whole story, of course: we don't know that the strangeness in Fangorn is related to tree-men, and we don't know that the Woses are still around. I know that different people have different experiences when reading the books; as far as I recall, I was _not_ taken unpleasantly by surprise when I first met the Woses, but rather was happy to learn a little bit more about the Pukel-men. (Why is the brief appearance of the Woses any worse than the brief appearance of the Dunlendings, incidentally? Neither group is fleshed out much at all in LotR itself.)

And, of course, the discussion of the Druedain in _Unfinished Tales_ is one of my favorite pieces of that book. I'd love to know more about them (where _did_ all the Woses go when they left Numenor, anyway? And why were they apparently forgotten? Why didn't the Dunedain renew their friendship after the Downfall?). I find the Woses fascinating, and I enjoy the glimpse they give us of the long history of Middle-earth. I can see that their brief appearance could be annoying, but I do think that they make a positive contribution to the tale as a whole.

Posted by Steuard Jensen @ 2001 Jun 05 08:26 PM EST

Foreshadowing, shmoreshadowing.

I like the book just the way it is.

I was hardly offended at being surprised with the Woses at my first reading. Instead, I thought their appearance was rather fun and interesting. I couldn't care less about any clues beforehand, or not.


Posted by Fatty Lumpkin @ 2001 Jun 05 08:57 PM EST

When Debbie first started this page, we got into a discussion about it on the FilkNet irc channel. Mike Whitaker (a British filker) made a very good point.

One of the great things about LOTR is how much you aren't shown. Unlike a lot of fantasy novels, where every single thing in the world exists to either advance the immediate plot or reveal something to the Hero, Middle Earth is full of people who are going about their lives in complete ignorance of the heroes. There's a huge amount of stuff going on elsewhere in the world that has NOTHING to do with the Ring-quest.

In short, we're not shown everything. There's a vast rich world out there that we are not even touching here. Sometimes we intersect some part of it for just a moment, then move on, and that part goes on about its existance as we move on.

It's very cool.


Posted by Rob Wynne @ 2001 Jun 05 09:03 PM EST

The main problem is that the Woses were not detailed in an available literary form until long after LotR. Many people haven't read the other books. It already seems that many here haven't read "The Silmarillion" all the way through, let alone "The Unfinished Tales," or the other various books put out by Christopher. Of the books after "The Unfinished Tales" I have only read Vol I of "The Book of Lost Tales" myself. In hind sight of reading the books that came later one can easily make the connection between the Woses and The Dunlendings at the Hornberg, however, nothing in the text of LotR makes it clear that these are a part of the same people. Also, the Pukel-men, seem a representation of the past not a living people. It would be like coming across the standing stones in Brittany and the British Isles. Even with the knowledge from the other books, I see the Woses as the decendents of the Druedain that did not go across the sea. As a matter of fact I think they are remnants of the people that stayed in the White Mountains when part of them joined the Folk of Haleth.

Posted by J'nae Rae Campbell @ 2001 Jun 05 09:40 PM EST

Being from the Ozarks, Ghan-Buri-Ghan is one of my favorite characters. If possible, he would just stay to his own people and leave Gondor and Rohan alone. Even though his people have suffered at the hands of Rohan, he realizes that they and Gondor are fighting an even greater evil and chooses to help them. He wants nothing from them except to be left alone.

Posted by dave @ 2001 Jun 05 09:43 PM EST

Real quick, my take on the Woses.

Seeing as the whole saga supposedly takes place on our own Earth some seven or eight thousand years ago, it is my contention that they are a pocket of Neandertals or other early hominid species still extant in this period. It is now far too clear that I spend WAY too much time ruminating over these stories, so I will now go out to a bar or something.

As far as the "deus ex machina" argument goes, however, mention is made in several places of "help unlooked-for", which the Woses certainly do appear to be. Unlooked-for?! Hell, nobody even knew they existed!!!!

Posted by Chris H. @ 2001 Jun 05 09:56 PM EST

J'nae: But that's my point -- you don't NEED to have a complete history of them. There's stories of millions of people on Middle Earth and across the sea, that we'll never hear. Just like the real world. Sometimes, ordinary people's lives cross the paths of the great,and the make their mark for a moment, then move on.


Posted by Rob Wynne @ 2001 Jun 05 10:28 PM EST

All of this sounds like an anthropological discussion at a University.

Anyone for Woses 101? :)

How many other books out there have this much background on such a tiny part of the whole?

Posted by mcdowalj @ 2001 Jun 05 10:56 PM EST

My comment about them being detailed in the other books was more for those that inferred that it was obvious that the Woses were related to the Dunlendings and the rest saying where did they come from.

Posted by J'nae Rae Campbell @ 2001 Jun 05 11:25 PM EST

I'm with Fatty Lumpkin on this Woses business. While foreshadowing is a sometimes effective technique, to insist that it must always be used before introducing a new element in a story is just literary pretentiousness. All great novels make their own "rules" as they go. I have read LOTR countless times, and have never felt the Woses to be an extraneous element, or been bothered by a lack of proper "set-up." I would think their appearance would have far less impact if it were preceded by some corny "there's something in the woods" statement.

Posted by Paul Mendenhall @ 2001 Jun 06 01:11 AM EST

My apologies in advance for this: it's rather "technical", and as such doesn't _really_ fit in this forum. Feel free to skip it entirely if it's not your cup of tea. :)

I've just double checked my claim earlier that the Dunlendings were entirely distinct from the Woses. The index of _Unfinished Tales_ defines the Dunlendings as "Inhabitants of Dunland, remnants of an old race of Men that once lived in the valleys of the Ered Nimrais; akin to the Dead Men of Dunharrow and to the Breelanders." It's pretty clear that the Breelanders weren't Woses (or else Merry wouldn't have been so surprised by the Wild Men's appearance), so it's unlikely that there was any close kinship between the Dunlendings and the Woses either. (At that, it would be surprising if there were such a kinship and it went unmentioned in the definition cited above.)

Even better evidence that the Dunlendings were an entirely different people than the Woses can be constructed by putting together the comments on the history of the Dunlendings from "The Port of Lond Daer" (Appendix D to "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn") and the last pages of the discussion of the Druedain (both in _Unfinished Tales_). I won't quote the relevant passage in full here (I'm already being far too technical for this forum). In short, it states that the ancestors of the Dunlendings fled from the Numenorian settlements on the coast to Dunland (among other places) but that they did not cross the Isen to settle along the Bay of Belfalas because they feared the "Pukel-men" who lived there.

In other words, it's pretty conclusive that the Dunlendings and the Woses were entirely different groups, no more related than were the Rohirrim and the Woses. Sorry again for a message that's rather out of place here; if anyone is interested in pursuing this (or other "scholarly" Tolkien topics) further, I'd happily do so on the Tolkien Usenet newsgroups (such as rec.arts.books.tolkien). Heck, you might want to stop by even if you _don't_ enjoy scholarly babbling (though by all means finish LotR first, for those who haven't). :)

Posted by Steuard @ 2001 Jun 06 01:23 AM EST


Thanks, I had skimmed that section right before posting and my son was distracting me. I was looking for a reference that showed that the Dunlendings were not related to the Woses but couldn't find it. With what little description we see of the Dunlendings durring the battle of the Hornburg I never got the impression that they were related. But it was obvious that McDowalj had also read more than just "The Hobbit," LotR, and "The Silmarillion."

Posted by J'nae Rae Campbell @ 2001 Jun 06 02:17 AM EST

I'm with the shmoreshadowing crowd on the Woses. Life does turn up the oddest things at the oddest times, and they -feel- right. They somehow complete the picture of the race of men, and there's a certain parellel to be drawn. Their stone effigies guard the Paths of the Dead and their living descendants hold the key to the road to the Pelennor Fields. Something about wildness ... you can't deny any part of your heritage if you're going to meet the Enemy whole .. and whole is the only way you can meet those dark forces...

Posted by nail paring @ 2001 Jun 06 03:39 AM EST

I'm with the shmoreshadowing crowd on the Woses. Life does turn up the oddest things at the oddest times, and they -feel- right. They somehow complete the picture of the race of men, and there's a certain parellel to be drawn. Their stone effigies guard the Paths of the Dead and their living descendants hold the key to the road to the Pelennor Fields. Something about wildness ... you can't deny any part of your heritage if you're going to meet the Enemy whole .. and whole is the only way you can meet those dark forces...

Posted by nail paring @ 2001 Jun 06 03:41 AM EST

Interesting discussion. My impressions: I like the forest people, the stone wain valley where stone was quarried for the building of Minas Tirith, the drums in the forest. If I should read the book one day and they were not there to guide Theoden and Eomer I would sorely miss them.

Debbie - 3 chapters! great after such a drought. Can't wait for the next three.

Posted by Christopher B. @ 2001 Jun 06 03:49 AM EST

I like this discussion too! I'm one of the people here who hasn't read all of those books that Christopher Tolkien published, and I just tasted a bit of The Silmarillion. I find it really fascinating to read your scholarly/technical debate. Those kind of comments on this site has given me a good over all image of the Christopher Tolken-edited literature, which will serve as a guide later, should I choose to plunge into that sea of knowledge. We'll see after The Silmarillion reading project....

So, having not read all that background material, I tend to agree with Jeff Bahnhoff and others. I react to the Woses as "hey, where did those guys come from?" The Pukelmen are there beforehand, yes, and Merry gets an explanation, but I always felt they were a bit out of place in the story, and their short appearance not really up to Tolkiens storytelling standards.

But I like the arguments about the Woses being one more way for Tolkien to show that there's much more to Middle Earth than meets the eye of the LoTR-reader. That idea makes me accept and like the Woses a lot more.

Posted by Katarina @ 2001 Jun 06 05:50 AM EST

Debbie, reading your posts is almost as good as reading the books!

Posted by Mary @ 2001 Jun 06 07:56 AM EST

One more comment on the Wose/Foreshadowing discussion, and then I'll keep my peace :-). My contention never was that the Woses were extraneous or unwelcome to the story. I agree that it's very cool that there's so much in LOTR that happens below the surface, and that we aren't shown everything in detail. This however has NOTHING to do with the way in which the Woses are introduced to the story, and their effect as a literary element. My own misgivings are based entirely on that aspect. I too find them interesting and compelling, I just would have liked to have seen them set up a bit more gracefully. This does not necessitate that Tolkien would have had to show or tell us everything about them. LOTR works so well in great part because Tolkien was a master of many literary tools, such as foreshadowing, parallel character development, incredible control of tone (compare the tone of "A Long Awaited Party" with anything in Book 5 or 6). Tolkien was well aware of what he was doing, and what tools he was using to create the atmosphere and narrative flow he was looking for. Naturally, as a reader, you don't necessarily want to be aware of the devices being used, but they are there. The reason that the Woses jarred me was that their introduction was a departure from the practice that Tolkien had established previously. One other person mentioned that writers "create their own rules". I think it's a bit questionable (although certainly not impossible) to think that a good writer can just ignore the established conventions of good writing (and Tolkien uses these conventions brilliantly 99.99% of the time), but even if he does stray from such conventions, he should at least be consistent with the use of his own "rules". Constantly shifting rules are one of the hallmarks of really bad writing. The Woses in my opinion are a minor breach of the "rules" that Tolkien himself had been using for LOTR.

Posted by Jeff Bohnhoff @ 2001 Jun 06 12:40 PM EST

IMHO LoTR (as well as Tolkien's whole mythology) is full of "Deus ex machina" events that rescue the story or mnove it forward. Sam spouting Elvish in the confrontation with Shelob has already been mentioned. The Woses are another. Deagol finding the ring in the shallows of the Gladden Fields, Bilbo rushing off with the Dwarves without his handkerchief because Gandalf "just happened" to run into Thorin Oakenshield at the Prancing Pony. There are others I could mention but "that would be telling". Some are small and appear insignificant but they are not. LoTR is a story that includes some things that can't be "foreshadowed" at all. The only explanation we've given after they happen is that they were "meant to" happen.

Posted by Steve B @ 2001 Jun 06 05:00 PM EST

I'm a bit confused about this deus ex machina thingy.

I always thought it was a reprehensible, contrived device to rescue characters from an *impossible* situation.

Things that are not foreshadowed or explained do not, by themselves, fulfill this criterion.

In my reading, there are only two instances which might fit the bill. The first is the resurrection of Gandalf (and I would not wholly agree even there) and the second, well, that would be telling.

Posted by Emre @ 2001 Jun 07 03:54 AM EST

[Are we avoiding Silmarillion spoilers? I didn't think so, since there have been plenty in past posts, but just in case: spoilers for the Ainulindale and Akallabeth below - skip this message if you want to avoid them.]

I agree with Emre regarding the "deus ex machina"; I don't see most of Tolkien's "coincidences" in this light. I think Gandalf's resurrection is entirely self-consistent: Gandalf is a Maia, just like Sauron, and so should be able to return from death of his body, just as Sauron did after the fall of Numenor.

I see "unlikely" events like Bilbo finding the Ring, Gollum hiding in Moria, and even the extremely unlikely discovery of Glamdring and Orcrist, to be something like "the hand of fate", which uses possible but unlikely events to further the grand design.

In Tolkien's cosmology, the visible universe is the manifestation of song of the Ainur, with grand sweeping themes, harmonies, etc. These "coincidences" could be seen as the expression of these harmonies.... This is far from the "whims" of the Greek gods, arbitrarily intervening and saving characters.

Posted by Olorin @ 2001 Jun 07 06:36 PM EST

I will (almost) be a first reader of The Silmarillion, and I don't think you have to avoid spoilers. It's more like a history book, right? Not at all the same suprise-suspense-thing as with LotR.

Most of the different comments I've heard from you people who have read more has just sparked an interest in me to read The Silmarillion.

And I actually don't remember much of the comments, there's so many names and events etc... I look upon it as background information that will help me when I give it a try myself.

Spoil away! :))

Posted by Katarina @ 2001 Jun 08 09:20 AM EST

I plan on rereading it along with you guys too. It's hard to understand alone and your comments help me see it from other viewpoints.

Posted by dave @ 2001 Jun 08 10:21 PM EST

Two things here -

One: There is, I believe, one more instance of someone in LOTR being introduced "on the fly" - Tom Bombadil, my personal favorite character. Why didn't all this shmoreshadowing debate happen when Debbie first met Bombadil?

Two: My favorite sentence in all of book V: "Yet to no heart in all the host came any fear that the Wild Men were unfaithful, strange and unlovely though they might appear." So the Rohirrim, this heroic nation, paragon of virtue, the epitome of all that is loyal, courageous, and true, weren't racists. They knew that the content of the Woses' characters was far more important than their race. Every time some half-witted critic starts blubbering about Tolkein's supposed racism, I love to point out this quote to them - Tolkein's heroes knew better. It's too bad the critics didn't read close enough to notice.

Posted by Michael Dennis @ 2001 Jun 10 03:47 PM EST

Yes, that's a great demonstration that Tolkien wasn't a racist (narrowly defined); another is in _The Letters of JRR Tolkien_, letters 29 and 30.

When a German translation of _The Hobbit_ was to be published in pre-war Nazi Germany, the publisher required a declaration that he was of "aryan" origin. I won't type in his entire reply (including a wonderfully sarcastic one that apparently wasn't sent), but basically he would rather "let a German translation go hang" than give "any colour to the notion that I subscribed to the wholly pernicious and unscientific race-doctrine." I believe no German translation was published until after the war.

Nonetheless, the question arises because, while he was certainly not prejudiced against individuals because of their race, he was certainly *aware* of race, racial descriptions make up part of the color (no pun intended) of his writing, and he describes inherited tendencies and characteristics that are more than skin-deep. In this ultra-sensitive "politically correct" climate, even that is considered unacceptable by many.

Posted by Olorin @ 2001 Jun 10 08:30 PM EST

I think no one complained about the lack of forshodowing of Bombadil because he didn't 'visually' appear and dissapear in the space two scenes. The first scene of this chapter Merry hears the Woses' drums and is told who it is. Scene two and three we see one.

It can be argued there was a slight forshadowing of Bombadil, after all there was a footpath.

Posted by J'nae Rae Campbell @ 2001 Jun 11 02:46 PM EST

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