We find Gandalf imprisoned on the pinnacle of Orthanc. He does not even the room to properly pace and brood over the state of affairs in Middle-earth. Saruman has fallen, the Riders are scouring the North in search of the One Ring, and Frodo is without a powerful Wizard at his side. Join us as we continue reading through The Council of Elrond and the Lord of the Rings.
The Council Of Elrond, Pt. 7
Gandalf is experiencing what the New Testament describes using the Greek word, thlipsis; literally a pressing, or pressure. It is used by NT writers to express persecution, affliction, or distress. It carries the meaning of being hemmed in, or confined. We might use the colloquial phrase, between a rock and a hard place.
But in the circle of Isengard, trapped and alone, it was not easy to think that the hunters before whom all have fled or fallen would falter in the Shire far away.
The Lord of the Rings: One Volume Edition, p. 260
Yet Gandalf maintains hope. He hoped that Frodo had received the letter left for him with Barliman Butterbur, and that he had reached Rivendell before the deadly pursuit of the Black Riders reached him.
Ilúvatar Is Ruler Over The Kingdoms Of Middle-earth
We propose that Gandalf is in this predicament for a reason. Of the five Istari sent to Middle-earth in the Third Age, Gandalf alone has not left his commission. He is faithfully performing the task that he was charged with: to encourage the hearts of the peoples in their struggle against the Dark Lord Sauron – the great adversary, the accuser, the satan.
Would it be too much to surmise that Ilúvatar has influenced the events that led to Gandalf’s imprisonment at Orthanc? J.R.R. Tolkien, a pious Roman Catholic, was indeed familiar with the providence of Yahweh as well as the book of Daniel. In the one chapter written by Nebuchadnezzar (a pagan king!) this pronouncement is made:
Daniel 4:17 ASV
The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones; to the intent that the living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the lowest of men.
The Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, is how the New American Standard Version translates it. We have been building a case for the providence of Ilúvatar at work in the Third Age of Middle-earth – and specifically in this, the War of the Ring. It is our assertion that Gandalf has been temporarily and purposefully restrained – according to the designs of Ilúvatar – for two reasons:
- In order for Ilúvatar’s providence to be clearly perceived, and
- To keep Gandalf humble and faithful to his mission and commission by the Valar
And those are two things that we look forward to exploring deeper as we continue reading The Council of Elrond, The Lord of the Rings, and beyond.
- The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, by Robert Foster
- Christianity in Lord of the Rings, by Peter Kreeft
- The Fellowship of the Ring Audiobook read by Rob Inglis
- The Lord of the Rings 1981 Radio Dramatization by BBC
What stood out to you in The Council Of Elrond Pt. 7? Let us know in the comments below.
On The Secret Fire Podcast we travel chapter-by-chapter and book-by-book through J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth viewing it through Christian lenses. We invite you to join us each week as we continue the adventure on the Arkenstone server in Lord Of The Rings Online.
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