cura librorum

LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring
June 2, 2010, 22:41
Filed under: Children's & YA, Thoughts | Tags: , ,

Focus on Gimli here today.

In Tolkien’s books, Gimli is a dwarf of few syllables and even less emotion. He is, however, fiercely loyal and feels the power of his ancestry deep within himself. In The Fellowship of the Ring, the glorious past and his dwarf ancestors are the only things that can cause him to become eloquent and passionate, when he is often stoic:

“I need no map,” said Gimli, who had come up with Legolas, and was gazing out before him with a strange light in his deep eyes. “There is the land where our fathers worked of old, and we have wrought the image of those mountains into many works of metal and of stone, and into many songs and tales. They stand tall in our dreas: Baraz, Zirak. Shathur.

“Only once before have I seen them from afar in waking life, but I know them and their names, for under them lies Khazad-dum, the Dwarrowdelf, that is now called the Black Pit, Moria in the Elvish tongue…

Tolkien doesn’t mention Gimli for the next fifty pages or so, emphasizing his state of silent grief. He finds himself in the company of eight now, with Gandalf, their trusty guide, gone, and their way lost. He is mistreated and mistrusted by the elves even though he has just witnessed the destruction of all that he once held dear. But this silent, stony grief is the reason why Galadriel, the Lady of Lothlorien, is able to penetrate his heart the way that she does once he arrives in the Wood. His pride is wounded and his sorrow held in resolutely as elves dismiss his homeland. But Galadriel understands:

‘Alas!’ said Celeborn. ‘We long have feared that under Caradhras a terror slept. But had I known that the Dwarves had stirred up this evil in Moria again, I would have forbidden you to pass the northern broders, you and all that went with you. And if it were possible, one would say that at the last Gandalf fell from wisdom into follow, going needlessly into the net of Moria.’

(Galadriel says) ‘Do not repent of your welcome to the Dwarf. If our folk had been exiled long and far from Lothlorien, who of the Galadhrim, even Celeborn the Wise, would pass nigh and would not wish to look upon their ancient home, though it had become an abode of dragons?

‘Dark is the water of Kheled-zaram, and cold are the springs of Kibil-nala, and fair were the many-pillared halls of Khazad-dum in the Elder Days before the fall of might kings beneath the stone.’ She looked upon Gimli, who sat glowering and sad, and she smiled. And the Dwarf, hearing the names given in his own ancient tongue, looked up and met her eyes; and it seemed to him that he looked suddenly into the heart of an enemy and saw there love and understanding. Wonder came into his face, and then he smiled in answer.

He rose clumsily and bowed in dwarf-fashion, saying: ‘Yet more fair is the living land in Lorien, and the Lady Galadriel is above all the jewels that lie beneath the earth!’

If a dwarf seeks beauty beneath the earth, in the form of jewels and precious metals, then Gimli seems to have found a far higher beauty that lives and loves. It changes him henceforth, even bringing him into friendship with the elves and a more open humility with the fellowship:

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!’

I love this, because it is light, honesty, and vulnerability that breaks Gimli. He is a gruff and unfriendly character, but a bit of understanding practically melts him. I love this transformation of Gimli that spans the whole book, but lasts throughout the rest of the series and is only really touched on in the movies.

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