Wednesday, 16 January 2013


Fr Chadwick referred to an interesting blog yestereven, called A Clerk of Oxford. Well anyway, I thought it worthwhile and will add it to my blogroll once I get it fixed. I was struck by this post, from October of 2010, about St Edward the Confessor. I never before thought of the King Elessar in this light, though by his longevity, his lore, his courage and his countenance the dignity of the old Númenóreans kings was renewed. Go over and see the comparison the author makes, which I hadn't made before.

Art: Ted Nasmith. It's not at all as I imagined the Argonath, which, though carved out of the rock in the days of the decline of Gondor, still held a terrific majesty, enough to inspire awe and fear in her foes and friends alike. You remember the fear that the silent sentinels Númenor inspired in the Fellowship as they passed into the ancient borders of Gondor? That even Boromir bowed his head? Not Aragorn! Under the shadow of those gates the Heir of Isildur had naught to fear. It always gave me a sense of perspective - that if the craft of Gondor, which was a realm in exile, was so great even in decline, just think of how great the majesty of the Kings of Númenor must have been, even (or especially, we might say) in the days of the domination of Sauron. When Ar-Pharazôn came with war upon the West the Valar must have been afraid, not for themselves, but for the sheer splendour and immensity of that fleet, the power of Men grown fierce. In the King Elessar this splendour was renewed, but blessed with that wisdom and reverence of the Eldar which had been in times past the mark of the old kings. It is noteworthy that among the very few references to a recognisable ''religion'' in Tolkien are the pious practices of Men; the custom of facing Westward in silence before meet by the Dúnedain, and the ancient custom of the King presiding over the Three Prayers to Eru on the summit of Meneltarma in the midst of Númenor.

You can see how Tolkien saw kingship, then; not as an obsolete form of government but as an institution incidental and inherent to a Christian (or pre-Christian in this sense) society. The King is anointed by God and renders to Him fitting laud at the times appointed in the name of his people, and he rules over his people with justice and wisdom, who are above lesser men.


  1. What did you think the vision of the Argonath as depicted by John Howe and Alan Lee (both passionate medievalists) in Peter Jackson's "The Fellowship of the Ring"?

  2. Well, the book has both kings holding axes, whereas the film depicts Elendil holding what appears to be Narsil at his side. But it's difficult to say. The advantage of the film in this respect is that the figures appear literally to have been carved out of the rock, whereas Nasmith holds more to the idea of the ''pillar'' of the Kings, where his figures are built upon the hillside - to be seen for miles. I can't imagine that the figures in the film could be descried far up the Anduin. I also dislike the composition of Nasmith's figures; the arms were supposed to be outstretched in token of warning towards the North; the film captures this better than Nasmith.