Thursday, February 11, 2016

Seek For the Sword that was Broken

An instance of possible Divine Intervention in The Lord of the Rings

"In that dream I [Boromir] thought the eastern sky grew dark and there was a growing thunder, but in the West a pale light lingered, and out of it I heard a voice, remote but clear, crying:

Seek for the Sword that was broken:
In Imladris it dwells;

There shall be counsels taken
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That Doom is near at hand,
For Isildur's Bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand."
-The Fellowship of the Ring, The Council of Elrond, by J.R.R. Tolkien

One way in which the books differ slightly from the movies, is that Elrond says in the movies, "Strangers from distant lands, friends of old, you've been summoned here to answer the threat of Mordor." But, in the books, Elrond makes it clear that everyone came to the council of their own accord, summoned yes, but not by him.

The way Boromir was summoned is one of the most curious events.  You may recall that Gloin came because the dwarves of Erebor had received messages from Sauron asking them for information about hobbits--a good reason.  But Boromir came because both he and his brother (presumably, but not conclusively) Faramir had weird dreams telling them to go to Imladris, or Rivendell.

Where did the "voice, remote but clear," he heard in those dreams come from exactly?

Well I think it's safe to say that it's from one of the Valar.  Originally I supposed it to be Eru, but upon further consideration, I think it is more likely to be Manwe or another prominent Vala, possible Mandos.  Here's why.

First, the voice came from the West which is where Valinor was and what is directly associated with them.  Secondly, obviously the Valar are some of the only beings who have the power to send dreams to people and/or who know all this information and its pertinence.

I don't think it's really Eru's style to intervene this directly.  Frankly it's not typically the Valar's style to intervene like this especially working in and around Men.  But Eru seems to be particularly subtle about his plan: Bilbo being meant to find the Ring, everyone feeling the urge to go to Rivendell for counsel, etc. not direct messages like this one.

I think it could be one of three Valar or any combination of them working together.  I think Lorien must have had something to do with it because the message came through a dream and he is the Master of Dreams.  Mandos could be linked with it because of the mention of Doom which only he has full knowledge of.  Manwe as the head of the Valar is likely to have at least authorized the message.

  Whoever issued the message, it is one of the clearest instances of Divine Intervention in the entire work.

Do you have any theories about who sent this message?


  1. I would have actually theorized that it would be Eru, since he seems to communicate with the children of iluvatar the most in the Silmarillion. Then there is what's-his-name who is the official messenger of the Valar.

    1. Interesting theory. I'm not quite sold that it was indeed Eru, because the only time he directly interfered with something in The Silmarillion concerning the Children was the sinking of Numenor which was a really big deal. It is possible, though.

      Not exactly sure which Vala you're referencing--perhaps you mean Eonwe the herald of Manwe?