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Who would win between Olorin and Sauron?

Who would win in a battle: Olorin or Sauron?

  • Olorin

    Votes: 18 48.6%
  • Sauron

    Votes: 19 51.4%

  • Total voters
    37

Galin

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I also think this kind of invulnerability is too powerful. Even Sauron had reason to fear "non-barrow" blades. And for me, it's coincidence enough that Merry should have in his possession a weapon that could do Mr. King great harm -- even if not struck lethally -- and "too much" coincidence (admittedly a subjective opinion, of course) to have Merry wield the only type of blade that makes a "wraith" (but they have unseen sinews) suddenly vulnerable to other weapons.

The invulnerable notion, I think, might also open a door to a question like: why couldn't the Nine alone wipe out [fill in high number] Gondorians? Plus, the Witch-king feared Boromir (the other one). Why should he? In my opinion because Boromir (again, not that Boromir) is noted to have a strong will, among his other talents. You need to be able to stand against unreasoning fear, keep your wits about, and fight well.

You don't need a special blade, but it sure does help. It would help to carry as many blades as you can, too. Again, you get one lethal shot with Mr. King.

And take a little Hobbit luck too, if possible 🍀

_________________________________________________

I realize Gandalf's response to Legolas (about Legolas' shooting at a Nazgul, and so on) seems problematic with respect to my argument. But I'll leave that response on hold. Maybe no one will bring it up if I don't mention it.
 
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Gothmog

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True enough, but I find trying to rationalize a fictional universe in terms of the real universe unproductive. However, if you find a historical example of a blade, magical or otherwise, used effectively against an undead being in our universe, be sure to let us know. :D
Since Tolkien's world is based in part on many myths of our real world it is not that unproductive.
There are many examples of weapons used against those who were Believed to be Undead. There is a big difference between what someone believes to be true and what is true.
I also think this kind of invulnerability is too powerful. Even Sauron had reason to fear regular blades. And for me, it's "coincidence" enough that Merry should have in his possession a weapon that could do Mr. King great harm -- even if not struck lethally -- and "too much" coincidence (admittedly a subjective opinion, of course) to have Merry wield the only type of blade that makes a "wraith" (but they have unseen sinews) suddenly vulnerable to other weapons.
I did not say that the Witch king was invulnerable to other blades. However, Eowyn was not able to get in an effective attack until the strike by Merry. The Barrow-blade seems to have made him vulnerable to Eowyn's final attack, not to her blade which shattered on impact delivering the fatal blow. Did the Barrow-blade kill him? No. Would he have recovered after it was removed had he not been struck down by Eowyn? Probably. I think that had he been facing some of the other warriors on the field there would have been no need of Merry's blade, but Eowyn, despite her great heart, did not have the physical strength to destroy him on her own. Also there was the prophesy to consider.

As for "coincidence". Bilbo was "Meant to find the Ring" and "Frodo was Meant to have it". In Middle-earth there was a lot of influence from "outside" that helped things along so "coincidence" is not really an issue in one of the major events of the battle.
 

Grond

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I agree that any sword could have killed the Witch King had it struck the heart or other immediately fatal blow, I think that non-fatal strikes with other swords would not have the same effect as the Barrow-blade did.

Agreed. I only point out that the only real difference between the Barrow-blades and other swords is the metal they are made from. So if "no other blade" could do so then it is most likely this that caused the wound to be so effective at that time.

Perhaps through an "Allergic" reaction?
Iron is in some myths to have great effect on certain creatures.
Any sword, as long as it was wielded by a woman.
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

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There are many examples of weapons used against those who were Believed to be Undead. There is a big difference between what someone believes to be true and what is true.
The biggest difference is between the Primary and Secondary worlds: many things believed to be true in the former actually are true in the latter. The Men of the White Mountains really were cursed to a living death, until they fulfilled their oath, whatever they may have believed about the matter.

And, if we are to take the author seriously, we have to accept that there really were spells "wound round" the Barrow-blades, just as we we accept the many other marvelous objects and events in the story. They are part of the conventions of romance, and must be accepted as such, if we are to enjoy the story.

Otherwise we are in the position of someone who can't enjoy Hamlet, because he doesn't believe in ghosts. We may rationalize the ghost as some sort of psychological projection on Hamlet's part, as "realist" mimetic fiction tends to do, but I doubt it's what Shakespeare had in mind. It's certainly not what Tolkien had in mind.
 
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Gothmog

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The biggest difference is between the Primary and Secondary worlds: many things believed to be true in the former actually are true in the latter. The Men of the White Mountains really were cursed to a living death, until they fulfilled their oath, whatever they may have believed about the matter. And, if we are to take the author seriously, we have to accept that there really were spells "wound round" the Barrow-blades, just as we we accept the many other marvelous objects and events in the story. They are part of the conventions of romance, and must be accepted as such, if we are to enjoy the story. Otherwise we are in the position of someone who can't enjoy Hamlet, because he doesn't believe in ghosts. We may rationalize the ghost as some sort of psychological projection on Hamlet's part, as "realist" mimetic fiction tends to do, but I doubt it'swhat Shakespeare had in mind.
Strange, I was not aware that I did not enjoy the story or that I do not take the author seriously because I did not feel that the "Spells" were necessarily actually effective magic. That the Barrow-blades were special was made clear from the very first time we see them described and there was no mention of the spells on the blades by Tom or the author at that time. I found myself in the position of someone who enjoys the story because somethings, such as the Oath-breakers have to be accepted just as they are while other parts are not so clear-cut and allows for "Applicability" whereby the reader can bring into the story their own views. For example, I know for certain beyond question that Durin's Bane did not have wings and neither did any other Balrog. I am also sure that Men had a form of "Magic" that is abilities that the Elves did not possess and could not understand. To me the "Spells" seemed to Elvish an idea but that did not spoil my enjoyment in any way and in fact was something that allowed me to enjoy it all the more.
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

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Nowhere -- if you believe he didn't intend his talk about spells on the Barrow-blades to mean actual, as opposed to 'pretend', spells.

Otherwise, there.
 

Gothmog

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From letter 131:
I have not used 'magic' consistently, and indeed the Elven-queen Galadriel is obliged to remonstrate with the Hobbits on their confused use of the word both for the devices and operations of the Enemy, and for those of the Elves. I have not, because there is not a word for the latter (since all human stories have suffered the same confusion).
Seems that I have taken the author at his word even though I interpreted Spells the way that it appeared to me before reading what his position was on "magic".
 

Olorgando

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... You need to be able to stand against unreasoning fear, keep your wits about, and fight well.
Now I'll tangent off this tangent (or OT from this OT) a bit (once the dam is broken …). ;)

That unreasoning fear, terror even, that the W-k is able to spread (and at some distance too, apparently) has occasionally made me grumble.
Another bit in TT too. In Book Three, chapter II "The Riders of Rohan" Aragorn says:
"... and I am weary as I have seldom been before, weary as no Ranger should be with a clear trail to follow. There is some will that lends speed to our foes and sets an unseen barrier before us: a weariness that is in the heart more than in the limb."
"Truly!" said Legolas. "That I have known since first we came down from the Emyn Muil. For the will is not behind us but before us." He pointed away over the land of Rohan into the darkling West under the sickle moon.
"Saruman!" muttered Aragorn. "But he shall not turn us back! …"

So Saruman is at this too, in some fashion. What makes me grumble is the "fact" that apparently the good Istari - it's basically Gandalf left, though Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are still a bit away from reuniting with Gandalf the White - are not allowed to counteract this definitely supernatural (from a human standpoint) ability against which only a handful of very exceptional humans seem to be able to stand up to (I'm also talking about the W-k's spreading terror at a distance again). There is one glimpse of something of the sort, when Gandalf leads the sortie to rescue the returning Faramir before Minas Tirith, and scatters the (lesser) flying Nazgûl with the white light emanating from his hand. So why not allow him to counteract the W-k's clearly supernatural emanation of fear (as en extension of his master Sauron) with some countering "measures"? Like that change in wind that started to dissipate the hideous clouds Sauron has caused Mount Doom to spew out, darkening the sky before the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.? Ghân-buri-Ghân noticed this changed wind while leading the Rohirrim by devious paths to Minas Tirith, it also helped speed the flotilla Aragorn had captured, and in the end the rain it brought quenched the fires of Minas Tirith. After decades of reading, I clearly see Ulmo having a hand in this (he rarely was in Valinor anyway, it seems, and disagreed with Manwë's decision to hide Valinor behind all of those confusing islands and mists and what not after the rebellion exile of the Noldor - and apparently to have his way against this decision - though perhaps Manwë (and Mandos) were in tacit, silent agreement with Ulmo's actions). :mad:
 

Galin

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I did not say that the Witch king was invulnerable to other blades. However, Eowyn was not able to get in an effective attack until the strike by Merry. The Barrow-blade seems to have made him vulnerable to Eowyn's final attack, not to her blade which shattered on impact delivering the fatal blow. [snip]

I agree. My post that you responded to with this was not directed at you, but to anyone who might hold the "invulnerable view", an interpretation that I've met with over the years.

As for "coincidence". Bilbo was "Meant to find the Ring" and "Frodo was Meant to have it". In Middle-earth there was a lot of influence from "outside" that helped things along so "coincidence" is not really an issue in one of the major events of the battle.

And there's coincidence here that I fully accept. My subjective opinion has to do with the art of storytelling here, and as I said, I think there's enough coincidence in this scene already. So it's more about measure in this instance, for me. And I have the temerity to imagine that Tolkien agrees with me, by providing a blade that's notably potent even if not lethally struck, rather than provide a blade that can actually make the Witch-king suddenly vulnerable to other weapons (again, if not lethally struck).

In short, Merry happens to have a potent blade for this fight, but not the only weapon that can connect with wraith sinews.

We appear to agree that the WK was made "vulnerable" in the sense of giving Eowyn her opportunity.
 
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Gothmog

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After decades of reading, I clearly see Ulmo having a hand in this (he rarely was in Valinor anyway, it seems, and disagreed with Manwë's decision to hide Valinor behind all of those confusing islands and mists and what not after the rebellion exile of the Noldor - and apparently to have his way against this decision - though perhaps Manwë (and Mandos) were in tacit, silent agreement with Ulmo's actions). :mad:
Or perhaps not so silent. It seems that Eru was involved in some parts so it may be that Manwë was also helping a little more than we are told. After all, the winds are his province more than Ulmo's.
 

Olorgando

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Mmmmhyes, but then there's Ossë, Maia of Ulmo, given lordship of the inner seas. Loves storms and the roaring of waves, according to Foster. Ah, in the Sil ("Valaquenta", "Of the Maiar") it says "... rejoices in the winds of Manwë; …". But the clouds whose rain finally quenched the fires of Minas Tirith (and, as I forgot in my above post, provided Frodo and Sam with some clean water in Mordor) belong to Ulmo (with some inadvertent help from Melkor?). I still remain a bit grouchy at the Valar / Maiar set, though, as they botched the clean-up job in Middle-earth at the awakening of the Elves, never mind that they didn't go after Melkor when he escaped them later, and then set up Valinor as a quite seriously isolated kind of "gated community". And though they did after much delay finally (or for a long time) get rid of Morgoth, they again botched the clean-up job badly, leaving Sauron, at least one Balrog (so baddie Maiar) and several dragons for Humans and the Avari to deal with.
 

Gothmog

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If we were privy to the councils of the Valar during the battles at that time, it is likely that Manwë and others put in some effort to help but that Ulmo was the instigator of this effort as he was the Valar that never abandoned the Elves and Men even during the time of Exile for the Noldor. He was the one that argued for the Valar to do their job from the beginning then ensured Earendil would be born and reach Valinor to make them do so. Is it likely that he would then have forgotten the people of Middle-earth just because Melkor was no longer around?
 

Alcuin

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Please come back soon, and expand on this! I hadn't considered it before, but the possible symmetries are tantalizing:

'There are evil things written on this hilt,' he said; 'though maybe your eyes cannot see them.'
Working backwards, the first pertinent passage is in Reader’s Companion at the end of the chapter for “Knife in the Dark”. Hammond and Scull recite Tolkien’s notes on the chapter:
It is a strange thing that the camp was not watched while darkness lasted of the night Oct. 6-7, … so that [the Witch-king] … lost track of the Ring. … [The Witch-king] … had been shaken by the fire of Gandalf, and began to perceive that the mission on which Sauron had sent him was one of great peril to himself both by the way, and on his return to his Master (if unsuccessful);… [A]bove all the timid and terrified Bearer had resisted him, had dared to strike at him with an enchanted sword made by his own enemies long ago for his destruction. Narrowly it had missed him. How he had come by it – save in the Barrows of Cardolan. Then he was in some way mightier than the B[arrow]-wight…

Escaping a wound that would have been as deadly to him as the Mordor-knife to Frodo (as was proved at the end), he withdrew and hid for a while…
So from this passage we learn that

(1) the barrow-blade is indeed an “enchanted sword made by [the Dúnedain] for [the Witch-king’s] destruction,” and
(2) “a wound [from] that [sword] would have been as deadly [to the Witch-king] as the Mordor-knife was to Frodo (as was proved at the end).”​

Hold onto those two ideas and consider what Gandalf told Frodo when he awoke in Rivendell.
You were beginning to fade. … The wound was overcoming you at last. A few more hours and you would have been beyond our aid. … [T]here was some fragment of the blade still in the closed wound. But it could not be found until last night. Then Elrond removed a splinter. … It has been melted. [I]t seems that Hobbits fade very reluctantly. I have known strong warriors of the Big People who would quickly have been overcome by that splinter… They tried to pierce your heart with a Morgul-knife which remains in the wound. If they had succeeded, you would have become like they are, only weaker and under their command. You would have become a wraith…
So here are some more ideas to hold onto.

(3) The Morgul-knife is meant to cause regular people to fade, to enter into the Unseen world. In other words, it’s necromancy, sorcery.(Necromancy is magic concerning the dead. Sorcery is what we call commonly “Black magic,” what Tolkien calls Morgul in Sindarin.) Remember, Sauron is the Necromancer, and the Witch-king his chief servant was “a great king and sorcerer … of old.”
(4) At the end of the fading process, mortals become wraiths.
(5) Hobbits resist fading.​

Now let’s go back further to Gandalf’s first discussion with Frodo about the Ring.
A mortal … who keeps one of the Great Rings does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness. And if he often uses the Ring to make himself invisible, he fades: he becomes in the end invisible permanently, and walks in the twilight under the eye of the dark power that rules the Rings. Yes, sooner or later – later, if he is strong or well-meaning to begin with, but neither strength nor good purpose will last – sooner or later the dark power will devour him.
So here’s another idea:

(6) The Great Rings do the same thing to mortals as the Morgul-knife: it makes them fade.​

Let’s gather another important point:

(7) Aragorn tells the Hobbits that “all blades perish that pierce that dreadful King.”​

Now let’s jump ahead to the Witch-king’s confrontation with Éowyn and Merry and examine the oft-quoted passage of much interest:
[G]lad would he have been to know [the] fate [of the sword of the Barrow-downs] who wrought it slowly long ago in the North-kingdom when the Dúnedain were young, and chief among their foes was the dread realm of Angmar and its sorcerer king. No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will.
So here’s the last little tidbit:

(8) The Barrow-blade undid the fading process by “breaking the spell”, making the Witch-king vulnerable to a blow by Éowyn’s sword, which doesn’t seem to be magic, just a normal sword.​

One of the primary original purposes of the Great Rings, from point of view of the Elves who forged them, was at least in part to prevent their fading while they remained in Middle-earth. The effect on Men, however, was to make them fade. The Witch-king used a Morgul-knife on Boromir I, Steward of Gondor, and though he mostly recovered from the wound, he died young for a Dúnadan of that time. There can be little doubt that the Witch-king also used Morgul-knives in his long war to destroy what remained of Arnor: hence Elrond’s and Aragorn’s knowledge of the blades, as well as Aragorn’s knowledge that “all blades perish that pierce that dreadful King.” In the Second Age, Elrond led the surviving Mírdain, the Elven-smiths, of Eregion to safety in the Mountains and founded Rivendell. It seems that at least one of the Dúnedain learned what was happening to his fellows because of the dreadful weapons, and he fashioned a counter-weapon: something that would undo the necromantic spells of the Great Rings sufficient to render a Ringwraith vulnerable to normal weaponry, to unfade it; that may or may not have required the assistance of or knowledge from the surviving Mírdain in Rivendell: it is probably inconsequential to the story, but they were available. (These are probably the same Elven-smiths who reforged Narsil into Andúril.) The Witch-king could not unmake these weapons, so he gathered them together and put them in a great barrow (the tomb of the last Prince of Cardolan) guarded by a barrow-wight. But he either never knew about or forgot about Tom Bombadil, who did know about the swords (or daggers), opened the barrow, and drove out the barrow-wight. So when Merry struck the Witch-king with his barrow-blade, the effect of the blade was to unfade him sufficiently that Éowyn could kill him: just the opposite of the effect of the Morgul-knife on Frodo.

A few loose ends. Bilbo felt all thin and stretched: Gandalf said that was a sign the Ring was getting control of him. Gollum was altogether thin and stretched even down to his cackling laugh, but he had never yet become a wraith. Another loose end: “all blades perish that pierce that dreadful King.” That seems to be an effect of either the Witch-king’s Ring or his sorcery, or some combination of the two. It was still in effect even after Merry stabbed him: Éowyn’s sword disintegrated when she struck him, but only after delivering a “mortal” wound to his faded body. And Nazgûl were exceedingly tough: Legolas shot one out of the sky along the Anduin, and though it fell quite a distance, it wasn’t killed. (Nazgûl didn’t like fire, but that might be because it was not only painful, but it may have taken them some time to recover from the effects of burns.) And finally, Frodo used one of these blades on the barrow-wight, severing its hand, breaking the blade up to the hilt, but its effect on the barrow-wight seems to have been to injure it and make it angry (it snarled at him): the effect on the Witch-king was rather more dramatic.

At the end, I think we can definitely say that
  • the barrow-blade was made by Dúnedain, and
  • the barrow-blade was, in fact, “enchanted”.
  • If we take Tolkien’s word for it, the effect on the Witch-king was very like the effect of his Morgul-knife on Frodo.
The fading/unfading is obviously speculative on my part, but if we want to speculate on a mechanism for how this might happen, it fits with what we know from the story.

That leaves the question of how the Dúnadan smith learned how to accomplish this. To answer that, I propose that
  • the Dúnedain of Arnor had unfortunately experienced Morgul-knives and their effects, possibly obtaining one or more examples.
  • They had access to any surviving Mírdain in Rivendell.
  • Saruman was not always an enemy. Like Sauron, he was one of the folk of Aulë the Smith, and might have lent the Dúnedain some assistance.
  • And finally, let’s face it: the Dúnedain were pretty smart on their own account.
I’ve really got to get back to the salt mines.
 

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