What did Gandalf look for in archives of Minas Tirith?

Seeking knowledge in, of, and about Middle-earth.
Halifirien
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Jul 03, 2023 1:58 pm

What did Gandalf look for in archives of Minas Tirith?

Post by Halifirien »

In Unfinished tales, it is said that

Little is known of Gandalf's history until the end of the Watchful Peace (2460) and the formation of the White Council (2463), and his special interest in Gondor seems only to have been shown after Bilbo's finding of the Ring (2941) and Sauron's open return to Mordor (2951). His attention was then (as was Saruman's) concentrated on the Ring of Isildur; but in his reading in the archives of Minas Tirith he may be assumed to have learned much about the palantíri of Gondor, though with less immediate appreciation of their possible significance than that shown by Saruman, whose mind was in contrast to Gandalf's always more attracted by artefacts and instruments of power than by persons
A footnote to this says:
Note the passage in The Two Towers IV 5 where Faramir (who was born in 2983) recollected seeing Gandalf in Minas Tirith when he was a child, and again two or three times later; and said that it was interest in records that brought him. The last time would have been in 3017, when Gandalf found the scroll of Isildur. [Author's note.]
So in my previous discussion, I was wondering about Gandalf's knowledge about the One. This quotes above suggests Gandalf went to archives of Minas Tirith after Bilbo found the Ring. Therefore, it probably means Gandalf suspected Bilbo found the One and went to archives to look for some proofs? Way before Long expected party.

Or did he just want to find some stuff about Rings of Power, which he didn't know much about back then? But why - he could have gone to Rivendell for something (ask Elrond?) But why - Rings of Power and The One were discussed in the White Council many times.

But my main question is - what did he look for then? If not for some scripts about The One. It was long before:

1. Bilbo's birthday party and his weird behaviour.
2. Gandalf remembered Saruman's words about the fiery words on the One.
3. Gandalf started to suspect that Bilbo found the One.
4. Gandalf even had a need to look for some stuff about Bilbo's ring.

Something in this doesn't make sense to me, I am missing something. What do you guys think?
User avatar
Voronwë the Faithful
At the intersection of here and now
Posts: 46600
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 1:41 am
Contact:

Re: What did Gandalf look for in archives of Minas Tirith?

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

What I think is the same thing I said in your other thread. 🙃
"Spirits in the shape of hawks and eagles flew ever to and from his halls; and their eyes could see to the depths of the seas, and pierce the hidden caverns beneath the world."
User avatar
Jude
Lán de Grás
Posts: 8388
Joined: Sat Jan 21, 2006 4:54 pm

Re: What did Gandalf look for in archives of Minas Tirith?

Post by Jude »

Possible answer is: he wasn't looking for anything in particular, he was consulting the archives as part of his general research.

Which stood him in good stead later, since when he had to look up something in a hurry, his overall familiarity with the archives helped him know where to look.


This is speculation, of course.
Image
Halifirien
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Jul 03, 2023 1:58 pm

Re: What did Gandalf look for in archives of Minas Tirith?

Post by Halifirien »

Voronwë the Faithful wrote: Sun Jul 09, 2023 7:24 pm What I think is the same thing I said in your other thread. 🙃
May I ask what exactly, please? I hope I am not annoying. Just trying to figure it all out.

EDIT: Nevermind, I found it. Thanks for your insight!!
User avatar
Voronwë the Faithful
At the intersection of here and now
Posts: 46600
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 1:41 am
Contact:

Re: What did Gandalf look for in archives of Minas Tirith?

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

I also do not mean to be annoying. I have a weird brain.
"Spirits in the shape of hawks and eagles flew ever to and from his halls; and their eyes could see to the depths of the seas, and pierce the hidden caverns beneath the world."
User avatar
narya
chocolate bearer
Posts: 4904
Joined: Sat Dec 03, 2005 7:27 am
Location: Wishing I could be beachcombing, or hiking, or dragon boating
Contact:

Re: What did Gandalf look for in archives of Minas Tirith?

Post by narya »

I wouldn't need a particular excuse or topic of study to encourage me to wander through that library. :)
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. ~ Albert Camus
User avatar
scirocco
Posts: 95
Joined: Sat Dec 03, 2005 7:50 am
Location: Slipping the surly bonds

Re: What did Gandalf look for in archives of Minas Tirith?

Post by scirocco »

..double post..
Last edited by scirocco on Mon Jul 10, 2023 7:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
scirocco
Posts: 95
Joined: Sat Dec 03, 2005 7:50 am
Location: Slipping the surly bonds

Re: What did Gandalf look for in archives of Minas Tirith?

Post by scirocco »

Halifirien wrote: Sun Jul 09, 2023 5:05 pm So in my previous discussion, I was wondering about Gandalf's knowledge about the One. This quotes above suggests Gandalf went to archives of Minas Tirith after Bilbo found the Ring. Therefore, it probably means Gandalf suspected Bilbo found the One and went to archives to look for some proofs? Way before Long expected party.
I don't think that the archives of Men would be where you would expect to find a lot about the Ring. What do Men know about that sort of stuff? You would look at Elrond's or Galadriel's archives, or Círdan's perhaps. Saruman's in later years. Where did Hollin's records end up?

Isildur's history would have been an exception; a kind of accidental crossing of paths of Men and the supernatural. It was good luck really that the records yielded valuable information to Gandalf, but that happened very, very late in the story.

So I think Gandalf's earlier visits to Minas Tirith were largely on "other business". His words at the Council of Elrond in 3018 suggest that it had not occurred to him to look for a "test" related to Isidur that might show if Frodo's ring was the One Ring, until the previous year, prompting that particular visit to Minas Tirith.

Saruman had hinted at such a thing at the time that he mentioned the gemstones at one of the White Council meetings, but he was vague and did not give Gandalf enough detail to know to subject the Ring to heat to see the maker's marks.
Halifirien
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Jul 03, 2023 1:58 pm

Re: What did Gandalf look for in archives of Minas Tirith?

Post by Halifirien »

scirocco wrote: Mon Jul 10, 2023 7:31 am Isildur's history would have been an exception; a kind of accidental crossing of paths of Men and the supernatural. It was good luck really that the records yielded valuable information to Gandalf, but that happened very, very late in the story.

So I think Gandalf's earlier visits to Minas Tirith were largely on "other business". His words at the Council of Elrond in 3018 suggest that it had not occurred to him to look for a "test" related to Isidur that might show if Frodo's ring was the One Ring, until the previous year, prompting that particular visit to Minas Tirith.
Well in the quote in UT, it is said his interest was The One Ring. So I am not sure I follow the "other business". He clearly was researching The One. So A) he could have been worried The One would be found again and was trying to find something about it in archives (since Sauron's open return to Mordor), or B) he suspected Sauron's return and Bilbo's ring is connected and thought Bilbo found The One, although that just seems odd, because Gandalf really suspected Bilbo has the One after long expected party. Also, it is weird that while searching through archives, Gandalf didn't stumble upon Isildur's script. He was in Minas Tirith many times after Faramir's birth. Hmm...
User avatar
Frelga
Meanwhile...
Posts: 22670
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 11:31 pm
Location: Home, where else

Re: What did Gandalf look for in archives of Minas Tirith?

Post by Frelga »

I just realized a key thing about the Istari, and it is that they are nerds.

Why did Gandalf spent hours in the library to look for something that may not even be there? He's a nerd, any excuse to go to the library will do.

Why did Saruman tell the White Council so much about the One Ring? He's a nerd, he got some special knowledge, of course he wants to show off.

And so on.
If there was anything that depressed him more than his own cynicism, it was that quite often it still wasn't as cynical as real life.

Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!
User avatar
Jude
Lán de Grás
Posts: 8388
Joined: Sat Jan 21, 2006 4:54 pm

Re: What did Gandalf look for in archives of Minas Tirith?

Post by Jude »

Upon rereading that quote you posted at the top of this thread, it says that "he may be assumed to have learned much about the palantíri of Gondor". His ultimate goal may have been to learn about the One, but maybe he thought that tracking down one of the palantíri would help him in his research? (At this time, it was not generally known that Sauron had hacked into the palantír network)
Image
User avatar
Inanna
Meetu's little sister
Posts: 17774
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2006 5:03 pm

Re: What did Gandalf look for in archives of Minas Tirith?

Post by Inanna »

Consider Gandalf’s (and the Istari’s) objective in ME - to aid & encourage the people of ME to fight against Sauron. Of course, the lore and learnings of the last big war and the kingdoms that stood against Sauron are important! It’s like War history, and that too a technowar. And as Frelga said - they are nerds. Gandalf & Saruman definitely are.
'You just said "your getting shorter": you've obviously been drinking too much ent-draught and not enough Prim's.' - Jude
User avatar
scirocco
Posts: 95
Joined: Sat Dec 03, 2005 7:50 am
Location: Slipping the surly bonds

Re: What did Gandalf look for in archives of Minas Tirith?

Post by scirocco »

Ironically, the story of Gandalf finding the Isildur-scroll in 3017 suggests that he was not searching particularly hard in the archives for information about the Ring before that time.

Put yourself in his shoes; he knows that Isildur had held the Ring for a year or two (Boromir tells us it's common knowledge in M-T); and he knows that Men have not had much else to do with Rings in the intervening 3000 years, so it will probably be slim pickings in the archives. Where would you go first (to give yourself the best chance of finding something useful)? The filing cabinet labelled Isildur, of course.

The fact that this doesn't even seemed to have occurred to him prior to 3017 suggests nothing much more than cursory browsing through the archives, without much of a goal in mind, with lots of interesting nerdy side-tracks like the Palantíri. Certainly not a systematic, logical search.

No doubt he would have been grateful for anything he found; but he can't have expected to find much. The making of the Rings and the enslaving of the Ringwraiths happened 1,500 years before Minas Tirith was built. You had Isildur crossing paths with the Ring for a couple of years, then nothing more while the Ring sat in the Anduin mud for 2500 years until Déagol found it.
Halifirien
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Jul 03, 2023 1:58 pm

Re: What did Gandalf look for in archives of Minas Tirith?

Post by Halifirien »

Well, it contradicts each other. Either Gandalf went to Minas Tirith to search archives for information about The One (therefore, he should have found Isildur's scroll), or he was there to look for other stuff about Sauron, ringwraiths etc. Maybe it is an editing mistake, something Tolkien would have changed later -- because it is said that Gandalf's interest was The One. But a) it wasn't or b) it was, but he didn't find anything useful until much later, and therefore he didn't look that hard.

Maybe he went to archives only now and then (as the footnote implies), not looking for something specific, just some information about the Ring (from Númenor, maybe?). I am not sure. This whole topic just didn't satisfy me yet.
User avatar
Voronwë the Faithful
At the intersection of here and now
Posts: 46600
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 1:41 am
Contact:

Re: What did Gandalf look for in archives of Minas Tirith?

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Halifirien wrote: Tue Jul 11, 2023 1:42 pm Well, it contradicts each other.
That's the nature of Tolkien's legendarium. If you are looking for consistency, your are bound to be disappointed.
"Spirits in the shape of hawks and eagles flew ever to and from his halls; and their eyes could see to the depths of the seas, and pierce the hidden caverns beneath the world."
User avatar
scirocco
Posts: 95
Joined: Sat Dec 03, 2005 7:50 am
Location: Slipping the surly bonds

Re: What did Gandalf look for in archives of Minas Tirith?

Post by scirocco »

Halifirien wrote: Tue Jul 11, 2023 1:42 pmEither Gandalf went to Minas Tirith to search archives for information about The One (therefore, he should have found Isildur's scroll), or he was there to look for other stuff about Sauron, ringwraiths etc.
Why does it have to be either / or? Just because the Ring was his main concern, doesn't mean he would pass up the opportunity to find out about about other things, especially if there wasn't much info there about the Ring in the first place. He could have had multiple goals.
Halifirien wrote: Tue Jul 11, 2023 1:42 pmThis whole topic just didn't satisfy me yet.
I actually agree with you. It does look a bit strange. But where I disagree with you is your approach that "Tolkien made an error". In my experience, this very rarely turns out to be a good starting assumption.

So, on Tolkien forums like this one, we don't usually do that. Instead, the game we play when there is incomplete information is to reconstruct a story-internal narrative that explains the situation plausibly, one that fits in with what we know of historical events, the character of the person etc. In this case it's fairly clear. Gandalf underperformed.

He should have done better in the archives at Minas Tirith. The fact that he didn't even think of looking for the Isildur-scroll until very late in the story doesn't reflect well on him. Can this fit with the Gandalf we know? Yes, it can. Gandalf, the all-knowing Wizard, apologises at the Council of Elrond for his slowness in bringing out the Ring information. In Letter 156, Tolkien states that Gandalf behaved correctly "on a moral plane, but made errors of judgement."

There are lots of convincing reasons that can excuse or explain Gandalf's underperformance, some of which have already been offered in this thread by other posters and myself. More can be thought of. It would be very easy to knit all that together into an explanation of the passage you quote from UT.

But you are never going to get most people on forums like this to agree that "Tolkien made an error". :) :) :)
User avatar
narya
chocolate bearer
Posts: 4904
Joined: Sat Dec 03, 2005 7:27 am
Location: Wishing I could be beachcombing, or hiking, or dragon boating
Contact:

Re: What did Gandalf look for in archives of Minas Tirith?

Post by narya »

It's more meta to say that Gandalf made the error. Or the author of the Red Book.
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. ~ Albert Camus
User avatar
scirocco
Posts: 95
Joined: Sat Dec 03, 2005 7:50 am
Location: Slipping the surly bonds

Re: What did Gandalf look for in archives of Minas Tirith?

Post by scirocco »

narya wrote: Wed Jul 12, 2023 3:28 am It's more meta to say that Gandalf made the error. Or the author of the Red Book.
True, but I'm suggesting there was no textual error, and Gandalf's strange actions (or lack of action) are explainable within the story.
User avatar
Voronwë the Faithful
At the intersection of here and now
Posts: 46600
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 1:41 am
Contact:

Re: What did Gandalf look for in archives of Minas Tirith?

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

scirocco wrote: Wed Jul 12, 2023 3:14 amSo, on Tolkien forums like this one, we don't usually do that. Instead, the game we play when there is incomplete information is to reconstruct a story-internal narrative that explains the situation plausibly, one that fits in with what we know of historical events, the character of the person etc.

But you are never going to get most people on forums like this to agree that "Tolkien made an error".
I don't know, I think there is room for all kinds of viewpoints. Indeed, I myself have been known to argue that Tolkien made an error.
"Spirits in the shape of hawks and eagles flew ever to and from his halls; and their eyes could see to the depths of the seas, and pierce the hidden caverns beneath the world."
Halifirien
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Jul 03, 2023 1:58 pm

Re: What did Gandalf look for in archives of Minas Tirith?

Post by Halifirien »

So your interpretation to that, scirocco, is that Gandalf made quite a mistake not searching through archives properly. That is very possible, however, I have some other possibilities, which I am curious what you will say about. Firstly, I am not sure Tolkien made and editing mistake, because in Two Towers, book 5, Faramir told two hobbits:
He got leave of Denethor, how I do not know, to look at the secrets of our treasury, and I learned a little of him, when he would teach (and that was seldom). Ever he would search and would question us above all else concerning the Great Battle that was fought upon Dagorlad in the beginning of Gondor, when He whom we do not name was overthrown. And he was eager for stories of Isildur, though of him we had less to tell; for nothing certain was ever known among us of his end.’
This is interesting too. It seems that Gandalf was concerned about the battle in front of Black Gate, possibly about the whole siege (since Faramir says it was a battle where Sauron was overthrown). I am very curious - what was he trying to find? He should have know everything about that battle by then, no? From Elrond, who was there. Why was he searching through archives to find something he already knew? Perhaps trying to find a clue how The One looks?

So far we know, that after Bilbo found his ring and Sauron returned to Mordor, Gandalf went few times to archives of Minas Tirith, where (TT, book five):
We in the house of Denethor know much ancient lore by long tradition, and there are moreover in our treasuries many things preserved: books and tablets writ on withered parchments, yea, and on stone, and on leaves of silver and of gold, in divers characters. Some none can now read; and for the rest, few ever unlock them. I can read a little in them, for I have had teaching. It was these records that brought the Grey Pilgrim to us.
We can assume it was hard to go through this archives, and I think Gandalf was dissapointed he didn't find anything about The One, not before 3017. It is also possible that he was granted access to Denethor's treasury after long expected party. He was granted access to somewhere, where he couldn't go before. Although, I am not sure if this is not a little bit of a stretch. It seems Tolkien would make this very clear. What do you think, guys?
Post Reply