Saturday, December 16, 2006

And then you see it....

While watching the Return of the King tonight, I decided that this scene was perhaps my favorite in the whole trilogy. (Non-LOTR fans, bear with me). During the siege on Minas Tirith, Gandalf and Pippin are barricaded behind a door, and Pippin is coming to grips with the end of the journey and his own mortality. They have this poignant exchange — even more poignant once you've seen the movie before and you realize that the melancholy strains of the "Grey Havens" music and "Into The West" replace the sounds of battle as they talk:


Pippin: I didn't think it would end this way.

Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take.

The grey rain curtain of this world rolls back and all turns to silver clouds...And then you see it...

Pippin: What...Gandalf? See what?

Gandalf: White shores, and beyond. A far green country... under a swift sunrise.

Pippin: Well, that isn't so bad.

Gandalf: No, No it isn't


I didn't remember this description being attributed to Gandalf in the books, so I had to dig to figure out where it actually came from. As I suspected, it's Tolkien's words, but its a line from elsewhere in the book. In the first book, Frodo has a dream of the Grey Havens, Valinor, and the Undying Lands while staying with Tom Bombadil.

And when he reaches Valinor at the end of Return of the King, Tolkien describes it just like Frodo's dream of years before, "a far green country, under a swift sunrise."

This was one of my favorite things about the way that Peter Jackson and Co. wrote the screenplay, lifting lines from one character that might never have made it in the movie, and giving them to someone else to keep them in the story. And in the midst of the mighty battle for the city, Gandalf paints a picture of eternity for Pippin, using Frodo's description from the book.

This scene always makes me feel the same way I do when watching the end of the movie, as Frodo, Gandalf and Bilbo sail with the elves from the Grey Havens to Valinor, taking "the straight way" to the Undying Lands: haunted and sad as I think of them leaving — yet hopeful of the day when things will be as they should be.

Just like Sam says to Gandalf after he and Frodo are saved from the foot of Mount Doom, "I thought you were dead...I thought I was dead. Is everything sad going to come untrue?"

Yes, indeed. Merry Christmas.

painting by Tim Kirk