The Return of the King
by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Return of the King Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph).
More than one road he knows. He will lead you by road where no pits are, no gorgûn walk, only Wild Men and beasts. […] Road is forgotten, but not by Wild Men. Over hill and behind hill it lies still under grass and tree, there behind Rimmon and down to Dîn, and back at the end to Horse-men's road. Wild Men will show you that road. Then you will kill gorgûn and drive away bad dark with bright iron, and Wild Men can go back to sleep in the wild woods. (5.5.20)
By the time we've reached The Return of the King, the quality of the dialogue has generally achieved full on fancy-pants status. Aragorn and Éowyn call each other "thee" and "thou," for Pete's sake. That makes Ghân-buri-Ghân's mode of speaking all the more striking. He talks like a stereotype of someone who doesn't speak English (or "Common Speech"), with his missing words, and his use of the third person when he's talking about himself. Sure, he makes sense, but his way of communicating that sense shows him to be very different from the high falutin' men of Rohan.
"But I can't use my right arm, Pippin, not since I stabbed him. And my sword burned all away like a piece of wood."
"It's not always a misfortune being overlooked," said Merry. "I was overlooked just now by—no, no, I can't speak of it. Help me, Pippin! It's all going dark again, and my arm is so cold." (5.8.9,11)
We have already noted that names have a lot of power in The Lord of the Rings. The Ents, in particular, warn Merry and Pippin not to share their true names too quickly with unknown folk (see The Two Towers Book 3, Chapter 4). But the difficulty with assigning true names so much power is that it means you have to be careful about talking about anything evil, for fear that you give it more power than you intend. This means that it's hard to communicate the evil things that have happened to you, even when doing so would probably be cathartic. Similarly, Sam warns Frodo not to talk too much about his orc capture: "You won't [forget], if you talk about them, Mr. Frodo" (6.1.83). Even though his advice runs contrary to our modern day pop psychology, there's a good reason for it. If you look up the word "unspeakable" in a thesaurus, you get "awful," "fearful," "abominable," "repulsive," and "loathsome." Anything you can't talk about has a dark, negative connotation all its own.
[Sam's] thought turned to the Ring, but there was no comfort there, only dread and danger. No sooner had he come in sight of Mount Doom, burning far away, than he was aware of a change in his burden. As it drew near the great furnaces where in the deeps of time, it had been shaped and forged, the Ring's power grew, and it became more fell, untameable save by some mighty will. As Sam stood there, even though the Ring was not on him but hanging by its chain about his neck, he felt himself enlarged, as if he were robed in a huge distorted shadow of himself, a vast and ominous threat halted upon the walls of Mordor [...] Already the Ring tempted him, gnawing at his will and reason. (6.1.18)
Finally, Sam gets what Frodo could never say. Having never been a Ring-bearer, Sam spends much of the first two novels struggling to understand Frodo's state of mind. But you know what? Poor Frodo just can't put his woes into words. How can you communicate the extreme difficulties of carrying the Ring, the strength it takes to resist its temptations? But Sam loves Frodo so much, he wants to understand. In this scene, he's being let in on the secret that Gollum and Frodo share, but can't speak of: the full agony of being a Ring-bearer. Holding the Ring, even for a brief time, communicates to Sam something of the price Frodo pays to continue on this quest.