Lucy and I finished off The Council of Elrond this week. As anyone who’s read LotR before knows, this is a particularly long chapter … in fact, I think the longest in the book with the possible exception (I’d have to check) of Book One, Ch. 2, ‘The Shadow of the Past’. Like ‘The Shadow…’, this chapter is rife with heavy-going material: names, dates, locations, history, concepts of corruption and evil, etc. And as you might expect, a 10 year-old has many questions.
Lucy raised her hand to ask questions of this chapter as we went along more than any other thus far. And that’s cool. It can be frustrating to stop every few sentences. But it’s worth it to keep her interest and ensure she gets the most out of the experience.
A lovely moment which stands out to me in this chapter was Lucy’s reaction to Gandalf’s revelation of Saruman’s betrayal. Lucy had already struggled a bit with the similarity in the names of Saruman and Sauron … and I was at pains to remind her who Saruman was at times. I would remind her that he was very wise, very powerful, and the head of the order to which Gandalf belongs. I think it cemented things for her when she heard of Saruman’s offer for help via Radagast.
So when Gandalf then relayed his conversation with Saruman at Orthanc, and as the hidden agenda started exposing itself, the shock on Lucy’s part was complete; she gasped, and I could hear her whispering, ‘That’s not really Saruman.’
Lucy had been hoodwinked. Tolkien had gotten her: hook, line, and sinker. And it’s been so long since I’ve had that ‘first experience’, that I can’t really recall my reaction (as I can recall how I felt in finding out that Frodo was not, in fact, dead). It was a lovely thing to see.
But indeed, in a matter of speaking, it was not Saruman who spoke to Gandalf. We may be reminded of Gandalf’s words to the trio of runners in The Two Towers following his reincarnation:
Yes, I am white now,’ said Gandalf. ‘Indeed I am Saruman, one might almost say, Saruman as he should have been. [The Lord of the Rings, Book Three, Chapter 5, ‘The White Rider’]