The first two speeches in the Council of Elrond are given by a Dwarf and an Elf, Gloin and Elrond, and the rhetorical devices they employ are more similar than you would think. In some sense this goes for the whole council—Tolkien makes use of few rhetorical devices as often as he does anastrophe and archaism, both in the council and elsewhere. But I find it curious that, of all the very different speakers that might have started the council, an Elf and a Dwarf should sound so similar. Maybe there is nothing more to this than coincidence, and the fact that both Gloin and Elrond have narratives to relate (a recent narrative in Gloin’s case, and an ancient one in Elrond’s). But the rhetoric of each is very pleasing, and I thought that it would be pleasing to lift out a few of the rhetorical elements for each.

There are actually not only two, but five rhetorical devices that Gloin and Elrond use in common. For this post, I think I’ll confine myself (mostly) to the first two, the bread-and-butter devices which I mentioned above, which Tolkien loves so well: anastrophe and archaism. (There are three others—alliteration, repetition, and ecphonesis—which I’ll get into next time, since they’re all packed together rather densely in one of Elrond’s speeches.) Anastrophe is the glorified term for inverted word order. Tolkien employs this most frequently by switching the positions of subjects and objects. So you have Gloin relating what the messenger from Sauron said about the Halfling’s ring: “Rings he would give for it, such as he gave of old,” switching object and subject for emphasis. Or, “Heavy have the hearts of our chieftains been since that night,” making use not only of anastrophe but of alliteration as well.

Archaisms, meanwhile, come in everywhere: old words and old ways of saying things, like “nigh on thirty years ago” and “on a time” (thus, “one of these was known to you on a time”) and “yea nor nay.” Elrond’s archaic vocabulary is very colorful: “deem” and “weregild” appear in his lengthy address to the council—although the latter term originally rises from the mouth of Isildur, who says he will take the Ring “as weregild for my father, and my brother.”

Elrond’s anastrophe is similar to Gloin’s, though with not so great an emphasis upon concrete objects. “Only to the North did these tidings come,” he relates of Isildur’s death, inverting the verb and its modifiers, “and only to a few. Small wonder it is that you have not heard them, Boromir.” You can see that he packs in two anastrophes in a row. Elrond uses alliteration in a peculiarly forceful manner once when he announces, “That is the doom that we must deem”—but that is a passage I will return to in the next post. That is also the post where I’ll come back to the other devices that both Elrond and Gloin use: ecphonesis and repetition. But in the meantime, talking about anastrophe and ecphonesis in the same post could lead to unwarranted obfustication, both being obscure Greek terms that I myself was not on friendly terms with until this very afternoon.

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