As we saw in the last post…

Anastrophe inverts normal word order: “Rings he would give for it”…
Alliteration repeats a vowel sound (assonance) or a consonant sound (consonance): “Heavy have the hearts of our chieftains been”…

And Archaism uses an old word or old way of saying things: “on a time,” “deem.”

Gloin and Elrond both make use of these devices in their speeches at the Council (and anastrophe and archaism run rampant throughout the council in general… I’ll point out more examples when we come to the other speakers). However, there are at least two other rhetorical devices that Gloin and Elrond seem to appropriate in particular, and in a way that others do not echo: ecphonesis and repetition.

As far as I can tell, there are the only two instances of ecphonesis in the Council. The first is Gloin’s passionate outcry, “Moria! Moria! Wonder of the Northern world!” and the second is Elrond’s cry, “The Ring!” As you can tell, ecphonesis is a passionate interjection that breaks into the flow of things, and Gloin’s particular ecphonesis could just as well be apostrophe, I suppose. The difference is that an apostrophe is supposed to address the inanimate thing or abstract idea directly, whereas an ecphonesis just exclaims about said thing or idea. In the case of Moria, I think Gloin is not so much addressing Moria directly as exclaiming about it. And Elrond clearly is not addressing the Ring.

The Ring is the subject, not only of Elrond’s ecphonesis, but also of recurrent and significant repetition in the first two speeches. “The Ring, the least of rings,” a phrase containing an echo of itself, appears no fewer than three times. Gloin, relating a speech within a speech, says that the messenger who came from Mordor to King Dain spoke of “a little ring, the least of rings, that once [a Halfling] stole.” Later, Gloin repeats the phrase by saying that he has come to Rivendell to learn “why [Sauron] desires this ring, this least of rings.” Finally, Elrond himself echoes the mantra. In Elrond’s mouth, however, the repetition is transformed. The messenger from Mordor meant the description “least of rings” as a lie; Gimli repeated it honestly and inquiringly; but Elrond utters it with irony. At the climactic moment of his solemn call to the council, a sort of official opening to the proceedings, Elrond summarizes the dilemma in few words:

The Ring! What shall we do with the Ring, the least of rings, the trifle that Sauron fancies? That is the doom that we must deem.

This pivotal call, one of the highest moments of eloquence in the entire Council, packs at least four rhetorical devices into two lines. It opens with ecphonesis, ends with the alliteration of doom and deem, both archaic words, and at the very heart re-echoes the ironic chant, “the Ring, the least of rings.” Perhaps one ought to count the irony as a fifth rhetorical device. “The least of rings,” “the trifle that Sauron fancies,” could not magnify the import of the Ring in the listener’s ears more than they do.

The eloquence of Elrond is unquestionable, and one cannot help thinking that it is so intentionally. The lord of Elves and master of the council should be well-versed in words, and Tolkien consistently gives him an archaic and anastrophic manner of speaking, interspersed with gems of polished oratory as above. The gems, moreover, come at pivotal moments, and one gradually gets the impression that the unfolding of the council is the unfolding of a rhetorically intricate and elaborate structure, which Tolkien has designed to take on a life of its own in the revealing of character, in addition to its revealing of content.

Elrond’s and Gloin’s narrative speeches are not alone for their oratorical skill. Our next specimens of rhetoric will come not from a narrative speech, but from an altercation between two Men who foil one another: Aragorn and Boromir.

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