Push Him, Elrond!
Oh, Just Push Him, Elrond!
You know, Elrond could've avoided everyone a lot of trouble way back when:
"Cast the Ring into the Fire! Destroy it!"
"Well, all righty, then." *SHOVE*
So why didn't Elrond push Isildur into the Cracks of Doom?
Many first-time viewers of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings movies have asked this question!
This famous scene comes from the prologue of The Lord of the Rings and sets the whole trilogy in motion. In a flashback, Elrond tells Isildur to destroy the Ring he's just taken from Sauron, and Isildur gives Elrond a big, fat, "No." Next thing we know, Isildur's an orc pincushion, the Ring is lost, and many years later, Sauron uses the Ring's power to come back, Voldemort-fashion.
It sounds callous, but wasn't the fate of Middle-earth more important than the life of one stupid man?
If you haven't read Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, or don't remember every last detail in the books, this page is for you!
Elrond, Isildur, and the Ring of Power - Movie Dramatics Punch Holes in Plot
(Book-Isildur meets Movie-Elrond)
1. They Never Reached the Cracks of Doom
Remember that bit in the Prologue where Elrond says, "Isildur, hurry!" and leads Isildur up the volcano? It wasn't that easy!
In the books, Elrond and another bigwig Elf, CÃrdan, tried to convince Isildur he needed to trot the Ring to the top of the mountain and chuck it in, but he refused. They would've had to take the Ring by force or drag Isildur up the volcano by the scruff of his neck, and the army of Gondor (not to mention the Ring) would've objected!
2. Nobody Knew Sauron Used Backups
It wasn't until Bilbo's day and some dangerous spywork by Gandalf that the Wise realized a piece of Sauron had survived. It took Sauron over a thousand years to pull himself back together. He spent another thousand or so licking his wounds, goading minions to cause trouble, and hiding in a deep, dark hole.
So Elrond and CÃrdan couldn't have told Isildur, "Destroy the Ring, or Sauron will come back." They didn't know! I'm guessing they just said it was dangerous and a nasty piece of work.
They may also have mentioned their worries that the Ring could be used as a weapon against those holding the Three Elven Rings. But Isildur knew it could also be used as a weapon against orcs and enemies of the Free People. At first, he thought he could handle the responsibility.
3. Murder a King? Um... Bad Idea.
Killing the King of Men is a heinous crime and not something to be done lightly; the political consequences for an Elf killing a Man and the Heir of Elros (Elrond's mortal brother was Isildur's distant ancestor) are pretty mindboggling.
Not to mention, after the chaos caused by the war, Gondor needed a king!
(The movies made it sound like Isildur was the last king, to avoid lengthy explanations about Gondor's line of succession. In fact, he was practically the first king, and his heirs ruled for centuries.)
4. You Can't Touch This
Isildur claimed the Ring as a "weregild" for his slain father and brother. That's an ancient tradition as important as not killing someone under the white flag of surrender. A "weregild" is the payment/restitution given for the loss and murder of a relative, symbolically equal to the slain person.
You don't mess with a weregild. That's like spitting on the grave of somebody's mother.
5. Who Died and Made You King?
Elrond was King Gil-galad's herald. Whereas Isildur, son of High King Elendil, was just about* the Last King Standing. No matter how much the Elves respected Elrond, Isildur would not have considered him an equal. Nor was CÃrdan a king. They could advise, but they didn't have King Gil-galad's clout among Men.
*Legolas' father may still have been lurking somewhere, but he probably hightailed it back home with what was left of his army.
"Just Push Him, Elrond!" - In Sum:
I'm sure the reason Peter Jackson showed the Cracks of Doom in the prologue is to give us a visual reference for the Fellowship's ultimate goal. Otherwise, we would've heard about Mount Doom for three films, but we wouldn't a clear idea where Frodo was going. Unfortunately, while this change helped clarify Frodo's quest, it made Elrond look like a doofus.
Unfinished Tales by J.R.R. Tolkien - Discover the noble Isildur lost from the films
This amazing book contains lots of juicy tidbits Tolkien couldn't fit into The Lord of the Rings: how Isildur got ambushed; how Théodred son of Théoden was ambushed; who Wormtongue was and more about Éomer; how the Riders of Rohan first came to Rohan; who gave away the Shire's location to the Nazgûl; how Gandalf picked Bilbo and set the whole saga in motion; where Galadriel and Celeborn came from; about Legolas' father and grandfather; what the wizards really are; how the palantír works and much more!
Isildur the Forgotten Hero - Heir of Elendil, Savior of Middle-earth
Isildur was also NOT a doofus in the books. The movies introduced more character conflict to heighten dramatic tension. So they put vinegar in Elrond's tea and gave him the whole "Men Are Weak" plot. They made Aragorn "oh, I don't KNOW, maybe I'm just not king material" humble. And they made Isildur into a sinister guy with a voice like Christian Bale's Batman.
Yes, Isildur made a big mistake in keeping the Ring, but no one realized how serious the mistake was. He also destroyed Sauron, saved Middle-earth, put his nephew on the throne of Gondor (his own throne) and was heading back to set things to rights in Arnor, the north-kingdom of his father Elendil, when his party was ambushed. Not a bad start to his reign... if only it hadn't been so short!
By that time, Isildur had realized the Ring was too hot for him to handle, and he was taking a side trip to Rivendell to give it to Elrond. When his party was ambushed, IIsildur's oldest son said, "Dad, you canNOT let that thing fall into their hands-- we'll cover you, get away!" Isildur didn't want to abandon his men, and wouldn't give in until it was clear he couldn't save them. Unfortunately, the Ring slipped off his finger and betrayed him. Fortunately (not for him), the orcs didn't search the river. If he hadn't fled, they would've found the Ring on his body, and it would've wound up gift-wrapped with a bow on Sauron's desk.
Tolkien's Elrond never says "Men are weak" -- his own brother chose mortality, after all! In fact, Elrond was a close ally of the DÃºnedain, sheltering the line of kings in his own house after their north-kingdom fell. Nor is Aragorn ashamed of his lineage. He often introduces himself as Isildur's Heir, and that helps rally the people of Gondor to his cause. Isildur and Aragorn are, in fact, a lot alike: but that is no insult to Aragorn, rather, a compliment.
I hope you've been amused and enlightened by this little lens. Feel free to ask questions, post comments.
Just don't ask why the Fellowship didn't just tie the Ring -- or Frodo -- to an Eagle and fly him over Mt. Doom, okay?
© 2009 tinw