The King of the Golden Hall: Tolkien sets a scene

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Of all the things of which I am a fan, J.R.R. Tolkien is one of them.

I’ve been re-reading The Lord of the Rings these past few months, which has been a glorious journey especially since I don’t believe I’ve read the trilogy from start to finish since I was in high school. (Has it really been that long?)

I’m currently in The Two Towers, which was the toughest one for me to get through when I was in high school. Despite that, The Two Towers featured the introduction of one of my all-time favorite Tolkien worlds:

Rohan. 

At this point in the story, (Chapter 6), the Fellowship has been long scattered and we’ve zoned in on the journey of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli as they seek the hobbits, Merry and Pippin, who have been captured by Saruman’s orcs.

The three hunters have already met with Éomer and his men, and later, the resurrected Gandalf the White, with whom they arrive at the Golden Hall — residence of Théoden, the king of the land of Rohan.

There are numerous gorgeous, incomparable scenes opened in Middle-Earth, but the following scene is in my opinion one of the best in The Two Towers. 

Join me as we walk through the scene.

“Now the four companions went forward, past the clear wood-fire burning upon the long hearth in the midst of the hall.” (Tolkien, TTT)

You can practically smell the pungent aroma of the wood fire, and feel its warmth as Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli walk along it as they enter the hall.

“Then they halted. At the far end of the house, beyond the hearth and facing north towards the doors, was a dais with three steps; and in the middle of the dais was a great gilded chair.” (Tolkien, TTT)

We know that something big is brewing – something to cause our heroes to stop and consider what is before them on the raised dais and in the “great gilded chair.” We read quickly to find out what, or who, is in the chair.

“Upon it sat a man so bent with age that he seemed almost a dwarf; but his white hair was long and thick and fell in great braids beneath a thin golden circlet set upon his brow. In the centre upon his forehead shone a single white diamond. His beard was laid like snow upon his knees; but his eyes still burned with a bright light, glinting as he gazed at the strangers.” (Tolkien, TTT)

There. Now this is something significant, make no mistake (as Sam Gamgee might say). We have this ancient, stooped man, curled up in a huge golden chair — but Tolkien also gives hints that there is more to him than meets the eye. The man’s hair is described as long and thick. Why isn’t his hair sparse and thin, or even completely gone? There is mention of a single white diamond: he is someone important. Moreover, we read that “his eyes still burned with a bright light.” This man is unusual, and is no generic elderly king.

“Behind his chair stood a woman clad in white.” (Tolkien, TTT)

Ah, now the plot thickens even more. What is this woman’s role? Why mention that she’s clad in white? Her close proximity to the old man indicates we’ll soon learn more.

“At his feet upon the steps sat a wizened figure of a man, with a pale wise face and heavy-lidded eyes.” (Tolkien, TTT)

As though the scene couldn’t be even more interesting, we now have this third peculiar figure with a “pale wise face.” He’s obviously some kind of adviser, considering his sitting at the old man’s feet, and “wise” description – but we as readers also sense something’s not quite right, judging from his “heavy-lidded eyes.”


After reading this passage, the reader is wondering… Who are these three mysterious figures? How will they become involved in the fates of Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli? And will they become involved in the greater overall plot of the One Ring?

This is just a snapshot of how Tolkien is pure gold.

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