Could the RingWar have been won without Gandalf? (This week's Tolkien thread)

The election’s in two days. I’m taking Monday off to call undecided voters and Tuesday off to drive people to the polls, so I’m starting next week’s Tolkien thread this week.

Quoting my post from last week:

And now the topic of the day:

As we all day, in January 3019, the Grey Pilgrim fell in battle with the last Balrog, giving his life so that the Quest might continue. But he was not to remain outside the Circles of the World. Rewarding Gandalf for being less of a wanker than the ostensible head of the Istari order, Eru Iluvatur restored him to life, dressed him in nifty white robes and the headship of the Istari, and sent him back to Arda to finish the job.

But what if the All-Father had decided differently? What if he’d said, “Olorin, you’ve been on this job for 2000 years without a vacation. You’ve done well, but I think you should take a vacation. Don’t worry about Middle-earth; it’ll all work out in the long run. Trust me, I’m omniscient.”

Would Gondor and its allies still have won the war? Or would Iluvatur’s long view have been REALLY long?

Playing the strict constructionist, I’ll point out that without Gandalf, Theoden wouldn’t have been healed, & Rohan would have been annihilated.

Even if Aragorn had escaped, found his kinsmen from the north, and led them thru the Paths of the Dead to seize the ships from the corsairs, there would have been no charge of the Rohirrim (or maybe a few straggling members of Eomer’s motly crew, if the Red Arrow ended up in his hands after the Wreck of Wrohan), and not enough forces to relieve the siege of Minas Tirith. No relief for the city.

Added to that, without Gandalf in Gondor to marshal the defenses, the city would not have survived, even with a decent relief effort.

So no Gondorian army heading out from Minas Tirith to Mordor, no drawing the eye of Sauron away from its own land, and no emptying of Mordor of those inconvenient armies of Orcs, etc to allow Frodo to cross to Orodruin relatively unhindered.

Now, it is within Eru’s infinite wisdom to work out some other scheme to allow Frodo to cross into Mordor and achieve quest, but what mechanism that would be (besides Deus ex Machina) is pretty much speculation.

Not that speculation isn’t fun…

Gandalf was the wearer of Narya, one of the Three. With this ring, he kept the spark of hope alive in the fellowship, and later in Gondor:

Um…did you hit submit too soon? Or is your point that the ring was unwinnable without his participation?

Friend Skald,

I evidently did not state my point clearly.

Gandalf, as the wearer of Narya, was able to use the power of this ring to support the flagging spirits of those of the fellowship in the darkest times of the quest. Possibly, anyone able to wield this ring would have been able to perform the same function, but Gandalf was chosen for this role.

Ah, I gotcha. Of course, the ring would have been on Mithrandir’s rotting corpse at that point.

Which would have jeopardized the success of the war of the Ring. Gandalf’s contributions were crucial.

I don’t think so. Barring really wild speculation about an alternate plan for Frodo, it’s just not possible for the Ring to get to Mount Doom without Sauron being distracted.

It’s very difficult to assume what would happen, but, let’s say Gandalf dies in Moria and does not return. When Merry is in Isengard, he grabs the Palantir. Nobody is there to stop him and take it away. In that case, Merry could, even probably would, have given a lot more information to Sauron about Frodo and the Ring.

Gandalf is not there to heal Theoden, true, but moreso he is not there to meet with Aragorn / Elrond / Gimli. They’ve tracked the hobbits into the Entwood. Where would they go from that point? They only go to Rohan because of Gandalf. Without going to Rohan, would Aragon have sought out the Paths of the Dead? Or, would he have gone directly to Gondor? In the latter case, he would have had extreme difficulty managing with Denethor (who’d likely have him thrown out of the city). Aragorn was only set in motion by Gandalf.

In any case, we can easily write off Rohan from the war effort entirely, and very likely no Armies of the Dead either. In which case, Gondor falls, Rohan falls, Sauron has essentially won the war. There are no great nations to oppose him at this point. The siege of Gondor would have been over by the time Frodo gets anywhere near Mt. Doom, yes? Now, Mordor would have been teeming with orcs and very likely the Ringwraiths at this point. Frodo’s task is nearly impossible.

But let’s just say for the sake of argument that the Ring is destroyed. This takes out Sauron and the Ringwraiths, but not the orcs, trolls, or evil men. These forces, even left leaderless, have some power structure without Sauron or his Nazguls; are they going to flee, or take over the temperate and productive lands of Rohan and Gondor? Gondor’s major cities are destroyed. Rohan in practice would be owned by Saruman, who would be the only major contender; he could very easily take over these forces and cause an awful lot of trouble. Saruman wouldn’t have been defeated, his armies would be occupying Rohan rather than warring against it, and would be intact.

In short it’s a pretty bad situation for the West overall. Definitely it could not be called a ‘win’ in any real sense; Gondor is essentially gone and Rohan is ruled by an evil wizard. Soon enough, the people of Rohan would resemble those of the East - manipulated by an evil power.

Gandalf was, all things considered, pretty much the keystone. You can imagine a win without Frodo, even without Aragorn could be arguable, but no Gandalf? I don’t think so.

Tolkien’s edifice of storytelling is so masterful, that if one pulls out one piece the whole house of cards changes. All the heroes - Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn, etc. - and all the supporting players - Gollum, Merry, Eowyn, etc. - were necessary, sufficient and crucial to the winning of the war against Sauron. That being said, it becomes even more interesting to speculate, as Qtm says. Because change one element (no Gandalf) so many other things change (no rousing of Fangorn, etc. ad infinitum).

Hey, the Eagles could have flown the damn thing into Mt. Doom without the need for any of the other characters. :smiley:

Perhaps if Gandalf didn’t return from the dead, Galadriel would have acquired the other ring. She sent the Eagle looking for Gandalf. Who knows if she really wanted him alive? :wink:

Otherwise, Gandalf wouldn’t have been around to protect Frodo when he went sight-seeing on Amon Hen, and Sauron would have probably figured out where the ring was. The Nazgul would have been sent and the ring found a lot quicker.

Even if that didn’t happen, and the events went on as is without Gandalf, the Ents would have overthrown Orthanc, but would Saruman have been tossed from the Order? Would he have retained more of his power this way and still been some kind of viable force against Rohan?

Denethor still would have gone mad; Faramir would have been burned alive along with his father. Minas Tirith would have fallen, as others have said, even if Aragorn does take the paths of the dead. They need Rohan to help against the seige.

The Eagles would have been seen, and every orc, Uruk-Hai, and Nazgul on Middle Earth would have been looking for them. It’s a great deal harder to hide yourself when you’re a huge friggin’ bird flying above everyone, as opposed to somebody 3 feet tall scurrying through the back door. And even if they had managed to get to Mordor alive, there’s no way Sauron’s going to miss one of them flying to Mount Doom.

Although, since they didn’t have feär, it’s arguable that they wouldn’t have run the risk of being corrupted by the Ring either.

Obligatory reference to a certain parody follows:

Gandalf doesn’t come back, but Eru is merciful. He ships in Gandalf’s cousin, the notorious Goodgulf Greyteeth, who manages to pull enough trick cards from his sleeve to cause enough distraction to one and all so that Frodo gets in and out of Fordor and completes the quest, mission, thingy.

Actually Skald, let’s cut to the chase: Could the RingWar have been won without Gollum? Hmm??

One possibility:
Gandalf dies and stays dead. The eagle finds only his rotting corpse. The eagle takes Narya back to Lothlorien. Galadriel gives it to . . . I don’t know. Someone worthy. Thranduil, perhaps.

Saruman provokes the Ents into conquering Isengard. But his [del]wang[/del] staff is never broken, and he retains his powers.

Without Gandalf, Rohan and Minas Tirith fall. But, Sauron’s armies are so busy pillaging Gondor, they keep nothing in reserve back in Mordor. Frodo and Gollum sneak into Orodruin and destroy the Ring.

Mordor collapses. Without Sauron, the Orcs split into myriad factions. With the power of the Three Rings gone, the Elves go West. Saruman rebuilds his forces, and becomes the new (albeit less powerful) Dark Lord.

A few centuries later, Radagast and the Blue Wizards orchestrate a war against Saruman. The age of Men finally begins, though it has a much less glamorous start than Aragorn would have given it. Valusia is the major kingdom . . .

But the orcs and Uruk-Hai wouldn’t be able to do anything against 'em, being ground-hugging beasties, and the Eagles are, apparently, a match for the Nazgul - even assuming the Nazgul were close enough to intercept 'em, and not too far away on some other mission, such as besieging Minas Tirith.

There doesn’t seem to be any reason, barring the unknown such as super Sauron AA batteries, why the Eagles could not simply fly straight to Mt. Doom bold as brass, drop the damned thing in, and then fly back - except, of course, that then there would be no story. :wink:

fluiddruid, without Gandalf, I don’t think that Wormtongue would have been in the Orthanc to toss the Palantir. So Merry would not have had an opportunity to grab it an reveal all. Additionally it was still more likely to be Pippin than merry. Otherwise I tend to agree with your summation.

Malthus, I have to disagree on the Eagles. The Eagles were representatives of Manwë and were either prescribed from acting so directly as to fly the Ring into Mt. Doom or the Wise knew that Sauron was guarding against the Eagles as he knew they were not mere animals but Manwë’s. I think to say the Eagles could have done it is to open the door to Oromë could just have picked Frodo up and charged through the endless ranks of Mordor on Nahar to destroy the Ring.

mbh, if Gandalf did not return and Galadriel collected Narya, she could have just given it to Celeborn or even Radagast the Brown.
No Gandalf would have meant short term failure and disaster for Gondor.

However, I’ll give the best case substitution. Galadriel would have received Narya and Gandalf’s staff. She would have sent both to Radagast with a firm request that he bestir himself from his study of birds and do something now. Radagast would have kindled by Narya, sent out his bird friends to scout. Raced off to stop Saruman and gain his revenge for being used by said Saruman. Of course he is not as effective or as timely so while Saruman still falls, Rohan takes a much larger loss in the war and will field a much smaller army under King Éomer instead of King Théoden who fell. Wormtounge was killed by Éomer or Éowyn of course so the Palantir never gets tossed and Sauron is not frightened by the fact that the Heir of Elendil has the Ring nearby. Aragorn still meets with the Rangers of the North and still takes the path but with a much smaller force from Rohan the battle is a much bloodier affair. Sadly Faramir was killed and Denethor still committed suicide. Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth ends up running the defense of Minas Tirith and welcomes Aragorn back as King but they are stuck fighting Sauron’s armies never having routed the enemy. It is up to Radagast to muster a serious distraction for Sauron. Somehow Éowyn still gets her chance with Merry or Pippin’s help to kill the Lord of the Nazgul.

Radagast must come up with a distraction; he has little but to offer himself in challenge to Sauron’s power. He is on the verge of losing to Sauron’s might when Gollum falls into Orodruin.
I think it is far likelier that the fellowship fails and Sauron gets back his ring or at least Minas Tirith and Rohan are largely destroyed without Gandalf the White Rider.


Cirdan the Shipwright had it before, and would be as good a choice as any to get it back - I believe I’m right in saying he was older and more powerful than Thranduil.

I’m not sure he’s vigorous enough, though. Mightn’t Glorfindel be a better choice, or even Aragorn? Though I do recall Gandalf saying that even lesser rings were dangerous to mortals, Aragorn was the greatest Man alive, after all, and he was the one best situated to use Narya’s powers to spark fire in a world gone cold.

There is some thought that Cirdan was among the very first born. We don’t know when Thranduil or Legolas were born but we know Thranduil was the son of Oropher. He was an Elf of Doriath but we don’t know where Thranduil was born. It is doubtful that Oropher was among those that first awoke by the starlit mere of Cuiviénen, Water of Awakening.

Skald the Rhymer, getting the Narya back to Cirdan would have been problematic anyway. Glorfindel, Radagast, Celeborn or even one of Galadriel’s grandchildren* would all have been better choices at that point and far more reachable.

  • Elladan, Elrohir or Arwen.