Weakness and Redemption

A Theme for Middle-earth: The Ring Quest


WEAKNESS & REDEMPTION, a theme for Middle-earth in the subcategory of the Ring Quest, is an four note motif often expressed as an arpeggio. The theme exists on its own however those four notes are also worked into the other themes.

Below are some examples where the Weakness and Redemption theme is heard on its own. To more fully understand the relationships the Weakness and Redemption motif has with other themes, consult The Music of the LOTR  Films.


Some of the places Weakness and Redemption is heard in FOTR:

  • One arpeggio (and a few notes) are heard in the prologue as Galadriel says, (in a voice over) that the hearts of Men are easily corrupted. We see Isildur with the Ring around his neck. (He has claimed it.)

  • Frodo, having heard the tale of the Ring, asks, "What must I do?" Repeated runs of arpeggios are heard as Gandalf tells him. The arpeggios continue as Gandalf further advises, "You'll have to leave the name of Baggins behind you." Frodo must travel by day and stay off the road.

  • An abbreviated variant of the Rivendell arpeggios - emphasizing the Weakness and Redemption reference it contains - is heard as Elrond says, "Men are weak. The race of Men is failing. The blood of Númenor is all but spent. Its pride and dignity forgotten. It is because of Men the Ring survives."

  • A few notes are heard as Galadriel - having spoken reassuringly to Gimli (For the world has grown full of peril. And in all lands...) - now turns with a pointed look toward Boromir to finish her thought: "love is now mingled with grief." (extended scene).

One place Weakness and Redemption is heard in TTT:

  • Music was scored, but not used, for Éomer's account of Saruman's influence on Rohan. The arpeggios would have been heard (interspersed between pairs of slow notes) as he tells the Three Hunters, "Saruman has poisoned the mind of the king......and claimed lordship over these lands. My company are those loyal to Rohan. And for that, we are banished. The White Wizard is cunning. He walks here and there, they say......as an old man hooded and cloaked. And everywhere, his spies slip past our nets." (CR-TTT, Disc 1, Track 9 – The Plains Of Rohan 1:24-1:54)

Some of the places Weakness and Redemption is heard in ROTK:

  • Weakness and Redemption is used in varied ways when Pippin is set to the task of lighting the beacon of Amon Dîn, when he's actually in the process of lighting it, and when Aragorn, at Edoras, realizes the last beacon in the string has been lit.

I starting taking a close look at this motif years ago, mostly in association with the Rivendell theme, by collecting instances of the full Rivendell theme (melody and arpeggios) and instances of just the arpeggios (without the Rivendell melody). In The Music of the LOTR Films, Doug Adams identifies some instances of those solo arpeggios as "Rivendell Arpeggios" and some instances as "Weakness and Redemption". It seems appropriate to reflect those identifications here. But I think some of the cues identified as 'Rivendell arpeggios' take into consideration that the Weakness and Redemption motif is already embedded in them and are worthy of consideration when thinking of this theme. Therefore, I have retained the original full list of all the arpeggios I originally gathered here. Additionally, one could just reference the Rivendell page which still identifies when the arpeggios are heard separate from the Rivendell melody.



OLD THOUGHTS: On Men and Elves... Elrond and Elros... Melodies and Arpeggios

(written before the release of the CR-ROTK and retained here for interest's sake.)

I first thought the defining music for this theme was that heard just after Frodo awakens in Rivendell and we see Rivendell in the distance and then see the Hobbits reuniting. I pulled a number of cues from Fellowship of the Ring and identified them all as Rivendell.

Then Kurt Milano pointed out a motif he'd discovered and tentatively called the 'Weakness of Men' motif because a couple of the scenes referred to the weakness of Men, or more specifically, the Line of Isildur. I realized some of these cues were ones I had identified as Rivendell but the dialog at these points was about Men. I also realized that what I had considered the 'Rivendell Theme' actually contained two components: a melody (with lyrics from A Elbereth in FOTR) and underlying arpeggios. I mean... I knew this, but I hadn't thought much about how they were used either alone or together.

I wasn't sure what I thought of the 'weakness' concept, but I was intrigued enough to place the idea on my site for the next update. Over time, I came to wonder if, instead of being a separate motif (as Kurt had originally thought), the arpeggios represented Men - most specifically the line of Elendil and Isildur as descended from Elros and the melody represented Elves as represented by Elrond's line. So to fully explore the Rivendell Theme, I also took a very detailed look at all the instances of the Rivendell theme and its arpeggios (as well as a few stray arpeggios). That analysis is on THIS PAGE.

Here was my theory...

The history of Middle-earth figures a lot into my theory. This is a complicated subject and would be hard for me to summarize quickly. Eärendil was half-Elven and accomplished a task that earned him great honor with the Valar. In gratitude, he and his wife were given the choice to belong to the race of Elves and be immortal, or belong to the race of Men with their 'gift' of mortality. And their two sons, Elros and Elrond were given the same choice. Elrond chose to align himself with Elfdom, Elros chose the world of Men. Elros became the first King of Númenor and his ancestors were Kings after him. It is from Elros that Aragorn is descended, through Elendil and Isildur.

This means that Aragorn and Elrond (and Arwen) are 'cousins' of sorts. Associations between the house of Elrond and the house of Elros were made throughout history. During the Last Alliance, Elrond fought with Gil-galad next to Elendil and Isildur. Isildur's only surviving son was fostered in Rivendell as was Aragorn years later. Elrond held onto the shards of Narsil and it was Rivendell smiths that reforged it. Lothlórien has remained an island of isolation through time but Rivendell and the line of the Númenoreans have kept their ties. And when Arwen and Aragorn pledge their love to each other, the two lines connect once again.

I think the Rivendell theme reflects this. I think the melody represents the Elf-line of Rivendell. The lyrics for the principal melody are the hymn to the Vala Varda, "A Elbereth Gilthoniel". I think the arpeggios represent the line of Men descended down through the ages from Elrond's brother, Elros, that runs parallel to and is intertwined with Rivendell. The house of Rivendell contains both Elvish and Man-ish elements and Elrond has been just a bit of a caretaker at times to the Line of Kings. I don't think this dual representation is rigidly used in the movies. But very often, when we hear just the arpeggios, we're hearing about the line of Men that are Elros' descendants. When we hear the arpeggios and melody together, we're often dealing with Rivendell - an Elf kingdom that has kept it's ties with Men more than any other. And the one time we hear the melody alone, it's when Elrond comes to Aragorn on behalf of Arwen. I wonder if the melody here represents that we're nearing the end of the Man/Elf kinship. Elrond will leave and Arwen will become mortal. So we hear just the melody of the Elf - Elrond. 

Or something like that. Like I said, I don't think this can be applied rigidly, but go look at the examples on THIS PAGE and see how the melody and arpeggios are used in different scenes.

HS has made a few comments about the ROTK scenes that use this music and he's made no reference to this dual representation. He's usually forthcoming with concepts like this so this does not bolster my theory. But I'll tell you. I like it so well that I just might say that, even if HS didn't intend it and wouldn't agree with it, I maintain he should have because it works.

At the time I formulated this concept, it was pretty firmly shot down by my soundtrack buddies. But I persisted and put the theory on my website.

In the CR-FOTR & CR-TTT notes Doug Adams did not discuss any application of the arpeggios to represent Man, the Weakness of Men, or the Line of Elendil. He did make a few comments that are pertinent, perhaps, to the discussion. In the CR-TTT liner notes, he discussed how the arpeggios have changed to take on a note of nostalgia for the Elves diminishing status in Middle-earth. (Which seems to disprove my theory.) For one particular track, he discussed arpeggios, the Gondor Theme, the weakness of Aragorn and how his choice to lead Middle-earth affects his relationship with Arwen. None of these comments directly address my theory, but it seems some consideration is being give to Aragorn's role in the line of Men and his relationship to the Elves.

But in the CR-ROTK, a concept called, 'Weakness and Redemption in Middle-earth' was introduced. Doug Adams wrote, "Shore's score represents this concept not with a single theme, but with a four-pitch collection that runs throughout the score" that can be distilled into an arpeggio. (CR-ROTK liner notes, pg 24) In his discussion of this theme, he mentioned Elves, the delivery of Andúril to Aragorn, and stated the Rivendell theme contains these four pitches. I will admit that I am not musically astute enough to say whether this supports any of my theory or not. I will leave it to you, the reader, to do your own investigating and thinking. But I still like my thinking a lot. I once said,

Perhaps this theorized connection will be discussed in the future and vindicate we few who believe. Or--perhaps we're full of beans. I happen to like beans and I think this is in an intriguing supposition. It's staying on the site.

I can't wait to see if this is addressed more fully in Doug Adam's upcoming book.


Postscript May 2011 : well, now we have and I am at least partially full of beans. Kurt Milano had it right by pegging it as a 'Weakness' theme. But we weren't completely full of beans since our detractors didn't think this music was a separate theme at all. Kurt and I did and I will take credit for sticking with the belief that the arpeggios on their own represented something distinct from Rivendell. And I still like my 'Line of Men' idea. :-)