The Witch King's "No Man Shall Kill Me" is really dumb.

Gethsemani

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I always got the impression that the Ring Wraiths were supposed to be seen as pathetic losers. They used to be kings, now they're just the insubstantial servants of Sauron, with no agency of their own. It makes sense that the Witch King would cling on to the prophecy in order to feel important and powerful.
My personal read of the Ring Wraiths is that they are powerful beings, being unbeatable and functionally immortal on the field of battle. They command vast armies and have some form of improved cognition and perception. Yet for all that, they are slaves. What little will they have is completely subservient to Sauron and for all the power that they craved and now possess, they can not enjoy it or wield it in a meaningful fashion. Pathetic losers might be a bit much, but I think it is obvious that they are meant to be tragic figures. They are cautionary tales about greed, endless ambition and making Faustian deals.
 
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Secondhand Revenant

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The Ring Wraiths were once men, and for all the dark and ancient magic now driving them, at their core they were like the rest of us. Flawed, and fallible. And since they actually fell for Sauron’s trap with the rings I can imagine they too were more than a little cock sure and up themselves.
I'd even say that it makes them seem all the more likely to just take a prophecy like that as a sign of his invulnerability. He's proud, arrogant, very certain of his powers.

And honestly, it's not as if the prophecy does him in or something. It makes it unexpected to him, but it's not like they used it to kill him or something.
 

Gordon_4

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I'd even say that it makes them seem all the more likely to just take a prophecy like that as a sign of his invulnerability. He's proud, arrogant, very certain of his powers.

And honestly, it's not as if the prophecy does him in or something. It makes it unexpected to him, but it's not like they used it to kill him or something.
Pride cometh before the fall and all that, yeah.
 

SupahEwok

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Glorfindel spoke that prophecy at the fall of Angmar, to dissuade the Gondorian King (whose name began with an E or something, Earnur?) from pursuing the Witch King for personal combat (spoilers: a couple of decades later, the Witch King called the king a coward and got him to enter Minas Morgul alone, from which the king was never seen again and the line of Gondor ended, until Aragorn took up the crown as the scion of the Arnor line a thousand years later). I think it's in the Return of the King Appendices.
 

Asita

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It doesn't really matter, it's a dime store, carnival level prophecy that is entirely based on a technicality of word play. I mean, this is a lich, a wraith lord of the dark lord sauron, one of the elder beings of power from the dawn of time. A being that has infused his will into items of power, and used them to enslave the souls of people of power across the realms, chaining them to him for millennia....capable of dark and terrifying powers of divination and corruption.....and the prophecy this wraith king gets, from whoever he gets it from (seriously is that actually established? I mean tolkien was really anal about detailing out ALL that shit from the dawn of time, so it wouldn't surprise me), is able to trick him with an elementary bit of gender word play? I mean, come on.

The fact that this is a common trope of fortunetelling (this is in response to the above posts saying it gets used a lot, as if that's somehow a mark of quality), doesn't make it good, it just makes a commonly used thing, that's still just as dumb.

Macbeth falling for it I can believe, because he's just a mortal dude, who is established as being somewhat arrogant and vain. But I mean, the beings in LOTR are ancient beings of cosmic and terrible power. But apparently they get their divinations from an automated gypsy machine at a carny. It's just dumb.
Respectfully, Happy, I feel that you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept at play. Prophecy as a rule has always been built on technicality and wordplay because at the end of the day it's built on a foundation of bullshit. At best, prophecy is a mix of cold reading and educated guesses bolstered by flowery language that encourages creative interpretation. Simply put, the basic presumption of the credulous regarding prophecy is that a correctly interpreted prophecy is always correct, but understanding and correctly interpreting the prophecy is an uphill battle at the best of times. And really, anyone with even a passing understanding of historical divination shouldn't be surprised by that. Ancient Greek seers and oracles only 'interpreted the signs of the gods' through methods like inspecting the entrails of sacrificed animals. Ancient Romans interpreted the behavior of birds. The ancient Chinese during the Shang dynasty inscribed questions onto bones, heated them until they cracked and then interpreted how the cracks reflected on the questions. Mesopotamians interpreted dreams.

The list goes on and on, but the long and short of it is that, in history, divination and prophecy has never been treated as being so straightforward as just knowing the future. It was a guessing game based around reading greater meaning into semi-random events. Usually it was treated as a matter of asking the gods/spirits for guidance and them responding through indirect means that required interpretation, like causing a specific stick relating to a relevant verse in the I Ching to fall out of a shaken cup. Or making educated guesses on how the metaphorical meaning of the Tower card in the upright position applies to the life of the person that the tarot reading is for. In fiction, authors tend to keep to the "fortune cookie" spirit of its source material in the sense that prophecy is treated as accurate but rarely fully understood until it is too late to affect the events they describe. As a bonus, the resultant "oh shit, that's what it meant" element that results from it tends to yield a greater narrative payoff than "you knew this would happen".

But let's review your bone of contention for a minute. Leave us not forget that this is a prophecy - a statement of what is and would be - not a protective charm. Said prophecy was made by Glorfindel, warning Eärnur not to give chase to the Witch-King, for it was not and never would be his destiny to defeat the ringwraith.

Earnur now rode back, but Glorfindel, looking into the gathering dark, said, "Do not pursue him! He will not return to this land. Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall." These words many remembered; but Earnur was angry, desiring only to be avenged for his disgrace.
The Witch-King obviously learned of this prophecy, and circumstantial evidence suggests that he made the classic mistake of assuming the prophecy had broader scope than it actually did, and meant he was effectively invincible. That said it is perhaps notable that, when Eowen reveals herself, the story does suggest that he immediately grasped the possible ramifications and then chose to fight anyways. In his defense, he was a very formidable opponent and the battle could easily have gone the other way. Just because she wasn't a man didn't mean that she was innately capable of killing him. The prophecy was that he would not fall by the hand of man, not that he'd lose if he ever fought someone who was not a man. There's quite the difference between those two statements.
 
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SilentPony

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To be fair just because there is a Shakespearian origin to a Girls' Only porphecy doesn't make it any less dumb. Shakespeare wrote some really dumb plays with really dumb characters. A midsummer night's dream springs to mind.

As for my thoughts on it, I always wondered why didn't the magic of the elf-lady when she sent the water horses at them kill the King? I mean sure she used magic, but the Eowyn used a sword. Its not like they strangled the King with their hands.

Also I feel like I need some clarification, as Im not as engrossed in LOTR lore. Was the Prophecy that he would not be killed, or would not die from a man? And was the prophecy for his ghost form, or his mortal form? And was it his physical ghost form, or did he get perma-killed? And did they mean man as in Mankind, not elf or dwarf or orc, or man as in penis/genetics? And would a trans person have been able to? Was the prophecy referring to the physical form of the person, or their spirit/heart? And what about androgynist/non-gendered creatures? I mean Gandalf takes the form of a man, but isn't he like an eternal star-god/angel thing?
These are important points because if its a discussion on technicalities, then we need to get technical.
 

Thaluikhain

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As for my thoughts on it, I always wondered why didn't the magic of the elf-lady when she sent the water horses at them kill the King? I mean sure she used magic, but the Eowyn used a sword. Its not like they strangled the King with their hands.
In the books that was Glorfindel, and Arwen didn't get to do anything, ever, but they wanted the love interest character to be a character so she replaced him for the film. Also, IIRC, they were going to condense Arwen and Eowyn because they were going to condense the story into one film at some point, but changed their mind on that, possibly without undoing some of what they'd done to her character.
 

Asita

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To be fair just because there is a Shakespearian origin to a Girls' Only porphecy doesn't make it any less dumb. Shakespeare wrote some really dumb plays with really dumb characters. A midsummer night's dream springs to mind.

As for my thoughts on it, I always wondered why didn't the magic of the elf-lady when she sent the water horses at them kill the King? I mean sure she used magic, but the Eowyn used a sword. Its not like they strangled the King with their hands.

Also I feel like I need some clarification, as Im not as engrossed in LOTR lore. Was the Prophecy that he would not be killed, or would not die from a man? And was the prophecy for his ghost form, or his mortal form? And was it his physical ghost form, or did he get perma-killed? And did they mean man as in Mankind, not elf or dwarf or orc, or man as in penis/genetics? And would a trans person have been able to? Was the prophecy referring to the physical form of the person, or their spirit/heart? And what about androgynist/non-gendered creatures? I mean Gandalf takes the form of a man, but isn't he like an eternal star-god/angel thing?
These are important points because if its a discussion on technicalities, then we need to get technical.
I actually addressed much of this in the post immediately preceding this. To briefly recap the main thrust: It's a prophecy, not a protective charm, and simply said that it "was not by the hand of man that he will fall". To put it simply, the one to kill him would not be a man. That does not mean that anyone who wasn't a man could kill him, just that the one who would eventually manage it would not be one.

Quibbling over whether or not a given loophole could have existed misses the boat, as such quibbling treats the prophecy as a spell conferring protection rather than a prediction of how events would transpire. The prophecy does not give Eowyn the power to kill him, nor does it provide the ringwraith with some mystical protection. Rather, it's because Eowyn is destined to kill him that the prophecy exists.
 
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Thaluikhain

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That does not mean that anyone who wasn't a man could kill him, just that the one who would eventually manage it would not be one.
Is there anything to say that the prophecy is valid, or is it "No man can kill me, according to some elf who wasn't important enough to be in the films"? Sure, a man didn't kill him, but that's true various other people as well.
 

Secondhand Revenant

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Is there anything to say that the prophecy is valid, or is it "No man can kill me, according to some elf who wasn't important enough to be in the films"? Sure, a man didn't kill him, but that's true various other people as well.
Really nothing more than the the way it's treated as such ig? Also wouldn't call Glorfindel unimportant, he was pretty top tier even for elves I gather
 

Asita

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Is there anything to say that the prophecy is valid, or is it "No man can kill me, according to some elf who wasn't important enough to be in the films"? Sure, a man didn't kill him, but that's true various other people as well.
There's a bit of a Catch-22 in that question. Is there anything to say that the prophecies/insights of oracle in the Matrix were valid? The prophecy that Medb's son Maine would kill Conchobar? The prophecies of the Oracle of Delphi? The only thing that says whether a given prophecy is valid is whether or not events transpire as described in the prophecy. Aside from that, the only thing that gives it weight is whether or not people believe in it though - as per Cassandra of Troy - that's not necessarily the best metric.

If you're asking if Glorfindel had any clout, however...well suffice it to say that Glorfindel was among the most mighty of the elves, died in battle during the First Age. He was re-embodied in the Second Age by the Valar to serve as their emissary. One interesting testament to his power is coincidentally tangential to this discussion. See, Ringwraiths passively radiated an aura of terror that demoralized and panicked all but the most courageous of individuals. Glorfindel negated that effect with his mere presence. Point of fact, the Ringwraiths were actually terrified of him, and fled when they saw him. Without exaggeration, he was among the most powerful beings on Middle-Earth.
 

Agema

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Really nothing more than the the way it's treated as such ig? Also wouldn't call Glorfindel unimportant, he was pretty top tier even for elves I gather
Well. I think the basic idea is that in the fall of, oh, whichever place - Gondolin?, Glorfindel nailed a balrog or dragon single-handedly but died in the process, which definitely puts him right up there with the meanest of the mean. I think Tolkein, because he constantly moved stuff around, also gave the same name to some elf at Rivendell. Then I think he noticed the same name and retconned the Rivendell elf into the same elf as from The Silmarillion, on the basis he was so honourable and ace the gods resurrected him so he could go fight Sauron.

However, it's not clear to me why such a badass just hangs around in Rivendell when there's a massive war and all going on in Gondor.
 

Secondhand Revenant

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Well. I think the basic idea is that in the fall of, oh, whichever place - Gondolin?, Glorfindel nailed a balrog or dragon single-handedly but died in the process, which definitely puts him right up there with the meanest of the mean. I think Tolkein, because he constantly moved stuff around, also gave the same name to some elf at Rivendell. Then I think he noticed the same name and retconned the Rivendell elf into the same elf as from The Silmarillion, on the basis he was so honourable and ace the gods resurrected him so he could go fight Sauron.

However, it's not clear to me why such a badass just hangs around in Rivendell when there's a massive war and all going on in Gondor.
Hah yep I heard of that, that it was a retcon when he accidentally did that. I used to think they were two separate dudes but then found out later, nope.

And true. You'd think he'd have a bit more of a mission. Most elves hang around ready to head West at some point it seems, but you'd think being resurrected and such he'd have like actual business to attend to, not just chilling there. Although I suppose his waiting around meant he was there to save them but still that's kinda lame
 

Thaluikhain

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There's a bit of a Catch-22 in that question. Is there anything to say that the prophecies/insights of oracle in the Matrix were valid? The prophecy that Medb's son Maine would kill Conchobar? The prophecies of the Oracle of Delphi?
Delphi (and the Oracle in the Matrix a bit) had a prior reputation for making prophecies that turned out to be true (Delphi being famous all over the ancient world for this), though, not sure about Glorfindel.
 

Asita

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Delphi (and the Oracle in the Matrix a bit) had a prior reputation for making prophecies that turned out to be true (Delphi being famous all over the ancient world for this), though, not sure about Glorfindel.
My point being that in real terms the validity of a prophecy is based on...well, whether or not the eventual events match the prediction, and aside from that the only metric is whether or not people believe in it (which again, is not necessarily the best metric for a variety of reasons). In the story the prophecy in question passes both marks as it turns out to be accurate and relevant characters believe it.
 

SupahEwok

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Well. I think the basic idea is that in the fall of, oh, whichever place - Gondolin?, Glorfindel nailed a balrog or dragon single-handedly but died in the process, which definitely puts him right up there with the meanest of the mean. I think Tolkein, because he constantly moved stuff around, also gave the same name to some elf at Rivendell. Then I think he noticed the same name and retconned the Rivendell elf into the same elf as from The Silmarillion, on the basis he was so honourable and ace the gods resurrected him so he could go fight Sauron.

However, it's not clear to me why such a badass just hangs around in Rivendell when there's a massive war and all going on in Gondor.
The Appendices make it clear that the war did not just happen in Gondor; Erebor is sieged at the same time as Minas Tirith. I don't remember if the Appendices listed anything about the war that Glorfindel in particular participated in, but there were other fronts he could act in, and Elrond and Gandalf didn't let him go with the Ring because it was a stealth mission, and his presence would alert the enemy to the sheer importance of the mission.
 

Agema

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The Appendices make it clear that the war did not just happen in Gondor; Erebor is sieged at the same time as Minas Tirith. I don't remember if the Appendices listed anything about the war that Glorfindel in particular participated in, but there were other fronts he could act in, and Elrond and Gandalf didn't let him go with the Ring because it was a stealth mission, and his presence would alert the enemy to the sheer importance of the mission.
Well, I kind of get that, but it seems to me that as after Rohan and Gondor there's just about nothing but a few small elven / dwarven enclaves and vast tracts of lightly populated countryside, they'd better off down south because if Gondor goes down, the gods are going to have to come across from the West and sink Middle Earth beneath the waves, too.