Sunday Music: “Into the West”…from Lord of the Rings…commentary by Geoff Brookes.

@Geoff Brookes

Welcome to our Sunday music feature.

This week’s edition will include some explanations.

Into the West

The song is “Into the West”, by Fran Walsh, Howard Shore, and Annie Lennox.

The song was written for Cameron Duncan, a New Zealand film-maker who died of cancer. The first public performance was at his funeral.

According to the commentaries on the movie the Return of the King, Peter Jackson was not satisfied with the song that they had been thinking of for the end of the movie, and challenged Howard Shore to come up with something that had more emotional impact. This beautiful song was the reaction from the 3 songwriters, who drew upon their recent experience with Cameron Duncan.

On a personal note, I lost a good friend – Reg – to cancer this past year. He and I were both huge fans of the Lord of the Rings, with its beautiful themes.

Here are the Lyrics:

Into the West

Lay down
Your sweet and weary head
Night is falling
You have come to journeys end

Sleep now and dream
Of the ones who came before
They are calling
From across the distant shore

Why do you weep?
What are these tears upon your face?
Soon you will see
All of your fears will pass away
Safe in my arms
You’re only sleeping

What can you see on the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?
Across the sea a pale moon rises
The ships have come to carry you home

And all will turn to silver glass
A light on the water
All souls pass

Hope fades
Into the world of night
Through shadows falling
Out of memory and time

Don’t say
We have come now to the end
White shores are calling
You and I will meet again
and you’ll be here in my arms
just sleeping

What can you see on the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?
Across the sea a pale moon rises
The ships have come to carry you home

And all will turn to silver glass
A light on the water
Grey ships pass into the west

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In Tolkien’s mythology, the elves sailed “into the West”, as their journey to “the undying lands”. Only elves were granted this privilege. Other “mortal” beings died of natural causes in “Middle Earth”. On very rare occasions, a “mortal” was permitted to sail with the elves. This honour was bestowed on Bilbo and Frodo, as the ring-bearers.

Of course, sailing “into the West” is a metaphor for death, and passing into the next life.

In the movie, I like the scene where Gandalf shares this with Pippin. But in the book, this beautiful passage occurs near the very end of the last chapter:

“Then Frodo…went aboard; and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew, and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth; and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore glimmered and was lost. And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream…, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

I love the original recording of the song. The video is a nice montage of the movies, but it really doesn’t attempt to capture the scene described by the lyrics of the song. In any case, here is the video.

You might want to listen to it at least once with your eyes closed, to focus on the images and mythology of the lyrics:

Here is the scene between Pippin and Gandalf:

And if you want to watch the movie scene, where Frodo sails into the West, here it is:

Anyway, Reg, this one’s for you. Until we meet again, in that far green country under a swift sunrise.
Attachments area
Preview YouTube video The Lord Of The Rings – Into The West

The Lord Of The Rings – Into The West
Preview YouTube video LOTR The Return of the King – “A Far Green Country”

LOTR The Return of the King – “A Far Green Country”
Preview YouTube video LOTR The Return of the King – The Grey Havens Part 2

LOTR The Return of the King – The Grey Havens Part 2

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2 thoughts on “Sunday Music: “Into the West”…from Lord of the Rings…commentary by Geoff Brookes.

  1. Hello Geoff, I am so very sorry for the loss of your friend, Reg. I like your post. I also wrote one very similar on July 30th of this year, http://lensgirl53.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/white-shores/

    Knowing the biography of J.R.R. Tolkien has been helpful in my understanding of the deeper meaning behind TLOTR trilogy. Tolkien was a Christian and both he and his contemporary and friend, C.S. Lewis wrote their children’s books (The Chronicles of Narnia; Th Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, with the Gospel in mind. Lewis credits his friend Tolkien with leading him to Christ, as he had professed to be an atheist at one time. While it may seem like mythology to some, to Christians TLOTR has more significance. With that in mind, it is still very comforting to me in my grief over my son’s death. I hope it continues to help comfort you in the grief of loss, as well. We all need to know there is a “far green country…”

    Like

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