A dream from the early hours of this morning:
The Scroll of Decision and the Dissertation of Doubt
The Hero is setting out on the Quest. He is given his weapons. They are not the usual hero's weapons, like a sword or a wand or a magic cloak.
The first is a tightly rolled scroll, inside a cylinder of the kind provided with degree certificates. This is the Scroll of Decision. It is a clean, clear, tight statement, and when the Hero unfurls it and reclaims it, he can move forward with sword-point resolution and clarity, and those around him respond accordingly.
The second gift is the Dissertation of Doubt. This is an untidy mass of hundreds of pages, loosely held together with what appear to be shoestrings. The contents may have their uses, but consulting this interminable discussion of pros and cons and whys and wherefores does not seem likely to get the Hero where he needs to go very fast. However, those who support the Quest must have their reasons fior weighing him down with all this material.
I wake from this dream feeling cheerful and curious.
Context: I am continuing my study of Tolkien's mythic imagination, his interest in time travel, his use of dreams - and how dreams used him. Before going to bed, I was re-reading The Return of the King. I made a note of these lines, spoken by the King of Rohan, who has been roused from ensorcelled torpor to lead the Riders into battle, to Aragorn, who will be revealed as the greater King, the heir to Atlantis (here called Numenor):
"You will do as you will, my lord Aragorn," said Theoden. "It is your doom, maybe, to tread strange paths that others dare not."
I capitalized Hero and Quest in my dream report because it seemed I was viewing a model for the archetypal Quest, not a specific version of it.
The Hero's weapons are sometimes ambivalent. When Aragorn scouts the future in a seeing stone (called palantir, or "Farsighted") he makes himself visible to the Dark Lord, Sauron. In my dream the ambivalence is in the duality of the papers the Hero must carry. Maybe his weapons are better suited to a writer's life than swords. My question remains: why do those who support the Hero's Quest burden him with this huge and ponderous Dissertation of Doubt?
"The End of the World", drawing by J.R.R. Tolkien (1912)