The scene opens on the balcony in Rivendell. Aragorn sits, reading a book by the light of the full moon. The moonlight also illuminates the great fresco painting behind him. Boromir approaches the statue that holds the shards of Narsil.
BOROMIR: The shards of Narsil! The sword that cut the ring from Sauron's hand.
He picks up the hilt.
Suddenly, ominous music begins. The evil chorus sings in black speech. A dark figure slowly approaches from the left, and a shadow of a hooded and cloaked figure creeps across the wall.
Aragorn leaps up, dropping his book on the chair. We finally see the title, "Leadership for Dummies." Boromir grasps the hilt of Narsil and swings to face the menace.
BOROMIR: What is this new devilry?
The figure stops close to the painting and faces into the camera and into the moonlight. It is--Sister Wendy! The scary music fades into a few pious notes of a church organ.
AUDIENCE: Oh no!
SISTER WENDY: I have been very much looking forward to this visit on our tour of the Art History of the Middle Earth. Here in the charming elven haven of Rivendell, in the ancient house of Lord Elrond, is preserved some of the greatest works of art from all cultures of the Middle Earth. And here we are at the proper time for our first glimpse of the MoLD, the Museum of Lord ElronD. It is best appreciated...
(Here she pauses for a tiny smile and waves her black draped arm in front of her.)
ARAGORN: Elbereth! Uh, can't be, she doesn't wear glasses or have a lisp. It's Sister Wendy!
BOROMIR: (lowering Narsil) Gondor has no Sister Wendy. Gondor needs no Art History.
SISTER WENDY: When I first viewed this painting (gesturing to the painting to her side and behind her), and I must tell the truth here, I simply could not get past the clichéd Elvish style: all that elegant brushwork, the misty glow, and the elongated, ethereal figures. It is just too beautiful to believe it tells the story it does; it's not convincing. But as I began to really look at it, I realized that what most called out to me was, paradoxically, the awful, terrible silence.
(Dramatic pause. Sister Wendy turns and meditates on the painting for a moment.)
SISTER WENDY: In this picture, we see Isildur on his backside, the Dark Lord Sauron looming rather nastily above him out of the mists with his ridiculous spiky helm. Isildur's father has just been slain, the battle is going quite badly, and there seems to be no hope left for the Last Alliance of Men and Elves.
This picture is not intended as a great historical painting. We do not see the orcs swimming in black blood, or arrows flying, or any of the noise and mess of a real battle. Just the dead, and a terrible a contest of wills shrouded in mystery; it is the moment before Isildur in a most desperate and foolishly defiant gesture, swings wildly with the hilt shards of his slain father's sword.
Would this painting have the same impact, I wonder, if it actually showed the triumph of Isildur as he cut the ring from Sauron's hand? I think not. We are rather invited into Isildur's mind at the moment of utter desolation. Where does it come, this defiance in the midst of despair?
The elf who painting this picture, Alanaglar Leelen, rejects utterly the psychoanalytic interpretation, which does seem distressingly obvious, what with the slain good father and the symbolic evil father exacting revenge, and that upright spike of a sword. Rather, in a typically arrogant elvish manner, Leelen is foreshadowing the moral undoing of Isildur, soon after the physical undoing of Sauron.
The very same impulsivity that made Isildur swing at Sauron leads to Isildur's death, and the continuing threat against all of Middle Earth. Isildur kept the ring for himself, rather than destroying it as a more rational, thoughtful Lord Elrond or anyone with sense, that is, and elf, would have done. The painting shows us both the Elvish fear and fascination with the short lifespan and high energy, though often misdirected, of mortal men.
As is often said, mortality is a gift, and a doom, for men. Leelen is reminding us pointedly that men are weak.
ARAGORN: (hanging his head abjectly) The same blood flows in my veins. The same weakness.
BOROMIR: Get a grip!
SISTER WENDY: The shards of Narsil are actually right here in MoLD, held by this somewhat dour looking statue.
(She walks to the statue.)
(With a twinkle in her eye) Some say that the shards of Narsil are still magically sharp after thousands of years.
(Boromir impulsively pricks his finger with the shard he carries.)
BOROMIR: Still sharp! But no more than a broken handle.
ARAGORN: You see, there goes more of the blood of Numenor.
(Boromir drops Narsil clumsily, then stalks off, sucking on his finger).
SISTER WENDY: Next, here at the MoLD, we will examine the ornate furniture, especially headboards, of the immortal elves that have altogether too much time for craftsmanship.
In our next installment of Art History of the Middle Earth, we will explore the glorious turrets of Barad-dur by torchlight, as well as examine the Argonath, that masterwork of Numenorean excess.
(She glides of, hands folded in front of her. The camera cuts to artful views of leaves in pools of water, arched columns against the sky, etc.)