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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Reading Group meeting 25/6/05

On this day.....

'...Aragorn cried: 'Ye! utuvienyes! I have found it! Lo! here is a scion of the Eldest of Trees!....And Gandalf coming looked at it, and said: 'Verily this is a sapling of the line of Nimloth the fair; and that was a seedling of Galathilion, and that a fruit of Telperion....Eldest of Trees...'

The Return of the King, The Steward and the King


Blogger Rymenhild said...

To begin our afternoon we all enjoyed being able to welcome the new Reading Group that has just had its first meeting in Florence (Firenze, Italy). The members have decided to call it "Lothlòrien, Gruppo fiorentino di lettura del "Signore degli Anelli", (i.e.: "Lothlorien, Florentine Lord of the Rings Reading Group). Only one of the members has already read LotR, but all the other members are reading The Fellowship of the Ring during the summer. We look forward to hearing how their meeting go, and they have been invited to check out our blog site and see what we have been doing.

After that we had a fairly hilarious time looking at Ian’s computer-montage adverts for Fords of Bruinen, Fords of Isen and Fords of Carrock. Clearly the Middle-earth dealerships are targetted not only at Elves and Men, but other free folk including shape-shifting bears!

Last time we had considered the anachronistic express train at the party (better than a Ghost at the feast any day!). At this meeting we discussed train imagery, representations of dragons, and the fiery, noisy similarities are obvious to anyone who remembers steam trains. Of course trains don’t fly – except the Flying Scotsman. But Ian directed our attention to E. Nebit’s The Railway Children, and a remarkable description of the children watching a train emerge from a tunnel. The anachronism would obviously have had more significance in the ‘50s than in this age of diesel-electrics.

We went on then to our discussion of the journey from Bree to Rivendell and we wandered about all over the place. It was worth considering how good Strider is at woodcraft at this point in the story, because it made us think about storytelling itself, and how his character is constructed by comparison with what we could expect from someone who says he’s a proficient hunter. Why then, we wondered, do the hobbits end up with nothing more than some stale bread and dried fruit. It is after all autumn in a land full of brambles and hazel thickets.

With wraiths around, of course, and Frodo badly wounded, we eventually realised it isn’t wise to go blackberrying! Hunting and gathering are time consuming. Even if Strider had been able to find a deer, or even a pair of coneys, they have to be cooked and a cooking fire could alert spies of all kinds, and disturbed vegetation could also give the game away, even though there are no signs of wraiths close at hand.

This led us to think about whether the wraiths were trackers themselves. We are, however, told in the story that they are probably waiting for the poisoned shard of the Morgul knife to put Frodo beyond the help of his friends and allies, so they would hardly need to exert themselves in the chase, but they do seem to know which direction the party are taking and are able to shadow their progress (bad pun, sorry).

This brought us naturally to Glorfindel and to a lesser extent to Elladan and Elrohir. We wondered about Glorfindel’s role in the story – why does he not have more to do? It was observed that he is capable to taking on the Witch King, and we know he is a great Elf-Lord, so why, we asked, did he not go with the Nine Walkers instead of Legolas. After some discussion we seemed to agree that such a high-profile Elf would attract too much attention when the purpose of the southward journey, and especially the entry into Mordor, was to remain as unobtrusive as possible. We also thought about the composition of the representative party of the Free Folk and decided that Legolas had to go to represent the Mirkwood realm.

The afternoon went very quickly and covered a lot of ground, but it seemed to me that we discovered the value of questioning small aspects of the text that may pass almost unnoticed or at least unchallenged as the story builds up pace and tension precisely by the amount of time it takes to get from Weathertop to the point at which the party meets Glorfindel. Things happen, like the encounter with the trolls, but the descriptions of the bleak, damp, and difficult terrain predominate. Nevertheless, there are aspects of the storytelling during this time that are worth further consideration.

We go on from where we left off our reading and our special topic for next time is to be NAMES. Wish us luck!

If you have any comments you are welcome to add them here.

1:46 PM  

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