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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Reading Group meeting 8/10/05

On this day....

'...the days went quickly by; for they rode at leisure....the leaves were red and yellow in the autumn sun....'
The Return of the King, Homeward Bound

...and the year before....

'The land before them slopped away southwards, but it was wild and pathless;....the grass was scanty, coarse, and grey; and the leaves in the thickets were faded and falling. It was a cheerless land, and their journey was slow and gloomy.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, Flight to the Ford


Blogger Rymenhild said...

As you will see, our blog has been invaded by orcish elements using it for free advertising. Hopefully all the balrogs in the vicinity will know how to deal with it.

Report for 8.10.05
We began with Julie’s response to our deliberations on Boromir’s lack of activity at Rivendell. With her customary sharpness she concurred with the suggestion that he was sulking for various reasons, and described him as The Incredible Sulk!
Moving on swiftly to The Journey in the Dark, we spent quite a while trying to work out what it was that Aragorn had experienced previously in Moria that made him so edgy, and so ‘prophetic’. Gandalf seems very enthusiastic about Moria, although it is the only option left and he might just be buoying everyone else up, but Aragorn is really gloomy. Various suggestions came to account for this. Maybe he had been lost for a while in the awful darkness. Maybe he had felt a sense of evil lurking unseen but quite uninterested in him. Whatever gave Aragorn the creeps, it had to be a really nasty experience to spook a Ranger! Ian suggested that it was the presence of the Ring on this journey that triggered whatever Aragorn had felt, because it hadn’t attacked him or Gandalf. The Watcher and the Balrog seemed uninterested in them until the Ring came in their company.
It also seems that Tolkien builds up the sense of threat, horror and evil by a series of hints, cryptic speeches, and allusions, everyone has a different experience or opinion, all almost all negative – a narrative device that certainly works!
As we discussed Aragorn’s experience in Moria, the great realm of the Dwarrowdelf was revealed as a kind of 3-dimesional maze as well as an alien environment for all races except dwarves. Laura suggested Tolkien’s experiences in the trenches of Flanders might contribute to dark and mazy aspect of Moria, while I added that it plays on the fear of entombment which has already been explored in the Barrow. This was expanded. The sense of entombment is enhanced by the Book found in the Chamber of Mazarbul with the words ‘we cannot get out’. It is significant that the dwarves cannot get out of their own most familiar environment.
In addition, I had just been re-reading Dean Slavic’s article, kindly sent to me before Aston 2005, on Katabasis and Anabasis in LotR. It discusses images of death and resurrection, but on the way, Dean points out that Moriah is the name of the land where the mountain stands on which Abraham intends to sacrifice his son Isaac. There are many echoes of biblical events in the Moria episode, including the demonic Balrog, as well as echoes of Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ in the 7 levels, and Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ gives us Pandemonium, the city in hell (apologies to Gimli for likening the great city of Durin to hell, but it is when the Fellowship enter. Even a sense of Dante’s ‘abandon hope all ye who enter here’ is carried over into Aragorn’s statement after Gandlaf’s loss when he says ‘ What hope have we without you? … We must do without hope’.
Working backwards, we went on to discuss the attack of the wargs and wondered if the great warg ‘captain’ was one of the Nazgul. Only 8 seemed to be accounted for in the drowning, and Frodo and gandalf and Aragorn have noticed a ‘shadow’ pass over the stars.
This brought us to consider shadows – lots of them in the book, including the Balrog. We also discussed the matter of dwarf doors, and dwarvish secrecy, which led us on to the idea of a masonic society.
Next time we shall be at The Bridge of Khazad Dum, and I for one will be looking for a nice big Ranger to hide behind!

2:37 AM  
Blogger JuSinclair said...

Re. a shadow passing over the stars - it brought to mind this passage from Conan-Doyle's "The Lost World". It would be interesting to know what JRRT was in the habit of reading during his formative years!

"...suddenly out of the darkness, out of the night, there swooped something with a swish like an aeroplane. The whole group of us were covered for an instant by a canopy of leathery wings, and I had a momentary vision of a long, snake-like neck, a fierce, red, greedy eye, and a great snapping beak, filled, to my amazement, with little, gleaming, teeth. The next instant it was gone - and so was our dinner. A huge black shadow, twenty feet across, skimmed up into the air; for an instant the monster wings blotted out the stars, and then it vanished over the brow of the cliff above us."

4:04 PM  

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