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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Reading Group meeting 5/11/05

On this day....

'The task of hunting out the last of the ruffians was left to Merry and Pippin, and it was soon done.
The Return of the King, The Grey Havens

and the year before....

'...such was the virtue of the land of Rivendell....all fear and anxiety was lifted from their minds.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, The Ring goes South


Blogger Rymenhild said...

Well, here we are with Winterfilth behind us and Blotmath just arrived, so it was deemed proper to take thought for the Yule feast before Foreyule bears down upon us. We agreed on a Yule feast this year, and arrangements are in hand. The venue will be as it was for the Birthday feast.
Our topic on the 5th Blotmath was The Palantiri and it provoked a great deal of thought and serious debate, as well as throwing up some rather subversive thoughts. The Palantiri directed our attention to eyes again. This may seem obvious but after the observations concerning ‘body parts’ as we trekked through Moria it was worth noting the relationship between the ‘all-seeing eye’ (is this masonic?) and these other means of seeing. The words of the seer are, of course, particularly important to Aragorn, but they are communicated verbally. Communication via palantiri, on the other hand, is non-verbal and thought-based. We could not make a firm distinction between verbal and non-verbal communication as either good or bad, since Saruman’s voice provides the best example of deceptive verbal communication.
We discussed the range of communications in Middle-earth, intelligence-gathering methods, and the transferring of information. Some communications are one-way, and some are 2-way, and I asked about Frodo’sexperience on Amon Hen, when he could see as if with a palantir. Ian pointed out that Frodo has the Ring on at this point and that alters his perception of everything, and the high seat also parallels in microcosm, or temporally, the high seat of Manwe.
The range of communication in Middle-earth was then contrasted with the lack of communication in The Shire. No hobbit looks beyond the borders, except, significantly, Bilbo and Frodo, and Bilbo doesn’t want to at the start. The insularity so obviously recalls interwar British politics that we didn’t discuss this.
We did however confirm the idea that the stones originally formed an information network as in the Internet, and we considered what Tolkien provided in the way of a ‘technology’ of the stones. The degradation of their use in the Third Age confirms the problem he had with technology in general. Their use leads to misinterpretations and corruption, although Aragorn makes use of this when he confronts Sauron, and it has already served to unsettle Sauron when he sees Pippin in the stone. It would be interesting to know what Tolkien would have thought of the word processing functions of a PC which make writing so much easier and quicker than using a typewriter. He would certainly have found many things to dislike about computers, but they do make revising and editing so much less of a chore.
Palantiri as mobile phones arose briefly and called forth witticisms regarding not having Crazy Uruk Hai ringtones. Once the hilarity subsided, we moved on swiftly!
The comparison and connection was made between the palantiri and Galadriel’s use of her Mirror. This does not open 2-way communication and has different properties, and we wondered whether it could be regarded as a means of communication in an exact sense, but it does communicate information. We wondered then about its different properties in the light of Galadriel’s stormy relationship with the maker of the palantiri – Feanor. Given that she denied him a tress of her hair, it seemed likely that she would opt for a different kind of ‘seeing’ and would not choose to use anything Feanor had made.
There is another point here which we did not cover – and that is the difference between fire and water as the ancient male and female principles. This repeats the opposition between Feanor and his fiery nature and creativity, and Galadriel who rejects his handiwork and opts for the more natural use of water.
Diane observed that Galadriel’s Mirror is Tolkien’s version of scrying, and a year or more ago Julie remarked on seeing a display in a church that reminded her very much of Galadriel’s Mirror.
I wondered if the palatiri formed part of Tolkien’s ‘mythology of diminishment’. He said the Elves and hobbits had dwindled until they cannot be seen in the modern world, and mortal life has diminished from the span of the Numenoreans to our 'three score years and ten'. We still have crystal balls, at least as a concept, for seeing things in, and I wondered if they could be regarded as the diminished form of the ancient palantiri in terms of Middle-earth and its descendants.
Overall, we came to the conclusion that no means of communication was thematically represented as bad, corrupt or evil, but all could be used for good or evil according to the will of the being using each one. Sauron’s messenger to Dain tries to ‘sweeten’ his voice a bit can’t, a clear sign of the evil that engenders the speaking.
There is a lot more to be done with this topic of communication, but our discussion for next time will centre on Pat’s suggestion: Choices. Now there’s a complicated topic!
It has been good to hear that the Lothlorien (Florence) Reading Group are once again in session after their summer break. It has also been good to hear from Omer in Lahore who has sent his thoughts regarding some of the topics we have covered during the summer.

2:41 AM  

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