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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Reading Group meeting 14/1/06

On this day....

"...for a second they saw a vast roof far above their heads upheld by many mighty pillars hewn of stone. Before them and either side stretched a huge empty hall; its black walls, polished and smooth as glass, flashed and glittered."

The Fellowship of the Ring, A Journey in the Dark

2 Comments:

Blogger Rymenhild said...

14.01.06
Everyone seemed to get deeply involved in our first meeting of 2006 in spite of the fact that I had forgotten to ask at our last pre-Christmas meeting what topic we should work towards. We took the entirely rational course of picking up where we had left off. Having discussed the chapter on Lothlorien and then the topic of water at our last 2 meetings, moving on to the chapter on The Great River seemed most appropriate. Oddly, though, while our course should have taken us southwards, we meandered north and east to begin with.
We noted again the way geography symbolised moods, but this was extended to take in the mood created by the weather – almost constantly dreary, with little change. The landscape was thought to have an alienating effect on the travellers, both actually and metaphorically as they journeyed on the margins of lands none of them knew well, and where they certainly could not look for shelter or help. The landscape, river, and weather all seemed to heighten a sense of depression and underlying anxiety.
On our eastward track we wandered into Mirkwood, particularly in the proximity of Dol Guldur. Not a pleasant place to be, but our ‘research’ enlightened us about the form and function of the place. This got us into considering some architectural influences in Middle-earth, especially the historical disruption of the Norman Conquest and its effect on English architecture. We decided there might be a good dissertation or thesis to be written on Tolkien's representations of archetectural difference based on 'non-Middle-earth' history.
We considered the relevance of the phalanx on black swans, and wondered to what extent they should be considered the spies or tools of Sauron, and it was pointed out that perhaps a distinction was being made between things that were black and evil on purpose, and things that were just black, like the horses of the Ringwraiths. These were always black, but not evil in themselves. The corruption of things under the influence of Sauron’s malice is registered at times by their colour, as in the case of the black squirrels of Mirkwood. The black swans, it was suggested, need not be spies just because they follow the river. It is natural for birds migrating south towards warmer lands to follow geographical features such as rivers. We noted the presence of many small birds ‘piping’ close to the river, and we remarked on the sighting of Gwaihir on his mission with Gandalf. So some birds were involved in the story, and some are only there to give ‘colour’ to the descriptions of background and atmosphere.
We moved on to discuss Boromir, who is turning out to be a very interesting and complex character. He clearly begins to suffer badly on the river, biting his nails and staring at Frodo, and we compared this sedentary, obsessive Boromir with the active fighting man who blew such a blast on his horn in Moria that even the Balrog quailed momentarily. His valour, taking his stand with Aragorn, could not be disputed, and we saw him as the tragic hero when he defended the hobbits and died. But we recognised that what we were looking at was ‘a company of heroes’, each contributing in a different heroic way or a specific environment.
As we moved along we encountered Sam’s comment on time and the moon and it was suggested that these ‘timeslips’ may represent different planes of existence which are relative. We did not get into Tolkien and the theory of relativity because our discussion was resolved by Aragorn’s comment that Sam had just miscalculated!
Inevitably we arrived at the Argonath and noted that it is a transitional place both geographically and personally for some of the Fellowship. Aragorn changes as he comes physically into his patrimony. He renames himself in a voice so changed that it surprises those who hear him – significantly only Frodo and Sam. Boromir bows his head and we debated whether this was an act of reverence, or a more problematic averting his eyes from the stony gaze of the kings.
That was the extent of our serious discussion because we had spent some time being whimsical again. For reasons that escape me now those well-known Tolkien football teams [W]Raith Rovers and Rangers cropped up in the conversation and diverted our attention for a while. We also began thinking about Reading Day and what we could do.
Our topic for next time will be The Breaking of the Fellowship, the last chapter in TFotR. The Southfarthing group will be 2 years old on February 7th, and we are only just finishing the first of the books!

1:51 AM  
Blogger Rymenhild said...

14.01.06
Everyone seemed to get deeply involved in our first meeting of 2006 in spite of the fact that I had forgotten to ask at our last pre-Christmas meeting what topic we should work towards. We took the entirely rational course of picking up where we had left off. Having discussed the chapter on Lothlorien and then the topic of water at our last 2 meetings, moving on to the chapter on The Great River seemed most appropriate. Oddly, though, while our course should have taken us southwards, we meandered north and east to begin with.
We noted again the way geography symbolised moods, but this was extended to take in the mood created by the weather – almost constantly dreary, with little change. The landscape was thought to have an alienating effect on the travellers, both actually and metaphorically as they journeyed on the margins of lands none of them knew well, and where they certainly could not look for shelter or help. The landscape, river, and weather all seemed to heighten a sense of depression and underlying anxiety.
On our eastward track we wandered into Mirkwood, particularly in the proximity of Dol Guldur. Not a pleasant place to be, but our ‘research’ enlightened us about the form and function of the place. This got us into considering some architectural influences in Middle-earth, especially the historical disruption of the Norman Conquest and its effect on English architecture. We decided there might be a good dissertation or thesis to be written on Tolkien's representations of archetectural difference based on 'non-Middle-earth' history.
We considered the relevance of the phalanx on black swans, and wondered to what extent they should be considered the spies or tools of Sauron, and it was pointed out that perhaps a distinction was being made between things that were black and evil on purpose, and things that were just black, like the horses of the Ringwraiths. These were always black, but not evil in themselves. The corruption of things under the influence of Sauron’s malice is registered at times by their colour, as in the case of the black squirrels of Mirkwood. The black swans, it was suggested, need not be spies just because they follow the river. It is natural for birds migrating south towards warmer lands to follow geographical features such as rivers. We noted the presence of many small birds ‘piping’ close to the river, and we remarked on the sighting of Gwaihir on his mission with Gandalf. So some birds were involved in the story, and some are only there to give ‘colour’ to the descriptions of background and atmosphere.
We moved on to discuss Boromir, who is turning out to be a very interesting and complex character. He clearly begins to suffer badly on the river, biting his nails and staring at Frodo, and we compared this sedentary, obsessive Boromir with the active fighting man who blew such a blast on his horn in Moria that even the Balrog quailed momentarily. His valour, taking his stand with Aragorn, could not be disputed, and we saw him as the tragic hero when he defended the hobbits and died. But we recognised that what we were looking at was ‘a company of heroes’, each contributing in a different heroic way or a specific environment.
As we moved along we encountered Sam’s comment on time and the moon and it was suggested that these ‘timeslips’ may represent different planes of existence which are relative. We did not get into Tolkien and the theory of relativity because our discussion was resolved by Aragorn’s comment that Sam had just miscalculated!
Inevitably we arrived at the Argonath and noted that it is a transitional place both geographically and personally for some of the Fellowship. Aragorn changes as he comes physically into his patrimony. He renames himself in a voice so changed that it surprises those who hear him – significantly only Frodo and Sam. Boromir bows his head and we debated whether this was an act of reverence, or a more problematic averting his eyes from the stony gaze of the kings.
That was the extent of our serious discussion because we had spent some time being whimsical again. For reasons that escape me now those well-known Tolkien football teams [W]Raith Rovers and Rangers cropped up in the conversation and diverted our attention for a while. We also began thinking about Reading Day and what we could do.
Our topic for next time will be The Breaking of the Fellowship, the last chapter in TFotR. The Southfarthing group will be 2 years old on February 7th, and we are only just finishing the first of the books!

1:51 AM  

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