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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Reading Group meeting 25/2/06

On this day....

' the distance two great rocks approaching: like great pinnacles or pillars of stone....
'Behold the Argonath, the Pillars of the Kings!" cried Aragorn.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, The Great River


Blogger Rymenhild said...

This week’s topic was the first chapter of The Two Towers: ‘The Departure of Boromir’, not as I inadvertently named it in the last blog report ‘The Death of Boromir’.
Having read it many times, it was only this time that I managed to take a more objective look at it ready for the reading group.
My own assessment had been that it was a largely elegaic chapter, mostly slow paced and full of self-conscious literary styles and narrative devices as it moves in and out of the adventure mode.
Ian drew our attention to the significant short length of the first sentence of the chapter, and he remarked on the comparisons to be made between this and the first sentence of 30 words that introduces the first chapter of The Fellowship. We discussed the use of sentence length to influence the ‘feel’, atmosphere, or tone at the start of a chapter and especially one which opens a Book. The shortness of the first sentence of The Departure introduces a sense of urgency and activity, somewhat different to the actions, or inactions, of Aragorn at other moments when he is plagued with doubt and indecision.
We considered his delay and motivation for sitting in the high seat, and the difference between his experience there and Frodo’s. His meeting with the dying Boromir naturally focussed our attention and we discussed why Legolas and Gimli thought Aragorn was dying and paid no heed to Boromir. We concluded that this was possibly a pragmatic response, seeing Boromir dead they turned their attention to the wounded Man, but it seemed more likely that if Aragorn was bent weeping over Boromir’s body they could not tell who was wounded, or dead, and again Ian suggested that in Legolas’s remark, ‘I fear you have taken deadly hurt’, the ‘you’ should be regarded as plural.
We also turned our attention to funerary rites, rituals and processes in Middle-earth. There is a book on this topic, but we went ahead with our own assessment of the decision to give Boromir a form of ship-burial. The image created by Tolkien’s words, is most reminiscent of pre-raphaelite paintings such as that of the Lady of Shallott, in which a body is seen floating down a river. We concluded that while the giving of Boromir to Anduin was a practical solution to the problem of a fitting funeral for an aristocratic warrior, the ritual surround it also suggested the similarity between Men and Elves and the continuing marginalisation of dwarves. A case could be made that Gimli complain at being left with the East wind during the elegaic songs Aragorn and Legolas. It seems that Gimli could have joined in but the Man and the Elf claimed the benign winds leaving the ominous Easterly to Gimli.
We remarked on the shock to the 3 companions at finding more than one kind of orc, and the insight eventually provided by this discovery. The secret name of Sauron, and even his many names, obscure his true identity, as much as his refusal to allow his name to be spoken. Diane pointed out that this interdiction applies also to the Christian God who declares in response to Moses question: ‘I am’. We were reminded too of fairy stories like Rumplestiltskin, where names have magical properties and naming confers power.
There was no time to take the literary and stylistic features of the chapter very far, but Laura remarked on the ‘bardic’ quality of the paragraph beginning ‘Sorrowfully they cast loose the funeral boat’. This is particularly elegaic in tone especially in the final two sentences – again length may be compared. These are long sentences and I would suggest that it is the sequencing of more than 1 indirect object clause in successive sentences that is mimetic of the flowing of both time and the river, and contributes significantly to the meditative pace and mood of these sentences. The beautiful imagery of the paragraph was noted, and the fact that it provided one of the very few insights into Boromir as a noble and untainted man who used ‘to stand upon the White Tower in the morning.’
If we had had time we might have also noted the biblical tone of the final long sentence of the paragraph beginning ‘Even as he gazed…’ The idea that the horn call ‘smote the hills’, and was heard rising to ‘a mighty shout’, has both the archaism and the majesty of expression so familiar from the Authorised Version of the Bible.
Although this is a very short chapter, there was a great deal to say about it, and much more could be gleaned in terms of stylistic and literary variation. It contrasts in tone to the chapter preceding it, and the chapter which will follow it and which is our next topic for discussion. Hooray! The Riders of Rohan are coming! Wes þu hal leoda!

4:13 AM  
Blogger JuSinclair said...

I think it's striking that it's Legolas the Elf who suggests that they ought to give Boromir the Man a decent funeral. (One might have expected this idea to come from Aragorn.)

4:03 PM  

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