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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Reading Group meeting 25/11/06

On this day....

'But autumn was waning fast; slowly the golden light faded to pale silver, and the lingering leaves fell from the naked trees.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, The Ring Goes South


Blogger Rymenhild said...

It’s hard to believe that Yule is less than a month away, and not a seasonal mathom bought! Never mind, we had more urgent things on our minds on Saturday. We were attempting to do more than 1 chapter, which was a new venture for us, but we are so close to finishing The Two Towers that it seemed like a good idea to crack on. After a false start because I couldn’t remember where we had finished (oops!) we began by looking at The Journey to the Crossroads. Thanks to Laura for her emailed observations about this, to which were added comments on transitional nature of the chapter, and then on the blindfolding episode, which echoes the blindfolding of Gimli in Lorien. We also noted the gift-giving echo as Faramir presents the staves. Ian observed the difference between this practical gift and the elves gifts. We remarked on the echo of Robin Hood (the traditional one!) as the green-clad soldiers of Gondor disappeared, and I was interested in the narratorial comment that it was ‘as if a dream had passed’. Ian again took this up suggesting that it registered the sense of a disconnection from the haven provided by Faramir, again echoing the Lorien episode and the sense that it was a haven offering respite. The scale is different in Ithilien, because it is not enchanted, but full of familiar sights and sounds. Diane commented on all the well-known flowers as distinct from those, like Elanor, in Lorien.
Colour and imagery attracted our attention as we noted the ‘sickly glare’ of the yellow ring around the Moon. It was remarked that this is itself and echo of the Ring and neatly sums up both the perversion of nature in all ways that the Ring represents, and the influence of the Lord of the Rings on the land of the Moon-Ithilien. We noted the sphinx-like image of the mutilated statue at the cross roads, and we wondered if it had been an image of Isildur. Whoever it might have been, it became replete with significance as a pre-echo of Arargorn (Pat’s observation of Frodo’s comment ‘The king has got a crown again’). The delicacy of the flowers that create the crown seem to imply the fragile possibility that Aragorn will achieve his crown. There is a good deal of yellow in this chapter, a change from monochrome + red, and the shades of yellow signify different things, either gold as a sign of royalty, or yellow as a sign of sickness.
The yellow of the gorse flowers prompted comments on the delightful image of the hobbits being able to walk beneath their branches and find shelter there. It was mentioned that Sam’s dream was not exactly prophetic, as other dreams have been in the book, but is a cross-over between reality and memory. Sam dreams about his heavy pack, which Ian read as a reference to Sam’s feeling that Gollum is a burden to him – an opinion stated more openly once he wakes up.
In a chapter which ends with a dense shadow creeping out of Mordor, we considered Frodo’s distant shadowy vision of broken pinnacles. Most of us seemed to have accepted this his view of Osgiliath through actual mist, but we also considered whether his shoulder wound was affecting his vision as it began to do before Elrond healed it. I proposed that although it might be healed, he is now very close to the liar of the Witch King who gave him the wound and maybe that was producing a new mistiness.
We noted once again the hobbits’ ability to keep hidden when they wanted to, and Diane remarked that this was constructed right from the start of the book as the reason why they are not seen today.
We moved on to The Stairs of Cirith Ungol, and Julie drew our attention to the similarity between Sam’s urgent calls to Frodo to wake up, and a passage in the Edda, where women are calling to Frodi to wake up. It was a most interesting insight.
In contrast to the delicate balance of benign or even briefly optimistic moments in the preceding chapter, we accepted the suggestion that this one is very slow as its tedious repetition is mimetic of the tediousness of the hobbits’ trek along the mountain paths and stairs. We spent some time discussing the description of Minas Morgul and its environs, and Tolkien’s insistent construction of and horrific landscape. Attention was drawn to the way that simply holding the phial of Galadriel concealed is enough to break the hold the Witch-King seems able to exert over Frodo. We also noted with interest that for a while Sam and Gollum are actually working together to get Frodo away – though for different reasons.
We noted the importance of another effect on Frodo – Sam’s lovely speech about the stories of heroes. The recollection and evocation of homely family life as much as the observations about how heroes are ‘created’ and is a title applied by others, seems to have such a profound effect on Frodo that he actually laughs, there on the bleakest mountain ledge in sight of his (almost) mortal enemy. Diane then directed our attention to Gollum’s reaction to finding Sam and Frodo asleep. The touch that is almost a ‘caress’ must surely be one of the most poignant moments in the whole of LotR.
This touch prompted Mike to ask if we thought that it suggested that there is indisputably a spark of goodness and/or hobbitness in Gollum as much as in Frodo, and by extension perhaps we should not see anything, including Gollum as wholly evil. As some of us know, this works well enough, but a greater problem arises, perhaps, in the next chapter!
We noted with some enjoyment Gollum’s use of sarcasm again, and as with the first instance at the Pool, it was pointed out that again it is Gollum’s technique when he has been emotionally or psychologically hurt. It was also remarked that Smeagol seems to serve as an ego-ideal for Gollum.
As we were trying to cover so much material we didn’t delve as deeply into the chapters as is our usual practice, but we still made time for Tim’s introduction to the next chapter – Shelob’s Lair – as the Shelob website! We spent some time discussing Shelob, because I was puzzled by the information that Gollum had ‘bowed before her’. Vile as the thought is, I couldn’t see how even Gollum could actually communicate with her in the way suggested by the text. However, Julie enlightened me by email, pointing out that the Mirkwood spiders, her own offspring, could speak. This doesn’t make it any better, but is logical. I confess to not taking quite as many notes as maybe I should have done, but big talking spiders are rather more than I can cope with!
With the promise that normal service will be resumed as soon as Sam sticks a pin in Sauron’s cat, that’s the end of this report. We didn’t have time to get to the end of the book, so for next time: we simply continue reading up to the end of The Two Towers.

2:20 AM  

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