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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Reading Group meeting 22/9/07

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Blogger Rymenhild said...

22.9.07
The Birthday! We were fortunate to meet on this auspicious date, and those of us who had not been able to go to Oxonmoot also had lots of catching up to do as those who had been brought in photos to show us what we’d missed. Of course we wanted to hear from Ian how his presentation had gone. He was pleased with it and everyone who had been in the audience supporting him remarked on how well he handled the questions, including at least one really demanding one from a Latinist.
A good time was apparently had by all, not least because they discovered that the college rooms included one bearing the name ‘The Arwen Warmer Room’. While Julie and Laura had emailed their photos, Christopher and Angela kindly transferred their photos to CD so we could all share in the experience, and Ian brought in his laptop which was not only for looking at the pictures, but more of that later. Laura had also kindly brought in the catalogue of Ted Naismith’s paintings from ADC Books. What a wish-list!
After the initial hilarious accounts of Oxonmoot, Shirley and I had a small diversion off into discussions about costumes, there had been some very fine ones at this year’s Masquerade and Shirley is hoping to make one for next year. After this we got down to the main matter for discussion which was to establish our way forward. It was agreed that we should tackle the Appendices next and do them thoroughly, rather than dipping in and out for information. So this is our plan:

Appendix A - because this is quite long and in several sections we will proceed as follows:
Week 1 The section on Numenorean matters
Week2 Rohan and Durin’s Folk
After this we will take a massive leap backwards(!) and for
Week3 read The Prologue and Appendix C. This will give us a detailed exploration of hobbits and their family trees, so we’ll have fun seeing who is related to whom.
This is our plan for reading for the next 3 sessions.
At some point after this we shall look at the topic of ‘Disobedience and its Consequences’.

We went on to consider and chat about our favourite bits of LotR – a rather obvious topic but it gave the opportunity to talk about, and to read aloud some of our best-loved moments. Angela started us off with her favourite, which is the moment on Cerin Amroth when Frodo shares in Aragorn’s memory of his time there with Arwen. It is an important moment for the fact that Frodo’s perception is such even at this time that he can see Aragorn as he had been. It suggests that different levels of perception are possible, a topic I don’t think we had considered yet.
Anne followed this with her favourite episode, which is The Houses of Healing. She said she likes the change of pace and tone, right in the middle of all the battle sequences, and the location of the Houses came under scrutiny. Were they, Anne wondered, tucked away in some secluded corner of Minas Tirith where the sound of battle could not be heard? The architecture and layout of Minas Tirith was only briefly discussed because we know the walls around the Houses look out over the Pellenor Fields, and I suggested that the noise probably depended on the size of the forces engaged in the battle. We know there were vast armies of orcs as well as the Rohirrim with their thundering horses hooves and horns blowing. The Mumaks of Harad must have made a great deal of noise, and the Nazgul were swooping level with the walls and if they were screaming that would add to the cacophony.
At this point Diane wondered just how big the orc armies really were, remembering the Anglo-Saxon accounts of the ‘great summer army’ of Vikings that was said to have invaded south-east England one year. It has been suggested in recent years that this frightening force of invaders probably amounted to no more than 200 men, and Diane was concerned that we should not base our impression of the orc hosts on the CGI images in the films. A good point. In the book Tolkien’s descriptions of overwhelming forces don’t need to be understood in actual numbers, the reader’s imagination will supply the difference between the valiant forces of Gondor and its allies and the overwhelming forces of Sauron.
Mark said his favourite moment was the confrontation at the Ford of Bruinen, and he read the passage in which the river rises and the Black Riders are destroyed and on the far bank Glorfindel can be seen revealed in his majesty as an Elf-lord. We enjoyed hearing this and Diane voiced a common opinion among us that the films (cartoon and live action) have really missed a great moment by ignoring the presence of Glorfindel. The moment of transition, when he changes from his gently shining elven presence into his full glory as one of the Eldar could be such a high point, such a sign of the ancient confrontations between the Eldar and the forces of evil, and such a powerful recollection of all the mythology in The Silmarillion. (Especially as he is, if I remember TS correctly, the second Glorfindel, the first one having fallen in battle with a balrog during the fall of Gondolin. Mark, however, commented at the poetic writing of his favourite passage. Though it is prose, the use of language and imagery raise it to the level of narrative poetry.
Tim followed this with another encounter with the Black Riders – the very first encounter in the Shire. We all remembered the shiver of anticipation as the horse comes clopping closer and closer. Besides enjoying the frisson of fear, we also considered the way the invasion of the Shire suddenly ‘opens out the world’. The hobbits can no longer stay safely behind their own borders, but more worryingly, they are no longer safe within those borders. The sense of lost security is quite disturbing. Tim also took us on to the first meeting in Bree between the hobbits and Aragorn. We noted the tension created by Tolkien’s description (read to us by Tim) of the enigmatic figure smoking his pipe in the corner.
Diane did not mention her favourite moment. But Ian did so at the end of the afternoon when he presented us with a compilation of high-points in the films. Among them, he included Pippin looking up and crying ‘The eagles are coming’, and then the rescue of the hobbits.
I tried to come up with a favourite, but failed. Every episode everyone else named would qualify. So too would the first sighting of the balrog, Galadriel’s great renunciation speech, the Ubi Sunt lyric of the Rohirrim (Where is the horse and the rider) and maybe, just edging them all, would be the moment on Mount Doom when Sam carries Frodo. But by this time we had just about run out of time and as we went to pack up Ian turned his laptop round and gave us his own filmic highlights. It was a memorable afternoon.
Just to remind you, next time we shall be looking at Appendix A section 1 – all the material on the Numenorean Kings.

11:30 AM  

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