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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Reading Group meeting 12/4/08


Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

This is the first of the delayed blogs. Apologies if you have been waiting for this as a reminder of what we did at the start of April.
Apparently, so my notes tell me, we started off with Pat’s observation that there were lots of Rings in the chapters we were looking at (13 and 14). Julie added that this included the Ring of Doom over which Manwe presides. Ian made a further link between Rings and shackles – in the sense that those who possess or create Rings of Power also become shackled to them, or by them. Pat went on to observe that Rings an a slightly different sense form boundaries, and there are many instances of liminality, of which these geographical rings are an important part. She also mentioned the Dwarf Necklace as another kind of Ring.
Mark drew attention to Chapter 13, para.3, which contains 20 place and character names, as he said –it’s not really a page-turner! Tim agreed that The Silmarillion offers more dense information than LotR.
Laura picked up the description of the Dwarf necklace as a caracanet and said she had looked up the work and found that it comes from ‘carcan’- originally an iron collar used as a punishment. This had become transposed into the word for an ornamental collar, however, Tolkien’s etymological accuity may mean that he used the word in order to slide between the two meanings. Laura also noted that the dwarf necklace fits any neck, just like the One Ring fits any finger! Tim found a happier comment about the necklace when he reminded us that it is used as a symbol of the relationship then existing between Elves and Dwarves.
Julie then took us into onomatopaeic regions when she noted that all the ‘F’ names create a sound impression like wind - or spirit. We moved on to ‘good and bad’ birds as Tim picked up a Promethian allusion in the torment of Maedhros, but without the attendant vulture and mutilation. Instead the bird is a rescuing eagle. Laura saw a Christian significance in Maedhros hanging by his wrist in a kind of one-handed crucifixion. Tim elaborated on this with his comment on Christ being ‘pecked’ by the Roman eagle. Everyone, including Carol in her email, agreed that the singing of Fingon repeated the ‘Blondel tactic’ of the Richard the Lionheart legend, it also offers a pre-echo of Sam singing to find Frodo. Everyone also wanted to consider the implications of which way round Maedhros had been hung.
Mark questioned Morgoth’s embassy, and Tim said it reminded him of the insolence of the Mouth of Sauron. Pat, Angela, and Chris, all commented the Feanor’s flying spirit was just like the ‘smoke’ of Saruman, while Ian observed that the story so far has included 3 fiery spirits – Miriel, Feanor, and Arien.
Anne was then interested by the epic passage of time in the story, while Ian and I were rather taken with the baby Glaurung, all squishy and delicate, being shot with Elf arrows, which seemed to me very unfair! Angela again drew attention to the theme of the careless Valar, but agreed that Ulmo is very clearly keeping an eye on things, offering advice, and preparing for the future, while Manwe sends his eagles.
Ian picked this up and noted that we have a clear case of eagles sent in response to entreaties (or prayer), but the coming of eagles in LotR is not defined as a sign of intervention, but treated more as a surprise, even though it indicates the intervention of the Valar.
Tim lightened the mood a bit with his observation that we have another van, and that there is traffic in Beleriand. Julie added that Feanor’s downfall comes from speeding in the van! Claire continued the lighter mood by noting that Maglor can’t sing, and there was a fit of the giggles generally as we wondered what the song on the mountain was, the conclusion being that it had to be The Lonely Goatherd.
We went back to the grim and grisly with the general observation that there is a lot of dismemberment going on. I mentioned that the lost hand reminded me of the Old Irish legend of Lug Silver-Hand and the need for a King to be physically entire and unblemished.
Angela then observed that when Morgoth captures the Noldor, it seems that not all of them are changed into orcs. Ian backed this up with a reminder of Frodo’s comment about ‘looking fair and feeling foul’. This recollection of LotR led Julie to remark that in LotR the songs often function as ‘potted’ histories recalling the events of TS.
I’m sure there was a good deal more detail than this, but after nearly a month my notes are not quite enough to jog my memory. We went on to the next 2 chapters and the notes from these will be in the next blog.

8:40 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

Sombre mood, I'm afraid. I felt I ought to remark, re. Tolkien's invented mythology, I never could understand before quite how any being, even one so twisted and vile as Melkor, could do such a thing as to take beings as beautiful and exalted as the Elves and deliberately imprison them in darkness and torment them for long ages in order to turn them into something as debased as the Orcs, simply to gratify the promptings of his insanely inflated ego. It simply didn't seem feasible. But after learning of the recent events in Austria, I fear I now have a real insight into the workings of a truly diabolical mind, one which could not only conceive of such a scheme, and plan it - but which could actually carry it out. The world seems a darker place right now.

2:48 PM  

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