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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Reading Group meeting 26/4/08


Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

And here we go with the last missing blog:
Angela kicked things off with her observation of the importance of Ulmo, and Laura remarked that the latest chapters are full of prophecy and a profound sense of impending doom. Ulmo’s advice to leave the sword at Nevrast, while it bears a strong resemblance to fairy tale intrigues, contributes to this and to doom laden atmosphere which also includes a feeling that love should be more important than work.
Anne was interested in the interdiction against cousins marrying, and we discussed consanguinity. Laura told us that native Americans are also particularly careful about intermarriage, introducing themselves by giving the clan to which they belong, rather than chatting about the jobs they do etc. Anne then asked whether Eol actually coerced Aredhel through magic, so we discussed the significance of the reference to enchantment, but Laura reminded us that Aredhel was ‘not unwilling’. She also though Eol is a figure of tragedy.
Angela remakred on the way Eol rejects Doriath, while Tim thought Eol has a touch of Sauron about him because of his rejection of light, and society. Laura linked Eol to Aule via his connection with the Dwarves – they are all craftsmen/creators. Angela thought Eol simply did not want to be controlled, and she though Aredhel could be compared to Eowyn in her desire for freedom and escape from a ‘cage’, mentioned in the description of both female characters. Carol had remarked on Aredhel’s willfulness, and I said I was sorry for Maeglin.
Pat picked up the cultural significance of the ban on speaking Quenya, and while we all noted that Eol had refused to name his son, we also noted that Aredhel named him in the forbidden language. Carol thought it very questionable that Eol had refused the boy any name.
The topic of a very high status language reserved for the most elite in society was addressed by Mike, who told us that the Japanese royal family formerly exclusively used a very ancient form of the language.
Laura and Ian went back to the problem of consanguinity and incest, remarking on the situation in the ancient Egyptian court where brothers and sisters married to maintain the blood line. Tim commented quietly that this seemed unelfy, and then took the discussion on to the topic of Hidden Cities. We have talked about this before, during our time in LotR, and Ian remarked that there are a lot of hiding ploys. Anne queried the need for such a strong fortification as Turgon creates when Gondolin is ringed with massive mountains. Ian said it is a strange place. Chris observed that the destruction of places like Gondolin seems symbolic as these massively fortified cities are destroyed, like Minas Tirith, from within.
Laura picked up the thread of curses running through TS to this point, and we noted that Eol’s death takes place on the equivalent of the Tarpeian Rocks in Rome.
Mark questioned Galadriel’s question to Finrod about not marrying, and Mike wondered if she was herself the catalyst, by her question, for the change in Finrod.
We went on to consider the question of epic time again – should we take the 250 years for the building of Gondolin serious. Julie suggested it should be understood in the context of ‘biblical time’, not an exact measurement, but a number that merely represents a very long time span. Ian suggested that it should be viewed as an alternative to ‘magic’.
Mark wondered why Aredhel told Eol’s servants that she was leaving. The text suggests he was not expected back soon enough for this to be a problem, but it’s still an odd way to behave. Ian remarked that Eol is not liked by the sons of Feanor, and Angela noted that there seems to be no apparent marriage ceremony – how could there be when Eol and Aredhel are so removed from any Elvish society?
Mike observed Tolkien’s effective economy of style when Maeglin ‘was silent’, and Tim said he found the sparse description of Eol’s death ‘and so he ended’ very effective. Ian responded by suggesting that in fact he didn’t die. I asked what Tolkien was doing when he created the difference between the description of Eol ‘ending’, and the actual death of Aredhel. Mike remarked that Eol ended completely from the point of view of the society in which he had existed, or on the margins of which he had existed, but Aredhel dies and this means that she is remembered – so the ending is complete extinguishing of memory while death implies memorial.
Laura noted that after a couple of chapters that were mostly description, we now have chapters of action, and that Idril perceives something about Maeglin along the lines of ‘looking fair and feeling foul’, recapping a topic from the previous meeting. Angela noted that Idril looks like the Two Trees in her colouring/description. Laura said that while Maeglin reminds her of Richard III, Eol and Aredhel reminded her of the Beauty and the Beast story form. Pat picked up Aredhel’s declaration that she was not Eol’s servant!
Julie noted that Carag = carrock, which is a real word for a rock, as Tolkien used it in The Hobbit. Mike noted the particular use of ‘S’ sounds to create a serpent-like sound image at times, while Laura noted that the Noldor show signs of free will. This led Mike to remind us that inevitably the Valar make the real decisions.
The extent of my notes belies the fact that for the first time we ran out of conversation! It had been very fragmented, as though there were no real themes to get our teeth into. We have struggled with free will, but here we were perhaps confronting more introverted relationships. Certainly the story of Maeglin and his strange origins in the enclosed world of his father seemed to stifle our usual ability to address any topic in depth.
We agreed to go on to the next 2 chapters, and ended somewhat puzzled.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

With the benefit of hindsight, I see that the enclosed world of the dominant paterfamilias Eol reminds me of the sensational stories recently in the press regarding an imprisoned "wife" and her unfortunate offspring in a place of darkness and isolation. This unhappy theme continues forward into the story of Beren and Luthien (coming up at the next session), where the rebellious and wayward daughter of Thingol is imprisoned by her father, in a maximum-security tree-house, owing to dubious psychological reasons.

3:20 PM  

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