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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Reading Group meeting 12/12/09


Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

12.12. 09
[I’m a bit better organized this time, so Carol’s comments are included here.]

This was our final meeting before Christmas and we were looking at the last 2 chapters of FotR: ‘The Great River’ and ‘The Breaking of the Fellowship’.

Angela started the discussion with her observation that Boromir seems ok at first reading and it only slowly emerges that he has ‘problems’. Carol, however, noted that Boromir's getting edgy.

Angela remarked on the way Aragorn keeps putting things off. Laura, on the other hand, pointed out that Boromir was the bringer of the message, and this was perhaps confusing to Aragorn.

Laura went on to consider the gift-giving and thought the sequence was odd, but maybe the first gifts from Celeborn were practical and thus different from Galadriel’s later gifts. Ian picked up the distinction, suggesting that the equipping of the Fellowship and the farewell were separated and showed 2 aspects of the significance of the episode in Lorien: the practical help is distinguished from the ceremonial aspect.

Julie wondered why the Company needed 3 boats? Angela and Chris suggested that it was to make portage and tackling the Stair at the Falls easier, if everyone was off to Minas Tirith.

I questioned the meaning of ‘thrawn’ as I had forgotten to look it up. Ian with the aid to his hand-held internet connection looked it up and found it was Scots, meaning ‘crooked, misshapen, or contrary’ < OE thrawen: turn, twist, curl, or rack. Carol had commented that “ 'writhen' is a lovely word. I've used it in poems about trees on the moors. Is it copyrighted?” I have looked this up and no, it’s not one of Tolkien’s; it’s Anglo-Saxon in origin and gives us the word ‘writhe’ as well.

We got into a consideration of Tolkien’s use of the word ‘lawn’ for grassy glades, and Mike said he had seen seagulls ‘dancing’ on the grass in the park on his way to the meeting. It was pointed out that this is a well-known method for bringing worms to the surface, and Julie remarked on the way out discussion moved from Tolkien to worm-charming!

Laura and Angela got us back on track with their observation that Aragorn uses the old name Minas Anor when referring to Minas Tirith, and Angela noted that for Aragorn, only the southern kingdom now remains.

Carol noted that “Legolas sees the eagle and I think it's connected with Gandalf's rescue from Zirak-zigil. Running into the rapids of Sarn Gebir: the elvish 'yrch' suggests 'ugh' to me. Is this the first sighting of the winged steed?” She also remarked “They talk of Time in Lorien ending with the pessimistic 'time flows on to a spring of little hope.”

We spent some time considering heroes and heroism and Laura remarked that she saw Frodo as very much the hero because he takes on the quest even when he’s terrified.
PART 2 Follows:

8:28 AM  
Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

Part 2
Angela was impressed by the way Aragorn, with due respect, acknowledges that Sam is right when they are debating at Parth Galen. Together with Ian, she wondered if there was any chat between Boromir and Sam. Ian noted Boromir’s muttering in his boat but doesn’t say anything to Merry and Pippin, perhaps because he is trying to work out how to persuade Frodo to go to Minas Tirith. Angela remarked that Pippin always seems well-disposed towards Boromir.

Carol noted that Boromir’s mere use of the word 'cockle-boats' says it all about his disdain. Legolas and Aragorn scouting the way ahead could have proved a grave error. Who would have led the company if they'd perished? Boromir? Or would he just have seized the ring? He whinges again about the difficulty of the task of carting the boats over the portage way. Gimli says: 'the legs of men will lag on a rough road, while a dwarf goes on, be the burden twice his weight, master Boromir.' Boromir retorts: 'we need sleep, and even if Aragorn had a mind to pass the gate of Argonath by night, we are all too tired - except, no doubt, out sturdy dwarf.' It's all getting a bit waspish. When they get there, it’s a nice juxtaposition of enduring stone and fleeting 'cockle-boats'. The scene has become iconic and in Aragorn a hint of his real self. It's rather poignant.

Laura noted how forceful Sam is when Boromir returns from his encounter with Frodo. Chris remarked that Boromir and Frodo on Amon Hen are a reflection of the encounter between Smeagol and Deagol – in both encounters there is a fight over the Ring, which may be partly the madness induced by the Ring’s influence. Boromir thinks he has a right to it as Gollum thinks he should have it. Ian pointed out that Aragorn rejects the Ring, but Chris objected that Aragorn has had advice which Boromir hasn’t had. Ian cited Boromir’s dynasty and dynastic pressure, while Chris cited Gandalf’s teaching.

Carol remarked that “We get at taste of Sam's optimism that will help him and Frodo through Mordor - and a bit of foresight too. Frodo: 'I don't suppose we shall see them again.' Sam: 'yet we may, Mr. Frodo, we may.' I'd have been as mad as strong language if I'd had to wait for the TT book to come out and even madder having to wait a year for RotK. It was bad enough waiting for the films.

Mike conjectured that Boromir thinks as a Man he is less corruptible than other people or races. Chris suggested that Boromir has always been in a position of authority, while Angela objected that Boromir ignores those who are older and wiser. Having already written on Boromir, I didn’t say much but rather wished I’d had the benefit of this debate before finishing the piece.

Laura took us back to the finding of the Ring with her observation that the Ring itself wanted someone other the Deagol, and Chris noted that Deagol wasn’t so sharp and grasping as Smeagol. It was suggested that Deagol wasn’t so adventurous as Smeagol, and as Carol notes Gollum is seen following again, getting bold, but then the Ring irresistibly pulls him. Like Boromir, he is lusting after the Ring. Chris thought Gollum gets the blame a lot, and we agreed that he seems at be at this point demonized and made a useful scapegoat. Laura suggested that he is being built up as evil before readers are given any insight into the depths of his character.

Laura noted the drug-like quality of the Ring, and that Boromir is exhausted from his ‘passion’ but can recover after his fall. Chris observed that Boromir actually recovers when confronted with battle. Ian observed that Boromir hasn’t seen the power of the Ring before his attack on Frodo and he changes when Frodo puts on the Ring. As Chris noted, the hobbits have seen this power on Weathertop, but vanishment now shocks Boromir out of wanting the Ring.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

Mike reminded us that repentance needs a shock or realisation of something far more powerful that the self, and Angela agreed that Boromir is shocked at what he has just tried to do. Ian and Mike observed that sin can be attractive and seducative. Chris reversed the initial response to Boromir and the Ring, observing that the Ring itself ‘saves’ Boromir. And he asked, is it at that moment under the influence of Sauron, or Iluvatar?

Carol observed that when Boromir fantasizes about what he'd do if he had the ring, it's commanding vast armies against Mordor. Later, Sam dreams of gardens and Gollum as The Gollum dreams of getting his own back and eating fish from the sea – the ring gives power according to the stature of the bearer. A good tense piece of writing. From Frodo's sitting on Amon Hen we get to know that war isn't only centred around Gondor/Mordor. Very tense moment when the 2 voices are struggling for mastery over Frodo. Of course, we don't know till later that it's Gandalf saying: 'take it off.'

Ian wondered if what is heard is actually Frodo’s voice or psyche? Mike drew attention to the feeling that the Ring has self-determination. Chris noted the possibility of Sauron’s interrogation while Angela noted that he is capable of doing this without speech as when Pippin looks in the palantir. Chris, Ian and Mike defined ‘points of power’ locating these at Amon Hen and the palantir, and specifically taking the form of the Voice and the Eye.

Mike noted that Tolkien allows the readers’ imagination to have free play.
Chris observed another instance of fog, describing ‘mists of convenience’ as distinct from others like the one on the Barrow Downs, and we considered the influence of Ulmo again. Chris also noted Frodo’s many wounds to which Angela attributed his ‘funny turns’. Ian thought these smacked of PTS!

Laura remarked on the difference between the vision of Galadriel and that of Boromir. She sees the world situation if the Ring should be taken while his concern is only for Minas Tirith and its environs.

Angela noted that everyone ends up NOT obeying Aragorn. And Carol remarked that it's as if something is working to jinx the fellowship at this stage.

We have finished FotR, and will start a new year with a new book. Our reading will be the first 2 chapters of The Two Towers.

8:29 AM  

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