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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Reading Group meeting 27/2/10

Northmoor Road

from 1926 - 1929

22 Northmoor Road, Oxford

from 1929 - 1957

...before you ask, yes it IS 20 Northmoor Road

20 Northmoor Road, Oxford

(check out the gate post on the driveway)


Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

Part 1
The afternoon began with discussions of a very hobbit-like nature as we were arranging when and where to meet for our (early) Reading Day dinner and entertainment. We then went on to sort out another get-together named as “Midyear’s Drinklings” by Laura. Having taken care of the important matters, the meeting proper began!

We were intending to discuss the chapters ‘The White Rider’ and ‘The King of the Golden Hall’. In the event, we found so much to talk about in just ‘The White Rider’ that we ran out of time and had to leave ‘The King…’ We will tackle that at our next meeting.

‘The White Rider’

Angela commented first on the distinction Legolas makes when he refers to Aragorn and Gimli as ‘you children’. She went on to remark that lightheartedness is a strategy for coping with stress and difficulty.

Laura commented on the scale of Aragorn’s tracking ability as shown in his interpretation of various signs. Carol, by mail, added that he ‘becomes a regular Sherlock Holmes.’ Carol also noted that Gimil’s statement to Legolas ‘Where you go, I will go’ echoes the relationship of Ruth and Naomi in the Old testament.

Mike observed that we see the ‘bad guys’ taking things literally while the ‘good guys’ analyse situations to devise strategies, while Gandalf prompts their thinking. Angela added that Gandalf actually encourages initiative. Mike went on to define bad = rigidity; good/virtue = analysis. And he wondered about this in the context of Tolkien’s Catholicism and the sense that religious orthodoxy continues by acceptance.

Ian was interested in the way the Ents ‘wake up’ and become active. He also traced the etymology of ‘dangerous’ back through its 14th and 15thC meanings to distinguish between ‘perilous’ and ‘dangerous’.

I remarked that the term ‘shepherds’ is used generically in the chapter, and this surprised me in view to Tolkien’s precise use of vocabulary. Julie, however, pointed out the Christian context of ‘shepherd’, and together with Mike defined the Ents as like Bishops, ‘pastors’, taking care of, looking after, their trees as anciently bishops would care for their ‘flocks’ before the development of priests, vicars, etc. So ‘shepherds’ in the Ent context should be not understood in terms of husbandry.

Chris went on to remind us that there are moments when Tolkien denies us the role of omniscient reader, refusing to tell us who the Old Man is. Ian remarked that Eomer gives some information, but only enough to cause uncertainty.

Angela was impressed by Aragorn’s assertion that the hunters would ‘sit down and starve’, seeing this a demonstration of fellowship, while not shooting the Old Man demonstrated innate nobility.

Carol commented on the suspense generated at the start by the encounter with the unknown Old Man, and his reference back to Frodo on Amon Hen. We discussed again Gandalf’s intervention.

Carol also picked up the messages Gandalf brings, with the first warning to Aragorn of the coming of his Rangers, and the Paths of the Dead; and the ominous warning to Legolas. Gimli’s message is not so doom-laden but ‘very formal and archaic, chivalrous almost’.

Ian wondered if Gandalf’s mission was really to confront evil things in Middle-earth, and questioned whether he had not understood this before. Angela commented that the wizards’ job was to encourage the peoples of Middle-earth in their resistance to evil. Mike though the wizards had gone off-track. Gandalf was distracted by his love of the various races, while the Blue Wizards had disappeared East, and Radagast spent his time with animals.

We then got involved in a debate about Gandalf’s 2 hats – actually his hat and his hood. There was some uncertainty about how he could wear a hat under his hood. It was concluded that it couldn’t have been a pointed hat. Julie and Laura were reminded at this point of a cardinal’s or pope’s hat – flat-crowned with a wide brim. Of course, the hat (pointed or not) could have been worn over the hood.

12:07 PM  
Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

Part 2
Laura then went on to remark on Gandalf’s notice of Boromir’s peril and redemption; and also the number of times legends and ‘unknown things’ are mentioned in this chapter. Carol wondered if Shadowfax does indeed go into the West in the end, as Gandalf’s declaration to him implies.

Chris was impressed by the fine poetic imagery of Gandalf’s speech about the ‘groan of overburdened rock’, and wondered if this is an insight into Iluvatar’s perception. Laura remarked on dichotomies, including the ‘song’ and the ‘weeping’. Angela wondered if the mountain was the highest point in Middle-earth.

Having run out of time, we agreed to carry over ‘The King of the Golden Hall’ until our next meeting.

12:07 PM  

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