Send your email address today and be part of this Blog

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Reading Group meeting 10/4/10

".. dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow!"

Udûn is the Sindarin name of Utumno, the fortress of Melkor in the far north of the World.

Encyclopedia of Arda: Udûn


Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...


We were finishing off the ‘Road to Isengard’ and moving on to ‘Flotsam and Jetsam’ today. And we were joined for the first time by Kathleen, while Laura, Ian, Vicki and Mike were not with us.

We found ourselves hopping about a bit between the chapters, so I will try to flag up changes when they happen.

Chris started the proceedings off with his remark that ‘The Road’ is a learning chapter. Not only do the readers learn more but Gimli and Legolas learn things that astonish them, while Gandalf imparts new information to Theoden which extends his knowledge of things he thought he knew.

Angela observed that Gandalf’s correction of the Rohirric belief that Ents and were things of myth and story, recalls Celeborn’s rebuke to Boromir concerning; ‘childrens’ tales’. And she considered that this represented Tolkien view of myth – that some stories were far more serious originally than the forms in which we know them would suggest.

Kathleen wondered if the ‘magical’ bits of the story really represented things that remained unexplained, and perhaps vice versa.

Angela noted, as did Carol by email, just how courteous and polite Theoden habitually is.

Carol remarked that the emptying of a stronghold, soldiers going away to war, will be mirrored in the episode of the Witch king’s army leaving Minas Morgul

After we had discussed briefly the movements of the huorns, Julie posed the problem of the consumed orcs, and wondered if this was a distant echo of dangerous forests: she was reminded of the massacre of the legions of Quintus Varrus in the Tuteborg Forest in Germany. Kathleen, on the other hand, was reminded of the Pied Piper legend.

Julie and Angela remarked on the way Gimli and Legolas exchange friendly insults, and how at the end of the chapter Theoden identifies the meeting of old friends by the insults and abuse heaped on Merry and Pippin! Carol noted the change in the 2 hobbits in the next chapter.

We went on into ‘Flotsam’ at this point when we noted that in Legolas’s comment about the ‘great ones’ going off, this sidelines Aragorn, who, apart from Gandalf, is surely the greatest in the party, being Theoden’s overlord. Angela remarked that Aragorn is now being called Strider again, but now does not mind this although he was very put out when he recounted in Rivendell how he was called Strider in Bree. I thought it showed a distinction between the contexts in which the name was used, it’s different when it’s used by hobbits of whom he is fond.

Carol added to this in her comments saying:
“This is one of my favourite chapters, partly because of the exposition of the breaking of Isengard but also because of the homeliness of the companions. They sit down and share a meal together and the hobbits couldn’t possibly have let them eat alone could they? Then they share news, smoking, relaxing. No airs and graces from Aragorn. A brief respite against the harsh times to come and this is just what they’re fighting for, so that simple folk can share a meal and a conversation and a pipe in piece.”

12:27 PM  
Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

Julie wondered next about the pillars and chains in Isengard. She thought they were in some way ‘mock trees’ replacing the real ones that had been cut down. And this reminded her of the way the columns in medieval Christian cathedrals mimicked the trees of the sacred groves that had been cut down during the conversion process.

Julie also picked up the use of the word ‘lunch’, suggesting this sounded rather modern, and also rather twee. Kathleen liked the distinction of ‘man-food’. I was surprised at the reference to small beasts inhabiting the bramble thickets of Isengard because the Orcs might have eaten things like that. Kathleen thought the description of the thickets suggested that they were cave-like hiding places.

Angela then picked up the reference to being ‘safe in Bree’ and wondered why it wasn’t ‘safe in Rivendell’ since Bree had been far from safe.

We all remarked on the significance of Elfhelm being the one chosen by Gandalf to go back to Edoras, because he would be such a help to Eowyn. When it was remarked that he might have got into a lot of trouble for this, I was rather taken with the possibility that he might have been as devoted to her as Gimli was to Galadriel, but he might also represent the principle of pure devotion in contrast to Grima’s lust.

Chris noted with some surprise that Pippin isn’t told off by anyone for mentioning ‘treasures as precious as Rings’ (capitalised significantly in the text). As Julie said, with Frodo going off into grave danger it could be regarded as a tasteless remark to compare and old pipe to the Rings of Power. Chris also thought it strange that various characters speak of things as ‘precious’. Angela commented on Aragorn giving Pippin back his elven brooch and calling it precious. Carol noted that Merry has to get his sword back to help him kill the witch king.

Chris and Carol commented on Aragorn’s remark about not being able to throw away something ‘at need’, and linked this to Sam throwing away his precious pans on the struggle through Mordor when it was to be a choice between carrying them or Frodo. Different things have different significance, and that may have to change with changing circumstances.

Julie remarked on the strange fact that Treebeard in his first fury at Saruman’s destruction of trees promises not to tire of guarding him but then lets him go. Angela reminded us that Saruman’s voice still retained its power, even over Treebeard, Chris noted that the Ents only let Men go free, not orcs.

We discussed the fact that knowing the stories so well, we are inclined to hop backwards and forwards making comparisons at times, although we do less of this when Vicki is with us because we don’t want to spoil the surprises for her. We adopted the same caution when Anne and Pat were with us for the same reason, and were glad to see how astonished they were when, for example, Eowyn takes off her helmet! This week we didn’t need to be so cautious as Vicki was not pesent, and Kathleen knows the story.

We agreed to finish off the last 2 chapters of Book 3 and Chris was pleased at the prospect of moving on to Book 4 in which Gollum plays such a prominent role.

12:28 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home