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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Reading Group meeting 26/6/10

6 Comments:

Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

26.6.10

For this meeting we were looking at the chapters ‘Journey to the Crossroads’ and ‘The Stairs of Cirith Ungol’. Who would have thought we’d encounter Aristotle’s theory of the Mean on the way! But Ian started off our discussions with an analysis of Faramir according to Aristotle’s theory, taken from his Nichomachean Ethics. It basically asserts the idea of the Middle Way, avoiding extremes of all kinds, and Faramir conforms closely to this concept – which was ubiquitous in medieval thought. Ian then went on to pick up a reference I had made last time to Kenelm Digby’s The Broadstone of Honour. This was one of the most influential books of the 19th century for its use of tales of chivalry to instil the ‘proper’ virtues of service and morality in the young empire builders. Ian’s research into these matters shed more light on both the characterisation of Faramir, and on Tolkien’s attitude to the character.
After this foray into philosophy and 19th century education Laura brought us back to the text itself with her observation that the chapter title ‘Journey to the Crossroads’ continues the theme of having to make decisions.
Carol by email noted that Faramir opens the chapter in a very portentous fashion almost heralding battle.
Angela went on to the very pragmatic observation that both Aragorn and Faramir seem to be able to do without sleep. She then picked up the reference to the ‘brooding’ atmosphere, which Faramir finds strange, and noted that Sauron had just seen Aragorn in the Palantir and was at this time distracted. Thus Aragorn by his action does indeed help Frodo as the confrontation contributes to Frodo’s safe passage through Ithilien.
Ian picked up another part of the brooding atmosphere, noting the idea that the land dreams in a false peace. Ian saw this as a reflection of the ‘phoney war’ in the autumn of 1939.
Angela remarked on the reference to the conjecture over a storm or an army moving, and wondered if indeed Gollum had found out about the Minas Morgul army preparing to move.
I commented on the difference between Faramir who ‘broke his fast’, as distinct from references to hobbits having breakfast, and even second breakfast. The change of lexical style maintains the Gondorian characterisation through its formality.
Laura went on to wonder about the Numenorean form of farewell with the kiss on the forehead. She remarked that Faramir seems very aware of his Numenorean roots but Boromir is not shown to be aware of this in the same way.

I went on to ask everyone why in their opinion Gollum was looking so pleased with himself when he was brought back to join Frodo and Sam. Everyone agreed that he must have been given fish. It was noted that soon after this he was grubbing about in the dirt again as if hungry. Kathleen then questioned why he didn’t eat any of the hobbits’ food on the way to the Morgul Vale? Angela and I thought it was because it was actually good food – not quite as ‘good’ as lembas but good in various sense. The suggestion was made that after so many years in his cave without access to fruit, bread, or cooked food he had lost a taste for these things. Ian commented that Gollum still knew what ‘decent places’ were, however, when he told Sam they weren’t in decent places.

Chris observed that Gollum was now too close to putting his evil plan into action to bother with food, and Ian added that Gollum had lost his appetite on account of the adrenalin flooding his body as they approached the Morgul Vale. Carol wondered if Gollum goes off to seek out Shelob and remarks “If so, he’s got some stamina!”

Ian remarked on the ilex trees and we noted that this was just the Latin name for holly but again Tolkien makes a lexical distinction calling the trees holly in Hollin, but giving them their Latin name in the lands of Gondor.

7:48 AM  
Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

Angela then wondered about the elvish virtue that is associated with Ithilien and taking us back to the First Age she posed the thought that Lake Cuivienen might have been close by before everything was ruined, because it is described as being far to the north east in Beleriand.


Laura brought us back to the Third Age when she asked who the statue of the King represented. None of us could be sure but we thought it might have been Isildur as it is likened to the statues of the Argonath.

I then commented on the areas of burning on the ‘hog back’ of land onto which the hobbits climb, because they remind me of the areas of burned heath and gorse in the New Forest. It is possible that they had a natural origin in lightening strikes, but I wondered if they may have been evidence of Southron or Haradrim camps as these forces moved north towards the Morannon. Carol wondered if Sam was now having prophetic dreams.

Angela was surprised that the Lord of the Nazgul didn’t follow up his suspicion that the Ring is close by as he leaves Minas Morgul, but she and Carol also noted that he behaves like a good subordinate and follows his orders to go to battle. Ian compared this absolute obedience with Faramir’s rejection of the Ring and consequent disobedience. Chris and Angela thought that the presence of the Phial of Galadriel changed things, countering perhaps some of the power of the Ring.

Laura picked up the strange detail of the revolving level of the Tower of Minas Morgul. In a moment of whimsy Laura and I remarked that it must be the restaurant! But Chris thought it was the radar tower. Ian was not convinced.

Getting up back on track, Chris then noted that Frodo is blinded again in the vicinity of the Lord of the Nazgul, as he was on the cliff of the Emyn Muil – again when the winged Nazgul was near by.

Remembering the many references to Gollum’s eyes, I remarked on the way the presence of the Nazgul seems to affect them. Chris commented that they always reflect his mood changes. Ian likened them to the eyes of animals that shine in the dark, but Laura was slightly disturbed by the implied association between Gollum and cats, but it was taken to be consistent with Tolkien’s low opinion of cats.

We noticed that Sam supports Gollum’s attitudes in the vicinity to Minas Morgul; Carol thought Gollum and Sam’s banter seems almost ‘pantomimic’ at times; but Chris remarked that later Gollum actually echoes Gandalf’s cry of ‘Fools’ in Moria.


Carol noted the ‘truly gruesome picture of the Morgul Vale’, and that Frodo and Sam are not the only hobbits to see an army going to war – the one they see is off to Gondor, but Merry and Pippin witnessed a similar sight between Isengard and Helm’s Deep.

I was interested in the way Frodo is aware that even wearing the Ring he cannot confront the Lord of the Nazgul ‘not yet’, and I wondered if this was a sign of the Ring getting a hold on his mind. Angela reminded us of Frodo in Lorien where he still lacks mind power. Ian observed that his power has grown by the time he exerts it over Gollum.

Reminded of Lorien, Laura wondered if the Three Rings were all worn all the time. Angela remarked that if so, Sam can’t see Galadriel’s, so they seem to be hidden from ordinary sight.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

Angela then wondered about the elvish virtue that is associated with Ithilien and taking us back to the First Age she posed the thought that Lake Cuivienen might have been close by before everything was ruined, because it is described as being far to the north east in Beleriand.


Laura brought us back to the Third Age when she asked who the statue of the King represented. None of us could be sure but we thought it might have been Isildur as it is likened to the statues of the Argonath.

I then commented on the areas of burning on the ‘hog back’ of land onto which the hobbits climb, because they remind me of the areas of burned heath and gorse in the New Forest. It is possible that they had a natural origin in lightening strikes, but I wondered if they may have been evidence of Southron or Haradrim camps as these forces moved north towards the Morannon. Carol wondered if Sam was now having prophetic dreams.

Angela was surprised that the Lord of the Nazgul didn’t follow up his suspicion that the Ring is close by as he leaves Minas Morgul, but she and Carol also noted that he behaves like a good subordinate and follows his orders to go to battle. Ian compared this absolute obedience with Faramir’s rejection of the Ring and consequent disobedience. Chris and Angela thought that the presence of the Phial of Galadriel changed things, countering perhaps some of the power of the Ring.

Laura picked up the strange detail of the revolving level of the Tower of Minas Morgul. In a moment of whimsy Laura and I remarked that it must be the restaurant! But Chris thought it was the radar tower. Ian was not convinced.

Getting up back on track, Chris then noted that Frodo is blinded again in the vicinity of the Lord of the Nazgul, as he was on the cliff of the Emyn Muil – again when the winged Nazgul was near by.

Remembering the many references to Gollum’s eyes, I remarked on the way the presence of the Nazgul seems to affect them. Chris commented that they always reflect his mood changes. Ian likened them to the eyes of animals that shine in the dark, but Laura was slightly disturbed by the implied association between Gollum and cats, but it was taken to be consistent with Tolkien’s low opinion of cats.

We noticed that Sam supports Gollum’s attitudes in the vicinity to Minas Morgul; Carol thought Gollum and Sam’s banter seems almost ‘pantomimic’ at times; but Chris remarked that later Gollum actually echoes Gandalf’s cry of ‘Fools’ in Moria.


Carol noted the ‘truly gruesome picture of the Morgul Vale’, and that Frodo and Sam are not the only hobbits to see an army going to war – the one they see is off to Gondor, but Merry and Pippin witnessed a similar sight between Isengard and Helm’s Deep.

I was interested in the way Frodo is aware that even wearing the Ring he cannot confront the Lord of the Nazgul ‘not yet’, and I wondered if this was a sign of the Ring getting a hold on his mind. Angela reminded us of Frodo in Lorien where he still lacks mind power. Ian observed that his power has grown by the time he exerts it over Gollum.

Reminded of Lorien, Laura wondered if the Three Rings were all worn all the time. Angela remarked that if so, Sam can’t see Galadriel’s, so they seem to be hidden from ordinary sight.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

Angela then wondered about the elvish virtue that is associated with Ithilien and taking us back to the First Age she posed the thought that Lake Cuivienen might have been close by before everything was ruined, because it is described as being far to the north east in Beleriand.


Laura brought us back to the Third Age when she asked who the statue of the King represented. None of us could be sure but we thought it might have been Isildur as it is likened to the statues of the Argonath.

I then commented on the areas of burning on the ‘hog back’ of land onto which the hobbits climb, because they remind me of the areas of burned heath and gorse in the New Forest. It is possible that they had a natural origin in lightening strikes, but I wondered if they may have been evidence of Southron or Haradrim camps as these forces moved north towards the Morannon. Carol wondered if Sam was now having prophetic dreams.

Angela was surprised that the Lord of the Nazgul didn’t follow up his suspicion that the Ring is close by as he leaves Minas Morgul, but she and Carol also noted that he behaves like a good subordinate and follows his orders to go to battle. Ian compared this absolute obedience with Faramir’s rejection of the Ring and consequent disobedience. Chris and Angela thought that the presence of the Phial of Galadriel changed things, countering perhaps some of the power of the Ring.

Laura picked up the strange detail of the revolving level of the Tower of Minas Morgul. In a moment of whimsy Laura and I remarked that it must be the restaurant! But Chris thought it was the radar tower. Ian was not convinced.

Getting up back on track, Chris then noted that Frodo is blinded again in the vicinity of the Lord of the Nazgul, as he was on the cliff of the Emyn Muil – again when the winged Nazgul was near by.

Remembering the many references to Gollum’s eyes, I remarked on the way the presence of the Nazgul seems to affect them. Chris commented that they always reflect his mood changes. Ian likened them to the eyes of animals that shine in the dark, but Laura was slightly disturbed by the implied association between Gollum and cats, but it was taken to be consistent with Tolkien’s low opinion of cats.

We noticed that Sam supports Gollum’s attitudes in the vicinity to Minas Morgul; Carol thought Gollum and Sam’s banter seems almost ‘pantomimic’ at times; but Chris remarked that later Gollum actually echoes Gandalf’s cry of ‘Fools’ in Moria.


Carol noted the ‘truly gruesome picture of the Morgul Vale’, and that Frodo and Sam are not the only hobbits to see an army going to war – the one they see is off to Gondor, but Merry and Pippin witnessed a similar sight between Isengard and Helm’s Deep.

I was interested in the way Frodo is aware that even wearing the Ring he cannot confront the Lord of the Nazgul ‘not yet’, and I wondered if this was a sign of the Ring getting a hold on his mind. Angela reminded us of Frodo in Lorien where he still lacks mind power. Ian observed that his power has grown by the time he exerts it over Gollum.

Reminded of Lorien, Laura wondered if the Three Rings were all worn all the time. Angela remarked that if so, Sam can’t see Galadriel’s, so they seem to be hidden from ordinary sight.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

I asked then what exactly was meant by Gollum’s fingers ‘snapping’? Ian briefly indicated a willingness to demonstrate the effects of double-jointedness, but we urged him not too! Laura thought it indicated anger, while Kathleen observed that monkeys use a kind of finger-snapping as a warning. We thought Gollum’s fingers were probably very loose jointed because he can climb up and down trees and cliffs so shaking in irritation or anger might have made them ‘snap.’

Laura then wondered when it was that the Stairs were made and by whom? Our opinions were divided between orcs and others. We based the orc idea on the roughness of the steps, but it was pointed out that roughness could be due to age and wear and the later orc use. This brought us on to when Shelob might have arrived. We did not come to any conclusion about this, and I wondered how exactly Gollum got to bargain with Shelob. It was suggested that this was done luring orcs her way, or even by presenting her with captured orcs. Carol, however, observed that in their quiet moment together Sam remarks that he and Frodo are in an ongoing story but they don’t take it back far enough to pick up the Ungoliant > Ungol / Silmaril > Earendil and his light in the starglass. Carol also notes when Sam realises he’s in the same story this is a vast leap forward for him ‘part of his growth and eventual reward.’ Carol also notes the multi-layered nature of Story in LotR, and that ‘Pippin too at the Morannon recognises Story when he sees the Eagles coming but can’t quite equate himself as being in the same story as Bilbo and the Story. Pippin’s reward is material; Sam’s is both material and spiritual.

We did, of course, consider the ‘redemptive’ moment with Gollum, but having covered this during our previous reading of LotR, had little to add. Carol, however, notes this as the fruit of Sam overhearing Gollum/Smeagol debating earlier in the tale.

We agreed to read the next 2 chapters ‘Shelob’s Lair’ and ‘The Choices of Master Samwise’. This will complete The Two Towers.

7:52 AM  
Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

I asked then what exactly was meant by Gollum’s fingers ‘snapping’? Ian briefly indicated a willingness to demonstrate the effects of double-jointedness, but we urged him not too! Laura thought it indicated anger, while Kathleen observed that monkeys use a kind of finger-snapping as a warning. We thought Gollum’s fingers were probably very loose jointed because he can climb up and down trees and cliffs so shaking in irritation or anger might have made them ‘snap.’

Laura then wondered when it was that the Stairs were made and by whom? Our opinions were divided between orcs and others. We based the orc idea on the roughness of the steps, but it was pointed out that roughness could be due to age and wear and the later orc use. This brought us on to when Shelob might have arrived. We did not come to any conclusion about this, and I wondered how exactly Gollum got to bargain with Shelob. It was suggested that this was done luring orcs her way, or even by presenting her with captured orcs. Carol, however, observed that in their quiet moment together Sam remarks that he and Frodo are in an ongoing story but they don’t take it back far enough to pick up the Ungoliant > Ungol / Silmaril > Earendil and his light in the starglass. Carol also notes when Sam realises he’s in the same story this is a vast leap forward for him ‘part of his growth and eventual reward.’ Carol also notes the multi-layered nature of Story in LotR, and that ‘Pippin too at the Morannon recognises Story when he sees the Eagles coming but can’t quite equate himself as being in the same story as Bilbo and the Story. Pippin’s reward is material; Sam’s is both material and spiritual.

We did, of course, consider the ‘redemptive’ moment with Gollum, but having covered this during our previous reading of LotR, had little to add. Carol, however, notes this as the fruit of Sam overhearing Gollum/Smeagol debating earlier in the tale.

We agreed to read the next 2 chapters ‘Shelob’s Lair’ and ‘The Choices of Master Samwise’. This will complete The Two Towers.

7:53 AM  

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