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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Reading Group meeting 28/8/09


Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

itivillus28.8.10 As usual this blog comes in sections:

For this meeting we were still missing Julie and Mike, and also Ian who had returned to the Northern Kingdom. This blog report is somewhat shorter than usual because I spent more time chatting than taking notes. We had some very detailed discussions, and Carol provided her comments which I will add in as usual.

*Our most immediately important discussion revolved around arrangements for the meeting that coincides with Oxonmoot.

*As almost everyone will be there, it was generally agreed that it would make sense to cancel the Reading Group meeting on 25th September and pick up our reading again on 9th October.

On with the report: our chapters this time were ‘The Siege of Gondor’ and ‘The Ride of the Rohirrim’.

Kathleen opened the discussions with her comment that Pippin always seems to be intend on finding food. Vicki said it reminded her of gorillas who eat for 5 hours a day! Carol noted in her comments ‘you shall wait on me’ and wait Pippin does!

Laura observed that without the humour associated with the hobbits LotR would be a grim and heavy story.

Angela went on to change races and remark that Denethor’s attitude to Gondor is very much the same as Boromir’s at the Council of Elrond – both father and son maintain the idea that only Gondor actually engages in the fight against Mordor. Gandalf, of course, reminds him that this is not so. Laura observed that the Rangers provide protection for others more generously as unsung heroes and more like a peace-keeping force.

We went on to discuss Pippin’s discomfort at being asked to sing by Denethor – his idea that hobbit songs were not fit for such a setting may also disguise his reluctance to recall such jollity as the ‘Bath Song’ in such as setting and time because it would be a reminder of his isolation from his friends.

Carol noted that Tolkien keeps making small references such as the sunlight 'even as Frodo saw it at the cross roads...' to keep us abreast of the timescale in his long pieces about another part of the story. She wondered if this was done in retrospect?

Chris and Carol both commented that in the Siege we get Pippin’s view of events, Angela described it as ‘hobbitocentric – while Kathleen noted that it was the view from the weakest person in the chapter. Laura added a further distinction when she remarked that ‘we’ (the readers) are the hobbits ‘we’ are not these Men. Angela noted that all the hobbits are characterised as different.

Chris went on to pick up another point when he noted that Pippin’s views of things are not always consistent with what he can know. Sometimes his comments imply authorial omniscience.

Carol noted Pippin’s sudden love for Faramir, while Laura commented on the assertion that Pippin had always liked Boromir and wondered if this was because they were both risk-takers. They were both guilty of stirring up ‘monsters’ at Moria.

I asked about Gandalf’s musing question ‘why that way?’ I wondered if he was indeed musing or, following our previous discussions on ‘divine intervention’ whether he was questioning some part of the Plan. This was rejected especially by Chris who saw it as so limiting to the agency of the characters as a render the story pointless. Kathleen thought the question in the context of Gandalf’s knowledge directed attention to his concerns about Gollum’s treachery. Laura remarked that the number of options for entering Mordor were limited anyway, so his question seems strange.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

[Apologies for the odd bit at the start of the previous section. I picked up something else inadvertently and didn't notice until it posted.]
Carol picked up the comment: 'something has happened to stir him', and suggests that will be Aragorn looking into the palantir. She commented: It's just the tiny things that are going to tip the scales in the West's favour. Pippin's here for a purpose, a small one but vital, to save Faramir. Carol then wondered: “Why isn't Faramir sent to the houses of healing?”

Carol went on to note that Denethor is grieving for Boromir and is also jealous of Gandalf's influence over Faramir and takes it out on him. Some murmur: ‘they give him no rest...the lord drives his son too hard, and now he must do the duty of two, for himself and for the one that will not return.’ Too true! And what a shame Denethor doesn't value his youngest son.” Carol asserted that regardless of protocol; somebody should have stood up to Denethor. She then wondered whether Denethor’s treatment of Faramir is a sign of his growing madness? She comments “I could hit him. Then when Denethor says: ‘That depends on the manner of your return’ I could weep.”

Laura went on to pick up Pippin’s ‘but’, and Gandalf’s limitation – another moment of humour in the middle of so much grim news, as she said, there are lots of action and horror in The Siege.

Carol commented on Glorfindel's prophecy about the witch king not falling to the hand of man (which Eowyn and Merry fulfil): the situation is made more desperate because of no communication. This is what makes stories of the past more tense and battles more difficult, but Gandalf stays true to his remit and doesn't use magic, except for the rescue.

Chris compared Denethor’s and Theoden’s use of swords and armour, and Laura thought Denethor’s behaviour in wearing his sword and armour all the time was not quite wholesome – the wearing of armour especially had overtones of wearing a hair shirt. Laura commented that Denethor’s behaviour seems like part of the ethos of the Dead. Carol commented that Pippin shows more traditional heroism by far than Denethor, to stand by his lord, even in death.

Vicky asked if there was any subversion in LotR in the modern lit crit sense. We couldn’t think of any. I suggested that all the subversion that takes place, such as it is, is eventually gathered back into the story to contribute to the success of the Quest. Oddly, although Tolkien must have been well aware of the Trickster characters that create all sorts of mischief in the great world myths and religions, he has avoided any such character in his legendarium. Pippin is perhaps the closest to the Trickster, although Gollum also comes close, but neither are so subversive as to challenge the linear progress towards the resolution of the Quest. The limiting feature is expressed by Gandalf in a different way when he says ‘ Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend. If this is accepted as true, it must surely limit the options for subversion to have any real effect.

Carol was also looking at the wider aspect of LotR and observed with reference to ‘but he knew now that he was taking part in no play’: “one thing I've noticed in all LotR and going back to Sam's reference to 'a play-acting spy': there is no drama in this society. At least no reference is made to drama being staged. And they don't seem to have fiction either. All their songs and stories are about real events. The closest we get to it are hobbit verses like the ‘Troll Song’ or ‘Perry-the-Winkle’.

Carol also remarked “men are leaving the walls unmanned because they're unmanned themselves - double meaning I think.”

12:15 PM  
Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

She went on to not that the final pages of ‘The Siege’ are really gripping and suspenseful. We are left hanging for 2 chapters concerning Faramir and Beregond. Then Tolkien piles it on with drums, Grond and the Nazgul lord repeated, the gates being breached, the heroisim of Gandalf and Shadowfax standing alone. The tension broken by a cock crowing is such a normal thing to happen amid all that horror. And then ‘horns, horns, horns.’ It's stupendous, even after reading this countless times and knowing the outcome, I'm still on the edge of my seat. And there we're left suspended.

We moved on into ‘The Ride of the Rohirrim’ and Laura remarked on Eomer’s prejudice again, after his attitude to the Dunlendings and others at Helm’s Deep he is less than courteous to Ghan-buri-Ghan. Angela thought Eomer’s behaviour reflected his youth rather than profound prejudice.

Carol observed “back we go to two days before, and seen through Merry's eyes. We've just heard drums beating outside Minas Tirith, so who's beating these drums? Woses and Ghan-buri-Ghan. Ghan talks like a film Indian but Tolkien gives him dignity.

‘Wind is changing’, the first time it's noticed but not the last. Widfara also notices the change in the wind, then so does Merry. Is it just and ordinary wind or a bit of help from the west, because it clears the gloom and helps Aragorn up Anduin? After the stealth comes the heroic bit and the ferocity of Theoden's ride, with its urgency conveyed in 'and...and...and...' Lynn'll know the term. [It’s a rhetorical technique is called **polysyndeton**] Then the narrative gallops with “the joy of battle was on them.” one of my favourite bits.”

Thanks to Carol for her comments that fill in the bits I didn’t get notes for!

We agreed as usual to read the next 2 chapters – ‘The Battle of the Pelennor Fields’ and ‘The Pyre of Denethor’.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

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12:16 PM  
Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

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12:16 PM  
Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

The deletions were just repeats of the previous bit. I don't know why this keeps happening. Sorry for the inefficiency.

12:20 PM  

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