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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reading Group meeting 25/6/11

2 Comments:

Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

25.6.11
Our meeting was rather fragmented for various reasons, but in spite of that we got through all the Letters we had set ourselves to read and discuss, though some took up more of our time than others.

Pat began the deliberations with some observations about C. S. Lewis and his relationship with Tolkien. We all agreed that she should continue to report back on her reading around this topic. Pat had been interested last time in Tolkien’s reference to Caliban’s treatment by Ariel and Sam’s treament of Gollum. It was discovered that this referred not to contempt but alluded to misrepresentation.

Chris thought he perceived an echo of the Gaffer’s feelings about Sam when Tolkien wrote in (74) of ‘my youngest boy carried off’. Chris wondered if this could be regarded as how the Gaffer felt when Sam went off with Frodo.

Anne noted the many problems Tolkien has with his bicycle, and Laura wondered why there was no mention in any of the letters about the Sutton Hoo treasure. We pondered the possibility that it was merely edited out during the editorial process as irrelevant to Tolkien’s own life and work. However, the reference in (95) to Stenton’s Anglo-Saxon England made me wonder if it was included in that book. I haven’t yet had an opportunity to check.

Pat remarked on Tolkien’s observation of the stranger in the pub who looked like Strider. Angela noted that Tolkien was still referring to him as Trotter at that time, and Anne commented that the description made her think of Fagin! (83)

Laura gave the stranger his proper name – Roy Campbell – and noted his political bias, and that Tolkien was apparently pro-Franco too.

Laura went on to note Tolkien mention of an Eowyn-like ‘boredom of sameness’. Anne also observed the need to go somewhere different, and together with Laura and Angela, picked up Tolkien’s dislike of unrelieved green desiring ‘barren spaces’ (78), a surprise when his landscapes are so verdant (except Mordor and its environs). We also noted his reference to the sea.

Anne and Laura remarked on Tolkien’s inclusion of humour in his letters, Laura felt it was rather barbed.

Laura also picked up Tolkien’s comments on the ‘ever defeated’ as we discussed his attitude to the consequences of the war. Laura noted that Tolkien did not want enemies to be crushed, possibly remembering how this happened at the end of WW1, and I noticed his exclamation ‘Why gloat!’ (77)

Pat remarked on Tolkien’s attitude to the Eden ‘myth’. In (96) where he refuses to follow modern fashion and deny the existence of a real Eden. In a complete change of tone Pat then stepped backwards chronologically to Letter 81 and the Inklings’ idea of a post war celebration that involved renting a country pub for a whole week of ‘beer and talk’. Angela wondered that no wives seemed to be invited along.

Anne went back to Letter 79 to express her delight in Tolkien’s description of a sunset with banks of sunlit clouds, ‘bank upon bank of flaming cherubim of gold and fire’. Vicky continued the theme of weather with her approval of descriptions of hoar frost in Letter 94.

Anne went on to ask about The Kalevala, and whether we had yet read it. We said we had dipped into it. Laura had read up on the reference in (75), which is to the origins of ale and its storage. In TK canto 20 a bullfinch suggests using barrels with hoops!

1:11 PM  
Blogger Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill said...

Pat picked up Tolkien’s assertion in (81) that one can’t fight an enemy with his own Ring, and proposed that it would make a good essay question – discuss! Laura picked up the reference to the True West as distinct from the ordinary West.

We continued to have problems working out the relationship between Tolkien and Edith. At times it seems under strain. Wives were not to be included in the trip to the country inn. And Tolkien implies that Edith could not be left alone when he went out in the evening. (113) Chris objected that one doesn’t necessarily address matters that are close every day.
The matter of Tolkien’s apology to C.S.Lewis (113) provoked a good deal of discussion. Laura commented on Tolkien’s mention of his own jealousy of CSL. Pat wondered if this referred to the Narnia books but Angela pointed out that Tolkien was referring to The Oxford History of English Literature. Laura thought Tolkien could be regarded as a philosopher on the grounds of his thoughts on forgiveness.

Anne went on to pick up Tolkien’s reference to Mordor gadgets – in this case only a typewriter! (75), and she also remarked on the way he turns Lewis’s name into a verb ‘Lewisified’ with reference to Lewis’s character Ransom in Out of the Silent Planet. Tolkien had had to explain to his daughter that some aspects of himself had been included but altered by Lewis – hence ‘Lewisified’.

Pat observed Tolkien’s own comment that Frodo is not so interesting as Sam, and Laura thought Sam was more like Tolkien, being close to the Shire and fond of inns.

Chris noted that Tolkien seems generally pessimistic, and Angela picked up his complaints about the grovelling press and the lack of sportsmanship in football (81). Angela also noted that between letters 109 and 111, Tolkien’s tone changes, mostly, it seems as academic duties got in the way of writing.

Anne was entertained by the reference to a furor scribendi that overtook Tolkien at times. While Chris wondered if Tolkien really took the idea of miracles seriously. Since they are associated with Lourdes, I said I thought he would have taken them absolutely seriously, as a good Catholic.

Everyone was interested in the story of the tramp at church and the way such a true believer came as a surprise to people.

Laura noted Tolkien’s approval of Pauline Baynes as an illustrator, and Anne picked up Tolkien’s assertion that LotR was not Allegorical. Anne asked what a ‘sutler’ was, and happily Laura had looked it up – it refers to an independent mobile army provisioner, as distinct from the quartermasters (hums and murmurs of the old song ‘The Quartermasters’ Stores’).

Having run seriously out of time, we agreed to read from Letter 123 to letter 133.

1:12 PM  

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