Last Saturday in August


It was quite an unusual meeting this afternoon, what with the sudden intrusion of a Lancaster bomber overhead, the lack of 3 of our usual participants, the addition of an accidental new member, and lots of cake! Added to this, Laura brought photos of the triumph of the LonCon masquerade tableau in which Ian had taken the role of Manwë, and Laura had participated in the construction of the spectacular costumes using her beading skills to create decorations, details, and jewellery.

Eventually we turned our attention from the Valar, and cake, to our text: ‘The Disaster of the Gladden Fields’ and ‘Cirion and Eorl’. As in other weeks, Carol sent her comments which are included here.

Angela began our discussion with her observation that Meneldur was glad to be rid of Isildur in the north, and that at last the ancient names now become personalities.

Carol commented:  this was when Isildur wrote his piece about the ring 3434 which Gandalf found and read millinia later.

Boromir inherits Isildur’s pride over the ring and like him realises his mistake before death, surely a cause for Mandos’ grace in both cases, even though the forgiveness is death.

Laura noted that Isildur’s force is ambushed by a band of LOST orcs. Angela added that they didn’t know Sauron had been destroyed, so they were just doing what orcs do, there was no higher command driving them. Laura remarked that they were like the Japanese soldiers at the end of WW2 who held out in the jungle unaware that the war was over.

Laura also noted that the Ring is depicted in this chapter as having greater volition, that it behaves like a puppet-master, and that it’s real presence is more evident.

Chris observed that the description of ‘lurking orcs’ implies that their assault on Isildur was not a determined attack.

Laura then queried the number of Elendilmirs (the single Elvish crystal set in a fillet of mithril worn in place of a crown by kings of Gondor). Angela confirmed there were 2, because a second was made after the first was lost with Isildur.

Pat asked for clarification about the pain Isildur suffers when he puts on the Ring. We explained about the heat of Sauron’s hand lingering. Angela responded by asking whether Isildur felt the pain permanently. Laura wondered whether Isildur’s cry of pain was one of mental anguish, and thought the Ring was like a drug, causing mental and physical anguish.

Pat went on to ask whether the Ring was capable of changing shape because it slipped off Isildur’s hand. I thought there was a statement in LotR to this effect and Angela wondered if this was why Bilbo put the Ring on a chain.

Chris thought the effect of the Ring brought Isildur close to suicide. Angela noted that he admits to his son that he has not the strength to control it. Chris also wondered if Elendil was taking the Ring with him to Rivendell whether he did not know the Ring’s danger? Carol commented, ‘Isildur’s wife and son are at Rivendell, interested to check but only Valandil, the youngest son is mentioned! [All the other sons are riding with Elendil, which bears out Carol’s further comment] All women seem fit for is bearing sons who’ll grow up to die in battle’.

Laura remarked that the chapter shows that even after victory the world is still a dangerous place.

I noted that in this short chapter there were lots of details of battle tactics, and Laura observed that this may be evidence of Tolkien’s time in the Officer Training Corps before WW1.

Angela liked the section on Gimli helping Aragorn (King Elessar) searching Orthanc after the fall of Saruman, in which Gimli’s help leads to the discovery of a ‘steel closet’ found to contain the chain on which Isildur had worn the Ring, and the original Elendilmir. Carol commented:  ‘I like this section because it puts a bit more flesh on the bones of the post-war story. Nothing could really be worse than Saruman’s treachery but finding all these stolen treasures just compounds his crime’.

Angela then remarked on the amount of detail included in the Notes to this chapter, and on the time scale illustrating the long wait for the right king.

Chris wondered if the Great Plague that decimated Gondor affected the Orcs as well. It seems that it did not, so Chris wondered if it came from Sauron. Angela noted that a Númenórean king and his whole family were killed by plague. Laura compared this to the flu pandemic after WW1. Chris then observed that no mundane illnesses are mentioned. I suggested that you can’t have colds in epics, but Angela pointed out that Bilbo gets one in The Hobbit!

We moved on to discuss Cirion and Eorl and the threat posed by the Wainriders out of the east. Chris and Angela remarked on their use of fortified camps of wagons and we discussed the configuration of ‘wains’, as well as the Wainriders’ use of chariots in battle.

Laura and Carol and I all approved of Galadriel’s protective mist created to shield Eorl’s eohere (horse-army) from the surveillance of Dol Guldur as they rode south.

Carol commented on ‘Cirion and Eorl’, ‘what a nice story, putting a bit more flesh onto the bones of TS record. Foretaste of Éomer and Aragorn. Nice revelation of where Elendil is buried. He wasn’t just left to rot in the ruins of Mordor – as if. What else can I say?’

Carol commented on ‘the northmen and the wainriders’: ‘this is like reading “real” history. It also shows Gondor might have grown too proud to even remember the men of the north whom Faramir would call men of the twilight. But they WILL remember eventually and be thankful for the friendship.

No wonder Dagorlad had turned into such a noisome swamp – the dead marshes – when so many people had been killed there and left to rot. If this was really history I think I’d get bored reading about all the fighting but this is Tolkien and as it says on p. 290 without the ride of Eorl and Théoden in the future, the king couldn’t have returned in LotR.’


Carol also asked:

(1) Doesn’t Ondoher (King of Gondor during the assaults of the Wainriders) have spies or scouts? And don’t the enemies have spies or scouts either?

(2) 15 days to travel nearly 1000 miles on horseback, approx. 66 miles per day – can this be done?

(3) was Elendil buried at Halifirien?  If not, what was in the casket that Isildur buried there? And if not, where did Elendil lie?


‘ Numenorean linear measures’

All this section did was send me to my sums. I’m surprised that Numenor was decimal. Decimals have no heart and are cold in colour – black, pale blue and white, whereas old measurements and money are rich in colour and tradition and have grown organically.

We ran out of time at the end of the meeting and did not get round to discussing what to read next. As we have such a long break before our next meeting on 27th September, I suggest at least the next 2 sections of Unfinished Tales. More of course will be fine.



August – First Saturday


It was good to have Julie back with us again this week, and Carol had sent her comments  again as our reading this week picked up Unfinished Tales at ‘The Line of Elros’ and ‘The History of Galadriel and Celeborn’.  But after our usual foray into AOB (any other business), which included Ian recommending the book he had just read Carl Phelpstead’s Tolkien and Wales  for its attention to Arthurian material and the little-known ‘Aotrou and Itroun’. We then noted that ‘Aragorn’s Sword’ from the LotR films is coming up for auction – thanks to Laura’s mother for the newspaper cuttings – we took on the question of ‘whether Elves can commit suicide’. This was a question from a non-Southfarthing member which prompted opposing answers from Laura and me at the time, and elicited a range of responses at the meeting.

My immediate response had been that Elves can commit suicide, but Laura had asserted that this was not possible because they were tied to the existence of Arda. Angela reminded us that Feänor’s mother gave up her life, and it was variously noted that Elves can be re-incarnated, or may be left in the Halls of Mandos, from which Ian extrapolated the suggestion that they could commit relinquish their lives but would be judged by Mandos according to whether they were culpable or whether they deserved to be re-incarnated because their relinquishment amounted to a selfless act.

Angela gave the example of Glorfindel1 who sacrificed his life battling a balrog during the Fall of Gondolin and was later reincarnated in the Second Age. I thought Amroth probably counted as culpable for throwing away his life in a tempestuous sea even though he was in love.

Chris then pointed out the fascinating fact that all the Elves who sail into the West may be said to be giving up on life, and Tim thought this was true of Frodo, although/because he has suffered so much he cannot sustain living any longer.

We considered situation of Arwen, who gives her immortality to Frodo, as well as the situation of Elros and Elrond, one of whom relinquishes immortality in favour of eventual death. Angela then drew our attention to the practice of Númenórean kings who originally laid down their lives and chose when to die.

This rather neatly brought us to ‘The Line of Elros’. Laura said she found it ‘rivetting’ and observed that it reads rather like the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, including specific forms of words for dying. It also shows evidence of political thinking. Tim observed that its form equates to tasters of information that prompt the reader’s interest, and that the list of kings emphasises Aragorn’s nobility and lineage.

Tim then noted that the 13th king refused to ‘lay down his life’ and this was part of his general rebelliousness.

Angela observed that the 5th king, Tar-Meneldur, resigned his kingship in favour of his son Aldarion because he realised he was not up to the job.

Laura then noted that Aldarion’s daughter rejected her father’s connections with Gil-galad, but Angela remarked that this showed the extent to which she was influenced by her mother Erendis. I thought it showed that she had no grasp of ‘foreign policy’ and Angela observed that it showed that she was lacking the influence of her father.

Angela went on to notice that Aldarion’s daughter Ancalimë gives rise to a number of female rulers, and a number of daughters who refused to rule.

Laura remarked that the sceptre of Numenor was the sign of the right to rule as it was in Egypt and is in England. Angela observed that this is the sceptre brought by Elrond to the coronation of Aragorn.

Laura then noted that there is a mention of Sauron’s presence later in Numenor, but it is not  developed. She also remarked that by noticing the length of each ruler’s reign it is possible to see the life spans of rulers diminishing.

Ian considered that the great life spans are an effective way of constructing a sense of great spans of time passing.

Laura then remarked that the story of the queen Tar-Miriel is worthy of a book on its own. While Angela joined her in observing that Tar-Atanamir the Great (the 13th king) was dragon-like in his greed. Angela added that the 12th, Tar-Ciryatan, bullied his father out of the crown.

I was interested in the cultural situation during the reign of Tar-Ancalimon when Elvish fell out of favour in the Royal house except for the royal titles which were still in Quenya ‘out of ancient custom rather than love, for fear lest the breaking of the old usage should bring ill-fortune’. I took this to indicate that the dilution or loss of meaning of an historical tradition leads to superstition.

I then questioned why Tolkien created so many versions of some of the most important elements of his stories – even ones already published, or otherwise regarded as completed. Ian suggested that the various versions represented what Tolkien regarded as improvements, but that he was always writing in small chunks. In the case of ‘Galadriel and Celeborn’ the various version might be understood as ‘frames’ which could then be put together.

Laura observed that Tolkien clearly lived with his head full of ideas which needed to be expressed. Ian added that Tolkien recognised that his languages needed stories in which they could ‘live’.

Moving on to ‘Galadriel and Celeborn’, I noted that Galadriel, as one of the Noldor, is described as having been a pupil of  Aulë  and we had previously observed that Aulë’s pupils all tended towards rebellion of various kinds, following (apparently) their master’s original act of disobedience in making the Dwarves. Carol commented:  “Sauron like others who grab power – Saruman, Feänor e.g. – in that he is associated with Aulë who also overreaches himself in creating the Dwarves but unlike the others, comes back into Eru’s fold.”

Tim declared Galadriel to be a rebel, while Laura suggested that at least she was honest with herself when she rejected the pardon of the Valar. Angela added that when she is described as ‘fighting alongside Celeborn at the Kinslaying’ she sounds like a warrior but the concept of fighting probably indicates something other than armed activity.

This led us on to considerations of female warrior elves (!), which then led to the conduct of Thranduil in the second Hobbit film.  Carol had commented that in Appendix B ‘The Sindarin Princes of the Silvan Elves’: “I like it when you get little snippets not found elsewhere or rarely, like Oropher as Thranduil’s dad. Oropher dies at the last alliance.” Angela noted that in the story Thranduil is shown to be clearly traumatised by his participation in the Battle of the Last Alliance.

Tim observed that Appendix E gave a detailed analysis of the names ‘Galadriel’ and ‘Celeborn’ in various forms. Angela then raised the unfortunate matter of Celeborn’s Telerin name, which is given as ‘Teleporno’. Obviously Tolkien could not have known how the final syllable of this name would come to resonate with unpleasant modern significance. This reminded us that we had noted other instances where some elements of Tolkien’s terminology, used at a time when they were entirely proper and innocent, have since changed their connotations, most notably his use of ‘queer’ – peculiar, and ‘gay’ – merry and lively.

Carol commented:  “Interesting this section, names are very important. Is it right that if you know someone’s/something’s true name you have power over them? Treebeard says that names are like a story, they grow and change as we do, hence different names for different stages of life, e.g. Túrin.

Ian then asked why we thought Christopher was so bothered about his father’s non-statement about what happened to the 7 Rings in spite of giving details about Sauron’s raid and theft of the 9 after torturing Celebrimbor. Tim reminded us of the earlier observation that Tolkien needed to record all his ideas, while Julie remarked that in real life we find many variants of histories and myths, and a lack of coherence.

Carol had commented on the story of The Elessar: “The use of ‘the one’ flummoxed me for a second equating it with Eru but it obviously means the one ring. This section doesn’t really grab me but I will say in the mode of ‘real’ legends the story of the Elessar is capable of different spins, like for e.g. different versions of Arthur.”

Julie then went on to observe that reference to the Numenorean fleet approaching Eriador serves as a pre-echo of the Black Ships, when the identity as friend or foe is not known.

Having run out of time, we quickly agreed that for our next meeting we would read the chapters ‘The Gladden Fields’ and ‘Cirion and Eorl’.

Carol’s comments follow here:


Nowt much to say really about the monarchs of Numenor except to remark on the descent of the use of regal powers – mercy, justice etc, but we know all about that.


‘the role and importance of Galadriel only emerged slowly’ – the creation of the backstory to Lorien etc.

I like this little tale of Galadriel’s refusing a strand of her hair to Feänor to put into the silmarils but 3 Ages later she gives 3 strands to Gimli from a race supposedly very antipathetic towards Elves.  I also like the use of ‘unfriend’ with regard to Galadriel’s and Feänor’s relationship, like ‘unlight’ referring to Ungoliant.

‘Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn’

Mention of them having a son Amroth (eventually of Dol) but this is nowhere mentioned in LotR where they only have one child, Celebrian, Arwen’s mam.

Lots of other 2nd Age history – the fall of celebrimbor and co; the setting up of Rivendell; Sauron’s rise and fall and festering hatred. Interesting but no great comment like the stories of individuals.

Galadriel’s coming to Rivendell with Celeborn seeking Celebrian whom she find there. 2 thing: this is probably when Elrond meets Celebrian and Celeborn returns to Rivendell after Galadriel has departed at the end of LotR and from where supposedly he rides from for the havens at an unspecified time. Can never understand why he hasn’t gone with Galadriel.

‘Amroth and Nimrodel’

Another ill-fated love story, very airy-fairy romantic. In today’s ethos of wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am, it all seems a bit elasticated, even for me who’s views now seem old fashioned.  They debate, get separated, lose each other. If Nimrodel loved Amroth why the hell didn’t she just marry him?

About Elves being beardless – Cirdan is described as having a beard!

Of all the names and interpretations of names for Lothlorien my favourite will always be Laurelindorinan, ‘land of the valley of singing gold’ (Treebeard) (Llanfer…gogogo eat your heart out) it just makes you want to find it and live there. Gorgeous.

‘Appendix C The Boundaries of Lorien’

I like the way Tolkien use s the prefix ‘un’ in unusual ways, here in ‘undeep’ meaning shallow. see above.

‘Appendix D The Port of Lond Daer’

Just a general comment about deforestation – men just don’t seem to be able to help themselves. Trees are easy pickings because they can’t fight back. Not even Ents could have stopped the massive destruction.

Comment about the ‘courage and hardihood required’ for Boromir’s journey to Rivendell not being fully mentioned in LotR. Could be because Boromir vaunts it so much, enough to make even Bilbo sarcastic.

Last Saturday in July


Our meeting this afternoon was a little depleted, with Tim, Julie and Mike all busy elsewhere, as befits a hot summer Saturday! We needed windows open and fans at full power in the seminar room. Anne has also been out of action after a nasty encounter with a comfy chair, but Pat was with us again, having braved the uncertainties of the buses.

Our nominated reading was ‘Sellic Spell’ – Tolkien’s imaginative re-creation of the original folk story underlying the Beowulf poem, but before we turned our attention to that, Ian updated us on the remarkable computer model he has created of ‘Thackley’, the house built for Joseph Wright in early 20th century Oxford, and thus the house in which Tolkien had tutorials with Wright while an undergraduate. We all congratulated Ian on his detailed work on the 3D walk-around model, and hope he will consider making it accessible to a wider audience at some point.

Angela then launched us into our chosen text with her observation that the prose ‘Sellic Spell’ and its shorter companion piece in verse ‘The Lay of Beowulf’ were both easier than the Beowulf translation itself.

Ian remarked that ‘Sellic Spell’ has a touch of Roverandom about it, reading like a useful version of the Beowulf story for children, as well as showing where the OE story comes from. Laura described ‘Sellic Spell’ as the afternoon version, suitable for a matinee! Ian commented that the change of names delivers a very different story.

Pat picked up the idea of names and expressed her delight in the names in ‘Sellic Spell’, in their translated form they can be seen to be very apt as Beowulf becomes Beewolf (i.e. ‘bear’), Unferth becomes Unfriend, and Hondscio becomes Handshoe (i.e. glove), and Grendel becomes Grinder. Each name defines the special ability or quality that defines the character, e.g. Handshoe has a special attribute in his gloves with which he can complete extraordinary tasks. Pat specifically noted how Beewolf’s strength was specifically that associated with a bear – strength of hand and arm.

Laura observed that although the 3 characters have special characteristics, it is Beewolf’s strength that lasts better in ‘Sellic Spell’.

Ian noted that this could not be the case in the OE Beowulf because that deals with the aging process.

Laura thought the names in ‘Sellic Spell’ were more Anglo-Saxon than in Beowulf.

Ian noted that this reminded him of Egil’s Saga and the bear-like strength of Skallagrim. Angela remarked that Beewolf reminded her of Beorn in The Hobbit.

Pat then noted the number of times distinctive trios of names are found in Tolkien’s works, as with Beewolf, Unfriend and Handshoe, but also many in LotR, of whom she named Legolas, Aragorn and Gimli, but we recognised many others.

Laura commented that she was interested in the invented detail that Beewolf was found as a child living with bears, and compared this to the present-day fascination with children said to have been found living among animals.

Chris then startled us with his question about the form of ‘Sellic Spell’ – does it constitute an example of Tolkien writing fan-fiction? This really made us sit up and think. There was some concern to define what we identified as fan-fiction. Ian thought there is a difference between a writer working a folk-tale mode and those just extrapolating from existing work, because a folk-tale is a composite by many different ‘authors’.

I wondered if we should not consider LotR a kind of fan-fiction if we were identifying that mode of writing as merely extrapolating from existing works because we can so easily identify the presence in LotR of many sources.

Chris added that where folk-tales show a need to develop a motif along similar lines, Tolkien was always writing his own version.

Pat noted an instance of Tolkien’s individual development when she drew attention to his insertion of Unfriend’s his length of rope in the episode of the Mere. Although this is completely absent from the Mere episode in Beowulf Chris noted that it does have echoes in LotR when Sam uses his rope on the Emyn Muil, and Angela noted the similarity between the waterfall described in Tolkien’s version of the Mere episode and the Window on the West in LotR.

Chris observed that there are many more similarities between LotR and ‘Sellic Spell’, right down to the level of shared phrases.

Pat noted that there are more extended use of runes in LotR than in ‘Sellic Spell’, where they are only used for names on swords. Ian was puzzled by references to Hrunting being given, cast aside, then returned, and this led on to Pat wondering who the old sword in the cave had belonged to.

Angela noted that there are references to the state of being ‘unfriend’ in The Silmarillion.

Pat was interested in the difference between possible examples of ‘magic’ in ‘Sellic Spell’, such as the melting of the ancient sword, and the construction of ‘wizardry’ in LotR. Sadly we did not develop this complicated topic, but we did give further thought to Pat’s observation that the baleful light in Grinder’s eyes goes out once he has been beheaded. This sequence is not the same as that in the OE poem, but Laura observed that the poetic ‘Lay of Beowulf’ shows Tolkien trying out a different version of Grendel/ Grinder’s eyes.

I then confessed to a late-breaking moment of enlightenment when reading Christopher Tolkien’s comments about the formation of the ‘Sellic Spell’ text. What I read was

“The manuscript C was closely followed by a careful typescript ‘D’ that in all probability I made at the same time as my typescript of the translation of Beowulf.”

For years CT’s dedication to editing and publishing what his father left has impressed me for the selfless effort involved. But suddenly I realised the extent to which CT has always had a vested interest in the editing and publishing process because he had been so constantly involved as his father’s informal amanuensis. In effect, it seemed to me, CT’s efforts to get his father’s remaining works published are also an acknowledgement of his own participation in the developmental process.

Ian observed that in these last books that he has edited CT has been less constrained about his involvement, and Angela wondered if CT’s preoccupation with his father’s work had contributed to the failure of his own first marriage.

Having finished the Beowulf book, we agreed that for our next meeting we will return to Unfinished Tales and pick up our reading with ‘The Line of Elros’ and ‘Galadriel and Celeborn’.




First Saturday in July


We continued this afternoon with our reading of the Beowulf translation. To begin with Ian updated us on his review of the significance of the publication of the three latest Tolkien works: Sigurd and Gudrun, The Fall of Arthur and Beowulf. I then diverted us slightly back to our last meeting and Tim’s response to Pat’s question about the significance of ‘twisted gold’ in the text – Tim had suggested that it implied an added value. While reading for other reasons, I had come across a text that I thought shed some light on this:

Emilie Amt’s book on women in medieval Europe includes examples of the wills of Anglo-Saxon women and in one of these is a woman named Wynflæd (d. c. 950) who bequeathed to Eadwold (a man) ‘her gold adorned wooden cup in order that he may enlarge his armlet with the gold’.

Tim remarked that perhaps the increasing of a man’s ‘beag’ (armlet/arm-ring) in this way approximated the adding of ‘ribbons’ to medals – a sign of personal worth rewarded rather than mere monetary value.

Ian suggested that the gift implied added status for the man, while I thought it might also signal to others his place in an important relationship, since the woman was wealthy enough not just to bequeath the gold-covered cup, but had the status that allowed her the privilege of making a will – not something many women could achieve.

Laura thought there was an historic dimension implied in the making, and reworking, of jewellery, establishing a connection with ancestral skills in society.

Ian directed our attention to Tolkien’s long commentary on the place of Christianity within the Beowulf poem. I remarked that the whole section read rather as though Tolkien was ‘evangelising’. Ian responded by observing that Tolkien was arguing for the way his students should approach the text, and that the poem was originally educating its audience in the mixing of Christianity in the heroic age. We noted that the translation pre-dates Tolkien’s seminal essay Beowulf: the Monsters and the Critics.

Laura turned our attention then to the matter of the comparison between the 2 queens the virtuous Hygd and the cruel maiden Þryđ (Thryth) who then becomes the perfect queen when married to the right man. Angela suggested that this was the ‘Taming of the Shrew’ motif, and indeed Klaeber noted as much in his OE edition of the poem.

Laura noted that the Commentary reveals the problem of the ‘difficult bits’ of the poem – lines and sections which resist definitive translation and which are shown to admit various possible translations.

I mentioned that while reading and checking various bits of the translation against the Klaeber OE edition I had come across the term hysteron proteron. Investigating it revealed its classical Greek origin as a rhetorical device in which the natural order of chronological events is reversed. Ian suggested the example ‘put on your shoes and socks’ – logic tells us we can’t put socks on after putting on shoes. The Beowulf poem includes not only this rhetorical device, but further reading shows it to be full of others, some of which can be seen to influence Tolkien’s prose in LotR. Angela recalled an example of hysteron proteron in the chapter ‘The Passing of the Grey Company’ when Aragorn had ‘neither rested nor slept’. Ian, using his palantir, discovered the website Silva rhetorica which confirmed the definition of hysteron proteron.

Part of the difficulty of Tolkien’s Beowulf translation, where the syntax is indeed strangely contorted, must be due to his wish to retain the underlying significance implied by the original use of rhetorical devices. These are detailed in a Christian context in a work by Bede, although Tolkien probably knew them anyway from his early training as a classicist.

Ian observed that, as in the poem, Tolkien reuses various terms and, as in the poem, that reuse brings in additional significance from the external sources. If a translator oversimplifies a translation some of that is bound to be lost.

Laura then asked if we should not give some thought to the dragon? And quoted Tolkien’s assertion that ‘a dragon is a dragon’, but that the dragon might also be seen as old age – the one thing Beowulf the hero cannot overcome – the final defeat. Time wondered if the dragon fight was a metaphor for Beowulf battling himself and his reputation in old age, while Ian wondered if the dragon represented the Geats themselves.

Ian observed that in the final battle Wiglaf is the human hero in place of Beowulf the mythic hero who was also the totem of his kingdom, holding it together, but who can no longer exist in the newer world. Ian went on to note that Beowulf’s slaying of the dragon is not wholly welcome because he dies and leaves his people open to attack by the Swedes.

Laura commented that Wiglaf’s last speech of rebuke to the men of the household who could not face the dragon reminded her of the old retainer’s ‘mod scal þe mære…’ exhortation at the end of the Battle of Maldon – an injunction to stand and fight or face inevitable destruction. Beowulf’s Geats will be overrun by their Swedish enemies because Beowulf dies as the English will be overrun by Vikings (also mostly Swedes!) at Maldon.

Tim noted that after the dragon is killed many twisted armlets are discovered and Laura described the investigation of the barrow as like an Anglo-Saxon ‘Time Team’ as the Geats excavate many ancient objects from it. Ian added that there is then a realisation that this is a bad move as they finally rebury the treasure.

This led us to finding clear links with Tolkien’s stories when Tim remarked on the discovery of the ‘ancient blades’ in the Barrow-wight’s mound and Angela noted the discovery of the Elven swords in the troll cave in The Hobbit. Tim noted that Beowulf’s sword Nailing fails in his last conflict as Narsil fails Elendil in his confrontation with the great destructive force that was Sauron.

Laura remarked that the blade of the giant sword Beowulf uses to kill Grendel’s mother melts away as does the blade of the Morgul knife used to stab Frodo, and Angela noted the same melting of the blade of Merry’s sword after he stabs the Lord of the Nazgûl. We considered the difference between the 2 instances of melting.

Chris observed that the treatment of swords in LotR and TH suggests the societies represented in those stories are ‘deskilled’, because there is a constant reliance on old swords and ancestral artefacts.

Ian thought this implied the need for special attributes in order to be able to wield those special items.

Chris added that there is plenty of ‘new weaponry’ such as catapults and ‘dynamite’ (Saruman’s blasting fire), but these weapons do not have ‘status’.

Laura observed that for the Anglo-Saxons any marvellous sword of ancient ancestry ‘might’ have been forged by the mythic Germanic smith Weland.

I had drawn attention to a Bilbo and Frodo moment in the translation where a corslet, sword and ring are passed by an old warrior to a younger one, and Ian remarked that when weapons are given as gifts the relationship between the donor and recipient is protected by the giving.

Ian noted that dire consequences were associated with dragon treasure in the poem so it was returned to the earth and stories were made about it instead.

Angela also noted that the dragon is said to have burned itself, and Laura remarked that Beowulf gets hot under his masked helmet, which reminded her of the Sutton Hoo helmet with its mask (OE grima), which may have belonged to Rædwald.

Tim then thought he spotted a ‘fox’ moment – in the translation/poem when the raven is mentioned. I noted that the raven is in association with the eagle and the wolf and together they are the Anglo-Saxon ‘beasts of battle’.

Chris observed that the pessimistic tone of the Beowulf poem and translation fits perfectly with Tolkien’s other work which does not specialise in happy endings. Ian remarked that this pessimism represented northern acceptance of ‘how things are’ – there is no salvation in the pagan northern tradition [something Tolkien picks up and deals with in Beowulf, The Monsters and the Critics], and Laura noted that there is no sense that Beowulf is going to heaven in spite of all the biblical references.

After an afternoon’s wide-ranging and quite intense discussion (at times), we agreed that for our next meeting we would finish reading the Commentary and the ‘Sellic Spell’.

Last Saturday in June


This afternoon was what has become our annual special gathering because Carol and Rosemary joined us, and after her long absence so did Pat. Our reading for the meeting was as much of Beowulf as we could individually manage, so we were able to move around in the text.

Ian began the discussion with his observation that the Commentary is outstanding in the amount of insight and information it provides, and the quality of these.

Pat, who has not had time to read very much of the poem remarked that she encountered problems with all the names, especially the sons and relatives of Hrothgar whose names also begin with ‘h’. Pat also noted the many Christian references and asked if they were an addition. I explained that their exact place in relation to the development of the poem remains the subject of scholarly debate, but they are a feature of the poem in its existing manuscript form and so belong to the Anglo-Saxon period, but have been considered evidence of scribal insertion, and also as evidence of accretion as the conversion process took place – patchy and insecure as it was.

Carol remarked that the end of the Preface reads like Christopher Tolkien’s swansong for his father’s work, and Ian added that he was recalling here his father’s work of academic scholarship in contrast to all his creativity.

Pat then asked why there was a specific reference to Beowulf being rewarded with ‘twisted gold’? Tim responded that if it was twisted then it has been worked by craftsmen and this gave it added value. There is surely a point to be considered about the Anglo-Saxon value placed on aesthetics and craftsmanship here, and Tim reminded us of the brilliance of much Anglo-Saxon goldwork such as the Sutton Hoo treasures.

Laura picked up the matter of wealth and found it poignant in the context of what the original audience knows will happen in the end.

Pat questioned what we are told of Grendel’s descent from Cain, and wondered if it implied his destiny. Laura noted that Grendel is denied any prospect of redemption.

Ian pointed out that there is no redemption for Beowulf either, but he is an ‘outsider’ who is acceptable to the society of Heorot. Carol remarked that Grendel is excluded.

Rosemary wondered why Tolkien adopted such an archaic style for his translation, and Laura thought the style of the translation was more ‘Round Table’ than ‘mead hall’, and felt that the Christian bits seemed to be ‘shoe-horned’ into the older pagan text.

Carol thought perhaps Tolkien would have cringed in later life at this work of his younger academic career.

Rosemary observed that the translation style slows down the reading process and Julie noted the frequent inversions of word order.

Laura noted with approval Tolkien’s retention of the many famous ‘kennings’ on the original, and Tim picked up their complexity in terms of the semiotics of language.

I addressed the problem levelled at both LotR and Beowulf that there are ‘no women’, or that women are treated as merely types. While we all agreed that this was a outdated assessment on relation to LotR, I argued that there is much to be learned about the lives and treatment of aristocratic women in Anglo-Saxon society and poetry. I particularly contested the notion of women as ‘peace-weavers’ because although the term is used, its reality is subverted by the example of Hildeburh, whose peace-making marriage ends in slaughter as the ‘in-laws’ revive their old feud.

Pat wondered at the status of royal women who, she suggested, were being treated as nothing more than servants as they carried the mead to the warriors. I commented that in doing so they were in fact honouring their guests.

Our discussion was so wide-ranging and detailed that I made fewer notes than usual and so this completes the report for this meeting.

For our next meeting we will finish what we haven’t yet read of the poem and the remainder of the Commentary.

First Saturday in June


We had to decide whether to have fresh air or (relative) peace and quiet for our discussions this afternoon as there was a good deal of loud noise pollution going on in the vicinity of the Library seminar room. It was decided that closed windows and fans were advisable.

We were missing Julie and Mike, and Carol has only just started reading the book so will catch up with us at the next meeting when she and Rosemary come for their annual visit.

Before we began, Angela and Chris shared some of their holiday photos with us – the statue of Gandalf carved from a tree was particularly effective, and the views of the lava field on the volcanic mountain were impressive. It was nice to know I’m not the only member who walks around different places with an eye to their relationship to scenes in Middle-earth!

Our reading for this week was the first part of the new Beowulf book up to the maiming of Grendel and his escape from Heorot. There were many aspects to consider and some of us had come well furnished with additional texts. Tim brought C.L. Wrenn’s translation, as well as the beautifully illustrated translation by Magnus Magnusson and Julian Glover. Laura also came with other translations, as did Angela, whose 1991 translation opened its Introduction with ‘In 1938, J. R. R. Tolkien …’ – a useful illustration of a point I had been making about the fact that most translations we are likely to come across will be those done after the one edited now by Christopher Tolkien from his father’s translation and lecture notes from 1926. And all translations after 1936 have been done in the knowledge of Tolkien’s Monsters and Critics essay which ‘stopped the clocks’ as far as Beowulf research was concerned for some 20 years.

I had brought along my treasured Beowulf, 3rd edition, edited by F. Klaeber – the version of the Old English text Tolkien used (but not, of course the actual book he worked from), and it came in useful for checking what Ian identified as a typo in the Tolkien translation. Ian directed our attention to lines 479-83:

 ‘I tell thee for a truth, son of Ecglaf, that never would Grendel have achieved so many a deed of horror, fierce slayer and dire, in thy lord’s despite, humbling him in Heorot, if they heart and soul were thus fell in war as thou thyself accountest.’

Ian challenged the ‘they’ before ‘heart’, which does not make grammatical sense, and Klaeber confirmed the OE has ‘gif þin hige wære sefa swa searogrim…’ ‘if thy heart were thus fierce in battle…’

I remarked that for me the most significant thing about the Tolkien edition is the way Christopher’s Introduction explains the power of Tolkien’s prose style. This is something we have often remarked when reading LotR and to a lesser extent The Silmarillion, and at last the metrical basis of his prose has been revealed. It is clear enough in Tom Bombadil’s prose, which reflects the metrical rhythms of his songs, but the metrical patterning of other episodes – based as it seems on OE metrics – is, at Ian noted, a sign of Tolkien’s attention to the craft of writing prose which he seems not to distinguish – in terms of artistry – from the writing of poetry. Ian expanded this idea to suggest that Tolkien wrote LotR prose ‘as if’ he were actually translating it from an original poetic form!

The aspect of the translation that seems out of place is Tolkien’s preference for apparent later medieval chivalric vocabulary at times in his choice of ‘knight’ in place of the more usual ‘warrior’. Laura noted that Tolkien actually prefers ‘knight’ to ‘þegn’ (thane). And Angela observed that in LotR ‘knights’ are referred to in the chapters ‘Minas Tirith’ and ‘The Field of Cormallen’.

Laura drew our attention to an unexpected element in the lecture notes/commentary when she noted influences from Arthurian legends including Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which, as Laura pointed out, also includes a monster (the Green Knight) who invades a hall and its society, and has to be confronted by a hero other than the lord of the hall.

[I note after further consideration that there is a significant contrast between SGGK and Beowulf because the Green Knight, although ‘unnatural’ in his invulnerability, is closely akin to medieval figures of ‘misrule’ associated with Christmas, and he operates from within the chivalric world in order to challenge it. Grendel, on the other hand, operates entirely outside the structures of the society represented in Beowulf and for which the poem was created. (This thought was late in coming to me!)]

Tim pointed out that Tolkien may have been using Arthurian language to create a sense of coherence because the original legend of Arthur (as a Romano-British warrior who took on the Saxons) dates from around the same time as the origins of the Beowulf story – the 6th/7th centuries.

Ian thought the Arthurian tradition included the tradition of the unexpected hero and the need for him to prove himself – which is how Beowulf first appears.

I found it hard account for Tolkien’s reference to the Round Table as a way of describing Hroðgar’s chosen warriors, and I wondered if Tolkien was including Arthurian references in his lecture notes either as a familiar context for his students, or under the influence of his Pembroke colleague from 1926 onward, R.G. Collingwood.

Tim brought us back to the matter of poetic prose when he remarked on the pace of language at line 81 in the translation:

Even thus did the men of that company live in mirth and happiness, until one began to work deeds of wrong, a fiend of hell. Grendel was that grim creature called, the ill-famed haunter of the marches of the land, who kept the moors, the fastness of the fens, and unhappy one, inhabited long while the troll-kind’s home.

Tim observed that this maintains a ‘mead-hall beat’ – a characteristic rhythm, and he proposed that this might be regarded here as an experimental style.

Chris asked if the Tolkien translation had added anything new the understanding of the OE poem. I commented that the translation successfully conveyed the well-known sequence describing Grendel’s isolation and the threat of what lay beyond the bright society of the meadhall. Fear of the intense darkness of a world that humans could not control.

This connected with Laura’s observations regarding Tolkien’s avoidance of translating ‘ylfe’ as ‘elf’, preferring ‘goblins’, as the Anglo-Saxon wariness regarding elves belonged with a general sense of unseen threats to human society. This theme is, I thought, well expressed in the translation as Grendel cannot be dealt with in any recognised human manner. As Ian noted, the way this is expressed makes plain the attempts by the Heorot community to make a truce, or buy the troll off with treasure, but this is a creature existing beyond the structures known to the community of Heorot and the Anglo-Saxon audience.

Laura had brought along a map showing the relationship between the lands of the Danes, Swedes, Geats, and the Jutes – a matter of local interest for us as one of our local tribes – the Ytene of the New Forest – were originally Jutes. And there has been some debate concerning the identification of Jutes and Giants in Beowulf. Christopher Tolkien in his notes refers readers to the Glossary of Names in Alan Bliss’s edition of Finn and Hengist. I found this less than helpful, but comparison between word forms in the Klaeber glossary shows how confusion might arise. Happily, editors capitalise the tribal name!

Following my arcane wanderings around eotenas and Eotenas, Tim picked up the idea of the ancient fear of what inhabits the dark and threatens human life, referring us to the recent film The Grey, which uses exactly these fears to great effect, including the red eyes in the dark – not only a signal of the wolves in the film, but of Grendel’s eyes like flame in the dark.

Laura then picked up the matter of the water monsters that Beowulf encounters as she had come across a reference to a ‘nix’ as a kind of water monster, and she queried whether there was any connection with the ‘nicors’ that attack Beowulf. Klaeber again came in useful, showing that there is indeed an etymological link – ‘nix’ seems to be a Germanic form.

Ian kept our attention on the mere – the home of Grendel – infested with ‘nicors’. But Ian’s focus was on the relative geography of Denmark now and then. He had discovered that there are indeed collapsed caves on the island of Bornholm giving rise to ‘sink holes’. Ian also commented that Bornholm lies between Denmark and modern Sweden, but was always an ‘in-between’ island, a liminal space suited to marginal creatures.

The afternoon went even more quickly than usual and then we had the tricky decision of what and how much to read for our next meeting. It was finally agreed that we should read as much of the translation and/or the commentary as we can manage.


Last meeting in May

24. 5. 14

We were continuing with our reading of Narn i Hȋn Húrin, and Carol’s comments are included as an appendix; but we began with excitement and celebration because we had almost all obtained our copies of the new Beowulf translation and Sellíc Spell. No one had had time to read very much, but I was gratified to see the translation had been done in proper scholarly fashion, i.e. in prose. Tim recalled Tolkien’s comments on translation that he had included in the Introduction to Wrenn’s edition of Beowulf and Ian conjectured that readers who are unfamiliar with the academic convention of translating poetry into prose may well be surprised that the great expert in Old English did not attempt to translate into the OE long line poetic form.

Please Note: With Beowulf in our hands, we decided to break off in the middle of our reading of Unfinished Tales and move straight into reading the new book, that is our reading for the next 3 weeks at least (this month has 5 Saturdays so we will not meet again for 3 weeks).

As we put aside our lovely new books with the embossed dragon on the front to turn to other matters, Ian remarked that he has noticed an unusual cluster of visits to his blog site for the Leeds Blue Plaque.  All the visits seem to be from the USA and we conjectured that a class had been set an end of year project, or maybe conference-goers attending the Leeds IMC had been looking up places of interest. Whatever the facts, it shows the value of Ian’s blog.

We at last moved on to the story of Túrin, and Tim noted that Christopher Tolkien interrupts the story after Túrin and his outlaws move into the dwarf caves with Mȋm. Suddenly readers are directed to the continuation of the story in The Silmarillion, and to an Appendix to the story before them, given at the end. As Tim observed, the editorial technique makes the reading of the story generally rather ‘bitty’.

The unfinished state of the material on the Unfinished Tales was a matter for comment throughout the afternoon.

I asked if anyone else had found the story hard to get through? Mike replied that it read like Tess of the D’Urberfields in the woods! Laura observed that it is a tragic tale, but not much is said about the fate of Niniel’s baby which is killed in her suicide.

Mike thought that the problem lies in the basic need for good to win, which the Narn does not satisfy, but Laura and Tim suggested that because Glaurung has been killed and thus Morgoth’s control is at least interrupted, then good of a kind does prevail.

This gave rise to a debate between Laura and Mike over the unknown extent of Illuvatar’s overall plan.

There was general agreement on the richness of the writing. Mike considered the description of the river ‘grinding its teeth’ cleverly compact.

Tim remarked that Turin is a Frodo-like sacrificial hero, although he is doer not a thinker like Frodo.

Julie thought Turin was a Coriolanus-type warrior. I remarked that Turin never seems to me as ‘sympathetic’ as Coriolanus.

Ian commented that from ‘The Coming of Glaurung’ there seem to be many unexplained misfortunes, but also considered that events and situations were being ‘spun’ by Melkor expressly to torment Hurin. Mike noted that there is no reminder of this. Ian picked up his previous point remarking that the reader sees what is given by the author as Hurin sees what Morgoth permits.

Laura then wondered if Morgoth intentionally sacrifices Glaurung. Mike thought that the author avoids limiting interpretive and structural possibilities by saying too much.

Mike also revealed that he had found a laugh! Turin and Hunthor are clambered along of the Teiglin Gorge with Glaurung above them, Turin praises Hunthor for his help. Simultaneously Hunthor is hit on the head by a falling rock and killed. Grim humour indeed.

Mike then wondered why Niniel/ Nienor does not cover up the apparently dead Turin. Laura remarked that she has now had her ‘Romeo’ moment.

Tim observed that the story is very much a work in progress as shown by the fact that there are so many versions of the Turin story. Laura remarked that in comparison to the Narn, the version in The Silmarillion feels very ‘thin’.

I asked if there are many versions, and we are participating in interpreting the meaning, does that make the story of Turin a genuine myth. Mike did not think so, because there is no development on from Tolkien’s original. Julie, on the other hand, thought there were signs of independent development in the form of fan-fiction. Ian objected that Tolkien’s myth cannot be played out in the real world in the way that Greek and other myths can be seen to.

Tim observed that the story needs to be free of copyright, like Shakespeare – Mike added.

Changing tack completely, Ian noted that Tolkien’s ‘word-bombs’ – unexpected or anachronistic words – are used to wake us up by referencing other works and real world relationships.

I then asked if anyone had come across more information about the mode of Elvish verse called Minlamed thent / estent in which the Narn is said to have been originally written. It was thought that it was a fictionalising of the different kinds of poetry for special occasions, and the different forms of writing used for different kinds of sagas.

I also introduced a very grim thought when I asked if it was possible that the reference to the outlaws killing orcs and hanging their bodies on trees could have been influenced by the infamous World War 1 photo of a body draped in a tree following an explosion. Julie thought it read like the actions of gamekeepers who hang dead rooks and crows in places where they will deter others of the same kind. But, Julie thought, it could also be regarded as a war crime. Laura thought the dishonourable treatment of dead orcs was because they were ‘just’ orcs, so it was not dishonourable to treat them in that way.

Please note- we move on to Beowulf now, reading up to page 36, or further if time permits.

Carol’s Comments


I’m glad Hunthor chides Dorlas because Dorlas proves craven in the end and Hunthor sets out Brandir’s plight perfectly.

pp.131-2 this section between Brandir and Niniel, like the rest of it, is bitter. Niniel is going headlong to meet death and poor Brandir is unmanned. In hard time, gentleness and healing are thought little of, more’s the pity, and especially in a man.




p.133 Dorlas pays in more than shame. ‘watched a white star far above…’ – there’s always the star above danger, reminding that some things can’t be touched by evil. See also Sam going across Mordor.

p.134 even though Hunthor dies he lives long enough to save Turin from falling and therefore finishing the job.  If for nothing else, fate seems to have brought Turin to this point to kill Glaurung and at least rid the world of a great and wicked danger. But at such a human cost…

p.138 Nienor’s tragic realisation. Her end is worthy of an opera. The whole story is worthy of an opera.

The death of Turin

p. 142 although it’s too late, I’m glad Turin repents of his words and actions against Brandir. All the main player pay dearly.



First Meeting in May


This week we were missing Chris and Angela who are on holiday, as well as Mike, but the rest of us discussed future plans and were updated by Ian on his latest research project. Carol had sent comments and as usual those that are not embedded will be found at the end of the meeting report.

And so we turned to the Narn i Hín Húrin. Ian observed that with regard to the death of Urwen in the story, the daughter of Joseph Wright, Tolkien’s very influential tutor, also died in childhood, raising the possibility of an echo here.

Ian also suggested that in the representation of the lame servant Sador there was apparently a touch of light relief, although the character turns out to be important to the story.

Tim remarked that Sador functions as a father figure to Túrin, and Carol observed “I like the exchanges beween Sador and Túrin, they’re the closest we come to ordinary domesticity and love. Henceforth Túrin’s life will be turmoil.”

Carol noted that several things are raised in Túrin’s conversation with Labadal: man’s mortality v. elves immortality, should both live in close proximity; being so close to elves has raised men to greater levels but there’s always that chance of envy of their immortality as we see later in Numenor. Túrin is not showing his feelings, I can relate to that: showing feelings opens vulnerability. So far so good – but Túrin isn’t yet being an obdurate *!*!!*.

Laura thought this story of the children of Húrin reads like a post-apocalyptic novel, that Túrin is clearly a depressive, and that joining the robber band seems contrary to his elite status, but we thought the robbers, though vile and violent, were the kind of people who would be survivors in the ‘post-apocalyptic’ environment in which Túrin has grown to adulthood.

Carol commented that Morgoth’s curse on Húrin’s family is dire, and what Morgoth says about the dire curse on the family comes about, but could Túrin have turned that aside with wiser decisions, not that he knew that Morgoth had cursed his family. Is the curse Túrin’s obstinate nature just bringing out the innate, like Morwen’s. Who’s to say but it damned well annoys me.

Ian described the whole situation as grim, and Tim remarked that this was a case of the survival of the fittest.

Laura extended her earlier motif to suggest that Thingol and Melian sheltered in Doriath with the Girdle functioning like a nuclear bunker.

Ian noted that Elves only collaborate with other groups and races as it suits their particular interests, and he likened this to the situation revealed in Icelandic sagas, where collaboration is usually for advantage.

I added that Morwen, Húrin’s wife and Túrin mother, reminded me of Bergthora, Njal’s stern wife in Njal’s Saga. Carol wondered, ‘why is it that Rian and Gloredhel die of grief? Sad yes that their husbands have died in battle but why couldn’t they carry on? What about the children? Morwen does carry on but she’s hard. “alms were bitter to Morwen.” Thank god her children made her less proud.

Laura changed the cultural parallels when she observed that Túrin in many ways resembles Shakespeare’s unique tragic hero Coriolanus, including in the multiple changes to his name. Tim also compared Aragorn’s many names, and Julie added Gandalf’s different names given by different races. Julie added that even Frodo is named differently by the different races he encounters.

Further parallels between Túrin and Coriolanus include their relationships with stern mothers, the absent warrior father, and, I suggested, the motif of changing sides, as Túrin joins up with the outlaws, and Coriolanus joins the Volsces. Tim observed that Túrin is in the tradition of Shakespearean tragic heroes.

Laura wondered whether Túrin was just a miserable child or whether his dour state is a sign of Morgoth’s influence already affecting his life? Carol remarked that Morgoth’s curse on Húrin’s family is dire, and what Morgoth says about the curse on the family comes about, but could Túrin have turned that aside with wiser decisions? Not that he knew that Morgoth had cursed his family. Is the curse, Carol asked, Túrin’s obstinate nature just bringing out the innate, like Morwen’s? Who’s to say, but it damned well annoys me.

Tim also wondered whether it was just ‘nurture’ rather than nature, as he is the son of a lost father, a stern mother, is then fostered far away, and later outcast from his home as his family is torn apart by invasion. Laura observed that it is typical of a war situation.

Carol observed: “I like Sador’s definition of a thrall: ‘a man who was a man but is treated as a beast.’ and the rest of his remarks are very accurate and scary.”

Ian commented that the pattern of war and invasion in Beleriand represented in the story and its consequences may be characteristic of an island view as opposed to a continental attitude.

Laura then drew attention to the references to an ‘ill wind’ and the ‘pestilence’ it brought that killed children, noting the resemblance to the plagues of Egypt and the last one that slew the firstborn. We discussed other similar instances of plagues targeting children or younger people and Tim noted that Robert Browning’s poem ‘The Pied Piper of Hamlin’ drew on stories of the mortality of children due to plague.

Both Tim and Julie thought Túrin was much like the usual morose teenager, and Tim enlarged on this by likening Túrin to the young Egils, although it was allowed that his saga shows that Egils did grow more politic with age. But with Laura, he agreed that some other characters take to Túrin.

Laura balanced this by commenting on Saeros’s jealousy, and as Tim and Ian noted, this Elf mocks Túrin as ‘woodwose’. Ian observed that Sador had been a woodworker, and Laura remarked that Beleg the Elf, Túrin’s friend, was skilled in woodcraft. There was some discussion as to whether this made Beleg the Middle-earth equivalent of Bear Grylls but Tim likened him to Ray Mears – less given to being outlandish.

Carol commented: if Morwen hadn’t been so proud and gone to Doriath with Nienor, Túrin’s final doom of inadvertently marrying his sister would have been averted. Enter snake in the grass Saeros. The episode with Saeros is good. Shows Saeros for what he is, especially the remark about the women of Hithlum running about naked. Bad move! And I think Túrin’s most restrained throughout this whole episode, but he’s too stubborn when it comes to going back to be judged by Thingol.

We changed tack at this point to consider Tolkien’s problem with great waves, and whether this was an instance of folk-memory, or whether Tolkien communicated his preoccupation to his son. Julie noted that he had travelled to England by sea as a child.

Returning to our main topic, it was noted that when Túrin as a child names Sador – Labadal – this would be considered politically incorrect. Laura added that Brandir was also crippled, and I wondered why Tolkien included two characters with similar problems in the same story. Carol remarked, however, “I always feel pity for Brandir. He’s in love with Niniel and there could be some jealousy there. Even so, he’s not valued for his healing arts and certainly not for being lame. But he’s wiser than most of his colleagues and senses something not quite right in Turambar. But such are the times and the values: martial skill valued over gentler activities but it was a tough time in which to be alive.

Ian went on to compare the episodic form of Egils’ Saga with that of the story of Tuor, and Laura noted the use of ‘saying’ in the story with are specific to it, i.e. they are not Primary World sayings, or proverbs.

I was surprised to see Morgoth claim to be the Elder King when challenged by Húrin, and Tim confirmed that Manwë was the Elder King, thus making Morgoth a liar and aligning him with Satan as ‘father of lies’. Carol observed that Morgoth’s arrogance is great. “In a sense he is king of Arda because Manwë seems to have washed his hands of Middle-earth while Morgoth is involved, if only for domination and evil. Húrin must have been made of stern stuff to endure what Morgoth thrust on him and not go raving mad but none of the Valar come to help him which must have enforced what Morgoth said about being the arbiter of the fields of Arda.”

Carol noted that the Doriath episode includes nice background on the dragon helm and Thingol’s armoury. Then, as we considered the episode with Mȋm I remarked on the use of ‘dwarf visors’ derived from the dwarf smiths’ protective helmets. This of course gave rise to the customary ‘elf and safety’ comment, and to Ian’s observation that on the ‘American Chopper’ TV programme protective helmets are visored and decorated.

Carol noted: this surely is an unfinished tale as it doesn’t tell of Mȋm’s betrayal of Túrin and his gang, but Mȋm lives by expediency and owes loyalty to no man, especially those who killed his son. I always feel rather sorry for him

Laura remarked on the explicit xenophobia of the treatment of the dwarves by Túrin, the outlaws, and other races. She also noted Mȋm’s echo of the Anglo-Saxon rage over the name changes imposed by the invaders, in his bitter comment on the way the Elves changed all the names. Laura also wondered at the use of the word ‘chines’ to describe ravines near Mȋm’s cave. Based on the local use of the word for geographical features on the Isle of Wight and near Bournemouth, she wondered if the word had Jutish origins. Having investigated, I discovered 2 definitions:

Chine 1. Spine, backbone, back, meat from the back [<Old French eschine = backbone <Germanic]

Chine 2. A deep or narrow ravine or fissure [Old English cinu]

By this time we had run out of time and hastily agreed to finish the Narn for our next meeting.


Carol’s additional comments:

First a question: why do people in Middle-earth name their children to rhyme with their own as in Húrin/Túrin, Huor/Tuor?

When Túrin meets Beleg for the first time, Beleg’s doom is settled too.


Túrin among the outlaws: ‘Neithan the wronged’, the first of Túrin’s a.k.a.s.


Túrin still has common decency in rescuing the woman from Forweg but still doesn’t take her side. These are stern times.


Beleg tells Túrin to meet him in Dimbar – foresighted? for so it turns out.


Of Mȋm the dwarf

Remember Húrin is seeing all this happen and will avenge himself on Mȋm before the end. Fair comment from Mȋm about resources: ‘we do not teach men to find them [roots]…for men are greedy and thriftless.’ Yeah!


When he crosses paths with Tuor and Voronwë, Túrin seems to bring disaster wherever he goes.


The coming of Túrin to Brethil

So he’s come to the scene of his final disaster. Funny the orcs recognise the black sword but not the woodsman. So he takes the name of Turambar, master of fate (by fate mastered).


The journey of Morwen and Nienor to Nargothrond

Morwen being pig-headed: Rian died of a broken heart because Huor was killed at the Nirnaeth; Morwen’s the opposite. Is there no happy medium among these women? Still, walk a mile in their shoes…!


The hunting of the wolf, referring back to Beren and Carcaroth and Mablung, like the venture even less.


‘fey are you both’: Silly proud women. I just don’t understand Morwen’s mindset or perhaps family was pulling very strongly; ditto Nienor. Puzzle! Now though it isn’t a matter of family pulling them into danger. Glaurung has just created some of his havoc and everyone goes every which way in his confusion – truly Morgoth has cursed Húrin’s family and this time nobody can alter that. I would pass out coming on Glaurung as Nienor does.


Glaurung-Mablung-Nienor: a picture of absolute desolation. It’s all so doom-laden. Morgoth knows how to torture without using physical means. Trouble is, even when he’s bound outside Arda eventually, evil doesn’t stop.



Last Meeting in April


After missing out the first meeting in April because of the recent Tolkien Society AGM, we spent some time at the start of this afternoon considering matters arising from the AGM – more on this, hopefully, in due course and following wider consultation.

Our topic for this afternoon was the first section of the Unfinished Tales ‘Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin’. Carol sent her comments and any not integrated will be added at the end of the main report.

Tim, however, with a nod towards the newest Tolkien book remarked that John Garth had reminded him that The Lost Road (one of the volumes of The Histories of Middle-earth), has a small extract from Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf, and the much-debated ‘Hwæt’ is there translated as ‘Lo!’ The translation of the Old English word has often been a topic for debate among us, and we were still not entirely satisfied, even with Tolkien’s choice (!) and thought it was probably best left untranslated.

We then turned our attention to Tuor and Laura observed that while reading it she was aware of the differences between this version and those in The Silmarillion and The Book of Lost Tales. I asked if the fact that there are a number of versions was confusing, but Laura replied that it is shame that so much is lost in TSilm and BLT when compared to the Tuor story in UT.

Tim remarked that the earlier versions seem so much richer in detail compared to Tolkien’s later, ‘drier’ version in TSilm. Angela noted that the Introduction to UT gives an account of the earliest versions and Tolkien’s preferences.

Laura observed that the appearance of Ulmo that is so impressive is lost from the later version of the story in TSilm.

Tim commented on the absorbing nature of Tuor’s passage through the 7 gates of Gondolin that ends so abruptly – unfinished.

Chris remarked that the gates that Tuor has to pass reminded him of the 7 gates of Minas Tirith in LotR. Angela noted that there was an original Minas Tirith on Tol Sirion before the drowning of Beleriand. Tim saw Tolkien’s ‘reworking’ of Minas Tirith in LotR as an homage to the Beleriand Minas Tirith.

Tim directed our attention to one of Tolkien’s letters written after LotR in which he refers to his work on Gondolin. Laura observed that the original work on The Fall of Gondolin was carried out in 1916/17. Tim, Angela and Chris noted that it is mentioned in the Introduction to UT, that work on Tuor and his Coming was as late as 1951. Tim remarked that this explained why the quality of the writing was on a par with LotR: Tolkien was at the peak of his powers as a writer. Angela commented on the contrast described between this and what the Introduction describes as the ‘extreme archaic style’ of the 1916/17 Fall of Gondolin.

Carol too commented: ‘lovely writing. Once Tolkien gets into the flow through Voronwë his powers of description are hypnotising.’

Laura went on to observe that Tuor and his Coming reads like a fairy tale, full of symbolism.

I had been impressed by the pictorial qualities of the narrative, and Tim remarked that as Tolkien was an artist he had an artist’s ‘feeling’ for things.

Laura drew our attention to Tuor’s distant view of his tragic cousin Túrin passing by. As Carol remarked: ‘just a little time-line check about the fall of Nargothrond. They sort of cross paths with Túrin, each to such different ends, though close kin, yet strangers.

Together with observations by Voronwë Tuor’s new Elf companion and guide of the evidence that Glaurung has been there, as the two stories momentarily intersect, Tolkien draws attention to Túrin through this ‘intertextuality.’

Angela then noted that Voronwë and Tuor were nice, and quite different to e.g. Túrin, who is frequently arrogant, as are other leading male characters.

Tim thought there is a touch of Aragorn about Tuor in his solitary travelling. Angela added that both have prophecies attached to them, but Tuor in finished versions passes into the West, perhaps because of his service as the messenger of Ulmo.

Tim noted that Tuor is also Elrond’s great-grandfather ‘And Aragorn’s ancestor!’ Angela added, going on to note that Voronwë’s mother is kin of Cirdan.

While discussing the appearance of Ulmo, Laura noted that he is described as flickering with ‘sea-fire’, so he shines with phosphorescence.

Carol commented: Ulmo sounds like one of the prophet of doom in the Hebrew Bible.

Tim observed that Tuor sets out on his journey to find Gondolin in winter just as the Fellowship sets out in winter in LotR. Both he and Laura discussed the nature of the ‘lappett’ that Ulmo pulled from his own cloak to cover and conceal Tuor during his journey. Tim thought it should have been made of fur if it was to keep Tuor warm. But its quality of shadowy concealing was more like the cloaks given by Galadriel.

I wondered if Voronwë’s account of being saved from drowning when he was born up ‘on the shoulder’ of a great wave meant that this is to be interpreted as Ulmo’s intervention too. Laura saw echoes of the story of St Christopher in this image, just as I had seen echoes of the story of St. Martin in Ulmo’s gift of a part of his cloak to Tuor. Chris and Angela noted a reference to Ossë driving the storm that besets Voronwë.

Laura noted a reference to an phenomenon like the Severn Bore, before observing that Ulmo’s plan fails because the great Elven kings Turgon and Thingol are devoted to things rather than having a larger view. Turgon is devoted to his city and Thingol to treasure. Tim thought this made the Elves just as fallible as everyone else.

Laura remarked one Ulmo’s reference to ‘fate’ and the rift in it. Ulmo is going against the decisions of the Valar by actively intervening in Middle-earth, and his image of the rift, and the ‘breach’ in the walls of Doom show that fate is not a relentless plodding, and that what seems like the End to mortals is only their view of the ‘full-making.’

Angela commented that Tuor is thus constructed as ‘hope’ – prefiguring Aragorn.

Running out of time – as usual – we agreed that our next reading would be Narn I Hin Hurin as far as the section ‘The Coming of Glaurung’.

Carol’s comments:

Unfinished Tales, Unwin 89 (80)

Introduction p.2:

I’m one of those moved by ‘the curious effect that a story has’ and who ‘clamour for sheer information’.

Just a brief note on Christopher Tolkien’s writing style – it is not for ninnies, complex sentence structure, obscure references etc.


He is at great pains to explain things in his introduction, meticulous. For me he could have invented the whole lot, close as he was to his dad. But for this very reason, he’s faithful to his dad’s writings, also perhaps bearing in mind some fans might be nit-pickers if any inaccuracies are found, and also bearing in mind many fans are academics too. And showing to detractors the seriousness with which we regard the works of JRRT.


Part One The First Age Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin

p.17: Rian leaving Tuor and going to die on Huor’s grave: theres something very selfish in some Middle-earth parents – leaving their children – e.g. Elwing and Earendil. Children leaving parents is fine; that’s the way it should be, but vice versa – unnatural I call it.


pp.24-5: It’s hard for us to imagine what it must be like to see the sea for the first time, especially living in Scarborough and Southampton, but Tuor must have been totally amazed, water that flows and ebbs, rises and falls, and passes widely to a horizon. What a sight!

For all Gondolin must have been a wondrous place to see, it’s very hard, metallic and stoney. I know it was a hidden kingdom on a war footing but I like Meduseld better, softer, kinder.

I’m not really interested in commentary. I like reading the Unfinished Tales because they give more information, padding out The Silmarillion account. And I always want to know more.

I’ve enjoyed reading ‘Tuor’ again, apart from expanding TSilm story. It’s very well written and holds one’s interest in a mode of tale that’s not easy to keep interesting. For a large part about a solitary wanderer, and then with only two wanderers, spiked by the appearance of Ulmo and at the end other elves to converse with. Tuor and Voronwe are made of tough fibre, their main battle being against the elements.


Last meeting in March (Reading Day Meeting)


As the meeting closest to Reading Day we began with a discussion of the Reading Day topic which this year has been ‘Hope’. Omer’s contribution on the topic follows the meeting report.

After that we moved on to consider Finn and Hengist. However, we did indulge in some initial conjecture about the forthcoming Tolkien translation of Beowulf – a suitable introduction to Reading Day.

When we moved on, our discussion of Hope in Tolkien’s works began with Laura observing that although many bad and sad things happen throughout the legendarium the general trend of the stories is towards eventual Hope, as even after the Scouring and Frodo’s increasing distress everything moves towards the promise of the West.

Tim added that one of his favourite quotes was Frodo’s last vision of: ‘a far green country under a swift sunrise’ (RotK ‘The Grey Havens’), which implies hope.

Julie picked out the terrible time when Sam and Frodo are in Mordor when hope seemed to die but didn’t.

Laura reminded us of the myth of Pandora’s Box which when opened released all the ills of the world, so that only hope remained in the Box – to look after Mankind. [On the matter of the Box please also see Ian's comments added as an Appendix later that raise significant intersections between this and references to Boxes in LotR]

Mike distinguished between the expression of a wish, e.g. hoping something will happen – which Angela described as hope in what’s known – versus that Christian certainty of hope. Mike quoted from St. Paul, that suffering requires endurance which evokes hope. Obstacles can only be overcome through hope, and Mike remarked that this is a quality seen in Sam even when Frodo loses hope.

Angela noted that Aragorn retains hope but Denethor loses it, and she cited Vol. 10 of The Histories of Middle-earth and the debate between Andreth and Finrod concerning hope. This is probably Tolkien’s most detailed consideration of Hope, written in the classical form of a debate between two characters and distinguishes between kinds of hope, ‘Amdir’ and ‘Estel’, of which the latter is the deepest form and is equated with Trust.

Mike recast this as ‘something worth putting up with things for’, while Angela suggested that Hope is inbuilt into our nature, and while Aragorn temporarily loses ‘Amdir’ he never loses ‘Estel’. Angela also noted that Eärendil was also known as ‘Gil-Estel’, Star Hope.

Tim compared this to the concept of ‘wishing on a star’, and Laura remarked on its like to the thematic importance of light in the legendarium.

Angela later added the following for clarification: “My comment that Aragorn temporarily loses ‘amdir’ but never loses ‘estel‘ should be credited to Elizabeth M. Stephen as she discusses this subject in detail in her book Hobbit to Hero.  My own references to the Finrod/Andreth debate in Aragorn: J R R Tolkien’s Undervalued Hero relate to discussions on elf/mortal unions and pity rather than hope.”

The general trend of the discussion up to this point had been optimistic – that Tolkien’s work tends intentionally towards hope. However, after giving the topic some thought I had come to the opposite conclusion – that what we see is the final absence of Hope, which is more like a social construct. Mike objected that this was not Tolkien’s point, which was rather the endless need for endurance aided by faith in order to avoid complacency.

Both Angela and Mike considered hope an inbuilt human response, but wondered why that should be? Laura pondered the possibility that if hope was not a spiritual quality, what is it? She suggested it might be tied to the need for the race/tribe to continue. Tim expanded this, suggesting the need of endurance for survival. Mike found this a rather practical impulse linked to benefits.

Ian proposed that the quality of Hope developed because we live on a dynamic planet and hope helps us deal with the prospect of the future which is inevitably one of change.

Mike observed that Hope is very necessary in absence and suffering. Hope helps people carry on, Thus the outcome of LotR is hopeful and shows how to endure. The sensitivity and subtlety upon which it is based has been part of humanity for aeons.

Laura then wondered why Hope is specific to humans but not other animals –as far as we know. We did not address the matter of ‘rationality’, but Angela noted that in LotR, Appendix A the backstory of Aragorn declares that even in the face of his high and demanding ‘doom’: ‘hope dwelt ever in the depths of his heart’, and Chris remarked that Hope may be equated with ‘belief’.

Our discussion moved in the direction of ethics, as it had been tending all afternoon, until Laura remarked on the status of the Eagles, suggesting first that that they were symbols of hope, or that those who herald their approach announce hope, but then Laura rethought this, seeing the Eagles rather as coming to put things right, like the classical Furies.

Tim picked up this link between arrival and hope when he reminded us of the arrival of the Rohirrim at cockcrow, in opposition to the arrival of the Lord of the Nazgul. Tim regarded this as mortal action signifying the arrival of Hope.

Angela contrasted this to Denethor’s response to Pippin’s reminder of Gandalf: ‘The fool’s hope has failed’.

Julie contrasted this to Sam’s song in the Tower of Cirith Ungol which emphasises in ‘I will not say the day is done…’ hope as an act of will.

Mike took a wider view of Hope when he observed that writers need to keep hope up: readers need to hope for a good ending. Hope may also be part of the drama of a story.

With that long perspective, and because we had had quite an intense discussion of the topic of Hope, it seemed a good time to move on to our reading and discuss our responses to Finn and Hengist the name given by the editor to Tolkien’s lectures on two related texts which tell the same story. One is known as the Fragment and the other is the Episode (from its inclusion in the Beowulf poem).

Ian started by commenting that the book was not conveniently laid out. Laura observed that it was perhaps more representative of the structure of Tolkien’s lectures on the material. Alan Bliss, the editor, contributed very little of his own commentary, preferring to rely heavily on the notes Tolkien compiled for lectures he gave at Oxford during the 1930s and 40s.

We missed Christopher Tolkien’s editorial style, and Ian remarked that it would have helped if Professor Bliss had included the Widsith text to which he and Tolkien often refer.

Laura, however, remarked that it was good to have Tolkien’s own words, and insights into his ‘day job’, and the editorial process had retained his lecturing style.

Ian and Laura both commented on the difference between Finn and Hengist and Tolkien’s other work: the Fragment and the Episode lectures deal in real history, as revealed by Tolkien’s insights into the proper names.

Angela was particularly struck by the strange coincidence that she has been continuing her reading of books to do with the Jacobites. When she came to read Finn and Hengist she discovered that the Fragment had been first discovered by George Hickes in Lambeth Palace Library c. 1700, and Hickes was a Jacobite supporter. The Fragment has been lost, and Tim noted that even the copy used to print Hickes’s inaccurate transcript has been lost.

Angela then went on to note that some names from the Fragment and Episode appear in LotR, citing ‘Guthlaf’, and ‘Garulf’ – men of Rohan naturally. Tim picked out ‘Guđulf > Gundulf’, and Laura drew attention to ‘græghama’ > grey hame, but in the Fragment meaning ‘wolf’.

Chris wondered what Christopher Tolkien thought of Alan Bliss’s edition of the work, given that his father had appointed Prof. Bliss as his editor during his lifetime.

Julie commented that it was interesting that Tolkien trusted someone other than his son.


Our next meeting will not be until the last Saturday in April because the TS AGM will be held on our usual second Saturday of the month. We have therefore not yet set our reading for our April meeting, but according to our suggested reading list, our next reading should be Unfinished Tales.


Omer’s Comments [Ian's  comments follow these]

Tolkien and Hope: there are a number of times where such elements (i.e. of Hope, related to hopefulness etc) come before us, in various works by Prof Tolkien, especially in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I recollect to some extent these lines, which always struck me as rather special and significant in this respect, when at one place Gandalf tells Frodo that ‘…there was something … at work beyond the design of the Ring-maker’–and that ‘Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it’.

As I see it, even during the darkest hour, Tolkien finds a greater, universal pattern at work in which there is always hope, where evil is tempered with good and causes and effects fall into place in a manner that is no mere coincidence. This applies both to Middle-earth and to this earth that we inhabit, I think, in Tolkien’s view. We, too, quite often come across such instances in our lives where the light of hope springs out of the abysmal darkness, where we feel that ‘something there is’ beyond our ken that promises good. It’s hard to pinpoint this accurately but there it is.

I don’t know if this is at all useful, or any good, but somehow, these lines remain with me and are alive with suggestion and meaning.

Best regards,


Appendix – Ian’s comments on Boxes


Book I:                  3 instances         :Bilbo (1), Party (1), Sam [tinder] (1)

Book II:                 6 instances         :Bilbo (2), Sam [salt] [‘G’] (4)

Book III:               1 instances         :Orc (1)

Book IV:               4 instances         :Sam [tinder][salt] (2), ‘tree’ (2)

Book V:                                0 instances

Book VI:               3 instances         :Sam [‘G’] (3)


Lord of the Rings

Book II, The Ring Goes South

Chapter 8 Farewell to Lorien

`For you little gardener and lover of trees,’ she said to Sam, `I have only a small gift.’ She put into his hand a little box of plain grey wood, unadorned save for a single silver rune upon the lid. `Here is set G for Galadriel,’ she said; `but also it may stand for garden in your tongue. In this box there is earth from my orchard, and such blessing as Galadriel has still to bestow is upon it.

It will not keep you on your road, nor defend you against any peril; but if you keep it and see your home again at last, then perhaps it may reward you.

Though you should find all barren and laid waste, there will be few gardens in Middle-earth that will bloom like your garden, if you sprinkle this earth there. Then you may remember Galadriel, and catch a glimpse far off of Lorien, that you have seen only in our winter. For our spring and our summer are gone by, and they will never be seen on earth again save in memory.’ Sam went red to the ears and muttered something inaudible, as he clutched the box and bowed as well as he could.

Book VI The End of the Third Age

Chapter 3 Mount Doom

The hateful night passed slowly and reluctantly. Such daylight as followed was dim; for here as the Mountain drew near the air was ever mirky, while out from the Dark Tower there crept the veils of Shadow that Sauron wove about himself. Frodo was lying on his back not moving. Sam stood beside him, reluctant to speak, and yet knowing that the word now lay with him: he must set his master’s will to work for another effort. At length, stooping and caressing Frodo’s brow, he spoke in his ear. ‘Wake up, Master!’ he said. ‘Time for another start.’ As if roused by a sudden bell, Frodo rose quickly, and stood up and looked away southwards; but when his eyes beheld the Mountain and the desert he quailed again. ‘I can’t manage it, Sam,’ he said. ‘It is such a weight to carry, such a weight.’ Sam knew before he spoke, that it was vain, and that such words might do more harm than good, but in his pity he could not keep silent. ‘Then let me carry it a bit for you, Master,’ he said. ‘You know I would, and gladly, as long as I have any strength.’ A wild light came into Frodo’s eyes. ‘Stand away! Don’t touch me!’ he cried. ‘It is mine, I say. Be off!’ His hand strayed to his sword-hilt. But then quickly his voice changed. ‘No, no, Sam,’ he said sadly. ‘But you must understand. It is my burden, and no one else can bear it. It is too late now, Sam dear. You can’t help me in that way again.

I am almost in its power now. I could not give it up, and if you tried to take it I should go mad.’

Sam nodded. ‘I understand,’ he said. ‘But I’ve been thinking, Mr. Frodo, there’s other things we might do without. Why not lighten the load a bit? We’re going that way now, as straight as we can make it.’ He pointed to the Mountain.

‘It’s no good taking anything we’re not sure to need.’

Frodo looked again towards the Mountain. ‘No,’ he said,

‘we shan’t need much on that road. And at its end nothing.’

Picking up his orc-shield he flung it away and threw his helmet after it. Then pulling off the grey cloak he undid the heavy belt and let it fall to the ground, and the sheathed sword with it. The shreds of the black cloak he tore off and scattered. ‘There, I’ll be an orc no more,’ he cried, ‘and I’ll bear no weapon fair or foul. Let them take me, if they will!’ Sam did likewise, and put aside his orc-gear; and he took out all the things in his pack. Somehow each of them had become dear to him, if only because he had borne them so far with so much toil. Hardest of all it was to part with his cooking-gear. Tears welled in his eyes at the thought of casting it away. ‘Do you remember that bit of rabbit, Mr. Frodo?’ he said. ‘And our place under the warm bank in Captain Faramir’s country, the day I saw an oliphaunt?’ ‘No, I am afraid not, Sam,’ said Frodo. ‘At least, I know that such things happened, but I cannot see them. No taste of food, no feel of water, no sound of wind, no memory of tree or grass or flower, no image of moon or star are left to me. I am naked in the dark. Sam, and there is no veil between me and the wheel of fire. I begin to see it even with my waking eyes, and all else fades.’ Sam went to him and kissed his hand. ‘Then the sooner we’re rid of it, the sooner to rest,’ he said haltingly, finding no better words to say. ‘Talking won’t mend nothing,’ he muttered to himself, as he gathered up all the things that they had chosen to cast away. He was not willing to leave them lying open in the wilderness for any eyes to see. ‘Stinker picked up that orc-shirt, seemingly, and he isn’t going to add a sword to it. His hands are bad enough when empty. And he isn’t going to mess with my pans!’ With that he carried all the gear away to one of the many gaping fissures that scored the land and threw them in. The clatter of his precious pans as they fell down into the dark was like a death-knell to his heart. He came back to Frodo, and then of his elven-rope he cut a short piece to serve his master as a girdle and bind the grey cloak close about his waist.

The rest he carefully coiled and put back in his pack. Beside that he kept only the remnants of their waybread and the water-bottle, and Sting still hanging by his belt; and hidden away in a pocket of his tunic next his breast the phial of Galadriel and the little box that she gave him for his own.

Now at last they turned their faces to the Mountain and set out, thinking no more of concealment, bending their weariness and failing wills only to the one task of going on.


Chapter 4 The Field of Cormallen

‘ .. now it must be nearly noon.’ ‘Noon?’ said Sam, trying to calculate. ‘Noon of what day?’ ‘The fourteenth of the New Year,’ said Gandalf; ‘or if you like, the eighth day of April in the Shire reckoning.? But in Gondor the New Year will always now begin upon the twenty-fifth of March when Sauron fell, and when you were brought out of the fire to the King. He has tended you, and now he awaits you. You shall eat and drink with him. When you are ready I will lead you to him.’ ‘The King?’ said Sam. ‘What king, and who is he?’ ‘The King of Gondor and Lord of the Western Lands,’ said Gandalf ‘and he has taken back all his ancient realm. He will ride soon to his crowning, but he waits for you.’ ‘What shall we wear?’ said Sam; for all he could see was the old and tattered clothes that they had journeyed in, lying folded on the ground beside their beds. ‘The clothes that you wore on your way to Mordor,’ said Gandalf. ‘Even the orc-rags that you bore in the black land; Frodo, shall be preserved. No silks and linens, nor any armour or heraldry could be more honourable. But later I will find some other clothes, perhaps.’ Then he held out his hands to them, and they saw that one shone with light. ‘What have you got there?’ Frodo cried. ‘Can it be – ?’

‘Yes, I have brought your two treasures. They were found on Sam when you were rescued. The Lady Galadriel’s gifts: your glass, Frodo, and your box, Sam. You will be glad to have these safe again.’

Chapter 9 The Grey Havens

Then suddenly one day, for he [Sam] had been too busy for weeks to give a thought to his adventures, he remembered the gift of Galadriel. He brought the box out and showed it to the other Travellers (for so they were now called by everyone), and asked their advice. ‘I wondered when you would think of it,’ said Frodo. ‘Open it!’ Inside it was filled with a grey dust, soft and fine, in the middle of which was a seed, like a small nut with a silver shell. ‘What can I do with this?’ said Sam. ‘Throw it in the air on a breezy day and let it do its work!’ said Pippin. ‘On what?’ said Sam. ‘Choose one spot as a nursery, and see what happens to the plants there,’ said Merry.

But I’m sure the Lady would not like me to keep it all for my own garden, now so many folk have suffered,’ said Sam.

‘Use all the wits and knowledge you have of your own, Sam,’ said Frodo, ‘and then use the gift to help your work and better it. And use it sparingly. There is not much here, and I expect every grain has a value.’ So Sam planted saplings in all the places where specially beautiful or beloved trees had been destroyed, and he put a grain of the precious dust in the soil at the root of each. He went up and down the Shire in this labour; but if he paid special attention to Hobbiton and Bywater no one blamed him. And at the end he found that he still had a little of the dust left; so he went to the Three-Farthing Stone, which is as near the centre of the Shire as no matter, and cast it in the air with his blessing. The little silver nut he planted in the Party Field where the tree had once been; and he wondered what would come of it. All through the winter he remained as patient as he could, and tried to restrain himself from going round constantly to see if anything was happening.

Spring surpassed his wildest hopes.

His trees began to sprout and grow, as if time was in a hurry and wished to make one year do for twenty. In the Party Field a beautiful young sapling leaped up: it had silver bark and long leaves and burst into golden flowers in April. It was indeed a mallorn, and it was the wonder of the neighbourhood. In after years, as it grew in grace and beauty, it was known far and wide and people would come long journeys to see it: the only mallorn west of the Mountains and east of the Sea, and one of the finest in the world.



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