An old friend returns

Some years ago Simone Bonechi launched a Tolkien reading group / Smial in Florence. It faded away after a while, but Simone relaunched it last month and sent the following. I include it here in lieu of a Hall of Fire insert in Amon Hen:

Florence, September 15th, 2015

As I promised, here is my report of the first meeting of the Reading Group. We were ten people: two high school students, one university student, two middle aged men, three of the men who manage the Reading Point of the local library where the meeting took place, my wife and me. All people were interested and, but one, everyone had read the book and some also the Hobbit and the Silmarillion. We had a pleasant and interesting chat about Tolkien, Tolkien criticism in Italy, Great Britain and America, the Lord of the Rings in general, some of its meanings and its roots, etc. I presented the Reading Group, explaining what is all about and showing some of the books of Tolkien criticism and research tools that are available in Italian, together with the 50th anniversary boxed set of the book, complete with W.G. Hammond and C. Scull Rearder’s Companion (my prized possession). I even suggested that we could for a new smial of the Tolkien Society (actually, a revamp of my Lothlorien smial). All were very interested and agreed to meet again on October 12th, having read book one of “The Fellowship of the Ring”. We will intesify the advertising of the Reading Group, so as to gather a bit more people, but I am well satisfied of the general atmosphere.
I will keep you informed of the development of the matter.
Best wishes

Last meeting in September

After the break for Oxonmoot we were almost all back together again, only missing Angela and Chris. We spent some time catching up and then finalised our arrangements for our forthcoming Wessexmoot – details have already been sent on the email list.

Laura began our meeting proper with her observation that there are no guns in Middle-earth. Ian immediately pointed out that there is a pop-gun in The Hobbit. When the dwarves start to arrive at Bag End one sudden movement is described in terms of a pop-gun. Julie justified this anachronism by reminding us that this book, like LotR, is notionally a translation, so the pop-gun, like the express train in LotR, is an analogue or an approximation.

Carol commented that chapter 3 is narrated from Pippin’s viewpoint, and Tim remarked on the significance of Pippin regaining consciousness first. Tim added that now the Fellowship is broken Tolkien can prioritise Merry and Pippin.

Laura and Carol both noted that ‘Pippin’s refers to himself as of no use ‘a passenger, a piece of luggage’. Carol observed that he is obviously down in the dumps and uses terminology much the same as Bilbo had done in the quest to Erebor but both will prove they’re a bit better than that. Laura, however, noted that ‘luggage’ sounds mundane, as does ‘bed and breakfast’.

Eileen noted that the mundane balances the horror.

Laura went on to observe that the chapter is specifically called the ‘Uruk hai’, not just ‘The Orcs’. I remarked on the way the orcs themselves refer to their tribes. Laura noted that the tribes are so different that they need to use the Common Speech. Tim commented that the Uruks have a great sense of unified identity. Julie remarked that there are orcs, and then there’s the ‘evil one.’

Ian questioned if Ugluk is actually a Mordor orc, and observed the orc use of particular insults. Julie observed that Grishnakh seems more ‘cultivated’ in his speech and both Mike and Eileen noted that he is able to communicate at various levels.

We discussed the ‘Ape’ insult and Ian proposed that Tolkien uses it as a derogatory Orc-term within the specific context. Mike wondered if it is intended to reference earlier developments in the orc forms. Laura noted the sensitivity shown to jibes about Nazgul, while Ian noted the ‘maggots’ insult to the Moria orcs.

Laura noted that Sauron and Saruman have different motivational techniques. Sauron uses fear, and Ian observed that Grishnakh is very clear about how to get co-operation, but Saruman uses food. Carol commented: ‘the Hand gives man’s-flesh to eat. Sometimes I think Tolkien likes getting a bit gory’.

Laura noted the orc comment ‘these lands are dangerous: full of foul rebels and brigands’. Carol described this as ‘a tad ironic but the world viewed through orc eyes’.

Eileen thought that Merry and Pippin must expect that the orcs want them dead.

Tim remarked on how switched on Pippin is when he runs off and Laura wondered if there is a hint that Pippin was influenced to leave the brooch, or maybe just evidence of his Took blood.

On the topic of influence, Mike noted that way the Rider’s horse jumps over Pippin.

I wondered if Pippin’s foolish and thoughtless acts earlier in the story are actually signs of his undirected intelligence and enterprise. Laura noted that Pippin is active while Merry is still knocked out.

Laura, like Carol, noted that Merry ‘bore the brown scar to the end of his days’. Laura regarded this as a sign of longevity, and Carol described it as one of the many hints at survival.

While Carol observed that ‘Pippin brews up another plan, thinking of Strider’, Eileen that Pippin, like Aragorn, has to assume the role of leader when he and Merry are deprived of other leadership and Merry is injured. Mike extended this idea when he noted that circumstances allow Aragorn to show his true colours as he moves from ‘loner’ to leader, and that this is the case with Pippin when he has the opportunity to shine. Ian remarked that Pippin’s risk-taking has now become an asset.

Mike went on to remark that Tolkien tells us a character’s name and what a character looks like and wears, and this gives a very good sketch of character. Mike then noted that a breakfast of lembas ‘puts heart into you’. Laura thought this was very reminiscent of ‘good old British stiff upper lip’.

Tim remarked that Merry comes back into the story at the end of the chapter because of his skill in navigation and knowledge gleaned from the maps in Rivendell.

Laura noted the change of tone at the end of the chapter with the description of Dawn and Merry and Pippin being likened to elf-children.

Mike remarked that with the critical moment past Tolkien is very detailed in his description of the Rohirrim’s skirmish.

Tim observed that the orcs are no longer faceless enemies, but the hobbits don’t see the last hand-to-hand sword fight between Eomer and Ugluk.

We found so much to say about this chapter that we did not have time for ‘Treebeard’, so that, will be included in our next full meeting on 24th October together with ‘The White Rider’.

Carol’s comments:
Chapter 3 ‘The Uruk-hai

I love ‘Saruman-glob’, makes me think of spit.

There are a few occasions when Pippin has good ideas and acts on them. This is one of them, cutting his bonds and then retying them. It isn’t much use at the moment but it might be later.

‘and not idly’ does he let the leaves of Lorien fall just to leave some hobbit footprints amid the orc ones. Good old Pip, another of his good ideas.

Pippin’s at it again only this time with words, enticing Grishnakh to search for the ring, which, of course, he doesn’t have but what the hell. Merry and Pippin are between a rock and a hard place and obviously will try anything to get free.

Their taunting of Grishnakh has led him to spirit them away beyond the camp and for him to be killed, thus allowing Merry and Pippin to escape. The saying: God helps those who help themselves comes to mind. Pippin had taken the initiative, the arrows ‘aimed with skill, or guided by fate’ kill Grishnakh. Good old Pip.

Last meeting in August

We were sorry to find that Laura was still not quite well enough to join us this week, and everyone sent good wishes for a speedy recovery. Ian was on Committee duty, and Carol as usual sent her comments. They will be found at the end of this report unless otherwise indicated.
It was good to see Mike and Julie back again, and we quickly got going on a detailed discussion of the first 2 chapters of The Two Towers.
Eileen is still somewhat suspicious of some characters, at least to begin with, and also has some reservations about the structuring of the story. This afternoon she directed our attention back to our previous reading when she remarked that the Company seem to spend far too long in Lorien. She did not attribute this to idleness, however, but to Galadriel, who, Eileen suggested, is intentionally confusing the time. Chris expanded on this, observing that the time delay in Lorien was the result of Galadriel taking time to decide whether or not to take the Ring herself. Mike commented that power was her weakness.
Angela observed that the Company was in need of respite, while Julie remarked that Tolkien seems to be indulging in writing about the influence of the First Age.
Tim led us into the reading for this week when he mentioned that Hammond and Scull seem to have interpreted the meaning of the ‘fall’ of Boromir.
Julie noted that on Amon Hen Aragorn sees things as Frodo does, and I wondered if the special attribute of the place meant that Amon Hen worked like a palantir. However, Mike suggested that Aragorn’s perception of the sun darkening implied his depressed state. Angela remarked that Aragorn is characterised as very human in this chapter (The Departure of Boromir). Tim observed that Aragorn uses the high seat as a compass to find the hobbits.
Chris noted the sighting of an eagle, and mentioned that it would prove significant later.
Carol commented that Tolkien doesn’t write in the modern manner of intercutting episodes and now the structure is divided into 3 – Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, Merry and Pippin, Frodo and Sam. Tolkien writes in blocks that leapfrog or interlace and in ‘The Riders of Rohan’ we go back to Merry and Pippin. Mike also remarked that in these chapters Tolkien diverts from the single focus of the Quest. Tim suggested that this technique lends and air of mystery.
Julie observed that although they are now out of Faerie time, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas take a long time to deal with Boromir and his funeral rites.
Eileen remarked that Boromir has sometimes been antagonistic. Mike noted that Boromir has some of his father’s traits and these are weaknesses that the Ring can exploit. Tim qualified this, observing that Boromir shows his true worth at the end, when there is reconciliation.
Angela noted his victory over the Ring, and Mike commented that Aragorn pays tribute to that, and Tim observed that the film portrayed this well.
Mike remarked that Aragorn comes through this difficult time by trying always to do what’s right. Eileen observed, however, that Aragorn has a struggle to get on and do things.
Angela noted that when Legolas and Gimli arrive on the scene Legolas doesn’t initially see who is dead.
Julie suggested that there is evidence of awareness of Ulmo in the decision to entrust Boromir to the River of Gondor, and Tim added that the Gondorians were of Numenorean origin.
Chris then posed the question of whether Aragorn would have used the Ring if it had stayed on the western side of Anduin. Angela was unsure. Tim noted that everyone who comes into contact with the Ring is tested.
Mike, like Carol, found it interesting that Aragorn never reveals Boromir’s secret. Julie noted that this keeps up the morale of the others as well as maintaining honour, but Aragorn hints that ‘something happened’.
Carol commented that Aragorn is wracked with guilt and indecisions at the way things have turned out and wonders which way to choose. Is he relieved a little when Gimli says: ‘maybe there is no right choice?’ Angela and Chris thought that Boromir’s act leads to Frodo leaving and so Aragorn’s choice is simplified.
Julie suggested this resembled to ‘karma’. Boromir ‘falls’ and half an hour later he is dead.
Mike thought that the description of dawn over the fields of Rohan had an operatic feel to it. Tim suggested it would have delighted Pat because it was so full of colours.
Julie went on to note Aragorn’s ironic use of ‘debate’ to describe the slaughter of one set of orcs by the other. Mike described it as an example of litotes. I remarked on the vivid contrast between between the pastoral descriptions and the descriptions of the orcs and their behaviour.
Carol commented on Legolas’s ‘Ah! the green smell…it is better than much sleep.’ Think of freshling mown lawns after a shower – gorgeous. Mike added that Legolas’s comment on the green smell recalls the way that smell delights the human spirit.

Angela and I noted the need to push Aragorn to make a decision in Rohan.
Mike remarked on the emphasis on Legolas’s ‘super’ eyesight in this chapter.
Changing topic, Angela questioned the extent to which Gimli is continually negative. Tim thought Gimli is only offering his views, while Chris commented that Gimli is very practical and speaks his mind. Mike observed that Aragorn creates situations where all can contribute, but Tim remarked that Aragorn himself is very negative, and Angela observed that everyone is negative at times.
Tim wondered if the red light in the east was the glow of the fires of Mordor. Mike wondered if it was the light of the orc-pyre, but Angela and Tim noted this could not be because that was to the west.
Julie remarked that in the description of the green hill moves into alliterative mode. I thought this signalled a move into Anglo-Saxon sources. Julie added that it is setting up the encounter with the Rohirrim.
Mike noted the power of the elven cloaks to obscure the presence of the ‘3 hunters’ as the Rohirrim ride by.
Eileen questioned the background to the Riders staring down at the Dwarf and linked this to the discrimination he encounters in Lorien. Tim, however, pointed out that the Riders have to stare down because they are on horseback. Mike suggested that Tolkien was implying a hierarchy. Angela pointed out that the Rohirrim had in ancient time had a feud with Dwarves. Tim remarked that Eomer has a problem with Gimli’s haughty attitude.
Eileen noted the frequency with which choices crop up, and Carol commented: ‘The doom of choice’, there is free-will to choose one side or the other, or neutrality. Anyway, things will not be as they have been, for good or ill. Free will is a responsibility; you can’t just do as you please (see Alistair Crowley’s infamous: ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law’ – selfish, arrogant) and I think it presupposes control of actions, so you don’t let rip or be unkind.

Tim thought Aragorn was being ‘cheeky’ in taking so long to debate legends with Eomer, and Mike referred to Aragorn ‘bigging himself up’ when he declares his identity. Carol commented: Aragorn’s quite a modest chap but he has to impress on the Rohirrim that he’s no vagabond and so vaunts his true self.
Julie remarked that Aragorn’s references to legends and to Lorien are descriptions of what it is like to walk in Faerie, and likened these to Frodo’s perception of Lorien. Mike noted that in the context of Aragorn’s debate with Eomer over legends, it is other people who make legends.
And so we ran out of time and quickly negotiated our way around the tricky matter of our next meeting – which will not be until 26th Sept, because half the group will be off to Oxonmoot before that. Our reading for the end of September will be ‘The Uruk Hai’ and ‘Treebeard’.

Carol’s Comments
Book 3, chapter 1, The Departure of Boromir

Elrond’s foresight? Boromir’s blowing his horn on the borders of his own country with dire need upon him. And poor Aragorn doesn’t seem to be able to put a foot right.

Boromir is redeemed in the end, thought the redemption is death.

It’s a lovely lament they sing for Boromir but I always wonder whence comes this ability to make up songs on the spot.

‘no other folk make such a trampling.’ Orcish behaviour is to destroy for the sake of destroying. How many people are really like that?

‘elves, dwarves , and men. Forth the three hunters.’ Aragorn is never gung ho or vaunting and this is the only example but I think it is to try to put some heart into their enterprise.

Chapter 2 The Riders of Rohan

(A mirror experience for the Window on the West) another of my favourite chapters because of the friendships forged in it.

‘Gondor! Gondor!…’ Aragorn’s longing.

The eagle again, this time seemingly going home. What was his task? I know but I’m not going to spoil it.

‘not idly do the leaves of Lorien fall.’ All will be made clear in the next chapter.

‘twice 12 leagues’ – 72 miles – their stamina and endurance are amazing, over and above that of ordinary men.

Things are getting a bit hopeless but as if with a foresight Legolas says: ‘Tomorrow is unknown. Rede oft is found at the rising of the sun.’

What lovely descriptions of the Rohirrim and their horses, everything about them speaks clean and wholesome – unlike the orcs.

The Rohirrim can intimidate but none of the 3 bite. Aragorn is so cool in the face of a spear pointed at his chest

‘have you sprung out of the grass?’ This will recur in a bit. Out of tales and songs people spring to real life.

‘Halflings! But they are only a little people in old songs and children’s tales out of the north. do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?’ One shouldn’t scorn ‘children’s tales’. They are a remembrance of things or folk that might be true. And the earth on which we walk has seen millenia of history in one form or another that might now only be a burial mound or ruined building. See Troy.

‘…green earth, you say! That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day.’ see Time Team.

‘Dreams and legends a spring to life out of the grass.’ Characters from legend come to life. The Story is multifaceted – in the earth, in artefacts, in story, in people, places, songs, near and far.

Eomer and Galadriel – suspicion among allies to Gimli’s dangerous chagrin. Eomer has some of Aragorn’s diplomacy and doesn’t want to ratchet up the tension, so gives his name first.

I love it when Legolas says: ‘He stands not alone’, but it’s obvious Eomer doesn’t want trouble in his ‘humorous’ remarks about Gimli’s height but dwarves aren’t known for their sense of humour, especially when it’s a personal slight.

Legolas and Gimli have been a bit unobservant not to have realised who Aragorn really is.

Eomer’s dilemma – to obey his king’s orders and take Aragorn and co back with him, or to let them continue to search for Merry and Pippin, thus incurring royal wrath. It’s the same dilemma faced by Frodo and Faramir at Henneth Annun. Both Eomer and Faramir are of a new generation. They suffer in the short term from their respective lords.

Fangorn and the Old Forest are said to be akin, remnants of a once far greater forest and both Tom Bombadil and Fangorn are referred to as ‘eldest’. Did they once know each other? On the way home from Bree, Gandalf goes off to talk with Tom and says that probably the only thing Tom will be interest in hearing about will be the ents – both live in harmony with their surroundings.

Who is the wayfarer? Saruman? Gandalf?

And the horses go – catastrophe!

Small change

I have recently retired from the role of Education Officer for the Tolkien Society, but as the following post shows, that does not affect my continuing interest in Tolkien and his works, and certainly does not affect my commitment to the Reading Group.

If time permits I shall also continue to research and write on Tolkien-related topics. Two books are already at various stages of planning but their development will depend on the time available.

First meeting in August

We began a very busy meeting with a continuation of our plans for a ‘Wessexmoot’, and got as far as deciding on a date. The matter of a location for dinner remains to be decided, but the event is taking shape.
Carol sent her comments for the meeting and those that did not form part of the wider discussion are added as usual at the end.

Pat began our discussion of our chosen chapters ‘The Great River’ and ‘The Breaking of the Fellowship’, by remarking on the way good comes out of evil in the story so far. Among the ‘goods’ she noted that although the Quest is prompted by various aspects of evil, it leads to characters developing new or hidden aspects of their characters. And as the Quest goes on trust grows in some instances, and loyalty in others. The journey increases Frodo’s confidence, and, Pat argued, Sam’s perception especially in relation to Frodo is increased after his encounter with Galadriel. Pat also noted that as a result of being on the Quest Gimli and Legolas come together.
Eileen observed that it is on the Quest that the pair find things to like in each other.
Laura supported this view that the journey and its various encounters changes the characters. Pat added that Tolkien’s decision to remove Gandalf from the story allows Aragorn’s character to develop. Tim observed that they all grow as a group.
Eileen noted that they have a lot of help along the way.
Carol had posed a query when she wondered if Aragorn was correct in saying that on the River the Company had only travelled about 60 leagues. We confirmed that this was correct – as the crebain flies’ their location was about 180miles south of their starting point even though their journey had wandered about a good deal and they would have walked and been transported a good deal further.
We turned to the most significant problem when Laura observed that Non-Men have refused the Ring, but Boromir is a soldier and very oriented towards the welfare of Minas Tirith.
Pat commented that there is a good deal of emphasis on seeing, on eyes, and on inner perception in these chapters, and Tim noted the change in Boromir’s eyes.
Pat then mentioned Aragorn’s assessment of Gollum once his presence is acknowledged, and Chris observed that Aragorn is wrong about Gollum’s motive, and that his attitude to Gollum is often wrong.
Eileen remarked that there is a constant need to revise one’s opinions about characters.
Laura commented that Boromir is weak enough for the Ring to work on him first, and Angela observed that he shows the same self-assured attitude as his ancestor Isildur – who erred in keeping the Ring.
Laura remarked that the ultimate decision about which way to go is like another character going along with the Company. Tim noted that Aragorn’s decision is taken out of his hands by Boromir’s actions, but Ian suggested that Frodo’s putting on of the Ring changes all decisions.
I wondered if Frodo’s feeling of something evil behind him was an example of the perception Galadriel said he was developing because of the Ring, but Tim thought his perceptiveness was evident much earlier – in his analysis of Strider who looked foul but felt fair!
Eileen thought Boromir takes advantage of Frodo’s meditative state on the hill, and that his smiling eyes actually heighten the menace through contrast.
Ian noted that in the episode Tolkien unusually puts in a pause and background sounds, creating an oblique internal dialogue. Eileen wondered if this counted as pathetic fallacy. I didn’t get round to responding to this as I needed to check this, but in fact the link between the moods of nature and human moods is symbolic. The classic example is the storm scene in King Lear, in which the meteorological chaos mirrors macrocosmically the chaos in the kingdom, and the king’s family. In LotR, the natural background sounds of the waterfall contrast with the unnatural situation between Man and hobbit on the hill, a discord or chaos created by the Ring.
Ian provided an immediate response to Eileen’s remark when he noted that the influence of the Valar may be discerned in the wind and water.
Laura then raised the matter of the black swans and Tim observed that there is no actual indication but the fact that they are black suggests they are spies. Chris noted that it is Aragorn who remarks specifically on them being black. Eileen thought this alerts the reader and Pat observed that black is constantly used for ominous things. Tim noted in addition, or by contrast, the presence of an eagle far from the mountains, as did Carol, when she commented on ‘the mention of the eagle far from home. Remember when thinking of Gandalf’.
Carol observed that ‘it’s a near-run thing with Frodo and the eye’. She asked ‘was it in his head or was there something external in the voice? Frodo is still enough in control of his good side, his free will, to realise the sense in taking off the ring’. Tim responded to this by observing that Tolkien leaves the matter ambiguous, but noted the capitalising of the Voice and the Eye.
Laura went on to comment that Aragorn longs for Minas Anor – the Tower of the Setting Sun, and Ian observed that this differentiates Aragorn for Boromir who speaks always of Minas Tirith – the Tower of Guard.
We ran out of time at this point and without having time to celebrate finishing The Fellowship of the Ring, we hastily had to agree on our next reading – the first 2 chapters of Book 3 – we are now starting The Two Towers.

Carol’s additional comments:
Chapter 9 ‘The Great River’
Boromir becoming increasingly restless because of the ring. Others notice but don’t know why – save Aragorn perhaps?
The pursuer is seen again, the first time since the elves of Lorien spotted it.
‘Gollum, maybe?’ so Frodo’s got Boromir and Gollum after the ring.
I’ll only mention this once because it could get too complicated for my current brain to follow: ‘white rind of the new moon.’ Tolkien follows the phases of the moon very closely and I think said they were the phases of 1942. Such was his quest for verisimilitude. And it raises Sam’s puzzlement as to how long they spent in Lorien.
‘wind-writhen firs.’ ‘wind-writhen’ is a lovely description and looking more closely I saw some wind-writhen trees on the north York moors. Reminds me of an earlier discussion on ‘dolven hall and other archaic language in LotR. [Ian is currently directing our attention to the widespread influence of Joseph Wright’s Dialect Dictionary as a supplement to Tolkien’s use of archaisms.]
Strategy – the orcs have picked a good place to attack. It’s a close call – a nazgul on wings comes and probably would have kidnapped Frodo away had not Legolas shot its steed – a bit like Bard shooting Smaug. The nazgul’s very presence pollutes everything and Tolkien describes the sky as ‘clean’ when it’s shot down, clean meaning more than the absence of dirt – purified?
They discuss Time in and out of Lorien – they really were there a whole month – see The Tale of Years, The Great Years chronology. Aragorn’s very dour at this point – with his ‘spring of little hope’.
Tolkien shows Boromir’s feeling of derision when he uses the term ‘cockle-boats’, not trusting elvish craft and obviously thinking something bigger would have been more suitable for Boromir, heir to the steward of Minas Tirith. Aragorn on the other hand would have helped the lowly fisherman gather cockles.
Boromir whinges. He’s just not used to being gainsaid and used to people following him like a pied piper but Frodo will only follow Aragorn.
Aragorn and Legolas scouting a way ahead could have proved a grave error of judgement. If these 2 had died who would have lead the fellowship? It would have been a rare opportunity for Boromir to grab the ring. Was he a match for Gimli? – probably!
Gimli defending dwarf toughness against Boromir and Boromir getting a bit waspish in return. The ring’s getting to him and magnifying his innate self-worth.
History is shown again in the Argonath – ‘silent wardens of a long-vanished kingdom…sentinels of Numenor.’ For a second time (first on Cerin Amroth) Frodo sees Aragorn differently, ‘a king returning from exile to his own land.’ Also another hint of who Aragorn really is but nobody clicks for a long time.
Chapter 10 ‘The Breaking of the Fellowship’
In his tirade about using the ring for ‘good’ purposes and striding up and down Boromir reminds me of Saruman with Gandalf at Orthanc.
The ring is working on Boromir’s flaws, his superiority, his being used to getting his own way and his wish for Gondor’s victory and his glory therein, and exaggerating it to domination. Yes, Boromir’s arrogant etc but under normal circumstances he would at least remain honourable.
Then he realises what he’s done. His twisted mind becomes straight again. And his behaviour has helped Frodo to overcome fear and go.
In this section Sam has proved his wisdom about Frodo far more than Merry and Pippin or Aragorn because he knows Frodo so well. Frodo wouldn’t get very far without Sam. And Sam has hope that they’ll meet the others again, a hope that sustains both of them as they plod towards Mordor.

Last meeting in July

This week we welcomed Carol and Rosemary who joined us in person(s) for the meeting. We were intending to finish the chapters ‘Lothlorien’, ‘ The Mirror of Galadriel’ and ‘Farewell to Lorien’, and it was Carol who began our discussion with her comment that Celeborn is not as wise has Galadriel declares him to be. But Rosemary observed that perhaps Tolkien’s development of Galadriel’s characterisation overtook this original statement.
In relation to Celeborn’s harsh reaction to Gimli and Galadriel’s defence of him, Angela remarked that Galadriel was not involved in the ancient war between the Elves and the Dwarves, and Carol observed that Galadriel learned much from Melian while in Doriath. Tim added that Tolkien was reflecting on racial intolerance, and Galadriel has more empathy and a wider view.

Pat, who could not be with us, passed on some comments on these chapters, and suggested that Galadriel remonstrates with Celeborn on account of what she gathers from her mirror.
Pat also noted the change in the relationship between Legolas and Gimli, while Eileen observed that all the Company are on the same quest and this unifies them. And Pat remarked on the number of choices set up in the ‘Mirror’ chapter.

Laura suggested that Celeborn may well have been angry at the presumed death of Gandalf. I added that Celeborn couldn’t at that time know that the balrog was (or would be) destroyed and was worried for his land and people. Ian saw in this an echo of Bard’s warning in The Hobbit that the dwarves would rouse the dragon and endanger Dale.
Tim noted that Galadriel defuses Celeborn’s anger, and Laura observed that she is cautiously but pointedly conditional in her comments to him, and then to the Company.
Chris likened the exchange to the difference between the Queen and Prince Philip’s well-known rashness!
Eileen remarked that Galadriel seems to cast a ‘spell’ with her eyes. Carol observed that Boromir is not comfortable with ‘magic’, and noted Galadriel’s complain that mortals use the same word for both good and bad uses. She expanded this by noting that Galadriel and Sauron both have similar power but put it to different uses. Laura observed that Galadriel makes it plain at the end of the ‘Mirror’ episode that it is the same magic.
Rosemary remarked that in this and the previous chapter there is a great deal of ‘foreshadowing’, such as the oft-repeated appearance of ‘eyes’ and hints that there might be a traitor in the Company.
Angela, Carol and I all remarked that part of the pleasure of re-reading LotR lies in seeing these moments of foreshadowing.
Chris and Carol both noted that Galadriel is not certain that some things will happen, but this led Chris to ask what the purpose was, then, of offering Frodo and Sam the option of the mirror. Rosemary proposed that it was a test for them, while Ian suggested that the mirror shows them the negative possibility of their futures, not the temptation she showed them at their first meeting.
Carol noted that nothing can remain static, but Rosemary noted that the Elves in Lorien don’t change. Chris suggested that without the Ring the Elves could stay, but Angela noted that its destruction meant they couldn’t preserve their work, and Rosemary commented that they didn’t want to lose their land in Lothlorien.
This led Laura to observe that Galadriel’s reference to ‘diminishing’ is an ironic allusion to modern views of fairies as tiny.
Chris led us to consider the problem of time in Lorien, proposing that the reason why the Company stays there for a month is because Galadriel keeps them there while she decides about having the Ring. This is why she doesn’t see Frodo until the last evening. Carol suggested that the cloaks had been made during the interval between the Company’s arrival and their departure.
Eileen went on to remark that Boromir questions Aragorn’s leadership, which raises questions about Boromir.
Laura directed our attention to the poetic prose of phrases such as ‘fighting the long defeat’, and Rosemary commented that Tolkien heightens the register at some point for emphasis.
Eileen observed that in Tolkien’s descriptions mountains, such as Caradhras, have ‘feelings’.
We turned our attention to Aragorn’s state of mind, and Angela commented that Aragorn had not originally intended going to Mordor with Frodo, so as the time comes to leave Lorien he is faced with a hard decision, and he doesn’t function well without Gandalf. Rosemary was sympathetic to Aragorn’s genuine dilemma, while Angela noted that Celeborn shows he is aware of what Aragorn is going through. Laura suggested that Aragorn is almost too intelligent leading to him analysing things.
Ian commented that what we see is a conflict of two story modes. Frodo’s quest is in the fairy story mode, while Aragorn’s is an heroic adventure. Aragorn has so far followed the path towards kingship but now he is not so certain that he can continue with this.
Tim noted that this chapter, ‘Farewell to Lorien’, gives the first indication of what Boromir is thinking, and Frodo is alerted, but Aragorn doesn’t notice. Rosemary and Angela both remarked that Aragorn has rebuked Boromir.
Rosemary went on to observe that the picnic on the grass seems a bit absurd. Carol noted the warning against Fangorn, describing it as a case of ignorance from a distance. And Eileen remarked that Boromir is narrow-minded. Carol qualified this by noting that he is focussed on Gondor.
Ian followed his former idea, noting that the mythic/folk element is not part of ‘the city’ per se, but Tolkien includes it in history.
While discussing the gift-giving, which was not universally regarded as a successful episode, Tim noted that Galadriel’s gift allows Gimli to show nobility. Eileen felt that he is constantly insulted, but Carol pointed out that Galadriel speaks to him in his own tongue.
Tim observed that it is Lorien that is describes as itself moving in relation to the boats, rather than them passing by.
With that, we ran out of time. Our reading for next time will be ‘The Great River’ and ‘The Breaking of the Fellowship’, and with that, we will finish The Fellowship of the Ring.

July: First meeting

Although our reading for today was officially ‘Lothlorien’ and ‘The Mirror of Galadriel’, we still found ourselves working our way through the aftermath of Moria. Carol’s additional comments are added at the end of this report.
Laura observed that Moria is like a cathedral with its great rows of columns, but why, she asked, are they tree-shaped in the dwellings of dwarves? Tim noted that there had been great holly trees outside the western doors.
Still in Moria, Pat remarked on the symbolic nature of Gandalf’s staff breaking as the bridge cracks and the ‘spell’ of his power breaks.
Tim observed that the blinding sheet of flame uses up the last of his power, so that when Gandalf is hanging on the brink he is completely spent.
Angela wondered what would have happened then without the balrog’s whip, and Tim replied that Aragorn and Boromir would have pulled him up. Tim also observed that the approach of the balrog is great writing in the horror-story format.
Angela remarked that it was sad that Aragorn and Gandalf’s relationship had ended on a note of contention and petulance.
Pat noted that after the loss of Gandalf, Aragorn is disturbed and more pessimistic than is helpful in a leader.
Eileen, on the other hand, commented that Aragorn is being realistic, and that she admired him for not being unrealistic and misleading the rest of the Fellowship with false hope. Tim agreed that Aragorn is pragmatic, and uses the force of his personality to keep them moving.
Angela noted that it was Aragorn who pulled himself together first, when he was the one who might have wept most.
Laura observed that Aragorn does not drive the company, but he also has this flaw of that humanises him, and Tim noted that Aragorn addresses the mountain and the lost Gandalf, before addressing the Company, and Laura wondered if Aragorn was angry with Gandalf for dying.
We entered into a lengthy debate on the related matters of Aragorn’s leadership and grief.
Tim then picked up two contrasts, noting that the water before the west gate of Moria was nasty, and the company were frantic to get inside, which contrasts with them being frantic to get out, and finding the calm Mirrormere.
Laura remarked that the myth of the stars was discovered to be true, and though only Frodo was invited to go with Gimli, Sam again goes too.
Eileen and Pat both remarked on the effect of Aragorn’s laughter at the discovery of the mithril shirt, as a relief of grief. Carol also commented on ‘a bit of light-heartedness’.
As we moved into LothLorien, Eileen observed that there is pronounced Elf-Dwarf tension. Angela noted that Gandalf had asked Gimli and Legolas to be friends, and that in the Chamber of Mazarbul it is Legolas who drags Gimli away from Balin’s tomb and saves him.
Carol remarked on Lothlorien – isn’t Legolas’ description just gorgeous. From the underground and ruined dark of Moria to the airy beauty of real trees – Mallorns. Contrasts in location. Laura, however, commented that after the horror of the Moria dark, the trees of Lorien are also intimidating, especially to Boromir, and Eileen noted that Boromir seems less meshed with the group. Angela, however, observed that he’s good at protecting the hobbits.
Carol noted the reports of a ‘strange creature’ being seen, the patter of feet following and 2 gleaming eyes again, and while attempting not to spoil the reading to come for Eileen, Laura observed that the eyes, intermittently mentioned, were yet another thing to be afraid of, and Eileen remarked that a sense of evil comes from each mention.

Laura commented that when crossing Nimrodel the touch of the water is felt to be beneficial, and seems to have biblical significance. Tim noted that the passage into Lorien is characterised by 3s, and the company cross 3 rivers.
Laura likened the transition to myths of entering the fairy world with its odd time, and Tim noted that Tom Bombadil’s ‘realm’ was also characterised by its odd time. Eileen wondered if Tolkien’s use of time and Frodo’s feelings about time meant that he was experiencing and ancient race memory.
Carol commented: ‘it seemed to him that he had stepped over a bridge of time into a corner of the elder days, and was now walking in a world that was no more. in Rivendell there was memory of ancient things; in Lorien the ancient things still lived on in the waking world…on the land of Lorien no shadow lay.’ this is a land out of time and in legend. Frodo feels correctly. Even though we don’t know it yet, there is a power in Lorien to keep Time at bay and though it’s done by artifice against the natural order, I still wish Lorien existed.

Laura commented that Lorien was quite different to Rivendell. Pat quantified this in terms of Lorien being more spiritual. Angela noted that anyone can get into Rivendell but not into Lorien, and Tim remarked that Lorien is another hidden realm like Doriath and Gondolin. Laura commented that the autumnal colours of Rivendell contrasted with the Spring colours of Lorien, in spite of it being January.
Pat wondered if Lorien is Edenic. I thought it was, based on references to Frodo feeling that everything he saw was ‘as if they had been first conceived and drawn at the uncovering of his eyes’, and that he ‘made for them names new and wonderful’, as Adam named the animals in Eden.
Cerin Amroth. Sam says: ‘I feel as if I were inside a song.’ which he is – this is another strand of the Story – the past here is present, the past of which so many songs are sung. I also wondered if Sam’s remark indicated that Lorien is characterised by harmony. Laura observed that it is very controlled.
And with that we needed to decide on our next reading – which will be for the day of Carol and Rosemary’s visit, all being well.
We still have the rest of ‘Lothlorien’ and ‘The Mirror of Galadriel’ to finish, but we agreed to add ‘Farewell to Lorien’ to our chapters for attention, if we have time.
Carol’s comments
‘Lothlorien’ (the dream-flower)

This trip of Gimli’s to Mirrormere and Durin’s stone is a pilgrimage, probably never to be undertaken again, but at least he’s now seen it in reality.

More to Frodo than meets the eye indeed – the discovery of the mithril coat. Frodo’s condition sounds like a good case for a long soak in radox.

On Caradhras Boromir was seen at his best because he had a physical enemy to deal with. Here he says he’d rather be led through a hedge of swords than to go through Lorien. Magic troubles him.

It also shows suspicion between various factions of goodies. Because islands of safety have been created – Lorien, Rohan, Gondor -with leagues of wild land in between and not much interaction, suspicion has grown up as will be seen more as we go on.

Another situational poem, this time about the elves as they sit by the stream of Nimrodel, telling a bit of elvish history. The poem is fine but I always find the content of Nimrodel and Amroth a bit silly. If they loved each other why didn’t they just get on and marry each other instead of fannying about.

Even though Sam isn’t a really learned hobbit, he has more nous than the others when he says: ‘they’re elves…can’t you hear their voices?’ The follower again, getting really brave to climb a Mallorn but the ring pulls doesn’t it?

Here’s another place where I’d have proved useful – the rope-walk over Celebrant. Hobbits didn’t feel up to adventures but they knock me into a cocked hat.

Suspicion between allies: ‘indeed in nothing is the power of the dark lord more clearly shown than in the estrangement that divides all those who still oppose him.’ luckily, now we have ambassadors like Aragorn to smooth the way so that none will be divided in the end – quite the opposite in fact. Suspicion between elves and dwarves, and the contention over blindfolding Gimli, which Aragorn sorts out with sensible diplomacy, one mark of his great character; but a plague on stiff necks – even Aragorn has his stiff neck moment outside Meduseld.

Haldir speaks of the passing of the elves – sad.

[Frodo] felt a delight in wood and the touch of it neither as forester nor as carpenter; it was the delight of the living tree.’ trees are so often viewed for their usefulness – wood for building and making, fruit for eating, but seldom just for their sheer beauty and strength. tree huggers are scoffed at but more tree huggers might mean less global warming

‘Aragorn standing silent…light was in his eyes. he was wrapped in some fair memory…the grim years were removed from the face of Aragorn…Arwen vanimelda namarie!…he left the hill of Cerin Amroth and came there never again as living man.’ the end of this chapter is very poignant and reaches both backwards and forwards in Aragorn’s life and gives one of those few insights into his mind – troth-plighted to Arwen – Arwen’s grave. When it says he never came back there as a living man, does it imply that his soul joined Arwen there in the end. I hope so.

As you can see I like this chapter. There’s so much beauty and poignancy in
it and too much to quote.

June: last meeting

Sadly we were missing Julie and Mike this afternoon, but Pat was able to be with us again after an enforced absence due to domestic irritations. Carol had sent her comments as usual, which as far as possible will be found in the main body of the report. Those points which did not come up in our discussions will be added as an appendix as usual, but we are still working more or less a chapter behind our nominated reading!
To begin the afternoon we caught up with matters relating to Ian’s latest research, then we touched again on the possibility of a Wessexmoot / symposium later in the year. This will need finalising. We also looked forward to Carol and Rosemary joining us for the annual visit later this month.
Much of Ian’s research revolves around Joseph Wright’s Dialect Dictionary, and although language is always part of our discussions (naturally), it is on our minds more than usual at present, and Laura began the afternoon’s deliberations with her remark that as the book goes on Tolkien’s lexis becomes more archaic and is used deliberately. She cited the example of ‘dolven hall’.
We then considered the example of ‘darksome’, and I wondered about ‘-some’ used as a suffix as in ‘darksome’. Ian suggested it indicated a comparative’. I thought it might have been a dialect form, because Sam uses it.
The matter of Sam’s language led Laura to remark that his saying ‘busier than badgers’ was apt when describing dwarves because like badgers they were tough and dangerous when threatened.
Laura questioned the reference in Gimli’s ancestral song to the ‘unstained’ moon. Pat suggested this referred to the new moon when it is just a sliver. But Tim pointed out that The Silmarillion describes how the Moon was scarred, leading to it looking as though it was ‘stained’.
Laura then questioned the construction ‘harpers harp’ finding it uncharacteristically infelicitous.
Tim suggested that it may represent Gimli translating the song from the Dwarvish in which he would have learned it. Translating as he chants leads to this slip.
Carol commented that the song is situational, being in Moria but also easy to understand yet beautiful and sad – it adds a bit to the background story.
Eileen considered the relationship between Elves and Dwarves and wondered if this representation was applicable beyond the story. As she pointed out, their co-operation led to extraordinary creativity in a previous age which could still be seen in the Doors of Durin, but their conflict results in a loss of creativity.
As we turned to the matter of mithril, Angela compared what is on the surface of the world with what is under it, while Pat noted that mithril is explained later and is very important.
Chris observed that Elves are not much interested and are fading away.
Tim wondered if Gandalf suspects that Frodo has the mithril shirt.
Ian remarked that delving too deeply happens today, and cited the matter of fracking.
Carol remarked on Gandalf talking about the mithril shirt and Frodo being staggered that “he had been walking about with the price of the Shire under his jacket”. Carol commented ‘I think this could also be taken to mean the Ring too, which is hidden under his clothes and which would cost the Shire dear, and the whole of Middle-earth if Sauron claimed it’.
Pat qualified this by observing that the shirt is mostly beneficial while the Ring offers no benefit at all.
Chris also added that the Ring has ‘a mind of its own’ but the shirt has not.
Pat went on to note the significant vocabulary when Frodo is described as touching the rings of his mail shirt.
Eileen thought this fingering of the shirt was just a reflex.
Laura changed direction taking us back to the Doors and first night in Moria when she noted that when Pippin drops his stone into the guardroom well Gandalf rebukes him sternly, but when Boromir woke the Watcher in the Water with the stone he threw, no one rebuked him even though it leads to Frodo being seized.
Carol also picked up the fact that Gandalf is hard on Pippin, even though his stone is just the kind of thing a youngster would do.
As we discussed this Angela commented that Boromir had become frustrated with inaction, and it was observed that (1) Gandalf was preoccupied with the Doors, and (2) Aragorn was concerned about Gandalf.
Pat returned us to the interior of Moria when she suggested that the repeated ‘boom boom’ is sinister to the hobbits but ‘doom’ is prophetically directed towards Gandalf in a chapter that continually emphasises his weariness and limitation.
Tim noted that throughout the chapter the sound of drums change in the distance. He thought ‘doom’ offered a sense of a deeper and more distant sound. But Laura picked up Pat’s interpretation by recalling that Mandos is called the ‘doomsman’.
Eileen remarked that Gandalf appears more like a traditional wizard when he uses a ‘spell’, and this lends a false sense of security as Gandalf shows unexpected weaknesses.
Laura considered the whip to be a wonderful device although it was not a weapon of choice in the culture of the time. Eileen added that we get the impression that Gandalf is indestructible.
Ian noted and interesting concept, and comparison, when he observed that at first Gandalf is stuck outside a door he can’t open, and then stuck outside a door he can’t shut.
Eileen wondered why Tolkien creates Gandalf as being weaker. Chris and Angela both thought it was part of characterising the wizard’s human aspect.
Ian added that Gandalf is a character with immense capability but he has limits within his agency in the world.
Carol had remarked that the balrog is Gandalf’s dark equivalent, and Laura noted the terror or a balrog with power matching Gandalf’s. Carol commented that the balrog is steeped in evil, making it stronger than Gandalf in good. As both are fire maiar, Carol observed, it is proper that good and evil fire creatures should battle it out.
Of course we discussed with Eileen the matter of the balrog’s ‘wings’ and I wondered if, because it is one of Melkor’s maiar, it was denied the ability to completely take on the ‘human’ form it presents within its shadow. Ian observed that darkness seems to coalesce round the balrog. ‘Coalesce’ became our word of the day.
After a detailed discussion that reached into new areas that we had not covered during our previous readings, we agreed that for our next meeting we would revisit ‘Lothlorien’, which we had barely touched, and we would read ‘The Mirror of Galadriel’ in preparation.

Carol’s additional comments:

Waiting for Gandalf to find a way in is very tantalising we probably know he’ll succeed – just in the nick of time – good stuff

Pippin’s being scared of that 7′ leaps and in the dark too, my legs go wobbly just thinking about it

The soft footfall – never revealed – in the book that is. First footsteps, then eyes who or what is it?

They find Balin’s tomb, which brings us an answer as to what happened to Balin’s attempt to retake Moria sad not to end on but not the bottom yet!!

Chapter 5 The Bridge of Khazad Dum

I like the comment on Sam’s ‘smouldering…brown eyes’ causing Ted Sandyman to ‘step backwards’. Sam might cry at the state of the shire next time he sees ted but Ted would have been a quivering lump of jelly in the Chamber of Mazarbul. Nice one Sam.

Whatever it is that has challenged Gandalf and silenced orcs has to be something very powerful.

My legs wobble at the very thought of the bridge. I would have frozen. Would Boromir or Aragorn have carried me?

What a nerve racking piece and Gandalf gone in the end. Aragorn’s words of warning have proved true. It could be a catastrophe. It still leaves me breathless and stunned. The fellowship now has to go on without the aid of a wizard, for some for the 2nd time, essays for finally having to do without the high magic altogether, a common trope, see also Arthur/Merlin.

June: First Meeting – main report

In spite of some disorganisation owing to an unexpected room change, those of us who had already heard celebrated the excellent news that Julie has now gained her MA. We welcomed Mike back after a long absence, and then Ian updated us on his treasured acquisition of The Life of Joseph Wright. Following this, Laura told us the news that publication of Tolkien’s version of the Kullervo myth has been announced, but there was some scepticism about this after the non-appearance of Tolkien Book of Jonah.
We spent a delightful etymological hour, inspired by Ian’s books and our general delight in Tolkien’s less usual vocabulary (Please see the etymological report for Laura’s contribution).Eventually we began discussing the chapter we had not finished last time – ‘A Journey in the Dark’, and Eileen expressed her concern that Gandalf had consigned Bill the pony to the dangers of the wolves. We did our best to reassure her that Gandalf had given Bill good advice.
Mike observed that Boromir undergoes a strange volt face when the decision to enter Moria goes against him, after being very reluctant he seems to give in without further objection. Laura remarked that Moria serves as a test for the heroes, and Eileen observed that it was next after the stones and the snow and the birds. Laura commented that these events all seemed to be ‘funnelling’ the Company towards Moria.
Mike noted Tolkien’s choice of vocabulary when he described the mountain as ‘frowning’ rather than the usual ‘brooding’, and Laura remarked that the choice made it seem as though the Company were doing something wrong.
Mike noted that the description close to Moria is given in intense detail, and Eileen observed that it makes the reader feel the environment like the Company.
Julie commented that the narrative sets up the feeling that something awful is going to happen to Gandalf.
Following on from our earlier etymological discussion, Ian noted that Boromir speaks of ‘the wolf’, while Aragorn says ‘warg’, but Sam says wolf. This was taken to indicate the dialect differences between Gondor, Arnor, and the Shire.
I then asked whether it was possible that the wolf described as like a ‘captain’ could be the 9th Ringwraith who was unaccounted for. Julie thought it unlikely because the wolf- captain is just ordinarily frightening, without any extra sense of the terror associated with Ringwraiths.
Mike observed that Gandalf recognises the beast as ‘the hound of Sauron’ and therefore supernatural.
Laura noted that although Gandalf threatens it, the wolf ignores him. Mike observed that Gandalf is attracting attention to himself so as to distract the threat, and Ian remarked that he did this on Caradhras when he lit the fire and named himself.
Eileen observed that Legolas comes to the fore against the wolves, and Mike noted the vocabulary once again, pointing out the use of ‘extinguished’ in the context of the wolf’s eyes being lit from within. Laura noted that this expressed its supernatural nature.
Laura remarked on the way Gandalf is described as ‘stooping’ and suggested this may be because he takes his own supernatural Maia shape. Ian suggested his shadow is enlarged because of his situational relationship to the fire which casts the shadow, as it does in Bag End, and this is associated with Gandalf throughout the book. Mike remarked that larger shadows relative to a fire are natural, not magical.
Julie observed that his huge shadow is a sign of his anger, while Mike thought Gandalf ‘growing’ was Tolkien’s way of describing Gandalf drawing power to himself which is not always a part of him.
Laura proposed that shadows are perhaps to be equated with spirits in other parts of the book, so seeing Gandalf’s shadow is seeing him in the spirit dimension. Mike proposed that the battle against the wolves might thus be a leaking of the spirit world into the physical world.
Ian commented that Gandalf needs physical material to work on and Mike and Julie then both noted that Jesus ‘worked on’ physical things. Laura wondered if that meant that physical laws pertained to what was happening in this episode but Ian thought not, and Eileen observed that Tolkien set limits on what could be done.
Mike remarked that the finding of the secret word seems childish, and hardly worthy of 2 pages, but that the delay is the opportunity to tell the history of productive co-operation between dwarves and elves.
And so we ran out of time after a very intense afternoon’s discussion. We have not yet finished our discussion of ‘A Journey in the Dark’ so next time we will finish that and ‘The Bridge of Khazad Dum’, and we will read ‘Lothlorien’, just in case we have time for it.

Just a few of Carol’s comments follow here as most of them relate to other parts of ‘A Journey in the Dark’ and will come in next time.

Have you ever asked yourself how you would fare on a journey like this i have and have come out wanting i’m like a cripple on snow and what is to come in moria, i’d have died of fright but then isnt one of the attractions of reading about grave dangers is because we can partake without actually being there and admore those who actually do it

There’s never any explanation of why aragorn passed through moria before his ominous warning to gandalf: ‘if you pass the gates of moria, beware!’

This being attacked by wargs seems to miror TH where the company is surrounded by wargs and goblins, only to be rescued by the eagles of the mountains what stamina!

Tolkien’s drawing (not drawring) of the Gates of Moria always reminds me of a classic 1950s juke box.

The waiting for Gandalf to find a way in is very tantalising we probably know he’ll succeed – just in the nick of time – good stuff

June: First Meeting – local etymological insights


The first item relating to this meeting is Laura’s contribution to our discussion of etymology which will be mentioned in the main blog report.

13TH June 2015

The Dialect of the New Forest in Hampshire (as spoken in the village of Burley)
Written by Sir James Wilson KCSI 1913
(Knight Commander of the Star of India – the motto is Heaven’s Star guide us – very Earendel!)
A publication of the Philological Society.

Laura bought this replica book as part of her self-imposed goal of finding at least one dialect word in the forest that would have been understood by the Jutes!

Sir James wrote:
“I presume that the dialect of Burley may be taken as fairly typical of the speech of the New Forest and as representing what remains of the language of the West Saxons.”
He compared it with his own native dialect of Perthshire.
“That is a pure English dialect, descended no doubt from the language of our Angle ancestors.”
He wrote that the differences between the Perthshire dialect and standard spoken English and differences between the New Forest dialect and standard spoken English are completely opposite. It is not known if he wrote his follow up book.

The bulk of the book is about how the Burley people pronounced their words – “s” was said as “z” and “f” said as “v” so “vaarist” rather than “forest”. Mummerset seems to cover it although, as Ian said, were the natives playing to an audience? Paid by the syllable?

Interestingly, Sir James wrote “dh” to represent “th”.

There were some interesting words.
“bist” – you are – straight from German.
“wopse” – the local habit of transferring letters; some of us could remember it as a family word.
“namit” – snack, lunch – also spoken on the Isle of Wight. “No meat”.
“shrammed” – cold. Some of us could remember it being used. Also on the Isle of Wight.
“Numshon” – luncheon. This word came up in Tolkien’s writing. In Anglo Saxon writings – from “noon” plus “scenc” – to pour out, to give to drink. An afternoon snack. There is no explanation about how this turned into luncheon.
“hob” – potato pit.
“scuggee mugginz” – Laura’s favourite – a squirrel.
“smellers” – her other favourite – a cat’s whiskers as in: “You are the smellers!”

Laura 16.6.2015


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