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


Checking through Carol’s comments on our recent discussions I have discovered that I have got out of sync and somewhere in the sequence of blogs I have missed out part of a complete set of Carol’s comments on The Ring Goes South, so I am posting them here separately. Apologies for the omission.

Carol’s comments for ‘The Ring Goes South’

The poem, ‘i sit beside the fire and think’, is a really nice piece of verse, written in simple 4-line stanzas – and i’ve noted b and d rhyming, must check that one. but it conveys so much, an old person contemplating life in ordinary language for an ordinary activity, yet beautiful.

Boromir’s blowing his horn and Elrond’s warning seems almost to be a foresight.

‘Aragorn sat with his head bowed…’ we get very few insights into Aragorn’s inner self and this is almost one of them – i refer you to Aragorn groupie angie.

one of my favourite scenes from the lotr film is when the fellowship crests the brow of a hill and the fellowship theme plays, so heroic and resolute, which of course they are

talking of naming things – Hollin. i grew up on the edge of a district of oldham called Hollinwood and a road called Hollins, deeply industrialised, but after reading lotr, it made me think that probably Hollinwood was once a wood of mainly holly bushes. shame what happened to it!!

Gimli give a lesson in comparative languages, all descriptive of what the peaks are. somewhere Sam says that the dwarf language is a right jaw-cracker, the misty mountains were raised by Melkor to hinder the progress of Orome.

Boromir’s advice about wood proves to be a life-saver. here he’s on solid gound.

‘there are many evil and unfriendly things in the world that have little love for those that go on two legs, and yet are not in league with Sauron, but have purposes of their own. some have been in this world longer than he.’ eg Shelob, and probably the mountain.

‘called the cruel’ – and the mountain will be there long after this episode in history.

‘when heads are at a loss, bodies must serve.’ i said above that Boromir was on sure ground here. this is something physical he can understand and deal with and show his bravery. Lothlorien will be a different matter.

Last Meeting in May

For our late Spring Bank holiday meeting our reading had included the rest of ‘The Council of Elrond’ and ‘The Ring Goes South’, for which Carol had also sent her comments.
We started with updates on research, including Scull and Hammond’s revision of their reference to the Tolkien family’s holiday in north Wales following Ian’s careful investigation of this matter.
Ian has also discovered that the recently published Ring of Words omits the significant fact that the word ‘hobbit’ can be found in Joseph Wright’s Dialect Dictionary – a text Tolkien certainly knew. Ian pointed out that Ring of Words is not the only recent study to omit the significance of the Dialect Dictionary.
Tim then responded to Carol’s observation that the Elves Galdor and Erestor only appear in the the Council. It was noted that Galdor is present to represent Cirdan. Tim suggested that their presence gives a sense of the size of the Rivendell household and the gathering. Angela pointed out that Erestor is in the company that goes with Arwen to Minas Tirith. Picking up Tim’s point, Laura noted that in the film, the confrontations in which Galdor and Erestor participate at the Council show the Last Alliance falling apart, as Sauron wants.
Laura went on to question whether the Ring is influencing Boromir at the Council, because as a warrior he want any weapon that could be used against Mordor.
Carol took issue with the early critic Catherine Stimpson who had written that Tolkien puts more faith in war than in negotiation. As Carol observed ‘you don’t parley with the likes of Sauron: you either fight to win or lose’. While disputing Stimpson’s view and supporting Carol’s, we added the critic Ann Petty to the number of critics with whom we generally disagreed.
Eileen commented on the need to get the Ring away safely and Ian remarked that Boromir was not present to attend a discussion of ultimate ends but to discover if the solving of the riddle was relevant to Gondor. Tim remarked that he doesn’t understand subtlety.

Eileen then asked if it is surprising that Frodo takes the Ring? Or does he come into his own? It was hard not to give the game away to our first-time reader!
Carol’s point that the quest would have ended in ultimate failure if Faramir had taken the journey to Rivendell and left Boromir to command the forces of Gondor in Ithilien was not accepted by the group. Ian observed that both Boromir and Aragorn agreed to go to Minas Tirith, thus Boromir was in agreement with the Council. Laura commented that Boromir is not someone who would lurk in the woods, he is a more ‘overt’ warrior. Chris, however, thought there was no real difference between the brothers. Laura, on the other hand characterised the difference between them as Boromir with his horn compared to Faramir fighting quietly.
Ian observed that Boromir is quite settled about the decisions made in the Council, but Laura wondered if the Ring itself could be at work, and Tim added that the decision to take the Ring to Mordor suits it, especially the acceptance of the hobbit as bearer. Ian added that in fact hobbits are ideal carriers, as may be judged by Gollum’s resilience, because they are more resistant to the lure of the Ring.
Eileen observed that on first reading Frodo does not appear to be influenced by the Ring but three of us offered signs of its effect already taking place. Angela also observed that Frodo would have found it hard to give it up, but Chris agreed that he has more strength. Angela reminded us that Frodo thinks it belongs to Aragorn anyway.
Eileen admitted that at this stage she doesn’t entirely trust any of the Nine Walkers, but Ian pointed out that they all go willingly on the journey. Chris qualified this by observing that the reader doesn’t know at this stage if any of them has an ulterior motive behind their participation in the quest, and Eileen remarked that it allcreates many questions about what is coming.
Chris then asked ‘What does Boromir do while Aragorn and the Elves are out on scouting missions? Ian and I thought he could have been checking out Elvish weaponry, or books of history, expanding on what has already been said in the Council. Laura and Angela thought he had been recovering from his 100 day journey.
Laura then noted that in Gandalf’s account of his meeting with Saruman it is said that Saruman wore a ring on his finger and called himself Saruman Ringmaker. Laura wondered if he had been experimenting! She also found the description of him laying his ‘long hand’ on Gandalf’s arm creepy. Ian recalled the barrow wight pawing at the hobbits, and I remembered Gollum doing the same, under different circumstances, to Frodo.
Laura then made a detailed connection between Shadowfax and the prehistoric eohippus or dawn horse, through the description of Shadowfax as looking as if he had been ‘foaled in the morning of the world’. Carol remarked “I’m no linguist but can discern the odd word. In ‘Hrafnkel’s saga’, his horse is called Freyrfaxi meaning Freys’s mane, so Shadowfax is shadow mane”.

We moved then into ‘The Ring Goes South’.
Tim noted that before the Company sets out, Bilbo is now passing things on, and Eileen compared the concealed shirt with the concealed Ring.
Chris observed that Legolas and Gimli are both introduced slowly through the chapter. Tim noted that Gandalf and Aragorn are dominant as leaders of the Fellowship, and Laura thought that to have added too much detail would have made for too rich a mix for readers. Eileen wondered if this made it easier to absorb after all the details of the Council.
Carol commented that when facing Caradhras, Boromir’s advice about taking firewood proves to be a life saver and he is on sure ground in conditions where there is something physicalthat he can understand and deal with. Eileen observed that on Caradhras the Company are described as sheltering with their backs to the overhanging cliff face, and that this may serve as a metaphor for the fighting they may face.

For our next meeting we agreed to finish this chapter and go on to ‘A Journey in the Dark’.
Carol’s comments on matter we still didn’t touch on follow here:
‘the time of my thought is my own to spend.’ Dain crystallising dwarf freedom and independence, despite the menaces of the Rider and what he knows of Sauron – so it proves. I’ve noted: ‘see Shippey and the northern theory of courage’.

‘you have come…by chance as it may seem’. There’s a lot of fortuitous synchronicity in LotR.

Elrond recounting ages of history – how can it not be interesting even after countless rereadings. And now we discover why Bilbo had a cheek to write songs about Earendil in the house of Elrond, who’s dad he is. But Elrond’s a tolerant chap.

Elrond is a sort of pivot in whom stands past, present and future.

It was probably a fortuitous thing that Isildur took the Ring because had it gone into the fire then, probably thousands of combatants would have been killed in mount doom’s eruption. And like Elrond says, Isildur’s death was better than his becoming a soulless wraith and tyrant to boot.

The provenance of the white tree, giving it its great significance – lineage, far greater and longer than the Dunedain. And also a thread, linking back to the Undying Lands – depth.

Boromir’s brother isn’t named here and as the younger the dream came to him first. In myths it’s often the youngest who gets the quest or the insight. Sam’s also the youngest of his family.

Boromir’s flaw is definitely pride. He has reason to be proud but he vaunts it. Bilbo has a crack at him later about his110 day journey.

Elendil’s sword is one of those artefacts brought forward from history into the present – what has gone before effects where we are now, that’s why history and depth are crucial to LotR and real life, as well as being bloody interesting.

‘ash nazg…the change in the wizard’s voice was astounding…’ languages implying ethics – the Black Tongue is harsh and hard, with lots of Bs,Gs and Zs. But Dwarvish language is also hard.

I hate the way Saruman derides Radagast for being a friend of the natural. Radagast’s lifestyle might be simple but he’s no fool, despite being gulled by a dissembling Saruman. But pride and falls come to mind.

‘the world of men which we must rule’ bang goes the prime directive. How Saruman deceives himself. The means never justifies the ends. By bad means people change and initial good intentions get lost.

The account has been gripping and skilfully done, not in a straight line, but deep past here, recent past there. This I suppose makes for more interesting reading but I’d enjoy a straight narrative too.

‘I had forgotten Tom Bombadil.’ This is part of Elvish and mortal tragedy, that they had forgotten the truly natural and how to be satisfied with the simple things in life – natural magic v high magic. ‘oldest and fatherless’ Tolkien though tom should remain an enigma.

Boromir says: take the ring and use it against Sauron. But if one uses the Ring one becomes Sauron. Boromir’s already lusting after the Ring.

The tragedy of the 3 Elven rings – if the One is destroyed, the power of the 3 will go too.

A good ploy to seek to destroy the ring while Sauron thinks one among the wise will seize it and try to gain power, because Sauron has cyclopean vision.

My note: everything has got to become completely new. Middle-earth has to gain its independence from the world of high magic and fend for itself.

The surprise of the whole Council, Frodo volunteers but then Gandalf has hinted so in the previous chapter that it might be so. Elrond mentions some great names from the past: Hador, Hurin, Turin, Beren and only Beren’s name is known so far and I don’t think the other 3 are ever explained within the main body of LotR – tantalising if you know no more. But ends on an affectionate note in the exchange between Sam and Elrond. What a tale! Sort of expands on hints made through Tom Bombadil. 21-22 different voices??

May: first meeting

After some journeys of our own around the library we eventually settled, rather suitably, in the Learning Centre, for our meeting on ‘The Council of Elrond’.
We began with Ian’s report on his continuing research into the work of Tolkien’s tutor Joseph Wright, and his wife Elizabeth. Ian noted the significance of their work on dialect.
Eileen then brought us back to the chapter with her remark that there were ‘too many characters’. She found the barrage of new names bewildering, and Tim filled in some of the detail from Tom Shippey’s Author of the Century to show just how many characters, including entirely new ones, the reader has to cope with.
Eileen then observed that in spite of Bilbo’s protest, the purpose of the Council is too important for it to stop for lunch and so it goes on long after Bilbo’s notice that it is almost lunchtime. Tim responded that even after many reading he still wondered about the delay to lunch!
Laura remarked that even although nothing seems to happen apart from a lot of talk, there is still a lot of action within each narration and the exchanges of dialogue.
Angela and Tim queried who the messenger from Sauron really was? No clear answer seemed to emerge.
Angela noted that Boromir doesn’t seem to notice Aragorn until he speaks and Laura proposed that this showed the difference between the North and South Kingdoms. Tim remarked that the difference split along perceptions of status so that in contemporary terms Gondor = the Guards Officer, while Arnor = the SAS, in effect two forces fighting different kinds of war so that Boromir even after his feat of endurance still appears finely dressed and noble, and he doesn’t regard the figure in the corner dressed in unspectacular and practical travelling clothes.
Tim went on to note that strictly speaking height was measured in ‘ranga’, and according to such calculations as Tolkien gives, the Numenoreans could be almost 7 feet tall. Laura then proposed that the Dunedain should really be called ‘rangas’ rather than Rangers.
Laura also commented on the ‘Swiss’ atmosphere at the start of the chapter as the Elves are inclined to neutrality.
Chris wondered what Bilbo and Gandalf are talking about before the others join them. It was conjectured that they might have been reminiscing about the first time they were in Rivendell together, and how the events unfolded that led to the current meeting.
Eileen then queried whether the Shire folk are actually naive? And I raised the matter of Strider’s testy description of ‘simple’ folk. Tim suggested that it should not be regarded as a slur, but as describing people who are ‘uncomplicated’. Ian proposed that there was a three-way division implicit here between the organised presence of Gondor, the organised but unappreciated Rangers, and the folk who don’t know anything about the danger from which they are being protected.
Angela and I wondered whether ‘simplicity’ functioned and even defined a form of protection against paralysing fear, so that the Gaffer and Farmer Maggot were not crushed by preconceived fear when confronted with the Black Riders. In this context, Ian noted Strider’s remarks on the need for secrecy to keep the Shire free from fear. Tim likened this to the security services protecting ordinary people. They know how nasty things are, but ordinary people don’t.
Angela remarked that those of Numenorean blood, if they share a proportion of Elvish blood too, like Aragorn are mentally stronger than others, although in the presence of the Black Riders some are driven mad. Ian noted that Boromir confirms that madness afflicted the men he commanded at Osgiliath when the Witch King arrived.
Laura wondered why the Shire has survived as it has, and whether it was a deliberate plan by the Valar. Chris observed that this would fit with Gollum finding the Ring. Ian remarked that the hobbits are a race expressing the human condition, and when called upon, they are mentally stronger than others.
Ian looked up ‘simple’ and found that in the OED (1) adj. = of lowly birth, not aristocratic.
I then wondered if ‘simple’ as applied to hobbits and others was related to the notion of the One Ring. All the other rings have stones but the most powerful ring is ‘unadorned’. Its true power is only revealed by exposure to fire. Similarly, I suggested, the true power of hobbits is only revealed in the ‘fire’ of danger.
Ian pointed out that the Ring is indeed unadorned, except on Sauron’s hand.
Laura questioned the meaning of the ‘nick of time’ Elrond mentions. Tim remarked that in mechanical time-keeping the tick of a clock was known as a ‘nick’, so a precise time was suggested. Laura recalled the notches or ‘nicks’ on tally-sticks. Meanwhile Ian reminded us that the wording of Elrond’s speech was ‘the very nick of time’, and referred us to the original meaning of ‘very’, thus Elrond is saying that everyone arrived at the ‘true’ moment.
Although Carol sent comments on this chapter well in advance of our meeting, we didn’t touch on the details she focussed on so I have held them over for our next meeting.
When it came to choosing our reading for our next meeting, it was pointed out that we had hardly scratched the surface of the issues raised in ‘The Council’, so we agreed to finish this, at the next meeting, and read ‘The Ring Goes South’ in hopes that we have time to get round to it.

Our only meeting in April

Because a number of our group were otherwise engaged for the first meeting of the Tolkien Reading Group/Southfarthing there is only one report for April, but it reflects the fact that at our second meeting everyone was there and we had a varied and in-depth discussion as the following report shows:

We were all together again for our only April meeting and we only had one chapter – ‘Many Meetings’ to consider, but it filled up the whole afternoon.

Pat began with a question – is Gandalf too hard on Frodo when he accuses him of doing foolish things on the way to Rivendell? Both Tim and Angela pointed out that Gandalf quickly goes back on this and praises Frodo. Tim also pointed out that Gandalf is acting like the mentor he is, chiding his pupil before approving of his attempts. Tim also characterised Gandalf’s opening comments as a bit of banter.

Carol noted that technically Gandalf is smoking in a hospital sick room, but Angela observed that Gandalf is smoking out of the window of Frodo’s room. She also pointed out that Elves don’t smoke, although Men, dwarves, and hobbits do. Thoughts of Rivendell as a no smoking zone entertained us.

Pat observed that in this chapter Strider’s character changes, and Tim and Angela elaborated on this when they noted that he’s not in his ‘working clothes’ later in the chapter.

Tim remarked that this is the first time we see Strider/Aragorn with Arwen, and Pat added that you wouldn’t know if you were reading the chapter for the first time that there was an ongoing romance. Carol also commented that there are hints of who Aragorn really is and his relationship to Arwen, but nothing definite is said.

Tim went on to comment that Rivendell evokes a feeling of being somewhere else, and Eileen remarked that there is an air of unreality at the start of the chapter, but when reading, it seems in places almost too real.

Ian noted that at the start of the chapter we walk in on an ongoing situation, signalled by a character (Frodo) waking up, and then he drifts in and out of what has been happening. Ian proposed that Frodo’s wondering if he had been ill might be an echo of Tolkien’s own experience of having had trench fever, and he went on to note that the start of the chapter (and hence Book 2) provides a synopsis of what had happened in Book1.

Laura thought it a wonderful relief to find Frodo safe and cared for. Eileen questioned whether the hardships he had endured constituted a rite of passage to prove his strength and resolve? Laura then posed the question: was it a good thing that Gandalf wasn’t with Frodo on the journey to Rivendell? Angela and I thought ‘yes’, for different reasons. I went with the idea that Gandalf’s presence would have drawn all the Black Riders towards Frodo, whereas Gandalf drew some of them away from Weathertop. Angela and Eileen both thought it gave Frodo the chance to mature.

Ian observed that Gandalf never had to exert power over Frodo to conceal the Ring. And Eileen commented that perhaps Frodo doesn’t understand the danger of the Ring. Ian responded that Frodo doesn’t consciously use the Ring, and Tim added that the Ring is using Frodo.

Pat commented on Pippin’s lively salutation to Frodo as Lord of the Ring, noting that a novice reader might also assume this, so Pippin’s remark acts as a correction of that mistaken opinion. Carol remarked that if Pippin were in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe he’s be Edmund.

I wondered then why Gandalf said that the Barrow was more dangerous than the attack on Weathertop? Angela and Chris proposed that it was because the Wight had links to the Witch King. Laura wondered if Gandalf was thinking in terms of the Barrows and their Wights constituting a ‘second front’ in the coming War.

Laura then remarked that it seems as though the elements are protecting the hobbits, and she listed Earth (the Barrow collapses and destroys the Wight), Fire drives the Black Riders into the Water that rises against them.

Carol remarked that Gandalf shows some pride in his ‘great white horses with shining white riders’ but luckily his pride isn’t his overwhelming trait.

Eileen remarked on feeling a sense of development now.

Pat commented on the terrible (thought temporary) influence of the Ring on the relationship between Bilbo and Frodo, and Laura observed that Rivendell cannot absorb the evil of the Ring. Ian noted, however, that in the House of Tom Bombadil its evil and its power are controlled.

Carol also commented on the disturbing incident with the Ring that when Frodo sees a Gollum-like creature through it – what Bilbo might have become if he hadn’t given it up. ‘don’t adventures ever have an end?…’ Bilbo’s story is morphing into Frodo’s – but there’s a bit more to it than even that which is just a snippet in The Story.

Pat wondered if the Ring chooses its owner, but Ian proposed that it rather betrays whoever has it. Laura suggested that the Ring is an opportunist – and in this it is cat-like! She extrapolated this idea, remarking that Sauron, the Lord of the Ring(s) was in Tolkien’s original conception Tevildo, an evil Maia in cat-form. I wondered, if the Ring was opportunistic, whether it actually shone to attract Deagol after it had lain in the River for 2,000+ years (Tim’s calculation). Chris objected that it was Ulmo who perhaps controlled its finding by Deagol, but it needed to get into the hands of the more active Smeagol.

Ian went on to note that Frodo gives the hobbit view of the Big People in this chapter in the process of remodelling that view, as Men’s role in the story is also remodelled.

Laura noted the lovely description of Glorfindel at the feast in Rivendell, but Chris picked out the contrast between Glorfindel revealed in his glory and wondered what were the ‘other powers’ that Gandalf located in the Shire. Tim suggested these amounted to the resilience and determination of the hobbits.

Chris also noted Gandalf’s comment to himself that Frodo was like a clear glass, and that he is not half way through yet. Carol remarked that Gandalf senses that Frodo will carry the Ring to Mount Doom (no spoiler here as Eileen isn’t online so won’t read this), however, Chris had earlier pondered the possibility that Frodo, like Gollum, was actually being sacrificed.

Julie observed that the image of glass would become most significant later in the story (carefully avoiding spoilers for Eileen). Ian noted that Frodo is associated with light of a different kind in the Barrow, and Mike considered the image prescient because later Frodo’s sufferings change him, if others, including the reader, have eyes to see this – as Gandalf has.

I then wondered if Frodo’s dream in Rivendell, when he sees things in terms of silver and gold – the colours of the Two Trees – is a vision of Valinor and a gift to strengthen him. Laura observed that he is in the house of High Elves and they would be used to thinking in these terms. Ian noted that the dream sets the reader up for Bilbo’s song of Earendil. Eileen remarked that such a beautiful dream is consistent with relaxation in a safe place, and a reaction and contrast – a vision of heaven after the hell of the journey to Rivendell.

Carol remarked “ ‘Earendil was a mariner’ never ceases to amaze me. Its rhyming is so clever and intricate phonetically. But cleverness alone isn’t enough. Its story is also very relevant to the current situation and while Bilbo does have a ‘cheek to make verses about Earendil in the house of Elrond’ it’s still a pretty fine poem worthy of Elrond’s house”.

Julie commented on the fact that two lines of Anglo-Saxon mentioning ‘Earendel’ gave rise to the whole mythic narrative Tolkien creates as Bilbo’s song.
Ian noted that Bilbo resorts to using insults when Lindo cannot distinguish between Bilbo’s versifying and Aragorn addition.

It was lovely that the entire Southfarthing who live within travelling distance were all together again for the beginning of the new Book, and so we used up the whole afternoon on this single chapter. We therefore decided that the longer and even more detailed ‘Council of Elrond’ would be quite enough as reading for our next meeting.

Carol’s Additional Comments (on things we didn’t get round to)

‘Many Meetings’ mirrors ‘Many Partings’ later in the story.

Phew! ‘Frodo awoke…’ and Gandalf’s back. I’ve said before, the short cut through the Old Forest wasn’t meant to be a short cut but a way of getting out of the Shire unnoticed.

Is the seating for Elrond’s feast similar to that in hall at an Oxford college?

For the first-time reader there are some unexplained things here like what was Arwen’s mother’s torment, where is she now and does she have a name? Tolkien’s describing people, some who we only see again at the very end – Glorfindel eg – or rarely – Elladan and Elrohir. Maybe Tolkien didn’t know the roles any of them were going to play, except Arwen of course, but then we don’t see much of her either.

Frodo and Gloin meet but where is Gimli? Was he an after-thought because Gloin’s too old to go on the quest and Tolkien wants representatives of all free peoples?

Some background of the people and places that won’t come into th

e main narrative but will still play their parts. I’ve always been concerned about Bombur’s having to be lifted – and they talk about obesity today.

‘not that hobbits would ever acquire quite the elvish appetite for music and poetry and tales. They [the elves] seem to like them as much as food, or more.’ This take me back to The Hobbit when Bilbo first approached Rivendell and though at the fag end of a long day and journey and promises of great food ahead, then Bilbo seemed to care more for elvish music than food or rest.

Last meeting in March

The following are the minutes of the latest meeting that were kindly taken by Tim, who has included website links where appropriate.

Present: Angela, Chris, Ian, Laura, Tim (minutes)
Apologies: Lynn, Eileen, Julie, Mike, Pat
We few, we happy few, convened in the Librarians’ Room today, since the Seminar Room is apparently being decorated. Lynn was due to attend a lecture today so she was unable to join us, although we understand from Laura that Lynn has been unwell, so we were all wishing for a speedy recovery. All our fellow Southfarthingas who were unable to come along today were of course missed.
The general theme of this week’s meeting was to be the theme of this year’s Reading Day: friendship. In true Southfarthing tradition, we were well provided with cakes, courtesy of Laura, to go with our tea and coffee.
As a precursor to the general discussion, Ian shared some of his ongoing research with the rest of the group, which is as always fascinating. He described a recent press release concerning the Tolkien Gordon Collection at the University of Leeds Library, consisting of papers which include a poem by Tolkien, ‘The Root of the Boot’, which we have recently encountered in its later form – in our reading of Flight to the Ford – as Sam’s ‘Rhyme of the Troll’. The following is a link to the original manuscript:
Ian informed the group that it could be sung to a traditional tune, which the site identifies as The Fox Went Out. It was published in Songs for the Philologists in 1936.
The collection consists of papers which document Tolkien’s early academic career at Leeds. (Brotherton Library, Alaric Hall, Catherine Butt). It appears that this draft of the poem was written in circa 1922, appearing in another form thirty years later in The Lord of the Rings.
Ian read the poem out to the group. There were recognisable elements when compared to the version in TLotR. Tim was intrigued by what the tune would be like.
Ian also talked about Joseph Wright’s English Dialect Dictionary, which was published in six volumes between 1898 and 1905.  Wright (1855-1930) was Professor of Comparative Philology at Oxford University between 1901 and 1925. He tutored Tolkien when he was at Oxford and was an important early influence.
The group was shown a print of one page showing the entry for hobbit, being a Welsh word for a measure of weight for corn, beans, et cetera, as per the link below:
The discussion moved onto the theme for the day: friendship. It was remarked that the meeting itself was an example of friendship, of friends coming together to sit round eating cakes (we ate plenty between the five of us today!) drinking coffee and talking about Tolkien and his works.
Ian raised the example of the developing friendship between Thorin and Bilbo.
Angela referred to the developing bond between Legolas and Gimli, and Aragorn – the Three Hunters (cries of “Let’s hunt some orc” and “Forth, the Three Hunters”); Treebeard and Pippin and Merry; Gandalf and his friendships with Gwaihir, Shadowfax, Treebeard and Aragorn.
Friendship was also likened to brotherhood. Laura observed that friends will get you out of trouble.
Tim noted the changing relationship of Frodo and Sam by the end of the story, from master and servant to equals and friends.
Ian described the redefining of the roles of Aragorn and Boromir. It was also mentioned how Boromir was isolated and isolated himself from the rest of the Fellowship.
Tim had been considering the relationship of Tuor and Voronwë, described in detail in Unfinished Tales, wondering if it could be seen as a friendship when Voronwë was acting as Tuor’s guide to Gondolin. Chris agreed it could be. Tim also referred to the friendship between Túrin and Beleg. The latter was like a father to Túrin and searched for him in the wilds when Túrin was living as an outlaw, dying at his hand.
Angela observed that there are several examples of man-elf relationships. She referred to the interaction of Legolas and Aragorn after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
Chris asked the group: Did the Ring have a friend?
Laura raised the matter of the One Ring’s relationship with/links with the other rings of power.
Ian talked about C.S. Lewis’ book The Four Loves in which Lewis explored the nature of love and identified four categories for love:
Storge – affection;
Philia – friendship;
Eros – romance;
Agape – charity/God-love/unconditional love
Chris reminded the group that we might also consider false friendships and cited Sauron’s relationship with Ar-Pharazôn in Númenor. Other false friendships featuring deception and betrayal include: Saruman’s relationship with Denethor and Gondor; Saruman and Gríma; Théoden and Gríma
Someone posed the question: Were the Nazgûl friends or work colleagues?
It was speculated that one Nazgûl might say to another: “When we’ve knocked off I’ll give you a ring.”
We discussed the next session.
The Tolkien Society AGM will be taking place on the same weekend as the next meeting of the Southfarthing is due, Saturday 11th April 2015.
Laura, Ian, Angela and Chris will be attending the AGM in Arundel. The remainder of the group could still meet that day, if we are all willing, or we could hold over our study of Book Two, Chapter One, Many Meetings until Saturday 25th April 2015 when everyone would be available. Tim said he would propose the options to Lynn by e-mail.
After a very lively, fascinating and varied discussion, we had arrived at a quarter to four: the Fellowship concluded its business and broke up to headed off into the daylight until the next time.


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