It was quite an unusual meeting this afternoon, what with the sudden intrusion of a Lancaster bomber overhead, the lack of 3 of our usual participants, the addition of an accidental new member, and lots of cake! Added to this, Laura brought photos of the triumph of the LonCon masquerade tableau in which Ian had taken the role of Manwë, and Laura had participated in the construction of the spectacular costumes using her beading skills to create decorations, details, and jewellery.
Eventually we turned our attention from the Valar, and cake, to our text: ‘The Disaster of the Gladden Fields’ and ‘Cirion and Eorl’. As in other weeks, Carol sent her comments which are included here.
Angela began our discussion with her observation that Meneldur was glad to be rid of Isildur in the north, and that at last the ancient names now become personalities.
Carol commented: this was when Isildur wrote his piece about the ring 3434 which Gandalf found and read millinia later.
Boromir inherits Isildur’s pride over the ring and like him realises his mistake before death, surely a cause for Mandos’ grace in both cases, even though the forgiveness is death.
Laura noted that Isildur’s force is ambushed by a band of LOST orcs. Angela added that they didn’t know Sauron had been destroyed, so they were just doing what orcs do, there was no higher command driving them. Laura remarked that they were like the Japanese soldiers at the end of WW2 who held out in the jungle unaware that the war was over.
Laura also noted that the Ring is depicted in this chapter as having greater volition, that it behaves like a puppet-master, and that it’s real presence is more evident.
Chris observed that the description of ‘lurking orcs’ implies that their assault on Isildur was not a determined attack.
Laura then queried the number of Elendilmirs (the single Elvish crystal set in a fillet of mithril worn in place of a crown by kings of Gondor). Angela confirmed there were 2, because a second was made after the first was lost with Isildur.
Pat asked for clarification about the pain Isildur suffers when he puts on the Ring. We explained about the heat of Sauron’s hand lingering. Angela responded by asking whether Isildur felt the pain permanently. Laura wondered whether Isildur’s cry of pain was one of mental anguish, and thought the Ring was like a drug, causing mental and physical anguish.
Pat went on to ask whether the Ring was capable of changing shape because it slipped off Isildur’s hand. I thought there was a statement in LotR to this effect and Angela wondered if this was why Bilbo put the Ring on a chain.
Chris thought the effect of the Ring brought Isildur close to suicide. Angela noted that he admits to his son that he has not the strength to control it. Chris also wondered if Elendil was taking the Ring with him to Rivendell whether he did not know the Ring’s danger? Carol commented, ‘Isildur’s wife and son are at Rivendell, interested to check but only Valandil, the youngest son is mentioned! [All the other sons are riding with Elendil, which bears out Carol’s further comment] All women seem fit for is bearing sons who’ll grow up to die in battle’.
Laura remarked that the chapter shows that even after victory the world is still a dangerous place.
I noted that in this short chapter there were lots of details of battle tactics, and Laura observed that this may be evidence of Tolkien’s time in the Officer Training Corps before WW1.
Angela liked the section on Gimli helping Aragorn (King Elessar) searching Orthanc after the fall of Saruman, in which Gimli’s help leads to the discovery of a ‘steel closet’ found to contain the chain on which Isildur had worn the Ring, and the original Elendilmir. Carol commented: ‘I like this section because it puts a bit more flesh on the bones of the post-war story. Nothing could really be worse than Saruman’s treachery but finding all these stolen treasures just compounds his crime’.
Angela then remarked on the amount of detail included in the Notes to this chapter, and on the time scale illustrating the long wait for the right king.
Chris wondered if the Great Plague that decimated Gondor affected the Orcs as well. It seems that it did not, so Chris wondered if it came from Sauron. Angela noted that a Númenórean king and his whole family were killed by plague. Laura compared this to the flu pandemic after WW1. Chris then observed that no mundane illnesses are mentioned. I suggested that you can’t have colds in epics, but Angela pointed out that Bilbo gets one in The Hobbit!
We moved on to discuss Cirion and Eorl and the threat posed by the Wainriders out of the east. Chris and Angela remarked on their use of fortified camps of wagons and we discussed the configuration of ‘wains’, as well as the Wainriders’ use of chariots in battle.
Laura and Carol and I all approved of Galadriel’s protective mist created to shield Eorl’s eohere (horse-army) from the surveillance of Dol Guldur as they rode south.
Carol commented on ‘Cirion and Eorl’, ‘what a nice story, putting a bit more flesh onto the bones of TS record. Foretaste of Éomer and Aragorn. Nice revelation of where Elendil is buried. He wasn’t just left to rot in the ruins of Mordor – as if. What else can I say?’
Carol commented on ‘the northmen and the wainriders’: ‘this is like reading “real” history. It also shows Gondor might have grown too proud to even remember the men of the north whom Faramir would call men of the twilight. But they WILL remember eventually and be thankful for the friendship.
No wonder Dagorlad had turned into such a noisome swamp – the dead marshes – when so many people had been killed there and left to rot. If this was really history I think I’d get bored reading about all the fighting but this is Tolkien and as it says on p. 290 without the ride of Eorl and Théoden in the future, the king couldn’t have returned in LotR.’
Carol also asked:
(1) Doesn’t Ondoher (King of Gondor during the assaults of the Wainriders) have spies or scouts? And don’t the enemies have spies or scouts either?
(2) 15 days to travel nearly 1000 miles on horseback, approx. 66 miles per day – can this be done?
(3) was Elendil buried at Halifirien? If not, what was in the casket that Isildur buried there? And if not, where did Elendil lie?
‘ Numenorean linear measures’
All this section did was send me to my sums. I’m surprised that Numenor was decimal. Decimals have no heart and are cold in colour – black, pale blue and white, whereas old measurements and money are rich in colour and tradition and have grown organically.
We ran out of time at the end of the meeting and did not get round to discussing what to read next. As we have such a long break before our next meeting on 27th September, I suggest at least the next 2 sections of Unfinished Tales. More of course will be fine.