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??

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