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.