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.