We were a small group at this meeting as Pat, Eileen, Julie, Mike and Ian were all unable to be with us. Nevertheless, we still only managed to get through 1 chapter of our chosen reading, but as Chris observed, that was because we got rather distracted by other topics. But we finally made our way through ‘The White Rider’.
Laura began our discussion when she drew our attention to the ‘Aslan’ moment, and noted that Gandalf’s description of being ‘sent back’ implies something controlling him. We dont’ know if he went back to Valinor, and Chris proposed that he might have done so spiritually.
Chris followed this with his observation that Gandalf has forgotten things. Tim added that the wizard has changed, and likened this (rather apologetically) to Dr. Who’s regeneration, when he gets slightly ‘jumbled up.’
Laura observed that Legolas is the first to recognise Mithrandir, and maybe this is part of his Elvish perception, but the name ‘Gandalf’ is more familiar to the wizard himself. Tim remarked that this is the name by which he is most beloved by hobbits. Tim added that a sense of relief is communicated in the writing through the responses of the 3 Walkers.
Laura then noted the change of linguistic register to a more Old Testament form, and that such expressions as ‘the hard horn of the world’ are very poetic.
Angela questioned whether it is a new characteristic when Gandalf tells Gimli that ‘no weapon could hurt him.’ But maybe it was always so. Tim remarked that Gandalf’s physical substance is changed.
This led us to ponder that matter of the possible destruction of wizards. Chris noted that Saruman is ‘demoted’ by Gandalf before he is eventually killed, and that following his comment that Galadriel sends the eagle to look for him, Tim observed that Gandalf’s physical substance is changed.
Angela remarked that Gandalf’s return is doubted by his comrades, and this may be compared to the resurrection of Christ when His reappearance embodied is doubted by the apostle Thomas, and by others on the Road to Emmaus. Laura noted that in both cases of doubt the return is revealed first to a woman.
Carol commented: Even Aragorn isn’t above doubting the existence of ‘legendary’ beings, the ents. For this war, lots of legendary characters are appearing to be real.
We turned then to the 3 Walkers as Tim noted that Aragorn fulfils his role as Ranger when he reads the evidence for the presence of the hobbits on the edge of Fangorn. Tim also noted that Legolas feels young again in comparison to the age of the Old Forest.
Laura remarked that Legolas reassures his companions that the horses were not scared when they ran away. Laura also noted the Anglo-Saxon origins of the word ‘fastness’. Tim added that ‘sedge’ is also Anglo-Saxon.
Chris then posed the question: since one of the old men the Walkers saw really was Saruman, how did he travel so quickly? Angela observed that he was very powerful, and Tim suggested it could have been a ‘projection’. Angela remarked that Gandalf says Saruman couldn’t wait for news from his orc raiders, to which Tim added that therefore Saruman was already in the vicinity of the Forest. Angela went on to observed that Saruman has no deputy when he is absent from Orthanc.
Angela also wondered what Gandalf meant by the ‘nameless things’ he encountered under Moria. Tim proposed that this was another of Tolkien’s twists as he leaves things unexplained, but that the 10-day epic battle between Gandalf and the balrog is a battle of Titans – a cosmic battle. Angela observed that Gandalf’s fall reveals him to be potentially indestructible.
Carol commented: Gandalf’s fighting with his dark opposite in the element of fire, had to be purged of the human dross, he’d acquired over his many years in Middle-earth, purged with fire and water.
Carol also commented: Gandalf perceives that because Sauron’s view is monolithic, only thinking that someone will seize the ring and use it against him, or try to, Sauron cannot conceive of anyone trying to destroy the ring and so has his eye drawn out from Mordor. He realises his mistake only when it’s almost too late. Otherwise, he’d have found his treasure.
Chris wondered ‘who knows what?’ How does Sauron know that the hobbits had been taken? Laura responded that Sauron’s knowledge shows him to be more powerful than Saruman.
Angela looked at language and noted that ordinary rather colloquial speech shows the companionship between Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Gandalf. Angela observed the relationship would be different if Merry and Pippin were with them.
Chris wondered – if Gandalf had gone with Frodo, would the temptation of the Ring have got to him?
Laura wondered why Gandalf is described as having a hood and a hat. Angela replied that Gandalf’s hat distinguishes him from Saruman who is ‘hooded and cloaked’.
I wondered what was the significance of Gandalf being sent back ‘naked’. Does this imply physical nakedness, or that his physical body has been stripped away and it is only his Maia spirit that returns. His ‘reclothing’ in Lorien would then mean the reclothing of his Maia spirit in his chosen form, but now in white.
Angela noted that Aragorn is also healed and clothed in white and grey in Lorien during an earlier journey. Tim likened this to the need to shower and change after a hard day, but discovered in Hammond and Scull’s Guide that Tolkien maintained that Gandalf received no more than physical healing and refreshment.
We moved on to the deference of Gandalf to Galadriel in the film. Tim noted that she has been in Middle-earth longer than Gandalf.
Chris went on then to comment on the way Gimli dances around at the message Gandalf brings from Galadriel.
Laura noted that the relationship between Gandalf and Shadowfax was more than just man/horse when he ‘bent his thought’ on the horse and it responded from a distance.
Carol commented: ‘far let us ride together, and not part in this world again.’ Does Shadowfax go west with Gandalf in the end? Think so but it isn’t specifically stated.’ Angela noted that in ‘The Grey Havens’ there is a description of a ‘great grey horse’ on the quay.
Laura observed that Gandalf reassures Aragorn that his decision and choice to follow the orcs was right.
We only managed to get through this one chapter, so for our next meeting we will read ‘The King of the Golden Hall’ and ‘Helm’s Deep’.
Gimli to Legolas: ‘where you go, I will go.’ – Ruth and Naomi, forget which way round. A friendship forged forever.
Aragorn and Legolas are of the same ilk as Eomer and Faramir in being patient and not shooting first and asking questions after. Gimli’s a bit bull-headed at the moment.
‘Mithrandir, he cried. Gandalf’s back! O joy!