Our pre-Yule meeting lacked only a Party Tree to make it a proper hobbit gathering. Thanks to Laura there was a small feast of festive fancies – a nice change from the mince pies that loom large at this time of year. Cards were exchanged, and happily Julie managed to make it in briefly for this. We also had the pleasure of congratulating Tim on an approaching significant birthday.
Carol sent her comments as usual, but as we did not touch ‘Helm’s Deep’ I will hold those comments over for next time and simply include here and at the end those comments which relate to what we talked about.
Before starting the blog proper for December I should add in the item I missed from the previous mini-blog when I should have mentioned that at our pre-talk informal café-moot Ian updated us on his visit to the Miramar Hotel in Bournemouth where Tolkien often holidayed in later life. After showing us the photos he had taken of Tolkien’s room and the relationship between the room, the hotel, and the sea, Ian also noted that the Tolkien Society seminar had once been held there.
Apologies for missing this out last time. On now to the December blog:
Eileen opened the afternoon’s discussions by remarking that although Gandalf is now back, he is not the same. This led us to revisit ‘The White Rider’. Eileen continued, observing that his change to bent and white made her suspicious. Tim remarked that Gandalf takes on the white characteristic as be is sent back, showing he is now higher in the order of the Istari. Ian noted that the wizard changes his bearing during the reintroduction. Angela added that he becomes so lithe he springs onto a rock. Ian observed that the origin of the Istari is not known so change fits in with this.
Chris remarked on Tolkien’s use of suspense to create cliff-hanger endings for many chapters. Angela noted that the Riders’ suspicions add to the suspense.
Laura commented that the reader really needs to know something of The Silmarillion for background on how Gandalf recovers and returns.
Eileen then remarked that Tolkien leaves things out because like war veterans Gandalf can’t talk about some things.
Tim noted that Gandalf is ‘sent’ back, he does not ‘come back’.
Ian wondered if Gandalf forgot who he was, and suggested the need to observe the lexis Gandalf uses when speaking to his 3 former companions. In this context Ian took up the matter of the wizard’s declaration that he was sent back ‘naked’ and referred us to Joseph Wright’s Dialect Dictionary where ‘naked’ (4) = unarmed or defenceless.
I wondered if Gandalf had any choice in the way he was clothed but Angela and Tim both remarked that Galadriel clothes him in white. Ian wondered if this implies that she is currying favour? Angela noted that she also brings Aragorn and Arwen together, as if she is always working on what needs to be done.
Eileen remarked, however, that Galadriel gives her the creeps, and she feels sorry for Celeborn.
Laura commented that Galadriel is a perfect example of elves as dangerous, hence the superstitions of Boromir and the Rohirrim.
Angela then pointed out what seems to be an inconsistency in the characterisation of Legolas when we are told that he sleeps, wearied by the ride to Edoras. Previously it has been noted that he does not sleep in the manner of other races. Tim commented that maybe the reference to ‘sleep’ is indeed to the form of sleep particular to elves. Eileen remarked that before the arrival of Gandalf they could not sleep safely.
I wondered about another possible inconsistency when Gandalf leaves Glamdring outside Meduseld, but I wondered, didn’t Glamdring go into the abyss with Gandalf when he fell? Ian noted that Glamdring goes out onto the mountain with Gandalf because he says ‘ever I hewed him…’ While the balrog loses its existence as a balrog, Gandalf is sent back.
Angela went on to remark on the comment that the weapons of the travellers were not meant to ‘rest against the wall’, and saw this as a dig against other forms of inactivity.
Ian then commented on Owen Barfield’s very precise analysis of the etymology of ‘ruin’ in Poetic Diction.
Laura then directed our attention to the use of capitalisations, where compass points are capitalised for emphasis but simple directions are not.
Tim noted that when the travellers reach Edoras this is the first encounter in the story with a dwelling of men.
Chris commented that Legolas defines the Rohirric language as part of, and evolving from the land itself, so that sound and pronunciation match the landscape. Ian thought it significant that it is Legolas, the Elf, who points out the difference, and this led to a discussion of the possible relationship between geography and dialect.
Carol commented that the song Aragorn sings in Rohirric [‘Where is the horse and the rider’] is a near-copy of an OE one but can’t remember which. Lynn’ll probably know [It’s the ‘ubi sunt’ section of The Wanderer]. Like Legolas says: ‘It is laden with the sadness of Mortal Men.’This he discerned for its original language. It seems to me that everything in this story has its own sadness.’
Chris also wondered whether Gandalf created the storm that overtakes Edoras. The group generally thought this was true, but we could not be certain.
Laura picked up Gandalf’s remark that the courtesy of Théoden’s court was ‘lessened’, and she saw this as characteristic irony.
Chris expressed sympathy for Hama when he is confronted with the travellers and their weapons of high repute. Chris also wondered what Gandalf says to Théoden?
I then asked why Gandalf suddenly sings a hymn of praise to Galadriel. Ian commented that that it creates a big pause and prepares for the creation of the necessary alliance after Grima has belittled ‘Dwimordene’. Gandalf’s hymn is a counter0argument and the whole section is heavily rhetorical. Laura wondered if Gandalf sings it softly into Grima’s ear. Tim remarked than amid the verbal sparring the song is like an incantation and is perhaps a fragment of the original Song. Laura proposed that Gandalf’s song may have been drawing on Galadriel as an invocation to empower himself before he reveals his power.
Once again we ran out of time, but agreed that we would start next time with Chris’s comments on Eowyn, for which we had not had time, and that we would pick the rest of ‘The King of the Golden Hall’ and try to get through ‘Helm’s Deep’.
Carol’s Comments on ‘The King of the Golden Hall’:
We get the first description of Théoden’s city and hall, made of very natural materials, e.g. wood and thatch. Compare with Denethor’s marble – stiff and cold – as in their respective characters.
I didn’t really get how to pronounce simbelmyne until I saw the TT film. The history of Rohan’s lines of kings seen in the 2 sets of mounds.
Suspicion among allies from the guards – quite right to be wary.
Aragorn and Andúril – each one of them has a stiff neck about something. It isn’t often Aragorn demonstrates pride.
The naturalness of Meduseld, Eorl the young woven in tapestry, whereas in Denethor’s hall past kings are remembered in marble sculpture. Plus a bit of history of Eorl.
Grima’s really talking himself into a corner, very insulting, before he finds out the strength of the 4 before him O, foolish man.