First meeting in February

We were joined for our meeting today by Julie and Mike, but were without Ian. Carol had sent her comments as always on our selected reading, but our discussion was long delayed by our deliberations on the problems arising from the forthcoming charges to be imposed by the Library. We have always been very fortunate having our meeting room without charge, and we have been meeting there for 12 years. Now, sadly, the Library needs to create income wherever it can and has decided to extend its current commercial charge to all groups using it meeting room. This will have uncertain consequences for us so we needed to consider how to continue our meetings. Some issues still require clarification from the Library but we were agreed that we want to keep the group going.
Once we got started on our reading – chapters held over from last time – Angela opened the discussion with her observation that Gandalf ‘s response to Legolas’s question ‘How far is it to Isengard’ – ‘About fifteen leagues, as the crows of Saruman make it’ , is typical.
Carol commented of the opening of this chapter that the wizardry is the magic of nature, rather than the high magic of wizards and elves.

Eileen commented that she loved Gimli’s description of the caves of Aglarond, and the way Gimli and Legolas share their responses to caves and trees.
Mike defined this as a shared love of living things because Gimli speaks of ‘living rock’.
I thought we got a glimpse of a dwarf aesthetic that is often submerged beneath a more obvious dwarvish tendency to display their skills through magnificent but commercial or defensive works.
Carol also commented: “Gimli’s truly kissed the blarney stone when it comes to talking of the caves of Helm’s Deep. Or perhaps he is that rare dwarf who is born poetic, or perhaps Galadriel has loosened his tongue to courtesy and poetry. I know dwarves have their own songs but this is really lyrical.”
Eileen remarked that she had often felt sorry for Gimli as the outsider because the hobbits and Men are not affected by ancient enmity with the Elves.
Laura noted that Merry is very formal amid the ruins of Isengard, and Eileen remarked that the ruins of the Ring of Isengard are creepy. Laura compared the narrative details of Saruman’s workforce to the history of Alderney and records that show the scale of the deaths of slave workers during the Nazi occupation. Laura also wondered where Saruman got his slaves. Angela suggested they may have been Dunlendings, while Julie suggested they came from the surrounding population.
Changing the tone, I remarked on the homeliness of Pippin offering toast to Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli – Man, Elf and Dwarf. Laura noted the importance of bread in every culture, and Eileen commented that toast represented a communal feeling.
Julie wondered what Merry and Pippin knew about Gandalf’s return. Angela wondered if they knew about Boromir’s death, and thought they might have assumed it. Mike suggested that the orcs might have told them.
I noted Pippin’s refusal to give an account of his and Merry’s time as prisoners of the orcs. Eileen observed Pippin’s remark that it seemed like a year since they had been captured, and the way the horror of an experience extends time.
Laura went on to comment that when Aragorn gives Pippin back his brooch, Tolkien can’t resist giving him an aphorism: ‘One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters.’
Angela noted that this scene is a good way of also getting Merry’s knife back to him – he will make good use of it later!
Laura then observed that it was hard to imagine Huorns moving as fast as the hobbits describe, given their size. Angela suggested it was possible for large creatures to move fast, citing the speed of elephants when angry or scared. Eileen noted that Huorns were described as speedy ‘at need’. Angela also suggested that Hourns might be regarded as Ent-zombies!
Having run out of time we agreed to finish the last 2 chapters of Book 3, ‘The Voice of Saruman’ and ‘The Palantir’.