We were all together again this week and Carol sent her comments as always. We were discussing ‘The Window on the West’ and ‘The Forbidden Pool’. We did not complete our task!
Ian opened the proceedings with news of his latest acquisition – a copy of Elizabeth Wright’s little commemorative volume for her young son – the Tolkien connection being via her husband Joseph Wright, Tolkien’s tutor and friend at Oxford, and later en executor of the Wright estate.
As we moved on to Tolkien proper Laura remarked that ‘The Window on the West’ is a lovely title. Mike remarked that the chapter title only refers to a description in one paragraph.
Tim noted the way Frodo stands his ground during what looks like a trial. Laura thought the description was reminiscent of the painting depicting an episode during the Civil War and entitled ‘When did you last see your father?’ Laura also observed that, as in Rivendell, Sam is eavesdropping again. Tim commented that he does the Same at Bag End when he is gathering information.
Ian observed that the amphitheatre configuration with Faramir sitting on the ground and Frodo standing raises the question – is Faramir justifying his actions in not yet killing the hobbits by questioning Frodo like this? Ian went on to describe the event and setting as ‘theatrical’ and as in Shakespearean style, the fool comes in!
Tim noted that Faramir is described as ‘stern’ and with sharp wit, much like Aragorn. Angela observed that both are Men of the Same race. Laura wondered if Faramir himself is the Window on the West. Mike wondered if we get an insight into the West via the character of Faramir. Tim noted that we find out much more about Numenor, and suggested that the physical ‘window’ is a symbol for the ‘far green country.’ Mike added that this is the first time Tolkien opens up the view of Numenor.
Ian suggested it is a view of the kingdom of Gondor and includes a history of Gondor and what the present actions mean to Gondor.
Tim remarked that after the ‘trial’ the hobbits are being informed and educated with Faramir as tutor.
Carol commented that “Faramir like Eomer: not in favour with authority – Denethor/Theoden (though Eomer and Theoden reconcile a lot quicker). Also like Eomer’s dilemma: does Faramir let Sam and Frodo go free or take them back home as is the law?” Tim noted that Tom Shippey also considers this point.
Mike wondered if all this underlines Aragorn’s pedigree, to which Angela replied ‘Yes’, while Ian replied ‘No’.
Eileen commented that at first encounter the hobbits do not trust Faramir but they discover their knowledge of Gandalf in common. Ian observed that although the tales seem different they are part of the same story.
Laura then questioned whether 200 men could hear the exchanges between Faramir and Frodo. I suggested that the gathering replicated the importance of witnesses in a predominantly oral society. Ian reiterated that possibility that Faramir is the one on trial. I wondered if Tolkien was exploring the demands of the law as opposed to individual judgment. Mike proposed that this might have come about as a result of Tolkien’s observation of situations in World War 1 and slavish obedience to orders. Tim wondered if Tolkien was expressing the wish that commanders could indeed exercise judgment. Ian suggested that small individual judgments, if successful, may have gone unreported. Tim noted that on the chase through Rohan the orcs and Uruks used localised judgement.
Carol commented: ‘What a lovely piece about Boromir in the boat, magical and magically it survived Rauros. He died well.’ Tim observed that Faramir shows sensitivity to the supernatural and paranormal. Laura noted that Faramir is generally more sensitive. Eileen then observed that for Frodo the interview was a hard introduction to the news that Boromir was dead. Tim remarked that it puts Frodo under pressure.
We moved on to a fast-moving discussion of what Faramir knows knows about the Ring, and when.
Carol commented: ‘The standing silence is the only other sign of a Gondorian spirituality next to ‘may the Valar turn him aside’. Mike observed that the ‘grace’ makes Frodo feel ‘rustic’ and he therefore feels there is something great about Faramir and his race. Laura remarked that it is the only time there is a sense of ‘prayer’. Mike added that Faramir wants Frodo and Sam to participate in the grace and Laura suggested that perhaps Faramir wants them to benefit from it. This led to a general discussion of the faith represented in the grace.
That brought our afternoon to an end. Next time the group will finish ‘The Forbidden Pool’ and move on to ‘Journey to the Crossroads’.
‘The Window on the West’
Anborn spots Gollum.
Faramir relates some more history of Gondor and Rohan – Story