We had a busy day from the moment when we dashed in out of the thunderstorm and its torrential rain until the time when we all had to go our separate ways. Apart from our usual discussion meeting we were intending to go to the farewell party for the librarian who had originally enabled me to set up the reading group, before heading off for our Summer-moot dinner. Everyone managed to come along with the exception of Carol and Rosemary. Carol’s comments for the meeting are appended as always. Our reading for the afternoon only got as far as ‘The Journey to the Cross-Roads’.
Tim started our discussions with the observation that Gollum is glad to be away from Faramir and his Men but Frodo chides him for his ingratitude. Angela remarked that it was like talking to a naughty child.
Laura, like Carol, remarked on the humour of Sam’s comment about tea-time in decent places. Carol observed ‘Gollum’s retort that they aren’t in decent places makes me smile. At least Gollum still seems to have a bit of common humanity about him.’
I mentioned that the gorse thickets evoke memories of a childhood fascination with being able to ‘walk inside’ plants, the sense of safety, and a different space.
Laura compared the fate of the fallen statue of the old king with the mutilated sphinx, and questioned the use of ‘coronel’, which Tim looked up and found it described a wreath or garland and so was apt for the flowers around the statue’s fallen head.
Eileen questioned the significance of cross-roads and we all discussed this. Tim and Mike remarked on the story of a guitar player (Robert Johnson) and the Devil at the cross-roads. Eileen then noted that Tolkien uses a hyphen for ‘cross-roads’, and Angela observed that Tolkien uses hyphens frequently. Tim suggested that they represent part of the evolution of the English language.
Julie wryly observed that she thought the absence of hyphens in modern spelling suggested people were too lazy to find the right key!
Laura then remarked that cross-roads are part of the theme of decision making in LotR, and Angela noted that there is another important cross-roads where the Greenway intersects with the East-West Road at Bree.
Eileen then commented that the stillness of the land is not natural.
Tim remarked on the description of the storm-ruined trees and recalled the images of the shattered trees of World War 1 which Tolkien must have seen.
Laura observed that the whole chapter had a very ‘Gothic’ feel, but the revolving tower of Minas Morgul puzzled her and we considered how it worked and was configured. Julie suggested it was powered by orcs on a treadmill. Ian noted that it aided surveillance and we all discussed the field of view, with Ian suggesting it may imply that Sauron has a blind spot! He went on to observe that if there was a palantir in the tower it must face 1 direction so the platform has to turn so that anyone approaching thinks it’s still there.
Laura remarked that red light seems to be a means of communicating between Minas Morgul and Barad Dur.
We all then discussed the matter of the flowers and the ‘corpse light’. Ian observed that the saprophytic plant ‘toothwort’ is known as the ‘corpse flower’. It does not have white flowers but being saprophytic it does not contain chlorophyll either. Ian added that as well as being saprophytic, toothwort is also carnivorous.
Angela observed that the poisonous atmosphere of the Morgul Vale bears out Faramir’s advice not to drink the water.
Tim then suggested that the Ring at this point is really trying to he ‘home’ and Laura remarked that it was treating Frodo like a puppet.
Mike moved us on to the Stairs, observing that although Sam’s soliloquy suffered badly from the ‘saccharine’ treatment of the film, but when reread it reveals Tolkien saying that you have to do what is right in front of you – what you think is right, even though you don’t know what’s going to happen. It is as if Tolkien is looking back on his life and wondering at how it turned out as it did.
MiGollum ke went on to note that it is as Gollum embarks on betrayal that the narrative provides a passage of great tenderness which leads to our anger at Sam and sympathy for Gollum. Laura remarked that at this point the Ring doesn’t seem to call Gollum, and Chris suggested this is because Gollum now sees what the Ring is doing to Frodo and thus what it has done to him.
We had long run out of time, so hurriedly agreed that for our next meeting we would read ‘Shelob’s Lair’ and ‘The Choices of Master Samwise’.
The murky weather of Mordor begins, felt in other places too. Murky weather can really depress a person as Sauron well knows, undermining confidence and encouraging depression.
Sam’s dream could be clairvoyant of what is happening in the Shire.