Last Meeting in May

My grateful thanks to Tim for taking and writing up the notes following here:

Present: Angela, Chris, Laura, Ian, Eileen, Tim

Chapters: “The Window on the West” in continuation, “The Forbidden Pool”

After gathering for a pre-meeting pre-amble with coffee and snacks at the Artisan Café, we reconvened at the Seminar Room for 1.30pm, without our guiding light, Lynn, who had a very good reason for her absence – she was attending her son’s wedding.

Ian opened the discussion, noting how Faramir explains the history/tradition of his Númenórean ancestors – the reason for facing towards the West at mealtimes, and why it is important. He also mentioned the rhetorical nature of the language used. There is nothing to say that modern Men are any better than the Númenóreans in the past. There has been a fall from state of grace for Men – the relationship they had with ancient peoples – Elves – no longer have that affinity. The Stewards are more practical than the line of Kings. Faramir preserves the greatness of Númenórean race – “ancientry”
Tim remarked on the story-telling within the story taking place in this chapter, similar to the Council of Elrond.
Angela said that some Men still have dealings with Elves, something she likes the idea of. Eileen mentioned how Celeborn had a go at Gimli in Lothlórien. Laura wondered where these Gondorians are now? Have they gone native in Lothlórien? Angela said that Treebeard was surprised that Pippin and Merry got out of Lothlórien and that they got it in the first place.
With reference to the prayer to the West, Chris observed how Frodo feels “rustic and untutored”. Ian picked up on the strange usage of the word “rustic”. “City mouse, town mouse”.
Angela posed the idea of private libraries. Laura asked if Minas Tirith/Gondor has become a decadent culture, too busy looking at the dead. Eileen commented that we keep encountering the dead.
Ian considered why Minas Tirith should be preserved – there are no actual accounts in the book as yet of what the city is like. The White City is the defence against Mordor. We have only met Boromir and Faramir in terms of main characters. “Great Men”.
Angela reflected on the formal use by Faramir of “Samwise son of Hamfast” and “Frodo son of Drogo”.
Eileen wondered if Faramir’s race is evolving. Chris referred to the intermarriage of the races of Men. Laura said that the bloodline had become thinner through marriage with the mainland. Ian: Men were losing affinity with Númenor. Boromir went to Rivendell due to the importance of this to Minas Tirith even though Faramir might have been better suited due to his affinity. Laura referred to the end of the chapter [“Window on the West”] as being wonderful. Faramir was Gandalf-like – the air of Numenor may be stronger in Faramir. Tim mentioned his affinity with Gandalf.
Laura commented on Isildur’s Bane, that Faramir doesn’t know what it is. Angela said that Gandalf found Ring lore in the archives of Minas Tirith. Ian described how Saruman gathered knowledge about the Ring, and related this matter to lost documents in general, such as medieval Welsh manuscripts in the National Archive of Wales – documents can be squirrelled away in private collections, or can be redacted or destroyed. There is not enough information available on Isildur’s Bane, no account of it. Angela noted that at the Council of Elrond, Boromir knows about the Ring. Tim said that Faramir also knows about the Ring, what it is. He knows the rhyme, as Ian added. Angela said that Gandalf was looking for a specific item in the archives. “Official Secrets”, as Laura put it, going on to add that Saruman went to Minas Tirith – what did he take away? Eileen found that Gandalf is showing himself to be wise. Chris observed that whoever wrote the scroll about the Ring would have written down the inscription on the Ring without understanding what it meant, since it was in the Black Speech.
Chris also talked about how Gandalf did teach Faramir a lot. He is not a patient teacher. It could be a commentary by Tolkien on people not studying when they have the time to.
Eileen described the influence of Galadriel, for example Sam’s modest poetry/recital which shows he is smitten by her. Laura described Galadriel as dangerous, and Eileen agreed that there is a power in Galadriel.
Chris compared Boromir and Faramir’s differing attitudes to the Ring – Boromir saw it as a solution, Faramir sees that they cannot use the Ring. Ian talked about the change in Boromir because of the Ring, a change of look, a different intent – psychological. Tim read out Tolkien’s description of the change to Boromir’s visage at Amon Hen: “His fair and pleasant face was hideously changed; a raging fire was in his eyes.”
Chris said that Boromir was not evil – he didn’t want the Ring for himself but for his people. Eileen noted how the Company didn’t trust Boromir when they were in the boats leaving Lothlórien. She also thought that the book is more of a drama which makes you question things.
Ian: Sam refers to “daffadowndilly” which is a dialect word found in West Yorkshire, Cheshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Devon, Nottinghamshire, also Dorset, Scotland, Gloucestershire. Other variants: daffydowndilly, daffidowndilly. Reference also “spurgeflax”.
Laura identified two possible moments where the Valar stepped in. First, when Boromir chose to go on the mission to Rivendell. Faramir says that “I should have been chosen”. Was this the Valar’s plan? Denethor didn’t want Boromir to go to Rivendell. Secondly, at one point Sam looks back to see Gollum slipping behind a tree trunk and says nothing, unusually – are the Valar restraining Sam? He shows sympathy/pity for Gollum, not Sam’s instinctive response.
Ian thought that Frodo acts “treacherously” by coaxing Gollum into a trap [in “The Forbidden Pool”]. Sam is trusting Gollum not to attack them and thus doesn’t betray him. Frodo acts with the Ring, Sam acts without the Ring.
Chris thought that Frodo is saving Gollum. Ian added that Frodo has it in his power to destroy Gollum but doesn’t.
Laura observed that Faramir says he wouldn’t kill anything without question. Mention was made of the black squirrels of Mirkwood. Other creatures have fled Dol Guldur.
Ian talked about the usage of the word “escape” – an obscure Scottish term – omission/oversight – “escapes” as opposed to “escapees”.
Chris said that in “The Forbidden Pool” Frodo reveals that Gollum once had the Ring and is now their guide. Faramir is aghast.
Eileen highlighted the word “gangrel” which Ian investigated the meaning of: it is variously found in Scottish, Cumbria, Yorkshire, Shropshire, and can refer to vagrant, vagabond, tramp; toddler, unsteady walker; lanky, ungainly; toad. Tim thought all definitions could be describing Gollum.
Chris described Gollum as “cat-like”, further evidence of Tolkien’s dislike of cats. Sam agrees but disagrees that Gollum shouldn’t be tied up, as Frodo says.
Tim noted the reference to hedgehogs in Middle-earth.
Faramir was dubious of Gollum but asks Frodo for his advice/opinion, Eileen said. Angela noted a similarity in the way that Faramir is disobeying the orders of his father, the Steward, just as Eomer disobeyed the orders of his King.
Laura commented on the form of speech which is still very formal in the middle of war.
A little moment of by-play from Ian “Do you have the Ring?” was responded to with “Lawful wedded guide”.
Laura said that Frodo was committed to looking after Sméagol.
Eileen said that Faramir puts a doom on Gollum: a year and a day.
Angela remarked on Sam’s cheekiness with Faramir over the Elves. Faramir is putting him on his guard. Eileen liked the comedy in the book.
Eileen posed the question: what will Frodo do after he’s got rid of the Ring? The general response from other members of the group was: you’ll have to read to find out.
Ian introduced another point, related to Auden and Tolkien. This Quest is to get rid of something the Company/Frodo have already got. Usually the object of a quest is to get something. The outcome of the quest is that the world won’t necessarily be better.
Eileen agreed that this turns things on its head.
We concluded the meeting a little after half past the hour and before quarter before the hour [Southfarthing Reckoning]. For next time [11th June], we agreed to return to The Forbidden Pool, since we have unfinished business there with Frodo and Faramir, and to also read the last two chapters of “The Two Towers”: “Shelob’s Lair” and “The Choices of Master Samwise”.

Note: All errors and omissions are my own. I’ve endeavoured to make this an accurate record of the meeting, but if anyone spots any almighty clangers, please do not hesitate to let Lynn or myself know. Tim.

One thought on “Last Meeting in May

  1. Um… on the topic of errors and omissions being my own, I just realised that we will be finishing our visit to “The Forbidden Pool” before our “Journey to the Cross Roads” and ascent of “The Stairs of Cirith Ungol”. My apologies to Chapters VII and VIII for mistaking them for Chapters IX and X… Tim 🙂

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