Last Meeting in July

Present: Ian, Laura, Eileen, Mike, Julie, Tim
Chapters: “Shelob’s Lair” in continuation, and “The Choices of Master Samwise”.

[I have added Carol’s Comments at the end as usual -Lynn]

After gathering for a pre-meeting coffee and snacks at the Artisan Café, which overran slightly, we reconvened at the Seminar Room at about 1.45pm (with apologies), without Lynn, who was unwell, and Angela and Chris, who were at a wedding.
We resumed our review of “Shelob’s Lair” with an observation from Eileen such a horrible creature, so monstrous, so evil. Stench slime makes it more horrible to read.
Laura thought it was frightening that Shelob is independent, a rogue element.
Mike talked about the description of the two hobbits against the monster – a hopeless battle? Tolkien is building up the tension – will they survive?
Eileen couldn’t work out how Shelob could be so large – how did she get so big? Ian observed that Shelob is “Morgully Obese”. Eileen continued by saying that she couldn’t believe Shelob stays so powerful. Ian added that this is a malevolent force in spider form.
When reading this sequence, Eileen said she was almost hysterical, the description was so over the top she found it hard to believe.
Laura echoed Ian’s reference in describing Ungoliant, a creature in spider form. Sauron was happy to leave Shelob to guard the back door to Mordor.
Ian related how Tolkien didn’t want to create an evil queen in The Lord of the Rings so he created an extreme, disgusting monster female. He had too much respect for character.
Mike thought that she represents a force – a gestation of evil. She is described in a most offensive way.
Tim wondered if it was possible that Shelob has been made in mockery of spiders, like Orcs were spawned in mockery of Elves.
Mike said that Tolkien really goes to town at the start of “The Choices of Master Samwise”.
Laura commented on the small attacking the large – heroic similes.
Eileen: Frodo appears dead. Sam has to decide – this really struck home for her. Sam take the Ring from Frodo.
It was noted by Laura that the Orcs have a certain view of Elvish habits i.e. that they leave their companions behind. Tim wondered how long Orcs live, bearing in mind they are based on Elves. Laura suggested they are like Dolly the Sheep (i.e. not long-lived). Ian said that Orcs are made old, i.e. their cells are already old.
Mike moved onto the language and syntax of Gorbag and Shagrat that Tolkien is using. He thought it doesn’t hang together properly. He wondered if they spoke in a dialect like a northern English one, rather than an East End accent. Tim noted that in the armed forces there tends to be a mongrel language – a mixture of all sorts of speech and dialects. Perhaps the Orcs are like this. He also observed that Tolkien has created three-dimensional characters in the orcs. Mike called them sentient; Eileen said they are realistic.
Laura highlighted how Sam refers to the Orcs as “devils” and “filth”. Shagrat had used “filth” when referring to Frodo.
Mike made the point that love for fellow man overcomes everything.
Laura: Sam considers suicide rather than going on alone. Conscience? Higher forces? He is having an internal dialogue – agonising over multiple choices. He is described as Master Samwise – a sign that he is growing up.
When Sam is speaking Elvish/speaking in tongues, it is coming from him – an inner strength. The power of the phial – starlight – is uplifting for Sam. The light has an effect on Shelob. Eileen compared it to Gollum’s sensitivity to light. Ian described the difference of the light on the spider’s multifaceted eyes. It is special starlight, captured essence, light intensified.
Mike asked why Sam didn’t cut Frodo free. Others in the group said that he did. Mike realised it was depicted in the f-i-l-m that Frodo was left in his bindings.
Tim compared Sam’s internal dialogues with those of Smeagol/Gollum. In Sam’s case he uses “I” and “You”.
Laura mentioned that Frodo’s face had a green colour but later it was fair of hue.
Eileen thought that Frodo comes to life again. Ian explained that Frodo was only paralysed but appeared dead.
Tim noted the dramatic ending with the emphasis on Frodo, not the Ring.
“The great doors slammed to. Boom. The bars of iron fell into place inside. Clang. The gate was shut. Sam hurled himself against the bolted brazen plates and fell senseless to the ground. He was out in the darkness. Frodo was alive but taken by the Enemy.”
Mike explained that there is not a word in this chapter that wouldn’t have been witnessed by Sam.
Eileen said that things happen all of a sudden. Laura added that it was another disaster. The Orcs refer to Gollum as a “sneak” like Sam does.
Next time: we start on “The Return of the King”, reading Chapter One – “Minas Tirith”.
Note: All errors and omissions are my own. I’ve endeavoured to make this as accurate a record as possible of the meeting, but if anyone spots any almighty clangers (or soup dragons) please do not hesitate to let Lynn or myself know. Thanks, Tim.

Carol’s Comments

chapter 9 Shelob’s Lair

‘other potencies there are…’ Sam’s right to think of Tom Bombadil but his thought of him and mine are quite different. Tom and Shelob are 2 of those characters who are not troubled by rings. Tom is at the start of their journey and largely benign, on the edge of a beningn settlement – the Shire. Shelob is almost at the end of their journey, vicious, on the edge of a vicious settlement – Mordor. Their respective abodes are reflected in their natures. Tolkien wouldn’t pair them off consciously but at a pinch I could, characters not affected by Rings yet total opposites.

The Shelob story – again tracing back history to the poisoning of Telperion and Laurelin by Ungoliant – Shelob’s mam – Cirith UNGOL etc. even spiders have their back-story.

chapter 10 The Choices of Master Samwise

‘all his little impudence of courage’ – this might be Shelob’s thought but it describes Sam’s bravery perfectly. Lovely!

Sam’s ‘indomitable spirit’ even right to the end.

Thanks to laxness on the enemy’s part – Shagrat and Gorbag talking – Sam and Frodo have been enabled to get so far.

Frodo is saved from immedaite harm by orders from Above, just like Merry and Pippin were.

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2 thoughts on “Last Meeting in July

  1. Interesting point about the Orcs having a kind of mongrel language. I think it is the kind of thing one encounters in the Armed Forces – I remember John saying (from his brief time at Catterick) how there were squaddies from all over the country (in particular the traditional poor and working class places) with strong accents such as Glasgow, Geordie, Teesside etc, all virtually mutually incomprehensible. This is possibly why there is so much profanity in the services – at least anyone can understand short sharp swear words!!

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