We only had one meeting this month because Oxonmoot intervened, but we met again on 24.9.16
We missed Ian, Mike, and Tim at our meeting this afternoon but Carol sent her comments as always and those that do not appear in the report are added as usual at the end. The chapters we were discussing were ‘The Muster of Rohan’ and ‘The Siege of Gondor’.
Eileen began our afternoon when she remarked on the unnatural feel in the ‘Muster’ chapter, and Laura added that even the natural seems unnatural.
Laura went on to remark on the process of ‘monstering’ the enemy through propaganda.
Eileen and Angela both commented on Merry’s pity for the pukel-men, and Laura noted that with them Tolkien appears to be depicting pre-stone-age people.
Julie compared the description of the pukel-men with the shape and age of the so-called Venus of Willendorf.
[An image is available at https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/prehistoric-art/paleolithic-art/a/venus-of-willendorf]
Carol commented: “the pukel-men, another legend that will come to life shortly”.
Angela remarked that she thought Denethor the most scary character in the book, while Laura commented that there is a wonderful contrast between Theoden and Denethor.
Eileen observed that we see how hobbits hang on to friendships, and Laura remarked that Merry thinking about Frodo and Sam reminded her of the ‘small steps’ phrase. I noted that the separation of Merry and Pippin enables them to grow.
Eileen also noted that Merry does not share the language of the Rohirrim and is therefore not part of the group.
Eileen deplored Denethor’s abuse of Faramir and Chris remarked that there seems to be an echo of the relationship between Tolkien and Christopher in the special relationship between Denethor and Boromir. Angela reminded us that in his youth Aragorn had lived in Gondor and Denthor’s father had favoured the young visitor at their court over his own son, inciting partiality and jealousy.
I drew attention to the narratorial comment on Merry at the start of the ‘Muster’ chapter that he felt ‘borne down by the insupportable weight of Middle-earth’. I wondered if it also referred to Tolkien’s own sense of being overwhelmed by the immensity of the world he had created. Julie added that it was unusual to hear Middle-earth named in this way.
Carol commented that “from Merry’s point of view, I can understand his longing ‘to shut out the immensity’ of the montains ‘in a quiet room by a fire’. This just isn’t Kansas, or the small domesticity of the shire and it could be overwhelming”.
Chris observed that the description of the landscape makes it seem as if it is alive. Julie wondered if the description of mountains ‘marching’ means that they seem to be moving, or whether it indicated that they appear to be on the ‘marches’ – the edges.
Laura remarked that in the 3rd paragraph of the chapter the description is poetic Chris added that in the fourth paragraph Merry, looking up, sees only stone in various forms, and compared this to the vistas Frodo sees on Amon Hen.
Laura remarked that the description also reads like speeded up geological time as stones are cracking, and Merry gets a sense of that time.
Angela turned then to the reference to the ghosts of the Oathbreakers and the Dwimorberg. Julie observed that the ancient guardian of the Gate who crumbles into dust is a rather Monty Python moment.
I wondered why the ghosts went out of the north side of the Dwimorberg until Angela pointed out that they come out when some disaster threatens.
Angela and Julie then noted that the word ‘fey’ is used of both Aragorn and Denethor.
Chris remarked that the errand rider who brings the red arrow is very diplomatic in his exchanges with Theoden, and Laura wondered if it was Sir Walter Scott who wrote the novel The Black Arrow. In fact it was Robert Louis Stevenson. Carol commented that Hirgon reports the current Story.
Eileen remarked that the Rohirrim are not ready for war, but Laura thought Tolkien was representing the realistic complications of war. Chris commented that Hirgon the messenger does not appreciate how the Rohirrim fight.
Moving briefly into ‘The Siege’ Laura noted that Denethor’s comment to Pippin that hearing the songs of a ‘land untroubled’ would be a reminder of why Gondor has fought on so long. This echoes Aragorn’s similar statement during the Council of Elrond on the Rangers’ long watch over the Shire and Bree.
Eileen observed that Pippin not only notices the change in himself but the changed perception of time due to unreality.
Before we completely ran out of time we agreed that at our next meeting we would finish discussing ‘The Siege of Gondor’ and go on to ‘The Ride of the Rohirrim’.
Chapter 3 ‘The Muster of Rohan
‘now all roads were running together to the east…’ despite the length of the chapters and the leap-frogging, all this occurs over just a few days. In fact, from Parth Galen to Mount Doom is only about 3 weeks.
‘come, master meriadoc…you shall not stand.’ Compare how Theoden treats Merry to how Denethor treat Pippin. At the moment I just recall ‘and wait he did’, Pippin for Denethor while Denethor is in council.
Baldor is the skeleton encountered by Aragorn and co.
The only time Theoden tells Merry to do anything it is to stay behind.
‘from dark Dunharrow in the dim morning…’ is one of my favourite songs from the Radio 4 serialisation. Stephen Oliver really gets the mood with his music.
Merry and ‘Dernhelm’ flouting Theoden’s orders will turn into a felix culpa.
‘foes assailing their eastern borders, of orc-hosts marching in the wold of Rohan’. It must have taken Eomer some strength of will not to turn aside but all will not be lost in Rohan.