Only four of us managed to get to the meeting today, partly on account of train cancellations, music festivals, and general Bank Holiday demands. However, Chris had sent some thoughts on the chapter(s) we had planned to discuss. Because Ian had been away for our last meeting we revisited some topics discussed then, so Carol’s comments on these were included last time.
Laura opened proceedings with a timely question about our annual Wessexmoot. Our dates in October when we could hold it are 14th and 29th, so we need to decide which one will work best for us all. In addition, we could consider if we wish to include talks and/or presentations as before. Please let me know if you have preferences for these matters when convenient. We can discuss everything over the next few meetings, but thanks to Laura for getting the ball rolling.
I began the discussions of our reading by putting one of Chris’s questions: If Gollum hadn’t fallen into the abyss, would he have jumped anyway rather than having the Ring wrested from him by the approaching Nazgul?
Laura responded by questioning whether Gollum would have had the wit to work out his options at that point. Laura added that the Ring was part of Sauron.
Eileen commented that Gollum wants it, and although the Ring is a character in itself, he would have followed it wherever it went.
Ian noted that Gollum kills to get the Ring but proposed that it’s only after it is taken from him that possession becomes obsession. In addition, Sam denies Smeagol forgiveness and that denial swings the balance of personality back to Gollum, but Gollum saves Frodo (as Master of the Ring) by taking Frodo’s finger on Mount Doom. This is significant because Doom anciently meant Judgment, therefore Gollum is finally judged there. Ian had done some research into medieval penitential and confessional texts and found extracts of relevance to his argument in the work of St Augustine.
I added that the Crack of Doom was understood in the Middle Ages and in Shakespeare’s time not as in geographical/geological terms but as the sound of the Last Trumpet that heralded Judgment Day. (The sound of a Trumpet was described as a ‘Crack’.)
Returning to the question of whether Gollum would have jumped, Ian observed that the alternative, in which the Nazgul arrived in the nick of time would have the effect of turning the story into a ‘soap opera’ as one story would roll on into another, generating another Dark Lord.
We considered the matter of the fiery hell and Laura remarked on the existence of hell as a place of punishment in many religions, including pre-Akhenaton Egypt. Laura also drew parallels between the Sammath Naur and the works of H. Rider Haggard, particularly She in which the sacred fire rejuvenates the Queen until things go wrong.
Ian picked this up when he observed that The Lord of the Rings is an investigation of why things have gone wrong in the world, and like any detective novel, someone has to be sent to find out. And Judgment comes from outside.
I proposed that this would lead to an essentialist resolution to the Quest, which has constantly asserted the existence if free will.
Laura remarked that in the story you could have as much free will as you like as long as it moves towards the ‘intended’ objective.
Eileen moderated this view when she commented that freedom of expression needs limits.
I then posed Chris’s further observation that Gollum (who Chris names ‘’the hero’) is not mentioned after Mount Doom, and Eileen picked up Frodo’s admission that he would not have completed the Quest without Gollum.
Ian proposed the radical view that the Gollum character is a manifestation of Sauron that takes over the Smeagol psyche. Judgment is therefore executed on Sauron, and Smeagol ‘sacrifices’ himself for Middle-earth. In effect, the pity shown to Gollum equates to pity for Sauron – something he could not cope with or understand.
On that provocative note, and in spite of the obvious enthusiasm for continuing debate, it was necessary to draw the afternoon to a close. We agreed that next time we would discuss ‘The Field of Cormallen’ and ‘The Steward and the King’.