We were missing Julie and Eileen today and began the afternoon with a discussion of our next Wessexmoot. Further details to follow separately. We had agreed to read ‘The Steward and the King’ and ‘Many Partings’, but as Ian had been away last time, we were happy to revisit ‘The Field of Cormallen’ briefly. Carol’s comments are mostly appended to the main report.
Laura launched our afternoon’s deliberations with her observations on the Standing Silence. Laura noted that in England this had been instituted as a commemoration for the fallen of the Boer War so that Tolkien would have been familiar with it in this context as well as in relation to his personal experiences in World War One.
Laura also remarked that she had seen a newspaper article which complained that the all-too-frequent Standing Silences which have been part of the communal response to the recent terrorist attacks and the Tower fire are in danger of diluting their value as a sign of commemoration for the war dead.
Ian commented that they fulfil a specific need in our more secular society which has largely lost the wider act of worship, so in a secular society Silences are the commemoration and ceremony for a secular society. They don’t require belief, just quiet respect. They are also a popular response and less defined by a perception of hierarchy.
I thought they register the need for a community or society to come together in response to extreme moments of disruption, grief, and express solidarity.
Ian thought our Standing Silences were a sign of people registering their survival. While the Cenotaph silences are tied to religion, the current Silences are not. On the other hand, the Standing Silence in The Lord of the Rings references the cataclysm of Numenor.
Chris observed another dimension to the topic when he remarked that these days shops would lose trade if they opted out. Chris also noted that the end of ‘The Field’ is opposed by the tone of the opening of ‘The Steward and the King’, a structural tendency that has been noted previously.
Angela wondered if, in this chapter, the Warden knows he’ll be in trouble of anything unfortunate happens to Eowyn.
Laura was impressed by the way Faramir understands Eowyn, and thought the image of their mingling hair is wonderful. Laura also noted that Faramir gives Eowyn his mother’s mantle and it functions like a healing garment.
Angela remarked that this episode addresses the matter of 2 kinds of pity again as Faramir defines pity as the gift of a gentle heart.
Laura observed that when Sauron is destroyed there is another Numenorean reference, and Angela noted that this is a repetition of the cloud (that is Sauron) that rises over Numenor.
Laura commented that the tremor of the earth is liked a person released from a chain.
I suggested that the eagles Psalm shifts the tone of the chapter into the mythic register. Laura likened the eagle to an Angelic messenger. Angela remarked that it is a winged being understood as an eagle. Chris thought it was a practical measure for the people of Minas Tirith as there was no other rapid means of confirming the fall of Barad Dur.
Ian noted the ‘crying’ of the eagle, not speaking, or singing. I thought this was like the act of a herald.
Chris thought there is a critical omission from Psalm because there is no reference to the hobbits, only to the King. Ian proposed that the eagle is ‘spinning’ the news, but Angela suggested that the people of Minas Tirith don’t know anything about Frodo and Sam.
Changing the subject, Laura thought the change in Eowyn is not entirely convincing. Angela remarked that Aragorn healed her and Faramir.
Chris observed that Eowyn, like Frodo, comes to reject violence, and Laura commented that Eowyn’s cage has been opened. Ian noted that this image represented a particular kind of domesticity and it was this that she had rejected. Now she has dealt with something far beyond all expectations.
Chris and Angela noted that it has been argued that Tolkien thought women should remain in the domestic sphere.
Ian remarked that this was perhaps a sign of religious influence.
Laura proposed that it could be argued that Eowyn has been swept off her feet by a Gondorian. Ian qualified this by observing that this only happens after she has accomplished more than any Gondorian.
Chris compared the statement ‘Merry wept’ to ‘the weeping of women was stilled’ and thought the two statements were in conflict. Chris went on to note that a good deal is omitted from this chapter. Although Carol commented ‘none saw [Arwen’s] last meeting with Elrond…a parting that should endure beyond the ends of the world’, we know nothing in detail about the conversation between Elrond and Arwen, or about Gimli’s visit to the Glittering Caves. Angela also wondered what happened to Elrond’s sons.
Laura remarked that there was still the aftermath of the War to deal with.
Chris noted the extent to which Aragorn exercised diplomacy when dealing with Orthanc.
Carol queried: Does Celeborn not depart with Galadriel because he’s not a ring-bearer? Chris proposed that the 3 Rings have lost their power now the One has gone. Angela suggested that maybe he simply wasn’t ready to leave.
We ran out of time as usual, and quickly agreed that our next reading will be ‘Homeward Bound’ and ‘The Scouring of the Shire’. We also agreed that when we finish the main text we will do the Appendices.
Carol’s comments: ‘Many Partings (mirrors ‘Many Meetings’)
I like the reconciliation between Eomer and Gimli over Galadriel. It’s small things like this that adaptations miss, things that put in a bit of the personal against such a vast background. was it here that Eomer first met Lothiriel and how will she feel about his devotion to Arwen?
I’m glad Aragorn formally give Druadan Forest to the Woses and forbids Men from entering without permission – as he does with the shire. It’s wrong to hound a race because they seem far less developed – aborigines, native Americans and many more.
Theoden and Eomer had had word of orcs coming at their back in the ride to Gondor but they had stuck to their purpose and thanks to the ents came home to green fields.
‘Above all I hate the caging of live things.’ I agree with Treebeard to a certain extent; I don’t like animals or birds to be caged but have no problem with prison for criminals. Would I have let Saruman go?
History has brought many sadnesses and none more felt than a parent separating from a beloved child, but I have 2 more sadnesses bracketed: the fading of the ents because they’ve lost the entwives; and the departure of the elves. Add a 3rd, the ending of the fellowships as Legolas and Gimli go to Fangorn. Another sadness, parting from Aragorn who tries to lighten the situation with a bit of humour about Pippin being a soldier of Gondor, only going on leave. I’d have been bawling!!