Hard to believe we have had our last meeting in July already, and indeed the weather was less like July than October as we left the Library, but in spite of our reduced numbers (Julie, Chris and Angela are all on holiday) we had a very intense discussion which diverted us from thoughts of unseasonal weather. We were intending to discuss ‘The Scouring of the Shire’ and ‘The Grey Havens’. Carol’s additional comments are added at the end.
Eileen opened proceedings with her comment that she found the end of the story melancholy, and she was left with a deep desire to know more, especially about Legolas and Gimli.
Laura brought us back to ‘The Scouring’ when she noted the malicious edge to Saruman’s foretelling of Frodo’s inability to enjoy the life of peace and enjoyment that his suffering has deserved.
Eileen remarked on the way Merry and Pippin now take charge of ridding the locality of the ‘ruffians’. Carol also commented: “Merry blows the horn of Rohan and like was said to him, frightens his foes and heartens his friends. Merry seems to be taking charge.”
Laura observed the reference to the status of Pippin’s father and the sense of ‘old aristocracy’ in his comment that if anyone was going to be Boss it should be the Thain. I likened the actions of the Tooks who chased out marauding ruffians to the actions of Edwardian gamekeepers.
Eileen wondered if Frodo had not become a bit too peace-loving in this disrupted environment but Laura suggested that he is in fact too drained by his experiences to be more assertive. Carol commented: “Frodo’s now abrogating physical responsibility and handing on to a younger generation in Merry and Pippin, part of his withdrawal from Middle-earth.”
We all noted the strength of Saruman’s negative response to Frodo’s mercy, and Eileen observed that in the end it is Wormtongue who kills Saruman.
Carol commented: “That comment: ‘though Worm has been very hungry lately’, implying that he’s eaten poor Lotho – just the very implication is spine-chilling and far more effective than something more explicit. And all the time I hear the voice of the actor who played Saruman in the Radio 4 serial, very smooth and slimey. Laura also commented that it is a nasty thought that Worm is a cannibal, but Ian objected that Worm was not a cannibal because that refers to eating one’s own kind and Lotho was a hobbit.
Laura addressed the relationship between Saruman and Grima Wormtongue more fully when she commented that Saruman now lacks his command of thousands and so focuses on Worm. His bitterness is the extension of ancient jealousy. Laura also responded to Eileen’s observation that Worm won’t leave Saruman by observing that the wizard had sucked out any personality Grima once had. Laura also noted that Saruman’s demise faced west, but a cold wind came from the west. As Carol commented: “the west rejects Saruman’s spirit.”
Eileen remarked that Tolkien suggests a range of choices and chances and that Saruman was not all bad. [This is in opposition to Chris’s comment last time that Saruman doesn’t seem to have a good side].
On a different matter, Laura noted that there is another example of Tolkien taking and rearranging familiar phrases and sayings in Saruman’s spiteful ‘one ill turn deserves another’.
We began a discussion of the deeper aftermath of the Quest when Ian observed that Frodo could not remain in the Shire after the destruction was repaired because he no longer fitted into the world he went away to save, with all the mythological elements from that previous world. Ian compared the effect of Fascism appropriating older myths to legitimate its ‘culture’ even though those myths and the culture they supported were the foundation of World War One. Frodo’s presence in the Shire was a reminder of the old world. The new world belongs to Men and to pragmatic folk like Sam.
Eileen observed that Sam always had goodness in him, shown in his care for and of Frodo, but he didn’t suffer fools gladly.
Laura noted that Sam is quite different to Will Whitfoot the former Mayor who mainly presided over banquets while Sam became a more active mayor. Sam was also generous with Galadriel’s gift.
Elieen commented that Sam thinks things through, but Ian thought this was not so. The change to the eco-system of the Shire – a kind of genetic change – was not something that Sam could have anticipated.
Eileen and I noted the care with which Sam used Galadriel’s ‘dust’, and Ian took this further when he remarked that Gimli preserves her hair in imperishable crystal, and compared this to Sauron preserving [attempting to preserve?] part of his essence in the Ring. When she goes into the West, asked Ian, has Galadriel perhaps left the dust and her hair as a token of her presence and power?
Ian went on to propose that what we see are examples of the origins of myths, e.g. the rise of the golden-haired children and age of plenty implying that some folk may go away and return with benefits for their whole society.
Laura and Eileen found that the reference to the golden-haired children raised uncomfortable echoes of Fascist eugenics. Ian proposed a different reading: that far from being a reference to a hangover from a mythic past [the problematic Nordic hero motif], the children embody the future influenced by a mythic past which does not want to leave it but whose destiny is not to control it or actively shape it any longer. An inherited culture [the metaphorical dust] is dispersed as widely as possible and is not restricted to a select group.
I wanted to broaden these issues and proposed that the effect of the Entdaught on Merry and Pippin made the case for expansion beyond narrow geographical and social borders, and that this equated to progress. Ian remarked that Tolkien was not a geneticist, but he was familiar with the effects of the influence of other cultures and their artefacts.
Eileen brought us back from our socio-political and ethical considerations to the main story when she observed that the description of Gandalf clothed in white and wearing the red ring made him seem a god-like figure. Ian acknowledged that the contribution of all these greater powers goes on East of the Sea but not their active presence.
After such a thought-provoking meeting we agreed to address next time the matters arising from ‘The Grey Havens’ and to move smoothly on into Appendix A as Eileen has yet to be introduced to the details to be found there.
Chapter 8 ‘The Scouring of the Shire.
Great when Bill the pony kicks Fill ferny. Perhaps ponies are like elephants with long memories. Tolkien’s so polite about people like Ferny, merely calling them ‘ruffians’. [It has been proposed that ‘ruffian’ derives from the name of a medieval devil ‘Ruffin’ who appears in a number of plays. Ed.]
Rose Cotton has a bit of foresight if she’s expected Sam since the spring. And her comments about not leaving Frodo ‘as soon as things look dangerous’ always brings a smile. They just don’t realise what dangers Sam and Frodo have been through. No wonder Sam’s speechless.
Like Barliman, the Cottons are more concerned with the Shire’s troubles, than the travellers’ adventures. Insular.
Gaffer: ‘what’s come of his weskit? I don’t hold with wearing ironmongery, whether it wears well or no.’ always raises a smile.
‘It was one of the saddest hours of their lives…’ what makes any one want to destroy trees and nice buildings and replace them with tarred shed and mess. Destruction and ugliness for its own sake. Ref. ISIS, orcs are still among us.
Saruman says that Gandalf drops folk when they’ve done his bidding but if Gandalf helped/’interfered’ in the Shire now he would be over stepping his remit. He had to be involved in getting rid of Sauron because Sauron was a very powerful being but where the hobbits can fight their own battles, he has to leave them to it.