Our meeting this afternoon was in real danger of being totally disrupted because of the noise from an event taking place in the square adjacent to our usual meeting room. It had so much (sadly necessary) security associated with it that simply getting through the square was almost impossible – in fact I didn’t bother, but Eileen did, and had her bag searched multiple times. But when we all arrived in the Library and asked for the key to our usual room the Librarian warned us that the noise from the event’s sound system was so close outside and so bad that we wouldn’t be able to hear ourselves. Another Librarian was already trying to find us another room, and remarkably, that turned out to be the Alan Whitehead Room – our old meeting room deep in the heart of the building.
We were all most grateful to the Librarians for their efforts to help us carry on with our meeting as usual.
Comfortably settled back in our old room, we missed Ian and Julie, but began our discussions of Appendix A. Focussing on Numenor, Eileen described the rebellion in terms of the need to challenge prohibitions, while Laura remarked on the fears of the Numenoreans. Carol commented by email: “the ban of the Valar was bound to be flouted some day, like telling a child he can’t do/have a thing, so he does it just for the hell of it, like Adam and Eve told not to eat of the tree of life, which of course they do, bringing sin into the world”.
Carol continued: “throughout the ages of Middle-earth, there are many examples of the rise and fall of great cities and civilisations, just like on our own earth; examples of overreaching pride like Ar-Pharazon and the myth of Atlantis that Tolkien – and Faramir – dreamed about. Surely we should take lessons from history not to get too big for about boots, Hitler being a recent example. The gods don’t like hubris in humans.
I wondered what the punishment of Numenor implied about the idea of a benevolent Creator, but Angela pointed out the influence of Morgoth, and Laura observed that Ar-Pharazon in effect has both a Devil and an Angel (reminiscent for me of the same binary opposition in medieval morality plays).
Eileen picked up my earlier point and wondered if it was Tolkien’s war experience that underpinned the absence of a benevolent Creator.
Chris remarked that, contrary to religious scepticism in the primary world, there is no doubt in Middle-earth about the existence of the Valar and Eru.
Laura proposed that in opposition to the macrocosmic scale there was a need to rely on little things.
Carol (whimsically) referred to the realms in exile, as the northern line (tube)! She also noted that of the Heirs of Isildur it is the southern line who are the heirs of Anarion and although Gondor declines over the years, it’s never totally ruined like Numenor or the cities of the First Age, largely due to the Stewards’ caretaking ‘till the king shall come again’. Angela noted that there was a decline in the actions of Numenor, and Laura compared this to the rise of the Mafia in Sicily, which had originally been a resistance force fighting the invading French.
Chris noted that all the powers in Middle-earth decline, and that in Tolkien’s world all great inventions pre-date The Lord of the Rings.
Laura remarked that Saruman and Sauron both present progress in a negative light, to the extent that it is ancient blades that are the most prized.
Eileen remarked on the complexity of the extensive list of rulers’ names and Laura noted the similarity to Anglo-Saxon and Biblical genealogies, especially the Anglo-Saxon desire to take royal genealogies back to Odin and Adam.
Carol commented in her email: ‘Earendil wedded Elwing…’ just struck me for the first time that Earendil and Elwing using the Silmaril to pass ‘the shadows’ and come to the ‘uttermost west’ is similar to Sam using Galadriel’s phial to get into Cirith Ungol, the phial having ka bit of Earendil’s light in it.
I was unsure of this comparison but Angela and Laura pointed out that both uses of the same light are against places that pose a potential or real danger to those attempting to pass.
Carol also remarked on what she felt to be the absence of hope in the story of Aragorn and Arwen, “I find no hope in this, though Aragorn tells Arwen there is hope beyond the confines of the world, which Tolkien himself would have believed. Estel was just a peak of honour and glory, to decline with subsequent generations, as do all great empires in the end. In this Tolkien spoke truth, as he’d demonstrated with the First and Second Ages. All we can hope is that this peak will come again to light the way to future liberty, equality and fraternity, like Arthur and Camelot. Tolkien was right when he said that The Lord of the Rings was about death.”
But Angela and Chris observed that Aragorn and Arwen were to meet again in ‘after life’, while Laura remarked that although the world was changed it was full of hope – that Aragorn was a renewer – and this positivity was different to ‘happiness’. Angela observed that we would not happiness if there was nothing against which to contrast it. Laura commented that fulfilment was still possible.
At our next meeting we will continue with Appendix A and move into Appendix B.
Carol’s Additional comments
Numenorean kings: ‘there were three unions…’ this will clarify a bit why Strider sang the song of Beren and Luthien on Weathertop and why Aragorn is aiming so high in love.
Here clarified too why Strider said to Bilbo that he had a cheek to compose verses about Earendil in the house of Elrond – love that bit.
There’s clarification of the War of the Ring going back in history and beyond the bounds of the sea – Elendil/Sauron, Elessar/Sauron.
Eriador, Arnor, and the heirs of Isildur: this section is obviously written by a hobbit.
The north kingdom and the Dunedain: this is the history that the hobbits walk on their way to Rivendell.
Gondor and the heirs of Anarion: again the history the hobbits walk when merry is taken back momentarily to the battle of Carn Dum.