First meeting in August

Many thanks to Chris for taking and writing up the notes for this blog report in my absence, I was so sorry to miss our special metting:


After meeting up with Carol and Rosemary at The Artisan and exchanging news the group moved to the library to begin a special Summer-moot. Unfortunately our leader Lynn was unable to join us because of a back problem and we were also without Julie and Eileen.

Laura confirmed that the room in the library had been booked for the whole of 2018 and we would receive the bill in December.

Although it was intended to start examining the Appendices the meeting soon returned to the last two chapters of LotR and, in fact, remained with these for the whole meeting. The comments below jumped between these two chapters.

Carol began by saying she really enjoys the moment when the pony Bill kicks Bill Ferny. Laura said that Tolkien thought The Scouring of the Shire was the most important chapter in the whole work. Carol and Angela described how there was a rise in the Cottons’ importance caused by their connections to Sam, the future mayor, via his marriage to Rose. Rose also had unusual foresight as she was expecting Sam back at that point and again when he returns from the Grey Havens.

Laura said Sam was a much more hands-on mayor than those before and Chris extended this into a theory that Tolkien uses Sam’s rise in importance as an example of social mobility – working-class to a respected leader.

Discussion then moved on to how the Shire folk in general were little interested in the adventures of the four hobbits and what was taking place outside their borders. An example was the Gaffer’s comments “And while you’ve been trapessing in foreign parts, chasing Black Men up mountains from what my Sam says, though for what you don’t make clear, they’ve been and dug up Bagshot Row and ruined my taters!” Rosemary gave another example in Bree when Butterbur says “Why we had a real set-to, and there were some folk killed, killed dead!” Chris said that this probably mirrored what happened to people returning from the war as many people did not appreciate what they had been through nor have any concept of their traumas.

Carol moved on to the power still left in Saruman’s voice and how he denigrates Gandalf when he speaks to the hobbits. “Not he! When his tools have done their task he drops them.”

Rosemary said the last line of the chapter Homeward Bound is really significant. “’Not to me,’ said Frodo. ‘To me it feels more like falling asleep again.’” This caused some discussion.

Laura said that on her first reading she thought the Mount Doom chapter would be the end of the book but then it carries on and appears very depressing. Carol says the book is really about Death and Angela added Immortality as well. Rosemary felt that the return to the Shire is like a replication of the big story but this time the reader has the feeling that things would be successful. The general view was that the ending of the book was anti-climatic which moves people on to reading the Appendices as a sort of wind down. Clearly the group had not felt this yet as they still returned to the last two chapters!

There was then an interesting discussion started by Laura about the title The Scouring of the Shire. Scouring was seen as as an abrasive domestic word plus a geological term (scouring done by rivers etc.). Ian then looked up the meaning in his various dictionaries.

Carol then started a discussion about Gandalf’s comment that “not all tears are evil”.  It was said that in general tears should not be kept back, but tears to get your own way and crocodile tears could be seen as evil.

Beards were then discussed and it was surprising that Círdan had one  – was it because he had been there so long? There were then a few jokes about Peter Jackson and the films.

Carol thought the eventual forgiveness of Lobelia was a nice touch and  Angela said that Fatty Bolger turned out to be really brave.

The place called Scary was discussed and a few jokes followed.

Rosemary said the comments about “the beer of 1429” showed that Tolkien was really involved in pub culture. We decided that Aragorn would have ensured that there were plenty of pubs in Minas Tirith!

In the Grey Havens chapter Laura said that when Merry and Pippin were described as “lordly” this was a compliment  – normally “lordly” is often seen as arrogant.

Discussion then moved onto the burial places, or final resting places, of the nine members of the Fellowship. Interestingly only Aragorn was buried in his native city – all the others were not. Merry and Pippin were buried in Gondor, Frodo and Sam presumably died in the Undying Lands, Boromir was washed out to sea in the boat, Legolas and Gimli went to the Undying Lands where Gimli presumably died. The significance of this could be an interesting topic for discussion. Anyway talk moved on to who else might have gone overseas, for instance the sons of Elrond – it’s not actually clear whether they sailed or not. There is some information in the Epilogue to LotR (HoM‑e V9) which hints that Shadowfax sailed west with Gandalf. Laura thought it would have been nice if Berúthiel and her cats ended up in the Undying Lands.

Laura said that Frodo’s speech to Sam on the way to the Grey Havens especially the words “It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: someone has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them” are similar to the words spoken at the Cenotaph. However Carol said that most people who went to fight wanted to come back alive.

Chris said, is the “sweet fragrance” smelt by Frodo whilst on the boat to the Undying Lands the scent of athelas. No agreement was found on this.

Discussion turned to the Three Rings taken by Galadriel, Elrond and Gandalf to the Undying Lands. It was agreed that, following the destruction of the One Ring, there were no longer any powers left in them and they were now merely artefacts. Thus the “magical powers” were leaving Middle-earth, changing the nature of what remained with the arrival of the time of Men.

Rosemary raised the issue of the White Tree and it was agreed that this particular tree or one of its descendants (obtained by preserving its fruit) would have remained alive while the Monarchy survived. Chris jokingly said that it can still be seen in Buckingham Palace Gardens.

Finally there was discussion about the eventual fate of Radagast e.g. did he go to the Undying Lands or stay in Middle Earth?

Time had now run out and we all vacated the library at 15:55 and headed to the Sea City cafe for a cup of tea. After this we parted ways. Rosemary and Carol headed off to get ahead of the football traffic while the remaining group sought further refreshment of a stronger kind before spending a lovely evening in a Chinese restaurant, well picked by Laura since the only other customers were Chinese, clearly indicating that she had chosen a truly authentic eating house.

We decided that for our next meeting we would read as much as possible of Appendix A.


One thought on “First meeting in August

  1. First, I’m sorry I wasn’t there! It seems as if you had a great discussion.

    “The Scouring of the Shire” is an interesting name for the chapter as it’s a play on words, as I recall was pointed out last time we read through LOTR. You could write a little philological paper on the word “scour” alone. In the sense of “to clean thoroughly” it seems to derive ultimately from Latin “ex curare” (“to take care of” acc to Chambers Dictionary). In the sense “to range over” with connotations of thoroughness and ruthlessness it seems to derive from ON “skur”, storm. Scurry and shower are also derived from this. “Shire” appears to derive from OE “scir” (office, authority) acc to Chambers. It’s fascinating how all these words and meanings seem to interact in this chapter to such an extent that the story it tells really does seem to arise from them.

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