It was good to see Tim again as we gathered for our meeting, although we missed Julie and Mike. We have Carol’s Comments again, and any that we didn’t discuss will be added at the end of the main report. Our reading for this week was chapters 16-18. However we did not finish all our chapters this time so any of Carol’s comments relating to 18 will be held over. Ian was with us, but deeply immersed in establishing links between Tolkien’s poetry and medieval poems, hence he does not appear in our discussions here.
Eileen and Laura began the meeting with their observation that chapter 16 was easier than the previous lists of elves and places.
Carol commented that Eol ensnares Aredhel which isn’t very nice but always feel some sympathy for him especially at the end. Laura agreed, saying that she had sympathy for Eol’s different personality. Eileen remarked that this is the reason why we remember him.
Laura wondered why he preferred to live in the dark. Tim described him as having something of the ‘gothic’, in the sense of being a many-shaded character. Eileen said she felt ambivalent about Eol and wondered if there was some psychological reason for his isolation. Perhaps, she suggested, it is that he can’t listen to reason.
Laura noted his sense of honour – that he was true to himself, and that his association with dwarves showed his creativity. Angela noted the link between Eol, dwarves and a preference for darkness.
Laura thought Aredhel was lured into a relationship with him. Angela was not sure about this. In response to Carol’s question ‘who married him to Aredhel?’ It was observed that there is no religious aspect generally in Middle-earth but there may have been something like a hand-fasting or other ceremony. Laura noted that Eol’s servants may have been present. Tim remarked on the process of public witnessing, but observed that with Aradhel he has ‘enchanted’ her.
Angela and Laura remarked that when Aredhel is in Gondolin she is trapped in a beautiful place but still trapped like Eowyn. She is also a risk-taker and may be drawn to Eol because he’s so different. As she is to him, Angela added.
Eileen commented that Aredhel escapes from the regulations of others.
Laura noted that there are lots of rules, and cited Melian and Thingol’s control over Doriath and its surrounds.
Tim thought this all echoed totalitarianism, taking the security of the state to the verge of paranoia.
Eileen thought there was a sense of a mental prison for Aredhel.
Tim noted that both Eowyn and Aredhel rebel against their ‘imprisonment’ and compared this to ‘gothic’ stories such as Jane Eyre.
Eileen said she admires Eol’s character before Turgon, and this is the way he is.
Laura noted that Turgon doesn’t exercise a king’s privilege and show mercy, therefore the chapter becomes prophetic. Maeglin is nasty, and in his attitude to Idril there are overtones of Wormtongue’s desire for Eowyn. Angela noted that such a relationship is forbidden to the Noldor anyway.
Carol commented: ‘Don’t like Maeglin’.
Chris remarked that Turgon foresees trouble to come, and Laura wondered – did Eol foresee it too and therefore wanted Maeglin back? I commented that I’d never seen more than him wanting to reclaim his son.
Tim thought that Eol’s initial approach to Aredhel, and being stooped by smith-work, makes him sound spider-like as he traps her. Laura said that the stoop and his black outfit reminded her of Richard III.
Eileen remarked that she admired his smithing skill.
Laura remarked that Elves don’t display ‘magic’ but Eol’s ‘enchantment’ of Aredhel introduces the possibility. Tim observed that he uses it for selfish ends.
Angela remarked that the javelin he wields is poisoned showing premeditation. I commented that the motif of the poisoned spear-thrust to the shoulder and its delayed action reminded me of the wounding of Frodo by the Morgul blade, and I wondered if this implied a cultural connection across many millennia.
Carol commented that Eol’s a bit odd in not naming his son for 12 years. What did he call him – son? Angela suggested that Elves had mother and father names suited to their character.
Eileen thought Eol was manipulative and that there was something demonic about him. I thought this suggested that manipulative behaviour was not, then, entirely down to Morgoth. Angela noted that he has objected to the Noldor stirring up Morgoth.
Tim observed that Eol chooses death for himself, and for his son, by proxy. And Tim wondered what happens to Elves who commit suicide?
Eileen remarked that Eol loves his son, but Laura thought that perhaps it is more like Eol trying to exert control as he tries to take his son back.
Angela compared his attitude to that of Denethor towards Faramir.
Chris wondered how Curufin knows that Aredhel doesn’t love Eol any longer? I thought this was implied by Curufin’s remark that maybe Eol had been deceived as his family has gone without him.
Angela noted Curufin’s warning remarks about those who ‘steal the daughters of the Noldor without gift or leave.’ I remarked on the narratorial statement ‘It is not said that [Aredhel] was wholly unwilling …’ Angela challenged this asking ‘who said – male writers!’
Chris picked up Curufin’s threatening observation ‘By the laws of the Eldar I may not slay you at this time’, and compared this to the encounter with Faramir’s attitude to Gollum in ‘The Window on the West’, when he does not slay him ‘ as the law commands.’
Tim observed that Eol sneaks about, and Chris thought this was like Gollum – in the dark.
Eileen commented that Maeglin shows no emotion over the deaths of either his mother or his father. This thought this suggested that he always had a propensity for the behaviour he always displays.
I expressed an interest in the way Felagund is able to read the minds of the Men he encounters and thus picks up their speech very quickly. Eileen thought this was not so strange because it’s not unusual to be able to say something before someone else. Chris added that that this depends on the relationship and the context.
Laura pointed out that it’s not all thoughts that he can read, only what Men wanted to reveal. She then wondered: ‘How do you cloak your thoughts?’ Chris observed that Men don’t know Felagund is among them, and Laura and Tim added that bad experiences in the Mountains may have taught them to cloak.
Angela noted that Aragorn is strong enough to stop Sauron seeing all his mind.
Laura compared Felagund and the harp to the story of King Alfred entering the Viking camp disguised as a minstrel with a harp. Tim proposed that Felagund’s harping was a fragment of the Music.
Laura remarked that Men had been around for a long time. Tim commented that it was long for Men but not for Elves.
Angela observed that Beor dies by relinquishing life, like the later Numenoreans, so this was an ancient ability, and Elves don’t understand it.
Chris remarked that Haleth is another of Tolkien’s strong women, and Carol commented:
‘Haleth holds her people together. No women in Tolkien?!’
We ended our discussion there and because we have not yet discussed all of chapter 17, or 18, we agreed only to add Chapter 18 to our reading for next time.
Chapter 16 Of Maeglin
It’s a sad end for a proud elf, robbed of wife and son and life and so does Maeglin make an end as Eol foretold. The stuff of tragedy.
Chapter 17 Of the Coming of Men into the West
Finrod comes among men, sealing his fate to be closely associated with them to the end. ‘love for them stirred in his heart.’