We were only a small group this afternoon, and for that reason we left the discussion of Chapter 19: Beren and Luthien until next time because it is so significant to the entire legendarium, but we found quite enough to keep us busy as we picked up Chapter 18. Carol’s comments are included in the main report as far as possible and her comments on Chapter 17 can be found at the end.
Before starting we considered again the matter of our group visit to the forthcoming Tolkien exhibition in Oxford, and Laura’s suggestion that we should end our outing with dinner in Southampton when we get back. We also need to firm up numbers for the visit in order to book it then we can sort out dinner.
To begin our discussions we ranged around a bit. Angela remarked that Beren comes across as more arrogant when compared to Tuor, and Aragorn. Laura proposed that Tuor is more ‘grounded’ and that his story has the ‘fairy-tale’ element with the prediction of someone coming for whom armour must be left, and a particular kind of armour.’
Angela commented that she likes the Gondolin episode, and Turgon doesn’t have a problem with Men, and is fond of Hurin. He doesn’t object to Idril going with a Man. Laura added that Maeglin is an ominous presence and engages in a bit of nastiness. Hurin and others keep their oaths.
Chris observed that neither Hurin or Huor are turned away from Gondolin. Angela thought Hurin was precocious.
Laura went on to remind us that Sauron was a late incarnation of Morgoth’s lieutenant who was originally the cat-like Tevildo who makes Beren catch mice in his kitchens, before Huan the hound kills Tevildo. For the ailurophiles among us he had always posed something of a problem, but as Laura pointed out, the change alerts us to the many versions of the story.
We moved on to Chapter 18 and Laura remarked that there is general warfare and the most spectacular part is the description of Glaurung in his full power accompanied by Balrogs.
Carol commented: ‘The Battle of Sudden Flame, destroying everything that’s beautiful, along with men and elves, reminds me of ISIS in the middle east, hating everything that’s decent and good. Thugs the lot of them. They want to destroy joy’.
Angela and Laura remarked on the confrontation between Fingolfin and Morgoth. Laura noted the emphatic syntactic structuring of this as Tolkien ends a long descriptive sentence concerning Morgoth with the short telling independent clause: ‘alone of the Valar he knew fear’.
Laura noted the seven wounds inflicted on Morgoth and proposed an inverted echo of the seven redemptive wounds of Christ. These are more complex in their definition than the five wounds on the Cross. Morgoth then suffers another wound from the eagle.
I remarked than this was one of Manwe’s eagles and Laura observed that Melkor and Manwe were brothers.
Moving on Angela commented that Beren’s mother was another of Tolkien’s strong women, signified by her cognomen ‘Manhearted’. Carol also commented that ‘Haleth holds her people together. No women in Tolkien?!’
Angela and Laura both remarked that the ring of Barahir comes ultimately from Finrod and is thus related to Feanor. As Carol commented ‘The ring of Barahir survives to be passed eventually to Aragorn’.
Laura wondered how information about Hurin and Huor gets back to Morgoth. Angela proposed that it gathered from captured elves.
Laura wondered where the horsed archers who chase down the orcs got their horses because the combination implies disciplined training.
We all then discussed Tolkien’s use of significant related phonemes when he constructs names, and particularly, as Laura observed, his representation of medieval naming patterns which shared initial letters. I suggested that this actually helps the reader because if all related characters had unconnected names it would be even harder to follow.
Carol also commented on Tolkien’s use of language, noting the ‘different meaning of the word ‘hardly’, then it meant a hard fight but now means something very little, e.g. ‘hardly at all’.
Laura then noted the arrival of ‘swarthy men’ called ‘Easterlings’, and that everything tends to head West, like the Huns and Mongols in the primary world.
I remarked that I was surprised to see elves with axes. Laura proposed that they were being used as weapons in need, while Angela thought they may originally have been used for ground-clearing and agriculture.
Laura wanted to clarify that the naming of Minas Tirith referred to a completely different fortification. Angela confirmed that in both Ages the name means Tower of Guard but in the Third Age the tower had originally been Minas Anor.
With that, we ran out of time and as we still have Beren and Luthien to discuss next time, we agreed to read on through Chapter 20 The Fifth Battle.
Carol’s Comments pick up 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.’
‘unfriend’ and ‘unlovely’, unfriend is a bit different from enemy in degree, not as harsh. The green elves don’t want to cause antagonism with the men but are not entirely happy with them. Unlovely is a softer word than ugly. Merely putting ‘un’ in front of adjectives Tolkien conveys different emphases of meaning.
Thingol ‘into Doriath shall no man come while my realm last.’!! Melian foretells Beren’s coming.