Thanks to Tim for the following report, and apologies that it’s posted out of sequence.
Present: Laura, Eileen, Chris, Angela, Ian, Tim
Apologies: Lynn, Julie
On a very hot June afternoon, six Southfarthingas gathered at the Artisan Café in Southampton’s Guildhall Square for a pre-meeting coffee and a chat, including anticipation of the group outing to the Tolkien exhibition in Oxford in August, and also some Oxonmoot discussions.
We were missing Lynn, who had had a prior arrangement, and Julie.
This week, the group moved onto consideration of Chapter 20: Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad.
Angela opened the proceedings, making reference to her notes. I have noted some of her points – please see AN’s notes for more detail. The first paragraph prompts a conflict of feelings: joyful, sad, scary, sinister. The second life of Beren has a purpose to it, it is a different sort of existence. Lúthien is now mortal but she still has the power to heal.
Laura wondered if all her energies went into creating Dior. The Valar (= puppet masters) with regard to bloodline matters have foreseen this development. Are Beren and Lúthien zombies? Are they soulless? Do they go to Mandos?
Angela noted that Arwen and Aragorn’s relationship is more straightforward by comparison.
Laura observed that Arwen and Aragorn are more public figures.
There was a discussion of the nature of limbo/hell/purgatory relating to the Oathbreakers.
Chris commented that Beren died and came back to life, whereas Aragorn didn’t.
Tim observed how the first paragraph of the chapter seemed like a closing paragraph – as if it belonged to end of the previous chapter.
Laura noted that it was like a recap. Lúthien and Arwen both chose to give up immortality. She mentioned the Scottish legends of the seal people – selkies – who give up being seals by shedding their skins to take on human form and fall in love with mortals.
Tim made reference to The Little Mermaid. Eileen said there is an element of interspecies relations.
There followed a general discussion about interspecies mating and umbrellas, with some reference to the Isle of Wight and eagles, and preserved railways. No express trains or dragons were harmed in the making of this discussion.
Laura highlighted the treachery of Men. The Elves get it wrong. Those Men who betrayed others didn’t get what they wanted. Some significance that the battle took place on Midsummer’s Day. The Oath of Fëanor is in play. Maedhros is trying to bring the Elves together but the Oath is working way out of that. Laura felt it was a savage chapter describing the cruelty shown by Morgoth’s captains.
Eileen noted that there is an air of foreboding.
Gelmir reminded Laura of St. Edmund (as in the town of Bury St Edmunds), the East Anglian king captured by Vikings and cruelly treated. Tolkien was perhaps thinking of Vikings.
Tim said that Morgoth galvanised the Elves into action.
Laura noted that the Naugrim – Dwarves – wore hideous masks, like the Samurai did. It was scary when the dwarves’ leader was killed by the dragon Glaurung – the Dwarves upped sticks and went. Azaghâl’s body was taken from the battlefield.
Since Glaurung is the Father of Dragons, Laura wondered, were there female dragons? Reference was variously made to Shrek, Terry Pratchett, Harry Potter, and St. George and the Dragon.
Angela raised the matter of Turgon’s discussion of the fate of Gondolin Húrin and Huor. Huor prophesied the rising of a “new star” – it’s usually Elves who prophesy.
Laura talked about Fingon’s death at the hands of Gothmog, white flame issuing from his helm.
Tim: Huor’s poisoned arrow in the eye was a “Hastings” moment.
Laura thought the name of the battle was moving – Unnumbered Tears. A reference to the Somme? The great storm of wind out of the West was too little too late. Eileen said the name conjures up sorrow.
Angela commented that Círdan was making a refuge, and continues to do so in later Ages. Elrond does as well, with Rivendell.
Laura: Círdan was untouchable but many were killed. Seven swift ships were built.
Angela pondered the chronology of the First Age; Tim mentioned that Robert Foster thought it was circa 600 years long.
Laura looked at the fate of Húrin. Tim said that his inability to not look or not hear reminded him of a scene from A Clockwork Orange. Angela noted that Elves could sleep with their eyes open, for example Legolas lying down with his eyes open.
The group agreed that, for next session, they would finish off Fifth Battle and make a start on Chapter 21: Of Túrin Turambar.