Six of us returned this afternoon to our discussion of The Silmarillion after taking the first session in August off to visit the Oxford Tolkien exhibition. We also had to move our preliminary get-together to our alternative coffee venue because of a major event in Guildhall Square, and thanks to the thoughtfulness of the duty librarian, we were able to move to an alternative meeting room to avoid the thunderous music and general celebrations outside.
Carol’s comments are mostly included.
Leaving behind an afternoon full of music and lightheartedness, we picked up our reading topics by revisiting Turin Turambar. Laura felt that the characterization of Turin was really quite realistic because there are people whose obstinacy leads them to make unfortunate decisions.
Eileen wondered if Turin’s situation was just because he was cursed. Tim allowed that this could be the case, but he also seems self-destructive. Eileen added that Turin appealed to her because of his bravery.
Angela reminded us that it’s actually the relationship between Hurin and Morgoth that drives Turin’s misfortune. Laura noted that Turin is also trapped in Glaurung’s gaze.
Angela noted that echoing Niniel’s watery suicide, Hurin throws himself into the sea.
We moved on to ‘The Ruin of Doriath’ as Laura remarked that the meeting between Hurin and Morwen is terribly sad. We considered whether it might have been more detailed and elaborate, but I felt that the brevity of a simple touch of hands immediately before Morwen’s death was very touching. Angela noted that she takes Hurin’s hand. Laura observed that they have been very strong people but are now worn out, while Tim remarked that Morwen is never ‘conquered’ but Hurin has been conquered by Morgoth.
Carol commented on the start of the chapter: ‘At this point I always want to tell Hurin that he’s welcome in my house. Knowing my own character, I always go for the oppressed and despised. At the very least I would have given him a donation as if he were a homeless person on the street.
I remarked on the perpetual presence of Morwen’s marker stone on Tol Morwen in the sea even after the shape of the world is changed. Laura interpreted this as a sign that Iluvatar leaves to show that Men had been as significant as Elves.
Laura also noted that Morgoth allows Hurin to leave but he is escorted first by orcs, and then a shadow follows him.
Angela remarked that Thingol goes a bit mad as 2 curses meet in this chapter – Morgoth’s and Feanor’s. Laura wondered if Hurin picks out the Nauglamir in Nargothrond because Morgoth knows how it will affect Thingol? Tim observed it was a case of ‘what goes around comes around’.
Laura noted that Hurin looks in Melian’s eyes, and she wondered if this is when he realizes how his perspective has been affected by Morgoth, and is now freed. Laura went on to ponder whether Ulmo takes care of him at the end.
We all remarked on the effect of the Silmaril on Thingol – that it is ‘precious’, like the One Ring. Tim commented that it’s the same for the Dwarves with the Nauglamir.
Chris commented ‘then Thingol adds the Silmaril to the Nauglamir!’ Carol commented: ‘it’s wanting to possess the work of hands that is the wrong thing to do. The dwarves are now caught up in the Curse of Mandos. The possessions possess you.
Laura observed that the Silmaril is full of the light of the Two Trees and might be expected to exert a calming influence, but it doesn’t. Tim suggested that the power in possession overrides this possibility.
Laura commented that Thingol dies a very mean death for one who has seen the Trees. Tim likened the murder to Thingol by the Dwarves to the assassination of Julius Caeser.
Eileen remarked that in The Lord of the Rings she thought the Dwarves were looked down on, but she could see why after this. She also observed that Thingol doesn’t gaze on Melian in death.
Laura thought it was ironic that he dies gazing on the light of the Trees that he had actually seen. Angela thought Thingol had always been overbearing. Laura observed that as in the balance of power between Celeborn and Galadriel, top male Elves like Thingol are not as wise as their wives.
Angela noted that Celeborn in The Lord of the Rings cannot accept Gimli’s arrival because Celeborn was in Doriath when Thingol was killed.
Carol commented ‘I’ve never liked the way in which Melian deserts Middle-earth after Thingol’s killed, thus removing her protective girdle. Has she no feeling for the elves of Menegroth and what happens to them without her protection? Maia or not, she should have stayed.
Chris wondered if the withdrawal of Melian’s girdle came from outside Doriath. Angela noted that its withdrawal is described in the passive voice, thus the ‘voice’ is external. Laura wondered if the purpose for her has gone? Chris and Laura both noted that the Valar don’t bother, but Angela remarked that it’s all part of Iluvatar’s plan.
Chris thought this related to Tolkien’s own religious view.
Angela noted that the Valar have to wait. Chris remarked that the Valar mirror the situation in war in reality.
Carol commented: Tolkien has created, for me at least, one of the saddest of sagas in TSilm and The Lord of the Rings. The continuation of men and elves is done by the skin of their teeth. War after war is fought, thousands, including the heroes, perish. But the races still continue and it is my thought that all this bloodshed allows the farmers and ordinary people to survive, to plough and make, eat and toil, so that the races will be perpetuated. I think it was in The Magnificent Seven that Chriss says only the farmers win after bloodshed. And so we continue and strive through whatever adversity, personal and universal.
Laura disagreed, remarking that ordinary folk suffer too, and I was reminded of the Norman Harrowing of the North in which thousands were slaughtered. Angela countered this with a story from the Civil War when some rural folk did not know that the Royalists and the Parliamentarians were fighting. Chris commented that there were too many orcs infesting Middle-earth for anyone to be unaffected by the wars.
Pondering the balance between the war exploits of which the stories tell – those of lords and warriors – as against the effect of the wars on those who provide their necessities, Angela noted that Aragorn muddy but well made boots, so someone must have made them.
I proposed that the situation with the Valar and the Children of Iluvatar is the difference between the end and the process, and that there is no compassion. Laura wondered if mortal races are just nasty? And there is no sense of later New Testament-style forgiveness. Chris and Angela noted that in The Lord of the Rings compassion comes in the form of Gandalf’s mantra of ‘pity’. Tim added that the Istari were sent in the Third Age to help the free people of Middle-earth. Eileen wondered if The Silmarillion was equivalent to the Old Testament while The Lord of the Rings was equivalent to the New? Tim proposed that it was redressing the early Silmarillion.
Tim added that TSilm is much more mythological than The Lord of the Rings and ordinary folk are not important to the narrative, while The Lord of the Rings is more socially aware.
Chris remarked that there are more monsters in TSilm than in The Lord of the Rings .
We agreed to read on as far as the beginning of The Akalabeth, and it was agreed that there would be no meeting on September 22nd because almost everyone will be at Oxonmoot.
Carol’s further comments:
Of the Ruin of Doriath.
Mim: ‘before the proud ones came from over the sea…I have but returned to take what is mine.’ Mim gets my sympathy here because elves have indeed been proud and even hunted Mim’s people but this will be the fulfilment of the prophecy that one of the house of Hador would get revenge on Mim for his betrayal on Amon Rudh.