Tolkien Tuesday #5

1 February 2022

The sun is shining bright and strong, and the temperature is into double digits as I am writing this week’s Tolkien Tuesday post. It feels like spring is on its way, which is a pleasant, serendipitous thought, seeing as though the pagan festival of Imbolc falls today. To mark the occasion, I have my mandatory giant cup of tea close by (when isn’t it? ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and a candle burning, today’s scent choice being โ€œEnglish Roseโ€, made for me for Christmas by my talented candle-making sister. I think the fragrance is perfect for today’s reading, as we are still in the Shire, where the native Hobbits love gardens and growing things…

Photo by Irina Iriser on Pexels.com

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week I concluded reading Chapter 2, Shadows of the Past.

One of my favourite quotes from this chapter is:

โ€œA Ring of Power looks after itself, Frodo.โ€

(from The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, chapter 2)

It’s so interesting to think of an object as a character, with a personality, trying to determine its own fate (as much as it can). Yet, more than that, the notion that the level of control it will have over you depends on you as a person, and thus how susceptible you are to its corrupting influence, is fascinating. In this case, the element of evil isn’t necessarily โ€œotherโ€ or โ€œanotherโ€, it is, โ€œHow good are you?โ€, and, โ€œHow good can you be?โ€, which is an intriguing way to look at the age-old battle of good versus evil.

The juxtaposition between good and evil in this chapter is marvellous in its simplicity. We have the backdrop of the Shire. A gardener is going about his mundane work. The setting is that of a cosy room, in a cosy home, before a warm fire. Two friends are getting reacquainted after a passage of nine years. Then there is the innocence (and even ignorance) of the people of the area which, as Frodo describes them, as sometimes being, โ€œtoo stupid and dull for wordsโ€. There is no evil here, and if there is ever any trouble, it is certainly of the low-key variety.

However, as we are sitting in this cosy, peaceful place, Gandalf is telling us of the terrible dangers beyond the Shire, of the very wicked deeds of Gollum, of the dark powers at work in faraway places, and Frodo is in possession of the one thing an evil dark lord has spent an age searching for…

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

I came away from this chapter musing on Gandalf’s lessons, first in empathy, and then fallibility.

After the wizard has shared all he knows of Gollum’s tale with Frodo, he says:

โ€œI think it is a sad storyโ€… โ€œand it might have happened to others…โ€

Here is a great wizard, bursting with wisdom and knowledge and power, but he tempers this with showing pity and mercy to those not as strong, as good, as wise, as powerful as himself, and pointing out, that it could quite easily have happened to someone else (reminding me of the quote often attributed to John Bradford, There but by the grace of God, go I). And though he knows many of the evil deeds committed by Gollum โ€“ after all, he has just regaled Frodo with his crimes โ€“ he refuses to judge him, to pass judgement on him, because:

โ€œFor even the very wise cannot see all ends.โ€

To do so might have grave consequences in the future and for the future.

Then we have this wise, powerful wizard admitting that he can, and does, make mistakes, which almost seems at odds with him being a wizard. We expect a wizard to know everything, to be capable of averting disasters, to save the characters in a book when they are in danger…but Gandalf freely admits that he is capable of making wrong decisions, to act in error, to misplace his trust.

Elsewhere

I’ve been trying to update my Tolkien and Middle Earth shelf on Goodreads, but I’m struggling with how I can add multiple editions of the same book to a shelf without writing a review or it automatically switching the edition I’ve already added. If anyone knows how to do this, please let me know in the comments. I would be grateful. Otherwise, I will have to think of a different way of recording my book collection. Sigh.

Photo by Krivec Ales on Pexels.com

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

Samwise Gamgee is excited to be offered the chance to go with Frodo when it is time for him to leave the Shire. What would your reaction have been?

I would have been torn, I think. I would certainly have liked the idea of going. The thought of seeing new places, especially the geography of these places would have been a great incentive…mountains, rivers, barrows, forests, by now you all know how much I love landscapes, especially where they meet with folklore and mythology.

Yet, I do like being cosy, at home, with my books and blankets and plenty of tea. There is a part of me that is a very homely sort of person. I enjoy being in my own space, surrounded by my things. I enjoy, and perhaps even draw strength from, that which is familiar.

I like to go places, but I also like to come home. And therein, I think, we find my answer…

22 thoughts on “Tolkien Tuesday #5

  1. My answer: When I was young, I grabbed any chance I was given to travel somewhere and see new places. Sometimes that turned out great, sometimes not so much. I think I would have been overjoyed, at Sam’s age, to go (not knowing about the dangers in detali). But I am not a Hobbit.
    The Hobbits’ trait to only accept the Shire as important, their fondness of beer, good food and good company, makes Sam different and exceptional. Or does it? Merry and Pippin don’t hesitate to go either. Maybe there are more Hobbits willing to go ‘there and back again’ than the tales about them want to tell us?
    About Gandalf: you’re right, we, the readers, expect wizards to be mighty, fabulous and wise (at least the good kind), but not modest. So do Hobbits, apparently. But they don’t hold Gandalf in such high regard. Even Bilbo doubts his abilities until much later. I think for many Hobbits he is the journeyer with the fireworks. If he were haughty like Saruman, they might have seen him different. But they are not the only ones, as we will see much later. Gandalf is kind, wise and modest which can easily be misunderstood as harmless or not very powerful. I think that’s why all those who know him well love him so much (this reader included).
    Can’t help you with Goodreads, sorry.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I love your thoughts on the perception of Gandalf, especially in the Shire. Of course, he is the trouble-making bringer of fireworks, which would certainly make him appear less powerful than he really is.

      And you make good points about whether Sam is as exceptional (in this regard) as we think he is. Maybe the chances to go off on an adventure don’t happen so very often in the Shire. After all, in The Hobbit, Gandalf had to pull a lot of strings to get Bilbo involved with Thorin’s company. But perhaps if they did, more would have gone, though may be not as far as Bilbo or Frodo and the others go? It’s a very interesting point to ponder, Gabi ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great insights into the way good versus evil is portrayed here, and how good people can be swayed, as Gollum was.

    My answer to the question of whether to go or stay would be: GO! As I get older, I am definitely enjoying being a homebody more and more (especially during the COVID isolation periods), and I can feel the pull of a cozy chair and familiar routines. But also as I get older, I realize how wonderful and rare those adventures were that I’ve said “yes” to over the years. I don’t regret a single one of them, but I do wish I’d said “yes” more often.

    I don’t have an answer on how to fix the Goodreads issue; I’ve had that problem myself. Are you trying to use Goodreads as a database to keep track of your books? If so, I can recommend a completely different approach, if you’re open to it, as I’ve been using Libib to catalogue all my books and it’s working wonderfully. See my post about it from two years ago:

    Me Versus Book Cataloging (Libib Review)

    To address your question of multiple versions of the same book, the Libib database often pops up with multiple versions to choose from, or you can enter in the ISBN for the exact one. If all else fails, you can manually enter a book with whatever details you want to include. I just catalogued all my cookbooks, for instance, and about 2/3rds scanned immediately, more than half the leftovers I entered using the ISBN, and the remaining ones (mostly vintage) I was able to create manually (and even add photos of the covers). And now I have a complete list of cookbooks (and all other books) to carry on my phone and check, whenever I’m out shopping at a book store, to see if I already have it. It’s brilliant!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for the recommendation, Joy. I will certainly check out Libib, and have a read of your post. It might just be what I’m looking for, as yes, I wanted to use Goodreads to keep track of all multiple versions of the same book to prevent me from buying the exact same copy twice!

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s a great app. I used it again this weekend when faced with a bookshop at the conference and wondering if I’d ever actually purchased a book I’d had my eye on for a while. (No I hadn’t. And yes, I then did.)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. In answer to your question, you know me, an opportunity to explore could not be turned down. Of course, not know how it was to develop I would very soon say Flaw! (Famous LAst Words)
    I like how you’ve reference John Bradford’s quote. It fits Gollum very well, and it’s a quote I often… um, quote.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Flaw! I love that, Crispina ๐Ÿ˜€

      It’s one of my favourite quotes, and it has stuck with me since I first read one of the Sherlock Holmes short stories – I think it was The Boscombe Valley Mystery – when Sherlock Holmes quoted it.

      Like

  4. Strangely, when I was younger, the thought of going out and exploring never crossed my mind.
    Now, however, I would jump at the chance. I don’t know if it’s the past two years that influence that decision or if it was unleashed when I finally went to visit Tuscany all by myself five years ago. It has stoked the fire that lay dormant in me.
    I really must start this weekend so I can catch up and read with you!

    Liked by 2 people

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