Tolkien Tuesday #34

~ 20 September 2022 ~

The weather has turned more autumnal here. The leaves have started to change their leaves and the temperatures are getting cooler. It’s my favourite time of year, and is perfectly paired with a big cup of tea, a lovely scented candle (in this case, bergamot and cedarwood) and of course, a good book…though to be honest, I think I say this about every season…

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we started Book 2, Chapter 6: Lothlorien.

Aragorn leads the company away from the mountains, but not before he expresses his feelings of hopelessness at Gandalf’s passing, and Gimli shakes his fist at the cruelty of Caradhras for forcing them to take the path through the mines.

Gimli spots the Mirrormere but they cannot stop. A little while later he spots Durin’s Stone and begs a brief moment to turn aside and see it. Frodo and Sam accompany him, and each look into the Mirrormere.

Heading south, they go on. Aragorn says he plans follow the way Gandalf had chosen. They will follow the Silverlode, through the forest of Lothlorien, and on to The Great River, the Anduin. Legolas is looking forward to seeing Lothlorien, but he wishes it had been spring.

Sam and Frodo, injured by the battle in the chamber, begin to fall behind. Aragorn and Boromir carry them until they can find somewhere safe to rest. When they stop, Aragorn tends first Sam, then Frodo. While tending to the latter the secret of the mithril coat is revealed, and Merry announces he loves Bilbo even more for giving it to Frodo.

Now rested, they push on once more until night falls, going in silence. Frodo walking with Gimli, thinks he can hear someone or something following, then possibly catches sight of two eyes. But when he mentions it to Gimli, he listens but cannot hear anything.

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They eventually reach the border of Lothlorien. Boromir is a little uneasy about the woods, for there are strange tales said about it in Gondor, but he agrees to enter it with the others. They enter the woods, travelling a mile into the forest, before they turn aside and find a resting place. They cross the Nimrodel and feel rested.

Once they are camped, Legolas sings a song of Nimrodel and her lover Amroth, of whom neither were heard from again. Legolas then tells them of his Elven kin who live in the treetops of the forest, and Gimli recommends that for that night, they do likewise.

In this section, I found I was most drawn to Gimli, and that here he felt a little more like a main character than he has so far. I suppose this goes back further, to just before they entered Moria. He is walking amongst his own people’s history and the joy of that is severely tempered by the events of their journey. He says one of my favourite lines from this half-chapter, “I hear nothing but the night-speech of plant and stone.” I can’t help but wonder, what are they saying?

And as these past few chapters have spoken of Gimli and the history and legacy of the dwarves, you can feel the focus transitioning to Legolas, his people, and the history and legacy of the elves.

Next week we will finish Book 2, Chapter 6: Lothlorien.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

This week my thoughts wandered over the differences in how the events of this half-chapter were portrayed in the film compared with the book, most notably on who the focus lay.

In the film, in the immediate aftermath of their flight from Moria, it is the hobbits who are predominantly shown as overcome with grief and crying. And, I’ve always found it to be one of the most poignant moments in the film. Every time I have watched the film, I have felt their grief and understood their pain.

However, in the book, we are given little insight into what the hobbits are feeling or how they are reacting to the loss of Gandalf. It’s not until they have started once more on their journey that it is said of Frodo, “…drawn by the still blue water in spite of hurt and weariness…”

It’s interesting that as younger reader, I would have felt a stronger reaction to the one portrayed in the film. Yet now it is Gimli’s impotent, grief-stricken angry fist shaking at Caradhras that moves me more today. That, and Aragorn’s despondency.

Elsewhere

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

Don’t forget that 22nd September is Hobbit Day! Falling on 22nd September, it celebrates both Bilbo’s and Frodo’s birthday.

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

Which of the geographical water features would you chose from those we have read about this half-chapter? The Mirrormere, the Silverlode, or the Nimrodel?

To be honest, I would like to visit all three, but if I had to choose, I think there is something quite magical about the Mirrormere. A meeting of water and stars, and reflections that alter the real world, the lake was said to be a place of prophecy and vision (Tolkien The Illustrated Encyclopedia, David Day, pg 64). Durin was said to have looked into the water and seen a crown of stars above his head, even though it was daylight.

Yet I love woodland rivers and streams, especially at this time of year. I love the intersection between earth and water, and that in itself is really quite magical too.

Tolkien Tuesday #33

~ 13 September 2022 ~

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we finished Book 2, Chapter 5: The Bridge of Khazad-dum.

As the company flee down the staircase in the pitch dark, Gandalf remains to try and seal the door behind them. Not long after, a flash of white, and Gandalf comes flying down the stairs claiming he has met his match. They continue on in the darkness.

After an hour, Gandalf must rest. While seated he explained what happened. He had faced something he had not met before, something that terrified the orcs, something that possessed its own magic. In the ensuing battle of wills, the door broke into pieces and the roof collapsed sealing their exit.

Briefly rested, they go on; they can see light ahead of them and it’s red. The passage ends at an archway into another hall from where the red glow is coming. They believe the cause to be fire. Gandalf alone steps through and on his return announces, “There is some new devilry here…”. But he knows where they are and explains it’s not far to the outside.

The drums, horns and orc cries sound again. Now they must run the length of the hall, the distance being greater than they first thought. They are spotted and pursued. Arrows are flying everywhere. At the end of the hall, the floor falls away and a gaping chasm is suddenly before them. It can only be crossed by a very narrow bridge. They must cross it in single file, and Gandalf explains the way out is just a little further beyond it.

Behind them there is a whole host of orcs, and those with bows are using them. Legolas goes to return fire when he spots a shadow coming up behind the orcs and is filled with terror. It was wreathed in flame and trailing black smoke. It’s a balrog.

A random photo of a bridge 😉
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Gandalf, already tired, insists the others must cross the bridge whilst he holds it. Once they are all in relative safety on the other side, Gandalf stands in the middle of the bridge. The balrog steps on to the bridge and begins to battle the wizard. Aragorn and Boromir return with the aim of helping him, but Gandalf, using his staff breaks the stone of the bridge. It collapses beneath the balrog, but its whip ensnares Gandalf and pulls him into the chasm too.

Aragorn leads the company out of the mountains, into the Dimrill Dale. It is the middle of the day, the sunlight bright, but in the shadow of the mountains they can still hear the distant drumbeat. Safe, they grieve for Gandalf.

Next week we will begin Book 2, Chapter 6: Lothlorien.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

Although they have already faced danger on this journey, this is the first time they have been faced with grief. And this week, I have a few reminiscences to share…

I remember the first time I read this passage (I was about 11 years old). To say I was stunned would be an understatement. I recall getting to the end of the chapter and just slowly closing the book. It wasn’t so much that I thought I couldn’t go on reading it (I knew I would), but I did feel like I needed a little time to get to grips with this. I hadn’t expected it at all.

Gandalf was a wizard. Wizards had spells and magic. That surely meant Gandalf couldn’t die, didn’t it? If one of the others had been pulled into the chasm with the balrog, it would have been sad, of course, but I think it would have been less shocking to the eleven year old me.

I also remember thinking that without a wizard, who was going to protect the company if they reached another point where, “Swords are no more use here,”? I was more than a little concerned for the Fellowship, I can tell you. Yet, that’s the very reason that spurred me on to carry on with the story. How were they going to get over this? I knew they had to because the book was very big, and we weren’t halfway through it. The reasoning of an 11 year old still makes much sense today. 🙂

Elsewhere

As we met our first balrog in this half a chapter, I thought it would be well to suggest a reading of the FAQs page on The Tolkien Society website, especially the FAQ which discusses that favourite Middle Earth question: “Do balrogs have wings? Can they fly?”

This also ties in to this week’s question of the week…

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

Let’s talk balrogs this week. I want to know your thoughts about them, your reaction to them and what you think of Tolkien’s descriptions of them.

To me, balrogs have always come across with a terrifying majesty about them. They are ancient. They are powerful. And though the descriptions we have of the balrog in this chapter are truly magnificent in telling us how it looks, it is how others react to it that I find the most interesting. Legolas is filled with terror and wails. Gimli drops his axe. Gandalf falters and leans heavily on his staff. And as for the orcs, although they are on the same side, they are clearly afraid of it too. It’s these descriptions that really show us how terrible it is to face a balrog.

What would the hobbits have thought on seeing it? We aren’t told in this chapter. When all other members of the company have done their fair share of fighting already, the hobbits have seen very little and done even less. Coming from such a sheltered background, they have only recently seen ringwraiths, barrow- wights, orcs and wargs, and only hours before participated in their first proper fight. Balrogs must be beyond their imagining.

What I’ve always found interesting is the question: do balrogs have wings. In one passage Tolkien writes: “…and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings”, yet two paragraphs later he wrote, “…and its wings were spread from wall to wall”. I’ve always taken these statements to mean, balrogs do have wings (though I don’t think of them as wings fit for flying). In the first quote, these wings are hinted at, ill-defined, suggested but not conclusively there, and it’s not until the second quote when the balrog draws itself up to its full height that the wings are very much there and on display, the revealing of which is used to terrible effect. I’m not sure everyone would agree with my reasoning though…

Tolkien Tuesday #32

~ 06 September 2022 ~

A short half chapter for this week’s Tolkien Tuesday. I had thought to combine the two instalments of Chapter 5 together and write a single post, thinking I wouldn’t have enough to fill two post, but no fear! When it comes to The Lord of The Rings, I always have plenty to say, it seems… 🙂

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we started Book 2, Chapter 5: The Bridge of Khazad-dum.

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On discovering the fate of Balin, the company, for a short time, indulge in some personal reflection. Then they begin to study the chamber and realise a battle had taken place here. A book is found which Gandalf begins to read; it is a record of the fortunes of those who travelled with Balin to re-take Moria. Starting roughly 30 years ago, Gandalf reads aloud from pages which are the least damaged. One of the events he shares is the death of Balin, after which, Moria is over run with orcs. The last entry informs them that the surviving dwarves perished a few days later in a last stand in the chamber they are in.

Gandalf tells Gimli to keep the book and if he can, return it to Dain, King Under The Mountain. Geographically, Gandalf knows exactly where they are, and knows the way they must go: back into the hall and towards the eastern arch.

However, the sound of drumming is suddenly heard, so loud and deep in the earth that it causes the ground beneath their feet to shake. To answer this, horns begin blowing and harsh cries sound. They can hear the scurrying of many feet. The irony of being caught in a similar trap to the dwarves they’ve just been reading about is not lost on them.

Gandalf decides to close the western door to the chamber, leaving the eastern one open for their escape. Then he steps out into the hall and challenges the orcs, before using his staff to cast a spell. Returning, he declares that not only are there a great many orcs but at least one cave troll as well.

Aragorn, guarding the eastern door, tells them there is no noise coming from this exit, and that there is an staircase that leads down. However, they must delay their attackers or fear being chased wherever the steps lead.

Boromir bars the western door but it is opened by a cave troll, which Frodo attacks with sting. The cave troll recoiling, Boromir bars the door again. However, it is broken down and the room fills with orcs and the fighting is fierce. When the orcs flee to regroup, Gandalf says it is time for them to make their escape. As they are leaving, Frodo has a spear thrust at him by an orc-chieftain, and they fear him dead. Aragorn picks him up and then almost drops him when Frodo starts talking. They start down the steps…

Next week we will finish Book 2, Chapter 5: The Bridge of Khazad-dum

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

The power of repetition is used to good effect in this chapter, ensuring a rising sense of danger is felt by the reader.

We first encountered it in the previous chapter when Pippin dropped the stone in the well and the noise is answered by the sound of knocking. This is heightened when Gandalf reads the record of the dwarves time in Moria, especially the words: “…drums, drums in the deep…”, which they themselves hear a little while later.

Then there are the phrases, “We cannot get out”, and “They are coming”, which are repeated in the record, and then by the company themselves, (the first by Gimli, the second by Legolas), when they realise what is happening.

This mirroring of the past in the present is chilling because we’ve just read how it ended for the dwarves. And we, like the company, know what is coming…

Elsewhere

We have another link back to The Hobbit in this chapter, as well as being offered a glimpse at how poignant this part of the journey is for Gimli.

Three of the dwarves that went on the quest to retake Erebor from the dragon, Smaug, are mentioned. At the end of the last chapter, the tomb of Balin, who led the ill-fated attempt to retake Moria, is discovered. In this chapter, we read how he died, the account written by another dwarf who was part of Thorin Oakenshield’s company, Ori. Ori writes the final pages in the book the Fellowship finds, and he dies in the dwarves last stand. We also learn how Oin, brother to Gloin and so Gimli’s uncle, met his end. Let’s not forget that Balin was a kinsman of Gimli, Gloin and Balin being cousins.

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

What was your favourite part or favourite quote from this week’s half chapter?

I think the phrases, “They are coming,” and “We cannot get out,” are iconic quotes, clearly representing the danger the Fellowship is in, and so these have to be the top of my list. I like how they are used to connect the past with the present.

However, another favourite quote is Gandalf’s: “Swords are no more use here.” It lets you know that whatever is about to happen, a wizard rather than a warrior, even seasoned warriors like Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas and Gimli, is needed.

Tolkien Tuesday #31

~ 30 August 2022 ~

After a couple of weeks away, I’m ready to resume talking Tolkien! Thanks so much to everyone who left me a lovely message last week. I truly appreciated it.

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we finished Book 2, Chapter 4: A Journey In The Dark.

While the company are waiting for Gandalf to work out how to open the doors, Boromir throws a stone into the pool and says he does not like this place. Frodo, agreeing that he doesn’t like it by the pool either, asks Boromir not to disturb the water.

Gandalf remembers the password and speaks it. The doors become visible and open revealing darkness with only the barest hint of a staircase inside. They make to enter when a tentacle from out of the pool grabs Frodo. Sam rescues him. Gandalf ushers everyone inside. The monster from the pool closes the door behind them, and with a crash of stone, seals them inside.

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Gandalf starts the long and dangerous task of leading them through the Mines, at least a forty mile journey to the other side of the mountains, to the Dimrill Dale, which is their next destination. They travel quietly, moving as quickly as they can, but when Gandalf can’t decide on the right choice of path when their road divides into three, they are forced to stop. Taking shelter in a guard room, Pippin’s curiosity is taken by a well in the floor and he drops a stone into it. After it strikes the bottom, faint knocks sound before silence falls again.

They have a good long rest here, and while Gandalf is on watch, he decides on the way forward. On they go, covering a great distance, when their road brings them out into a wide hall. They wait here for daylight to show them where they are for the upper halls had windows. They have reached the ancient mountain city of the Dwarves, Dwarrowdelf, of which Gimli recites a song. Gandalf then speaks of Durin’s Bane, the reason why the Dwarves fled Moria, but also of mithril, and the shirt Thorin gave Bilbo.

Frodo misses home. Whilst on watch he thinks he imagines two eyes peering out from the darkness, belonging, he suspects, to the creature responsible for the echo of soft footfalls he has been possibly hearing. He is relieved by Legolas, then falls to sleep. On waking he, and all the others, can see the hall by the soft beams of daylight. Gandalf believes they might be outside by the end of day.

To find their exact bearings, they explore a little. They come across a chamber, in which there is a tomb, inscribed with the name of Gimli’s kinsman, Balin.

You can feel the tension steadily building in this part of the chapter, until it’s almost a relief to discover what became of Balin. Yet, that isn’t much of a respite, is it?

Frodo’s thoughts of Bilbo, and of home, I found to be the most poignant yet, given they are under a mountain, almost continually surrounded by darkness and dread. That longing for peace and safety and the familiar really pulled at my heartstrings.

Next week we will begin Book 2, Chapter 5: The Bridge of Khazad-dum

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

“There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.”

(From The Fellowship of The Ring, Book 2, Chapter 4: A Journey In The Dark)

This passage, as the journey takes the company beneath the mountains and into the Mines of Moria, plays on and explores human fears of the dark, of what cannot be seen, and of what is hidden below ground.

The below ground world is very different to the one above it. The air feels different. Sounds are different. It’s very easy to lose your way in the dark, and there is a whole city of halls, chambers and passageways to be found beneath these mountains. Add to that the eeriness of abandoned, neglected places…

All the company, even the hobbits, have heard of Moria. Before they step foot on the under-the-mountain road, they must be thinking of the dark and dreadful stories told to them when they were in a safe and warm place, probably cosy by the fire. Stories told to chill and thrill them. Now faced with the reality of the stories, the prospect is very much different. And, once the door is sealed, that atmosphere is inescapable until they make it out of the other side of the mountain.

Gandalf’s quote above serves to remind them all that they are entering a different world and they don’t know what they’ll find there. Orcs are bad enough, but ancient monsters who dwell in the dark…how many horror films have been made with the same premise?

Elsewhere

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The reference to Queen Beruthiel’s cats seems to never have registered with me before this reading – yay for slow, intentional reading this time around! Intrigued by this reference I got out a couple of my encyclopaedias to see if I could learn more…but unfortunately, these trusty tomes had nothing to tell me.

So I did I a quick google search and found an interesting article on Beruthiel on Tolkien Gateway, which I can highly recommend. Beruthiel sounds like an interesting, if somewhat dark-hearted lady…

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

What would have been your thoughts and feelings about this forty mile or more walk in the dark beneath the mountains?

Fear and anxiety would have been at the forefront of my mind, I think, at least in the beginning. I suspect that the further they went, encountering nothing but the darkness (which in itself is cause for concern) tiredness would have battled the desperate need to keep moving.

Until Pippin throws the stone in the well there is little evidence that there is anything living in this part of the mountains. After hearing the knocking sound and becoming aware of “other” things and in turn, they being alerted to your presence, the tension certainly increases.

On reaching Dwarrowdelf, and seeing the scale of the architecture, which I find is one of the most visually-striking parts of The Lord of The Rings, I would, I think be overcome with awe and amazement. And here, where there is some daylight, I can imagine it would be quite easy to feel that little bit safer, with the atmosphere being less oppressive, and the darkness pushed back just that little bit.

Tolkien Tuesday Update

~ 23 August 2022 ~

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Last week I missed the next post in our Tolkien Tuesday series. And unfortunately, I’m going to miss it again this week.

Last week, and to be honest, it probably goes back further than that to last month, I’ve just had so many things vying for my time, many of them being writing related (which I will talk about in another post). It all culminated with a 2 AM finish on Saturday morning for a crazy writing deadline I thought I could meetand this has just left me feeling exhausted.

I could try and get a Tolkien post out this week but I think I would rather put it off for another week and catch up instead on all the comments I’ve missed and blogs I’ve neglected.

So I will be back next Tuesday with the next post in the Tolkien Tuesday series, #31 where we will finish Book 2, Chapter 4: A Journey In The Dark.

Thanks so much for understanding 🙂

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Tolkien Tuesday #30

~ 9 August 2022 ~

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we started Book 2, Chapter 4: A Journey In The Dark.

After partially climbing the mountain and being forced to retreat, the group are made to confront the options left open to them: to go around the mountain or under it. Only Gimli seems keen to take Gandalf’s suggestion to try the path through the Mines of Moria.

However, their choice is made for them when they hear the howling of Wargs. They spend the night at the top of a small hill on top of which are a few trees and a circle of boulders. Trapped as they were, they lit a fire and waited.

Throughout the night they could see the shining eyes of the animals that had besieged them, and they have a couple of confrontations with the Wargs. The last one is just before dawn, where a great fight ensues. Come morning, no bodies are found, only the arrows belonging to Legolas.

The company press on. Gandalf thinks they have between fifteen and twenty miles to cover before they reach the Gate of Moria. The journey is tricky for they are weary and the land they are now in is unfamiliar to them all. Gandalf, searching for particular landmarks realises (with help from Gimli) the waterfall and stream he was looking for to help guide them has been dammed, and the valley before the Walls of Moria and the mountains, flooded.

Photo by Hristo Fidanov on Pexels.com

They have to skirt the lake now there, but are forced to walk through some of the shallow yet dirty water at one point, before they come to the end of the Elven road, which in times passed led up to the gate. The door though is hidden. As night falls, the light of the moon illumines the secret doorway and the inscription above it. Gandalf, who once knew many passwords and spells in numerous languages, cannot remember the one for this door.

Whilst Gandalf is trying to think of the password, the others begin to unload the pony, decide what to take and what to leave, sharing the items out amongst them. Tempers start to fray a little as the waiting to get inside the mines goes on, ending with Gandalf shouting at the door in exasperation, before throwing his staff on the ground.

My heart broke for Sam at having to be parted from Bill the pony, but with what followed, I’ve never loved Gandalf more for taking the time to whisper powerful “words of guard and guiding” to the pony.

The encounter with the Wargs here made me think of the encounter with the wolves and goblins in the chapter “Out of The Frying-Pan Into The Fire” in The Hobbit.

Next week we will finish Book 2, Chapter 4: A Journey In The Dark.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

There is an ominous theme to this half of a chapter, that I don’t think struck me as strongly before this re-read. It’s not only that the company are currently on a perilous part of their journey (defeated by the mountain and the snow, attacked by the Wargs, forced to walk through the dark lake) but it is the word choices used throughout these pages which conjure this overarching feeling of tension and this unsettling undercurrent of danger and the unknown.

The language is dark. It speaks of admitting defeat and failure if they cannot not press on. It feels very much like the company’s dark night of the soul.

Some of the words that stood out to me (though there were many others) included: weary, troubled, bitter, destroyed, deadly, evil, dread, darkly, ill omen, desperate, disaster, fear, bleak, decayed, trudged, sullen, unwholesome, stagnant, night-shadows, distressed, and accursed.

This word list sums up this half a chapter very well and gives an indication of the mindset of some of the characters too, I think.

Elsewhere

Tolkien’s illustration of the Doors of Durin is perhaps one of his most widely-recognised and iconic drawings. Indeed it is a beautiful image, and one of my favourites from The Lord of the Rings.

It’s interesting that this doorway represents the friendship between two races which now do not get along so easily, and also what it suggests in terms of the presence of Gimli and Legolas in the company.

For those wishing to read further about these doors, I can recommend the article on the Tolkien Gateway.

Just a side note: I’ve always been reminded of The High Priestess tarot card when looking at this illustration. I think it is because the two columns of the archway remind me of the two pillars which flank her…And, at least in the context of this chapter, there are parallels in as much as both represent gateways into the hidden, the unknown…

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

Without speculating or speaking of what may or may not happen to character(s) later in the story, what do you make of Aragorn’s warning to Gandalf? Where do you think that warning has come from? What do you think of Gandalf’s response – or lack thereof – to it?

I think the warning Aragorn gives speaks of an inherent gift of foresight, though it isn’t defined enough to expand upon it. I imagine it being perhaps akin to clairsentience: he can feel or sense something but cannot explain more than that because he simply does know anything else. After all, Aragorn was always against taking this road unless it could not be avoided, and that meant him rather taking the hobbits up and over a mountain, in winter, in a blizzard.

As for Gandalf’s reaction to the warning, I don’t think that he is fearless or reckless, or that he doesn’t believe in Aragorn’s warning. I think he operates from the position of “if it’s best for everyone else” then it must be right and be for the greater good.

Tolkien Tuesday #29

~ 2 August 2022 ~

After a super long walk yesterday where we walked for miles and miles, which was finished off with a beautiful picnic and the most delicious strawberry milkshakes, today was definitely a day of rest, and peace, and putting my aching feet up while I read The Fellowship of the Ring and drunk lots of tea!

And, I think everyone already knows this, but I am really behind with comments at the moment (yet surprisingly up-to-date with reading Weekend Writing Prompt responses…) so I just want to thank everyone for their patience with me. You all are so wonderful 😀

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we concluded Book 2, Chapter 3: The Ring Goes South.

The company have left Rivendell and begin their journey heading south. Their aim is to stay west of the Mountains, hoping the more inhospitable terrain will afford them greater cover. To this end, they are travelling by night and resting during the day.

It is hard going, and not much happens for two weeks bar they slowly get closer and closer to the mountains. Then the weather changes and they get their first glimpse of three great peaks. They have reached Hollin, once known as Eregion, and it is here they first encounter trouble.

Flocks of birds are flying over the land, searching for something, and the implication to the company is clear: they will have to go carefully if they are to pass through this country unnoticed. This means no fires and no loud talking.

Gandalf and Aragorn have been having quiet conversations trying to pick their best route for crossing the mountains, one of which Frodo overhears. They can travel down the mountain range to the Gap of Rohan, which would take them and the ring too close to Saruman, so is discredited at once. There is the pass known as the Redhorn Gate in the shadow of Caradhras, which will be difficult given the time of year and thus the weather, (Gimli had earlier explained this mountain peak was known to the dwarves as “cruel Caradhras”). The last option is a dark and secret way, which Aragorn does not wish to consider unless there is no other way. And so they try the mountain pass…

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However, the mountain seems to bear them ill-will and does not to wish to let them pass. A strange and deadly snowstorm cuts off their progress partway up. They survive the night, just, by drinking a cordial given to Gandalf by Elrond, and by Gandlaf using his powers to light a fire to keep the worst of the cold at bay. However, those watching the mountain will now know he is there.

Come morning, it is clear they cannot go on. Caradhras has beaten them. With difficulty, they retreat back down the mountain. Aragorn and Boromir have to fight their way through the snow that fell overnight, in order for the others to safely follow behind. As they are descending, the birds fly over again.

Although a lot of ground is covered in this chapter, it feels quite slow moving. The tension builds steadily, as does the undercurrent of animosity coming from the area – both from the mountain itself and just the general feeling of being watched – culminating in what appears to be an attack by Caradhras. Here, again, we have the natural world choosing to behave in a certain away as if sentient, reiterating some of the same themes we saw in the Old Forest.

Next week we begin Book 2, Chapter 4: A Journey In The Dark.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

One of the most fascinating aspects of this half of a chapter, I found, was how Tolkien used sound.

We are told by Legolas that much of landscape – the trees and the grass – no longer remember the race of Elves that once lived in the area. It is only the stones he hears recall them and lament their passing over the sea.

The silence of Hollin, as pointed out by Aragorn, is interesting in that it is the absence of something which heightens the tension in this passage, and helps forge the atmosphere they are experiencing. This silence is only broken by the voices of the company, which “seem to make the ground echo”, until the flocks of birds arrive and “one harsh croak” is heard.

Then, when the company are climbing up the mountain: “They heard eerie noises in the darkness round them…the sounds were those of shrill cries, and wild howls of laughter.” Indeed, Boromir goes on to say, “there are fell voices on the air”.

Elsewhere

Nothing to report here this week…

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

Out of the three options discussed by Gandalf and Aragorn with regard to how they would cross the mountains, which one would you pick?

Hmm…first I’ll answer as if I know nothing that happens after this chapter. Well I probably wouldn’t pick something described as “dark and secret” without knowing a little more about it first. And, if it concerns Aragorn, it should make me wary to choose it. Also, I’m not sure I would try to climb and cross a mountain at night, in winter, even if the mountain in question wasn’t known to be of an evil temperament. Which leaves the Gap of Rohan and the dangerous proximity to Saruman…it really is a choice of nothing, isn’t it? :-/

Now, as I do know what is coming, would my reasoning change? Yes…sort of. I love the next couple of chapters. I love a lot of the imagery, and just the scale of things. So, against my better judgement I guess, I would throw all caution to the wind and pick the “dark and secret” way, because it’s worth the danger to see what is there. Gosh, it’s hard to try and answer this without accidentally dropping spoilers 😉

Tolkien Tuesday #28

~ 26 July 2022 ~

Compared to the temperature when I was writing Tolkien Tuesday #27 – during a heatwave, it’s almost wonderfully cold here today. At 19 degrees, that’s twenty degrees lower than this time last week!

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we started Book 2, Chapter 3: The Ring Goes South. I actually read just under half of the chapter this week, using the natural break in the story as my guide. So I stopped reading once the Fellowship left Rivendell.

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Merry and Pippin find out that Sam is going with Frodo, who has volunteered to be the Ring-bearer, and they insist they are to go too.

Scouts are sent out to scour the lands for news of the Ringwraiths. A couple of months pass before they return with the news that nothing has been detected of the enemy. And so it’s time for Frodo to leave.

Elrond hand picks those who are to go with him, believing that he should take eight others to help him, so that in total they are nine to match the Ringwraiths. Only Frodo cannot choose to leave this quest; the others may quit, should they find the need. Legolas, Gimli, Boromir, Aragorn and Gandalf are named in the company. Elrond isn’t keen to allow Merry and Pippin to go, believing instead they should return to the Shire and prepare for the enemy to reach it. However, Gandalf speaks up for them and Elrond first relents and agrees to Merry’s going, before Pippin tells him he will simple follow them if he’s not chosen, and so Elrond gives in.

While they are preparing to go, Bilbo gives Frodo his sword, Sting, and his mail shirt. The Sword-that-was-Broken is forged anew and has been renamed by Aragorn, and Sam has packed everything he thought he might need, except rope.

The gentleness of the time they spent at Rivendell oozed out of this half a chapter, making this week’s reading a very peaceful read. One of my favourite parts was Pippin trying to justify why he had to be included in the company:

“There must be someone with intelligence in the party.”

I also liked Bilbo’s song, especially the penultimate verse, which speaks a lot, I think of human preoccupations: dwelling on the past, and thinking of the world of the future that we won’t see.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

The quote that got me thinking this week was said by Gandalf:

“…it would be well to trust rather to their friendship than to great wisdom.”

It served to remind me, that above all other things, The Lord of The Rings is about friendship, and the impossible things that can be achieved with the support of one’s friends.

And my mind was immediately cast back to Chapter 5, Book 1, A Conspiracy Unmasked, when Frodo first learnt that his friends wanted to come on this journey with him, no matter the danger. That same kind of faithful loyalty is shown again here, only this time when Sam, Merry and Pippin sign up, they have first-hand experience of the peril they most likely will meet. Before, they were aware of the danger but had yet to encounter it. And here they now are, months later, determined to stay with their friend and share the danger because they don’t want him to face it alone. The courage they show in making this informed decision is what makes them extraordinary and the story wonderful.

Elsewhere

A little light-heartedness this week…I stumbled across a very topical jigsaw puzzle this past weekend in a charity shop, and could not resist…

It’s of The Hobbit, and the artwork is by Peter Pracownik. I absolutely love it, and I’m blown away by how many aspects of the story can be found in one piece of art. If you follow my Facebook page, you will have seen that I started it almost immediately…

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

Out of the nine chosen to go on this quest, only Frodo as Ring-bearer must stay the course. Everyone else can leave as and when they choose as there is no obligation for them to remain. Do you think this is fair?

I think it is. Frodo volunteered to take the ring and become the Ring-bearer, and though the others are not going against their will, I think help freely offered is always better than help given out of obligation. This way, none can resent the path ahead, only the enemy for making such action necessary. They are there because they want to be, not because they have to be.

An interesting thought to ponder in relation to this question is the use of conscription in the armed forces…

Tolkien Tuesday #27

~ 19 July 2022 ~

I hope if you’re living in a place that’s been affected by the heatwave these past few days, you are staying cool and hydrated and safe…I do not like the hot weather, by which I mean my ideal summer temperature is around the 25-28 degree mark – warm enough to enjoy, but cool enough to go for a nice long walk! As I’m writing this it’s already 37… Yesterday I kept out of it by staying indoors and reading Tolkien – which is why this post is ready to go for once 😉 I suspect, the same is on the cards for today…Take care all x

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we concluded Book 2, Chapter 2: The Council of Elrond.

The council continues with Gandalf declaring either Sauron already knows that they have the ring in Rivendell, or he will very soon. Boromir asks what has become of Gollum. Aragorn answers that he was handed over to the care of the Elves of Mirkwood, but Legolas reveals his purpose in coming to Rivendell was to tell them Gollum has escaped.

Gandalf then explains what kept him from returning to the Shire to meet Frodo. On the hunt for news, he met Radagast the Brown who had an important message for him from Saruman. Gandalf, tired, spent the night in Bree, leaving a message for Frodo, and then travelled on to Isengard, only to be imprisoned by Saruman. He claimed the only options ahead for them is to work with Sauron or to take the ring himself, revealing how his purpose has turned against theirs.

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Gandalf, held captive at the top of Orthanc, was then rescued by the Great Eagle Gwaihir, who took him to Rohan, where the wizard was not warmly received but told to take a horse and leave. There Gandalf met Shadowfax, who carried him to the Shire where he found Frodo gone, to Crickhollow to find the house had been broken into and empty, to Bree to learn the hobbits had joined Strider and they were being pursued by ringwraiths, some of whom he encounters at Weathertop. Knowing it to be impossible to find the others in the wilderness, he then rode on to Rivendell, where he sent out help and helped prepare for their arrival.

Those at the council then discuss the options open to them, and they are not many: to hide the ring for as long as possible, or try to destroy it. The ring cannot be used as a forced for good. Yet to hide the ring now will only lead to subjecting future generations to the terrible danger it poses should it be found. So the decision is that they must attempt to destroy the ring.

But who shall take it? Bilbo offers to go. Although his suggestion is met with respect, it is clear that he is not strong enough to do it. As the councils falls into quiet reflection, Frodo seems to realise this is a task he has to undertake, even if he would rather not. And so he announces he will go, and Sam offers to go with him.

This is a long chapter, with many different story threads coming together, which is why I like it. It gives a real world dimension to the story, showing that what Frodo and the others have been going through is not taking place in a vacuum.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

Quotes, quotes, quotes…this week I’ve chosen my three favourite from this half of the chapter:

“And he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.”

(page 276)

‘”Worst is a bad word,” I said to him, “and I hope you do not live to see it.”

(page 280)

This one struck a chord with me. One of the mantras I use when I need to find a sense of perspective is, “Things can always be worse”. And coupled with this unprecedented heatwave we are experiencing over here (and throughout Europe), it makes me fear for a much warmer world, a world where weather extremes become the norm…

“For nothing is evil in the beginning.”

(page 285)

Elsewhere

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I’ve been trying to sort out all of the notes I’ve written on Middle Earth since I first read The Hobbit (when I was in Year 5 at school). That’s a good few years of thoughts, notes, ideas, questions, doodles and drawings, random musings and even an essay or two, inspired by these stories and their histories.

And, since the start of the year when we began this slow re-read, those scribblings have multiplied! Each week, I’ve been making pages of notes, though I do try and condense these posts down to hopefully no more than 1000 words!

For now, I’ve set myself the more manageable task of finding some order for my lists of favourite quotes…As easy as I thought that would be, I’ve already hit my first hurdle: should I order them by chronology or theme?

I suspect, like with most things, I’m over-thinking this…

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

What do you think Bilbo’s motivations were in offering to take the ring? If he had been allowed to go, do you think he would have succeeded?

I think the main reason he offers to take the ring is because he does believe he is responsible for the predicament they are in and he thinks he should fix it rather than expecting someone else to clean up the mess. However, I’ve always wondered if there might be a very small part of him, perhaps a subconscious part, that offers to take the ring so he might get it back, at least for a little while. That’s not to say I think he would take the ring, go rogue and refuse to destroy it outright – he’s Bilbo after all. Like Frodo, a good hobbit, resilient to a certain extent, true and trustworthy.

That being said, and this leads on to my answer for the second question, I don’t believe that when it came to destroying it, he would have had the mental strength to do it. I also struggle to believe he would have the physical strength to undertake the journey as well as the internal strength to fight the power of the ring. After all, he had been exposed to the ring for a lot longer than Frodo has been and that has lasting consequences.

Tolkien Tuesday #26

~ 12 July 2022 ~

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we begin Book 2, Chapter 2: The Council of Elrond.

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Frodo wakes feeling refreshed and hoping he might find the time to go for a walk and explore the valley. Gandalf explains that it might be impossible as the council set for that morning has much to cover.

A bell rings out and the council is called. Bilbo and Frodo follow Gandalf, and Sam, forgotten for the time being, follows behind. Introductions are made, and it appears that men (Boromir from Gondor), elves (Legolas from Northern Mirkwood, Galdor from the Grey Havens) and dwarves (Gloin and his son, Gimli from the Lonely Mountain) have all travelled to Rivendell for counsel from Elrond, on matters which are related.

Gloin begins by saying a messenger from Mordor arrived at the Lonely Mountain, asking after Bilbo and the ring he found. Elrond then gives a history of the ring spanning thousands of years, from its forging to when it went missing after Isildur’s death. Then Boromir explains the dream which brought him to Rivendell, and how Gondor, almost alone (apart from the men of Rohan) fight to keep the Enemy at bay, but it is a battle they are starting to lose. Aragorn reveals the Sword that was Broken. Elrond reveals that Aragorn is Isildur’s heir. Frodo reveals the Ring.

Bilbo gives a true account of how he came across the ring when playing a dangerous game of riddles against Gollum. Frodo then gives an account of all their adventures since the ring came into his possession.

Galdor, wishing to be certain that this is the Great Ring, asks for proof, as well as an explanation as to why Saruman, an expert on ring lore, isn’t at the council. Gandalf then explains how the ring, when thrown into fire, reveals an inscription which Isildur made a note of, written in the language of Mordor. He then says that after speaking with Gollum, Sauron knows the One Ring has been found, and that it was in the Shire, which itself is confirmed by Frodo’s tale of being pursued by the Ringwraiths.

This chapter is one of my favourites in The Lord of the Rings, as here we have major overlapping with and interconnection between The Hobbit and The Silmarillion. The scale of information is vast, as is the timeframe being covered.

Interestingly, I thought this is the first chapter where the setting played a lesser role than in previous chapters. Once we get past the opening passages, our focus no longer remains in Rivendell but instead, follows the different narrators as they add their stories to this great narrative. Again we are reminded that there are so many different threads woven into the one storyline.

Next week we will finish reading The Council of Elrond.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

As Elrond shared his part in the tale of the Ring, he quoted Isildur’s attempt to justify the keeping of the ring:

“This I will have as weregild for my father, and my brother,” he said.

Weregild. Unless your interests lie in Anglo-saxon, Norse or Germanic history, weregild is something you might not have come across before. But fifteen hundred years ago, to around the early medieval period, it was a concept enshrined in law. It was an agreed sum representing the value of a person which, should they be injured or killed, was then owed to the family by the person responsible. This legal compensation and form of restitution was supposed to prevent family feuds from breaking out as wronged parties sought revenge for crimes against them and theirs. These blood feuds could last for generations.

Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Germanic stories often told of these blood feuds, and the payments ascribed by the law courts to prevent them, for example in the Icelandic epic Njal’s Saga (see my review for it here). And perhaps the most famous reference in literature to weregild is to be found in Beowulf, a translation of which Tolkien himself wrote.

Elsewhere

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Speaking of Beowulf, The Tolkien Society, on their FAQs page, has a couple of book lists that might appeal to those who have wondered what might have inspired Tolkien’s writing.

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

Why do you think Aragorn wears his travel-worn clothes to such an important meeting?

Aragorn, as Bilbo’s poem explains, is a lesson in what you see may be misleading. Dressed as a ranger rather than Isildur’s heir, he blends in and is missed, rather than stands out and commands attention. Overlooked, he has the opportunity to study those around him and analyse how they react to certain things.

But also, and this especially important given Boromir’s arrival, playing at being a king before he is crowned a king makes for some very blatant antagonism at a time when you want people to pull together. And besides, such behaviour, I would think, is outside of Aragorn’s nature…