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.

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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.

Photo by Rudolf Kirchner on Pexels.com

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.

Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com

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…

Tolkien Tuesday #25

~ 05 July 2022 ~

This the first time in a couple of weeks that I’ve managed to post this on the right day! Woohoo! However, I am still a terrible read-along hostess as I am still behind with comments. I hang my head in shame. I would like to think I might get around to them by the end of the week, but be forewarned…it’s equally possible I may not. Sigh…

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we finish Book 2, Chapter 1 of The Fellowship of the Ring, Many Meetings.

Gloin, keeping the conversation neutral, regales Frodo with all that has been going on at the Lonely Mountain and its surrounds. Frodo says he would like to see Bilbo again, more than anything.

After the feast, the gathering moves to the Hall of Fire, to listen to music, songs and stories. Frodo spots a small figure by the fire who looks to be asleep. Elrond wakes him, though he wasn’t really asleep, and beckons Frodo over. It’s Bilbo, who has been busy composing a song which Elrond wishes to hear that night. But Bilbo claims he needs help from his friend, who is sought out, and it turns out to be Strider.

While they are waiting for him to appear, Bilbo asks Frodo about the ring, and asks to see it. Although Frodo is reluctant, he shows it to him. Bilbo reaches out to touch it and Frodo pulls backs, causing a terrible transformation in Bilbo. Bilbo, on seeing the look of distress on Frodo’s face, immediately understands, and returns to being himself once more.

Bilbo and Strider leave to finish writing the song, and Frodo is left alone to think and ponder. He falls quickly into an almost-dream like state, but eventually he comes to hear Bilbo’s voice as he performs his latest song about Earendil.

Afterwards, Bilbo and Frodo slip away. Retiring to Frodo’s room, they exchange stories of all the wonderful things they had seen on their adventures, avoiding any darker subjects.. A while later, Sam turns up, on Gandalf’s orders, to remind Frodo he needs to rest ahead of the Council tomorrow, so Bilbo takes his leave, to go walk beneath the stars before bed.

Photo by Erik Mclean on Pexels.com

Although we’ve made mention of the “master and servant” dynamic of Frodo and Sam’s friendship before, I don’t think it was as awkwardly obvious as it was in this chapter, or at least, that’s how it came across to me. I hated how Bilbo referred to Frodo as “your master” when he was speaking to Sam, even though the tone was not one of reminding him of his station.

I loved spending time in the Hall of Fire. Gandalf’s description of it was wonderful! I could have pulled up a chair by the fire and listened to the songs and stories until I drifted off into an enchanted dream myself…

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

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

This week my musing is inspired by Bilbo Baggins himself, and I think it is something many of us can identify with. First, the quote:

“…I have written some more of my book. And, of course, I make up a few songs. They sing them occasionally: just to please me, I think; for, of course, they aren’t really good enough for Rivendell…”

Imposter syndrome. It was this which was brought to mind on the reading of that passage. What is it? A feeling of inadequacy and crippling self-doubt when it comes to one’s own gifts and talents. As Bilbo points out, the idea that we, or our work, or our art, is not good enough and hasn’t earned the attention or praise it is being shown.

Yet, I can’t imagine elves, who are often considered to be lofty and aloof, wasting their time and effort on sub-standard offerings, all in the name of politeness, even if they are kind. Can you?

And, if we are looking for a real world equivalent, this also goes for publishers, reviewers, readers and those kind enough to leave supportive, encouraging comments full of praise in the comment section of our blogs too. Publishers don’t have to accept our work, reviewers don’t have to leave reviews, and no-one has to take the time to tell you they enjoyed your poem or piece of flash fiction. They do it because they see merit in it. They do it because they were moved by your creative expression to do so. It can be so difficult to remember that sometimes.

Why do we find it so hard to believe in ourselves? Why do we find it so hard to accept compliments?

Elsewhere

Although we’ve briefly discussed some of the other books written by Tolkien, about Tolkien, and about Middle Earth, and although I’ve mentioned attempting to catalogue my collection of books on Goodreads (and struggling with multiple editions – I’ve not yet looked into your suggestion, Joy, I will get to it!) I’ve never taken a look at Tolkien’s author page on Goodreads until this week…

If you’re looking for a potted biography of Tolkien, I can highly recommend it. It feels a little repetitive for something so short, but all the main points are there. And the most mind-blowing fact on the page? 520 distinct works…

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

If you could only pick one of the following to do in Rivendell, all taken from Book 2, Chapter 1, which would it be?

  1. Attend a feast
  2. Listen to music and songs in the Hall of Fire
  3. Look at the stars of Elbereth in the garden
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When I was writing this question, I had anticipated choosing 2, and, on any other day I probably would have. The Hall of Fire sounds so wonderful – it sounds like a dream come true. Yet when I read that final sentence of the chapter, where Bilbo said of his intentions to go out for a walk in the garden and look at the stars…I just wanted to go with him! So, at this moment in time, my answer is definitely 3, no matter that you can see the stars pretty much anywhere in Middle Earth, unless you’re under a mountain or in a cave. I think it would be so special to simply sit and stare up into the night sky and enjoy the gentleness, the serenity of the moment.

Tolkien Tuesday #24…a day late

~ 29 June 2022 ~

Only a day late this week…somehow that feels like progress!

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we begin Book 2, Chapter 1 of The Fellowship of the Ring, Many Meetings.

Photo by Emre Can Acer on Pexels.com

Frodo wakes in Rivendell, to learn from Gandalf that Elrond has spent days tending to the wound he received on Weathertop. Gandalf then proceeds to tell him that he had started to turn into a wraith like the Black Riders, who are the Ringwraiths, the Nine Servants of the Lord of the Rings. He also explains his absence in the briefest possible terms: he was held captive.

Frodo can’t remember how he got to Rivendell, nor can he recall everything which happened at the ford, and begs Gandalf to fill in the blanks of his memory. The river is under the command of Elrond, and when he requires it to bar the way to those unwelcome in this valley, it rises and floods, as it did that day, washing away their enemies.

Frodo is reunited with Sam, Merry and Pippin, and then they all attend a feast. Frodo is a guest at the high table, and is seated next to Gloin, one of Bilbo’s companions on his adventure to the Lonely Mountain. Frodo also sees for the first time, Elrond’s daughter, Arwen.

I felt this was quite a gentle passage in the story. For the moment they are safe, and the calm atmosphere of Rivendell permeates the text and becomes a tangible thing, even when discussing the difficulties they’ve had to endure since leaving the Shire. Also, Pippin’s humorous side makes a welcome appearance in this first half of the chapter, and I thought here he was closer to how he is portrayed in the movies.

Next week we will conclude Book 2 Chapter 1, Many Meetings.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

My musing this week is on the use of the series title in the narrative.

I always feel that this is somehow a momentous occasion when it first appears (in all books, not just this one). And that it’s spotting should be accompanied by an exclamation of something along the lines of “Ah, there it is!”

I’m not entirely sure why I feel it’s an important marker in a story. I wonder if it has something to do with the characters and the readers both being conscious of this same nugget of information contained within the title…I don’t know…

The first time was by Gandalf when he’s explaining to Frodo who the Black Riders are. The second time, Pippin, jesting, calls Frodo “Lord of the Ring” and then when Gandalf pulls him up on it, he quips ironically that the wizard “…has been saying many cheerful things…”

Is it only me who notices things like this? Or do you notice it too?

Elsewhere

Jen Goldie kindly left a link to her blog post on Howard Shore on Tolkien Tuesday #22 in which I was discussing the soundtrack to The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. And I’m so glad she did!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and listening to some of the YouTube clips (I’ll definitely be returning to listen to the rest!). My favourite was “How Howard Shore brought out the dark side of Middle Earth.”

If you enjoy the soundtrack, head over to her blog and check out this post. I can highly recommend it. However, if you are avoiding storyline spoilers you may want to check back later 😉

https://jegoldiewrites.com/2022/04/29/howard-shore-canadian-icon-composer-orchestrator-conductor-apr-29-2022-jen-goldie/

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

Photo by Hani hakkam on Pexels.com

Tolkien writes of The Last Homely House east of the Sea: “a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep, or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all.” What would you go to Rivendell for?

I like the idea of going there and just sitting and thinking. We don’t have enough time to just sit and be still. I also like the idea of going there and writing, like someone else we know…

But I don’t doubt that I would also make time to study there: geography and maps as well as history. I wouldn’t say no to listening to a story or two, either.

Tolkien Tuesday #23…on a Thursday

~ 23 June 2022 ~

It’s been one of those weeks and truly I have no idea where my time has gone these past few days. But here we are, about to finish Book 1 of The Fellowship of the Ring, and conclude the first part of our journey. Can you believe we’ve been on this slow re-read for half a year? So grab a mug of something nice – as always, I’m drinking tea – and let’s begin…

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we finish Chapter 12: Flight to the Ford, and Book 1 of The Fellowship of the Ring!

Frodo, Sam and Strider follow Merry and Pippin further along the path to where they spotted the trolls. But it isn’t long before Strider, teasing the younger hobbits, shows that the trolls were the very same ones turned to stone while Bilbo was on his own adventure. Sam recites a poem he made up about trolls and Frodo declares he is learning a lot about Sam Gamgee.

The company continue on their journey, all in better spirits than they have been for some time and with Frodo feeling a little better. They come across a runestone marking where the dwarves and Bilbo hid their treasure and Frodo declares Bilbo gave all his treasure away.

Photo by Darwis Alwan on Pexels.com

Now back on the Road they are once more uneasy. As they are looking for a safe place to make camp, they hear the sound of hooves on the Road behind them. Hiding, they fear the approach of Black Riders, but it turns out to be Glorfindel, an Elf-lord that lives in Rivendell.

Glorfindel shares all the news he knows. Gandalf has still not arrived at Rivendell. There are five Black Riders chasing the company down and he suspects the other four may be lying in wait ahead. Knowing the danger they are in, Glorfindel, now taking over the role as guide from Strider, urges them on. He insists Frodo rides his horse, Asfaloth, who has the best chance of bearing him to safety should they encounter the enemy.

For the next couple of days, Glorfindel pushes them on, even though they are weary and exhausted. Concern for Frodo and his wound, and the peril he fears both in front and behind them, drives him.

They are a mile from the Ford when the sound of pursuit reaches them. Glorfindel tells his horse to swiftly bear Frodo away, as five Black Riders come into sight. As the horse does as it has been commanded, another four Black Riders appear ahead of Frodo, but Asfaloth outpaces them all and crosses the Ford.

Frodo, now delirious with exhaustion and the effects of his wound, is only barely conscious to see the river rise up against the Black Riders and their horses and carry them away. After that, he knows no more.

I loved this part of the story, especially with the crossover with The Hobbit. Strider really gets to show his humorous side with the trolls and this injection of levity amid so much danger is welcome. The tone in this scene with the trolls also reminds me more of The Hobbit. I’ve been thinking a lot over recent weeks of the opening stage of both Frodo and Bilbo’s journey, and I’m sorely tempted to begin reading the opening chapters of The Hobbit again.

Next week: Do we look back and reflect on Book 1 or do we jump straight into Chapter 1 of Book 2? If no-one states any preferences in the comments, we will just carry on reading 🙂

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

Glorfindel has always been one of my favourite characters from The Lord of the Rings (and beyond), and every time I read this section of the book, I relive the disappointment I felt the first time I saw The Fellowship of the Ring and realised he wasn’t coming to help rescue the hobbits and Strider from the Black Riders. And although I’ve loved the films since that very first time seeing them, this slight change to the story has stayed with me, more so than not getting to see the Barrow-Downs in the movies.

I understand why his role is taken over by Arwen for the film, and I think she does a great job of it, and of course, it’s great to see a female character doing wonderful things in such a male-dominated story (though to be honest, this doesn’t bother me in the least). After all, we have to remember that Tolkien and Peter Jackson were producing a different end product for a different audience who had different expectations.

If you could have a character, scene or setting which was not included in the film, included in it, who, what or where would it be?

Elsewhere

In last week’s Tolkien Tuesday #22 post, I mentioned that I stumbled across a DVD in a charity shop called “Creating The Lord of the Rings Symphony: A composer’s journey through Middle Earth”.

Since posting that, I have watched it and thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved listening to the music, hearing the explanations given by Howard Shore, and seeing the artwork which was chosen to accompany it. And as we’ve mentioned before regarding the films, you can take one element from it, in this case the music, and feel very much connected to the story and see it play out in your mind’s eye. All the elements are just so wonderfully interconnected.

If you’re a fan of the film soundtrack, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

What’s your favourite quote (or one of your favourite quotes) from Book 1 of The Fellowship of the Ring?

Like every other reader, no doubt, I have so many favourite quotes from what we have read so far. I shared a couple of them along our journey, but thought it would be good to share one I haven’t yet mentioned.

So I picked this one, which I find very moving, from the first half of Chapter 12, when Frodo asks Strider if he has often been to Rivendell:

“There my heart is; but it is not my fate to sit in peace, even in the fair house of Elrond.”

Tolkien Tuesday #22

~ 14 June 2022 ~

The sun has been shining, and the temperature steadily rising, so I’ve been sitting outside reading and writing this week’s Tolkien Tuesday post, which you know, is quite a civilised way to spend an afternoon…

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we begin Chapter 12: Flight to the Ford

Frodo regains consciousness to find he is still clutching the ring. The fire has been banked high and the other hobbits are close by, concerned. Of Strider there is no sign, but soon he returns to say there is no sign of the Black Riders, who are not at their full compliment. He fears it’s only a matter of time before they attack again in the knowledge they have dealt Frodo a grievous wound. Strider tries his best to help Frodo with the use of the leaves of the Athelas plant, but its healing against such a wound is limited.

They spend the night watching over Frodo and keeping watch against further attacks. With the daylight they know they must continue on. This begins a long and arduous crossing of a wild and pathless land. Frodo has to be carried by the pony for most of it, for he has lost the use of his arm and shoulder.

Of the enemy they see or hear no sign of them, except when they are starting out: a cry answered by another. The terror this, along with the attack at Weathertop, inflicts is enough for them to fear the hours of darkness, over which they must stand watch in pairs.

On the sixth day out from Weathertop, they must return to the Road, and cross the Last Bridge over the River Hoarwell. Strider and Sam go on ahead to see if the bridge is being watched, it isn’t, but Strider finds a beryl elf-stone. This he takes a sign that the bridge is safe to cross, though he is unclear if it was purposefully placed, and if so by who.

On the other side of the bridge they once more leave the Road behind them and enter a wooded, hilly country. Again the going is difficult, but they eventually find a path which leads to the door of a troll-hole, which Strider and Merry investigate and determine it has long been abandoned. They continue along the path, Pippin and Merry going on ahead as the former wants to prove to Strider he’s no longer afraid. However, they return quickly, and in a panic. They have spotted some trolls up ahead.

This was a tense passage to read. The fear the hobbits feel, and the aura of concern coming from Strider, at the possibility that they are being pursued by Black Riders, whom they can’t locate and have no idea where they are, is palpable. All this whilst at the same time worrying about Frodo and trying to make it across uninviting and inhospitable terrain is so suspenseful.

Next week we conclude the last chapter of Book 1, Chapter 12: Flight to the Ford.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

I’ve been musing this week on how landscape has been used in the story so far, and interestingly it’s not only present to document the geography of the journey.

In the earlier chapters, we are presented with a familiar landscape, whether that’s familiar because its one we ourselves inhabit, or if not, it’s one we recognise. This helps to ensure the reader connects the Shire with home. The hobbits home and our home. The Shire is special and we feel that as we read the story. We understand why the hobbits long to return home.

But as the story moves on, the landscape is given another use. It is a vehicle for the hobbits, and of course, the reader, to learn about the history of Middle Earth. We’ve see the burial places of the first kings of men in Middle Earth, standing stones, the ruins of a once great watchtower, ruins of settlements long since forgotten to time…

The landscape also helps to introduce less familiar things, more fantastical things into the story. In The Old Forest a bitter tree dwells, and where the house of Tom Bombadil and Goldberry is to be found, and wooded hills and rocky cliffs in which are built doors to troll-holes…The landscapes maybe familiar, but the things hidden in them are not as tangible to us.

Elsewhere

This weekend I stumbled across a DVD in a charity shop called “Creating The Lord of the Rings Symphony: A composer’s journey through Middle Earth”. As a fan of the soundtrack this was something I could not pass up and I am eagerly awaiting watching it. And when I do, I shall share my thoughts here 🙂

This is what it says on the back of the DVD:

Creating The Lord of the Rings Symphony includes excerpts of live concert footage from The Lord of the Rings Symphony: Six Movements for Orchestra, Chorus and Soloists, documentary commentary by Howard Shore, and the illustrations of Alan Lee and John Howe. The concert footage was recorded live at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier, Place des Arts, Montreal. Canada in February 2004.

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

In this first half of the chapter, we cover a lot of ground, from Weathertop to the Trollshaws. If you could tarry (in safety) and explore any of the places seen or visited, which would you choose?

The ancient stone walls and ruined towers seen after they crossed the Last Bridge. There is something quite evocative about buildings left to decay in an abandoned, lonely landscape.

Regular visitors to this blog will know I love nothing more than exploring ruins…

Tolkien Tuesday #21

~ 07 June 2022 ~

With the end of the first book on the horizon (we only have one more chapter to go before before the first book of The Fellowship of the Ring is behind us), I can’t believe we have been navigating this slow read for almost half a year! And what fun it’s been so far to interact with other readers as we go, and how illuminating and enriching it’s been to notice things I’ve never noticed before…Definitely a worthwhile endeavour!

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we conclude Chapter 11: A Knife in the Dark.

The hobbits and Strider reach Weathertop, but when they investigate the area, it is clear something has happened there, recently, for the ground is scorched. If Gandalf was there, he is there no longer, and they are going to have to make their way to Rivendell on their own, which will take them a good fortnight.

From their vantage point they spot the enemy some way off and hope they pass by without picking up their trail. With nowhere else in the vicinity to offer them shelter, they are forced to remain at Weathertop overnight.

Strider, in attempt to keep the hobbits mind from turning towards the danger they are in, regales them with ancient stories of Men and Elves, before recounting part of the tale of Tinuviel. Once he finishes, night has fallen. In the dark, they feel the hopelessness of their situation.

However, it is not long before they feel they are not alone and sense the enemy is near. Strider keeps them close to the fire, encouraging them to use burning brands against the riders, should they need to.

Photo by Oussama Elhaidi on Pexels.com

Suddenly, three riders are in the dell with them. Compelled by an outside force, Frodo puts on the ring, and he can see the world the riders, now appearing in grey robes, two wearing silver helms, the other a crown, inhabit. The crowned figure stabs Frodo through the shoulder. After which, Frodo has the presence of mind to remove the ring, just in time to see Strider attacking the riders with fire.

I felt that this part of the chapter was tense. The hopelessness of their situation really hit me; they know the odds are against them, they know that before they will feel safe again, they have two weeks of travelling ahead. And as we’ve seen, so much can happen in the space of a few hours, so a fortnight sounds impossible and overwhelming!

Also, my heart went out to Frodo when he looks at the Road and imagines it heading back west, all the way to Bag End. He’s not my favourite hobbit, but I sure would have given him a hug then if I could.

Next week we start the last chapter of Book 1, Chapter 12: Flight to the Ford.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

I’m hoping my journey and exploration of Middle Earth isn’t sounding too much like a pub crawl, but this week I’ve been musing on another tavern…

In this chapter, Strider drops into conversation the name of another inn, one we don’t visit, but the name is just fantastic. The Forsaken Inn. Located a day’s travelling east of Bree, Strider describes it as the mostly easterly point on the Road from which known distances are measured. Beyond this, the land is unmeasured, suggesting when you pass this landmark you move into places where civilisation hasn’t reached, or more likely given the history of Middle Earth, no longer holds sway.

The name and this brief description of its location makes for an evocative image. The last inn on the edge of the wild, probably feels very much like it’s on the edge of the world. It conjured in my mind images of Jamaica Inn. Lonely. Desolate. Tumbledown, maybe. Wild, certainly. And I bet it feels like a long way from anywhere else, even though it is still, just, in the Bree-land.

And as for the company it would attract…an interesting mix of people, I would think, both good and bad. Helpful and troubled. Rangers, dwarves travelling west, Bree-landers on business, but also strangers who perhaps don’t want to be found.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As for the atmosphere…I imagine it could get quite lively. Lots of singing. Many people holding court and opining on the state of things to anyone who would listen. Lone travellers keeping to themselves. Yet I can equally envisage quiet evenings, when there seems to be an unspoken consensus to keep conversations low and voices down. You would be happy to go there during the day, but returning home by night might not be a good idea, especially if you’re on your own…

Let’s not forget the ghosts. A place like this would surely have some, don’t you think? Old buildings on ancient roadways are full of history, each with their own stories to tell. The old inns along The Great North Road in England, with connections to the famous highwayman, Dick Turpin, immediately come to mind.

Anyone else loving the sound of this place? If you thought I could go on and on about how I imagine this place to be, you would be right! I’m thinking it would make a great candidate for where I should take up residence in Middle Earth!

Are your impressions of The Forsaken Inn like mine? Or do you imagine it quite differently? I would love to hear your thoughts on this…

Elsewhere

Not much to report here, this week…but then, that’s not a bad thing when I see how long this post is already 🙂

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

We have already come across songs and poems in earlier chapters, but this one had two, and one is fairly long. What are your thoughts on Tolkien’s inclination towards poetry and song? Do you enjoy it or do you find it disrupts the narrative?

I understand why Tolkien uses poetry and song in his stories, but I think, if I’m being honest, it depends on the poem / song. Some I really love and others I am not so keen on. However, as I’ve got older, I have realised I tend to enjoy the poetry more than I used to. When I was younger I used to think of it almost as an obstacle I had to overcome before I got to the “good bits”. Not anymore.

Interestingly, on this slow re-read, I found reading the tale of Tinuviel easier and more enjoyable than ever before (don’t get me wrong though, I love the story of Beren and Luthien so much!), and the reason? I followed Tolkien’s advice and read it as Strider recounts it: I chanted it softly.