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The Fellowship of the Ring

Fellowship of the RingThe Fellowship of the Ring
by J. R. R. Tolkien

The year I was 13 years old, Daddy and I spent the entire summer reading Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was unlike anything I’d read before, a world which pulled me in and walked me through adventures and sent me home again a little different, with a lot to think about.

It’s stayed one of my favorite books during all the decades since, changing with me as I changed. I must have re-read the entire thing a dozen times by the time I finished high school. Read it another dozen times by the time I was 40. Now I’m 55, and while I’m still dipping into favorite parts of the books at least once a year, I haven’t read the entire work cover-to-cover in about a dozen years.

So it’s about time I started again at the very beginning — as Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence

This time, we’re all invited to the party.

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124 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Maria
    Feb 24, 2015 @ 22:56:23

    This chapter hooks me every time as it did when I was a kid — by making me smile. I still grin at “all and sundry — the latter were those who went out again by a back way and came in again by the gate,” and at “Gardeners came by arrangement, and removed in wheelbarrows those that had inadvertently remained behind“. And Lobelia and the spoons. It’s a very hobbitty chapter, very sunny and comfortable.

    And then, in the middle of all the fun and games, a cloud shadow drifts briefly over us, as Gandalf gets serious about the Ring.

    Reply

  2. Raymond
    Feb 25, 2015 @ 16:49:45

    I’m in this too. I’m listening to the tapes Maria recorded of the books. Just finished one tape today, about the middle of chapter 2.

    Reply

  3. Maria
    Feb 25, 2015 @ 17:08:15

    Chapter 2 is one that I haven’t really read in awhile. When I’m picking up the books to read random favorite bits, I’m likely to think, “Hey, I feel like reading the part where they’re in Bree”, — or “the part in Moria”, or “where Merry and Pippen meet Treebeard” — but certainly not, “Hey, I feel like reading the chapter where Gandalf explains all the background stuff we need to know.” So coming back to this chapter now for the first time in a decade, it’s strangely unfamiliar again.

    All the information in it is stuff we already know after all the times we’ve read the book, so that’s not what’s unfamiliar. But being reminded of what the characters in the story knew at this point, that’s a bit surprising. I think I’d forgotten that at this stage, even Gandalf was rather in the dark about a lot of things. I expect what happens in the next few chapters will play out differently if I keep that in mind. The choices the characters will make are — well, they’re being made by folks who have not already read the rest of the book!

    Reply

  4. Raymond
    Feb 26, 2015 @ 15:25:32

    This is Tolkien easing us gradually into things. We start out with hobbits who are basically human. They are only a tiny bit different but mostly just like us and like people we know. Gossiping in the pub, having a birthday party, having relatives we don’t want to talk to. When somebody brings up magic or elves, everyone says oh no we don’t believe in that stuff. Tolkien is getting us to believe this place is real because it seems like our own ordinary life. He doesn’t start out with weird magic rings and talking trees and orcs all at once, because then we wouldn’t get sucked into totally believing this. By the time he slips us into these things, we will already be so into the story that we’ll buy it.

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  5. Maria
    Feb 26, 2015 @ 18:05:58

    Yes, the hobbit world is very “human” and familiar, easy to grasp. By Chapter 2, we’re learning that it’s part of a larger world that contains Ring-Wraiths and Sauron and other dark things that we aren’t familiar with. But then, the hobbits themselves are vague about these things, needing to have them explained, so they ask all the questions that we human readers will be asking, and that helps.

    I love the part where they discover Sam eavesdropping (except that there are no eaves at Bag End!) He acts so aw-shucks-dumb playing the wide-eyed innocent, but in fact he’s cleverly hiding just how shrewd and devious he can be — all in a good cause of course!

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  6. Raymond
    Feb 26, 2015 @ 18:59:16

    Not just filling in back story info. Also setting up themes for later on. Talking about Bilbo and Gollum, Frodo thinks Too bad Bilbo didn’t kill him when he had the chance, and Gandalf suggests Frodo think about that again, maybe there’s more to it than a quick judgment. Right now it’s hypothetical since it’s all in the past, but it’s getting Frodo thinking in a way that matters in the future.

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  7. Maria
    Feb 27, 2015 @ 11:06:02

    Yes, I love that bit of the conversation between them. Gandalf has thought about what happened between Bilbo and Gollum, thought seriously and deeply, for years, and then Frodo is proclaiming a quick unthought judgment, and Gandalf is gently pushing him back a little, just saying “Think before you pronounce.” He’s wanting to prod Frodo into becoming wise, but doing it in his usual Gandalfy style.

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  8. Raymond
    Feb 27, 2015 @ 21:19:37

    Hobbits just being hobbits, wandering along on a little walk through the woods. Squabbling about whose turn it is to get the water. Stopping for a picnic and a nap. Black Riders? Nah, who’s worried about Black Riders?

    Reply

  9. Maria
    Feb 27, 2015 @ 23:10:27

    It is rather a meandering chapter, isn’t it? In my memory of the story, they go from Bag End to Farmer Maggot’s place. I had forgotten that there was an entire chapter in between, and that chapter filled with — well — nothing much. But I suppose that’s actually the point. That is, Frodo is taking a leisurely walk to Crickhollow because he knows that he may never return to the Shire. He is quietly enjoying the seemingly innocent normality of it all. The occasional frightening whiff of Black Riders on his trail is actually very disquieting, but he can’t deal with that yet. So — let’s keep things as ordinary as possible until we are forced to do otherwise. So we spend an entire chapter being almost maddenly “normal” while something else is breathing down our necks.

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  10. Raymond
    Feb 28, 2015 @ 18:01:34

    This is a great chapter with Old Man Willow and Tom Bombadil. Tom don’t need no stinking badges, or magic swords, or rings. He just tells that tree to cut it out, and that’s it. Gotta love Tom. (I thought Laurie and Bernie were going to get in on this discussion. Where are they?)

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  11. Maria
    Feb 28, 2015 @ 20:12:17

    I’ve always thought that Tom Bombadil was the original “prototype” for living creatures in Middle Earth, before elves and dwarves and men and hobbits. He’s like Adam. Unlike the Adam of our world, Tom remains innocent and so continues to exercise all his original power of innocence, which is why he seems to shed evil like an umbrella sheds water. But the evil of other creatures, spreading through Middle Earth, has encircled and hemmed him in. That’s why he stays within the boundaries of his “country”.

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  12. Maria
    Mar 01, 2015 @ 15:19:57

    Despite all the darker and more dangerous places we go later in these books, for some reason I still find Fog on the Barrow Downs to be the most chilling and dreadful place of them all. Logically there’s no reason for this. Why does it still make me feel that way?

    Reply

  13. Maria
    Mar 02, 2015 @ 09:24:22

    Well, my dad has dropped out of the online discussion. He is still reading the book, and we are having some pretty lively discussions between us over the supper table. But since we live in the same house, he doesn’t need to post his remarks just for me to read them. He was posting them because he had expected my sister and a friend to be reading what he wrote. But as the discussion boiled down to just the two of us …

    So .. that leaves me wondering what to do with this page. It’s silly to post a monologue with myself, isn’t it? On the other hand, I’m liking the opportunity to post short random thoughts about the book as I’m reading it, instead of having to boil my thoughts down into one post when I’m finished. I may end up remembering thoughts this way which would certainly have slipped my memory by the time I got around to writing at the end of the whole book, especially as it’s a long book.

    Okay, then, this page will become an experiment in posting-as-I-read, and I’ll see what that feels like.

    Reply

    • Nancy Sliker
      Mar 12, 2015 @ 08:21:37

      It would be interesting and welcome, to hear his perspective on the book, though.

      Reply

  14. Nancy Sliker
    Mar 02, 2015 @ 19:09:13

    Ok, I’ll be happy to join the discussion, but only if it’s all right with you folks. At the very least, you won’t be just dialoguing (sp?) back and forth. I’ll dig out my copy and try to catch up. And if anyone objects, just say so – you won’t hurt my feelings.

    Reply

  15. Maria
    Mar 02, 2015 @ 22:59:13

    You are certainly most welcome! Take your time catching up. I’ll happily backtrack and move forward at the same time, as I enjoy this book and don’t mind a bit of re-reading. I haven’t done any reading today, as I was volunteering at the church this morning, working at the zoo shop this afternoon, and attending a meeting this evening. So that’ll give you a chance to catch up a bit!

    Reply

  16. Nancy Sliker
    Mar 03, 2015 @ 11:11:14

    Thank you for welcoming me to the group. I appreciate it.
    So – I confidently went up to my “library” shelving and looked at the literature shelves – Egad! Where’s Tolkien??? Looked everywhere – nothing! There are a few boxes not yet unpacked (after 8 years!) so it must be there, but the attic temperature is a nice wintery -1 degree – brrrr. What to do? Slept on it (under my electric blanket). This morning I got on Amazon and bought the Kindle e-version. It was delivered in about 10 seconds to my Kindle, and I like this because the Kindle has both a “search” function to look up something, a “highlight” function, and a “notes” function for my own comments. I looked at it briefly, and I noticed there is a loooong introduction to to the e-version with information about the various different published editions. So I’m at the point after the birthday party where Gandolf and Frodo are exchanging info about the disturbing “current events” going on in Middle-Earth. I can read today and tomorrow, but Thursdays (and some Fridays) are usually shot with teaching my classes and the tutoring. So, like Gandolf, I promise to return soon.

    Reply

    • Maria
      Mar 06, 2015 @ 16:57:40

      Sorry it’s taken me a couple days to get back to this blog. (Lots going on over here the past few days.) I know what it’s like to be perfectly certain that some book I want is definitely somewhere in this house, but not to be able to find it. I’m glad you found a solution with your Kindle. (My usual solution in such cases is the library. Love my friendly neighborhood library!)

      Reply

  17. Nancy Sliker
    Mar 05, 2015 @ 18:55:13

    This is a long post, as sort of a catch-up, knowing you are already ahead of me. In future, I promise to be much more concise. It’s a stew of notes, comments and impressions, plot, characters, setting – in short, a mixed-up mess, which is why I’m using the chapter numbers and titles to let you know where am in the story, and hoping I’m getting near to where you have already been. So here goes…

    Ch. 1-2. (Birthday Party & Shadow of the Past) To start, I’m struck by the poems. The first one (“The road goes ever on and on…”) sets the broad thrust of the story line from the start – an epic journey is in store. I was reminded of Cavafy’s poem, “Ithaka,” which starts “As you set out for Ithaka /hope the voyage is a long one, /full of adventure, full of discovery. /Hope the voyage is a long one.” And it ends, “Wise as you have become, /so full of experience, /you will have understood by then /what these Ithakas mean.” The image of the unending, winding road on which the Fellowship

    And this is shortly followed by another poem, one of the key zingers in the book: “One Ring to rule them all, one Ring to find them, /One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.” This is followed by the list: 3 rings to the Elfin Lords, 7 to the Dwarf Kings, 9 to Mortal Men, 1 to Rule All (total 20, if my count is right). It’s almost a plot summary.

    About Gollum: “There is a little corner of his mind that was still his own, and light came though it, as through a chink in the dark…” That’s a very telling attribute to give to this repulsive character. He has a streak of saving grace hidden somewhere inside him. And this is followed by an apparently divergent comment about “Cracks of Doom… in Fire Mountain…” Gives you shivers, even if you have read the books before, doesn’t it?

    Ch. 3, (Three is Company) The Journey begins with three of the “Fellows.” Frodo becomes “Mr. Underhill” (name changes are often indicators of life changes). “… I go to lose one [treasure] and not return…’it may be your task to find the Cracks of Doom…” They leave in the dark of night, entering this equally dark world: “Passing into the darkness like a rustle in the grass.” Frodo thinks, “I wonder if I shall ever look down into that valley again.” Then there is a poem: “The road goes ever on and on… ” Frodo observes, “It does not sound altogether encouragiing.” They pause to rest by entering a crack in a hollow tree (very appropriate). Then they wake and trudge on. Another poem, remembered from Bilbo: “Upon the hearth the fire is red…” And at that point is their second encounter with the Black Rider, who seems to be tracking them by scent. And still another poem, this one introduces the Elves: “Snow-White! Snow-White! O Lady…” It is filled with language relating to light: starlight, shimmer, glimmer,…a complete contrast to the dark and scarey world they have been traveling through. They meet Gildor Inglorious and the band of elves, who seem to be traveling to Rivendell, too. The elves are beneficent: share food, a place to sleep, and, reluctantly, some advice: stay with the plan, warning about danger ahead, be careful, go quickly By morning they are gone, like a good dream.

    Tolkien’s uses the device of environmental details in many ways: to set mood, to foreshadow actions of events or as dramatic contrast to them, to let the reader know what characters are thinking by how they react to the world around them. And, if you read the poems aloud, I think they set a kind of rhythm to the scene.

    Reply

    • Maria
      Mar 06, 2015 @ 17:31:30

      So many things in your post to address, that I hardly know where to go first!

      You mention the poems. Years ago, when I read the trilogy on cassette tapes for Meg, I noticed that many of the poems were evidently sung or chanted by the characters, so I decided to sing them for the recordings. The paperback that I’m reading from is the same one I read back then, and there are pencilled notes in the margins by each poem, giving the tune I was going to sing it to. Until now, I had forgotten that there had been tunes to go with these. (In case you are wondering, “The Road Goes Ever On” was sung to “Ode to Joy”, and Tom Bombadil’s rhymes are sung to “There is a Happy Land”. The Bath Song at Crickhollow was “O Mistress Mine” adapted to fit the rhythm, and “We Must Away Ere Break of Day” was “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”.)

      Bilbo’s Road Song is the one poem that always seemed to be to be the central theme-song of the books. The lyrics change slightly according to the whim of the singer, as is right for any true folk song. Bilbo sings of “eager feet” in the first chapter; — two chapters later, Frodo sings of “weary feet”. Other changes will come with other reprises of the song. Frodo’s account of Bilbo’s conversation gives us the handle to hold onto the song. “He used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,’ he used to say. ‘You step onto the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.'”.

      Reply

      • Nancy Sliker
        Mar 07, 2015 @ 12:35:49

        Well poetry does have musical implications, but doing the music was not only creative, but brave! Good thought.

        Reply

    • Maria
      Mar 06, 2015 @ 18:30:04

      Oh, also — you mentioned Gollum —

      “About Gollum: “There is a little corner of his mind that was still his own, and light came though it, as through a chink in the dark…” That’s a very telling attribute to give to this repulsive character. He has a streak of saving grace hidden somewhere inside him.”

      I remember that about 20 years ago, I became deeply involved in the triangle of characters — Frodo, Sam, and Gollum — as they traveled together in the “Return of the King”. That Gollum was evidently a hobbit himself, before the Ring warped him into his present self, gives him a fellowship of a kind with the other two. Starting with disgust, first Frodo and then Sam will learn to pity him and to be merciful to him. That’s all much later in the story, of course — but already here at the start Gandalf is reminding us that Gollum is a “person” — not a “thing”.

      Reply

  18. Maria
    Mar 06, 2015 @ 17:12:35

    Well, after a few days away from this book, I finally got back to it last night. I’m leaving Bree in Strider’s company, after the attack of the Black Riders on Butterbur’s Inn.

    The atmosphere of the town of Bree is homey and comforting to the hobbits — very much like being back in the Shire. Just “foreign” enough to make stay-at-homes like Sam feel that they’re intrepid travelers, but familiar enough to make them feel safe. That’s why they let down their guard, why they are too open in conversation, why Pippin gossips freely and Merry goes out for a stroll around town.

    While we’ve been to some dangerous and scary places since we left home, it’s interesting to realize that all of the dangers have been independent of the Black Riders and the Ring. Old Man Willow and the Barrow-Wights are free-lance evils, ancient and strange. I think, while the hobbits have gotten braver about facing dangers because of these encounters — which is good — they’ve also been distracted from their original focus — which isn’t good.

    That distraction made them feel that Bree was safe — no Barrow-Wights at the Inn! — because they forgot about the evils abroad on the public highways of the everyday world. These chapters in Bree are where Tolkien pulls the hobbits up short and reminds them of what’s going on out there — and that it’s not away far out there but all around them. The “strangers” coming up from the south with tales of bad things happening in the world — Bill Ferny — even the slightly suspect rough-looking Strider — remind the hobbits and us that Bree is at a crossroads of “real life”, where stuff like raids on the inn can very well happen, where gates are locked at night.

    (But of course, we’ve also got the comedy of human nature. I grin at old Barliman Butterbur every time I meet him.)

    Reply

  19. Maria
    Mar 09, 2015 @ 11:47:54

    We’ve moved on to Weathertop over the past couple of days. If I was going to say the one thought that strikes me the most about this chapter (“A Knife in the Dark”), it’s the uncertainty of Strider and the unreliability of Gandalf. When you’ve read the entire trilogy several times, and then left it all to percolate in memory for a decade or so, the general images of these two tend to shape themselves into a few glorious moments from later in the book — Gandalf at Isengard, Aragorn at Minas Tirith — heroically set on the right course. Succeed or fail, they are pushing forward with sureness in their course. But in this early chapter, they are both much more human and doubtful.

    Strider isn’t yet Aragorn here. He’s still the Ranger from Bree, knowing only that they are somehow going to Rivendell, but not how to get there, or what steps to take along the way. Which is safer — on the road or off? Day travel or night? And where is Gandalf? Should we wait for him or not? Should we leave a message for him or not? All through the three novels, Strider/Aragorn has to decide things, but later in the series he seems more sure of himself. In this chapter, he seems to be groping in the dark, not trusting his own mind. The author makes the point that the hobbits are mistrustful — especially Sam. But it’s struck me that Strider doesn’t seem to completely trust his own self either.

    Why did he make for Weathertop? It turned out to be the most dangerous place he might have taken the hobbits. Yet he seemed to feel that it was the best he could do, that he desperately needed to lean on Gandalf, and that it was worth going to that risky place because he hoped to find instructions from Gandalf, even to find Gandalf himself. Why didn’t Gandalf make more plain what he was doing? A cryptic rune that just says “I was here” is no help at all.

    We discover later that Gandalf had been tripped up and delayed by matters that took even him unawares. But now that he’s in the neighborhood, why does he seem to be flying straight to Rivendell? Why hasn’t he tried to connect with the hobbits, at least left them and Strider a message, or sent them help? Even Gandalf seems confused and unsure at this point. If Strider is anxious to consult Gandalf, Gandalf is just as anxious to consult Elrond — and the crossed signals and missed connections bring everything within a whisker of disaster right here at the outset.

    Reply

  20. Nancy Sliker
    Mar 10, 2015 @ 20:49:25

    Sometimes my reading gets complicated. Right now I’m juggling volume II of Susan Sonntag’s journal (“As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh”), “Thomas Cromwell” by Tracy Borman, “Pleats Please” by Issey Miyaki, and “Fellowship of the Ring by Tolkien. All are very different and very dense material (in more ways than one!). Anyway, I’m thinking this may become another long-ish posting, though I don’t mean it to burden you.

    Ch. 4 (A Short Cut to Mushrooms) Pippin, “Short cuts make long delays.” So it’s tough terrain, clouds, rain, scrub land, ditches, woods (sort of a film about across Africa on foot), though they get a nice surprise lunch, a gift from the elves. Frodo falls asleep and wakes to song and they journey to BamFurlong and Farmer Maggot, he of the mushrooms and big dogs. However, he recognizes old friends. They eat and exchange news about funny recent events and strangers asking questions. That night, Farmer Maggot drives them to the ferry in his wagon, leaves them with a basket of mushrooms and hurries home in the night

    Ch. 5 (A Conspiracy Unmasked) They get ferried across the river, and we get Brandywine back history. Some cross-purposes resolved. Frodo wants to go on alone to keep his friends safe from danger, and the friends won’t be left behind because they know he needs them. And we learn that Bucklanders are very peculiar: they like boats; they can swim; and they lock their doors. There a funny “Bath” song and a dream about a white tower.

    Ch. 6 (The Old Forest) Don’t go there! Watch out for the trees! This is the end of the Shire district. There are four (Yes, four) songs in this chapter (you must have had fun singing them!). Pippen vanishes. Frodo gets tossed into the river. Merry is trapped. Frodo gets an axe and matches and tries to burn the willow tree, but makes things worse. Then at the last possible minute, Tom Bombadil shows up, scolds the mis-behaving tree, drags the hobbits free, and invites them all to supper! (How fortunate that they always run into someone who feeds them!)

    Ch. 7 (In the House of Tom Bombadil) Here we meet Goldberry (the water sprite). They have a great dinner, chat a bit, and all the hobbits have strange dreams. Frodo dreams of a tower and bkack riders. Pippin dreams of strange tapping noises. Merry dreams of water. Sam does not dream (too practical? Not imaginative?) They get a day off when there is a torrent of rain, so they tell stories about the forest which becomes a sort of nature study. By supper time the rain stops, and Frodo tries on the Ring to check if it is authentic. He disappears! and reappears! It’s the real Ring! They make a plan for the next part of the journey and will be leaving in the morning. Tom teaches they a song of protection.

    Oh, yes, I looked up “coppice” – British
    noun: coppice; plural noun: coppices
    ~ an area of woodland in which the trees or shrubs are, or formerly were, periodically cut back to ground level to stimulate growth and provide firewood or timber.
    verb: cut back (a tree or shrub) to ground level periodically to stimulate growth.

    And now I will also make my disappearance for a bit.

    Reply

    • Maria
      Mar 11, 2015 @ 16:26:26

      I know what you mean about juggling multiple books at the same time. I’m always doing the same thing myself. (I’ve got about four books going at once right now. Plus books in progress at LibriVox.) It helps if they are either all very different, so I don’t mix them up, or if they’re all connected to one subject, so it won’t matter if I mix them up!

      The chapters you’re commenting on now, I realize I barely skimmed over in my own comments earlier. “A Short Cut to Mushrooms” and “A Conspiracy Unmasked” are both actually very interesting chapters, which deserve more consideration than I gave them.

      For instance, the hobbits wake up at the beginning of the chapter to find that the elves have gone off and left them while they slept. It says something about the elves, about their detachment from the problems of other species. They shared their campsite with them, fed them, but resisted giving them advice, and then seemed to feel no need to wake a hobbit watchman before leaving them unguarded. Elves are “good guys”, yet they are looking at the world from inside their own elvish perspective.

      This chapter also contains one of my favorite conversations between Frodo and Sam. It turns out that Sam is much more aware of the situation than Frodo had given him credit for. Sam has made up his own mind that he is going with Frodo all the way to Mordor, and will not be talked out of it. But it’s not mere stubbornness, and not just protectiveness of Frodo. Sam isn’t just Frodo’s servant — he has his own calling and destiny, and he must pursue it just as Frodo must. — “I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can’t turn back. It isn’t to see Elves now, nor dragons, nor mountains, that I want – I don’t rightly know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire. I must see it through, sir, if you understand me.”

      A lot of characters in this book have more to them than a quick glance suggests. Farmer Maggot, for instance, seems a stolid somewhat comical farmer, but he is able to send a Black Rider packing with no nonsense. Interesting that Maggot seems well acquainted with Tom Bombadil. Maggot’s knowledge may be limited to his own little patch of the world, but within that patch, he is very open and aware, ready to pick up wisdom from unexpected sources. Barliman Butterbur in Bree is the same way. He seems a flustered landlord on the surface, but under his roof travelers from all places and races are at home, and news from everywhere is exchanged. Tolkien never lets us just “write off” any character. Even Gollum, as we shall gradually discover —

      Reply

    • Maria
      Mar 11, 2015 @ 16:40:43

      That comment was getting too long — and I still haven’t considered “A Conspiracy Unmasked”. Merry was the ringleader, of course. The most adventurous and the most streetwise at this stage, the Bucklander who has seen something of the world. But the unexpected cleverness of Sam, the brash impetuous courage of Pippin, even the quiet helpfulness of Fatty Bolger, all fit into that lesson not to underestimate people.

      The presentation of Buckland as an outlier of the Shire, a transitional place between home safety and the exciting and dangerous world outside — that is threaded all through this chapter. The Forest is just out there, the other side of the hedge, and dark things look over the hedge, but the hedge keeps us safe. The road to Bree leads off to the great wide world, the river flows away to risky places, but we have a gate and a bridge and a ferry landing, homely places that let us demarcate safely where “there” ends and “here” begins. Bucklanders are adventurous by hobbit standards, but they are still hobbits, fond of food and singing inside their homes. We are just on the edge of something here, as if we are standing in a doorway, a warm room at our back, a wild night at our face, and the door ready to be either opened wider or closed again.

      Reply

  21. Nancy Sliker
    Mar 12, 2015 @ 08:11:35

    Ch. 8 (Fog On the Barrow-Downs) We start off with a second night at Tom Bombadil’s (these Hobbits know a good place when they find it!). Frodo dreams that he hears singing, with green country and sunrise, which blends with the real sunrise and T.B.’s whistling as Frodo wakes. After breakfast and they get going. T.B. has their “frisky” ponies ready, and they head north. Frodo worries he didn’t say goodbye to Goldberry, and she conveniently appears at the top of their hill. They all enjoy their farewell to the shire, peering over the n-s-e-w panorama all around below. Goldberry tells them to “Make haste while the sun shines.” (Think I’ve heard that before somewhere.) The sun becomes hot, the air still, and a sense of shadowy fog comes up. They fall deeply asleep. The sun is sets and it’s cold. They don warm cloaks and hasten to find their road. The fog moves in, covers them. Frodo is disoriented and loses contact with his friends. A wind stirs. Frodo sees a figure and the barrow and faints. When he wakes, he in inside the refrigerated barrow, imprisoned by a moaning barrow-wight and a creepy beckoning arm. His friends are laid out neatly beside him white and corpse-like. “Cold be hand and heart and bone…” (Chills the marrow in the barrow! Sorry – I couldn’t resist saying it!) Frodo thinks to use the Ring to get away. It’s a moment of temptation, a brief test of character, but he can lot leave his friends in such peril. Fortunately, he thinks of Bilbo – “have courage” – and sings T.B.’s protection song, “Ho! T.B.! T.B.!…” There is silence – and then Tom answers.(in song). A light and an opening appear in the barrow, with Tom (song), who takes the Hobbits outside. While they recuperate, Tom brings treasure out of the barrow – especially daggers (makes good-sized swords for Hobbits). Tom has found their ponies and packs of gear. So they eat the last of Tom’s food and take up their journey. Tom guides them to their road. Tom says to continue on the road to Bree and to look for an inn called “The Prancing Pony” and the inn-keeper Barliman Butterbur. “Stay the night. Be bold, but wary.” and they bid goodbye (song, “Tom’s country ends…”). Darkness descends. (Curtain of night, so to speak.) An eventful chapter.

    Reply

    • Maria
      Mar 16, 2015 @ 15:36:14

      “Chill the marrow in the barrow” — yes indeedy! This is one of the creepiest chapters in the entire trilogy, and I’m not sure why. Maybe because the barrow-wights seem so ancient and inexplicable. Sauron and Saruman and other dangerous characters have the usual villain’s motives and goals, just want to conquer the world and wield power and all that villainy stuff. But why the barrow-wights are there, why they do what they do, all seems coldly mysteriously dead. Maybe that sense of coldness has something to do with it. A hot blaze of fire, the volcano of violent doings, you can stand and fight. But the cold of death, you freeze and wilt in that breath from the grave. Anyway, this chapter is so chilling that every time I welcome the sense of warmth and life at the Prancing Pony with such relief, that I can understand how easily the hobbits got warmed into such a sense of safety that they let their guard down there.

      Reply

    • Maria
      Mar 16, 2015 @ 15:46:12

      “Frodo thinks to use the Ring to get away. It’s a moment of temptation, a brief test of character, but he can lot leave his friends in such peril. Fortunately, he thinks of Bilbo – “have courage” – and sings T.B.’s protection song” —

      Yes, later on Gandalf will remark that the moment of temptation in the barrow was the riskiest moment of Frodo’s journey to date. His earlier toyings with the ring weren’t quite temptations in the same sense. He was careless, foolish, when he tried on the ring in Tom Bombadil’s house. But he had no bad purpose in mind then, just stupidly playing around with a dangerous object, like a kid playing with a knife. But in the barrow, the thought in his mind as he reached for the ring was a darker idea, the temptation to save himself by abandoning his friends, an act of disloyalty and selfishness and cowardice. Even his rationalization “Gandalf would admit there was nothing else I could have done” was a tainted act of hypocrisy, lying to himself when he knew better. When he needed to fight the temptation, it’s interesting that thinking of Bilbo was his help. Bilbo was the only person who ever was able to let go of the ring and just walk away, which made him a strengthening help to Frodo. And then, the recollection that he wasn’t alone, that he could call on Tom Bombadil, that was a sort of prayer of trust in a strange guardian angel, who didn’t let him down.

      Reply

      • Nancy Sliker
        Mar 17, 2015 @ 11:39:24

        I also think that it a matter of volition – if he does it for a personal desire, that strengthens the Ring – if it’s an accident, then Frodo is “free” of the burden – if the Ring tempts him, and he gives in, the Ring wins that round.

        Reply

        • Maria
          Mar 17, 2015 @ 12:57:03

          “Volition” is an interesting aspect of this. There seem to be various levels to it. At the Prancing Pony, the ring somehow got onto Frodo’s finger without his having any awareness of how it happened — not by his volition in any way. At Tom Bombadil’s house, Frodo did choose to put on the ring, but he did it on a thoughtless whim — a low level of volition. In the barrow, if he had put on the ring, it would have been with a particular awareness of why he was doing it and of the moral implications — a much higher level of volition involved. Now I’m thinking, if there is another will than Frodo’s trying to make him put on the ring, it seems most successful when it can prevent Frodo from realizing what he’s doing. The more Frodo’s awareness and volition are involved, the more he seems capable of resistance.

          Reply

  22. Maria
    Mar 16, 2015 @ 16:36:39

    Well, I’m back again, and have some further thoughts on “A Knife in the Dark”.

    One question I’ve been turning over is the puzzle of why Strider took the hobbits to Weathertop. It seems like a bad move, especially from such an experienced old Ranger as Strider is. I’ve looked again at the conversation between Strider and Frodo —

    “That is Weathertop,” said Strider. … “We might reach it by noon tomorrow, if we go straight towards it. I suppose we had better do so.”
    “What do you mean?” asked Frodo.
    “I mean: when we do get there, it is not certain what we shall find. It is close to the road.”
    “But surely we were hoping to find Gandalf there?”
    “Yes, but the hope is faint. If he comes this way at all, he may not pass through Bree; and so he may not know what we are doing. And anyway, unless by luck we arrive almost together, we shall miss one another; it will not be safe for him or for us to wait there long. If the Riders fail to find us in the wilderness, they are likely to make for Weathertop themselves. It commands a wide view all round. …
    “What do you advise us to do?” asked Frodo.
    “I think,” answered Strider slowly, as if he was not quite sure, “I think the best thing is to go as straight eastward from here as we can, to make for the line of hills, not for Weathertop. There we can strike a path I know that runs at their feet; it will bring us to Weathertop from the north and less openly. Then we shall see what we shall see.”

    Basically, Strider gives a variety of reasons why going to Weathertop isn’t a good idea — Gandalf probably won’t be there, the Black Riders probably will — and then says they’re going anyway, just by a different route. But a more hidden route to get there still doesn’t answer the question of why they’re going there, and staying a bit safer on the way doesn’t change the fact that it’s a dangerous place to be when they get there.

    The only thing I can come up with is that Strider is still unsure of himself here. Despite all his years as a Ranger, he still depends on Gandalf and perhaps Elrond or others to help him plan his campaign. The King Aragorn he will be later on, he isn’t yet. On the one hand, I’m thinking that the more sensible decision here would have been to make directly for Rivendell as fast as possible. That’s where they are most likely to find Gandalf, and even if he isn’t there, Elrond will be. On the other hand, Strider has to grow away from depending on Gandalf and Elrond if he is going to become King Aragorn. Making his own decisions is part of the process. In this case, it was a bad decision, but in the long run, it was the beginning of turning Strider the Ranger into Aragorn the King.

    Reply

    • Nancy
      Mar 26, 2015 @ 21:09:44

      I’ve waited to respond on this puzzler until I had read through the Weathertop sequence. My take is that Strider has the following in his thinking:
      1 – He’s familiar with the terrain.
      2 – It’s taking a chance, but if he and the group do meet with Gandalf, life will be much easier.
      3 – It offers a huge panoramic view over the whole district which might be considered good reconnaissance
      4 – And finally, at this point, this character is Strider, having assumed a kind of disguise as a human, a man; in a sense, he has the advantage of more liberty and freedom of travel in the world, but the disadvantage of not knowing exactly what might be the best choice to make all the time, and it is important to maintain the consistency of his “cover”; it is only later that he reveals his true identity, the heroic Aragorn, with talents and abilities far beyond the human
      Just some thoughts..

      Reply

      • Maria
        Mar 27, 2015 @ 15:44:33

        I never thought of Aragorn as having abilities far beyond the human, but rather of having the abilities of a special sort of human, one of the long-lived and gifted people of ancient Numenor. The expanded viewpoint he gets from a life which runs three times longer than average gives him the benefits of perspective and experience and wisdom, which he later shows us in spades. But the human weakness that makes him head for familiar terrain, looking for a familiar adviser, that’s there too, and shows in the Weathertop episode.

        Reply

  23. Nancy Sliker
    Mar 17, 2015 @ 11:56:15

    Ch. 9 (At the Sign of the Prancing Pony) It’s Bree/Breeland, sort of a free port area, a place in which all sorts of characters meet and interact. There are Rangers (mysterious wanderers), “Big People,” hobbits, and “other queer folk” about. Initially, it seems like a refuge after the scarey barrow experience, but the hobbits let their guard down and their egos up, so the initial conviviality morphs into an atmosphere of something shadowy, suspicious, vaguely sinister. And Frodo’s fake alias of “Mr. Underhill” turns out to be an unfortunate choice. We hear worrying comments about “troubled times,” “people are migrating north,” “He’s a stranger, Strider.” “Merry and Pippin talk too much.” There are some songs and dancing (on the table!) which gets out of hand. Frodo becomes invisible and escapes by crawling under the table, wonders how the Ring got on his finger.(a good question!?) and takes it off. Customers whisper. This is not good. Strider comments, “That was a fool thing to do – Now there’s trouble.” Customers argue and leave. The fun is definitely over. Time for bed.

    Reply

    • Maria
      Mar 17, 2015 @ 13:04:13

      Bree is very like a port town, isn’t it? Both safe (coming into a sheltered harbor) — and unsafe (all kinds of characters about) — at the same time. And the way the “Mr. Underhill” alias backfired — too many Bree Underhills wanting to figure out exactly who Frodo is related to — was a lovely comic touch. Lovely conviviality — drinking and dancing — and yet a sense afterwards that they ought to have been more circumspect, been less free and easy. That sense of safety — but a safety of fragile quality. The gates must be locked at night against the world — but because Bree is a port town, a lot of the world is here inside the gates with us when we lock up.

      Reply

  24. Nancy Sliker
    Mar 20, 2015 @ 05:28:20

    Just to say I’m down with the flu the last 4 days or so: aching, chills and fever, awful headache. Last night I went into a chill so bad my teeth were chattering. So I put myself to bed. I’ll do some more reading when I get rid of this headache.

    Reply

    • Maria
      Mar 20, 2015 @ 14:38:46

      Ouch! It’s bad enough having the flu — and somehow worse to get hit with it just as the flu season is about over and you’re thinking you’re home free. Take care of yourself! I hope you feel better soon!

      Reply

  25. Nancy
    Mar 26, 2015 @ 20:13:08

    Ch. 10 (Strider) Post party, Strider introduces himself and says he wants to travel with the hobbits, as he has “quick ears” is a hunter, and knows the terrain they must travel, in spite of “a rascally look.”. Frodo gets a bit huffy, and while they are discussing this Mr. Butterbur comes in, dithers around quite a bit, and gives Frodo message from Gandalf: (dated Midyear’s Day – when is that? June 21?); anyway, Gandalf says he has a sudden crisis; they should be careful; Butterbur and Strider (if you have the right Strider) are good guys; go to Rivendell; Elrond will advise you; don’t travel at night;mdon’t use Underhill name – it’s been recognized. More discussion, and Strider points out that “Caution is one thing, but wavering is another.” Strider says his real name is Aragorn and shares a song: “All that is gold…” Merry runs in to sayd there are black riders. Aragorn advises they go to Weathertop. They should stay together in the parlor. Nob fakes up their beds. They bar the windows and door. And so to sleep. Frodo has troubled dreams.

    Reply

    • Nancy
      Mar 27, 2015 @ 10:42:20

      About that Mid-Year’s Day: I’ve been noodling around on it. Assuming a normal year of 365 days, then Mid-Year’s Day has to be the 182nd day of Earth’s annual circumambulation of the sun. We can’s assume a Gregorian, or indeed any known calendar except what Middle-Earth dwellers have agreed to use. However, for convenience, let’s take the Gregorian as a sample, that way we will have a vague idea of what season or part of the season in which it occurs.
      (Jan) 31 + (Feb) 28 + (Mar) 31 + (Apr) 30 + (May) 31 + (Jun) 30 = 181 days (not enough, by 1), but if the Mid-Year’s Day is considered a Day-Unto-Itself, and starting the count towards 182 again to the end of the year (and at the end, use the extra day as a Day-Unto-Itself again, we get pretty close to the target, that Mid-Year’s Day is close to the end of Spring and start of Summer, in the Northern Hemisphere, which I think is Tolkien’s concept of a Shire/Middle-Earth. Of course, there are plenty of other possibilities which might be fun to expore – like what constitutes a “year” – but this is an alternate universe – best leave it alone.

      Reply

      • Maria
        Mar 27, 2015 @ 16:20:50

        Mid-Year’s Day — I suppose depends on when the year begins or ends. Is it a year that begins as ours does, January 1st? Or one that begins with Spring, in March, as some other calendars have done? Until you brought it up, I hadn’t considered it in light of a whole calendar, trying to find the mid-point. I think I’d been simply translating mid-year’s day subconsciously into midsummer day, and mentally placing it in June, around the solstice.

        Reply

    • Maria
      Mar 27, 2015 @ 16:15:41

      “Mr. Butterbur comes in, dithers around quite a bit, and gives Frodo message from Gandalf:”
      Oh, yeah, Butterbur really slipped up there, didn’t he? I’m assuming that he was meant to send someone to carry the message to the Shire, — and I’m assuming he wasn’t just shrugging it off and neglecting it, but that he genuinely forgot about it. If Frodo had received the message before he left the Shire, though, what would he have done differently? Would he have been able to leave before the Black Riders ever appeared on the scene? Or, if not, would he have chosen a different route?

      Reply

  26. Nancy
    Mar 26, 2015 @ 20:29:15

    Ch. 11 (Knife in the Dark) (This is a loooong chapter!) Dark comes to Buckland. Fatty Bolger is nervous. Dark shadows. Horses. Black figures. Dawn is soon. Cold. Two knocks. “Open to Mordar!” Fiiigures go in. Horn sounds. “Awake! Fear! Fire! Foes! Awake!” Fatty exits out the backthrough the garden… Horn sounds. More horns. It’s a hunter’s call to arms. Black figures run away, drop a hobbit cloak. House is empty. Frodo wakes to find Strider very alert. Frodo snoozes a bit. Wakes. It’s morning. But there is evidence of chaos in their unoccupied bedrooms: windows forced, wild curtains in the wind, pillows slashed and thrown on floor. And the horses are gone. What to do? “We walk.” But then Butterbur manages to find an old horse (aha! those ghost riders in the sky!), and they finally pull themselves together and collect as much gear and food as they can, load it on the single horse, and get going, even if a bit late, sent off by the villagers (with some mixed feelings.. (We learn in passing that Tom Bombadil finds their missing horses, take care of them, and returns them to Mr. Butterbur.) They hit the main road, but in a short while they branch off onto a wandering trail which will lead them, eventually, to Weathertop. (I’ll continue the rest of Ch. 11 next…)

    Reply

    • Maria
      Mar 27, 2015 @ 16:30:43

      “Open to Mordor!” … “Awake! Fear! Fire! Foes! Awake!”
      Oh, I love Fatty’s frightened dash to alert Buckland to the danger. Up until now, it has been all about secrecy, the Black Riders working incognito, the hobbits trying to hide. Here it all comes out into the open — horns blowing, the intruders’ presence recognized for the threat it really is. Fatty isn’t the brightest or the bravest of hobbits, but he came up against a decision here. Does he run for his life, just scurry away and continue to keep quiet about what happened, or does he throw the conspiracy away, raise a ruckus and let everyone know what’s up? Nobody here to advise him, and he’s too scared to think very straight, but he goes for the public alert. And the result is that the Black Riders, in turn, are forced to abandon secrecy, and come out into the open. They ride straight off to attack Bree. Was that a good or bad result? Maybe an open attack at least let our heroes know exactly where the enemy was, instead of fearing shadows everywhere. Now we know where we stand.

      Reply

    • Maria
      Mar 27, 2015 @ 16:39:33

      “And the horses are gone. What to do? “We walk.” But then Butterbur manages to find an old horse.”
      It certainly wasn’t Butterbur’s fault that the horses were gone — but I like him the better for making good the cost of them to the travelers, and not niggling over the cost either, but paying generously. It’s possible he was feeling guilty about not mailing Gandalf’s letter, and trying to make up for it. But I don’t think that was his main reason — I think he’s just a kind and generous person. Also, it’s interesting that the Black Riders stampeded not only the hobbits’ ponies, but all the horses in Bree, as if trying to ensure that their prey would have to be grounded for lack of transport, perhaps making them “easy pickings” on the road later. But there was that one old horse still left in town — and it’s interesting that it belonged to Bill Ferny, the crook suspected of collaborating with the enemy. Probably that animal was left alone because Ferny was their stooge. Surely the Black Riders would not have been pleased with stooge Ferny selling that horse to the hobbits, but I can’t imagine Ferny doing that out of a wish to solve the hobbits’ travel dilemma. He was just looking to make a fast buck. A most unreliable stooge!

      Reply

  27. Nancy
    Mar 26, 2015 @ 20:42:30

    Ch. 11 (Continued) Ok, I’m going to truncate this a bit. They are 6 days in transit through woodland, marshland, insects, white lights, losing weight (always a big concern for hungry hobbits), low on food, and probably low sugar and general depression. Anyway, they arrive at Weathertop… not good. There is evidence of a big fire, and no evidence of Gandalf, except a flat rock on top of a rock cairn. It indicated that Gandalf was there 3 days ago. Oooops, Strider is having second thoughts – big time. And Frodo realizes his situation: homeless. Then there are black specks in the sky, and black riders are seen. Danger. Black clouds. Black Riders near by. We do learn a little bit about them, They see differently. They don’t like fire. They smell blood. The Ring draws them. OK – the little band is in danger – again. They light a campfire and stay close. They are threatened, but Strider shows them how to take branches from the fire, face the perimeter, and keep the Black Stuff at bay. There is a chant. A poison dart is fired at Frodo and he faints. It’s a jungle out there!

    Reply

    • Maria
      Mar 27, 2015 @ 16:53:36

      “…Losing weight (always a big concern for hungry hobbits), low on food, and probably low sugar and general depression…”
      I chuckled at that sentence! It’s true, hobbits do get nervous about the food supply sooner than other folks. And I hadn’t thought of this angle until you mentioned it, that their depressed spirits might be in part because they haven’t physically adjusted to the lower food intake. But it makes sense, now that you mention it. Their spirits always seem better when they’ve eaten well, regardless of the actual situation.

      Reply

  28. Maria
    Mar 27, 2015 @ 17:11:52

    “A poison dart is fired at Frodo and he faints.”
    But just before that, Frodo puts on the Ring. His struggle against the temptation to put it on is interesting.

    “His terror was swallowed up in a sudden temptation to put on the Ring. The desire to do this laid hold of him, and he could think of nothing else. He did not forget the barrow, nor the message of Gandalf; but something seemed to be compelling him to disregard all warnings, and he longed to yield. Not with the hope of escape, or of doing anything, either good or bad: he simply felt that he must take the Ring and put it on his finger.”

    There’s a suggestion that another will is pressuring his own, that someone else wants him to put it on. Who or what is that other will, and why is it so insistent that Frodo put on the Ring?

    Is it the will of the Black Rider? Perhaps he needs Frodo to put on the Ring in order to clearly discern him in order to attack him? The Black Riders seem to see shadows, and when Frodo puts on the Ring, he somehow enters that shadow-world, seeing as they do — and perhaps being seen as well.

    Or is it the will of the Ring itself? The Ring wants to become a working power once more, return to Sauron, or at any event to some owner who will allow its powers to be fully unleashed.

    So Frodo put it on. And he suddenly was in a different way of being, seeing the wraiths for what they are beneath their disguises, aware of his danger in a new way. It’s interesting that in this moment, realizing that he has fallen into grave danger, he calls on the name of Elbereth, almost as a prayer, in the moment before he is stabbed. Calling on Elbereth didn’t save him — or did it? Did it turn the knife so that he wasn’t killed but only wounded?

    Reply

  29. Nancy
    Mar 27, 2015 @ 22:56:06

    Ch. 12 (Flight to the Ford) Frodo comes to, holding the Ring. He’s face down over his sword. Strider and the hobbits pick him up and place him by the fire to warm him. Strider check for Black Riders, but they are gone. They heat water and bathe his shoulder wound. Frodo is vulnerable and may die. He must resist the growing pain. Strider leaves, and then returns with a special rare herb which he steeps in the hot water and uses the medication to wash over the wound, with some improvement. In the meantime, Strider has found a black cloak with a slash in it, and a long knife with a notch out of it and a missing tip. The blade melts and vanishes, leaving only the hilt. Strider sings to the hilt and speaks to it; says to keep it. They realize Gandalf will not be coming to Weathertop, and they must be gone soon while they have a chance. Frodo is put on the pony and everyone else carry packs. They will go vie the woods so there will be fuel and warmth for Frodo. Days pass. By the 7th day they enter the road, heading for the Last Bridge. Strider scouts the bridge and finds a green jewel in the middle – good sign? Maybe. Time passes/ Strider is getting worried. They are now 10 days out from Weathertop, and Frodohas to walk a bit, but is sinking. After rain and storms, the weather turns clear. Frodo can ride again. They see a “Troll home” and TROLLS! No! They are stone Trolls. Oh, good!. (Sighs of relief.) Towards evening they hear – bells ringing? (Tinnitus?) No again, it’s a white horse and a rider with golden hair and a white cloak. It’s gotta be a good guy! Yup, an elven, out searching for them, Glorfindel sent by Elrond! He’s the one who left the green jewel. He eases Frodo’s wound a bit, gives them an elven elixer and a snack, they get a short rest. However it’s getting dark and not a place to linger. They are near the river and must cross. It’s dangerous. The Black Riders try to cut them off, but Frodo is on the white horse and they sail safely over. Whew! That was a close call with 9 Black Riders chasing them, who get carried away down river on the high current. Too much for poor Frodo. He faints again in pain. No hobbit should ever have to go through all this.
    The end of Book One.

    Reply

  30. Maria
    Mar 28, 2015 @ 21:19:23

    “They see a “Troll home” and TROLLS! No! They are stone Trolls. Oh, good!. (Sighs of relief.)”
    Lovely bit of comic relief here, coming in the middle of so much tension and anxiety. Any reminder of Bilbo, somehow, makes me relax into a smile, and it seems to have the same effect on Frodo and the other hobbits. The fact that Bilbo outsmarted and survived the trolls is a hopeful thought right now, suggesting that even hobbits can come out on top of enemies bigger and stronger than themselves, because look, it’s happened before, and here’s the evidence. (And the discovery that Sam writes comic poems is also a lovely discovery.)

    “That was a close call with 9 Black Riders chasing them, who get carried away down river on the high current.”
    Here, in a moment of great danger and crisis, it’s striking that Frodo never for a moment thinks of putting on the Ring, though that thought was strong in the barrow and at Weathertop. But here at the river, he turns to face the Black Riders and stand his ground. He orders them to “Go back to the Land of Mordor and follow me no more”, and calls again on the name of Elbereth. His brave defiance is crushed by paralyzing fear and weakness, but that he made that defiance at all is remarkable. Frodo is learning and growing in the qualities he will need on the quest ahead.

    Reply

  31. Nancy
    Mar 28, 2015 @ 23:11:41

    I’ve been pretty rushed to catch up you, so I haven’t spent much time in commentary. Now, however, we’ve reached a pausing point at the end of Book 1, it will give me a bit of a pause for reflection before rushing onward.

    Reply

  32. Nancy
    Apr 02, 2015 @ 22:46:09

    Just to let you know, it’s Thursday, and my classes are done and my bookbinding/Bible repair job is delivered to a happy customer, so I’ll be starting Book 2 probably tomorrow. Happy reading!

    Reply

    • Maria
      Apr 03, 2015 @ 13:07:17

      I expect to be getting back to Middle-Earth with the start of the new week. Between Holy Week activity at church and Spring Break week visitors at the zoo, it has been an unusually busy week here, and reading time has been in short supply! Happy reading to you, too!

      Reply

  33. Nancy
    Apr 06, 2015 @ 11:26:54

    Not to fret, I’ve got some things still brewing: Income Tax return, and considering a new dress for OKC wedding. This is one of the more difficult things to find in a small city. I’ve been all over town, online, and I think I’ll have to go to Wichita, but as backup, I’ve pulled out all my summer dresses from my working days. I lined them all up, eliminated several, and have 5 possibles, but I’d like something fresh to wear. And weather is likely to be unpredictable (like anywhere from 70-97 degrees are believable), so short sleeves, natural fibers, loose-ish fit, and light-reflective colors are high on my list. And no matter what I find, it will have to be altered – I’m 2″ shorter than I used to be! It’s a test.

    Reply

  34. Nancy
    Apr 07, 2015 @ 22:09:40

    Taxes done! I can start reading again tomorrow in the evening. Whoo-hoo!

    Reply

  35. Maria
    Apr 08, 2015 @ 21:32:34

    I’m back, as well, and considering the first chapter of Part 2 — “Many Meetings”.

    I’ve got to admit that I had forgotten this chapter existed. My memory had somehow put the Council of Elrond right at the start of this section, not remembering that there was an entire chapter before that. Like the earlier chapters that surprised me with the trip from Hobbiton to Buckland, this chapter surprises me with an intermission.

    “Meetings” in this chapter has nothing to do with the committee meeting that’s about to come in the next chapter. In this chapter, it’s just greetings — hello — pleased to see you — that kind of meetings.

    We meet Gandalf — and where has he been? — and why was he missing when we needed him? We meet Strider all over again, under his other name Aragorn, and are startled to find he isn’t quite who we thought he was. We meet our old friend Gloin from The Hobbit, and enjoy the nostalgia of catching up about old times. We meet the stately Elrond and an intimidating array of elves. Probably best of all is the lovely and loving meeting with old Bilbo — though I’m a bit surprised that nobody ever told Frodo that Bilbo was living safe and happy at Rivendell all along.

    So many different sorts of meetings to consider there. The lordly new folks are a bit off-putting at first. The homely old friends, the ones who will excuse us from company manners, are the best meetings. I love Gandalf telling off Pippin, and Pippin’s sassy reaction. And I love the way Bilbo has begun referring to his book as “our” book, and taking for granted that Frodo will have chapters to contribute.

    Reply

  36. Maria
    Apr 08, 2015 @ 21:34:40

    The remark from this chapter which I tuck in my mind for further thought:

    Gandalf to Frodo — “I was delayed, and that nearly proved our ruin. And yet I am not sure: It may have been better so.”

    Later, Gandalf remarks that if he had known the Black Riders were near the Shire, he would have made Frodo flee with him earlier.

    I think of how Gandalf was on his way to see Saruman then — and that if he had taken Frodo with him, going to Saruman for consultation and assistance would have put them both into his hands. Or, if Gandalf had taken Frodo straight to Elrond, without Saruman revealing his treason, then probably Saruman would have been a trusted member of the Council of Elrond, giving who knows what dangerous advice. Gandalf’s “delay” as Saruman’s prisoner may have been for the best, because it meant that Saruman had tipped his hand too early, disastrous for him, but very lucky for the good guys!

    Reply

  37. Nancy
    Apr 09, 2015 @ 20:53:51

    Book II, Ch. 1., (Many Meetings) This starts the morning of the day before the Council of Elrond. Frodo wakes up with the classic lines, “Where am I?” and “What time is it?” And Gandalf replies that it’s Oct. 24th, and 10:00. Frodo: “Where were you?” Gandalf: “Delayed – I’ll tell you later.” No follows what in an opera at the Met would be called “the Recitative,” a discussion of plot and details needed to keep the audience awake enough to follow the plot. Anyway, we learn that: Black Riders = Ringwraiths; Barliman = wise enough on his own turf; Strider/Aragorn = People of the Old Kings from over the Sea; Rangers = the last of the Great People; Elrond cured Frodo by removing the splinter before it could reach his heart; Black Riders wear clocks to “give shape to nothingness”; Rivendell has Lords of the Eldar = can see in both worlds of the seen/unseen and have great power; The white glowing figure is Glorfindel = an Elf-Lord; Frodo temporarily has a kind of transparency about him, esp. his hand and could become “like a glass filled with clear light.” Gandalf explains that the Black Riders were trapped between a fire and the flood of river water, lost some horses, were disadvantaged, and were swept away on the tide, but not killed. Pippin appears and says,”You are the Ring-Bearer.” the first time we clearly learn Frodo’s title and function, and that Bilbo is the Ring-Finder. Frodo falls asleep. I don’t blame him. That’s a lot to take in after his recent tests and difficulties. But not to fret. It’s part of the curing process of Elrond and the Homely House, a perfect house which supplies to the occupants whatever they need to become hale and hearty.
    So now we move to the evening of that day. Frodo awakens with all the zesty feelings of the HH, looking better and younger, his hand is warming up, and he wants food and music, singing and stories. (Coming right up!) They explore and pause in a beautiful elven garden.with waterfall, trees and flowers. Then they pass on to the Hall of Elron where everyone who is anyone have gathered: elves, guests, Lords, Gandalf, Elrond and his daughter Arwen (fair lady from Lorien). Frodo, the small hobbit, is an honored guest. He sits on many cushions to bring him up to the table. He meets Gloin from the Lonely Mountains. It’s a party. They exchange news of the Shire, other current events, discuss regional issues, happenings in the dwarf kingdom, dwarf arts and crafts (not as good as it used to be), After dinner they move to the Hall of Fire for story-telling, peace and thought. Frodo sees a dark figure with a pipe… It’s Bilbo! How’s it going, buddy? What have you been doing? Bilbo says he’s been writing book, and composing songs. B. asks: “Do you have the Ring?” F: “um… yeeess….” B: “Can I see it?” Frodo shows the ring, but then a shadow passes, Frodo hides it away. Next “Dunadan” arrives. Who’s he? AKA = Strider! (This guy has aliases than a shape-shifter!) So – this is a party. There are stories, and song, and Bilbo sings a looong song he composed, (Song: “Earendil was a mariner…”) and mentions a green stone. Frodo is tiring. Sam comes to help him back to bed and Bilbo expresses the idea that Frodo will add chapters to his saga.

    Reply

    • Nancy
      Apr 09, 2015 @ 21:08:08

      I wanted to add a note aboutthe use of an old story-telling technique of the Homeric epithet going back to the Iliad and Odyssey, i.e., the PersonName + the + DescriptiveAdjective. Ex: “Bilbo the Renowned.” As we get into the Council of Elrond, there is quite a historical context with all sorts of these descripters being used.

      Reply

      • Maria
        Apr 10, 2015 @ 11:21:54

        My favorites were some of the medieval Saxon and Norse ones — They’re very colorful — and often also funny!

        Reply

    • Maria
      Apr 10, 2015 @ 11:08:48

      B. asks: “Do you have the Ring?” F: “um… yeeess….” B: “Can I see it?” Frodo shows the ring, but then a shadow passes, Frodo hides it away.

      Oh, yes! That’s one central moment in this chapter that I forgot to talk about! Thanks for bringing it up!

      Why was Frodo reluctant to show the ring to Bilbo? After all, Bilbo is a well-loved and trusted person in Frodo’s life, and the ring originally came to Frodo from Bilbo. A simple request to see it, in a safe setting like Elrond’s house, shouldn’t have been more disturbing than any of the earlier occasions of producing it for a viewing. Yet this time, it seemed to go more darkly than on the earlier similar occasions.

      When Frodo takes out the ring, he has a moment when he sees Bilbo dreadfully changed, into a grasping evil creature. What do you make of that? Is it that something has changed Bilbo himself? Or is the vision inaccurate; is it actually Frodo’s perception that has been skewed by something like paranoia? And if so, why now? Has something changed in Frodo because of the injury the Black Riders inflicted on him? Some other reason?

      Reply

  38. Nancy
    Apr 16, 2015 @ 19:53:31

    Book 2, Ch. 2A (“The Council of Elrond”) It’s morning, and Frodo wakes up, refreshed and well. He takes a walk in the beautiful terraced garden and runs into Gandalf and Frodo, Together they go to Council Hall for the Council meeting. Everyone is introduced: Elrond, Gandalf, Glorfindel, Gloin, Strider/Aragorn, Bilbo, Frodo, Gimli, Erestor, Galdor, an Elf from Cirdan, Legolas from Trandull, and Boromir. The meeting begins. They discuss “world” events, which are “troubled” (a clear understatement). The drawves are in disquiet. Some sought power in the south (30 yrs ago). Sauron of Mordor proposed “friendship” to Dain via some rings, and asks about some hobbits and the theft of a small ring, and promises a reward for information, then finally sets a 3-month deadline for a response. “The Ring! What shall we do with the Ring, the least of rings, the trifle Sauron fancies?” Elrond gives some historical background about the “Rings of Power” plus “one to rule them all.” Numenor experiences glory followed by a fall. Elendil also had a rise and fall. There is some family history to give context. Then Boromir pipes up: “How about the Ring now?” (He quick to try and extract info about the current status of the Ring, isn’t he?) Anyway, Isildur took it and then died. the Ring is lost. There is desolation and destruction (and general hand-wringing and wailing.) “Dark things crept back… a time of evil.” And the Ruling Ring passed out of all knowledge.” Now, we think it has been found.” Boromir of Bondar says there has been smoke rising from Mt. Doom. Sudden warfare. A power not felt before. Fear. Madness. “Much praise and little help.” He tells about his brother’s dream.

    Reply

    • Maria
      Apr 16, 2015 @ 22:48:15

      You mention that Boromir is there to ask about a dream. Glad you brought that up. It seems odd, on the surface, that such a practical hard-headed guy as Boromir should take a dream seriously enough to make a very long trip to consult about it. Maybe there is more to Boromir than he himself wants to know. Somewhere inside the warrior is a man who trusts dreams, and his dreamer-brother.

      Reply

  39. Nancy
    Apr 16, 2015 @ 20:16:04

    Book 2, Ch. 2B (“Council of Elrond,” con’t.) Aragorn lays a broken sword on the table. Frodo says to Aragorn, “You should have the Ring.” Gandalf interrupts, “Show the Ring, Frodo.” Frodo, in fear, holds it up to view. Elron: “See it.” Boromir, his eyes glinting, “So why seek the broken sword?” Aragorn: “Doom and great deeds at hand. The sword is the sword of Elendil. It should be made whole again when the Ring is found.” (to Boromir) “What do you want to do?” Boromir: “No boon, only the meaning of the riddle – but the sword might help.” Bilbo: [Poem: “All that glitters…”] Aragorn: “You doubt. But we protected the sword and passed it on. There is much going on you know little about. And thankless tasks, too. The world is changing. Battle is at hand. Re-forge the sword.” Boromir “I saw a bright Ring in the halfling’s hand – is it the real Ring?” Elrond: “We’ll get to that.” Bilbo: (Wants to eat of course). Elrond: “Tell Bilbo’s story, but be brief!” So there is a short re-cap of Bilbo and the Ring. Then Frodo relates the events of their journey from Hobbiton to Rivendell, the Black Riders, and a short Q&A. Bilbo: “I’ll write it up.” Galdor: “We need proof that it’s the real Ring.” Sooooo …..

    Reply

    • Maria
      Apr 16, 2015 @ 22:51:48

      I love the difference between Bilbo’s and Frodo’s storytelling. Bilbo is turning his adventures into a book already, and he narrates with relish, and has to be stopped to prevent him nattering on any longer. Frodo is uncomfortable, unwilling to revisit painful adventures in retelling them, shy of the public performance — unlike Bilbo the ham actor.

      Reply

  40. Nancy
    Apr 16, 2015 @ 20:38:42

    Book 2, Ch. 2C (“Council of Elrond,” con’t.) Elrond calls on Gandalf. He explains that Sauron was a necromancer in Dol Guldur. He found the Ring, built the Dark Tower, and declared his power (and generally flung his weight around). Then Gandalf explains, “But I made a mistake when I trusted Saruman the Wise. I set a watch on Gollum for a long time, but Gollum escaped and I stopped the watch. About 17 years ago, a hobbit had a ring – from whence came the ring? I sensed spies in the Shire: beasts, birds. I called on Aragorn, who hunted Gollum – too late.” Aragorn and Gandalf hunted all over – no luck. So they devised a test to see if the Ring would respond = the 9, the 7, the 3, and the 1, the one was round, unadorned, but with the maker’s mark, and Isildur once wore it. “What was is less dark that what is to come.” Isildur made a scroll about the Ring [text in book]. He described it in detail, it’s characteristics, and with it’s traced writing. Aragorn found Gollum’s footprints by a muddy pool, grabbed him, leashed him and gave him to the Elves to guard. Gandalf interviewed Gollum. There was an inscription which was read in a fire, and Gandalf quotes it. [“One Ring…”] A dark shadow passes over. Gollum told Sauron in Mordor about the Ring. He knows we had it. Boromir asks, “Gollum is small? Mischievous? Where is he?” Aragorn: He was in prison in Mirkwood. Legolas: “Alas! Gollum (Smeagal) has escaped. We were too kind to him. He climbed a tree and the Orks took him away.” (Note: I hope I’ve spelled all this right – by now my notes are nearly illegible!)

    Reply

    • Nancy
      Apr 16, 2015 @ 20:39:47

      I’ve got the rest still to enter, but I’m kind of tired – tomorrow maybe. It’s a long chapter!

      Reply

      • Maria
        Apr 16, 2015 @ 20:57:29

        It is a long chapter, isn’t it! That was part of the difficulty of getting through it for me, too.Broken into several shorter segments, we’d have had a natural series of places to pause and reflect, instead of having a feeling that we must keep on trekking.

        Reply

  41. Maria
    Apr 16, 2015 @ 20:55:40

    The Council of Elrond turned out to be a difficult chapter for me to get through, which I hadn’t expected. There’s just so much exposition going on here, and a feeling that I’m supposed to be paying attention and getting all this, because it’s going to turn up on the pop quiz at the end of the week. For several days, I read in fits and stops, a couple pages at a time, and couldn’t get that “into the story” feeling going. Last night, I figured it was time to just bite the bullet and get it read, so I could move on to the more interesting chapters ahead. Dashing through the last 1/3 of the chapter in a late-night gallop, the details passed by in more of a blur, but I found that I was actually caught up in the story’s reality again. Maybe trying to pay attention to the data-dump was a mistake, too much factual detail, not enough simply living the story. I don’t truly need to remember the names of ancient elves and kings, etc etc. The chapter worked best for me when I let all that data wash past me, and gave my attention to the things going on around me in the moment — the faces of the people gathered here, the tones of their voices, their anxiety or argumentativeness or quietness, how they interacted with each other.

    Reply

  42. Maria
    Apr 16, 2015 @ 21:18:07

    One thing that I take away from this chapter is the casualness of this “council”. It seems to be a very spur-of-the-moment gathering. The people present are simply a random collection of those who happened to be under Elrond’s roof at the moment. Not a formal scheduled meeting to which selected participants are invited in advance. It seems that Gandalf and Elrond had to be there, somehow, or else the meeting wouldn’t have happened. Would anyone else have said, “Let’s get together and do this”, if those two hadn’t instigated it? But as to the others, they were invited to pull up a chair and sit in because they were available. Elrond says, “You have come and are here met, in this very nick of time, by chance as it may seem.”
    The setting is Elrond’s front porch, in the morning sunshine, with birds flitting by singing, and the sounds of breezes and bubbling brooks — very different from a modern workplace meeting in a closed windowless office. In my imagination, I see Bilbo in a front-porch rocker, Gandalf and Strider sitting on the railing, Frodo and the younger hobbits on the steps, Boromir fidgeting and pacing on the path that runs the length of the porch, Elrond on a stone garden bench alongside that path, facing the porch steps, and all the others perched here and there. Somehow, this casual setting, the uncalculated happenstance of who is present, draws me into a relaxed trust in the proceedings. A meeting that looked like a scripted inside-job would have made me mistrust events. This way, when Elrond says, “Believe that it is so ordered that we who sit here, and none others, must now find council for the peril of the world”, I do believe it.

    Reply

  43. Maria
    Apr 16, 2015 @ 22:44:24

    Once we get past all the knee-deep tangle of old news, we finally get to the interesting question of this chapter — What are we to do about the Ring? The way the various people think is revealed by the solutions they consider. Various elves suggest plans to hide the ring from the enemy — to toss it into the sea, to send it over the sea out of Middle Earth, or to place it for safekeeping with Tom Bombadil. They realize that the enemy must not get it, and that they themselves cannot use it. But they’re thinking of solutions that buy time, plans that settle for a few centuries of peace.

    Gandalf is the one who thinks with a broader perspective. Not enough to buy peace in our time, because the thing will come back to haunt our descendants. Gandalf believes that the only options are hiding it or destroying it, and that hiding it is the lazy and selfish option, kicking the problem down the road for others to deal with. That leaves destroying it as the only option.

    Then, after our minds have been broadened to see Gandalf’s eternal time frame, we are suddenly brought sharply back, not just to the more parochial view of the elves, but to the much blinder and narrow view of Boromir. He raises the option of actually using the ring ourselves — when we can see in light of everything Gandalf has just said that Boromir’s option is no option at all. We can see right then and there that Boromir’s vision is cramped and blind and narrow — Why is he the only one who missed the point of Gandalf’s instruction entirely?

    Boromir’s call for strength and power is countered by Elrond’s musing “Neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world; small hands do them because they must.”

    And Elrond’s words bring us directly to the hobbits. Bilbo volunteers, even though he is old and tired and must be refused. Frodo volunteers, even though he is reluctant and afraid. Sam volunteers because he doesn’t want Frodo to go alone. This is the best side of human nature — the humble courage of the small and the weak. What are we to do with the ring? We are to do something boldly decisive — destroy it — no hiding or shilly-shallying. But we are to do it without armies or fanfare, without pride and power, by the small hands of the humble folk who volunteer to do what they don’t want to do.

    As I see it, that’s what this whole long difficult chapter boils down to in the end.

    Reply

    • Nancy
      Apr 18, 2015 @ 15:16:37

      Yup – you got it exactly.

      Reply

  44. Nancy
    Apr 18, 2015 @ 14:49:14

    Book 2, Ch. 2D (“Council of Elron.” Con’t.) Gandalf goes into his account of Saruman’s treachery, in which he met Radagast, who said Saruman wanted to see him, thus diverting Gandalf from his main plan. So he leaves messages for Frodo, and goes to the emergency meeting. When he arrives, the gates are closed (not a good sign). He appeals for help, As it turns out, Saruman has his own agenda. Exhibiting some surprising sarcasm, he first tries to interest Gandalf in a power grab, “Tell me who has the Ring…”, thus putting Gandalf in a tough spot. When Gandalf refuses to tell, he finds himself isolated on top of Saruman’s “Plnnacle of Orthanc,” while Saruman goes on his traitorous way. Gandalf is stuck until he is saved by an eagle, who transports him to Rohan in search of transportation – now all he needs a really fast horse in order to catch up with Frodo. Fortunately, with the help of the super horse, Shadowfax, tries to catch up with the hobbits (taa-daa – background music – “William Tell Overture,” by Rossini)…. he rides to Hobbiton (not there!)…Buckland (not there!)… Crickhollow (not there!)… Bree (not there!, sounds of panting horse?)… Weathertop (not there!, bang, whoosh, zap, smash! busy place!)… Rivendell!!! (yes!!! sounds of much panting! and joy).

    Reply

    • Maria
      Apr 18, 2015 @ 18:24:00

      A couple of thoughts come to me about this segment —

      Who is to be trusted? Gandalf trusted the other members of his order, and ended up being disappointed. Saruman has turned aside from his mission to follow his own desire for power. Radagast may not have known what he was doing when he delivered Saruman’s message, but he has let down the side by his inattentive carelessness. Then Gandalf appeals to the king of Rohan for a horse, and is received with a coldness that makes him wonder whether Rohan has gone over to the enemy. Now, in Elrond’s house, the discussion on Elrond’s porch is quite frank and revealing of sensitive information — assuming that everyone present can be trusted. Right after discovering betrayals all around him, Gandalf still trusts — an interesting thing to discover about Gandalf.

      The other thing I’m thinking about is Saruman. He was supposed to be wiser than Gandalf, yet something led him astray. Cleverness and wisdom are two related but different traits, and it turns out that Saruman only has cleverness, while Gandalf is cultivating wisdom. What went wrong with Saruman? Why did he turn? Desire for power, or pride in his own cleverness, or coldness of heart? Should Gandalf and the others have seen this in Saruman all along, or was it something that went wrong only recently?

      Reply

  45. Nancy
    Apr 18, 2015 @ 15:15:54

    Book 2, Ch. 2E (Council of Elrond,” Con’t.) Everyone is just shocked, blown away, alarmed, appalled, aghast, silence – What to do now? Saruman is a total loss, and unfortunately he knows too much. Tom Bombadil is an ally, but he has certain boundaries. “But it is for us who live here to deal with it.” Glorfindel: “Throw it in the sea.” (nope) Boromir: “Is the Ring a useful weapon?” (nope) Erestor: Two options: Hide it or un-make it. How to do that?” (nope. can’t – Sauron made it, only he can break it) Gloin: “Combined strengths using all the Rings?” (nope, they are not weapons of war or conquest. They are for understanding, making, healing, but Sauron can use them any way he desires.) Gloin: How about the Ruling Ring?” Elrond: Don’t know. Maybe 3 Rings still could be free, and heal the hurts of the world.” Erestor: “Despair or Folly!” Gandalf: (Aha!!!) “OK – let’s choose Folly. It may fool our enemies.” Elrond: “There’s a thought – The weak might prevail where the strong cannot.” Bilbo: “I’ll go.” Gandalf: “Nope, not strong enough.” Frodo: “I will take the Ring, though I do not know the way.” Elrond: “Good choice.” Sam: “I go, too. Frodo needs my help.” (And that ends this endless chapter.)

    Reply

    • Maria
      Apr 18, 2015 @ 18:35:00

      Frodo: “I will take the Ring, though I do not know the way.” Elrond: “Good choice.”

      This is an interesting moment. Nobody, not Elrond, not Gandalf, not Aragorn, asked Frodo to do this, nobody was even looking at him as he struggled with the effort to speak up. Yet, when Frodo had spoken, the leaders reacted with a seal of approval, a sense that yes, this is right and fitting. Were they waiting all along for him to volunteer? Or did his offer come un-looked-for? If Frodo had not volunteered, what would they have done?

      Elrond says, “If I understand alright all that I have heard, I think this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will. … But it is a heavy burden. So heavy that none could lay it on another. I do not lay it on you, but if you take it freely, I will say that your choice is right.” If this is appointed for Frodo, who appointed it so? If Frodo had not offered, would he have been doing something “wrong”, since his offer is declared “right”?

      Reply

      • Nancy
        Apr 19, 2015 @ 08:29:50

        I don’t think it really a judgment (right or wrong) situation, but more what feels appropriate to the group, now that they have explored all the options they can think of and the positive/negative ramifications of each one. As such, this seems to be the one which has a chance of success, because of the possibility that the small and weak can fly under the radar of the big and strong. For after all, the big and strong measure success by their own criteria of “big-ness” and “strong-ness. And consensus comes because they took a meticulously long time to to get to this point.: As you say, an interesting choice.

        Reply

        • Maria
          Apr 20, 2015 @ 11:40:05

          Having a second reader look at this is what’s interesting, since it brings a different perspective. Your reading is a more logical, thought-based one, (they explored all the options … positive/negative ramifications … ), while I read it as more of a gut-feeling decision, as though Frodo was guided by the spirit when he offered, and Elrond similarly guided to see the rightness of the offer. Also, Gandalf’s reasoning seemed to include the idea of doing what was right even when the liklihood of success was doubtful. As though the “right” decision here was coming from a place other than the logical brains of the thinkers winnowing through too many possible options whose ramifications were beyond their seeing.

          Reply

          • Nancy
            Apr 21, 2015 @ 08:58:36

            Yes, it is interesting. One other thought came to me after I posted. I think that we need to keep the author in mind, too. What I mean is… the text by Tolkien is as it is because of how he was thinking his way through the situation as he wrote it. It reveals a great deal about Tolkien’s problem-solving thought process, as it does about the motivation of the characters he created. Things happen in the way they do because his mind determined they should. And it’s interesting that this should become a point which “tickles” our own minds many years later.

  46. Nancy
    Apr 29, 2015 @ 22:34:16

    Book 2, Ch. 3 (“The Ring Goes South”) The hobbits meet to discuss plans involving Frodo & Sam with Gandalf & Bilbo, and to await the reports to come in. Everything SEEMS calm, no Black Riders recently. “Relax, Frodo, help me with my book.” It’s the end of summer. Autumn is coming. See a star in the sky. Two months pass. In November the scouts return. No real news. However, wolves are gathering. Remains of black horses are found. The Ringwraiths seem to have scattered (for a while). It’s time to go. Elrond confirms that Frodo should go with Sam. He tells of dangers and to be alert for messages. Elrond also summarizes The Company of the Ring: 9 (with 9 “walkers”),plus elves. dwarves. and men: Legolas, Gimli, Aragorn/Strider, Boromir, Peregrin. Prepare and leave in 7 days. They are armed with the sword of Elendil (re-forged, and re-named Namal Anducil), “Sting,” Bilbo’s blade and shirt of mail and belt, and travel under protection of night. “Take care, and bring back songs and stories.” [Song: “I sit beside the fire…”] They start in December in the evening. Boromir sounds out loudly (the “big mouth!”) Elrond says, “Cool it.” They are well-dressed, have food, and have their now-well-rested ponies. Elrond gives a last reminder: only Frodo is bound by an oath, the rest are volunteer companions. “May the stars shine upon your faces.” And thus they leave Rivendell, heading south into the mountains, following obscure paths to the border of Hollin. There they pause to discuss the way ahead. They light a fire. And suddenly it is silent for miles around. Be watchful. They set Sam to the first watch with Aragorn. “What’s that?” Flocks of birds – searching! Waken Gandalf and tell him. Hawks appear. they should move. Pippen is not happy. They hide through the day, and travel in the night. The next dawn, Frodo and Gandalf sense a shadow passes over. They continue south. The mountains tower over them. High winds form, then snow. Aragorn is worried. Gandalf is concerned. Boromir advises to take to the woods. They climb higher, snow piles up, the wind becomes a blizzard, great drifts form. Grodo falls into a sleep. Gandor gives them a magiv cordial to keep them alert. More snow. They try for a fire. Gandalf helps, but this reveals his presence. The fire catches – but the wood burns quickly and dies out. Then the wind abates, the snow stops. There is a dim light. Aragorn and Boromir try to forge a path through the difficult snow, but Legolas runs across on top of the snow, and they find shelter from the drifts. They carry the hobbits out, just as an avalanche blocks the path. Poor Frodo is cold, weak, hungry – the birds return. It’s been a rough fight against the mountain and the forces of nature.

    Reply

    • Maria
      Apr 29, 2015 @ 23:16:28

      You mention the scene between Frodo and Bilbo — which reminds me of how much I like that scene. Bilbo is still taking an avuncular interest in Frodo’s welfare — outfitting him with Bilbo’s own prized mail and sword. Bilbo is also enlisting Frodo as a co-author, charging him with the task of completing “our story” when the journey ends. Bilbo knows that his part in the story is done, as far as active roles go, and yet he still has an important part to play as chronicler, and he wants to share that with Frodo. All through the dangers and anxieties that lie ahead, Frodo will always have the memory that Bilbo is waiting for him to come safe home to complete the story. There’s a sweetness and security to that idea of the old hobbit who “sits beside the fire and thinks — and — listens for returning feet and voices at the door”.

      Reply

  47. Maria
    Apr 29, 2015 @ 23:08:43

    Here we go — Back on the road again after a long pause! (Both the book characters and we readers!)

    The decision about who will make up this company is interesting. On the one hand, there’s some careful balancing going on — All the “free peoples” are to be represented, elves, dwarves, men, and hobbits. But on the other hand, there’s a feeling of happenstance in exactly which individuals will fill those openings. Instead of a great elf-lord or dwarf-lord, we get the young and unknown Legolas and Gimli. While Gandalf and Aragorn are powerful choices, Boromir falls into the group by the chance that his road lies the same way, and Merry and Pippen simply won’t agree to be left behind. Just as those who attended Elrond’s Council were those who happened by some fate to be present in his house, it seems that a similar sort of fate is taking a hand in choosing the nine walkers here.

    The adventure of the snowstorm is their first test as a group, and how they handle the challenge tells us something about each one’s character, and about how the group’s dynamics are going to work out. The choice of the high mountain trail was obviously Aragorn’s. Gandalf had advocated vigorously for a different route. But Gandalf was willing to defer to Aragorn’s choice first, and even when that choice turned out to be unworkable, Gandalf made no “I told you so” remarks. These two obviously have a long-standing relationship of trust and friendship. Boromir reveals a practical side — he is the only one to suggest that they carry firewood with them in case of emergency. The elf Legolas is almost laughing at the struggles of the others to plow through snow which he runs lightly over the top of, yet it doen’t quite come off as heartlessly cavalier, since he runs ahead to do some scouting for the others even as he laughs. The hobbits struggle the most, and yet the other stronger characters don’t blame them for being burdens, but show care and concern for them, carrying them through the snow. Overall, the group handles this first test of their strength and cohesiveness very well, and begins to really “jell” as a companionable party.

    Reply

  48. Nancy
    May 05, 2015 @ 22:22:38

    Just to say that I’m sorry not to be posting more promptly. Every day seems to be tied up in knots, and the BBC came in earlier this evening, so I’ll be working on that tomorrow morning, followed by classes Thursday and Friday. Started painting the trim work on the pantry yesterday. Still have the walls to do. And the porch floor is being painted on Saturday. It’s like the zoo around here! But I promise to get to it as soon as I can. (Grrrrrr! – Grumpy and guilty!)

    Reply

    • Maria
      May 06, 2015 @ 16:16:38

      Don’t feel guilty! I’ve been busy too. Just managed to catch up a few new posts on the main page of the blog since yesterday, and I’ll have new comments on “Fellowship” in another day or so.

      Reply

  49. Maria
    May 11, 2015 @ 13:32:55

    Well — that was a bit more than “a day or so”, wasn’t it? Real life has been busy, but here we go — into the mines of Moria!

    This is the second time we’ve gone underground — (first time was in the barrow). Both times, it turned out that the most frightening and dangerous creature in the dark depths was something unconnected with Sauron and the ring and the evils on the surface. The barrow-wight and the Balrog were both ancient dark things that seem to go back to the roots of creation, relics of the original chaos. Don’t know why, but I find that aspect makes them more disturbing than Sauron and orcs and Nazgul. It’s as though we’re being reminded that defeating the darkness isn’t as simple as we like to think. Getting rid of the ring and defeating Sauron won’t mean we have achieved paradise. The barrow-wight and the Balrog — and in its own way, the Watcher in the Pool — stand stubbornly as reminders that the darkness is at a deeper level than the passing things of history, that there’s a problem of evil that is fundamental to the very existence of this mortal world.

    Reply

  50. Maria
    May 13, 2015 @ 16:55:34

    I’ve been thinking about the conflict between Gandalf and Strider about the route through Moria. Gandalf had wanted to go this way all along, even before the mountain climbing fiasco. Aragorn had dragged his feet and resisted, looking for any other possible route, perhaps heading south to Rohan or something like that. Gandalf shot down every one of these suggestions and kept pushing for Moria, as though he had already made up his mind before they ever left Rivendell. We hear only brief snippets of their discussions, the parts overheard by Frodo or the company at large, but it’s obvious that these bits are parts of a longer private discussion between the two. I wonder what each of them had in mind and what their motivations were. Aragorn seemed to fear disaster to the company in general and to Gandalf in particular, although fear didn’t usually affect him to this degree. Gandalf seemed to dismiss caution almost recklessly, although reckless decisions were not typical of him. Any thoughts on this subject?

    Reply

    • Nancy
      May 13, 2015 @ 23:57:46

      I get the impression that Gandalf wants to give the members of the company a chance to share opinions and thus to have ownership of the project, and perhaps it acts as either a check or reinforcement of his own thoughts. He is wise, and he has powers, but he is a wizard, not an all-powerful entity (as I believe Sauron wants to be). In fact, it the weak little Hobbits who have carried the Ring, not the powerful Wizard or other magical or talented characters.

      Reply

  51. Maria
    May 13, 2015 @ 17:00:53

    Also been thinking about what this journey was like for the one dwarf in the company. His people had once had a great city here. Within his lifetime, an attempt to recolonize this place had been tried, and the silence and lack of news from that colony must have sat like lead in the hearts of the northern dwarves. Gimli must have felt a combination of pride — an opportunity to show something of his people’s culture to the foreigners among whom he was traveling — and depression — the likelihood of confirming the fears about the fate of the lost colony.

    Reply

  52. Nancy
    May 13, 2015 @ 22:57:10

    Yes, it’s been difficult to keep up with the day-to-day in order to drop back to Middle Earth. Since getting back I’ve had the front porch and front/back steps painted, and just today I completed the painting of the pantry (except for a little touch up). My bookbinding class is over until July. I’m doing the planning for a new painting, went to see the recent production at the Hutch Theater Guild, aka HTG, went to a wonderful a capella concert by the Mennonite choir, did my BBC reviews, followed the UK general election (live), and foolishly over-worked my left foot a bit (resting it now). Sitting with my foot up has allowed me to catch up on Tolkien, so here goes….

    Reply

  53. Nancy
    May 13, 2015 @ 23:17:21

    Book 2, Ch. 4A (“A Journey in the Dark”) And indeed, it is dark, dark, dark…. They start with a mouthful of miruvor to warm their hearts, and Gandalf calls for some consultation. Go on or return to Rivendell? Shameful to return. If back, the Ring stays in Rivendell, and that puts Rivedell in danger. Let’s go on. Shall we try the Mines of Moria? Bad omens. Go south to Rohan? Not the same as it used to be. It’s closed to us since we have the Ring. Dangerous. Maybe it’s time to just vanish – in Moria? No, under Moria! There is hope. Might be Dwarves there who could help us. “One must tread the path that need chooses.” Gimli says he will go, but how to find the doors to get in? Gandalf says he thinks he knows how to get in. Aragorn says it’s very evil. How far is it? 15-20 miles. So who will follow Gandalf? And after some waffling about waiting to decide the next day. They feel uneasy – the wind is howling – no, not the wind, Warg-Wolves! They make hasty camp at the top of the hill, build a fire to ward off Wolves, and try to sleep – but the Wolves arrive just before dawn and there is a fire battle which drives them away. No more wind. Just silence. Well, now they all decide to go, and right speedily, too.

    Reply

    • Maria
      May 15, 2015 @ 23:39:15

      What do you think drew the wolves? Are they simply a gang of creatures roaming that stretch of country attacking whomever they discover there? Or did they set on this company deliberately and with knowledge of who and what they were? Are they free agents or are they working for Sauron or for Saruman?

      Reply

      • Nancy
        May 16, 2015 @ 07:53:25

        I kind of envision the wolves, like the birds and other adversaries, to forces of nature which become involuntarily under the control of Sauron, who chooses them for their special qualities, i.e., it’s not the wolf itself which has the value to Sauron, rather it’s the quality of the wolf which has the value. And then having “borrowed” (enslaved?) the use of that quality, he treats them like unpaid mercenaries (slaves?) for whatever period of time that is useful for Sauron. (power corrupts).

        Reply

        • Maria
          May 16, 2015 @ 16:17:51

          Sort of halfway between orcs and Nazgul, then? With less personal volition than an orc, because lacking a semi-human mind. But still with more independence than a Nazgul, because not reduced to the shadow state of a wraith, still with its own animal nature. That makes sense. Like a dog that’s been trained by its master to attack and fight: It will probably, most of the time, do what its master directs, because it has been so thoroughly dominated that it has become accustomed to obey. But still, on occasion, it might surprise us by unexpectedly going its own way.

          Reply

  54. Nancy
    May 13, 2015 @ 23:35:44

    Book 2, Ch. 4B (con’t.) Well, now the weather takes a turn for the better with clear sky and some sun. Gsndalf says they must reach the doors of Moria before sunset… trudge, trudge, trudge… by the lake, up the steps, through the trees, aha! the doors? Where are they??? door lines appear – and a large carving. Need a password. What’s the passward? Gandalf used to know it – let me think….. (time is passing, Gandalf, get with it!) “Mellon!” (Mellon? watermelon, cantaloupe?) Anyway – Yes, the doors open. Turns out “Mellon” means “Friend” – hence the password. But the lake starts to swirl and stir up and seems to be filled with snake-like critters, to everyone runs into the Mine of Moria and the door slams shut behind them. And it is dark, dark as the inside of a mine in there. BUT Gandalf exercises his power and his staff lights up. They climb some steps and pause for lunch after all this trudging and snake-ish excitement. How far to go? um, 40 miles through the Mine. They assess their situation. No fuel, no rope, can’t see to well, holes, pits, fractures, chasms. Rather daunting. Feeling dread, hear feet? Soon they meet a 3-way passage choice. Lost? Keep going. Find a large scarey chamber, so they rest all together in a chilly corner of it. They hear… tap…tap… Gandalf “can’t sleep” so he sits guard for about 6 hrs. and smokes. They they wake and start climbing again.

    Reply

    • Maria
      May 15, 2015 @ 23:42:19

      I love the part about the password on the hidden door! Gandalf is racking his brains, like a code-breaker trying all his tricks to hack into the secret password — and it turns out to be so simple! A relic of happier and more trusting days — the password is openly posted right on the door! Just say “friend”, literally, that’s all it is! And of course it’s the innocent offhand question of a hobbit that finally enlightens Gandalf.

      Reply

  55. Nancy
    May 13, 2015 @ 23:49:13

    Book 2, Ch. 4C (con’t.) Some 8 hrs have gone by and the steps are widening out to galleries. This allows them to move faster. They think they’ve covered at least 15 mi. by now. They still hear footsteps, but decide to take a rest… and then the walls vanish! Good grief! They are in black space, cold drafts, and a shaft of light – real light! So they rest a bit in a little huddle out of the draft. Gimli shares a haunting and poetic chant (“The world was young…”). No piles of jewels now – the Orcs have plundered them. Nothing is left. Moria’s true treasure was Mithril, “true silver.” “Bilbo had a corslet of mithril Rings.” (!) Frodo, on guard duty, hears this and he is shocked because he is wearing it right now under his clothing! There is silence. And then he sees two lights – like eyes. The change of guard shift comes, and Legolas is up. He sees lights … and morning dawns. After breakfast, they get going again. They enter a room, heavy with dust, and see “shapes” and a white stone – tomb? Gandalf translates the carved characters: “Balin son of Fundin Lord of Moria.” He is dead. Gimli covers his face.

    Reply

    • Maria
      May 15, 2015 @ 23:49:39

      Dwarves are gruff and terse and secretive in general. So watching Gimli open up as they travel through this ancient dwarf-city is rather surprising and also touching. He’s a young dwarf who has never seen a great place like Moria, and he’s obviously proud and excited to see what glories his ancestors built, and delighted to share some legends and lore with the others. Back at the Council of Elrond, Gloin’s report of no contact with Balin’s colony raised misgivings — I think as readers, we were already suspecting that Balin & Co had met with disaster. But I think that Gimli had not quite given up hope that somewhere in these vast caverns, they might stumble on a little band of colonists, with his uncles and cousins among them. Finding that they were all dead seems to have struck him an unexpected blow.

      Reply

    • Nancy
      May 16, 2015 @ 07:55:44

      I thought it very sly of Tolkien to slip in that corslet comment in the middle of folklore and stories. Easy to miss it!

      Reply

      • Maria
        May 16, 2015 @ 16:21:59

        This mention of Bilbo’s mithril coat serves as a little refresher for our memories, just in case this fact had slipped our minds. So when Frodo survives the spear-thrust a few pages later, we readers are primed to say “Aha! I know why!” before Aragorn and Gandalf figure it out.

        Reply

        • Nancy
          May 18, 2015 @ 20:52:05

          One hundred postings, and we aren’t halfway as yet!

          Reply

  56. Maria
    Jun 01, 2015 @ 15:57:48

    I know you said that you were just up to “Journey in the Dark”, and still hadn’t caught up to the “Bridge of Khazad-dum” and the Balrog. I don’t want to get too far ahead of my one and only only fellow-reader here. But on the other hand, I also don’t want to wait too long after I’ve read a chapter to post my thoughts, because I’m unfortunately all too likely to forget what my thoughts were! (The ol’ brain grows more sieve-like with each passing year!) So here’s what I’m thinking … I’ll just go ahead and read at my own pace and post at my own pace, but you have no obligation to keep up with me. You read at your own pace, and post whenever you like. I’ll be very happy to backtrack and reply to your comments whenever they come along.

    I’ve finished all the Lorien chapters, and I really want to move on from there to the Great River, so I’ll gather up my Lorien thoughts in a few posts before I go ahead.

    Reply

    • Nancy
      Jun 02, 2015 @ 08:01:25

      Very interesting insights into how leadership flourishes – up to now Aragorn is a skilled “trailboss,” knowledgable tracker, etc., but here he shows the use of political acumen, sort of like Marco Polo at the court of a newly-encountered contemporary.

      Reply

    • Nancy
      Jun 02, 2015 @ 08:29:56

      You are so very right. No excuses, of course, but just to share what’s been going on at this end. This week is the first one in which I’ve had time, and it has to be with my foot in the air. Indeed, my diligence has been tested. My handy man, who is going to get the pantry shelving up, is on a month-long missionary visit to Guatamala (or some place in that area, at a very inconvenient time, so I have turned my attention to installing a “slop” sink in the basement for dirty cleaning jobs. But in the meantime, it’s chaos with glass and china on three tables in the dining-living room, and “piles” of stuff sitting around. (You know me – I hate “chaos”- I like neat). Yesterday I was feeling better with my foot, and the larder was getting low, so I was out for 3 hrs doing errands and shopping. Those concrete floors are not at all comforting! And I then sat down to read, when there was a huge “BANG” in the vicinity of my back garden along the lane. I went out to take a look, and found several neighbors doing the same thing, and one of them called the police. In pretty short order, we had a fire truck and full team, with siren blowing, pulling up to take a look around. My fireman neighbor, who lives three doors up the street, came out with an embarrassed expression, and told his peers that he had been handing some sort of gas canister while cleaning up his garage, and that, yes, indeed, it had gone off. “So sorry.” I’m very glad all my neighbors are so alert. OK, now looking ahead, actually I’m relieved you’ve decided to carry on – it stimulates me to get caught up and to keep moving, too. Thanks for your patience.

      Reply

      • Maria
        Jun 02, 2015 @ 13:00:10

        Wow! Big explosive bangs in the neighborhood sound dangerous! Glad it all ended with no harm done.
        Don’t feel rushed to catch up — just take your time and get your domestic chaos sorted out. Books are patient and wait for us to pick them up when we’re ready.

        Reply

  57. Maria
    Jun 01, 2015 @ 16:34:57

    The arrival in Lorien is a slow and interesting process. We approach with stories of all sorts floating around us. To Legolas, it’s the legendary Golden Wood, full of the possibility of wonders, the place his people came from long ago. He looks forward to seeing it as eagerly as Gimli looked forward to Moria. But others have heard different stories. To Boromir, it’s a dangerous place, with vague rumors of peril within. Aragorn calls it both fair and perilous. The hobbits know nothing about it either way, so they approach it as we the readers might do, looking for clues of what to expect.

    First, we are struck by the beauty, the cleansing and healing effect of the stream Nimrodel, the golden glory of the trees. But when we first meet Haldir and the other elves, we are taken aback by their suspicious and somewhat inhospitable reaction to the visitors. At Rivendell there was ready welcome — but Lorien offers a more guarded and cool reception. We sense safety here, a place to escape the pursuit of the orcs, elves who can protect against a common enemy. But we also sense some danger, some uncertainty whether they will consider their visitors as guests or as intruders. Lorien and Rivendell may both be havens under siege, but they present quite different moods, different approaches to outsiders.

    I wonder whether Elrond being half-Elf and half-Man has anything to do with his greater openness to outsiders. Elves seem in general to be noticeably insular, and Lorien is all-elf.

    Reply

    • Nancy
      Jun 02, 2015 @ 07:55:17

      Interesting comparison – I’ll look for that when I get that far.

      Reply

  58. Maria
    Jun 01, 2015 @ 19:07:06

    Aragorn is a different sort of leader than Gandalf had been, and we first begin to see it here in Lorien. His very tactful and balanced approach to the injustice of Gimli being singled out for suspicion — this is the point at which his qualities begin to shine out for me. Gandalf might have lost his quick temper at this point, but Aragorn stays calm and proposes a solution which quietly acknowledges the injustice while also subtly encouraging a new solidarity among the members of the fellowship. Yes, it is unfair to single out Gimli to be blindfolded, as though he is a spy in their midst. Let us all — dwarf and man and hobbit and visiting elf — all be blindfolded alike. The right of Haldir to blindfold strangers is granted, but all strangers are to be treated alike. And when Legolas objects that as an elf he ought to be an exception, Aragorn uses a bit of humor to persuade him to cooperate. When I think of how Aragorn handled this, and consider how Gandalf might have dealt with it, I’m seeing a long-term benefit to Aragorn’s approach. It’s not simply that he smoothed over a situation that might have turned nasty. It’s that he “set up” the members of the fellowship to think of themselves as equal comrades, fostering a sense of solidarity that would grow over time. The strong friendship that developed later between Gimli and Legolas may have had its start right here.

    Reply

    • Maria
      Jun 02, 2015 @ 12:57:54

      Very interesting insights into how leadership flourishes – up to now Aragorn is a skilled “trailboss,” knowledgable tracker, etc., but here he shows the use of political acumen, sort of like Marco Polo at the court of a newly-encountered contemporary.
      I found your comment above, and liked your choice of “trailboss” to describe Aragorn’s role during the first part of the company’s journey. Yes, I can see that — excellent at getting the daily show on the road and all that, but deferring to Gandalf on the overall strategy, even when he disagreed with it. But now that Gandalf is gone, Aragorn’s other skills are being called into play — and political acumen is one of those skills.

      Reply

  59. Maria
    Jun 02, 2015 @ 13:26:41

    First impression of Galadriel — She knows how to be gracious and charm the visitor — but she is also a bit dangerous, able to pry into people’s thoughts, seeming to know more about people’s secrets than they’d like. Coming back to this first meeting as one who has read the story before, we know that she is one of the elves exiled to Middle-Earth as rebels in another age, and that impression of steely independence hangs around her, telling us she is not as sweet and bendable as her courtesies suggest. As a friend and ally, she would be a rock of support — but I wouldn’t want her as a foe.

    Later developments in the next couple of chapters reveal a struggle within Galadriel herself. The flash of danger we sensed in her at first comes out in the scene at the Mirror, when Frodo offers to give her the Ring, and she suddenly reveals her power and ambition. Confrontation with the temptation of the Ring seems to be a test that all of the book’s leading characters must pass decisively at some point, if they are to be free of it. Gandalf at Bag End, Strider in Bree, Elrond at Rivendell, all refused the Ring, and all seemed to be given some peace after that test was passed, some protection from the temptation. Galadriel also faces the test.

    She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken: a slender elf-woman, clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad. “I pass the test,” she said.”I will diminish, and go into the West and remain Galadriel.”

    She knows that the day of the elves is fading. The temptation of the Ring was for her the prospect of a return to the golden age of glory for the elves — but it was all along a false prospect. If she had tried it, it would have been a bitter failure. Graceful surrender to the course of history was her freedom from the Ring’s power over her. From this point on, we can trust her, in a way that we couldn’t earlier.

    Reply

  60. Nancy
    Jun 13, 2015 @ 20:08:03

    Well, I know that this will put you in shock, but I have finally gotten some reading done (and the pantry painting is finished as of this morning, so I can start to get the shelves in place. Anyway…

    Book 2, Ch. 5: “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum” (which sounds ominous, indeed) We start inside the chamber containing Balin’s tomb, Gandalf finds a half-burned book among bones and broken shields. The tome is the record of Balin’s people in Moria; it tells of their last days, when they were besieged both by hordes of Orcs and by a mysterious force much more ominous than Orcs. The final page of the record, hastily scrawled, is terrifying in its vagueness: “We cannot get out . . . drums in the deep . . . They are coming.” Of course, they are scared and saddened, and are about to leave the chamber when they suddenly hear the booming of a drum deep below them (oh, dear!), along with the noise of many running feet. They bar the west door of the chamber just as a troop of Orcs arrives, along with a great cave-troll. The cave-troll forces its way through the door, but Frodo stabs its foot with Sting and the monster withdraws. Then the Orcs break through the door, but many are slain by the Company and the rest retreat. Gandalf sees a chance to escape, so he leads the Company out through the unguarded east door—but not before an Orc-chieftain stabs Frodo in the side. The rest of the Company is amazed to see Frodo still alive. (I’m not – this is Tolkien, after all.) Gandalf holds the door shut with a closing spell while the others flee, but he feels a powerful counter-spell from the other side. The ensuing battle of spells collapses the doorway, and then the entire room. The wearied wizard rejoins the Company and leads them down toward the lower halls. Finally, they come to the Second Hall, just opposite the gate that leads out of Moria. The Company runs across the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, a slender arch of rock over a seemingly bottomless chasm. As they turn to look back, though, Legolas cries out in horror and Gimli covers his eyes. (I would, too, this is ugly.) Out of a band of Orcs leaps a great shadowy form, wreathed in flame and yet surrounded by shadow and darkness. It is a Balrog. Gandalf commands the others to flee while he holds the bridge. The Balrog swings a flaming sword and leaps forward, but the wizard stands firm. With a mighty spell, Gandalf breaks the bridge in two. The Balrog tumbles down, but in falling, casts its whip around Gandalf’s ankles and pulls him down into the depths of the cavern. As Gandalf falls, he shouts to the Company, “Fly, you fools!” Aragorn hurriedly leads the Company out of the Great Gates of Moria. They stumble a mile or so away from the mountain and then all collapse in grief. (I’m with them. I hate Orcs.)

    Reply

    • Maria
      Jun 15, 2015 @ 18:17:27

      That Gimli and Legolas knew what a Balrog was, and feared it, while the men in the company thought they could fight it with swords, is an interesting point. This is a creature from a long-distant age of the world, recognized by those whose peoples have longer historical memory. I’m struck by Gandalf’s last words — “Fly, you fools!” is exactly the sort of thing Gandalf would say when impatient or in a temper. This was typical Gandalf right to the very end, he never prettied up his blunt talk. Also struck by the fact that he was looking out for the others’ safety even at the end.

      Reply

  61. Maria
    Jun 15, 2015 @ 18:33:01

    The company’s departure from Lorien is low-key — they just drift away on the river, with no definite plans. The ring must go to Mordor eventually, they are aware of that. But when is that to happen? is Frodo to go to Minas Tirith first? Is there to be another council there, another company chosen to go with Frodo? Or is this present company to go with Frodo directly, bypassing Minas Tirith? Or is the company to split, leaving Frodo to go alone? So much indecision here, and such a sense of relief when Celeborn allows them to postpone the decision by offering to give them boats. The boats allow them to straddle the line between the two possible choices, to drift straight down the middle while ignoring the moment of choice that will inevitably come.

    At this stage of the journey, what is each one thinking? Boromir must return to Minas Tirith. Aragorn was bound to go with him, to respond to the dream that called him there — but that was before, when he thought Gandalf would probably go with Frodo. Now, Aragorn is tangled in indecision. Frodo knows that he must eventually take the ring to Mordor, but going alone frightens him — he still clings to the company. Sam knows he will go with Frodo, but he is stuck waiting for Frodo’s decision. What Legolas and Gimli are thinking is still obscure.

    And then there’s Gollum. We have all figured out by this time that Gollum is the footsteps and eyes in the dark, following them stealthily. What is he thinking? He wants his ring, his precious, but why hasn’t he tried yet to take it? What is he waiting for?

    For a slow-moving chapter, the trip down the river has quite a lot of hidden tension under the surface.

    Reply

  62. Maria
    Jun 15, 2015 @ 19:10:31

    In terms of character development, there’s also a lot going as they journey down the river. Gimli and Legolas have changed towards each other after the stay in Lorien. Galadriel’s courtesy towards Gimli has broken his prejudices — “It seemed to him that he looked suddenly into the heart of an enemy and saw there love and understanding.” Because of that, Gimli sees not just Galadriel but all elves with new eyes. And Legolas, seeing how one great elf treats Gimli, is inspired to open his own eyes. Once the barriers are broken, these two have some deep and interesting conversations. In the boats as they drift down the river, there is a very revealing discussion of how the elf and dwarf cultures regard the passage of time and the nature of memory differently.

    Boromir’s character change in this chapter, on the other hand, is disquieting. From the first time we met him, at the Council of Elrond, Boromir had a lack of understanding about the nature of the ring, thinking it could be used against the enemy by the forces of good. But when his suggestions were overruled, he accepted that and never seemed to think of simply taking the ring for himself. Yet now, ever since Lorien, we see Boromir struggling with this temptation, and we sense that it’s something new and disturbing that has recently tempted him. I almost want to say it’s inadvertently Galadriel’s doing — that since she introduced Boromir’s thoughts to the idea, he hasn’t been able to shake it.

    Aragorn is still struggling to decide where he stands since Gandalf’s death. Until now, he has been the wizard’s pupil — yet he is also the king-to-be, and it’s time he stepped forward and took up that job. Near the end of the chapter, when their boats are swept past the giant carved images of past kings, we see Aragorn straighten up and grow in stature, as though some inspiration has definitely touched him here, bringing him to some interior acceptance of the burden. Beginning with the next chapter’s events, we will see Aragorn pick up his mission and start walking like a true king.

    Reply

  63. Nancy
    Jul 14, 2015 @ 20:47:58

    I’m sorry to be so slow in my reading. Reading and taking notes, and translating the notes into readable material is rather time consuming. But here goes…

    Book II, Ch. 6 (“Lothlorien”) With Gandalf lost, Aragorn assumes command of the Company. Hopeless though they all feel, the Ranger leads them away from the Misty Mountains and toward the Elvish forest of Lothlórien (Lórien). Stopping briefly to tend to Frodo’s injury, Aragorn is amazed to find Bilbo’s coat of mithril, which saved Frodo from his spear wound in Moria. (There have been days when I would have liked even a vest of mithril!) Moving on, the Company comes to a deep well of crystal-clear water. Legolas and Aragorn are relieved to arrive at Lórien, but Boromir is wary. Among Men, the name of the forest is surrounded by strange rumors. (Look out – where there’s smoke, there’s fire.)

    Legolas tells the others of the history of Lothlórien: sorrow came in the Dark Days, when the Dwarves awakened the evil in Moria that then spread out into the hills and threatened Lórien. Gimli bristles at this mention. The Company enters the woods as night falls but is suddenly stopped by a group of Elves, led by one named Haldir, who have been watching from the trees. Luckily, the elves recognize Legolas as kindred and have also heard something of Frodo’s quest, so they bring the strangers up to their tree-platforms. After night falls, a company of Orcs passes under them, chasing after the Fellowship, but the creatures are waylaid by the Elves. Frodo and the others then see another strange creature—a small, crouching shape with pale eyes—but it slips away into the night. (Ooooo wonder who that is!)

    In the morning, the Company walks further into Lórien, reaching the river Silverlode. At one point, the Elves tell Gimli that he must be blindfolded so that he does not know where he is walking, especially because the Dwarves and Elves have not gotten along since the Dark Days. Gimli strongly objects, and the dispute nearly comes to blows. Thinking quickly, Aragorn demands that all the Company, even Legolas, be blindfolded. Gimli assents, so all the members of the Fellowship are led blindfolded into the Naith, or heart, of Lórien. Once they arrive, Haldir receives word that the Lady Galadriel, queen of the forest, has decreed that the Fellowship’s blindfolds may be removed.

    When the blindfolds are taken off, the strangers behold a forest that seems to belong to another age. Its trees and flowers surpass the beauty of any other growing things, and the light and colors are ethereal golds and greens. They are at Cerin Amroth, a hill with a double ring of trees that is, in Aragorn’s words, “the heart of Elvendom on earth.” (A very nice plave, indeed!) Haldir takes Frodo and Sam up to a platform on top of the trees, from which they gaze at the enchanted land surrounding them, noticing also the forbidding lands beyond. When the hobbits descend, they find Aragorn in a powerful and blissful daydream.

    This gives me a chance to comment on Tolkien’s use of the natural world to both set the scenes and places vividly, and invest it in appropriate context and atmosphere and mood. This includes the trees, which are often live characters, as well as the various sorts of wildlife.

    Reply

    • Maria
      Aug 06, 2015 @ 21:18:40

      First, I must apologize for not replying to your post sooner. I’ve been totally neglecting this blog lately, due to the various busyness that I mentioned on the phone when we spoke. But now that life has gotten more orderly again, I’m really going to plunge into keeping up with this discussion better.

      You say — “Frodo and the others then see another strange creature—a small, crouching shape with pale eyes—but it slips away into the night. (Ooooo wonder who that is!)” Of course we both know that it’s Gollum, but would we know that if we hadn’t read the books before? I’ve been trying to remember back to what it was like when I first read this, some four decades ago, and how things struck me when it was all fresh and unknown. Did I guess that it was Gollum? I really can’t remember. All the years of re-reading have blurred my memory of what I thought then. Do you have any recollection of your own first reading’s impressions?

      You also say — “This gives me a chance to comment on Tolkien’s use of the natural world to both set the scenes and places vividly, and invest it in appropriate context and atmosphere and mood. This includes the trees, which are often live characters, as well as the various sorts of wildlife.” Yes, I’ve always really appreciated the realistic natural landscapes that Tolkien describes along the way. It’s so grounded in the way things are, soil and rocks and water, trees and grass and weather, that it feels like a real world, a place you or I might remember. Because he only occasionally departs from the ordinary and realistic to add something unnatural and inexplicable, those touches become more noticeable because they are so rare and unexpected. If Tolkien had overused the fantastic elements, it wouldn’t have felt like a real world.

      Reply

      • Nancy
        Aug 13, 2015 @ 22:17:27

        I’m so glad you have found time to post – I’ve missed our exchanges – but it’s my fault also. I’ve never had such a busy summer before. And I’m so sorry I had to cut out chat so short. That 40-foot tree limb on the pecan tree, necessitated calling in Westar electric, who brought over a cherry-picker to get up into the tree. They trimmed all around the electrical line, and then the tree person finished clearing out the general area and did a cleanup, and then removed a whole truck full to the regional dump some 9 miles away, all for $200 – a necessary expense, but much safer now. Thanks for your patience.

        Reply

        • Maria
          Aug 15, 2015 @ 00:03:00

          Trees and electric wires don’t play well together, do they? I’m glad you got that taken care of — much safer !

          Reply

  64. Maria
    Aug 06, 2015 @ 21:41:02

    About time to finish up this book — So here I go with comments on the final chapter.

    We all knew the day would come when a decision couldn’t be postponed, when staying in the middle of the stream had to end. So it’s not a surprise when the title of the chapter, “The Breaking of the Fellowship”, gives it away. It’s like a piece of music that has been repeating an aimless monotonous passage for too long, and suddenly a brisk new theme comes trumpeting out. Wherever we are going from here, there’s a sense of relief that the suspense is over and everything is rolling. Hold on tight, because we’re about to change from a slow walk to a mad gallop!

    But we start out with more aimless indecisiveness. Aragorn passes the decision to Frodo, and Frodo stalls for an hour of chasing his own thoughts in circles as he meanders unseeing through the woods. Meanwhile back at the camp, the rest of the group discusses and discusses in another endless circle of mights and shoulds and what-ifs. There’s a sense of pressure frustrated by inertia. Something outside the circle will have to come in and break the logjam.

    And that’s exactly what finally happens. Boromir becomes the explosion that shakes it all loose. But I’ll save Boromir for a comment of his own.

    Reply

    • Nancy
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 22:22:13

      Some very good points in this, especially about Boromir. I have always thought that the film was good, but that Boromir’s motivations were not clearly handled. But that’s rather nit-picky on my part. I think Frodo experiences considerable confusion about what’s happening within him and around him, but at this point, he chooses action – the exercise of his will. Great insights.

      Reply

  65. Maria
    Aug 06, 2015 @ 21:59:31

    We’ve seen Boromir gnawing away at his own soul ever since Lorien, picking at the thought of taking the ring like someone obsessively picking at a sore, until it becomes too raw to heal. What caused the explosion in this chapter? As long as he and Frodo were traveling together, Boromir could contain himself, keep waiting, see what might develop if Frodo came along to Minas Tirith. But here, now, the possibility that they might go separate ways, that this might be his last chance, that Frodo and the ring might go out of his reach, created a feeling of urgency that Boromir couldn’t subdue. There was a now-or-never desperation to his argument with Frodo.

    The desperation was what frightened Frodo. Useless suggestions to use the ring against the enemy, as long as they were reasoned and theoretical, Frodo had dealt with before. But Boromir was beyond reason here. Boromir was completely unbalanced by his fear of losing track of the ring-bearer. And Boromir’s fear in turn frightened Frodo, because it wasn’t something that could be argued away with reasons. Unable to reason with Boromir, Frodo panicked and fled. One fear created the other, and the result of this whole muddle was exactly the push that was necessary to break up the indecisiveness and launch Frodo in the direction he really needed to go.

    But where did that leave Boromir? We readers know that what happened was for the best, that Frodo was going where he had to go. But Boromir didn’t know that. From his viewpoint, he had created a massive foul-up, sending Frodo off unprepared into a dangerously unplanned and unprotected suicidal flight. Boromir’s guilt and shame must have been horrible for him, and trying to wrestle his way out of that failure may have been just what he needed to bring him back to his senses. I believe in the sincerity of his repentance.

    Reply

  66. Maria
    Aug 06, 2015 @ 22:23:58

    What about Frodo? When he set out on that aimless walk alone in the woods, he knew that he had to take the ring to Mordor. It was something he had known in a theoretical way ever since Rivendell — maybe even since Bag End. But we can know something in our heads without being prepared to accept it in our hearts or live it out in our bodies. This is the day when Frodo has to move from theory to practice, and the first step simply isn’t happening. He basically needs a kick in the hoojeewobber to get him started. The shock of having Boromir go dangerously unhinged is just the kick Frodo needs, an electrical jolt that starts him.

    The trouble at first is that it shocks Frodo into aimless and fear-driven motion. He runs madly away, in a dangerous direction. On the high hill, he feels naked and revealed to the eye of his enemy. In his fear, he tried to hide. He puts on the ring — exactly the wrong move, since that will not hide him, but reveal him. And here’s where something interesting happens. The spirit of the enemy is pressuring him to give in to fear and hide himself with the ring. Meanwhile the spirit of what seems to be Gandalf is pressuring him to take off the ring, calling him a fool, warning him of danger. Caught between these two outside pressures, Frodo agonizes. And suddenly he discovers himself, his freedom, his power to choose.

    “The two powers strove in him. For a moment, perfectly balanced between their piercing points, he writhed, tormented. Suddenly he was aware of himself again. Frodo, neither the Voice nor the Eye: free to choose, and with one remaining instant in which to do so. He took the Ring off his finger.”

    Neither evil powers nor good powers can force Frodo’s free will. He is free to decide. This is such an immensely important discovery for Frodo, the discovery of the strength of his own freedom. To realize our own freedom is to feel whatever is holding us bound suddenly loosed and fallen away. Now Frodo can do whatever he needs to do.

    Sam has that same freedom — maybe even more surely than Frodo. Sam makes up his own mind and follows Frodo, no matter what instructions he is given by anyone else. Even Frodo himself telling Sam to go back doesn’t have any effect. If Frodo is going, then Sam is going too. These two have simply cut through the tangled hindrances that the others have gotten snagged in, and become free to do what they are called to do, hindered by nothing.

    We end the first volume with a sense of freedom that seems glad, even though we are watching our two little friends head off into dark dangers, even though the rest of the party is left in a mess — somehow despite all that, the last notes that sound from the end of this book are a soaring motif of freedom!

    Reply

  67. Nancy
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 22:25:11

    I’m going on to the next part and will try harder to keep up. (These Loooong chapters get to me.

    Reply

    • Maria
      Aug 15, 2015 @ 00:05:32

      I seem to be the one who didn’t keep up too well — leaving month-long gaps in the conversation! The second book will be a fresh start for both of us. And I still have hopes that more folks will jump into the discussion!

      Reply

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