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The Great River -- Black Swans and other details

Entwife Wandlimb
Lorien


Mar 24 2008, 2:18pm


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The Great River -- Black Swans and other details Can't Post

Welcome to this week’s FotR discussion of The Great River! I am going to be travelling midweek but have sent the questions to NE Brigand to post for me those days (thank you!). You can expect about 5 questions a day, as well as the definitions of most of the words I didn’t recognize. Feel free to skim over the chapter quotations, which are just there for your convenience. We’re going in order, so if I skip over something that piques your interest, go ahead and bring it up. (I’m assuming you’ve all read the story, so beware of spoilers.) We’ll start with the last sentence of chapter 8.
Frodo sat and listened to the faint lap and gurgle of the River fretting among the tree-roots and driftwood near the shore, until his head nodded and he fell into an uneasy sleep.
Chapter 9
The Great River
Frodo was roused by Sam. He found that he was lying, well wrapped, under tall grey-skinned trees in a quiet corner of the woodlands on the west bank of the Great River, Anduin. He had slept the night away, and the grey of morning was dim among the bare branches. Gimli was busy with a small fire near at hand.
1. I like this cozy description. It reminds me of camping. What strikes me as a bit odd is the idea that Frodo fell asleep in the boat and then was carried to “bed” and tucked in. What do you suppose is Tolkien trying to convey in these little details?
They started again before the day was broad. Not that most of the Company were eager to hurry southwards: they were content that the decision, which they must make at latest when they came to Rauros and the Tindrock Isle, still lay some days ahead; and they let the River bear them on at its own pace, having no desire to hasten towards the perils that lay beyond, whichever course they took in the end.
I’m not big on geography, but you’d think that by now “Rauros and the Tindrock Isle” would mean something to me. Nope. I looked it up. Back in Farewell to Lórien, Celeborn warned:
As you go down the water ... you will come to a barren country. There the River flows in stony vale amid high moors, until at last after many leagues it comes to the tall island of the Tindrock, that we call Tol Brandir. There it casts its arms about the steep shores of the isle, and falls then with a great noise and smoke over the cataracts of Rauros down into the Nindalf, the Wetwang as it is called in your tongue.
2. Do these place names mean something to you or do they just add to the impression of realism to you?
Aragorn let them drift with the stream as they wished, husbanding their strength against weariness to come. But he insisted that at least they should start early each day and journey on far into the evening; for he felt in his heart that time was pressing, and he feared that the Dark Lord had not been idle while they lingered in Lórien.
3. No one seems to be in much of a hurry. Can you imagine Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom, and Viggo Mortensen just sitting in the boats without paddling? After Gollum creeps up on them, Aragorn has them paddle for “long spells.” Any thoughts on their pacing?
They had come to the Brown Lands that lay, vast and desolate, between Southern Mirkwood and the hills of the Emyn Muil. What pestilence or war or evil deed of the Enemy had so blasted all that region even Aragorn could not tell.
Here’s a bit more about the Brown Lands from TT, Book III, Ch 4, Treebeard:
Then when the Darkness came in the North, the Entwives crossed the Great River, and made new gardens, and tilled new fields, and we saw them more seldom. After the Darkness was overthrown the land of the Entwives blossomed richly, and their fields were full of corn. Many men learned the crafts of the Entwives and honoured them greatly; but we were only a legend to them, a secret in the heart of the forest. Yet here we still are, while all the gardens of the Entwives are wasted: Men call them the Brown Lands now.
…Here and there through openings Frodo could catch sudden glimpses of rolling meads [archaic for “meadow”], and far beyond them hills in the sunset, and away on the edge of sight a dark line, where marched the southernmost ranks of the Misty Mountains.
There was no sign of living moving things, save birds. Of these there were many: small fowl whistling and piping in the reeds, but they were seldom seen. Once or twice the travellers heard the rush and whine of swan-wings, and looking up they saw a great phalanx streaming along the sky.
`Swans! ' said Sam. `And mighty big ones too! '
`Yes,' said Aragorn, 'and they are black swans.'
Now for a rabbit trail. I’ve often wondered about those black swans. They seemed to be a bad omen. I found as interesting article about them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Swan_emblems_and_popular_culture#European_myth_and_metaphor
In Europe, from Roman times until 1697, black swans were a metaphor for something that did not exist -- like hen’s teeth. Then, black swans were discovered in Australia. “The taking of Black Swans to Europe in the 18th and early 19th centuries brought the birds into contact with another aspect of European mythology: the attribution of sinister relationships between the devil and black-coloured animals such as a black cat.”
I thought it telling the Tolkein referred to them as a “phalanx.” But, Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson (1864 – 1941, "Waltzing Matilda", "The Man from Snowy River") also wrote a poem about black swans that begins:
…I watch as the wild black swans fly over
With their phalanx turned to the sinking sun…
Still, the San Diego Zoo website says a group of swans may be a bevy, herd, bank, wedge, flight – no phalanx.
4. Why do you suppose Tolkien included black swans at this point in the story?

Subject User Time
The Great River -- Black Swans and other details Entwife Wandlimb Send a private message to Entwife Wandlimb Mar 24 2008, 2:18pm
    Ah yes, the flying pigs. Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 24 2008, 3:56pm
        Sorry I missed that Entwife Wandlimb Send a private message to Entwife Wandlimb Mar 24 2008, 8:32pm
        Rauros = "roaring spray" Menelwyn Send a private message to Menelwyn Mar 24 2008, 9:44pm
            Thanks. That's typical Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 25 2008, 6:02pm
                Also Hobbiton, Drúadan Forest, Dor-en-Ernil, and Helm’s Deep. // N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Mar 22 2009, 8:29am
                    Only Helm's Deep is specific Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 22 2009, 9:49am
                        Amroth has a couple of places named after him. // sador Send a private message to sador Mar 22 2009, 11:50am
                            If Tolkien had written more tales, Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 22 2009, 2:22pm
        What about N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Mar 22 2009, 8:29am
            That too.// Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 22 2009, 9:44am
    My thoughts White Gull Send a private message to White Gull Mar 24 2008, 4:11pm
    River-rafting Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Mar 24 2008, 5:43pm
    A few thoughts FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Mar 24 2008, 5:54pm
        Tolkein could have written that! White Gull Send a private message to White Gull Mar 24 2008, 6:19pm
        “until I saw the Falls of Rauros in the movie” N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Mar 22 2009, 8:30am
    Second thoughts sador Send a private message to sador Mar 24 2008, 9:54pm
        Well, there is a "real" Wetwang FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Mar 25 2008, 3:20pm
    A phalanx Isis Send a private message to Isis Mar 24 2008, 11:10pm
    Impossible Darkstone Send a private message to Darkstone Mar 25 2008, 7:10pm
        Should they be “husbanding their strength” or should they “paddle hard all day”? N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Mar 22 2009, 8:31am
            Aragorn should.. Darkstone Send a private message to Darkstone Mar 22 2009, 2:59pm
    Swanning along Lacrimae Rerum Send a private message to Lacrimae Rerum Mar 27 2008, 12:46am
    *hee* Fandoms collide. Eowyn of Penns Woods Send a private message to Eowyn of Penns Woods Apr 5 2008, 2:32am
        I saw that! Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Apr 6 2008, 11:35pm

 
 
 

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