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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
THE RING GOES SOUTH: Part the first.

Pryderi
Rivendell

Oct 25 2010, 12:29pm

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THE RING GOES SOUTH: Part the first. Can't Post

Hi folks and welcome to this week's LOTR chapter discussion on "The Ring Goes South". My plan is to look at the chapter thematically, if that is the right word. In this post I plan to look at the "plot" of the chapter: the events that take place. In subsequent posts I hope to discuss: The character development that occurs in the chapter; the geography, that is landscape and climate that are described and Tolkien's use of language to get the story across. That gives four threads including this one which I hope to post on a daily basis. If all goes according to plan I will start a fifth and final Open Discussion thread on Friday. Any comments on this overall plan, as the week goes by, would be welcome. In the past I have chosen to analyse Tolkien's text paragraph by paragraph so this is a bit of a departure for me. I hope it works.

I hope all that made sense. I will assume that it did and without more ado move on to look at the events that take place during the course of this chapter which is 23 pages long in my second edition copy.

The chapter seems to fall naturally into two sections. Firstly the stay in Rivendell seen from the Hobbits point of view and secondly the initial stages of the Fellowship's journey. There is, however an interesting transitional phase which Tolkien takes two or three pages to describe: The departure from Rivendell. During this departure scene the Hobbits are no longer wholly in Rivendell, nor is the Fellowship quite journeying south. Well it's arguable that this is a transition within a chapter that is itself transitional in the wider context of a story which describes the transition of Middle Earth from one form into another. I'm interested in what people may think of this. Does the analysis hold up? If so does it work well dramatically? Etc. etc. For what it's worth I like it and I will occasionally refer to "the sojourn", "the departure" and "the journey" to describe these three parts of the chapter.

During the sojourn the following events take place:
1) The Hobbits hold a meeting which Gandalf gate crashes. We learn that Merry and Pippin want to go with Frodo and from Gandalf about the preparations that are being made. In due course Gandalf says that he thinks he will go with Frodo.
For this and all other events feel free to comment on their importance or lack of it to the chapter or story as a whole.
2) The Hobbits stay for some time recovering and every night Frodo sees the famous and much discussed red star "low in the South".
It's always fun to try and work out what this star is. Please feel free to do just that. Frodo sees it. Does any body else? Old ideas, new ideas: all are welcome.
3) After two months scouts return. It appears that the Black Riders are scattered and that Frodo can depart. Elrond chooses companions for him who are too numerous (and well known) to mention. Three of them: Boromir, Legolas and Gimli, however, have only been briefly described to the reader prior to this.
After some debate Gandalf convinces Elrond to allow Merry and Pippin to tag along. Was this a good idea? I think Elrond makes a good case for sending them home and his suspicions about Pippin are amply confirmed on numerous occasions. What do you think? Fate, Destiny, Providence anyone? Or is it really just Curious's "Higher Powers"?
4) The broken sword is reforged for Aragorn who renames it. Gandalf and Aragorn discuss the forthcoming journey but Frodo isn't that interested. It seems that he will be content to rely on guides. Hmm. Is this wise on Frodo's part? Is it plausible? I think I'd have wanted some idea of what was planned.
5) Frodo meets up with Bilbo who gives him Sting and the mithril shirt. It might be fun to have another chat about Bilbo thrusting Sting "deep into a wooden beam" and Frodo "accepting it gratefully". Any takers? Finally Bilbo sings a song as is his wont. On my first reading in the early 1960s I ignored all the poems and songs in my eagerness to find out what was going to happen. A few years later I read the book ignoring everything except the poems and songs. These days I love them and this one of Bilbo's in particular. How about you?

During the farewell the following events take place:
1) They leave at dusk, on December 25th according to the appendices. Comments? Elrond offers advice and the various accoutrements of the Fellowship are described. Sam realises he has forgotten to pack rope. What purpose does this little incident serve? Sam will not miss it until Lothlorien where he will acquire the rope that does come in handy later on. I think it may be an example of Squire's idea about the apparent foreshadowing that isn't. How about you?
2) During these events Boromir blows his horn and Gimli exchanges platitudes with Elrond. I shall raise these issues later in the week.

During the journey the following events take place:
1) They travel south for a fortnight. How did they know which way was south? We are told the sky is overcast so sun and stars seem unlikely. What about a compass? Does any body know of anywhere that Tolkien indicates this technology was available?
2) They reach Hollin and see the mountains ahead of them. Gimli waxes lyrical and Legolas communes with the stones. More of these matters anon. There is no birdsong and Strider is worried. Why are there no birds? Is it important?
3) Later they see regiments of crows and suspect they may be spies so they decide to light no fire much to Pippin's distress. They are travelling by night and resting up by day and must continue to do so. They head for the Redhorn Gate, the pass through the mountains and must climb the slopes of Caradhras to reach it. So far nothing "exciting" has happened, no monsters or anything, and yet….. I detect a tension rising inexorably as it seems. What do you think?
4) They continue towards the mountains for some days and start to worry about the weather. It becomes clear that Gandalf has an alternative route in mind "a dark and secret way" but that Aragorn is not happy with it. Frodo does not like the sound of it whatever it is. Still nothing has happened but I feel as though I am being wound up like a clock. How about you?
5) They set out to climb the pass and Boromir the mountain man convinces them to carry wood because in a choice between freezing to death and being seen by crows he thinks they might like to light a fire. Then something happens. It starts to snow! They continue although the Hobbits at least are out of their comfort zone. The snow continues, gets heavier and starts drifting. Is it natural? Is the mountain itself against them? Is it Sauron changing the weather? Nobody seems to know. What about Fate Destiny, Providence (and Higher Powers) etc?
6) The company is benighted and Frodo starts exhibiting classic signs of exhaustion exposure which Boromir notices. Where did Tolkien learn about hypothermia etc? His Alpine "walking tour"? Gandalf doses them up with miruvor "the cordial of Imladris" and they light a fire with Boromir's wood and Gandalf's firelighting skills. They survive the night. What is miruvor? Is it alcoholic or does it contain some other drug? Is it a placebo?
7) In the morning they realise they cannot continue and must get off the mountain. Boromir assisted by Aragorn fights his way through an enormous drift while Legolas scampers about on top of the snow! They fight their way down the mountain until the going gets easier. They are exhausted and so is this reader. How about you? And now we've got Gandalf's "dark and secret way" to worry about. Yikes! I think I'll have to read just one more chapter before turning the light off. Was that anybody else's reaction to chapters like this on a first reading of the book?

That's it for now folks. Hopefully I'll get something up about character development tomorrow.

Pryderi.


Darkstone
Immortal


Oct 25 2010, 8:50pm

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Any comments on this overall plan, as the week goes by, would be welcome.

I wouldn’t criticize anyone willing to lead a weekly discussion, especially in the Reading Room.


In the past I have chosen to analyse Tolkien's text paragraph by paragraph so this is a bit of a departure for me. I hope it works.

I hope all that made sense. I will assume that it did and without more ado move on to look at the events that take place during the course of this chapter which is 23 pages long in my second edition copy.


I have an electronic copy myself.


The chapter seems to fall naturally into two sections. Firstly the stay in Rivendell seen from the Hobbits point of view and secondly the initial stages of the Fellowship's journey. There is, however an interesting transitional phase which Tolkien takes two or three pages to describe: The departure from Rivendell. During this departure scene the Hobbits are no longer wholly in Rivendell, nor is the Fellowship quite journeying south. Well it's arguable that this is a transition within a chapter that is itself transitional in the wider context of a story which describes the transition of Middle Earth from one form into another. I'm interested in what people may think of this. Does the analysis hold up? If so does it work well dramatically? Etc. etc. For what it's worth I like it and I will occasionally refer to "the sojourn", "the departure" and "the journey" to describe these three parts of the chapter.

It’s interesting that we are entering a liminal space, but also a liminal period of time. And just about everyone is going through a liminal state of consciousness.


During the sojourn the following events take place:
1) The Hobbits hold a meeting which Gandalf gate crashes. We learn that Merry and Pippin want to go with Frodo and from Gandalf about the preparations that are being made. In due course Gandalf says that he thinks he will go with Frodo.
For this and all other events feel free to comment on their importance or lack of it to the chapter or story as a whole.


Think maybe Gandalf had already made up his mind?

Interesting contrast:

‘I do not know if I can do anything to help you; but I will whisper this in your ears. Someone said that intelligence would be needed in the party. He was right. I think I shall come with you.'

Versus the later:

`The Company of the Ring shall be Nine; and the Nine Walkers shall be set against the Nine Riders that are evil. With you and your faithful servant, Gandalf will go; for this shall be his great task, and maybe the end of his labours.’

Question: Does Gandalf have Free Will?


2) The Hobbits stay for some time recovering and every night Frodo sees the famous and much discussed red star "low in the South".
It's always fun to try and work out what this star is. Please feel free to do just that. Frodo sees it. Does any body else? Old ideas, new ideas: all are welcome.


I’ll go with Aldebaran, though it’s not out of the question it’s the red star on one of Sauron’s ever patrolling Mi-24 Hind helicopters.


3) After two months scouts return. It appears that the Black Riders are scattered and that Frodo can depart.

The Nazgul haven’t been able to reform after two whole months? And Sauron hasn’t sent out a party of orcs with buckets?


Elrond chooses companions for him who are too numerous (and well known) to mention. Three of them: Boromir, Legolas and Gimli, however, have only been briefly described to the reader prior to this.

Obviously the selection process has become so politicized that only stealth nominees can be appointed.


After some debate Gandalf convinces Elrond to allow Merry and Pippin to tag along. Was this a good idea?

The debate was a good idea. Dunno about the result.


I think Elrond makes a good case for sending them home and his suspicions about Pippin are amply confirmed on numerous occasions. What do you think? Fate, Destiny, Providence anyone? Or is it really just Curious's "Higher Powers"?

Without Pippin there’s no stone down the well, no dead Gandalf the Grey, and thus no Gandalf the White. That’s bad.

Also no Guard of the Citadel, Faramir is burned alive, Aragorn doesn’t have a friendly Steward more than willing to hand over the kingship without a peep, and a certain shieldmaiden is up in the tower of the Houses of Healing looking down the shaft of an arrow at Arwen riding into town for her wedding. That’s really bad.

As for Merry, apparently he was the only one to bother to visit the Rivendell library and look at a map of where they’re going.

And you can always use spare Ringbearers that are small, light, and easy to toss into the Cracks of Doom.


4) The broken sword is reforged for Aragorn who renames it. Gandalf and Aragorn discuss the forthcoming journey but Frodo isn't that interested. It seems that he will be content to rely on guides. Hmm. Is this wise on Frodo's part? Is it plausible? I think I'd have wanted some idea of what was planned.

“Sometimes Frodo was with them; but he was content to lean on their guidance, and he spent as much time as he could with Bilbo.”

Seems typical of a soldier wishing to spend as much time with his loved ones as possible before shipping overseas. Really, there’s not too much he can do but to rely upon the Higher Powers, in this case Gandalf and Aragorn, and it’s unlikely both would come to grief, isn’t it?


5) Frodo meets up with Bilbo who gives him Sting and the mithril shirt. It might be fun to have another chat about Bilbo thrusting Sting "deep into a wooden beam" and Frodo "accepting it gratefully". Any takers?

Well, rather than mythical references how about personal experience? British Army officers were required to buy their own uniforms. That would include his own sword, which might have been a bit expensive for young 2nd Lieutenant Tolkien. So perhaps he economized by visiting an old relative or family friend. (“Take it, if you like. I shan't want it again, I expect.”) Of course if the sword was a bit too banged up he might have to get it refurbished (“Very bright was that sword when it was made whole again; the light of the sun shone redly in it, and the light of the moon shone cold, and its edge was hard and keen.”) but it would still be cheaper than buying a new one.


Finally Bilbo sings a song as is his wont. On my first reading in the early 1960s I ignored all the poems and songs in my eagerness to find out what was going to happen. A few years later I read the book ignoring everything except the poems and songs. These days I love them and this one of Bilbo's in particular. How about you?

It’s my favorite Tolkien piece. It becomes even moreso as I age.


During the farewell the following events take place:
1) They leave at dusk, on December 25th according to the appendices. Comments?


It’s a fundamentally Catholic work. Now if the big bad was defeated exactly three months later it would be just perfect.


Elrond offers advice and the various accoutrements of the Fellowship are described. Sam realises he has forgotten to pack rope. What purpose does this little incident serve?

“And hold fast, all together, to the rope of God which stretches out to you, and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude God’s favour on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, ye became brethren; and ye were on the brink of the pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus doth God make His Signs clear to you: That ye may be guided.
”Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity.”
-Surah 3.103-104, The Holy Quran


Sam will not miss it until Lothlorien where he will acquire the rope that does come in handy later on. I think it may be an example of Squire's idea about the apparent foreshadowing that isn't. How about you?

Not just any downstream rope will do. He needs something to keep him connected to Frodo not only physically, but spirtually as well. This will require some very specially made rope.


2) During these events Boromir blows his horn…

“…so ends all hope of starting early, and slipping away quietly! We might as well have blown a horn to announce our departure.”
-Strider, A Knife in the Dark


… and Gimli exchanges platitudes with Elrond. I shall raise these issues later in the week.

At that moment Elrond came out with Gandalf, and he called the Company to him. 'This is my last word,' he said in a low voice.


‘The further you go, the less easy will it be to withdraw; yet no oath or bond is laid on you to go further than you will. For you do not yet know the strength of your hearts, and you cannot foresee what each may meet upon the road.'
`Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens,' said Gimli.
'Maybe,' said Elrond, `but let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall.'
'Yet sworn word may strengthen quaking heart,' said Gimli.
`Or break it,' said Elrond.

(Jeez! Shut up already! I bet Elrond would still be saying his “last words” if Bilbo hadn’t interrupted him..)


During the journey the following events take place:
1) They travel south for a fortnight. How did they know which way was south? We are told the sky is overcast so sun and stars seem unlikely.


There’s various ways. For example, given that they are north of the equator (If they were south of the equator the opposite of the following would be true): The most luxurious moss growth on a tree will be on the south side. Tree rings of a felled tree will be more widely spaced on the south side. In a ravine, the slope that is noticeably more cool and damp (or has more snow pack) than the other is the one facing north. (If both slopes seem about the same it’s probably an East-West cut.) Of course the easiest way is simply to wet your finger and hold it in the air; the side that feels the most cool is the direction the wind is coming from; check the “wind rose” on your map for the direction of prevailing winds in the area. (I would imagine Strider wouldn’t need a map.)


What about a compass?

You can make one just by rubbing a piece of needle-shaped ferrous metal through your own hair. (Rub in one direction only.) Then tie a hair to the middle, let it dangle, where it points is north.


Does any body know of anywhere that Tolkien indicates this technology was available?

Magnetic compasses were known to the Chinese (and perhaps to the Olmecs) over a millennium before they were known to the West. What with umbrellas and mantle clocks, if anyone had magnetic compasses in Middle-earth I’d say hobbits. (Are they Chinese or Olmecs?) Then while guarding the borders of the Shire the Dunedain would steal the idea and become known as almost supernatural trackers. So I bet Strider has a secret magnetic compass hidden in his boot. He surreptitiously takes it out, holds it unobtrusively in his hand, shades his eyes with the hand, and while squinting at the overcast sky points and confidentially announces “That way is north!’ to everyone’s utter amazement. Like how Crocodile Dundee can tell the exact time of day by looking at the position of the sun in the sky but only after sneaking a glance at Walter’s wrist watch.


2) They reach Hollin and see the mountains ahead of them. Gimli waxes lyrical and Legolas communes with the stones. More of these matters anon. There is no birdsong and Strider is worried. Why are there no birds?

Lighthouses, mobile phone base stations, and Gollum.


Is it important?

They’re going to have trouble with all three before the end.


3) Later they see regiments of crows and suspect they may be spies so they decide to light no fire much to Pippin's distress. They are travelling by night and resting up by day and must continue to do so. They head for the Redhorn Gate, the pass through the mountains and must climb the slopes of Caradhras to reach it. So far nothing "exciting" has happened, no monsters or anything, and yet….. I detect a tension rising inexorably as it seems. What do you think?

I’m wondering why they’re camping by day and traveling by night since most of their enemies, say orcs, trolls, werewolves, and Nazgul, function best at night. Seems like they should do the reverse: Travel during the day and hunker down in a good defensive position at night. Oddly enough, that’s exactly what they are doing when they finally are attacked at night by wolves in Hollin.


4) They continue towards the mountains for some days and start to worry about the weather. It becomes clear that Gandalf has an alternative route in mind "a dark and secret way" but that Aragorn is not happy with it. Frodo does not like the sound of it whatever it is. Still nothing has happened but I feel as though I am being wound up like a clock. How about you?

I’m enjoying the character of Middle-earth.


5) They set out to climb the pass and Boromir the mountain man convinces them to carry wood because in a choice between freezing to death and being seen by crows he thinks they might like to light a fire. Then something happens. It starts to snow! They continue although the Hobbits at least are out of their comfort zone. The snow continues, gets heavier and starts drifting. Is it natural? Is the mountain itself against them? Is it Sauron changing the weather? Nobody seems to know. What about Fate Destiny, Providence (and Higher Powers) etc?

Fate helps those who help themselves, but apparently not those who help themselves to firewood.


6) The company is benighted and Frodo starts exhibiting classic signs of exhaustion exposure which Boromir notices. Where did Tolkien learn about hypothermia etc?

Officer training. Hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot were constant dangers in the trenches. A very large responsibility for officers (like Tolkien) was to constantly take precautions to prevent their men from getting cold injuries, such as making sure they kept warm and dry, changed their socks and boots regularly, etc. Casualties were especially vulnerable to hypothermia. A wounded man might have to be kept at the front for hours until it became relatively safe to transport him back to a hospital after nightfall. (They'd draw fire during the daylight.) Until then the wounded would be kept wrapped in warm blankets, in a small dugout warmed usually with lit candles, and given warmed liquid to drink. A fellow soldier might also be detailed to provide body heat.


His Alpine "walking tour"?

There too.


Gandalf doses them up with miruvor "the cordial of Imladris" and they light a fire with Boromir's wood and Gandalf's firelighting skills. They survive the night. What is miruvor?

A cordial. The term “liquor” strongly implies distilled alcohol, but not necessarily.


Is it alcoholic or does it contain some other drug?

Alcohol makes hypothermia worse. I’ll go with a non-alcoholic cordial or squash, like Robinson’s or Vimto. It’s probably an aqueous solution of plant essences found only in Imladris.


Is it a placebo?

It’s an extra-strength placebo.


7) In the morning they realise they cannot continue and must get off the mountain. Boromir assisted by Aragorn fights his way through an enormous drift while Legolas scampers about on top of the snow! They fight their way down the mountain until the going gets easier. They are exhausted and so is this reader. How about you?

I’m having fun!


And now we've got Gandalf's "dark and secret way" to worry about. Yikes! I think I'll have to read just one more chapter before turning the light off. Was that anybody else's reaction to chapters like this on a first reading of the book?

Mom made sure lights were out at 9 pm. No excuses. Electricity cost money.

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



(This post was edited by Darkstone on Oct 25 2010, 8:58pm)


Curious
Half-elven


Oct 26 2010, 12:04am

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Quote
The chapter seems to fall naturally into two sections. Firstly the stay in Rivendell seen from the Hobbits point of view and secondly the initial stages of the Fellowship's journey. There is, however an interesting transitional phase which Tolkien takes two or three pages to describe: The departure from Rivendell. During this departure scene the Hobbits are no longer wholly in Rivendell, nor is the Fellowship quite journeying south. Well it's arguable that this is a transition within a chapter that is itself transitional in the wider context of a story which describes the transition of Middle Earth from one form into another. I'm interested in what people may think of this. Does the analysis hold up? If so does it work well dramatically? Etc. etc.


I think you are onto something here. Tolkien makes special note of arrivals and departures throughout LotR. This departure is especially significant, since it marks the formation of the Fellowship and its mission -- which really means Frodo's mission, since Elrond refuses to bind the others to stick with Frodo the whole way. And you are right, Tolkien also emphasizes that all of Middle-earth is in transition between the end of one Age and the beginning of another. So Tolkien does seem to find transitions important.

What I don't understand is why the Company spends months scouting the countryside before leaving. Granted, waiting in Rivendell for scouts is a better excuse than waiting in Bag End for Bilbo's birthday, but the end result is similar -- the Enemy is given time to prepare. I thought they wanted speed.

I've always liked the idea that what Frodo takes for a red star in the South is really a small version of the Eye of Sauron which Frodo sees from the Hill of Seeing. Tolkien leaves open both the possibility that this is a real star, and the possibility that this is not a star in the ordinary sense of the word.

Merry and Pippin turn out to be excellent decoys. That's not the reason Gandalf gives for bringing them, but it is a role they play better than any elf-lord could.

Definitely a bad idea for Frodo to really on guides, even if the guides are Strider and Gandalf. Bad idea for the guides to do everything for Frodo; they should make him work for the solution on his own. But there's a sense of fatalistism in Frodo which grows stronger as time goes on; he doesn't have to plan, because fate will take him to Mount Doom whether he wills it or not. And so he doesn't, and later wishes he did. But if he had, perhaps he would have learned the precise nature of Cirith Ungol, and refused to that the one path open to him.

Regarding the December 25 departure, I honestly think Tolkien was more concerned about the change in the seasons than the Primary World's celebration of Christmas. If this is a Christian reference, Tolkien thoroughly buries it.

Sam's thoughts about rope foreshadows Moria, where they wish they had it, and Sam's appreciation of rope in Lothlorien, and his use of elven rope to climb down a cliff, and the rope coming when called, and his used of the same rope on Gollum, who hated it. It also ties into Sam's own relationship to a family of rope makers. And it gives us more insight into Sam's practical character; here's an Elven house full of marvelous magical items, and Sam wishes for rope. It's ironic that when Sam gets Elvish rope, it turns out to be as magical as any other Elvish item.

The track between Rivendell and Lothlorien is well known to Strider because he has travelled it many times. It is probably well marked, although the marks may be well disguised. And all they have to do to travel south is to keep the mountains on their left until they curve around in front.

Tolkien does a great job of drawing out suspense when it seems as if nothing much is happening.

Is it the mountain or Sauron? Yes. Sauron seems to rouse evil throughout the land, and Caradhras, I judge, is not exception. But Caradhras was evil before Sauron roused him.

Miruvor is the mythical alcohol that provides all the buzz and euphoria and instant warmth without any of the drawbacks of real alcohol. In fact, in the Primary World alcohol is a very bad idea in this situation, although for hundreds of years people thought it was a good idea. Very sweet nonalcoholic liquids would be better; perhaps miruvor is soda pop! Or grape juice. Or sweet tea.

It's interesting that everyone is willing to assume bad weather is caused by the Enemy, but no one explicitly attributes good weather to a friendly Higher Power. I love how Tolkien takes a perfectly natural phenomenon, snow in the mountains, and turns it into a battle the Fellowship loses. Note the contrast with The Hobbit, where stone giants are seen tossing boulders back and forth. Here the source of the weather and missiles is more mysterious, although the characters assume it is not just a random event.

Also, the evil characters of the mountain Caradhras foreshadows the equally evil character of the mountain Mount Doom. But again, what about the other side of the coin? What about the blessed character of the Hill of Seeing, or of Mount Mindolluin? Might that explain why Sauron did not dare to attack Minas Tirith from above?



sador
Half-elven


Oct 28 2010, 9:12pm

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My apologies.

Any comments on this overall plan, as the week goes by, would be welcome.
It could be great, and it could bomb. But I trust you (even though you are behind schedule).

Does the analysis hold up? If so does it work well dramatically?
I would personally seperate the journey from the attempt to cross the mountain. And perhaps if you divide the crossing of the Mountain to the way up and the way down you will have the classical five acts. That might work even better.
But I must point out that the crisis in the third act (according to my suggestion) has hardly any bearing on the next stages - it is connected to the larger story. Oh well; for the moment I thought I was on to something.

The Hobbits hold a meeting which Gandalf gate crashes.
He did the same in Many Meetings, speaking from the shadows to scold Pippin for misusing the term "The Lord of the Ring". Like Bilbo said, an interfering old busybody.

In due course Gandalf says that he thinks he will go with Frodo.
I wonder why Frodo was so excited:
a) Surely he never thought otherwise?
b) Hasn't he read his uncle's book? Didn't he realise that whenever the going gets really tough, the trusty guide will be, umm, delayed and leave it to him to find his own courage? As he did to Frodo only the previous month!

It's always fun to try and work out what this star is.
Well, my pro-Jacksonite half would call it a vision of Sauron the Lighthouse.
But sometimes a star is just a star; however, it should be compared to the star Sam sees over Mordor in The Land of Shadow.

Frodo sees it. Does any body else?
My utterly unsupported answer? No.

Three of them: Boromir, Legolas and Gimli, however, have only been briefly described to the reader prior to this.
Gimli not at all.
But I think we have already a fair idea of who and what Boromir is.

I think Elrond makes a good case for sending them home and his suspicions about Pippin are amply confirmed on numerous occasions.
What I find really interesting is that both Sam (in The Mirror of Galadriel) and Merry himself (in The Muster of Rohan) remember him as the one which should have been sent home.
And also that Merry turned out to be the real leader of the Scouring of the Shire; apparantly Fatty Bolger wasn't enough (however, he didn't have mail and a sword).

Fate, Destiny, Providence anyone? Or is it really just Curious's "Higher Powers"?
What are you asking about? How Elrond's misgivings became accurate? Well, he knows Pippin already (being a host for a couple of months is more than enough to know the young scamp), and probably realises that Saruman is taking an interest in the Shire. (who do you think told Gandalf?)

Is this wise on Frodo's part?
No (as Curious pointed out).

Is it plausible?
Yes (as Darkstone did.)

It might be fun to have another chat about Bilbo thrusting Sting "deep into a wooden beam" and Frodo "accepting it gratefully".
What kind of a guest Bilbo is? First he interrupts his host's important council with nagging about lunch, and now he's spoiling the furniture!

These days I love them and this one of Bilbo's in particular. How about you?
Better than the BotR parody.

They leave at dusk, on December 25th
a.s. once started a thread about this. She thought the date was very significant.

Sam will not miss it until Lothlorien where he will acquire the rope that does come in handy later on.
Uh oh. He will in Moria, when required to leap across a fissure.

Why are there no birds?
Because of the hawks. (Seriously, Tolkienb wrote that in his early drafts!)

I detect a tension rising inexorably as it seems. What do you think?
Based on the number of fans which apparantly survived reading this chapter, I'm inclined to agree with you.

Frodo does not like the sound of it whatever it is.
Do you think the wizard guessed he was listening? Or did they speak softly, but it was the better hearing given by the Ring?

Is it natural? Is the mountain itself against them? Is it Sauron changing the weather? ... What about Fate Destiny, Providence (and Higher Powers) etc?
All of the above. And a very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors, into the bargain. (As Gandalf will say next chapter, he hasn't smoked since before the snow)

What is miruvor? Is it alcoholic or does it contain some other drug? Is it a placebo?
Didn't we have some recipes when simplyaven organised the Middle-earth culinary journey?

They are exhausted and so is this reader.
You shouldn't be hanging out in the Hobbit board so long.

I think I'll have to read just one more chapter before turning the light off. Was that anybody else's reaction to chapters like this on a first reading of the book?
As a kid I used to take a book to the bathroom. My mother was wondering what took me so long.

"Welcome, and well met!" - Gloin.

The weekly discussion of The Lord of the Rings is back! Please join us in the Reading Room.

"One of the main things I like about the tale is that in LOTR, the choices you make with your heart are the right ones. So many times in real life that’s not the case. It’s very “healing” to read a story where the "heart" choices are rewarded."
- weaver.



FarFromHome
Valinor


Oct 28 2010, 9:58pm

Post #5 of 16 (484 views)
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The red star [In reply to] Can't Post

was discussed three years ago almost to the day in this thread.

I remember I became quite obsessed with the idea that the star was Mars, often visible at this time of the year in the evening sky, along with the waning Hunter's Moon. Interesting that the chapter has come up at the right season of year again this time!


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Frodo sees it. Does any body else?


To me, this is a typical example of the "Red Book conceit" effect: we aren't told about anyone else seeing the star because we are only getting Frodo's personal recollections here. It reflects on Frodo's character that he worries privately and doesn't discuss the star with anyone else (not that the star represents any real threat, it's probably a perfectly ordinary celestial event, but it just happens to echo perfectly the worries that are chasing themselves around Frodo's mind as he waits for the Quest to start).

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



Curious
Half-elven


Oct 29 2010, 12:31am

Post #6 of 16 (509 views)
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I would say rather [In reply to] Can't Post

that this is an example of Tolkien withholding information, which he does frequently. Just because it is a third-person omniscient narrative doesn't mean the author clears up every mystery. On the contrary, Tolkien loves ambiguity. That doesn't turn it into Frodo's personal narrative, any more than Treebeard's speculation about the origin of trolls turns it into Treebeard's personal narrative, or the Gaffer and Sandyman's argument about Bilbo's sanity turns it into their personal narrative. It's not anyone's personal narrative, but the narrator frequently gives us someone's personal point of view, either by telling us what that person thinks and feels and sees, or, perhaps even more often, by having the character tell a story.


Elizabeth
Half-elven


Oct 29 2010, 7:54am

Post #7 of 16 (487 views)
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Mars [In reply to] Can't Post

Being a planet, Mars isn't any more likely to be visible in the late fall or winter than in any other season. That said, it sounds like Mars to me. In prior discussions here I've learned that Tolkien based his astronomical schedule (phases of the moon, etc.) for this year on one particular Earth year, but I don't remember which. Someone who remembers could look up whether Mars was in the night sky then.

Edit: Found the discussion! See this thread. It was Mars, and the year Tolkien modeled was 1941-42.






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Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'

(This post was edited by Elizabeth on Oct 29 2010, 7:59am)


Elizabeth
Half-elven


Oct 29 2010, 8:32am

Post #8 of 16 (485 views)
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Thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post


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[The red star] Frodo sees it. Does any body else?

See my post "Mars" above, and its link.


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3) After two months scouts return.

This seems way too long. Tolkien is dillydallying to get to Dec. 25 just as he delayed 17 years to get this whole thing under way just to make Frodo the right age.


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Was this a good idea? I think Elrond makes a good case for sending them home and his suspicions about Pippin are amply confirmed on numerous occasions. What do you think?

Elrond knows Frodo is disastrously under-qualified for this mission. Maybe he thinks having some friends along will be helpful.


Quote
4) The broken sword is reforged for Aragorn who renames it. Gandalf and Aragorn discuss the forthcoming journey but Frodo isn't that interested. It seems that he will be content to rely on guides. Hmm. Is this wise on Frodo's part? Is it plausible? I think I'd have wanted some idea of what was planned.

Frodo also knows he's disastrously unqualified. No point in participating in the planning, he wouldn't understand much of the discussion anyway.


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During the farewell the following events take place:
1) They leave at dusk, on December 25th according to the appendices. Comments?

*Yawns* They left on Christmas Day, and the Ring was destroyed on March 25, a traditional date for the original Easter. In one of his letters, Tolkien said this was a "profoundly Catholic book". Here's an example.


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How did they know which way was south? We are told the sky is overcast so sun and stars seem unlikely.

At least 2 members of the company (Aragorn and Gandalf), and probably more, are sufficiently familiar with Middle Earth to have simply known the terrain.


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Why are there no birds? Is it important?

To make us nervous. Not really.


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So far nothing "exciting" has happened, no monsters or anything, and yet….. I detect a tension rising inexorably as it seems. What do you think?

I think Tolkien is cleverly building tension to keep us reading.


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5) They set out to climb the pass and Boromir the mountain man convinces them to carry wood because in a choice between freezing to death and being seen by crows he thinks they might like to light a fire.

One of his few really valuable contributions.


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6) The company is benighted and Frodo starts exhibiting classic signs of exhaustion exposure which Boromir notices. Where did Tolkien learn about hypothermia etc? His Alpine "walking tour"?

He was a fairly serious hiker. He would have known. As for Boromir: useful contribution #2. Maybe he's not as bad as we thought...


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What is miruvor? Is it alcoholic or does it contain some other drug? Is it a placebo?

I don't know, but I want some.


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7) In the morning they realise they cannot continue and must get off the mountain. Boromir assisted by Aragorn fights his way through an enormous drift while Legolas scampers about on top of the snow!

I love that they showed Legolas scampering on the snow in the movie. A really geeky moment!


Quote
Yikes! I think I'll have to read just one more chapter before turning the light off. Was that anybody else's reaction to chapters like this on a first reading of the book?

Of course!






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Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'

(This post was edited by Elizabeth on Oct 29 2010, 8:36am)


FarFromHome
Valinor


Oct 29 2010, 9:02am

Post #9 of 16 (513 views)
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I think you'll find [In reply to] Can't Post

that with very rare exceptions, the narrator only gives us Frodo's personal point of view at this point in the story. If he wants to give someone else's viewpoint he doesn't tell us directly but, as you say, has the character tell a story in his own words.


In Reply To
It's not anyone's personal narrative, but the narrator frequently gives us someone's personal point of view, either by telling us what that person thinks and feels and sees, or, perhaps even more often, by having the character tell a story.



They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



squire
Half-elven


Oct 29 2010, 11:04am

Post #10 of 16 (563 views)
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Frodo's not so dim as all that [In reply to] Can't Post

Regarding your comment, "Frodo also knows he's disastrously unqualified. No point in participating in the planning, he wouldn't understand much of the discussion anyway."

I'm not sure this is fair. Frodo's lack of involvement in Gandalf's and Aragorn's planning sessions seems more psychological than rational to me. He is quite capable of understanding any discussions they might be having. During his quest, he certainly knows the approaches to Mordor from the Lorien region; and he refers here to "his" choices, not Aragorn's:
'All my choices have proved ill. I should have left the Company long before, and come down from the North, east of the River and of the Emyn Muil, and so over the hard of Battle Plain to the passes of Mordor.' (LotR, IV.1)
When Frodo gets to Mordor, he navigates the Morgai region from a map in his head, "vaguely":

‘Now down we go, Sam,’ Frodo whispered. ‘Down into the valley quick, and then turn northward, as soon as ever we can.’

Frodo now led the way, northward as near as he could guess, among the stones and boulders lying thick at the bottom of the great ravine. But presently he stopped again.

It was perilous for the hobbits to use such a path, but they needed speed, and Frodo felt that he could not face the toil of scrambling among the boulders or in the trackless glens of the Morgai. And he judged that northward was, maybe, the way that their hunters would least expect them to take. .... Only when he was well north of the Tower did he mean to turn and seek for some way to take him east, east on the last desperate stage of his journey.

‘No, not any clear notion, Sam,’ Frodo answered. ‘In Rivendell before I set out I was shown a map of Mordor that was made before the Enemy came back here; but I only remember it vaguely. I remember clearest that there was a place in the north where the western range and the northern range send out spurs that nearly meet. That must be twenty leagues at least from the bridge back by the Tower. It might be a good point at which to cross. But of course, if we get there, we shall be further than we were from the Mountain, sixty miles from it, I should think. I guess that we have gone about twelve leagues north from the bridge now.
(LotR, VI.2)
I know many strong warriors, so to speak, who could not do that well from a vague memory of being "shown" a map several months earlier. Frodo is the most educated and intelligent hobbit in the Shire, we should believe, and heir of the most traveled map-making hobbit ever, Bilbo Baggins. He could have followed the route planning, if he had wanted to.



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Curious
Half-elven


Oct 29 2010, 2:08pm

Post #11 of 16 (462 views)
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We do get Sam's point of view (mostly about rope). And [In reply to] Can't Post

we also get a collective hobbit point of view:


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For a while the hobbits continued to talk and think of the past journey and of the perils that lay ahead; but such was the virtue of the land of Rivendell that soon all fear and anxiety was lifted from their minds. The future, good or ill, was not forgotten, but ceased to have any power over the present. Health and hope grew strong in them, and they were content with each good day as it came, taking pleasure in every meal, and in every word and song.


We also do, from time to time, get a point of view that has nothing to do with the hobbits. In this chapter there is a statement of Gandalf that seems to take place outside of the presence of the hobbits:


Quote


In no region had the messengers discovered any signs or tidings of the Riders or other servants of the Enemy. Even from the Eagles of the Misty Mountains they had learned no fresh news. Nothing had been seen or heard of Gollum; but the wild wolves were still gathering, and were hunting again far up the Great River. Three of the black horses had been found at once drowned in the flooded Ford. On the rocks of the rapids below it searchers discovered the bodies of five more, and also a long black cloak, slashed and tattered. Of the Black Riders no other trace was to be seen, and nowhere was their presence to be felt. It seemed that they had vanished from the North.

'Eight out of the Nine are accounted for at least,' said Gandalf. 'It is rash to be too sure, yet I think that we may hope now that the Ringwraiths were scattered, and have been obliged to return as best they could to their Master in Mordor, empty and shapeless.

`If that is so, it will be some time before they can begin the hunt again. Of course the Enemy has other servants, but they will have to journey all the way to the borders of Rivendell before they can pick up our trail. And if we are careful that will be hard to find. But we must delay no longer.'

Elrond summoned the hobbits to him.


But yes, for the most part the story still centers on Frodo, and will throughout FotR. When the Fellowship breaks up, though, so does the focus on Frodo. Even in the half of the story that still follows Frodo, Sam increasingly becomes the main protagonist.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Oct 29 2010, 7:03pm

Post #12 of 16 (433 views)
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Thanks for finding those examples [In reply to] Can't Post

The Gandalf-Elrond conversation you mention certainly could be interpreted as taking place out of the hobbits' presence. It doesn't quite read that way to me, though, because what Elrond says after he "summoned the hobbits to him" sounds like a continuation of the same conversation. So I've always imagined that the whole report from the scouts, plus Gandalf's and Elrond's comments, are made in public - not at a formal meeting necessarily, but perhaps in the Hall of Fire or some other large public room where the hobbits are also present in the audience. After the report has been discussed, Elrond calls to the hobbits to join him so that he can continue the discussion as it relates to them. (I note that at least Aragorn is present after the hobbits are "summoned" by Elrond, since he speaks, and the implication is that the rest of the Fellowship are there too. So we don't seem to be talking about private meetings here - except for Elrond's sons' report, which we are specifically told is given privately, and which we never hear any more about.)

Your other two examples of points of view other than Frodo's are a collective hobbit point of view, and Sam's thoughts about rope:

The hobbits' collective thoughts I think of as an extension of Frodo's own point of view - especially since we are told that the hobbits "talk and think" together, implying that Frodo feels as the others do.

Sam's thoughts are, as you say, an exception to the Frodo-centric point of view - one that has been happening in short snippets right from the start of the story, and will lead eventually to him taking over from Frodo as the one from whose point of view we see the story. But it's the lack of any insight into the direct thoughts of characters other than hobbits (Aragorn, Gandalf, Elrond and so on) that always strikes me. Our inability to penetrate the mind of Aragorn is especially brought into focus in this chapter - we see him sitting "with his head bowed to his knees", but we are told that "only Elrond knew fully" what was going through his mind, and we are otherwise left in the dark.

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



Curious
Half-elven


Oct 29 2010, 9:34pm

Post #13 of 16 (484 views)
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We do get to see through Aragorn's eyes [In reply to] Can't Post

when the Fellowship is breaking and Aragorn climbs the Hill of Seeing. We get to see Gandalf and Aragorn alone when they find the sapling of the White Tree. We cited a recent example where Tolkien tells us what Gandalf is privately thinking. So even with Gandalf and Aragorn, there are times when we hear what they think or see through their eyes or see what they do when the hobbits aren't present. But sure, Tolkien most often takes the point of view of the hobbits, and would prefer to show us Frodo overhearing Gandalf and Aragorn debate about the path to take.


Elizabeth
Half-elven


Oct 30 2010, 4:46am

Post #14 of 16 (835 views)
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Psychological [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, I agree that he probably could have participated more than he did. I think my remark, "Frodo also knows he's disastrously unqualified..." is more reflecting of his own assessment of the situation, and why he decided to leave all the planning and strategizing to Aragorn and Gandalf. He clearly didn't see himself as the expedition leader -- if he had, surely he would have insisted on carrying a map. Rather, he was content to bear the burden and leave the leadership to others. It's likely this was the major choice he was referring to when he said, "All my choices have proved ill."






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squire
Half-elven


Nov 1 2010, 2:10am

Post #15 of 16 (438 views)
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“It’s quiet … too quiet.” [In reply to] Can't Post

DAY 1: PLOT

My plan is to look at the chapter thematically … I hope all that made sense.
Very much so. A thematic approach to a chapter is a welcome variation from our standard practice of performing a close-reading in sequence.

During this departure scene the Hobbits are no longer wholly in Rivendell, nor is the Fellowship quite journeying south. Well it's arguable that this is a transition within a chapter that is itself transitional in the wider context of a story which describes the transition of Middle Earth from one form into another.
A. I'm interested in what people may think of this. Does the analysis hold up?
I agree that the departure is a discrete part of the chapter, and represents the transition from preparation to quest. I don’t understand what you mean by Middle-earth undergoing a “transition from one form into another” via this chapter. You seem to be referring to the story itself (The Lord of the Rings) as describing the transition of its world from Faerie to history. True, of course. But I don’t think this particular chapter is more or less vital, central, or transitional in that extremely large context.

We could say that this chapter is transitional in Book II. There are 2.5 chapters in Rivendell: recovering, consolidating, and setting the next course; then in this chapter the company hits the road, never stopping until they get to Lothlorien. Chapter 7 (Mirror of Galadriel) has another transition, when they stop again for a month’s R&R; Chapter 8 reproduces this one, with an extended prep and departure scene (another transition from static to active) taking up much of the chapter; and then they travel again until the end of the Book (the Breaking of the Fellowship, which represents a huge transition for the story as a whole).

B. If so does it work well dramatically?
Oh yes. For one thing, there’s conflict between characters. For another, there’s conflict of sensation – the chill of being outside a warm and lit house on a winter night. And of course, any journey’s beginning is dramatic because it invites the audience to project what may happen on the journey.

It's always fun to try and work out what this star is.
C. Please feel free to do just that.
Mars has always made the most sense to me, since any reddish true star would be too dim to compete with the moonlight, and the planetary ecliptic is low in the southern sky from northerly latitudes like Rivendell’s. It is a beautiful use of astronomy to create a literary figure about the moonlight gradually waning (power of the silver Tree) and the red star waxing (power of the Dark Lord)! I agree with others here that the main point is that it is a metaphor for Sauron’s eye lying to the south, the direction that Frodo is about to go (as per the chapter title, by the way).

Frodo sees it.
D. Does any body else?
Sure, but we are focused on Frodo’s feelings here.

After some debate Gandalf convinces Elrond to allow Merry and Pippin to tag along.
E. Was this a good idea?
It’s not an idea, it’s a leap in the dark based on faith in the power of friendship and love. As such, of course it’s good. Does it make sense? No, not in the context of Frodo’s quest. But once the quest explodes, and the matter of the War of the Ring becomes part of the Fellowship’s tale, it turns out to have been a great idea, as Gandalf remarks to Pippin in the alleys of Minas Tirith:

‘[Merry] has well repaid my trust; for if Elrond had not yielded to me, neither of you would have set out; and then far more grievous would the evils of this day have been.’ (LotR V.8)


I think Elrond makes a good case for sending them home and his suspicions about Pippin are amply confirmed on numerous occasions.
F. What do you think?
Good foreshadowing on Elrond’s part, that the Shire is in for it. We see it again in the Mirror scene. Still, it’s hard to believe Pippin and Merry could have stopped the Ruffians by their own presence – we will see that the Tooks get holed up in their Smials and Fatty – presumably as intrepid as Merry – becomes a guerrilla in the hills. Face it, the Scouring only scours if the Dark Lord loses, and Merry and Pippin are material actors in that defeat, despite their early inadequacies.

It seems that he will be content to rely on guides. Hmm.
G. Is this wise on Frodo's part?
No, although as I’ve argued already here, Frodo both pays attention to what he is shown, and takes responsibility for the quest at a time when we assume Aragorn is still calling the shots.

H. Is it plausible?
Psychologically, yes. Having committed himself to a suicide mission, Frodo is in denial, I’d guess.

It might be fun to have another chat about Bilbo thrusting Sting "deep into a wooden beam" and Frodo "accepting it gratefully".
I. Any takers?
“Oh, agreed, agreed, but that’s a subject for a D. Phil thesis, wouldn’t you say, rather than a fairly elementary course of discussion board threads?”

A few years later I read the book ignoring everything except the poems and songs. These days I love them and this one of Bilbo's in particular.
J. How about you?
I have always found that the poems and songs repay close study. That said, I can’t say I love them. I admire them. Not to be contrary, but I rather dislike Bilbo’s poem in this chapter for its maudlin sentiment.

They leave at dusk, on December 25th according to the appendices.
K. Comments?
As others have commented, this is a clear reference to Christmas – if you read the appendices. In the story, the date is more vague; it is obviously the Christmas season but not necessarily the day itself.


I remember being surprised to study the appendix in LotR that details Tolkien’s conception of the Middle-earth calendars. Apparently, the Elves (and everyone who used their calendar system, like the men and hobbits) aligned the first days of their months and seasons on the actual dates of the solstices and equinoxes. We for some reason count differently, so that those objectively measurable events occur around the 21-22 of the relevant months. When you think this through, it thus seems that “December 25” in Middle-earth is the astronomical equivalent of about December 15 in our calendar. So by Tolkien’s own accounts, the Fellowship did not leave Rivendell on the holy day that he seems to have wanted it to!

Elrond offers advice and the various accoutrements of the Fellowship are described. Sam realises he has forgotten to pack rope.
L. What purpose does this little incident serve?
It helps re-establish Sam’s function as Frodo’s Sancho Panza or Jeeves. As Curious noted, the rope is actually “needed” as Sam foresees, in Moria as they attempt to jump the gaps in the underground road.
Speaking of foreshadowing, I also have always appreciated this subtle one:

Sam eased the pack on his shoulders, and went over anxiously in his mind all the things that he had stowed in it, wondering if he had forgotten anything: … various small belongings of his master’s that Frodo had forgotten and Sam had stowed to bring them out in triumph when they were called for. (LotR, II.3)

This quaint note finally, if twistedly, comes into its own here:

`They’ve taken everything, Sam,’ said Frodo. `Everything I had. Do you understand? Everything!’ … ‘The quest has failed Sam. ...’
`No, not everything, Mr. Frodo. And it hasn’t failed, not yet. I took it, Mr. Frodo, begging your pardon. And I’ve kept it safe. It’s round my neck now, and a terrible burden it is, too.’ Sam fumbled for the Ring and its chain. …
`You’ve got it?’ gasped Frodo. `You’ve got it here? Sam, you’re a marvel!’ (LotR, VI.1)


1) They travel south for a fortnight.
M. How did they know which way was south?
“Gandalf walked in front, and with him went Aragorn, who knew this land even in the dark.”

N. What about a compass?
No one ever seems to need one in Middle-earth. In fact, everyone including Gollum seems to have an accurate map in their heads, for finding their way around. But then landmarks on land are easy to learn, through lore and chart. The compass in our world really came into its own for sea navigation, where all directions seem the same.

2) They reach Hollin … There is no birdsong and Strider is worried.
O. Why are there no birds?
It’s never really explained beyond the suspense value of Aragorn’s ominous play on “It’s quiet … too quiet.” The best I can offer is that Saruman’s tough guy spy birds have told all the rest of the wussy birds in Hollin to shut up and lay low if they know what’s good for them.

P. Is it important?
Well, it builds tension, which is relieved somewhat when the crebain show up. [Can I gripe here that in the New Line films, Legolas, who lives in Mirkwood for crying out loud, identifies the crebain as being from Dunland! Cripes if he’s been all the way to Dunland before this you’d think he’d know Northeast from Northwest.]

3) Later they see regiments of crows … I detect a tension rising inexorably as it seems.
Q. What do you think?
As we eventually see, most of this “we’re not alone” and “the hills have ears” stuff becomes the driving force behind the decision to go underground through Moria. On the other hand, we’ve been hearing this kind of thing in Tolkien’s writings since early in The Hobbit:

“Hush, hush! Good People! and good night!” said Gandalf, who came last. “Valleys have ears, and some elves have over merry tongues…” (The Hobbit, Ch. 3; bold by squire)

I think it’s a weakness of Tolkien’s, given that it’s impossible to tell if any of this watchfulness ever affects the plot. Possibly this literary tic is based on his own preference for adventure romance from the Victorian era, which did not believe in what we’d call understated realism.

4) They continue towards the mountains for some days and start to worry about the weather. … Still nothing has happened but I feel as though I am being wound up like a clock.
R. How about you?
Definitely. In fact, it’s interesting that the tendency in this part of the chapter to foreshadow some kind of attack – the eerie silence, the birds, the weird scary thing flying overhead – builds up the credibility of the snow storm on Caradhras actually being interpreted as an attack, rather than just bad weather.

5) The snow continues, gets heavier and starts drifting. Is it natural? Is the mountain itself against them? Is it Sauron changing the weather? Nobody seems to know.
S. What about Fate, Destiny, Providence (and Higher Powers) etc?
What about them? I think the best way to read this part is to accept that the characters believe in such things, even if we may doubt them. Middle-earth is alive in ways that we moderns do not accept, at least in the mainstream secular tradition regarding Nature. God works in mysterious ways, sure, but we tend to shy away from interpreting every sparrow falling as being a sign of the hand of God, because it gets so darn contradictory and – dare I say - petty.


I have always interpreted Gandalf’s, Gimli’s and Boromir’s exchange about the early snow, as being against the conclusion that this episode is all Sauron’s doing. It’s just a richer and morally more complex universe – and thus more believable, even in this more black and white world - if not everything that seems evil and that frustrates the Fellowship is an act of the Dark Lord. And yet, Tolkien is the master of the ambiguous phrase – the best conclusion with some of these questions is to refuse to conclude.

6) … Frodo starts exhibiting classic signs of exhaustion exposure which Boromir notices.
T. Where did Tolkien learn about hypothermia etc?
Probably the Army during his officer training – men manned the trenches all winter long, and the cold could kill. But he could also have learned it from the accounts of Arctic and Antarctic exploration that were so popular in his youth.

U. His Alpine "walking tour"?
That too! Although I’m not sure how much expert survival knowledge was offered to British tourists in the Alps in summertime. Even now people get caught at altitude in summer, inadequately clothed and equipped, and are surprised to find themselves dead of cold and exposure in July.

Gandalf doses them up with miruvor "the cordial of Imladris"…
V. What is miruvor?

A cordial is traditionally an alcoholic liqueur that is steeped in medicinal herbs; it is specifically prepared to restore health and vigour.


W. Is it alcoholic or does it contain some other drug?
Well, according the definition given above (which I looked up), the answer is both. Since we already know that Middle-earth has athelas, an herb with no exact equivalent in our world, I can’t imagine what the Elvish pharmacy might be able to put into miruvor. I note that alcohol is a depressant, and is frowned upon for drinking in freezing weather. The traditional remedy of brandy or other “hot” liquors in winter is meant to be applied to someone who has been in the cold, but is no longer in danger. So miruvor had better be more drug, and less booze, if the Fellowship is going to make it through the icy night.

X. Is it a placebo?
No, I don’t think so. That would be a cheat, and Tolkien doesn’t cheat.

7) They fight their way down the mountain until the going gets easier. They are exhausted and so is this reader.
Y. How about you?
Yes this chapter starts slow, and gets very exciting at the end. The final line conveys the fatigue and depression the characters feel, and makes a great ending.

Yikes! I think I'll have to read just one more chapter before turning the light off.
Z. Was that anybody else's reaction to chapters like this on a first reading of the book?
Tolkien wrote a page turner, all right. Unfortunately, it is done with traditional narrative effects found in much genre writing, and I think it contributes to his poor reputation with some critics.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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CuriousG
Half-elven


Nov 4 2010, 5:11pm

Post #16 of 16 (442 views)
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And the hobbits are still somewhat child-like [In reply to] Can't Post

Thematically, to me, there is an element in the trilogy of a "coming of age" tale. That culminates in the return to the Shire, where Gandalf refuses to help in the "scouring" because this is what the hobbits have been "trained for."

By age, of course, Frodo and companions are not children, but they often display childlike behavior. It also seems that once they leave the borders of The Shire, they are children venturing into the Big Bad World where they're quite out of place. Compare that to Boromir's solo journey to Rivendell, a place he didn't even know how to find. He had his struggles, but from what little we know, he was resourceful and not at a loss (even with the loss of his horse at Tharbad).

Even in The Shire, Frodo the orphan, deprived of Bilbo, seems to depend on Gandalf as a sort of father figure: needing his advice, waiting for him to show up and tell him what to do and lead him when he's really waited way too long to leave The Shire (and I suspect he knows it, just wants to be told to do it, like being told to clean your room). Then when Strider the stranger shows up in Bree, the hobbits don't just accept him, they almost instantly defer to him as their leader, not even considering him as an equal in the group who needs to prove he's trustworthy first (though granted Sam was suspicious). By contrast, if Aragorn the stranger encountered Boromir, Gimli, and Legolas as a group at Bree, I don't think they would have so quickly deferred to his leadership.

So it actually seems pretty natural to me that Frodo would be deferential to not one but two authority figures leading the Fellowship, and he wouldn't do much preparing himself. They're supposed to take care of things, and as we all sort of assume with our parents when we're kids, they'll never go away.

Leaving all that aside, you could also say that the Bag End to Rivendell journey drained Frodo immensely, and he was too exhausted to think ahead about a much longer and more dangerous journey. That would also explain why the Fellowship departed so late (giving Frodo recuperation time), though that late departure has always seemed to me a rather foolish (if not plain stupid) strategic error on the part of Elrond and Gandalf. "Oh, let's wait until winter, the hardest time to travel and the worst time to cross the mountains. Yep, good idea."

 
 

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