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Tolkien Notes: The Smelliest Book Tolkien Ever Wrote

Laerasëa
Tol Eressea


Apr 1 2013, 3:11am

Post #1 of 5 (219 views)
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Tolkien Notes: The Smelliest Book Tolkien Ever Wrote Can't Post

Hello, folks! Sorry again about the week gap-- I'm graduating in two months, and the workload has quadrupled (and it doesn't help that I'm leaving everything to the last minute in hopes that the work I have to do simply goes away).


BTW, I should mention that all of the titles in this series of posts are quotes from class that I found particularly amusing.

We also have to do a final project for our class, other than a paper. My roommate and I are considering doing mini-musical compositions to represent each of Galadriel/Celeborn's gifts to the Fellowship as they leave Lorien, and perform them ourselves (between the two of us, we play about six instruments, and we have both taken composition and music theory for several years). However, in the spirit of April Fool's-- our project proposals are due tomorrow, after all-- we decided to draw up a second proposal, in which we dress as orcs for a day and go to all of our classes, speaking only in grunts and/or Black Speech so we can better understand the prejudice that orcs face every day in Middle-earth simply because of who they are: something they cannot control. (I've got April Fool's jokes planned for every one of my classes tomorrow, but I thought you guys would appreciate that one in particular)

Today, I want to talk about the Dead Marshes, and draw a comparison of Eomer and Faramir.

One interesting thing that our professor pointed out in class that I hadn't noticed before is that Elrond explicitly states that he does *not* want anybody in the Fellowship swearing oaths to each other, which is something I brought up in one of the first posts about LOTR. One of the reasons my professor pointed out was that oaths can be twisted, and Elrond does not want anybody to be bound to an oath that they no longer *want* to uphold, for fear of their twisting it against the nature of the original oath. However, in contrast, Frodo does make Gollum swear an oath. We automatically have several issues with this oath-- most notably, the oath is "hugely ambiguous." Gollum swears to the "master of the precious,"-- he could be talking about *anybody* here. Frodo, Sauron, himself, or the Ring itself. I had never really drawn this comparison before, and it's particularly interesting if you look at what happens to Gollum. We could, in fact, argue that he did hold his oath-- he just twisted in. In a way, this is exactly why Elrond did not want the Fellowship to swear oaths.

Has anybody else noticed this comparison before? Is it a valid one-- do you think the parallel is intentional?

We also talked about the Dead Marshes, and covered several ideas that I found fascinating. For one, it's interesting that the Dead Marshes come just before Ithilien. Our professor said that the Dead Marshes represent a land beyond redemption; at one point, Tolkien describes it as a land that can only be cleansed if "the Great Sea should enter in and wash it with oblivion," and even then, it couldn't ever come back as the land it used to be. The best thing that could happen to it is that it could die. (the reason we didn't call it dead already was that the language used to describe it does not sound as much like death as it sounds like a sickness) However, when we get to Ithilien, we see a land that is not yet corrupted, but on the verge of being lost. In other words, we see what the lands under Sauron would look like; soon after, we see other lands that are at stake, and the potential loss is much more jarring.

Additionally, the Dead Marshes are the home of a former battle that took place 2,000 years ago. On one hand, then, the land represents a former victory on the "good" side. On the other hand...was it really a victory? Had it been a true victory, the land would not be as beyond redemption as it is now-- and Frodo would not have to journey through it. In fact, Frodo's journey through the marshes is, in itself, showing the errors of the past. This is not the first time we've seen an example of something that once was, as we've already been through Moria.

What do you make of all these dead places? Do you see any crucial differences between Moria and the Dead Marshes, in terms of how far gone they are? Also, when Elves die, their spirits go to the Halls of Mandos-- so what exactly are we seeing in the Marshes?


Finally, Eomer and Faramir. As with most of the things we discuss in class, i had not drawn that much of a parallel between these two guys, but the parallels between the two are interesting. They both come across members of the Fellowship, and they both help them, in their own ways. But the difference in personalities is striking. For one, our professor described Eomer as "having a touch of the savage" in him. She was actually talking about the Rohirrim as a whole when she said that; their treatment of the Uruk-hai they come across as almost barbaric (a big pile of dead bodies with heads on the spikes), and when they first come across AGL, they circle the group, aiming spears at them. They also don't remember if they have killed any hobbits, suggesting a kind of battle-fury that at least blurs their memory of their own actions in battle. (note that my professor is not diminishing them-- she also describes them as honest, loyal, brave, and holding fast to their values). On the other hand, from Faramir, we get his famous quote "I do not love the blade for its sharpness...". Faramir is a man of peace, but he fights because he must, because he has to protect a land that is in jeopardy. Another interesting parallel is in their reactions to news of Galadriel. Eomer immediately responds with fear and distrust, which our professor suggested as being almost "childish" after we've seen how great Galadriel really is. True, it's out of ignorance, but, at least to a certain extent, it has to be partially self-imposed ignorance, as evidenced by Faramir's reaction. Faramir, upon hearing about Frodo and Sam's interactions with Galadriel, is impressed, and wants to hear more about it. Because of this reaction, he comes across as more scholarly, and more well-read or learned.

What do you think of this comparison? Are there any other similarities or differences you'd like to point out, or is the parallel valid at all?

Any other thoughts in general?

‎"When we can take green from grass, blue from heaven, and red from blood, we have already an enchanter's power—upon one plane; and the desire to wield that power in the world
external to our minds awakes."
--J. R. R. Tolkien


Mozart and Chocolate

(This post was edited by Laerasëa on Apr 1 2013, 3:12am)


silneldor
Half-elven


Apr 1 2013, 4:28am

Post #2 of 5 (131 views)
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Hello Laerasëa [In reply to] Can't Post

I am always amazed about how nicely you are getting along with all that you are doing there at school.

My only thought presently concerns this quote:

''Our professor said that the Dead Marshes represent a land beyond redemption; at one point, Tolkien describes it as a land that can only be cleansed if "the Great Sea should enter in and wash it with oblivion," and even then, it couldn't ever come back as the land it used to be. The best thing that could happen to it is that it could die. (the reason we didn't call it dead already was that the language used to describe it does not sound as much like death as it sounds like a sickness)''

My thoughts go back to Tolkien's horrific experiences in those trenches of WW1. The references that could be made to the terrible recollections and visual horrors of those times, and the efforts to keep from 'falling' (into the waters) into the visions. And the thought of not making it back from depression or sanity itself throughout the rest of their lives.

Perhaps also it could be said of the WW! battlefields themselves if ever revisited again. Although the fields would have with time mostly returned back to nature, the rawness, the fear, the ever-present images, the grief would still be indelibly infused into all that is seen.

On a happier note, April 1st is here, what trickery if any, from our admin angels will be played upon us?

''Sam put his ragged orc-cloak under his master's head, and covered them both with the grey robe of Lorien; and as he did so his thoughts went out to that fair land, and to the Elves, and he hoped that the cloth woven by their hands might have some virtue to keep them hidden beyond all hope in this wilderness of fear...But their luck held, and for the rest of that day they met no living or moving thing; and when night fell they vanished into the darkess of Mordor.'' - - -rotk, chapter III

Faerie contains many things besides elves and fays and besides dwarfs, witches, trolls, giants or dragons; it holds the seas, the sun, the moon, the sky; and the earth, and all things that are one in it: tree and bird, water and stone, wine and bread, and ourselves, mortal men, when we are enchanted."
— J.R.R. Tolkien

May the grace of Manwë let us soar with eagle's wings!

In the air, among the clouds in the sky
Here is where the birds of Manwe fly
Looking at the land, and the water that flows
The true beauty of earth shows
With the stars of Varda lighting my way
In all the realms this is where I stay
In the realm of Manwë Súlimo













Laerasëa
Tol Eressea


Apr 1 2013, 6:32pm

Post #3 of 5 (88 views)
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Oh, yes! [In reply to] Can't Post

Our professor actually talked about trench warfare and no-man's land, although it was in a different page of my notes than what I was copying from for this post.

That's an interesting comment about the revisitation of the battlefields-- I hadn't thought about that before, but it completely makes sense. I'll have to bring that one up in class. Thanks, sil! :)

I always look forward to April 1st here every year. :D

‎"When we can take green from grass, blue from heaven, and red from blood, we have already an enchanter's power—upon one plane; and the desire to wield that power in the world
external to our minds awakes."
--J. R. R. Tolkien


Mozart and Chocolate


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Apr 6 2013, 3:04pm

Post #4 of 5 (35 views)
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I like that second proposal! [In reply to] Can't Post

Orcs visiting classrooms - did you include something about it being filmed, the reactions would be hilarious! What did your instructor think of it?

Now the swearing of oaths is a curious thing indeed! It designates power of one over another. It's very understandable that the Fellowship, who were bearing a great Power in their midst, were not to in any way have any kind of control over each other, that each was to be his own "free agent", keeping his own will. No one person in the Fellowship was to be accounted "greater" than any other.

But Frodo needed Gollum as a guide, and he needed Gollum's obedience, and he needed to be safe from harm by him: hence his need for Gollum to swear an Oath. I think Frodo understood the ambiguity of it, but he had no choice: he had to accept what Gollum could comprehend, knowing that it would at least buy him and Sam some time. He also knew, from Bilbo's account of the Riddle game, that Gollum would abide by this Oath, at least at the beginning.

That's something about the Dead Marshes which I hadn't though of before: that although they were the site of a victory, the victory was not complete because the land remained diseased and cursed - by some sort of black spell. I have always thought the images in the Marshes were phantasms, ghosts of those who fell there.

Your instructor defined Eomer and Faramir well! The one reared on oral histories and legends, the other the pupil of a wizard. Yet both "knowing their place", and carrying out their duties with expertise and leadership.

So did you decide to do the mini-musical? Smile


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"






sador
Half-elven


Apr 7 2013, 1:23pm

Post #5 of 5 (67 views)
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Late again! [In reply to] Can't Post

The plan was to reply on Thursday, after SAST - but then one daughter was ill, and someone had dental problems, and we had a visit from the plumbers...

On to your post!

Has anybody else noticed this comparison before?
No. Thank you!

Is it a valid one-- do you think the parallel is intentional?
The idea that oaths can be twisted as a reason not to take them is interesting. However, in this case we need to consider the Oath of Eorl, and of the Dead to Isildur (to name just two). I don't think Elrond is concerned with twisting oaths, but with binding oneself under unforseeable circumstances, a bit of wisdom paralleling Eccl. 5:4. After all, the one oath in Middle-earth which was punctilliously kept was the oath of the sons of Feanor - not a good example! (as Elrond himself can testify)

Regarding Gollum's oath - well, arguably, it was also kept. He did serve the true Master of the Precious (Sauron), first leading Frodo to be captured by orcs, and then taking the Ring from him in the one place where none could resist or hide from Sauron - went also did not let Him (Sauron again) regain the Ring again. The oath was twisted because Gollum was twisted.

However, when we get to Ithilien, we see a land that is not yet corrupted, but on the verge of being lost. In other words, we see what the lands under Sauron would look like; soon after, we see other lands that are at stake, and the potential loss is much more jarring.
Beautiful!
I've thought of the place Ithilien takes in Book IV - after the descent into Hell (the Emyn Muil, the Dead Marshes, the Desolation before Mordor) after which the Gate are closed, before taking the roundabout way, Frodo and Sam must return for a short respite to the Lands of the Living, which seems like a dream (as when Faramir and his men vanish at the beginning of Journey to the Cross-Roads) - but refreshes and strengthens them, before actually crossing into Mordor. It is noteworthy that Sam's permanent recuperation (but alas, not Frodo's) also takes place in Ithilien.

However, I think your teacher made a really good point; and it is noteworthy that you do not need to wait untill Book VI for the reminder of what Mordor would look like - as from Ithilien Frodo and Sam pass directly to the hateful, loathsome valley of Imlad Morgul.

On the other hand...was it really a victory?
As Elrond said, a fruitless one - but then he qualifies this defeatist statement.

Had it been a true victory, the land would not be as beyond redemption as it is now
I wonder. In Unfinished Tales, the story of another battle upon the plain of Gorgoroth is told; the story indicates that the Desolation was not as bad twelve centuries before the time of the story, but the Dead Marshes were loathsome already. But when did Sauron do that? He was banished seven years after the battle - when did he have the time to work this foul magic?

What do you make of all these dead places?
The Dead Marshes, the Desolation of Mordor, and Gorgoroth seem like a living dead place, if you understand what I mean - you walk under the Sun, yet it feels like death (the antithesis to Frodo's feeling on Cerin Amroth - I've once contrasted them).
Moria feels more like the Barrow-downs, the Paths of the Death, and Cirith Ungol - an underground passage, crossing an unseen border. Curious once wrote of this as a quasi-rebirth.

Do you see any crucial differences between Moria and the Dead Marshes, in terms of how far gone they are?
Moria isn't "gone". There is no indication that it has become a corrupted place. Dark, deserted, fearsome - but nothing like Mordor.

Also, when Elves die, their spirits go to the Halls of Mandos-- so what exactly are we seeing in the Marshes?
Who knows? Their decomposing bodies? Mere phantoms? Or are they trapped somehow, like the Ringwraithes are?

What do you think of this comparison?
It is very instructing. Shippey draws it, seeming to consider Faramir much the better man. I can't say whether I've thought of it myself before reading it.

Are there any other similarities or differences you'd like to point out, or is the parallel valid at all?
Well, if I don't finish this post now, I never will. So I'll break off. Sorry.

Any other thoughts in general?
Just that I don't think Faramir's reaction to Galadriel is so positive, or that Eomer's is so wrong. But that's a whole new topic.


 
 

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