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"Threes Thursday": 4 November - A Long-expected Party
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noWizardme
Half-elven


Nov 4 2021, 1:29pm

Post #1 of 41 (1823 views)
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"Threes Thursday": 4 November - A Long-expected Party Can't Post

By the power that was never invested in me invested in me by anybody at all, I declare a new Reading Room game. I'm imagining 'Threes Thursday' working like this:
Each Thursday I , or another member of my shadowy organization Wink, posts a Tolkien chapter title. This week's chapter is A Long-expected Party (LOTR Book I Ch1)

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to reply with something about that chapter that involves three or threes in some way. For example you could:
  • Make three points about the chapter (can be profound or simple; about the writing or your reaction to it - anything you like)
  • Say three things you like about the chapter (ideally say why)
  • Say three things you don't like about it
  • Name or discuss a set of three things that appear in the chapter - e.g. three plot points, three characters, three unusual words
  • Make three points that are any mixture of the above kinds of things (e.g. one plot point, one unusual word, one favourite quotation)
  • Does anything happen three times (during the chapter, or the chapter includes an instance of something that happens three times on a wider timescale)?
  • Are there any other 'threes' an eagle-eyed reader can spot in this chapter?
  • Make a response that involves three or threes in any other way (including amusingly convoluted ways)
The point is of course really to get people thinking and posting about the chapter in a new way. All kinds of contributions are welcome: short or long, serious or fun, meaningful 'threes' or co-incidental ones; from newcomers on this forum or from old hands, It would be fine if a discussion of the chapter started up. I suggest that someone replying to a reply doesn't have to keep the 'threes' theme up (unless they want to).

Please remember that words of expressing appreciation for someone's interesting or amusing post is still legal in most states, and is often greatly appreciated. This enables you to contribute positively to our community even if you can't currently think of anything to say about the chapter. Three-word expressions of appreciation would be in-theme and can probably be managed even by the busy: but of course feel free to write more!

I have a vague idea of working through LOTR chapter-by-chapter in this manner, but let's see how it goes.
Over to you - what 'threes' do you see in this week's chapter: A Long-expected Party (LOTR Book I Ch1)?

~~~~~~
My profile picture is "Kaninchen und Ente" ("Rabbit and Duck") from the 23 October 1892 issue of Fliegende Blätter (see https://en.wikipedia.org/...2%80%93duck_illusion )


cats16
Valinor


Nov 4 2021, 5:55pm

Post #2 of 41 (1717 views)
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Great idea! [In reply to] Can't Post

I've been craving some kind of read through again, and perhaps this will feel a bit more manageable if folks are worried about not keeping up, etc.

Will come back later with some thoughts but wanted to give a virtual hive-five for the game/discussion idea!

Join us every weekend in the Hobbit movie forum for this week's CHOW (Chapter of the Week) discussion!




ElanorTX
Tol Eressea


Nov 4 2021, 6:50pm

Post #3 of 41 (1716 views)
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Looking forward to this [In reply to] Can't Post

I have trouble dealing with the pressure of tackling a chapter by myself. Your suggestion allows anyone to participate.

"I shall not wholly fail if anything can still grow fair in days to come."



squire
Half-elven


Nov 4 2021, 6:57pm

Post #4 of 41 (1723 views)
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To take the most obvious approach, Tolkien almost universally uses three for a typical "bunch" number [In reply to] Can't Post

By bunch number I mean when a smallish number of items is mentioned, for which there is no obvious reason that the number be three; from two to five or six could do as well for purposes of story-telling. But three is what he uses, almost every time:
"The three hobbit-families of Bagshot Row, adjoining the field, were intensely interested..."
"[The dragon firework] whizzed three times over the heads of the crowd."
"Seizing a horn from a youngster near by, he blew three loud hoots. The noise subsided."
"Three dwarves came out of different rooms where they had been busy."
"They went round the hole and evicted three young hobbits ... who were knocking holes in the walls of one of the cellars."
Now, I wouldn't include two uses of three as a bunch number, because the number makes sense as a conscious choice:
1. There are three main meals at the birthday party, lunch, tea, and supper, which follows a real-world British cycle of mealtimes in the latter part of the day.
2. Bilbo rhetorically divides his announcement about the Purpose for his birthday party into "Three Purposes": to express his longtime appreciation of his neighbors, to celebrate his and Frodo's significant birthdays, and to announce his departure.

Not to get too complex, but this latter construct seems to me to follow an almost formal idea that in a composition (essay, speech, artwork, etc.) three is the proper number for dividing a larger thing into smaller parts, providing aesthetic balance and asymmetry in a way that splitting into two or four does not. I admit this seems to get quite close to the bunch concept I propose above, such that perhaps a bunch should always be three for aesthetic purposes; the difference, I submit, is that of division of a whole versus assembly of a set. No doubt this discussion, by the time we have finished reading The Lord of the Rings from a triplet-focused perspective, will have thoroughly worked this idea out.

To return to the bunch idea. As I said, the bunch should, reasonably, be any number greater than one but less than, say, six. In the examples above it seems to me there would be no obvious reason not to have five dwarves, four vandal hobbits, two neighboring hobbit families, etc. But it's always three.

Now Tolkien does occasionally vary from his rule of the bunch of three:
"A day or two later a rumour ... was spread about that there were going to be fireworks."
"...and sometimes, after a glass or two, [Bilbo] would allude to the absurd adventures of his mysterious journey."
"There was almost silence, and one or two of the Tooks pricked up their ears."
"There were one or two old "mathoms" of forgotten uses that had circulated all around the district."
Noticeably, each of these examples is not so much a numerical one as it is the idiomatic concept of 'one or two' - what I might call the quasi-bunch, where it's not exactly clear how many the number is, but it's very small: between one and two. Since most people can count from one to two quite quickly and tell the difference when composing a story, the "one or two" formula seems, again, to be rhetorical, to convey informally that the number doesn't actually matter, it was just very small. Should we note that Tolkien does not write, in this chapter at least, the similar idiomatic usages "two or three", "three or four", "four or five", etc.? Duly noted. Above two, he's very exact in his counting.

Looking for solo occurrences of "two", "four", "five", and "six", in other mentions of bunches, this is all I find:
"Old Gaffer Gamgee got two sacks of potatoes..."
"[Frodo] had a good many friends... Folco Boffin and Fredegar Bolger were two of these..."
That's it. Aside from these examples, Tolkien invariably uses three to describe a small bunch of items in this chapter. It is fun, perhaps for some anyway, to try to work out why the Gaffer didn't get three sacks of potatoes, nor 'one or two' sacks of potatoes. Likewise, could or should Tolkien have come up with one more less-important young hobbit friend for Frodo, so he could have said "...were three of these."?

Well, this has been entertaining, or at least diverting. Thanks, NoWiz, for the idea and the prompt. I will skip, for now, the more mathematical proposition that almost every larger number than a bunch in this chapter is ... wait for it ... a multiple of three. This is left as an exercise for the reader.



squire online:
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(This post was edited by squire on Nov 4 2021, 7:03pm)


Lissuin
Valinor


Nov 4 2021, 8:48pm

Post #5 of 41 (1696 views)
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By the time Lissuin took up noWiz's challenge of three's, [In reply to] Can't Post

three trusty Tornfolk had posted responses.

(Seriously, I will return to answer seriously but couldn't pass up the opportunity. Very nice idea, Wizard You Are.)


Lissuin
Valinor


Nov 5 2021, 12:15am

Post #6 of 41 (1689 views)
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Peoples of Middle-earth: Chapter One [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you for instigating a lovely, cozy, cold, and rainy morning lounging on my sofa warmly wrapped in a blanket with Pippin the cat napping on my lap - a perfect setting for re-reading  "A Long-Expected Party", wouldn't you say?



In Chapter 1 we have descriptions of and conversations with three of the peoples of Middle-earth: Hobbits, Istari and Dwarves. Three others are alluded to: Elves, Dragons and Men (of Dale). Here are just some of Tolkien's vivid descriptions that leapt out at me as we find them in threes.

Concerning Hobbits

Bilbo: In only the second sentence we learn that "Bilbo was very rich and very peculiar, and had been the wonder of the Shire for sixty years..."
Of his social relationships we know that "He remained on visiting terms with his relatives (except, of course, the Sackville-Bagginses), and he had many devoted admirers among hobbits of poor and unimportant families. But he had no close friends, until some of his younger cousins began to grow up."
And the Gaffer pronounces him "a very nice well-spoken gentlehobbit".

Frodo: We read of his life at three stages - as a child, a tween and an adult at his coming-of-age birthday.

And then there are Old Proudfoot's feet: "his feet were large, exceptionally furry, and both were on the table."

Wizards
Gandalf  "wore a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, and a silver scarf", and we hear of "his skills with fires, smokes and lights."

Dwarves
They are described as "outlandish" with "long beards and deep hoods".

And the stage is set.


noWizardme
Half-elven


Nov 5 2021, 10:05am

Post #7 of 41 (1652 views)
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Engagement! Three Cheers! [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm happy that people want to have a go at this. It's nice to have a 'project' on the board again. In times past that made a regular focus to bring peoepl to the board, and then other things happened too. But we'll see.

Can't call myself a wizard though - I was ejected from the Istari after I did a magical firework show but it all ignited in the wrong sequence. Bang out of order, but there it is. Wink

~~~~~~
My profile picture is "Kaninchen und Ente" ("Rabbit and Duck") from the 23 October 1892 issue of Fliegende Blätter (see https://en.wikipedia.org/...2%80%93duck_illusion )


noWizardme
Half-elven


Nov 5 2021, 10:17am

Post #8 of 41 (1659 views)
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Threes - three kinds? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for this, squire. Threes ought to turn up quite a bit, for exactly those reasons. That makes the game practical - it could be hard to find enough thirteens (say) to keep going.

If we go on three-spotting for a while, I'm supposing we'll find:
  1. Things that really need to come in threes because for some other reason the story needs a three at that point (e.g writing practicalities; using the folktale trope of things happening three times; symbolism etc.).
  2. Threes that are just a 'bunch' and where the number is of no real significance
  3. Threes where it's debatable whether this particular 3 is (1) or (2) above (I suppose that will happen when somebody has found and is enjoying an interpretation that assumes (1), but it's hard to back that idea up by close reading and other standard critical tools)
To give an example: I might take some convincing that every Three we find is a Trinity, and to do with this being a Fundamentally Catholic Work. But for all I know, there are some plausible Trinities to find or consider.

~~~~~~
My profile picture is "Kaninchen und Ente" ("Rabbit and Duck") from the 23 October 1892 issue of Fliegende Blätter (see https://en.wikipedia.org/...2%80%93duck_illusion )


noWizardme
Half-elven


Nov 5 2021, 10:18am

Post #9 of 41 (1646 views)
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Interesting take, bravo! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

~~~~~~
My profile picture is "Kaninchen und Ente" ("Rabbit and Duck") from the 23 October 1892 issue of Fliegende Blätter (see https://en.wikipedia.org/...2%80%93duck_illusion )


GreenHillFox
The Shire


Nov 5 2021, 10:54am

Post #10 of 41 (1650 views)
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Some more "threes" ... ! [In reply to] Can't Post

There were three official meals: lunch, tea, and dinner (or supper).

Indeed, for Three Purposes!

Then without another word he turned away from the lights and voices in the field and tents, and followed by his three companions went round into his garden, and trotted down the long sloping path.


squire
Half-elven


Nov 5 2021, 11:55am

Post #11 of 41 (1654 views)
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In the name of William, of Bert, and of the Holy Tom [In reply to] Can't Post

That is an approach that could really pay off.

The subject does ask us to find what three's power is, culturally and numerological speaking. As in my note, I think it's clear that three is going occur pretty often in any narrative. My question just now had been your #2: the use of three when it is not particularly necessary or powerful in inspiration, but acquires power because three was used rather than, say, two or four. The link to the Trinity takes it to extremes, perhaps, but the neighbors of Bag End becoming the Three Neighbors of Bag End almost begs us to ask the question of which neighbor brought the myrrh to Bilbo's party, which brought the gold, and which the frankincense.



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'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


InTheChair
Rohan

Nov 5 2021, 10:58pm

Post #12 of 41 (1623 views)
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In the chapter we get to see... [In reply to] Can't Post

The letter G in three different writing systems

The Latin Alphabet
Tengwar
Runes

G for Grand shouts the children, but are are we supposed to believe? G for Gandalf? But that is a Norse name and a translation.

So three possibilities

G does stand for Grand and the Westron word for Grand really begins with a G
G does stand for Gandalfs real Westron name which begins with a G
G does stand for both the Westron word for Grand, and Gandalf, both beggining with a G


Lissuin
Valinor


Nov 6 2021, 12:47am

Post #13 of 41 (1617 views)
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Po-ta-toes! [In reply to] Can't Post



The Gaffer was given a two-bunch of potato sacks because......two hands. Smile They would have been, of course, the best seed potatoes to be found in the Shire, or perhaps as far away as Rhovanion! Bilbo knew that Mr. Gamgee, that consummate gardener, would appreciate a gift of something he would both enjoy planting and then harvesting the many many more sacks of potatoes for eating.

Now, the thing to figure out for the sake of our game is exactly how many kgs of potatoes - in multiples of threes, naturally - he could get just from those two sacks.
What do you reckon? Wink


sevilodorf
Tol Eressea

Nov 6 2021, 9:10pm

Post #14 of 41 (1524 views)
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Bilbo calls the ring.... my precious three times. [In reply to] Can't Post

It has always bothered me that Gandalf took such a long time to suspect this ring of being more than "a magic ring"

Are we to believe that the ring was fairly "dormant" during this time?

While the movie has Gandalf see the eye when he reaches out for the ring in Bilbo's entryway.. and of course glosses over the whole 17 year gap...... the book does not... only thatGandalf began to wonder "since last night" and goes off to seek answers.

Alas... Gandalf does not say Keep it secret.....keep it safe three times (only two).... maybe if he had said it one more time it would have acted like a spell and offered some extra protection.

Fourth Age Adventures at the Inn of the Burping Troll http://burpingtroll.com
Home of TheOneRing.net Best FanFic stories of 2005 and 2006 "The Last Grey Ship" and "Ashes, East Wind, Hope That Rises" by Erin Rua

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noWizardme
Half-elven


Nov 7 2021, 11:07am

Post #15 of 41 (1468 views)
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Bilbo's three companions [In reply to] Can't Post

I remember that when I first read the book, I quite expected Bilbo and his companions to figure much more in the story than they do. Tolkien retiring his hero Bilbo and replacing him with Frodo is quite audacious really !(Making an opening here for someone who wants to write more about this! )

~~~~~~
My profile picture is "Kaninchen und Ente" ("Rabbit and Duck") from the 23 October 1892 issue of Fliegende Blätter (see https://en.wikipedia.org/...2%80%93duck_illusion )


noWizardme
Half-elven


Nov 7 2021, 11:08am

Post #16 of 41 (1465 views)
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Gee! nice find! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

~~~~~~
My profile picture is "Kaninchen und Ente" ("Rabbit and Duck") from the 23 October 1892 issue of Fliegende Blätter (see https://en.wikipedia.org/...2%80%93duck_illusion )


noWizardme
Half-elven


Nov 7 2021, 11:11am

Post #17 of 41 (1468 views)
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"what I tell you three times is true" [In reply to] Can't Post

"what I tell you three times is true" - Bellman in the Hunting of the Snark (Lewis Carroll)
Three 'preciouses' is a fine find! Three certainly makes a pattern that most readers will pick up upon

~~~~~~
My profile picture is "Kaninchen und Ente" ("Rabbit and Duck") from the 23 October 1892 issue of Fliegende Blätter (see https://en.wikipedia.org/...2%80%93duck_illusion )


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Nov 7 2021, 11:54am

Post #18 of 41 (1462 views)
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What about also [In reply to] Can't Post

1) Three Rings of power for the Elves
2) Three Silmarils, called the same names as the Rings of power, I have wondered about that
3)Three guesses for Gollum in the riddle-game officially though he takes four!


noWizardme
Half-elven


Nov 7 2021, 12:02pm

Post #19 of 41 (1467 views)
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Beginning in threes [In reply to] Can't Post

I've been thinking about applying a pattern of threes as a way of thinking about how the start of the story works as a piece of writing. These threes are therefore mostly going to be ones I've arranged, rather than anything that Tolkien put in the text. But lets see if it enables me to write anything interesting or entertaining!
There must be a bunch of ways Tolkien could have started his story - let's pick... oh, maybe three:
  1. Get as quickly as possible into an exciting scene (such as the battle the PJ film uses)
  2. Start with a narrator's outline of the situation, as Tolkien actually does
  3. Provide some information 'concerning hobbits', much as Tolkien did at the start of the The Hobbit - this would make sure readers realize this is a speculative fiction story: not everything is what you'd expect from real-world experience. There are short greedy people with hairy feet around!
I've read the idea that all storytellers have to balance the need to intrigue and excite readers quickly on the one hand, with the need to explain what is going on. Beginnings are delicate and readers are maybe particularly likely to abandon a new story if it's either boring, or they can't work out what is happening. Speculative fiction writers have a further problem - something about their story world is not as we expect from our own experience or historical knowledge (there are vampires; people travel on starships and own robots; there are elves and dragons. Or elves who own robots and travel on starships fight vampires that have dragons - speculative fiction hybridizes easily. ). Anyway, those things have to be introduced in their proper time, without causing confusion.

How does Tolkien do it?

The situational information we get is firstly that Bilbo is to have a grand party and then some further information about Bilbo. Let's summarize that in... ooh let's say three points:
  1. He's very rich (but this is not resented because he is generous)
  2. He's very 'peculiar' (in particular it's picked out that he one went on an adventure outside The Shire, and that he seems not to be aging)
  3. He's settled his inheritance on Frodo, to the annoyance of the Sackville-Baggins branch of the family
Perhaps that is enough narration and enough facts for readers to absorb before they've become attached to characters, plot or story-world. Hooray, we're not getting the 'oh gad massive infodump!' (as in):


Quote
Long ago in the Age of Always Happy, the Gods of the Purple Cummerbunds yadda-yadda-yadda then the Good Heroes of the Shining Fork defeated the Naughty Guys of the Funny Smell blah-blah-blah then to Prince Bigguns and Princess Oolala were born The Twins of Different Eye and Hair Color yakkety-yakkety-yak and good luck if you can remember any of this stuff a couple of minutes from now when the real story starts.

Darkstone "Oh, gad, massive infodump! The beginning of every bad fantasy movie ever"

Now the narrator has gone on long enough (for me, anyway) I applaud Tolkien's decision to switch into a scene - of some old blokes talking in a pub. I'm sure we learn three or more things from their conversation (you can find some threes there if you like!) , but the setting of the scene helps us in ways that more narration probably wouldn't: the pub setting tells us:
  1. Hobbit life has aspects that are familiar to Tolkien's likely first readers- Hobbits are seeming a bit British already
  2. Hobbits like social eating and drinking
  3. Hobbits like family history and gossip (and so it seems natural for us to learn a lot about Frodo and some more about Bilbo, without the exposition sounding too contrived)

What I've only just noticed, reading the beginning again,is that a reader who has not heard of hobbits before could miss for some time that we aren't in something extremely like , say, a nineteenth-Century English village (albeit one where people have some unusual names). Wizards, dwarves and a dragon (as per Lissun's post!) take some time to appear.
I think Tolkien might be able to take his time partly because
  1. some of his readers know about Hobbits from TH already.
  2. Maybe readers were expected to be more patient in the 1950s.Nowadays a lot of stories seem to start in the thick of the action, but that can be quite confusing.
  3. Shire life moves slowly and concerns itself much with things that seem trivial - maybe we're experiencing a bit of that in the pace of the writing


~~~~~~
My profile picture is "Kaninchen und Ente" ("Rabbit and Duck") from the 23 October 1892 issue of Fliegende Blätter (see https://en.wikipedia.org/...2%80%93duck_illusion )


noWizardme
Half-elven


Nov 7 2021, 2:55pm

Post #20 of 41 (1457 views)
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Why Tolkien felt he didn't need to start with 'Concerning Hobbits' [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
[Tolkien could have started LOTR by providing] some information 'concerning hobbits', much as Tolkien did at the start of the The Hobbit - this would make sure readers realize this is a speculative fiction story: not everything is what you'd expect from real-world experience. There are short greedy people with hairy feet around!


I expect it went like this:

Tolkien: I say, Lewis: what do you still remember about hobbits?
CS Lewis: Very little, Tollers.
Tolkien: So they are! Excellent! Well I needn't clog my opening up with a lot of hobbit lore then...
Wink

~~~~~~
My profile picture is "Kaninchen und Ente" ("Rabbit and Duck") from the 23 October 1892 issue of Fliegende Blätter (see https://en.wikipedia.org/...2%80%93duck_illusion )


noWizardme
Half-elven


Nov 7 2021, 3:13pm

Post #21 of 41 (1453 views)
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I wonder [In reply to] Can't Post

The sack of potatoes: I was going to come out with some attempt at amusing nonsense about there being an oriental Middle-earth city called Po Ta Toes, which was sacked by the forces of Morgoth at some point. But I imagine everyone prefers that I didn't Wink
I think potato sacks often take about 25kg (about 55lbs). Hobbits are half-sized, and so should their potato sacks be. So maybe if we made it 12 kg, that would be a nice multiple of 3. Or round to 27 lbs.


Of course Tolkien, being a pre-decimal Englishman, would have worked in pounds (lbs). And then claimed there was some hobbit system of measures that he was translating. (Do we in fact get any hobbits using terms about weights? If we do, I haven't noticed.)

~~~~~~
My profile picture is "Kaninchen und Ente" ("Rabbit and Duck") from the 23 October 1892 issue of Fliegende Blätter (see https://en.wikipedia.org/...2%80%93duck_illusion )


Gwytha
Rohan


Nov 7 2021, 8:11pm

Post #22 of 41 (1426 views)
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Wonderful idea that! [In reply to] Can't Post

Love your suggestion, in particular these:

1-The imaginative diversity of variations suggested for how each person could go about responding--makes it as easy or challenging as you like.
2-The idea of going through the LOTR chapter by chapter. I just read the book, watched the movie and am almost done listening to the Andy Serkis audible version after a hiatus of several years, so I am definitely ready to take this thoughtful approach one chapter at a time.
3-Permission to wander away from the "three" theme to discussing the chapter in other way.

Thanks for this!

Growth after all is not so much a matter of change as of ripening, and what alters most is the degree of clarity with which we see one another. -Edith Pargeter


Gwytha
Rohan


Nov 7 2021, 8:16pm

Post #23 of 41 (1427 views)
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Couldn't agree more. [In reply to] Can't Post

I always did enjoy the thoughtful scholarship of the Reading Room but found it difficult and eventually became too inhibited to responding to the chapter questions for fear of speaking and removing all doubt. I like having something low pressure and fun to comment on.

Growth after all is not so much a matter of change as of ripening, and what alters most is the degree of clarity with which we see one another. -Edith Pargeter


Gwytha
Rohan


Nov 7 2021, 8:26pm

Post #24 of 41 (1419 views)
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Threes in fairy tales [In reply to] Can't Post

Three does seem to keep popping up in fairy tales. Three brothers, three wishes, 3 pigs, 3 bears, three tasks, three guesses...I do wonder if this pattern is peculiar to European culture or does it show up in other storytelling traditions?

Growth after all is not so much a matter of change as of ripening, and what alters most is the degree of clarity with which we see one another. -Edith Pargeter


Gwytha
Rohan


Nov 7 2021, 8:31pm

Post #25 of 41 (1418 views)
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Speaking of twos... [In reply to] Can't Post

What of Elves and dragons versus cabbages and potatoes?

Growth after all is not so much a matter of change as of ripening, and what alters most is the degree of clarity with which we see one another. -Edith Pargeter

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