Apr. 7th, 2017

sartorias: (JRRT)
Spoilers

The most important bits in the long talk between Gandalf and Frodo in the last chapter were Frodo’s acceptance of the burden of the ring, and the conversation about Gollum and whether or not he ought to be killed.

At the start of chapter three, the urgency over the ring dissipates as weeks go by and Frodo doesn’t do a thing. We get some humor about the Sackville-Bagginses getting their sticky mitts on Bag End at last, until they finally depart in two beautiful pages of description of night walks, ending with a brief dive into the mind of a passing fox, surprised to see hobbits out so late.

I maintain that anyone who considers these descriptive passages bad writing has so different a sense of what I think is good writing we might as well be speaking foreign languages to each other, but two things we’re not really getting: character description and a tension line.

However, we do get character banter: typical for Sam, he offers to carry Frodo’s pack, though he’s got the heaviest load, to be told cheerfully by Pippin that Frodo’s been slack lately, and he can walk off some of his weight.

The very next morning, it’s Pippin who teases Sam again, asking where their hot water and breakfast are—to be summarily turfed out of his bedroll by Frodo.

These small moments resonate so very strongly when one knows what is coming: Pippin’s depth of character when dealing with Denethor, Frodo worn to skin and bone on his horrible, hopeless quest, and Sam . . . sometimes I think that Sam’s character arc is the best, and indeed brilliant, of all, in that so much of his heroism is disguised by humor.

The chapter gets a bit of tension line when they spot their first Black Rider—after which we find out that Sam’s rock-steady dad, whom he calls the Gaffer, told one off the very hour that Frodo slipped away from Bag End.

The hobbits meet up with Gildor, and once more the old-epic sparsity of description: the only thing we’re told is that starlight glimmered on their hair and in their eyes. Gildor comes off as a bit of a snob, condescending toward everyone not elves, and later not giving the hobbits much data on the Black Riders

But for all the lack of visuals on Elves, JRRT made up for it with glimpses of history, the long, yearning twilight of the elves, poetry, and finally warning about the Black Riders, “lest terror should keep them from their journey.”

He also endears himself by commenting, "But it is not your own Shire. Others dwelt here before hobbits were; and others will dwell here again when hobbits are no more."

However, in spite of these prickles (and I was pretty stung by them as a fourteen year old reader, identifying strongly with the hobbits) the Elves accept the three, keep them safe, give them a good time—and best of all, promise to spread the word. And they do keep their promise.

As a reader now, I find that this encounter with the Elves is the beginning of that sense I always get in reading this story: of the weight of history, and the inexorable wearing of time and change.

“But where shall I find the courage?” Frodo asks, to be told that he might find it in unlikely places. And if that isn’t a hint about Faramir . . . indeed, doesn’t Frodo recollect that moment, way at the end of volume two? Well, I’ll see how good memory is, and now on to chapter four.

Which begins with hobbit banter. I can never get enough of hobbit banter—it kept me glued to the pages in the beginning here, and later on when events get tough, little scenes with hobbits between those of dire, or high, doings, contrast so brightly. Meanwhile Pippin seems obsessed with the sniffing and snuffling of the Black Riders—I think he’s mentioned it at least three times, if not more.

We meet Farmer Maggot, whose farm gets a lavish description as well as the meal that Mrs. Maggot and her many offspring prepare for them. We also find out that a Black Rider is on their tail.

Chapter 5 is the last of the light chapters. They reached Frodo's house to revel in a bath and good food with Merry and Fatty Bolger. Frodo nerves himself to go on alone, to discover a conspiracy to keep him company. This is cool, but on the other hand, how many people in the Shire know about the ring?

All three of these chapters were filled with gloriously detailed description of the countryside, a treasure for the visual reader, interspersed with humor, and glimpses of what is beginning to feel like a complex, old, lived-in world. The countryside is almost the protagonist of these early chapters.

But it was difficult to put faces, bodies, and clothes on the names and voices. I wonder if the pointed ears on elves came from the very element that Tolkien despised to thoroughly: Shakespearean illustrations. All I remember is, when fans began drawing elves back in the mid-sixties, more of them had pointed ears than not.
sartorias: (JRRT)
Spoilers

The most important bits in the long talk between Gandalf and Frodo in the last chapter were Frodo’s acceptance of the burden of the ring, and the conversation about Gollum and whether or not he ought to be killed.

At the start of chapter three, the urgency over the ring dissipates as weeks go by and Frodo doesn’t do a thing. We get some humor about the Sackville-Bagginses getting their sticky mitts on Bag End at last, until they finally depart in two beautiful pages of description of night walks, ending with a brief dive into the mind of a passing fox, surprised to see hobbits out so late.

I maintain that anyone who considers these descriptive passages bad writing has so different a sense of what I think is good writing we might as well be speaking foreign languages to each other, but two things we’re not really getting: character description and a tension line.

However, we do get character banter: typical for Sam, he offers to carry Frodo’s pack, though he’s got the heaviest load, to be told cheerfully by Pippin that Frodo’s been slack lately, and he can walk off some of his weight.

The very next morning, it’s Pippin who teases Sam again, asking where their hot water and breakfast are—to be summarily turfed out of his bedroll by Frodo.

These small moments resonate so very strongly when one knows what is coming: Pippin’s depth of character when dealing with Denethor, Frodo worn to skin and bone on his horrible, hopeless quest, and Sam . . . sometimes I think that Sam’s character arc is the best, and indeed brilliant, of all, in that so much of his heroism is disguised by humor.

The chapter gets a bit of tension line when they spot their first Black Rider—after which we find out that Sam’s rock-steady dad, whom he calls the Gaffer, told one off the very hour that Frodo slipped away from Bag End.

The hobbits meet up with Gildor, and once more the old-epic sparsity of description: the only thing we’re told is that starlight glimmered on their hair and in their eyes. Gildor comes off as a bit of a snob, condescending toward everyone not elves, and later not giving the hobbits much data on the Black Riders

But for all the lack of visuals on Elves, JRRT made up for it with glimpses of history, the long, yearning twilight of the elves, poetry, and finally warning about the Black Riders, “lest terror should keep them from their journey.”

He also endears himself by commenting, "But it is not your own Shire. Others dwelt here before hobbits were; and others will dwell here again when hobbits are no more."

However, in spite of these prickles (and I was pretty stung by them as a fourteen year old reader, identifying strongly with the hobbits) the Elves accept the three, keep them safe, give them a good time—and best of all, promise to spread the word. And they do keep their promise.

As a reader now, I find that this encounter with the Elves is the beginning of that sense I always get in reading this story: of the weight of history, and the inexorable wearing of time and change.

“But where shall I find the courage?” Frodo asks, to be told that he might find it in unlikely places. And if that isn’t a hint about Faramir . . . indeed, doesn’t Frodo recollect that moment, way at the end of volume two? Well, I’ll see how good memory is, and now on to chapter four.

Which begins with hobbit banter. I can never get enough of hobbit banter—it kept me glued to the pages in the beginning here, and later on when events get tough, little scenes with hobbits between those of dire, or high, doings, contrast so brightly. Meanwhile Pippin seems obsessed with the sniffing and snuffling of the Black Riders—I think he’s mentioned it at least three times, if not more.

We meet Farmer Maggot, whose farm gets a lavish description as well as the meal that Mrs. Maggot and her many offspring prepare for them. We also find out that a Black Rider is on their tail.

Chapter 5 is the last of the light chapters. They reached Frodo's house to revel in a bath and good food with Merry and Fatty Bolger. Frodo nerves himself to go on alone, to discover a conspiracy to keep him company. This is cool, but on the other hand, how many people in the Shire know about the ring?

All three of these chapters were filled with gloriously detailed description of the countryside, a treasure for the visual reader, interspersed with humor, and glimpses of what is beginning to feel like a complex, old, lived-in world. The countryside is almost the protagonist of these early chapters.

But it was difficult to put faces, bodies, and clothes on the names and voices. I wonder if the pointed ears on elves came from the very element that Tolkien despised to thoroughly: Shakespearean illustrations. All I remember is, when fans began drawing elves back in the mid-sixties, more of them had pointed ears than not.
Tags: lotr, rereading

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