Apr. 20th, 2017

sartorias: (JRRT)
The Fellowship waits a couple of months before taking off, something that I found disconcerting as a kid reader—I expected Elrond to have their bags packed and waiting as soon as they got up from the council table.

But as an older reader, I appreciate what I skimmed over as a kid: how they wait for intel before setting off. They have to keep the movement of the ring as secret as possible. Though inevitably the fellowship will be discovered, Sauron will expect that one or another of the princes or kings will be grabbing the ring and coming down to challenge the gates of Mordor.

The mood is tense and grim, which makes the hobbit banter all the more of a delightful contrast as they say goodbye to all, including Bilbo, who gives Frodo the mithril coat then sings one of the most poignant of the poems: “I Sit by the Fire and Think.”

Maybe I’ll talk later about my response to the poetry, though I realize that me discussing poetry is equivalent of a cat discussing algebra, but right now I’ll say that this is one of my favorites. It’s so simple, not pretending to high matters—but every verse, especially the last, resonates in this my old age. And Bilbo is old as he sings it, speaking of his plans “If I am spared.”

We get to know the travelers as they progress: Gimli’s POV, Legolas listening to the stone, and the grass, and commenting on elves long gone, remembered only by the silent landscape.

Aragorn hears something different in the silence: a lack of birds. Boromir has good advice—and keeps a watchful eye over the hobbits, who begin struggling as they venture upward.

Caradhras defeats them, and so they have to go to Moria: Aragorn deferring to Gandalf, though with deep misgivings, Gimli overjoyed. Sam is devastated at Bill being sent away—and it is comforting to remember that JRRT doesn’t forget him.

Down they go, after more history at the door. I’ve heard two versions of “Durin’s Bane,” both really good. What I especially enjoy in the whole Moria episode is the glimpse into dwarf culture, and Gimli’s reactions to the tragedy that unfolded there. This, contrasted with his later description of the caves behind Helm’s Deep, and his hopeless dedication to Galadriel, makes him such an interesting, complex character, too often overlooked in discussions—or, since the films, regarded mostly as a comic figure.

Gandalf versus Balrog, vivid and harrowing, and the company flees—after which “Grief at last overcame them, and they wept long.”

Later on I do want to talk about tears in LOTR.

But right now, the company is on the way to Lothlorien.

May 2017

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