CotW LotR Bk.4, Ch.8, 'The Stairs of Cirith Ungol'

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Troels Forchhammer

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Nov 7, 2004, 5:22:41 PM11/7/04
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This post is a chapter introduction in the Tolkien newsgroups' 'Chapter
of the Week' (CotW) project. For more information visit the CotW
homepage at <http://parasha.maoltuile.org/>.


Chapter of the Week. /The Lord of the Rings/, Book IV, Chapter 8,
'The Stairs of Cirith Ungol'

Wherein Frodo, Sam and Gollum see the tower of the Ringwraiths, Minas
Morgul (MM), sees the storm break as the host of MM marches with war on
Gondor. Sam and Frodo debate the grand tales and Gollum misses a good
opportunity.


Summary:

[From Ithilien to Morgul]

A brief moment of serenity at the sight of the old king's head is
broken when Gollum tugs at Frodo's cloak, "hissing with fear and
impatience. 'We must go,' he said. 'We mustn't stand here. Make
haste!'"

They start up the Morgul vale, Frodo feeling again the terrible weight
of the Ring dragging him down. Then they see it[A]:

"[...] high on a rocky seat upon the black knees of the
Ephel Dúath, stood the walls and tower of Minas Morgul. All
was dark about it, earth and sky, but it was lit with
light. [...] Paler indeed than the moon ailing in some slow
eclipse was the light of it now, wavering and blowing like
a noisome exhalation of decay, a corpse-light, a light that
illuminated nothing."

Dragging themselves up the road they get to the bridge over the stream
that runs through the valley (there is always a stream through a
valley). Here Frodo is suddenly drawn towards the city, "his senses
reeling and his mind darkening."[1] Sam and Gollum stops him, and they
leave the road, crossing the "meads of deadly flowers"[B], until they
rise "above the stench and vapours of the poisonous stream." There
Frodo, feeling exhausted, sits down to rest despite the urgings of
Gollum and Sam.


[The Host of Morgul]

But Frodo rests for too long (or perhaps just long enough[2]): the
great signal goes up from Mount Doom; the hour of doom has come at last
for Gondor.

The signal is answered from Minas Morgul, and out of the gates issues
the host of Morgul, led by the Witch-king himself, and Frodo feels the
old wound in his shoulder ache. As he reaches the bridge, the
Witch-king somehow senses the presence in his valley of something that
shouldn't be there:

"Maybe it was the Ring that called to the Wraith-lord, and
for a moment he was troubled, sensing some other power
within his valley."

Frodo feels the, by now, familiar command to put on the Ring, but this
time Frodo is disinclined to obey, knowing that the Ring would only
betray him. Still, the force of the command is so strong that it seizes
Frodo's hand, leading it towards the Ring, but as his own will wakens,
his conscious mind guides the errant hand to the phial of Galadriel,
and the Witch-king, feeling the urgency of Sauron and failing to
discover the Hobbits, moves on[3].

Frodo then thinks of Faramir, "the storm has burst" and he experiences
a moment of weakness, where he thinks that his whole journey is in
vain, but when Sam rouses him, his weakness is turned to resolve,
though the despair doesn't leave him: "what he had to do, he had to do,
if he could, and that whether Faramir or Aragorn or Elrond or Galadriel
or Gandalf or anyone else ever knew about it was beside the purpose."


[The Stairs of Cirith Ungol]

The trio now climbs the Stairs of Cirith Ungol -- first the straight
stair, long and torturous, legs hurting with every step; and then the
Winding Stair, less torturous, but still long, wearying and dangerous:
at one point offering Frodo a birds-eye view of "the wraith-road from
the dead city to the Nameless Pass."

" Still on and up the stairway bent and crawled, until at
last with a final flight, short and straight, it climbed
out again on to another level."

The top! They've finally reached it.

Looking up Frodo realises that this pass is guarded, as he should
indeed have known it would be (the Nazgûl have, after all, been holding
Minas Morgul for a millennium). Gollum evades his questioning saying,
" All ways are watched, yes. Of course they are. But
hobbits must try some way. This may be least watched.
Perhaps they've all gone away to big battle, perhaps!'"
There's a lot of 'perhaps' about that, isn't there ;-)

Finally Gollum allow the Hobbits a rest before they attempt the tunnel
and the high pass -- as we'll learn he as his own reasons, but for the
moment the Hobbits are grateful to be allowed to settle in a "dark
crevice between two great piers of rock." First the conversation turns
to water, and the accursed path they are treading.


[Sam and Frodo On Fairy-stories]

"But so our path is laid," says Frodo.
" 'Yes, that's so,' said Sam. 'And we shouldn't be here at
all, if we'd known more about it before we started.'"[4]

And yet, here they are. Sam comment that their situation is like that
in the old tales . . . no, I had better quote it

"But I suppose it's often that way. The brave things in the
old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to
call them. I used to think that they were things the
wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for,
because they wanted them, because they were exciting and
life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say.
But that's not the way of it with the tales that really
mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to
have been just landed in them, usually - their paths were
laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of
chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn't. And if
they had, we shouldn't know, because they'd have been
forgotten. We hear about those as just went on - and not
all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk
inside a story and not outside it call a good end."

I've always been very fascinated with this conversation. I'll just
quote a few key passages and comment upon them in the notes.

"'And why, sir, I never thought of that before! We've got -
you've got some of the light of it in that star-glass that
the Lady gave you! Why, to think of it, we're in the same
tale still! It's going on. Don't the great tales never end?'
'No, they never end as tales,' said Frodo. 'But the
people in them come, and go when their part's ended. Our
part will end later - or sooner.'"[5][6][7][C][D]

"'Why, Sam,' [Frodo] said, 'to hear you somehow makes me as
merry as if the story was already written. But you've left
out one of the chief characters: Samwise the stouthearted.
"I want to hear more about Sam, dad. Why didn't they put in
more of his talk, dad? That's what I like, it makes me
laugh. And Frodo wouldn't have got far without Sam, would
he, dad?"'"[E][F][G]

"Why, even Gollum might be good in a tale, better than he is
to have by you, anyway. And he used to like tales himself
once, by his own account. I wonder if he thinks he's the
hero or the villain?" [8][H]

Gollum, however, is gone, and their conversation peters out. Sam makes
Frodo take a nap, promising to stay awake himself, but, exhausted after
the long climb, Sam, too, falls asleep.


[A Missed Opportunity]

Hours later Gollum returns (from his visit to Shelob, as we later
learn) to find Sam and Frodo sleeping peacefully.

" Gollum looked at them. A strange expression passed over
his lean hungry face. The gleam faded from his eyes, and
they went dim and grey, old and tired. A spasm of pain
seemed to twist him, and he turned away, peering back up
towards the pass, shaking his head, as if engaged in some
interior debate. Then he came back, and slowly putting out
a trembling hand, very cautiously he touched Frodo's knee -
but almost the touch was a caress. For a fleeting moment,
could one of the sleepers have seen him, they would have
thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by
the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond
friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, an
old starved pitiable thing."

At that Frodo stirs in his sleep, Sam wakes and asks Gollum what he is
doing, "sneaking off and sneaking back," and the moment is
irretrievably lost.[9]

After a brief debate about the word 'sneak'[I], they set off towards
the tunnel.


Discussion points:

Story-internal notes:

[1] What makes Frodo, as he reaches the bridge, suddenly become drawn
to Minas Morgul "as if some force were at work other than his own
will"? There is a suggestion that he was affected by the vapours
from the stream:
"The water flowing beneath was silent, and it steamed, but
the vapour that rose from it, curling and twisting about
the bridge, was deadly cold. Frodo felt his senses reeling
and his mind darkening."
and
"As they rose above the stench and vapours of the poisonous
stream their breath became easier and their heads clearer;"
but if this is the whole explanation why, then, would only Frodo be
affected and not Sam?

[2] When the signal goes up; what would have happened if Frodo had not
stopped to rest?
- Would they have been discovered?
- Would they have reached better cover?
And if so, would the Witch-king then not have sensed the Ring, and
thus not have sent the patrol to Cirith Ungol (in which case Sam
would have faced a fully manned Orc bastion instead of the few Orcs
that survived the confrontation between the two groups).

[3] I hardly know where to start with this confrontation between Frodo
and the Witch-king :-)
- The command to put on the Ring as "beating upon him of a great
power from outside." It's a bit different from earlier, where this
command found some answer in his own desire to hide from the
Ringwraiths. A clear indication, as I see it, of how much Frodo has
grown.
- This power taking Frodo's hand and making it move despite his own
wish:
"It took his hand, and as Frodo watched with his mind, not
willing it but in suspense (as if he looked on some old
story far away), it moved the hand inch by inch towards the
chain upon his neck."
The impression I get is that Frodo at this point is feeling merely
as an uninvolved and disinterested observer -- there is "no longer
any answer to that command in his own will," but neither is there
any conscious opposition to the command (yet).
- Then Frodo's "own will stirred" -- now he consciously opposes the
command:
"slowly it forced the hand back, and set it to find another
thing, a thing lying hidden near his breast."
Why does he suddenly seek the phial here? We hear that it was
"almost forgotten till that hour", so why does the thought of it
arise now? It doesn't seem to me that this long-forgotten phial
would be the natural thing to grasp to strengthen one's will -- e.g.
grasping Sting would seem more natural to me. Is this another
indication of Frodo's growth, or was he 'inspired' to grope for the
phial?
- Touching the phial is, however, the best thing he could do: "As he
touched it, for a while all thought of the Ring was banished from
his mind." This recalls to me the description of Tom Bombadil as
completely disinterested in power -- the effect on Frodo of touching
the phial seems, to me, parallel: any thought of the Ring leaves his
mind, including the desires that it uses to ensnare the minds.
- The Witch-king moves on; "[m]aybe the elven-hoods defied his unseen
eyes, and the mind of his small enemy; being strengthened, had
turned aside his thought." Here the idea of Galadriel's phial as a
mental support for Frodo is repeated.

[4] "And we shouldn't be here at all, if we'd known more about it
before we started." Sam's use here of "shouldn't" rather than
"wouldn't" has been commented upon as odd. Does anyone have a good
explanation of the difference, or should we just write it off as a
'Gamgee-ism' ;-)

[5] Sam draws the line from the Phial of Galadriel that Frodo carries
and back to Beren and Lúthien via Eärendil, but the line can be
taken further back to Fëanor and the Two Trees. The great tale
becomes the entire history of Arda . . .

[6] The Phial of Galadriel containing the light of the Silmaril, in
which Fëanor captured the light of the Two Trees. Galadriel has, at
a smaller scale repeated Fëanor's work. Is it, by the way, ever
stated outright which of the Trees the light of Eärendil's Silmaril
contained? I've always sort of assumed that it would be from
Telperion (based mainly on the light from Venus), but I don't recall
it ever being stated outright.

[7] This is also one of the indications of two worlds superimposed. We
have the Straight Way above the Bent Seas, the material world and
the Unseen, and we have a world where the planet Venus reflects the
light of the Sun and one where Eärendil circles the world in
Vingilot, carrying the Silmaril on his brow.
Is this 'merely' an indication of Tolkien's indecision while writing
LotR (what kind of cosmology), or is this a deliberate effect; an
attempt to merge the old flat-world cosmology with the new
round-world cosmology, making them co-exist, one in the material
sense, the other in the spiritual sense.

[8] I wonder, with Sam: Does Gollum think he is the hero or the
villain? Does it depend on whether we asked Sméagol or Gollum?

[9] The significance of this moment, when Gollum returns to find Sam
and Frodo sleeping, is discussed at length in /letters/ -- for
instance in letter #181 (To Michael Straight [drafts], probably
January or February 1956):
"At any point any prudent person would have told Frodo that
Gollum would certainly[1] betray him, and could rob him in
the end. To 'pity' him, to forbear to kill him, was a piece
of folly, or a mystical belief in the ultimate
value-in-itself of pity and generosity even if disastrous
in the world of time."
[1] "'Not quite 'certainly'. The clumsiness in fidelity of Sam
was what finally pushed Gollum over the brink, when about to
repent."
The investigation of what could have happened if this scene had
played out differently takes up a lot of space in letter #246 (From
a letter to Mrs Eileen Elgar [drafts], September 1963). This letter
is available in its entirety from an earlier post to usenet:
<http://google.ca/groups?selm=ul2kb61...@corp.supernews.com>
The relevant passage is from "Sam is meant to be lovable and
laughable" to "I think he would then have sacrificed himself for
Frodo's sake and have voluntarily cast himself into the fiery
abyss."
The more interesting points here are, IMO, Tolkien's descriptions
of Hobbit's in general:
"[...] a vulgarity - by which I do not mean a mere
'down-to-earthiness' - a mental myopia which is proud of
itself, a smugness (in varying degrees) and cocksureness,
and a readiness to measure and sum up all things from a
limited experience, largely enshrined in sententious
traditional 'wisdom'."
(I don't think I'm the only one who is reminded of Sam's
'Gafferisms')
The description of Sam in particular, and especially his relation
to and understanding of his master. "Sam was cocksure, and deep down
a little conceited;" though
"He did not think of himself as heroic or even brave, or in
any way admirable - except in his service and loyalty to
his master."
But even then this love was also tarnished;
"That had an ingredient (probably inevitable) of pride and
possessiveness: it is difficult to exclude it from the
devotion of those who perform such service. In any case it
prevented him from fully understanding the master that he
loved [...]"

Also the idea that Gollum, had Sam not been so clumsy, might in the
end have seized the Ring and thrown himself into the fire together
with the Ring

I won't state any specific questions with respect to all this, but
rather invite you all to comment as you see fit.


Story-external notes:

[A] The whole description of Frodo's first visage of Minas Morgul is
worth quoting:
" A long-tilted valley, a deep gulf of shadow, ran back
far into the mountains. Upon the further side, some way
within the valley's arms high on a rocky seat upon the
black knees of the Ephel Dúath, stood the walls and tower
of Minas Morgul. All was dark about it, earth and sky, but
it was lit with light. Not the imprisoned moonlight welling
through the marble walls of Minas Ithil long ago, Tower of
the Moon, fair and radiant in the hollow of the hills.
Paler indeed than the moon ailing in some slow eclipse was
the light of it now, wavering and blowing like a noisome
exhalation of decay, a corpse-light, a light that
illuminated nothing. In the walls and tower windows showed,
like countless black holes looking inward into emptiness;
but the topmost course of the tower revolved slowly, first
one way and then another, a huge ghostly head leering into
the night."
I am inevitably reminded of Tolkien's praise of the spell of
adjectives in OFS :-)

[B] There's a delightful description of Gollum as they cross the fields
meads in the valley:
"Then his eyes shone with a green-white light, reflecting
the noisome Morgul-sheen perhaps, or kindled by some
answering mood within."

[C] "Don't the great tales never end?" Asked Sam, and Frodo told him
that they don't. Is this more than just a story-internal comment on
the tale of the Silmarils and the light of the Two Trees? Could this
be also a manifesto from Tolkien about his own legendarium -- that it
all be one great tale, where only the people in them come and go?
Could it furthermore be applied on a grander scale? Could it be a
comment relating to the real world as well? And in that case, what
would be the tale?

[D] All this talk about the tale they're in makes me wonder how many
narrative layers we have here? The story is being told through Sam's
eyes[E], so it appears we have Tolkien the author, Tolkien the
translator, Frodo the writer, Sam the story-teller and now we get
these additional meta-layers referring also upwards in the narrative
layers. Don't tell me that LotR is a nice and simple story ;-)

[E] Re. Frodo's praise of Sam: We've seen Sam slowly take over as the
more prominent person -- more and more the story is being told
through Sam, and at this point is almost exclusively from his point
of view. I believe that Frodo wrote the book to the point where he
left Hobbiton, so, story-internally, what is the significance of
this? Did Frodo have to rely on Sam to tell the story -- was he,
himself, too consumed by his constant battle of wills with the Ring?

[F] Sam as the 'chief hero', as Tolkien put it in letter #131 -- in
what sense is Sam the 'chief hero' of LotR?

[G] As I have tried to imply with the heading, this whole conversation
reads to me as a supplement to /On Fairy-Stories/. In this
conversation Sam and Frodo touch on issues that Tolkien gloss over
in OFS: the concrete contents of the story. Their discussion doesn't
go that far, but in a number of ways it reads perhaps even more as a
manifesto from Tolkien's hand than OFS.

[H] Gollum: hero or villain? Sam's question is relevant, I think,
beyond their immediate situation. We know that Sauron, from the
beginning, did want to work for what he thought was good, and
certainly Saruman also started out good. There's an important point
in Sam's question about Gollum's self-image -- it pertains to the
self-image of all the villains in all stories: do they see
themselves as the hero or the villain (or, to add a third
possibility, do they see themselves as being above such petty
moralist concerns: "There is no good and evil, there is only power,
and those too weak to seek it ..." as Rowling has one of her
villains state as the lesson from Voldemort).


Other discussion points:

In this book we go from the barren hills of Emyn Muil to the very
border of Mordor, the Evil Realm. We see the Dead Marshes -- putrid
pools of stagnant water, filled with rot and decay where the foul
corpse lights lure the unwary wanderer to his death just as a
Will-o-wisp. We see the utterly devastated desolation before the
Morannon, a land standing as a fitting tribute (to the author of the
story) to the destructive power of human fascination with the Machine.

Now, in this chapter, we follow the three fated companions into another
land under the influence of the Enemy. Here, however, is not death, but
rather an evil mockery of life. The fields are not barren, but filled
with pale white, luminous flowers: "beautiful and yet horrible of
shape, like the demented forms in an uneasy dream; and they gave forth
a faint sickening charnel-smell; an odour of rottenness filled the
air."

But the Morgul Vale is not directly under the command of Sauron -- it
is not a part of Mordor but of Gondor, even if it was seized by the
Ringwraiths more than a millennium before Frodo enters this dark rift
in the Mountains of Shadow.

Does the difference between the Morgul vale and e.g. Gorgoroth tell
anything about the difference between Sauron and the Nazgûl? The
wraiths are, after all, human, while Sauron was much more than that.


Your thoughts and ideas?

--
Troels Forchhammer
Valid mail is <t.forch(a)email.dk>

'It's saying a lot too much,' said Frodo, and he laughed, a long clear
laugh from his heart. Such a sound had not been heard in those places
since Sauron came to Middle-earth. To Sam suddenly it seemed as if all
the stones were listening and the tall rocks leaning over them. But
Frodo did not heed them; he laughed again.

Graeme Thomas

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Nov 7, 2004, 5:54:19 PM11/7/04
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In article <Xns959AEE12...@212.242.40.196>, Troels Forchhammer
<Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> writes

[ Snip excellent summary ]

>[4] "And we shouldn't be here at all, if we'd known more about it
> before we started." Sam's use here of "shouldn't" rather than
> "wouldn't" has been commented upon as odd. Does anyone have a good
> explanation of the difference, or should we just write it off as a
> 'Gamgee-ism' ;-)

In the formal, careful, English that Tolkien no doubt used, "shall" and
"should" are used in the 1st person, while "will" and "would" are used
in the 2nd and 3rd person. The auxiliaries are swapped (will, would in
the 1st person, etc.) when emphasis is present.

This distinction has been dying for decades, to the point where many
people now doubt that it ever existed. Perhaps that doubt is correct
for spoken English. But I am certain that Tolkien didn't mean anything,
by Sam's "should", than conventional, natural, English.
--
Graeme Thomas

Larry Swain

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Nov 7, 2004, 7:38:00 PM11/7/04
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"Should" in this usage is both the past tense of "shall" and is
an auxiliary for expressing conditions: reverse the clause order
and it will make more sense. "If we'd known more aobut it
before we started, we shouldn't be here at all." As Graeme
begins to point out, "would" as the past tense of "will" has
like "will" taken over the functions of "will" and "would" in
these situations.

Michelle J. Haines

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Nov 7, 2004, 9:15:17 PM11/7/04
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In article <Xns959AEE12...@212.242.40.196>,
Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid says...

>
> [6] The Phial of Galadriel containing the light of the Silmaril, in
> which Fëanor captured the light of the Two Trees. Galadriel has, at
> a smaller scale repeated Fëanor's work. Is it, by the way, ever
> stated outright which of the Trees the light of Eärendil's Silmaril
> contained? I've always sort of assumed that it would be from
> Telperion (based mainly on the light from Venus), but I don't recall
> it ever being stated outright.

I've always been under the impression all the Silmarils contained the
mingled like of the Trees.

Michelle
Flutist
--
Drift on a river, That flows through my arms
Drift as I'm singing to you
I see you smiling, So peaceful and calm
And holding you, I'm smiling, too
Here in my arms, Safe from all harm
Holding you, I'm smiling, too
-- For Xander [9/22/98 - 2/23/99]

Christopher Kreuzer

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Nov 7, 2004, 10:03:38 PM11/7/04
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Michelle J. Haines <mha...@nanc.com> wrote:
> Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid says...

>>
>> Is it, by the way, ever
>> stated outright which of the Trees the light of Eärendil's Silmaril
>> contained?
>
> I've always been under the impression all the Silmarils contained the
> mingled light of the Trees.

Yes. The references are (unsurprisingly) in 'The Silmarillion':

"Thus in Valinor twice every day there came a gentle hour of softer
light when both trees were faint and their gold and silver beams were
mingled." (Of the Beginning of Days)

"And the inner fire of the Silmarils Feanor made of the blended light of
the Trees of Valinor, which lives in them yet, though the Trees have
long withered and shine no more." (Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of
the Noldor)

I don't know if this blended light reflects the mingling of the light of
the Trees, but I'd like to think so.

Christopher

--
---
Reply clue: Saruman welcomes you to Spamgard

aelfwina

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Nov 8, 2004, 3:35:28 AM11/8/04
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"Troels Forchhammer" <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote in message
news:Xns959AEE12...@212.242.40.196...

> This post is a chapter introduction in the Tolkien newsgroups' 'Chapter
> of the Week' (CotW) project. For more information visit the CotW
> homepage at <http://parasha.maoltuile.org/>.
>
>
> Chapter of the Week. /The Lord of the Rings/, Book IV, Chapter 8,
> 'The Stairs of Cirith Ungol'
>
> Wherein Frodo, Sam and Gollum see the tower of the Ringwraiths, Minas
> Morgul (MM), sees the storm break as the host of MM marches with war on
> Gondor. Sam and Frodo debate the grand tales and Gollum misses a good
> opportunity.
>
(snip of lovely summary)

> Discussion points:
>
> Story-internal notes:
>
> [1] What makes Frodo, as he reaches the bridge, suddenly become drawn
> to Minas Morgul "as if some force were at work other than his own
> will"? There is a suggestion that he was affected by the vapours
> from the stream:
> "The water flowing beneath was silent, and it steamed, but
> the vapour that rose from it, curling and twisting about
> the bridge, was deadly cold. Frodo felt his senses reeling
> and his mind darkening."
> and
> "As they rose above the stench and vapours of the poisonous
> stream their breath became easier and their heads clearer;"
> but if this is the whole explanation why, then, would only Frodo be
> affected and not Sam?

I don't believe it was the only reason; Frodo was extra weary and weakened
by his struggle with the Ring, which I think made him more susceptible.


>
> [2] When the signal goes up; what would have happened if Frodo had not
> stopped to rest?
> - Would they have been discovered?
> - Would they have reached better cover?
> And if so, would the Witch-king then not have sensed the Ring, and
> thus not have sent the patrol to Cirith Ungol (in which case Sam
> would have faced a fully manned Orc bastion instead of the few Orcs
> that survived the confrontation between the two groups).

Wow, I had never thought of that before! Amazing! Yet again one of JRRT's
more subtle touches!

Perhaps this was a part of the virtue of the phial as Galadriel had made it,
that it could remind him of its presence when it was most needed? After all
if the Ring could have a bit of sentience enough to seek its maker, I don't
know why the phial could not? An interesting idea I had not thought of
before. Hmm...


>
> [8] I wonder, with Sam: Does Gollum think he is the hero or the
> villain? Does it depend on whether we asked Sméagol or Gollum?

I think at this point in time Gollum/Smeagol is beyond any thought of hero
or villain, or even good or evil. He simply wants. He wants the Precious
most of all, he wants the feeling of belonging to someone that Frodo
provides, he just wants...

Perhaps Sam's clumsiness here lost the moment, but at any rate, I don't
think it would have helped. Even if Gollum repented, I can't see that
sticking. Perhaps he might have deliberately cast himself into the Fire
instead of accidentally. But either way, he would have had to attack Frodo
to get the Ring away from him first.


>
>
> Story-external notes:
>
> [A] The whole description of Frodo's first visage of Minas Morgul is
> worth quoting:
> " A long-tilted valley, a deep gulf of shadow, ran back
> far into the mountains. Upon the further side, some way
> within the valley's arms high on a rocky seat upon the
> black knees of the Ephel Dúath, stood the walls and tower
> of Minas Morgul. All was dark about it, earth and sky, but
> it was lit with light. Not the imprisoned moonlight welling
> through the marble walls of Minas Ithil long ago, Tower of
> the Moon, fair and radiant in the hollow of the hills.
> Paler indeed than the moon ailing in some slow eclipse was
> the light of it now, wavering and blowing like a noisome
> exhalation of decay, a corpse-light, a light that
> illuminated nothing. In the walls and tower windows showed,
> like countless black holes looking inward into emptiness;
> but the topmost course of the tower revolved slowly, first
> one way and then another, a huge ghostly head leering into
> the night."
> I am inevitably reminded of Tolkien's praise of the spell of
> adjectives in OFS :-)

JRRT can do that. He casts a spell on me every time I open the books. 8-)

>
> [B] There's a delightful description of Gollum as they cross the fields
> meads in the valley:
> "Then his eyes shone with a green-white light, reflecting
> the noisome Morgul-sheen perhaps, or kindled by some
> answering mood within."

Oh, doesn't it just give you the shivers? Of all the villians, I find
Gollum definitely the *creepiest*!

>
> [C] "Don't the great tales never end?" Asked Sam, and Frodo told him
> that they don't. Is this more than just a story-internal comment on
> the tale of the Silmarils and the light of the Two Trees? Could this
> be also a manifesto from Tolkien about his own legendarium -- that it
> all be one great tale, where only the people in them come and go?
> Could it furthermore be applied on a grander scale? Could it be a
> comment relating to the real world as well? And in that case, what
> would be the tale?

I would not be surprised if that were not the author's intent, though as to
what the tale is, I could not venture to guess.

>
> [D] All this talk about the tale they're in makes me wonder how many
> narrative layers we have here? The story is being told through Sam's
> eyes[E], so it appears we have Tolkien the author, Tolkien the
> translator, Frodo the writer, Sam the story-teller and now we get
> these additional meta-layers referring also upwards in the narrative
> layers. Don't tell me that LotR is a nice and simple story ;-)

Well, I for one never would. Good night! as many times as I have read the
stories, I keep coming on new thoughts and ideas. That's why I am loving
these CotW discussions. Simple? Ha!

>
> [E] Re. Frodo's praise of Sam: We've seen Sam slowly take over as the
> more prominent person -- more and more the story is being told
> through Sam, and at this point is almost exclusively from his point
> of view. I believe that Frodo wrote the book to the point where he
> left Hobbiton, so, story-internally, what is the significance of
> this? Did Frodo have to rely on Sam to tell the story -- was he,
> himself, too consumed by his constant battle of wills with the Ring?

I was going over Frodo's "anniversary illnesses" as recounted in the last
couple of chapters of the story just in the last couple of days as a bit of
research, and was impressed at the sparseness, and down-playing of what must
have been agony for him. Especially the account of his second anniversary
of Weathertop: "But then he got up, and the turn seemed to pass, and he was
quite himself the next day." A bit of description that sounds more like
wishful thinking than fact. I do believe he distanced himself even to
himself when writing of these things.

>
> [F] Sam as the 'chief hero', as Tolkien put it in letter #131 -- in
> what sense is Sam the 'chief hero' of LotR?

To me, I see it as he is the one who reaps the benefits of being the hero:
he gets the girl, and he gets to live happily ever after, even to the point
of presumably being reunited at last with Frodo. This is not to downplay
his own considerable courage, loyalty and sheer determination, which make
him a hero in his own right. But to me the outcome is what would determine
"chief hero".

>
> [G] As I have tried to imply with the heading, this whole conversation
> reads to me as a supplement to /On Fairy-Stories/. In this
> conversation Sam and Frodo touch on issues that Tolkien gloss over
> in OFS: the concrete contents of the story. Their discussion doesn't
> go that far, but in a number of ways it reads perhaps even more as a
> manifesto from Tolkien's hand than OFS.

I agree. I am going to have to re-read OFS soon.

>
> [H] Gollum: hero or villain? Sam's question is relevant, I think,
> beyond their immediate situation. We know that Sauron, from the
> beginning, did want to work for what he thought was good, and
> certainly Saruman also started out good. There's an important point
> in Sam's question about Gollum's self-image -- it pertains to the
> self-image of all the villains in all stories: do they see
> themselves as the hero or the villain (or, to add a third
> possibility, do they see themselves as being above such petty
> moralist concerns: "There is no good and evil, there is only power,
> and those too weak to seek it ..." as Rowling has one of her
> villains state as the lesson from Voldemort).

The Rowling quote is definitely applicable to the other villains, such as
Sauron, Saruman and Lotho. Gollum on the other hand, I see as a villain
along the lines of a hopelessly addicted druggie, who resorts to any kind of
crime, petty or major, that will get him his next fix. He is reduced to
mindless need.

> Your thoughts and ideas?

This is a chapter that I find difficult to re-read, precisely because it
*is* so well written. The intensity of suspense and the heightened angst
from here on out are actually *worse* to re-read than to read for the first
time, because I do know what is coming. I keep wanting to interject myself
into the story and *warn* Frodo and Sam! Another measure of JRRT's skill as
a story-teller.
Barbara

sugr...@yhti.net

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Nov 8, 2004, 7:45:47 AM11/8/04
to
On Mon, 8 Nov 2004 02:35:28 -0600, "aelfwina" <aelf...@cableone.net>
wrote:

And the light is of Earendil(our most beloved star. I cannot say the
first part without the second part of that phrase1 ") ) I think there
is some greater power that inhabits the light than mere molecules of
light. Earendil is still up there, sailing, ever sailing. CAn he see
don through the swirl of clouds and see, see the glow of light? For
there is more to the phial than mere illumination.
Also, the weapon of choice against darkness being light, Frodo is
somehow inspired to grab hold of the phial(what good is a sword
against such psychic power.)

Speaking Clock

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Nov 8, 2004, 8:26:41 AM11/8/04
to
Graeme Thomas wrote:
> Troels Forchhammer writes

>
>> "And we shouldn't be here at all, if we'd known more about it
>> before we started." Sam's use here of "shouldn't" rather than
>> "wouldn't" has been commented upon as odd. Does anyone have a good
>> explanation of the difference, or should we just write it off as a
>> 'Gamgee-ism' ;-)
>
> In the formal, careful, English that Tolkien no doubt used, "shall"
> and "should" are used in the 1st person, while "will" and "would" are
> used in the 2nd and 3rd person. The auxiliaries are swapped (will,
> would in the 1st person, etc.) when emphasis is present.
>
> This distinction has been dying for decades, to the point where many
> people now doubt that it ever existed. Perhaps that doubt is correct
> for spoken English. But I am certain that Tolkien didn't mean
> anything, by Sam's "should", than conventional, natural, English.

This puts me in mind of another grammatical form that is dying out in
English, the subjunctive. "If I were you" is often replaced these days by
"If I was you". American English also now seems to be using "If that would
be true, then ..." instead of "If that was (were) true, then ....".

Ah, had I the heavens' embroidered cloths ....
--
Speaking Clock


Troels Forchhammer

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Nov 8, 2004, 1:26:08 PM11/8/04
to
In message <news:emBjd.9466$up1...@text.news.blueyonder.co.uk>
"Christopher Kreuzer" <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> enriched us with:
>

<snip>

> I don't know if this blended light reflects the mingling of the
> light of the Trees, but I'd like to think so.

I have, for years (ever since my first reading of the Silmarillion)
thought that the three Silmarils contained the light of Telperin, the
light of Laurelin and the blended light. Looking for it today, I have
been unable to find anything that could suggest such a thing (other,
perhaps, than the number of Silmarils together with the recounting of
the days in Valinor). Now I don't know how the idea entered my head ;-)
but it was so rooted that I didn't even bother to check the book before
writing up the introduction. Funny how these things sometimes work ...

Though I'm not sure whether to be pleased that my mistake has been
cleared up -- it was such a nice idea ;-)

--
Troels Forchhammer
Valid mail is <t.forch(a)email.dk>

"He deserves death."
"Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some
that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too
eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see
all ends."
- Tolkien in The Fellowship of the Ring

Shanahan

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Nov 10, 2004, 3:17:48 AM11/10/04
to
Troels Forchhammer <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> typed sincerely:

>
> Chapter of the Week. /The Lord of the Rings/, Book IV, Chapter 8,
> 'The Stairs of Cirith Ungol'

<snip Troel's usual good stuff>


> [6] The Phial of Galadriel containing the light of the Silmaril,
> in which Fëanor captured the light of the Two Trees. Galadriel
> has, at a smaller scale repeated Fëanor's work. Is it, by the
> way, ever stated outright which of the Trees the light of
> Eärendil's Silmaril contained? I've always sort of assumed that
> it would be from Telperion (based mainly on the light from
> Venus), but I don't recall it ever being stated outright.

I've always assumed that the Silmarils blended the Light from the
Trees. Doesn't UT say that Feanor got his inspiration for the gems
from Galadriel's hair, which was said to blend the light from both
Trees? If the three gems were made each from the light of only one
Tree, then there would be two of one Tree and one of the other, and
I'm *sure* that would have been mentioned somewhere.

Oh -- <reads Troels' post on this> -- I do like your idea, though.
<g>

<snip>


> abyss." The more interesting points here are, IMO, Tolkien's
> descriptions of Hobbit's in general: "[...] a vulgarity - by
> which I do not mean a mere 'down-to-earthiness' - a mental myopia
> which is proud of itself, a smugness (in varying degrees) and
> cocksureness, and a readiness to measure and sum up all things
> from a limited experience, largely enshrined in sententious
> traditional 'wisdom'." (I don't think I'm the only one who is
> reminded of Sam's 'Gafferisms') The description of Sam in
> particular, and especially his relation to and understanding of
> his master. "Sam was cocksure, and deep down a little conceited;"
> though "He did not think of himself as heroic or even brave, or

Anyone who's ever lived in a small town recognizes this description!
Tolkien knew 'little people', both their good and their bad
qualities. Sam's simplicity is what gets him through in the end.

> in any way admirable - except in his service and loyalty to his
> master." But even then this love was also tarnished; "That had an
> ingredient (probably inevitable) of pride and possessiveness: it
> is difficult to exclude it from the devotion of those who perform
> such service. In any case it prevented him from fully
> understanding the master that he loved [...]"

I'm not sure I understand this. How, exactly, do Sam's pride and
possessiveness prevent him from fully understanding Frodo?

> [C] "Don't the great tales never end?" Asked Sam, and Frodo told
> him that they don't. Is this more than just a story-internal
> comment on the tale of the Silmarils and the light of the Two
> Trees? Could this be also a manifesto from Tolkien about his
> own legendarium -- that it all be one great tale, where only
> the people in them come and go? Could it furthermore be
> applied on a grander scale? Could it be a comment relating to
> the real world as well? And in that case, what would be the
> tale?

The same as the tale his legendarium told -- the tale of the World.
Whatever you say about Tolkien, you can't say he dreamed small!

> [D] All this talk about the tale they're in makes me wonder how
> many narrative layers we have here? The story is being told
> through Sam's eyes[E], so it appears we have Tolkien the
> author, Tolkien the translator, Frodo the writer, Sam the
> story-teller and now we get these additional meta-layers
> referring also upwards in the narrative layers. Don't tell me
> that LotR is a nice and simple story ;-)

<g>

Ciaran S.
--
Rise now in your force
With warlike, cruel wounding shield
And strong-shafted, curved spear
And straight sword dyed red
In dark gatherings of blood.
- táin bò cúalnge

Shanahan

unread,
Nov 10, 2004, 3:35:43 AM11/10/04
to
sugr...@yhti.net <sugr...@yhti.net> typed sincerely:

<snip>


> Also, the weapon of choice against darkness being light, Frodo is

> somehow inspired to grab hold of the phial (what good is a sword
> against such psychic power.)
<snip>

Re light as a weapon against darkness and esp. Spiders:
I wonder how many generations removed from Ungoliant Shelob is?
Given that Ungoliant ate magic gems and sucked the Two Trees dry,
she seems to have a nearly infinite ability to devour Light.
Whereas Shelob is driven off by a little bit of that same Light. As
horrible as she is, she must be much weaker than her ancestress --
just imagine what Ungoliant was like. Is the consensus opinion that
Ungoliant was a Maia?

Ciaran S.
--
You're out of your tree!
"It's not my tree."


Larry Swain

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Nov 10, 2004, 12:56:54 AM11/10/04
to

That's a really great point! I hadn't thought of it
before.....Thanks!

Troels Forchhammer

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Nov 10, 2004, 7:36:22 AM11/10/04
to
in <cms9b...@enews4.newsguy.com>,
Shanahan <pog...@NOTbluefrog.com> enriched us with:
>
> sugr...@yhti.net <sugr...@yhti.net> typed sincerely:

>>
>> Also, the weapon of choice against darkness being light, Frodo is
>> somehow inspired to grab hold of the phial (what good is a sword
>> against such psychic power.)
>
> Re light as a weapon against darkness and esp. Spiders:
> I wonder how many generations removed from Ungoliant Shelob is?

I have always thought that she was the direct (first generation) child of
Ungoliant:
"But none could rival her, Shelob the Great, last child of Ungoliant to
trouble the unhappy world."

Since the spiders in Mirkwood were "her lesser brood" these would also be
descendants of Ungoliant, and the "last child" in the above can't very
well, IMO, mean "last descendant", and the natural interpretation in that
case is, I believe, that Shelob's mother was Ungoliant.

> Given that Ungoliant ate magic gems and sucked the Two Trees dry,
> she seems to have a nearly infinite ability to devour Light.

That's a good point; "for she hungered for light and hated it."

> Whereas Shelob is driven off by a little bit of that same Light.

Two degrees of separation vs. one degree ;-)

> As horrible as she is, she must be much weaker than her ancestress --
> just imagine what Ungoliant was like.

Ungoliant was a primodial Evil (whatever else she was). I think that part
of the explanation is to be found in that fact: part of the philosophical
structure of Middle-earth is that the world has been degenerating -- each
generation is, seen overall (it doesn't always hold true -- the first age
edain, Frodo and the Rohirrim are definitely counter-examples), weaker
and less noble than the former. The important thing is that the power of
the primordial powers will never be repeated -- there will be no new
Melkor and no new Ungoliant, but neither will there be a new Fëanor or
another Manwë.

If we accept that Ungoliant was a primordial power (it did require
Morgoth fighting one-handed and several Balrogs to make her flee), she
cannot have been of Middle-earth in the same way that Shelob was, and
that would, I believe, make a large difference.

> Is the consensus opinion that Ungoliant was a Maia?

"[...] Ungoliant had made her abode. The Eldar knew not
whence she came; but some have said that in ages long
before she descended from the darkness that lies about
Arda, when Melkor first looked down in envy upon the
Kingdom of Manwë, and that in the beginning she was one of
those that he corrupted to his service. But she had
disowned her Master, desiring to be mistress of her own
lust, taking all things to herself to feed her emptiness;
and she fled to the south, escaping the assaults of the
Valar and the hunters of Oromë, for their vigilance had
ever been to the north, and the south was long unheeded.
Thence she had crept towards the light of the Blessed
Realm; for she hungered for light and hated it."
(Silm, QS-8 'Of the Darkening of Valinor')

If those "some" who said this were right, I think it would certainly make
Ungoliant a Maia ("and that in the beginning she was one of those that he
corrupted to his service"), though I also think that the phrasing here
does invites some doubt.

--
Troels Forchhammer

Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind.
- (Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man)

AC

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Nov 10, 2004, 11:05:21 AM11/10/04
to
On Sun, 7 Nov 2004 22:22:41 +0000 (UTC),
Troels Forchhammer <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote:

<snip excellent summary>

>
> [1] What makes Frodo, as he reaches the bridge, suddenly become drawn
> to Minas Morgul "as if some force were at work other than his own
> will"? There is a suggestion that he was affected by the vapours
> from the stream:
> "The water flowing beneath was silent, and it steamed, but
> the vapour that rose from it, curling and twisting about
> the bridge, was deadly cold. Frodo felt his senses reeling
> and his mind darkening."
> and
> "As they rose above the stench and vapours of the poisonous
> stream their breath became easier and their heads clearer;"
> but if this is the whole explanation why, then, would only Frodo be
> affected and not Sam?

The Ring, and probably the effects of the Morgul wound as well.

<snip>

> [6] The Phial of Galadriel containing the light of the Silmaril, in
> which Fëanor captured the light of the Two Trees. Galadriel has, at
> a smaller scale repeated Fëanor's work. Is it, by the way, ever
> stated outright which of the Trees the light of Eärendil's Silmaril
> contained? I've always sort of assumed that it would be from
> Telperion (based mainly on the light from Venus), but I don't recall
> it ever being stated outright.

I had always assumed that it was a blending of the light of both trees.

> [7] This is also one of the indications of two worlds superimposed. We
> have the Straight Way above the Bent Seas, the material world and
> the Unseen, and we have a world where the planet Venus reflects the
> light of the Sun and one where Eärendil circles the world in
> Vingilot, carrying the Silmaril on his brow.
> Is this 'merely' an indication of Tolkien's indecision while writing
> LotR (what kind of cosmology), or is this a deliberate effect; an
> attempt to merge the old flat-world cosmology with the new
> round-world cosmology, making them co-exist, one in the material
> sense, the other in the spiritual sense.

Though, as I recall, there is some hint of the mythological upheaval to
come, I don't think it really became an issue until after the completion of
the Lord of the Rings.

<snip>

--
Aaron Clausen
mightym...@hotmail.com

"My illness is due to my doctor's insistence that I drink milk, a
whitish fluid they force down helpless babies." - WC Fields

Christopher Kreuzer

unread,
Nov 10, 2004, 4:53:15 PM11/10/04
to
Troels Forchhammer <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote:

<snip>

> Ungoliant was a primodial Evil (whatever else she was). I think that


> part of the explanation is to be found in that fact: part of the
> philosophical structure of Middle-earth is that the world has been
> degenerating -- each generation is, seen overall (it doesn't always
> hold true -- the first age edain, Frodo and the Rohirrim are
> definitely counter-examples), weaker and less noble than the former.
> The important thing is that the power of the primordial powers will
> never be repeated -- there will be no new Melkor and no new
> Ungoliant, but neither will there be a new Fëanor or another Manwë.

That last sentence is a good point that I haven't seen before. A logical
extension to the withdrawal or decline or spreading of the primordial
powers.

> If we accept that Ungoliant was a primordial power (it did require
> Morgoth fighting one-handed and several Balrogs to make her flee), she
> cannot have been of Middle-earth in the same way that Shelob was, and
> that would, I believe, make a large difference.

It might be possible to compare this with Luthien and Melian.

>> Is the consensus opinion that Ungoliant was a Maia?

<snip quote>

> If those "some" who said this were right, I think it would certainly
> make Ungoliant a Maia ("and that in the beginning she was one of
> those that he corrupted to his service"), though I also think that
> the phrasing here does invites some doubt.

I think "corrupted to his service" leaves little doubt. Tolkien wrote
that way to make it sound more like a tale than a textbook. Most of the
time "some" are right, as are the "it was said" bits, and so on.

Christopher Kreuzer

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Nov 10, 2004, 4:42:11 PM11/10/04
to
Shanahan <pog...@NOTbluefrog.com> wrote:

> I've always assumed that the Silmarils blended the Light from the
> Trees. Doesn't UT say that Feanor got his inspiration for the gems
> from Galadriel's hair, which was said to blend the light from both
> Trees?

'The Silmarillion' says it was Laurelin:

"[Galadriel's] hair was lit with gold as though it had caught in a mesh
the radiance of Laurelin." (Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalie)

Shanahan

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Nov 11, 2004, 2:00:52 AM11/11/04
to
Christopher Kreuzer <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> typed sincerely:

> Shanahan <pog...@NOTbluefrog.com> wrote:
>
>> I've always assumed that the Silmarils blended the Light from the
>> Trees. Doesn't UT say that Feanor got his inspiration for the
>> gems from Galadriel's hair, which was said to blend the light
>> from both Trees?
>
> 'The Silmarillion' says it was Laurelin:
> "[Galadriel's] hair was lit with gold as though it had caught in
> a mesh the radiance of Laurelin." (Of Eldamar and the Princes of
> the Eldalie)

Hmm. UT has it as both: "....her hair was held a marvel unmatched.
It was golden like the hair of her father and of her foremother
Indis, but richer and more radiant, for its gold was touched by some
memory of the starlike silver of her mother; and the Eldar said that
the light of the Two Trees, Laurelin and Telperion, had been snared
in her tresses. Many thought that this saying first gave to Feanor
the thought of imprisoning and blending the light of the Trees that
later took shape in his hands as the Silmarils. For Feanor beheld
the hair of Galadriel with wonder and delight. He begged three times
for a tress, but Galadriel would not give him even one hair." (UT,
3rd page of 'History of Galadriel and Celeborn')

This is taken from "a very late and primarily philological essay",
the one where Galadriel is Finrod's brother and the daughter of
Finarfin. I don't know what that makes it, canon-wise, but it
brings up two or three interesting points.

Ciaran S.
--
Through Evernight he back was borne,
on black and roaring waves that ran
o'er leagues unlit, and foundered shores
that drowned before the Days began


Dirk Thierbach

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Nov 11, 2004, 11:27:24 AM11/11/04
to
Troels Forchhammer <Tro...@thisisfake.invalid> wrote:
[Minas Morgul]

> The fields are not barren, but filled with pale white, luminous
> flowers: "beautiful and yet horrible of shape, like the demented
> forms in an uneasy dream; and they gave forth a faint sickening
> charnel-smell; an odour of rottenness filled the air."

For quite some time now I have had the feeling that I have read
a story with a similar description (a field of "sickly" flowers,
which affect the hero in a negative way) somewhere, but the details
always escape me. Any suggestions?

- Dirk

Christopher Kreuzer

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Nov 11, 2004, 2:37:17 PM11/11/04
to

Day of the Triffids?

Jon Hall

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Nov 11, 2004, 4:19:06 PM11/11/04
to
In message <2004111116272...@ID-7776.user.dfncis.de>
Dirk Thierbach <dthie...@gmx.de> wrote:

'All Flesh is Glass' - Clifford D Simek.
Jon.

--
jgc....@tiscali.co.uk
http://www.mcvax.org/jghall/

Pete Gray

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Nov 11, 2004, 4:21:33 PM11/11/04
to
In article <NbPkd.12275$up1....@text.news.blueyonder.co.uk>,
spam...@blueyonder.co.uk says...
Or the Wizard of Oz?
--
Pete Gray
while ($cat!="home"){$mice=="play";}

Jon Hall

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Nov 11, 2004, 4:27:06 PM11/11/04
to
In message <2004111116272...@ID-7776.user.dfncis.de>
Dirk Thierbach <dthie...@gmx.de> wrote:

'All Flesh is Glass' - Clifford D Simek.
Or grass even!

Shanahan

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Nov 13, 2004, 1:38:12 AM11/13/04
to
Troels Forchhammer <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> declared:

> Shanahan <pog...@NOTbluefrog.com> enriched us with:
>> sugr...@yhti.net <sugr...@yhti.net> typed sincerely:
>>>
>>> Also, the weapon of choice against darkness being light, Frodo
>>> is somehow inspired to grab hold of the phial (what good is a
>>> sword against such psychic power.)
>>
>> Re light as a weapon against darkness and esp. Spiders:
>> I wonder how many generations removed from Ungoliant Shelob is?
<snip>

>> Given that Ungoliant ate magic gems and sucked the Two Trees dry,
>> she seems to have a nearly infinite ability to devour Light.
>
> That's a good point; "for she hungered for light and hated it."

Yes. And Shelob seems to have no hunger for Light or light at all,
only hatred and fear for it.

<snip>


> Ungoliant was a primodial Evil (whatever else she was). I think
> that part of the explanation is to be found in that fact: part of
> the philosophical structure of Middle-earth is that the world has
> been degenerating -- each generation is, seen overall (it doesn't
> always hold true -- the first age edain, Frodo and the Rohirrim
> are definitely counter-examples), weaker and less noble than the
> former. The important thing is that the power of the primordial
> powers will never be repeated -- there will be no new Melkor and
> no new Ungoliant, but neither will there be a new Fëanor or
> another Manwë.

Yes, definitely a strong sub-theme. Interestingly, this is an
underpinning of nearly every mythology I can think of, European, S.
or N. American, etc. -- that, more or less, "there were giants in
the earth in those days", a past golden age has been lost.

> If we accept that Ungoliant was a primordial power (it did require
> Morgoth fighting one-handed and several Balrogs to make her
> flee), she cannot have been of Middle-earth in the same way that
> Shelob was, and that would, I believe, make a large difference.

<snip>


> she descended from the darkness that lies about
> Arda, when Melkor first looked down in envy upon the
> Kingdom of Manwë, and that in the beginning she was one of
> those that he corrupted to his service. But she had
> disowned her Master, desiring to be mistress of her own
> lust, taking all things to herself to feed her emptiness;

Ah, so, Ungoliant does seem to be a Maia. I'm inclined to agree
with you that Shelob's Middle-Earth-ness is probably what makes the
difference in her power over Light/light. Perhaps it is simply a
difference in degree of power. /Or/, perhaps, the fact that
Shelob's nature is bound to Middle-Earth, whereas Ungoliant's is
not, is what makes the difference. Ungoliant is not bound to ME's
matter, and so can have power over even hallowed Light; Shelob is
bound to ME, and so only has power over 'natural' light.

Ciaran S.
--
Tim, Tim Benzedrine!
Hash! Boo! Valvoline!
First, second, neutral, park
Hie thee hence, you leafy narc!
- /bored of the rings/


Jette Goldie

unread,
Nov 13, 2004, 6:24:02 PM11/13/04
to

"Shanahan" <pog...@NOTbluefrog.com> wrote in message
news:cn41j...@enews4.newsguy.com...

> Troels Forchhammer <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> declared:
> > Shanahan <pog...@NOTbluefrog.com> enriched us with:
> >> sugr...@yhti.net <sugr...@yhti.net> typed sincerely:
> >>>
> >>> Also, the weapon of choice against darkness being light, Frodo
> >>> is somehow inspired to grab hold of the phial (what good is a
> >>> sword against such psychic power.)
> >>
> >> Re light as a weapon against darkness and esp. Spiders:
> >> I wonder how many generations removed from Ungoliant Shelob is?
> <snip>
> >> Given that Ungoliant ate magic gems and sucked the Two Trees dry,
> >> she seems to have a nearly infinite ability to devour Light.
> >
> > That's a good point; "for she hungered for light and hated it."
>
> Yes. And Shelob seems to have no hunger for Light or light at all,
> only hatred and fear for it.


Ever heard of aversion therapy?

Works for food too - if something makes you ill, you go right
off the taste of it!


--
Jette Goldie
je...@blueyonder.co.uk
INTERACTION - the 63rd Worldcon
"A European Worldcon in Glasgow"
http://interaction.worldcon.org.uk/


Christopher Kreuzer

unread,
Nov 14, 2004, 8:31:58 PM11/14/04
to
Troels Forchhammer <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote:

> Chapter of the Week. /The Lord of the Rings/, Book IV, Chapter 8,
> 'The Stairs of Cirith Ungol'

<snip parts of excellent summary>

> Gollum misses a good opportunity.

'Good opportunity' is a bit of an understatement!! :-)
'Misses a chance for redemption'?

> Summary:
>
> [From Ithilien to Morgul]

<snip>

> They start up the Morgul vale, Frodo feeling again the terrible weight

> of the Ring dragging him down. Then they see it:

They also see the top of the tower turning from side to side. And I
think later we see stone gargoyles moving. I've never really noticed
before that stone objects seem to be animated. Very strange, as this
doesn't really feel very Tolkienian to me.

"...but the topmost course of the tower revolved slowly, first one way


and then another, a huge ghostly head leering into the night."

> Dragging themselves up the road they get to the bridge over the stream


> that runs through the valley (there is always a stream through a
> valley). Here Frodo is suddenly drawn towards the city, "his senses
> reeling and his mind darkening."

This reminds me of the Black Breath of the Nazgul, as experienced by
Merry in Bree, and also by the men of Gondor. There is also a quote that
reminds me of the recent discussion on blindness while climbing cliffs
in the Emyn Muil:

"...his eyes too, as he looked away, seemed for the moment to have been
blinded. The darkness before him was impenetrable." (The Stairs of
Cirith Ungol)

"But either the darkness had grown complete, or else his eyes had lost
their sight. All was black about him. He wondered if he had been struck
blind." (The Taming of Smeagol)

I'm completely convinced now. The Nazgul did it in both cases.

The other effects we read about as they approach Minas Morgul are also
interesting:

"deadly cold" and "heavy stillness"

But most interesting of all is another time-effect:

"Every step was reluctant, and time seemed to slow its pace. so that
between the raising of a foot and the setting of it down minutes of
loathing passed. [...] now their limbs were deadly tired, as if they had
walked all night under a burden, or had been swimming long against a
heavy tide of water."

This suggests an _opposite_ effect to that of Lothlorien. Can we
speculate that the Rings or the power of the Nazgul can create this
effect in Minas Morgul?

> [The Host of Morgul]

<snip>

> "Maybe it was the Ring that called to the Wraith-lord, and
> for a moment he was troubled, sensing some other power
> within his valley."
>
> Frodo feels the, by now, familiar command to put on the Ring, but this
> time Frodo is disinclined to obey, knowing that the Ring would only
> betray him. Still, the force of the command is so strong that it
> seizes Frodo's hand, leading it towards the Ring, but as his own will
> wakens, his conscious mind guides the errant hand to the phial of
> Galadriel, and the Witch-king, feeling the urgency of Sauron and
> failing to discover the Hobbits, moves on[3].

> [3] I hardly know where to start with this confrontation between Frodo
> and the Witch-king :-)

It _is_ interesting!

> - The command to put on the Ring as "beating upon him of a great
> power from outside." It's a bit different from earlier, where this
> command found some answer in his own desire to hide from the
> Ringwraiths. A clear indication, as I see it, of how much Frodo has
> grown.

Is it clear whether this 'great power' is the Nazgul Lord or the Ring?
It might be clearer if the earlier examples are listed where Frodo feels
this power and desire to put on the Ring. I can't remember them all.

> - This power taking Frodo's hand and making it move despite his own
> wish:
> "It took his hand, and as Frodo watched with his mind, not
> willing it but in suspense (as if he looked on some old
> story far away), it moved the hand inch by inch towards the
> chain upon his neck."

This reminds me of Frodo's voice in Rivendell when he says he will take
the Ring. That is similarly remote and 'external'. As is the Amon Hen
scene I mention below.

> - Then Frodo's "own will stirred" -- now he consciously opposes the
> command:
> "slowly it forced the hand back, and set it to find another
> thing, a thing lying hidden near his breast."

This reminds me of the scene on Amon Hen, where Frodo is caught between
two powers. Did we ever reach any consensus on what the two opposing
powers were there? Gandalf and Sauron; or aspects of Frodo's will and
the Ring??

> - Touching the phial is, however, the best thing he could do: "As he
> touched it, for a while all thought of the Ring was banished from
> his mind." This recalls to me the description of Tom Bombadil as
> completely disinterested in power

I am reminded more of the Amon Hen scene where Frodo is suddenly himself
again and free to choose. Maybe there are differences though.

> The Witch-king moves on; "[m]aybe the elven-hoods defied
> his unseen eyes, and the mind of his small enemy; being
> strengthened, had turned aside his thought."

This might suggest that the 'great power' that beat upon Frodo is the
Nazgul's thought? I am also reminded of the power that beat upon Frodo
as he approached the Black Gate: "He was facing it, and its potency beat
upon his brow." (The Passage of the Marshes) Though that was the Eye of
Sauron!

One thing that did surprise me was how exposed the hobbits are here, on
that bare rock. I thought they were exposed in the film, but by
comparison with the book, the hobbits are safely hidden in the film when
the WK rides past (actually flies past I think). This 'power of the
elven cloaks' seems rather to parallel the Black Gate/Southrons scene in
the film!

This is also the point where Frodo's moment of weakness is accompanied
by memories of the Shire:

"Then at a great distance, as if it came out of memories of the Shire,
some sunlit early morning, when the day called and doors were opening,
he heard Sam's voice speaking. 'Wake up, Mr. Frodo! Wake up! '"

This is a lovely dreamlike sequence. Tolkien is _very_ good at these
dreamlike scenes. <dreams of another list> This one reminds me of the
scene at the Black Gate where we get another startling contrast of this
horrible place with the Shire:

"It was an evil fate. But he had taken it on himself in his own
sitting-room in the far-off spring of another year..." (The Black Gate
is Closed)

And there are _numerous_ references to the Shire in the Frodo/Sam
chapters and later on in Mordor itself. Powerful writing, and startling
contrasts.

<snip>

> [Sam and Frodo On Fairy-stories]

> <snip quote 1> [5][6][7][C][D]
>
> <snip quote 2> [E][F][G]
>
> <snip quote 3> [8][H]

Three quotes and 10 footnotes!! :-)

I don't have a lot to add to what you said...

Possibly the 'clear laughter' quote is around here somewhere. I've
always liked the 'listening stones' bit: it reminds me of Hollin where
Legolas said that he listened to the stones.

> [A Missed Opportunity]
>
> Hours later Gollum returns (from his visit to Shelob, as we later
> learn) to find Sam and Frodo sleeping peacefully.
>

> " [...] For a fleeting moment, could one of the sleepers have
> seen him [Gollum], they would have thought that they beheld an


> old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far
> beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and
streams
> of youth, an old starved pitiable thing."

<sniff> <wipes tears from eyes> <bawls uncontrollably>

If any reader stills dislikes Gollum, this is a not-so-subtle indication
that pity should be the overwhelming feeling towards Gollum.

> Discussion points:
>
> Story-internal notes:
>
> [1] What makes Frodo, as he reaches the bridge, suddenly become drawn
> to Minas Morgul "as if some force were at work other than his own
> will"?

Definitely the Nazgul influence, as seen before. Only influences the
Ringbearer. Also, we have a general Black Breath effect that affects all
three of them.

> [8] I wonder, with Sam: Does Gollum think he is the hero or the
> villain? Does it depend on whether we asked Sméagol or Gollum?

I wonder if Tolkien is giving a hint here as to the final outcome? Is
Gollum a hero or villain? I would say Gollum thinks of himself as a
villain. But what does the reader think? Repelled or feeling pity?

> Story-external notes:

<snip>

> [B] There's a delightful description of Gollum as they cross the
> fields meads in the valley:
> "Then his eyes shone with a green-white light, reflecting
> the noisome Morgul-sheen perhaps, or kindled by some
> answering mood within."

This is indeed a lovely quote. A masterful use of the word 'noisome'.
And it is noticeable that there is an emphasis once again on the colour
and light of Gollum's eyes. Round about the same bit, there is another
description of Gollum as spider-like, much like in the Emyn Muil. Only
this time the reference is even more appropriate in Cirith _Ungol_ so
near to Torech Ungol!!

> [C] "Don't the great tales never end?" Asked Sam, and Frodo told him
> that they don't. Is this more than just a story-internal comment on
> the tale of the Silmarils and the light of the Two Trees? Could this
> be also a manifesto from Tolkien about his own legendarium -- that
> it all be one great tale, where only the people in them come and go?
> Could it furthermore be applied on a grander scale? Could it be a
> comment relating to the real world as well? And in that case, what
> would be the tale?

As others have said: the tale of the world. We are all part of the
unfolding history of the Universe, and a very small part at that. And
LotR is itself a small part of our tale. Tolkien might have had in mind
a more specific tale though, namely a story that ultimately lead up to
the biblical Story.

> [E] Re. Frodo's praise of Sam: We've seen Sam slowly take over as the
> more prominent person -- more and more the story is being told
> through Sam, and at this point is almost exclusively from his point
> of view. I believe that Frodo wrote the book to the point where he

> left Hobbiton [...]

He did? I thought that Frodo wrote all the story up until the point
where he left Hobbiton for the Grey Havens? Do you mean that departure
from Hobbiton or the earlier departure from Hobbiton for Crickhollow and
then Rivendell? When Frodo gives the Red Book to Sam, he says that the
last chapter is for him to write.

> Other discussion points:

<snip>

> Now, in this chapter, we follow the three fated companions into
> another land under the influence of the Enemy. Here, however, is not
> death, but rather an evil mockery of life.

Good point. It feels dead though. Almost zombie-like. Frodo acts almost
like a zombie when he tries to run over the bridge. The living dead =
the Nazgul.

> The fields are not barren,
> but filled with pale white, luminous flowers: "beautiful and yet
> horrible of shape, like the demented forms in an uneasy dream; and
> they gave forth a faint sickening charnel-smell; an odour of
> rottenness filled the air."

Great horror writing!

<snip>

> Your thoughts and ideas?

There is one old word used here that I like very much. The use of the
word 'mead' to mean (I think) meadow: "shadowy meads filled with pale
white flowers". Is that pronounced 'mead' as in the drink, or 'mead' as
in 'meadow'?

I'm also glad you included this quote:

> 'It's saying a lot too much,' said Frodo, and he laughed, a long clear
> laugh from his heart. Such a sound had not been heard in those places
> since Sauron came to Middle-earth. To Sam suddenly it seemed as if all
> the stones were listening and the tall rocks leaning over them. But
> Frodo did not heed them; he laughed again.

One of my favourite quotes!

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Nov 17, 2004, 11:32:34 AM11/17/04
to
in <iGTld.15062$up1....@text.news.blueyonder.co.uk>,

Christopher Kreuzer <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> enriched us with:
>
> Troels Forchhammer <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote:
>>
>> Chapter of the Week. /The Lord of the Rings/, Book IV, Chapter 8,
>> 'The Stairs of Cirith Ungol'

<snip>

>> [From Ithilien to Morgul]
[...]


>> They start up the Morgul vale, Frodo feeling again the terrible
>> weight of the Ring dragging him down. Then they see it:
>
> They also see the top of the tower turning from side to side.

I've always seen this as a purely mechanical thing -- "[...] for wheels
and engines and explosions always delighted them [...]"

> And I think later we see stone gargoyles moving.

The Watchers (Cirith Ungol)?
<checking>
These at least seem to be inanimate: "They seemed to be carved out of
huge blocks of stone, immovable, and yet they were aware: some dreadful
spirit of evil vigilance abode in them."

Are there other cases that I have forgotten? (Except for the Drúedain
/The Faithful Stone/ in UT.)

> I've never really noticed before that stone objects seem to be
> animated. Very strange, as this doesn't really feel very Tolkienian
> to me.

I'd agree that it doesn't feel 'right' in Tolkien -- even if this
revolving course of the tower is a mechanical thing, it does, IMO, feel a
little out of place.

The Watchers, along with the stones in Eregion, don't seem quite as
strange; inhabiting even inanimate objects with a spirit of some kind is,
IMO, not an uncommon theme in Tolkien's writings. Other examples include
Gurthang and possibly the One Ring and the Silmarils as well as the
stones listening to Frodo's laughter that you mention later.

<snip>

>> Dragging themselves up the road they get to the bridge over the
>> stream that runs through the valley (there is always a stream
>> through a valley). Here Frodo is suddenly drawn towards the city,
>> "his senses reeling and his mind darkening."
>
> This reminds me of the Black Breath of the Nazgul, as experienced by
> Merry in Bree,

Indeed -- including the sense of being drawn towards them:

"'I could hardly help myself. I seemed to be drawn somehow.
[...] I did not creep any closer, because I began to
tremble all over. Then I felt terrified, and I turned back,
and was just going to bolt home, when something came behind
me and I... I fell over.'
'[Nob: ...] He seemed to be asleep. "I thought I had
fallen into deep water," he says to me, when I shook him.
Very queer he was, and as soon as I had roused him, he got
up and ran back here like a hare.'
'I am afraid that's true,' said Merry, 'though I don't
know what I said. I had an ugly dream, which I can't
remember. I went to pieces. I don't know what came over
me.'"
(LotR I,10 'Strider')

> and also by the men of Gondor.

Aye, there's some of the same feeling over that as well.

> There is also a quote that reminds me of the recent discussion
> on blindness while climbing cliffs in the Emyn Muil:
>
> "...his eyes too, as he looked away, seemed for the moment to have
> been blinded. The darkness before him was impenetrable." (The Stairs
> of Cirith Ungol)

This is when Frodo averts his eyes from Minas Morgul.

> "But either the darkness had grown complete, or else his eyes had lost
> their sight. All was black about him. He wondered if he had been
> struck blind." (The Taming of Smeagol)

And this when he had slid down the cliff.

> I'm completely convinced now. The Nazgul did it in both cases.

Perhaps, though I'm not certain.

In this chapter Frodo's eyes "seemed for the moment to have been blinded"
as he turns away from Minas Morgul, as if it has become a beacon luring
him towards itself, while in the earlier case it would rather have been
caused by the cry of the Nazgûl (among other things, possibly). The sense
I get in this chapter is that Frodo in the short span becomes so
enchanted by minas Morgul that he cannot bear to look away from it (he or
the Ring), while earlier my impression was rather that it was the cry of
the Nazgûl he couldn't bear (again possibly among other things).

There seems to me to be a difference here: first he cannot bear the
presence of the Nazgûl, while later he cannot bear to turn away from
their city . . .

I am reminded more strongly by the will-o-wisp dread corpse-lights in the
Dead Marshes.


<snip>

> But most interesting of all is another time-effect:

[...]


> This suggests an _opposite_ effect to that of Lothlorien.

Right -- here Frodo perceives it as if more time pass than actually does,
while in Lórien shorter time seemed to pass. The effect isn't, however,
exactly opposite -- this time his perception of his own actions is also
affected; each step seems to last "minutes of loathing" (what a horrible
description!) In Lórien he didn't notice the effect while still there;
only when they departed did they notice that they had achieved less while
they lingered there (shorter percieved time than actual time).

> Can we speculate that the Rings or the power of the Nazgul can create
> this effect in Minas Morgul?

Can the Nazgûl call on the powers of their Rings when they're not wearing
them?

The staying of time -- or rather the effect of time (action) -- was the
chief power of all the Rings, and that would have included the Nine, I'd
say, but I don't know if the wraiths could call on this power when their
Rings were in the hands of their Master.

<snip>


>> - The command to put on the Ring as "beating upon him of a great
>> power from outside." It's a bit different from earlier, where this
>> command found some answer in his own desire to hide from the
>> Ringwraiths. A clear indication, as I see it, of how much Frodo
>> has grown.
>
> Is it clear whether this 'great power' is the Nazgul Lord or the Ring?

As I recall it this exact point is one of the arguments surrounding the
whole "was the Ring sentient" debate, so I would be surprised if it is
clear ;-)

> It might be clearer if the earlier examples are listed where Frodo
> feels this power and desire to put on the Ring. I can't remember them
> all.

I'll make a start of it (though I'm bound to forget some -- feel free to
add to the list):

" A sudden unreasoning fear of discovery laid hold of
Frodo, and he thought of his Ring. He hardly dared to
breathe, and yet the desire to get it out of his pocket
became so strong that he began slowly to move his hand. He
felt that he had only to slip it on, and then he would be
safe. The advice of Gandalf seemed absurd. Bilbo had used
the Ring. 'And I am still in the Shire,' he thought, as his
hand touched the chain on which it hung."
[...]
" Once more the desire to slip on the Ring came over Frodo;
but this time it was stronger than before. So strong that,
almost before he realized what he was doing, his hand was
groping in his pocket."
(LotR I,3 'Three is Company')

Here there is no real indication that this desire might have a source
outside Frodo.

There's no desire to put the Ring on in the Prancing Pony (or at least
none that Frodo registers).

"Frodo was hardly less terrified than his companions; he was
quaking as if he was bitter cold, but his terror was
swallowed up in a sudden temptation to put on the Ring. The
desire to do this laid hold of him, and he could think of
nothing else. He did not forget the Barrow, nor the message
of Gandalf; but something seemed to be compelling him to
disregard all warnings, and he longed to yield. Not with
the hope of escape, or of doing anything, either good or
bad: he simply felt that he must take the Ring and put it
on his finger."
(LotR I,11 'A Knife in the Dark')

Here is a beginning indication that the temptation to put on the Ring
isn't entirely natural: "something seemd to be compelling him to
disregard all warnings" -- he doesn't (IMO) really realise that the
actual desire to put on the Ring doesn't come from himself, but rather he
appears to feel that he is compelled from the outside to disregard the
warnings (and follow what he apparently still thinks is his own desire).

At the Ford he is not tempted to put on the Ring (he can already see the
Ringwraiths anyway, and they him), but he does realise that they do issue
a command:

"In any case he felt that he was commanded urgently to halt.
Hatred again stirred in him, but he had no longer the strength
to refuse."
(LotR I,12 'Flight to the Ford')

Next time Frodo is even in the vicinity of a Nazgûl is in II,9 'The Great
River', when the "winged creature" flies over. Frodo doesn't feel like
putting on the Ring, but rather he "felt a sudden chill running through
him and clutching at his heart; there was a deadly cold, like the memory
of an old wound, in his shoulder.felt a sudden chill running through him
and clutching at his heart; there was a deadly cold, like the memory of
an old wound, in his shoulder."

At Amon Hen it is, of course, not due to a Nazgûl, but rather to their
master, that Frodo is compelled to keep the Ring on (and to come to
Sauron):

" And suddenly he felt the Eye. There was an eye in the
Dark Tower that did not sleep. He knew that it had become
aware of his gaze. [...] It glanced upon Tol Brandir he
threw himself from the seat, crouching, covering his head
with his grey hood.
He heard himself crying out: Never, never! Or was it:
Verily I come, I come to you? He could not tell. Then as a
flash from some other point of power there came to his mind
another thought: Take it off! Take it off! Fool, take it
off! Take off the Ring!"
(LotR II,10 'The Breaking of the Fellowship')

Again there is no indication of any temptation to put on the Ring during
the trek with Gollum through the Marshes and Ithilien -- though not due
to a lack of Nazgûl sightings.

And then comes the 'confrontation' (will against will even if not
face-to-face) with the Witch-king in this chapter.

The implication seems to me to be that this temptation or desire to put
on the Ring is only present when the Nazgûl (or Sauron) is /aware/ of
something -- either of the Ring/Frodo or at least of some power other
than their own. This would imply that this requires an active trigger
besides the Ring, but it doesn't tell us whether the power resides in the
Ring or comes from the outside.

<snip>

> This reminds me of the scene on Amon Hen, where Frodo is caught
> between two powers. Did we ever reach any consensus on what the two
> opposing powers were there? Gandalf and Sauron; or aspects of Frodo's
> will and the Ring??

One is certainly Gandalf -- he says as much himself later. The other is
represented by the Eye, which, to me, clearly indicates that it is
Sauron's will.

<snip>

>> The Witch-king moves on; "[m]aybe the elven-hoods defied
>> his unseen eyes, and the mind of his small enemy; being
>> strengthened, had turned aside his thought."
>
> This might suggest that the 'great power' that beat upon Frodo is the
> Nazgul's thought? I am also reminded of the power that beat upon Frodo
> as he approached the Black Gate: "He was facing it, and its potency
> beat upon his brow." (The Passage of the Marshes) Though that was the
> Eye of Sauron!

It's hardly surprising if the powers of the Witch-king and of Sauron are
similar, is it.

But I agree that this command (or whatever we shall call it) is external;
that it comes from the Nazgûl or from Sauron himself (depending on the
situation).

<snip -- merely "I agree" ;-) >


> Three quotes and 10 footnotes!! :-)

Well -- I didn't want to overdo it ;-)

<snip>

>> Hours later Gollum returns (from his visit to Shelob, as we later
>> learn) to find Sam and Frodo sleeping peacefully.
[...]
>

> <sniff> <wipes tears from eyes> <bawls uncontrollably>

Me too!

> If any reader stills dislikes Gollum, this is a not-so-subtle
> indication that pity should be the overwhelming feeling towards
> Gollum.

Exactly -- as is also strongly implied in the letters.

<snip>

>> [8] I wonder, with Sam: Does Gollum think he is the hero or the
>> villain? Does it depend on whether we asked Sméagol or Gollum?
>
> I wonder if Tolkien is giving a hint here as to the final outcome? Is
> Gollum a hero or villain? I would say Gollum thinks of himself as a
> villain. But what does the reader think? Repelled or feeling pity?

Aelfwina (to distinguish her from the other Barbara) suggests that Gollum
is beyond the hero/villain or good/evil part; that he is completely
possessed and consumed by his desire for the Ring, and that these other,
ethical, distinctions have become meaningless to him: there is no good
and evil, only the Ring and Gollum's desire for it . . .

I think that is a fair portrayal of him; Gollum is completely without his
own will in this matter, even if Sméagol might see Gollum as a villain
(while Gollum might see Sméagol as a gullible fool: imagine loving a
Baggins! "We hates it, we hates it, we hates it for ever!"

<snip more agreement>

>> [C] "Don't the great tales never end?"

[...]


>> Could it be a comment relating to the real world as well? And in
>> that case, what would be the tale?
>
> As others have said: the tale of the world. We are all part of the
> unfolding history of the Universe, and a very small part at that.

Aye -- and we must play our parts.

> And LotR is itself a small part of our tale.

That's one of the reasons I'm so fascinated with this interlude: the
conversation between Sam and Frodo has so many levels that are
intertwined so beautifully. "No applicability to our present everyday
lives," indeed!

> Tolkien might have had in mind a more specific tale though, namely a
> story that ultimately lead up to the biblical Story.

I thought about that myself, and elected not to put the suggestion in the
introduction. Knowing Tolkien's deeply religious outlook and his view on
LotR as "a fundamentally religious and Catholic work" makes it easy to
see these parallels, and I suspect that they are true more often than
not, though I'll admit that I still occasionally hesitate to suggest
them -- probably because I'm afraid that it'll become too much :-/

>> [E] Re. Frodo's praise of Sam: We've seen Sam slowly take over as the
>> more prominent person -- more and more the story is being told
>> through Sam, and at this point is almost exclusively from his point
>> of view. I believe that Frodo wrote the book to the point where he
>> left Hobbiton [...]
>
> He did? I thought that Frodo wrote all the story up until the point
> where he left Hobbiton for the Grey Havens?

Sorry -- that's what I meant.

> When Frodo gives the Red Book to Sam, he says that the last chapter is
> for him to write.

Precisely.

Sam apparently only had to write the last chapter, "The Grey Havens"

This, however, raises the question of why so much of Frodo and Sam's
journey is told primarily from Sam's viewpoint, though I suppose that
Frodo's later admission:

" 'No, I am afraid not, Sam,' said Frodo. 'At least, I know
that such things happened, but I cannot see them. No taste
of food, no feel of water, no sound of wind, no memory of
tree or grass or flower, no image of moon or star are left
to me. I am naked in the dark. Sam, and there is no veil
between me and the wheel of fire. I begin to see it even
with my waking eyes, and all else fades.'"
(LotR VI,2 'The Land of Shadow')

Is Frodo's later memory of the events in these chapters similarly dimmed;
are they reduced to this state, a long journey with "no veil between
[him] and the wheel of fire . . ."?

<snip>

--
Troels Forchhammer

Elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo

Christopher Kreuzer

unread,
Nov 17, 2004, 5:48:51 PM11/17/04
to
Troels Forchhammer <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote:
> Christopher Kreuzer <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> enriched us with:
>> Troels Forchhammer <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote:
>>>
>>> Chapter of the Week. /The Lord of the Rings/, Book IV, Chapter 8,
>>> 'The Stairs of Cirith Ungol'
>
> <snip>
>
>>> [From Ithilien to Morgul]
> [...]
>> They also see the top of the tower turning from side to side.
>
> I've always seen this as a purely mechanical thing -- "[...] for
> wheels and engines and explosions always delighted them [...]"

Oh. Thank goodness! For a horrible moment I thought the whole tower had
come alive!

<snip>

>> There is also a quote that reminds me of the recent discussion
>> on blindness while climbing cliffs in the Emyn Muil:
>>
>> "...his eyes too, as he looked away, seemed for the moment to have
>> been blinded. The darkness before him was impenetrable." (The Stairs
>> of Cirith Ungol)
>
> This is when Frodo averts his eyes from Minas Morgul.
>
>> "But either the darkness had grown complete, or else his eyes had
>> lost their sight. All was black about him. He wondered if he had been
>> struck blind." (The Taming of Smeagol)
>
> And this when he had slid down the cliff.
>
>> I'm completely convinced now. The Nazgul did it in both cases.
>
> Perhaps, though I'm not certain.

<snip>

> There seems to me to be a difference here: first he cannot bear the

> presence of the Nazgūl, while later he cannot bear to turn away from


> their city . . .

Why should either cause blindness? You seem to be seeking an internal
reason in Frodo. Can't it just be a purely external influence? I must
admit, having reread the passages more closely, that there might not be
any link at all. It could just be a case of Tolkien creating a sense of
horror by dimming the senses. At any moment of horror in his story, you
are probably likely to read of a dimming of the light in some sense.

<snip>

>> But most interesting of all is another time-effect:

<snip>

>> Can we speculate that the Rings or the power of the Nazgul can create
>> this effect in Minas Morgul?
>

> Can the Nazgūl call on the powers of their Rings when they're not


> wearing them?
>
> The staying of time -- or rather the effect of time (action) -- was
> the chief power of all the Rings, and that would have included the
> Nine, I'd say, but I don't know if the wraiths could call on this
> power when their Rings were in the hands of their Master.

Sauron could call on the power of the Ring when he didn't have it. Well,
sort of. But maybe something similar happens to the Nazgul. They can
access the powers as long as the Rings exist. And the Nazgul definitely
have _some_ powers, so where are those coming from?

> <snip>
>
>>> - The command to put on the Ring as "beating upon him of a great
>>> power from outside." It's a bit different from earlier, where
>>> this command found some answer in his own desire to hide from the
>>> Ringwraiths. A clear indication, as I see it, of how much Frodo
>>> has grown.
>>
>> Is it clear whether this 'great power' is the Nazgul Lord or the
>> Ring?
>
> As I recall it this exact point is one of the arguments surrounding
> the whole "was the Ring sentient" debate, so I would be surprised if
> it is clear ;-)

Oh. I'll stop right here, then. :-)

[Don't want to get into that debate just now...]

<snip examples - thanks>

> The implication seems to me to be that this temptation or desire to

> put on the Ring is only present when the Nazgūl (or Sauron) is


> /aware/ of something -- either of the Ring/Frodo or at least of some
> power other than their own. This would imply that this requires an
> active trigger besides the Ring, but it doesn't tell us whether the
> power resides in the Ring or comes from the outside.

Or maybe it is only when the _Ring_ is aware of something? :-)

<snip>

>> Three quotes and 10 footnotes!! :-)
>
> Well -- I didn't want to overdo it ;-)

Of course not... ;-)

<snip>

>>> [E] Re. Frodo's praise of Sam: We've seen Sam slowly take over as
>>> the more prominent person -- more and more the story is being told
>>> through Sam, and at this point is almost exclusively from his
>>> point of view.

<snip>

> Sam apparently only had to write the last chapter, "The Grey Havens"
>
> This, however, raises the question of why so much of Frodo and Sam's
> journey is told primarily from Sam's viewpoint

<gasp>

Sam rewrote the book!!

It is interesting though. Probably Sam helped Frodo remember what had
happened, or told him what had happened. I think Frodo wrote quite a bit
when in Minas Tirith before the wedding of Elessar and Arwen.

Also remember that:

"His burden was taken away. There was the dear master of the sweet days
in the Shire." (Mount Doom)

Probably Frodo _does_ remember what happened, but maybe the memory was
painful and he could only write about it from the POV of Sam. Or maybe
we should seek a story-external reason: that Sam is the chief hero of
LotR.

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Dec 19, 2004, 9:50:49 AM12/19/04
to
In message <10oubuu...@corp.supernews.com>,
"aelfwina" <aelf...@cableone.net> enriched us with:

>
> "Troels Forchhammer" <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote in message
> news:Xns959AEE12...@212.242.40.196...
>>
>> Chapter of the Week. /The Lord of the Rings/, Book IV, Chapter 8,
>> 'The Stairs of Cirith Ungol'

I've been having a period where other tasks demanded my attention, but
I am now slowly beginning to catch up with some of the old stuff that
I've left for later attention. Expect me to dig out a number of old
threads in the next couple of weeks (I don't want to get too much
behind on current threads either).

<snip>

>> Discussion points:
>>
>> Story-internal notes:
>>
>> [1] What makes Frodo, as he reaches the bridge, suddenly become
>> drawn to Minas Morgul "as if some force were at work other than
>> his own will"? There is a suggestion that he was affected by the
>> vapours from the stream:

[...]


>> but if this is the whole explanation why, then, would only Frodo
>> be affected and not Sam?
>
> I don't believe it was the only reason; Frodo was extra weary and
> weakened by his struggle with the Ring, which I think made him more
> susceptible.

I think that we're supposed also to be reminded of the strange
compelling power the Ringwraiths have over Frodo, but whether this is
more of the same or a different effect is more difficult to say.

Certainly Frodo's general exhaustion of body and mind makes him more
susceptible, but I think it goes a bit deeper: possibly the Ring tries
to make him reveal himself (or whatever it is that happens when the
appearance of a Ringwraith makes him put on the Ring).

It is also suggested that there's some other power at work: "Then
suddenly, as if some force were at work other than his own will, he
began to hurry, tottering forward, [...]" and he seems strangely
attracted to the city: "The luminous tower fascinated him, and he
fought the desire that was on him to run up the gleaming road towards
its gate."

Where does this desire come from, and is there really 'some force at
work other than his own will' or is that merely a simile ("as if")?

I do think that there is, again, some external force at work, but it's
not quite the same as when a Ringwraith is nearby. In those situations
Frodo is compelled to put on the Ring (as he is a little later in this
chapter), but here he is rather compelled to run towards Minas Morgul.

Ultimately, however, the goal seems to be the same: that Frodo and the
Ring should be revealed to Sauron's servants.

<snip>

>> [3] I hardly know where to start with this confrontation between Frodo
>> and the Witch-king :-)

<snip>


>> - Touching the phial is, however, the best thing he could do:

[...]


>> Here the idea of Galadriel's phial as a mental support for Frodo
>> is repeated.
>
> Perhaps this was a part of the virtue of the phial as Galadriel had
> made it, that it could remind him of its presence when it was most
> needed? After all if the Ring could have a bit of sentience enough
> to seek its maker, I don't know why the phial could not? An
> interesting idea I had not thought of before. Hmm...

I'm not sure that we need to resort to sentience to have an object
'react' to the needs of its owner -- Sam's rope (if one believes in the
supernatural explanation) doesn't seem sentient as such, but still
responds to Sam's need.

It also seems it was Frodo's own will that made his hand find the phial
instead of the Ring, so possibly he just remembers the phial when he
needs something to distract him from the force of the will that is
beating upon him.

>> [8] I wonder, with Sam: Does Gollum think he is the hero or the
>> villain? Does it depend on whether we asked Sméagol or Gollum?
>
> I think at this point in time Gollum/Smeagol is beyond any thought
> of hero or villain, or even good or evil. He simply wants. He wants
> the Precious most of all, he wants the feeling of belonging to
> someone that Frodo provides, he just wants...

Reduced to a creature of "mindless need" (as you say later) -- physical
and social -- and then of course his unholy craving for the Ring? Yes,
I think you're right.

So Gollum is beyond the question of hero or villain in another way than
e.g. Saruman -- while Saruman would consider himself above such petty
concerns, Gollum is, in a way, beneath them.

<snip>

>> [E] Re. Frodo's praise of Sam: We've seen Sam slowly take over as
>> the more prominent person -- more and more the story is being told
>> through Sam, and at this point is almost exclusively from his
>> point of view. I believe that Frodo wrote the book to the point
>> where he left Hobbiton, so, story-internally, what is the
>> significance of this? Did Frodo have to rely on Sam to tell the
>> story -- was he, himself, too consumed by his constant battle of
>> wills with the Ring?
>
> I was going over Frodo's "anniversary illnesses" as recounted in the
> last couple of chapters of the story just in the last couple of days
> as a bit of research, and was impressed at the sparseness, and
> down-playing of what must have been agony for him. Especially the
> account of his second anniversary of Weathertop: "But then he got
> up, and the turn seemed to pass, and he was quite himself the next
> day." A bit of description that sounds more like wishful thinking
> than fact. I do believe he distanced himself even to himself when
> writing of these things.

A good point there. Yes, Frodo does seem to distance himself from their
adventure, thus relying on Sam to provide the view-point in the tale.

I am reminded also of his words to Sam in VI,3 'Mount Doom':

"At least, I know that such things happened, but I cannot
see them. No taste of food, no feel of water, no sound of
wind, no memory of tree or grass or flower, no image of
moon or star are left to me. I am naked in the dark. Sam,
and there is no veil between me and the wheel of fire. I
begin to see it even with my waking eyes, and all else
fades."

I think it likely that something similar was affecting him later when
he tried to recall the last stages of their journey -- he couldn't see
them, and all that he remembered was the wheel of fire. Possibly that,
and his regret at the destruction of the Ring, would be cause enough
for him to distance himself from what had happened.

>> [F] Sam as the 'chief hero', as Tolkien put it in letter #131 -- in
>> what sense is Sam the 'chief hero' of LotR?
>
> To me, I see it as he is the one who reaps the benefits of being the
> hero: he gets the girl, and he gets to live happily ever after, even
> to the point of presumably being reunited at last with Frodo. This
> is not to downplay his own considerable courage, loyalty and sheer
> determination, which make him a hero in his own right. But to me the
> outcome is what would determine "chief hero".

From the Compact Oxford English Dictionary:

hero
+ noun (pl. heroes)
1 a person, typically a man, who is admired for their courage or
outstanding achievements.
2 the chief male character in a book, play, or film.
3 (in mythology and folklore) a person of superhuman qualities.
<http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/hero?view=uk>

I don't think that Sam is a hero in the third sense -- he doesn't
appear to me to have any superhuman qualities.

The first definition doesn't really sit well with me either -- he is
certainly a hero by that definition, but I don't think he would qualify
for the 'chief hero' in that sense: other characters did, IMO, show
more courage or more outstanding achievements.

That leaves the second definition, that Sam should be the 'chief male
character' in the book, but do people agree that he is that?

In many ways I do think so, but not, IMO, in every sense. Frodo,
Gandalf and Aragorn also aspire to that honour, I think, and I can't
quite decide who is the chief character. Aragorn not only gets the girl
(one who did, after all, have more time on-stage than Rosie) and gets
to settle down, but he also became King and all that. If we measure
merely be rewards, then Aragorn should be the chief hero.

The story is generally written in some kind of 'limited omniscient'
narrative style (the narrator has the benefit of later knowledge, but
very rarely shows knowledge beyond that which would be available to the
characters a few years later). The narration usually has a 'focus
character' -- a way to use third person narration together with some of
the immediacy and identification of the first person style -- and we
often change focus character. If we try to sum the pages using the
various characters as focus character, I think that we will find that
the story is told from Frodo's viewpoint more often than from Sam's, so
I don't think that this is a good way to describe Sam as the chief
hero.

All of this, however, doesn't bring me any closer to answering my own
question ;-)

Sam was the real Hobbit in the story; Frodo, Merry and Pippin were all
very atypical Hobbits, but Sam was a typical Hobbit with both the
virtues and the faults that follow with that. Sam consequently
represents something essentially Hobbitish, and probably something that
was particularly close to what Tolkien intended with the story:

"Cert. Sam is the most closely drawn character, the
successor to Bilbo of the first book, the genuine hobbit.
Frodo is not so interesting, because he has to be
highminded, and has (as it were) a vocation. The book will
prob. end up with Sam. Frodo will naturally become too
ennobled and rarefied by the achievement of the great
Quest, and will pass West with all the great figures; but
S. will settle down to the Shire and gardens and inns. C.
Williams who is reading it all says the great thing is that
its centre is not in strife and war and heroism (though
they are understood and depicted) but in freedom, peace,
ordinary life and good liking."
[Letter #93, to Christopher Tolkien 24 December 1944]

"Anyway I myself saw the value of Hobbits, in putting earth
under the feet of 'romance', and in providing subjects for
'ennoblement' and heroes more praiseworthy than the
professionals:"
[Letter #163, To W. H. Auden, 7 June 1955]

" There are of course certain things and themes that move
me specially. The inter-relations between the 'noble' and
the 'simple' (or common, vulgar) for instance. The
ennoblement of the ignoble I find specially moving. I am
(obviously) much in love with plants and above all trees,
and always have been; and I find human maltreatment of them
as hard to bear as some find ill-treatment of animals."
[Letter #165, To the Houghton Mifflin Co. (1955)]

Sam, too, becomes ennobled by the quest. He dosn't end up as 'high' as
Frodo, but then he starts from a lower place and never truly leaves his
roots. The centre (well, according to C. Williams, but I get the
impression that Tolkien agreed) is "freedom, peace, ordinary life and
good liking" -- these are represented by Sam, and I think that Sam's
role as gardner, and his devotion to the trees in the Shire after the
scouring also would endear him to his author.

This, however, shows why Tolkien would consider Sam the chief hero, but
do you agree with him?

<snip>

--
Troels Forchhammer

++?????++ Out of Cheese Error. Redo From Start.
- (Terry Pratchett, Interesting Times)

aelfwina

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Dec 21, 2004, 12:01:59 AM12/21/04
to

"Troels Forchhammer" <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote in message

(snip some really good and insightful observations)


>
> This, however, shows why Tolkien would consider Sam the chief hero, but
> do you agree with him?

No, no, I don't particularly. I suppose that the author would usually know
the intent of his own work best, but I still see Frodo as the "chief hero"
in terms of acts of actual heroism. He endured and suffered the most, and he
gave up the most, in order to accomplish the task he had undertaken, a task
that was monumental, and that many who were supposedly greater and stronger
feared to do. The fact that it was actually impossible is beside the
point. Of course he wouldn't have got far without Sam, and Sam is a close
second, but I still see Frodo as the greatest hero of the Third Age.
Barbara

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Dec 21, 2004, 4:28:08 PM12/21/04
to
In message <news:10sfqgr...@corp.supernews.com> "aelfwina"
<aelf...@cableone.net> enriched us with:
>
> "Troels Forchhammer" <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote in message
>>
>> This, however, shows why Tolkien would consider Sam the chief
>> hero, but do you agree with him?
>
> No, no, I don't particularly. I suppose that the author would
> usually know the intent of his own work best, but I still see
> Frodo as the "chief hero" in terms of acts of actual heroism.

So do I, to tell the truth.

Frodo was the one who was /meant/ to have the Ring, and the one who was
/meant/ to take it to Mount Doom. In some ways I think that Frodo was
as much an agent of the divine as Gandalf the Grey. Not, obviously, as
personally powerful, knowledgeable etc. but because he alone was chosen
of the Eruhíni to do this task.

> He endured and suffered the most, and he gave up the most, in
> order to accomplish the task he had undertaken, a task that was
> monumental, and that many who were supposedly greater and stronger
> feared to do.

And doing it, he became ennobled. Frodo ended up as a higher creature,
I would say almost one of 'the wise'. That he achieved this through the
kind of mental and physical torment that the completion of the quest
required of him is, to me, outstandingly heroic.

> The fact that it was actually impossible is beside the point.

I agree.

> Of course he wouldn't have got far without Sam, and Sam is a
> close second,

I might put Aragorn in there with Sam on a shared second place ;-)

> but I still see Frodo as the greatest hero of the Third Age.

Agreed.

--
Troels Forchhammer
Valid mail is <t.forch(a)email.dk>

This isn't right. This isn't even wrong.
- Wolfgang Pauli, on a paper submitted by a physicist colleague
(Thus speaks the quantum physicist)

Christopher Kreuzer

unread,
Dec 21, 2004, 7:46:48 PM12/21/04
to

Maybe we have to consider those tricksy (I love the fact this is archiac
English - from the Gollum mental health thread) concepts of 'doom' and
'fate' again?

I would say that Frodo was doomed (whatever that really means in
Tolkien's world) to undergo what he did, but that Sam wasn't. In that
sense, I think that Sam is more heroic that Frodo. Aragorn is also
driven by fate and a high doom (as Elrond says), but we never hear
anyone saying these things about Sam.

aelfwina

unread,
Dec 22, 2004, 11:55:36 AM12/22/04
to

"Christopher Kreuzer" <spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> wrote in message
news:Yt3yd.4789$Ar5....@text.news.blueyonder.co.uk...

No, these things are never *said* about anyone but Frodo and Aragorn, and
yet to me, IMHO, each and every member of the Fellowship had a certain
"doom" in that sense of the word--a certain role he was fated to play within
the Fellowship, though a lesser one. And I think that particularly applies
to all of the hobbits: Sam, Merry and Pippin each had tasks that no one else
could have accomplished as they did.
Barbara

Shanahan

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Dec 24, 2004, 4:00:04 AM12/24/04
to
aelfwina <aelf...@cableone.net> declared:

> "Troels Forchhammer" <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote in message
>
> (snip some really good and insightful observations)
>>
>> This, however, shows why Tolkien would consider Sam the chief
>> hero, but do you agree with him?
>
> No, no, I don't particularly. I suppose that the author would
> usually know the intent of his own work best, but I still see
> Frodo as the "chief hero" in terms of acts of actual heroism. He
> endured and suffered the most, and he gave up the most, in order
> to accomplish the task he had undertaken, a task that was
> monumental, and that many who were supposedly greater and
> stronger feared to do. The fact that it was actually impossible
> is beside the point. Of course he wouldn't have got far without
> Sam, and Sam is a close second, but I still see Frodo as the
> greatest hero of the Third Age. Barbara

I tend to agree, although sometimes I lean towards Tolkien's pov
too. The reason I think we as a group have such trouble with
defining the 'true hero' in LotR is because Frodo's heroism is the
exact opposite of what we traditionally consider heroism. Frodo's
heroism is passive, not active; it consists of endurance. This is
not what we are used to thinking of when we think of a hero -- we
think of action, of changing the world by one's actions, not of
changing the world by one's passive endurance. But endurance can be
as demanding and require as much strength as "action" can.

Ciaran S.
--
"We keep to our usual stuff, more or less, only inside out.
We do on stage things that are supposed to happen off.
Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit
as an entrance somewhere else."
- t.stoppard


R. Dan Henry

unread,
Dec 25, 2004, 12:06:04 PM12/25/04
to
On Mon, 15 Nov 2004 01:31:58 GMT, "Christopher Kreuzer"
<spam...@blueyonder.co.uk> wrote:

>This reminds me of the Black Breath of the Nazgul, as experienced by
>Merry in Bree, and also by the men of Gondor. There is also a quote that
>reminds me of the recent discussion on blindness while climbing cliffs
>in the Emyn Muil:
>
>"...his eyes too, as he looked away, seemed for the moment to have been
>blinded. The darkness before him was impenetrable." (The Stairs of
>Cirith Ungol)
>
>"But either the darkness had grown complete, or else his eyes had lost
>their sight. All was black about him. He wondered if he had been struck
>blind." (The Taming of Smeagol)
>
>I'm completely convinced now. The Nazgul did it in both cases.

I suspect Nazgul influence in The Taming of Smeagol, but I read the
passages in Stairs as a result of natural processes. He has just
turned away from the only source of light in the valley. It serves to
emphasize the unnatural darkness, but that is not a local property,
but one Sauron has spread over a large area, and it is not connected
with the Nazgul, nor does it blind supernaturally, but by blocking out
the heavens.

R. Dan Henry
danh...@inreach.com

Troels Forchhammer

unread,
Dec 25, 2004, 5:53:11 PM12/25/04