The Barrow-Downs Discussion Forum


Visit The *EVEN NEWER* Barrow-Downs Photo Page

Go Back   The Barrow-Downs Discussion Forum > Middle-Earth Discussions > The Books > Chapter-by-Chapter
User Name
Password
Register FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read


Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 04-24-2005, 10:55 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
Princess of Skwerlz
 
Estelyn Telcontar's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: where the Sea is eastwards (WtR: 6060 miles)
Posts: 7,532
Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Silmaril LotR -- Book 4 - Chapter 08 - The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

After the plodding pace of the last chapter, this one picks up considerably, offering both excitement and suspense as well as memorable dialogue. Leaving Ithilien means that the last refuge is gone, symbolized by the renewed weight of the ring. What light there is is described as very obviously evil, and nature is despoiled – the water is unwholesome, and even flowers are “beautiful yet horrible of shape”. I found the descriptions very evocative – how did they affect you? What do you make of the statement that the road glowed faintly?

Frodo suffers most in this environment, though Gollum also feels a fear that drives him to hurry them along. Sam seems the only one who keeps his head; I find his unwilling alliance with Gollum on going as fast as possible a bit amusing.

Tolkien builds up the suspense with his statement that “it was too late”, making the reader expect that the three will be discovered. The passage which tells of the troops leaving Minas Morgul has a number of interesting details to discuss – the rumbling of the earth, for example, connects to the previous chapter. I remember a previous discussion some time ago on the phrase “but one and not the greatest of the hosts that Mordor now sent forth” – where do you think these troops went, and were the bulk of them elsewhere, since the fortress seems to have nearly emptied? Frodo thinks of Faramir and Osgiliath upon seeing them.

We see Frodo’s strength in this chapter; he does not yield to the temptation to put on the ring. His exercise of his own will reminds of the similar experience on Amon Hen. However, we also see his weakness and his need for help, as he almost enters the gate to Minas Morgul. He finds help in Galadriel’s phial as well – I had forgotten that it was spoken of here! His thoughts on having to do what he had to do, whether or not anyone would ever know about it afterwards, are inspiring.

The hobbits’ achievement of climbing the stairs, long and steep, is especially impressive if we remember that hobbits didn’t even like to sleep higher than ground level!

The most memorable part of the chapter is Sam and Frodo’s conversation on living in adventure stories. I won’t go into detail on that, as I expect it will generate a good discussion without any help from me!

At the end of the chapter we have one of those rare moments when we see a positive reaction from Gollum, this time foiled by Sam’s “sneak” comment. I wonder – that doesn’t sound so offensive to me; does anyone know if the word used to have a more negative connotation?

Frodo considers the agreement with Gollum over at this point. He has fulfilled his promise to get them in. What do you think would have happened had Gollum left them now? Would they have been in less danger or more?
__________________
'Mercy!' cried Gandalf. 'If the giving of information is to be the cure of your inquisitiveness, I shall spend all the rest of my days in answering you. What more do you want to know?' 'The whole history of Middle-earth...'
Estelyn Telcontar is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-24-2005, 11:50 AM   #2
Anguirel
Byronic Brand
 
Anguirel's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: The 1590s
Posts: 2,825
Anguirel is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
The Eye

Of Sauron's hosts, most were of course being sent to their eventual destruction at the Pelennor Fields, via Faramir and the Rammas; perhaps some were off north to reinforce Dol Guldur, or strengthen the attack on Erebor? One, I think, was attacking Angbor of Lamedon (or was that the Corsairs? In any case, it was rather later.)

I too had forgotten about the Phial at this point. But now I see it again, I remember being filled with hope at remembering the beauty of Lothlorien in the midst of the doom and darkness on my first reading.

It's interesting that the flowers still retain an unnatural loveliness. Is this supposed to bring to mind the fair guise of Annatar? The fair promise of immortality made to the nine kings? Or just the former glory of Minas Ithil?

I always wonder about Gollum's potential redemption. Had he changed his intent, could he have guided them into Mordor on some other, secret way, or would they have had to venture into Shelob's lair and the orc-tower in any case?
__________________
Among the friendly dead, being bad at games did not seem to matter
-Il Lupo Fenriso
Anguirel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2005, 03:11 PM   #3
davem
Illustrious Ulair
 
davem's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: In the home of lost causes, and forsaken beliefs, and unpopular names,and impossible loyalties
Posts: 4,256
davem is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.davem is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Quote:
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.
Minas Morgul. Tower of Black Magic. The city is ‘illuminated’, but it doesn’t give out light. It is like the candles of death that shine in the Dead Marshes, & its interesting that like them it seems to exert a pull on Frodo. What is it inside him that is being attracted by this ‘unlight’?:

Quote:
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.

Then suddenly, as if some force were at work other than his own will, he began to hurry, tottering forward, his groping hands held out, his head lolling from side to side.
This is a place of death & darkness, & we will see later that Frodo has given up hope in final victory - yet this seems to strengthen his determination to continue. This ‘odd’ idea of doing the ‘right’ thing simply because it’s right, & even if failure is a foregone conclusion, runs right through the story of LotR. It makes me wonder whether LotR might not still have inspired readers even if the Quest had failed - isn’t it the struggle that moves us as much, if not more than, the outcome?

Quote:
At last with an effort he turned back, and as he did so, he felt the Ring resisting him, dragging at the chain about his neck; and his eyes too, as he looked away, seemed for the moment to have been blinded. The darkness before him was impenetrable.
Along this path the hobbits trudged, side by side, unable to see Gollum in front of them, except when he turned back to beckon them on. Then his eyes shone with a green-white light, reflecting the noisome Morgul-sheen perhaps, or kindled by some answering mood within. Of that deadly gleam and of the dark eyeholes Frodo and Sam were always conscious, ever glancing fearfully over their shoulders, and ever dragging their eyes back to find the darkening path.
So, Frodo is blinded again, as he was in the Emyn Muil. the darkness is impenetrable, yet still he goes on, because going on is the ‘right’ thing to do.

Quote:
Weariness and more than weariness oppressed him; it seemed as if a heavy spell was laid on his mind and body. "I must rest," he muttered.
This reminds me of the scene where the Three Hunters feel that ‘some enemy sets its will against us.’ There seems a link between the power exhibited there by Saruman & what Frodo feels here. Yet is this ‘heavy spell’ directed at him by the WK or does it come from the Ring?

Quote:
Here, yes here indeed was the haggard king whose cold hand had smitten down the Ring-bearer with his deadly knife. The old wound throbbed with pain and a great chill spread towards Frodo's heart.
This reminds us of something we may have forgotten - some wounds can never be wholly healed. Frodo was not entirely cured by Elrond. He bears an unhealable wound. Even if the Quest succeeds Frodo will never again be who he was. He can never go back.

Frodo is defiant even without hope, but something else is going on:

[QUOTEMaybe 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 waited, like a bird at the approach of a snake, unable to move. And as he waited, he felt, more urgent than ever before, the command that he should put on the Ring. But great as the pressure was, he felt no inclination now to yield to it. He knew that the Ring would only betray him, and that he had not, even if he put it on, the power to face the Morgul-king--not yet.[/QUOTE]

‘He had not the power to face the Morgul King - not yet.’ What the hell does that mean? That soon, or at some point, he [would have the power to face him? Wouldn’t that require him to have claimed the Ring for his own? Frodo ‘knew’ that ‘he had not this power yet’. So this is not Tolkien’s comment on Frodo’s state & the danger he faced, it is Frodo’s own realisation, & perhaps here again we see the temptation to claim the Ring growing on him, see his final ‘fall’ coming. This makes it difficult to argue that at the last Frodo does not fully & consciously claim the Ring...

Then again, we see the inner conflict - the Ring striving against Frodo’s own will:

Quote:
There was no longer any answer to that command in his own will, dismayed by terror though it was, and he felt only the beating upon him of a great power from outside. 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. Then his own will stirred; slowly it forced the hand back and set it to find another thing, a thing lying hidden near his breast. Cold and hard it seemed as his grip closed on it: the phial of Galadriel, so long treasured, and almost forgotten till that hour. As he touched it, for a while all thought of the Ring was banished from his mind. He sighed and bent his head.
It seems the Ring (or the WK) can control Frodo’s body, making his arm move towards the Ring, yet it cannot dominate his will. He wills himself to take the Phial. I’m reminded of the scene on Amon Hen, where Frodo sat ‘pierced’ by the two ‘forces’ of the ‘Eye’ & the ‘Voice’. This time the two ‘forces’ seem to be The Ring/WK on one side & Galadriel & the Light of Earendel on the other. Yet, as at Amon Hen, the struggle, the ‘war’ is both an internal struggle of hopes & desires & an external one of cosmic forces...

And Frodo? Victor or Victim. Perhaps he just decides that either alternative is too much of a ‘label’ & just like the humble soul he is, he decides all he can do is his ‘job’:

Quote:
Frodo raised his head, and then stood up. Despair had not left him, but the weakness had passed. He even smiled grimly, feeling now as clearly as a moment before he had felt the opposite, that 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.
At this point an interesting image occurs:

Quote:
He took his staff in one hand and the phial in his other.
Another tarot image - the Hermit!

But what of Gollum in all this?

Quote:
"I thought you said there was a tunnel," said Sam. "Isn't there a tunnel or something to go through?"
'O yes, there's a tunnel," said Gollum. "But hobbits can rest before they try that. If they get through that, they'll be nearly at the top. Very nearly, if they get through. O yes!"
He just can’t help himself, can he? Why this last comment - does he actually want Frodo & Sam to become suspicious of his motives, just as he is so close to achieving his goal? Or is it that the Smeagol/Gollum conflict is still going on - is Smeagol trying to drop a hint to the Hobbits to watch out, or is he simply so excited by the chance of getting back his Precious that he forgets himself. Or maybe he just thinks they are so stupid that he could even tell them there’s a big hungry spider in the cave & they would still go in there!

Once again Tolkien reiterates his ‘message’ about Frodo’s mental state:

Quote:
"I don't like anything here at all," said Frodo, 'step or stone, breath or bone. Earth, air and water all seem accursed. But so our path is laid."
‘So our path is laid’. This leads on to one of the most profound passages in the whole work, the ‘conversation’ about Story. Sam has learned a very important lesson about ‘story’. This is the Hobbit who so many months ago had greeted Gandalf’s ‘punishment’ of sending him off with Frodo with a shout of ‘Hooray!’ He was going off on an adventure to ‘see Elves and all’. Now ‘in the worst places of the story’ - his story - he realises that he has just been landed in something much bigger than he could ever have imagined, but he also realises that like the ‘Great’ stories, (of which his own is merely a small part - like one of the ‘leaves’ on the ‘Tree of Tales’) his own story will never end, even when he himself has passed out of it - ‘Gone West’.

Quote:
'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."
But he also realises something equally important - that we aren’t meant to simply be the ‘stuff of futer memory’ (as Arthur puts it in John Boorman’s Excalibur).

Quote:
'And then we can have some rest and some sleep," said Sam. He laughed grimly. 'And I mean just that, Mr. Frodo. I mean plain ordinary rest, and sleep, and waking up to a morning's work in the garden. I'm afraid that's all I'm hoping for all the time. All the big important plans are not for my sort.
‘Before Enlightenment, chop wood & carry water. After Enlightenment, Chop wood & carry water.’ As the Buddhists have it.

Finally, & most tragically, we return to Gollum:

Quote:
"Sleep!" said Frodo and sighed, as if out of a desert he had seen a mirage of cool green. 'Yes, even here I could sleep."
"Sleep then, master! Lay your head in my lap."
And so Gollum found them hours later, when he returned, crawling and creeping down the path out of the gloom ahead.
Sam sat propped against the stone, his head dropping sideways and his breathing heavy. In his lap lay Frodo's head, drowned deep in sleep; upon his white forehead lay one of Sam's brown hands, and the other lay softly upon his master's breast. Peace was in both their faces.
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.
And he is redeemed. At that moment he is merely an old Hobbit, broken by centuries of suffering. He, like his companions (& in that moment, in his own mind, they all three are ‘companions’) knows a moment’s ‘peace’. Yet his chance of ‘salvation’ is taken from him. Again this is an inner/outer conflict - Sam is the ‘outer’ force who attacks Smeagol, ‘Gollum’ is the inner one. Smeagol breaks, shatters, & Gollum emerges from the ashes....

Quote:
Gollum withdrew himself, and a green glint flickered under his heavy lids. Almost spider-like he looked now, crouched back on his bent limbs, with his protruding eyes. The fleeting moment had passed, beyond recall.
.

The ‘paths’ of all three of them are now ‘set’. All have chosen the Road they will take, two of them, Gollum & Sam, in ‘hope’ - of the Ring, & of a morning’s gardening repectively, Frodo in hopelessness, yet all three will plod on to the unknown end. Its funny, though, that they all achieve their ‘destinations’ - Gollum does get his Precious, Sam does get back to his garden, while Frodo, who struggles on towards (what he believes will be) failure & the loss of hope, gets just that.
davem is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-26-2005, 04:07 PM   #4
Lalwendë
A Mere Boggart
 
Lalwendë's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: under the bed
Posts: 4,804
Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Firstly, following on from what davem says about Gollum, just a few paragraphs earlier, before Sam goes to sleep, he says:

Quote:
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?
Very soon after this we see Gollum's moment where he displays the last goodness which remains within him, and we are moved by it. But we have to remember Sam's words. Gollum is a character in a story, and though we have the luxury of being able to stand back and comment on him, sympathise with him (and I know I for one do a lot of this), it is not the same as being the character within the story who must deal with Gollum. He is, in Sam's words, better in a story than in 'reality'.

Then there's something else about these words, they foreshadow what is to come, they even foreshadow all our discussions! I wonder how many readers have talked about whether Gollum is a hero or a villain?

Now onto my favourite subject, osanwe. I noticed something really intriguing about the scene with the Witch King. It seems to be a powerful mental confrontation. On the basic level we can see it as the Ring working its powers on Frodo, but then when I think of why the Ring should be doing this, osanwe comes into play:

Quote:
And as he waited, he felt, more urgent than ever before, the command that he should put on the Ring. But great as the pressure was, he felt no inclination now to yield to it. He knew that the Ring would only betray him, and that he had not, even if he put it on, the power to face the Morgul-king--not yet. There was no longer any answer to that command in his own will, dismayed by terror though it was, and he felt only the beating upon him of a great power from outside. 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. Then his own will stirred; slowly it forced the hand back and set it to find another thing, a thing lying hidden near his breast. Cold and hard it seemed as his grip closed on it: the phial of Galadriel, so long treasured, and almost forgotten till that hour. As he touched it, for a while all thought of the Ring was banished from his mind. He sighed and bent his head.

At that moment the Wraith-king turned and spurred his horse and rode across the bridge, and all his dark host followed him. Maybe the elven-hoods defied his unseen eyes, and the mind of his small enemy, being strengthened, had turned aside his thought.
Frodo must have thought of the Ring as soon as he saw the WK, and if the Ringwraiths indeed have been bestowed with terrible powers of osanwe, then the WK might have been reading Frodo's mind, he might have sensed that something was amiss. Frodo is unable to control his hand, and not only that, to control his thought, he is looking at himself from far away, as though he is quite literally out of his mind!

I think the WK has somehow locked on to the 'something amiss' he senses. He wants the Ring to reveal itself and senses it. Though this time, Frodo exercises Unwill and instead of submitting his thought to the WK, he closes his mind, or literally, as it says in the quote, he turns aside his thought.

So, the phial of Galadriel must include something of the powers of osanwe, which is entirely possible. It is made of the Light of Earendil caught in the waters from her fountain, and Galadriel's Ring is Nenya, the Ring of Adamant, representing water. If indeed, as I've posted on before, the Three Rings were made for purposes to do with osanwe, then could this water also be invested with some of that power?
__________________
Gordon's alive!

Last edited by Lalwendë; 04-26-2005 at 04:15 PM.
Lalwendë is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-27-2005, 08:28 PM   #5
littlemanpoet
Itinerant Songster
 
littlemanpoet's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: The Edge of Faerie
Posts: 7,049
littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Pipe

Quote:
I found the descriptions very evocative – how did they affect you? What do you make of the statement that the road glowed faintly?
They made it feel real. The glow of the road, the flowers, the tower, put me in mind (this time) of the poisoned gas of WW1. Too much Tolkien research for my own good, because it kind of killed the enchantment this time. I think that what is being evoked is the negative wraith-world of the Witch King, which is very strong in the vale of Minas Morgul. Thus it pervades all things there.

Having read the Letters, we know that the Battle of the Pelennor fields is about to take place; so we know that this army is marching towards Osgiliath and Minas Tirith. Here we see Gandalf's "folly" come to fruition, for the Eye has been distracted, barely, from Frodo, looking to the marshalling forces of the Free Peoples; this is also because Aragorn has sacrificially looked into the palantir, which Saruman lost through the folly of Wormtongue, which occurred because the Hobbits had roused the Ents, which happened because Saruman's orcs hunted for the Fellowship. The seeds of the downfall of Sauron and Saruman was in themselves all along; the Fellowship only had to take courage and do what was theirs to do; no small task!

I don't think "sneak", as a word, is the real issue. It's what lies beneath the words: Sam's suspicion that Gollum has been up to no good; which at the moment Sam said it, was entirely wrong; yet it wrankles Gollum because, for days now, except for this one rare moment of almost redemption, Gollum has indeed been up to the most traitorious of no good.

If Gollum had left them at the point suggested, Frodo and Sam would not have made it into Mordor, I think. They did not know the way.

That's all I have time for tonight. Maybe I can take a stab at more of these queries later.
littlemanpoet is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-28-2005, 05:49 PM   #6
Lathriel
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Lathriel's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Wandering through Middle-Earth (Sadly in Alberta and not ME)
Posts: 612
Lathriel has just left Hobbiton.
Of all the scary places in this book MInas Morgul is the scariest place in ME. At least I have found this place the most terrifying.

However, my favourite part of the chapter is the description of Gollum.

Quote:
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.
This quote reminds the reader of Gollum's origin. That in the end he is just a hobbit who has lived far beyond his years.Actually this part in the book really made me pity Gollum. I'm sure that if Gollum had a choice he would never have taken the ring. He has gone through so much misery and any joy he had in life is long gone.

Frodo is now rapidly changing. His personality is becoming more scyzophrenic like that of Gollum.

Quote:
He had not,even if he put it on,the power to face the witchking...not yet
I think this quote shows the side of Frodo that has been corrupted by the ring. The other part of his personality feels terror as he rightly should. However, this side has become overconfident,it is the side that is affected by the ring.
So half his personality is still sane whereas the other side is reaching the edge of sanity. I hope this makes sense
__________________
Back again
Lathriel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-28-2005, 09:03 PM   #7
littlemanpoet
Itinerant Songster
 
littlemanpoet's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: The Edge of Faerie
Posts: 7,049
littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
This quote reminds the reader of Gollum's origin. That in the end he is just a hobbit who has lived far beyond his years.Actually this part in the book really made me pity Gollum. I'm sure that if Gollum had a choice he would never have taken the ring. He has gone through so much misery and any joy he had in life is long gone.
From Letter # 181:
Quote:
The domination of the Ring was much too strong for the mean soul of Sméagol. But he would have never had to endure it if he had not become a mean sort of thief before it crossed his path.
Maybe you did not mean to suggest that Gollum never had a choice. It seems to me that Tolkien is saying, here, that Sméagol had made a series of small choices, day in and day out, that led to his fall to the temptation of murdering to claim the Ring. He chose to commit the crime.
littlemanpoet is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-28-2005, 10:55 PM   #8
Formendacil
Dead Serious
 
Formendacil's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Perched on Thangorodrim's towers.
Posts: 2,948
Formendacil is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Formendacil is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Formendacil is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.
Send a message via AIM to Formendacil Send a message via MSN to Formendacil
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lathriel
Of all the scary places in this book MInas Morgul is the scariest place in ME. At least I have found this place the most terrifying.
Interesting that you say that, because now I've started thinking...

Minas Morgul does not seem to be the most evil place in The Lord of the Rings, from my point of view. Mordor seems entirely more evil and dangerous, but in this chapter on Minas Morgul, the evil seems present in a way that is not, to me, as immediate as anywhere else in the book.

When Frodo and Sam are in Mordor, I felt their fear of capture, their loathing of the evil land, but although I saw its effects on them, I never really felt the evil of the place. It was more like a big desert than a place where evil was omnipresent.

But in this account of Minas Morgul, the evil felt very near to me. The possibility that the side of evil might capture, thwart, or end Frodo and Sam seemed a lot more real to me. The element of immediate danger presented by Shelob and the orks only a couple chapters later is not present, but the whole chapter leads me to feel that the entire evil of Minas Morgul was there to search them out, and could very well have done so, had things gone only a little different.

But I didn't feel this in Mordor. I knew Mordor was hostile. I knew Mordor was evil. But I didn't get the sense that Mordor was bearing down on Frodo and Sam, that it was actively seeking them out. Was this because Mordor was distracted by the Army of the West? Or is it that as the reader, once I saw Frodo and Sam safe of Cirith Ungol, I knew that they would make it to Mt. Doom?

Last edited by Formendacil; 11-16-2018 at 02:38 PM. Reason: Must fix embarassing there/their mistakes!
Formendacil is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2005, 09:55 AM   #9
littlemanpoet
Itinerant Songster
 
littlemanpoet's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: The Edge of Faerie
Posts: 7,049
littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Pipe

Your post, Formendacil, has helped shape a distinction for me between Minas Morgul and Mordor.

Minas Morgul's evil is eerie. It is hair-raised-on-the-nape-of-the-neck evil. All living things, or those things that normally are associated with life, such as (especially) flowers and water, as well as roads and towers, are here associated with corruption, decay, and undeadness.

Mordor is a destroyed land. Life is gone. It's a blasted, wasted desert. The feeling associated with this is not the thrill of the unnatural undead, but of drought and despair; the absence of life.
littlemanpoet is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2005, 11:43 AM   #10
Formendacil
Dead Serious
 
Formendacil's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Perched on Thangorodrim's towers.
Posts: 2,948
Formendacil is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Formendacil is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Formendacil is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.
Send a message via AIM to Formendacil Send a message via MSN to Formendacil
Quote:
Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
Your post, Formendacil, has helped shape a distinction for me between Minas Morgul and Mordor.

Minas Morgul's evil is eerie. It is hair-raised-on-the-nape-of-the-neck evil. All living things, or those things that normally are associated with life, such as (especially) flowers and water, as well as roads and towers, are here associated with corruption, decay, and undeadness.

Mordor is a destroyed land. Life is gone. It's a blasted, wasted desert. The feeling associated with this is not the thrill of the unnatural undead, but of drought and despair; the absence of life.
You've given me the germ of another idea...

If Mordor is a destroyed land, is Imlad Morgul a land in the process of being destroyed? In Mordor, evil is a given thing, it has totally taken over, to the point that is taken for granted.

Is the more active feeling of evil that I associate with Minas Morgul perhaps a sign that evil there has to be more active, because it has not yet totally subdued the land? Mordor seems to have been a less-than-attractive land even before Sauron set up shop, and he's had an age and a half to make it evil, whereas the Witchking has only been in Minas Morgul for a millennium or so. And perhaps there is more inherent resistance to evil in the "bones" of old Minas Ithil. We know that the land remembers the Elves long after they leave. Could a similar thing happen with the Numenorians?
Formendacil is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2005, 12:43 PM   #11
Lathriel
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Lathriel's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Wandering through Middle-Earth (Sadly in Alberta and not ME)
Posts: 612
Lathriel has just left Hobbiton.
I find Minas Morgul terrifying because it is Frodo and Sam's first real encounter with a land that is evil to its very core. The dead marshes have been corrupted and the land before the Black Gate has been laid to waste but now the hobbits are actually entering the worst place in ME.
Maybe Minas Morgul is scarier for me because it has a sense of being alive. Whereas Mordor is simply a dead land with evil creatures roaming through it the Morgul vale has a deadly river flowing through it and it is inhabited by the witch king who is the most powerful after Sauron himself. Besides the witchking is half alive compared to Sauron who doesn't even seem to have a physical form. Besides the morgul vale is another entrance to Mordor and it seems that of all the places in that black land the entrances are the places that are under the heaviest security.
__________________
Back again
Lathriel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2005, 01:33 PM   #12
littlemanpoet
Itinerant Songster
 
littlemanpoet's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: The Edge of Faerie
Posts: 7,049
littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Formendacil
If Mordor is a destroyed land, is Imlad Morgul a land in the process of being destroyed? In Mordor, evil is a given thing, it has totally taken over, to the point that is taken for granted.

Is the more active feeling of evil that I associate with Minas Morgul perhaps a sign that evil there has to be more active, because it has not yet totally subdued the land? Mordor seems to have been a less-than-attractive land even before Sauron set up shop, and he's had an age and a half to make it evil, whereas the Witchking has only been in Minas Morgul for a millennium or so. And perhaps there is more inherent resistance to evil in the "bones" of old Minas Ithil. We know that the land remembers the Elves long after they leave. Could a similar thing happen with the Numenorians?
This occurred to me too. My own thought in answer was that Mordor was under the domination of the 'machine' of Mount Doom, which used killing fire to destroy the land. In contrast, the Witch King's 'machine' is the evil coming from the negative spirit-realm that Frodo enters whenever he wears the Ring, and is therefore both more subtle and pervasive. It's as if the Un-life of the Witch King is infecting the life of the vale with a cancerous (for lack of a better analogy) substitute to real life.

I also think that length of time, as you've suggested, has a part to play.
littlemanpoet is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-30-2005, 04:24 PM   #13
Firefoot
Illusionary Holbytla
 
Firefoot's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 7,646
Firefoot has been trapped in the Barrow!
The thing that really caught my eye about this chapter was the flowers, which I have never really noticed before. In many ways they seem to be metaphorical for Minas Morgul itself. It seems that once they may have been fair and beautiful, though now they are horrible of shape, giving forth a sickening smell. This is like to Minas Morgul, once the fair Minas Ithil and now sunken into decay and evil. Both also give off a sort of luminous light - light that illuminates nothing. Light, another symbol of 'good,' has also been perverted in this sense. No longer is it good and beautiful, but eerie and threatening.

Interesting also how the flowers are white. In most other instances that I can think of, white is the color of good: Gandalf the White (the White Rider, etc), Minas Tirith the White City, the White Tree. The exception that I can think of is Saruman and his White Hand, though Saruman becomes no longer white, and even the symbolic hand is cast down by the Ents. So too, the white flowers are no longer pure, but horrible and demented.
Firefoot is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-03-2005, 10:58 PM   #14
Lathriel
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Lathriel's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Wandering through Middle-Earth (Sadly in Alberta and not ME)
Posts: 612
Lathriel has just left Hobbiton.
It just shows that appearances can be deceiving. Just like Saruman clothing himself in white. That was an illusion too, and it would have been much more appropriate for Saruman to dress in black.
__________________
Back again
Lathriel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-04-2005, 12:01 PM   #15
Encaitare
Bittersweet Symphony
 
Encaitare's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: On the jolly starship Enterprise
Posts: 2,031
Encaitare is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lathriel
It just shows that appearances can be deceiving. Just like Saruman clothing himself in white. That was an illusion too, and it would have been much more appropriate for Saruman to dress in black.
That's what I like about this, though: everything is not strictly divided into black = bad, white = good. It goes this way in many cases, ie: Mordor, the Black Land, and Gandalf the White. But then we also have opposite examples, such as the black (or "sable") standard of the King of Gondor, and the White Hand of Saruman. It's a refreshing change, really.

I don't know about anyone else, but sometimes I find the super-evil, black-clad villain to get very old. A "color reversal" I liked was in Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule, in which the chief baddie -- not a nice guy at all -- lived in a beautiful palace in a pleasant land, was very handsome, and happened to fancy wearing white robes.

In Tolkien's works, evil is associated with darkness -- but then, if it were not for darkness, we could not see the stars. This may just be a random musing, but I just wondered whether there is a difference in Tolkien between blackness and darkness. The elvish mor seems to be used interchangeably to mean black or dark. But the people/places who hold this title as part of their names range from the Moriquendi to Morwen to Moria to Morgoth.

The Moriquendi never beheld the Two Trees, which might be considered a sorrow to the Calaquendi. Yet these "Dark Elves" are not evil. Morwen was named thus for her dark hair -- she was not evil either. But Moria is a dark and evil place, and we all know how unpleasant Morgoth was...

Thoughts?
Encaitare is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-05-2005, 06:33 AM   #16
littlemanpoet
Itinerant Songster
 
littlemanpoet's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: The Edge of Faerie
Posts: 7,049
littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Great observations and examples, Encaitare.

I also observed that even in this chapter's setting, "dark" or "black" is never used as the only descriptive word. There's a stench for Shelob, or poisonous flowers in the Morgul vale. I'm sure there are other examples, but this goes to show that Tolkien rarely left it simply to the one word to describe the dark side. "Noisome", anyone?
littlemanpoet is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-05-2005, 10:34 AM   #17
Lalwendë
A Mere Boggart
 
Lalwendë's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: under the bed
Posts: 4,804
Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Encaitare
I don't know about anyone else, but sometimes I find the super-evil, black-clad villain to get very old. A "color reversal" I liked was in Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule, in which the chief baddie -- not a nice guy at all -- lived in a beautiful palace in a pleasant land, was very handsome, and happened to fancy wearing white robes.
I've got some thoughts! There are two types of 'bad guys'. We have the outright bad guy like Sauron or Morgoth, who is not only evil in character but is also unattractive in appearance; usually their acts of evil are not shown to ultimately bring them anything we would class as a benefit, their lands are not pleasant, their castles are not glamorous, and they don't have hordes of admirers. This is the type of evil character who we are immediately repelled by, and hence we fall in on the 'side' of the good charachters

Then we get the handsome bad guy. This is more of a Miltonic or possibly Byronic evil character. Such figures are usually attractive, glamorous, seductive; they have gained benefits from being bad which attract us to them as we want something of what they have. Dracula is probably the best example, as he exerts a powerful attraction on people yet is thoroughly evil. As an aside, the modern vampire stories develop this by showing vampires who are very attractive and make people want to 'be like them' and also have eternal life, whereas we see that secretly such vampires do not always enjoy their immortality.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Encaitare
In Tolkien's works, evil is associated with darkness -- but then, if it were not for darkness, we could not see the stars. This may just be a random musing, but I just wondered whether there is a difference in Tolkien between blackness and darkness.
I reckon there must be something in davem's idea of unlight, i.e. the absence of Light. Darkness itself is not evil, as it is always counterbalanced with Light - even if this Light is just the light of the stars. But Darkness (with a capital D) is different, as it is the absence of Light. I'm thinking of how Ungoliant sucked the Light from the trees; it was as though her evil nature had a complete absence of Light and that her Darkness would totally negate and consume Light. A bit like a Black Hole!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Encaitare
The Moriquendi never beheld the Two Trees, which might be considered a sorrow to the Calaquendi. Yet these "Dark Elves" are not evil.
No, they are indeed not evil, but in a way, they are viewed as 'fallen'. All the Elves are expected to eventually go to Valinor. On death if the Fea refuses to go to the Halls of Mandos, then it is considered to be very wrong, something 'suspect'. Maybe the Calaquendi are so sorrowful because they know that the loss of their cousins will also hurt them on a deeper level, that as Elves, their nature depends upon them going to Valinor. So it's definitely not that they are evil, but they are not blessed either.
__________________
Gordon's alive!
Lalwendë is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-10-2005, 02:30 PM   #18
Guinevere
Banshee of Camelot
 
Guinevere's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Switzerland
Posts: 5,707
Guinevere is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Just some random, belated thoughts...

- I wonder who originally made that hidden path with all those stairs, and to what purpose? There is a main road to the pass , and in the time of Minas Ithil I guess people used that one.
Quote:
Frodo raised his head. Despair had not left him, but the weakness had passed. He even smiled grimly, feeling now as clearly as a moment before he had felt the opposite, that 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.
I think one of the main topics of the books is going on and doing one's duty because it's the right thing to do, even though there may be no hope left whatsoever.

I love Frodo's and Sam's conversation about being in a greater story.

And the moment where Gollum almost repents is really tragic! For those who don't have Tolkien's letters, here is what he wrote about this incident ( in letter #246)
Quote:
If he (Sam) had understood better what was going on between Frodo and Gollum, things might have turned out differently in the end. For me perhaps the most tragic moment in the Tale comes when Sam fails to note the complete change in Gollum's tone and aspect. "Nothing, nothing" said Gollum softly. "Nice master!" His repentance is blighted and all Frodo's pitiy is (in a sense) wasted. Shelob's lair became inevitable.
This is due of course to the "logic of the story". Sam could hardly have acted differently. (he did reach the point of pity at last, but for the good of Gollum too late.) If he had, what could then have happened? The course of the entry into Mordor and the struggle to reach Mount Doom would have been different, and so would the ending. The interest would have shifted to Gollum, I think, and the battle that would have gone on between his repentance and his new love on one side and the Ring. Though the love would have been strengthened daily it could not have wrested the mastery from the Ring. I think that in some queer twisted and pitiable way Gollum would have tried (not maybe with conscious design) to satisfy both. Certainly at some point not long before the end he would have stolen the Ring or taken it by violence (as he does in the actual Tale) . But "possession" satisfied, I think he would then have sacrificed himself for Frodo's sake and have voluntarily cast himself into the fiery abyss.
Fascinating alternative by the Master himself!
__________________
Yes! "wish-fulfilment dreams" we spin to cheat
our timid hearts, and ugly Fact defeat!
Guinevere is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-10-2005, 09:26 PM   #19
Encaitare
Bittersweet Symphony
 
Encaitare's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: On the jolly starship Enterprise
Posts: 2,031
Encaitare is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Quote:
But "possession" satisfied, I think he would then have sacrificed himself for Frodo's sake and have voluntarily cast himself into the fiery abyss.
Wow... what a fascinating possibility that is!
Encaitare is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-10-2005, 10:31 PM   #20
Lathriel
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Lathriel's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Wandering through Middle-Earth (Sadly in Alberta and not ME)
Posts: 612
Lathriel has just left Hobbiton.
There have been times when I became tired of certain authors because they made their villains too obvious. That is why I do like the Saruman part of LOTR.

As for the Gollum thing. That is interesting
__________________
Back again
Lathriel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-16-2018, 02:50 PM   #21
Formendacil
Dead Serious
 
Formendacil's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Perched on Thangorodrim's towers.
Posts: 2,948
Formendacil is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Formendacil is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Formendacil is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.
Send a message via AIM to Formendacil Send a message via MSN to Formendacil
Long, winding journey for me rereading what is a fairly short chapter. It's main claims to fame are the book's only real image of Minas Morgul, the conversation of Frodo and Sam about being in a Story, and the tragic moment of Sméagol's quavering almost-redemption.

Regarding that last point, I think the brevity of its window and the ease of its destruction are what make it so poignant. Gollum is not a generally sympathetic character. Granting that we see him largely through Sam's biased eyes, nothing about him that we hear from Gandalf, Aragorn, Faramir, or the Rangers of Ithilien suggest that he is at all pleasant to be around. He's profoundly broken, but mostly due to his own wicked doings, and anyone rereading the story knows exactly how treacherous any of his veiled, dubious mutterings to this point truly are.

And yet, for one fleeting moment, we believe he can be saved--and it is a tragedy of timing that Sam wakes as he does when he does. You can call this moment literary skill on Tolkien's part--I think it is--but you can also call it a window into thoughts on sin and redemption. Not that I see this a sort of allegory; it is more that I am trying to say that this sense that even the most wretched can be saved from their fallen state is a supremely Christian idea--though the fragility of that possibility here is perhaps wryly cynical.
Formendacil is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-16-2018, 05:27 PM   #22
Inziladun
Gruesome Spectre
 
Inziladun's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Heaven's doorstep
Posts: 7,447
Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
And yet, for one fleeting moment, we believe he can be saved--and it is a tragedy of timing that Sam wakes as he does when he does. You can call this moment literary skill on Tolkien's part--I think it is--but you can also call it a window into thoughts on sin and redemption. Not that I see this a sort of allegory; it is more that I am trying to say that this sense that even the most wretched can be saved from their fallen state is a supremely Christian idea--though the fragility of that possibility here is perhaps wryly cynical.
It's a consistent message, to be sure.

Both the Prime Evil, Melkor, and his lieutenant were offered the chance to repent. Saruman too. Though redemption never happened for them or Gollum, it's the opportunity that matters. A truly lost cause would not even be afforded the possibility, leaving doubt that anyone is ever "lost" if thy do not choose it.
__________________
Music alone proves the existence of God.
Inziladun is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-16-2018, 07:30 PM   #23
Galadriel55
Blossom of Dwimordene
 
Galadriel55's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: The realm of forgotten words
Posts: 7,477
Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
Long, winding journey for me rereading what is a fairly short chapter. It's main claims to fame are the book's only real image of Minas Morgul, the conversation of Frodo and Sam about being in a Story, and the tragic moment of Sméagol's quavering almost-redemption.
I would also add a slightly more humble but to me an important piece: the first mention of the phial of Galadriel since the departure from Lorien (something previously discussed here) and its first use.

Here are the words Galadriel used to describe it:

" 'In this phial,' she said,`is caught the light of Eärendil's star, set amid the waters of my fountain. It will shine still brighter when night is about you. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out. Remember Galadriel and her Mirror!' "

Of course it comes useful later on as a physical light, but I like to think that it's more than that. After all Earendil's star is the bringer of hope, not just a celestial flashlight, and Galadriel deals with the metaphysical world too and not just with light refraction.

Interestingly the phial gives neither form of aid at Sammath Naur, where Orodruin's light and Sauron's will overpower any other source. And after the victory, Arwen's pendant in some ways ousts the phial as a Ring-replacing artifact. Both of these items have an interesting role, and possibly this discussion might merit a thread of its own.
__________________
What do you get when you cross a joke with a rhetorical question?
Galadriel55 is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 01:50 AM.



Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.