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Old 02-28-2003, 10:17 AM   #1
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Pipe The Style of Book VI

The other thread in the Books about deus ex machina started me thinking again about something . . .

The first part of Book VI tells of Frodo and Samís journey through Mordor toward Mount Doom. As they travel, they are of course increasingly exhausted, dehydrated (side note: they apparently left their wits in Ithilien; if youíre going on a 10 day hike in the desert, you CANNOT carry enough water), and hungry, and their despair (especially Frodoís) grows with each step.

Iíve often found these 3 chapters (especially after they escape from the tower) hard to read. The prose seems to lack something that is found in all of the other parts of the book. But the deus ex machina description of the eagles made me think of something else. Their appearance at Mount Doom is the eagles second appearance in LotR and their fourth in the Hobbit-LotR story. This device always stuck me as being a bit tired at this point in the story. But itís not the only repeated device in these 3 chapters of Book VI.

Sam asks Frodo if he (Sam) can carry the ring in the Tower, and Frodo predictably goes nuts. Samwise the samwise asks again later, during the march to Mount Doom, and this time Frodo goes REALLY nuts.

Frodo is saved in the Tower because the orcs fight among themselves (and a similar thing happened earlier to Pippin and Merry); this plot device is repeated when Frodo and Sam are captured by orc soldiers in Mordor.

Gollum surprise-attacks Frodo and Sam (as he had earlier, in Shelobís lair), Frodo considers slaying him but doesnít, then Sam does the same thing, and again spares him. 10 minutes later, Gollum surprise attacks Sam again.

And of course, much of Frodoís dialogue is repeated Ė he mentions his lack of hope several times, he repeats what had said earlier, in the Emyn Muil, that once the ring went into the fire they had no reason to need food or water, etc. etc.

I wonder if Tolkien didnít do this deliberately. As the travelers reach the end of their journey, and the end of their hope, the prose seems to wind down too, and simply repeats plot devices and dialogue that have appeared earlier. I remember reading a criticism of Ulysses that made the same point about the Eumaeus episode (which occurs at about the same point in that novel): that Joyce made the prose deliberately "tired" to match the exhaustion of the two travelers (Bloom and Stephen).

Note that once Frodo and Sam are rescued, the prose springs back to life. In the Cormallen Field episode, all sorts of previously unheard of things occur Ė Aragorn kneels before Frodo and Sam, Gandalf laughs like a schoolgirl, Legolas talks of the sea, etc.

Just a thought.

[ February 28, 2003: Message edited by: Turambar ]
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Old 02-28-2003, 12:50 PM   #2
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Great post.
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Old 02-28-2003, 05:01 PM   #3
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Brilliant post. You bring up an excellent point- there was a lot of repetition. I almost think it was to draw us more into the story. It mimics everything that happens in the book- day after day, they have nothing new: no new food, drink, surroundings; it's miserable. The style that Tolkien used makes you feel empathetic, sort of. It's the end of the world as they know it, and they can't even leave it happily, as they think. I think it's brilliant the way Tolkien wrote the end of the journey. It mimics our own real history with so many repetitions. Then, as you said, at the beginning of the New Age, everything renewed itself. New relationships, new actions, new kingdoms. A great use of foil.
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Old 02-28-2003, 05:29 PM   #4
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Yes, a great post indeed.

My first thought was, well of course the Orcs quarrel and of course Gollum springs out to attack Sam and Frodo. That's what we've come to expect of them. Orcs argue amongst themselves. Gollum will stop at nothin to get the Ring.

But then I thought about it. Turambar, you pointed out that it was three chapters. It certainly doesn't seem like that. After they escape from the Tower of Cirith Ungol, I have no particular memory of what happens before the final confrontation on the edge of Mount Doom, other than that they disguise themselves as Orcs for a while, Sam carries Frodo, and Gollum attacks a few times as they ascend Mount Doom.

I hadn't really thought about it before, but now I do, it all does pass very quickly. Many other chapters are crammed with incident (it is amazing, for example, that the Battle of Helms Deep takes up only one chapter), but these three chapters are very low on incident. As you say, the action is simply repetitive.

I do not know whether this was intentional. Certainly, there is not much scope for action in Mordor, particularly with only two principal characters, and yet the journey to Mount Doom had to take up some "story time". Nevertheless, it does seem to work in the way that you have identified, Turambar, especially as the level of detail and involvement floods back once we get to the Field of Cormallen.
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Old 02-28-2003, 06:49 PM   #5
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I've never thought about it quite like that. But on reflection is seems that it is almost a necessity to 'prolong the agony', so to speak. There is much buildup of Mordor being a hard land, to put it mildly. What a shame to not give it it's due as the most difficult task in the journey, truly befitting heroic status.

It takes time to develop true despair. Just how much can they stand as individuals and as a pair? How tenuous is the true nature of the Quest? I remember being shocked at the immensity of Mordor, I was also taken by surprise with the geography. No picture is truly painted until that time. You know that feeling on a long hike, oh no! Another hill to climb, we'll never make it! I like that the landscape is not revealed to us until the moment they cross it.

To heighten the despair, I believe that is why the Mordor journey lasted so long and why so many instances of near discovery or attack were presented. Shoot, I get getting fatigued just reading it, wondering all the while - what is happening outside of Mordor?!? Suspense, despair, unknown fate - it's a slow burn in those chapters.

By the way, there were three instances of 'Eagle Rescue' in LotR - Gandalf at Orthanc, Gandalf on Caradhras, Ringbearer in Mordor.
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Old 02-28-2003, 11:05 PM   #6
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I'll join the chorus and commend you for an interesting post, Turambar. Without having read the section (or for that matter, the book) in a while, I can only chip in that previous discussions have kicked around speculations about a deliberate shift in tone between the first chapter or two in LotR and subsequent chapters. This subtle difference might convey that those chapters were written by Bilbo, since the style more closely resembles that of The Hobbit.

If Tolkien really was deliberately manipulating his prose to produce these sorts of visceral, almost subconscious effects on the reader, then he's even more of a genius than I thought he was.

Something to keep an eye out for on the next reading.
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Old 02-28-2003, 11:54 PM   #7
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That is pretty interesting. I think Tolkien did that on purpose to just give Frodo and Sam a break and let the eagles save them, so that way they didn't have to walk all the way back to Gondor, and plus, Tolkien was a professor at Oxford, so he probably knew what he was doing.

Good post by the way. [img]smilies/cool.gif[/img]
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Old 03-01-2003, 03:32 PM   #8
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Neat thread. Just to throw this in. I always imagined that book VI was translated from Sam's writting. I don't know if that may be part of the puzzle.

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Old 03-01-2003, 05:03 PM   #9
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Clever, indeed quite clever Turambar. I like it.

Though, as others have already said, these are three of the shorter chapters in the Lord of the Rings, they have a remarkably long drag to them. When I read the Lord of the rings the first time, I remember thinking that those three chapters must have been some of the longest in the entire book. I seem to take up that same manner when I'm exhausted: time seems to pass slowly, and I constantly stress my exhaustion in as many ways as I can get across. I become slow and redundant (and I imagine very annoying to those around me [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] )

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Old 03-01-2003, 07:22 PM   #10
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foil (foil) n. 2. One that by
strong contrast intensifies
another's characteristics.

This literary technique leaves me in no doubt that Tolkien deliberately made these chapters (forgive me, but) boring to accentuate the amazing beginnings of the New Age. It goes from repetition to completely unheard of, interesting turn-arounds.
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Old 03-04-2003, 02:21 AM   #11
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...(forgive me, but) boring...
For some reason this reminded me that Tolkien drew on his experiences in the trenches of WWI for writing the Mordor chapters. Veterans of that war often referred to the sameness of day after day at the front in miserable, filthy, dangerous conditions. They just seemed to blur together after awhile, punctuated by terror. That sounds like a good description of 'The Land of Shadow' in Book VI.

[ March 04, 2003: Message edited by: Alphaelin ]
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Old 03-06-2003, 03:13 PM   #12
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But on reflection is seems that it is almost a necessity to 'prolong the agony',
I couldn't agree more. I just finished these chapters again, and each time I took a break between readings, I found myself thirsty and tired. These chapters are more difficult to read (and maybe a little boring) than the previous chapters, but I still found myself waiting for the chance read again.

The writing style allows the reader to feel that despair when Frodo and Sam have stumbled over rocks and hills for days, and Mt. Doom is still some 40 miles away! You feel like it's never going to end. I think if Tolkien had used more 'flowery' language, the effect Mordor had on the hobbits (and the reader) would have been lessened. After all, nothing in Mordor is flowery, nothing.

HCIsland's theory of Sam's writing of this part of the journey intrigues me. It might explain some of the simpler language, and the use of shorter sentences. In Middle Earth reality, Frodo probably remembered very little of the journey, except maybe the big wheel of fire that was constantly in his sight.
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Old 03-06-2003, 06:07 PM   #13
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Well, I just finished Return of the King again, and I remembered why I don't remember what happens at the end very clearly, and why I like the other two books better. Yes, there is a great battle, and some good stuff at the beginning of Book V, but after everything's over, he really speeds through a lot of stuff. And his overall tone seems to change all over the place. Near the beginning, he's following Pippin around the city very closely, and we see things from the hobbit's eyes and we are drawn into his world. Then we go to the Mordor bit that has been discussed here, and it gets a bit dry, repetative and I felt strangely detatched from what is supposed to be the climax of the whole epic. Then, after the ring is destroyed, Tolkien adapts the "historian" tone again for a while. Everything becomes more formal and old-fashioned. Then, he absolutely rips through the journey home, and his prose looses all of its richness. I was very disappointed with the Scouring of the Shire--I'd remembered it being better than it was. Did he just get tired of writing and try to wrap it all up as fast as possible? [img]smilies/frown.gif[/img] And Legolas and Giimli disappear from the tale in RotK, so no wonder I like TT best...

[ March 06, 2003: Message edited by: Dain ]
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