LOTR Readalong – The Final Post

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King: Vol 3 by JRR Tolkien.

This month was the last part of the LOTR Readalong and everyone’s final thoughts can be found at Just Add Books. Having finished all 1076 pages of the three volumes of LOTR plus the Hobbit I think I’m going to miss them.

The final volume was certainly full of action. There are some memorable scenes – Faramir and Eowyn falling in love was lovely and heartwarming, Sam giving back the ring to Frodo, but one that affected me particularly was Denethor’s death. He had totally mis-read Gandalf’s actions after the loss of his oldest son Boromir; his other son Faramir was so badly wounded. Knowing that Aragorn is on the way to reclaim the throne, he is consumed with anger and rants at Gandalf:

‘Do I not know thee, Mithrandir? Thy hope is to rule in my stead, to stand behind every throne, north, south or west. I have read thy mind and its policies. Do I not know that you commanded this halfling here to keep silence? That you brought him hither to be a spy in my very chamber? And yet in our speech together I have learned the names and purpose of all thy companions. So! With the left hand thou wouldst use me for a little while as a shield against Mordor, and with the right bring up this Ranger of the North to supplant me.
‘But I say to thee, Gandalf Mithrandir, I will not be your tool! I am Steward of the house of Anarion. I will not step down to be the dotard chamberlain of an upstart. Even were his claim proved to me, still he comes but of the line of Isildur. I will not bow to such a one, last of a ragged house long bereft of lordship and dignity.’
‘What then would you have,’ said Gandalf, ‘if your will could have its way?’
‘I would have things as they were in all the days of my life,’ answered Denethor, ‘and in the days of my longfathers before me: to be the Lord of this City in peace, and leave my chair to a son after me, who would be his own master and no wizard’s pupil. But if doom denies this to me, then I will have naught: neither life diminished, not love halved, not honour abated.’
‘To me it would not seem that a Stewart who faithfully surrenders his charge is diminished in love or in honour,’ said Gandalf. ‘And at the least you shall not rob your son of his choice while his death is still in doubt.’
At those words Denethor’s eyes flamed again, and taking the Stone under his arm he drew a knife and strode towards the bier. But Beregond sprang forward and set himself before Faramir.
‘So!’ cried Denethor. ‘Thou hadst already stolen half my son’s love. Now thou stealest the hearts of my knights also, so that they rob me wholly of my son at the last. But in this at least thou shalt not defy my will: to rule my own end’.

Apologies for the long extract, however I found this scene which ends with Denethor immolating himself very sad, dramatic and positively Wagnerian. After this the actual destruction of the ring was almost an anticlimax.

Given that this was a re-read for me, I’d forgotten that the coda, the tying up of all ends, the crowning of Aragorn, the Hobbits’ return to the Shire, and the sailing of the Elves and their friends from the Havens would take eighty pages, (plus the Appendix of the story of Aragorn and Arwen). 

I’m very glad to have re-read the books and have got much more from them this time, in particular understanding more about the politics between all the tribes and races. One thing hasn’t changed though, Aragorn remains my favourite character! Taking it slowly over a period of four months has enabled me to read plenty of other books in between yet keep them in the forefront of my mind. Lastly many thanks to Teresa who started the whole thing off.

The Two Towers – the LOTR Readalong month 3

It’s the end of month 3 of the LOTR readlong, and I’ve finished LOTR vol 2: The Two Towers . You can see what others thought via the Mr Linky on Teresa’s post at Shelflove, and you can see my comments on the first half of the book here, but before I leave it totally I just want to share a quote from book three that really tickled me …

‘But Gandalf,’ I (Pippin) cried, ‘where have you been? And have you seen the others?’
‘Wherever I have been, I am back,’ he answered in the genuine Gandalf manner.

Wizards – why can’t they ever talk like normal folk!

Now to the second half of the Two Towers (Book 4 of the sequence) – for you can honestly say that like football, this is a book of two halves!  In the previous book we followed Aragorn and co, and met Theoden and the Riders of Rohan, plus the Ents; in book four we follow Sam and Frodo as they continue on the quest and we meet major characters in Gollum/Sméagol and the noble Steward of Gondor, Faramir, brother of Boromir.

I must admit that I found book 4 slow to get into after the classic Western feel of book 3, but as soon as we meet Gollum properly it begins to get interesting again.  The scene were Gollum argues with his other self Sméagol is wonderful and is perhaps the most important event in this book …

‘Sméagol promised,’ said the first thought.
‘Yes, yes, my precious,’ came the answer, ‘we promised: to save our Precious, not to let Him have it – never. But it’s going to Him, yes, nearer every step. What’s the hobbit going to do with it, we wonders, yes we wonders.’
‘I don’t know. I can’t help it. Master’s got it. Sméagol promised to help the master.’
‘Yes, yes, to help the master: the master of the Precious. But if we was master, then we could help ourselfs, yes, and still keep promises.’

Then the hobbits encounter Faramir. At first they circle around each other, testing out where loyalties lie. They talk of the Elves, and Faramir wishes he could have spoken with the White Lady, which sparks an effusive outpouring from Sam …

‘… Beautiful she is, sir! Lovely! Sometimes like a great tree in flower, sometimes like a white daffadowndilly, small and slender like. Hard as di’monds, soft as moonlight. Warm as sunlight, cold as frost in the stars. Proud and far-off as a snow-mountain, and as merry as any lass I every saw with daisies in her hair in springtime. But that’s a lot o’ nonsense, and all wide of my mark.’

Sam’s mouth continues to lead him into trouble blurting out Boromir’s fate, but Faramir is able to piece things together and understand that the hobbits are not a threat to them and deserve help despite what happened to his brother. He is noble indeed. The hobbits’ short stay with Faramir and his men gives them the respite that enables them to carry on, but we soon see that the task is getting harder. Frodo is beginning to feel the weight of the ring, and Sam is sharing his burden and unwittingly upsets Gollum even more accusing him of ‘sneaking’…

…’Sneaking, sneaking!’ he hissed. ‘Hobbits always so polite, tes. O nice hobbits! Sméagol brings them up secret ways that nobody else could find. Tired he is, thirsty he is, yes thirsty; and he guides them and he searches for paths, and they say sneak, sneak. Very nice friends, O yes my precious, very nice.
Sam felt a bit remorseful, though not more trustful. ‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘I’m sorry, but you startled me out of my sleep. And I shouldn’t have been sleeping, and that made me a bit sharp. But Mr. Frodo, he’s that tired, I asked him to have a wink; and well, that’s how it is. Sorry. But where have you been to?’
‘Sneaking,’ said Gollum, and the green glint did not leave his eyes.

Teresa asks about what themes are becoming apparent in the book. For me there is a real sense of history – all the different races have their own, and they all love any opportunity to share their stories with others anytime they get together.

And finally – the obligatory movie comparison. Personally, I’ve no big quibbles with the film, I don’t know it well enough. However, there are some bits that are brilliant. I commented on Theoden’s awakening last time. Now I’d like to applaud the casting of David Wenham as Faramir – he and Viggo Mortensen make a great pair of heroes to long for. But the biggest acting feat of all must be Andy Sirkis as Gollum, and the animator’s brilliant job at bringing him to the screen.

LOTR Readalong Month 3 – Midway through the Two Towers

The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers Vol 2 by JRR Tolkien

It’s month 3 of the LOTR Readalong in which we’re reading vol 2 – The Two Towers. This month the readalong is hosted by Teresa at Shelf Love and she has posed some questions for us …

Where are you in your reading? Are you finding it slow going or is it a quick read? It’s convenient that Tolkein splits the Two Towers into two books which are 3 & 4 of the trilogy. I finished book 3 soon after the start of the month – I’m starting book four imminently. I found it a steady read, neither fast nor slow.

If you’re a rereader, how does this reading compare to past readings? If you’re a first-time reader, how has The Two Towers met—or not met—your expectations? What has surprised you most in your reading?   I really can’t remember my previous read much. TTTs feels like a middle novel though. I also thought I’d miss Frodo and Sam, but was surprised that I was enjoying the others’ adventures so much.

In Book 3, we visit lots of new places and meet lots of new characters. There’s Fangorn and the Ents, the riders of Rohan, Saruman at Isengard. Which are your favorites? Least favorites?   I’m not a big fan of the Ents – can’t put my finger on why – I think it’s to do with cartoonish visions of trees with faces, I can’t take them seriously. I do like the Riders of Rohan – Theoden is a great leader, and Eowyn will come into her own.

And the obligatory movie question: If you’ve seen the movie, has it affected your perception of The Two Towers? If so, how?   One of the scenes I thought they did well in the film was Theoden’s reawakening, becoming himself again. This was rather quickly dealt with in the book, but it was nice to see Bernard Hill get his time to come to.

LOTR Readalong Month Two: The Fellowship of the Ring

It’s the end of the second month of the LOTR Readlong and I’ve finished LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring Vol 1.  This month Clare at The Literary Omnivore is hosting, if you want to check others’ progress, but here are my thoughts on the second half …

Just in case you live on a different planet and haven’t read or seen it – rather unavoidable plot SPOILER alert! 

In Book Two, the Fellowship of the Ring is both formed and broken on the first leg of the journey to take the ring to Mordor. Winter means they have to go through the mountains via the mines of Moria, and it is here, in just a few pages, that one of the biggest events in Book 2 happens – Gandalf falls to his presumed end holding off a demonic Balrog.  It all happens rather too quickly and you could be forgiven for having thought you’d missed it – in fact I read it twice.

The Fellowship have to concentrate on staying alive, and don’t stop to mourn so quickly is Gandalf’s fate relegated to the background. At last the eight arrive at Lothlorien, and meet Galadriel, who is the second-most interesting character so far, (Aragorn is first of course).  She is a real fairy queen with telepathic powers; Frodo is a little in love with her and offers her the ring, and she of course, graciously refuses knowing how it would corrupt her.

The Fellowship have to take their leave and on they go, tailed by Gollum whom we don’t meet properly yet, but has been lurking out of sight for ages.  Soon they have to make a choice, whether to go via Gondor and help Minas Tirith, or head directly towards Mordor…  Frodo as ringbearer gets to decide and retreats to ponder the decision, but Boromir has a funny turn desiring the ring and goes after him. Frodo (gasp!) puts on the ring to avoid Boromir’s nasty intentions and runs for it.  Luckily for him Sam is on his tail, but thus the fellowship is broken.

In this first volume  there have been moments of great peril and episodes of sheer elven bliss, but, as with all great fantasy arcs, there are greater battles yet to come.  It’s one helluva setup!   We’re in the early stages of addiction – enough to carry on, but secretly knowing that temptation will keep us reading – even when you’ve read it before and remember the key events that will happen – if anything that makes it even stronger.  Knowing that the fellowship doesn’t last and that the narrative will split makes me miss those who will be off doing something else while we follow one half or another already – but the anticipation is greater…

Bring on The Two Towers !

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

Now – considering that I last read The Hobbit, aged around twelve, many, many years ago – before starting to re-read the book, ask me what I remember of it apart from Bilbo and Gandalf? I would answer, “Gollum and the ring, and Smaug the dragon, but particularly Gollum.” I was surprised to find that Gollum was almost incidental.

But what I had completely forgotten about were the dwarves. Not seven, but a whole baker’s dozen of the grumpy things!

The Hobbit charts Bilbo Baggins’ big adventure to vanquish the dragon Smaug. Gandalf hand-picks the little hobbit, who dreams of adventure (his Tookish ancestry) but is to timid to act, to join the team of dwarves to seek out and smite Smaug.

“This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. He may have lost the neighbours’ respect, but he gained – well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end.”

Along the way they get into many scrapes, meeting different folk and creatures in each chapter as they make their way through the different regions of Middle Earth. Emotionally, Bilbo is on a journey too as he grows up and becomes the lynchpin in the band of adventurers, (especially as Gandalf has the tendency to disappear leaving them to sort out their own problems).

As a taster of what is to come in the LOTR proper, this children’s tale was a delightful prequel. I’m looking forward to the next three month’s books in the LOTR readalong immensely. (7/10)

The LOTR Readalong

I’ve joined a readalong! I don’t usually do challenges or readalongs, as I have enough personal literary challenges in my reading resolutions without joining in any others. Also, like Simon at Savidgereads, I’m a big fan of what he calls “whimsical reading” and not over-tying myself into pre-planned reading.

However, one of my reading resolutions for 2010 was to try and re-read some books this year. Reappraising, and hopefully, still enjoying books read years ago is a very worthwhile activity that I’m keen to make time for. So when Teresa at Shelflove announced the Lord of the Rings readalong I couldn’t resist. You can find out more about it here.

The plan is to read one book per month, including The Hobbit which is the starting point. It’s probably about twenty years since I last read LOTR. Before then I think I read it three times, loving it anew with each visit, and I haven’t read the Hobbit since I was about twelve. I am so looking forward to reacquainting myself with all my favourite characters on the page – especially Aragorn of course, with whom I was passionately in love as a teenager.

Back then too, I had the most amazing poster on my wall – the artist was Jimmy Cauty, who was half of the archarchic and influential duo the KLF (who famously set fire to £1,000,000 back in 1994). Cauty painted this aged just 17, and it perfectly matched my vision too. I still have the poster, maybe it’s time to get it out of storage and hang it back on my bedroom wall, slightly dogearred that it is …