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Rómenna Meeting Report - May 12, 1984
May 12, 1984
Our last discussion centered on Elves, specifically Galadriel and Celeborn; at this month's session we entered the Third Age with a discussion of Men (perhaps fittingly, since the Third Age was a time of waning for the Eldar and of growing importance for Men). The chapters were "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields" and "Cirion and Eorl" from Unfinished Tales.
We began by noting that the Rohirrim become very "Saxon" in character (where their ancestors, the Men of Rhovanion, had been "Gothic"). Gothic was one of the languages that Tolkien fell in love with early on, after discovering it in an exercise book on the language. Later he got to know Joseph Wright, who had compiled a Gothic dictionary.
The Wainriders, by contrast, were described as "Hun-types" and seem to show something of a racist streak in Tolkien. Alexei pointed out that "their only real crime is being numerous and nomadic," and characterized them as "wogs." They were said to have worshipped Sauron. It was brought up that Sauron had cozened and corrupted the Elves of Eregion and the Númenóreans, too, but then, he had to take on a fair form in order to do so. The Númenóreans had too much taste to fall for an ugly Sauron.
Taste or no taste, the descendants of the Númenóreans, specifically the folk of Gondor, had petered out at the time of the ride of Eorl (which was quite a journey, as a look at the map showed us!). Like the Roman Empire, Gondor had overextended herself, and plague plus the slow rate of reproduction of the Dunedain had made matters worse. The Éothéod were the more vigorous "Englishmen," Anglo-Saxon in character. Cirion ceded half of Gondor to them in order to get someone to guard the northern border, much as Rome made a deal with the Goths. Cirion's bargain had a better outcome, of course.
The comment was made that Galadriel's aid to Eorl and company was the only actual recorded "battle" between Dol Guldur and Lórien, whose opposition to one another is so clearly shown to Frodo on Cerin Amroth. Eileen said that she found it hard to imagine Galadriel as six foot four (relating to the note on Númenórean linear measures)! It is noted in The Lord of the Rings that she and Celeborn are the same height.
Eileen and Alexei have both seen landscapes corresponding to the Gladden Fields. This observation led to a digression on the geography of the lower Anduin, which eventually led back to the topic with the mention of the Númenórean penchant for holy mountains. Taniquetil, the Meneltarma, and Halifirien are all examples of these. Another aspect of this pervasive symbol is the frequency of towers. The description of the hallow on Amon Anwar shows Tolkien's idea of a holy place: so numinous that everyone feels it and is quiet and respectful. Things spoken there are heard -- hence Cirion speaks in Quenya. It was pointed out that Quenya was not a language normally spoken by anyone in those days; the folk of Gondor sometimes spoke a dialect of Sindarin, but Quenya was a language of lore. The Common Speech, the lingua franca, was Westron (here followed a digression on the development of Westron and how early it had been established as a lingua franca).
The characters of Cirion and Eorl come through somewhat in the narrative. Cirion shows the influence of a strong central government by immediately setting boundaries. The comparison of the Rohirrim to the Goths has already been mentioned.
Touching briefly on the notes to "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields," we considered Saruman's treachery concerning the bones of Isildur, as well as his "jackdaw" tendencies, and concluded that his corruption must have started quite early. "Steel closet" (in which the Elendilmir was discovered in Orthanc)? "Think of it as a safe," said someone.
Tolkien states that "the Star of the Dúnedain" was given to Sam by King Elessar, and this has usually been taken to mean the Elendilmir. Christopher Tolkien doubts this; we wondered if he was perhaps a bit more elitist than his father. Still, the image of Sam wearing the Elendilmir was conceded to be pretty ridiculous.
The discussion concluded with a digression upon the durability of tongues (did you know that Aramaic is still spoken in some corner of the world?)