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Rómenna Meeting Report - May 12, 1985
May 12, 1985
We began our discussion of the "Lórien" chapters of The Lord of the Rings with a sort of flashback to our previous session, as Mike displayed a copy of Samurai Cat (one chapter of which parodies the Moria episode as "The Bridge of Catzad-Dûm"). We then started in on the chapters at hand with the comment that some people find Aragorn as exasperating as Boromir, with his divine-right-of-kings attitude. We tried to trace back and figure out when Aragorn first starts acting kingly, but could not agree on the episode.
The Fellowship heads for Lórien from Moria with Gollum, as someone pointed out, pattering along behind every four pages or so. The company eventually halts to tend their wounded, and it is discovered why Frodo didn't get spitted (his mithril shirt). Boromir, when told they are going into Lórien, objects almost as vehemently as he did at the idea of going into Moria; Aragorn gets rather touchy about his intimations against the Golden Wood. Later in the reading Boromir has no such qualms at the mention of Fangorn. However, we noted, his apprehensions turn out to be justified in his own case, for there is danger in Lórien for him.
The dwarf-elf rivalry is pointed up in this chapter, both subtly (Gimli gives Frodo and Sam a brief travelog of the Mirrormere and environs--"Here's all the great things the dwarves did"--and Legolas later reciprocates with some history of Lórien and the song of Amroth and Nimrodel) and more blatantly when the Fellowship finally encounter the Galadrim. Legolas attempts to climb a mallorn and is told "Get down!", but soon becomes the liaison between the Galadrim and the rest of the company. We noted how he tries to hide the fact that there is a dwarf in the party by leaving Gimli out of his initial tally. Haldir catches him on that point, and is not at all pleased: "Have an eye on that dwarf!"
The Fellowship spends the night in the trees, which turns out to be a good thing, since a party of orcs turns up in the middle of the night. We wondered where these orcs came from, since Haldir mentions that a large group of them had been seen heading for Moria several days ago--before the Fellowship's encounter with them in the Mines. Might some of them have been Saruman's, or did Sauron send them? We speculated that Gollum might have had something to do with their actions, but it was pointed out that Gollum had been in Moria for a good while before the Fellowship got there. (He turns up again here, trying to climb the hobbits' tree, but is scared off by the elves, who refrain from shooting at him.) We wondered too, retrospectively, what stirred up the Balrog to attack the Fellowship. Balin's dwarf-colony lived in Moria for five years and never seem to have encountered it. We guessed that the Balrog might have sensed the presence of the Ring, which was connected with its "stronger brother," Sauron, or might also have sensed Gandalf (another Maia) and his ring.
The next morning, after the hobbits have had the experience of walking like a spider (as Sam puts it) over the Celebrant, the elf/dwarf conflict breaks out again in the quarrel over blindfolds. Aragorn mediates the dispute by having the elves blindfold the entire party. We noted that the usually vocal Boromir keeps his mouth shut at this point. Presumably though he regards Aragorn as his rival, he knows good leadership when he sees it.
While conversing with the elves, Merry mentions that the Shire lies near the sea and the Grey Havens. This provokes what was characterized as a "Goshwowoboyoboy!" reaction from the elves, but it develops that Merry has never been to see these wonders himself. (We compared this to the native New Yorker who has never been out to Liberty Island.) It develops, however, that Haldir is rather homebound too; he has heard tell that the Undying Lands are very fine, but thinks himself that "it would be a poor life in a land where no mallorn grew." Such a parochial attitude, we noted, is pretty accurately medieval; in a time and place where travel is difficult and maps few, most people tend to stay close to home. As an example of the difficulties involved we cited how long it took Sauron's agents to find the Shire, even taking into account the fact that it was being protected by the Rangers.
The Fellowship arrives at Cerin Amroth, where messengers come from Galadriel (who has received news from Rivendell--telepathically? by eagle?) that the blindfolds can be dispensed with. At this point their excellence as a literary device can be noted: Cerin Amroth revealed all at once as the reader's eyes are uncovered along with Frodo's has much more impact than it would have had if it had been come upon gradually. The other thing we noted about Cerin Amroth is that though its beauties are natural, the mound itself is artificial; it was built.
The Fellowship's first meeting with the Lord and Lady of Lórien was examined. We noticed that though Celeborn initially does most of the talking, Galadriel is subtly pulling his strings and gently reproves him when he gets out of line, such as when he implies that Gandalf was foolish to go into Moria, or when he makes unkind remarks about the dwarves. ("No, dear.") Reference to The Silmarillion and the Unfinished Tales reveals that there are good reasons behind Galadriel's and Celeborn's differing attitude toward dwarves: Galadriel is of Noldorin blood, kin to the Elves of Eregion who were good friends with the Dwarves of Moria, while Celeborn is closely related to King Thingol of Doriath, who was killed by dwarves. In any case, Galadriel knows how to be diplomatic with Gimli and the right things to say to him, and thus wins his undying devotion.
We then turned to Galadriel's temptation of the Company. We guessed that she did not so much read their minds as amplify the desires and fears that were already there. Boromir had some nasty things to say about her methods later, for which he was sharply reproved by Aragorn, but we realized that his accusations were not entirely groundless. The comment was made that Galadriel is finding the weak link in the chain by pulling on it. Much later, Sam will tell Faramir that it was in Lórien that Boromir first realized his desire for the Ring--a desire, we further noted, that Galadriel would understand quite well, since she feels it too. His desire eventually gets the better of him at Parth Galen. This looks bad for the Fellowship--but we speculated on what might have happened if Boromir hadn't broken until the company reached Minas Tirith, and realized that there might be advantages to finding the weak link early on.
We passed on to "The Mirror of Galadriel" with the comment that Sam has been changing during his travels; notably, his speech is becoming less rustic and more standard. He is presumably adopting the tone of his company; his position as the only lower-class person in a group of upper-class people was described as "eight chiefs and one Indian." He still retains some of his simple characteristics, though; having heard Frodo's poem on Gandalf, he likes it very much, but thinks that a verse should be added about the wizard's splendid fireworks. Yet Sam is the one who makes the perceptive comment about the Galadrim "belonging" in Lórien even more than hobbits do in the Shire. We also discussed the question of "whether they've made the land or the land's made them," and eventually decided that it is some of both. Lórien has been around for a very long time, about 5000 years if not more (depending on how you view its original settlement by Silvan Elves, who seem to have been there long before Celeborn and Galadriel arrived).
The hobbits now encounter Galadriel, whom they have not seen since their arrival in Caras Galadon (though we speculated that Galadriel and Aragorn had probably had a good many private talks). She has evidently overheard their talk about "elf-magic" and, though she knows perfectly well what they mean by it, gently remonstrates with them for their sloppy terminology (which uses the same word for the elves' enchantments and the "deceits" of Sauron). Galadriel knows that magic has moral value according to its use.
There was some debate, however, as to the motivations behind Galadriel's own use of her Mirror's magic. Certainly she aims to test the hobbits once more, which she does. Sam is again tempted to turn back from the quest, but resolves to stay with Frodo. Frodo too is tested, though more subtly. Some people thought that Galadriel was underhandedly inducing him to look in the Mirror; others thought that her speech about whether he should look or not was a sterling example of "Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes." Frodo's visions in the Mirror were examined as we tried to decide which of them were past, present, or future sights. The vision of the figure of Gandalf was seen as symbolic of his "long journey" back from death, which we will later find was taking place at about this time. Finally Frodo sees the Eye of Sauron. We noted that it is similar to a cat's eye, and those of us who had read The Book of Lost Tales, Vol. 2, pointed out that the original Sauron-- or his precursor--was a cat: Tevildo, the evil Prince of Cats in the early Tale of Tinúviel. The Mirror begins to overload and Galadriel intervenes; we noted that in this situation of stress, though she speaks softly she makes herself heard. She reveals now that she is in constant psychic or spiritual conflict with Sauron, and gives some indication of what would happen if Sauron got the Ring.
It is at this point that, after testing everyone else, Galadriel is herself tested by Frodo's offer of the Ring to her. We get, along with Frodo, a vision of what Galadriel would be like with the Ring--a supernally beautiful but heartless figure, a "Snow Queen" whom all would love and despair. She too, however, evidently sees this vision clearly and rejects it, passing the test.
We wondered why Frodo, as the Ringbearer, hadn't seen the other elven-rings earlier. We decided that earlier he wasn't able to see them because he had not yet attained the necessary vision, and also because he wasn't looking. Sam didn't see anything but "a star shining through [Galadriel's] finger" and wonders what she and Frodo are talking about.
We continued on to our final chapter, "Farewell to Lórien." The members of the Fellowship are talking strategy again, but none of them knows clearly what they should do. Though they miss the guidance of Gandalf, they guess that even he had no clear purpose beyond this point (he would almost certainly have led them to Lórien anyway to take counsel with Galadriel). We further noted that Gandalf is not the type to have everything planned out ahead of time, for he has a great regard of free will and providence. Also, his foresight has its limitations. We wondered how he would have gone about getting into Mordor.
Boromir is still thinking in terms of conventional military strategy with his talk of holding fast in a strong place rather than walking into danger; though by this time his desire for the Ring is becoming more plain, in a sense he doesn't really "believe" in it. Part of his attitude can be explained by the fact that he wants the Ring himself, as a weapon, but he also doesn't seem to understand that conventional methods won't work in the face of the peculiar danger presented by the Ring and its maker.
Celeborn helps out the Fellowship and also postpones their decision on their route by his gift of boats. From the description of these boats we decided that they are rather like canoes: small, light and narrow, steered and propelled by paddles (and also portable). Galadriel's swan-shaped pleasure barge, on the other hand, is quite sizable (though it's also paddled). Sam is the only one of the company who is a "professional landlubber"; all the rest seem to have had some experience with boats, and appreciate the gift. Sam, for his part, is happy to get his hands on some rope. The company is also given elven cloaks. We noted here that like most medieval women of whatever station, Galadriel and her ladies do something useful with their time--they weave.
The company also get some advice for their journey, and Fangorn is mentioned again. Boromir pooh-poohs Celeborn's warning with some rather disdainful remarks about "old wives' tales"--you'd think after all he's seen up till now of legends coming to life, that he'd have more sense.
The significance of the various personal gifts to the Fellowship was discussed. Aragorn gets a magical sheath for his sword that will prevent its being broken again, and the Elessar. The latter was left for him by Arwen and was seen as her (positive) answer to his proposal of marriage. Legolas gets a new bow that is strong enough to fell a Nazgûl steed; we wondered if it was a recurved bow. Merry and Pippin receive silver belts and Boromir gold--a sop to the Gondorean's rank-consciousness? We noted that though Galadriel is the diplomat of the book, Gimli doesn't do badly either. We discussed the significance of hair as a symbol of power, among other things, and we further noted that in giving Gimli three strands of her hair, Galadriel is granting to him a boon that she refused to Fëanor. Yet the gift of the star-glass shows that his skills are not lost to Galadriel herself--and it's the same light, too!
We ended the discussion with some talk on the Quenya song that Galadriel sings, which we can all now understand much better after reading The Silmarillion, which provides referents for all those unfamiliar names and terms. We reflected that the poem probably would be largely incomprehensible to Frodo even in translation.
The next meeting was set for June 22nd, tentatively at the Rivendell Bookshop, at which we will discuss the final two chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring.