RÓMENNA MEETING REPORT
Rómenna Meeting Report - October 27, 1984
October 27, 1984
|Margaret Purdy (host)
|Wendell Wagner, Jr.
For a change, most of those attending the October meeting of Rómenna arrived
just about on time, and after a preliminary attack on the mulled cider,
popcorn, cookies, cheese and crackers, banana chips, and so forth, that had
been provided by various members, we settled down to discuss "The Shadow of
It was noted that Gandalf talks a lot in this chapter, laying in a background
of history of the Ring that Frodo (and the reader) will need to know in
the upcoming chapters. Someone jokingly suggested that perhaps the name "Gandalf"
could be translated as "narrator." It was also pointed out that there
is almost a 20-year gap between this chapter and the last, and that Gandalf
has been seeking information during all that time. It has been nine years
since he was last in the Shire, and by this time, surely, he wants someone to
talk to and show off his clever deductions.
We figured that hobbits age at about two-thirds the rate of humans, so
that Frodo (and Bilbo in The Hobbit
) at 50 years old are at just about the
right age for a mid-life crisis. We also wondered a bit at the fact that at
50, Frodo is not married. We envisioned hordes of hobbit mothers pushing
their daughters at this very eligible bachelor--rich, good-looking, of a
highly respectable family and connected with some of the greatest families in
the Shire. Of course, Frodo was considered a bit "strange"--and hobbits seem
to have married rather late by our standards (Pippin at 29, and Merry and Sam
at 35, are also still unattached), but since they only come of age at 33, that
is not too surprising. We eventually decided that Frodo was fated not to marry.
Sam, outside the window listening to Frodo and Gandalf's conversation,
was pictured clipping the same patch of grass over and over again. There is
a tendency to see Sam as older than Frodo though he's actually younger. Frodo,
of course, has not aged physically since he inherited the Ring, and Sam is a
farm boy, who would tend to "grow up" faster. Sam is not bright, but he has
sense. We decided that a smarter hobbit wouldn't have stuck to the Quest so
long. When he heard about Sauron, he would have gone to the Sea and started
swimming--only hobbits can't swim. (Except the Brandybucks.) Even after all his travels, Sam never did get used to boats.
Frodo's reaction to the history of the Ring is typically English and
"stiff-upper-lip"--his strongest exclamation is "How terrifying!" It was pointed
out that he is frightened, and shows it by stammering, but he still doesn't
scream and run around the room--he gets panicky in an understated, genteel sort of way.
It was noted that Gandalf uses practical demonstration to show the effects
of the Ring, rather than just telling about it. His narration also has some
interesting aspects. We noticed that Sauron has three of the dwarf-rings, and
the others have been consumed by dragons--presumably with the previous owners
still attached. In order to get Gollum to talk, Gandalf finally has to threaten
him with torture, though it's not explicit as to whether he had to carry
out the threat. Also in relation to Gollum, we have Gandalf's oft-quoted argument
against capital punishment: "Many that live deserve death. And some that
die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal
out death in judgment; for even the wise cannot see all ends."
Some people thought that Gandalf comes off as rather snooty in this chapter,
especially in the remarks he makes about hobbits, calling them "absurd,
charming, helpless" and so forth. The counter-argument was that he was really
very fond of hobbits (as he makes clear); his tone of voice isn't described,
but surely it was affectionate. Gandalf's attitude toward hobbits is rather
like that of an adult toward children, and the childlike (and sometimes childish)
characteristics of hobbits have often been noted. And Gandalf does respect
their ability to come through in a pinch. Some of our own group have
had experiences that show that unprepossessing people often really do show unexpected heroism in tight places.
We wondered whether Gandalf had actually seen the Cracks of Doom. It
was pointed out that though he might not have been there himself, he could
have heard them described by Elrond, who had been during the battle of the
Last Alliance with Sauron. In answer to a question, it was made clear that
Gandalf wasn't even around yet at that time, since the Wizards did not show
up in Middle-earth till around the year 1000 of the Third Age.
A discussion of Gollum's (or Smeagol's) original people, the Stoors of
the Gladden Fields, revealed that Tolkien probably believed, along with many
people of his day, in the heritability of inclinations (such as a love of
boating). Randolph noted that he also seems to have believed in Lamarckian
evolution (e.g. Gollum, the orcs) , which of course at that time had not yet
Mention was made of the unlikeliness of Sam as a traveling companion
for Frodo. You're going on a dangerous quest and you take your gardener along?
We also noted that during this scene, Sam is "playing dumb," since we find out
later that he has been collecting information for Merry and Pippin all along.
He composes poetry--he's not that
dumb. Sam is naive, but he is not an optimist,
we noted. He is also the one who at the end of the quest is able to
settle down into a normal life, something that Frodo is unable to do.
The talk turned to the Ring itself. Its actions show it to be at least
marginally sentient; we wondered what it thinks of all this. It is able to
absorb the heat of Frodo's fire without being heated itself. The difficulty
of inscribing the Ring in Fëanorian characters was discussed, and we wondered
why Sauron didn't used runes. Gandalf mentions that not even "Ancalagon the
Black" could have melted the One Ring, and we noted that after reading The
, we finally know who or what Ancalagon was--the greatest of the
winged dragons, who was slain by Earendil in the final battle of the First Age.
The comment was made that when the Ring came to Sméagol, he already had
the "eyes-down" tendency and the predilection for prying into things. The Ring
simply exacerbated these tendencies--it worked on what was already there. This
seems to have been its method for working on anybody, attacking them through their strongest characteristic. Gandalf says that "the way of the Ring to my
heart is by Pity," his leading characteristic, learned from Nienna. Galadriel sees (and has the wisdom to reject) a vision in which "All shall love me and
despair!" Boromir is drawn by the power the Ring would give him to be the great warrior and savior of his people.
At this point the discussion wound up, and we drifted off into talk of
, computers, and other such conversational black holes.
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