Friday, September 24, 2010

Too greedily and too deep.

Current book: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Pages read: 336 - 431

At the Council of Elrond we also get to hear about what happened to Gandalf. He met Aragorn, who'd found Gollum for him, and they interrogated Gollum about the Ring for a while and then threw him in prison to be guarded by the elves. Afterward, Gandalf went to Saruman, a leader among the wizards and a supposed ally, to ask for help. Saruman had turned traitor, however, and tried to get Gandalf to join him, then imprisoned him atop a tall tower when he refused. Luckily, Gandalf's giant eagle friend came to save him. (Because who doesn't love a giant eagle?) Anyway, we also find out during the Council that the elves let Gollum escape, and that the Ring must be destroyed or Middle-Earth may soon be annihilated. The group decides to send Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Gandalf, Aragorn, Boromir (leader of the men of Gondor), Legolas (the elf who came to report about Gollum), and Gimli (a dwarf warrior and son of the dwarf leader) to take the Ring to Mordor and destroy it in the only place it can be destroyed - Mount Doom, where it was forged, and which is also pretty much the dead center of Sauron's domain. (Best mission ever. Woo!)

They spend a long time preparing, and eventually set out, first trying a dangerous road through the mountains, but getting turned back by storms sent by forces in league with Saruman. They therefore must go through the mines of Moria, a long-abandoned dwarf stronghold that has been overrun by evil orcs and other monsters. They make it quite a long way without trouble, but are, in the end, beset by orcs. They fight the orcs off and run, but, when they're almost free, meet a balrog, which is a sort of fiery-demon guy. Gandalf uses his magic to save them, but in so doing is dragged down into a gaping abyss by the balrog. The rest of the companions escape the mines and carry on.

Once the Council of Elrond was over, this part is fairly exciting, too. They spend kind of a long time traipsing around the countryside, but the part in the mines is pretty great. There's a lot to capture the imagination there; the idea of a huge underground city, carved and embellished and long-ago populated by a whole race of people is just cool. So that was nice. Having seen the movie, I had a really good idea of what a balrog should look like, which turned out to be helpful, since Tolkien's description was obnoxiously amorphous. All he said was that it was shadow and smoke and it might have a man-shape. But then, afterward, he talked about a bunch of details, like the fact that it had a fiery mane, and fire came from its nostrils, and I couldn't help but remark on the fact that we hadn't gotten enough description of its frame to place the details of a mane and nostrils upon. I was annoyed.

On another note, I'm sure I'm completely unoriginal here, but it struck me for the first time that this book is clearly a product of immediately-post-World-War-II society. I mean, really - a great evil rises from nowhere that threatens to engulf the world, and those who have never before banded together must fight it or be overwhelmed? You could say that that's any war, but Hitler represented a new kind of uncontrollable darkness that Sauron strongly echoes. I want to parallel the French with the elves, the English with the dwarves, and the men of the West with Russia, too, which leaves Aragorn as the American savior figure, but honestly, I'm probably getting too literal with all that. Still. It's an interesting way to look at it.

1 comment:

  1. FYI, in the forward to the second edition, Tolkien specifically states that he did not intend the book to be an _allegory_ of WWII. This is because a) the main theme (Ch 2, The Shadow of the Past) was written pre-1939 and b) he hated allegories.

    "I think that many confuse 'applicability' with 'allegory'; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author." - JRR Tolkien

    So I think the author would agree with you that there are echoes of the time but not literal parallels.



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