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Raven

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings

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Starting this Saturday (08/01/22) the aim will be for participants to read 4 chapters of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings every week, and to then comment on them as they go along!

 

Starting with The Fellowship of the Rings, the first four chapters open for discussion from 15/01/22 will be:

 

1. A Long-expected Party
2. The Shadow of the Past
3. Three is Company
4. A Short Cut to Mushrooms

 

Disclaimer! The films might come into this occasionally as well.

 

This thread will be locked for comment until the 15th.

 

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Right open for discussion!

 

Warning! This thread - by definition - will contain spoilers if you have not read the books! 

 

Spoiler tags won't be used as they will disrupt the flow of the discussion!

 

I didn't realise I'd missed the prologue off the list last week, so I will hold A Short Cut to Mushrooms over to next week.

 

Prologue: Concerning Hobbits

 

1. A Long-expected Party
 

2. The Shadow of the Past
 

3. Three is Company
 

To get discussion going (From my blog...)

 

Main thoughts so far:

 

- Having the book open with a section on the history of Hobbits might be good for people who have read The Hobbit and want to know more about them, but coming to it cold must put a lot of people off the book (I know it put me off the first time I tried to read it).  It also has a number of spoilers for what happens later in the book, although I must admit that I never picked up on them first time through.

 

- It is all a bit twee; similar in tone to the start of The Hobbit.  I know it changes as it goes along, and I know the reason why it is like this, but I think the films set the tone far better than the book does (there will probably be on-going comparisons with the films, as I'm quite familiar with them!)

 

- The lack of urgency when it comes to Frodo leaving the shire feels... wrong - especially when you know what is after him!  Gandalf knows Sauron has risen in the east; he knows Sauron knows the ring still exists; he knows Sauron knows someone called Baggins has the ring and where he lives. 

 

"Should I leave now, Gandalf?"

 

"Nah, I doubt they will be along for a few weeks yet..."

 

"Can I still have a Birthday Party?"

 

"Of course!"

 

*Ruffles Frodo's hair...*

 

- The Black Riders at first appear to be fairly ordinary, but each time they reappear they become more and more sinister 

 

- I hadn't remembered that Pippin is with Sam and Frodo when they leave Bag End, and that Merry doesn't come into it until later. 

 

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I definitely share you feelings about the long preamble about Hobbits. I wasn't expecting it and although I did read it I didn't pay a huge amount of attention to it. Had I not recently read The Hobbit it may have put me off and it does feel a bit out of place. I can't help but wonder if Tolkien had written it but wasn't sure how to use it and so it feels a little tacked on. Although it not necessary, I am glad that I read The Hobbit because the back story of Bilbo gives his leaving a much bigger impact in my opinion. I wasn't a big fan of the first chapter because for some reason I couldn't get on with it. It felt too slow and plodding but to be completely fair that might just be me needing to settle into Tolkien's way of writing again as I didn't have the same issue with the other chapters.

 

I did manage to read all 4 chapters but I'll leave the discussion of A Short Cut to Mushrooms until next week. The bit thing that really stuck out for me was the Black Riders. The sense of menace that comes across is really well done and quite impressive when you consider they don't much development so early in the book.

 

I still don't like the song and I don't bother reading the verses.

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Concerning Hobbits (and the other sections in the prologue) are in the wrong place; I personally think they would fit better in the appendix at the end of The Return of the King. 

 

A section on pipeweed really isn't the best way to start off a three-volume story! 

 

I don't know which imprint of the book you are reading, and whether there is an introduction (and whether you read it), but I think Concerning Hobbits is where it is because Tolkien was being asked for more information on Hobbits, after the success of the The Hobbit, and he's basically addressed that literally - you wanted information on Hobbits, here it is!  I think another author may have worked that information into body of the book, and got on with the story, rather than having it as a separate section.


I think Fellowship is very much a book that expects you to have read The Hobbit, where - again - I think a different author may have given a bit more thought to someone coming to the book cold (especially when he was writing this book for an adult audience, rather than for children).

 

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I remember the songs being pretty tedious.  I do remember it was slow at the start, I don't think Frodo realises how serious his Quest is, and I wonder if Gandalf didn't want to alarm him too much - hobbits of course are lazy and like their home comforts, so Gandalf probably didn't want Frodo to back out if he knew what was ahead of him.

 

I agree the Black Riders are very menacing, they scared me in the film, especially that early scene when the hobbits are hiding under a fallen tree, and one comes over and is sniffing for them!  Even the horses are threatening.

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5 hours ago, Madeleine said:

 

I remember the songs being pretty tedious.  

 

 

I think I skipped over a lot of them the first time around, but I've been trying to read through them this time as they sometimes contain relevant information (and it's interesting to see what got into the films as well).

 

5 hours ago, Madeleine said:

 

I agree the Black Riders are very menacing, they scared me in the film, especially that early scene when the hobbits are hiding under a fallen tree, and one comes over and is sniffing for them!  Even the horses are threatening.

 

 

I actually think they are more creepy in the book!

 

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On 15/01/2022 at 3:33 PM, Raven said:

I didn't realise I'd missed the prologue off the list last week, so I will hold A Short Cut to Mushrooms over to next week.

I assumed you were suggesting we skip the prologue :lol:.

 

2 hours ago, Raven said:

Concerning Hobbits (and the other sections in the prologue) are in the wrong place; I personally think they would fit better in the appendix at the end of The Return of the King.

I actually do like Concerning Hobbits but I didn't read it before the book and I definitely think it would have seemed odd if I had, so agree on this point!

 

On 15/01/2022 at 3:33 PM, Raven said:

The lack of urgency when it comes to Frodo leaving the shire feels... wrong - especially when you know what is after him!  Gandalf knows Sauron has risen in the east; he knows Sauron knows the ring still exists; he knows Sauron knows someone called Baggins has the ring and where he lives. 

We haven't gotten to the right part yet, but I think the delay is kind of explained later?

 

On 15/01/2022 at 3:33 PM, Raven said:

I hadn't remembered that Pippin is with Sam and Frodo when they leave Bag End, and that Merry doesn't come into it until later. 

Do you think Merry and Pippin actually seem more like individuals in the book, where they blend together a bit in the films? 

 

On 16/01/2022 at 11:51 AM, Brian. said:

I wasn't a big fan of the first chapter because for some reason I couldn't get on with it. It felt too slow and plodding but to be completely fair that might just be me needing to settle into Tolkien's way of writing again as I didn't have the same issue with the other chapters.

I know what you mean with the pacing at the start but I actually love the first chapter! Tolkien's narrative voice feels so calm and reassuring. I also love the whole concept of the Shire and Hobbits (probably why I like the prologue too). 

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Something I’ve been thinking about from the first three chapters:

why do you think the ring doesn’t want to go to Gandalf? Gandalf himself obviously thinks he’d be vulnerable to the ring, since he doesn’t want to touch it, and if the ring did go to Gandalf it would have a far more powerful host - so why does it want to stay with Frodo instead? 

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I always interpreted the ring wanting to stay with Frodo, as the fact that we are shown that he is a good natured and sweet soul, and that the evil inherent in the ring felt that he would be more malleable,and easier to bend to it's will. Like Smeagol/Gollum a more pliable sunject to work on!

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On 1/19/2022 at 9:02 PM, Hayley said:

 

why do you think the ring doesn’t want to go to Gandalf? 

 

 

Did it? I've missed that on two reads of the book!

 

I've always felt that Gandalf, knowing what he was dealing with, was reluctant to go near the thing least he be seduced by The Ring's power.  I've never got the notion that the ring itself was trying to manipulate events - where are you getting that impression from? 

 

I'm be interested to go back and re-read it again!

 

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And aside...

 

Are people happy with doing four chapters a week, or would you rather do three? 

 

I've realised that some of the chapters in The Two Towers appear to be longer than the ones in Fellowship, how fast do people want to go?

 

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14 hours ago, Raven said:

Did it? I've missed that on two reads of the book!

 

I've always felt that Gandalf, knowing what he was dealing with, was reluctant to go near the thing least he be seduced by The Ring's power.  I've never got the notion that the ring itself was trying to manipulate events - where are you getting that impression from? 

Just before Gandalf puts it into the fire (after they've been talking about the way the ring chose to betray Isildur and Gollum), as Frodo passes it to him 'it felt suddenly heavy, as if either it or Frodo himself was in some way reluctant to give it to Gandalf'. To be honest it could actually be that it's already getting some grip over Frodo, and so Frodo doesn't want to give it away the same way Bilbo didn't, but since we'd just been reading about the way the ring sort of chooses who to go to, that's the way I read it. 

 

On 20/01/2022 at 9:50 AM, timebug said:

I always interpreted the ring wanting to stay with Frodo, as the fact that we are shown that he is a good natured and sweet soul, and that the evil inherent in the ring felt that he would be more malleable,and easier to bend to it's will. Like Smeagol/Gollum a more pliable sunject to work on!

Yes, that's a good point. Although the ring actually gets it badly wrong in that case doesn't it? Since Gandalf thinks hobbits are actually particularly resistant to the rings power!

 

14 hours ago, Raven said:

Are people happy with doing four chapters a week, or would you rather do three? 

 

I've realised that some of the chapters in The Two Towers appear to be longer than the ones in Fellowship, how fast do people want to go?

We could always switch to three when we get to The Two Towers?

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26 minutes ago, Hayley said:

 

Just before Gandalf puts it into the fire (after they've been talking about the way the ring chose to betray Isildur and Gollum), as Frodo passes it to him 'it felt suddenly heavy, as if either it or Frodo himself was in some way reluctant to give it to Gandalf'. To be honest it could actually be that it's already getting some grip over Frodo, and so Frodo doesn't want to give it away the same way Bilbo didn't, but since we'd just been reading about the way the ring sort of chooses who to go to, that's the way I read it. 

 

 

Ah, I read that as Frodo being unwilling to give up the ring (or the ring sensing(?) it was going to end up in the fire?)

 

It's difficult to ascribe motivation to a corrupt wedding ring!

 

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9 hours ago, Hayley said:

 

We could always switch to three when we get to The Two Towers?

 

 

Okay, we'll stick to four a week for now, so the next chapters up for discussion from tomorrow (or, now, really, if you want too!) are:

 

4. A Short Cut to Mushrooms


5. A Conspiracy Unmasked


6. The Old Forest


7. In the House of Tom Bombadil

 

I'll let someone else go first this time!

 

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I'm happy to go first but it will have to be tomorrow as I'm working all night tonight :(

 

 

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Ok, I'm semi-awake now so I will attempt to form my thoughts into something coherent. I liked the format Raven used so I will shamelessly copy it.

 

Main thoughts

 

- Chapter 4 has been my favourite chapter so far. I really liked the callback to Frodo's youth stealing mushrooms from Farmer Maggot and the way that Frodo was scared of him as a result. I was left equally amused by the fact that Frodo thought Maggot had forgot about it when in fact he hadn't. The Black Rider, Merry confusion to see out the chapter really got me going.

 

- Crickhollow seems a bit of halfway house and a portent of what may come. It is a bit more dangerous than his previous home and I guess at this point Frodo could have decided to stay put. He doesn't have Gandalf to back him up at the moment and it's clear that if he carries on he will face more danger.

 

- Although Hobbits are meant to be fairly scared of the unknown and prefer their comfortable lives, Pippin and Merry choose to go with Frodo which shows their sense of loyalty and friendship. The fact they knew about the ring all along shows that Frodo wasn't as secretive as he thought so perhaps thats how knowledge of who has the ring has got out.

 

- The atmosphere of the forest is really well portrayed.

 

- I found the character of Tom Bombadil an odd one. I don't know if he will reappear at a later date but if he doesn't then his placing feels odd. The fact that he doesn't disappear when he wears the ring and that he can control the Old Forest shows he has a power that others do not have.

 

- I still don't like the songs.

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On 22/01/2022 at 7:13 PM, Brian. said:

I'm happy to go first but it will have to be tomorrow as I'm working all night tonight :(

 

 

Aww no, that is rubbish!

 

My thoughts (shamelessly copying Raven and Brian):

 

- A Shortcut to Mushrooms is my favourite chapter of all the chapters in the audiobook, and probably still will be. It feels like the real beginning of the adventure and the moment that we can start exploring Middle Earth. Also absolutely love the opening 'He was lying in a bower made by a living tree with branches laced and drooping to the ground; his bed was fern and grass, deep and soft and strangely fragrant'. 

 

- I also love the moment that Frodo realises everybody knew far more than he realised, and planned to stick with him regardless. One of the earliest comments, I think, on the power and strength of friendship in the book.

 

- Agree with Brian on the atmosphere of the forest and would add that I think the references to Hobbit folk lore about the forest are a brilliant touch. Without giving spoilers for later, but I think Tolkien was clever to foreshadow later events with the trees of the Old Forest. 

 

- The Tom Bombadill chapter is weird. That's the point that I gave up the first time I tried to read it. I was too young to really understand it anyway, but at that point I was so utterly confused I wondered whether Tom Bombadill was meant to be a dream. Agree with Brian again though, I think the point is to show us that there are powers beyond our (or the Hobbits) knowledge.  

 

- I find the songs a lot less annoying in the physical book than I do in the audiobook.

 

8 hours ago, Brian. said:

The fact they knew about the ring all along shows that Frodo wasn't as secretive as he thought so perhaps thats how knowledge of who has the ring has got out.

Wasn't it Gollum's fault? I think I remember Gandalf saying that Gollum went to Mordor because he wanted revenge, and that Bilbo shouldn't have told him his name was Baggins. I think that's why Gandalf tells him the name Baggins isn't safe and he'll have to change it when he travels. 

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10 hours ago, Hayley said:

Wasn't it Gollum's fault? I think I remember Gandalf saying that Gollum went to Mordor because he wanted revenge, and that Bilbo shouldn't have told him his name was Baggins. I think that's why Gandalf tells him the name Baggins isn't safe and he'll have to change it when he travels. 

 

That would make sense. I think I dismissed that idea in my head because I assumed that they would have come after Bilbo much earlier but on consideration the wait could have been down to a number of reasons.

- Gollum could have stewed for a while before deciding to head to Mordor.

- It would have taken Gollum a long time to get to Mordor.

- Finding one person in the whole of Middle Earth would probably have taken a long time as well.

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Well, as everyone else seems to be copying me, so I will as well:

 

- I do like the way the journey unfolds as the Hobbits make their way from Hobbiton to Crickhollow.  I'm so used to the films that it was odd to have Pippin tagging along, but at the same time his presence adds more depth to Frodo's character, in that he has so many friends who are willing to help him (I suspect he is so popular because of all the lad's nights he organised round at Bag End, quaffing vintage Old Winyards with sherry chasers, but we won't go there...).

 

- The growing menace of the Black Riders adds palpable tension to the Hobbit's flight.  From the one that appears behind them at the top of the hill they stopped at over night in - I think - Three is Company, to the really unsettling one sniffing the jetty at Buckleberry Ferry, the lack of an explanation of what they are all adds to a genuine sense of dread and foreboding.  The story is building nicely...   

 

- ... until it hits a brick in the road, or more accurately the Old Forest.  I'll post more about this when commenting on next week's chapters, but although I like the whole Old Forest and Tom Bombadil sequence for the most part it stalls the wider story and doesn't really have any right being there. From a book I read parts of many years back, at this point (and largely until the group reach Rivendell) Tolkien was making it up as he went, ala the Hobbit, although he did go back and heavily rework it once he got into gear with what the wider story was all about - i.e. The Ring!).

 

- I've never quite looked at willow trees in the same way, since originally reading about Old Man Willow twenty odd years ago... 

 

- Fun Fact! Frodo was called Bingo in early drafts of the book (thank heavens Tolkien changed his mind!)

 

On 1/23/2022 at 9:55 PM, Hayley said:

 

Wasn't it Gollum's fault? I think I remember Gandalf saying that Gollum went to Mordor because he wanted revenge, and that Bilbo shouldn't have told him his name was Baggins. I think that's why Gandalf tells him the name Baggins isn't safe and he'll have to change it when he travels. 

 

 

On 1/24/2022 at 8:41 AM, Brian. said:

 

That would make sense. I think I dismissed that idea in my head because I assumed that they would have come after Bilbo much earlier but on consideration the wait could have been down to a number of reasons.

- Gollum could have stewed for a while before deciding to head to Mordor.

- It would have taken Gollum a long time to get to Mordor.

- Finding one person in the whole of Middle Earth would probably have taken a long time as well.

 

 

There's more on this later in the book, but Hayley is correct; Sauron finds out where The Ring is from Gollum.

 

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Next four chapters!

 

8. Fog on the Barrow-downs
 

9. At the Sign of the Prancing Pony
 

10. Strider
 

11. A Knife in the Dark

 

Hayley, it's your turn to go first!

 

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On 26/01/2022 at 10:54 PM, Raven said:

- Fun Fact! Frodo was called Bingo in early drafts of the book (thank heavens Tolkien changed his mind!)

Bingo!?!? Yes, good call Tolkien :D 

 

3 hours ago, Raven said:

Hayley, it's your turn to go first!

Okay! 

 

-  Fog on the Barrow Downs sort of merges into the Tom Bombadill chapter for me. Everything with that character has a slightly over-the-top, dream-like quality and I think it's easy to forget about the hobbits' brush with barrow-wights later! It almost feels a bit random and perhaps even unimportant compared to other events? Although it may be the first example of Frodo acting in a particularly heroic/ courageous way.

 

- I like all of the parts set in the Prancing Pony and I think it's a clever way of showing us how widespread the evil influence is, how it's seeping in to everyday life and isn't escapable. 

 

- The Strider chapter I love. I like the way we're introduced to that character, the gradual change from a mysterious, shadowy figure into trustworthy Aragorn and the poem that goes with him. 

 

- The mix up with Butterbur and the letter I think explains the apparent carelessness of Gandalf. He didn't mean for Frodo to stay so long in the Shire, but he unexpectedly has to leave and then (for reasons we aren't meant to know yet) isn't able to return. He does try to cover the eventuality by sending the letter telling Frodo to leave soon, but because Butterbur fails to send it Frodo doesn't know how close the danger is and carries on as normal. 

 

- Sounding the horn-call of Buckland is a lovely every-day heroism moment (even if they didn't exactly know what they were doing)

 

- I love the fact that Tolkien reassures us about what happens to the ponies!

 

- Wraiths through the sight of the ring are even freakier. 

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I’ve not forgotten about this thread, I’ve been on nightshift and I’ll post my thoughts tomorrow.

 

 

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Ok so my thoughts.

 

- Fog on the Barrow-downs. Another malevolent force out to harm people. Frodo staying instead of putting on the ring and running away shows the closeness of the friends. I agree with Hayley that this chapter pretty much merges woth the previous one due to the return of Tom Bombadil. It definitely has a kind of psychadelic feeling in places. I did a bit of further reading this week and found out that some of the Tom Bombadil stuff was written well before Tolkien started on the LOTR books which helps explain why he feels oddly placed.

 

At the Sign of the Prancing Pony. A meeting place for travellers is a common theme in books and movies so this feels right at home. This is back to the kind of stuff that I was hoping for from the books. Reading this I came to realise that I don't think I've ever seen the first movie despite being sure I had. I certainly didn't remember any of the stiff based in the inn and the introduction of Strider. Despite Frodo's bravery and good sense in the previous chapter we see here that he is still niave in the way that he brings a lot of attention to himself and his party. We find out early on that his direction of travel is known as everyone wants to know his name. He thinks he is safe as long as he calls himself Underwood but it would appear he isn't as clever as he thought.

 

- Strider. This is my favourite chapter so far. Strider looks like someone who can't be trusted but shows that appearances can be deceptive. The rough looking traveller is noble and honest (or at least we think he is at the moment) but others in Bree who are jolly etc can't be trusted. The amount of people on the lookout for Frodo shows how far Sauron's reach is and just how hard their journey is going to be.

 

- A Knife in the Dark. Bill Ferny is a s***te bag. The first confirmation apart from the earlier letter that Gandalf isn't too far away although he may have been attacked. Whatever attacked him must have been pretty powerful, after all, Gandalf is a great wizard. I'm not sure how to read or think about the incident with the Black Riders where Frodo puts the ring on. It doesn't seem to help much and Strider is the one who comes to the rescue. I'm also not sure how I feel about the Elves but I guess I need to read more about them to understand them a bit better.

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The scene at the Prancing Pony, where the hobbits first meet Strider, is very well done in the film, and feels very sinister, as it's not clear who Strider is, and if he's good or bad, if you haven't read the book.

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On 01/02/2022 at 4:34 PM, Brian. said:

I did a bit of further reading this week and found out that some of the Tom Bombadil stuff was written well before Tolkien started on the LOTR books which helps explain why he feels oddly placed.

Oh, I didn't know that! That does make sense now. 

 

On 01/02/2022 at 4:34 PM, Brian. said:

I'm not sure how to read or think about the incident with the Black Riders where Frodo puts the ring on.

I thought the point of that might have just been to show us the true forms of the black riders, which can only be seen with the influence of the ring? Although I wasn't sure whether putting the ring on helped them to see Frodo, and that's how they knew who to try to stab. In which case, I guess we could read it as another betrayal by the ring? Good old Strider to the rescue though :) 

 

12 hours ago, Madeleine said:

The scene at the Prancing Pony, where the hobbits first meet Strider, is very well done in the film, and feels very sinister, as it's not clear who Strider is, and if he's good or bad, if you haven't read the book.

Agreed, you have to watch it once we're done with the first book Brian!

 

I had a thought after I posted about Tolkien reassuring us about the ponies - he actually always gives animals voices, thoughts and emotions. It starts with the fox who thinks about it being strange to see three hobbits travelling at night. Does anybody else feel like there's a slight fairy-tale feeling to those moments?

Also... Fatty Lumpkin is my favourite pony name :lol:

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