How often do you read Lord of the Rings?

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Post by Lancebloke Fri Feb 03, 2023 2:11 pm

I am at the bit where Frodo and Sam escape the tower and nearly naught but Frodos skin.

I am not sure which book I would day is my favourite. The only bit i don't really like is Tom Bambadil. Other than that, I always find bits that I had forgotten about because they were left out of the films.

The relationship between Merry and Theoden makes Theodens downfall more impactful as well as the world of Rohan.

I really like the expanse of all the moving pieces that are described around the Battle of the Pellenor as well as the battle itself.

On the opposite side, I do like the simple parts of the 4 hobbits basically being on their own and starting a great adventure also fun.

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Post by halfwise Fri Feb 03, 2023 2:58 pm

Bombadil doesn't really fit in - he works for me as a stand alone set piece, but if editing he'd be the first to go as an unnecessary and rather jarring juxposition with the rest of the story. I don't think Tolkien would disagree, but as he wasn't asked to edit for length he left him in. He's there because Priscilla wanted him (I heard this in a video interview, but of course I can't find it now).

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Fri Feb 03, 2023 4:12 pm

{{ I love the entire Bombadil section, not just for its whimsy but I think because the landscape, the barrows and standing stones, the Withywindle, even the rain was so familiar to me, it was the landscape of my childhood when I was reading it and faery and spirits of the water are common as muck in Scots myths. It was a world I knew.

But I think narratively it is more important than either of you give it credit for, it not only establishes a notion that some things are and remain in our lifetimes simply unexplained or unknown, secondly its the first part of real solid character development for Frodo in the barrow. He is essentially tempted by the Ring to first think the selfish option of put on the Ring and get out and leave the rest behind, but he overcomes that and immediately gains courage from it, enough to hack the arm of the wight off with a sword.

And there is a third layer to it when you return with wider knowledge of ME and the references made to Angmar, the people who made the barrows there and men of Carn Dum. That adds a nice depth of history, further helping the world building and sense of scale, both geographical and in time.

Plus its just got some great atmospheric writing in it. Frodo getting lost in the fog and the looming stones and distant fading cries of help from his friends is brilliant stuff. }}

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Post by halfwise Fri Feb 03, 2023 7:35 pm

It's well written because Tolkien wrote it, but it's not essential. Frodo demonstrated some robust character, but it wasn't a transformative moment for him and we wouldn't notice if left out. Aragorn could just as well provide the knives that Merry used to kill the Witch King, and it would feel less coincidental.

It was an interesting pause in the narrative, but it was a pause, and there's a reason every adaptation leaves it out.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Fri Feb 03, 2023 7:41 pm

{{ I disagree it wasnt transformative for Frodo, its the first time he realises what he is capable of at a pinch, its the start of what gives him strength to face down the nazgul and try to stab the Witch-king. Its the first time he really shuts the Ring down and chooses other than its nudgings to run and leave the others.
As to the swords if the rangers, as in the films, just happened to have a secret stash of magic swords to dish out, Id find that a lot more coincidental than the entire history of Angmar and the Northern Kingdom is to back them up.
And the Old Man Willow incident foreshadows and prepares the ground for the ents and Fangorn and sets it up well in advance, rather than say the clumsy film way of Merry suddenly out the blue talking about never before mentioned talking trees near the Shire, 2 minutes before they happen to meet a talking tree.

If I was adapting it (for tv so there was room) I'd most certainly not leave it out. }}

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Post by halfwise Fri Feb 03, 2023 8:47 pm

So Aragorn, who has a living connection to the Northern Dunadain and is actively involved in fighting Black Riders is a more coincidental point of contact for a weapon that would defeat the Witch King than some haunted hillside that the hobbits happen to stumble into? I'm afraid I don't follow your reasoning here. Yes, it's a nice tangential connection to history to have the Barrow Wights have the weapons to defeat the nazgul, but there was no intentionality in the transfer. It was truly random.

Does Frodo ever reflect on what transpired in the Barrow downs and the self confidence it gives him? Not that we ever hear. Gandalf calls the incident touch and go and praises Frodo, but it seems to wash right off him. No response; totally unlike the way Bilbo reacts to killing a spider - THAT was transformative.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Fri Feb 03, 2023 10:49 pm

{{ The issue from a narrative perspective of Aragorn revealing the weapons and history is it overplays the hand of mystery Tolkien wants to keep around 'Strider' until Rivendell. Plus as Aragorn has as you say a very direct connection that feels to me more forced, not better for it. And placing wise in the narrative it would have to come after Bree and before Weathertop, making it very close to the encounter with the Black Riders making it seem even more contrived.

The fact the hobbits get captured in the burial mounds of the people who fought the Witch-King as a source for their swords that harm the Witch-King is much more satisfying to me. As well as the added world building bonus and the beautiful bit where Bombadil speaks of the people buried there remembering their lives.

I think the text supports it being a very important moment for Frodo, just because he doesn't reflect on it at the time does not diminish it, as he says to Gandalf about it in Rivendell, "I have not spoken to the others about the Barrow. At first it was too horrible and afterwards there were other things to think about."
There just wasn't the time for reflection, but that does not mean there were not very important effects of it.

Gandalf himself sees it as particularly significant, saying of Frodo, "But you have some strength in you my dear hobbit! As you showed in the barrow. That was touch and go: perhaps the most dangerous moment of all."

The most dangerous moment of all, remembering that includes getting pursued by Nazgul, half drowned by an angry tree, stabbed and half turned into a wraith. So Gandalf can't possibly mean the most physical danger of all, I think the choice of phrasing 'touch and go' implies more that was a moment he could have succumbed to the prodded desire to put the Ring on and flee- and much like how Bilbo began his ownership with pity, so Frodo in his first real challenge begins his ownership overcoming fear to save his friends. In the end that will be just about the only thing still driving him on through the torture of Mordor.

Imagine how different, and worse for all, his experience with the Ring might have been had he chosen to flee and leave the others behind, justifying it to himself as the only and right thing to do - 'He thought of himself running free over the grass, grieving for Merry, and Sam, and Pippin, but free and alive himself. Gandalf would admit that there had been nothing else he could do.'

I believe that is why Gandalf says it was touch and go and why he feels it was the most dangerous moment of the whole journey so far.

Gandalf finishes his above statement with "..perhaps the most dangerous moment of all. I wish you could have held out at Weathertop." Gandalf seems to be implying a comparison here, between Frodo 'holding' out against the temptation to flee in the Barrow, and failing to hold out on Weathertop and succumbing to the Ring.

So I think the whole bit is more important in a number of ways than you feel it is. }}

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Post by Lancebloke Sat Feb 04, 2023 9:10 am

I like all the lore and everything that surrounds that part, I just don't like Tom as a delivery device. I find that the tonal shift takes me out of the story and I now skip parts because of it.
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Post by Pettytyrant101 Sun Feb 05, 2023 7:29 pm

{{ Ah but that is a matter of personal preference which is fair enough Lance, my objection is to the notion that there is nothing of important or worth to the wider story in these chapters and that it can just wholesale be lifted out the story with no effect.

For example PJ dumped it wholesale and as a result his Frodo's first act with the Ring is not pity, or fear for his friends, or courage, its succumbing over and over, it's only Sam stopping him at the Black Rider encounter, he then fails shortly after (in film running time) at Bree and immediately again at Weathertop and then at the Ford, where he is uncapable of doing anything at all besides falling off a horse.

If you retain the barrow scene however, after that PJ's Frodo makes no sense and would be impossible to realize that way. With that scene we have a Frodo who has found courage and strength and a small measure of self belief. You couldn't then go on to portray him as he is in PJ's films. The Frodo that survived the barrow stabbed the witch-king on Weathertop and defied him with the name of Elbereth, the Frodo that refused the temptation of the Ring to use it and save himself in the barrow was the Frodo who stood in the stirrups and defied the 9 to their 'faces' at the Ford. Without that you get film Frodo.

And that shows just how large a difference that scene makes to his characterisation. Without there is no moment where Frodo finds courage and strength driven by love for his friends.}}

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Post by halfwise Sun Feb 05, 2023 11:06 pm

Sorry I think he could have done all those character things without the Barrow Downs. You just start one step later. There is absolutely nothing in the narration to indicate it was a turning point or moment of growth for Frodo.

In fact then next thing we see is him succumbing to the ring on Weather Top - I don't see saying "Elbereth" as a moment of defiance. Yep, surrounded by a bunch of bullies, and suddenly the scrawny kid (who has already fallen on the ground) croaks out "Elbereth"...and the music swells and the bullies stop in amazement and....and it doesn't work. That was NOT a hero moment.

Bombadil works fine as an interlude, but it's not part of the story or character development. It's the first fat to be trimmed, and rightfully so.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Mon Feb 06, 2023 9:40 am

{{ Fundamentally disagree on every point. Start one step later? Where? As for nothing to indicate you mean apart from Gandalf directing telling us how important a moment it was, then there is the text itself of the moment- 'Then a wild thought of escape came to him. He wondered if he put on the Ring, whether the Barrow-wight would miss him, and he might find some way out. He thought of himself running free over the grass, grieving for Merry, and Sam, and Pippin, but free and alive himself. Gandalf would admit that there had been nothing else to do. But the courage that had awakened in him was now too strong:he could not leave his friends so easily. He wavered, groping in his pocket, and then fought with himself again; and as he did so the arm crept nearer. Suddenly resolve hardened in him, and he seized a short sword that lay beside him, and kneeling he stooped low over the bodies of his companions. With what strength he had he hewed at the crawling arm near the wrist, and the hand broke off'

Thats as solid and fleshed out a description of not only Frodo resisting the temptation of the Ring to flee and leave his friends and of his first moment of awakening courage and action- he cuts the hand off a zombie- how is this, the first time anything like this happens to Frodo, not character development? Its a more fleshed out description of Frodo being tempted in a situation by the Ring than at any other point in the narrative of Fellowship, far more clear and indepth than at Weathertop or the Ford.
The text tells us on several occasion how someone acts when they first get the Ring seems to set the template for how their ownership will go, Bilbo got away with so little hurt because he began his in pity, Frodo lasted as long as he did because he began his ownership rejecting the Ring in favour of saving his friends. Frodo's actions in the barrow are fundamentally important not only to his character, but to everything that happens thereafter. That makes it seem quite an important section of story to me.

At Weathertop in the book Frodo isnt the scrawny kid that falls over, thats PJ's abomination version minus the barrow scene. In the book its the Frodo that hacked the hand of a Barrow-wight, so he stabs the Witch-king and his blade cuts his robes and is destroyed after piercing the Witch-Kings flesh. Frodo's shout of Elebereth on the other hand is the thing that actually hurts the Witch-King- "all blades perish that pierce that dreadful King. More deadly to him, was the name of Elbereth.' It might not have helped much but as character book Frodo goes on the offensive at Weathertop, he isnt passive, he isnt helpless and he doesnt just fall over and whimper. Book Frodo has found his courage and his balls, and he found them in a barrow!

We must also have a different idea of what a hero is. You seem to imply a hero needs to win, thats very American of you! Frodo faces up to danger, personal danger that will almost certainly result in his own death, and he still has a go. He takes a shot at stabbing the Witch-King before which great warriors have cowered in fear. And Frodo stabbed him and yelled the equivalent of a word of power at him! Yeah he lost in the sense he got stabbed himself, came off the worst from the encounter, but his courage, his sheer audacity, yeah that was heroic.

As to the overall Bombadil section being there, Tolkien says in Letters - 'He is just an invention (who first appeared in the Oxford Magazine about 1933), and he represents something that I feel important, though I would not be prepared to analyse the feeling precisely. I would not, however, have left him in, if he did not have some kind of function.'

Tolkien was too good a story teller to just put Bombadil there because he liked him, or had some old writing lying about he could reuse. He is there because Tolkien felt he had a function within the narrative. And so do I. A much abused underrated one. }}

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Post by halfwise Mon Feb 06, 2023 1:50 pm

"At that moment Frodo threw himself on the ground, and heard himself cry 'O Elbereth, Gilthonial!. At the same time he struck at the feet of his enemy."

So he did a bit better than Pippin and Merry, who were overcome with fear from the start. All we know of Sam is he was looking at Frodo. But if he was turning into a hero we might have expected a bit more from him.

Frodo's heroism is more as a stubborn plodder. He keeps pushing on, but his bravery is shown in decisions like deciding to go it alone after Rauros. Stubborness isn't a trait you discover, it's just there.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Mon Feb 06, 2023 1:55 pm

{{ I dont think it is stubborness. Frodo goes alone because he thinks the Ring will have a negative effect on every one around him, and that in turn increases the danger the longer the Ring is within others grasp, he does it primarily to protect others. The exact same reason that is set up in the barrow when he rejects the Rings temptations to act only for his own interests. It just further shows how the barrow scene is important in establishing that characteristic and that moment in his character along the journey- without it you get Pj's pathetic wimpy Frodo. }}

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Post by Forest Shepherd Mon Feb 13, 2023 2:37 am

I'm quite biased in favour of the Bombadil sections. I love the hobbit journey through the Old Forest. The woodsy atmosphere is a delight, the hobbit-sized problems are relatable and easily understood (we're lost!), and the coziness of Bombadil and Goldberry's cottage harks back to the fun had in Crickhollow.

If I had to go on an adventure in Middle-earth, I should certainly chose to do so in the lands around the Shire.

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Post by Lancebloke Mon Feb 13, 2023 8:06 am

I just finished this read through.

One thing I think is missing is a little more dialogue with the other important characters toward the end. We pretty much have every major character that isn't dead during the journey to Edoras and there are a few plot points tied up but that is probably the only chapter that feels a bit rushed to me.
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Post by Forest Shepherd Tue Feb 21, 2023 5:49 am

Mm yeah, I'll keep an eye out for that when I get to it.

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