Friday, September 27, 2019

Tolkien Blog Party 2019 // Tag Answers

These are frightfully difficult, terribly fun, and I couldn't be more pleased with how everything turned out. Can't wait to hear what y'all think! ;)

Would You Rather...

1. ...join Thorin's Company or the Fellowship?

The Fellowship because of... well, just every last bit of it. The Hobbit is a fun adventure, peopled with dear characters, but LotR is just epic. The point springing to mind is all the brothers-in-arms stuff -- likely and unlikely, like Gimli and Legolas. (And, depending who you were with when the fellowship breaks up, you might get to go through either Ithilien or Anorien. <3 And there's Aragorn. And all the other people you'd get to meet, like Faramir. Still, that's not all necessarily key to the question.)

Short answer: for personality variety in the band of adventurers, character development, and adventure-wise, I'd choose the Fellowship.

Except I do hate the Nazgul. Rrrrrr. 

2. ...ride Shadowfax or an eagle?

First off, the eagles always make me Very Happy. But still, gripping the feathers of a huge, fierce, lordly bird -- desperately trying not to pinch as the earth drops away -- v. a mighty, glistening horse, powerful and smooth running as the wind? Shadowfax all the way. <333

(Also must mention lately I'm sliiiiightly peeved at no one in particular, wondering why the eagles couldn't just've dropped Sam and Frodo off at Mount Doom in the first place and spared all the pain and suffering for poor dear everyone. But no story. I understand. Unless there's something I'm forgetting, it's probably just a little loophole Tolkien hoped we wouldn't think about. So let's forget I mentioned it. ;-))

3. through Moria or Mirkwood?

I dislike them pretty equally, both seem so dark and claustrophobic and endless. If I was a hobbit though I'd pick Moria, cause of all the Big Folk along. Even with all the heartbreak in the loss of Gandalf, Aragorn and Boromir heading and bringing up the rear of the band in the face of that terror, then carrying Frodo and Sam later makes me warm and teary.

4. ...learn to make elvish rope or mithril chainmail?

Both would be interesting, but mithril sounds like ripply silver beauty. Wikipedia says the name mithril comes from two words in Tolkien's Sindarin language -- mith meaning 'grey' and ril meaning 'glitter'. So yes please.

5. ...try to outwit Smaug or Saruman?

Tough one. Ok, bear with me here, but all in all I think I'd actually pick Saruman. Smaug would just be downright terrifying. Saruman would too, but I think of him as kinda the embodiment of modern philosophy -- with smooth beckoning words, twisting, subtly bending meaning and arguing in circles till you're more than half persuaded/feel a fool for holding out any longer. But yet, it's all wound through with pride, i.e. that was his downfall and (not that I've got everything pat in that department) but a humble man who approaches the debate with a little trembling quiver, but still sticks to his guns and keeps repeating what he knows is right -- I think he could make it through.

6. ...spend an hour with Grima Wormtongue or Denethor?

Denethor. Hands down. If he was going on about Faramir I'd be pretty inevitably tempted to give him a gargantuan piece of my mind, but he's still a gentleman and man of honor (albeit ultimately a fallen one). Grima is just... ick. And yuck.

7. ...attend Faramir's wedding or Samwise's wedding?

***First, how can you do this to me, Hamlette?!?!?!?!?***

Well... it depends. If I was in the mood for something epic, the happiness beyond tears, end of a fairy tale sort of occasion, I'd pick the former. If I'm in the mood for hearty food and hilarity and maybe riotous dancing, I'd pick the latter. (Ha, see how neatly I avoided choosing there?)

But I'll play fair and say Eowyn and Faramir. Especially as I intend to be in their retinue and go back to Ithilien and make everything loved and altogether lovely again.

8. ...have to care for the One Ring or the Arkenstone for a day?

The Arkenstone. Gold fever is a very real thing, but I'm not going near the Ring with a ten foot pole. Nuh uh.

9. ...have tea with Bilbo or Frodo?

Ummm... Usually I'd always pick Frodo, but I'm not sure how good of a cook he is, so maybe Bilbo? I do always want to try his seed cakes. For some reason I always picture them as poppy seed.

10. ...fight alongside Boromir or Eomer?

Ok, this one's near impossible. I've literally been thinking about it for a couple days. My initial immediate response was Boromir, but sometimes I feel like Eomer doesn't get as much credit or talking-about as he should and he really is splendid and valiant and loves his sister, and his manly desire to protect is just as strong as the others. So, though I'm not sure how much use I'd be fighting on horseback, at the moment I'm picking Eomer and the Rohirrim.

Thank you for the wonderful party and all the fantastic questions, Hamlette! Again, make sure to check out all the other entries HERE.

And be sure and let me know if you agree/disagree with any of the above! 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Frodo // A Character Sketch

(I wrote this as a guest post for the great LOTR read-along a few years ago. Thanks for letting me repost, Hamlette! :))

When first we hear of Frodo son of Drogo, he is an orphan. Brought up among the ‘queer Bucklanders’ and considered by many to be more than half a Brandybuck, he is being adopted by Bilbo as his future heir. Observant and clear-sighted, he is a lover of beauty, and also of maps and of elves, a ‘perky chap with a bright eye’ whom both Bilbo and Gandalf think the ‘best hobbit in the Shire.’

(Note, I still haven’t watched the movies, so I’ll be discussing all this as it appears in the books.)

With his rich inheritance comes the great and dreadful Ring. Gandalf had said of the Ring, in his first long discussion with Frodo near the beginning, ‘It is far more powerful than I ever dared to think at first, so powerful that in the end it would utterly overcome anyone of mortal race who possessed it. It would possess him.’ Of hobbits he said, ‘Among the Wise I am the only one that goes in for hobbit-lore: an obscure branch of knowledge, but full of surprises. Soft as butter they can be, and yet sometimes as tough as old tree-roots. I think it likely that some would resist the Rings far longer than most of the wise would believe.’

A bit farther on, Gollum’s name enters the conversation. At this point, if we’re picturing the Frodo we know from later, his first reaction may be a bit startling. ‘Gollum!’ cried Frodo. ‘Gollum? Do you mean that this is the very Gollum-creature that Bilbo met? How loathsome!’ ‘I think it is a sad story,’ said the wizard, ‘and it might have happened to others, even to some hobbits that I have known.’ ‘I can’t believe that Gollum was connected with hobbits, however distantly,’ said Frodo with some heat. ‘What an abominable notion!’ And farther still, ‘What am I to do? What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!’ ‘Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need.’ …‘I am sorry,’ said Frodo, ‘But I am frightened; and I do not feel any pity for Gollum.’ ‘You have not seen him,’ Gandalf broke in. ‘No, and I don’t want to,’ said Frodo, ‘I can’t understand you. Do you mean to say that you, and the Elves, have let him live on after all those horrible deeds? Now at any rate he is as bad as an Orc, and just an enemy. He deserves death.’

When he realizes what must be done about the Ring he says, ‘I do really wish to destroy it! …Or, well, to have it destroyed. I am not made for perilous quests. I wish I had never seen the Ring! Why did it come to me? Why was I chosen?’ Nevertheless, he sets out -- going through hard adventure and dread fear and frightful pain to Rivendell, and once there, voluntarily takes on the further horrific task.

He is called to a mission, a mission stressing with horrible intensity the very places where he most needs change, and -- shaped by grief and pain and the weight of his burden -- he does change. The Frodo who meets Gollum above the Dead Marshes is a very different Frodo from the Frodo at the beginning. Grown in wisdom, he has learned the place of mercy, and knows also that the dealing out of final judgment -- final doom -- is not his.

He has grown in wisdom and mercy, but at the same time, he is desperately fighting the growing power of the Ring. We see a lot of this through the eyes of dear, faithful Sam. As, in torment and travail, they near Mount Doom, Sam ‘guessed that among all their pains he (Frodo) bore the worst, the growing weight of the Ring, a burden on the body and a torment to his mind.’ Twice, he tries to fight Sam off. The second time, ‘A wild light came into Frodo’s eyes. ‘Stand away! Don’t touch me!’ he cried. ‘It is mine, I say. Be off!’ His hand strayed to his sword-hilt. But then quickly his voice changed. ‘No, no, Sam,’ he said sadly. ‘But you must understand. It is my burden, and no one else can bear it. It is too late now, Sam dear. You can’t help me in that way again. I am almost in its power now. I could not give it up, and if you tried to take it I should go mad.’

So we come to Mount Doom -- and to his claiming of the Ring and the final reappearance of Gollum. Frankly, this part always bothered me until recently. But lately, I’ve begun to see just how exciting it is. First off, if Frodo had somehow managed to drop the Ring into the fire himself (as well as trivializing the danger) we would have much more of a straight-forward allegorical tale with him as the central Christological figure. Instead, we have (at least) two other major Christ-type figures, with all of them together contributing to a much fuller, richer glimpse and a tale of marvelous depth and complexity.

Second: initially, Frodo was sent on an almost hopeless errand, not knowing (if he even reached the mountain) how he would ever gain the strength and will-power to destroy the Ring. Yet the conflict isn’t resolved by deux ex machina, either. Gollum was shown mercy over and over again -- by Bilbo, Aragorn, Gandalf, Frodo, Sam, and even Faramir -- all with the idea that he had yet a purpose to fulfill and offering further opportunity for repentance. He was under oath to both Frodo and Faramir against treachery. ‘Then I say to you,’ said Faramir, turning to Gollum, ‘you are under doom of death; but while you walk with Frodo you are safe for our part. Yet if ever you be found by any man of Gondor astray without him, the doom shall fall. And may death find you swiftly, within Gondor or without, if you do not well serve him.’ Frodo had earlier warned him that a similar oath on the Ring would twist him to destruction.

So the mission incredibly succeeds -- succeeds as themes of wisdom and mercy flash brilliantly into focus, and a divine, overarching doom falls. From Sam again, ‘Well, this is the end, Sam Gamgee,’ said a voice by his side. And there was Frodo, pale and worn, and yet himself again, and in his eyes there was a peace now, neither strain of will, nor madness, nor any fear. His burden was taken away. There was the dear master of the sweet days in the Shire. ‘Master!’ cried Sam, and fell upon his knees. In all that ruin of the world for the moment he felt only joy, great joy. The burden was gone. His master had been saved; he was himself again, he was free.’

Here we come to a really interesting point. Frodo had to be saved. Now again in some ways (his burden-bearing for others, the royal temptations he faces, the pain and the anguish, the knife-wound, and the chilling, torturing, death-like experiences, etc.), Frodo can definitely be seen as a Christ-type figure. But -- while all that is absolutely true -- I think it equally true that he could just as well be a picture of us. I’ve also come to the conclusion that, of any of the characters within the story, he might actually best be compared to Boromir. Both are strong and honorable yet stumble at the same temptation, both are saved by grace and repentance (also seeing their actions clearly), and both are treated afterwards as being no less worthy of all honor and respect. And both see something through all the way to the end of their road, though death (in metaphor or reality) lies at the end of it.

Finally, on the slopes of Orodruin, surrounded by spewing flames and shattering earth, Frodo (and Sam) lie prostrate, starving and thirsting. And against all hope they are saved. The eagles come, bearing Gandalf, and they are brought out of fire and death and the tumult of destruction. Awaking in a place of dappled sunlight and cool green shade, they find themselves in the garden of Gondor and in the keeping of the King -- of the King who has tended and saved them -- of the King whose crown Frodo later bears.

Frodo, a richly adopted heir is, in the fullness of time, given and called to a task. A humble being, fighting and winning and losing against temptation (and yet succeeding because of the wisdom and mercy he has learned), he is led by his calling on a path of sufferings and death and darkness. And he is brought out again to glory -- to light and to joy, to a place of fresh raiment and song. Brought with a multitude of others to a place of piercing joy, to ‘regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.’ And to a place where -- crowned with circlets of silver -- he and Sam are led with high praise to seats of honor at the King’s table.

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Thanks for reading -- I'd love to hear your thoughts. :) And again, be sure to check out all the other lovely posts at The Edge of the Precipice!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Faramir // A Character Sketch

It's the 7th Annual Tolkien Week over at Hamlette's The Edge of the Precipice -- YAY! So excited!! 

Note: I first wrote this as a guest post during one of Hamlette's read-alongs a few years ago and she kindly let me repost here for the party. Enjoy and looking forward to hearing your thoughts! (P.S. Most of the pictures in this post are by some talented computer artists courtesy of Google. Make sure to right click on them to see the title and artist. Also, YES. I know it's not the Hobbit here and there aren't any dragons as such in LOTR, but I loved the colors of all these and thought they captured the fear of the Nazgul. So just forestalling any objections. ;D)
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Faramir... I can still remember piecing together who this ‘grave young man’ was ‘whose words seemed so wise and fair’ as my father was reading The Lord of the Rings aloud for the first time (that I can remember, that is). I must have been about eight and I can still remember the thrill when I realized he and Boromir were related.

So many people like Faramir, but what makes him such a wonderful character? (Second note: I haven’t watched the movie, so in the following I’ll be discussing him as he appears in the book.)

When first we meet him in Ithilien, he is both rough and commanding, but his courtesy is soon set beyond a doubt. When interrogating Frodo (much to Sam’s displeasure) he is ‘stern and commanding’ with ‘a keen wit behind a searching glance.’ He says, ‘I do not slay man or beast needlessly, and not gladly even when it is needed. Neither do I talk in vain.’ A man taking time for thought, refusing to act in haste, he is quick and decisive in action. ‘I will not decide in haste what is to be done. Yet we must move hence without more delay.’ He sprang to his feet and issued some orders.’

Weighing his words, he is a truth-teller, ‘I would not snare even an orc with a falsehood.’ He doesn't immediately let out all he knows -- parrying and questioning Frodo before telling what he himself already knew of Boromir -- guarding his words when speaking with his father -- waiting -- knowing what to speak when the time comes ripe; revealing the better part of wisdom.

Faramir seems to have the ‘long-sight’ associated with the blood of Westernesse, for Gandalf says of Denethor, ‘Whatever be his descent from father to son, by some chance the blood of Westernesse runs nearly true in him; as it does in his other son, Faramir... He has long sight. He can perceive, if he bends his will thither, much of what is passing in the minds of men... It is difficult to deceive him, and dangerous to try.’ Earlier, in the cave of Henneth Annûn, ‘Slowly Gollum raised his eyes and looked unwillingly into Faramir’s. All light went out of them, and they stared bleak and pale for a moment into the clear unwavering eyes of the man of Gondor...‘There are locked doors and closed windows in your mind, and dark rooms behind them,’ said Faramir. ‘But in this I judge that you speak the truth.’ Later, first encountering Éowyn, ‘...he was moved with pity, for he saw that she was hurt, and his clear sight perceived her sorrow and unrest.’

Gentle and yet stern, he is patient and long-suffering with the wayward and headstrong -- Boromir, Éowyn, his father. Amazing in how it’s done (especially as it’s understated -- and in Boromir’s case we never see them together), but we never doubt his great love for both father and brother.

A courageous leader, his men give him their love and trust. Beregond says of him, ‘Things may change when Faramir returns. He is bold, more bold than many deem; for in these days men are slow to believe that a captain can be wise and learned in the scrolls of lore and song, as he is, and yet a man of hardihood and swift judgment in the field.’ Éowyn ‘looked at him and saw the grave tenderness in his eyes, and yet knew, for she was bred among men of war, that here was one whom no Rider of the Mark would outmatch in battle.’

In the cave of Henneth Annûn, when the Ring itself comes within his grasp, he withstands its lure, saying, ‘I am wise enough to know that there are some perils from which a man must flee.’ Later Sam says, ‘You took the chance, sir.’ ‘Did I so?’ said Faramir. ‘Yes sir, and showed your quality: the very highest.’ Faramir smiled, ‘...Yet there was naught in this to praise. I had no lure or desire to do other than I have done.’ Perhaps, at first glance, a little disappointing -- we might like him to have more of an internal battle before relinquishing his opportunity -- but in fact, evidence of the highest quality indeed. Authority sits easily on him, but he does not desire ultimate power. He does not desire it because -- above all -- he is a valorous servant.

In his valor and courage, he yet knows weakness and grief. As he lies near death, Aragorn reads his hurt as, ‘Weariness, grief for his father’s mood, a wound, and over all the Black Breath... He is a man of staunch will, for already he had come close under the Shadow before ever he rode to battle on the out-walls. Slowly the dark must have crept on him, even as he fought and strove to hold his outpost.’

Captain of the White Tower -- Steward of Gondor -- a servant of the king and passing through death in his service -- he is healed and brought back to life by that King. ‘Suddenly Faramir stirred... and he looked on Aragorn who bent over him; and a light of knowledge and love was kindled in his eyes, and he spoke softly. ‘My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?’ ‘Walk no more in the shadows, but awake!’ said Aragorn, ‘You are weary. Rest a while, and take food, and be ready when I return.’ ‘I will, lord,’ said Faramir. ‘For who would lie idle when the king has returned?’

Joy, obedience, and valorous service... A wise and daring servant, he is exalted in honor. May we strive to live likewise with the same end in view -- the heart-fulfilling, soul-satisfying commendation of our King.

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More coming later in the week and be sure to check out the party and the rest of the entries over on Hamlette's blog!
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