The Two Towers reading notes, Book IV

So, remember this? From way back in June? I know I’m just now getting around to it, but hey! I moved across the country! That’s a good excuse, right?

In case you need a refresher: Fellowship of the Ring reading notes, Two Towers, Book III reading notes.

Again, I’m putting this behind a jump, just because I know that there is someone who reads at least semi-regularly who has not read the trilogy and would like to.

“Sam did not laugh. ‘I may not be much good at climbing, Mr. Frodo,’ he said in injured tones, ‘but I do know something about rope and knots. It’s in the family, as you might say. Why, my grand-dad, and my uncle Andy after him, him that was the Gaffer’s eldest brother, he had a rope-walk over by Tighfield many a year.'” p 240

This may be the single passage which has caused the most confusion in the entirely trilogy. Yes, even the Balrog and wings or not wings bit. You see, people no longer know what a rope-walk is, and so an entirely erroneous assumption has sprung up. Sam’s family is generally held to have been tightrope walkers. In fact, what his grand-dad and uncle Andy did was produce rope. A rope-walk is “a long, narrow path or building where ropes are made.” ( Ropes are traditionally made by walking with the fibers and twisting them at the same time, stretching them out to the full length of the completed rope. You can read more about it in the Wikipedia article.

“Frodo looked round in horror. Dreadful as the Dead Marshes had been, and the arid moors of the Noman-lands…” p. 265

I firmly believe that LotR is not an allegory, and that any attempt to force it into an allegorical shape is misguided. However, I do also believe that it was heavily influenced by Tolkien’s experiences in WWI. I had never noticed the use of the term “Noman-lands” before, but it instantly conjured up that awful image of the dead space between two trenches. It gives a different perspective to the Dead Marshes, especially the line about “grim faces and evil, and nobles faces and sad…But all foul, all rotting, all dead.” LotR is really as much a novel of the Lost Generation as anything by Hemingway or Fitzgerald.

“It was Sam’s first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. he was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man’s name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace” (p. 300)

As with his female characters, I feel like there is a general tendency these days to cast Tolkien as vaguely racist. And I can see it–the assumption that fair equals noble and dark equals bad–at the same time that I think it might go a bit far. Certainly moments like this show more sympathy and insight than he is sometimes given credit for.

“‘For myself,’ said Faramir, ‘I would see the White Tree in flower again in the courts of the kings, and the Silver Crown return, and Minas Tirith in peace: Minas Anor again as of old, full of light, high and fair, beautiful as a queen among other queens: not a mistress of many slaves, nay, not even a kind mistress of willing slaves.” p. 314

PETER JACKSON! *shakes fist* Remember, this comes right after Faramir says “I would not not take this thing, if it lay by the highway.” GAH! Look, I get the whole “dramatic tension” argument, but to take one of my absolute favorite characters and turn him into the opposite of how Tolkien wrote him is never not going to bother me. In fact, whenever possible, I just fast-forward through the Faramir scenes in TTT, except for the Sons of Gondor scene in the extended edition. That one was at least okay. Even if PJ did completely ignore the fact that Denethor and Faramir are the ones who are alike, not Denethor and Boromir. But that’s a rant for RotK.

“Death was ever present, because the Númenoreans still, as they had in their old kingdom, and so lost it, hungered after endless life unchanging. Kings made tombs more splendid than houses of the living, and counted old names in the rolls of their descent dearer than the names of sons. Childless lords sat in aged halls musing on heraldry; in secret chambers withered men compounded strong elixirs, or in high cold towers asked questions of the stars.” p. 322

This is another one of those points where, if this were anyone but Tolkien I would probably be rolling my eyes. But somehow in his hands, it turns into a passage that makes me stop and read it over again and catch my breath at the awesomeness of the rolling prose.

“But I wish I could make a song about her [Galadriel]. Beautiful she is, sir! Lovely! Sometimes like a great tree in flower, sometimes like a white daffadowndilly, small and slender like. Hard as di’monds, soft as moonlight. Warm as sunlight, cold as frost in stars. Proud and far-off as a snow-mountain, and as merry as any lass I ever saw ith daisies in her hair at springtime.” p. 324

I love it when Sam breaks into poetry.

“Beren now, he never thought he was going to get that Silmaril from the Iron Crown in Thangorodrim, and yet he did, and that was a worse place and a blacker danger than ours. But that’s a long tale, of course, and goes on past the happiness and into grief and beyond it–and the Silmaril went on and came to Eärendil. And why, sir, I never thought of that before! We’ve got–you’ve got some of the light of it in that star-glass that the Lady gave you! Why to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on. Don’t the great tales never end?” p. 363

And again, I love Sam. You know, Frodo is actually one of my favorite characters, but every time I do a re-read I love Sam more. He’s so wise in unexpected ways.


Filed under bookish posts, reading notes

5 responses to “The Two Towers reading notes, Book IV

  1. A rope-walk is “a long, narrow path or building where ropes are made.”
    HAHAHAHA. You learn something new every day. That is quite awesome. The idea of tightrope-walking Gamgees does seem outrageously unHobbitlike.

    (Second to the everlasting Balrog question, I think, must be whether or not Tolkien’s Elves have pointy ears.)

    Sam makes my heart melt. (As does Faramir; I also have to fast-forward through most of the Faramir scenes in TTT.) I really must re-read the trilogy sometime – it’s been far too long.

    • Maureen E

      The idea of tightrope-walking Gamgees does seem outrageously unHobbitlike.

      Yes–I always felt like it couldn’t possibly be the case, but I didn’t have the textual support to back me up. Now I do.

      Oh, yes, the pointy ears. Heh. One of my college roommates is the owner/moderator of one of the larger LotR forums out there (well, it used to be–I think it’s dropped off now that the movies are over) and there were definitely some of those questions that would come up, and you’d hash them all out satisfactorily , and then some new person would come along and bring them up again, and you’d have to do it all again.

      Faramir–he wasn’t my first literary crush by far, but he was one of the main ones for a few years. I still have a major soft spot for him.

      • and then some new person would come along and bring them up again, and you’d have to do it all again.

        Hahaha, how I love fandom.

        • Maureen E

          Yeah. Definitely a love-hate relationship on my part.

          It especially bothered me when the answer was right in the text anyway and someone was basing their opinion on the movies. I wanted to scream and cry and throw things. This is why I try to avoid fan forums at this point.

  2. Pingback: Return of the King reading notes, Book V « By Singing Light

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