the Little Red Reviewer

Coming to the end of The Fellowship of the Rings

Posted on: September 24, 2011

where we going again?

Welcome to our final discussion on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.

Over the last 3 weeks, we met Frodo and watched as he discovered the power of the Ring. We witnessed his fleeing of the shire, how his friends made it clear they would help him and go with him every step the way. The further Frodo got from the home, the more dire his quest began to look.  At Elrond’s council it was decided that the Ring must be destroyed before its creator can find it.  Past Rivendell was the mines of Moria, something deep and dark and dangerous and the loss of Gandalf.  And then to Lothlorien, elven city and home of Galadriel.  But even the safety of Lothlorien must be left behind if the Ring of power is to be destroyed.

This story started out so bright and happy. Happy little hobbits leading happy little lives enjoy happy little birthday parties. Could Frodo have ever imagined his uncle’s magic ring would take him so far? It’s suddenly become much bigger than the shire, much bigger than Hobbits or Dwarves or Men or Elves. Everything is at stake.

It was my job to come up with discussion questions this week and I ended up just sending out “starters”-  thoughts that popped into my head, or parts in the story where I had an emotional reaction.  If you got the e-mail, you can pick and choose what to talk about, that way everyone’s posts are a little different.

other discussions:
Stainless Steel Droppings
Blue Fairy’s Bookshelf
Geeky Daddy
The Written World
Book Den
Lynn’s Books

We’ll be starting the second book in the series in a week or so, so stay tuned!

For my post, I’d like to talk about the two characters who kept getting my attention: Galadriel and Boromir.

We’ll do the easy one first: Boromir.

I didn’t trust from way back at the Council at Rivendell!  His conversation with Frodo at the end of Fellowship made him look like a know-it-all with a world view of colonialism and imperialism. Is this Tolkien taking a shot at the old fashioned British world view, or am I reading way, way too much into it?  I have vague memories of his character from the movies, and I’m sure for time they edited out most of his storyline.

I was talking to someone else about this, and they laughed at my description of Boromir and then responded with “the Ring is talking to him”.  and I said “it he susceptible to his because he is power hungry?”, and my friend replied with “the Ring talks to everyone, offering them what they want. Some choose to listen”.

maybe an accidental political message? that those who come to power were able to because they were power hungry to begin with? what’s that old adage. . .  power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  and that Ring? it is absolute power.

Suddenly this whole story is really getting my attention.

Which brings us to Galadriel.  Most of you know so far Tolkien’s writing style just isn’t doing much for me.  He’s a fine writer, I think I’m just so used to a more contemporary style that it’s taking me a long to time to get into the story.  And then I met Galadriel, who quickly became my by far favorite character so far.  Not only is she probably one of the oldest elves in Middle Earth, but the power that woman holds is incredible.  Remember the lost rings?  three rings for the elven kings?  well, she’s got one.   I don’t think Sauron knows she’s got it.

here’s the kicker:  Frodo’s quest is to destroy the Ring.  Not only does the Ring not want to die, but should it be destroyed, it will take the power of the other rings with it. Including Galadriel’s ring.

Wanna learn Dwarvish runes?

If Frodo’s quest is successful, The Elves will have to choose to leave Middle Earth forever, or forget who and what they are.  The success of this quest, the saving of Middle Earth means the banishment of the Elves. It means that future generations of men and hobbits will have only stories and songs and legends.  it’s one thing to find a magic ring and destroy it.  It’s an entirely different thing to destroy a magic ring and in the process destroy the livelihood of an entire race. That’s so very tragic that it almost breaks my heart the think about it.

eh, or maybe I’m yet again reading between lines that aren’t really there?

Even though the Fellowship leaves Lothlorien at the end of this book, I do hope there is mention of Galadriel later.  If you can’t tell, she made the book for me.

There were also discussion starters about Gandalf and the Balrog in Moria,  and Sam and his experience learning that Elves aren’t quite as strange or as scary as he thought. And of course, the obligatory question of “what was your favorite part?”

alright folks, discuss!!  and tweet! #LOTRreadlong

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15 Responses to "Coming to the end of The Fellowship of the Rings"

Here is my link:

http://www.stainlesssteeldroppings.com/the-fellowship-of-the-ring-group-read-week-three

I really like Boromir as presented in the films and I do think the films were able to extrapolate a little more out of the character that Tolkien hints at but doesn’t quite get to as deeply. And if you haven’t seen the Extended Editions of the films, you really need to watch them after you’ve finished the books. The add Boromir stuff to each film (flashbacks) that are fantastic. And we’ll get some of that info in the coming books.

Anyway, I certainly think it is possible that there are messages about power and corruption. And your friend is right, the Ring does whisper to them all, tempting them with what they desire as it is itself a live thing,of sorts, and desires to return to its master by any means possible. I mentioned in my post that Boromir is from the men of Gondor, who have been fighting against Sauron’s forces for some time already, achieving small victories and suffering grave defeats. Boromir is keenly aware of the history of his people and is a proud man who does not want to see his people destroyed or enslaved to the darkness. So even though there is an element of greed and power-hunger there what he really desires is a means to save his people and I do believe there is a part of him that truly believes he could use the Ring against the enemy. He doesn’t have the wisdom and insight that Gandalf and Galadriel do about what the Ring would actually do through him. It makes him an ultimately tragic figure. We see a bit of his humanity–his fear and his despair–in his ‘what have I done’ statement after he falls when Frodo puts on the Ring and disappears.

Galadriel is a wonderful character. The elves were leaving Middle-earth already as their destiny, for lack of a better word, was only to remain in Middle-earth for a time. Men were destined to eventually rise or fall without them and many elves have already left as this story opens. The majority of those that remain (that we see) are of course of the house of Elrond and the house of Galadriel, two of the elves who have rings of power. I do believe that the final fading of their rings is the final push that they need to leave and go to their home.

The elves and their “long defeat” is one of the most beautiful parts of the LOTR story. It is so sad to think of them and their influence leaving Middle-earth and the reality that time will eventually cause them to fade to memory and then to legend. A similar fate had befallen the Numenoreans, whose race is largely remembered because of their ruins, and even those memories are becoming lost. I love the thread of melancholy mixed with hope that weaves its way through Tolkien’s work.

So happy to have been able to participate in this. I’m sorry Tolkien’s writing isn’t doing it for you. I find it so beautiful and engaging. I’m so thrilled that I had such a wonderful experience with the book this time. My mood to read it really opened my eyes to how great the story is. Makes me even more excited to read the next two volumes, which I remember loving deeply the first time I read them.

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My post, included a little more of my personal background with the series: http://bluefairysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2011/09/lotr-read-along-fellowship-chapters-16.html

I agree with Carl above about the complexities of Boromir’s character, and I found the prose absolutely beautiful once I settled into the rhythm of reading it. I also adored Galadriel on this read-through, and she’s one of my husband’s favorite characters.

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I actually don’t find any of the characters emotionally engaging or especially sympathetic. I confess to not finding the elves charming, but rather boring. There is a feeling of the fading glow of something special throughout LoTR, but what that specialness was just isn’t clear to me. I think that the problem of temptation to power in the name of the Good is really a much more interesting and compelling problem, and that Tolkien doesn’t quite appreciate it. I feel like the really interesting stories are too disturbing, and would make the refined people shudder, and so those stories aren’t being told. Boromir starts to act like a bad boy, but then he realizes how naughty he was and is sorry. Ho hum.

What I do enjoy is what I’ve said before: the feeling of the journey. The exploration into the unknown, into danger, discovering both friend and foe in unexpected places, and reaching down into one’s soul to find courage to face terror and death, despite one’s own dearth of resources. Tolkien has beautiful descriptions of traveling across the landscape. I had to haul out my big 3-volume dictionary to look up “eyot” and “hythe” and, oh, I forget what else! Eyot is an alternate spelling of “ait”, a small island in a stream (save that for your next scrabble game) and “hythe” is an alternate spelling of “hithe”, a small port or haven.

Tolkien is nicely attuned to the weather and environment, and really brings out the feeling of suffering the conditions of travel and exploration. I like that kind of visceral experience. But the characters feel flat. I am excited, however, to follow the next part of the story of Frodo’s travels toward Mordor, and Merry and Pippin’s capture, and all that ensues as they follow their separate adventures. I regret that I have to work extra to supply their missing personalities. LoTR really isn’t about character. It seems to me more like a dream about a realm, and the beings that move through it.

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Sorry you are not engaging with the characters but am glad you are enjoying the book nonetheless. I will never know how I would have reacted to these books if they were my first exposure to Tolkien as I had seen the films many times before I read the books. So I bring the personalities that the writers and actors of the film brought to them, I cannot help but do it. And it adds a little something extra to the experience for me.

I do know that I really like Tolkien’s writing style. Beyond these books the best evidence of it is that I am very fond of The Silmarillion, and it is much more like a historical record with brief examinations of specific characters and not enough time to be invested in individual personalities.

Tolkien is very attuned to the environment and it makes Middle-earth feel like a very real place. It feels special, but doesn’t feel “magical”, as if it is some perfect place that couldn’t ever exist.

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Hello
I never really felt that Boromir was a bad character. I always felt more like he had come to the end of his tether (if you will). He definitely craves the ring but this is because he thinks it will help his people. He’s basically stubborn, he doesn’t listen to the counsel of others when they’re saying you can’t use the ring, it only answers to one, and he thinks it will be different for him – definitely the sort who is going to walk down the dark alley late at night, alone, because it’s a short cut. Basically, he seems the sort of person who is determined to make his own mistakes and learn the hard way and we all know how that ends.
Galadriel – she’s much more cool about things, almost a bit sly – although that’s probably not the best word. She also desires the ring but her actions are different than Boromirs and so Frodo basically offers it to her without hesitation. Plus, when the fellowship first meet Galadriel and she is looking into their minds – they all confess that she was almost encouraging them to give up the quest and return home. Now, you could look at this as a test to see if they are true or you could ponder whether she really desired them to give up?
I do like the elves but they are difficult to love, they are remote and cool and to be honest they come across as superior – as though they are civilised and cultured and everyone else is barbaric? Probably more harsh than I intended there. It is sad that their world is coming to an end and their power is diminishing and I don’t think I ever really understood why that was but perhaps it will all be more clear by the end of the book.
By the way – I don’t think I got your email about this one – could you resend it to me please :D
Thanks
Lynn

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One thing that really helps give background to who the elves are and why they are different than men is a reading of the creation story in The Silmarillion. It outlines how their eternal path is different than mankind’s and it is a beautiful, albeit sometimes challenging, story.

They do seem somewhat superior and I do think that is by design. They have a different relationship with the Creator, Iluvatar, than men do. Men are destined to die but then have some eternal reward that the elves are not privy to, where they live forever and eventually return to their homeland, Valinar, I personally believe that “gift” of being undying would naturally make them feel superior to men whose lives in comparison must seem like the blink of an eye.

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By the way, I read something that surprised me: is Arwen the daughter of Elrond and Galadriel? But aren’t Elrond and Galadriel married to other people? Are elves into free love? If they are, that’s certainly as it should be, I’d think.

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I thought that it read that way too, but Aragorn’s reference is to the fact that Arwen is the granddaughter of Galadriel. She is the daughter of Elrond and Galadriel’s daughter Celebrian.

And no, the elves would not be into ‘free love’. First off Tolkien would never write anything that way in large part because he was devoutly religious and while his books are not allegorical, as The Chronicles of Narnia are, his worldview firmly informs his decisions. Secondly that would not really fit in with a people who are so dedicated to form and function and structure. A people who are certainly emotional but don’t seem to be driven by emotion but are driven by a higher purpose.

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ah, the granddaughter. My comment about “free love” was tongue-in-cheek. ;) There’s no question about the very conservative sensibility of all the characters and cultures.

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Ah, sorry. Didn’t see the obligatory *wink*. Hate that we cannot always enjoy things the way they are meant in this words only medium!

I was really thrown by that comment from Aragorn at first. Had to do a little research after that one.

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I’m *finally* caught up! Thanks so much for doing the read-along! Mine is posted up @ http://bookden.blogspot.com/2011/09/read-along-fellowship-of-ring-lord-of.html

I love Galadriel, too. I love her vision of an all powerful dark queen and the fact that she chooses to diminish into the West.

I agree with your friend’s assessment of Boromir. He already desires a powerful weapon against the enemy and the ring itself offers what he desires.

I’m off to read the many discussions I have yet to catch up on. I’m looking forward to The Two Towers.

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Hello
I’ve finally posted my comments – sorry I’m so late! I’ve been busy reading everybody’s comments – it’s generated such a lot of discussion. I’ve really enjoyed it all.
Thanks
Lynn :D

http://lynnsbooks.wordpress.com/2011/09/26/lord-of-the-rings-tolkien-group-read-completion-of-the-fellowship-of-the-ring/

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you’re a step ahead of me, I’ve barely had time to read everyone’s discussions. :(

Sorry everyone, I’ll get to reading and commenting on everything as soon as I can!

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I am with you well I am still not that sure about Boromir. He is just one of those people it is hard to trust since meeting him at the Council of Elrond.

Tolkien sure does know when tho leave some cliff hangers in his book(s) and ready for some more already..:) I am with Carl and sure am glad that you are enjoying these readings.

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