Just finished reading the final instalment of Return of the Kings, the journey has finally reached its conclusion – sad because it’s now ended.
Of course we all know the ending and these last few chapters have just been the round-ups. So, without further ado, to this week’s questions/discussion points:
What do you think Gandalf was going to speak with Tom Bombadil about?
You know, I’ve racked my tiny brain about this and genuinly don’t have the first clue (plus ‘racked my brain’ is probably a bit over the top as it’s so tiny – took me about 30 seconds!). Maybe there’s a clue in the whole ‘rolling stones gather no moss’ saying but I really can’t figure it out. Need to think on it some more. I’m sure it will all become really obvious when I read everyone else’s posts and I’ll just be like ‘Doh!’
What did you think of the two weddings? Do you think Eowyn will eventually find happiness with Faramir?
I actually do think think Eowyn will find happiness with Faramir. Initially they both seemed, to me, to be a bit slightly saddened characters, Faramir because of the way his father behaved and Eowyn because she felt a bit restricted/unhappy in the role she played and also because she had unrequited love for Aragorn (but, you know, take a ticket and get in line!) But, I’ve decidedpersonlly to give them a happy ending, in my vision they are totally enamoured with each other, they make each other feel good, their pasts are put behind them and they move on in a happy way (but I’m a sucker for a happy ending!)
What did you think of their meeting with Saruman on the road home? I was half expecting someone to just kill Saruman.
Oh, my, god, I did want somebody to kill Saruman – but I think that if one of them had done so it would have been like a blight on their own character. As it turned out, one bad soul killed the other which felt almost fair! Which sounds a bit wrong given that they both ended up dead ultimately but it was inevitable. At first I was almost thinking that if Gandalf had just sorted Saruman out then it wouldn’t have been so dire for Hobbiton but I think Tolkien was giving the Shire a chance to stand up and show it’s metal. And, I liked seeing the way Merry and Pippin came into their own like battle-hardened warriors.
Holy Cow I was not expecting the scouring of the shire. If this is your first time reading, were you surprised? And if this isn’t your first time reading, does the shock get a little easier to swallow on re-read?
Well, I’ve already probably covered this above – it was a surprise, and I have no recollection of reading this the first time (maybe I skipped it ‘oops’) – plus did this happen in the film – I can’t remember it doing so? Anyway, no the shock is no less a surprise because I genuinley had forgotten!
What did you think of the very end, of the departure of the Havens?
This is another one of those ‘grey’ areas for me and I think maybe I need to read this bit again (another 8 or 20 times!) It always feels to me that the people who leave on the boat are actually dying? But that would just make me feel so sad so I’m actually in denial about that. And, I’m fairly certain I’m wrong, but it feels like they’re on the last journey over the water with the ferryman taking them to their place of rest. *shivers*
Characters are supposed to change and develop during a story, right? Who changed more, Sam or Frodo?
Okay, my first thought was to say that Sam changed more and that Frodo couldn’t change and carry on with his life like he had before which is why he left. Then I thought, mmm, actually, no, Frodo changed the most which is why he could no longer live the same life as before. Okay, I was having a bit of internal conflict with this one but I’ve made my decision: Frodo.
And, so we’ve come to the end of our journey. I almost feel a bit footsore! Seriously, I’ve really enjoyed this read along and the discussion posts. I hope that we can all do something similar again, after all:
“the road goes ever on and on”
Other discussions at:
The conclusion of part 2 of the Return of the King takes us almost to the end of the tale, the ring and the enemy has been destroyed and Aragorn has returned to Gondor to be crowned King.
I was seriously behind with this second part of the read along and I don’t know why but some parts of this section seemed to drag for me more than others. Anyway, finally got there and my answers to this weeks questions are below. Questions this week were provided by Carl at Stainless steel droppings.
- After witnessing the events of Denethor’s demise, what are your thoughts on him as a father and as a ruler, especially when compared to what happened with Boromir and the Ring. Well, it’s no secret that Denethor is not my favourite character! I liked him not as a ruler or a father. I think on reflection that Boromir’s quest for the ring was inspired by his need to impress his father and return to him something that he thought could be used as a weapon. I also wonder whether a lot of his sadness in the chapters before he died was really sorrow over the death of Boromir or sorrow that his plans had not come to fruition. He also sent Faramir, his only remaining son on an impossible task that almost ended his life and was the cause of a great loss of life. In that respect he was not a great ruler – he cared little for the people who were at his mercy and dictated to them based on whatever whim was upon him without respect for their lives. So, although I’ve tried to disguise it (lol), I didn’t like him as a father or a ruler.
- Instead of riding into the city with pomp and circumstance, Tolkien pens the king’s return as a clandestine act in which he demonstrates his rightful place through the act of healing the wounded. Your thoughts? I think that Aragorn didn’t want to return as the King whilst Faramir was ill – he returned to heal the wounded but he didn’t want to be seen as the King maybe because it would have looked a bit sneaky as though he’d taken the throne while Faramir was unable accept or deny his claim. Plus, I think, they had won the battle, but not the war and so it seemed a little early days to be wanting to return to the city with due ceremony.
- For one chapter Sam got to be rescuer and ring-bearer. What are your thoughts about Sam’s brief time as a ring-bearer in comparison to the others who have born the ring, or wished to? I loved when Sam was the ring bearer! Everybody else envisioning themselves taking over the world with the help of the one ring, Sam envisioning a huge garden! You have to love it. And even after that he realised this was just a dream that would never come to pass.
- In a twist unexpected in many hero tales, Tolkien ends the journey into Mount Doom with Frodo ultimately failing at his task. How did you feel about this and ultimately how does it make you feel about both Frodo and Gollum? I suppose it shows the strength of the ring in that at the end it had overcome Frodo as well, if it hadn’t been for Gollum (and his clumsy stumbling feet) the ring would not have been destroyed after all – as neither Frodo or Gollum would have done so. I don’t think this makes them weak, after all Gandalf and Aragorn didn’t even want to touch the ring because they were so fearful of what they would become. To an extent it makes you wonder if Gollum could have been redeemed – until you remember that he did murder his friend to gain possession of the ring before he’d even touched it.
- Given that The Lord of the Rings is largely about an all male cast, what are your thoughts about Tolkien’s portrayal of Eowyn now that we’ve seen the course of her journey through these culminating chapters of her story? I think that Tolkien was very forward thinking when you read this book and think about when it was written. He didn’t overlook anybody – all had a part to play and without Eowyn’s part the ending would have been completely different. It would have been so easy for him to simply keep her in a different place and give that part to somebody else but he let her have a role. Just like the hobbits, at the end of the day they were greatly overlooked by most and yet they also proved invaluable. I guess he was trying to show us that everyone counts and can make a difference. I was a bit surprised when Faramir and Eowyn were in discussion and it almost appeared that Eowyn only sought Aragorn because she would become a queen. I hadn’t really put that together before then – it made me almost a bit disappointed. I got that Eowyn had feelings for Aragorn but this made them seem a bit more shallow. I could be reading that bit wrong though – maybe I should reread.
- Much of this section of our reading has been filled with desperate acts with little hope of success. How do you feel about the mood Tolkien created in the build up both to the battle and the final push into Mount Doom and what are your thoughts on how these sections ended? I think this question reveals the answer to why I have struggled with these chapters of the book, and similarly the way I always feel when watching the film. Everything just seems so desperately hopeless that I almost just didn’t carry on (but how could I give up my quest to complete the readalong?) Even though I already know the ending I still find it offputting! But, like the characters I made myself continue but it was a bit grim there for a while (and I’m only reading a book – good job I wasn’t sent to destroy the ring – I’d probably have kept the ring – with great visions of the world being turned into a massive library, overflowing with books – all shall see my vision and READ or be doomed! ha, ha)
- The “assigned” sections for part 3 only take us to the end of the actual story. Will you be reading the appendices? Mmm, nope! I was going to try and kid everyone (including myself) but the answer is ‘hell no’. Sorry, I’m such a quitter!!!
And so we move on to Book No.3, The Return of the King, where we read through to the end of The Battle of the Pelennor Fields. We’re almost at the end of the journey now. Questions this week were provided by Clint at Geeky Dad as follows:
- With the company that went with Aragorn through the Paths of Death. Would you have volunteered knowing it may be curse and ghosts haunting the paths? I think if I had the opportunity I would have preferred to go with Aragorn. He always seems to feel so ‘right’ with his choices that he inspires confidence plus he seems to have been growing in confidence himself, at the beginning he almost shied away from his own legacy but as the books progresses he seems to be taking ownership. Also to be honest, it’s not really like there’s any really easy choices – death by orc (or other beast/person/thing) or death by ghost – think I’ll take death by ghost – it doesn’t feel as ‘real’ somehow. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t be frightened by ghosts but it seems less tangible somehow so I’ll take my chances. (Anyway, who am I trying to kid – obviously I would go with Aragorn – it’s Aragorn! Doh
- What were your thoughts of Merry and Pippin in the preparation to the Battle of Gondor. It seemed that each ruler just thought that each hobbit could not be a contribution to the battle. I felt sorry for both Merry and Pippin to be honest. They both seemed to suffer the loss of each other when they were split up – and frankly the split almost seemed on a bit of a whim now when you reread the book . It felt very much like both had become an encumberance – they were treated a bit like a child who you humour with your patience when you have the time but then want to shoo them away to one side when things become more serious. But, at the end of the day, and though they might be small in stature, they are both adults – and they both wanted to contribute. I really liked that they eventually both proved their worth in more ways than one. Without Pippin looking in the palantir the battle would probably not have been as accelerated as it was – which was a good thing in a way because it meant the battle wasn’t as well planned as it would otherwise have been and without Merry’s intervention on the battlefield things could have gone horribly wrong. I like the way that Tolkien manages to give them, and the Lady Eowyn, a valuable contribution.
- Did you think that the preparations to the Battle sparked your interest and all or did you find that the flow was bogged down a bit? I suppose I did find the preparations a little more ‘sluggish’ than the rest of the book – which is to be expected in this type of novel, you have these chapters that totally raise you up and throw you into battle and then you have the lulls in between. But, I am a stickler for detail and if it wasn’t in the book I would probably find it very irritating. I did find it really interesting to read about the Wild Men who assisted the Rohirrim in finding a forgotten road to get more quickly to Gondor – Ghan-buri-Ghan was a funny character – didn’t like the orcs, and probably had no real love for men either but chose the lesser of the two evils in his eyes and struck a bargain so that his people could retreat to the quiet of the forest again.
- I thought that it was great that both Eowyn and Merry made it to the Battlefield. Yet against orders of the King and made a huge contributions. What did you think both of them doing this and would you have done this if it was you? I loved Eowyn and Merry’s contribution – and in fact it proved pivotal – things could have been so very different (and bad) without their rebelliousness! Not sure if I would have been so brave – in fact I know I wouldn’t. Although I suppose you’re carried away on the moment really and probably not thinking you’re brave at all.
- What do you think of Denethor’s rash decision to send Faramir to hold Western Osgiliath against the hosts of the Enemy that outnumbered their own greatly? Denethor is one of the few people that I have very little sympathy with in the book. I really don’t like him and it makes me feel bad, even though he is a work of fiction, to say that, but I think he is so mean! Imagine saying to one of your children that you would prefer their death to their brother’s – OMG! I know he was grieving for Boromir but frankly he always had a preference by the sound of it. I thought he was wrong to send out Faramir to hold Western Osgiliath because frankly it was an impossible task and a tremendous loss of life.
Other discussion posts:
Just finished reading book 2 of the Lord of the Rings, the Two Towers, as part of our group read along. This final instalment of Book 2 took us from The Window on the West through to The Choices of Master Samwise.
This week Andrea from The Little Red Reviewer has come up with discussion points which are below:
Faramir strikes me as a noble, intelligent fellow, especially concerning powers beyond his control. Had he gone to Elrond’s Council instead of Boromir, how might the story have changed?
I really liked Faramir (a lot more in the book than the film) and thought it was interesting to read this section because it is actually quite different from the film. I think the film version makes Faramir seem a bit more weak and indecisive than the book. In the book he comes across as intelligent, dedicated, honourable and thoughtful. He treats the hobbits respectfully and questions them in a way which gives him the answers he needs. He also tries to give them wise counsel before they continue on their quest and although he understands the nature of what is before him he resists the temptation and therefore proves himself more resistant to the ring than his brother Boromir (although whether or not he would be able to sustain his resistance if he stayed longer in company with the hobbits is unknown). But, personally I think it was better that Boromir was included in the Fellowship. I don’t think he was always the wisest but to be honest the Counsel were not short of wiseness – Aragorn and Gandalf certainly don’t have a lack of knowledge – and maybe if Faramir had been included they would have had so many wise voices that they would have just gone round and round in circles and never made any decisions. Boromir – through his dissenting voice – quite often pushed the Counsel to make decisions almost as an adverse reaction to what he was saying, and, on top of that, he was the spur that Frodo needed to break with the Fellowship and continue to Mordor with Sam.
What did you think of Shelob and her lair? Would you willingly go in there? Yes, I know Gollum says “this is the only way”, but Frodo could have demanded they explore and attempt to find another way.
I really don’t like spiders and the notion of a spider as large as Shelob gives me the shivers – in fact, I’d sooner climb up a mountain I think!. I think I would probably have preferred to look for an alternative if the truth be told but, in fairness to Frodo, he didn’t really have any other option did he? He was reliant on Gollum – he knew that he would eventually try something or betray them but whilst he seemed to be guiding them he had to trust him and the fact that Gollum was scheming meant he would never have revealed any other way to the hobbits (even if one existed). I suppose the other thing was that Frodo, having seen the army issuing forth from Mordor, now realised the urgency of his quest and so his choices were limited and the need for haste was paramount.
When Sam saves Frodo from Shelob, he finds himself in the vision he saw in Galadriel’s mirror. Knowing the future isn’t always as helpful as one would think, is it?
Definitely not. One part of me thinks it would be so irresistable to be told the future and another thinks not (maybe the winning lotto numbers!). As it happens, having seen this particular vision of the future didn’t turn out helpful to Sam at all – although, interestingly, when Sam sees the vision he assumes Frodo his asleep, in reality however he thinks Frodo has died and he therefore makes the decision to continue alone – if he had stuck with his original interpretation of the vision things may have turned out differently!
Having always been a sidekick/helper of sorts, Sam reluctantly realizes he may have to become the Ringbearer. What do you think Sam will do with the Ring of Power? If you were the sidekick of the hero, and suddenly had the opportunity to become the hero, to finish the quest, what would you do with the Ring of Power?
I think I would have reached the same conclusion as Sam, which is that the quest is too important and that it must continue to the end, even if the ringbearer has to change. I like the idea of Sam being the sidekick – just picturing him as Robin to Frodo’s Batman!!
The conversation between the two Orcs at the end was highly amusing for me. Yes, it serves to educate Sam on Frodo’s condition, and Tolkien could have just left it at that, but he didn’t. The Orc’s commiserating could have been any soldiers in any war. To me, it felt like Tolkien was humanizing the enemy, instead of the traditional dehumanizing of the enemy that you usually see in war stories. What do you think?
That’s a really good point – when I was reading the conversation between Gorbag and Shagrat the part that struck me particularly was their discussion about slipping off somewhere with a few trusty lads, somewhere with good loot and nice and handy with no big bosses – like the old times. So, you can gather from that conversation that they don’t like the war any more than anybody else – I like that Tolkien wrote it like this – I don’t think it made me like the Orcs any more but it does illustrate that in spite of the differences the enemy also wants to get things over with and have some semblance of normality.
The book ends on a cliffhanger. Are you excited to finish up the trilogy and see how it all turns out?
I’m really enjoying the read along – and particularly seeing the differences between the book and the film. It’s so long ago that I read the story that to be honest I thought the film was exactly the same and yet there are differences and I find it really interesting as these crop up – thinking particularly about the change in story regarding Faramir and how he lets the hobbits continue on their quest and also Sam and Frodo on the stairs and how they actually go in to Shelob’s lair together. I’m really looking forward to the final book!
Thanks Andrea, really good topics for discussion.
This week seems to have completely run away from me. I’ve had a few days off from work and so was expecting to get lots of reading done and for this part of the read along to be a breeze but the best laid plans, etc, etc. So, I’ve only just caught up! I’ve not checked out everyone’s comments yet but will do so shortly – didn’t want to be influenced before I’d sorted my answers. Thanks to Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings for providing the questions this week.
1. The Glittering Caves of Aglarond; Fangorn Forest: Which of the two would you be most excited to visit once the war was over?
I actually like the sound of the caves but I think I would not like to be under the earth for any great length of time and so I would definitely prefer Fangorn Forest. I like the idea of exploring Fangorn, even though it’s very strange, creepy and old it still sounds fascinating. I love the descriptions of the forest not to mention the moving trees – you would go to sleep under a tree and wake up in the morning and it would be gone – you’d just be totally lost. (Well, maybe being lost isn’t such a brilliant idea – better remember to take lots of provisions!)
2. How did you like the reunion of at least part of the fellowship at Isengard? Did any part of it stand out to you?
I personally enjoyed the ‘part’ reunion at Isengard although I thought it was more low key than I anticipated. That being said I thought all the bits with Merry and Pippin smoking their pipes and foraging for food added a really good injection of humour. Yet again, I really like the way that Tolkien manages to make you smile. I think his ability to add humour is one of the big pluses of this book for me and stops it becoming too dark.
3. What are your thoughts about Galdalf’s confrontation with Saruman?
Again, I found this particular scene strangely low key. I think there was a decent build up of tension with everyone being warned beforehand about how to act in the face of Saruman but somehow I think I would have liked more flash and fireworks between the two wizards, although I suppose on reflection, they had already had a face off earlier on in the novel. For me, I think I would have liked to have had the satisfaction of Gandalf kicking some wizard butt (although I knew that didn’t happen so what am I going on about here??) Gandalf is clearly a lot more grown up than me!! And, he just took it all in his stride.
4. We learn a great deal about the Palantir in this section. How do you feel about Saruman given Gandalf’s speech about the use of the Palantir? Would you, like Pippen, be tempted to look in to see what you could see?
I think Saruman showed a surprising lack of common sense throughout the novel not to mention a huge amount of arrogance. The very notion that he was going to side with Sauron is just naïve to the maximum given all his years’ of experience and what he knows of the enemy and also there is this element to his behaviour where he actually believes he can get the better of Sauron which again just seems unbelievable. It makes you see though that not only Boromir succumbed to the power of the ring after all. I think I would be tempted to look into the Palantir but I don’t think I would have had the nerve to go and take it from under Gandalf’s nose! But, in the end, Pippin’s mistake probably turned out more helpful than harmful and also saved Gandalf from a potentially dangerous confrontation.
5. What are your thoughts about Smeagol/Gollum in this first part of his journey leading Frodo and Sam? For those of you who’ve seen the film, are you hearing Andy Serkis in your head when you read Gollum’s lines?
Strange as it may seem I can’t help but like Gollum. He certainly has a one track mind and pursues his own goal relentlessly – it’s a pity he’s such a strange and lonesome little critter – he could really be quite helpful to have on your team, he virtually doesn’t need to eat or sleep, he’s dedicated and he’s an adept tracker! I also can’t help just reading all Gollum’s lines in the voice of Andy Serkis. I think he just made the role his own and it’s now impossible for me to imagine this character in any other way. Again, I like the way that Gollum manages to add quite a bit of light heartedness with his little songs, his sulking and his comical dialogue – ‘give me fish now, and keep nasty chips!’
6. Sam and Frodo are not traveling in the most picturesque part of Middle-earth. Which would you find worse, the seemingly impossible to leave mountains or the Dead Marshes?
No thought necessary for this one – I would find the mountains the worse. I don’t have any head for heights and the notion of having to peer over the edge of a cliff or scale down it brings out the goosebumps for me! Give me the marshes any day! Plus, imagine having to sleep on the side of a mountain – I’d probably roll over the edge during a dream or something. Terra firm is definitely my choice, boggy and full of dead people and strange lights or not!
7. Tolkien introduces us to a lot of places in this section of The Two Towers, many just getting a mention in passing. What do you think of Tolkien’s place names (Minas Morgul, Isengard, the Emyn Muil, and on and on)? Do any stand out to you? Are there any that you don’t care for?
I think Tolkien did a great job of naming such a lot of places – I genuinely don’t know how he did it because I think it’s not as easy as it sounds coming up with random names. Also, I feel that his name places quite often give a strange sense of what the place is going to be like – although I would say that because I’m already familiar. But, just by way of example, the Shire, you imagine this to be farmlands, rich and green with cottages, Rivendell – lots of water and falls, Fangorn – just sounds creepy as though the forest has teeth (I know I’m being overly simple here!!). But, I think Tolkien does a great job of not just conjuring the places but also naming them – he makes it look easy.
Thanks Carl for the questions this week.
Other blog conversations can be found at: