Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Oh Faramir... you're all the lore-master I'll ever need

Blogger tells me there are people clicking through onto my blog from Alice's Norwegian Wood readalong, which makes sense since I said I would, y'know, read along. But as you have probably all noticed by now, I totally punked out on that in the interest of finishing The Lord of the Rings before I leave the country (this Sunday, holy hell).

I finished The Two Towers! It actually went a bit quicker than I anticipated (always good). In this section Sam and Frodo (and Gollum) enter Mordor via Ithilien and Cirith Ungol, and we the readers really get to observe Sam and Frodo's characters and relationship up close for the first time. Tolkien being a child of his times, Sam and Frodo are very much the Servant and the Master, although Sam breaks out a little more as a truly good servant while Frodo is pretty offhanded in his role as master. This latter judgment struck me in the incident with the elven rope, which they have just used to rappel down a cliff:
To the complete surprise of both the hobbits [the rope] came loose [when Sam tugs on it]. Sam fell over, and the long grey coils slithered silently down on top of him. Frodo laughed. 'Who tied the rope?' he said 'A good thing it held as long as it did! To think that I trusted all my weight to your knot!'
     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 about 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. And I put as fast a hitch over the stump as any one could have done, in the Shire or out of it.'
     'Then the rope must have broken--frayed on the rock-edge, I expect,' said Frodo.
     'I bet it didn't!' said Sam in an even more injured voice. He stooped and examined the ends. 'Nor it hasn't neither. Not a strand!'
     'Then I'm afraid it must have been the knot,' said Frodo.
     Sam shook his head and did not answer. He was passing the rope through his fingers thoughtfully. 'Have it your own way, Mr. Frodo,' he said at last, 'but I think the rope came off itself--when I called.' He coiled it up and stowed it lovingly in his pack.
     'It certainly came,' said Frodo, 'and that's the chief thing. But now we've got to think of our next move...'
Dude, Frodo. Way to be a dismissive jerk. I guess I could say something here about Sam being a kind of middle class fantasy, the working class servant whose only concern is for the wellbeing and happiness of his master, but I'll leave that to the 70s college students from that video I posted last week.

Of course, this section is also where we get to meet Faramir, "the grave young man whose words seemed so wise and fair" to Frodo. As Boromir's brainy little brother, he manages to basically guess the entire story up to this point, which is handy.
This Mithrandir was, I now guess, more than a lore-master: a great mover of the deeds that are done in our time.... He got leave of Denethor, how I do not know, to look at the secrets of our treasury, and I learned a little of him, when he would teach (and that was seldom).
Clearly Boromir the Hot Airbag was the jock of this family, while Faramir, probably wearing thick nerd glasses, spent all his time in the library.

This joke has definitely never been made before, so I made a picture to illustrate it.
We in the house of Denethor know much ancient lore by long tradition, and there are moreover in our treasuries many things preserved: books and tablets writ on withered parchments, yea, and on stone, and on leaves of silver and of gold, in divers characters. Some none can now read; and for the rest, few ever unlock them. I can read a little, for I have had teaching.
Mmm, yeah, I bet you've had some teaching. Why don't we meet up in the library later, and you can read a little in my rarely unlocked treasury.  *ahem*

Finally, although I realize that this post is basically all quoting, all the time, I just have to share this paragraph in which Tolkien turns the awesome up to 11:
There agelong she had dwelt, an evil thing in spider-form, even such as once of old had lived in the Land of the Elves in the West that is now under the Sea, such as Beren fought in the Mountains of Terror in Doriath, and so came to Lúthien upon the green sward amid the hemlocks in the moonlight long ago. How Shelob came there, flying from ruin, no tale tells, for out of the Dark Years few tales have come. But still she was there, who was there before Sauron, and before the first stone of Barad-dûr; and she served none but herself, drinking the blood of Elves and Men, bloated and grown fat with endless brooding on her feasts, weaving webs of shadow; for all living things were her good, and her vomit darkness. Far and wide her lesser broods, bastards of the miserable mates, her own offspring, that she slew, spread from glen to glen, from the Ephel Dúath to the eastern hills, to Dol Guldur and the fastnesses of Mirkwood. But none could rival her, Shelob the Great, last child of Ungoliant to trouble the unhappy world.
Hot damn! I love this first of all because it just sounds awesome; can we have a recording of Ian McKellen reading this please? The rhythm of the names and sentences - perfection. I can't think of a better example of texture in writing, not only in terms of register but also (once again) time.

My next post: a wrap-up?!


  1. I can't believe you're leaving Sunday. CRAZINESS.

    Also, way to not read the depressing book ALL OTHER BLOGGERS ARE READING. And by 'all other' I mean 'all other awesome ones.'

    I do love your drawing, though. Obviously.

  2. Great cartoon, I think you hit the nail on the head. How much is LOTR the best book ever! For me anyway. It kind of annoyed me how they made Faramir out to be a bit too Boromir-ish in the movie. As if Faramir would have forced Frodo and Sam back to Osgiliath, hello!

  3. Yes, please! One of the things I loathed about the LotR films was the way they mucked about with Faramir's character. Change the plot points all you want, but don't mess around with the philosophies of the book, you mofos. But I digress.

    I'm sorry you're not participating in the Norwegian Wood readalong, but since LotR is my favorite book cycle, I can't really blame you. I wish you well in your trip--is it vacation? Are you moving abroad?


    I love the movies because (a) that's how I was introduced to the story in the first place and (b) although I'm a pretty visual person, I don't tend to have clear pictures of things in my mind when I read, so I appreciate having a set of elaborate, obsessively-planned visuals for the locations especially, if only as a baseline. But Peter Jackson clearly felt the need to up the drama at every possible moment, which is maybe fun in the theaters but annoying in the long term. So Tolkien gives Gandalf, Aragorn, Galadriel, and Faramir very similar opportunities to take the ring: Frodo offers it to them freely, they fully acknowledge that they could take it and use it, and then they freely and finally reject that temptation. At least in the case of Faramir, I guess Jackson thought it was more Dramatic to have him make a decision and change his mind. Boo.

    Crowe - I am headed to London until June for dissertation work... so it's sort of like moving abroad except not!