Saturday, November 9, 2013

LOTR Read-Along: A Knife in the Dark (FOTR Ch. 11)

I love that we get to see what's going on back at Crickhollow here.  Fatty Bolger has a narrow escape, but it shows that Frodo's subterfuge about moving to Buckland did trick the Enemy, at least somewhat.  I think this is why all nine Ringwraiths aren't after Frodo at the same time, right?

After their own narrow escape, Frodo and company head out into the wilds, and their journey turns uncomfortable, then unpleasant, and finally dangerous.  I find the part with the Neekerbreekers particularly memorable, for some reason.  Probably because they keep the hobbits from sleeping, which makes me feel terribly sorry for them.

I tend to think of Sauron as a Satan-figure, but here we read about "the Great Enemy, of whom Sauron of Mordor was but a servant" (p. 189).  I really need to read The Silmarillion, don't I?  

Favorite Lines:

"What do they live on when they can't get hobbit?" asked Sam, scratching his neck (p. 178).

In that lonely place Frodo for the first time fully realized his homelessness and danger (p. 183-4).

Possible Discussion Questions:

When Strider begins to tell the tale of Beren and Luthien, he says, "It is a fair tale, though it is sad, as are all the tales of Middle-earth, and yet it may lift up your hearts" (p. 187).  Do you find this story sad?  Do sad stories ever "lift up your heart?"


  1. I think in the context of the LOTR only, it's still 'oké' to think of Sauron as a Satan figure, but in the larger mythology of Middle Earth Sauron indeed seems to be some upper-demon under the Satan figure Melkor.

    1. Makes sense to me! Though I've also often thought of Sauron as more of an evil dictator, gathering other evil dictators around him. Serving ultimate evil but not ultimate evil himself.

  2. I would recommend reading the Silmarillion from the bottom of my heart. It clears up kazillions of those interesting things that are briefly mentioned in LOTR but which you'd really like to know all about! There's also a tale in the Silmarillion that Tolkien expanded so much it got a book of its own: The Children of Húrin, which was clearly inspired by a myth from the Finnish epic Kalevala ;) It's also a really, really great story.

    As for the sad stories that lift up your heart – I find Les Misérables to be one of the most uplifting stories ever, and boy is that sad too. I think the "upliftingness" (okay that's not a word) of a sad story depends on what "type" of sadness is involved. Many sad stories are not uplifting at all, quite the contrary. Now that I think of Beren and Lúthien, Les Mis and other "good sad" stories that come to mind, I think they all share to theme of sacrifice – something which humanity has always found incredibly inspiring, don't you think?

    1. "The Silmarillion" is now on my to-read list!

      I think a sad -- but not depressing -- story can be very uplifting. I know I find things like Hamlet and Les Miserables sad, but in a good way. I think stories that have avoidable sadness, or pointless sadness depress me, but not stories where the sadness is inevitable or has a reason.

  3. I meant to comment here much sooner, but things kept getting in the way. Anyhow, I feel like this is the chapter where things get seriously tense for the first time. Yes, I really like the way we went back to Crickhollow to start with, and I certainly think it was the whole moving-to-Buckland thing which kept all nine Ringwraiths from being on Frodo's tail.

    The first time I was reading this, I started to get wound tighter and tighter as the whole part about Weathertop unfolded. First they get there, then they see Black Riders from the summit, then they decide to STAY there overnight -- and by that point I knew the Black Riders would be coming and I was getting very tense about it all. When Aragorn started telling about Beren and Luthien, I was feeling like, "Alright, can we just stay here and talk about old tales and forget about Ringwraiths coming?" And then, of course, they come. Of course I wish Frodo had had the fortitude to not put on the Ring, but I admire him for trying to fight the Ringwraith when it came down to it.

    About the story of Beren and Luthien -- the lilt and beauty of this poem "lifts up my heart," irrespective of the sorrowful overtones. And as far as sad stories go, it totally depends on the story as to whether I love it or hate it. I usually have one reaction or the other. Stories where the suffering has a purpose and accomplishes something -- particularly stories of sacrifice -- resonate deeply with me, but stories where the sorrow doesn't seem to have any point simply frustrate me. So, for instance, I find A Tale of Two Cities beautiful and uplifting, because the tragedy that we center on -- Sydney Carton's sacrifice -- feels so meaningful and fulfilling, but I dislike the ending of Romeo and Juliet, for instance, because it feels so preventable that I'm sitting there wishing someone had averted it. So it totally depends on the story. I don't know enough about Beren and Luthien's story to know whether I would find its sorrow beautiful or irritating, but I find the bit we are told about it here rather lovely.

    1. Marcy, yes, this is the first really tense and oh-man-they're-in-real-danger. Which diffuses a little before building up to the attack.

      I'm right there with you on the difference between a sad story like A Tale of Two Cities and a sad one like Romeo and Juliet. This is part of why, although I find Hamlet tragic, I don't find it depressing -- the deaths serve a purpose and have meaning in Hamlet.


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