Thursday, May 22, 2014

LOTR Read-Along: The Houses of Healing (ROTK Ch. 8)

This is my favorite chapter in The Return of the King.  It vies for my favorite in the whole trilogy.  I love it so much, I usually read it twice before I move on to the rest of the book!  Completely wonderful.

It starts out with Pippin and Merry reunited at last, which brings me great joy.  Then Gandalf comes to find Merry and takes him up to the Houses of Healing himself.  Love it!  I get so happy when mighty and important people trouble themselves about seemingly small and insignificant people.  One of my favorite themes.

Random aside:  I also love that Aragorn and Eomer and Imrahil are riding around together and keep having little discussions with each other.  Makes me smile.

But anyway, as soon as Ioreth shows up, I start to chuckle.  She talks and talks and talks and talks, and Aragorn and Gandalf both get rather sarcastic with her because they need her to just get to the point already, and I find it hilarious.  That whole section is littered with me underlining things and writing "hee" or making smiley faces in the margins.  Aragorn tells her to "run as quick as your tongue," and Gandalf threatens that "Shadowfax shall show her the meaning of haste" (p. 846).  And yet, they're not exactly being mean -- they're truly in a big hurry to save Faramir, Eowyn, and Merry.

And then the herb-master arrives, and more Hamlette chuckles ensue.  He's even worse!  He repeats this whole poem about athelas and the black breath and the king and doesn't get it at all, when it's all so perfectly obvious, man!  He even says, "It is but a doggrel, I fear, garbled in the memory of old wives" (p. 847), which hearkens back to when we were in Lothlorien and Celeborn told Boromir that "oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know" (p. 365).  Listen to those old women, even if they prattle on!  They know more than you think they do.

And in the midst of this sarcasmfest, Faramir awakes and is so completely wonderful, isn't he?  He says, "who would lie idle when the king has returned?" (p. 848).  Can we just hug him already?  

But hug quickly, because up next is such an amazing passage, where Aragorn and Eomer discuss Eowyn.  Aragorn describes her with some of the most perfect imagery, comparing her to a lily made of steel by the elves, or else frozen by sorrow.  And Eomer tries really hard not to accuse Aragorn of breaking her heart, which shows some impressive diplomacy on his part.  Then Gandalf steps in to explain that Eowyn, "born in the body of a maid, had a spirit and courage at least the match of yours" (p. 848), which Eomer seems to have been oblivious to all this time.  Eomer, dear, I do love you a lot, but... you can be such a guy sometimes.  

But then Aragorn gets even more wonderful when he agrees with Eomer and says, "Few other griefs amid the ill chances of this world have more bitterness and shame for a man's heart than to behold the love of a lady so fair and brave that cannot be returned" (p. 849).  I'm in raptures!  I could write a whole book based on that line alone!  And then he goes on to explain to Eomer that she loves him more than Aragorn because "in me she loves only a shadow and a thought" (p. 849).  Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

So then we get to Merry, and I love this chapter even more yet.  Because he wakes up, asks for food like a good Hobbit, and then asks if Strider happens to know what became of his pack during the battle because he'd like to smoke his pipe.  And my absolute favorite passage is here -- it has a huge smiley face, 3 hearts, and the words "hee hee!" written by it:
"Master Meriadoc," said Aragorn, "if you think that I have passed through the mountains and the realm of Gondor with fire and sword to bring herbs to a careless soldier who throws away his gear, you are mistaken.  If your pack has not been found, then you must send for the herb-master of this House.  And he will tell you that he did not know that the herb you desire had any virtues, but that it is called westmansweed by the vulgar, and galenas by the noble, and other names in other tongues more learned, and after adding a few half-forgotten rhymes that he does not understand, he will regretfully inform you that there is none in the House, and he will leave you to reflect on the history of tongues" (p. 851).
Oh my goodness, is that delicious or what?  If Aragorn was like this through the whole book, he would be my favorite character, hands down.  (But don't worry, Boromir, he's not, so I still love you the mostest.)

Favorite Lines:

The light of the torches shimmered in his white hair like sun in the spray of a fountain (p. 843).

"One thing also is short, time for speech" (p. 845).

Then taking two leaves, he laid them on his hands and breathed on them, and then he crushed them, and straightway a living freshness filled the room, as if the air itself awoke and tingled, sparkling with joy (p. 847).

"May the Shire live for ever unwithered!" (p. 852).

"It is best to love first what you are fitted to love" (p. 852).

Possible Discussion Questions:

When Aragorn declares he won't openly enter Minas Tirith yet (because they don't know Denethor is finally dead and good riddance), Aragorn furls his banner, and then he takes off the Star of the Northern Kingdom and gives it to Elrohir and Elladan.  Why?  Is that to signify he's not declaring his kingship over Minas Tirith yet?  Why does he give it to them?

Also, I'm confused about Numenor and Elves and stuff again.  How can that be, when I've read this five times before?  Sigh.  Anyway, when Aragorn sets about healing people, he says, "Would that Elrond were here, for he is the eldest of all our race, and has the greater power" (p. 845).  By "our race" he means the Dunedain, is that right?  Or Numenorians?  What's the difference?


    THE END. Actually I could go on about it for quite some time, but you already said it all...except for the part about Boromir. I love the guy, but...FARAMIR. :D

    1. Faramir is growing on me! Particularly during this time through the books, I've been getting fonder and fonder of him. Still don't love him like I love Boromir, though. Or Sam. Or Eomer, and Gandalf. He ties with Aragorn for my 4th-favorite now, which is quite a jump since he was never in my list of favorites before!

      (For an exact lineup of my 11 favorite LOTR characters, go here.)

  2. Yes, yes, yes!!!! Which is really about all I can say that you didn't already--unless to add even more !!!!!! and :-) :-) :-).

    But seriously, I find I'm always counting down to this chapter. :-) It's really beyond words, isn't it? The satisfaction...and the longings...and the perfect conversations...and the weightiness of it all...and the humor ...and the great, heart-piercing joy.

    1. It's really unsurpassable, as a whole chapter. There are individual moments I love more, but as a whole... zowie.

      I think it's also partly because here, for the first time, we as readers get the sense that this whole thing might succeed, that these Middle Earth friends of ours might get through this thing after all.

  3. Oh btw, did you run across my Mockingbird review yet?

    1. Not yet. A one-week visit to my parents stretched to two, and I am woefully behind on my blog-reading list. Plus, I participated in a blogathon over on my other blog, and I wanted to read all the entries into the blogathon, which ate up my blog-reading time for about a week. I'll pop right over and read it quick before I go to bed!

  4. Yes, this is a great chapter!
    As to your second question: Elrond is neither a Numenorian or a Dunedain right? But Aragorn is family from Elrond, so maybe he means 'our family of elves and half-elves at large'?

    1. Elrond is called "the Half-Elven," and Aragorn is somehow vaguely related too, I think, so I'm guessing you're right, and he means the "half-elven" race.

  5. It is so nice to read such an enthusiastic review of this chapter, and I like being forced to look at it another way! Because I would cheerfully skip this chapter if I could. Lots and lots of talking, and everyone is very nice and relieved and cheerful, except I do not have the patience of Aragorn and Gandalf, and I want to rush Ioreth and the herbmaster away to go get the blasted herb already, people are dying! This chapter makes me very antsy when they don't move fast enough for me. So I read this review twice through, slowly, savoring it to try to see it from another perspective! :D

    1. ARGH! Blogger keeps eating my comments! The comments I leave on my own blog! It eats them! This is the third one it's eaten in two days!!!!

      Anyway, awww, really? Well, I'm glad you got to see it from a different angle, then. Isn't it cool how we can both love the same book dearly, but it strikes so many different chords in us?


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