Monday, January 8, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: A Journey in the Dark (FOTR 2, 4)

A quick house-keeping note:  Starting today, I will be bumping our pace up to at least 3 chapters a week.  I got very busy AND very lazy over the holidays, but I'm back into the swing of real life now, so we will not be meandering through these books anymore, but marching steadily along.  (I hope.)

Every time I read this chapter, I decide I should thereafter sign everything as "one stray wanderer from the South" (p. 288). Totally my favorite description of Boromir. Just so you know.

This chapter has lots of exciting parts, with the wolves, and then the watcher in the water, and then all the wandering around in Moria. And once again, I don't have lots to say. Hmm. And yet, this and the previous chapter are one of my favorite sections of the book.

Gandalf says that he "once knew every spell in all the tongues of Elves or Men or Orcs" (p. 299) that were used to open enchanted doors. So... there must have been a lot of enchanted doors around at one time, and they've just fallen into disuse?  Why?  I mean, if I had an enchanted door that you could only open with the right password, I think I'd keep using it. Sounds very handy in case of a siege, for instance. Or for stockpiling Christmas presents where the kids couldn't get at them.

Once Gandalf figures out how to open the Doors of Durin, he says, "Of course, of course! Absurdly simple" (p. 300). This makes me laugh, not for a LOTR-related reason, but because there's a moment in the Sherlock Holmes story "The Dancing Men" where Holmes doesn't want to explain to Watson how he deduced something because he says that once he explains, Watson will say, "How absurdly simple!" Watson insists that he won't, Holmes explains, and then Watson cries, "How absurdly simple!" It's a funny moment in the story, and particularly funny in the Jeremy Brett TV show version. So just thought I'd share :-)

Also, the welcome mat by our front door says "Speak friend and enter."  Because we're cool like that.  

Favorite Lines:

"However it may prove, one must tread the path that need chooses!" (p. 289)

"The wolf that one hears is worse than the orc that one fears" (p. 290).

"That was an eye-opener, and no mistake!" (p. 291)

In the dark at the rear, grim and silent, walked Aragorn (p. 302).

Discussion Questions:

Aragorn is almost always at the rear of their procession. Why? What does that tell us about him?

How does Tolkien use Sam's devotion to Bill the pony to deepen him as a character and help us get to know him? And to know what to expect of him later in the story?


  1. Any man who has such sweet sentiments for animals is usually a deeply sensitive and (in this case) loyal individual. Sam is the most loyal character -- even in his dread and reluctance. He is quite dependable.

    1. Ruth, I agree. Sam is like the epitome of loyalty and dependableness.

  2. To me, having Aragorn at the rear symbolizes his style of leadership. He doesn't need to be recognized (at the front of the company), but he also fulfills a role that he's quite well suited for. Relatively few in the company would be a good fit for the rear guard (the other one that comes to mind is Boromir). It seems to me that he quietly volunteers for this position, trusting Gandalf to lead the way.

    I also find it interesting in the book that it's Aragorn who doesn't want to go into the mines. In the movies, it's almost portrayed as it being Gandalf's choice to avoid Moria out of a premonition. I wonder what experiences Aragorn had there that made him wary of Moria.

    Sam's devotion to Bill makes me love him all the more as a character. It sets him up as the selfless, caring hero we see later in the story.

    1. RM, so well said. I concur with your ideas about Aragorn here.

      And yes, in the movies, Gandalf wants to avoid Moria because he knows what the dwarves awakened there. (Through teaching LOTR to my niece, I recently learned that Balrogs and wizards were both the same kind of heavenly being originally, just the Balrogs chose to follow Melkor in his rebellion and became corrupted.) I do wonder what Aragorn knows about Moria that makes him sooooooooooo unwilling to go there.

      Re: Sam, I agree!

  3. YOU HAVE A WELCOME FRIEND AND ENTER MAT??? THAT IS SO COOL!!! Ooh, yes; a magical-password protected door would be most wonderful. :-D I forgot about that part in The Dancing Men. XD That is awesome.
    I think Aragorn is always at the back of the line because he's protecting the rear, which is one of the most dangerous places to be in a line, and because he's humble, so he doesn't always have to be the leader. :-) I think by seeing how Sam takes care of Bill we know that he's a caring and selfless person, and we know that Frodo will be in good hands. After all, Frodo wouldn't have gotten far without Sam. <3

    1. MEM, yes, we do. I need to get a new one, cuz the writing is getting worn off ours, actually. A friend visited my house for the first time recently and, when I opened the door, said, "I wasn't sure if this was the right house, but then I saw your welcome mat and knew it was." :-)

      I like your ideas about why Aragorn is always in the rear, grim and silent :-)

      Dear, dear Sam <3


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