Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: Journey to the Cross-roads (TTT 4, 7)

I like how Faramir's farewell to Frodo and Sam includes "the manner of his people, stooping and placing his hands upon their shoulders, and kissing their foreheads" (p. 680). That is exactly how Aragorn said farewell to Boromir when he died, and I love that detail, that Aragorn knew enough of Gondorian ways that he knew how to properly say farewell to a man of Gondor, in the Gondorian custom.

Although we spend most of this chapter slogging on through bleak, unfriendly environs, at the very end of the chapter, we come to an unexpected moment of beauty and hope. The setting sun finds a break in the clouds and sends them a brief beam of actual light. And it lights on a statue, something like the giant statues of the Argonath that the Fellowship passed between in their canoes so long ago. Although the rude inhabitants of Mordor have knocked down its head and painted graffiti all over the rest of it, nature finds a way to heal their hurts just a little. A vine with white flowers gives the fallen king's head a new crown.

And that, to me, is such a gorgeous symbol of Aragorn's whole story. Sauron and his minions may have knocked the rightful kings of Middle Earth off their throne when Isildur was murdered centuries ago. But Isildur's line endured, even though separated from the throne. Son after son lived on in secret, waiting, hoping for the right time to reclaim the throne. And the time has come for one of them, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, to come forth. The sword that was broken is reforged. Aragorn has begun telling people who he is, and folk are showing him allegiance. He's not king yet, just like that statue's head is not yet back on its shoulders. But he's recognizable as royal, like the stone head with a circlet of flowers. "'Look, Sam!' he cried, startled into speech. 'Look! The King has got a crown again!'" (p. 687). It's a great bit of foreshadowing, too.

Favorite Lines:

"A waiting silence broods over the Nameless Land" (p. 679).

"Maybe," said Sam; "but where there's life there's hope, as my Gaffer used to say; and need of vittles, as he mostways used to add" (p. 685).

Discussion Questions:

Sam dreams he's back at Bag End, heavily burdened and tired. Frodo sleeps "unquietly" and mutters Gandalf's name. What do you think their contrasting dreams say about their own mindsets at this point?

Faramir calls the region of Mordor they're about to enter "the Nameless Land" (p. 679). Like "No Man's Land" in World War One, like "He Who Must Not Be Named" in Harry Potter, sometimes the fact that a place has no name or no owner, or their name is not to be spoken, tells us a lot about them. What can we tell about this place from the fact that it has no name?

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