Monday, April 9, 2018

Another LOTR Read-Along: The Houses of Healing (ROTK 5, 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 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 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. Tolkien writes so exquisitely, doesn't he?

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. Snarky, yet sweet. Love it.

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).

Discussion Questions:

When Eomer learns that Eowyn still lives, "hope unlooked-for came so suddenly to Eomer's heart, and with it the bite of care and fear renewed" (p. 844). How are some ways hope, care/worry, and fear can be connected?

One of Aragorn's titles is Envinyatar, the Renewer (p. 845). What are some ways he's earned that title?

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