Éowyn

FotR Book 2 Chapter 7 Reactions

So it's been 38 years since Aragorn's last visit to Lothlorien? I initially misheard that and reversed the number and my eyes bugged out a little. Even though I think 83 years would still be possible within his total age.

I absolutely love Galadriel's interaction with Gimli. He comes before her all surly and with his back up because of all the species profiling he's had to endure, no matter how Aragorn's decree that the whole party go blindfold evened the playing field. And then she speaks to him fairly and uses Dwarven words for Dwarven places, and then he melts immediately. Gimli is an absolute sweetheart.

Boromir's reaction is kinda tragic. He must not have liked what he saw or felt when she was looking into his soul, if he was so quick to suspect her of nefarious purposes. (That might be too obvious to really be worth mentioning, but of all the Fellowship, he stood out to me more than anyone but Gimli.)

Pippin teasing Sam for blushing makes me wonder what Pippin saw himself, because I do believe Sam that he only blushed because he felt naked the way she was staring into him like that.

It looks like every part of the journey is longer in the book. In the movie it never seems like they're in any one location for long, but they've spent days in Lothlorien? Quite a nice reprieve after Moria. The song Frodo composes in tribute to Gandalf is easily my favorite of the songs so far. Apparently when they were doing the audiobook, they tried to make the songs sound like actual medieval songs. Maybe that's not my genre most of the time, but I love the tune they picked for this one.

Galadriel is an excellent mysterious figure. I think the movie does a pretty good job of capturing how difficult she is to pin down. Benevolent and wise, but definitely dangerous and alien. Now if only Cate Blanchett had been able to speak at a non-glacial pace while playing her. (That's gonna be my sticking point on the elf portrayals forever.) She shows up just when Frodo and Sam are talking of her, kinda like Goldberry, which is cool. She has a bit of philosopher to her that is more in the book than the movie. Not sure "philosopher" is exactly the word I'm after, but she's more measured and talks through things. (I get that there has to be a certain economy of phrasing in film dialogue, so I wouldn't necessarily call that a flaw of the movie, but it does prevent this layer of her character from coming through quite so clearly.) I especially like the way she treats Frodo and Sam basically as equals, with the only disparity being that Frodo is the Ring-Bearer. They both get to look in the pool, and she doesn't ignore Sam while conversing with Frodo, even when the topic turns to the rings! She's very fair to everyone who comes before her, it seems. And we're getting more lore about being a Ring-Bearer too. I totally forgot that Nenya wouldn't be visible to anyone but Frodo. That's fascinating, and it definitely raises the stakes.
Aragorn

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Aragorn kicks us off with the most depressing pep talk of all time, which is also incidentally one of my favorite lines. Hear me out: In most stories, the inspiration you want to receive once things appear to have reached rock bottom is that there's still hope. Because otherwise what's the point, right?

But after Gandalf is gone and Aragorn is the de facto new team leader, the first thing he does is ask "What hope have we without you?" And then he turns to the others and tells them that the new plan is the old plan...minus hope. There's none to be had. They just have to make do without it.

Maybe it's just me but I find that really bold in narrative terms and I love it. This quest is so important that knowing it's doomed isn't a valid excuse for abandoning it.

This chapter also has a couple of my favorite bits of humor. First is Sam being embarrassed by his loud breathing, second is Gimli and Legolas getting into it over the blindfolding rules. (Not surprising that the movie combined these into one joke but I think it weakened both of them; "Elves vs. Dwarves" gets tiresome when it's reduced to petty put-downs.)

Laffs aside, this was another incident where I felt more sympathetic towards Gimli's perspective than I thought I would. Yeah, it would have been easier for everyone if he had just complied right away so the others could walk with their eyes open, but that rule is crazy insulting and an honest man shouldn't meekly allow himself to be treated as a criminal.

So, I've got some issues with the Lothlorien elves, but gosh their land sure is pretty. It seems like Frodo and Sam are the only hobbits who are ever shown overwhelmed by the amazing places they see on their journey, or maybe we only get to see it from their POVs and hear them talk about it. I'm not sure what the significance of that is, if any, but no one can deny they deserve to get something out of all this aside from, you know, doing the right thing.

Also maybe it's a way of showing how their awareness of the world is expanding? They already knew that they loved the Shire and wanted to save it, and now they know that there's more than just the Shire that's worth saving? I may be overthinking this, don't know.

Hobbits don't like heights or even sleeping upstairs -- I love the Lorien treehouses, but I really felt for our little halflings, with the way that night was described.

Finally, this chapter gives us Collapse ) When we get there I'll probably have other things to think about so I want to stop and appreciate it now. Such a balm on the soul.
Éowyn

FotR Book 2 Chapter 5 Reactions

Okay, I've listened to it three times now, so I should have some thoughts about it.

The Fellowship has learned what happened to Balin's expedition to reclaim Moria, and then they nearly meet the same fate. That record of the dwarves is incredibly ominous, and I particularly like that Gandalf doesn't get what "drums in the deep" means. Yeah, you're gonna know pretty soon. That was all very effective. I'm impressed with the hobbits in these early conflicts. They aren't just cowering behind the warriors; Frodo led the attack himself! It's also becoming a pattern that the enemies they face are unnervingly good at honing in on Frodo. I'm pretty sure this can't be a conscious, informed decision on the part of orcs and wolves and lake monsters to do that. It's the Ring subtly putting a target on Frodo's back, like it did to Isildur. It won't be the death of Frodo as long as he doesn't rely on the Ring for his own survival.

Frodo still hasn't revealed that he's wearing his Mithril shirt, which is cool. I like that it's still his secret with Bilbo. I also like the logistics of the skirmishes with the orcs. I can't remember for sure, but I felt like the movie made it seem like the orcs were sort of all a single mob, rather than a rough assemblage of a bunch of little groups with their own leaders. The Fellowship managing to escape Moria makes more sense if they're being attacked by individual small groups who aren't coordinated with each other and who are way too scared of the Balrog to press their advantage in numbers.

I should probably stop expecting the location descriptions to not match what we see in the movies. I keep thinking things like "oh, there's no way Moria is as massive and cavernous and has such ludicrous stairs as in the movie," and I'm not giving Tolkien's imagination nearly enough credit when I do that. Yes, all the stuff with leaping over broken gaps in the stairs and basing an entire tense sequence around that is movie-only, and the stairs themselves aren't specifically described that way, but Peter Jackson wasn't going nearly as crazy with it as I sort of thought. The Bridge of Khazad Dum is exactly accurate in the movie. And so is the Balrog. I think the movie took some liberties with its exact appearance, but even the wings and fire whip are book canon, which is pretty cool. It's neat and makes total sense that it's Legolas who recognizes the Balrog for what it is; he's been around a while. I like the decision in the movie to condense Gandalf's many repetitions of "you cannot pass" into saying it one time and then the epic "YOU. SHALL NOT. PASS!" Gandalf is freaking awesome, and now everyone is devastated. His fall does hit harder in the book, because we and the other characters have spent much longer with him.
Raigho

FotR Book 2 Chapter 4 Reactions

The journey gets so desperate so fast. The last chapter ended with "Caradhras had defeated them," and this one begins with the Now what question which doesn't seem to have much of an answer beyond Give Up or Certain Death. The sense of dread about tackling the Moria route has been built up pretty impressively, especially now that that they all nearly died going the "easy way".

I like it that Gimli is eager to go, not because he's expecting a royal welcome but because he feels a need to find out what happened to his kindred. Actually, I just like it that everyone is expecting the worst, because they're not idiots. Gimli's poem has stayed with me in the form of the one line that Sam repeats, and when I got to that part in the story it was bedtime, so I read it out loud as my bedtime poem, which was nice.

I'm sure that in other contexts we all love wolves for the beautiful creatures they are, but boy are they effectively scary here. Hound of Sauron, indeed.

So let's talk about ponies. This time it's not just me, there's actually a lot to be said about ponies in this chapter. I mean, one pony, obviously. Sam's attachment to Bill is touching, but it's more touching that it's played seriously and the other characters feel for him and regret endangering a domestic animal. I don't remember if we learn Bill's ultimate fate, but based on the last few lost ponies in this book, it seems like we can hope for the best.

The riddle of the password is nerve-wracking in context but still pretty funny. Gandalf being a grouch about it is awesome. He's a mellon of mine.

Chapter is aptly titled -- cripes, all that darkness. Can you imagine traveling through that for days on end? So miserable.

Frodo seems rather embarrassed about the value of the mithril corslet he's been wearing, and it struck me as kind of a hidden commentary on material wealth, because honestly, so what? The only reason it really matters now is that it affords him some much-needed protection, and anyway it's not like the whole of the Shire and everything in it can be bought at any price.

I haven't read The Hobbit in yeeeears and I prefer to pretend the movies don't exist, but I sort of remember Balin being my favorite Dwarf. Even without getting any of that history, though, finding his tomb is a tragic moment and extremely foreboding. Hope we're all braced for some serious fight scenes next chapter!

For the convenience of our audiobook reader, here's the illustration (by Tolkien's own hand, I believe) of the Doors of Moria:



And here's the runes on Balin's tomb that appear at that part in the story, plus the translation because why not:

Snow leopards

FotR Book 2 Chapter 3 Reactions

One thing I like about doing this reread is how often I start thinking about the book and wanting to read more, and since I'm not allowing myself to read beyond the latest post, it motivates me to make the next post.

I said a while back that I had a theory on why Merry and Pippin were allowed to join the Fellowship, and we're now here. Gandalf says to "trust in their friendship", which is touching, and he has a good point about how a couple more warriors won't make a difference, but here's the thing - a couple more warriors, at least, don't need to be protected. Four hobbits instead of two means there are twice as many innocents to watch out for when the going gets tough.

So here's where I'm finding the cold hard logic in this decision: Bilbo and Frodo have shown greater resistance to the Ring's influence than anyone in history. Gandalf, Aragorn, and to some extent Elrond have been observing Frodo and his companions, and probably concluded that they have the same pure hearts and indifference to gaining power that must have saved Bilbo from being corrupted. Merry and Pippin, maybe even Sam, aren't there for Frodo's emotional support. They're backup Ringbearers.

As for the beginning of the journey itself, I found it a little frustrating because it's so bleak, and because there's a lot of landscape and physical description when I wanted to start digging into the new characters. But patience does pay off here.

So does your D&D Player's Handbook, since the skills of the races are more evenly distributed than I had thought. I kind of had this impression that Elves were best at everything except mining, and Dwarves are best at mining, and Men are basically just taking over because they breed quickly, and Wizards are better than Elves but they don't really count. But in this chapter, "even Gimli" can't light a fire, and it's Boromir and Aragorn who do the real work snow-shoveling and carrying hobbits.

And Gandalf's limits get a mention, too: he can't burn snow and the fire he makes only comes in certain colors.

All in all, Boromir really impressed me in this chapter. He has good ideas, he contributes everything he can, and he's the first to think about the hobbits' welfare. I can't remember much of his development before his death, but he's got surprisingly little page time for such an important character, (it's so weird that the Fellowship doesn't come together until more than halfway through the book!), so I'm really interested in it.

And Gimli may have had my favorite lines, which was another surprise. When they leave Rivendell, Elrond tells them that aside from Frodo, they're not under any bond, and Gimli actually protests. He wants to take a vow, because "sworn word may strengthen quaking heart". Although Elrond comes back with a good point, I agree with Gimli 100% - sometimes, a sense of honor and duty can be the only thing that keeps a good person on course.

Legolas's role in this chapter is basically to be that smug jock who's not even winded and is quietly enjoying it, but we'll forgive him for now.
Éowyn

FotR Book 2 Chapter 2 Reactions

Okay, I'm gonna tackle this monster. Holy crap what a long chapter. It's nearly two full hours in the audiobook. So much backstory, so many introductions, so many items of business. We learn a lot of critical information and so do many of the characters. It's kind of mindblowing how slowly word travels, but that's as much a problem for the bad guys as the good guys, at least.

So Boromir is here because Faramir had a prophetic dream about Aragorn and the Ring, and Frodo has had prophetic dreams too. That's really interesting. Are people just going to be low-level prescient here and there? Is it because of innate magical ability, exposure to ambient magic because they're both friends with wizards, or is it divine intervention?

Legolas is here because Gollum escaped the elves of Mirkwood. This kind of reinforces how miffed I am at the overall tone of the elves in the movies. In the Hobbit movies especially, they're pretty dang hostile and unyielding. It's hard to imagine them being so kind to a wretched creature that has either attempted to eat babies in the town across the lake or succeeded when they were so harsh to a bunch of hapless dwarves. I do like that Gloin gets all grumpy about the comparative treatment in the chapter. That was pretty funny.

Bilbo being the one who scolds Boromir into being more respectful is pretty fun, especially because he does it in a bit of a rambling old codger fashion. And Bilbo offering to go on another adventure to get rid of the Ring was freaking adorable. I love Bilbo! He's wonderful.

The idea that it would never even occur to Sauron that someone might keep the Ring to destroy it rather than use it is pretty much all you need to know about Sauron. Power-hungry, arrogant, myopic (ha), and incapable of empathy or trust. I don't know why I love that so much but I do.

Frodo volunteering to take the ring will always be such an iconic moment.
Éowyn

FotR Book 2 Chapter 1 Reactions

Yeah we should have planned ahead for the way these books are divided into smaller books.

Okay Rivendell is quite a relief after all that mounting danger. I think I somewhat succeeded in getting into a mindset of someone who doesn't know how much higher the stakes are going to get, so that I could appreciate these early and comparatively minor perils. I hope it wasn't because I was zoning out and missed it, but did we really get much of a description of what Rivendell looks like? That would be interesting to compare to the movies. How much did Alan Lee have to work with for his gorgeous paintings that led to him doing concept art for the films? How much was just his own imagination or influence from John Howe and Peter Jackson?

The moments that got directly translated from book to film with zero changes always jump out at me, and one of those is Bilbo's horrifying transformation when Frodo won't let him hold the Ring. I'm pretty impressed with 11-year-old me for not having nightmares over that scene after seeing it in theaters. One thing I wondered while listening to the book version though was how much of Bilbo's transformation was in Frodo's head because he represented a threat to Frodo's ownership of the Ring and how much was objectively happening to Bilbo. Based on Bilbo shying away and then apologizing, it must've been at least mostly real, but it's still such a devastating wedge to be forced between this uncle and nephew who love each other so much and haven't seen each other in so long.

Bilbo is kind of the star of the whole chapter, and I am here for it. I didn't remember that he got to travel back to Dale. That's so cool. He got to see it flourishing in the aftermath of his first adventure, before it was touched by the War of the Ring. And he's spent enough time around Aragorn that he can just grab him for help tweaking some song lyrics! Aragorn's reaction makes him even more awesome. He might be the rightful king and the best ranger ever, but he is still happy to get pulled into something trivial for a friend. But probably the best moment was when Bilbo slyly mentioned to him that Arwen was at the feast. All these little hints about them are so great, and I love the idea of Bilbo lurking around Rivendell trying to engineer Aragorn/Arwen encounters. He ships it and he is not sorry.

It felt like the class divide between Frodo and Sam came back a lot in this chapter after not coming up a lot during their travels. It seems so strange to me that a gardener would feel the need to act like a servant in other ways, and I want to like Sam's attentiveness because it's just part of his loyal and steadfast character, but it's a little weird to a modern reader. Maybe if Frodo had a more "oh you don't have to do that" and Sam was all "I insist!" it wouldn't stand out as much. As it is, it just feels like Sam doing all that is a given because of their positions, not his personality.