Thursday, February 16, 2017

Reader's Guide to "The Two Towers"


Reader's Guide to "The Two Towers"

The title "Two Towers" makes it sound like this part of the adventure is especially daunting, ominous. The adventurers have to contend with two circumferences of evil influence, both linked. But the reader soon discovers that the two towers are hardly in union: Saruman seeks claim of the Ring himself, and is not the least bit actually serving deferentially to Sauron; and Sauron knows this about him but finds him a useful enough agent nevertheless, at least for the time being. Saruman, though of course as old as the hills as Sauron is, is reasonably new to the “being Evil” game (though Treebeard suspects a longer tenureship, invisible to everyone for being contrived in hiding), while Sauron is "old hat." The "Two Towers" ends up being as much about this -- the rivalry between the newly rising and long-established order -- as it is about the two different threats imposed in the pathway of the Fellowship, a theme, a concern, which applies far beyond Sarumon's relationship vis-a-vis Sauron to include assembling allies of the good and members within the now disparate venturing parts of the former Fellowship. It -- that is, a concern that the old order not by breached; that people not start thinking things with perhaps destabilizing implications for the social order -- seems concerned in this sense to protect both evil and good in this book: it's an overriding concern, making any act of bravery, initiative, or spirited intuition, just as often something to be dealt with and handled -- i.e. subtly or starkly diminished -- immediately, than something worth praise and support. An outpouring of an eager willingness to praise or to lend strong support, in fact, is more often to come out of expressions of doubt and admittance of or clear evidence of failure, than from successfully accomplished feat, which is looked to warily if it can’t be immediately packaged as something as as demonstrative of one’s limitations as one’s potential.

The book begins with Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas full of doubt, veering near a state of despondency. "Now the company is all in ruin," Aragorn says. "It is I that has failed. Vain was Gandalf's trust in me. [...] What shall I do now?" He gets his answer to some extent by the particular direction his heart points him towards, but also seemingly in deciding for modesty, for the more modest of the two paths he needs to choose between -- grant the main course to Frodo and Sam, and take the path that is a "small deed in the great deeds of this time" (416): somehow goodness lies therein. This I think is the last time one ever hears of Aragorn admonishing himself as a limited figure in the text, and of seeking to venture away from glory; in retrospect, it seems almost a ceremonial gesture in that the one who is about to serve as king over all of Middle-earth, first begs himself as someone who never forgets that his greatest deeds have been bested by even greater kings before him, and that he has known doubt, failure, and even moments of despondency, as much as any man. Hereafter he never openly reduces himself -- though upon Gandalf’s return to the Fellowship, Gandalf does school him to doubt himself no further -- even if others mistakenly believe they see him in reduced form -- i.e., his wearing a mere grey cloak into the halls of Medusheld -- and the key dramatic action concerning him is infinitely more his rising, and into some form of greatness that daunts everyone in terms of stature -- “power and majesty of kings of stone” (423) -- and accessibility: “none now of the land of the living can tell his purpose” (780). Henceforth, outside of being momentarily spell-caught by Saruman, any change on his part is to make him that much more evident as a “kingly man of high destiny” (780).

Aragorn is venturing on a path that will not actually have him rescue Merry and Pippen -- Treebeard and the Riders do that -- but rather only establishing himself amongst other denizens of Middle-earth as the great king returned. Ultimately it's not by any means a path that simply lends distinction to Frodo and Sam's, but his journey -- announced, at the very least, as a modest one -- does work to highlight the outwardly bold presumption of those next discussed in the text -- Sarumon’s, and his servants -- of whom one of them is particularly vile. Note that bold, brazen thought and action is by no means due for criticism in the text. Not at all, in fact -- for even Saruman's is carefully done. Much of "Two Towers" is replete with it, bold action that goes un-criticized -- or at least by anyone given textual authority... by anyone who matters. Aragorn, after deciding finally on which course to take, switches entirely out of being momentarily fretful to simply announcing himself from out of hiding upon a whole horde of riding Rohan' horsemen, and in such a stark and unexpected manner  -- "What news from the North, Riders of Rohan?" -- that it's no surprise the Rohanians consider them possibly net-weavers and (evil) sorcerers, after having first thought them possibly Orcs. The path Frodo and Sam chose for themselves is not to be assessed as only a “strange deed,” as Gimli initially judges it, but only as a “brave deed”: so states Aragorn. Pippen dares drop his elf-given (and so doubly daring) brooch so his trail could be followed and he and Merry be known as both alive and alert to the friends hopefully on path to rescue them. Gandalf is referenced as having stolen a horse from under Theoden’s -- the Rohan' King’s -- nose, cheating him of his hold’s greatest prize when he meant only to offer a typical sampling. Sam, at the finish of the "Two Towers," succeeds in stabbing the great monster spider Shelob, something no one, not even great Gondor warriors -- of whom, they're may not even have been but a few -- had previously succeeded in doing. All of these bold undertakings are conveyed as actions to be respected and celebrated, unreservedly. In not a single case is anyone who undertakes such bold action meant to be seen as deserving the punishment that might have nevertheless been dealt them for undertaking them -- none of them qualifies as the sort of unwarranted claim, the sort of lavicious action, that should be so slammed down so hard it amounts to a moral lesson others must heed.

The harsh moral lesson, "the burned hand teaches best," is however applied to any bold advance made even by someone in very good standing, if it might lend one to reconsider the righteousness of the social order that the returned king is set to restore. While held captive by the Orcs, Pippin decides that he shouldn't have let himself be daunted by the fact that the company he’d be in would be composed of such high company, and rather himself undertaken to learn some of the available knowledge concerning geography that was available in Rivendale so he wouldn’t have been as shortchanged when caught out alone. If this was simply his being involved in self-reprimand -- involved in a turning against himself: what a fool you are, Pippin! -- the text would have found no trespass here. But it isn’t. He is arguing to himself that no company should ever daunt one. That you should make an assessment of your likely needs and keep faith with it, even if others around you are of such stature that without explicitly stating it their presence seems to insist on your suddenly forsaking yourself an honest assessment of how best to equip yourself. Pippen, informed by this act of self-correction, not self-reprimand, seems to be the one we meet subsequently while at the foot Sarumon's tower when he decides to make claim to a fallen object -- the palantiri -- even after being immobilized by spell-chanting Saruman as but a kid that doesn't deserve to be at the scene at all, and which persists even after haughty white Gandalf reprimands him for independently making a grab at an object he hadn’t yet been instructed to retrieve. "Half" of this was supposed to be the will of the Ring, but really, the text accords that the half that was Pippin's own was just as suspect, for it's a recognition of self-rule -- everyone's intrinsic right not to be intimidated away from a claim they made an independent judgment of as earned and justified: a philosophy antithetical to any social order headed by a king. "Fortunately," the palantiri takes Pippen for a horrid ride, and "fortunately" the palantiri later is used successfully by one of the Fellowship -- Aragorn, of course -- who can demonstrate that this is a world, not of those who erroneously leach themselves of personal responsibility and the responsible who don’t, but one of legitimate claims and of illegitimate claims, and you don’t act so much to absolve oneself of passivity but to learn as to which of these two groupings you properly belong -- the one that should take action, that should lead, or the one that really ought just sit on its hands when betters are around, acting only if and when instructed. If it “burns” you, and if someone of as unquestionable textual authority as Gandalf and Arathorn deems that you had it coming, then it’ll service as evidence that next time you think yourself guilty of too much passivity and too little initiative, you’re probably doing only what people of your limited capability are due for. Don’t strive to do better next time; just deal with your accorded lot for it was justly dealt.

Sam, while upheld in the text as at least in a certain circumstance as superior to every other entity that ever challenged the might of a demigod, is not so sustained while beginning to have doubts concerning Frodo. The text takes humor in Sam's comical inversion of the natural social order when he addresses Faramir as if he was admonishing a young hobbit for his "sauce," for it's an instance of inversion which instantly demonstrates the rightness of the regular order -- of the appropriateness of Faramir's retort afterwards, "Sit by your master, and be silent!" The text is not, however, so casual with Sam beginning to think Frodo a bit too soft on Gollum, for here there is a trespass on what might be mistook by many as a righteous reason for taking charge, for taking command away from those given it, which would have deep reverberations for the social order. There's a sense in the text that not just Sam but many readers have been lured far along enough in a suspicion so that when it is quit, shown up for good, an arising doubt built on something implicitly weak-seeming about the right of a current hierarchy to its place of rulership has been dealt with, and therefore, a guaranteed long interim free of challenge. This something, alluded to at the beginning of the text by one of Sauron’s agents as the one trait not even their worst is “cursed with,” is "kindness": Frodo is Sam's "rightful master, not just because he is more wise and genteel, which are traits possessed by the like of Sauron, for instance, but because he is more intrinsically kind; Aragorn is Eowyn's rightful master, not just because he is wiser and more mighty than he, not just because he has better manners -- "I spoke only as do all in men in my land, and I would gladly learn better" -- than he, but because he is kinder, less harsh, than he. Kindness is not, however, something a simple person might mistake it for: it's not intrinsically connected with weakness, with blindness, however much the two can be connected (read what happens to Theodon’s Rhodan when Theoden is too open and permissive -- i.e., it makes itself fully open to the machinations of Wormtongue). It's actually twinned with a larger degree of foresight than the simple are usually capable of conceiving of, as per for example Gandalf instructing Frodo on what respect and pity can lend in you in surprise when dealing with those ostensibly worth only being slain, given their being accustomed to associate receptivity to other’s pains only with a peculiar willingness to self-designate yourself open for others' usage and plunder. And it requires a reminder now and then of how it is actually not at all necessarily that -- a stupidly offered generosity informed of divine aspiration but founded on ignorance -- that it’s actually informed out of full knowledge of the guiles of the weak, and is by no means a capitulation to any of them, so that those due respect not find themselves inadvertently held in poor regard by their servants. 

Even an entity as great and important as Treebeard gets a hemming-in, a correction, when he advances on a dangerous conclusion built out of what the text needed to supply, but for another purpose. The great wizard Saruman must be soundly deflated in the text so that he doesn't serve as an argument that the "uppity," those who’d go for change that isn’t gradual and to the approval of elders but widespread, all of a sudden, and shocking to all, sometimes have good ground for thinking themselves superior to all who’ve existed before them. So we are instructed that Saruman was a potent captain but he was only ever but Sauron's servant, even as he thought himself fully his own master and in process of advancing himself successfully as Sauron’s as well; that he was only creating only a copy of Sauron's constructions, even as he saw himself as a bold originator; and that his awesome tower, indestructible even to Ents-- Orthanc -- was outside the building acumen of either of their might. And Treebeard is accorded by Aragorn as correct in further assessing Sarumon as lacking in grit and raw courage as well. But after that Treebeard’s denunciation of Sarumon is stopped short by Aragorn, because, it really does begin to seem, what is flawed concerning Saruman cannot be allowed to go so profoundly deep that it has implications for all others with ostensibly iron-clad claims on greatness, and that's the territory Treebeard begins to step into. He ventures, "I wonder if his fame was not all along mainly due to his cleverness in settling at Isengard," which is a suggestion that what he was actually foremost skilled at was pulling the wool over other people's eyes. He’s going in the same direction here that Boromir was when he wondered of Galadriel’s purposes, gauging her perhaps only ever full of deception and guile. And so Aragorn expounds on this trespass into Evil, that "No. [...] Once he was as great as his fame made him. His thoughts were deep, his knowledge was subtle, and his hands marvelously skilled [...]." Yes, of course he was, otherwise Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel and Aragorn himself are either thorough fools or agents of deliberate mischief, for so long arguing him otherwise. And of course he was, for otherwise these other three "great" individuals might perhaps be themselves revealed as of the same actual makeup -- one large, long-permitted blow-up of what actually amounts to nothing. All this would be seditious thought of the highest order, so even the great Treebeard suffers a burn of a kind, even if not of course a literal one, and even if it’s “singing” is minor.

If Sam hadn't realized that Frodo was so wise and so far beyond him that it was really always wise to just trust him, if Pippin hadn't said that subsequently after his "burning" a whole platter of tempting palantiris could be put before him and he wouldn't touch any of them, and followed through with this so much subsequently that all he's doing in regards to Gandalf afterwards is apologizing for his initiatives and casting doubt on them, if Treebeard hadn't immediately stopped the denunciation of Saruman and left the extent of character-winnowing where Aragorn and Gandalf would comfortably have it, then their fates would not subsequently have gone as described -- is what one comes to gather from the will at work in the text. If Sam had decided that Frodo was still guilty of not sufficiently countenancing the extent of Gollum's threat and therefore had become himself a threat to the success of their all-important mission, a conclusion which lead to him judging that he should properly be the one carrying the Ring before circumstances in the text  -- i.e., Frodo's incapacitation -- necessitated this of him, he wouldn't have been the recipient of so joyous an accounting of him in his defeat of Sherob that for a moment he was a legitimate triumph over most every warrior on Middle-earth, but rather someone undermined as being merely lucky, and actually in fact probably wholeheartedly battle-incompetent -- not worth a tale at all in anyone's book, not even the smallest... or rather, he might just been victim to plot change done in a pique of anger and found himself quickly stabbed at by Sherob and mercilessly eaten. If Merry hadn't accepted in his own mind that there was any legitimate difference between his bold gesture of dropping his broach to inform his three ostensible friendly pursuers of his ongoing health and his quickly judged and quick-fingered retrieval of the dropped artifact that was on its way to being lost to all, if he hadn't perhaps understood that his "rightful" claim to it was as half-baked a formulation as was Gollum's claim to the Ring as his "present," he wouldn't have found himself so kindly received by Gandalf and merely dropped a notch in a familiar way in being likened to a pawn in the company of greater pieces and subsequently directed about after having had inadvertently stolen Gandalf's due limelight by being the one honored by Denethor's court and personal interrogation, but rather told that that's what he gets for proclaiming himself equal to all when actually so  undeserving, and rather than being spared being forced to sing at court he’d of found himself transformed into fully spent songbird. If Treebeard hadn't accepted Aragorn's assessment of Saruman and instead pursued his considerations onward towards concluding him as having always been a fraud, he wouldn't have been as warmly excused by Gandalf for his eventually letting his prisoner Saruman go, but informed more of the inevitable consequences of his clumsy mismanagement, including Sarumon's ravaging of the tree-loving hobbit population... and, of course, of all the dead trees incurred in his pursuit of making the Shire a haven instead for brick factories, and thereby driven Treebeard insane in grief, longing for the elves to return to numb him back into stupidity before they left Middle-earth, an act of pity which they of course would spurn him for having recklessly pursued a line of thought that could have all the commons doubting how well earned every one of the greats’ reputation actually was, and so had their whole “great” race as well hoisted on their own petards before they had their chance to make a graceful departure, at a time of their own choosing. 

All of them, in short, would have been made subject to the dark fate viciously but absolutely self-righteously, inflicted in/by text upon Wormtongue. If you're looking for the greatest losers in the text -- the ones, not who die but who suffer humiliations no one could bear living with for long -- you can skip both Sarumon and Sauron, for Saruman's preference that he always remain a master, that he never become anyone's servant, even as if abandons him of Gandalf's help and leaves him having to counter the might of nine Nazgul -- which he might actually, according to the text, have managed to do -- is exactly, what? -- but of course the typical stubbornness and pride of wizards, and Sauron is caught off guard at the end but whose weaknesses are heavily qualified so that they are only weaknesses that abide a certain kind of great genius -- an evil one, an egotistical one. The ones to look to are Gollum (though he for awhile gets a notable reprieve), the Orc Grishnakh (who plays a Wormtongue to Ugluk's Gandalf: pure power and sure direction against an endlessly castigating spitting snake), the Messenger of Mordor, and, well, Merry and -- especially -- Pippin, but no one more than Wormtongue. As a general rule, if the text starts likening one to a cornered animal or an insolent child, you forget all the text's ostensibly fidelity to "pity" and be assured the text wants you alive only so that the humiliations you suffer have much more time to dig in and fester. So if it described you like this: "His face was twisted with amazement and anger to the likeness of some wild beast that, as it crouches on its prey, is smitten not the muzzle with a stinging rod," as it does the Messenger of Mordor, then if Gandalf has to stop someone from smiting you in the name of second-chances and pity, it's going to amount to a forced effort to say the least. If it begins to describe you as a "greedy child stooping over a bowl of food"... as it applies to Pippin, you'd better in some way desist in what you're doing, learn a moral lesson from doing it that you never, ever, forget, and quick, or you'll get the very same. And if it describes you as, "In his eyes was the hunted look of a beast seeking some gap in the ring of his enemies," and as "coming out of a hut [...] almost like a dog," then you're absolutely f*cked, because then you're Wormtongue, and then you're a snake, a kicked dog, and perhaps even a buggered child -- what all does Saruman do to him behind closed doors, after his stupidity costs him the palantiri, to make him absolutely, completely snap? -- and the world has to literally stop so that all your poisonous fluids can cleared from the paths and the possibility that you could have mated with a treasured princess, fumigated out of everyone's brain. 

What happens to Wormtongue is what you get in the text if you breech on someone else's power and the text hasn't already anointed you as someone of firmly established worth -- if anti-Semitic lexicon, if you're the Jew in the European court. To avoid his fate, you go the route of Hana when Gandalf runs off again, doing his favourite bit of "ever [...] going and coming unlooked-for," and take advantage of someone else's seditious doubt -- "Wormtongue, were he here, would not find it hard to explain" -- to make clear you couldn't henceforth ever be driven to doubt him: "I will wait until I see Gandalf again." Or of Eowyn, after having accosted Aragorn, admitting his comparative smallness and pledging to "gladly learn better" from his betters. You have to in effect act pretty much like Gollum's "whipped cur [...] who is piteously anxious to please," in order to be allowed in the text a status that prevents it being pointed out. It's quite the grim way to own people, but such is "Two Tower's" Middle-earth: caught in a double-bind, so that an elder order needn't worry. 

FINISH OF A READER'S GUIDE TO "THE TWO TOWERS"

CODA (from Lloyd DeMause's "Emotional Life of Nations")

When Adolf Hitler moved to Vienna in 1907 at the age of eighteen, he reported in Mein Kampf, he haunted the prostitutes’ district, fuming at the “Jews and foreigners” who directed the “revolting vice traffic” which “defiled our inexperienced young blond girls” and injected “poison” into the bloodstream of Germany.

Months before this blood poison delusion was formed, Hitler had the only romantic infatuation of his youth, with a young girl, Stefanie. Hitler imagined that Stefanie was in love with him (although in reality she had never met him) and thought he could communicate with her via mental telepathy. He was so afraid of approaching her that he made plans to kidnap her and then murder her and commit suicide in order to join with her in death.

Hitler’s childhood had been so abusive-his father regularly beat him “with a hippopotamus whip,” once enduring 230 blows of his father’s cane and another time nearly killed by his father’s whipping that he was full of rage toward the world. When he grew up, his sexual feelings were so mixed up with his revenge fantasies that he believed his sperm was poisonous and might enter the woman’s bloodstream during sexual intercourse and poison her.


Hitler’s rage against “Jewish blood-poisoners” was, therefore, a projection of his own fears that he might become a blood-poisoner. Faced with the temptation of the more permissive sexuality of Vienna, he wanted to have sex with women, but was afraid his sperm would poison their blood. He then projected his own sexual desires into Jews -- “The black-haired Jewboy lies in wait for hours, satanic joy in his face, for the unsuspecting girl” and ended up accusing Jews of being “world blood-poisoners” who “introduced foreign blood into our people’s body.” 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Reader's Guide to Fellowship of the Ring




READER NOTES TO TOLKIEN’S FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING

If I had to supply "reader notes" to Fellowship of the Ring, it would be as follows.

To begin, I would draw the reader to think a little more on the character of Lobelia, the would-be Shire matriarch who is astounded that Bilbo has managed to keep his property from her all these years. She's played for fun in this part of the book, but the reader should note she's nonetheless a bit too visible to convince one entirely that she's just there to provide some levity before the plunge into darkness begins. There's a lot of talk about keeping doors bars to her, about her returning -- like a fire-breathing dragon that's once again re-generated heat -- to launch a subsequent belch of deadly haranguing, and about putting on the magic invisible ring to escape her. To anyone who considers that it is our earliest scares and fears, brought to us not just through mothers, nurses and other early attendants, in their whisperings of dark "old wives tales" (that we note that even Elrond says we should never just pass over because they always trace on real truths) or scares of creatures stealing cribs and babies, but via the terrifying presence of this lot themselves, that are the source of all later fears, this section of Lobelia as "invading monster" should not be allowed to pass as inconsequential. It might not be. Note that at the end of the "Return of the Ring" Lobelia is "rescued" as actually someone on the hobbits' side, as someone to be proud of, but only after a barbarian gang has visited the town and done what barbarian gangs do to women who come out of their houses too readily to oppose them -- revenge themselves on them horribly. Tolkien has said that he had the end of the book in mind when he started the adventure: he may not only have had in mind his concern to demonstrate that the greatest evil, that the greatest occurrence of "Mordor" out there, is when such infiltrates your town of origins, but to displace a desire for revenge onto others and see them visit it upon the book's very first predator -- the advancing matriarch whom even the Ring-bearer would hope for greater spells to forestall. Gollum is quoted as thinking, "People would see if he could stand being kicked, and driven into a hole and then robbed. Gollum had good friends now, good friends and very strong. They would help him. Baggins would pay for it. That was his chief thought. He hated Bilbo and cursed his name." Driven out the door by the demands of a pressing Lobelia, not just by Black Riders, were these half-orc barbarians in a way Frodo's newly acquired "friends," his agents, serving out a revenge he needs denial and distance from? Flag it.

There is a sort of reminder to do this very thing in the text – to flag the relevance of Lobelia, and think on her further. For we soon learn from Gandalf of how Smeagal, the hobbit-like creature, became Gollum, the gangly, deadly, sometimes spider-like creature that Gandalf surmises it may well have been just to have outright killed when chance allowed, even if the greater wisdom would eventually come out of Bilbo having tamed this instinct for pity, and it wasn't just the Ring that did it. The Ring made him extraordinarily bothersome -- a sort of town nuisance writ large -- but it did not change him into something THIS disparate from his normal, after-all, "ultra-curious and inquisitive self." Rather, it was his expulsion from his home by the leading matriarch... by his grandmother, which did it – that’s what drove him away from all light and into the caves; that's what made him absolutely forlorn. He had finally overwhelmed her patience and exasperated her beyond all tolerance, and paid one hell of a price for it. When Frodo provides Lobelia with the home she covets, it is done ostensibly only for expediency -- the house needed to be sold quickly, and she was the most interested buyer. But given the foreboding tale of what happened to Gollum when he had exhausted a matriarch's patience, in addition, of course, to our own never lost knowledge that nothing scared us more than what happened to us in the nursery, in retrospect it can feel like it was sold to her almost in relief: the adventure-garnered prowess of Bilbo had kept the home safe to himself for over ninety years -- his adventure and might-backed "queerness" intimidated, not just irked or intrigued -- but with him gone, and it left only to young, inexperienced Frodo to forestall the accumulating anger of Lobelia's being denied, decade after accumulating decade, her inheritance, he took the last avenue he had to stop her from for sure blowing his house down. He threw her, this "dragon," accumulating fury and strength as the ages passed, a house-sized steak – everything she wanted -- and snuck quickly out through the door -- possible?

Bilbo is about to be left out as a character with any part to play in the story. But while's he's still here in the text, we can be drawn to think as we read how Frodo's journey to being his own "master," to maturity, differs from Bilbo's own. Both set out on their journeys at the same age. Bilbo's is estimated as only "quite a little fellow" by Gandalf, but it's a bit of a poor reading of him, actually, considering that it was Bilbo's perhaps singular ability to charm and deceive Smaug, the terrible fire-breathing dragon, that would, if he had lived, proved the greatest threat in Sauron's arsenal, that brought about Smaug's end: specifically, after catching site of a possible flaw in Smaug's ostensibly absolutely secure impregnability, he lures Smaug into exposing the full girth of his chest, bating him into doing so by making it seem just an extension of the sort of charitable play they've been up to in the pretension of their situation as simply of guest visiting host -- "please, show me your acquired paintings and magnificent heirlooms, if it pleases you," is what it essentially amounts to. His armored chest is forlorn one piece of armoring, and without it having been exposed here, Bard the archer would never have known it existed and been no opposition to Smaug but only a small piece of his carnage. Bilbo caught off guard the greatest evil power in his time, found out his only weak spot so that against impossible odds, the villain could nevertheless be taken down.

Frodo, on the other hand, does nothing of the sort. And while we see on his journey that he has considerable "grit," the traditional hobbit' ability to thrive surprisingly well -- to be "hard to daunt or kill" (7) -- when they become accustomed to being absent all the delicacies and comforts they normally ensure coat their lives, and that he does possess an unusual delicacy with language -- a characteristic which favors him with lordly Faramir -- it is certainly never HE who figures out how Sauron might actually be brought down. That person, in this narrative, is Gandalf. What he discerns about Sauron's one weakness, about his one flaw, that could be made fatal to him?: though he is beyond brilliant, he can't imagine anyone possessing the Ring not wanting to use its power -- it's beyond consideration that the Ring-bearer would seek to destroy an artifact that grants such great power. And so Gandalf loads it onto a member of the one race that seems capable of resisting its draw more than any other, and, as well, just as remarkably capable of bearing its crippling load of accumulating despondency, and ships him off, and that's what Frodo's usefulness basically amounts to. Question, then: which of the two is really self-actualized and great, and which does well only for being a reasonably good representative of his kind? Further question: which one goes on adventures where he would seem to have earned the kind of bearing that would have him fairly confidently oppose Gandalf, if he wishes, even as Aragorn is readily capable of, and of having maybe even Gandalf back down; and which one seems only capable of doing so out of an inadvertent ability to serve as a haunt -- like a young soldier sent just at the arrival of his budding adulthood to die on some straight-arrow path onto a foreign battlefield, his voice gets heeded only in respect of the worth he is being unjustly shortchanged?

There's a bit in "Return of the King" where Merry scans the effect all the places he has seen have had on him, and decides it hasn't been what he had hoped it would be... that it was perhaps mostly just overwhelming, an onslaught -- something that he didn't explore and to some extent "master," demonstrate personal efficacy amongst and upon, but rather something that just over-stimulated and overwhelmed him. He is described as someone who, "though he loved mountains [...] was borne down by the insupportable weight of Middle-earth. He longed to shut out the immensity." Merry, in effect, becomes the kind of person who actually is easy to daunt -- something not ostensibly one of their, that is, hobbits', characteristics... or so told us by a narrator perhaps more in mood to inflate, to be charitable, at the time. One sees him as someone who in effect was taught a lesson about his actual ability to handle things in the outside world, one he could be counted on to have others learn, other young hobbits who yearned for great adventure, so that they too would know that they're actually not up for any new thing other than what they'd been accustomed to as farmers and gardeners tending the Shire's peaceful grounds. This is a lesson "Middle-earth" inflicts, not just upon Merry but rather on all of the hobbits, pretty much as soon as they escape their door. And it leads, it would seem, to a kind of mindset that the text demonstrates severe "beatings" serve upon the beaten -- thereafter, if it's followed by kindness, you get an absolute readiness to comply, absolute servitude. Bad cop followed by good cop... a bit of "patting" after severe mistreatment, leads Gollum from being a troublesome miscreant to one "piteously easy to please" (604); and when it happens to hobbits it makes them completely begotten to anything that represents the old ways of Middle-earth and into those forever pit against everything new that’s arising without permission, without sufficient notice, and all too aggressively.
Just out the door and beginning on their own to make decisions like what path to take of the multi-various available, ostensibly still at a state of self-command where Gandalf's recommendations as to what they should do serve as only that -- as recommendations, not de-facto commandments -- and where at the very least Frodo sees escape from the Shire as an escape from all things sickeningly stupid, they encounter paralyzing horrors which daunt them with the lesson – you’re not on your own anywhere near up to this. Every predator will stir at the announcement of prey onto their turf that each will discern as fully within their mastery. Frodo is allowed to demonstrate fortitude while within the barrow mound, as he awakens himself before being eaten and smiting an advancing crawling skeletal hand, but out of their nevertheless still mostly being absolutely handled by Black riders, by an angry forest, and by a barrow Wight, what are they established as but those who'll be forever fixed to perceive rescuers absent any serious scrutiny? What are they but those so desperately pleased to be rescued they would only rejoice and celebrate old-world, old-way representatives like their rescuers, the high elves and Tom Bombadil? What are they other than those who after being whipped turned piteously, pathetically compliant?

At one point of the text Frodo delays a vote on which route the Fellowship should take, which course through the mountains -- under, over, or around -- by saying it should be delayed until daytime so that Gandalf's vote would be given fairer consideration (390)... "how the [night] wind howls [doubt]," he says. There is terrific wisdom here, but it's not deeply felt, and actually is more a demonstration of his being mastered by Gandalf than it is of masterly consideration of the effect circumstance has on perception and on ostensibly carefully deliberated choice. For one notes that after being so easily preyed upon by these three horrendous bugaboos, these three great horrors of the imagination, they're ready to be owned by the saviors who rescue them, a path which has them follow the high elves' ownership of them -- one of the "chief events of [Sam's] life," not just for evident charm but for being his first suffered "perfect rescuing vision" following the crawling advancement of something as horrible as a Black Rider -- onto Tom Bombadil's -- "give me the Ring you've been told to give nobody, Frodo!" "Sure thing, here, take it" -- and finally, the rest of the way, onto Gandalf, and Gandalf is no longer someone who "might suggest something" but someone whom the others will absolutely heed, someone they'll ensure they prejudice everyone else towards, whatever course or counsel he might be advancing. If the real risk to Gandalf's plans was ever the hobbits' independent judgment -- would Frodo perhaps actually give resisting, frustratingly indominable Boromir a listen?... A fairer listen, where if the two could actually find court alone the "two together [might actually find] wisdom" (522) -- this would have been the kind of course he would have plotted to scare away all sense of themselves as capable of standing on their own for a self-identity as those who could only conclude that they'll shrivel when caught on their own outside of guardian support. And so also, those whose thoughts only go to clinging desperately back, when they could have begun to settle on...: "well, this is neat and unaccustomed... I wonder if new wisdom lies here?"

A few things to note about the stay at Rivendale: One, why would Bilbo have wanted to come here, other than for purposes of reflected narcissism? He is living amongst people who are better than him at everything. The most they can grant him when he produces his highest, most self-actualized art is that it could pass as the worst their own kind might produce. It is not to say that one couldn't take pleasure nevertheless, mostly in the fact that you reached a great pinnacle for oneself, but you've surrounded yourself by others who perpetually tempt you to more take adverse pleasure in your accomplishment through understanding it as allowing you to partake to a very small extent in their own unquestioned, objectively great glory. It is a very beautiful vision -- this Rivendale of ample abundance and scintillating everything; but nevertheless one that a cunning Hell would contrive to keep you enslaved and secretly suffering.

Second, Elrond's heart tells him that he should refuse Merry and Pippen's request/demand that they be taken along on the adventure -- his heart does. This should not be allowed to pass notice, and indeed both Merry and Pippen refer to it later in the text as it plays on their mind, because it should make available to all of them evidence that subsequently if their own heart speaks loudly, it needn't mean it should be heeded without question: it doesn't just always tell the loudest and most profound truth, for as great as Elrond is in the text, his judgment is still second to Gandalf's, who speaks as an even greater Stewart of Middle-earth, more conscious of and loyal to all its parts, and it is Gandalf who essentially informs Elrond that his heart, in this, albeit, rare instance, knows absolutely not -- trust to already installed friendship in this instance and don't send Merry or Pippen away, or we all die. It's either here a battle of the hearts to match the battle of the minds we see elsewhere in the text, or its an example of mind pit against heart, but in either case what is shown is that even the heart belonging to one of the greats could lead a whole world the wrong way to its destruction. Yet Frodo does not remember this lesson as he deals with Boromir, waging between them the fate of the Ring. His heart tells him to ignore Boromir's argument, to ignore its favorable accents and compelling force, and he lets it lead him. And my guess is that many readers didn't think anything awry about his doing so at all. The text has prompted such wizard-followers of us all, that even Elrond himself can't make a dig at our loyalty. Pity the fate of any "Boromir" who'd hoped to change our mind, as well as the fate of any goodness that might have arisen if we were left open to being deterred, to being “waylaid... There's a sense that we're all done in by by the time we've reached Rivendale, and we should note that.

And finally, when the wizard Saruman tries to manipulate a good hearing for himself when precariously situated in his isolated tower before Gandalf, the horse lords, and the remaining members of the Fellowship, he succeeds in daunting all of them but Gandalf by making them feel like those "shut out, listening at a door to words not meant for them: ill-mannered children or stupid servants overhearing the elusive discourse of their elders, and wondering how it would affect their lot. Of loftier mould these two were made; reverend and wise. It was inevitable that they should make alliance. Gandalf would ascend into the tower, to discuss deep things beyond their comprehension in the high chambers of Orthanc. The door would be closed, and they would be left outside, dismissed to await allotted work or punishment." Early memories of being dismissed to the "kid's table" while "adults" discuss serious matters, as a deliberate tactic mostly intended to depreciate your self-worth, apparently remain in everyone, and thus leave you susceptible to evil manipulation, is what the text informs us here. Yet the Council of Elrond, the council of the good, is "high matters" enough yet hasn't integrated that lesson well enough that it seems to all "cheek" -- cheek that is rewarded rather than punished by the tolerant "parent" -- when Sam “pertly” bursts amongst them and demands a say. Invited guest Bilbo speaks up, and though he gets tribute -- Boromir laughs at his having done so, considering the nature and high quality of others who had previously spoken, but is shamed to find that no one else thinks of him similarly -- his claim as future Ring-bearer rings mostly of the once-notable, now-dotard, who still insists he can swing a sword (only great ones like the aged Denethor and Theoden get to be unquestionably still like that). He speaks up only so that he can with finality be shut out, however kindly -- one lingering bit of old business now out of the way.

And when Frodo speaks up, it seems almost as if volunteering so that others needn't demand... a response that isn't so much "out of your own initiative," but rather one that betrays slavish high receptivity to others' needs, conveyed through innuendo, implication, hints -- from atmospherically evident deliberate avoidance of the obvious. And so Elrond replies to his declaration, "yes, you were really the only choice... the one we all knew had to eventually "volunteer" for the task." Volunteer? Why did he wait for him to volunteer when the answer to himself and Gandalf, at least, was obvious? Is it because they still nevertheless had to keep their hands clean, because Frodo's going on what Boromir rightly estimates as a long, lonely death march into a volcanic maw -- a clear suicide mission, a clear mission of sacrifice, and of the most promising of young hobbits, so that the old establishment, the old foggies, can live on? There's something in their decision which rings of sacrificing youth, potential, and accumulated largesse -- the Ring itself, of course -- that points a finger at an urgent need more to placate the wrath of long-ignored old gods than the proclaimed intent to deal best with the realities of the world as they are. The young are being misled, lied to. It's guilt-inspiring if they admitted this fact to themselves: that they were so eager to dispense with their good fortune and wealth and of a representative of the young, so blood-thirsty and ultimately not leaderly but slavishly intent on heeding old gods looking upon them with doubt and scorn, that this was going to be their solution to any occurring world problem. And so hold out "gratitude" towards the young who've shaped themselves so they pick up out of the air the unacknowledged sordid wishes of others', and so ostensibly make up their own mind, make their own "choice," independent of influence. "It wasn't us: they chose to go themselves," is not in this instance a demonstration of respect and latitude and freedom -- about what separates what distinguishes what is good in this world from what is evil -- but about slippery evasion and manipulativeness: about a more evolved and foul kind of predatory evil.

"Be willing to make yourself vulnerable to falling into a volcanic pit, and you're elf-friend forever... that's the part we didn't tell you about was coming when we first drew you to find such pleasure in being acclaimed our friend after your amusing attempts at fluent elf-speech when we met you just outside your door. All peddlers of the dastardly draw their young prey in at first with readily pro-offered candy. Didn't any of the wise ever teach you so? Don’t trust those who arrive to offer salve and more just after disaster strikes, for mightn't they themselves have originated the disaster, just to garner an important vote otherwise hard to make claim to?" It’s an accusation launched at Gandalf many times in the text -- "why is it you always show up when disaster is upon us? Are you sure that you and the disaster are twinned in some way?... of the same agency, or of the same level of malicious intent -- one overt, the other covert, perhaps?" Is it because there’s truth behind it sufficient enough to arouse guilt, an aroused guilt that can be, if not quit, at least momentarily quelled, in seeing the accusation voiced ("ill news is an ill guest"; "you come with tidings of grief and danger, as is your wont, they say") to someone you’ll soon be able to later righteously dispense with -- someone like "the Two Tower's" Wormtongue -- that this accusation keeps on repeatedly being aired?

Just at the entrance to the Mines of Moria the text tells us that Gandalf understood that the enormous monster in the water was groping for Frodo specifically, it had focused on him, but that he decided to keep this secret to himself. We might assume this is Gandalf being respectful not to scare Frodo too much, but, really, is it any news to Frodo at this point that the greatest of monsters are mostly interested in the smell of him? Thinking on Gandalf's "discretion" is a way to not think of what else might otherwise be arising in the reader's mind concerning Gandalf at this point. Namely, perhaps, how already at this point on the journey Gandalf favored the Company taking the Fellowship has already suffered as great a danger as any of the other options could have offered him -- a danger that had the smell on for Frodo, and so one that could have been relied upon to bring message to Sauron that the Ring had been captured should such have happened. Keeping this secret keeps Gandalf from being embarrassed, shown up. And secret-keeping overall seems about giving one leverage over other people, about maintaining the falsity that some people can handle truth while others can't, and masking the truth that this "philosophy" is maintained in this world primarily to keep an old hierarchy in place, whatever the actual ability of Middle-earthians to handle discordant truths.

Aragorn keeps a secret to himself later in the narrative: that Boromir decided to snatch the Ring for himself. How noble of him to be do discreet and keep Boromir from shame... is what we're supposed to be thinking. How kingly. Yet what shame does Boromir really bear other than his being the only one on the Fellowship who didn't agree with the Council's decision, as it was not the course he would take, and so his being the only one that the Ring had something substantial to continuously play on? Not that he was evil but that he dissented, that he was not someone who would follow Aragorn "wherever he went (512)," was his only “sin,” his only "problem." And what good to the world is done in not offering an honest account of everything, in not challenging but playing to childish requirements that heroes be kept squeaky-clean flawless, for instance? Contra Gandalf, sometimes you need to break things apart to find out what makes them tick, if you really want to make improvements and not rather keep a flawed product intact because it's built the right way now for your use. A Middle-earth that must be kept from knowing things, a Middle-earth kept emotionally fragile, is in the dark and prey to be owned by the most malevolently motivated of things.

Boromir's attempting to steal the Ring is the last scare Frodo suffers from in "Fellowship of the Ring," but the one just previous shouldn't pass our notice. What scared him right before? -- the visage of great kings, of "silent wardens of a long-vanished kingdom," which drew him to feel "awe and fear" and made him "cower down [and to] shut his eyes and dar[e] not to look" (516). Shame, awe and fear seem to get a lot of respect in this book, if it's inspired by lingering ghosts from long ago or those who count themselves their servants, and the text seems to make nothing of the fact that Boromir has to try and discourse with Frodo only after Frodo’s been effectively bullied into submission by these great looming giants of the past that made him feel pathetic, vulnerable, small -- i.e., completely at their mercy. A crime of the sort mentioned in "Return of the King" is being committed here, where the old are venerated to keep the young from their due. It feels in the text almost as if Boromir snatches the Ring not out evil manifesting in him but out of fully understandable arising exasperation at the ongoing madness everyone else is determined to keep themselves caught within... their being caught within a fugue of silly elder' deference, to timidity spawned from too much heeding of old wives' tales, and not therefore able see the possibilities as they are no matter how well they would shine forth. Must "we" stay off the road that seems easiest, only because intrigue doesn't take as well there as it does in backroads and alleyways? What order is our present course fighting to keep intact?

The possibility that members of the Fellowship are mad, are in a state of heady madness, comes up many times through the rest of the text, ostensibly to show them masters of secret knowledge, secret ways, and able to mightily waylay all others' considerations of them -- and, quite frankly, also to demonstrate them those who cause upset and disquiet in others at their having been abandoned the help they had been seduced into thinking available to them (Aragorn’s more or less unexplained sprinting off from the war-march to Pelennor Fields, anyone?). I would suggest instead -- or, rather, in addition -- that it's a consideration that gets constant airing as if the one inscribing the journey is healthy enough to have some inner voice of sanity prompting the thought into his mind, to maybe finally wake him up... this is a plot of France with twice Germany's armed forces, or of Chamberlain's Britain, pretty much finding every way they can to lose to Germany's might at the onset of World War 2 – "here, we’ve got more tanks than you; want ’em?" This is a death-wish, or a masochistic desire to restage an oppressive onslaught from childhood. This sacrificing your advantage of an early chessboard capture of the Queen, is madness. Wake up. Wake up. Wake up... you ostensible movers of the board who are yourselves probably but pawns of ugly compulsions.


END OF READER NOTES TO FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Undifferentiated blurred bed of snow

I don't agree with this take. I think the only problem about current feminism is that the people within it have not yet reached their best potential, which means specifically that they have not yet reached the point where they possess no interest, at all, in displacing their own childhood vulnerabilities onto other people -- and thus this contemporary situation where they to some extent tolerate that a class exists under them over which they have power and whom must to some extent suffer. What is an example of this? Well, if they were at their potential they wouldn't take pleasure in being served by people to some extent inferior in their abilities and ambition, which they still to some extent do. They'd rather ask themselves more truly is this IS ACTUALLY THE CASE, or if the nervous nature of trying to self-actualize at a time outside of an overtly youth-favouring age like the 1960s, means it can only be done in a very calibrated way, and those who haven't finessed this art, those who aren't as adept at reading the landscape for evidence of the critical, scrutinizing eye and adapting oneself so you "pass," aren't exactly going to be thriving now. And if it is, see themselves only as those who came out of better childrearing circumstances, not only as those WHO DID when others failed in courage.

I think, though, they were actually getting there, and that what we're seeing here are people preying on this weakness as means only to take away all of their public influence, to discredit them entirely, leaving in charge a brand of feminism which is not actually 1960s/1970s radical and diverse, as claimed, but actually much more timid in that it would squelch every "narcissistic" "special snowflake" out there into an undifferentiated blurred bed of snow. It's a riot against 1960s feminism and all its legacies, to re-install the 1930s hard left, which frowned on the idea that life is about self-actualization... about fun and self-celebration. This is just about scolding. And bringing back to leadership those who'll jealously sit on anyone out there that differentiates from the horde. It makes it seem opposite to this, but this is its intent, in my judgment.


Since November 9th, two main arguments against contemporary feminism have emerged in near-exact opposition to each other.
NEWYORKER.COM|BY JIA TOLENTINO




Monday, February 6, 2017

Why are Gollum, Worntongue, and Saruman made to be so horribly forlorn of support

I mean, Gandalf talks so much shit to Wormtongue... but it is almost precisely similar to Sarumon's shit-talking of him at the finish of the novel, an action that lead to Wormtongue's smiting of him with a sword, delivered, it is made to seem, righteously -- one is almost meant to feel momentarily good for Worntongue, in that he refused to be further degraded. Does Gandalf abjure total rejection of Gollum, Wormtongue and Saruman because he, being a Tolkien representative, knows each one of them is going to endure a period of being totally alone, of being naked, vulnerable, hounded, hated, and friendless -- and thus a far worse fate than any of the Fellowship has to endure, for none of them is ever THAT alone -- and that this fate is somehow actually undeserved for their representing a "crime" that is in everyone... that is in HIM?

What is Gollum? -- the most inquisitive and curious of his kind, so the text explicitly states. What is Saruman? -- the most heedless of established authority; the most modern. What is Wormtongue? -- an ambitious intellect, who makes a grab at things that ought to be available to all, but whom some proclaim -- the stupid and stodgy, that is -- absolute ownership of. Tolkien was chastising part of himself, the part that wanted to grow outside of constraints... and almost too much: verged on being conspicuous, drawing too much attention as to why so much over-hate?... as if the "guilty" party had to be punished to absolve the punisher any suspicious co-ownership of the same motives/motivations.

There's a bit at the end of the destruction of Sarumon's tower by the Ents, where Treebeard begins to identify with Saruman, saying, "you know, if someone did the same to me -- destroyed all of my home -- I might try and hide out in a hole too," and Gandalf replies, "No, you are not the least bit like him, for you would never destroy --" and I thought, what's going on here is that Tolkien is performing a kind of pseudo-empathy, pseudo-identification, through Treebeard, so that he can convince himself that he tried that... he tried to get really inside their head, when the truth is he has to keep some firm distance from them else go down the hellish hole of merciless punishment -- handed out by Middle Earth, if not by Gandalf -- they exist in the narrative to be destroyed within.

... but for the warning of my heart

We all know how Frodo would have trusted Boromir "but for the warning of his heart." But did you know that the elf-king Elrond was against sending Merry and Pippen along as members of the Fellowship, owing to the warnings of HIS heart? It's true... and Gandalf essentially told him HIS heart, the great elf-king's heart, spoke falsely, arguing for their inclusion with the weak argument that since you can't send a battalion into Mordor for it being sure to be noticed, you shouldn't think of military might at all when forming the Fellowship, and instead count on already established friendship. Yeah, 'cause it is SO apparent that not having another elf who can shoot down dragons or another human warrior who can take down dozens of orcs before going down, is but nothing if you've got a bit more of the accustomed and the familiar within your party -- 'cause who are kidding? friendship is born out of nothing again and again through their journeys.