Tolkien Lectures: Week 8


These notes were originally written by Erik Tracey, transcribed to MS Word by Erik Tracey, and HTMLized by Scott Powers. Enjoy!


Tolkien's use of language as boiled down history.

Example: "Rule of Thumb" - a medieval custom that restricted a man from using any rod thicker than his thumb for which to beat his wife.

"Good-bye" ->God be with you.

"God Bless you" -> because the English believed that when you sneezed the Devil was trying to tug your soul out of your mouth.

The individual character used language and conversed differently: Hobbits vs. orcs vs. Gondor vs. Elves

Book 4:
Only a few central characters

          Frodo
        /       \
      /          \
   Sam -------- Gollum

Frodo - sacrificial character
Sam - loyalty and love for master
Gollum - lure of the ring

Q: what causes Frodo to actually pity Gollum?
Because Frodo has carried the ring and now knows the burden of possession. That Gandalf was right; Gollum still has a part to play -> Frodo recognizes that their actions are part of the Music; ordained -> foresight.

Frodo's growth as a character is shown in his first commanding of Smeago - he perceives Gollum's desire and understands the nature of the relationship of Gollum and the Ring.

Tolkien develops Gollum as a Pitiable character to the sensitive reader - because this feeling is very important later - when Frodo fails at Sammath Naur.

Sam and Gollum both refer to Frodo as "Master".
Sam ->loyal servant out of love
Gollum -> servant out of fear (slave) slave to Ring and Holder

Frodo's quest is a group effort, not a single hero quest. It takes a complex interplay to accomplish the goal. This is just a reflection of how "real" events unfold.

Frodo is aware of the fact that the quest is near hopeless and a bleak necessity -> that is real heroism according to Tolkien: it is a sacrificial quest.

Tolkien's view of the abhorrence of war but its grim necessity is voiced thru Faramir.

Professor thinks Faramir's custom before meat is a prayer to the Valar.

virture = virtus (manly, true hearted)

Faramir is in Green in a Green land -> Spring/Renewal motif. Frodo at Crossroads - imagery of king - "They cannot conquer forever".

If you don't have to study it - its Fiction.
If you do have to study it - its Literature.

The plot is all thriller after Faramir. [what about the near turning of Gollum on the Stair- Love almost redeems Gollum- most powerful motive in ME for redemption]

Most tragic thing Sam did was scold Gollum at this crucial point ->Sam's good intention (concern over Frodo's safety) produced a bad result; Gollum's chance is gone.

Whenever Frodo is in a tight spot he gets injured:

After Cirith Ungol Sam is the active hero; Frodo is simply a pair of legs for the Ring. Sam is turning into the fairy tale hero while Frodo is turning into the tragic/mythic hero.

cobweb = spiderweb -> cob in Hobbit for spider


This page is maintained by:

Scott Powers
NCSA X Mosaic Lead