Prologue

A chapter by chapter as well as general discussion of Tolkien's masterpiece
Riv Res
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Prologue

Postby Riv Res » Wed Aug 10, 2005 12:04 am

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Bilbo's Poets Corner: The Hall of Fire

© Riv Res





The Prologue

If we are going to discuss The Lord of the Rings chapter by chapter, then the most appropriate place to start is with the Prologue. Tolkien crams every page of his books with incredible back story and detail, and any fan knows that this is especially true of his prologues and appendices. If you miss a word, there will always be some mystery that will remain hinden from view unnecessarily.

So let's set the stage for our discussion of LOTR. What are the major messages and themes that establish the setting and tone for this masterpiece? As always, please remember the House Rules.

Let's begin, shall we?
Last edited by Riv Res on Tue Jun 29, 2010 5:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Riv Res
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Postby Riv Res » Fri Sep 16, 2005 11:03 pm

Just to kick off this discussion, I would like to tell all of you that I am ery eager to have an in depth, chapter-by-chapter discussion of The Lord of the Rings.

If any of you have ever read Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, you will remember that in the people in this story memorized and 'became' their favorite book when censors were burning all the great literature of the world. My thoughts, even that long ago, immediately flew to The Lord of the Rings and what a memorizing job I would have if I wanted to 'become' Tolkien's great classic.

How much better it is to discuss it indepth with you here. The Prologue sets the stage for the story. Concerning Hobbits, Concerning Pipe-weed, Of the Ordering of the Shire, and Of the Finding of the Ring are all sections important enough that Tolkien thought his readers should be prefaced with this knowledge before plunging headlong into the tale.

So...why do you think these topics are important to begin the story with? In what direction was Tolkien trying to point us as we start this grandest of all Middle-earth journeys?

Thoughts? :D
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Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Sat Sep 17, 2005 5:25 pm

Well, 'Of the Finding of the Ring' is the scene setter to update those that either haven't read The Hobbit or need a refresher. But as to the rest...

What strikes me most is that once you really get to know Hobbits in all their inward-looking, home-loving, ordinariness and, I guess, smallness, the scene is set to be amazed at how just a few, doggedly setting off on a journey to who knows where and what, can change the world. Bilbo and Frodo aren't really the average Hobbit (and here we get a good look at the average Hobbit) but Merry, Pippin and Sam are. But every one of them is something more than we could ever guess.

For me a lot of the pleasure in the book comes from how the Hobbits surprise us, themselves, and occasionally even Gandalf, I suspect. Without the detailed prologue that pleasure, for me, would be greatly lessened. We wouldn't really know them, the home they are fighting to save and how like most of us they really are.

But knowing Tolkien I'm sure there is quite a lot more to it than that :D !!!
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Philipa
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Postby Philipa » Sat Sep 17, 2005 7:31 pm

I also believe Tolkien loved the Hobbits so much after writing and telling the tales for his children he needed to set the tone with a bit of Hobbit history. :D

I look forward to reading the Prologue again with those that participate. :D
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Merry
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Postby Merry » Sun Sep 18, 2005 2:33 am

You know, over the years, in all my readings of LOTR except maybe the first, I have skipped the prologue. So it was fun to read it again this afternoon. One of the things I noticed was that it includes a mention of the Dunedain:

Indeed, a remnant still dwelt there [Eriador] of the Dunedain, the kings of Men that came over the Sea out of Westernesse; but they were dwindling fast and the lands of their North Kingdom were falling far and wide into waste.


It also identifies Bree as the remnant of an important Dunedain settlement.

So, was this enough of a clue that we might have guessed that Aragorn, when we met him, was a member of the Dunedain? I don't remember if I did or didn't. :?
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Riv Res
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Postby Riv Res » Sun Sep 18, 2005 3:00 am

Merry, I was also struck (in this afternoon's reading :wink: ) by the fact that if you hadn't read The Hobbit (which I had not at my first reading SO many years ago), then you really needed to pull out that accompanying map of ME and study carefully. Tolkien was also giving a geography there. :D
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Merry
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Postby Merry » Sun Sep 18, 2005 3:33 am

RR, you will think me a dolt, but I never paid any attention to the maps until I had to when we started doing the Tolkien calendars several years ago. :oops: Not that I recommend this course of action: studying the maps has added a new dimension to my enjoyment! But the pure joy of maps that some people experience (undoubtedly including Tolkien himself) has eluded me, sadly.
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Riv Res
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Postby Riv Res » Sun Sep 18, 2005 3:36 am

LOL...Merry, I am just like Bilbo...I love maps. :D
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Cassandra
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Postby Cassandra » Sun Sep 18, 2005 6:50 am

I love the maps, too. I used to have them as a bookmarker so I could always follow the descriptions. But, the prologue confused me in the beginning a lot. I was looking for a story and found none, yes you can tell me dull, but please throw only soft things at me, because I am penitent and already punished myself many times. But still I think, if you read LotR for the first time the Prologue can be hard to understand with all these strange names, creatures and places. After I finished the books I reread the Prologue and now it all made sense. Now I really found it great and interesting. But Riv, you should have warned us before, than I could have started reading from the beginning last week. Instead of that I reread the Helms Deep chapter, now I have to hurry reading to be up-to-date :D

Cassandra
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Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Sun Sep 18, 2005 11:31 am

I think the Prologue is tough going for a beginner too - I wonder how many people just skip over it and how many plough through it anyway feeling that it holds vital information to take along with them on the journey.

From what I remember of my first reading more than a few years ago :whistle: , I did read it first and found it mighty hard going, but was very grateful for it afterwards. The second time I read the book - much more recently! - I was fascinated by it. It is stuffed with historical clues like the mention of the Dunedain, the battle with the Witch-Lord of Angmar, the North Kingdom, things that spring out at you when you are familiar with the story and the long history of Middle-Earth.

Cassandra wrote:I love the maps, too. I used to have them as a bookmarker so I could always follow the descriptions.

Now there's a cracking good idea!!!
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Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
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Mithrandir
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Postby Mithrandir » Sun Sep 18, 2005 2:04 pm

I think the prologue sets a theme for the LOTR that is central to the message of Tolkien. We have an introduction to the world view, personality and gentle nature of the typical Hobbit. Our Hobbits are relaxed, happy when close to the natural earth, and avoid adventures. “Concerning Pipe-weed” tells us something about how Hobbits see themselves. They can be parochial, the Bree-hobbits referring to the Shire as “colonists” and also quite proud of Old Toby. The cultivation of which they think makes them quite distinctive. Much in the same way that all of us can be quite insular in our daily lives and spend our time worrying about mundane affairs, unaware of “great” events going on all around us.
But the Prologue ends by establishing this simple world of the Hobbit in the place of Middle-earth’s history. Great deeds have been done, and more great deeds are yet to come. Middle-earth is about to face one of its greatest challenges. Tolkien seems to be preparing us to see that greatness can come from the most unlikely and humble beings.
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Philipa
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Postby Philipa » Sun Sep 18, 2005 2:22 pm

Mithrandir bravo I think you've got it there. Tolkien's biggest theme for LoTR in this piece. We learn more about the the unassuming will first in the Prologue. The battle of might vs. will was about to begin. :D
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Riv Res
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Postby Riv Res » Sun Sep 18, 2005 2:26 pm

Mith, in retrospect, I have come to think that Tolkien has two tricks up his sleeve here in the Prologue...one a statement on society...one a literary device - a 'hook'.

:arrow: I think that Tolkien has his story begin by introducing this simple, idyllic, agrarian society as a direct comparison to the industrialization that he saw rising around him. After reading his letters and comments by several Tolkien scholars (notably Garth), I get the distinct impression that he was drawing a stark comparison between the two.

:arrow: I also think that Tolkien skillfully lures us (at least I fell for it) into this idyllic setting with these wonderful silly Hobbits, only to quickly follow with terror and darkness intruding from outside the Shire...immediately in the next two chapters. A master storyteller is at work here. :wink:
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Postby Mithrandir » Sun Sep 18, 2005 3:09 pm

Philipa, Yes, and that will/strength seems to be so modest and unassuming, as if it could never endure the trials described later in the book. I think Tolkien wants all of us to identify with the “smallness” of the Hobbits.

Riv, I agree, Tolkien describes the agrarian society of the Prologue with such a fondness and familiarity that I get the feeling he is describing something outside his window. I have always been partial to the theory that he is, in part, reacting to the industrialized world around him. Tolkien may have been emphatic at times, that he hated allegory in all its forms, but I just can’t help myself to see it.

Kind of odd, but this “theme” in Tolkien has always reminded me of how Henry Adams described the change in society from the veneration of the Virgin, to the rise of the Dynamo. I get the same feeling of the passing of an age when I read Tolkien

I guess to discuss Tolkien, we have no choice but to place him in his time and also react to him based on our own life experiences. I just hope we have no “allegory wars” at MeJ and can accept what each person experiences when reading the text.
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kathie ny
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The Prologue

Postby kathie ny » Sun Sep 18, 2005 3:52 pm

Guilty! I skipped the prologue too! I know what I will be doing later today!
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