Prologue

A chapter by chapter as well as general discussion of Tolkien's masterpiece
Mararan
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Postby Mararan » Wed Sep 21, 2005 11:39 pm

Philipa wrote:Would anyone like to start tomorrow (Bilbo's birthday) off with the first chapter open for discussion?
That's a good idea. I am off to do some reading :sprint:
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Riv Res
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Postby Riv Res » Thu Sep 22, 2005 12:02 am

Philipa wrote:Would anyone like to start tomorrow (Bilbo's birthday) off with the first chapter open for discussion?


Oh..Philipa, are you talking about moving on to A Long-Expected Party? :navi:
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Mithrandir
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Postby Mithrandir » Thu Sep 22, 2005 12:28 am

Since tomorrow is a day of "special magnificence", it only seems appropriate. :D
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Postby Philipa » Thu Sep 22, 2005 12:59 am

Ahhhhhhh then expect something new in the morning. :D
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Postby bruce rerek » Thu Sep 22, 2005 5:14 am

Yes, I think in honor of both Frodo and Bilbo let us discuss the birthday party. Of course you know this is also the first day of autumn? Hmm, kind of a co-inky-dink, now isn't it?
What do you inklings make of this contrast and where else does it occur? Hint, think Rivendel.
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Postby Iolanthe » Thu Apr 17, 2008 6:53 pm

Bet you didn't expect to find a new post here :lol: . I've started re-reading LotR and have, of course, started finding more stuff in the prologue than I ever picked up last time through.

This really struck me:

And as the days of the Shire lengthened they spoke less and less with the Elves, and grew afraid of them; and the Sea became a word of fear among them, and a token of death, and they turned their faces away from the hills in the west.

'And a token of death'?. That really intrigues me. I can see the Hobbits becoming wary of the Elves but this is a different kettle of fish. It seems they associate the sea with death, and as the sea is also associated with the Elves they are also associating the Elves with death. I wonder why Tolkien put this little snippet in? It just seems to be a such very negative association that Tolkien has given them.

Is to show how truly parochial the Hobbits really are, I wonder? Or how legends can be misinterpreted (the Elves 'only go there when they die'). Or is it setting the scene for when Frodo goes across the sea which, of course, does turn out to be a kind of death.

The other thing, which really made me laugh is in the very next line when he is talking about Hobbit buildings and says that they 'did not go in for towers'. Given all the towers in LotR, who built them and what use they are put to I don't blame them!!! :lol:
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Postby Merry » Fri Apr 18, 2008 4:20 am

That's what ya gotta love about LOTR: every time you read it, there are new gems to find. I hd not picked up on that line, either, Iolanthe, and it is thought-provoking. I have read that in Biblical times, the Jews thought of the sea as a symbol of death. There's also Tolkien's recurring drowning of Atlantis dream. I wonder if the sea is a symbol of death in Jungian psychology. The hobbits were also, for the most part, afraid of water--didn't Frodo's parents drown?

Water and towers! Really, Sam's journey, especially, becomes all the more remarkable.
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
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Postby Iolanthe » Fri Apr 18, 2008 9:32 am

I might have to do more digging into the symbolism. It is a common symbolic link - there are poems like T H Lawrence's 'The Ship of Death', Norse and Old English boat burials, the Egyptians also buried boats with their Pharaohs. And the West has always been where the dead go with the setting sun. But in Tolkien there is life in the West - the Valar, the earthly paradise of Aman. And it's not where men (or Hobbits) go where they die.

But the Hobbits only believe the death connection. Maybe Tolkien is hinting at the start of later traditions which always put elves or fairies and death together. In Britain fairies are associated with burial mounds which are supposed to be doorways to the Other World. Or it could be that Tolkien wanted another way to emphasise the Hobbits fear of water. You're right - Frodo's parents were drowned and it seemed unnatural in the Shire for them to be on water.

The river trip in the boats after Lothlorien must have been a real test!
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Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
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Postby Merry » Fri Apr 18, 2008 5:20 pm

I don't think JRRT ever tells us if hobbits had any beliefs concerning the afterlife: too firmly rooted in this life, I guess. But Frodo and Sam seem to adopt the Elves' worldview easily enough in other things, like the Valar and the creation story, etc., and rightly so, since some of the Elves had actually seen the Valar in their material guise. I wonder if hobbits assumed that their afterlife would be the same as the Elves'.
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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.

Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Sat Apr 19, 2008 12:13 pm

I think that Sam and Frodo were so untypical in that respect that most Hobbits had no idea what Elves had really seen or believed. It seems that all interaction with them had pretty much died.

Tolkien also says in the prologue that Hobbits 'are relatives of ours: far nearer to us than Elves or even Men........But what exactly our relationship is can no longer be discovered.' So we can only suppose that after death Tolkien sees them as going to the same place we do? There is a lot of fudging around in the Prologue to compensate for the fact that they don't exist in his original mythology, came out of nowhere and he knows nothing about them beyond their daily lives.

It's clear that he finds this mystery fun - he explains that the Elves only kept histories from their own perspective, so no Hobbits in the Sil. He makes a great deal of tracking their origins to north of the Anduin between Greenwood the Great and the Misty Mountains through their early legends. What is so typical of Tolkien is what he doesn't do: write them backwards into the early myths as though them not being there is a sort of mistake. That would tamper with his sub-creation and everything it's about. They are not there and that's the end of it - and he sets out to find out why and explain it.

Who else in the world has ever written like Tolkien?
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Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

Merry
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Postby Merry » Sat Apr 19, 2008 2:27 pm

This is a great insight, Iolanthe. It's like he's using his academic linguistic methodogy, except people are the words. Some words must just all of the sudden appear in texts for the first time and you have to acknowledge that. And, as we've said over and over, if hobbits hadn't appeared in the story and Tolkien had just written the Sil, few to none of us would ever have heard of him.

I also just love it that Tolkien chose not to answer every question for us. I've been paging through my Annotated Hobbit rather randomly, and I've been looking at his picture of Laketown and the sources which Anderson conjectures that Tolkien drew from in this imaginative geography. In the text, Tolkien writes, "The rotting piles of a greater town could still be seen along the shores when the waters sank in a drought." Anderson says in a note, 'The history of this "greater town" was not chronicled by J. R. R. Tolkien.'

Ya gotta love it! Depth and history and roots and mystery everywhere!
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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.

Merry
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Postby Merry » Fri Jun 11, 2010 7:25 am

Back to the beginning again!

I've been reading the prologue again, which, I admit, I have often skipped. So this is the first time I've really noticed: Tolkien gives it all away there at the beginning! He tells us that all four hobbits make it back to the Shire, that Elessar becomes King, that the Shire thrives and is admitted to the Reunited Kingdom, that this all happens because of the unlikely insertion of the hobbits in world affairs, and that Galadriel goes Over the Sea. It's interesting that we don't remember all that as we read breathlessly, wondering if Frodo will ever make it!

I wonder why JRRT did it this way. We discussed upthread that it's likely that he wrote the prologue after the story was done. Why reveal how the story ends before it begins?
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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.

librislove
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Postby librislove » Fri Jun 11, 2010 4:15 pm

Ah--but it's the journey itself! And he does mention he had been asked for more information on the hobbits; perhaps he figured most of the readers of the Prologue would not notice or make the connection between his precis of the story and the novel they were about to read. They were, he thought, still immersed in The Hobbit . Or he guessed like most readers, we would not bother with the Prologue. :twisted:
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Many live who deserve death; some die who deserve life--can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be so quick to deal out death in judgment. Even the wisest cannot see all ends.

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Postby marbretherese » Sat Jun 12, 2010 11:41 am

I first read LOTR so long ago I can't remember whether I read the Prologue first or not :D I suspect not. But I doubt it makes much sense if you read it first . . . . as soon as you get into the story itself that kind of takes over!
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Postby Merry » Sat Jun 12, 2010 4:08 pm

It certainly does! I guess it takes a lot of confidence in the power of one's story for an author to reveal the ending in the prologue.
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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.


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