I. Introductory comments:

A. Why begin with a party?--attending and separating, an initiation rite (How old is Bilbo?)

B. Appearance vs. reality is a major theme--Gandalf is not what he appears to be.

  1. Associated with knowledge, history, truth, and fate (Boethius)
  2. He has a philosophical perspective--sees "into the life of things."
  3. Provides a perspective that tells us that what we here is only on the surface, that a vast unseen reality lurks, for good or ill, in the background
  4. This as we know is Divine Providence--see Boethius; his color is white.

C. A theme is education--Tolkien believed he was divinely inspired to write LOTR

  1. Formal, informal education
  2. Reflectionistic and reconstructionistic; Tolkien wants the theocentric
  3. The theme is moral growth through suffering
  4. Jesus asks that we take up our cross and follow him

D. Quest--the journey archetype. Recall Tolkien's love of Beowulf

  1. The literal and the metaphoric--recall Everyman
  2. The journey is dramatized initially from a child's point of view--why?
  3. What did Jesus say about children?
  4. Romantic period perspectives also present: Tom Bombadil
  5. The notion of transcendence is paramount
  6. What is being left behind, and which of the three influences on Tolkien appears to predominate?

E. LOTR would therefore be an epic in prose using poetic devices and Christian mythology.

II. Book I, Chapter one: A Long-Expected Party:

A. What is the literary point of view, and why dramatically is it used?
B. Innocence exists but not with experience lurking, all of which is not good.
C. Subcreation is at work.
D. Character evolution of Gandalf--from a simple trickster to redemptive
theologian and philosopher
E. The quote from St. Augustine might well serve as the keystone of the world Tolkien created: his "secondary world" flows from its premises...How?

F. When this doctrine is opposed, how does Gandalf's character change?
G. What do all good characters do regarding the ring, that would never occur to the evil ones? What major Tolkien theme is being dramatized about the nature of good and evil in conflict?
I. Some details to consider in Chapter one:

  1. Tolkien wants you to be a hobbit as he thought (knew he was)
  2. What seems to be unnatural for a hobbit? Why?
  3. Bilbo's activities in the shire are seen as suspicious. What does he do? What may be involved "behind the scenes?"
  4. Notice that Gandalf is first described as_____? Point of view is important? See: "His real business was..." What is Tolkien doing? Is it flawed?
  5. What is the biblical allusion in this chapter? Think also of Chapter One of Sophies' World. The debate is whether to leave...Recall Campbell.
  6. Time is an important motif in this chapter; so much is backstory that what we are reading is but a drop in a very large ocean of myth and "unfinished tales"-- some of the characters can recollect the First Age. Bilbo is the oldest living hobbit. Gandalf is over 2000 year old.
  7. Note that the tone becomes more menacing foreshadowing....? Remember Biblo's role in the HOBBIT. Even though a scholar (co-composing the Red Book, does he understand the importance of what he has?). Appearance vs. reality looms.
  8. Byron in Manfred said, "Knowledge is sorrow." Is it in the Bilbo-Gandalf conversation? Dr. Freitas discuss the origin of evil. Where is it here, and what is the danger? Recall Shakespeare's, "It is the bright day that brings forth the adder, and that bears weary watching."
  9. Notice how the conversation changes the tone of the chapter changes. Words like "stretched," "uncloaked," "weight," and "precious" provide important foreshadowing clues. What is the primary vice that echoes Beowulf? What will be Frodo's burden, morally?
  10. Notice the allusion to the "Three Little Pigs" fairy tale; why does Tolkien use it?

III. Book I, Chapter two: The Shadow of the Past:

A. The title of course interlaces past events, most of which forebode ill, with the present, so noticeably the first paragraph refers to LEGEND. How does Tolkien say they form? Recall the Essay on Fairy Tale Literature.
B. Frodo's behavior, like Bilbo's is atypical for hobbits. Why? How would you describe Sam?
C. Merry and Pippin obviously will play major roles as the company slowly forms. What are their primary qualities? Aragorn likewise is briefly mentioned by Gandalf.
D. Vocabulary: "Mirkwood," "Mordor," "Dark Tower," "White Council," "tree-men"and "ORCS"--Note negative sub-creation at work. Recall the SOUP metaphor.
E. Point of view is important in terms of how the vocabulary derives from myth=truth for Tolkien. In modern terms, aliens; note the common need for a belief system. Notice the tradition is oral: "And I've heard tell..."
F. Gandalf provides additional information on the RING to Frodo. "Possess," "thin and stretched," "fade," and "weariness" ares key concept, morally.
G. Much of this chapter is flashback regarding the ownership of the ring, or more accurately what it owns if allowed.
H. The epistemology and point of view ("charming, absurd, helpless, hobbits.") of this chapter is important. The chapter also utilizes a dialectical perspective. What are some elements? Speaking philosophically, the cave allegory (Plato) appears likewise.
I. Tolkien uses much poetry to communicate truth through legend--note how the history of the rings is recited. Frodo's response is fear.
J. One of Tolkien's beliefs is that evil regenerates as the history of our own times sadly dramatizes. How is this so dramatized here?
K. Do you regard Isildur as tragic? If so what of Gollum?
I. Gollum (Smeagol) perhaps more than any character in LOTR has tragic potential. What does Gandalf think, and why should he know?

...and check this schematic for Gollum's character:

...and see also Shippey's J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century for the effects of the ring on its users. Gollum defines what it means to be a victim.

J. What figure of speech describes the ring? Why?
K. Check Boethius again for fate. How does this chapter suggest a Christian interpretation of fate?
L. What is the most important Christian virtue in the chapter that by appearance seems absurdly out of place, but by the reality will mean, if applied, the survival of Middle Earth.
M. How does Gandalf's Christian persona function in the chapter? Who is he really? Recall: "I will be with you all days..." How can Frodo, who feels "very small" possibly accomplish anything? In contrast, the corruption of Saruman emerges from what vice, that Alexander Pope called "...the vice of fools," and that forms the genesis of Satan's estrangement from God in Paradise Lost.
N. One of the important elements of LOTR derives from that fact that for every detail presented, an unseen and partly unremembered universe exists. Christopher Tolkien's publications of his father's papers and stories provides the substance. We are in an oral to written culture with Bilbo and company much like the Beowulf poet. Such becomes "the power of myth." for Tolkien which of course is to teach the moral truth of the Catholic Church.
O. Do you think that this excerpt from Book I of The Republic of Plato might help with Tolkien's view of the Ring:

Gyges was a shepherd in the service of the king of Lydia; there was a great
storm, and an earthquake made an opening in the earth at the place where he
was feeding his flock. Amazed at the sight, he descended into the opening,
where, among other marvels, he beheld a hollow brazen horse, having doors,
at which he stooping and looking in saw a dead body of stature, as appeared
to him, more than human, and having nothing on but a gold ring; this he
took from the finger of the dead and reascended. Now the shepherds met
together, according to custom, that they might send their monthly report
about the flocks to the king; into their assembly he came having the ring
on his finger, and as he was sitting among them he chanced to turn the
collet of the ring inside his hand, when instantly he became invisible to
the rest of the company and they began to speak of him as if he were no
longer present. He was astonished at this, and again touching the ring he
turned the collet outwards and reappeared; he made several trials of the
ring, and always with the same result--when he turned the collet inwards he
became invisible, when outwards he reappeared. Whereupon he contrived to
be chosen one of the messengers who were sent to the court; whereas soon as
he arrived he seduced the queen, and with her help conspired against the
king and slew him, and took the kingdom. Suppose now that there were two
such magic rings, and the just put on one of them and the unjust the other;
no man can be imagined to be of such an iron nature that he would stand
fast in justice. No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when
he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into houses and
lie with any one at his pleasure, or kill or release from prison whom he
would, and in all respects be like a God among men. Then the actions of
the just would be as the actions of the unjust; they would both come at
last to the same point. And this we may truly affirm to be a great proof
that a man is just, not willingly or because he thinks that justice is any
good to him individually, but of necessity, for wherever any one thinks
that he can safely be unjust, there he is unjust. For all men believe in
their hearts that injustice is far more profitable to the individual than
justice, and he who argues as I have been supposing, will say that they are
right. If you could imagine any one obtaining this power of becoming
invisible, and never doing any wrong or touching what was another's, he
would be thought by the lookers-on to be a most wretched idiot, although
they would praise him to one another's faces, and keep up appearances with
one another from a fear that they too might suffer injustice. Enough of

IV. Book I, Chapter Three: Three is Company:

A. This transitional chapter states directly the quest archetype.
B. The mood as Frodo and Sam depart is fear--justified? What may they not know that Hamlet suspects?
C. Why does Tolkien use animal personification? Notice too hints that the setting will change.
D Tolkien's moral philosophy precluded pragmatism. How is that illustrated in this chapter? What is the biblical allusion?
E. There is another instance of personification in the chapter, this time involving nature. See Shelley's Ode to the West Wind as an allusion.
F. What is the theme of Bilbo's poem?
G. A new race is introduced in song which recalls the creation myth of the First Age. Gilthoniel (Eleberth) "star kindler." Names for Varda, spouse of Manwe, as told in The Silmarillion. She created the stars and filled the lamps of the Valar with light. She is also revered for blessing the silmarils, rendering them sacred. Her role suggests Tolkien's love for Mary. Since her role in LOTR is important, a feminist interpretation could be advanced. With the elves, Tolkien refines a theme central to LOTR-men's mortality and elve's immortality.
H. Notice the difference between Frodo and Pippin.
I. Gildor's philosophy embodies the wisdom that comes with age. What does he tell Frodo? Robert Frost's Mending Wall offers a comparison. Time too is a significant motif. Gildor's advice to Frodo will set the tone for what the company ought to do.

V. Book I, Chapter Four: A Short Cut to Mushrooms:

A. Is there a moral reason for the title?
B. Does the ring mature Frodo? How does he treat Pippin and why? What does he do that other hobbits seem incapable of?
C. What is Sam's essential quality that certainly has a scriptural base? His opinion of the elves is a good example. Tolkien noted that Sam was the British soldier in the trenches in WWI.
D. Note as the hobbits travel toward Bucklebury how the environment changes. For Tolkien nature virtually becomes a character. Mixed in are shrill cries that foreshadow evil. The hobbits should be afraid, as Yoda tells Luke in a similar environment.
E. Why is Frodo's past with Farmer Maggot important psychologically and morally? What does is name suggest?
F. Maggot provides important information regarding...? Note the point of view and use of flashback.
G. Note that in the present, Tolkien repeats what appears to be the same heinous intrusion, but this time who appears?
H. Note the paradoxical imagery in the last paragraph of the chapter.
I. Regarding nature imagery again, why are mushrooms important metaphorically? Recall Alice in Wonderland. Think also of fertility myths. The motif will appear again in the next chapter, with Tolkien using "passion" to describe a hobbit's craving.

VI. Book I, Chapter Five: A Conspiracy Unmasked:

A.In this chapter, Frodo develops as a dynamic character, achieved partlly through Tolkien's use of dream: pyschological and literary..
B. What subtleties does Tolkien use to create character? How does Pippin differ from Merry?
C. Nature imagery fuses with character development in this chapter, and what is foreshadows isn't good.
D. Tolkien's romantic suspicions condemned what man made, echoing Rousseau, but what did Fatty do for Frodo?
E. What excites Pippin in this chapter, and what are the thematic implications?
F, How is Tolkien isolating Frodo from the rest of the hobbits? Why? What makes his character dynamic? Is he maturing? Contrast with Pippin.
G. The hobbits have a growing sense of Frodo's fate, and offer their support, especially Sam. The Christian theme is explicit. Recall Wordsworth's My Heart Leaps Up. Their knowledge of the ring is important.
H. Frodo's advice comes from the Hobbits, Gildor, Farmer Maggot and Gandalf. Summarize.
I. Frodo's decision to travel via the OLD FOREST symbolizes...? Note the T. B. association. On a psychological level, the forest symbolizes the dark side, the gothic side (think shadow archetype) as readers of The Monk and Dracula might recall. For Tolkien, though, the destruction of trees is unnatural and immoral.
J. The chapter ends with a dream. As gothic readers know, novels such as Frankenstein employ dreams in two ways: psychological and literary, with the latter suggesting much foreshadowing potential. Frodo's dream suggests a descent and features a tower--readers of Tolkien's Essay on Fairy Tale Literature and Beowulf, The Monsters and the Critics may recall the reference. In LOTR, the tower may represent Amon Sul which held a palantir.

VII. Book I, Chapter Six: The Old Forest:

A. Nature imagery personifies the opening paragraphs. How used?
B. How and why does Tolkien use legends here? What is the archetype?
C. A motif is an evolving interlace pattern that dominates a work such as the positive and negative alliteration patterns in Beowulf. The ring motif and related synonyms dominate LOTR. Here, words such as "surrounds," "weight," and "encircling" interlace with nature personification.
D. Certainly this chapter prefigures the ENTS and dramatizes the descent archetype. STUDY CAREFULLY THE DICTION IN THIS PASSAGE. A theme is entrapment, which seems fated to occur: "They were...simply following a course chosen for them."
E . Note the biblical allusion to flies. Why?
F. What is the purpose of the willow tree? Who rescues Merry? (ASIDE: Check Tolkien's letters for his opinion of Tom. Why is nature aggressive?
G. What epic device does Tolkien use for the rescue? See also Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey.
H. Characters in epics are often not sophisticated: is Tom? What is your opinion? Discuss the imagery that ends the chapter.

VIII. Book I, Chapter Seven: In the House of Tom Bombadil:

A. Color, ring and water imagery predominate. What happens to the ring? Why?
B. Two significant allusions in this chapter are to Wordsworth and Rousseau. How?
C. With this chapter as a guide, what does Tolkien believe about nature? Time is important, especially regarding Tom B. Why? How essential dramatically are the events to the plot?
D. Goldberry may represent? What is the parallel: Tom B. / Goldberry / nature ::____/____/____.
G. In the midst of nature, Frodo dreams with Merry and Pippin. Are the dreams literary or psychological? Towers, figure of a man, stone, wolves all sound like Dracula. The key though, is the eagle. Volume II provides a clue. The dream's reality will be dramatized in Book II, Ch 2, The Council of Elrond.
H. Tom's effect on the ring dramatizes what? Recall sub-creation.
I. What Christian values are present?
J. There may be an allusion in this chapter to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which Tolkien translated regarding a ring.

IX. Book I, Chapter Eight: Fog on the Barrow Downs:

A. The sense of the past and nature imagery haunt the chapter. Evil lurks, and Frodo is tempted. We recall that Dracula comes to England (Whitby) in a dense fog.
B. A metaphysical read of the chapter might ask what is "really real?"
C. What is the connotation of "down under hill?" Again, note the archetype.
D. Entrapment predominates, and what does Frodo do? Note the diction involved. Aristotle said a failing, flaw, misunderstanding is judgmental; not moral. Tolkien, though, wrote a Christian epic. Characterize the flaw here, if there is one. What is a BARROW-WIGHT? Characterize the diction. What happens to Frodo? What saves him? Why in terms of Tolkien's cosmology?
E. Note that the B. W. event is part of a progression leading to....?
F. After the rescue there is an allusion to Beowulf. What?
G.There is also an allusion to Westernesse that points to a serious moral dilemma faced later at the Council of Elrond. The Numenorians quest for immortality will prove fatal. We are being prepared for Aragorn II. We will debate this issue in class..
H. What alias does Frodo assume at the Prancing Pony?

X. Book I, Chapter Nine: At the Sign of the Prancing Pony:

A. For Star Trek fans, the Prancing Pony is a bit like DS-9.
B. Once more, a reference to time and age. RANGER suggests a human past rooted in antiquity--back to the Second Age as dramatized in the Silmarillion. Aragorn (along with Gandalf and Frodo) are the three most important theological characters in the LOTR.
C. Bree likewise dates to the Second Age.
D. Are there any allusions to Chaucer in this chapter?

E. Foreshadowing sometimes involves irony. Who is the dark figure not? Why does Tolkien do this? The theme is philosophical, touching on appearance vs. reality again.
F. What color is associated with STRIDER? Why? What kind of advice does he give, and why especially to Hobbits need to hear it?
G. Why, beyond the mechanism of plot, does Frodo vanish? Is fate at work here?: "How it came to be on his finger, he could not tell."
H. What does Pippin have to do with all of this? What romantic period theme--Wordsworth and Rousseau--is at work?

XI. Book I, Chapter Ten: Strider:

A. Strider gets his own chapter. He should, given his history and to Tolkien what and whom he represents. He knows a great deal more than he reveals.

B. Point of view is important; what does Frodo not understand? Should he (yet)?
C. Notice how a real personality emerges from the rather 'stock-villain' stereotype description of Strider early in the chapter. What is the philosophical theme?
D. TIME as a motif dominates: "I am older than I look," says Strider. Who is he historically and allegorically?
E. Frodo senses his appearance is not the reality.
F. How is Hobbit courage illustrated is this chapter? Note it is the same kind of courage that allowed the English to "muddle through" during the Blitz. The threats are omnipresent.
G. Tolkien of course loved riddles, and Gandalf's letter contains several--there are allusions to Tolkien's own mythology: Narsil, Isildur (think Beowulf), Aragorn, The Merchant of Venice, fire, and of course the Ents. Evil will defeat itself. What does Gandalf want Frodo to do?
H. What do Gandalf and Strider have in common? Why? Note there is also a Macbeth allusion.
I. Dreams as in Chapter 7 acquire sinister connotations as the chapter ends. What does water represent traditionally, and in this Chapter? T. S. Eliot may have a clue in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

XII. Book I, Chapter Eleven: A Knife in the Dark:

A. What biblical allusions predominate in this chapter? Note too and once again, the time motif. Evil has a long history. The motif is also terror.
B. The manner in which they leave the inn for Weathertop is ironic. Why?
C. Lightning and flies and thinning have important connotations.
D. Much mythology appears here in giving evil depth and an ancient presence: Amon Sul, and Angmar, but good contests: Elendil and Gil-galad (Last Alliance / Battle of Dagorlad). -- Note the presence of the ring motif.
E. Why does Tolkien make the hobbits so naive? Example here? But would Aristotle say there is a recognition moment here?
F. We know that Tolkien's favorite tale from The Silmarillion was of Beren and Luthien. Here Aragorn sings of Tinuviel (Luthien). Why? How would a feminist read the poem? Recall the autobiographical elements.
G. The poem contains a theme central to Tolkien's mythology as dramatized in THE RING OF MORGOTH--the merits of immortality vs. mortality / elves and men. The establishment of a elf-man genealogy is also dramatically important for Aragorn.
H. How does the diction of the chapter foreshadow what Frodo will do? Look again at Dr. Freitas' questions? What is Tolkien's moral perspective? What would Aristotle believe?

XII. Book I, Chapter Twelve : Flight to the Ford:

A. What is the pale king? Perhaps a Keats' allusion.
B. How does the macrocosm (nature) mirror the microcosm (Frodo)?
C. What does the wound symbolize?
D. The reference (again) to time and not forgetting is important. We need to constantly recall how the First and Second age impact on the Third.
E. What Christian virtue best characterizes Sam?
F. Light emerges from the darkness: Glorfindel has fought evil before. (Angmar)
G. Volume I ends with Frodo in peril: What happens?



I. Book II, Chapter I: Many Meetings

A. Chapter One contains many flashbacks thematically and with character development. We learn of Elrond who will chair the Council, his daughter Arwen and her relationship with Aragorn, and of course Biblo and Frodo reunite. Thematically, Frodo's remark that he would rather see Biblo than all the towers in the world echoes Jesus' temptation before his ministry. Yet the ring is present and threatens to destroy what the good sub-creates.

B. Notice the development of a dialectic moving toward a synthesis:

  1. Negative connotations: fade, unpleasant, nothingness, wraith, fear thin, strike
  2. Positive connotations: fond, cure, music, dream (in some cases), enchantment
  3. Does a synthesis occur in Christian terms? What words suggest it? How is Frodo
  4. Most importantly in this chapter, Tolkien identifies the "FLAW" in Frodo's character that resulted in his using the ring. Aristotle in The Poetics speaks of a judgemental error or misunderstanding (Oedipus), while in the Renaissance the pramatic theory--imitaiton of what ought to be but to teach and delight, gradually resulted in a shift to a moral error that Aristotle perhaps (although this is debated) would not have intended. What does Frodo say here, and would Aristotle agree?

C. What power does Elrond have and why?
D. How does Tolkien dramatize that hobbits are still childlike and charmingly absurd? Why is this their greatest strength?
E. Gloin, the father of Gimli, speaks for his race when...? How were the Dwarves created, and what do they most "desire?"
F. Study the poem to Earendil and recall The Silmarillion. What character in the present scene has a relationship (literally and thematically) with him spanning to the FA?
G. Notice how the creation myth is involved thematically--what motif?
H. Comment on the development of Frodo. How is his relationship to Biblo involved.
I. In the movie, Arwen saves Frodo from the Nazgul. What happens in the text? Characterize Arwen, noting to whom she is compared.
J. Check the allusions to The Hobbit.

II. Book II, Chapter II: The Council of Elrond

A. Recall the importance of Councils in epic literature: Book of The Iliad dramatizes the need to placate Apollo, an angry God, while Hrothgar and Unferth confer with Beowulf regarding the dispositon of evil. Usually evil must be confronted and eliminated:. We should note in this chapter:

  1. What qualifites Elrond to chair the Council (consider age and ability).
  2. The Nature of evil: compare Satan's soliloquy that opens Book IV of Paradise Lost. Evil of course is intelligent, seems to have an advantage since it does not "play by the rules," but for Tolkien has at least two serious flaws that will ultimately spell its doom. What are they? Pay careful attention to the characters of Boromir and Saruman.
  3. Importantly, evil in the process of destroying itself takes much of the good with it as happens in Shakespearean tragedy (A.C. Bradley comments in Shakespearean Tragedy are a useful parallel).
  4. The Council of Elrond gathers about Frodo including those who will assist or perhaps mar his efforts to return the ring to Mount Doom. Much character development, myth, legend and history appear in this turning point chapter:


B. What does the very first paragraph in the chapter characterize?
C. Hints of future behavior occur in this chapter, and we should note details regarding:

  1. Boromir: "...proud and stern of glance."
  2. Gloin: "...Moria, Moria..too deep we delved there." Note too his description of what Sauron wanted, and the biblical allusion.
  3. Elrond: "Your trouble is but part of the trouble..." and "You are come and are here met, in this very nick of time, by chance so it may seem." How is he able to say this?
    • Note his historical perspective, and reference of course The Silmarillion. The following phrases are important moral / psychological clues...
      • Elven-smith's "eagerness for knowledge..." (Celebrimor)
      • The Last Alliance--validation of Elendil and his son Isildur (to Aragorn)
      • Elrond: "I remember well the splendor of their banners...I have seen three ages."
        • Dagorlad and the defeat of Sauron (see The Silmarillion: "But at the last siege was so straight that Sauron himself came forth; and he wrestled with Gil-galad and Elendil, and they both were slain, and the Sword of Elendil broke under him as he fell. But Sauron was also thrown down, and with the hilt-shard of Narsil, Isildur cut the ruling ring from the hand of Sauron, and took if for his own. Then Sauron was for that time vanquished, and he forsook his body,, and his spirit fled far away..." (p. 365). Elrond was there, 3434 SA.
      • Notice how Boromir reacts to the news of the ring, and what Elrond says regarding Isildur. There is an allusion to Beowulf : weregild. Is there a hint to the morality of Boromir.
      • What is the evaluation of the Last Alliance, morally? What is Tolkien arguing about the nature of evil? The elf-men (immortality / mortality issue--recall Morgoth's Ring) is the crux of what the company will face.
      • Elrond turns to the history of men:
        • Minas Ithil--called the Tower of the Rising Moon by Isildur, but captured by the Nazgul--called then Minas Morgul in Gondor. A palantir was there.
        • Minas Anor--called the Tower of the Setting Sun--chief city of Gondor; a palantir was likewise kept there. Minas Anor will be renamed Minas Tirith. The chief city of Gondor, MT will be saved at the Battle of Pelenor fields.
    • The reaction of Boromir, whose heritage these events outline, is important. Boromir, son of Denethor II, the last ruling Stewart of Gondor, notes: "The might of Elrond is in wisdom, not weapons." Why is that phrase so significant? There is also a significant allusion to Beowulf in his remarks, using the G alliteration.
    • Study his dream, recalling both the literary and psychological dream, and observe how different Frodo's reaction is. Bilbo's poetry substantiates more properly Aragorn's claim, and makes use of The Merchant of Venice.
  4. Gandalf, too contributes, and his tale of events since he left Frodo in the Shire documents great treachery: are the motives typically Tolkien?
    What does Gandalf believe regarding the knowledge of Sauron (recall "knowledge is sorrow.")?
    • What caused Gandalf to err regarding Saruman?
    • There is a hint of the flaw in Denethor's character. Correlate with Boromir, as evidenced by the most important word Isildur wrote when describing the ring. What is it?
  5. Note, (p.332), Tolkien's view of history...Recall the soup metaphor in the FT essay. What do you think of Aragorn's estimate of Gollum? Recall what Gandalf said and the Christian virtue involved. Are there errors in the account of Gollum? Recall Tolkien's belief that we, however wise, only know a part of the Divine Plan.
  6. Is it really horrid to learn from Legolas that Gollum escaped? What does Gandalf seem to know about what Gollum will do?
  7. The good are not immune from error. The failure of Gandalf to discern Saruman's intentions cause grave harm, but good comes from evil. What about the good prevents understanding of evil's true intent?
  8. Color imagery is important. In mocking the good, Saruman refers to himself as "Saruman of many colors." Why? What is his flaw? His goal is "Knowledge, rule order," meaning?
  9. Note that now Gandalf properly evaluates Saruman. What gave him away? (One of Tolkien's favorite words for evil is___as used here. What is the moral error Saruman and all those who morally err commit?
  10. Look for a Hitler - Stalin parallel here. Shakespeare understood in Troilus and Cressida (Ulysses' 'order and degree' speech, which interestingly uses a wolf metaphor: recall Carcharoth in The Silmarillion).
  11. Recall Frodo's dream (In the House of Tom Bombadil) of Gandalf's escape.
  12. Part of Gandalf's escape (due to the honesty of Radagast whom Saruman underestimates), involves Rohan and Theoden, whom Tolkien patterned after the characters in Beowulf. Wormtongue will have an important role.
    1. Why is Bombadil ruled out as a source of aid?, and what is Gandalf's moral perspective?
    2. Elrond knows the only course is.....and Who objects? Have we been prepared, and what is Elrond's response? One of Tolkien's key words for potential appears again as it did with Feanor.
  15. Look at the end of the chapter carefully: do you find Gandalf's response to Elrond knowledgeable? Wise? What does Frodo say, and how does the chapter end?

D. In summary: provide a Locke / Descartes evaluation.

III. Book II, Chapter III: The Ring Goes South

A. Ideas of importance concern the role of nature personified, the quest archetype, and obviously character development as the "Company of 9" set forth.

B. Relate Biblo's "...happily ever after.." line, the traditional ending to a fairy tale to Tolkien's essay--does the seemingly absolute inability of Pippin and the hobbits to understand what Frodo chooses to do insure the mission's success. Elrond (age = wisdom; recall his advice to Isildur) warns the company has no idea what lies ahead, and if they did, THEY WOULD NOT GO. What is a necessary condition for a Christian universe's existence? What does Elrond mean by noting that success will not be accomplished by force?

C. As a clue, see T. S. Eliot's Tradition and the Individual Talent essay in which he notes that we are more intelligent than the Homer's and Shakespeare's of the past because our knowledge today comes from what they taught us!!! What would Tolkien say?

D. What Bilbo tells Frodo makes sense in this context. Study his poem, recalling for example, what Shelley said in Ode to the West Wind.

E.Study Elrond's final pronouncement as the company departs. What moral issue is involved; can its paradox be explained?

F. Caradhras and its snow, nature personified, might be compared to another Shelley poem, Mount Blanc. We will also be prepared for another archetype, descent to the underworld, common to all epics from The Odyssey to Star Wars. The tone becomes increasingly foreboding.

G. Do humans behave differently from wizards, dwarfs, elves etc. in the chapter?

G. Is there an ironic Tom Bombadil comparison? What is the intent?

H. Comment on the last line of the chapter?

IV. Book II, Chapter IV: A Journey in the Dark

A. Obviously we must consider the descent archetype: recall Beowulf and Grendel's dam and Odysseus. What universals are involved?

B. Does fate dictate that the company must descend into the mines of Moria? Recall the language used in THE OLD FOREST CHAPTER.

C. How does Gandalf behave in character when he talks to Boromir, and what are we learning about his "journey into darkness?" Does Gandalf see "with the eyes of Apollo" (recall Oedipus), or____in this case? Is Boromir in character? What would Descartes say?

D. Why is Moria so feared that even Gandalf has difficulty persuading anyone to go? There are gothic references recalling Dracula, and an important event dramatized in The Tale of Beren and Luthien in The Silmarillion.(p. 220). This chapter alludes to ancient hostilities: See Of The Ruins of Doraith, pp.287 (The Silmarillion)

E. Notice the nature-personification imagery--what is the motif, and who surprisingly perhaps provides a counter-example? How is Wordsworth's My Heart Leaps Up validated?

F. If all choices seem ill, are there choices? Fate? Free will?

G. Note the difficulty entering the mines: MELLON is the key, ironically meaning what?

H. A philosophical / moral / educational reason for the descent concerns the effect the mines have on Frodo. Explain using flashbacks as needed. Tolkien's Christian ethic figures significantly here. Out of what appears to be depraved evil comes the genesis of the effects that will ultimately save the company and defeat Sauron.

I. Does Pippin's childish behavior prefigure disaster? Will good ever come from it...and what is the moral point? Recall Hamlet's "There's providence in the fall of a sparrow."

J. Each race seems to have its traditions and lore expressed in verse. Thus, Gimli has his moment. What does the poem feature? Recall The Mythopoeia. Contrast with the thoughts of Frodo immediately following...

K. The chapter ends in despair. Who was Balin? The quest at this moment seems fated to fail. Doom appears everywhere: why does Tolkien set these events in what is in effect a large grave. Recall as a parallel what happened in the valley of the kings in Egypt. Also consider Ozymandias.

V. Book II, Chapter V: The Bridge at Khazad-dum

A. Note the motifs that recall The Silmarillion: music and biblical imagery. These must be evaluated in light of the horrid loss that appears to destroy any hope of success for the company.

B. The past and the present connect, which for Tolkien must be. How? For example, what is the "secret fire?"

C. Which of the major influences on Tolkien is at work here? What epic archetype appears and why? Think of parallel moments in The Odyssey and Beowulf. From a psychological -moral perspective, what does the archetype dramatize?

D. Note that images of descent continue to accumulate (think Beowulf), and Coleridge. What surprises Aragorn, and is good coming from this? Recall what Dr. Freitas said regarding the nature of good and evil, and with Tolkien's love of language, there is a great pun involved.

E. Gandalf and the Balrog--what biblical allusion did Tolkien probably have in mind?

Evil is very ancient of course: the Balrog was one of the demons of fire that served Morgoth: See Chapter III of The Silmarillion.




VI. Book II, Chapter VI: Lothlorien

A. The sundering of the company provides an important clue to Tolkien's moral perspective on several levels:

  1. The nature of the Christian and Anglo-Saxon hero
  2. A flashback to the Council chapter
  3. Man's relationship to God in the microcosm--what is our perspective meant to be?
  4. Out of evil comes a much greater good: recall from The Silmarillion what Illuvatar says to Melkor
  5. It has been noted that Lothlorien stands for the seasonal archetype of__________?

B. The land of Lothlorien (macrocosm) along with Rivendell (microcosm) are the great Elf havens in Middle Earth. Romantic period imagery and musical motifs (recall Elrond) dominate. Sam's comment profoundly sets the tone for the chapter, but there is much joy and sadness here. Why are the elves really in a 'no-win' situation, and do they know it? Recall the elf-human debate on immortality vs. mortality in Morgoth's Ring.

C. Geography becomes metaphor:

  1. Barrow downs
  2. Rivendell
  3. Caradhras
  4. Moria
  5. Lothlorien

What do each represent?

D. Why does Tolkien have Lothlorien shrouded in mystery? Why the blindfolds? Why a vanished world? Perhaps the advice Galadriel provides the company is rooted in that mystery. Why does Boromir think Lothlorien perilous, one of Tolkien's favorite words from the FT Essay. Remember too Mythopoeia.

E. Another part of the mystery concerns someone lurking in the background? Who?

F. Racial tensions threaten to destroy the company, and again we need some history. Check The Silmarillion and the crafting of the Nauglamir.

G. Poetry of course would have to be present in an 'enchanted realm,' and Legolas' tale of Nimrodel is autobiographical. Love is an important motif.

VII. Book II, Chapters VII and VIII: The Mirror of Galadriel and Farewell to Lorien

A. Fate, prophecy, predestination, and free will dominate this chapter in the mirror of Galadriel. See Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy. The chapter's content as well depends on our understanding of test theology. Consider:

A. The Book of Job
B. Adam and Eve
C. Jesus' final hours

B. The loss of Gandalf is catastrophic to Galadriel. Study its impact in the current contexts: what distinguishes Galadriel from Celeborn? How is she wiser? Certainly, and regardless of what Tolkien may have intended, a feminist interpretation of this chapter is well justified morally and dramatically. Galadriel pars with Gandalf in terms of her central role in guiding the company. Without her, they would fail. Define her role philosophically as she looks into the eyes of the company. For what is she searching? "Your quest stands upon the edge of a knife", she says, "Stray but a little and it will fail.." Tolkien notes thereafter, "All of them, it seemed, had fared alike: each had felt that he was offered a choice between a shadow full of fear that lay ahead, and something that he greatly desired: clear before his mind it lay, and to get it he had only to turn aside from the road and leave the Quest and the war against Sauron to others."

Study those lines carefully. It has been noted that the desirability of a thing does not determine its excellence. What does that mean here? Study too how the company reacts, especially Boromir' assessment of Galadriel. Compare his assessment of Elves to Sam's: what's the difference, and why?

C. Central to Paradise Lost is Milton's belief in the absolute primacy of free will: click here, and note the following:

    1. In hell, the fallen demons debate in Council relationships important in this chapter:

In discourse more sweet
(For Eloquence the Soul, Song charms the Sense)
Others apart sat on a hill retired,
In thoughts more elevate, and reasoned high
Of Providence, Foreknowledge, Will, and Fate--
Fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute,
And found no end, in wandering mazes lost.
Of good and evil much they argued then,
Of happiness and final misery,
Passion and apathy, and glory and shame:
Vain wisdom all, and false philosophy!--
Yet, with a pleasing sorcery, could charm
Pain for a while or anguish, and excite
Fallacious hope, or arm th' obdured breast
With stubborn patience as with triple steel

(Book I)

2. Later, God clarifies:

So will fall
He and his faithless progeny: Whose fault?
Whose but his own? ingrate, he had of me
All he could have; I made him just and right,
Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.
Such I created all the ethereal Powers
And Spirits, both them who stood, and them who fail'd;
Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell.
Not free, what proof could they have given sincere
Of true allegiance, constant faith or love,
Where only what they needs must do appear'd,
Not what they would? what praise could they receive?
What pleasure I from such obedience paid,
When will and reason (reason also is choice)
Useless and vain, of freedom both despoil'd,
Made passive both, had serv'd necessity,
Not me? they therefore, as to right belong$ 'd,
So were created, nor can justly accuse
Their Maker, or their making, or their fate,
As if predestination over-rul'd
Their will dispos'd by absolute decree
Or high foreknowledge they themselves decreed
Their own revolt, not I; if I foreknew,
Foreknowledge had no influence on their fault,
Which had no less proved certain unforeknown.
So without least impulse or shadow of fate,
Or aught by me immutably foreseen,
They trespass, authors to themselves in all
Both what they judge, and what they choose; for so
I form'd them free: and free they must remain,
Till they enthrall themselves; I else must change
Their nature, and revoke the high decree
Unchangeable, eternal, which ordain'd
Their freedom: they themselves ordain'd their fall.
The first sort by their own suggestion fell,
Self-tempted, self-deprav'd: Man falls, deceiv'd
By the other first: Man therefore shall find grace,
The other none: In mercy and justice both,
Through Heaven and Earth, so shall my glory excel;
But Mercy, first and last, shall brightest shine.

(Book III)

D. Correlate the passages from Milton with the Mirror. What does it offer...or not offer? On what moral and philosophical premises does its existence depends? Using an Aristotle read would help as would Greek mythology: the Oracle of Delphi dominated Greek religious thought, and influences significantly the Oedipus plays. Click here for background. In Hobbits, Elves and Wizards, Michael Stanton notes, "The mirror is not a guide to action." (p. 42). Is he correct? On what does all of this depend?

E. Galadriel allows the company to look into the mirror,

...and she bestows gifts. Recall her preface- the use of "" and time imagery are linguistically significant. Why as she notes is the mirror "...dangerous as a guide of deeds." Correlate the person with the vision and the gift. Desire and choice are important motifs:

Sam [the little gardener] Frodo pale and asleep under a cliff; the destruction of the shire a little box, adorned with the letter G therein containing a bit of earth from Lothlorien
Frodo a figure in white; Bilbo and his room in disarray; water; ships; and an EYE rimmed with fire some light from Earendil's star in a little phial
Aragorn N/A a sliver broach in the likeness of an eagle; Anduril
Boromir N/A a belt of gold
Merry/ Pippin N/A silver belts shaped like a flower
Legolas N/A a bow
Gimli [note his biblical allusion] N/A a strand of Galadriel's hair--[This gift sets Gimli apart]

F. What is Nenya, and who has it? The paradox is one of the most poignant moments in the trilogy, and is a moving testament to Tolkien's faith. How does Galadriel deal with temptation? Her wisdom prevails.

G. Now that Gandalf is "dead," Aragorn assumes the dreaded burden of leadership; a role he clearly does not want, but must assume as did Jesus when He accepted his burden for our sins: he had to die before he could be resurrected. "Yet what help could he or any of the Company give to Frodo, save to walk blindly with him into the darkness?" CONTRAST once again with Boromir's judgment. What would Aristotle say?

H. Notice the beauty of Galadriel's poem as the company prepares to depart. It cannot be analyzed; only experienced. Borormir's contrasting observations highlights the differences between them philosophically. What is the biblical allusion; one that is also used in Macbeth?

I. Tolkien ends the chapter on a profound note; in the context of narrating that Frodo never will see Lorien again, the importance of fate and free will never was more essential. Neo-Platonic / Christian, and Romantic influences converge.

VIII. Book II, Chapter IX: The Great River

A. Evil in its macrocosmic and microcosmic dimensions lurks and is dramatized in may forms in this chapter, but all is not as it seems.

B. How "evil" is Boromir and Gollum? Are these characters more complex than the "good ones?" Compare, for instance, Milton's Satan with his God. What Star Wars figure outsold all others?

C. Why does Tolkien use a dream to dramatize the Sam-Gollum contact, and what part of Gollum's anatomy does Sam see? Flashback to the Mirror of Galadriel. The gothic elements prevail.

D. What is the dark shape? What kind of creature, and what biblical allusion does Tolkien use? Notice the imagery (where did we see it before), and the importance of one of Galadriel's gifts. Tolkien's narrative always uses interlacing motifs. "Seasonal" imagery suggests hope fades, but...

E. Do you respect Boromir's logic and convictions in this chapter? Is he evil? Why by contrast is Aragon interested in Amon Hen-(The seat of seeing)? What biblical allusion is associated with Aragorn as the chapter ends?

F. Tolkien ends the chapter with "The last stage of the Quest was before them." Does he mean this ironically, given the title of the last chapter of Book I?

IX. Book II, Chapter X. The Breaking of the Fellowship.

[My subtitle: The Heroism of Frodo?]

A. When Peter told Jesus that He should not go to Jerusalem for fear of execution, he was remonstrated for thinking as men do; not God. Another remark of Jesus to his terrified disciples, "I will be with you all days.." also applies as perhaps does Judas? How? Allusions to Macbeth also predominate.

B. Does Boromir's conduct surprise you? What is the difference between the short and long term consequences of his action? May we regard Boromir as heroic? At what point may we legitimately lose some, if not all, of our respect for him? Recall the equivocation of Macbeth. Some critics see him as Judas? Is he? What about Frodo? Does his conduct surprise?

C. What choice is best governed by wisdom?

D. Why must Aragorn say to Frodo that fate has mandated he choose? How is Tolkien's theology evidenced? Recall the Council of Elrond.

E. Frodo's meditation allows Boromir to seek him out. We know why: analyze their conversation, noting for example, an alliteration motif seen earlier during The Council of Elrond (p. 324).

F. How does Boromir react when Frodo uses the ring? Must he use it? Tolkien does much with Frodo in the nether world:

  1. Where is he, and what does he see? Is he meant to see what he sees? Will good come of it?
  2. "All hope left him" recalls Dante.
  3. Who is present besides Frodo and Sauron? What biblical allusion?
  4. Look at the passage that begins, "The two powers strove in him..." and compare Macbeth's "I dare do all..."
  5. Then what does Frodo do and why?

G. Aragorn notes that Sam's wisdom is greater than anyone else's regarding a course of action when Frodo returns. How so? Then is Sam's conduct predictable?

H. Must Frodo and Sam go on alone. Note the apparent absurdity, but....