Friday, March 12, 2021

The Two Towers // Book 3, Chapter 10 // The Voice of Saruman

Bet you can't tell I've been procrastinating this chapter, eh? ;) Seriously though, there's so so much to think about, I really wanted to get a handle on it before posting. I'm still thinking on it, but a few talking points have finally come together.

Again, Tolkien wasn't making any sort of allegory, but his imagination was so steeped and saturated in the words and symbols of God, it can't help welling up right and left in his prose. That said, when quoting below I'm not saying there's necessarily a direct typology connection, just sharing my reverberating thoughts this week.

Three specific things I'm cogitating on are: the wilderness, the serpent, and the deep, deep folly of pride.

I was thinking of the serpent in the wilderness separately and then while listening to the chapter (for I think the fourth or fifth time in the last two weeks), the opening paragraph just leapt out at me:

"They passed through the ruined tunnel and stood upon a heap of stones, gazing at the dark rock of Orthanc, and its many windows, a menace still in the desolation that lay all about it. The waters had now nearly all subsided. Here and there gloomy pools remained, covered with scum and wreckage; but most of the wide circle was bare again, a wilderness of slime and tumbled rock..."

And into this rocky wilderness they will go, to meet and be tempted by the serpent with his smooth words.

And so we come to the voice of Saruman:

"Suddenly another voice spoke, low and melodious, its very sound an enchantment. Those who listened unwarily to that voice could seldom report the words that they heard; and if they did, they wondered, for little power remained in them. Mostly they remembered only that it was a delight to hear the voice speaking, all that it said seemed wise and reasonable, and desire awoke in them by swift agreement to seem wise themselves. When others spoke they seemed harsh and uncouth by contrast; and if they gainsaid the voice, anger was kindled in the hearts of those under the spell. For some the spell lasted only while the voice spoke to them, and when it spoke to another they smiled, as men do who see through a juggler's trick while others gape at it. For many the sound of the voice alone was enough to hold them enthralled; but for those whom it conquered the spell endured when they were far away, and ever they heard that soft voice whispering and urging them. But none were unmoved; none rejected its pleas and its commands without an effort of mind and will..."

The voice of the devil -- that dangerous siren song. Compelling and attractive, even lovely. And so very, very reasonable. Even appealing to (what we think) are our noble instincts. But its end is utter destruction. 

It also immediately brings to mind the entire episode with the Queen of Underland in Lewis's Silver Chair. Theoden's voice breaking in here is akin to Puddleglum's bravely burnt feet and sturdy stand for truth. (One wonders what discussions might have happened on some late night between Lewis and Tolkien with their pipes and ale mugs before them, leading to these two incredible scenes. :))

Finally we have pride: the lifting up -- the lust for power -- the wanting to be God -- the root of idolatry leading to all kinds of evil. That lust that sways us from our first love, our desires, our duty. True authority does not need to graspingly assert itself, and a true counselor serves. Saruman, wishing to command, soon becomes entangled in a web of his own making. 

To extrapolate a little on another note: Gimli's sturdy line is also very apropos/a great reminder in these tumultuous times when we may sometimes find ourselves using the same terminology as others, but with entirely divergent understandings: "The words of this wizard stand on their heads,' he growled..." Not immediately what Gimli was talking about, but it got me thinking how counterfeits and lies can be especially attractive and hook us in, simply because they do sometimes recognize a genuine problem/issue, there can be a germ of truth there. But there's no peace in a counterfeit solution, a middling warfare. And in going out on his own wisdom, Saruman finds himself fighting against the truth and ultimately  swallowed by the darkness. 

“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High." Isaiah 14:12-14

The only solution for our broken, hurting world is in the truth -- in the cross and resurrection and authority of Christ. There and there alone dwells life for the dead and true peace, unity, and food for the hungry and heart sore and weary. And in the power of His word -- sharper than any two-edged sword -- there is real and utter aid. "He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole." Job 5:18 It may hurt, but in the end therein lies the only help and healing for all our ills. 


Finally, returning to Isengard: the flood of judgment has swept all clean, upended everything, and trees will be coming back to clothe the desolation. The desert will become a lush wood: wild, dangerous, well tended, loved, and full of life.


  • "Merry and Pippin sat on the bottom step, feeling both unimportant and unsafe."
  • "Eomer spoke. 'Lord, hear me!' he said. 'Now we feel the peril that we were warned of. Have we ridden forth to victory, only to stand at last amazed by an old liar with honey on his forked tongue?"
  • "The treacherous are ever distrustful..."
  • "Often does hatred hurt itself!"
  • Last but not least, we definitely need to revive the phrase, "Turn elsewhither"! Can I get a second on that? ;)


For thought:

  • What stuck out to you the most in this chapter?

Friday, March 5, 2021

The Two Towers // Book 3, Chapter 9 // Flotsam and Jetsam

Bet y'all thought I fell off the face of the earth, eh? Nope, spring has just sprung here and birds are calling and the sun is shining and there's soooo much to do out of doors (and indoors, I'm finally tackling my laundry pile today). Anyhow! So yes, little old me is still here and popping up in your feed like an inquisitive rabbit.

I don't know if you've all taken a break too or raced ahead and already finished the entire trilogy, but no worries either way. 

So! Let's concentrate on our chapter for a minute. Speaking of which, first things first, I've always dearly loved this chapter, including its very title -- 'Flotsam & Jetsam'. And how perfectly delicious is it that this meeting of friends is taking place on March the 5th in Shire-reckoning and here we all are to join right in on our March 5th? I'm beyond delighted. xD

There are a number of lines I find particularly delightful and funny, such as when the hobbits are recounting their meeting with Gandalf and how he starts right in without small talk, calling Pippin a "tom-fool of a Took" before going straight to the point with Treebeard, telling him he has 10,000 orcs to manage.

And do you remember how in Bree (at the time) it all felt strange and none too safe, and now it's positively cozy to look back on that episode -- after all the perils and cold and great matters that have happened since?

Lastly, I'm seriously considering 'Wellinghall' as a proper name for our domicile. It's very British (which we like), but I think it could also passably fit with the wild western-y flair running round here (or at least fairly passably... maybe?). I like the Biblical connotations too + the strength of our well is actually one of the most notable features about our 10 acres. Hmmm.... have to keep pondering it, but I definitely like it as a name.



  • "Now let us take our ease here for a little!' said Aragorn. 'We will sit on the edge of ruin and talk, as Gandalf says, while he is busy elsewhere.' ...'Look!' said Pippin. 'Strider the Ranger has come back!' 'He has never been away,' said Aragorn. 'I am Strider and Dunadan too, and I belong both to Gondor and the North."
  • "One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters."
  • "It is difficult with these evil folk to know when they are in league, and when they are cheating one another."
  • "Wherever I have been, I am back," he answered in the genuine Gandalf manner."
  • "You said much less than you might, and no more than you should."


For thought:

  • Merry says: "I don't know what Saruman thought was happening; but anyway he did not know how to deal with it. His wizardry may have been falling off lately, of course; but anyway I think he has not much grit, not much plain courage alone in a tight place without a lot of slaves and machines and things, if you know what I mean. Very different from old Gandalf." I don't want to push this too far/being respectful of Tolkien's insistence that his story is not a political allegory + his direct experience was more in WWI. Still, his life experience couldn't help but come into play a little bit and he did live through WWII. Do you think he might have had Hitler in mind at least a little when he wrote that?

    And I'm trying not to delve into anything that will come up more in the next chapter, so I'll stick with this final thought: does Grima Wormtongue remind anyone else of Gollum? We haven't spent much time with the latter yet (so please disregard this question if it's your first time through the story), but for some reason I've always thought of them as being very similar and I'm trying to figure out why. Maybe it's just the cringing sneakiness?

Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Two Towers // Book 3, Chapter 8 // The Road to Isengard

A transitional chapter, this takes a big deep breath right smack dab in the middle of everything. 

And this just popped out at me, but I think friendship features prominently. Not in a gushy touchy-feely way, but in the deep, Jonathan and David, have your back, shoulder to shoulder, proactively think and notice things and go the tough extra mile sort of way.

We have Gimli and Legolas at the beginning of course. And then when we get to the Fords of Isen, Theoden is getting discouraged and heartsore and this interchange happens with Gandalf:

"Look!' said Gandalf. 'Friends have labored here.' And they saw that in the midst of the eyot a mound was piled, ringed with stones, and set about with many spears. 'Here lie all the Men of the Mark that fell near this place,' said Gandalf. 'Here let them rest!' said Eomer. 'And when their spears have rotted and rusted, long still may their mound stand and guard the Fords of Isen!' 'Is this your work also, Gandalf, my friend?' said Theoden. 'You accomplished much in an evening and a night!"

I know 'friend' can just be a colloquial expression, but it's definitely a moment that means a lot to Theoden so I think we should take note.

And finally we have the beginning of our reunion with the hobbits (I love that Theoden has heard of them!), hearkening back to the long chase of our three mighty hunters. 

Other miscellaneous point -- earlier, I love how Gandalf laughs 'long and merrily'.

And then I'd forgotten the riddle he quotes:

"Ere iron was found or tree was hewn, 
When young was mountain under moon;
Ere ring was made, or wrought was woe,
It walked the forests long ago."

Did anyone else find the mention of the ring there interesting?



  • "I have lived to see strange days."
  • "You are not without allies, even if you know them not."
  • "A strong place and wonderful was Isengard, and long it had been beautiful; and there great lords had dwelt... But Saruman had slowly shaped it to his shifting purposes, and made it better, as he thought, being deceived -- for all those arts and subtle devices, for which he forsook his former wisdom, and which fondly he imagined were his own, came but from Mordor..." (pretty plain speaking there on Professor Tolkien's part)
  • And it's too much to quote at length, but of course I LOVE all the hobbit-y bit at the end so much xD <333


For thought:

  • Which would be first on your adventure-with-a-friend itinerary: the glittering caverns of Helm's Deep or the Forest of Fangorn? :)

Friday, February 19, 2021

The Two Towers // Book 3, Chapter 7 // Helm's Deep

Well, this chapter is just a whole heap o' excitement, isn't it?

The friendship between Gimli and Legolas is firmly cemented and really hitting its stride -- I love the rivalry between them and when they get separated how Legolas is honestly concerned for Gimli's safety and covers it with his whole quip of wanting to boast about his current orc tally.

And then there's the development with Aragorn and Eomer too, now finally drawing sword together. I don't think I'd noticed before how quickly the bond of loyalty grows between them. But that's the whole idea behind being brothers-in-arms. Mettle is tested and after you've been through a night like that together you pretty much know where you're at. Great deeds lie right before you and small talk is dispensed with. 

Finally we have the last charge:

"And with that shout the king came. His horse was white as snow, golden was his shield, and his spear was long. At his right hand was Aragorn, Elendil's heir, behind him rode the lords of the House of Eorl the Young. Light sprang in the sky. Night departed."

And then the entire thing just rolls and swells, tingling and throbbing. Legends forming right before our eyes. <3



  • "...behind us comes a very storm of Mordor,' said Gandalf."
  • "He that flies counts every foeman twice..."
  • "This is more to my liking,' said the dwarf, stamping on the stones. 'Ever my heart rises as we draw near the mountains."
  • "...oft the unbidden guest makes the best company."
  • "Dawn is not far off,' said Gamling, who had now climbed up beside him. 'But dawn will not help us I fear.' 'Yet dawn is ever the hope of men,' said Aragorn."


For thought:

  • Do you have a favorite moment in this chapter? And in need, which would come handier to you -- a sword, bow, or axe?

The Two Towers // Book 3, Chapter 6 // The King of the Golden Hall

We're in Rohan!!!!!!! And this entire chapter is just wonderful. <3

There's so much going on: what with the new place, all the new characters, and then all the bandying wordplay.

Just a short summary in case anyone's confused -- Theoden (Lord of the Mark/King of Rohan) is listening to cunning, craven counsel from a henchman planted by Saruman, who has been trying to maneuver Rohan into staying out of the war and/or ultimately just giving in to despair and rolling over in easy defeat.

But then our three travelers arrive and expose all his machinations, bringing light and clarity and purpose and courage. The helped are now giving help.

And we meet Eowyn for the first time.

"The woman turned and went slowly into the house. As she passed the doors she turned and looked back. Grave and thoughtful was her glance, as she looked on the king with cool pity in her eyes. Very fair was her face, and her long hair was like a river of gold. Slender and tall she was in her white robe girt with silver; but strong she seemed and stern as steel, a daughter of kings. Thus Aragorn for the first time in the full light of day beheld Eowyn, Lady of Rohan, and thought her fair, fair and cold, like a morning of pale spring that is not yet come to womanhood. And she now was suddenly aware of him: tall heir of kings, wise with many winters, greycloaked, hiding a power that yet she felt. For a moment still as stone she stood, then turning swiftly she was gone."

And we can soon see she very quickly has feelings for Aragorn, which -- perceptive and honorable man that he is and faithful to his love, Arwen -- troubles him. I've got some more to say on that, but I think I'll save it till matters further develop. 

Growing up, I didn't exactly figure out what Wormtongue's full designs on Eowyn were and now that I have more of an idea what he could've been up to... ugh, I don't particularly want to speculate on whatever slimy manipulations and blackness he had in his devious mind. I just grinned all over this time when Theoden says that Eomer threatened death to Grima in his hall, mostly over that. I so wish we got an entire description of that episode, but you can pretty much imagine it already, can't you? Three cheers for Eomer!

Something else I noticed this time... Running all through LOTR we have the theme of small, unlikely figures being called to huge, unlikely tasks. What I noticed in this chapter (and which seems to be ongoing as it'll come out later with Faramir too), is the idea of unexpectedly taking on the weight of a position you'd never planned on or expected. Of course, Eomer (and Faramir, though not going too much there yet due to spoilers) were already great lords in their own right and raised to be leaders of men, but at the same time they were a nephew and a younger son -- neither expecting to be the heir of their house. It reminds me of King Alfred the Great, coming to the throne after the untimely death of his four older brothers. That might all seem obvious and transparent, but I just want to pay special attention to it on this read through and see if I notice any more as we go along. 

All of which.... was absolutely and entirely unintentional XD, but made a great segue into my last point. We love watching the BBC Time Team round these parts. (They're off on prehistory dates, of course, but otherwise it's a program I highly HIGHLY recommend. Amazon Prime has 18 seasons/all in order, but I think you can find most of them on Youtube as well.) Anyway, last week we watched one where they discovered evidence for the largest Saxon hall ever found in Britain. Part way through, it was brought up how very little was/is actually known about the Saxons + they mentioned the link with Tolkien/LOTR/Rohan as he was good friends with the archaeologist who originally excavated round the area they were working on. Tingly stuff. <3 Anyhow, I'll leave the link below and hope you're able to check it out. The program as a whole is fascinating and generally relaxing and at the same time sometimes gets me all fired up with my brain going a mile-a-minute. ;D



  • "A king will have his way in his own hall..."
  • "...behold! the storm comes, and now all friends should gather together, lest each singly be destroyed." 
  • "I have not passed through fire and death to bandy crooked words with a serving-man till the lightning falls."
  • "Too long have you sat in shadows and trusted to twisted tales and crooked promptings."
  • "A man may love you and yet not love Wormtongue or his counsels,' said Gandalf."
  • "I owe much to Eomer,' said Theoden. 'Faithful heart may have forward tongue.' 'Say also,' said Gandalf, 'that to crooked eyes truth may wear a wry face."
  • "Their spears were like a springing wood."


For thought:

  • A couple musical settings I like: Aragorn's Lament of the Rohirrim and Gandalf's Song of Lorien. What's your favorite rendition for both of these?

    And make sure to check out that Time Team ep HERE.

    Finally, what are your impressions of Theoden and Eowyn so far? Are you as excited to get to Rohan as I am?

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Quick check-in

What ho my fellow adventurers! 

This is mostly an apology for not posting earlier last week. I probably should've just taken the week off here to begin with, but in my over ambitious plan I was thinking, "Host a period drama party on AtB, keep up with LOTR posts AND declutter the kitchen and stay on top of house cleaning? Totally doable." Only.... then I had a magnificent, revolutionary idea for my current historical novel-in-progress (not that I got to writing it yet, I was too busy jotting down all the red hot ideas as they came flying over the plate -- while loading dishes and scrubbing sticky cupboards), but yeah, turns out apparently I only have so much brain space and/or it's really hard to be in that many different worlds at once. ;P

But! This week we should be back into it asap and I did discover some interesting details I'm really excited to share and discuss soon.

Hoping you all have a lovely Sunday!

Friday, February 5, 2021

The Two Towers // Book 3, Chapter 5 // The White Rider

I love this chapter so so much.

What with all the personality dynamics... Gimli stamping and snorting and being all suspicious and even Legolas asking questions too and Aragorn being his diligent self.

And then there's the surprise and the joy. The rich, stirring, piercing joy. *sniffs* <333

We discussed this a little earlier in reference to beauty, but here Gandalf says something slightly different:

"Dangerous!' cried Gandalf. 'And so am I, very dangerous: more dangerous than anything you will ever meet, unless you are brought alive before the seat of the Dark Lord. And Aragorn is dangerous, and Legolas is dangerous. You are beset with dangers, Gimli son of Gloin; for you are dangerous yourself, in your own fashion. Certainly the forest of Fangorn is perilous -- not least to those that are too ready with their axes; and Fangorn himself, he is perilous too; yet he is wise and kindly nonetheless."

Not all kittens and flowers but a roaring storm and a thunderclap, goodness can be a dangerous and a fearsome thing.



  • "The old man was too quick for him. He sprang to his feet and leaped to the top of a large rock. There he stood, grown suddenly tall, towering above them. His hood and his grey rags were flung away. His white garments shone. He lifted up his staff, and Gimli's axe leaped from his grasp and fell ringing on the ground. The sword of Aragorn, stiff in his motionless hand, blazed with a sudden fire. Legolas gave a great shout and shot an arrow high into the air: it vanished in a flash of flame. 'Mithrandir!' he cried. 'Mithrandir!' 'Well met, I say to you again, Legolas!' said the old man. They all gazed at him. His hair was white as snow in the sunshine; and gleaming white was his robe; the eyes under his deep brows were bright, piercing as the rays of the sun; power was in his hand. Between wonder, joy, and fear they stood and found no words to say."
  • "We meet again. At the turn of the tide. The great storm is coming, but the tide has turned."
  • "It was not in vain that the young hobbits came with us, if only for Boromir's sake. But that is not the only part they have to play. They were brought to Fangorn, and their coming was like the falling of small stones that starts an avalanche in the mountains. Even as we talk here, I hear the first rumblings. Saruman had best not be caught away from home when the dam bursts!"
  • "He laughed, but the sound now seemed warm and kindly as a gleam of sunshine."
  • "Gandalf laughed again. 'Yes, my good Dwarf,' he said, 'it is a comfort not to be mistaken at all points. Do I not know it only too well! But, of course, I never blamed you for your welcome of me. How could I do so, who have so often counselled my friends to suspect even their own hands when dealing with the Enemy. Bless you, Gimli, son of Gloin! Maybe you will see us both together one day and judge between us!"
  • "A thing is about to happen which has not happened since the Elder Days: the Ents are going to wake up and find that they are strong."
  • "...we have met in time, who otherwise might have met too late."
  • "Go where you must go, and hope!"


For thought:

  • Do you think of goodness as being perilous (i.e. the two things tied together)?