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Eä Tolkien Society Meeting Notes for September 2018

by Hawke published Oct 20, 2018 11:55 AM, last modified Oct 20, 2018 11:58 AM
Meeting notes from our September 2018 monthly Eä Tolkien Society Meeting. Many thanks to Brian Huseland our society secretary. See you at next month's meeting!

September 22, 2018

Ea Tolkien Society Meeting

Frodo & Bilbo’s Birthday Celebration

1.     Discussion about how the Lord of the Rings starts with very ordinary
folks, and playful versus critical view of the hobbits.

a.      Kind mocking vs. cruel comedy

b.     Making fun of one’s own culture without hating it

c.      Comments that relate to Tolkien’s Christian background… Tolkien’s
joy is not at the expense of people or cynical; affectionate

d.     Self-deprecating humor can be good. Deprecation is seen today at
self-loathing but in former times you underestimated yourself in order to
downplay individual achievement for the sake of the community

e.      Is there communal self-deprecation?

f.      Tolkien doesn’t deny the problems. He treats rural or traditional
English people with a magnanimous brush; like living in an old house that
you love (despite its eccentricities and brokenness). Home Sweet Home.

g.     Corey’s car (Honda Prelude) is “falling apart” and you laugh about
all the adventures you had in the car… but it was sufficient for the

2.     Segue: the hobbits were “sufficient for the journey” to bring down
the Lord of the Rings, but they were most ordinary vessels.

a.      Brian commented on a Bible passage that refers to “treasures in
simple jars of clay” or the idea of how weakness can be a great strength

b.     Richard noted that God’s strength is in our weakness, in other words
when we feel least sufficient we are most likely to accept help from beyond
ourselves. Tolkien would resonate with that.

c.      Corey talks about quests and how little time where the people are
developed. For example, the Marvel movie “Infinity War” has very few heroes
enjoying normal life before the crisis appears, treasuring normalcy;
whereas in the Lord of the Rings, the peace of the Shire that precedes the
War of the Ring shows that there’s something worth fighting for. That’s
what the Hobbits give us, though it’s imperfect.

d.     Chris noted that it’s better than the alternative. The contrast
highlights what Englishness at its core meant to Tolkien.

e.      Somebody has to push past the comfort zone; ironically it is the
folk who are most addicted to comforts who produce the most important
heroes: Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin.

f.      This life of the Shire was an imperfect good which the hobbits
could long for when they were away (the good memories, the good days). But
even the Shire is not ultimately able to fulfill that longing (since it was
marred by Sharkey’s plots)… only in the Undying West, in Valinor, fulfills
that longing. Tolkien’s picture of true rest and eternal life.

3.     We read the Fellowship of the Ring, Chapter 1: “A Long-Expected

a.      “When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly
be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special

b.     The role of the Sackville-Bagginses… they think Bilbo is too

c.      The effect of the ring is not “natural”. The ring is a foil for the

d.     The Hobbits are unwittingly the ones who in some ways suffer the
most for the sale of Middle-Earth.

e.      Chris: LOTR vs. ageism in the workplace. Old guys can still make a
difference in the world.

f.      Frodo and Bilbo “happened” to have the same birthday, September 22.

g.     Discussion of coming of age.

h.     The gossip in the Tavern between Hobbits.

i.       Corey: if people have never watched the movies, and they read this
book first, the rumblings they hear about of supernatural happenings seem
unbelievable. Also they don’t like crossing the river in a boat or going
into the Old Forest.

j.       Brian notes parallels with the Telmarines in C.S. Lewis’ book
Prince *Caspian*.

                                                              i.     They
live in a land that is magical, but if it is, it shouldn’t be here.

                                                            ii.     They
fear water.

                                                          iii.     They
don’t like going into the woods.

                                                          iv.     Aslan’s
triumph is when the dryads and naiads and river-spirit reclaim their domain.

                                                            v.     We are
normal folk who see supernatural things as “fringe” and not normal.

k.     The Shire is in the eye of the storm and can afford to ignore the

l.       If the Dunedain all go on strike, the Shire will be overrun with
wolves and orcs! Yet the people of the Shire and Buckland and Bree can
afford to dismiss the rangers.

m.   Corey: In Bilbo’s former adventure, evil is elevated to a new level
when he confronts a dragon. He realizes that his world is very fragile when
the Battle of Five Armies happened. Tolkien gets at something in our
primary world here. Evil is real.

n.     Richard: It’s like putting your head in the sand and expecting the
world to be the way you want it to be. Our expectation is that the world
consists only of what we can perceive with our 5 senses. The reality of
non-corporeal, intelligent evil is something people in the West generally
don’t want to accept.

o.     Chris: Do we deny the existence of something like the Devil by
immersing myself in the latest trend on the Internet? Being uncomfortable
with it leads to ignoring it. If I convince myself it doesn’t exist, it’s

p.     We see in Chapter 1 of FOTR that Bilbo came back from his quest with
wisdom and wounds. He’s aware of the greater world and when he returns he
cannot be the same old hobbit he was before. He loses his local reputation
but gains a greater role in the history of Middle-Earth.

q.      Why Frodo had to leave Middle-Earth: the marks of evil

                                                              i.     The

                                                            ii.     The
Morgul-blade wound

r.      Rich discussions. Transition: Chris asks why they throw the big
party in Chapter 1.

                                                              i.     It’s
taken a while for Bilbo to re-integrate.

                                                            ii.     “Think
better of me, Frodo my boy.”

                                                          iii.     The
community’s view of Frodo as opposed to Bilbo.

                                                          iv.     But
they’re glad Bilbo took Frodo away from those strange Brandybucks!

                                                            v.     The
genealogy of the Hobbits.

s.      Teaching someone to read is a dangerous thing!

t.       The legend of Bilbo’s wealth. How much gold was there really in
Bag End? Two chests.

u.     The “strange people” who visit: dwarves, wizard.

v.     The Hobbits feel admiration for this weird, eccentric old hobbit.

w.    Gandalf’s fireworks discussion.

x.     Gandalf belonged to a legendary past of which the hobbits barely

y.     Bilbo explains “his little joke”… he gets the last laugh.

z.      Bilbo is released to leave and finally lay down the burden of the
ring, and go exploring again. “I need a holiday” because Bilbo’s tried to
keep up appearances, but he’s not at home in the Shire anymore. He’s an
exile and needs to wander.