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31. März 2016

Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 40

Journey to the Cross-roads is a mood-piece, the world is getting darker, farer, frailer, worner, ghost-like, but in a bodily, subtle, fashion.

And Gollum does enjoy it, he's becoming more vigorous, whereas Frodo and Sam hold on to the last traces of light - with a hint of a new beginning.

The chapter is hardly more than making the necessary transition from the fair Henneth Anûn to the Valley of Living Death, but for the first time Gollum's world becomes fathomable, a curse to live with the foxes, cast out from the land of those, who enjoy the privilege to stand and overlook, forever hiding's prey.

They have come into his own, but soon they'll even go beyond.

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Finite Resources

I'm getting old, old enough to know which 30 films I'd take with me onto a remote island. There're a number of other good films, but I wouldn't miss them. As for TV-series, M Captain Future and F Der fliegende Ferdinand would suffice.

D Documentations
E Expositions
F Fantasies
M Myths / Fairy tales
N Novels
R Reports

R Eins, Zwei, Drei
F Die unendliche Geschichte
F Scarface
E Stalker
F The New World

R Howl's Moving Castle
D Back to the Future
D Beverly Hills Cop
D Witness
R Lawrence of Arabia

F Zardoz
F Dune
D Solaris
E Blade Runner
M Star Wars

N Some Like It Hot
N Ghostbusters
R Gandhi
E Der Seewolf
N The Lord of the Rings

E Kin-dza-dza!
D Ruthless People
D Ferris Bueller's Day Off
M Spirited Away
R Un long dimanche de fiançailles

R The English Patient
F The Emerald Forest
F Ponyo
E Groundhog Day
N Raising Arizona


Directors.

Billy Wilder (45 points, 2 entries)
Andrei Tarkovsky (45 points, 2 entries)
Hayao Miyazaki (35 points, 3 entries)
John Boorman (24 points, 2 entries)

Honorary mentions.

Brian DePalma (28 points)
Terrence Malick (26 points)
Peter Weir (22 points)
David Lean (21 points)
David Lynch (19 points)
Ridley Scott (17 points)
George Lucas (16 points)
Richard Attenborough (13 points)
John Hughes (8 points)
Jean-Pierre Jeunet (6 points)

Original writers.

Ferenc Molnar (30 points)
Michael Ende (29 points)
Armitage Trail, Oliver Stone (28 points)
Diana Wynne Jones (25 points)
Thomas Edward Lawrence (21 points)
Frank Herbert (19 points)
Stanisław Lem (18 points)
Philip Kindred Dick (17 points)
Jack London (12 points)
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (11 points)
Sebastien Japrisot (6 points)
Michael Ondaatje (5 points)

Actors.

Harrison Ford (55 points, 3 entries)
José Ferrer (40 points, 2 entries)
Alec Guiness (37 points, 2 entries)
Sean Young (36 points, 2 entries)
Judge Reinhold (32 points, 2 entries)
Jürgen Prochnow (24 points, 2 entries)
Bill Murray (16 points, 2 entries)

Honorary mentions.

Hanns Lothar (30 points)
Pamela Tiffin (30 points)
Liselotte Pulver (30 points)
Al Pacino (28 points)
Wes Studi (26 points)
Christian Bale (26 points)
Michael J. Fox (24 points)
Eddie Murphy (23 points)
Anthony Quinn (21 points)
Peter O'Toole (21 points)
Omar Sharif (21 points)
Sean Connery (20 points)
Virginia Madsen (19 points)
Francesca Annis (19 points)
Max von Sydow (19 points)
Patrick Stewart (19 points)
Sting (19 points)
Rutger Hauer (17 points)
Jack Lemmon (15 points)
Marilyn Monroe (15 points)
Ben Kingsley (13 points)
Raimund Harmstorf (12 points)
Juliette Binoche (5 points)
Ralph Fiennes (5 points)
Nicolas Cage (1 points)

Music.

Maurice Jarre (43 points, 2 entries)
Richard Wagner (29 points, 2 entries)

Honorary mentions.

Klaus Doldinger (29 points)
Giorgio Moroder (28 points)
Huey Lewis and the News (24 points)
ZZ Top (24 points)
Glenn Frey (23 points)
Harold Faltermeyer (23 points)
Ludwig van Beethoven (20 points)
Toto (19 points)
Johann Sebastian Bach (18 points)
Vangelis (17 points)
Franz Liszt (15 points)
Luther Vandross (9 points)
Márta Sebestyén (5 points)

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Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 39

A chapter on the statute of limitations. Faramir claims jurisdiction over Sméagol, finds a murderer and a likely trapper, but he lets Frodo have his way and jurisdiction over him.

Gollum did of course never repent and neither penance and he wasn't doing penance just before, when serving Frodo. And Frodo didn't offer him a chance to redeem himself, but unconditional salvation through dissociation. Time enough had passed to just forget and let go.

Faramir seems to suggest that the lack of remorse over, the justification of the murder of Déagol eats Sméagol from the inside, but that doesn't grasp his situation. Frodo would let him rather think of pleasant things until he ended his overly long life, but putting him before Faramir endangers that.

The truth is of course that the one thing that is written and not for any man to re-write is that Frodo will take the path of Cirith Ungol, that's why he's carrying the light of Venus (in the evening sky, mind you, i.e. Hesperos, not Phosphoros) with him. So Gollum wasn't to be sedated anyway and perhaps it's better that Frodo is warned, although he shows already signs of being overly enamoured of his mastership over him.

Now, Tolkien did go to some lengths to have the heavens in the west, ex occidente lux, so to say, and the Evening star shows itself to the left of the setting sun, whereas the Morning Star does so to the right of the rising sun, but confusing as it is, Jesus promisses the Morning Star and not the Evening Star and it is to the east that churches are oriented... orientation, the word already says it.

There's no doubt that Tolkien did this on purpose, only on which?

For certain we can only say that the morning is the new beginning and the evening is the lingering on in fading strength. Would he rather give us a tale of former glory to guide us in dark times than hope for a new day?

It's a bit unnatural, like the idea that you could give a people a myth in its old age - but that is of course what Tolkien spent his years on. So... in all likeliness the whole affair is a comment on himself, being an Evening Star, knowing that no re-newed glory will rise out of him, but that he is rather the last light of the setting sun that people will be able to see in the sky, and the more time passes, the less they will see of it.

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30. März 2016

Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 38

Kindred spirits, Faramir isn't like Gandalf, he's like Frodo, certainly no wimp, more like Aragorn than like his brother Boromir, though less proud.

And Boromir was like Éomer.

This chapter serves to reflect upon these things, kindred spirits and the different turn of events they find themselves in.

It also tells the story of their approach, that Sam of all people would spill the beans, for Frodo is dear to him and so his heart is moved the most, when he seems to have found a Man like Frodo (hard to avoid the unintended here).

But in earnestness, it's a very common thing that your best friend is struck by how much somebody else is like you and points it out to you, although that is usually not the best matchmaking advice and more like a knee-jerk reaction.

Gandalf, of course, is to Frodo, what Frodo is to Sam. So there's also a considering of similar roles filled by different spirits here.

One may say that through the Window on the West we get a glimpse at the tapestry of fate.

Plotwise the chapter serves of course to introduce Gondor some more.

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29. März 2016

Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 37

Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit serves to foreshadow both Frodo's and Sam's success and the Big Battle to come, for they have entered a derelict part of Gondor, in which Gondor is still active both as a memory and as forayers.

The whole chapter breathes the kind of exoticism you may experience on an excursion on vacation, somewhere in the Mediterranean, among crumbling architecture of old. I think I felt something similar at a Spanish pine forest once. Much is dried up, but the air is heavy with scent. In the last chapter defeat was at hand and the devastation of the Shire continues to loom, but here we have a hint of a new beginning amongst ruins.

At the same time the men of Gondor are being introduced, as strong, brave, level-headed and educated. They take care of the Hobbits with the same kind of confidence that a grown-up man is taking care of a child.

Tolkien is also reflecting a little upon the projection of power, Sauron makes friends, because he appears mighty, and his friends think, they are save, because the threat of Sauron's attack is upon his enemies. For that reason they wear bright amour, whereas the Dunédain wear camouflage, so as not be intrusive.

Which shows that Tolkien hasn't heeded the Revelation here, for the beast wears camouflage, a leopard like assassin wherever it sets its bear footed boot, as good a tool to threaten and project power as any. And bright amour, like Napoléon's soldiers had, might just as well be the open confession of a common cause. I mean, they're on the same side of human rights of course, but isn't it really more natural for the soldiers of the ordinary people against their oppressors to be plainly visible as opposed to hide from sight? But then again... the leading ranks hid even in Napoléon's day and the uniforms of his infantery may be owed to the fact that back then people would have instinctively understood, what was approaching them - as opposed to Tolkien, although, in fairness, Gondor doesn't always wear camouflage.

It is true though that the single person, who fears for his liberty, will be urged to resort to stealth. But that is not necessarily, in fact not even likely, the best course of action.

Of course, these thoughts are not closely linked to the current chapter, they are but warnings against possibly therein contained suggestions.

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28. März 2016

Hobbit Geography

27. März 2016

Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 36

There's just one thing that I want to point out here, namely that Sam's shrewedness and his assumption that his master suffers from some kind of blindness springs from the fact that a servant doesn't have to take chances, for he, who faces the world, and not his master, deals with many unknowns and must follow the course that his belief is showing him, and to him, who knows all the turns of events in his little corner of the world, he must appear a dangerous dreamer.

The case here is exemplaric though. Frodo's belief guides him to Cirith Ungol, not to Gollum's reformation, as Frodo frames his belief, but to passage into Mordor, in the way that Galadriel's mirror promissed. So it is, we have a premonition of what's to come, but it's patchy and although our belief might fulfill its promise, we'll find surprises on the way, even to the extent that we have to reformulate our belief to get closer to its reliable core.

There's a political component to this as well. The people, who do not vote themselves on the passing of laws or entries into wars, will always be unfair judges of those who do, the effect of which is the importance of the media, as the mouth through which all unfairness is uttered. Many journalists are aware of this, but they don't realise that the reason for this lies in the truncated responsibility of the people. So by trying to be as fair as possible and defending the system, they are actually perpetuating the danger of populism and they are also opening the doors for those, who systematically exploit this fear of journalists and pushing through the blatantly indefensible. In the elder days the Church took it upon itself to deal with the worries of the servants, for which it was better suited, because it was joined with the servants in belief. I think, even a free (european) people need a church, though with fewer responsibilities, but as long as they are belittled, they certainly do, or they will fall one way or the other.

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Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 35

Emptiness and unrest, one may summarise this chapter, or breaking apart and emptiness.

Life fades away gradually, though already in the Dead Marshes there is a metaphor for what's to come, the rotting bodies that are not there, the images that were lost, when the soldiers became a unit of the war-machine and were broken down into their military strengths. And after them the land itself, exploited for chemicals for Mordor's use.

Once seperated into its constituents, life is dead, it is but the magic spell that works between its parts, able to adopt, but only from a living base. What remains is emptiness, an emptiness of extremes, which are mere ideas of what could be, isolated qualities. But the mind, which enters into this realm, is alert. It has entered a workshop, a place of extraction, and cut from all natural relations it is filled with questions of purpose.

Mordor presents itself here very clearly as the land of unnatural uses, willing to exploit all nature for its own creations.

And this influence awakens Gollum's resolve again. After having agreed to guide Frodo, he had the best chance to get The Ring and make off with it that he possibly could have. But he was moved by Frodo's magnanimity and put the harder decisions off for later, which shows that he desired a bit of gentle treatment and Frodo's assessment, that he had become Gollum's master, was correct.

Actually, Gollum's monologue suggests that The Ring might even have helped Frodo becoming that, for he fancies that The Ring might make him great as well.

But there, at Mordor's border, gentle treatment seems a vain thing, too pressing are the great questions. If Sam would have charged Gollum, he would have had to fight him too.

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26. März 2016

Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 34

Will and skill, if you think about it, it's clear that Gollum is the one, who's trained to make it to the Cracks of Doom, only that he doesn't want to go there.

But he's in a tight spot, like a gang member whom the bosses are looking for. And of all things, it would hurt Gollum the most, if Sauron was to recapture The Ring.

He is a miserable little wretch, and Frodo realises, after straying through the Emyn Muil, that his best chance is to control him. And Gollum realises that his best chance lies in betrayal, for they are already on Sauron's door-steps and any kind of open fight bears the danger that Sauron will take notice, in particular if Frodo puts on The Ring.

So Frodo extends his hand unto Gollum as to a dog, and he's taking some pride in his mastery and the responsibility that comes with it.

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Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 33

This chapter serves mainly to get rid of the old Gandalf, for still Gandalf was handling people and that turned out to bite him for once.

Pippin has grown tired of being moved around like a figure on a game-board and defies Gandalf and takes a look into the Palantír. Things go reasonably smoothly, though Sauron becomes aware of him, and Aragorn claims the stone from Gandalf and Gandalf gives it into his responsibility. Afterwards Gandalf answers Pippin, instead of deciding what is best for Pippin to know and what not, just as he has just before stopped deciding what is best for Aragorn to have or not.

Verily, it is an unworthy treatment for any man, whether halfling or not, and when should school finally end? It's the dawn of the final battle and the Ringwraiths have crossed the river and are flying over the land.

I had suggested that Gandalf might have influenced Pippin to drop the stone into the well in Moria. In that case this would be a kind of revenge. Then it had served Gandalf's purpose, here it almost thwarted it. A slap by fate on the fingers, which Gandalf seems to have taken as such. He even becomes defensive.
I did not tell you all this before, because it is only by musing on all that has happened that I have at last understood, even as we ride together.
And with that the third book ends.

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Gedanken zum Karfreitag

Es läßt sich auf verschiedene Weisen hinter die Welt blicken,
doch stets muß dabei eine Wirkmacht ins Auge gefaßt werden,
der Brand oder die Spuren durch den Brand oder die Bekleidung,
und wenn der Blick dann wieder auf die Welt fällt,
erfaßt er die Zwänge oder die Beziehungen oder die Möglichkeiten.

So entsteht die technische oder die transzendente oder die lebendige Welt,
so zeigen sich Schönheit oder Wesentlichkeit oder Macht,
und von hier aus wird die jeweils nächste Stufe überformt,
Beziehungen durch Technik oder Möglichkeiten durch Transzendenz oder Zwänge durch Leben.

Und in der Überformung entkommt der Mensch der Not der jeweils vorigen Stufe,
welche stets in zu weit getriebener Überformung bestand.
So sucht der Mensch im Rad das Gleichgewicht, das es verlor.

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25. März 2016

Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 32

I don't think that Gandalf is entirely fair to Saruman when he says that Saruman plotted to choke all living things.
But you have not plotted to cover all the world with your trees and choke all other living things.
There were Men in Saruman's army and Merry is probably correct that Saruman trusted them more than Orcs, as stated in the previous chapter.
Saruman kept enough wisdom not to trust his Orcs. He had Men to guard his gates: some of his most faithful servants, I suppose. Anyway they were favoured and got good provisions.
Saruman appears to have been honest to Gandalf, when he said that he would try to continue his work under Sauron's rule, yet he also made the decision to rule himself, if he could, based on the fact that he considered himself the wisest.

His first offer to Théoden is thus no ruse, it is only not a particularly good offer, since Sauron probably has no place for the Rohirrim in his schemes.

Saruman's voice is the only example in the Lord of the Rings of something that appears to be good, but isn't, the only example of deceit. I already complained about the equation evil = ugly that not only dominates the film, but also the thinking of a great many fans of the book, and by letting Christopher Lee speak Saruman, Jackson made sure that no trace of deceit would remain in the film.

Yet, people can be deceived. It is possible. And Tolkien was quite correct in pointing out the direction, whence the worst deceit is to be feared, namely in the guise of benevolence and wisdom, behind promisses of aleviations and demands for indulgences that life does not permit.

In real life these are the perverters of Christianity, who look upon Christian demands only as building blocks for demands of their own, of which they know that they must leech the salt from the earth.

Those come in several forms though.

But again, Saruman isn't that evil, he simply made an unwise decision and has nothing to offer and is too proud to admit it. Still, his voice is a phenomenon in its own right and it must have such a ring, that it leaves its audience with a chill at the thought of what such a voice can do.

Alas, the voices that fill our world, they're all alike, Saruman's voice multiplied tenthousandfold.

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Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 31

The two important things in this chapter are that the Ents beat Saruman with his own devices, that is by construction work, and that the existence of the Shire is brought back into memory. There's also a touch of bitterness, when the Ents and Huorns let Saruman's army go, respectively only follow it: Saruman's purpose is foiled from the beginning, but great havoc he is still to spread. One way to read it is as a metaphor for arms production, that the bigger economy will always be able to counter any war preparations if given enough time, but that the weapons already made cannot be undone.

And woven into this is the fate of the Shire. The West seems cleared, the Balrog is dead and Saruman's power destroyed, yet there are still traces of his network left and undiscovered and Aragorn fears what they may work.

The coming occupation of the Shire isn't a particularly plausible turn of events, Saruman, like Gandalf, simply liked to smoke, and it is lunacy to have his revenge this way, but Tolkien didn't want to veer from the central message: that all have to pay.

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24. März 2016

Ich alter Langweiler, ich.

Interessant:
Gegen das Böse läßt sich protestieren, es läßt sich bloßstellen, es läßt sich notfalls mit Gewalt verhindern, das Böse trägt immer den Keim der Selbstzersetzung in sich, indem es mindestens ein Unbehagen im Menschen zurückläßt. Gegen die Dummheit sind wir wehrlos:

Weder mit Protesten noch durch Gewalt läßt sich hier etwas ausrichten; Gründe verfangen nicht; Tatsachen, die dem eigenen Vorurteil widersprechen, brauchen einfach nicht geglaubt zu werden – in solchen Fällen wird der Dumme sogar kritisch –, und wenn sie unausweichlich sind, können sie einfach als nichtssagende Einzelfälle beiseitegeschoben werden. Dabei ist der Dumme im Unterschied zum Bösen restlos mit sich selbst zufrieden; ja, er wird sogar gefährlich, indem er leicht gereizt zum Angriff übergeht.

Daher ist dem Dummen gegenüber mehr Vorsicht geboten als gegenüber dem Bösen. Niemals werden wir mehr versuchen, den Dummen durch Gründe zu überzeugen; es ist sinnlos und gefährlich.

Um zu wissen, wie wir der Dummheit beikommen können, müssen wir ihr Wesen zu verstehen suchen. Soviel ist sicher, daß sie nicht wesentlich ein intellektueller, sondern ein menschlicher Defekt ist. Es gibt intellektuell außerordentlich bewegliche Menschen, die dumm sind, und intellektuell sehr Schwerfällige, die alles andere als dumm sind. Diese Entdeckung machen wir zu unserer Überraschung anläßlich bestimmter Situationen. Dabei gewinnt man weniger den Eindruck, daß die Dummheit ein angeborener Defekt ist, als daß unter bestimmten Umständen die Menschen dumm gemacht werden, bzw. sich dumm machen lassen.

Wir beobachten weiterhin, daß abgeschlossen und einsam lebende Menschen diesen Defekt seltener zeigen als zur Gesellung neigende oder verurteilte Menschen und Menschengruppen. So scheint die Dummheit vielleicht weniger ein psychologisches als ein soziologisches Problem zu sein. Sie ist eine besondere Form der Einwirkung geschichtlicher Umstände auf den Menschen, eine psychologische Begleiterscheinung bestimmter äußerer Verhältnisse. Bei genauerem Zusehen zeigt sich, daß jede starke äußere Machtentfaltung, sei sie politischer oder religiöser Art, einen großen Teil der Menschen mit Dummheit schlägt. Ja, es hat den Anschein, als sei das geradezu ein soziologisch-psychologisches Gesetz.

Die Macht der einen braucht die Dummheit der anderen. Der Vorgang ist dabei nicht der, daß bestimmte – also etwa intellektuelle – Anlagen des Menschen plötzlich verkümmern oder ausfallen, sondern daß unter dem überwältigenden Eindruck der Machtentfaltung dem Menschen seine innere Selbständigkeit geraubt wird und daß dieser nun – mehr oder weniger unbewußt – darauf verzichtet, zu den sich er gebenden Lebenslagen ein eigenes Verhalten zu finden.

Daß der Dumme oft bockig ist, darf nicht darüber hinwegtäuschen, daß er nicht selbständig ist. Man spürt es geradezu im Gespräch mit ihm, daß man es gar nicht mit ihm selbst, mit ihm persönlich, sondern mit über ihn mächtig gewordenen Schlagworten, Parolen etc. zu tun hat. Er ist in einem Banne, er ist verblendet, er ist in seinem eigenen Wesen mißbraucht, mißhandelt. So zum willenlosen Instrument geworden, wird der Dumme auch zu allem Bösen fähig sein und zugleich unfähig, dies als Böses zu erkennen. Hier liegt die Gefahr eines diabolischen Mißbrauchs. Dadurch werden Menschen für immer zugrunde gerichtet werden können.

Aber es ist gerade hier auch ganz deutlich, daß nicht ein Akt der Belehrung, sondern allein ein Akt der Befreiung die Dummheit überwinden könnte. Dabei wird man sich damit abfinden müssen, daß eine echte innere Befreiung in den allermeisten Fällen erst möglich wird, nachdem die äußere Befreiung vorangegangen ist; bis dahin werden wir auf alle Versuche, den Dummen zu überzeugen, verzichten müssen.

In dieser Sachlage wird es übrigens auch begründet sein, daß wir uns unter solchen Umständen vergeblich darum bemühen, zu wissen, was »das Volk« eigentlich denkt, und warum diese Frage für den verantwortlich Denkenden und Handelnden zugleich so überflüssig ist – immer nur unter den gegebenen Umständen. Das Wort der Bibel, daß die Furcht Gottes der Anfang der Weisheit sei (Psalm 3,10), sagt, daß die innere Befreiung des Menschen zum verantwortlichen Leben vor Gott die einzige wirkliche Überwindung der Dummheit ist. Übrigens haben diese Gedanken über die Dummheit doch dies Tröstliche für sich, daß sie ganz und gar nicht zulassen, die Mehrzahl der Menschen unter allen Umständen für dumm zu halten. Es wird wirklich darauf ankommen, ob Machthaber sich mehr von der Dummheit oder von der inneren Selbständigkeit und Klugheit der Menschen versprechen.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1943 aus: Widerstand und Ergebung
Langweilig:
Gegen das Böse läßt sich protestieren, es läßt sich bloßstellen, es läßt sich notfalls mit Gewalt verhindern, das Böse trägt immer den Keim der Selbstzersetzung in sich, indem es mindestens ein Unbehagen im Menschen zurückläßt. Gegen die Feigheit sind wir wehrlos:

Weder mit Protesten noch durch Gewalt läßt sich hier etwas ausrichten; Gründe verfangen nicht; Tatsachen, die der eigenen Vorsicht widersprechen, brauchen einfach nicht gehört zu werden – in solchen Fällen wird der Feige sogar kritisch –, und wenn sie unausweichlich sind, können sie einfach als nichtssagende Einzelfälle beiseitegeschoben werden. Dabei ist der Feige im Unterschied zum Bösen restlos mit sich selbst zufrieden; ja, er wird sogar gefährlich, indem er leicht gereizt zum Angriff übergeht.

Daher ist dem Feigen gegenüber mehr Vorsicht geboten als gegenüber dem Bösen. Niemals werden wir mehr versuchen, den Feigen durch Gründe zu überzeugen; es ist sinnlos und gefährlich.

Um zu wissen, wie wir der Feigheit beikommen können, müssen wir ihr Wesen zu verstehen suchen. Soviel ist sicher, daß sie nicht wesentlich ein intellektueller, sondern ein menschlicher Defekt ist. Es gibt intellektuell außerordentlich bewegliche Menschen, die feige sind, und intellektuell sehr Schwerfällige, die alles andere als feige sind. Diese Entdeckung machen wir zu unserer Überraschung anläßlich bestimmter Situationen. Dabei gewinnt man weniger den Eindruck, daß die Feigheit ein angeborener Defekt ist, als daß unter bestimmten Umständen die Menschen feige gemacht werden, bzw. sich feige machen lassen.

Wir beobachten weiterhin, daß abgeschlossen und einsam lebende Menschen diesen Defekt seltener zeigen als zur Gesellung neigende oder verurteilte Menschen und Menschengruppen. So scheint die Feigheit vielleicht weniger ein psychologisches als ein soziologisches Problem zu sein. Sie ist eine besondere Form der Einwirkung geschichtlicher Umstände auf den Menschen, eine psychologische Begleiterscheinung bestimmter äußerer Verhältnisse. Bei genauerem Zusehen zeigt sich, daß jede starke äußere Machtentfaltung, sei sie politischer oder religiöser Art, einen großen Teil der Menschen mit Feigheit schlägt. Ja, es hat den Anschein, als sei das geradezu ein soziologisch-psychologisches Gesetz.

Die Macht der einen braucht die Feigheit der anderen. Der Vorgang ist dabei nicht der, daß bestimmte – also etwa intellektuelle – Anlagen des Menschen plötzlich verkümmern oder ausfallen, sondern daß unter dem überwältigenden Eindruck der Machtentfaltung dem Menschen seine innere Selbständigkeit geraubt wird und daß dieser nun – mehr oder weniger unbewußt – darauf verzichtet, zu den sich er gebenden Lebenslagen ein eigenes Verhalten zu finden.

Daß der Feige oft bockig ist, darf nicht darüber hinwegtäuschen, daß er nicht selbständig ist. Man spürt es geradezu im Gespräch mit ihm, daß man es gar nicht mit ihm selbst, mit ihm persönlich, sondern mit über ihn mächtig gewordenen Schlagworten, Parolen etc. zu tun hat. Er ist in einem Banne, er ist geblendet, er ist in seinem eigenen Wesen mißbraucht, mißhandelt. So zum willenlosen Instrument geworden, wird der Feige auch zu allem Bösen fähig sein und zugleich unfähig, dies als Böses zu erkennen. Hier liegt die Gefahr eines diabolischen Mißbrauchs. Dadurch werden Menschen für immer zugrunde gerichtet werden können.

Aber es ist gerade hier auch ganz deutlich, daß nicht ein Akt der Belehrung, sondern allein ein Akt der Befreiung die Feigheit überwinden könnte. Dabei wird man sich damit abfinden müssen, daß eine echte innere Befreiung in den allermeisten Fällen erst möglich wird, nachdem die äußere Befreiung vorangegangen ist; bis dahin werden wir auf alle Versuche, den Feigen zu überzeugen, verzichten müssen.

In dieser Sachlage wird es übrigens auch begründet sein, daß wir uns unter solchen Umständen vergeblich darum bemühen, zu wissen, was »das Volk« eigentlich denkt, und warum diese Frage für den verantwortlich Denkenden und Handelnden zugleich so überflüssig ist – immer nur unter den gegebenen Umständen. Das Wort der Bibel, daß die Furcht Gottes der Anfang der Tapferkeit sei (Psalm 3,10), sagt, daß die innere Verpflichtung des Menschen zum verantwortlichen Leben vor Gott die einzige wirkliche Überwindung der Feigheit ist. Übrigens haben diese Gedanken über die Feigheit doch dies Tröstliche für sich, daß sie ganz und gar nicht zulassen, die Mehrzahl der Menschen unter allen Umständen für feige zu halten. Es wird wirklich darauf ankommen, ob Machthaber sich mehr von der Feigheit oder von der inneren Selbständigkeit und Tapferkeit der Menschen versprechen.

- Ein Vöglein im Walde, 2016 aus: Verworrenheit und Anschein intellektueller Tiefe

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Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 30

The uniting theme in this chapter is the wonder of the Rohirrim at that which has come into their borders from beyond. It is a fitting continuation after the tumult of battle, a half unbelieving waking up to a changed reality.

And truly, you'll meet new friends, after common cause has pulled people together into strive. And some of those will be strange and it will appear surprising that they should be fighting on your side.

But so it will be, if you're not the aggressor and not the only attacked.

There is a funny little thing concerning etiquette here: Merry and Pippin make light of their charge to greet King Théoden to the point of insolence, they have no sense of awe or hierarchy. But what would have been appropriate, if Treebeard himself had greeted Théoden?

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Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 29

The 29th chapter is like a wave, events unfold unforeseen and little can King Théoden do to steer their course.

There's only the vague hope that Gandalf is assembling scattered men and that Erkenbrand is still out there somewhere. And Aragorn has heard that the Ents are going to march. That's all in all the chaos the defenders are in.

I can see no strategical sense in delaying the bombing, and neither have any men commanding bombers ever seen, so if a bombing comes late in a war, it must be, because the bomb wasn't available any earlier. That does make some strategical sense here, because it would've been bad for Saruman, if the bombs would have been captured, because they were transported through contested territory. And it is believable that a wizard like Saruman might be a little overcautious in this regard.

It would appear that Aragorn already saw the forest, when he issued his warning, and in that case he certainly would have told Théoden as well.

So, why didn't Tolkien report it?

The situation is clear enough, for the enemies are already fleeing when Théoden charges, after rumours, which have been spread before.

The same with Helm's horn. Is it an endless echoe or is it Erkenbrand answering?

I think the latter is more likely. The signs of the coming relief are already there, but Tolkien narrates it in such a way as if his mind was shaken by hysteria and couldn't believe it.

Probably, if you wanted to translate this feeling into film, you had to show the truth in the background and the hysteria on both sides in the foreground.

Speaking of which... Erkenbrand comes on foot and the Uruk-hai were fleeing instead of charging in the manner of the Macedonian army under Alexander the Great.

I wonder why Jackson is doing this. No rider would have come through that. It's silly and unbelievable every step of the way, a continuous suspension of the laws of physics. Some kind of protest of the sort: You tell me to be a hero! What do you know of the world? In real life, nobody could beat the Uruk-hai! ? Jackson's cameo in Bree, biting on a carrot, sort of suggests that (by the equation carrot eater = hare = coward). But then again, looking at all the other changes he made, turning the battle at Helm's Deep into a genocidal affair, whereas in the book the besiegers call for Théoden's death, and making everything as in a nightmare as opposed to as in the chaos of war, I wonder what really went through Jackson's mind. Also the casting of Éowyn, hardly a woman who hasn't come into womanhood yet, always crying, never dashing and fool-hardy like her whole people is. On the one side sobbing and doom and on the other haughtiness and discipline. The Uruk-hai talk like war-hogs in the book, but they are still undisciplined, and their pride is in their fighting skill and not in their physical condition. They are not narcissistic.

Tolkien describes a bold people, who have gotten themselves into a bigger mess, then they had imagined and Jackson's made a torture porno out of it.

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23. März 2016

Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 28

The King of the Golden Hall is about the rules at the court, how the actors can pursue their will, what is for them to want and what not.

It is also about diplomacy, death wrapped in soft cloth.

And it is about the dangers of turning a blind eye towards the affairs of the state.

It is noteworthy that Háma is consciously making the decision to get Wormtongue kicked out.
‘The staff in the hand of a wizard may be more than a prop for age,’ said Háma. He looked hard at the ash-staff on which Gandalf leaned. ‘Yet in doubt a man of worth will trust to his own wisdom. I believe you are friends and folk worthy of honour, who have no evil purpose. You may go in.’
Not only is it easier to defend to have let a staff be slipped in than a sword, a staff is also more useful.

Háma is of Éomer's party, King Théoden pardons the breach of his command, that's why pardon is given, because the rules at the court are stiff and the king must appear impartial, reliable also to those, he loves less. However, a king is wise to give pardon only when the land's sovereignty or the law's sanctity (i.e. its moral justifiability) was compromised, or the institution becomes a sham.

As for what to want and not to want, both Gríma and Éowyn have improper thoughts, and Aragorn's heart grieves for hers false step.

The problem is the court, the assumption of priviledge, the lack of independence and the excess of ways to work things. It breeds secrecy and directs the thoughts towards improving one's position. It also erects dark chambers, where those are being co-erced, who rely on the favours of others, but not so so far in Rohan, where people are riding into war sufficiently often still, for not to have stooped to these lows.

And that's the other thing in this chapter, the lightness, the overflowing hope, as if a mere trifle lay ahead in dealing with Saruman.

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Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 27

The White Rider is a chapter full of advanced baby-stepping, it's almost awkward how obstinate Aragorn is
I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses.
and that he can't choose his further path himself, but has to be set onto it by Gandalf.

However, despite the embarrassment their roles have changed, they're now differently ranking military commanders.

Gandalf mentions in passing that their victory would be assured, if they had The Ring.
War is upon us and all our friends, a war in which only the use of the Ring could give us surety of victory.
I read this in light of Boromir's ideas as a statement about total numbers, that their victory would be assured, if they could totally mobilise their own people and thus as well as a statement about the task they face, namely to mobilise as many as possible.

After all, Morgoth and his followers are the usurpers and counterfeiters, as Treebeard reminded us before. Of course, the argument only holds, if Tolkien lets it hold, for nothing is being said about the spreading. And when we look at the situation in the real world, I hardly see which dynamic would ensure that those who are organised based on personal appreciation of the hierarchical transfer of power that the organisation entails will always prevail over those who are not or, in case such a dynamic existed, what would prevent it from breeding genocidal maniacs.

The situation in Middle-earth though is pretty balanced, there's good and evil in every corner, often they mirror each other like Gondor and Mordor, Elves and Orcs, Ents and Trolls, Eagles and whatever the Ringwraiths fly on (the film says, those things are called Nazgûls, but that is not so, Nazgûl is another name for Ringwraith) and the idea is that good has to face evil everywhere and all is safe.

I guess the metaphor can be applied in one way or another to our situation, but only as long as people have sufficient power and insight. 1500 years ago the feat was certainly possible, today, I'm afraid, power has grown too concentrated for any code of conduct to guarantee its healthy distribution.

The Ring has not been destroyed and The Ring will not be destroyed, until the knowledge is falsified, on which it is built. The problem is, whereas this only has to happen once in the Lord of the Rings, the knowledge being that all creatures crave power and the falsification being the disposal of The Ring, it has to happen continuously in the real world, for in reality there's already a problem, when some people crave power.

And there would also be a problem, if that would be impossible, because there would be no way for even a few people to successfully crave power.

Such is the human condition. The renunciation of power can only be a personally liberating event, never a socially liberating event. But strange times these are when we have to renounce power, but affirm our nature!

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22. März 2016

Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 26

The Ents are a strong and independent people, who can spend their time on the things they like best. I think*, they always count their strides as well, so encompassing and undirected is their perception of the world. Like a tree they synthesize all the ingredients that they can find in the world, but in their minds as well as in their bodies.

But indepedent as they are each follows its own desire and unlike is it for them to compromise.
‘There were rowan-trees in my home,’ said Bregalad, softly and sadly, ‘rowan-trees that took root when I was an Enting, many many years ago in the quiet of the world. The oldest were planted by the Ents to try and please the Entwives; but they looked at them and smiled and said that they knew where whiter blossom and richer fruit were growing. Yet there are no trees of all that race, the people of the Rose, that are so beautiful to me.
Alas, my wife complains about the taste of rowan-berries as well. But apple-trees and rowan can be planted side by side. But I guess the Ents didn't want to walk around those runts, majestic they are surely not, wild and old they look untidy and in winter even ghostly.

But so does everything in winter, except for pines, spruce-trees and firs of course, but never mind that here, for this is of course the point I'm trying to get to that such independent people only look towards each other when the conditions for their occupations have been taken away from them.** And even when their tastes agree they only come together when those conditions are about to be taken away from them, as happens in this chapter.

Actually, there is a link with the Elf-disease, that people identify too much with their specialness, i.e. their taste, for this naturally leads to the kind of seperation that the Ents must endure. Perhaps it's worthwhile to ask, why the Elves themselves don't suffer from it. My guess would be too much of a sense of wonder at their mutual creations, group-indulgence, so to say, but maybe Hipsters are working on that already while I ponder.

In the greater context of the Big War that is coming up the Ents represent the principle that the more ambitious the attack is, the greater the natural resistance to it is and that under such conditions even unexpected allies will join the fight.

Finally, let me point out again that walking trees have been seen in the Shire, see chapter 2, but that the Ents didn't know of Hobbits. So... how could Merry and Pippin have been so cruel and not say a word, when Treebeard asked?
‘You never see any, hm, any Ents round there, do you?’ he asked. ‘Well, not Ents, Entwives I should really say.’
If only Sam would have been there! He must have never told his fellows. But perhaps Treebeard will go out on a hunch one fine day and visit the Shire.

* And so does Pippin, it appears.
Pippin had tried to keep count of the ‘ent-strides’ but had failed, getting lost at about three thousand.
** In this regard it might be considered noteworthy that both Bilbo and Frodo were conceived at the winter solstice.

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Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 25

The main objective of this chapter is to give us a glimpse into the Orc-world.

Essentially, the appreciation of strength that governs the Orc-world is based on a desire to wound, as opposed to build or protect.

And that is of course simpler. And accordingly there is less discipline in the Orc-world, as the need for co-ordination is smaller.

Apart from that the Orcs seem to have similar tools and equipment as the Elves, that is to say a similar science.

I think this is a deliberate warning against judging things based on technological advancedness. In any case, there's an important question hanging over this chapter, namely whether we live in an Orc-world or not, and in particular whether our armies are governed by Orc-spirit.

The latter I would affirm, the discipline might be better and you might fight in order to protect, but the actual spirit in the army and over the army, that is to say the spirit of those who use the army, is rooted in the appreciation of its capability to destroy.

At least as far as my perception of the phenomenon reaches, that is its nature.

I dare say that the reason for this is again the idea to be of public service, for thus the army becomes a tool without a mind of its own, that is a weapon, and how else would a weapon be judged? Whereas in a society like that of the Rohirrim the army is the form in which the people protect their property and thus naturally has a different spirit.

At this point it doesn't matter much, whether the property is formally the king's or not, for that affects the spirit but little, as long as the king has the support of his people.

However, a modern army is in relation to a modern state always a paid servant, the modern state has no other obligation towards it than to pay it and there is no difference in a modern army between a soldier and a mercenary, unless the modern state is bound in its actions by convictions that (almost) all of its people share.

And more generally, any kind of arrangement in which the usefulness of a human being is defined by its ability to beat the competition, unquestioningly, as a paid servant, is creating an Orc-world under it.

Free market-wise this can be reduced to the (lacking) voluntariness of the producer to take part in a market transaction, but this observation doesn't help much.

The observation I made in the post on the previous chapter is more helpful, for it suggests that the origin of Orcdom lies in accepting an arrangement as to be of public service without wanting to be involved with it, because that gives the power to shape society away without looking at the results.

And so the cure for Orcdom is to organise society again based on the appreciation of what to build or protect, but that can only be done, if the society, which strives to re-organise itself in this manner, is powerful enough to handle its own affairs. The Orcs could do that, if their will would let them, we, I'm afraid, as of now cannot.

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21. März 2016

Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 24

This second chapter of the third book is about legs. That legs are necessary for all the things that you set out to do, and the better the legs are that are at your disposal, the greater the things are that you can do.

This holds as much for the legs of horses as it holds for the legs of men who acknowledge your command.

But for the time being, while these seductive things dangle in front of Aragorn and Gimli, they still do without.

It's pretty clear though what Aragorn's path will be, he's been taught a lesson, that by himself he can't do a thing, and the time, when Aragorn stops bumbling around and assumes his role in life is about to begin.

Still, nothing ever falls into one's lap without an effort. Already now we're being warned that there will be those who will challenge Aragorn's claim to leadership, and as it is with such things, the greater and more unlikely one's role, the higher minded those must be, who are even to consider it possible. Yet, this predisposition also runs in fouler straits, may it either be that imbeciles choose their hero or that decent men follow looking only at the office and not the men, who run it.

The latter happens only though, when those who acknowledge the claim of an office don't want to be involved with it, but think it useful, like, say, dealing with wizard matters and such. It is by the appeal to be of public service that the check of personal appreciation is overcome and the gates to leadership are opened to those who stink. We'll see more of it later on. Still, already here we might say that a king needs to be involved with everything that happens in his kingdom, not necessarily controlling it, but knowing of it and appreciating it, which is also why monarchy ended but in its vestigial form all over Europe. Today, as it is, there are actually both too many imbeciles and too many affairs to be involved in for any return of a king to be any kind of a success, which is why in these times all truly general work on society has to be performed clothed in sackcloth. It's still some time though, before it will be generally understood.

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Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 23

Only indirectly does Aragorn get on his path, for still obligation binds him. Obligation being of course most natural for a king, but not really the obligation that Aragorn honours here, although it always pays to prove one's worth in small things.

There is not much to be said about this chapter, sadness dominates it, sadness over all the hopes that are being disappointed, lying somewhere at the bottom of the sea of forgetfulness.

And Aragorn is as much to blame for the mess as Boromir, since he failed to maintain order.

But then again, only loss teaches necessity, a king can't go sightseeing on a whim.

And a conspirator can't break the understanding, on which the conspiracy relies. It causes upheaval, for which the company might not be prepared.

Yet... the Company wasn't prepared either way and Boromir certainly paid his debt. It is ill to think otherwise. What of Frodo finally succumbing to The Ring? If there is mercy for Gollum, there's also mercy for Boromir.

One of the many things that the film does badly, one for which Tolkien is partly to blame himself, for he introduced the notion that evil loses over time the ability to disguise itself, which works as a metaphor for a particular nuisance or holds true as a comment on the effect of repeated frustration, but is itself a nuisance and a cause for repeated frustration, when taken as a law that dictates that by the Third Age evil and ugly have become the same, is to cast Boromir as a man who just can't be trusted and thus evoking first: Told you so! and then: See what you got for it!, which is of course pretty Orc-like itself.

And while I'm at it... Tolkien really did a good job on the Elves, I've been through all the subtleties already, but as a narrator he made a major blunder, when he introduced the Elves as the good guys. After that the average reader simply will pay no attention whatsoever to the problems that the Elves may have. They are the good guys, who have been rewarded with immortality, nimbleness and beauty for their virtue. An ideal that we humans should strive to emulate. This is not Tolkien's conception of the Elves and not his intent. But against his intention Tolkien created Sirens, which have led many astray, despite the fact that he has meticulously pointed out the right path.

Actually, he broke the rules. Fantasy creatures are allowed in epics, but they must represent imbalances in human nature and do so intuitively, like it is the case with Dwarves and Giants, for instance, but not with Elves, though the latter might change, if everybody will feel in the face of Hipsters as John Boorman felt, when he made Zardoz, for only then does the epic pull its audience towards balance in human nature.

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20. März 2016

Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 22

There are two kinds of decisions, that which we choose to stay within the parameters of our idea of ourselves and that which we choose, because the circumstances demand it.

In the former case the actual test lies beyond the decision and its purpose is to prepare us for it. But in the latter the test is at hand, and our actions create a reality, one way or another, that flees like a ripple away from us, into the world and out of our control.

Frodo is weighing the needs of the time, and they appear clear to him. He understands that it is in his power to set things onto the paths, on which they should proceed, but that it requires action, since else the caution of the others will let them choose an unfavourable path for themselves, thinking too much of their help for him and too little of their help for others.

And Aragorn and Gimli are certainly guilty of this. The important thing though, as pertaining to the nature of decisions, is this: Sam knows Frodo's heart and he tells the others what Frodo is thinking. Aragorn even acknowledges that Sam's words appear to be true. But if they were true, wouldn't Frodo wait with The Ring on his finger to make off with a boat?

Sam considers this in time and Aragorn doesn't. Why?

Because for Sam the decision to not let Frodo get away is a decision of the second kind, one on which the further unrolling of reality hinges, whereas for Aragorn his duty matters to protect Frodo as well as he can as long as Frodo is his responsibility, and so the decision to let him get away is of the first kind for him.

One could speak of decisions for appearances' sake and decisions for life's sake. It's simple enough to know them too. However, weaker as the first kind is, it pulls us along and sometimes into the reaches of a decision of the second kind, like it pulled Frodo along, until he could embrace Sam's company in the same way that Sam embraced Frodo's, for he realised that he didn't rob him of something that is his.

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Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 21

The purpose of the second last chapter of the second book is to give a sense of linear progression; although yet unknown whereto, both Minas Tirith and Mordor appear to lie near and the rest of the journey appears to be, just as before, simply a matter of going.

That is to say, at the most eleven more chapters and we should be through, a third still to come and not merely a third so far behind us.

It is a reflection upon the nature of foresight, that, where we lack distinct expectation, premonition, our view of the future is but an enlargement of the present, swelling Aragorn's chest here: a desire is there, but where is the fuel to be burned by it?

Up to this point Tolkien avoids any ominous signs though, the attack of the Uruk-hai is only being foreshadowed in the next chapter. Instead Tolkien follows his usual routine of weaving difficulties that the reader can relate to and difficulties that the reader cannot relate to together, the carrying of a boat over land and the shooting down of a Ringwraith. And he introduces Elvish camouflage as a military element. So the situation looks actually quite promissing. But the Company will have to make greater uses of its strength than it assumes.

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19. März 2016

Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 20

In all the beauty and loss of the parting, I think the message is a simple one:
An Elv might have a feeling for all the time that his endeavours span, a mortal can't help but think about the next swash of water that threatens to wet his feet in a boat that lies too low in the river.
Two more points. Sam was the only one, who openly spoke about that what Galadriel had tempted him with, and he is the only one, who gets it from her, in a way, that is; such is the excellence of the plain mind.

And as for Aragorn, it means a lot to him to be equippped with formal signs of honour, he's the type of person, who suffers from the lack of it yet knows he doesn't dare say so, for it is a sign of meanness. But finally, he is coming into his own. Gandalf has passed as a mentor and laid the burden on him and when they'll next meet, both of them will have assumed another role.

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Die Tore öffnen sich

Nicht was wir zusammenklauben,
sondern was uns zufällt
bestimmt unser Geschick.

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Entgeisterung / Unmanifestation

Unmanifestation

If I was to agree with those who think I'm accursed,
I did them no favour, for the curse'd be on them.

But all that is beyond me now and oil and water separated,
for no nobility remains, where begging alone has virtue.

Entgeisterung

Stimmte ich jenen zu, die meinen, daß Pech an mir klebe,
tät' ich ihn'n keinen Gefallen, denn auf sie käm' es.

Doch all das ist mir nun fern, Öl und Wasser sind zwei,
da kein Adel verbleibt, wo nur die Bitte erlöst.

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Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 19

The Mirror of Galadriel is a chapter about reflection, the welling up of feelings, of quiet and what it does, the melting of hearts, of people, who find themselves together on roads that they didn't previously share, but now do.

Galadriel's little test really isn't much more than a willful saddening, a chance to grief over the fact that one is far from one's luck. But sometimes that helps, when one clings to routines that won't let one come nearer, even when one has the chance to approach it in all one's difficulties, as is often the case with the stout hearted, like Gimli.

A seed is sown here, a seed that will later blossom when Gimli finds the caves in Helm's Deep. It is a very poetic thing, Durin saw the stars in the deep of the Mirrormere, and his confidence in the divinity of this sign was enough for him to create the mines of Khazad-dûm. And now Galadriel is awakening the same kind of belief in Gimli: that there is still undiscovered beauty out there.

Glimpses like these are true magic, the most what man usually perceives of the depth of the world around and the time before him.

It is weird that Frodo didn't ask Galadriel who the wizard in white was, in particular since he dreamed of Gandalf already in Tom Bombadil's house, what a cruel thing for Sauron to do to disrupt Frodo's thoughts so thoroughly - and Galadriel's, it would appear. But there you go, the plot has to move on. It's a nice after-thought though: With a little more observation and a little less doing many things would become clearer much earlier. One of the better reasons for friendship as well.

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18. März 2016

Etwas Sonnenlicht

Ich suche keine Wende,
und schon gar keine Revolution,
sondern den Frieden,
Seinen Frieden.

Führt der Kurs noch gegen den Strom,
so wird es doch nicht so bleiben,
Umwucht ist stets im Lauf der Welt,
aber das Leben strebt auf Seine Bahn,

welche Sein Werk fortwirkt
und die Welt erhebt.
Und es scheint mir,
es ist an mir, meinen Teil zu tun.

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Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 18

The difference between Rivendell and Lothlórien is that Rivendell is kept in such a state as to allow the Elves to be as they wish, whereas Lothlórien encaptures the idea of how the Elves would wish the world to be.

And although no man finds anything amiss in it, it's not the kind of world that man himself creates.

The important points of this chapter are fragility, determination and sensitivity, clear and commanding impressions, an authority of the world as to a child. The determination is that of Galadriel and the fragility is high-lighted in the Orc raid, as well as in the crossing of the Silverlode and in the blindfolding of the Company.

It is essential that the reader has been accustomed to the cool of the water and the swaying of the leaves before he comes to Cerin Amroth and it is essential that he goes there before he enters the green city, for the meaning of the presence of the Elves is not in the present alone, and Aragorn serves to double this sentiment in personalised shape.

It's all orchestrated lightly and at the same time thoroughly.

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Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 17

The Bridge of Khazad-dûm is the first chapter that has the questionable honour to have been more extensively treated in the film than in the book.

The chief thing to observe in this regard is that Tolkien never went full retard, but carefully orchestrated the battles in such a way that the lossless victories of the Company appear plausible, not least because of the Moria Orcs' reluctance to get in harm's way, once their leaders have fallen.

There's also no Escher-like stair-running going on.

And even the Balrog isn't quite that big, a fair guess would be about 10 feet tall and it doesn't have physical wings, but emits a shadow that is shaped like two wings. The smoke that it leaves behind kindles, fire on the edges of a shadow, Tolkien's concept of it is certainly cool and the Balrog in the film is certainly one of the best realisations of any of Tolkien's concepts, but it is a little too big, physical and beast-like.

So, whereas the overall feel in the film is one of numbness, the book portrays the Company's escape as a combination of skill, virtue and luck, and you never lose interest in the details of its doings, becaus those details remain meaningful, and the same goes for your fear.

As a matter of fact, after Jackson's cave-troll there's no sense of danger left in the film. From then on you know that you'll have to sit through bombastic and meaningless battle sequences for many hours to come. And really, what was he thinking? If a cave-troll would have wielded that spear, it could have been as blunt as a hammer and would have still maimed Frodo. Perhaps, if they had built a life-size modell, that would have stopped Jackson's silliness in its tracks, but computer graphics have no weight.

But this is all Jackson's doing, Tolkien plans skirmishes and esacpe routes. And in the end, if you pay attention, you notice much of the symmetry between Gandalf and the Balrog. It's being introduced by their first battle at the door leading out of Balin's chamber and then, when you read the Balrog's description, you cannot but notice that it behaves much in the same way, seeming to grow bigger, threatening to utter words of Command, in which Gandalf does.

This is in so far kind of funny, as the Balrog is, as opposed to Sauron, say, pretty much unchanged, behaving like he did in the days of old - and so is Gandalf.

Actually, the scene reminded me of one in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World (beard and everything). In both cases the topic is
forces of nature and their inclusion in society
and the lesson
Though these two are indeed quite similar in substance, the one is useful and the other is not.
- a thought that recurs in less funny form throughout Sherlock Holmes as well. I guess the funniness hinges upon the difference between the established and the natural perception and that again hinges upon the perplexing double-edgedness of some instincts.

In Gandalf's case it's his appeal to patriarchical authority, which, in substance, is not that different from the Balrog's, but then again, without the comparison to The Lost World, it is hardly a laughing matter, but simply the acknowledgement that some playing-fields never change.

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17. März 2016

Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 16

Gandalf directs the show, and everybody knows.

It starts at Durin's Doors. Gandalf can't figure out what to say, although, or shall we rather say because?, the riddle on the wall could be solved by any Hobbit.

Boromir complains about his antics, and Gandalf confesses to them.
‘The answer to your first question, Boromir,’ said the wizard, ‘is that I do not know the word – yet. But we shall soon see. And,’ he added, with a glint in his eyes under their bristling brows, ‘you may ask what is the use of my deeds when they are proved useless.’
Boromir gets tired of this and throws a rock into the water, and lo and behold, Gandalf comes upon the right answer.

Already before, after Gandalf had Aragorn successfully maneuvered into coming with him to Moria, Aragorn tells Gandalf straight to his face that he knows what Gandalf has in stock for him.
You followed my lead almost to disaster in the snow, and have said no word of blame. I will follow your lead now – if this last warning does not move you. It is not of the Ring, nor of us others that I am thinking now, but of you, Gandalf. And I say to you: if you pass the doors of Moria, beware!
The next time Gandalf doesn't know what to do there is a well nearby, and although Pippin really doesn't want to do it, there seems to be some other will that is pulling him towards it
Pippin felt curiously attracted by the well.
and then gives him the idea to throw a stone down into it.
Moved by a sudden impulse he groped for a loose stone, and let it drop.
The result of which is that Gandalf can't take the level path now, now that there are drums in the deep, but has to lead the Company up, far above the Great Gates. And there, after the Company camped in the great halls of the dwarves, it is vitally important for him to show them something before they continue on the way that everybody, or in any case Boromir, knows to be the way down to the Gates.
‘Which way shall we take? Yonder eastward arch?’ ‘Maybe,’ said Gandalf. ‘But I do not know yet exactly where we are. Unless I am quite astray, I guess that we are above and to the north of the Great Gates; and it may not be easy to find the right road down to them. The eastern arch will probably prove to be the way that we must take; but before we make up our minds we ought to look about us. Let us go towards that light in the north door.’
And there they find Balin's tomb, getting at least Gimli into the right mood for love-making.

Puff-puff.

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Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 15

This third chapter of the second book is pretty similar to the third chapter of the first, so much so that some questions arise about both Gandalf and Aragorn.

Is Aragorn any better prepared at the outset of his journey than Frodo was at his?

And what exactly is Gandalf up to?

This time the Company leaves at the winter solstice, befitting a journey through death. Aragorn is again painfully cautious, without achieving much in terms of secrecy. Gandalf agrees with this, but also points out that they'll be seen anyway, once they'll reach Caradhras' shoulder.
How we can get over that without being seen, I cannot imagine.
And it is he who reminds Aragorn of the passage through Moria.
But there is another way, and not by the pass of Caradhras: the dark and secret way that we have spoken of.
And then there's again the delay. Now, Frodo never heard of Gandalf's advice by Butterbur's mistake (which Gandalf kind of foresaw though), but the Company must take the route through Moria as the result of the assembled wisdom of Middle-earth, after Elrond had sent his two sons to Galadriel and they returned.
The sons of Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir, were the last to return; they had made a great journey, passing down the Silverlode into a strange country, but of their errand they would not speak to any save to Elrond.
And Gandalf already pointed out in the last chapter that Sauron's mind would be revolving around possible uses of The Ring.
For he is very wise, and weighs all things to a nicety in the scales of his malice. But the only measure that he knows is desire, desire for power; and so he judges all hearts.
So it seems only logical that Gandalf would try to send a message to Sauron that would suggest that somebody was already wielding The Ring and broadening his power, like, say, reclaiming Moria.

And Aragorn would learn something on the way, something else than just to hide about, namely single-handedly taking on an overwhelming seeming foe: Gandalf the Grey, teacher of courage and leadership.

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16. März 2016

Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 14

The Council of Elrond is for the most part plain enough and also a rather long chapter, so I'll only pick up two points.
‘‘Strider’’ I am to one fat man who lives within a day’s march of foes that would freeze his heart, or lay his little town in ruin, if he were not guarded ceaselessly. Yet we would not have it otherwise. If simple folk are free from care and fear, simple they will be, and we must be secret to keep them so. That has been the task of my kindred, while the years have lengthened and the grass has grown.
The secrecy of the Rangers is much like that of the Catholic Church.
‘I know little of Iarwain save the name,’ said Galdor; ‘but Glorfindel, I think, is right. Power to defy our Enemy is not in him, unless such power is in the earth itself.’
Precisely, only that there are not only trees in the earth, but also other living things like men and Elves. Thus it is within Tom Bombadil's power to defy the Enemy, if it is within the council's.

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Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 13

I left my remarks on the last chapter a little puzzled over the psychology of Elves. There isn't necessarily a reason to assume that they face a different kind of task in their lives than men do, but being in possession of so many things men crave for, it makes you wonder about the balance of their remaining cravings.

Tolkien clears this up some in this chapter. Elves are proud of their works, and they're involved quite a bit in activities aimed at remembering what has happened in their lives before.

They were already rude to a Hobbit once, and they're again at the verge of being it. But they're not interested in Bilbo's attempts to immortalise himself, because to them all works are clothes that they wear, what counts is the pleasant feel of it, tailored to a life of unlimited time.

Elves need to idle themselves, and there's necessarily a strong streak of indulgence in flavours in their character, as a result of which they seem to give of a flavour themselves.
His hair was dark as the shadows of twilight.
Reverence is probably a flavour for them as well, but they don't like the sort of reverence that exploits itself, like Bilbo is exploiting his for inspiration, for that comes to naught in their sight, they seek the reverence that seeks the fairness of their being, and occasionally they renounce their immortality for it.

Echoes of Schopenhauer's views on the lack of women's appreciation of the arts, but we cannot take this too far, for firstly there are male Elves and secondly the Elves have a larger role to play in Tolkien's world.

They are stores of intellectual wealth, who finally realise that their place is in Valinor, for Middle-earth is given to more radical works than theirs in man's pursuit of his share of glory. It's difficult to speak about Elvendom without touching upon Theodore Kaczynski.

In terms of the fullness I was speaking about yesterday, it would appear that Elves don't quite know it nor its opposite, they have to resign themselves to their lot as well, and if they don't, they're open to the venom of the Enemy, but their peace of mind has not to be gained, Elves live in a kind of mist, when it comes to final questions, and they can afford it, because they may never meet their end.

Tom Bombadil on the other hand knows the answers and sees that they are good.

Gandalf makes a remark about having seen Valinor as being sufficient for an Elf to be safe.
They do not fear the Ringwraiths, for those who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm live at once in both worlds, and against both the Seen and the Unseen they have great power.
It's no absolute, as the fate of Fëanor, for instance, shows. But the Ringwraiths might well be a number too small for them, for the mere knowledge of what's right is already a great force for the good. Why would an Elf stoop to crookedness, if the straight ways are known to him?

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15. März 2016

Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 12

Together with the mountains the rules underlying Middle-earth come into view.

We observe a battle of the wills, both darkness and light tearing at Frodo.

The spirit world into which Frodo is gliding is like a parallel design for all things, one that is controlled through the knowledge of its making, where the novice is at the mercy of the master.

This parallel design is at odds with the powers that the world has been imbued with for anyone to use, sunlight, fire, water and ultimately also the mercy that has been stored up to answer prayers.

It is by now clear that the Elves represent man's hope to come into his own and as such they counter the spell of the Ringwraiths, who are masters of the dark design.

The power of the latter over Frodo's, or anybody's, mind comes from their ability to let him forget the world out there and his place in it. Frodo, for the second time, can't hold his own and sinks into their dream. It is clear enough that he'll fail at the Cracks of Doom again, whereas Gollum's peculiar interest in the depths of the world makes him much better suited to appreciate the waking reality there.

I should state that in reality not only black dreams are being spun. The test for the make of a dream is, whether it embraces God as the creator or not. Gandalf alludes to this occasionally, but only vaguely, for a clearer account see the Silmarillion.

Another test is whether the make of the dream reveals itself on its own or not, whether it sparks off insight or whether it tries to muffle it.

And harking back to Tom Bombadil once more, the getting always appears greater than the having and there's the same kind of lurking betrayal at the sight of both science and Elves, for the inner poverty doesn't know how to handle any freely received fullness. In fact, all fullness starts with renunciation, for it expands from sphere to sphere and can never be made to fit the remaining emptiness. And this is also true of the dreamer, who plunges into a dream, for he renounces alot, when he does so. But the dreamer can be betrayed himself, for he can feel content for a while also in a dark dream.

So, in a way, Tolkien is skirting the edges of doom here, by being a little too fond of giftedness. It makes me appreciate George Lucas more, who had the good sense not to portray Darth Vader as a fallen angel, because that's really not the way it usually goes, if ever, it's usually, if not always, a getting caught up in the consequences of too great a power to wield with too little an understanding of what's going on, i.e. a Greek tragedy.

The Elven thing is from another mind though, one which runs into the tragedy, because it only knows intent. I guess Tolkien, despite his take on world events since World War I, still trusted will to rectify everything. But as much pony sense as people might possess, without understanding they'll fall for one illusion after the other. The truth of the matter is that something, which is not meant to rule, can always be influenced in such a way as to produce the desired rule. As difficult as it is to create a deceptive icon - it is virtually impossible, - as easy is it to lead an honest icon astray or, if need be, destroy it, so that the bar can be lowered and an icon riddled with mistakes can guide the people.

It is noteworthy in this regard that even in Rivendell there are only a handful, who can ride alone against the Nine.

And what is their make? Have they started out as blind dreamers? Did they get showered in precious gifts? Or did they take the solemn vow not to demand anything that isn't theirs?

(Given the somewhat checkered past of many Elves this remains somewhat of an appeal, though Galadriel at least lives up to it.)

Also, jumping to the end of the story, who is truly at peace at the end, Sam, Merry and Pippin, who stay in Middle-earth, or Frodo and Bilbo, who sail to the Undying Lands?

Is it not so that nothing can make Frodo and Bilbo full again after they couldn't resign themselves anymore to the Shire? They would become traitors, lest they died on their way up the ladder.

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14. März 2016

Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 11

The whole point of getting to Weathertop is to get close enough to Rivendell to signal for help.
Sauron can put fire to his evil uses, as he can all things, but these Riders do not love it, and fear those who wield it. Fire is our friend in the wilderness.’

‘Maybe,’ muttered Sam. ‘It is also as good a way of saying ‘‘here we are’’ as I can think of, bar shouting.’
But Aragorn also has another reason, he wants to fight the Ringwraiths.
There live still those of whom Lúthien was the foremother, and it is said that her line shall never fail. [...]

As Strider was speaking they watched his strange eager face, dimly lit in the red glow of the wood-fire. His eyes shone, and his voice was rich and deep.
The reason why Tolkien leads Frodo into this calamity is, because he needs to change the nature of his journey. It was, so far, his journey, he was more or less on his own and its nature was to hide from danger. This way Tolkien could focus on Frodo and properly introduce him, but now he has to end the ridiculous concept that the Elves would care so little about The Ring that they would let their own men be outnumbered by Sauron's right at their door-step in Eriador.

There are those, who can and will fight. The Hobbits, though, don't do too well on their first attempt and Frodo gets an ugly wound.

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Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 10

The common theme in this chapter is irrationality. What good are the best laid plans, if people behave erratically?

The messenger, who forgets the message, the guard, who leaves his post, the servant, who insists to advise his master.

By pain of corporal punishment alone reason rules in hysterical times.

Sam's case is the most interesting of the three. His antipathy towards Strider is rooted in some kind of a promise, namely, as the servant of a noble master, only to deal with other noble people. He feels swindled out of his additional compensations. And the only way Strider can shut this status-conscious brat up, is by threatening to draw his sword on him.

Wealth is, in fact, an accepted claim to power, and must often enough be countered by deadly force, to keep it in its bounds, not only to check its actions, but also to stop the people from throwing their weight behind it, for that is the sure end of justice.

That is of course Aragorn's fate, to re-establish justice out of poverty. It falls into his lap, because the poison of corruption hasn't reached him. And that's the world Tolkien has created, a world sick with that poison, as we'll learn later on.

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13. März 2016

Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 9

Film and book meet again. At the Sign of The Prancing Pony revolves around different aspects of alieness and it even does so in the film, although the book is much more balanced than Jackson's pool of rough- and dreariness.

The people of Bree are a little shorter than usual, friendly, they have botanical family names and live in peaceful co-existence with Hobbits.
The Big Folk and the Little Folk (as they called one another) were on friendly terms, minding their own affairs in their own ways, but both rightly regarding themselves as necessary parts of the Bree-folk. Nowhere else in the world was this peculiar (but excellent) arrangement to be found.
I'm quoting this here, because the only place in the world, where this excellent arrangement is to be found is India and
minding their own affairs in their own ways, but [...] rightly regarding themselves as necessary parts
is the standard formulation of defenders of the caste system to this day.

The excellence of the caste system, from a long-term point of view, lies in its rigidity, its extreme resistance to any reforms or revolutions, in particular also the industrial revolution, and perhaps Tolkien implicitly declares himself a Luddite here, but I consider it more likely that he refers to the excellence of the caste system in its nascent state of development when compared to its alternative, that is genocide. There are of course those who argue for the excellence of genocide by refering to the long-term effects of its alternative, that is the caste system, but I think the proper course of development is the abolishment of the caste system at the proper state of assimilation.

Anyway, naturally these are the worries of invaders and not those who are being invaded and it raises an interesting point concerning the question who came first to Bree, the Big Folk or the Little Folk?

According to their own account, it was the Big Folk...

But enough of these considerations. Tolkien was in all likeliness making another point, one which by my blatant avoidance of it might by now have been sufficiently emphasised. But no matter how stiffly you deal with it, the co-existence of Big and Little Folks in Bree is unity in difference, whereas Hobbits living in both Bree and the Shire is difference in unity, and Tolkien emphasises this alot, with both groups calling each other outsiders and so on.

In this field of slightly confusing polarities the party steers from one extreme to the other and it is actually quite interesting to observe the change of mind that takes hold of the four Hobbits.

It ends of course in catastrophe, with (almost) everybody shunning Frodo, Pippin and Sam as the truly alien ones around, but plotwise that is convenient enough, giving Strider the chance to prove his trustworthiness.

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12. März 2016

Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 8

Tolkien's main motivation in this chapter is obviously to furnish a poetic rendition of yet another British landscape, namely the heathlands, which he uses to touch lightly upon the light of Christianity, but he also continues on with his student analogy for one last time, it thus linking chapters 3 through 8.

As simple as the instructions of wisdom may be, they are not easily followed by those who don't understand their significance. And any false step, however innocent looking, leads on another path, where other rules apply, so that often enough people are better guided by their instinct than the lessons of wisdom they've learned.

I'm not sure whether Tolkien is factually correct when he describes the change from Pre-Christianity to Christianity as the movement from final satisfaction to final relief, but that's his take on the barrow cultures, which, by the same reasoning, would also extend to ancient Egypt and Macedonia and everyone today, whose grave is a little too magnificent.

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Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 7

The queer business of Tom Bombadil is a tip of the hat to wisdom, its removedness from any particular troubles, its unchanging nature, its perchedness above the courses of life, from where it derives its eternal answers.

Life, from this perspective, will always appear in its youth*, and once recognised, be wed to him in harmony who gave each of its turns its proper response.

It is a priviledge to conceive before the deed and the biggest treasure that spare time can hoard.

Alas, not everybody can be a professor! Tolkien comes to the logical end of his career counseling and sets out to get on with the plot.

Anyway, let us state clearly, lest it be missed:
  • Tom Bombadil = philosophy,
  • Elves = science.
* A bird told me Toklien was rewriting Nietzsche's Das andere Tanzlied in Also sprach Zarathustra, but there's nothing I can say to the reliability of that bird.

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Geschlechtsspezifisches Gemaule und gesellschaftliches Klima

Es ist nicht zu bestreiten, daß jene, welche ihr Maul öffentlich aufreißen, nicht unbedingt die besten Motive dafür haben, weshalb man es ihnen wohl so manches Mal stopfen will, nämlich den Frauen, welche durch Worte tugendhaft scheinen wollen, und den Männern, welchen es um ihre Gewitztheit geht.

Es versteht sich von selbst, daß diese nicht die Tugendhaftesten und die Gewitztesten sind, aber ihre Absichten sind im doppelten Sinne billig, denn sie allein können den öffentlichen Diskurs in voller Breite tragen, nur aus ihren Reihen läßt sich eine Armee rekrutieren, welche in jedem Dorf die Stellung hält.

Wer nun den Weibern den Mund verbietet, erlaubt es der Regierung, die Bürger zu mißachten, und wer den Kerlen den Mund verbietet, erlaubt es ihr sie zu unterdrücken.

Freiheit und Rücksicht sind also schnell ausgetrieben, wenn man Hand an die Schwätzer legt.

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Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 6

There are several reasons, why the Old Forest is the first adventure outside the Shire. For one it is a believable place for previous Hobbit adventures and battles, so that Merry can relate some lore on their way. And secondly it provides a welcome escape from the all too continuous - for the reader at least - threat hanging over the party.

Chiefly, though, it allows Tolkien to add one more chapter to his guide for the young male, a chapter that hardly seems to fit into the plot, namely one about the openess of mind to follow one's path to where it may lead one and the fruitlessness of uninformed planning.

Nature, and the forest in particular, is a place of evidence of this truth: That the good surprises you, that you didn't even know, it existed, and that you find it, if by anything, by heeding hunches.

You're not the master of this world, but you're of this world, and something within you draws you towards your place. There's a route that lends itself and there are impossibilities. Of course, usually you only understand that your route has lent itself after you encountered the impossibilities. You can't see ahead, but you are making progress.

That Tolkien places Tom Bombadil's house on the edge of the Barrow-downs comes close to an admission of guilt, of having pursued a line of development, a train of thought a little beyond its use. Corrections are in order, a steering of the wheel.

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11. März 2016

Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 5

After Frodo made his first steps in a more dangerous world in the previous chapter, he learns in this one that he's not alone, but that his friends are pretty much his equals.

It is of course a common thing that, once you've heard the calling, you think you're someone special. Well, you might be special, but not that special. Obviously Tolkien extracts some fun out of his professoral experiences again:
‘Just this, my dear old Frodo: you are miserable, because you don’t know how to say good-bye. You meant to leave the Shire, of course. But danger has come on you sooner than you expected, and now you are making up your mind to go at once. And you don’t want to. We are very sorry for you.’

Frodo opened his mouth and shut it again. His look of surprise was so comical that they laughed.
Honestly, I don't think that Elijah Wood would have been able to pull this off, so it might be a good thing that none of this made it into the film. Anyway, Frodo is not free from smugness, he had his own delusions of grandeur, but he's adjusting.
‘After that I kept my eyes open. In fact, I confess that I spied. But you must admit that it was very intriguing, and I was only in my teens. I must be the only one in the Shire, besides you Frodo, that has ever seen the old fellow’s secret book.’

‘You have read his book!’ cried Frodo. ‘Good heavens above! Is nothing safe?’

‘Not too safe, I should say,’ said Merry.
There's some weighing of the options here as well, a good sleep and the light of day or some hours more? Frodo chooses the former, but if you think about it that choice hinges on something that has never clearly been emphasised, namely that the Ringwraiths don't know that Frodo knows that they follow him: Whenever he saw them, they didn't see him. They either didn't know how near they were or they came a little too late. Granted, they may have heard the Hobbits as the Elves appeared, but then again Elves have sharp ears and eyes and the Ringwraiths certainly wouldn't want to be noticed by them. And that the Hobbits would take the shortcut from the clearing might be attributed to their folly, considering how near the aim of their journey seemed from there.

So, the Ringwraiths have to weigh causing general alarm by open attack of the nothern gate against the Hobbits making use of some extra hours, i.e. we're in the so called fog of war, no side knows precisely what the other side is doing, and so both sides have to base their decisions on what appears to them to be the most rational decision by the opposing side.

The degree to which Frodo is conscious of this isn't exposed, but all the relevant arguments are there and he's making the right choice.

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Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 4

One scene from the previous chapter made it into the film, one more into the extended cut, from this chapter none into either and this is the way it will stay until we arrive in Bree, though farmer Maggot got at least a re-invented homage.

In the previous chapter Tolkien set the emotional tone for a change of the tides, in this he proceeds with practical steps and considerations in the newly found situation like
‘Short cuts make long delays’
and
‘It is no good our starting to go in zig-zags’.
Sam's loyalty to Frodo is established, realising that they have stumbled into a world out of their own proportions, and the Hobbits' options are being re-assessed.

It seems I was not the only one, who thought that some friends could cover-up Frodo's whereabouts, so did Tolkien - or farmer Maggot. Though unpleasant, flawed and fraught with some risk - minor, but present, - Frodo's passage to the Buckleburry ferry proves to be an easily mastered excercise.

Far from seeking suspense, Tolkien indulges in prep-talk: Put your mind to it and you'll be surprised by the ease with which things go. After all, he was a professor and the Lord of the Rings his one chance to go beyond children's books.

At least up to this point, Frodo's journey is that of every young man, who steps out of his sheltered circumstances and into the open waters of society. Of course, those waters are in actuality never quite open, but guarded by those, who control society. So you may say that those young men never really leave the Shire. But it matters not, for the lessons remain the same, since they're the only way for a society to renew its strength, independent of its order. And in this chapter the free peoples of Middle-earth start to renew theirs.

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Re-reading the Lord of the Rings, Chapter 3

The third chapter is probably the most sorely missed chapter in the film by fans of the book. It does nothing to advance the action, but it does alot for Tolkien.

Its overall function is to provide a stepping stone from peace to peril by foreshadowing all that is to come on a smaller scale within the bounds of the Shire, both geographical and habitual. Frodo prepares to sneak away by moving to Buckland, hoping to avoid attention, but not quite succeeding. He does so right after the autumn equinox, drenched in melancholy, leaving the empty Bag End to the Sackville-Bagginses, taking a route through the clearing forests.

The Ringwraiths are already in the Shire. Actually, one of them almost knocks on Frodo's door in Bag End, only turning around because Sam's father erroneously thinks the party already left, while its just about to. But they learn the destination of the journey and even before having started it, Frodo is already being hunted.

Jackson's only interest in all this is a Ringwraith crawling, Tolkien on the other hand wants to make the point that the doors have opened to a new time, a time of sorrow and grief, and Frodo has waited for its arrival to make his first step into it, he's not saving any momentum from a happier hour, he's sinking into this new reality, tasting it, learning his way around it.

And the danger is there, instantaneously, not a bit smaller than ever. But it makes you think. The Shire, after all, is also still there. Frodo could have gone to any friend and let him say that he's not with him. He doesn't try that either. The times are changing. Neither did he go, when it was still easy, nor does he try to rely on accumulated stocks to drag it out some more.

He would have been caught, but the Elves safe him. But they are there for the same reason, because it is the hour, the night after the autumn equinox, time to say good-bye to the woods, singing songs to Orion. Frodo has succesfully made his first step into a wider web and has done so by being perceptive, recognising the constants of life, finding like-minded support.

That, by the way, Tolkien lays on a bit thick, having the Elves taunt Frodo as dull, as might happen in any real-life attempt to join a socially established club.

But this is what Tolkien tries to accomplish here, to have the need and the relief rising synchronously, allowing nature to steer the course, not trying to outwit it nor fleeing from it. And that is very much necessary in any free society, any outwitting has to be paid for by others and any fleeing hampers its self-healing. Only from this perspective Frodo's instinct makes sense.

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