Would anyone else be interested in a thread of community takeaways of each episode?

MattfromWI

New Member
Maybe what I'm proposing would be too much like the episode summaries. Let me know in the comments. But I am suggesting this because during class, I am usually not able to keep up with all the insights from the commenters. While I do listen to the episode podcasts when they are released, and thereby get to understand and reflect on what Prof Olsen has to say, I would also like to hear the conclusions of the community after each episode discussion. I'll give an example that got really wordy (haha sorry). So, thread title might be:

Session 197, “Bilbo’s Literary Theories” Takeaways.
 

MattfromWI

New Member
From Session 197, “Bilbo’s Literary Theories,” there were two things that came up that really sparked my interest.

The first is the discussion about how Rivendell compares to Lothlorien as far as being a “timeless place.” Although it seems that most readers of LOTR assume that the Elven-rings work the same way, I’ve never felt that for the same reason that Prof Olsen articulated: their ‘power’ or ‘effect’ has much to do with the WILL of the user. Galadriel, we know from The Silmarillion, yearned to have realms in the wide world free from oversight by the Valar; it seems likely that she would use the power of her ring to recreate partially the timeless, spell-bound world she grew up in in Valinor and partially the fresh world under the new sun she found when she arrived in Beleriand in the First Age.

I'm not sure what were Elrond’s [full] motivations in founding Rivendell: per “The Tale of Years” in the appendixes, Imladris was founded in 1697 Second Age after Sauron laid waste to Eregion, specifically as a refuge for “the remnant of the Noldor” after Celebrimbor’s death. At some point, though, it wasn’t a refuge anymore, it was a home--and it became “the last homely house.” Given Prof Olsen’s thoughts about Bilbo “not counting the days” but rather good conversations, I think that Elrond, who became a “master of lore,” has made Rivendell not a place that is “timeless” NOT the way I’d imagine the days before the sun were timeless, or the the forest of Doriath within the Girdle of Melian were timeless, but rather a place more like a venerable library or reading room: a place that is comfortable and welcoming for all, full of substantive and respectful discourse, and offers easy access to knowledge.

I think there is a significant difference in the character of Galadriel and Elrond. It’s hard to really articulate, but Galadriel is far older and obviously more powerful, more authoritative (she ‘rules’ Lothlorien, a bigger place than Imladris!), and more easily tempted by power. And yet she did what with her power? Created a beautiful memory of the First Age that nobody could enjoy but the Sindar elves of her land (and some rare others). How true that she was destined to lose everything before returning to Aman as a consequence of her rebellion--only when she let go of the last of her pride did she pass the test. Elrond, on the other hand, is somehow more vital: he is the standard-bearer of Gil-Galad and fights with him to the slopes of Mt. Doom; he fosters the heir of Isildur; he chides the Elves that returning to the sea (and abandoning Middle-Earth) is not acceptable. I guess what I’m saying is that I think Galadriel used her ring to make a bit of her own music, and only when she accepted that it was fully ‘tributary to [the] glory’ of the Great Music could she return to the West, but Elrond used his ring to protect knowledge and skill in the hope that it could be used again--he protected the music.

The second takeaway is Sam’s relationship with hope. I think that Sam represents pure estel, or what I would translate almost purely as the Christian theological virtue of ‘faith.’ In Christian theology, ‘faith’ is the understanding that the One will never suffer the evil to win over the good, and never suffer any good act to be meaningless or unrewarded. It isn’t some banal assurance that if someone is good then eventually everything will come out right, it’s the conviction that by doing good, one makes a difference, even if it’s not apparent in the moment or even throughout one or many lifetimes. Sam has that conviction--he focuses on the practical (adventuring in winter, where they leave when they live happily ever after) because he has simple trust that as long as he continues to do good, it would all come out right in the end, so he doesn’t need to worry about the odds.
 
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Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
Thinking of the difference between Elrond and Galadriel's use sf their rings in their realms. I think Rivendell is still a place of refuge - Bilbo found refuge there, and before him, Gilraen and her son. I think I read somewhere that Aragorn was not the first heir of Elendil to find refuge there, beginning with Valandil. Elrond is a healer, and his ring (that he got from Gil-Galad) creates a place of healing - a place of rest - complete and refreshing rest. That's why I think Gandalf told Elrond about suspecting that Bilbo's ring the One Ring, and told him about that least scene with Bilbo within a year or two of Bilbo taking residence. He would want Elrond to watch Bilbo's progress, and use all his skill to heal Bilbo as much as possible. It's the perfect place, Bilbo has said. It can be a refuge for a short time (like in The Hobbit) or longer, like Bilbo, like Gilraen. There are places to be quiet and alone, places to study, places to hear or make music or tell tales, places to take long walks. It's a welcoming place. I think the ring keeps it hidden, but for those who have reason to come there, it's welcoming.

What I was wondering is how this is preserving, or rather, what it is preserving. It's obvious in Lorien that Galadriel has created a little bit of the West in Middle-earth - just think of her song. And it seems forever new - Frodo describes how colors looked as if they had just been created as he looked at them. And she rules from a walled city - but her land is shut off from the world with very few exceptions. Keeping things as they are, as she made them, is what her ring does. Elrond's ring preserves the "now" that brings the peace talked about it in this class. Rivendell is a piece of Middle-earth; Lorien is an escape from Middle-earth.

As for Sam and Frodo and their stars, what occurred to me in class was that Frodo is in a place of goodness and protection, and sees a star that brings thoughts of the terrors ahead; Sam sees Earendil's star while in Mordor, and finds strength and estel. I get uncomfortable with Christian theological interpretation, and the way that sometimes gets taken for granted in this class. On the other hand, there is a midrash (a form of commentary that is a story that "fills in the spaces") that when the Israelites came to the Sea, the waters didn't part until the first person stepped into it. It took an act of faith to complete the miracle. The amdir looked bleak, it needed estel to complete the miracle. I don't know how that fits with your thoughts.

Thanks for starting this conversation.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
I think those sorts of observations and thoughts are exactly the kind of thing that should be posted on this forum.
 
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MattfromWI

New Member
Thank you for responding (both of you!). I love reading these kinds of insights. I don't want to get into a <debate> on this stuff, because I'm hoping threads like this becoming a forum so people can offer perspectives--I think the thought @Rachel Port ended with is one that I think maybe we'll see in many places as well as a major theme of the story; or how often the protagonists commit an act of faith that ends up being a miracle. Also I have resisted often the idea that Rivendell is a product of an Elven-ring, even in part, but the comments here make that somewhat inescapable.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Offering perspectives (and debating them) is exactly what these two forums are for. There have been many perspectives aired on these forums. They are (in my opinion) an essential part of the class experience.
 
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