This chapter abounds in pervasive uncertainty, biblical symbolism, and some creepy (in the opinion of this Head) romantic advances on the part of the eponymous Steward.
Our lectio divina section contemplates the transition from the Third to the Fourth Age, and what that means for Gandalf and the Elves. We ask ourselves whether the Fourth Age isn’t a kind of anthropocene.
Laudatory, pathetic, elegy, eulogy, panegyric, ethos … the Tolkien Heads appear to have stumbled into an SAT-prep course! We learn a lot about the different kinds of acknowledgements and respects that are being paid to the quartet of Hobbits who, having been plucked from the edge of destruction, are now suddenly the center of more attention than they would probably like.
The lectio passage this week is Sam and Gandalf’s curious exchange on what the Hobbits are supposed to wear as they plan on meeting the King of Gondor and Lord of the Western Lands.
Finally, Mount Doom! You can practically hear the bubbling and frothing of lava out of rocky fissures in the distance as we spend a disproportionate fraction of this episode debating whether Mount Doom is a true volcano—and, if so, what kind of volcano it is.
The lectio divina section looks at Sam’s split-second decision not to kill Gollum … and what this means for Gollum, for the story of the Ring, and for Sam.
You can find more information on Karen Wynn Fonstad’s Atlas of Middle-Earth, referred to in the episode, here.
We finish up Book Five with a discussion of the frankly epic altercation between Gandalf and the ghastly—yet still human!—Messenger. Host Nathan leads a discussion of the “fairy-tale hellscape” in which the action of the book is now set before we dive into our lectiodivina analysis.
This week’s lectio passage takes a look at how our outer ego can suddenly be stripped away when taken by surprise, exposing a confused and panicky animalistic essence underneath. This can be quite unpleasant if you’ve ever bitten down on a tortilla chip the wrong way … but are there social situations where you can use this knowledge to your advantage?
This chapter calls us to consider what effect a generation can have on the world, and of what nature that effect ought to be. How can we best prepare the world for future generations? What can we do today to help those who come after us to fight their own battles, which we will know nothing about?
After we revisit some themes from the previous chapter, we get into the lectio, which compares the eternal possibility that goodness will spring up unexpectedly with the ability of evil to do the same. Do you see it as optimism vs. pessimism, or realism vs. living in the realm of fantasy?
For this episode we are accompanied by special guest Arwen, the Creator and Executive Director over at Middle-earth News! She tells us about the site, which is exactly what you would expect: a comprehensive source on all things LOTR in real time. Check it out!
With Arwen’s assistance we work through this dense chapter, where we find examples of everything from Messianic imagery to a panoply of linguistic registers and ways in which they are abused. But the main attraction is, of course, athelas. I mean, kingsfoil. I mean … well, you get the picture.
We look past the linguistic properties of kingsfoil—scientific name asëa aranion—and get at how exactly it functions in the poignant healing scenes of this chapter, both symbolically and botanically. Arwen lays out some other plants with healing properties that would have been found in every medieval apothecary and helps us reconstruct what some of the other contents of the pedantic herb-master’s cabinet might be.
Oh, and here’s a link to the Middle-earth News article that questions the lows and the highs of Shire pipe-weed.