We’ve made it to the third stage of our Lord of the Rings Read-Along, co-hosted by Stephanie at Chasm of Books! Today we are discussing Chapters 7-10 of Book V and Chapters 1-2 of Book VI of The Return of the King. Please refrain from posting spoilers for any events that occur after this point. Anyone is welcome to participate and comment, even those not officially signed up for the event. I have posted three discussion questions below, but feel free to bring up other topics and questions, as well!
In Chapter 1 of Book VI, Frodo tells Sam:
The Shadow that bred [the orcs] can only mock; it cannot make: not real new things of its own. I don’t think it gave life to the orcs, it only ruined them and twisted them; and if they are to live at all, they have to live like other living creatures.
What does this tell us about Sauron and the extent of his power? What else do we know about Sauron? Do you think he is a convincing villain? Is he frightening?
In our first discussion post on The Fellowship of the Ring, we talked about the characteristics of hobbits. The subject appears again in Chapter 1 of Book VI when Sam is carrying the Ring for Frodo and is being tempted to claim its power for his own:
In that hour of trial it was the love of his [Sam’s] master that helped most to hold him firm; but also deep down in him lived still unconquered his plain hobbit-sense; he knew in the core of his heart that he was not large enough to bear such a burden, even if such vision were not a mere cheat to betray him. The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command.
Has your opinion of hobbits changed as the story progresses? What about your opinion of any of our hobbit protagonists: Frodo, Sam, Merry, or Pippin? Do you think there are situations where “hobbit-sense” is even more useful than the “wisdom” of the great leaders of Middle Earth?
In Chapter 7 of Book V, Denethor attempts to burn himself and Faramir alive, in despair that the battle against Sauron can ever be won. Gandalf attempts to stop him:
‘Authority is not given to you, Steward of Gondor, to order the hour of your death,’ answered Gandalf. ‘And only the heathen kind, under the dominion of the Dark Power, did thus, slaying themselves in pride and despair, murdering their kin to ease their own death.’
What does this tell you about the morality of Middle Earth? What does it tell you about Sauron, and about Men, that despair can be used as a weapon as much as arrows and swords? How do you think things could have played out differently if Denethor had not given into despair and had instead led his people through the Battle of the Pelennor Fields?