Friday, April 02, 2010

The Road to Osgiliath

I have had the joy of re-reading The Lord of the Rings for my class "Tolkien as Translator", taught by Dr. Marc Zender, Lecturer on Anthropology.
Weekly we delve into the linguistic origins of several of Tolkien's invented languages (and their real-world inspirations), and two of his invented alphabets. In this, I have found that I am a novice compared to a handful of my classmates who enjoy an intimate knowledge of Professor Tolkien's masterpiece. Many weeks into this course and I am still amazed that it is possible to take a class that studies The Lord of the Rings.
Within the online forum The Prancing Pony, we also have the opportunity to discuss the literary as well as the technical aspects of the text. During my re-reading and every once in awhile I am awestruck by the poetry and poignancy of particular passages. Here is one I recently shared with my classmates on the forum:

"Standing there for a moment filled with dread Frodo became aware that a light was shining; he saw it glowing on Sam's face beside him. Turning towards it, he saw, beyond an arch of boughs, the road to Osgiliath running almost as straight, as a stretched ribbon down, down, into the West. There, far away beyond sad Gondor now overwhelmed in shade, the Sun was sinking, finding at last the hem of the great slow-rolling pall of cloud, and falling in an ominous fire towards the yet unsullied sea. The brief glow fell upon a huge sitting figure, still and solemn as the great stone kings at Argonath. The years had gnawed it, and violent hands had maimed it. Its head was gone, and in its place was set in mockery a round, rough-hewn stone, rudely painted by savage hands in the likeness of a grinning face with one large red eye in the midst of its forehead. Upon its knees and mighty chair, and all about the pedestal, were idle scrawls mixed with the foul symbols that the maggot-folk of Mordor used.
Suddenly, caught by the level beams, Frodo saw the old king's head: it was lying rolled away by the roadside. 'Look, Sam!' he cried, startled into speech. 'Look! The king has got a crown again!'
The eyes were hollow and the carven beard was broken, but about the high stern forehead there was a coronal of silver and gold. A trailing plant with flowers like small white stars had bound itself across the brows as if in reverence for the fallen king, and in the crevices of his stony hair yellow stonecrop gleamed.
'They cannot conquer forever!' said Frodo. And then suddenly the brief glimpse was gone. The sun dipped and vanished, and as if at the shuttering of a lamp, black night fell" (Tolkien, 702).

Dannielle Cagliuso, a classmate whom I only know online, had this to say about the passage:
"It is not only beautifully worded, but full of beautiful sentiment and hope, as well. Frodo's misery had become so deep and impenetrable that his exclamation - and sudden burst of optimism - is shocking and profound."
With this, Dannielle summed up my unspoken thoughts beautifully.
God, I love this class.


Blogger Fox In Detox said...

I'm so glad you do. He's a great professor. You might like some of his other linguistic courses as well. You would definitely LOVE the one I'm taking right now on Victorian Literature...except maybe for the raunchy parts...there are quite a few.

11:42 AM, April 02, 2010  
Blogger Andy said...

What makes you think that I wouldn't like the raunchy parts???

4:01 PM, April 05, 2010  

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