Sep 6 2010 2:57pm

LotR re-read: Return of the King VI.2, “The Land of Shadow”

This week in the Lord of the Rings re-read, we consider “The Land of Shadow,” Chapter 2 of book VI of The Return of the King. The usual comments and spoilers after the jump.

What Happens

Sam and Frodo flee from Cirith Ungol and head as best they can for Mount Doom. They overhear two Orcs, one tracker and one soldier, quarreling about their orders to search for Gollum (which ends in the tracker murdering the soldier), and later Sam sees Gollum coming near a resting Frodo. Orc camps and fortifications leave Sam and Frodo no choice but to take a road cut down the side of a cliff, on which they are overtaken by Orcs and thought to be deserters. They come down to the plain and manage to escape before they are forced into a gated camp, when several companies of Orcs collide and create a great deal of confusion.


Maybe it’s this chapter I think of when I think how long the journey across Mordor is, when it’s really only three chapters of this book? Because this feels like a pretty long chapter and yet the actual events, as you can see, do not take much summarizing, when you leave out the “they walked and rested and were miserable.” I also had a rotten time visualizing the geography of Udûn, the Isenmouthe, and so on, though that say more about my attention level than anything else. I’d like to find something more enjoyable in these chapters than I remember, truly I would, because it’s been so lovely when I’ve found things elsewhere, but they are still just not doing very much for me.

* * *

I had a bit of carryover from last time’s noticing how everything was set up to help them escape, when in the second paragraph of this chapter, they “escape() for the moment” by getting “out of sight (of) the Tower.” Except as the end of that paragraph says, there is a Nazgûl “(p)erching now on the wall beside the ruined gate”—or, to be precise about it, the winged creature that the Nazgûl is riding is perching on the wall, and therefore temporarily being “out of sight” really ought not constitute safety. Especially since the Nazgûl are stronger now that they are in Mordor. No aerial searches? No sensing the Ring that’s only “fifty paces” away? Really?

I didn’t have the same reaction to their escape from the Orcs at the end of the chapter, on the other hand. Perhaps that’s a sign I was getting into the story a bit more by then, or maybe it was just more intrinsically plausible.

* * *

Frodo. The effects of the Ring seem to be affecting more and more of his mind. He tells Sam that while in prison, he tried to remember various Shire landscapes (and I find it telling that he specifically mentions landscapes, not people) but “can’t see them now,” because “this blind dark seems to be getting into my heart.” Shortly after that, the wind changes, they get a bit of light [*], and they hear a Nazgûl bringing bad news (which they don’t know is the Witch-king’s death), but even that doesn’t help Frodo. Sam asks him if he has some hope now, and Frodo says no: he is beginning to see the Ring in his mind all the time, “like a great wheel of fire.” But he’s still maintaining the attitude he had in last chapter, that he doesn’t expect or even hope to succeed, but must do his best anyway.

[*] With an orientation paragraph that rips out my heart in its matter-of-factness:

It was the morning of the fifteenth of March, and over the Vale of Anduin the Sun was rising above the eastern shadow, and the south-west wind was blowing. Théoden lay dying on the Pelennor Fields.

We also get a look at another change in him, when he gives Sting to Sam, telling him, “I do not think it will be my part to strike any blow again.” He also casts aside his armor earlier, which is framed as reducing the weight he must carry, but gains new significance in light of giving up his weapon. And then they’re forced to pretend to be Orcs, put back in the role of soldiers that Frodo’s just tried to give up; I think it’s not just the physical exertion that weighs so heavily on Frodo as a result of this episode.

Sam is mostly being Sam here, loyal and practical and self-sacrificing. He is, however, the one who maybe-sorta-possibly has a wish granted. He tells Frodo that if only Galadriel could hear or see them, he’d tell her that all they want is light and water. And then they find both and he credits her: “If ever I see the Lady again, I will tell her!” Of course Galadriel could perfectly well see or hear them (did he forget the Mirror, do you think, or was his comment not actually rhetorical as I initially read it?), and perhaps she was able to guide them subtly to the stream. Or not—there’s no way to tell.

Sam also receives an insight that has “significant message” written all over it:

There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.

A footnote in the Appendices identifies the star as Eärendil, which links this to the entire mythic history of Middle-earth and makes it more likely, as far as I’m concerned, that the thought was sent to Sam. I wonder if this is the thought that could bring help to him from the prior chapter?

* * *

I suppose I ought to say something about the setting besides that I found the geography difficult, but, ugh. Okay, to be fair, part of the ugh is that the description of the bugs made the skin on the back of my neck and shoulders try and crawl off my muscles (buzzing around with “red eye-shaped blotch(es)” on them, arrrrgh arrrrgh arrrrgh).

There is a mention of how everyone in Mordor gets fed: there are “great slave-worked fields away south,” and “tributary lands” to the south and east that send “long waggon-trains of goods and booty and fresh slaves” along “great roads.” The little I once knew about historical agricultural societies has fallen away, so I’m not sure how far a separation between fields and cities there’s historical precedent for given this level of transportation technology, but hey, at least it’s mentioned.

While we’re talking logistics, I should note that I was surprised that a Nazgûl could make it to Frodo and Sam’s vicinity from the Pelennor Fields as quickly as it apparently did (we’re told that “Théoden lay dying,” and in the very next sentence that “(a)s Frodo and Sam stood and gazed, . . . they saw a shape, moving at a great speed out of the West,” which eventually turns out to be the Nazgûl). I don’t know if there’s any straight-line calculations of that distance anywhere, but the Éowyn Challenge makes it about 100 miles on the ground from Minas Tirith to the Black Gate, and if the internet can be believed, a normal flight speed for bald eagles is around 40 miles an hour. For whatever all that’s worth.

By the end of the chapter, Frodo thinks they are about sixty miles from Mount Doom and that it will take them at least a week to get there. Looking at Appendix B, he was spot-on about the time, at least.

* * *


The omniscient narrator tells us that Aragorn’s distraction attempt with the palantír was successful: “The Dark Power was deep in thought, and the Eye turned inward, pondering tidings of doubt and danger: a bright sword, and a stern and kingly face it saw, and for a while it gave little thought to other things.”

The tracker Orc is described as “black-skinned.”

Word looked up: “ghyll,” which the internet claims is either a ravine or a stream, and since water is so hard to come by here I’m going with ravine as the intended meaning.

Mount Doom next time, guys!

« Return of the King VI.1 | Index

Kate Nepveu was born in South Korea and grew up in New England. She now lives in upstate New York where she is practicing law, raising a family, and (in her copious free time) writing at her LiveJournal and booklog.

1. legionseagle
"Ghyll" is used in the Lake District and is one of the remnants of Norse language which appears in the North of England, usually for geographical features, as a reminder of the Danelaw; other expressions from the same source are fell, beck, force (foss) - that definitely is a waterfall, gate (meaning street), intak, outtak etc. I'd say that I'd expect a ghyll to have been water-carved at some point in its career.

This may be Tolkien using language to evoke Norse and Icelandic heroic traditions.
David Levinson
2. DemetriosX
On the logistics front, it should be noted that grain keeps very well. The Romans transported grain from all around the Mediterranean to feet the multitudes in the city.

I'm not so sure about Galadriel's ability to pierce Suaron's magical defenses surrounding Mordor. Maybe I'm assuming too much, but I would think he would have something along those lines to keep prying eyes from spying on his gathering forces. On the other hand, this could be coupled with Sam's star breaking briefly through the clouds.

It should also be noted that Sauron's power has already peaked and has begun to wane. We've seen it already of course in the earlier chpters covering this same time period, but it seems more obvious now that we aren't as distracted by high deeds and great sorrow. The implication to me is that, even if Frodo failed in his mission to destroy the ring, as long as it didn't come into Sauron's hands before the next big battle, he's looking at another loss of power akin to his fall at the hands of Isildur. Frodo's real job is to make sure no one has to do all this again in a couple thousand years.
3. EmmaPease
I would say it is more likely to be the Valar intervening than Galadriel. Galadriel probably had enough on her hands dealing with the attacks by Dol Guldor on Lorien nor has she the power.

Also Sauron still has plenty of power; short of the ring's destruction he will defeat Gondor though remnants of resistance will remain. He will eventually destroy Lorien (Galadriel does not have the power of Melian) though he might have to show up personally to do it.
Del C
4. del
I think "ghyll" is related to "gully".  
Del C
5. del
FWIW, wing loading typically goes up with mass for flying animals, and speed with wing loading, so if a modern eagle is 40mph, it's not unreasonable for an Eagle, or a Nazgul's flying steed, to be faster than that. 
mark Proctor
6. mark-p
I remembered this section as being long and difficult as well.
Rereading I also had problems with believability (far more so than the last chapter). It seemed that Tolkien gave them an impossible task in crossing the plain, then got them through .
I had trouble imagining that orcs would mistake a hobbit for an orc even if disguised in armour.

This must be the third time that Hobbits have escaped a band of orcs after they have started killing each other so at leased they are consistent. I don't think they would be much of a threat of Gondor if Sauron wasn't around.
7. pilgrimsoul
Maybe Galadriel intercedes with the Valar for Frodo and Sam?

I don't like reading this part--not because it's bad--the power of the desolation is such a downer, I skip to the happier chapters.
8. Jazzlet
Various pictures of Dungeon Ghyll here|countryGB&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=nFqFTODSIZLI4AbGysDOBQ&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=4&ved=0CF0QsAQwAw&biw=1440&bih=710 it is indeed water carved, but whether it has water running down it very much depends on the weather, as it's in the English lake district it usually does.

I wonder how high the Nazgul was flying? The higher up it was the further away you could see it. IIRC other than the Witch King the Nazgul at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields were air bourn, spreading terror and goading on Saurons troops from above.
Andrew Foss
9. alfoss1540
Yes Kate, long and hard to follow the topography. I was taken this time by the number of references to the outside events. Necessary for the narration and moving through boring, albeit very challenging, terrain. I again had to search the net for pictures, as I got lost.

Missed the ghyll, but love the mention of a foss in comments! Not lush and wet enough definitely.

I have always gotten a kick out of the orcs section of this chapter, if for anything else, a change in the action. After plodding around so slowly, they finally get moving. At the rate they were moving, that same distance would have taken them 3-4 days. The Orcs finally do something positive. Had trouble buying them falling over the side as easily as they did. But it got them where they needed to be.
10. Confutus
For me, it was the conversation of the tracker and the soldier, and Frodo's response to it, that carried the most weight.

I had not recognized on my first read-through years ago that one of the Nazgul had been hovering over the Tower while Frodo and Sam were there, nearly caught them when they got past the watchers on the way out, took charge at the Tower, and evidently got Shagrat's (confused) report on what had happened, and issued a series of orders with conflicting information.

I did notice, however, that the orcs are prickly, quarrelsome, and resentful. Not only do they come in different breeds, but they don't even all speak the same language. The only real basis for unity is that, as Frodo observes, they hate the West more than they hate each other, and it's undoubtably correct that Sauron were not imposing a semblance of discipline and order, they would be no real threat to Gondor.

But I already had some small experience with rule by methods of force and fear, so I could easily appreciate how he could create the atmosphere of barely suppressed mutual hatred that pervades Mordor.

It occurred to me, a chapter or so back, that the wonderful scene of confusion when the several companies of orcs all trying to get to the same place at the same time collided with one another must have also owed something to Tolkein's WW I experience. I would wager he'd seen the like on occasion.
11. fizzchick
I'm guessing ghyll is related to gill, the volume unit of measure (
wikipedia gives it as 1/4 pint). Anyone know for sure?
@Confutus: I love the tie-in to WWI. Tolkein spent so much time emphasizing the different "races" of orcs that I had no problem believing they'd see what they expected to see. Humanoid in Sauron's war-gear = orc unless something blatant points elsewhere.
David Levinson
12. DemetriosX
That's a good point by Confutus about the chaos of the different troops converging reflecting Tolkien's WWI experience. The language problems were probably also part of that.

Ghyll is probably not related to the unit of measure gill. The later is pronounced with a soft g and is ultimately derived from a medieval earthenware container. Ghyll is likely connected to gully (and gullet for that matter), all of which have something to do with the flow of water. I think it's like a wadi or an arroyo, cut by the occasional or seasonal flow of water.

On the geography of the chapter, don't Sam and Frodo go rather out of their way? I seem to remember their escape from the orc troops happening almost at the inner entrance to Udûn. I'll have to check The Geography of Middle-Earth.
13. Dr. Thanatos
Again the non-action nature of this chapter is needed. Frodo and Sam are showing us the way the world would look if Sauron wins. It's a common theme in quest tales to reinforce to the questors the need for them to succeed.

I must admit that over the years I hadn't picked up on the way Sauron trademarks his bugs. Nice detail...

It also escaped me until a few years ago that the "bright sword and kingly face" was Aragorn; I initially thought this was the bright sword stuck through the kingly face of the Witch-King...but the chronology suggests otherwise.
14. JoeNotCharles
I'm surprised so many people disliked the trek through Mordor. I always found it to be one of the most vivid and memorable parts of the series. The terrain is bleak and their journey is crushing, yes, but for me that gets me more involved in their plight on a visceral level.
Tim May
15. ngogam
As to the etymology of ghyll: the OED says it's from Old Norse gil "a deep glen", and "further relations are uncertain". Gully is probably from gullet, which is from Old French goulet, which is ultimately from Latin gula "throat".

As to the plausibility of mistaking hobbits for orcs: Tolkien never really tells us in detail what a generic orc looks like. I suspect Tolkien's idea of them was rather more human-like (& therefore more hobbit-like) than the image most of us have in our heads.
mark Proctor
16. mark-p
I guess Treebeard could have mistaken Merry and Pippin for small orcs if he had been hasty, so maybe an orc captain might not notice in the dark.
Michael Ikeda
17. mikeda

The other thing is that I doubt whether the Orc captain was looking at all closely at Sam and Frodo. He just saw two people of more or less the size of small Orcs who were wearing Orc clothing and just assumed they were Orc soldiers.
18. Dr. Thanatos
Question: now that I think about it, when was Sauron fantasizing about a bright sword and stern kingly face? Was it after the "death" of the Witch-King or earlier, more in line with when Aragorn skyped him?
19. Elaine Thom
when was Sauron fantasizing about a bright sword and stern kingly face?

It was after the Witch King's death. We'd seen the messenger of that news come a few pages earlier. I never thought it was related to that death. The bright sword and stern and kingly face always cued me in that it was Aragorn, who'd skyped him and showed him Anduril/Narsil reforged. Sufficient to worry Sauron, I'd think, especially when his great lieutenant gets offed.
20. Dr. Thanatos
I also at one point, given the timing, thought of a bright sword and the stern and kingly face of Theoden; it just seems to me that it's been what, three days since the teleconference...
21. pilgrimsoul
Yes, it must have been Aragorn, and Sauron thought he had reason to worry about him. The Witch King was offed, and his army unexpectedly defeated, so Sauron suspected that Aragorn might have the ring and used it.
BTW--do you know that in Spain they have a variety of red wine called Sauron? Even if it's good--ewww!!!
David Levinson
22. DemetriosX
Actually, Aragorn revealed both himself and Anduril to Sauron much earlier, basically right after Pippin tried to get another look at it and Gandalf gave the palantir to Aragorn before riding off to Minas Tirith. I think there is indication that Aragorn used it again after the Pelennor Fields. But overall, Sauron knows his power has peaked. His super magic darkness has frayed at the edges and is already in retreat, his top nazgul is dead, he knows now that the sword that maimed him has been reforged and indications are that it is on its way to Mordor to do it again. You can hardly blame him for being a bit distracted. This may be the only time we ever see Sauron in LotR as anything other than a vague Great Evil.
23. Confutus
Yes, Frodo and Sam did go rather far out of their way. I had noted that before and vaguely wondered why (these aren't my favorite chapters, either), but this time I note that there was this army assembling on the plateau of Gorgoroth which couldn't have guarded Mt. Doom from a direct approach more effectively if it had been planned that way.

I also note that while rumor had it that "hundreds" of orcs in the tower at Minas Morgul had been killed, there were evidently enough of them nearby to reoccupy it quickly, and even send out search parties looking for the escaped prisoner.

Sauron was moving forces northwards to Udun while the captains of the West were still firing the fields in Morgul Vale, which suggests that (for whatever reason) he already knew where Aragorn was going and an assault via Cirith Ungol wasn't going to happen. Perhaps he was getting ready for the next attack, taking the main gate this time with an even larger force than the one before: "Get a bigger hammer".

The miserable forced march was a well-disguised bit of fortune that got Frodo and Sam past or around that army. (At least Pippin and Merry got something to eat along the way, when they had their version). Perhaps it was a little further away as the Nazgul flies, but more importantly, it was behind the lines and unobstructed the rest of the way.
Kate Nepveu
24. katenepveu
Hi all.

DemetriosX @ #2, but Galadriel tells Frodo & Sam in Lorien that she's able to perceive Sauron's mind, doesn't she, and I'd think that more important than the landscape.

OTOH EmmaPease @ #3 has a point that Galadriel is busy right now--I forgot that we're at the point now where Lorien is also under assault.

del @ #5, I'm sure that the Nazgul would be faster than an eagle, it was just the first large bird I could think of to give any kind of comparison point.

mark-p @ #6, I didn't have a problem with the Orc not recognizing Frodo & Sam as non-Orcs, for the reasons other people have said. But it's a perfectly understandable reaction.

pilgrimsoul @ #7, normally I just skim through these chapters really fast.

Jazzlet @ #8, thanks for the picture links! And yeah, the Nazgul was clearly visible before it came overhead, but it doesn't seem to have taken *too* long to come near Frodo & Sam, either.

alfoss1540 @ #9, oh, you're right, the Orcs here are like the Uruk-hai, bringing Frodo and Sam "with marvellous speed, and in the nick of time", to where they need to be! 

Confutus @ #10, yes about the scene of mass confusion; I love it when there are bits in books that feel very drawn from authors' military experience (Elizabeth Moon's _Once a Hero_ is really good for this, to jump genres).

JoeNotCharles @ #14, I'm actually a bit ashamed of myself for not liking this section, because it is well-done and important and everything. Sometimes dark and depressing is engrossing and sometimes it's a drag, and that's at least as much about me as a reader as it is about the text.

ngogam @ #15, I suspect Tolkien's idea of (Orcs) was rather more human-like--good point, I don't recall that any of the hobbits remarked on their gross physical inhumanity.

Dr. Thanatos @ #18, I read the paragraph as saying that Sauron is brooding as Frodo & Sam look out at Barad-dur itself. (Also, now I'm picturing Aragon having to stop & re-start the video on his end because it's frozen . . . )

Confutus @ #23, thanks for saying that they went out of their way--I couldn't get enough out of the maps I looked at to tell.
25. Dr. Thanatos
The forced march moved them faster than they could have moved on their own, given Frodo's condition and motivation. Good thing the Orcses picked them up.

As my grandmother Golde would say, it all happens for the best and couldn't possibly be any better poo-poo-poo.

A happy New Year to you all!
Iain Coleman
26. Iain_Coleman
Tolkien's descriptions of orcs suggest a somewhat animalistic humanoid. The classic goblin-orcs are shorter than men, with long arms and crooked legs. They often lope along swiftly, bowed low with their long arms almost trailing on the ground. The uruks are taller, stronger and more man-like.

Facially, the only common feature seems to be that they are almost always described as slant-eyed. Some at least have protruding yellow fangs.

Skin colour varies, from sallow to black.

With the variations between orcs, and the generally filthy state that Frodo and Sam are in at this point, it's reasonable that the orc leader would take them for orcs, particularly as they are deliberately using their long cloaks to hide their un-orcish limbs.
27. Jerry Friedman
Kate @ #24: Your point about Galadriel's ability to read Sauron's mind, "or all of his mind that concerns the Elves", is logical. However, I can't really believe in that ability. Frodo and Sam don't ask her whether she has any useful information for them. Also, Saruman's treason would seem to concern the Elves, but she doesn't warn Gandalf. So I see it as Tolkien making his metaphysical point about the superiority of good over evil, but not as connected to the plot.

Maybe it's obvious, but I'm getting intense Catholicism
from Sam's request of light and water from "the Lady" and his belief that she granted it. Pilgrimsoul's suggestion that she might have interceded for them is only intensifying it.

Strange that Sam's spirit quails at the thought of water, followed by a mention of the dreadful plain of Gorgoroth. It's clear in this chapter and earlier that he has no idea how far Mount Doom is or what's in between.

Also, Frodo's detour is strange. He thinks that north will be less expected than east and west, but there's another direction. If he'd remembered that Gollum said the Black Gate was the only way big armies could go, south might be tempting. And his attempt to go around the armies to the east doesn't succeed—though it does give him and Sam the benefit of that forced march.

Maybe it's because I first reread the trilogy when I was in junior high and hating gym class (despite a total absence of whips) that the forced march seemed like the most horrible point of the book.

Like others, I enjoyed Confutus's suggestion that the convenient scuffle at the gate was a reminscence of WW I. I wonder whether the way the orcs talk is another one. "They've done in Number One"—are such expressions sanitized versions of what Tolkien heard from the British soldiers he didn't like, the ones who Sam isn't based on?
Soon Lee
29. SoonLee
The OED states that 'ghyll' is a variant spelling of 'gill': "A deep rocky cleft or ravine, usually wooded and forming the course of a stream. (In dialect use in the northern counties, also in Kent and Surrey.)" Also, "The spelling ghyll, often used in guide-books to the Lake district, seems to have been introduced by Wordsworth".

I take it to mean ravine but with the hope of a stream.

JoeNotCharles @14:
It is a very well-written chapter (for the reasons you state) but the bleakness makes it hard to like.
30. Elaine Thom
Kate had written
No sensing the Ring that’s only “fifty paces” away? Really?

And as I was listening to the chapter this evening (Rob Inglis reading the whole book) it occured to me that the Nazgul, Frodo and Sam, and the Ring are all in Mordor now. The Ring may be harder to find than in the Shire where it would have stood out like a sore thumb - Sauron's spirit here. Mordor is full of Sauron's spirit, so to speak, which probably hides the Ring, as long as Frodo isn't actually wearing it. The Nazgul may pick up something, but it's not distinct enough to shriek Ring.

At least that is my theory for the nonce.

Kate, I hope your life is ok, I notice you haven't posted for a while.
31. Confutus
Tolkein notes in appendix F that the language the orcs use is indeed sanitized. "I do not suppose that any will wish for a closer rendering, though models are easy to find. Much the same sort of talk can still be heard among the orc-minded".
32. Lemnoc
Nazgûl incompetence:

Perhaps it is easier to sense an evil ring in the sea of goodness called the Shire than it is to sense an evil rignt in a sea of evil called Mordor. Like trying to smell something rotten in a garbage dump: Where to start?
33. Dr. Thanatos
Cue the scene from the end of book IV:

Angmar is at the front of the army; he's not very far from Frodo; he senses another power in his valley but rides on. I have always thought that this was evidence that the ring-sense was not the all powerful GPS that some have made it out to be. Nazgul would sense that something's up, but clearly not that it's specifically the Ring.

And the danger of using the Ring in Mordor was never the Nazgul; it was that the Big Guy would sense it the momnet the Ring was put on .

The Ring may have called out to the Nazgul, but it seems they all had their phones turned off...
Kate Nepveu
34. katenepveu
Elaine Thom @ #30, Lemnoc @ #32, yes, your suggestions why the Nazgul might reasonably have failed to sense the Ring are at least good hand-waving, though the whole scene is still a little hard to swallow.

(Elaine: court appearances and briefs. Many of them. Thank you for asking.)

Confutus @ #31, the language sanitization really stands out when one of the Orcs gets out a full sentence without any ellipses and only then trails off into unspecified curses, because people with foul mouths just don't _talk_ like that, leaving all the objectionable bits to one clause where they can be neatly excised.
Andrew Foss
35. alfoss1540
Kate - Life does get busy. Looking forward to your next post.
36. Dr. Thanatos
Somewhat off topic, but...

Happy Birthday Bilbo and Frodo!
You've been served...

Mssrs. Frodo and Bilbo Baggins:

We send you our greetings on the auspicious occasion of your joint birthdays.

This letter is to inform you that our firm has been retained by Smeagol, and we direct you to immediately cease and desist your discriminatory actions against them.

We have been informed that your custom is to give birthday presents to others on the occasion of your own birthdays. We note that your largesse to any and all, no matter how unfriendly and repugnant you may find them, is well documented .

And yet despite this demonstrated generosity, you have consistently refused to give our clients their Birthday Present, on at least one occasion threatening violence should they persist in asking for their rightful property. We can only conclude that you are discriminating against our clients on the basis of their being a sniveling murderous psychopath .

We therefore instruct you to hand over our clients' Birthday Present forthwith, or face suit filed in Fornost District Court.

On behalf of our clients,

H. Witherspoon Gothmog III, Managing Partner
Gothmog, Gothmog, Shelob, Angmar, and Gothmog
Attorneys at Law

A Personal Injury Law Firm
Injuring Persons since the First Age

Offices in Carn Dum, Dol Guldur, Minas Morgul, Angband, and Pittsburgh
37. HelenS
I remember my mother pointing out that gangster movies in the thirties had to really play up the snarling, accents, and goofy insults, because the movies in those days weren't allowed to show anyone actually swearing. The idea was to make you *feel* as if you'd been hearing someone swearing. Similarly, foreign-language oaths were often used in books about Nasty Furriners, but they were usually words like "Caramba!" which I am told is actually about as offensive as "My stars!"

It was a shock to me to realize that a character in That Hideous Strength who says "I'm not a bucking nurse" is using a euphemism for "fucking," and not one you could even get away with on film or stage (the sound would be too close).
Dale Snell
38. Lurkie
Ah, The Hobbit. I remember reading that for the first time when I was a young teen in junior high. When I got into high school, I recommended the book to a fellow student who was a complete stranger. He'd already read it, but from there we discovered a mutual love of fantasy and science fiction -- including The Lord of the Rings -- that lead to a fast friendship.

I've read it many times since then, though never aloud. It sounds like it could be fun. Hey, my neighbors already think I'm crazy, why not add more fuel to the fire? :-)

@38 Dr. Thanatos:
I liked your notice of intent to commit lawsuit. :-) But given that poor old Smeagol is dead (yes, yes he is my precious, gollum...) what are they going to do now?
39. Dr. Thanatos
@38 Lurkie:

Smeagol may be dead, precious, but their estate has representation, big strong lawyerses who will make things right, gollum; Dr. Thanatos knows, yes he does; he has been sued by people's estates before, nasty cruel estateses...
40. HelenS
Well, strictly speaking, we don't KNOW he's dead, given how this "I saw him fall into the abyss" thing sometimes goes ...
41. Dr. Thanatos

This is very true. Everyone else who falls into an abyss comes back; I wonder if it's been the same Balrog all along

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