Tolkien Tuesday #8

22 February 2022

The sun has streamed through the window today in bursts of brightness, a welcome change after Storm Franklin battered the UK and parts of Europe last week. I do hope no-one was too greatly effected.

And I wonder if the storm was the reason why I was drawn to the references to the weather in this week’s reading?

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week I started reading Chapter 4, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and this has to be one of the most iconic phrases of The Fellowship of the Ring. It is a rather a short chapter – my copy runs to about 12 pages – and so it was a hard task indeed to stop reading after reaching the halfway point but I did it.

Photo by Visually Us on Pexels.com

One of the triumphs of these few pages has to be the perfect balance between the lightness of the meeting with the elves and the lingering fear over the presence of the Black Riders.

We are also given a glimpse into the characters of these three hobbits, and they are somewhat a little different to how they are portrayed in the films, I think. Frodo, being older than the others and also carrying the burden of the task ahead, comes across as rather sharp on occasion, whereas Pippin, often seen as the most foolish of the hobbits is actually quite sensible at this point.

And Sam, wonderful Sam, has already cemented his role as hero for me by this stage in the quest. He is the only other hobbit to know what is going on, as Frodo deliberately keeps Pippin in the dark as to the danger they are in – which I’m not cool with. Yet Sam is determined to go with Frodo, all the way to the end, to help Frodo, to protect Frodo, and he is under no illusion what that might entail.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

It’s interesting how the weather can affect and reflect our moods and emotions, and in this chapter especially, Tolkien clearly draws parallels between them.

Photo by Sam Willis on Pexels.com

Frodo thinks of the bright morning as being “treacherously bright”, given their circumstances. Their pursuit by the riders is matched by worsening weather: an overcast sky, rain and wind. However, when the weather clears and the sun comes out, their mood improves and they decide to have lunch.

The weather and our perceptions of it can evoke many things. It can set the tone for what is to come, it can create atmosphere, it can tell us how a character is feeling or describe a situation via the use of idioms. And so, I’ll set a myself a challenge this week: when I sit down to write, weather it’s a piece of flash, a poem or a scene from one of my novels, I will allow myself to be inspired by, and my characters to be influenced by, the weather.

Elsewhere

I’ve been reading from David Day’s “Characters from Tolkien”. It’s a great book just to pick up and flick through whenever I have a spare few moments (which is not as often as I would like). Currently I’ve taken to leaving it on my writing desk, next to my copy of The Lord of the Rings (whichever edition that happens to be; at this moment, it’s still the Book Club Associates 1971 edition). Favourite entries this week have been the “Dead Men of Dunharrow” and the “Haladin”.

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

What do you think of the Black Riders so far? Are they a terrifying enemy? Or would you have expected something so dark and powerful as Sauron’s chief servants to be far more threatening, given what they are capable of?

I think they make a very convincing enemy and the threat they pose this early on in the story is enough to suggest what is to come for Frodo and the rest. Anything more strongly portrayed would take away from the psychological impact of them being hunted, and I feel that is where most of the tension comes from. Add to this the fact that they don’t know who or what they are (Gildor was reluctant to share his knowledge for fear of terrifying them), but that the Hobbits very quickly worked out that the riders are able to smell them well enough to track them, makes the danger they are in very believable and easily felt as a reader.

It’s worth remembering, up until this point, the Shire and Hobbits have barely been acknowledged by the outside world, thanks to their own inward-looking politics and those that secretly guard their borders. The Black Riders don’t actually know who or what they are up against, which perfectly mirrors the position the Hobbits are in, as they also have little knowledge of their enemy. To strike out with force at an unknown enemy, and alert the whole of Middle Earth to their presence and their mission would be foolhardy indeed. And yet, I can hardly believe that they thought, dressed and acting as they were, they would go unnoticed. Subtlety is not a strength of the Ringwraiths, methinks…

20 thoughts on “Tolkien Tuesday #8

  1. Great insights, Sammi. When I read the half-chapter, I also noticed the connection of weather, situation and mood. It was skilfully done. Stuffy atmosphere when struggling through the overgrown landscape, sunshine, fresh air in the friendlier scenes. I remember having read advice like this in one writing book or another. Once again we have a stellar expample of how it’s done.
    It also struck me how well described the tiresome hike through the bushes is when you don’t have a path, how you don’t see very far in a dense wood and so on. I’ve been hiking off-path and I can confirm that it isn’t always joy.
    And in the same way the Hobbits are forced to give up the joyful hiking the story foreshadows the less than enjoyable travels they have ahead of them.
    My answer: I find the Black Riders as spooky and threatening as always. I remember how I felt when I read LOTR for the first time. The screams, the sniffing… it always gave me goosebumps, and still does, but only when reading. The films never gave me that spooky feeling although I loved the way they were shown.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I always found the Black Riders in the book really scary. I think Tolkien uses them quite well. They are threatening and insidious in the book. When Frodo, Sam, and Pippin are traveling to Buckland, you fear the Black Riders sudden return, especially when Frodo and co are in the middle of nowhere, like when they’ve left the road and they suddenly hear this cry that is then answered by another… It makes you realise how vulnerable the hobbits are. I thought in the film they were overused and too blatant. Tolkien is a bit more subtle with them, which ultimately makes them more scary.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hullo again! I missed a few of these posts while busy with fun stuff (and work), but now I’ve caught up. Great insights into the use of the weather and how the setting affects the mood of the travelers. I was just at my favorite writing conference, and one of the pieces of advice I appreciated there was to choose settings for your scenes so that the setting “does some of the work for you” in getting across the tone and what’s happening. Weather is a good way to do that, but I think you also need to show the characters’ response to it to get the full measure.

    I’ve not yet gone back to reread the book alongside you (I will though — and no sense slowing down for the rest of us, Sammi – you’ll never get through!). So I can’t remember clearly enough what I thought of the Black Riders in that first scene versus what I learned of them later. It would make sense that they would be frightening but not as bad as later, because the hobbits don’t really know what they are yet. Learning more, and having the Ringwraiths deliberately hunting *them*, raises the stakes quite effectively later.

    Elsewhere: As I just mentioned, I went to my favorite writers conference this past weekend, and it was WONDERFUL. I’d hoped that knowing I was going and would be handing out business cards would inspire me to post on my blog, but nothing has slowed down since getting back from the Christmas holiday and the schedule only got worse leading up to it. But I am so inspired by the conference that I am determined to do more writing (I have some really exciting ideas for my new WIP, whee!) and hopefully flash too. We’ll see!

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s great advice, to remember to balance out a description with a character responding to it. I shall have to remember that πŸ™‚

      Yay for the WIP – I can sense your excitement for it. I do hope you manage to find the time to write. It’s so frustrating when you want to write but lack the time to do so. There are not enough hours in the day…at least in terms of filling them with the things we want! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • There’s never “enough” time, no! But then, that’s also not a good enough excuse. At this conference (as elsewhere) I’m constantly impressed by people who have even more everyday stuff to deal with than I do, and yet they somehow *find* the time to write. What I’m being reminded of is how much of the writing process for me is actually the thinking process during all those times when I’m not actually at my computer writing. For instance, if I’m listening to a podcast while I exercise or do housework (etc.), if I listen to a writing/book related show, I end up thinking more about my stories and keep the momentum going. Whereas for a few months, I’ve been listening to (and reading) other types of content at such times — which is also fun, but not helping with the writing. I’ve been taking a lot of notes and doing some character development and outlining of the new project, and plan to draft up a first chapter this weekend to hand into my writing group for next weekend. Whee!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes definitely there is a connection of the weather to the situation and mood of travellers. I find, and have always found the Black Riders to be very menacing – on the same lines as the foul Dementors in Harry Potter!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.