Tolkien Tuesday #15

~ 26 April 2022 ~

The temperature has dropped a few degrees here in recent days, but the sky is clear and blue, and the sun shining wonderfully. (At least, it was until this afternoon…hello clouds). With a hot cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit – only one, I was being good πŸ˜‰ – all I needed was my copy of The Fellowship of the Ring and my notebook, to get this week’s Tolkien Tuesday off to a perfect start…

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we concluded reading Chapter 8, Fog on the Barrow-Downs, and I’m still reading from the same edition as last week.

Frodo, after having his courage stirred within him on seeing the plight of his friends, manages to break part of the spell of the barrow-wights, recalling the song that will bring Tom Bombadil to their aid. He comes and rescues them, undoing the spell of this particular barrow. He then makes the decision to accompany them to the edge of his domain, but cannot go any further because he will not pass the borders of his country.

Although there is only four miles to go between where Tom takes his leave and the village of Bree, the hobbits feel every one. Nervous to be back on the Road, memories of Black Riders return and with them a yearning to be back home in safer times.

Photo by S Migaj on Pexels.com

I love how this chapter ends: with a view of Bree in the dark, muted golden light shining out of windows of the village, Bree Hill in the background beneath the stars. It’s the sort of sight every weary traveller longs for after a hard day, carrying with it the promise of safety and rest.

Another favourite part of this chapter is when Merry awakens with memories of an attack by the men of Carn Dum, giving the reader the barest of hints of something that happened generations ago.

Although this is one of my favourite chapters from the books, there are a couple of things I’m not keen on. The first is the animated dead hand that moves about on its own, walking on its fingers. When I was younger, I thought it was fun and added to the drama and scariness of the scene, but now I’m not so sure. On this re-reading, I felt like it made the scene lighter somehow, less dark and scary – reminding me more of The Hobbit. The second was the strange scene where the hobbits run about in the sunshine naked. I understand this is to signify cleansing after their ordeal, and the restoration of innocence after crossing a boundary and entering an other world, but to my modern mindset it comes across a little bit weird and jarring.

Next week we begin Chapter 9, At The Sign of the Prancing Pony.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

A question which has struck me since finishing this re-reading of Fog on the Barrow-Downs is this: why do the more powerful people of Middle Earth trust Frodo, and thus the other three hobbits, to manage on their own? It is something which never occurred to me before as I would have been reading quicker, and thus would have been carried along with adventure of the story and the need to read what happens next. However, as I’m reading much slower this time it dawned on me that I never fully realised just how much help the hobbits needed with so little distance covered.

When the High Elves met them at the start of their journey, Gildor knew the danger they were in and it’s implied, though not explicitly said (if I remember correctly), that their presence protected the hobbits from the black rider(s) that night. But the following day, when the hobbits woke, the elves had already gone.

Then Tom has to rescue the hobbits from the enchantments of Old Man Willow, yet when it’s time for them to leave his cottage, a few words of warning to keep clear of the barrow-downs, and a song to sing should they get into any bother, and they are sent off on their way, only to be rescued again less than a day later.

Gandalf also believed that they should be fine for a while yet, though I accept that this is a misjudgement on his part, as we learn from Frodo’s dream at Tom’s. The hobbits are not armed until the end of this chapter. Only then does the idea that they might have to fight occur to them.

This isn’t criticism of the story, nor of the characters that appear when help is needed and then disappear again when things are fine again. I’m thinking in terms of the story and the characters of the hobbits themselves. And then it occurred to me, at this point in the story, the hobbits do not know how to survive in a world beyond the Shire, in a world where evil is very real. They are ill-prepared as well as ill-equipped to face it. But more than that, they are not ready to face it on their own.

Photo by Pok Rie on Pexels.com

As we’ve seen from this chapter, their courage must be awoken, and their mindset has to be altered. It’s almost a lesson in becoming mentally prepared to take on the challenge ahead of them. And, whilst they are undergoing this process, there is a safety net of more powerful folk around them, ready to help if they should stumble. After all, they need to gain the experience of this world if they are to survive in it.

Elsewhere

I’m finding that with this re-read, I am being inspired by the story beyond my usual writing and reading endeavours. A few weeks ago, while the hobbits were at the cottage in Crickhollow, I had finished a cowl I had knitted on a knitting loom. Wanting to share the pattern on my design blog, I knew I needed a name for it…and the one I picked? The only one which suggested itself: Crickhollow Cowl. What I really like about this kind of interconnection between my different hobbies is that whenever I make one of these cowls, I will always think of that cottage and that part of The Fellowship of the Ring, the cosiness and the bonds of friendship.

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

We’re over a third of the way through The Fellowship of the Ring by this point, and I was wondering, what has been your favourite part of the story so far? Has a particular character stood out to you? Has a scene or image stayed with you long after reading it? Perhaps you have a favourite location? What are your favourite things from chapters 1-8?

Here’s my list of favourite things:

  • Favourite chapter: Fog on the Barrow-Downs
  • Favourite character: Of the hobbits – Sam | Minor character – Farmer Maggot | Major non-hobbit character – couldn’t really pick one as a favourite, though both Gandalf, Gildor, and Tom Bombadil and Goldberry are interesting
  • Favourite locations: Bag End, cottage at Crickhollow, Barrow-Downs
  • Favourite name or word: Withywindle, Gildor Inglorion
  • Favourite passage for tension and atmosphere: I have two: 1) when the Black Rider’s cry is answered by another one in Chapter 4: A Short Cut to Mushrooms; 2) when the hobbits are trying to negotiate their way through the fog and Frodo realises he’s lost his friends in the dark in Chapter 8, Fog on the Barrow-Downs
  • Favourite piece of poetry or song: the walking song from Chapter 3: Three is Company, especially the lines:

A sudden tree or standing stone

That none have seen but we alone

(from verse 1)

&

And take the hidden paths that run

Towards the Moon or to the Sun

(from verse 2)

14 thoughts on “Tolkien Tuesday #15

  1. I’m having to cheat a bit to answer this, so long ago since I read the book I’m going to pull from Jackson’s film. The very name, Old Man Willow stays firmly lodge in my head (maybe because I live in a land rich in willows). And the scene where Samwise stands in the middle of the field and says with the next step he’ll be going further than he’s every gone before. I hike a lot, and most often those walks start in familiar territory, but I delight in taking turning I’ve not taken before, and that line always resonates.
    In ref to the ill-prepared yet trusted Hobbits, I do wonder if Tolkien was thinking of all the young men, ill-prepared yet trusted, who were sent to the Somme to defend our culture

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I’m late this week… As usual, I almost completely agree with everything you say about the chapter. And that last scene reminds me of Crispina’s comment from last week, where she likens the Barrows to a portal into mythical times. In a sense it is also a portal back into reality. From here on there is no song that will bring help, no Tom who collects the ponies. They still hope for Gandalf though.
    About the tbeing rusted and letting them go off ill-prepared — the plan was that Gandalf came along, but he didn’t show up. It’s a sign of Frodo’s understanding of the significance and the danger of the ring that he goes alone (with Sam). Others would have stayed, waiting for Gandalf, dismissing the danger if it is not important enough for Gandalf… riders show up, kill everyone, the end. πŸ™‚
    Oh, and about the running around naked. They reminded me of children. And maybe this was the last time they could frolic about like children. Now they have to be adults.

    About the question: In this thorough read-through I fully appreciated Farmer Maggott. I think that is a great scene when you want to learn something about Hobbitt society and how they live and work.
    Favourite character up to here: Definitely Sam. There seems something new to discover all the time.
    Overall, I really enjoyed the Hobbitt-centered sccenes. These are the chapters my friends ‘not in the know’ found boring. The more I think about them, the less boring I find them. Sometimes it isn’t easy to look beyond the Whimsy when you want to get to the ‘good stuff’ as a first time casual reader. But reading it with a love for the world and with reflection, I admire Tolkien’s world building more and more.

    Liked by 2 people

    • To paraphrase the film…”Gabi is never late. Nor is she early. She arrives precisely when she means too” πŸ˜€

      You make a great point about it being a portal back into reality, Gabi. It feels after this point there can be no turning back now. And I never thought before of the *significance* of Frodo not waiting for Gandalf, in contrast to many other people would have waited.
      Yes! Very child-like. I wonder if this experience could be considered a type of rite of passage for them?

      Spot on! We know where the action and adventure is, we know what’s coming, and so that means we can take our time on the “slower”, more “boring” bits…though sometimes it can still be hard to resist the desire to keep on reading and get caught up in the drama of the story. I am certainly appreciating the slow read and the accompanying discussion though. I’m seeing so much more, and thinking so much more, and just enjoying the whole experience πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

    • I liked Sammi’s question about why the more powerful players didn’t give the hobbits more help in this journey, good point! For story reasons, I would say that we often run into this challenge: how to give our the less experienced and less powerful (at the beginning of the story) protagonists a chance to test themselves and learn, if they have mentors and parents and law enforcement and other authority figures who really should be dealing with these dangers? I liked Gabi’s answer to that!

      And yes, Sam is definitely proving himself in these chapters so far!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I, too, feel the running around naked is the last time they can feel free and without worries. Once they move forward, there is more danger and more learning how to copie with said danger.
    I love how Frodo is discovering his inner strength even while they all four definitely still need lots of help… then again, they will be needing help all the way through and that’s sort of how life works, isn’t it? We move forward with the help and teachings of others (and in return, will help and teach those who follow).
    Favourites? So hard, really. I do like the farmer and Sam will forever be a favourite. Who wouldn’t want him as friend and protector – except when he is about to be sacrificed, of course!

    I am really enjoying these exchanges as much as rereading a long-ago read story!

    Liked by 2 people

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