Tolkien Tuesday #16

~ 3 May 2022 ~

On this overcast and pretty miserable to-look-at grey morning, it was extraordinarily difficult to limit myself to only half a chapter’s reading…the pull of the storytelling, the cosiness of that parlour, and my anticipation of what’s to come, is like a warm blanket I don’t want to get out from under…So as soon as I’ve written this post, there’s a good chance I am going to finish the chapter…

Photo by Adrian Vocalan on Pexels.com

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we began Chapter 9: At The Sign of The Prancing Pony.

The hobbits arrive at the gated village of Bree, the main settlement in Bree-land. After an uncomfortable conversation with Old Harry the gatekeeper, who asked too many questions for their liking, they make their way to The Prancing Pony, as per the instructions of Tom Bombadil. Here they find a lively, welcoming inn, but it is unusually very busy.

Barliman Butterbur, the owner of the inn, finds them lodgings and gets them set up in a private parlour, where they can rest and enjoy a quiet, substantial meal, after which they must decide how to spend the rest of the evening. Merry, who decides not to join the inn’s other company in the main tap room, reminds them they are supposed to be fleeing in secret. Pippin, in turn, reminds Merry that should he go outside for a walk, it might not be safe.

The opening passages of the chapter are concerned with explaining Bree’s place in the world, quite literally in terms of its geography, but also with regards to its historical context. I enjoyed reading this introduction to the place, reminding me of what you might find in a travel guide to Middle Earth.

Next week: the conclusion of Chapter 9: At The Sign of The Prancing Pony.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

An Ode to Bree

I like Bree, and the chapters set here are some of my favourite in The Lord of The Rings.

I like the setting. As I mentioned in the last post, I really like the first look we are given of the village at the end of the previous chapter. I like that it is situated at an ancient crossroads of the East Road and the Greenway.

I like the history of the area, how the Big Folk claim descent from the First Men (the Kings of which were buried in the Barrow-Downs), and how the Little Folk claim Bree to be the oldest hobbit settlement in Middle Earth.

I like the cosmopolitan nature of the town. I like the fact that it is seen as somewhat unique because hobbits and men live side-by-side and get along well. A lesson here, methinks.

I like that Rangers frequent it, and find it interesting that locals like to hear news and stories from them, but keep themselves apart. Unsurprisingly, I would like to listen to them too. I suspect Rangers have an aura about them which both fascinates and reminds you to be wary, for there is clearly more to them than meets the eye.

Bree is one of those Middle Earth locations where I wish it was given its own story as I would love to spend more time there and meet more of the inhabitants.

Elsewhere

Not much to report here this week…

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

So we have arrived safely at The Prancing Pony. After a good hearty meal in the private parlour, how would you choose to spend the rest of your evening, if you were travelling with Sam, Frodo, Merry and Pippin? Would you join the rest of the company in the inn? Would you remain in the parlour? Would you go out for a little walk? Or would you go straight up to bed?

I could see myself doing any of the four options on a normal trip, but if I was with the hobbits, and after the day they’ve had, my instinct would be to shy away from others. A quiet night’s rest would be sorely tempting. Yet, spending time in the company of strangers and listening to their stories would offer a welcome distraction to the worries and concerns that are no doubt plaguing them. So my intention would be this: to mix a little with the company, listening rather than talking (which is my default state of being anyway), then a little walk before bed and hopefully a good night’s sleep.

But we know that’s not going to happen…

20 thoughts on “Tolkien Tuesday #16

  1. I’ve asked myself this questions many times when re-reading the books. I decided while you and I might see the need to remain unnoticed, it’s Hobbit-nature to be sociable. This is a trait I wish so many ore of us had – a willingness to belong and accept all around us. We, unfortunately, too troubled by our own times to empathize too easily with the Hobbits.

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  2. Gosh, tough question. But for a dreamer, I am ever the pragmatist, so I would want to stay in the private parlour and discuss the day with my fellow travellers, and discuss the morrow, and generally try to strengthen any flagging resolve. Either that or I’d go for a walk alone, cos I’m a loner, and a day in company of others I’d probably be clawing the walls πŸ™‚β€‹

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  3. Like you, I was fascinated by the layout of not only the village but also the whole area of Bree with several hamlets and villages, and where the roads go, and the Rangers and everything. I really enjoy the slow read very much. With the normal reading speed, wanting to read on and read on, and read the events happen (even if I almost know them by heart) always stops me from noticing these little gems.
    I also thought that the Hobbits didn’t seem very changed nor more mature after their ordeal at the Barrow Downs. They are as happy-go-lucky as ever. I also agree with L.K. Latham that they are sociable, and it is their way to enjoy company. And as we will see, it’s a good thing they did. Imagine what would have happened if they all had stayed with Merry…
    The question: If I was a Hobbit, I probably would have gone and made a fool of myself just as some other, uhm, individuals of that party. If I was a human companion I’d have stayed and hoped to enjoy a quiet evening, thinking, reflecting, maybe planning the next steps.

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    • Yes, I think you’re right about that, Gabi. It’s not until the end of the chapter when Frodo seems wary that there are two people who want to speak with him privately that I notice that he at least, appears a little less naΓ―ve.
      Also I like how you answer the question from both the perspective of a hobbit and a human, because like you, I think they would give different answers πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    • Gabi’s answer is the opposite of mine, how funny! As my own human self, there’s no question — I would go down to the common room and mingle and listen and be part of the excitement. As you both say, the group seems to have recovered quite well from their ordeal with the forest and the barrow wights, and now is the perfect time to celebrate survival and success and life — three cheers to our new adventure, huzzah! On the other hand, if I were a hobbit, I’d have spent my whole life holed up in my small little village not seeing the outside world — on purpose, because we like it that way, thank you very much — and all of this danger and newness and now these loud strangers would be far too much to cope with. So if I was a hobbit, I’d probably want to stay in the parlor with only my trusted friends and eat comforting foods and be restful.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I didn’t notice as much about Bree as you did, Sammi, so your take on it was doubly interesting to me, thanks!

    What I did notice was how many times we got hints that someone had been asking around about the hobbits, and how suspicious that all seemed. It made me nervous for them, not knowing if maybe this was Gandalf asking about them versus the bad guys, so that was a clever way for Tolkien to increase the tension. Tolkien also used the omniscient POV to add to this, by showing us some unknown person sneaking over the town gate — who could that be, and were they following our hobbits? Scary!

    As this was the first time that I’ve reread the book since watching the Peter Jackson movies, I also noticed (again) how much more mature and responsible Merry is in the books, compared to in the movies. Merry was much more practical in previous chapters as well, in setting up the decoy housing situation, for instance. I see why they made him more of a type with Pippin in the movies, though; that makes what he goes through later more touching, that he started more innocent and naive, and it also adds to the comedic value of the two friends together. Plus it allows Frodo to be the more mature one, by comparison, given that they don’t emphasize the age difference so much in the movies.

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  5. I loved the descriptions of Bree and surrounding areas and the history. My kind of town where all are welcome and accepted for who they are – definitely a lesson in there.
    As for what to do after having filled my belly and rested my bones? As much as my bed would be calling me, I would like to hang out with the others, not only for some merriment but to get a lay of the land, so to speak. Others visiting might have things of interest to our little group.

    Liked by 3 people

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