~ 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…
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.
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…