Tolkien Tuesday #21

~ 07 June 2022 ~

With the end of the first book on the horizon (we only have one more chapter to go before before the first book of The Fellowship of the Ring is behind us), I can’t believe we have been navigating this slow read for almost half a year! And what fun it’s been so far to interact with other readers as we go, and how illuminating and enriching it’s been to notice things I’ve never noticed before…Definitely a worthwhile endeavour!

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we conclude Chapter 11: A Knife in the Dark.

The hobbits and Strider reach Weathertop, but when they investigate the area, it is clear something has happened there, recently, for the ground is scorched. If Gandalf was there, he is there no longer, and they are going to have to make their way to Rivendell on their own, which will take them a good fortnight.

From their vantage point they spot the enemy some way off and hope they pass by without picking up their trail. With nowhere else in the vicinity to offer them shelter, they are forced to remain at Weathertop overnight.

Strider, in attempt to keep the hobbits mind from turning towards the danger they are in, regales them with ancient stories of Men and Elves, before recounting part of the tale of Tinuviel. Once he finishes, night has fallen. In the dark, they feel the hopelessness of their situation.

However, it is not long before they feel they are not alone and sense the enemy is near. Strider keeps them close to the fire, encouraging them to use burning brands against the riders, should they need to.

Photo by Oussama Elhaidi on Pexels.com

Suddenly, three riders are in the dell with them. Compelled by an outside force, Frodo puts on the ring, and he can see the world the riders, now appearing in grey robes, two wearing silver helms, the other a crown, inhabit. The crowned figure stabs Frodo through the shoulder. After which, Frodo has the presence of mind to remove the ring, just in time to see Strider attacking the riders with fire.

I felt that this part of the chapter was tense. The hopelessness of their situation really hit me; they know the odds are against them, they know that before they will feel safe again, they have two weeks of travelling ahead. And as we’ve seen, so much can happen in the space of a few hours, so a fortnight sounds impossible and overwhelming!

Also, my heart went out to Frodo when he looks at the Road and imagines it heading back west, all the way to Bag End. He’s not my favourite hobbit, but I sure would have given him a hug then if I could.

Next week we start the last chapter of Book 1, Chapter 12: Flight to the Ford.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

I’m hoping my journey and exploration of Middle Earth isn’t sounding too much like a pub crawl, but this week I’ve been musing on another tavern…

In this chapter, Strider drops into conversation the name of another inn, one we don’t visit, but the name is just fantastic. The Forsaken Inn. Located a day’s travelling east of Bree, Strider describes it as the mostly easterly point on the Road from which known distances are measured. Beyond this, the land is unmeasured, suggesting when you pass this landmark you move into places where civilisation hasn’t reached, or more likely given the history of Middle Earth, no longer holds sway.

The name and this brief description of its location makes for an evocative image. The last inn on the edge of the wild, probably feels very much like it’s on the edge of the world. It conjured in my mind images of Jamaica Inn. Lonely. Desolate. Tumbledown, maybe. Wild, certainly. And I bet it feels like a long way from anywhere else, even though it is still, just, in the Bree-land.

And as for the company it would attract…an interesting mix of people, I would think, both good and bad. Helpful and troubled. Rangers, dwarves travelling west, Bree-landers on business, but also strangers who perhaps don’t want to be found.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As for the atmosphere…I imagine it could get quite lively. Lots of singing. Many people holding court and opining on the state of things to anyone who would listen. Lone travellers keeping to themselves. Yet I can equally envisage quiet evenings, when there seems to be an unspoken consensus to keep conversations low and voices down. You would be happy to go there during the day, but returning home by night might not be a good idea, especially if you’re on your own…

Let’s not forget the ghosts. A place like this would surely have some, don’t you think? Old buildings on ancient roadways are full of history, each with their own stories to tell. The old inns along The Great North Road in England, with connections to the famous highwayman, Dick Turpin, immediately come to mind.

Anyone else loving the sound of this place? If you thought I could go on and on about how I imagine this place to be, you would be right! I’m thinking it would make a great candidate for where I should take up residence in Middle Earth!

Are your impressions of The Forsaken Inn like mine? Or do you imagine it quite differently? I would love to hear your thoughts on this…

Elsewhere

Not much to report here, this week…but then, that’s not a bad thing when I see how long this post is already 🙂

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

We have already come across songs and poems in earlier chapters, but this one had two, and one is fairly long. What are your thoughts on Tolkien’s inclination towards poetry and song? Do you enjoy it or do you find it disrupts the narrative?

I understand why Tolkien uses poetry and song in his stories, but I think, if I’m being honest, it depends on the poem / song. Some I really love and others I am not so keen on. However, as I’ve got older, I have realised I tend to enjoy the poetry more than I used to. When I was younger I used to think of it almost as an obstacle I had to overcome before I got to the “good bits”. Not anymore.

Interestingly, on this slow re-read, I found reading the tale of Tinuviel easier and more enjoyable than ever before (don’t get me wrong though, I love the story of Beren and Luthien so much!), and the reason? I followed Tolkien’s advice and read it as Strider recounts it: I chanted it softly.

25 thoughts on “Tolkien Tuesday #21

  1. I’ve always found the attack on Weathertop quite chilling in the book. There’s a lot of fear and dread as they all can feel the Ringwraiths approach, but can’t see them. I thought it was done over the top in the film.

    I’ve never thought about the Forsaken Inn. I personally would love to take up residence in Rivendell. They have a room in Rivendell solely devoted to telling stories and singing songs. I would love to hang out there…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree that the film has to show a lot more to convey the same level of fear and dread the hobbits feel on Weathertop.

      That room in Rivendell does sound like a good place to spend a great deal of time. It would be lovely to just listen and learn. I think I might make this my second choice 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The tension in this chapter was palpable. I, too, was curious about the inn and love the name. I imagine it would attract all sorts of beings of interest. I definitely would like to frequent the place.
    I do like the “songs” and poetry. Especially those that we can sort of read with a melody. Not all of them are so easy.
    Already half a year! As we’ve been reading, I raalise that no, only book one shall be read this year. Will we continue the two others in the following years? It’s so much fun.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I also found the attack scene to be very scary! Even scarier, maybe, having seen the movie — they did a great job with the special effects. Reading this again, I appreciated hearing more detail about what the Black Riders could and could not perceive, which made more sense of what happens when Frodo puts on the ring.

    As far as the poems and songs go, I do like them better now than I did when I was younger. Still, I was not fond of the Tinuviel song. I tried singing along and at first it was nice but then… it felt repetitive and too long to me. For a song that long, I hoped to actually learn more about what happened between them, and about their personalities, or anything about history. Then to make it worse, Strider describes everything he just sang about, making it extra repetitious and to me, dull. For me, the perfect change would be to make the song shorter, include a few more details, and have Strider assume that his audience actually heard the (very straightforward) words and he didn’t have to explain it.

    Except for one part: I noticed that Strider said that Tinuviel “chose mortality” and that she “alone of the Elf-kindred, has died indeed and left the world.” This is great foreshadowing, but also raises the question of how an elf can “choose” mortality, and if that’s possible, why is she the only one to have ever done it? There’s a whole interesting philosophical discussion here (and history lesson too) that’s only hinted at.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, that part of the film was scary and I thought the special effects really brought out what we can feel in the book but can’t see – the fear and dread of the unseen.

      I did think it strange that Strider sings the song and then repeats himself by explaining it. So far, that’s the only time I’ve noticed that…

      It’s certainly a poignant piece of foreshadowing, and as you say, so much is only hinted at in it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I especially cringed at Strider summarizing the song because I know that so many people skip reading any songs or poems because they assume that they aren’t important. And then here’s Tolkien, telling the reader the important part anyway, verifying the assumption that it wasn’t necessary to read the song. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Grat insights as always. I don’t have much to add here, just a few impressions.
    That attack scene was one of the first trailers I saw of the first LOTR movie back in the day and I got all excited because it all looked to perfect to me.
    The songs: I have no musical ear, no singing voice, can’t hold a tune and hate to sing. Whenever someone breaks into song in a movie, I flinch. I tolerate musicals and like operas and concertos because there I expect and appreciate the songs. But not in the middle of a ‘normal’ movie. So no, these songs never caught much of my attention. However, in the middle earth (and our own ancient) world, songs and recitations like that were the way to learn about history and myths. If I had to live without books and movies I suppose I’d love them just as your next Hobbit. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good point — in cultures that rely on oral traditions to pass down stories, putting the words into song or verse can help preserve the story. I agree that if we were hobbits or elves –or probably anyone else in Middle Earth– we’d be more used to hearing epic poems and story songs.

      Speaking of musicals and legends (or at least, fairy tales), I just saw a musical live for the first time since before COVID: “Into the Woods”. It was great! But a musical has a very different ratio of songs versus spoken, and the songs are designed to get across important plot and character points. In a book like this, the songs are (mostly) used to get across Tolkien’s world building and history, so I can see why some readers are bored with them and want to just skip over them: because they don’t “matter”.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, that attack scene was certainly dramatic and captured the imagination, and the music that accompanies it in the film – altogether amazing
      😀

      I think I’m with you. I would rather learn from books, but in a world without them, the poems and songs will do just fine 🙂

      Like

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