~ 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.
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.
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…
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.