Tolkien Tuesday #22

~ 14 June 2022 ~

The sun has been shining, and the temperature steadily rising, so I’ve been sitting outside reading and writing this week’s Tolkien Tuesday post, which you know, is quite a civilised way to spend an afternoon…

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we begin Chapter 12: Flight to the Ford

Frodo regains consciousness to find he is still clutching the ring. The fire has been banked high and the other hobbits are close by, concerned. Of Strider there is no sign, but soon he returns to say there is no sign of the Black Riders, who are not at their full compliment. He fears it’s only a matter of time before they attack again in the knowledge they have dealt Frodo a grievous wound. Strider tries his best to help Frodo with the use of the leaves of the Athelas plant, but its healing against such a wound is limited.

They spend the night watching over Frodo and keeping watch against further attacks. With the daylight they know they must continue on. This begins a long and arduous crossing of a wild and pathless land. Frodo has to be carried by the pony for most of it, for he has lost the use of his arm and shoulder.

Of the enemy they see or hear no sign of them, except when they are starting out: a cry answered by another. The terror this, along with the attack at Weathertop, inflicts is enough for them to fear the hours of darkness, over which they must stand watch in pairs.

On the sixth day out from Weathertop, they must return to the Road, and cross the Last Bridge over the River Hoarwell. Strider and Sam go on ahead to see if the bridge is being watched, it isn’t, but Strider finds a beryl elf-stone. This he takes a sign that the bridge is safe to cross, though he is unclear if it was purposefully placed, and if so by who.

On the other side of the bridge they once more leave the Road behind them and enter a wooded, hilly country. Again the going is difficult, but they eventually find a path which leads to the door of a troll-hole, which Strider and Merry investigate and determine it has long been abandoned. They continue along the path, Pippin and Merry going on ahead as the former wants to prove to Strider he’s no longer afraid. However, they return quickly, and in a panic. They have spotted some trolls up ahead.

This was a tense passage to read. The fear the hobbits feel, and the aura of concern coming from Strider, at the possibility that they are being pursued by Black Riders, whom they can’t locate and have no idea where they are, is palpable. All this whilst at the same time worrying about Frodo and trying to make it across uninviting and inhospitable terrain is so suspenseful.

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

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

I’ve been musing this week on how landscape has been used in the story so far, and interestingly it’s not only present to document the geography of the journey.

In the earlier chapters, we are presented with a familiar landscape, whether that’s familiar because its one we ourselves inhabit, or if not, it’s one we recognise. This helps to ensure the reader connects the Shire with home. The hobbits home and our home. The Shire is special and we feel that as we read the story. We understand why the hobbits long to return home.

But as the story moves on, the landscape is given another use. It is a vehicle for the hobbits, and of course, the reader, to learn about the history of Middle Earth. We’ve see the burial places of the first kings of men in Middle Earth, standing stones, the ruins of a once great watchtower, ruins of settlements long since forgotten to time…

The landscape also helps to introduce less familiar things, more fantastical things into the story. In The Old Forest a bitter tree dwells, and where the house of Tom Bombadil and Goldberry is to be found, and wooded hills and rocky cliffs in which are built doors to troll-holes…The landscapes maybe familiar, but the things hidden in them are not as tangible to us.

Elsewhere

This weekend I stumbled across a DVD in a charity shop called “Creating The Lord of the Rings Symphony: A composer’s journey through Middle Earth”. As a fan of the soundtrack this was something I could not pass up and I am eagerly awaiting watching it. And when I do, I shall share my thoughts here 🙂

This is what it says on the back of the DVD:

Creating The Lord of the Rings Symphony includes excerpts of live concert footage from The Lord of the Rings Symphony: Six Movements for Orchestra, Chorus and Soloists, documentary commentary by Howard Shore, and the illustrations of Alan Lee and John Howe. The concert footage was recorded live at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier, Place des Arts, Montreal. Canada in February 2004.

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

In this first half of the chapter, we cover a lot of ground, from Weathertop to the Trollshaws. If you could tarry (in safety) and explore any of the places seen or visited, which would you choose?

The ancient stone walls and ruined towers seen after they crossed the Last Bridge. There is something quite evocative about buildings left to decay in an abandoned, lonely landscape.

Regular visitors to this blog will know I love nothing more than exploring ruins…

50 thoughts on “Tolkien Tuesday #22

  1. Lookit this! I’m first here 😉 And I am up to date, to boot. Woot!
    It was a very tense half chapter, to say the least. One cannot worry for Frodo (pretending we know nothing) and whethe he will be healed completely or forever have consequences from that stab. I could feel the cold along his arm and side.
    And, like you, I would definitely go to explore the ruins. I love seeing the history and what has withstood time. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I really like your idea of the landscape being used as a method for exploring the history of the land. I was thinking something similar but the way you put it is much better. 🙂 Now I am picturing them journeying through this difficult territory, but underlying it is a type of natural museum of history, composed of ruins and old roads and half-forgotten names of rivers. And of course, I, too, would linger in the ruins if I had the choice of these settings!

    Things I noticed this time around that I don’t remember noticing before:

    * How Strider pulled Sam to the side to tell him how serious Frodo’s injury was and that he’s worried that’s the only reason the Black Riders are leaving them alone; it gave me more reason to worry and thus increased the tension.

    * How Frodo berates himself for not being stronger earlier, and worrying that now he’ll be permanently crippled and a burden on his friends; I like how he takes responsibility for messing up, and yet somehow doesn’t come off whiny about it like so many YA books do these days.

    * How much better Frodo does at resisting the injury and the evil in it than Strider expected — this is a great initial indication of his ability to resist the pull of the ring for so long.

    * That they got lost, even through Strider was leading them; it shows that even he is not perfect or foolproof, that they are still in danger despite having this wonderful guide and protector.

    * The great description of exactly how and why it is difficult to traverse this pathless landscape, and how frustrating and tiring it must be. I especially liked how the setting is called “cheerless” and “unfriendly” — which implies that the standard expectation of being outside and walking in the woods is cheery and friendly. Same with “comfortless” breakfast. The negated or ‘loss’ aspect of these adjectives really strikes me.

    It was hard to be scared when Pippin said he found the trolls because, like Strider, I immediately noticed that it was bright daylight. And *I* had not forgotten the family history! So this was a nice release of tension after a perilous and ominous journey — one about to get worse in the rest of the chapter!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I want to explore it all – in safety – without the RingWraiths about. Tolkien is terrific and using setting as character in the story. I remember the first time I read Flight to the Ford. I couldn’t put it down and ending up with sore eyes staying awake all night to read it. It still sends chills down my spine and gets the heart to pumping.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I’m lacking behind a bit. Great insights, Sammi! The lay of the land and its history… it’s just like us going on sightseeing trips to ancient sites, but without the danger. Obviously the history of these places in Middle Earth has not been taught or told to everyone, only to a select few. Lack of interest or lack of resources? Like you, I also love to explore old ruins and I would have done the same. I wold also have liked to explore Weathertop without the Black Riders a bit more. And the stone trolls.
    Speaking of which: Frodo dreamt again, I hadn’t noticed that before because this is one of these descriptive chapters I used to rush through to get to the action. In one of the torturous, painful nights after his injury he dreams of “imagining that endless dark wings were sweeping by above him and that on the wings rode pursuers…” – another premonition, isn’t it?
    Spoiler alert!
    ..
    ..
    ..
    ..
    ..
    I have to pull the spoiler card again: By that time the Black Riders hadn’t changed their steeds yet, Frodo could not know.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. And an add-on from me, getting here from tolkien-tuesday #20. Why does Frodo dream of things that happen elsewhere or in the future? Maybe Hobbits have their own kind of magic, it just isn’t the classical kind and not clearly spelled out? They have that way of disappearing from “normal people’s” eyes. What else could they have? I’m not sure, but in this here chapter, when Strider tries to heal Frodo, he sings, and speaks words. These have to be words of power, magic. He is neither elf nor wizard, so where does his power come from? Do all rangers have it? Or only potential kings? How about other people, can they do magic when they are ‘in the know’? Gotta look out for this aspect as well. Sheesh, I need a spreadsheet. 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I would love to look around the ruins on Weathertop. There used to be a tower there called Amon Sul that was built by Elendil. There would have been a palantir there, until it was taken to Fornost in retreat just before the tower was razed in 1409 TA by forces of the Witch-King of Angmar.

    Liked by 4 people

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