Tolkien Tuesday #23…on a Thursday

~ 23 June 2022 ~

It’s been one of those weeks and truly I have no idea where my time has gone these past few days. But here we are, about to finish Book 1 of The Fellowship of the Ring, and conclude the first part of our journey. Can you believe we’ve been on this slow re-read for half a year? So grab a mug of something nice – as always, I’m drinking tea – and let’s begin…

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we finish Chapter 12: Flight to the Ford, and Book 1 of The Fellowship of the Ring!

Frodo, Sam and Strider follow Merry and Pippin further along the path to where they spotted the trolls. But it isn’t long before Strider, teasing the younger hobbits, shows that the trolls were the very same ones turned to stone while Bilbo was on his own adventure. Sam recites a poem he made up about trolls and Frodo declares he is learning a lot about Sam Gamgee.

The company continue on their journey, all in better spirits than they have been for some time and with Frodo feeling a little better. They come across a runestone marking where the dwarves and Bilbo hid their treasure and Frodo declares Bilbo gave all his treasure away.

Photo by Darwis Alwan on Pexels.com

Now back on the Road they are once more uneasy. As they are looking for a safe place to make camp, they hear the sound of hooves on the Road behind them. Hiding, they fear the approach of Black Riders, but it turns out to be Glorfindel, an Elf-lord that lives in Rivendell.

Glorfindel shares all the news he knows. Gandalf has still not arrived at Rivendell. There are five Black Riders chasing the company down and he suspects the other four may be lying in wait ahead. Knowing the danger they are in, Glorfindel, now taking over the role as guide from Strider, urges them on. He insists Frodo rides his horse, Asfaloth, who has the best chance of bearing him to safety should they encounter the enemy.

For the next couple of days, Glorfindel pushes them on, even though they are weary and exhausted. Concern for Frodo and his wound, and the peril he fears both in front and behind them, drives him.

They are a mile from the Ford when the sound of pursuit reaches them. Glorfindel tells his horse to swiftly bear Frodo away, as five Black Riders come into sight. As the horse does as it has been commanded, another four Black Riders appear ahead of Frodo, but Asfaloth outpaces them all and crosses the Ford.

Frodo, now delirious with exhaustion and the effects of his wound, is only barely conscious to see the river rise up against the Black Riders and their horses and carry them away. After that, he knows no more.

I loved this part of the story, especially with the crossover with The Hobbit. Strider really gets to show his humorous side with the trolls and this injection of levity amid so much danger is welcome. The tone in this scene with the trolls also reminds me more of The Hobbit. I’ve been thinking a lot over recent weeks of the opening stage of both Frodo and Bilbo’s journey, and I’m sorely tempted to begin reading the opening chapters of The Hobbit again.

Next week: Do we look back and reflect on Book 1 or do we jump straight into Chapter 1 of Book 2? If no-one states any preferences in the comments, we will just carry on reading πŸ™‚

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

Glorfindel has always been one of my favourite characters from The Lord of the Rings (and beyond), and every time I read this section of the book, I relive the disappointment I felt the first time I saw The Fellowship of the Ring and realised he wasn’t coming to help rescue the hobbits and Strider from the Black Riders. And although I’ve loved the films since that very first time seeing them, this slight change to the story has stayed with me, more so than not getting to see the Barrow-Downs in the movies.

I understand why his role is taken over by Arwen for the film, and I think she does a great job of it, and of course, it’s great to see a female character doing wonderful things in such a male-dominated story (though to be honest, this doesn’t bother me in the least). After all, we have to remember that Tolkien and Peter Jackson were producing a different end product for a different audience who had different expectations.

If you could have a character, scene or setting which was not included in the film, included in it, who, what or where would it be?

Elsewhere

In last week’s Tolkien Tuesday #22 post, I mentioned that I stumbled across a DVD in a charity shop called “Creating The Lord of the Rings Symphony: A composer’s journey through Middle Earth”.

Since posting that, I have watched it and thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved listening to the music, hearing the explanations given by Howard Shore, and seeing the artwork which was chosen to accompany it. And as we’ve mentioned before regarding the films, you can take one element from it, in this case the music, and feel very much connected to the story and see it play out in your mind’s eye. All the elements are just so wonderfully interconnected.

If you’re a fan of the film soundtrack, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

What’s your favourite quote (or one of your favourite quotes) from Book 1 of The Fellowship of the Ring?

Like every other reader, no doubt, I have so many favourite quotes from what we have read so far. I shared a couple of them along our journey, but thought it would be good to share one I haven’t yet mentioned.

So I picked this one, which I find very moving, from the first half of Chapter 12, when Frodo asks Strider if he has often been to Rivendell:

“There my heart is; but it is not my fate to sit in peace, even in the fair house of Elrond.”

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 πŸ™‚

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…

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 πŸ™‚

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.

Tolkien Tuesday #20

~ 31 May 2022 ~

Tuesdays are fast becoming my favourite day of the week…a few hours spent lazing with a book, a cuppa, a notepad and pen, and a nicely scented candle, where I can indulge in letting my mind runaway to another world. Bliss!

And just a quick note: I’m a little behind – by which I mean very behind – with comments, but please bear with me, I will get round to them all. πŸ™‚

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

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

Black Riders attack the cottage at Crickhollow, but a wary Fatty Bolger escapes and raises the alarm. The Black Riders are now certain Frodo has fled the Shire and the ring has gone with him.

When the hobbits wake in Bree, it is to find the room they were supposed to be sleeping in had been broken into in the night and had been trashed. Also, the stables had been opened and all the horses and ponies had gone.

With delay forced upon them, it is late when they leave Bree, and under the watchful eye of a large crowd. Once into open country, Strider guides them off the main road and into the wild, hopefully leading them on such a convoluted trail that they can’t be followed.

They travel through woodland (The Chetwood) which turns into a lonely, miserable, marshy landscape, making the going difficult, and the night’s unbearable. Unexplained lights in the night sky are spotted in the distance on the fourth night.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

On the fifth day, the terrain improves and they begin to head for a line of hills, of which Weathertop is the tallest. Here they hope to find Gandalf. Strider shares some history of the area, and Sam surprises them all when he recites three verses of The Fall of Gil-Galad.

I enjoyed this part of the chapter as it mostly deals with landscape and history. I liked that Fatty Bolger isn’t forgotten, but my favourite part is when Sam recites the poem, surprising everyone. That is wonderful, and a reminder that he should never be underestimated.

Next week we conclude Chapter 11.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

Something that has become apparent to me on this re-reading is just how rich and multi-faced each of the chapters of the book are. There are so many layers of storytelling to be found at each stage of this journey. Tolkien never allowed himself to be solely concerned with the present as he told his story. The past, in the form of songs and poems, or in explanations of places and the histories of peoples, is to be found constantly through the narrative. There there is also the foreshadowing of things to come, or a switch to explain things that happen elsewhere, or off the page, as it were, such as the return to the cottage in Crickhollow to learn of Fatty Bolger’s fate.

A sort of random photo – I love how that tree in the middle is almost bending over the river. It makes me think of the Withywindle, the Old Forest and Old Man Willow…Photo by Nashwan Guherzi on Pexels.com

This concept of a multi-dimensional chapter shows the reader how interconnected parts of the story are, that life, even in fiction, doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and that while we might be focused on what is happening to one cast of characters in a story, more stories are unfolding around them, and sometimes these stories meet and influence the other, and sometimes they don’t. But just like real life, there is always something happening somewhere, and it has always been this way, and will continue to be this way.

Elsewhere

In the UK, we will be marking the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee at the end of the week, with a four day weekend. To celebrate, I will be baking lots of goodies, drinking lots of tea, and having a The Lord of the Rings movie marathon – the extended editions, of course. Or at least, that’s the plan. Him Indoors might have other ideas, and they usually come in the form of Star Wars and Star Trek…Yes, we are a house of nerds.

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

It appears that Frodo almost has a sense of what occurs in Crickhollow whilst he is asleep at Bree. And, we have already seen how he is able to learn of things happening far away in his dreams, though he seems barely conscious of the fact or is unable to retain the information. (Think back to Tom Bombadil’s house when he dreams of Gandalf).

Where do you think this ability comes from? Is it important to the storyline or is its importance only as a literary device, allowing Tolkien to share what is happening elsewhere?

I think it comes from the ring, though I don’t recall it being mentioned that Bilbo was effected by it in the same way. That being said, Frodo has had the ring for longer in The Lord of The Rings, that Bilbo had in The Hobbit, and so perhaps time is a factor?

As for its importance, I’m unsure at present. I can’t recall how often it happens over the course of the entire story, so I will come back to that as we read on…

Tolkien Tuesday #19…on a Wednesday

~ 25 May 2022 ~

A day later than expected but at least no later than that πŸ™‚ I wish I had a good excuse for its tardiness, but alas, not really. Yesterday I started putting together a step-by-step outline of my novel outlining process, and once I started I couldn’t stop, I was enjoying it so much. So now I have a draft of a outlining workbook – woohoo…

I think it’s time to talk some Tolkien πŸ™‚

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we concluded reading Chapter 10: Strider.

Frodo reads the letter from Gandalf and learns that the wizard had hoped he would leave the Shire by the end of July. He also says that Strider is a friend, Barliman Butterbur can be trusted, and that they should make for Rivendell. He also reveals Strider’s true name.

As the hobbits digest this news, Frodo demands to know why Strider didn’t say he was a friend of Gandalf to begin with. He explains that the enemy has set traps for him before, and besides, he had no certainty that the hobbits would believe him. He concludes with the announcement of who he truly is and declares he will save them if he can, even if it costs him his life.

It’s settled that Strider shall be their guide and that they will leave Bree the following morning, though they cannot expect their exit to now go unnoticed. Only after a conversation about what might have happened to Gandalf do they realise that Merry is still missing. Yet he returns as soon as this is uttered, and brings with him alarming news.

Black Riders are already in the village. Merry had seen one and tried to follow it, but collapsed when one came near him. One of the inn’s servants, Nob found and rescued him. This news concerns Strider and he fears something might happen in the night. They make plans to hold the fort should something untoward occur.

Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Pexels.com

This is a very evocative chapter, especially Merry’s encounter with the Black Riders. There is something quite chilling about what Nob witnessed, and makes you wonder what might have happened to Merry if Nob had arrived a few minutes later…

Next week we begin reading Chapter 11: A Knife In The Dark.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

This week I’ve been thinking about life lessons inspired by The Lord of the Rings. Here’s a short and succinct one taken from the second half of Chapter 10.

“I think one of his spies would – well, seem fairer and feel fouler, if you understand.”

This is one of my favourite quotes from The Fellowship of The Ring, a reminder that looks can be deceiving, so in all things trust your instincts. What you see isn’t always what you get.

Elsewhere

I’ve been a little scatter-brained this week, flitting from one thing to the next. In terms of Middle Earth reading, this means I’ve been flicking through Unfinished Tales and The Book of Lost Tales volume 2.

I’ve also stumbled across another Tolkien documentary on You Tube that I want to watch. When I do get around to watching it, I’ll be sure to share my thoughts on it here πŸ™‚

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

I think we are far enough into the story now to begin looking at the differences between how characters are portrayed in the film compared to the book, as well as at casting choices.

First up is Frodo. What are the main differences between him in the film and the book, and what are your thoughts on him being played by Elijah Wood?

The main difference I found between the Frodo of the book and the Frodo of the film is that in the film Frodo comes across as much the same age as Sam, Merry and Pippin, when in fact there is quite a sizeable age gap between them. However, character-wise, I’m not sure many differences stand out, or at least, I’ve yet to notice them.

I’ve mentioned this before: I have no issue with any of the casting choices of the film. I thought Elijah Wood made a very convincing Frodo Baggins, and though he looks the youngest of the hobbits when he should be the oldest, I think he makes a fantastic Frodo.

Tolkien Tuesday #18

~ 17 May 2022 ~

Welcome to this week’s Tolkien Tuesday…Today we begin chapter 10, I muse on Middle-Earth inspired artwork, and make a little confession, before wrapping up with a creative-writing themed question of the week. Go and get a cuppa. I’ll wait… πŸ™‚

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we began Chapter 10: Strider.

The three hobbits return to their parlour and find Merry is not there. It is only then they noticed that Strider has followed them in. Introductions are made and Strider reminds them that Frodo promised to have a quiet talk with him, though he adds, what he has to share comes with a price. This raises their suspicions, but Strider tries to allay their fears by saying all he wants is to come along with them.

Naturally, Frodo isn’t keen on allowing a stranger to join them and this act of caution pleases Strider. He then proceeds to tell them what he knows: that he overheard them talking to Tom Bombadil and heard the name Baggins, and that he followed them into Bree and tried to get an audience with them at The Prancing Pony, but Barliman Butterbur would not grant it or give them a message.

Strider also reveals he knows what Frodo is carrying and that its secret means very much to his friends. He warns them of the danger they are in, that there are enemies even in Bree, and that tomorrow they must flee and he offers to guide them along hidden paths to their destination. Before more can be learned or revealed, they are interrupted by a knock at the door by the landlord.

Butterbur, a busy and forgetful man, has remembered (at last) he has a letter for Frodo from Gandalf from three months ago and forgot to send it on. He also warns them that people (including Strider) have been asking after the name “Baggins”.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

One of my favourite lines in this chapter, though there are many, is when Butterbur, who seems to understand there is something dark going on but doesn’t actually know what it is, points out that the hobbit’s behaviour isn’t as low key as it should be: “…your party might be on a holiday!”

Next week we conclude Chapter 10: Strider.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about The Lord of the Rings / Middle Earth illustrations and artwork that I’ve come across over the years, and how interestingly, the majority of it always seems to resonate with me in some way. It’s not often (and I can’t actually recall a time), when I’ve seen something and thought, “No, that doesn’t look right at all!”

Perhaps there is an element of most post LOTR film trilogy artwork that I’ve seen, made by fans especially, to be influenced by the aesthetic of the film and the artists involved with them. But seeing as though I liked the aesthetic of the film, and the set design, character costumes, and pretty much everything visual resonated with me and brought to life the story more or less as I imagined it, it’s easy to see why.

Have you ever come across LOTR artwork that you just didn’t like?

Elsewhere

Not much to report here this week. The only thing I read outside the first half of chapter 10 was the second half…yes, I was weak and had to read it all! πŸ˜‰

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

From a creative writing viewpoint, what is the most important lesson you’ve learned from Tolkien?

World building. The more you know about the world your story is set in, the more realistic and believable the narrative will be. World building not only provides structure for a story but it adds dimension to it and reminds the reader how interconnected aspects of life are. Readers want to see what the character sees, to hear (snippets of) languages the people of that world use, to understand the laws of the land, to listen to its history, to understand the rules of magic and know what is – or isn’t – possible, because these things influence your plot and subplots.

This doesn’t mean that you have to know every little detail about the world. Of course, that wouldn’t be constructive for most authors, and (if I remember correctly) Tolkien deliberately left his Legendarium incomplete that others could later add to it. But having a working knowledge of a number of different aspects of that world will be beneficial to you and your story in the long run.

Tolkien Tuesday #17

~ 10 May 2022 ~

This week’s reading heralds in another favourite part of the story, both in the book and the film…So grab your copy, a cuppa and maybe a biscuit or two, and let’s start talking Tolkien…

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

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

Frodo, Sam and Pippin head to the common room of The Prancing Pony and are introduced to the company by the landlord. Frodo sits quietly alone, drinking, whilst Sam and Pippin share news with the Bree-lander hobbits about the Shire.

Frodo then feels the eyes of a stranger sitting in the shadows upon him, and enquires of Butterbur who the man is. It transpires that he’s a Ranger, known locally as Strider. Strider invites Frodo to join him, yet immediately he feels uncomfortable beneath his scrutiny.

Frodo then overhears Pippin talking about subjects too close to home and decides to distract the audience by reciting one of Bilbo’s songs, only to cause a scene himself and disappear when he accidently puts on the ring. Sam and Pippin suddenly find themselves alone as the local hobbits move away, and three suspicious-looking men leave.

Frodo returns to Strider’s table and takes off the ring. Strider asks if he might speak with him later, as does Butterbur, who remembers he has something to tell him.

Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

This is an interesting chapter. We are told that new information is about to be revealed to the hobbits from two sources, suggesting that, like the location of Bree, they are soon to find themselves at a cross-roads with decisions having to be made. Also we are given a glimpse into the nature of the ring and how it responds, not only to the internal desires of the wearer, but also to those whose company it finds itself in.

Next week: we begin Chapter 10: Strider.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

One of the things I am really enjoying about this re-read is that I’ve had time to think about and dwell on each scene as it plays out. And, stemming from that, I’ve found myself often wondering about these scenes from a different character’s perspective. The second part of Chapter 9 is definitely one of those scenes.

I would love to have an account of it from Strider’s POV. What is he thinking as he’s sitting in those shadows of The Prancing Pony, smoking his pipe, and looking on? What does he make of Frodo, Sam and Pippin? What’s running through his head when Frodo inadvertently puts on the ring and vanishes before a room full of people? Is it a struggle for him to remain calm? What is he thinking as the room empties, knowing everyone who leaves is taking with them an account of strange hobbits and disappearing tricks – gossip to be shared with everyone they meet for potentially a good long while yet?

Elsewhere

I’ve been reading around a fair few areas this week, as my interest seems to be continually snagged by everything Middle Earth at the moment. Some of the subjects included: Rangers, Arnor, Gondolin and Dol Amroth. I’m also trying hard to resist beginning a re-read of “Unfinished Tales”…but I suspect I will cave on that soon enough πŸ™‚

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

If you had to describe this chapter in five words, which ones would you pick? Why those five?

My five words are:

  1. Atmospheric
  2. Anticipation
  3. Motivations
  4. Distraction
  5. (pending) Revelations

The scene is certainly atmospheric. It’s lively and very busy, and as I read I could sense the level of anticipation in the room and the characters grow. There is an expectation of something impending, whether a disaster as Frodo fears Pippin might cause, or his own ill-judged attempt at distraction. There are also a great number of different motivations in the company, and a diverse number of reasons for why they are present at this particular time. The chapter ends with Frodo being asked to speak privately with both Strider and Butterbur, these pending revelations interestingly giving him cause for concern. After the start to the journey they’ve had, I appreciate his wariness, and feel his perhaps a little less naΓ―ve than he was at the start.

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…

Tolkien Tuesday #15

~ 26 April 2022 ~

The temperature has dropped a few degrees here in recent days, but the sky is clear and blue, and the sun shining wonderfully. (At least, it was until this afternoon…hello clouds). With a hot cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit – only one, I was being good πŸ˜‰ – all I needed was my copy of The Fellowship of the Ring and my notebook, to get this week’s Tolkien Tuesday off to a perfect start…

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

This week we concluded reading Chapter 8, Fog on the Barrow-Downs, and I’m still reading from the same edition as last week.

Frodo, after having his courage stirred within him on seeing the plight of his friends, manages to break part of the spell of the barrow-wights, recalling the song that will bring Tom Bombadil to their aid. He comes and rescues them, undoing the spell of this particular barrow. He then makes the decision to accompany them to the edge of his domain, but cannot go any further because he will not pass the borders of his country.

Although there is only four miles to go between where Tom takes his leave and the village of Bree, the hobbits feel every one. Nervous to be back on the Road, memories of Black Riders return and with them a yearning to be back home in safer times.

Photo by S Migaj on Pexels.com

I love how this chapter ends: with a view of Bree in the dark, muted golden light shining out of windows of the village, Bree Hill in the background beneath the stars. It’s the sort of sight every weary traveller longs for after a hard day, carrying with it the promise of safety and rest.

Another favourite part of this chapter is when Merry awakens with memories of an attack by the men of Carn Dum, giving the reader the barest of hints of something that happened generations ago.

Although this is one of my favourite chapters from the books, there are a couple of things I’m not keen on. The first is the animated dead hand that moves about on its own, walking on its fingers. When I was younger, I thought it was fun and added to the drama and scariness of the scene, but now I’m not so sure. On this re-reading, I felt like it made the scene lighter somehow, less dark and scary – reminding me more of The Hobbit. The second was the strange scene where the hobbits run about in the sunshine naked. I understand this is to signify cleansing after their ordeal, and the restoration of innocence after crossing a boundary and entering an other world, but to my modern mindset it comes across a little bit weird and jarring.

Next week we begin Chapter 9, At The Sign of the Prancing Pony.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

A question which has struck me since finishing this re-reading of Fog on the Barrow-Downs is this: why do the more powerful people of Middle Earth trust Frodo, and thus the other three hobbits, to manage on their own? It is something which never occurred to me before as I would have been reading quicker, and thus would have been carried along with adventure of the story and the need to read what happens next. However, as I’m reading much slower this time it dawned on me that I never fully realised just how much help the hobbits needed with so little distance covered.

When the High Elves met them at the start of their journey, Gildor knew the danger they were in and it’s implied, though not explicitly said (if I remember correctly), that their presence protected the hobbits from the black rider(s) that night. But the following day, when the hobbits woke, the elves had already gone.

Then Tom has to rescue the hobbits from the enchantments of Old Man Willow, yet when it’s time for them to leave his cottage, a few words of warning to keep clear of the barrow-downs, and a song to sing should they get into any bother, and they are sent off on their way, only to be rescued again less than a day later.

Gandalf also believed that they should be fine for a while yet, though I accept that this is a misjudgement on his part, as we learn from Frodo’s dream at Tom’s. The hobbits are not armed until the end of this chapter. Only then does the idea that they might have to fight occur to them.

This isn’t criticism of the story, nor of the characters that appear when help is needed and then disappear again when things are fine again. I’m thinking in terms of the story and the characters of the hobbits themselves. And then it occurred to me, at this point in the story, the hobbits do not know how to survive in a world beyond the Shire, in a world where evil is very real. They are ill-prepared as well as ill-equipped to face it. But more than that, they are not ready to face it on their own.

Photo by Pok Rie on Pexels.com

As we’ve seen from this chapter, their courage must be awoken, and their mindset has to be altered. It’s almost a lesson in becoming mentally prepared to take on the challenge ahead of them. And, whilst they are undergoing this process, there is a safety net of more powerful folk around them, ready to help if they should stumble. After all, they need to gain the experience of this world if they are to survive in it.

Elsewhere

I’m finding that with this re-read, I am being inspired by the story beyond my usual writing and reading endeavours. A few weeks ago, while the hobbits were at the cottage in Crickhollow, I had finished a cowl I had knitted on a knitting loom. Wanting to share the pattern on my design blog, I knew I needed a name for it…and the one I picked? The only one which suggested itself: Crickhollow Cowl. What I really like about this kind of interconnection between my different hobbies is that whenever I make one of these cowls, I will always think of that cottage and that part of The Fellowship of the Ring, the cosiness and the bonds of friendship.

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

We’re over a third of the way through The Fellowship of the Ring by this point, and I was wondering, what has been your favourite part of the story so far? Has a particular character stood out to you? Has a scene or image stayed with you long after reading it? Perhaps you have a favourite location? What are your favourite things from chapters 1-8?

Here’s my list of favourite things:

  • Favourite chapter: Fog on the Barrow-Downs
  • Favourite character: Of the hobbits – Sam | Minor character – Farmer Maggot | Major non-hobbit character – couldn’t really pick one as a favourite, though both Gandalf, Gildor, and Tom Bombadil and Goldberry are interesting
  • Favourite locations: Bag End, cottage at Crickhollow, Barrow-Downs
  • Favourite name or word: Withywindle, Gildor Inglorion
  • Favourite passage for tension and atmosphere: I have two: 1) when the Black Rider’s cry is answered by another one in Chapter 4: A Short Cut to Mushrooms; 2) when the hobbits are trying to negotiate their way through the fog and Frodo realises he’s lost his friends in the dark in Chapter 8, Fog on the Barrow-Downs
  • Favourite piece of poetry or song: the walking song from Chapter 3: Three is Company, especially the lines:

A sudden tree or standing stone

That none have seen but we alone

(from verse 1)

&

And take the hidden paths that run

Towards the Moon or to the Sun

(from verse 2)

Tolkien Tuesday #14

~ 19 April 2022 ~

As soon as I posted last week’s reading notes and thoughts, I started reading my favourite chapter, Fog on the Barrow-Downs, straight away…In fact, I read this week’s half a chapter twice…because…well, why not?

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

I’m continuing on with this edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, illustrated by Alan Lee. This week we’re back to the normal reading schedule of half a chapter a week. And so we begin Fog on the Barrow-Downs…

The hobbits take their leave of Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, and make their way northwards, their warning to keep away from the Barrow-downs, still ringing in their ears. At first they make good progress, but the sinister magic of the place begins to work against them, and what starts out as a short lunch break turns into a nightmare. In the shadow of the Barrow-downs they rest, and unaccountably sleep away the rest of the day.

When they wake, night is falling around them. They do their best to find their way but soon Frodo finds himself alone, in the dark. He thinks he hears cries for help and so goes off in search of the others. Yet disoriented and unfamiliar with the area, things take a dark turn, when he is captured by a barrow-wight, and falls under its spell. When he is next conscious, it is to find Sam, Merry and Pippin decked out in shrouds and surrounded by burial goods, ready to be sacrificed.

As I read these six-and-a-bit pages, I was struck again with how Tolkien uses weather, time of day / night, environment, and myth, legend and history to build tension, create atmosphere, and especially in this chapter, introduce a very tangible sense of fear in the reader. These areas are after all, the things over which we have very little control.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

I’ve been fascinated by barrows since I was a child, and I attribute, at least in part, my love of landscape and history of people in the landscape, to them. There is just something very evocative, and something very present, about the ancient dead being buried, with or without treasure, in these man-made mounds, many of which are on a scale that alters the landscape, and our perception of it, itself.

One of my little pet projects I’ve been working on, on and off for years, is inspired by the bones of woman buried in a barrow. The story is told in a mixture of poetry and prose, and is far from complete, but here, should you wish to read it, is the opening verse:

1: The Barrow

She lies sleeping

On a bed of stone

Surrounded by riches

Decorating her bones

White-washed by

The passage of time

It’s been many long years

Since her dark secrets leached tears

Sammi Cox – from an as yet untitled Work in Progress…

Elsewhere

I returned to my two trusty volumes by David Day (“Characters from Tolkien”, and “Tolkien: The Illustrated Encyclopedia”) to read further about Barrow-wights and the Barrow-Downs. From the first, I was fascinated by the description of what Barrow-wights are: demons possessing the bones and armour of the first Kings of Men. From the second, I was intrigued by this quote, explaining some of the historical context of this location:

“Considered by many during the Third Age to be the most ancient burial ground of Men on Middle-earth, they were revered by the Dunedain of Arnor.”

(From Tolkien: The Illustrated Encyclopedia by David Day, page 64)

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

What do you think is the theme to this chapter? Is there one aspect of the narrative that stood out to you as you read this week’s text?

To me, Fog on the Barrow-Downs, is about courage. I think it is in this chapter that we are given our first glimpse of why Frodo is trusted by Gandalf (and others) with this quest he is on. His courage, faced with the almost impossible task of trying to save himself and his friends from a very powerful, very dark, supernatural being, doesn’t fail him. As he is lying on the cold ground of the barrow, we are given clear indicators that the hobbits have crossed some kind of boundary between their world and the next, or have moved into an otherworld (similar to the world of fairy in folklore), but he doesn’t give into despair with that realisation, but rather his resolve is hardened. We see this with how Tolkien describes the change in Frodo in this scene: “…he no longer felt limp like a helpless prey.”