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PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2008 6:20 pm 
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This chapter can roughly be divided into four sections with distinctly different tones. The first section is the first several pages, up until Gandalf's sudden disappearance (shades of The Hobbit). This section represents the transition from the serious tone of the last chapter to the lighter, Hobbit-ty second section, which covers the period through the birthday celebration, which marks Frodo's departure, and the early part of his journey with Pippin and Sam. The tone darkens again in the third section, marked by the appearance of the Black Riders, which we will see was an important milestone in the writing of The Lord of the Rings. The final section sees the appearance of one of the more controversial characters in the book, Gildor the unhelpful Elf.

This chapter also contains my least favorite line in all of Tolkien's work:

They left the washing up for Lobelia.

I look forward to hearing all of your thoughts about this chapter. I'll be curious to see just where this discussion goes.

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 Post subject: The Shire
PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2008 8:10 pm 
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It seems to me that in the Prologue, A Long-Expected Party and The Shadow of the Past that we get to see The Shire through the hobbits of Hobbiton and the surrounding area. As Frodo, Sam and Pippin begin their journey we see even more of the Shire outside of Hobbiton. I think the picture that Tolkien paints here is one of home, and that this is Frodo's home. Thus we see what he is giving up by taking up this quest and fulfilling his statement to Gandalf that he would leave the Shire and only after realizing how much he loved the Shire. Thus we really see the beginning of what Frodo is giving up in this chapter. After reading these chapters, how many of us would love to live in the Shire or find that the Shire reminds us of home in many ways?

I think this contrasts very well with the poem on The Road Goes Ever On and On. The road does go on and on, and for Frodo he is leaving the security and peace of his home, for what he doesn't know. All he knows for now is that he is going to Rivendell. I think that is a very scary thing. I know in my own life that when I have made major changes to my life, graduating from college, taking a promotion, changing companies or changing an entire career, or facing a health crisis, those are scary moments because of the uncertainty. It is that uncertainty that I think Frodo is feeling, the risks, the challenges, the dangers, the meeting of new and unknown people, and not knowing what the near future will bring. That is unsettling for him.

Another point that I think is important to bring up is Frodo is setting out to save the Shire and to ensure the ring is taken out of it so it can go on. Unlike Bilbo, Frodo's quest begins with danger right away. Frodo is beginning a journey where he will compare himself to Bilbo I think unconsciously for the entire quest (perhaps one reason for the poem The Road Goes Ever On and On). Biblo leaves and becomes something more than he was when he left, and returns with riches, the respect of elves, men and dwarves. I think Frodo feels differently at the end then this but that is for another chapter in ROTK I think.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2008 8:43 pm 
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Again, cribbing somewhat from my younger self :), I see how Merry and Pippin are differentiated here: Merry, more responsible, goes ahead to open up the new house. Pippin gets to walk along with Frodo and Sam (and stumbles on his feet from fatigue as the Elves hustle them to safety).

-- One of the aspects of LOTR that most drew it to me long ago, and that still draws me, is the way it convinces you that you are on a Very Long Journey. When Frodo complains of feeling like a "snail" because he has so much stuff on his back (though the narrator makes it clear that the uncomplaining Sam carries more), when they walk, step by step, through the Shire and into the woods, it really feels like you're walking along with them. None of those pretty little knapsacks that grace the film! Those are more ergonomically sound, but these book-hobbits, even in these early chapters, are on a real Hike.

-- The Black Riders are scary but as yet undefined -- a child's nightmare in the making. Nothing like having something sniffing for you! The scariest point in the movie for me is the moment when the road's perspective shifts before Frodo's gaze: a very nice visual analogy for the way fear can suddenly change the architecture of the world. In the movie the physical presence of the Rider then eases the fear (for me). Here (in this chapter) the Riders are as yet a kind of malevolent presence seen mostly out of the corner of one's eye.

-- Our early Elves! These Elves are more like the elves of the Hobbit than our later LOTR elves, whereas the FOTR:EE takes the scene in the other direction, by making the elves glimpsed on their way to the Sea a wholly ethereal (very lovely!) vision. I missed some of the earthier activities of book-elves in the movies: wished we could see them, at least at Rivendell, feasting and laughing. These elves eat and laugh!

-- An absolutely C. S. Lewis moment can be found in this chapter: "Sam could never describe in words, nor picture clearly to himself, what he felt or thought that night, though it remained in his memory as one of the chief events of his life. The nearest he ever got was to say: 'Well, sir, if I could grow apples like that, I would call myself a gardener. But it was the singing that went to my heart, if you know what I mean.'"

Every time I read this, I think, 'Well, that's rather nice, but a bit near the edge: much more of that and the literary soufflé would collapse, if you know what I mean.'

Then I reread it and I think, 'That was one of the chief events of his life? That's what the writer thinks will have been the case now, but boy will he see later!' There's a distinct impression for me of time travel that's a bit disconcerting: as if the narrator is describing Sam's life AS IF the rest of the book never happened. Or maybe it's just the "literal factual truth," and this little brush with elves, because it was the first brush with them, ever afterwards trumped Lothlórien.

-- When I was a wee child, I went through the book writing music for the songs, and when I read these poems now, my old child-tunes come popping back into my head as if some microchip were contained in the book's pages, remembering the past for me. Ah, I was pretty serious about "We still remember, we who dwell/In this far land beneath the trees/Thy starlight on the Western Seas..."


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2008 9:27 pm 
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I've always read it as if this was indeed one of the chief events of Sam's life. Many great events followed, but in the context of his humility he might have seen those as events in Frodo's life, not his: not his doing, even if anyone else would say it was.

This was personal, his first experience with Elves; and as an experience, it was much more "hobbit-sized" and hobbit-style than Lothlórien. Perhaps Sam had not yet learned to see past the feasting and laughter, and so felt on more of an even footing with the Elves than he could ever feel again.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 11:15 pm 
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I never thought of Gildor as the "unhelpful elf". I find that quite an amusing title for him. I suppose it is fitting.

That reminds me of a great Simpson's quote by Lisa: "Bart, you're just like Chilly, the elf who cannot love." Except Gildor is the elf who cannot help.

I think Gildor doesn't consider himself a part of the world, at any rate not the same world that Frodo and Gandalf and Sam are a part of. For Gildor to truly help, well, it would be like a human getting involved in the politics of the gophers in the field out there.

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Another point that I think is important to bring up is Frodo is setting out to save the Shire and to ensure the ring is taken out of it so it can go on. Unlike Bilbo, Frodo's quest begins with danger right away. Frodo is beginning a journey where he will compare himself to Bilbo I think unconsciously for the entire quest (perhaps one reason for the poem The Road Goes Ever On and On). Biblo leaves and becomes something more than he was when he left, and returns with riches, the respect of elves, men and dwarves. I think Frodo feels differently at the end then this but that is for another chapter in ROTK I think.


Frodo also has the respect of men, elves and dwarves when he comes back. As for riches, well, he isn't exactly living in poverty when he comes back. As for the rest --- that is very different.

The best contrast I know between Bilbo and Frodo in the beginning is in what they are relative to their traveling parties. Bilbo is an afterthought in his party, little more than baggage at the beginning. Frodo is at the center of his traveling party from the very start, the reason for its being. He is the focus of danger and peril. His traveling friends are in constant danger of becoming collateral damage, as long as they are with him. He clearly is aware of this, and it weighs on him greatly from this chapter up until the moment when he loses the ring.


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Then I reread it and I think, 'That was one of the chief events of his life? That's what the writer thinks will have been the case now, but boy will he see later!' There's a distinct impression for me of time travel that's a bit disconcerting: as if the narrator is describing Sam's life AS IF the rest of the book never happened. Or maybe it's just the "literal factual truth," and this little brush with elves, because it was the first brush with them, ever afterwards trumped Lothlórien.


Time travel? Heavens no! It is simply that the writer knows Sam. He may not yet know all that will happen to Sam, but he knows who Sam is well enough to know that his first meeting with elves will be a chief event of his life, no matter what else happens.

And it is not just that it is his first brush with elves. He is awake to the beauty outside of the Shire for the first time in his life. His desire to meet the elves show that he was always receptive to it, but until it actually happened, well, he could not know. He would still be asleep. Sam is very slow to lose his provincialism, of course. In part this is because it is sheltered in his devotion to Frodo!


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 Post subject: Re: The Shire
PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2008 2:24 am 
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ArathornJax wrote:
It seems to me that in the Prologue, A Long-Expected Party and The Shadow of the Past that we get to see The Shire through the hobbits of Hobbiton and the surrounding area. As Frodo, Sam and Pippin begin their journey we see even more of the Shire outside of Hobbiton. I think the picture that Tolkien paints here is one of home, and that this is Frodo's home. Thus we see what he is giving up by taking up this quest and fulfilling his statement to Gandalf that he would leave the Shire and only after realizing how much he loved the Shire. Thus we really see the beginning of what Frodo is giving up in this chapter. After reading these chapters, how many of us would love to live in the Shire or find that the Shire reminds us of home in many ways?


This is an excellent point, AJ. Wayne Hammond made a similar point in a Mythlore article back in 1987 that he and Christina cite in their LOTR Companion, answering the criticism that Tolkien took too long to launch Frodo on his quest. He points out that if Tolkien had hurried Frodo into adventure "we would not appreciate so well the arcadia that Frodo is willing to give up for the sake of his people" and that "we grow to love the Shire as we never loved Bag End in The Hobbit."

Faramond wrote:
I think Gildor doesn't consider himself a part of the world, at any rate not the same world that Frodo and Gandalf and Sam are a part of. For Gildor to truly help, well, it would be like a human getting involved in the politics of the gophers in the field out there.


That is the best answer to the complaints about Gildor that I have ever heard, Faramond. Well done.

A good example of Gildor's attitude is shown by his response to Frodo's statement that he was surprised to run into danger in their own Shire. Gildor replies that it isn't their Shire, that others lived there before the Hobbits, and others will live there after they are gone.

Teremia wrote:
Our early Elves! These Elves are more like the elves of the Hobbit than our later LOTR elves


But they are also very much the Elves of the Silmarillion. Tolkien takes pains to distinguish between the different groups of Elves here, as he doesn't do in The Hobbit. It is made clear that these are "High Elves" and that they are "exiles" one of the first glimpses of the larger mythology that we are given (another is the reference to the constellation Menelvagor, the Swordsman of the Sky, with his shining belt, which in the Silmarillion we learn was a sign set in the heavens by Varda (who these Elves called Elbereth) when the Elves first awoke.

In Frodo's discussion with Gildor, we see one of the many examples of Tolkien's subtle suggestion that Providence is at work, with Gildor saying "In this meeting there may be more than chance." As Hammond and Scull point out, this fits in with the statement earlier that the meet the elves in the Woody End by chance (as it seems) just when they are menaced by the Black Rider, Tom Bombadil's statement that chance brought him in time to rescue the Hobbits from Old Man Willow "if chance you call it" and Elrond stating to the disparate members of the Council that they came and met there "in this very nick of time, by chance as it may seem."

Later I want to talk at length about the Black Riders and their importance in the development of the story.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2008 2:54 pm 
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Teremia wrote:
Then I reread it and I think, 'That was one of the chief events of his life? That's what the writer thinks will have been the case now, but boy will he see later!'

Yes, I believe that event will always remain one of the chief events of his life, just like a first kiss with your first love will always remain a great event despite a many-year marriage with kids later in life. It's just special. :)
And for Sam - I agree with Faramond et al here that it was his first brush with the wider world, and with otherworldly beauty. That's something you never forget.

Gildor the unhelpful Elf - yes indeed! I also was puzzled by direction he travelled: he said they were going West (to Havens I assume), but then he sent messengers to Rivendell somehow, to alert them of danger to Frodo's party? I.e. the opposite way from which they were going?
Maybe they sent some birds or something... And IIRC, that's why Glorfindel left Rivendell to look for them: because of Gildor's messendgers. Gandalf came later. So Gildor wasn't completely unhelpful. But one may wonder if he could send an escort with Frodo and Co if he could send messengers... Oh well, Elves are weird.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 26, 2008 10:48 am 
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As why Gildor & co. didn't offer to escort the hobbits, I think they realized that the small folks had a better chance to survive if they would be as invisible as possible; a group of elves would have been easier to spot, and although they could scare off one Black Rider, they probably wouldn't have been able to resist them if more than one had attacked them in earnest. So, the jungle drum message to all the good creatures to keep an eye on the hobbits was probably the best way to help.

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I also was puzzled by direction he travelled: he said they were going West (to Havens I assume), but then he sent messengers to Rivendell somehow, to alert them of danger to Frodo's party? I.e. the opposite way from which they were going?


As I remember, they were returning from the White Towers where they had been to see the Sea and, I guess, to take a glimpse in the Palantír that was kept there. They didn't leave for the Havens until with Elrond and Galadriel.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2008 12:31 am 
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I mentioned earlier that I wanted to talk about the Black Riders and their importance in the development of the story. I had thought to wait until the discussion developed further, but, well, it hasn't, so I'm going to throw this in the mix now, rather than continuing to wait. But I still look forward to hearing what others have to say about all aspects of this chapter.

In a letter to Stanley Unwin on 4 March 1938, Tolkien wrote:

Quote:
The sequel to The Hobbit has now progressed as far as the end of the third chapter. But stories tend to get out of hand, and this has taken an unpremeditated turn.


Christopher Tolkien adds in The Return of the Shadow that "the 'unpremeditated turn', beyond any doubt, was the appearance of the Black Riders." I would go even further, and add that the unpremeditated turn that the appearance of the Black Riders caused was nothing less than the morphing of what would become The Lord of the Rings from a sequel to the more juvenile Hobbit to instead a continuation of the darker, much more serious and "adult" mythology that was Tolkien's life-long obsession. And this is true despite the fact that the Nazgûl were never any part of the older mythology.

As I mentioned in the discussion of The Shadow of the Past, after Tolkien finally got the first chapter, A Long-Expected Party, into a form that he liked (the fourth version), he immediately had Frodo's predecessor, Bingo, set off from the Shire with his friends Frodo and Odo, on their way to pick up the fourth member of the party, Merry's predecessor, Marmaduke. At this point Bingo knew nothing about the nature of the Ring or the quest that he was beginning, and it is likely that Tolkien did not, either. But he soon came to a scene in which the three travelers hear the sound of a horse and decide to get out of sight from the road. The figure on the horse is wrapped in a great cloak and hood and only eyes are visible. The horse stops when it is level with Bingo, and the figure on it sniffs and listens. But despite the marked similarities between this early draft and the final form of the first appearance of the Black Riders, the rider in this scene is not sinister at all - it is Gandalf. Very much, I would say, the Gandalf of The Hobbit, with his sudden disappearances and reappearances.

But Tolkien quickly abandoned that draft, and when he started up again he kept that scene, replacing Gandalf with a sinister and mysterious "black rider", who Bingo felt was "looking or smelling for" him. Just as in the final form, they are overtaken twice by this black rider (or perhaps by two different ones), and the second time the black rider is driven away by the appearance of Gildor and the Elves.

Just as Frodo does in the final form, when Bingo is asked what the Riders are he replies "I don't know, and I don't want to guess." But unlike Frodo (who had already been told by Gandalf of the Ringwraiths, although he doesn't make the connection, Bingo really has no basis at all to guess. Even so, he already realizes that these riders were "not really one of the Big People." But as Christopher points out, "he has no reason to associate the Riders with his ring, and he still has no reason to regard it as more than a highly convenient magical device -- he slips it on each time as Rider passes, naturally."

Christopher adds that:

Quote:
... the fact that Bingo is wholly ignorant of the nature of the pursuing menace, utterly baffled by the black horsemen, does not imply that my father was also. There are several suggestions that new ideas had arisen in the background, not explicitly conveyed in the narrative, but deliberately reduced to dark hints of danger in the words of Gildor. ... It may be that it was the 'unpremeditated' conversion of the cloaked and muffled horseman who overtook them on the road from Gandalf to a 'black rider, combining with the idea already present that Bilbo's ring was of dark origin and strange properties that was the impulse of the new conceptions.

... The idea of the Riders and the Ring was no doubt evolving as my father wrote. I think it very possible that when he first described the halts of the black horsemen beside the hiding hobbits he imagined them as drawn by scent alone ... . As I have said, it is deeply characteristic that these scenes emerged at once in the clear and memorable form that was never changed, but that their bearing and significance would afterwards be enormously enlarged.


I think it more than possible that this unpremeditated turn led directly to the development of The Lord of the Rings into the dark epic that it would become.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2008 4:23 am 
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2008 5:38 am 
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Thanks for that great post, Jn. I'm not getting discouraged, and I wasn't planning on moving forward any time soon (although of course there is no reason why anyone can't weigh in on the previous chapter even if we start a new thread for the next chapter). We have years to complete this discussion, and I fully expect that we will use them.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 10:29 am 
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Jnyusa wrote:
To love a woman who was herself immortal would have made that temptation even more irresistable, whereas knowing that she would eventually die and be removed from the circles of the world placed any temptation to deathlessness behind him.)


I really love this point you have made. I really don't have anything to add to the discussion of this chapter, but I have greatly enjoyed the insights the rest of you have offered and wanted to say thank you for them.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2008 12:54 am 
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No mention yet of the Sentient Fox????


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2008 1:10 am 
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An aberration! Perhaps he got confused and thought he was still writing The Hobbit?

Seriously...I've not read an explanation that worked for me. So out of place and seemingly serves no purpose.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2008 1:44 am 
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He *did* think he was still writing the Hobbit. Remember, this chapter (fox included) was originally written *before* Chapter 2- and Tolkien didn't even really know what the whole trip was for yet! The origin of The Shadow of the Past and the whole Ring thing began in an aborted draft of the conversation with Gildor.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2008 3:04 am 
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Yes, the real question is why did he leave the fox in? It seems to difficult to believe that it was simply an oversight.

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I like the fox. :P

Accepting the conceit that LOTR is compiled from the combined records of the four hobbits, plus some additions from Minas Tirith archives, I can see the fox as Pippin's contribution. A hobbit joke, IOW, rather than an actual record of interspecies telepathy. ;D

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2008 5:53 am 
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Nope, never liked the fox (sorry). Always, at this point in the story, I stop and ponder it in slight bewilderment. I know it was written early, but he revisited and rewrote and reconstructed so many things on the way and yet this he left in! Why?

The first time I read the book (I was 14? 15?) the fox instantly took me to Lewis' Narnia and all those talking animals and I wondered whether there had been any cross-influence. I know better now, of course, but the incidental reference still recurs to me as the echo of a memory.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2008 6:15 am 
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A paste on what pagan symbols the fox has:

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Fox represents cunning, wildness and diplomacy. She also is a warning to keep one’s counsel, when to hold silence and when to break silence by quietly observing situations, then deciding what words to use. Fox, like Coyote is also seen as trickster. Because Fox is most often seen at the Between Times, dawn and dusk, she is seen as a guide into the Faerie Realm.


What I find interesting about this quote (though there is no evidence that I knew that Tolkien knew about this) is the notion that the fox is a symbol to keep one's counsel, when to hold silent, and when to break silence by quietly observing situations. These are all things we see in the chapter as Frodo encounters the Black Rider, while Frodo has to "hold silent" and then keep his counsel about what he thinks the rider is. The fox could also be a foreshadow of the Elves and Gildor who hold silent, keep their own counsel and only break their silence by observing the situation. I think Gildor did this quiet well in dealing with Frodo as did all the Elves.

Not a flawless reasoning on why the fox was included, but perhaps a small reasoning. Then again, Tolkien may have just wanted a connection between The Hobbit and the early parts of the FOTR as mention and he certainly may never have had knowledge of what the fox represented anciently, though of course knowing him, he just may have.

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