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PostPosted: Sat Jul 26, 2008 10:56 pm 
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I'll be interested to see if anyone has all that much to say about this chapter. For one thing, it is little more than half as long as the previous three chapters. Probably the most significant thing about this chapter to me is that we get to see a little more of Frodo's back-story as a truant living in Brandy Hall.

But Farmer Maggot is a fairly significant -- albeit minor -- character. Those who think that Tolkien's writings supported a rigid class system would do well to look closer at the character of Farmer Maggot. As Tom Bombadil later points out, he is a person of more importance than the other hobbits first imagined. Maggott is very firmly part of the middle-class (even more than the other farmer in the story, Tom Cotton). Tom Shippey wrote a paper called "Noblesse Oblige: Images of Class in Tolkien" that was written in response to a criticism of Michael Moorcock that "Tolkien stood for the values of a morally bankrupt middle class." Shippey's response was that Tolkien's values were in fact on the whole middle-class, but they were definitely not morally bankrupt. Furthermore, "while his values may have been middle-class, it would be quite wrong to see them as existing unchallenged; indeed, middle-class values in Tolkien's work have to work hard to prove themselves against powerful upper-class competitors, and even lower-class competitors in the unwavering self-confidence of the Gamgees." We see this strongly reflected in the middle-class Maggot's relations with the upper-class Pippin Took and the lower-class Sam Gamgee. (Shippey also makes a strong argument that Frodo himself is middle-class, not upper-class, an important distinction.

Normally, I would wait until further along in the discussion to bring up the history of the drafting of the chapter. But in this case, I think it is important to note (without necessarily going into details at this point) that in the original drafts, Maggot was a decidedly "bad" character. I think it is rather significant that over the course of revision, he morphed into an abashedly "good" character.

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Last edited by Voronwë the Faithful on Wed Aug 27, 2008 1:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2008 10:43 pm 
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Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
I'll be interested to see if anyone has all that much to say about this chapter.


Apparently not. ;)

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2008 11:29 pm 
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Maggot has a pretty significant role in the evolving narrative, which in this chapter reprises the themes of the previous one but at a higher level: the hobbits are in the Shire but lost, the Black Riders have multipled and are even more frightening: but then Bamfurlong becomes a refuge, the first of many- because Maggot is *tough.* Our previous views of Shire-hobbits make them seem pretty fatuous and doughy, but in Maggot we start to see the old tree-roots beneath the flab.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2008 11:33 pm 
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I haven't had the opportunity to read Tom Shippey's essay I read the chapter last week and compared the incident with the Black Rider and Farmer Maggot with the Black Rider and the Gaffer. It seems at Bag End or at Bagshot Row that the Rider walked up to the Gaffer, while at Maggot's he remained saddled. What I did like is the comparison of how both characters handled the Black Rider. The Gaffer was polite, offered the same information that anyone would know about Frodo, and then sent the Rider on his way and did so with an edge. Frodo in hearing the Rider's voice felt it was strange and unpleasant.

Farmer Maggot was polite and firm with the Rider he dwelt with (the same as at Bagshot Row). Farmer Maggot describes the voice as queer, and that he felt a shiver as the Rider bent down towards him. Maggot though has the fortitude to send the Rider off being very firm and with an edge also. Both men are very firm in how the handle the Riders, feeling that something just isn't right with them. This firmness to me, or stubbornness is a sign of middle class values these men share in common. Both have learned through hard work to stand on their own, and they do that, being fearless for the most part. As Tolkien said in Letter 210 that the Ringwraiths have "no great physical power against the fearless" but they do inspire unreasoning fear.

Somewhere I remember reading and I'm not sure where that the voices of the Ringwraiths was the voice of death. So hearing that in the wilderness, even near home, and then answered would truly be scary to me. I like how for the most part the Riders interact with minor characters, but have not yet confronted the party itself.

Again, Tolkien's descriptions of the land are wonderful hear. I can see the images he describes, feel the heat, the humidity and the rain, and still feel the breezes on my face.

In The Return of the Shadow Frodo's character Bingo if I remember does not meet with Farmer Maggot but puts on the ring and listens to the conversation. Before leaving though he picks up a half filled mug and drinks it to the shock of the Farmer. I also believe Mrs. Maggot was given a line or two also. In the final copy the Maggot children come in and out as does Mrs. Maggot but no conversation. The ride in the wagon is interesting and the clip clop was fun to read the first time. Wasn't sure if it was a rider or not. That is something after 30 some years I can still remember.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2008 3:12 am 
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I led the discussion of this chapter on another board so I'm going to pull a few things from that if that is okay.

The dialogue between Frodo and Pippin at the beginning of the chapter seems to have several levels. There are several levels to this exchange. There is humor with Pippin playing the part of the pesky child full of questions and Frodo the exasperated parent trying to eat his breakfast. Sort of like someone wanting me to answer questions before I’ve had my coffee.

But, Pippin is sharper than he appears. He knows the Black Riders are not ordinary “Big People” and Frodo is trying to avoid telling Pippin too much. This is becoming more than just a "hobbit walking party".

There is a lovely sentence of alliterative prose in here as well. : “’ From Frodo’s mind the bright morning-treacherously bright, he thought-had not banished the fear of pursuit; and he pondered…’”

And we hear Sam wax poetic about the Elves: “’They seem a bit above my likes and dislikes, so to speak,’ answered Sam slowly. ‘It don’t seem to matter what I think about them. They are quite different from what I expected-so old and young, and so gay and sad as it were.’”

A few thoughts on Farmer Maggot to come.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2008 7:28 pm 
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The chapter overall continues the descent into darkness, as well: the bright morning at the start moves into the foggy night at the end. Merry's appearance is a bit comic; but the 'comedy' is really the rather nervous laughter following the menace preceding (and a conscious inversion of the scene where the first Rider appears). We know the Riders are out there in the gloom, and we know it now as fact, not merely suspicion, that they are hunting Frodo. And sure enough, one reaches the ferry-landing just after the party leaves it. The tension is ratcheting up and up and up here- and the 'escape' is less than comforting, since in crossing the River (which killed Frodo's parents, remember) the party is leaving the bounded Shire and entering its doubtful east-march, where (to Hobbitonites), 'folk are queer.'

It's fairly remarkable to me that even in the first drafts of these earliest chapters, written in 1938, Tolkien has so completely departed from the mode of The Hobbit. Whatever Unwin's thought, he wasn't writing a 'sequel' at all!


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2008 10:27 pm 
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ArathornJax wrote:
In The Return of the Shadow... I also believe Mrs. Maggot was given a line or two also. In the final copy the Maggot children come in and out as does Mrs. Maggot but no conversation.

Mrs. Maggot does have dialogue in the published chapter, presaging Rosie many pages later: "'You be careful of yourself, Maggot!' she called. 'Don't go arguing with any foreigners, and come straight back!'" Like Sam, Mrs. Maggot is one of five characters in LotR whose last word is "back".


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2008 10:42 pm 
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AJ, the Shippey essay is in the collection published last year by Walking Tree as Roots and Branches. The book is well worth getting; is chock full of Shippey-ian insights. But that essay is probably my favorite in the book; I think anyone who accuses Tolkien of being some kind of upper-class snob should be required to read it.

Andreth, you are certainly welcome to bring insights from previous discussions elsewhere; others have done so as well. I look forward to reading what you have to say about Maggot.

soli, you are absolutely right that by the time Tolkien started working on this chapter, he had absolutely abandoned the idea of making LOTR a sequel to the Hobbit. The more I think about it, the more I realize what a significant turn the project took when he created the Black Riders. I really like your observation about how the chapter progresses from light to dark; I had not considered that before. Well done!

N.E.B., you are truly the repository of information that no one else could possibly have. Just out of curiosity, who are the other three characters whose last word is "back"?

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2008 10:42 pm 
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I stand corrected. I was implying in my mind that Mrs. Maggot was part of the conversation between Farmer Maggot and the traveling hobbits.

Voronwë I'll order the book tomorrow when I take my daughter to our local bookstore. Sounds quite interesting.

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2. We have many ways using technology to be in touch, yet the larger question is are we really connected or are we simply more in touch? There is a difference.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2008 10:47 pm 
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Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
Just out of curiosity, who are the other three characters whose last word is "back"?

Elfhelm, Elrohir, and Nob. See the link in my post above for more last words.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2008 10:48 pm 
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I missed that link altogether. Darn it, I really have to get the link colors changed so they are more obvious.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2008 8:02 am 
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Okay, let me admit straight off that my first reaction to the chapter title is to salivate, like Pavlov's dogs, at the thought of Mrs. Maggot's "mushrooms and bacon"! Yum, yum, yum.

I notice how grown-up some of our hobbits seem. Frodo says over the elf-provided breakfast: "leave me in peace for a bit! I don't want to answer a string of questions whle I am eating. I want to think!" (to which Pippin says "Good heavens! At breakfast?" ) And in fact Frodo really does want to think, and his thinking sounds quite like mature, thoughtful thinking, reminding us that Frodo is no kid. "It is one thing to take my young friends walking over the Shire with me until we are hungry and weary, and food and bed are sweet. To take them into exile, where hunger and weariness may have no cure, is quite another -- even if they are willing to come." (Notice, especially, the "my young friends"!)

Sam, likewise, is in a thoughtful mood. In the book, it is here that we get the "don't you leave him" phrase that becomes the hallmark of all versions of Sam, textual and cinematic alike. "'Don't you leave him!' they said to me. 'Leave him!' I said. 'I never mean to. I am going with him , if he climbs to the Moon; and if any of those black Riders try to stop him, they'll have Sam Gamgee to reckon with' I said. They laughed."

The "they" is the Elves. The fact that book-Sam has a serious conversation with Elves so early on is something I regularly forget between rereadings. [It strikes me now that in fact Frodo does, in a sense, "climb to the Moon": a foreshadowing of all the stairs leading up from Minas Morgul, former moon-tower, perhaps?] Frodo himself is "rather startled" by this new version of Sam...

Now, about those Black Riders: definitely not yet Nazgûl. All that stooping to the ground and sniffing is as creepy as can be, but a bit more like beasts than fallen kings. I have to say I prefer the Black Riders when seen at a certain distance, when hinted at and shown on the horizon rather than up too close. They're scarier at the edges of the story.

There's a very cinematic moment in this chapter, too, when Merry appears on a pony, looking for them, and they think at first he might be a Black Rider: "As he came out of the mist and their fears subsided, he seemed suddenly to diminish to ordinary hobbit-size." I can pretty much hear the music accompanying that shot....

It's interesting that Farmer Maggot used to be a "bad" character, V. I guess the chief trace of that left is his name. I'm always a bit puzzled (while salivating at the description of bacon and eggs) by the fact that the person serving up such a tasty meal is named "Mrs. Maggot": not a really good food-worker name! :)


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2008 2:13 pm 
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There you go again Teremia. I can't ever trust you to come into a thread and not provide yet another jolt of recognition for something I have read 50 times and never noticed before.

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[It strikes me now that in fact Frodo does, in a sense, "climb to the Moon": a foreshadowing of all the stairs leading up from Minas Morgul, former moon-tower, perhaps?]


I believe maggot may have an older lost meaning. John Fowles named one of his novels with the word.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2008 3:03 pm 
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One old meaning is a snatch of tune that gets into your head, or a thing you can't forget. Some popular dance melodies in the Jane Austen era were named "So-and-so's Maggot."

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2008 3:41 pm 
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This site provides some interesting bits on the word:

http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=20010411

Quote:
"From the 17th through the 19th centuries, maggot had another meaning, too. It meant 'an odd fancy' or 'a whim': "There's a strange Magot hath got into their Brain" (J. Howell, Letters, 1688). A maggot could also be 'a whimsical person': "You were as great a Maggot as any in the World when you were at Paris" (N. Bailey, Erasmus' Colloquies, 1725)."


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"The word maggot, which is a variation of maddock, is first found at the end of the 14th century: "Magottes ben wormes that brede of corrupt and rotyd moysture in flesshe" (John of Trevisa, translation of Bartholomew de Glanville's De proprietatibus rerum, 1398). The form of the word is thought to have been influenced by the name Maggot, which was a nickname for "Margaret."

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2. We have many ways using technology to be in touch, yet the larger question is are we really connected or are we simply more in touch? There is a difference.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2008 3:51 pm 
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Teremia, I absolutely love your observation about Sam's comment about climbing to the moon! Its difficult to tell at what point that comment was added (Sam, of course, wasn't even present in the first version), but I very much doubt that the reference is accidental. But I've never noticed it in that context before.

According the "Nomaclature of the Lord of the Rings" printed in the LOTR Readers Companion, "Maggot" was intended to be a 'meaningless' name, hobbit-like in sound. It is apparently just an accident that maggot is an english name for "grub, larva".

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2008 3:55 pm 
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I sincerely doubt that Voronwë. Tolkien had a habit of picking nasty sounding names like Gríma Wormtongue for his villains. When I found out Maggot was originally a bad guy, my reaction was "Well that makes sense".

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2008 4:02 pm 
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Take it up with Tolkien, Al. That's what he said; I'm just reporting his words.

At the first reference to the name Maggot, Tolkien crossed it out and replaced it with "Puddifoot" but he thought better of that.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2008 9:08 pm 
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Its interesting that I never picked up on the word "maggot". I think its because, in the beginning, he is always referred to as "Farmer Maggot" or "Old Maggot". Somehow, it skitters the mind away from the word 'maggot', and then its settled into your head as a name.

And while, yes the Riders are not yet, the Nazgûl - I am always troubled by this point. Why do they not affect people the way it is described in later chapters? The fear, the darkness? Farmer Maggot is coolly able to tell him to "Be off!"

All these discrepancies have always troubled me. My explanation to myself was always that the Nazgûl can probably control how they affect humans. After all, Grip (the dog), recognizing something more stayed in. So, keeping with their plan of stealth, they are able to come across as simply a bit too dangerous big-folk.

I also find it weird that the Black Rider didn't follow them down to the thicket where they began their short-cut. Standing on the hill and sniffing.... knowing that they have gone down that way; it seems ridiculous to not follow the Ring. They have the Ring, for Mordor, they have the Ring.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2008 9:24 pm 
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The Nazgûl depend on their horses, and it's dangerous to ride a horse down a steep slope, which this was described as being. They can so easily break a leg, which would immobilize the Rider. The Nazgûl was probably counting on his speed and mobility to outflank them.

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