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PostPosted: Wed Aug 27, 2008 12:46 am 
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Lali Beag Bídeach
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It is in this chapter that I really started to get a sense of the band of "brothers," the fellowship of the hobbits, if you will. Frodo's secret is finally out, and he slowly realizes he will not be alone on his journey. His sense of emotional relief nicely parallels the physical relief of a nice, hot bath!

(Though, I must say that the idea of hobbits all taking a bath together--albeit in separate tubs--is a little odd. :suspicious: Of course, I have probably read one too many parodies!)

I do feel a little sorry for Fatty, having to stay behind and deal with the Black Riders! :shock:




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(Happy 1000th post to me! :D)

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 27, 2008 1:28 am 
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I don't usually notice much about post counts here, but it is really cool that that was your 1000th post.

I'll be back to comment when I get a chance.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 27, 2008 2:20 pm 
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Lalaith wrote:
It is in this chapter that I really started to get a sense of the band of "brothers," the fellowship of the hobbits, if you will.


That's an excellent point, Lali. That theme of fellowship is so important in LOTR (one thing that that really distinguishes it from Tolkien's other word, IMO), and it really begins to coalesce here.

We also get to start to say that there is more to Sam Gamgee than meets the eye, just as Gandalf says earlier about Bilbo, and later about Frodo (though in a different context. Sam's participation in the "conspiracy" is a subject worth exploring, I think.

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I do feel a little sorry for Fatty, having to stay behind and deal with the Black Riders! :shock:


It seems to me that Fatty's unwillingness to go on the quest means something, but I'm not quite sure exactly what.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 27, 2008 2:30 pm 
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Thanks for starting the thread, Lali!

My take on Fatty Bolger's purpose in the story: He's an "onstage" character and a friend and peer of Frodo who's left behind in the Shire exposed to the danger Frodo is ultimately going to have to overcome. Not that Frodo gives him much thought (that we see) later on, but Fatty is part of the idea of the Shire that Frodo wants to protect.

If Fatty hadn't stayed behind, or hadn't been in the story, we would see the only hobbits we really get to know leave the Shire to join Bilbo, who's already left; it would be easy to think the story had simply moved on and we weren't meant to worry about the Shire any more.

And it would have cost the story the marvelous, scary scene that opens Chapter 11.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 27, 2008 2:31 pm 
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It seems to me that Fatty's unwillingness to go on the quest means something, but I'm not quite sure exactly what.


Hmm, that's an interesting thought. I can see two divergent thoughts on this.

We have a person (hobbit ;) ) who is unwilling to step outside of his comfort zone to accomplish some greater good. As a consequence, he is "punished" for his inaction by having to deal with the Black Riders. IOW, he still faces danger and death in spite of choosing the "safer" path. Perhaps it's a reminder to us to take those risks, take those chances, especially if they are for some greater good.

The second thought is much kinder to Fatty. You could say that each person has a part to play--some to go on the quest, some to stay behind and do the things that need to be done there. Fatty may not be so courageous as to set off on the quest, but he is courageous in staying behind to deal with the consequences there.

ETA: cross-posted with Prim

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 27, 2008 2:35 pm 
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I really like both of your takes on the "Fatty question"!

I would say more, but I really got to get some proofing done before going to work.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 27, 2008 6:20 pm 
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This chapter also continues a characteristic rhythm of the whole work, with a tempo specific to Book 1- the alternating Danger/Refuge motif, here on a chapterly basis. In Chapter 3 there was the Rider followed by the Elves' grove; in 4 it was Riders followed by Maggot's, and now in 5 another Rider at the ferry followed by Crickhollow. The pattern will continue on a bi-chapterly basis: Old Forest/Bombadil, Barrow-downs/Bree, wilderness/Weathertop (which is, at first, a 'refuge'), wilderness/Ford and Rivendell. In each case the Refuge appears at the conclusion of the Danger chapter (except Weathertop, which is both). However, each Refuge is less a sanctuary than the previous one, until the House of Elrond.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 27, 2008 6:40 pm 
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A sweet interlude, dominated by the splashing sounds of bathwater and the friendly conversation. I like your point about the stress/refuge/stress/refuge rhythm of the book, solicitr. That's very true, and I'm always grateful for the refuge moments.

Most striking? The description of Buck Hill and Brandy Hall, with all those numerous round windows glowing in the night. The warmth of the friendship between all these nice young hobbits; I like the fact that Frodo keeps discovering he has underestimated his companions -- and keeps rediscovering their great affection for and loyalty to him! And, eerily out of place somehow, Frodo's dream at the end of the chapter:

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"Eventually he fell into a vague dream in which he seemed to be looking out of a high window over a dark sea of tangled trees. Down below among the roots there was the sound of creatures crawling and snuffling. He felt sure they would smell him out sooner or later. Then he heard a noise in the distance. At first he thought it was a great wind coming over the leaves of the forest. Then he knew that it was not leaves, but the sound of the Sea far-off; a sound he had never heard in waking life, though it had often troubled his dreams. Suddenly he found he was out in the open. There were not trees after all. He was on a dark heath, and there was a strange salt smell in the air. Looking up he saw before him a tall white tower, standing alone on a high ridge. A great desire came over him to climb the tower and see the Sea. He started to struggle up the ridge towards the tower: but suddenly a light came in the sky, and there was a noise of thunder."


I believe I remember that for many this seems to be an echo of early Middle-Earth history, the land falling into the sea and so forth, but it has always seemed to me more than that.

Long ago roaccarcsson on TORC commented that "The towers of Emyn Beraid evidently had some deep significance for Tolkien, The image of the tower overlooking the sea appears in his Beowulf essay." When I read that I understood why this dream seems so odd to me: it feels like one of those moments in a fictional work where the author slips something of his own into the words or mind of a character.

It is a primal image, an incredibly evocative and melancholy image and indeed reads for me like something that for Tolkien must have been very personal and real and deep.

(My hunch -- or perhaps my foolish prejudice -- may also reflect my own rather topological imagination: many of the thoughts that matter most to me take on a kind of geographical form in my head. That is to say, they become landscapes.)


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 27, 2008 7:09 pm 
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Oddly, the Dream of the Tower wound up deprived of its original significance- at the time he wrote it, Tolkien intended Frodo to have a vision of Gandalf besieged in the Western Tower by Black Riders (Saruman had not yet been invented).


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 3:04 am 
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Very interesting! I love reading everyone's observations. :)


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 6:17 pm 
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Hello all,

As this is my first "real" post, I thought I'd just introduce myself quickly. I recently joined the TORn forums after being led there by Voronwë's excellent ongoing commentary on the litigation between the Tolkien Estate and New Line Cinema; which in turn led to my discovery of his forthcoming book, the subject of which is of great interest to me; which in turn led me here. Hello.

My comment does not so much concern the present chapter as it does the first several chapters to this point, and since the characters have just come through some breathless moments to a convenient rest stop at one of their "homely houses," I thought it might be a convenient place to chime in.

I recently re-read John Rateliff's essay in Tolkien's Legendarium, "The Lost Road, The Dark Tower, and The Notion Club Papers: Tolkien and Lewis's Time Travel Triad," which traces some of the respective results of the two writers' "bargain" to each produce a story, one dealing with space-travel, the other time-travel. As Rateliff recounts, the bargain likely took place in 1936, and led to Lewis' completion of Out of the Silent Planet the following year (and, with some help from Tolkien, it's publication). Tolkien, in turn, began The Lost Road, however he left off work on it due largely to responsibilities he assumed in preparing The Hobbit for publication when it was accepted by Allen & Unwin a few months after the bargain was struck. While it seems he tried to return to the story after The Hobbit's publication in 1937, the publisher was very soon asking for a Hobbit sequel, and he again placed The Lost Road on the back burner to begin work on what would become The Lord of the Rings.

One of the things that Rateliff excellently draws forth, and which really came home to me on this reading, was the exact nature of the bargain and the extent to which shaped the approaches Tolkien and Lewis especially took to their writing. As Rateliff reconstructs events, the bargain was proposed by Lewis and was probably inspired by his recent reading of David Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus and Charles Williams' The Place of the Lion. The pair (and the latter especially) had greatly impressed Lewis in the extent to which they managed to present something of genuine literary merit in a popular, almost "pulpy," contemporary format.

Neither Lewis nor Tolkien had, to this point, managed any notewothy success in the publication of their fiction, and a large part of what Lewis was proposing was not simply the ingenious Space-travel/Time-travel complement, but an entirely new narrative approach to the one they had been taking: to present the large, mythical subject matter in which they were both keenly interested, but in a popular "thriller" format, primarily to achieve wider audience appeal and to improve prospects for publication.

In describing how this "thriller" element manifests itself in The Lost Road Rateliff notes the...
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intriguing situation of the opening, with its careful layering of clues and intrusion of ominous hints of momentous significance into a quiet, ordinary scene
and Tolkien's gradual inclusion of more..
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interpolated episodes, slowly building the pattern and bit by bit revealing the significance of key elements
(see Tolkien's Legendarium, 205)

And it occurs to me how easily such descriptions may as well be applied to the early chapters of LotR. The "thriller" aspect of its opening, with the careful rise-and-fall buildup of suspense and its bit-by-bit revelation of the ominous intrudng into the ordinary, is something which has always had great appeal for me (and is one of the elements which I think is most woefully lost in Peter Jackson's film adaptation). Indeed, the early chapters and the manifestations of the Black Riders have often put me in mind of Dracula, with Jonathan Harker's gradual realization of the monstrosity he has encountered. In fact, I would venture to say that it is the desire to achieve this "thriller" aspect which leads to the depictions of the Black Riders being so different from the Nazgûl which we later encounter (a point which has been remarked several times by others in the earlier chapters). Quite simply, a full-blown Nazgûl could not "intrude ominously" into an everyday scene, but would rather dominate it.

What I had not considered before was the extent to which Lewis and Tolkien's original "bargain" might still be influencing these chapters. Tolkien had certainly not abandoned The Lost Road when he began work on LotR, and he may very well have been still thinking in its terms. I was wondering whether others would agree with me, here, and whether, with the gaining of the safety of Crickhollow, whether the thriller component begins to fall away at this point.



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 6:23 pm 
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That was very interesting, Phibbus! Thank you for joining in. :) And mae govannen, as well! :wave:


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 2:31 pm 
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What a great observation, Phibbus! I read that essay of Rateliff's with much enjoyment, but I didn't really make the leap to applying those concepts to LOTR. I do think you are on to something, and that that conversation was definitely a major factor that led to Tolkien's ultimate success.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 4:02 pm 
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Excellent point! However, the "thriller" element is still very present at Crickhollow, in the Conspiracy of the chapter-title. All is not what it seems, not even your best friends.... (classic Hitchcock: everybody has a secret).

Tolkien frequently refers to John Buchan (The Thirty-Nine Steps), and it would be worth seeing if Buchan was his model for a 'thriller.' I note Tolkien used the term, much later, for the abortive New Shadow, also a tale of dark conspiracies.

I think though a further exploration would need looking at the early drafts, the "first phase," as opposed to the subsequent rewritings done when the narrative had already advanced to Rivendell and beyond. (Although of course Sam's spying necessarily couldn't have preceded the "third phase" when Sam was created).


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 9:57 pm 
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The Thirty-nine Steps is a GOOD thriller, and if anyone here hasn't read it, they ought. There are some now very UnPC bits, one has to ignore them, but the overall tension is excellent. It also has some of the same "rhythm" that solictr brings up from FOTR: danger, respite, danger, respite, etc., with each "beat" going higher.

It is also quintessentially English, just like LOTR. The sea-longing is strong in the Elves, as in the English. England, the blessed isle, is bounded by the sea, of course. Towers rise all along the coasts: watchtowers, lighthouses. Buchan's story depends on sea-clues.

For myself, I found it hard to "accept" the fellowship of the four Hobbits at first. It seemed, somehow, a bit forced, a plot device laid on a bit too thick. It took their adventures in the Shire, the Old Forest, in Bree, to make that fellowship real to me. If they had not been bonded before those events, they surely were afterwards. As for Fatty Bolger, he seemed like Frodo's alter ego, if you follow me. Yet, he had a part to play in The Scouring and was Fatty no more.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 10:10 pm 
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What a great post Phibbus! It is an extremely interesting read for me especially because I know so woefully little about pretty much everything to do with Tolkien's work (I've only lotr, sil, hobbit and ut tens of times-nothing else really).


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2008 9:40 pm 
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Turning back to the chapter, one thing that I would like to take a closer look at is the decision to enter the Old Forest. It seems like a very bad decision on its face. I understand that Frodo wanted to take drastic steps to avoid the Black Riders, and he certainly achieved that for a time, but it seems like there could have been a happy medium between blindly continuing along the Road like sitting ducks, and blindly entered into the unknown of the Old Forest. It seems to me that there was some other force at work here other than Frodo's (and the other hobbit's) free will that led them into the Old Forest. It seems to me that they were meant to enter the Old Forest, and require Old Tom's help, and encounter the barrowwight, and take something other than the "straight road" to get to Bree. Any thoughts about this?

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 06, 2008 2:49 am 
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It seems to me that they were meant to enter the Old Forest, and require Old Tom's help, and encounter the barrowwight, and take something other than the "straight road" to get to Bree. Any thoughts about this?


Absolutely. They were *meant* to do those things by the author, who really had no idea where he was going but had already invented all the elements of the Bomabadil-sequence in his poem ATB (first published 1934): ready-made plot.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 06, 2008 4:19 am 
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I was wondering who would come in here and say that. ;)

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 06, 2008 12:52 pm 
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But seriously, folks....

the Bombadil poem doesn't include one key element, indeed the key element of the next chapter- the Old Forest itself. Old Man Willow is there, certainly, but his environment isn't given; Bombadil originated as "the spirit of the vanishing Oxfordshire and Berkshire countryside," but that paradigmatically domesticated English landscape contains no Forest Primeval. It is true that the memorable description of the Withywindle owes a great deal, as Shippey points out, to the upper Thames near Oxford, but the Forest before then feels more like the Grimms' Schwartzwald or the Goths' ancient Mirkwudu.

I suppose further discussion of the Forest should wait until the next chapter. Here the question is the decision taken to enter it in the first place. It might be because jogging along the highway, 'adventures' are harder to come by. :) Really, though, I think it was because the Hobbits weren't yet ready to deal with Black Riders, the necessary 'threats' on the road. The next chapters reveal them to be pretty helpless, getting lost twice, nearly killed twice, and having to be rescued by Tom twice. Not unlike Bilbo and the Trolls, the parallel part of The Hobbit. Indeed the Barrow is the first step of Frodo's internal journey, his 'lost in the goblin-tunnels' moment-- but it's obvious that this Fearful Foursome still need a guide and protector.


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