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PostPosted: Sun Sep 14, 2008 4:20 pm 
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Much of what I am going to discuss comes from Hammond and Scull's A Reader's Companion. My reason is that there is some very good information from various sources (Shippey and Flieger in particular) that I feel offer some good insights into the chapter. Of course, the best insights come from those who have made meaning from themselves so I look forward to everyone's comments.

In discussing the nature of the Old Forest in in Letters on page 419 Tolkien states:
Quote:
"In all my works I take the part of trees as against all their enemies. Lothlórien is beautiful because there the trees were loved; elsewhere forest are represented as awakening to consciousness of themselves. The Old Forest was hostile to the two legged creatures because of the memory of many injuries."


I know how much Tolkien loved nature and trees in particular, and how the destruction of forest in England and in Europe in were viewed as a great loss by him. Yet on another way I have always felt there is a theme in LOTR that is on the loss of people and things to other people and things. I am thinking of the Dunlanders/Wildmen who fight against Rohan because of the injuries they have suffered at the hands of the people of Rohan. I think the Ents and their reduction of territory and the injuries inflicted on them and their forest by Saruman are another example that is related to the Old Forest here. The Southerners and their conflict with Gondor and the Numernorians there must have felt injured in the past and thus allied against Gondor with Sauron. Perhaps an exception are the Druedain who aid Théoden and his army who have suffered loss and reduction (injuries) at the hands of Numennorians (2nd Age) and of Gondor after its founding.

Verilyn Flieger points out in Taking the Part of Trees: Eco-Conflict in Middle-earth, J.R.R. Tolkien and His Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-earth that

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"it may come as something of a chock to be reminded that the first real villain to be met in LR is a tree. I except the Black Riders, since at this point in the narrative we have not met, but only seen and heard them. We do not know who or what they are or what they want (not sure I agree with this if one had read closely the Shadow of the Past a reader could connect the Black Riders to the Nine that Gandalf had mentioned or at least draw an inference to them). But we know more than enough about Old Man Willow. Huge, hostile, malicious (I love her description here), his trapping of Merry and Pippin in his willowy toils, his attempt to drown Frodo, give the hobbits their first major setback, and come uncomfortably close to ending their journey before it has properly started. [p. 148]


Though I may not agree that a reader may not know who the Black Riders are since a close reading combined with inference allows a reader to infer who they are, I do agree with her that the first real villain that they meet is a tree. I also like how on page 123 of A Reader's Companion the power and influence of Old Man Willow as "his song and thought ran through the woods on both sides of the river. His grey thirsty spirit drew power out of the earth and spread like the fine-root threads in the ground, and invisible twig fingers in the air, till it had under its dominion nearly all the trees of the Forest from the Hedge to the Downs."

So it is Old Man Willow who when he learns of the intrusion of the hobbits into the Forest has the trees force paths that lead them to him. Malicious and hostile are indeed great descriptions of this living being.

An interesting side note is that the four hobbits here have Tinderboxes while Bilbo had matches. Perhaps matches were too expensive to have or as I have always said, matches are very unreliable on a journey (especially a hiking one) where as a tinderbox is much more reliable.

Hammond and Scull have a great discussion on page 128 of the names of Tom Bombadil and of their origin. Tom Bombadil is the name the hobbits of Buckland gave to him which to me implies that they were aware of him and of his presence in the Old Forest. I wonder if the hobbits blamed Tom Bombadil for the malice of the Old Forest and thus feared him, or was he just a myth that few had actual knowledge of like Farmer Maggot?

An answer is suggested in his Preface to The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book. "Tolkien suggests that the two Bombadil poems were written by hobbits in Buckland, and show that the Bucklanders knew Bombadil, though, no doubt, they had as little understanding of his powers as the Shire-Folk had of Gandalf's: both were regarded as benevolent persons, mysterious maybe and unpredictable but nonetheless comic." I wonder if Tom's view as being a benevolent person came from the episodes of the four hobbits here or if there were other experiences with other hobbits that led to this reputation?

Tom Shippey commenting on how Tom Bombadil's speech has a rhythm that suggests verse says:
Quote:
"does not yet seem to have discovered, or sunk into, prose. Much of what he says is printed by Tolkien as verse, but almost all of what he says can be read as verse, falling into strongly-marked two-stress phrases, with or without rhyme and alliteration, usually with feminine or unstressed endings . . . . The point is though that while we appreciate it as rhythmical (unlike prose), we also do not mark it as premeditated or artificial (unlike verse)."


"Shippey in J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century develops the theme further by suggesting that his voice and verse reflect his nearness to nature:
"He is a kind of exhalation of the earth, a nature-spirit . . . a highly English one: cheerful, noisy, unpretentious, to the point of shabbiness, extremely direct, apparently rather simple, not as simple as he looks. The fact that everything he says is in sort of verse, whether printed as verse or not, and that the hobbits too find themselves 'singing merrily, as if it was easier and more natural than talking', make him seen not an artist, but someone from an age before art and nature were distinguished, when magic needed no wizard's staff but came from words alone. Tolkien may have got the idea from the singing wizards of the Finnish epic the Kalevala, which he so much admired."

Of all the things stated here, I really love the notion, the idea that Tom goes back to a time when magic came from words alone, that words were power (which they are). There was no medium needed to channel magic or power. That is a very ancient notion and very powerful.

In terms to regarding Tom's nature Tolkien points out in Letters p. 192 in a draft to Peter Hastings "that although he is master of his natural little realm, Tom Bombadil hardly even judges, and as far as can be seen makes no effort to reform or remove even the Willow."

I find that interesting that even though in the text he threatens actions against Old Man Willow, Tom never takes action except to command the Willow to sleep and drink deep. How often do we want to change or remove something we don't find agreeable instead of finding a way to minimize it, yet leave it living on and continuing on?

Again, I took all of my info from A Reader's Companion but only because I really like many of the thoughts brought forth in their discussion.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 14, 2008 4:30 pm 
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Wow, that was an incredibly fast response to my invitation for someone to start a new thread! Great post, AJ; there is so much in there to respond to.

For now I'm going to leave both threads stickied in case there were comments that others wanted to make in the Conspiracy Unmasked thread.

I'll be back!

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:56 pm 
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does not yet seem to have discovered, or sunk into, prose. Much of what he says is printed by Tolkien as verse, but almost all of what he says can be read as verse,


An observation often true of Tolkien himself. A great deal of the Silmarillion is a form of prose poetry; the Ainulindalë is a free-verse epic hiding in prose orthography.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 20, 2008 3:10 pm 
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ArathornJax wrote:
Hammond and Scull have a great discussion on page 128 of the names of Tom Bombadil and of their origin. Tom Bombadil is the name the hobbits of Buckland gave to him which to me implies that they were aware of him and of his presence in the Old Forest. I wonder if the hobbits blamed Tom Bombadil for the malice of the Old Forest and thus feared him, or was he just a myth that few had actual knowledge of like Farmer Maggot?

An answer is suggested in his Preface to The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book. "Tolkien suggests that the two Bombadil poems were written by hobbits in Buckland, and show that the Bucklanders knew Bombadil, though, no doubt, they had as little understanding of his powers as the Shire-Folk had of Gandalf's: both were regarded as benevolent persons, mysterious maybe and unpredictable but nonetheless comic." I wonder if Tom's view as being a benevolent person came from the episodes of the four hobbits here or if there were other experiences with other hobbits that led to this reputation?


The text strongly suggests that the Hobbits are not aware of who Tom is. Just after the enter the Old Forest, Merry says, in response to Pippin's question as to whether it is only the trees that are dangerous:

'There are various queer things living deep in the Forest, and on the far side,' said Merry, 'or at least I have heard so; but I have never seen any of them. But something makes paths. Whenever one comes inside one finds open tracks, but they seem to shift and change from time to time in queer fashion.

It seems pretty clear that the "something makes paths" refers to Bombadil. (Which raises an interesting question; is Tolkien suggesting with the "they seem to shift and change" comment that Tom is a shape-changer like Beorn?) But it is equally clear that Merry does not know what it is that makes paths, that he is not aware of Tom's specific existence. And if Merry, as a scion of the Brandybuck family (and one with a very inquisitive nature) doesn't know, it is a good inference that it is not general knowledge. I would say only a few Hobbits like Maggot (or perhaps even just Maggot) are aware of Tom Bombadil's existence at the time Frodo and his companions encounter him.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 20, 2008 6:04 pm 
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Funny, Voronwë!
Voronwë wrote:
It seems pretty clear that the "something makes paths" refers to Bombadil.
I never thought that, for some reason; I always felt that it was the Forest itself making and unmaking paths. I am sure I was wrong, but that's the way it always seemed to me.

In the Old Forest two hobbits get a chance to show their mettle. First Merry leads all of them bravely in and bolsters their spirits along the way (until he falls into the Willowy clutches of the place); then Sam is the only one who does not fall fall under the sleeping spell -- good man! (I am, oddly, perhaps, reminded of the deadly red poppies that put Dorothy, Toto, and the Cowardly Lion to sleep just outside the Ozian version of an Old Forest. There, too, some loyal friends turn out to have less "drowsy" constitutions (the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow never sleep -- I always thought Sam was the Scarecrow of the crowd), and there, too, it takes a deus ex machina to rescue the sleepers.)

I am struck by how the struggle between hobbits and forest is described in terms one could apply to "Saruman/orcs vs. Fangorn," later. As Merry tells it, "In fact, long ago they [the trees] attacked the Hedge: they came and planted themselves right by it, and leaned over it. But the hobbits came and cut down hundreds of trees, and made a great bonfire in the Forest, and burned all the ground in a long strip east of the Hedge. After that the trees gave up the attack, but they became very unfriendly." So when Treebeard thinks Merry and Pippin might be orcses, he's not as far from the facts of the matter as we might assume!

And, finally, how alien to me is the hobbits' distrust of forests! And how strange that thick woods in Middle-earth are places where it is hard to breathe! Seems a nod to the European sense of the wild forest as a place good only for being abandoned by your stepmother; eaten by witches; torn apart by wolves. (When we were in Wales a few months ago, the sheep-farmer's Buddhist son-in-law explained that long ago the Welsh all traveled along the tops of the hills, to avoid the scary forests of the valleys -- another reminder that Things Change [woods vanish, woods become less scary, walking uphill becomes something to avoid, or rather driving takes over!])

Thanks to AJ for bringing in all that wonderful stuff from A Reader's Companion! I love the idea that the first enemy they encounter is a tree, but those scary riders (even if still shadowy, still in the wings) frightened me more than the grumpy old Willow, even as a child.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 20, 2008 7:08 pm 
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A trivial point, but one of the places the book has connected with me most strongly in years past is in the description of the hobbits' sleepiness under the influence of Old Man Willow. "Sleepiness seemed to be creeping out of the ground and up their legs, and falling out of the air upon their heads and eyes." I believe I lived in that state for about five years when my children were tiny. :P I could never read that passage without desperately wanting to go take a nap. (Which I usually couldn't do. :P )

But that's one of the qualities of LotR that raises it out of the run of ordinary tales of this kind: there is the adventure, the history, the grand acts of heroism, ancient evil, all these "large" matters; and there are the little details of the real world and how real people live in it, how it touches them, what they eat or what they smell or how they feel. Through those moments (usually hobbits' moments) I can live in Middle-earth. The heroes can't take me there, because I'm not one of them; but I can follow the hobbits, and see the great events through their eyes.

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 1:49 pm 
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Tolkien is oddly ambivalent when it comes to trees, or at least forests. While he objected to the phrase "Tolkien gloom" as applied to woods, there is a definite strain from earliest days which regards trees en masse- forests- as places of bewilderment, danger, and often hostility. In the Lost Tales the 'mazes' of Artanor (Doriath) are the reason the Ilkorindi (Sindar) miss the boat (Tinwelint/Thingol was not yet their king); and Artanor/Doriath remains a hostile place, at least to outsiders, even before Tolkien invented the Girdle of Melian. Young Túrin and his guides are lost and nearly starved to death. And the other forest in the Lost Tales? Taur nu-Fuin: yes, it was supposedly wholesome before the Bragollach, but T never has anything to say about it before it went dark.

Then we have Mirkwood in the Hobbit; and later in LR there is Fangorn and even Lórien: places of confusion and sudden death to intruders. So the Old Forest is I think a *typical* Tolkien forest: bewildering, a place of mazes, possessed of a certain sentience which is or can be malicious- and guarding a secret at its core. Two in fact: Willowman and Bombadil.

Tolkien I think did have a feeling for forests (not individual trees) as manifestations of untamed and very mighty Nature, both awful and dangerous (in the way many authors view the Sea, but not, apparently, Tolkien). I have no doubt that something of the sort was in the back of his brain when he penned Gandalf's and Gimli's exchange about dangerousness in Fangorn. Birnham Wood *had* to march upon high Dunsinane: and not really because it was 'on anybody's side.'

I suppose pop psychologists could play with the little boy from the veldt encountering the woods of Moseley Bog....


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2008 12:12 am 
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There really is remarkably little to say about the history of this chapter. There is some preliminary sketching that indicates that the hobbits first encounter with Tom Bombadil was supposed to be brief, and that they would not be his guests until after their escape from the Barrow. Christopher indicates that there is no real drafting of this version, however. He adds that the earliest extant text of the chapter "looks like composition ab initio, with many words and sentences and even whole pages rejected and replaced at the time of writing. ... It is then remarkable that this text reaches at a stroke the narrative as published in FR (Chapter 6, 'The Old forest'), with only the most minor differences -- other than the different cast of characters (largely a matter of names) and different attribution of 'parts', and often and for substantial stretches with almost exactly the wording of the final form."

One more point from Shippey, by way of Hammond and Scull, to supplement the excellent points that AJ brought to our attention earlier (I would particularly be interested in exploring further, in the next chapter, the idea that everything that Bombadil says can be read as verse.
After pointing out that the description of the scene in which the Willow-Man appears is depicted in Tolkien's drawing Old Man Willow, they cite Shippey as noting in Author of the Century "only a short walk from his home in Northmoor road, Oxford Tolkien 'would have seen virtually the same sight: the slow, muddy lazy river fringed with willows. The real river, the one that flows in the Thames at Oxford, is the Cherwell'."

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 25, 2008 3:51 am 
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I guess its time to move on to the next chapter. If anyone is even paying attention.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 25, 2008 5:09 am 
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I think the election is really distracting people right now, at least in this country. And there's a major moot right now.

Maybe just let things slow down? Pretty soon people will be looking around for everything they used to do.

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 25, 2008 8:46 pm 
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I agree with Prim. In fact, I haven't even finished reading this chapter yet.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 25, 2008 8:50 pm 
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Well get on it then.

;)

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:D

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 01, 2008 12:20 am 
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I'm ready to move on, and to be back on a more regular basis . . . should I be quick and nimble (sorry, if you really knew me you would know I am not nimble!).

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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: Sat Nov 01, 2008 12:23 am 
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I'm sure that there is more to be said about this chapter, but there is no reason why we can't start discussing the next chapter as well. If you, AJ, or anyone else, wants to start a new thread go for it. Or perhaps I will. :)

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 01, 2008 12:50 am 
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I suspect until Tueday or so there won't be much oxygen for non-political threads.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 01, 2008 12:57 am 
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Fortunately, Tuesday is right around the corner.

Thank Eru!

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 3:22 pm 
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I picked up LOTR again a few days ago and happen to be on this chapter.


Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
ArathornJax wrote:
Hammond and Scull have a great discussion on page 128 of the names of Tom Bombadil and of their origin. Tom Bombadil is the name the hobbits of Buckland gave to him which to me implies that they were aware of him and of his presence in the Old Forest. I wonder if the hobbits blamed Tom Bombadil for the malice of the Old Forest and thus feared him, or was he just a myth that few had actual knowledge of like Farmer Maggot?

An answer is suggested in his Preface to The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book. "Tolkien suggests that the two Bombadil poems were written by hobbits in Buckland, and show that the Bucklanders knew Bombadil, though, no doubt, they had as little understanding of his powers as the Shire-Folk had of Gandalf's: both were regarded as benevolent persons, mysterious maybe and unpredictable but nonetheless comic." I wonder if Tom's view as being a benevolent person came from the episodes of the four hobbits here or if there were other experiences with other hobbits that led to this reputation?


The text strongly suggests that the Hobbits are not aware of who Tom is. Just after the enter the Old Forest, Merry says, in response to Pippin's question as to whether it is only the trees that are dangerous:

'There are various queer things living deep in the Forest, and on the far side,' said Merry, 'or at least I have heard so; but I have never seen any of them. But something makes paths. Whenever one comes inside one finds open tracks, but they seem to shift and change from time to time in queer fashion.

It seems pretty clear that the "something makes paths" refers to Bombadil. (Which raises an interesting question; is Tolkien suggesting with the "they seem to shift and change" comment that Tom is a shape-changer like Beorn?) But it is equally clear that Merry does not know what it is that makes paths, that he is not aware of Tom's specific existence. And if Merry, as a scion of the Brandybuck family (and one with a very inquisitive nature) doesn't know, it is a good inference that it is not general knowledge. I would say only a few Hobbits like Maggot (or perhaps even just Maggot) are aware of Tom Bombadil's existence at the time Frodo and his companions encounter him.


I think that pretty much sums it up. I will add however the hobbits fascination with gossip or telling old stories. Like the "jools" in Bag End.
I think the story of Tom may be somewhat on par with that. There is a grain of truth to the story, but short of actually knowing the whole truth, the story tends to fill itself in. Like Fatty's nurses did. No I don't believe there were many if any beyond Maggot who were specifically aware of Tom's existance. Not in the Shire anyway. Maybe in Bree.

When Tolkien wrote "something makes paths", I took it as a literary device foreshadowing future events. Well in retrospect anyway. ;)
Yes I definitely think he was referring to Tom.

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In the published book, Old Man Willow seems to be simply a malevolent tree (possibly a huorn?); but in earlier versions of the text, he is actually an evil spirit (Possibly a fallen maia?) who is trapped in the body of an ancient tree.

From HoME vol. 6:
Quote:
Amongst his talk there was here and there much said of Old Man Willow, and Merry learned enough to content him (more than enough, for it was not comfortable lore), though not enough for him to understand how that grey thirsty earth-bound spirit had become imprisoned in the greatest Willow of the Forest. The tree did not die, though its heart went rotten, while the malice of the Old Man drew power out of earth and water, and spread like a net, like fine root-threads in the ground, and invisible twig-fingers in the air, till it had infected or subjugated nearly all the trees on both sides of the valley.


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I'm really glad that we decided to keep the chapters in separate threads so that people could easily go back and comment on them. I enjoy the comments immensely.

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