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PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 7:49 pm 
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This is one of my very favorite chapters. I found (and continue to find) the Barrow-wight to be much more creepy and menacing than what we have seen thus far of the Black Riders. Which is funny because the Barrow-wight was originally created in the silly "Adventures of Tom Bombadil" poem (not one of my favorite pieces of Tolkien's writings, I must admit). But the writing in this chapter is some of the most successfully atmospheric of all of Tolkien's prose, hitting (with one small exception) all the right notes for me.

The Wight is in a way the evil equivalent of Tom Bombadil. Like with Tom (and unlike the Black Riders), we never really learn what exactly the wights are. That mystery adds greatly to their creepy sense of menace.

The chapter opens with one of Tolkien's greatest and most enduring images:

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That night they heard no noises. But either in his dreams or out of them, he could not tell which, Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind; a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to glass and silver, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise.

The vision melted into waking; and there was Tom whistling like a tree-full of birds; and the sun was already slanting down the hill and through the open window. Outside everything was green and pale gold.


I wish to take a moment to ponder this image anew. They heard no noises, yet Frodo heard in his head "in his dreams or out of them" the sound of sweet singing. Note that Tolkien does not state that Frodo sees the image that he then describes; it is the song itself that seems "to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to glass and silver, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise." Then the vision "melted into waking" even though Tolkien made a point of saying Frodo could not tell whether the singing was "in his dreams or out of them." And there is Tom, "whistling like a tree-full of birds". Can there be any doubt that this image -- which of course presages Frodo journey West along the Straight Road at the end of the tale -- comes from Tom himself? Note also that Tolkien makes a point of adding that "everything outside was green and pale gold." That sounds suspiciously like the "far green country ... under a swift sunrise." Could it be that Tom's House, and his little land, is in some unexplained way a part of the Undying Lands, and that is why Tom will not leave it? Something to think about.

In fact, rather than getting into the details of the rest of the chapter, I'm going to pause there and give y'all a chance to ponder it with me. :)

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Last edited by Voronwë the Faithful on Thu Jan 15, 2009 10:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2008 2:32 am 
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Beautiful thoughts, Voronwë! I'm sure I missed that part about the vision being an auditory one. When you put it that way, it puts me in mind of the creation of Arda by the singing of Ilúvatar and the Valar. It's a neat parallel.

I always felt that Tom was somehow a part of that vision but probably never put it together the way you did.

I was going to say that this is one of my favorite chapters, too. Having seen the movie first, as I've said before, Tom and the Barrow-wights were a complete surprise to me. I found the wights really terrifying--more so than the Black Riders had been at that point.

(It's a sort of delicious creepiness. You read it and shudder but thrill to that horror.)


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2008 4:00 am 
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Lali, for some reason, I did not realize that you had seen the movie first. I had assumed that you were a long time reader, because you obviously know the story well and care about it deeply. Yet more evidence that the films did serve to genuinely bring people into Tolkien's world.

You know, I had never specifically noticed the point about the vision being an auditory one (or if I had, I have forgotten doing so). The Music of the Ainur is a perfect analogy.

I definitely agree with your description of the wights being really terrifying, but also deliciously creepy. I would like to take a close look at the language of this chapter, because is so full of compelling imagery.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2008 9:36 am 
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Yes, this presaging of Frodo's journey to Valinor is a beautiful touch. It strikes me on every reading that Frodo is given some foresight in his dreams. He dreams also of the towers on the White Downs, from whence one can see the sea and the elvish havens. Like a fresh breeze these visions come to him in his dreams almost as a promise of goodness to come.

Also, today, watching RoTK extended edition, I heard: "...a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise..." in Gandalf's mouth, as he and Pippin sat on the steps in Minas Tirith. Pippin said he had not expected that it would all end like this...and Gandalf said that death is not the end. That he would come to white shores, and beyond...a far green country..."

I found it interesting that PJ used that quote here (I recognised its source) because he was equating Valinor with the place to which Men (and Hobbits?) go after death. Not quite right, but still.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2008 2:49 pm 
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Yes, I know that some purists hated that, but I thought it was lovely, even if it wasn't quite right.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2008 3:29 pm 
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I thought it fit. He was trying to give hope to Pippin, even though Gandalf himself knows nothing about what lies ahead for men and hobbits after they leave the circles of the world. But he trusts that it's a good thing, and so it makes sense to me that he would describe it in terms of the most beautiful and peaceful place he's ever seen.

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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: Sat Dec 06, 2008 7:36 pm 
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Moving on in the text of the chapter in question, what follows this iconic moment is what I consider the one clunker in the chapter:

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They rode off along a path that wound away from behind the house, and went slanting up towards the north end of the hill-brow under which it sheltered. They had just dismounted to lead their ponies up the last steep slope, when suddenly Frodo stopped.
"Goldberry!" he cried. "My fair lady, clad all in silver green! We have never said farewell to her, nor seen her since the evening!"


I don't mind Frodo being distressed at not having said goodbye to Goldberry, but his "My fair lady, clad all in silver green!" always strikes me as a false note. Even an "elf-friend" hobbit like Frodo would not say that like that. It is one of the most out-of-character moments in the book, and one that simply doesn't work for me, even as a way of showing how other-worldly Tom and Goldberry and their little land is. It takes me out of the story every time.

But it quickly recaptures its stride, as soon as she waves her arm and bids them to look around.

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It was now as clear and far-seen as it had been veiled and misty when they stood upon the knoll in the Forest, which could now be seen rising pale and green out of the dark trees in the West. In that direction the land rose in wooded ridges, green, yellow, russet under the sun, beyond which lay hidden the valley of the Brandywine. To the South, over the line of the Withywindle, there was a distant glint like pale glass where the Brandywine River made a great loop in the lowlands and flowed away out of the knowledge of the hobbits. Northward beyond the dwindling downs the land ran away in flats and swellings of grey and green and pale earth-colours, until it faded into a featureless and shadowy distance. Eastward the Barrow-downs rose, ridge behind ridge into the morning, and vanished out of eyesight into a guess: it was no more than a guess of blue and a remote white glimmer blending with the hem of the sky, but it spoke to them, out of memory and old tales, of the high and distant mountains.


This is Tolkien at his very best. Setting the scene with descriptive language so vivid that it makes you feel like you are looking out from the top of the hill-top with our hobbit-friends. Yet setting the scene for what is to come with an air of mystery and suspense: "Eastward the Barrow-downs rose, ridge behind ridge into the morning, and vanished out of eyesight into a guess: it was no more than a guess of blue and a remote white glimmer blending with the hem of the sky, but it spoke to them, out of memory and old tales, of the high and distant mountains." Anyone who reads that sentence and tries to tell me that it wasn't written by a truly great writer is just plain crazy. Passages like this remind me of why I am able to read this book scores of times and never get tired of it.

I love how the hobbits feel so inspired by these sights, and the fresh air that surrounds them, and how Goldberry gently brings them back to (Middle-)earth, reminding them of the importance of keeping to their path. And Frodo's response to her final salutation, "Farewell, Elf-friend, it was a merry meeting!" -- which is to say, his inability to find any response at all except to bow -- is as pitch-perfect as his initial comment is off-base.

The hobbits continue along up and down hills, through a tree-less and and water-less land. They seem to be making better-than-expected progress, with a hopeful view of a line of trees that marks the road they are aiming for. But they also see a disquieting view of hills "crowned with green mounds, and on some were standing stones, pointing upwards like jagged teeth out of green gums." So they turn away from that view and stop for a rest and a meal in a hollow circle, in the midst of which there was a "single stone, standing tall under the sun above, and at this hour casting no shadow. It was shapeless and yet significant: like a landmark, or a guarding finger, or more like a warning."

And there they take a fateful nap, that they never meant to take. Once again Tolkien language is so compelling:

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Riding over the hills, and eating their fill, the warm sun and the scent of turf, lying a little too long, stretching out their legs and looking at the sky above their noses: these things are, perhaps, enough to explain what happened. However, that may be: they woke suddenly and uncomfortably from a sleep they had never meant to take. The standing stone was cold, and it cast a long pale shadow that stretched eastward over them. The sun, a pale and watery yellow, was gleaming through the mist just above the west wall of the hollow in which they lay; north, south, and east, beyond the wall the fog was thick, cold and white. The air was silent, heavy and chill. Their ponies were standing crowded together with their heads down.


I love the sense of foreboding that the cold standing stone and its long pale shadow, and the mist hanging just above them, and the fog all around them. One just knows that something terrible is about to happen, something that is their own fault, and yet not not their fault, caused by their own negligent disregard of circumstances, but yet clearly already under the mysterious and foreboding influence of something.

That should be enough to talk about for now. I did say that I wanted to look at the text of this chapter in depth.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2008 8:08 pm 
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This is definitely a favorite sequence for me. I love not only the vividness and beauty of Tolkien's description of the view from the hilltop, but also the sheer geography of it—I like to unfold the map and look at it while reading this scene. And there are places the hobbits have been, shrunk small as if to demonstrate their real place in the world; and ahead are hints and mysteries.

Frodo's words about Goldberry do bother me, too, but it's because Frodo is breaking into Tom's speech rhythms, which as I've said I don't much like. Tom's rhythms and therefore, necessarily, some of his ornate phrasing.

I don't like language that does not fit naturally into the rhythm in which it's written. It feels tortured. For me that problem obscured the fact that, yes, this is also an out-of-character moment for Frodo.

Nevertheless, it's one moment in a marvelous chapter.

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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: Sat Dec 06, 2008 8:17 pm 
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I gotta be honest and unpopular. The whole Old Forest/Bombadil segment never really did it for me. It did broaden the context and set things up for later - sort of a Encounters with Nazgûl and Dealing with Ents 101, and it's sort of a gateway out of the idyllic Shire and into a darker and messier real world - but it's one thing to understand the necessity and another to enjoy it. It just seemed, I don't know, silly in the way it's presented. Like something out of a children's book. Would have worked if LOTR was in the same tone as The Hobbit, but it's not.

Anyway...
Quote:
That night they heard no noises. But either in his dreams or out of them, he could not tell which, Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind; a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to glass and silver, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise.

The vision melted into waking; and there was Tom whistling like a tree-full of birds; and the sun was already slanting down the hill and through the open window. Outside everything was green and pale gold.

I keep forgetting about the auditory part of that vision. Like just about everyone else, I've always read it as a preview to the passage to Valinor (which is a rest stop for mortal souls on their way out of the world, so it's not as if there's any inaccuracy in saying dead Men and Hobbits go to Valinor). But now, looking at it again, with the music and all, it strikes me more as a vision of the Middle Earth creation myth than a dream before dying. Taken from that view, the Old Forest and Bombadil turn even more into living fossils, the last vestiges of an earlier world. Which makes me appreciate the whole section a bit more but I still don't love it the way so many others do.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2008 9:17 pm 
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Primula Baggins wrote:
Frodo's words about Goldberry do bother me, too, but it's because Frodo is breaking into Tom's speech rhythms, which as I've said I don't much like. Tom's rhythms and therefore, necessarily, some of his ornate phrasing.

I don't like language that does not fit naturally into the rhythm in which it's written. It feels tortured. For me that problem obscured the fact that, yes, this is also an out-of-character moment for Frodo.


I think you have well-defined why it doesn't work for me, Prim, even though I do like Tom's speech rhythms when they are done by Tom. This sounds too much like Frodo trying too hard to sound like Tom, which he would not do if he was genuinely distressed.

River wrote:
I gotta be honest and unpopular. The whole Old Forest/Bombadil segment never really did it for me. It did broaden the context and set things up for later - sort of a Encounters with Nazgûl and Dealing with Ents 101, and it's sort of a gateway out of the idyllic Shire and into a darker and messier real world - but it's one thing to understand the necessity and another to enjoy it. It just seemed, I don't know, silly in the way it's presented. Like something out of a children's book. Would have worked if LOTR was in the same tone as The Hobbit, but it's not.


I don't think that is an unpopular view, River. I think quite a view people feel that way about Bombadil and the Old Forest. It is in fact to a large extent a remnant from the time that LOTR was much more of a sequel to The Hobbit with the same kind of tone.

But I'm curious to know whether you classify this chapter together with the previous too. To me it has a very distinctly different feel to it, even though Tom does figure strongly in it at the end.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2008 11:47 pm 
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I'll respond after I've taken a second look at the chapters (ie, in the hours after I get home). But I'm not ignoring the question.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 07, 2008 1:34 am 
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Fair enough! :hug: (Although it wouldn't have occurred to me that you were ignoring the question, even if some time passed before you answered it!)

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 07, 2008 3:56 am 
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Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
Lali, for some reason, I did not realize that you had seen the movie first. I had assumed that you were a long time reader, because you obviously know the story well and care about it deeply. Yet more evidence that the films did serve to genuinely bring people into Tolkien's world.


I am a babe in the woods when it comes to the world of Tolkien, but I saw FotR and immediately came home and said, "I need to read these books." And I did. Every Tolkien book I could find! :)

(Of course, then, I was really annoyed by TTT! :rofl: )

Anyway, I also thought Gandalf using that line in the movie worked, even though it wasn't quite right.

I will also agree that Frodo's call to Goldberry feels out of place. (See, I don't think I stop enough to analyze things as I'm reading them. I felt that way but just kept moving on without stopping to ask why. I need to do that more often.)

But I do absorb the beauty of Tolkien's words here (and elsewhere) and his masterful weaving of his story--building the sense of foreboding, giving us the sweep of geography, helping us feel the weight of history on this place, etc.

Quote:
Riding over the hills, and eating their fill, the warm sun and the scent of turf, lying a little too long, stretching out their legs and looking at the sky above their noses: these things are, perhaps, enough to explain what happened. However, that may be: they woke suddenly and uncomfortably from a sleep they had never meant to take. The standing stone was cold, and it cast a long pale shadow that stretched eastward over them. The sun, a pale and watery yellow, was gleaming through the mist just above the west wall of the hollow in which they lay; north, south, and east, beyond the wall the fog was thick, cold and white. The air was silent, heavy and chill. Their ponies were standing crowded together with their heads down.


I definitely agree that this is just wonderful writing. :love:


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 07, 2008 5:47 am 
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I love your comments about the sounds in Frodo's vision, Voronwë!

The vision, like Tom (who is clearly connected to this vision one way or another), can't be said to be explicitly religious, the way the movie plays it. Indeed, it's more pagan (or nature-oriented) than the sort of spiritual story Gandalf tells: as if the message is to remember that the natural world is good and has a resiliency to it that resists and is removed from the shadow of evil.

The scene where the hobbits mess up their good fortune by eating too much for lunch and then falling asleep (did they learn nothing from their encounter with the nasty Willow?) really needs a bit of horror movie music in the background (in the vein of "Oh, dear, it's dark and raining. Should we stop at this ruined castle, dear, and ask about supper?" or "I think we must almost have escaped the werewolf by now, surely; let's stop and rest in this nice safe place....") Bad choice, bad choice! Suddenly we're in fog and trouble. One image I had retained from this chapter was the vivid, horrible picture of three pale hobbits, dressed up in white cloth and various "accessories" by the wight, and the naked sword lying across their throats. Ugh. It does however make a person want to know more about the wights' habits. (Did they grow up in families where Barbie dolls were forbidden?)

(It is a wonderful, chilling touch, I think, to have Merry wake up from his enchanted sleep haunted by memories that belong, properly, to some long-dead warrior and clutching for a moment at an invisible spear in his chest.)

But before Frodo remembers the handy fairytale-like rhyme that brings Tom Bombadil to the rescue, he does indeed have one of those moments of fortitude that marks him (1) as a hobbit, because hobbits are just plain harder-to-squash than most creatures, and (2) as a remarkably brave hobbit. He struggles with the Ring, manages to resist that temptation, and hacks off the creepy-crawly hand of an otherwise unseen monster. It's quite wonderful! (There's a moment I bet Peter Jackson regretted not being able to film: "As Frodo left the barrow for the last time he thought he saw a severed hand wriggling still, like a wounded spider, in a heap of fallen earth..." )

When Tom goes off to round up their wandering ponies, the hobbits have a nice healing (and naked) run about to warm up and then "bask" on the grass. Notice the description here:
Quote:
Then they lay basking in the sun with the delight of those that have been wafted suddenly from bitter winter to a friendly clime, or of people that, after being long ill and bedridden, wake one day to find that they are unexpectedly well and the day is again full of promise.
This book has quite a subtext of convalescence, doesn't it? I have to admit that (although this particular instance might be laying the healing on thick, seeing as they have just come from Tom's house, where they were ALREADY convalescing -- and as we know better than they, these poor hobbits haven't seen much real trouble yet) -- anyway, I have to admit the theme of convalescence never fails to touch a chord in me. I've often thought that if there were such a thing as heaven, we would all surely arrive there in a state of tears and grime -- weeping that life had to be so hard & sick to the marrow & sad. And then we'd convalesce.

And then Tom rides with them until almost within spitting distance of Bree, a town where he recommends The Prancing Pony, run by one Barliman Butterbur, a "worthy keeper." Time for me to trade in my brain for a new one -- I had completely forgotten that they got the name of Butterbur from Tom Bombadil.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 07, 2008 7:50 am 
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Convalescence . . . Yes. I had not reread this scene since really learning that feeling, and . . . yes. Like being reborn, like rediscovering one's hobbity toughness. Something you accomplish, and yet also a gift.

Our poor hobbits and their progression of effort, challenge, and suffering . . . That's something I remember loving about LotR when I hadn't the least idea of struggle or suffering (compared to the little I know about it now). It's as if Tolkien presents Frodo (and Sam) in particular with sort of a geometrically increasing burden, because they couldn't handle Mordor if they didn't start with Old Man Willow and the Barrow-Wights. And I don't know but what that isn't perfectly correct.

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


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 07, 2008 7:57 am 
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Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
But I'm curious to know whether you classify this chapter together with the previous too. To me it has a very distinctly different feel to it, even though Tom does figure strongly in it at the end.

Now that you point it out, it does have a somewhat different feel, but in my previous readings, I've always just lumped it with the two proceeding chapters as annoying, barely working, and an unfortunate necessity - Jackson did try to cut it out but he ran into a problem regarding Merry and the Witch-king later. Merry needed that special sword, forged to fight Nazgûl, and the only place he could have gotten it would have been in a wight's barrow or maybe Rivendell. But it seems more plausible that Merry would find it on his own rather than receive it as a gift from an elf-lord who barely understood his potential at their first meeting. Some of the weight of their undertaking does begin to fall here, but compared to what's coming it's still very...fluffy.

Teremia, there really is a pattern of go through hell, rest, go through more hell, rest, and so on through out the books, isn't there? But you know, real life is like that too. And it seems that, as the book carries on and the quest comes to its close, the moments of rest and healing are fewer and farther between. We start with the Shire, experience some Madness Lite, spend a night with Bombadil, experience some more Madness Lite, arrive in Bree, encounter Strider, move on to Madness, arrive in Rivendell, encounter Madness and Horror, relax in Lothlórien, and then from there the party splits and either way you cut it, there's not much recovery after that. A good meal and rest in Ithilien, some feasting in Edoras. Brief moments of relative shelter in Minas Tirith, but those are more like gearing up to enter a storm than resting. Well, Éowyn, Merry, and Faramir all get to relax a bit (as much as one can when you're waiting to see if the world will end or not), but that's because the fight chewed them up and spat them out before it was over.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 08, 2008 1:53 am 
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*sigh*

I have been waiting for this thread to start and now when it finally did you guys have all gone on a posting rampage. ;)
I am going to add some posts in here and I apologize if they backtrack some, but there are some points I want to hit on.

I'll be back.

I will say this on my way out that I am surprised the name Ulmo has not appeared in any of the responses.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 08, 2008 1:59 am 
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Feel free to backtrack all you want, Holby! I look forward to your comments.

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In general: I second the accolades for the picturesque descriptions written in this chapter (and others, especially Fangorn later). One of the best things of having never lost my imaginative side as I grew older is the vivid places that Tolkien creates to visit.

Lalaith: I too did not read LOTR until after viewing Fellowship. I did not enjoy The Hobbit when I read it at fourteen and it took another eight years and a movie to bring me full circle back to Tolkien (thankfully). In that regard one would consider the last few years of learning scant compared to a great many on this site, which is why I lurk here when I can.

I do wish the Barrow Downs was incorporated into the movie, but without any references to Bombadil.

The convalescence references are good parts. The pattern follows throughout the book it is true, but I have also noticed that it is nearly always tied to the consumption of food. The nice thing about this chapter is it references the sun and the environment as invigorating or even healing. I like the fact that in this instance the environment is working for the Hobbits instead of against them, as in much of the book.

One thing I particularly like is the progression of the Barrow Downs to menace. Initially they are described as green hills or ridges, but the closer the hobbits get, the more detailed the observations become the more the mood changes as their nature is revealed in layers until the cold tomb envelopes the Hobbits like a womb of death.

In reference to the early trials being preparatory for future ones, there is one other thing I'd like to mention. The experiences with the barrow wight and Old Man Willow quite possibly seemed like small things to the Hobbits who faced other trials later on. But from my limited experiences in life, if I myself merely survived a trial instead of conquering it without aid, I would rather face something new. If I knew what it actually felt like to be consumpted by an angry tree or the dread of inevitable doom at the icy grasp of a barrow wight I would rather face confront the possibility of being consumed by a hell hawk or face the Witch King in all his glory. From a personal perspective instead of a literary one, better to face the unknown than certain destruction, in my opinion.

_________________
"Ut Prosim"
"There are some things that it is better to begin than refuse, even though the end may be dark" Aragorn
"Those who commit honorable acts need no forgiveness"
http://killology.com/sheep_dog.htm


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 08, 2008 6:27 am 
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Aldrig nogen sinde Kvitte
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The ability of Tolkien to use descriptive language has been well commented on. One of the things I love about this chapter is not only the descriptive use of words and word play that goes on, but the later sense of danger and death that occurs with the Barrow-Wight. For me, the first time I read this chapter I actually feared for the four hobbits. I felt that they had come upon evil and though they escape, it foreshadows for me the danger that lies ahead.

For example, I love the following quotes from the chapter:

Quote:
"He (Frodo) imagined suddenly that he caught a muffled cry, adn he made towards it; and even as he went forward the mist was rolled up and thrust aside, adn the starry night was unveiled. A glance showed him that he was now facing southwards and was on a round hill-top, which he must have climbed from the north. Out of the east the bitting wind was blowing. To his right there loomed against the westward stars a dark black shape. A great barrow stood there."


It is evident of the influence of the Berkshire and Warwickshire Barrows on Tolkien from this chapter. Furthermore, this link shows both the concept of the fog on the downs and of the standing stones that Shippey in Author of the Century may refer to. Simply click on the link for The Barrow Downs at the upper right to see the images.

Quote:
"Here! said a voice, deep and cold, that seemed to come out of the ground. 'I am waiting for you!'
No! said Frodo; but he did not run away. his knees gave and he fell on the ground. Nothing happened, and there was no sound. Trembling he looked up, in time to see a tall dark figure like a shadow against the stars. It leaned over him. He thought there were two eyes, very cold though lit with a pale light that seemed to come from some remote distance. Then a grip stronger and colder than iron seized him. The icy touch froze his bones, and he remembered no more."


That paragraph brings shivers to me even now as I typed it. I noticed the grammar Tolkien used here to deliver his affect. For example "Trembling he looked up, (comma inserted for the pause but most readers don't pause here nor long enough for the affect to reach them) in time to see a tall dark figure like a shadow against the stars." Also the comma after "The icy touch froze his bones, and he remembered no more" really delivers a finality to what has happen to The Hobbits.

I'll touch on two other quick points that I think are very important here. One is the notion that Frodo is one of the best hobbits in all of the Shire, or according to Gandalf and Bilbo. I think this is seen here and is a foreshadow of what will happen to Frodo throughout the story. It also has significance since it is evident that Frodo knew that Bilbo and Gandalf thought this of him, for his feeling of failure for not destroying the ring in the end. More on that latter.

I also like that Bombadil provides some insight to the heirs of the Men of Westernesse and of their descendants and what they are doing. It really foreshadows the arrival of Strider/Aragorn in the next chapter. I wonder how many on their first reading picked up on that (I didn't).

I'll come back and add some thoughts later to the incident of the barrow because this is a very significant chapter. Frodo confronts evil and uses the means he has to resist and to overcome it with someone's help. Each of the hobbits including Merry receive a sword that is most significant since it is this sword that will stab the Witch King on the Field of Pelannor and allow Éowyn to slay the Witch King. A very fun chapter in terms that I think the tone changes in this chapter from one of adventure with a hint of danger to real danger becoming present and being foreshadowed that it will increase as the four go forward.

_________________
1. " . . . (we are ) too engrossed in thinking of everything as a preparation or training or making one fit -- for what? At any minute it is what we are and are doing, not what we plan to be and do that counts."

J.R.R. Tolkien in his 6 October 1940 letter to his son Michael Tolkien.

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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