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PostPosted: Thu Dec 11, 2008 3:18 am 
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Nice post, AJ. You've touched on a number of points that I wanted to address. I really like the way Tolkien sets up Frodo's capture, with the initial disappearance of his companions, their calling "help!" from a distance, the increasing darkness, and most of all his "where are you" repeated twice, with the second time garnering the chilling response that you quoted above.

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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.


I agree that is very important. The hardening of his resolve here is a real turning point. But there is yet another parallel that just occurred to me that I had not thought of before. Frodo resists here to the limit of his strength (and even then some). But ultimately that is not enough. Just as eventually he resists the Ring to the limit of his strength, but in the end, that too is not enough. But he (and the quest) is saved by the working of providence, when Gollum attacks him, steals the Ring, and falls into the Fire. Here, he is saved by Tom, who is conveniently available to save the Hobbits again. I mentioned this in passing, I think, in the last thread. How is that Tom is available to save the day after "a long slow moment?" One possibility is that he was the following the Hobbits and so was close by. But I discount that possibility. If he were following them and close by he would have simply protected them from the Barrow-wight in the first place. No, there is something else going on here, something inexplicable. Nothing provides more questions about Tom's nature than this passage, I believe, because it calls into question his very presence in the physical plane. When combined with the connection to Frodo's "dream" in the beginning of this chapter, well I won't say any more about what possibilities it leads me to think.

Tom's rhymes in this chapter are admirably in character; they still have that sing-songy quality that Prim finds so annoying. But it is the Wight's incantation that particularly impresses me

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Cold be hand and heart and bone,
and cold be sleep under stone
never more to wake on stony bed
never, till the Sun fails and the Moon is dead
In the black wind the stars shall die,
and still on gold here let them lie,
till the dark lord lifts his hand
over dead sea and withered land.


Absolutely chilling. I actually feel my own blood go cold when I read that. And very telling, too; it is clear that the Wight does have some connection to Sauron, however tenuous (probably through the Witch-King). Then there is Merry's hallucination (if that is what it is) upon waking, feeling the spear of the men of Carn Dum in his heart. Another item that makes little sense on the first read, but still adds both to the sense of depth and of mystery.

Holby, still waiting for your thoughts.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 11, 2008 1:20 pm 
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My understanding is the wights were brought into being by the Witch King, who reanimated the ancient kings and warriors after he founded Angmar.

I too find Tom annoying, but what understanding I have of him is he limits himself to the Old Forest, but is not necessarily limited to the Old Forest. One thing to consider is he may very well have allowed the hobbits to be captured. It would prove to be a test of their strengths and weaknesses. In addition, a success over death may have been a necessary experience to prepare them for the coming trials. Also, the weapons obtained may have had great signifigance for them afterwards.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 11, 2008 2:31 pm 
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Tolkien here continues to show off his evocatively descriptive writing, which also returns, elegaically, to T's favorite theme of old tales, and the hobbits' dawning (or reawakening) awareness of the wider world.

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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.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 11, 2008 3:54 pm 
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Folca wrote:
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'm glad I'm not the only one. :) I did try to read the Hobbit once or twice as a young child (probably 9 or so and maybe then a few years later). I couldn't get into it, which was odd because I very much liked fantasy/sci fi books. Who knows? I did read it after I read LotR, and I still did not enjoy it nearly as much. (The Sil is my favorite, actually.)

So, like you, I mostly lurk here, read, learn, and try to comment when I feel I can. I thoroughly enjoy reading what everyone here has to say--scholar or not. You don't have to be a scholar to have an insight into something or have something interesting to say.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 11, 2008 4:07 pm 
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I could have written much of your post myself, Lali. Thanks.

The wights scare me. (And the wight's rhyme is one of Tolkien's very best.) Tolkien is most frightening when we know least about what we're seeing—when we only have hints. Sauron has more power because we never see him. The wights, like the Watcher in the Water and the three-headed guards of the fortress of Cirith Ungol, draw a lot of energy from the dark unknown bits at the edge of Middle-earth, and for my money are more frightening and work better as threats than other, more powerful beings that are carefully explained.

At least, that's how it works for me. The Black Rider that drops from his horse while Frodo watches from hiding, and then starts crawling toward him, sniffing, scares me more than the Witch-King openly showing his power on the field of Pelennor. The more we learn about the Nazgûl, the less frightening they seem: the terror they inspire has to be described to me, because otherwise I don't feel it. (Well, except his threat to Éowyn, which we will get to later—there Tolkien again touches on the mysterious, on things we haven't seen, on the horror of being in the presence of Sauron—and I feel it.)

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 11, 2008 5:21 pm 
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Folca wrote:
My understanding is the wights were brought into being by the Witch King, who reanimated the ancient kings and warriors after he founded Angmar.


So far as I know, Tolkien never made this clear. Shippey speculates about the nature of the wights in a great essay printed in Roots and Branches called "Orcs, Wraiths, Wights: Tolkien's Images of Evil." He points out that while the most obvious answer is that they are what are called in Old Norse draugrs -- animated corpses that haunt the barrow in which they buried, and especially the treasure in the barrow -- the problem with that theory is that it was the men of Westernesse who were buried in the barrows. He points to Merry's "spear in my heart" speech as evidence that the wight seemed to be "trying to relive an earlier triumph, by turning the hobbits once again into the people buried in the barrow" and then killing them again. Shippey points out that if in fact the wight was a reanimated corpse that had been buried in the barrow, that would indicate that "in death a foe of the Dark Lord had been turned into one of his allies, if not servants," a rather disturbing notion. "Alternatively, the wight is just an alien power, perhaps created by the spells of Angmar, which has made its way into the barrow; in that case it seems that persecution can be carried beyond the rave,to be visited on the person whose spirit is briefly reanimated in Merry." As Shippey points out, either alternative has rather disturbing connotations: "both of them suggest that there are some things not accountable by Lewisite or Boethian philosophy."

We see yet again that Tolkien's work is deeper and more complex than it seems at first blush, particularly in his portrayal of good and evil.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 11, 2008 8:14 pm 
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In 'The Hunt for the Ring' (or one version of it), the W-K is described as stirring up the Barrow-wights, which he had sent there long ago when he ruled in Angmar. I don't think that the implication is that he created them, but rather that they were evil spirits he summoned from some dark place.

This would fit in with the concept of Sauronian sorcery (of which the W-K of course was an adept) as having a great deal to do with necromancy.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:48 am 
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You're right. I had forgotten that. As had Shippey, perhaps.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 6:54 am 
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Voronwë you nailed the concept that I wanted to expand upon, the notion that Frodo finally would only be freed by mercy and grace and thus would need a some form of assistance to acccomplish his quest at Sammath Nurn. Here again we see the best of the Hobbits and yet he also cannot fail to give in to the temptation of evil when it finally overcomes him.

I also have to state that the other image tha sticks with me is the image of Tom holding up the jewelry from that long forgotten Queen and how Goldberry will wear it now and they will think upon her. This is a notion that has ever stuck with me, the notion that as long as someone remembers us and who we were, we live on. However, in the long run, who remembers us? Are deeds in life are so short, so swiftly flowing that I think we must remember the finer things in life. Loved ones, family and friends, a good meal, a good drink, and the enjoyment of interaction with each other. This is one reason I feel the four Hobbits are so important in the story. They represent that very image.

The other one is how it is Frodo who is able to summon the courage to call on Tom and become free of the barrow and the Wight. In many ways this shows that Frodo is indeed special when compared to the other three hobbits who represent different aspects of hobbit society. Yes, Frodo is special, unique, a hobbit among hobbits. Yet where much is given, much will be expected.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:16 pm 
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Lalaith-I agree, the best thing about this forum is the impressive number of concise thinking minds all collected together. It is far more enjoyable to read than the average forum, and I even enjoy getting put in my place here far more than anywhere else in my life because most are so kind about it.

Prim-I think you nailed it as I see it too. ("Tolkien is most frightening when we know least about what we're seeing—when we only have hints. Sauron has more power because we never see him. The wights, like the Watcher in the Water and the three-headed guards of the fortress of Cirith Ungol, draw a lot of energy from the dark unknown bits at the edge of Middle-earth, and for my money are more frightening and work better as threats than other, more powerful beings that are carefully explained.")

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 3:35 pm 
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What a lovely thing to say, Folca. Thank you. :)

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 13, 2008 5:30 am 
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Well, you guys earned it, usually on a daily basis when I bother to keep up with things here.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 1:01 am 
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Primula Baggins wrote:
And the wight's rhyme is one of Tolkien's very best)


Hammond and Scull note that the incantation "recalls the oath of the Orcs of Morgoth in The Lay of Leithian:

Death to light, to law, to love!
Cursed be moon and stars above!
May darkness everlasting old
that waits outside in surges cold
drown Manwë, Varda, and the sun!
May all in hatred be begun
and all in evil ended be,
in the moaning of the endless Sea!


They are right; it is similar. But the wights incantation is more powerful.

They also state that the line in Tom's song that drives the wight out "darker than the darkness, /Where gates stand forever shut, till the world is mended" is "[p]erhaps an allusion to the state of affairs at the end of the Quenta Silmarillion. They then quote the last paragraph of the version of the Quenta printed in the published Silmarillion about Morgoth being "thrust through the Door of Night beyond the Walls of the World, into the Timeless Void" but that the evil that he sowed ever bearing fruit. Much as I respect Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond, I think they are mistaken here. I think that Tom's lines actually is an allusion to the state of affairs at the end of the Quenta Silmarillion AS TOLKIEN WROTE IT, not as it was published by Christopher Tolkien. The line "till the world is mended" is a clear allusion to the Second Prophecy of Mandos, which describes Melkor's return and final defeat, and the healing (or mending) of Arda. In fact, the inclusion of this line here (as well as a similar statement made by Galadriel to Treebeard) is one of the many pieces of evidence that I point to in arguing that Christopher was mistaken in removing the Second Prophecy (since one of his goals was consistency with the already published works).

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 7:29 pm 
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Well, I don't think this allusion is really evidence either way- but of course it's be wholly unsurprising that it fits with the end of QS, which had only been written very recently at the time (after the return of the manuscript from A&U in late '37; this chapter dates from perhaps the spring of 1939).

We've discussd this before-- while there is no clear, knockdown case to be made my opinion, as you know, is that the Second Prophecy as it was written in 1930 and (modestly) amended 37-38 could not have remained as it stood in light of the 1950's writing. That Arda Remade was a fundamental concept right through to the end does not by itself argue for the preservation, intact, of the SPM as a whole.

But there of course is little doubt that when this chapter was written (and it was never subsequently revised significantly) it was consonant with Tolkien's then conception.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 7:52 pm 
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The second prophecy was also significantly amended in the later Quenta revisions of the early fifties, soli (while the bulk of it was permitted to stand). That's the primary evidence that I rely on that it was not Tolkien's decision to abandon it.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 30, 2008 3:58 am 
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It looks like it might be time to move on again, yes? Although I still would like to hear Holby's thoughts on this chapter, which he had talked about posting. I hope he will share them, even if we do move on to the next chapter.

As always, if anyone feels inspired to start the next thread, please go for it. If no one does so before I feel inspired to do so, I will.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:02 pm 
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Just passing through. Though I know the movies are a sore point, they did use part of the barrow wight's poem in TTT. Gollum recites part of it when he is talking to Frodo. Shocked me when I recognized it.

This chapter also conveys that sense of a larger and older world than that of the hobbits.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:09 pm 
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I don't think the movies are a sore point here Andreth. Most of us loved them, to varying degrees.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:57 pm 
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Andreth wrote:
Just passing through. Though I know the movies are a sore point, they did use part of the barrow-wight's poem in TTT. Gollum recites part of it when he is talking to Frodo. Shocked me when I recognized it.


Here is the film passage, for comparison (taken from an online transcript). There are two lines taken from the Barrow-wight's poem. The first has had the word order changed (here underlined); the other changes a few more words (here italicized):

Quote:
F: Gandalf told me you were one of the River Folk.
G: Cold be heart and hand and bone. And cold be travellers far from home.
F: He said your life was a sad story.
G: They do not see what lies ahead when sun has failed and moon is dead.
F: You were not so different from a Hobbit once, were you... Sméagol?


At about this point in the book, Gollum recites a different poem with a few faint echoes of the wight's chant. It begins: "The cold hard lands, / they bites our hands, / they gnaws our feet."


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2009 4:52 pm 
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Alatar wrote:
I don't think the movies are a sore point here Andreth. Most of us loved them, to varying degrees.


As long as this discussion remains mostly focused on the book, there is nothing wrong with including some allusions to the films.

Thanks for including the specific comparison, Brigand. I can't understand why they felt the need to change the word order of "Cold be hand and heart and bone." It's a nice nod to the missing Wight section, but the isolated and distorted lines don't capture much of the power of the original.

IMHO.

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