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PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2009 9:25 pm 
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CHAPTER XII – FLIGHT TO THE FORD

I am going start us off for this chapter. I have not done the summary on this board, but if you feel I have left something important out, just say the word and I will amend this first post. This chapter is mostly traveling, heading to Rivendell. But some interesting things come about regarding the wraiths, the blades, the elf-stone of beryl, the effect of the blade on Frodo, the Trolls from Bilbo’s adventure, again there is more to Sam than meets the eye, the meeting with Glorfindel and the flight to the ford.

So we begin with Frodo having just been stabbed and Aragorn chasing off the wraiths.

Frodo wakens confused and Sam fills him in on what happened. Sam explains that they didn’t know what had happened, but stumbled over Frodo’s body. Sam again has doubts about Strider, because he has disappeared. Aragorn tries to reassure the Hobbits, but further alarms them, so it appears, then leaves yet again.

When he returns, he finds the cloak and blade that is notched. He tends Frodo with Athelas and the next day they leave Weathertop. They travel for five days to the river Hoarwell and the Hobbits can see the Loudwater, the Bruinen of Rivendell in the distance. Things go well, with the exception of Frodo starting to really feel the affect of his wound. Many days later, they come across the troll hole and we hear Sam sing again.

This actually covers quite a bit of information open to discussion, so I will stop here and pick up again when we are ready.


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PostPosted: Thu May 14, 2009 3:28 pm 
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Thanks for starting this thread, rwhen! I'll comment later on when I have more time. Meanwhile, hopefully some other folks with jump in. :poke:

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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 9:30 pm 
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Okay then, I am not the best at this, but I will start something and see if we can build on that.

On reading right off on the first page. Sam jumps up with his sword drawn when Strider returns, this is after Strider has run off the wraiths. Yet Sam is ready to protect Frodo. I like how Tolkien wrote Strider letting us all have the same feelings as the Hobbits do, we don't find out until they do about who he really is. Also, Strider pulls Sam aside and speaks of his concerns to Sam. Not to the group or Merry and Pippin. Do we think that Strider see's something in Sam?

Strider leaves again and when he returns he finds the blade and see's the notch in the blade. The group witnesses it melt/disappear and the anguish is obvious that is blade was evil. Notice here that Strider "sings over it a slow song in a strange tongue", no one says anything nor is anything made of it. Elvish? I should think so. Do we think he was trying to learn something about the blade with the song or was he trying to somehow make the hilt neutral?

This part also mentions where Frodo has a new awareness of the ring. That is that he did not follow his own desires, but was doing the biding of the enemy. Now for most of us this would cause the drizzles, but Frodo then worries about if he is going to be maimed for life, with the uselessness of the arm. Do we think that Frodo really "gets" what has happened to him, or what sort of control the "enemy" has over the ring?


I think that could be a good start. If it is too simplified, I am willing to follow any others lead.


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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 10:08 pm 
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rwhen wrote:
On reading right off on the first page. Sam jumps up with his sword drawn when Strider returns, this is after Strider has run off the wraiths. Yet Sam is ready to protect Frodo. I like how Tolkien wrote Strider letting us all have the same feelings as the Hobbits do, we don't find out until they do about who he really is. Also, Strider pulls Sam aside and speaks of his concerns to Sam. Not to the group or Merry and Pippin. Do we think that Strider see's something in Sam?


Yes, I think he sees Sam's love for Frodo. Not that Merry and Pippin don't love him as well, but Sam's love is on another level altogether, and is ultimately the most important "outside" factor that will allow Frodo to complete the quest (other than the "grace" that Frodo is granted as a result of his treatment of Gollum).

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Strider leaves again and when he returns he finds the blade and see's the notch in the blade. The group witnesses it melt/disappear and the anguish is obvious that is blade was evil. Notice here that Strider "sings over it a slow song in a strange tongue", no one says anything nor is anything made of it. Elvish? I should think so. Do we think he was trying to learn something about the blade with the song or was he trying to somehow make the hilt neutral?


I don't think we know just what it was that Aragorn was trying to do (or at least sitting here right now, I don't). But Tolkien is a master at leaving things like that open. As good as he is at telling us what is happening, many of his best passages are the result of his not telling us.

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This part also mentions where Frodo has a new awareness of the ring. That is that he did not follow his own desires, but was doing the biding of the enemy. Now for most of us this would cause the drizzles, but Frodo then worries about if he is going to be maimed for life, with the uselessness of the arm. Do we think that Frodo really "gets" what has happened to him, or what sort of control the "enemy" has over the ring?


I think Frodo turns to worry about his own fate because it is too much for him to ponder the Ring too much. This is, after all, quite early in his development of his new awareness of the Ring.

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I think that could be a good start. If it is too simplified, I am willing to follow any others lead.


I think it is a very good start, indeed. Not at all simplified. But of course, we can't make other people participate in the discussion; they have to want to.

I hope they do.

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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 10:46 pm 
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They do! <waves> Thank you for starting this chapter off, rwhen!

I agree, Voronwë, about some of the best passages being unexplained. But doesn't he also sing while healing someone later in the story? I've always thought both were ways of focusing his intentions, rather than spells, magic words. But when we see it here it deepens Strider's mystery.

Aragorn's story is not the center of LotR for me as it is for many others. But I find this mysterious Strider compelling: a man who may be good or may not, and who clearly knows a great deal about danger and evil things (probably more than decent folk should, Sam would think). That he himself is afraid, in a way, of the Black Riders makes them nine times more frightening.

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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: Tue May 19, 2009 10:53 pm 
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And, I think, makes it that much easier to believe in the goodness of this mysterious ranger.

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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 11:00 pm 
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Yes, although it's hardly an unmixed relief; if he's afraid of them, he's not confident that he can protect the hobbits from them. And indeed he doesn't, or at least not in time to save Frodo from harm.

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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 May 20, 2009 12:07 am 
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In Tolkien's stories, song is often associated with supernatural power.

Even the creation of his world was brought about through music.


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PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2009 1:19 am 
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Quite so, Tall one. Perhaps even more to the point is the battle of songs of power between Sauron and Finrod, that Sauron eventually won. I would say the best guess is that Aragorn was trying to contest the evil spells wound about the blade, and the wound that Frodo had incurred.

Indeed, Wayne and Christina point to an even better example from the story of Beren and Lúthien, quoting from the Lay of Leithian:

Then Huan came and bore a leaf,
Of all the herbs of healing chief,
that evergreen in woodland glade
there grew with broad and hoary blade

* * * *

Therewith the smart he swift allayed,
while Lúthien murmuring inthe shade
the staunching song that Elvish wives
long years had sung inthose sad lives
of war and weapons, wove o'er him

(The Lays of Beleriand, p. 266.)

As long as I've got Hammond & Scull open, I'll mention that they quote two otherwise unpublished letters that Tolkien wrote in 1963 (courtesy of Christopher Tolkien) in which he talks about the dramatic quality of the melting of the sword-blade and the fact that while he was of course familiar with Beowulf before he wrote LOTR, if he was influenced by the melting of the sword with which Beowulf kills Grendel's mother and cuts off Grendel's head it was an unconscious influence.

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PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2009 1:23 am 
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Singing and healing are a great combo of talents, I think: nice to be sung to as one is healed -- and also healing to sing, even if only for your own ears.

One nice touch, right at the beginning, is having Strider share the reader's perplexity over the vanishing Ringwraiths: "I cannot think why they have gone and do not attack again," he says. This is partly a good old trick-o'-the-writing-trade: if there's an open question or plot-hole, try having one of your characters ask about it, so that the Reader won't feel he has to! (And in the film, as I've said already enough, I was troubled by these too physical, too wimpy Black Riders.) Here Strider's question turns out not just to be a clever patching over of plot-holes, however: the possibly rhetorical question (of hey, why are we still alive?) turns out to have some plausible practical responses: "They are only waiting, because they think that their purpose is almost accomplished, and that the Ring cannot fly much further. I fear, Sam, that they believe your master has a deadly wound that will subdue him to their will."

And indeed, the theme of the "wounded will" carries through this chapter quite markedly. Frodo spends most of the chapter in a daze, in pain that he doesn't mention (for four days! -- tough hobbitses!), and haunted by nightmares, including one that I think most of us have experienced at one point or another: "He lay down again and passed into an uneasy dream, in which he walked on the grass in his garden in the Shire, but it seemed faint and dim, less clear than the tall black shadows that stood looking over the hedge." Two things about this: (1) it's that classic (uncanny) nightmare of Unhomelike Home (my version was having my mother open the door and look at me coldly: "who are YOU?" ); and (2) it's a bit of foreshadowing -- the end of the book already here at the beginning, the Scouring and Frodo's inability ever to go home again to the old, unhaunted home.

More foreshadowing! Sam sings a troll song he made up himself. Frodo and all are impressed: "I am learning a lot about Sam Gamgee on this journey. First he was a conspirator, now he's a jester. He'll end up by becoing a wizard -- or a warrior!" "I hope not," said Sam. "I don't want to be neither!" How's that for setting up a little destined-to-be-retroactive irony? We know that Sam will indeed be a "warrior" -- a scary elf warrior, if we take the word of some nasty orcs -- before the tale's over.

About those trolls: Strider gets a very funny moment here. When Pippin is panting out the bad news about trolls down below in the sunlit woods, here's how Aragorn reacts: "'We will come and look at them,' said Strider, picking up a stick." That's about the driest sense of dry humor anyone ever evinced, because of course a stick isn't going to do much against a troll -- unless it's daytime, and the trolls are only frozen stone relics of former trolls, as turns out quickly to be the case. That "picking up a stick" is the perfect way to convey, without a camera, a Deadpan Look.

All through this chapter, the scenery is very vivid for me. I don't always picture everything I read in a very literally pictorial way, but the hills and woods they travel through here have taken up residence in my head for some reason.

But that brings us to the main theme again, the wounded will of Frodo. He fights this wound so bravely in this section! When Glorfindel tells him to "ride forward!" because the Black Riders have appeared, Frodo instead inexplicably "check[ed] the horse to a walk." Then he REALIZES what's going on: "Suddenly he knew in his heart that they were silently commanding him to wait. Then at once fear and hatred awoke in him. His hand left the bridle and gripped the hilt of his sword, and with a red flash he drew it." Now of course you could argue that "fear and hatred" won't get you far against the Black Riders, who are specialists in fear and hatred (true, true), and that resistance of this sort is, to coin a phrase, futile (true, true, true), but still he IS resisting! And then even more so on the chapter's last page, when he shouts to those Riders in his "thin and shrill" voice to "Go back to the Land of Mordor, and follow me no more!" His last line: "By Elbereth and Lúthien the Fair, you shall have neither the Ring nor me!" is noble; is no longer just about hatred and fear (because I don't think you can really invoke the names of Elbereth and Lúthien in hatred and fear alone) -- though it might be a hopeless gesture, it is still a meaningful one. I read somewhere about some saintly sort of person who practiced all his life to make the words come automatically to his lips that he wanted to die saying (and I forget now what religion that was -- I think I read this in some Buddhist book, but the man in question might have been saying "Jesus Christ" ) -- it's not such a bad idea, to have your last words also fair ones, and "Elbereth and Lúthien" seem like a decent choice, in the Middle-earth context.

Should he have openly admitted he had the Ring, though? I always wondered about that, reading this bit as a child, and I still rather wonder.


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PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2009 1:29 am 
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Lovely post, Teremia. :love:

As to your final question, I don't think it mattered much. I think the Riders knew full well that the Ring was before them.

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PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2009 9:02 pm 
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More "road movie" material in this chapter; all of it, I note, cut in the dramatizations. I don't blame them, however, for the purposes of the book only - ME is not a theme park. Readers need to "feel", not only the beauty of this amazing secondary world, but also its bleakness, its dangers and its long, often weary miles.

In a word: verisimilitude.

Strider continues to evolve. He was introduced to us as a Ranger and tracker; became the hobbits' guide and protector; revealed himself as learned in lore and now, in a minor key, he has skill as a healer. Which of course, foreshadows his role as Elessar.

As ever, Tolkien projects his tale both forwards and backwards, grounding it as a part of a larger tale. With the introduction of Glorfindel we meet one of the Eldar from the early days of ME, while the trolls are a reminder of the adventures of the first hobbit to come to the attention of ME - and readers! We need a touch of humour there, in the middle of this dangerous and dispiriting trek.

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PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 6:00 pm 
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This chapter wonderfully opens up the mysterious Strider a little more, in a way that just adds to his mystery; most especially with the arrival of Glorfindel, whom Strider obviously knows well and can chat with in fluent Sindarin. The hobbits must be thinking, as does the reader, "who is this guy?" Simultaneously Tolkien is conveying Frodo's suffering, but also, more subtly, his innate hobbit-toughness (not made explicit until the next chapter). Fading though he is, he still finds the will to resist; his spirit remains strong though his body fails.


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PostPosted: Tue May 26, 2009 4:38 am 
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Teremia made me draw some connections between Frodo and life. I think here Frodo reminds me of me. When dealing with a major injury or health issue I think we tend to think inwardly and to really examine ourselves. I believe in many ways that is what Frodo is doing here. It is that inner examination or perhaps a better wording would be a withdrawl inward as we go to protect ourselves and resist whatever ailment is attacking us. In this case the ailment was a splinter of a Morgal Blade. Hobbits, at least certain hobbits seem to have a natural resistance to the influences of the Enemy. Perhaps that is because of their love of the simple things of life which is perhaps their gift as a race.

In terms of foreshadowing I think this chapter reflects the central theme of the book; the conflict between Frodo and the Ring, between doing what is right and giving in to the temptation of the Ring, and the price the Ring will extract on him. I don't have my books unpacked yet and I've been very sick for the last two months but I think we'll see this again at various times in the story. The story before Bree was full of the hint of danger, but in this chapter we move to real danger, danger that can destroy Frodo and quest. The difference is that here the tension moves from remote and around the corner to always present.

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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.


Last edited by ArathornJax on Tue May 26, 2009 4:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue May 26, 2009 4:43 am 
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ArathornJax wrote:
Teremia made me draw some connections between Frodo and life.


She does have a way of doing that. :)

Nice post, AJ.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 1:22 pm 
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Query about the flood which ends the chapter (and the pursuit): We learn shortly that Elrond 'commanded' the Bruinen and 'released' the flood; and that Gandalf threw in some touches of his own.

But Rivendell was many miles away, in a ravine: so how did Elrond (and Gandalf) know in real-time what was happening so as to time the response so nicely?


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 1:25 pm 
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The only answer that I can think of was that they were in telepathic contact with Glorfindel.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 1:51 pm 
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Is there telepathy in Middle-earth? I don't remember encountering it as far as I've read.

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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: Fri Jun 05, 2009 1:55 pm 
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I always had the impression that the flood was something Elrond had commanded ahead of time in booby-trap fashion. That he'd simply rigged the river to react that way anytime enemies tried to cross. Perhaps Gandalf added his special touches ahead of time too, knowing the riders might attempt to enter or at least spy on Rivendell if the ring made it that far?


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 2:09 pm 
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That's the impression I've always had. Given that even Sauron and Saruman can't see things at a distance without a Palantír or spies, I've just never thought of telepathy as "real" in Middle-earth. Galadriel's telepathic conference in PJ's TTT bugged me to no end (not least because it was an obvious cheat to synopsize Our Story Thus Far for the audience).

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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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