FOTR Chapter 8: Fog on the Barrow-downs

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FOTR Chapter 8: Fog on the Barrow-downs

Postby starlin » Thu Dec 01, 2005 4:47 pm

Welcome to the last LotR discussion month in 2005! We proceed with the spooky Chapter 8, Fog on the Barrow-downs.


If you are new to VTSG, please have a look at the OOC Thread and let us know you’d like to join in. We are looking forward to all contributions – be it a long and scholarly post or a cheerful post based only on personal opinion. Also, the previous discussions are always open for you to add something!

Good luck :)

Fog on the Barrow-downs

Summary

The four hobbits spend their last night in Tom’s house and in the morning prepare to leave. Having bidden Tom farewell, they set off. Goldberry is waiting for them on the hill, and she advices them to hurry while the Sun shines.

The hobbits ride up and down the hills until they reach a hill with a flat top. They see a dark line ahead and take it for a line of trees growing along the Road. With a thought that their destination is not too far away, the hobbits go down to the hollow circle on the hilltop and set their backs against a huge stone that stands there.

Suddenly, they wake up “from a sleep they had never meant to make”. They are surrounded by thick fog, and it is chilly. The hobbits pack up and leave, heading for a gap at the other side of the valley they have seen in the morning. After a while, Frodo notices something looming on either side and he thinks they have found what they were looking for. Frodo shouts to the others to follow him and runs forward. Soon hope changes into fear, as Frodo realises that something else is looming ahead. He falls off the pony and is left alone. He can hear the voices of the others shouting for him somewhere far away, eventually someone cries for help and the sound is cut short.

After a dreadful moment of silence and loneliness, someone answers Frodo’s question “Where are you?” -“Here!” But it’s not a voice of one of his friends. Not able to run away, Frodo loses counsciousness and wakes up lying in the dark, aware that he is imprisoned in a barrow by a Barrow-wight. He manages to gather his courage and looks at Sam, Pippin and Merry lying beside him, deathly pale, clad in white and with treasures around them. A naked sword lies across their necks.

A song begins, “Cold be hand and heart and bone…” Frodo sees an arm creeping towards the hilt of the sword. For a fleeting moment he considers putting on the Ring, but then seizes a sword that lies beside him and hews at the arm. Frodo starts singing the song Bombadil has taught them. Bombadil answers, comes and rescues them. The clothes of the hobbits are lost, but the ponies have ran away from the dread of the barrow and found Tom’s Fatty Lumpkin. Tom brings the ponies back, the hobbits clothe themselves in their spare garments and have breakfast. They then ride together with Tom till they reach the Road. Here Tom leaves them and advices going to The Prancing Pony. The hobbits leave Tom’s country and are back in the world where the Black Riders are still after them…


Questions

1. Here we go again… Another dream of Frodo’s. And, interestingly enough, again while he is sleeping in Tom’s house. This particular dream corresponds to the very last chapter of LotR. Which brings us back to the question of ‘fate’. Is this dream prophetic of Frodo’s sailing into the West? If so, is it predetermined that he will sail away?

2. In this chapter we get more vivid descriptions not only of landscape, but also of the atmosphere. It is hot and sultry (in autumn!), and silent. What vocabulary and what images does Tolkien use to create this atmosphere? E.g., The wind began to hiss over the grass. - this is a description I really liked. Are there any that caught your eye?

3. In this chapter, there are several instances when the characters remember something about ‘the old days’, about things that happened long time ago to someone already forgotten. What is the role of the images of ‘the old days’ in LotR? What do they mean to the hobbits? To Tom? This is a topic which could be continued in the upcoming discussions as well.

4. Does the description of the mounds remind you of anything? How does Tolkien describe them?

5. Just like in the Willow episode, the hobbits fall asleep. Is this a coincidence? What do you think about this sentence: 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?

6. Alarm. Dread. Fright. These words occur often in the barrow episode. What impression does this spooky atmosphere have on you as a reader? Also, consider the episode of meeting the Wight. Personally, I found it unconvincing and even reminiscent of cheap horror films. What do you think?

7. How is the Wight described? What is his ‘dwelling’ like? And what on Middle-earth are these Wights (use other sources as well)?

8. Hands on the breast, treasures everywhere… Any thoughts on the burial traditions of Middle-earth?

9. One of the most beautiful moments in the chapter is the episode with a “seed of courage” hidden in every hobbit. How does this idea sound in the broader context of the novel? Did you like the idea?

10. Another prominent feature in the chapter is the power of word and song. How different are the songs of Tom and the Wight, what power do they have? It would also be interesting to find connections with power of song and word in other writings of Tolkien. And, of course, to bear this question in mind while discussing the other chapters because this is a recurrent theme.

11. In this chapter, Frodo undergoes a very important transition. I will not talk about rites of passage because I feel I am talking about them way too much :), but consider these facts: the hobbits lose their clothes and have to ‘run naked on the grass’ after that. They undergo death rituals. And they are born again. Frodo is, of course, in the focus of the chapter, and we witness every subtle change in his feelings and thoughts. The above-mentioned “seed of courage” is closely connected to the idea of friendship. And here, again, comes another temptation of the Ring. What do you think about this temptation and how does Frodo’s choice reflect his own spiritual growth?

12. Towards the end of the article, the hobbits remember they are still being pursued by the Riders. Their passage through the Forest seems oddly out of place, yet it is important. Drawing the threads together, why are the Old Forest episodes important for the rest of the story?
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Postby Arvegil » Sun Dec 04, 2005 12:12 am

"4. Does the description of the mounds remind you of anything? How does Tolkien describe them? "

What they remind me of is the pre-Roman burial cairns which are present in both England and Scotland. The low passageway, leading into an interior chamber- very consistent with how those were built.

If one is to draw a parallel with something in LOTR proper, these burial traditions are consistent with the burial traditions of the Kings of Rohan. Whereas the historical cairns were group burial sites, both Rohan's and Cardolan's cairns were for one individual, buried with their equipment.
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Postby Amonfur » Sun Dec 04, 2005 10:49 am

"8. Hands on the breast, treasures everywhere… Any thoughts on the burial traditions of Middle-earth?"

This remindes me of how the Ancient Egyptians were buried, at least their kings and royalty. They would be buried with all sorts of treasure around them. And I also think the hands were placed on their breast as well. Also the hobbits were wearing white cloth, in Ancient Egypt they also used white cloth to wrap their dead.

In Middle-earth it seems that their burial traditions encompased putting riches of different sorts with the dead.
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Postby gwynhvar » Sun Dec 04, 2005 7:18 pm

Arvegil wrote:"4. Does the description of the mounds remind you of anything? How does Tolkien describe them? "

What they remind me of is the pre-Roman burial cairns which are present in both England and Scotland. The low passageway, leading into an interior chamber- very consistent with how those were built.


Thank you for that! I was thinking that I remembered some such, but hadn't time to look it up. Am I mistaken in also thinking that I remember Saxon burials being excavated in the UK that were similar but for only one person, seemingly a Chieftain or some such?

Arvegil wrote:If one is to draw a parallel with something in LOTR proper, these burial traditions are consistent with the burial traditions of the Kings of Rohan.


Yes, I agree.

For the rest, I will have to skip posting on this chapter, though I will read the responses - such interesting posts in all these threads.
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Postby Roccondil » Mon Dec 05, 2005 5:24 am

Some very interesting (and correct IMO) posts here from Arvegil, Amonfur and gwynhvar, so I thought I would add some comments of my own on this subject.

The Barrow-downs are, I think, an amalgam of two elements of British history. Firstly, there are, as is well known, the Berkshire Downs which provide the basic inspiration for the geography of the Barrow-downs. The barrows on the Berkshire Downs are, I think, exclusively neolithic through to bronze age and each barrow would have held the remains of many people. The standing stones also come from this period.

However, the barrow that the hobbits were trapped in also contains elements of much later Anglo-Saxon burial mounds, the most famous of which are those of Sutton Hoo. Sutton Hoo had its first major excavation in the summer of 1939, around the time of Tolkien’s “Third Phase” and as it was the greatest Anglo Saxon archaeological discovery in England Tolkien’s interest in it must have been keen.

Anglo Saxon high status burials were in barrows normally with a single body and where graves were unrobbed a large quantity of gold and silver artefacts have often been found.

It is interesting that Tolkien does state that the Barrow-downs contain the graves of Men from the First Age, but was also used for the same purpose by the Men of Arnor in the Third Age. Thus he incorporates the neolithic/bronze age and Anglo Saxon duality within the Middle-earth history as well.

The re-use of burial sites in Britain from one age to another is also, I believe, reasonably common.

Wayland's Smithy, which many would identify with the barrow in the story, was originally a structure constructed mainly of stone and was not an earthen barrow at all. Arvegil's description of a cairn is therefore the correct word here, and as he says, the internal structure of such cairns is consistent with the description of the barrow in this chapter
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Postby Arvegil » Mon Dec 05, 2005 5:18 pm

7. How is the Wight described? What is his ‘dwelling’ like? And what on Middle-earth are these Wights (use other sources as well)?


Well, as to what they were, the particular Barrow-Wight in the chapter was, in life, the last prince of Cardolan. The clue as to his Third Age identity is that "the men of Carn Dum [Angmar] " killed him.

While not so well developed in Tolkien's work, references are made to spirits other than the usual classes (Ainur, Children of Eru, etc.) that we are familiar with. If Sauron had control of some of these lesser spirits (weaker than Ringwraiths, stronger than Orcs), he could command them to inhabit the bodies of the fallen humans.

It is a practical certainty that Tolkien did not intend for the fea of the original fallen humans to be bound somehow to their corpses in the form of a barrow-wight. The last Prince of Cardolan's fea went beyond the Circles of the World some time before this event. Whatever animated the Barrow-Wight has another source entirely.
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Postby Amonfur » Mon Dec 05, 2005 6:04 pm

"1. Here we go again… Another dream of Frodo’s. And, interestingly enough, again while he is sleeping in Tom’s house. This particular dream corresponds to the very last chapter of LotR. Which brings us back to the question of ‘fate’. Is this dream prophetic of Frodo’s sailing into the West? If so, is it predetermined that he will sail away? "

Tolkien seems to use fate a lot in LOTR. There are many cases were fate comes into play and I think this is one of them. The Valar I am sure now what is going to happen, at least Manwe. They can see that Frodo will have the ring until it is destroyed and I bet they even moved Frodo to keep the ring at the Council of Elrond because they knew that he could do it. And at this point they are showing Frodo, what lies ahead, if you get what I mean.
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Postby Nadreck_of_Palain7 » Mon Dec 05, 2005 7:15 pm

I don't think that Tolkien would say that the future was totally determined. Maybe the idea is that Frodo's choices could bring the vision of his dreams to be true. The dream in this chapter seems to be encouraging him.

Later, at the Mirror of Galadriel, Galadriel says that some visions may nver be, unless the viewer turns aside from his path to prevent them. Since Frodo's prophetic dreams are positive and seem to come true, maybe they come true because he did not turn from his path.

Frodo clearly has been given some limited prophetic power, as have other characters such as Aragorn. Prophecy in LOTR shares a quality that most prophecy in the real world has: it is vague. If it is too specific it spoils the narrative. Real world prophecy is vague because it the vaguer it is, the easier it is to make real events correspond to it.
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Postby scirocco » Wed Dec 07, 2005 5:44 am

Arvegil wrote:Well, as to what they were, the particular Barrow-Wight in the chapter was, in life, the last prince of Cardolan.
The clue as to his Third Age identity is that "the men of Carn Dum [Angmar] " killed him.


I don't think that was what Tolkien was meaning. Merry's sudden "possession" by some sort of spirit muttering about the Men of Carn Dum is not the Barrow-wight; it's some lingering shade of the Prince of Cardolan. They aren't the same thing.

Arvegil wrote:It is a practical certainty that Tolkien did not intend for the fea of the original fallen humans to be bound somehow to their corpses
in the form of a barrow-wight. The last Prince of Cardolan's fea went beyond the Circles of the World some time before this event.
Whatever animated the Barrow-Wight has another source entirely.


Agreed, the Barrow-wight does have another source (see below). I also agree with you that the fea of the original fallen humans were not to be bound somehow to their corpses in the form of a barrow-wight. Which makes the lingering presence of the Prince of Cardolan even more odd. Almost Army of the Dead-like.

Tolkien does specifically tell us of the Barrow-wight's history. Following the death of their Prince, the barrows and their treasure would have been guarded for a while by the remnants of the people of Cardolan:
A remnant of the faithful among the Dunedain of Cardolan also held out in Tyrn Gorthad (the Barrowdowns), or took refuge in the Forest behind.

LOTR, Appendix A

But about two centuries later:
It was at this time (at the time of the Great Plague, around 1636) that an end came of the Dunedain of Cardolan, and evil spirits out of Angmar and Rhudaur entered into the deserted mounds and dwelt there...

LOTR, Appendix A

These spirits were sent by the Lord of the Nazgul himself:
The Witch-king...had known something of the country long ago, in his wars with the Dunedain, and especially of the Tyrn Gothad of Cardolan, now the Barrow-downs, whose evil wights had been sent there by himself....

Unfinished Tales, The Hunt for the Ring


So while the last prince of Cardolan was certainly buried in the Barrow, he was not connected in any way with the Wight.

As Amonfur pointed out, and Romestamo detailed a couple of years ago in Bombadil's brooch, burial with 'grave goods' (either items valued by the deceased or items of value in general) seems to be common in Middle-earth. Beleg was buried with Belthronding his bow; Boromir was laid out in state with his weapons and horn; and even Turin was interred with the shards of Gurthang. The Last Prince of Cardolan was buried with much wealth, and with a brooch that belonged to a woman. Was she his wife? Fair was she who long ago wore this on her shoulder. Goldberry shall wear it now, and we will not forget her... Was she buried with him? We shall never know.
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Postby Starshadow » Thu Dec 08, 2005 7:47 am

12. Towards the end of the article, the hobbits remember they are still being pursued by the Riders. Their passage through the Forest seems oddly out of place, yet it is important. Drawing the threads together, why are the Old Forest episodes important for the rest of the story?


Well, the importance of these chapters has always been up for debate. There are those who feel that these chapters could have been severely truncated or left out entirely (with the few important bits getting put into the story in other places). I myself don't entirely care for these chapters, but I believe their purpose is one of transition from the "old life in the Shire" to the "new and unknown life 'out there'." I always felt it was meant to show the hobbits that there is a great big world out there.
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Postby starlin » Wed Dec 14, 2005 12:09 pm

Arvegil wrote:If one is to draw a parallel with something in LOTR proper, these burial traditions are consistent with the burial traditions of the Kings of Rohan.


I'd need to search for various details to check this opinion but in general I agree with you, at least the 'feelings' that both burial sites give are quite similar.

Amonfur wrote:This remindes me of how the Ancient Egyptians were buried, at least their kings and royalty. They would be buried with all sorts of treasure around them.


Actually, it seems that the custom to bury with treasures is found all over the world. I can only mention ancient China for regions far from Britain, but I am sure there were such traditions in other remote places as well. Of course Tolkien based his writings on the British isles, but it's just an interesting fact.

I'm more interested in hands-on-breast. Amonfur said that Egyptians also buried their dead so. Do you know about any instances where people were buried differently? I can't tell now where, but it seems to me that I have heard about burials of people in all kinds of poses. Maybe the hands-on-breast pose is typical only to some particular region or cultural area? Or is it not very significant?

Roccondil, thank you very much for giving all those interesting facts! Especially

Thus he incorporates the neolithic/bronze age and Anglo Saxon duality within the Middle-earth history as well.


Nadreck_of_Palain7 wrote:I don't think that Tolkien would say that the future was totally determined. Maybe the idea is that Frodo's choices could bring the vision of his dreams to be true. The dream in this chapter seems to be encouraging him.


You know, I also dislike the idea of future being totally determined in Tolkien's world. That's why I'm so undecided about all those dreams and prophesies, some of which seem to be pointing directly to the outcome that actually takes place later. I like your idea of choices. It's like, the vision or dream shows you where you would be if you continued on your current path or if you did something that you have (at the moment of dreaming) to decide whether to do or not. But at the same time you understand that this is one of the possibilities. If you act differently, if you change the chain of events as it is now, the outcome will change too.

Prophecy in LOTR shares a quality that most prophecy in the real world has: it is vague. If it is too specific it spoils the narrative.


I have always thought that Malbeth the Seer's prophecy about the Paths of the Dead was too specific and actually spoilt the narrative. It's quite a weak detail, IMO.

Starshadow wrote:I myself don't entirely care for these chapters, but I believe their purpose is one of transition from the "old life in the Shire" to the "new and unknown life 'out there'."


Agreed. I wonder, what if the hobbits were thrown into that 'new' life straight from the Shire, without passing through strange but still quite hobbittish world of Bombadil?

Also, all those who said they did not like Tom Bombadil. You may not like him as a character, but how do you feel about those chapters? The Forest, the Wights etc.? Personally, I simply adore some of the episodes and I think LotR would lose many gripping details without the chapters.
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Postby Roccondil » Sat Dec 17, 2005 3:01 am

starlin wrote: I think LotR would lose many gripping details without the chapters.


I completely agree. We all know that Tolkien wrote these early chapters while he had no clear idea of the the future path of the plot, but the fact remains that he did not remove them later and this must be because he considered them essential to the story he was writing.

As I (probably) said before, someone writing a modern novel would have have left these chapters out. Tolkien was not doing this; he was creating a world and he needed time and space to draw the reader in.
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Postby starlin » Sat Dec 17, 2005 4:18 am

And the interesting thing is that there are people who enjoy those however beautifully written, but still out-of-context and elongated chapters which give so little to the plot development! That's us, I suppose :) Not all of us, but there are so many readers who are captivated by those things. Some fans of Russian fantasy writer Nik Perumov, who wrote his own version of what happened in the Fourth Age Middle-Earth, claimed they liked Perumov because he "had made Middle-earth real". Their main argument is that Tolkien is too black-and-white for them, while Perumov paints everything gray, destroys the limits between "good" and "evil". And therefore more realism is brought into Tolkien's world. Also, Perumov supposedly uses more real-life descriptions of how people lived etc. The readers say they enjoy it. I, though I didn't read Perumov's books because they were very boring, say I don't need realism here. I like the mythical dimension that Tolkien chose. The mythical dimension which allows one both to feel for the characters as if they were 'real', and to react to them as figures, types of people, ideas. I don't say my view is better than the other view. But I think that those who are looking for 'realism' and ability to 'touch' Middle-earth, would think the Bombadil and Old Forest chapters unnecessary, spoiling the continuity of the plot. To me, the very fact that the plot of LotR is not even, now moving, now stopping, is remarkable. It's a mythical place and a mythical time. Of course, it is a paradox that this move-stop-move again plot is actually closer to what we have in our lifes. They never go smoothly and consistently. While literature (and art in general) which attempts to catch realism often concentrate on the big issues and ommit the details (plot-wise, not description-wise, because descriptions are of course very detailed in realistic narratives). I do not want to make sweeping generalisations here, of course, as I am just writing what I have in my mind now, and I am fully aware that what is usually called 'realism' in literature has much of what I have ascribed to 'non-realism'. Let's just say I am talking about the 'closer to real life' and 'closer to myth' perspectives I have described at the beginning. But in any case, these are just some thoughts that have just occurred to me...
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Postby Ash*Nazg~Renatus » Tue Dec 20, 2005 6:19 pm

*joins in if thats allright*

i dont have to much to say on most of the questions, but i was wondering, why in the name of Melko no one brought up the knives???
I think thats one of teh best foreshadowing/coincidental happenings that occurs in the entire LOTR series!

I would like to answer question ten, as i love music...

10. Another prominent feature in the chapter is the power of word and song. How different are the songs of Tom and the Wight, what power do they have? It would also be interesting to find connections with power of song and word in other writings of Tolkien. And, of course, to bear this question in mind while discussing the other chapters because this is a recurrent theme.


I believe that the dirge sung by the wights (SP?) is a song of no magical power, but a song of lament for the dead, a song of anger at the imprisonment of the wights. I believe tolkien was using an idea that he never refined until the army of the dead, in the ROTK. A feelign of never resting, simply being, floating in a realm of horror and dread, forced by madness of torment to prey upon the helpless that fall into their grasp. The dirge is a lament and a plea, of let us be free of this! The king of the Dead shows this feeling in his lastaction, his sighing of contentment to finally be allowed to die, to go to his appointed place, instead of the horrible living death he was undergoing, and i believe tolkien wrote this because he never actually expressed it in the wights.
im late for math, but ill post more later on this topic...
(btw, that was just my opinion, which for lotr is extremely fluid an dim willing for it to be cut to pieces as long as its for the skaw of the argument/dsicussion)
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Postby gwynhvar » Tue Dec 20, 2005 7:42 pm

starlin wrote:Also, all those who said they did not like Tom Bombadil. You may not like him as a character, but how do you feel about those chapters? The Forest, the Wights etc.? Personally, I simply adore some of the episodes and I think LotR would lose many gripping details without the chapters.


As one of those who admitted to a distaste for Tom B., I'll try for a coherent response.

I think these chapters are a mixed bag, and my reaction to them is mixed as well. On my first reading of LOTR (at age seventeen, long years ago now), I nearly gave up several times during these chapters. I found them mostly tiresome.

What kept me reading were the various hints of "deep time" and especially the Elves, and the mentions of their connections with that time. Also, the Black Riders had impressed me as truely frightening (a real tribute to Tolkien's writing in those sections), and the residual effect was to want to know more.

I reread LOTR many times in entirety, and concluded that Tolkien was struggling with the Story in these chapters - that he wasn't sure where it was going. My opinion, in the end, was that the Story needs these chapters for transition and forshadowing (as others here have noted), even if some elements are, for my taste, unfortunate and discordant.

I like to think that given infinite time and energy, Tolkien might have revised these chapters. Since he didn't, though, I am happy to live with them, my minor quibbles hardly significant in the face of the awesome magic of LOTR as a whole.
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Postby Arvegil » Sat Dec 24, 2005 11:02 pm

starlin wrote: Their main argument is that Tolkien is too black-and-white for them, while Perumov paints everything gray, destroys the limits between "good" and "evil". And therefore more realism is brought into Tolkien's world. Also, Perumov supposedly uses more real-life descriptions of how people lived etc. The readers say they enjoy it. I, though I didn't read Perumov's books because they were very boring, say I don't need realism here.


In some aspects, Tolkien is seeking to use his characters in a vast morality play, and is not seeking the shaded realism. The morality play itself is incredibly complex; trying to add "real-life descriptions" would muddy the issue and make a long book intractable.
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Postby starlin » Thu Dec 29, 2005 12:22 pm

Interesting interpretation, Ash*Nazg~Renatus... If we view the dirge as a lament and as a song of anger and despair, it is quite an unusual mixture, though of course laments for the dead always include an element of anger, but that's slightly different - anger that the deceased was taken away from those who continue to live. In any case I wouldn't say that the song has no magical power. It sounds much like an incantation, like a spell. And the power of song and of word is extremely important in Tolkien's writings. Verses and songs appear in all kinds of occasions in LotR, Hob or the Sil. They can express joy as well as sorrow and be light-hearted as well as full of ritual solemnity and simbolic meaning. If we compare the wight's song with the Bath Song, the former does seem to have something powerful in it, the power to invoke and to cause.

gwynhvar, you said that the hints of "deep time" kept you reading these chapters. I was also enchanted by them. This sense of "depth" is one of the most captivating things in LotR. The realisation that there are layers of history behind what already seems to have an 'ancient' flavour is one of those things which paradoxically makes LotR feel 'real', just 'far away'.
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Postby IamMoose » Thu Jan 26, 2006 7:41 am

Can I join in? I am rereading LOTR right now and cooincidentally reread this chapter only yesterday. Some interesting thoughts on this thread!

I agree that these chapters are a little out of place - Peter Jackson evidently didn't consider them significant enough to the plot to turn them into film :( - but they are still my favourites of the entire book - from the Old Forest to leaving Bree that is. I think that the depiction and the love and understanding of English nature in them is absolutely wonderful. And they have at least a little significance to the plot in that they introduce us to the Witch-King of Angmar and tell us a little of his history. Most importantly of all though, Merry acquires the blade which later kills the Witch King (am I allowed to say that? DOes this board have spoiler tags?).
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Postby starlin » Sat Jan 28, 2006 7:10 am

Welcome to VTSG, Moose!

IamMoose wrote:Peter Jackson evidently didn't consider them significant enough to the plot to turn them into film


Exactly - not significant enough to the plot. Interesting details or no interesting details - the action of the book does not move forward very quickly in these chapters. I think it indeed was the reason for PJ's decision... but I'll say no more because this is beyond this discussion.

(am I allowed to say that? DOes this board have spoiler tags?).


All or most of us who come to VTSG have already read the books we are discussing, so you can definitely say that :)

Since I am here, I will try to answer one more of my own questions.

5. <...> What do you think about this sentence: 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?


I put this particular sentence in the question because I found it rather odd for Tolkien's style. The narrator seems to adopt a rather ironical stance and to be suggesting that the hobbits underestimate the possibility of the occurence of something 'extraordinary'. They fell asleep because of very natural reasons. But the tone with which it is said suggests that there might be something else behind it, just like there was in the Willow episode. The suggestion itself is not weird, Tolkien often shows the hobbits to be a little bit naive and unacquainted with the world, and maybe materialistic and caring more about their cabbages than dragons. But the ironic tone such as is in this sentence seems to me rather rare, for Tolkien.
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Postby IamMoose » Thu Feb 02, 2006 9:36 am

Interesting - I'd never really considered that sentence to be irony :). I saw it more as stating the facts by an inverse means - hmm, does that make any sense at all? I mean, letting the reader know that something extraordinary was happening by suggesting that it might have been ordinary.

Hmm .. in other words irony, actually :D.
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Postby ToshoftheWuffingas » Sun Mar 04, 2007 2:25 pm

I have just been going over this part of the book and I'd like to mention some things that struck me.
Bombadil arrives as soon as the song is sung yet the hobbits spent all day getting to the Barrow. Either he found the bolted ponies and was searching for them and was about to rescue them anyway or he is a supernatural being who can materialise where he wants, providing he is summoned. As an earth-spirit that is not an impossible option.
One element of Tolkien's narrative approach is to repeat an episode or character and make creative changes to it. For instance in the Old Forest they lose their way, fall asleep despite warnings, get get imprisoned supernaturally and get spoken to by the captor and are rescued by Bombadil using the power of song. As also happens on the Barrow-downs. In both the landscape conspires to trap them.
The wight's song and Bombadil's refer to the end of time with opposing ideas about the final resolution.
Frodo for some reason connected to the Witch-King's instructions and the fact that he was the Ring-Bearer did not lose his clothes like the other three.
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Postby Mahima » Mon Mar 05, 2007 9:28 pm

That's an interesting point you have made, Tosh... the similarity of the narrative of the two episodes with Tom Bombadil. Is it surprising that the same episode has been repeated so close to the last one? Or is this his usual way?
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Postby starlin » Thu Mar 15, 2007 11:09 pm

ToshoftheWuffingas wrote:Either he found the bolted ponies and was searching for them and was about to rescue them anyway or he is a supernatural being who can materialise where he wants, providing he is summoned.


...or he has been following them all the way to the Downs because he expected they would fall into some trouble ;)


One element of Tolkien's narrative approach is to repeat an episode or character and make creative changes to it. For instance in the Old Forest they lose their way, fall asleep despite warnings, get get imprisoned supernaturally and get spoken to by the captor and are rescued by Bombadil using the power of song. As also happens on the Barrow-downs. In both the landscape conspires to trap them.


This also reminds me of another narrative device Tolkien uses quite often (we discussed it in "The Hobbit" discussions): sleeping or being unconscious, quite often used as transition between chapters.

Frodo for some reason connected to the Witch-King's instructions and the fact that he was the Ring-Bearer did not lose his clothes like the other three.


Now that's interesting. Any more comments on Frodo not losing his clothes? Not ready for renewal yet, his quest still ahead etc?
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