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Old 05-26-2008, 01:02 PM   #41
Rumil
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Evening All,

back again at the readthrough, so much to catch up on but you know my unreliability by now!

So again a chapter which has been very thoroughly discussed above, what to add?

I was impressed by the dream-turning-to-nightmare aspect of the Old Man Willow encounter.

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It seemed to him that he could hardly hear the sound of his own shrill voice: it was blown away from him by the willow-wind and drowned in a clamour of leaves, as soon as the words left his mouth. He felt desperate: lost and witless.
This sems to me similar to a nightmare situation where one cannot perform ordinary actions. For example, being rooted to the spot when unspecified monsters are creeping up on you.

Another aspect was the singing of Tom's ''spells'', reminscent (in a small way) of the singing 'magic' in the Silmarillion.

Now for some interesting (?) small details.

First we have the ponies, showing how prepared Merry was for the journey, having likely splashed quite a bit of cash to purchase them on the expectation that Frodo would approve the plan on unmasking of the conspiracy.

Next dragonets! Old Man Willow's roots were described as like dragonets. Therefore the hobbits had a word for young dragons. I certainly can't remember any young dragons appearing in the legendarium, for example Morgoth kept Glaurung at home 'under wraps' until he was sufficiently old to be fit for battle (and then withdrew him again until his armour was hardened). So maybe this is hobbit inventiveness, or just possibly they had heard tales of the Dwarves or Eothoed encountering immature dragons around the Grey Mountains or Withered Heath, tantalising!

Frodo's hatchet- reminded me that the company had set out almost completely unarmed on their adventure, (something commented on in a later chapter). It would be a strange RPG where the characters had but one hatchet and presumably some general-purpose knives!

Tom mentions the 'black alder', perhaps another powerful Old Man Willow-like Huorn-ish adversary?

Yellow cream, honeycomb, white bread and butter: Reminds me of the spread at Beorn's house, therefore are Tom & Goldberry vegetarian? However this certainly implies agriculture, cream and butter mean cows, bread means ploughing, growing and harvesting wheat, Tom was a farmer, just like Maggot. The honey could concievably have been taken from wild bees, I bet Tom knew a few bee-calming ditties.
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Old 05-26-2008, 01:32 PM   #42
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Frodo's hatchet- reminded me that the company had set out almost completely unarmed on their adventure, (something commented on in a later chapter). It would be a strange RPG where the characters had but one hatchet and presumably some general-purpose knives!
Not that strange. Why? It's not the most common type of an RPG, but it can be done... And me and my players had such a RPG not that long ago... and whenever you'd be doing an RPG from Middle-Earth involving Hobbits, that's almost a necessity (you don't usually have a Hobbit running around with a sword).

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Yellow cream, honeycomb, white bread and butter: Reminds me of the spread at Beorn's house, therefore are Tom & Goldberry vegetarian? However this certainly implies agriculture, cream and butter mean cows, bread means ploughing, growing and harvesting wheat, Tom was a farmer, just like Maggot. The honey could concievably have been taken from wild bees, I bet Tom knew a few bee-calming ditties.
Now the question is where did Tom, in this case, have his fields, or cows (I would imagine rather goats or something smaller in his case)... It will be strange for Tom to have any animal "held captive" in his house... the only I can think of was his pony, and still, we don't see anything of him until the encounter on the Downs. Bees are okay, but the other things... is it possible Tom would have "traded" with the hobbits from the Shire? (Farmer Maggot?) But the vegetarian diet sounds very probable.
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Old 05-26-2008, 02:11 PM   #43
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Hi Legate,

I should have remembered that the RPGs have become less stereotypically combat-oriented. My thoughts were of old-school D+D where everyone tooled up to the max with chainmail, shield and sword, selection of silver daggers, wolfsbane, oil flasks and the obligatory ten-foot pole and got full plate armour as soon as they could. Not that they weren't fun of course .

I noticed that Esty brought up the same vegetarian points in the next chapter. Anyway, the cows (kine?) could have been at least semi-wild. I wonder if it is possible to harvest sufficient grain from wild grasses? I'm thinking of Emmer-wheat here and the old theories about the beginnings of agriculture where food plants were casually harvested and encouraged until the point where formal fields made sense. Perhaps Tom did a little grain trading with Maggot, as grain can be stored, but fresh cream cannot!
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Old 05-26-2008, 02:41 PM   #44
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I should have remembered that the RPGs have become less stereotypically combat-oriented. My thoughts were of old-school D+D where everyone tooled up to the max with chainmail, shield and sword, selection of silver daggers, wolfsbane, oil flasks and the obligatory ten-foot pole and got full plate armour as soon as they could. Not that they weren't fun of course .
Well not that they don't exist anymore. We also started like that, only by long playing, the players become somewhat more, hmm, "educated" and aim for other things than just, as we say, "Expírieeens!!!" (which used to be a battle cry)

Quote:
I noticed that Esty brought up the same vegetarian points in the next chapter. Anyway, the cows (kine?) could have been at least semi-wild. I wonder if it is possible to harvest sufficient grain from wild grasses? I'm thinking of Emmer-wheat here and the old theories about the beginnings of agriculture where food plants were casually harvested and encouraged until the point where formal fields made sense. Perhaps Tom did a little grain trading with Maggot, as grain can be stored, but fresh cream cannot!
Well, there's still the thing I said before about "holding animals captive". And I found there's actually a good point to it. Tom actually says, after calling up the ponies in the next chapter:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fog on the Barrow-Downs
My four-legged friend; though I seldom ride him, and he wanders often far, free upon the hillsides.
So, I think Tom can have let's say a cow, but I guess she wanders randomly around the hills (I can imagine that pretty well) and when Tom wants some milk, he calls her home (quite easily, I would imagine, as with the ponies; but even the image of old Tom in his boots running around the hills to find his cow is not inappropriate). By the way I am sure Tom is the one who milks her, not Goldberry. And speaking of cows, I am actually now thinking that maybe a sheep is more plausible. Just because the fact sheep are mentioned in the memories Tom "projects" to the Hobbits when speaking about Arnor of old (it looks like the Downs were a good pasture). And then, the image of half-wild shepherd Tom with sheep milk fits well to me (I am actually thinking of the, to me known, Moravian/Slovak bača, the simple shepherd).
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Old 09-27-2016, 02:26 PM   #45
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Leaf Yet Another Re-Read

It seems like I am double-posting on this thread. Very well!

This chapter begins in a terribly depressing manner. Now, I don't know how many of you are used to waking up early, but the beginning of this chapter is, to me, an exact description of what waking up at 5 am feels like. I also, literally, always remember this chapter whenever I am forced to wake up this early. The further description of fog, glistening cobwebs and especially unnaturally loud noises is unbelievably realistic.

Next I am going to mention a series of small things which caught my eye this time:

- First, Merry unlocks the gate through which they get inside the Old Forest. Okay, so he has the key, but since we know the Bucklanders sometimes visit the Old Forest (and Frodo did too), does it mean all Bucklanders have their own key? (Or, I could imagine at least some extended family could own one.) Merry is certainly an important figure from an important family, but still? Or is it only that the "boss family" owns a couple of keys? To me, the most logical would be if e.g. every more important family owned a key or two. But even that would make, say, a few dozen keys throughout Buckland? (And I imagine people like Farmer Maggot who want to visit would have friends they could borrow the keys from.)

Nevertheless, on top of everything: Does Merry actually take this one key with him somewhere abroad, to Isengard, Gondor...? (Okay, he probably loses it somewhere along the way, but maybe at least as far as Rivendell?)

Next: the journey through the forest is obviously the first "encounter with the unknown and 'magical'" for the Hobbits (if we don't count the Black Riders, whom they haven't actually encountered face-to-face yet). We probably all can agree that the Forest is creepy and all that, but let me add one more super-creepy thing I noticed only now:
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Old Forest
Also northward, and to the left of the path, the land seemed to be drier and more open, climbing up to slopes where the trees were thinner, and pines and firs replaced the oaks and ashes and other strange and nameless trees of the denser wood.
Okay, we all agree that the trees in the Forest are strange, and we know that there is a willow who is evil... but what in the name of all are nameless trees? *shudders* Now all my life I've been thinking that one of the creepiest things in Tolkien's creation were the Nameless Things, but uggh, now I see there might be something even creepier...

Also: reading this chapter made me want to re-read the Hobbit as well, namely the Mirkwood stuff. In any case, the descriptions of trees are very nice and vivid.

When we get to the "main action part" of the chapter, it is interesting that we switch the main point of view from Frodo's to Sam's, who, in the end, saves the day. It is an interesting thing to do. Also, I am not sure (we'll see in the future chapters), but I think with this ends Merry's super-useful leadership part: in the previous chapter as well as here, he has been the leading force (amazing job, organising the whole conspiracy, and now guiding everyone through the Forest). But I think after the Willow episode, he disappears to the background - now we leave the land where he is at home, and it is up to others to take that role.

Last remark belongs to the often forgotten Fatty Bolger. This chapter actually contains one amazing revelation I had not noticed before: He is right in his prediction! Compare please:
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Conspiracy Unmasked
"You wait till you are well inside the Forest," said Fredegar. "You'll wish you were back here with me before this time tomorrow."
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Old Forest
"What a foul thing to happen!" cried Frodo wildly. "Why did we ever come into this dreadful Forest? I wish we were all back at Crickhollow!"
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"But it is not your own Shire," said Gildor. "Others dwelt here before hobbits were; and others will dwell here again when hobbits are no more. The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out."
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Old 09-27-2016, 02:33 PM   #46
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First off, this has always been one of my least favourite chapters and still is. The chapter feels horribly long and dragging - even though Tolkien's descriptions of the Old Forest are beautiful and atmospheric, I always feel like I was under Old Man Willow's spell too and would rather fall into slumber than finish the chapter. That being said, the chapter is quite interesting when something finally starts to happen.

Come to think of it, this is the first time the hobbits actually have to face a danger - when hiding and avoiding is not an option anymore. And novice heroes as they are, they don't do very well, do they? Fortunately we're still close to home and there's kind fatherly Tom Bombadil to rescue them.

My two other notion about this chapter concerns Frodo in particular. I never really noticed it before, but he's rather prone to panicking. His first reaction is always flee not fight (with the Black Riders, here, with the Barrow-Wight, much later with Shelob...) and while I'm not judging that, here he really lets himself go and literally runs away screaming. (Well, he will find his courage on the Barrow-Downs. Looking forward to that chapter. Unlike this one, it's always been one of my favourites.)

PS. Legate, interesting catches about the key and Merry's role!
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Old 09-27-2016, 03:16 PM   #47
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Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
Nevertheless, on top of everything: Does Merry actually take this one key with him somewhere abroad, to Isengard, Gondor...? (Okay, he probably loses it somewhere along the way, but maybe at least as far as Rivendell?)
Maybe, but as I read your post, I was given to suspect a different answer:

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Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
Last remark belongs to the often forgotten Fatty Bolger.
It seems most likely to me that Merry would have left the key with Fatty--not least if it was either a.) one of only a very few keys and/or b.) borrowed from someone else.
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Old 09-27-2016, 04:20 PM   #48
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It seems most likely to me that Merry would have left the key with Fatty--not least if it was either a.) one of only a very few keys and/or b.) borrowed from someone else.
That actually is not possible. They say goodbye to Fatty, then they ride into the tunnel which runs under the hedge, then Merry unlocks the gate and locks it behind them ("the sound was ominous"). That's in fact what made me pay attention to it in the first place - the realisation that Merry locked the gate behind them, therefore, he had to keep the key all the way through their journey.

Now I am just thinking where else he might have lost it along the way - and came to the conclusion that if he managed not to lose it somewhere randomly (slipping on the slope of Caradhras, for example), he would have lost it at the latest when the Uruk-hai captured him. Wow, just imagine. Pretty handy for Saruman had they managed to get it to Isengard; it would have been actually quite fitting if ol' Sharkey got the key...
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Old 09-27-2016, 04:41 PM   #49
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Pretty handy for Saruman had they managed to get it to Isengard; it would have been actually quite fitting if ol' Sharkey got the key...
He wouldn't really have needed it though, would he? Saruman (according to non-canon UT ) had been in the Shire in earlier times, probably going over Sarn Ford. Why bother with the Old Forest in that case?

There were a lot of seeming opportunities for that key to have been lost. Maybe it's lucky Frodo and Co. didn't need it to enter the Shire covertly when they returned; though maybe had they known of the presence of the Ruffians, the thought could have been entertained.
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Old 09-28-2016, 09:23 PM   #50
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I rather enjoy these chapters in the Old Forest. It provides depth and a sense of ancient history to Middle-earth. One of the things that elevates the Lord of the Rings above other novels (imo), is the glimpses of an ancient past. The matter of Sauron and the Ring is presented to the readers as "the big important event," but in the history of Middle-earth it's a blip on the timeline, and there's a much deeper history to this world.

I like the description and imagery of the war between the forest and the hobbits long ago:

Quote:
'They do say the trees do actually move, and can surround strangers and hem them in. In fact long ago they attacked the Hedge: they came and planted themselves right by it, and leaned over it. But the hobbits came and cut down hundreds of trees, and made a great bonfire in the Forest, and burned all the ground in a long strip east of the Hedge. After that the trees gave up the attack, but they become very unfriendly. There is still a wide bare space not far inside where the bonfire was made.'
The imagery of trees encroaching closer to the Hedge, the hobbits border with their land and the forest's. The description of the trees "leaning over it," perceived as an attack on the Hedge. And then when hobbits come cutting and burning the trees giving up their attack. It sort of reminds me when there's a fence between two neighbor's property. One neighbor has trees planted in the yard, but then the branches start "leaning over" into the other neighbor's yards. And how arguments about cutting down trees, "your tree is invading my property" can spring up between neighbors. Although, from Merry's story, this was an attack long ago by the trees of the Old Forest and after much slashing and burning the trees cease but become filled with anger.
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Old 07-26-2018, 04:39 PM   #51
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A couple minor points struck me on this reread, and refreshing myself on this thread there was one major one, which I shall get to last.

First, it amuses me to note that, reading "The Old Forest" this time, I noticed the fact that Merry must have taken the key with him, when a few years back, I missed that entirely and had to be corrected.

Second, I noticed that Sam was the one who most resisted Old Man Willow and I thought this was appropriate enough, given that he is a gardner, a tender of plants. This connection makes even more sense reading through the thread: there was a much earlier comparison of Tom to Adam in the Garden of Eden--i.e. an unfallen gardner of nature. Someone also pointed out Farmer Maggot as being somewhat Bombadil-like. So perhaps there's a definite appropriateness to Sam being the one to snap out of Old Man Willow's trance on his own.

Finally, the major point, regarding the whole point of the Bombadil trio of chapters, I was surprised to see very little written about how they function almost as a dream, given that this is a piece of analysis I am almost entirely certain I have read elsewhere. Granted, I think that might have been in the context of the parallel geography of the hobbits' journey at the END of the book, but it has a distinct appropriateness here. The quote:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Homeward Bound
'Well here we are, just the four of us that started out together,' said Merry. 'We have left all the rest behind, one after another. It seems almost like a dream that has slowly faded.'
'Not to me,' said Frodo. 'To me it feels more like falling asleep again.'
This is immediately preceded by Gandalf leaving them to visit Bombadil, with the image of him riding off towards the Barrow-downs.

I'm not a fan of the plot device "It was all just a dream!", the most famous example of which is the movie adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, but it's useful as a way of understanding the point of the Bombadil chapters. In the rest of the book--even as soon as Bree--they are half-remembered at best. Saying that they are like a dream the reader had is an excellent way of describing their general irrelevance to the later plot.

And travelling through a dream is a lot like travelling into Faërie: time and space seem to have different rules than in the "real" world--and although all of The Lord of the Rings takes place in a world that equally purports to be real, there is still a different sense of reality in the Shire and in the adventures from Bree to Bree: when Frodo says that it's like falling asleep again, he is speaking as much or more for the reader as for himself. We've been taken on an adventure into a higher, more true reality than daily life which is the dream.

In other words, I think the Bombadil chapters are important for allowing the Shire and the rest of the great tale to coexist, without the Shire seeming trivially pointless or the greater tale impossibly remote. They're the fuzzy state between sleeping and waking that create the massive chasm of distance between dream and reality.

I actually think that omitting them is the only reason Jackson is able to make The Fellowship of the Ring into the best of his movies--because each of the six books of the LotR rises and falls on its own, and Book I without the Bombadil section is all introduction and climax. It functions within the wider LotR to transition us from the world of the Shire (in some respects the world of The Hobbit) into the world of the epic (again, in some respects, the world of the Silmarillion). That sense of building tension and rising stakes needs a chance to simmer, and without the Bombadil interlude, it goes fast: Black Riders, Merry & Pippin, Bree, Strider, Black Riders!

Again, I think that helped make the FotR the best Jackson movie, because it allows the FotR to have a single arc (with Rivendell replacing Bombadil as the stretching-middle). Part of the reason TTT and RotK don't work as well is because they attempt to make a single story out of two books (granted, they have to, but you'll never convince me that six movies wouldn't have been better, though I'll grant you that the placement of the destruction of the Ring in the early part of Book VI makes that final book an interesting one to stand alone--though, of course, as the final volume, it's kind of like Infinity War in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: a different sort of beast).
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Old 07-29-2018, 03:34 PM   #52
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First, it amuses me to note that, reading "The Old Forest" this time, I noticed the fact that Merry must have taken the key with him, when a few years back, I missed that entirely and had to be corrected.
Well, who's to say that was the only key? Seems rather slack of the Brandybucks to risk its loss. After all, all it would take is a drunken stroll into the Forest after dark, and you're sending to Hobbiton for a locksmith.

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Second, I noticed that Sam was the one who most resisted Old Man Willow and I thought this was appropriate enough, given that he is a gardner, a tender of plants. This connection makes even more sense reading through the thread: there was a much earlier comparison of Tom to Adam in the Garden of Eden--i.e. an unfallen gardner of nature. Someone also pointed out Farmer Maggot as being somewhat Bombadil-like. So perhaps there's a definite appropriateness to Sam being the one to snap out of Old Man Willow's trance on his own.
I never considered before why Sam was least affected by the Willow.
Besides being a gardener and "lover of trees", he was seemingly a bit less intelligent than the others, and also had at least heard of Huorns or their like from Cousin Hal. Hmm.

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In other words, I think the Bombadil chapters are important for allowing the Shire and the rest of the great tale to coexist, without the Shire seeming trivially pointless or the greater tale impossibly remote. They're the fuzzy state between sleeping and waking that create the massive chasm of distance between dream and reality.
Very interesting! So the Forest is rather a buffer between the innocent, Hobbit-like beginning, then going directly to the Downs, where things get really perilous.

Of course, the Hobbits had been shadowed by the Black Riders, but to a first-time reader, I think the Barrow-wight, seen (and heard) at a much closer distance, would be creepier.
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Old 07-30-2018, 03:03 PM   #53
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Of course, the Hobbits had been shadowed by the Black Riders, but to a first-time reader, I think the Barrow-wight, seen (and heard) at a much closer distance, would be creepier.~Inzil
For me, I'll give a very Elvish answer and say both, yes and no. Yes, they are creepier and their threat is indeed more upclose and personal than the Ringwraiths up to this point.

The Ringwraiths are still quite unknown, or I should say their true threat if they find Frodo is not yet known to the readers. They're still just "Black Riders" who are servants of Sauron hunting for the Ring. Gandalf barely says anything about them and Gildor pretty much refuses to tell Frodo anything more than "stay away." We know they're pursuing Frodo, but all encounters are from second hand accounts (Farmer Maggot's). They aren't a direct threat until the attack on Merry in Bree and even then their danger isn't truly revealed until their attack on Weathertop.

Old Man Willow and the Barrow-wight are, in some ways, perceived as larger threats, but their danger is also far more restricted. Similar to how I question Bombadil's powers outside his own defined borders. Old Man Willow and the Barrow-wight have defined borders where they are extremely dangerous, but not a threat outside their areas. Even if they haven't managed to catch the hobbits yet, the Ringwraiths power clearly isn't limited to specific boundaries. Right from the get go, we learn they manage to break into the Shire and Frodo barely managed to leave Bag End in time.
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