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Old 03-05-2008, 02:32 PM   #81
Estelyn Telcontar
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We meet again! This chapter is all about one of my most favouritest characters, Strider/Aragorn. Tolkien does keep us in suspense about his nature and character at the beginning of the chapter. I can feel with him the desire to be accepted for his own sake.

Here's another thing that should have gone right but went wrong - with which results for the quest: Aragorn wanted to warn the Hobbits about going to the common room, but was hindered by Butterbur. What do you think would have been different if they had laid low that evening? Would that have changed anything, perhaps kept the attack from happening?

Strider reacts with pain and tension when asked about the Riders. That would hint at personal experience. Do we have a reference to any encounter of his with them previously? He mentions traps that had been set for him by the Enemy in the past - to what do you suppose that refers?

Then comes the ultimate "what if" scenario - what if Butterbur hadn't forgotten the letter and the Hobbits had left the Shire in the summer?

What causes Butterbur's suspicions about Strider and the Rangers? Is it just the xenophobic tendencies of Bree people? They may be more open to strangers passing through than Shire Hobbits are, but they don't seem to warm to them personally.

Sam is the last of the Hobbits to accept Strider - his provincial nature, or lack of vision for the Ranger's true character?

Why do you think Tolkien inserted Merry's adventure outside? The Black Breath is mentioned for the first time - foreshadowing his illness due to the same cause after the Witch King encounter in RotK, perhaps.

Though the Prancing Pony is not really a safe haven in this night, the presence of Strider provides one for Frodo and his friends.
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Old 03-07-2008, 09:14 AM   #82
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We meet again! This chapter is all about one of my most favouritest characters, Strider/Aragorn. Tolkien does keep us in suspense about his nature and character at the beginning of the chapter. I can feel with him the desire to be accepted for his own sake.
One of the most interesting things I find about this chapter is the fact that in the beginning, Tolkien didn't know any better than us readers who Strider really is. It must be interesting and I always wanted to achieve something like that when writing something, unfortunately, I always knew who my characters are when they came. It was their fault, not mine.

Concerning Strider, however, he is too mysterious here at the beginning, really. There is time when I really expect him to burst in evil laughter, slay all the Hobbits and then hand them over to the Riders. It is the first paragraph, and it culminates when he says "I had learned that he was carrying out of the Shire, well, a secret that concerned me and my friends". Brr!

One thing I just love, and I always loved it since I read it first and I laughed at it a lot (and read it to my parents, although they did not care at all, but I forced them), is this part:
Quote:
"They come from Mordor," said Strider in a low voice. "From Mordor, Barliman, if that means anything to you."
"Save us!" cried Mr. Butterbur turning pale.
And of course, before it the remark of Butterbur's: "You! You're always popping up." I think this creates a sort of relief in the wholly darker tone and tension of the chapter. Well, and Gandalf's letter for example. It's nice to see something "Gandalfish" after such a long time, and it is obvious on first sight that this is Gandalf, no fake - such a Gandalfish thing cannot be fake even if the Strider was.

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Here's another thing that should have gone right but went wrong - with which results for the quest: Aragorn wanted to warn the Hobbits about going to the common room, but was hindered by Butterbur. What do you think would have been different if they had laid low that evening? Would that have changed anything, perhaps kept the attack from happening?
I actually believe it could. Butterbur causes two things to happen (aside from the whole not sending the letter business): he does not admit Strider up there AND he convinces (or at least offers) the travelers to go into the common room. But actually, even down there all goes well even until Frodo sings the song for the second time. The lesson of the story? Stop at the height of things

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Strider reacts with pain and tension when asked about the Riders. That would hint at personal experience. Do we have a reference to any encounter of his with them previously? He mentions traps that had been set for him by the Enemy in the past - to what do you suppose that refers?
Yes, I noticed this time as well that Strider is very, very discomforted when he speaks about the Riders. It seems obvious to me now that he encountered them in the past, and probably even more of them. It is possible he met them just recently, when he was hunting for Gollum - we know he was walking in sight of Minas Morgul, which would be a favourable place. But the way he speaks makes me think rather of some deeper and older experience. We see similar behavior of him before Moria - here, he also hints on some old experience of going there. Aragorn, for all his years of journeys all over the Middle-Earth, has surely experienced lots of horrible things, and meeting the Riders and traveling to Moria must have been among the strongest ones. The way he says "I know these Riders" makes me think of really personal experience of an encounter - is it possible that he really, like, spoke to a Ringwraith or something? Or was in the same place with him let's say for a day, for example following him? There are no hints that the Riders would know Aragorn, as far as I'm aware, and that's only logical, as Sauron's best servants would surely be able to discern the heir of Númenor in him, and they will make sure to report to Sauron, who would in turn focus more on Aragorn as person. And we know he didn't until that fateful Palantír contact. So, whatever sort of encounter his contact with the Riders was, it's probable it was more like the following-type one (Aragorn tracking a Rider who burned down a Woodmen village or something).

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Then comes the ultimate "what if" scenario - what if Butterbur hadn't forgotten the letter and the Hobbits had left the Shire in the summer?
Then they would safely reach Rivendell and spend the whole autumn wondering what happened to Gandalf. It might even cause some interesting scenarios to take place, culminathing with things like Elladan and Elrohir riding to Isengard. Eru knows how it would end...

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What causes Butterbur's suspicions about Strider and the Rangers? Is it just the xenophobic tendencies of Bree people? They may be more open to strangers passing through than Shire Hobbits are, but they don't seem to warm to them personally.
Seems so. Well, I believe Strider says it later - that Butterbur simply "does not trust the likes of him". You know, some vagabonds from the wilderness. As for overall xenophoby... well, I don't want to go too far, but I actually believe the Breelanders ARE quite xenophobic. Just look at their reaction on the Southerners' coming. Why, of course one is worried when lots of strange folks suddenly arrive, because he does not know what to expect from them - but the Breelanders seem a little too touchy on this aspect, overall.

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Sam is the last of the Hobbits to accept Strider - his provincial nature, or lack of vision for the Ranger's true character?
I believe the former. He disbelieves even the Bucklanders, or what more, even Farmer Maggot (although that's partially because he was being mean to his master), is afraid at the very look of the Big Folk's houses, and so some Strider, even if he were a 100% proven friend of Gandalf's, does not get enough of his trust. Even after Weathertop, he is worried about Strider.

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Why do you think Tolkien inserted Merry's adventure outside? The Black Breath is mentioned for the first time - foreshadowing his illness due to the same cause after the Witch King encounter in RotK, perhaps.
Definitely, and as I hinted in my commentary to the previous chapter, I find this really an interesting part; one of the things that raises my sympathies towards Merry (similarly as it seems to Strider). It is worth mentioning, however, that this is the first time a hobbit directly faces a Nazgul, and it is Merry - who, later, is the one to participate on slaying the Witch-King. We can speculate - does the experience Merry already has ("I am a veteran when it comes to Nazgul encounters") help him in any way later? Or it is merely a "model situation" (from the outside view on the story) that repeats itself later?
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Old 06-01-2008, 03:20 PM   #83
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Hi again,

Strider, well, only a couple of points to add.

First on Merry. Why indeed did he go for a stroll round the block? I wonder if it is related to the Barrow incident, Merry appears to have bee the most affected by the experience. Maybe he needed a little time alone to sit and think and a bit of a stroll to clear hs head after his close encounter with mortality? Also this incident marks a change in Merry's role. Up until now he has led the party, but from now on that role is taken by Strider and Gandalf, with Merry taking a back seat.

On Strider and the Nazgul, I agree with Legate that Morgul Vale and the hunt for Gollum are good candidates. I also wonder if Strider had heard report of the fight at Sarn Ford on 22nd September where the Dunedain were overwhelmed by the Black Riders? If so presumably he would have heard of the death of some of his close friends and comrades.
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Old 08-07-2008, 07:55 AM   #84
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Listening to the unabridged version during the daily commute, I noticed how, in the beginning, when Strider is speaking with Frodo and the other hobbits in the parlor, how much Strider asks that he be rewarded for the information that he has. How soon he then rewarded the hobbits with his services! I understand that, as being accepted as a companion on the road, I assume that then Frodo would be responsible for Aragorn's traveling expenses and upkeep, but how little he charges and how much more of a benefit does he show himself to be.

Also, I too like Strider's small reference to having intimate knowledge of the Nazgul. Think that the lack of great exposition actually works better, as my (and I assume everyone else's) imagination filled in the gaps, wondering if Aragorn fought these mostly obscure creatures, what powers they have, etc.

Too soon do we learn about the Nazgul, they take wing and become less frightening.
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Old 08-07-2008, 11:43 AM   #85
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Hi Alatar,

yes I agree with you on the Nazgul, definitely a case of less is more, just like Alien versus Aliens . Though they do remain quite scary throughout, what with threats of being borne away to the House of Nameless Lamentations!
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Old 10-06-2016, 08:00 AM   #86
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These last 4 chapters of Book I are fantastic. In this chapter we resolve Frodo's worries at the end of the last chapter:

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'Certainly!' said Frodo; but his heart sank. He wondered how many private talks he would have before he got to bed, and what they would reveal. Were these people all in league against him? He began to suspect even old Butterbur's fat face of concealing dark designs.~At the Sign of the Prancing Pony
Perhaps we can relate to Frodo...after doing something so embarrassing, and in public, you just want to hide, go to sleep, and blame in on the ale. But he's now promised 2 private words with strangers. He's even thinking that Butterbur is against him.

I love how Tolkien gives us a chapter focused on Aragorn and learning who he is. More will continue to be revealed about him, but he makes pretty clear he wants to be king:

Quote:
"I did not know," he answered. "But I am Aragorn, and those verses go with that name." He drew out his sword, and they saw that the blade was indeed broken a foot below the hilt. "Not much use is it, Sam?" said Strider. "But the time is near when it shall be forged anew."
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Renewed shall be the blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
Aragorn makes his intentions very clear. But as a character, he's not quite there yet. To the hobbits, to the readers, he's just a grungy man we met in a bar who's carrying around a useless sword. Even after this chapter, he's still just "Strider." I certainly knew as his character gets slowly revealed in his chapter that he was not in "league with the Enemy." I knew he would get the hobbits to Rivendell, but he hasn't "proven his quality," as Sam would put it. He's just got a nice sounding prophecy and a broken heirloom as proof that he is the 'Great King' returning.
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Old 10-06-2016, 01:54 PM   #87
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This was a nice calm chapter (as far as it can be under the circumstances). This chapter also introduces (properly, after vague hints in the previous one) the first important major character who is going to be with us until the end, and have a quite significant role.

Strider, to me, seems on first sight maybe not "foul" in the way Mr. Baggins probably perceived it, but rather being unnecessarily dramatic and "epic" in the wrong sense: dark. I understand he had spent most of his life traveling alone in the wilderness, but he also had basically a hundred years to meet humans (and others) and therefore one would expect a bit of empathy. "They came from Mordor, MORDOR! And they are more terrible than you can imagine!" is not what you go around telling people who are already scared enough as it is. Especially towards Butterbur, who, as Strider should understand, it a common fellow doing his own, and is not very well educated (even though certainly not stupid) and "big, epic, mystical" stuff is somehow outside his league, well, towards him Strider is just terrible. If this had been a Harry Potter book, Strider would walk around Hogwarts randomly interjecting Voldemort's real name into every sentence. I cannot completely shake off the feeling that he is doing it partly intentionally, just to be mean.

Otherwise, he is of course very helpful. And so is Butterbur, once again surprisingly so maybe for some readers who might have underestimated him on first sight. Aside from having forgotten to send the letter, he is very sharp in figuring out what's going on and what needs to be done.

And the same thing applies even in larger scale to Nob (once again, a character overlooked, I believe, unjustly). Nob seems to know a lot, and seems to act a lot of his own initiative (simulating Mr. "Underhill"'s head, for instance) - something you would not necessarily expect from an "employee" of his kind. He reminds me actually a lot of the classic figure of renaissance (and even later, especially Italian) novels, the "clever servant" who is more clever or wiser than he seems on first sight. If Butterbur is the somehow erratic "master", Nob is the servant who might be in the background, but actually does the important and practical things. Or if I move away from Italian and think Spanish, Nob could have been Sancho Panza.

We also learn a bit more about how the Riders "operate" in this chapter (aside from more scary hints from Strider that he knows their number and such), and also hints on how the Rangers (here represented only by Strider) operate, that they protect the Shire, and about Strider's cooperation with Gandalf. What I personally liked always about this chapter is the description of Merry's little adventure and the mention of the "Black Breath". Whatever it is, it sounds wonderful. By which I mean, of course, scary. But it must be something pretty cool.
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Old 10-10-2016, 07:44 AM   #88
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Strider, to me, seems on first sight maybe not "foul" in the way Mr. Baggins probably perceived it, but rather being unnecessarily dramatic and "epic" in the wrong sense: dark. I understand he had spent most of his life traveling alone in the wilderness, but he also had basically a hundred years to meet humans (and others) and therefore one would expect a bit of empathy. "They came from Mordor, MORDOR! And they are more terrible than you can imagine!" is not what you go around telling people who are already scared enough as it is. Especially towards Butterbur, who, as Strider should understand, it a common fellow doing his own, and is not very well educated (even though certainly not stupid) and "big, epic, mystical" stuff is somehow outside his league, well, towards him Strider is just terrible.
I can see Strider, wanting to make a favorable impression on the hobbits, perhaps deliberately playing up both the seriousness of their plight, and his own ancestry in a dramatic fashion. Maybe he would think that by coming across in that way, he would seem less like a spy for Mordor, or someone with evil intent. Sauron's servants would be more sneaky and covert.

As for Butterbur, Aragorn could have had a similar desire to convince him how dangerous the Nazgûl were, and how important it was to help Frodo. Aragorn knew he himself was suspected by Butterbur, and the Breelanders in general, so he'd want to show that Mordor was the focus.

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Otherwise, he is of course very helpful. And so is Butterbur, once again surprisingly so maybe for some readers who might have underestimated him on first sight. Aside from having forgotten to send the letter, he is very sharp in figuring out what's going on and what needs to be done.
I like Butterbur. He reminds me of people I've known in RL: hard working, plain folk with too much to do day-to-day to consider much that goes beyond their routine. Butterbur never wavers in his loyalty to Gandalf, and despite his fear, apparently never considers doing anything to imperil Frodo, even though he had no inkling of the larger picture. I have to admire that.

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And the same thing applies even in larger scale to Nob (once again, a character overlooked, I believe, unjustly). Nob seems to know a lot, and seems to act a lot of his own initiative (simulating Mr. "Underhill"'s head, for instance) - something you would not necessarily expect from an "employee" of his kind. He reminds me actually a lot of the classic figure of renaissance (and even later, especially Italian) novels, the "clever servant" who is more clever or wiser than he seems on first sight. If Butterbur is the somehow erratic "master", Nob is the servant who might be in the background, but actually does the important and practical things. Or if I move away from Italian and think Spanish, Nob could have been Sancho Panza.
Nob, too, seems to have no desire to help the evil invading Bree. He and Butterbur both have an innate good, as opposed to Bill Ferny.

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We also learn a bit more about how the Riders "operate" in this chapter (aside from more scary hints from Strider that he knows their number and such), and also hints on how the Rangers (here represented only by Strider) operate, that they protect the Shire, and about Strider's cooperation with Gandalf. What I personally liked always about this chapter is the description of Merry's little adventure and the mention of the "Black Breath". Whatever it is, it sounds wonderful. By which I mean, of course, scary. But it must be something pretty cool.
The operations of the Nazgûl in the Shire and Bree, are to me more fearsome than their later overt terror-raising. The enemy you barely see is always more frightening than one in the open. Bree and the Shire knew nothing about the Ringwraiths, which would only increase the fear about them.
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Old 11-01-2016, 07:16 PM   #89
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Strider, to me, seems on first sight maybe not "foul" in the way Mr. Baggins probably perceived it, but rather being unnecessarily dramatic and "epic" in the wrong sense: dark. I understand he had spent most of his life traveling alone in the wilderness, but he also had basically a hundred years to meet humans (and others) and therefore one would expect a bit of empathy. "They came from Mordor, MORDOR! And they are more terrible than you can imagine!" is not what you go around telling people who are already scared enough as it is.
I'm inclined to think that Aragorn, quite rightly, saw that these careless Hobbits needed a serious reality check. Scared to death? In one of the movies' few decent original lines, "Not nearly frightened enough."
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Old 11-05-2016, 08:36 PM   #90
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I'm inclined to think that Aragorn, quite rightly, saw that these careless Hobbits needed a serious reality check. Scared to death? In one of the movies' few decent original lines, "Not nearly frightened enough."
Yes, we must remember the context (in both the original and the film) is that Pippin and Frodo had been making themselves all too conspicuous. And Butterbur probably needs to be warned what he's dealing with- that said, Aragorn obviously doesn't like him and possibly takes an unworthy satisfaction in scaring him.
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Old 08-05-2018, 07:00 AM   #91
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Nothing leapt out at me specifically with "I must write about that on the Downs" reading through this chapter, and rereading the thread has not prompted anything distinct either (though this is one of the best CbC threads I've reread yet, so let us blame that one holding an only partially asleep infant while reading it).

Nonetheless, I want to say *something*, because I share the sentiment of a number of posters over the years in this thread who love this chapter. The comparison is made above that "Strider" is rather like "A Conspiracy Unmasked" in that it is largely a chapter of dialogue in a place of pause. That happens to be one of my favourite things--I have just enough of an actor left in me from middle school to enjoy reading the dialogue aloud from favourite authors, and Aragorn is a favourite--Gandalf too, and though he does not appear here, his voice does in the form of that letter.

One of the joys of re-reading a favourite text is reencountering beloved characters, and having Aragorn join the story has more of a sense of "finally!" than anyone else. With Strider in the picture, the main cast seems complete, because even if he isn't the main character, I'd argue that he is a main character--even if his much of his purpose is to provide contrast to the doings of the Hobbits, and to show that even in the Kingly and Heroic the greatest virtues are those shared with the humble and Hobbit-like, it is still the case that to show this, he must be a prominent character. And his is--in The Two Towers and The Return of the King, when the action separates the Hobbits and we have none to follow, Aragorn becomes our de facto protagonist, even if he remains a secondary character in terms of the epic as a whole.

As to whether Strider is a flat character, I think we need to define our terms. If by flat, we mean that Strider is not a complex character, I suppose I can imagine how that might be perceived, but I would disagree with it completely; however, if we mean that Strider is a static character--i.e. someone who does not substantially change within the course of the narrative--then I quite agree: Strider's character is determined by the eight-plus decades before we meet him at the Prancing Pony. The part that we get to see up close is the endgame, where who he is and what he will do has already been decided--we're just seeing how those decisions are going to play out.

Which is why, to engage with a potential plothole already interacted with in the thread, it makes sense to me that Aragorn would have the Shards of Narsil on him. Even if Gandalf has told him nothing of the Ring (though, in fact, he has apparently told him a great deal, since he's already cautioning Frodo on it in the previous chapter) Aragorn can read the same signs of the times that even Frodois hearing about before Gandalf's return in "Shadow of the Past," and can presumably interpret them better than most. He knows war with Mordor is imminent. So while he obviously wasn't carrying around the Shards while he was undercover as Thorongil, it does make sense to me that he'd have them, knowing they were entering the Last Days.



On a different note--it occurs to me that Strider is one of a very select few to have a chapter named after him. Tom Bombadil, Elrond, and Galadriel all get mentioned in a chapter title, though the subject is some of theirs (a house, council, and mirror respectively)--likewise, in the later books: Boromir, Saruman, Sméagol, Shelob, Samwise, and Denethor. Only Treebeard gets a chapter titled specifically identified as about him by name, though Gandalf and Théoden in the following two chapters each get a title that refers to them directly ("The White Rider" and "The King of the Golden Hall")--and if we go by that criteria, the only two-person chapter title is "The Steward and the King," which bookends "Strider." Strider is introduced in "At the Sign of the Prancing Pony" and he last appears in "Many Partings," but "Strider" is where we learn his identity and "The Steward and the King" is where that identity comes to fulfillment.

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