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Old 08-15-2004, 06:44 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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1420! LotR -- Book 1 - Chapter 09 - At the Sign of the Prancing Pony

This chapter begins with the history and description of Bree and its people, both Big and Little. Why do you think their peaceful coexistence was so unusual in Middle-earth? This section also includes the first definite information on the Rangers, this time from the point of view of the Bree-folk.

We are introduced to the Inn and Barliman Butterbur – rereading the chapter made me realize that I’d forgotten just how much that man talks! Most of the chapter is taken up with the account of the happenings in the common-room. It contains one long poem/song, ‘There is an inn’. The events end catastrophically, and we wonder (at least at first reading) which of the people are friends and which are foes.
Quote:
He [Frodo] began to suspect even old Butterbur's fat face of concealing dark designs.
What's your opinion on this chapter? Do you remember your first impressions on your initial reading of the book? What did you think of the new characters introduced here?


(This thread opens a day earlier than usual because of time constraints due to my absence this coming week. If a moderator is needed during that time, please contact Legolas. )
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Old 08-15-2004, 04:50 PM   #2
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Boots

This is one of my favorite chapters because it is so atmospheric. (There is just this thing about me and atmospheric). In this particular case, the atmosphere is so thick you could cut it with a knife.

The hobbits commit just about every mistake one could think of in this chapter. They don’t stay together, Merry goes wandering off in the night, the rest of the hobbits expose themselves to unnecessary attention, and Frodo uses the Ring. Of course, the upside was that they were introduced to Aragorn, which might not have happened otherwise. Although, Aragorn might have snuck in their room later, but that would probably have been more disturbing than what actually happened.

In this chapter we also see that the outside world is aware of growing danger and many different types of peoples are trying to get out of the way. We also see that people outside the Shire (or more specifically Bree) regard those inside the Shire as being a little strange.
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Old 08-16-2004, 02:16 AM   #3
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There is an odd structure to this chapter in terms of the hobbits. We began a few chapters back with Frodo & Gandalf, & the other hobbits became involved with the quest one by one. Here we almost have a mirror image:
Frodo/Gandalf+Sam+Pippin +Merry. In this chapter its Merry-Sam/Pippin-Frodo/Strider.

Another odd thing, given his character so far, is that its Merry, the organised, sensible one, who does the really stupid thing (which we'll see in the next chapter).

Re-reading the relevant HoME chapters a few interesting things arise: everyone originally was to have been a hobbit - Barliman Butterbur (originally Timothy Titus, evolving into Barnabus, then Barliman), & Trotter, the hobbit with wooden shoes & broken pipe who magically transforms in the later drafts into Strider. The Pony was to have been a large hobbit hole like structure, cut into Bree Hill. Oddly enough, Trotter is a far stranger & initially more interesting character - we expect men to be strange & mysterious, but a hobbit ranger! Totally out of character for the race. Whatever made Tolkien even consider making one of his stay at home. lazy, greedy hobbits into an action man?

The Ring seems to develop into a more dangerous object in this chapter - Frodo begins to suspect it has a will of its own. This is an interesting development (in spite of the fact that Gandalf has mentioned something of the sort). Frodo now begins to suspect that he is carrying something 'conscious', whose will can perhaps overwhelm his own & make him do things he doesn't want to. And how about our quiet, introspective, sensitive hero jumping up onto a table & belting out a song! (Which, if anyone is interested, was originally to be Sam's Troll Song).

And then we have the southerner, warning all & sundry that he's likely to be the first of many 'refugees' who will be making their way north to escape the depredations 'away down south'? What point, if any, is Tolkien making about refugees, or 'incomers'? They do, obviously, have a right to a peaceful life, but what effect would a mass influx of refugees have on the settled communities of Eriador. Perhaps that nowhere is safe if there is a war going on - even of its taking place many hundreds of miles away, & so no community (or individual) can afford to shut itself off.

Finally, we see the similarities between the Bree hobbits & the hobbits of the Shire. Many place names in the Shire are simply geographical - The Hill, The River, etc, while the names of places in the Bree Land are the same - Bree is the celtic name for 'hill', Coombe=valley (cwm) & chet as in Archet & Chetwood=wood. They are so alike, yet they don't realise it, & are full of suspicion regarding each other. Its this attitude that outsiders are 'queer' which leads to their isolation, & to allowing bad things to go on in the outside world without intervening, that has caused so many problems. One wonders if that is also something the Elves have taught to the other races?
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Old 08-16-2004, 09:48 AM   #4
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This chapter is a splendid one - I think that, at least on a superficial level, it's one of the most enjoyable chapters Book I. That effect, I believe, arises largely from Tolkien's skillful use of various contrasts in this chapter.

First of all, there is an obvious contrast with the preceding chapters. We have emerged from Tom Bombadil's country and back into the main plot. We are back to worrying about things like Black Riders. There is almost a sense of relief on the reader's part - important threads of the plot that have been hanging quite unresolved since chapter 5 are now taken up again.

Another contrast with what has preceded is that whereas all the previous narrative consists mainly of a cycle of journey/adventure/refuge scenes, this chapter does not fit readily into that scheme.

On the surface, it could be considered a refuge, a safe-place. But there are important contrasts within the chapter as well. Despite its ostensible status as a safe haven chapter, the atmosphere here constantly contradicts that interpretation - right from the meeting with Harry the gatekeeper, who says there are "queer folk about", we know that Bree is wholly unlike Bag End, or Woody End, or Maggot's house, or Crickhollow, or Bombadil's house. Tolkien also continues to reap the benefit of his slowly wrought tension with regard to the Black Riders. When we hear that "a dark figure climbed quickly in over the gate and melted into the shadows of the village street" we immediately think we know what it is - it's the same trick, of course, that he used with Merry at the end of chapter 4.

There are other contrasts here (and they carry over into chapter 10 as well). Big folk vs. little folk; merriment vs. fear of the strangers; Hobbit-like curiosity vs. suspicion; Frodo's song vs. his disappearance; Strider's ominous appearance vs. his true nature (he looks foul and feels fair). We are allowed to become comfortable, but never too comfortable. These contrasts contribute greatly to the build-up of tension. For the ominous gains something in power by being set aside the ordinary; catastrophes seem worse if they come in the midst of merriment. This is the sort of trick that Hitchcock would often use - a murder is all the more shocking if it happens in a friendly-looking little motel, in a shower (usually a safe, warm place). Similarly, Frodo's disappearance seems more catastrophic for following such a jolly song.
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Old 08-16-2004, 11:04 AM   #5
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Mithalwen is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Mithalwen is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Mithalwen is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Mithalwen is lost in the dark paths of Moria.
I think maybe the suspicion is overstated ..... the hobbits are given a warm reception at first ... despite their outlandish cover story...... but the Breelanders are naturally nervous of the threat of mass immigration ... and given the identity of this particular Southerner... it is a pity they aren't more suspicious (UT)...

I suppose that the hobbits feel they are relaltively safe and relax their guard.... they are not alone in the wild and they expect to meet Gandalf (perhaps a smaller scale version of the feeling they have initially at Rivendell; that their part is done)..... after the horrors of the Forest and the Downs and (whether you love or hate him) the wierdness of Bombadil .they are in a "gated community".. the Pony is a relatively normal environment. Merry wandering off is perhaps is more plot than character driven since if he had been "minding" the scattier Pippin, the Frodo debacle might have been avoided .... but then Merry is (especially since Frodo is bound to be more cautious because of the ring) the most relaxed about being outside the Shire ... I don't know that he was taking a particular risk going out....although he did following the Nazgul...

I would say that the first sight of strider was one of the occasions when the film really did capture the picture in my mind......
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Old 08-16-2004, 09:53 PM   #6
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Some observations:

1) There is an interesting hint here of other hobbit communities and individuals otherwise not alluded to, one of JRRT's creation of a feeling of depth and barely glimpsed vistas.
"There were probably many more Outsiders scattered about the West of the World in those days than the people of the Shire imagined. Some, doubtless, were no better than tramps, ready to dig a hole an any bank and stay only as long as it suited them."

2) PJ's picture of Strider was abetted by VM, who read LOTR on the way over to New Zealand and sat in as Strider even when he wasn't being filmed.

3) Strider's introduction in Chapter 9 is well done. At first reading, you go back and forth as to whether he is a good guy or a bad guy, and it isn't really settled until the next chapter.

4) The tension is palpable at the end of the chapter:
a) Who is Strider
b) What does Barliman want to tell Frodo (and can BB really be that dense---actually, yes, although he can see through a brick wall in time)
c) Has Frodo betrayed his quest.
d) Has the Southerner been alerted to the Ring, does he even know about the Ring, is he a spy?
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Old 08-17-2004, 02:30 AM   #7
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Some points (and again to go along with poems)

The Cow in the Moon poem is light hearted, but it adds up to foundations of old mythology which is guessed, but never fully seen at the roots of LoTR. There is direct references, which may have not been understood by hobbits themselves, but are there nevertheless

The stress falls on Man in the Moon and Sun as she:

Quote:
The round Moon rolled behind the hill
as the Sun raised up her head.
She hardly believed her fiery eyes;
For though it was day, to her surprise
they all went back to bed!
cf:

Quote:
The maiden whom the Valar chose from among the Maiar to guide the vessel of the Sun was named Arien, and he that steered the island of the Moon was Tilion
Such an undirect hint, inside an old folklore convinces me more then if Tolkien stated openly (say, in conversation between some characters) in 'reality' of the world I'm reading through.

I doubt, of course, that Arien really cared about bree drunkards going to bed in the morning, though . And yet, later on Legolas states:

Quote:
I have not brought the Sun. She is walking in the blue fields of the South, and a little wreath of snow on this Redhorn hillock troubles her not at all
So Arien may care for doings down there, after all (logical chain - she does not care about this here hillock - so she may care about something else?) And such a lore is also expressed in 'lowly' hobbit lore - Sun cares for what goes below in general, and in Bree in particular.

I don't intend to tell you Man in the Moon really got drunk in the inn, but again - the principle does not contradict the whole 'truth' of the ME - Tilion is a maia, and there were historical precedents of maiar living among Children - Melian!

Again, what once was lore is now folklore. Or, again and again, hobbit poems are always more then they seem , even the most 'silly' ones

cheers
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Old 08-17-2004, 02:59 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by H-I
Again, what once was lore is now folklore. Or, again and again, hobbit poems are always more then they seem , even the most 'silly' ones
Its interesting that the poems always seem not just to be inspired by, but also to 'expand' the context in which they appear - Frodo's poem about woods failing in the Old Forest, Frodo's song here, Sam's Troll Song, Bilbo's song of Earendel at Rivendell, etc. They open up the mythological dimension - even if we don't realise it. This is why I think those readers who skip the poems miss a lot of the depth of the story.

Somehow songs are a means of transmitting old lore & keeping it alive & relevant. They keep the past alive in the present, linking past & present, almost in the way past & present are linked by experiences like Merry's in the last chapter.
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Old 08-17-2004, 12:59 PM   #9
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The song is interesting .... partly for me since it was the first part of LOTR I encountered in an anthology ... I remember being delighted at "recognising" an expanded version of the old nursery rhyme... so while it refers back in ME time to the creation stories which would be little known myth to the hobbits (though Galadriel would have known them as fact) they also refer forward to the world we know and nonsense rhymes for English children ..... and the oral tradition does last well it did to my pre computerised/pre-video generation.. . I remember a similar feeling of delighted recognition when I realised that a song I sang in the Brownies 20 years earlier was a slightly corrupted version of the folksong/lute song Lord Randall ..... I couldn't believe my ears .... even the tune was distinctly recognizable......

by the by I believe that it was the first thing Viggo shot as he arrived as a newcomer when the rest of the team had been together for months ... the start of method acting...

Oh I also noticed the idea of further hobbit communities when I reread .... but where? I wonder ... the Gladden ones had been abandoned and the Nazgul drew many blanks on their search? A more distant vista? Were there Hobbits on the far downs before Elanor & co removed there perhaps...
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Old 08-20-2004, 04:57 AM   #10
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"There were probably many more Outsiders scattered about the West of the World in those days than the people of the Shire imagined. Some, doubtless, were no better than tramps, ready to dig a hole an any bank and stay only as long as it suited them."
I expect that this bit of the chapter, might be left over from the earlier drafts when Trotter the Hobbit was to be introduced rather than Aragorn.

It seems to me also that in this chapter the mask starts to slip off everyday mundane life in Middle-earth. The hobbits had expected Bree to be a different sort of place, but still it had enough of the familiar comforting aspects to lull them to some degree. Even Merry, getting out of his range of expertise, felt comfortable enough to go seek some air. But through Frodo's eyes we learn that not all is as seems, and that the common room, for all it's warmth is dotted with shady folk, including the town gatekeeper in the lot! And even though the Shire was not aware of the ring, evidently they might know about it here.

I clearly remember the first time reading the story, I thought Frodo's journey was about to derail and wondered what turn the story was about to take when Strider says,
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You have put your foot in it! Or should I say your finger?
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Old 08-20-2004, 07:09 PM   #11
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I think Aiwendil makes an interesting point about the contrast of this chapter of ‘refuge’ to the others. But I don’t think that this consists of an alteration in the pattern, but a deepening of it. As so many here have already pointed out, this chapter is one of darkness and lurking danger, doubt and fear. It is also one in which no women appear! Unlike the Maggot farm and the House of Bombadil, there is no Mrs Butterbur, and I think that this might go a long way to explaining the oddly discordant feel of this chapter. Without the ‘balance’ wrought by the feminine, the Pony – no matter how cozy and welcoming a place – cannot really be a refuge. It’s for this reason that I don’t read this chapter as a ‘refuge’ one at all, but as the first stage of the hobbits’ next stage of their adventure, which will end at Rivendell under the protection of Elrond and Arwen.

The way this chapter begins is interesting in this light, insofar as we go back to the earlier discussions we had about the Shire as an enclosed society trying to shut out the wider world. Bree is the mirror image of that, but the barriers are here both much more visible (the gate, the wall etc) and – consequently – much more vulnerable (the walls can be climbed, the gate is open to refugees, the spies are in their midst already, etc). It’s as though having left their private fantasy of an enclosed and safe place in the Shire (and having been awoken to the fact that it was a fantasy) the hobbits are now able or ready to face the reality of the world, as it is reflected here in Bree. It’s not all Party Fields and second breakfasts on the lawn, with hot baths and beer in the evenings. There are pleasant things in the world yes (like hobbits, and beer, and a friendly Innkeeper) but there are dark things as well – and sometimes even the dark things aren’t what you think they are: Strider is neither the dangerous threat he first appears to be, nor is he ‘just’ the Ranger Strider. Given this, I think it makes perfect sense (from a thematic point of view) that it is Merry who goes out into the night: as the most grown-up and ‘aware’ of the hobbits, he is the one most able and capable of engaging with that real world beyond the Shire.

The last point I want to make about this chapter is the manner in which the Ring gets on Frodo’s finger. His actual disappearing act is described from the point of view of the inn’s patrons, so we have no real narrative of the moment itself, only Frodo’s memory of it. And this is far from revealing:

Quote:
How it came to be on his finger he could not [edit: or would not?] tell. He could only suppose that he had been handling it in his pocket while he sang, and that somehow it had slipped on when he stuck out his hand with a jerk to save his fall. For a moment he wondered if the Ring itself had not played him a trick; perhaps it had tried to reveal itself in response to some wish or command that was felt in the room.
The disturbing thing about this is how Frodo seems almost desperate to avoid accepting responsibility for what’s happened. He blames the Ring for ‘tricking’ him (“nasty tricksy Precious; trickses us it did!”), and then some other will in the room. The closest he comes to acknowledging that he might have had some part in it is his admission that he had been “handling it in his pocket.” This in itself is telling, though, since one of the first things we heard from Bilbo in his conversation with Gandalf in Chapter One was how he was always fingering the Ring and playing with it in his pocket. The Ring is already exerting quite a pull on Frodo, and he is here either unable or unwilling to admit just how much…
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Old 08-21-2004, 01:20 PM   #12
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Mithalwen is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Mithalwen is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Mithalwen is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Mithalwen is lost in the dark paths of Moria.
Fordim's point about the absence of women is interesting; I have often wondered in the books generally whether one can assume when no women are mentioned that no women are present.. In this case I think the answer probably is yes ... I can remember even in my not-so-distant childhood most pubs having "saloons" that were effectively men only as well as mixed lounge bars -and my mother may have been a little old fashioned but I was taught that " a lady did not go into a bar alone" ( and even now I dislike being the first to arrive if I am meeting friends in a pub............) . At the Party women are mentioned and at Minas Tirith and ROhan they are evacuated .... but at the Feast at Rivendell ... it seems that Arwen was the only woman there .... and surely that can't be the case ..... when Frodo says "There was one lady.." does he mean one lady marked out for special rank by her seating ... or that she was the only woman? At Lorien no woman other than Galadriel is mentioned though her maidens are referred to.. I suppose it does increase the impact of the three significant women in the story .... but it makes it seem a superficially unbalanced world ....
but then I suppose Tolkien lived in a very male world so it may not have occurred to him it was odd....!!!
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Old 08-22-2004, 02:58 AM   #13
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For some reason unknown, I do not find inns any comforting. And this has been carried on as I read this chapter. Yes, Barliman Butterbur might have been a gracious and customer-friendly innkeeper, but there's something in the way that he talks so much and tends to forget things that scared me. We see a glimpse of this forgetfulness in the line that mentions him hesitating for a moment after hearing Frodo introduce himself as Underhill, as if there is something he has to do in connection with the name (my apologies, I haven't the book).

The unfamiliarity with Breelanders, particularly the Big Folk, adds to this aura of discomfort. As I read, I pictured myself being one of the hobbits, and the description of the Big Folk scared me, not just because of their height. Add to that the lurking thought of the Ringwraiths being around.

Ironically (as we will find out in the next chapter), Strider is also a source of fear. At first we see him as someone who probably knows more about these hobbits than the others in the Inn, in the way he looks at them. And since our only source of information about him in this chapter is the one given by Butterbur (which the people around most likely agree with), there is every reason for Frodo to be on his guard...

...but, unfortunately, he was not. His song has somehow lightened the mood, but the accident has made his position even worse. Now he has a growing suspicion of darkness on the only person he is most likely to trust other than his companions. What a fright this chapter must have been for poor Frodo.

I seem to have focused too much on the negative...

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Old 08-24-2004, 05:01 AM   #14
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Tolkien

Quote:
Strider is also a source of fear.
I think that with this Tolkien was trying to build up an air of suspicion, no one is quite sure who he is. However, as is found in the chapter "Homeward bound" the people of Bree did not really understand what it was the rangers actually did. So like many things, it is to make the ultimate change at the end slightly more dramatic, In that the people of Bree are happy in a way that the rangers have left, but then realise what it was that they were doing, keeping the ruffians out of trouble. I think that this is another message of Tolkein's, although its a corny one, I believe this is a slight hint of "Don't judge a book by its cover" a lot a like to the Hobbits often being overlooked and seen as unimportant, or Gandalf being seen as a storm crow and a deceiver, but ultimately they are the movers of great things in the story.

Well that's what I thought anyway.
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Old 08-25-2004, 07:49 AM   #15
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What strikes me at second reading is that the "big folk" of Bree are really rather similar to the Hobbits... that's probably why they can live together so well. They are content with their lives in Bree and rather suspicious of anything unknown . Well, the only Bree men we really get to know are Barliman Butterbur (very hobbitlike, I think) and Bill Ferny (evil, but in a small, mean way)
I remember well, how intrigued I was at the first reading by the description of Strider. (btw the first sight of Strider in the movie is exactly like that: one sees only the gleam of his eyes from under the hood.)
Something else which makes me wonder now is the statement at the beginning of the chapter that "no other Men had settled dwellings so far west" and the description of the rangers as "mysterious wanderers" without a dwelling apparently. But some of them, at least, must have had wives and children, and all of them had parents: I wonder where those lived ? Where were Aragorn's parents living before his father died? Whither did Gilraen retire when she left Rivendell ? Is it nowhere mentioned, I wonder ?

And though I'm not from an English-spoken country I was delighted to recognize "Hi diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle" in Frodo's song. Btw , some people in a German Forum asked me in earnest if that nursery rhyme really had its origin in the LotR ! I think it's typical for Tolkien that he manages to make us think that ! ( Like "Atalantë" and "Avalonnë")
As HerenIstarion so rightly pointed out: the lore becomes folklore...
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Old 03-06-2008, 04:27 PM   #16
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Well, what's this - I was wondering whether we skipped a chapter or something. Surely you don't mean there is nothing interesting about this chapter? At least for myself I could speak about quite a lot of things.

First, the beginning. I'm going to skip the current things and focus on the historical information. I find it very interesting that we are very plainly told that the Breelanders lived there already in the First Age. Well, why not, it's plausible and even logical, but still, it's interesting to actually fully realise it. Isn't it strange? Somewhat, this implies that Bree itself (of course in some different state) is a settlement far, far older than let's say Osgiliath, Barad-Dur, Minas Tirith, Umbar or Isengard (about such young places like Dale or Edoras I don't even speak). Maybe, who knows, even older than all the human settlements in Beleriand. Fascinating idea, isn't it? Beren and Túrin are running around Beleriand and performing their great deeds, but behind the mountains, the Breelanders still reside and wait. And wait. And wait. As the classic says, "the villagers won".

Also, there is one interesting piece of information that breaks one common stereotypical thought about the Hobbits. It's a slight remark, although it speaks very plain towards a reader.
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There were probably many more Outsiders scattered about in the West of the World in those days than the people of the Shire imagined. Some, doubtless, were no better than tramps, ready to dig a hole in any bank and stay only as long as it suited them.
"Than the people of the Shire imagined" - and I could add "than most of the Tolkien fans are used to imagine". Normally, when someone says "Hobbits" to us, we think about the Shire and a little branch in Bree and its neigbouring villages. But here we are confronted with a view of many other Hobbits who live around there in the wilderness of ancient Arnor. Something that seems (at least to me) more like a desperate construction to back-up a crazy fanfiction or a bad RPG is actually true and put forward by the author himself. Interesting how easily one can slip into stereotypical thinking, eh?

Concerning Harry Goatleaf. He is the first character of the Breelanders the four travelers confront. He is just a minor character, but he has some depth - simlar to Fatty Bolger and all these folks who are left behind to emerge later. But in RotK we learn how he changes. I wonder - what was his stance now, at this time? Because I think him quite genuine and all right at this time. Or was he already doing something, like, what, spying for Saruman? Or was this just the time when he was "corrupted" - did the Black Riders simply scare him that much? I find his life story a very interesting question and if I were to be inspired by Esty, who wrote her fanfic about Folco Boffin, I would write about Harry Goatleaf. Maybe his story was tragic? Being afraid, maybe even of the loss of some who were close to him, he chose betrayal? A Gorlim of the Third Age?

Barliman Butterbur mentions Dwarves who are going West that just arrived this evening. And they indeed are sitting down there. But there is nothing else about them. Why? Wouldn't it be nice for the hobbits to, let's say, have a little chat with the Dwarves? And are the Dwarves actually ever mentioned there after that? I am not aware of it. When the nightly attack comes, the Southerners are concerned about the loss of their horses, but not a single remark about the Dwarves being angry - and a Dwarf could surely become angry and demand the innkeeper to pay for the loss - about losting their ponies, which they likely would have (as we know from Thorin&co.'s case).
And concerning the Dwarves' origin - I think they probably were some folks from Erebor or the Iron Hills traveling to the Blue Mountains, as that's the only logical explanation I can come up with. However, if anyone has any other ideas, I am listening.

A personal remark: The welcome the Hobbits get from Butterbur and Nob always make me wish to be there and to eat with them. However dramatic the circumstances are, the Prancing Pony is still a piece of home, and it's also the last one for a long time to come.

Merry is once again great in this chapter. I have strong sympathy for him here, as well as in the following chapter. He decides not to go down ("too stuffy") and goes for a nice evening walk, and yet he experiences probably the coolest thing of all of them (coolest = from the silly view of the person who is all excited about adventure. That's not meant to say that Merry is, that's meant to say that I'd be ). More about this in my thoughts to the next chapter.

And, the last thing. This chapter is full of tension of anticipation, there are things like the mysterious shadowy figure that jumped over the gate, strange remarks from Harry, Strider and Butterbur that remain unexplained, and the chapter itself ends with Frodo's appointment of two private meetings - and the one with Butterbur is by nature even more curious than the one with Strider, because, what can such a figure like the jovial innkeeper have to say to Frodo? Not speaking at all about the three men who left the room after Frodo's disappearance. In short, if there is anything close to the genre of a detective story in LotR, it is this chapter.

And a P.S. about Hey Diddle Diddle. I must have heard the song first about ten years ago (while I read LotR still quite a long time before that), and only after several years I actually once, listening to it, started to wonder whether it - or some modification of it - is not what Tolkien means by the words that some of it is remembered until today. But when did I really discover that? Just now on this thread, of course. But I expected to find it.
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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."

Last edited by Legate of Amon Lanc; 03-06-2008 at 05:01 PM. Reason: corrected mistakingly calling Folco Fatty
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Old 03-07-2008, 09:02 AM   #17
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Oops! It's a crazy week, I guess; I simply skipped posting about this chapter, having read it and gone on to the next one. I will post my thoughts later, when I can go back to remind myself of them. Thanks, Legate, for not following my example and for posting to this thread!
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Old 03-19-2008, 03:54 PM   #18
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Let me add just one interesting thought that is pointed out in the Reader's Companion: The "squint-eyed ill-favoured fellow" says, 'If room isn't found for them, they'll find it for themselves.' This statement is eerily similar to the German idea of Lebensraum ('living space'), which was one of the reasons for the Second World War. We don't know, of course, where people felt their country was overly crowded in Middle-earth, but someone must have felt the need to spread out and take over other areas.
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Old 05-27-2008, 02:35 PM   #19
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Eye We're all going down the pub!

Lets go for a beer, mine's a pint!

Well the party arrives at Bree, in hope of good food, a nice relaxing beer or six and a good night's sleep, oh dear, how wrong can you be.

First of all Harry Goatleaf, I thought of as a typical minor functionary jobsworth, being obstructive just for the sake of it, but then suborned by the bad guys. I reckon him as mean-spirited but in a small way, like the Sandymans.

Was the black shape that jumped over the gate Aragorn or a Nazgul? I feel I ought to know but can't remember at present.

Now to the Inn. I think here that JRRT was drawing on his vast experience of Oxfordshire pubs in this scene, specifically the peculiar feeling you get on entering a strange local. I guess for those unfamiliar it is best illustrated by 'The Hanged Man' in 'American Werewolf in London'. On entering such an unknown establishment of refreshment one looks for the little clues to tell you how the evening is going to go, decoration is no guide, punters' apparel is informative, broken furniture and windows not encouraging and the entire pub going silent, turning around, staring at you with a 'You b'aint from round ere arr youse?' definitely a bad sign (more-or-less on a par with Alabama banjo-playing). Add to this a situation where half the clientele are twice your size and there is considerable ground for nervousness.

Happily the initial phase goes well, lodgings and refreshment are secured. (To digress the 'it comes in pints!' line from the film was priceless). Now as you no doubt know, when one has a reasonably friendly welcome and a couple of beers, especially after a taxing journey, guards may be let down and further beverages consumed. Unfortunately Pippin 'had taken as much ale as was good for him' as the Prof so enchantingly puts it, forgetting himself which leads to much further embarassment.

After Frodo's unsuccessful attempt to cover up, the reaction of the crowd is very interesting, they assume that some magic has been done and get very suspicious. No doubt the Bree-men have survived since the 1st Age by avoiding 'meddling in the affairs of wizards' and have little desire to start now.

Now as to the crowd, the dwarves are to be expected, as Legate says probably travelling between Erebor and the Blue Mountains. The party of men from the South is more interesting (naturally South here means anything south of Bree, not Haradrim!). The squint-eyed southerner we know to be one of Saruman's spies recruited by the Nazgul, and later on there is a comment on similar figures amongst Saruman's 'halforcs' though probably he's an eighth-orc or whatever. The rest of the party claim to be 'honest' and if not a deceit, who are they? Dunlendings perhaps, though they speak the common tongue and seem more 'civilised' than the Dunlendings we meet later. Maybe Rohirrim from the far-Westfold being squeezed out by Saruman's incursions? Alternatively men from some unknown settlement of Enedwaith or Minhiriath, perhaps in the area of now-ruined Tharbad? Tricky one!

On Lebensraum Esty, I think that its a bit of a strange idea, for as far as we know Minhiriath and Enedwaith are pretty much deserted. There appears to be plenty of free land available for the taking (population densities in ME being very low after all). To speculate maybe Saruman's support has led to the Dunlendings expanding their territory and forcing out isolated older settlements of men??

On Outsider hobbits, I quite like the idea of wandering hobbitry living out in 'the wild', perhaps re-occupying some of the ancient hobbit settlements from the migration period. Gentlehobbits of the road indeed, though rude people might call them tramps!
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Old 05-27-2008, 03:36 PM   #20
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Was the black shape that jumped over the gate Aragorn or a Nazgul? I feel I ought to know but can't remember at present.
Definitely Aragorn; he later says that in the following chapter. The shadow was only meant to look sinister, but it wasn't, of course. That by itself shows that it was Strider

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The rest of the party claim to be 'honest' and if not a deceit, who are they? Dunlendings perhaps, though they speak the common tongue and seem more 'civilised' than the Dunlendings we meet later. Maybe Rohirrim from the far-Westfold being squeezed out by Saruman's incursions? Alternatively men from some unknown settlement of Enedwaith or Minhiriath, perhaps in the area of now-ruined Tharbad? Tricky one!
Tharbad was ruined a long time ago; unless someone survived in its ruins (which, from the way it's put, is improbable; also don't forget that Boromir passed there and obviously met no one, and had people been living there even until very recently, surely at least a remnant would have been found there, even if most of the inhabitants went away). However it may be that these folks came from Enedwaith or Minhiriath, or Dunland, threatened by Saruman's "imperialism". They may be some simple Minhiriath folk threatened by increasing range of Saruman's operations (where would the Uruk-hai of Isengard get their supplies, right?), or even "dissidents" from Dunland, indeed, "escaping from trouble".

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On Lebensraum Esty, I think that its a bit of a strange idea, for as far as we know Minhiriath and Enedwaith are pretty much deserted. There appears to be plenty of free land available for the taking (population densities in ME being very low after all). To speculate maybe Saruman's support has led to the Dunlendings expanding their territory and forcing out isolated older settlements of men??
Why not? There's the thing that probably also "evil things" were multiplying in the wilderness, and they wanted to live in a more secure place.
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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 10-03-2016, 07:44 AM   #21
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So I got done reading this chapter last night, and left thinking without a doubt on this reread this is my favorite chapter so far. It will probably end up being my favorite chapter from Book I too. The inn atmosphere that Tolkien describes is just wonderful. We got a small taste at the Ivy Bush and Green Dragon in the first couple chapters, but here is basically an entire chapter the hobbits spend inside an inn.

I didn't care for the Prancing Pony's depiction in the movie. Bree-hill and the town captured the right look and feel with the hobbits arriving at night and being rather gloomy. But the inn itself is a place described being abundant with light, song, and merriment. The place is hopping busy and the innkeeper is swamped busy. Did I mention Butterbur is really busy?

I think I loved this chapter so much this time, because I see a bit of myself and my job in Butterbur. I have quite a large man-bag that I'm able to keep all the papers, laptop, folders, calendar, and all sorts of stuff that I need for work in it. Without it I'd be lost and a complete mess. It keeps my days organized and basically anything important stays in my man-bag. The problem is I tend to get so busy throughout the day I'm leaving something everywhere, inside a different store, sometimes outside. Employees lovingly joke "that's our training director's he would forget his head if it wasn't attached to the neck." There are days I can definitely relate to Butterbur, being busy to the point where one new thing makes you forget something you definitely should not have forgotten!

The atmosphere of the Prancing Pony is simply lovely. There's hobbits, dwarves, and men, locals and foreigners. Who is trustworthy? Is anyone trustworthy? There's even rooms that are designed to cater to hobbits, and the food is just good plain hobbit food. It lulls them into a sense that they're back in the Shire, in the Green Dragon. To the point that they forget their own warnings before entering Bree, that they're now indeed outside the Shire. The hobbits aren't very good at keeping their secret purpose hidden for very long. Anytime you get too much food and drink in public, you'll probably end up regretting it.

Merry perhaps makes the best decision, at least when it come to not risking their secret coming out, but he makes the mistake of wandering outside at night. This time the foreshadowing comes from Pippin:

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'All right!' said Pippin. 'Mind yourself! Don't get lost, and don't forget that it is safer indoors!'
Merry just warned all of them to "mind their Ps and Qs" don't forget they're supposed to be escaping in secret. It makes you think if Merry had gone in, that he could have stopped the catastrophe. But all the hobbits make a mistake in this chapter.
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Old 10-04-2016, 02:38 PM   #22
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1420!

This chapter is certainly nice. The Pony really feels homely, just as well as the description of the food (have I mentioned that it is one of the things I have always appreciated the most about LotR, the description of food and drink - and baths?). And good Mr. Butterbur is just a lovely character. I like him a lot, however chaotic he is. He, in my book, is the prime example of what should a "common person" on the "good side" be like.

Since Boro has mentioned his dislike for the film portrayal of the Pony, I might note that I disliked the portrayal of Butterbur. He was supposed to be "faster" (and he was not supposed to have moustache). The film Butterbur seems to have holes in his memory, but not because he is too busy, but because he seems a bit slow-witted.

I also relate a lot to Merry here. I never realised it before, but it is obvious. On the most basic level: he does not want to go to the common room, he prefers to be alone and later to take a walk outside by himself. Sounds relatable. Quite a mundane way to act, regardless of whether you are being chased by Black Riders or not...

And, one more thing, mandatory random lore-time: "There were probably more Outsiders scattered about in the West of the World in those days than the people of the Shire imagined. Some, doubtless, were no better than tramps, ready to dig a hole in any bank and stay as long as it suited them."

Very unusual information regarding Hobbits. I have always discouraged the idea of Dungeons&Dragons style "halfling thief" hailing from a random imaginary village in the wilderness, but actually, after reading this, it doesn't sound that uncanonical, does it.
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Old 08-03-2018, 06:49 PM   #23
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Two things struck me this time:

1. What a *long* day this is for the Hobbits: they wake up in a Barrow, they get rescued by Tom Bombadil, run around naked in the grass, march all day over Arthedain's dikes to the East Road, encounter a new village, have the whole crazy adventure of Frodo putting on the Ring *in public*, have two after-hours secret conversations, lose Merry and get him back, find out that the Black Riders are back, and have to change beds (which turns out to be a good things...).

And it feels pretty long to readers too! The twenty-four hours from waking in the Barrow to leaving Bree broach four chapters--I think only the final day or so for Frodo and Sam crossing from Ithilien into Mordor even has a hope of competing.


2. Along the same lines as what Boromir88 says about not approving of the film Prancing Pony, I quite agree that Bree is far too dark and dangerous feeling in the movies--but I think I understand why it had to be that way. In the movie there is no Gildor, nor Maggot, nor Crickhollow, nor Bombadi, so the pattern of "adventure, refuge" that we've been following since Frodo left Hobbiton doesn't hold. We also haven't been away from the Shire long enough (since there's nothing between the Brandywine and Bree, apparently) to relish a return to home-like environs, even if it's not quite as 'safe' as Pippin nearly behaves.


All in all, this is one of my favourite chapters. The snippets of history in the description of Bree and the insight into the wider world of Eriador and beyond is wonderful, mixed in with one of my favourite minor characters (Barliman Butterbur) and an introduction to a favourite main character (Strider).
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Old 08-04-2018, 06:18 AM   #24
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What a *long* day this is for the Hobbits: they wake up in a Barrow, they get rescued by Tom Bombadil, run around naked in the grass, march all day over Arthedain's dikes to the East Road, encounter a new village, have the whole crazy adventure of Frodo putting on the Ring *in public*, have two after-hours secret conversations, lose Merry and get him back, find out that the Black Riders are back, and have to change beds (which turns out to be a good things...).
Obviously, the imprisonment in the Barrow couldn't have lasted very long; just enough time to strip all of hobbits, except Frodo, and reclothe them in white.

You do have to feel sorry for poor Frodo, with both Strider and Butterbur wanting to talk to him before bed.

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All in all, this is one of my favourite chapters. The snippets of history in the description of Bree and the insight into the wider world of Eriador and beyond is wonderful, mixed in with one of my favourite minor characters (Barliman Butterbur) and an introduction to a favourite main character (Strider).
I like the way the description of Bree seems to momentarily revert to the earlier, more lighthearted tone used before The Shadow of the Past. Once last look at a place of order and peace, before running off into the wild.
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Old 08-12-2018, 09:10 PM   #25
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One thing is for certain after reading this chapter...Tolkien knew how to write cliffhangers. This chapter leaves us the reminder that Frodo promised two private talks with Strider and Butterbur and Frodo wondering if he can trust anyone.

Even though I'm disappointed with how the movies depicted the atmosphere in the Prancing Pony, I understand Jackson's reasons. What I'm not disappointed in, is how he introduced Strider. Visually, it was a rare moment of perfection:

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He had a tall tankard in front of him, and was smoking a long-stemmed pipe curiously carved...A travel-stained cloak of heavy dark green cloth was drawn close about him, and in spite of the heat of the room he wore a hood that overshadowed his face; but the gleam of his eyes could be seen as he watched the hobbits.
From the gate keeper, to the "insiders" and "outsiders" passing through, to Strider and even the innkeeper's "fat face," this chapter reads like a mystery novel. It's full with a bunch of characters and everyone's concealing something. The question remains what are people hiding and is it important to Frodo? It's impossible to put down the book after reading this chapter.
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