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Old 08-08-2004, 07:27 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Sting LotR -- Book 1 - Chapter 08 - Fog on the Barrow-Downs

This is a chapter of special significance to us on the Barrow-Downs forum! (It is also, incidentally, the fourth chapter in a row that was omitted in the movie version.)

It begins with another of Frodo’s dreams and the hobbits’ farewell to Goldberry. Then the journey begins pleasantly before taking a turn for the worse. As in the Old Forest, they get the feeling of being trapped, helplessly caught by a deadly danger. This time it is Frodo who awakens and must decide to do something. He has to summon up his courage to fend off the immediate threat, then calls Tom for help.

What is significant to you in this chapter – the glimpse of history Tom gives in telling the background of the Barrow-Wights? The first hint at the existence of the Rangers (including their king)? Or the importance of the blades of Westernesse that they take with them? What do you think of Tom’s reason for not accompanying them further?

The chapter ends with a repeated motif – they again approach a safe haven, with a door and a fire.

My favorite lines:
Quote:
The night was railing against the morning of which it was bereaved, and the cold was cursing the warmth for which it hungered.
Very well-thought and phrased!
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Old 08-09-2004, 12:09 AM   #2
HerenIstarion
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So comes Monday morning...

‘Fog on the BD’ is the part of the book discussion of which I would not have missed for worlds (Even though nobody is likely to come up at my place and offer me worlds just to keep me out of it anyway, ).

I won’t take much of your time, since I do not intend to go through whole of the chapter, still more there are people around better qualified for a feat.

Yet some parts of it I can not let go unattended to. The verses (you may have noted my crash on Tolkien’s poetry before that, heh) are of extreme importance here, as well as throughout the whole bulk of the text, and, as is Tolkien’s brandmark, the importance is well hidden – the verses roll by without catching one’s attention on the first read, and it requires some turning back an reflecting upon to catch up on what’s really going on and what is it all about. I believe you won’t be bothered overmuch, since I’m not going to give you metric analyses or something, just textual one...

So far with preliminaries, let us turn to the matter at hand now.

There are seven versified occurrences in the chapter. Whether that has any significance, I can not tell, but with Tolkien one is always in doubt, so much of meaning the man puts into his words. Therefore, let us just say [as unconfirmed, but probably meaningful fact] that there are seven poems in the Chapter.

First to occur is the incantation the Wight chants over hobbits:

Quote:
Cold be hand and heart and bone,
and cold be sleep under stone:
never mare to wake on stony bed,
never, till the Sun fails and the Moon is dead.
In the black wind the stars shall die,
and still on gold here let them lie,
till the dark lord lifts his hand
over dead sea and withered land
As in the previous chapter, it seems to me that all occurrences of incantations of the kind hint at ‘historical background’ of the LoTR in general, refer to Silmarillion, and to Christianity. Bear with me a bit to learn why.

I believe the whole cycle of poems in the chapter repeats on the minor scale the creative Music of the Valar. For, as the world was ‘sung’ into being with words, so words remain the medium of power, and require music to empower them some more. (That applies to all ‘songs of power’ – to the Wight, and to Bombadil likewise) Exact wording does not matter, but the concepts they deal with is what counts:


Quote:
till the Sun fails and the Moon is dead.
In the black wind the stars shall die
This incantation is very much like to the ‘song-contest’ which takes place between Sauron and Felagund in the FA. Just compare:

Quote:
[Sauron] He chanted a song of wizardry,
Of piercing, opening, of treachery,
Revealing, uncovering, betraying.
and more directly related:

Quote:
The wind wails,
The wolf howls. The ravens flee.
Felagund answers with:

Quote:
[Felagund]Sang in a song of staying,
Resisting, battling against power,
Of secrets kept, strength like a tower,
And trust unbroken, freedom, escape;
The concepts employed are alike, but in LoTR, the operation is more direct, i.e., there is no application of concepts as concepts (staying, resisting), but more specific of ‘none has ever caught him’ (= resisting), ‘he’s the master’, which may be ultimately drawn to ‘staying’ (after all, Tom always stays inside his boundaries!) etc... Taka a glance:

Quote:
Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow,
Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow.
None has ever caught him yet, for Tom, he is the master:
His songs are stronger songs, and his feet are faster
Probable hint at ‘who is Tom Bombadil’ may be found in the incantation he teaches hobbits to entreat him to their aid:

Quote:
Ho! Tom Bombadil, Tom Bombadillo!
By water, wood and hill, by the reed and willow,
By fire, sun and moon, harken now and hear us!
Come, Tom Bombadil, for our need is near us!
Hobbits must implore to nature elements to summon him. May it be he is nature spirit? (though yours truly leans over to the ‘ëalar theory’, or all of the mixed up). Interesting too is that three out of four are mentioned: earth, water, fire, but not air. Why, one should ask? In addition to this one may reflect upon the following:

Quote:
I am no weather-master
(by the end of the previous chapter)

So, Tom controls water, earth and fire inside his boundaries, but not air. That’s why Bombadil may not be Manwe (as I’ve heard some say. But merely earth spirit is not enough – what about water and fire, than? But, er, well, before I go too far along the road of Tom’s origin, let me refer you to burra’s excellent Derry Dol, Indeed thread and come back to my poetry business.

Let me say that all of the above was a prologue. The most imortant (one of the two) of the verses of the chapter is the incantation Tom chants to drive the Wight away:

Quote:
Get out, you old Wight! Vanish in the sunlight!
Shrivel like the cold mist, like the winds go wailing,
Out into the barren lands far beyond the mountains!
Come never here again! Leave your barrow empty!
Lost and forgotten be, darker than the darkness,
Where gates stand for ever shut, till the world is mended.
Emphasis mine. What does it say to my ear, is that:

1. There are some gates that are shut (reference to Morgoth thrown out, I believe)
2. One day the world will change (reference to Arda Remade)

Ultimately, both statements also refer to Christian Myth, but refer to it as it is to happen in the future of ME, not as if it has already took place.

Another of importance is the incantation to bring hobbits back to life:

Quote:
Wake now my merry tads! Wake and hear me calling!
Warm now be heart and limb! The cold stone is fallen;
Dark door is standing wid; dead hand is broken.
Night under Night is flown, and the Gate is open!
I wished to add emphases to selected symbols, but could not decide which to choose, as the whole poem is entirely set up of Christian symbols. Look for yourselves

The two ending poems are less complicated:

Quote:
Hey! now! Come hoy now! Whither do you wander?
Up, down, near or far, here, there or yonder?
Sharp-ears, Wise-nose, Swish-tail and Bumpkin,
White-socks my little lad, and old Fatty Lumpkin!
Though one used to Tolkien’s subtleties may imagine (Christian) shepherd symbolism here too. So it may be argued that, alongside being a nature spirit, a bit of a maia (as Gandalf refers to him as to his equal, but that chapter is yet a long way off to bring it here), he is also just another hint at Christ to be found a-plenty throughout the LoTR (Aragorn, Frodo) (and, as Hilde Bracegirdle puts up a theory by the end of previous chapter discussion (post #45), may be a symbol of ‘perfect’ ‘unfallen’ creature too)
The last verse though sets the limit of Tom’s power, once again to remind us he’s not omnipotent (and so he can not be Eru Himself, as I’ve heard another part of mentioned ‘some’ say, but hint at Him):

Quote:
Tom's country ends here: he will not pass the borders.
Tom has his house to mind, and Goldberry is waiting!
My country ends here too, and I will not pass the borders unless my mind changes

cheers
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Old 08-09-2004, 04:10 AM   #3
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I think that this chapter marks a transition, a crossing over from one world to another. We have so far been in the ‘Pagan’/Faerie tale world, the world of good & bad, where good is what benefits us, what is pleasant, & bad is what harms or threatens us. With this chapter we leave that world & enter the world of ‘Christian’ epic, the world of ‘Good’ & ‘Evil’, where the Good can require us to suffer & sacrifice ourselves, & Evil can be the easy, pleasant option - at least seemingly so at first.

And the transition seems to take place within the earth itself. Frodo goes through a death & rebirth initiation within the barrow. There is evidence that barrows & tumuli were used in this way - New Grange in Ireland was used as a place of religious gathering at dawn in mid summer, when the sun would shine through the entrance & illuminate the inside of the mound.

Frodo faces the ‘Guardian’ of the mound, in the darkness, faces his own fear & desire to escape, overcomes it, & then calls on the other, higher, Guardian for aid. The Guardian comes & liberates him. He is taken from within the earth, born again into a new world. He is one of the ‘twice born’, an initiate.

But the world he has been reborn into is not the world he had known. Even Tom, Jolly Tom, shows a different face:

Quote:
There he stood, with his hat in his hand & the wind in his hair, & looked down upon the three hobbits, that had been laid on their backs upon the grass at the west(!) side of the mound. Raising his right hand he said in a clear & commanding voice:
Wake now my merry lads! Wake & hear me calling!
Warm now be heart & limb! The cold stone is fallen;
Dark door is standing wide; dead hand is broken.
Night under Night is flown, & the Gate is open!
It doesn’t require an intimate knowledge of Christian symbolism to see this figure, standing with his right hand raised, commanding the sleeping hobbits to awake, as a ‘Christ’ figure - or perhaps a ‘Merlin’ figure - as he then shows the hobbits a vision of the King to come.

Now the fairy story world will be left behind & a more ancient, a greater world will open up before them. this seems to be foreshadowed in Frodo’s ‘dream’ - yet is it a ‘dream’?
Quote:
That night he heard no noises. But either in his dreams or out of them, he could not tell which , Frodo heard a sweet singing running through his mind: a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, & growing stronger to turn the veil all to glass & silver, until at last it was rolled back, & a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise.
Now what’s interesting is that what happens is that Frodo, whether dreaming or not, only hears a ‘sweet singing’: the visions are his own creation, inspired by the song. He ‘dreams’ the music, & interprets it, gives it form. This is too much like the Ainulindale for coincidence. Like his last two dreams, of the elf-tower, & of Gandalf at Orthanc, this ‘dream’ is both an omen & a reflection of his psychological & spiritual state. And as the dreams move from psychological (looking down on a dark forest, hearing sniffling, then seeing the elf tower & hearing the sea - a confused mish mash of hopes/fears/desires grown out of his own confused mental state at eh time of dreaming), to ‘psychic’ (perceiving an actual event - though one that took place some days earlier in real time) to ‘spiritual’ vision, so the actual dangers he faces intensify:

Quote:
The wight is a dark presence out of a dream lost on waking, a vague, ominous , faceless memory on the edge of awareness, sensation without shape or substance. Deeper, darker sleep than that sent by Willow Man, a sleep bordering on true unconsciousness, is the central concept in this far more frightening sequence, & here, as in the Old Forest, dreaming & waking are interwoven. (Flieger: A Question of Time.
his last dream confirms to him & to us that Frodo is not an ordinary hobbit, & his quest is not an ordinary quest. This dream confirms his coming rebirth. It is a confirmation to him (& to us) that he has a great task before him. He will pass through darkness, be ‘swallowed’ up, like Jonah (& Christ) & be reborn to perform his great task. The womb/tomb symbolism is blatant. He will pass through death to new life.

This episode - Old Forest-House of TB-Barrow Downs - is so similar to what happens to Smith in SoWM. We can see an echo of the King & Queen of Faery in Tom & Goldberry, & a twisted reflection of Smith’s star, which allows passage into Faerie, with the One Ring, which does the same for Frodo. Both are allowed to pass into the Otherworld - or perhaps we should say are ‘drawn into’ it. Yet Frodo’s task is to ‘save’ the otherworld he enters from an evil which would destroy it, while Smith simply wanders there, at times welcome, at other times unwelcome, but never seen as its saviour - indeed it seems the purpose behind the giving of the star is to save the inhabitants of this world from becoming lost in materialism.

Ironically, though, in the very act of ‘saving’ the Otherworld he is summoned into, Frodo brings about its destruction, for if he succeeds in his task he will destroy the magic that holds it in being, & it will pass from a self contained mythic world to the world we know, the world of history, of science - ultimately of materialism. Yet Smith seems to imply that the fairy world will not be entirely swept away, & that its inhabitants will remain.

Is Tolkien contradicting himself? LotR is about the loss of magic, the passing away of legends & the coming of history, while Smith seems to say it never went away at all, & that we still need it, & that it is constantly attempting to communicate with us. Or perhaps the magic went away for Tolkien himself after completing LotR - he never seemed to be able to properly return to Middle earth again - his stories after LotR are half hearted, unfinished (unfinishable?) attempts to get back there, culminating in a failed attempt to ‘rationalise’ the legends, to make them scientifically ‘valid’. Perhaps its simply the case that once he’d cast the Ring into the fire & watched the Last Ship pass into the West, taking the magic with it, he couldn’t ever really get it back. So, Smith is a story of hope - Tolkien’s own hope that. like Smith, even though he himself had renounced the magic star, his passport to faery, that star was not lost, & had been passed onto another.

So we have Frodo, passing through ‘death’ in the heart of the earth, awakening & leaving the fairytale world behind for the ‘Christian’ world of high deeds & true sacrifice, & finding that ‘there is no real going back’ once the magic has been given up - given up by him so that others may keep it. And we have Smith doing the same thing. Here in this chapter we see Frodo first giving up the magic, in favour of something ‘greater’ - whether he realises it at the time is another question. In his ‘dream’ he is shown his own renunciation, what it entails, & what lies beyond it. I wonder if Tolkien himself ever had a dream like that.
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Old 08-09-2004, 10:00 AM   #4
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1420! Cardolan

I've fallen behind in some readings, getting too busy here, but here's a quote I would like to say to see if it has any significance in this chapter. As it states in Appendix A...

Quote:
Eriador, Arnor, and the heirs of Isildur
North Kingdom of the Dunedain
...Those hills (Tyrn Gorthad/Barrowdowns) were therefore revered by the Dunedain after their return; and there many of their lords and kings were buried. (Some say that the mound in which hte Ring-bearer was imprisoned had been the grave of the last prince of Cardolan, who fell in the war of 1409).
Whether this was the last prince of Cardolan, who knows, it only stated "it was said." I will have to read through this chapter to see if it has any significance with events that take place in the barrowdowns, and I'm pretty sure somewhere it was said the Witch-King had "commanded" the barrow-wright to take Frodo, this I'm not sure about and I'll have to do some looking for.

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Old 08-09-2004, 10:04 AM   #5
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This is the final chapter in the Tom Bombadil trilogy. The first was an adventure chapter, ending with the rescue of the Hobbits by Bombadil. The second was a safe-place chapter. The third is again an adventure chapter and again it ends with a rescue by Bombadil. This little Bombadil cycle, then, is both symmetrical and cyclic - rather like the seasons. But within the cycle, there is also a linear development. In the first adventure chapter, the threat came from trees; in this one, it comes from supernatural beings. This alteration in the quality of the danger is exactly what is needed to keep the reader enthralled and move the story along - imagine how much weaker it would be if the Barrow-downs were in chapter 6 and the Old Forest in chapter 8.

There is also a linear development in Frodo's heroism. Though both times, they are saved by Bombadil, Frodo plays a much more important part in the Barrow-wight episode. Moments of heroism for Frodo like this are all the more important because they more or less disappear by books IV and VI (and this is largely why Jackson's Frodo comes across so weakly, I think).

Heren Istarion wrote:
Quote:
I believe the whole cycle of poems in the chapter repeats on the minor scale the creative Music of the Valar. For, as the world was ‘sung’ into being with words, so words remain the medium of power, and require music to empower them some more.
And of course Bombadil is always singing - even when his lines are not written out as verse, they are metrical, as though he is chanting poetry. Does this represent the Ainulindale living on in him, as though he embodies it? That would make sense with the earth spirit interpretation. I wrestled with this point a bit in the last chapter, for the Ainulindale is Art if anything is, whereas I had theorized that Tom was supremely Artless. I'm still bothered by this, but I don't see any point in going on about it.

Quote:
Interesting too is that three out of four are mentioned: earth, water, fire, but not air.
Interestingly, it's hard to think of any place in the Legendarium where the four elements are mutually opposed, whereas the opposition of three elements comes up quite frequently. One would be tempted to say that in Arda there are only three fundamental elements rather than the Greek four (or five) - except that there would be disagreement as to what those three were. The fate of the Silmarils is that one is in water, one in the earth, and one in the air. The three Elven-rings represent water, fire, and air. Then we have Bombadil's earth, water, and fire. The only case I can think of where there are four opposed elements is with the greatest of the Valar - Melkor is fire, Manwe air, Ulmo water, Aule earth.

Quote:
1. There are some gates that are shut (reference to Morgoth thrown out, I believe)
2. One day the world will change (reference to Arda Remade)
Good observation - but I think that the more relevant gates for the Barrow-wight are the gates of Mandos.

Davem wrote:
Quote:
Or perhaps the magic went away for Tolkien himself after completing LotR - he never seemed to be able to properly return to Middle earth again - his stories after LotR are half hearted, unfinished (unfinishable?) attempts to get back there, culminating in a failed attempt to ‘rationalise’ the legends, to make them scientifically ‘valid’.
I've simply got to disagree here. Well, I agree with the last point - I think that all the Myths Transformed business of the round-earth cosmology was misguided. But I think that many of his greatest writings date from the 1950s or 1960s - the Narn, "The Wanderings of Hurin", the "Athrabeth", and "Aldarion and Erendis", not to mention the revisions of the "Lay of Leithien", the Annals, and much of the Quenta Silmarillion.

Of course, that's all well beside the point of the discussion. But I don't think that we ought to think of the loss of magic or the long defeat in LotR as anything personal or in any way autobiographical. Tolkien's writing and sub-creation did not end or lose its vigor with the end of The Lord of the Rings. Indeed, it's not so much LotR that disagrees with Smith as it is Smith that disagrees with LotR. For the idea of the long defeat was well established in the Legendarium well before LotR - in fact it sees its ultimate expression in the very earliest writings, "The Book of Lost Tales"; next to the projected ending of that work, the endings of the Quenta Silmarillion and of LotR look positively jolly. And of course Smith was written after LotR.

Nonetheless, I think you're quite right here:
Quote:
So we have Frodo, passing through ‘death’ in the heart of the earth, awakening & leaving the fairytale world behind for the ‘Christian’ world of high deeds & true sacrifice, & finding that ‘there is no real going back’ once the magic has been given up
That's a simplification, but it's a good simplification. Of course, the fairytale world is not completely left behind, nor was the Christian world completely absent prior to this point. Indeed, it is vital to LotR that those two worlds are in fact unified; the fairy-tale stuff of the Old Forest and the Theological element of Eru's grace and the destruction of the Ring are in fact both part of a single self-consistent world. But in terms of the narrative, you are certainly right - there is a change, albeit a subtle one, from fairy-tale ethic to Christian ethic, from "good and bad" to "Good and Evil" (nothing like using Nietzche's own terminology against him!)
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Old 08-09-2004, 10:34 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
I've simply got to disagree here. Well, I agree with the last point - I think that all the Myths Transformed business of the round-earth cosmology was misguided. But I think that many of his greatest writings date from the 1950s or 1960s - the Narn, "The Wanderings of Hurin", the "Athrabeth", and "Aldarion and Erendis", not to mention the revisions of the "Lay of Leithien", the Annals, and much of the Quenta Silmarillion.
I can half agree with you, but all those writings remained unfinished, or they became theological tracts (Athrabeth), or they simply repeated or were re writings of already existing things. Also, given the free time he had post LotR, & especially after his retirement, we have to ask why he didn't complete the Sil, or anything else. Of course, this is not the place to discuss this, but I'd refer anyone interested in the idea that Tolkien did effectively 'renounce' the magic after completing LotR to Christine Chism's essay Middle-earth, the Middle Ages, & the Aryan Nation: Myth & history in World War II, in Tolkien the Medievalist.

LotR is a work of renunciation & loss- willing & unwilling, & I think we almost see Tolkien's own renunciation in the post LotR period, culminating in Smith - his 'old man's book'. Tolkien spent his last years repeating & reiterating what he'd already done, because I think he felt he'd said everything of real value in LotR. I'm not saying that he didn't produce works of incredibly beauty, but if there is a 'sequel' to LotR, its Smith, & nothing he produced in the post LotR period is really new or original apart from that.

I do agree that 'This is the final chapter in the Tom Bombadil trilogy.' In fact these three chapters could almost stand alone as a novella, if we excised the Ring. It would stand as a hobbit adventure story, a perfect sequel to the Hobbit. The four friends set off on a journey, go through the forest, meet Tom, encounter the barrow Wight, are rescued & return home. So it can stand alone - actually, Brian Sibley, who dramatised the BBC Radio version of LotR, having missed out this section from the original dramatisation, later went back & dramaitsed it seperately, as The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, & it works as a stand alone drama. But while it can stand alone, without the rest of LotR, I don't think LotR, as Aiwendil says, works without it.

So there, as usual, we agree on somethings but disagree on others
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Old 08-09-2004, 11:47 AM   #7
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This is not going to be very learned but I think that the Tom Bombadil bit is my least favourite part of LOTR ... the bit I would most happily chop ... maybe it is because I thought Old Man Willow and Barrow Wights were so scary when I first tried to read LOTR as a child .... it was the point where it became a whole different world to the Hobbit... but even now I don't feel he belongs .... and I find him irritating..... maybe it is the waterlily picking.... or the sub- "There was a lover and his lass" poetry....
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Old 08-09-2004, 12:11 PM   #8
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I can half agree with you, but all those writings remained unfinished, or they became theological tracts (Athrabeth), or they simply repeated or were re writings of already existing things.
But the tendency toward revision and leaving things unfinished is true of all the Silmarillion material, pre-LotR as well as post-LotR. And "Wanderings" and "Aldarion and Erendis" were wholly new, while the Narn and the revisions introduced a lot of new material. You're right, of course, that this isn't the place to discuss this in any depth, but it does have some bearing on your point about the loss of magic.

Mithalwen wrote:
Quote:
or the sub- "There was a lover and his lass" poetry....
You do actually bring up an interesting point, and one that has some bearing on the Art vs. Nature conondrum. That is, though Tom is always speaking in verse and lapses into outright song very frequently, none of his poetry is particularly good. And I say this as someone who likes Tom Bombadil. When he rhymes, the rhymes are often forced (whatever would he do if he didn't have yellow boots?) and the meter is often uneven. Even the Hobbits are better poets than he - let alone "Earendil was a Mariner", Frodo's lament for Gandalf, or Sam's song in Cirith Ungol; I'd even take the Bath Song over Tom's stuff for sheer poetic value. So in the sense that he's constantly singing, Tom does seem tied to Art; but his Art is completely uncontrived - he doesn't even take the time to contrive it that the songs he sings are good songs; he simply sings without thought of artistic value. So perhaps he is one with Arda, and his songs do not represent any actual artistry or sub-creation on his part; they are simply part of him because he is part of Arda, and because Arda is the embodiment of the Ainulindale. He is not an Artist; he is Art. And Art does not have Artistry.
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Old 08-09-2004, 01:50 PM   #9
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I think one of the reasons I like this chapter so much is that it contains so much archaeological detail. Firstly, the landscape of the Barrow Downs is recognisable as that of the downs of southern England, an area rich in pre-history. To the south west of Oxford are the Lambourn Downs, where can be found the Seven Barrows. In addition, there is the Vale of White Horse, and nearby, Waylands Smithy, another barrow which tapers down to very small proportions at one end and has an entrance very like the barrow in which Frodo is trapped. In Cornwall there are mysterious barrow-like constructions called Fougous, which some archaeologists say were used as grain storage, and some say were used as places where people could go into trance and contact the dead. This makes me think of the hobbits lying in a state of trance, trapped in the barrow.

Tolkien, in addition to his impressive knowledge of languages and folklore, clearly knew much of archaeology and pre-history. The hill on which the hobbits take their lunch is like a henge (very like Arbor Low in Derbyshire), and there appear to be both longbarrows and roundbarrows, as in the Salisbury Plain landscape. Later in the book we also see the Rohirrim making use of burial mounds or barrows, which is also interesting.

Does Tom Bombadil end up acting as a grave-robber/archaeologist after his rescue of the hobbits? He causes the barrow to partially collapse, and he removes the treasures. Not only that, but he leaves treasures open to the air on top of the barrow. This itself has a link to pre-history as one form of burial was to leave bodies on hillsides so that animals may eat the remains - thus sending the spirit of the deceased back to 'earth'.

The other reasons I like this chapter include the language, which is wonderful, including this:

Quote:
Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind; a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to glass and silver, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise.
Finally, from the first moment I ever read this chapter, I have found it eerie and chilling. I am in a way glad it was cut from the film as I don't think I would have liked a film interpretation to interfere with what is an enduring nightmare for me. A nightmare I rather like, though.
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Old 08-10-2004, 04:54 AM   #10
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Yes Estelyn, that phase also stood out for me, so very original a thought! And so descriptive as well.

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The night was railing against the morning of which it was bereaved, and the cold was cursing the warmth for which it hungered.
And I agree with Heren Istarion that Bombadil and the Wight seem to be echoing the Ainulindale, and following the course of their respective orientation in the song. And though, at least in Tom case, the songs seem somewhat childlike, as Aiwendil put it with forced rhyme, they still hold power. And as he himself says, his songs are stronger, likely because they stem from Illuvatar as opposed to Melkor. I think this is where I would part ways with this thought. But I still purpose that he is a created, rather than creating force. As for Gandalf holding him in respect, if Tom were some form of unfallen creation, he would reflect Illuvatar’s intent unblemished, just as his song reflects the Ainulindale, and would be honored for that I should think.

There is a purposeful and jarring juxtaposition between Tom and his simple songs/ways and his age/knowledge. It does not seem to fit at all. And I don’t think this simplicity was just an unfortunate choice on Tolkien’s part. Didn’t Galahad also seem a bit annoying? And his naming of the ponies was also a strange thing, like Adam naming animals. (But I am go off the deep end now, and it's quite alright to say so! )

The idea of Frodo’s experience in the Barrow as a rebirth is a new one for me davem, many thanks! I will have to reread now with that in mind, to see what else there is to be gleaned in the transformation!

And Laiwende, Thanks for your sharing the landscape around southern England! Your mention of Tom as an archaeologist struck me also, in that Tom removed treasure from the barrow, but the hobbits were the treasure he seemed to value more.

Out of curiousity, does anyone know if the significance of the brooch Tom picked out was further explained somewhere else?

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Old 08-10-2004, 06:33 AM   #11
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Hilde, Tolkien didn't explain anything about the brooch, but we did our best to make up for that on this discussion: Bombadil's brooch
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Old 08-10-2004, 06:47 AM   #12
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And as he himself says, his songs are stronger, likely because they stem from Illuvatar as opposed to Melkor
Basically, yes. Minor point - all songs, ultimately, find their source in Illuvatar. It the perversion/lack thereof which makes the right songs stronger (and that in the long run only - cf Felagund/Sauron again)
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Old 08-10-2004, 07:37 AM   #13
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I think the point of "passing the barrows on the west side" was discussed briefly in the Chapter 7 thread, but I would like to point some more things out here as pertain to this chapter. First of all, when the hobbits come upon that stone where they eat lunch by and fall asleep against, they sit with their backs to the east side. Warning bells, anyone? When they wake up, their is a cold gray shadow over them stretching out easterward (because of the sun setting in the west). Also, because of the sun, the fog on the western side of the hollow is not so thick or white. The hobbits get up and try to get away from the Barrow-downs, and Frodo becomes separated. The wind is blowing from the east, and the Barrow-wight that finds him also looms up on his right, and since he is going north, that too came from the eastern side. Tom's warning seems to have been proven true indeed! It rather makes me wonder what would have happened if the hobbits had taken their rest on the west side of the stone instead.
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Old 08-10-2004, 10:15 AM   #14
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Thank you for the link Estelyn, I will read it shortly.

And of course you are right Heren Istarion, all does find it's source, and probably it's culmination as well, in Illuvatar.

As for this matter of east verses west, yet another thing I have been oblivious too, though I certainly have no excuse. Tolkien seems to make a point of mentioning such things.

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Old 08-10-2004, 08:23 PM   #15
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'Few now remember them,' Tom murmured, 'yet still some go wandering, sons of forgotten kings walking in loneliness, guarding from evil things folk that are heedless.'
The hobbits did not understand his words, but as he spoke they had a vision as it were of a great expanse of years behind them, like a vast shadowy plain over which there strode shapes of Men, tall and grim with bright swords, and last came one with a star on his brow.
Here we see Tom uncharacteristically serious as he delivers a bit of history to the hobbits of Westernesse and those who dwelt in Middle-Earth before hobbits came- tying in with Gildor's 'But it is not your own Shire. Others dwelt here before hobbits were...' and his giving to the hobbits of the Numenorean blades turns out to be one of the best things he did. As well as this, we also see that Bombadil has the ability to conjure visions through mere speech, as well as singing.

Also this quote, as Estelyn said, gives us our (the hobbits') first sight of the Dunedain Rangers and especially Aragorn. The star on his brow is very significant because it is obviously the Star of Elendil and shows his inheritance of the Kingship of Gondor and Arnor. I made the bit 'sons of forgotten kings walking in loneliness' bold because it struck me as similar to what Aragorn said to Gilraen in The Tale of Arwen and Aragorn (Appendix A; V)-

Quote:
'Then bitter will my days be, and I will walk in the wild alone,' said Aragorn.
'That indeed will be your fate,' said Gilraen....
An interesting thing that just occurred to me was that if you were to ask, "Who did the hobbits see first; Aragorn or Halbarad?" the answer might possibly be Halbarad!

When the sad time has come for the hobbit's and Tom Bombadil to part, it is interesting that Bombadil says:

Quote:
'No, I hope not tonight,' answered Tom Bombadil; 'nor perhaps the next day. But do not trust my guess; for I cannot tell for certain. Out east my knowledge fails. Tom is not master of Riders from the Black Land far beyond his country.'
This quote shows Tom's unsurety (is that such a word?) as to what course of action to take next outside his borders and the movements of the Enemy, while the next quote emphasises his blunt refusal to pass the borders of his land-

Quote:
Tom's country ends here: he will not pass the borders.
Tom has his house to mind, and Goldberry is waiting!
Tom's reluctance to go no further is striking, as well as is his admittance to having little knowledge of the land beyond his borders- in this respect, he is very similar to Sam who knows the geography of the area within a 20 mile radius of Hobbiton very well, but that is his limit. He also admits that he has no power over the Black Riders, though he has proved that he is able to resist evil (by not becoming invisible when he put the Ring on; and indeed, not wanting to keep it for himself). This is also important because he is able to overcome the Barrow-Wight and Old Man Willow, which can be considered 'evil'; however they are evil elements of Nature, whereas the Nazgul are not subject to Tom. So here, to me, it seems that Tom's power and Tom himself is restricted to his country where he is 'master' and outside of it he has little or no power.

On the subject of what Bombadil is, I have finally found the truth, compliments of Samwise Gamgee-

Quote:
'He's a caution and no mistake.'
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Old 08-11-2004, 05:45 AM   #16
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Anyone have any thoughts on Merry's dream experience of being killed by a spear in an attack by the men of Carn Dum? Is this due to some kind of 'psychic' connection with the original inhabitant of the Barrow, or something about the Barrow Downs. And why does only Merry have this kind of experience? Its almost like the kind of thing people undergoing a past life regression come up with,yet I don't think that's what Tolkien was implying here. It is probably one of the strangest events in the whole story if its a 'memory' (for want of a better term) of an actual event, because how to account for it?

Of course, it could just have been a fantasy, based on what must have been an incredibly stressful night, yet, how would Merry know all that ancient history, or even the name 'Carn Dum' & that they were involved in a battle on that spot?

Its almost like two periods of history coalesce - one overlaying the other - the attack by the men of Carn Dum & Merry awakening outside the Barrow. This is very like what Tolkien does in his two time travel stories - the Lost Road & the Notion Club Papers, where characters from diferent time periods are psychically linked. It creates a kind of living link back through history.
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Old 08-11-2004, 06:09 AM   #17
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I've always felt that that vision of Merry's was connected with the jewelry that he wore, and looking at the passage more closely, I noticed the mention of
Quote:
...the golden circlet that had slipped over one eye.
Did that cause the 'slip' in his sight? When he comes to himself again, it is with:
Quote:
'No, no!' he said, opening his eyes.
(bolding mine in both quotes)

In short, the jewelry was affected by being in the Barrow, so it had some magical properties, I think. When Tom takes it out and lays it on the grass, it breaks the spell.

But the question remains, why Merry, why not Pippin (who was more often the one with a sense of supernatural 'sight')? Sam I can understand - his prosaic nature gave him the ability to sleep ('in deep content, if logs are contented') in Tom's house while the others dreamt.
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Old 08-11-2004, 06:25 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Esty
In short, the jewelry was affected by being in the Barrow, so it had some magical properties, I think. When Tom takes it out and lays it on the grass, it breaks the spell.
Which (possibly) explains the how, but not the what or the why. Is it a genuine memory, or a fantasy, & if a genuine memory of an actual event, then its at least as mysterious for it to be communicated through a piece of jewelry, as through the earth itself, or through some kind of psychic link between Merry & the man who was killed. This link across time is what I find fascinating, whatever means is used to achieve it.
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Old 08-11-2004, 07:01 AM   #19
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but not the what or the why
I always had a notion that houseless fëar dwelling in the Barrows where trying to take over and posses the hröar of the hobbits. Whether it was done through jewelry or incantation, seems of less importance to yours truly (though I lean over to incantation), but it answers 'why' question

I certainly remember reading some passage in HoME series which implied such a possibility for 'faded' elven spirits, and thus warned of dangers of communicating with these. I can not provide direct quote right away, but promise to make a search for it as soon as I find the time and reach my books (unless Aiwendil shows up before that and takes me out of my difficulties )
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Old 08-11-2004, 11:22 AM   #20
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2 suggestions on" why Merry?"

a, Merry in some ways the most academic of the hobbits within his own sphere - I know he is not a elvish scholar as Frodo is under Bilbo's influence - but although at that point he is an insignificant member of the fellowship picked for friendship not strength of knowledge, at Rivendell he studies maps off his own bat, he knows Shire history (he has the history of pipeweed at his fingertips when he meets Theoden", when he returns from his adventure he writes "Scholarly" works rather than "just" recounting events. He is the mastermind of the conspiracy .. . even before the quest starts his horizons are much wider and his mind much more open than the average hobbit's..

b, He is a Bucklander, which in ME terms represents the "Celtic" fringe of the Shire - the Celtic (Wales, Ireland, Scotland & Cornwall) fringe of the British Isles is richer in folklore and legend than it's heart even now... Bucklanders know things that other Shirefolk do not, they are closer to the outside world ... he is very aware of the menace of the Old Forest. Buckland is that much closer to the downs...it is quite possible some garbled version of the history has passed into the folklore of the region SO it is possible that Merry has been more exposed to ancient Legends and is more "tuned in" to them ...
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Old 08-11-2004, 02:20 PM   #21
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Merry's recollection of his dream is peculiar. Both the dream itself and the way he relates it. He appears to drop into a trance-like state, as though he had been hypnotised and something has triggered the trance again. This could be the truth of the matter, that the hobbits have been hypnotised in some way, whether by use of magic, incantation or even by the wight burning something which has given off soporific fumes as is possible if you look at what Frodo sees when he wakes up in the Barrow:

Quote:
he noticed all at once that the darkness was slowly giving way: a pale greenish light was growing round him.
I think it is likely that Merry might have heard of "The men of Carn-Dum", after all, as Mithalwen says, he is a Bucklander, and he certainly seems to know about the Old Forest. If he had indeed been in a trance then this is interesting as half-heard tales and facts can often emerge during these altered states of mind.

There could also be something in this sentence, which is what happens after Frodo attacks the wight:

Quote:
Frodo fell forward over Merry, and Merry's face felt cold.
Could Frodo's stumble have affected Merry's dream, in the way that thunderstorms at night often cause people to dream of explosions? But personally, I do prefer the more supernatural explanation!
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Old 08-12-2004, 09:19 AM   #22
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Tolkien ....And now for something completely different.

Sorry to diverge form the mane stream of converse...

I don't know how relevant this is, but hay, I thought of it while reading this chapter.

After being rescued my Tom from the Barrow Wight's cave thing, the hobbits each took a leaf-sword. It says that men of Westernesse made them, then they were plundered and stolen by the witch king of Angmar, the Barrow Wights must have been given them and so hid them in their barrows. Now, here is my point, Merry's sword was stolen by the witch king, given to the Barrow Wights, found by Bombadill, given to Merry, and used to smite the witch king. A vicious circle I thought, that the very knife the witch king stole was used to hinder him before Eowin stabbed him in the face.
The whole issue of "No living man may hinder me” could be discussed for ages to come, but Merry was a hobbit not a man, that's as good an explanation for me.
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Old 08-12-2004, 09:58 AM   #23
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HerenIstarion wrote:
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I always had a notion that houseless fëar dwelling in the Barrows where trying to take over and posses the hröar of the hobbits.
This was always my impression as well. The quote you're thinking of is, I believe, from "Laws and Customs among the Eldar" in HoMe X (p. 224):

Quote:
Some say that the Houseless desire bodies, though they are not willing to seek them lawfully by submission to the judgement of Mandos. The wicked among them will take bodies, if they can, unlawfully. The peril of communing with them is, therefore, not only the peril of being deluded by fantasies or lies: there is peril also of destruction. For one of the hungry Houseless, if it is admitted to the friendship of the Living, may seek to eject the fea from its body; and in the contest for mastery the body may be gravely injured, even if it be not wrested from its rightful inhabitant. Or the Houseless may plead for shelter, and if it is admitted, then it will seek to enslave its host and use both his will and his body for its own purposes. It is said that Sauron did these things, and taught his followers how to achieve them.
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Old 08-12-2004, 03:04 PM   #24
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Hmmm, to me, the Barrow-Wight and the happenings in the Barrow seem rather mysterious anyway!!
As Tom tells it to the hobbits, the wights came from the outside (" A shadow came out of dark places far away, and the bones were stirred in the mounds") so they cannot be the spirits of the people buried there.
Anyhow, the kings or nobles of Cardolan were not evil people, they were of "the people of Westernesse" and were the owners of the daggers Tom gave to the hobbits (that's the simpler explanation than the one Hookbill gave)
And as for the "houseless fëar" theory : do you mean that's what the barrow-wights were? The fëar can't be the souls of those who are buried there, because those were mortal men. Whose fëar could they be then? Would they have anything to do with Sauron?
And what exactly was the Barrow-wight trying to do with the hobbits, I wonder ? Why take their clothes away and dress them up in white shrouds and jewelry and inspire them (or at least Merry) with the last thoughts of the deceased men of Cardolan ??
Anyhow, if Frodo hadn't been so brave and true to his friends, they would have been doomed - that's for sure! (And since I, too, was annoyed with the "weak" portrayal of Frodo in the movie, I read all these instances where he shows his pluck with satisfaction.)

What I liked best in this chapter are Tom's words about the Dunedain, and the hobbits' vision they evoke. Very beautiful and haunting!. But what it implies becomes only clear when reading the book a second time. This applies to Frodo's prophetic dreams as well, of course!
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Old 08-13-2004, 03:22 AM   #25
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Tolkien

This chapter struck me as Tolkien's attempt at doing a horror story, the way the tension builds up and the fog becomes thicker as they get closer to danger. I especially thought this when Frodo calls out and the reply from, which we assume to a Barrow Wight, comes in a cold dead voice. Also the whole idea of a giant hand coming to do some nasty things to the Hobbits was quite unnerving and if this had been included in any theatrical adaptation then I think it would be surrounded by some incredibly eerie music.
The way Tolkien has built up the threat of the Barror wights makes you think that they will probably meet up with one in some way. I have even heard a theory that Tom knew that they were going to fall into trouble with the Barrow Wights and that is why he taught them the song. Also that he had been following them around so he was close at hand when they needed the help.
This I do not believe, I much prefer the idea of Tom being a mystery and popping up from nowhere to frighten ghosts away.
Well that’s what I thought anyway.


P.S Woot! post 101! I am now a Wight! Party at smokin guy's house!
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Old 08-13-2004, 06:05 AM   #26
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Like the white rabbit, I arrive, if a bit late.

I have not much to add to what's been said already about this chapter and how it rounds out the mini-story of Tom and Goldberry. I had never considered before how entirely self-contained this adventure is, nor had it even dawned upon me that it's possible to read these three chapters as a redaction of the creation music that underlies ME: very interesting.

The thing that I did notice about the structure of these three chapters is how we have Tom and Goldberry's house 'between' or in the middle of life (the Old Forest) and death (the wights). This, I think, goes a long way in expanding upon Tom's association with nature -- that is, he is a nature spirit, or the spirit of nature, insofar as we find his abode at the meeting place between life and death. He has power over both, as well, and is dismayed by neither. The interesting thing about the incident with the barrow wight, however, is that he does become melancholy for the first an only time we see him. The adventure with Old Man Willow left him entirely unaffected, but his moment of memory with the brooch that he finds is extraordinarily touching (indeed, it inspired an entire thread in this forum that was wonderful fun to lurk on!).

I think that this shift in Tom's mood is explained by the fact that at the end of this chapter, as the hobbits move through death and, thus, 'complete' the natural cycle, they leave the timeless realm of nature, and emerge once more upon the Road, which is the realm of history. This reminds me of another thread I started a while back about Roads and Rings, in which we talked about how the structure of the book is defined by cyclical events and patterns ordered along the linear movement of the Road. Here's an example I'm not even sure we talked about! The adventure with Tom and Goldberry explores the natural circle/cycle as the hobbits move through and from life (and all of a sudden, I'm seeing OMW as a weird kind of womb) and then death, under the guidance and protection of Tom. At the end, though, they have to resume their journey. The moment when they get back to the Road and remember the Black Riders is a chilling reminder that life is not defined by the kinds of adventures that they've had with Tom, which are interludes that aren't connected to the 'larger' historical concerns that overwhelm them. It's notable, too, I think that as soon as they get back into history Frodo must remind them of his false identity -- it's as though once back in the 'real world' of the Road, one's own individuality is under threat: in the unrelenting sweep of history that is catching them up, the greatest threat to Frodo is to his very sense of self.

The end of this chapter is, I agree, entirely in keeping with the pattern of adventure and safe haven. But what about the description of Goldberry as they leave her; is it just me, or does this sound almost exactly like the Fellowship's parting sight of Galadriel?

Quote:
She was standing still watching them, and her hands were stretched out towards them. As they looked she gave a clear call, and lifting up her hand she turned and vanished behind the hill.
So now they've looked back and bid farewell like this to Mrs. Maggot and now Goldberry -- I'm going to keep following this pattern.
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Old 08-13-2004, 03:18 PM   #27
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I suddenly wonder: what would have happened if the Barrow-Wight,or Old Man Willow, had taken the Ring?? Could they have used it?
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Old 08-13-2004, 03:42 PM   #28
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Origenaly poster by Noxomanus:
I suddenly wonder: what would have happened if the Barrow-Wight,or Old Man Willow, had taken the Ring?? Could they have used it?
I'm not sure about Old man willow, but the Barrow wights were servants of the Necromancer, AKA Sauron and so would have sought to return the ring to him. Old man willow would probably perceive that it was a great power and may have kept it to himself, it would eventually have come into the hands of Tom Bomadill I expect, he would probably know that OMW had some mighty power and so taken it from him. Then thrown it away thinking it useless. So soon it would have fallen back into the hands of evil once again.
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Old 08-16-2004, 02:25 AM   #29
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Re: Merry's recollection

Reading that, I assumed that the wights's spell forced everyone to relive the last day of the men of Westernersse and the whole dressing them up in those outfits and the jewellery served to enact the moment. If Tom Bombadil did not come to their rescue, they would probably have spent an eternity dreaming of that last battle, and believing they were indeed the men who were murdered. Why the wights were doing that is a mystery, and that's what makes it so scary.

The fact that only Merry voices it, does not mean that only Merry remembers it, or that this dream came to Merry alone. The others may have been to frightened or confused to be able to put into words similar visions they had.
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Old 02-28-2008, 02:30 PM   #30
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This is "our" chapter! Actually, back in the early days of the forum, The Barrow-Wight used its title for the site's newsletters.

I must say, even after repeated readings, I find the atmosphere that Tolkien creates here eery, spooky, and creepy. It seems such a short time between the Hobbits' cheerful start in the morning to the events on the Downs. I wonder - on the next day they notice that they could not have reached the road within that one day. Was their encounter with the Wight inevitable? Did Tom realize that and allow it to happen for some reason?

After MovieFrodo's rapid deterioration into helplessness, it's refreshing to see BookFrodo's courage here. He relinquishes the passivity that envelopes him at first and is now the person who saves the others - as Sam was in the Old Forest. Later in Rivendell, Gandalf says to him, "You have some strength in you, my dear hobbit! As you showed in the Barrow. That was touch and go: perhaps the most dangerous moment of all." And that was after Weathertop!

The LotR Reader's Companion has a number of interesting and informative tidbits in the accompanying chapter. For example, it compares the "Cold be hand" poem to the oath of the Orcs of Morgoth in the Lay of Leithian, beginning: "Death to light, to law, to love!" It also points out a severed, sinister hand and arm in Tolkien's picture Maddo, illustration #78 in JRRT: Artist and Illustrator, which has no contextual connection with this story at all. Did Tolkien draw upon personal nightmares in this passage?
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Old 02-28-2008, 03:00 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar View Post
I must say, even after repeated readings, I find the atmosphere that Tolkien creates here eery, spooky, and creepy. It seems such a short time between the Hobbits' cheerful start in the morning to the events on the Downs. I wonder - on the next day they notice that they could not have reached the road within that one day. Was their encounter with the Wight inevitable? Did Tom realize that and allow it to happen for some reason?
I completely agree. This chapter has always had some sort of magic about it. The atmosphere is truly chilling.

I do not think Tom realized it was going to happen, because of his unaware nature, but I do think that the encounter was inevitable. Maybe Tom just didn't put it together?
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Old 03-05-2008, 02:38 PM   #32
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Good thoughts on the matter! I will try to add some of my own. But first...

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Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar View Post
I wonder - on the next day they notice that they could not have reached the road within that one day. Was their encounter with the Wight inevitable? Did Tom realize that and allow it to happen for some reason?
I don't think it was inevitable. Remember they fell asleep - but they could have reached the road in one day! Surely, they would have to ride fast and not stop for too long. But they could have surely left the Downs before sunset. The next day, they spend a lot of time in lazing around while Tom brings back the ponies. And mainly, I believe even if they had to stop for night outside the Road, it will be far beyond the reach of most of the Barrow-Wights. Or surely not in such a horrible trap like this one was.

Anyway... I will start from the wights, when I am already speaking of it. I think it's really scary, and this time when reading it, I was really close to being scared. From the moment when Frodo sees the two "stones" in the mist and rides through them it starts to be really scary. All the following passage is just horrific. When he awakens in the dark, it's a little better (although the crawling hand... well, but it's that silly zombie-like thingy which is rather disgusting than scary).

A funny side-observation. It was only now when I realised that the words "In the dark there was a snarling noise" are from this chapter, or, from Tolkien at all. The quote appeared in my mind from time to time (like last time when I was making breakfast in the kitchen. Don't ask how the connotations came). Anyway, I was carrying this quote in my head, but until this time I had fixed that it's from the Moomintroll books by Tove Jansson. Well, a man always learns something.

And the most important thing. Has no one realised that thing at the very beginning of the chapter, when Frodo awakens in Bombadil's house?
The very starting words:
Quote:
That night they heard no noises. But either in his dreams or out of them, he could not tell which, Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind; a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to glass and silver, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise.
The boldened part. Don't tell me it does not remind you of something. (Okay, okay, just for the sake of being clear: I am referring to Frodo's departure from the Grey Havens where he saw exactly the same. But I believe you all know too well.)
My question would be: Why this? Why here? Bombadil's house is obviously the place for various visions and such things (Gandalf in the last chapter), but this is quite strong for a vision. Here the folks who fancy the theory of Bombadil or Goldberry or both being Maiar would surely find support. But otherwise... just a strange thing, even story-wise, why to introduce this - here? Maybe the reader does not notice now, and thus, will not remember when he sees that in the end for the second time - but the connection is there and one can see it. So, why?
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Old 05-26-2008, 05:11 PM   #33
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Ah, the Barrow Downs,

first a rather off-topic question for the Barrow-Wight and any other grizzled veterans. What made you choose the Barrow Downs as the name of this site? Is there a story of intrigue, infighting and wild artistic differences that goes with the genesis of the Downs? Your public must be told!

Anyway, on with the chapter. Legate- Frodo's dream - absolutely, though why now indeed? Perhaps now is the start of the 'real adventure' ie ring, nazgul etc and a premonition of suffering followed by reward? A conviction planted in Frodo's mind that he will come through everything, perhaps giving him strength at that crucial time in the Barrow?

On the scariness, quite right, my two local barrows are fine pleasant places......in the daylight.....by night, well I wouldn't know having never been that curious!

The pair of standing stones, does anyone else find these particularly sinister? To me they suggest 'This is the gateway to the Land of the Dead, Cower ye mortals!' sort of thing.

The Last Prince of Cardolan, or one of his friends and relations, well that's who seems to 'possess' Merry, initially this does not seem a problem, you go to a scary tomb, who would possess you but the spirits of people that have been buried there? However, we believe that this cannot happen due to men receiving 'The gift' and therefore their spirits being unavailable for haunting. Furthermore the wights were spirits out of Angmar, and I can't see houseless elf fea bothering to do impressions of Cardolanian princes. Hmmmmmm.

According to present day spiritualists (with whom I hold little truck!) locations can preserve 'echoes' of the people that died there, perhaps something similar is going on here, not real possession by an active spirit, but 'tape recorded' events of the past going through Merry's mind. Well I ain't convinced but otherwise am flummoxed on how to explain this incident.

Any takers for the theory that the Wights were previous victims of Morgul-knife stabbings?

Finally, the Arthedainian Hadrian's Wall (and defensive ditch) that the hobbits cross before reaching the road. This implies a very extensive defensive system indeed around Arthedain, with the fortifications on the Weather Hills as well (and Weathertop as the Key feature). It has been said that Hadrian's wall (and similarly the Great Wall of China) was not really of use as a fortification, due to the impossibilty of defending such a long stretch of masonry when attackers could concentrate forces where they wished. It was said to be mainly used as a method of controlling cross-border travel, as a prestige factor (don't mess with us we've built something bigger than you've ever seen before), and a blunt statement of 'Thus far but no further'. Also makes me think of Offa's dyke and the Wansdyke.

I wonder if there were supporting forts dotted along the Arthedainian Wall, now long since collapsed back into the greensward?
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Old 12-15-2010, 02:59 PM   #34
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This chapter ends with Tom seeing the hobbits off on the Road towards the next chapter in their adventure, the Prancing Pony. Later, in Strider's tale, we learn that the ranger listened in while Tom directed the hobbits eastward.

Question1: Was Tom aware of Aragorn? (2) If Aragorn saw Tom guiding the hobbits, why does he later mistrust them (he considers that the hobbits may be a trap)?
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Old 12-16-2010, 04:02 AM   #35
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Question1: Was Tom aware of Aragorn? (2) If Aragorn saw Tom guiding the hobbits, why does he later mistrust them (he considers that the hobbits may be a trap)?
Answer 1: With Tom, it is well possible, I guess that even if he knew about him, he would have easily ignored him. Answer 2: I would say he simply did not trust anything easily. If you look at what he says and how he acts, actually, I find it likely that he did basically trust the Hobbits, something like 90%. He only, probably out of personal carefulness, did not yet totally dismiss the chance that they might be a trap after all. Simply this sort of "what if". Like, if Saruman can betray, why not Bombadil? Theoretically. (Of course Aragorn didn't know about Saruman back then, but I guess similar things just happened from time to time, so "constant vigilance!") But he acts pretty straightforward towards them, so I think he was more or less going for them with the assumption that they are not a fake.
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Old 12-16-2010, 08:02 AM   #36
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Question 2:
Perhaps he was advised by Prince Humperdinck:


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"I always think everything is a trap until proven otherwise," the Prince answered. "Which is why I'm still alive."
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Old 10-02-2016, 10:54 AM   #37
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I love this chapter in all it's spooky, ghostly feel. And you just know despite Tom's warnings to steer clear of the barrows, or pass them on the western side, that the hobbits were going to be in trouble once they fell asleep on the "east side."

Twice Bombadil rescues the hobbits from the perils in the Old Forest, and when Tom says he must leave, we have the same feelings as the hobbits:

Quote:
All the same the hobbits wished he was coming with them. They felt that he would know how to deal with Black Riders, if anyone did. They would soon now be going forward into lands wholly strange to them, and beyond all by the most vague and distant legends of the Shire, and in the gathering twilight they longed for home. A deep loneliness and sense of loss was on them...
The hobbits are leaving this 'alien' land, of which Tom Bombadil is a part of; he is Master within this forest (It'll be interesting to see possible connections to Treebeard in Fangorn). However, it's like a fantasy world, within a fantasy world. Remarkable how Tolkien does that.

We spend 5 chapters in the Shire, feeling like it's been fenced in and protected from the "real world." But as Gildor tells Frodo, the Shire is no longer protection for Frodo. The wide world outside knows about the Shire and has broken in. The hobbits decide to go through the Old Forest where they again leave the real world, and the threat of the Black Riders is put off for the time being. They get trapped in the dangers of this alien world, and are rescued by Bombadil, the Master alien himself. It seems weird to see a character who knows exactly what to do again Old Man Willow, and Barrow-wights, and the Ring has no power of him. We feel exactly like the hobbits "if Tom can handle all that, then surely he would know how to deal with Black Riders and the hobbits would be much safer with Tom." But, they wouldn't be. Tom is not the master of 'the Road,' the real world, that the hobbits must get back on. Tom is truly confined to his own borders.
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Old 10-04-2016, 01:57 PM   #38
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This chapter, on re-read, was much creepier than I remember. And here I thought I remembered.

I liked this chapter for its insight into the Middle-Earth history and lore, a glimpse of the history of the old kingdoms that had been there before, it gives a sense of space, or rather time and its vastness. Angmar and Carn Dűm are mentioned, places whose names are just amazing and I always found their history fascinating. And imagine, Merry actually had a vision of encountering men of Carn Dűm and being stabbed by one!
I like the dark description of the darkness that comes with the Barrow-Wight, I also like the description of the Barrow-Wight and its eyes, I like even more the sunny feel afterwards when the hobbits had been saved and I love the "dealing out the treasure" that Tom does, and the remark about the unknown wielder of the beautiful brooch with blue stones. Tom clearly knows much, and in surprising detail.

What I never liked about this chapter was how Tom rebukes the Hobbits for doing something when there wasn't really a better option for them. It's a common trope in many fairy-tales, I recall, and it has always annoyed me since childhood: some wise old man or seeress says "oh, you should have known better, young one," while there was no way the young one would have known. Now, I am not referring to the Hobbits becoming lazy and resting near the standing stone, or even worse, on the wrong side of the stone: that is a justified rebuke. But Tom does not stop there and says:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fog on the Barrow-Downs
"Here are your ponies, now!" he said. "They've more sense (in some ways) than you wandering hobbits have - more sense in their noses. For they sniff danger ahead which you walk right into; and if they run to save themselves, they run the right way."
Right! But the ponies were no better in figuring out the danger beforehand (before they stopped for lunch), and afterwards, once the fog had fallen, well, what was Frodo (and the others) supposed to do? His pony threw him off and ran away. After that, Frodo only tried to find his friends, who got lost in the darkness, so he could save them - certainly the right thing to do! Tom is just speaking from his high and mighty position of someone who knows everything, but once the trouble started, I think Frodo especially should be praised for his courage and for saving the others. (And like I said in the discussion about the Shadow of the Past, this was his first significant deed; and also the time when he was tempted to put on the Ring and just run away - and he didn't. And that counts for something, in my book, if not in Tom's.)

One last thing, a bit of deeper lore, if I may. There is the famous chanting of the Barrow-wight. I would like to know what people think about its last verses. (Or maybe that should be a separate thread.)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fog on the Barrow-Downs
Cold be hand and heart and bone,
and cold be sleep under stone:
never more to wake on stony bed,
never, till the Sun fails and the Moon is dead.
In the black wind the stars shall die,
and still on gold here let them lie,
till the dark lord lifts up his hand
over dead sea and withered land.
I call your attention to the last two lines. I always understood it as either something poetic which does not really refer to any actual point in presumed future, or that it is kind of a "wishful thinking in hope that evil shall prevail". As in, that the Barrow-wight here means "you're going to lie here until Sauron claims Middle-Earth again, which is going to happen eventually, mwahaha". But, of course, there is a more logical explanation, and that is, that this is talking about some time in the future... remember, the point of this "sleep" is that the hobbits are supposed to sleep there, well, "forever": so we are talking about the "end of times"... and there... regardless how the Barrow-wight may or may not think it will end, eschatologically... we are looking towards Dagor Dagorath, when Morgoth (the Dark Lord) will come back and "lift up his hand over dead sea and withered land", huh? I am not sure if I am not projecting too much into this, but it is about the only logical explanation that fits in here, and it fits perfectly.

And if so, then we have the only one occasion (as far as I know) where in LotR (or almost in anything, including the Silmarillion if I am not mistaken!) there is a reference to Dagor Dagorath. Which would be quite cool, and typical for Tolkien (like how originally all casual remarks about "the Necromancer" or "Moria" in the Hobbit were also just thrown in "by chance").
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Old 10-04-2016, 02:43 PM   #39
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I call your attention to the last two lines. I always understood it as either something poetic which does not really refer to any actual point in presumed future, or that it is kind of a "wishful thinking in hope that evil shall prevail". As in, that the Barrow-wight here means "you're going to lie here until Sauron claims Middle-Earth again, which is going to happen eventually, mwahaha". But, of course, there is a more logical explanation, and that is, that this is talking about some time in the future... remember, the point of this "sleep" is that the hobbits are supposed to sleep there, well, "forever": so we are talking about the "end of times"... and there... regardless how the Barrow-wight may or may not think it will end, eschatologically... we are looking towards Dagor Dagorath, when Morgoth (the Dark Lord) will come back and "lift up his hand over dead sea and withered land", huh? I am not sure if I am not projecting too much into this, but it is about the only logical explanation that fits in here, and it fits perfectly.
That's my view of the wight's incantation: almost a prayer for the vision of Sauron's ultimate goal to come to pass. Since Sauron portrayed himself as a god to his servants, this would not be out of keeping for the spirit (pun intended) of such a view.

But contrast that with Bombadil's "banishing" song:

Quote:
Get out, you old Wight! Vanish in the sunlight!
Shrivel like the cold mist, like the winds go wailing,
Out into the barren lands far beyond the mountains!
Come never here again! Leave your barrow empty!
Lost and forgotten be, darker than the darkness,
Where gates stand for ever shut, till the world is mended.
With the last two lines of Tom's song, he seems to send the wight the future way of the Witch-king, Sauron, and Saruman: doomed to a lonely, impotent existence in the waste.

And finally, Tom mentions a 'mending', which appears to be a quite different version from the wight's. Tom sees the world's end as it should (shall) be, and in his overcoming the wight, seems to confirm his is the right one.
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Old 10-04-2016, 04:11 PM   #40
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Perhaps this is a Tolkienesque allusion to the Door of Night, behind which Morgoth is shut until the end of days, the Dagor Dagorath, and the recreation of the world. Bombadil would know this because he was, of course, not of Middle-earth and had read a few revisions of Tolkien's early Silmarillion works whilst hanging out in the wilds of Oxfordshire:

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But Morgoth himself the Valar thrust through the Door of Night beyond the Walls of the World, into the Timeless Void; and a guard is set forever on those walls, and Eärendil keeps watch upon the ramparts of the sky.
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