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Old 02-17-2008, 12:18 AM   #1
Laurinqu
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The Barrow-Downs?

So TheGreatElvenWarrior and I were talking and we were discussing why Tolkien put the Barrow-Downs and the Old Forest segment into LotR. And we were wondering if you peoples knew why the whole chunk from Crickhollow to the Barrow-Downs into the books and if LotR could have lived without it.

Of course we love it very much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We would like some answers...
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Old 02-17-2008, 05:38 AM   #2
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I am not sure myself, but perhaps infromation can be found in the HoMe series seeing how the story evolved.
Of course the story could have lived without it, you see that in the movies where the really important moment that takes place during this chapter - the Hobbits receiving the enchanted blades - is simply replaced with Aragorn giving them these swords.
As Tom Bombadil is not really of M-e it isn't really a big deal that they don't see him and nothing else in this time has great influence later.
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Old 02-17-2008, 06:04 AM   #3
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But surely there are many important things in the chapters. Let me say it this way: Of course if you reduced the whole story just to the basic scheme "hero goes to a quest, goes to First Safe Haven, gets companions, proceeds to... etc", you don't need the Old Forest. But if you take LotR as LotR, and not as "a story", then the question is rather pointless. How to say it, well, the Old Forest is a part of the story, and without it, it won't be the same story. Or, let me say it this way: if you take LotR as a complex work, not as "a story about Frodo going to Mount Doom", then it is necessary - in such a view, it does not matter whether you skip the Old Forest or whether you skip the part where Gollum falls to Mount Doom. Is it understandable what I want to say? LotR as a schematic work does not need to include Tom Bombadil and the events around. But LotR as LotR needs Tom Bombadil, needs Frodo's dream in his house, needs the Barrow-Downs. Needs Gandalf's visit of Tom Bombadil at the end of the story, even though there's nothing more than Gandalf mentioning it.
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Old 02-17-2008, 09:45 AM   #4
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I believe Tolkien said something about the hobbits needing an adventure between Crickhollow and Bree. I'm not sure where I read that, so perhaps someone else remembers and can provide the exact quote. At any rate, this side adventure increases the tension and tone of the story. It also causes a delay that allows time for other story elements to fall into place. Things might well have turned out quite differently if they had reached Bree in a day instead of the three days it ended up taking. The hobbits might well have passed Weathertop before the Black Riders ever got there.

But there is a more important reason to include this otherwise seemingly unintegrated adventure with Bombadil and the Barrow Wight. One of the things that LotR is about is its milieu, the setting and atmosphere of all Middle-Earth. While certain story elements may not be technically necessary to convey the plotline to the reader, they are essential to the texture of the whole. If he was only concerned with showing the plot, he could also have omitted Gildor and supper at Farmer Maggot's house and probably many other brief scenes as well. Maybe Fatty Bolger at Crickhollow? FEAR! FIRE! FOES! AWAKE! These sidelights give the reader a glimpse into the undusted corners of Middle-Earth that contributes to the bigger picture, one brush-stroke at a time, so to speak. The milieu itself becomes a character because we know it, it's woods and fields and little rivers. We care what becomes of it. Without these scenes, the departure at the Grey Havens would not move us so deeply. We know what Frodo is leaving behind, never to see again. We also see the descent from this world of wonder to the magic-free, mundane world it is meant to become. Without these scenes, the real wonder would never be there for us in the first place, so there would be no loss to mourn.
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Old 02-17-2008, 02:25 PM   #5
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Well said, radagastly. That section does add to the texture of Middle-earth. That whole section of the books is amongst my favourites, purely because it is so magical - in fact you can keep your Elves, I find the Barrow-Wight, Tom, Goldberry and Old Man Willow more magical than all the Elves put together Those chapters are just stuffed with references to English folklore and history.

Old Man Willow also foreshadows the Ents, and the Barrow-Wight the army of the dead.

And from a purely narrative point of view, it gives the Hobbits some genuine adventure and peril before they run into Strider. Had they run into him after having a wholly uneventful journey to Bree then I think they would have reacted in a completely different manner.
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Old 02-19-2008, 11:39 AM   #6
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Bang on job Radagastly! You hit the nail right on the head.

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Originally Posted by Lalwend
That whole section of the books is amongst my favourites, purely because it is so magical - in fact you can keep your Elves, I find the Barrow-Wight, Tom, Goldberry and Old Man Willow more magical than all the Elves put together Those chapters are just stuffed with references to English folklore and history.
Yes, yes, I love the fact that there is so much mystery located in that region of Middle Earth! I love folklore and history and that chapter seems to cover all of that.
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Old 02-19-2008, 12:40 PM   #7
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I am afraid...

That I hate Tom Bombadil so much I pretend he doens't exist. I about know the folklore thing but to me he is so awful I can't bear it. But I do quite like theOld Forest itself. Trees good, sub-Vogon poets bad....
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Old 02-19-2008, 02:52 PM   #8
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Wasn't Old Tom a childhood toy of the Tolkienses?

If so I guess this personalises the story for the Prof's own children, which I think nobody can complain about. Also this part of the story seems to be the transition between the 'kid's story' of the Hobbit and the darker world of LoTR. By the Weathertop encounter things get considerably more serious!

I seem to remember an old thread on this part of the book...
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Old 02-20-2008, 07:15 AM   #9
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I know all this yet I wish so much the Prof had revised and written out the twee-ness...
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Old 02-20-2008, 08:00 AM   #10
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Tolkien tweedle-dom

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Originally Posted by Mithalwen View Post
I know all this yet I wish so much the Prof had revised and written out the twee-ness...
It seems to me there are two different points of view developing here about Ole Tom and the House of Bombadil. The first is that the entire sequence from Crickhollow to the Barrow Downs to Bree is not essential to the narrative--it's just a major black hole in the plot.

The second concerns frustration with Ole Tom hisself, the much referred to "twee-ness". (And it isn't just Mith who feels this way, so I'm not 'singling' her out.)

But what are the elements of twee-ness? Is it just Tom's nonsense verse? Or is it Tom himself as a character with power who doesn't seem much bothered by his power? Is it depiction of Tom and Goldberry and their habits of dinner partying? Are these places where Tolkien's style--gasp!--is at fault in that it jars a far number of readers? If Tolkien had had a surer hand with nonsense verse, would Ole Tom be better received?

Are the Barrow Downs just too British, too closely linked to the geography of Great Britain to be important to New Zealanders and the Americans in Hollywood? (Hey Nolly, Nolly, the woods are awake!) Are the barrows which dot the British landscape meaningful only for the denizens of that island? Did PJ reject them as being too insular? Or, again, are they a black hole in the plot and thereby easy to eliminate?

Is the British folklore and history which is so dear to Lal something that has not made the leap over the Pond and become the stuff of global English culture? Or, again, is it Tolkien's style which fails here?
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Old 02-20-2008, 01:51 PM   #11
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Still the initial question remains could LotR have lived without it?
Of course every bit of the story has itw own importance and of course without any part LotR wouldn't be LotR truly any longer, however, I feel that LotR could have lived even without certain scenes, as you can see in the movies.
Don't want to start a big discussion by bringing that up, but the story could have done very well without this passage.
Please do not bring up changes that would have been caused as an argument as that makes no sense.
So what if the Hobbits would have reached Weathertop earlier? Tolkien could easily change it so that they would leave later or make the Nazgul leave earlier or whatever. And the outcome and everything afterwards (still there is the problem with the swords of the Hobbits, but maybe they received them in Rivendell or Tolkien could have thought up something to replace the barrow-wight scene) would have remained the same.
So yes, LotR could have lived without this.
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Old 02-20-2008, 02:18 PM   #12
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So what if the Hobbits would have reached Weathertop earlier? Tolkien could easily change it so that they would leave later or make the Nazgul leave earlier or whatever. And the outcome and everything afterwards (still there is the problem with the swords of the Hobbits, but maybe they received them in Rivendell or Tolkien could have thought up something to replace the barrow-wight scene) would have remained the same.
So yes, LotR could have lived without this.
Of course with no problem - and the same LotR could have lived even without Balrog. Gandalf could have, for example, been killed by an Orc lieutenant or a cave-troll. LotR could have lived without Frodo meeting Faramir - I think it's pretty much the same thing. Sméagol could be tempted by the Ring and betray Frodo to Shelob anyway. LotR could have lived even without the Scouring, indeed, we all know that! And without Frodo leaving to the West as well - after all, it's just an epilogue.

This is not meant to be sarcastic (well yes, maybe it is, but just a little ), but what I want to say is that all these scenes have the same value as the Old Forest and the Barrow-Downs.
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Old 02-20-2008, 05:40 PM   #13
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Still the initial question remains could LotR have lived without it?
Of course every bit of the story has itw own importance and of course without any part LotR wouldn't be LotR truly any longer, however, I feel that LotR could have lived even without certain scenes, as you can see in the movies.
The issue cannot be resolved by referring to the movies. The movies work through sound (score) and sight (images, scenery, actors, etc) while the book works through words, just words.

Just because something'worked' in the movies does not automatically imply it would 'work' in the book. We might as well say Arwen at the Bruinen would have worked in the book--but we have no idea how Tolkien would have depicted that, or even if he wanted to. Pretty much a hypothetical good for discussion board disagreements.

The issue is, how would Tolkien have deleted those scenes so the book would 'work'. What would he have replaced them with, if anything, what would he have changed. Would he have made Bree and the Prancing Pony darker because readers would have had no initiation into the inexplicable dangers that lurk in Middle-earth? Would he have wanted to include some other place/form/history so we would know that The Shire has had its share of troubled times? Without the Bonfire Glade, how would readers know that hobbits didn't always get along with their neighbours? That little bit of historical background helps prepare readers for what happens in The Shire once ole Sharkey arrives--can't have it all the Party Tree.

We would have to discuss what LotR would be without these scenes before we could determine if it would live--and what that means anyway. Expurgated books can have long shelf lives.
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Old 02-20-2008, 10:55 PM   #14
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Tom has some importance as a 'comment'

In a letter to Naomi Mitchison on April 25, 1954, Tolkien wrote:

"Tom Bombadil is not an important person -- to the narrative. I suppose he has some importance as a 'comment.' I mean, I do not really write like that: he is just an invention . . . and he represents something that I feel important, though I would not be prepared to analyze the feeling precisely. I would not, however, have left him in, if he did not have some kind of function. I might put it this way. The story is cast in terms of a good side, and a bad side, beauty against ruthless ugliness, tyranny against kingship, moderated freedom with consent against compulsion that has lost any object save mere power, and so on; but on both sides in some degree, conservative or destructive, want a measure of control. But if you have, as it were taken 'a vow of poverty,' renounced control, and take your delight in things for themselves without reference to yourself, watching, observing, and to some extent knowing, then the question of the rights and wrongs of power and control might become utterly meaningless to you, and the means of power quite valueless. It is a natural pacifist view, which always arises in the mind when there is a war. But the view of Rivendell seems to be that it is an excellent thing to have represented, but there are in fact things with which it cannot cope; and upon which its existence nonetheless depends. Ultimately only the victory of the West will allow Bombadil to continue, or even to survive. Nothing would be left for him the world of Sauron."

According to Tolkien's own words, this section with Tom represents something that he, Tolkien, felt was an important. Thus in the words of the author, I don't think we can dismiss this section.

Why? As Frodo and his 3 friends go throughout their journey, the encounter unexpected aid or help from unexpected quarters. This begins with Gildor, goes to Tom, to Strider/Aragorn, then on to Elrond and Rivendell, then to Lothlorien, and then to other characters and places (Treebeard, Theoden, Dernhelm/Eowyn, Denethor, Faramir, Smeagol/Gollum etc.). ALL of these characters have a interest in someway with the notions of 'power and control.' Only Tom is unique. The ring has no power over him because of his position. He has no desire nor thought for power and control. As such, he doesn't seek dominion over anything. Because Tom has this unselfish view, and though he doesn't play an active role outside of saving Frodo and co. from Old Man Willow and from the Barrow Wight, his stance is viewed in Rivendell as worthy to be defended. The tolerance and understanding shown to Bombadil at the Council of Elrond, is perhaps, something that in our own world today, we need more of, even as we go about saving the world. Seeing the good that exists and working to preserve all of it, is what is noble here (I think). That is why I feel and believe that this section of the book is worthy to be there. There are others, but this is perhaps the main one.

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Old 02-21-2008, 03:22 AM   #15
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Interesting thoughts on this topic! I just read the corresponding chapter in Hammond and Scull's LotR Reader's Companion to prepare for the chapter discussion (which will be posted today) on the Chapter-by-Chapter sub-forum. The real life source of the TB character was indeed a "colourful Dutch doll owned by the Tolkien children, dressed exactly as Tom is described". The name may have been chosen by one of the children, they speculate; the character existed long before he found his way into Middle-earth and LotR. The story began as an oral tale, then Tolkien wrote a long poem which can be read in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.

I agree that he (along with the Old Forest and Barrow-downs) is an essential part of the story, even if he can be removed from it when it is adapted and abbreviated. As the Hobbits go on their journey, they build "adventure muscles", so to speak, starting with smaller and less immediate dangers, being rescued (and building up their own courage to defend themselves!) while still close to home, and finding safe havens even while in the Shire or close to its borders. Without those, I think the large-scale adventures and dangerous foes that come later would have been too difficult for them to handle. There is a progression throughout the journey, and removing one step leaves stumbling blocks along the way.
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Old 02-21-2008, 04:33 AM   #16
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I do understand where Mith is coming from on the Bombadil front, but still...I think those early adventures are important partly *because* they are unnecessary. They add to the authenticity, the fairy-tale/mythic feel of the tale. I'm reading the complete works of Grimm at the moment, and these old stories do have a lot of random, disjointed elements in the narrative.
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Old 02-21-2008, 04:49 AM   #17
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The Old Forest/Bombadil/Barrow Downs episode is one I treasure. I understand why some don't, though. Interestingly, most adaptations of the book skip it - I only know of two that have included it - the American radio version & the original BBC radio adaptation from 1955, which Tolkien hated. Perhaps the problem for those who don't like it comes down to the fact that most of them feel it doesn't 'fit' comfortably with the rest of the story, & sidetracks it down a blind alley to a dead end...

Perhaps if they read it as a tale within a tale (as often found in romance literature) they'd feel more comfortable with it. Brain Sibley, one of the adaptors of the BBC radio LotR which we're discussing on another thread, omitted this episode from the adaptation, but dramatised it seperately a few years afterwards as a self contained hour long drama. The surprising thing is how well it works as a self-contained story. It has a clear beginning, middle & end. I'd advise those who don't like the episode to read those three chapters as a short story in their own right, apart from the larger narrative - you might be surprised by your reaction.
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Old 02-21-2008, 08:35 AM   #18
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That I hate Tom Bombadil so much I pretend he doens't exist. I about know the folklore thing but to me he is so awful I can't bear it. But I do quite like theOld Forest itself. Trees good, sub-Vogon poets bad....
I have to agree although I wouldn't say I hate him. He is silly but he also gives us a fair bit of ME history with his tales. But we certainly could do without his hopping about, his whistling and his oversized boots.

I also like the Old Forest. One of the most vivid mental images I have of LOtR is the hobbits entering the tunnel under the Hedge in the mist of dawn.

The Barrow-Downs are also atmospheric and add to the ME experience.

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Old 02-21-2008, 09:02 AM   #19
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An interesting bit of forum trivia for those of you who weren't around in the early days here - The Barrow-Wight was actually happy to have a 'book only' name for the forum when the movies came out. Can you imagine what chaos there would have been here had he chosen something popular with the Leggy lasses and other movie fans?!
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Old 02-21-2008, 11:08 AM   #20
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Before you Tom-haters dismiss him and his role out of hand, don't overlook this:

Quote:
Suddenly Tom's talk left the woods and went leaping up the young stream, over bubbling waterfalls, over pebbles and worn rocks, and among small flowers in close grass and wet crannies, wandering at last up on to the Downs. They heard of the Great Barrows, and the green mounds, and the stone-rings upon the hills and in the hollows among the hills. Sheep were bleating in flocks. Green walls and white walls rose. There were fortresses on the heights. Kings of little kingdoms fought together, and the young Sun shone like fire on the red metal of their new and greedy swords. There was victory and defeat; and towers fell, fortresses were burned, and flames went up into the sky. Gold was piled on the biers of dead kings and queens; and mounds covered them, and the stone doors were shut; and the grass grew over all. Sheep walked for a while biting the grass, but soon the hills were empty again.
Here, 'one brushstroke at a time' as Radagastly so aptly put it, Tolkien masterfully begins to open his wider canvas to the reader via Frodo. This is not historical narrative a la Gandalf in Ch 2, it really isn't history at all: but it's a visual (and audio) montage of the vast *weight* of history that bears down on the story, that curious bedrock of 'reality' which makes Tolkien so distinctive. And the imagery! Sheep not merely grazing, but 'biting' tha grass. Can't you hear it, and the underlying silence necessary for hearing it? It's a very cinematic passage and brilliantly effective in itself and in its metanarrative role.
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Old 05-31-2008, 07:34 AM   #21
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Well, this is definitely one of my favourite parts of the book (How can you hate Tom?!), so I don't think it could be done without.

Also, it is quite interesting to see that just outside the nice protection of the Sire, there is some darkness, a little shade of evil. And Tom builds them up for aan adventure. While Tom is there it is a "safe" adventure to prepare them for what is to come.
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Old 06-01-2008, 07:42 AM   #22
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Incidentally, the Bombadil chapters existed largely because Tolkien was out of ideas but had the Bombadil-poem around, which included Willowman, Goldberry, and the Barrow-wight: instant narrative.

Remember (amazingly enough)- when T first wrote that section he had only the vaguest idea where "Bingo" was going and why! (his ring was still one of many, not yet The Ring.)
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Old 06-01-2008, 08:18 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
Incidentally, the Bombadil chapters existed largely because Tolkien was out of ideas but had the Bombadil-poem around, which included Willowman, Goldberry, and the Barrow-wight: instant narrative.

Remember (amazingly enough)- when T first wrote that section he had only the vaguest idea where "Bingo" was going and why! (his ring was still one of many, not yet The Ring.)
That doesn't make any less amazing, or good, for that matter.
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Old 06-01-2008, 11:59 AM   #24
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It's not a question of having the rest of The Lord of the Rings ready and then inserting the Old Forest bits. As William points out, most of the story was 'discovered' after this episode. Tolkien didn't reflect on the defeat of Sauron and suddenly feel the urge to add an extra chapter on some dancing hermit.

But other people have explained well why it works; and I for (another) one love Tom and Goldberry!
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Old 06-11-2008, 12:24 PM   #25
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So this is what I'm gathering

Tom is important to the story because of his rescuing the hobbits twice. The Old Forest is important because of it's introducing the hobbits to danger, but not necessarily the danger of Sauron. It lets the hobbits know that there are other things that can go wrong not because Frodo posses the Ring. The Barrow-Downs and the Barrow Wight are there to know a bit about the history and having Frodo basically calling for help by himself. And then having Bombadil. Goldberry (one of my favourites) is important because she is Tom's 'Partner in Crime' and probably makes him stronger per se. The whole section of the story is important because of the mini adventure that prepares the hobbits for their bigger adventures without Tom there to help.
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Old 06-11-2008, 12:55 PM   #26
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I didn't read the thread, but let me tell you that the Hobbit's journey from Crickhollow to the Barrow-Downs is truly one of the reasons why I love Tolkien. That is how powerful those chapters are, for me.
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Old 06-11-2008, 01:08 PM   #27
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alatar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.alatar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
And you get that gem of an insight into the character of Frodo (and the others on the Good side). In the Barrow, Frodo could have left his friends for dead, and the Wise would (maybe) have agreed with the sacrifice, but in the end, Frodo chose to stay and fight the darkness.
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Old 06-12-2008, 12:00 AM   #28
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Boots Science and History vs Folklore

Surely Ol' Merry Fello deserved better than to be written off as a writer's block?!? I, for one, loved the chapter where Ol' Tom sank the barrow outta our very own barrow wight, sending him packing outta the place. (And he had to bring a present to his missue, the rogue.)

Yep, LoTR is a combo of fairy tale and make-over history. And as with all histories, there would be some talk of developments (city building, mithril mining, wheels and chimneys, fireworks). But the light-hearted flowery side of the book prevented it from being turned into your average block-buster, but something more akin to works of art. I confess that I am no connoisseur of English literature, but take away the Old Forest, Barrows and Ol' Tom, and I'd find the book more like fantasy-science fiction.

In fact, the scientists in all of us often pop out and stare skeptically at the mention of "magical power" and "magic". (The more militant of our scientists had screamed witchcraft) The absurdity in Ol' Tom and Co. is in fact a necessity to keep us all from reading the lines too scientifically, though I must admit that the existence of bio-engineering technology remained one of the unequivocal facts of Middle-Earth...

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Old 06-12-2008, 05:58 AM   #29
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Thanks for that observation, HCNL Hobbit. I gnash my teeth every time I hear the replay of PJ claiming these chapters had to go because "they don't advance the plot." Grrrr.
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Old 06-12-2008, 10:29 AM   #30
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My thoughts on this are not completely fleshed out, but I have to say, first of all, why ask about this section? As Legate pointed out as well, there are plenty of other passages the book could have "lived without". Have the movies become the "norm", then, from which the book deviates, rather than the other way around? If so, I find that sad.

Anyway, for me these sections of the book (and also the scouring of the shire) are part of what set it above a mere adventure story. It's here that we begin to see glimpses of a larger world - other battles, older beings, different ways of living and characters unconcerned with the quest at hand make the story richer, and link it to Tolkien's other works, as well (it is not just a story, but part of a world). The Old Forest/Tom/Barrow-Downs section also serves as a transition between the more... I don't know, childlike? homely? world of the Shire to the epic one of the elves, Gondor, etc. - a contrast which is a large part of the delight of the books, for me, and which requires some sort of transitional episode. This, of course, does not even include the value of these sections in their own right. I doubt LoTR would have the same importance to me without them.
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Old 06-13-2008, 12:41 PM   #31
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We weren't saying that the book doesn't need these chapters, but what would it be like to not have them or if they were different in some way. I personally think that the Old Forest and everything that happened there is a very good part of the story which takes the book out of the ordinary and makes it so great, because the hobbits are still going forward in their quest, but it takes them into a miniature adventure, which is almost my favourite part of Tolkiens works!
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Old 06-14-2008, 05:58 AM   #32
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1420! Bumpkin land

Tom really made for a more homely (gossipy) settings fitting in the atmosphere of the Shire. And it was really one of those things that endeared me to the early chapters, and thus magnified the horrors revealed during the Scouring of the Shire.

In fact, it seemed really a habit of J. R. R. T. to start a grand adventure by first creating a merrily magical setting. Just compare Ol' Tom with the entry of the dwarves in The Hobbit! And The Hobbit is not just some kiddy book, ending with a war and some sacrifice of heroes. Why shouldn't we treat the LOTR in the same manner?
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Old 06-14-2008, 10:58 AM   #33
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I will add on a little to what I said in my earlier post.

These chapters, The Old Forest-Tom Bombadil-The Barrow-Downs, are truly amazing and almost magical. I count them as one of my favorite parts in The Lord of the Rings. I believe that these chapters are a major part of what glued me to Tolkien when I first started reading the book.

With Tolkien, it is like you're actually reading history that happened in a time long forgotten. These chapters amplify that feeling, for me, and I actually feel the lingering fear of The Old Forest, the comfort of Tom's House and mysticism of Goldberry, and the dread that is the Barrow-Downs...these chapters are monumental.
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Old 06-14-2008, 12:21 PM   #34
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I thought I'd add something, too. To me, Tom has always somehow represented the power of all that is good in the hobbits - the quality that made them able to do what more powerful, wiser beings could not. He embodies the joy, simplicity, humility and closeness to the earth - the "groundedness", which the hobbits at their best also have, and which seems to give them their unexpected strength. When we see Tom triumph over Old Man Willow and the Barrow Wight, it echoes the hobbits' eventual triumph over their adversaries - and the loyalty they show to each other when faced with these dangers also gives an inkling of the source of their strength. Think of the way the memory of the Shire strengthens the hobbits later in the tale, in "dark places" - this simple, humble sort of happiness gives them courage and ability to resist the ring. It seems that Tolkien is setting up Tom's (and the hobbits'?) kind of power as different from, and in some ways stronger than the power of men, wizards, elves, etc. in opposing evil (or at least, less prone to corruption).
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Old 06-14-2008, 05:03 PM   #35
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Rikae - I never thought of that. Very interesting!
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Old 06-16-2008, 11:18 AM   #36
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Enw is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Enw is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Enw is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.
I always thought that these chapters show that LOTR is not just a story with a world built around, but world that just happens to have this particular story inside it. It shows that entirely unrelated things to the main plot can happen and still be part of the story

Just because they're not about the War of the Ring, it doesn't mean that it has no place or that it is irrelevant.
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Old 06-22-2008, 08:33 PM   #37
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Are the Barrow Downs just too British, too closely linked to the geography of Great Britain to be important to New Zealanders and the Americans in Hollywood? (Hey Nolly, Nolly, the woods are awake!) Are the barrows which dot the British landscape meaningful only for the denizens of that island? Did PJ reject them as being too insular? Or, again, are they a black hole in the plot and thereby easy to eliminate?

Is the British folklore and history which is so dear to Lal something that has not made the leap over the Pond and become the stuff of global English culture? Or, again, is it Tolkien's style which fails here?
On the topic of barrows in general, when I first read LotR I assumed, as a rather ignorant 15 year old American would, that Tolkien had invented barrows and that they existed only in ME. I was soon told otherwise by my mother though, and have since learned a lot about barrows.

But PJ was probably very familiar with the range of knowledge of American teenagers such as myself and this may have been a reason he left the Barrow-downs out, to avoid confusing and possibly alienating his young audience, but it's seemingly inconsequential role in the story was probably the main factor.

Also, back to my question (it was actually TheGreatElvenWarrior who posted the question, with my permission, under my name, not hers, because we were on the same computer and she didn't feel like switching to her account) I like what Alatar said: "Frodo could have left his friends for dead, and the Wise would (maybe) have agreed with the sacrifice, but in the end, Frodo chose to stay and fight the darkness." I never really thought about it that way.
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Old 06-22-2008, 08:51 PM   #38
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Quote:
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On the topic of barrows in general, when I first read LotR I assumed, as a rather ignorant 15 year old American would, that Tolkien had invented barrows and that they existed only in ME. I was soon told otherwise by my mother though, and have since learned a lot about barrows.
I thought you knew that before you read LotR... oh well... I don't know anything about you...

Quote:
But PJ was probably very familiar with the range of knowledge of American teenagers such as myself and this may have been a reason he left the Barrow-downs out, to avoid confusing and possibly alienating his young audience, but it's seemingly inconsequential role in the story was probably the main factor.
But the audience of PJ's movies was not totally directed towards teenagers...

Quote:
Also, back to my question (it was actually TheGreatElvenWarrior who posted the question, with my permission, under my name, not hers, because we were on the same computer and she didn't feel like switching to her account)
It was an assignment, remember?
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I like what Alatar said: "Frodo could have left his friends for dead, and the Wise would (maybe) have agreed with the sacrifice, but in the end, Frodo chose to stay and fight the darkness." I never really thought about it that way.
I really like to think of it that way, the brave little hobbit, Frodo trying his best (and succeeded) to rescue his friends from the nasty BW and succeeded because of his courage, another reason why it was put into LotR, to show Frodo's courage and good will?
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Old 06-24-2008, 07:54 PM   #39
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One of the best and scariest parts of all the tale!
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Old 07-13-2008, 03:01 AM   #40
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Silmaril

I agree, Peregrin. Frodo's becoming separated from his friends in the depths of night, and the appearance of the Barrow-Wight is the scariest part of the whole book!

Some really good points have been raised by previous posters here. In answer to the question, why the "whole chunk" from Crickhollow to the Barrow-Downs was included, I'll summarise what I think we get out of it being there.

It gives us a side-adventure, if you will, separate from the Black Riders, with dangers to be overcome. This shows how dangerous Middle-Earth, and in a larger sense the "perilous" realm of Faerie, can be, while not having to draw on the Black Riders for fear/conflict too many times. Without the Old Forest and the Barrow-Downs, the hobbits would have had no difficulties to overcome between the Shire and Bree. If the "chunk" weren't there, then something else would need to be in its place, as it would be unlikely that with the pursuit close behind them, the hobbits would have an uneventful journey between Crickhollow and Bree. I suppose this something could take the form of an encounter with the Black Riders, but I feel this is best left until Weathertop, so that the danger, tension and excitement are gradually increasing from Three is Company all the way to A Knife in the Dark. Makes for great reading.

Tom is necessary because we have the dangers of the Old Forest and the Barrow-Downs. One of the key features of the book is the fact that after a period of excitement or danger there is usually a respite not far away. Tom's place, Rivendell, Lrien, Henneth Annn, etc. I have always enjoyed this, as it gives the reader (and the characters) a chance to gather and refresh themselves for the next task (and usually have a good meal!). Tolkien also obviously wanted to work the character of Bombadil into Middle-Earth.

Frodo's bravery in the barrow is one of the more important things we get out of having these chapters in LOTR. Gandalf himself said that this was "perhaps the most dangerous moment of all" on Frodo's trip to Rivendell (Weathertop included!). As has already been mentioned, he stood his ground, didn't desert his friends, hacked off the Barrow-Wight's hand, and had the presence of mind to call for jolly, yellow-booted reinforcement.

In addition, I have always been a Merry fan, and I enjoy the fact that in The Old Forest he shows local knowledge, having been in the forest before, and leads the way.

So, you see that these chapters do give us several things. However, are they absolutely necessary? Well, I agree with what seems to be the general consensus on this thread: LOTR could do without these chapters, BUT it would be, shall we say, less brilliant without them. I can understand why these scenes were left out of the movie; it was always going to happen that some material would not make it in due to time constraints. It was natural but regrettable that these chapters were left out. Personally, I would have loved to see "a vision, both comical and alarming, of his bright blue eye gleaming through a circle of gold".
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