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Old 08-28-2002, 12:13 PM   #1
Arwen Imladris
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Sting Why pass on the west side?

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And he (Tom Bombadil) advised them to pass the barrows by on the west-side, if they chanced to stray near one.
Why would that make a difference?
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Old 08-28-2002, 12:33 PM   #2
The Squatter of Amon Rdh
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My guess is that the western side is closer to Valinor. It seems in keeping with the general trend that things are more wholesome in the West, although as I said it's pure guesswork.
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Old 08-28-2002, 12:43 PM   #3
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Squatter's opinion is the same one that I gathered. The power of the elves must be more potent the closer to the Blessed Realm, and I guess Bombadil was hoping to intrust his little friends to greater powers once they left his lands. Or maybe the openings of the Barrows faced the east, like some huts of native americans faced the rising of the sun (only, of course, the Barrows didn't care hide nor hair of the sun, instead maybe looking towards the evil of Mordor) and he was hoping that they could sneak around...? THAT'S a stretch, though. I don't remember reading anything like THAT.

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Old 08-28-2002, 03:18 PM   #4
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Call me disillusioned, but if you hit the area of the Barrow-Downs coming from the west side like you do from the Old Forest, and you do not want to enter the Downs, isn't it plainly logical to pass them by on the side you are on? What else could they have done? And I strongly and seriously doubt that some ten miles (or ten yards in the case of a single barrow) nearer to or farther from Valinor (which was removed from the circles of the world anyway, making directions relative) makes any difference. Mainly because there is nothing which even remotely hints on that anywhere.

[ August 28, 2002: Message edited by: Sharku ]
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Old 08-28-2002, 03:27 PM   #5
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Well, if you want to be realistic and textual about it, but where's the fun in that? [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]
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Old 08-28-2002, 06:46 PM   #6
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My idea was that as the hobbits were travelling during the day, the first dangerous period would be dusk, when the sun sets in the West. The Eastern side would be in deep shadow so possibly the 'early birds' amongst the wights could have emerged and lurked in the shadows.
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Old 08-28-2002, 11:31 PM   #7
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Quote:
Or maybe the openings of the Barrows faced the east...
Actually, I think DaughterofVana has hit closest to the mark regarding Bombadil's advice. It is a very old Christian burial custom the dictates that when people are buried, they must be facing East. (I won't go into the details of the Why, but check any cemetery. All graves will face East.)

Perhaps in Tolkien's day there was a superstition about crossing to the West when walking past a grave, and he is making an indirect reference to this in Bombadil's statement.

That's the trouble, (and beauty) of Tolkien's writing; you never know when a reference in the text is coming from his research in mythology, his own Catholic upbringing, or the customs and beliefs of the time and place he was born in. I wouldn't doubt that some details might even have double, or "in-joke" meanings; such as the speech pattern of Treebeard being based on that of C.S. Lewis.

So remember, whenever you are walking through a cemetery, don't forget to walk to the West of the graves. Tolkien said so! [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]

P. S. - Oh, and make sure you whistle. Frodo forgot to whistle, and look what happened.

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Old 08-29-2002, 11:25 AM   #8
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In UT, Christopher Tolkien states (in the chapter "The Hunt for the Ring") that the Witch-king had established a camp at Andrath on the eastern border of the Barrow Downs and had entered the Barrow Downs himself to rowse the Barrow-Wights and other creatures of evil in the Downs and the Old Forest. He remained there in this task for "some days" while he sent four Black Riders into the Shire by way of Sarn Ford in the Southfarthing on September 22 (RoTK-Appendix B), the same day Frodo left Bag End. The camp would have been established (probably) the next day (the 23rd). Frodo and company reached Tom Bombadil's house on Sept. 26th and spent 2 nights. IMO, Bombadil conveniently used the rain on the 27th to keep the hobbits safe in his house because the Witch-King was still on the Downs. It is very likely that Tom Bombadil knew about the encampment and he certainly would have know that the Lord of Nazgul had entered the Downs on or after the 23rd approaching from the east. The hobbits best chance of concealment without knowing ahead of time the exact location of the Witch-King, was to keep the barrow mounds between them and the camp of the Nazgul on the eastern border of the Downs.
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Old 08-29-2002, 11:28 AM   #9
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I like Rumil's idea about the setting sun, and the shadow. The wights seem to be affected by sunlight.
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