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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 10-02-2016, 10:54 AM   #8
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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   #9
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Tolkien

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 Dûm 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 Dûm 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   #10
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Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
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   #11
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Lost and forgotten be, darker than the darkness,
Where gates stand for ever shut, till the world is mended.
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:

Quote:
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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Old 10-04-2016, 04:16 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post
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.
Great observation, Zil. That is indeed how I saw it at first, or basically, all the time until now when the other possibility occured to me.

However, now what you said just further strenghtens my belief that it is possible to successfully argue for the Dagor Dagorath scenario. Because Tom is actually saying the same thing, then, and in "my" version, it is not that what Tom says invalidates the Wight's wish into being a mere wish, but actually they would both be right.

Like this: if the "end of times" means that Morgoth will return and all evil will come together for the final battle, that's what the Wight is talking about. But afterwards, we know that the world will be remade, and that is what Tom is talking about. It's such an absolutely wonderful example of how losing hope works - interpreting a positive thing in a negative way by overshadowing the hope, like a tunnel vision with the Wight intentionally obscuring the light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, it is also the way the word "apocalypse" has been twisted in our culture to effectively mean "destruction", even though the point of all apocalyptic literature has always been to bring hope to those who were in the middle of chaos and destruction. Imagine any story with a happy end, of course the heroes have to go through all the danger. But what the Barrow-wight does is to cut the story just at the worst moment, and tries to pretend that there is nothing afterwards. Tom actually reveals (ha! Apocalypsis - revelation - indeed!) that there is something after, the good end, when "the world is mended". Huh, some really deep eschatology in this, actually.

Incidentally, that also means that even if the Hobbits ended up "never waking 'til..." as the Wight intended, there would be awakening for them, afterwards. Because there is afterwards. (But of course, that is outside the scope of the story of the Ring. Nonetheless, I think interesting.)
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Old 08-02-2018, 06:52 AM   #13
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A question that comes up earlier in the thread is about the nature of Merry's dream or memory of the soldier of Cardolan who died speared by the men of Carn Dûm--this is something Verlyn Flieger talks about in one of her books (A Question of Time, I am 98% sure--it's been the better part of a decade). I remember none of the specifics, and do remember thinking that some of her thinking was conjecture, but where she made comparisons within Tolkien's work, it's hard to complain.

And there are definite comparisons in Tolkien's work, most notably his Lost Road and Notion Papers fragments, where the modern day protagonists having dreams of ancient happenings are a major element. Within The Lord of the Rings itself, we have Faramir's dream of the sinking of Númenor--fascinatingly, an actual autobiographical detail from Tolkien himself.

It's notable to me that Merry dreams/remembers one of the Dúnedain of Cardolan: this syncs him up with Faramir (a Dúnadan remembering a specifically Númenórean event) as well as the Lost Road--this dream memory business seems to be a specially Númenórean thing. This is especially interesting to me because this is the first place in the book where the legend of the Númenóreans gets attention and focus (it DOES get exposure, I admit, in "Shadow of the Past," but that is just one in a laundry list of historical references and not made central).

By the way, it's fascinating to me that we, as fans, generally say "Númenor," no doubt following the overall lead of the Appendices, Unfinished Tales, and the rest of the Middle-earth corpus, which makes it the overwhelming term of usage for Tolkien--but in the narrative of The Lord of the Rings itself, the term doesn't edge out Westernesse by all that much prominence, and Westernesse is definitely the word I remember learning first (I couldn't tell you which is encountered first).



On a more general note, I love "Fog on the Barrow-downs." I love most chapters and I generally give a little extra love to the chapters that the movies passed over solely because my mental images were never distorted, but "Fog on the Barrow-downs" still holds a special place to me. It's far and away the best Bombadil chapter, beautifully atmospheric, full of all the best ficto-archaeology (not just the Barrow-downs, which I always remember, but Arthedain's dike, which I never used to notice), and ends on a perfect anticipatory moment of moodiness to lead into the Bree chapters and the next stage of the story.
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Old 06-27-2022, 01:05 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
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.
Good observation. I also paid attention how Tolkien very deliberatedly constructed the scene so that Frodo gets his moment of lone heroism before Tom Bombadil intervenes (by Frodo's request). I quite like the whole thing as a demonstration of Tolkien's ideas of heroism - Frodo is no Conan the Barbarian who chops the Barrow-Wight in half, but instead, he rather sensibly calls for the more powerful Tom Bombadil to rescue him and his friends.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inziladun
I wonder why, before their deaths, the hobbits had to be clothed in white. And how did Frodo escape that?

For the first question, was it a deliberate mockery on the part of the Wight; a sacrifice made to the lord Sauron, whose "negative resurrection" he refers in his incantation?

For the second, I can only posit that Frodo both was not reclothed, and was not made to stay unconscious, because of the Ring.
I always assumed Frodo escaped the white clothes simply because he came later. Nonetheless, the new garments are an interesting (and creepy) detail, which made me chuckle a little on this reread too - I was imagining the Barrow-Wight fussing over the unconscious hobbits undressing them and then dressing them up in fancier clothes and jewellry. Seriously though, I suppose it was an enchantment of some kind that transformed the hobbits' clothes into white robes and jewellry; after all, Tom tells them they will not find their old clothes (even though he brings a lot of other things from the barrow). I don't think the Barrow-Wight just ate the clothes or something

The image of the hobbits in the white clothes and the unnaturally long hand coming to cut their throats with the sword is very powerful and very creepy, but one that has not been included in any adaptation as far as I know, and also seldom depicted in any fan art or official art. Only this one by Ted Nasmith comes to mind, and it very well illustrates how strange the whole scene is (including the green light):

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Old 06-27-2022, 04:37 PM   #15
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I have no idea, from a Watsonian perspective, why the Wight would dress three of the Hobbits in white garments, but my mental picture from a Doyleist angle has always associated the regarbed Hobbits as Egyptian in influence: white-garbed in a tomb FEELS very Egyptian, even if it's probably not strictly accurate.

Certainly, the Númenóreans had some Egyptian influences, in their death-obsessed aspects and in their megalithic sculptures, so it's an on-key vibe for the barrow*, even if there's no specific reason for the Wight to take pointers from the Egyptians.

Although, thinking of how the Númenóreans (think of the sails in the incomplete Tal-Elmar story) make black into their most solemn colour, perhaps there is something oppositional about white around death. Now that I think about it, as an open-ended question (and I am too lazy to find a copy of the RotK...), what is Faramir garbed in for the pyre?




*I initially wrote "for the Barrow-downs" and had to correct myself!
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Old 07-02-2022, 05:01 PM   #16
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Although, thinking of how the Númenóreans (think of the sails in the incomplete Tal-Elmar story) make black into their most solemn colour, perhaps there is something oppositional about white around death. Now that I think about it, as an open-ended question (and I am too lazy to find a copy of the RotK...), what is Faramir garbed in for the pyre?
The sails of the Corsairs of Umbar were black, who did have a connection with the Black Númenóreans.

I don't think the color of Faramir (or Denethor's) clothing was recorded, just that both lay under the same covering. I took that to mean each wore what they already had on.

There is apparently some ceremonial aspect to the "sacrifice" prepared by the Barrow-wight. I still think that his incantation to Sauron is not insignificant, and that white, which, according to Aragorn, Sauron did not use, was perhaps symbolic. The hobbits were to die wearing the color of Sauron's opposite, meaning that the White itself would one day perish. That would complement the incantation, which suggests that dark day when Sauron would be master of all Middle-earth.
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