Today in Tolkien - September 24th
The hobbits have their first full day of walking through the Shire, and Frodo is a little out of practice with it:
The morning came, pale and clammy. Frodo woke up first, and found that a tree-root had made a hole in his back, and that his neck was stiff. “Walking for pleasure? Why didn’t I drive?” he thought, as he usually did at the beginning of an expedition….He stretched. “Wake up, hobbits!” he cried. “It’s a beautiful morning.”
Pippin, for his part, is rather spoiled, and his attitude suggests that the Tooks (one of the wealthiest, though rather less ‘respectable’, families in the Shire) are accustomed to having servants. One gets the impression Pippin is a little spoiled; Merry doesn’t act like this, though the Brandybucks are also wealthy and prominent
“What’s beautiful about it?” said Pippin, peering over the edge of his blanket with one eye. “Sam! Get breakfast ready for half past nine! Have you got the bath water hot?”
But Pippin does help with breakfast and, at Frodo’s prompting, with getting water, so he’s not unwilling to contribute. The hobbits take their time getting started, and it’s past ten before they’re walking again. They climb up and down hills walking eastward towards Woody End, and stop for lunch. Although the scene in the movies where Sam reaches the furthest from home he’s ever been is not from the books, it does give a true sense of the scope of Sam’s world up to this point:
They were looking across the Woody End toward the Brandywine River…[Sam’s] round eyes were wide open - for he was looking across lands he had never seen to a new horizon.
Sam’s question immediately after this is whether Elves live in this forest, which amusingly implies that Sam divides the world into two neat categories: places he knows, and places that might contain Elves. But he’s actually right to a degree, since the forest is where they later meet Gildor and his people.
The hobbits are making a relaxing day of it: despite having walked for probably less than two hours, After a rest they had a good lunch, and then more rest. The sun was beginning to get low and the light of afternoon was on the land as they went down the hill. They’re not yet aware of any danger or hurry. But they’re about to get their first clear sense of it, be ause only a little more than an hour after they start walking afain, they’re overtaken by - and, on Frodo’s impulse, hide from - a Black Rider. (This is Khamul, the second-in-command, again, as in Hobbiton.) Sam tells them this is the same person who was talking to the Gaffer last night.
This encounter encourages Frodo to keep walking for a good while that day and into the night in order to make up more distance, and to try to keep a little way’s off the road and out of sight of it. They have supper in and old tree, and keep walking into the dusk. After dark they hear hooves behind them again, and slip off the path, but the Rider dusmounts and comes towards them. Frodo like the first time, feels the strong urge to put on the Ring, and very nearly does before the Black Rider retreats in response to the elves’ singing. If the Elves consider the Ringwraiths frightening, as Gildor’s words suggest they certainly do, the feeling appears to be mutual.
These are Noldor, and give us a sense of the effects of elven-song that Tolkien describes in The Silmarillion, in being understood without need fir a common language:
It was singing in the fair elven-tongue, of which Frodo knew only a little, and the others knew nothing. Yet the sound blending with the melody seemed to shape itself in their thought into words which they only partly understood.
I’m not going to speculate on the name “Gildor Inglorion of the House of Finrod” except to note that “House” does not mean “descent”, and it most likely is not intended to mean anything more than that Gildor is either a Valinorean elf who came over with the Finarfinians, or is decsended from someone who came over with them.
They walk a good distance through the forest to near Woodhall - they’re now a good two-thirds of the way to Buckland, and seem to have covered more distance after dark than before it. Woodhall is a Hobbit-village, not the name of the place when the elves are camping, a distinction I didn’t catch until now - though the former may have on e been named for the latter and the connection then forgotten, given the description of the site
At the south end of the greensward there was an opening. There the green floor ran on into the wood, and for ed a wide space like a hall, roofed by the boughs of trees. In the middle there was a wood-fire blazing, and upon the tree-pillars torches with lights of gold and silver were burning steadily. The Elves sat round the fire upon the grass or upon the sawn rings of old trunks.
Frodo and Gildor have a long conversation. I’m amused by the proverb Go not to the elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes - that’s evidently a more recent development, as the elves of the First Age certainly aren’t shy about voicing their opinions! Likely an aftereffect of that, or of the Second Age.
Elsewhere, Gandalf, having tamed Shadowfax the previous day, crosses the Isen and rides north for the Shire.
Unlike my previous two entries, I haven’t mentioned events outside the year 3018, since there’s nothing specific. A year from now, the hobbits will be in Rivendell visiting Bilbo, while Saruman makes trouble in the Shire; three years from now, Frodo and Sam will once again be journeying with elves, on their way to the Grey Havens.
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In the film adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo gets stabbed by a troll’s spear, and there’s this big dramatic scene where he reveals that he’s been wearing Bilbo’s old mithril corslet under his shirt the whole time.
In the book, Frodo doesn’t tell anyone about the mithril corslet until much later, as the Fellowship is busy running for their lives at the time, and the orcs aren’t kind enough to pause their assault for long enough for the Fellowship to have a mid-battle bonding moment:
Aragorn picked up Frodo where he lay by the wall and made for the stair, pushing Merry and Pippin in front of him. The others followed; but Gimli had to be dragged away by Legolas: in spite of the peril he lingered by Balin’s tomb with his head bowed. Boromir hauled the eastern door to, grinding upon its hinges: it had great iron rings on either side, but could not be fastened.
“I am all right,” gasped Frodo. “I can walk. Put me down!”
Aragorn nearly dropped him in amazement. “I thought you were dead!” he cried.
“Not yet!” said Gandalf. “But there is no time to wonder.”
Meaning that in the book version, for most of the span between the battle at Balin’s tomb and reaching Lothlórien, apart from Gandalf – who obviously figures it out straight away – the Fellowship have no idea how Frodo survived a troll-spear to the guts with nothing but bruised ribs to show for it. What did they think was going on?
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