Archive for the ‘4 – A Short Cut to Mushrooms’ Category

Welcome to the exciting conclusion of Chapter 4! What mysterious thing is riding up to Farmer Maggot’s wagon?

The hobbits can't see his face, but he just feels sketchy, you know?

The horse approaches. Farmer Maggot yells at the rider, asking who it is and what they want. A voice calls back, asking for “Mr. Baggins”. Gulp. That’s what a black rider would say…

Nope! It’s Merry! He appears out of the fog, riding a pony. Frodo runs out to meet him. Merry has been out looking for the three hobbits for a while, worrying about why it was taking them so long. Maggot explains how they were crossing his fields, and took a detour to his house. However, Maggot feels like it’s time to get back home, so he turns his wagon around and drives off, but not before remembering that his wife packed a special basket just for Frodo. As Maggot drives away, Frodo realizes what the basket contains: mushrooms.

It's kind of a buzzkill if you're like me and hate mushrooms.

Yeah, Merry has no clue how dangerous the trip has been for Frodo, Sam, and Pippin. He’s riding out into the foggy night alone! Who does he think he is, Ichabod Crane? You just don’t do that sort of thing when you know that undead screech machines are hunting your friends throughout the forest. He’ll learn.

I’m left wondering: how do the (now four) hobbits proceed from here? Merry has a pony, and undoubtedly rode it over the Brandywine Bridge, but can he take it over the ferry? I mean, we’re going to learn this like right away, but what happens next? I don’t believe that they have to cut back around to the bridge, but wouldn’t Merry have expected the three to take the ferry, and been waiting there instead of riding a horse over the river? From what the movie tells me, a horse can’t go on the ferry. The black rider is forced to stop short instead of climbing on with the escaping hobbits. Can Merry’s pony fit? We shall see.

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Well, that’s an interesting word! I honestly almost thought that it was just “worrying”. The context is Farmer Maggot saying: “Mrs. Maggot will be worriting with the night getting thick.” Replace “worriting” with “worrying” and it says exactly the same thing. According to the interwebz, “worrit” is simply a variation on “worry”. What’s the point? I blame the English.

“Suddenly Frodo laughed: from the covered basket he held, the scent of mushrooms was rising.”

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Sleep. Sleep was good.

Bedtime looked similar to this.

You know what else was good? Dinner. For the hobbits, that is. Farmer Maggot offers up supper to Frodo, Sam, and Pippin, and they enjoy a mushroom-bacon dish, along with other classic farm foods. After dinner, Maggot gets the wagon ready, and everyone loads up and heads out. The night is dark, still, and foggy, and it feels like it takes an incredibly long time to travel the five or so miles to the ferry. Maggot stops the wagon as they approach the ferry, but suddenly everyone hears approaching hooves. Frodo scrambles into the back of the wagon to hide.

Quick housekeeping: The Maggot family dinner includes 14 total hobbits. We know this includes our three travelers (Frodo, Sam, and Pippin), Farmer Maggot, Mrs. Maggot, three daughters, at least two sons, and “one or two” other hobbits that work at the farm. If there are two other hobbits, then the Maggots have a total of four sons. If there is only one other hobbit, then they have five sons. Either combination gives us a group of 14. The Maggots have either seven or eight children! Half the dinner is Maggot children!

Additionally, let us discuss what this mushroom-bacon dish was like. At first, I imagined some sort of omelet. With mushrooms and bacon being typical omelet ingredients, and eggs of course being a farm staple, it makes sense. If it’s not an omelet, is it something more like a casserole? Maybe.

I hate mushrooms, and it still looks delicious.

STOP. The Scooby-Doo episode on TV just had an epic Lord of the Rings reference moment. The gang is trapped on a narrow bridge, confronted by an enormous gryphon. Shaggy slams a magical staff down, proclaiming, “You shall not pass, man!” Good.

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Tomorrow is the last page of this chapter! It’s a short chapter, compared to the others so far. We’ll learn who is approaching! Ringwraith? Or not?

“He climbed out and went to the farmer’s…”

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Oh, what a weekend. I sang at five Yom Kippur services in 24 hours, had to deal with a bus taking out the tail light of my girlfriend’s parked car, ran five blocks to catch the end of a football game which was sorely disappointing and painful, went to a housewarming party, slept (a bit), drove to my parents’ house, partook in St. Charles’ classic Scarecrow Fest, explored the local forest preserve, ate delicious ribs, and drove back home.

This is about where I'm at right now. Just like that.

But, I promised to take this ring to Mordor, and no crazy weekend is going to stop that!

Farmer Maggot’s best guess as to why this black rider is looking for Frodo is that it must have something to do with Bilbo’s eccentricities. I guess that’s a vote of confidence for Frodo, right? Frodo himself stays tight-lipped about what the real reasoning is, as he should. Maggot agrees to help Frodo out in any way he can, including lying to the black rider if he comes back. He can tell, however, that Frodo is greatly troubled by the whole ordeal. Farmer Maggot doesn’t want to pry, so he doesn’t, which is nice. Frodo says that he’s worried about getting to Bucklebury Ferry, and that he should really be going. He thanks Maggot greatly for the hospitality, and everything seems ready to go. Suddenly though, Maggot has an idea. Why don’t Frodo, Sam, and Pippin stay for some supper? Frodo quickly declines, but Maggot adds that he could drive them to the ferry in his wagon, passing up any trouble. GREAT IDEA. Dinner is served!

First Mentions:

-Farmer Maggot’s children: Names? Unknown. Number? More than five. Bigger than a breadbox? I would hope so. There are three daughters, definitely, but the number of sons in total is unclear. “Two of Maggot’s sons” help set up supper. This implies that there are more than two.

Way to redeem yourself for having three terrifying dogs, Farmer Maggot. You’re not such a bad guy.

Okay, but wait, Maggot intends to just lie to a Ringwraith and totally get away with it? Good luck with that. The fear that thing could strike through you would probably screw with your ability to tell a straight-faced lie. Yes, you’re not such a bad guy, but I think you might be a bit of a dumb one. Oh well, I hope for your sake that they never come a-calling again.

Knock, knock! Who's there? EAR-SPLITTING SCREEEEECH!!!

So, now the plan is to drive in Farmer Maggot’s wagon to Bucklebury. Feeling different from the movie yet?

Hint: If it’s only feeling different from the movie now, you haven’t been paying attention. If you have been, you’re great.

Thumbs up for you!

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What? We’ve already used “Bilbo’s” earlier in the book! I checked. Amount of sense: none.

“The kitchen was…”

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I’m writing this in my break between singing Yom Kippur services. Because that’s what you do.

Today, Farmer Maggot's dogs look like this.

Farmer Maggot explains to Frodo, Sam, and Pippin how the “strange fellow” who came across his farm (who was OF COURSE a Ringwraith) was asking about a “Baggins”. Maggot is already put off, as he knows that the rider came across his land, and isn’t keen on answering any questions. He says that the Bagginses live in Hobbiton, but the rider hisses that “Baggins” has left, and is headed in the direction of the farm. The Ringwraith offers Farmer Maggot money for information on Frodo, but Maggot refuses, and shoos him away. Maggot thinks, for some reason, that this is all because Frodo got mixed up with snoopy hobbits from Hobbiton.

Uh oh, Sam’s getting mad. After Maggot takes a jab at Hobbiton folk, Sam “stirred in his chair,” and gives Maggot an “unfriendly eye.” Ooh…threatening, Sam. You see, we all know that Samwise Gamgee is absolutely the least threatening hobbit there ever has been and will be. Yes, he’ll have some moments later. He’s not there yet. Now, he’s just giving biased farmers the evil eye.

I don't think that's a healthy eye condition.

You know what? Kudos to the Ringwraith. (WHAT?!) Yes, I want to congratulate the Ringwraith. On this page, Farmer Maggot recounts his experience with the black rider, and it appears to be that the Ringwraith is able to present a clear, understandable speech. They can be understood! I had been assuming that Ringwraiths really lacked the ability to communicate with non-Ringwraiths. At least this one has improved his diction. Good job, creepy guy!

I have to move quickly to keep up with this crazy day. This is pretty much the only free time I have. The blog got done! Hooray!

To balance things out:

We're calling this an "interfaith service". Cats and dogs, equally.

“‘Mark my words,…'”

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The dogs are called off. For now…

I see you, Frodo Baggins of the Shire.

Farmer Maggot invites the three hobbits in, offering good ale and (more importantly) stories of this strange traveler that happened upon his farm recently. He calls off the dogs, and Pippin introduces him to Frodo and Sam. Farmer Maggot recognizes Frodo, as we would assume. He ushers them in. Pippin finds the beer to be to his taste, as does Sam, although he’s apparently naturally suspicious of just about any hobbit that he doesn’t already know. Maggot begins talking, asking why the hobbits were on their way to his gate. Pippin admits that they were cutting across the countryside, and were going through his fields. He doesn’t seem to be too worried about that, although he cracks that Frodo must still have a hankering for mushrooms.

First Mentions:

-Mrs. Maggot: Farmer Maggot’s wife. If it were not for the fact that she happens to supply the beer in this scene, I think she’s relatively unimportant.

To be honest, Pippin doesn’t seem to actually introduce Sam. He gives Frodo’s name, and Farmer Maggot reacts so strongly to it that we never hear if Pippin got to introducing Sam. Is Sam getting the shaft again? No wonder he’s suspicious of everyone, but he should truly be suspicious of people like Frodo and Pippin who keep mistreating him. Between sleeping on the ground and being looked over in introductions, Sam just can’t catch a break.

And then he had to play the mesh shirt-wearing, steroid-using brother in 50 First Dates.

So now we’re going to spend some time talking to Farmer Maggot. I get the feeling that instead of feeling comforted that they’re in a friendly setting, the hobbits are going to hear creepy stories of black riders roaming the countryside. Typical evening conversation.

Also, randomly, why doesn’t Frodo seem to care about Gandalf anymore? All this thought of black riders, and he doesn’t once stop to wonder why Gandalf isn’t here to protect him. For all we know, he could be dead in a ditch somewhere. (He’s not.) Frodo is more worried about Farmer Maggot’s dogs than what may have happened to his wisest friend. We haven’t even mentioned Gandalf since when Gildor asked about him and Frodo quickly glossed over the fact that he left without giving him enough information on what may be chasing them. Oy.

“‘I had just heard the name…'”

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Today, we meet a Maggot.

Nope. Not a real maggot.

Farmer Maggot! Frodo is afraid of him because, a long time ago, he chased Frodo off his land with his dogs, threatening that he would be eaten if he ever returned. Pippin vows that this is all hogwash. He’ll take care of Maggot. They walk along the lane to the farmer’s front gate. All is well? WRONG! Three dogs come charging out at them, bent on Sam and Frodo. Farmer Maggot peers out, and recognizes Pippin. Strange folk are about, he says. There’s at least one strange fellow who won’t be crossing the farm again without Maggot’s notice, that’s for sure!

First Mentions:

-the Maggots: The family Farmer Maggot comes from. House-dwelling hobbits, not living in holes.

-the Puddifoots: Similar house-dwellers in Stock. Puddifoot? Pudding foot? This sounds like a terrible malady.

-Grip: One of Farmer Maggot’s dogs.

-Fang: Another of Farmer Maggot’s dogs. Also, Hagrid’s.

-Wolf: OH, GOD, ITS NAME IS WOLF?! (Another dog.)

So, wait, Pippin saves the day? I don’t understand…

Talk about suspicious, Farmer Maggot. This guy sics his dogs on anything that comes near the farm, whether or not he knows them! The dogs just run by Pippin, but it seems like Maggot didn’t even check to see who it was first at all. It could have been his mother or something, and she would have been scared half to death by three terrifying dogs running at her, but whatever. This guy needs to learn some self-restraint, or at least to be a little more trusting.

And you don’t name your dogs Grip, Fang, and Wold unless they truly are terrifying beasts. I’m imagining something like this:

Farmer Maggot also deals in dog steroids.

And this “fellow” that Farmer Maggot is referring to so totally has to be a Ringwraith. I mean, who else could it be? The Gaffer playing a trick on Maggot as a rival gardener? No. It’s a Ringwraith. Tolkien, your ability to build suspense isn’t needed here. Thanks.

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Besides, everyone knows that the proper term is “wolfish-looking”.

“‘What fellow do you mean?’ asked Pippin.”

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First off, thanks for bearing with me (if, of course, you actually beared with me) through the song uploading drama last night. It literally took multiple hours to upload to SoundCloud. They had some sort of an issue, and knew about it. It was fixed by the time the song finally got uploaded, a little after midnight. If you didn’t listen yesterday, it’s on the post now.

Back to the task at hand!

Our hobbity heroes stand, transfixed on the wails they heard just moments before. Is it a bird?

Nope. Chuck Testa.

Time to go. Now. They find the edge of the woods, opening into a grassland. Turns out, they are too far south. Bucklebury (special note on that later) is actually a little north of them, as they can see. Frodo turns around the see the high point where they had breakfast in the morning after waking up from the elven gathering. No black rider there. Good. They start to feel better when they come across the borders of a farm. Pippin recognizes it as the land of old Farmer Maggot, which actually gives Frodo a shudder. He’s never liked Farmer Maggot. He keeps several large dogs to guard his land from trespassers, and has caught Frodo in the past.

First Mentions:

-Bamfurlong: The name of Farmer Maggot’s farm. What it’s supposed to mean, I have no idea.

-Farmer Maggot: Old farmer here in the Eastfarthing. Pippin finds him friendly, although he is known to guard against trespassers viciously.

Yes, Farmer Maggot keeps dogs, which begs the question: How big are dogs compared to hobbits? If these are hobbit-sized dogs, then they’re probably actually relatively small. I’m thinking something along the lines of a medium-size dog as us people are concerned. It just can’t be something like a Saint Bernard or Great Dane or anything. Those would be bigger than a hobbit. Heck, a hobbit could ride Marmaduke like a horse.

He can't carry it for you, Mr. Frodo, but he can carry you!

Alright, a special note on Bucklebury. Notice anything different today? “Bucklebury”. Wait, didn’t that used to be “Buckleberry”? Yes, yes it did. Because I’m stupid. Somehow, every time “Bucklebury” came up in the text, I was typing it (in my typed version on my computer) as “Buckleberry”. I have no idea why. Perhaps it has something to do with it usually coming in the phrase, “Bucklebury Ferry”. “Buckleberry Ferry” has a better ring to it, and pattern. Once I found this out, today, I had to go through everything and change it back. If you search “Buckleberry” on the blog now, you should only get this post. I had to find every other post that contained it and change it to “Bucklebury”. Thankfully there were only a handful.

I felt really dumb. However, then I discovered this:

This is a bunch of 8-10 year old kids playing “Enter Sandman” by Metallica, which I referenced in the post for page 23. Even better? According to The Daily What, they’re performing at the Bucklebury Beer Festival. How appropriate, in so many ways.

They’re really not that bad. Look out for the girl on guitar! She takes a wicked (for a kid) solo at 2:30.

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“‘He caught me several times trespassing after…'”

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And now it’s pouring. Oops.

Don’t worry! Today is all about…

No, really. Stay tuned.

So it’s raining, yes. Frodo, Sam, and Pippin are trudging through the woods, and it’s taking longer than expected. Pippin feels like it should have been shorter, but we tend to not like him, so whatever. They go on for a few miles, and then the rain lets up a little. They stop for lunch under a tree. To their surprise, the elves have left them some sort of drink in their bottles. Naturally, it’s delicious. They forget all about their worries and have a wonderful time. Frodo starts to take a nap, and Sam and Pippin sing a song together. Suddenly, an evil wail!

YES, but no.

Something screams. Something. Somewhere. Screams. Even worse? It’s answered by another. Somewhere. The hobbits are LIKE REALLY FREAKING SCARED.

Okay, wait, what hallucinogenic drugs did the elves give them? At first, our heroes are tired and anxious, then they drink and are suddenly relaxed and happy. All of a sudden they hear a terrifying scream cut across the countryside. IT’S IN THEIR MINDS, MAN. The elves are screwing with them. The only thing keeping me from absolutely believing this is that I know for a fact it’s not true. These are Ringwraiths screaming. OH NOES!

Let’s get to something pleasant, fast. The hobbits stop for lunch! Yay! Whatever the elf-drink does, it at least makes them happy, and Sam and Pippin sing us a song!

Sing us a song? A song, you say? A song, I say!

Tolkien Songs In Real Life:

Sam and Pippin sing this song, and I’m pretty sure they make it up on the spot. Way to go, guys!

Their creation goes like this:

“Ho! Ho! Ho! to the bottle I go

To heal my heart and drown my woe.

Rain may fall and wind may blow,

And many miles be still to go,

But under a tall tree I will lie,

And let the clouds go sailing by.”

You see, it’s literally what they’re doing at the moment. They compose on the run, and I present:

Resting Time

(Closing Time – Semisonic)

YEAH ’90s! The song seems to start out as if it were a drinking song, but it really isn’t. “Closing Time” is about a bar’s closing for the night. So, yeah, the drinking-nature makes some sense. What more can you expect?

“‘If it was a bird, it was one that I never heard in the Shire before.'”

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So, Frodo has this plan. Will it work out perfectly?


The idea is to go through some woods, then hit open country and make a beeline for Bucklebury Ferry. It’s about eighteen miles. It goes sour pretty much right away. The woods and thickets are thicker than Frodo expected, and he, Sam, and Pippin have to fight through bramble patches. After hacking their way through to the bottom of the embankment they’re following, they find a stream. It’s too slippery and steep to go over, and Pippin feels validated in his concerns. As they stop to figure out what to do next, Sam glances behind them, where he can see the top of the bank that they just climbed down. What does he see in the distance? A horse, with a black figure next to it. Uh oh. Time to go. Frodo admits that Pippin was right: the short cut is going to go crooked, but Frodo knew that the black riders would find them either way. He can’t get down to them with his horse, so Frodo assumes they are safe for the moment, and they follow the stream as best they can. They hit an open field, and scurry over the stream when it evens out. Breaking into some more tree-cover, it starts to rain.

They’re going on a bear black rider hunt! Oh look! It’s a stream! Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, can’t go around through it! Got to go through around it!

Real story. Actually about a bear hunt.

First Mentions:

-the Stock-brook: River that this stream turns into. Undoubtedly runs to Stock. Pippin says to cross it, INSTEAD of following it to Stock, and really good beer.

You know, they probably could have crossed the stream if they didn’t mind getting dirty and all, but they’re HOBBITS. Hobbits are nitpicky, awful little creatures. Would it be difficult to cross the stream? Yes, but it probably could be done, right? All it would take is a little effort, something these hobbits tend to lack. I’ll be less critical when they’re trekking across Mordor. Seriously, this is the Shire. Suck it up.

Granted, there’s a creepy black rider lurking above them, framed by trees. No big deal. These guys are so lucky that horses can’t climb down steep slopes. That’s probably saving their lives right now. Honestly, the fact that this entire quest isn’t blown up in the very beginning is a lucky miracle. Although, if there are nine black riders about looking for Frodo, why aren’t they just camped out along every possible way to Buckland?

Yep, being lazy. As usual.

Things are heating up, what with the rain and all. We’re going to see a chase soon, I’m pretty sure. Here’s an ominous last line of the page:

“Then the wind died…”

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While on the last page we got to see Sam growing up and having a meaningful conversation with Frodo, today we get Pippin being immature and argumentative.

Frodo decides that he’s ready to go, and Pippin ribs him for taking so long. Frodo says that he intends to cut through the country instead of taking (or following alongside) the road, which Pippin wholeheartedly disagrees with. Commence squabbling. Pippin thinks the country is too boggy to cut across; it will only take longer. Besides, the chances of running into a black rider don’t seem to change that much. Frodo shoots back, saying that the riders are expecting him to be on the road, so they might as well stay away from it. Pippin still argues that he wants to stop at an inn in Stock. They have great beer! Frodo says no. Inns will only delay them further. Pippin begrudgingly agrees to follow along anyway, and so does Sam, although he wants some beer too.

I can haz beer?

They set out, the sun beating down just as hot as the previous day, and start to make their way around Woodhall to the north.

First Mentions:

-the Marish: Region of the Shire noted for its bogs. See! It’s like “marsh”, but not.

-the Golden Perch: Inn in Stock. Said to have the best beer in the Eastfarthing. Does it come in pints?

For all the love we had for Sam yesterday, Pippin is just being lame. Yes, I think he actually cares more about beer than the possibility of capture and/or death at the hands of the black riders.

Beer or death?

Sam, meanwhile, is playing his cards right. He wants to stop and get some beer, but he’s sticking with Frodo, through thick and thin. If Frodo wants to go through the marshes and skip out on beer, Sam’s going with him. That’s sacrifice.

So what kind of beer is this? Let’s debate. If it’s supposed to be “the best”, what constitutes “the best” for hobbits? Ale? Stout? Clove undertones that fade away into a smooth and refreshing sip? For some reason, I get this feeling that hobbits like their beer darker. Not sure why. Not dark like a Guinness, but maybe something more like a Dragon’s Milk. I’m not just saying that because it has “dragon” in the name. Have you ever had a Dragon’s Milk? Stuff of legend. Anyway, who knows? Maybe hobbits like Busch Light. That would be sad for them.

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So we soldier on. Hopefully these marshes aren’t confusing and deadly. We get plenty of those later.

“Their course had been chosen to leave Woodhall to their left, and to cut slanting through the woods that clustered along the eastern side of the hills, until they reached…”

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