Archive for the ‘8 – Fog on the Barrow-downs’ Category

There’s something about the departure of Tom Bombadil that just exudes forward motion. I think he was beginning to get on my nerves, with all his nonsense.

Just say something normal!

He leaves with one last word of advice: make for The Prancing Pony in Bree. Even with the hobbits begging him to continue along with them, he refuses, and hops off. Sam admits that he’ll miss Tom, but hopes that the tavern in Bree will be just as good as those back in the Shire. Merry offers his relatives’ approval. Frodo reminds everyone that they are not to call him by the name of Baggins, as it is unsafe, and instead use Underhill. With that, they ride off into the dusk, and come to Bree a short while thereafter.

First Mentions:

-Bree: Town of hobbits and men along the East Road. An outlying town more or less in the middle of nowhere. Totally safe, right?

-Bree-hill: The hill by which Bree sits. Bree is on the western side.

-The Prancing Pony: Inn in Bree known to the Brandybucks and other hobbits that travel there occasionally. Has a good reputation.

-Barliman Butterbur: Innkeeper at The Prancing Pony. Is there are better first name for a bartender/innkeeper than Barliman? No, no there isn’t.

Keep a note that it’s Tom Bombadil who refers the hobbits to The Prancing Pony. That’s one of the details they had to switch up when it was decided that Tom wouldn’t appear in the movie. I’m pretty sure it’s Gandalf who makes that recommendation in the film.

Speaking of which, we’re back on to the same track as the movie! If we were watching it, what would have been the last place we saw our heroes?

Pushing off the Bucklebury Ferry...

In movie time, that night and the night the hobbits arrive in Bree is the same night. In book time, that was four days ago. In blog time, that was 50 pages/days ago! We were there a month and a half ago, on October 12th. That was the beginning of Chapter 5, and the post featured a baby facepalming.

Nevertheless, the hobbits have made it to Bree, which is isolated and a bit of a melting pot of cultures. It is one of the few places that hobbits and men live together, and isn’t under any sort of government, being totally independent of all kingdoms at the time. It seems to me like a crossroads-type town, located in a place on the main road to attract many travelers, like an oasis on the tollway where you have to stop because there isn’t anywhere else to go for a big, greasy burger.

Hunger, thou art a cruel mistress.

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And so ends Chapter 8. I have to admit, I never realized this before, but the chapters in Lord of the Rings are pretty much the perfect length. Right as I’m thinking that I’d like to move on to another place or focus, we do. In general, each chapter is somewhere between 10 and 20 pages. That’s good.

“Towards it they now hurried desiring only to find a fire, and a door between them and the night.”

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“The long and winding road…”


In due time the four hobbits and Tom come to the East Road. Frodo estimates that the “short cut” through the Old Forest cost them two days, though maybe it threw the black riders off their trail. Oops. Awkward. Shouldn’t have mentioned the riders. Suddenly, all the hobbits remember their fear of the pursuing horrors, and don’t want to go any further. Tom isn’t coming with them, and they desperately wish that he was. The hobbits are so busy worrying and longing for home that they hardly notice Tom start sneaking away, saying goodbye and offering up some parting wisdom.

When was the last time we even mentioned the black riders? A quick CTRL-F search tells me that they were last brought up in Frodo’s dream during the first night at Tom Bombadil’s house. Even then, only Frodo was thinking about them. The hobbits weren’t discussing them. This is the first time they’ve come up in conversation in a while.

I wonder what the Ringwraiths themselves have been up to?

Tom admits that he doesn’t know much about the black riders. He isn’t master of anything more than what is contained within his lands, apparently. How horribly inconvenient. This doesn’t stop the hobbits from thinking that he could deal with the black riders better than any of them ever could. Maybe he would, or maybe Tom would just be so maddeningly apathetic about them that nothing would really happen. I mean, he lives in the woods and doesn’t take much notice of anything happening in the outside world. He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that would pick sides if he wasn’t forced to. I think he’s really only helping the hobbits out because they’re so clueless otherwise.

Yeah, these hobbits really need a guide, don’t they? Gandalf was good until he disappeared, and now they’re stuck with Tom Bombadil. They hook onto Aragorn next. They just don’t function well on their own!

I don't know what's going on here, but it's a good illustation of someone being overly clingy.

So Tom gets away the only way he can: awkwardly and at the earliest possible moment. He just wants to get it over with, you know it.

Tomorrow, we end Chapter 8!

“‘Tom will give you good advice, till this day is over (after that your own luck must go with you and guide you): four miles along…'”

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Let’s face it: hobbits aren’t fighters. It’s strange enough for a hobbit to go on an adventure, let alone fight against enemies. So, naturally these four hobbits feel awkward now carrying around short swords. Daggers, really, but hobbits are small, as you know.

To a hobbit, a normal-sized sword would be like the Biggorron Sword, only bigger.

Tom Bombadil tells the hobbits that their new blades were made by the men who once lived on the Downs, who were destroyed long ago. He says that some still wander the lands…

The hobbits have a vision of the men who once lived here, but it fades and they get ready to head out. The swords hang awkwardly on their belts as they ride, slowly but surely, towards the road. Behind them they can see the glint of the treasures on the hill, but there is no sign of the great stones that Frodo saw through the mist. All the way, Tom is singing nonsense, which the hobbits even think might be an ancient language. The road is further away then they had thought. The dark line they had seen in the distance the day before is actually some sort of ditch.

First Mentions:

-Angmar: Aforementioned land where the Witch-king, lord of the Ringwraiths, comes from. He destroyed the men of the Downs. Not the best of places to find oneself in.

Here’s a point of interest: Tom refers to some men, descended from the kings of old, who wander the wilderness alone. In his words, “sons of forgotten kings walking in loneliness, guarding from evil things folk that are heedless.” HE MEANS ARAGORN.

You talking to me?

Yes, Aragorn, lost and forgotten heir of Isildur. He’s now considered a Ranger, roaming the northern lands more or less like Batman roams Gotham City. We’ve already established that he’s a friend of Gandalf, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he made occasional stops at Tom’s place. Granted, there are other Rangers, but none is more important, and Aragorn is the leader of the scattered few at the moment.

Finally, the hobbits acknowledge that there may be something more to Tom’s nonsense-singing. There aren’t any more lyrics on this page, but it is entirely possible that he’s singing in some sort of old language that only he knows. Hey, maybe he’s even made up his own language. That’s something close to Tolkien’s heart.

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Because if it doesn’t have rust, it’s not a real sword? That’s a lie.

Eventually we’ll get to the road. Apparently there’s something cool about this ditch coming up, but we’ll learn about it tomorrow. Get excited.

“Tom said that it had once been…”

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Things are still so lighthearted here, it was nice to watch much of the movies yesterday to remind myself how deeper and darker this book gets. Anyhow, we’re free of the wight, and the next logical thing to do is eat lunch.

Tom explains how the hobbits’ ponies, not surprisingly, became friends with Fatty Lumpkin when they were housed at Tom’s for two days. They ran to find him last night in fear, and he seems to indicate that this is a part of the reason why he was able to locate the hobbits so easily. For now, Tom will ride Fatty Lumpkin along with the hobbits to the East Road, as he can’t bear to let them out of his sight for any longer.

You may want to refer to Tom as a "wingman".

So Tom will accompany them to the road, but no further. That appears to be what he would consider the edge of his lands, and he has to get home anyway. Living out in the woods takes a lot of work, you know. It’s between nine and ten in the morning, and the hobbits, realizing they haven’t eaten since yesterday’s lunch break when they fell asleep, finish the food that Tom had packed for them. In the meantime, Tom arranges the treasures from the barrow into a pile on the hillside. Apparently, if the items are taken away, by anything, the spell over the barrow is lifted, and no wight will ever return. He takes for himself (or for Goldberry) a blue brooch, and gives the hobbits each a dagger, deadly yet beautifully made.

These mark the first weapons that the hobbits have carried! (Aside from the ring, if you consider that to be a weapon, which it is in a way.) I know for a fact that the make and powers of these daggers becomes important, but we’ll get to that much, much later.

"Is this a dagger which I see before me?"

Interestingly, Tom looks at the brooch he picks up “as if stirred by some memory.” Backstory? Is this one of those moments where we see a glimpse of something in Tom’s life that was never really fleshed out?

I just hate when that happens.

It seems that way. It’s entirely possible in my mind that Tom could have even owned this brooch before, if he’s as old as we think he is, and totally forgotten it. It is set with blue stones that look like flowers or butterfly wings. Seeing as Tom wears blue, maybe it just reminds him of himself, in a way. I can’t say for sure.

“They gleamed as he drew them from their black sheaths, wrought of some strange metal, light and strong, and set with many…”

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Because it makes blogging feel more epic, I’m watching Lord of the Rings on TV AGAIN. This time, Encore is showing all three movies, on what I think is a loop, all weekend. I noticed it earlier today, and turned on Fellowship at the Argonath. I watched through to the end of that movie, then turned it off to get some things done. I turned it back on during Two Towers right after Théoden is restored to his own mind. I’ve watched it since then to now as Merry and Pippin convince Treebeard to go to war.

Even better: no commercials! And they’re showing the Extended Editions.

It's kind of like that. Though I did turn the lights on.

Today in the book, Tom advises the hobbits that a loss of clothing is little compared to the possible loss of their lives, and they should count themselves lucky. He tells them to run around naked in the sun, and he hops off, singing. Indeed, the hobbits do run around in the sun, although I can’t say whether they’re naked or not. They suddenly see Tom returning, with six ponies in tow. Five are theirs, and one must be his. Tom says that the ponies know when danger is near, and the hobbits should heed their instincts when they turn and run. Sam, Merry, and Pippin find some spare clothes.

“Release the river!”

First Mentions:

-Sharp-ears: One of the hobbits’ ponies, named by Tom. Hears well?

-Wise-nose: Another pony, named by Tom. Follow your nose, wherever it goes!

-Swish-tail: Another hobbit-pony. I can’t see how having a particularly swishy tail is a beneficial attribute. #WatkinsTall

-Bumpkin: The fourth of the ponies, apparently a bit of a hick.

-White-socks: It sounds like a cat’s name, but this is the fifth pony.

-Fatty Lumpkin: Tom’s pony. Older than the others, and fatter. Perhaps its real first name is Fredegar.

Yes, we’ve named the ponies. The hobbits hadn’t named them before, but Tom apparently did, either just now or earlier at his house when he was taking care of them. According to the narration, the ponies respond to these names from here on out.

Daddy, I want a pony!

I also just don’t understand why Tom wants the hobbits, as he says, to “run naked on the grass.” He says it, right there. You can’t deny it. Is it for them to regain the strength and levity inside them? Aren’t there less odd ways to do that? Either way, it looks like some extra clothes are pulled out of somewhere, so it’s not like the hobbits are going to go on their journey stark naked. That would be a whole different story.

Tolkien Songs In Real Life:

Tom sings again, bounding down the hill. He’s looking for the ponies, though we don’t know that right away. He sings this:

“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!”

Kicking it back to the golden era of good rap, I present:

Pony’s Delight

(Rapper’s Delight – The Sugarhill Gang)

This is as good a spot as any to point out that Tolkien doesn’t really like the Oxford comma. Take a look up there. No Oxford commas. This is especially interesting considering Tolkien was a professor at Oxford. Oh, how rebellious of him.

Vampire Weekend knows what I'm talking about.

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The third movie has started. I’ve noticed that as I’ve learned more about the world through this close reading, I pick up on small things about each character and their intentions. I understand how hard it must be for some decisions to be made. You don’t get that just by watching the movies, but the world of the book is so detailed that each and every person has their intricacies.

“Merry, Sam, and Pippin now clothed themselves in spare garments…”

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Even though we finally saw the hobbits confronted with a real hardship, it’s amazing how quickly everything clears up.

Frodo and Tom carry Sam, Merry, and Pippin, still unconscious, outside the barrow. They are laid down on the sunlit grass. Frodo is preoccupied with wondering if the wight’s hand is still squirming somewhere inside, while Tom comes out with an armful of treasure. He stands above the three motionless hobbits, and uses an incantation to wake them up. They spring to life, and Merry seems to be having a hallucination. He snaps back to reality, and all three wonder what happened to their clothing. According to Tom, they won’t find it again.

Did you know there's a band called "Naked Hobbits"? They look...interesting.

First Mentions:

-Carn Dûm: Once the capital of Angmar, where the Witch-king, leader of the Ringwraiths, originally hails from. Long since destroyed, Merry spoke of it in his hallucination.

So what exactly do Barrow-wights do? They knock you out and drag you back to their lair, where they dress you up in finery and then…kill you? I don’t exactly see the point of that, although I think we’ve been over that before. And where do the hallucinations, as experienced by Merry, come in? It seems like Merry is seeing the death of the man whose body the wight came to inhabit. Men from Angmar attacked the kingdoms of the Barrow-downs long ago, and likely caused this man’s death.

I see dead people...kind of.

I also wonder why Tom Bombadil found it so necessary to raid the barrow. Does he have any need for treasures? I wouldn’t think so. Did it have something to do with reversing the spell on Sam, Merry, and Pippin? Possibly. Is Tom Bombadil a kleptomaniac? This is the most enticing answer. It’s there, it’s valuable, might as well take it. No one’s gonna stop you, you’re Tom Bombadil.

I've had it with these motherflippin' wights in this motherflippin' barrow!

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Special note: it looks like Tom sings here today, but he doesn’t. It’s the incantation he uses to break the spell over the three hobbits, and it’s spoken.

“One would have thought that nothing dangerous or dreadful had happened; and indeed the horror faded out of their hearts as they looked at him, and saw the merry glint in his eyes.”

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Tom Bombadil might actually just be a superhero. That might explain everything.

Frodo is scrambling for something else to do to help him escape, and remembers the song Tom taught them if they were ever in trouble. Singing the tune, Frodo hears a response. Suddenly, Tom literally busts through a hole in the wall, all Kool-Aid Man style.

Told you he was a superhero.

Light streams into the barrow, and Sam, Merry, and Pippin, though still unconscious, recover a healthy color in their faces. Tom comes in, sings some more, and the inner chamber where the Barrow-wight is collapses.

Seriously guys. Tom Bombadil is a superhero. Facts:

-He senses when Frodo sings the song signaling he’s in trouble.

-He knows exactly where to find Frodo and is there in a matter of moments.

-He busts down a stone wall.

-By singing, he collapses a part of the barrow.

If nothing else, behold this description: “there was Tom’s head (hat, feather, and all) framed against the light of the sun rising red behind him.” Like a boss.

Tolkien Songs In Real Life:

Actually, this page is, in large part, made up of songs. There are three total! The first is the song Tom taught to the hobbits to sing to him should they find themselves in trouble. I won’t post it again, as it’s exactly the same, but you can find it on Page 134 if you want to have a listen again!

Next is Tom’s response to Frodo singing. The first two lines should be familiar:

“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.”

With the addition, I present:

No Sleep till Mordor (Extended Cut)

(No Sleep till Brooklyn – The Beastie Boys)

I felt like I had to go with the same tune again, seeing as half the song was a repeat of what was done previously. I think of it as Tom’s typical response to being called, and he was probably practicing it when the hobbits heard him singing it outside back at his home. Yes?

Secondly, after Tom breaks into the barrow, he sings this song, which seems to have the magical power to collapse the barrow around the Barrow-wight:

“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.”

Working overtime, I present:

Wights Wights Baby

(Ice Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice)

I certainly haven’t had a better parodied title yet. My rapping as Vanilla Ice? Not so great. Oh well. It has enough of an edge to it that I could see Tom using it as an offensive weapon. (If, in any way, you could consider a song a weapon.)

Yeah, there was a lot for me to do today! I feel like this post needs another image…

Even Google Maps knows.

See you tomorrow, kids.

“Then there was a long trailing shriek, fading away into an unguessable distance; and after that silence.”

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