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Old 08-30-2004, 02:52 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Sting LotR -- Book 1 - Chapter 11 - A Knife in the Dark

The beginning of this chapter takes us back to Crickhollow and Fatty Bolger. Three of the Black Riders attempt to capture the hobbits there, but the Horn-call of Buckland sounds alarm and the Ringwraiths ride away.

Most of the chapter concerns the hobbits’ journey from Bree to Weathertop, with Strider acting as guide and protector. In the last chapter, we got to know Aragorn by conversation and Gandalf’s letter; here we get to know him by his actions. He starts by saving the lives of the hobbits in the Inn, since he was the one who kept them from being in their rooms when the Wraiths attacked (well-coordinated with the attack at Crickhollow, apparently). Then he leads them into and through the unknown woods and marshes, finally defending them against the direct attack of the Nazgul at Weathertop.

There are two poems, the Gil-galad poem, translated by Bilbo and recited by Sam; and the Tinúviel poem, sung by Strider. Aragorn also gives us readers a glimpse of the greater ancient history of Middle-earth with his tales.

The chapter ends with Frodo succumbing to the temptation to put on the ring and being injured by the Witch-King, yet calling out to Elbereth and removing the ring in the final lines.


There are some nice humorous lines in these passages, such as “Waste of a good apple” and “What do they live on when they can’t get hobbit?”, but my personal favorite is about the fate of the ponies that had disappeared: “They missed a dark and dangerous journey. But they never came to Rivendell.” How poignant!

Which parts do you find most interesting, amusing, and/or thought-provoking? What makes this chapter special and important?
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Old 08-30-2004, 06:09 AM   #2
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davem is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.davem is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
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Standing upon the rim of the ruined circle, they saw all round below them a wide prospect, for the most part of lands empty and featureless, except for patches of woodland away to the south, beyond which they caught here & there the glint of distant water. Beneath them on this southern side there ran like a ribbon the Old Road, coming out of the West & winding up & down, until it faded behind a ridge of dark land to the east. Nothing was moving on it. Following its line eastward with their eyes they saw the mountains: the nearer foothills were brown & sombre; behind them stood taller shapes of grey; and behind those again were high white peaks glimmering among the clouds.
And that's when I fell in love.

It was that moment, looking out across the great desolate expanses of Middle earth that the fairy story spell of the Hobbit was broken for me. I had seen a new world stretched out before me for the first time, & I suddenly loved it absolutely, (& I've never fallen out of love with it). Looking back on my first reading of LotR, 28 years ago, I remember I had drifted through the earlier chapters, enjoying the pleasant escape into a fantasy world, but at this point, like Frodo in Lorien, I seemed to have stepped through a window into another world, a 'real' world.

This scene is, & always will be for me, Middle earth. If for Frodo its the case that:

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When he had gone & passed again into the outer world, still Frodo the wander from the Shire would walk there, upon the grass among elanor and niphredil in fair Lothlorien.
then when davem, wanderer from this world, has passed back into the outer world, he will still stand on the summit of Weathertop & watch the Old Road winding out of the West towards the Misty Mountains.
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Old 08-30-2004, 08:05 AM   #3
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Tolkien

It was while reading this chapter that I began to realise something. Only once does Strider live up to his name! That is in the Two Towers when he is one of the three hunters; at no other point is it mentioned about Aragorn’s ability to go about at a great pace. If he did then the Hobbits would not have been able to keep up with him having only very small and short feet.
It almost seemed to me like Tolkien forgot about it and went on with the story regardless.
Any comments?
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Old 08-30-2004, 08:10 AM   #4
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There's the one definition of stride, which is just to walk at a fast pace. But think about it; when someone walks at a stride they're feeling pretty confident, like they own the place. Maybe the name implies a great underlying confidence that Strider has, and the fact that he's nearly always sure of himself, and his ability to deal with problems that come upon them as they make it to Rivendell.
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Old 08-30-2004, 12:26 PM   #5
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The pace quickens as we near the end of Book I. After two chapters spent at the Prancing Pony, this one takes us as far as Weathertop - halfway to Rivendell. And there is more to the chapter than just the journey: there is the attack at Crickhollow, the business to be settled in Bree, and of course the attack on Weathertop.

The cut to Crickhollow is momentarily disorienting to the reader. It is, after all, the first time since chapter 1 that we have a scene not involving our main Hobbits. The real function of the scene is of course to tell us that the Black Riders have found out the pretense of Frodo's living at Crickhollow - this knowledge naturally heightens the sense of danger we feel for the Hobbits.

Frodo seems almost to respond to the events in Buckland - he wakes from a deep sleep (as per the alarm of the Bucklanders - AWAKE! AWAKE!). He dreams then of wind and hoofs and even hears a horn-call - though it turns out to be a cock crowing in Bree. Again, the danger is heightened when it is found that the decoys have been slashed. All this makes the following events - the negotiation of a bargain for Bill Ferny's horse, the journey through the marshes, and the approach to Weathertop - more engaging than they would otherwise have been. Without the setup, the sense of danger and suspense would not be so great.

Strider takes the Hobbits on their third shortcut. The first spared them an encounter with a Black Rider and led them to Maggot - altogether a success. The second led them into a great deal of trouble - the Old Forest, the Barrow-downs - but also led them to Bombadil. Again, they evaded the Black Riders. But we all know the rule of three - twice establishes a pattern; thrice breaks it. So it is with the three little pigs and so it is with the shortcuts. This time they cannot evade the Nazgul.

The actual attack by the Nazgul is actually rather short - just about one page. But that one page does far more than Jackson can do with his action set piece. Just as, within the story, it is the fear caused by the Nazgul that is their chief weapon, so the chief technique Tolkien uses to engage the reader in this incident (as throughout Book I) is tension rather than action. The key to the scene is not the physical attack that comes in the very last paragraph; it is the slow approach of the Nazgul, the perception of them as a very powerful danger, the suspense that results from the certainty that there must eventually be a confrontation. Tolkien builds that suspense to the breaking point, only to ease off a little and save the real confrontation for the final chapter of Book I.

We have also in this chapter Aragorn's song of Beren and Luthien - in my opinion, one of Tolkien's finest bits of verse. The rhyme scheme is not too complex, but quite effective: ABACBABC. The first C line of each stanza always feels just slightly unexpected, as if we assume it will rhyme with B - then not only does it fail to rhyme, it also ends with two unstressed syllables instead of a single stressed one. The result is a sort of unresolved, trailing off feeling that pulls us along to the end of the stanza, where finally sense is made of the C line.

This poem brings up an interesting point. It is often remarked that a large part of the appeal of LotR lies in its sense of depth - the sense that there is a real history, filled with stories, that leads up to the present action. And of course there really is a history that lies before LotR - the Silmarillion. It's also been said (even by Tolkien) that LotR became more of a sequel to the Silmarillion than to The Hobbit. But just how many references to the Quenta Silmarillion itself are there? Not as many as you might think. Aragorn's talk of Beren and Luthien is probably the biggest reference. But even here, we are told only about a single incident in the story of Beren and Luthien - their meeting. Elsewhere there is a reference to Ancalagon; mention is made of Hador and Turin; there is Bilbo's poem about Earendil; there is the Balrog; Thangorodrim is mentioned. But most of these are just superficial references. The important events of the Silmarillion are not discussed at all. Even in the two big history chapters - I-2 and II-2 - nothing substantive is said about the First Age. The history that lies behind LotR, and that is alluded to in LotR, is for the most part not the Quenta Silmarillion of the First Age but rather the events of the Second Age and the Third Age. The Fall of Gil-Galad, Aragorn's kingship, the Rings, the Barrow-downs - all of the history that really matters to LotR comes from the Second and Third Ages.

This is interesting because, whereas the tales of the First Age were already very much in existence (and had been rewritten four or more times already), the history of the Second and Third Ages did not actually predate the writing of LotR very much, if at all. The story of Numenor had only been conceived in the 1930s. The history of Gondor and Arnor, and of the Rings, did not exist at all until LotR. So, when Tolkien came to develop the sequel to The Hobbit into a real epic, rather than drawing inspiration from the writings he had spent so much time on over the past twenty-five years, he more or less built things from the ground up. He connected LotR with the Silmarillion, to be sure, but the connection was a distant one, with two whole ages in between. LotR is more a sequel to the Akallebeth than it is to the Silmarillion.

Sorry if it sounds like I'm rambling - these are thoughts forming as I'm writing. What I wonder is - 1. Why is there so little of the Silmarillion itself in LotR? and 2. What does this say about the bits of the Silmarillion that do make it into LotR - Aragorn's poem for instance?
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Old 08-30-2004, 12:26 PM   #6
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I agree here with Encaitare ..... especially since it was his Bree nickname .... to the Breelanders, the rangers were more or less vagabonds - in the classic phrase "IDHTBOM" - but I think Butterbur says something like he "strides about on those long-shanks of his" It much have seemed strange to the Bree people that someone who seemed like a tramp went about with a sense of purpose. It is also a reminder that Aragorn is different physically as well in lifestyle and mentality to the men of Bree ...... literally and metaphorically "above" them... I think Sam comes through strongly in this chapter ..... shows some of the qualities that will ensure the success of the quest... aspects which were largely neglected in the film. Although Sam is always respectful he is not automatically cowed by his "betters" - he speaks his mind to Aragorn, Glorfindel, Elrond, Faramir and no doubt others who don't spring instantly to mind, he shows his native intelligence both in suspecting Strider (quite reasonable in the circumstances) , and by his having learnt of the fall of Gil-Galad ... I have said more about Sam's education in "Master Samwise can read" and don't want to repeat ... but I do think it is interesting that Sam begins to come into his own when all the hobbits are in unfamiliar territory. Perhaps in the Shire and Bree he was more aware of the difference in education and experience and social status ..... out in the wilds being the heir of the Thain or the Master doesn't count for so much..... but perhaps I am reading too much into it.
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Old 08-30-2004, 01:07 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Aiwendil
We have also in this chapter Aragorn's song of Beren and Luthien - in my opinion, one of Tolkien's finest bits of verse. The rhyme scheme is not too complex, but quite effective: ABACBABC. The first C line of each stanza always feels just slightly unexpected, as if we assume it will rhyme with B - then not only does it fail to rhyme, it also ends with two unstressed syllables instead of a single stressed one. The result is a sort of unresolved, trailing off feeling that pulls us along to the end of the stanza, where finally sense is made of the C line.
Just to note that anyone interested in this poem should get hold of the volume Tolkien's Legendarium, & read the essay 'Three Elvish Verse Modes', especially the section on ann-thennath.

One thing that did strike me this time was what the Nazgul did to the hobbits beds in the inn - the sheer frenzy of the attack is appalling. Its as if they lost control of themselves - yet in other parts of the book we get the sense of them as cold & calculating. Its as if they can only function on two 'levels', one where everything is organised, ritualised, structured - even their cruelty, & the other where they kind of explode in an animal frenzy.

Finally, & this probably belongs in the HoME companion thread, so I'll keep it short: its interesting that in the original draft its Trotter who is eating the apple & throws it at Bill Ferny, not Sam. Its as if when Trotter becomes Strider, that 'apple-throwing' part of him is transferred to Sam - maybe this helps explain the sudden development of Sam's character which Mithalwen mentions.
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Old 08-30-2004, 01:21 PM   #8
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I wonder if the fact that it was night was a factor..... with reference to Davem's point about the Nazgul attack ..... because you could look at it the other way and say that on other occasions they were restrained.... I mean they didn't kill any hobbits they encountered when looking for "baggins" as I recall .... not that they needed to ....but they would have not risked much in the way of reprisals... but when they are in inn they attack all the beds ..... less risk of commotion maybe if they kill all..... hmm
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Old 08-30-2004, 02:31 PM   #9
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it is the fear caused by the Nazgul that is their chief weapon, so the chief technique Tolkien uses to engage the reader in this incident (as throughout Book I) is tension rather than action. The key to the scene is not the physical attack that comes in the very last paragraph; it is the slow approach of the Nazgul, the perception of them as a very powerful danger, the suspense that results from the certainty that there must eventually be a confrontation. Tolkien builds that suspense to the breaking point, only to ease off a little and save the real confrontation for the final chapter of Book I.
A good point to make, Aiwendil in our days of action-packed thrillers. It is the timing and pacing that allows so much of the fear to develope. I also think that the attack on Crickhollow achieves some of that impending fear, too. "Open, in the name of Mordor" suggests to me just how arrogant are the Riders in their presumption that others are under Mordor's command.

The point which I find aching in this chapter is how Buckland is apparently rallied to defend itself where the real defense is required far away.

Quote:
One thing that did strike me this time was what the Nazgul did to the hobbits beds in the inn - the sheer frenzy of the attack is appalling. Its as if they lost control of themselves - yet in other parts of the book we get the sense of them as cold & calculating. Its as if they can only function on two 'levels', one where everything is organised, ritualised, structured - even their cruelty, & the other where they kind of explode in an animal frenzy.
Interesting how we have different takes on this action, davem. I don't read this as loss of control or madly frienzied attack, but in fact as leaving a deadly and specific warning. They are saying that they know they have been tricked and won't forget it. They must leave evidence such as this else they look impotent.

And of course, Aragorn's singing of the song of Luthien and Beren becomes significant to first readers only later. What here appears to be only an answer to Sam's request for more tales of the elves also on some level must satisfy Strider/Aragorn very personally as well.
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Old 08-31-2004, 07:55 AM   #10
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I would also like to point something out in this chapter.

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Mr. Butterbur: 'Never has such a thing happened in my time!' he cried, raising his hands in horror. 'Guests unable to sleep in their beds, and good bolsters ruined and all! What are we coming to?"

'Dark times,' said Strider.
I like this part for the calmness of Strider, how he just answered Butterbur simply, and always with the proud voice. He also assured Butterbur that after their leave, the town would be left in peace, "for the present". I think Strider gave Butterbur enough hints of what was going on there. They were being chased by Black Men from Mordor. It surprises me that Butterbur had not reacted to this, he "hurried off to see that the ponies were in order". Another thing that should flash infront of Butterbur was the fact that the ponies were "gone". I think then Butterbur began to fear, and how he searched the whole town and got them one pony, also gave them some money, I sense that Butterbur was afraid, afraid that if these people didnt go, the attacks would presume.

Another part I really like about this chapter was when they were with no horse, and Strider asked the hobbits how much they could carry.

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Strider: 'How much are you prpared to carry on your backs?'
'As much as we must' said Pippin with a sinking heart, but trying to show that he was tougher than he looked (or felt).
'I can carry enough for two," said Sam defiantly.
I like this for the strength of the hobbits, even though they were tired, and said those words with sinking hearts, they were prepared to carry "As much as we must". Sam would have carried the bags of everyone if he'd had the strength. I can only imagine that Sam was saying to Strider "I can carry mine and Frodo's!", which is probably something he would do. Again, we are proven the hobbits love for each other exists.
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Old 08-31-2004, 09:54 AM   #11
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This chapter, in addition to being wonderfully suspenseful and – for my money – the “real” beginning of the Quest, explores an important idea in LotR: knowledge and awareness. More specifically, this whole chapter is organised, in a way, around the question of who knows or is aware of what.

At the ‘higher end’ of this spectrum, we have Elrond who, as Aragorn tells us, is the only living being (in Middle Earth) who knows the full tale of the Lay of Luthien. Aragorn, however, knows at the very least a good chunk of it himself; what is more, he knows that he is part of that story – more specifically that his life is going to provide the end of the story. In effect, he knows that “the end is not known” and thus that it is up to him to give that tale an ending: be it good or bad. Aragorn and Elrond are related to one another in this way: Elrond knows the tale, but as an outsider – it’s not his story. Aragorn knows that the story is not just about him, but the story of his life and existence. He doesn’t just know or see history (the Tale), he is aware of his place in it.

The other fragment of lore we have is Sam’s song of Gil-Galad. Interestingly, when he finishes it he says:

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'There was a lot more,' said Sam, 'all about Mordor. I didn't learn that part, it gave me the shivers. I never thought I should be going that way myself!'
'Going to Mordor!' cried Pippin. 'I hope it won't come to that!'
'Do not speak that name so loudly!' said Strider.
Here, Sam is being compared to Aragorn (fittingly, since they are the two heroes whose journeys are the most similar – toward their wives). Like Aragorn he is aware of the story he’s in, and what’s more, he’s aware that the story is his own – he realises that he is on the road to Mordor (which is fascinating since apparently nobody else knows this until the Council of Elrond?). At the same time, Sam acknowledges that he “didn’t learn that part” about Mordor: unlike Aragorn, there are parts of the story (that he’s now caught in) that he doesn’t want to know about. He’s more intuitive than anything else – realisation without understanding. Aragorn does understand, perhaps all too well, for he is afraid even to mention the name of Mordor. Remember how the people of Bree are able to be happy only by being kept unaware of their danger. And Aragorn intentionally hides the identities of the Nazgûl from the hobbits for fear that the knowledge would scare them too much. Aragorn has no such luxury – he knows the full extent of the darkness and the danger.

Pippin demonstrates another response, distinct from Aragorn (who knows too much?) and Sam (who knows more than he wants to?). When Pippin cries out that he hopes they won’t have to go to Mordor, he shows off his innocence and his naïveté – he doesn’t want to know about the darkness, thank you very much.

This brings me to Frodo, who I think is moving from a Pippin state (innocence), into an Aragorn state (experience), via a Sam state (intuition):

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They stood for a while silent on the hill-top, near its southward edge. In that lonely place Frodo for the first time full realized his homelessness and danger. He wished bitterly that his fortune had left him in the quiet of the beloved Shire. He stared down at the hateful Road, leading back westward – to his home. Suddenly he was aware that two black specks were moving slowly along it, going westward; and looking again he saw that three others were creeping eastward to meet them. He gave a cry and clutched Strider's arm.
The first thing Frodo realises is “his homelessness and danger.” This defines what Aragorn’s whole life has been; in this way, Frodo is recognising that he is now entering into a world of experience beyond “the quiet of the beloved Shire” that Sam will eventually be able to return to and enjoy. This recognition comes when he sees the Black Riders on the Road; this is painfully true – the shadows of Mordor have taken over the Road of his life and existence, casting him out of the Shire (Sam’s state) and into the wilderness (Aragorn’s). It is this kind of awareness and recognition that Pippin does not have, insofar as he does not ‘see’ the Riders; in fact, of all the hobbits, he has the least to do with them.

Which brings me to Merry who, as we’ve already been saying, has a lot to do with the Nazgûl. Throughout this chapter Merry is once more taking care of practical matters. He is the one who asks Aragorn about the meaning of the sign left by Gandalf; he's the one who comments on the lack of shelter food and water at Weathertop; he's the one who asks Aragorn how far to Rivendell. In this sense, he if very much, I think, the practical/pragmatic version of Frodo. He's also looking at the Road, but in terms of how they are going to traverse it.

So there are some interesting patterns between the characters here, I think. On the one hand are Frodo and Merry, the hobbits who are looking to the Road (the present?). On the other are Sam and Pippin, who are looking, or not looking, toward the end of the Road: Mordor (the future?). Aragorn seems to have the only ‘all around’ view – he is aware of the past, aware of the dangers in the present, and aware of his potential future, both good and bad.

If any of this holds water, isn’t it fitting that this chapter takes place upon a hill with a long and panoramic view of Middle-Earth? (I second davem on the power of this moment: I still catch my breath at the description of the lands about the hill – it really is the first moment at which Middle-Earth fully comes alive in the book).
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Old 09-01-2004, 03:59 AM   #12
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'…But long before, in the first days of the Northern Kingdom, they built a great watch-tower on Weathertop. Amon Sûl they called it. It was burned and broken, and nothing remains of it now but a tumbled ring, like a rough crown on the old hill's head. Yet once it was tall and fair. It is told that Elendil stood there watching for the coming of Gil-galad out of the West, in the days of the Last Alliance.'
This is also a passage that made the story come alive for me, granted not at the first reading. But I can picture it vividly, and wonder if Gandalf also looked to the West for Frodo, before he was otherwise occupied.

EDIT: Rereading this post, the way the ruin is discribed as being like a rough crown, is a bit like Aragorn himself, untidy and yet significant.

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Old 09-01-2004, 08:44 AM   #13
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Poems, one of them

Both poems create sense of depth, of something beyond and beneath the actual storyline the reader is engaged in. The 'realness' of the world is achieved by means of inclusion of such 'legendary' poetry.

I won't comment upon Beren and Luthien, the poem literally sends shivers down my spine, but I'm willing to expend our conversation to Gil-Galad poem a bit:

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Gil-galad was an Elven-king.
Of him the harpers sadly sing:
the last whose realm was fair and free
between the Mountains and the Sea.

His sword was long, his lance was keen,
his shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven's field
were mirrored in his silver shield.

But long ago he rode away,
and where he dwelleth none can say;
for into darkness fell his star
in Mordor where the shadows are.
Poignantly enough, the song is recited by least expected person, Sam, whom the words said about Bilbo in the beginning of the Hobbit apply to too - something about being far less prosaic then he himself chose to believe. Implication is, besides, that hobbits, despite being commonplace farmers, haven't entirely forgotten old lore

Besides, though it is not hobbit verse proper, it is too, like all other hobbit-songs, quite ambivalent in its meaning, running deeper than first glance may reveal. Especially the last line:

in Mordor where the shadows are

may be read in two ways. Firstly, we know that Mordor is indeed the land where the smokes and clouds cover the sky, so there are shadows in there. The verse simply describes the landscape, as it is at the certain place on the map of ME.

But, remembering [in?]famous 'Canonicity' and Evil Things threads, this is another instant were Tolkien balances on the verge between two concepts of Evil - is it of independent being, does it exist? Or is it inexistent, parasite on the body of Good? This single line is worth a whole book on philosophy, I can't help admiring Tolkien's art. The Shadows, in themselves non-existent thing, caused by lack of light, absence, not presence, Are. So, Mordor is the place where non-existent things exist, the personification of Evil, the place were Evil has physical expression into the world.

cheers
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Old 09-01-2004, 09:21 AM   #14
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I deeply love both these poems. For those geared towards singing:


Beren And Luthien

Grimmer quality, but the tune is discernable:

Gilgalad
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Old 09-01-2004, 02:06 PM   #15
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A few days ago Aiwendil said this:

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This poem brings up an interesting point. It is often remarked that a large part of the appeal of LotR lies in its sense of depth - the feeling that there is a 'real' history, filled with stories, that leads up to the present action. And of course there really is a history that lies before LotR - the Silmarillion.
Aiwendil pointed out that most of the historical references in LotR really refer to the Alkallabêth rather than Silm per se....a point I find intriguing. But I wanted to go back to his initial statement: the whole idea that part of the appeal of LotR lies in its sense of depth, with real history leading up to the present circumstances.

These historical references not only give the reader the illusion of depth, but, when taken together, perhaps mirror one of Tolkien's essential themes: the failures of the past weighing down on the heads of Men, and the limitations and challenges posed by that string of failures. To put it bluntly, either the free peoples of Middle-earth overcome the failings of those who went before them or they fall into unending darkness, and there is no turning of the page to the Fourth Age. I am not saying this is allegory (heaven forbid!) but it does sound strangely compelling when set against the history of the twentieth century, which had a similar lesson for us.

The first two chapters say it all. We are presented with the Hobbits, a stubborn and insular, albeit a delightful people, who can not or will not remember or recall their past. In both UT and LotR, Tolkien indicates the Hobbits have little recollection even of their own history and have forgotten many things they used to know. In complete juxtaposition to this, Tolkien entitles the very next chapter "Shadows of the Past" to show the intrusion of the Ring. These two contrasting images can not be accidental.

In succeeding chapters, we begin to get a glimpse of further intrusions of the past upon the present. This takes a variety of forms, some known to the reader and others only hinted at. The first is the Hobbits' meeting with Gildor. As an Elf, Gildor is the mirror image of the Hobbits in one important respect: Elves spend much of their energy dwelling on the past and trying to reconstruct it. The true identity of the Ringwraiths hearkens back to ancient things as well as Bomabadil's poignant description of the Rangers :

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Few now remember them...yet still some go wandering, sons of forgotten kings walking in loneliness, guarding from evil things folk that are heedless.
(Those "folk who are heedless" can certainly be read as Hobbits who have forgotten the past.)

But it's only in this particular chapter that the historical theme begins to take center stage. There are three or four incidents in this chapter that underline the fact that past and present are becoming mixed. The Hobbits are not only travelling geographically: they are becoming entangled with disputes and problems that are very, very old. And just as Tolkien is careful to describe the geography of Middle-earth to help us visualize what type of land the Hobbits are travelling through, he is also careful to lay out the historical setting.

First, there are the physical remains that the Hobbits see as they approach Weathertop:

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the remains of green-grown walls and dikes, and in the clefts there still stood the ruins of old works of stone.
Added to this is the fact that the paths are constructed in a particular way because of ancient battles against the Witch King (at least the Hobbits would consider them 'ancient'). Even more telling, there is Sam's poem of Gil-galad and Aragorn's tale of Tinúviel, which also includes a lengthy history lesson given to the Hobbits.

It is Aragorn who is the linchpin in all of this. Once Tolkien got rid of Trotter and substituted Aragorn, he discovered that his storyline was not only moving forward in terms of miles, but moving backwards in terms of themes and antecedents. In chapters to come, Aragorn will take us to Rivendell -- the seat of ancient lore -- and finally to Lothlorien, where we will actually go outside time.

The "knife in the dark" that comes hurtling at Frodo is quite literally out of the past. And the cry that he issues -- O Elbereth! Gilthoniel! --is also a glimmering from the past: most contemporary free peoples of Middle-earth, with the exception of Elves, were blithely unaware of Varda's existence, since the Valar now had little to do with Arda. It is this sense of the past intruding on the present that intrgues me in this chapter, and many others to come.
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Old 09-02-2004, 01:29 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Child
It is this sense of the past intruding on the present that intrgues me in this chapter, and many others to come.
I agree, & yet the whole point of the story seems to be to break the link with the past which binds not just the characters but their whole world. The Ring, it seems, is what ties the present to the past, & prevents things moving forward - things seem to just go around in circles - it is a story of 'many defeats & many fruitless victories', of 'fighting the long defeat'. When the Ring is destroyed the 'circle' is broken, the elves embalming process comes to an end & things finally start to change. I think this leads us back to Fordim's Road & Ring theory. The Ring (& we shouldn't forget that the Elves are responsible for the whole 'ring' idea in the first place) is the true symbol of Middle earth, because its a world of inevitable repetitions, where the past not only affects but determines the future. The Ring is myth & magic, & in its' world there can never be any escape or forward movement. So, we can have the world of magic & wonder, of elves wandering through the forests, but we also have to take Sauron & the Ring with it - or we can destroy the Ring, lose the magic & (the intensity of) the wonder & be free to move. From this perspective, we can understand Tolkien's statement that 'the whole of Arda was Morgoth's Ring' in a new light. This is the point of Sauron's actions/desire - he desires the kind of absolute control that will keep the world turned inward on itself (as he is turned inward on himself), endlessly repeating itself.

I can't help wondering whether Tolkien's decision to choose the Ring as the focus for 'The New Hobbit' determined ultimately what the story would become, & why he could say 'it wrote itself'. Once the ring becomes the motivating force of the story, the world of the story is shaped around it, & its destruction inevitably means the end of that world.

This gives the lie (if that were still necessary) to the idea that LotR is simply good guys vs bad guys. The Ring is Middle earth, Middle earth is the Ring, & the end of one is inevitably the end of the other. I don't know whether in the end we can call Tolkien an optimist or a pessimist - optimist certainly, in that by bringing the old world of the 'eternal return' (whoa! back to the Nazis!!!) to an end, but also a pessimist in that he seems to believe that only by rejecting the 'wonder' & high magic can we be liberated. He gives us Middle earth only to take it away, & like the elves we are left only with memory (which is not what the heart desires, as someone once said).
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Old 09-02-2004, 07:13 AM   #17
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I can't help wondering whether Tolkien's decision to choose the Ring as the focus for 'The New Hobbit' determined ultimately what the story would become, & why he could say 'it wrote itself'
I think that this is only half of it, as this chapter (and Child’s brilliant post!) have made clear, things really begin to ‘happen’ at Weathertop thanks to the entrance of Aragorn and the lore/history/fate that he bears with him. I’m sure we’re all aware of how Tolkien claimed that he was “surprised” when Strider introduced himself to the hobbits at Bree, and that the Professor himself had no idea who this Man was. It was this switch from Trotter to Strider that unlocked the tale for Tolkien. Yes, he had already decided to focus the story on the Ring, but it was only with the introduction of Aragorn that it became the One Ring, thus necessitating a trip to Mordor and initiating the final movement of the Third Age (but this is moving into material better left for the HoME discussion).

I raise all this merely to highlight how once more the full story that comes to engulf Frodo is not just the result of the “Shadow of the Past” (i.e. the Ring as Evil) but also of “Strider” (i.e. the chapter title). Weathertop is a great setting for the confrontation with the Nazgûl for a whole bunch of reasons, but one of them has to be that it is a ruin left over from the shared history of Sauron and Aragorn; it’s a remnant of the wars that have been waging between the Men of Numenór and Evil for thousands of years.

This cyclical nature of history/time and events, then, is one that goes forward not ‘just because,’ nor is it defined by Evil only (as davem is perhaps suggesting) but by both Evil and Good; Sauron and Aragorn; the Ring and the Sword that was Broken. Their conflict, which will be resolved in the coming War, is what now entraps Frodo.
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Old 09-03-2004, 01:26 AM   #18
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Sting

Well i love the Fall Of Gil-Galad

Gil-galad was an Elven-king.
Of him the harpers sadly sing:
the last whose realm was fair and free
between the Mountains and the Sea.

His sword was long, his lance was keen,
his shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven's field
were mirrored in his silver shield.

But long ago he rode away,
and where he dwelleth none can say;
for into darkness fell his star
in Mordor where the shadows are.

This is one of the best poems Tokein has ever written ,it is supposed to lament the fall of Gil-Galad ,but I think it just describes him as he was An Great Elven King of old.
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Old 09-03-2004, 08:10 AM   #19
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This really is the most suspenseful chapter so far!
I quite agree with Aiwendil and Bethberry that the tension in the book is far greater than in the movie.
I enjoyed reading all those great posts (very enlightening and thought-provoking as usual) There is little left to say for me.
I find the description of the attack of the wraiths on Crickhollow is very creepy. Reading it over again, I just wonder a little for what reason the black riders stand waiting at the door and the corners of the house so long (until the "cold hour before dawn") before they knock and break in the door? Is it just a trick to draw out the reader's suspension and allow Fatty to escape ?
I like the Bucklander's horncall "Fear! Fire! Foes!" (reminded me a bit of "Fee, fie , foe, fun" )

Frodo unwittingly saying "I hope the thinning process will not go on indefinitely, or I shall become a wraith." foreshadows what will actually almost happen to him after the stab of the morgul-knife! Strider, of course , knows about such things and tells him not to talk like that.
I keep thinking what a big relief it must have been for Frodo and his companions to have now Strider as their leader who took care of everything, and was so knowledgable .
At my first reading, I was as surprised as the companions to hear Sam recite the Gil-galad poem (which is one of my favourite ones) Only then I realized how extraordinary learned for a hobbit Bilbo must have been. (Apparently "working class"- hobbits didn't as a rule learn reading & writing - no schools in the Shire, then?!)

Like Davem and Hilde , I was also taken in by those wonderful descriptions of the landscape and the sense of the past they imply.
The way Aragorn chants the poem of Beren and Luthien and tells the story to the hobbits tells us that he is somehow involved with that past, even before we are aware who he is.
Quote:
As Strider was speaking they watched his strange eager face, dimly lit in the red glow of the wood fire. His eyes shone and his voice was rich and deep.
And once more, I was very intrigued by Frodo calling out "A Elbereth, Gilthoniel". (That scene in the movie is nothing like that! )
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Old 09-05-2004, 10:02 PM   #20
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1420! Aragorn's confidence.

I am finally back from my long, wonderful vacation to Lake Tahoe. Anyway...

Encaitare
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There's the one definition of stride, which is just to walk at a fast pace. But think about it; when someone walks at a stride they're feeling pretty confident,
Aragorn back in Chapter 10 comes off as a confident man to me. He pulls out the Shards of Narsil, explains himself, and about the sword, which showed me he was "confident" in becoming the King of Gondor.

Also Mark your quote with Butterbur and Aragorn I think also forshadows what is to come to Bree. Butterbur realizes things aren't right and it's only about to get worse, as we get into the closing chapters we find much evil has happened in Bree.

I also think there are comparisons/similarities between Maggot, Bombadil, and Butterbur. I believe the reason for why Maggot acted the way he did, with the whole defying of the riders, was because he actually met Bombadil. And from Bombadil learned people will live in the Shire after all the Hobbits are gone. Maggot learned from Bombadil that there is a much bigger world out there then The Shire, and that is why Maggot acted the way he did with the Black Riders. When I think of Maggot and Butterbur, I picture two pudgy men. Maggot offers his home to the hobbits, and gives them food, lets them rest, and defies the Black Riders. Butterbur is an innkeeper, he has the hobbits stay in Bree, gives them food rest, and like Maggot, defies the Black Riders. So, I think there are definately parallels between Maggot and Butterbur.

Also, I wanted to know about Gandalf's nickname for Butterbur, Barley. When I think Barley, I think wheat-food, there you have it Butterbur an innkeeper.

The poem of Gil-galad is one of my favorites. Just saying "Gil-Galad was an elven-king, of him the harpers sadly sing...his sword was long his lance was keen," I mean just saying that makes me want to sing it in the Gulligan's Island tune. You know "Gulligan a sailor's...." whatever can't remember the rest.
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Old 09-06-2004, 12:46 AM   #21
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Barley was just short for Butterbur's first name, Barliman. Indeed an interesting name for an innkeeper - barley is an important ingredient in beer!
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Old 09-06-2004, 01:24 AM   #22
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Pipe Hi!

Here are some of the thoughts I developed reading the chapter.

Why Run?

On previous chapters none of the hobbits stood up against a overtly hostile Nazgûl. All they did was talk bold and hope he goes away, or run away or hide. And you could only run and hide for so long against an enemy with extensive detection capabilities and fast steeds.

So it all comes to facing the enemy. The chapter begins and ends with facing the enemy.

Angmar's Siege of Amon Sûl . . . again

Aragorn's choice of refuge is darkly amusing. More than six hundred years ago the place was ravaged by the leader of those hunting them.

Strange Deliverance

In the succeeding chapters, Gandalf said the he had succeeded to draw away some of the Nazgûl, yet that still left five to attack Weathertop, including the Witch-King. What hope have four Hobbits and a Man (be he the heir of Isildur) against such enemies?

Their deliverance came (ironically) from the Witch-King. If he had not wounded the Ringbearer, surely they would not have withdrawn until their enemies are all dead, or the Ring is taken.

Of course I wonder why did he not choose to slay Frodo. Was it his cruelty, letting Frodo be tormented rather than be killed outright? If so, it was
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A small oversight; but it proved fatal. Small oversights often do. (UT III 3)
Just a Tidbit

The Nazgûl attack on Crickhollow is the only scene in LotR that did not involve any of the Fellowship (I think). But I feel you already know that.
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Old 09-14-2004, 10:01 PM   #23
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Song of Beren and Lúthien

I think this must have been the chapter where I fell for Strider – his love of the outdoors and of poetry – what a combination! The Song of Beren and Lúthien is my favourite poem in the book.

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As night fell and the light of the fire began to shine out brightly he began to tell them tales to keep their minds from fear. He knew many histories and legends of long ago, of Elves and Men and the good and evil deeds of the Elder Days. They wondered how old he was, and where he had learned all this lore.

‘Tell us of Gil-galad,’ said Merry suddenly, when he paused at the end of a story of the Elf-Kingdoms. ‘Do you know any more of that old lay that you spoke of?’

‘I do indeed,’ answered Strider. ‘So does Frodo, for it concerns us closely.’ Merry and Pippin looked at Frodo, who was staring into the fire.

‘I know only the little that Gandalf has told me,’ said Frodo slowly. ‘Gil-galad was the last of the great Elf-kings of Middle-earth. Gil-galad is Starlight in their tongue. With Elendil, the Elf-friend, he went to the land of—’

‘No!’ said Strider interrupting, ‘I do not think that tale should be told now with the servants of the Enemy at hand. If we win through to the house of Elrond, you may hear it there, told in full’

‘Then tell us some other tale of the old days,’ begged Sam; ‘a tale about the Elves before the fading time. I would dearly like to hear more about Elves; the dark seems to press round so close.’

‘I will tell you the tale of Tinúviel,’ said Strider, ‘in brief—for it is a long tale of which the end is not known; and there are none now, except Elrond, that remember it aright as it was told of old. It is a fair tale, though it is sad, as are all the tales of Middle-earth, and yet it may lift up your hearts.’
So why does Aragorn choose the tale of Tinúviel, of all the tales of the old days? (Or why does Tolkien choose to include in verse, only this particular tale?)

Only in the last few years did I link Aragorn’s choice of song with the following from Appendix A:

Quote:
‘The next day at the hour of sunset Aragorn walked alone in the woods, and his heart was high within him; and he sang, for he was full of hope and the world was fair. And suddenly even as he sang he saw a maiden walking on a greensward among the white stems of the birches; and he halted amazed, thinking that he had strayed into a dream, or else that he had received the gift of the Elf-minstrels, who can make the things of which they sing appear before the eyes of those that listen.
‘For Aragorn had been singing a part of the Lay of Lúthien which tells of the meeting of Lúthien and Beren in the forest of Neldoreth. And behold! there Lúthien walked before his eyes in Rivendell, clad in a mantle of silver and blue, fair as the twilight in Elven-home; her dark hair strayed in a sudden wind, and her brows were bound with gems like stars.
For a moment Aragorn gazed in silence, but fearing that she would pass away and never be seen again, he called to her crying, Tinúviel, Tinúviel! even as Beren had done in the Elder Days long ago.
‘Then the maiden turned to him and smiled, and she said: “Who are you? And why do you call me by that name?”
‘And he answered: “Because I believed you to be indeed Lúthien Tinúviel, of whom I was singing. But if you are not she, then you walk in her likeness.”
So although this Ranger had no photograph or miniature portrait of Arwen to carry in his pocket, he could bring her image to his mind by singing this song – not only because he was singing this same song when he met her, but because she looks like Lúthien of whom he is singing. At this point in the journey from Bree to Rivendell he probably could use Arwen’s encouragement or the inspiration of her beauty.

Of course at the end of Book 2, Chapter VIII Lothlórien, Aragorn’s ability to bring Arwen’s image before his eyes is mentioned again.

Tolkien gives us the story of Beren and Lúthien early in the book to foreshadow the ‘fair, though sad’ tale of Aragorn and Arwen yet to come.
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Old 10-22-2004, 09:33 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
Aragorn's talk of Beren and Luthien is probably the biggest reference. But even here, we are told only about a single incident in the story of Beren and Luthien - their meeting. Elsewhere there is a reference to Ancalagon; mention is made of Hador and Turin; there is Bilbo's poem about Earendil; there is the Balrog; Thangorodrim is mentioned. But most of these are just superficial references. The important events of the Silmarillion are not discussed at all. Even in the two big history chapters - I-2 and II-2 - nothing substantive is said about the First Age. The history that lies behind LotR, and that is alluded to in LotR, is for the most part not the Quenta Silmarillion of the First Age but rather the events of the Second Age and the Third Age. The Fall of Gil-Galad, Aragorn's kingship, the Rings, the Barrow-downs - all of the history that really matters to LotR comes from the Second and Third Ages.
Aiwendil-- I would (mostly) agree; except for the whole splintered light concept. Bilbo's poem serves to set up Sam later: Galadriel's phial is from Earendil, and Sam recognizes it and ties the story all the way back to the silmarils. And there is Gandalf's cmmment in the House of Elrond that Frodo would become like a clear glass filled with light, for those to see who can.

Whether one calls this major or minor I suppose depends on how much one focuses on the symbolism of the light.
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Old 03-19-2008, 04:52 PM   #25
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This chapter is packed full of excitement! The title could refer to two different knives, both wielded by the Nazgul; one at the beginning at Crickhollow ("a drawn blade gleamed"), the other, with more far-reaching results, stabbing Frodo at Weathertop at the end of the chapter.

It is certainly suspenseful, especially at first reading, that Tolkien manages to tell of the attack on Crickhollow and leave the readers uncertain whether Fatty was able to escape.

This is the last time Fatty Bolger is mentioned until the end of the story, in the Scouring, where he is shown to have played a very courageous role as a rebel. Here he flees from danger, but that is a good thing, as he arouses Buckland by doing so. At least he becomes active, by way of contrast to his former complacency.

The two locations are connected by Frodo's dream and by the cock crowing at both locations. That gives us a hint that both attacks are coordinated, though we do not read about that side of the story here. "The Hunt for the Ring" in Unfinished Tales gives us background information concerning the Nazgul activities.

Two of the poems in this chapter are recited by Tolkien in the JRRT Audio Collection recording - that of Gil-Galad and the tale of Tinúviel. I have the CDs and will make an effort to listen to them soon to see what the sound of his voice adds to the words.

The tales in this chapter add a lot of depth to the LotR story, and certainly whetted the appetite of many readers for the Silmarillion!

What parts of this long and eventful chapter appeal to you especially?
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Old 03-21-2008, 10:13 AM   #26
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Let me add a few adjectives. This chapter is dark and deep like a pool under the mountains. It is not scary like the Barrow-Downs chapter was, but it is just dark. The beginning shows the horror of horrors - the words "in the name of Mordor!" spoken in the Shire itself. And this is the last time we see something from the Shire (unless you count Sam's vision in the Mirror) until the Scouring. And I believe, even though there is not any actual evidence on that, but this is the feeling this chapter gives me: that this is the moment of breakdown, the moment from which the evil in the Shire starts to accumulate rapidly and culminates in the murder of Lotho. Why the passage gives me such feeling, may have several reasons; if I were to try to find some concrete points, I'm not sure, but I can mention at least the fact that the Horn-call of Buckland is blown: and what more, it is blown even though it "had not been sounded for a hundred years, not since the white wolves came in the Fell Winter, when the Brandywine was frozen over." With the same horn, as we read later, it also ends. Also, the character of Fatty connects both the occassions. I completely agree with what Esty said - Fatty's character here is given the actual experience of horror, but I'm inclined to think that this really served him later well and here is the source of his later courage as a rebel leader.

The chapter is really quite long, at least when you compare it to the several former ones, but I must say I was very surprised when I read it ("oh, it's the end already?"). It's so "epic" so that it seemed to me maybe shorter than the chapters before.

When I read it for the first time, I remember I liked all this stuff about the "Great Enemy" ("Huh! Who's that? Yes, that's Morgoth, I know, I heard the name somewhere - but he must have been cool! And 'Sauron was only his servant' - what's this? THAT Sauron who is the great and indestructible evil around here was just a servant of this one? Gotta read the Silmarillion."). On the other hand, I did not want to read the poem of Beren and Lúthien - way too long and uninteresting (for a 8-year old boy). Obviously, even the reader's taste changes as he grows, as I really enjoyed the poem when reading it now. It is just beautiful!

I said this chapter is deep. This reflects these tales of Beleriand, Beren, Lúthien, Silmarils and even Gil-Galad. It's all too ancient, and indeed, Strider's speech about it is really quite long. I would say very long. Had I been a heartless critic or editor, I'd say: "Mr. Tolkien, we don't care about nonsenses from ancient ages. It makes no sense there and has no actual connection with the story. You may as well skip it and save some paper." But I am not a heartless critic nor editor, and I like the fact that it's there

What I like very much are also all the things with Rangers - we learn quite a lot about them (that they come to Weathertop, and between the lines we learn also that they keep some paths in the hills etc.). I was always wondering who were these Rangers who were recently on Weathertop, where were they going to and from when, and whether they knew about the Riders and what happened to them...

And there's a very good trick concerning Gandalf in the chapter. If you take care of it when you read, Strider mentions at the beginning of the chapter that if Gandalf follows them, he would be heading to Weathertop as well. Note please, we still don't have a clue what happened to Gandalf! It's most likely, from the current view of the characters, that he's simply lost for good. But as the chapter moves on, there are several almost anachronistic looking quotes that seem to imply that the characters actually expect to find Gandalf on Weathertop, like they knew that he was following them! We, as readers who have read the book more than once, of course know that he indeed is - but how do the characters know? But, of course, by the end of the chapter, this is verified (or at least made likely) by finding Gandalf's tracks and "message" by him on Weathertop.

This chapter is also where we can "see" the Nazgul in their true shape. This is also a touch of the unknown, and I liked it very much from the first time I read it: as well as all the information about the Riders that Strider says to Merry. By the way, I just got a funny idea: why is Merry so curious about the Riders' nature, like whether they can see or so? Is he collecting information for further use? Or more seriously, is he overcoming the experience of his encounter with a Nazgul in Bree by asking about such things? When you know something, you are not afraid of it anymore...

And, concerning the Nazgul attack. It seems strange that the narration about the old days and Beren and Lúthien almost fluently passes into the Nazgul attack. And it does not seem contrasting in any way to me, which I find odd. But is there also something more - I'm getting the strange idea that the narration held the Nazgul back from attacking. They attack only after Aragorn finishes the tale. It's just the weird feeling: had the tale to be completed so that the Nazgul were allowed to attack? And what would that mean...?

And one more thing I just thought I might point out. Esty in fact said it, but I will emphasise it a little bit: this chapter starts with a Nazgul attack, and ends with a Nazgul attack. What more, Esty said it starts with a knife and it ends with a knife. I think it's a clever literary figure, but even if it's just a coincidence, it's nice.
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Old 08-04-2008, 05:09 PM   #27
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Now, where were we?

Right, a Knife In The Dark.

Fredregar and the Nazgul, I've often thought this bit suitably sinister

Quote:
There was a blow, soft but heavy, and the door shuddered.
'Open, in the name of Mordor!' said a voice thin and menacing.
I think this gets across the strange mix of covert secrecy and overt power that the Nazgul possess. The blow is soft, secret, but heavy, powerful. The voice is thin, secret, but menacing, powerful, the name of Mordor strikes fear in both ways, no wonder the door 'shuddered'.

On the other hand, the Nazgul may be secret and powerful, but not used to dealing with resourceful hobbits. It was a bit of an oversight not to have one wraith watching the back door!

Nazgul communication - they co-ordinate the attacks on Fred and the Prancing Pony, coincidence, or something Osanwe-ish going on? Also Frodo's sleep is disturbed by hooves and horns, is he, by virtue of possession of the ring, somehow subconciously 'tapping in' to the communiction or moods of the Nazgul?

Why should there be so few draught animals for sale in Bree? Two possible answers I think. First it was autumn so animals are insurance against a hard winter, and could be eaten if the food runs out, perhaps more would be available in spring and summer. Second, the party is obviously outlandish and dangerous (to a Breelander's way of thinking!), best not to get involved, even if Bob the barman is asking.

Another minor point is that Bree has bolsters rather than pillows, making it seem slightly foreign to us Brits who always prefer a pillow or two to French-style bolsters!

Bree-Land, obvious when you think about it but Bree must have been more than the towns and villages of Bree, Archet, Coombe and Staddle. Presumably much in the way of fields, coppices and perhaps isolated farms too. I wonder how far it extended away from the village of Bree itself.

Who are the other spies?

Quote:
Not all the birds are to be trusted and there are spies more evil than they are.
I don't think Aragorn is referring to the Nazgul here, or Bill Ferny et al, what is he on about then? Surely not the squirrels!

Aragorn warns the hobbits about saying 'wraith' or 'Mordor'. Its a common idea that if you say their names you will attract attention from devils, spirits, sorcerors etc. Is this true in Middle Earth? (Getting a bit You-Know-Who here!)

The poems. I think its revealing that the party know that they are about to be attacked, and this is the point the poetry comes out. I think they are tense and 'keyed-up' waiting for the encounter, they have to stay awake, but must talk together to avoid falling prey to their indivdual fears. What better than poems of ancient heros and heroines? (Considering that a resounding song would be a bad move in this situation). Good morale management by Aragorn!

Finally, egregiously OT, but when I get to this chapter I've always had an urge to sing 'A shot in the dark, a big question mark' (Toyah, the 80s, don't ask)
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Old 02-13-2009, 02:38 PM   #28
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But it was no orc-chieftain or brigand that led the assault upon Crickhollow.

I only noticed this because Aiwendil mentioned the ambiguous horn-call/cock-crow that Frodo heard in Bree, but the attack on Crickhollow actually foreshadows - in miniature model, so to speak - a famous scene much later in the book.

First read this:
Quote:
There was a blow, soft but heavy, and the door shuddered.
'Open, in the name of Mordor!' said a voice, thin and menacing.
At a second blow the door yielded and fell back, with timbers burst and lock broken. The black figures passed swiftly in.
At that moment, among the trees nearby, a horn rang out. It rent the night like fire on a hill-top.
Awake! Fear! Fire! Foes! Awake!
[...] The Brandybucks were blowing the Horn-call of Buckland, that had not been sounded for a hundred years, not since the white wolves came in the Fell Winter, when the Brandywine was frozen over.
Awake! Awake!
Far-away answering horns were heard. The alarm was spreading. The black figures fled from the house.
And now compare it to this (from The Siege of Gondor):
Quote:
A deep boom rumbled through the City like thunder running in the clouds. But the doors of iron and posts of steel withstood the stroke.
Then the Black Captain rose in his stirrups and cried aloud in a dreadful voice, speaking in some forgotten tongue words of power and terror to rend both heart and stone.
Thrice he cried. Thrice the great ram boomed. And suddenly upon the last stroke the Gate of Gondor broke. As if stricken by some blasting spell it burst asunder: there was a flash of searing lightning, and the doors tumbled in riven fragments to the ground.
In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl. A great black shape against the fires beyond he loomed up, grown to a vast menace of despair. In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl, under the archway that no enemy ever yet had passed, and all fled before his face.[...]
And in that very moment, away behind in some courtyard of the city, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of wizardry and war, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn.
And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns. In dark Mindolluin's sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the North wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.
Wow! Looks like the Nazgûl are knee-deep in **** whenever somebody has the courage to blow a horn on them.
But seriously: To me, the correspondence, detail for detail, seems much too obvious for this to be a mere coincidence - especially as it's Merry (one of those annoying horn-blowing Brandybucks) who deals the Witch-King his penultimate blow in the chapter following the second quotation. Moreover, both scenes are echoed together when Merry blows the Horn-call of Buckland on the Horn of Rohan during the Scouring of the Shire. An awesome example of Tolkien's narrative skill creating coherence over long distances.
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Old 02-13-2009, 03:49 PM   #29
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That's a fascinating comparison, Pitchwife! It's an interesting side note that horns are the instruments which have a special (magical?) function in Tolkien's Middle-earth. Alas, lack of time and the fact that my books are already packed for moving prevent me from going into detail on this; I hope I can come back to it sometime soon.
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Old 02-18-2009, 08:58 PM   #30
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A truly great catch Pitchwife. Thanks for pointing that one out.
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Old 04-18-2011, 11:33 PM   #31
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Ring Ringwraith puzzlement

I have no astute insights on "A Knife in the Dark" to make, but only a blunt question:

How were five dreaded ringwraiths unable or unwilling to overwhelm Strider/Aragorn and four unmartial, puny hobbits at night on Weathertop?

The Witch King there saw Frodo wearing the One Ring.

Why fool around with Morgul knives and such? The ringwraiths had swords and thousands of years of sword-and-sorcery experience. Strider bore a torch and the hobbits bore small blades of Westernesse.

I say, no contest. So, these couldn't be the same ringwraiths who made the defenders of Minas Tirith quake in fear. They must have been B-team ringwraiths sent by Mordor. If as I read, Sauron had the nine rings in his keeping, he would have had time to use them to turn more than nine men into ringwraiths.

Or, maybe the five on Weathertop had run out of coffee or whatever made them go?
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Old 04-19-2011, 07:16 AM   #32
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Why fool around with Morgul knives and such? The ringwraiths had swords and thousands of years of sword-and-sorcery experience. Strider bore a torch and the hobbits bore small blades of Westernesse.
It does seem a bit like they weren't giving Sauron their best at that point. Then again, they also missed the Ring at Hobbiton because they took an old hobbit's word that Frodo wasn't home.

Anyway, I think at Weathertop it goes back to two factors. One, Aragorn had said the Ringwraiths feared fire, and that seems to have been proven by him. Two, as Aragorn also noted, he and the Hobbits still had a long way to go before they could have reached any possible safety, and the WK seems to have had the thought that turning Frodo into a wraith was the easy way to do things. Gandalf later said that the splinter in Frodo probably would have turned a Man fairly quickly, and the WK can't be faulted for knowing so little of Hobbit resilience.

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Originally Posted by Animalmother View Post
So, these couldn't be the same ringwraiths who made the defenders of Minas Tirith quake in fear.
I don't have Letters with me, but there's a letter in which Tolkien notes that the WK had been given an "added demonic force" when he was placed in command of the forces attacking Minas Tirith. I think all the Nazgûl were at an elevated level of power at that point.
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Old 01-11-2014, 07:55 PM   #33
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Tolkien Ooh la la---,wait, what?

"'...about him cast her shadowy hair
And her arms like Silver glimmering."

Tinuviel used her hair for enchantment. She enchanted him. Intentionally.

Daughter of Melian, indeed!
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Old 04-11-2014, 09:57 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by davem View Post
And that's when I fell in love.

It was that moment, looking out across the great desolate expanses of Middle earth that the fairy story spell of the Hobbit was broken for me. I had seen a new world stretched out before me for the first time, & I suddenly loved it absolutely, (& I've never fallen out of love with it). Looking back on my first reading of LotR, 28 years ago, I remember I had drifted through the earlier chapters, enjoying the pleasant escape into a fantasy world, but at this point, like Frodo in Lorien, I seemed to have stepped through a window into another world, a 'real' world.

This scene is, & always will be for me, Middle earth. If for Frodo its the case that:



then when davem, wanderer from this world, has passed back into the outer world, he will still stand on the summit of Weathertop & watch the Old Road winding out of the West towards the Misty Mountains.
Aye

I wish I could remember the moment I first had the same awakening. I remember reading The Hobbit, and did not grasp that Elves were tall, immortal and of a vast antiquity beyond my ken. I thought they were short, like garden gnomes, and impish. There was an exact moment when discovery occurred, but I cannot recall when. Though, I remember that by the time I saw the silvery Elvish glyphs, afire with Ithildin on the Moria gates according to Celebrimbor's "Mode of Beleriand", there was a sense of something beyond my awareness in an ancient world, as things that were only objects in the mind's eye came alive with vivid beauty, colour, life and love, as though beings I was reading about existed--as if they were alive, somewhere in some dimension.

Then Hollin became the Ost-In-Edhil and place of the Forging of the Three as the vastness of Middle Earth just kept expanding in awe and like grace that stirs embers of an old fire. I sometimes still hear gulls on the seashore when I think of the awakening of the Sea Longing in Legolas as he spoke of his experience of the ocean at Belfalas.

But for the chapter at hand, I keep coming back to the Amon Sul and Fornost, which were but echoes of the strange recollections, like those of the Barrow Wight dream--who were the men of Carn Dum? I read with wonder and awe. The Witch King was back at the ancient battle site, of which Aragorn must have been most keenly aware. Amon Sul, which was 'Weathertop' on my first reading 31 years ago, and a site of ancient ruins. And strand by strand, so much that was implied that was so ancient - the Great East Road, the Greenway, the Palantir of Amon Sul, Arvedui and so much more. And Numenor. Silmarien. A special place of homage for her in my heart.

I just re-read the end of the chapter, as Aragorn took us on a journey into his ancient world so many thousands of years prior to him. As he speaks of it "...is said" that the "Line of Tinuviel shall never fail", where he sat with the Hobbits, in--his Realm. Arnor, where one day he would be wit Arwen, in a long coming of full circle, by Lake Evendim....
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Old 08-05-2018, 06:21 PM   #35
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Question

It boggles the mind to see that "A Knife in the Dark" never broached a second page of discussion here, because were you to maroon me on a desert island with but a single chapter of The Lord of the Rings, there is a good chance this is the chapter I would take. It's got a little bit of everything:

-the tail end of the comfortable "known world" of the Hobbits (i.e. Bree)
-archaeology and history
-stunning vistas
-my favourite locale in all Middle-earth (Weathertop)
-pleasant woods and mysterious paths
-a wizard battle! (albeit from afar)
-the Nazgûl at their most terrifying (as a reader, I personally find the long, slow march of their relentless search across Eriador to be more visceral than their increased potency in the War)
-two of the best poems in the book (I'm personally partial to Gil-galad and I'm always deeply saddened that Sam didn't learn more of it!)


And, besides all that, there are a few curiosities, like the brief narrative return to Crickhollow, where Fredegar Bolger briefly becomes our point-of-view character! This is a remnant, narratively, of when Fredegar's predecessor character was still supposed to come on the quest, getting picked up by Gandalf as the wizard rushed from wherever he had to been to catch up to the rest.

The Fell Winter is an interesting nugget of Middle-earth history, if only because it was the last great test of the Shire before the War of the Ring, and though it was "more than a hundred years" ago, Bilbo actually grew up through it! He was quite small and, of course, in an affluent family, but it's still almost weird to consider that he was there.

One thing struck me that had never struck me before: the narrator tells us, in the course of telling us that Merry's ponies all fled to Bombadil before being returned to Butterbur, that it turns out that only one horse was actually stolen from the stables and that all the others had merely fled. Knowing that animals flee the Nazgûl, that makes perfect sense, but does this mean that Strider is *wrong* when he speculates about the motives of the thieves in stealing the ponies to slow them down and make them more vulnerable? At no point does he--or anyone else--assume anything other than that the stables were deliberately broken into. But if it was only one horse the Nazgûl (or the Southerner?) wanted, was it really aimed at them at all? Or is it possible that the entire stable just tried to break out and flee the Nazgûl when they attacked the inn and someone (the Southerner?) decided to just get a horse out of it?

I especially wonder... was it a black horse? Maybe one of the Black Riders needed a new steed.
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Old 08-06-2018, 06:39 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
-two of the best poems in the book (I'm personally partial to Gil-galad and I'm always deeply saddened that Sam didn't learn more of it!)
Ah, yes. Tinuviel there has always been enhanced in feeling due to (as was the intent) the connection with Aragon. Reading the book through again with knowledge of Arwen, and what the War of the Ring means to Aragorn personally, makes it that much more poignant.

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Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
But if it was only one horse the Nazgûl (or the Southerner?) wanted, was it really aimed at them at all? Or is it possible that the entire stable just tried to break out and flee the Nazgûl when they attacked the inn and someone (the Southerner?) decided to just get a horse out of it?

I especially wonder... was it a black horse? Maybe one of the Black Riders needed a new steed.
Well, Gandalf tells Frodo later that the steeds of the Nazgul were specially bred (to endure their terror), so I can't see them being able to use any horse from Bree.
I think their intent indeed was to slow Frodo down, and the Southerner got the horse incidentally to enable his escape.
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Old 08-17-2018, 03:42 PM   #37
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This chapter has a ton of action packed into a short number of pages.

I rather like the cut to Crickhollow at the beginning. The previous chapter ended with the hobbits fearing the Black Riders would attack the Inn during the night and it's almost like a dream, not really a "flashback" but a clever use of a "flash to another part of Middle-earth" that temporarily throws the readers off of what we were expecting. We are expecting an attack on the Inn, but the Black Riders raided Frodo's home in Crickhollow. So far all we have is a handful of second-hand accounts and warnings to Frodo to avoid the Black Riders. But the previous chapters keep ramping up the tension and this chapter makes the direct encounter feel like Strider and our heroes are only "delaying the inevitable."

It's interesting reading this time and thinking about Strider's decisions in the chapter. His decision to instead of trying to slip out of Bree unnoticed and quietly, to leave openly with all the inhabitants of Bree and surrounding towns watching. His decision to head towards Amon Sul, even after seeing all the lights and fireworks a few days ago from the Nazgul's attack on Gandalf.

I'm trying to get back into the mindset of a first time reader and not knowing what will happen next and this chapter is not only about the inevitable showdown when the Black Riders encounter our heroes, but about Aragorn's decisions and reasons for taking the path he did in leading the hobbits out of Bree to Amon Sul.

Quote:
"Is there no escape then?" said Frodo, looking round wildly. "If I move I shall be seen and hunted! If I stay, I shall draw them to me!'

Strider laid his hand on his should. "There is still hope," he said. "You are not alone. Let us take this wood that is set ready for the fire as a sign. There is little shelter or defense here, but fire shall serve for both. Sauron can put fire to his evil uses, as he can all things, but these Riders do not love it, and fear those who wield it. Fire is our friend in the wilderness."

"Maybe," muttered Sam. "It is also as good as saying 'here we are' as I can think of, bar shouting."
You get a sense from Aragorn's explanations of his decisions throughout the chapter that there is no chance at avoiding this confrontation. It's inevitable and what Book I has been building up to. They're caught between a rock and a hard place, and Aragorn's decisions are therefor based on trying to put himself and the hobbits in the best possible time and place to have the confrontation. Since there is going to be a fight, Aragorn's trying to have the fight on his terms and limit whatever advantages the Enemy has that he can.

Someone might think "well all of Aragorn's choices have kind of gone awry, and why did he choose a prominent site like Amon Sul, when so far they have been able to avoid the direct assault?" In a rather casual manner Aragorn drops a bombshell on us that Frodo's carrying a tracking device for the Nazgul, and even if they don't see the world as the living sees it, they have spies and other senses that are better for hunting Frodo. "So, yeah, I convinced you all to follow me but we're going to be attacked and it's entirely Frodo's fault. Sorry about that." I know it's seriously not Frodo's fault, but how the Nazgul hunt for the living and the Ring is a major bombshell that Aragorn dropped. If anything it makes you wonder why Gandalf and Gildor didn't reveal any of these important details to Frodo? I'm kind of questioning their judgment, while believing Aragorn displays his judgment in making the best out of a really bad predicament they're in.

Some other interesting tidbits:

-Sam hitting Bill Ferny in the face with an apple. We now have a first hand account of what the Prologue said about hobbits being excellent marksman and it would be wise for anyone to run when a hobbit "stoops to grab a stone." Then Sam's muttering about wasting a good apple.

-The mixed reactions of Bree-landers when Aragorn leaves openly:

Quote:
They tramped off, anxious and downhearted, under the eyes of the crowd. Not all the faces were friendly, nor all the words that were shouted. But Strider seemed to be held in awe by most of the Bree-landers, and those that he stared at shut their mouths and drew away.
Not much is known about him yet and despite appearances, he definitely commands respect.

-And I always thought Jackson's portrayal of the Nazgul were off, in that they weren't really warriors (and obviously were not all "Kings of Men"), their main weapon is fear and they had no great power over the fearless. How in the movies when they break through the Shire there a scene where a rider kills a hobbit and thinking "that's not supposed to happen, their true purpose is in discretion and secrecy." Then my shock when reading this:

Quote:
Meanwhile they had another errand: they knew now that the house was empty and the Ring had gone. They rode down the guards at the gate and vanished from the Shire.
Granted this is when they leave the Shire, and not when they break into it as the movies portray, but the movie scene isn't as an outlandish choice as I have always argued and felt previously.
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Last edited by Boromir88; 08-17-2018 at 04:21 PM.
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