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Old 03-05-2019, 06:24 PM   #1
William Cloud Hicklin
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The conspiracy just doesn't work!

Starting my millionth re-read oF LR, and got up to Ch 5 "A Conspiracy Unmasked."

It seems that bounum Homerus dormitat. As meticulous as Tolkien was about timing and schedules (He rewrote a huge chunk of Book V just because he thought the Grey Company was riding improbably fast, and I doubt a single reader has ever noticed), here his timeline just doesn't make sense.

Here's what Merry has to say:
Quote:
‘I kept my knowledge to myself, till this Spring when things got serious. Then we formed our conspiracy; and as we were serious, too, and meant business, we have not been too scrupulous. You are not a very easy nut to crack, and Gandalf is worse. But if you want to be introduced to our chief investigator, I can produce him.’

‘Where is he?’ said Frodo, looking round, as if he expected a masked and sinister figure to come out of a cupboard.

‘Step forward, Sam!’ said Merry; and Sam stood up with a face scarlet up to the ears. ‘Here’s our collector of information! And he collected a lot, I can tell you, before he was finally caught. After which, I may say, he seemed to regard himself as on parole, and dried up.’
And a little further:

Quote:
We are your friends, Frodo. Anyway: there it is. We know most of what Gandalf has told you. We know a good deal about the Ring.
No freakin' way.

Here's the problem: Gandalf arrived in Hobbiton late on April 12th. His long conversation with Frodo was the following morning: here Frodo learned for the very first time about the Ring, Sauron, etc. And at the end of that conversation Gandalf caught Sam eavesdropping and put the fear of grass-snakes in him.

But we are supposed to believe both that Sam dummied up "on parole," but Merry, Pippin and Fatty also learned the primary topics of that conversation?

Summat doan sum up.
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Old 03-05-2019, 07:07 PM   #2
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My understanding was that until that moment the Conspiracy was not quite sure, but they were able to pin down the source of the Baggins mysteries. They list a number of facts they based their hypothesis on:

- Bilbo disappeared into thin air at his party
- Bilbo disappeared in a similar fashion to avoid the SBs, and Merry noticed a small shiny object involved
- Bilbo brought home treasure and who knows what else
- Gandalf probably has something to do with it
So they could piece together that Bilbo must have brought something back that enabled him to pull off the disappearing trick. Given that Gandalf traveled with Bilbo and was a close friend - and generally knew a lot more about magic stuff - they probably were in a state of heightened alertness during his visits. Is it so unnatural for Sam to be listening in when Gandalf came to spill the beans? I bet you they'd be trying to bug Gandalf since they started the Conspiracy.
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Old 03-05-2019, 07:58 PM   #3
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It certainly seems to be possible that Merry is confidently overstating the exact fullness of the Conspirators' knowledge. He doesn't actually say what Gandalf told Frodo, only that they know it (leaving open the distinct possibility that they don't actually know) and he sort of contradicts it anyway, right away, when he says, "We know a great deal about the Ring."

"A great deal" sounds to me not unlike a euphemism for "something, but not everything"--i.e. Merry is puffing up their knowledge just a touch. After all, he *is* clever enough to put together the pieces, and Frodo certainly hasn't been as tight-lipped as Sam (he needn't just have been whispering about "shall I ever see that valley again" since April)--and a little bit of overconfidence is not out of character for Book I Meriadoc: the same Merry who thinks cutting through the Old Forest is an excellent short cut and who thinks a walk in the dark in a strange town full of Men is a good idea less than 24 hours after being rescued from the Barrow-Wight.





That's the "we can make it work" approach. In a post a few months ago in the CbC thread for this chapter, I think I had the same suspicion you've just voiced.
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Old 03-05-2019, 08:46 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
That's the "we can make it work" approach. In a post a few months ago in the CbC thread for this chapter, I think I had the same suspicion you've just voiced.
Ah, indeed. Quoting from there:

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Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
So either Merry is misrepresenting when the Conspiracy was formed or Sam was not its chief investigator.
I never imagined Sam was their chief investigator. He may have been the chief information gatherer, but I don't see him as the brain and heart of the operation. The brain organizes others, commands others, keeps everyone on track. Can you imagine Book 1 Sam "organizing" Master Merry and Master Peregrin? Even the later Sam might have trouble doing that - though he was the brain of the operations on a couple occasions, and he spoke on equal footing with people much bigger than him in size and title, and of course eventually he becomes a very respectable hobbit. No, Merry is the chief organizer here, but he is trying to give Sam the credit for providing the critical information.

I agree too that they didn't know as much as perhaps Frodo understood them to mean. But they did know or at least suspect "a great deal" of what mattered and made a difference. It doesn't really matter what exactly is the Ring, how it was made, and where it has to go. What matters it that it explains the Baggins disappearance mystery, Gandalf's visits and more than just friendly concern, Frodo's odd behaviour, and that it's time for Frodo's friends to step up and "show their quality". They are overly adventurous hobbits, but they are still hobbits and their concerns are still limited to hobbit stuff. Certainly Merry is in part exaggerating, but I think he really believes his exaggeration because for a hobbit, what more is there to know?
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Old 03-05-2019, 10:14 PM   #5
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Ahh, but Merry also mentions the Enemy. Where did he learn about HIM? Not even the well-educated Frodo knew about him before his little Talk with Gandalf.

Also, what was the "lot of information" that Sam collected before he was "finally" caught? That's a bit like saying "Vasa did a lot of fighting before it was finally sunk."
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Old 03-06-2019, 06:34 AM   #6
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Oh, that part. My understanding was that Sam did report that last chunk of information but went mum since. You're right, it is an assumption I've been making, presumably to explain this contradiction. It's how I read the text, but I guess the text itself does not explain this.
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Old 03-07-2019, 12:08 PM   #7
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I suppose it might depend when Sam made his last "report." We know that, on the day he was caught, Gandalf told Frodo about the Ring.

But we also know, from the same chapter:

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Shadow of the Past
He was smoking now in silence, for Frodo was sitting still, deep in thought. Even in the light of morning he felt the dark shadow of the tidings Gandalf had brought. At last he broke the silence.

"Last night you began to tell me strange things about my ring, Gandalf," he said. "And then you stopped, because you said that such matters were best left until daylight. Don't you think you had better finish now? You say the ring is dangerous, far more dangerous than I guess. In what way?"
Given how the entire chapter from this point on is a complex dump of information new to the reader, I wonder exactly what Frodo DID know at this point, since we as new readers seem to be encountering everything for the first time now, but Gandalf and him clearly talked about something the night before. And, if they did, it is certainly POSSIBLE that Sam overheard it--though we would also have to posit that he reported this information that same night (or very early the following morning).

Again, this is possible--maybe not likely, but it's certainly possible that Pippin could have been at the Green Dragon the night before for that purpose, Tookland being quite close, or any of the conspirators, really.

Speaking of whom, I know that Folco Boffin is really just a name-shadow of Hobbits from the earlier drafts, but he's listed as one of Frodo's friends of as much closeness as Fatty--why isn't he in the conspiracy? Is he just one point shy of levelling up to that? In other words, why these specific four: Frodo's two closest friends, his gardener, and their most timid, creature-comfortly friend?

There are no (obvious) canonical answers, but fertile ground for speculation--or fanfiction?
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Old 03-07-2019, 12:51 PM   #8
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When we are rankly speculating, we can invent any excuse!

Maybe Folco was a blabbermouth and they couldn't trust him to keep the secret.
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Old 12-03-2019, 12:15 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
Ahh, but Merry also mentions the Enemy. Where did he learn about HIM? Not even the well-educated Frodo knew about him before his little Talk with Gandalf.

Also, what was the "lot of information" that Sam collected before he was "finally" caught? That's a bit like saying "Vasa did a lot of fighting before it was finally sunk."
But Sam may have done even if he didn’t fully understand the significance. Who knows what stories of the Elves were told him by Bilbo while he was learning his letters. He knew of Gil-galad and presumably had heard more of the “Fall of Gil-Galad” and found it disturbing enough not to want to commit it to memory.

I think Merry as son of the Master probably was quite well educated though not in the was Frodo was like Bilbo. While most hobbit books were genealogical, anything that wasn’t, was most likely at Great Smials or Brandy Hall. We know he bothered to look at maps and so forth and that Bucklanders were less insular than most. That said, this issue has puzzled me before.
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Old 12-04-2019, 05:04 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
Oh, that part. My understanding was that Sam did report that last chunk of information but went mum since. You're right, it is an assumption I've been making, presumably to explain this contradiction. It's how I read the text, but I guess the text itself does not explain this.
I'd tend to agree with this idea: it was, after all, the collecting that Sam is said to have felt himself on parole from, not the passing on of the information.

To put it another way: Hobbits set a great deal by contracts. Sam had a contract of sorts with the Conspiracy, which he ended once he was discovered. However, to refuse to hand over work already done under the contract at the time of cancellation would be not just to end the contract, but to breach it.

I can very easily imagine Sam squirming in front of the eager Merry and Pippin, saying something like, "And, well... that was when Mister Gandalf caught me, if you take my meaning - by the ear, it was. And it, it don't seem right telling anything they said after that. Meaning no offense, Mister Merry, but the Master's taken me into his confidence now, and I'm not about to break that without his say-so." After which no amount of prodding will get another word out of him.

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Old 12-06-2019, 10:17 AM   #11
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still doesn't work

Quote:
Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
I'd tend to agree with this idea: it was, after all, the collecting that Sam is said to have felt himself on parole from, not the passing on of the information.

To put it another way: Hobbits set a great deal by contracts. Sam had a contract of sorts with the Conspiracy, which he ended once he was discovered. However, to refuse to hand over work already done under the contract at the time of cancellation would be not just to end the contract, but to breach it.

I can very easily imagine Sam squirming in front of the eager Merry and Pippin, saying something like, "And, well... that was when Mister Gandalf caught me, if you take my meaning - by the ear, it was. And it, it don't seem right telling anything they said after that. Meaning no offense, Mister Merry, but the Master's taken me into his confidence now, and I'm not about to break that without his say-so." After which no amount of prodding will get another word out of him.

hS
Frodo: "If you really care about me, you will keep that dead secret. See? If you don't, if you even breathe a word of what you've heard here, then I hope Gandalf will turn you into a toad and fill the garden with grass-snakes."
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Old 12-07-2019, 03:27 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
Ahh, but Merry also mentions the Enemy. Where did he learn about HIM? Not even the well-educated Frodo knew about him before his little Talk with Gandalf.

Also, what was the "lot of information" that Sam collected before he was "finally" caught? That's a bit like saying "Vasa did a lot of fighting before it was finally sunk."
The Red Book mentions the Necromancer, and Frodo had read that, or some of it. My understanding was that Frodo knew of Sauron, but not that he had arisen again.

Ian Holm's Frodo says 'But stories are told of Sauron's fall, long, long ago,' but that was probably an alteration, made to make it more of a conversation and load Gandalf with a little less exposition.
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