Jan 14 2008, 11:30pm
Welcome to this week’s Reading Room discussion of The Lord of the Rings. We are at Chapter 11, the next to last chapter of Book One. I will be tossing odd questions into the air for anyone to catch. Please feel free to comment on other aspects of the story that interest you!
**A Knife in the Dark** 1. The House at Crickhollow stood silent
Our tale so far: Strider has won the trust of the hobbits, or at least of Frodo, and they have agreed to let him guide them to Rivendell. For the night, fearing an attack by the Black Riders who are known to be in Bree, they will sleep in another room.
But this chapter opens with a quick transition back to the Shire:
As they prepared for sleep in the inn at Bree, darkness lay on Buckland; a mist strayed in the dells and along the river-bank. The house at Crickhollow stood silent. Fatty Bolger opened the door cautiously and peered out. A feeling of fear had been growing on him all day, and he was unable to rest or go to bed: there was a brooding threat in the breathless night-air. As he stared out into the gloom, a black shadow moved under the trees; the gate seemed to open of its own accord and close again without a sound. Terror seized him. He shrank back, and for a moment he stood trembling in the hall. Then he shut and locked the door.
The night deepened. There came the soft sound of horses led with stealth along the lane. Outside the gate they stopped, and three black figures entered, like shades of night creeping across the ground. One went to the door, one to the corner of the house on either side; and there they stood, as still as the shadows of stones, while night went slowly on. The house and the quiet trees seemed to be waiting breathlessly.
There was a faint stir in the leaves, and a cock crowed far away. The cold hour before dawn was passing. The figure by the door moved. In the dark without moon or stars a drawn blade gleamed, as if a chill light had been unsheathed. 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.
A. Who’s point of view is this passage being told from? What effects are achieved by the writing?
B. What do we learn about the Black Riders, their equipment, and their methods, from this passage?
C. “There they stood, as still as the shadows of stones” – comments?
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!
Fatty Bolger had not been idle. As soon as he saw the dark shapes creep from the garden, he knew that he must run for it, or perish. And run he did, out of the back door, through the garden, and over the fields. When he reached the nearest house, more than a mile away, he collapsed on the doorstep. 'No, no, no!' he was crying. 'No, not me! I haven't got it!' It was some time before anyone could make out what he was babbling about. At last they got the idea that enemies were in Buckland, some strange invasion from the Old Forest. And then they lost no more time.
FEAR! FIRE! FOES!
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.
Far-away answering horns were heard. The alarm was spreading. The black figures fled from the house. One of them let fall a hobbit-cloak on the step, as he ran. In the lane the noise of hoofs broke out, and gathering to a gallop, went hammering away into the darkness. All about Crickhollow there was the sound of horns blowing, and voices crying and feet running. But the Black Riders rode like a gale to the North-gate. Let the little people blow! Sauron would deal with them later. 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.
D. How does fire on a hill-top rend the night?
E. If the Horn-call of Buckland has not been sounded for more than a hundred years, how likely is it that everyone in the district immediately “gets the idea that enemies are in Buckland”, “loses no time”, “spreads the alarm”, “cries”, “runs” and generally act like the Home Guard when the Luftwaffe is spotted?
F. How does Fatty’s behavior compare with Merry’s (a true Brandybuck) at Bree that same evening?
G. I thought Sauron does not allow his people to use his “right name” – as Aragorn tells us later on.
H. This has been discussed before, but what the heck have the Black Riders been doing between the evening of the 25th of September, when Frodo crossed the Brandywine with a Rider at his heels, and now which is the early morning of the 30th?
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