Jan 26, 4:32pm
A few thoughts after re-reading, at your invitation.
Come on Inn - and other trivia
1) I suddenly noticed that Frodo's decision to sell Bag End as the chapter opens is said to reach both the Ivy Bush and the Green Dragon. Truth to tell, in all my readings of the book, I'd never noticed that there are two, not one, Shire inns filled with gossips at the beginning of the book.
So, as I found, the Ivy Bush is "on the Bywater Road", and it's the place in Chapter One where the Gaffer and the Miller and others discuss Bilbo's and Frodo's history and affairs in the run-up to the farewell party. The Green Dragon, on the other hand, is in Bywater itself, and it is the place in Chapter Two where Sam and Ted and others discuss what's happened in the Shire in the years since Bilbo's party.
I couldn't help but notice that the first place features the older generation, while the second involves their sons. Presumably this conveys some passage of time, as well as the handing of the story's torch from Bilbo (older "Hobbit" generation) to Frodo (younger "Lord of the Rings" generation).
But why not hammer it home by having both conversations take place in the same Inn, assuming readers are even attentive enough to remember one inn from another (as I was not)? Since this chapter refers to both Inns as recipients of the news of the next part of the plot, are we supposed to think that the Gaffer and Sandyman are still monopolizing the Ivy Bush, while their sons, seeking a way out of their fathers' shadows, have colonized a new hang-out for themselves?
2) Another aspect of the story that I notice today is that Frodo manages to find a way East from his hole to Crickhollow that allows him to travel unnoticed, as Gandalf had originally advised him to do. That is, he crosses the main river valley and Great Road under cover of darkness, and ascends into higher country to the South, said to be on the edge of the Tooklands. From there he heads East on an old, little-used "road" that leads to the Woody End in the Eastfarthing.
So far, so good. But they walk mile after mile through what seems to be wooded country, yet open enough to provide vistas of the more distant lands they are headed towards. The road is too narrow for carts, and there is "little traffic to the Woody End", in explanation for why "they had not met a soul on the road" (except for the fox, of course). There are no farmhouses; there are no woodsmen's huts; there are no fields or meadows; there are no travellers coming in the other direction. In short, in the heart of the Shire, the only place in all of Eriador that is intensively populated and cultivated, there is a perfectly mysterious and hidden semi-wooded and hilly corridor from Hobbiton to the Brandywine River.
I have to assume that, as you've been asking this week, this landscape is inspired by some corners of rural England that Tolkien had tramped in, some part that is actually unfarmed, ungrazed, and unsettled and yet is not considered a "forest" as The Old Forest is.
It's certainly very convenient, and quite reminiscent of most of the rest of the journey: wherever the Company walks on the Road that goes ever on, they never meet anyone who is not directly connected with the plot. Not on the Great Road from the Downs to Rivendell, not in the wild country from Rivendell to Moria, not on the next Great Road from the Morannon to the Crossroads, and not on the dire Road from Udun to Barad-dur.
I accept that this is how Tolkien has built his questing story, but it sometimes gets to me. In this chapter and the next particularly, when they are still in the Shire, I miss the lack of happenstance, of hail-fellow-well-met and how's the weather, of The Hobbit's more realistic transition from "a wide respectable country inhabited by decent folk, with good roads, an inn or two, and now and then a dwarf or a farmer ambling by on business" to "lands where people spoke strangely, and sang songs Bilbo had never heard before" to "the Lone-lands, where there were no people left, no inns, and the roads grew steadily worse". After all, at this point Frodo is not trying to hide from the Shire-folk in order to conceal where or in which direction he is headed, as he and Gandalf had discussed at the beginning of the summer and despite his dislike of "too many eyes prying". His relocation to Buckland is public knowledge and had our three-hobbit company walked along the Great Road, it would or could have been of little consequence. One involuntarily concludes that Frodo is quite simply looking for an adventure right out of the gate.
3) Finally, is it an anachronism that Frodo says "All aboard, Sam?" when Sam emerges from the beer cellar? I associate that phrase with the departure of railroad trains: it's the traditional cry of the conductor warning travelers to get 'aboard' the train before it leaves them far behind. But perhaps it derives from an earlier usage regarding sailing ships in similar circumstances: get "aboard" before the boat leaves the dock? If the latter case is true, that might excuse Frodo from using an English colloquialism of the industrial era, at the expense of assuming there's a hobbit idiom that relates to overseas travel on pre-industrial sailing ships. (Unfortunate desire to check ... and yes, Cirdan says "All is now ready" rather than "All aboard", but then then sure enough, "the Elves were going aboard" the ship at the Havens.)
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