Our Sponsor Sideshow Collectibles Send us News
Lord of the Rings Tolkien
Search Tolkien
Lord of The RingsTheOneRing.net - Forged By And For Fans Of JRR Tolkien
Lord of The Rings Serving Middle-Earth Since The First Age

Lord of the Rings Movie News - J.R.R. Tolkien
Do you enjoy the 100% volunteer, not for profit services of TheOneRing.net?
Consider a donation!

  Main Index   Search Posts   Who's Online   Log in
The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Book I, Chapter 11, “A Knife in the Dark”: Are Black Riders Wimps?
First page Previous page 1 2 3 4 5 6 Next page Last page  View All

Curious
Half-elven


Aug 23 2010, 2:02am

Post #1 of 129 (2118 views)
Shortcut
Book I, Chapter 11, “A Knife in the Dark”: Are Black Riders Wimps? Can't Post

Summary
As the hobbits prepare for bed in Bree, Tolkien takes us back to Buckland, where Fatty Bolger is unable to rest in the cottage in Crickhollow because of “a brooding threat in the breathless night-air.” A shadow moves and the gate outside opens and closes of its own accord; Fatty, seized by terror, shuts and locks the door. Three black figures lead their horses stealthily along the lane, then enter – one goes to the front door, and the other two to the corners of the house on either side. They wait there until a cock crows, and then the figure by the door draws a blade and bangs on the door: “'Open, in the name of Mordor!' said a voice thin and menacing.” A second blow breaks the door down and the black figures enter, but at that point a horn rings out: “awake! fear! fire! foes! awake!” Fatty had run out the back door when he first saw the dark shapes, ran a mile to the nearest house, and babbled: “'No, no, no!' he was crying. 'No, not me! I haven't got it!'” His neighbors “got the idea that enemies were in Buckland, some strange invasion from the Old Forest,” and raised the alarm, “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.” The Black Riders fled the house, rode to the North Gate, rode down the guards at the gate and “vanished from the Shire.”

Back in Bree, Frodo wakes as if disturbed, sees Strider awake by the fire, then goes back to sleep and dreams of wind, galloping hoofs, and a horn blowing wildly. He wakes to the sound of a cock crowing in the inn-yard. Strider is awake and pushed back the shutters as the first light of day enters the room. Strider rouses them all and they followed him to their bedrooms. The windows were forced open and the bolsters slashed. Strider fetched Butterbur, who claims he was awake most of the night but never heard a sound. Strider said they would leave, but Butterbur returns with the news that every beast in the stables had vanished when the stable doors were opened in the night. After some discussion, they sit down to breakfast while Bob looks for a pony. Three hours later, they learn that the only pony available is owned by Bill Ferny. Butterbur paid twelve silver pennies for the pony (three times its value) and eighteen pennies to Merry for the lost animals. The narrator tells us that only one horse had been stolen, and the others were found wandering in Bree-land or, in the case of Merry’s ponies, were sent back to Bree by Bombadil after they found Fatty Lumpkin and Bombadil heard what had happened.

The party from the South blamed Butterbur loudly for the loss of their horses until they learned that one of their number, Ferny’s squint-eyed companion, had disappeared. Nobody knew him or could recall when he joined their party.

The hobbits repacked with new supplies then left town among a crowd of spectators. At the last house in the village, dark and ill-kept, Frodo glimpsed a “sallow face with sly, slanting eyes.” Frodo thinks to himself that the southerner “looks more than half like a goblin.” Ferny calls Strider names (Longshanks, Stick-at-naught Strider), and warns Sam not to ill-treat his pony. Sam throws an apple at Ferny and hits him square on the nose. After several miles they leave the road. Strider takes them on a wandering path to lose any pursuit. They headed east and ran into marshes, where flies and tiny midges tormented them with bites, and thousands of cricket-like creatures went neek-breek, breek-neek, unceasingly all night. The fourth day out they left the Neekerbreekers behind but were still pursued by midges.

That night Frodo saw a light flashing and fading many times to the east. Strider said, “‘It is like lightning that leaps up from the hill-tops.’” Frodo eventually fell asleep as Strider stood and watched. On the fifth day they left the marshes as the land steadily rose towards a line of hills. To the right and a little separated they saw the highest of the hills, conical with a slightly-flattened summit. Strider says it is Weathertop, says the Road runs just south of it, and debates whether to head toward it. He notes that it is unlikely they will find Gandalf there, and just as likely that they will find the Riders or their spies, looking for them from the top of the hill. He finally decides they should head to the hills and approach Weathertop from the north, less openly.

The next night they set a watch, and “Strider, it seemed, did not sleep at all.” Nevertheless, the next day the “hobbits felt refreshed, as if they had had a night of unbroken sleep.” As he tightens his belt Frodo says,


Quote
‘I hope the thinning process will not go on indefinitely, or I shall become a wraith.'

'Do not speak of such things!' said Strider quickly, and with surprising earnestness.



They see a ridge often rising to near a thousand feet. Along the crest they see “remains of green-grown walls and dikes” and in the clefts “ruins of old works of stone.” They follow a path running south along the westward slopes which cunningly screens the travellers from view, in some cases by following “lines of large boulders and hewn stones.” Merry says the path reminds him of the barrows and asks if there is a barrow on Weathertop. Strider says no, the Men of the West did not live here, although they did defend the hills against Angmar for a while. The path, he says, was made to serve the forts along the walls. But there was a watch tower on Weathertop or Amon Sûl long before that. Now all that remains of the tower is a tumbled ring, “like a rough crown on the old hill’s head.” Strider says it is told that Elendil watched from the tower for the coming of Gil-galad out of the West in the days of the Last Alliance.

Merry asks who is Gil-galad and Strider does not answer, but Sam does:


Quote
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.



The others were amazed that Sam knew this lore. Sam blushes and says he learned it from Mr. Bilbo, who wrote it. Strider says Bilbo did not make it up, but must have translated it. Strider adds “‘I never knew that.’”

Sam says there is much more about going to Mordor, and adds “‘I never thought I should be going that way myself!’” Pippin cries “‘Going to Mordor! I hope it won't come to that!’” Strider says “‘Do not speak that name so loudly!’”

Finally they reach Weathertop and decide to “make for the top at once” although “[c]oncealment was not longer possible” and “there was no sign of [Gandalf].” Sam and Pippin remain below with the pony and packs. The hill-top, a ring of crumbled stone with a cairn of rocks in the middle, appears “swept by flame.”

Merry says there is no sign of Gandalf, but Strider finds a stone at the top of the cairn which appears to have escaped the fire and has scratches which might be a G-rune and three strokes, which might mean Gandalf was there on October third, or three days ago, and was in a hurry and in danger, since he couldn’t leave a better message. Rangers also use runes, but Strider recalls the light they saw three days ago, and guesses that Gandalf was attacked.

Frodo asks how far it is to Rivendell and Strider cannot say. He can only say that it would at best take him twelve days to reach the Ford of Bruinen, but that it will take them at least a fortnight since they cannot use the Road.

Frodo becomes aware of two black specks approaching from the west and three others approaching from the east. Following Strider’s lead, they all lay flat, and now they peer out through a cleft in the ring of stones. Strider confirms that “‘The enemy is here!’”

They walk back down the hill to rejoin Sam and “Peregrin,” who had found a spring and traces of a fire and camp and a neat stack of firewood. They had also found recent footprints, “not more than a day or two old.” Strider examines the mud and says Sam and Pippin have spoilt or confused the tracks. Rangers left the wood but more recent tracks seem to have been made by many booted feet. The hobbits all think of booted Riders, and Sam suggests leaving. Strider cannot think of a better place to go before nightfall. The Road is watched, and the north side of the Road beyond the hills is bare and open for miles. Heading north along the hills will not improve their position.

Merry asks if the Riders can see, and Strider says:


Quote
… the black horses can see, and the Riders can use men and other creatures as spies … our shapes cast shadows in their minds, which only the noon sun destroys … in the dark they perceive many signs and forms that are hidden from us … at all times they smell the blood of living things … [w]e can feel their presence - it troubled our hearts … they feel ours more keenly … the Ring draws them.'



Frodo asks if there is any escape, and Strider says there is hope. He suggests building a fire since the Riders fear those who wield it. Sam mutters that “‘It is also as good a way of saying "here we are" as I can think of, bar shouting.’”

So they light a fire and prepare a frugal supper. Frodo worries about food, and Strider says he can find or hunt it, but that takes time, so they need to ration what they have.

As it grew colder the hobbits “huddled round the fire, wrapped in every garment and blanket they possessed; but Strider was content with a single cloak, and sat a little apart, drawing thoughtfully at his pipe.” Strider began to tell tales to keep their minds from fear. Merry asks about Gil-galad, and at Strider’s prompting Frodo begins to tell what he knows of the Last Alliance, but Strider says the tale should wait. Sam asks for something about elves and Strider tells “‘the tale of Tinúviel,’” chanting softly:


Quote
The leaves were long, the grass was green,
The hemlock-umbels tall and fair,
And in the glade a light was seen
Of stars in shadow shimmering.
Tinúviel was dancing there
To music of a pipe unseen,
And light of stars was in her hair,
And in her raiment glimmering.
There Beren came from mountains cold,
And lost he wandered under leaves,
And where the Elven-river rolled
He walked alone and sorrowing.
He peered between the hemlock-leaves
And saw in wander flowers of gold
Upon her mantle and her sleeves,
And her hair like shadow following.
Enchantment healed his weary feet
That over hills were doomed to roam;
And forth he hastened, strong and fleet,
And grasped at moonbeams glistening.
Through woven woods in Elvenhome
She tightly fled on dancing feet,
And left him lonely still to roam
In the silent forest listening.
He heard there oft the flying sound
Of feet as light as linden-leaves,
Or music welling underground,
In hidden hollows quavering.
Now withered lay the hemlock-sheaves,
And one by one with sighing sound
Whispering fell the beechen leaves
In the wintry woodland wavering.
He sought her ever, wandering far
Where leaves of years were thickly strewn,
By light of moon and ray of star
In frosty heavens shivering.
Her mantle glinted in the moon,
As on a hill-top high and far
She danced, and at her feet was strewn
A mist of silver quivering.
When winter passed, she came again,
And her song released the sudden spring,
Like rising lark, and falling rain,
And melting water bubbling.
He saw the elven-flowers spring
About her feet, and healed again
He longed by her to dance and sing
Upon the grass untroubling.
Again she fled, but swift he came.
Tinúviel! Tinúviel!
He called her by her elvish name;
And there she halted listening.
One moment stood she, and a spell
His voice laid on her: Beren came,
And doom fell on Tinúviel
That in his arms lay glistening.
As Beren looked into her eyes
Within the shadows of her hair,
The trembling starlight of the skies
He saw there mirrored shimmering.
Tinúviel the elven-fair,
Immortal maiden elven-wise,
About him cast her shadowy hair
And arms like silver glimmering.
Long was the way that fate them bore,
O'er stony mountains cold and grey,
Through halls of iron and darkling door,
And woods of nightshade morrowless.
The Sundering Seas between them lay,
And yet at last they met once more,
And long ago they passed away
In the forest singing sorrowless.



Strider says the translation is a rough echo of the original song “‘in the mode that is called ann-thennath among the Elves.’”:


Quote
‘It tells of the meeting of Beren son of Barahir and Lúthien Tinúviel. Beren was a mortal man, but Lúthien was the daughter of Thingol, a King of Elves upon Middle-earth when the world was young; and she was the fairest maiden that has ever been among all the children of this world. As the stars above the mists of the Northern lands was her loveliness, and in her face was a shining light. In those days the Great Enemy, of whom Sauron of Mordor was but a servant, dwelt in Angband in the North, and the Elves of the West coming back to Middle-earth made war upon him to regain the Silmarils which he had stolen; and the fathers of Men aided the Elves. But the Enemy was victorious and Barahir was slain, and Beren escaping through great peril came over the Mountains of Terror into the hidden Kingdom of Thingol in the forest of Neldoreth. There he beheld Lúthien singing and dancing in a glade beside the enchanted river Esgalduin; and he named her Tinúviel, that is Nightingale in the language of old. Many sorrows befell them afterwards, and they were parted long. Tinúviel rescued Beren from the dungeons of Sauron, and together they passed through great dangers, and cast down even the Great Enemy from his throne, and took from his iron crown one of the three Silmarils, brightest of all jewels, to be the bride-price of Lúthien to Thingol her father. Yet at the last Beren was slain by the Wolf that came from the gates of Angband, and he died in the arms of Tinúviel. But she chose mortality, and to die from the world, so that she might follow him; and it is sung that they met again beyond the Sundering Seas, and after a brief time walking alive once more in the green woods, together they passed, long ago, beyond the confines of this world. So it is that Lúthien Tinúviel alone of the Elf-kindred has died indeed and left the world, and they have lost her whom they most loved. But from her the lineage of the Elf-lords of old descended among Men. There live still those of whom Lúthien was the foremother, and it is said that her line shall never fail. Elrond of Rivendell is of that Kin. For of Beren and Lúthien was born Dior Thingol's heir; and of him Elwing the White whom Eärendil wedded, he that sailed his ship out of the mists of the world into the seas of heaven with the Silmaril upon his brow. And of Eärendil came the Kings of Númenor, that is Westernesse.’



As the story ends the hobbits see the waxing moon rise over Weathertop. They also see something dark on top of the hill. Sam walks away from the fire then comes running back saying he could feel something creeping up the slope. Merry says he thought he saw two or three black shapes moving this way. Strider instructs them to keep close to the fire with faces outward, and to get some of the longer sticks ready in their hands.

After a tense wait, they see three or four tall black figures looking down on them, slowly advancing. Pippin and Merry fall flat in terror. Sam shrinks close to Frodo. Frodo is equally terrified, but “his terror was swallowed up in a sudden temptation to put on the Ring.” He does so not with the hope of escape but simply because he must.


Quote
Immediately, though everything else remained as before, dim and dark, the shapes became terribly clear. He was able to see beneath their black wrappings. There were five tall figures: two standing on the lip of the dell, three advancing. In their white faces burned keen and merciless eyes; under their mantles were long grey robes; upon their grey hairs were helms of silver; in their haggard hands were swords of steel. Their eyes fell on him and pierced him, as they rushed towards him. Desperate, he drew his own sword, and it seemed to him that it flickered red, as if it was a firebrand. Two of the figures halted. The third was taller than the others: his hair was long and gleaming and on his helm was a crown. In one hand he held a long sword, and in the other a knife; both the knife and the hand that held it glowed with a pale light. He sprang forward and bore down on Frodo.

At that moment Frodo threw himself forward on the ground, and he heard himself crying aloud: O Elbereth! Gilthoniel! At the same time he struck at the feet of his enemy. A shrill cry rang out in the night; and he felt a pain like a dart of poisoned ice pierce his left shoulder. Even as he swooned he caught, as through a swirling mist, a glimpse of Strider leaping out of the darkness with a flaming brand of wood in either hand. With a last effort Frodo, dropping his sword, slipped the Ring from his finger and closed his right hand tight upon it.



Analysis

The chapter opens with activity in Buckland which apparently takes place the same night as the activity in Bree. But the timing is tricky. We leave Bree as the hobbits prepare for bed, but the attack in Crickhollow takes place around dawn, as the first cock crows. Apparently Fatty sees the Riders and flees early in the evening, yet the alarm does not sound until after dawn. Then we return to Bree, where Frodo wakes up well before dawn, and has troubled dreams until he wakes again at dawn. Apparently Frodo dreams of the attack before it happens.

The timing is even trickier because Tolkien narrates the action out of chronological order: hobbits in Bree preparing for bed, Fatty in Crickhollow can’t sleep, Riders attack at dawn, flashback to Fatty fleeing, jump forward to the Riders leaving Buckland, then jump back as we return to Frodo in Bree well before dawn. By jumbling the chronology, Tolkien first makes us think Fatty is in danger by not revealing that he has fled, then finishes with the action in Buckland before moving on to the action in Bree, even if that means he has to jump back in time when we return to Frodo in Bree.

What is the strategy of the Black Riders? Why wait for days to attack in Crickhollow? Why move in and out of Fatty’s front yard invisibly, yet visibly open and close the gate? Why don’t they cover the back door? Why stand there all night waiting until dawn to attack when they are best at night? Why yell “‘Open, in the name of Mordor,’” when it takes two blows to knock down the door? Maybe Tolkien answers these questions in Unfinished Tales, “The Hunt for the Ring,” but I doubt it. I find that it’s best not to examine the actions of the Black Riders too closely.

Also, if the Horn-call of Buckland hasn’t been sounded for a hundred years, how did anyone recognize it? Do they have regular drills?

Strider goes without sleep at least three times in this chapter, by my count – once in Bree, and again the fourth and fifth nights out of Bree. It’s quite possible that he goes without sleep the other nights as well, since the narrator never mentions him sleeping. The seventh night out, if I calculate it correctly, they fight the Black Riders. How can Strider operate without sleep?

Back to Bree, how did Ferny and Harry and the Southerner enter the hobbits’ bedrooms and stab the bolsters and enter the stables and let loose the horses and ponies without waking anyone, including Strider and Butterbur and Bob and Nob, who were all alert for attack? Magic seems like the only explanation.

Butterbur pays twelve silver pennies for Bill Ferny’s pony and eighteen pennies to Merry for the lost animals. Any significance to the thirty pieces of silver, the price Judas was paid to betray Jesus? I like to look for subtle Christian allusions as much as anyone, but this one I find a stretch.

But as far as I recall, this is the last time anyone refers to money at all. Why is that? Do the elves use money? Is Rohan a barter-based society? Would money feel out of place? Surely Gondor uses money, right? Were there references to money I haven’t recalled?

Or are the Shire and Bree more commercial, capitalistic, money-based societies than the rest of Middle-earth? Is this part of the time-travel aspect of LotR, where, as we leave the Shire and Bree, we move backwards in time to less commercial societies? I don’t mean that the characters are moving backwards in time, I mean that the reader feels like he or she is moving backwards in time.

We can either attribute this to Tolkien’s various historical inspirations, or go with Tolkien’s explanation in the appendices that as a translator he has chosen to modernize the Shire and Bree. Either way, the societies of Bree and the Shire feel more familiar than those of Rohan and Gondor, including the free exchange of money.

However, the specific reference to silver pennies, and to 12 pennies as a high price for a pony, makes the penny in Bree sound as valuable as it might have been far back in history. Even between the Shire and Bree I detect a shift in historical inspirations, with Bree reminiscent of an earlier time period than the Shire, before post offices and umbrellas and mantle clocks.

How did Bombadil hear what happened in Bree? How did he send the ponies back to Butterbur? Through a Ranger, perhaps?

There’s some foreshadowing, as Frodo glimpses a “sallow face with sly, slanting eyes” and thinks to himself that the southerner “looks more than half like a goblin.” This description makes me uncomfortable, since it sounds like a stereotype of an Asian race, but it also contradicts other discomforting descriptions of orcs as dark-skinned or apish. Some have theorized that there are different races of orcs and goblins, with the “maggots” of the Misty Mountains being pale, while the Mordor races are darker. As usual, Tolkien does not give detailed physical descriptions, and those he gives are not consistent. But in the rare situations where he does describe goblins and orcs and half-orcs, he has an unfortunate tendency to use the language found in ugly racial stereotypes.

Ferny clearly means “Strider” and the similar name “Longshanks” as insults, and Butterbur did not use the names as terms of affection. It’s significant, then, that Strider will later adopt a translation of Strider, “Telcontar,” as his house name. It may be a tribute to the four hobbits who first came to know him as Strider, and for whom it did become a term of affection. Or it may be King Elessar’s way of reminding Gondor of his northern origins, and showing that he was not in any way ashamed of his past.

Tolkien writes about hiking, including the less pleasant parts, like one who lived it. I would imagine he liked walking in the countryside, just like Bilbo and Frodo did. And from time to time he ran into annoying insects. He may also have drawn on his experience in World War I. I doubt, however, that Tolkien ever hiked for months at a time, and that may account for the lack of detail regarding provisions.

There’s some more foreshadowing, as Frodo tightens his belt and jokes about becoming a wraith, and Strider rebukes him sharply.

Note that the wall along the ridge incorporates dikes along the crests and stonework in the clefts. This is not the Great Wall of China. The ruins in the North Kingdom, with the exception of the Elven towers, are not nearly as impressive as the ruins in Gondor. And if Angmar was capable of destroying the Elven watchtower on Weathertop, it seems unlikely that ruder walls would do much good.

Strider lets slip a comment about Elendil watching for Gil-galad on the watchtower of Amon Sûl, which naturally prompts Merry to ask who is Gil-galad. Surprisingly, not Strider or Frodo but Sam answers with a poem he learned from Bilbo.

Tolkien’s poem about Gil-galad has a simple beat and rhyme scheme, four beats to a line and six couplets. If we ignore the subject matter, I don’t find the beat or rhyme interesting. In fact, if I read an epic made up of four beat lines and rhyming couplets, I think it would quickly get annoying. Compare this to the complexity of a sonnet, or to the complexity of Tolkien’s own poem about Earendil the Mariner, and the difference becomes obvious. This is a ditty, written without much noticeable effort, I judge, but excused as a translation from a far more beautiful Elven original.

The subject matter, however, is intriguing, particularly because we learn so little, and when Frodo is on the verge of explaining more Strider stops him. Some may turn back to Frodo’s prior conversations with Gandalf for more information, but the real story of the Last Alliance will come from Elrond, who was there. So this is more foreshadowing.

Tolkien drops a couple of more hints here. First, Strider says he never knew that Bilbo translated this poem, indicating that he knows Bilbo and his other translations. Few will catch that hint on first reading. Second, Sam speaks of going to Mordor, even though the supposed goal is just Rivendell. In hindsight it appears quite possible that Sam perceives what Frodo must do, and has already determined that he will go where Frodo goes, to the Cracks of Doom in Mordor. Pippin, on the other hand, does not perceive this at all, and does not understand why Sam is talking this way.

Strider is nervous about the hobbits saying the word “Mordor” so loudly. Is he worried that it will summon the servants of Mordor? He doesn’t say “be quiet” in general – he specifically asks that they stop saying the word “Mordor” so loudly. Maybe he just doesn’t like the reminder.

Strider later admits that he makes a mistake on Weathertop, but it’s a huge mistake that I find hard to excuse. Maybe it’s worth it to look for a sign from Gandalf, especially after they see the light in the sky three days earlier. But they could be much more subtle about it. Once they reach the top of the hill they could set a watch, and stand as little as possible. Maybe they still would have been discovered, but they could have been less obvious.

Furthermore, I find it strange that Strider blames Sam and Pippin for messing up tracks before he could take a closer look. Maybe he should have looked before climbing the hill, or maybe he should have warned the hobbits not to mess up any tracks.

Then there’s the puzzling decision to start a bonfire so that the Black Riders would be certain to find them. Is a fire really the best solution to the problem?

To me it feels like Tolkien is determined to set up a confrontation between the Riders and the hobbits, and therefore artificially restricts what Strider can do. Ironically, the hobbits carry blades that would be very effective against the Riders, but no one knows that, except perhaps the Riders.

This is a small point, but it bugs me. If it takes Strider twelve days to travel from Weathertop to the Ford of Bruinen on the Road, why would it take the hobbits only a fortnight (fourteen days) to do the same trip off of the Road? Wouldn’t Strider need fourteen days cross country if he were alone? Don’t the hobbits slow Strider down significantly? This is one of many places Tolkien seems to ignore the difference between short-strided hobbits and long-strided men.

When Strider confirms that the enemy is here and they head back down the hill, for some reason Tolkien refers to Sam and “Peregrin.” Why “Peregrin”? Granted, that’s his name, but we almost never hear it, and I don’t understand why we hear it here. And it’s not Samwise and Peregrin, it’s Sam and Peregrin.

Strider describes the perceptions of the Riders in the most frightening terms. Let me list the ways:

The black horses can see.

The Riders can use men and other creatures as spies.

Our shapes cast shadows in their minds.

In the dark they perceive many signs and forms that are hidden from us.

At all times they smell the blood of living things.

They feel our presence keenly.

The Ring draws them.

No wonder Frodo reacts with fright! And, perhaps, no wonder Strider decides against trying to flee. At least confronting the Riders has the advantage of novelty. Perhaps Strider suspected how infrequently they were confronted.

Strider does not seem as cold as the hobbits. Perhaps it is due to large body mass, or perhaps the hobbits are cold with fear, or perhaps Strider is simply used to the cold.

Now we get an interesting interlude in which Strider tells the entire tale of Beren son of Barahir and Lúthien Tinúviel, albeit in abbreviated form. It starts with a poem which boasts a much more complex rhyme scheme than the ditty about Gil-galad, although it still incorporates a simple four beats per line. I’ve attempted to show the complex rhyme scheme below:


Quote
The leaves were long, the grass was green, A
The hemlock-umbels tall and fair, B
And in the glade a light was seen A
Of stars in shadow shimmering. CA
Tinúviel was dancing there B
To music of a pipe unseen, A
And light of stars was in her hair, B
And in her raiment glimmering. CA

There Beren came from mountains cold, D
And lost he wandered under leaves, E
And where the Elven-river rolled D
He walked alone and sorrowing. CB
He peered between the hemlock-leaves E
And saw in wander flowers of gold D
Upon her mantle and her sleeves, E
And her hair like shadow following. CB

Enchantment healed his weary feet F
That over hills were doomed to roam; G
And forth he hastened, strong and fleet, F
And grasped at moonbeams glistening. CD
Through woven woods in Elvenhome G
She tightly fled on dancing feet, F
And left him lonely still to roam G
In the silent forest listening. CD

He heard there oft the flying sound H
Of feet as light as linden-leaves, E
Or music welling underground, H
In hidden hollows quavering. CE
Now withered lay the hemlock-sheaves, E
And one by one with sighing sound H
Whispering fell the beechen leaves E
In the wintry woodland wavering. CE

He sought her ever, wandering far I
Where leaves of years were thickly strewn, J
By light of moon and ray of star I
In frosty heavens shivering. CF
Her mantle glinted in the moon, J
As on a hill-top high and far I
She danced, and at her feet was strewn J
A mist of silver quivering. CF

When winter passed, she came again, K
And her song released the sudden spring, C
Like rising lark, and falling rain, K
And melting water bubbling. CG
He saw the elven-flowers spring C
About her feet, and healed again K
He longed by her to dance and sing C
Upon the grass untroubling. CG

Again she fled, but swift he came. L
Tinúviel! Tinúviel! M
He called her by her elvish name; L
And there she halted listening. CD
One moment stood she, and a spell M
His voice laid on her: Beren came, L
And doom fell on Tinúviel M
That in his arms lay glistening. CD

As Beren looked into her eyes N
Within the shadows of her hair, B
The trembling starlight of the skies N
He saw there mirrored shimmering. CA
Tinúviel the elven-fair, B
Immortal maiden elven-wise, N
About him cast her shadowy hair B
And arms like silver glimmering. CA

Long was the way that fate them bore, O
O'er stony mountains cold and grey, P
Through halls of iron and darkling door, O
And woods of nightshade morrowless. QA
The Sundering Seas between them lay, P
And yet at last they met once more, O
And long ago they passed away P
In the forest singing sorrowless. QA



Again Strider says that the translation is but a “rough echo” of the original. Strider has been subtly introducing Elvish names into the conversation, and here he adds another Elvish word, noting that the original song was “‘in the mode that is called ann-thennath among the Elves.’” Then Strider summarizes the entire story of Beren and Lúthien in one long paragraph. Let me try rephrasing it as free verse:


Quote
‘It tells of the meeting of Beren son of Barahir and Lúthien Tinúviel.

Beren was a mortal man,
but Lúthien was the daughter of Thingol,
a King of Elves upon Middle-earth when the world was young;
and she was the fairest maiden that has ever been among all the children of this world.

As the stars above the mists of the Northern lands was her loveliness,
and in her face was a shining light.

In those days the Great Enemy,
of whom Sauron of Mordor was but a servant,
dwelt in Angband in the North,
and the Elves of the West coming back to Middle-earth made war upon him to regain the Silmarils which he had stolen;
and the fathers of Men aided the Elves.

But the Enemy was victorious and Barahir was slain,
and Beren escaping through great peril came over the Mountains of Terror into the hidden Kingdom of Thingol in the forest of Neldoreth.

There he beheld Lúthien singing and dancing in a glade beside the enchanted river Esgalduin;
and he named her Tinúviel,
that is Nightingale in the language of old.

Many sorrows befell them afterwards,
and they were parted long.

Tinúviel rescued Beren from the dungeons of Sauron,
and together they passed through great dangers,
and cast down even the Great Enemy from his throne,
and took from his iron crown one of the three Silmarils,
brightest of all jewels,
to be the bride-price of Lúthien to Thingol her father.

Yet at the last Beren was slain by the Wolf that came from the gates of Angband,
and he died in the arms of Tinúviel.

But she chose mortality,
and to die from the world,
so that she might follow him;
and it is sung that they met again beyond the Sundering Seas,
and after a brief time walking alive once more in the green woods,
together they passed,
long ago,
beyond the confines of this world.

So it is that Lúthien Tinúviel alone of the Elf-kindred has died indeed and left the world,
and they have lost her whom they most loved.

But from her the lineage of the Elf-lords of old descended among Men.

There live still those of whom Lúthien was the foremother,
and it is said that her line shall never fail.

Elrond of Rivendell is of that Kin.

For of Beren and Lúthien was born Dior Thingol's heir;
and of him Elwing the White whom Eärendil wedded,
he that sailed his ship out of the mists of the world into the seas of heaven with the Silmaril upon his brow.

And of Eärendil came the Kings of Númenor, that is Westernesse.’



What Strider of course does not reveal is that he also comes of that lineage, and that he is attempting to recreate the feat of Beren, winning the hand of a later-day Lúthien. But this poem means something to Frodo and Sam, as well, for just as Beren and Lúthien entered Angband and took a Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown, a Silmaril which later proved significant in Morgoth’s defeat, so Frodo and Sam will enter Mordor and defeat Sauron. Yes, Beren and Lúthien were far more powerful than Frodo and Sam, but their success was perhaps just as unlikely. It is perhaps the only story from The Silmarillion which is full of hope, and a story to which Tolkien will return many times during LotR. In contrast, in LotR he rarely mentions Turin or Feanor, and then only in contexts which do not reveal their tragedies.

The Riders kindly wait for Strider to finish his story before attacking. The waxing moon shines brightly on the attack – that’s a good omen, and may have something to do with Frodo’s narrow escape. Other than Frodo, the hobbits are all paralyzed by terror. Frodo would be paralyzed too, except for the strong temptation to put on the Ring, which sends him into motion. The temptation to put on the Ring actually seems to counteract the terror inspired by the Riders and therefore, ironically, may help Frodo in some way, for he is able to act in ways the other hobbits are not.

Frodo no longer thinks the Ring will hide him, but still cannot resist putting it on. Although Tolkien calls it a temptation, it’s hard to see what is tempting about it. It seems more like a command or a possession. I will again reformat what happens next as free verse:


Quote
Immediately,
though everything else remained as before,
dim and dark,
the shapes became terribly clear.

He was able to see beneath their black wrappings.

There were five tall figures:
two standing on the lip of the dell,
three advancing.

In their white faces burned keen and merciless eyes;
under their mantles were long grey robes;
upon their grey hairs were helms of silver;
in their haggard hands were swords of steel.

Their eyes fell on him and pierced him,
as they rushed towards him.

Desperate,
he drew his own sword,
and it seemed to him that it flickered red,
as if it was a firebrand.

Two of the figures halted.

The third was taller than the others:
his hair was long and gleaming and on his helm was a crown.

In one hand he held a long sword,
and in the other a knife;
both the knife and the hand that held it glowed with a pale light.

He sprang forward and bore down on Frodo.



At that moment Frodo threw himself forward on the ground,
and he heard himself crying aloud:
O Elbereth!
Gilthoniel!


At the same time he struck at the feet of his enemy.

A shrill cry rang out in the night;
and he felt a pain like a dart of poisoned ice pierce his left shoulder.

Even as he swooned he caught,
as through a swirling mist,
a glimpse of Strider leaping out of the darkness with a flaming brand of wood in either hand.

With a last effort Frodo,
dropping his sword,
slipped the Ring from his finger and closed his right hand tight upon it.



There are some possible explanations for the retreat of the Riders in these two paragraphs. First, when he drew his Barrow Blade it flickered red, and two of the three advancing Riders halted. Why did Frodo ignore Strider and draw his blade? Probably out of ignorance and disbelief that they were immune to blades, but as it happens Frodo’s Barrow Blade may well scare the Riders.

Second, he “heard himself crying aloud: ‘O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!’” As Strider later comments, it is good to call upon Elbereth in such a moment. We don’t get many details about Elbereth in LotR, but we do gradually learn that she is a Powerful Lady and may listen to those who call on her for help. We learn more, of course, in The Silmarillion.

Third, Frodo stabs at the Rider (presumably the Witchking, with the crown on his head) and misses, but may throw off his opponent’s aim. Fourth, Strider attacks with firebrands (what took him so long?), and fifth, Frodo finds the strength to take off the Ring.

All this being said, I still find it disconcerting that the Riders retreat from four prostrate hobbits and a man armed with nothing but burning sticks. Okay, maybe they aren’t used to anyone like Strider, but this is their best chance to take the Ring. I would love to be a fly on the wall hearing them explain to Sauron why they retreated. Even if Frodo had turned into a wraith, why would they think his companions would allow him to bring them the Ring? They just drove off Gandalf, they know Rivendell is not far, they must realize that if they give the hobbits a chance they may find more help – and indeed that is what happens. And as hinted here and confirmed later, just three nights ago the Nine drove off Gandalf in his full lightning-bolt/fireball-throwing mode. So why couldn’t they drive off Strider and take the Ring?

I can try to explain it to myself, but when I do so I feel like I’m venturing into fan fiction. I just think this is a rare situation where Tolkien did not ever really explain what happened, or offer enough hints that what happened feels right. This probably does not puzzle the first-time reader, but only those who read the text more than once and try to piece together all the puzzles in the text. Most of them hold together superbly, as we see foreshadowing and hints throughout. But this puzzle I have never been able to figure out just based on the text. I always find myself having to add something not in the text.

Also note that we are on Chapter Eleven, and finally we see a brief confrontation with the Enemy. And I do mean brief – just one stab in the last two paragraphs. Before this we had Frodo cutting the arm off the Wight, and Tom rescuing the hobbits from the Willow and the Wight. So far, there’s not much fighting. The first-time reader may wonder if this will be the pace throughout. It won’t – the pace will pick up considerably at times – but Tolkien never emphasizes the actual fighting. Instead he focuses on the build-up and the aftermath of each confrontation, and when there is mass fighting he focuses on one or two melees in the crowd.


Lord of Magic
Bree

Aug 23 2010, 2:20pm

Post #2 of 129 (1290 views)
Shortcut
My own thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
What is the strategy of the Black Riders?

Their actions are very strange. Maybe the reason for the dawn attack is because they just arrived??


Quote
Also, if the Horn-call of Buckland hasn’t been sounded for a hundred years, how did anyone recognize it? Do they have regular drills?

Buckland always seemed to me to be a bit more vigilant than the other hobbiton lands. Most likely with the Forest so near, they were constantly reminded that they needed to be ready for trouble.


Quote
How can Strider operate without sleep?

You usually don't read when people sleep...it's assumed. But I think Tolkien is saying that Rangers are certainly hardier than regular folk. Remember what Aragorn says when they enter Rohan in pursuit of the Uruk-hai "I feel weary...as no Ranger ought to feel" or something to that effect.


Quote
But as far as I recall, this is the last time anyone refers to money at all.

Pippin does, when he's looking around Minas Tirith I believe. But I wouldn't be surprised to find that elves don't use money at all. We know that men and hobbits do, and certainly the dwarves would.


Quote
How did Bombadil hear what happened in Bree?

My guess is that the ponies told him. Bombadil seems the type that he can get word from the creatures, probably just like Radagast the Brown. And the creatures follow his instructions, so the ponies most likely returned on their own...

Former Duke of Stardock, Overseer of the Paraphysical Army of Tokidoki, High Mage in Service to King Lyam conDoin I of Rillanon, The Absolute Lord, Ruler, and Sovereign of all Tokidoki.

The White Dragon and Arnölé, The Lord of All Magic


Jerene
Registered User

Aug 23 2010, 2:51pm

Post #3 of 129 (1312 views)
Shortcut
Horn calls, commerce, and Wimpy Black Riders [In reply to] Can't Post

Great discussion points. My thoughts on a few of them.

Also, if the Horn-call of Buckland hasn’t been sounded for a hundred years, how did anyone recognize it? Do they have regular drills?

And how did anyone know how to sound the previously unheard Horn-call of Buckland? I would imagine it takes some practice. And since the Horn-call specifically mentions "fire", one would assume it is also used to call hobbits to aide in non-enemy fire emergencies, which probably had occurred in the last one hundred years. One would expect one or two barn fires each couple of years or so, with all the grain that would need to be stored and the use of lanterns. I suppose it was a slight story-telling exaggeration. Never heard in an actual, enemy-invading emergency, but has been heard while teaching the Horn-call, practicing the Horn-call, and in a few non-enemy fire situations. But that explanation would not be nearly as effective in describing how rare it was to have an enemy invasion in Buckland.

Butterbur pays twelve silver pennies for Bill Ferny’s pony and eighteen pennies to Merry for the lost animals. Any significance to the thirty pieces of silver, the price Judas was paid to betray Jesus? I like to look for subtle Christian allusions as much as anyone, but this one I find a stretch.

I also find that a stretch. It does serve to illustrate the over-charging done by Bill Ferny. If eighteen pennies is a fair price for Merry's five ponies (3.6 pennies per pony), who were all in good health, then twelve pennies for one bony pony is outrageous.

Third, Frodo stabs at the Rider (presumably the Witchking, with the crown on his head) and misses, but may throw off his opponent’s aim. Fourth, Strider attacks with firebrands (what took him so long?)

Why did it take Strider so long? The only thought I had was that after Frodo put on the ring, he was invisible to Strider, and perhaps Strider was afraid of accidentally setting him on fire. That would be hard to explain to Bilbo, Gandalf and Elrond in Rivendell, wouldn't it? Once Frodo cried out, Strider knew where he was and could attack. Or maybe Strider was waving his fiery brands about the entire time, but Frodo did not notice until he was falling because he was focusing on the black riders and was in the shadowy world after putting on the ring. It also seems to be one of those events that takes some time to describe, but probably was only a matter of a few minutes once the black riders advanced.

All this being said, I still find it disconcerting that the Riders retreat from four prostrate hobbits and a man armed with nothing but burning sticks. Okay, maybe they aren’t used to anyone like Strider, but this is their best chance to take the Ring. I would love to be a fly on the wall hearing them explain to Sauron why they retreated.

Very strange. No really good explanation for this behavior, either. It may be that Sauron instructed the Black Riders to refrain from physically taking the ring, but to stab the current ring bearer with a Morgul blade, so that he would be turned to a wraith and would then have to take the ring to Sauron. From the speech of the Black Riders at the ford, they clearly intended to take Frodo back to Mordor with them. Sauron's instructions, then, could be based on his overwhelming desire to not just recover the ring, but torture the person who had been keeping the ring from him. It would be smarter and cleaner to just get the ring back, but that would be consistent with Sauron's later inability to understand the goal of trying to destroy the ring. He also could be afraid of allowing one of his Black Riders to carry the ring, but I believe Tolkien says that if the Black Riders had recovered the ring from Frodo at the Cracks of Doom, they would have carried the ring to Sauron, so that really doesn't fit. In any case, the Black Riders probably retreated because they believed Frodo had been stabbled close enough to the heart to make him turn to a wraith in a very short time, which it appears he would have done had he been a man instead of a hobbit.

Even if Frodo had turned into a wraith, why would they think his companions would allow him to bring them the Ring?

Yes, why wouldn't they worry about one of the companions simply removing the ring before the wraith-process was completed. In fact, why didn't Strider have one of the other hobbits carry the ring if he was afraid of Frodo becoming a wraith and taking the ring to Sauron? I know he would not want to carry it himself because, although he was able to either not feel or not succumb to any temptation to take the ring, he (like Gandalf and Galadriel) would know that handling the ring would be too big a risk for someone more powerful. Perhaps he was afraid having one of the hobbits take the ring would cause Frodo to lose his mind or succumb more quickly to the blade-fragment. And maybe he did not believe the other hobbits would be willing to take the ring against Frodo's will.

Jerene






Curious
Half-elven


Aug 23 2010, 4:03pm

Post #4 of 129 (1243 views)
Shortcut
Good point about Bombadil talking to ponies! [In reply to] Can't Post

That makes perfect sense. And Bombadil could probably send them back on their own. I wonder what the gatekeeper thought about five ponies showing up at his gate, unaccompanied by any owners! And then, much later, Bill the Pony does the same!


(This post was edited by Curious on Aug 23 2010, 4:04pm)


Curious
Half-elven


Aug 23 2010, 4:14pm

Post #5 of 129 (1232 views)
Shortcut
Thanks for acknowledging [In reply to] Can't Post

that most of my questions don't have good answers. Your response is comforting because I had an unusually large number of unanswered questions about this chapter, and it's good to know I'm not the only one who is puzzled.

I'm treating this series of posts differently from our regularly scheduled discussions. I'm answering all the questions I think I can answer, and when I ask questions it's because I don't have a good answer myself.

So my questions are somewhat rhetorical, although sometimes someone does offer an answer that makes sense, like Bombadil talking to the ponies. Other times people dispute one of my statements, which I welcome because it often leads to great discussions. Or people may have their own observations about the chapter, which I also welcome.


(This post was edited by Curious on Aug 23 2010, 4:15pm)


Curious
Half-elven


Aug 23 2010, 4:17pm

Post #6 of 129 (1236 views)
Shortcut
Let me know if you find [In reply to] Can't Post

the passage where Pippin refers to money in Minas Tirith.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Aug 23 2010, 5:27pm

Post #7 of 129 (1287 views)
Shortcut
Great summary and analysis, Curious [In reply to] Can't Post

Very interesting reading! Thanks for doing these.

A few thoughts your essay inspired:


Quote
But the timing is tricky. We leave Bree as the hobbits prepare for bed, but the attack in Crickhollow takes place around dawn, as the first cock crows. Apparently Fatty sees the Riders and flees early in the evening, yet the alarm does not sound until after dawn. Then we return to Bree, where Frodo wakes up well before dawn, and has troubled dreams until he wakes again at dawn. Apparently Frodo dreams of the attack before it happens.


Well, the mention of the hobbits preparing for bed in Bree is just a kind of "meanwhile back in the Shire" time check, to introduce this first part of the chapter (the adventures of Fatty). Then we get the whole of Fatty's story uninterrupted (although, as you say, a crucial element is withheld for the sake of suspense), before returning to Bree - where we then stay for the rest of the chapter.

As I read the story, Fatty doesn't leave until he sees the shapes moving in the garden, which is not until deep in the night. He raises the alarm as soon as he's run a mile to the next house, during the time that the Riders are moving in for the kill. The horn is sounded just as the Riders break in, in the "cold hour before dawn". The chronology seems fairly straightforward to me, and I'm not sure how you came to the conclusion that the alarm doesn't sound "until after dawn" - I don't see why it wouldn't be pretty much at dawn, or at the latest at first light.

Then the story returns to Frodo, and the implication is made (with no direct reference, of course) that Frodo somehow senses what's happening back in Crickhollow. The timing seems okay to me - first Frodo wakes "in the early night", which would be when Fatty first senses that the Riders are about. Then he falls asleep and finally wakes thinking he's heard a horn blowing, as the first light of day comes into the room. Why couldn't that actually be the time that the horn was sounding? Of course, we can only wonder whether Frodo really was sensing events, since there's no indication either way. But I think the chronology works pretty well in terms of giving us reason to believe that he might have been.


Quote
What is the strategy of the Black Riders? Why wait for days to attack in Crickhollow? Why move in and out of Fatty’s front yard invisibly, yet visibly open and close the gate? Why don’t they cover the back door? Why stand there all night waiting until dawn to attack when they are best at night? .... I find that it’s best not to examine the actions of the Black Riders too closely.


I agree that it's best not to try to explain the Black Riders logically - they are a ghost story, really, and have to be read from that perspective, I think, with a lot of the terror coming from the imagination of the people they come into contact with. Fatty has felt scared all day, then starts to imagine (or is it more than imagine?) that he sees shapes moving in the early night. The highly suggestible Fatty is the only source for most of the events of the night, and no-one witnesses the final attack. The Riders are like ghosts in a ghost story, their apparent actions based not on logic or factual evidence, but on the fear and imagination of those who come close to them.

(Yet I wouldn't be at all surprised if Tolkien had worked out a "logical" explanation for the Riders' behaviour, to try to satisfy the demands of his modern readers. Maybe someone will let us know if he did...)


Quote
Also, if the Horn-call of Buckland hasn’t been sounded for a hundred years, how did anyone recognize it? Do they have regular drills?


I think there might have been drills - not very regular, perhaps, but performing the Horn-call could have been a ritual whenever the Brandybucks were hosting a celebration or commemoration. Anyway, if a horn-call is worth anything, it ought to be able to get its point across even to people who don't recognise it specifically! (As we see in The Scouring of the Shire, when Merry sounds his Rohan horn, and it's so stirring that it's hard to resist - interestingly, it seems that Sam recognises the Horn-call of Buckland at that time, so perhaps the notes of it were famous throughout the Shire.)


Quote
Strider goes without sleep at least three times in this chapter, by my count ... How can Strider operate without sleep?


I don't suppose he really can have gone without sleep the whole time - he seems to need sleep during the Three Hunters' chase in TTT. Since we are getting the hobbits' view of events, I think all we know for sure is that he slept less than them - not so difficult! Still, he surely kept watch the whole night at Bree, but then he's a Ranger, and has Numenorean blood, so he's likely to have greater than normal abilities. And in times of danger or other need, I believe it's possible for soldiers and others to postpone sleep for quite a while.


Quote
Back to Bree, how did Ferny and Harry and the Southerner enter the hobbits’ bedrooms and stab the bolsters and enter the stables and let loose the horses and ponies without waking anyone, including Strider and Butterbur and Bob and Nob, who were all alert for attack? Magic seems like the only explanation.


Strider seems to have focused on protecting the hobbits themselves, not on watching for attacks on other parts of the Inn (the hobbit rooms were in a separate wing, as I recall, but they're now sleeping in Strider's room). As for Butterbur, we are told "he had hardly closed his eyes all night (so he said)..." The 'hardly' already says a lot, even without the extra parenthetical comment! The Inn folk aren't used to staying awake all night, and almost certainly fell asleep at some point - but of course we are left to wonder whether maybe it was magic...


Quote
But as far as I recall, this is the last time anyone refers to money at all. Why is that? Do the elves use money? Is Rohan a barter-based society? Would money feel out of place? Surely Gondor uses money, right? Were there references to money I haven’t recalled?


There are references to treasure, and to gold and silver as a medium of commerce, for example in Gandalf's history of Moria. I also found a reference to "a few coins of little worth" in the story of Thrór's death at the hands of the orc Azog in the Appendices. So some kind of money is presumed to exist even in the older cultures. But the mention of "silver pennies" sounds very Anglo-centric (the British currency is still called 'sterling'). I like your idea that the Shire and Bree represent two different time-periods, and I'd suggest that the Shire and Bree are both based on England, with the Shire as 18th century, comfortable England, and Bree as post-Roman, early medieval England.


Quote
We can either attribute this to Tolkien’s various historical inspirations, or go with Tolkien’s explanation in the appendices that as a translator he has chosen to modernize the Shire and Bree.

Or indeed, why not both explanations?


Quote
Note that the wall along the ridge incorporates dikes along the crests and stonework in the clefts. This is not the Great Wall of China...


It's Hadrian's Wall, maybe, or perhaps Offa's Dyke that divided England from Wales in the early medieval period. Earthworks combined with stone were typical of defensive walls in England. I don't think we've really left the sceptr'd isle even yet (and we'll be there again, in yet another period, when we get to Rohan...)


Quote
Tolkien’s poem about Gil-galad has a simple beat and rhyme scheme, four beats to a line and six couplets. If we ignore the subject matter, I don’t find the beat or rhyme interesting.


It's sung in the BBC dramatisation, and is very striking and memorable that way.



Quote
Strider is nervous about the hobbits saying the word “Mordor” so loudly. Is he worried that it will summon the servants of Mordor?


Yes, in the old "speak of the devil" way - the ancient idea that words have power in and of themselves, and can conjure the thing spoken of.



Quote
Strider later admits that he makes a mistake on Weathertop... Once they reach the top of the hill they could set a watch, and stand as little as possible....Then there’s the puzzling decision to start a bonfire so that the Black Riders would be certain to find them. Is a fire really the best solution to the problem?


Yes, it's very odd. Strider seemed to be trying to avoid being seen up to now, but at Weathertop he seems to change to a strategy of assuming the Riders will find them and trying to ward them off using fire (as the company tries to do, also unsuccessfully, with the wargs later on). I'm not surprised Sam began to have doubts again about Strider after this episode! Could Strider have been hoping to find Gandalf still there, and having a showdown with the Riders once and for all?


Quote
To me it feels like Tolkien is determined to set up a confrontation between the Riders and the hobbits, and therefore artificially restricts what Strider can do. Ironically, the hobbits carry blades that would be very effective against the Riders, but no one knows that, except perhaps the Riders.


Well, Tolkien can write the plot any way he wants, so really had no need to "artificially" restrict what Strider can do. He could presumably have written a more realistic confrontation - an ambush or something - if that's what he'd wanted. If he chooses this strangely creepy and mysterious way to tell the story, he must be doing it for a purpose - to increase the "ghost story" ambiance, maybe, and to give that nightmare sense of things happening that you just know are going to happen but can't prevent. We are experiencing this through the hobbits' eyes, after all, and so need to be made to feel as off-balance and outside normal reality as they do...

As for the blades, the extract from The Hunt for the Ring that squire posted last week suggests that Tolkien imagined the Riders only finding out rather late in the day that the hobbits carried barrow-blades.

(I hope to have time to respond to more of your questions and points at another time, but I'll have to leave it there for now...)

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



Curious
Half-elven


Aug 23 2010, 6:13pm

Post #8 of 129 (1281 views)
Shortcut
Okay, here's a closer analysis of the timing in Buckland. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
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.


This implies that Fatty opened the door in Buckland as the hobbits prepared for sleep in Bree.

Quote

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.



This again implies that Fatty was seized by terror early in the night, before it had deepened.

Quote

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.



This implies that the figures stood by the house for some time, as the "night went slowly on."

Quote

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.



Okay, I took this to be happening at dawn, but I'll admit it might have happened just before dawn.

Quote

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!



So the alarm may have been raised at or just before dawn.

Quote
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.


So Fatty ran for it early in the night, when the hobbits were going to bed in Bree and the night was still deepening.


Quote

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.
awake! awake!


It could have taken some time for Fatty to run a mile, and some more time for anyone to make sense of what he was saying. Still, if he ran early in the night, as the hobbits were going to bed in Bree and the night was still deepening, it seems strange that it took all night to raise the alarm.

Quote

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.


So it was still dark -- not after dawn, maybe not even at dawn, but perhaps shortly before dawn. And we are done with Buckland.

Quote

In the early night Frodo woke from deep sleep, suddenly, as if some sound or presence had disturbed him. He saw that Strider was sitting alert in his chair: his eyes gleamed in the light of the fire, which had been tended and was burning brightly; but he made no sign or movement.


Okay, this could have been when Fatty saw something and ran, or when the Black Riders approached the house and stood there. If so, this again confirms that Fatty ran in the early night.

Quote

Frodo soon went to sleep again; but his dreams were again troubled with the noise of wind and of galloping hoofs. The wind seemed to be curling round the house and shaking it; and far off he heard a horn blowing wildly. He opened his eyes, and heard a cock crowing lustily in the inn-yard. Strider had drawn the curtains and pushed back the shutters with a clang. The first grey light of day was in the room, and a cold air was coming through the open window.


Frodo's dreams were troubled with the noise of wind and galloping hoofs starting in early night. You are correct, though, that he might have heard the horn blowing shortly before he heard the cock crow and rose to the first light of dawn. But that would mean that he heard the wind and galloping hoofs before the horn blew, which is the reverse of how it happened in Buckland. If he is dreaming of what happened in Buckland, he anticipates the galloping hoofs well before the Riders gallop away -- which actually happened after the horn blew near dawn.

Thanks for linking to squire's post. That seems to confirm that in Tolkien's mind, the Riders recognized the blade held by Frodo and were quite afraid of it. If by "late in the day" you mean when Frodo unsheathed it, I agree, that's when the Riders discovered what they faced. And that's what I meant when I suggested that the Riders became aware of the nature of the blade long before Strider or the hobbits did.

Still, it doesn't explain the Riders' behavior after they wounded Frodo and he was no longer wielding the blade. Tolkien's explanation suggests that the Riders were, indeed, wimps and cowards who expected a cakewalk and ran when even mildly challenged. That doesn't quite correspond with their ability to drive Gandalf away, let alone with the Witch-king's willingness to challenge Gandalf one on one at the gates of Minas Tirith. Nor is it very smart, since waiting just gives Strider and the hobbits a chance to find help. It's the best Tolkien could do, and the best I can do, but I still judge that this is one chapter in LotR that could some editing. Or, maybe, it's just best not to examine the behavior of the Riders too closely.



(This post was edited by Curious on Aug 23 2010, 6:17pm)


Arwen Skywalker
Lorien


Aug 23 2010, 7:27pm

Post #9 of 129 (1192 views)
Shortcut
Nazgul as cowards [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not sure if this is going into fanfiction speculation but here's what the Weapons and Warfare book says:


Quote
Yet they were not invincible, and they were afraid of fire. Perhaps this symbol of the Flame Imperishable, the spirit that moved within the forces of light, was anathema to these creatures of darkness. It appears that Aragorn knew enough about them to use this fear to drive them back from Weathertop when they attempted to seize the Ring-bearer, Frodo Baggins.



CuriousG
Valinor


Aug 23 2010, 7:30pm

Post #10 of 129 (1243 views)
Shortcut
Who were the culprits in the attack in the inn? [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Back to Bree, how did Ferny and Harry and the Southerner enter the hobbits’ bedrooms and stab the bolsters and enter the stables and let loose the horses and ponies without waking anyone, including Strider and Butterbur and Bob and Nob, who were all alert for attack? Magic seems like the only explanation.

Maybe this is specified in other Tolkien writings, but it's always been my inference that the ghostly Black Riders entered the inn and attacked the hobbits' bedroom, and also drove off all the Bree horses and ponies with their fearful presence. Possibly the men in their employ were accomplices, yet I think the Black Riders weren't outside of town only pulling the strings but doing the dirty work themselves. That would account for the magic that made everyone sleep through the deeds. True, Strider stayed awake and Frodo woke up, but they didn't hear anything to make them know what was going on, and they were also in a part of the inn that the Nazgul had left out of their zone of operations, so to speak. Maybe there was also some spell of sound-muffling at work.


CuriousG
Valinor


Aug 23 2010, 7:54pm

Post #11 of 129 (1207 views)
Shortcut
Oh, how to explain those Nazgul [In reply to] Can't Post

Squire's post on the Witch-King's perspective helps--thanks! As Curious indicates, everything else resonates so plausibly in the books, yet this Weathertop episode stands out as an exception. If the books were full of plot holes, I wouldn't notice.

How Nazgul are NOT fearful: three days before in that same spot, they fought a full-fledged magic battle against Gandalf, Nine against one (or one of the Three, but I doubt they knew that). They had withdrawn as he approached during the day and was full of wrath, but they still attacked at night, so they were only dismayed by day, not scared off for good. Then the next day, after the night battle, they pursued Gandalf far along the road, this wizard who had held off all nine of them. So, they're not afraid of a powerful wizard, but they are afraid of one man with torches and four petrified hobbits? Doesn't add up too well.

But okay, the hobbit swords scare them. Fair enough. But after the battle with Gandalf, the Nazgul kept an eye on Weathertop so they were able to pursue him when he left, and he was on speedy Shadowfax, so he was hard to follow, but they did anyway. Those are sound tactics: encircle the enemy after a stalemate, keep watch on him, and chase him when he runs away. Yet with Strider and the hobbits, they not only withdraw, they don't even keep watch from a distance, so Strider and the hobbits are able to escape unseen and on foot. Does that make sense? Gandalf didn't even have the One. They knew Frodo did, and their mission was to get it, so why not withdraw a safe distance from Frodo while remaining in sight of him so they could pursue him and attack again?


Curious
Half-elven


Aug 23 2010, 8:25pm

Post #12 of 129 (1213 views)
Shortcut
Here's what Strider said: [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
'What will happen?' said Merry. 'Will [the Black Riders] attack the inn?'

'No, I think not,' said Strider. 'They are not all here yet. And in any case that is not their way. In dark and loneliness they are strongest; they will not openly attack a house where there are lights and many people - not until they are desperate, not while all the long leagues of Eriador still lie before us. But their power is in terror, and already some in Bree are in their clutch. They will drive these wretches to some evil work: Ferny, and some of the strangers, and, maybe, the gatekeeper too. They had words with Harry at West-gate on Monday. I was watching them. He was white and shaking when they left him.'


Book I, Chapter 10, "Strider."

There's also the fact that Ferny retained one pony to sell, implying that he knew the other ponies and horses would be gone. And the southerner hid at Ferny's house, which made him look guilty.

The idea that the Riders themselves conducted the attack was invented by Bakshi and perpetuated by Jackson in the movies. But I do think the Riders may have assisted with spells.


Curious
Half-elven


Aug 23 2010, 8:32pm

Post #13 of 129 (1195 views)
Shortcut
There is an element of ghosts afraid of the light. [In reply to] Can't Post

But again, if they are so afraid of firelight, why couldn't Gandalf, of all people, drive them off?


Jerene
Registered User

Aug 23 2010, 9:26pm

Post #14 of 129 (1176 views)
Shortcut
Unanswerable Questions [In reply to] Can't Post

I enjoy this format a great deal. I find the unanswerable questions the most fun to contemplate. I always prefer possibilities over concrete answers. Which is why I was moved to respond to rhetorical questions - those are my favorite kind - my husband tells me I am always answering questions that the poser does not really expect to be answered. I hope you do not mind, because I do realize that I my response did not fit into any of the categories you mentioned - I did not have an answer that made sense; I did not dispute any of your statements - in fact, I agree with them all; and I really did not have any new observations, either.

I have wondered about many of the questions you posed (black rider behavior, Strider's delay in attacking with the fire brands) often. As you say, no good answers, really. Only possibilities that are not really satisfactory. The Black Riders being both the most fearsome servants of Sauron and completely ineffective in the Shire in the daytime will always bother me if I think about it too much, but in over thirty years of reading the LOTR, it does not bother me to the extent that it ruins the story for me. The same with Strider's delay in attacking at Weathertop - the campfire couldn't be so big that it took him several minutes to get to Frodo's side - and the statement about him leaping out of the dark never made sense either. Why was he leaping out of the dark? Wasn't he just by the fire with the hobbits? But it is still a very dramatic scene, and I do love re-reading it. I wasn't really serious about Strider fearing to set Frodo on fire, though. Although trying to protect someone who has just made himself invisible would present some difficulties.

I meant to add in my earlier post that I had never considered why the Black Riders did not worry that one of Frodo's companions would just take the ring before he became a wraith and was under their control. In fact, I had never even contemplated that Frodo's companions might or should do that, but when I read your post, it made perfect sense that they should at least consider it. It is an excellent point, and really makes me want to re-read to analyze Strider, and later Glorfindel's actions. That is quite a risk they are taking with the future of Middle Earth. It is fascinating, also, because we are not told what Strider and Glorfindel are thinking - and most of their conversations are not recorded. By not telling us their thoughts or their conversations, Tolkien rather brilliantly leaves open the possibility that Strider and Glorfindel did think about this very possibility, but rejected the solution of removing the ring from Frodo for some reason.

Again, thank you for your interesting analysis and thought-provoking (and rhetorical) questions. One of the reasons LOTR has kept my interest so long and through so many re-readings is the ambiguity Tolkien provides in the narrative, while still telling a compelling story. It makes it easy to believe the author was translating a diary of sorts from persons who could not see everything that was happening and did not have all the information to understand what each character was doing and why.


Curious
Half-elven


Aug 23 2010, 10:14pm

Post #15 of 129 (1171 views)
Shortcut
It's also revealing [In reply to] Can't Post

that Tolkien felt the need to defend the Black Riders' retreat from Weathertop, just as he frequently found himself defending Bombadil's role in the tale.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Aug 23 2010, 10:18pm

Post #16 of 129 (1163 views)
Shortcut
Timelines [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think Fatty ran as soon as he started to feel afraid - he waited until the Riders actually approached the house:
"As soon as he saw the dark shapes creep from the garden, he knew that he must run for it, or perish."
"From the garden", not "in the lane", which is where they were at the start of the night.

Here's the part where the Riders leave the lane and enter the garden:
"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."
It must be during this part of the night that Fatty makes a run for it. I can see that there's some uncertainty about how long the Riders stand there, but since the night has already "deepened", it's no longer evening, as I believe you stated originally. Fatty leaves during the deep night, and arrives at the neighbours' house before dawn, since the next thing we hear is:
"There was a faint stir in the leaves, and a cock crowed far away. The cold hour before dawn was passing."
At this point, the Riders break down the door, and:
"At that moment, among the trees nearby, a horn rang out."
So the breaking down of the door and the horn sounding happen close on one another, towards the end of the "cold hour before dawn".

As far as I can see, the timeline works in terms of allowing Fatty time to run a mile or so, wake the neighbours and blurt his story out, but doesn't leave time unaccounted for since he doesn't leave until the Riders come up to the house.

It still doesn't explain why they're stupid enough not to know about back doors though...

Crazy

(But I could theorize that it's because they think they are above this kind of thing - they were great kings after all, so what do they know about country cottages? They don't understand hobbits, probably think they're beneath their notice, and underestimate them constantly - as do all the evil characters of course, since pride is their overarching weakness. So when something as apparently harmless as a hobbit turns and attacks them, it seems to shake them to the core. Wimpy maybe, but that's typical of the evil characters - they lack all the virtues, including courage.)

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



FarFromHome
Valinor


Aug 23 2010, 10:40pm

Post #17 of 129 (1202 views)
Shortcut
Gandalf and the High Elves [In reply to] Can't Post

perhaps interact with the Nazgul in the "other dimension", where the powers of the Nazgul are not inhibited by their lack of a true bodily presence in our world.

The Nazgul are operating on the edge of their ability to perceive when they're dealing with mortals - and they are most able to influence the mortal world when it's dark. The light Aragorn wields doesn't necessarily harm them or frighten them - it just drives them further back into their own ghostly dimension.

According to Tolkien's later musings, it's Frodo's unexpected ability to defend himself that shakes the Riders' nerve - that and the shocking discovery that he has one of the few blades in existence that can harm them in their shadow world.

On another point, mentioned elsewhere in this thread, I think the idea of letting someone else take the Ring is a non-starter because of the ground rules that Tolkien has already set up. If anyone takes the Ring from its rightful bearer, against the wishes of the bearer, that person will become enslaved himself. If Frodo is unable to give up the Ring willingly (which is to be expected) then there's no way to take it safely from him. I think the point of waiting until Frodo becomes a wraith is that he will eventually fade away and disappear into the shadow world - still bearing the Ring which will become invisible with him. The Ringwraiths won't have to come back into the material world at all, Frodo will simply shift into their world where he will be defenceless.

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



Curious
Half-elven


Aug 23 2010, 11:26pm

Post #18 of 129 (1206 views)
Shortcut
I agree about the horn [In reply to] Can't Post

blowing just before dawn, as I believe I said above.

But I'm not sure about your other argument that Fatty did not run until after the night had "deepened." As you note, he runs as soon as he sees "the dark shapes creep from the garden." From the garden, not into the garden. That describes what he first saw:
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.


So when he peered out early in the night he saw a black shadow moving under the trees and leaving the garden through the gate. After that, he shut and locked the door and did not wait for the shadows to return down the lane with their horses, then enter the garden:
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.



FarFromHome
Valinor


Aug 24 2010, 9:04am

Post #19 of 129 (1158 views)
Shortcut
Maybe you're right [In reply to] Can't Post

I was interpreting "from the garden" to mean the Riders leaving the garden and coming right up to the house. You're interpreting the mysteriously opening and closing gate (which happens much earlier) as the moment the "dark shapes creep from the garden". Yet there's no mention of any shapes being seen in the garden when the gate first opens - that's why its opening and closing is so mysterious. The "black shadow" is under the trees, i.e. presumably still in the lane, outside the garden gate (I'm assuming the cottage has a typical English garden, with flower-beds and so on, not trees). I interpreted that moment as one of the Riders (or one of their spies?) in the lane discovering the right place, without coming all the way in. Then he goes back and gets the others, with their horses, who arrive after "the night deepened".

But it's pretty hard to know exactly what's going on - the opening and closing gate could just have been a gust of wind for all we know - Fatty's imagination was already at fever pitch. Or it could mean, as you are interpreting it (if I understand correctly), that the Wraiths had already been in the garden and were leaving it again to get their horses (although why they would want to do this I can't quite work out).

If it's confused and confusing, that's presumably because this account was given to Frodo by Fatty himself, and it would be pretty hard to separate imagination from reality in his memory!

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



sador
Half-elven


Aug 24 2010, 9:41am

Post #20 of 129 (1205 views)
Shortcut
Comments on the Summary [In reply to] Can't Post



Quote
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.”


This will be mentioned again later, in The Ring Goes South. Any connection?


Quote
Strider fetched Butterbur, who claims he was awake most of the night but never heard a sound.


Do you believe him? Are we supposed to see this as a sign of his incompetence, or of the mysterious powers of the Riders?


Quote
Butterbur paid twelve silver pennies for the pony (three times its value)


This is interesting. A half starved pony is worth four pennies, while six pennies is a fair price for a good one.
But the pony does much better after a short period of recovery and feeding. Was that equal to half its worth, or are Shire-ponies inherently better?


Quote
The party from the South blamed Butterbur loudly for the loss of their horses until they learned that one of their number, Ferny’s squint-eyed companion, had disappeared. Nobody knew him or could recall when he joined their party.


But when he was talking of their rights, they were very pleased. Men.


Quote
He notes that it is unlikely they will find Gandalf there, and just as likely that they will find the Riders or their spies, looking for them from the top of the hill. He finally decides they should head to the hills and approach Weathertop from the north, less openly.

Then why lead the hobbits there? Wouldn't it be better to avoid the place altogether, and cross to the thickets in the South?

I note that the movie solved this problem quite neatly, in having Strider give the hobbits their swords on Weathertop - presumably from a stock of weapons hidden somewhere in the vicinity.


Quote
The next night they set a watch

Only then?


Quote
Strider says it is told that Elendil watched from the tower for the coming of Gil-galad out of the West in the days of the Last Alliance.

Using his palantir?
If so - it resembles pretty closely the description of Elendil gazing West from the tower of Elostirion in the Sil.


Quote
Strider recalls the light they saw three days ago, and guesses that Gandalf was attacked.

I find it very interesting that Frodo takes comfort of the thought, despite Strider's uncertanity of the result and his warnings about the power of the Enemy. That hobbit trusts his mentor.


Quote
Frodo asks if there is any escape, and Strider says there is hope. He suggests building a fire since the Riders fear those who wield it. Sam mutters that “‘It is also as good a way of saying "here we are" as I can think of, bar shouting.’”


I really like the way the moviemakers utilised this idea.


Quote
Sam walks away from the fire then comes running back saying he could feel something creeping up the slope. Merry says he thought he saw two or three black shapes moving this way.


Do you think Merry stayed longer, similar to his being drawn by the Riders at Bree?


I'll try to answer the rest later.

A fair warning: I am a nitpicker by taste, talents and profession.

"Does it matter whether the things Tom has to do are "useful" things? ... Perhaps nothing would seem much different if he wasn't there with 'my singing, my talking and my walking, and my watching of the country.' But something would be missing - something intangible, hardly noticeable maybe. A little of the spirit would have gone out of the land. "
- FarFromHome.



CuriousG
Valinor


Aug 24 2010, 11:56am

Post #21 of 129 (1201 views)
Shortcut
Taking the ring from Frodo [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree: this wouldn't work nor would it be easy. There would only be another enslaved hobbit.

What is curious is that while Frodo was in a coma in Rivendell, the ring was taken from him by the elves and put on a chain around his neck. Somehow they could take it, handle it, and not be beholden to its power or temptations.


CuriousG
Valinor


Aug 24 2010, 12:05pm

Post #22 of 129 (1162 views)
Shortcut
Nazgul or Ferny [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the quote from Strider.

To me it's still a mixed bag. Not to split hairs too much, but no one attacked the inn. Someone snuck in and attacked the hobbit beds, a secret stealthy move and no attack. I'm not influenced by the movies, it just makes more sense to me that the Nazgul did this in the dead of night--the zenith of their power--when there were no lights or people about. Would they trust Ferny, who is said to be wholly mercenary and ready to ally with the highest bidder, to take the Ring and deliver it faithfully? The squint-eyed southerner appears to be one of Saruman's folk--would he have delivered the Ring to the Nazgul or tried to ferret it back to Orthanc? I don't think either man would have succeeded in keeping the Ring for long, but I suspect they might try.

Though assigning the men the lesser role of driving off the four-footed beasts would make sense to me too.


Curious
Half-elven


Aug 24 2010, 12:07pm

Post #23 of 129 (1178 views)
Shortcut
It wouldn't take long [In reply to] Can't Post

to put the Ring on a chain. Unlike in the movies, merely touching the Ring had no noticeable effect. Gandalf touched it back in Bag End.


CuriousG
Valinor


Aug 24 2010, 12:17pm

Post #24 of 129 (1167 views)
Shortcut
Nazgul and fear of fire [In reply to] Can't Post

It is made clear in this part of the story that the Nazgul have some fear of fire, at Weathertop and at the Ford of Bruinen, and Strider keeps the fire blazing in the parlor inn apparently to dismay the Black Riders if they entered: it was just in the fireplace, and I doubt a big blaze in the fireplace would have deterred Ferny if he'd entered the parlor with some goons.

Later we see that orcs love wielding fire as a weapon, and of course the Balrog, so fire isn't scary to all of Morgoth's creatures

A more significant contradiction is how Minas Tirith was deliberately set on fire during its siege, with the first circle almost completely on fire. Yet these fires were lit under the high command of the Witch-King, and he was the very first person to enter Minas Tirith when the gates were destroyed. Wasn't he afraid of all the fires he had caused? And Gandalf stood in opposition before him, and he knew Gandalf was a specialist in fire, but he wasn't afraid of him in the least.

However, I could be harping on this too much. Aragorn and others weren't afraid to use fire as weapons against others, but I'm sure they were terrified when their enemies employed it, such as in Moria. Maybe fire in the story is like a loaded gun: your fear of it, good or evil, depends on which way it's pointed.


Curious
Half-elven


Aug 24 2010, 12:38pm

Post #25 of 129 (1137 views)
Shortcut
There's also the question [In reply to] Can't Post

of why the Black Riders, who are physically blind, but sense the presence of living beings through smell and feelings and perception of spirits, would be fooled by bloodless, spiritless bolsters covered by blankets. That's a visual deception, and the fact that someone slashed them implies that the attackers were, at first, visually fooled.

But I'll agree that it's unclear exactly what happened, and that the Riders were likely involved in some way with the attack.

First page Previous page 1 2 3 4 5 6 Next page Last page  View All
 
 

Search for (options) Powered by Gossamer Forum v.1.2.3

home | advertising | contact us | back to top | search news | join list | Content Rating

This site is maintained and updated by fans of The Lord of the Rings, and is in no way affiliated with Tolkien Enterprises or the Tolkien Estate. We in no way claim the artwork displayed to be our own. Copyrights and trademarks for the books, films, articles, and other promotional materials are held by their respective owners and their use is allowed under the fair use clause of the Copyright Law. Design and original photography however are copyright © 1999-2012 TheOneRing.net. Binary hosting provided by Nexcess.net

Do not follow this link, or your host will be blocked from this site. This is a spider trap.