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I have a small birthday gift for you all today (not a mathom,
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Feb 23 2007, 3:55pm

Post #1 of 38 (1175 views)
I have a small birthday gift for you all today (not a mathom, Can't Post

by the way, because I created it for this purpose). We have scrutinized almost every word of LotR in the Reading Room, but I do not recall much discussion of the Table of Contents. So here it is, along with my comments. Feel free to add your own.

Foreword 4
Prologue 7
1. Concerning Hobbits 7
2. Concerning Pipe-weed 12
3. Of the Ordering of the Shire 12
4. Of the Finding of the Ring 14
Book I 18
Chapter 1 A Long-Expected Party 18
Chapter 2 The Shadow of the Past 32
Chapter 3 Three is Company 48
Chapter 4 A Short Cut to Mushrooms 62
Chapter 5 A Conspiracy Unmasked 70
Chapter 6 The Old Forest 78
Chapter 7 In the House of Tom Bombadil 88
Chapter 8 Fog on the Barrow-Downs 97
Chapter 9 At the Sign of the Prancing Pony 107
Chapter 10 Strider 118
Chapter 11 A Knife in the Dark 127
Chapter 12 Flight to the Ford 143
Book II 157
Chapter 1 Many Meetings 157
Chapter 2 The Council of Elrond 173
Chapter 3 The Ring Goes South 197
Chapter 4 A Journey in the Dark 214
Chapter 5 The Bridge of Khazad-dum 232
Chapter 6 Lothlorien 241
Chapter 7 The Mirror of Galadriel 256
Chapter 8 Farewell to Lorien 267
Chapter 9 The Great River 276
Chapter 10 The Breaking of the Fellowship 287
Book III 297
Chapter 1 The Departure of Boromir 297
Chapter 2 The Riders of Rohan 302
Chapter 3 The Uruk-Hai 317
Chapter 4 Treebeard 328
Chapter 5 The White Rider 345
Chapter 6 The King of the Golden Hall 357
Chapter 7 Helm's Deep 370
Chapter 8 The Road to Isengard 381
Chapter 9 Flotsam and Jetsam 391
Chapter 10 The Voice of Saruman 402
Chapter 11 The Palantir 410
Book IV 419
Chapter 1 The Taming of Smeagol 419
Chapter 2 The Passage of the Marshes 432
Chapter 3 The Black Gate is Closed 444
Chapter 4 Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit 453
Chapter 5 The Window on the West 464
Chapter 6 The Forbidden Pool 479
Chapter 7 Journey to the Cross-roads 487
Chapter 8 The Stairs of Cirith Ungol 494
Chapter 9 Shelob's Lair 504
Chapter 10 The Choices of Master Samwise 512
Book V 523
Chapter 1 Minas Tirith 523
Chapter 2 The Passing of the Grey Company 542
Chapter 3 The Muster of Rohan 555
Chapter 4 The Siege of Gondor 566
Chapter 5 The Ride of the Rohirrim 584
Chapter 6 The Battle of the Pelennor Fields 591
Chapter 7 The Pyre of Denethor 600
Chapter 8 The Houses of Healing 606
Chapter 9 The Last Debate 616
Chapter 10 The Black Gate Opens 624
Book VI 632
Chapter 1 The Tower of Cirith Ungol 632
Chapter 2 The Land of Shadow 644
Chapter 3 Mount Doom 654
Chapter 4 The Field of Cormallen 664
Chapter 5 The Steward and the King 670
Chapter 6 Many Partings 680
Chapter 7 Homeward Bound 690
Chapter 8 The Scouring of the Shire 695
Chapter 9 The Grey Havens 709
(i) NUMENOR 717
Here follows one of the last notes in the Red Book 757
Appendix B The Tale of Years (Chronology of the Westlands) 758
The Second Age 758
The Third Age 759
Appendix C Family Trees 769
Appendix D 774
Appendix F 791

This is a long table of contents, as such tables go. And much of it is taken up by the items that come before Book 1, Chapter 1, and after Book VI, Chapter 9. The whole thing looks rather serious for a work of fiction, don't you think? And even more so for a fantasy or fairy tale, a sequel to a children's book? Even the nineteen chapters of The Hobbit were rather long for a children's book, and this dwarfs that table (no pun intended).

I wonder how many readers start with Book I, Chapter 1, and how many read through everything that comes before the beginning of the story? If you read the Prologue carefully, it becomes quite obvious that at least some of the heroes, although perhaps not all, will survive the tale, and that the Shire itself will survive. After all, LotR is presented as a memoir, just as The Hobbit was. And if you read the Table of Contents for Book VI, it also reveals that someone will apparently reach "Mount Doom" and then later will be "Homeward Bound" for "The Scouring of the Shire," whatever that means. Of course some readers might not get to the table for Book VI until after reading Books I-IV, at least, but still there is the Prologue. So why does Tolkien give away so much? Why is the Prologue filled with spoilers?

I suggest that Tolkien maintains suspense in two ways. Until the unmaking of the Ring, i.e. the climax of the tale, he maintains suspense by creating what seems to be an impossible quest, then gradually revealing how the impossible becomes possible. The mystery becomes not whether Frodo and his companions will succeed, but how Tolkien can possibly make their success plausible. After the unmaking of the Ring, which happens only a short way into Book VI, Tolkien creates a long denouement (literally and unwinding or unknotting) in which Tolkien untangles and resolves all the complications he created in Books I-V, including the surprising resolution of Frodo's own plight.

Furthermore the spoilers in the Prologue, and many spoilers throughout the book, act as a bit of misdirection, strongly implying a traditional happy ending, instead of the bittersweet result. Bittersweet for everyone, I would say, since not only must Frodo and Gandalf and the Elves say good-bye to Middle-earth, but Middle-earth and Aragorn and the other hobbits must say good-bye to Frodo and Gandalf and the Elves.

Note how carefully Tolkien chooses his chapter titles to create interest without revealing too much, and even creating misdirection. "A Long-Expected Party" is an obvious reference to the opening of The Hobbit. "The Shadow of the Past" is a phrase that usually is meant metaphorically, but here the Shadow might be quite literal. "Three is Company" may be a play on the old phrase "two is company, three is a crowd." Here four is a crowd -- i.e. the three hobbits plus the mysterious Black Rider. "A Short Cut to Mushrooms" glosses over the hobbits' desparate attempt to escape the Black Rider. "A Conspiracy Unmasked" sounds much more sinister than it is.

Starting with Book I, Chapter 6, we get a series of names of places and people. "The Old Forest," "Fog on the Barrow-Downs," and "At the Sign of the Prancing Pony" do not even hint at the dangers the hobbits face in those chapters. The unfamiliar "Bombadil" and "Strider" sound more sinister, frankly, but both turn out to be friends. "A Knife In the Dark" sounds sinister and is, but still raises more questions than it answers. Whose knife? Who wields it? Whom does it hit? To what effect? Similarly, "Flight to the Ford" sounds scary, but doesn't reveal the dramatic result of the flight, or even who is pursuing whom.

"Many Meetings" has a counterpart in Book VI, "Many Partings." These two chapters could be considered the bookends of the core adventure, the one that begins and ends in Rivendell. Book I is something of a prelude to that adventure, and the last three chapters of Book VI something of a postlude set up by Book I. Again, the chapter title "Many Meetings" gives away very little, least of all the presence of Gandalf. "The Council of Elrond" and "The Ring Goes South" may be the most straightforward chapter titles, but even here Tolkien does not say that Frodo goes south with the Ring.

I could go on like this, but I have more points to make about the table. I urge you to consider, though, how much thought Tolkien put into his chapter titles, and why he chose those particular titles.

I’ll use Book II to illustrate the rhythm of LotR. “Many Meetings” – rest and recuperation. “The Council of Elrond” – discussion and exposition. “The Ring Goes South” – transition. “A Journey in the Dark” – the tension builds. “The Bridge of Khazad-dum” – climactic action. “Lothlorien” – rest and recuperation. “The Mirror of Galadriel” – discussion and exposition. “Farewell to Lorien” – transition. “The Great River” – the tension builds. “The Breaking of the Fellowship” – climactic action.

In Book I the climactic action comes in Chapters 6 and 8 (“The Old Forest” and “Fog on the Barrow-Downs”) and Chapters 11 and 12 (“A Knife in the Dark” and “Flight to the Ford”). In Book III the climactic action comes in Chapters 7 (“Helm’s Deep”) and 11 (“The Palantir”). In Book IV the suspense builds for eight chapters, and the climactic action comes in Chapters 9 and 10 (“Shelob’s Lair” and“The Choices of Master Samwise”). In Book V the climactic action comes in Chapters 6 and 10 (“The Battle of the Pelennor Fields” and “The Black Gate Opens”). In Book VI the climactic action comes in Chapters 3 and 8 (“Mount Doom” and “The Scouring of the Shire”), while the final resolution comes in Chapter 9 (“The Grey Havens”).
In between all the climactic chapters Tolkien leaves plenty of time for rest and recuperation, discussion and exposition, transition, and the building of tension. Yet each adventure builds on the past adventures, so that when we look at the hobbits in the Scouring of the Shire we are amazed at how much they have grown.

I wish I could say more, because there is plenty to say. In a sense the Table of Contents is an outline of the whole story, and shows us a great deal about the pattern of that story. And LotR does have a pattern. But I’m afraid Real Life beckons, so I hope you have enjoyed what I have already written. Happy Birthday to you all!

Forum Admin / Moderator

Feb 23 2007, 4:55pm

Post #2 of 38 (889 views)
Many Happy Returns! And - "small" is not in your vocabulary! [In reply to] Can't Post

Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Many of the chapter titles are place-names with an action verb; I like the dynamics of these "action" titles, such as "Flight", "Taming", "Muster", "Siege", and the enigmatic "Scouring".

But the best title of them all is "Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit"!

A little note from HoME on "Three's Company", originally titled "Three's Company, but Four's More": "The meaning of this title is not clear. The phrase 'Three's company, but four's more' is used however by Marmaduke [Merry] Brandybuck during the conversation in Buckland, where he asserts that he will certainly be one of the party. Conceivably, therefore, my father gave the original second chapter this title because he believed that it would extend as far as the arrival in Buckland. Subsequently he crossed out the words 'and Four's More', but it cannot be said when this was done."

I'm fond of the UUT which asserts that the "Four" was really intended to refer to the Fox. Wink

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A new road, or a secret gate...


Feb 23 2007, 5:20pm

Post #3 of 38 (895 views)
*wild, enthusiastic applause!!* Cripes! Happy Birthday!! [In reply to] Can't Post


(as soon as I conquer how to get my freakin urls to work, I'm afraid I'll have to task your imagination just a bit ;)

I'm going to have to go through this and REALLY absorb and slaver and slurp over it... but I wanted to wish you all the best of days! :D

sample sample
Trust him... The Hobbit is coming!

"Barney Snow was here." ~Hug like a hobbit!~ "In my heaven..."

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Tol Eressea

Feb 23 2007, 6:15pm

Post #4 of 38 (828 views)
WOW! [In reply to] Can't Post

That is amazing! Thank you for posting this, Curious, and Happy Birthday!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"I stepped out of my body to let God slide in; although I'm still dressed in flesh that I spiritually died in. Alive in Christ a new creation started breathin', Life exists and through this came completion. ... I'm not that person anymore (more!)! That's what blood was shed for! No longer a failure, livin' life more abundantly, therefore you'll never see me livin' less than victory."
John Reuben.

"Desperation, needing You; every last breath I scream for You. Shatter me into a million pieces, make me new. ... Break me, mold me, make me what You want me to be; I am Yours, for You to use, so take and replace me with You."
Family Force 5.

"Under a light in Bethlehem, I was sifting through the sand; the saline burned my eyes, I was looking for Your hand. I gave up on myself, and left my pride disarmed; I cried out 'I'm alone!' and found myself in Your arms. 'Rest in Me, oh, My love; I have loved you before the world began. Rest in Me, oh, My love; you'll never wander too far to reach My hand.'"

Luthien Rising

Feb 23 2007, 6:18pm

Post #5 of 38 (832 views)
There must be something to say about [In reply to] Can't Post

that column of The's in book V -- but I'll just stick to "happy birthday". Happy birthday, Curious!

Lúthien Rising
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. / We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.


Feb 23 2007, 6:27pm

Post #6 of 38 (845 views)
Thanks for the mathom! [In reply to] Can't Post

"Mathom" need not mean a recycled gift; see this old-TORn thread from January.

Happy Birthday, Curious!

ink drawing by JRRT

(This post was edited by Wynnie on Feb 23 2007, 6:27pm)


Feb 23 2007, 6:50pm

Post #7 of 38 (879 views)
I'm not speaking Old English, though. Tolkien redefined the word for Modern English. [In reply to] Can't Post



Feb 23 2007, 6:53pm

Post #8 of 38 (859 views)
"I wish I could say more", you said...and you did! [In reply to] Can't Post

I knew you would!!


great mathom! Thanks. I forgot to check closely and see if you worked the West Wind in there somewhere...

a.s. (off to read the root post a little more closely)

"an seileachan"

The Lost Mod Power: An Elegy (with apologies to Wordsworth)

What though the mod power which was once so bright
Be now FOREVER taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the stats, of glory in the power,
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.


Feb 23 2007, 7:42pm

Post #9 of 38 (811 views)
Happy birthday! [In reply to] Can't Post

The gift's exactly small, but who's counting ;) I've copied & saved it, for it's great!

Belinda's law: The chance a computer crashes is proportional to the importance of the document you're working on

FOTR:50 links / Samwise's cookbook / TORn birthday calendar / 'Things you never (want to) hear people say' list

Aunt Dora Baggins

Feb 23 2007, 8:22pm

Post #10 of 38 (845 views)
Happy birthday, Curious! [In reply to] Can't Post

Nice to know you're older than me, if only by a few months ;-)

I really enjoyed your analysis of the table of contents, especially your point about misdirection in the chapter titles. That's the mark of a really good chapter title. And you're right about genuine spoilers: the title of Return of the King is one. But of course the suspense is more about how everything is going to play out, and he has plenty of surprises along the way, particularly at Mount Doom.

It's at times like this that I really miss having modding powers, even though they came and went at random.

*Mods way up*

Hope the rest of your birthday is fabulous!

"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
Chance Meeting at Rivendell: a Tolkien Fanfic
and some other stuff I wrote...
leleni at hotmail dot com



Feb 23 2007, 8:59pm

Post #11 of 38 (825 views)
Many happy returns of the day, Curious! [In reply to] Can't Post

You certainly show that looking at LotR as a whole gives a very different perspective from the detailed chapter-by-chapter approach.

I really like your point that the "spoilers" often include enough misdirection to make them not really spoilers at all. Even the ultimate spoiler, you might think, the volume title The Return of the King, is really misdirection - because the return of the King turns out to be only a sideshow, while the main action happens on Mount Doom.

You've whetted my appetite for more LotR discussion on the new boards - hope we can come up with a new way to tackle the great book again before too long!


Feb 23 2007, 9:17pm

Post #12 of 38 (844 views)
Happy Birthday, Curious! [In reply to] Can't Post

Who knew how much material for discussion could be found in the Table of Contents?

I wonder how many people read the Prologue first as well. I remember I jumped straight into the story, although I read the Prologue when I was done, and before I tackled the appendices.

Thanks for your excellent mathom.


A day without sunshine is like, you know, night


Feb 23 2007, 9:34pm

Post #13 of 38 (800 views)
Many happy returns of the day! [In reply to] Can't Post

I have read all the prologue and the extra stuff a couple of times, but mostly I go straight for Chapter 1.

Your discussion of spoilers and maintaining suspense is interesting. I have never considered it in terms of chapter titles, but Tolkien does give it away a number of times in the text that the future is not entirely bleak. For example, things such as Frodo translating Galadriel's song, the songs to be written in the future about those who had fallen in battle, and future honor given to Theoden for his valor.

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Annûn n'Ithil
The Shire

Feb 23 2007, 9:40pm

Post #14 of 38 (848 views)
A huge HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! Thanks for this brilliant (as usual) offering. Love it! [In reply to] Can't Post

Each time I read LOTR, I read every single word, and some parts many more times than once. I truly think I love every word.

Thanks again for this, Curious.

An'I (old hob)

Oldbie: HobbitLoveR*M-e

Egleria! Iorhael!
Eglerio! Daur a Berhael!

Forum Admin / Moderator

Feb 23 2007, 9:40pm

Post #15 of 38 (805 views)
Gratulerer med dagen! [In reply to] Can't Post

You should set that to nice tune, then you'd be able to sing it while dancing around in your yellow boots :-)

Forum Admin / Moderator

Feb 23 2007, 10:09pm

Post #16 of 38 (791 views)
Happy Birthday, Curious [In reply to] Can't Post

and thanks for the present! Hope you have a great day.

Each cloak was fastened about the neck with a brooch like a green leaf veined with silver.
`Are these magic cloaks?' asked Pippin, looking at them with wonder.
`I do not know what you mean by that,' answered the leader of the Elves.

NARF since 1974.
Balin Bows

Sr. Staff

Feb 24 2007, 12:37am

Post #17 of 38 (794 views)
many happy returns of the day! Here's to ya! / [In reply to] Can't Post


'There are older and fouler things than orcs in the deep places of my fridge...'

Tol Eressea

Feb 24 2007, 1:06am

Post #18 of 38 (786 views)
Happiest of Birthdays to you! [In reply to] Can't Post


Sincerely, deej - The Artist Formerly Known as djdeathskiss

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Feb 24 2007, 1:27am

Post #19 of 38 (816 views)
Happy Birthday, and thanks for the mathom [In reply to] Can't Post

You give us someone else's Table of Contents, and then claim that the gift is not second-hand? Outrageous!

Thanks for the lovely analysis of the chapter titles. You are absolutely right, there's a lot more work to be done here. Who is up for a full-scale paratextual analysis of LOTR next time round in the RR?


Feb 24 2007, 1:53am

Post #20 of 38 (814 views)
How's this? [In reply to] Can't Post


One from you and one from me.

Happy Birthday, Curious!

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At the light that radiates down
Will it travel forth to you
Far across this shimmering sea?"
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Superuser / Moderator

Feb 24 2007, 2:53am

Post #21 of 38 (777 views)
Happy Birthday, Curious!! [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the excellent mathom. Smile

Koru: Maori symbol representing a fern frond as it opens. The koru reaches towards the light, striving for perfection, encouraging new, positive beginnings.

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Grey Havens

Feb 24 2007, 4:12am

Post #22 of 38 (786 views)
Happy Birthday... [In reply to] Can't Post

As for the spoilers at the beginning of the book, I found myself forgetting completely about them once I became engrossed in the story, so the fate of the characters remained a surprise to me (a nasssty surprise, mind you, considering I'm a sucker for happy endings and this one disappointed me big time).

Finding Frodo
Tol Eressea

Feb 24 2007, 4:31am

Post #23 of 38 (807 views)
Happy Birthday, and Thank You! [In reply to] Can't Post

I spent years reading LotR before I ever read the Prologue, and I don't think I read the Table of Contents until I was choosing a chapter for the RR discussion. It never occurred to me that they could be regarded as spoilers, and I love the way you can analyze everything with fresh eyes, Curious. Have a great day!

Where's Frodo?


Feb 24 2007, 10:00am

Post #24 of 38 (783 views)
Did you seriously doubt the Ring would be unmade? Or [In reply to] Can't Post

that the hobbits would return to the Shire? Indeed it sounds like you expected it, and what really surprised you is that Frodo didn't settle down in the Shire like Bilbo -- which was a surprise, and was not given away in the spoilers. Of course the way the Ring was unmade was also a surprise, and there are plenty of other surprises along the way, but I believe most readers expect a happy ending -- which is not exactly what they get. The spoilers themselves are also a piece of misdirection.

(This post was edited by Curious on Feb 24 2007, 10:02am)


Feb 24 2007, 10:14am

Post #25 of 38 (779 views)
Yes, and we haven't even *touched* on the Index! [In reply to] Can't Post


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