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**A Knife in the Dark** 1. The House at Crickhollow stood silent
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squire
Valinor


Jan 14 2008, 11:30pm

Post #1 of 39 (1100 views)
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**A Knife in the Dark** 1. The House at Crickhollow stood silent Can't Post

Welcome to this week’s Reading Room discussion of The Lord of the Rings. We are at Chapter 11, the next to last chapter of Book One. I will be tossing odd questions into the air for anyone to catch. Please feel free to comment on other aspects of the story that interest you!

Our tale so far: Strider has won the trust of the hobbits, or at least of Frodo, and they have agreed to let him guide them to Rivendell. For the night, fearing an attack by the Black Riders who are known to be in Bree, they will sleep in another room.

But this chapter opens with a quick transition back to the Shire:

As they prepared for sleep in the inn at Bree, darkness lay on Buckland; a mist strayed in the dells and along the river-bank. The house at Crickhollow stood silent. Fatty Bolger opened the door cautiously and peered out. A feeling of fear had been growing on him all day, and he was unable to rest or go to bed: there was a brooding threat in the breathless night-air. As he stared out into the gloom, a black shadow moved under the trees; the gate seemed to open of its own accord and close again without a sound. Terror seized him. He shrank back, and for a moment he stood trembling in the hall. Then he shut and locked the door.
The night deepened. There came the soft sound of horses led with stealth along the lane. Outside the gate they stopped, and three black figures entered, like shades of night creeping across the ground. One went to the door, one to the corner of the house on either side; and there they stood, as still as the shadows of stones, while night went slowly on. The house and the quiet trees seemed to be waiting breathlessly.
There was a faint stir in the leaves, and a cock crowed far away. The cold hour before dawn was passing. The figure by the door moved. In the dark without moon or stars a drawn blade gleamed, as if a chill light had been unsheathed. There was a blow, soft but heavy, and the door shuddered.
'Open, in the name of Mordor!' said a voice thin and menacing.
At a second blow the door yielded and fell back, with timbers burst and lock broken. The black figures passed swiftly in.

A. Who’s point of view is this passage being told from? What effects are achieved by the writing?

B. What do we learn about the Black Riders, their equipment, and their methods, from this passage?

C. “There they stood, as still as the shadows of stones” – comments?

At that moment, among the trees nearby, a horn rang out. It rent the night like fire on a hill-top.
AWAKE! FEAR! FIRE! FOES! AWAKE!
Fatty Bolger had not been idle. As soon as he saw the dark shapes creep from the garden, he knew that he must run for it, or perish. And run he did, out of the back door, through the garden, and over the fields. When he reached the nearest house, more than a mile away, he collapsed on the doorstep. 'No, no, no!' he was crying. 'No, not me! I haven't got it!' It was some time before anyone could make out what he was babbling about. At last they got the idea that enemies were in Buckland, some strange invasion from the Old Forest. And then they lost no more time.
FEAR! FIRE! FOES!
The Brandybucks were blowing the Horn-call of Buckland, that had not been sounded for a hundred years, not since the white wolves came in the Fell Winter, when the Brandywine was frozen over.
AWAKE! AWAKE!
Far-away answering horns were heard. The alarm was spreading. The black figures fled from the house. One of them let fall a hobbit-cloak on the step, as he ran. In the lane the noise of hoofs broke out, and gathering to a gallop, went hammering away into the darkness. All about Crickhollow there was the sound of horns blowing, and voices crying and feet running. But the Black Riders rode like a gale to the North-gate. Let the little people blow! Sauron would deal with them later. Meanwhile they had another errand: they knew now that the house was empty and the Ring had gone. They rode down the guards at the gate and vanished from the Shire.

D. How does fire on a hill-top rend the night?

E. If the Horn-call of Buckland has not been sounded for more than a hundred years, how likely is it that everyone in the district immediately “gets the idea that enemies are in Buckland”, “loses no time”, “spreads the alarm”, “cries”, “runs” and generally act like the Home Guard when the Luftwaffe is spotted?

F. How does Fatty’s behavior compare with Merry’s (a true Brandybuck) at Bree that same evening?

G. I thought Sauron does not allow his people to use his “right name” – as Aragorn tells us later on.

H. This has been discussed before, but what the heck have the Black Riders been doing between the evening of the 25th of September, when Frodo crossed the Brandywine with a Rider at his heels, and now which is the early morning of the 30th?



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


Millican
The Shire

Jan 15 2008, 12:12am

Post #2 of 39 (354 views)
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I'll try [In reply to] Can't Post

A. I can't answer that

B. Hard to say... they're going crazy across the shire it seems, yet they're trying to be sneaky now... I think their patience with this particular situation shows how much they truely believe the ring is here which we knows it isn't... shows me they're not perfect and that our boys have a shot at this...

C. As stated in B, it just shows how patient they are with this situation, they really think they've found the ring-bearer...

D. rend means to tear apart of disturb, what have you... if you're below a hill at night and someone lights a fire, it'd disturb the night, correct?

E. it's kind of like a hurricane alarm... you know it's there, you just never think about it, and when you hear it, you react... some may have been slow to react, but seeing panic in the others causes everyone to follow suit I'm sure...

F. Fatty is a very scared man, Merry was brave, stupid maybe, but brace...

G. I don't have the book on me, so I'm unsure about this passage and I've only read FoTR once, but it seems you're referring to: Let the little people blow! Sauron would deal with them later.... is it quoted in the book, or is that Tolkien letting you know what's in their mind? so they wouldn't be actually saying it?

H. That's a good one, can't wait to see the more experienced Ringers discuss this...


Elizabeth
Valinor


Jan 15 2008, 12:19am

Post #3 of 39 (384 views)
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The Omniscient Narrator steps silently out from the shadows. [In reply to] Can't Post

A. Who’s point of view is this passage being told from? What effects are achieved by the writing?

Actually, I'm pretty sure Fatty gave a detailed and melodramatic account of the events to Frodo & co. a year or so hence. It probably had to be toned down a lot for publication.

B. What do we learn about the Black Riders, their equipment, and their methods, from this passage?

Well, we knew they had horses. Swords are not a surprise. They know how to set up a stake-out.

C. “There they stood, as still as the shadows of stones” – comments?

What, exactly, are they waiting for? Other than to give the occupants of the house time enough to escape and organize a response?

D. How does fire on a hill-top rend the night?

Night = dark; fire = bright.
Night = silent; horn = noisy

E. If the Horn-call of Buckland has not been sounded for more than a hundred years, how likely is it that everyone in the district immediately “gets the idea that enemies are in Buckland”, “loses no time”, “spreads the alarm”, “cries”, “runs” and generally act like the Home Guard when the Luftwaffe is spotted?

It hasn't been sounded from need in a hundred years, but they practice the first Saturday night of every month by sounding the horn at midnight and then timing how long it takes the neighbors to come to the party.

F. How does Fatty’s behavior compare with Merry’s (a true Brandybuck) at Bree that same evening?

He has even more presence of mind to get the @#%! away and seek help. Too bad Merry didn't stay home and let Fatty go with Frodo.

But getting back to what took the Riders so long: Fatty had to run a mile. He's out of shape and has short legs and is going cross-country. It must have taken at least 20 minutes to go a mile to the next house. Then what? Does the horn sound from that house, or do we allow more time (at least an hour) to silently awaken and assemble more neighbors? Are the Riders overreacting to flee at the sound of the horns when the nearest neighbors are over a mile away?

(sorry, I have more questions than answers. A holdover from last week, I guess)

G. I thought Sauron does not allow his people to use his “right name” – as Aragorn tells us later on.

Maybe that's why they said "Mordor" instead of "Sauron"? I must be missing something (not the first time). They thought about Sauron at the end, but I'm sure they wouldn't even whisper the Name.

H. This has been discussed before, but what the heck have the Black Riders been doing between the evening of the 25th of September, when Frodo crossed the Brandywine with a Rider at his heels, and now which is the early morning of the 30th?

Good question. They saw Frodo heading this way. Then it took them a while to get across via the bridge, so the trail was cold and they needed to inquire of the locals to find what house he might have gone to. This was a tedious process, because they can only work at night, and the locals have a bad tendency to run screaming from their presence rather than provide useful answers.

But I want to know why there are only 3 Riders here. AppB says 4 Riders entered the Shire on the 23rd, while the rest pursued Rangers heading towards Bree. We'll meet those five shortly. But why only 3 now?




Whew, that was fun.


Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'

(This post was edited by Elizabeth on Jan 15 2008, 12:27am)


Millican
The Shire

Jan 15 2008, 12:29am

Post #4 of 39 (391 views)
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you guys know too much (said nicely) [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To


But I want to know why there are only 3 Riders here. AppB says 4 Riders entered the Shire on the 23rd, while the rest pursued Rangers heading towards Bree. We'll meet those five shortly. But why only 3 now?



interesting...


Elizabeth
Valinor


Jan 15 2008, 12:36am

Post #5 of 39 (341 views)
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Nah, it's all in knowing where to look. [In reply to] Can't Post

I always do this with a map and Appendix B handy. The Encyclopedia of Arda is a great secret weapon.




Whew, that was fun.


Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


SilentLion
Rivendell

Jan 15 2008, 12:46am

Post #6 of 39 (346 views)
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Some answers [In reply to] Can't Post

A. Who’s point of view is this passage being told from? What effects are achieved by the writing?

For the most part, Tolkien narrates the story from the perspective of one protagonist in the scene, but here he uses his authority as narrator to take an omniscient perspective. The problem he faces here is that Fatty was long gone by the time the Black Riders attacked, and if he hadn't been long gone, he wouldn't have been around to tell the story.

B. What do we learn about the Black Riders, their equipment, and their methods, from this passage?

We learn a little bit about how stealthy and deadly they really are. Nighttime, the isolatation of the intended target, and the element of surprise are all in their favor. Up until now, we've seen them mostly just ride around looking and sounding menacing, and ocassionally stopping to sniff. We are given the impression that they are capable of much worse, but we haven't seen it until now.

D. How does fire on a hill-top rend the night?

Well, it would rend the darkness.

E. If the Horn-call of Buckland has not been sounded for more than a hundred years, how likely is it that everyone in the district immediately “gets the idea that enemies are in Buckland”, “loses no time”, “spreads the alarm”, “cries”, “runs” and generally act like the Home Guard when the Luftwaffe is spotted?

Maybe they had Horn-call drills every Saturday at noon, like the volunteer fire department siren where I live. *s*

In all probability, they probably sound the horn at various times for ceremonial purposes (e.g., at the Buckland Mid-summer's festival). So the hobbits in Buckland know what the horn-call sounds like. But this is the first time in a century that it had been sounded for a real-emergency. In all probability, you're right that most hobbits would have reacted with less immediate urgency: "Honey, what's that? ... There it is again ... Why that's the horn call! ... The Harvest festival isn't for three weeks yet ... You don't suppose that the Thain's nephew is visiting and into mischief again ... No, it's still blowing ... Maybe something serious is really up ... Guess I better put on my coat and check things out."

F. How does Fatty’s behavior compare with Merry’s (a true Brandybuck) at Bree that same evening?

He's not a brave a Merry, but we knew that. That's a good thing for Fatty, because bravery would have been very foolish in this situation. Fortunately for Fatty, since he was posing a Frodo, he'd probably already considered what he should do if anyone ever showed up looking for Frodo: Run.

Speaking of danger, it says they rode down the guards at the gate. Does that mean, they killed them? Would the Buckland guards be the first casualties of the War of the Ring?

G. I thought Sauron does not allow his people to use his “right name” – as Aragorn tells us later on.

I noticed that bit of discontinuity too. Although Tolkien's describing the thoughts of the Nazgul here, he uses his authority narrator to put those thought into his own words. He must have decided it wasn't worth the more cumbersome prose it would take to use some other description for Sauron.

Sauron translates to something like "The Abhorred" I think, which was the name that the Elves gave to him. When they took a disliking to someone, the Elves could be very insistent that the rotten name they'd given to someone was his "right name".

The Nazgul probably would have thought of Sauron as "Master" or the "Lord of the Dark Tower", though they would have hated him enough that he could have been "Sauron" in their unspoken thoughts as well.

H. This has been discussed before, but what the heck have the Black Riders been doing between the evening of the 25th of September, when Frodo crossed the Brandywine with a Rider at his heels, and now which is the early morning of the 30th?

I think the real problem here is that Tolkien didn't want to show us the Nazgul in action until this moment, because he wanted us to feel that the hobbits were relatively safe for the moment at the Prancing Pony. He uses this as a prelude to the attack in Bree. The Black Riders probably should have attacked before now, but it was more convenient to delay the attack for the storyline.

To be fair, Buckland was more fortress-like than the rest of the Shire. The Nazgul had issues with water so they couldn't get at it across Brandywine. They probably ecountered other problems with the Old Forest, and that would have wasted more time. And when they did eventually get in, Buckland was a more tightknit community than the rest of the Shire, so it would have been hard to get anyone tell directions to the house at Crickethollow.


Finding Frodo
Tol Eressea


Jan 15 2008, 5:50am

Post #7 of 39 (310 views)
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rendition [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
D. How does fire on a hill-top rend the night?

To rend means to tear, split, or divide. Fire on a hill-top, especially a big fire on a big hill, would divide your field of vision as far as what's to the left of the fire and what's to the right. The sudden horn call would divide the night into two parts -- the time before the the horn blew and the time after.

Rend can also mean to cause pain or distress, and both a big fire on a hill-top and a loud emergency blast would cause distress to those in the vicinity.

Where's Frodo?


elostirion74
Rohan

Jan 15 2008, 7:13am

Post #8 of 39 (310 views)
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well [In reply to] Can't Post

A. Who’s point of view is this passage being told from? What effects are achieved by the writing?

Actually to me, this passage looks like it it's written mostly from the author's point of view. Still some of the lines from the first paragraph could easily have been Fatty Bolger's point of view as well. Well the writing makes the scene quite eerie, with the mists, the shadows creeping across the ground, a faint stir in the leaves, a chill light unsheated. The writing is consise and to the point, while conjuring suspense by the use of imagery and similes.

B. The Riders work quietly and effectively it seems from this passage (disregarding the fact that they've been wasting several days to find the place).

D. Tolkien likens sound images to visual imagery, a bit unusual. The night is supposed to be quiet and dark, and the horn violently disturbs this natural state just like a bright fire would have done it visually.
I think it's a great image.

E. Well, fair point. Still the Bucklanders have been living close to the Old Forest and the boundaries of the Shire for a long time. Even if they are not constantly on the alert, it seems they retain some kind of natural vigilance.

F. From my point of view, when I read this passage, Fatty was being more wise and cautious than Merry.
Merry says that he felt he was drawn somehow, but I don't see why he should not have had the sense to try and withdraw. They experience the same gripping fear, but Fatty is able to run away before the fear seizes him completely. His collapse I see as an after-effect of great strain, like someone who's been truly afraid of dying.



Curious
Half-elven


Jan 15 2008, 10:42am

Post #9 of 39 (341 views)
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Thoughts. [In reply to] Can't Post

A. Who’s point of view is this passage being told from?

The omniscient narrator.

What effects are achieved by the writing?

Suspense. By not telling us what Fatty had been up to until later, Tolkien causes us to worry for Fatty's safety. There's also a ghost story effect, with the strange feeling of fear, the black shadow moving, the gate opening and closing of its own accord, and the shades of night creeping across the ground and standing like shadows of stones.

B. What do we learn about the Black Riders, their equipment, and their methods, from this passage?

It appears that one of the Black Riders acted as a scout, relying on invisibility, but Fatty happened to peer out the door just as the gate opened and closed, seemingly of its own accord. This was lucky for Fatty, if you want to call it luck. Three Black Riders returned in stealth with their horses and took up posts at the door and two corners of the house, but, strangely, none bothered to guard the back of the house. One of the Riders drew a blade and broke down the locked door with two "soft but heavy" blows, declaring "Open, in the name of Mordor." He really didn't give anyone a chance to open the door.

Perhaps if Fatty had not chanced to look out the door when the gate opened, this approach would have worked, but it really is strange that they didn't bother to guard the back door. And I wonder whether the same aura of fear that the Nazgul use as a weapon hurts their ability to do anything in stealth, since even though Fatty doesn't see them, he may feel that aura.

C. “There they stood, as still as the shadows of stones” – comments?

Just another ghostly night time shadow reference. The barrow wight was also described as a "shadow against the stars." The Army of the Dead was described as a Shadow Host.

D. How does fire on a hill-top rend the night?

Brightness in the dark? It's a strange simile, though, comparing a sound to a visual image.

E. If the Horn-call of Buckland has not been sounded for more than a hundred years, how likely is it that everyone in the district immediately “gets the idea that enemies are in Buckland”, “loses no time”, “spreads the alarm”, “cries”, “runs” and generally act like the Home Guard when the Luftwaffe is spotted?

Frequent drills. Also, legends of that horn call are well known. I don't think I have ever heard the civil defense sirens in Chicago, but I think I would instantly recognize them if they were used, and I would assume that they signalled an emergency. On the other hand, I don't get the impression that the hobbits were acting with much discipline or purpose. Rather than acting like the Home Guard when the Luftwaffe is spotted, all going to pre-assigned positions, they seemed to be running about in panic.

F. How does Fatty’s behavior compare with Merry’s (a true Brandybuck) at Bree that same evening?

Merry denies that he was brave when he followed the Black Rider. Something drew him to the Rider. Some malevolent Power may have been at work. On the other hand, Merry is obviously bolder than Fatty, so perhaps Merry was unduly modest. On the other hand, Merry may also be more foolish than Fatty. After all, Fatty was right to fear the Old Forest. And Fatty's decision to run from the Black Riders was wiser than Merry's decision to follow one.

G. I thought Sauron does not allow his people to use his “right name” – as Aragorn tells us later on.

Maybe the omniscient narrator is translating the thoughts of the Black Riders. Who knows what name they really used? Of course that doesn't explain the Mouth of Sauron calling himself the Mouth of Sauron, and using the name of Sauron several times in parley with Gandalf and Aragorn. Maybe Aragorn was wrong, or maybe that rule only applied to orcs and footsoldiers.

H. This has been discussed before, but what the heck have the Black Riders been doing between the evening of the 25th of September, when Frodo crossed the Brandywine with a Rider at his heels, and now which is the early morning of the 30th?

I would say they were waiting for the hobbits to leave, and finally got tired of waiting. Perhaps they just got a signal from their eastern contingent that several hobbits had given them the slip and were already in Bree, so storm the house already!



FarFromHome
Valinor


Jan 15 2008, 11:29am

Post #10 of 39 (352 views)
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If a blow falls on a door... [In reply to] Can't Post

but nobody hears it, does it still make a sound?

It's interesting that the only time the Black Riders seem to interact physically with the ordinary world is right here, where nobody observes them. The account we get is strangely naive, as others have mentioned, with the Riders failing to cover the back door, and with Fatty having been warned by the swinging of the gate. The Nazgul go from being an otherworldly menace to being protagonists in a slightly cheesy ghost story! My guess is that this is the story that the Hobbits themselves came up with to explain the strange events that night. They also presumably (with hindsight) imagined the words the Nazgul thought to themselves - and unknowingly put the forbidden name of Sauron into their minds if not onto their lips - or maybe it wasn't unknowingly, maybe the narrator (Frodo?) wants to suggest that the Nazgul had no respect for Sauron's name in their hearts, even if they would not pronounce it out loud.

The later part of the story, where the Riders ride down the guards at the gate, comes across more realistically - now the Riders are mounted again, so they can rely on their horses to do the interacting with the real world. I don't imagine that there is any need for the Riders themselves to get involved here - I believe that "riding down" people on foot simply means charging right at them so that they give way or are knocked down. There might be injuries from impact with horses, but I don't think the Riders would have needed to use swords or any physical violence themselves.

That "shadows of stones" simile is interesting. Stones are certainly still themselves, but too solid and substantial to make a good simile for the Riders. But shadows are never completely still - variations in light, from passing clouds or reflections, would surely make the shadows even of stones have a slight shimmer of movement. Which somehow makes me think of a kind of living stillness - more eerily still, perhaps, than the stillness of something inert like the stones themselves.

That horn-call later, breaking the deep silence of a night in the Shire, must have been immediately recognisable as something very serious indeed, even if it might not have been recognised by everyone. But I guess the Horn-call of Buckland must have been sounded unofficially in the hundred years since it was last used for real - otherwise how would Merry have known it when he raises the Shire in the Scouring? Sam seems to recognise it too:

[Sam] had not gone far when he heard a sudden clear horn-call go up ringing into the sky. Far over hill and field it echoed; and so compelling was that call that Sam himself almost turned and dashed back. His pony reared and neighed.

"On, lad! On!" he cried. "We'll be going back soon."

Then he heard Merry change the note, and up went the Horn-cry of Buckland, shaking the air.

Awake! Awake! Fear, Fire, Foes! Awake!
Fire, Foes! Awake!

The power of a clear horn-call to stir the emotions echoes through the whole book, I guess. Memories of WWI?

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


visualweasel
Rohan


Jan 15 2008, 5:19pm

Post #11 of 39 (318 views)
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A couple of replies [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
A. [..] What effects are achieved by the writing?



I find this passage truly chilling. Curious mentioned suspense, which is there for me too, as well as the ghost story element. The passage reminds me of something from Algernon Blackwood, or even Edgar Allan Poe.


Quote
G. I thought Sauron does not allow his people to use his "right name" — as Aragorn tells us later on.



As you hint, Aragorn is indeed talking about the name "Sauron", but this is a bit of a puzzler itself, for "Sauron" can hardly be called his "right name", at least not objectively. Similarly, "Morgoth" isn't Melkor's "right name" either, and for the same reasons. Given its pejorative meaning, I can certainly imagine Sauron wouldn't tolerate that kind of cheek from his underlings. Perhaps Aragorn's choice of words — "his right name" — is meant to suggest that he, Aragorn, considers it his right name, but not that Sauron would. Anyway, to return to the question at hand, my opinion is that these are meant to convey the spirit of the Nazgûls' thoughts, not their literal words. Everything we read through the entire book is translated through at least one narrator, and more often several. This is no different.

Does this allow us to explain away almost any inconsistency? Yes! Clever tactic on Tolkien's part, eh? Wink

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


Curious
Half-elven


Jan 16 2008, 6:22pm

Post #12 of 39 (308 views)
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The movements of the Nazgul are quite complicated. [In reply to] Can't Post

See this link. Note that this was a draft version of the movement of the Riders, and could have changed in the final version. But just because four entered the Shire and five stormed through Bree doesn't mean that one twiddled his thumbs while three stormed the house at Crickhollow. What's interesting to me is that Tolkien did make his own notes about their movements, although we don't know if all of those notes survived.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jan 16 2008, 10:39pm

Post #13 of 39 (341 views)
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Busted doors, crowing roosters, and wild horns. [In reply to] Can't Post

One of the best insights from our previous discussion was gramma's identification of the similarities between this scene and the climax of "The Siege of Gondor". You had some good follow-up ideas, too.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

Join us Jan. 14-20 for "A Knife in the Dark".


visualweasel
Rohan


Jan 16 2008, 10:56pm

Post #14 of 39 (277 views)
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Very perceptive! Thanks for that link. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


Curious
Half-elven


Jan 16 2008, 11:24pm

Post #15 of 39 (316 views)
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And we would have gotten the Ring, too, [In reply to] Can't Post

if it hadn't been for those meddling hobbits!


Quote

The Nazgul go from being an otherworldly menace to being protagonists in a slightly cheesy ghost story!



Scooby-doo, where are you?

Actually, I think it is the other way around. The Nazgul went from being protagonists in a slightly cheesy ghost story in FotR to being an otherworldly menace in TT and RotK. After all, even at the Ford they were scared of a few torches.

Readers offer all kinds of justifications for this contrast, but none of them really satisfy me, although the first time I read FotR, when I wasn't aware of what the Nazgul become in TT and RotK, I probably found them quite mysterious and satisfying. And that Morgul blade on Weathertop is genuinely scary. But why do they retreat? Even Jackson had problems with that one, resorting to highly-flammable robes. Who knew that black die was oil based?

Over the years I've come up with my own explanations for these discrepancies, but I still don't think Tolkien explains it very well. I just think he glosses over it. And, like Bombadil's flamboyance, it only stands out because Tolkien is usually so thorough and consistent.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jan 17 2008, 5:17am

Post #16 of 39 (292 views)
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Tolkien says the Riders' map was incomplete. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
H. This has been discussed before, but what the heck have the Black Riders been doing between the evening of the 25th of September, when Frodo crossed the Brandywine with a Rider at his heels, and now which is the early morning of the 30th?


This is actually our first discussion of FotR since the publication of Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull's book, The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, which only became available during our December 2005 discussion of "Minas Tirith" from RotK. Included in the Companion are excerpts from Tolkien's "Hunt for the Ring" papers, that he drafted before RotK was sent to the publisher in 1955, to explain the movements of the Nazgûl. Most of these sometimes-contradictory papers were edited by Chistopher Tolkien and published in 1980 in Unfinished Tales, but some selections, mostly pertinent to this chapter and the next, only appeared in the Companion, twenty-five years later.

Concerning the action of the Riders after Frodo crossed the Brandywine into Buckland, Tolkien writes that Khamûl, the Ringwraith left behind on the Ferry landing stage on Sep. 25, first summoned his four companions who were scattered across the Shire. Before daybreak on Sep. 26 he sends two east by the Road to find the Witch-king, leaves one by the Brandywine Bridge, and with the other sneaks through the North Gate into Buckland. "But desiring to attract as little notice as possible he (mistakenly and against Sauron's orders) sacrifices speed to stealth." They search mostly by night, and flounder because the map they took from Saruman's spy doesn't include the Buckland! They finally locate Crickhollow on the same night that Frodo and his companions are trapped in the Barrow, and can sense that the Ring is or was there. Khamûl stands watch on Sep. 29 (thus "the feeling of fear" Fatty feels that day) while his companion returns to the North Gate to fetch the third Rider and their horses, and they attack that night, or really the next morning.

But really, I think Tolkien wanted the attack on Crickhollow to coincide with the break-in at the Pony --the question is, why?-- and came up with this explanation so he wouldn't have to change the story.

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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jan 17 2008, 5:41am

Post #17 of 39 (242 views)
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Some of the notes cited there... [In reply to] Can't Post

were certainly superseded by the material in the "Hunt for the Ring" papers, but sometimes the early drafts seem to more closely match what happens in the text of LotR.

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We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

Join us Jan. 14-20 for "A Knife in the Dark".


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jan 17 2008, 5:47am

Post #18 of 39 (265 views)
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Aren't the Nazgûl less active in the later books? [In reply to] Can't Post

Apart from the Witch-king on the Pelennor, they just buzz around, delivering messages and projecting fear, but not engaging with our heroes as directly as they do here. The pursuit just behind in TT and RotK will be orcs, not wraiths.

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We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

Join us Jan. 14-20 for "A Knife in the Dark".


Elizabeth
Valinor


Jan 17 2008, 6:21am

Post #19 of 39 (258 views)
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As it happens, [In reply to] Can't Post

your link to gramma's excellent post is in a thread with a fine synopsis of the situation with respect to who raided the Prancing Pony.




Whew, that was fun.


Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


sador
Half-elven

Jan 17 2008, 9:22am

Post #20 of 39 (253 views)
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Catching up, somewhat late [In reply to] Can't Post

A. Who’s point of view is this passage being told from? What effects are achieved by the writing?
Well, the last thing we had was Frodo and co. sleeping in the inn, with someone we knew was trustworthy (he knew the poem and gave his right name, without reading the letter; and there is no reson to suspect Butterbur mistook him - Sam should have doubts about Strider, but we shouldn't). An Strider has just reassured us it's not the Black Riders way to attack inhabited places (as someone pointed out, their not that great in it).
This scene gives us a bit of a shock, and reminds us of the danger; it also makes us uneasy about our friends at the inn.
D. How does fire on a hill-top rend the night?
Curoius mentioned the mixing of sight and hearing metaphore. The best one I know is in Eccelastias 11,7.
F. How does Fatty’s behavior compare with Merry’s (a true Brandybuck) at Bree that same evening?
We learn later (in 'The Scouring of the Shire'), that Fatty was imprisoned in the Lockhouses, as the leader of a band of rebels (the only one we hear of). Not an answer, but to prevent any Fatty-bashing.
G. I thought Sauron does not allow his people to use his “right name” – as Aragorn tells us later on.
Of course, the used some other name. How about Annatar?
As was mentioned already, nobody actually intreviewed the Riders, but it is a simple speculation about their thinking. No need for any omniptesent author for that. In general, we get no information for which enemy resources will be required (which would account for the ambiguity on 'Who Attacked the Inn'). Ugluk's thoughts while healing Merry are the most far-fetched speculation (more than the Riders' here, Grishnakh's determination to kill the hobbits rather than let them escape, and Sauron's having a mind to play with his enemies in 'The Black Gate Opens') - but even they are quite simple to guess at.


sador
Half-elven

Jan 17 2008, 9:40am

Post #21 of 39 (259 views)
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Is this the proof people talk about so much [In reply to] Can't Post

As the definitive proof it was Ferny who attacked the inn?
It's a poor one, in my opinion. Drafts change, and some of the changes reflect dramatically on this question.

In the draft, we have Trotter, and not Strider. It makes much more sense to employ a local thug against five sleeping hobbits, than against the Chief of the Rangers (Butterbur knows he's the chief, as Sam implies in 'Many Partings', and Ferny knows "he's not a match for me in a wood"). Does Ferny kid himself Strider would be asleep, not notice the beaking
of the window?

I know Aragorn says "they will not openly attack a house" - but he might just be trying to reassure the hobbits, to let them have a good night's sleep (he does take precautions); and he might be plain wrong: other Riders are attacking Crickhollow at the time.
At any rate, in 'Flotsam and Jetsam' he says he has wondered oiften about the Southrener, and is not sure whether he was in league with the Riders or not. So what was he doing? Trying to get the Ring for Saruman? (Ferny later joins Saruman's employment, too)

As a mentioned in the previous post - I prefer this question to be left unanswered. And I admit being a Bakshi-firster, which might have preverted my reading. And I admit I haven't read HOME. But going by the books alone, and by this very intersting thread you've posted - I am yet unconvinced about the Ferny possibility (and there are other objections to add).

As Galdor said: "The Wise may have good reason to believe.... unlikely though it seems to those who know less. But may we not hear the proofs?"


a.s.
Valinor


Jan 17 2008, 11:15am

Post #22 of 39 (242 views)
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crowing roosters who drive away ghosts [In reply to] Can't Post

I had forgotten the crowing of the rooster in this scene! Just in case people miss it buried in that old (and very pertinent and interesting) subthread of gramma's, I'll repeat myself. The crowing of a rooster was once held to be the tool that drove ghosts (those "extravagant and erring spirit(s)") away:



Quote

Hamlet: Act I, Scene I

Horatio (talking about the exit of The Ghost):

"...I have heard
The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn,
Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat
Awake the god of day; and at his warning,
Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air,
Th' extravagant and erring spirit hies
To his confine;..."


The crow of a cock is a symbol of light, light returning to banish night, the hope of resurrection and new day.





"an seileachan"

"And we must all bring Provisions."
"Bring what ?"
"Things to eat."
"Oh!" said Pooh happily. "I thought you said Provisions.
I'll go and tell them." And he stumped off.


squire
Valinor


Jan 17 2008, 12:23pm

Post #23 of 39 (258 views)
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The Riders "can sense that the Ring is or *was* there" - was? [In reply to] Can't Post

What, does it leave some kind of mystic odor behind?

I guess that would explain the sniffing, too!!

Thanks for that new info. I haven't been consulting H&S Readers Companion like I should, I see. Partly this is due to lack of time. But also partly I remember when it first came out, I was underwhelmed with the insights their commentary offered, relative to the work the Reading Room does in its close readings of LotR.

I guess Tolkien has covered himself, somewhat ingloriously, with that very contrived and weak set of notes. I have always suspected that the attack on Crickhollow, as scary and dramatic as it is, takes place when it does for the dramatic coincidence with the attack on the rooms in Bree. As Sador says, it reminds us that the Riders are not as averse to direct action as Strider has just assured us they are. And I love the line "open, in the name of Mordor" - such a riff on the classic "Stop! in the name of the law!" from cheesy old cops and robbers shows.

If I remember my HoME readings from last time around, the raid on Crickhollow originally involved the kidnaping of the Fatty-character (different name and identity in the drafts), and his subsequent rescue by Gandalf. Tolkien eventually dropped that idea, realizing that the Riders, once they discovered their captive did not have the Ring, would simply kill him rather than carry him around like baggage all the way to Weathertop.

I have always wondered why, if the Riders could break down a heavy wooden door with two blows of their fists (you try it: it's very hard to do!), they still could not "seize" Frodo until he had entered the wraith world via the Morgul-knife wound.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


squire
Valinor


Jan 17 2008, 12:30pm

Post #24 of 39 (284 views)
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For cockcrow limits our holiday - the dead of the night's high-noon! [In reply to] Can't Post

As the sob of the breeze sweeps over the trees and the mists lie low on the fen,
From grey tomb-stones are gathered the bones that once were women and men,
And away they go, with a mop and a mow, to the revel that ends too soon,
For cockcrow limits our holiday - the dead of the night's high-noon! (From Ruddigore, by Gilbert & Sullivan)

Sounds like the Nazgul had some pretty wild parties while waiting for the Boss to pull himself together.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


Curious
Half-elven


Jan 17 2008, 1:25pm

Post #25 of 39 (239 views)
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Magic blew the door down. [In reply to] Can't Post

If they can use magic to blow down the gates of Minas Tirith, surely they can use magic to blow down an ordinary door.

Well, it works for me, anyway. I'm much more confused by why they neglected the back door.

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