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"Three Is Company" -- Let's go camping!
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Jun 14 2010, 2:30pm

Post #76 of 79 (125 views)
Building tension [In reply to] Can't Post


Those of us who have read the book can't understand why Gandalf let Frodo delay, but the first-time reader is lulled into thinking matters may not be quite so urgent, the same state of mind that the hobbits themselves have when they set out on their little camping trip.

I also have trouble with Gandalf's delay. Yet you bring up a good point about 1st-time readers. The Ring and Sauron are somewhat threatening in the early chapters, casting a cloud over happy hobbit-land. That menace grows as the Quest moves on. By comparison, if in Chapter One, Gandalf showed up on Frodo's doorstep and said, "Grab the Ring, it's evil, we're going to Mordor right now, and we don't have time to pack," there would have been this well-founded, immediate urgency, but we would have lost the build-up of suspense and also the development of The Shire and key characters. So from a writer's perspective, it might have made sense for JRR to delay things and let new readers feel the tension build the way it does as a thunderstorm gathers, rather start in the midst of lightning.

This is also a big difference between the books and the movies. The books continue to move at a leisurely pace, with months in Rivendell, a month in Lothlorien, and many, many discussions and stories along the way. The movies move at a breakneck pace.

I also agree that a lot of time is lost from the slow pace, but I wonder if this is Tolkien's acknowledgment that things moved more slowly in the Middle Ages than today. For instance, in wars it was common to campaign only in the summer since winter made things more difficult. In the 20th century, winter didn't suddenly become more hospitable, but wars like WWI and WWII went on unabated. Isn't it a little funny to think of October rolling around and Hitler and Chamberlain saying, "Okay, we'll start off again in April with these same war fronts. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year."

I'd also wager that time in Rivendell was needed for Frodo to heal (he was in a coma-like state for 3 days when he got there), and in Lorien, they needed emotional healing from the loss of Gandalf. There's also that peculiar remark from Galadriel after the temptation in the Mirror episode, something with the gist of "We have chosen, and the tides of fate are flowing. It's time for you to leave." It's as if she were waiting for something significant to happen as part of the Quest, hence she hadn't tried to expedite their departure before that. Or, Fate itself was waiting for something and had "stalled," then it began flowing again when Frodo had seen the Eye and G. passed her test.


Jun 14 2010, 3:59pm

Post #77 of 79 (123 views)
Regarding WW II, I wouldn't say [In reply to] Can't Post

that fighting went on in winter "unabated." Winter weather had a great deal to do with abating advances of Germany during the its expansion into the Soviet Union, and also slowed the Allies during Germany's retreat. But no one went home to hibernate, that's for sure.

On the other hand, the Fellowship starts out when winter officially begins, at the Winter Solstice, and finishes before the official start of spring at the Spring Equinox. So technically the Fellowship starts and ends its quest in winter. I'm not sure how that fits into a Middle-ages paradigm.


Jun 14 2010, 5:35pm

Post #78 of 79 (117 views)
OK, lousy example about world wars [In reply to] Can't Post

Yet I do think things moved more slowly in the older days, and people expected them to. I'll try again with a new example: even in the 1800s, if someone from Britain wanted to go to India on official business, it would take months on a ship instead of an overnight flight, and people expected long journeys to take time and adjusted to that.

On the other hand, Elrond certainly knew what horses are, and I'm not sure why the Fellowship went on foot when they could have gone faster by horse. I don't think they would have attracted any more or less attention.

Now that I think about it some more, why didn't they cross the mountains near Rivendell, where Gloin says that the Beornings keep the passes safe? No Moria, no Caradhras, and just as much wilderness to cross on either side of the Misty Mountains, with Lorien that much easier to get to. Scouts from Rivendell presumably took that route when they went looking for Rhadagast in Rhosgobel on the borders of Mirkwood before the Fellowship set out, and they came back alive (I assume). But now I'm nitpicking.


Jun 14 2010, 6:16pm

Post #79 of 79 (226 views)
Tolkien wants to funnel them [In reply to] Can't Post

into Moria, where Gandalf regrets bringing even Bill the Pony because he predicted they would have to take this dark road. The funneling can sometimes seem artificial, like a Dungeons and Dragons dungeonmaster who is determined to force his players into an area infested with monsters.

However, I think there is a very good reason they did not head west across the Misty Mountains from Rivendell: it was late December, and the northern passes were closed by deep snow. There are other reasons as well -- the west side of the Misty Mountains was wilder than the east, infested with goblins and wolves and nearer to Mirkwood and Dol Guldur. Once the Fellowship headed south from the land of the Beornings, they might have been in great danger.

I do think the idea of walking great distances was more common even in Tolkien's time than it is today. Over long distances, ordinary horses (as opposed to Shadowfax or relay horses) would not necessarily make the trip much shorter, although horses (or ponies) could carry baggage.

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