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Fear and Loathing in the Shire

Elwen
Lorien


Oct 2 2013, 6:47pm

Post #1 of 20 (460 views)
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Fear and Loathing in the Shire Can't Post

I used to be an every year LOTR reader, but when I realized it had become had become more tradition than treat, I stopped for a few years. Now I’ve picked it up again and I’m loving how fresh and new everything seems again. This will probably be the first of several posts as I stumble across things I hadn’t noticed, or had forgotten about, so bear with me.
The thing that has struck me in a way that is sharper than it ever has before was just how frightening the pursuit by the Nazgul through the Shire really is. I've always found the raid on Crickhollow "scary" and maybe it was just the breezy autumn darkness as I was reading on my back porch, but I never noticed just how strong the suspense is there, and that's not the only moment.
The incredibly close call as Frodo is leaving Bag End, the encounter on the road, the image of the Rider on the top of the dell the hobbits just left, the soft but shuddering blow on the door of the Crickhollow house; these are creepy on first read, but when you fully understand what it is that is pursuing the hobbits, it’s downright terrifying.

Which brings me to my question. Aragorn says of the Nazgul: “They will come on you in the wild, in some dark place where there is no help. Do you wish them to find you? They are terrible!” The hobbits looked at him, and saw with surprise that his face was drawn as if with pain, and his hands clenched the arms of his chair.” Is he remembering some past encounter? Or is it just that he knows what they are?

 photo Desolation-of-Smaug2_zpsc1584ee1.jpg
Tauriel: So let me get this straight sir, this Elwen girl is back on something called TORn, and rather than just tell her to stop stalking you, you'd like me to show up in a movie I have no business being in as a ploy to distract her, and nevermind the wrath of countless Tolkien fans who will be calling for my destruction?

Legolas: That about sums it up. Besides, some people might like you. Oh, and to be on the safe side, can we pretend to be a couple too?


Hamfast Gamgee
Gondor

Oct 2 2013, 9:32pm

Post #2 of 20 (262 views)
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We, the reader don't know [In reply to] Can't Post

Who the Black Riders truly are in the 3rd chapter and rightly so. The Hobbits simply think that some outlandish people have invaded the Shire and are not even sure if they are after them. But that is how things should be, Tolkien believed in building up the tension. Remember that a few pages later the Hobbits are laughing and singing in the Shire autumn sunlight. Indeed it is not really until we meet Strider that we are sure that the Black Riders are deadly and not until Rivendell and indeed later that their true identities are revealed. Also, if we are talking about deadly encounters with the Black Riders, don't forget Fatty Bolgers at Crickenhollow!


Na Vedui
Rohan


Oct 2 2013, 10:04pm

Post #3 of 20 (243 views)
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Yes, those early scenes are creepy [In reply to] Can't Post

And it makes it much worse that they are happening in the Shire and Buckland, in places where the hobbits are used to being safe and knowing who's about. Plus the hints that there's something really peculiar about the Black Riders - the sniffing and horrible cries and the crawling and crouching. They're not just ordinary Big Folk, though the full horror of what they are is still hidden.

There might be some echoes of Stevenson's "Treasure Island" here - the bit at the inn and the ex-pirate being tipped the Black Spot by his old shipmates - Farmer Maggot's shrewd guess that it is something to do with Bilbo and his long-ago adventure and treasure from foreign parts. The initial impressions made by the Black Riders and Stevenson's character Blind Pew have something in common, I think.


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Oct 3 2013, 3:41pm

Post #4 of 20 (208 views)
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What is Aragorn thinking? [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think Aragorn has met the Black Riders before. But he knows what they are, and their leader is the historical enemy of Aragorn's people. So it may be history, rather than a personal encounter that he's remembering.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Darkstone
Immortal


Oct 3 2013, 3:55pm

Post #5 of 20 (213 views)
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Trotter [In reply to] Can't Post

Aragorn's reaction seems to be left over from when he was a hobbit named Trotter who had wooden feet after being tortured in Mordor. See HoME IX, Sauron Defeated.

******************************************
I met a Balrog on the stair,
He had some wings that weren't there.
They weren't there again today,
I wish he would just fly away.

(This post was edited by Darkstone on Oct 3 2013, 3:56pm)


squire
Valinor


Oct 3 2013, 5:59pm

Post #6 of 20 (198 views)
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It's hard to say for sure if Aragorn has met the Black Riders before Bree [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Do you wish them to find you? They are terrible!’
The hobbits looked at him, and saw with surprise that his face was drawn as if with pain, and his hands clenched the arms of his chair. The room was very quiet and still, and the light seemed to have grown dim. For a while he sat with unseeing eyes as if walking in distant memory or listening to sounds in the Night far away.
‘There!’ he cried after a moment, drawing his hand across his brow. ‘Perhaps I know more about these pursuers than you do.
- LotR I.10, bold by squire


I've never read this without getting the idea that Aragorn has personally had a 'close encounter' with the Nazgul. I've see two ideas as to how this may have happened, so that his warning to Frodo comes from personal experience rather than hearsay.

One is his comment at the Council that he has explored the Morgul Vale. As Darkstone comments in this thread, this seems to be a leftover bit from Aragorn's original incarnation as Trotter, the hobbit ranger who was tortured and maimed by the forces of Mordor in some episode in the past. Nevertheless, before the War of the Ring one would only have encountered the Nazgul near Dol Guldur or Minas Morgul, and Aragorn explicitly says he has ventured within sight of the latter, unlike anyone else in the epic.

Another suggestion (which I like, because it better explains Aragorn's cold sweat) is that he was in command at Sarn Forn on the borders of the Shire when the Black Riders scattered the Rangers on guard there, just a week before the hobbits arrived at Bree. That's a bit more of a UUT, since nothing in the published text supports it; the chronology in the appendices only says a force of Rangers was scattered, not that Aragorn was there. Weakening this one further is the material in Unfinished Tales, where the primary "Hunt for the Ring" narrative explicitly rules out Aragorn's presence at the Ford.



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 (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


Elwen
Lorien


Oct 3 2013, 8:19pm

Post #7 of 20 (184 views)
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Agreed on Crickhollow... [In reply to] Can't Post

Did I forget to mention that one? I didn't mean to, as that is near the top of my list. "Open in the name of Mordor" *shudders*

It's true the hobbits (and the first time reader) still don't understand what they are up against until later...but as a repeat reader, we do know, and something that so clearly affects a character as brave as Aragorn gives us pause.

 photo Desolation-of-Smaug2_zpsc1584ee1.jpg
Tauriel: So let me get this straight sir, this Elwen girl is back on something called TORn, and rather than just tell her to stop stalking you, you'd like me to show up in a movie I have no business being in as a ploy to distract her, and nevermind the wrath of countless Tolkien fans who will be calling for my destruction?

Legolas: That about sums it up. Besides, some people might like you. Oh, and to be on the safe side, can we pretend to be a couple too?


Elwen
Lorien


Oct 3 2013, 8:31pm

Post #8 of 20 (179 views)
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Same here. [In reply to] Can't Post

I get the impression that he had actually had, as you put it, a 'close encounter," but as I didn't have any text to back me up, I questioned my theory.

I think the Trotter theory a good one, but I can't imagine it would have been left in by accident, so there must have been some encounter. I think you're right on the Morgul Vale, but it begs the question...if he had had more than a passing glimpse/interaction with one of more of the Nazgul, within sight of their stronghold, would he have lived to tell the tale? I have great faith in Aragorn, but even Gandalf had a difficult time with them.

 photo Desolation-of-Smaug2_zpsc1584ee1.jpg
Tauriel: So let me get this straight sir, this Elwen girl is back on something called TORn, and rather than just tell her to stop stalking you, you'd like me to show up in a movie I have no business being in as a ploy to distract her, and nevermind the wrath of countless Tolkien fans who will be calling for my destruction?

Legolas: That about sums it up. Besides, some people might like you. Oh, and to be on the safe side, can we pretend to be a couple too?


Elwen
Lorien


Oct 3 2013, 8:33pm

Post #9 of 20 (181 views)
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Is it horribly ignorant of me... [In reply to] Can't Post

that I haven't read Treasure Island? (I've seen the Muppet version a few times though, and Blind Pew is a creepy guy. Wink)

 photo Desolation-of-Smaug2_zpsc1584ee1.jpg
Tauriel: So let me get this straight sir, this Elwen girl is back on something called TORn, and rather than just tell her to stop stalking you, you'd like me to show up in a movie I have no business being in as a ploy to distract her, and nevermind the wrath of countless Tolkien fans who will be calling for my destruction?

Legolas: That about sums it up. Besides, some people might like you. Oh, and to be on the safe side, can we pretend to be a couple too?


Meneldor
Tol Eressea


Oct 3 2013, 8:48pm

Post #10 of 20 (171 views)
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Shiver my timbers, shiver my soul - yo ho heave ho [In reply to] Can't Post

There are men whose hearts are as black as coal - yo ho heave ho

Off the top of my head, I think I've seen at least five different Treasure Island movies (including Muppets and Treasure Planet) and read the book at least three times. It's OK that you haven't read it. You're dead to me now, that's all.

To be fair, there is a wee possibility that my opinion on what constitutes essential and fine literature may be just the slightest bit biased. Yarrr. Pirate


They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Oct 3 2013, 9:26pm

Post #11 of 20 (184 views)
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O, that sucks [In reply to] Can't Post

Arwen: What is it dearest? Why do you wake in the night, so drenched in sweat?
Aragorn: I dreamt I was a hobbit, tortured by the agents if Mordor , until I had to have wooden hooves.


Stuck with what your author imagined in an earlier draft…

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Oct 3 2013, 9:27pm

Post #12 of 20 (155 views)
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It's a classic// [In reply to] Can't Post

 

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


CuriousG
Valinor


Oct 4 2013, 12:26pm

Post #13 of 20 (161 views)
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If ever there was good publishing advice for a writer [In reply to] Can't Post

"You must edit your 1st draft! Don't think it's perfect as is, even if you're an artist. Just look at what Tolkien almost produced."

Thinking of that silly Trotter story, among others, fills me with dismay that a book I like so much would have been mediocre at best.


RosieBaggins
Rivendell


Oct 4 2013, 1:42pm

Post #14 of 20 (159 views)
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I would assume he hadn't had a past experience with them, [In reply to] Can't Post

Mostly I base it off a guess that if he did he wouldn't be in the story- the Wraiths would have killed him. My guess is that he just knew what they were.

My progress so far on my walk to Rivendell
I have traveled 71 miles
I have passed Buckleberry Ferry.
It is 2 miles to the next landmark.
I have 387 miles until I reach Rivendell.


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Oct 4 2013, 3:10pm

Post #15 of 20 (140 views)
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Even so, it kinda works [In reply to] Can't Post

At this point, we haven't seen the Black Riders do anything much except for sniffing and screeching and scaring hobbit worthies. As for the Frodo & party in Bree, as Butterbur observes:

Quote
Well, you do want looking after and no mistake: your party might be on a holiday!

Aragorn has a job to get them (and us readers) to take their plight seriously - his memory of something really nasty (whether he's chanelling the Ghost of Trotter or can be imagined to have met a Black Rider before) works quite well as part of that.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Elwen
Lorien


Oct 4 2013, 3:27pm

Post #16 of 20 (136 views)
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Thanks for the earworm. I'll be singing that all day. [In reply to] Can't Post

And my coworkers already think I'm a bit odd. Oh well.

If it resurrects me...It's on my "Books I Haven't Read, but Probably Should Get Around To" list.

 photo Desolation-of-Smaug2_zpsc1584ee1.jpg
Tauriel: So let me get this straight sir, this Elwen girl is back on something called TORn, and rather than just tell her to stop stalking you, you'd like me to show up in a movie I have no business being in as a ploy to distract her, and nevermind the wrath of countless Tolkien fans who will be calling for my destruction?

Legolas: That about sums it up. Besides, some people might like you. Oh, and to be on the safe side, can we pretend to be a couple too?


Meneldor
Tol Eressea


Oct 4 2013, 3:31pm

Post #17 of 20 (125 views)
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Shiver my timbers, shiver my sails [In reply to] Can't Post

Dead men tell no tales!


They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.


Elwen
Lorien


Oct 4 2013, 3:33pm

Post #18 of 20 (128 views)
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Once upon a time, I thought the sporadic allusions to Trotter were some "in joke" that I just wasn't in on.// [In reply to] Can't Post

 

 photo Desolation-of-Smaug2_zpsc1584ee1.jpg
Tauriel: So let me get this straight sir, this Elwen girl is back on something called TORn, and rather than just tell her to stop stalking you, you'd like me to show up in a movie I have no business being in as a ploy to distract her, and nevermind the wrath of countless Tolkien fans who will be calling for my destruction?

Legolas: That about sums it up. Besides, some people might like you. Oh, and to be on the safe side, can we pretend to be a couple too?


Darkstone
Immortal


Oct 4 2013, 5:49pm

Post #19 of 20 (136 views)
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Good point. [In reply to] Can't Post

Perhaps his horror relates to him having found the remains of someone (a good friend, a fellow ranger) who *had* run into them.

******************************************
I met a Balrog on the stair,
He had some wings that weren't there.
They weren't there again today,
I wish he would just fly away.


Na Vedui
Rohan


Oct 4 2013, 7:17pm

Post #20 of 20 (156 views)
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Sarn Ford [In reply to] Can't Post

Even if (as Squire pointed out above) Aragorn wasn't himself at Sarn Ford when the Rangers encountered the Riders, he would have known the Rangers who were there, and would have picked up enough vibes afterwards to realise that these battle-hardened warriors had completely freaked out. And maybe, as you suggest, it had gone beyond that in one or more cases - either to a death from fright or to the Middle-Earth equivalent of continuing shell-shock. Plus of course Aragorn was familiar with the lore of Rivendell and of Gandalf, which gave him some insight into what the Riders had become (effectively, will-less but very potent extensions of Sauron's own malice) and what they would be capable of.

 
 

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