Welcome back! Everyone enjoying our journey together through Middle-Earth still? Yes? Awesome. (I’ll ignore any NOs, so don’t even.)
When we left off, we’d just met good ol’ Tom Bombadil. For some reason, Mr Bombadil seems to be the subject of a ton of hate from the general LotR community. This wasn’t something I was aware of before. I’ve read all kinds of theories recently about him (ranging from Tom’s the Eldest Evil to Tom is the Witch-King) most of which I think are complete BS.
Now, listen. Tolkien himself said that he purposely left Tom somewhat of an enigma, but to him he was a “nature spirit of the English countryside.”
None of that really matters to me (although, I think the nature spirit/hippie thing is kind of cool), here’s why I really enjoy the chapter with Tom and Goldberry before they get to Barrow-Downs. Their time spent at Tom’s house is pretty much their last moments of peace before all hell breaks loose. I mean, you’ve all read these chapters by now, right? You know that the stuff that is about to happen gets progressively darker (and hoo! just wait til the next few sections!), but while they’re hanging out here, it’s just a happy, peaceful, joyous time, with stories and friendship before the heavy ish starts to happen. I think our hobbit friends needed that, and I think we (as readers/fellow travellers) needed that too.
Moving on! Our wonderful hobbits are warned by Tom to avoid the Barrow-Downs because of the Barrow-Wights. What are the Barrow-Wights? Well, it seems they’re spirits placed there by the Witch-King to prevent resurrection of Cardolan, a destroyed kingdom of the Dúnedain. I can hear you now, “Wait, who the snape are the Dúnedain?!” Um…well, remember when
we I talked about the sinking of the island continent of Númenor? What, you skipped that? Go read, I’ll wait.
[taps foot impatiently]
Oh, you’re back? Okay, so the Númenoreans that escaped? The Dúnedain were descended from them. Make sense? Good. All right, so the Barrow-Wights inhabit the corpses of the Dúnedain that are buried in these mounds (or, Barrows). Frodo and friends make the mistake of stopping on a shady rock and wake up to fog. Now they can’t find the road and go wandering where they shouldn’t. Of course they get knocked out and captured and wake up in the Barrow, about to be slain by a Wight. Frodo calls for Tom’s help, and good ol’ Tom comes to the rescue.
See? Not a bad guy.
Tom finds their wayward ponies and even brings one of his own to accompany them. He takes them as far as the road to Bree, but can’t go any further – Goldberry is tied (no, not literally) to the River Withywindle, and he won’t leave his OTL. Awwww. <3
There’s a little suspicion from the gatekeeper at Bree, but they’re allowed in and head for the Prancing Pony, where they hope to meet Gandalf.
Gandalf isn’t there of course (but where IS that Wizard? Hmpf), but they’re given nice rooms and have a huge dinner, then head out to the common room to socialize. Well, all except for Merry, who decides to hang back and maybe take a walk later.
Frodo has warned everyone to remember to use only his name of Underhill, but Pip gets a little toasted and starts talking about Bilbo’s awesome disappearing act at his birthday party (jeez, they can really milk a story, can’t they? This happened SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO!), and to distract everyone Frodo hops up on a table and starts to sing and dance. He’s kind of caressing the Ring in his pocket for courage (which makes me wonder what everyone standing around thinks he’s doing?) and when the table is bumped, he goes flying, breaks a bunch of crockery and the Ring “slips” on his finger.
There is much shoutery and Frodo sneaks under the tables to go sit back by his new friend, Strider. Hey, that post you read that I linked to up there? What did it say about Rangers? Yeah, Strider’s a Ranger. Woo for interconnectedness!
SO – everyone leaves, all whispering and grumbling about Frodo’s mysterious disappearance. They have a chat with Mr Strider, who offers to help them. Sam is especially suspicious (good boy, Samwise), BUT then the owner of the tavern comes in all apologetic because he’s had a letter from Gandalf for the last SIX MONTHS that he was supposed to deliver, but did not. Um…wow. So, my whole “yeah, smart to stay in the Shire” comment wasn’t so stupid now, was it? AND the letter is all “you might meet my friend Aragorn, who goes by Strider, he’s a good dude, trust him.” And then they do.
That night, someone sets all of the horses and ponies free AND there’s an attack on the room the hobbits should have been staying in. One of the Asshats of Bree was working with the Black Riders, but they DIDN’T KILL ANY HOBBITS, BOOYA!
Luckily, that Asshat happens to have the last pony in the whole township and they buy it from him for more than it’s worth, but it turns out to be good for our friends AND the pony.
Strider informs them that they’re heading to Weathertop, so they can get a good 360° view of the surrounding countryside. While there, they notice what MAY be Gandalf’s mark, but it also might not be. BUT THEN they’re accosted by 5 of the 9 Nazgûl. Frodo is injured, but he fights back, so they run away.
Now it’s pretty much just a race against time. Can they make it to Rivendell and ACTUAL help before Frodo succumbs to the poison in the Nazgûl blade?
C’mon, of course they can. It wouldn’t be much of a story if the protagonist died halfway through the first book, would it?
That’s not to say it’s easy going. They have to take a circuitous route, and just when things are at their most dire, MY buddy Glorfindel shows up on his majestic steed.
Look, Glorfindel…he’s kind of special. Remember back when I was talking about the Silmarillion and I told you that elves only die in battle or of grief? WELL. Glorfindel was around for the Fall of Gondolin, and was one of those that escaped with Tuor, Idril and Eärendil. Here’s the thing, though. They were ambushed by Morgoth’s armies and badass Glorfindel manages to kill a Balrog, but is also killed and buried in rubble. Thorondor (‘member, King of the Giant Eagles?) lifts him from the rubble, and (like all dead elves) Glorfindel travels to the Halls of Mandos. Part of the awesome mythology that was created was (even if it did have to be retconned, SHUT UP) after a period of time in the Halls of Mandos (um, kind of like a purgatory type dealy) the spirits of the dead elves can be re-embodied. So, yeah. Glorfindel is pretty effing awesome. </fangirling>
ANYWAY – as they’re on their way to Rivendell, they are surrounded by the Nazgûl and it’s time for Frodo to go on ahead on Glorfindel’s awesomely fleet steed. It looks like things are going to end badly as they get to the river, but ALL THE WATER COMES RUSHING DOWN and sweeps them away. Frodo’s pretty sure he sees the shapes of horses in the foam, but surely he’s hallucinating, right? Guess we’ll find out, won’t we?
- Okay, Tom Bombadil – Why doesn’t the Ring turn him invisible? What is his alignment? General thoughts on his character?
- Strider/Aragorn – Srsly, would a note have been enough to make you trust this stranger?
- Since we just finished reading The Hobbit together – What the Snape is up here? It took us less than five chapters to get from Bag-End to Bill, Bert and Tom – but this time ’round, it’s taking forfreakingEVER to get to THE VERY SAME TROLLS! Why is it taking so long to cover the same distance? Discuss.
- How awesome are Sam and Merry? Like, really, why are they the only ones not acting like total dumbasses right now?