FoTR - The Old Forest: Bk I, Chapter VI

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Philipa
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FoTR - The Old Forest: Bk I, Chapter VI

Postby Philipa » Sun Oct 30, 2005 3:49 pm

The Old Forest



Image
Old Man Willow

© Iolanthe



In this chapter Frodo and his companions finally leave the Shire behind. The old Forest is both feared and respected for it's mystery. The last person to speak to the hobbits was their friend Fatty Bolger.

Here Fatty Bolger halted. 'Good-bye, Frodo!' he said. 'I wish you were not going into the forest. I only hope you will not need rescuing before the day is out. But good luck to you --today and every day!'


The travellers find out magic comes in both good and bad forms. Luckily the good prevails.

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Last edited by Philipa on Tue Nov 08, 2005 4:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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bruce rerek
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Postby bruce rerek » Sun Oct 30, 2005 4:21 pm

This chapter displays Tolkien's mastery at word smithery. To take something as majestic as an old growth forest and make it malevolent took great care. Notice how he describes key passages:
Each time they clambered out, the trees seemed deeper and darker; and always to the left and upwards it was most difficult to find a way, and they were forced to the right and downwards.
Does this not feel like those blasted dreams where your feet are made of rubber or you have missed an important appointment?
The Hobbits have lost all sense of direction and soon the forest begins to enfold them.
In the midst of it wound a lazy dark river of brown water, bordered on by ancient willows, arched over by willows, blocked by fallen willows, and flecked by thousands of faded willow leaves leaves.
This creates a sense of vertigo that is very disconcerting and as we read dangerous. An army of flies harass the Hobbits and as we know the fly is always associated with death and is the overwhelming sleepiness that comes before losing conciousness. The trap is sprung and the in the air a far off laughter mocks thier perdicment, until our very much controversial friend appears:
Mr. Tom Bombidel.
I have some notes on him which I shall post later today or tomorrow.
Great writing in this chapter and is really well crafted. What other passages move you folks?
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Postby Philipa » Sun Oct 30, 2005 5:21 pm

For me, this chapter is more disturbing then the first five chapters. It perhaps comes from the danger shifting from ominous figures like a ring and black riders to far more unsuspecting culprits like trees. If the natural world becomes a threat where is it safe to tread?

Yes Bruce, let’s see this article on Bombadil.
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Riv Res
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Postby Riv Res » Sun Oct 30, 2005 5:29 pm

Very interesting Philipa. I always have felt that this whole Old Forest and Tom Bombadil episode was truly a diversion, and when I first read the story I felt that Tolkien was taking a major turn back towards the content and style of The Hobbit, and I for one was not happy about it. Tolkien had me riveted with Black Riders and the Ring and getting to Rivendell, and now I felt he had thrown a rather silly wrench into things. Even though there were dangers in the Old Forest, it seemed that TB was master there.

To go back to a theme we discussed in a previous chapter...this seemed like more extended respite to me...but I loved Bombadil's singing.
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Postby Philipa » Mon Oct 31, 2005 12:06 am

A diversion for sure but I think this chapter also introduces the reader to more natural beings of M-e. Even the mystical beings Tom Bombadil and Goldberry are not truly of human form but of other creatures so to speak. We learn nature itself is unpredictable.
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bruce rerek
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Postby bruce rerek » Mon Oct 31, 2005 3:45 pm

Tom Bombadil and Goldberry are very interesting characters and one does wonder if Tolkien was going off course in his narrative structure. In this forest we are not sure weather the malevolence is of its own accord. Does Old Man Willow act out from his own or is he in league with the Dark Forces? Debatle, at best, but I think this chapter is very necessary for a variety of reasons. One, that it states that nature is not necessarily good nor evil, that it is. Two, the Hobbits encounter what lies outside of the powers of whom they have known. Third, with regards to enchantment this piece begins a basis that will lend creadence to such creatures as the Ents and the Druedain (Woses).

Much has been debated about who Tom is and what he could have been. In essays that I have read he is seen as both a nature spirit and an unamed Maia. Historicaly Tom has resonance in such folk lore entities such as the Green Man, Jack-in-the-Green and The May Queen, The Green Knight, and of course Pan. What is unique to Tolkien is that while he did use the themes of other traditions he was not adding to or embelishing a pre-existing myth. This was his creation colored by recognizable bits of previous enchantments, but he created his own vision of what elves, dwarves, and other other worldy creatures would populate his Middle Earth.

When Frodo asked Goldberry who is Tom Bombadil she replied, He is. Our echanted forest now has someone who really is at home with such a landscape and has mastered it without dominating. His sing song approach to the world is much in keeping with tricksters who know the peril of the world, yet continue on thier way and succeed by virtue of their cleverness and prowess.

In the Adventures of Tom Bombadil we see him encounter both floral and fauna, as well as a barrow wight. Notice the lack of malice in this piece, nature is just what it is, beautiful but not without peril. At the end of his adventure he wins the heart of Goldberry and leaves her mother sighing on the river bank and the barrow wight crying.

For the Hobbits to encounter Tom is essential to the narrative because it shows them that while the powers that propell their mission are grave, there are older and equally potent earthly powers that are also at play. As we shall see in the next chapter the One Ring is of no great importance to Tom, and his statement that Frodo's hand would be fairer without it is all that we need to know about Tom.

As we continue our reading notice how Tolkien will be careful to illustrate significant past events into the narrative. Tom articulates a Middle Earth that is primal and while it is true that Suron's devilry would prove to be Tom's end, he is not the Master of Tom.
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Mornie utlie

Believe and you will find your way

Mornie alantie

a promise lives within you now

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Postby Lindariel » Mon Oct 31, 2005 5:21 pm

I am absolutely fascinated by Tom Bombadil and would encourage anyone who wants to know more to check out the wonderful online listing for him in the Encyclopedia of Arda. According to Tolkien himself, Tom was intended to be and remain an enigma:

"And even in a mythical Age there must be some enigmas, as there always are. Tom Bombadil is one (intentionally)." -- The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, No 144, dated 1954
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

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Postby Philipa » Mon Oct 31, 2005 9:18 pm

Bruce and Lindariel I've always found TB and Goldberry interesting and have read much of what you've posted before. Once upon a time there was a discussion on Viggo-Works in our Tolkien forums and there were definately those members who hated the figure of Tom. They thought his existance made no sense within the story. And some even went as far as saying the whole next chapter ought to be removed. But then again the chapter after that (Fog on the Barrow-Downs)would have to be taken out as well. Now I've jumped to far ahead. :roll:
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