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Posted: Wed Nov 30, 2005 9:40 pm
After reading ahead through the next several chapters it hit me to how little this chapter has to offer. Only one scene to me is worth the whole thing put together and that is the courage Frodo shows while in the burrow. IMO the rest is not necessary to the story.
Can anyone else see some shred of good this chapter can add? Could Tolkien have shown us what Frodo is made of in chapter 7 or 9 and not added this one at all?
Posted: Thu Dec 01, 2005 12:27 am
Philipa I can relate to your question! In all my previous readings of LOTR this is a chapter I have skipped over quickly rather than enjoying and that is because it seems not to add value to the rest of the story.
I am interested to hear the views of the Tolkien experts amongst us - I am very probably missing something significant - but this does not resonate for me like the other chapters do, does not seem to add to the construction of the narrative.
Posted: Thu Dec 01, 2005 2:17 am
Well, the hobbits did acquire the swords they carried w/ them into battle in the final chapters...but other than that, would have to agree . Actually, I thought the whole story of Tom Bombadil, while *cute*, was a distraction. I can remember feeling that I wanted the story to move along much faster at this point. So I'm not sure I understand the uproar some fans had when Peter Jackson left this part out of the movie.
Posted: Thu Dec 01, 2005 2:30 am
I can see your point. Sometimes I wonder what we might learn if we tried sort of graphing the action of LOTR in terms of pleasures and pains. A pleasure chapter and then a pain chapter doesn't really get us anywhere, and pleasures after pleasures or pains after pains just gets boring. So one has to have some pattern of pleasures and pains to sustain a very long story.
So the hobbits leave home and have some dark times, and then a pleasurable time at Bombadil's, and then they have some pretty bad times with the Barrow-wights, and then a brief respite at Bree, and then some REALLY bad times before a long pleasurable time at Rivendell. The tension gets ratcheted up more each time. So I think they needed something pretty scary between Bombadil's and Bree and, as Varda pointed out, they acquired the anti-Angmar equipment and some historical references to the North Kingdom. Frodo shows some character. I agree that the Barrow-wights don't do anything for me, but maybe these are some mythological characters that help create the Big Myth for England? (Just guessing here.
Posted: Fri Dec 02, 2005 5:06 pm
I don't know about that, Merry, it doesn't ring any bells. Barrows do have their own mythology here. One is that great kings or warriors lie sleeping under them who will rise again when England is in need. But these are good kings like King Arthur. The other is that fairies live in them - some are called 'fairy mounds' - and should therefore be avoided because they are entrances into the Enchanted Land and mortals can be lost forever in them. This would place them mythologically more with the Elves.
I think you're right about the tension / rest dynamic. But I suppose then that he could just have left out the whole Tom Bombadil / Barrow Wights thing altogether. Then the Hobbits would have done the whole journey to Bree with only the odd appearance of the Ring Wraithes to disturb them. Maybe he needed more to show what a dangerous place it was outside the Shire so that we would know how much they needed Strider? Maybe he just got sidetracked down interesting avenues (like all true journeys) before he got the plot together
Posted: Sun Dec 04, 2005 5:26 am
The kings and queens under the burial mounds are good rulers--the presence of the barrow wights, encouraged by the Witchking of Angmar and ultimately Sauron, make their eternal resting places, once locations of great grandeur and peace, places of horror in which their deeds are twisted and the innocent forced to relive and re-enact them, such as happened to Merry, who spoke in a voice not his of death.
I have always felt that the barrow episode was included to give a bit of historical context to Strider--if i remember correctly, these were his ancestors buried there....and Tom alludes to that.
Posted: Sun Dec 04, 2005 12:02 pm
Everyone's comments about this chapter are really helpful.
I keep thinking about Tolkien's own wartime experiences in the trenches as I re-read these early chapters. His descriptions of the "respite" episodes, in which the Hobbits are given delicious food and soft comfortable beds in warm dry places, seem like a reflection of the time he spent in the trenches where no such luxuries were available. And I wonder whether the Hobbits' encounters with the Barrow-wights in this chapter are also a nightmarish recollection of Tolkien's life on the front line in France.
Posted: Sun Dec 04, 2005 11:20 pm
I've thought about that, too, chrissiejane, particularly the two times that JRRT has Frodo passing out in a horrible situation and waking up in a nice, clean, safe bed, not knowing where he was--at Rivendell and at the Field of Cormallen. That must be, if not a common, then a recognizable wartime experience.
Posted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 11:03 am
What I find interesting about this chapter is that this was the place where in the early draft version the darkness entered the tale, that darkness that makes LotR a lot more than a jolly sequel to The Hobbit, as it was originally planned. It is a very old part of the story, so to say, and an important turning point to LotR as we know it.
Posted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 12:21 pm
Yes - I agree. The Barrow Downs is very scary and scary in a far more adult way than anything in The Hobbit. The idea of being trapped in a barrow with a ghost.... it's the stuff of the earliest nightmares that the ancient peoples of Britain wove into their legends and fairy stories. Barrows were often seen as haunted, or containing sleeping knights or kings, or as the gateway to the Land of Faerie where those that entered could be lost with no way of getting back to this world.
Posted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 8:52 pm
Not to mention every child's nightmare at one time or another, probably...
I really like the creepy song, by the way.
Posted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 9:22 pm
There's the whole 'buried alive' thing too ('such a stuffy death....').
Posted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 11:08 pm
... and the disembodied hand ...
Posted: Tue Sep 09, 2008 1:24 pm
Oh yes, I almosr forgot that...
Did any of you play the Harry Potter 4 video game, by any chance? In the Grounds level there are those unpleasant creatures that sing a sort of "related" creepy song...
Posted: Tue Sep 09, 2008 1:57 pm
"Such a stuffy death" indeed, Iolanthe, love your witty Gilbert & Sullivan reference! If I recall correctly, that's one of Yum-Yum's inane comments in The Mikado. One of my favorite G&S roles -- she was a real stitch to play!