Wednesday, October 16, 2013

LOTR Read-Along: A Conspiracy Unmasked (FOTR Ch. 5)

I love the contrast between this chapter's title and the previous one.  We go from the whimsical "A Short-cut to Mushrooms" to the rather ominous "A Conspiracy Unmasked."  There's nothing truly ominous about this chapter, however -- just Frodo coming to realize he's not as clever as he thought.

And now I'm going to talk about Sam some more.  I'm afraid you're in for a lot of that later on, as it's Sam and his own personal journey that keep me awake and interested during the Frodo-and-Sam-wandering-through-you-know-where parts later on.  Here, he's the first to leave his comfort zone, crossing the Brandywine (Branduin to you Elvish-leaning sorts) for the first time and striking out into territory that, while still in the Shire, is unfamiliar to him.  Frodo, Merry, and Pippin have been here before, so for them, it's not that big a deal, but to Sam, wow.  Enormous.

But before you can get yourself all comfortable with the idea of Sam Gamgee as a simple, one-note country lad, you find out he's a spy!  And granted, he's just been spying on Frodo in a fairly innocuous way, but I think it would be harder to spy on someone who knows you well than on a stranger.  Not that I'd know anything about such goings-on, of course ;-)

And we learn what lovely, loyal friends Frodo has.  Merry and Pippin and Sam, of course, but also Fredegar "Fatty" Bolger, who got cut out of the movies and isn't in the book a whole lot either, but is equally doughty when it comes to pitching in to help his friend.  What marvelous hobbits they all are.

Finally, I really like the little song Merry and Pippin got ready for the occasion of their departure.  It really does work with the tune used in The Hobbit.  (Random note:  my hubby sang the Hobbit song to our third baby over and over to calm her down when she was tiny, and she still loves it.)

Favorite Lines:

Sam was the only member of the party who had not been over the river before.  He had a strange feeling as the slow gurgling stream slipped by:  his old life lay behind in the mists, dark adventure lay in front (p. 97).

"We can't begin life at Crickhollow with a quarrel over baths" (p. 99).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Merry describes friendship this way:
"You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin -- to the bitter end.  And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours -- closer than you keep it yourself.  But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word.  We are your friends, Frodo" (p. 103).
What do you think constitutes true friendship?


  1. Okay, I'll freely admit, I see poetry or songs in LotR... and I skip right over it. Usually. Occasionally I will give it a go. And some do catch me and I'll read the whole thing, but usually, "oh, someone's singing or spouting poetry again... *skip* okay back to story. D thinks this is terrible and gets quite mad at me.

    And I love Merry's definition of friendship, and how they really do all stand by him. Makes me cry, what good friends they all are, what they're willing to sacrifice to help keep Frodo safe and help him succeed in his task.

    1. I skip merrily over the really long poetry. Little things like this I read, but the longer stuff... it's like long descriptions. Can we get back to the story now? Hee.

  2. Yes, I love the chapter title of this, particularly in comparison to the last. I thought that it might be very dark in comparison, but fortunately it isn’t.

    So the first thing that strikes me about this chapter is the relief when they finally all get indoors, and the night and the Riders are left outside. I know a door probably isn’t all that much of a hindrance to a Nazgul, but it still feels like a relief when they are all shut in with warmth and light and the night and the Nazgul are shut out. Whew.

    Sam definitely continues to steadily develop in this chapter; I didn’t really notice that bit about crossing the river being a big deal for him before, but that totally makes sense. Thanks for pointing that out. But the hobbit who really gets developed most in this chapter is Merry. I’m re-skimming these early chapters to comment on them, since we’re quite a ways ahead in reading, and by this time the aspect of Merry that most stands out to me is that he may be the smartest hobbit. He reads maps and remembers where they are, he is well-learned in the history of pipe-weed, and so forth. I can’t think of other good examples right now, but he strikes me as being quite smart. So it was really interesting to me to realize that it was principally Merry who figured Frodo out. Sam was the spy, but it was Merry who discovered about the Ring and even sneaked a look in Bilbo’s book and put everything together. And he has horses and packs and everything ready for Frodo to start off in the morning. I really like Merry a lot now.

    And Frodo finally decides not to wait for Gandalf and actually to leave through the Old Forest. I commented earlier that the Quest starts out with little tension riding on it, but the appearance of the Black Riders has already leant it a sense of urgency. I’m quite glad Frodo gets that idea too.

    I love Merry’s ideal of friendship. I don’t really have a definition of friendship myself, except maybe that it’s a relationship without guards or facades or barriers. But I absolutely love the way Merry insists, speaking for all of them, that they are willing to do anything for Frodo, only he can’t shut them out. I understand why Frodo wants to do this alone, but I also admire his friends for being so determined not to let him. As it turns out, only Sam is close enough to him to succeed in going all the way with him (and that is absolutely vital in the end), but you know Merry and Pippen would have followed him anywhere, even to Mordor, if they could have.

    I feel like my comments are getting longer and longer as I get into this book. If you ever start getting tired of my very long posts, just tell me and I’ll cut back.

    1. Marcy, yes! It's so evocative of that desire for walls and a roof between us and whatever we fear. Even if they're not actually going to help, we still want them.

      Merry is very awesome too -- you're right, he's very smart and sensible. Makes sense that he would write a book later in life.

      I'm totally cool with your long comments :-) Very much enjoying reading through them. Just don't be offended if I don't reply back at quite the same length ;-)

    2. Yes, I loved the way you said that -- "evocative of that desire for walls and a roof between us and whatever we fear." A beautiful way of putting it.

      And I certainly won't be offended if your answers aren't as long. Just seeing that you've answered one of my comments in any form or fashion makes my day. :)


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(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)