Saturday, October 26, 2013

LOTR Read-Along: Fog on the Barrow-downs (FOTR Ch. 8)

Quick note -- it is not to late to join us!  If you're feeling like, "Man, they are eight chapters in and I will never catch up, I should just not try," please take heart.  We're less than 145 pages in -- you can knock that out in a weekend.  

But on to this chapter....

Bleah, this is another of the chapters I dislike.  It's really creepy and meandering.  Doesn't make me fall asleep, at least!  But all that stuff about the fog and the echoing voices, and then the crawling hand of the barrow wight -- yuck!  Good for reading around Halloween, I suppose, but I'm glad the majority of the book is not like this.

Favorite Lines:

The mist was flowing past him now in shreds and tatters (p. 136).

The night was railing against the morning of which it was bereaved, and the cold was cursing the warmth for which it hungered (p. 137).

"Few now remember them," Tom murmured, "yet still some go wandering, sons of forgotten kings walking in loneliness, guarding from evil things folk that are heedless" (p. 142).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Why didn't Tom Bombadil escort the hobbits to the road in the first place?  They clearly got into trouble out in the forest on their own before.


  1. Hee, another chapter I love. The barrow wight is sooo creepy, as are the barrow downs in general. Another thing that was so disappointing in the movie the first time, when Aragorn just drops a bunch of swords in front of them. None of the history, nothing earned. Sigh.

    1. We're so opposite on what makes us love things that I'm not surprised my least-favorite chapters are your favorites :-)

    2. I think I also really do have a slightly different conception of the story, simply because these chapters were always part of the journey to me, and they shaped how I react to later events in the story... and these seem like they would read as more add-on, expansion chapters for you, but not necessarily essential (? - my assumption?) for you, cuz the movie worked fine without them?

    3. Yes, this is very true.

      My favorite part of the whole trilogy is when the whole fellowship is travelling together. So, like 3 chapters, lol.

  2. Okay, so the first time through I thought of this chapter as creepy and rather unnecessary, but re-reading it to write this I'm discovering that I actually rather like it. Not the barrow-wight itself at all, or the fog, or the creepiness, but I do like Frodo's choices here and the appearance of the swords. Knowing that these blades will wind up playing essential roles in great battles gives me a bit more respect for how they were gained. And I did begin to admire Frodo here. He is tempted to put on the Ring and save himself, yet he decides to risk everything to save his friends instead. I like him for that, a lot. All the hobbits have gotten a bit of characterization by now -- Pippin as having a sense of humor and an ability to pick up on details (the sniffing!), Merry as being smart and able to put two and two together, Sam as being fiercely loyal to his master and able to keep himself unenchanted even when no one else can, and Frodo as determined to keep his friends from danger, even if that means endangering himself. It kindof sets precedents for how they will go on.

    As far as your discussion question, I came up with several theories, but I have no idea if any of them are correct. :) 1. Tom seems to have an aversion to leaving his home and wife (which is understandable, as he has a nice home and beautiful wife), so leaving it to travel with four hobbits is not necessarily his top priority, although he clearly doesn't mind coming to their rescue. Or 2. Tom also seems somewhat absent-minded, so it's possible it never really occurred to him that he should accompany the hobbits. Or 3. Tom didn't think there was much danger from the Barrow-Wights and assumed they would be able to get to the road. I have no idea whether any of these are correct or not, though.

    I love the last line you quoted above -- it's such a perfect description of the Dunadain. And I forgot before, but the matter of hobbits having an inbuilt courage comes up first in this chapter: "There is a seed of courage hidden (often deeply, it is true) in the heart of the fattest and most timid hobbit, waiting for some final and desperate danger to make it grow. Frodo was neither very fat nor very timid... He thought he had come to the end of his adventure, and a terrible end, but the thought hardened him... He no longer felt limp like a helpless prey." It's a pretty good foreshadowing of what will happen at the end.

    I'm curious myself about something Tom mentions -- he says that "a line of bushes growing on the edge of a deep dike with a steep wall on the further side ... had once been the boundary of a kingdom, but a very long time ago." Is this Arnor, the country Isuldir's heirs once ruled, or something else?

    1. Marcy, you make some excellent points. The sniffing always cracks me up :-) I think you're right that this part is important, and I'm going to try to think better of it when I reread this next month.

      I'm not sure if Tom's referring to when Elendil and Isildur ruled, or before that, the stuff about Numenor in the Silmarillion. Not sure.

    2. This chapter certainly isn't my favorite, but the more I think about it the more I think it's important to the later development of the story.

      Thanks for the opinion!


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