Well, that was tense! I love that we get to see what's going on back at Crickhollow here. Fatty Bolger has a narrow escape, but it shows that Frodo's subterfuge about moving to Buckland did trick the Enemy, at least somewhat. I think this is why all nine Ringwraiths aren't in Bree. And why they don't all nine attack them at Weathertop. They split up, some going to Crickhollow, and those ones hadn't caught up yet.
Anyway, after their own narrow escape, Frodo and company head out into the wilds, and their journey turns uncomfortable, then unpleasant, and finally dangerous. I find the part with the Neekerbreekers particularly memorable, for some reason. Probably because they keep the hobbits from sleeping, which makes me feel terribly sorry for them.
I tend to think of Sauron as a Satan-figure, but here we read about "the Great Enemy, of whom Sauron of Mordor was but a servant" (p. 189). The Enemy is named Melkor, and he rebelled against the creator of Middle-earth just like Satan rebelled against God, though that's all in the backstory that's told in The Silmarillion -- it's Tolkien's sort of creation story and all about this war to regain magic gems called silmarils. Those get talked about here, and people from that farther-back history like Gil-galad and Beren and Luthien. It's a lot harder to wade through than LOTR (it's about a third as long, but took me like six months to get through), but if you get really into LOTR, The Silmarillion is worth reading one day.
We get to learn part of the story of Beren and Luthien here in that long poem that Strider recites. Beren was a mortal man, and Luthien was an elf, but they fell in love anyway. Remind you of anyone else in this book? Aragorn is descended from them via Earendil and the Kings of Numenor, and Elrond is also from their line. That's why he's called half-elven, though he's much more elf than Aragorn, who is just a teensy bit elvish and therefore mortal (but long-lived). But of course, the whole idea of a mortal man and an elvish woman falling in love is echoed in the love story of Aragorn and Arwen.
And here's a fun fact: Tolkien and his wife are buried side by side with the names Beren and Luthien on their tombstones. (And their real names too, don't worry.) It's said that he based Tinuviel on his own wife Edith, who reportedly liked to dance in the woods. So sweet!
"What do they live on when they can't get hobbit?" asked Sam, scratching his neck (p. 178).
In that lonely place Frodo for the first time fully realized his homelessness and danger (p. 183-4).
When Strider begins to tell the tale of Beren and Luthien, he says, "It is a fair tale, though it is sad, as are all the tales of Middle-earth, and yet it may lift up your hearts" (p. 187). Do you find their story sad? Do sad stories ever "lift up your heart?"