A Shortcut to Mushrooms #1: Breakfast and banter

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 Altaira: It seems that real life is going to keep dj away from us this week. :-( I’ve begun emailing the usual suspects… I mean volunteers, so hopefully one of them will be able to take over soon. Until then, I thought I’d get the ball rolling for this week’s discussion of “A Shortcut to Mushrooms.”

 The chapter begins the morning following the Hobbits’ night with the Elves, the Elves having gone on their way. The beginning of the chapter takes a short break in the action to indulge in a bit of character development and exposition.

 Both Frodo and Sam have come away from the time with the Elves, and their encounter with the Black Riders, with some sobering thoughts about their upcoming journey. To Frodo, what would otherwise be a bright, cheery morning in his beloved, safe Shire suddenly seems “treacherously bright.”

 ”No, I could not,” he [Frodo] said to himself. “It is one thing to take my young friends walking over the Shire with me, until we are hungry and weary, and food and bed are sweet. To take them into exile, where hunger and weariness may have no cure, is quite another – even if they are willing to come. The inheritance is mine alone.”

 In the mean time, Sam had his own conversation with the Elves and has his own straightforward, but determined thoughts about the ‘going or not going’ decision:

 ”If you don’t come back, sir, than I shant, that’s certain,” said Sam…..”I seem to see ahead, in a kind of way. I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can’t turn back. It isn’t to see Elves now, nor dragons, nor mountains that I want – I don’t rightly know what I want; but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire. I must see it through sir, if you understand me.”

 Finally, good old Pippin’s tummy is full, he’s running on the green turf and singing and is ready to take on a whole troop of Black Riders if need be!


 1) Altaira: What impressions of each of the characters did you take away from this brief respite before their journeys begin again? Glimpses of heroism, determination, stubborness perhaps? Any surprises?

Daeorn Aldalómë: Sam the Hero That section about Sam and him having to "see it through" is more profound when you read it for the second time and already know what's coming up.

I know when I read LotR for the first time I had no idea that Sam would become the real hero of the book (in my opinion) and totaly missed these little hints about the importance of Sam. In these first chapters you're still reeling over the fact that the focus is now on Frodo instead of Bilbo. It's not until later on in the story when the heroism of Sam hits you over the head (it did for me). So upon reading it again these are the section where you just think, "That's my Sam!"

I love it.

Elisheba: Frodo and sam right this is my first time on but hey i'll give it a try.  I think is a hero and deffinitly a very important help to Frodo.  I don't Frodo could of done it without his help.  I could never be that loyal are brave!  But....Frodo pratically give his life to save them all.  He sacraficed his life because he new nothing would ever be the same, and without him they were all going to perish.  Thats bravery!!

p.s They couldnt of done it without each other, and they would die for each other.....Friendship like that is hard to find now, J R Tolkien had a brillant mind!!

Spoiler: ha?!"

Lúthien_Rising: welcome to the Reading Room, Elisheba!

HobbitLoveR*M-e: Agree 100% and hello to you. I only lurk here, but wouldn't miss the discussion. They are the best to be found anywhere, IMHO.

Stay and enjoy.


Ibo: I read this chapter this morning at breakfast, with my tea and sandwiches. That made me feel very good even though the newspaper were full of “bad news”, some so horrible that it should make you want to never leave your house. Fortunately there are mornings when I feel like Pippin. The singing part, that is, my running days are over! I think that in LotR,  JRRT shows many times that it’s *so* important to find little moments of happiness, even if everything around you is pitch black. And to me, LotR is like one of those lights in the dark.

dernwyn: Conspiracy?  What conspiracy? Have you noticed, how Sam turns the conversation suddenly, from talk of the journey he and Frodo are to make, to his thoughts on the Elves?  And the types of questions Pippin is asking Frodo?  The Conspiracy continues: the two were probably asking questions of the Elves, when Frodo wasn't around (and getting "typical" Elvish answers).  Now Pippin's trying to add information, under the guise of cheerful chattering.  Sam talks a bit - then must realize he's beginning to "say too much", so he changes the subject.  So Frodo, his mind elsewhere, suspects not a thing!

                        HobbitLoveR*M-e: Great comments. So much going on all the time, even with seemingly 'simply' conversations.

Merryk: Sam's thoughts on the Elves and the journey ahead are really to beautiful and integral to Sam's nature to be part of an attempt to derail Frodo's train of thought.  (Not to mention that we learn later, from Merry, that Sam has stopped informing to the Conspirators entirely - taking his parole from Gandalf *very* seriously!) These two are having a most remarkable and unexpected conversation this morning.  Frodo learns he has done more than transplant his gardener and Sam learns he has Frodo's trust. I rather not have hidden adgendas here.

On the other hand, you are most likely right about Pippin's breakfast-disrupting "fishing expedition"!

dernwyn: What a way to say that - "done more than transplant his gardener"!  That's great imagery, and quite true. 

But it's not quite a "hidden agenda". He may have "dried up", but he's still a party to the plans, and knows that he dare not say anything to imply that anyone other than himself (among Hobbits) knows what's really going on.

Entwife Wandlimb: a good companion I love Pippin’s sense of humor.

Pippin to Frodo: “I did not want to leave you any [bread], but Sam insisted.” …

Frodo: ‘I want to think!'

Pippin: 'Good heavens!  At breakfast?'

It is interesting that the sunny morning banishes Pippin’s fears but seems “treacherously bright” to Frodo.  Frodo reminds me a bit of someone else preoccupied with stealth – Gollum.  It’s a preview of the Ring’s effect on his life – stealing the joy out of everything.

Frodo seems to think he is doing Pippin a great favor by keeping him in the dark.  He is evasive about the Riders.  Gandalf, the elves and now Frodo seem reluctant to worry people.  Is this a good or bad?  Does it keep people from worrying unnecessarily or leave them unprepared for the road ahead?  I suppose he’s right not to ask his young friends to join him in exile, danger and hardship.

Sam does seem unexpectedly shrewd here.  He seems to know his master’s mind quite well.  I like the plain talk he and Frodo have here about the dangers ahead.  Frodo’s conversation with Sam is remarkably deep.  He is being honest with Sam about the dangers ahead, and is interested in Sam’s feelings and dreams.  I think this conversation demonstrates why this master/servant relationship is palatable to most readers.  Frodo is not lording over Sam.  Sam is not a means to an end to him.  Frodo doesn’t regard Sam as some simpleton where what you see is what you get, but realizes there’s more to him than meets the eye.  They have different statuses, backgrounds and even purpose.  Yet, though they are not of one mind, Sam and Frodo appreciate and respect each other.

     ’I must see it through, sir, if you understand me.'

     'I don't altogether. But I understand that Gandalf chose me a good companion. I am content. We will go together.'

Thanks, Altaira!

                        HobbitLoveR*M-e: I really liked what you said here. Thanks for the food for thought.

Merryk: Frodo puts Pippin in his place I don't see any alarming tendency toward secrecy from Frodo here (though it is an interesting thought!)  His conversation with Sam astonishingly open, especially when you learn that Frodo expects no great "understanding" from Sam ("Frodo looked at Sam rather startled.  He half expected to see some outward sign of the odd change that had come over him.  It did not sound like the voice of the old Sam Gamgee that he thought he knew.")

But, back to Pippin, think about having a "heavy" conversation with a teenager who wants easy answers *right now.*  Frodo doesn't have any.  It is a very human response to be short with the asker. (And *whew* Frodo gets a much needed reprieve from constant sainthood by being allowed, by the author, to be irritable before breakfast.)

Entwife Wandlimb: I've got a secret I completely agree with your characterization of Frodo's discussion with Pippin.  Frodo has my sympathy – I too like to think and eat in peace first thing in the morning.

I'm not alarmed by Frodo's evasiveness with Pippin, I am just curious about it.  I'm trying to figure it out.  Is it a failing, or is it wise?  Overall, does Tolkien approve of such secrets or not?

There’s Frodo with his secret.  Had Sam not been caught eavesdropping, would he ever have been let in?  And, had Sam not been let in, would Merry and Pippin have caught on in time?  Was that secrecy smart or a sort of self-pitying hubris?

Take the Shire overall, for instance -- it is completely oblivious to the dangers around it because the Dunedain are not only their protectors but their secret protectors.  Is this to their ultimate benefit?  Or, had they been aware of the dangers around them, would they have honored the old ways more, been more concerned with the world around them, been more vigilant and less vulnerable to Saruman/Sharkey?

Then, there’s Gandalf with his secrets.  Had he been more forthright with Frodo, could precious time have been saved?  Could Frodo have been safely in Rivendell instead of on the run from Black Riders?

Saruman and Denethor had secret Palantiri, and look how that turned out.

On the flip side, there’s Bilbo, making a scene with his Ring, barely disguised by Gandalf’s interference.  There’s also Pippin, shooting his mouth off in the pub.  Boromir foolishly blows his horn as the Fellowship begins their stealth mission.  And later, there’s Sam, speaking his mind to Faramir.  There’s definitely a need for secrets in LotR.  But, when are they prudent and when do they isolate us from the help we need?

Aside from the role of secrets in Tolkien’s cosmology, I think secrets are a part of good storytelling and even a metaphor.  How less interesting would it be if Frodo and his friends had all the answers from the start?  There’s not much suspense in the known, is there?  What’s more, we all have our secrets.  When and to whom do we choose to expose ourselves, revealing our darkest fears and highest hopes?

It also occurs to me that there is much mystery in Christianity.  God, like Gandalf, has his secrets.  We are sure that we are not in on all the secrets; we must just trust that we know enough to take our next step.  We who are serving God may feel like Frodo, isolated from the rest of our world by the knowledge that there is a great struggle all around us.  Like Frodo, we may feel alone in our awareness of the urgency and the stakes.  There are moments when we glimpse the big picture, when we are convinced of our role in it, but then there are long times of uncertainty, of not knowing, when we must hold onto what little was revealed to us so long ago.  Yet, while God is right to have secrets, the life purpose of the Christian is not to guard the secrets but share them.  So, sometimes when characters have secrets, they may be godlike, revealing things only at the proper time.  Other times, characters with secrets may be like the deceiver, Satan, or like Jonah, guilty of hoarding good news that was to be shared.

So, all that to say I’m not sure just what to make of the secrecy in Tolkien.

FarFromHome: Secrets, secrets I'm glad to see you mentioning this point, as it's something I've mentioned a couple of times in earlier threads, and no one picked up on it.

What got me started thinking about it was the way Gandalf, and later Strider, don't tell Frodo that Bilbo is in Rivendell, although it would seem a good way to give Frodo more heart for the journey.

But there are lots of other secrets, as you say. It runs right through the story, from Bilbo's disappearance after the Party, to Frodo leaving everyone at Parth Galen, to his final departure for the Undying Lands. Many times, the secrets do seem to be intended to be for the good of the person who is being kept in the dark, but you make a good point - is it fair to keep people in the dark, even for their own good?

Estelwyn: Sounds to me like this would make an excellent discussion in it's own right -- worthy of a separate thread, wouldn't you say?  I hope one of you will bring it up again sometime.

Merryk: Don't forget plain old hobbity understatement.  It is just not in the nature of Tolkien's characters to go pouring out their innermost thoughts.  I maintain that you are reading the most completely honest discussion Sam and Frodo will have this side of the Anduin. 

Frodo's delayed departure is not because Gandalf is sheltering him.  Gandalf himself misjudged the time frame. 

Your example of the Shire sheltered from truth and danger IS a problematic one.  I've never been entirely comfortable with the concept.  It's probably the only example of one power benevolently perpetrating a falsehood for someone else's "own good." One of the reason's I find Tolkien's universe so comfortable is because it is populated with truth tellers - and the Shire's imposed isolation grates a bit.

I like your insight that what might seem "secrecy" is really a function of a good author telling a suspenseful story.  For example, the "conspiracy" exists so that we might have this first eucatastrophe of Frodo finding friends where he did not expect any.  I'll leave it an open question whether Frodo's secret was a source of self pitying pride.  If it is, in these early stages, it is a characteristic that he leaves behind (or has stripped from him) - like so many other of the other characteristics of the proper Shire gentleman.

FarFromHome: The stiff upper lip You make a very good point about hobbity understatement, and we know that hobbits like to use 'light words' rather than talk openly of serious things. It's perhaps typical of the English dislike of discussing feelings - Peter Jackson makes a comment about it, in the commentary on the little scene in the FOTR-EE where Bilbo tries and fails to tell Frodo that he's leaving.

There are a couple of places in the book where Frodo tries to tell Sam what he's going through, and Sam clearly thinks that it's not a good idea - "talking won't mend nothing" is his attitude, and a very English attitude it is. When they do talk honestly, they couch their conversation in other ways, as in their conversation about stories on the Stairs of Cirith Ungol.

But even allowing for this, there is a lot of secrecy in the story, not always apparent until you look back, and possibly, as you say, mainly for story-telling purposes. I can see the justification for the hobbits' keeping their conspiracy from Frodo - they know he will refuse their offer of help unless they put it to him in just the right way - and we can understand Gandalf not telling Frodo too much all at once so that he won't become overwhelmed by the enormity of his task. But sometimes the Wise seem to delight in their secrets, and to have a rather paternalistic approach to what they feel appropriate for others to know.

Entwife Wandlimb: we agree about Sam and Frodo I do think Frodo is being fairly honest with Sam.  After all, Sam dozed at Frodo's feet during his conversation with Gildor and overheard what was said with Gandalf, so they have no secrets.  (I really like what FarFromHome said in her post about Sam being reluctant in general to discuss thorny issues.)

While Frodo's delayed departure may have been due to Gandalf's error in judgement, I wonder along with Gildor why Gandalf told him nothing of the Black Riders.

I do think Frodo is being secretive with Pippin, and I question the wisdom of that.  Leaving Pippin in the dark about the Black Riders could cause great harm, IMO.


Altaira: squire to the rescue! squire has graciously accepted the task of continuing the discussion and will be taking over in the a.m.

Many thanks sir!! :-)

drogo_drogo: Some answers Frodo senses that he is bound to suffer, and that his companions are being dragging into this burden along with him.  We are sensing how serious the journey is now.  Sam's speech further tells the early readers that this isn't a lighthearted romp or even a quest like  Bilbo's, but a much more serious quest.

And Pippin is still Pippin; I love the lad! :)

an seileachan: "...and discovered that Sam was watching him." Perhaps Sam doesn't know exactly what is going on in Frodo's head, but he knows Frodo bears watching. Even at this early point, Sam knows Frodo is torn about something, trying to work something out. He will not take his eyes off Frodo; that's Sam's responsibility, as he sees it.

I'm not always sure what Tolkien's point is vis a vis "master-servant" relationships. Maybe there isn't always a "point" to be made, and some of this was just assumed understanding of a writer of a certain age and place of upbringing. But somehow, I think it's Sam's place to watch over Frodo. They need each other to get this journey done, and each knows that. Even though Frodo thinks momentarily that maybe he ought not to take Sam, I think he really understands on some level they have to go together, because they can neither one do it alone.

Sam knows he is going into darkness and danger, and that he is destined to follow Frodo even to "the moon". If Frodo thinks he is the only one at this point who understands the possible finality of the journey, he is mistaken. Sam is every bit as resigned to see it through, and to do it as a faithful servant without resentment or bitterness.

Farawyn: This is hard when I have read it so many times. I don't really remember my first impressions on this, but I will have a go at it.

I like Sam's focus, and I like Frodo beginning to see that there is "real" danger ahead. Pippin is in character. He's not thinking about what's ahead-he's eaten and all is right with the world.

Grammaboodawg: Take care dj! Thanks Altaira :) This is where I begin to warm myself on the relationship between Frodo and Sam. 

I love how unflappable Pippin is!  Nothing is touching this Took... not even Frodo's testy mood at the moment.  Here's where I see Frodo more akin to Gandalf in his impatience with Pippin's energy and curiosity.

Here is where Frodo and Sam begin their journey.  They both see ahead, sense what's to come, trust each other just to get on with it and see it through.  Personal hopes aside (to see Bilbo and rest in Rivendel for Frodo and Sam just to see the Elves), the quest begins.

Canto di Númenor: What hasn't been said? It seems a lot of great responses have been recorded already - however, I thought I would offer this:

At this point in the story, the reader doesn't expect anything more than our dear Hobbit friends travelling to Rivendell.  For those who may have read The Hobbit before LoTR, like many, then the faintest images of Rivendell are of singing Elves and a jolly good time - therefore, Frodo's comment about leading his friends into "darkness" seems a bit overstated at this point.

Weaver: "Don't you leave him!" I was surprised on reading this part through again to find that this was where the movies "Don't you leave him, Samwise Gamgee" dialogue they used at the end of FOTR originally came from -- here, it references a talk that Sam had with Gildor and the elves, and the result is that the elves laughed at Sam's exagerated promise to stick with Frodo if "he climbs to the moon." Switching who Sam made the promise to from the elves to Gandalf, and making it a poignant moment rather than a bit of hobbit pride, was an interesting move for the films.

Estelwyn: Not a morning person? Maybe Frodo just needed his morning coffee before having to answer all those questions?

Joking aside, I noticed for the first time, when reading this today, all the different ways Tolkien describes Frodo's tone with Pippin.  He answers in sentences that are short, almost clipped at times, and gets progressively, well, grumpier, the more the incorrigible Pippin pushes.  After the first question Frodo "answered and gave his attention to his food" (ie ignored Pippin).  Next he is described as "not liking the reminder", then he answered "evasively", then "with his mouth full", and finally "sharply" as he exploded at Pippin to leave him be.  The whole scene is beautifully comic, but there's also the strong sense of danger behind Frodo's misgivings.

As others have mentioned, I like the hint re-readers get here of Pippin knowing a little more than he's letting on.  Maybe his cheerfulness is partly feigned to throw Frodo off the conspiracy scent.  But, I think it's also that hobbity characteristic of using light words at serious times, and Pippin is simply trying to cheer his grumpy cousin up!  He knows enough to know why Frodo is worried and sad.

Kerewyn: I loved the notion of Pippin running on the turf singing. How would he be running? In circles, back and forth, or just bouncing around? In fact when I first read it, I was so cheered by the thought that I practically missed the gravity that Frodo was experiencing. Pip did his job in more ways than one, if indeed he was intending to be deliberately cheerful, rather than just naive.

Ibo: It could well be that they are not really morning persons If you compare the "waking-up"-scene in the previous chapter (how grumpy, stiff and lazy they seem, Sam included, even though he cannot be down-right rude to Frodo, even if he wished to!) I'm sure that elven food must contain something that makes mornings easy! ; )

Another thing; this morning breakfast was there, they didn't have to make it themselves, and they slept on some kind of matresses. No wonder Pippin can dance for joy. : )

Mornings are dangerous, and should be handled with care! ; )

Silent_Watcher: Into exile Sad thought at breakfast and a very lucid one.

Certainly the kind of passage you need to reread once you know what lies ahead. There is more about these lines than perceives the first time reader.


2) Altaira: As Frodo listens to Sam, he almost expects to see some outward sign of change.  Did the encounter with the Elves literally change Sam or did it just help him focus and express himself better? Are we seeing a rare glimpse of Hobbit "foresight" here? How did the encounter affect Frodo and Pippin in comparison?

Ibo: Sams “transformation” after meeting the elves can also be compared to some people’s experience of reading books like LotR. I think many feel “elevated”, and that for once they escape all the ugly, boring, mundane and low, which is part of the real world. It seems to me that Sam is quite happy just to know that there are elves in the world, and now he seems quite happy to return to his ordinary life, and treasure the memory of this meeting with the elves.  We also know that later in his life he can dedicate more time to “elevated” things like writing down this meeting and share it with others.

Finding Frodo: nice analogy Comparing the transformation of Sam to the transformation of the reader -- that was a "light bulb" moment for me!

Ibo: I'm deLIGHTed to hear that! : )

drogo_drogo: Sam now has some understanding of the reality of both Elves and of their plight.  We'll see him gradually move beyond the "fairy-story" (in the ordinary sense) interpretation of Middle-earth to a much more profound understanding.

an seileachan: No, I am not a bit surprised at his understanding of the Elves. :-) He's a deeper soul than he sometimes is given credit for!

Farawyn: I don't think Sam has changed. I think perhaps Frodo has underestimated Sam previous to this. He is is friend and gardener, but I am reading the relationship thus far as more one sided. That is, Sam is more "common" than Frodo. I can see Frodo being kind and having a friendship with him in the past, but perhaps never really inquiring into what makes Sam tick. The movie made their friendship seem more equal than the book, despite Sam calling him Mr. Frodo. I am up to The Council of Elrond, and Sam is allowed to wait on Frodo the dinner before. The picture I get from Tolkien is more an unequal servant/master relationship. Maybe Frodo is seeing Sam through new eyes?

Grammaboodawg: Sam's a follower up till now... happy to be so.  Here he even says himself that he's changed.  Yeah... I think he's been graced by the encounter with Gildor even if he doesn't openly wear the crown of Elf-friend.  It's there just the same.

Canto di Númenor: Likewise, Sam's comment seems to offer the same overstatement - yet, due to his "Hobbit foresight" - the reader is more compelled to suspect that perhaps something bad will, in fact, happen on the way to Rivendell.  [I think the Barrowwights offer a good example...]

Nonetheless, we definitely we a strengthening of character here on Sam's part.  Before this, he wasn't much more than a fidgety, eavesdropping young chip off the Old Gaffer.

Weaver: I also think it's interesting that Sam first goes along with Frodo "to see the elves", and that it's this encounter with them that turns his interest in going on a journey into the true heart of the quest for him, that is, to stay loyal to Frodo until the end.  That theme comes home again and again in Sam's story, but here is where it all really started.

an seleichan: but he overheard Gandalf's story... I do agree that SOMETHING happened to Sam during his encounter with the Elves. But I think it's his perspective that's changed, not his intentions.

He overheard Gandalf tale under the eaves at Bag End, after all. I don't get the impression that he understood it all, or even heard it all. He appears to have been entranced by the talk about Elves, but in addition he heard about "the enemy, and rings...and a fiery mountain...". He was told on pain of being turned into a toad that the quest was an absolute secret. He may be a servant, but he is not as simple as he seems. I'm sure he knew there was some danger. Not to mention the Black Riders they encounter, which don't change his resolve.

Before he answers Frodo's question about whether he feels the need to leave the Shire now that he has seen the Elves, Same relates how they instructed him not to leave Frodo. Leave him!...I never mean to. I am going with him, if he climbs to the Moon; and if any of those Black Riders try to stop him, they'll have Sam Gamgee to reckon with..."

I don't think his talk with the Elves changed his mind. I think he always intended to go with Frodo on what was apparently a dangerous mission, of which he knew little but was still willing to go. The conversation with the Elves just broadened his understanding and gave him new perspective on his role: "...after last night I feel different. I seem to see ahead, in a kind of way..."

There was always more to Sam then met the eye. Frodo was MEANT to have the Ring, but Sam was MEANT to be eavesdropping. And that's an encouraging thought.

Estelwyn: As for Sam -- his "I seem to see ahead... I have something to do before the end" speech always strikes me as a mirror of Frodo's "I should like to save the Shire if I could." In each case the speaker is "elevated" as someone below called it, and there's a sense that they've accepted something that is destined or ordained.  Almost like they've taken up a mantle of some kind in this moment. 

Also, in each case there's a listener who witnessed this "ordination", if I can call it that.  Gandalf is surprised and delighted by Frodo's wisdom and acceptance of his task; Frodo is startled and perceives some change in Sam.  Each of them has their moment of accepting their path (and there'll be other moments where they recommit to it), but it's not until now after Sam says this, that they really set out on the path together.

Kerewyn: Great footer! And I like your points about the elevation of each speaker.

I remember noting Sam's thoughts about the Elves.

I suppose, just coming out of the last chapter, I was trying to figure them out myself, and reconcile my movie and The Hobbit knowledge of Elves with what I'd just read. When Sam notes “So old and young, so gay and sad, as it were.”, it helped nail that impression,  and gave me an awareness of the simple poetry in Sam's soul, added to a new respect regarding his commitment to the quest. (This feeling was echoed later on in The Flight to the Ford, IIRC, when Frodo expresses something about there being more to Sam than meets the eye)

I'm starting to think I should have my copy of LOTR here at work for reference! (Anyone know of text online?)

Alraune: not alone, not palely loitering There is I think a tradition in fairy-stories, though I can't name any offhand (who wrote that poem alluded to in my subject line? I don't think Tolkien liked it much), that after the encounter with Faerie, the traveler awakes fifty years older, or a hundred years later -- at any rate the world or he is much changed. Our three hobbits don't all undergo great changes though. Pippin's spirits are perhaps more ebullient than usual, but he seems much the same. Frodo, too, is perhaps more concerned about their safety and chances, but he has the same concerns and perspective as before (it was probably not his first encounter with Elves).

Sam, though, is altered by the night. He seems enchanted when they first meet the Elves, walking with an expression "half of fear and half of astonished joy." The next day he is not only newly thoughtful, as Frodo notices, but has a new resolve, a crystallization of purpose: "I have something to do before the end". He was devoted to helping

Frodo all along, but now it's not just a job, it acquires an aspect of personal quest for Sam too.

An seleichan: La Belle Dame Sans Merci   --John Keats, 1819


Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,

    Alone and palely loitering;

The sedge is wither'd from the lake,

    And no birds sing.


Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,

    So haggard and so woe-begone?

The squirrel's granary is full,

    And the harvest's done.


I see a lily on thy brow,

    With anguish moist and fever dew;

And on thy cheek a fading rose

    Fast withereth too.


I met a lady in the meads

    Full beautiful, a faery's child;

Her hair was long, her foot was light,

    And her eyes were wild.




I set her on my pacing steed,

    And nothing else saw all day long;

For sideways would she lean, and sing

    A faery's song.


I made a garland for her head,

    And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;

She look'd at me as she did love,

    And made sweet moan.


She found me roots of relish sweet,

    And honey wild, and manna dew;

And sure in language strange she said,

    I love thee true.


She took me to her elfin grot,

    And there she gaz'd and sighed deep,

And there I shut her wild sad eyes--

    So kiss'd to sleep.



And there we slumber'd on the moss,

    And there I dream'd, ah woe betide,

The latest dream I ever dream'd

    On the cold hill side.


I saw pale kings, and princes too,

    Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;

Who cry'd--"La belle Dame sans merci

    Hath thee in thrall!"


I saw their starv'd lips in the gloam

    With horrid warning gaped wide,

And I awoke, and found me here

    On the cold hill side.


And this is why I sojourn here

    Alone and palely loitering,

Though the sedge is wither'd from the lake,

    And no birds sing.



N.E. Brigand: Shippey cites that poem... somewhere in one of his Tolkien books, in a discussion of different conceptions of elves.  I don't know if Tolkien ever commented on it.

Arquen: But what about Rosie? Of the four hobbits, Sam probably has the most reason not to go.  Yet here he commits to the quest, without hestitation and without equivocation.  However, I think Frodo's and Sam's idea of the quest is still different:  Frodo uses the word 'exile', and Sam uses language suggesting a mission, and a faint suggestion of a return.  I think this begins to set up the future contrasts between their attitudes, particularly near the end of the quest.

            And I agree about the coffee problem.   I've always been bothered by the lack of much tea on the quest, but the presence of tobacco.  I don't understand how they could have managed it without caffeine.

Elostirion74: The difference between Sam and Pippin To [me] the difference between Sam and Pippin is the most significant.

Pippin, as we will know soon, has intended to go with Frodo all the time, but he has no clear idea of what dangers they are heading for at all, he does it out of friendship and concern and perhaps also because he wants adventure. He may have been scared by the Black Riders, but his fears are easily dispelled once the dangers appear to be over and what's more he incarnates more than anyone else the light-hearted nature of hobbits.

Sam, however, has been decided to go with Frodo all along and the meeting with the Elves has given him more insight to ground his determination and put his own imagination about elves and the wide world into perspective. "They seem to be a bit above my likes and dislikes..."

That is a profoundly powerful experience. Sam reactions echoes very much the notion mentioned several times later in the book about how people are truly changed after meeting Elves (see for instance Faramir's words to Frodo in The Window of the West).

Frodo had been meeting Elves before this, so the meeting with Gildor cannot change him much, except underline his elvish air and make him more perceptive about the vulnerability of the Shire and all he felt was safe and familiar to the force of evil. All that he's imagined to be safe now is proved to be more dangerous than he could possible think of. I'm shivering when thinking of this..


Altaira: p.s. Good luck with real life, dj!!! :-)