A Shortcut to Mushrooms #4: Like the cry of some evil and lonely creature

      Going on was not altogether easy. They had packs to carry, and the bushes and brambles were reluctant to let them through. They were cut off from the wind by the ridge behind, and the air was still and stuffy. When they forced their way at last into more open ground, they were hot and tired and very scratched, and they were also no longer certain of the direction in which they were going. The banks of the stream sank, as it reached the levels and became broader and shallower, wandering off towards the Marish and the River.

     'Why, this is the Stock-brook!' said Pippin. 'If we are going to try and get back on to our course, we must cross at once and bear right.'

 

Oak Forest by Ivan Shishkin

 

     They waded the stream, and hurried over a wide open space, rush-grown and treeless, on the further side. Beyond that they came again to a belt of trees: tall oaks, for the most part, with here and there an elm tree or an ash. The ground was fairly level, and there was little undergrowth; but the trees were too close for them to see far ahead. The leaves blew upwards in sudden gusts of wind, and spots of rain began to fall from the overcast sky. Then the wind died away and the rain came streaming down. They trudged along as fast as they could, over patches of grass, and through thick drifts of old leaves; and all about them the rain pattered and trickled. They did not talk, but kept glancing back, and from side to side.

 

squire 1. Without invoking a higher power than the author, I agree that weather is never random in Lord of the Rings. Is this rain significant? What is its story-purpose?

Arevanye: Rain on the elm leaves The rain rather adds insult to injury, doesn't it.  I can imagine the thoughts going through Pippin's mind:  "Oh, now this is lovely!  And for this we skipped a nice pint at the Golden Perch.  Hrmph!"

Elostirion74: Elven food and black rider cries Again, thank you for these beautiful and very evocative pictures and paintings! The photos almost made me want to go there at once.

I don't believe the rain is significant on another level here, if that's what you asking. It's more a question of creating a certain atmosphere which I guess many hikers can relate to.

FarFromHome: Walking in the rain I think Tolkien had hiked in the rain himself a few times! It adds to the sense of discomfort and cheerlessness, in contrast to their magical morning and the comfort that will come when they stumble onto Maggot's land. But there's also something inherently reassuring about the pattering and trickling of rain on trees. The sense of danger is stilled for a while.

Arquen: The weather is signalling a change in mood from the high point where they meet the elves to something much darker and more frightening.  There are several such little setups before the big punchline.

N.E. Brigand: Streams and rivers. Interesting how here the hobbits wade a small stream that flows into a larger waterway that they soon cross by other means:  Nimrodel and Silverlode, anyone?

drogo_drogo: "Pathetic fallacy" This is the term for descriptions of natural settings, etc., which apply human psychologial attributes to them.  It is a way writers humanize landscape, making it both a setting for the action and a barometer of the characters' inner lives (for example, "The sun was smiling" or "The clouds cried rain.")  Tolkien's artistry is his ability to take the pathetic fallacy and make it more than a quaint stylistic feature, but a major thematic strain in his work.  For him, it isn't even a fallacy at all, since Middle-earth is a full-fledged character in LOTR.

Tolkien is a master of this art in his depictions of the terrain and weather along the journey.  Thomas Hardy is the only other writer in English fiction who comes to mind as a writer who makes the place a function of the characters, and the characters embodiments of the locale.  Of course Tolkien is able to weave this technique into his storytelling even more because he is writing in a fantasy genre in which there are many layers of meaning behind nature (which we'll bracket for the moment].

Here we see the rain and the dense grove of trees signalling the Hobbits' moments of despair, but then the lifting of their spirits occurs with a change in the openness of the terrain and the brightening of the weather.  The Hobbits' mood and the setting are closely connected, the one mirroring the other.

N.E. Brigand: Question about that term. Wouldn't use of human terms to describe non-human things be a fallacy only within a strictly rationalist framework?

Lúthien_Rising: true enough But critics typically use the term regardless of whether they think the practice to be really a "fallacy."

drogo_drogo: Essentially it is The term comes from the writings of the Victorian art and social critic John Ruskin.  This is his definition:

 It will appear also, on consideration of the matter, that this fallacy is of two principal kinds. Either, as in this case of the crocus, it is the fallacy of wilful fancy, which involves no real expectation that it will be believed; or else it is a fallacy caused by an excited state of the feelings, making us, for the time, more or less irrational. Of the cheating of the fancy we shall have to speak presently; but, in this chapter, I want to examine the nature of the other error, that which the mind admits when affected strongly by emotion. Thus, for instance, in Alton Locke—

 They rowed her in across the rolling foam—

The cruel, crawling foam.

 The foam is not cruel, neither does it crawl. The state of mind which attributes to it these characters of a living creature is one in which the reason is unhinged by grief. All violent feelings have the same effect. They produce in us a falseness in all our impressions of external things, which I would generally characterize as the 'Pathetic Fallacy'.

 Now we are in the habit of considering this fallacy as eminently a character of poetical description, and the temper of mind in which we allow it as one eminently poetical, because passionate. But, I believe, if we look well into the matter, that we shall find the greatest poets do not often admit this kind of falseness — that it is only the second order of poets who much delight in it.

 Ruskin was framing his discussion in terms of nineteenth-century rationalist philosophy, though as L_R points out, the term has become almost a synonym in later literary criticism for any personification of the external physical world, or any figurative description of the world that renders it in human terms.

The full essay is in the link below.

squire: Nor does "pathetic" mean what it does now Back then in Ruskin's time it meant "of or pertaining to strong feelings or sentiment". Now we use it for "of or pertaining to contemptible sentimental weakness". In other words, it used to be respectable, or even praiseworthy, to be "pathetic" (as it is still with the closely related "sympathetic" = "pathetic with relation to another").

So the "pathetic fallacy" is really a technical term, meaning "wrongly ascribing sentiment to inanimate forces or objects" rather than "amazingly stupid and puerile mistake of ascribing feeling to inanimate forces or objects".

I remember Eric Foner strongly criticizing the screenplay for "Amistad" because of the line given to President Van Buren's arrogant young aides, who say "is there anything more pathetic than a former president?" Foner remarks rather acidly that the screenwriter was unaware that "pathetic" was a compliment in the 1830s -- thus making a point about how unhistorical most Hollywood history movies are.

Estelwyn: Thanks for that explanation I was starting to feel a little pathetic not being able to understand this conversation :-)

Grammaboodawg: If Tolkien is nothing else his story is organic.  The weather and the terrain always seems to be as much a part of the story as the plot and characters.  As I read this part, I can see the good Professor most likely finding himself in the very same situation on one of his country walks finding himself struggling with the climate and the lands. 

 

      After half an hour Pippin said: 'I hope we have not turned too much towards the south, and are not walking longwise through this wood! It is not a very broad belt -I should have said no more than a mile at the widest - and we ought to have been through it by now.'

     'It is no good our starting to go in zig-zags,' said Frodo. 'That won't mend matters. Let us keep on as we are going! I am not sure that I want to come out into the open yet.'

 squire 2. What is the point of the “belt” of trees? It gets quite a lot of play. Try to imagine a grove of “tall oaks” growing so close together one cannot see far ahead. I can’t.

Photo of Oak Forest in Canterbury, UK

 

Arevanye: You make a good point, squire, because I would imagine an old growth forest would have a very sparse understory because of the shade from the oaks and the mulch from their fallen leaves.  But his mentioning the fact that they kept walking and walking through the trees starts that uncertainty in the reader about their being lost or turned around.

They halted under an elm tree: its leaves though fast turning yellow were still thick, and the ground at its feet was fairly dry and sheltered.

**warning tree geek detour ahead**

I just wanted to make the observation that while the elm tree in Tolkien’s hiking days may have been the ideal tree to shelter under during a light rain, the infestation of Dutch Elm disease during the early 1960’s decimated their population.  More than 12 million elm trees died.  The elms were favorites for hedgerows because of their beautiful golden fall color, and deep shade, but their deeply furrowed bark made for an ideal habitat for the beetles which brought the fungal infection.  Their numbers have never recovered, both in England and in America.  I myself can never recall seeing a mature elm tree, but I’ve read that there are still some large ones west of the Mississippi in the U.S. 

There are several varieties of Elm, but the English Elm and also the Wych Elm are good for making archery bows!  In fact, the origin of “Wych” comes from the Middle English wiche, from Old English wice (pliant, bendable).

Here is a really nice tribute page to the English Elm:  A Bowmaker’s Tribute to the English Elm.

/end of tree geek detour

N.E. Brigand: There are mature elms... in the eastern U.S. too.  Some communitities have taken a very agressive approach to fighting the disease (immediately destroying trees that show signs of infestation) and thus been able to keep some of their elms.

Owlyross: The forest I imagine is nothing like the oak forests of your pictures and my memory. I'm put in memory of a wood near my childhood home called langdon hills. The picture below will give an idea of the sort of landscape I had in mind for this section. Looking at this map of the park it's set in

 it even has some Shire-like features, roads running round the outside, even the pub on the main road!

FarFromHome: Well, there is lots of dense but patchy woodland in England, like this for example. It seems to me that even when you can see fairly well through woodland, it's still hard to see far enough to gauge your direction. I don't know much about tree habits, but somehow Tolkien's descriptions of woodland always have me totally convinced.

Arquen: The geometry of the wood is important in setting up the tension of the chase by the Black Riders.  A one-mile-wide wood would be crossed in a little over an hour at most, but they have been struggling through it for much longer.  Note that Frodo says "I am not sure I want to come out into the open yet."   At some level, he is relieved that, while they cannot see out, by inversive commutation, the pursuit cannot see in.  Staying under cover is better than coming out into the open with the pursuit so near.  This little bit is racheting up the story tension.

It's not hard for me to imagine getting lost in a big grove of oaks; I've done it, and had to repeat a day of mapping in the California Coast ranges. 

Beren IV: Oak Woodlands It's not hard for me to imagine getting lost in a big grove of oaks; I've done it, and had to repeat a day of mapping in the California Coast ranges. 

I know what you mean - woodland that is not dense enough to keep the sun off you, but plenty dense to obscure horizontal visibility.

By the way, I also like your evil creatures union idea! :)

Menelwyn: Not sure at all how relevant this is but in re-reading some of this material, I couldn't help thinking of what my sister once had to say about the woods in this early part of FOTR.  She's a movie-firster who I persuaded to read the books, and she did not like either this chapter or The Old Forest.  She says it all reads like, "The trees closed in....  The trees opened up...." (accompanied by arm gestures to demonstrate).  Classic case of that here--"...but the trees were too close for them to see far ahead...."  "Before long the wood came to a sudden end. Wide grass-lands stretched before them."

I don't really have a point in all this, but I thought I would share a non-geek's perspective.

N.E. Brigand: One thing I've found... re-reading these early chapters for the discussion, is that the passages often cited as taking up so much time are really pretty short.  Even this walking-in-the-woods section, from the point where the hobbits start down from the elves hall to when the emerge at the edge of Maggot's farm, is less than four pages, and in addition to their struggles through the brush (which this discussion shows has more meat than first meets the eye) includes two chilling moments:  the horseman on the ridgetop and the unnatural cries.

 

 

     They went on for perhaps another couple of miles. Then the sun gleamed out of ragged clouds again and the rain lessened. It was now past mid-day, and they felt it was high time for lunch. They halted under an elm tree: its leaves though fast turning yellow were still thick, and the ground at its feel was fairly dry and sheltered. When they came to make their meal, they found that the Elves had filled their bottles with a clear drink, pale golden in colour: it had the scent of a honey made of many flowers, and was wonderfully refreshing. Very soon they were laughing, and snapping their fingers at rain, and at Black Riders. The last few miles, they felt, would soon be behind them.

squire 3. The Elves’ hooch sounds wonderful! Do you think this is miruvor which we later encounter by name? Why do they “find” it now, when it’s said that the Elves left them “drink” for breakfast? Is Elvish food and drink magical, by the evidence the text gives us?

Owlyross: Elven Moon(star)shine I like the idea that the Hobbits are put in a jolly mood by the elven liquid. It seems less like an alcoholic drink than a stimulant... A good cup of coffee maybe, but with health-giving benefits and no palpitations!

Elostirion74: Yes, this is most certainly miruvor!

The food and drink of the elves seem more nourishing than other food, it's nourishing to the mind and the will as much as to the body. Maybe the spiritual quality of the Elves resides in their food as much as in the clothes and the other things they make?

FarFromHome: Maybe it's miruvor, but I imagine as ancient and creative a race as the Elves must have a very wide selection of beverages for every occasion, judging by what our own human culture has managed to develop! All the Elves' food and drink is beyond anything the hobbits have experienced before, and like Elvish singing, the drink goes straight to their heads.

I expect the elves left the breakfast food and drink in containers of their own (leaves maybe?). The hobbits didn't check their own drinking bottles until now. But it must seem magical to the hobbits to find this wonderful parting gift. I think it's fair to say that Elvish food, drink and everything else is magical to the hobbits - as to whether it's "really" magical - well, if you could prove something was magical, it wouldn't be magical, would it? I think it's about belief and perception, not evidence.

(I need to think some more before attempting the rest of the questions - too many great ideas to ponder all at once.)

Arquen: Well, what is literally described here is mead, a wine made with honey that is pale golden in color.  Last time at the Ren Faire I tried it, way too sweet for me.  But a shot of sugar would sure boost morale and energy.  Just like the elves to provide a bit of wine for lunch.

Beren IV: Definitely mead That drink almost has to be mead, which is, as Arquen points out, a honey-wine. Mead is frequently quite alcaholic, as well as sugary.

an seleichan: not miruvor The drink is described as "filling" their bottles, and they drink it with lunch. It's a refreshment, in other words, something drunk to quench thirst. It obviously has some restorative properties.

Miruvor, OTOH, is described as a "cordial". Unless the definition in the UK is different (could be, please enlighten me anyone!) this would be a very concentrated liquor taken as an after-meal treat. Or, as used by Gandalf on the retreat from Caradhras, to revive and invigorate. "For medicinal purposes", so to speak. He only gives them a mouthful, because "it is precious". Surely if Gandalf himself can only spare a mouthful to his friends in great need, the beverage that "fills" the hobbits' bottles can't be miruvor.

Only my theory, of course.

Dernwyn: Of mead and shrieky speech It was undoubtably some form of mead which the Elves placed in the Hobbits' water-bottles.  The question is - why?  It may be that this is the usual "liquid refreshment" enjoyed by the Elves as they travel; and since their alcoholic tolerance is high, it may not have occurred to them that this would cause the Hobbits to, ah, "get a buzz on". 

[On the other hand: were this chapter not heading in a serious direction and were the journey a lighthearted one, it could have been perceived as being an Elvish practical joke.  It is obvious that Gildor knew Bilbo; in which case, he would know the Hobbit reaction to alcoholic beverages; and so they decided to make the Hobbits' journey a little merrier, and supply them with enough of their special mead to make them forget their worries for a while.]

Grammaboodawg: Haldir knew they'd need to be enheartened with the fear that was pursuing them... so to give them the miruvor was, imho, more to keep them on their feet against fear than for refreshment.  But for hobbits, everything can turn into jest.  And I think, at this point, Frodo is just enjoying the Shire, the happy sounds of his friends, and the warm sun.  He always seems to turn his face to the sun... especially after an ordeal with rougher elements.

 

      Frodo propped his back against the tree-trunk, and closed his eyes. Sam and Pippin sat near, and they began to hum, and then to sing softly:

            Ho! Ho! Ho! to the bottle I go

           To heal my heart and drown my woe.

           Rain may fall and wind may blow,

           And many miles be still to go,

           But under a tall tree I will lie,

           And let the clouds go sailing by.

squire 4. A drinking song! Tolkien doesn’t spare us the musical (or at least lyrical) culture of the Shire in these first few chapters, does he? What does the song say? Why sing it now? Is it composed on the spot? Why doesn’t Frodo sing?

Elostirion74: Is Tolkien hinting at the properties of religious faith here?

Arquen: Frodo doesn't sing because he is still worried about the pursuit.  The others sing because they aren't in charge and weren't as worried.  Yet.  The drinking song sounds like an old one, and came up just because it was a good fit to the circumstances.  I can think of endless examples of songs popping into my head, triggered by an event at hand. 

      "Ho! Ho! Ho!" they began again louder. They stopped short suddenly. Frodo sprang to his feet. A long-drawn wail came down the wind, like the cry of some evil and lonely creature. It rose and fell, and ended on a high piercing note. Even as they sat and stood, as if suddenly frozen, it was answered by another cry, fainter and further off, but no less chilling to the blood. There was then a silence, broken only by the sound of the wind in the leaves.

     'And what do you think that was?' Pippin asked at last, trying to speak lightly, but quavering a little. 'If it was a bird, it was one that I never heard in the Shire before.'

     'It was not bird or beast,' said Frodo. 'It was a call, or a signal - there were words in that cry, though I could not catch them. But no hobbit has such a voice.'

     No more was said about it. They were all thinking of the Riders, but no one spoke of them. They were now reluctant either to stay or go on; but sooner or later they had got to get across the open country to the Ferry, and it was best to go sooner and in daylight. In a few moments they had shouldered their packs again and were off.

 Squire: This is my favorite moment in the chapter: a happy drinking song and a bit of a lie-down under a tree, and then screeeeeeeech! Like fingernails on chalkboard.

squire 5. Why are the hobbits unable to admit what is so obvious? Bird? Hobbit? Are you kidding?

Owlyross: The scream of tthe Nazgul is one of those heart-stopping, chilling moments that make you realise this isn't just a jolly to the country, the hobbits are in danger, no matter how many times they try to convince themselves otherwise (it's usually when they're doing this that danger rears its head).

Elostirion74: Plain shock and disbelief perhaps.

Arquen: Because hobbits, like Brits and unlike Americans, are masters of the stiff-upper-lip, don't overreact form of understatement.  If they had been Americans, they would respond with lip-quivering terror and some sort of endless psychobabble. 

But note that the setup for the BR appearance has been building for much longer than this one paragraph.

Eowyn of Penns Woods: About that #5... not in my neck o' the woods, matey! In the land of clannish rednecks who are downright hobbity about staying where their Patriot ancestors put down roots, the only things quivering would be twitchy fingers on bowstrings. "What the *bleep* was that? If that ain't a death call it will be!...I wunner if it eats good..."   =)

 

 squire 6. Why do we never hear the Riders’ call again (until they reappear over the Pelennor months from now)? When the cry of the Nazgul is heard again in Return of the King, are there words then also? How does this terrible screech relate to what we later learn about the Nazgul: that they are former men, and they can still speak normally although their accent is odd. Who else screeches like this in the story?

Owlyross: I'm working through the book at the moment, but it's been a while since I've read it, so I'll have to keep my eyes (and ears) open for the sound of the Nazgul.

Elostirion74: For once it seems memory has played a trick on you if I remember correctly. We do hear the Riders call twice in "Flight to the Ford", once immediately after the hobbits and Strider leave Weathertop and once just before the Ford when they summon the other Riders who've been lying in hiding.

Their words seem "easier" to distinguish or relate to when they're calling to each other than when they're just calling to inspire fear and despair (as in ROTK). At both times their voices seem to echo the voice of death or some sort of chilling other-world.

But I've got another question. Where are the Riders at this point?

squire: Um... I knew that? Zing! I could say it was a trick question, but no, I just spaced. Of course we hear the Riders when leaving Weathertop, as I realized this morning after posting -- I was just waiting to get busted on this. And I guess the time at the Ford counts, too. Ooh.

As to where the Riders are -- we'll get to that soon.

N.E. Brigand: Don't we also hear a Rider... as Sam and Frodo are scrambling at the edge of the Emyn Muil, when the storm comes up and Frodo is temporararily blinded?

Elostirion74: I think you're right In that case the cry seemed more remote, but still threatening if I'm not mistaken

Arquen: Evil Creatures Union My kid asked me almost the same thing, after she saw FOTR at the ripe age of 7: Mom, why do they screeeech like that.  I said, 'because if they went, 'moooooooooooooo', nobody would take them very seriously, and they would have to go get Real jobs.'  

Evil creatures screech. It's a restraint-of-trade kind of thing with their union. 

                        nerdanel_50: mooooo! rofl!

Penthe: 'I'm a cow, I'm a cow' Jeff from the Wiggles on a big black horse, sings 'Moooo, mooooo', surprises hobbits, takes them to Barad-dur.

Maybe 'moo' would be a better strategy than fearsome screeching, which, face it, makes people run away as fast as they can . Just makes the job harder, really. I suppose it's part of the evil will/evil marring paradox.

Lúthien_Rising: at least he'll fall asleep That should make keeping away from him a *lot* easier.

                        NottaSackville: Answer #6 [the evil creatures union] is about the most insightful thing I've read in a long time.

Entwife Wandlimb: lonesome tonight It’s so lonely being evil.

Actually, I think we hear them in Flight to the Ford: “But even as they were hurrying across they heard far away two cries: a cold voice calling and a cold voice answering.”   When the Wraith later strikes Frodo, a “shrill cry rang out in the night.”

I’m not sure who else makes that sort of noise.  The Barrow Wight makes a “long trailing shriek” in reaction to Tom, but I think he was scared, not trying to scare.

Beren IV: The shriek tells us something new, something that we didn't know about the Riders beforehand. Previously, we knew that they looked like Men who might have head-colds, although they seemed to us to have an unnatural aura and connection to the Ring. Now we know that they almost can't be Human, or else, if they are Human, then something else is also chasing the Hobbits that isn't Human (or equine).

Dernwyn: But back to the story, and an intriguing item: the "speech" of the Black Riders.  Such high-pitched speech actually exists.  Below is a link to an article about a whistling speech used in the Canary Islands.  So apparently one could create a verbal communication using screeches; Tolkien being the philologist he was, is it possible he knew of this speech-form, and that is why he utilized it here?

an seleichan: interesting shrieky speech I always had the impression that the shrieks were just a traditional "speech" of devils/demons/ghosty bad guys in general. But have nothing to back that up! :-)

 Here's Milton, though, in Paradise Lost:

 ill wast thou shrouded then,

O patient Son of God, yet only stood'st [ 420 ]

Unshaken; nor yet staid the terror there,

Infernal Ghosts, and Hellish Furies, round

Environ'd thee, some howl'd, some yell'd, some shriek'd,

Some bent at thee their fiery darts, while thou

Sat'st unappall'd in calm and sinless peace. [ 425 ]

Thus pass'd the night so foul till morning fair

Came forth with Pilgrim steps in amice gray;

Who with her radiant finger still'd the roar

Of thunder, chas'd the clouds, and laid the winds,

And grisly Spectres, which the Fiend had rais'd [ 430 ]

To tempt the Son of God with terrors dire.

N.E. Brigand: Perhaps Tolkien was trying... to explain why shrieks would be a ghost's form of speech (or to build upon earlier ideas on that subject--Milton contrast of the screams with "sinless peace" suggests he may have had the same idea).

squire: Who else screeches like this in the story? "Gollum began to scream, a thin, tearing sound, very horrible to hear. He writhed, and tried to get his mouth to his ankle and bite the rope. He kept on screaming." - TTT, Book 4, Chap. 1.

This is what came to me while thinking about the Riders' calls. It's not that Gollum screams, it's that his scream is described as very horrible to hear.

This made me wonder if Gollum, as a half-wraith, was half way to the state of permanent horror the Ringwraiths have been condemned to.

Tolkien comments that the Nazgul's voices increase in terror and effect in TTT and RotK, because they reflect their Master's increasing power. The despair they project is the despair they themselves feel -- and presumably, in the end, the despair that even Sauron feels.

When Gollum is forced into physical contact with the Elvish rope, it pains him far more than Sam's loose knot can explain. I wonder if it makes him see himself too clearly, and brings on the same sense of deadly despair at his state of life.

 

     Before long the wood came to a sudden end. Wide grass-lands stretched before them. They now saw that they had, in fact, turned too much to the south. Away over the flats they could glimpse the low hill of Bucklebury across the River, but it was now to their left. Creeping cautiously out from the edge of the trees, they set off across the open as quickly as they could.

 

Fen country in England

 

     At first they felt afraid, away from the shelter of the wood. Far back behind them stood the high place where they had breakfasted. Frodo half expected to see the small distant figure of a horseman on the ridge dark against the sky; but there was no sign of one. The sun escaping from the breaking clouds, as it sank towards the hills they had left, was now shining brightly again. Their fear left them, though they still felt uneasy. But the land became steadily more tame and well-ordered. Soon they came into well-tended fields and meadows: there were hedges and gates and dikes for drainage. Everything seemed quiet and peaceful, just an ordinary corner of the Shire. Their spirits rose with every step. The line of the River grew nearer; and the Black Riders began to seem like phantoms of the woods now left far behind.

 squire 7. How does Tolkien’s writing merge the psychological and physical journey of this last paragraph?

Elostirion74: I feel that Tolkien could have written more about this stage and about the mood of the hobbits, his writing is a little flat. But Tolkien rarely tell us much of what people are thinking. In this part of the story it's a constant flux between comfort and reminders of danger anyway and the sections are not long enough to give us more than a general hint of what the hobbits are experiencing.

Arquen: He seems to be contrasting the burst-pause physical with a slower, more grave psychological buildup.  Perhaps he is showing that, despite the stiff-upper-lip thing, there are times when being terrified is perfectly justifiable.  It's the physical response to terror, in particular, the production of an equal and opposite resolve to not give in to it, that we are seeing built up, along with a sense of shared danger that is starting to unite them for the quest.

Grammaboodawg: And so it ends as it began.  Quiet, orderly, familiar.  It makes their shortcut seem all the more dangerous and surreal... but it also shows how resilient hobbits are.  They almost immediately shake it off... for now.