A Shortcut to Mushrooms #7: 'I want Mr. Baggins. Have you seen him?' said a muffled voice. 

Lily Fairbairn: Since I will be out of town this weekend Let me say now how much I'm enjoying the discussion. I see in this chapter a lot of foreshadowing, not only in material but in style -- Tolkien's painstaking and lyrical descriptions of the landscape, for example, and the roller-coaster ride going from danger to safety and back.

Parenthetically, by the time I get back to the Shire at the end of the book, I feel as though I've walked or ridden along with the characters every step of the way. You really feel the distances involved.

well he's back: A few replies as a few are all I have time for.

First though, thanks to all for these discussions.

Now, I think I enjoy these "warm-up chapters" even more than before the movies since they give me more of Middle Earth to enjoy.  



English farm wagon, 1920s.


     When they had finished, the farmer and his sons went out with a lantern and got the waggon ready. It was dark in the yard, when the guests came out. They threw their packs on board and climbed in. The farmer sat in the driving-seat, and whipped up his two stout ponies. His wife stood in the light of the open door.

     'You be careful of yourself, Maggot!' she called. 'Don't go arguing with any foreigners, and come straight back!' 


squire: Say goodbye to the last female appearance until Goldberry (and then Galadriel. Nice company goodwife Maggot keeps, at least). 

squire: 1. Why aren’t there more? Do you wish there were?

FarFromHome: If you like Owlyross's UUT below (and Notta's followup), then there may be one less female in LOTR than you think! The female characters may be few, but their very rarity seems to give them special status. They tend to be mysterious, wise and kind (I'm thinking of Goldberry, Arwen and Galadriel), and our heroes - especially Frodo - react to them with wonder and reverence. They are the idealized females of the courtly love tradition. Mrs Maggot isn't one of these of course. She's the kind of sensible, down-to-earth, nurturing woman that we will meet again in Rosie Cotton.

 well he's back: No, I'm not one of those women who felt the books needed more women.  (and Arwen is mentioned, and Luthien too, I believe, before we get to Lorien).  Maybe if we didn't have Eowyn later on I would feel that way, but I was ok with the male cast of characters, given the literary/folk traditions it was coming from.

dernwyn: And all for mushrooms It never bothered me that there weren't more "strong" female roles in the book - but then, those were rarely found in the literature of the 50's and 60's, and so we were brought up complaisant with our lot.  Knowing Tolkien's views on women (those Letters again! #43, for reference), and the time period in which he wrote, I doubt he could have written a female character into the Fellowship; but he knew how to meet them along the way.  Were his views to alter, and he to write it in the current time - who knows?  This has been a topic for speculation elsewhere.

Arquen: Fungal Offerings I just assumed they were like all the other implied large mammals:  There is plenty of indirect evidence for their existence, but the story isn't particularly a romance, so they don't figure much in the action.  It's mainly a story about guys. 

My criteria for whether I ever read a male author, though, is how they treat the women they do choose to include.  If they abuse them, move them around like cardboard props, or simply fail to give them voices of their own, then, if I finish the book, I never return to the author, or I just drop it in the trash unfinished.  Once I had read LOTR, I found out that even if women are a tiny minority in the story, they still could be treated with respect.  It's OK with me, the ones he gave us are gems.

Finding Frodo: I don't really wish there were more women, but I wish both Arwen and Rosie were more visible in the book.

Grammaboodawg: For me... the presence of the females in this story is perfect.  There doesn't need to be any more just for the sake of having more.  The times when the women do show up in the story are at times when the men-folk are given support, encouragement, or flat-out guidance.  It has never bothered me... it makes their moments all the more poignant.  It also gives them great strength, imho; because when they do show, it punctuates how harsh the situation is.  Rosie encouraging Sam in the scouring... not just to fight, but to stand by Frodo (such wonderful understanding); Galadriel (obvious); Eowyn (obvious); even Lobelia is a power to contend with!  Iroeth, bless her heart, is an inspiration.  Awen is mystical, strong, a focal point for the wandering exile... each of these characters are catalysts for the events around them... imho.  More isn't better.

an seleichan: Which brings me to your question about women in LOTR. This kind of question always bothers me (not from you, squire, just in general). It implies that there is a REASON for the dearth of women in LOTR, that it may be INTENTIONAL on Tolkien's part. That he may be making a STATEMENT of some kind. And I think that's just bunk (how's that for literary analysis). He was writing a mythic romance (well, that may not be technical, hope you know what I mean) and just adding characters as they came to his mind.

The "high" characters of the tale are pretty much archetypes, and even the brave warrior-queen of Eowyn is recognizable as a mythic character like the Celtic queens of old. It's only in the real characters (or characters that feel like real people rather than archetypes), like hobbits, that we modern readers miss real women; where we only see them standing at the door saying goodbye to their men. And that seems very ordinary to me, actually, even though it's stereotypical. But then, so is the jolly innkeeper at Bree, and he's male.

A woman hobbit on the trip with the other hobbits? Seems like that would be an entirely false note, doesn't it?

Aerin: I have never wished for more female characters in LOTR. Their scarcity is in keeping with the nature of the story and its setting. As a reader, I have always felt quite capable of identifying with male characters; the idea that female readers can only identify with female characters, which are therefore needed for this purpose, has always stuck me as rather insulting. Don't male readers ever identify with female characters? Or is that be too threatening to their masculinity? What say you, fellows?

Elostirion74: female characters Of course men identify with female characters! And vice versa. It's more a question of whether the characters are well written or not.

Elostirion74: I cannot remember missing female characters in the story. But it would have been interesting to read about a strong/wise and courageous Gondorian woman.

Beren IV: Women and Tolkien You forgot about Arwen - we meet her before Galadriel.

The relative lack of women in Tolkien is reflective of the fact that I don't think that Tolkien thought very much about women one way or the other - they just did not occur to him to write about them, except in the obvious cases where a female character is needed, and there they are equals to the male characters.

I think that this tendency stems from the fact that Tolkien modeled his legendarium to a large extent after the Norse Sagas, where again female characters are simply quite rare. Now, in the Norse Sagas, what women there are and what implications for women there are is quite degrading and sexist - women are used as props for the most part, with very few exceptions. Now, if you track the evolution of Tolkien's legendarium over the course of his life, there are three stages: (1) an early stage, in which his story (which became the Sil) is quite sexist in flavor, with only one really capable female character (Tinúviel), but more minor female characters who get used as props. THis is followed by (2) an intermediate phase, in which Tolkien keeps his major (overwhelmingly male) characters but drops the props, leading to a picture with very few women even mentioned. Finally (3), by the time he wrote Laws and Customs Among the Eldar, he is thinking about women again, this time as equals to men.

LotR is in the second phase. I think that the lack of female characters is indicative of the fact that Tolkien had become egalitarian enough not to use female characters as props, but had not figured many places to put them in.

Belegaran: The Gender Question Tolkien made a lot of characters stereotypes, mem and female. Its the nature of fantasy to create somewhat generic characters, so no matter what your personality, there is someone you can idnetify with. Tolkien also appears to have given men and women equal tribute in the stereotyping department. This is from pg. 64 of the Sil in the chapter "Of Aule and Yavanna": (Yavanna had just be trying desperately to get some protection for the birds and beasts she loves) "Eru is bountiful," she said. "Now let thy children beware! For there shall walk a power in the forest whose wrath they will arouse at their peril." "Nonetheless they will have need of wood," said Aule, and he went on with his smith-work.

If that isn't a stereotypical male, I don't know what is. As for identifying with female characters, it should be noted that Sam is probably one of the most effeminate characters in the book (certainly more than Eowyn), and he is also one of the most adored.  

squire: 2. Where else do we hear this statement of Mrs. Maggot’s?

N.E. Brigand: "Come straight back!"  Doesn't Rosie say something similar to Sam during the Scouring?

Arquen: There seems to be an implication that he argues with strangers.  Out on the borders, a woman's husband being killed would leave her in a horrible fix, probably unable to run the farm, so there is as much enlightened self-interest  as caring here, along with a subltle bit of tension-building.

an seleichan: And Mrs. Maggot is channeling Rosie, or vice versa. :-) 

     'I will!' said he, and drove out of the gate. There was now no breath of wind stirring; the night was still and quiet, and a chill was in the air. They went without lights and took it slowly. After a mile or two the lane came to an end, crossing a deep dike, and climbing a short slope up on to the high-banked causeway.

     Maggot got down and took a good look either way, north and south, but nothing could be seen in the darkness, and there was not a sound in the still air. Thin strands of river-mist were hanging above the dikes, and crawling over the fields. 

squire: 3. Here comes the fog machine again. Are the words “hanging” and “crawling” examples of the pathetic fallacy?

dernwyn: Pathetic fallacy abounds - Tolkien is personifying the mist, creating hovering and creeping Wraiths of it.

Arquen: Well, yes, but at least the details are right:  fog only occurs in still air, and as it rises, it does tend to form thin strands.  THe use of the creepy-crawly terms starts to ratchet up the tension and remind us of the danger behind.

Aerin: Fog machine and gender.... "Hanging" is a straightforward physical description — no pathetical fallacy here. And I think "crawling" by now has become well accepted to mean simply "advancing slowly" and non-anthropomorphically, pace Ruskin.  

     'It's going to be thick,' said Maggot; 'but I'll not light my lantern till I turn for home. We'll hear anything on the road long before we meet it tonight.'

     It was five miles or more from Maggot's lane to the Ferry. The hobbits wrapped themselves up, but their ears were strained for any sound above the creak of the wheels and the slow "clop" of the ponies' hoofs. The waggon seemed slower than a snail to Frodo. Beside him Pippin was nodding towards sleep; but Sam was staring forwards into the rising fog.

     They reached the entrance to the Ferry lane at last. It was marked by two tall white posts that suddenly loomed up on their right. Farmer Maggot drew in his ponies and the waggon creaked to a halt. They were just beginning lo scramble out, when suddenly they heard what they had all been dreading: hoofs on the road ahead. The sound was coming towards them.

     Maggot jumped down and stood holding the ponies' heads, and peering forward into the gloom. "Clip-clop, clip-clop" came the approaching rider. The fall of the hoofs sounded loud in the still, foggy air. 

squire: 4. Where will we experience this scene again?

Lily Fairbairn: As for hearing the clip clop of the horse, are you thinking of when Strider and the hobbits hear Glorfindel's horse? They think it's a Black Rider, but then they hear the bells.

N.E. Brigand: Clop-clop. 4.  Glorfindel's arrival will, um, echo Merry's.  Halbarad's too.

FarFromHome: IIRC, we've already had hoofbeats once (the first Black Rider that they think might be Gandalf), and we'll hear them again when Glorfindel comes looking for them.

Arquen: When Glorfindel rides up to them near the Ford of Brunien.

Finding Frodo: This reminds me of the company of Dunedain that meet up with Aragorn and the Rohirrim, because they also seem like an enemy approaching in the darkness.

Grammaboodawg: The sound of the hoofs in the dark, foggy night *shudder*.  I remember being on the edge of my seat through this whole thing!  There is another time like this when they hear Glorfindel approaching.  


     'You'd better be hidden, Mr. Frodo,' said Sam anxiously. 'You get down in the waggon and cover up with blankets, and we'll send this rider to the rightabouts!' He climbed out and went to the farmer's side. Black Riders would have to ride over him to get near the waggon.

     "Clop-clop, clop-clop." The rider was nearly on them.

     'Hallo there!' called Farmer Maggot. The advancing hoofs stopped short. They thought they could dimly guess a dark cloaked shape in the mist, a yard or two ahead. 'Now then!' said the farmer, throwing the reins to Sam and striding forward. 'Don't you come a step nearer! What do you want, and where are you going?'

     'I want Mr. Baggins. Have you seen him?' said a muffled voice - but the voice was the voice of Merry Brandybuck. A dark lantern was uncovered, and its light fell on the astonished face of the farmer.

     'Mr. Merry!' he cried. 


Scene from the New Line film that I think refers to this moment --


squire: 5. Except for what immediately follows, of course. Do you wish Tolkien had some of Jackson’s blood-lust occasionally?

FarFromHome: The movie still you have chosen is a good example of how the movie-makers often transposed incidents, taking inspiration from one book scene and using it in another. Although this looks like the perfect illustration of Maggot, it is of course a Bounder. This is the nearest the movie comes to this scene, IMO. Instead of imagined danger, we see the chase, but we do still have the darkness and the fog over everything. I love the action in the movie's Bucklebury ferry scene (especially the skidding horse!), but the slow, spooky book version works well too.

well he's back: As for whether Tolkien could have been a little more blood-thirsty - well, I just think he couldn't bear to kill off any of his beloved main characters.  I have not come to a firm conclusion in my own mind as to whether this harms the force of the narrative.

dernwyn: The scene from the movie actually belongs in "A Knife in the Dark", where the Black Riders "rode down the guards at the gate" - a bit of undescribed blood-lust on Tolkien's part, he was not one for gory details (at least, not very often).

Arquen: What is a dark lantern? *evades question by replacing it with a different one* A dark lantern is designed with a single pane of glass covered by a shutter, so if you were looking for something but didn't want to be seen, or didn't want to lose your night vision, you could have a flame going but be able to use the light when you needed to.  The lantern in the picture is not a dark lantern, it is a regular lantern.


squire: 6. This is the dramatic climax of the whole chapter. Was it good for you? What devices does Tolkien use to build the suspense?

N.E. Brigand: Sometimes I wish Jackson had been a little more playful, as Tolkien is here.  Of course, the trip to Fäerie the Ferry will turn out to be a narrower escape than it seems now--like a horror film where a cat leaps from a closet just before the killer appears.  Curiously, both this chapter and the next one open, after a little conversation or description, with the hobbits crossing an obstacle (a steep bank, a river) then looking back to see a Black Rider.

FarFromHome: I think Tolkien is still playing with our fear of unseen things, the creepy feeling you get when you hear echoing footsteps and your imagination conjures up all kinds of horrors.

dernwyn: Baggins...have you seen him...Merry has no idea he's nigh to scaring them out of their pantaloons with that query!  Notice how Sam and Maggot have quite "made up" at this point, or at least come to a common ground in defense of Frodo: Sam jumps down to the farmer's side, and then Maggot hands the reins to Sam.  Nothing like a common enemy to turn adversaries to comrades-in-arms.

Arquen: The frightened response of the hobbits causes us to react with fear.  


     'Yes, of course! Who did you think it was?' said Merry coming forward. As he came out of the mist and their fears subsided, he seemed suddenly to diminish to ordinary hobbit-size. He was riding a pony, and a scarf was swathed round his neck and over his chin to keep out the fog.

     Frodo sprang out of the waggon to greet him. 'So there you are at last!' said Merry. 'I was beginning to wonder if you would turn up at all today, and I was just going back to supper. When it grew foggy I came across and rode up towards Stock to see if you had fallen in any ditches. But I'm blest if I know which way you have come. Where did you find them, Mr. Maggot? In your duck-pond?' 


squire: 7. Without resorting to the map, do you understand where Merry has just been? I know I never did when I first read this.

N.E. Brigand: I've looked at the map too often not to understand Merry's whereabouts:  he's been to (or toward) Stock, where Frodo would have passed through, but for the short-cut.

dna: Merry riding back from Stock? Can this not be assumed from what he says?  At least he rode towards it, scouring the ditches, and U-turned at some point.  Although they had "halted," the Ferry lane was still on their right.  So we can assume that "the road ahead" still meant the Causeway to Stock.

But I expected more maps with blue, red & dotted-red markers  ;-).  Unfortunately I was only able to lurk this week, but what a great job with the maps & photos!  (Makes us all tremble at the thought of our own chapter discussions).

Incidentally, Barbara Strachey, in her atlas, noted a couple small discrepancies between the text & the FotR Shire map.  Rather than the Causeway running down parallel to the River as shown on the map, it had to bow considerably to stay consistent with the text.  It needs to be very close to the River at the Ferry, but then far from it to meet the 'islands in the Marish,' as she calls Stock & Rushey.  Only in that way could the Causeway be a "mile or two" from Maggot's farm.  Fonstad in her atlas seems to have agreed with this.

The second clarification, rather than outright discrepancy, is that Merry's statement (not reached yet, of course) that they had to "go 20 miles north to the Bridge" could only mean 10 miles there and 10 miles back.  The length of the Hedge given at "over 20 miles" wouldn't work if the distance was 20 miles one-way to the Bridge, since the Hedge goes on south to the Withywindle.

This relates to the earlier question on maps.  Just as I see the text as *narrative*, I see the maps as *re-production".  Thus both are as fallible as hobbits.

dna: If I may, I'll pay tribute to K.W.Fonstad here below a post where I casually referred to her Atlas, regrettably unknowingly, on the very day [March 11, 2005] that she passed away.

I didn't have the pleasure of meeting her as others here have, but can easily believe she was as warm and friendly as they say.  Her smiling and cheerful photograph on the back of her book always made it more desirable to display than the front.

For me, her Atlas has always stood alongside Tolkien's own works, with only Humphrey Carpenter's contributions, and maybe Robert Foster's Guide belonging on the same shelf.  The fact that I did ruffle through it, eagerly consulting her authority in my usual fact-finding manner, on the tragic day of her passing, is, for me, a fitting memory and will certainly stay with me.

Her words in the Foreword & Introduction of her book, are no less than mantras in the way I have always viewed Tolkien's works:

     'While Christopher Tolkien states that The Lord of the Rings was created "in waves"... the striking impression is often of the similarities rather than the differences - although it is more intriguing to analyze the latter!...

     'An almost endless series of questions, assumptions, and interpretations was necessary in producing the maps on the following pages... Each line has been drawn with a reason behind it... Among various alternatives, I have chosen those that seem most reasonable to me, as I was unable to go to "Old Barliman" for further information... I hope the reader will learn as much in questioning the drawings, as I have in drafting them."

These words are not only profoundly accurate concerning the legacy and depth of Tolkien works, but also show a sincere humility that I can only assume was her nature as a human being.

In the pantheon of contributors to Tolkien's world, she is a Queen of the Valar.

My condolences to her family.

Arquen: I couldn't do it in my head at first, but even without the map, it's clear that he had been looking for them in the direction opposite Maggot's farm, wherever that was.

Finding Frodo: I'm blest if I know which way you have come!  As indicated in my subject line, I have no idea where Merry was riding.  I suppose I could look it up. 


     'No, I caught 'em trespassing,' said the farmer, 'and nearly set my dogs on 'em; but they'll tell you all the story, I've no doubt. Now, if you'll excuse me, Mr. Merry and Mr. Frodo and all, I'd best be turning for home. Mrs. Maggot will be worriting with the night getting thick.'

     He backed the waggon into the lane and turned it. 'Well, good night to you all,' he said. 'It's been a queer day, and no mistake. But all's well as ends well; though perhaps we should not say that until we reach our own doors. I'll not deny that I'll be glad now when I do.' He lit his lanterns, and got up. Suddenly he produced a large basket from under the seat. 'I was nearly forgetting,' he said. 'Mrs. Maggot put this up for Mr. Baggins, with her compliments.' He handed it down and moved off, followed by a chorus of thanks and good-nights. 


squire: 8. Is Maggot really more spooked now than he was when confronting the Rider? Why?

FarFromHome: If Maggot is more spooked now, it's because the nervousness of Frodo and company has got the old farmer's imagination working. In broad daylight, on his own property, Maggot couldn't imagine anything evil happening. Now he can.

dernwyn: I get the impression that these farm-folk just don't like to be about after dark; after all, Maggot does say that they head to bed soon after the Sun does.  And having strange foreigners around makes for an uneasy dark.  Quite a contrast to our nighttime-walking trio!

Arquen: It seems so.  He, like us, was watching how frightened the three hobbits were, and how they were ready to defend Frodo.  Then Merry rides up, also plainly worried about Frodo.  Now Maggot has to go back alone, and there is still a Rider out in the fog somewhere.  The ride back would have to be a bit nerve-wracking. It had to be clear to him that the BR was a serious threat, and that 'merely' being nearly ridden down by one had been a very lucky escape, not a victory.

Finding Frodo: Maggot is on edge and jumpy after his confrontation with the Black Rider.  The fox could probably scare him. 


     They watched the pale rings of light round his lanterns as they dwindled into the foggy night. Suddenly Frodo laughed: from the covered basket he held, the scent of mushrooms was rising.



Grammaboodawg: Ah... the smell of mushrooms!  All's well that ends better.  I just love that the mushrooms were the cause of Frodo's fear for so long ended up being the generous gift in the end... what a loving touch... and so hobbity.

an seleichan: the scent of mushrooms Getting back to something you asked in another thread, I think Mrs. Maggot was brilliant to send the mushroom basket. Or this is another evidence of Providence at work. The scent of mushrooms from the basket will surely help conceal the scent of hobbits from the Rider.

dernwyn: What an idea! The aroma of mushrooms to cover the scent of hobbit, and so confuse any Rider looking for them.

Now, no mention of the "sniffing" was made at Maggot's, except for Grip hightailing it when catching a whiff of the Rider.  So, do you suppose that Mrs. Maggot watched her husband's encounter with the Black Rider, could perceive that his eyesight was poor, therefore his other senses would be heightened, and decided to do what she could?

An interesting UUT...!

an seleichan: Providence, then :-)

No, I don't think she knew to put the mushrooms there because she knew the Riders were "sniffers". I don't even think this is a defensible UUT, when it comes right down to it...

Of course, Mr. Maggot, being the peculiarly special hobbit he is, must have a gem of a wife, don't you think?

dernwyn: Most definitely! 

squire: Well, that’s it for the chapter! Conclusion and special features this weekend.