A Shortcut to Mushrooms #10: Final Exam 

squire: I will compile a summary of this discussion as soon as I catch my breath. In the meantime, you may take the optional Final Exam.

djdeathskiss: Thank you, squire I was saddened that I could not do my chapter this week, but you have done such a great job on it.  Thanks so much for your help; and thanks to everyone else for their kind words of support.  Miss you all - i'll be back soon...

                        dernwyn: Take good care, dj.

Alraune: A question of my own, if I may.

Thanks for making the final optional; I'll break the ice and be the first to skip it, splendidly constructed though it is.

But I have another question. What is the significance of autumn being the season of Frodo's wanderlust? Really this question belongs in one of the previous chapters, but I didn't manage it.

A wonderful discussion this week, Squire. The pictures were great, the questions and points you brought up were great. Especially considering that you had only a few hours notice -- or do you have all this material already prepared for every chapter?

Curious: Frodo's travels through the Shire set up everything that follows, because the hobbits compare everything that follows to what they know, and these initial chapters introduce the readers to what the hobbits know.  In that introduction to the Shire Farmer Maggot plays a crucial role, for he shows our heroes gracious hospitality.  Our heroes are of course the best of the hobbits, but they are not at all typical.  Farmer Maggot, like the Gaffer, is the best of the more typical hobbits.  Farmer Maggot's hospitality goes a long way towards dispelling the less-flattering image we got of hobbits from Bilbo's party.  Frodo does not just love Bag End and Woody End; he also loves the good people of the Shire, like the Gaffer or Farmer Maggot. 

We must understand the familiarity of the Shire to understand the strangeness of all the lands that follow.  We must understand what Frodo loves about the Shire in order to understand why he seemingly chooses to sacrifice his life for it.  We must remember the Shire to feel for Frodo when, in Mordor, he can no longer remember the Shire.  And we must understand what Frodo loves about the Shire in order to feel for him when he returns to find the Shire taken over by Saruman, and to appreciate Sam's work to restore the Shire.  Finally, we must understand what Frodo loves about the Shire in order to to feel for him when he gives it up for a second time, forever this time, and sails west with Gandalf and the elves.

drogo_drogo: Maggot is also the Hobbits' image of the bogeyman To extend your excellent thoughts a little, Maggot and his dog are the "enemies"--though that's perhaps too strong a term--that Frodo has feared for years.  Maggot has been a kind of bogeyman for him, and we see how unfounded his fears truly are once we get inside the farm.  This says a lot about how the Hobbits view the world.  For them, terror and the dark forces are largely the stuff of "old wives tales" and legend.  I'm also thinking of "Mad Baggins" and how he becomes a kind of bogeyman to later generations. 

This chapter thus gives us a sense of what expectations the Hobbits have of the terrors lurking for them in the outside world.  Over the course of the next few chapters we will see the Hobbits face greater and greater emodiments of evil:  Old Man Willow, the Barrow-wights, then the Nazgul on Weathertop.  Those threats, unlike Farmer Maggot and his vicious canines, are true dangers and not just children's inventions.

Curious: It says something about the Shire that Frodo's worst fear was a kind farmer's dogs.  It is just the kind of fear Tolkien might have had as a child.

squire: Excellent, but... I think the point of the chapter "A Shortcut to Mushrooms" follows directly from the dialog between Frodo and Gildor at the end of the preceding chapter, "Three is Company" :

'I did not expect to meet [danger] in our own Shire. Can't a hobbit walk from the Water to the River in peace?'

'But it is not your own Shire', said Gildor. -- FotR, p. 82.

While I agree that it is important for us to understand Frodo's attachment to the Shire to understand his motivation, and the changes he undergoes throughout the book, Tolkien does not actually spend a lot of time at all on establishing this. (In fact I think it is underplayed, which creates difficulties at the end of the book.) The "familiarity of the Shire" and "what Frodo loves about the Shire", as you put it, is really presented in Chapters 1-3.

To the degree that we meet Frodo at all prior to his adventure, he is quite sketchily characterized except for his key dialog with Gandalf in Return of the Shadow, e.g.: 'I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable.' - FotR, p. 61.

After that memorable interchange, and a fleeting remark in the next chapter, 'I wonder if I shall ever look down into that valley again.' (p. 70), Frodo's adventure begins unexpectedly soon, with the appearance of the first Black Rider the next morning. After that disturbing day, and the terrifying warnings of the Elves, the chapter "A Shortcut to Mushrooms" begins.

Tolkien's pace speeds up; he does not have time to indulge in more than one chapter to "introduce the readers to what the hobbits know". Several new things happen for the first time at this point, that are more important than the fact that, technically, Frodo is still in the Shire:

- Frodo leaves the Road, and his intended path, for the first time to avoid an enemy.

- Frodo enters an alien landscape, the pathless "bogs and difficulties" of the wet flat lands of the Marish.

- Frodo must follow a guide who knows the unknown land, in this case Pippin.

- Frodo becomes lost because of the confusing and hostile landscape.

- Frodo confronts an intimidating stranger, who turns out to be an ally or even a savior.

As we can see, these patterns recur throughout the rest of Frodo's journey, not just in FotR, where in Book I at least the pattern is almost comically repetitive, but also in Two Towers, with his erratic approach to Mordor and Cirith Ungol; in fact only in Return of the King, in Mordor itself, does Frodo finally abandon his guide, find his own way, and receive no aid from any stranger. From the Marish to Mordor is one long flight from terrifying enemies through alien landscapes with occasional aid from scary-seeming strangers.

Of course, A Shortcut to Mushrooms does take place within the Shire. But I think the emphasis in the text is on how different this part of the Shire is. We already know that Sam is completely lost (in the Woody End: His round eyes were wide open -- for he was looking across lands he had never seen - p. 72). Frodo knew the road to Buckland ('That is the way for us,' said Frodo of the lane to Woodhall - p. 75), but once he decides to go across country, against Pippin's advice (both informed and selfish), he instantly becomes disoriented in the Marish, whose terrain is utterly different from the tended hills and fields of Hobbiton and the familar woodland paths of the Woody End, and his Short Cut goes crooked.

Likewise, I think the emphasis with Farmer Maggot is on how extraordinary he is, not on how typical he is. For one thing, he is an alien to the Hobbiton part of the Shire, as we see by his remarks about its "queerness"; and Sam, who does stand in at this point for a "typical" hobbit, returns the mistrust. For another, his courage in confronting the Black Rider, and his ferocity at guarding his property, are both presented as being rather atypical compared to the hobbits of Hobbiton. Next to him, the Gaffer is merely comically cranky.

I think only Hobbiton really represents the Shire to the reader, and ultimately to Frodo, in the terms that you are presenting. That is where Bilbo comes from, that is the point (actually Bag End itself is the point) from which Tolkien expanded the hobbit-universe when he created the Shire, and that is our home for the first two chapters. Even the name of the town tells us that it is the center, and of course in the story, that is where the tale (including the Scouring) begins and ends.

Frodo of course knows and loves the whole Shire. We are told he has walked all of it, more than any other hobbit besides Bilbo. He is quite extraordinary. He understands both Hobbiton and Buckland and so his initial walk there is quite familiar to him; but through the intervention of the Black Riders he leaves his Road; and through the very clever introduction of the mushroom subplot, we find he does not understand, and even fears, old Farmer Maggot.

Thanks to the mushrooms, Frodo has stayed away from the back country of the Marish ever since his childhood, and so in this chapter must wander, lost, in probably the one part of the Shire he has never tramped in during his long career of wandering his own country! Thus Tolkien contrives an "alien" landscape only a few miles from Bag End, and jumpstarts the adventure that is the heart of this epic as soon as he possibly can.

I think "A Shortcut to Mushrooms" is the crucial introduction to the Adventure Story, not a last glimpse of the familiar Shire.

Curious: Aw, you miss me! I wish I had time to argue discuss with you more often!

As you admit, Buckland is not at all alien territory to Frodo, nor is Woody End.  Nor, indeed, is Farmer Maggot.  Pippin is even more familiar with the area than Frodo -- which is not at all a necessary fact, since Pippin was not born here.  And of course when we meet Merry he has lived his whole life here.  So three out of the four main characters know this area well.  Sam is out of his element, but he is the only one.  And Sam's dad, the Gaffer, is like Farmer Maggot far more than he is unlike him -- indeed, that is the irony of the fact that they both instinctively distrust each other!  Both of them stand up to the Black Rider equally well, it seems to me.

Tolkien did want to spend more time on the Shire, but he also knew a story demands action.  So he moved much of the discussion of the Shire into the Prologue.  But he still began the adventure in the Shire, in marked contrast to The Hobbit.  By doing so, he does give us a wonderful picture of the Shire, a picture that contrasts sharply with the hostile Old Forest and everything that follows.

In the Shire the landscape is not hostile.  On the contrary, it saves the hobbits from the Black Rider.  Any obstacles in their path steer them to a safer path, and to Farmer Maggot, not to a dangerous character like Old Man Willow in the Old Forest.  Which is why, as you know, I think the trees of Woody End may be sentient.

squire:  I think we all miss you but it seems you're missing my point:

"As you admit, Buckland is not at all alien territory to Frodo, nor is Woody End. Nor, indeed, is Farmer Maggot. Pippin is even more familiar with the area than Frodo...And of course when we meet Merry he has lived his whole life here. So three out of the four main characters know this area well."

Well, yes, but in the specific situation of this chapter, they are without Merry, and they are not in Woody End or Buckland; and Pippin is certainly the only one who recognizes Farmer Maggot's land from the Marish backcountry side, not Frodo, who reacts with surprise when Pippin announces where they are. I think Tolkien's emphasis here is on the unsettling unfamiliarity of this particular terrain, not these hobbits' overall familiarity with the Eastfarthing of the Shire which is a given.

The really "marked contrast to The Hobbit" is not that the adventures begin in the Shire. In fact, in both The Hobbit and LotR, the adventures begin in the next chapter after the hero leaves Bag End, and that is my point about Tolkien not dawdling: he starts the fun as soon as possible. I think the very marked contrast to The Hobbit in Fellowship is that Frodo's company is being pursued as soon as they get on The Road, and so must leave it repeatedly, adding far more complexity and excitement to what is otherwise a very similar "serial adventure" structure in the first part of the book.

I also do not mean "hostile" when I say "alien" in my remarks about landscape. They are certainly not identical terms.

Within the chapter it is deliciously ambiguous just how much the landscape is "saving them": for instance, reread their passage through the belt of dense oak forest in otherwise open country, where they are both hidden from faraway eyes, and yet feel uncomfortably like they might be ambushed with no notice. With both the flat open fields of the Marish, and the idea of Frodo's mushroom escapades to excuse his unfamiliarity with where he is, Tolkien is taking advantage of the fact that the Shire should feel safe, but does not, to build suspense and provide excitement where none is expected.

He is working overtime to provide, not "a wonderful picture of the Shire, a picture that contrasts sharply with the hostile Old Forest and everything that follows", but the same sense of fear and suspense in the Shire that we will soon experience in the Old Forest.

(Notice, by way of example, the early use in this chapter of a banked watercourse that blocks their path at the foot of the steep slope, which so closely repeats itself in the latter chapter, as we discussed this week. The obstacle turns out to prevent their emerging into the open too soon, of course, but it feels "hostile" at the time because it blocks their intended short cut path; but then it might be argued that Old Man Willow's "hostile" landscape entrapment really serves to bring the hobbits to Bombadil, and keep them from returning to the Road too soon.)

Thanks for pitching in on this week's discussion! I hope you can find time in the midst of your other work to drop by more often in the weeks to come. You keep us all on our toes, or at least brushing them madly.

Curious: But the ambiguity is resolved! Yes, from the point of view of the characters and the readers we do not know whether the short-cut will prove to be more dangerous than it is worth, but in hindsight it is clearly the best thing they could have done.  Similarly, from Frodo and Sam's point of view we may worry about Farmer Maggot, but in hindsight it proves to be a stroke of luck (if of course it is merely luck) that the hobbits run into him. 

In the course of the chapter Tolkien maintains suspense, but when looking back on it after the adventure in the Old Forest, the shortcut through Woody End and encounter with Farmer Maggot will seem positively benign.  Each adventure after that gets more and more terrifying, and from that perspective the Shire looks more and more wonderful, an island of sanity in a world at war -- until the Scouring, when the hobbits discover the war has come to their front doorsteps.

squire: Ordinarily I'm not sure I'd agree that the adventure of this chapter will ever seem benign to Frodo and his friends. My daughter says she finds the Black Riders in the Shire scarier than Moria, and won't read it at night.

However, your remark did remind me of this passage.

On their way to the Havens:

'If that isn't the very tree you hid behind when the Black Rider first showed up, Mr. Frodo!' said Sam pointing to the left. 'It seems like a dream now.'

You may judge whether Sam means that only the first Black Rider's appearance seems like a dream, as opposed to the horrors they endured subsequently; or whether by that remark Sam has retired the entire quest, start to finish, to a fading dream of memory.

I read it as the latter. As Frodo leaves Middle-earth, Tolkien uses the Woody End location to effect a kind of closure, and tells us through dialogue what Sam now thinks of his travels and travails.

Frodo of course does not respond. He is looking ahead, not back.

N.E. Brigand: Reminds me of Merry. From the RotK, "Homeward Bound:"

   "'Well here we are, just the four of us that started out together,' said Merry.  'We have left all the rest behind, one after another.  It seems almost like a dream that has slowly faded.'

    'Not to me,' said Frodo.  'To me it feels more like falling asleep again.'"

Curious: Of course the Black Rider is not benign.  But the short cut through Woody End and Farmer Maggot, over which Tolkien builds some suspense, are in hindsight very definitely benign.

an seleichan: I'm just auditing this class... no grade needed, so skipping the test. :-)

What an interesting discussion this week! Thanks for the thought-provoking questions.

LilyFairbairn: Me, too I'm reading along with great interest and enjoyment, but am not finding the time to raise my hand at the questions, let alone take an exam. Whew!

Thanks, everyone, for letting me sit in!

Lúthien Rising: Doctor Note

Dear Mr. Squire,

Please excuse Miss Rising from taking the mushroom test. She is suffering from a surfitt surfite the flu. But I am sure that she knows all the answers so you should give her one hundred per sent and maybe even a bonus point.

Yours sinserely,

Luthi Dr. Maggot

squire: That does it You're on Double Secret Probation!


Finding Frodo: Thanks for a great week, squire! Amazing posts, with the pictures and all.  I don't know how you did this on such short notice, but it was awesome!

drogo_drogo: A special mathom for squire for coming to our rescue It's squire the Wonder-Hobbit to save the day with his Elven warrior Xenarwen and Gandy the Mushroom Wizard!  

Thanks for filling in, and may a Hildebrandt shine on your next discussion!

squire: **Ack** I'll get you for that, d_d!

Roheryn: Mr. Squire? I know I left the "General Knowledge" section blank, but I really did know the answers, honest!  Could I just show you the answers right now, and then you give me full credit?

Great week, squire.  Kudos for stepping in on short notice.  I've been lurking along and enjoying the great discussion.

Owlyross: Excellent But I'll have to skip on all these questions due to time constraints...

But fantastic presentation, I've really enjoyed it this week!

Silent _ Watcher: First parting "It's a pity: for I've missed a good friend. And now I'm sorry to leave so soon. But I'll come back, perhaps, one day, if I get a chance. "

In a way this parting foreshadows many others and especially Treebeard with Galadriel and Celeborn: "It is sad that we should meet only thus at the ending...I do not think we shall meet again".

Distrust and missed opportunities.

Thanks for the discussion but please no exam today!

Elostirion74: Excellent! I'll skip the exam, but I would like to thank for a truly beautiful and well-thought presentation! The pictures and the questions have been a real treat!

lucia: Thanks, squire and everyone who posted very thoughtful questions and answers. Fortunately, since I'm just auditing (lurking) I don't have to take the final. ;)



            FarFromHome: You set a hard exam I'm assuming we're not allowed to bring our books into the exam hall.

FarFromHome: And thank you for an amazingly thought-provoking week of questions. I'm still finding my feet in the Reading Room, but I'm enjoying trying to put my ideas into words.  I lurked through the second half of the last LOTR discussion, but I never thought then that I'd have to nerve to actually join in!

                    an seleichan: well, we're glad you joined in this time!

dernwyn: *hands in paper* Well, squire, you did such a great job of preparing on-the-spot discussions!  Could I then do anything less than make a stab at your "final exam"?

Aerlinn: So, ah, is there IEC in the RR?

Grammaboodawg: Oh Cripes!  The pressure is on! TEST ANXIETY!!!  *oooohhhmmmmmm*  *ice creaammmmmmmmm*

ok, I'm ready.

arquen: *asks to go to bathroom, doesn't come back*


Vocabulary: Identify where these words occur in the text. For extra credit, define them.














Thicket - stiff, bushy growth - the bushes the hobbits try to push through?

Rightabouts - Sam: "We'll send these Riders to the rightabouts". Dialect presumably.

Crooked - not straight. Pippin: "our straight road has gone crooked"

Phantoms - not Riders presumably, don't remember the word being used. Could refer to the mist.

Slot - a dragon's slot = entrance to its lair (re Frodo's reaction to the dogs)

Bower - a natural, leafy resting-place - Pippin sleeps in one during the night with the elves

Yonder - = over there. Sounds like one of Maggot's words "over my fields yonder"

Worriting - Mrs Maggot will be worriting = fretting, worrying (dialect)

Stiff-like - Farmer Maggot's joints?

Rinds - the dogs chewed the rinds (of the bacon). (English bacon still has rinds, i.e. the hard, cured skin)


dna: open-book?

Thicket: a dense or tangled growth of small trees or bushes - Frodo, encouraging the veil of off-road travel, soon finds it more impenetrable than expected.

Rightabouts: a turn through 180 degrees to face in the opposite direction - Sam, in his unique vernacular, pluralizes the direction he bravely threatens to send the approaching rider, suspected to be Black.

Crooked: sharply curved, bent, or twisted, often in more than one place - Pippin does not fail to comment on the hardships of negotiating Frodo's chosen terrain, before recognizing the advantages.

Phantoms: plural of something that can be seen or heard or whose presence can be felt, but that is not physically present [13th C. via OF fantosme < Greek phantasma] - as the hobbits' "spirits rose", re-entering the tamed Shire meadows, the Riders, in their thoughts, were diminished to intangible spirits "of the woods".

Slot: a narrow vertical or horizontal opening into which something can be inserted [14th C. < OF esclot 'hollow of the breastbone'] - satirizing Frodo's alarm upon entering Maggot's land, the narrator draws a simile to being ingulfed in the opening of a dragon's lair (see "The Hobbit" Ch.12).  

Bower: a shady leafy shelter or recess, especially in a garden or wood  [OE bur 'dwelling' < IE 'be, live'] - Frodo awakens "refreshed", in this bed made by a "living tree" near the 'Elven-hall'.

Yonder: over there (regional) - Khamul, employing artificial pleasantries with Maggot, vaguely describes his place of origin (note the similarity of 'yonder' and 'Mordor').

Worriting: to shake or tear something with the teeth; to think about a problem repeatedly in an effort to find a solution; worrying [OE wyrgan - originally in the sense 'strangle'] - Maggot's speculates, in rustic style, on his wife's probable state mind with him absent, and "the night getting thick".

Stiff-like: stiff = rigid, inflexible, or hard to move [OE stif < IE 'to compress, pack'] / -like (suffix) = resembling or characteristic of - Khamul, pointing out his lands slowly to Maggot, displays his awkwardness, and infrequent use, of such a gesture.

Rinds: plural of the thick tough outer skin of a fruit, or other food product [OE rind(e) 'something torn off' < IE 'tear'] - Maggot's dogs supped alongside the family by the fire, gnawing at the bones and leftovers.  

additional definition: Varmint: a troublesome, unpleasant, or despicable person or animal (regional) [mid-16th C. variant of vermin] - Maggot apparently directed this derogatory description of Frodo, with ensuing threats, to his dogs, according to Frodo's retelling.   


dernwyn: Thicket - a dense growth of shrubbery or small trees: what the Hobbits found themselves in, after climbing down from the greensward.

Rightabouts - to cause someone to turn about; what Sam intended to do, had a Black Rider appeared instead of Merry.

Crooked - awry; how Frodo described his short cut when they saw the Black Rider above them.

Phantoms - insubstantial, apparitions; what the Black Riders dwindled to, in the minds of the trio, when the threat of them seemed behind them.

Slot - a narrow opening, or also an animal track; Frodo feared the lane to Maggot's as if it were a "slot" to a dragon's den.

Bower - a shelter made with tree boughs or vines twined together: where Frodo woke the morning after meeting with the Elves.

Yonder - a distant place; where the Black Rider indicated to Maggot, that he had come from.

Worriting - worrying; how Maggot feels his wife is reacting to his being out that night.

Stiff-like - impeded, stilted; Maggot's description of the Black Rider's speech.

Rinds - the tough outer layer of some fruits and vegetables; what Maggot's dogs gnawed on.


Aerlinn: Thicket: not thinnet. As in Pippin saying to Frodo “Boy, you must have been thicket-headed to be afraid of Farmer Maggot so long.”

Had I but time enough to be amusing, or memory enough of this chapter to try to appear intelligent…


Grammaboodawg: Thicket—brambles and bushes growing along roadways and fields.

Rightabouts—send someone on their proper way and out of ours!

Crooked—not as it should be… off whack!

Phantoms—ghosts, wraiths, things that make the hair stand on the back of your neck!!!

Slot—a precarious and dangerously narrow space between two places.

Bower—a nest made from tree branches.

Yonder—Over there… No, I mean WAAYYY over there… thataway!

Worriting—taxing my poor simple mind!

Stiff-like—petrified, seized-up, ANAL!

Rinds – cracking on the rinds or dried out pieces of meat


arquen: Thicket: Occurs a lot.  A thick stand of small trees and shrubs 

Rightabouts: Sam, describing his gaffers conv. with RW.  'set him to rightabouts. ' Put him on the right path (out of town, hopefully)

Crooked: description of the road.  either branching or winding, or bent back on itself like a shepherd's crook.

Phantoms: don't remember

Slot: On the way to Woodhall:  a narrow, carved-out part of the roadway

Bower: forest above Woodhall; means a bed

Yonder:  RW to Maggot" I came from yonder.  Means 'over thataways', archaic

Worriting:  Maggot:  Mrs Maggot will be worriting. = worrying

Stiff-like: Maggot's description of RW

Rinds : dogs chewing (bacon) rinds at Maggot's.  The skin part of the bacon


Key phrases: Briefly comment on Tolkien’s repeated usage of one of the following words:







Queer "queer folk" live in Hobbiton if you're from Buckland, and vice versa. cf the saying "there's nowt so queer as folk"





Queer: Any of the dated definitions of this word may apply to Maggot's usage of it, primarily with respect to wandering outlanders such as the Rider (but not excluding "Hobbiton folk"), and with specific reference to the Rider's voice: not usual or expected; eccentric or unconventional; arousing suspicion; (even) slightly unwell, nauseous or faint. He also uses 'queerer than ever' to describe the coincidence of hearing the name of 'Baggins' twice in a day - a day that he ultimately calls 'queer' before the end (and if Bombadil does, in fact, arrive later that evening, it will also become 'queerer than ever').   

Stout: Pippin describes Maggot as "really a stout fellow" implying its secondary meanings of 'strong and substantial' or 'possessing courage and determination'.  His house, similarly, is described by the narrator as "stoutly built of brick" meaning strong, or determinedly built, or even the primary definition of "thickset or heavy". He even has stout ponies.  Maggot, himself, is described as "broad" and "thick-set", but its more subtle connotation is confirmed by Frodo later, when he calls him a "good friend".    

Trespassing: Pippin cites Maggot as a "terror to trespassers". He then encourages getting onto "the lane" so as not to "be trespassing".  Maggot assures Pippin, however, that he has "leave to walk over my land", but in the end tells Merry that he "caught 'em trespassing".


dernwyn: I despise the way certain words have taken on totally unrelated and illogical meanings in the past several years, thereby detracting from the beauty of their original meanings.  "Queer" is a marvelous word: it can mean unusual, unconventional, suspicious, questionable, eccentric, 'touched'.  It's a great overall word for Maggot to define anything out of the ordinary, to his ken.


Aerlinn: Stout: 1) Having or marked by boldness, bravery, or determination; firm and resolute. 2) Strong in body; sturdy.  Which may be a nicer way of saying 3) Bulky in figure; thickset or corpulent. 4) A strong, very dark beer or ale.

Clearly, a word with many fond associations. To quote your footer: “[I] like good, plain food, unrefrigerated, but I detest French cooking” - Not, I hasten to add, that I’m saying that the Professor was stout, but he did like his victuals, and the hobbits like them even more. And they *are* well-rounded, so to speak. Also, of course, there is the courage factor; for several reasons “stout” is a perfect word for these hobbits. And it doesn’t hurt at all that it also refers to beer … Quite a hobbity word all around.


Grammaboodawg: Queer—out of the ordinary or something Sam doesn't understand.

Stout—tough, sturdy, unwavering, meets it head on!

Trespassing – territorial issues.  Don't tread on me!


arquen: Queer.  Old-fashioned for 'wierd' or odd.  Sounds funny nowadays

Stout.  Politically Correct for 'fat'.  Sounds funny nowadays.

Trespassing .  Ordinary use for crossing someone's land without permission.  Sounds like trouble nowadays.


General Knowledge


Name 3 towns in the Marish.

Name 3 types of trees mentioned in the chapter.

Specify 3 Black Rider “incidents”.

Name Maggot’s 3 dogs.

Name 3 products of Maggot’s farm.

Extra Credit: Identify 3 repeating plot-schemas that Tolkien introduces in this chapter.



Name 3 towns in the Marish. Stock (I'm no good at geography)

Name 3 types of trees mentioned in the chapter. Oaks, birch, elm

Specify 3 Black Rider “incidents”. hearing hooves, seeing a Rider on the ridge, Rider speaks to Maggot

Name Maggot’s 3 dogs. Grip, Fang, Wolf

Name 3 products of Maggot’s farm. Bacon, mushrooms, beer

Extra Credit: Identify 3 repeating plot-schemas that Tolkien introduces in this chapter.

Being forced by undergrowth in an unwanted direction, finding an unexpected friend, getting an excellent meal!



Name 3 towns in the Marish.: Stock, Rushey, Deephallow, Mithe, Woodhall (in order from central to the outskirts) 

Name 3 types of trees mentioned in the chapter.: mainly tall oaks, with an occasional elm or ash

Specify 3 Black Rider “incidents”.: 1. Sam spots one back atop the 'Elven-hall' plateau just after they had descended. 2. The hobbits hear 2 cries following their afternoon drinking song. 3. Maggot is visited earlier by Khamul, who is inquiring about 'Baggins'.

Name Maggot’s 3 dogs.: Grip, Fang, Wolf; full-names apparently include exclamation marks.

Name 3 products of Maggot’s farm.: turnips, mushrooms, bacon (and likely other pork-products), ale?, other "agricultural prospects" and "farmhouse fare".

Extra Credit: Identify 3 repeating plot-schemas that Tolkien introduces in this chapter.:

1. The 'saviour theory' - implies the mission the hobbits are on is aided along the way by a loose network of intelligence (or simply as a literary tool of the author); from lowly, but well-connected hobbits, to possible Higher Powers.  The chapter begins with the three companions being dismissed from the protection of the Elven-folk of Gildor, only to show up as uninvited guests of Maggot.  It ends with Merry's unexpected meeting along the road.  (Furthermore, the presence of the nature-spirit of Bombadil cannot be easily dismissed throughout this whole sequence, as the poem "Bombadil Goes Boating" may provide possible evidence).

2. The device of the mistaken rider on the road - as already experienced with the Black Rider in Woody End being an unwelcome substitute for Gandalf, the unexpectedly joyful appearance of Merry will foreshadow a similar encounter with Glorfindel.    

3. Blessed be the gifts of women - lightheartedly, Mrs. Maggot's gift of mushrooms at the end of this chapter foreshadows a repeated theme of more powerful 'gifts' and other such hospitality by Goldberry, Galadriel, Arwen, Eowyn, and Ioreth.


dernwyn: Name 3 towns in the Marish: Stock, Rushy, Deephallow (I got the impression from Pippin that Woodhall was not in the Marish)

Name 3 types of trees mentioned in the chapter: oak, elm, ash

Specify 3 Black Rider “incidents”: appearing on the greensward the trio had just left; hearing the shriek, and answer; the questioning of Maggot.

Name Maggot’s 3 dogs: Grip, Fang, Wolf

Name 3 products of Maggot’s farm: turnips, home-brew, and mushrooms

Extra Credit: Identify 3 repeating plot-schemas that Tolkien introduces in this chapter: near-misses with the Black Riders; unexpected friends along the way; travelling off the regular roads.


Aerlinn: Trees: baobab, monkey puzzle, and redwood

Black Rider incidents: The curious incident of the dog in the farmyard; The curious incident of the swaying bundle on the pier; the curious incident of the Black Rider who turned out to be Merry…?

Dogs: Grip, Fang, and Wolf.

Products of the farm: Flies, larvae, extravagant whims. And mushrooms.

Aerlinn: Oops. The bundle-on-the-pier incident was in "Conspiracy". Well, there goes my A+...



Grammaboodawg: Name 3 towns in the Marish.  oh cripes!  Woody End?  Stock?  The lands that run along the Brandywine?  STRESS!!!

Name 3 types of trees mentioned in the chapter.  ummmm.... Rowan Oak Pine

Specify 3 Black Rider “incidents”.  Hiding when they thought it was Gandalf; Sam looking back up towards the road with his quick ears; Farmer Maggot's sweet visit.

Name Maggot’s 3 dogs. I LOVE THESE DOGS!!!  Grip Fang and Wolf!

Name 3 products of Maggot’s farm.  MUSHROOMS, mushrooms fried, and mushrooms boiled.

Extra Credit: Identify 3 repeating plot-schemas that Tolkien introduces in this chapter. 1. Walk along happy, what's that? Hide! - Once along the road, once crossing the fields down to the marshy spots, once going to the ferry!

There are THREE!?

Frodo goes along thinking he knows what's what, then learns more! - Once when he meets Gildor, once when he hears Sam speak about going on, once with Farmer Maggot and finding he's a good egg.


squire: Um, gramma This is a RR final exam, not an Actor's Studio audition.

But good job, anyway.

Grammaboodawg: *sweeping bow* THAT'S are relief!!!

;)  thanks...


arquen: Name 3 towns in the Marish.  Stock, Buckland, ummmmmmmm

Name 3 types of trees mentioned in the chapter.  Birch, beech, oak

Specify 3 Black Rider “incidents”. Silhouetted against sky, screeching, talking to Maggot

Name Maggot’s 3 dogs.  Grip, fang, Wolf

Name 3 products of Maggot’s farm. Mushrooms, turnips, barley

Extra Credit: Identify 3 repeating plot-schemas that Tolkien introduces in this chapter.




Comment on one of these themes in the chapter:


Road/Off Road


Mood and weather



Woods/Open country



(I've tried a couple of these already, so I won't bore you with any more!)


dna: Road/Off Road

     Tolkien's Road is clearly a metaphor for life, and the various intersecting paths, the decisions we make.  It is not always a question of making the right decision, or choosing the right path; but making 'your decision right', or treading your path rightly, or justly.

     The sequence in the previous chapter when Frodo evokes Bilbo's song "The Road Goes Ever On" leads to a light discussion amongst the hobbits concerning words of Bilbo.  "There was only one Road; that it was like a great river; its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary" he used to say.  The allusion is then made to the Road through Mirkwood, on to the Mountain, and beyond, being all one and the same. You can't escape it, unless you lock yourself up in your house:  "It's a dangerous business, going out of your door... step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to."

     The repeated capitalization of this word shows how deeply Tolkien felt about this concept.  His aborted project "The Lost Road", the song-cycle "The Road Goes Ever On", and the overwhelmingly spiritual significance the 'Straight Road' has in most all his works, is further evidence.  Just as the Tree is Tolkien's metaphor for the primeval human story, and its branches and leaves all of the separate but connected tales; the Road and its paths, including all rivers and bridges, lead us all on, whither we cannot say. 


dernwyn: A few words about friendship.  You have the beginnings of the Fellowship: Frodo has no idea, to what lengths Sam, Pippin, and Merry will affect his journey.  You have the unexpected friendship: Frodo finding a former "enemy", Maggot, has become a good friend.  And you have the adversaries-become-friends: Sam and Maggot, a mutual distrust becoming a stand together in the mist.


Aerlinn: Fear. The hobbits were afraid in this chapter, because the Black Riders are frightening. They were very afraid, because the Black Riders were very frightening. Farmer Maggot’s dogs were afraid as well, also because of the Black Riders. Which were very alarming. Gotta go…


Grammaboodawg: Friendship.. For me, this is when you see old friends up against it as they've never been before and evolve into a united front... reaching a common ground.  Sam's protective nature is revealing itself more and more… especially when face to face with someone who caused injury to Mr. Frodo!  Pippin, he's so well-established as being happy-go-lucky and care-free... yet he shows he has a clear head in some cases and even begins to lead (i.e. shortcuts & Maggot).  I love seeing how they each have such defined personalities and outlooks, yet they still create this synergy that overcomes whatever they face because they stick together.


arquen: Beer/Mushrooms.  Beer is a sort of magical thing, where wild yeasts from the air begin the fermentation process, which transforms sprouting barley mash into alcohol.  In ancient times, the cycle of life was represented by the transformation of grain to beer (cf. John Barleycorn is dead songs)  Mushrooms are also associated with magic:  they transform ) **** into something wonderful, and mysteriously appear in rings after the rain.  Both are strongly associated in mythology with magic.


Extra Credit


What is the primary purpose of this chapter in the book?


What is your UUT about some unclear aspect of this chapter?


FarFromHome: I'm sticking with my UUT that the Riders have no other weapon but fear at this point in the story. Actually I'd go so far as to say they may never have any other weapon but fear - of course, fear can make you let go and fall off a cliff (Frodo), or feel driven to put on your Ring and disappear (Frodo again) or make your horse rear and fall on you (Theoden). Fear and surprise are their weapons...

Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.... Our *four*...no... *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again.


dna: The Bucklander responsible in whole or in part, for writing & narrating the poem "Bombadil Goes Boating", and apparently privy to information concerning Bombadil and his visit to Maggot's Farm, was also responsible for including the anecdotal appearance of the sentient fox in the previous chapter.  The inclusion of speaking animals subservient to Bombadil in the poem, probably relates to such information attained in Maggot's household on the evening of 25 Sept, 3018.  The catalyst for Bombadil's visit, as he might have needed to explain to Maggot, may have been this very fox stumbling upon 3 hobbits in the woods late at night, and triggered the consciousness of Bombadil.  Soon after, a Black Rider will be mysteriously drawn away from the hobbits, and they will likewise be 'protected' by Bombadil, and his connection with Nature, quite probably until they meet with Strider (see previous 'Saviour Theory').  However, satisfied by the imminent approach of the Elves of Gildor, Bombadil waits for the morning to make his journey.

     With the knowledge that animals helped Bombadil on his river-trek, as well as this piece of information, the narrator, using poetic mimesis, makes them speak in a rather quaint vernacular.  And, finally, as a born and bred Bucklander, Merry may possibly have been the ultimate editor in this whole process.

Estelwyn: Bravo!

drogo_drogo: Sorry, closed book.  Gotta do a makeup exam now


dernwyn: My UUT about why the Black Rider did not come upon the Hobbits while they were still at the Greensward: he'd spent the night at the Golden Perch.  At this point, Sauron had no idea of the potent effect Shire-brew had on his minions.  This Rider had a pint too many of the best beer in the Eastfarthing, and had slept late, explaining why he was behind on his search the next morning.  The wail heard by the Hobbits was his complaint about his hangover; another Rider had experienced the same condition, and they were commisserating.

Once Sauron discovered this weakness of his Wraiths, of course, he forbid them any more such beverages, thereby intensifying their inherent nastiness; and that is why the Nazgûl were scarier than the Black Riders.

Baila: love your UUT!


Grammaboodawg: I think all three hobbits, not just Frodo, are graced by Gildor.  After their encounter with them, we see instances throughout the rest of the story where not only Frodo has a higher understanding, but Sam does, too.  And Pippin has several moments when he seems above what we see of him frolicking in the fields... like when he "sees" Aragorn's face bent low to the trail chasing after the Orcs carrying Merry and him.  They all three become instrumental in moving and shaking many events in the quest to defeat Sauron.


arquen: What is the primary purpose of this chapter in the book? Gets Frodo on his feet, out the door, and walking.  While I don't go as far as Curious in saying the trees are sentient, I will say that it seems more than accidental that they seem to take exactly the right path to keep out of view of the RW.  Of course, if they hadn't, it would be an awful short book.


squire: Thanks, everybody, for a great week! Thanks, Altaira, for An Unexpected Email. On to Crickhollow. I need a hot bath, some mushrooms, and a beer.

dna: Thanks again squire for a tremendously enlightening week!

dernwyn: Okay!  No beer and bath for me, I'll take a cup of Java, then off to a hot shower.

Grammaboodawg: Oh man...

This has been an amazing presentation, squire.  I can't tell ya how much fun I've had and how much of the story I've taken for granted that I knew!  I find now I've breezed through many parts and not stopped to smell the foliage!  Thank you :)



I am in fact a hobbit in all but size. I like gardens, trees, unmechanized farm lands, I smoke a pipe and like good, plain food, unrefrigerated, but I detest French cooking. I like, and even dare to wear in these dull days, ornamental waistcoats. I'm fond of mushrooms out of a field, have a very simple sense of humor (which even my most appreciate critics find tiresome). I go to bed late, and get up late, when possible."

-J.R.R. Tolkien.


Tolkien’s Birmingham” a fun site on Tolkien’s childhood in the landscape that inspired the Shire.