A Shortcut to Mushrooms discussion: Summary
I apologize for the delay. Let me summarize the key points of the "A Shortcut to Mushrooms" discussion for the record.
An entirely self-contained adventure played out in this chapter, with seamless transitions from the previous and to the next chapters:
1. Frodo decides to cut across the Marish to get to Buckland, to avoid meeting the Riders on the Road.
2. He gets lost, but thereby avoids the pursuing Black Riders.
3. He finds himself on Farmer Maggot's lands, of whom he is almost afraid as he is the Riders, having poached mushrooms there as a youth.
4. Maggot reveals that a Rider had preceded Frodo to the farm; and offers to help him get to the Ferry safely.
5. On Maggot's wagon, the hobbits make it to the Ferry, where Merry meets them after giving them a final fright.
I think the major themes that emerged were:
1. The continuing growth of the Hobbits as the story begins to pick up its pace
2. The adventure of the "short cut": going off the Road to escape the Black Riders
3. The impact of Landscape on the story
4. The enigmatic nature of the Black Riders and their pursuit of the Hobbits
5. The introduction of Farmer Maggot as character and "savior"
This led to larger perceptions:
A. This is the beginning of a chase that continues through the entire Book I of Lord of the Rings.
B. This is the chapter where several of Tolkien's "adventure" devices are first employed
C. This is where the Hobbits first get a sense of having "left Home behind", even in the Shire
D. The hand of Fate lies fairly heavily on this tale, with its hairsbreadth escapes and fortunate coincidences
1. Tuesday, March 8, 2005: Breakfast and Banter
Because djdeathskiss was unfortunately unable to lead us as hoped, pinch-hitting guest leader Altaira began the week with a review of the Hobbits' characters as revealed during the breakfast scene. A lively discussion on Frodo, Sam, and Pippin resulted, with many good insights from Daeorn Aldalómë, Elisheba, IBo, drogo_drogo, and Canto di Númenor.
dernwyn and Entwife Wandlimb focused on the suggestion that the hobbits still harbored secrets from each other. Is Frodo doing Pippin any favors by keeping his secret from his friend, as he considers the meaning of the pursuit of the Black Riders? Yet Pippin has a secret, too, as we discover only later but see here as hints, in Pippin's attempts to drill Frodo. MerryK felt any idea of "secrets" was exaggerated; and Entwife Wandlimb responded with a beautiful contemplation of all of Tolkien's secrets surrounding this scene: Gandalf's secret from Frodo, the Rangers' secret from the Shire, and many others throughout the story. Yet when characters fail to keep secrets, bad things happen too. FarFromHome and Estelwyn agreed, but MerryK pointed out that what might seem like secrets or moral failings are often just Hobbity reticence, or Tolkien's story devices to increase suspense.
Also, this scene is the beginning of the bonding between Frodo and Sam that takes them to the end together (Entwife Wandlimb, an seleichan, Grammaboodawg, Weaver).
Finally, there was agreement that a strong factor in the personality conflicts we see are simply Frodo's lack of coffee: he is not a morning person (Estelwyn, IBo).
Following up, Altaira asked about the change in Sam that so shocks Frodo. IBo connected Sam's encounter with the Elves with the typical reader's encounter with The Lord of the Rings: it can change your life, but treasuring the memory you then go back to your old life all the same. More broadly put, some thought Sam had been transformed indeed by meeting the Elves (drogo_drogo, Grammaboodawg, Canto di Númenor, Alraune, Elostirion74); others maintained that there was always more to Sam than we knew, and it's just coming out here (Farawyn, Kerewyn, an seleichan) -- and an seleichan then contributed Keats' La Belle Dame Sans Merci poem at Alraune's prompting, showing that the tradition of enchantment by Elvish encounter long predates Tolkien.
Estelwyn noted that Sam's "I have something to do" speech here parallels Frodo's "I should like to save the Shire if I could." speech in Chapter 2. Arquen noted that here is where Sam and Frodo's differing visions of the quest are first set up: Frodo does not expect to return, Sam does.
2. Wednesday AM, March 9: The Road Goes Ever On and Off
Woken from a dream of I knew not what, pursued by fierce dogs, I showed up the next day to take over the discussion. Panting and sweating, I slammed the RR door behind me, and threw the first slide up on the screen.
To get us oriented for the day's journey through the Marish, I brought a photo and map of the English fens, and a marked-up map of the Shire showing Frodo's short cut to mushrooms. The map proved very popular, and led to numerous posts on the value of Tolkien's maps in Lord of the Rings (mad6986, Beren IV, HobbitLoveR*M-e, IBo, Grammaboodawg, CactusWren, Ataahua, Arquen, Aerin, an seleichan, Silent_Watcher). drogo_drogo pointed out that the maps are based on real lands Tolkien knew, seemingly unlike other fantasy maps. Estelwyn & Kimi added that Bilbo is shown loving maps in The Hobbit, probably standing in for Tolkien's own feelings. Lúthien_Rising elucidated how maps combine language and visuals to communicate in a unique way, Estelwyn & Atlas explained how map are an important part of Tolkien's subcreation of an entire world. Aunt Dora Baggins noted that the map tells us more about the geography of Middle-earth than some of the inhabitants themselves have: for instance Sauron does not have a map showing where the Shire is. N.E. Brigand even detected an "error" in the map compared to the written story; I added the details to this curiosity from HoME.
To my surprise many people confessed that they did not like or use maps well (CelebornsMirror, Aerlinn, Finding Frodo). NottaSackville specifically hates that maps foreshadow the story. FarFromHome noted that the visuals of the movie finally made the map make sense to her.
The remainder of the morning was spent on just how populated the Shire was (those like drogo_drogo and FarFromHome with experience of rural areas thought it very plausible that the Hobbits met no one on the road in this journey); and how Pippin and Sam contribute to Frodo's decision to leave the road and cut across country, with Pippin sensible about bogs (Aerlinn, N.E. Brigand), ignorant of the danger (mad6986, owlyross), and greedy for beer (drogo_drogo, Finding Frodo, Kimi) while Sam is loyal to Frodo, but greedy for beer.
We wrapped up the chapter with speculation on what the concept of "The Road" means in Tolkien's stories. Frodo goes off the Road for the first time in this chapter, a point highlighted by the title itself. What a wonderful array of responses!
drogo_drogo pointed out that the Straight Road is the ultimate correct path that The Road represents, but it is blocked to mortals, and going off its earthly equivalents entails decisions and risks that often lead to a correct ending. Estelwyn added that going off the Road alerts us that something is about to happen. Kimi distinguished between Roads, made by The Authorities, and the Path that one makes for oneself, and lucia added that this distinction is cultural as well as physical, for example how Bilbo and Frodo make their own "paths" in Hobbit society. N.E. Brigand and an seleichan referred to the critics, and found Tom Shippey's commentary on "The Road Goes Ever On" poem, which implies that the choices made about which road to take among many are an expression of Good in Tolkien. Arquen found that Bilbo is on a there-and-back-again quest and sticks to the Road, leaving it only for adventures; while Frodo is almost constantly off the Road, because he is being pursued - his adventure includes the Road itself. FarFromHome objected to my premise about Bilbo's Road, saying Bilbo meant wherever your feet take you, not just the formal roads of Middle-earth; and added that crossing the Marish is the first of three shortcut marsh-crossings in LotR, one of many examples of thematic repetition in Tolkien's writing. Elostirion74, Owlyross, and Grammaboodawg all concluded with variations on The Road as a metaphor: respectively for life, all journeys, and the conventional path.
3. Wednesday PM, March 9: The Crooked Short Cut
At the foot of the slope, the Hobbits see the Black Rider above them, practically on their tail. Brief discussions followed on: whether Pippin is capable of being a nasty sarcastic creep (N.E. Brigand, drogo_drogo, Elostirion74: not really - Canto di Númenor, Celeborn's Mirror, Grammaboodawg: well, maybe just a little); why a stream that is too difficult to cross, forcing one sideways, reappears through the book (N.E.Brigand and FarFromHome: Tolkien loves this image, and improves on it each time); and whether Sam’s “sharp ears” ever show up again (hatster and dernwyn: yes, they do several times).
Then I hopefully revived N.E. Brigand's and Curious' discussion from a few weeks ago, about whether or how the Landscape in Tolkien actively works to influence the characters' movements and thus their fate, since Brigand had eloquently treated our current chapter in his essay. But the horse proved well and truly flogged already. I do encourage anyone interested to go back and re-read those fascinating RR threads.
Finally, there seemed to be a consensus (N.E. Brigand, Beren IV, Elostirion74, and Grammaboodawg) that the Elves left some kind of magical "scent" behind them that prevented the Black Rider from finding the Hobbits until they had already left the hilltop.
4. Thursday AM, March 10: Like the cry of some evil and lonely creature
A question about the purposes of the weather in Tolkien's story - specifically the rain that drenches the hobbits in the oak-wood, which most responders (Arevanye, Elostirion74, FarFromHome, Arquen) felt was just "mood" or "atmosphere" - led drogo_drogo to speculate that the concept of the "pathetic fallacy" works so well in Tolkien because it is not a fallacy when it is used in a fantasy context.
Moving on to the oak-wood itself, and how likely an environment it was aside from its value as a scary hiding place from the Black Riders, Arevanye, our tree expert, emerged to wax rhapsodic about Elms, and most others (FarFromHome, Arquen) agreed that Tolkien's description was quite plausible. Owlyross posted a link to a favorite woods to match Tolkien's description better than the illustrations posted.
Was the Elves' parting gift of drink for their lunch miruvor? Although Elostirion74 and Grammaboodawg thought so, the consensus was no, it seems like a form of mead (honey-wine). As an seleichan pointed out miruvor is a concentrated cordial, perhaps like brandy. The resulting drinking song, Arquen suggested, was composed spontaneously by the hobbits.
Screeeeeeech! The hobbits' near-denial of the nature of the Black Riders' cries was attributed to shock (Elostirion74), and perhaps a bit of British stiff-upper-lip (Arquen). But my hasty assumption that we never heard them again was, of course, dead wrong, as Elostirion74 so helpfully pointed out. As to why they screech, Arquen pointed out that they have to, under their evil creature union rules. Dernwyn added a piece about the high-pitched long-distance speech of the Canary Islanders; an seleichan showed us how Milton describes the screams of Hell's demons; and I offered the thought that Gollum's screams were perhaps connected to the same lost-soul despair as the Riders'.
5. Thursday PM, March 10: He beat me and set his dogs on me
Approaching Maggot's farm, we detoured briefly into the origins and meaning of "Bamfurlong". an seleichan and N.E. Brigand remembered and linked the discussion of why the name does not appear in all of the LotR editions. Lotta Sackville, and NZ Strider, our philology expert, found Tolkien's notes on how to translate the name, which gives the rough approximation: "bean-field".
We talked briefly about whether Tolkien had thought through the physical limitations of Hobbits: farming and other adult activities of Men do call for a certain amount of stature and strength. Next came a key moment in the chapter: Frodo reveals he is afraid of Farmer Maggot, having been caught and punished for poaching mushrooms as a youth, and thus has not ventured in these parts since his boyhood. Was this fear reasonable? Most everyone agreed that irrational childhood fears often live with us all our lives: Frodo's moral courage, to dare to bear the Ring to an evil end, is ultimately rational, and cannot be compared with this phobia, as Penthe and Entwife Wandlimb pointed out.
Should Tolkien have stuck with the early drafts of this segment, where Frodo uses the Ring to hide from Maggot with comic effect? Too lightweight for LotR, all agreed: Nerdanel_50 noted that even parodists end up making Frodo the straight man character. N.E. Brigand pointed out that the idea remains in the Bombadil chapter.
Here we took a break: my quest for the name of the artist who provided my footer illustration of Maggot's Farm summoned up Aunt Dora Baggins and drogo_drogo, our Tolkien calendar experts. They named the talented but little-known Tim Kirk, and she put up her favorite of his works: Frodo arriving at "The Last Shore". A general appreciation followed, with thoughts about the foliage and sun-orientation of Valinor by Beren IV, an seleichan, Owlyross, and drogo_drogo.
Rapping sharply on the lectern, I called attention to how the Stoors, and the Marish, were mentioned in the Prologue, yet none of the physical or cultural details Tolkien gives there seemed particularly apparent in the chapter itself. Too confusing, too much depth, never even noticed this before, was the response. We quickly changed the subject to Maggot.
Is he a "typical" hobbit? IBo, our dog expert, pointed out just how remarkable Maggot's control over his dogs is. Kereywn detected the same stout heart that took Farmer Giles to such heights. (I wish we had pursued that particular connection). Entwife Wandlimb, more whimsically, explained that maggot means "whim or fancy", and only later little worms: for these were once thought to live in the head, biting the nerves and spurring new thoughts, whims, and fancies.
I postulated that every chapter in Book I has a "savior" character, and Maggot is it for this one. As with some of my other hastily-composed questions, a lot of people called me on this, Estelwyn most thoroughly, and the revised-at-leisure count was that 7 out of 12 chapters have a savior at the end. I still think that's a remarkably high, even monotonous, frequency in an adventure story.
How old is Maggot? "Who cares!" Why is Frodo's fear of the dogs played for comedy? "You already asked that!" Why does Maggot not tell them the story of the Rider outright? A combination of caution (Aunt Dora Baggins, Nerdanel_50) and a love of gossip and a well-told story (N.E. Brigand, Kerewyn).
6. Friday AM, March 11: "Have you seen Baggins?" he asked in a queer voice
Inquiring into Sam's "natural" distrust of Maggot we found it had two meanings, seemingly: it is the general nature of Hobbits in general to trust only what they know (Notta Sackville, Elostirion74, Finding Frodo, wajeff), and it is Sam's particular nature as the most representative homebody hobbit, and as a servant entrusted with the care of a master (Owlyross, Canto de Numenor, an seleichan, Grammaboodawg).
Looking back to the previous day, I brought up what I had then overlooked: Pippin takes charge during the approach to, and negotiations with, Maggot. Is this a new, more mature Pippin? A remarkable debate followed: Canto di Numenor characterized Pippin as a "take charge", Tookish, kind of hobbit throughout the book, and Elostirion74 disagreed, saying Pippin's actions are mostly impulsive. C di N expanded on his thoughts, and cited examples of both impulsiveness and forceful initiative in Pippin, the latter in his deception of Grishnakh and his rescue of Faramir. E74 concluded the discussion by noting the distinction between taking charge of a team (leading), and taking charge of oneself (showing initiative).
This led to the parallel question of, if Pippin took charge, where was Frodo? Notta Sackville felt this scene foreshadowed Frodo's gradual descent into passivity, allowing himself to be led, and saved, repeatedly as the story progresses. An extended discussion ensued as to the nature of Frodo's heroism, and to what degree being helped by friends subtracts from one's accomplishments. The general vote (Elostirion74, FarFromHome, Canto de Numenor, MerryK, HobbitLoveR*M-e, an seleichan) seemed to be that Frodo gets a bad rap as a "cosmic ping pong" ball, and is not a wimp, but an "active hero" both in making major decisions for the Company, and in persevering to the end.
Moving on to another great scene from this chapter: Maggot's interview with the Black Rider. There were a range of responses to his ability to face down the Rider, from Farmers are tougher than you think (Owlyross, wajeff), Maggot is a truly exceptional Hobbit (Notta Sackville, an seleichan), Maggot is really Bombadil (Owlyross' UUT), and He was really scared but hid it in the retelling (Finding Frodo) to the countervailing Black Riders aren't so scary (FarFromHome) and the Black Riders were trying not to be scary (Elostirion74, Curious). And clearly the fact that Maggot survived does not serve to reassure Frodo that the Riders are less of a threat to him (Elostirion74, wajeff).
Was Maggot really "shrewd" in connecting the Riders to Bilbo's treasure? Yes and no - at least he's shrewder than the old gossips at the Green Dragon. And I thought Notta Sackville really summed it up for Frodo when she pointed out that he learned from Maggot that help might come from one you initially mistrust. Whether Sam learns to trust more readily from this episode is debatable, although Grammaboodawg commented that by the time Sam returns from the Quest at the end, he is probably a lot like Maggot! The waggon as protection from the Riders? Yes: it offers height off the road, concealment within, and speed to the Ferry. But N.E. Brigand asked an uncomfortable question: why didn't the Riders post sentries at the Ferry and the Bridge from the beginning?
Finally, we closed with a scrumptious supper at Maggot's. CactusWren, our mushroom expert, truly communicated the flavor and variety of the farmhouse fare.
Only a sense of leaderly duty overcame my artistic scruples, and compelled me to post a famous Maggot illustration by the B*** H**********. Thankfully, no one commented. But Owlyross came through with two other renderings of the Black Riders in the Shire; I have to say I feel sure the first one is the Gaffer, not Maggot. But thanks, Owlyross!
7. Friday PM, March 11: 'I want Mr. Baggins. Have you seen him?' said a muffled voice.
Inspired by Mrs. Maggot's touching farewell and indulging myself a bit, I threw out the old chestnut of "female characters, lack of". Most everyone seems to have thought about this and reconciled themselves to it, as being ineluctably part of Tolkien's writing. The tendencies of his own period and psyche (dernwyn), the genre of adventure (Arquen), and of the Norse sagas he is drawing from (well he's back, Beren IV) were all cited; some chided me gently for assuming there have to be female characters in some ratio to be acceptable (an seleichan, Aerin). Grammaboodawg felt that the scarcer the women, the more remarkable and important they are when they do show up. On the other side, Finding Frodo and Elostirion74 wished for a little more female presence -- and Belegaran helpfully added that Sam is more effeminate than Eowyn. N.E. Brigand and an seleichan caught my hint that Mrs. Maggot's parting words are practically echoed by Rosie during the Scouring; why? I don't know...
While on the road to the Ferry, fog appears in a pathetically fallacious way, but Arquen, our fog expert, confirmed that when Tolkien (all too often?) adds fog and mist to a scene, he does at least get it technically correct. Then we hear those scary hoof beats approaching through the dark! Everyone (Lily Fairbairn, Arquen, and Grammaboodawg) caught that this scene recurs with Glorfindel on the Road to the Ford; but N.E. Brigand joined Finding Frodo in also connecting it to Halbarad's approach in Rohan; and FarFromHome noted that we had already been through it back in the Woody End!
I tossed in a still from the film, where the Hobbit with the lantern challenges the black riders, and gets beheaded for his trouble. Not actually the Maggot scene, of course; but does anyone miss a little gratuitous bloodshed in Tolkien? dernwyn noted that the although the Bucklebury gatewards do get "ridden down" later on, Tolkien is just not one for gory details generally; and well he's back thinks he loves his characters too much to kill them.
Merry's appearance is played for maximum suspense. N.E. Brigand felt Tolkien outdoes Peter Jackson in playing with our fears here; FarFromHome seemed to concur; and dernwyn pointed out that Sam and Maggot join together to defend Frodo, thus burying Sam's grudge against the farmer. Returning to the map, could anyone tell without one where Merry had just been? dna and N.E. Brigand had long ago internalized the map, Finding Frodo was completely lost, and Arquen pointed out that the text makes it clear at least that he had been in the opposite direction from Maggot's farm. dna took the time to offer a wonderful tribute to the talents of Middle-earth mapmaker K.W.Fonstad, who passed away on March 11.
Finally, all agreed that Maggot was spooked by this point because of the combination of the dark, the fear of the other Hobbits, and being off his own property. Finding Frodo and Arquen felt that he was also feeling the "aftershock" of his confrontation with the Black Rider earlier.
My closing image of a big basket of mushrooms (see header) inspired a lovely UUT by an seleichan and dernwyn, that Mrs. Maggot put the mushrooms in the waggon to conceal Frodo's scent from the sniffing Black Riders!
8. Saturday AM, March 12: Notes from "The Hunt for the Ring"
By cramming the entire chapter into 3-1/2 days, I freed some weekend time to explore other sources that related to the material. Tolkien's "The Hunt for the Ring" in Unfinished Tales details the Nazgul's movements and thinking during the exciting chase that we know only from the Hobbits' point of view in LotR. My quick summary of this yielded some good comments. dernwyn asked how Gollum even knew of "Shire" as Baggins' home, and drogo_drogo suggested he overheard it while spying in Laketown, as Gandalf implies in Chapter 2 -- part of Tolkien's revisionism, since really the Shire as a placename didn't exist in The Hobbit. dna guessed that the Riders used their mortal spies and servants to read Saruman's maps for them, since they cannot see. Oloin guessed the Captain stationed Riders on the eastern border not to guard against the Elves and Rangers, as dna thought, but to catch the Ring in case it eluded the others within the Shire.
Grammaboodawg felt that the hobbits had a hidden strength of their own that foiled the Riders, possibly assisted by outside forces, including Gandalf's will, and Beren IV agreed. FarFromHome and drogo_drogo concluded that the surprisingly ineffective Riders are inconsistent with their later apparition as Nazgul, although their mysterious ghostliness certainly works for suspense, if not logic. dernwyn agreed that logic is scared by illogic; but Anchises disagreed about the inconsistency, positing that their growth in the course of the War of the Ring, although unexplained, makes them fuller "characters" instead of just evil phantoms at Minas Tirith. Elostirion74 on the whole defended Tolkien and his Riders, feeling that there was easily enough logic in the situation for the purposes of the story. dna pointed out that the Unfinished Tales account highlights how improvised Sauron's entire plan was, because of Gollum's bad information and Saruman's obstruction, and that the Riders were "flying blind" in more ways than one.
I then asked some specific questions, all of which were handled by dna, Elostirion74, and Grammaboodawg: Why not kill Maggot? dna agreed with Curious' earlier comment that they were commanded to keep secret, and were baffled by daylight; while Elostirion74 said the Riders did not kill unnecessarily - thus Maggot was spared, whereas the Rangers that opposed them were slaughtered. How could the Riders really function without sight? dna took Aragorn's word for it that they really don't, which explains a lot of their inefficiency; whereas Grammaboodawg and Elostirion74 went with the New Line film's version, where they do see ghosty shapes. Where did that Rider go during the stay with the Elves? All agreed the Rider kept his distance from the alert Elves, and so had to figure out where they went when he picked up the trail later. What happened to the other two Riders in the Shire? Who knows? Perhaps Khamul just wanted all the glory, as dna sees it. And finally, why did it take so long for the Riders to reach the house at Crickhollow? No real answer. Even with problems with the maps and with inquiries in Buckland, it shouldn't have taken so long.
erather, having missed the discussion, pitched in with a link to the "Secret Emails Between Sauron and the Nine", which fills in a lot that Unfinished Tales unaccountably left out.
9. Saturday PM, March 12: “Old Tom and Muddy-feet”: The Maggot-Bombadil connection
As some perceived or remembered earlier, there is a connection between Maggot and Tom Bombadil, whom we have not yet met in this reading. I wanted to wrap up this chapter discussion with a lesser-known work of Tolkien, the poem "Bombadil Goes Boating", wherein Tom goes to the Marish to drink, dance, and gossip with Farmer Maggot and his family.
Without prompting, everyone dived into this one. FarFromHome got the impression Maggot is a famous gossip, who transmits more information than he can understand, and is the source of some of the rumors that are discussed in the Green Dragon in Chapter 2; and Tom is a "trickster" character, like Gandalf in The Hobbit. N.E. Brigand began to draw numerous connections between the poem and the events in LotR (finally! a West Wind reference), and asked about some of the tricky word-play. Kimi and Roheryn filled him in, and speculated on how many of Tolkien's obscure puns were supposed to be understood by his lay readers. dna cited Tom Shippey's theory that this poem is a dream-tale, and so not meant to be real.
I then asked what seemed the obvious question: When does this poem take place, in the context of the chapter we have just read that so features Farmer Maggot? A wonderful and thorough discussion followed, with reasoned arguments for some time before Frodo's arrival (dernwyn); the day before (N.E. Brigand); that night after Frodo leaves (Canto di Numenor, dna, Estelwyn); and sometime after Frodo leaves Tom (Elvenesque, Beren IV). dna elaborated an UUT that Bombadil was the guiding force throughout our whole chapter and the next too, guiding and protecting Frodo, which drogo_drogo embraced, though Mapalon thought including the Willow as Tom's accomplice was a bit too much. dna and N.E. Brigand championed the after Frodo v. before Frodo positions in an amazingly thorough and judicious debate that proved, long after the battle ended, to have missed the mark according to the ultimate ref, kindly Prof T. himself.
Estelwyn posted a fine list of all the connections between the poem and LotR, adding that the friendship between Tom and Maggot is obviously very old. dernwyn noted also the "springle-ring" dance, and NZ Strider saw a link with Frodo's dream of the grey rain-curtain. Canto di Numenor noticed that Bombadil's language toward the animals is harsher or meaner than the way he talks in LotR.
We can't look at a Tolkien poem without an analysis of meter! Luckily, NZ Strider, our antique meter expert, was available to tell us about stressed-syllable archaic meters, only seen these days in nursery rhymes.
Finally, I reprised the map from the beginning of the discussion, this time adding Tom's route, and also posted Tolkien's comments on the poem from the introduction to the collection it appears in. One last note was the addition weeks later, courtesy of N.E. Brigand, of Tolkien's letter discussing the poem, wherein he definitively says its events take place a few weeks or so before Frodo's arrival at Maggot's farm.
10. Sunday AM, March 13: Final Exam
Before we get to the exam, thanks to djdeathskiss for checking in to say hi, after being unfortunately unable to conduct this discussion herself as she had hoped.
Thanks also to Curious, our expert, who rushed in at the last minute to offer an eloquent summary that emphasized the hobbits' familiarity with the Shire in this chapter, as a foil for all the later adventures to come. drogo_drogo agreed, pointing out that Maggot as an object of fear to Frodo is on a Shire-scale, being little more than a bogey-man compared to the terrors to come. I disagreed, because I felt that this chapter, although taking place within the Shire, is actually the first adventure with the unfamiliar that Frodo encounters, and sets out many of Tolkien's quest themes (and dramatic devices) for the first time.
A fun and easy final exam was offered 8:00 AM Sunday morning, coming in from the north under radar, offering the group a kind of "do-it-yourself" discussion summary, but it was inexplicably skipped by many.
Good doobies FarFromHome, dna, dernwyn, Aerlinn, Grammaboodawg, and arquen all coasted through the exam, scoring an arbitrary 100% each (lesson: success in life comes primarily from just showing up), with 20% additional for dna for using Old English roots in his vocab answers. I recommend you read the best of each of their answers or essays as linked below, to capture the essence of this chapter's meaning and of our discussion this week.
FarFromHome on the Black Riders and Fear
dna on the meaning of The Road in Tolkien
dernwyn on friendship
Aerlinn on the hobbity word "stout"
Grammaboodawg on the grace of the Elves in the hobbits
arquen on the Magic of Beer and Mushrooms
And that's it. See you in October for a leisurely-prepared consideration of “Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit”.